Richard Silverstein Screws Up Again

Richard Silverstein continues to show he cannot be trusted as a source on anything factual when it comes to Israel (hat tip: Amir).

One of the more popular memes Jewish triumphalists use to prove religious-ethnic superiority is how many Nobel Prizes have Jewish names attached to them. This supports the claim of genetic and racial superiority of Jewish DNA, I presume. Pro-Israel advocates use the same technique to pump up the volume on behalf of their nation. Entire websites and organizations exist whose sole purpose is to trumpet Israeli achievements, whether deserved or not.

The triumphalists were out in full force to sing the praises of the Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center at Ben Gurion University, which supplied many of the Israeli competitors for an international student physics competition, First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics, recently held in Poland. However, the achievement has been marred by overtly racist comments from the Ramon Center academic coördinator:

We succeeded in showing the world the potential of the Jewish mind,” said Professor Victor Malamud, the head of the Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center at Ben Gurion University, which works with students who wish to enter physics competitions.

Israel won first, second, third, and fourth prizes and the Israeli media is rightfully proud of the accomplishment. Yisrael HaYom conveniently named the first and third place winners, but not those awarded second place. Haaretz too “disappeared” the two second place winners, who happen to have been Israeli Palestinians. This Hebrew language article recounts the meeting with Pres. Shimon Peres. Not only does it omit the names of the Israeli Palestinian winners, it erroneously awards their second place prize to an Israeli Jewish student. It’s almost as if the non-Jews were air brushed out of the picture both literally and figuratively.

The State of Israel began with the Original Sin of expulsion (Nakba) of nearly 1-million native Palestinian residents of the country. It maintained this decades-long oppression of those who succeeded in remaining. In terms of the consciousness of the average Israeli Jew, Palestinians are almost non-existent. So it’s little surprise that they would cause Magd Alfrawona and Alfarook Abu Alhassan to disappear from the physics competition. This is precisely what Israel has done to these citizens from the birth of the State.

Ironically, the Israel boosters will point to the fact that Israeli Palestinians won this award as proof that they enjoy a level playing field and all the resources that any Jewish student would have. They’ll conveniently neglect that no Israeli media nor their own academic program thought it fitting to acknowledge that they won.

I’ll repeat something I’ve written here many times. The only way Israel will become a truly democratic state is if it separates religion from politics. All citizens must enjoy equal rights regardless of their religious or ethnic origin. That doesn’t mean religion won’t play a factor in Israel life. Of course it will. But no one will earn superior rights by virtue of his or her religion. Until this happens, Israel will be a place reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, a place observing feudal customs that inhibit the full economic and social development of all.

Israel’s boosters like to point out how well its economy is doing (conveniently blind to the wide wealth gap between rich and poor). My point is that however well it is doing now, it will do many times better when its 1.5-million disenfranchised citizens are set free to realize their true potential as consumers, entrepreneurs, and contributors to the greater social good.

A hat tip to reader, Miriam, who brought this story to my attention. Sol Salbe translated on his Facebook page the post published at the Fight Racism website (Hebrew) which first noted the incident.

Malamud teaches at the AMIT school in Beersheva. It is an Orthodox religious state-funded school educating students from a wide-range of ethnic backgrounds, including Ethiopian and Russian. It’s therefore not surprising that Malamud would forget that non-Jewish Israelis had participated, and achieved great results in the physics competition. Someone who could say something like the followingshould understand that no Israeli group, including his own Russian ethnicity, has a monopoly on intellectual brilliance:

“I come out of a background that takes studies much more seriously than the average Israeli,” Malamud explains. “One of my prize-winning students told me, ‘without our system of learning and the Russian mentality of serious commitment to studies, I would never have won.’ In Russia, we believed that in order to survive in the world of non-Jews we had to be on a very high level educationally. That is why the Russian parent will move heaven and earth to give his or her child the best education possible. I have found the Israeli children who study with Russian olim start to emulate this serious approach to education.”

In truth, there are greater racist outrages taking place virtually daily in Israel. This is a run of the mill insult that Israeli non-Jews face all too often. But I thought it was especially instructive since it rebuts one of the more common themes of Israeli Jewish supremacism.

The Hebrew language article that supposedly “recounts the meeting with Pres. Shimon Peres” to which Silverstein links is from a previous year (2011). It lists the 2011 winners, as evidenced here (also a Hebrew link). Anyone who actually bothered reading the article and understands Hebrew would know this. But apparently not Silverstein.

In any event, the entire post is a joke. Silverstein’s gripe, that the Arab second and third-place winners were not mentioned, is ridiculous, considering only 2 of 12 winners were mentioned, with 9 Jewish winners also omitted. The very fact Silverstein makes a point of trying to undermine – namely Israeli Arabs being able to enter the competition and be among the place-getter shows how they enjoy a level playing field and all the resources that any Jewish student would have – is the main point to take away from the story, and renders claims of Israeli apartheid ridiculous.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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