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.


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