Tuesday, July 07, 2009

McKinney, Burston

As much as I disagree with former U.S. congresswoman McKinney on the issue of Israel and probably many other things as well, why was she only released from detention now after having been detained with the other people on the ship going to Gaza on June 30? What kind of threat could she possibly have offered to Israel?

On a related topic, read Bradley Burston's latest column in Haaretz - This is what is wrong with a Jewish state. He writes:
The undercurrent of racism in this year's election campaign was a clear warning. Overtly anti-Israeli Arab legislation and bills aimed at curbing Arab freedom of expression have soiled the concept of a Jewish state to a nadir that Israel's worst, most energetic enemies have never managed to approach.

The outpouring of hatred has since become an equal-opportunity sewer. Radical settlers and immigrants from the former Soviet Union have voiced unabashed, despicable racist attitudes toward a black president of the United States.

Inevitably, fellow Jews in Israel have become targets of the hatred as well. In Jerusalem, Jews who presume to be among the most devout of all adherents to Judaism, think nothing of attacking fellow Jews on the Sabbath with cinder blocks and glass bottles, all in protest over the opening of a parking lot.

Rabbis in the West Bank give Israel's enemies new ammunition week to week, by condoning killings of Palestinians.

And, in a reference to Israeli Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Housing Minister Ariel Atias this month chose the Bar Association, of all venues, to declare that he saw it as "a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the state of Israel." He went on to explicitly argue for segregation, not only between Jews and Arabs, but between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews.
His conclusion:
Hatred has no place in a Jewish state. And a Jewish state which sanctifies intolerance in the name of tradition or patriotism, will inevitably prove unwelcome not only to non-Jews, but to the Jewish People as well.
Burston's words are welcome, but the revolting phenomena that he writes about are not new. I remember, in 1988, going to the Kotel with the Women of the Wall. We were trying to pray in the women's section, wearing tallitot, carrying a Torah scroll which we intended to read from. After we set ourselves up and started the morning prayers, Haredi women started to scream at us, and eventually Haredi men from the men's section invaded the women's section and not only screamed at us, but attacked us physically. One man tried to take away the Torah scroll, in the process almost knocking it to the ground. I was knocked down twice, once by a woman and once by a man. The police finally intervened, not to protect us, but to escort us away from the scene, leaving the Haredim alone.

I also remember at about the same time going to leftwing demonstrations sponsored by various organizations, including Peace Now, and having counterdemonstrators scream obscenities and worse at us ("Hitler should have killed you too!"). Once I was participating in a demonstration of Women in Black at Paris Square, and a group of Kahanists came to demonstrate against us, screaming in hatred and threatening us physically. The police came and intervened by tear-gassing all of us.


  1. Oy, that was an unpleasant article in Haaretz. But I was having trouble understanding who was being direct and who was being ironic: I hope Edward Kuznetsov was being self-critical, at least.

  2. As I understand the issues involved, McKinney became subject to Israeli deportation laws once she landed in jail as someone who was on Israeli soil illegally. What happens with other foreigners who are suspected of coming to Israel as illegal aliens or who overstay their visa and get into jail, they have a choice of signing the papers and being deported or appearing in front of a judge within several days and being deported after that hearing. From what I understand she refused to sign that paper. I don't know if she refused to sign it as a matter of principle of signing an Israeli document or whether she refused to sign it because it probably contained some line saying "I have entered Israel illegally or illegally remained in its territory," she did not respond publicly to the statement of the Israel Consulate for her region, so we don't quite know her reasoning.

  3. It's not clear to me that Kuznetsov was being self-critical; I think he was just being honest about Russian community's beliefs. That comment about political correctness is not limited to the Russian immigrant community in Israel, btw. It is parroted throughout the rest of Israel, Eastern and even Western Europe.

    It is something that may seem strange to the majority of Americans, but that is how it is viewed outside of the US: political correctness is viewed as a capitulation to minorities. And insofar as it is a capitulation, non-Americans seem to view it as wrong (as long as the minority in question is not related to that group of foreigners).

    I had conversations about it with non-Russian relatives from Israel, and I also have talked about it with French-born French people.