Are Textbooks in Israel Biased?

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli academic, has published a study on the anti-Palestinian bias in Israeli school books:

Everything they do, from kindergarten to 12th grade, they are fed in all kinds of ways, through literature and songs and holidays and recreation, with these chauvinistic patriotic notions.

You can read the entire discussion of the book at the link I provided. I only wanted to mention that the discussion would be more productive if its author mentioned that this happens in every nation-state in the world. Nationalism operates by falsifying history and promoting an emotional allegiance to an imaginary entity through music, sports, and intense patriotic propaganda.

It always looks very funny to me when the Americans, the Russians and the British (to name just a few examples) righteously excoriate Israel’s patriotic propaganda without even mentioning that they have been engaged in the same thing for a very long time.



Israel: In Search of a Safe Place for the Jews

In 1993, my grandfather left Ukraine and moved to Israel. Before he retired, he had been a very well-known doctor in our city. I remember how, as a child, I didn’t really like to take walks with him because we would be stopped every two minutes by grateful patients who wanted to thank him, hug him, or shake his hand.

My grandfather founded several hospitals in the city, which, in the Soviet era, required incredible organizational skills and perseverance. He started a health facility where women could give birth in the water and where little babies were provided with a special swimming-pool. Every time when he opened a new hospital, though, he would soon be removed from it. He was a Jew, so that was to be expected. He never complained but simply laughed and started a new hospital.

By 1993, he felt he had had enough of anti-Semitism and moved to Israel. Ten years later, he came back to Ukraine. Living in the environment of constant fear and terrorist threat proved too much for him.

As we all know, Israel was created in the aftermath of the Holocaust when Jews were slaughtered in an act of horrible genocide, as the rest of the world stood by and watched. The idea behind Israel was that if Jews had a country of their own, they could feel safer in an anti-Semitic world. I think that today we can conclude that, as of now, this goal has not been reached. There are few places in the world that are as dangerous for a Jew as Israel.

Creating a national identity for people who, initially, have very little in common always requires a lot of violence. (Look at the US as another example of this). In such circumstances, a peaceful creation of Israel was absolutely impossible. The sense of being a beleaguered nation surrounded with enemies is indispensable for the creation of a strong national identity when we are talking about people who came together from very different countries, cultures, linguistic backgrounds, etc.

Jewish diaspora was a great tragedy for the Jewish people but it was simultaneously the root of great achievements both for the Jews and for the countries to which they dispersed. It isn’t a coincidence that so many great thinkers, philosophers, writers and scientists were Jews. When you are placed in a position of being a perennial outsider in a society where you live, you end up seeing things clearly. It is easier to resist the accepted ideology from the margins than from the center. This clarity of vision came at a great price. I don’t need to narrate the history of Jewish suffering in the course of 2000 years because we all know it well enough.

In no way do I condemn the Jews who decided to move to Israel and create a country for themselves. However, I don’t see that plan as something I might be interested in. Nationalism, in my opinion, always takes away more than it gives. Since I don’t value the sense of belonging to a community and don’t seek to dilute my individuality in a group, nationalism has pretty much nothing to offer me. The path I have chosen is one of seeing how one can make a country where one lives less anti-Semitic. When I tell my students about the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, I often see that they are really shaken. Granted, this is a small contribution on my part, but out of such small contributions, a sense of acceptance is born little by little.

Beware, Montrealers!

For those of my readers who are lucky to reside in Montreal, I have to issue a warning: there is a bad virus going around. Several people I know caught it and then I also succumbed in my last two days there.

The virus first gives you a very sore throat, then it clogs your ears and your sinuses. I never even knew what the sinuses were and where they were located. I do now. Then, the muscle soreness and general weakness overcome you. And the worst part is that the initial symptoms don’t disappear, so you get new symptoms added on top of the old ones.

And, of course, I have to drag myself to a committee meeting today and a faculty meeting tomorrow. I hate meetings as it is, and in a very sick state they will be even more painful.

And How Would You Feel. . .

. . . if a person came up to you at a party and said,

“Oh, you must be Anna’s friend Clarissa! I heard so much about you that I recognized you immediately. Anna and I always talk about you at length. By the way, I’m her psychotherapist.”

For some reason, I felt extremely uncomfortable and did all I could to avoid this person until the end of the party.

Is Monogamy Hard?

Time and again, one encounters people sharing a tired old maxim that “monogamy is incredibly hard.” Just like any other piece of “common knowledge”, this one is half-right. Monogamy is extremely hard for people who are not monogamous. Just like passing for straight is for a gay person. Or pretending to be polyamorous to please somebody when it isn’t your thing.

For people who are monogamous not as a result of interiorizing societal dictates but because it is their own, genuine sexual preference, there is nothing complicated about it. Just the opposite, everything other than monogamy is incredibly hard while being monogamous is the only thing that comes naturally and easily.

So if you find monogamy “incredibly hard”, maybe you should look into what your true sexuality is like. Chances are, monogamy isn’t the problem. Rather, your efforts to adopt a sexual preference that doesn’t come naturally to you are causing you all this hardship.

Pink Eggs

And here is the likely winner for the Stupidest Ad Campaign Ever contest:

This is how the campaign is presented on the company’s website:

Integrated ad agency WFCA in Tunbridge Wells has created a fun and frothy press campaign featuring the endline ‘Bake it beautiful’. The ad is made to look like a stunning perfume or makeup ad and shows a wholesome girl-next-door posing with a cupcake in the style of famous supermodels posing with lipsticks or perfume. She’s radiant with a post-baking glow having been captured in a moment of baking ecstasy and the headline ‘Cupcake pour femme’ gives the ad a deeper level of humour. Shot in London by renowned fashion photographer Julia Kennedy and conceptualised by creative team Arpita Banerjee and Mats Persson, the campaign is ready to take the hip and happening baking set by storm!

In case you are wondering what the company is selling, it’s not what you thought, you dirty-minded person. It’s eggs.