Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Various Stuff

Here are some links to interesting things which I'm not going to comment on in depth.

Chas Newky-Burden, a non-Jewish Englishman, explains why he writes a blog in support of Israel (called Oyvagoy). Even he recognizes this is a strange thing to do. We're so used to faraway folks spending inordinate chunks of their time fussing about us that it's startling when some of them go the opposite way. (Of course, there are a few such readers on this blog who regularly comment). (h/t Nomblog via Twitter).

Tablet magazine has an article about a book about the Birthright program. The theme: what is it more: sex, booze, indoctrination or what? Tablet is an American magazine, and the author of the book likewise, as are most (but not all) participants of the Birthright programs. Still, it is interesting to note that no-one involved seems at all curious as to the impact of Birthright on Israel, Israelis, or the relationship between them and their American cousins. It's almost as if Israel is a prop for the use of America's Jews.

In which context it's interesting to learn that some Israeli hospitals are setting their sights on America as a source of medical tourism. The sums are still modest, but growing dramatically, mostly as East Europeans begin to identify Israel as a nearby place with highest-quality medicine. The Americans already have the high-quality medicine (at least the ones who might consider coming to Israel to be treated), but apparently Israel can compete on quality and price, both. Imagine someone from the Mondoweiss Conspiracy having to come to Israel for medical treatment: how mortifying.

Amira Hass explains, from Gaza (where she once lived), that Israel lifting its blockade isn't enough. For Gaza to bloom, the Gazans must be allowed to live in normality alongside Israel, which will purchase their cheaper goods. Uh-huh. Can anyone think of any reason Israel might have for not wanting this? Is the absence of normality Israel's doing? Do you think?


Anonymous said...

why can't Gazans export through Egypt to wherever and compete with the Turks who are said to do well in the textile market?

certainly all those flotilla-enamoured folks are really eager to purchase their wardrobe made in Gaza and furnish their living rooms made in Gaza.

One correction though Amir Hass mentions nowhere in her piece the word "cheap" and that's good, because why should a labour force supplemented by foreign aid not start to produce high-end manual labour intensive stuff (and export it through the tunnels;-)


Anonymous said...

Oyvagoy made me think
- for me maybe it was all those American passports that did it. I saw them while in personnel in the 70s and they had Europe as a birth place and tales of long routes to safety.


peterthehungarian said...


Can anyone think of any reason Israel might have for not wanting this? Is the absence of normality Israel's doing? Do you think?

But of course. Helen Thomas has the simple solution. We get the hell back to Poland and Germany and things in Gaza will return to normal inmediately. I mean a Muslim world normality kind of normality. Or not?

The only problem that seems insoluble is finding a new subject for the musical education in the kindergartens...


Evan said...

I've been reading your blog for a few months now and I've been very impressed with your writing and your reasoning skills. In light of your comments on the Birthright book, I'm just curious: How do Israelis feel about birthright?

Broadly speaking, I think Americans would be annoyed if our government spent large sums to give foreigners a free, drunken tour of the U.S. That said, the one Israeli I've asked about birthright (a long-lost second cousin who I believe is fairly left-wing) told me that she liked birthright because it increased the probability that someone in the world would like Israel.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov wrote:

"It's almost as if Israel is a prop for the use of America's Jews."

Ouch! But I know what you mean.

But also, it is not as if many people, "hatam", have not made a good business out of gap year programs for us "hachah." And I know many people here who feel that Israel only looks to us for money.

There is certainly room for improvement in Israel-Diaspora relations. But isn't that true in every family?


Anonymous said...

over the weekend a German minister while on visit to Israel has created a ruckus in our media about not having been allowed to enter Gaza. He got all of the Sunday news complaining and advising Israel how she had to act if she wanted to be considered smart by him. it was the language one would use towards a protectorate albeit one where one has no wish whatsoever to protect.

In the meantime he had to withdraw ALL his accusations of Israel's "stupidity" and misleading him down to outright factual lies. But the Sunday was his and who is going to read an obscure paper on a Tuesday.

I make no distinction between Jewish and other voices (it bores me to sort people into boxes) but can't help to read out of the US way too often stuff that sounds to me like Israel is supposed to resemble a model case of a country. Whenever I am really angry about the presumptuousness of it all I say they want Disneyland.

Even now when everybody seems to be unhappy with our German love of saving money there is none of this exasperation.


PS: on Saturday during a city district party muslim youths threw stones at a Jewish dance group and the public was unable to contain them before a girl's leg was hit. The dance group left the stage. Is there a connection with the minister feeling sure that he'd dominate the headlines with his pompous Israel "advising" about how time was running out, it was 5 before 12 and they should be nice to their friends, i.e. him?

Bryan said...

I really think the world, not just America, expects Israel to be a Disneyland. Any real, human foibles is enough to make the world retch and howl with rage. Israel must be perfect. It's like a really unhealthy relationship between an abusive mother and her daughter whom she calls fat no matter how skinny she gets or how old she is. The daughter will never satisfy her mother, and her mother will never stop criticizing.

Personally, I hate Disneyland. There's too many of them already, the rides are terrible, and the lines are long. I do like Epcot, though.

Anonymous said...

Hamas doesn't want Gaza to bloom like that. So even if Israel showered gifts on Gaza, the only rain it would receive in return would be a rain of rockets.


4infidels said...


The Tablet article on Birthright is revolting.

Glad to know that the Jewish kids are getting the Palestinian perspective as well. Certainly the Arab narrative is in short supply in the media and on their college campuses.

But I am horrified, just outraged, that they don't get to know the Arabs "in 3D." I guess the writer assumes that 1) Arabs would be interested in spending time with American Jews who aren't part of an organization whose mission is to demonize Israel and 2) that getting to know the Arabs in the West Bank or Gaza in 3D wouldn't mean a knife or bullet for your trouble.

What apparently is of no interest to Tablet is whether the trip builds a stronger Jewish identity in its participants. Do even a small, but devoted minority advocate on behalf of Israel? Do they decide that it is important to them to marry Jews? Do they remain in touch with any of the Israelis that they encounter on the trip?

Also while the Palestinian perspective and 3D experiences with Arabs are front and center in the interests of the writer, there is no mention if the students get to meet immigrants from the former Soviet Union or Ethiopia, or if they learn about the history of Sephardic Jews who were refugees from Arab countries. I wasn't expecting any angst by the writer over whether the Americans get the Settler or Haredi perspectives. Perhaps it would be a lot harder to demonize either of those groups if American Jews encountered them in 3D rather than in the pages of the NY Times. There are lots of Jews from various cultures in Israel who the Americans should experience in 3D.

This is truly an amazing assumption of the author...that the proper perspective of American Jews is one of detached neutrality in a conflict between Israeli Jews and their Arab enemies.

If you think Israel is the bad guy in the conflict, then you shouldn't support Israel. But otherwise, it says something very unhealthy about American Jews that they wouldn't think that the normal default position is to take own people's side in a fight, especially one in which enemies motivated by religious fanaticism and the most vile anti-Semitism are determined to destroy the only Jewish-majority country.

Barry Meislin said...

Suggestions for upcoming Birthright "tours" (funded of course by....). E.g.:

* Two-week "fact-finding" / cultural-economic tours of the northern Sinai and "Coptic Egypt"

* One-week "cultural immersion" in Darfur (note: might have to be shortened to 24 hours)

* Three-day, in-depth "Experience" seminars, exploring one of the following (here, those feisty birth-righters get to choose):
- "The Shiite Experience in Pakistan" or
- "The Sunni Experience in Iran" or
- "The Christian Experience in Iraq" or
- "The Palestininan Experience in Lebanon"

* A 12-hour Somalia by night extravaganza, led by genuine, um, well we'll assume they're genuine....

To be sure, access to alcohol might be limited; but to compensate, the organizers can throw in, at no extra charge, an additional three-day "Cultural, Social, Economic and Political Ghat Chewing---Theory and Practice" Seminar in Yemen, which ought to assuage the uncomfortably (and disappointedly) sober amongst them.

Barry Meislin said...

Can anyone think of any reason Israel might have for not wanting this?

Amira Hass.

Anonymous said...

you are way too extreme ;-)

let "them" remain in their comfort zone and visit protestant churches in Turkey who tell on our radio that they are scared stiff by American evangelicals proselytizing in their neighbourhoods.

they lament that they are "forced" to keep a low profile if they want to stand a chance to be allowed to go on ministering to their flock and the proselytizers make it difficult for them

... and they don't sound mad one iota at their Turkish neighbours who threaten them if some obnoxious(?) missionaries pester them with their version of the faith.

so let the young ones meet people who have long lost any sense for how degrading it is to cringe.

But when "they" insist that walking our streets in a burqa is freedom of expression world opinion is on their side and we are supposed to suppress the fear that a so heavily disguised person makes us feel because that is our culture, the knight who lets down his visier is about to attack ...
- after all it is only our culture and that needs to be suppressed pre-emptively by ourselves because it is all bad and despicable and needs to be reformed bottom-up by what???