Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Avaraham Burg, a onetime speaker of the Knesset has created outrage in Israel with his book, recently translated into English: The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes. None of Burg's assertions are new or earth shattering, but any non-Jew who made these same assertions would be promptly labeled anti-Semitic. The novelty here is that such ideas are being expressed by a mainstream Israeli figure. Consider this statement:
- “I realized that Israel had become an efficient kingdom with no prophecy. Where was it going? What is a Jewish democratic state? What does it mean that Jews define themselves by genetics 60 years after genetics were used against them?”
In a radio interview, Burg gives a telling anecdote about the centrality of the Holocaust to the Israeli narrative. He recounts the story of a colleague leaving to Poland on a business trip only to return prematurely a couple of days later. When he asked him what happened, his friend said that while traveling by train across Poland it all came back to him: the trains, the concentration camps, the gas chambers. He could not take it and promptly returned to Israel. The problem was his friend was an Iraqi Jew with connection whatsoever to the holocaust. In his book, Burg asserts that Israel has become a self-justifying Sparta, that Israel should not be a Jewish state and that its law of return granting citizenship to any Jew should be changed. The English version of the book, interestingly, is a watered down and skips over some controversial statements he made in the original manuscript such as the assertion that the Israeli government will pass a law prohibiting the marriage between Jews and Arabs.
Why should I care? Because no real sustainable Middle Eastern peace is possible when Israel's very identity is based on the concept of perpetual victimhood and perpetual conflict.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Molaison's tragic life fascinates me. For as much as he has helped neuroscientists understand the brain's memory processes, I am intrigued by Molaison, the human being and how his memory deficit affected his personality and his outlook on life. Since we are the sum total of our life experiences, was Molaison then the same man at 82 that he was at 27? And if so were his established memories more vivid because there were so few memories for a man of his age or had his memories faded with the passage of half a century? And how does a man like him face life every morning?
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Olmert Slams "Pogrom", Palestinians Still Fearful
December 7, 2008
HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians last week were a "pogrom" and that Israeli police must end "intolerable leniency" toward such violent offenders.
"As a Jew, I am ashamed of other Jews doing such a thing," Olmert told his cabinet, referring to a shooting incident.
But in the West Bank city of Hebron, where at least three Palestinians were wounded by gunfire on Thursday after troops cleared dozens of hardline, religious settlers from a large building, many locals were skeptical of such Israeli promises.
"We're expecting to be attacked again at any time by the settlers," said Bassem al-Jabari, as he and other neighbors looked at the evacuated site on Sunday. "No one cares about us."
Olmert, who has resigned over a corruption scandal but stays on as caretaker until after a February 10 election, has lately taken to describing settler attacks as "pogroms," using the Russian term for violence against Jews a century ago that drove some to emigrate to Palestine and, in time, establish the Israeli state.
"We are a people whose historical ethos is built on the memory of pogroms," Olmert told his cabinet, according to a statement. "The sight of Jews standing with guns and shooting at innocent Palestinian civilians can only be called a pogrom."
His latest remarks were among his strongest yet. They follow the broadcasting of video apparently showing a settler shooting and wounding Palestinians, as well as stone-throwing and other violence across the West Bank, including the torching of olive groves, which Palestinians leaders described as "waging war." Olmert said he was pressing for prosecutions and "an end to the intolerable leniency ... toward settlers who break the law." An Israeli court remanded one settler in custody on Sunday over the shooting allegation and released another on bail.
The United States, which failed in efforts to broker a peace in this final year of George W. Bush's presidency, has described the settlement of half a million Israelis in the West Bank since Israel captured the territory in 1967 as an obstacle to peace.
Olmert says Israel should clear outposts but draw borders with a new Palestinian state to ensure major settlements, deemed illegal under international law, are incorporated into Israel.
In Hebron, troops now occupy the building, dubbed "House of Peace" by the dozen or so settler families who refused to obey a court order to leave last month. A Palestinian denies selling it to them and is asking Israeli courts to return his property.
Mohammed al-Jabari, who lives close by the building, on a strip of hillside separating Hebron's ancient center from the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, said neighbors were glad the army was now in control: "It's better now. There is respect for the law. When the settlers were here, there was no law."
Longer term, however, his neighbors are not optimistic.
Jabari and other householders, mostly also from the Jabari clan, living in flat-roofed houses among patches of field and olive trees around the evacuated building recount a year or more of tension and clashes with the Jewish former occupants.
Though the allegations could not easily be verified, tales of rocks thrown at homes, women intimidated, a dead dog tossed into the courtyard of the local mosque, a horse poisoned, and so on were repeated by several Palestinians living close to a hard core of settlers. These see expansion in Hebron, which is home to the tomb of Abraham, as a religious and nationalist duty.
Israeli troops protect some 650 Jews living in the center of Hebron, a city of 180,000, as well as surrounding settlements.
Palestinians say Israeli forces turn a blind eye to settler attacks while punishing Arabs who resort to violence: "It's double standards," Issa Amro, 28, a human rights activist.
He said local people were particularly fearful that settlers are allowed to carry rifles: "There is an Israeli soldier to protect every one of them," Amro said. "Why do they need M-16s?"
Another neighbor, using his nickname Abu Firas, recalled how his children had been terrified as settlers attacked their home with burning material and stones on Thursday: "They burned our homes with the protection of the Israeli state," he said.
"Right now, I see no Israeli government. I see gang law," he added, surveying the hillside from a cemetery where at least two Muslim headstones have been daubed with a star of David.
"The only way to end this is for Israel to pull all settlers from the West Bank. It's a fight for survival. It's us or them."