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September 16, 2011, Friday

Racism kills ‘Jewish Intellect’

The following story came to mind when Turkey’s famous businessman Ishak Alaton referred to Israel 's Mavi Marmara raid as “an insult to Jewish intelligence.”

It was 1998. The group of us, one Filipino, three Turks, two Japanese and one Chinese (just like a joke setup, but it's true), were chatting on a  minibus during a trip in the US. The young Chinese student argued that Eastern people are smarter than Americans; I objected to his argument, trying to explain that there is no such thing as “dumb Americans” and that we are not smarter. The student was surprised, especially when two of the other passengers backed me up. He was sure that he was right and that we were refuting his thesis out of politeness and the desire to be politically correct, asking why we were talking that way given that no American was present.

What made him think that way? Maybe he was looking around and seeing successful math students of Indian or Pakistani origin and this made him believe that Asian people are smarter. There is certainly success and “intellect” among people of Asian background that should be appreciated. But the primary reason for this is that the Indian student must succeed in school in order to succeed in life, whereas this is not such a desperate need for a middle-class American student from Texas .

Don’t think that Alaton, as a Jew, a racist because he made reference to the “Jewish intellect.”He made this remark to emphasize the deficiency of intellect and logic in some of the attitudes of Israelis.

Racism is harmful to mind and reason

Truly, there is something that causes loss of intelligence, but it has nothing to do with race or origin. The conditions under which Jews lived for a long time, which generated “intellect,” have now changed. Those who were insulted have created their own state, they lost their basic motivation generate “cleverness.”

You cannot expect cleverness from a sovereignty that engages in pogroms and ethnic cleansing. (Recall the wise words of Tevye the dairyman in “Fiddler on the Roof,” or his glare that belittled the tyrant). From them, the most you can expect is a sort of juvenile display of power you see from young buys when they say, “Can you jump and throw a kick (like me)?” But this is how life goes. And now the time has come for Palestinians to say wise words.

This can apply to every society and every state: The state erodes the intellect. Those who are subjected to mandatory public education and who remain in a school environment for a long time, will inevitably suffer from a permanent difficulty of perception. In this kind of education, nationalism harms one's ability to think, whereas racism completely destroys it. And once racism and the state merge, it is the worst possible situation on earth: Terror and massacre become ordinary acts.

If you put all these together, you can see what is behind the Mavi Marmara massacre and the political style advanced by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, which views forcing a Turkish envoy to have a seat in a lower chair as appropriate to diplomacy. A person who thinks making someone else sit in a lower chair  in order to present him as being “ lower” than him,  first and foremost reflects a lack of imagination.

Nationalism does not serve the nation, nor does racism. But those who are infected with this virus cannot understand this. They actually harm the national interests they are trying to protect.

The Israeli administration, which was responsible for the raid on the humanitarian aid ship and the murder of the volunteers aboard it, is defining its interests falsely.  Futhermore, if it fails to act in a way that promotes even this false interest, there must be a reason for this. Aside from what it costs both sides, the rising tension with Turkey, had Israel not killed nine civilians aboard a ship 72 miles away from its territory, the Gaza issue would not have come so widely known. Nothing else could have made the Palestinian issue become so global and so crystal clear. Now, it is likely that millions of people in different parts of the world are asking this question: What brutality is the Israeli state capable of committing in Gaza, given that it launched a deadly assault against a humanitarian aid campaign?

The Mavi Marmara has already arrived in Gaza

It will not be easy to restore Turkish-Israeli relations; no government can continue to cooperate with a state that has killed its citizens. Undoubtedly, the world will take a different approach towards the Palestinian issue after this massacre. However, Ayalon and his confidants, who have contributed to anti-Semitism in the world by playing a bloody game in an attempt to teach Turkey a lesson, would not understand this.

Lieberman recently said that Israel may offer military aid to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). I don’t know how one would go about explaining that he is continuting to commit mistakes. At the very least because the remark was made via a public statement, after he fell victim to his anger.  Israel is particularly already attracting the world's and in this vein the Kurds’ fury over the Palestinian issue.

Hasip Kaplan, from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), said in response: “Victimized peoples and revolutionaries have always sided with the Palestinian people. And our people will not be deceived by the games played by those like Lieberman.” Therefore if the PKK abandons violence this can be at least partially attributed to Lieberman. But he would probably never understand how he has contributed to the attainment of peace.

May God protect all of us against nationalism and racism, which paralyze our minds and consciences.


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