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Red Rag weekly column: Arik Einstein, 1939-2013 - Idolatrous dayanim - The cycle of violence
By: Gideon Spiro
29 November 2013 (translation 9 December 2013)


Death of the singer of the consensus

I have nothing original to add about Arik Einstein`s musical talent beyond all
the praise that has already been showered on him. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai
said that everyone has their own Arik. And I agree. A song like `The chick`
[`Of gozel] speaks for every parent whose children have left the nest
and accompanies them in their thoughts and love and warns them to beware of
the hawks. There are other performers who sing moving lyrics but they will not
become a national icon. An artist who can unify the Right and the Left, an
artist to whom, in a polarized, divided and scarred country like Israel,
thousands of people gathered to pay their respects at his coffin in a city
square, where the prime minister himself went to the trouble of going to
deliver a eulogy, for whose sake all the television and radio channels (except
the Haredi ones) changed their programming schedules and devoted more
broadcast hours to the deceased than they would have done if it had been a
revered head of state who had died, is an unusual phenomenon.

Einstein acquired the status of `prince of Hebrew song` for quite a high
price; he refrained from expressing any opinion on the core issues that
confront Israel as a state and as a society. Not that he had no opinions. I
listened to the morning program on IDF radio with the host Tali Lipkin Shahak.
With her was Roni Daniel, the mouthpiece of the IDF Spokesman on Channel Two,
this time in his capacity as a friend of Arik Einstien. He said he had been
friends with Einstein for 20 years. He had spoken with Einstein on the
telephone many times. The host asked him what they had talked about. About
everything, replied Daniel. He said Einstein was interested in everything,
including politics. The host did not ask the obvious question about Einstein`s
views on the issues of war and peace, the Occupation, the settlements and
settlers, refugees and asylum-seekers - thousands of whom are living in his
beloved city. It must be assumed that even if she had asked, she would not
have received a serious answer. Einstein`s many friends respected his wish to
remain above the political maelstrom.

Einstein`s songs had political content, but in doses that would not upset
anyone. For example, `A song I dreamed about Prague` in protest at the Soviet
invasion of Czechoslovakia, and his song about the assassination of Rabin, and
Abie Natan is mentioned in one or two songs as well. The song `You and I will
change the world` is a perfect embodiment of his cautious approach. `We will
change the world` sounds nice, but what is missing is in which direction will
we change it - will we change it rightwards or leftwards? That is not clear,
so it can be sung by both the settler who steals land that is not his and the
activists who show up every week at Bil`in and expose themselves to the
weapons of the Occupation army that shoots and kills demonstrators. It reminds
me of the words of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov: `The whole world is a very narrow
bridge, and the important thing is not to be afraid at all` - an adage that
was turned into a famous song and embraced at both ends of the political
spectrum.

On that same IDF radio show Roni Daniel related a story that had recently been
preoccupying Einstein. Israel Bundak, a veteran Black Panther, [1] set up a
pirate radio station with the objective of promoting Mizrahi music. The State
prosecuted him and he was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. (Settlers
who founded pirate radio stations have not been sentenced to prison) In a
recent interview Bundak claimed that culture of sex, drugs and alcohol did not
start with Eyal Golan and his friends; they were preceded by Uri Zohar and
Arik Einstein in the 1960s and 1970s. According to Daniel the allegation
deeply disturbed Einstein because it was a complete lie. I have no information
on what Einstein did in those years during his free time and I believe his
denial. A look at the newspapers from those days, especially the weekly
Haolam Hazeh, which reported minutely on what was going on in the Tel
Aviv bohemian scene, reveals that there were there some very juicy stories
indeed, but we cannot generalize, because they certainly involved a minority
that included some hangers-on who were not part of the bohemian inner circle.

At the age of 74, Arik Einstein decided to begin a new career in journalism in
the form of a weekly column in Maariv. He managed to write only one
column. The question that has no answer at the moment is why he chose
Maariv, a failing newspaper that has been acquired by a settler who
dismissed most of its employees. Maariv was already right-wing when the
new owner bought it, but he steered it so sharply to the Right that it has
become for all practical purposes the organ of the settlers. The owner`s goal
is clear: Einstein`s column was to help boost the newspaper`s declining
circulation. It is not at all clear what Arik`s interest was, for he surely
could have gotten a column in any newspaper he wanted. A puzzle.

Einstein is a fascinating figure. He will be the subject of academic studies,
doctoral theses will be written about him and journalists will write
biographies. Every such publication will include new information. And with the
passage of time some of his many friends will also begin to talk, this will
all contribute to a more comprehensive mosaic.

In my humble opinion, Einstein`s great gift, in addition to his musical
talent, was his ability to preserve the aroma of the old so-called `Working
Land of Israel`, [2] now disappeared, from which he came, without excessively
alienating the other side, and eventually being embraced by it as well, to
judge by the Revisionist Netanyahu`s words of praise for a singer who was a
product of the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. And there you have
at least part of the recipe for a national entertainer.

Arik Einstein was no protest singer. He was no Israeli version of the
legendary Pete Seeger, who was engaged in the struggle against war, racism and
other governmental evils; he was no Mercedes Sosa who was a symbol of the
struggle against the military dictatorship in Argentina, or Wolf Biermann who
protested against the injustices of the East German regime. Einstein chose to
be the voice of the Israeli consensus, and he fulfilled that role with
extraordinary success. I do not know all his songs, but of those I do know, I
am not revolted by any. And that too is all for the good.


Idolatrous rabbinical judges

Whoever wants to understand the State of Israel`s conception of Jewish
religious law (halacha) should read the report on a rabbinical court
that imposed a fine on a mother who has refused to have her son circumcised.
(Haaretz 26 Nov. 2013) Six dayanim, three from the Central Court
and three from the Rabbinical Court of Appeals, decided to compel a woman to
circumcise her son and to fine her 500 shekels for every day the child is not
circumcised. This is an arrogant, primitive and cruel decision. To force a
woman to injure her infant son in a barbaric procedure that includes sucking
the blood of the unfortunate victim verges on judicial terrorism.

The rabbinical judges stated in their ruling that `removal of the foreskin
prepares the spiritual soul of the child to take on the burden of the Kingdom
of Heaven and to study G-d`s Torah and His commandments.` Whoever wants to
believe this idolatry is free to do so - but to use it to justify mutilating a
baby who has never harmed anyone and whose consent was not requested?

And what is that Kingdom of Heaven that the Covenant of Circumcision (Brit
Mila
) is supposed to represent? It`s all set out in the Book of Genesis:

God further said to Abraham, `As for you, you and your offspring
to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant
between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every
male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your
foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And
throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the
age of eight days. As for the home-born slave and the one bought from an
outsider who is not of your offspring, they must be circumcised, home-born,
and purchased alike. Thus shall My covenant be marked in your flesh as an
everlasting pact. And if any male who is uncircumcised fails to circumcise the
flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his kin; he has
broken My covenant.`

Genesis 17: 8-14 (Translation: Jewish Publication Society 1985)

So - because Abraham made a covenant someone who invented a God, and that fool
was willing to sacrifice his son like a sheep to prove his unconditional
obedience - that`s a reason to hurt a baby and mutilate him?

Rabbi Saadia Gaon wrote that the foreskin is a superfluous appendage on the
human body. Rashi agreed with him. According to that criterion there are some
other body parts, like the earlobes, are also pointless, so go ahead and cut.
But this is nonsense. The foreskin has an important function. Maimonides
understood that and explained that the foreskin plays a major part in sexual
enjoyment. According to Maimonides, the purpose of circumcision is to suppress
sexual impulses and inhibit the erectile function. In other words, the true
motive for circumcision is to reduce sexual pleasure, which is also the
purpose of female circumcision, a procedure that is even crueler than male
circumcision.

Some Jews point with pride to the fact that Judaism, which preceded
Christianity and Islam, introduced monotheism into the world. The story of the
Binding of Isaac was absorbed into other religions, and it is the primal sin
behind the willingness of parents to send their children to die in pointless
wars, in order to control graves to which someone ascribed divine holiness
(e.g. the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Joseph`s Tomb in Nablus, etc.),
and it is the basis for holy wars in Judaism, to die `in sanctification of the
Name`, or jihad - to die for Allah and His prophet. Whereas the latent
violence in willingness to slaughter one`s son as a sacrifice has been well
understood throughout history, that is not the case for the part where the
angel of God approaches Abraham a moment before he thrusts the knife into the
throat of his son Isaac: `Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do
anything to him.` (Genesis 22:12) That quote remains an orphan. Again and
again, hands have been raised in violence against children and youths by
rabbis, priests, imams and ordinary parents.

Back to the rabbinical court`s judgement. Of course it has no basis in law or
jurisprudence. The mother will appeal to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately,
there too sit religious judges who believe that circumcision is a commandment
of which the violator should be cut down (and there is disagreement within
Judaism over whether that punishment should be carried out by human hands or
left to heaven). We must hope that the panel of judges will have a secular
majority. And even that will be no 100% guarantee, in view of the pattern of
repeated submission by the shrinking secular majority to the will of the
religious-settler establishment.


How the circle keeps turning

Herschel Grynszpan was a young Jewish native of Germany, whose parents sent
him in 1936 to Paris, where he lived with his uncle. In 1938 the German
government decided to deport Jews who did not have German citizenship. There
were about 70 thousand of them. In October 1938, the first group of 12
thousand Jews with Polish citizenship were expelled. The group included
Grynszpan`s family. Poland refused to accept them on the grounds that their
citizenship was no longer valid. The deportees were stuck on the border
between the two countries under harsh conditions and suffered greatly from the
bitter cold. Herschel, age 17, received a message from his sister who told him
about their suffering, and a thirst for revenge burned within him. He bought a
pistol and went to the German embassy in Paris, where he shot Ernst vom Rath,
a low-level German diplomat, to death. German Foreign Minister Joachim von
Ribbentrop declared that the murder was proof that international Jewry had
declared war on Germany, that it was, as we put it in the Hebrew of the
Occupation, a `nationalistically-motivated murder`. Propaganda Minister Josef
Goebbels replied that no one should be surprised if there were a `fitting
German response`; and indeed it came, in the form of the pogroms of
Krystallnacht, in which Jewish property was smashed and plundered,
synagogues were burnt, many lost their lives and thousands were arrested.

Many communities in Israel, including Jerusalem, have streets named after
Grynszpan.

A few weeks ago a young Palestinian man from the Jenin area went to Israel. He
arrived at the central bus station in Afula, where he stabbed to death the
soldier Eden Attias. In the interrogation, the youth (his name has not been
published) said that he did it in protest against his uncles` imprisonment in
Israel. His act was classified as a `nationalistically-motivated murder`.
(Question: why not a murder motivated by the cruelty of the Occupation, or by
the nationalism of the settlers who torment the Palestinians?) Leaders and
rabbis from the settler community saw the act as additional proof that the
Palestinians have declared war on Israel, and `no one should be surprised` if
there were a `fitting Zionist response`, which came in the form of a little
krystallnacht when settlers set fire to the home of a Palestinian
family in the middle of the night. The family - the parents and their five
children - would have burned if the father had not been woken up by the smell
of smoke and along with his wife with a superhuman effort managed to snatch
their children from the jaws of death.

So - what have we here? Two events that are nearly identical. Two young men
who could no longer stand the suffering an oppressive regime had imposed on
their families; in both cases they attacked someone who represented the
oppressive regime: the German diplomat and the Israeli soldier; in both cases
the leadership of the oppressive regime declared that the youths were
murderers; in both cases, incited extremists responded by attacking innocents.
The Palestinian family whose home was burnt had no connection to the youth,
just as the Jews who were attacked in Germany had no connection to Herschel.

In Israel Herschel Grynszpan is seen as an exemplary figure who must be
immortalized, and as I mentioned, streets have been named after him. The
Palestinians see the young Palestinian as an exemplary figure, and he too will
be immortalized. And when that happens, sanctimonious Israelis will emerge
from their holes and yell `look at how those Palestinians are naming a street
after a murderer!` And then an echo will reverberate, saying `What are you
hypocrites yelling about? You have no streets that immortalize
murderers or murderous acts? Along with Grynszpan Street you have Olei
Hagardom Street, [3] Etzel, Lehi and Palmah streets, Six-Day War Street,
Paratroopers` Street, and even a Shlomo Baum [4] Street. From a Palestinian
point of view, those names mean murder and murderers. The time has come, after
46 years of Occupation, for you to understand that your heroes are murderers
in the eyes of those you rule, and vice-versa. Stop playing the victim,
because you are not. You are victimizing others.`


Translator`s notes

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_Black_Panthers

2. `Working Land of Israel` - in Hebrew `Eretz Yisra`el Ha`Ovedet`
refers to the Jewish colony in British Mandate Palestine that was composed
mainly of secular Zionist Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe and politically
dominated by the social-democratic Workers` Party (later Labour Party) of
David Ben-Gurion, and the State of Israel in its early years, when the kibbutz
was an influential institution and the ethos of volunteering and shared
sacrifice enjoyed pride of place, before Israeli society was transformed in
the 1950s and 1960s by mass immigration from the Islamic world, especially
Morocco and Iraq. That transformation led eventually to the rise to power in
1977 of Labour`s right-wing nationalist adversaries, led by Menachem Begin`s
Herut party, which merged into the Likud in 1988. To many Israelis, the term
`Working Land of Israel` evokes a sense of nostalgia for a lost and simpler
era of innocence, idealism, camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose.

3. Olei Hagardom literally means `those who ascend the gallows`. It refers to
12 Jewish armed underground members who were arrested and executed by the
British authorities in Palestine and Egypt. Among them were two men convicted
of assassinating Lord Moyne, the British Resident Minister in Cairo, in 1944.
The Olei Hagardom were members of Etzel (a.k.a. Irgun) and Lehi, the
historical right-wing rivals of the hegemonic Workers` Party associated with
the labour movement and its paramilitary armed organization, the Hagana.
Freedom fighters in their own eyes, the British saw them as terrorists. The
leader of Etzel, Menachem Begin, and the leader of Lehi, Yitzhak Shamir, both
became prime minister of Israel, in the 1970s and 1980s respectively.

4. An Israeli military officer and close associate of Ariel Sharon, among the
founders of the IDF`s Unit 101, which became notorious for massacring 69
residents of the Palestinian village of Qibya in 1953, most of them dying when
their houses were blown up on top of them.


Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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