My word: Stuck (proudly) in the middle

Inflating the extent of a problem and demonizing one side or the other won’t make it go away.

A FEMALE officer demonstrates a move a during a training session in Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense technique, at a military base on the Golan Heights on March 1. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A FEMALE officer demonstrates a move a during a training session in Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense technique, at a military base on the Golan Heights on March 1.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Well, thank you, Tarantino. There was I, happily singing the Stealers Wheel hit of my youth “Stuck in the Middle with You,” which well suited my mood as someone struggling to avoid extremism, when I discovered that the movie director had kidnapped it, ruining it for me forever.
Checking the lyrics – “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you” – I found that Quentin Tarantino used it in his 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs, pervertedly having a character sing and dance to the song as he tortures a bound policeman.
Whatever is wrong with the world? Why is it so hard to be in the center?
I found myself muttering “Good night and good riddance” to the news that Good Night, the show of stand-up comedian Assaf Harel, was being dropped from Channel 10 due to its poor ratings. (I have zapped away from it many an evening. Satirical criticism loses its bite when delivered in a boring way.)
Harel, however, is a sore loser and made a joke of himself and a mockery of Israel in his last monologue, in which he claimed: “Ever since the right wing took power, more and more voices are warning of apartheid. Are you kidding? Apartheid has been here for ages. It’s just that we’re on its good side, so it doesn’t really bother us.”
Al Jazeera, among others, broadcast the clip, which quickly went viral on social media.
Harel’s parting shot could not have provided better and more timely fodder as Israel Apartheid Week takes off on campuses around the globe.
Members of the BDS movement are dedicated to singling out Israel alone for boycott, divestment and sanctions. The word “apartheid” in relation to Israel is music to their ears, even if there has never been anything approaching the South African state-run system of segregation in Israel.
Israel is not perfect, but it is not an apartheid state. Apart from anything else, its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity, have access to the same courts – where they can find themselves before judges, male or female, Jewish, Christian or Muslim. When an unrecognized Beduin encampment is faced with an eviction order, residents can and do appeal to the justice system. The same goes for the residents of Jewish communities.
Israeli lawmakers come from different sectors of society; many have studied in the same universities.
Discrimination of any type is wrong, and a healthy society needs to fight it. There are various ways to tackle it, starting, obviously, through education. Inflating the extent of the problem and demonizing one side or the other is not going to make something go away.
TALK ABOUT fighting stereotypes. Comments made last week by Rabbi Yigal Levenstein and published (I suspect not by chance) on International Women’s Day served nobody well. Levenstein is the head of one of the country’s top pre-army academies, although describing him as an educator is flattering. In his lecture, he sneered that nobody would want to marry a female combat soldier and that religious girls who go into in the army “are not Jewish by the end of it.... So what if she’ll be a company commander? It’s craziness; it belongs in an insane asylum.”
Having served in the IDF as a religious girl soldier decades before it was a trend, I took exception to Levenstein’s tone and message. It would be better for all society in the long run to teach male soldiers how to behave as gentlemen than try to keep women out of their sight and reach.
Incidentally, I felt safer from harassment in the military, where there are very clear rules, than at university, where there was no framework.
Many years ago, when a wave of rapes swept the country, the story goes that someone at a cabinet meeting suggested women be put under curfew until the rapists were caught. Prime minister Golda Meir famously shot back: “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.”
Trying to check this quote, I came across comments such as “Please, no more Golda Meir quotes. This woman is a racist who has committed ethnic cleansing.”
There are many more sayings I could share that would upset the anti-Golda brigade. Here’s another one attributed to the late prime minister: “Whether women are better than men I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse.”
When it comes to judging Israel, I like to paraphrase the Golda quote: Whether Israelis are better than other countries I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse.
MY TV tastes are predictable. I tend to watch news programs and documentaries, with the occasional sitcom for light relief. (I hope I’m not the only person in the country who’s been staying up late to watch the rerun on Israel Television of the NBC classic series Diff ’rent Strokes. So many stereotypes to playfully shatter.)
This week I watched the promising first episode on Channel 1 of a three-part Israeli documentary called The Politics of Fat, because not all Israeli women are Bar Refaeli or Gal Gadot.
The women interviewed, including a fashion designer and a comedienne, described what it means to be obese in today’s world. Sadly, they prove that discrimination comes in various shapes and sizes – the plus size being vulnerable in its own way.
Ultimately, each of the women introduced in the first episode copes in her own unique style, with humor mixed with pain. The first response to abuse is to stop being the victim. The second response is to learn to be comfortable and proud of who you are.
I’M MORE into wordplay than American sports, but I enjoyed what was evidently a great start by Team Israel at the World Baseball Classic in Seoul this week. Courtesy of the social media, I watched the Israeli team standing at attention as “Hatikva,” the national anthem, was played after their surprise win over their South Korean hosts, and then over the Taiwanese. In an unusual display of Jewish pride, the players doffed their baseball caps in favor of matching blue kippot.
I take my hat off to them. There is nothing wrong with a bit of national pride or there would be no point in having international sporting events and competitions. Life is not black and white, right or left. There has to be a middle way.
It’s time to let the fat lady sing “Stuck in the Middle with You” without seeing images of carnage and mayhem in her side vision.
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