Despite all the ceremonial declarations uttered in Annapolis,
my attention was drawn to a small story about the organizers tasked with planning the seating arrangements. As those were peace talks, and as all of us want peace, the organizers were warned about the need to ensure that no Syrian or
Saudi official unintentionally encounters some Zionist pest.
This was indeed a large venue, but still, people (just like monkeys) sometimes have to go to the bathroom or wash their hands. In short, they may have to pass through a narrow corridor where, you never know, you may encounter one of those – well, here the speaker is supposed to venomously utter the word: “Zionist.”
Syria’s motives for attending the conference were quite clear. They came to score points and extricate themselves, as much as is possible, out of the axis of evil. In short, they came because of Syrian issues – all the rest didn’t quite interest them, and it was not easy for them as it is. But to bump into an Israeli?! A Jew! Face to face, with no Condoleezza or a sea of officials around. Just you and I. Now that’s way too much, being forced to exchange glances or even mumble something. This is where we draw the line.
After all, Arabs are honorable people, and the Israelis, on top of all the other trouble, have this bad habit of using such incidents in order to suddenly show friendliness, utter some kind of silly joke, and then tell everyone about it. Years after Annapolis, some Israeli minister or advisor could write in his memoirs how he made a quick comment to the Syrian official about the crappy American coffee, and yes, he thinks he saw a hint of a smile on the Syrian’s face – for a moment there, the Israeli will say, we were able to overcome the raging conflict and just be two men, Khaled and I, yearning for some good coffee.
The end of the story is that it was not easy at all to arrange the chairs. Sophisticated algorithms were utilized and multifaceted maneuvers previously only known in Astronomy were used, so that under no circumstances would an Arab and a Jew come in contact or some share kind of proximity that could hurt the feelings of the nation.
Simply put, our enemies, among other things, are quite racist. As opposed to some stigmas, it turns out that arrogance is not an Israeli monopoly. It’s amazing how the Arab world managed to convince the West that the racist hatred is merely legitimate religious sensitivity that must be taken into consideration.
We should also take a moment to consider the fact that for us these things always sound like a silly joke. We treat it the same way we ridicule the Arab refusal to compete against Israeli athletes. None of us, with the exception of the margins of the far Right, have a problem meeting an Arab, shaking his hand, or showing sympathy for him.
The thing is, on their side it’s an absolutely serious matter. It’s hard to believe that anyone in the Arab media was joking about the seating arrangements.
For years we’ve been reprimanding ourselves over our attitude to Arabs and our racist jokes. Yet while we were busy reprimanding, we almost failed to notice that something changed around here. When was the last time you heard a derogatory term like “towel head” being used seriously, without any sarcasm? When was the last time an Israeli film featured an Arab character that was less than divine?
Meanwhile, the exact opposite is happening on the other side. And no, we’re not talking about a minor issue. Even if all the roadblocks will be removed, there will be no peace around here as long as Muslim Arabs don’t view Jews as human beings.