April 27, 2007
Palestinians and others

Paradise Now is a Palestinian film about two young men on their way to suicide. The quality of the story, direction, and acting has won it serious international review. The film gives a human face to terrorists, and explains the combination of personal distress and other motives for the act. It also portrays an attractive woman who argues against the futility of the action. It will not help Palestine, and it will not provide a personal reward in Paradise.

There are some smooth operators who manage the men on their way to death: "you will be met immediately by two angels, and we will take care of your family." There are Israeli Jews who drive the killers to their target and fit an anti-Semitic stereotype ("They will not get their money until they have done their job."

The budget for the film came from Europe. Perhaps it was not sufficient. The director should have hired at least one more actor. The opening scene portrays the pretty woman as she encounters an ugly Israeli soldier at a check point. He neither smiles nor speaks. After he rummages through her personal goods he indicates she may pass by moving his head in the direction of the gate. Later in the film we see why he did not speak. Hebrew is not his language. The same actor plays one of the guards who struts about with the man who manages the suicide operation.

The morning after we saw the film I received a letter from Hebron. Khalid Amayreh is on my list and I am on his. He was writing about Holocaust Memorial Day. He is not a Holocaust denier or minimizer. "Nobody does or should question the enormity of the holocaust. . ."

His view of Holocaust Memorial Day is something else:

". . . the usual fanfare of sanctimonious rituals, never-again speeches and glorification of Zionism. . . .The solemn but also highly propagandistic occasion is manipulated to the fullest by Zionist leaders in order to justify the crime against humanity, otherwise known as the state of Israel. This year, too, Zionist leaders preyed on the memories of holocaust victims by seeking to blackmail the collective conscience of the world into recognizing the "uniqueness of Jewish pain" " as if non-Jews were children of a lesser God and their pain was unimportant."

So far, not too bad. I can view those sentiments as an expression of Palestinian pain. But then Israel becomes another Holocaust perpetrator.

"Today, in the name of the holocaust, Israel wants the world to give her a carte blanch to commit another holocaust against the helpless and virtually completely unprotected Palestinians.

In the name of the holocaust and the "never-again mantra," Israel wants the world to allow it to commit every conceivable crime and every abominable violation of human rights in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, from murdering school children on their way to school "for security reasons" to shooting pregnant women on their way to hospital (also for security reasons) to dumping tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians into modern-day concentration camps deep in the Negev desert."

At this point I would paraphrase the woman in Paradise Now. This action (accusing Israel of conducting a Holocaust) is so extreme as to become part of Palestinian collective suicide. It infuriates Jews by hurling our national tragedy against us. It cannot help Palestinians among non-Jews who recognize the difference between the defensive actions of Israelis against Palestinian violence, beset to be sure by innocent victims, and the systematic murder of people who did not threaten violence.

The same week brought news that Azmi Beshara had submitted a letter of resignation from the Knesset to the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and that he is accused of aiding the enemy during the war in Lebanon. We are a long way from an arrest, indictment, and trial. Beshara says that he will not return to Israel in the near future, and extradition is unlikely. However, the accusations are credible on the basis of much that we have seen and heard.

From Israeli Arabs there is both a defense of Beshara (he is persecuted for speaking and acting as an Arab), and anger against him for adding to the friction between Jews and Arabs. The ambivalence is part of the Israeli Arab condition. Beshara is an articulate spokesman of Arab and Palestinian demands, but is so extreme as to make it difficult for Arab politicians or citizens who want to get on with their lives and improve their opportunities.

We have seen ambivalence on other occasions. During the war in Lebanon, when Arab communities suffered damage and death from Hezbollah rockets, the residents expressed anger against the Lebanese for hurting them, and the Israelis for not protecting them. Some of them also cheered when rockets fell on Jewish communities.

It is not for an Israeli Jew to tell his neighbors how to do their public relations and their politics. Anything we say is likely to be tainted and discarded. Someone else must tell them that there must be a better way, but will anyone hear such a Gentile amidst many others who are telling them, "Right on?"

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:51 PM
April 22, 2007
The downside of mixed parentage

One of the families in our neighborhood is a model of Israeli accomplishment. Both parents are successful professionals. They also represent the fulfillment of a Zionist aspiration: mixing of the Diasporas. One parent traces roots to Buchara (Uzbekistan) and Halab (also called Aleppo, in Syria). The other to Hungary. Two children are polite, and seemed destined for good things. The older was a classmate of Tamar in elementary school. She was the princess of the class: pretty, with a court of friends who followed her lead, and the envy of other girls.

A few months ago, the girl, now a young woman, a graduate of the IDF and a university student, had a routine dental procedure. A sore in her mouth did not heal. Another neighbor, an oncologist, urged a blood test. The results were not good. She has a form of leukemia that resisted conventional treatment.

Yet another neighbor, a personality on Israeli radio, talked about her and another young Israeli in a similar situation on his morning program. He called on his audience to go to local clinics for a blood test that would be used to select appropriate donors of bone marrow.

Thousands gave a bit of their blood for the test. The samples went for genetic matching to a laboratory in North America. The lab work would cost one million shekels ($250,000). It was not covered by the Health Maintenance Organization or any other insurance. Another neighbor passed the word, and we prepared our checkbook. Then we heard that a corporate client of girl's mother would cover the cost.

The genetic matching encountered the down side of ethnic mixture. The combination of Bucharan, Halabi, and Hungarian backgrounds is not common. They produced attractive children, but not those with lots of other Israelis close to them on important genetic traits. The girl's brother was as close as they found, and his match was less than desirable. Lacking anything better, physicians are doing the procedure and hoping for the best.

Israeli Jews do not "cross" their fingers. We are "holding" our fingers.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
April 17, 2007
Learning about the Holocaust

What is appropriate to teach about the Holocaust, and at what age?

It is a question appropriate to the week when Israelis and others remembered the Holocaust, and when Americans and others reached a new record of one-incidence mass murder in a place concerned with education.

Google leads to lesson plans offered for students beginning in grades 4, 5, or 7 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and other sources. The material suggests that younger students would have trouble relating to large scale violence, or to events occurring in Europe. On the point of violence, the educators may be those without access to radio or television.

Israeli children begin earlier. Tamar and Mattan are only 18 months apart, and they went to nursery school together. Mattan would have been two and one-half and Tamar four when they came home one day saying that their teacher had talked about the German man who had done very bad things. This week Noa, age 5, the daughter of our niece, came home from her nursery school and asked if any members of her family had been killed.

In the same conversation about Noa, her mother reported about a psychologist who said that age nine was when children can comprehend issues as profound as war and the Holocaust. The psychologist also said it was not appropriate to talk about people being killed. "Injured" was appropriate. Also, important not to talk about children being involved.

My guess is that the psychologist had not read Grimm's tales as a child, and was not here during the summer's war in Lebanon. I am pretty sure that Noa knew something about her uncle going to the war. It is hard to believe that she has not noticed lots of soldiers carrying their guns. What connections she makes, I do not know.

Our own kids got a lesson in reality in 1991 when they carried their gas masks to first and second grade, and wore them while sitting for hours in a room sealed against gas during the 21 or so incidents when Saddam Hussein sent his missiles in our direction. Tamar had learned about the masks from her teacher, and made sure that we put them on according to instructions.

Lesson plans are likely to be a minor element in teaching Israeli kids about the Holocaust. Currently there are 250,000 survivors living here (some 4-5 percent of the Jewish population). The number of survivors is shrinking fast, due to natural causes. Yet many children still learn about the Holocaust at home from a family member with first-hand experience. Even more hear about relatives who did not survive.

On one occasion when our children sat with gas masks in a sealed room their grandfather was present. I do not recall if he talked on that occasion about his mother and brother, killed by the Germans, or if he talked about his father, who was proud to have served in the German army during World War I.

What goes through all those little heads is beyond me.

And I wonder about a lot of bigger heads. Many Americans are presumably talking about gun control in the days after Virginia Tech. They also talked about gun control after what happened years ago at the University of Texas, Columbine, the killings of Amish children in Pennsylvania, and other sad events.

When my oldest son was five, we were living in Athens, Georgia. He went to a friend's birthday party, and came home with a smile from ear to ear. His friend had received a .22 from his father, and was probably already out hunting squirrels. Stefan wanted to know when he was going to get his gun.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:08 PM
The real joke is . . .

We have known for some time that there is a lot of junk on the internet and zipping through e-mails.

Today, at 13:13, I received a heads up that British education authorities were canceling lessons in the Holocaust in order to avoid offending Muslims. It was something we should pass on in the hope of countering this awful occurrence.

By 13:43 I received a corrective from elsewhere, including a clarification from the Holocaust Educational Trust. All is not well. There was a Holocaust, but the British are teaching about it, both to teachers and to pupils.

Earlier in the week I fell into a honey trap. I passed along the following jokes said to be from Muslim stand-up comic, Goffaq Yussef. Some of them are pretty good. But the real joke is that Goffaq Yussef does not exist. Say his name out loud in order to get the point. I suspect a Jewish plot.

Good evening gentlemen, and get out, ladies.

On my flight to New York there must have been an Israeli in
the bathroom the entire time. There was a sign on the door that said,

What do you say to a Muslim woman with two black eyes?
Nothing! You told her twice already!

How many Palestinians does it take to change a light bulb?
None! They sit in the dark forever and blame the Jews for it!

Did you hear about the Broadway play, "The Palestinians"?
It bombed!

What do you call a first-time offender in Saudi Arabia?

Did you hear about the Muslim strip club? It features full
facial nudity!

Why do Palestinians find it convenient to live on the West
Bank? Because it's just a stone's throw from Israel!

Why are Palestinian boys luckier than American boys? Because
every Palestinian boy will get to join a rock group!

What does the sign say above the nursery in a Palestinian
maternity ward? "Live ammunition."

Palestinian girl says to her mommy: "After Abdul blows himself
up, can I have his room?"

10 Reasons To Love Palestine

Golly gee, I am SOOOO proud to be Palestinian Arab from the West Bank. Let me tell you the reasons why I have such warm, fuzzy feelings about my people and culture:

1. There is no such thing as Mothers Day. No worry about cards, gifts, and expensive meals. There is no honor in being a woman in our culture, so there is no reason to devote a day to her. We do, however, get to enjoy watching our fathers beat our mothers senseless for the slightest real or imagined infraction. Also, if Dad suspects that Mom spoke to a strange man in the street, he gets to kill her to preserve the family honor!

2. Weapons. Every child, from the time he can grasp an object, is trained to feel comfortable with a rifle or pistol in his hand. And every Palestinian has a weapon: a gun, a rocket launcher, a pound of C-4. What good are hands if they aren't used to kill?

3. Hate. Boy, we love to hate. Hate is the very basis and foundation of our culture. From the time a child is old enough to understand language, we teach him to hate. Hate Jews, hate the West, hate his fellow man, and most of all, hate himself. We have no love songs, we do not preach love, the word love does not appear anywhere in our society. Hate is the fuel that runs our motors.

4. Death. The moment a Palestinian Arab child is born, his parents begin to plan his death. How will he die? Will he be struck by an Israeli bullet while being used as a human shield by Palestinian gunmen? Will he get shot while throwing rocks at Jewish soldiers? Will he be packed with explosives and sent to blow himself up, killing others? Or will he merely be one of the many Palestinians murdered by other Palestinians in the normal course of daily life in the death-culture of the Palestinian Arabs? Who knows? That's part of the thrill.

5. Unemployment. Palestinians used to have jobs, working in Israel. But then, our leaders had a brilliant idea: suicide bombings! For their own protection, Israel had to close its borders, preventing Palestinians from going to their jobs, so they could sit around unemployed and blame the Jews for it. What great fun to be your own worst enemy!

6. Martyrdom. Who in their right mind wants to be a martyr? Among normal people, a martyr complex is considered immature and obnoxious, if not downright crazy. With us, it's the central syndrome of our society! Hey, look at me, I'm gonna kill myself and become admired! And then, when we do kill ourselves, instead of being considered pathetic, we DO get admired! It's a whole complete cycle of sickness! American kids collect baseball cards; Palestinian kids collect martyr cards (really! no joke!).

7. A feeling of entitlement. When Israel came into being, we declared war. We lost. We fought again. We lost. We fought again. We lost. Israel had the right to kill us all (we sure would kill all of them if we got the chance). Instead, they allow us to live on land they conquered. But we can't leave that alone. We have to claim entitlement to live on land that we lost in 6 wars. Since when does the loser of a war get to claim the land he fought over? They don't. But we do. Not only that, but we happily kill our kids over it! Hey, what's more important -- a chunk of dirt, or some worthless kid who isn't going to amount to anything anyway?

8. Uselessness. The Jews have won more Nobel Prizes than all other ethnic groups combined. Their contributions to science, art, literature and the humanities is far out of proportion to their population. What have Palestinians produced? Nothing! Not a thing. We don't do anything productive. We're too busy rioting and killing and chanting and screaming and calling for everyone's death. And we blame the Jews for it, as though the Jews stop us from being productive.

9. Friends. The Palestinian people sure know how to pick 'em. Saadam Hussein. The Taliban. Adolf Hitler. You name a psychopath, and we embrace him. And look who our supporters are! The American Nazi Party. The KKK. Just check their websites and see how they stand in solidarity with us. When you support the Palestinian "cause," you're in real good company. Bring your white sheet!

10. Freedom. The biggest laugh in the world is when people call us "freedom fighters" or they say we're fighting for our freedom. Take a look at all 22 Arab countries. Do you see any freedom there? Well, that's what our country will be like if we ever get one. It will be a dictatorship run by armed, masked thugs who will kill anyone who dissents. Just like we are now. Freedom???? LOLOLOLOL The word doesn't even exist in our language. Hey, just like George Orwell said: "Freedom is slavery. Long live big brother!"

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 04:49 AM
April 15, 2007
The Holocaust and the IDF

This week is Holocaust Day in the Hebrew calendar. Next week is Memorial Day for Israelis killed as soldiers or as civilians on account of Arab violence.

Both are key events in Israel's civil religion. "Civil religion" refers to items of cardinal importance, equivalent to matters of high religious import even though they are not part of traditional ritual. When I was growing up in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s, the American civil religion celebrated participants and events in World War II. When I was at the University of George during the 1960s, the War Between the States was still important in the region's civil religion. Now I'm not sure if the United States has a civil religion, given the prominence of multi-culturalism and personal agendas, and severe criticisms about the country's recent wars.

Here the Holocaust and the IDF are vibrant icons of the civil religion. They are associated with one another insofar as the IDF is widely viewed as the sole means of protecting the society from another Holocaust. Most Israelis serve in the military. We know its faults, but we invest heavily, both economically and emotionally.

Both the Holocaust and the IDF are under attack from outsiders.

We know about the widely criticized Iranian president and his Holocaust deniers and minimizers. More sensitive is an action by a representative of the Vatican.

He initially refused to attend a Holocaust ceremony at Yad Vashem due to an item in the museum. It is a statement about Pope Pius XII. The phrasing appears carefully designed to emphasize unresolved controversies about the Pope's role in the 1940s. The announced boycott of one of the country's most honored ceremonies, at one of its most honored places, provoked a round of accusations and counter-accusations. Examples appear at http://www.catholicleague.org/catalyst/2006_catalyst/1006_print_pages/essay.htm and http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1176152780922&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

There was potential here for commotion more appropriate to the Middle Ages than to the 21st century. Close to the last minute, the man changed his mind, and attended the ceremony. I hope we have heard the last of this, but I doubt it.

If the Vatican and its minions could present a serious disturbance to Israel's memory of the Holocaust, a somewhat more parochial challenge to the IDF has been occupying the City Council of Olympia, Washington. It is an effort by the parents of Rachel Corrie and others to create a sister city relationship with Rafah in Gaza. There is substantial support for Rachel's mission in her home town. Opponents of the proposal are trying to sidestep the emotional issue of her activity (she was killed by an IDF bulldozer while opposing an operation in Gaza during 2003). They argue that sister cityhood would be taking sides in a complex controversy a long way from Olympia.

Rachel Corrie died while opposing the IDF on an active battlefield. Except for politicians concerned not to offend American sensitivities, and the Israeli left, I doubt that her death is viewed any differently from that of other enemy combatants. She was not wearing a Palestinian uniform, but neither do most of the Palestinian fighters. She may not have been armed, but lots of Arabs seeking to frustrate the IDF are not armed with conventional weapons. The differences between her and them would have been too subtle for an Israeli soldier in the noise and dust of combat.

Occasionally it is necessary to remind myself and others that issues debated elsewhere as in an academic seminar or a conventional political dispute carry the greatest sensitivity here. When Rachel Corrie was challenging the IDF at work, she was standing in the way of soldiers fighting for their country, their families, and themselves. Those soldiers were our children, the children of our friends, or friends of our children.

Southern Lebanon, and Southern Beirut, provide recent examples of how the IDF may react to a threat. Those areas remain largely in ruin. Self-described humanitarians criticize Israel's actions in Lebanon, often without mentioning Hezbollah's initial attacks, and the thousands of rockets it aimed at Israeli cities. There is also dispute here about the IDF's actions. Yet much of our criticism is not that it was too aggressive, but that it was not aggressive enough.

Just last week, we had another indication of what Israel's military might do when the country faces a threat.

As far as I can tell, no major American newspaper carried the story, but Israeli media reported that the airforce came as close to shooting down an airliner as it has in three decades. The plane was a Continental Airlines flight from the US that did not comply with security procedures in its approach to Israeli airspace. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1176152772518&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

The concern is something like 9-11, where a hijacked airliner could be directed at a Tel Aviv high-rise, or another prominent target.

IDF planes caused the airliner to turn away from Israel until it confirmed that it was under appropriate control. Reports are that the prime minister and commander of the airforce were on the line, presumably hoping that they would not have to make a fateful decision. One can imagine the follow-up if an American plane was downed in the sea with 250 passengers. It is not only the stuff of nightmares. The airforce destroyed a Libyan airliner in 1973 that strayed from Cairo too close to Israel, and did not respond to communications.

An approach to Israel is not a place for pilots to fondle the stewardesses, to forget to call in with the right codes, or to ignore queries from air traffic controllers. The crew had what was probably an unpleasant encounter with security personnel on the ground. Israeli and airline officials are saying that inquiries continue.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 07:54 PM
April 11, 2007
Arab leaders

Azmi Beshara is the best example of an Israeli Arab (or Israeli Palestinian) who is leading his people to nowhere. He also demonstrates that higher education, native intelligence, and affiliation with the Christian community does not assure moderation. Beshara has a PhD in political science, and is among the most articulate of Knesset members.

He is also the most outspoken Knesset member in support of an expansive conception of Palestinian rights. He has traveled to Syria and Lebanon, appeared along with Hassan Nasrallah and Bashar al-Assad, and endorsed, by hint or explicitly, the right of Palestinians and Hezbollah to pursue their claims against Israel with all means, including violence.

Since his first election to the Knesset in 1996 Beshara has been a concern of Israeli security and legal authorities. So far the courts have protected him on the basis of freedom of speech, and the immunity accorded to Knesset members to express themselves with the utmost freedom, even on sensitive issues that provoke widespread public opposition.

Currently Beshara is somewhere, most likely outside of Israel. There is some kind of legal process in the works, but media personnel are kept from disclosing its nature on account of a court order banning publication. Hints and rumors deal with a violation of security provisions that may entail his arrest, or preventing his leaving the country, if he returns to Israel. We have heard that he has sought political refuge in Qatar and has been offered a position as political commentator on the al-Jazeera network. Some say he intends to resign from the Knesset, while others deny that report. He may be in Jordan along with his family, with plans to travel to Europe and India. Jordan may not be entirely happy with its role in the affair, partly to avoid friction with Israel, and partly because Beshara has identified with the Syrian camp in Arab politics. We have also heard that Beshara has served as a double agent, reporting to Israeli authorities what transpires in the region, as well as reporting to Syria and Hezbollah on Israel.

One of the things we argue about is the freedom that should be allowed to Azmi Beshara and other Israeli Arabs. Authorities, and especially the courts, are reluctant to curtail their freedom of speech. Especially sensitive are those who have been elected to the Knesset, and those who claim to be religious leaders. Along with Beshara on the borders between the tolerable and the abominable is Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of Israel's Islamic Movement. In connection with the recent commotion about the repair of an entrance to the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif, Salah said, "it is now the duty of every Arab and Muslim to start an uprising to save Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque," and that Israel's Jews "want to build their temple while our blood is on their clothes, on their doors, in their food and drinks."

Salah does not enjoy a Knesset member's immunity from prosecution, and he has served time in Israeli prison. Recently a Jerusalem court ordered his release after the police had arrested him for incitement to violence. The court refused the police request to forbid him from entering Jerusalem, but did restrict his public appearances in the city.

Critics argue that the courts have been more tolerant of Arab than Jewish extremists. Meir Kahana was forbidden to campaign for re-election to the Knesset under the law that forbid racist incitement, while Beshara and Salah have been free to express views no less inflammatory.

Currently we do not know where Beshara is, whether he is hiding, seeking refuge from Israeli authorities, inclined to resign from the Knesset, or to continue his struggle. We also do not know the nature of the charges against him, but the order forbidding publication is unlikely to survive the porous nature of Israeli media for much longer.

More important is the problem facing Israel. How much latitude to allow prominent Israeli Arabs who preach violence, or endorse those who do? It is the classic question of how should a democratic society defend itself against those who would use their freedom of expression to encourage violent change in the regime?

The most complete picture of relations between Israeli Arabs and Jews appears in a report by Professor Sammy Smooha, a sociologist and currently Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Haifa. http://caf.org.il/assets/Indexeng.pdf It portrays a complex picture that includes distrust, and contrasting assignments of responsibility between Arabs and Jews. Yet it also shows substantial sentiment among both populations to support a society that is integrated, and committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes. Among its findings is a greater inclination toward comity with Israeli Jews among Arab citizens than among those in positions of leadership.

This is the best indication that Arab leaders, and most prominently Azmi Beshara and Raed Salah, have been trying to lead their people to a place where they have not chosen to go. Those who suffer most from this road to nowhere are those who follow them, and those who endure a shortfall in public services because of them.

Arab leaders who would fight the lost battles of 1948 have not learned the cardinal rules of politics: Get what you can. Cooperation with the dominant parties can achieve benefits for one's voters. Persistent frontal assaults on the regime may serve one's sense of ideological righteousness, but are not likely to increase the food on the table, the quality of education, roads, or health care.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 12:13 AM
April 07, 2007
Arab (and Israeli) despair

Anthony Shadid is a correspondent of the Washington Post, with a surname that suggests an Arab background. He has written of the "nihilism" that pervades a poor neighborhood (still called a refugee camp) of Palestinians in Jordan. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/06/AR2007040602091.html?nav=rss_world

Shadid describes the bankruptcy of conventional aspirations; the violence among Palestinians and among other Arabs, as in Iraq, who seem to strive for nothing more grandiose than personal gain. There is also the ascendance of Islam, seen as a refuge from a situation where political solutions offer no hope. The article is part of what we see more frequently in Arab media. Sadly, it is still a minority voice compared to traditional themes of Israel-bashing.

Whose fault is Arab despair? What should others do?

I am inclined to see it as the result of Arab politics that, over the course of 60 years and more, has offered dramatic but empty slogans rather than any concentrated effort to use enormous Arab wealth to advance the economy of the region and to provide a decent life for its residents. The fighting prominent among the Arabs of Palestine and Iraq comes at a time when energy prices have been high. Where are the politicians with vision who would use that wealth for social purposes?

Find me anything close to an Arab democracy, and we may begin to look for politicians with a social vision. It is easier to sell a simplistic view of enemies, revenge, and religion. That similar traits also appear in the United States makes me wonder about the magic of democracy.

What should the non-Arab and non-American world do?

Try to maintain sanity and moderation.

Israel is arguably a good example. When faced with enemies that seem implacable it has responded with measured violence. It has absorbed continued rocket attacks against its citizens in Sderot and other southern towns. Even Lebanon, despite the screams of humanitarians, was a measured and moderate response. Israel's government accepted the UN verdict of an imperfect cease fire, and has so far restrained from responding to the continued movement of armament across the Syrian-Lebanese borders to Hezbollah.

Moderation does not mean pacifism, or accepting the assurance of others that Israel must turn the other cheek. Those who accuse Israel of overreacting in Lebanon and occasionally in Gaza testify to the limits of its restraint. In the last couple of days there have been Israeli incursions and helicopter attacks against targets in Gaza. The one-sided "cease fire" may become more balanced in its lack of compliance. Some are calling for another massive invasion.

It is not a situation that allows a black and white, or all or nothing, view of the world. We argue about threats and appropriate responses, as well as about how we did in the most recent rounds of fighting. The government is shaky in anticipation of what a committee will conclude about the management of the war in Lebanon. The guessing is that the committee will accuse key officials of not being decisive enough, rather than of being too aggressive. Our arguments will continue as we strive to see a way through the ambiguities of imperfect alternatives.

Shadid's article ends with a quotation from an Arab shopkeeper. It reflects a despair that also fits the Israeli condition:

He declared that the conflict was divinely ordained to end in their favor. But as his anger grew, he blurted out an alternative. "They're never going to solve it in my lifetime," he said. "There's no solution, absolutely."

At least some in the Arab street know the reality. They will get a chance at a better life when their leaders admit to the reality, turn from efforts to sell apocalyptic dreams, and begin using the region's wealth to help those whose misery they have exploited.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 12:11 AM
April 02, 2007
Happy Passover

The non-news is that Michael S. Roth, Class of 1978, has been named the 16th president of Wesleyan University.

Halfway through the biography I received from the college was the information that Roth is, " A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and in the first generation of his family to attend college."

When I was admitted as a member of the class of 1960, information like that would have coded an applicant as one of the Jews who might be allowed into the 10 percent quota.

When I made the rounds of the fraternities in 1956, three of the organizations indicated that they could not accept non-Christians as full fledged members, but would be pleased if I joined their eating club.

The Jewish quota was a topic of occasional discussion and some embarrassment. I recall one teacher who asked if I had knew why Jewish students had higher academic averages than others. He said it came from having to pass through a finer screen in order to gain admission.

A decade or so after I graduated, Wesleyan abandoned the quota, and Jewish enrollment surged to over 30 percent of the total. The university recruited other minorities, and ended its exclusion of women. The current catalog lists Jewish and Israeli Studies along with African American Studies, East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. It remains possible to study Economics, English, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, and Government.

All this is non-news because it looks very much like the rest of American higher education. The Jews have arrived, along with African-Americans, East Asians, Latinos, women, homosexuals and lesbians. A week ago I received a survey from the American Political Science Association's Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered (LGBT) in the Profession. It asked if I included issues of sexuality in my teaching and research agendas, and if I felt that Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered faced any problems in the selection of candidates for admission as students, as recipients of financial grants, or as candidates for faculty positions.

Alas, not all is unremarkably open. One of today's e-mails described "the flames of anti-Semitism in France." It described several of the more prominent recent events, and concluded with a call to "boycott France and French products. . . . Boycott their wines and their perfumes. Boycott their clothes and their foodstuffs. Boycott their movies. Definitely boycott their shores."

Some may be concerned enough about the French to join a boycott, but there is more to that country than rampaging Arabs and remnants of Vichy. El Al has more than 3 flights a day (excluding Shabbat) from Tel Aviv to Paris or Marseille.

Neither Michael Roth nor I boycotted Wesleyan as students, despite what we may have perceived as less than completely welcoming to Jews.

There remain problems, and we must be vigilant. Israel is a focus of animosity, but not all is bleak even here. Just yesterday, while changing clothes in the nearby gym, I chatted in Hebrew with two Arab businessmen who I see there frequently. They wished me a pleasant holiday, and indicated that they, too, would not be working as usual during this week. They are part of the Israeli economy, and were beginning a Passover vacation. On the same occasion, I met Uri's father. The little boy who I first encountered when he was a new immigrant in first grade at our children's elementary school would not be home for the holiday. He is serving in one of the army's elite units, making it possible for the rest of us to enjoy ourselves.

In the evening we ate and drank to excess while reading and singing about our freedom.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 10:58 PM