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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Medved’

Arab Like Me

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

There are two kinds of Arabs in this world. Those who hate Jews, and those who don’t. And in my life, I have met more of the former than the latter.

I am not proud to say that. Arabs will not like me for admitting it. But it is true. And it is something I wish the Obama administration understood. It is something Americans should know as the “Arab Spring” enters its second year.

I didn’t know much about any of this as a Lebanese kid growing up in New Jersey. But I found out about it when I wrote my first pro-Israel column for my college paper as a young student journalist.

I defended Israel on some point I’ve long forgotten, but what I’ll never forget is the backlash I received from fellow Arabs. Some were Americans, others were students from Arab countries, many of whom I counted as friends.

First came the letters to the editor, then the personal insults. It was as if I’d broken a secret code I didn’t know existed. Some secret blood oath, which goes something like this: Arabs don’t speak unkindly of Arabs in public, or kindly about Israel.

The backlash stunned me. I pondered the pounding I had taken, and floundered a bit. I even thought for a short time of writing something negative about Israel the next time I had a chance, just to balance things out and reestablish my Arab bona fides.

One friend accused me of being a self-hating Arab. He explained to me that I was exploiting my ancestry to ingratiate myself with white America and the Jews who controlled white America.

I explained to him that I was white. And that I was an American. And that I didn’t believe that Jews controlled America. The Jewish men I knew had a hard enough time controlling their own families! But nothing I said helped relieve the tension, not even my stab at humor.

I also explained that many of my Jewish friends did not like my column. Most were liberals from New York or northern New Jersey who assumed I was with them on the politics of the Middle East, that I was in agreement with the governing thesis that drives most Arabs and liberal Jews: that it is Israel that is the problem in the region, not the Palestinians, and not the Arab world itself.

I also explained to him that I was mostly Lebanese, but also part German and part Italian, and that I was raised by parents who didn’t much care for the whole notion of hyphenated America. They taught me to think for myself, and have the courage to challenge authority. Even theirs, if I could make the case.

The fact is, Arabs don’t all look alike or think alike. But we are often pushed into a kind of groupthink, a kind of self-censorship that hinders our development and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

We are not a universal group. But some of us believe in a simple universal truth: that every Arab deserves to live in freedom, wherever he or she might call home. Some of us want Arab countries to be more like America and Israel, places where the individual can flourish.

Say those words to many Arabs and they are shocked and angered. Soon, words like imperialist are thrown about, and the subject turns to Israel. Always, it seems, it turns to Israel.

Why the anger when I hint that America and Israel might have something to teach the Arab world? I thought about it for the longest time, and only recently stumbled upon the answer.

It is all about Arab self-doubt. It is all tied to a profound lack of cultural self-confidence, and a deep-seated fear that maybe, just maybe, Arabs won’t be very good at the self-governance thing. That Arab nations won’t be capable of building democratic cultures that engender the flourishing of human freedom, and that these nations won’t have the ability to tap the God-given talents of their people the way Americans and Israelis do. That maybe, just maybe, the Arab world will never measure up to America or Israel.

Better, goes the logic, to cling to anger over the plight of the Palestinians. Better to cling to international policy disputes and to a deep-seated hatred of Israel. Better to play the role of victim, and the role of self-righteous critic, than to do the hard work of lifting up the conditions of your people.

An Arab American friend of mine who works for a large NGO is a case in point. He is Jordanian, he’s well educated, and he speaks five languages. But mention the word Israel and watch his blood boil immediately. He will go into a lengthy diatribe about the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians by Israel. When Prime Minister Netanyahu’s name is mentioned, I worry that he will have a seizure on the spot. Why is this? Why is all of his passion, all of his anger and rage, directed at this one country, this one people?

The Medved Alternative

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
            If you’re a conservative who’s tired of the increasingly cartoonish yawping coming from the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Savages of talk radio, you might want to check out Michael Medved’s nationally syndicated program (heard in the New York area on WNYM 970 from 3-5 p.m. weekdays and 3-6 a.m. Sundays).
            Medved, a conservative who refuses to see the world in one-dimensional terms, is the author of several books, notably the mega-sellers What Really Happened to the Class of ’65?, an anecdotal account of suburban Los Angeles baby-boomers coming of age; Hollywood Vs. America, a searing indictment of the entertainment industry, and Right Turns, a political/spiritual autobiography.
            Born in Philadelphia and raised in San Diego, Medved currently resides in the Seattle area. In an interview with the Monitor for a profile some years ago, he described his upbringing as having been traditionally Jewish but not Orthodox.
            “My family belonged to Conservative synagogues,” he said, “and my mother always felt guilty about not keeping a kosher home, which she had done until I was about six. But I remember feeling when I was a teenager that my parents were old-fashioned and tribal, and way too Jewish.”
            Fascinated with politics from a young age, Medved said he was more or less a typical 1960s liberal – active in the antiwar movement, a worker in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and a supporter of George McGovern four years later – though never one of the era’s self-styled student revolutionaries preaching the evils of capitalism while living off generous allowances and trust funds.
            But a new interest in Judaism – “during a six-month period,” he said, “I went from a position in college where I saw my parents as too Jewish to one where I saw them as not Jewish enough” – coincided with a decidedly rightward drift in Medved’s politics.
            In 1973 he became a Sabbath observer and joined an Orthodox congregation, experiences touched on in What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? and explored more substantially in Right Turns. At about the same time he began to seriously question the political wisdom of liberals who were so vociferously condemning U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union.
            In addition to being repulsed by the moral equivalency argument advanced by liberal intellectuals inclined to apportion equal blame for the cold war or, worse, paint the U.S. as the prime culprit, Medved was appalled by those whom he saw as hawkish on Israel but dovish on everything else.
            “It seemed very hypocritical to me,” he said, “for anyone – especially anyone claiming to be Jewishly committed – to call for more and more military aid to Israel while at the same time being opposed to American defense spending and the U.S. military in general. That kind of hypocrisy, not to mention shortsightedness, really got to me.”
            It was only a matter of time before Medved’s evolving political views led to a switch in party allegiance. The last Democrat he supported for president was the late Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1976 primaries.
            Medved graduated with honors from Yale before going on to Yale Law School and working as a screenwriter in Hollywood and a film critic for CNN and theNew York Post. His greatest visibility before he began his radio career came from his twelve-year stint as co-host of “Sneak Previews,” the movie-review show on PBS.
Medved’s radio program reaches an audience of nearly 5 million. Though the show is primarily about politics and current events, listeners often call or write to tell him how much they’ve learned from the show about Jews and Judaism.
             Something else they learn is that not all Jews share the ritualistic liberalism promulgated by the secular Jewish establishment. For many listeners, Medved is one of the few Jews they’ve seen or heard in the media whose views aren’t lifted verbatim from the editorial page of The New York Times or the platform of the Democratic Party.

             For conservatives who prefer to think rather than be yelled at, Michael Medved offers a smart alternative on the radio dial.

 

 Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/the-medved-alternative/2011/08/24/

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