Imagine an Arab’s point of view

Perhaps we should all move to Ohio

Maher Mughrabi, April 24, 2012 – 5:45PM

“After the Holocaust, many Jews felt that they needed a  state of their own in order to provide security for the Jewish people. In 1948,  the state of Israel was formed. Many Arabs disagreed with this action. Identify  two perspectives of many Arabs that explain their objection to the establishment  of Israel.”

AT THE end of March, this test question was the subject of a meeting between the executive director of the Ohio Jewish Communities and a  representative of the state’s education department.

According to Joyce Garver Keller, some Jewish 15 and  16-year-olds were ”traumatised” by being asked to try and imagine an Arab’s  point of view. Ohio agreed to withdraw the question.

Perhaps, you might think, they breed people who are a little  more brittle in the Buckeye State. I’m not so sure.

In June 2003, the playwright Arthur Miller took the opportunity of  receiving Israel’s Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society  to argue that Israel had become ”an armed and rather desperate society at odds  with its neighbours, but also the world”, and that it needed to reconnect with  Jewish principles.

The response of Jerusalem’s then mayor, Uri Lupolianski, was to  call Miller a has-been who couldn’t deal with ”pure truth” and lived too far  away from Israel to criticise its policies.

In May 2004, something very similar happened to the Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim when he received the Wolf  Prize for the arts at his country’s parliament.

When celebrated Jewish and Israeli figures can be treated in  this way, it is hard to hold out much hope for the country’s critics in the  wider world. But when pro-Palestinian activists arrived in Israel on planes last  week and were handed a sarcastic letter from  the prime minister’s office  pointing out other places where they could be protesting, I had to wonder if the  real danger wasn’t to outsiders but to a Jewish idea, that of cheshbon  hanefesh, or ”self-reckoning”.

Imagine, for a moment, that in the 1960s you had booked a  flight to the US to lend your support to the Civil Rights movement. And imagine  being turned back at the airport and handed a letter from the White House which  told you that your efforts  were better aimed at the Soviet Union or Red China.

Is this really the response of a mature society? Or is it the diversionary reaction of a naughty child?

In his article for The Age (“What must be said remains  unspeakable”, 19/4) Nick Dyrenfurth goes further than Benjamin Netanyahu in a  number of ways, one of which is to portray Melbourne protests in support of   Palestinians as not only misguided but nefarious.

To state, as he does, that the chant “there’s blood in your hot  chocolate” is a “blood libel” is to propose a new definition of the term. Max  Brenner was targeted – correctly or incorrectly – for its links to the Israel  Defence Force, an army of occupation for more than four decades.

Unless Dyrenfurth believes that all talk of Palestinians being  killed or  tortured under that occupation is simply scurrilous hearsay, he knows  perfectly well what the demonstrators are trying to say. It is exactly what I  mean when I say that after this weekend’s events in Bahrain, Formula One racing  has blood on its tyres and its merchandise.

Dyrenfurth proclaims himself to be a “committed two-state  supporter”. However  a global internet search for his name fails to turn up a  single article or letter making the case for Palestinian liberation or  subjecting Israel to detailed criticism.

At the beginning of this year, Israel’s Supreme Court decided that the country’s mining companies may continue to exploit the occupied West  Bank’s natural resources for economic gain. Here, it seemed, was a chance for  those diaspora Jewish commentators who proclaim themselves defenders of a  two-state solution to rise like lions from slumber. After all, what independent  and prosperous Palestinian state could conceivably emerge after such a  ruling?

It would seem that Dyrenfurth and other doughty champions of  Palestinian rights did not hear any bell tolling in January. But when an old  ex-Nazi wrote a poem in a German newspaper, the alarm was sounded long and loud.  Out came the tin drums, beating the rhythms of outrage, and instead of pursuing  justice we were once more chasing around the rabbit warren of grievance, where  the finger that assigns responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is brandished in every direction but at  its owner.

Perhaps we should all move to Ohio. or

Brauner Fleck auf weißem Grund., Portrait “Kurskorrektur zu Günter Grass (02)” ca. A3, Mischtechnik 2012. or

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