A Tree Like No Other

December 24, 2008

Victor Davis Hanson in an endnote ostensibly about the religious value of olive trees in ancient Greece (A War Like No Other, p. 332):

Both sides in the present-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem to embrace the importance of olive trees as symbolic capital that has value far beyond producing olives.  Throughout the years 2000-2002 the Palestinians cited the Israelis as bulldozing some fifteen thousand of their olive trees — about one hundred acres at normal planting densities — to clear paths along strategic areas to prevent sniper attacks.  Yet the Christian Science Monitor (December 8, 2000) reported that both the destroyers and the owners, as traditional Mediterranean peoples, were depressed by the tactic: “We were educated not to uproot a sapling, and for us Israelis, this has left a bad taste,” remarked Yoni Figel, an Israel government official.  In turn, the Palestinian mayor of Hares lamented, “Olives are like water to us.  You cannot imagine a home without olive oil.  The olive tree is a symbol of our people, surviving for centuries on these hillsides” (Daily Telegraph, London, November 3, 2000).

Makes you wonder if there might actually be some truth in this.

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3 Responses to “A Tree Like No Other”

  1. Will Says:

    Just out of curiosity, what did you think of A War Like No Other? A friend gave it to me as a Christmas gift a few years back and although I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand-alone read, I think it’s a pretty decent companion to Thucydides or Kagan’s history of the Peloponnesian War.

  2. Will Says:

    (I was initially skeptical of anything written by Hanson. He’s one of the Corner’s worst offenders)

  3. JL Wall Says:

    I was thinking the same thing as I read it — there were a few points/conclusions I was skeptical of, but with those exceptions it made itself quite useful for those details one can easily miss from Thucydides, or that one needs an array of secondary sources to get at all. I, for one, was prone to give the Greeks credit for far more advanced siegeworks and defenses simply because the only “ancient” ones I’m familiar at all with are Roman, so that’s how I pictured them in my mind the first time through Thucydides. I’ve also been taught by a professor far more skeptical of Thucydides than Hanson, so I appreciated getting an extended more trusting take on it, for contrast. And it had the added advantage of not being dull. This is important when it comes to Classical scholarship.

    Also: Victor Davis Hanson the Classicist and Victor Davis Hanson the Corner-ite are seemingly two different people. But if he didn’t write for the Corner, it wouldn’t amuse me nearly so much that, in 2004, he writing about neo-conservative influence on foreign policy in the past tense.


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