Leo Baeck 1


Nov 2011 Journal

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Letter from Israel

So once again British hooligans managed to disrupt a concert given by Israeli musicians in London - this time one given by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms in September. This follows a similar interruption of a performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at the Wigmore Hall earlier in the year.

It beats me how people think that disturbing a musical performance will somehow help the Palestinians. The Palestinians can be helped by getting them to see reality as it really is - rather than as some pie-in-the-sky situation in which Israel magically disappears from the scene. Israel is here to stay, and the sooner the Palestinians wake up to that fact the better it will be for all concerned, and the Palestinians first and foremost!

Another fact that seems to escape the disrupters is that being pro-Palestinian doesn’t necessarily mean being anti-Israel. In fact, many people in Israel believe that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state would be a good thing, ultimately benefiting Israelis as well as Palestinians.

The events of the recent ‘Arab Spring’ have made it clear that all is not well with the Arab regimes, which have imposed repressive systems, published ever bigger lies and fostered anti-Israel propaganda in a feeble attempt to maintain their hold on power and the immense resources of the Arab world. While the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state is generally accepted in Israel, differences of opinion about final borders, the return of refugees, and Jerusalem as the capital are the sticking points preventing a final agreement from being reached.

In what way do the disrupters of concerts by Israeli musicians differ from the rioters who laid waste to property in London and other cities of Fair Albion last summer? Not at all, to my mind. Both were practising mindless violence - destruction for destruction’s sake - not achieving anything that wasn’t negative and criminal. And to do such things in the name of a ‘principle’ doesn’t make them any better. It just shows that principles are more often used for bad ends than for good.

However, there may be signs that someone out there in the Arab world is beginning to realise that reality is somewhat different from the misinformation and half-truths that they have been fed by their leaders all these years. Below are excerpts from recent articles by two Saudi journalists, whose texts constitute an unusual departure from the line generally adopted by the Arab press.

Khalaf Al-Harbi wrote in the Saudi daily Okaz: ‘When we were young, the teachers exhausted us by reiterating that Israel was, without question, a temporary and transient country. When we got old enough to read, newspapers and books filled our heads with reasons why Israel could not [continue to] exist in its Arab surroundings.’

Of course, no one can tell what the future holds, but to date those predictions have not been proved right.

Fawaz Al-'Ilmi wrote in Al-Watan about the Arabic-language website of Israel’s Foreign Ministry: ‘On 20 January the website published a report which revealed that the only registry in the world for Arab bone marrow donors was located in the Hadassah Medical Center, associated with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.’

Al-‘Ilmi goes on to compare annual expenditure on education and scientific research in Israel and in several Arab countries, bemoaning the dismal results for the latter and blaming these figures for the failure of Arab countries to chalk up scientific achievements comparable to those of Israel.

Could these articles be perceived as an encouraging indication that the scales are beginning to fall from the eyes of Arabs and that at least some of them are finally beginning to wake up to reality?

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

previous article:On the ruins of Jerusalem (review)
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