Being a Jew in England, says British Jewish journalist Arthur Neslen, is to have your entire identity, culture and history judged in reference to Israel.
Because Diaspora identity is at deathâ€™s door, clinging desperately to this country â€“ the one remaining floating plank from a sinking ship. But to criticize Israel or even talk about it in a reasonable manner among the Diaspora, he says, has become totally impossible; the terms of the debate, he says are just too emotive and too visceral.
And so, in order to provide his critique on Israel, he let Israelis speak for themselves.
Neslen, who is the former London correspondent for AlJazeera.net, came to Israel in 2002 and interviewed some 50 Israelis, from all political affiliations and from all walks of life, and put them all together in a book â€“ or as he likes to think of it â€œa mirrorâ€ â€“ a mirror of just what that Israel is, according to which he and everyone else in the Diaspora is being judged.
He is now in Israel promoting that book, entitled â€œOccupied Minds: A Journey through the Israeli Psycheâ€ and I had the chance to interview him last week about the work, the people he met while writing it, why he thinks of political Zionism as the enemy and just why he describes Israel is a â€œmodern-day Golem,â€ which will destroy the very people it was created to protect.
I was also intrigued to know just what it was like for him to be the only Jew at AlJazeera.net.
Find out this and more in the full interview â€¦
July 9, 2006 at 12:48 pm
I guess everybody has to have a token ‘somebody’, even Al Jazeera!
I used to go in to their site (they’ve had an English verson for several years now) and even sent some comments to a ‘talk back’ section moderated by a kindly looking gentleman named
Dr. Kareem. Things get pretty radical on this site though, especially where Israel is concerned.
July 9, 2006 at 2:17 pm
Jill, I read this article yesterday, well done! I’ve been watching the headlines at Haartez awaiting the news of Gilad’s safe return.
I will definitely read Arthur Neslen’s book. There is no better way to “hold up the mirror” than to allow people to speak for themselves. I believe the diaspora identity is changing, as need be; However, it is far from death’s door. Rather it is on the verge of accepting its rightful place in the inner court as a gift of uncomprehendable Love as opposed to a right to rule.
Also, I’ve started a few other books. “Standing With Israel” by David Brog, wherein I think Paul (of the New Testament) is misunderstood and gets a bad rap. Nevertheless, David Brog is a Jew who is encouraging a reconciliation between Jews and Christians for which I am grateful.
Again, I really enjoyed your interview with Arthur Neslen and am looking forward to reading his book.
July 9, 2006 at 10:55 pm
The only problem with “There is no better way to â€œhold up the mirrorâ€ than to allow people to speak for themselves.” is that I can choose fifty people who represent the self-hating post-Zionist school of thought or fifty gung-ho Rav Kooknics. I’m not exactly certain either really reflect the vast majority of “traditional” Jews who are neither ideologically secular nor religious.
July 9, 2006 at 11:03 pm
You have a point of truth there Yoel. I’ll keep that in mind.
July 9, 2006 at 11:39 pm
Yoel, I really like what I see in your “mirror”. Very nice site! Also, I appreciate that bit of redirection (re: my comment). And I learned a new word, “Rav-Kooknic”. Sounds like an affectionate way to put it.
July 10, 2006 at 6:44 pm
I was going to buy the book because it sounded interesting, but when I went online to do so, I saw the cover of the book, which is extremely pointed and biased. A soldier (I think?) with blood running down the face. For an author who wants to hold a mirror that reflects all of society, this cover biases the reader before s/he even opens the book. I think I’ll pass on it now.
July 11, 2006 at 8:44 am
It also depends on whether one reads (in Israel) newspaers like Yidiot and Jerusalem Post – both slanted toward th right, or Haaretz/Maariv, both either left of center or further.
Aljazeera doesn’t like Jewish right wingers for obvious reasons. And many Israelies, after numerous wars, countless terror attacks, have many mistrusts towards Arabs and especially the Palestinians (who teach THEIR children, from an early age to hate Jews and Israelis).
That’s where the matter stands, unfortunaately.