Everything is ordered in Vienna where I gave two talks on the popular
resistance in Palestine.  Rows after rows of colorful buildings all with 5-8
floors with housing complexes and offices.  Public transportation and public
housing in a socialisty city that seems to function uniformally in many
ways.  But ofcourse this is a city that also generates out of the ordinary
characters. My thoughts wonder on the variety of those sons of Austria:
Mozart, Hitler, Hertzl, Scwartzenneger.  They were/are extraordinary
individuals that went beyond other countrymen.  Perhaps each individual has
those two sides, the angel and the devil whispering in our ears.  Ordinary
people live ordinary lives not having the courage to pursue the whispering
dreams of their angels and/or devils.  The exceptional individuals go for
the maximum deams some of them in the most creative and positive way while
others in the most destructive ways.  We pass by the Landstmann Café where
Theodore Hertzl sipped his coffee and planned to create a Jewish state. Most
Viennese pass by hundreds of plazas and their names evoke no emotion and
most indeed today do not know who is Theodore Hertzl or what he stood for.
Like that other Austrian Adolf Hitler, Hertzl built a reputation by playing
to the most basic and banal of human emotions: fear, greed, hate, tribalism.
Other Austrians built a career appealing to the most uplifting of human
emotions: love, hope, generocity, humanism.  We are always inspired by the
music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johan Strauss.  We are blessed by
Austrian inventors like Josef Madersperger (invented the sewing machine in
1818) and Peter Mitterhofer (inventor of the typewriter). And I am
hardpressed when asked to name decent politicians from anywhere but the very
few names that pop to mind certainly include the Austrian Bruno Kreisky,
Chancellor from 1970-1983 and the first Jewish Austrian in that office who
opened Europe to the PLO in the early 1970s to the chagrin of the Zionist

There are controversial Austrians who come to mind  and would receive mixed
reviews: Kurt Waldheim, diplomat and politician, Secretary-General of the
United Nations 1972-1982 and President of Austria 1986-1992; Martin Buber,
and Jewish philospher.

But as a scientist, I have always admired Karl Popper a philosopher of
science who was born in Austria, became British and developed some of the
best description of what constitutes scientific methods. When I wear my
geneticist, Gregor Mendel is there with me and when I put my Zoologist hat,
I cannot help but think of Konrad Lorenz.

But back to Hertzl who contributed to 110 years of conflict and suffering
for millions of people.  Hertzl wrote in his diaries that “Anti-Semites will
become our surest friends, anti-Semitic countries our allies.” Instead of
working to better life for all people, he chose to mimic ethnocentric
chauvinistic nationalism in Europe and export it to another land whose
people had nothing to do with what was happening in Europe.  Another famous
Austrian Jew, father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, rejected Zionism
because it has within it the same seeds of human frailty that he could
easily comprehend.  To wit, Freud wrote once to a Zionist who tried to
recruit him:

*“I cannot do as you wish. I am unable to overcome my aversion to burdening
the public with my name, and even the present critical time does not seem to
me to warrant it. Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them
something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgment of Zionism does not
permit this. I certainly sympathize with its goals, am proud of our
University in Jerusalem and am delighted with our settlement’s prosperity.
But, on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a
Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be
prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed
more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less
historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would
never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of
the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our
people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can
raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece
of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of
the natives. Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of
view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded
by unjustified hope.”*

Thus, as we leave this beautiful orderly city that generates amazing
characters of all sorts, we reflect on the brilliance of insight and
ingenuity of its people as well as the common human frailty which still
infects our species today.  Those like Herzl and Hitler and Netanyahu who
build careers catering to the worst of our characters (greed, racism, fear)
and those brilliant individuals who go after their dreams of leaving the
earth a little better.  Creating something that is beautiful instead of
ideas that lead to hate and wars.  Unfortunately most people are apathetic
and chose neither course.  But those that go after the positive energy leave
us with something to celebrate.  Those that create systems based on fear and
greed create conflicts and war and history only relegates them to the
dustbin of infamy.  The Austrians I met with were ashamed to Hitler and
Hertzl and justifiably proud of Mozart and Freud.  There are more of the
latter in every country today than in the dark days 100 years ago.

PS: Thank you to our wonderful hosts in Vienna especially Frigga Karl and
Dr. George Nicola. And we were honored to meet so many good people who
enriched our experiences.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

now in Parma

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