George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died last Friday. President Bush was loved by the Jews. Over the weekend we saw an endless parade of Jewish individuals and organisations paying homage to Bush for his commitment to Israel and to the Jews.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) described Bush as “a great friend of Israel, the Jewish people, and the RJC.” The group joined other Jewish voices in noting the work Bush did to help bring Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia to Israel as well as his actions to help ensure the safety of Israel. Bush also led the effort in the UN to repeal the ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution and he stood up against Saddam Hussein who, at the time, was one of the last Arab leaders to oppose Israel and Zionism.
Yet, it was the photo of Bush at the Wailing Wall (above) that grabbed my attention. On Saturday, the Israeli press circulated a photograph of the 41st president in suspiciously intimate proximity to the Wailing Wall.
We have seen variations of this photograph so many times that we have forgotten to ask the critical questions: What attracts world leaders to that wall? Is it possible that our world leaders are all (somehow) so libidinally attracted to walls that they do not even mind being caught on camera in such an intimate moment with that one particular wall? And if not, how do we explain the fact that so many of our world leaders are caught so close to that Jewish wall with their eyes closed? And more crucially, what is it about the Zionist culture that inspires this demand to publicise powerful goyim kissing the sacred wall?
Every world leader including the future British king who has visited Israel in the last decades has been photographed kissing, touching, flirting and even talking to that wall. Today I ask Why? It is likely that our incredibly lame world leaders do not understand the powerful symbolism of their visit to the wall nor do they grasp the reason they are then led to a formal ceremony at Yad Vashem. For the Israelis and Zionists, the visits to the wall and Yad Vashem are a significant affirmation of the Jewish national narrative. Both locate the Zionist project within an historical context.
Yad Vashem tells the Goyim’s leaders what happens to Jews when they do not have a safe haven. Yad Vashem reenforces the primacy of Jewish suffering and legitimises, at least in the Zionist psyche, the plunder of Palestine. The Wailing Wall is used to illustrate the Jewish ‘continuum’ in Palestine. It conveys the unfounded message that the Jews who returned to Palestine in the 20th century are the offspring of the Hebrews who lived there two centuries ago.
Israel is not the only state that integrates visits to shrines and holy places into its state’s ceremonial procedure for visitors. Islamic countries often expect world leaders to visit their great mosques. Hindus escort their guests to their shrines. People like to impress state visitors with the greatness of their heritage and the aesthetic and spiritual depth of their culture. But they do not expect world leaders to be photographed making love to their shrines or to their mosque’s walls. No other countries whether Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Hindu expect world leaders to subscribe to or worship their local religious symbols. But the Jewish State does. It is even brazen enough to dress world leaders in Yarmulkes.