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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The secret cause of Israel's PR and image catastrophe

The Herzliya Conference on Israeli national security, hosted at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary center, has finally recognized that Israel has a certain problem with people who are trying to delegitimize Israel and Zionism. They organized a workshop on what the speakers called "Public Relations" and "image." Everyone agreed that Israel has a "public relations" and "image" problem and that it needs to get "public relations" people to change its "image." But nobody understood how the problem came about, and there was disagreement about what these public relations experts should be doing, and what "image" we want to communicate.

According to one summary:

Today, at the Herzliya Conference, one session was held on strategic communications for Israel. In other words, Israel's hasbara, or PR, problem. We all know that Israel has a serious PR problem. Israel is, almost always, painted in the worst of lights.

... Ido Aharoni discussed the problem of Israel's brand, as being solely associated with the conflict...
Eyal Arad discussed the three problems, that he sees, that Israel has in changing its image. "We have basically three problems that doom us to remain in that situation… The first requirement that we need in order to build image, change image, deal with images, is to understand the flow of information about our product... .
"Our second problem is that we don't know what we really want....Now, do we want to get Jews to come and live in Israel? Do we want to be an immigration country, so what we want to do is convince people that Israel is the best place, at least convince Jews that Israel is the best place for them ?
"The third problem that we have… and the third problem is probably the most important problem, and this is the reason we fail to address the two former problems, is that we don't have a client. When we try to deal with Israel's information campaign, you really don't have a client. Israel's problem, and I agree that our main problem in the world today have become a legitimacy problem. It's not that people do not think that our policies are right, it's that people question whether we should exist or continue to exist in the first place. We are more and more becoming the South Africa of the 21st century. "

The secret cause of Israel's PR and image catastrophe is now revealed. Do you understand the problem? Part of the difficulty, that we knew about, is that we are facing a political campaign - a campaign about the legitimacy of our country and our people. Arad got that part right. The Palestinian Charter insists that Jews are not a people. That is the basis of the campaign and it always has been. But the hidden secret that is ruining Israel's "image" and "PR" is that the people who are supposed to be doing ideological advocacy for Zionism and Israel advocacy think they are supposed to be doing "PR" and image building, and don't know what message to put in their "PR" or what "image to build.

The Zionism advocates don't know what Zionism or advocacy is. The people who are considered authorities on the issue, who are sent to the Herzliya conference to pontificate about it, confess that they don't really know what they want, or how to get it. They confuse advocacy with "PR." Eyal Arad should speak for himself. I know exactly what I want, and the Israeli information apparatus is not delivering it. The big part of the problem is the people in charge of handling the problem.

Israel advocacy is not about getting Jews to Israel. It is not Jewish education. It should not even be targeting Jews. Jews are a tiny and not too important minority in the United States, and an even tinier minority in other countries.
Israel advocacy is not about PR or "images." It can't be done by PR talking heads who don't know what we want. A country is not a "product." Challenges to legitimacy must be met by earnest political advocacy, not by "PR," remaking of image or rebranding. We do not need to deal with images or build images.

We need to build reality and deal with reality and tell people the truth. That's what we did when Israel was successful. The image was terrible. A rag tag bunch of idealists on a hopeless quest, a chaotic army, rude waiters in hotels, telephones that didn't work, an economy built on wishful thinking, immigrants in rags from Europe and the Middle East: the wretched and the hopeless. A basket case. That is how Israel was viewed in much of the world. It is certainly how the early Zionists were viewed. But it was only image. It was not reality. The people of the Second Aliya told the world "We are building the future of the Jewish people." Nobody believed them. Their shirts were torn and their shoes had holes. That was the "future of the Jewish people." But they told the truth. They were building reality, not "image." The reality built our country and the image took care of itself. We need to tell the truth and we need to know that we are telling the truth.

Israel advocacy is not about telling people Israel is a good place to invest or that we have pretty girls and nice beaches. "Everyone knows," don't they, that Jews are "clever with money" and that Jewish girls are hot and loose, right? Dpes that help us? Will it win support in international fora? Bragging about Israeli economic prowess plays into the image of the blood-sucking Jew-Zionist colonialists who are getting rich by oppressing the poor Palestinians, who are minding their own business, trying to make an honest living in the suicide vest business. Bragging about our technologically advanced society plays to Palestinian propaganda too. They are poor helpless native victims of a heartless and evil advanced society. Of course, the Iranians, who are building atomic weapons, tell a different story, and that too is accepted.

People do not base political opinions on a few factoids or "images." They may use the images or the factoids to bolster their opinions. They build a narrative and force the facts to fit that narrative. One we have been demonized it doesn't matter what we do. If we send rescue teams to Haiti, the mainstream "responsible" media like TIME ignore it, because it doesn't fit their narrative about the evil Zionists, the more sophisticated Israel bashers use it as a platform for an attack on Israeli policy, and the professional Israel haters say Israelis went to Haiti to harvest organs for illegal transplant traffic.

In the business world, PR and "image" and "branding" are acceptable. In the world of ideological advocacy, they are dirty words. "Image building" is what an oil company does after a tanker spill. It's what tobacco companies tried to do for smoking. In other words, it is lying or "improving the truth." "Rebranding" and remaking of images are what sleazy politicians do in order to foist themselves on the public. Some of us remember "the new Nixon." He wasn't much different from the old model Nixon, but the "image remake" fooled enough people long enough to get him elected president of the United States.

Israel advocacy, like all good political advocacy is not about lying, distracting people from reality or "building images." It has to be about telling the truth. Pretty girls on beaches might attract some jocks and sex tourists. But we need to speak to the political leadership and the politically active leadership segments of society abroad. Serious university students, diplomats and journalists are really not going to be impressed by pretty girls at beaches, and they don't much care if Israel is a good place to invest their money.

Israel advocacy is about explaining that Zionism is not racism, and that Jews have the same rights as other people - and we shall insist on those rights, whether it suits others or not. The enemies of Israel seize on this or that issue, but they almost always admit that in reality there is only one issue: denying the Jewish people the right of self-determination. Calling Zionism "racism." It's not about what Israel did in the Gaza war. The Americans and British roasted German babies in the fire-bombings of Dresden, Hamburg and other cities in World War II. Nobody tried them for war crimes, and nobody other than Nazis tried to dismantle England or the United States. Germany was not dismantled though they murdered 17 million people, including 6 million Jews, apart from the casualties of the war they started. It's not what you do. It's who you are. The campaign against Israel starts from the premise that Jews have no rights as a people. Therefore we have no right to self - defense or any other right. No campaign on the issues will convince those people of our innocence, because we are guilty by definition in their eyes.

To Eyal Arad and all the other talking heads who don't know what they want or what is needed: What we need is for our people to tell the truth, and to know what we want and why we are here. What we want is for the world to accept that the Jewish people have a right to a nation state of our own. That's the entire issue. If you don't understand that, you should not be making the case for Israel, and you should not be talking about it in conferences.
Ami Isseroff

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti disaster and the Jewish problem - Exploiting Israeli aid for politics and Israel-bashing

There is no doubt that Israeli rescue teams have done us proud in Haiti. See for example Israeli aid to Haiti. Israeli disaster missions and humanitarian aid are always given without strings, and the people who do it do not do it in anticipation of cheap "PR" that will improve Israel's "image." Such disaster aid missions have been sent to numerous countries, in addition to ongoing projects that provide cardiologists and opthalmologists to needy patients in developing countries. It is what we do, because that is who we are.
There is no doubt that we want people to see who we are and what we do, but when Haitians were yelling "bravo Israel" Major Zohar Moshe insisted, "It is not about that, it is about saving lives." About 200,000 people are estimated to have perished in the Haiti earthquake. This is a huge catastrophe. To put it in perspective, it is nearly ten times as many fatalities as Israel has suffered in all of our wars in our entire history, and about 70 times the number of fatalities caused by the Jihadist terror attacks of 9-11-01 in the United States.
Regrettably, there are cynical, tasteless and obsessed people do not understand that it is inappropriate to play politics with a disaster of this magnitude. Those who insisted on pointing out that Arab countries did not give aid to Haiti might be disappointed to see a Reuters/IRIN item about Arab aid to Haiti, including a Jordanian field hospital send January 14. This is a world class disaster and everyone should be, and is, pitching in. .
On the other hand, any time is the right time to dump on Israel for some people, and anything we do can be held against us. A CBS blog trumpeted " Pennies for Haiti, Billions for Israel, Egypt, as if US aid to Israel is at fault for the miserable condition of the Haitian economy and society. At least two Israeli Op-eds used Israeli aid to Haiti as an excuse and springboard for discussing what they wanted to discuss, which was totally unrelated. Gershon Baskin whined shamelessly:
But what about the humanitarian disaster in our own backyard caused in a large part by our own doing? What about Gaza? More than 1.5 million people are living in total poverty, without sanitary drinking water, under an economic and physical siege, locked in what could easily be called the world's largest prison. While we ask to see in all of the gory details, all of the destruction including hundreds of corpses on the streets of Port-au-Prince, we wish to see none of the human suffering of our Palestinian neighbors in Gaza where we literally hold the keys to the end of their suffering.
Not only don't we see their suffering, we simply don't care. Doesn't the concept of tikkun olam extend to our enemies? (Not all of Gaza's 1.5 million people are enemies; many of them, perhaps even most of them would like to live in peace with us.)
What has all this to do with Haiti? Absolutely nothing. The only connection is one made by a perverse mind. And what has Gaza poverty to do with Israel? Not as much as you might think. Gaza was not a bustling and advanced part of the world before 1948 or before the arrival of the evil Zionists. The standard of living in Gaza was not better a hundred years ago, and the infant mortality rate was not lower. It was about 300 out of a thousand infants, many times higher than today. Gaza under Egyptian rule was certainly no better than it is today. Tikkun olam does extend to our enemies. IDF set up a field hospital to treat Palestinian victims during Operation Cast Lead (aka "Gaza War of 2008") and Israeli hospitals have been treating Palestinian patients from Gaza even in the worst of times. One of them, as Baskin might remember, tried to use Israeli generosity to blow up Soroka hospital. It really isn't Israel's fault that Palestinians voted for Hamas or that Hamas chose to launch rockets and mortars at our towns. Baskin claims that "we" don't care. Perhaps he speaks for himself. Perhaps he is telling us that he doesn't care either about the suffering of the Palestinians or the dead people in Haiti. To an observer, it looks like he is just using suffering as a device to advance a political agenda - a good "issue."
Yoel Marcus's effort in this direction was less perverse, but it was nonetheless artificial exploitation of a "hot news item" as a springboard for discussing what he wants to discuss.
Every time disaster strikes anywhere in the world, I am filled anew with admiration at how ready and willing we are to assist, and how speedy, effective, organized and wholehearted that assistance is.
We did not rush aid to Haiti because there is a Jewish community there. We went there for humanitarian reasons. As a nation that has experienced disasters and bereavement for generations, other nations' disasters do not leave us indifferent...
It is easier for us to organize rescue operations outside Israel than do all that is necessary to advance peace inside it and thus prevent deadly attacks on our home front..
Well yes. It is also easier to organize rescue operations outside Israel than to fix the road safety problem or the problem of Israeli homeless or any other problem that needs fixing, so the deaths of 200,000 Haitians and the Israeli relief effort can be used as a platform for discussing just about anything you like.
The Hamas got into the act too, forgetting their complaint (Gershon Baskin take note) that Gazans are all starving in the Israeli siege, and launching their own relief effort for Haiti, alleging that the Israeli attack on Gaza was similar to the earthquake in Haiti. Not even Judge Goldstone, imagined that Israel killed 200,000 people in Gaza.
But the icing on the cake, the one that takes the "no good deed shall go unpunished" award, goes to the enterprising conspiracy theorist who came out with the inevitable accusation: the evil Zionists are collecting bodies for illegal organ transplant traffic in Haiti.
Nothing can top that of course, but no doubt something will.
Ami Isseroff

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Haiti - "it's about saving lives"

In Haiti, a Poignant Rescue Mission Amid 'We Love Israel' Cheers
By Nathan Guttman
Published January 17, 2010.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti — "Tell me please, what day is it? Is it Wednesday?" whispered Franz Gilles, laying in his bed at the field hospital.
"No, it is Saturday," the Israeli doctor standing next to him replied.
Gilles seemed baffled. He turned around and mumbled, "Saturday, oh my God."
The 59-year-old administrative director of the Haitian tax authority spent the past four days buried under rubble, in what used to be his office, across the road from Port-au-Prince's devastated presidential palace. "It was like in a box, then the night came," he later said.
Local rescue workers tried to get Gilles out shortly after the massive, 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Haitian capital on January 13, but to no avail. They left their equipment on the ground and went on to rescue others. But three days later, an Israeli rescue mission — part of a 200-member Israeli rescue and relief mission that flew in to Haiti on January 14 — came back to the building, after receiving information that someone was still alive in the building.
"We started looking around, using dogs and listening devices and then we found him," said Major Zohar Moshe, commander of the rescue force. Zohar's team was one component of the rescue mission Israel dispatched to Haiti, a detachment from the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command that includes engineering, medical, logistics and rescue experts.
This was their first chance to actually find someone they could help.
"I'm always optimistic. You have to be optimistic when you're on a mission like this," he said, as an Israeli military doctor climbed into the rubble to insert an intravenous liquid tube to Gilles arms.
The Israeli rescuers kept on working around the cavity in which Gilles was trapped, cutting through the debris that blocked the entrance. "We tried to talk with him, to keep him awake," said Captain Nir Hazut. "I told him, 'Do you know where we are from? We are from Israel.
Gilles, who all but lost hope to ever get out, replied: "I can't believe it. You came all the way from Israel to save me?" Then he asked for a cell phone to call someone in Israel and say thank you, but rescuers told him that he'd have a chance to do so once he was out from under the debris and safe.
It took more than seven hours of careful digging, and maneuvering through the piles of brick, wood and office stationery, but by day's end, Gilles was out. Bodies of his co-workers, who were not as lucky, were visible through the debris of what was once one of Haiti's main government office buildings.
As Gilles was taken out on a stretcher to the ambulance, the crowd waiting outside the building for hours, broke out in cheers. "Bravo," cried out one, and another led bystanders in cheers "We love Israel; we love Israel."
"It is not about that, it is about saving lives," said Major Zohar Moshe, covered in dirt and sweat after the rescue mission was over, "but it does make us very proud."
A few hours later, in the field hospital set up by the Israeli military, Gilles seemed exhausted, but the doctors said he that in a few days he would be just fine.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The limits of PC: The forbidden group must come out of the closet

A wonderful age of tolerance has dawned in our time. For most of the inhabitants of the Western world, the bad old days of bigotry and narrow-mindedness are gone.

The multicultural pluralistic politically correct society accepts almost everyone for what they are, and listens respectfully to their opinions. Discrimination against women is forbidden and frowned upon. People of all colors and creeds and nationalities, and with all manner of political beliefs, are respected, listened to and accepted for who they are and what they do. There is only one exception.

The wave of tolerance has spread to every corner of society. The standard bearer of conservative political values in the United States today is a woman - Sarah Palin. Gay people, who once had to hide their secret or face jail terms, have come out of the closet and serve as officials in Europe and the United States. They may even as ministers in churches. African Americans, once called "n****r," are closer than ever to being accepted as true equals in American society. An African American was even elected president.

Practically every creed and every political belief has gained respectability. Adherents of Mao and Stalin can argue their points of view alongside Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. Nobody reminds them of the millions of people who were murdered in the Soviet Union or Maoist China and of all the human misery caused by their "scientific" beliefs.. Let bygones be bygones.

Islamis accepted as a respectable creed, the religion of peace. The president of the United States has said so. Discrimination against people just because they areMuslims is rightly forbidden. Nobody assumes that all Muslims are terrorists or bigots or wife beaters. News reports from Muslim and Arab governments and press are treated with respect, and the Muslim point of view is heard and respected 'round the world.

Even terrorists and advocates of terror get a break. We must negotiate with Iran, accept Iran into the family of nations. Never mind if they sent their terrorist agents to murder US soldiers and violated the immunity of diplomats. Never mind if they are plotting to take over the Middle East. Dialogue with Iran is politically correct. Apologists explain that "militants" are practicing "resistance." Suicide bombers are billed as "altruists" by British professors. Jihadis thought to be not such a bad thing and is preached freely in the capitals of Europe. Respectable organizations recommend recognition of groups like the Hezbollah and the Hamas, who are welcome in many capitals of the world, and get a favorable press from major news media. A conference of such "resisters" was recently held in Beirut, under the auspices of the United Nations.

It is even OK to be Jewish in many circles of society, thoughJewremains a bad word. There is only one political group that is beyond the pale of "politically correct" and outside the bounds of the pluralistic multicultural society: : Zionists. Abortion rights groups and anti-abortionists can lobby for their causes, as can gun manufacturers, those opposed to firearms, Muslim groups and Palestinians. For Zionists, it is forbidden. The pro-Israel "Zionist lobby" conjures up images of a sinister conspiracy to subvert America, worse than anything dreamed up by the Cominform. An entire book and many articles, mostly fiction though not sold as such, have been written about the alleged role of the Zionist lobby in starting the Iraq war and other nefarious deeds. Not a shred of real evidence is offered in any of them, but "everyone knows" it must be true, and it is believed by respected professors and journalists and their students and audiences.

ForZionism and Zionist Israelis there is no quarter and no hope at all. Zionists are blamed for every ill of the world, and accused of every crime including eating babies, poisoning children and killing people to steal their organs for illegal transplant trade. None of this flood of baseless calumny is considered impolite, intolerant or not "politically correct." Zionists are the only group you can seriously dump on in intelligent society without being considered a boor and a bigot.

When a Zionist attempts to speak at a UN meeting, he is silenced. If a Zionist goes to an international conference at Annapolis, sponsored by the United States, he or she must enter by the service entrance, an institution created to separate domestics, menial laborers and other "inferiors" from "respectable" people. Nobody would shake their hands either. We may be about to see more of the same humiliating treatment in a different setting, again under the auspices of the United States, which claims an "unbreakable bond" with Israel. The Palestinian Arabs will not sit in the same room with Zionists, so the United States is trying to arrange "proximity talks." The evil Zionists will sit in one room, and the righteous "moderate" former (?) terrorists of the PLO will sit in another room and formulate their demands. The entire world thinks this is a great concession to the evil, racist, imperialist and colonialist Zionists. What will they talk about? Zionist concessions to the Palestinian Arabs.

If a Zionist product turns up in certain countries, there can be an international scandal. It doesn't bother anyone. In fact, "progressive" groups are working to widen the boycott of Zionists.

If a person admits to being a Zionist, nobody will listen to his or her opinion or version of the facts - it must be "Zionist propaganda." The same is true of news items that originate from "Zionist" sources. If Al Jazeera writes that Zionists committed war crimes in Gaza it is accepted as a fact, even if Al Jazeera also reported that the United States had used atomic weapons in Iraq. Time Magazine and Newsweek then headline fantastic tales of Zionist atrocities in Gaza.

If, on the other hand, the "Zionists" report that they captured a ship bearing a cargo of illicit Iranian arms, and show the arms, marked with the marks of the manufacturers in Iran and bound for the Hezbollah terrorists, it is ignored. It is "Zionist propaganda." At most, it will get a back page headline that states that "Israel claimed that the arms were manufactured in Iran" "Israel claimed that the arms were bound for Hezbollah." Nobody believes it. Nobody will listen to the "tales" of Zionists.

At parties and social gatherings, it is OK to say that you are gay, that you favor Scientology or flat earth theory, that you are a Maoist or a supporter of "rights" for Hamas. You can announce that you believe in anything at all. Say that you are a Zionist however, and the room will become silent. People will change the subject and move away from you. It's not your deodorant.

Everywhere in the world, Zionists have gone to earth, hiding in the closet, avoiding the pernicious Z-word or at most masquerading as "pro-Israel." The BDS (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions) group condemns "imperialism, colonialism and Zionism," and presumably also pedophilia and necrophilia, though the latter are not mentioned. The Friends Society approves of this program and joins the BDS in their demonstrations in support of the Hamas. It doesn't matter what Zionists really do or what they really think, just as it didn't matter who Paul Robeson was in the bad old days. He had the wrong skin color and that was enough. It didn't matter what George Washington Carver did, he could not be served in the white section of an Alabama cafe. It doesn't matter what Zionist scientists invent, or how many children are saved by Zionist cardiologists who give their time to Save a Child's Heart, or how many people regain their sight thanks to the "international Zionists" of Eye from Zion.They are still Zionists.

It doesn't matter how much aid the Zionists or the "Tel Aviv government" give to disaster victims in Haiti or Turkey or Kosovo, regardless of whether those people support Israel or Zionism. "Zionism" is a dirty word, and Zionists are thought to be in the moral category of Nazis and are in fact compared to Nazis. The very word "Zionism" conjures up the worst associations: racism, colonialism, apartheid, imperialism. A retired SS Obersturmbahnfuhrer may get fairer treatment in the foreign press than an IDF officer. Former Nazi officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty, a courtesy not afforded to Zionist "war criminals" in many publications.

It doesn't matter how many Palestinian Arabs are treated in Israeli hospitals, or how much humanitarian aid Zionists give to Gaza. It makes no difference how many Zionists demonstrate for peace. Zionists are Zionists. They must be boycotted and ostracized. A Zionist, in the popular imagination, is a person with horns and a tail, a religious fanatic who wants to bring about the end of the world (never mind that Zionism is a secular ideology either).

The president of the United States, who has made so many eloquent pleas on behalf of the religion of Islam, would not dare to urge the world to accept Zionists as human beings, to listen to what we have to say as equals. The discrimination is institutionalized and is not confined to Arab countries. Israel is probably the only major country that has never yet had a rotating seat in the UN Security Council. "Everybody knows" that "Zionism is Racism" even if the odious UN resolution on that subject was repealed. The repeal too, is ascribed to a dark Zionist conspiracy. Zionists are held responsible for the terror bombings of 9-11 and the terror attacks in Mumbai, even if Muslim terrorists confessed proudly to perpetrating them.

San Francisco, the home of gay pride and Politically Correct ideas, the supposed bastion of tolerance and multicultural pluralism, is paradoxically probably the worst place in the United States to be a Zionist. Can you imagine a "Zionist Pride" parade in San Francisco?

"Zionism," which should be a source of pride to all its supporters - Jews and non-Jews, has instead been turned into an affliction that no-one dares to speak its name, worse than the "C" word. This has happened because of the work of a small group of dedicated bigots, fanatics and terrorists, who never lose an opportunity to blacken Zionism and Zionists with every calumny. They have managed to make their bigotry and hate respectable and accepted, because you and I let them do it.

Don't you think it is time to end the witch hunt against Zionists? I am proud to be a Zionist. I am proud of the Zionist tradition of construction and renewal, of defense of the rights of the Jewish people, and of Tikkun Olam (social justice) around the world. I am proud of the country that we built from scratch, against tremendous odds, and the new lease on life that we have given to our people. I am proud of the kibbutzim as an ongoing experiment in social justice and democracy. I am proud that Israeli Arabs have more freedom and more protection under the law than Arabs do in any other country in the Middle East. Aren't you? I am proud that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where no members of any religion are treated as dhimmi - second class citizens. I am proud of the fact that Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees today than it did a century ago - a consequence of the "Zionist plot." I am a Proud Zionist. Aren't you?

If you are afraid to stand up for what you believe, you are not free. You can't hide what you are forever. I am not afraid to say I am a Zionist. How about you?

It is time to tell the world, "We are proud to be Zionists. Zionism is not what you think it is. It is not about eating babies and poisoning wells. It is a progressive national movement like any other. and it has done wonderful things!"

Please help us end the persecution of Zionism. Zionists have to come out of the closet. If we don't stand up for what we believe, nobody else will. Read the Israel Advocacy Handbook to learn the Zionist side of the story. Spread the word for "Zionist Pride." Join the Facebook Zionism Cause ( ) and invite others - help us explain to people what Zionism is really about.

As for the rest of you, you may disagree. After listening respectfully, you may believe that Jews are not entitled to a homeland of our own- that it is too much of an inconvenience to the world, or that it causes too much strife. We cannot force you to support us.
If you disagree, blame us only for what is really our fault and what we really believe - in the right to self-determination of the Jewish people. Don't make us out to be racists or imperialists or colonialists, body snatchers or baby eaters or initiators of wars in Iraq. Don't lock us out of the room and out of legitimate public discourse. We ask only that you grant us the same rights and the same hearing, the same legitimacy and respect that you grant so willingly to advocates of flat earth theory, Jihadism, Maoism and any other group or political movement that you may or may not support.
Ami Isseroff

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

All about Israel boycotts and the anti-Israelism of the left

The problem of Israel boycotts is not new. This piece by Amos Kenan originally appeared in the Israel daily newspaper Yediot Achronot shortly after the Six-Day Way and was widely circulated among American Jewish students in North America looking for an answer to the anti-Israel New Left. Please keep in mind the context of the late-Sixties as you read these words.

Seek Peace and Pursue It


A Letter to all Good People

By Amos Kenan

I am for Cuba. I love Cuba. I am opposed to the genocide perpetrated by the Americans in Vietnam. But I am an Israeli, therefore I am forbidden to take all these stands. Cuba does not want me to love her. Someone has decided that I am permitted to love only the Americans. I don't mind so much that someone, especially the good people everywhere, have decided to outlaw me. I shall be able to get along without their help. But I do mind that I am not permitted any longer to love and hate according to my feelings, and according to my political and moral inclinations, and that I am refused invitation or even admittance to parties held by the good people. I am not permitted any longer to toast justice with a glass of champagne. I am not permitted to eat caviar and denounce the Americans. I am not permitted to stroll in the sun-drenched streets of Havana, arm-in-arm with my erstwhile good friends from St. Germain, Via Veneto and Chelsea, and celebrate the memory of Che Guevara, casting a threatening look at imperialism. I am also finally and absolutely forbidden to sign petitions of all sorts for human rights.

This situation drives me slightly out of my mind. Therefore I wish to relate a few confused, disconnected stories. Perhaps some good man will find the connection. One day an Israeli submarine sank in the Mediterranean with its 69 crew members. Its SOS was answered, among others, by the British, Turkish and Greek fleets. The Russian navy, which cruised very close to the location, did not join in the search. Moscow radio, in its Arab broadcasts, took the trouble to denounce the countries whose ships rushed to help the lost submarine. It is a sacred principle of seamen of all nations to hasten to the aid of distressed vessels. The Israeli submarine was not on a war mission, and Israel is not in a state of war with the Soviet Union.

I am not so naive as to believe that this is anti-Semitism, Soviet style. I have never believed that the Russians are guided, in their calculations, by such powerful and sincere emotions as anti-Semitism, which is common to both progressive and reactionary camps. I know that the Russians conduct a cool and considered pragmatic policy, and are guided by clear political considerations. This was a political move, carried out as a part of a political game. The meaning of this move can only be: Israel must be isolated from the civilised human community. The rules that apply to the civilised community, rules of honour, consideration and mutual aid, do not apply to me. I am out. There is only one more step to the conclusion: the shedding of my blood is no crime.

Forgive my brutal way of putting things. I cannot conceive of it otherwise. If this was a move in a game, the game must have an object. The object is the penetration of the Middle East, and let us assume, for the sake of arguments, that this is for the purpose of advancing world revolution and the overthrow of imperialism. The Middle East contains 100m. Arabs and 2.5m. Israelis. But it is not so easy, in our enlightened world, to wipe out 2.5m. people. A reason, and a justification, are needed. You cannot wipe out just like that. First of all you must outlaw. Therefore you must not invite an Israeli communist party to a convention of communist parties. Therefore you must not invite a leftist Israeli author to a conference of leftist authors in Havana. There are no more class distinctions. There are only national distinctions. Even an Israeli leftist is an imperialist. And an oil sheikh is a socialist. Therefore it is permissible to compare me to the Nazis. It is permissible to call me a Gauleiter. It is permissible to mobilize all of the world's conscientious people against me—and without them you cannot do it—and all this because there is an object looming beyond the horizon, an object for the sake of which this tactic is justifiable and useful.

Until quite recently, I also belonged to the Good People. Meaning that not only did I sit in cafes and sign petitions for the release of political prisoners in countries not my own, not only did I join proclamations, after sipping my aperitif, for the release of the downtrodden from the yoke of imperialism in places I shall never reach; I also did something against what seemed to me to be oppression and injustice in my own country. During the 20 years of the existence of the State of Israel I helped with my pen, in my regular newspaper column, the fight against the injustices committed against the Arab minority. And not by the pen only, but also in demonstrations, and also when arraigned before a military tribunal. I am used to being called a traitor by local patriots. During the Six Day War, in June 1967, the battalion I served in was ordered to supervise the demolition of four Arab villages: I considered it my duty to desert from my unit, to write a report of this action, and to send the copies to the General Staff of the army, to members of the government and to Knesset members. This report has been translated and circulated in the world as a proof of Israel's crimes.

But permit me to conclude the story. The action I undertook was in flagrant violation of any military law. I have no idea what would have happened to a Red Army soldier were he to violate national and military discipline in such a manner. After returning to my unit, I was ordered to present myself—I, in rank a private—before the general commanding all the divisions on that front. He told me that he had read my report, and considered it his duty to inform me that what had occurred was a regrettable error, which will not recur. Deep in my heart I disbelieved his statement that this was only a mistake. I was convinced that whoever ordered such an action did not expect such resistance from within—the men of my battalion refused to carry out the order—and was alarmed at the impression such an action might create abroad. But I was glad that he found it necessary to announce that this was only an error. I asked him how he intended to ensure that the 'error' will never recur. On the spot he signed an order permitting me free movement in all occupied territories, so that I could see with my own eyes that such an action had not recurred.

But since then, in all the peace-papers in the world, my report about the destruction of villages has been reprinted over and over again, as if it happened only yesterday, as if it is happening all the time. And this is a lie. It is like writing that witches have been burnt at the stake in England—omitting the date. I hereby request all those who believed me when I reported a criminal act, to believe me now too. And those who do not believe me now, I hereby request to disbelieve my former report too, and not to believe me selectively, according to their convenience. I should also add that the town of Kalkiliya, which began to be demolished during the writing of my report, is now in the process of being rebuilt, after the expelled inhabitants have been brought back.

This does not mean that other injustices are not perpetrated now. The less you fight me, the more you would help me fight them. Even the most leftist of men will not consent to be slaughtered when a sword is pointed at his throat. Even when the sword is a progressive one, it does not make it any the pleasanter. The trouble is that not a single serious person in the world believes today that Israel was really in danger of being annihilated. This is the optical illusion of 1968. The gigantic Goliath is threatening little David. The fact that Goliath is a giant, and that David is small, is only an optical illusion. If Goliath triumphs and tramples David under his feet, it is a sign that he really is a giant. But if little David beats the giant, people say: the giant David has trampled poor little Goliath in the dust. I claim that Israel played the role of David. And I claim that even now, after the stunning victory, it still is little David who has indeed beaten the stunned Goliath, but Goliath still is a menacing giant. Today, no less than in June 1967, Israel is in danger of annihilation. Unless the enlightened world mobilises now, immediately, perhaps it will be too late. But I am afraid that there are not many people in the world today who will be sorry if victorious David is destroyed. A bitter suspicion rises in me that even the most enlightened among the most progressive people still adhere to the Christian tradition that they imbibed with their mothers' milk: Jew, stay on the cross. Never get off it. The day you get off the cross and hurl it at the heads of your crucifiers, we shall cease to love you. Today the Arabs boast of waging a revolutionary guerrilla warfare. They claim to have copied the Viet Cong method of warfare and to apply it in the Middle East. They march with Che Guevara's picture. This makes me laugh. Just as Che Guevara's picture hanging in the luxurious salons of Montparnasse made me laugh. I have always wondered whether Che Guevara had a picture of Che Guevara hanging in his salon. What is a Viet Cong? The Viet Cong is not white flags on buildings. The Viet Cong means fighting to the last man. The Viet Cong of the Middle East, whether those who demonstrate with Che Guevara's picture like it or not, are we. We are prepared, at any moment to wage the battle to the death. After the death camps, we are left with only one supreme value: existence.

Our existence today, is inconvenient for those who work at the global balance of power. It is more convenient that there should be two camps, one white, the other black. We number, as I said before, only 2.5m. people. On the global map, what is the value of a few hundred thousand leftists, opposing the Eshkol government policy and striving for a genuine peace with the Arabs, who strive to liberate themselves from the one-way dependence on American power? Somebody has already decided to sacrifice us. The history of revolution is full of such sacrifices since the days of the Spanish War. At one time world revolution had been sacrificed on the altar of the revolution in one country. Today the calculation is somewhat subtler. Today they try to explain to us that there is an Arab socialism. That there is an Egyptian socialism, and an Algerian socialism. There is a socialism of slave-traders, and a socialism of oil magnates. There are all kinds of socialism, all aiming really at one and the same thing—the overthrow of imperialism, which happens to be one and indivisible. Once there was only a single kind of socialsm, which fed on principles, some of them moral. On the day that morality died there was born the
particular, conventional socialism, changing from place to place and from time to time, for which I have no other name but National Socialism.

I want to live. What can I do if Russia, China, Vietnam, India, Yugoslavia, Sartre, Russell, Castro, have all decided that I am made all of a piece? It is inconvenient for them to admit that there is an opposition in Israel too. Why should there be an opposition in Israel if in the Popular Democracies in Cuba or Algeria, there is only one party? And perhaps they do have pangs of conscience, but they have made their calculation, and found out that I am only one, only 10, only 100,000; and on the other side there are tens of millions, all led like a single man, in a single party, towards the light, towards the sun. And if so, who am I? I will tell you who I am: I am the man who will confuse and confound your progressive calculations. I have too much love for this vain world, a world of caviar, television, sunny beaches, sex and good wine. You go ahead and toast the revolution with champagne. I shall toast myself, my own life, bottle in one hand, rifle in the other. You send Soviet arms to Egypt. You isolate me. And in order to make it easier to isolate me, you change my name. My flesh, which you eat, you call fish. You don't want to protect me— neither against the Arabs, nor against the Russians, nor against Dayan or Johnson.

Moreover, when I try to call on you and tell you that I am against Dayan, against Eshkol, against Ben-Gurion, and ask for your help, you laugh at me and demand that I should return to the 4 June borders, unconditionally. Hold it! I refuse to play this game. If you give me back the pistol with which I tried to kill you, I won't kill you. Because I am a nice fellow. But if you don't give it back to me, I shall kill you, because you are a bad fellow. Why were the 4 June borders not peace borders on 4 June but will become peace borders now? Why were not the U.N. partition plan borders of 1947 peace borders then but will become so now? Why should I return the bandit his gun as a reward for having failed to kill me? I want peace peace peace peace peace peace peace. I am ready to give everything back in exchange for peace. And I shall give nothing back without peace. I am ready to solve the refugee problem. I am ready to accept an independent Palestinian state. I am ready to sit and talk. About everything, all at the same time. Direct talks, indirect talks, all this is immaterial. But peace. Until you agree to have peace, I shall give back nothing. And if you force me to become a conqueror, I shall become a conqueror. And if you force me to become an oppressor, I shall become an oppressor. And if you force me into the same camp with all the forces of darkness in the world, there I shall be.

There is no lack in Israel of rabid militarists. Their number is steadily increasing, the more our isolation becomes apparent. Nasser helps Dayan, Kosygin helps Eshkol. Fidel Castro helps the Jewish chauvinists. Who of the world's giants cares how many more Jews, how many more Arabs, bleed to death in the Sinai sands? There is no lack here of mad hysterical militarists. All those quiet citizens who went out to war with K.L.M. handgrips and in laundry trucks, who scribbled on their tanks: 'We want Home' . All those who fought without anger, without hatred, only for their lives, are becoming militaristic, convinced that only Israeli power, and nothing else in the world, will ever help us.

The only ones who are prepared to defend me, for reasons I don' t like at all, are the Americans. It is convenient for them, for the time being. You are flinging me towards America, the bastion of democracy and the murderer of Vietnam, who tramples the downtrodden peoples and spares my life, who oppresses the Negroes and supplies me with arms to save myself. You leave me no other alternative. You don' t even offer me humiliating terms, to be admitted through the rear door into the progressive orgy. You don' t even want me to overthrow my government. You only want me to surrender, unconditionally, and to believe the spokesmen of the revolution that henceforth no Jewish doctors will be murdered, and that they will limit themselves to the declaration that Zionism is responsible for the riots in Warsaw.

Very funny. The truth is that I and Sartre, two people with the same vision, more or less, with the same ideal, more or less, and if I may be permitted to impertinence, with the same moral level, more or less, are now at the two sides of the barricade. We have been pushed to both sides by the cold calculations of the people who sent us, or abandoned us. But the fact remains—these are not Americans shooting Russians, or capitalists shooting socialists, or freedom-fighters shooting the oppressors. It is I, shooting Sartre. I see him in my gun sights; he sees me in his gun sights. I still don' t know which of us is faster, more skilled, or more determined to kill or be killed. Neither do I know who shall be more lucky—the one who has no other alternative, or the one who acts out of choice. One thing is clear to me; if I survive, I shall mourn Sartre's death more than he would mourn mine. And if that happens, I shall never be consoled until I wipe from under the heavens both the capitalists and the communists. Or they me. Or each the other. Or all destroy all. And if I survive even that, without a god but without prophets either, my life will have no sense whatsoever. I shall have nothing else to do but walk on the banks of streams, or on the top of the rocks, watch the wonders of nature, and console myself with words of Ecclesiastes, the wisest of men: "For the light is sweet, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

UCC Israel Boycott initiative failed, but they'll be back:

A boycott initiative failed, but they'll be back:

Hijacking Interrupted: United Church of Canada Says No to Anti-Israel Boycott

Despite a plea by an activist from the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, the General Council of United Church of Canada has voted down two proposals to boycott Israel, and denied approval to a third that was originally accompanied by background material that obliquely accused un-named Jewish members of the Canadian Parliament of being disloyal to Canada because of their support for Israel. The vote took place on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2009, shortly after the commission voted to repudiate the background material associated with these resolutions

The Council's decision does not prohibit local churches from boycotting Israel and leaves open possibility that the denomination will re-consider the issue at its next meeting in 2012. United Church of Canada Spokesman Rev. Bruce Gregersen, reported that the commission dealing with the issue took the following action:

What the commission did finally is say that the United Church has not begun or approved a boycott at a national level. However, it has stated its encouragement and recommendation to its member bodies, to conferences and presbyteries and congregations across the church that they are free to study, to discern, and to pray on how to undertake their own initiatives which may include an economic boycott as a means of ending the occupation.

The General Council has also instructed the General Secretary of the General Council to "begin a process of study discernment and prayer around the use of a number of means to end the occupation which may include also further consideration of an economy boycott and come back to the 41st council for a recommendation," Gregersen said.

Before the council rejected the boycott proposals they heard testimony from Rabbi Reuven Bulka, immediate past co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and Nora Carmi from Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Carmi began her testimony with the following exhortation:

Sisters and brothers, do not fear little flock and bravely follow our Savior Jesus Christ who came to proclaim the release to the captives, good news to the poor and let the oppressed be free. Discipleship means risk and risk is costly. But stand firm.

Carmi then called on delegates to approve the two boycott resolutions and a third which invoked the Fourth Geneva Convention and notions of anti-racism in an effort to portray Israel as an apartheid state while remaining silent about the war crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated by Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The resolutions, Carmi said would not only "contribute to ending the suffering of and the injustice against my people the Palestinians, but will honestly help the rulers of Israel to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God as the teachings and morality of Judaism dictate."

Continued - Hijacking Interrupted: United Church of Canada Says No to Anti-Israel Boycott

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Naim Ateek: An Anglican priest disgraces authentic Christianity

Naim Ateek and his Sabeel group are leaders in Christian Israel bashing efforts of mainline Protestant churches in the USA. Ateek and Sabell do not believe in a two state solution and is therefore sabotaging the peace process. If they were Jews with the same ideas, they would be called "ultranationalist" and obstacles to peace. But their one state solution is an Arab state in which the Jews will have no right to self determination. For what reason are they given a platform to legitimize their noxious views at countless churches in the USA?

In his article
e Anglican priest disgraces authentic Christianity, Dexter Van Zile asks what type of god inheres in the so-called peacemaking ministry of Anglican Priest Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, notes that Naim Ateek is drumming up support for his latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation (Orbis, 2008), in which he falsely accuses Israel of perpetrating a "slow and creeping genocide" against Palestinians — who have one of the fastest growing populations in the world.

Ateek has long been a fixture at "Christian" events of a certain kind. The book gives him an excuse to peddle a vile that repeats Christian anti-Semitic accusations and repackages them as
"theology." As Van Zile points out:

Apparently, leveling false accusations at the Jewish people and their homeland is not enough to get one barred from polite society in 21st century America.
He concludes:

The story Naim Ateek tells about the Arab-Israeli conflict, cloaked as it is in the language of Christian peacemaking, attests to the existence of a deaf, dumb and blind god who would use Muslim and Arab violence against Israel as a scourge against the Jewish people.

Such a god is not worthy of worship.

Ami Isseroff

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sports: Inspiration and Zionist experiences at Maccabiah games

The most touching testimony of the Maccabiah games was the competition of Josh Small, son of Greg Small, one of the victims of the terrible bridge accident twelve years ago at an earlier Maccabiah. He came to Israel all the way from Australia despite the tragic death of his father, or because of it:

"He only started the journey, he never finished it so I want to finish what he began," Josh Small told Australian Associated Press on Thursday. "It's what has inspired me and driven me."

Australia has competed at the Games since 1953 and will field a 400-person team this year for the 10-day games.

Josh Small, who was only seven when his father died, took up bowling at the age of 14. He'll wear his dad's uniform when he begins competing in the Maccabiah event.

"It's something I can't explain," he said. "When I bowl it feels like I have a bond with my father which drives me."

His mother, Suzanne, who suffered serious injuries in the bridge collapse, arranged a coach for Josh -- the same person who coached Greg Small.

"My mom rang him up. He usually doesn't take people under 16 but because of his relationship with dad he took me on when I was 14," Josh Small said.

Even without such tragedies, the Zionist endeavor requires dedication and devotion. Zionist experiences are often physically unpleasant and not objectively rewarding.

Daily News executive Brad Weiss visited Israel for the first time in his life (he's 35) as a participant in the Maccabiah games. He didn't win any medals. He was greeted by the infernal summer heat of Israel,  but he nonetheless found the trip inspiring. The experience you have, and how you or you  or anyone views Israel depends on what you bring with you. This is his story:

Brad Weiss would like to have won a medal at the Maccabiah Games Tuesday in Israel. Unfortunately for the Senior Account Executive-New Business Development for the Daily News, Weiss did not win any hardware. Still, the runner didn't come away empty-handed.
"The way I viewed this race coming in was that it was basically 'the cherry on top of the sundae' in terms of the whole Maccabiah experience," Weiss said in an e-mail last night. "I've made friends for a lifetime and would wholeheartedly recommend the experience to anyone that is given the opportunity to visit Israel."
Weiss finished sixth overall (fourth for men under 40) in the open division for the half marathon at the Maccabiah Games yesterday. He was one of five men running for the United States in the open division and ran a team-best time of 1:21:27. The Maccabiah Games is an international competition for Jewish and Israeli athletes.
"What an amazing experience to be here in Israel for the first time," Weiss said. "The race was one of the most difficult in terms of weather conditions that I've ever run in, not to mention the extremely hilly course."
Weiss, 35, left for Israel July 2 and had a pre-camp workout in Shefayim for before heading to Jerusalem for more training. The half marathon was run in Netanya, Israel at 11:30 a.m. yesterday in temperatures that Weiss said were about 90 degrees.
"Despite the difficulty of the race, I was able to turn to my teammate and good friend (seven miles into the race) to point out the amazing view that was straight ahead of us as the sun was setting over the sea," Weiss said. "It was a surreal moment that I just wanted to take in to soak it all up as I was realizing how lucky I am to have been blessed to be part of this whole experience."
Perhaps Weiss did not win the race, but oerhaps Weiss and the Jewish won something much more important.
Israel and Zionists all over the world need to say thank you to all the athletes who came here to participate and show their faith in Israel and the Zionist endeavor, and especially to the Australian contingent, who kept faith with Israel despite the tragedy of the bridge collapse.
Ami Isseroff

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Peruvian Jews of forgotten jungle town leave for Israel

It took so long for them to remember that they are Jews, even though the town has been decaying for a long time. The reason was no doubt the ideal conditions and affluence, which made people to leave this paradise for the wilds of impoverished Tel Aviv and Savyon. The article explains:
The rubber trade collapsed, and fortunes here and downriver in the Brazilian city of Manaus vanished. Some Jewish immigrants perished young, succumbing to diseases like cholera. A few stayed, marrying local women and raising families. Others returned home, leaving behind descendants who clung to a belief that they were Jews...
Iquitos lies four degrees south of the Equator, reachable only by boat or plane. Isolation, intermarriage and assimilation nearly wiped out the vestiges of Judaism here. Storefronts chiseled with Jewish surnames like Foinquinos and Cohen, and a cemetery ravaged by vandals, served as some of the few reminders of the community that once thrived here.
And of course, such a paradise attracts Jews from all over the world:
By the start of this decade, the Jews here were gathering to observe Shabbat each Friday and during the High Holy Days at the home of the patriarch, Mr. Edery. After he died, they met on Próspero Street at the home of Jorge Abramovitz, 60, whose father, a Polish Jew, moved here long after the collapse of the rubber boom.
And the Jews who come to Israel may be unhappy:
Mr. Reátegui Levy, the oil field inspector, moved in 2005 with his wife and six children to Ramla, a dusty city southeast of Tel Aviv. But despite dreaming for decades of such a move, he said he had trouble adjusting to Israeli life.
He said he missed his house with cacao and passion fruit trees, and the status of being a manager at PetroPerú. He murmured something, just audible over the din of this city's thousands of motorcycle rickshaws, about losing the spark of love with his wife.
So, unlike nearly all the Iquiteños who moved to Israel, Mr. Reátegui Levy moved back, alone.

Be it ever so malaria, cholera and snake infested, there's no place like home.

Still, cynicism aside, it is good that some people are remembering they are Jewish. All over the world, there are many communities and families like the people in Iquitos. There are many more who have forgotten, whose ancestors were forcibly converted to Christianity or Islam. Judaism, it seems to me, should extend a welcoming hand to those who wish to return. Hopefully, not only those who are poverty stricken and desperate will remember their roots.
Ami Isseroff
Adopting Forebears' Faith and Leaving Peru for Israel

IQUITOS, Peru — If Ronald Reátegui Levy someday finds that he is the last Jew of Iquitos, it may well be of his own doing.
His dream, which he has vigorously pursued, is to persuade the descendants of Sephardic merchants who settled in this remote corner of the Amazon basin more than a century ago to reaffirm their ties to Judaism and emigrate to Israel.
"It is getting very lonely here," said Mr. Reátegui Levy, 52, an inspector at Peru's national oil company, referring to the more than 400 descendants of Jewish pioneers who have formally converted to Judaism this decade, including about 160 members of his immediate and extended family. Nearly all of them now live in Israel.
Until recently, such a rebirth of Judaism here seemed unlikely. The history of Jews in Iquitos, dating from the late-19th-century rubber boom that transformed this far-flung Amazonian outpost into a once thriving city of imported Italian marble and a theater designed by Gustave Eiffel, was almost forgotten.
But Mr. Reátegui Levy and a handful of others began organizing the descendants of dozens of Jews from places as varied as Morocco, Gibraltar, Malta, England and France who had settled here and deeper in the jungle, opening trading houses and following their star in search of riches and adventure.
The rubber trade collapsed, and fortunes here and downriver in the Brazilian city of Manaus vanished. Some Jewish immigrants perished young, succumbing to diseases like cholera. A few stayed, marrying local women and raising families. Others returned home, leaving behind descendants who clung to a belief that they were Jews.
"It was astounding to discover that in Iquitos there existed this group of people who were desperate to reconnect to their roots and re-establish ties to the broader Jewish world," said Lorry Salcedo Mitrani, the director of a new documentary, "The Fire Within," about the Jews of the Peruvian Amazon.
Scholars compare the Jews here with groups like the Hispanic crypto-Jews of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, the Lemba of southern Africa or the Bene Israel of India, who in varying ways have sought to reclaim a Jewish identity that had seemingly been weakened through time.
"We were isolated for so many decades, living on the jungle's edge in a Catholic society without rabbis or a synagogue, in which all we had were some vague notions of what it meant to be Jewish," Mr. Reátegui Levy said.
"But when I was a child, my mother told me something that forever burned into my mind," he said. "She told me, 'You are a Jew, and you are never to forget that.' "
Iquitos lies four degrees south of the Equator, reachable only by boat or plane. Isolation, intermarriage and assimilation nearly wiped out the vestiges of Judaism here. Storefronts chiseled with Jewish surnames like Foinquinos and Cohen, and a cemetery ravaged by vandals, served as some of the few reminders of the community that once thrived here.
But by the end of the 1990s, some of these descendants, including Mr. Reátegui Levy, were brought together by Víctor Edery, a patriarchal figure who organized religious ceremonies in his own home, keeping a few customs alive even if it was done by blending Jewish and Christian beliefs.
Still, the existence of the Jews of Iquitos posed some philosophical challenges to some Jews elsewhere. Since nearly all the Jews who originally settled here were men, their descendants could not attest to having Jewish mothers, ruling them out as being Jewish according to strict interpretations of Jewish law.
Moreover, the Jewish community of about 3,000 people in Lima, the capital, largely preferred to ignore the Jews of Iquitos, some scholars say, in part because of the thorny issues that the Jews here posed about race and origins. This is, after all, a country where a small light-skinned elite still wields considerable economic and political power — and Lima's Jews are often seen as an elite within that elite.
"The notion of a Jew who looks like an Indian and lives in a poor house in a small city in the middle of the jungle is, at best, an exotic footnote to the official history of Peru's Jewry as Lima sees it," said Ariel Segal, a Venezuelan-born Israeli historian whose arrival here in the 1990s to study the community also helped serve as a catalyst for the Iquitos Jews to organize.
By the start of this decade, the Jews here were gathering to observe Shabbat each Friday and during the High Holy Days at the home of the patriarch, Mr. Edery. After he died, they met on Próspero Street at the home of Jorge Abramovitz, 60, whose father, a Polish Jew, moved here long after the collapse of the rubber boom.
While they lacked a rabbi, they conducted services in Hebrew they learned from cassette tapes. They cleaned their cemetery and began burying their dead there again. They persisted in their campaign to be recognized as Jews and to be allowed to emigrate to Israel.
Finally, they persuaded Guillermo Bronstein, the chief rabbi of Lima's largest Ashkenazi synagogue, to oversee two large conversions, easing the way for hundreds to move to Israel. The exodus included nearly the entire Levy clan, descended from Joseph Levy, an adventurer who put down stakes here in the 19th century.
Mr. Reátegui Levy, the oil field inspector, moved in 2005 with his wife and six children to Ramla, a dusty city southeast of Tel Aviv. But despite dreaming for decades of such a move, he said he had trouble adjusting to Israeli life.
He said he missed his house with cacao and passion fruit trees, and the status of being a manager at PetroPerú. He murmured something, just audible over the din of this city's thousands of motorcycle rickshaws, about losing the spark of love with his wife.
So, unlike nearly all the Iquiteños who moved to Israel, Mr. Reátegui Levy moved back, alone.
He still attends Shabbat at Mr. Abramovitz's home each week, along with 40 or so other regulars who dream of formally converting and moving to Israel. While their numbers have dwindled, he encourages them and regales them with tales of fertile land in the Golan Heights and the bravery of his eldest son, Uri, who is in the Israeli Army.
But something keeps Mr. Reátegui Levy here in Iquitos, the same decaying jungle city that attracted his great-grandfather from Tangier so many decades ago. "My family, my heart and soul, all that I hold dear are in Israel," he said. "Maybe I am back here for a reason."

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Conspiracy theory Gem: Iranian opposition leader Mousavi is a Jew

It was inevitable that someone would claim that Mousavi is a Jew. That explains everything. Now we know who is responsible for all the problems in Iran. International Zionism.

Update: This was a hoax. The origin of it is here. I've been had. But there are evidently people arguing that the Iran unrest is the work of the CIA.

MOUSAVI (of Moses) is a Jew

Judith Apter Klinghoffer

Giti from India sends me this conspiracy gem;

It is well known Mousavi (of Moses) is a Jew and the demonstrations in Iran are the work of Mossad agent provocateurs. The ordinary people of Iran are peace loving and would not wish to threaten the Islamic revolution. The agitators are funded by international zionism and the Jew owned international media, in thrall to the zionist oppressors, are running alongside.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taking down fake Zionists and "pro-Israel" groups

I am glad that someone has had the courage to speak out about fake "pro-Israel" groups. I too got the e-mails that urged Jews to "stand up for Obama" and bombard congress to vote down the initiative to give President Obama the legal power to impose energy sanctions on Iran, as noted in the article. It was amusing to try to puzzle out how voting down a bill that would give a president power could be "support" for that president. I thought supporting a president was done by giving him more power, not less. It was even more amusing to read In Time magazine that the order for this initiative came directly from the White House and that it is part of Obama's strategy. These groups are more "pro-Obama" than Obama. They are so "pro-Obama' that they are against Obama's policies.
I think that their support of negotiations with Hamas. and M.J. Rosenberg's support, which ran to an obsession, for Charles Freeman, are far worse than their "support" of Obama, and much harder to justify. Obama is the President and Americans are going to tend to agree with his policies. But Freeman is the head of a large Arab lobby group and is outspokenly anti-Israel, pretty much to the point of anti-Semtism. As for Jews who support the genocidal Hamas, that is totally beyond comprehension.
Ami Isseroff

Candidly Speaking: Bogus 'Zionist' Israel-bashers

Jun. 9, 2009

It is ironic that many of the disconcerting themes relating to Israel in US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech replicated those widely promoted for months by a noisy minority of radical American Jews. These "Israel bashers" now proudly proclaim that the new language being employed by Obama "echoes the vocabulary we use."

On the eve of Binyamin Netanyahu's arrival in Washington, a full page advertisement inserted by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) appeared in The New York Times. Instead of the customary welcome message to a visiting prime minister or expressions of solidarity, it urged Obama to press Israel to make further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, assuring him that in the event of a confrontation, he would enjoy the backing of most American Jews because "they are not Israelis living in exile." IPF's Washington director, M.J Rosenberg, issued a call to neutralize "the minority of Jews falsely" purporting to present the Jewish community as "blind supporters" of the Israeli government.

ISRAEL POLICY FORUM is only one of a cluster of radical left-wing organizations that have the chutzpa to describe themselves as lovers of Israel and even "Zionists," while actively lobbying the Obama administration to pressure Israel. They deviously sugarcoat their anti-Israeli campaigns by comparing themselves to parents whose children are drug addicts requiring "tough love" to force them to change their dangerous habits.These sentiments were effectively replicated in Obama's Cairo speech.

They were joined in April last year by J Street, a new group initially funded by the Jewish tycoon George Soros who had achieved notoriety for demonizing successive Israeli governments irrespective of their political leanings.

J Street and another radical group, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, proudly announced that they had succeeded in persuading 11,000 of their members to bombard the White House with e-mails urging Obama to stand firm against Netanyahu.

During the Gaza offensive, J Street condemned the action against Hamas as "disproportionate." Refusing to "pick a side" and identify "who was right and who was wrong," it applied moral equivalency to both parties proclaiming that "we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right and wrong... While there is nothing 'right' in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing 'right' in punishing a million and a half already suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists amongst them."

J Street also opposes Israel's efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Despite the fact that Israelis of all political opinions are united on this issue, J Street members were e-mailed and urged to actively lobby against a bipartisan congressional resolution calling for tougher sanctions to be applied against Iran.

The radical groups also resurrected the bogus anti-Semitic charge of "dual loyalties," warning Jews that by continued "blind" support of Israel, they risked alienating the American public and would be condemned for displaying greater loyalty toward Israel than the US. They were almost hysterical in their condemnation of Jews who exercised their rights to protest against the proposed appointment of the fiercely anti-Israel Charles Freeman to head the National Security Agency. IPF spokesmen went so far as to explicitly state that being an anti-Israeli fanatic was insufficient grounds for barring a person from assuming a senior administration role.

If there was any doubt about J Street, its endorsement of the British anti-Semitic play Seven Jewish Children, effectively a contemporary blood libel, placed it squarely in the camp of those seeking to demonize the Jewish state. It justified its support on the grounds that the play would promote "rigorous intellectual engagement and civil debate on which our community prides itself."

J Street and IPF also seek to slander and undermine AIPAC, the highly effective pro-Israel lobby group, depicting it as an extreme right-wing and hawkish body although it has consistently promoted the policies of all Israeli governments, including the dovish administrations preceding Netanyahu.

IN AN ENVIRONMENT in which global anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel are beginning to make inroads into the United States, the potential of such radical groups to destabilize the standing of Israel should not be underestimated.

Never before has the Jewish community faced a situation in which organizations presenting themselves as Zionists shamelessly lobby their president to pressure the democratically elected government of the Jewish state to make concessions which could have life and death implications for its citizens.

Not that anti-Jewish Jews are a new phenomenon. Jewish communists were bitterly opposed to the campaign to liberate Soviet Jewry and defended state-sponsored anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. But they were marginalized and regarded as pariahs by the Jewish community.

The problem in the US is that the established Jewish leaders decided to ignore these organizations, mistakenly believing that confrontations would be construed as attempts to restrict freedom of expression and would transform the radicals into martyrs.

But the issue of freedom of expression is a red herring. Any Jew is entitled to express his beliefs, no matter how nauseating or deviant such views may appear to the majority. That certainly applies to those arguing in favor or in opposition to settlements. Surely the red lines are being crossed when, as distinct from expressing views, American based organizations claiming to "love" Israel aggressively lobby the US government to pressure it to make concessions that could place lives at risk. To tolerate such groups within the framework of the Jewish community provides them with an aura of respectability to which they are not entitled. Alas, today some of these groups already attend administration briefings on a par with the recognized mainstream organizations.

Furthermore, failure to confront these Israel bashers has already provided the general media with grounds to suggest that American Jewish support of Israel is collapsing. That has certainly encouraged the Obama administration to intensify its pressure on the Netanyahu government. It may also cause some weak-kneed Jews to distance themselves from Israel to avoid confronting a popular American president.

There are even ominous mutterings predicting a possible replay of what transpired during World War II, when fearing a confrontation and bedazzled by president Franklin Roosevelt, Jewish leaders lacked the courage to protest against the indifference of the US government to the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

Now, as never before, when the beleaguered State of Israel confronts Iran, potentially one of the greatest existential threats since its creation, the support of American Jews is crucial.

A united Jewish community should marginalize the anti-Israeli radicals and urge Obama (who received 80 percent of its votes) to stand by commitments made to Israel by previous US administrations in the same manner as the Netanyahu government is obliged to adhere to undertakings made by previous Israeli governments. A strong Jewish stand in this direction could effectively tip the balance in averting a catastrophic major rift between the US and Israel.

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