RE: Does no one read [between] Vygotsky's words?

From: eliza@pob.huji.ac.il
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 13:42:34 PDT


Dear Zhenya (I like Russian nick-names),
One of the beautiful things in Israel is the multi-culturalism. I love meeting
different cultures this is what attracts me in anthropology. I LOVE Native
American culture; although the Native Americans ("Red Indians") are an
oppressed minority (just like the Kurds in Iraq) I consider their values
superior to traditional European values so I ask myself who is here really
the "primitive savage"?
Concerning what you wrote:
> Actually, my compassion is expanded to all people - not only to
> innocent victims - soldiers who become traumatized by the war even if they
> fight on the "right" side but also even if they fight on the "wrong" side.
> Being drafted in the USSR to the war in Afghanistan in 1986 (I managed to
> escape), I had a lot of "thoughts" about and sympathy for soldiers fighting
> on the "wrong" side.
In my oppinion defending your country for the sake of security and
independance is the "right" side, fighting for 'getting more than is due' like
the British Empire etc. etc. is the "wrong" side.
In the case of the USSR invasion to Afghanistan, the motive was not defense
but expansion of the regime's cosmopolitical power, the same was true for the
US invasion to Vietnam miles away from the US border. The attitude of the
USSR was very much 'religious fanaticism' a crusade/jihad for spreading
the 'religion' of Communism in the rest of the world. The US is far more
democratic compared to the USSR, but also the US has no inhibitions in
furthering their own economic-capitalistic aspirations at the expense of other
cultures this is the heritage of the British Empire: war mongering in India
(Hindus vs. Moslems), Palestine (Jews vs. Moslems), Ireland (Catholics vs.
Protestants), etc. for the British economy.

>I think many people would agree with this statement as presented in
> this black and white formulation. Unfortunately, in-situ, many situations
> are "grey areas" with a lot of pressures and lack of communal support to see
> things in a "straight way".
Here is a story from the Syrian front during the Yom-Kippur War to illustrate
my point of view published by Aharon Becher in Yediot Acharonot (I have
rendered it from Hebrew):
Yariv Ben-Aharon a commander of a tank unit was on his way to speak to Simcha
the half-track vehicle of the deputy brigade commander. Behind him stand a
dozen of worn-out soldiers. "I'm sorry" Ben-Aharon tells the deputy brigade
commander, "my soldiers are no longer capable of climbing into another tank;
some of them barely escaped with their lives from a burning tank, one even
fled from two burning tanks, all of them have traumatic memories of witnessing
comrades burning to death because they couldn't escape in time." "Tell them to
come here," Simcha answered, "I'll speak to them. After the soldiers
approached, Simcha announced: "Look boys I have no complaints those who
don't want to return to their tanks are released I shall force no one. In
know what you've all endured. You've done an excellent job each and everyone
of you. Who wants to return home has my permission." One of the privates came
forward and in an apologetic tone started to explain "I can't any more, I
haven't seen my family since the beginning of the war, I'm the only survivor
from my tank, the rest didn't make it " "You certainly deserve release,"
Simcha answered.
Simcha was a slender tall man, his white hair disclosed his age which was long
beyond retiring. The journalist Aharon Becher writes: "I looked at Simcha and
asked myself, what is this old gentleman doing at the front in the midst of a
bloody war?"
"Now I must tell you something," Simcha continued, "My name is Simcha and I
live in Kibbutz Nezer Sirni (Kibbutz Nezer Sirni was founded by a group of
holocaust survivors who fought as Partisans). This is my 4th war defending
this country: the war of independence, the Sinai war, the six-day-war and now
the Yom-Kippur war. Back in Europe I fought as a Partisan in WWII, before that
my whole family was exterminated without even having the right to defend
themselves I'm the only survivor. Believe me I'm so very tired of fighting
wars, I fully understand how you all feel right now; long before you were born
I was out on the front fighting, but I shall continue to fight for the defense
of this country so that my children and grandchildren should never encounter
what I lived through in Europe." Simcha fell silent. Suddenly one private came
forward and announced "Commander, I shall return to my tank!" After him others
came forward and announced "me too", "me too" until the last soldier.
Aharon Becher writes: "I watched the soldiers silently waiting to be taken
back to the battlefield and realized at that instant that if there is a time
when a person faces a moment of unadulterated truth then this was such a
moment". As Becher approached Ben-Aharon and Simcha to take his leave, Simcha
reached out to his walkie-talkie. Becher caught site of the purple number
tattooed on Simcha's arm, at that moment he knew that Simcha had escaped
Auschwitz.
My husband was in a tank unit and he witnessed his best friend, the only child
of holocaust-survivors, burn to death. In spite of the trauma of the Yom-
Kippur war he continued to serve as a combatant soldier because he knows that
everything has to be done to defend this country. As a religious person he
feels a moral obligation to contribute to the defense of his country and the
safety of his people. He doesn't see his military biography as something to
pride himself, but as a moral duty that he did. Also a neighbor of ours, a
religious Yemenite Jew, fought at the Egyptian front and was traumatized by
the horrors of war. Today his son is a combatant soldier who had been exposed
to a lot of fire etc. In spite of his personal trauma he sees it as his son's
moral obligation to defend his country. During the 60s and 70s, for most of
the secular Israelis from the Kibbutzim fighting at the front was a source for
personal glory and a sense of being superior to others; many generals of that
generation like Amram Mitzna, Ehud Barak etc. never miss a chance to state "I
fought", "I was Combatant" etc. etc. The religious and oriental-Jewish
soldiers have a more humble attitude, because their motives are less
egocentric and more idealistic. Holocaust survivors like Simcha from the above
mentioned report in Yediot Acharonot have a greater appreciation for a free
and independent Jewish State as well as an independent Jewish Defense Force,
because they lived through the greater horrors of being dependant and
defenseless in a genocide like the Tutsi in Rwanda.

> I think it is very important not to
> forget in this story about US and UK soldiers that in many Arab countries
> torture and humiliation and extra judicial killings (?) is wide spread
> practice with little coverage by media. Very few courageous human right Arab
> observers try to monitor the situation and report to international
> organizations (like Amnesty International) with little attention from the
> overall international community (e.g., UN). It is understandable that people
> in US and UK are shocked about actions of their soldiers but they are a part
> of bigger problem of military abuse of power around the world: bigger in
> scope and spread.
The Israeli Press is still living in an ethnocentric cultural ghetto and
writes as if those outside of their clique were to primitive (or mentally
retarded?) to be capable to think for themselves and have a mind of their own.
For example yesterday, Daniel Ben-Simon, a conceited journalist from Haaretz
(the official organ of the Israeli elite) was amazed to discover that
those 'primitive' oriental Jews from the development towns in the Negev,
actually had a political opinion of their own!!! Another self-important
journalist from Haaretz, Ari Shavit, published a personal column the day after
a terror attack in the coffee shop "Moment" in which he was surprised to
discover that Palestinian terrorists made no distinction between "us" (the
Israeli elite) and "them" (the simple folk).
> Yes, according to some reports during the Soviet time, even in peace time
> there was 5% deaths in Soviet military when almost every young male between
> 18-10 had to serve in military. The death rate was even higher in so-called
> national minorities (Armenians, Jews, Azerbaijani, Georgians, Tatars, and so
> on). Official causes of the deaths were suicide and "accidents" however they
> were not reported to the press, of course.
I'm happy that the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants have contributed to
breaking the cultural-regime of MAPAI ("Israeli labor" i.e. the israeli
political and economic elite) in the army and raised the general moral
standards in the IDF. Those soldiers have brought into the army a new spirit
of solidarity, patriotism and egalitarianism. Today there are very devoted
officers from the Ethiopian community, who are respected and liked by the
Israelis of European descent. During the 'dark age' of the Ben-Gurion regime
it wouldn't have been possible that a soldier like Shaul Mofaz, born in Iran,
would be even a commander, not to mention the chief of staff or even the
defense minister; the 1977 elections made this possible.

By the way the chief Rabbi of Morrocco has the same name as you: Solomon
Matusov - did you know this? Rabbi Matusov has a life history which is one of
those incredible stories: he was in one of Stalin's death camps from the age
of 14 to 18.

Alisa L.
   

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