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  2005-11-02—Sonic Booms
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Ira Sharkansky


Israeli civil rights group petitions
for end to sonic booms over Gaza, November 2, 2005

By Ira Sharkansky

In case any of you thought that Israelis were insensitive to the needs of the Palestinians, here is some news. Physicians for Civil Rights have filed a case with the Supreme Court demanding an end to sonic booms over Gaza. From their perspective, the booms are collective punishment, rather than being targeted against those who do harmful things. According to the appellants, the sonic booms are frightening, and especially harmful to the children of Gaza.
I presume they mean children too young to throw stones, or to color their hands red in commemoration of heroes who have killed Israelis and dipped hands in their blood.
I have heard from other sources that some children throughout Israeli fear getting on buses, while some of those living near Gaza are afraid of rockets landing nearby.
It is not only Physicians for Civil Rights among Israelis who criticize ourselves, and seek to direct their own instruments of government and foreign bodies against the evils they see. It is common to say that Israel's income gap between rich and poor is among the largest in the world, and that Israel is a world leader in traffic accidents and labor unrest. None of this is true, even if such claims appear in reports of National Insurance, the State Auditor, and the former Minister of Finance.
A political scientist at the University of Haifa and a number of other academics have urged their colleagues at overseas universities to organize boycotts against Israeli applications for research grants, and against Israeli article submissions to scientific journals. Brit Tzedek (Treaty for Justice) has Israeli and overseas branches supporting the Geneva Accords, put together by Israeli and Palestinians activists. We all got copies of the Accords in our mailboxes, financed by the European Union. The Israeli partners claimed to reach a framework of a peace agreement that included Palestinian renunciation of the right of return (of 1948 refugees to their homes). When I read the document, I found an endorsement of resolutions that support the right of return.
Israelis are also prominent, along with Palestinians, in opposing the defense barrier on what they call Palestinian land, targeted killings of individuals involved in violence against Israelis, roadblocks designed to limit penetration of Israel by individuals intent on killing, and all activity of Israeli security forces beyond the 1967 borders.
Perhaps this tendency of tireless self-criticism has something to do with being the Chosen People who live in the Promised Land. If we take the promises of the Bible and early Zionists too seriously, Israel should be a paradise on earth. It is not. Our distant ancestors entered the works of the prophets into Holy Scripture. They, too, were intense critics. They claimed to hear the word of the Lord, and seldom tolerated what the king, his ministers, or the common people were doing. Perhaps intolerance toward one's people is somewhere in our genes, along with higher than average tendencies toward  Tay-Sachs,  Cystic Fibrosis, Crohn's Disease, and a few other biological lovelies.  
Not all Jewish hyperbole is negative. I do not know how many times I have received a list of Israeli accomplishments that credits us with being world leaders in a number of good traits, like college graduates, and for inventing a fair number of the world's marvels. I once tried, but gave up, tracing the list to its origin. I filed it under the heading of "Jewish junk." At least some of its items are not correct.
I have heard that Jews are just like other people, only mor eso. I have never been able to determine if that is praise or criticism.

Sharkansky is a member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem