Would you take part in Erasmus in Jerusalem?

Article published on May 14, 2003
community published
Article published on May 14, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Lifting the veil on Europes Middle East policy - my mission to become an intellectual kamikaze.

Fabios electroacoustics made the young Ramallah girls violet and yellow lips dance. They were really into the slightly retro rock; it made them happy, right there in the desert next to the city. The Arab spring caressed their faces and made them move back and forth and twist mischievously, just like in a Van Gogh meadow. And after the dancing, all of them sat there by the fire drinking a glass or two as they talked about war and peace at the end of that nuanced and veiled evening of mysticism: Erasmus 2000, the new exchange programme between European and Middle Eastern universities, which Café Babel wants to promote, putting Brussels face to face with the various governors that populate the other bank of the Mediterranean.

I dont like our empty and, at most, visionary discussions about Palestine. I dont like to condemn the Tsahal operations or the Tel Aviv suicide bombers. I dont like to say I find it disgraceful, or point the finger of blame at one monotheist fundamentalism or another. I just want to try and think about a lasting peace, as Bush would say (so why doesnt he say it?) in cases like this. I just want to switch off the TV that massages half-heartedly our bewildered sense of helplessness. I just want to think up a solution to the killings, by thinking of the only environment that I can claim to really know university.

Just think how successful it would have been if Erasmus had been started in the 1960s and had concerned itself straight away with the two sides of the iron curtain. Just imagine how much of a uproar the hypothetical Erasmus of the time would have made, able to find corruption even in the opulent, solid and free Western societies, if they had vented their feelings in Moscow, Prague and Budapest. Contemporary ideology would reply by saying that we would have had a generation of bipartisan terrorists. The Cold War would have finished earlier I would correct instilling in East-West relations a sort of bottom-up Helsinki Act which would have involved and spread throughout society. And maybe the revolution would not have remained in the free yet frustrated minds of the now old ruling generations. But it would have penetrated the international relations of the time. And, maybe, it really would have created another world.

But thats another discussion. But it is something which can be useful if we realise how many comparisons can be made between the period that we are coming into now and the Cold War (see my article The second Cold War, recently published by cafebabel.com). Despite the fact that Western rhetoric continues to repeat that the war on terrorism is not directed against Islam, we must in fact accept that we dont understand the post-September 11 world unless we depart from the politically incorrect assertion that the Al Qaeda terrorists come from Dar-al-Islam; that the great majority of voices which rise up (often bitterly) to contest hegemonic Western politics are Arab and Muslim voices; that the explanation is that it is these Arabs and Muslims who feel the greatest resentment towards the West.

What I am trying to say is that, as things stand at the moment, the term Clash of Civilisations is stretching the point intellectually but that it may soon become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we dont realise that the colonisation of Dar-al-Islam, the creation of the State of Israel and the recent attack on the Twin Towers have created a visible rift between East and West. And that this rift is becoming an unacceptable curtain of terror, not just vertically, within Western societies, but also horizontally, between the States of the Great Coalition led by Washington and the so-called Axis of Evil, a black list of States that sponsor international terrorism which is likely to grow as time goes by. And its pointless to pretend that the new curtain will not stretch to the Mediterranean.

But if we do not want to accept that a new threat, after Communism, is forcing us to keep quiet, we must add a new kind of deterrent to the link of economic interdependence that, as anticipated by the foresight of Umberto Eco a few days after September 11, has (for the moment) forestalled the Clash of Civilisations: that of the cultural-generational dialogue. Note how the two adjectives merge and support one another. That intercultural dialogue that excludes new generations from its midst cannot be sustainable; just as, at a time of globalisation, the debate between those from the same generation cannot be enriched, as long as it is not interspersed with external cultural inputs which are different and capable of stimulating the criticism and enthusiasm typical of young people.

In this sense I want to feel attacked by Teheran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, attacked by the cultural bombs that their ideas represent for my European view of life. I want to feel the drama of events and the current meaning of the word democracy and the word liberty. And I want to try this out on Islams soil, where democracy and liberty have not flourished for particular historical reasons. And through a secular atomic bomb of these ideas and not through the mute TNT in the buses of Jerusalem I want to become an ideal-virtual kamikaze, fearlessly attacking their horizons.