Black Box / Context Is Everything

PM Ehud Olmert radiated pretentiousness and futility among Nobel Prize laureates and royalty in Petra.

From the little it was possible to film for television of the weird gathering of Nobel Prize veterans that took place on Tuesday morning in Petra, the one who most stood out in his pretentiousness was Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Here we see him approach King Abdullah of Jordan and with the ease of a man of the world, addresses him as "His Majesty." And there he sits next to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, and delivers a contrived peace speech that seems to have been pulled from a magician's sleeve for that glittering event.

In the speech, Olmert solemnly promised that every Arab peace initiative would be greeted by his country with "Yes," and that the word "No" would nevermore be heard from us. At what meeting of the government or the Knesset was he given a mandate to make such generous declarations? For another thing, what difference does it make to him to say this? And for a third thing, what idiot is going to believe him? From the little it was possible to film at Petra, it was suddenly understood how Israel all at once became, under Olmert's brief rule, a country of cocktail parties and personal PR. Under this system of government, it doesn't matter how "former" you are in your own country, and this definition includes the foremost former personality in Israel, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, another peace laureate who participated in the conference smiling profligately all the while. Under this cocktail party system, you exist as long as you present a tie-wearing face to the world and exchange calling cards with colleagues and make promises that are forgotten when the party ends. And if in addition you manage to arrange for yourself, like Olmert, face time with some local "majesty" or other (Abdullah), you have raised your stock and you have also performed a major Zionist act.

One day in the not-too-distant future, when our children ask us when Israel began to look terminally like the caricature of a state, we will remember the meeting at Petra. There, against the backdrop of the ruins of the Nabateans' capital, we too began to sink into the sands of the red desert.

Murder in a Zionist context

For years now the unique formulations known to television for defining cases of Jews being murdered by Arabs and the other way around have been two: "murder in a criminal context" and "murder in a nationalist context." Ostensibly, no other context can be considered.

Television shows only external images and not the souls of those accused of murder, but it was enough to have a look at the "Mabat" news program (Channel 1, 9 P.M.) on Tuesday, and see Julian Soufir, a Jewish immigrant from France who is suspected of slitting the throat of a Palestinian cab driver, to understand that the definition of this killing has to be "murder in a Zionist context."

That is to say: Judging by the equanimity with which the suspect brushes his teeth when he is brought for remand, and going by the warmth that enveloped him from the police, who did not succeed in concealing their smiles at the sight of the idiotic faces he made at the cameras, there is already a strain of forgiveness emerging here. The fellow is mentally unstable, it will be said in the end; he was affected by the anti-Semitism in France and felt a need to avenge it here. Isn't this a classical definition of Zionism? Or as the Palestinian cab driver's brother prophesied to the "Mabat" cameras that very evening from the mourners' pavilion in Beit Hanina, in East Jerusalem: "Ten years from now, he will be a member of the Knesset."