I am home today, enjoying a surprise day off due to the snow. I know, I know, it’s not really that bad out there — but two of my on-campus commitments were canceled anyway, and at 8:30 this morning I was worried that the 45-minute return drive on back roads might not be safe. And so, here I am.
This semester is going well so far, although somehow I think it might be my most work-intensive one yet. The fact that it’s my last semester just makes it all the harder to deal with.
I’m taking History of Modern Philosophy, a Spanish class which I originally thought was going to be way over my head but may actually turn out to be okay, Rhetorical Approaches to Non-Fiction Literature, and a couple of PE classes. I was taking a class on Jane Austen, but I didn’t need it, it was a non-trivial amount of work, and I was feeling overwhelmed. So I dropped it, but have been doing the reading and going to class anyway. It’s pretty much a perfect arrangement — I get to read and think about books I love, but I don’t have to write any papers or take any tests.
The last couple of days, though, I’ve been thinking not about Northanger Abbey, but about Israel. It started because I read excerpts from Joe Sacco’s graphic novel Palestine for Rhetorical Approaches, but what I ended up contemplating was not so much the legitimacy of the Israeli state, but the American political attitudes towards the Israeli state.
Israel wasn’t something I heard talked about much until I got to Hampshire College, where a large percentage of the student body is Jewish. Israel was an important topic, and nearly everyone supported it wholeheartedly. A number of my friends harbored fantasies of joining the Israeli army. I didn’t have much of an opinion myself, but I thought of support for Israel as a liberal stance.
Fast forward eight years to our current day post-9/11 world. While I get the impression that no one wants to be on record as being anti-Israel, I’m encountering more and more liberals who at least have Palestinian sympathies. Did I misunderstand the issue before? Or is this a shift that’s taken place over the last few years?
If it’s a shift, where’s it coming from? A reaction to the neo-con support of Israel? Or something about the issue itself? I certainly can understand taking it up as a human rights issue — but why now?
As was the case in 1999 when I first heard about the issue, I still don’t feel like I know enough about the situation to have anything close to an easy to explain opinion about it. However, though obviously one-sided, Palestine woke me up enough to start wanting to know.