Grapevine: A courageous journalist

Just as Jews can tell nasty jokes about Jews that, if repeated by a non-Jew, would be regarded as antisemitic, so Arabs can also write or say things about their own people that no one else can.

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November 26, 2016 20:32
YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED. (photo credit: AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY)

Journalist Jalal Banna is worried about changes in Arab society that have led to a marked increase in corruption and violence.

In an interview on Israel Radio’s “Marhaba,” Banna said that, 20 years ago, if an elderly Arab man had come across two young Arab men fighting, he would have slapped each of them on the face, thereby ending the mutual altercation, and the parents of each of the young men would have thanked him. Today, mayors of Arab towns and villages either encourage violence or turn a blind eye to it, said Banna. Protection rackets exist in most Arab areas, he continued, but people are afraid to admit that they pay out protection money, just as they are afraid to vote corrupt officials out of office.

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If a Jewish journalist said such things about Israel’s Arab society, he or she would instantly be labeled a racist and charged with incitement. But just as Jews can tell nasty jokes about Jews that, if repeated by a non-Jew, would be regarded as antisemitic, so Arabs can also write or say things about their own people that no one else can do if he wants to be politically correct.

■ ALTHOUGH ANTISEMITISM and neo-Nazism were mentioned by more than one speaker at last week’s Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid had reacted previously to the video published in The Atlantic showing Nazi salutes and expressions of grotesque racism at a conference in Washington, DC. Lapid, who is a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said in response to the video that seeing a video of Nazi salutes in the heart of Washington is sickening and intolerable. “America is Israel’s closest ally, and our relationship is built not only on mutual interests but also on deeply held, shared values of freedom, tolerance and democracy. In the spirit of those shared values, I call upon the leaders of the United States to publicly condemn expressions of Nazi sympathy and fascism as well as rising antisemitism.”

Lapid stated that his father had survived the Holocaust, but most of his family did not. “One of the greatest mistakes humanity ever made was a failure to recognize the danger of fascism early enough and tackle it head on,” he said. “The Jewish people paid the price for that with the murder of six million of our people. We cannot let history repeat itself.”

Tzipi Livni, co-head of the Zionist Union, said at the conference: “To see the Nazi salute in the US is something I cannot absorb, and something I thought I would never see.” Unfortunately, the Nazi salute has also resurfaced in many parts of Europe.

■ AS UNPLEASANT as it is to acknowledge, we all suffer from bias of one form or another, and even the most liberal among us has a subconscious bias about the way people dress, the color of their skin, their gender or the type of community in which they live.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who visited Israel a week-and-a-half ago, has several strikes against her. She is a woman; she is a Muslim, born in Sudan, who came to Australia as an infant. She dresses in the traditional robes worn by Muslim women, but she also wears engineer’s overalls and a hard hat over her head scarf, and she also wears jeans and sexy blouses. She is a qualified mechanical engineer, a drag car racer and a trained boxer, with loads of charisma – and she’s all of 25 years old.

Hosted by the Australian Embassy, she wowed everyone she met. Abdel-Magied is a prominent figure in Australia, where she gives frequent TED talks on gender equality, overcoming unconscious bias, and women’s empowerment. She’s had several years of experience working on oil rigs, she is an equal opportunity activist and the founder of Youth without Borders, an NGO that empowers young people to work together to positively change their communities. Her TED talk on unconscious bias, which can be seen on YouTube, has been viewed upward of 1.5 million times. This year, she released a memoir, Yassmin’s Story – Who do you think I am? in which she describes growing up as a Muslim immigrant in Australia.

Abdel-Magied was named Young Australian Muslim of the Year and Young Leader of the Year by the Australian Financial Review. In addition to driving racing cars, she also designs them. She’s enthusiastic about all motor sports, and in addition to boxing, she’s also an avid footballer. For all that, she’s very feminine.

Her visit to Israel provided yet another opportunity for the Australian Embassy to reach out and engage with different sectors of Israeli society. Abdel-Magied spent a morning at the famed Bialik Rogozin School, which has 1,000 students from underprivileged backgrounds, mostly from non-Jewish migrant families. These students are treated with great consideration and are encouraged to make the best use of their potential and to realize their dreams.

From there she continued to Tel Aviv University, where she lectured to a packed auditorium on women’s empowerment and overcoming bias in the workplace. At a round-table held at the embassy, Abdel-Magied met with representatives of Israeli civil society associations and discussed ways in which women can overcome barriers to success in Israel. Among those present were representatives of Na’amat, Hadassah, B’nai B’rith and the Peres Center for Peace. Abdel-Magied also met with industry heads to review best practices for female participation in male-dominated industries such as the oil and gas sector.

■ AS OF the beginning of this week, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, generally known as the BESA Center, has a new director in the person of Prof. Efraim Karsh, who succeeds founding director Prof. Efraim Inbar, who was at the helm for 25 years. Inbar has retired from Bar-Ilan’s political science department.

In paying tribute to Inbar at a changing-of-the-guard ceremony, Karsh said that under Inbar, the BESA Center had earned a sterling international reputation for strategic prescience and intellectual fearlessness. “I intend to build on his achievements,” said Karsh. “The center will continue to offer fresh thinking on Israel’s key security, political and diplomatic challenges in a rapidly changing Middle East. We will stand on the front lines against historical revisionism and uphold Israel’s key security interests.”

Among other tributes to Inbar was that of noted strategist Prof. Yehezkel Dror of the Hebrew University, who said: “Few scholars anywhere can match Prof. Efraim Inbar’s achievement in building the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies from the ground up into an internationally renowned think tank with real impact.” Dror has been a member of the center’s International Academic Advisory Board for two decades. “Inbar’s accomplishment is heroic and almost miraculous,” he added. “Both critical scholarship and the State of Israel have been very well served by his wise leadership.”

Karsh is an internationally renowned authority on Middle Eastern history and politics. He taught for 25 years at King’s College London, where he founded and directed the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Program. In 2013 he joined Bar-Ilan University as a professor of political science.

He has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Columbia universities, the Sorbonne, and the London School of Economics, and a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. He also has served as director of the Philadelphia- based think tank the Middle East Forum.

Karsh has authored more than 100 scholarly articles and 16 books, including The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2015); Palestine Betrayed (Yale, 2010); Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale, 2006); Arafat’s War: The Man and his Battle for Israeli Conquest (Grove, 2003); Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East 1789-1923 (Harvard, 1999); Fabricating Israeli History: The ‘New Historians’ (Routledge, 1997); The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991 (Princeton, 1993); Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (The Free Press, 1991); The Soviet Union and Syria (Routledge, 1988); and Neutrality and Small States (Routledge, 1988). He is editor of the Middle East Quarterly and Israel Affairs academic journals, and has published op-ed articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Times, Der Spiegel and many other global publications. In September this year, the BESA Center published Karsh’s study “The Oslo Disaster.”

■ THE ANDALUSIAN government is interested in encouraging tourism from Israel. Toward this end, Andalusian Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Hernandez, together with representatives of the Spanish Tourism Ministry, will hold a special media gathering on November 29 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Tel Aviv. The event will also be attended by Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera Soler.

There are many Jewish roots embedded in the region, and since Spain’s announcement that it will restore Spanish citizenship to people who can prove descent from ancestors expelled during the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 15th century, there has been far greater interest in Spain from Israelis and Jews around the world. Sephardi Jews have never lost their love for Andalusian music, which they have preserved over the centuries.

The Jewish legacy of Andalusia and its sites, dating back to the golden age of Spain, which preceded the events of 1492, attract many tourists. Cordoba, for example, which was one of the most vibrant centers during the golden age, was the hometown of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as the Rambam, who was one of the most respected scholars and philosophers in Jewish history, and was also a physician and a legal expert, who should serve as an example for those latter-day scholars who devote themselves entirely to study and do not work to provide for their families.

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