I grew up in the southern part of Germany, in the small village of Schlat not far from Stuttgart. My parents were “Flüchtlinge” – refugees from the part of Germany that is nowadays Poland. The fact that we didn’t speak the local Suebian dialect was perhaps one of the reasons why I’ve always felt a bit like a foreigner there.
Yet, I spent close to three decades in the Schwabenland, attending the Freihof Gymnasium in Göppingen and studying at the Eberhard Karls Universität in Tübingen.
In 1986, I got a scholarship as a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University to do the research for my Ph.D. on US intelligence on Germany in the 1940s. I left for Washington D.C. in August 1986, and a few days after my arrival there, I met a certain David Bigman…
That was the beginning of a twentysomething-years-long period of a rather nomadic existence. To be sure, we always had a base in Israel, and for much of the 1990s, we lived in Washington, D.C. But we also lived for a few years in the Netherlands, spent some fascinating time in India, Korea, Vietnam and China and got to visit many other countries.
As exciting and interesting as all the globetrotting was, I’ve been ready to settle down again for some time, and I’m more than happy that we have now done so right on the beach of Bat Yam.
So why start a blog when you live on the beach?
Blame the BBC: I began writing about Israel and related issues almost exactly five years ago, in fall 2006 – after I had watched the Second Lebanon War abroad, where I only had access to the BBC’s TV coverage. Need I say more?
Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem went as far as saying that “the reports we see give the impression that the BBC is working on behalf of Hizbullah instead of doing fair journalism.”
By the end of 2006, I started The Warped Mirror at the Jerusalem Post. (Due to technical changes, most of the archived posts there are no longer accessible.) I still post there several times a month and occasionally, I also contribute posts and articles to other sites. (See Publications.)
But I’ve felt for some time that I would like to have a place to collect and share my thoughts with people who share my interest in the warped-mirror-view of the world that all too often seems to dominate political and even academic debates.
Israel looms large in this warped mirror and I think it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that the obsession with the tiny Jewish state – whether in the media, the UN, on campus or in the work of human rights organizations – may well be considered the mother of all distortions that derail reasoned debate in our time.
When well-documented historical facts and relevant contexts are routinely dismissed in favor of emotionally charged “narratives” demonizing Israel, it is not just the world’s only Jewish state that is targeted, but the very foundations of the progress derived from the West’s enlightenment heritage. We live in times when access to information and knowledge is easier than ever; yet, depressingly, conspiracy theories seem as popular as they were when only privileged elites could read and educate themselves. There are eerie parallels between the medieval view that the Jews were responsible for Europe’s Black Death and the fashionable notion that it’s the Jewish state that should be blamed for the lack of peace and progress in the Middle East.
And make no mistake: what works for the Israel-bashers also works for those who propagate the “Great-Satan”-view of the US and favor a version of history consisting of an endless litany of Western crimes against humanity.
Therefore, this blog is not just about Israel. I have come to believe that the efforts to turn Israel into a “state beyond the pale” are ultimately manifestations of a broader malaise affecting the Zeitgeist, because reasoned debate becomes impossible when “narratives” are preferred over facts. To illustrate the implications of this point with just one example: the quest to make Israel look real bad all too often means that the many failings of Israel’s Arab and Muslim enemies are studiously ignored. As a result of this approach, pundits, politicians and professors often foster an image of the Middle East that has little to do with the realities of this volatile region that has become a breeding ground for easily exported extremism.
The context that is so often missing in debates about Israel will be a major focus of this blog. I hope that anyone who stumbles on this site will find it interesting enough to come back often. Questions or suggestions can either be posted in the comments or send to firstname.lastname@example.org.