Occupied Territory

Occupied Territory

Associate Editor

Beneath the angst among American Jews about how we, of all people, can relate to whatís happening in Kosovo, and how much we, of all people, are doing to alleviate the horror, many Israelis are saying that we, of all people, should be slower to jump atop a propaganda bandwagon in which refugees are pawns. While American Jews see Kosovo evoking the old Europe, Israelis and Palestinians see Kosovo through Middle Eastern eyes.David Plotz, writing in Slate (April 24), points out that the media is comparing ìthe ethnic cleansing of Kosovo to the Palestinian ënakbaí of 1948, when thousands of Palestinians fled Israel and ended up in permanent refugee camps.î According to Slate, the Economist, too, is comfortable with the Israel-as-Serb analogy, labeling the Palestinian refugee situation as ìan unpunished ethnic cleansing.

Therefore, says Slate, with Serbs, Palestinians and others declaring Kosovo a ìJerusalem,î that means ìeither Israelís hold on Jerusalem is unjustified, as Palestinians argue; or Serbiaís hold on Kosovo is justified, as a few fringe-right Israelis are now hinting.îPlotz adds that there is lingering Israeli sympathy for Serbia because of the Serbsí ìsupposedly admirable behavior during the Holocaust.î In the 1980s, ìwith the blessing of Slobodan Milosevic, a group of Serbs organized the Serbian Jewish Friendship Society, which has propagandized endlessly about Serbiaís Holocaust decency. … Serb and Israeli cities made themselves sister cities.î When Iraq was lobbing missiles into Israeli cities, a ìdelegation of Serbs traveled to Tel Aviv to show solidarity.î Israeli media also refers to the Serbian friendship during the Holocaust. ìSuch expressions of solidarity, along with right-wing distaste for the NATO bombing, donít begin to outweigh Israeli sympathy for Kosovars and outrage at Serbs,î says Slate, ìbut God knows theyíre more than Milosevic and his people deserve.îWhat kind of sympathy do the Kosovars deserve? In the latest New Yorker (May 17), weíre told that the Albanian Kosovars were allied with the Nazis, and ìcollaborated with the Fascists to attack Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo, killing thousands.îOn the other side, The New York Times (May 2) played up the Kosovars claim to Holocaust-era decency with a wonderful front-page story, ìAn Indebted Israel Shelters Family of Kosovo Albanians.î It told of a family that, in the current war, was ìherded with thousands of ethnic Albanians to trains,î while carrying ìa memento of her dead father in her pocket,î a document signifying his heroic assistance to Jews during World War II.If it is propaganda to write about Israelís debt to the Serbs, is the Times article propaganda, too? Isnít grace and kindness to be found on both sides of any war? There surely were heartbreaking stories to be written about homeless Germans in 1945. When does a solid story of isolated beauty cross the border into unwitting propaganda?nEvery Yom HaShoah we read about ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to stand at attention, as does everyone else, when the siren blows in memoriam for the Six Million. If the indecency of non-Zionist Jews outrages us, is it a comparable outrage if Israelís Arab citizens display the same contempt for their fellow citizensí ultimate pain and moment of silence? Lyse Doucet, who recently ended a stint as the BBCís Israel correspondent, was just about the only reporter who pointed this out: ì[Jews] stood at the side of their cars, pedestrians froze. But the other side was unmoved, unchanged. The [Arab] markets bustled, people hurried to and fro … unwilling, unable, to recognize the otherís history and suffering, still nursing their own wounds, still needing a righting of their wrongs.înLast weekís postponement of Palestinian statehood prompted The Boston Globeís Charles Sennott (May 5) to go out to the Abu Dis construction site ìintended to be the future seat of [the Palestinian] government in East Jerusalem.î A hole in a seventh-story wall looked out on Jerusalemís Dome of the Rock. ìI am very proud when I see this view,î said the construction supervisor Abu Usama. ìIt tells me that we are building a state, and that its capital will be in Jerusalem.îOn the other hand, Daoud Hanafsi, an unemployed Palestinian, points to the construction site and says ìThis is Arafatís state, unfinished, over-budget, and full of corruption.îSamar Assad, reporting for the Associated Press (May 5), writes that ìLife is especially bleak in [the West Bank town of Kufr Deek]. Ilyana Taysir, 14, ìknits skullcaps for 25 cents apiece, or about seven dollars a month. … For Ilyana, the frustration does not come from the eye-straining hours of labor, but from knowing that her needlework is worn by Jewish settlers who took over her land.

The only dybbuks most of us have encountered have been on the page or stage. The belief, though, that a wandering soul can, like the Cat in the Hat, barge uninvited into anotherís body, wreaking psychic and physical damage, is thought to be nothing more than a vestige of quaint shtetl Yiddishkeit.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago in Dimona ó home of Israelís very modern nuclear facility ó a young widow, Yehudit Sidvatker, 38, claimed that Pinchas Sidvatker (her dead husband, gone for three years), not only was occupying her body but was threatening to choke her to death from within.Arutz Sheva, a pirate radio station aimed at Israelís settler camp, reported (April 27) that the exorcism was broadcast all over Israel in order to inspire more people to have faith that there is, indeed, an afterlife ó no matter how annoying that afterlife may be.While shofars blasted and candles burned, the rabbinic exorcist, according to Arutz Sheva, spoke firmly to the dybbuk, whose brief answers were said to be delivered in a raspy and sometimes unclear voice. Eventually, the dybbuk exited via the widowís small toe.Yoram Bilu, an anthropologist and psychologist at Hebrew University, told The Jerusalem Post (April 27) that the ceremony had all the traditional aspects of dybbuk exorcism, and was within the realm of normative Judaism. In fact, the beloved and respected Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook, the first modern chief rabbi, exorcised a dybbuk from a boy in Jaffa before World War I, Bilu said.In New York, excerpts of the exorcism will be broadcast (May 13, 11 p.m.) on Talkline with Zev Brenner, WPAT 930AM.

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