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All the professor’s cats

Salman Masalha

All the professor’s cats

For years a certain peddler roamed the streets with a laden sack on his back, declaring he has many good things. Every morning he set out to try to sell his wares. However, only the sharp-eyed knew what he kept in the bag.

One day, a “Canaanite slave” passed through the town and threw down a banana peel. The peddler, who was so engaged in concealing the contents of his bag of good, slipped and fell. However, he continued to hold on tight to the sack and its contents. This peddler had a fine reputation in the town and he is a very respected professor.

Recently Prof. Shlomo Avineri tried in every possible way to conceal his wares from everyone (“A Palestinian people yes, a Jewish people, no?” Haaretz English Edition, August 13, 2010). As a concerned Zionist he exalted the role of “the Zionist revolution” in transforming the Jews into a nation like all nations. He went so far as to make a ridiculous comparison between a Jewish nation and a French nation.

In a second article he published on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (“Biladi, Biladi”, Haaretz English Edition, September 8, 2010), Prof. Avineri left no room for doubt as to his hidden intentions. Apparently a “sensitive Jewish nerve” under his Zionist skin has been damaged. This nerve is making him edgy and keeping him awake nights. Once again he limps to his desk, types his worst nightmare onto the screen and in on go spills out the contents of the “Zionist revolution” sack.

It is worth pausing first over the headline given to his article. “Biladi, Biladi” cries the Hebrew (and English) headline, in transliteration (of the title and opening words of the Egyptian national anthem), and this in order to pluck at the Hebrew readers’ most sensitive strings with the aim of injecting primordial fear into their world, as though this were another Arabic battle cry. It is important that the readers understand what this headline means and not stumble about in the fog. Indeed, translated into Hebrew the title will sound familiar to every man and woman in Israel. The Russian-born Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernikovsky (1875-1943) wrote the Zionist line “My country, my native land” – which is exactly what this headline says and this is a phrase often uttered by Prof. Avineri and many others. The transliterated title aims at arousing panic by means of using the savage sound, the Arab sound that is not understood.

From reading the article it also emerges that the bag Prof. Avineri carried on his back for years indeed contains many “good” things; a trick here and a trick there, a cat here and a cat there and all manner of goods including some Meir Kahane. Prof. Avineri sets forth for the readers an imaginary horror scenario by means of which the tried to warn of a “disaster” lying in wait for the state of Israel: “‘We're all Israelis, equal citizens in our common homeland," declared the Knesset speaker,’” he has the speaker of the Knesset declare in an imagined future session of Israel’s parliament.

Prof. Avineri’s Zionist lie is revealed in this last article. Here, his “Zionist revolution” that exalted belonging to the Jewish “nation” has vanished into thin air in favor of belonging to the Jewish religion.

It seems to me he deserves an Olympic medal for the impressive backwards somersault he executed in his return to the religious origins that shaped him. Indeed, in his second article he reveals in a single stroke everything he previously tried to hide. Suddenly, his main concern is “Jewish sovereignty.” Suddenly he returns to “the synagogue,” to “the Jewish people” and “the God of Israel.”

Equal citizens? A shared homeland? Democracy? Equality and things like that? You’re kidding. Forget it. It’s warmer and cozier in the bosom and in the laws of the Jewish shtetl, the backwards hamlet in the eastern European Pale of Settlement.

True, the “Canaanite slave” has a Canaanite soul and like the Jewish soul in the Israel’s national anthem “Hatikvah,” it too “throbs.” However, according to Avineri, who is familiar with his religious tradition, the law for a Canaanite slave or servant is not the same as for a Hebrew servitor.

Your faithful servant had naively believed that Shlomo Avineri is a professor of political science who propounds democracy, equality, the rule of law and an enlightened state. I was wrong. It turns out he is just another revered Jewish master teacher who lays down rabbinical rulings.

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For Hebrew, press here


See:
Salman Masalha, "A Jewish and democratic restaurant"
Shlomo Avineri, "A Palestinian people, yes, a Jewish people, no?"

Alexander Yakobson, "What's in the name?"
Uri Avnery, "Poisonous Mushrooms"
Lev Grinberg, "You can't be a Jewish Muslim"
B. Michael, "A Pravoslavic and republican tomato"
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