‘Wow! They have stolen our idea, ”declared my favorite 10-year-old as he watched
the news reports of the tent protests in New York. But, of course, there were
obvious differences. For a start, only in Israel did the protests include
top-name performances, whose venue and details were announced by the public
broadcasting service while the state-owned transport companies provided extra
buses to take the concert goers-cum-demonstrators safely to the site.
other obvious difference was the name: If Israel had dared to include the word
“occupy” in the title of any protest, the United Nations would probably still be
too busy debating our perceived belligerency to discuss the ongoing massacre in
Syria or what lies behind Iran’s nuclear program.
If the devil lies in
the details, it is details like that which drive me mad. Talk of tougher
sanctions on the Islamic Republic sounds positive, but what will it take for the
UN to actually rescind Iran’s membership? What kind of irreplaceable
contribution do Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar Assad have to make to UNESCO,
alongside the would-be Palestinian state, for example? The answer, my friend,
lies blowing in an ill wind.
When Gaddafi’s Libya was finally removed
from the UN’s Human Rights Committee, my first response was not “What took them
so long?” but “What was it doing there in the first place?” Still, Iran might
have a role to play in the onceaugust world body. According to a Reuters report
from October 1, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected the
Palestinians’ UN statehood bid, saying any deal that accepted the existence of
Israel would leave a “cancerous tumor” forever threatening the security of the
It’s strange how things like that work.
ONE OF THE
most curious stories last week was the “peace bus,” in which six Palestinian
activists tried to revive memories of the American “freedom riders” of the
1960s’ civil rights movement (aided, of course, by those indispensable
accessories of the world in 2011: live footage on YouTube and Facebook
petitions.) I’m sure some goodhearted (even bleeding-hearted) souls were taken
for a ride with the latest protest. The six demonstrators were followed by a
crowd of some 50 journalists, so that even if they had a bad trip, they can say
they achieved their publicity-seeking goals.
slogans about apartheid, the protesters pointed out that they cannot travel
freely from Ramallah to Jerusalem without the correct permits, or an
Jews, of course – no matter what papers they are
carrying – cannot travel on a Palestinian-owned bus to Nablus, or Shechem as
it’s been known in Hebrew ever since the Bible put it on the map.
apparently, is not considered discrimination.
Strangely, it was my
frequent bus journeys as a student at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem that
led me to learn Arabic. When I travelled North to spend Shabbat with my family,
I often discovered that by the time I approached my hometown in Galilee I was
the only Jew on the bus. I found it uncomfortable not understanding the
conversations going on around me and determined to learn at least enough to get
the gist of what was being said.
A couple of basic courses in spoken
Arabic were enough to help me discover what I probably should have realized all
along: that most of my fellow travelers were having ordinary conversations about
ordinary topics – wages, kids and the bus service itself – the same sorts of
concerns that fuelled the social justice protests this summer, come to think of
My basic Arabic has helped me in all sorts of situations.
have chatted in Arabic to the woman who shared a hospital room with me (and
greeted doctors who treated me, too); I have conversed with other visitors (and
staff) at museums and the zoo; and just a week ago, I used it to help an
Arabic-speaking toddler who had become separated from her family in a shopping
mall. Apartheid was never this good.
Bus passengers face all sorts of
problems in Israel – not least of them the need of heightened awareness of
security. Passengers – Jews and Arabs alike – automatically scan the seats for
The bus bombings that accompanied the peace process
did not discriminate in their victims.
The “Israel is an apartheid state”
slogans annoy me more than long lines at security checks at the entrance to
malls, hospitals, cinemas and bus and train stations – all places that have been
targeted by those seeking anything but peace.
Last week, we received
another reminder of how blithely the accusations are thrown around, regardless
of the facts on the ground. Israel cannot be proud of having a president found
guilty of the worst type of sexual assault, but it helps prove the principle
that all men (and women) are equal before the law.
And the judges who
found Moshe Katsav guilty should be able to throw charges of apartheid-policy
out of court with ease: The three-judge panel who initially tried Katsav and
found him guilty and the panel of three Supreme Court justices who rejected his
appeal, in both incidences, comprised a Christian-Arab man and two Jewish women.
In what other country in the region would a member of a minority community and
two women be in a position to hand down a verdict on the president, and a
similar panel be able to maintain it? And yet Israel is constantly being
charged, and found guilty, of apartheid.
We are an “occupying” force
overwhelmingly occupied with how to defend ourselves against suicide bombings
and rocket fire.
No other country would be expected to quietly accept
missile attacks on one million of its citizens in times of war, let alone what
passes for peace. Where else would hospitals, schools and kindergartens be
fighting for budgets for missile-proof shelters? No wonder people are confused
about the driving force behind the so-called peace protests. The “flotilla,” the
“flightilla” and now the “bus-illa” – one wonders where it will end.
doubtful that they are putting us on the road to peace and justice.The
writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem Post.