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Open letter to Members of the Knesset

April 9, 2018

Sent via email 9th April 2018




I am gentile—an ageing woman who has a need to speak her mind. I ask only that you read my words.


I will begin with the day I picked up a knife with the intention of inflicting a wound on another. It was, I believed the only means by which I could stop this individual from continuing to cause me physical and psychological harm.


It worked, in part. He never hit me again.


I walked away with three truths. Violence is an innate characteristic in all beings. Acknowledging that you possess this ability is a life altering moment—almost spiritual even. Those who deny it, have been privileged a continuum of emotional safety nets in their lives—or they are quite simply, liars—developmentally stunted.


Those who present their interpretations of violence to the public are in the norm, from the upper echelons of society (not by virtue but circumstance), discussing those on the lower echelons of society (not by vice but circumstance). They are also, in the main, white men. White men who have had the privilege of easy access to all levels of the education system—some even entering without the necessary grades because of tradition. Psychiatrists and psychologists determining their understanding of violence based on those who have not had similar privilege seems — excuse me for saying so, a little privileged.


As I have said many times, how can a full picture be painted when violence against women is not deemed interesting enough to study or even record. Please, don’t misunderstand, I am not disregarding such work—I have learned a lot of new fancy words and it has given me insight into the male psyche.


But at this point in my life, I believe the concept of civilisation was the invention of an innovative leader—to distract people from violence through creativity. But like most things in this life, it has been re-structured, manipulated and utilised as a social weapon.


A social weapon that has ostracised people from their humanity—their own understanding of violence.


A violence that demands an outcome and a consequence—the weight of which slides accordingly on the personal, social, cultural or military scale.


Civilisation dictated that woman be gentle, nurturing—or adorned with jewels and fine silks—a distraction and a comfort to the male. But when women who had been subjected to physical, psychological or sexual violence rejected this maxim and demanded justice—they were (are) derided and socially cast out.


I had no language to express or navigate my own anger, but derived so much comfort from Golda Meir’s response when called upon to declare a curfew on women leaving the home after dark—because of an epidemic of rapes;


But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.


A woman who has been compared to Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher—women who did not promote the cause of other women—who pulled up the ladder behind them once they attained their career goals.


My question remains, would they have attained their goals had they attempted to champion women?


I know that Golda was a woman I admired. She had a vision and was driven to fulfill it. She was a woman willing to declare that she would not permit a husband or children narrow her horizons—during a time when patriarchy was often (and remains) a lethal presence in its oppression of woman—this statement only served to demonstrate her fortitude—at least to me.


She loved Israel with every fibre of her being—many believing that her motivation was born of her sense of isolation of being an immigrant, a member of a diasporic population.


Yasser Arafat loved Palestine with every fibre of his being—many believe that his motivation came from being cast out from Egypt, to Jerusalem, by his father, when his mother died (though he claimed to have been born in Jerusalem) a place that gave him a sense of belonging—he had a vision that Palestine would be restored pre-Nakbah—the 1948 expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland—with the assistance of the British.


It is their global legacy. The English. Conquer and divide. Even the country that is my natural heritage, Ireland, did not escape—the historic wounds still seep and remain tender—true healing has yet to begin in earnest. In my youth, one hundred years stretched out like infinitude. Now that I have truly crossed over the mark of half a century, it feels like an infancy, a mere season—a place where I wear my old wounds like amulets.


I created a sanctuary for myself. A space to close the door and sit in the circle of my own trauma. It made all the difference—until one day the existence of that sanctuary was threatened, and over a period of nearly four years of fighting—I became radical. Radical in the context of this re-structured civilised world.


My pen became more liberal in its use—a freedom that was only fully realised when I understood those things I once held to be true, were in fact a collection of falsities. Betrayal is a powerful revealer.


Civilisation is the exchange of compromises in return for the reduction of violences. But. There are habits, inclinations, exercised by those who occupy power and privileged spaces, that choose to hide those violences under the waves of propaganda and exclusion; use the behaviour of others, demonise them, to deny their own need to compromise.


So we protest.


We protest only when a new understanding reveals itself to us. An occurrence that can be so profound we must sit with it for a long while before validating it with action.


And as I sat with my own understanding, Members of the Knesset, I remember being filled with wonder and respect listening to and reading tales of the Mossad, Unit 269 (The Sayeret Matkal)—the same wonder and respect journeyed to thinking about the Israeli Water Model, its management of land that is 60% arid, transforming it into a lush garden.


As time passed, I recalled my dream of returning to Jerusalem—walking through the Old City, smelling the spices and oranges—the Arab traders shouting “I make special price for you” or lying on the ground in Aqua Bella, under the hot sun, reading about the new archaeological excavations and what they are revealing to us about the past.


My heart’s home.


Home. A place of safety that every human being has the right to—one which, for me, is non-negotiable.


I contacted Artists for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). They told me my profile as an artist wasn’t high enough for them so they wouldn’t include my name on their list.


I don’t know why, but Schlinder’s List came to mind as I read their email. A reminder, I suppose, of moments of exclusion that slide on a scale that can cradle, rock or eradicate—that can pull us back from helping or throw us forward into the Pool of Others, those who know of it too.


As Golda Meir did when she attended the Évian Conference in 1938, where delegations from thirty-two countries were also present. Thirty-two countries who refused to take in Jewish refugees fleeing the Third Reich. Only the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica offered to give shelter to Jewish Refugees—two impoverished countries.


At the press conference Golda Meir said this;


There is only one thing I hope to see before I die and that is that my people should not need expressions of sympathy anymore.


I believe I would say the same thing. I believe I would have found it profoundly difficult to listen to the International Community, some twenty years later, attempting to impose its laws while observing the building of Yad Vashem—the memorial to the six million Jewish people who were exterminated—a place that has lent me courage.


Deep wounds, trauma, that the Jewish people carry now, like amulets.


A people who deserve a sanctuary, a place to sit in the circle of their own trauma. A place to call home—to feel safe.


When that is threatened, we protest—by those means that will ensure we are heard. This is how we compromise.


But the bar, the rules of these exchanges, have been architected by those sitting in political and religious power. Rules that are being sanitised, revised and re-interpreted in favour of the designers—resulting in compromise being eliminated and replaced with arrogant entitlement, until finally there is a crossing over, and there is always a crossing over, one which leads to atrocity, iniquity and abomination.


The bridge, the crossing over, is clearly marked with the public acceptance of buffoonery and arrogance. The collapse of the social moral gauge evident in society’s reaction to events—outrage is replaced with insipid mutterings, sentences begun with at least


Reduction, making allowances, giving stupidity a platform, a strategy to bewilder the masses. That is how it begins. The crossing over.


I will be direct with you, Members of Knesset—I am weary of those who hold others up to a higher standard than they hold themselves and where I understand the need for secrecy under certain conditions and environments—I abhor those who make public declarations but whose personal behaviour does not align—but I must be transparent, this aversion is born from being subjected to abuse by those who society label charming, an expert, a professional.


Gilad Erdan called on the Irish bank, AIB to close all accounts linked to Palestinian activity. For him to do so required, not only a personal confidence, but one that was secure in the knowledge of being privately supported—by the Irish Government. A government that has not yet slid over the bridge, but has eliminated compromise and is sitting in the space of arrogant entitlement. Their violence has escalated—only the means differ. Israel uses military force and isolation. Ireland uses economic force and isolation. The outcomes will bear resemblances.


But, you can never kill the human spirit. Even from burning embers, it rises.


Those who have not taken their own lives or have not been shot—will live with a severity of consequences because of the actions of others, and slowly, as new understandings are revealed to them, they too will become radical in the absence of acknowledgment or justice.


We have entered the Age of Descent. Those who occupy leadership spaces have in totality, disappeared into a moral and ethical vacuum—driven primarily by greed or the need for adulation.


I am confident of this.


When it becomes the task of ordinary citizens to scramble forward to re-establish moral and social order, political leadership is clearly absent. When attempts are made to deride, socially cast out, silence the voices who disagree with behaviours—the Establishment only reveals itself.


There are people screaming that Israel be convicted of war crimes. What war? There is no war—the Palestinian people in Gaza have been ghettoized for eleven years now, they have little artillery to fight back. Any practical support is being restricted and financial support running low. That is massacre.


The option of the exchange of compromise has been removed.


They adapted. Instead of the sword, they used their pens. Poetry, art, song. The Israeli Government continues to silence their need to speak their story, their pain, their need for a safe space to sit in the circle of their trauma.


As the British Government once did to the Irish people. A history that was revised, sanitised and retold with a focus on potatoes.


History is a never ending story of particular conditions and how leadership spaces were utilised—ones whose motivation will eventually be excavated.


Shimon Peres, a man whose wisdom and leadership I admired and respected, a man, who, the year before his death said of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he had no motivation or desire to make peace or agree to a two state solution with the Palestinians.


As I stared at the photo of a handsome young man, younger than my own daughter—I scanned to see what his name was. Yasser Murtaja. A father of two who dreamed of travelling through the clouds and seeing other countries—before he was shot for being present at a protest.


But there were only insipid mutterings, as there were when Putin overtly implied that gay people were paedophiles by asking them to stay away from children at the Winter Olympics; as there were when Assad began annihilating his own people; as there were with each unarmed person of colour shot by police in the States; as there were when the Rohingya people fled persecution.


I thought of Shimon’s words.


A politician and a government should be judged by one way only, on the record of what you do or did, not on what you say.


And wondered if I could sit at a table now, with the people who had betrayed me, done harm to me in unimaginable ways, and the truth is, Members of the Knesset, I am not so very sure I could, and that only serves to elevate my admiration and respect for Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Yes, the Oslo Agreement was ill fated and weighted against the Palestinian people. But the will, the motivation not to cross over, existed.


And I know for certain, when the will is present, the impossible can be achieved.


True leadership takes almighty courage and strength of character. Under true leadership, all citizens have the opportunity open to them to fly through the clouds and all the strategies, academic analysis or the numerous interpretations of history, will ever change that.


I think that if the people of Israel heard from the leadership that there is a chance for peace, they would take up the gauntlet and believe it, he said. There are two things that cannot be made without closing your eyes – love and peace.

– Shimon Peres


Yours faithfully,

Gormla Hughes


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