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Monday, April 03, 2006

More on perception and prejudice

No, this won't be another surprise ending.  That'd be like when my older kids were little and I would sneak up and scare the bajeezus out of them.  After they'd put their eyeballs back in the sockets and stop crying/hiccuping, they'd squeal "Surprise us again... surprise us agaaaaaain!"  I'd have to patiently explain to them that that sort of thing only works once in a long while... when the person isn't expecting it.

Anyway, my friend Lisa left an interesting comment on yesterday's post that I really didn't do a good job of answering.  She said, "What a pity that we live in a society where it would seem unlikely that Ibrahim's wife was, indeed, your children's piano teacher".

I agree.  In a perfect world, the wife of an Arab gardener could very well be my kid's piano teacher.  But then again, in a perfect world I'd also have a full head of hair.

No seriously, there are real cultural issues to be considered:  Other than the fact that I'm guessing piano ownership amongst Palestinian villager's is probably fairly low... Palestinians traditionally eschew the western octave in favor of the more jarring (to western ears, anyway) Arabic octave that can contain up to 24 tones (more on that here).   You can't play that on a piano.

I have nothing against my kids learning about music from anywhere in the world... but if they are taking piano lessons I want a teacher from the western tradition.

But leaving artistic schools aside, there was something missing from Lisa's comment that it took me hours to pinpoint;  Why wasn't anyone bothered by my stereotypical depiction of an Arab as a laborer/gardener.  Once I had revealed that 'Ibrahim's professional connection to me was a fabrication, why didn't anyone say, "Hey, wait a minute... why didn't you make him your refrigerator repairman or the guy who installed your wireless computer network?"

And you know what?  I know there are refrigerators and computers in many, if not most, Palestinian homes... and they aren't being installed and serviced by guys named Chaim or Moshe.  Clearly there are plenty of skilled technicians and 'professionals' among the Palestinian population... so why are we so comfortable thinking of Arabs who work among us as day laborers, menial tradesman or waiters?

The answer is that the realities of a modern economy dictate that people will gravitate to where there is the greatest need.  Supply and demand. 

There are plenty of Jewish Israelis who can set up a computer network or diagnose a bad compressor.  But there aren't enough Israeli Jews who have any desire to lay bricks, cut grass or do any of a hundred other 'menial' but essential jobs.  This has created a need in these more menial fields.

This isn't just a norm where I live.  My friend Imshin lives in Tel Aviv and had her fabulous new apartment paint job done by a couple of Jewish bosses overseeing a crew of Arab painters.  And there is really nothing wrong with this.

So why am I still feeling uncomfortable about the lack of comment on this aspect of yesterday's post?

There was an episode of 'West Wing' a few years ago when they were hiring the 'Charlie Young' character (a bright young black man) to be the President's personal aide (holding his coat, etc.). There was much hand wringing among the West Wing's liberal Democratic staff about how it would look to have a young black man waiting on the President.  The matter was put to rest when the African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs gruffly assured those in the room that if they were going to treat Charlie with respect and pay him a fair wage there was nothing wrong with him serving the President.

But for life-long liberals like myself (and I suspect much of the West Wing's viewing audience) the matter wasn't really put to rest.  Not by a long shot.

When we lived in Connecticut and Zahava and I were both working outside the home, we had a Hispanic woman come to our house once a week to help out with the cleaning.  She was a perfectly lovely woman who spoke almost no English, and we both fussed over her and made overtures that we would never have done had she been white.  Although we never discussed it, I think it subconsciously killed us both to have a woman of color doing manual labor for us.

Likewise, when I used to pass through Grand Central Station every day I loved getting my shoes shined at the stands near the platform entrances.  However, I would consciously go to a white shoeshine rather than one of the black or Hispanic ones.  The idea of sitting there for all the rush hour commuters to see with a black man hunched over in front of me polishing my shoes made me want to vomit!

I can't explain it... I was raised with the understanding that there is nothing wrong or dishonorable in a good day's work... but somewhere in there was also a bunch of liberal guilt/baggage about not falling into the role of the white master.

My next door neighbor is in construction and last summer he saw me sweating and swearing over a tree stump that had spent most of a day refusing to be displaced.  He came over mid-afternoon and asked me if he should have one of his Arab workers come over at the end of the day and make short work of it.  He named a fair price to pay the man and told me it would take less than 30 minutes to finish up.  I refused... not because this Arab was going to do in half an hour what I'd failed to do with a pick and shovel in most of a day (OK, there was a little of that)... but because I hated the automatic assumption that an Arab would be ready and willing to do manual labor for me.

Once again I'm expressing myself poorly, but I felt dirty yesterday for manufacturing an Arab gardener for myself... and dirtier still that nobody was particularly bothered by the stereotypical choice of profession for him. 

Sure it would be lovely to live in a world where my kids (or anyone else for that matter) would think nothing of having a Palestinian piano teacher.  But better still to live in a world where it wasn't automatically taken at face value that the garden in front of my house would be tended by an Arab.

Yeah... I have some stuff to work through.


Posted by David Bogner on April 3, 2006 | Permalink


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The "repeating surprise" issue reminds me of a story told of a math teacher in my high school (might have been an urban legend.)

Supposedly, he handed out a rather complicated math exam, and had the answer to every one of the difficult equations be... "2". It apparently made the students go crazy, since at the beginning they thought it was a coincidence, later they noticed the pattern - but what if he made all but one answer "2"?

Posted by: Dave | Apr 3, 2006 1:58:43 PM

His being a gardener was crucial to your story. To make your point it was crucial to evoke the liberal tendency to express support only for those sufficiently low on the totem pole that they can be patronized. Besides, if he'd have been a brain surgeon he probably wouldn't have had a field and an old tractor.
Stop beating yourself up, old boy.

Posted by: Ben Chorin | Apr 3, 2006 3:14:26 PM

Welcome to the 21 Century David! Being a young black man who enjoys your blog I feel for you but intentionally lack to understand why you do that. If you've watched the news of late you'll have seen all those "brave" non-Americans protesting on the streets in the US, one of their placard I noticed that caught my attention was "We did not cross the borders, the borders crossed us!", think of it this way for your case (and not literally taking it from those US immigrants saga "The Palestinian piano teacher doesn't cross your wallet for his skill or talent, your thoughts cross him/her for who he/she is".

And it's not just you with this problem, a certain percentage of Jews (sorry to be very specific) suffer from this oversight (Ask me about it!)... but not to worry though, time will clean it off.

Posted by: kakarizz | Apr 3, 2006 3:23:21 PM

You should take that Harvard psychology test I tried - the one that purports to tell you if you are rasict or not - where I came out as overcompensating - being nicer to people of other races.
I'll dig around and try to find the link.

Posted by: Lisoosh | Apr 3, 2006 5:43:42 PM

My third child was born by C-section, so I was in the hospital here for more than a week. The doctor who examined me before discharge was the one to take out my stitches. He spoke to me politely and respectfully and was gentle when removing the stitches. I noticed that he had a funny accent, but I thought he was a relatively new immigrant from France. Afterwards I heard some of the nurses talking about that nice Arab doctor...

My liberal instincts told me that I was wrong for not guessing that he was an Arab in the first place, but I was also happy that I hadn't known ahead of time, because I know I wouldn't have been as comfortable with the doctor as I had been. And G-d forbid if I had let on that I was uncomfortable!

Posted by: westbankmama | Apr 3, 2006 6:06:15 PM

Ah, but if you refuse to go to the Hispanic or African-American shoeshiner or you refuse the Arab laborer than the Hispanic, African-American, and Arab worker is out of a job.

also, your economic explanation was right on target.

Posted by: amechad | Apr 3, 2006 6:43:21 PM


I don't think that we have to assume that the lack of comment on ethnicity was racist in nature.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 3, 2006 7:44:14 PM

It's interesting, but I didn't even notice... not because I assume Arabs aren't educated enough to be anything but gardeners, but because I didn't feel that his choice profession had anything to do with the point of the post. And what I got instead was that you can get into a difficult legal situation no matter who you are.

About the white guilt thing, I know many people who've related similar stories as yours... and were quite surprised that I'm completely, 100% free of that. Probably because I wasn't born in the United States and haven't picked up on the social attitudes until I was old enought to choose what I wanted to pick up. Now I'm trying to figure out how to keep from thinking I'm a racist if I don't overcompensate and don't think twice about accepting "lowly" services from someone of a different race. But that issue alone, I think, probably deserves a separate post!!!

Posted by: Irin | Apr 3, 2006 7:54:18 PM

It's interesting, but I didn't even notice... not because I assume Arabs aren't educated enough to be anything but gardeners, but because I didn't feel that his choice profession had anything to do with the point of the post. And what I got instead was that you can get into a difficult legal situation no matter who you are.

About the white guilt thing, I know many people who've related similar stories as yours... and were quite surprised that I'm completely, 100% free of that. Probably because I wasn't born in the United States and haven't picked up on the social attitudes until I was old enought to choose what I wanted to pick up. Now I'm trying to figure out how to keep from thinking I'm a racist if I don't overcompensate and don't think twice about accepting "lowly" services from someone of a different race. But that issue alone, I think, probably deserves a separate post!!!

Posted by: Irina | Apr 3, 2006 7:55:11 PM

Funny that you address this point today, because just this morning I had similar thoughts about the Hispanics that work in our area. There is a huge Hispanic population where I live and there are many locations where they congregate, waiting to be pick up for a day's job. I have several home improvement jobs that I am hiring contractors for, but I was thinking that I should just do what they do, and go directly to the source of the laborer - the Hispanics. Everywhere you look, no matter what type of job it is, painting, gardening, etc., its overwhelming Hispanic. There are even community non-profits that safely (for both parties) match up job requests. I bring this up because good friends of ours are from El Salvador and also do that type of work, and I feel bad whenever I approach him for work that needs to be done on our house. I even feel more uncomfortable asking him for names of his friends or acquaintences, but I know I have to get over it, because and work is work AND truthfully, many of the Hispanic population in our area, does this type of work for a living.

Another issue in our area are the schools and hiring teachers whose mother tongue is not English. Many people are getting upset that the accents of the teachers are a problem for the children's understanding and pronounciation, especially in pre-school. Are these parents racists or anti-foreigner because they would prefer a native English speaker teaching their children?

Posted by: jaime | Apr 3, 2006 8:03:26 PM

Hi david,

i've been reading your blog for a while, i'm a 19 yr old college student from boston, grew up in suburbs, Jewish private schools, spent a year between high school and college doing community service and ran into your exact thoughts (who's white, black, urban, latino, highschool drop outs, college degreed, etc.) starting on day one, it was torture...

I mean, white guilt doesn't go away, and as passive and lame as it sounds, being aware and bringing these thoughts into plain view for those who don't notice as much is one of the best things you can do. Teach your kids to think before they write, do, and say, at least, that's my plan for the rest of my life.

Posted by: ilana | Apr 3, 2006 8:06:22 PM

One thing in your post bothered me, I must say. You said that when you get your shoes shined, you *intentionally* go to a white guy because you can't countenance having a minority bent over your shoes like that, right?

Much as I understand your thoughts, what if a lot of people feel the same way? Doesn't that mean, then, that the black or Hispanic guys are getting *less* business (and then, less money, and less chance of ever getting a better life) because of that kind of logic?

I firmly believe that the way to deal with racism in the US is *not* to emphasize to everyone about past injustices. Oh, those injustices should be publicized and well-understood, but it won't solve the problem of racial barriers, it will only exaggerate them in other ways.

No, the solution is for kids to actually *know* people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. Then, kids will instinctively know that something as trivial as skin color isn't remotely important in how we treat people.

One last point, though. I don't think the parallel between Israeli/Arab relations and American racism is a good one. In Israel, there are differing manners of citizenship, of overriding security concerns, of a complex economic reality as a result of Oslo and the growth of the Palestinian economy as a service/labor sector of the Israeli one. It doesn't really mean that it's okay to make assumptions about Palestinians, of course, but the background is much more conducive to making reasonable assumptions than is the state of race relations in the US.

Posted by: matlabfreak | Apr 3, 2006 9:54:02 PM

To point out a different slant on things, how about the fact that I would never have my shoes shined regardless of who was doing the shining because it's a menial task that I should be doing myself. Why would I expect someone else to do that FOR me when I don't want to do it myself?

On the other hand, if it's a matter of having someone do it because they are more qualified, then that's a different story.

I don't think it's a matter of skin color, but the task at hand, isn't it?

Or maybe I'm way off-base.

Posted by: Val | Apr 3, 2006 10:19:55 PM

Have you seen the movie "Crash?" I think it addresses this issue well.

Posted by: Seth | Apr 3, 2006 10:43:15 PM

I think you're over self conscious about this, because you write as if from a stance of generalised guilt about what you see as elements of racism in yourself.

Given that you were setting out to construct a convincing scenario of a potentially dispossessed Palestinian who took the law into his own hands, making him, say a computer engineer or a journalist could have been seen as equally racist, ie as if you were presenting a character as deserving consideration by way of his middle class credentials.

As you tellingly point out in your story of being much more guilty about your stateside employee of colour than if that person had been white, it seems to me there's issues in play that have nothing much to do with the Israeli story, but a whole lot more to do with feeling complicitly guilty for the particular history of racism in the US.

Personally, I think your decisions and presentation were fine. Going down the path of hyper political correctness in my view leads to the turgid writing of the stage left. Something I don't see as at all your scene.

Posted by: Judy | Apr 4, 2006 2:32:07 AM

This made my whole day: "But then again, in a perfect world I'd also have a full head of hair." :) :)

Posted by: Seattle | Apr 4, 2006 5:31:31 AM

Alright, lest everyone think I'm not engaged with today's topic, especially our blog author, I *did* pay attention to the rest of writings ... just the good points keep getting covered by more studious readers ... so no work to do here but to be enlightened and amused ;)

Posted by: Seattle | Apr 4, 2006 7:34:39 AM

"But then again, in a perfect world I'd also have a full head of hair."

I forgot to comment on this. Bald is beautiful and a sign of virility.

And anyone who says different is a follicle racist.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 4, 2006 9:30:07 AM

My comment has nothing to do with this particular post, but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to respond to each comment and, more importantly, to allow each person to have their say. I just spent some time thoughtfully and respectfully commenting on someone's blog where comments are moderated, they emailed me and said they would post it and a day has gone by and still it does not appear. I suspect strongly it is because I disagree on a few points. Your courage to put yourself out there and allow others to comment and not be overly defensive, or worse, dishonest, fills me with a certain joy ( I know that sounds corny, but whatcha gonna do?). Thanks again. I enjoy reading very much.

Posted by: Tracey | Apr 4, 2006 10:11:31 AM

Racism = treating people differently because of their race.

It doesn't matter if you're doing it because you're such a good little liberal.

It doesn't matter if you're doing it because of your deep committment to equality(!).

It's still racism.

This is similar to the reception I (and probably you too) have received from uber-left people (especially Jews) in America. One look at the beanie on your head, one mention that you live over the Green Line - and you are dumped into a category, and treated as a stick figure.

Your individual humanity has been obliterated by politically correct argument.

Thus folks like us are bumped to the B-list of people who can be treated as subhuman - by "liberal-minded" people who swear that they are dissing so in the name of humanism, exluding us and our opinions in the name of "tolerance" for "diversity".

Was the cleaning lady industrious, punctual, honest?

That's all that matters.

Please stop talking up the cover story about your "residual guilt" and address the very real persistence of a fundamentally racist notion: that you feel uncomfortable around some people because of their race, and/or that certain people must be treated differently because of their race.

Posted by: Ben-David | Apr 4, 2006 11:13:11 AM

Sorry if my last post was strident - but I have had more "non-suburban" face-to-face experience of the American melting pot that many others in our community, and this kind of "soft racism" was often remarked upon by the "beneficiaries" of such treatment.

Yes, people can tell when they're being patronized.

Posted by: Ben-David | Apr 4, 2006 11:19:48 AM

Dave... So you're saying I should 'keep 'em guessing'? :-)

Ben Chorin... I agree that to keep people from thinking too much I had to choose a profession that would lull rather than stir people's existing mindset. But it bothered me when I did it because I was pretty sure I would get a lot of flack for assigning such a stereotypical role to an Arab villager. I ended up being even more bothered that nobody seemed to have a problem with it. See? There's no pleasing me! :-)

Kakarizz... The specific piano teacher aspect is pretty easy to deal with because of the chasm between western and Arabic musical norms/tastes. But I agree with your other points.

Lisoosh... You? overcompensating and being nicer to people of other races? I, for one, am shocked! ;-) Yes, I'd love the link if you can find it.

Westbankmama... I don't understand how you girls can lay there with your feet in the stirrups while ANY strange man looks at your 'goods' as if you were a car with the hood open and the carburetor off. If I went to see a urologist and a woman doc walked in snapping on the rubber gloves I'd ask to see a male doctor. Period. End of story. There are some leaps that even the most empathetic physician can't make and gender-specific equipment is one of those things. In my humble opinion, Gender-specific equipment must be serviced by a technician who actually owns a set him/herself.

Amechad... I agree. But there it is.

Jack... If you lived during times when it was common to hear the 'N' word tossed around freely in polite society you could be forgiven for not commenting on someone referring to a person of color in that manner. But today it would be jarring to your ears and you would likely comment on it. My point was not that you (or anyone else) is racist, but rather that we seem to still live in times where saying 'Arab gardener' is akin to saying 'black shoeshine boy' in 1930.

Irina... That was sort of my point. I didn't want the reader to be distracted by his profession so I chose one that would pass under the reader's eyes with little or no disturbance. That it passed so easily under everyone's eyes caused me to comment as I did.

Jaime... I'm with you on the day laborer thing, but when you get into a language issues at school it stops being a racial issue (at least in my mind) and becomes one of being qualified for the Job. A speech therapist who lisped would not be suited to perform the task well.

Ilana... I'm glad you decided to say hello. I agree with what you said... to a point. I honestly don't know if I should be teaching my kids to edit themselves to avoid causing offense... or to simply teach them to take everything and everyone at face value. I don't know that I would be doing them any favors to raise them with the kind of issues I'm dealing with here.

Matlab Freak... Let's take this out of the realm of race here and go back to what I said to westbankmama. Am I depriving a woman urologist of her livelihood by deciding to only see a man? There is no right answer... but in the case of the shoe shine I rationalized it by the fact that during rush hour, there was always plenty of traffic for all the shoe shines so it was unnoticed by all that I lined up at the white shoe shine stand. As to your point of not emphasizing this stuff... it takes two to tango. A black person walking through Grand Central Station seeing a white Jew seated while a black shoe shine works on his shoes would be hard pressed not to form a mental exclamation of distaste. I'm not saying everyone would have such a reaction, but if even a few did then it would make me want to avoid it.

Val... Which is why you walk around in scuffed 'Docs'. :-)

Seth... I haven't but I'll put it on my list. Thanks.

Judy... Obviously this journal is an outlet for exploring aspects of my ideas that most people deal with privately. To each his/her own. that being said, when you used the word 'convincing' it bears out what was bothering me. Why would an Arab gardener be 'convincing' enough not to distract the reader while an Arab network technician would
stop the reader cold in his/her tracks? The mental 'status quo' is what I'm wrestling with.

Seattle... I try to please. :-

Jack... Yeah, and grass doesn't grow on a busy street. I've heard 'em all. :-)

Tracey... I respond because someone is addressing me. I honestly don't understand why bloggers/journalers would ignore a response to their written ideas when they would never dream of being so rude in person if someone responded to a remark they made. I have deleted comments on rare occasions for being off-topic, rude or offensive (all judgement calls on my part). I have also banned two or three trolls who were only interested in causing trouble and disrupting the flow of ideas between myself and the people who come here. I'm flattered at the compliment but I wish it were the norm everywhere so bloggers, journalers and especially commenters could have more success in sharing and exchanging ideas around the world.

Ben-David... There is nothing more '"non-suburban" face-to-face' than living for four years on a US navy frigate. I know what you're talking about and I am aware of the problem from that angle. I have dealt with it by trying to not put myself in a position to be patronizing. At least I recognize the problem in myself. I am not uncomfortable around particular people. I am uncomfortable when particular people and I find ourselves in certain roles. there is a profound difference.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Apr 4, 2006 11:51:10 AM

I feel the need to address this point in the context of here: Nobody protested that you made "Ibrahim" your gardener is because we're all more than aware of this reality in today's Israel: I would venture that WestBankMama's doctor was not a Palestinian from the territories in the same mould as "Ibrahim", rather an Arab with Israeli citizenship. (And you could find an piano teacher from the same demographic- if you wanted to.) The "Ibrahims"- menial labourers- come almost exclusively from the territories, or the poorer Arab towns outside the Green Line, and it is first and foremost the political status quo which enables Israeli employers/contractors to hire these people at minimum wage- or less- ad infinitum.
This is a point Palestinian peace advocates return to all the time, that Israelis are loathe to "end the occupation" because it would deny us our cheap workforce- one which is happy and grateful to take on the worse tasks for next to nothing, as the pittance goes much further for them. I'm not about to lay the blame for the defunct Palestinian economy entirely at Israel's door, but the political factor isn't something that can be ignored in addressing this issue.

Posted by: PP | Apr 4, 2006 11:53:31 AM

Oops- I meant "mold"! Its the thought of all that Pesach cleaning taking over.

Posted by: PP | Apr 4, 2006 11:55:16 AM

David, you write:
"Why would an Arab gardener be 'convincing' enough not to distract the reader while an Arab network technician would
stop the reader cold in his/her tracks? "

I'd suggest that's because we're used to years of reading the cliches of pro-Palestinian propaganda that always try to represent crude stock characters in a running Passion play, particularly where the territories are concerned.

They're always being represented as impoverished struggling farmers or maybe students and proud "fighters". Not as network technicians or any other stable middle class profession.

That's what made your story of Ibrahim instantly convincing, especially as it appeared to present a settler (bad!) confirming what the Palestinian propagandists churn out every day.

Your "Ibrahim" story necessarily invoked all those stock stereotypes, which is why I made my original point that if you hadn't, I think your readers would have found it that much less convincing.

And those propaganda stereotypes convincingly embedded in your story include both "the settlers-disposses-impoverished-small farmers" and "settlers/Israelis-ruthlessly-exploit-desperate- impoverished and uneducated-Palestinians-as-menial-labour."

A Palestinian network technician married to a piano teacher just wouldn't have invoked the same reaction. It would have signalled a more complex scenario. Like maybe a boundary dispute between equals.

Posted by: Judy | Apr 4, 2006 3:31:41 PM

Hands-on laborers make the world go round. (I was a waitress for ten years until my late twenties.) They are very important people.

Why is it that so many people assume that a person doing somewhat mindless work is a mindless person?

Posted by: Alice | Apr 4, 2006 6:26:22 PM

R.e. my previous comments, that's why it didn't strike me as racist that you depicted the Arab as a gardener. Oh, and I'd love to garden for money, so that's probably why too. (And I'm a white woman from an upper-middle class background, with a Masters from a good school, etc.)

Posted by: Alice | Apr 4, 2006 6:34:23 PM

Just to correct any misunderstandings: I did not mean to imply that David's portrayal of Ibrahim as a gardner was racist. I was trying to point out that the reality of the society in which we live can be a bit sad sometimes.

Posted by: Lisa | Apr 4, 2006 8:03:32 PM

I really don't have a problem of a housemaid being latin, russian, arab or jewish, as long as she does the job for what she is paid. But I would not hire an arab, a jewish or a russian woman because she fits the profile. And why do we employ women for cleaning our houses? Can't men do as well? We live in a society that made stereotypes because the poorest want to survive, so we think that a house-maid is a latin woman and a gardener is an arab man. We have Arabs, Saudi Arabia have philippinians.

Posted by: Emanuel Ben-Zion | Apr 5, 2006 9:56:46 AM

"I am not uncomfortable around particular people. I am uncomfortable when particular people and I find ourselves in certain roles. there is a profound difference."
- - - - - - - - - - - -
OK. Granted.

And I agree with Judy - the use of stereotypical descriptions was essential to the success of the Ibrahim piece.

Posted by: Ben-David | Apr 5, 2006 2:38:08 PM

Dave, great blogging as usual.

When I worked in the Grand Central Terminal area (1981-1984), I too used to get shoeshines occasionally. (Now I wear sandals year-round - so much for spit-shines!) I never had a problem with getting a shine from a black shoe-shine man (or whoever else was available and did a good job); I always felt that whoever was doing the job was earning a living honestly, and that there was no indignity involved for him or for me. Certainly I wouldn't have felt like a better liberal had I denied someone the income because of his skin color!

This whole issue may have been a little easier for me because my family background was not all that white-collar. My father was a printer until he got sick of it in 1963; his father was a printer; and his father was a printer! (I don't know further back.) My mother's father was a tailor. Since there isn't all that much difference, really, between printer's ink and shoe polish (at least when they're under your fingernails and in your pores), I suppose that if dirty hands on the job were good enough for my forebears, they were good enough for anyone.

I think that when any particular Arab chosen at random is as likely to be a computer programmer as a gardener, Israel/Palestine will indeed be a happier place - albeit probably with more heart disease, obesity, and so on among the Arabs. Such is progress!

Posted by: Don Radlauer | Apr 5, 2006 7:16:05 PM

Often for immigrants those jobs are an entry point up the ladder. Either they open their own business at some point, or they slave away at the menial job but their kids go to college.

3 generations ago, Jews and Irish and Italians were doing those jobs. Give this generation of immigrants a helping hand by giving them work.

Posted by: Yehudit | Apr 7, 2006 4:50:39 AM

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