VIDEO: PEACE, PROPAGANDA & THE PROMISE LAND: MEDIA & THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites–oil, and a need to have a secure military base in the region, among others–work in combination with Israeli public relations strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from the region is reported.

Ethiopian students affair shows prevalent racism in Israel

All of a sudden, we can say “racism.” A shock wave has struck complacent Israeli society. A few dozen Ethiopian children were not accepted to religious schools in Petah Tikva. That is truly terrible, everyone tsked-tsked at the heart-rending picture of Aschalo Sama, a boy without a school. Even President Shimon Peres expressed shock. Everyone is permitted to be shocked; it is politically correct.

Oh, how beautiful we are, how enlightened we seem to ourselves. Look how we fight racism, undaunted and uncompromising. And yet, in a twinkling, this shame will be forgotten, and we will be left with the many other manifestations of society’s racism, to which we remain sleepily indifferent.

That’s the way we are. From time to time, when the sewage overflows, and the stink spreads everywhere and we can no longer hold our noses, we all cry out against injustice until, once again, the cover is closed. The water underneath continues to froth and stink, but it will be covered and repressed.

It is difficult to know, for example, how many self-righteous and tsking parents would have agreed to register their children in a class with a majority of children of Ethiopian origin. And how many would rent an apartment to an Arab student? But far be it for them to count that as racism. And how many parents are shocked by the nightly selection at the clubs where their adolescent children go for a good time? Routinely, young “others” are excluded – Ethiopians, Arabs, Druze, and sometimes Mizrahim, too. Foreigners are barred for having dark skin, and no protest is heard.

Every day security guards check people entering Ben-Gurion International Airport on whether their accent sounds Arab, and no one complains. That is not racism. It’s how we have organized for ourselves an ethical code of double and triple moral standards. We fight against a few manifestations and close our eyes to other, far worse, examples.

The case of the Petah Tikva pupils is the tip of the racism iceberg. Children engender special feelings; shameful revelations about the school system will always yield a scandal. But the very week the country was in a huff over the Ethiopians, Nir Hasson reported in Haaretz that Jerusalem invests NIS 577 a year in a pupil from East Jerusalem and NIS 2,372 in a pupil from West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because of the child’s ethnicity. That does not count here as racism. Neither does the fact that East Jerusalem lacks about 1,000 classrooms, only because its residents are Palestinian. No one howls against these revelations, no one is infuriated by them, including the president, who fights against racism.

Now that we can use the term “racism,” the time has come to admit our society is absolutely racist, that all its components are racist. The legal system, for example, is no less tainted than Petah Tikva’s Morasha school. In many cases there is one law for a Jew and another for an Arab. The Bank of Israel, a state institution no less than the Morasha school, with 900 employees, has always been “clean” of Arab employees except sometimes one or two. Some 70,000 Israeli citizens, all Arab of course, are living in unrecognized villages, without electricity or running water, without an access road and sometimes without a school. Why? Because they are Arabs. Every week at soccer matches we hear racist epithets and chants, the kind teams in Europe are severely penalized for. Here, the referees do not even bother reporting them.

The latest incident occurred last week at the Doha Stadium in Sakhnin in a match between Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem.

And we have said nothing yet about the attitude toward foreign workers, the occupation (the greatest racist curse) nor about the attitude toward Mizrahim since the founding of the state. The list is long and shameful.

When the children of Petah Tikva have all found schools to attend , even though their skin is black, society will not stop being racist. It will return very quickly to business as usual and self-satisfaction. See how there was racism here, we fought it and it disappeared without a trace.

Ref: Haaretz

VIDEO: Tensions erupt among Jerusalem Jews + Changing the face of East Jerusalem

Israel deliberately forgets its history – A MUST READ!!!

An Israeli historian suggests the diaspora was the consequence, not of the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine, but of proselytising across north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East

Every Israeli knows that he or she is the direct and exclusive descendant of a Jewish people which has existed since it received the Torah (1) in Sinai. According to this myth, the Jews escaped from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land, where they built the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, which subsequently split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They experienced two exiles: after the destruction of the first temple, in the 6th century BC, and of the second temple, in 70 AD.

Two thousand years of wandering brought the Jews to Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Poland and deep into Russia. But, the story goes, they always managed to preserve blood links between their scattered communities. Their uniqueness was never compromised.

At the end of the 19th century conditions began to favour their return to their ancient homeland. If it had not been for the Nazi genocide, millions of Jews would have fulfilled the dream of 20 centuries and repopulated Eretz Israel, the biblical land of Israel. Palestine, a virgin land, had been waiting for its original inhabitants to return and awaken it. It belonged to the Jews, rather than to an Arab minority that had no history and had arrived there by chance. The wars in which the wandering people reconquered their land were just; the violent opposition of the local population was criminal.

This interpretation of Jewish history was developed as talented, imaginative historians built on surviving fragments of Jewish and Christian religious memory to construct a continuous genealogy for the Jewish people. Judaism’s abundant historiography encompasses many different approaches.

But none have ever questioned the basic concepts developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Discoveries that might threaten this picture of a linear past were marginalised. The national imperative rejected any contradiction of or deviation from the dominant story. University departments exclusively devoted to “the history of the Jewish people”, as distinct from those teaching what is known in Israel as general history, made a significant contribution to this selective vision. The debate on what constitutes Jewishness has obvious legal implications, but historians ignored it: as far as they are concerned, any descendant of the people forced into exile 2,000 years ago is a Jew.

Nor did these official investigators of the past join the controversy provoked by the “new historians” from the late 1980s. Most of the limited number of participants in this public debate were from other disciplines or non-academic circles: sociologists, orientalists, linguists, geographers, political scientists, literary academics and archaeologists developed new perspectives on the Jewish and Zionist past. Departments of Jewish history remained defensive and conservative, basing themselves on received ideas. While there have been few significant developments in national history over the past 60 years (a situation unlikely to change in the short term), the facts that have emerged face any honest historian with fundamental questions.

Founding myths shaken

Is the Bible a historical text? Writing during the early half of the 19th century, the first modern Jewish historians, such as Isaak Markus Jost (1793-1860) and Leopold Zunz (1794-1886), did not think so. They regarded the Old Testament as a theological work reflecting the beliefs of Jewish religious communities after the destruction of the first temple. It was not until the second half of the century that Heinrich Graetz (1817-91) and others developed a “national” vision of the Bible and transformed Abraham’s journey to Canaan, the flight from Egypt and the united kingdom of David and Solomon into an authentic national past. By constant repetition, Zionist historians have subsequently turned these Biblical “truths” into the basis of national education.

But during the 1980s an earthquake shook these founding myths. The discoveries made by the “new archaeology” discredited a great exodus in the 13th century BC. Moses could not have led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Promised Land, for the good reason that the latter was Egyptian territory at the time. And there is no trace of either a slave revolt against the pharaonic empire or of a sudden conquest of Canaan by outsiders.

Nor is there any trace or memory of the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon. Recent discoveries point to the existence, at the time, of two small kingdoms: Israel, the more powerful, and Judah, the future Judea. The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. This decisive encounter with Persian religion gave birth to Jewish monotheism.

Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea (2).

Proselytising zeal

But if there was no exile after 70 AD, where did all the Jews who have populated the Mediterranean since antiquity come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising religion. The Judeo-Hellenic Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans of southern Judea and the Itureans of Galilee and incorporated them into the people of Israel. Judaism spread across the Middle East and round the Mediterranean. The 1st century AD saw the emergence in modern Kurdistan of the Jewish kingdom of Adiabene, just one of many that converted.

The writings of Flavius Josephus are not the only evidence of the proselytising zeal of the Jews. Horace, Seneca, Juvenal and Tacitus were among the Roman writers who feared it. The Mishnah and the Talmud (3) authorised conversion, even if the wise men of the Talmudic tradition expressed reservations in the face of the mounting pressure from Christianity.

Although the early 4th century triumph of Christianity did not mark the end of Jewish expansion, it relegated Jewish proselytism to the margins of the Christian cultural world. During the 5th century, in modern Yemen, a vigorous Jewish kingdom emerged in Himyar, whose descendants preserved their faith through the Islamic conquest and down to the present day. Arab chronicles tell of the existence, during the 7th century, of Judaised Berber tribes; and at the end of the century the legendary Jewish queen Dihya contested the Arab advance into northwest Africa. Jewish Berbers participated in the conquest of the Iberian peninsula and helped establish the unique symbiosis between Jews and Muslims that characterised Hispano-Arabic culture.

The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture (4).

Prism of Zionism

Until about 1960 the complex origins of the Jewish people were more or less reluctantly acknowledged by Zionist historiography. But thereafter they were marginalised and finally erased from Israeli public memory. The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

This monolithic, linear edifice is supposed to be supported by biology as well as history. Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related.

Research into the origins of populations now constitutes a legitimate and popular field in molecular biology and the male Y chromosome has been accorded honoured status in the frenzied search for the unique origin of the “chosen people”. The problem is that this historical fantasy has come to underpin the politics of identity of the state 
of Israel. By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers.

Sixty years after its foundation, Israel refuses to accept that it should exist for the sake of its citizens. For almost a quarter of the population, who are not regarded as Jews, this is not their state legally. At the same time, Israel presents itself as the homeland of Jews throughout the world, even if these are no longer persecuted refugees, but the full and equal citizens of other countries.

A global ethnocracy invokes the myth of the eternal nation, reconstituted on the land of its ancestors, to justify internal discrimination against its own citizens. It will remain difficult to imagine a new Jewish history while the prism of Zionism continues to fragment everything into an ethnocentric spectrum. But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

The development of historiography and the evolution of modernity were consequences of the invention of the nation state, which preoccupied millions during the 19th and 20th centuries. The new millennium has seen these dreams begin to shatter.

And more and more academics are analysing, dissecting and deconstructing the great national stories, especially the myths of common origin so dear to chroniclers of the past.

Ref: Le Monde
Shlomo Sand is professor of history at Tel Aviv university and the author of Comment le people juif fut inventé (Fayard, Paris, 2008)

Also read “are-the-jews-an-invented-people” by Shlomo Sand

(1) The Torah, from the Hebrew root yara (to teach) is the founding text of Judaism. It consists of the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

(2) See David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Eretz Israel in the past and present, 1918 (in Yiddish), and Jerusalem, 1980 (in Hebrew); Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Our population in the country, Executive Committee of the Union for Youth and the Jewish National Fund, Warsaw, 1929 (in Hebrew).

(3) The Mishnah, regarded as the first work of rabbinic literature, was drawn up around 200 AD. The Talmud is a synthesis of rabbinic discussions on the law, customs and history of the Jews. The Palestinian Talmud was written between the 3rd and 5th centuries; the Babylonian Talmud was compiled at the end of the 5th century.

(4) Yiddish, spoken by the Jews of eastern Europe, was a Germano-Slavic language incorporating Hebrew words.

Judaism is universal

Avraham Burg is the scourge of the Israeli establishment. Though he has been in turn a prominent leader of the Labour Party, chairman of the World Zionist Organisation and speaker of the Knesset, he regularly expresses opinions at odds with those of most of his fellow Israelis. Burg lost hope of influencing those in power and quit politics in 2004.

The views he expresses in his latest book The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes (to be published by Macmillan in autumn 2008) are brutally frank. On the occupation of the Palestinian territories he writes: “For years I tempered my position to avoid a breach within Israeli society. I have now changed. Today I ask: are [all Jews] my brothers? My answer is no… Since the Shoah, I believe there is no such thing as genetic Judaism, only Jewish values… Even if they are circumcised and respect the Sabbath and the Ten Commandments, the wicked occupiers are not my brothers.”

Throughout the book Burg contrasts the “Judaism of the ghetto”, whose racism he deplores, with “universal Judaism”, whose humanism he supports. He rejects the Old Testament notion that the Jews are God’s chosen people, as that amounts to a claim of racial superiority. “The cancer of racism is eating away at us,” he told the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth in 2003. He has also written that the terrible tragedy of the Shoah demonstrated that Jehovah was not the protector of the chosen people any more than He was responsible for their misfortunes. He believes in a God who has given man the power of decision-making and thus responsibility for his actions.

Burg is the son of a universally respected rabbi who was leader of the National Religious Party and its representative in the Knesset in nearly every government since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Burg himself was educated in a yeshiva (religious school) and his work quotes liberally from the Torah and the Talmud to show that holy texts can often be misinterpreted and distorted, or simply have lost their relevance.

Burg accuses Zionist leaders of having appropriated the Shoah – a tragedy not only for the Jews but all humanity – for often shameful ends. He takes issue with the fact they have turned it into an essential part of Jewish identity, which they’ve thereby reduced to a litany of past persecutions. In Burg’s view, this distorts Jewish history and conceals centuries of peace and good relations with other peoples.

Burg reminds readers, for example, of the concern shown towards his Jewish subjects by the ancient Persian ruler, Cyrus the Great; of the fruitful relations that Jews enjoyed with their Muslim compatriots in the Middle Ages in places such as Aragon, Castille and Andalucia; and the privileged position of Jews in the Americas and other countries across the world. He also points out that for centuries Jews lived alongside Germans before the Nazis came to power. He believes that Jews who are well integrated in their societies should not be stigmatised for not wanting to emigrate to Israel, especially as the diaspora plays a positive role in world civilisation.

Burg is against the use of the word Shoah (catastrophe) for the Holocaust, since it gives it a unique character, beyond comparison with other genocides. This exclusivity, he believes, undermines compassion and solidarity with non-Jewish victims. It also feeds the paranoia that anti-semitism is a universal, timeless phenomenon: “The whole world is in league against the Jews.”

Zionist leaders have made use of the Holocaust in a variety of ways. It can be used as emotional blackmail to bring both political and financial advantage. Or serve as a reminder to the Germans of their criminal guilt and to the Americans and Europeans that they looked the other way while the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. The Israeli authorities thereby guarantee themselves impunity, whatever their violations of international law and human rights, and whatever war crimes they carry out, such as targeted executions of Palestinians.

Burg takes issue with Israeli scholars who ignore all genocides but those suffered by the Jews, and with laws which punish only crimes against Jews. He opposes Jewish immigrants being automatically granted Israeli citizenship on religious and genetic grounds. A committed secularist, he has also criticised the “religious fundamentalists” who show contempt for national sovereignty. Noting that his country often picks its leaders from members of the military or the secret services, he has warned that “the nightmare of a state run by rabbis and generals is not impossible”.

He thinks that it is time that Jews and Israelis freed themselves from the nightmare of the Holocaust, “which must of course be remembered forever, but no longer by prostrating ourselves in the dust” because “we must get rid of the Auschwitz mentality as well as the culture of trauma and terror”.

Burg does not consider himself anti-Zionist, except when the principles of Herzl and the values of the declaration of independence are betrayed. That is what happens when Israel is transformed into a “colonial state run by an immoral clique of corrupt outlaws”, as he put it in his Yedioth Aharonoth interview. In the same article he went on: “The end of Zionism is nigh… A Jewish state may endure, but it will be a state of a different sort, dreadful and alien to our values.”

Such views unsurprisingly provoked an outcry in Israel. But they also drew enthusiastic support from those Israelis who are eager to see root and branch reform of their country. Avraham Burg, who is in his early 50s, can hope that his dream may one day become reality. And, like the wave of iconoclasts in the Israeli intelligentsia who have absorbed the work of the new historians, he is living proof that his society is undergoing profound change.

Ref: Le Monde, By Eric Rouleau

Are the Jews an invented people?

How the Jewish people were invented, from the Bible to Zionism is the provocative title of the most recent book to be published in Israel by Shlomo Sand, a professor at Tel Aviv University (forthcoming in French with Fayard). Sand, one of the “new” historians, attacks what he calls the myth that the Jews are the descendants of the Hebrews, exiled from the kingdom of Judaea. He has attempted to show that the Jews are neither a race nor a nation, but ancient pagans – in the main Berbers from North Africa, Arabs from the south of Arabia, and Turks from the Khazar empire – who converted to Judaism between the fourth and eighth centuries CE. According to Sand, the Palestinians are probably descended from Hebrews who embraced Islam or Christianity.

Sand doesn’t challenge Israel’s right to exist or the notion of its sovereignty, but he thinks that sovereignty is undermined by its exclusively ethnic base, which stems from the racism of Zionist ideologues. In other words, Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish state, but a democratic secular one which belongs to all its citizens.

Quoted in Haaretz on 21 March 2008, Sand was pessimistic about how his work would be received in Israel: “There was a time when anyone who claimed that the Jews had a pagan ancestry was accused on the spot of being an anti-semite. Today, anyone who dares suggest that the Jews have never been and still are not a people or a nation is immediately denounced as an enemy of the state of Israel.”

Sand may be mistaken. A no less challenging work which presents the Torah as in large part a collection of myths and legends, has been well received by the Israeli media and in secular circles.

In their book The Bible Unearthed, two eminent Israeli archaeologists, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, present an argument based on excavations and ancient documents which calls into question long-cherished convictions.

Israeli society may be more receptive to challenging questions than it is given credit for.

Ref: Le Monde, By Eric Rouleau

Also read: death-of-a-myth

and the MUST READ israel-deliberately-forgets-its-history-a-must-read