FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Perpetual Peace

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
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail