Monday, 9 May 2011

Independent thinking

As Yom HaZikaron draws to a close and Yom Hatzmaut begins, I got to thinking ... and surfing. I have had a few contrasting experiences and read a range of opinions on both of these issues over the last few days.

Peace and independence - is it really so hard to have both...?

Firstly was the discussion-turned-confrontation with our old friends the Brighton branch of the 'Boycott Israel' campaign. After a perfectly lovely morning at the Brighton Festival Children's Parade and lunch at Wagamama's, we passed their table-and-flag setup outside Churchill Square. Now I don't always talk to these people: sometimes I get very defensive (moi??) and angry and I don't like to lose my cool. But on Saturday I thought 'bugger it' and started talking to an old guy who was handing out 'Boycott Israel' flyers. I started by asking him whether the group were encouraging people to boycott all represive regimes in the Middle East or just Israel (I like rhetorical questions). Credit where it's due, the old man admitted that many other regimes in the region are pretty dastardly (ya don't say...?) but no, only Israel was the target of this boycott. Interestingly he said that this was because Israel sold more goods to the west than other Middle Eastern states and I argued that this wasn't the case (petrol, dates, petrol oh, and petrol???). I also told him I thought they were only boycotting the Israeli goods that were easy to boycott i.e. the fruit and Dead Sea products on their flyers - I asked him if the group used the Internet (they do) and asked why they weren'y boycotting the Israeli processor technology (no answer) - I'm sure they weren't boycotting Israeli medical treatments either...

Anyhow, we remained in good humour and polite, which was nice, even though his lack of general knowledge and myth-accepted-as-fact was bewildering. He thought that Israel and Jews denied the suffering of the Roma during the Holocaust (I asked him if he'd ever been to Yad Vashem, of course he hadn't) and he seemed to think that "his idea" of a peace and reconciliation-type of commission would benefit the conflict (I informed him such groups - such as Combatants for Peace - already exist). In the end we realised we weren't about to convert the other and agreed to differ, although I hope he learned something from me... ;)

Then it got dirty...

I picked up a longer leaflet entitled 'The Basic Facts' and was surprised to read that in 1948-9 Israel forcibly exiled and massacred hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (I am paraphrasing because I don't have a copy of the leaflet with me) Now, I am not denying that many Palestinians were forced from their homes and forbidden to return in the 1948-9 war. But NOWHERE in the leaflet was a war mentioned. In fact to anyone who knew little about the conflict, on reading the 'basic facts' it would seem that there was no war in 1948-9 but instead a series of unprovoked acts of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israeli terrorist forces. So I asked one woman who was distributing the leaflets why they thought it was acceptable to omit the quite important fact that the day after Israel declared independence, 5 Arab states invaded and a war was fought, which Israel subsequently won.

I don't think she understood my question, because she was talking about Jewish terrorists who were active before 1948 (OK, but doesn't answer the question) how the Zionists forced the Balfour Declaration (again, not an answer and also astoundingly inaccurate from a historical perspective). I asked her again and she said something about there 'being no Arab states at this time because they weren't really independent' - again I'm paraphrasing but I can't think where this woman gets her information from... She asked if I had heard of the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe (of course, I told her, I have an MA in Israeli Studies from UCL) and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. I repeated that I was not contesting what is in the leaflet, just what has been left out, and that I thought the leaflet was overtly one-sided to the point of warping history to suit a message. At this point, with the woman shouting (not sure why... she was making little sense regardless of her volume, and she really wasn't listening to me) and Mark beginning to shout, and me doing a 'calm down, calm down!' Harry Enfield Scouser-type of thing, we decided to walk away... although I would have liked to continue our  debate to see if she would ever answer my question.........

Indeed, 1948 definitely gets the temperatures rising - you only have to look at the comments on Ha'Aretz's Facebook page to see how quickly all reason flees from people when commenting on this subject. And how quickly vitriol and hatred appears.

Other interesting, even seemingly paradoxical responses to today's and yesterday's commemorations/celebrations include: Gilad Shalit's brother shouting out at the Memorial Ceremony on Har Herzl and being forcibly removed as a result and Motti Fogel's (brother of Udi, murdered with most of his family at Itamar) speech at the Combatants for Peace parallel ceremony.

However, the following blog has made me laugh out loud more than once - Benji Lovitt strikes gold with his 63 things I love about Israel 

Enjoy! and Hag Sameach!



Wednesday, 4 May 2011

May the 4th be with you...

Ok, so I haven't just written this post so I can use that title - although I do like it a lot... (and recommend this link in celebration: The Force Volkswagen ad)

So much has been happening, in the world and in my own life, that each time I thought about blogging it got a bit overwhelming. So I thought I'd do what some say I do best: make a list...

The World List:
  1. Arab Spring - I've blogged on Egypt but since then Libya and Syria, Bahrain and Yemen have also sprung... it's been exasperating watching Iraq mark II happen in Libya and bugger all happen in Syria as far as international responses have been concerned. Stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea and feeling helpless as all we do is watch and read...
  2. Following on from this, if you only read one other blog, please read this one - A Gay Girl In Damascus - that I found via Rachel Shabi on Twitter. It's brilliantly written and has given me an incredible insight into current events in Syria.
  3. Hamas-Fatah reconciliation - hopefully a good thing, at least for the Palestinian people. Israel's typical reaction draws a thin veil over her own unwillingness to move any peace process forward (doesn't the term 'peace process' sound terribly outdated now??)
  4. Death of Bin Laden - a little surreal still, this one. I doubt it's going to make much difference to Islamic fundamentalism or the West's attitude towards the Middle East, which, after all, is largely based on its resources rather than its ideologies...
OK, so that's enough serious world stuff, this blog's been getting ever so political of late and so I want to bring it back tothe personal, which is what I intended it to be from the start.

My Own Life List:

  1. We just got back from another lovely family holiday in Israel. I have managed to get Mark to seriously aim for August 2012 for the big Aliyah date. We'll see...
  2. We nearly bought, then didn't nearly buy, then did nearly buy an off-plan property in Mazkeret Batya. Sof ha sippur, we aren't buying it (it's been a roller-coaster ride folks) but we have decided that we want to live in Mazkeret Batya, and having a particular place to aim for is great motivation.
  3. MY SISTER IS PREGNANT!!!!!!!! - sorry, did I forget to mention that?? we are all very excited, especially now that she has managed to get her head out of the toilet/sick bucket, most of the time....
3 happy ladies in Israel - 2 happy cos they're in Israel, 1 happy cos she's not puking

I'm sure there's other stuff I've forgotten, but that's for another post.