Video: Young Cosmopolitan Israelis Share Their Shocking Racist Views
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Can they still claim that clean-cut students at Tel Aviv University were "the wrong crowd?" Was filming during the afternoon, or during the evening at an officially sanctioned festival still "the wrong time?" And could I have heard similarly racist opinions in "an American college town," as Hartman suggested? Perhaps for my next video I should ask frat brothers at South Dakota University if they would like their Native American classmates to be jailed for three years for observing the massacre of Wounded Knee. Or I could ask Anglo students at the University of Texas, located in Hartman's hometown, if they want the US government to round up every single Latino student on campus -- especially those who are US citizens -- and deport them to somewhere south of the border. Call me an idealist, but for some reason I don't think this project would go anywhere.
If Hartman chooses to review the sequel, I hope he will explain how he has so stringently avoided any exposure to the crude racism, bellicose nationalism and anti-democratic sentiments I heard expressed on a daily basis by young, seemingly cosmopolitan Jewish Israelis during the month I spent living in the so-called "bubble city" of Tel Aviv. Or perhaps Hartman has been exposed to it, but believes racism in Tel Aviv must be concealed from the goyim to avoid tribal humiliation. Harvard University Yiddish literature professor Ruth Wisse has promoted this mentality, telling a group of young Jewish journalists in 2007 that they should not act as independent-minded critics but rather as "soldiers" for Israel, "armed with pens instead of Uzis,' as Eric Alterman recalled.
Gershom Gorenberg, the writer American opinion pages so often turn to for a supposedly progressive Israeli perspective, attacked "Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem" as "an argument for old media," claiming the video did not pass journalistic muster because I didn't interview enough "real" Israelis. Have I now met Gorenberg's threshold for Israeli interview subjects? If Gorenberg, who recently took to the pages of the neocon Weekly Standard to pontificate on "The Missing Mahatma" in Palestine, has any further advice on improving my reporting chops, I hope he will help readers locate the Israeli Gandhi as well. He can start with the Tel Aviv U student who confused Martin Luther King with Rodney King, then proceeded to mock MLK's optimistic philosophy.
Uncomfortable as is may be for many to confront, Israeli resentment of Arabs, minorities and designated foreign enemies ranging from the Iranian people to Barack Obama is not a phenomenon exclusive to the denizens of fanatical settlements in the West Bank. The trend now hovers well above the surface in the mainstream of Israeli society, including throughout Tel Aviv. It is reflected most apparently in the almost total national support for Israel's brutal, maximalist war on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip in December 2008, the subsequent election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ascent of Avigdor Lieberman and his proto-fascist Yisrael Beiteynu party.
It is also reflected in unreported daily indignities against members of the country's Arab population, like the detention and interrogation I witnessed in the Florentin district of two Palestinian Israeli men by Tel Aviv police officers. Their crime, I learned, was speaking Arabic on a city bus. "The police are always on my dick," one of the men told me after he was released. "But that's what it's like being Palestinian in Tel Aviv, so I've gotten used to it."
The proposed bills that have flooded the Knesset since the election which seek to criminalize the speech of Palestinian Israelis and demand they make loyalty oaths under threat of deportation, along with the constant raids and repressive actions by Israeli authorities against anti-occupation activists, reveal a country careening rapidly and perhaps irrevocably towards authoritarianism. Just as Hamas reflects the genuine national aspirations of Palestinians, the far-right coalition government of Israel embodies the mood of Israeli society. This is not a momentary aberration.