Friday, April 15, 2011

Between Slavery and Freedom

The images are by the incredible Arthur Szyk

The Jewish spring holiday of Pesach, or Passover, begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, the first month in the Hebrew calendar’s festival year, on the night of the full moon after the vernal equinox. This year, the eve of Pesach is celebrated on April 18.

The essence of Pesach is the release from the bonds of slavery, and the transition into freedom. During the last few months, we have witnessed how the young in several Arab countries across the Middle East have raised to their feet, paying a heavy toll in imprisonment, torture and with their lives, in a courageous yearn for freedom from the tyranny of dictators.

On the individual level, each one of us has to figure out what his or her personal sense of freedom entails, and which internal bonds and behaviors, prejudices and inadequacies enslave us.

I believe the road to freedom in the Arab world is a long and winding one. It seems unlikely the fires will stop burning any time soon, and the outcome seems unpredictable, and different in different places. Will the freedom seeking forces gain the upper hand, or will the people’s will be hijacked by tyrants, armies and fundamentalists?

Muammar el-Quadaffi wrote The Green Book: The Solution to the Problem of Democracy, in which he claims that “Women, like men, are human beings,” reaffirming this “incontestable truth.” This is quite an achievement for someone who otherwise, in his rather successful book, rejects democracy and free press.

I wonder, how come that the London School of Economics so easily accepted to sell its integrity for half a million dollars from Quadaffi (is that what enabled his son Seif al-Islam to come away with a plagiarized or ghost-written doctoral dissertation at LSE)?

And I would like to ask the UN Human Rights Council, and its member states, to look in the mirror; as late as January this year, it produced a draft report of praise to the Libyan leader and his promotion of human rights (some of the countries, under similarly enlightened leadership, that showered the Libyan leader with their praise, were Syria, North Korea and Iran).

In contrast, half of the council’s resolutions over the years have been condemnations of Israel.

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Goldstone report was a patchwork of copy and paste of distorted information. Mary Robinson, hardly a close friend of Israel’s, refused the mission that Richard Goldstone shamefully accepted, claiming the resolution adopted by the Council was one-sided and guided by politics rather than human rights. While Goldstone has retracted the report, he still blames Israel for not having cooperated. Well, if Robinson was reluctant to cooperate, perhaps Israel was right, since the mandate was, one-sidedly, to prove Israel’s guilt, making the so called fact-finding mission into a scam from the very outset.

I believe that honesty and self-reflection are aspects of freedom, while hypocrisy and trickery are part of one’s slavery. There seems to be a large grey field between democracy and hypocrisy.

As regards us here in Israel, the prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories binds us into slavery. While there are many aspects and, for instance, security concerns, there is an urgent need to find creative solutions of termination of occupation of Palestinian land, as well as the stamina to reign in the violence and criminal behavior by certain settler groups.

Freedom, democracy and independence are threatened by occupation. Rabin, Peres, Barak and Olmert knew it, offering the Palestinians far-reaching peace-agreements, and Sharon understood it, withdrawing from Gaza, evacuating all Israeli settlers there.

The Palestinians need, as well, to understand that their freedom is achieved not merely by statehood. As long as they aim at the destruction of Israel, as comes through for instance in their media and statements in Arabic, they will remain slaves to distorted values.

The idea, as expressed in their charter, that freedom will prevail when the Jews have left the Eastern Mediterranean, otherwise called ethnic cleansing, holds them prisoners to their own self-destruction.

I wish all a Happy Passover, Chag Sameach, a celebration of freedom,

Erel Shalit

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $19.95 or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press. You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press. Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799

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