Saturday, March 11, 2006

Politically Incorrect

Me against my brother. Me and my brother against my cousin. Me and my cousin against my village. Me and my village against a stranger.
-Arab proverb

This saying is often quoted to help people understand the behavior of people in the Middle East. I think often the intent is to illustrate how clannish the Arabs are. How the only way to curb their endless internecine feuds is to give them a common external enemy.

It is hard to argue with this assessment based on reality. But I would posit that the Arabs are not the only people who exhibit this behavior. In many ways, though not to the same violent degree, we Jews are guilty of the same sins.

Which brings me yet to another point. Over Shabbos, I was a silent partner in a discussion between two Zionists discussing the good old days when the Arabs in the West Bank knew their place. How primitive they all were. How a few Shin Bet guys could strike terror in nthe hearts of even the important Arabs in their towns by bringing them in for questioning and intimidating the hell out of them. This made me very uncomfortable. It seems like the only way to be a good Zionist these days is to demonize the Arabs as a people. And I have a big problem with that.

Don't get me wrong. I harbor few illusions of short term peace with the Arabs. As a matter of fact, like most Jews, whether they will admit it or not, I don't know how to solve this conflict that has lately become a crisis. Nor am I naive enough to believe that the Palestinians and their neighbors resort to violence because they are oppressed beyond their breaking point. Nor do I believe that any sizeable majority of Palestinians is willing to accept a Jewish State under any circumstances.

But I refuse to allow myself to be forced into a position of hate, especially based on prejudice and bigotry. I don't believe it is a zero sum game. It's too bad that making such a statement in public is so politically incorrect when you live in a Zionist community.


Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Boy, I guess nobody wants to touch this post with a ten foot pole. Am I saying something that controversial? If so, let me know you think I'm full of it or whatever!

March 12, 2006 8:05 PM  
Blogger dbs said...

I often have the same feeling during these conversations. I try to speak up (at this point everyone knows that my ideas are off the beaten trail anyway). I have a theory that even though you feel like you're talking to the wall, and you often set off a whole group tirade, it is still worth doing. At least these kinds of words won't be the only ones heard. And, perhaps something you say will resonate with someone.

March 13, 2006 8:24 AM  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...


It's not that I didn't have anything to say... I guess I agree with you. In the sense that I try to judge people as individuals and not based on some group stereotypes. But it's very, very difficult, and still more difficult with people who have a threat hanging over their heads. It's hard not to get cynical and angry sometimes.

March 13, 2006 11:49 AM  

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