Jack Cohen

Israel – good and bad

Israel is a democracy, an open society, where everything is discussed and commented on. Two items in the news caught my attention that exemplify the degree of openness of our society.

At a performance of the play “Ghetto” by Joshua Sobol at the Cameri Theater last week, a group of high school students not only disrupted the performance, but were cheering the Nazis! Yes, these were Israeli youths at a performance of a play about the Shoah in Israel. Now it must be said that this play has been performed dozens of times for schools and no such reaction occured. But, in this case the situation was so extreme that several pupils were removed from the audience by teachers, but many more were not. In the end, one of the actors came on stage representing the cast and told the audience that they were ashamed of their reaction and insulted by their insensitivity and ignorance. Several of the actors who are children of Holocaust survivors were brought to tears by this incident. The Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, issued a statement saying that we have much further to go to educate our children to the meaning of the Shoah. Many comments have been made in the Israeli media about this shocking incident.

An Israeli Arab politician, Sarhan Bader, from a village in Israel, has announced that he has decided to form a new party called the Arab-Israeli Nationalist Party to specifically represent the interests of the Israeli Arabs. The Party will not concern itself with the interests of the Palestinian Arabs, who are not Israeli citizens. He stated what is well known, that up until now all Arab MKs have been highly politicized and have been anti-Israel in their views and actions. He pointed out that most Arab MKs have been pro-Qaddafi, pro-Assad and have been more involved with promoting a Palestinian State than representing the interests of their constituents in Israel. He believes that he can get more support for Israeli Arabs and can improve relations between Israeli Arabs and Jews by forming this Party. He hopes to represent those Arabs who want to have peaceful coexistence with their Jewish neighbors. True Arab involvement in Israel’s democracy has never really happened so far. This may represent a watershed in Israeli politics, if the Arabs begin to use the coalition Government system in Israel as the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jews have done. PM Netanyahu called this a positive development.

Events like these that don’t fall into the standard view that most westerners have of Israel can confound the politics of the Israel haters.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.