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I have the greatest admiration for Siegfried Ramler, as I do for almost all the Jews I know. As WAISers know, Siegfried escaped from Nazi Austria, came to the US, was an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials and is now settled in Hawaii. A friend of his, Graham Jackson, sends me this message from Israel: "You suggested cloning Siegfried and have him run the Israeli government. I honestly agree with you. (Actually, given his personal history, it is really a matter of fate that he is not in a position to do so. More is the pity.)
You were wondering if there is any marked difference between Israeli history books in Tel Aviv and those in Jerusalem. The answer is, No - the cities are only 50 minutes apart - insufficient for any geographic segmentation! [I was concerned about the difference between Israeli and Palestinian textbooks. RH]. However, I can assure you that Israel is a vibrant democracy - in which the conventional ideological explanations of our historical myths are being challenged by various academic "New Historians". The Israeli media also encourages a vigorous debate not just about our history, but also of the follies of our present Government. You will also hardly be surprised to learn that no such open debate and internal criticism is tolerated in any of our surrounding Arab countries. Can you imagine what would happen to any Palestinian who challenged Arafat's views? He or she would end up like Anwar Sadat. Dead. (Or like Yizhak Rabin - dead. It just shows you that the banality of evil exists everywhere).
Since you are interested in history textbooks, you might like to know what appears in the 30 or so textbooks attributed to the Syrian philosopher and educator, Abdullah Abed Al-daim, "Zionism is pure racism, exceeding even the Nazis and the Fascists". Now, how would you like neighbours like that? You referred to Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon as "Repugnant", and, while I am no admirer of the man (in fact I have led scores of street demonstrations against Sharon, Netanyahu, the occupation etc., etc.), your use of vocabulary astounds me. "Repugnant" is what I call scraping the remains of dead Israelis off the walls of a restaurant which has been blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber. (And I know there are plenty quite repugnant stories from the other side too). [I should have chosen a milder word, but I used the word expressing the consensus of most of the mail I receive.RH]
You seem to be surprised by various Europeans' lack of understanding. However, their malevolent one-sideness in support of the Palestinians is hardly surprising, given their underlying anti-Semitism and gullibility in the face of biased media reporting (e.g. the BBC). And with so many Muslims amongst them espousing and encouraging extremist ideologies that challenge the the basic tenets of Western Civilization, who can blame the Europeans for being worried? The Al-Qaeda network is still alive and kicking, and it is only a matter of time before we all get a reminder.
I wish the WAIS luck in encouraging nations throughout the world to adopt a more open, balanced, tolerant, liberal and enlightened version of what we call education. But I think you face a difficult challenge in many countries (especially those in the Arab world) where education is a tool for communicating undiluted hatred and the unlimited thirst for bloody revenge. Incidentally, I have recently been approached by some Arab friends to help them establish the first Arab University in Israel. If there are any people in the WAIS organization that can truly see beyond the Palestinian propaganda, and help us in this very serious challenge, I would be happy to hear from them"
My comment: I agree with virtually everything that Graham Jackson says, although I think he is unfair to the European media, in which Jews play an active part. Anti-Semitism is dormant in Europe, and current events have aroused it. Israel is a vibrant democracy, which no Arab country is. It would have been splendid had Israel had inspired the Arab countries to imitate it. Unfortunately, those of us who are familiar with the whole picture realized that this was a dream. The reaction of the Arab world was to be expected. The Jews in the Arab countries, where they held a respected position, have been expelled, and the whole Islamic world is seething with hostility to Israel. As for history textbooks, we posted a message accusing the Palestinian textbooks of presenting a violently hostile picture of Israel, and I am still waiting for an honest account of Israeli textbooks. We shall be lucky if we escape World War III. I wish Graham Jackson good luck with his work, which reminds me of that of the lamented Edith Coliver. No one wishes a peaceful solution of the conflict more than I.
Ronald Hilton - 4/20/02