Tag Archives: Roi Ben-Yehuda

Israel, Iran and the Cuban Missile Crises.

Over at Al Jazeera, Trita Parsi and I explore both the limitations and potential of using the Cuban Missile Crises as an analogy to the current situation between Israel and Iran.

“Watching the conflict between Iran and Israel escalate, it’s hard not to draw analogies and lessons from history. Indeed, Netanyahu’s thinking in this regard is very much anchored in the past: “The year is 1938 and Iran is Germany”, time and again he has warned. Such analogs provide leaders with a quick and handy “user manual”: a way to sell a desired policy path and provide a platform for action.

Yet as mental shortcuts, analogs could easily lead to unwanted outcomes. Crucial decisions, like going to war, could be based on paying attention to the wrong lessons, or making a false comparison between two different situations. Indeed, it is neither 1938 (Iran is far from having a bomb or a delivery system) nor is Iran Nazi Germany (Iran’s military budget is fraction of that of Israel and the US). Claiming so, however, leaves no room for any response save military force.

Recently, another historical episode, the Cuban Missile Crisis, has been gaining traction. Just as the US, the analogy goes, faced the intolerable choice of either attacking Cuba or allowing Soviet nuclear weapons in its own backyard, so too Israel/US must decide between attacking Iran or allowing it to become nuclear.”

To read the rest, click here.

An Illness Within.

My latest in Haaretz. A look at the importance of language and metaphors in the recent anti-immigrant rhetoric in Israel. Sometimes (if I may paraphrase Nietzsche), one needs to opine with a hammer.

On the day that the first, and highly publicized “repatriation” of South Sudanese migrants begins, we need to look again at the rhetoric employed by Israeli politicians and broadcasters towards those seeking refuge and a better life in Israel.

The incitements that lead to the anti-immigrant riot of March 23 by Israeli politicians Miri Regev, Danny Danon, and Michael Ben-Ari have rightly shocked people of good conscience. Many have asked how, after all, can politicians representing the state of Israel call people living in its midst a “cancer in our body” and a “national plague”? However, a poll taken shortly after the incident (by the Israel Democracy Institute) has shown that 53 percent of Israelis identify with those statements and 33 percent of Jews (along with 23 percent of Arabs) supported the acts of violence against African immigrants.

More recently, media personality and Army Radio talk-show host Avri Gilad said the migrants who enter Israel are a threat by virtue of being Muslims; which according to him is “the most terrible disease raging around the world.” He further explained that even though many of them are moderate, they carry a “virus” that can “explode” at any moment.

To understand the seriousness of Regev, Danon and Gilad’s statements we only have to mine history for the way in which Jews and others have been on the wrong end of similar pronouncements. Almost every genocide in recorded history has been preceded by the instrumental use of language to dehumanize and demonize a particular population – not least the Holocaust, but also Rwanda and Cambodia at the time of the Khmer Rouge. In other words, language – particularly the use of metaphors – matters. Continue reading

Can Heavy Metal Save the World?

My latest on the way in which Orphaned Land, Israel’s biggest heavy metal band, is transforming relations between Muslims and Jews in the MENA.

Sometimes change happens in the most unlikely ways, fostered by the most unlikely of people. In the last few years, while Israel’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world has drastically deteriorated, an Israeli heavy metal band has been uniting thousands of Jews and Muslims across the Middle East.

Originally published in Common Ground News, a longer version of this piece also appears in The Jerusalem Post.

Revolution Calling!

Protests are in the air and on the ground, and since protests are a social act, here are two pieces that I co-wrote/prepared dealing with recent social movements in Israel.

The first is a collection of personal reactions from Israelis living abroad to the revolution that is happening in their home country. The piece features Natasha Mozgovaya, Dan Arieli, Joel Schalit, Alon Ben Meir, Kobi Skolnick, myself and others. The piece was published in 972 and co-prepared with my good friend Ami Kaufman.

The second article is co-written with another good friend, Aziz Abu Sarah, and recalls our experience marching together for a Palestinian state in Jerusalem. With everything that’s been happening in Israel, the piece feels a little like yesterdays news (the protest took place July 15 and we wrote this a few weeks back) but it was an important demonstration that should not be forgotten.

Also published in Bahasa Indonesia, Arabic, French, Urdo, and Hebrew.

NYT Picks Up Our Conflict Resolution Commando Piece.

Over at the NYT, Peter Catapano looks into the controversy surrounding the upcoming flotilla and asks: “Is it a “freedom” flotilla, a “peace” flotilla or, as some have called it, a “provocation” flotilla? Who has been telling the truth? And, what is all this really about?”

The article surveys a sampling of some of the more notable flotilla-centered pieces published this week; showcasing the many positions (some of which are bizarre) on this divisive issue. The piece ends by quoting and awarding my article with Andrea Bartoli “the counterintuitive solution of the week.” :-)

Conflict Resolution Commandos: A Response to the Flotilla.

* The following article was co-written with Andrea Bartoli and published in issue 4 of Unrest Magazine. It’s also published at the Huffington Post.

This month a new flotilla is scheduled to set sail to Gaza. As will be recalled, in May 2010 a violent confrontation at sea between Israeli naval forces and pro-Palestinian activists led to the death of nine people and many more injured; before a Turkish vessel aiming at breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza was escorted to a port. As a consequence, relations between Israel and Turkey dramatically soured and Israel’s standing in the international community further eroded. Judging by the rhetoric of the parties involved today another collision seems imminent, with more flotillas forthcoming in the future.

As scholars of conflict resolution, we believe that such situations call for constructive adaptation on the part of those involved. To that end we propose the IDF take initiative and create the first ever Conflict Resolution Commando unit. Continue reading

Are the Smurfs Anti-Semitic Misogynists?

One of my more successful blog posts is this critical deconstruction of the cartoon ‘The Smurfs’ (written in 2008). With Global Smurf Day and a 3D film around the corner, I figure it was time to rewrite and publish elsewhere. Check out my latest from the Forward.