Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Inside the mind of Avi Shlaim: update

Avi Shlaim, an Israeli academic born in Baghdad, will speak for the anti-Zionist side at a forthcoming debate at the Oxford Union. This blog has already tried to explain the mysterious workings of the Shlaim mind. Now, however, a commenter on the Oxford Union debate thread at Harry's Place adds an astonishing personal insight: even as a 15-year old schoolboy Shlaim blamed Israel for the downturn in his family's fortunes. (With thanks: Avril)

"Let me try to explain from what and from where Mr. Shlaim's hatred for all things Israeli, and more deeply, all things Jewish, may stem from.

In 1961, I, as a recent immigrant to England, started attending the JFS Secondary on Torriano Avenue in Camden Town. I was one of two non-English-born "foreigners" in the School, a 15-year-old Jewish boy from India; the other was an Iraqi-Israeli, Avi (Abe) Shlaim.

We were different from the others, so we became fast friends especially as we lived close by to each other, I with my family, and he with the Principal of the JFS, Dr. Conway.
We played the same sports, did the same subjects, and usually went home together. This went on for three years!

From the first day I knew him it was obvious that Abe absolutely HATED Israel. His family, well-to-do in Iraq, but forced out by the Baathist regime (so he said) were now just another family of Mizrahim, Sephardic Jews, in Israel, where, truth be told, they were never the equals of the Ashkenazim. But Abe never blamed Iraqi politics for this demeaning drop in status; he blamed the establishment of the State of Israel! The argument then, as now, being that if Israel did not exist then there would have been no massive disinterrment of Jews from the Arab countries, where they had lived in Dhimmi peace, but in peace, for centuries.
Abe's hatred for the State of Israel would show itself in his constant reiteration of the mantra that he would rather die than go to the mandatory, and in those days a universal badge of honor, service in the IDF.

As for his hatred of Jews; he was living in the home of the Conservative-Orthodox Principal, yet he took every possible opportunity to decry that; he would never wear his school cap, would laugh at kosher (admittedly not exactly revolutionary among us at the time) take every opportunity to desecrate Sabbath. We all did these things, but for Abe it was always a personal vendetta, like sneaking a Wimpy hamburger into a kosher home after telling us that he was going to, and then repeating what a forbidden thrill it was to eat it in his own room, half-hoping he would be discovered so he could "have it out" with his host.

Abe went on to read History at Cambridge; I the same at Sussex. We did not keep in touch, although I did hear that he was being groomed for the Israeli Diplomatic Service.
I never heard of him again until he started writing his books when it became abundantly clear that the Abe Shlaim I knew had become the Avi Shlaim I didn't want to!
So, protect your kids from themselves, and teach them well. The books they write as adults will nearly always be prefigured in their childhood loves and hates!

Posted by: eliXelx at October 10, 2007 10:24 AM

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