Archive for June, 2012
How to ensure the future of Israel and the planet
The key is actually very simple
By Ralph Dobrin
In Israel and all over the world, there are a lot of very serious problems, some of them even existential. Clearly, unless these problems are properly dealt with, the future for everyone could be very grim indeed. Now, I believe that the best way to deal properly with any problem is by facing it as objectively and as truthfully as possible. And this is the key to ensuring the future of Israel and the entire planet. Sounds naïve? Overly simplistic? Ridiculous? Well, let’s think about it!
If we examine any serious problem, especially if it’s a conflict, we’ll often find that it was the opposite of truthfulness – it was falsehood – in some form or another that was a factor in starting it, and that falsehood is also a factor, often even a major factor, in blocking the way to any decent solution.
The Israel-Arab conflict is a classic example. While there have been valid claims and understandable grievances by the parties involved, it was falsehood that played a definite part in igniting the conflict over 90 years ago, and to the present day the falsehood continues, with exaggerated and unfounded claims, half-truths and blatant lies, that create false perceptions, distrust, contempt and deep enmity between Arabs and Jews. And all this untruthfulness has made any real peaceful resolution to the Israel-Arab conflict quite impossible
BEWARE OF POLITICAL SNARES
With any issue that has a political bearing – especially if there is a nationalistic factor involved – most people tend to stick adamantly to their old ideas and sentiments, no matter how things change or what new information emerges. Bring up any issue with a political bearing and any tendency to objectivity quickly fades in favor of denial, wishful thinking and other forms of cognitive dissonance. Even normally level-headed, intelligent, honest people can easily have their ability to think objectively and comprehensively, noticeably diminished. Whether right wing or left wing, liberal, conservative or centrist, it doesn’t matter – intellectual integrity and rational thinking are often seriously compromised. Not always, not with everyone, but all too often.
About the Israel-Arab conflict, there is a great deal of false misinformation that is spread around the world by the media, by governments and by political and ideological organizations in Israel, among the neighboring Arab countries and farther abroad. Much of this misinformation is generally adopted as the basis for policy by other countries and international organizations that try to influence what happens in this part of the world, but which invariably damage even further, any chance that there might be for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
It is this same pattern of falsehood – actually it’s a general failure to face all facts honestly – by so many people in the Middle East and all over the world, regarding the Israel-Arab conflict, that is also preventing humanity as a whole from dealing more sensibly and effectively with all the other serious existential issues that threaten the future of our planet – such as pollution, climate change, demographic turmoil, economic instability, rampant militant jihad and a lot of other serious issues – that keep getting worse because they are not being addressed honestly by all parties involved.
As far as Israel is concerned, in order to contend with its enormous threats and challenges, the nation needs to make the right decisions regarding every aspect of its national well-being and security. And that is possible only if the people running the country, and the general public, get their facts straight and come to honest, rational conclusions about those facts. But getting the facts straight is possible only if people, as a rule, follow all the principles of truthfulness.
For this, it’s essential that first we our get facts straight and our perspectives clear. Otherwise much of our thinking will be based on false, misleading data and mistaken assumptions, and on such a basis it’s impossible to deal properly with any problem. Problems will probably get worse. And here’s the clincher. Only complete truthfulness can enable the objectivity and lucid discernment that are necessary in order to get our facts straight and our perspectives clear, so that we can figure out the best possible solutions for our problems.
ARE PEOPLE GENERALLY HONEST OR NOT?
So, the keyword is truthfulness. Actually, I think that most people will not tell an outright lie under normal circumstances. But apart from outright lies, there are many other ways that people are untruthful or not entirely honest, even among the most respectable members of society. There’s a lot more to the concept of truthfulness than merely refraining from lying. Incidentally, truthfulness and “truth,” while connected are not the same and we don’t need to go into any deep philosophical theories regarding the full meaning of the word “truth.”
Truthfulness means telling the truth in the sense of being honest about what we’re saying; it also means avoiding undue exaggeration and refraining from expressing half-truths or indulging in selective omission of relevant facts and factors. Furthermore, a truthful person will not make any gesture, facial expression or action with the express purpose of deception.
A common form of untruthfulness is when we hoodwink ourselves – through wishful thinking or denial. We sometimes cling rigidly to old ways and ideas, no matter what happens or what new information emerges. Many people automatically block themselves off from anything that might not tally with their perception of things – no matter how logical or convincing. We sometimes make claims or conduct ourselves in accordance with these forms of cognitive dissonance, without even realizing that in actual fact, we are lying to ourselves.
There is an obverse side to all this. It is gullibility. While excessive cynicism is not an ideal attitude, one should nevertheless be alert to falsehood expressed by others – including and especially when what is said or claimed, might initially appeal to our sentiments. We should always ask ourselves questions such as: does what is being said really make sense? In what context is it said? Is it a half-truth? Is it consistent with what had been said beforehand? Does it have any political, religious, ideological or commercial connection?
In the limited framework of this blog, I don’t have space to mention all the ways that people twist, mangle or hide the truth. There are many more ways, which I deal with in my book. In many cases people don’t even realize that they are lying or pandering to falsehood.
However, it is abundantly clear that falsehood in all its many aspects, together with gullibility, are the major causes of muddled, illogical and flawed reasoning – on an individual basis and also at a broader, higher level by governments and other public offices in all countries, and especially in the United Nations. That’s why many of the big problems in our world are never resolved and even get worse.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Obviously, it is the ultimate folly for humanity to continue in its present dangerous course. Never, throughout history, has there been such a need for clear, sensible thinking and wise action. However, encouragement can be taken from the fact that it had been clear, sensible thinking that enabled humanity’s present ever-growing understanding of how the world functions on a physical and biological level. Most, if not all, the great discoveries and inventions from Archimedes’ Principle to crop rotation, DNA, the microchip, flush toilets and countless other examples of human ingenuity would have been impossible without uncompromising truthfulness regarding every question, detail and stage of each issue.
The overriding challenge for all humanity today is how to employ that same uncompromising truthfulness in the quest of dealing properly with the pressing existential issues mentioned earlier. How are we to maintain a high level of truthfulness among people and nations, regarding disputes, rivalries and conflicts – that are understandably, emotionally charged? How can the cold, self-serving imperatives of industry, finance, politics and government be addressed truthfully by all the interested parties and the public? How can truthfulness become a prerequisite in the workings of the United Nations and other international organizations purportedly working for the good of humanity?
There is only one clear, obvious answer. We need to announce – and keep announcing – the simple fact that the key to all these questions is truthfulness – and explain, suggest, even demand that it be learned and practiced everywhere, starting from us ourselves and the people close to us. Every section of society must eventually be imbued with this insight, including leaders in every field. Clearly, this won’t be easy and it will take a lot of time. And time might be running out.
Everyone knows the avenues taken in promoting any idea: Being in contact with all forms of the media, presenting talks and seminars at schools, places of work and every possible public venue, appearing on radio and television and utilizing all the internet tools such as Facebook. Indeed, because of the immediacy offered by modern communication systems, promotion can be facilitated much quicker than ever before.
Also, we should remember that over the years many concepts that had once been totally unthinkable, eventually became widely acceptable. Such as men with long hair and ear-rings; or explicit physical intimacy in movies, or single women intentionally having babies, to mention just a few previously totally taboo concepts. So, if these things could become mainstream norms for society, then surely it should be possible to promote truthfulness, which is actually a rather simple concept, not to mention the fact that it is absolutely essential for the future of humanity.
A group is being formed in Jerusalem to get this hallowed work started. If you’re interested I can be contacted through Facebook.
My book, “How to Avoid Armageddon” is available in some bookstores in Jerusalem and through Amazon or Kindle.
Senior staff members who
slander their country
Recently, the Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) sent the following letter to the governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This followed a similar letter to the governors of Tel Aviv University. See: https://truthandsurvival.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/some-interesting-tel-aviv-university-faculty-members/
The IAM, founded by Dana Barnett, follows the activities of Israeli academics who publically defame their country within Israel and abroad, and/or teach their students ideas that can be labeled as seditious. We present here IAM’s latest letter.
To the Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
As you know, academics have taken a lead in a campaign to delegitimize Israel; some of them are employed by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Under the guise of academic freedoms, they have utilized the legitimacy and the good name of the university to launch relentless attacks on Israel.
Dr. Nurit Peled Elhanan teaches education, she is one of the most virulent critics of Israel, calling it a racist, apartheid state, while urging civil disobedience against the fascist-style government. She testified before the Russell Tribunal, a self-appointed radical leftist group, that Israel is an apartheid state deserving to be boycotted. In her latest book, she “found” that Israeli textbook teach children hatred and xenophobia that turn them into killers of Palestinians.
Professor Hannan Hever, Department of Literature, is a veteran political activist who collaborates with Zochrot, a group dedicated to raising awareness of Nakba as an equivalent of the Jewish Holocaust. Hever has used research in literature to imply a connection between the two.
Professor Moshe Zimmermann who teaches German History, has compared young settlers to Hitler Youth and claimed that “Jewish Nazis” exist. Zimmermann’s efforts to prove that Israeli behavior is comparable to that of Nazi Germany is a ploy to establish that Palestinians were innocent victims of Israeli aggression and should be granted the right to return.
Dr. Louise Bethlehem, senior lecture of English and Culture Studies, has used literature to show the similarities between Israel and the apartheid regime of South Africa.
Dr. Merav Amir of the Lafer Center is the co-founder of Who Profits from Occupation? which supports BDS. Amir’s research promotes the view that Israel is a colonial, apartheid state; she views the separation fence as a symbol of “racialization” of Israel.
Those who claim that these and other utterances are protected by academic freedom of research and expression should consult the European Union initiative to fight anti-Semitism. In 2005 the European Union Monitoring Center published guidelines stating that certain anti-Zionist expressions such as equating Israel to Nazi Germany or an apartheid state should be considered a form of “new anti-Semitism.” The EU guidelines have been used by law enforcement agencies and influenced legislation such as the British Equality Act of 2010. It is ironic that Israeli scholars are free to contribute to new anti-Semitism, something that their peers in Europe would find hard to do without violating the law. We would urge you to act to remedy this situation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Israel Academia Monitor – board and staff
Tel: 054-4283749, www.israel-academia-monitor.com
Blogger’s note: I doubt whether any of this information is news to the people who run the Hebrew University. Of course they tout freedom of speech as the Holy Grail. But surely this freedom carries obligations – especially in the case of people who teach. Freedom of speech should be accompanied by the intellectual responsibility to follow all the principles of truthfulness, as well as concern that their actions do no damage to their country. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Hebrew University is not alone in its dubious academic permissiveness. Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Haifa Universities readily come to mind. Is intellectual integrity no longer a cherished value in academia?
Signed: Ralph (Rafi) Dobrin
Strange loyalty to land
Recently, the Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) sent the following letter to the governors of Tel Aviv University. The IAM, founded by Dana Barnett, follows the activities of Israeli academics who publically defame their country within Israel and abroad, and/or teach their students ideas that can be labeled as seditious.
To the Governors of Tel Aviv University,
As you well know, Israel has been the subject to a delegimization campaign led by academics, some employed by Tel Aviv University. Under the guise of academic freedom they turned their positions into a platform for relentless attacks on Israel.
Professor Daniel Bar-Tal is Branco Weiss Professor of Research in Child Development and Education at School of Education. After obtaining tenure, Bar Tal, a high profile peace activist and past co-editor of the radical Journal of Palestine-Israel Studies, switched to the researching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is the architect the theory that Israelis are too traumatized by the Holocaust or/and Masada to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Conveniently, this “it is all in their head” theory absolves Bar Tal from considering some real threats to Israel’s security and made him the darling of pro-Palestinian activists.
Professor Yehouda Shenhav was hired by the Department of Sociology to teach and research on sociology of organizations. Upon receiving tenure, Shenhav changed his research focus to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which, as he had acknowledged, fits his political agenda. Shenhav is best known for his book on Arab Jews (his name for Mizrahim) whom he describes, along with the Palestinians, as victims of the “Zionist enterprise.” More recently, he published a book on right to return of the Palestinians to their pre-1948 places.
Professor Adi Ophir was hired to teach philosophy at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas. Ophir, one of the most virulent critic of Israel, produce an endless stream of writings designed to prove that Nazi evil is on the same ontological plane as Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Ophir hired his life partner Ariella Azoulay to serve as a “lexo-photographer“ at the Minerva Center of Humanities that he directs. Azoulay is best known for mounting exhibitions in the West aiming to create a visual link between the Nakba and the Holocaust. She also wrote in support of Anat Kam, the soldier who is serving time for stealing and leaking top secret IDF documents. Azoulay calls the IDF documents “public archives” and describes Kam as an “archivist” wrongly imprisoned.
Professor Shlomo Sand was hired as an expert in French culture by the Department of History. After years of very modest academic existence, Sand became an international super-star with the publication of The Invention of the Jewish People. The book was roundly condemned by historians and geneticists who found a common biological base for Jews, but was welcomed by enemies of Israel and anti-Semitic websites.
Dr. Anat Matar teaches in the Department of Philosophy, but published virtually nothing in her field. Matar spends most of her time writing about the alleged mistreatment of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists whom she calls political prisoners, as her new co-edited book claims. Matar is one of the pioneers of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and supported the British efforts to boycott the Israeli academy.
Professor Yoav Peled, a member of the Communist Party, teaches in the Department of Political Science. Peled is one of the pioneers of the theory that Zionism was a colonial movement which, helped by Western colonial powers, disposed the indigenous Palestinians. Peled has made a career promoting the view that Israel is a colonial state where the capitalist classes prey upon the vulnerable lower classes composed of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and the Mizrahiml. Peled makes no effort in his courses to offer a balanced view that falls short of the mandate of the Council on Higher Education to turn liberal arts classes into a “marketplace of ideas.”
While academic staff in a western society enjoys freedom of expression, this freedom is not intended for propagation of political agenda on either the right or left. We urge the Board to ensure that activist faculty should not engage in such egregious violations of these basic freedoms.
Best wishes for a successful conference,
Israel Academia Monitor, board and staff
Blogger’s note: I doubt whether any of this information is news to the people who run Tel Aviv University. Freedom of speech carries obligations – especially in the case of people who teach. Freedom of speech should be accompanied by the intellectual responsibility to follow all the principles of truthfulness, as well as concern that their actions do no damage to their country. Furthermore, it should be noted that Tel Aviv University is not alone in its dubious academic permissiveness. Beersheba and Haifa Universities readily come to mind. Is intellectual integrity no longer a cherished value in academia?
Signed: Ralph (Rafi) Dobrin
It should be noted that Tel Aviv University is not alone