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Thursday, 31 December 2015

When Nuremberg Came to Israel

In Israel - mixed marriages are a no-no
You might, in your innocence, think that a book on an Arab-Jewish romance would be just the thing that would be welcomed as a way of breaking down barriers and enhancing understanding and tolerance between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.   However you would be very foolish to do so, because Israel operates under a different value system to most other societies. 

Israel is a Jewish racial state and miscegenation, the mixing of the ‘races’ is strictly forbidden in Israel.  Not legally of course, because Israel has to formally adhere to western values, but in the accepted and unwritten Zionist consensus.  A consensus that includes a shared practice and beliefs.  This consensus operates across all of Israel’s Zionist political parties from Likud to Labour.

Of course this is nothing new when it comes to settler colonial states.  Marriage and sex between the coloniser and colonised was banned or looked  upon with extreme disfavour in British colonies from India to Southern Africa.  It was termed ‘the Black peril’.   In South Africa the 1927 and 1950 Immorality Acts and the 1957 Sexual Offences Act forbade interracial sex and marriage. 

Nazi Germany had the 1935 Nuremberg Laws and specifically the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour which specifically forbade sexual relations or marriage between Aryans and Jews (later amended to Romanis and Blacks).  Israel has no such Act but then it doesn’t need to ban Arabs and Jews from marrying.  It’s just that it is impossible for them to do so since there is no civil marriage in Israel. 
Benny Gopstein, Kahanist and Head of Lehava, fascist anti-miscegenation organisation
Of course it is still possible for Arabs and Jews to have sex and relationships outside of marriage which is why Israel’s Social Affairs Ministry, in its wisdom has given a grant of around £120,000 each year, about half its running costs, to Hemla, the ‘charitable’ wing of the fascist anti-miscegenation organisation, Lehava.  [A Strange Kind of Mercy, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/a-strange-kind-of-mercy-1.364417]   The head of Lehava, who is also employed by Hemla, Benny Gopstein, supports the burning down of mixed Arab-Jewish schools (its supporters were convicted of arson at the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem) and Christian churches.  The Knesset under the guidance of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotoveli agreed to fund the good work of Hemla in helping to ‘rescue’ Jewish girls who had fallen for the wiles of Arab men.  Radical Jewishgroup’s head advocates burning churches 
Hemla - the 'charitable organisation' in  Jerusalem, funded by the Israeli government, which rescues fallen Jewish girls who have been seduced into relationships with Arab men
Because of western sensitivities, the criminalisation of interracial sex in Israel cannot be made a crime, though an Israeli Arab was gaoled for passing himself off as a Jew for the purpose of having sex with an Jewish woman.  Arab who posed as a Jew jailed for rape 'bydeception' 
Gopstein and thugs patrolling Jerusalem looking out for Arab men who might 'endanger' Jewish women.  'Jewish girls for a Jewish state' is their slogan
Extending this logic, then a married man who has sex with a woman, after telling her that he is single, could also be prosecuted for rape, even though the sexual intercourse was consensual.
So it is therefore quite understandable that a novel encouraging inter-racial sexual relations should be banned from schools where impressionable youngsters, who don’t understand the evils of Arab-Jewish romance, will be protected from harm.

It is worth reading the article Israel Bans Novel on Arab-Jewish Romance From Schools for 'Threatening Jewish Identity' in Ha'aretz to get the full flavour of the deeply ingrained racism in Israeli society.  The Ministry of Education, which has banned Dorit Rabinyan’s book, Borderlife, is headed by one of the principal racists of the Israeli government, Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi.
Gopstein temporarily under arrest
The acting Chair of the Education Ministry's pedagogic secretariat, Dalia Fenig [she is the acting Chair because Bennett dismissed the previous Chair] explained her reasons thus:  

“The work is contemporary and therefore presents the reader in a very tangible and powerful way with the dilemma of the institutionalization of the love while he [the reader] doesn’t have the full tools to weigh the decisions of such a nature,”

In other words, a young reader might be seduced by the message of love, regardless of the 'race' of the characters in the book, forgetting that Zionism dictates that the Jewish people must not become 'impure' by marrying out.  Fenig asserted that: 

The story is based on a romantic motif of impossible prohibited/secret love. Young people of adolescent age tend to romanticize and don’t, in many cases, have the systemic vision that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.”

And in this statement you get the full measure of the biological racism at the heart of Zionism and Israeli society.  As the author Dorit Rabinyan noted, 'There is something ironic in the fact that the novel that deals with the Jewish fear of assimilation in the Middle East was eventually rejected by this very fear.”

Tony Greenstein

Dorit Rabinyan reading from Persian Brides, an earlier novel
Israel takes another step down a very dark path. Here is the news from Haaretz today:

Israel Bans Novel on Arab-Jewish Romance From Schools for ‘Threatening Jewish Identity’

Israel’s Education Ministry has disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools..

Move comes despite the fact that the official responsible for teaching of literature in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators…

“Young people of adolescent age tend to romanticizing and don’t, in many cases, have the systemic vision that includes considerations involving maintaining the identity of the people and the significance of assimilation.”

The novel is Borderlife by Dorit Rabinyan. It is blurbed by Amos Oz. A description:

'What begins in the cold of early New York winter ends on a Jaffa beach at summer’s blinding peak. A chance encounter brings two strangers together: Liat, an Israeli from Tel Aviv, and Hilmi, a Palestinian born in Hebron. For one frozen winter away from home, on snowy streets, filled with longing for a Middle Eastern sun, Liat and Hilmi demarcate the place reserved only for them, an intimate short-term place, a universe for two. At the fissures and margins of things, in corners and in gaps, the reality lurking in Israel peers and snarls at them. The story, with its twists and passions, follows them even when they each go their own way – Liat returning to Tel Aviv and Hilmi to the village of Jifna, north of Ramallah – refusing to end.'

What will liberal Zionists say about this?  When do you conclude that this kind of intolerance and racism is built into the very idea of religious nationalism? Henry Siegman writes in Haaretz today that American liberal values are not shared by Israel. And yes, we’re trying to live up to them over here; but it’s impossible to imagine this kind of official action here.

Thanks to Ofer Neiman


Move comes despite the fact that the official responsible for teaching of literature in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators.

Or Kashti Dec 31, 2015 12:57 AM

Students taking a matriculation exam at a high school in Hadera. Alon Ron
Israel’s Education Ministry has disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. The move comes even though the official responsible for literature instruction in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers.

Among the reasons stated for the disqualification of Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (literally “Hedgerow,” but known in English as “Borderlife”) is the need to maintain what was referred to as “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector,” and the belief that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.” The Education Ministry also expressed concern that “young people of adolescent age don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.”

The book, published in Hebrew by Am Oved about a year and a half ago, tells the story of Liat, an Israeli translator, and Hilmi, a Palestinian artist, who meet and fall in love in New York, until they part ways for her to return to Tel Aviv and he to the West Bank city of Ramallah. The book was among this year’s winners of the Bernstein Prize for young writers.

A source familiar with the ministry’s approach to the book said that in recent months a large number of literature teachers asked that “Borderlife” be included in advanced literature classes. After consideration of the request, a professional committee headed by Prof. Rafi Weichert from the University of Haifa approved the request. The committee included academics, Education Ministry representatives and veteran teachers. The panel’s role is to advise the ministry on various educational issues, including approval of curriculum.

According to the source, members of the professional committee, as well as the person in charge of literature studies, “thought that the book is appropriate for students in the upper grades of high schools – both from an artistic and literary standpoint and regarding the topic it raises. Another thing to remember is that the number of students who study advanced literature classes is anyhow low, and the choice of books is very wide.”

Another source in the Education Ministry said that the process took a number of weeks, and that “it’s hard to believe that we reached a stage where there’s a need to apologize for wanting to include a new and excellent book into the curriculum.” 
Dorit Rabinyan. Credit David Bachar
Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said: “The minister backs the decision made by the professionals.”

Two senior ministry officials, Eliraz Kraus, who is in charge of society-and-humanity studies, and the acting chair of the pedagogic secretariat, Dalia Fenig, made the decision to disqualify “Borderlife.”
At the beginning of December, the head of literature studies at the ministry, Shlomo Herzig, appealed their decision, but his appeal was recently denied.

“The hasty use, as I see it, of the disqualification of a work of literature from the body of work approved for instruction and included in literature curriculum doesn’t seem acceptable to me,” Herzig wrote to Fenig. “In all my all too many years as head of literature studies, I don’t recall even a single instance that a work of literature recommended by a professional committee by virtue of its authority, after thorough and deep discussion, was not approved for use by the chairman of the pedagogic secretariat.”

Herzig cites a portion of Fenig’s first letter of opposition to the book, which noted concern that it would encourage romantic relations between Jews and Arabs. “The acute problem of Israeli society today is the terrible ignorance and racism that is spreading in it, and not concern over intermarriage,” Herzig wrote. “The idea that a work of literature is liable to be the trigger for romanticizing such a connection in reality is simply ridiculous.” He added that he would expect the Education Ministry to be “a lighthouse of progress and enlightenment and not be dragged along by empty, baseless fears.”

“The most horrible sin that comes to mind in teaching literature (and other subjects) is eliminating all or some work which we don’t favor out of ethical considerations. In such a situation, there is no reason to teach literature at all. If we would have wanted our students to study only ‘respectable’ and conservative works, we would be left without a curriculum, or with a list of shallow and dull works of literature. Stellar international works such as ‘Crime and Punishment’ (the murder of elderly women), ‘Anna Karenina’ (betrayal and adultery), ‘Macbeth’ (the murder of a king and all of his relatives and members of his household) would not [get close] to a literature curriculum in an ethical literary ‘respectable’ world.”

Herzig asked for a rehearing of the issue at the pedagogic secretariat, which Fenig is temporarily heading since Bennett dismissed the previous chairman, Dr. Nir Michaeli. The post of chairman is considered one of the senior positions at the Education Ministry. The rehearing, in which Herzig and members of the professional committee members took part, didn’t reverse the decision to disqualify the book.

On Tuesday, Fenig sent another letter in which she explained the reasons for her decision. She noted that “in the Israeli reality of the Jewish-Arab conflict,” the book “in some classes” could “create the opposite result from what the work is seeing to present,” but dedicated most of her comments to concern over contact between Jews and Arabs.

“The work is contemporary and therefore presents the reader in a very tangible and powerful way with the dilemma of the institutionalization of the love while he [the reader] doesn’t have the full tools to weigh the decisions of such a nature,” Fenig asserted. “The story is based on a romantic motif of impossible prohibited/secret love. Young people of adolescent age tend to romanticize and don’t, in many cases, have the systemic vision that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.”

Fenig added: “Works of literature are very powerful. And critical discussion to be held in class, if it is held, will not stand up to the very powerful message in the work that what was right and good was fulfilling the love between Hilmi and Liat.”

She predicted that many parents in the state school system would strongly object to having their children study the novel and would view it as a violation of the relationship of trust between parents and the school system. “It should be remembered that the choice of studying the work is the teachers’ and not the students’. Intimate relations and certainly the open option of institutionalizing [a relationship] through marriage and having a family, even if it doesn’t come to fruition in the story, between Jews and non-Jews is perceived among large segments of society as a threat to a separate identity.”

Rabinyan’s previous publications – “Our Weddings” and “Am Oved” – are taught in schools. According to the author, “It’s a great honor that my creations pierce the souls of young people and affect them. I would be happy if Israeli literature teachers were given the authority to choose whether to teach ‘Borderlife’ as well.”

She added, “I write novels for adults and ‘Borderlife’ also tells the story of intelligent adults. The hero of the story grew up and developed within the borderlines set by Israeli society, among the Jewish majority, the Arab minority and the Palestinian neighbors. Her difficult choice, to turn away from love, is the choice of a young woman whose main Zionist identity is deeply ingrained within her. There is something ironic in the fact that the novel that deals with the Jewish fear of assimilation in the Middle East was eventually rejected by this very fear.”

The Education Ministry said, “Professionals discussed the topic of including the work in the curriculum. After carefully examining all the considerations, and after weighting the advantages and disadvantages, the professionals decided to not include the work in the curriculum for five-unit literature studies,” referring to advanced literature classes.

Literary works that also told the stories of Jews who marry outside the faith include Haim Bialik’s “Behind the Fence,” Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “The Slave,” Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s “The Lady and the Peddler” and Sami Michael in “A Trumpet in the Wadi.” All were and some still are taught in schools.

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