Friday, January 22, 2010

Other People's Language

Two friends of mine had their pictures on the front pages of Israel's newspapers this week! The first was Avi Levy who had a huge photo on the front of Ha'Aretz , he also had a nice sized picture on the inner pages. Haaretz is the Israeli version of the New Yok Times, so being on the front page is serious stuff; all the movers and shakers in Israel read it, except of course that Israel is basically a small place.
Avi and I both did fast track training to be English teachers and then found we didn't like it.  Avi decided to make a fuss and contacted the press, he invited me to join him but it was literally the day I decided to quit teaching and I didn't feel ready to discuss what had happened - so I missed out on the front page of Ha'Aretz. I also didn't want my name associated with a failure - which is kind of dumb since here I am putting it in a blog. But so it goes. I would rather not have the world discussing why I quit something and I don't feel like attacking the people I worked with or the children I taught. Avi by the way, is a brilliant man and was perhaps the smartest person on our course.

The next person to get their picture on the front page was Jonathan Sagall, who I have known for almost 20 years. I made friends with him in the gym many years ago and I think what caused him to like me was that I didn't have a clue who he was: in Israel he is a legendary actor who starred in a (the?) cult classic "Lemon Popsicle" which is the Israeli equivalent of American Pie and probably the highest grossing Israeli movie of all time.The movie made so much money that the producers were able to buy an American film studio.  I should add that I see him very rarely and we haven't talked recently.
Sagall enjoys shocking people.  He likes living on the edge and quite often does and says outrageous things (for some reasons I have a number of friends like this).  Anyway his photo appeared on the front page of Yediot Ahronot, Israel's most popular newspaper.  I can't give you the url because the article is currently only in the print version.
The story itself was not a big one, but I suppose that Jonathan's picture on the front page sells newspapers - God knows that's why I bought it.  Basically he wrote a movie script based on his mother's experiences surviving the Holocaust (his mother is a famous actress) and then, for some reason figured it might make a better movie - or sell better - if he located the action in the Palestinian Authority, so he took the Holocaust plot and located it in Palestine. To add insult to injury he then persuaded the Israel Film Board to provide funding for his movie. Today the story has emerged, and there is a scandal. The funding is public money.
The outraged journalist hasn't read the script mind you so we don't know how scandalous this scandal really is, its just that Jonathan sent him some promotional material making the point that he was retelling his mother's Holocaust survival story set in Ramallah and that the public was funding it...

So there you have it.  I'm not famous, though God willing, this blog will make me famous but people I know are all over the front pages. 

What the whole story with Jonathan made me think was that sometimes, we as Jews adopt the discourse of antisemites, rather like Black American men always seem to be calling each other "crazy niggers".  Do African-Americans really talk like that?  Or is it just movie speak? I can't imagine I would talk like that but life often imitates fiction. What struck me was that it was rather similar to Jews always complaining about each other.  We spend so much time listening to the discourse of people who hate us that we end up using it ourselves.  Anti-semites like to compare Israel to the Nazis and almost inevitably many Jews do the same. 

Post Script
(Added a week later) Apparently Sagall's mother spent the Holocaust in Poland pretending to be a Christian and this is a dramatization of a single incident in that period which he has recast in modern Israel.  Sagall has made it clear that no comparison between the Holocaust and West Bank are intended.  See his response in Ha'Aretz.

Recreating ancient kingdoms: Arab Nationalism vs Zionism.

Although Zionism and Arab Nationalism are at loggerheads over Palestine (or perhaps Southern Syria), the two have a certain amount in common...