The importance of correct
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon,” available through Amazon
With all the recent talk about an upgrade for the status of “Palestine,” it should be remembered that until 1948 anyone – Jewish or Arab – living west of the Jordan River was called a “Palestinian.” Israel’s Zionist newspaper was called The Palestine Post (today The Jerusalem Post); The electric company set up to provide electricity for Jewish settlers was called the “Palestine Electric Company”; the philharmonic orchestra in Tel Aviv was called the “Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra”; Bank Leumi, founded at the turn of the century, had the word “Palestine” as part of its name. During the British Mandate period, passports and other identification documents specified Jews as Palestinians.
Following the end of the British Mandate in 1948, the term “Palestinian” was seldom used to describe people involved in current events. The term began to be used more frequently in 1964 when the PLO was formed. But in the Six-Day War in 1967, “Palestine” and “Palestinian” suddenly became household words all over the world. Israel had repulsed the Jordanian army from Judea and Samaria – territory Jordan had annexed from what should have been an independent Arab part of Palestine following the United Nations Partition vote in November 29th 1947. (Actually an Arab part of Palestine had been created 25 years earlier with the creation of Transjordan, later to become the Kingdom of Jordan, on 77% of Mandate Palestine.)
It should also be remembered what the Six-Day War was all about and why Israel repulsed the Jordanian forces from its eastern borders. An attempt had been made to destroy Israel – together with Egypt and Syria. Funny how most people seem to have forgotten that!
Another thing that most people seem to have forgotten is that the 1967 attempt to destroy Israel (widely and openly proclaimed by Arab leaders prior to the outbreak of the war) was the second time that the Arab nations would try to invade Israel with the aim of snuffing it out. The first time was in 1947-1949. Yet another thing that most people either don’t know, or have chosen to forget or disregard is that the people who spearheaded that attack on the nascent Jewish state were the Jews’ fellow-Palestinians. So many things that people have forgotten or choose to disregard!
It is important to understand that “Palestine” and “Palestinian” have became politically-loaded terms implying that the Jews of Israel had stolen the local Arabs’ land. What the Jews had done, in fact, was prevent the Arabs from usurping Israel and God only knows what they would have done to the local Jews had they prevailed. The terms “Palestine” and “Palestinian” serve the cause of Israel’s adversaries and also distort history through sloppy terminology.
So what should these people be called? Depending on the context they can be called “local Arabs,” “West Bank Arabs,” “Gazans” (in the case of Israel’s hapless southern neighbors), or “Palestinian Arabs.” Calling them “Palestinians” keeps giving them more and more leverage in their quest to destroy Israel.
Furthermore, calling them by any of these names need not impede the peace process – if peace with Israel is what these folks really, really want.
International law must change
in order to cope with terrorism
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon,” available through Amazon
By following these laws, Israel gives its enemies an unassailable advantage, no matter how superior Israel’s weaponry, tactics and fighting caliber of its troops. These rules include always trying to verify that no unarmed Arab civilians are at risk before any attack. Often an attack against an enemy position is halted because of the suddenly noticed presence of too many unarmed civilians.
On the other hand, the terrorists often launch their attacks from within population centers, thus intentionally putting their own people at risk. This way, not only do they limit Israel’s battle options, but perversely, they also generate international censure against Israel whenever Arab civilians are harmed.
The rocket attacks from the Gazans had very little to do with gaining independence, which they have de facto. Rather, for them, attacking Israel has been a part of a war waged by global militant jihad in order to eventually bring the rest of the world under a Caliphate. There have been many battles waged by Israel, the USA and other allies, against Islamist terrorist armies. Usually the Islamists are severely battered, only to keep coming back with a vengeance, greatly strengthened and more determined than beforehand because of their resolute belief in the rightness of their cause.
And they might win – unless Israel and the USA and other reluctant allies understand what the stakes are, and modify international law so as to make it applicable for dealing with terrorist forces. This will, unfortunately entail far less consideration for non-combatant populations. But it should be remembered that had the present laws of engagement applied to the Allied Forces in World War II, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan would probably still be on the rampage – unless, because of undue consideration for enemy civilians, the Allies would have capitulated.
How to make the right
It’s the most important thing in our lives
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon,” available through Amazon
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make the right decisions or come to fully rational conclusions all the time? Well, there is a way to do this, at least most of the time. It’s a simple procedure that can be applied to just about any question or problem, big or small, whether it’s about a personal matter, a business issue or an international conflict.
The procedure involves asking ourselves two questions:
1. Necessity? Is there a real necessity for whatever it is that we are considering, why and to what extent is it necessary?
2. What are the disadvantages or possible risks involved?
There are some cases where two other questions should be asked:
1. Are there any moral issues involved?
2. Are there any feasible alternatives?
The order of these questions is not binding and can be changed. But there is one cardinal rule and it is complete honesty throughout the process. Answers to all questions should scrupulously follow all the principles of truthfulness. In order to do this we need to get all the relevant facts as accurately as possible. However, unequivocal answers are not always forthcoming, or some answers that we get are not proven, or they are mere speculation or questionable. All this has to be taken into account throughout the entire process.
To see how this procedure works, let’s take a simple, mundane question that involves most of us. Eggs!
Medical experts tell us that eggs cause high cholesterol that can lead to serious health problems. On the other hand nutritionists say that eggs are a good source of protein, B vitamins and a number of important minerals. Now, let’s assume that I have a great liking for eggs in any form – fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelettes, french toast, egg salad, etc. So, whose advice should I heed? Can I continue eating eggs to my heart’s content, or should I cut down on my egg consumption or avoid eggs altogether? [By the way, this article is not meant to promote or discourage egg consumption. Eggs in this case, merely provide a familiar subject to illustrate the procedure that is necessary if we want to understand how to make sensible decisions.]
So, to get back to our eggs, and the first question: is there a necessity? Well, there seems to be a necessity in the form of our great fondness for egg dishes. Also, eggs provide significant nutritious benefits. All this indicates necessity.
Next, in addressing what disadvantages or health risks there are, we will find a lot of cautionary material by medical experts. We will also find that there are some experts who qualify their cautionary remarks by saying that depending on the person’s medical condition and metabolism, and the conditions of the egg-laying hens, moderate egg consumption can be acceptable. Yippie! So, I check my cholesterol and triglyceride levels and if they are high, this would indicate severely limiting my egg consumption, according to what my physician suggests. However, if my overall levels are low or at a level that is considered acceptable by my doctor (when he takes into consideration my overall physical condition), I should be able to indulge in my fondness for eggs, as long as annual or bi-annual tests keep showing satisfactory levels.
However, in my candid quest for answers, I learn that cholesterol and triglyceride levels are not the only medical factor to be considered. I find that in many places that use modern poultry factory farming methods, hens are crammed into battery cages in large sheds holding hundreds and even thousands of birds under the most insalubrious conditions. Furthermore, the hens are subjected to antibiotics, vaccines and other drugs to prevent disease, hasten maturity and increase egg production. So, another question arises: do such intensive conditions, together with the drugs administered, pose any additional health risks, to which my physician hasn’t seriously related?
I will need to spend quite a lot of additional time studying the subject in depth. But I can save a lot of time by resorting to a technique that is useful whenever we can’t get a clear-cut answer. It’s called the scale of likelihood. It’s a scale grading the validity of any claim or notion, or the chance of something happening – ranging from “definitely” to “probably,” “possibly,” “unlikely” or “definitely not.” So, I can ask myself which adverb on this scale fits our question: “Do the conditions under which egg-laying hens are raised, pose any possible health risks?” If my answer, candidly reached, is “unlikely,” then I might be able to disregard this issue. But if I think that “probably” or “possibly” are more likely conclusions, then I should factor this into my final decision regarding any additional health risks to eating eggs.
However, we should bear in mind that officials and health experts speaking on behalf of the egg producers and any organizations affiliated with them, including even the Agriculture Ministry, will possibly try to assure the public that the eggs are absolutely safe for consumption and provide maximum nutrition. While one shouldn’t immediately suspect people’s level of honesty, we can consider that their statements might be biased and therefore justify double-checking with other sources. With Wikipedia and countless other internet sites, finding all the relevant facts is much easier nowadays than ever before.
The third issue to be taken into consideration is morality. Considering the densely-crowded, cooped-up existence of the hens – unable to move more than a few centimeters or flap their wings or even stand steadily on the wire-mesh floor of their cages, amid the incessant noise and stench of ammonia from their droppings – that is part of their lives, I should ask myself if the hens are kept under conditions that cause them no suffering, or am I unwittingly or cynically, enjoying produce that results from cruelty – possibly in the extreme? It’s a moral question that I should consider or I can choose to ignore. But I should remember that ignoring any relevant fact or factor, is an aspect of dishonesty. It’s dishonest because by ignoring a relevant fact or factor I am distorting a situation. Can I ignore a moral question and still consider myself a decent person?
But even acknowledging the possibility that extreme cruelty is involved here, and if we assume a health risk for me personally, one thing is clear: it’s going to be very hard for me to stop eating eggs because of my fondness for them.
Which brings us to the fourth question on our list. Are there any practical or feasible alternatives? Is there any alternative to battery-cage, factory-farmed produce? The answer is a resounding yes! There are free roam eggs or organic eggs that are laid by hens that are free to strut around the barnyard and peck to their heart’s content. That could solve the question of morality. (Eggs under such conditions are also said to contain less risky ingredients and have more nutritious value. On our scale of likelihood this seems a valid assumption.)
But now another question presents itself – the cost! Free-range and organic eggs can cost about twice as much as factory-farmed eggs produced in battery cages. So, can I afford the extra outlay in money?
Clearly, in order to come to a decent decision I need to weigh up all these factors as honestly as possible – my desire for egg dishes, my health, morality and practicality. I must remember, however, that objectivity, while very important in coming to any conclusion, can sometimes demand a concentrated effort. In this case, my taste buds might impede on my objectivity. In a similar way, a tendency to miserliness, even though my budget might easily afford the extra expense involved in using free-run or organic eggs, could outweigh the other factors regarding health and morality. However, I should be mindful of the fact that by taking all these factors into consideration, I will have a much better chance of making the right decision, regarding my health and – if it’s important for me – my morality. By the way, there are some issues, where it might not be necessary to consider all four issues.
With any decision, the keyword is truthfulness and we should realize that truthfulness means a lot more than not lying to others. Truthfulness means refraining from undue exaggeration or half-truths. It means not indulging in the deliberate disregard of facts and factors that might be relevant to any issue that is being discussed or considered, and It means not kidding ourselves through wishful thinking or denial. There is also the obverse side of falsehood and that is how we relate to what others say to us and the degree of gullibility that we evince.
Clearly, there is a lot more to the subject of truthfulness than what the vast majority of people realize. But following all its principles, can provide us with the key to usually making the right decisions about most things, and generally enabling us to have a less stressful, more successful, happier life.
There’s a short, vitally important addendum to this article: Never before has knowing how to make the right decisions been more important because the future of all humanity depends on more and more people learning this essential lesson. The key, as we have so often said, is truthfulness. And that demands first and foremost, being absolutely honest with ourselves.
Living in Jerusalem for fifty years, I have known quite a few people with a lot more than average talent, but who remained largely unknown to the general public. During my years as the publisher of the monthly “Your Jerusalem,” it was part of my job to follow the endeavors of writers, musicians, actors, artists and people in sports, as they tried to win recognition … and remuneration.
Also, like most people I am familiar with scores and maybe hundreds of famous personalities who became household names, many despite mediocrity. Specifically, I think of those unkempt, quirkily-dressed and tattooed performers who can strum a few chords on a guitar while yelling or croaking crude inanities and shaking their bodies as though possessed by a dybbuk. A large number are hopelessly trapped in drug abuse or alcoholism. Yet many have become immensely rich due to millions of people adulating over their cacophony.
Watching a group of them on TV the other night, I got to thinking about David Herman also known as Ben Reuven. Formerly from England, he’s a song writer, singer, author, poet, publisher, entrepreneur and an activist for a number of causes, who has been living in Jerusalem since 1966.
Actually, the first time I heard David sing I was very dismayed, perhaps even disgusted. It was July or August 1973 and he was standing on the stage at the David Yellin Teachers’ Seminary in Jerusalem. In the audience were about a hundred English language teachers. There he was, a tall, nice-looking young fellow, strumming his guitar and going through a repertoire of songs. He had an unusually fine voice, with perfect timbre that one could imagine angels swooning over. The audience, especially the women, seemed delighted. Later, one of the women said to me, “Gosh, he has such a wonderful persona!”
So, why the dismay and disgust on my part? Well actually, that was my initial reaction. The last thing that David should have been doing was croon away at those teachers. He was my partner in a new publishing venture that was his brainchild – English News, which was a monthly newspaper produced especially for Israeli high school pupils of different grades, written in simplified English with a glossary on each page.
We were about to launch our first issue. I was to handle production and distribution and David looked after sales and promotion. We shared writing and editing duties. He was planning to go around the country and address English teachers at their annual seminars and try to persuade them to subscribe. This was his first such encounter.
However, there he was singing some songs. True, he put on a pretty good show. But I was wondering how on earth he expected to make any sales in this way. Actually, at first, when he had taken to the stage, he had talked briefly about the idea of providing pupils with learning material that would interest them, explaining that it included news, events and developments and articles of special interest to teenagers. His sales pitch was not bad, but instead of closing his presentation with a clinching, persuasive flourish like any decent sales rep, he had reached for his guitar and began that crooning. Then, after he finished singing, to my astonishment, dozens of the teachers crowded around him, some of them adoringly, to order subscriptions for their classes and in some cases entire schools.
By coincidence The Jerusalem Post had launched a similar publication for Israeli pupils at exactly the same time as us. Clearly, they had an enormous advantage over us, with their editorial and administrative staff, printing facilities and promotional infrastructure, while David and I were starting with a ridiculously low investment of about a $100 that was to cover printing of promotional materials, traveling expenses and phone and postage costs. We worked from our respective homes. Amazingly, we broke even with our first edition. It seemed that we would manage to survive even against the formidable opposition of an established publishing house.
However, the day after we picked up the second edition from the printer, disaster struck … for the entire country in the form of the Yom Kippur War. Both of us were enlisted. Hazel, my wife, in between looking after our two small children, kept up the clerical work, dispatch of orders and also typed out articles that I dictated to her from a foxhole in the desert over an army field telephone after midnight every night, and which she would send to the printing firm. (This was long before computers, desk-top publishing and cellular phones.)
I’ll never understand how we managed to survive that tumultuous first year. But somehow, with a tremendous struggle we did. By the end of the second year, David had drummed up over a whopping 25,000 subscriptions! The Jerusalem Post, as far as I know didn’t come close to that number of subscribers, and despite all its huge advantages over us, stopped their school publications for a few years.
David and I remained partners for over two years before I sold out my share. Over the years we have stayed in touch. David subsequently worked under the name of “Good Times,” publishing a set of simplified English newspapers for the lower grades. He also published a version in Arabic for Jewish students, which was probably the best way to make their Arabic studies more interesting.
Very few people realize that over the years, David reached hundreds of thousands of Israeli pupils all over the country and undoubtedly had an influence on their lives through his educational publications. He also published a series of ten Hebrew booklets by Dr. Adam Ackerman dealing with Jewish and Israel history.
Always on the lookout to promote new talent, in 1978 he discovered a 15-year-old kid, Uri Fink, and published the well-known Sabraman comics in Hebrew and English. He hopes that eventually the Sabraman stories will be produced as an animated film. Meanwhile, Uri Fink went on to become one of Israel’s premier cartoonists.
A poet in his own right (see poem below), David published a collection of stories and poems by Israeli writers in English in Israel called Shalom We Are Here, giving an opportunity to many talented but unpublished writers to reach the general public. He also published a compilation of letters by Israeli pupils called Why I Love Israel and wrote two novels, Bestseller and The Golden Eggs of Sacramontes.
Concerned about historical justice, David founded the Raoul Wallenberg Jerusalem Committee in the 1980s, and organized demonstrations calling for his release from the Gulag and sending petitions to the Kremlin leaders. He also wrote a series of songs about Wallenberg and other Holocaust rescuers, which appears on the CD Beacons in the Dark. On the centennial of Wallenberg’s birth (4 August 1912), he organized a large event at the Jerusalem AACI, which included a moving message from his niece Louise von Dardel.
Here is a link to a song that David wrote and recorded in honor of Raoul Wallenberg in 1988.
Another prisoner for whom David has written a song is Jonathan Pollard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcuw55fCrww&feature=related
Altogether David has put 37 of his songs on the Youtube, some together with an old friend and song-writer Mike Graff and almost all produced by Yaacov Goldman. Three years ago (2009) he appeared on Kochav Nolad (Israeli version of American Idol), with two of his songs Jerusalem Rock and Ciao Ciao Christopher Columbus. David was easily as good as any of the other contestants, but the judges, while full of praise and admiration, didn’t quite know how to relate to the elderly, bearded, kippa-wearing, fellow with a bright English smile, singing in his mother-tongue. So he didn’t make it to the finals. The judges apologized.
Not a man to readily submit to relegation, David organized his own song festival, especially for English speaking performers. The result of his efforts was the IsraPop Anglo Song Festival.
David Herman, who sings in Hebrew, English, French, Spanish and Ladino, describes his music style as “Afro-Hasidic,” because he mixes traditional Hasidic tunes with African beats. He has a wide range of styles in mind for the future, including rock, country, protest songs, blues, ballads and Broadway pieces.
David earned a degree in modern languages at Cambridge University and specialized in French and Spanish. He was chairman of the University Israel Society. Coming to Israel in 1966, shortly after marrying, he was one of the first residents in Jerusalem’s Abraham Stern Street, where he lived for the first few years and where we launched English News together. Today he makes a living through translating. Here is one of his poems.
TO THE LEADERS FROM THE PEOPLE
Written a few days before the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia
You’ve had your fun with missile and gun
Since history began to pursue man
With a daily dose of death,
And now this game must end
Or life will.
Give us at least a prospect of peace
At the close of the twentieth century,
Give us nights that are nightmare-free
And days for being happy
Just to live.
Give us respite from the armory of death
From armies that disintegrate,
From the beast of conquest,
From the agony of the maimed,
From the threat to existence.
Give us the chance to know what life means
Far from the fear of dying;
Lead us not to annihilation.
Ban forever the sacrifice of man,
For you can.
If you do not, be warned:
The people will rise and unite.
In their will for peace
They’ll shatter the shadows of death.
Because they are sick to the quick
Of slaughter for causes
That cause greater conflict.
They are sick of the names
They are told do them good,
Of the “isms” that are schisms,
Of the slogans that end in mass murder.
Be warned. We do not need you
Unless you fight for peace.
We are not children to be led
Blindly to massacre. Victory is
An empty word except
When it means Humanity.
There is one side now- Mankind.
Be kind to Man
At the close of the twentieth century,
Or Man, the Mother, Father and Child,
Shall find a way to have his say
And impose Peace and depose Death.
Speak for us, leaders. You know
Where we stand, so understand.
Remove the blocs that block the path
And give us Peace today, not tomorrow
For we are tired of waiting.
Speak, leaders, speak in our name
For Mankind is one
In its cry for Peace
For peace on earth
At the close of the twentieth century.
Copyright David Herman, Jerusalem, August 1968
The leaders have not learnt
Or heard the peoples’ ceaseless cry for Peace
Deaf to their pleas
Blind to the brutal lessons of recent history
And mankind’s blood-bespattered past
They still pursue power’s vainglory
They still amass death’s lethal weaponry
To better outgun their bitter foes
Oblivious to the welfare of mankind
And man’s future existence
On Planet Earth
Which their futile domination quests
May easily destroy
When will they learn, our leaders,
What their peoples so clearly see,
That in this our fragile earthly existence
There is but one ideology that really counts
The ideology of Humanity!
Oh Lord, Leader of Leaders,
When will the voice of the ordinary people
At last be heeded by the leaders
By the millions sick to the death of history’s carnage
Yearning to live lives of peace undisturbed
In Your world of the 21st century?
Completed August 2012
David Herman: email@example.com
The fanatics have always
A friend send me a very interesting e-mail the other day. It’s an article called “A German’s view on Islam,” and whose authorship is not known for certain, so I refrain from mentioning the assumed writer’s name. I have taken the liberty of renaming the article and have posted it because it is so important.
– Ralph (Rafi) Dobrin
A man, whose family belonged to the German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. “Very few people were true Nazis,” he said. “But many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.”
We are told again and again by pundits that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Allah.
The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.
The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the “silent majority,” is cowed and irrelevant.
Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority was irrelevant. China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.
And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were “peace loving?”
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:
Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.
Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.
Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts – the fanatics who threaten our way of life.
Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world-wide, read this and think about it, and send it on before it’s too late.
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