Friday, July 23, 2021

  • Friday, July 23, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
From the NYT:

BEIT YEHOSHUA, Israel — Uriya Rosenman grew up on Israeli military bases and served as an officer in an elite unit of the army. His father was a combat pilot. His grandfather led the paratroopers who captured the Western Wall from Jordan in 1967.

Sameh Zakout, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, grew up in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Ramla. His family was driven out of its home in the 1948 war of Israeli independence, known to Palestinians as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe. Many of his relatives fled to Gaza.

Facing each other in a garage over a small plastic table, the two hurl ethnic insults and clichés at each other, tearing away the veneer of civility overlaying the seething resentments between the Jewish state and its Palestinian minority in a rap video that has gone viral in Israel.

The video, “Let’s Talk Straight,” which has garnered more than four million views on social media since May, couldn’t have landed at a more apt time, after the eruption two months ago of Jewish-Arab violence that turned many mixed Israeli cities like Lod and Ramla into Jewish-Arab battlegrounds.

By shouting each side’s prejudices at each other, at times seemingly on the verge of violence, Mr. Rosenman and Mr. Zakout have produced a work that dares listeners to move past stereotypes and discover their shared humanity.

It is a very powerful video.


Each monologue is filled with  simplistic, racist opinions of the other - sprinkled with protests that "I'm not racist."  

Some 20% of Israelis are Arabs. They are full citizens. They deserve equal rights. And at the same time, Israel is a Jewish state and must remain that way, or else it loses its entire character and its raison d'être. The government and the people need to balance the two imperatives.

Many people say that the two are completely incompatible. Most of them are anti-Israel, and paint a false picture of a state where if racism or inequalities exist, it loses its own right to exist - an expectation that applies to no other country. Those people are in reality antisemites, who don't accept the concept of a Jewish state and hide their hate behind human rights principles - not regarding Jewish self determination or the Jewish right to life as human rights at all.

This is the attitude of people from so-called human rights groups and from BDS, which are increasingly interchangeable.

On the other side, there are Jews in Israel who don't want to admit that there is racism against Arabs - people who sound like the Jew in the video, just as there are racist Arabs represented by the Israeli Arab rapper. 

A large number of Israelis think that the least bad alternative is separation - let people live in Arab only or Jewish only cities, or choose to live in mixed cities if they choose. This minimizes the friction but doesn't reduce the racism. 

The BDS crowd takes the separation idea and turns it into pure antisemitism - they don't want any Arab to even talk with any Israeli Jew (unless that Jew denounces Israel beforehand.) They aren't seeking a balance to help reduce friction - they want to ensure that there is no opportunity for any Arab to learn that Jews aren't monsters.

Keeping Israel democratic and Jewish while accepting the Arab minority and treating them as full citizens with full rights is not an easy problem to solve. Neither is overcoming centuries of Arab antisemitism and decades of anti-Israel propaganda. The solution requires education and a desire to learn. 

What is great about this video is that it opens the conversation on both Arab antisemitism and Israeli Jewish racism by confronting the issue head-on. The final statement, "We both have no other country - and this is where change begins" is a challenge to everyone. Listening to the other side doesn't mean accepting their narrative but it does help understand their perspective, and people do not spend enough time trying to understand the other. 

The video is two monologues, followed by both people eating hummus together. But it offers a path towards real dialogue. 








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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون



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