Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why the orchestrated fuss?

Printed in the Jerusalem Post, January 17, 2007

The Arabic word for whore - sharmuta - has gained international notoriety. CNN, ABC and the BBC, among many others, have featured Hebron resident Yifat Alkobi yelling it at her Arab neighbor across the street from her Tel Rumeida home.

Israel Radio and Israel's television stations have all broadcast reports on the cursing incident. The coverage has been over-the-top: "The police have ordered Alkobi to appear for interrogation. If she refuses, an arrest warrant will be issued."

"Alkobi is presently being questioned in the Kiryat Arba police station."

Of course, most news outlets didn't bother reporting that, after questioning by the authorities, she was permitted to return home without any restrictions.

The fact that an Arab woman spat in Alkobi's face was also not too widely noted. Neither were the complaints she issued against the Internet news provider Ynet and a member of the Abu-Isha family.

Alas, cursing in Israel is nothing new.

On February 2, 2002 Yediot Aharonot headlined a piece: "Curses exchanged in the Knesset committee."

And on December 12, 2006, Internet news provider NRG reported: "Curses in the Knesset? Forbidden to say but permitted to write." This following several choice words used by Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi in a newspaper interview. MK Azmi Bashara, on December 5, 2006, told fellow MK Gilad Erdan to "f... himself."

Did such outbursts lead to ministerial committees, police investigations, a week of headlines and op-ed articles?

Of course not.

Only shouting and cursing between Jews and Arabs in Hebron is a cause celebre.

Mind you, Yifat Alkobi didn't threaten her neighbors. She didn't take up arms against them, shoot anyone or stab anyone. She didn't enter anyone's home and turn it upside down. She did no damage to property. All she did was raise her voice and use some salty language.

WHY DID Yifat Alkobi yell at her Arab neighbor and call her a sharmuta? That's not her usual choice of words.

Perhaps it was because Yifat's home was shot at - for two years - by Arab snipers. Perhaps it was because a terrorist's bullet barely missed her daughter's head by centimeters.

For the past year and a half, radical left-wing organizations, led by the International Solidarity Movement, Christian Peacemaker Teams, B'tselem and Machsom Watch have essentially staged numerous provocations at the entrance to the Tel Rumeida Jewish neighborhood attempting to draw Jewish residents into violent encounters which are filmed, edited and fed to an unsympathetic media.

Their goal is to dehumanize Hebron Jews.

In understanding what goes on in Hebron, context is important. How many people know that Jewish children walking home from school are periodically attacked by local Arab youths on the road.

Tel Rumeida is a pressure cooker, and as tends to occur throughout the world, sometimes people lose control and use language not usually part of their everyday vocabulary. A psychologist e-mailed me that last week he found himself cursing an Arab who spit on him on a Jerusalem street. Taxi drivers curse commuters every hour of the day.

Should "nice Jewish ladies" use coarse language? It's certainly not polite, but I've heard worse.

Incidentally, how many people know that the Yifat video was filmed some six months ago. Why was such a "devastating incident" kept secret all this time before the film was publicized and a complaint issued?

There is one reason, and one reason alone for the fuss: The prime minister is facing several criminal investigations. The defense minister is holding on to his job by the skin of his teeth.

Both of them are looking for a good way to distract public attention from their woes.

Together with a very left-wing media, they have found the solution: Yifat Alkobi and the 'W' word.


Who's to Blame?

January 12, 2007


Over the past few days Israeli media and blogs around the world have been chewing, regurgitating, and chewing again, a short video, filmed in Hebron a few months ago. The video shows Hebron resident Yifat Alkobi yelling and cursing some of her Arab neighbors, the Abu Isha family, who live across the street from the Alokobis and the other 17 families who live in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood.


Of course, for the Israeli media, this kind of film is similar to a big piece of chocolate cake with cream and a cherry on top. A live portrait of the 'monsters of Hebron.' Jewish monsters, of course.


However, all those having a field day over the Yifat video have either forgotten, or never knew, or prefer to ignore a number of important facts:


1.       The Tel Rumeida neighborhood, the highest Jewish neighborhood in the city, perching atop a hill, faces, to the north, the Harat a-Shech Hills. These hills were abandoned by Israel to the Arabs exactly ten years ago a part of the infamous Hebron Accords. All Israeli security forces were removed from Harat a-Shech.

When the Olso War (aka the 2nd intifada) began in October, 2000, on the eve of Rosh HaShana, Tel Rumeida came under attack from those hills. Terrorists shot from those hills into Tel Rumeida for two years. All the caravan homes, comprised of pasted-together plasterboard walls, were hit by Arab gunfire. The homes are all full of bullet holes. One Friday afternoon, when the Alkobi's firstborn daughter Tziporah was playing outside, a terrorist lined her up in his rifle scope and fired. The bullet missed Tziporah's head by a few centimeters.

2.       Just over eight years ago an Arab terrorist penetrated the Tel Rumeida neighborhood at about 11:00 PM, entered the home of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan from a back window, and stabbed to death the 63 year old Rabbi in his pajamas. The terrorist could not have perpetrated his attack without 'inside information' gleaned from, who else, Arab neighborhood residents.

3.       About a year and a half ago, following the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, a group of radically extremist Arab organizations, headed by EU-funded ISM, and joined by groups like 'anarchists against the wall,' the Christian Peacekeeping Team, Ecumenical Escorters, and with tacit support from TIPH – Temporary International Presence in Hebron, decided to focus on Tel Rumeida, with the goal of wiping the Jewish presence their off the map.

Of course, the ends justify the means: the group's participants are ordered to physically intervene against Israeli security forces: " The project will be activist-oriented.  Unlike other organizations, the project work will not be
“witness” or “presence” oriented… Assertively advocate for Palestinians of Tel Rumeida-Physically intervene when soldiers or settlers attack Palestinians
. []

These so-called activists, all foreigners, openly incite the Arabs against Israeli security forces and civilians. Their actions are overtly provocative, attempting to draw both Israeli adults, children and soldiers into violent situations, which they then selectively film, for use by media and internet. Of course, the films are professionally edited, so as to leave out segments which they clearly are not interested in being witnessed by the public-at-large. So too, with the "Alkobi video:" the events leading up to public version can be left up to your imagination.

4.       A true, short story, about the family in question, the Abu Isha clan, (which has been transformed by ISM et al into the Hebron media PA family of the neighborhood): A number of years ago one of the Jewish Tel Rumeida families had a broken piece of furniture. Their across-the-street neighbor, Mr. Abu-Isha, was a carpenter, and very naturally, they brought their broken chair to him to be fixed. When he completed the work and they asked the cost of the work he replied, "I don't take money from neighbors."  It seemed that the days of the Messiah arrived; children from both families began playing together, Jewish and Arab children playing in Hebron.

One day, as happens with children all over the world, the kids had a fight and this one went home crying and that one went home crying. A little while later the Jewish woman heard someone knocking at her door. When she opened it, one of the Abu-Isha clan stood their, and started screaming at her. (Did you see it on internet?) After a little while he turned around and went home. Shortly afterwards, a soldier stationed in the neighborhood approached the woman and asked her if she wanted to issue a complaint against the man who had screamed at her. She responded that she didn't understand Arabic, and she had no idea what he had said. The soldier replied, "I understand Arabic – he said he was going to come back with a knife and kill all of you." Needless to say, the kids stopped playing together.

5.       In conclusion, it is also important to try and keep events in proportion to their actual significance. For example, yesterday I read in Israeli internet news about a man who murdered someone because of an argument between….. two dogs. One dog bothered another dog in a coffee house in Haifa, and as a result a man was stabbed in the heart and killed.  The murderer was convicted and sentenced to eighteen years in prison but appealed the harshness of the punishment. Israel's illustrious Supreme Court accepted the appeal and reduced the sentence by three years, leaving the killer in jail for fifteen years. As Israeli punishment goes, I expect he'll be out after ten.

Did you know anything about this story? Which seems to be more significant: A Jewish woman yelling at an Arab woman, or a man who was convicted of killing another man because of a dog, and whose jail sentence was reduced due to its extreme severity?


6.       And finally, what really happened? What's shown in the video? A woman yelling at another woman. Now, let me ask you, when was the last time you yelled at someone – a co-worker, a spouse, a child – hand on your heart. Did you ever have a dispute with a neighbor and 'let go?' Did it make international news headlines? On Israeli news – Kol Yisrael headline news, one of the features is that Yifat Alkobi from Hebron has been ordered by police to submit to interrogation. If she doesn't appear an arrest warrant will be issued. This is headline news? Only because it's an Arab and a Jew in Hebron. Yifat didn’t take a gun into their house and shoot anyone, she didn't go inside and turn the house inside out – she yelled at an Arab women. Maybe her choice of words was 'undesirable' but believe me, I've heard worse. And great confessions: even at times I've lost it and used some pretty coarse language. I know a few righteous people who've never used such words, but not too many of them.

Again, the difference is Jews and Arabs in Hebron, incitement, provocations, and a well-placed video camera. And of course, a firm target: let's get the Jews out of Tel Rumeida.

In reality, that's the whole story. So you tell me, who's to blame?