FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Perpetual Peace

by NEVE GORDON

Last year I gave the Israeli artist Amir Nave an old Hebrew copy of Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace, which I teach every so often in my Introduction to Political Theory class. He took the book, flipped through it, ripped out the title page, turned it upside down, signed it and returned it to me. Nave, an Arab Jew of Iraqi descent, didn’t say anything, but the gesture was eloquent enough: we are living in an era of perpetual war, and peace emerges, if at all, in the interregnum.

Nave’s children go to the same school as mine. It’s called Hagar, after the biblical figure who wandered between different peoples and cultures in the desert not far from where I live. Hagar was founded by a group of Jewish and Palestinian parents who wanted to create a shared space for their children. It’s the only non-segregated school in the Negev region, which is home to about 700,000 Israelis, more than a quarter of whom are Palestinian Bedouin.

A few years ago, after we had been running two Jewish-Palestinian nursery schools, the Beer-Sheva municipality allowed Hagar to make use of an old run-down school in a crumbling neighbourhood, one of the city’s poorest. The bathrooms stank: the decrepit pipes hadn’t been replaced for years. Outside, in the half hectare of yellow soil that the city bureaucrats called a playground, there was no water fountain for the children to drink from, not even any shade for them to play in. It was a site of callous neglect.

The library was in the bomb shelter. It had thick concrete walls, a low ceiling with long fluorescent lights, no windows and a heavy metal door. There were about two hundred books on old brown shelves along the walls. Nave, who was instrumental in transforming the school’s yard into a place of adventure and whose uncompromising vision has changed the way the school community relates to space, decided to convert the library into a pirate ship. He abandoned his Tel Aviv studio for a few weeks to build a deck, mast and wheel, turning the walls into the sea and the ceiling into a blue sky. He even imported a treasure chest and a statue of a pirate from England, who now sits gazing at the ocean. ‘Maybe the creation of a different space,’ he told me, ‘will be more inviting and allow the children to sail away.’

Boats appear in many of Nave’s paintings, and seem to symbolise for him the possibility of change. In My Ego and Me, the haunting but surprisingly un-despairing figures are foregrounded by an empty boat with four white oars. When I asked Nave about the recurring boat imagery in his work, he said: ‘It could be a flight fantasy, or the condition of possibility of creating something new, or maybe both.’

I am not sure if he has read Kant, or whether he is aware of the German philosopher’s search for the conditions that make knowledge, aesthetic judgment, moral behaviour or perpetual peace possible. But for me, Nave’s work evokes the possibility and the necessity of imagining differently in a war zone.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation and can be reached through his website.

This article first appeared in the London Review of Books Blog.

More articles by:

Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail