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May 19, 2015 3

The Distorted Image of Israel

Anti-Israel pun­dits con­tinue to invent new ways to use dis­tor­tions and half-truths to attack the Jew­ish state, pre­sent­ing Israel in a neg­a­tive light as racist, inhu­mane and entirely objec­tion­able. These Israel haters will often invert a pos­i­tive aspect of Israeli soci­ety, flip­ping it on its head in an effort to dele­git­imize the Jew­ish State.

This most well-known of these tac­tics is dubbed Pinkwash­ing by its inven­tors. It takes Israel’s proud record on LGBT issues and the open­ness Israeli soci­ety demon­strates towards the LGBT com­mu­nity, and absurdly argues that Israel uses this issue to deflect atten­tion away from its treat­ment of Palestinians.

Ken Roth, the direc­tor of Human Rights Watch, recently engaged in a sim­i­lar “deflec­tive” prac­tice with Israel’s life-saving efforts in Nepal fol­low­ing the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake.  In response to Israel’s announce­ment that they were send­ing a del­e­ga­tion to pro­vide med­ical and search-and-rescue assis­tance, Roth cyn­i­cally tweeted: “Eas­ier to address a far-away human­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter than the nearby one of Israel’s mak­ing in Gaza. End the block­ade!”
Ken Roth

Another avenue used by Israel-hating activists is the so-called “Buz­zfeed model” of try­ing to main­stream dis­torted and overly sim­pli­fied lists of Israeli transgressions.

In a recent post­ing for Alter­net, anti-Israel writer Zaid Jilani con­cocted a list of “6 Crazy Things Israel Has Done to Main­tain Racial Purity.” The title is a dead give­away of the tac­tic — trum­pet­ing the hyper­bole and dis­tor­tions in the arti­cle to fol­low. And while there are grains of truth to each of the exam­ples listed, they all lack full con­text, and are spun in the most neg­a­tive of ways to accom­plish out­landish offence towards Israel.

One of the exam­ples listed is that only Jews are enti­tled to the right-of-return law, which pro­vides for auto­matic Israeli cit­i­zen­ship. This law does give spe­cial immi­gra­tion sta­tus to Jews and is gen­er­ally cham­pi­oned as a pos­i­tive ini­tia­tive by Israel, enabling Jews from around the world, and their descen­dants up to four gen­er­a­tions, to call Israel their home. Many of the Jews, espe­cially in the early years of the State, were sur­vivors of the Holo­caust and refugees from vio­lent expul­sion by hos­tile Arab coun­tries. Dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, over a mil­lion Jews from the Soviet Union and tens of thou­sands from Ethiopia were able to escape oppres­sive con­di­tions and build new homes in Israel, thanks to this law. As the his­toric home­land of the Jew­ish peo­ple, Israel right­fully and proudly sees this law as one of its most impor­tant and pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to the safety and well-being of Jews from around the world. Other immi­grants to Israel are required to apply for cit­i­zen­ship, pur­suant to laws that are sim­i­lar to those in other democ­ra­cies, and are not guar­an­teed auto­matic cit­i­zen­ship status.

Israel is not a per­fect county. Like all West­ern democ­ra­cies, it is faced with its fair share of domes­tic and inter­na­tional chal­lenges. But it has also accom­plished a great deal in its short his­tory, and is home to a thriv­ing progressively-minded society.

It is sad that Israel can do no good in the eyes of the Pinkwash­ers and peo­ple like Roth and Jilani. No mat­ter Israel’s accom­plish­ments and con­tri­bu­tions to the world, these voices, cloaked in a mar­ble of right­eously pro­mot­ing a human-rights agenda, seem bent on invent­ing new ways to use hate-filled rhetoric hate-filled to upend Israel’s pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to soci­ety and the world to unjustly vil­ify the Jew­ish State.

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May 19, 2015 0

Reencounter: Ethiopian Jews and Their Children

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Jerusalem Post Blog


In the 1990s, in the years after the Israel Defense Forces air­lifted 22,000 Ethiopian Jews in Oper­a­tions Moses (1984) and Solomon (1991) to bring them to the Jew­ish home­land, an idea was born to have these new Jew­ish immi­grants share with Amer­i­can stu­dents their expe­ri­ences as Africans, Jews and Israelis. That idea resulted in ADL’s Chil­dren of the Dream, a pro­gram that began in Los Ange­les and then quickly expanded across the U.S.

In Amer­i­can class­rooms, recre­ation cen­ters and across lunch tables, young Ethiopian Israelis told com­pelling sto­ries of res­cue from oppres­sion in Ethiopia and their jour­neys to free­dom in Israel. It was pow­er­ful and mov­ing to see these young Israeli men and women inter­act­ing with Amer­i­can stu­dents, who were awed by the fact that these young Ethiopian teenagers were not only immi­grants from a far­away land, but were also, remark­ably, newly minted Israeli cit­i­zens and Jews. In short, they did not fit the stereo­typ­i­cal notion of who is Jew­ish and what is a Jew.

Amer­i­can stu­dents responded with their own sto­ries of dis­crim­i­na­tion and flight.

Although orig­i­nally designed as a pro­gram to edu­cate Amer­i­cans about Ethiopian Jews and Israel, the pro­gram also served as a lead­er­ship devel­op­ment pro­gram for the Ethiopian Israeli stu­dents them­selves. In the decade or so of the pro­gram, 120 Ethiopian Israelis received lead­er­ship skills in an inten­sive prepara­tory pro­gram. 

A year and a half ago, when ADL cel­e­brated its 100th anniver­sary, we had a reunion with our Chil­dren of the Dream grad­u­ates, many of whom have gone on to edu­ca­tional and pro­fes­sional suc­cess and main­tained their con­nec­tion to ADL. 

At that event, the grad­u­ates shared what a life-changing expe­ri­ence they had – that because ADL believed in them, because they were selected to rep­re­sent their com­mu­nity and their coun­try, they believed in them­selves.

I so enjoyed this rem­i­nisc­ing and catch­ing up with these now-adults, that I asked if we could con­tinue to meet and, next time, if they would please bring their chil­dren.

And this week, in Israel, we did. I met the spouses and chil­dren, and heard the suc­cess sto­ries of our grad­u­ates who have gone on to higher edu­ca­tion to build fam­i­lies, homes and careers. The drive, pride and energy con­tinue to the next gen­er­a­tion. 

One of the chil­dren of our grad­u­ates, 10 years old, asked her mother if the “founder” of the pro­gram was going to be present. “Can I speak to him in Eng­lish?” she asked. She approached me and said, much as her mother did some 15 years ago, “My name is Galit, and I wanted to talk to you in Eng­lish to show you that I know. I prac­ticed with my mother all the way.”

Cur­rent chal­lenges were on everyone’s mind. The Ethiopian com­mu­nity in Israel has expe­ri­enced dif­fi­cult weeks with demon­stra­tions against the Israel Police with claims of bru­tal­ity and racism. These con­cerns, along with charges of dis­crim­i­na­tion and mis­treat­ment, are real and must be addressed together with the com­mu­nity on every level of Israeli soci­ety.

There were nods and applauds when I said: “Is Israel a racist coun­try? No, it isn’t. Are there racist peo­ple? – Yes. But this coun­try took its sol­diers into Ethiopia to bring the Jews here. Israel is not per­fect and there is an oppor­tu­nity to right past mis­takes.” 

One of the par­tic­i­pants, who is now a Lieu­tenant Colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, asserted, “I don’t believe this coun­try is racist.” Sev­eral oth­ers added, “The vio­lent demon­stra­tions won’t serve us well. Now we have to work together to improve our sit­u­a­tion.”

We have rejoiced in the story of the aliyah of Ethiopian Jews for decades and the strength and inspi­ra­tion they have brought to the Jew­ish state. 

The story is not yet over, nor should our efforts be. Together, we need to ensure inclu­sion and equity, to empower and enable the con­tri­bu­tions of those who expe­ri­enced the dream of com­ing to Israel, and their children.

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May 8, 2015 8

Gilad Atzmon and Yaakov Shapiro Condemn Israel and Zionism


Flyer adver­tis­ing the event

On May 6 in New York City, an anti-Israel event fea­tured Gilad Atz­mon, an Israeli-born anti-Semite based in Lon­don, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, Spokesper­son for the anti-Israel group “True Torah Jews.” The stated goal of the event, titled “Judaism ver­sus Jew­ish Iden­tity Pol­i­tics: Reli­gion ver­sus Trib­al­ism,” was to help “unravel the tan­gled web of sec­u­lar Jew­ish pol­i­tics, right and left.”

In his remarks, Atz­mon claimed that there have been con­certed efforts to silence his views, but that the efforts were “not from Zion­ist bod­ies, but actu­ally from Jew­ish left bod­ies,” such as Jew­ish Voice for Peace. He stated that JVP’s stance took him “by com­plete sur­prise” because he had always worked towards “oppos­ing Israel.”

Atz­mon claimed that there are three cat­e­gories of Jews:

  1. Jews who fol­low the Torah and see Judaism as the core of their identity
  2. Those who iden­tify as Jews because they have Jew­ish heritage
  3. Those who iden­tify polit­i­cally as Jews

Atz­mon, who referred to him­self as “a devoted self-hater,” stated that the first two cat­e­gories of Jews are “inno­cent” because reli­gious Jews “have never been involved in any col­lec­tive geno­ci­dal attempt against another peo­ple,” and that hav­ing “a Jew­ish mother doesn’t make you into a war criminal.”

Accord­ing to Atz­mon, the third cat­e­gory of Jews are “guilty” because they have sup­pos­edly been “at the cen­ter of too many dis­as­ters,” includ­ing the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion, the Span­ish Civil War, and the “Nakba.” He added that in the U.S. there was “Jew­ish influ­ence within the neo-conservative school” and that Amer­ica is “pay­ing the price for those wars,” which he stated were not “rab­bini­cal wars.”

After Atz­mon con­cluded his ini­tial remarks, Rabbi Shapiro spoke, echo­ing much of what Atz­mon said, and adding his reli­gious anti-Zionist ide­ol­ogy to the dis­cus­sion. Like Atz­mon, he spoke against the cre­ation of Israel and called its for­ma­tion “a his­tor­i­cal anom­aly.” But, rather than focus­ing on the var­i­ous cat­e­gories of Jews that Atz­mon did, Shapiro instead spoke only about sec­u­lar Jews and reli­gious Jews.

Accord­ing to Shapiro, Zion­ism was cre­ated by sec­u­lar Jews who wanted to destroy Ortho­dox Judaism because they allegedly “absorbed the atti­tudes of the anti-Semites and looked at the Jews them­selves with the same dis­gust and loathing that the anti-Semites did.” He con­tin­ued and stated “the rea­son the Jews were dis­gust­ing is because they looked like me and they acted like me. And they blamed the reli­gious Jews for anti-Semitism.”

Shapiro added, “When Gilad says ‘the Jews do this and the Jews do that,’ he’s talk­ing about one type, those are sec­u­lar Jews…The Jews that stole our iden­tity. Nev­er­mind the Pales­tini­ans say they stole our land. They stole our Jew­ish name, they stole my iden­tity, they are not real Jews!”

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