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Blue & White MK Yoaz Hendel
Photo: Avi Moalem
Blue & White MK Yoaz Hendel

Stating faults of Arab culture isn't racist, ignoring them is

Opinion: MK Hendel's recent criticism of the Arab and Muslim cultures stoked the rage of the 'enlightened', but examining his words without the 'progressive spectacles', one could see who is the real racist

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 02.09.20 , 20:55
Since its inception, the State of Israel has welcomed Jewish immigrants from over 70 different nations, some like to listen to music featuring goblet drums music and others to music featuring cellos. There were some great musicians among them; such as, Zohra Al Fassiya, who sang at the court of the Moroccan king, and poet Erez Biton who dedicated a song to her.
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  • And some didn't have a goblet drum, like the Jews of Yemen, who were most closely associated with a tin can. This simple, yet wonderful instrument helped to spread the music of one of the greatest Jewish poets of all time, Rabbi Shalom Shabazi.
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    Blue & White MK Yoaz Hendel
    (Photo: Avi Moalem)
    Now, the goblet drum was brought back into the limelight after Blue & White MK Yoaz Hendel, when speaking in an interview about the ailments of Israel's Arab society, gave the country's diverse migrant population as an example for coexistence and stated that some of these people migrated to Israel with a "mentality of a classical concert in Vienna and some with a mentality of goblet drums."
    What's the problem with that? What is so racist about this statement? He didn't say anything negative about goblet drum enthusiasts. He didn’t say they were inferior to the Viennese music lovers, but some self-appointed spokespeople on their behalf were quick to jump out of their seats.
    What's all the fuss about? As if people did not come here from different places and as if those same very people did not lay the foundations for some fascinating cultural works, extending from oriental-rock giants Habrera Hativeet to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and from the Jerusalem Orchestra East&West to the Israel Andalusian Orchestra? And how would we define the amazingly talented Ravid Kahalani, who leads the band Yemen Blues? What do Yemenis even have to do with the blues? So here, they can be combined, and the results are fascinating.
    Many of these outraged "white knights" were quick to mention how these concert-goers in Vienna sent the Jews to the gas chambers while Richard Wagner's music played in the background. Berlin and Vienna's "high culture" couldn't prevent the hate, incitement and blatant racism against the Jews.
    But these things have nothing to do with each other. One could appreciate the Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna, Berlin or Israel and still be a kind person, or the complete opposite as well.
    The cello and Chekhov are not a guarantee for humanity, and the goblet drum and Ibn Khaldun aren't either.
    Yemen Blues Yemen Blues
    Yemen Blues
    (Photo: Zohar Ron)
    Hendel's criticism of the values that characterize the Arab world, calling its culture "a jungle" of humans right violations, added even more fuel to the fire. How could he have said that? Can't he see the blooming humans rights or gender equality over there? Can't he see how their media preaches messages of love and understanding every day?
    This must be said - not all cultures were created equal. Societies that have more human rights, and women's rights, in particular, are better than other societies. Societies that fight racism are better than those where incitement is the norm. Democratic and liberal societies, for all their faults, are far better than backward societies. So Hendel's criticism of the Arab and Muslim world, which struggles to adopt democracy, is justified and necessary in the eyes of those who have yet to fall for this progressive self-deception.
    This has nothing to do with the goblet drum, the cello, or racism. On the contrary, whoever exempts the Arab culture from criticism is a racist who sees Arabs as inferior. Their low expectations of the Arab people are the true racism and it must be exposed wherever it shows its ugly face - Hendel's comments, by the way, are not one of these instances.
    In these times of endless election campaigns, this whole ruckus became mostly political.
    After all, there is evidence against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, who talked about the "gentle" Europeans versus the Moroccans and evidence of the incumbent himself saying that "Golani (a renowned IDF infantry brigade) soldiers are alright, as long as they have white officers."
    Yet, these apoplectic progressives chose to target Hendel's comments, which didn't have the slightest smidge of racism to them. He's the real problem.
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