Unfriending the Cousins

I “unfriend[ed]” my Arab Facebook friends, this week.

I had met all half-dozen of them on my half-Jewish, half-Arab tour guides course (which I could not complete). But despite sitting with “the lads” – all Arab, more fun than the nerdy new immigrants – at the back of the coach on every field trip, we have not, other than on Facebook, stayed in touch. And I have become increasingly self-conscious that some of my more un-PC “status updates” might, perhaps, offend their sensibilities. Following the abduction of the three Jewish teenagers in Gush Etzion, a fortnight ago, I felt that being able to be myself, even in a medium as ‘trivial’ as Facebook, was more important than perpetuating these ostensibly futile ‘friendships’.

And the “unfriend[ing]” was also, I think, a gesture. A statement. To myself even. A result, after a decade and a half of life here, of having become totally disillusioned with our Biblical cousins.

No one should have been surprised, however, by the news from the Gush. Following the ‘success’ of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping, it was clear that Hamas would attempt others (see Why Gilad must not be freed “at any price”). Our (continuing) mistake is to judge the Arabs by our own western values (which tell us, in this case, that abducting teenagers is just plain wrong). And we should not be surprised, either, at images of ordinary Palestinians delighting in their ‘victory’. Because to them, that is what it is. And this is a war.

I don’t believe I am a racist. I take as I find. I still go out of my way to find work for Kamel and Rayed, the East Jerusalem Arabs who renovated my apartment, because I like and appreciate them (certainly a great deal more than their dodgy Persian then boss, who, I found out much later, had diddled almost all of my suppliers). And I am in favour, in principle at least, of a “two-state solution”.

But make no mistake: none but an inconsequential number of Palestinians recognise any Jewish claim to this land. They want us out of here. And they won’t rest until we are. The sooner we accept that reality, the safer we will be. And I feel sure that Bibi, oft criticised for political inertia, merely realises that the current state of affairs – total impasse, but (with the Security Wall) without the terror we once knew – is, with neighbours like ours, the best that we can hope for.

On a shiva visit last week, I struck up a conversation with Itamar Marcus, the Director of Palestinian Media Watch, a non-partisan organisation which studies Palestinian society through the monitoring of its media and schoolbooks. Having this piece already in mind, I enquired as to whether there might nonetheless be some potential “partners for peace” on the other side. Marcus’s knowing smile said it all. “Put it this way,” he said, “that is the shortest chapter in our book.”

And joking with a Jewish contractor in my Tel Aviv apartment, last week, that we should lock his Arab worker inside until the teenagers are freed, he replied “The problem is no one there would even care!” And that about summed up the difference between our peoples. The individual is paramount to Jews. The Arabs, on the other hand, use their own children as weapons and shields. We are in a seemingly permanent state of war against a cruel and primitive enemy, a fact now recognised and admitted by increasing numbers on the Israeli Left (aside, of course, from the Anshel Pfeffers of this world – see his latest sell-out here – a conceited so and so no less opportunist or extreme than those he decries on the Right, and yet another reason why I will never resubscribe to Haaretz).

Not many aspects of the Bible “talk” to me, but references to “Good” peoples and “Evil” peoples – which, as a schoolboy, always struck me as Osher Baddiel nonsense – have, in recent years, at least in the collective sense, taken on a certain resonance.

As for my former Facebook friends, I was sorry to hear (I am still on the course e-mail list) that some of them were said to have behaved inappropriately during a recent visit to Yad Vashem . . . though, again, if true, it didn’t really surprise me: even the concept of mutual respect, never mind peace, now seems a pipe dream. There is, perhaps, just too much history.

Shabbat shalom in the meantime . . . and God bless our boys.

Abducted Teenagers


20 responses to “Unfriending the Cousins

  1. Very well written, Mike, and I agree wholeheartedly with your comments.

    I am a closet leftie when it comes to Israel; not only do I think a two-state solution is right, but I’d even acknowledge that Jerusalem doesn’t have to remain the undisputed Jewish capital. I can reassure myself with all the religious Zionist stuff that has been inculcated in me over the years, but I believe G-d sometimes wants us to make difficult choices and sacrifices.

    BUT – and this is a huge but – I have no idea how we could ever be expected to reach a reasonable compromise with people who have no respect in the sanctity of life (and in fact, glorify death) and who firmly believe in my people’s destruction. Where do we go with that?

    And I am so tired of us being lectured by every other country in the world about what we should be prepared to sacrifice.

    I often say to my non-Jewish friends and colleagues, nearly all of whom have swallowed the Israel-oppressor line, if the IRA in the 70s had been sending missiles over in to Central London everyday, if you saw copies of their children’s textbooks explaining why we must be wiped off the face of the earth, how long would it be before you’d be petitioning your prime minister to build a wall, or launch a strike against Northern Ireland? And sod the collateral damage.

    I’m no lover of Bibi but essentially he is right; the best you can hope for is an uneasy truce and a good security fence. Oh, and for the Moshiach to come soon.

  2. Thanks Mike. I don’t want to get all mushy here, but a sincere and warm thanks for taking the time and the effort to speak for me (and many others too I suspect). Kudos.

  3. richard millett

    for the moment i thought you meant a decade and a half on facebook! sadly, i have to agree with your profound piece, michael, although they had to get Gilad out. I think Hamas would have done this irrespective. They don’t need any encouragement. As for Pfeffer’s totally hypocritical scribble the less said the better.

  4. Hey Mike, a little harsh on the guys in the course, I think. You’d be surprised how open-minded they are. Your posts would not offend them. On the contrary, I think they could spark dynamic dialogue, as often happens on the course’s Facebook page and in personal discussions during class and field trips. We were just in the Gush last Sunday, and it’s so interesting to get their perspective on things, as I think it’s interesting for them to listen to ours. I think it’s a shame to end these relationships, unless they specifically wrote something that irked you. The very fact that we’re Facebook friends at all is progress.

    Regarding Yad Vashem, there was some inappropriate laughing, but it had nothing to do with them belittling or enjoying what happened in the Shoah. It was insensitivity towards a sensitive topic. As you wrote, they are the fun ones in the class, and they were having fun at the wrong place and the wrong time. Definitely inexcusable, but certainly not hatred towards Jews or Israelis.

  5. philip lehrer

    Mike, despite our sometime iffy verbal sparring on Facebook, i must tell you that your heart is definitely in the right place. Only this afternoon the E,U envoy (some grotty Norwegian) to Israel reprimanded us, saying the E,U, is losing patience with “settlement building” and that recommendations would be made to European companies to curtail, or cease their business dealings with Israel. I, for one, am willing to forego my daily Mars-bar (if that will help), in favor of some Israeli-made product, hereby practicing the Israeli aggression policy of pre-empting its enemies actions. Europe is lost and we are becoming Sparta, also, because of some of the Israeli looney-left nitwits (is that an oxymoron?). After the news on the E.U. this afternoon, one of Tsipi Livni`s gophers in the Knesset, much more to the left of her, who basically thinks Meretz is a right-wing party and a neighbor, gleefully asked me what I thought of (Major General res.) Amnon Mitzna`s recent outrageous declaration concerning Bayit Yehudi and comparing it to Hamas. I told him in no uncertain words (actually only one preceded by “a total), starting with S and finishing with K (transliterated from the Yiddish), to which his wishy-washy (he may be of the other persuasion if you know what I mean) answer was, “but he`s done so much for the country”. Having done so much for the country, is not a reason to preach dangerous theories for petty party political reasons.For, they are dangerous and I`m not a religious fanatic. I am also and I believe the majority of sane Israelis, you included (LOL), are not willing to commit national suicide to pander to the chinless wonder`s (if you don`t know who I mean, her name is Catherine Ashton) appeasing left-wing, uneducated (as she has not only not learnt from, but never had a notion of Europe`s past one hundred years history of appeasing and making one mistake after another). Israel WILL NOT follow the path of the weak and I anticipate that the next conflict in this area will see the fulfillment of Rehavam Ze`evi`s philosophy, for those of our cousins, who will not accept this as a Jewish state, seeing as a consequence, a straight border along the Jordan river and another failed state in what is the present Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

  6. Good to hear from you, Eric.

    The guys on the course are great, and my “unfriend[ing]” has more to do with the “matzav” and my current state of mind – in the light, especially, of the kidnappings – than it does with them, if that makes any sense.

    Also, as I tried to get across in my piece, while individuals may be fine, their society might be quite otherwise. I did sometimes feel that I was treading on eggshells with them . . . though, again, I often used to cringe seeing/hearing them subjected to the Ministry of Tourism’s (naturally Zionist) narrative, especially as it related to the Holocaust.

    The whole situation on that course was a microcosm for this country . . . mental!!

  7. Tamar Meijers

    Mike, is not it vital to be conscious, to keep “challenging” ourselves? Despite our differences, all of the commenters basically agree that the situation is quite bleak and peace not very likely to be achieved in the near future. So, we can continue to preach to the choir and dwell in our own rhetoric. Or we can challenge our beliefs and ask ourselves some difficult questions. I am saying that stepping out of our bubble, meeting our cousins, having a dialogue, not being so comfortable might at least be a first step in the right direction. If not for peace, then definitely for our own morality.

    It is very easy to be un-PC, to make “funny” jokes even though in the back of our minds we know that our jokes might not be so funny or innocent. I am not saying you should not post whatever you feel at that particular moment, but perhaps needing to be self- conscious is not a bad thing.

  8. John Fisher

    “I am not saying you should not post whatever you feel at that particular moment..”


  9. Thank you for your brilliantly written blog post and I totally agree with everything you write. I salute you for being “yourself”. I heard about the three boys on the BBC. It was the last report at 7pm and had I not heard the devastating news some minutes earlier from a friend in Israel, I might have missed it completely. The seconds-long report did not express any horror at the boys’ horrific murder but only stressed the fact that their bodies were found in “territories occupied by Israel”. It’s times like these that I truly hate the BBC and the numerous self-haters within the organisation who, unlike yourself, haven’t got the depth of personality or courage to ever be “themselves”

  10. Thank you, CK1.

    It seems Jerry Gerber was right all along, John Fisher . . . the middle of the road IS for horses.

    And to think that I actually thought twice about posting this blog . . . the cocksucking motherfuckers (only that Tony S. wouldn’t waste too much time debating what HE’D do next).

  11. John Fisher

    In 1961, Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz was a lone voice in opposing the Eichmann Trial. The great iconoclast was roundly condemned for his views. It was some years before he was invited, in a radio interview, to expand on his position.

    Leibovitz explained that he had never opposed killing Eichmann – it was the concept of a judicial trial, under the circumstances, that he could not accept.

    Shakespeare summed it up best, as usual:

    “In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
    Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage.”

    The Prime Minister is right to single out Hamas as the target for heavy reprisals, as opposed to accusing the entire Palestinian population (a position barely one step away from several of the comments above). Hamas are our declared mortal enemy. Let them pay a heavy price for this heinous crime.

  12. And who does my learned (if not schooled) friend blame for the 2000 lynch and mutilation of two IDF reservists in the PA’s most progressive city? That was the (horrid) day when the penny dropped for me. If only it was “just Hamas” . . .

  13. John Fisher

    Hardly my point, but never mind.

  14. Cop out! It was exactly your point!

    The Palestinians are far closer to Hamas than ordinary Germans, for instance, were to the Nazis. Anyone who believes this is just about Hamas is seriously deluded.

    The tragedy of this country is its neighbours. With any others, we’d long have been wallowing in a peaceful oasis.

  15. John Fisher

    As the great Woodthorpe Jude Harrison said repeatedly: “Read the Bloody Question”.

    Instead of reading (evidently, totally incorrectly) between the lines of what I wrote and quoted, try reading the actual words. You will be surprised to note that I do not make any value judgement about Palestinians in general – good or bad. I am also keenly aware of the history of Fatah and cuddly, grandfatherly, white-haired President Abbas, in particular.

    It was Yitzhak Rabin who underwent a Damascene conversion (they didn’t teach us that one at Hasmonean) from threatening to break the Palestinians’ bones during the first Intifada, to making peace with our enemies as opposed to our friends. Whatever the ambiguities of our relations with the Palestinians as a people, we are still in a state of war with Hamas. Let Hamas now suffer terribly from the morally ambiguous rules of war.

  16. One of the most ignorant and closed minded articles I have read in a long time. It’s this type of biased, ‘we are good and you are bad’ mentality which only perpetuates the problem on both sides. Do you not realise that lines such as ‘The individual is paramount to Jews. The Arabs, on the other hand, use their own children as weapons and shields’ is the same nonsense they are preaching on the other side?? … Of course Arabs care for their children. You cant just stereotype a nation by its extremists… Otherwise, you may have to tarnish Israel with the same brush as it would appear that a teenage Arabic boy has been kidnapped and murdered in response to what happened. And funnily enough, it would appear the Arabic community is quite upset about one of their children dying. Who would have thought this ‘cruel and primitive’ people could have human emotions?
    My advise… Next time do not delete your friends on Facebook due to their background or race. But if you really feel like you must, please do not write some hate-filled piece about the misguided reasoning which lead you to do so!
    I am Jewish but have plenty of Muslim & Arabic friends… We get a long just fine…

  17. We are all delighted I am sure, Ricky, that you get along so well with your “plenty of Muslim & Arabic friends”. So, too, did the two Sheinkin restaurateurs who regularly visited the West Bank for cheaper pots and pans: http://www.haaretz.co.il/misc/1.763792

    Do you really need me to quote you chapter and verse on the Palestinians using their children as weapons and shields? And I am not “stereotyp[ing] a nation by its extremists,” rather saying that that very nation, its religion and culture are extremist. Just my view, and one based not on “ignorance,” but on having my eyes open . . .

    Can the above – which took place in Ramallah, the West Bank’s (cf. Gaza’s) most progressive, westernised city – also be explained away as the work of Hamas?

    If believing that all peoples/nations are the same (and fundamentally good) makes you feel better about yourself and your “PC” perception of the world, that is your prerogative. I happen not to believe that. And if you wish to bury your head in the sand (as did so many German Jews in the 1930s), that is, too. But then who is the “closed minded” one?!

  18. Couldn’t agree more with you Mike and a perfect illustration of your point – and something Ricky would do well to consider – is the contrasting way most Jews/Israelis react to an act of terror by one of their own compared with the reaction of most of our Arab cousins to acts of terror by their kinsmen. The shocking murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir has been met by almost universal, unequivocal and unqualified expressions of horror, disgust, shock and perhaps most revealingly of all in this context – profound embarrassment. From the prime minister of Israel himself to the Israeli and Jewish press and broadcast media to the Jewish cabby who picked me up from Paddington Station two days ago the response has been one of shame and sadness. Compare that to the typical response of Arab leaders (and Muslim leaders in general), the Arab (and Muslim) press and broadcast media and the common “Arab (and Muslim) in the street” (as their friends at the BBC like to refer to them) to acts of terror carried out in their name. There will be no glorification of the murderers of the Arab teenager. They will not be lauded as Jewish / Zionist heroes. There will be no financial rewards made to them and their families. Rather, their names – like that of Baruch Goldstein before them – will forever be regarded as a vile and treacherous stain upon the reputation of modern Israel. Moreover, as the PM said, they will feel the full weight of Israeli law. In stark contrast, should the killers of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel ever be caught, they will – as likely as not – eventually find themselves freed as part of another hideously unequal prisoner exchange and then to be carried through the streets of West Bank towns as returning heroes.
    As Mike implies, Ricky, it might not fit in with your fanatical liberal fascist Utopian imperative, but peoples and nations really are distinct.

  19. In his book Jewish Journeys in Jerusalem (2010 edition p56) Jay Levinson gives an historic account of life in East Jerusalem under non Jewish control. I believe that our Muslim and Arabic friends would recreate this reality if given the opportunity.

    The Kotel would be under the control of the Supreme Muslim Council. The Kotel plaza would be used for building Arab houses in the style of the Moghrabi neighbourhood for returning Palestinian residents. There would be a gap of a few metres between the houses and the Kotel. It would be forbidden to blow Shofar. It would be forbidden to place tables and chairs near the wall. Travelling through the streets of the Old City would vary from being very dangerous to near impossible.

    Presently, the US Secretary of State, the UN, EU, most of the Islamic world and even some of ‘the tribe’ are working towards this.
    I hope and pray that they FAIL!


  20. Melchett Mike: You’ve spoken for me – Thanks for putting it so succinctly. Jacob Solomon

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