Salman Masalha


............................ To Rumi

Beyond my door which faces west
Lives a woman who'll never rest.

She likes to tease my nomad soul
With words she keeps for gloomy fall.

But now she flies across the sky,
And tries to find a place too high

To paint it blue for me to look
And tie my heart like horse to hook.

I dive in blue or fly in beams.
Some say it's love. I say my dreams.


An MK by any other name

How European Zionism

has corrupted 'Jewish Arabs'

Salman Masalha

An MK by any other name

Carmel Shama was fed up, so the lawmaker decided it was time to reconnect with his ethnic roots. Responding to all the confusion over his identity, he asked the Interior Ministry to add an appendage to his name so that he could officially become MK "Shama-Hacohen."

Many people had mistakenly taken him for a Druze. Indeed, when he visited Auschwitz, MKs praised him for showing "solidarity with the Jewish people." He has also frequently been asked to voice his opinion "on Arab matters as a member of that community." Apparently, that was a bit too much for him to handle.

Here, then, is a blatant example of how "Ashkenazi Zionism," from Europe, has corrupted the souls of those referred to as "members of the Mizrahi group," from the Middle East and North Africa.

It bears noting that the original reason Israelis were required to list their national ethno-religious identities on official documents was to help Ashkenazi institutions distinguish between Jews and Arabs, since many Jews who came from Arab countries had Arab names. At first there were only two categories listed: Jews and Arabs. At a later stage, "Druze" was added as a separate category.

Because Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused to implement a High Court ruling to list Israelis who have undergone Reform conversions as Jews, in recent years, information on nationality appears merely as a series of asterisks on identity cards. But other identifying marks that distinguish between "Jews" and Arabs are still there.

Take, for example, a name like "Yosef Hadad." Based on the name alone, it is impossible to know if the bearer of this name is an Arab or Jew. Trained policemen, however, can instantly spot the difference. To promote the "worthy" goal of separating Arab and Jewish citizens, officials at the Interior Ministry were willing to waive the requirement to list the name of the "Jewish grandfather." So supposing that this Yosef Hadad is a Jew, his grandfather's name will not appear on his identity card. But if he is an Arab, his grandfather's name will be displayed proudly. Isn't that a rather elegant form of apartheid registration?

As years went by, nationalist tensions motivated many "Jewish Arabs" to try to distance themselves from their ethnic identity. Yet how could they when their outward appearances, musical tastes, favorite foods and lifestyles were so much a part of the cultural milieu from which they emerged?

The only way for them to make this break was to adopt conspicuous Jewish religious identity markers, prominent among them skullcaps and Magen David pendants. Indeed, the extent to which Magen David chains dangle on their necks and skullcaps cover their heads corresponds directly to the extent that they deny their Arab ethno-nationality. The most grotesque expression of such denial is the Hasidic clothing and hats worn by Shas members. To put it another way, a hat burns on the head of every self-denier.

Ethnic separation has, and continues to be, alive and kicking among citizens of this country. MK Shama-Hacohen can take it easy though. We can even seize the opportunity to give him a gift of two Druze MKs, MK Ayoob Kara (Likud ) and MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu ) - who together sound more hard-line than Avigdor Lieberman and Rabbi Eliezer Shach put together. In fact, if they listed "Hacohen" next to their surnames, they could kill two birds with one stone: first, they would stop shaming the Druze; second, the name change would drive MK Shama-Hacohen crazy.
Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, November 14, 2010

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Logic for Jews only

It seems Professor Avineri is cutting the very branches of logic he seeks to hold on to, one after the other.

Salman Masalha

Logic for Jews only

Professor Shlomo Avineri raises difficult questions and wishes to discuss them, adding: "Anyone who, like me, supports a solution of two states for two peoples and wants to see Arab citizens of Israel gain full civic equality can, and perhaps even must, pose them" ("The right questions," October 5 ).

The issues concerning the melange of tribes residing in this country are not at all simple. The definition of what a people is, in this context, is quite complicated as both peoples are still in formative stages. Throughout human history, nations have vanished and other peoples have awoken one morning, felt they were a nation and began to interact as such in cultural and political frameworks.

The questions Prof. Avineri seeks to raise are difficult ones. But this is only an apparent difficulty - because upon reading his arguments, it seems he is cutting the very branches he seeks to hold on to, one after the other.

Let's assume that it is indeed true that "a majority of Israel's Jewish citizens distinguish between 'the State of Israel' and 'the Land of Israel,'" as he claims. The question then becomes why he demands something different from the other side, in saying "it should be clear to us, and to them, that Acre and Jaffa and Be'er Sheva are not part of Palestine."

If this is the logic guiding him, the same logic should apply to the other side - which should thus distinguish between the State of Palestine and the Land of Palestine. There is no contradiction, therefore, in Acre, Haifa and Jaffa being part of the Land of Palestine, even if they will not be part of the State of Palestine - just as Hebron will simultaneously be part of the State of Palestine and the Land of Israel. That is how healthy logic works, and that is how healthy peoples act in the framework of international law.

The second question raised by Prof. Avineri is also problematic. "The second question is directed at Israel's Arab citizens. Some of their leaders prefer to refer to themselves as 'Palestinian citizens of Israel,' and that, of course, is their right. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that following the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, this definition is liable to seem problematic," he writes.

Let's continue along the lines of this logic, and put it this way: The question is directed at Jewish citizens of the nations of the world. Some of their leaders prefer to refer to themselves as Jewish citizens of the United States, France, Russia, etc, and that, of course, is their right. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that following the establishment of an independent Israeli state, this definition is liable to seem problematic. Does Prof. Avineri accept that this, too, is problematic?

And in the same context, it would be interesting to know to what nation Prof. Avineri would say figures like Benjamin Disraeli, Alphonse Ratisbonne and the composer Felix Mendelssohn belong. To the Jewish people? And if not, why? You could go so far as to say that if the most famous Jewish boy were to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport a second time, seeking to immigrate, Prof. Avineri's representatives would, at best, send him off on the first flight back overseas. Just a reminder to Prof. Avineri - the name of that famous Jewish boy is Jesus.

It seems such questions are inconceivable from his perspective; that is why he won't even consider them. This whole entire debate demonstrates how Prof. Avineri repeatedly climbs the branches of the tree he himself planted and nurtured, but, astonishingly and repeatedly, cuts down the very same branches with his own hands, to the point that he has become a licensed tree cutter.

It's nice that Prof. Avineri wants to see "full civil equality for Israel's Arab citizens," but for that equality to be complete, it also has to exist logically. To this point, I have not been able to fathom the logic of his words.
Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, November 4, 2010


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