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Instilled Memory

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FOR SEVERAL weeks now, our army and navy have been in a state of high alert, bravely facing a deadly threat to our very existence -- ten little boats trying to reach Gaza. These vessels are carrying a dangerous gang of vicious terrorists, in the form of elderly veterans of peace campaigns.

Binyamin Netanyahu has affirmed our unshakable determination to defend our country: We shall not let anyone break the blockade to smuggle rockets to the terrorists in Gaza, who will then launch them to kill our innocent children.

This is a kind of record even for Netanyahu -- not a single word is true. The flotilla is not carrying any weapons -- the representatives of respected international media in the boats provide assurance of this. Also, I think we can rely on the Mossad to plant at least one agent in every boat. (After all, what am I paying my taxes for?) Hamas has not launched rockets for a long time -- it has very good reasons of its own to keep the unofficial "Tahdiyeh" ("Quiet") agreement.

If the flotilla had been allowed to reach Gaza, it would have been news for a few hours, and that would have been that. Israel's total mobilization, the training of the naval commandos for capturing the boats, the acts of sabotage carried out in Greek ports, the immense political pressure exerted by Israel and the US on the poor, bankrupt Greek government -- all this has kept this minor initiative in the news for weeks now, drawing attention to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

What is this blockade for? There is no ascertainable reason for it now, if there ever was one. To terrorize the Gaza people into overthrowing the Hamas government, the victor in democratic elections? Well, it didn't work, did it? To compel Hamas to change its terms for a prisoner exchange which would release Gilad Shalit? That didn't either. To prevent the smuggling of arms into the Strip? The arms are flowing freely through a hundred tunnels from Egypt, if we are to believe what our army tells us. So what purpose does the blockade serve? Nobody seems to know. But it is the rock of our existence. That much is clear.

As a result of world pressure following last year's flotilla, the blockade was eased considerably. But Gaza manufacturers are still prevented from getting their products out of the Gaza Strip -- thus condemning most of the population to unemployment and abject poverty.

The same goes for the disgusting trade in human remains. Netanyahu promised to turn over the remains of 84 "terrorists" (both Fatah and Hamas) to Mahmoud Abbas as a gift. At the last moment, he reneged. His people make believe that these remains, by now hardly identifiable, may serve as bargaining chips in the game for releasing Gilad Shalit.

The same goes for the actions against yesterday's fly-in of international peace activists though Ben-Gurion airport. All they wanted was to go to Bethlehem and Gaza, which can only be reached by crossing Israeli territory. Almost 1,000 police officers were mobilized to meet that threat.

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All of these are unthinking knee-jerk reactions: We must be strong. Everywhere there lurk mortal dangers. Israel must defend itself. Otherwise there will be a second Holocaust.

THIS IS an interesting phenomenon: people see innocent-looking elderly human-rights activists on their TV screens and believe they are seeing dangerous provocateurs, because the government and most of the media tell them so. Sinister "Arab and Muslim" individuals are hiding in the boats. An Arab American on one boat has been unmasked as somebody who has collected money for a Hamas social institution. A dangerous terrorist! How absolutely awful!

The phenomenon of people seeing something and thinking they are seeing something else has always intrigued me. How can people not believe their own eyes but believe the eyes of others?

This week I got an e-mail message from a man who remembered something from the time he was a pupil of my late wife, Rachel, in first grade.

Rachel asked him to raise his right hand. When the boy did so, Rachel said: "No, no. That is your left hand!" She turned to the other children and asked them which hand it was. Following their teacher, they shouted in unison: "The left! The left!" Seeing this, the first boy started to waver. In the end he conceded: "Yes. It is the left hand."

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"No, you were right in the first place," Rachel assured him. "Let this be a lesson to all of you: if you are sure that you are right, insist on it. Never change your view because other people say the opposite."

Quite by chance, straight after reading this testimony, I saw on TV the results of a scientific investigation by Israeli researchers into "instilled memory." Their experiments show that people who have seen something with their own eyes, but are told by everybody else that they have seen something else, start to suppress their own memory and "remember" that they saw what the others had allegedly seen. Neurological research then showed that this is can actually be seen happening in the brain -- the imagined memory replaces the real. Social pressure has done its work: the instilled memory has become real memory.

I believe that this is even truer for an entire nation, which is, of course, composed of individuals. I have seen this many times.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the Israeli (more...)

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I am in awe of this man. His simple courage, clari... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, Jul 10, 2011 at 11:57:03 PM
that I'm suppose to give a sh*t about bombs droppi... by bogi666 on Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011 at 5:25:53 AM
and reaffirming. Observing the theater in the Midd... by molly cruz on Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011 at 4:39:19 PM