Sunday, September 07, 2014


Moonlight Serenade
7&9th September 2014
(Blackrock Diving Platform, Salthill, Galway, Ireland)

Friday, September 05, 2014

ISRAEL – There; There is no Why

If This is a Man

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
            Consider if this is a man
            Who works in the mud,
            Who does not know peace,
Who fights for a scrap of bread,
Who dies because of a yes or a no.

Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name,
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, Rising:
Repeat them to your children.
            Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi
Introductory Poem to Memoir of Auschwitz:
Se Questro e un Uomo (If This is a Man)

The weather-worn and care-bent man, with calloused and arthritic hands, harnessed the donkey, and siting to one side of a rough hewn cart set off down the dirt track to his olive grove, some two kilometres away from the tumble down farmhouse only he and his ancient wife now inhabited on the edge of al-Jab’a village. He whistled softly in the early morning air but sensed on the dry wind that something was wrong, something was not right. Reaching the grove, which had been harvested by his father and grandfather before him, he walked towards its centre where the totem tree, the Announcer stood, knarled and laden. Reaching up to the branches, as he had done every morning this past week, he twisted off an olive and bit into it. They are ready, he said to himself but decided to be certain. He reached up again…

Suddenly his hand was slapped away with vicious force and the plucked olive sent flying through the air. Other olives fell to the ground as his hand slammed into branches. The old man turned to his left, towards the shadow in the early morning sun. The pockmarked face of a very young sergeant in the fatigues of the IDF was glaring at him.

‘Why?’ The old farmer asked in Arabic but was met with a grunt. ‘Why?’ He asked again, this time in Hebrew.

Here there is no why!’ The sergeant grunted again, pointing to a sign he had tacked to a tree with mocking disdain etched on his face. ‘Hurry up and get lost. These groves are now part of Israel.’

The old farmer began to protest but was hit between the shoulders with the butt of the soldier’s gun. The soldier then herded him towards the donkey and cart and watched with a sickly smile the sobbing man’s painful efforts in trying to lift the rope harness and take the road back up the hill.

In my imagination, in a confiscated olive grove south of Bethlehem, echoes of Primo Levi’s encounter with a guard in Auschwitz, recounted in his memoir If This is a Man (Survival in Auschwitz), resonated: ‘Warum ?(why?)’  Levi had asked when a camp guard had slapped away an icicle that Levi had broken off to quench his thirst. ‘Hier ist kein warum (Here there is no why)’ the guard had answered. Of 650 Italian Jews who arrived with Levi at Auschwitz in February 1944 only 20 were alive to leave the camp 11 months later when it was liberated.

No legal manipulations, no Eastern Yiddish exhortations can possibly justify Israel’s confiscation not only of the olive groves but any sense of acknowledgement of the rights of the Palestinian peoples they are determined to keep down in the mud and who die as Levi wrote, ‘because of a yes or a no’ but with no reason ‘why’.

Israel – her eyes empty and her womb cold like a frog in winter!