Three thoughts on proportionality

July 28, 2014 by

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Disproportionate attention

There is the feeling that the media and public response to the Gaza war is disproportionate to their response to every other conflict in the world. As thousands are slaughtered in Syria, all rage is directed to Gaza.

Part of me is surprised at the surprise. There is an antisemitism at the heart of Europe. There is an antisemitism at the heart of the Islamic world. Big whup. These facts don’t dispel for me the deep agony I feel when a defender of Israel wishes us to be compared to a murderous dictator such as Assad. Even if the comparison is relatively favourable. That is not the kind of company we should be keeping.

It must not be a rhetorical question

This video of Israeli philosopher and consultant to the IDF Moshe Halbertal lays out all the key questions. Halbertal points out that “proportionality” is not about the death of combatants. It is about the death of civilians. As he puts it from 17:10 onwards: “Is the expected collateral killing proportional to the military advantage to be gained?”

So it’s a really good question. It accepts that civilians might die in urban warfare. And it asks how many civilians is it “worth” killing in order to win the military advantage? It is the correct moral and philosophical question to be asked.

Halbertal’s question must not be solely rhetorical. I believe we Israelis have been remiss at going ahead and trying to find an answer. 

Are we really okay with the rationale: “We fired on the hospital/school because they fired at us from there: It is their fault that we fired back.”? Well it certainly paints Hamas black, but it doesn’t answer Halbertal’s question.

What military advantage did we gain by firing back? Was that advantage worth the risk that we might slaughter some kids along the way?

It seems we are too easily appeased by Hamas’ guilt to assess our own. It tortures me.

Desired disproportionality

If we want Palestinians to appreciate that violence against us does not pay, I believe we must also work behaviouristically to show that non-violence does pay.

If we are, as I am beginning to fear, responding disproportionately to Hamas violence, I believe we should be equally disproportionate in resopnding to all Palestinian non-violence. Any Palestinian who denounces violence, even in a mealy-mouthed way, should be ridiculously disproportionately rewarded. Abu Mazen, and his former Prime Minister and non-violent State-builder, Salam Fayyad, should have been treated as kings by our government. Every bona fide business established by the PA should receive outrageously generous subsidies from the Israeli government. Sweets should be thrown at every Palestinian kid who smiles at an Israeli.

At the same time I think we should be disproportionately generous to our amazingly non-violent Palestinian Israeli citizens. Forget trying to bring the education budget for Arab schools up to parity – it should be twice the size as the budget for Jewish schools. Don’t fight for Arab Israelis to have the same house-buying subsidies as Jews – fight for them to have even bigger subsidies.

If we are okay with severely punishing Palestinians for the violence of their leaders, we should also be willing to seriously reward them for the opposite.

Mayonnaise with that? Israeli TV drama takes Lenny Bruce further

June 27, 2014 by

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Lenny Bruce would be giggling in his grave. He was the one who so famously explained that mayonnaise is goyish. Who would have predicted how far this observation would extend?

Israel is gripped by many obsessions painful and joyful. At the same time as we pray for the return of the three kidnapped kids, we are also overtaken by World Cup fever. For a country not represented in the greatest football spectacle of all time (yes, it’s football, Ann Coulter!) Israelis are free to support whoever they want – flags abound.

But the greatest obsession in abeyance until next season is our Zaguri obsession. 26 episodes of this family comic drama about a dysfunctional Moroccan family in Beersheva took the country by storm. And it also reappropriated mayonnaise for a brand new audience. To Full Post

For Discussiony-Panelly-minded people

 

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Every Jewish holiday however celebratory always has its reflective aspect. This Chag Ha’atzmaut at JW3 is no different, giving room as it does to thoughtful and honest conversation

2stateFor more than 20 years now, the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been two States for two Peoples. And for 20 years now, we are still nowhere near this solution. Three fascinating women will be sharing their opinions about this solution that hasn’t yet solved anything… Linoy Bar Gefen is a top TV and print journalist, who still believes that the 2 state solution is the only game in town. To Linoy’s political left will be Yael Lerer, who was parliamentary aide to the Arab Balad Party, and established the Andalus Publishing House that produces Hebrew-language translations of Arab Literature. And to the right of Linoy, Karni Eldad – singer/song-writer and blogger – will talk of her love for the Biblical land of Israel and the Jewish State. A deliberately multi-vocal all-female panel. To Full Post

For the fun of it!

 

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The most important word in the famous phrase “hugging and wrestling with Israel”, is the word “and”. JW3′s festival embodies the balance brilliantly. Here are some of the fun for the sake of fun events they have planned.

gagaOn Bank Holiday Sunday there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find a different side to Israeli dancing! The artistic director of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, Ohad Naharin, developed a world-renowned movement language called Ga-Ga, that he insisted was appropriate for non-dancers as well as professionals. Ga-Ga People is now an international organisation, running amazing workshops for all – dancers and non-dancers, from age 18 to age 120. To Full Post

Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Ceremony + About The Oranges

 

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Yom HaZikaron Tekkes

Yom HaZikaron, the Israeli Day of Memorial, is a complicated day to mark in the Diaspora. Israelis sometimes feel strange to be marking the day outside of Israel, missing the all-togetherness of an entire nation standing to attention, and sometimes feeling bad they are not with their family. Local Jews also grapple with some ambivalence – wishing to show solidarity on the one hand, but at the same time knowing their emotional connection to Yom HaZikaron is always going to be qualitatively different to that of their Israeli counterparts. To Full Post

Hallelujah! with Kobi Oz in concert

 

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hallelujah

A Yom Haatzmaut celebration that has something for everyone.

The headline is that Kobi Oz is performing live together with his incredible band. For music-lovers – you get a soulful, energetic, and light-hearted blend of world music performed by world-class musicians. For Israel-celebrators, you get a sweet taste of the best of Israeli culture that blends Jewish text, social comment, and Middle East spice. For Israelis, there’ll be many favourites from the days of Teapacks, and some amazing Oz variations on Arik Einstein classics. For Jewish culture vultures, the materials Kobi has created for his Psalms for the Perplexed venture will blow you away (entire album with translations here). And for everyone – all the songs will be accompanied by projected translation into English…

And the warm-up act for Kobi… A Eurovision Evening! A truly British celebration of Israel – nostalgic, strange hair-do’s, dancing and joy with tongue very firmly planted in cheek. Israel’s just a little country that isn’t even in Europe, but right from its debut entry year in 1972 it has out-sung out-danced and out-kitsched the talents of the musical elite in the Continent’s premier festival of song. Sing along to the Hais and Horas on the Eurovision big screen, then vote for the absolute winner. 

18 reasons to be excited in London

April 9, 2014 by

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I’m very excited about London, these days.

Starting on 27th April there’s going to be a massive Israel festival leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut on the night of May 5th.

It’s the JW3 inaugural Chag Ha’atzmaut, that we at Makom consulted on.

I think it’s just a fantastic program, and I’m going to spend the next 9 days explaining why.

 

 

 

As its title suggests, the festival deals with the Party and the Political – fun stuff and serious stuff, panels and lectures, performances and screenings. The festival has everything – live music and live parody; Brits discussing Israel and Israelis discussing Israel; films and art and theatre; amazing dance workshops and kids’ events.

What gets me most buzzed is that JW3 has made such a bold statement: That Israel is important to them – important enough to relate to Israel’s dynamic complexity as an honest adventure that has room for celebration and for deep questioning.

First up tomorrow: Hallelujah! With Live Performance by Kobi Oz, and the film Precious Life.

The L word and Israel

February 14, 2014 by

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 loyalty

Image by Neil Mercer

I would like to talk about the L word.

Loyalty.

It is a word that went out of fashion many moons ago for many people, but it still lives in our relationships.  To Full Post

Hillel Open and Closed: 5 comments

February 9, 2014 by

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Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

It would seem that the gusts of wind currently swirling through the Hillel environment are throwing up a similar assumption and a similar question. The assumption is that Hillel is someone’s home which visitors are welcome to enrich but not to change. And there is a hanging question as to what might knock us off our feet?

A fascinating and healthy discourse has emerged over National Hillel’s guidelines for Israel programming on campus. We at Makom have been following the discourse with great interest. As key advisors to the Hillel-Jewish Agency Israel Engaged Campus initiative, as seasoned practitioners of complex dialogue on Israel throughout the Jewish community, and as consultants to Jewish organizations around the world on exactly the same issue of guidelines and red lines – we’ve noticed a few anomalies and a few opportunities. To Full Post

From Pomegranates to Woody – Robbie Gringras

 

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My favorite character from the Chazal period, the Rabbis of the first and second century, is Rabbi Meir. He was a smart cookie. He was married to a strong and smart woman, and was an original thinker. At the same time, his superior intellect made him slightly suspect in the eyes of his contemporaries. It was said, (admiringly or disapprovingly) that he could argue a point of law one way, and then argue it equally fluently the other way. When you’re talking sacred law, being a master of spin is not necessarily an admirable quality.

 When you’re talking sacred law, being a master of spin is not necessarily an admirable quality.

 

Meir’s most famous moral and intellectual choice was in his ongoing friendship with R. Elisha Ben Avuya. Ben Avuya had been the top scholar of his generation until he lost his faith and was excommunicated. In the moral universe of Chazal, to renounce one’s faith was disgraceful. Like being a child abuser in our days. In the Talmud his name was obliterated, his teachings were accredited to “the other”, and no one was allowed to come near him, let alone study with him. R. Meir, my hero, totally ignored this ban. He continued to study with his old friend and teacher, arguing: “When one eats a pomegranate, one can spit out the seeds yet still gain sustenance from the juice.” Quite apart from the fact that this is actually more difficult that it sounds (ever tried it?), it is also more morally complicated than Meir admitted. To Full Post

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