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Friday, February 22, 2008

BBC's "Monopoly" on anti-semitism

Many other JBloggers have been dealing with the issue of Jerusalem on the Monopoly board during this past week. As CNN summarizes:
Monopoly, the world's best-selling board game, is going global. A simple idea, substituting the iconic properties of the original game with hallmark cities of the world.

Hasbro is letting people vote on its Web site for which cities to include in the new game.

In this celebration of capitalism, would-be moguls could buy up properties in cities such as Moscow, Russia; Tokyo, Japan and Jerusalem, Israel.

Wait. Nix that last one -- at least the Israel part.

Given the white-hot controversy over Israel -- the world's most fought-over piece of real estate -- should the board game refer to "Jerusalem, Israel" even though Palestinians say Jerusalem will be the capital of any future Palestinian state? Should it say "Jerusalem, Palestine?"

Instead of rolling the dice, parent company Hasbro is taking the middle ground.

The company is letting people vote on its Web site for which cities to include in the new game -- "Dublin, Ireland" for example. It recently removed "Israel" after "Jerusalem" and then eventually removed all of the country names.

Hasbro told The Associated Press that a mid-level employee decided on her own to take out "Israel" after pro-Palestinian groups and bloggers complained -- sparking even more protests from the other side.

"It was never our intention to print any countries on the final boards and any online tags were merely used as a geographic reference to help with city selection," Hasbro said in a written statement. "We would never want to enter into any political debate. We apologize for any upset this has caused our Monopoly fans."
The BBC, when talking about the issue a few days ago in a "diary" by Tim Franks, decided for some bizarre reason to use it as a springboard to accuse Israeli Jews of racism:
Yehiel Leiter is the director general of One Jerusalem, a group that, in its mission statement, declares a single objective: "Maintaining a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel."

The Monopoly campaign, says Leiter, "puts Jerusalem on the table. It has people not avoid Jerusalem because it's contested".

The group also says it has handed out 128,000 golden ribbons on the streets of Jerusalem (the colour is because of the song, "Jerusalem of Gold").

Mudi had a golden ribbon fluttering from the wing mirror of his taxi, until recently.

But Mudi is unusual, in that he is an Israeli Arab.

"The truth is," he told me, as I sat alongside him in his taxi, "Jewish people, especially religious people, won't stop any taxi driven by an Arab."

But when they see a golden ribbon, says Mudi, "they know no Arab guy would have it on his car".

Mudi has another advantage: he says he does not "look" like an Arab, and he speaks Hebrew fluently. Passengers mistake him for a Jew.

"And very, very few people are not prejudiced," in what they say to him. At least, that is the case in Jerusalem.

"In Tel Aviv," he says, "it is exactly the opposite. They don't care I'm an Arab".

When his Jerusalem passengers disembark, Mudi says he tells them that his name is, in fact, Mahmoud.

He says, though, that he has not felt "comfortable" with the ribbon. Indeed, the other day, when he was washing his taxi, he ripped it off, and so far has not replaced it.

Still, many of his Arab colleagues continue to tie a ribbon around their rear-view or wing mirrors, in order not to put off potential customers.

Some, says Mudi, even wear a yarmulke (Jewish skullcap).
Our intrepid BBC reporter, of course, bases his accusation that Jews refuse to go into Arab taxicabs based on a sample size of one, and many Israelis wrote to comment that the reporter was a bit off:
I am an Israeli Arab and I also tend to be a bit concerned when near the Palestinian controlled areas when geting into a taxi, as for the rest of Israel there are no such problems. Please don't try and make some racialist stories out of Israeli Jews, they are my fellow citizens!
Dr Moukie Fallah, Herzalia Israel

Firstly, the taxi story is obviously made up. Most taxi drivers here are Arabs, so waiting to find a Jewish one would take for ever. Also there is no way of telling if the taxi is driven by an Arab or a Jew and quite frankly we dont care! Secondly, even as a voter of Israel's most Left wing party, there is still no denying that J'lem is Israel's capital...so why not have it listed like that. Most Arabs in Jerusalem want to stay part of Israel and most are rushing to get citizenship.
Yoni, Jerusalem, Israel

I spent two years in Jerusalem and never heard of anyone avoiding an Arab taxi!
Avi, Manchester, UK

About the Mudi story: who cares who drives? In my work place most of the drivers are Israeli Arabs - and nobody cares. The story don't reflect nothing about the general situation here.
Shimon, student, Ben Gurion University, Israel

I am a non-Jewish American who lived in Jerusalem for over a year recently, and I still travel there several times a week to go to school. None of my Jewish Israeli friends has ever expressed any reservations about taking cabs driven by Arabs. We're students, and life in Jerusalem is not cheap, so we usually take the first guy who gives us a fair price. As others have pointed out, you can't necessarily tell at first whether he's Arab or Jewish or Klingon anyway.
Taybeh Chaser

The reason many Jerusalemites avoid Arab taxis is not, as you insuate by your lack of explanation, because they are racists. Most people do it out of fear of being driven into Arab East Jerusalem or Ramallah, for criminal or terrorist / political purposes. Jews in Tel Aviv are not fussed by the affiliation of their taxi drivers because there are no dangerous areas near Tel Aviv.
Shaya, Manchester, UK

I am Jewish & religious. I lived in Jerusalem for 28 years. Although I don't live there any more my parents do. I have used taxis all my life so I find Mudy's story awkward and strange. Never in my life, I checked up if the taxi driver is an Arab or not. Most recently I was sitting in a cab and the taxi driver's name was Muhamed, we discussed all the way to my parents' house and eventually finished our conversation blessing each other. So BBC, please stop this nonsense!
Joseph Elboim, Beit Shemesh, Israel

Something is not quite right in the Mudi story. All Israeli taxis have a prominent notice showing the driver's name, licence number and photograph. Consequently it would be very difficult for him to disguise his origins.
Victor Leaf, London, UK

Clearly, the BBC reporter decided to use the Monopoly story as a means to get in some old fashioned anti-semitism into a "respectable" article. It would never occur to him that "Mudi" is the one who shows the most bigotry - because the BBC doesn't want to, God forbid, accuse Arabs of racism.

Only Jews.