- The Ethics of Lévinas’s Temimut and Kristeva’s Abjection in To the End of the Land by David Grossman
Grossman, Levinas, Kristeva, Derrida, Israeli/Palestinian conflict, ethics, temimut, abjection, hospitality, psychoanalysis
David Grossman presented a different outlook on contemporary Israel when it became clear that the nation accepted that it occupied the Palestinian land and its people.1 In 1988, in The Yellow Wind, his “travelogue” from the occupied territories, he made it very clear that he wanted to understand how Palestinians lived in refugee camps such as Deheisha and in the larger cities such as Beth Lehem:
A strange life. Double and split … they sit here, very much here, because deprivation imposes sobriety with cruel force, but they are also there. That is [End Page 183] among us. In the villages, in the cities. I ask a five-year-old where he is from, and he immediately answers, “Jaffa,” which is today part of Tel Aviv. “Have you ever seen Jaffa?” “No, but my grandfather saw it.” His father, apparently, was born here, but his grandfather came from Jaffa. “And is it beautiful, Jaffa?” “Yes. It has orchards and vineyards and the sea.”
The specifications “here” and “among us” are the most important elements of this description. For Grossman the Palestinians belong here, among us the Israelis, and this knowledge comprises an ethical and a political statement of the facts. Grossman’s description is literary, not political. Yet he realizes the relevance of literature to politics and thus creates a middle ground between infinite storytelling and the finality of political urgency. He knows that daydreams that are used to nurture the hopes of children for a better future are political; they do not just signify individual, psychological inclinations. He asks: “What do Arabs dream about? And what do Jewish children dream about?” (29). He wonders if these dreams provide new insights that can help Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict or “are dreams only a direct continuation of it [the conflict]?” (29). Dreams could depict an unforeseen, new reality, or they could register the bleakness of reality, and Grossman tries to show that politics underlies dreaming:
It’s all bolitics, the Palestinians say. Even those who can pronounce the “p” in “politics” will say “bolitics,” as a sign of defiance, in which there is a sort of self-mocking; “bolitics,” which means that whole game being played over our heads, kept out of our hands, crushing us for decades under all the occupations, sucking out of us life and the power to act, turning us into dust, it’s all bolitics, the Turks and the British, and the son-of-a-whore Hussein who killed and slaughtered us without mercy, and now all of a sudden he makes himself out to be the protector of the Palestinians, and these Israelis, who are willing to bring down a government because of two terrorists they killed in a bus, and with the considered cruelty of an impeccably meticulous jurist they change our laws, one thousand two hundred new laws they issued, and deprived us of our land and of our tradition and of our honour, and construct for us here some kind of great enlightened prison, when all they really want is for us to escape from it, and then they won’t let us return to it ever—and in their proud [End Page 184] cunning, which we are completely unable to understand, they bind their strings to us, and we dance for them like marionettes.(8)
Grossman illustrates that the defense/rejection/critique of politics by the Palestinian population adds up to hatred: “Don’t believe the ones who tell you that the Palestinians don’t really hate you” (11). He recognizes that the occupation churns hatred on a daily basis. “You made us into living dead. And me, what remains of me? Only the hatred of you and thoughts of siyassah [politics]” (12). Yet Grossman’s depiction of Palestinians and his reflections on their expressions, thoughts, and feelings are not transmitted through the use of political interests. He expresses neither rejection of the other nor unproblematic...