Archive for June, 2010

The Sound of Tradition?

Are you also one of the countless soccer fans who feel that you get your World Cup experience ruined by the vuvuzela? You’re not alone.

Once the cacophonic torture is over, you’ve sent off the last angry e-mail to FIFA and you’ve had a chance to calm down, you might want to forget all about it.

But you shouldn’t.

Instead, you should try to turn this trauma into an educational opportunity. For instance, come Rosh Hashanah and you return to the annual fight with the kids who don’t want to go to shul, you might want to try convincing them to come and hear the wuswusela.

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June 26, 2010 at 19:18 Leave a comment

After 30 Odd Years of Peace

On June 5, the Egyptian Supreme Court handed down a ruling, giving the final green light to the new law stripping all Egyptian men married to Jewish Israeli women of their Egyptian citizenship – Muslim or Christian Israeli women can still marry Egyptians without their husbands losing their citizenship.

The law could be criticized for being discriminatory, but Nabil el-Wahash, the lawyer who initiated the law, explains that it is in fact a necessary step to protect Egyptian national security. Since offspring of such a union would be Jewish, and the Israeli Law of Return states that any Jew is eligible for Israeli citizenship, they might take Israeli citizenship and maybe even serve in the Israeli armed forces, heaven forefend.

The Supreme Court agreed with Mr. el-Wahash, and ruled that Egyptian men married to Israeli Jewish women should be stripped of their citizenship.

I’m shocked and appalled by this flawed law and small-minded ruling by the court. This law does in no way protect the Egyptian national security in a satisfactory manner. Israeli men can in fact also transfer their Israeli citizenship to their offspring, even though their children aren’t halakhically Jewish. Furthermore, Jews all over the world could potentially accept Israeli citizenship at any moment – for themselves and for their children.

How can the Egyptian legislators allow such a glaring breach in the nation’s security? The only way to prevent “a new generation of Egyptians ‘disloyal to Egypt and the Arab world'”, is to forbid Egyptian citizens to marry Jews, any Jews, altogether.

June 20, 2010 at 10:45 3 comments

Who’s the Victim, again?

As predicted, yesterday saw huge Haredi demonstrations in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Imanuel. According to estimates, some 100,000 people took to the street in protest against the Supreme Court ruling that those responsible for the continued discrimination in a girls’ school in Imanuel be sent to prison.

The media of course reports non-stop on the issue. This is as it should be, and I have no objection to that. There is, however, one aspect of this massive coverage that surprises, and irks, me.

We never hear from the victims. No one even talks about them or tells the story from their perspective.

Instead, the media – TV, press and radio – presents the whole affair as a clash between the Haredim and the state. It’s as if everyone had forgotten that the core issue here isn’t that the judicial system is sending poor, distraught parents to prison. The core issue here, is that the discrimination and prejudice against Mizrahi Jews in the Haredi sector is so widespread and accepted, that Ashkenazi Haredim aren’t even willing to let Mizrahi girls study with their daughters.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is racism. And it’s illegal.

By ignoring this, the media buys into the Haredi narrative of an aggressive state gratuitously harassing innocent people who just want to live their lives in peace and quiet.

Another thing that puzzles me is where Shas is in all of this. This is a party whose raison d’être is to fight Ashkenazi racism and discrimination against Jews of Middle Eastern origins. Where are they now? How can they abandon the girls in Imanuel and sleep at night?

June 18, 2010 at 10:59 1 comment

A Hot Summer Ahead

The political temperature is rising and the clouds of a colossal culture clash are looming on the Jerusalem horizon. Over the last few days, the Supreme Court has passed down two rulings that have shocked and enraged people in the Haredi community.

Two days ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Yeshiva bochers can no longer count on studying instead of working, and expecting the government, in other words the tax payers, to support them and their families financially. That obviously caused an uproar in the Haredi sector, which has grown accustomed to the rest of the Israeli population paying for their lifestyle.

The ink on that ruling had hardly had time to dry before the next judicial blow to the Haredim. In a ruling yesterday, it was decided that if the illegal discrimination against girls of Oriental origins in Haredi schools is not discontinued by Thursday, that is tomorrow, the responsible parties will be sent to prison.

Significantly enough, it’s the judicial system – and not our elected politicians – who has put its foot down in defense of justice and democracy in this country. For years, our elected officials have opted to placate the demands of the growing Haredi sector in order to ensure their own positions, ignoring the growing financial, educational and social problems in the wake of this shortsighted policy.

And in the wings Yair Lapid is biding his time, waiting for the right moment to pick up his father’s fallen torch.

June 16, 2010 at 07:43 1 comment

Waiting for a Star to Be Born

Last night I went to the summer concert of the Dorot Choir, and afterward I sat with a few friends at a café on Tschernikhowsky Street, watching the Italians barely avoiding making fools of themselves against Paraguay. Strolling home through the White City after the game, I noticed that almost every single café, bar and restaurant in Tel Aviv has put up a widescreen TV so that their patrons can watch the World Cup.

Everyone, except Café Landwehr at Gan Meir

June 15, 2010 at 08:53 1 comment

Missing the Point

Last week, legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas resigned amidst a storm of criticism following statements she recently made at, oh the irony, a Jewish heritage event in Washington.  

This is big news of course, and the Swedish Public Radio show Medierna (“The Media”) aired a segment on the events on June 11. Unfortunately, the item hasn’t been published on the internet yet, so I haven’t been able to listen to it. I did, however, read the accompanying text on the homepage of Medierna, and was a little puzzled by the description of the affair.

According to the text, Ms. Thomas had to go “after harsh words about Israel’s policies.” It might be a typo, or maybe the good people at Swedish Public Radio never heard what Ms. Thomas actually said, or maybe they just don’t understand English. She wasn’t forced to resign because she was critical of this or that Israeli policy. She resigned because she wanted to abolish the state of Israel per se – not modify its policies.

An interesting aside to this story is the one comment left on Medierna’s homepage by a listener. The listener, as opposed to the person who wrote the text on the homepage, has at least understood Ms. Thomas – and since she’s of Polish descent she’s terrified by the prospect of her homeland being swamped by unwanted and ungrateful Jews who don’t belong there. She finds this to be nothing but “a bad joke” considering how the Jews “left the Polish nation to its fate” after the War, despite the fact that the Poles always have been so good to the Jews.

June 13, 2010 at 16:56 Leave a comment

Roll over, Leopold!

Already when I was an undergraduate student at the department of history, we were taught the importance of source criticism, wie es eigentlich gewesen and all that.

At journalism school, we spoke less about it and judging by the coverage of the Flotilla to Gaza, I would say that those responsible for training Swedish journalists could add a little more emphasis to the aspect of critical evaluation of sources. Just one example is this statement from Professor Mattias Gardell, whose assertion that the Israelis carried out premeditated murders on the “Mavi Marmara” was reported without any critical follow-up questions – even though the honorable professor himself admitted that he hadn’t seen it, only heard about these alleged murders from others.

Those who lament this lack of critical thinking among journalists, however, may be happy to know that this willingness to swallow any bubbe meise thrown their way is not a universal trait in the Swedish press corps.

Evidence of this came yesterday, when the Turks – not Israel but, nota bene, the Turks – released pictures of injured Israeli marines aboard the “Mavi Marmara”. A gullible journalist might have jumped to the conclusion that this would indicate that the Israeli claims that their soldiers had been attacked by the Turkish “peace activists” were true. But no, the sharp-minded Swedish reporters have suddenly learned to exercise caution in their evaluation of sources, and now say that it’s unclear whether the pictures show Turkish activists attacking the Israelis, or helping the poor injured marines.

Of course! They’re helping them! That makes so much more sense. Why didn’t I think of that?

Read the article and look at the pictures here. Pay special attention to the picture of one of the nice Turkish activists using a knife to help a bleeding Israeli.

June 8, 2010 at 07:50 1 comment

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