Monday, January 9, 2012

The Only (Russian) Democracy in the Middle East

Subscribers: please click here to see this video, if you can't get to it from your mail.

If you are in a hurry, fast-forward to 1:25.

UPDATE: The Ethics Knesset sanctioned MK Michaeli by banned her from the Knesset for a month. After she expressed pride over the incident, she formally apologized last night. What got her so riled? If you look at tape, you see it was MK Majadele shouting "You shut up!" when she interrupted him. This deeply offended her, and she responded by saying that one doesn't talk in this manner to a female MK, and that she would take it up with Ethics Committee -- the same Ethics committee that subsequently banned her. Of course Majadele yelled, "You shut up!" because he was deeply offended; he saw her remarks not simply as a typical Knesset interruption, but as an affront to all Israeli Arabs, who have been silenced, or not listened to.

How true Maimonides' statement, "One should be offended rather than give offense."

This incident today in the Knesset parliamentary Education Committee probably won't make the mainstream media outside of Israel, or hasn't yet.  Will it be shown in America? Sometimes MSNBC's nightly line-up needs some relief from talking heads on Mitt Romney, and they show parliaments from the Far East, or the Former Soviet Union, engaging in fist-fights. It's cute, and it reminds us in America how far we are from that.

So we have MK Anastasia Michaeli, a blond Russian-born settler in Israel, a gentile who became eligible to become a citizen of a modern state after a religious conversion, and is now a member of the ultra-nationalist Russian Jewish party, Yisrael Beitienu, who stands up,  calmly pours a glass or water, and then throws it at Palestinian Israeli  MK Raleb Majadele, a member of Labor, no less. There had been the usual heated words before that, as the Russian settler kept on interrupting the Palestinian Israeli's speach, while the chairperson  of the Parliamentary committee, a fellow Russian-born ultra-nationalist, Alex Miller, looked on.

Folks, this is Israel today. Were there to be a two-state solution next week, were there to be a viable Palestinian state tomorrow, were the problems of the Palestinian refugees solved, the fundamental problem of Israel would not be solved. And what is that problem?

Simply put: A religio-ethnic-exclusivist Zionism that privileges, inter alia,  ultra-Russian nationalist religious converts to Judaism, with automatic rights to citizenship, over native Palestinians. And it was always like this.  Look at the first four prime ministers of the State of Israel: David Grun, Moshe Shertock, Levi Shkolnik, and Golda Meyerson -- all natives of the Russian Empire. They certainly had better manners than some of the Yisrael Beiteinu members of parliament today -- but the former weren't any less Russian and ultra-nationalistic than the latter.

Ah, the beauty of Israeli democracy,,,the indigenous natives are given the vote, and the political power to have water thrown at them.

The news cycle for this story in Israel lasted a few hours. That's all.

And yet...look at the dignity and restraint with which Majadale responds:

"Mr. Chairman, that says everything. It’s a pity that she is in your faction. I am certain that you do not agree with such wild, audacious, fascistic behavior. But I tell you, I am not even upset. It’s predicatable. I tell you. We will go to the Ethics Committee, and we shall call her to order."

Reminds me of another civil rights movement....but that wasn't played out in the US House of Representatives.

Here's some of the background, courtesy of Haaretz

MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu) poured a cup of water on her colleague MK Raleb Majadele (Labor) during an argument that ensued between the two at a heated Knesset Education Committee debate on Monday morning.

The argument erupted after MK Danny Danon (Likud) called for the retrenchment of the principal of a school in the Negev town of Arara, who took students on a human rights march held in Tel Aviv last month. The Knesset discussion was held following a Haaretz report that the Education Ministry reprimanded the Israeli-Arab high school.

"You are marching against the state," Michaeli shouted at Majadele, who answered back, "shut up." He then added that, "She won't shut me up. This is not Yisrael Beiteinu. The issue of fascism won't stop here – I intend on taking this debate to other Muslims who will serve as an example for the State of Israel… Fascism will not be allowed to take over the house." Michaeli replied that "It is disrespectful to the status of women in the Knesset. We will discuss the matter in the Ethics Committee."

At a certain point in the argument, as it appeared that Michaeli was about to leave the room to calm down, she poured a cup of water and threw the contents at Majadele. Following that, she left the room with fury.

Majadele turned to Committee Chairperson, MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), and said, "That says it all. I'm sure you wouldn't condone such wild and fascist behavior. I'm telling you, I'm excited. This is predictable.

We'll take this matter to the Ethics Committee and we'll call her to order."


pabelmont said...

Jerry, it was just water, for goodness sake, just water. However, I daresay you're thinking ahead, with: "Just you white, Henry Higgins, just you white."

Some ethical Jews of pleasant disposition who live in Israel [I do not] must at least daily ask themselves what Jews living in,say, Austria in 1930s must have asked themselves: do I need to pack my suitcases? should my money be in whole or in part in foreign banks? Others must be learning sumud [keeping on keeping on] from the Palestinians.

Jerry Haber said...


Indeed, it was just water, and not even hot water.

Wouldn't it be a more appropriate analogy to compare good Jews with good Germans in the 1930s? Nobody is throwing water at me.

You have no idea how apt the reference to Higgins is. If you contact me off-blog, I will tell you why.

Devir said...

It shows you love Israel ( as you should ) but you put honesty above all, and I praise you for that.
And I thought politics in Portugal and in the European Parliament were "complicated", to say the least...