Oh let us push for an end to the freeze, or something: Letter to International Herald Tribune on the US’ end to the push for a freeze

Edward G. Nilges, Detail from “I can no longer teach you kids”, Nov 2010, pencil, ink and Gimp modifications, A4 size

This is a new subgenre of Letter to the Editor, in which the writer either is, or believes himself to be, a better writer, journalist, and human being than the creatures he addresses, and as such the Letter is completely unpublishable. I publish these here when I send them to the International Herald Tribune (which is simply the international edition of the New York Times): if you don’t usually buy the NYT/IHT, don’t bother to do so on my account, since the letter will probably be unpublished. Some of my letters to the IHT have been, brutally cut down to length appropriate to my station. But this one takes the cake, and such a feu de joie is probably unacceptable to the editors.

Edward G. Nilges
Lamma Island
Hong Kong

9 Dec 2010

To whom it may concern:

Reading Ethan Bronner’s “Why the US ended push for Israeli building freeze” (IHT 10 Dec 2010), I have the feeling associated with childhood, that a key word or phrase in putatively grown up discourse is so often repeated as to drain it of meaning.

The grave wise child, like Alice in Wonderland, finds herself repeating the word to herself until it becomes a pure object, something rich, and strange, and rather sad.

I’ve also had that childhood feeling as a grown-up in the corporation, in boring meetings convened to solve some iatrogenic cock-up or other where Job One is making sure that Mr. Big is indemnified against Looking Bad.

That key word is “freeze”. It appears nine times in Bronner’s short article.

Reification is the Word Become Thing, isn’t it. “Freeze” as a word, as a goal, deliberately obscures a crime under international law, which is violating the territory of a nation, or a country, or a region, that ain’t yours, whatever the status of that land you violate.

You don’t “freeze” criminal behavior, although I guess cops are expected to say “freeze!” when apprehending a suspect. You end it.

The international laws which establish national sovereignity as both bounded and inviolable within those bounds are not a joke. As the late Senator Moynihan pointed out, they form part of US domestic law under the Senate’s “advise and consent” powers, and theoretically, the DC cops could be called when the US countenances Israel’s continuing disregard of international law.

But: criminals of all sorts would rather pitch pennies, play cards, or shoot people who don’t count than actually discuss what it is they do. This would force them to face up to what they are, to look in the mirror.

Likewise, Bronner makes the discussion eerily abstract as if the US nobly pushed for a freeze in Israel’s venial, recreational and rather ruggedly charming behavior only to find that, gosh, the situation is pretty complicated because elements of the current Israeli leadership might get stroppy, and the Palestinians won’t be happy anyway, being, well, Palestinians…you know how those people are.

Let’s tell the truth, for a change. Like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, the players are sitting around their hideaway. One of them is engaged in a criminal affair: he’s building houses without a permit in Jersey. The big man doesn’t like it, but funds it because the houses encroach on land he covets, and his client thug is his only marker in Jersey, where he needs a foothold.

In walks some servant who displeases, and he is shot, casually, even as Palestine’s kids are “wasted”.

The big man wants his client to stop but his client don’t want to stop, and the big man cannot completely control his client as so often happens in gangland.

Certainly would make for a more readable story, and would be on balance, true. Might even start selling enough papers and generating enough traffic to save the New York Times from its coming bankruptcy.

The world will perceive the US end to a push for a freeze for what it is: the cowardly act of a big thug whose children can no longer succeed at simple tests, unlike kids in Shanghai, who has lost three wars in the past fifty years, who has used nuclear weapons on civilians, and which no longer makes anything useful except iPods and pornography.

The US can no longer control even Israel’s behavior. In either pushing for a freeze, or in ending its push for a freeze, or pushing for an end to the push for a freeze, no matter what combination of signifiers need be dreamed up by apologists and hacks, those combinations drained of meaning by abstraction and evasion of the law, the US is, in the final analysis, pushing on a string.

Israel is grabbing as much land as it can in a vain attempt to overcome the demographics of the Middle East, in which Muslims will always outnumber Jews, and the United States lacks the will to stop Israel’s criminal behavior. But not even the Nazis thought of building a country club next to a concentration camp. And not even the Nazis thought to so torment the inmates of the camp in this way, by negotiating in bad faith and talking utter nonsense!

The phrase “an end to the push for a freeze” is what happens to language when it is abused by Goodfellas. Everybody who’s anybody knows, even in elite circles in the USA, that TS Eliot was the source of the phrase “the hollow men” in reference to the appeasers and warmongers of his day alike.

But unless these gliterati happened to elect the right class at Princeton, they won’t know how the poem, The Hollow Men, ends: with a sort of surrealism uncharacteristic of the later Eliot. The last canto starts:

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Eliot knew that talking nonsense is a regression to the nightmare of childhood, especially when the adult has forgotten the insights of childhood.

The abstraction attendant on a lack of basic decency in this language causes the sensitive word-smith, perhaps as a flunky’s own flunky in one of those interminable meetings, to become rather confused, and to fall into a dream. Even in Serious cables, “an end to the push for the freeze” might be mistakenly expressed as “a push for the end to the freeze” and so, dreaming, we fall into the abyss, or the rabbit hole.

As in the corporate meeting, language becomes a throwback, in “a push for an end to the freeze”, more pleasant as an iamb and two anapests than as anything meaningful. Let’s see, if we exchange “push” and “end” in the title of Bronner’s piece we get what Likud wants, right?

A push for an end to the freeze
Is pushed because Netanyahu da Freeze don’t please
Hey, we’re dip low mats
And as such, we’re pretty cool cats:
Despite Julian Assange and wikileaks
We’re not a bunch of outsiders, nor a bunch of the freaks
So let’s not push for an end to the freeze,
I mean, let’s push for an end to the freeze,
No, let’s end the push for the freeze
That was merely a come-on: that was merely a tease.

Language’s glory and language’s misery is that language, save perhaps for some indigenous languages of the Amazon, is recursive. In the title of Bronner’s piece, there is one too many layers of recursion and a pernicious abstraction which simply allows comfortable people to forget what is actually happening: settlers are murdering Palestinians because they are emulating their criminal government.

Edward G. Nilges


One Response to “Oh let us push for an end to the freeze, or something: Letter to International Herald Tribune on the US’ end to the push for a freeze”

  1. Lots of people will freeze if the freeze unemployment. And they say “We are making progress.” WTF does that mean? Progress?Unemployed and broke Mr. Harris can’t buy groceries for his family TODAY. They have no idea of the desperate urgency under which people are living while they freeze the talk and solutions remain ice bound.

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