“The world doesn’t yield to us directly, the description of the world stands in between. So, properly speaking, we are always one step removed and our experiences of the world is always a recollection of the experience. We are perennially recollecting the instant that has just happened, just passed.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Yeshayahu Leibowitz: A Right to Land


Here is a rough translation because there are no subtitles in this short video (from its quality I place it in the 60’s or 70’s) an Israeli asks Leibowitz, an Israeli philosopher, a question:

I am a farmer who owns lands. What do I tell my Arab neighbor who tells me, in good spirit, that the land I am working was his 30 years ago? The same land that I now pay him to work was his.

This is the outline of the answer Leibowitz gives:

  1. There is no such thing as a right to land. No one has any right to land.
  2. As an example (to step outside of the Israeli/Palestinian controversy) he says that even no Swedish person has a right to Sweden.
  3. What makes Sweden Sweden is the millions of people who have lived there together for generations and experience an EMOTIONAL belonging to the land.
  4. This kind of link is stronger than any legal argument because you can argue and bargain about legality but you cannot argue or bargain with what is in a person feels.
  5. Therefore, he says to the person who asked the question, the problem is not between you and your neighbor. The problem is that your fate (he uses the word fate!) was to belong to the Jewish people and his to belong to the Palestinian people … and to find yourselves belonging to the same physical land.
  6. And the two of you are stuck in this horrible situation where you have no choice but to inhabit your lived experience of belonging.
  7. This begs the question: so what now?
  8. We have to choose between one of two options AND there IS NOT a 3rd option.
  9. Option: a war to the death (in which case the world will support the Arab position).
  10. The other option: dividing the country between the two peoples who inhabit it.
  11. And I know, as does everyone, that dividing a country is not reasonable and not just and that it will be very difficult and come at great cost
  12. … but you cannot change history.
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