Righteousness with a vengeance

Newschannel Euronews has an item they show in between programs called “no comment“. It always shows images of some event but with no commentary. No translation. No explanation. Just images. For a couple of minutes you get to decide what is going on and if you think that’s OK or not. I always thought it was kind of cool. Perhaps it’s the closest you can get to objective journalism.

If the internet taught me anything though, it is that there is no such thing as “the truth”, nor is anybody ever completely impartial. The fact that the camera is pointing this way and not that can change the whole story. I try to be conscious of this fact when I read / watch any narrative.

This morning however, the internet gave me a shocker when I encountered the image seen below, among the likes of one of my FB friends. It really took me a while to process what I was seeing and reading and my initial reaction was anger. I asked the person who had liked the image (and he’s a family member, for crying out loud!) if he really believed this to be true. I asked him this, with the intention of deleting him from my account and from my life if he declared to my (cyber)face that he stood behind this statement.

FB Jews

I felt offended. Personally. I felt the legacy of my grandparents was being spat on and I couldn’t believe people were giving such a message a thumbs up. I felt it was unfair to hold me accountable for something that happened long before I was born. I felt it was wrong to put the Nazi horrors in the same sentence with what is happening in Palestine as if these things are somehow related. I hated the fact that I was being asked to disagree with Germans killing jews but to condone jews killing muslims (or vice versa for that matter).

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I am trying to see if I can find the nuance in there somewhere, but I’m finding it quite difficult. All I can come up with is that I do understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves. My inner Ghandi however keeps popping out and poking at me with his walking stick and repeating his famous quote like a mantra:

eye_for_eye_500

UPDATE: Nuance found! I also decided to change the title of this blog and share a bit of the discussion I had on FB with the people that posted the controversial image.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually, and I still feel that the way this South African jewish organization formulated their message was way too strong., -and I can’t believe I am actually going to admit it,- BUT, I do understand where they were coming from now.

In their very elaborate response to my angry, slightly defensive rant, they asked me to bare two things in mind:

1. The Allies were fighting the German/Italian/Japanese Axis not because of what Hitler was doing to the Jews but because they were invading other countries.
2. The incredibly brave individuals who put their lives on the line to save Jews during the Holocaust were a minuscule minority.

I can’t deny any of this. It’s painful and it’s true.

The thing is, that I actually do believe that the world stood by and watched atrocities happen for way too long. Individuals breathed a sigh of relief as the horrors passed by their front doors (in other words, they were not jewish) and politicians dared not speak up and risk turning up on the losing end.

The world was stunned, like a deer in headlights. There was no protocol for this. No precedents or lessons learnt from previous occurrences that we could fall back on. We were slow to act. There must have been denial and heaps of mixed messages, making it so difficult to take a strong stand for the masses.

So yes, that surviving jews held grudges for the world’s passiveness: I get it… We didn’t step up until the Nazis started making life difficult for the rest of us, the non-jews. That’s offensive and no apology or compensation will ever mend those wounds.

But I don’t see us giving the Tutsi’s in Rwanda a free pass, nor have I heard them ask for one (or have they…? not even sure about that one, as the world cared even less about what happened to them than the jews’ ordeal and I haven’t really heard of them since)…

Another thing that has been bugging me is how this statement is not about the world not allowing jews to stand up for themselves. This whole image, without mentioning it ONCE, is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I always struggle with political correctness here. Can you use Jew as a synonym for Israeli? I can imagine there are many jews that would disagree. Or non jews, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I know quite a few muslims that have no issues with jews or their faith, but do whole heartedly dislike Israelis. And then there are those referred to as zionists, who are the one’s that believe in and actually persue “the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland

So in that sense, the first sentence in the image above refers to jews, but the second one refers to Israeli’s and more specifically, the zionists who are trying to establish their so called homeland on somebody else’s homeland.

So my conclusion is, I get it, but I still don’t think it’s OK at all…. but feel free to disagree!

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Making peace with my inner-racist

The mayor of the Dutch city of Rotterdam is an interesting man. Let’s start with the obvious, just to get the elephant out of the room. He was born and raised in Morocco until the age of 15 in a small town in the Nador province. He is a muslim. Even more so, his father was an imam and he himself remains a devout muslim to this day.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, because that is his name, is an incredibly well spoken Dutch politician that has made me nod my head at my tv-screen on several occasions. I wish I could say that his provenance is not what I find most interesting about him. I wish I could say I consider him to be completely “one of us” or that I respect him for and foremost for his qualities as a politician and a person in general … but now that I think about it, every time I am wowed by one of his statements, my amazement is usually intensified, thinking of his background… and when I talk to someone about something I heard him say, I think I do often use words along the lines of “… and that is coming from a man from such-and-such background”. Does that make me a racist? It kind of does, doesn’t it?

Yesterday morning I saw an interview with Mr Aboutaleb on the news, which triggered me to write this blog. He talks about the second generation immigrants that are increasingly finding solace in the more extremist corners of their faith and are considering picking up weapons in armed conflicts elsewhere, to defend these new values they have come to stand for.ahmed_aboutaleb02.jpg

I translated a large part of it and included it below:

You describe young muslims that want to travel abroad to join the fight in conflict zones as people commiting treason, what do you mean by this?

Imagine for example my situation. I came to the Netherlands when I was 15. The Netherlands invested in me for many years, ten thousands of euros in education. I have now reached the point that I can do something for society. For myself and for my parents; especially my parents who have been through a lot to get this far, and then you would say “forget it, I am going somewhere else” and not just that, you are going to do things AGAINST the country that has invested in you. I can’t call it anything but treason.

So you are asking people that turn their backs on our values and the laws of our constitution to hand in their passports. That’s quite a strong statement, isn’t it?

We often organize ceremonies in our municipality, where we hand newcomers their citizenship on behalf of the Dutch State. I always mention that a passport is not just a travel document. It stands for an identity and its core values. And not only that, the values of our country, the laws of our constitution will sometimes need to be defended by force of arms if those values are threatened or the Netherlands are under attack. “If you don’t accept those conditions,” I always say in my speeches, “leave the document here”. And if, after all these years, you find out that these values don’t suit you, be a man and come in next Monday and hand over the passport. This way we don’t need to discuss in the senate who is right and who is wrong.

Aren’t people allowed to have another opinion?

Ofcourse people are allowed to have other opinions. There will always be room for that. I am talking now about people that have reached a point that they are prepared to leave this country, take their wife and kids with them and settle in a feudal system, where everything we have been brought up with, everything we have learned about, is rejected. That is a conscious choice, which is allowed, but be a man about it and come hand in that passport as well. If you reject our constitution, that your passport is linked to, than you obviously don’t want that either.

But isn’t that a bit harsh. Aren’t you bringing problems to other immigrants with this statement, people that do not agree with these minorities?

Absolutely not. You know, what people that are involved in these discussions often don’t understand is that dealing with these minorities, and dealing with them strongly, by for example asking them to hand in their passports, is the best way to protect the 1 million people that are wrongly being associated with this. This is the best protection for me, and the other 999.999 others.

[…]

But is repression the only way?

It’s definitely not the only way. Repression in this case may be a small part of a larger whole, but a very necessary one. The big tasks lie with the municipalities, the local authorities and the mayors to organize this debate, to open the dialogue, which we will be organizing here in Rotterdam at the end of September. Let it be a hard discussion, let’s tear this up because nothing shines without friction.

But if you lay the lines down so tightly, won’t it make it more difficult to have this dialogue?

I have always learned that especially when the lines are clear and tight, people are prepared to talk. I can tell you now, this conversation is going to give reactions of repulsion, it is going to spark angry emails but it will also trigger a lot of support. You can’t be everyone’s friend, as mayor of Rotterdam, and luckily that is not my goal either.

So what you are saying is that if there are certain elements in society, no matter how large or small, that we don’t agree with, that it should be removed…

For starters, I think that if you have consciously decided that you do not want to be a part of the Netherlands, that you should be honest about this. Come out, hand in the passport. But, if you are not willing to do so, if you do this secretly and undermine the values of our society, the consequence is that we, as a society, will isolate you and shut you out. And it is justified for the Dutch government to makes this possible and I stand behind these measures. But do not forget that the whole climate that has been created is very damaging for the 1 million muslims that live here. We must treasure them, hold them close and make them feel included and not judge THEM for the choices of these extremist minorities, because that is one of my largest worries…


An interesting interview… I am convinced that this message would have come across a lot different if any of our kaaskop politicians would have introduced it, but coming from him it becomes more acceptable… right? But where does this leave me? Do I actively try to include my muslim countrymen and make them feel welcome? Should I be doing this more actively, or is “tolerance” enough? I really don’t like that idea… to tolerate is to just barely accept someone’s presence… but only just… that’s not what I want to do…

racist but shhh.jpg

I have been wondering a lot lately about the racism I have in me. If someone were to summarize me in 10 words I don’t think “racist” would be one of the words they would pick, but I admit I do live by certain stereotypes though, just because they make life easier. I have always tried to see every situation from all possible points of view and I’m usually able to find understandable reasons for almost every stance. I seem to be losing my ability to put myself in “the other’s” shoes though. Either that, or the opinions people are standing for are truly becoming more unreasonable and I simply can not follow.  I believe the latter is the case, which doesn’t really make me feel much better…

I have an opinion about many things but I have noticed that when people around me talk about things with a whiff of what I would categorize as racism, I pull back from a conversation. I quickly decide these people are ignorant and that giving them my opinion will only pull me into a tiring discussion that will leave us both annoyed and not an inch further into convincing one another. So why bother?

Well… just the other day I changed my point of view, all though I must admit I haven’t put it into practice yet. My idea revolved around the fact that if I don’t open my mouth and voice my very reasonable, well-informed and moderate ideas (yes, I am full of myself), then the only people talking are the people with extreme (or just plain stupid) ideas. And that’s not good! Especially in these times, with tension building all around us and it seems all we are doing is waiting to see who will make that final spark to blow the whole thing up.

I know this new mission of mine will frustrate me. I know I won’t convince 9 out of 10, maybe even 49 out of 50. Maybe I won’t be making any new friends among my co-workers. But I have to try this! I’m giving myself a month to experiment with this and will then report back here on how it went and if I won anyone over to join my team…