IAM Friday special op-ed:
TAU’s Daniel Bar-Tal, Haaretz’s Zvi Bar’el, and Kissinger’s Lambs
Friday, March 26, 2010
During the period Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was pursuing negotiations between Israel and the Arabs, he is said to have made a visit to the Washington zoo. The director, flattered by the presence of his distinguished guest, showed him around, stopping at an enclosure where a lion and a lamb were reposing peacefully. Amazed by the utopian scene, Kissinger asked his host, “Do they really coexist in harmony?” “They do indeed,” the director replied, “except that periodically we have to replace the lamb.”
Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el clearly did not have this anecdote—or its lesson--in mind in his take on a survey of the views of Israeli high-schoolers about their attitudes toward the State of Israel, including Israeli-Arab rights (“Israel demands peace from Palestinians as its own racism spreads,” Haaretz, March 14. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1156269.html].)”
The survey that provoked Bar’el’s commentary was commissioned by the Maagar Mochot research organization. As reported in Haaretz on March 3 [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1155627.html], its findings were presented at a Tel Aviv University symposium by, among others, TAU professor of psychology Daniel Bar-Tal.
The results of the survey, which sampled more than 500 Jewish and Arab students at various Israeli high schools, are sobering. While an overwhelming majority expressed a desire to enlist in the IDF, almost half—and a considerably higher percentage among religious respondents—said they would refuse orders to evacuate outposts and settlements. Nearly one third replied that they would reject military service beyond the Green Line. Additionally, as reported in the March 3rd Haaretz article, more than half the students would deny Arabs the right for election to the Knesset. In presenting these data, Professor Bar-Tal laments that “Jewish youth have not internalized basic democratic values.” And he takes particular aim at the attitudes of the religious cohort in the survey: “There is a combination of fundamentalism, nationalism [!], and racism in the worldview of religious youth.”
The survey results and Bar-Tal’s readiness to impugn the views of Israeli youth—with no discussion of the sentiments underlying them—are fodder to Zvi Bar’el. In a piece dripping with sarcasm, the columnist draws a parallel between the mistrust that about half the students display toward Israeli Arabs and a litany of alleged Arab grievances against Israel. Referring to measures taken by Israel to monitor Palestinian incitement, he writes: “After all, what do we care about construction in Jerusalem, Efrat or Ramat Shlomo, or about checkpoints, arrests, home demolitions, the army’s ‘neighbor policy,’ bone breaking, land appropriation or the blockade of 1.5 million Arabs in Gaza?”
Toward the end of the article, Bar’el links the findings of the survey to the Israeli hope that the Palestinians will be “convince[d]…to create a ‘culture of peace.’ With whom exactly are they expected to build such a culture?” he asks rhetorically. “With Israel’s young generation, which sees Israeli Arabs as a dangerous foe from whom democratic rights should be withheld? With inciters who see an Arab film director [Scandar Copti, Ajami], or the Jewish intellectuals who support him, as enemies of the state?”
Had Bar’el, or Bar-Tal, been thinking of Kissinger’s likely apocryphal encounter in the Washington zoo—they might have recommended that Israel replenish its herd of innocent—and unsuspecting—lambs.
Jack E. Friedman, Ph.D.