This week in Israel: elections in three weeks? (yawn)

So here we are, three weeks before national elections – and nobody in the Israeli blogosphere has anything to say. This, despite all the upheavals of the past few months: The surprise election of Amir Peretz, the former leader of Histadrut, Israel's largest labour union, as leader of the Labour party; despite Prime Minister Ariel Sharon‘s decision to leave the Likud party and found Kadima; despite the fact that Sharon is now lying in an apparently irreversible coma after suffering a massive cerebral hemmhorage two months ago; and despite the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian national elections.

Given all that drama, you'd think that people would be really fired up about the elections, wouldn't you? But nooooo……

Perhaps next week, once the television broadcasts of the campaign messages are in full swing, Israeli bloggers will have something to say about the elections. Meanwhile, this week I've just put together some random posts that, taken as a whole, give readers a sort of intimate snapshot of what's going on in Israel – behind the headlines.

Stephanie Fried, a freelance journalist who blogs at Stefanella's Drive Thru, illustrates the complexity of life in Israel in this description of the people she met at a Tel Aviv hospital ward, where her son was hospitalized following a fever-induced seizure. Stephanie's son is half Danish; two of his fellow patients were children from Gaza, accompanied by their mothers; and a third was a 12 year-old Israeli girl whose father was an undercover agent in the occupied territories during the first intifada. And there they were, all being treated in the same ward of a Tel Aviv hospital. This post is required reading for anyone who thinks that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be defined in absolute terms.

Or, as Stephanie puts it,

“With perpetual conflict and enmity in abundance how do Gazans end up sharing a Tel Aviv hospital room with a part American/part Danish kid (he doesn't draw cartoons. Yet) and a former undercover agent?

Grey grey grey. The closer you get the blurrier the view.”

Stephanie just wrote another fascinating post about the refusal of a London-based dance magazine to publish an article about an Israeli dance troupe that just returned from New York, where it performed an originally choreographed piece about breaking down boundaries between cultures and people . The dance troupe is scheduled to perform next in Cuba and around North America. This is what happened when Stephanie called to make her story pitch:

“The head of advertising answers and immediately launches into a quiet but resolute political diatribe upon hearing where the company is based. I'm thinking: ‘WTF? Why is a dance magazine guy talking politics to me?’ And never mind my interjections on artistic director Sally-Anne's behalf…that she broke away from apartheid South Africa, that her most recent creation is called Borders and addresses breaking down boundaries both personal and political….

He basically tells me that because of the occupation the magazine doesn't run stories on dance companies out of Israel. He also assures that he is in no way, shape or form racist because he's a Sikh from Northern India. But of course.”

Meanwhile, Shai Tsur of Shaister comments on the Israeli couple whose insane decision to set off firecrackers in Nazareth’s Church of the Annunciation, during prayers, led to violent demonstrations by the Christian Arab residents of the city.

Shai points out that there is ample evidence showing that the Havivis, the couple who set off the firecrackers, are not exactly the most mentally stable people in the world.

“Havivi is in fact certifiable. He is also somewhat infamous. A few years ago, he and his family showed up at the Muqata’ah in Ramallah and begged Yasser Arafat for permission to settle in the Palestinian Authority. That, as it turns out, was a publicity stunt geared to draw attention to the Havivis’ economic problems and their battles with social services. So was the little attack in Nazareth.”

Shai then goes on to criticize Israeli Arab leaders for taking advantage of the event for political gains.

“No sooner had the incident in Nazareth started to cool down that Ahmad Tibi and other Arab MKs rushed to the news studios to decry Havivi’s act as representative of institutional racism in Israel.

In response, acting PM Olmert called for calm and suggested that the incident — “the act of a spaced-out couple”, in his words — not be used to rile up race relations. So, today Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh attacked Olmert as a racist.

Clearly, it’s election season and the Arab parties have decided to use this incident as a campaign issue. Which is a pity, because it doesn’t deserve to be. There are many legitimate examples of problematic policy (both de jure and de facto) when it comes to Israel’s Arab minority. This isn’t one of them.”

Bert de Bruin, of Dutchblog Israel, echoes Shai when he writes:

Almost all religious officials, political leaders and security forces behaved in a very responsible way, and they did a good job of crisis management and cooperation. The only ones who should be ashamed of themselves, since they showed an absolute lack of responsible leadership by trying to use this incident – which was caused by troubled individuals, not by political or religious fanatics – for their own political gains, are men such as Mohammad Barakeh, Ahmad Tibi, Sheikh Salah and Azmi Bishara.

Further on the subject of Israel’s Arab minority, Don Radlauer, of On the Contrary, takes another Israeli blogger to task for writing a racist post about the rights of Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin.

And over at Slightly Mad, the leftist blogger Purple Parrot confesses to being rather satisfied that Paradise Now, the Palestinian movie about suicide bombers, did not win the Academy Award for best foreign film.

“So for any of you who were assuming I'd be seething at being “robbed”, I will surprise you by saying that I was actually satisfied with this outcome: I do stand by my previous contention that people – Israelis and Jews in particular – should not boycott Paradise Now. But I don't think it deserved this particular statuette, and certainly not the accompanying hype which would have degenerated into a nasty PR war between bereaved families, propagandists on both sides, and the like: I shudder at the very notion.”

1 comment

  • Wafa Sultan

    Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.


    Host: I understand from your words that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West, and the backwardness and ignorance of the Muslims?

    Wafa Sultan: Yes, that is what I mean.


    Host: Who came up with the concept of a clash of civilizations? Was it not Samuel Huntington? It was not Bin Laden. I would like to discuss this issue, if you don’t mind…

    Wafa Sultan: The Muslims are the ones who began using this expression. The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The Prophet of Islam said: “I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger.” When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to start this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels.

    My colleague has said that he never offends other people’s beliefs. What civilization on the face of this earth allows him to call other people by names that they did not choose for themselves? Once, he calls them Ahl Al-Dhimma, another time he calls them the “People of the Book,” and yet another time he compares them to apes and pigs, or he calls the Christians “those who incur Allah’s wrath.” Who told you that they are “People of the Book”? They are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books. All the useful scientific books that you have today are theirs, the fruit of their free and creative thinking. What gives you the right to call them “those who incur Allah’s wrath,” or “those who have gone astray,” and then come here and say that your religion commands you to refrain from offending the beliefs of others?

    I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others’ right to believe in it.

    Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?

    Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural…

    Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran…

    Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do not concern you.


    Wafa Sultan: Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don’t throw them at me. You are free to worship whoever you want, but other people’s beliefs are not your concern, whether they believe that the Messiah is God, son of Mary, or that Satan is God, son of Mary. Let people have their beliefs.


    Wafa Sultan: The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.

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