4A -The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 8, 2002
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necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
me there's a story floating
around that somehow I
am blaming the Clinton
administration for what's
- President George W. Bush on the
escalating violence in the Middle East, as
quoted by the Associated Press.
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Caring about Israel doesn't demand identity politics
JOHANNA HANINK PARLANCE OF'OUR TIMES
Mu h a m m a d
Madani, the Pales-
tinian governor of
Bethlehem, has barricaded
himself inside the Church of
the Nativity. With him are
200 others - Palestinians
and Christians; terrorists and
priests; gunmen and nuns.
Over the centuries, addi-
tions to the church have developed an architec-
tural ambiance reminiscent more of a medieval
fortress than a house of worship. Today, con-
vents and cloisters buttress the shrine built
above what is now a cave, but which Christian
tradition tells us was once the spot where Jesus
was born, wrapped in swaddling clothes and put
to bed in a manger meant for holding the feed of
Since I've started paying attention in earnest
to what we often can only euphemistically call
"what's happening in Israel," there's always
been a part of me that cringes when I hear
activists on either side of U.N. Resolution or
Peace Plan x, y and z rant about their holy land.
I want to childishly stomp my foot and demand
that it's my holy land too. Forget about Moses
and Muhammad, it was Israel where Gabriel.
announced, John baptized and Jesus preached,
Jerusalem where he arrived on Palm Sunday to
await crucifixion. No! I want to yell, feeling left
out. It matters to me, too!
So it seems that when Madani and his friends
hold themselves and the Church of the Nativity
hostage, knowing that Israeli Army colonel
Olivier Rafowicz speaks for Israel when he says
"We do not fire on that church," they have final-
ly made it personal for the Christians. I've heard
friends and the talking heads say as much.
This, though, is a problem. It's always been
But it hasn't been personal because of a few
buildings built on spots made memorial only
through tenuous tradition and a great deal of
effort. It's not even personal because what's
happening in Israel desecrates the soul of a city
and a land, a soul which I think that I would feel
more deeply than any other place's soul.
There are plenty of reasons to care about
Israel - and arguably to care about the politics
of Israel more than the politics of Angola. The
international spotlight is, like it or not, on this
particular conflict. And like it or not, it has
grown bigger than its roots in cultural and reli-
gious loyalties. Israel is the place where Presi-
dent Bush is blowing it right now. Israel is an
enclave of the European in an otherwise Arab
region. Like it or not, Mr. Said, but Samuel P.
Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" argument
holds some water. The implications for the
international political scene are bigger in Israel
and the West Bank than they are on two warlord
turfs in Somalia.
But what's happening in Israel can no longer
be the summation of people's personal ties to
the place. The place is important to millions
worldwide - but it shouldn't hurt the Chris-
tians more that people will probably die at the
threshold of the birthplace of Jesus Christ. To
think that way makes it less important when
people die in Kurdistan. In Afghanistan, in
Nepal. In a war of identity politics, it's time to
remove identity from the equation.
Last week I was forwarded an e-mail that
had been sent to Hillel's Orthodox Minyan e-
mail list. The e-mail contained a column by
Catherine Ford that had been reprinted in the
Montreal Gazette from last Saturday's Calgary
Herald, called "Today I am a Jew."
Ford recounts the story of King Christian X
of Denmark, who asked all of his subjects to
wear a yellow star after the Nazis ordered the
Jews to do so. She writes, "Today, those who
hate Jews are able to do so because too many
gentiles will not stand up and be counted ... No
more. Today, I proudly echo (Daniel) Pearl's
last words: I am a Jew."
There is a danger in donning the blindfold of
identity politics - and contrived identity poli-
tics at that. There are plenty of academic reasons
to support Israel. I do. But it's not because I pre-
sent the disjunctive and foolish assertion that I
am a Jew. I am not a Jew. I look at Israel and I
look at its history and I say that I support
Israel's right to exist because I am a person;
because I am a sympathetic human being.
Over winter break I stood in the unremark-
able office of a remarkable man. Prof. Noam
Chomsky was running behind and was half an
hour late meeting with me. The president of a
British Kurdish political advocacy group had
been talking with him and wanted to have her
picture taken to be put in the group's newsletter.
He politely asked if I didn't mind waiting a
minute, then told his secretary (who was taking
the picture) that he wanted to be photographed
in front of Bertie. "Bertie" was a poster of
Bertrand Russell on his office wall, a poster that
I'd been staring at for the last 20 minutes.
"Three passions have governed my life,"
read the poster (and thus Bertie) "The longings
for love, the search for knowledge, and an
unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind."
It's Russell's last passion that offers the most
compelling "why" to "the gentiles who will not
stand up and be counted." It's not because we
have to contrive a connection to the place. It's
because of an empathy for human suffering that
we don't have to say "I am a Jew" or "I am a
Palestinian," to be justified in crying just as
much as anyone else for the sorrow in Israel.
Johanna Hanink can be reached at
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Weekend Magazine cover
photo misrepresents the taco
TO THE DAILY:
Listen, I am not one of the typical radicalists
that go to the Diag and complain about every-
thing or to try to convince people about the way I
think. I am also very seldom offended by any
racial issues against my race (Mexican) and most
of the times don't even give a damn about the
Actually, I am more concerned about-my aca-
demics and social life here than any other thing,
including racial issues. As a matter of fact, I am
part of an "all-American" fraternity and get along
with a lot of Americans. But then I see things like
the picture in Thursday's Weekend Magazine and I
just get disappointed by the arrogance, imperial-
ism and "we don't care about the rest of the
world" attitude that many Americans have.
Excuse me, do you know that the "taco" is
something that was inveited in Mexico? Did you
know that is one of the most representative Mexi-
can symbols that we have? Did you know the
amazing difference between a real Mexican taco
and an American hard shell taco with lettuce,
tomato and that nasty shredded beef on it?
Listen, maybe you don't understand what I
mean, but let's put ourselves in an imaginary
opposite side: Suppose you went to Mexico to
study at another university and in the college
newspaper you see a big-ass Mexican flag and in
front of it a "quarter pounder with cheese" and a
Budweiser. Then you browse the contents and
you read a discussion if people like their ham-
burger better with salsa or without salsa.
How would you feel? Wouldn't you feel like
"what the fuck do these Mexicans think trying to
steal 100 percent American representative food
symbols?" Well, that is exactly how I feel. Could
you give me an explanation of the "intended"
meaning you people try to put in that picture?
Thanks for your time.
School of Engineering
Daily Arts uses offensive
words in photo captions
To THE DAILY:
As a former newspaper photographer, I
have been appalled by the captions in the Arts
section recently. It is very unprofessional and
demeans the story when the caption in the
Compulsive Lyres story ('Compulsive Lyres'
continuing success 4/05/02) reads, "They make
the other a capella bands look like a bunch of
pussies." "Pussies" is an inappropriate word, in
any case, especially in a newspaper.
I truly question the professionalism of the
paper to print such ridiculous captions. Plus,
this caption clearly does not give any infor-
mation about the photograph, the purpose of
This has been a trend recently in the Arts
section, as on April 3. The "Iolanthe" caption
read, "I propose that we ratify the Bill of Rights
then kiss the magical fairy godmother." On the
same day another caption read "Man, It's so
good that there's gonna. be another sitcom on
TV. Like Christmas."
These are obviously ridiculous and
absurd. This ruins what little journalistic
integrity the Daily had left.
Don't bet on corporate, nation-led pollution clean-up
by Jess Piskor
Floating off the coast of Antarctica is a
Rhode Island-sized ruin of what was once an
ice-shelf. Believe in global warming or not, no
one seriously denies that pollution poses a seri-
ous risk to the world. Even the staunphest con-
servative understands that a cleaner
environment is desirable - if not an imperative.
There are several main proposals for
reducing worldwide pollution. Some feel that
corporations will lead the change by voluntari-
ly reducing pollution in order to increase prof-
it. Others believe that individual nations will
decide to make changes independently. Both
ideas are unlikely to result in real change. Cor-
porations will never have enough incentive to
make large enough changes, while nations act-
ing alone run the risk of achieving changes at
methods of production.
Consumer demand for clean environmen-
tal practices only manifests itself in a few
brands. The public sphere .does not have the
energy or desire to attack every company that
pollutes. Instead, a few large name brands are
called out and the rest slip around the public's
spotlight. It is doubtful that consumer demand
for environmentally friendly products is suffi-
cient to encourage enough corporate change
to offset the external cost of pollution.
Furthermore, many of the major polluters
are not brand names dependent on a positive
public image. Instead, they are huge manu-
facturing plants that that don't sell directly
to consumers but supply raw materials like.
steel, lumber, meat or paper to other compa-
nies. These companies don't depend on con-
sumers liking their product - or even being
aware that they exist.
Pollution is a longer term problem than the
current unemployment or inflation. Many peo-
ple buy the justification that reducing pollution
is good, but we "Just can't afford to do it right
now." Emission controls almost always take a
backburner to other concerns.
But what if our nation decided pollution
was a big enough concern to warrant immedi-
ate changes. Shouldn't that be our decision?
The exact "how" can be a particular country's
choice, but to enact real reform many coun-
tries need to participate.
The big concern is the cost - no one seri-
ously argues that pollution controls can be
accomplished without any cost. If one country
increases environmental standards, it is very
likely they will see a reduction in their com-
parative advantage. A way needs to be found.
to balance the gains of reducing pollution with
the economic downturns associated with
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