Once a week my e-mail flashes a dramatic announcement from My Israel, an organization that defines itself as "doing Zionism." The group highlights stories that the media minimizes or conceals, according to My Israel's website.
This week the site said that while the death of Brig. Gen. Aharon Davidi was played down, the death of "a famous American singer, apparently from a drug overdose," got huge coverage - testimony to the media's pathetic populism, whose empty foolishness My Israel offers an alternative to.
Indeed, Davidi's death went by quietly and the man who was admired by generations of combat soldiers for his humble and impressive personality seems to be forgotten. But the comparison between the meager media coverage of his death and the huge storm over Houston's death is a baseless, manipulative sham.
Anyone who expects that in this day and age of celebrities and reality shows, young news people in television, the Internet, radio or even the press will know who founded the Paratrooper Brigade, what the retaliatory raids were or who Israel's war heroes were (or its ministers, authors or poets ) is naive or imagining things. They're like this writer, an old cranky lady who has trouble coming to terms with the unfortunate turn reality has taken.
But that's the way it is. In street interviews in France a few months ago, on the day Danielle Mitterand died, most people said they had no idea who she was. Others said she was a supermodel, an actress or a singer, and even when they were given a big hint and were asked which great French president Mrs. Mitterand was the wife of, some people said it could be Jacques Chirac. It's a good thing they weren't asked about Pierre Mendes France or Albert Camus.
All those people had probably heard of Whitney Houston, as people here have. But My Israel is not complaining about the changing reality. My Israel is careful to complain only about amnesia on one side of the reality - the right. And they don't plan to hold a deep cultural discussion about the changes that Israeli society and consciousness have undergone, but to "do Zionism," settler-style, which means rejiggering the Israeli ethos to conform with the settlers' principles. These principles expropriate the historical narrative from most Israelis and leave it to the messianic, post-Zionist right.
True, Davidi tended to the right, not to say the extreme right. In 2007, with his friend from Unit 101, Meir Har-Zion, he joined the Hatikva Party, headed by Aryeh Eldad. But My Israel wants not only to co-opt the political tendencies of Davidi the elder citizen, but, and mainly, of Davidi the young Palmach fighter and paratrooper. It wants to do so by co-opting - while lacking nuance, critique or historical perspective - all Israel's military activity in the 1950s, including the controversial retaliatory operations.
And because they want to persuade us that the media's ignoring the heroes of the right stems from a conspiracy, they use Houston to tar the "leftist media" with the whole array of worn images - rock, drugs and loose living.
This tarring is so careless that even young right-wingers probably aren't persuaded. Because while Houston may not have left a huge stamp on music, she was a singer with a huge voice. Tens of millions of people thrilled at her voice and her beauty, and they were shocked when she drowned in the cruel whirlpool of the popular music industry. They wept with sorrow and compassion over her terrible end. In addition to the usual voyeurism, her death induced simple and understandable human sorrow.
Houston was not a paratrooper hero, but neither was she "some American singer who died from a drug overdose." She was a human being and an artist. Even Israelis may be permitted to mourn her, remember her and cling to her wonderful music.
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