Friday, July 29, 2011

Fairy Tale God אלוהים של אגדות

I can’t stop thinking about the following anecdote, told to me by the sibling of a Gan Israel (CHaBaD’s day camp network) camper, whose counselor told the campers:

“Gan Izzy saves lives. Ten years ago, a GI camper broke his arm while at camp. A few weeks later, his father took off work to take him to the doctor for a checkup. While they were at the doctor, some bad people flew planes into the building where the dad worked, but he wasn’t at work that day; he was with his son at the doctor. So Gan Izzy saved the father’s life.”

There are so many disturbing things about the above, I hardly know where to start. If any GI staff are reading this, let’s break it down: At any given workplace, on any given day, a certain percentage of the workers will be absent for any number of reasons. Every single individual who worked in the Twin Towers as of September 11, 2001 and who was absent from work that day has his or her own “Gan Izzy”: the traffic fine whose deadline for payment was that day, the tooth that broke while eating breakfast at a diner that morning, and any number of planned absences such as vacations, training, or family events (I can't even believe I'm explaining this elementary concept).

The leap from there to “Gan Izzy saved the dad’s life” is dangerously close to “…and therefore we should all send our kids to Gan Izzy, which is proven to be good insurance against being killed in a terror attack,” which in turn is dangerously cozy with “…affiliating with CHaBaD -- the operator of Gan Izzy -- is good insurance against any ill befalling you or your loved ones.” Moreoever, supposing one or more of the Twin Towers casualties did send their kids to Gan Izzy? How come it didn’t “work” for them?

Lubavitchers, believing that God [I refuse to call Her “haShem”] intervened for the outcome we all know to save those fortunate absent-from-work individuals is what we call “magical thinking”, which is not indulged in by rational, responsible adults. If you choose to indulge therein, it’s your right, but it is not your right to impart it to impressionable children.

As for the rest of us Jews: Perhaps this will give you pause next time you’re solicited by CHaBaD for a donation. Like all fundamentalist groups from evangelicals to the Islamic Movement (that’s right -- ask any mom in Um al-Fahm who runs the best daycare), the reason CHaBaD can offer quality, appealing programs is by keeping costs down, which they do via 1) donations and 2) low-cost labor, i.e., mobilizing their own young people. CHaBaD does not have the monopoly on Jewish continuity -- unless we choose to hand it to them on a silver platter. There are plenty of worthy Jewish causes that could use your donation that do not promote magical thinking. I encourage you to donate thereto.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Learn a dirty Hebrew word: "Political" "מלה גסה: "פוליטי

In case it's escaped your notice, social protest here is deplorably unsophisticated. Three examples:

A female Jewish cashier dates a male Palestinian bagger, and all hell breaks loose. The local rabbi, who would be the sheriff if this were a western, pays a visit to the store CEO demanding that the latter do something, and poor Rami Levi twists himself into a pretzel trying to please everyone. In the process he sets himself up as a social worker, relationship chaperone, and babysitter, and forgets what he presumably does for a living: He runs a business. In a real Western country, where clerics don't intimidate the ordinary citizen, Levi would tell Rabbi Perl privately, "I run a business, and my employee policies are implemented with that one goal in mind. I regret that I'm not the address for your problems."

And in a real Western country, Levi's statement to the press would be: "We at Rami Levi do not purport to intervene in the individual relationships between our employees. As long as their relations do not interfere with their performing their duties, it's not our business. With all due respect, I direct Rabbi Perl to address his congregants on this issue, not us. Meanwhile, as always, we invite all our neighbors to continue to shop with us, and in return we pledge to continue to provide quality groceries at reasonable prices to all our customers."

Thank the Lord for Yossi Sarid. Unfortunately, we in Israel suffer from a disease called We're Not Political-itis, which manifests itself in social protesters resolutely insisting that their cause isn't, God forbid, political. Yet Sarid reminds us that curiously, there are no tent protests in the territories. Hello, Israel: How could anything be more political? When will Israelis stop being intimidated by the right? How long, Lord, before we demand what is due us?

That aside, I have a problem with the whole "I refuse to live anywhere but Tel Aviv" mindset. What's wrong with a 45-minute train commute to and from Ashdod, or a 10-minute commute to Lod? Who wants to live in Lod, you ask? Well, if a critical mass of tent-dwellers does, they'll benefit, and so will Lod. That's how organic communities form: Greenwich Village was originally populated by struggling artists. Ditto for similar urban districts all over the West, which morphed into bastions of -- you guessed it -- openness and tolerance. But if all the open, tolerant folks insist on living nowhere but Tel Aviv, what direction do they expect housing prices to go?

What a shame Ir Amim's Orit Noy didn't "tell it like it is" regarding artists performing in Silwan. She states her protest is "personal, not political" (there we go again: "Not political"). Why is Noy afraid to take a stand on behalf of Ir Amim, who's been valiantly fighting Elad for decades? Again: What could be more political?

And what's "active cooperation with a 'radical political move'" supposed to mean? Don't hide, Noy. Just state your case clearly: "We oppose patronizing Elad-sponsored events held in Silwan, as Elad has been harassing Silwan residents and making their lives miserable for decades." Case closed. What's so hard about that?

What in God's name are people afraid of? It must be the same fear that causes Israelis to incessantly use כ, or *keh* — a prefix that translates as "approximately" — anytime numbers are involved, i.e., *ani gara k'arba'im kilometer mi'Eilat* ["I live approximately 40 kilometers from Eilat"]; *k'esrim achuz miHaOchlusiya aravi* ["Approximately 20% of the population is Arab"].

From what lawsuit are people trying to cover their behinds? Are they afraid that if they don't use כ, someday they'll be subpoenaed and be required to prove that the distance from their house to Eilat is precisely 40 km? That precisely 1.5 million Israelis are Arab? It's Loony Toons. But then so is a CEO of a supermarket chain placating a local rabbi.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Boycotting and Goldstoning חרם וגולדסטון

The talkbackers to Karni Eldad's defense of the Boycott Law say it better than I could, although I did edit:

JJ Burke wrote:

"If the settlers had any confidence in their arguments, they wouldn't need to mangle the law to silence their opponents."

David wrote:

"1. You did not go to Judah & Samaria to be human shields, but based on Messianic belief, so don't feed us that bull. Maybe the Arabs like martyr stories, but we don't. 2. You enjoy inexpensive housing and municipal services paid for by our taxes. 3. You have an entire army wasting resources on protecting you. I'd be surprised if your taxes cover that. 4. You cause millions to be spent on roads and utilities to support your settlements. I'd be surprised if your taxes cover that. 5. The decision to settle territories was not made democratically, even if it was eventually adopted by the governments, so let's not pretend the right is huge fans of democracy. 6. Thank you for not deploying supermarket inspectors to examine whether I buy Arabs' olive oil and not settlers' olive oil. The fact that you even bring this up as some sort of “capitulation” on your part should make everyone of sound mind shudder at the implications of the crazy thoughts you and your buddies consider acceptable, moral, and cultured discourse. You have become ridiculous. Wake up.

Nahman Umani wrote:

"She’s kidding, right? If this is for real, it shows us how much the settler movement is living in a parallel universe and that there is no real way of reconciliation. She is presenting us with the prospect of a zero-sum game. Tragic."

And I ask: If the settlers believe their cause (and livelihood) is just, why don't they just publish their own list of Judaean and Samaritan products, a la the Christian Yellow Pages? Why force the consumer to rely on (and decipher) BDS information, some of which is admittedly questionable? Nu, Yesha? I challenge you to pick up the marketing gauntlet. Let the consumer public decide who's right and who's wrong.

Know what galls me about the settlers? The pathetic Kiryat Shmona library, the only public library for miles, was closed for lack of funds; the Sderot Cinemateque, the only one in the entire Negev, is in danger of closing for lack of funds; and meanwhile, in the settlements, the beat goes on: paved access roads, lush, watered lawns, a theater in Ariel (because the five-minute drive to Kfar Saba is too far), museums (?!) -- plenty of money for those. But for the weak population who's really on the front lines -- being pounded by Katyushas and Kassams -- the well runs dry.

What I don't understand is all the secular Israelis who defend the settlers. I want to ask them: Don't you understand that they don't give a rat's _ss about you? They're totally in it for themselves. Karni Eldad cries crocodile tears about her "worthy sons" who defend "our" cafes and pubs. How about my sons (OK, nephews, but you get the idea) who have to serve in Hebron to defend her red-roofed house in Tekoa? How fair is that?

And now we turn to the proposed bill to audit human rights groups that "fed" info to Goldstone. Journalists Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis, as well as Haaretz, have got my knickers in a twist almost as much as the Boycott Law. They’ve done it yet again in this headline: “Lieberman blasts PM, Likud ministers for refusing to probe left-wing groups”.

Why, oh why, do the reporters play directly into the right’s hands by referring to human rights groups as “left-wing”? Not only is this practice journalistically unacceptable, as “left-wing” is a subjective term that can’t provably be applied to non-profits; but in applying it to rights groups, it perpetuates the twisted notion that human rights is the exclusive purview of the left, which is the whole problem. I appeal to all journalists: Please, please refer to organizations by what they do, not some knee-jerk label.

The article headed MK Zuabi red-carded for role in 2010 flotilla tells us: ""The Ethics Committee said that Zuabi...dealt a blow to the Knesset's dignity and the public's trust therein."

No, I'm afraid that "achievement" goes to the Knesset itself, for passing deplorable laws instead of governing the country. Way to go, “Ethics” Committee.