Star-Crossed Lovers’ Tale Banned from Israeli Schools
Apartheid is not an American value
What follows is a partial list of American politicians who have parroted the line about the US and Israel sharing the same “values”:
Obama (“The bond between Israel and the United States is rooted in more than our shared national interests; it’s rooted in the shared values and shared stories of our people.”)
Joe Biden [speaking of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak] (“There is a standup guy. Standing up for his country, putting his life on the line for his country and continuing to defend the values that we all share.”)
Lindsey Graham (“I’m honored to be in your country yet again. And what brings me here so many times, is common and shared values and common and shared enemies.”)
Marco Rubio (“The security of our ally, the strongest and most enduring democracy in the region, Israel, with whom we are bound by the strongest ties of mutual interest and shared values and affection would improve as well.”)
Hilary Clinton (Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values…”)
Jeb Bush (“US-Israel alliance is founded not merely on shared interests, but shared values. I’ll rebuild this vital friendship. “)
Nita Lowey (“The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on shared values and an unbreakable bond, not on personalities.”)
Paul Ryan (“Our shared democratic values and national interests are supported by maintaining a close friendship with Israel.”)
Ted Cruz (“I look forward to working to strengthen the already incredibly strong alliance between the United States and Israel. In my view the United States should stand unshakably alongside the Nation of Israel. I thank you personally, I thank your nation for its leadership for democratic values in a very dangerous region of the world, also for your leadership protecting the security of the nation and ultimately of the United States as well.”
Rand Paul (“With our shared history and common values, the American and Israeli people have formed a bond that unites us across the many thousands of miles between our countries and calls us to work together towards peace and prosperity for our countries.”)
Chuck Grassley (“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by rogue regimes, state-sponsored terrorism, and the spread of Islamic radicalism place the entire Middle East – and the values of Israel and the United States – at risk.”)
Dan Coats (“Israel and the United States enjoy a long and prosperous friendship that transcends politics and is cemented by our shared history, values, strategic interests, culture and religious heritage.”)
Steny Hoyer (“This bill reflects the immutable and enduring bond between our two nations. It is a bond that reflects the shared values of our people and our shared interests in preserving stability in the Middle East.”)
Elizabeth Warren (“For generations, the United States and Israel have shared a commitment to a stable, secure, and peaceful Middle East. But our alliance runs far deeper: it is a natural partnership resting on our mutual commitment to democracy and freedom and on our shared values. Both our countries have been sustained by our commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond.”)
Chris Coons (“While too often the debate about this agreement in Washington has struck a sharply partisan political tone, the conversation here in Delaware while passionate remained thoughtful, and anchored in our shared values.”)
Barbara Boxer (“Since 1948, United States Presidents and both houses of Congress, on a bipartisan basis and supported by the American people, have repeatedly reaffirmed the special bond between the United States and Israel, based on shared values and shared interests.”) [as stated in S. Res. 2165 introduced by Boxer in 2012]
Tom Cotton (“At root, regardless of one’s religion, Israel is a liberal constitutional democracy that respects individual freedom, and that has a market-based economy. Those are deeply shared values that the United States has encoded in our national DNA .”) [Whoa! Not only shared values, but shared DNA!!!]
Nancy Pelosi (“The unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel are rooted in our shared values, our common ideals and mutual interests.”)
Richard Blumenthal (“Israel is not only an ally of strategic necessity, but a partner with deeply-held commitments to America’s own foundational values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, religious freedom, and the pursuit of international peace.”)
Joe Kennedy (“There has been no greater champion for our shared values and defender of our shared interests.”) [speaking of former Israeli President Shimon Peres]
Trent Franks (“President Shimon Peres has embodied a commitment to the mutual values shared by the United States and Israel — values that include the preservation of life, faith, family, and freedom.”)
Robert Menendez (“And I look forward to doing even more to strengthen our commitment to Israel, to shared democratic values — no matter what may bloom from the shifting sands of the Arab Spring.”)
79 House Members (“This is why we urge you to persevere in reaffirming that the two-state solution is still achievable and that it, and the joint U.S.-Israel commitment to shared democratic values and to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, remains fundamental to U.S. policy.”) [from letter sent to President Obama in March, 2015, and signed by the following 79 House members: Nadler, Aguilar, Bass, Bera, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bordallo, Brady, Capps, Capuano, Cartwright, Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette Clarke, Clyburn, Cohen, Connolly, Conyers, Courtney, DeFazio, DelBene, DeSaulnier, Doggett, Doyle, Edwards, Ellison, Eshoo, Farr, Fattah, Al Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Honda, Huffman, Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Hank Johnson, Kaptur, Kind, Kuster, Larson, Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Lewis, Loebsack, Lowenthal, Sean Patrick Maloney, Matsui, McDermott, McGovern, McNerney, Moore, Norton, Payne, Scott Peters, Pingree, Plaskett, Pocan, Polis, Price, Rangel, Rush, Tim Ryan, Serrano, Schakowsky, Robert Scott, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Speier, Takano, Tonko, Tsongas, Van Hollen, Velazquez, Watson Coleman, Welch and Yarmuth ]
I couldn’t help starting this post off with the above list. Obama’s quote about the “shared values and shared stories of our people” is probably particularly ironic.
Recently it was reported that the Israeli Ministry of Education has taken a dim view of a novel telling the story of a romance between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man. The book has been banned from being taught in public schools in the Jewish state, this despite the fact that it had been recommended by education professionals for course curriculum study.
“Marrying a non-Jew is not what the education system is educating about,” said Dalia Fenig, an official with the Israeli Education Ministry, explaining her department’s decision to exclude the book.
The work in question is entitled Borderlife, and tells the story of Liat, a young Israeli woman from Tel Aviv, and Hilmi, a Palestinian from Ramallah. The two meet not in Occupied Palestine, but in New York–where they fall in love.
“The two heroes spend a winter overseas and manage to get to know each other in great detail, something that could not happen on the disputed land,” the author, Dorit Rabinyan, is quoted in an article by The Guardian. “Perhaps their ability to surmount the obstacles of the Middle East conflict is what threatens the education ministry.”
The author may have a point about the “threatening” nature of the book.
“In this potential Middle Eastern ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the Juliet figure, Liat, doesn’t tell her family about her relationship: She knows it would be pointless,” says Haaretz, in a description of the book published in 2014.
Fenig expressed concern that the book might “cause controversy” and could potentially exacerbate the violence currently sweeping the country, and clearly she does seem to feel that the nation is threatened at the moment–by “assimilation,” as she puts it, among other things.
“The story is based on a romantic motif of a forbidden/secret and impossible love,” Fenig said. “Adolescent youth tend to romanticize and don’t have, in many cases, the systematic point of view that includes considerations about preserving the identity of the nation and the significance of assimilation.”
Apparently the novel does indeed threaten Israeli sensibilities on the issue of assimilation–something that is in fact discussed by the author in her 2014 interview with Haaretz:
Liat is a true ‘soldier’ of Israeli education. She is obedient, practical and in full control of herself. And because of what she is, because of her fear of abandoning herself to this relationship, this is less a love story than a long journey of resistance to love. At one point she relates that at certain moments she and Hilmi are so close and intimate that she can almost know what it is to be him, to feel what it is to be him. Liat’s conflict lies in the dissolution of the boundaries between ‘I’ and ‘not I,’ on the seam between merging with the other and being assimilated into him. It’s precisely there that the alarms of anxiety go off within her, just when things become sweetest.
In other words the fear of assimilation plagues the young Israeli woman in the story–even though she finds herself falling in love. It is a powerful statement on the extent to which Jewish tribalism and separateness are ingrained into Israeli society. Rabinyan adds:
Fear of mixing and intermingling is part of our mind-set. Fear of assimilation, with its danger of loss of selfhood, of Jewish identity, has accompanied us throughout our history and in all our exiles: Here is where the ghetto ends, and outside is the world. I would have expected that, as a political entity, that ancient obsession would also be expressed in a need to demarcate a clear border between us and our neighbors – but no, the symbiosis is only intensifying.
The head of the Israeli Education Ministry is Naftali Bennett, of the Jewish Home Party. According to the New York Times, Bennett was not involved in the decision to ax the book from study by Israeli students, but has gone on record as saying he supports it. Bennett also reportedly complained in an interview on Israeli TV that the novel portrays Israeli soldiers as “sadistic.”
“Should I force Israeli children to read this? Is this a top priority?” Bennett asked.
He also said his office “is not the culture ministry and people can read outside whatever they like, but we need to prioritize.”
What exactly Bennett’s top priorities are is something left out of the article, but apparently tempering racism in Israeli society is not one of them.
Contact your senators and congressional representatives and tell them that apartheid is not an American value.
End racist Jewish supremacism!
Richard Edmondson’s latest novel is entitled The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles. It is the story of an archaeological expedition set in the midst of the current conflict in Syria.
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