Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On the Value of Mutli-Culturalism...

What could be possibly be bad about Sesame Street?

What's not to love about a program dedicated to teaching children to read and write; to count and create - all by fun and friendly Muppets...

Well, Sesame Street (Rechov Sumsum) is scheduled to return to the air in Israel, and these aren't your mother's Muppets.

The new program will consist of 40 episodes and feature the first-ever Arab-Israeli Muppet character, 5-year-old Mahboub, who exhibits unstoppable curiosity and a musical talent. The program’s creators said his inclusion is designed to contribute to the show’s effort to model an inclusive Israel. Human characters will include a native Jewish Israeli, Tzachi, an Arab Israeli, Ibtisam, and Irina, a Russian Jewish immigrant who owns the street’s Magic Trick Shop.

If the goal is to educate about an inclusive Israel, why not have a Mizrachi, Chareidi or Ethiopian puppet, or perhaps a character that made Aliyah from an English speaking country?

Why not teach children growing up in the Jewish State of Israel that Israel is the home of the Jewish People throughout the world; of the modern day miracle of the ingathering of the Exiles? Jewish children could learn of the different languages, cultures and customs of Jews throughout the world who now call the Jewish State home.

Maybe, throughout the year, there could be a Muppet or human character visiting from overseas, who is coming to spend one of the holidays in Jerusalem, and the children could then learn about the various Jewish communities throughout the world.

Sadly, it seems, that these are not the educational values that Rechov Sumsum is seeking to impart to children growing up in the Jewish State.

“The original funders of ‘Rechov Sumsum’ came back to Sesame Workshop and said “Rechov Sumsum” did so much for Israeli children in helping them to appreciate the diversity in Israel’s multicultural society, wouldn’t it be great if ‘Rechov Sumsum’ could once again help prepare Israeli children for what was about to unfold — hopefully the opening of the doors in relations with our Palestinian neighbors,” Rosenfeld recalled.

Like the producers of Rechov Sumsum, I am all in favor of teaching children growing up in the Jewish State the value of multi-culturalism - Jewish multi-culturalism, that is. Let's teach our children to take pride in their Jewishness; to take pride in the many different faces that make up the Jewish people.

We, as Jews, don't need to run after Arab puppets to become multi-cultural when true Jewish multi-culturalism begins at home, with the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't you dare "Talkback" to me!

It seems that there's a bit of a "talkback" controversy brewing over at Ha'aretz.

"Talkback's" are, of course, the feature found on many websites (including blogs) that allow readers to offer their response on a particular article.

This is Ha'aretz's official "Talkback" policy:

The Talkback feature is intended to enable our readers to respond to articles, voice their opinions, and discuss them with other readers.

Political orientation will have absolutely no bearing on whether a comment is posted or rejected.

Comments containing the following will be automatically disqualified:

1. Personal attacks, vulgarities and profanities directed at other respondents.

2. Statements terming Israelis or Palestinians and their leaders Nazis, or accusing them of genocide or ethnic cleansing.

3. Statements which may be construed as urging attacks on Israeli or Palestinian leaders, officials, security forces or civilians.

4. Comments of an anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab or other racist nature.

It seems, however, that at least one writer on the Ha'aretz website has sought to offer his own set of "talkback" guidelines, which can be found at the end of this article.

The following "talkback" guidelines, set by Bradley Burston for his weekly "A special Place in Hell" column, are, for the most part, consistent with the original "talkback" guidelines set by Ha'aretz - with the glaring exception of guideline #5.
Actual Talkback Guidelines

The guiding principles of the talkback forum for this article will be mutual respect and openness to dialogue. Participants, even if they rule out, dismiss or oppose coexistence, must, within the confines of this forum, practice it.

Censorship will be unapologetic.

Political orientation will have absolutely no bearing on whether a comment is posted or rejected.

The following will be grounds for deletion:

1. Racist remarks, as well as slurs on the basis of religion, ethnicity and gender.

2. Use of the terms Nazi, Hitler, ethnic cleansing, to describe the actions and policies of Israelis, Palestinians or other parties to the Israel-Arab conflict.

3. Disparaging remarks, personal attacks, vulgarities and profanities directed at other participants in the forum.

4. Advocacy of violence against individuals or religious, ethnic or racial groups, including statements which may be construed as urging attacks on leaders, officials, security forces or civilians.

5.Use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians" or derivatives thereof.
Based on Bradley Burston's guidelines, former Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir would have had this comment of hers about the "Palestinians" censored:
There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.

Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969; The Washington Post (June 16, 1969)
Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein would have had his comments deleted, for the following remarks, issued on March 31, 1977 in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."
On the whole, there are two basic problems with Burston's talkback guideline forbidding 'Use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians" or derivatives thereof.'

The first problem with guideline #5 (the "Palestinian guideline) is that it seems to conflict with the opening line of the "talkback" guidelines that states: "Political orientation will have absolutely no bearing on whether a comment is posted or rejected".

One can only assume that when Burston wrote those words, he was only referring to the political orientations that he, himself, agrees with, and that he was not, in fact, interested in fostering genuine debate.

The second problem with Burston's "Palestinian" guideline, is that he is basically silencing the truth.

An inquiry seeking to clarify Ha'aretz's "Talkback" guidelines has been submitted, and as soon as a response is issued, I will publish it here.

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Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Take a look at how differently Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post cover the following story.


Poll: Third of Israelis see no common denominator with Diaspora

An opinion poll released on Monday showed that one out of three Israeli Jews believes that there is no common denominator between the Jews of Israel and those of the Diaspora, Israel Radio reported.

A survey by Market Watch carried out among a representative sample of the Israeli public shows that two thirds of the public believe that there exists a common denominator between Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel.

The question that begs to be asked is why would Ha'aretz go out of their way to deliberately downplay the strong connection felt between Jews in Israel and Jews in the Diaspora?

Could it be that Ha'aretz has an interest in weakening the very foundations that unite the Jewish People - perhaps, as part of their overall effort for the State of Israel to exist, not as the Jewish State, but as a state of its citizens - a normal, western, liberal, progressive democracy (where homosexual marriages are recognized under state law); a State of Israel in which Jews and Judaism would hold no special standing?

Mark my words.

While today, Israel's Law of Return enjoys almost universal support amongst Israel's Jewish population, it is only a matter of time before this sacred cow of Zionism comes under attack (from Israel's Supreme Court and Media), as did the core Zionist principles of Jewish Settlement, Jewish Labor & an Undivided Jerusalem (among many others).

And like the others, the once sacred value of the Jewish State of Israel serving as the representative of and home for every single Jew in the world will have mutated into a source of shame, scorn and disdain - finding no place in the democratic State of Israel.

Unless, of course, there are those who still believe that the State of Israel is meant to exist as the Jewish State - for the Jewish People, and are willing to do something about it… and soon.

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Welcome Back, Blogger!

It's been a long time coming, but Ze'ev has finally returned to the Jewish Blogsphere!

When we last saw our hero... Ze'ev was about to board a plane for N.Y., and the Jewish State was at war. Well, as traumatic as leaving Israel is for me, my 10 day trip to N.Y. can't be blamed for my lack of blogging over the last 3 months... and Israel is still at war, in one sense or another.

So, where have I been for the last 3 months?

The short story goes something like this:

I am now the International Director of the organization that I have been working for over the last 3+ years, and with my added work responsibilities, in addition to the ever-present familial obligations, it just didn't leave much time (or peace of mind) for blogging.

Since my last post I have changed political affiliations (a topic for a future post), and I am now the host of the weekly "Jewish Campus Radio" show (Click HERE to listen) on Israel National Radio.

As for this blog, I imagine that the second coming of "Israel Perspectives" might be a little different than the first incarnation, but not too different.

Also, I have a new e mail address:

Time will tell whether I missed the Jewish Blogsphere more than the Jewish Blogsphere missed me...

Either way, it's good to be back.

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