Following is a letter written by a Chinese as a reaction to how the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was covered by the Israeli channel 1 and a remark by Oren Nehari. It continues the series of posts regarding Sino-phobia in Israeli media and the use of extremely negative language against the Chinese people and government.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am a Chinese citizen, currently staying in Israel.
Today I am very pride, since it is the BIG DAY that all Chinese people have longed for. It is the opening day of the 29th Olympic Games.
First I want to thank Israeli Channel 1 for the live telecasting. It gave me / us the opportunity to enjoy the opening ceremony together with all our people and all the world.
However the watching of the show had become an annoying and unpleasant experience for me and for my friends in Israel, due to the unbelievable hostility displayed by one of the TV commentators throughout the show. While sadly enough I got used to anti-Chinese comments of Israeli media, I could not believe that when the wonderful performance of the Taiji (ancient Chinese martial arts) went on, your commentator (whose name I did not notice) said that "the show was impressive but a little frightening, because the accuracy of the movements of the thousands of actors, REMINDS him of the Nazis…".
You cannot imagine how I and all my friends were astonished to hear this. It is disgusting and shameful that a speaker of a national TV station makes such an awful comparison, displaying his stupidity, ignorance and prejudice during the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the single event which is supposed to symbolize peace and unity of the humankind.
I am a Chinese, who studied Israeli history and culture in Jerusalem and Haifa, and now am teaching these topics in Beijing University. I live in Beijing and I know how our people do their best to show their goodwill to all the world. I know the performers have trained for more than 2 years for the shows. They tried so hard to make a perfect show, much in accordance with the traditional Chinese cultural norms. If your commentator cannot understand the beauty of the performance as an individual, I just feel sorry for him. But as a commentator on the national TV, his ugly words expressed not only his own opinion, but had a very bad impact on the image of China. He did not just hurt the feeling of an ordinary audience like myself, but also insulted the the Chinese people as a whole.
In China we cherish good relations with the people from other countries. As a teacher of Hebrew and Jewish history in the most prestigious Chinese university, I do my best to promote cultural understanding between our cultures. I – and my colleagues and students – believe despite inevitable cultural differences and differences in opinion between the Chinese and other peoples, such as Israelis, we must work hard to promote better mutual understanding, a little bit goodwill and a little bit mutual tolerance. Thus, our world can become more beautiful and peaceful.
In these days, in the West (including Israel) there are many negative reports on the TV, on the newspapers and on the internet about China, I think it is not so fair to China, but I know that it is free for everyone to express his own opinion. Though I do no agree with these opinions, but for sure I agree that you have the right to say it. But today, it went beyond all the limits.
I, represent just myself, and my Chinese friends here, want an explanation, and an apology.
I agree. I responded in quite the same way to those exact same phrases. It has bothered me up to a point that I had to say something about how Israelis cover China.
The response (in Hebrew, I apologize) :
תודה על הצפייה בשידורינו.
צר לי ביותר אם נפגעת בדרך כלשהי מהדברים שנאמרו בשידור.
בדיקת השידורים העלתה שלא הייתה השוואה בין ההופעה בטקס הפתיחה לבין הנאצים, השוואה כזו כמובן אין לה מקום.
יחד עם זאת כמי שהוא מומחה לתולדות ישראל ולתרבותה אתה בוודאי יודע היטב שהישראלים כולם חיים כאן בצל הזכרונות מימי מלחמת העולם השניה ותקופת השואה, זכרונות אלה הפכו כבר לחלק בלתי נפרד מהזיכרון הלאומי הישראלי ואפילו מהזיכרון האישי של כל מי שגדל כאן שמע ולמד על גרמניה בימים האפלים ההם, ראה את מצעדיהם של הקצינים והחיילים ההם כולל סיגנון הצעידה המיוחד של הרמת רגל ישרה וידיים המגיעות עד כדי מועל יד, כמו שראינו בפתיחת האולימפיאדה בברלין ב- 1936.
התמונות האלה חיות בזיכרון הקולקטיבי של הישראלים.
הטקס בבייג’ין היה טקס מרהיב שהותיר רושם אדיר על כל צופה. יחד עם זאת היו בטקס המרהיב הזה מרכיבים של ביצוע המוני אחיד, צעידה אחידה ומתואמת עד כדי כך שנדמה היה שהמבצעים הם חלקים מרובוט אדיר.
המראות האלה עוררו אצל צופים רבים ובהם גם השדר אורן נהרי ועיתונאים רבים אחרים – תחושות בלתי נעימות. אם תזכור את התלונות של אזרחי טיבט ובני מיעוטים נוספים בסין וכן את חסימת אתרי אינטרנט מסויימים גם בפני עיתונאים הנמצאים עתה בבייג’ין תוכל להבין היטב את התחושות שבוטאו בשידור.
ומעל הכל מן הראוי לציון – רשות השידור היא גוף ציבורי שמחוייב לספק מידע מלא ומדוייק, השדרים אינם נציגים של מדינת ישראל ובוודאי שאינם דוברים של ממשלת ישראל, הם מספקים לציבור שירות של עיתונאות אחראית וכך יש להבין את הדברים.
לסיום עלי לשוב ולציין – השדר לא השווה את סין לגרמניה הנאצית – ואם כך הבנת את הדברים אין לי אלא להביע את צערי.
נציב קבילות הציבור
To which Ms. Wang Yu responds :
To Mr.Elisha Shpigelman,
Dear sir (sorry of writing in English, this is done for the sake of my compatriots, whom I cc this letter),
I do not know whether or not you meant it, but your letter strengthened my feeling of disappointment and distress. You say that there was "no comparison of the opening event to the Nazis" but later you admit that uniform performance of the Chinese actors during the ceremony "created uneasy feelings among spectators" – presumably reminding them of the 1936 Berlin games. You further say that this impression is based on the record of China’s supposed violation of the human rights. I am sorry to say, but this explanation sounds almost as disgusting as Mr. Nahari’s comments during the opening ceremony.
Throughout my career as teacher of Israeli culture and history in the Beijing University, I repeatedly told the students how sensitive the issue of Holocaust and Hitlerism is to Israelis. Comparison of the taiji (Chinese martial arts) performance to the Nazi parades is the mark of stupidity and bad taste. Stupidity, because it allows to compare any event with thousands of performers or any military parade to the Nazis – and the better organized is the event the more "Nazi" it would become then. Bad taste, because the performance which caused Mr. Nahari’s remarks was a performance of Chinese martial arts – the taiji – which are rooted in a centuries-long Chinese spiritual tradition, are defensive in their nature, and are based on meticulous personal training which allows the trainees to perform a certain sequence of movements in a very precise and uniform way. This is no more "robotical" than any dance (which can be learnt by heart by thousands of performers) – actually the taiji are extremely individual-oriented kind of training. I understand that Mr. Nahari does not know anything of this and of Chinese culture in general – but then why should you employ him to comment upon an event of which he has little if any understanding.
You mention "complains of Tibetan citizens (sic) and other minorities in China" and the limitations on the access to the internet for the journalists as somehow justifying the comparison to the 1936 Olympics. Once again I am amazed by stupidity and the lack of sensitivity – this time on your part. Whatever the opinion may be of China’s record of human rights and journalistic freedom, is it at all comparable to the Nazi Germany? I would somehow tolerate this stupid comparison in any other country – but sorry – not in Israel!!! You are supposed to be well aware of the exceptionality of the Nazi case, and I am not sure that you would like people employing similar comparisons against any country which has problematic record of human rights – you surely understand me well. You and your commentator might have believed that the Chinese are not sensitive to such hints and comparisons – but we – at least ME, as a scholar of Jewish history – ARE sensitive!!!
Finally, to clarify. For years I did my best to present Israel in China in as positive light as possible – because I respect and love this country and have plenty of Israeli friends. I know that should I publicize Nahari’s comments and your reply in my blog, it will cause huge damage to the image of Israel in Chinese public opinion. I do not want to do it – I still want to believe that the comments were stupid rather than malicious. However, your reply was extremely discouraging. Instead of apologizing for sending an unprofessional commentator to comment upon the Olympic event, you try to convince me that "there was no comparison" while also explaining why the comparison is justified in your eyes. I will not tolerate this paternalistic attitude much longer. If you and your bosses, who are cc-ed do not make a clear apology, I shall – with great pain – make the things known to the Chinese public. After all, my compatriots have the right to know how they are presented by the official broadcast company of the state which is widely respected in China and is considered a friendly nation.
Hope to hear your serious reply,
Wang Yu (am Ms not Mr)
Not good. And so it gets even more emotional. I strongly sympathize, even though I find it a bit disturbing how she proposes to to deal with the offense if she doesn’t receive an apology. With the current Chinese anti-French movement regarding the incident in France, threatening of pursuing this with the Chinese public sounds like an awkward way to go about it if we wish to address it. But, I imagine there are also some deep rooted cultural differences here. Channel 1 and Oren’s remarks represent no one but themselves, yet national cultural wars to reeducated the uneducated is the last thing we need. There are other ways to fight that. There is so much potential in the bridge between Israeli and Chinese culture that goes beyond such incidents… let’s focus on that.