Thursday, 17 February 2011

A fundaMENTAL similarty?

When I originally posted Lessons mi Mitzraim I hadn't seen this article - but it seems that great minds think alike!

In an interesting article, Anshel Pfeffer writes:

"Of course there is a world of difference between the Islamist and the Israeli ultra-orthodox religious-right establishment, but they have one trait in common, and that is fundamentalism. They share a firm and unshakeable belief that in every instance, their religious code is supreme over all man-made legal systems, especially democracy. In other words, sharia or halakha trumps every other consideration."

Read the full article here.

Glass houses and stones (no pun intended...) all over again...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lessons mi Mitzraim (Lessons from Egypt)

The news has been consistently pouring in from Egypt and I had resisted talking about it on this blog until it looked like there was something concrete to talk about. So much of what I was reading in the press was speculative: will Mubarak stay or go? When will he go? Who will take over? What does it mean for Israel?

Well, now Mubarak has gone from Cairo and from power and Egypt is in the care of a group of generals for the time being. They say they will implement the change the Egyptian people want. I hope they do for I cannot imagine what might happen if they don't.

"Cairo was lovely, but got a bit oppressive. Gone to Sharm now to relax...  love, Hosni xx"

Of course, one of the demands of the people is democracy and that means elections. Ehud Barak said on Sunday that the most likely political group to benefit from early elections would be the Muslim Brotherhood as they are currently the most organised and coherent opposition in Egypt.

How did Barak become an expert on religious fanaticism???

According to the BBC, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest, oldest and most influential Islamic movement and has inspired others all over the world to take up a political and social Islamic program. The BBC also predicts that should the Muslim Brotherhood want to move Egypt's legal system toward sharia law this would be a popular move amongst Egyptians. I hope this is not the case. I have only been to Egypt a couple of times and only got past Nuweiba once. The three days I spent in Cairo was indeed eye-opening inasmuch as it was almost impossible to get by with English (lots of miming and pointing took place!) and once it was dark you would hardly see any women out in the streets, although you would see many men of all ages enjoying the cafes of Cairo. This was the first time I realised the depth of the conservatism in Egyptian society. But on the other hand we were warmly invited into the home of our taxi driver Farouk and his wife cooked us a fantastic meal. The Egyptians we met were welcoming and warm hearted. They knew I was Jewish and that I was studying in Jerusalem and we talked about the political situation and our mutual hopes for peace.

OK, so that was almost 14 years ago, pre-Bush and pre-911 (IMHO the two worst things to have happened for peace in the Middle East) and there was still optimism in the region about the prospects for peace, but I hope and believe that the Egyptian people will not replace the rule of a secular dictator for a bunch of religious dictators.

Spot the difference...

I called this post Lessons from Egypt because I think that instead of worrying about what might happen with the religious extremists in Egypt, Israel should be more concerned about the increasing religious fanaticism inside her own borders (as vague as those borders are - for the purposes of my point I include the occupied territories, the magnet for many Jewish extremists) and deal with that. And if that's accomplished and Israel still worries too much about the countries around her - there's a little group of nationalist extremists that could be dealt with too.

"Grant me the courage to change those things I can
Grant me the patience to accept those things I can't change
Grant me the wisdom to know the difference between the two"
The Serenity Prayer


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Part 2

So I watched The Promise, and must say I was pretty impressed. It was a brilliantly put together piece of drama and I think it presented a pretty well balanced picture of 1945 and 2011 in the Holy Land, even if it took me while to get used to the notion of Patrick from Coupling being a former Israeli general (with a very British accent - not sure if he was supposed to be sabra or oleh...). The movement between the two time periods was handled smoothly, enabling the viewer to see parallels between the political situations and the personal stories.

It will be interesting to see how Peter Kosminsky's portrayal of the last years of the British Mandate will develop in tonight's episode. Last week he showed the British using an unsuspecting Len as an undercover lure to get a 'wanted man' from the Jewish underground. Len arranged to meet the mark at a demonstration against British immigration quotas and was shocked when the mark was shot right in front of him, in the back. There wasn't too much of an explanation for Len or the audience, although it stuck me that this was in fact a targeted assassination - something Israel herself is regularly and loudly condemned for doing.

habibi on the beat? 

Reflecting on this element of the story now, I would have liked a bit more background of the disparate Jewish groups in Palestine in this period. I think the average viewer would have come away with the impression that the Jewish underground was unified at this time, which of course it wasn't. The Haganah, Lehi and Irgun had their own infrastructures and command and although there was co-operation between the various Zionist factions (such as the United Resistance during 1946, which ended after the King David Hotel bombing) their attitudes towards the British was one of the things that characterised their different positions and actions. The Haganah followed the policy of havlaga (restraint) whereas Irgun and Lehi believed in reprisals and revenge attacks.

Nonetheless, as the programme drew to an end, I was left with the feeling that Kosminsky's research really did pay off. I was particularly intrigued by the 'truth and reconciliation'-style  forum of 2011 in which Paul and Omar spoke. "The first time you sit down with your enemy, it will be hard." This seems to be a way froward through the ever-deepening hatred and mistrust between Jews and Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian territories. I look forward to the developments that are sure to come involving Omar and Erin (I smell a love affair...).

So, I will leave you with my favourite quote from the first episode and then we can all cross our fingers that tonight, Paul will emerge unscathed from the cafe....

Clara: "You think we're ungrateful?"
Len: "Well... yeah, after all we did for you in the war."
Clara: "You fought the war for your Empire, Len, not for us."

Sunday, 6 February 2011


So last Thursday was Louis Theroux meets the extremist Zionists, tonight is the first instalment of The Promise - which promises to be controversial as hell as well as apparently brilliant. Israel seems to be a popular topic on TV right now...

Having enjoyed many a Louis Theroux gawp-fest of weird and wacky individuals (most notably militia men in the USA, nutty Christians in the USA and Jimmy Saville in Roundhay Park) I anticipated some interesting perspective on the ultra Zionists, but was a little disappointed to be honest. Although Louis got into some interesting situations (the unrest in Silwan, a guided tour of a deserted Jewish 'sterile zone' in Hebron) he didn't (couldn't?) push some of the most pertinent points. He had a little go with an Australian guy who helps settlers buy properties in particularly sensitive Arab areas, but it struck me that these people are so media savvy, they know how to deal with and deflect such questions. The extremists came across as, well, extreme - but we knew that about them already didn't we?

is the promise of eye candy???? (no, probably not...)

Tonight's televisual offering promises (sorry) to be quite different. As a drama that jumps around in time between 1948 and 2001 and is the result of eleven years' research, The Promise has set the bar pretty high for itself. I suspect that many people will go in with preconceptions, not only about the conflict, but also about how it will be portrayed by Peter Kosminsky. I expect I will have my own preconceptions, and I hope to be challenged as well as entertained (?) by this programme. I'll be letting you  know...

Watch this space, but in the meantime, I think you should also watch The Promise...

A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain.  ~Arabian Proverb

Promise little and do much.  ~Hebrew Proverb