Saturday, March 24, 2007

MIT announces Just Jerusalem competition

A group of people at MIT "hope to encourage new ways of thinking about the many difficult issues and hardships faced by Jerusalemites, regardless of their faith or ethnicity".

So as part of their "Jerusalem 2050 project", they recently launched a competition for visionary ideas for the city called Just Jerusalem. The submissions to the competition must be "Well Specified Projects" that support "
a vision of a just, peaceful, and sustainable Jerusalem". Their web site lists 4 submission tracks to the competition:

  • Physical infrastructure (buildings; urban designs; landscape projects; transportation, sewage, water, or communication systems; etc.)
  • Economic infrastructure (new activities or products; employment or social security schemes; trade, banking, or currency arrangements; technological innovations; etc.)
  • Civic infrastructure (inventive institutions or social practices; neighborhood or community-level activities and organizations; new civil-military relations; educational systems; health care services; etc.)
  • Symbolic infrastructure (essays, films, photographic exhibitions, poems, songs, museums, festivals; etc.)

The Prizes page states that "At least one prizewinning entry will be selected in each category of submission, with a total of 5 awarded. Prizewinners will be given the opportunity to spend up to an academic semester in residence at MIT as Visiting Fellows, with all expenses paid, including travel, housing, and stipend."

I really like the idea of this competition. Interestingly enough, it also links two places which have influenced my life: Jerusalem and MIT. I was born in Jerusalem, and lived there for the first 6 years of my life. One branch of my family tree even includes people born in Jerusalem at least 5 or 6 generations back. As for MIT: this is one of the institutions I admire. I keep finding that I share the same professional views as people at MIT (especially the MIT media lab) - and am always excited by the projects they have there. (At some point I even seriously considered applying for PhD studies at there - but was sucked into the industry instead). So I'm really looking forward to finding out what the competition will generate!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

The channel 1 film on Sayeret Shaked will (correction: NOT) be shown again this Wednesday

The film which had enraged the Egyptians will be shown again this Wednesday at 21:40, on Israeli Channel 1.

Having written about it, I guess I should make an effort and actually see it, shouldn't I?

Update (March 21, 2007):
Nominally.Challanged has commented here that the rescreening has been cancelled. Shame indeed - I too wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Egyptian rage about the Israeli channel 1 film

As usual, the Israeli media and the Arab media have two completely different descriptions of the same event.

A few days ago, Mohamed Maher said:

there is some news which was spread in all the egyptian newspapers , two days ago.
it says that, the israeli "channel one", released a new documentry film, which says that in the war of 1967 , a troop had a leader called " benjamen aleaazer" (who is an israeli minister right now) killed 250 captured egyptian soldiers which were without any weapon , these soldiers were captured while they were runing away from sinai, after the israeli strike.
many israeli soldiers which were a part of this troop talked in this film, and they admitted the doing of such a crminal action.
"aleaazer" said that they used to fire a large number of bullets on each captured soldier to be sure that he is dead...
the film has also some documentry movie parts , which were taken in 1967, that shows these type of criminal action....

I assume this is a pretty accurate description of how Egytians remember the events.

Israel has a completely different story. Not having seen the film myself, I have to rely on newspaper articles and radio interviews, but it is quite clear that the Israeli version is very far from teh Egyptian view.

For starters, participants in those events totally deny killing unarmed soldiers. According to radio in interviews with people who participated in the operation, this was a combat operation, and was a battle against soldiers who still had their guns. I heard in those interviews that Israeli soldiers who participated in the operation have some moral reservations about the action, because they had an unfair advantage in the battles, and because the battles took place after victory had been declared. The Egyptian soldiers still had their weapons, but the Israeli operations were carried out during the day, when the Egyptian soldiers were in hiding.

Here's a paragraph from an article in Ha'aretz about the film:
In the end, Sayeret Shaked has no cause to glory in the operation, but it is not a matter of killing prisoners, as was claimed by the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram after the film was broadcast. It was a revenge action, an organized hunt of helpless soldiers who had no chance of fleeing from the firepower of the Israeli fighters who were assaulting them from the air. It was not "fair play," but it is doubtful that the action falls into the category of war crimes, as defined by law.

The article also quotes what the Israeli soldiers actually said in the film, including mentions that the Egyptian soldiers were armed at the time.

I also happened to hear a radio interview with a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. He complained that as an ambassador he tried many times to go on Egyptian TV / radio - but was never allowed there. He said that he did manage to get a few newspaper interviews, but that they always distorted his words.

Why is this happenning? Why are the Israeli and Arab versions of the same event always so different? I can think of three possible explanations:

  • Option 1: Arabs are saints. Israelis are evil. Arabs always tell the truth, and Israelis always lie and distort reality.
  • Option 2: Israelis are saints. Arabs are evil. Israelis always tell the truth, and Arabs always lie and distort reality.
  • Option 3: Arabs are human and Israelis are human. Arabs think that they are saints and that Israelis are evil. Israelis think that they are saints and that Arabs are evil. When Israelis speak - Arabs think Israelis are lying to cover up crimes. When Arabs speak - Israelis think this is anti-Israeli propaganda. Neither side is willing to accept that no one here is a saint. No one likes to belong to a group which is not "Just" or "Moral". People defend their own side, and try to prove that the other side is evil. It is so difficult to accept that your own side is also wrong, that people find it much easier to believe that the other side has evil intentions and is twisting the facts. As a result, both sides see the other as evil or crazy, and the words and actions of one side are constantly misunderstood by the other (e.g., the Al-Aqsa events).
Any other explanations anyone?