Shades of Steve Biko

A 30-year-old Palestinian man has died in an Israeli jail. After first attributing the death to cardiac failure, Israeli spokesmen adopted the phrase “unknown causes” after a postmortem showed no damage to the heart. The results of toxicology testing are pending.

Arafat Jadarat, of the village of Sa’ir, in the West Bank, died less than a week after he was arrested for throwing stones at Israeli troops. His postmortem was conducted by the Israeli state pathologist in the presence of an official Palestinian pathologist. The latter said that marks on the body indicated that Jadarat had been tortured. Israeli spokesman attributed Jadarat’s two broken ribs to “resuscitation efforts.” There was also a small abrasion on the right side of Jadarat’s chest. Continue reading

About Hubris and Deaths Foretold

Having lived in South Africa for most of the Nineties, I think I have an inkling of the panic that Oscar Pistorius says he felt when he believed that someone had broken into his home. Not that I buy his version – I don’t – but his explanation taps into a very rich vein in the South African psyche. Ably assisted by almost-comical police incompetence,  it may well result in his getting away with what in Israel is called a targeted assassination.

I’ll never forget the feeling of helplessness when the alarm goes off in the middle of the night. Barricading the family behind locked doors or a security gate; prowling warily through dark rooms armed with whatever weapon came to hand (I owned neither a gun nor a cricket bat.) Speaking with the armed response guys through the burglar bars when they finally arrived on the scene. The memory of those nights alone is enough to keep me from returning to live in South Africa. Continue reading

The Art of Electing Nonentities

Last week I wrote that governments in Israel are all about arithmetic, which they are. But it’s the arithmetic of dice, rather than the rigorous logic and deduction of mathematics. Israeli politics are a game of chance.

In last week’s election, close to a third of the voters chose a party that didn’t have a platform (Likud-Beiteinu) and over a quarter voted for people whose names – let alone  political positions – they didn’t know. Both Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) ran lists of unknowns, with the exception of the party leader. About 40% of the members of the next Knesset will be political neophytes, most of whom have never been called on to state their political views in public.

For all we know, we could have elected a Hitler – or, for that matter, an Einstein. Either way, we don’t know. Continue reading