A tale of two countries

These are two of today’s headlines, one about Israel, a Jewish country; and one about Yemen, a Muslim country. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. First, from Israel:

The Israel government has voted to appoint an Arab Muslim to the cabinet – for the first time in the history of the Jewish state.

Raleb Majadele from the Labour Party will be minister without portfolio.

Mr Majadele, aged 53, said his appointment would give Israeli Arabs a sense of belonging.

Labour Party leader Amir Peretz said it was an historic step towards equality for Israeli Arabs, who make up about 20% of Israel’s population.

All Israeli cabinet ministers – except for the ultra-nationalist Minister of Strategic Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman – voted in favour of Mr Majadele’s appointment.

And second, from Yemen:

Forty-five Jewish people in Yemen have taken refuge in a hotel in northern Yemen after receiving death threats from Muslim extremists.

The group fled their village 10 days ago when they were confronted by masked radical Islamist gunmen.

The minority community has followed a traditional way of life in the village of Salem for centuries.

But, earlier this month, the Salem Jews received a letter accusing them of spreading vice and corruption.

The message was clear – the Jews must leave the country or lose their lives.

UPDATE: Writing at Seraphic Secret, Robert Avrech explains everything you need to know about those poor Yemeni Jews, about the fact that the Arab world has achieved the Nazi dream of being Jew free, and about the liberal response to this ethnic purge. It’s sad, important reading.

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  • John Hetman

    Good post, Bookworm, but you can point out that there is a downpour and still a large group of well-educated people will continue to refuse to open their umbrellas because they “know” better.

  • greg

    It’s all so simple in your world, isn’t Bookworm? … I hope the following (from January 9, 2007) doesn’t cause you to burst a cerebral blood vessel, what with the muddying reality of contrasting data being such a problem for those, such as yourself, who reflexively embrace a position of identity politics:


    I’ll quote the last paragraph: “75 percent of Arab students [living in Israel] showed willingness to meet with Jewish students as opposed to less than 50 percent willingness amongst Jewish students.”

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Thank you for directing that to my attention, Greg. I hadn’t been aware of that study. A couple of things that may contribute to that study. You have to read down, but it’s apparent that the study looks only at Israeli Arabs, not at all Arabs. It’s a no brainer that the outcome would have been vastly different had the poll examined Arabs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. It speaks well, actually, for Israel at large that her minority Arab population thinks well of Jews.

    Yes, it is disturbing that the Jews do not think well of the Arabs, but there are some unspoken facts that may affect the results. I haven’t been in Israel in many years, but I can tell you that, when I was there, you could instantly distinguish the Israeli Arab communities from the Jewish communities: the houses in the former were less well cared for than in the latter. It’s not a value thing, it’s a fact. In San Francisco, you can pick out Chinese owned houses fairly easily because they, too, are less well cared for it. Same on the French/Swiss border. The French houses have dead flowers, dead grass, and dead cars; the Swiss houses, mere feet away, are immaculate. These are visible cultural differences that will affect how one group views the other.

    Considering the fact that Arab students have also been known to be stylishly accoutred in exploding clothes, that too may account for a visceral fear Jewish young people have about coming into too close contact with their Arab compatriots.

    One other thing. What people think of each other and what they do are two different things. Jews may be leery of their Arab citizens, but they accord them full rights. Arabs, on the other hand, just kill or, in the best cases, evict their Jews. So, while the study you brought to my attention is very interesting, it has nothing to do with the subject of my post.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Very apt and well explained, Book.

  • http://mikesamerica.blogspot.com Mike’s America

    Greg: I wonder what the results would be if they took a poll of Arab students in the Gaza Strip?

    A bit off topic, but today I am reminded that more than six months have passed since both Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists violated multiple peace accords and UN resolutions, invaded Israel, killed and wounded IDF soldiers, kidnapped three and started a war which they both used for propaganda value?

    And of course, still no enforcement of UN resolution 1701 requiring unconditional return of the kidnapped soldiers and disarmament of Hezbollah.

    People wonder why these things keep happening in the Middle East?

  • greg

    “So, while the study you brought to my attention is very interesting, it has nothing to do with the subject of my post.”

    Exactly. Your post was about your embrace of your identity politics, a thing which you — in true Bookworm fashion — castigate others for doing.

  • Deana

    Greg –

    While it is certainly sad that the Jewish and Arab Israeli students feel this way, I would argue that most, if not all, of the Jewish Israeli students’ beliefs are grounded largely in reality.

    For example, the article says that 75 percent of Jewish students believe that Arabs are uneducated people whereas 25 percent of the Arab youth believe that Jews are the uneducated ones.

    Of course, it is easy to read this and come away with the impression that Jewish students are closed minded, quick to stereotype, and apparently unwilling to acknowledge something positive in Arabs, whereas the Arab students are much less likely to engage in stereotyping and significantly more willing to acknowledge achievements such as education in the Israeli students.

    The problem, Greg, is that there is some contrasting data that sort of “muddies” that impression.

    A couple of years ago, a study was conducted which found the following.

    In the Arab world:

    – Readership of books is limited, education dictates submission rather than critical thought, and the Arabic language is in a state of crisis.

    – A best selling novel sells on average only 5000 copies compared to hundreds of thousands elsewhere.

    – The usual print run for novels ranges from a meager 1000 to 3000 copies.

    – The number of books published in the Arab world does not exceed 1.1% of world production though Arabs constitute 5% of the world population.

    – Official educational curricula breeds submission, obedience, subordination and compliance rather than free critical thinking.

    – Fewer than one in 20 Arab university students are pursuing scientific disciplines, compared to one in five in South Korea.

    And, my personal favorite:

    No more than 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic over the ENTIRE millennium, equivalent to the number translated EVERY YEAR into Spanish.

    The name of the study?
    The Arab Human Development Report 2003

    Who did this study?
    The United Nations

    And where is this information published on the web?
    AlJazeera.net, sourced by Reuters.

    Here is the link:


    Greg, the Jewish Israeli students referenced in that study you cite simply acknowledge what is a cold, hard, fact and it isn’t that Arabs are not intelligent. It’s that the Arab world, as a whole, is suffering grievously from the lack of proper education and we are seeing the results of that on a daily basis.

    As for the Arab students, they also simply stated what is fact: In general, the Jewish people value education and go to great lengths not only to provide educational opportunities for their children and other citizens, but also insist on a high standard of excellence.

    Greg, those Arab students are not stupid. They are smart and they know that Israel has the highest literacy rate in the Middle East and one of the highest in the world and that approximately 1 out of every 4 people in the Israeli work force hold university degrees, placing Israel right up there with the U.S. and Holland.

    I would say to you in closing, Greg, that those Arab Israeli students have been given a gift. Their situation is not necessarily perfect but they have an opportunity in Israel to achieve what their Arab brothers and sisters could never dream to achieve in Arab countries. Israel, imperfect as it may be, grants these Arab Israeli students rights, protections, and opportunities that others in the Arab world will never get . . . particularly if you happen to be a Jew in Yemen.


  • Deana

    And, for what it’s worth, Greg, since you seem to be convinced that anyone who appreciates the point of Bookworm’s post is someone who “embraces” identity politics, I’m not Jewish. I’ve never even been to Israel. So if you have any commentary on my posting, you can go ahead and skip the charge that I’m engaging in “identity politics.”


  • Danny Lemieux

    Actually, to pile on…we could mention that Arab students from outside of Israel risk being killed for meeting with Israelis, whereas Israeli students live under no such liabilities. I remember when, as a college student in the U.S., I criticized Israel for something that Israel had done in Lebanon to a Libyan friend: he smiled, looked around carefully, and whispered, “you know, most of us would love to live in a democracy like Israel”. I have since learned that Israel has many secret admirers in the Arab Middle-East. I could also recount the absolute terror that I saw in the eyes of an Iraqi friend (during the 1970s) when he discovered that a friend that I introduced to him was Jewish, as the campus had Iraqi spies that reported on the activities of Iraqi students. So, Greg, with all due respect…get yourself a dose of reality about what life in the Middle East is really about before throwing around silly moral judgements.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Exactly. Your post was about your embrace of your identity politics, a thing which you

  • greg

    Oh dear, Deana, you are a confused thing. As hard as it might be for you to hear this (demonization always being easier to practice than diplomacy), you must: The veracity of you data is not the point. Not even for a second. Concord comes (in part) from the mutual acknowledgment that those who were displaced from Nablus are never going home.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Greg is very useful as a springboard for testing whether your beliefs have shortcircuits in them. If Greg sides with you and attacks what you attack, then you almost are required to question whether you should really be attacking the common target.

    Of course you don’t want to limit your allies to Greg’s enemies, given his ignorance you might find yourself short of allies, however it is a pretty safe bet that whoever Greg sees as a confused thing, or other demonized stereotype, is a very good ally for classical liberals like Book and Deana.

    Neo from NNCon might say this of Greg. That he is the perfect example of why he is wrong, and you almost don’t need a refuttal for greg’s statements, his statements alone almost accomplish that magnificent feat.

  • Deana

    Greg –

    If you truly believe what you just said, that the veracity of data is not the point, then why did you bother to cite the article with the contrasting data in the first place?

    Why did you take the time to quote the data about how 75% of Arab students [living in Israel] showed willingness to meet with Jewish students as opposed to less than 50 percent willingness amongst Jewish students?


    Also, it isn’t my data. It’s the UN’s.

  • Deana

    Why, thank you, Ymarsakar!

    I’m still trying to figure out how Greg’s comment to Bookworm about her bursting a cerebral blood vessel can be called “diplomacy” while my citing the results of a U.N. study can be called “demonization.”

  • greg

    No worries, Deana. In your mind it’s *all* settled … in Nablus, Hebron, Yata … so, what you worry? PLENTY. But yours is the flawed logic that identity politics fosters, as Bookworm would be the first to tell you (as she endlessly tells others).

  • Deana


    In Bookworm’s post, she highlights an article that discusses how one state, which is overwhelmingly Jewish, voted in a democratic process to install an Arab Muslim Israeli to its cabinet.

    The second article discusses how a second state, one that is almost exclusively Arab Muslim, has made a non-democratic decision to threaten one of their religious minorities with guns.

    Now, in which of these two states has the population exhibited the tendency to engage in “identity politics?”


  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    Greg is not a real person. He’s just someone BW made up and uses on this site to stiumlate and challenge the rest of us. I know this because nobody can be that obstinate when faced with simple facts and logic.

  • Deana

    Snicker-snicker! Now, that’s a good one, Judy!

  • Deana

    All right, Greg, I’ll throw you a bone here, and tell you right up front that I’m about to engage in a little bit of identity . . . humor!

    Here goes:

    Two Arabs boarded a shuttle out of Washington for New York. One sat in the window seat, the other in the middle seat. Just before take-off, a fat, little Jewish guy got on and took the aisle seat next to the Arabs. He kicked off his shoes, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, “I think I’ll go up and get a coke.”

    “Don’t worry about it,” said the Jew. “I’ll get it for you.” While he is gone the Arab picks up the Jew’s shoe and spits in it.

    The Jew brought back the coke, when the other Arab said, “That looks good. Think I’ll have one too.”

    Again, the Jew obligingly goes to fetch it, and while he is gone the Arab picks up the other shoe and spits in it.

    The Jew returns with the coke, and they all sit back and enjoy the short flight. When the plane was landing the Jew slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.

    “How long must this go on?” he asked. “This enmity between our peoples…this hatred… this spitting in shoes…and blowing noses in Cokes?”

    Baa-haa-haa!!! I love that! Yeah, I got it off the web and it’s an old one but a good one, if you don’t mind laughing every once in awhile . . .

    Take care, all! Many blessings to all. You too, Greg.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Maybe that’s why Greg is constitutionally incapable of posting (even when he is linking to actual data) without insulting. The more he is proven wrong, the more strident his insults become.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I am still trying to figure out what Greg was saying about identity politics in Nablus and Hebron. Was he referring to the Christian Arabs that the Muslims are driving out? Just asking.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar


  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Even if Greg feels tortured by your comments, Deana, know that they are not without merit to people like me.


  • greg

    I see Don’s still smarting from having been shown wrong, back on that education thread.

  • greg

    Hey Book, check it out: Israel and its Arab citizens (the ones not expelled from the country, back in the day):


  • Don Quixote

    Greg, if you think I was shown wrong on that thread (in anything but your own mind) you are sadly mistaken. Anyway, how about, just for a month, posting extensively on this blog without a single personal, ad hominem, attack? I promise for that same month I won’t launch an attack on any public school teachers, even Bookworm’s, no matter how well deserved. That’s what you were asking Bookworm to do, right?

  • greg

    A request you’re making of all of Book’s contributors? Or is this an example of DQ’s famous asymmetric administration, where, huh, only one class of contributors requires oversight.

  • BigAL

    DQ, I’d have to agree with Greg when it comes to you talking about personal attacks…you seem to only be concerned with personal attacks made against you or the views you agree with. I say stop the hypocrisy and continue saying what you feel. It’s all personal.

  • Don Quixote

    Hi BigAl,

    Absolutely not true. I’ve asked people of all political views, agreeing and disagreeing with mine, to refrain from personal attacks. My continuing problem with Greg is that nearly all of his posts are such attacks. I can’t think of anyone else who posts comments to this blog, from whatever viewpoint, who so consistently uses personal attacks as a substitute for reasoned discourse.

    Name-calling is unhealthy, no matter who does it, cheapens the discourse and makes it less likely anything positive will come of it.

    Hi Greg,

    Your charge is untrue, as several conservatives who post here can testify to. As to the specific suggestion, I made it in response to your specific suggestion as to how Bookworm, as an individual, should conduct herself regarding teachers, so, yes, it was an individual suggestion.

    Are you asking Bookworm to do something you, yourself, would not do? There is an asymmetry here, but it is between the standard you set for those you disagree with and the standard you set for yourself. Limit yourself to the behavior you would find acceptable in your adversaries and you (and all of us) will be better off.

  • greg

    Type in caps all you want, Big Al.

    Don’s problem is that he fails to recognize any differences in communicative possibilities of different interactive venues. Fact is, a blog’s capacity for interactive dialogue inherently differs from that of a forum, and as a result, snarking reigns in a blog’s comment section but can be successfully — and productively — moderated in a forum. Which is NOT to suggest that a blog’s comment section precludes any exchange of valuable information — it’s just of a different sort (as compared with the interlaced exchanges that are possible in a forum). If we take this thread itself as an example of effective “blog dialogue,” we should, first off, hear and acknowledge Deana’s earnest voice, and from there, we should take note of Danny’s orthogonal reference to the plight of the (wildest beasts in all of the Middle East conundrum) Arab Christians. In fact, in this thread, Bookworm’s original post has sparked a productive and successful exchange of views (by the liberal standards of “blog dialogue”). Furthermore, I suggest that the comments posted here covered more ground in a shorter amount of time — and with fewer total posts — than would be typical in a forum (a bit of a stretch there, but I’ll stick my neck out). Problem is, you gotta know how to read the electrons before eyes, which Don seems to have a problem with, although I’m confident he can learn.

  • greg

    Oh, and Don? You administer different points-of-view differently. Trust me on this one. And stand down from your high road.

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    I love your suggestion, Judyrose (17), but I’m not clever enough to have made him up.

    I’m also not very good at parody and, Greg, you are beginning to sound remarkably like a parody of someone who is oppositional, not because he has anything useful to add to the debate, but simply to get other people’s hackles up. My readers are an intelligent bunch and are willing and able to take you on, God bless them, but I’m not. I very quickly find your polemics confusing, contradictory, irrelevant and mean-spirited, so you’ll pardon me if I leave you to the tender mercies of my readers and don’t address your incomprehensible (to me) points.

  • greg

    You’re a peach, Book.

  • Zhombre

    I still subscribe to the theory that Greg is a rogue computer program, like the agents in the Matrix movies, programmed to spew out argumentative and incomprehensible posts. If one looks closely at the phrases he puts out, it’s obvious they are not human in origin. They are examples of bad academic and technical jargon that remind of Gertude Stein’s Oakland: there is no there there.

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    Zhombre, maybe that’s what he is. I had the right idea, anyway. NOT REAL (= not worth bothering with)

  • greg

    Zhombre’s just jealous because no one recognizes his unusual speculations about puppets as being inspired, let alone in a league with the innovations of Ms. Stein. I won’t repeat his words here, but trust me, you don’t want to know.

  • Zhombre

    I’m truly abashed now.


  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Hi Greg,

    Re: 31 you could be right. I may recognize sniping more quickly from the left than the right and I certainly will admit to being somewhat protective of Bookworm, who is, after all, a personal friend (and nothing like you routinely accuse her of being, trust me). I do strive for the high ground of perfect fairness but, like everybody else, I’m human and doubtless fail sometimes.

    Of course, as for you personally, since you choose to include an insult in nearly every post, you’re fair game for my criticism any time. True, it doesn’t seem to do much good, you just go right on insulting. As long as you keep it clean, I’m pretty sure Bookworm won’t ban you but we’d all be better off if you insulted less and dialogued more.

    Your distinction between blogs and forums is valid to a point, but there is no reason snarking should reign even in a blog comment section. My goal is to ensure snarking doesn’t reign on this one.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    I don’t feel loved anymore. Greg attacks everyone but me… I feel left out. *pout*

    I very quickly find your polemics confusing, contradictory, irrelevant and mean-spirited, so you

  • greg

    Don, defending an unworthy friend is always commendable. I’m sorry that Book operates on a plane less elevated than yours and that you are oblivious to that. But your defense is honest, and we should all be fortunate enough to have a friend like you.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Hye greg, pass me the Bong.

  • Don Quixote

    The part you don’t get, Greg, is that Bookworm is a most worthy and admirable friend (as you would know if you knew her away from this blog as I do).

  • Lulu

    Give up folks! Facts don’t convince him, logic doesn’t convince, opposing viewpoints are scoffed at and mocked. Forget it. Unless you enjoy responding because it makes your thoughts more organized, or you enjoy a good argument, and maybe that’s what Greg is good for, he helps one defend and articulate positions, so thanks Greg, but otherwise- he cannot, WILL not, be convinced. It’s either willful blindness or pathology, and logic won’t change a darn thing.

    So, while amusing to read your comments, I am with Bookworm, I’d rather ignore the irritant than pay attention to it. Don, don’t take him personally.