Mark Erlank, moshavnik

"You cannot trust an Arab."

After walking about the kibbutz for a couple of hours and eating lunch in the dining hall, we came to Srul's house, which was to be our center of gravity for the next couple of days.

As I edit the video from this part of our trip, I realize that this segment, at Kibbutz Shumrat, is much different from our other meetings. In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, people would come to our hotel, or maybe a restaurant, or maybe we would go to their home or office. We would spend a couple of hours together, and then go our separate ways. Maybe we would meet once or twice more. These were wonderful, cordial, thought-provoking encounters. But now we would be spending some time with a family and meeting some of their friends in a much more casual and intimate setting.

We hadn't been at Srul's very long before Mark and Batya came in. Mark is from South Africa; Batya is from LA and went to the same high school as many of my old friend. They live on a moshava, which is a different form of agricultural community that grew up side by side with the kibbutzim. Unlike kibbutznics, mushavnics own their own homes and land but, as I understand it, perform some functions collectively. I think Batya and Mark were bringing their computer for Srul's son Tamir to fix.

Pt. 1

5:37 minutes
Real Video (2.8 MB)

Pt. 2

6:23 minutes
Real Video (3.2 MB)

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We sat around the table, Srul brought out some munchies. We talked. Mark said that it used to make him mad the way Americans thought about South Africa. We got into a discussion about that, and it led into a discussion of Israeli-Arab relations. I had thought that there were some useful analogies between the two situations (see my discussion with Serge Samuel), so I was glad to have the opportunity to explore them.

Mark and Batya came back the next night for dinner, and we did a more extensive interview with Mark about his experience in and thoughts about South Africa. We also had an interesting talk off-camera when the two of us went out for a smoke. He told me about a bad accident that wrecked him and a miraculous rabii that helped him heal.

As a card-carrying liberal, I must say that I am distressed by some ot the things Mark had to say, both about South Africa and about Israel. Yet I was very sympathetic to Mark as a person, and I appreciate the frankness with which he expressed himself to me on these issues.

Transcription (edited) of video clips: Part 1 • Part 2

Part 1

Mark: When I first came to Israel I used to get really mad at Americans, for the simple reason they had no idea what was happening in South Africa. And even today a lot of them are ? with what was really going on. They've been under the impression that there's been slavery and so forth in South Africa which there hasn't been. It's a form of slavery, apartheid being a separation of different colors of people. They've all had the opportunity to more or less level as far as education and everything is concerned. The question is just to what extent they were prepared to accept it and develop their own education. In South Africa you've got a problem where White's have sort of …you've got can't get away from it. It's a fact.

Batya: Racism is a fact of life.

Mark: In South Africa it's a fact of life even today. You have the Whites against the Blacks, Whites against Coloreds, Blacks against Coloreds and visa versa. And then you have the Jews and the Portuguese and the Italians. You have the separation amongst all these groups. And then amongst the Blacks you've got separation as well. Because the Zulu and the Coloreds for example, don't get along. Not at all. And as far as the Apartheid rules were concerned each one in his own environment had all the opportunities. The question is what was that person or group of people prepared to do to advance their situation when it came to studying or whatever. The Black could have studied in his own language. He had no problem with that. The problem started when you tried to get Black and White together.

Srul: Did Blacks have votes?

Mark: They didn't have a right to vote. Which is wrong. But…otherwise for daily living…I mean how many people in South Africa really get involved in politics in the first place. Very, very few. I, for example…and most of my friends… we weren't interested in politics. We were interested in day to day living - the standard of our living and so forth. What politicians do is immaterial.

Srul: Yeah, but look at the old system - the Apartheid system is definitely a racial system.

Mark: It was a racial system. It was a very hard system.

Srul: It benefited the White men very clearly.

Mark: Oh, yes. And then again if you look at today, the system they're running in South Africa today…the Black was better off then than what he is today.

Srul: Yeah…there were a lot of black slaves who were better off in United States, 150 years ago, that were better off before their emancipation.

Mark: I know the history. But in South Africa, of course, you never had the slavery but you had a form of slavery which was by keeping the Black down in the aspect of wages and so forth it was a form of cheap labor, the same as we do in Israel today with the workers from outside, from Romania and wherever they come from…

Peter: And how about with Arabs in Israel, especially in the West Bank?

Mark: We don't want them here. I don't want them here.

Srul: The Israeli Arabs enjoy civil rights. There's a lot of problems here, the rights of Arabs and the rights to land and things like that. But in terms of civil rights, their rights are guaranteed. They can elect whoever they wan, Arabic is an official language in the Parliament, in schools as well. There are definitely problems, for example with housing. On the news about two months ago – a report about some Arab – I think a doctor – who wanted to buy a house in the Jewish community and they wouldn't let him.

Part 2

Peter: So what about the three million Arabs in the occupied territory?

Srul: Yeah – today it's three million and a week from now it'll be six million.

Batya: It expands quite rapidly.

Peter: And there are people with no rights…

Mark: Look - whether they have rights they have today their own communities. They have their own government basically which they vote for or do not vote for. In Israel I don't want them - I personally don't want them. For a couple of reasons. Security is number one reason. You cannot trust an Arab. I'm sorry – you cannot trust him. He's got very long memory for a debt which he feels that you owe him. He can wait ten, fifteen, twenty years before he will then repay you for whatever he thinks or is under the impression that he's entitled to pay back a debt. That's one of the reasons why. As far as Christian Arab is concerned, it's a total different thing. A Christian Arab and a Muslim Arab are two different entities.

Peter: Why do you say that? What do you mean?

Mark: Well you gonna have a look in the world for that matter. Where are your biggest problems? In the Christian community or in the Muslim community? Muslims have a set of rules whereby it is for him to pay back any debt whether it be a debt owed to his father or that his father felt that it was owed him – a wrong doing that was done to him – his son or his grandson – will thereafter repay the debt. By blowing himself up or whatever. And this is the problem we have here. This is something you can't – it's impossible to fight against, because it's in the blood. It has been taught from a young age. An eye for an eye. And this is something that there's no end to it. That's why my opinion was that we made big mistakes in the previous wars we went through. Our biggest mistakes were that we stopped before the time. We didn't stop at the right time.

Peter: Which would have been…?

Mark: Which would have been total annihilation of the opposing armies. When you have that position you can sit down and discuss a serious and long lasting peace. But when you've given the guy a half a beating he's gonna come round and say ‘look boys, I've forgotten he only gave me half a beating this time I'll get it.'. And this is the way they look at it. At least – this is my opinion.

Srul: I'm to contradict that, all I can say is Egypt learned a lesson without being totally annihilated. We surrounded their third army, and they came to the realization we're here to stay – even though they only got what you call a half a beating.

Mark: How many beatings did they get prior to that? And the thing is Anwar Sadat was a very clever man. He realized the better proposition…

Srul: You're generalizing that all Arabs are not trusting – can't trust him. He's one of them.

Mark: He's one of them – one of the wiser ones.

Srul: Okay - for one thing – that's also why I don't like to generalize. I don't like you to say that a whole race of people are untrustworthy.

Michael: On the front page of today's paper – it talks about Egypt – apparently during Ramadan – they're showing a 41-part think based on the protocols of the Zion.

Srul: We don't have peace with them. What we have is a state of non-beligerence.

Peter: Since the '93 Oslo Accords, the settlements in the West Bank have doubled. Do you think that for an Arab that could be a sign that you couldn't trust the Israelis?

Mark: I don't think it's so much as a question of trust. In amongst the Arab population you have a lot of them that do want peace. But then you've got the extremists the same as we have here in Israel. And the extremists are the ones that are trying to stop the peace process. And it's the same goes for Israel. I mean you've got good and bad in both systems. A Muslim in general is something that I don't quite trust.


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