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April 08, 1988 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-08

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Fifth Column

Continued from Page 2

that there are no Israelis in
Israel, in the sense that there
are Americans in the United
States and that the State of
Israel has not been established
yet. The Israeli Declaration of
Independence (May 14, 1948),
which so far has had a
semiconstitutional status in
Israel, did not open with the
sentence: "We, the People of
Israel," but rather declared "the
establishment of a Jewish state
in Eretz-Israel, to be known as
the State of Israel."
The Jewish state, in a whim-
sically ardent moment, promis-
ed "complete equality of social
and political rights to all its in-
habitants, irrespective of
religion, race or sex:' And to cap
it all, it promised them a con-
stitution "not later than the 1st
October, 1948P
Forty years later there are
still no Israelis in the non-
constitutional Israel. The rubric
of "nationality" (in Hebrew
Leom) on Israeli identity cards
reads either "Jew" or "Arab."
The two words "Israeli na-
tionality" do not exist in any of-
ficial document of the State of
Israel; like the Soviet Union, it is
a country where nationality
does not coincide with citizen-
ship. You can be an Arab citizen
of the state (otherwise referred
to as a Green Liner) and carry
an Israeli passport that says
"Israeli citizenship" on its front
page; but you are not defined as
an Israeli by nationality (neither
are your fellow Jewish citizens;
but they, of course, monopolis-
tically call themselves "Israelis).
So when the Israeli Arabs
went on strike in solidarity with
the Palestinian people, they
were acting, if we look at it from
this angle, in complete accor-
dance with the official policy of
the State of Israel, which has
consistently considered them a
"national minority," or even as
Palestinians.
There is no joy to be derived from
such opinions, and the quest for peace
can hardly be helped by such impres-
sions by a writer who has a reading au-
dience in Israel, no matter what the
status of the magazine in which he does
the columning. But at the University of
Michigan he commands influence in a
Near Eastern department. That source
had previously served to prejudice peo-
ple against Zionism, and the menacing
public relations conditions thereby
become more poisonous.
So also is the approach to the issue
of David Grossman in The Yellow Wind
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The ex-
periences of Arabs who are antagonistic
to Israel quoted by Grossman must not
be overlooked. Knowing them should
help assure an understanding of all
prevailing conditions. But they add to
the seriousness of the mounting con-
cerns. They add to the fears that Israeli
Arabs are developing into a destructive
Fifth Column.
The title of Grossman's book is
based on an Arab legendary sentiment

\

as

FRIDAY. APRIL 8. 1988

which may in itself be a most depress-
ing warning to Jews living in Israel.
Quoting an Arab he was interviewing,
he explains the title:
We stand and look together
over the beautiful and peaceful
valley, and the smoke from the
straw fires curls up into the air,
and the thistles and wildflowers
bloom as far as one can see. Now
is the time of the yellow flowers.
I tell Abu Harb that I called
my book The Yellow Time in
Hebrew, and he asks me if I have
heard about the yellow wind. I
say that I haven't, so he begins
telling me about it, and about
the yellow wind that will soon
come, maybe even in his lifetime:
the wind will come from the gate
of Hell (from the gates of
Paradise comes only a pleasant,
cool wind) — rih asfar, it is
called by the local Arabs, a hot
and terrible east wind which
comes once in a few generations,
sets the world afire, and people
seek shelter from its heat in the
caves and caverns, but even
there it finds those it seeks,
those who have performed cruel
and unjust deeds, and there, in
the cracks in the boulders, it ex-
terminates them, one by one.
After that day, Abu Harb
says, the land will be covered
with bodies. The rocks will be
white from the heat, and the
mountains will crumble into a
powder which will cover the
land like yellow cotton.
Is this an apocalyptic warning that
there will be total destruction?
Grossman's The Yellow Wind first
appeared in two articles in the New
Yorker. The rock-hurling was soon to
come. Yet the book was like a prophecy
of evil to come, that had already
accumulated.
Sometimes mere suggestions im-
plied in criticisms create difficulties.
This was the case with a review of the
Grossman book in the Detroit Free
Press. Topping that review was the
reproduction of a hate-inspiring photo
showing Arab women protesting Israeli
policies as they are interpreted in this
book in the views and judgments of the
Arabs. The photo caption reads: "Out-
side an Israeli prison, Palestinian
women plead for information about
their loved ones. The Yellow Wind
shows the blurred distinction between
who is right and who is wrong in the
conflict between Jews and Arabs."
This photo appeared at least once
before in the Free Press. Its application
to a book about Israel immediately sug-
gests some form of prejudiced opinion.
Grossman's views must be taken
seriously, even as the prophet of doom.
He provides a warning of things to come
and he wrote it before the violence,
declaring:

In another 13 years there
will be two million Arabs under
Israeli rule in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. In 2010. Their
number will equal ours.
There are those who say it is
possible to continue on in this
way for years. That over the

years the "fabric of life" (mutual
acquaintance, economic links,
and so on) will overcome enmi-
ty. That is idiocy, and reality pro-
ves it even now As long as the
present "fabric of life" con-
tinues, it is wrapped around an
iron fist of hate and revenge.
The argument based on the
"fabric of life," which now seems
sober, pragmatic, almost busi-
nesslike is a very dangerous
argument for us, the Israelis. It
turns the matter of the ter-
ritories from an immoral matter
into an amoral matter. It cor-
rupts and anesthetizes us. One
day we will wake up to a bitter
surprise.
David Grossman judges the failure
to confront the situation realistically as
"human idiocy and the desire not to see
the approaching danger." He believes
that "the moment will come when we
will be forced to do something and, it
may well be, that our position will then
be much less favorable than it is now."
Grossman was 13 at the time of the
1967 war which resulted in triumph
over the Arabs and the Israeli assump-
tion of power in Judea and Samaria and
the reconstitution of the Israeli capital
in Jerusalem. He made a deep study of
the situation and his warnings are
taken into account. But there are the
distortions of facts that cannot be
ignored.
John Kifner, reporting from Hebron

to the New York Times in an article that
was entitled "Israeli Army Steps Up Ef-
forts to Block Coverage of Unrest," gave
an account of reports that Arab youths
were being tortured. He also referred to
alleged abuses which included claims
that there also were mistreatments of
Arab youths in hospitals. He concluded
with the following:
In Ramallah, the army
raided the city's hospitals at
about 3 a.m. and arrested ten
patients and visitors. An army
spokeswoman said tonight that
the hospital had become a
center for young Palestinian
protesters over the last two
weeks and that the army took it
over to prevent such access. She
said soldiers, now stationed on
the roof, had found rocks and
firebombs stockpiled there.
The difficulties on the road to
creating some form of security leading
to sensible relations with the Arabs is
very grave. An elimination and even-
tual abandonment of violence by Arabs
must benefit them as much as the
Israelis. How to attain it is the
seriousness of the challenge. Much
realistic planning is necessitated.
Whatever the approaches, the Jewish
defense must be firm. A lack of Jewish
unity would be criminal. That's the
basic and compelling obligation. Only
the needed solidarity in Jewish ranks
can assure an honorable tackling of the
issues.

Ellmann

Contiued from Page 2
Wilde. At one of their meetings the com-
mandment said to him in a Dantesque
dialogue. 'We are the two greatest mar-
tyrs of humanity — only I have suffered
the most.' No; Wilde replied, 'I have.'
`At the age of 13, Esterhazy went on, 'I
had a profound conviction that I would
never be happy again.' And he never
was, said Wilde when recounting the
conversation."
Wilde soon learned that Esterhazy
was the traitor. Nevertheless Wilde was
reported as having said that "Esterhazy
was more interesting than Dreyfus, who
was innocent. It's always a mistake to
be innocent. To be a criminal takes im-
agination and courage."
Esterhazy also is quoted here as
having said, "It is I, Esterhazy, who
alone am guilty I put Dreyfus in prison,
and all France cannot get him out." But
soon Esterhazy's guilt was publicly ex-
posed, and later Dreyfus was freed.
The remarkable summary of
Ellmann's Wilde story in his introduc-
tion is in itself a classic. Ellmann stated
in part:

He won admiration, and
denigration. Legends sprang up
about him, and unsavory
rumors too. He was accused of
sins from effeminacy fo
plagiarism. That he was the
kindest of men was not so wide-
ly known. Instead, at the very
moment he was writing his best
and The Importance of Being
Earnest had crowned his career,
what the law picturesquely calls

Oscar Wilde

sodomy was imputed to him. He
was sentenced in the end to two
years of hard labor for the lesser
charge of indecent behavior
with men. So much glory has
rarely been followed by so much
humiliation.
The hardships of prison life,
and of subsequent exile in
France and Italy, left Wilde a
broken man. As pendthrift on
his uppers, slighted by old ac-
quaintences, he pursued on his
release the life for which he had
been jailed. He wrote The
Ballad of Reading Gaol and

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