Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Drunken Ponderings: In the tub with Argov

I had another stressful day at the office yesterday. I was on a three-party conference call with a local customer and a vendor in California who could not produce his widgets fast enough. The customer was understandably frustrated and since I'm the assembler, I had to speed up my own production to make up for the delay. Typical scenario.

Since my customer's command of the English language leaves much to be desired, I also played the role of interpreter. When the mild mannered Californian explained that he won't be able to deliver due to raw material issues of his own, the customer lost control and addressed the vendor directly.
He bellowed:
"(By not getting the parts), Nizo will be retarded, and then I will be retarded. In the end we will all be retarded".

I had to quickly intervene and explain that by "retarded", the customer meant delayed. In French, the word for delay is retard.

It leads me to wonder how a company's director can speak English so poorly, especially since most of his sales are overseas. Until Mandarin becomes the new lingua franca, English is the language of business. This isn't to say that all Quebecers speak poor English, many are so perfectly bilingual you cannot tell if they're primarily Anglophone or Francophone. Nevertheless, such ignorance is inexcusable within a business context.

Last week, I had to place a call to our branch in Petach Tikva. Although everyone there speaks impeccable English (including the security guard who moonlights as a receptionist), I try to seize every opportunity to practice my mediocre Hebrew. As soon as I finished my call, my neighbor, a fellow manager asked me what language I was speaking. Hebrew I responded, and she asked me to teach her a word. I was delighted, finally, someone was looking beyond their baguette and willing to learn something new. So I picked a simple funny sounding word that she would find easy to remember: Bakbuk (bottle). To my annoyance, she kept repeating "bakbuk", until the day was over.

The next day she approached me, and with a grave look on her face she exclaimed: "Nizo, I don't think the word you taught me was correct. I said it to my boyfriend's roommate and he didn't recognize it".

I asked her if her boyfriend's roommate was Israeli, and she answered that he was German.

I was perplexed. Was he Jewish?
She said No.
"So how would you expect him to speak Hebrew? "

She had a confused look on her face and exclaimed "What's the difference between Hebrew and German? they sound the same".

I thought she was kidding.
She wasn't.
How could a 34 year old university graduate, who holds a managerial position require an explanation about Germany and Israel being two different countries with two completely unrelated languages? Granted, both contain the ch as in Bach sound, and to the severely untrained ear, they might sound similar, but to think they're the same is ignorance worthy of physical punishment, which I would have loved to dispense had our HR department permitted it.

Ignorance debilitates me, it eats up my insides. I tried to make sense of it that night. When I got home, I spent two hours on the elliptical machine and another hour on the PlayStation where I was a great white shark who attacks beach-goers. She was one of the girls on the beach who never made it to shore.

Still, it wasn't enough to make sense of both situations.

So I took out my secret weapon, the key which unlocks all truths: booze.

I topped up the martini shaker with enough gin and vermouth to sedate a horse. I filled up the bath tub and lit a couple of scented candles. I put on a Zohar Argov CD.

I proceeded to marinate in the steamy hot bath, the heat a welcome escape from the -25 celsius arctic freeze outside.

Zohar's goat-like voice serenaded me and nudged me gently towards a new state of consciousness. I imagined myself in a faraway land, sitting in a courtyard under date trees and bougainvillea. Zohar was there too, along with his lead guitarist whose face was barely visible behind gigantic, opaque ray-bans. We sipped martinis. I talked, he listened. It was my turn to lament.

I mentioned the customer and his poor English. There's a socio-political context of course. Most in Quebec do not identify culturally with the rest of Anglo Canada and there's an active separatist movement which has tried to make an independent state out of this province. Thanks to the "revolution tranquille" quiet revolution, the Quebecois have made formidable advances on all fronts, and have managed to protect the French language and promote its usage. However, whether Quebec secedes or not, this province's educational system needs to do much more in order to churn out linguistically proficient and culturally aware citizens. Future generations should be able to find Germany on a map. Otherwise, Quebec risks becoming a nation of Wall-Mart greeters.

Argov listened intently... His guitarist strummed a mournful tune...

Speaking of cultural change, my rant went on to those who need it the most: the Palestinians. My people, yes, those with the tendency never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

I lamented about how Arafat allowed the sprouting of a dozen militias during Oslo thus turning Palestine into the mess it is today. How instead of sending our men to work in the new industrial zones, they were sent to terrorize Gilo. How we fell for Nasrallah's assessment about Israel being as weak as a spider's web subsequently using Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa as a pretext to launch Intifada II and decimate the Israeli left.

As if all of this wasn't enough, our great Palestinian nation punished the corrupt Fatah mafia by electing a bunch of bearded baboons who aspired to turn our nascent quasi-state into a second Afghanistan. Since we weren't regressing fast enough, our hooded gangs proceeded to kill each other in Gaza, and it took a silk-robed rotund sheikh to broker a cease-fire. All of this while Israel's settlement enterprise continues unabated, appropriating land and resources, cutting off populations.

So, how does one explain the above failures? I refuse to submit to the explanation that Palestinians are inherently evil, or that Islam in itself is belligerent. That's a lazy explanation, and at its heart a racist argument that dehumanizes Arabs and thus makes it easier to drop bombs on them.
On the other hand, I also disagree with the many self-proclaimed Arab intellectuals, who see all of our failures within a narrow post-colonial framework. Like street vendors, they pull out and dust off the same old arguments about Western interference and Arab helplessness.

Just like in Quebec, but on a much larger scale, a cultural paradigm shift is required. We need a reform movement, a party that harnesses the energy of moderate forward thinking Palestinians. It all starts with exorcising the demon which is the culture of the Shaheed (martyrdom). We need to start valuing life. First on the list must be
Palestine TV, which needs to be cleansed of shows that glorify martyrdom. If we cannot salvage the older generations, let's at least spare our children. Shows like the one below must be banned:

This is for our own sake regardless of the Israeli occupation. One only needs to look to Iraq to see how Shaheed culture is like a fire consuming whatever is left of the country. As I said in previous posts, the Palestinians aren't the first nation to be occupied or oppressed, there are alternative ways of resistance. Whatever the cause, children should never be put on the front lines. They should not be encouraged to kill themselves.

Instead we need more shows like this:

We need to de-program people, it's a huge endeavor. Yet it's not impossible. Shaheed culture in its current manifestation is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Arab world. The concept of martyrdom is as old as time, and is not unique to the Arabs or Islam. What is new is how indiscriminately blood is shed. How nothing is sacred anymore.

The question is, how do we get there from here. Short of a mass epiphany, one could only hope that change in Palestinian society will come gradually and organically. Hopefully people will realize the ineffectiveness of our current methods, that we have sunk so low that the only way now is up.

I heard a loud pop, something hit me in the face. At first I thought it was Zohar's proboscis-like nose. Was he trying to give me a kiss? I then realized that fluctuations in temperature and pressure made the metal cap fly off the martini shaker and come crashing down on my cheek.

Argov was still bleating about some long lost love, I switched him off and went to bed. At some point the mundane takes over...


Anonymous said...

Salam Nizo,

First of all: It would be really great, if German and Hebrew were the same, because then I finally could understand it ;)... too bad you are right.
..and yes, ignorance can hurt, but to be honest I am afraid that I am too often guilty of it myself. Thus I always appreciate it a lot if someone at least starts to ask..

I am not sure, whether it is of any interest to you, but still I wanted to mention it, regarding the situation in palestine.
I am for sure not an expert and I am yet waiting for the chance to get there myself, but I am very much interested in the conflict and in general in questions like group phenomena, ethnic conflicts, cultural differences, fanaticism etc. And I lately found books by Vamik Volkan about those topics. He is a psychoanalyst (so that's probably why I love his perspective) and he tries to explain the seemingly "irrational" and sometimes even selfdestructive parts of mainly ethnic conflicts. I found his perspective very helpful to understand more.

btw. concerning the understanding of the palestinian perspective in the ME-conflict: I got myself the books about palestinian identity and the palestinian people you recommended. Thanks for that!

P.S. ..and I definitely lack a bath tub!

tsedek said...

We need to start valuing life.


assiniboine said...

Well, there's Pierre Trudeau's infamous comment about the French that is spoken in Quebec.

And then again there is my Quebecker brother-in-law, who speaks and writes impeccable (though strongly accented) English -- no doubt about which language was his cradle tongue -- and who inter alia presides from Quebec over offices in Newfoundland and New Brunswick: "Never let any correspondence go out of your office without my vetting it first." (The Newfs, he says, can't speak English and the Acadians can't speak French.)

I don't think any amount of education would get through to your gal who doesn't know that German and Hebrew are clean different languages. That almost amounts to implicit, though unknowing, Holocaust denial. And let us not forget our American friends who clearly are well enough educated to be able to afford holiday trips to the other side of the world and are astonished when they alight from their plane in Sydney or Brisbane at the absence of Alps, dirndls and liederhosen.

Nizo said...

Salam A,

Thanks for recommending Vamik Volkan, is there a book in particular that you could suggest?

Lirun said...

awesome post

Anonymous said...

masah alchair,

Right now I am reading "blood lines" and the next one is going to be "blind trust" (large groups and their leaders in times of crisis and terror).

His books are about ethnic conflicts in general and about some more specific. In my eyes he has some very interesting points (and as I said I like the combination of psychology and politics.. he obviously took part in quite some meetings between different groups, e.g. Israelis and Egyptians, but also in Eastern Europe...).

Tsedek said...


Peter H said...

At the risk of sounding "post-colonial"...I think it's ridiculous to believe that changing television is going to change the mindset of Palestinian children. Do you really think that showing Sesame Street is going to create a culture of peace among Palestinian kids when they see their fathers are being humiliated by Israeli soldiers and their houses destroyed by Phantom-16s?

That is not say that Palestinians media and politicans are blameless. They are not. But I just don't understand why you would place the primary responsibility on them for inciting Palestinians when Palestinians are under siege and under attack on a daily basis. There's a natural desire for revenge you're ignoring. As Marwan Bharghouti told Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz, "Why should you feel secure in Tel Aviv when we don't feel secure in Ramallah or Bethlehem?"

Of course, suicide bombings are destructive, immoral and inhuman. And, of course, Palestinians need an intelligent strategy of resisting the Occupation and achieving their political and human rights. I have no disageement with you on that. But if you're going to come up with an alternative Palestinian strategy, you need to recognize not only the imbalance of power vis-a-vis Israel, but also the anger and despair of Palestinians. How are you going to get Palestinians to channel their anger constructively into a way that wins them their freedom?

Nizo said...

Ken khabooba, what's up my petunia?

Nizo said...

"I think it's ridiculous to believe that changing television is going to change the mindset of Palestinian children. "

I was very specific about what needs to be rooted out and that is "Shaheed Culture". Removing references to martyrdom in TV and media is a step in the right direction even with the occupation in place.

"That is not say that Palestinians media and politicians are blameless. They are not."

That's probably the understatement of the century. The PA has done everything in its power to ensure that the Palestinians continue living in misery and under the occupation. The PA is guilty of fostering a state of anarchy and allowing several militias to exist and compete against each other in terrorizing Israelis and Palestinian civilians alike. It has in some instances permitted Hamas and Al Aqsa "martyrdom" operations in Israel at the height of the Oslo Peace Negotiations. Their corruption has stifled the Palestinian economy and has denied poor people their aid money by building themselves castles in Ramallah and Paris.

Even if the occupation ended tomorrow and a Palestinian state was declared, I challenge you to find me a single Israeli-Arab willing to live under PA rule.

"But I just don't understand why you would place the primary responsibility on them for inciting Palestinians when Palestinians are under siege and under attack on a daily basis."

Israel's "siege and attacks" do not come out of a vacuum. Hamas-Aqsa-Tanzim bombings during the late 90's, the subsequent Intifada II, Qassam fire were ENCOURAGED AND FACILITATED by the PA. I suggest you watch PA TV and see the incitement for yourself.

On the other hand, Intifada I was when organic and grassroots resistance to the occupation took place. Thus, support for Palestine around the world was at an all time high. So if you are asking me for an intelligent Palestinian strategy, here it goes:

1-Demilitarization of militias and a central police force

2-Mass popular mobilization along the lines of the American civil rights movement. Peaceful demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

3-A new "I love life" campaign similar to Lebanon's. To undo the effects of a decade of "I love martyrdom"

4-A media campaign to show Palestinian suffering and humiliation in HEBREW. Too much fruitless energy has been spent on media targeted at the Arab world... to no avail.

With the four steps above, there will no longer be an excuse to besiege Palestinians or drop bombs on them.

tsedek said...

Ken khabooba, what's up my petunia?

Effo ata?

Lirun said...


you would have loved the one voice event i attended today - see my blog - if you can attend any in nyc i think you'd really find it interesting..

Unknown said...

1-Demilitarization of militias and a central police force

2-Mass popular mobilization along the lines of the American civil rights movement. Peaceful demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

3-A new "I love life" campaign similar to Lebanon's. To undo the effects of a decade of "I love martyrdom"

4-A media campaign to show Palestinian suffering and humiliation in HEBREW. Too much fruitless energy has been spent on media targeted at the Arab world... to no avail.

cool post .. i have also started recently thinking about switching to posting science fiction

Nizo said...

"cool post .. i have also started recently thinking about switching to posting science fiction "

Peter asked about an intelligent Palestinian strategy and that's what I recommended.

Sarcasm aside, what would be your answer to his very valid question.

Unknown said...

Peter asked about an intelligent Palestinian strategy and that's what I recommended.

Sarcasm aside, what would be your answer to his very valid question.

i dont have advises ... but neither i see a particular need for a special strategy as we were not in war when the palestinians restarted the second intifada.. probably when the hostilities stop we ll be just back to negotiating ...

but the question about strategy misses an important point - which is who is going to implement this program of brain washing people back into peace ?

also we reached now situation when this culture of madness and violence the arabs/muslims created to fight israel hits them more than it hits us .. by far dozens and hundreds times more of muslims die now from suicide bombers than israelis or westerners ...

also probably anybody who read the shit the sunnis are spreading about the shia could notice to his amazement that it is basically the same paranoic conspirazoid crap about US/Israel with which the arabs were brainwashing themselves for generations now is just that the arabs totally lost control of this culture of insanity they created and how they are going to sort out this mess i dont know since i dont understand how they got there in the first place ..

Nizo said...

"it is just that the arabs totally lost control of this culture of insanity they created and how they are going to sort out this mess i dont know since i dont understand how they got there in the first place .."

The killing will go on for a long time, as it's a catharsis of sorts. After all, the West and other regions of the world have had their own dark ages.

It would be naive to believe that it will all end at the drop of a hat, but the pendulum has to swing at some point. There are Arab voices against all of this madness, the question is when and how they'll be able to make a difference.

Unknown said...

There are Arab voices against all of this madness, the question is when and how they'll be able to make a difference.

given how little attention drew the latest experiments by the sunni insurgents with chlorine canisters i would believe that until they detonate a nuclear bomb or something no real difference will happen

Tsedek said...

Nobody, the hizb (for example) is very clever. It approaches the people from a people's level: no talking from 'above' and thus creating the impression that they're right with everything they say (while, in reality I know of many hizb supporters who just take the 'ride' because they supply good social conditions and as for the political ideology they couldn't care one way or another).

As long as you keep denying HUMAN suffering there's no-one gonna pick-up on the things you're saying which behold a truth, like

life is worth living and not only dying for....


Unknown said...

(while, in reality I know of many hizb supporters who just take the 'ride' because they supply good social conditions and as for the political ideology they couldn't care one way or another).

tsedek ... i dont understand what point you are trying to make at all .

as to what you claim about hezb supporters i dont know if you have ever studied history of german nazism but most people who brought to power and supported the nazies cared very little for ideology but mostly for the promise of good social conditions ...

Unknown said...

As long as you keep denying HUMAN suffering there's no-one gonna pick-up on the things you're saying which behold a truth, like

my advise to you tsedek - speak only for yourself

tsedek said...

the point nobody is that only admitting to human suffering and bettering it can gain voices and not violence and collective punishment since that only calls for 'resistance' GRRRRRR


suppose there was a political party in germany that addressed the social issues as did the nazi party. do you think the nazi's would have been in power then anyways?
I doubt it.

same goes for terrororganizations. they address the social issues so they can kidnap the ideology issue with it. just bring in the human approach and see that they (the terrororganizations) will lose much power.

Unknown said...

suppose there was a political party in germany that addressed the social issues as did the nazi party. do you think the nazi's would have been in power then anyways?
I doubt it.

i can save you all your doubts and confusion .. the german economy collapsed during the great depression .. there was no party who could do something of substance during that time ... indeed some of the measures that the nazies implemented to pull the economy out of crisis would be impossible under normal democratic system ... but most probably part of the recovery was simply a result of the general worldwide end of the crisis ... did the improved living standards bring any moderation? not at all... they started the second world war

if we are talking about arabs, the same thing .. the arabs dont have monopoly on the economic stagnation and political opression .. the world knew much worse cases than them ... their extreme violence is a cultural thing ...

tsedek said...

The reparations debt for germany after wwi was about 20 billion marks. That's what crashed the germany economy, don't play as if you don't know that.

In your line of thoughts - if it is a 'cultural' thing the germans would still be fighting.

So that's a no go for you here.

Just give up, nobody, you just don't make any sense.

Unknown said...

The reparations debt for germany after wwi was about 20 billion marks. That's what crashed the germany economy, don't play as if you don't know that.

tsedek .. i advise you simply to read something before you post ... germany was doing remarkably well economically since the early 20s of the past century as the reparations were largely abolished or reduced .. germany paid only a fraction of the original sum ... i dont remember exactly the details of the new arrangement but german economy was expanding fast before it was hit by the great depression...

also all this is absolutely irrelevant to the topic at hand since what you are trying to say is that israel should stop strangulating the palestinian economy because of hamas because as you imply the improved living standards would restore some sanity to the palestinians ...

the german example suggests that after an extremist movement takes power an economic improvement not only does not bring necessarily a moderation of the regime but actually helps it to cement its grip on power ...

tsedek said...

the german example suggests that after an extremist movement takes power an economic improvement not only does not bring necessarily a moderation of the regime but actually helps it to cement its grip on power ...

not if there's an alternative, nobody.

Unknown said...

In your line of thoughts - if it is a 'cultural' thing the germans would still be fighting.

german imperialism and nazism were indeed a cultural thing ... the connection between the two was thouroughly investigated ... both of german experiences in democracy were imposed by the outside force, namely the US ... the US as the country that determined the outcome of the ww1 refused to negotiate surrender with kaiser and demanded a democratic government instead.. this is how the weimar republic came into being...

after the ww2 germany spent 5 years under the direct occupation during which the US overhauled completely the whole system ...

Unknown said...

not if there's an alternative, nobody.

you forgive me but i dont know how to respond to empty slogans ...

tsedek said...

Wawawaaaahhhh.... and their cultural instincts stopped them from blowing the americans up and still fighting them up until today? Wow!!! So their culture is not their culture anymore but it's the american culture the germans are living. Get a grip on yourself.

If violence is a cultural thing than people won't stop fighting nobody. Unless you destroy their complete culture. Now: is germany a second usa?


it's is not an empty slogan. this whole thing we're talking about started because i said that strangling one's economy and not thinking about the people on a human level (social conditions) just empowers terrorist organizations. so an alternative there is...

tsedek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

If violence is a cultural thing than people won't stop fighting nobody. Unless you destroy their complete culture. Now: is germany a second usa?


i dont have time to continue with this ... in short, the cultural predisposition have different degrees of course ... german militarism was traced by many to certain developments in arts and philosophy of 19 century ... it was not as deep rooted and religiously institutionalized as what the muslims have got ... in the same way the violence practiced by the germans was very different from what we see today in iraq and elsehwere ... it's not the same thing ... you think in these absolute categories about the world like the world can be this or that .. but its not ...

as to empty slogans until you explain what you mean it is impossible to respond to it ... without the sanctions hamas would have been deeply entrenched today in gaza and would enjoy even more popularity.. it is as clear as day ... they would have smuggled enough weapons to turn gaza into another south lebanon already and this is basically the direction the things are taking today anyway..

Lirun said...

nobody.. i suggesta read of

i think the factual basis of the germany economy in between wars is a bit off..

tending to agree with tsedek's earlier points..

it becomes a sad case of opportunity lost when the only people genuinely tackling social reform are psycho screw heads with terrorist agendas..

the problem is that rather than waking up and smelling the coffee/humous/hotdog/weissworst we instead focus entirely on this stupid diversion while losing track and control of the very draw card that these politically toxic idiots conquer and through that lose street cred as well..

i think that the blame epidemic - the finger pointing crap is overdone and useless..

we can look outside all we like and not only blame others for their own shortcomings but also attribute to their behaviour all of ours.. including our ability to disect the deadlock into solvable chunks..

but that in itself represents the greatest weakness and i dont think we invariably need to bind ourselves to this predicament..

we are not that helpless.. and you are right nobody - we are suffering less and we are hurting less.. but that doesnt mean that it is all a zero sum game and it doesnt mean that we cant do more to better our region..

even if we do not necessarily own the cause for its shitty conditions..

Unknown said...

i dont know what you read there lirun because the article basicaly confirms a common view that the post war hyperinflation in germany was provoked by wrong macro economic policies more than by war reparations...

The actual breakdown of German economic life came about because of interventions by the German government to maintain the paper mark as the medium of exchange. Holtfrerich (1986, 313) writes of hyperinflation Germany, "The economy had already largely turned over to a foreign, hardcurrency standard.... The crisis arose out of the reluctance of the Reich to permit business to employ foreign means of payment in domestic transactions as desired; indeed the Reich could not permit the long as inflation remained as a 'tax' source."

Bresciani-Turroni offers two observations helpful for understanding the German reform. First, "At the beginning of the inflation... the public still did not understand the phenomenon of monetary depreciation" (BrescianiTurroni 1937. 430). However, by the end, the public associated inflation with the money issues of the Reichsbank. Everyone knew at that point that an end to inflation would require the Reichsbank to limit monetary emission to whatever was needed to maintain the new mark-dollar exchange rate.

they did not grasp the connection between the monetary emission and hyperinflation...

anyway as the article notices that got a grip on the situation around 1923 ...

Unknown said...

but i want to say you in general about economics ... its not something that you can improvise at will ... many people think that it's like a waving wanderwand ... but it's not ...

i dont know if you were here under oslo but it was probably the peak of what the palestinians achieved economically until now .... dozens of thousands of them worked in israel ... on good days people did'nt even care to check their papers .... there was a very lucrative business of stealing cars .. there was a lots of money here from the US and the EU ... ... there were industrial parks and all kinds of economic projects ...

the thing is that much of this will never return .. the palestinians flushed it all down the toilet but basically it was one of those opportunities that they never forget to miss .. the open borders will never come back ... israeli economy has changed since then ... we now have an acute problem of people with inadequate professional training who cannot find jobs .. this country deported hundreds of thousands of foreign workers recently ... cheap labor is no longer welcomed here ...and from what's left many positions are closed to palestinians .. nobody will take a palestinian to care for a baby or for an elder person ...

and of course foreign investors got scared and nobody is sure about anything now since the palestinians proved by the second intifada that economic growth and prosperity cannot stop them from destroying it all in one day by their own hands because some sharon went there or went here...

i dont know what the palestinians expect from the future but they cannot turn the wheel back .. the train has left the station long time ago ... and let's say if that relative prosperity under oslo did not pacify them, then it's hopeless because they may not see a thing like oslo in generations now ...

tsedek said...

There are two ways of 'winning' (your ideology, your existence, your safety, your rights)

1. by addressing everybody as human beings by their needs and their hardships

2. by bombing the hell outta them.

that's what you are saying Nobody : they can't be helped and flushed their only chance throught the toilets so no option remains than to break them and add some more to their already existing hardships.

your choice,

certainly not mine.

Anonymous said...

oh man! Finally a discussion where I think I could take a stand as someone (at least kind of) involved.. and then I miss it!

well, you could probably tell that I just could not let the chance pass.. ;)

As I mentioned earlier, I am just reading books by V.Volkan. Started "blind trust". And yes, I know that psychology is only one possible way of looking at things. Still: concerning Germany after WWI (and during the Weimarer Republik): Sure the Nazis did something for the economy, but as much as I am sorry to say that - and believe me I am - I don't think that this was the main point. It might have been a reason, sure. But if people would have been able to think "straight" they would have tried to get the Nazis down - at least after Hitler got to power and dissolved the government. I think that at that time, after loosing WWI badly (which was huge blow to the imperialistic self-image and connected to that also the German identity, which was accordingly not clear at all at the time of the Weimarer Republik - the Kaiser was not there anymore and the newly born democracy was torn between extremist left and right) plus the bad economical situation etc. made it possible that people turned to a strong "leader" in the hope to be "rescued" and stopped thinking critically.(At least that's the point where I am at right now, trying to understand what happened then).

It would probably go too far if I go more into the details of this theory. Put it shortly:
Societies in times of anxiety and identity-problems "regress" and are more easily prone to turn to a strong leader, define an enemy and fight it, and people seem to give up there individual ability to question authorities and rather follow blindly. Where this can lead to, I don't have to say.

I think there is a lot to it.
For me as a German the explanation that the Germans just wanted a better economy and did not pay attention to the rest of the political program of the Nazis would be much nicer. And for some of the people it certainly might have been true. But I don't think it is as easy as that. Otherwise money could indeed solve the problem..

But just to add it:
I don't so much believe in democracy being a cultural trait as being something people learned out of years of wars and destruction. It is true that the US played an important role in the democratizing process in (West-)Germany after WWII. And to be honest, I am very glad to be born to a country where democracy is alive. But I doubt that it is something that's in the "genes".. so to say. In my eyes it is more of a learning process. And it is a form of government that asks a lot from the people. The people rule, so they have to take responsibility, make choices etc. And as long as you have a society that is not under a threat, it seems to work out pretty well. But as soon as a society feels threatened enough the danger of searching for a strong leader and harsh measures (in hard times) is close at hand.

tsedek said...

a from berlin:

it's my conviction that people EVERYWHERE like to be treated as human beings and people EVERYWHERE will believe in whatever is dissed up to them in order to regain some of their self-respect.

it's completely ignorant to suggest that Palestinians should be different than anybody else. whenever there were frictions between the peoples that now seem 'logical and civilized' war erupted. that's a common knowledge, but Nobody doesn't want to accept this.

Anonymous said...


I think we share this opinion.
I was less aiming at saying something about the palestinians and about nobody's comment about that part. (I did not feel that I would have to add anything to what you said about that part :))
I just took the chance to say something to the discussion about Nazis and Germans in general.

Nizo said...

A from Berlin,

Thank you for recommending Blood Lines, I started reading today and it seems like an interesting read.


Anonymous said...


You are very welcome :)
Glad if you like it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Nizo, if you like to share I wold be very interested in your thoughts about this apporach.

Adina said...

Nizo - You are a great writer! Too bad that posting about the middle east makes everyone draw their pens to defend their favourite ideology before complimenting the writer about his thought-provoking,genuinely hilarious post.

I used to think, before I learned Hebrew, that that line in "Ha perach be gani" was "At Polani" rather than "At Olami". In my mind it was a thwarted love story between an ashkenazi and sephardic jew.

Ted said...

could the woman have been confusing Hebrew and Yiddish? Yiddish and German do sound somewhat the same, in small doses.
I don't see how to get from there to your story, but I have met people who weren't aware that Hebrew and Yiddish were separate languages.

Nizo said...

Hi Adina, thanks for your kind words, I love "Haperach Begani", the music is great with the dramatic trumpets and all. At Polani... lol

TMA, I really doubt the lady in question has had any opportunity to hear any mame loshn for her to mix it up with Hebrew.

Anonymous said...

As a native speaker of German, I can't help saying that German and Hebrew sound a lot more similar than one would expect. (Disclaimer: All Hebrew I've heard has been spoken by politicians on TV.) The only obvious differences are that the sound written ch in German is farther back in Hebrew (as in Swiss German), that Hebrew stress is usually on the last syllable, and of course that ö and ü are absent. L and R sound the same as in (most kinds of) German (or for that matter French). I get the impression that modern Israeli Hebrew has an inbuilt strong Yiddish accent, and that the Hebrew of Biblical times sounded quite different...

Nizo said...

David, your observations are valid.

Since my mother-tongue is Arabic, when I hear Hebrew being spoken, I think of the Semitic similarities and cognates which act as the main reference point, even if the accent is ashkenazi (european). That might explain the different ways we perceive the language.

Red Tulips said...


You are inspirational. I want to thank you for this post. A million thank yous!

The solution to the I/P conflict perhaps is for the Palestinians to follow in YOUR example, and become more like you?

So my question is THAT possible?

Anxiously awaiting the answer,

Red Tulips

Nizo said...

My dear Red Tulips,

I'm glad you liked the post, now to answer your question:
It would be very arrogant of me to advocate that Palestinians should become "like me". We are all shaped by the way we were brought up and by the circumstances that surround us.

My family suffered **a great deal** at the hands of the Haganah and later on the IDF. Nevertheless, I made a personal choice to channel my anger into trying to learn more about the "other side". I was very fortunate in that many of my interactions with Jews and Israelis were favorable, which had the exponential effect of making me want to learn even more.

The Jews and Israelis I knew weren't all peaceniks or leftists, some were ardent zionists, but what they all had in common was their willingness to engage in dialog in a level-headed respectable way.

Then there are those other Jews who think all Palestinians (me included) are terrorists or insects unworthy of life. If my experience was limited to dealing with them, I would have had a very different point of view today.

All of this to say that it takes two to tango and that extremism and inflexibility feed off each other.

Now, when it comes to the Palestinians, we're not Nazis or KKK members (even if the short-sighted Hajj Amin did meet with Hitler back in his day). One has to see things in the socio-economic-political context. The Palestinians, led by horrible leaders, picked the wrong type of resistance, the wrong framework for airing their grievances. With every suicide bombing in TA, every Kassam falling on Sderot, they get a momentary moment of elation from the revenge that was meted out. What they do not realize is that every such act alienates moderate Israelis and strengthen the extremists which makes future peace even more difficult.

As I always said, Palestinians and Arab moderates are out there, I think that eventually, they will mobilize into a party that can affect change. The multi-million dollar question is when and how that will happen.

Red Tulips said...


The million dollar question is how to mobilize the moderates, when...a) moderates are fleeing, thus leaving mostly extremists; b) any moderate who attempts to organize is brutally slaughtered.

Given those two facts, would it require an invasion of the Territories, taking out Hamas/Fatah, military occupation, and placing in a moderate like yourself in charge?

I see no peaceful way to get moderates in charge. My hopes are gone for it.

Red Tulips said...


One more thing. Hajj Amin al-Hussayni did more than meet with Hitler in the day. He was an architect of the Final Solution and led SS Waffen Brigades to slaughter tens of thousands of Jews.

This is something people forget. He was intimately involved with the Nazi movement - he did not just merely meet with Hitler.

Anyway, two questions I forgot...

I am aware that back in the 1940s, the Grand Mufti was not popular with all Palestinians. We know this. But my question is if you believe this mentality has gotten MORE popular.

And my second question is whether your Christianity colors your perspective. If so, what do you foresee for the Muslim Palestinians, who greatly outnumber the Christians?

Nizo said...

"Given those two facts, would it require an invasion of the Territories, taking out Hamas/Fatah, military occupation, and placing in a moderate like yourself in charge?"

More killing? And who will be in charge? another Hamid Karzai who will have 0 credibility with the people?

Red Tulips, if I had a magic wand, I would have waved it a long time ago and made everything better. I do not pretend to have an immediate solution, I think it will come slowly and organically. Another war wouldn't achieve anything.

Red Tulips said...

One last question...

I must ask whether your family suffered from the Haganah, or, as an alternative, they suffered because the Mufti and other Arab leaders refused to accept ANY of State of Israel on a single square inch of land, and thus invaded Israel. (and as such, Jews had to defend themselves)

This would mean that your suffering ACTUALLY was at the hands of Arabs and not Israelis.

As a follow up: Jordan took over the West Bank in 1948 and repressed the people, quite brutally, within it. Do you consider Israel more or less responsible for your family's suffering than, say, Jordan?

Nizo said...

Going back to your point about "moderates are fleeing, thus leaving mostly extremists"

I blame that on both the IDF as well as Hamas. On the one hand, the IDF is instituting collective punishment, pushing moderates out. On the other hand, Haman, oops Hamas kills people who disagree with its retarded policies.

And here I am in Canada with all the Israeli yordim who also left because of "the situation".

As for Christianity coloring my perspective, I don't see the connection between my views and my religion.

Red Tulips said...


The slow and organic change you mentioned not only does not appear to be happening, but is appears to be happening in the reverse. (i.e., things are getting worse)

Given that, I must ask you if your slow and organic change has any prayer of succeeding when moderates are fleeing the Territories. And if that is the case, then aren't there really two options...?

a) Continue on, status quo (certainly not a great option as things seem to be getting worse)

b) The military invasion I mentioned, which would be a temporary bad, but has long term good possibilities.

c) For Israel to totally leave the West Bank, know in advance that this would mean the Palestinians would have a state with which to wage war upon Israel, but for Israel to thus be ready for war and essentially wipe out the Palestinian state when that state inevitably declares war upon Israel. (or, alternatively, for Israel to be wiped out by such a war)

I think we are in agreement that option (c) is the worst option. It is almost a guarantee to happen if the Palestinians get their own state in the present day. Option (a) is horrible, especially in the long term. In the long term, isn't option (b) the only real choice we have?

The extremist options, of course, are for Israel to kick all Palestinians out of the West Bank, or for the Palestinians to wage total war upon Israel to kick THEM out.

In order to avoid bedlam, isn't ironically war possibly the only option?

I hate saying that, but at this point, I am at a loss over any other possibility.

Nizo said...

When it comes to my family's suffering you need to tread very carefuly because this is a very sensitive topic for me. Be warned that I will not tolerate anyone minimizing or dismissing what we went through. If you do, you would be putting an immediate end to our exchange.

Here's a list of events:

1-My maternal grandmother was a teenager at the time when the Hagganah troops entered our village and ordered all the young men to be lined up and executed in front of one of the churches. My grandmother watched as two of her brothers, one 21, the other 22 and recently married, were executed by the Hagganah. BOTH WERE UNARMED.
She was then ordered to bury them and leave the village.

2-During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The IDF declared a curfew at 6:00pm. My paternal grandparents and uncles were living in a refugee camp in Tyre at the time. The IDF mandated that all houses should fly a white flag to show their intentions. One of my uncles who has Down's syndrome went up on the roof to hang the white flag. Since it was half an hour after curfew, he was shot in the leg by a nearby IDF patrol. My other uncle came out to check out what happened and was also shot in the leg. My grandmother then went out and was shot in the arm. All of this occured in the courtyard of the house and not even on the outside. So technically, since they were all on the grounds of the house, they did not really violate a curfew. In any case, they were all shot intently and maimed in cold blood by an IDF patrol that was very close to the grounds and not shooting from a faraway distance. Instead of providing medical help, they were thrown a first aid kit.

Red Tulips said...


You complain about the IDF instituting collective punishment.

My question is how there is any other option, given the situation Israel faces. The option of sitting back and taking it is simply not an option, because then Israel has foregone its duty as a state to defend its citizens.

My question about your religion was a question about whether you believe being a Christian Palestinian has affected your outlook, versus you being a Muslim Palestinian.

There was recently a BBC article about Christians fleeing the town of Bethlehem. Of course, this being the BBC, this was blamed on Israel. But isn't a more accurate way of looking at it to say that the Territories are becoming an Islamic state, and that Christians are simply not considered co-equals? Furthermore, I have read of the extensive terror campaign against Christians within the Territories. This is all similar to what is happening to Maronite Christians in Lebanon.

And if that is the case, then isn't your natural ally Israel, rather than Palestinians?

As a follow up: Assuming I am right, then while your peaceful moderation is commendable and inspirational, are Muslim Palestinians proportionately less moderate than Christians?

And do you believe that the desire for an Islamic state within the Palestinian Territories is chiefly what is causing Muslim Palestinians to be less moderate? If so, how do you de-radicalize people who are not merely culturally radical, but also religiously radical? (and are becoming more religiously radical by the day)

Nizo said...

"In order to avoid bedlam, isn't ironically war possibly the only option?"

Bedlam is already here, my dear Red Tulips.

Let me just say one last thing with regards to Muslim's preceived lack of moderation and the whole "Islamic Palestine" rubbish. It's all so very recent, 20 years ago, Palestinians were much more secular. So of course there's been a regression (at least in my eyes), but the fact that it is very new gives me a glimmer of hope that it might not be as deeply rooted as some might think.

Our debate could go on for ever, I wish you were in Montreal, I would have invited you over for breakfast, we could have continued our debate over tea and blueberry blintzes.

Red Tulips said...


Are you sure this was Haganah and not Irgun? (remember that Haganah actually shot at Irgun at one point, to disarm them.) Were you told of proof that this was Haganah?

I ask this, because one was a representative of Israel (Haganah), and one was a representative of extremists who were since banned from Israel. (Irgun)

Now, my condolences re: your family. There is no excuse for what happened.

So I guess I have a question...I can understand WHY it happened. (i.e., shit like that happens during wartime, especially wars of attempted annhilation) This is not an excuse at all. It merely is an explanation. My question is how you decided you were not anti-Israel. What is it that changed you?

Why are you who you are today?

Nizo said...

Yes it was the Hagganah (Operation Ben-Ami), and i know there was a power struggle with the irgun (and the Altalena etc..)

Regardless of all that happened, Jews are human being like everyone else, with a spectrum of political views and nuance. And if you can read hebrew, you're invited to read the exchange I had with Israelis here:

I'm not holding a whole people responsible for the actions of a few. I just wish Jews can also see that same nuance when it comes to Palestinians.


Yallah, I have to chores to do!

Red Tulips said...


I applaud you. I just want to say that not only do I applaud you, but I have forwarded this website to some right wingers I know, telling them about a pro-peace Palestinian. You are a living example of someone who smashes prejudices, and I think you for that.

Let me add some more.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for messaging me on my blog. You give me hope for the future, where before I had less hope. Even if you are few in number, every one of you is a positive.

So keep up the positivity! You are smashing hate on every side.

From the bottom of my heart,

Red Tulips

Richard said...

I want to commend you as well, Nizo. You have far more patience than I for these rotters. Imagine the naivete of proposing invading the Territories, smashing the PA & installing a puppet regime--with you in charge, no less?! I want you to live a long, happy, health life, my friend which would certainly not be the case if you entered into such a devil's contract.

And of course Nizo's family was expelled by the Haganah. Anyone who disbelieves this merely has to read Benny Morris' book which acknowledges that as many as 700,000 Arabs left in 1948, MANY of them through forced expulsion of the type Nizo describes.

Oh & where did Hajj Amin get the wherewhital to command Waffen SS brigades that killed "tens of thousands of Jews" since he lived in mandatory Palestine?

Roman Kalik said...

Great post, Nizo. I hope others reach the same conclusions you have.

Now, I don't really want to get into the comments so late, but I'll reply to the last one made by Richard, regarding the Hajj.

Husseini escaped Mandatory Palestine in 1937, after his attempted coup (started in 1936) against the British failed. He spent some time in Lebanon, but left when his relationship with the French and Syrian authorities deteriorated. He reached Iraq in 1939, where he assisted in the pro-Nazi revolution in 1941 and the subsequent pogrom against the Jewish population of Baghdad, and declared Jihad on Britian in a radio show he had. The revolution lasted four days, and Husseini escaped, reportedly disguised as a devout Muslim woman. He passed through Iran, reached Turkey eventually, from there Italy and onwards to Berlin. He was a special guest of the Fuhrer from that point onwards.

He continued to be a propoganda tool for the Third Reich, and on 1943 he started actively supporting the recruitment of Bosnian Muslims into the Waffen SS.

They were his recruits. He was someone the Bosnian Muslims could relate to, and he used that.

Read up on the man. Don't assume.

Roman Kalik said...

Blast, the link didn't post properly...

Had to press the Enter key there, so copy-paste in parts. Here's another:

Roman Kalik said...

By the way, sorry for hijacking the topic a bit, Nizo. :)

Red Tulips said...


Can you think of a single solution at this point, other than the one I mentioned?

There is no way the media will change in the PA territories, nor the culture and mosques, unless there is a military intervention. Not at this point.

That's just how it is. Moreover, a military intervention would likely save lives, including Palestinian life, as there is a civil war between Hamas and Fatah that is costing many countless civilians their lives. Remember, it's not as if there is no war now.

As far as Benny Morris, he has been debunked long ago.

That said, I am glad that Nizo has no ill will towards Israel or the Jewish people over what happened in 1948. Ultimately, I stand by the fact that the war was started by Arabs, and so in a war of attempted extermination, tragedies like what happened to Nizo's family sometimes do happen. I am just stunned that Nizo realizes that. Really, stunned.

Anonymous said...

Red Tulips, there is no outside solution for this one. A military intervention would stop the civil war only to give the "resistance" a common enemy, a chance to unite their ranks and rebuild their political power. It would be a short-term solution that would, I think, ward off a long term solution.

With the situation we have reached now, a Palestine ruled by a multitude of armed gangs, the only way to stop them is to let them discredit themselves. That's step one.

Anonymous said...

As for step two, it involves praying. Lots of praying.

Because someone must fill the post-gang void, and that someone musn't be Arafat II. I'd prefer Dr. Bargouti, but he appears to have leadership skills.

Once set in motion, civil wars tend to play out. This one truly began when Yasser Arafat filled the post-intifada (first) void.

Red Tulips said...


Are you serious? Barghouti? Who led mass murder against Jews?

Anonymous said...

Drat, I meant that I think Dr. Bargouti *doesn't* have leadership skills. Yet again, my posting from a mobile phone makes my replies messy.

Anonymous said...

Red Tulips, hell no! *that* Bargouti stays in prison! Freeing that maniac is a surefire way of creating another Arafat, as all the recipe lacks at the moment is just this kind of charismatic monster.

No, Dr. Bargouti is a different man, led a small party in the PA elections. Focused on economic reform and growth. Not sure what degree of relation he is to the nasty Bargouti.