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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘prejudice’

Challenging the Choir

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Two timely columns in different publications have me thinking about humanity’s most basic obligation to ourselves – integrity. Are you honest enough to ask yourself if you are truly confident in the statements you are making – or are we all just going through the motions of a pre-set script and playing the parts that are expected of us?

My close friend and colleague Avi Zimmerman, who heads up international relations on behalf of the city of Ariel, published a column in the Times of Israel on the theme of Purim. On this holiday, it is customary to wear a costume and to drink alcohol. Both traditions, the writer explains, raise questions and expose who is really hiding inside the individual’s body. The sages of the Talmud are quoted as saying that when wine goes in, secrets come out. Hiding behind a mask can be a reminder that while this might be fake, there is a real you.

Avi challenged his readers to ask themselves a truly hard question. “What masks are we wearing? Have we chosen the ‘Israel-is-flawless’ position or the ‘Israel-is-lawless’ approach? Do we genuinely consider the issues at hand, or do we blindly recommend or condemn a news report or Op-Ed on the basis of our emotional attachment to the author? Is Israel the subject of honest debate – or the object we use to advance a personal agenda?”

Wow. Asking those things does take a lot of intellectual courage. I am sure that many members of the choir were not overly pleased to hear this preacher’s message. It is so much more fun when we can all gather around and pound on our chests and expect only words of encouragement and pats on the back.

Dr. Amal Al-Hazzani of King Saud University in Riyadh recently published a column in Asharak Alwaset, in which she questioned Arab society’s ignorance of Israel. Under the headline “Know Your Enemy,” she apologizes to her readers for her previous article titled “Israel We Do Not Know,” in which she wrote:

“A simple means of demonstrating our ignorance of Israel can be found in the fact that its neighboring states are ignorant of the Hebrew language. In Lebanon and Syria, people prefer to study French rather than the language of a country that continues to jeopardize their own security every day. In Egypt and Jordan, people do not prioritize or publicize the study of the Hebrew language, while in Israeli educational institutions, there is ample opportunity to study the Arabic language. It is for this reason that we find a considerable number of Israeli politicians and media representatives who speak Arabic fluently. I do not know many Arab foreign ministers in Israel’s neighboring states that can speak Hebrew. As for those who say that the Israelis speak Arabic because the language is more common than Hebrew, or because the Israelis have intruded on our region, this justification is irrelevant. The reason why Israel enjoys superiority over the Arabs is because it has sought to understand them through their language; it can gauge the thinking of the young and old. Israel is well aware of the Arabs’ strengths as well as their weaknesses, and it can understand them simply because it has immersed itself in their culture.”

Apparently, she came under a hail of criticism for daring to report on Israel’s democratic process, in which, contrary to the norm in the rest of the region, citizens actually elect their leadership.

In response, she wrote:

“I would like to thank those who showered me with a torrent of angry correspondence about my previous article on Israel, who accused me of calling for a normalization of relations, promoting the Hebrew language, and glorifying Israeli liberalism. This response was to be expected, because I breached a taboo. However, I am sorry to say to those people, despite my appreciation of their opinions, that their outrage will not change the reality. Israel will remain as it is; a small state but stronger than the rest of the Arab world.”

While criticizing Arabs for not knowing enough about the Israeli “enemy” might not sound so positive, the mere fact that the writer needed to respond shows that many Arabs fear that opening this topic for discussion breaks an opening in the wall of non-normalization with Israel. Could her critics be saying, “we would rather be ignorant of Israel than take a chance of knowing the truth” – and  possibly finding out that we have common interests?

It seems that both writers – from opposite sides of the fence – are offering similar challenges to their own “choirs” by suggesting that they ask themselves to examine their positions and be sure that they understand why it is that they believe as they do. The authors give excellent encouragement to a practice of self-examination we should all engage in regularly, in order to promote more authentic discussion between sides.

Originally published at Your Middle East.

No ‘Respect’ for Racist Demagogue

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I’m going to devote today’s post to one of my least favorite humans, George Galloway.

My U.K. readers already know probably more than they want to about him, but it occurred to me that others, Americans in particular, don’t know who or what he is. So I’ll do my best to remedy that.

Galloway, 58, is a member of the British Parliament for Bradford West, located in Yorkshire in north-central England. He was elected in 2012 by a landslide, receiving 56% of the vote; his nearest competitor got only 25%. Galloway, formerly a garden-variety leftist, was kicked out of the Labour party in 2003 because of his aggressive attacks on Tony Blair over British participation in the Iraq war.

In 2004, he joined a new left-wing party called “Respect,” which he and his faction shortly came to dominate. Galloway was the first M.P. elected by Respect, whose official ideology seems to be a sort of leftish populism.

Galloway has made it more than that, adding elements to appeal to Muslims (Bradford West was 38% Muslim in 2001, and is probably much more than that now). The party began to downplay some of the traditional left-wing causes like women’s and gay rights, while emphasizing opposition to the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan. Galloway himself may have converted to Islam (he is coy about this, perhaps to keep the few non-Muslim working-class votes that he receives). But he makes no pretense about appealing to Muslim interests — and prejudices.

What distinguishes Galloway from other many other demagogues — even in the U.K. — is his particularly vicious hatred of Israel, which extends to support for the Jew-hating Hamas. In 2009, he played a leading role in the “Viva Palestina” convoy to bring ‘aid’ to Gaza, which resulted in his being deported from Egypt. He often speaks against Zionism and Israel on his several radio/T.V. programs — in the U.K., on a satellite channel linked to Iran and Syria in Lebanon and the U.S. (on Pacifica station WBAI New York).

Hizballah, too, meets with his approval. “Hizballah is not and has never been a terrorist organisation. It is the legitimate national resistance movement of Lebanon,” he tells us. Ideology isn’t important as long as someone wants to kill Jews.

Galloway is always good for a rousing stump speech on the evils of Zionism and that “little Hitler state on the Mediterranean.” Just search for him on YouTube.

In short, Galloway is a man who has built a political persona and a career on hating Israel. Since explicit racial or ethnic hatred for groups of people is unfashionable — at least, in some parts of the West, although it is making a comeback — he must focus on abstract objects of hatred, like Zionism and Israel. His supporters aren’t deceived, and neither am I.

Galloway’s latest thuggish expression of hatred came with very little provocation. In response to an Oxford student who called for a peaceful, mutually agreed upon two-state solution, he suddenly asked “are you Israeli?” When the student answered in the affirmative, Galloway announced that he doesn’t debate Israelis, he doesn’t recognize the state of Israel, and stomped off — followed at a respectful few paces by his wife.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Is Hagel Jewish?

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

So two Jewish academics, one American and one Israeli, co-author a report with a Palestinian professor, paid for by the US State Department, claiming that Palestinian textbooks don’t really incite hatred against Jews and Israelis, that Israeli books are biased too, and it’s just a question of different ‘narratives’. It turns out (are you surprised?) that it is a bunch of nonsense.

Dangerous nonsense, though, because the issue of ‘incitement’ is critical — that is, if the Palestinians teach their children that

Zionism is “a colonialist political movement founded by the Jews of Europe in the second half of the 19th century… [intent on] displacing the Palestinian people in Palestine from their land.” and far worse, then it calls into question their desire to live peacefully alongside a Jewish state, as well as the advisability of Israeli concessions in order to reach an agreement with them. In all, this is a small skirmish in one of many battles in the larger information war which is a major theater in the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Despite being nonsense, it is an effective gambit due to the academic credentials of the authors and the ‘scientific’ pretensions of the report, even though the whole enterprise is based on faulty premises (read this for the ugly details). The State Department certainly got full value for its money.

Now I want to switch gears, because it isn’t the question of textbooks and incitement that I really want to talk about (check Palestinian Media Watch for more examples than you wanted to see).

Note that the two non-Arab co-authors happen to be Jewish.

I used to write ‘man-bites-dog’ stories about Jewish anti-Zionism. I would write, “with Jews like these, who needs antisemites?” I spent a lot of time trying to understand their apparently inconsistent behavior, given the importance of the Jewish state to the cultural and physical survival of the Jewish people. I wrote literally tens of articles on the subject of J Street, the phony pro-Israel organization, and about the recently-elected head of the Reform Movement, who was an activist in J Street and the New Israel Fund.

I have stopped being surprised at this. It no longer appears remarkable to me when I notice that the leaders of anti-Zionist groups are Jews, sometimes rabbis. I am beginning to sympathize with whoever it was who said that whenever he or she sees a Jewish name at the bottom of a letter to the editor, there’s no need to read it. I can only shrug when I note the overwhelming Jewish support for the most anti-Israel US administration since 1948. I don’t dislike Max Blumenthal as much as I disliked Yasser Arafat any more.

There are reasons for all of these things, in psychology and politics. I am no longer interested in them. I have always thought that my mission was, above all, to educate my Jewish friends about Zionism and why it is important for Jews to be Zionists. I am no longer sure that this is possible.

No, now there is only one overriding issue for me:

How do we get Chuck Hagel a Bar Mitzvah?

—— Note: No, I don’t really think Chuck Hagel is Jewish. There is no evidence for that, unless you count his over-the-top anti-Zionism.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fresno-zionism/is-hagel-jewish/2013/02/17/

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