Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arabs, Jews and dogs

There are words. Words can chill. Like the morning I went out into the street and found two intoxicated teenagers daubing obscene graffiti on the hood of my car. "I'm gonna kill you," I yelled at them. "I'm gonna hang you both from that light pole." The drunk youngsters capped their spray-paint cans and meandered away mumbling incomprehensible things, maybe because they were scared by my words, or maybe because they were already done drawing their giant penis. I was myself scared by the enormity of what I had said. I knew I'm incapable of hanging anyone from anywhere --I weigh 55 kg--, but the violence ingrained in the society --the concept that minor offenders deserve Draconian punishments, including capital-- had surfaced in an individual who prides himself in being nonviolent.

Fast forward, and eastward, to today's Jerusalem. If I were a Jewish activist fighting for the Arab residents' increasingly eroded rights I wouldn't be comfortable at all hearing them shout, as they occasionally do at their demonstrations, "Jews are our dogs." I don't believe for a moment those Arabs would turn on their Jewish supporters because they're Jewish. In fact, it's quite probable that the very same Arabs whose aunt shouted those words were sipping tea with honey and mint leaves with their Jewish supporters moments before the protest. It's the society's ancestral prejudices that speak through that middle-aged lady, and it would be good for the Jerusalem Arabs to gain consciousness of what needs to be fixed in said society. Although I agree it shouldn't be necessarily their top priority, it's disturbing to see next to no internal Arab reaction against the supremacist discourse seeping into legitimate protest. Or, from another perspective, it's startling to see how unaware Arabs are of the political correctness that prevent Westerners from overtly expressing the horrible sentiments they also subscribe to. (I always recall how exultant many Argentinians were that the Twin Towers had been blown up and the Yanks had been taught a lesson. But they didn't celebrate in the street, God forbid.) Because you know, words can scare.

Then there are actions. Actions can scare more than words. In fact, actions can kill, which words can't, not at least on an individual basis. And in the I/P conflict, it's the Israelis who can carry out actions, not Palestinians. Despite the ever more occasional terrorist attack, it's the Israelis who harass and degrade Palestinians on an everyday basis. Stopping someone for 5 hours at a checkpoint when you could have stopped him for 1 hour, while not as spectacular as comparing him to a canine, is much more hurtful.

I don't know if Israeli Jews have called Arabs dogs. Snakes, monkeys, donkeys, cockroaches -- yes. But not dogs that I know. However, I do know of interactions between Arabs, Jews and dogs that take place not in the realm of words, but in that of actions. Like the following one:

This is a video of an Israeli Defense Forces dog attacking an elderly Palestinian lady. Notice how, as the canine savagely bites the woman’s hand, the soldiers try to pull it away, most probably causing her even more pain, instead of hitting the animal in the head with their rifle butts or directly shooting it to prevent further harm to the human being attacked.

One life is more important than the other here, and it's clearly not the woman's. In a very literal sense, Palestinians are worth less than dogs to Israeli soldiers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Inflammatory" mosques

The Arab- and Muslim-bashing community features numerous charlatans inexplicably described as scholars, thinkers or even philosophers. We have already dealt with Alan Dershowitz, but he pales beside a deranged rabbi by the name of Shmuley Boteach.

In a column carried by The Jerusalem Post, Boteach informs us that:

Tempers are heating up in the New York City area over the plans by the American Society for Muslim Advancement and another Islamic group known as the Cordoba Initiative to build a $100 million, 13-story, Islamic cultural center and mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero. And if that were not inflammatory enough, the plan is to inaugurate the new center on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

There are many ways in which building things can be inflammatory. For instance, if you build a settlement on private land belonging to someone else, that's inflammatory. If you build apartment blocks in defiance of both international law and the commitments signed by your country, that's also inflammatory. But what can be inflammatory about building a religious center in compliance with the existing laws and regulations? Let Boteach explain:

[I]t would be the height of insensitivity, not to say an outright provocation, for the Islamic community to build a giant Islamic shrine at the resting place of 3,000 innocent Americans who were murdered by Islamic terrorists.

Let me see if I get this straight. Some Muslims who did nothing wrong must refrain from building mosques near the place where other, completely unrelated Muslims crashed planes into buildings. This must be because all Muslims are responsible for what all other Muslims do, right? I can think of another religious group, with which Boteach may not be completely unfamiliar, that has been fighting this kind of logic for some two millennia.

But it seems this wise man is not alone in his paranoia:

New Yorkers seem overwhelmingly opposed to the plan, comparing its insensitivity to the German government opening, say, a Bach appreciation museum right outside Auschwitz, or Toyota opening a car factory by the Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu.

He may have meant Wagner not Bach, and one wonders why the German government would want to open a music museum in a place inside Poland. But in any event, the fact that the Nazis acted as the elected leaders of Germany obligates all successive German governments to be very sensitive to Jewish feelings. This is hardly true for the Muslims of New York, who are in no way obligated by the choices of 19 men unrepresentative of Islam.

Having established that Muslims share collective responsibility for the original sin of the Twin Towers, Boteach proceeds to explain how they could redeem themselves:

I HAVE a simple, elegant, and deeply moral solution. Let the Islamic cultural center be built. Let the mosque be included. But, the Muslim organizations building it should commit right now to making the principal focus of the building a museum depicting the rise of Islamic extremism, its hate-based agenda and how it is an abomination to Islam.

The museum would feature exhibits showing the major fomenters of Islamic hatred worldwide and the cultural and religious factors that have gained them so wide a following.

Of course, it's a matter of everyday experience to walk into a Catholic church and see the pictures of child-abusing Catholic priests, along with an explanation of how that's an abomination of the institution of celibacy. Similarly, you may recall when you were last invited to a Jewish wedding and you saw a museum dedicated to rabbi Meir Kahane inside the synagogue, which explained how his anti-Arab hate is an abomination of Judaism, and denounced --complete with the pictures and videos-- the stoning of Palestinian schoolgirls and the burning of olive trees carried out by his followers. Because you know, all Catholics are tainted by their rapists, and all Jews by their racists, and they must exorcize themselves by repudiating those sinners in their houses of prayer.

More Boteach:

The museum would feature exhibits showing the major fomenters of Islamic hatred worldwide and the cultural and religious factors that have gained them so wide a following. It would have exhibitions on some of the terrible atrocities committed by these Islamic fundamentalists, focusing specifically on the slaughter at Ground Zero on 9/11.

In other words, guilty until proven innocent. All Muslims must be considered terrorists unless they subject themselves to public self-flagellation in their own cultural centers.

Nothing new there. Try boarding a plane with a hooked nose and thick eyebrows, let alone a keffiyeh. But it's scary to see how mainstream such racist stereotypes have gone, and how cheerfully popular rabbis espouse them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Letters to a Zionist friend (5): The Gaza candy bars/computers

Sometimes you post pictures of Gaza on your blog. Not of the zones devastated by Israeli bombing, or of the children with missing limbs or white phosphorous burns. You post pictures of market stands full of candy bars and other yummy things, or of schoolchildren learning to use brand-new computers.

If Gazans can eat candy or use computers, then the so-called Israeli blockade can't be that bad, can it? The world is lying and the measure doesn't essentially affect the Gazans' lives. Or so you argue.

Certainly, candy and computers are luxuries not everyone can afford. So are symphony orchestras. Therefore, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto led luxurious lives! See:

A poster for a concert by the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in the Warsaw Ghetto on August 2nd, 1941

The Nazis can't have been that bad inasmuch as they allowed the Jews not only to own musical instruments, but also to play them in public concerts, for which they were even permitted to print posters, using paper, a scarce commodity in wartime. True, they were not allowed to play Jewish music, but that didn't detract much from their pleasure. The Jewish contribution to symphonic music is almost negligible, but even if we take into account the works of composers of other religions with Jewish ancestries, the restriction still allowed them to enjoy a terrific number of pieces. Anyone who can attend classical music performances, even if Christians of Jewish background like Mendelssohn and Mahler are left out, is almost as privileged as, well, someone who can put his fingers on a computer keyboard.

No. I'm not comparing Israel to the Nazis. I'm comparing you to a Holocaust denier, and I think it's an apt comparison. For you nitpick Gaza images that might convey normalcy as though they represented the whole Gazan reality. Or you point to the export of strawberries and flowers as though the external sales of any item but those two were not strictly forbidden. Very much like Holocaust deniers cite the countless Holocaust myths, canards and hoaxes to "prove" that the claim that six million Jews were exterminated is itself a lie.

Israel has banned imports of livestock for nine months at a time, and of footwear for three straight years. Neither cows nor shoes can be used to make bombs. The blockade of Gaza is collective punishment at its worst, targetting young children, elderly persons and disabled individuals for the sole reason of being Gazans. The fact that certain forms of punishment that could be implemented are not doesn't cancel the cruelty of those measures, viciously designed to cause pain, that do get put into effect by Israel.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Circumcision in a nutshell

A Jew mutilates another Jew (and a newborn one to make matters worse), and a third Jew moans...

...that being Jewish hurts!

How antisemitic the world is.