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Is Israel Good Enough for Your Charity

Several days ago, Mother in Israel asked her readers to compare American and Israeli parenting styles. In response, someone mentioned Israelis’ lack of social graces, which has led one reader to make the following comment.

…let’s look at the effects of this aspect of Israeli culture. When tourists return from Israel with a bad taste in their mouth, will they return as often? At all? Will they tell their friends that they simply must go to Israel? Will those of us that are Jewish reach as deeply into our pockets when asked for money for Israel?

When you are asked for a contribution for Israel, and the first thing that pops into your mind is seeing an old man shoved aside by EVERYONE trying to board a bus. Or the many drivers that see by your rental car that you are a tourist and then gladly run you off the road, how does that affect your thought process? Every year North American Jews give millions of dollars to Israel, and yet it is difficult to see that Israelis appreciate it at all.

I think that it also makes it more difficult to defend Israel.

Don’t get me wrong. I still and will continue to donate money to Israeli causes, through the UJA, JNF and other avenues. I still and will continue to defend Israel as best as I can with the knowledge I have. My husband, as a professor on a campus with a very active anti-Israel movement, does so even more. But I am sure that there are others that maybe don’t donate as much or as often as they used to and maybe don’t speak up for Israel as strongly as they used to in part because of the interactions they have had with Israelis.

Nothing annoys Israelis more than the argument “it’s hard to donate to Israel when Israelis are so …” Every day, Israelis invest their sweat, blood, and tears into building this amazing country. So you can imagine how we feel when Jews from abroad tell us we are not good enough for their charity dollars or vacation budgets.

Truth is, Israel is not a charity case. It is a crucial component of contemporary Diaspora Jewish identity. A friend recently related his mother’s memories of growing up in Boston during 1930s and 1940s. While other immigrant kids had a sense of geographic belonging and could brag about the way things had been done in Italy, Ireland, or Greece, Jewish children experienced “a  deep level shame at not being able to point to a country (and not simply an area of land) on the map and say ‘that’s where my people is from.’”

Israel’s role in shaping Jewish identity was reaffirmed by a recent Brandeis study, which has shown that a single Birthright trip to the country can lower a person’s chances of intermarriage by almost one half. Over the past decade, the Israel government together with North American philanthropists has invested close to half a billion dollars in Birthright trips.

Israel appreciates all types of Diaspora solidarity. But as Shimon Peres has aptly put, the best gift one can give Israel is coming to live here.

This is just shocking…

This week Reporters Without Borders published its annual Press Freedom Index. As could be expected in the current political and media climate, Israel was ranked 93rd and 150th (inside and outside the Green Line), behind such bastions of the freedom of expression as Lebanon, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates. Sure enough, Israel was singled out together with Iran in the group’s analysis of the index.

I am not at all upset by this new record of progressive anti-Semitism. Actually, I am quite happy. By falling off the deep end with its blatant anti-Israel rhetoric, international public opinion is administering a long-overdue course of shock therapy for Israel’s chronic insecurity complex. After decades of trying very hard to appease, of paying an arm and a leg (actually  hundreds upon hundreds of very literal arms, legs, limbs and lives of innocent terror victims) for the illusion of a new Middle East, of fantasizing about eating hummus in Damascus and doing business with the Emirates, of bringing the world the latest technical and medical innovations, of beating the world at its own game of military ethics, Israel is finally waking up to the fact that no matter how lovable it tries to appear, it will never become the world’s darling.

Believe me, the treatment is working, because Israelis are internalizing the message. They are refusing to cooperate with Goldstone’s kangaroo court, canceling all-included tour packages to the Turkish Riviera, and staying away from cultural talks with the Israel-bashing Egyptian intelligentsia. Even the ultra-liberal Israeli press is beginning to call things by their names.

Slowly but surely Israel is rediscovering Ben Gurion’s maxim of “it doesn’t matter what the Gentiles will say; what matters is what the Jews will do.”

A Letter to Goldstone

Someone sent me a copy of a letter in which a personal friend of Judge Goldstone berates him for his involvement with the anti-Israel committee named after him.

I have no idea whether the cover story is true and who really penned this letter, but that in no way diminishes the poignancy of the arguments or the validity of the facts.

Judge for yourself.

To: Judge Richard Goldstone
From: Barbara Press
Subject: Hello Richard… It’s been a while…

Dear Richard

Our paths have crossed many times compelling me to correspond directly with you. I pray your indulgence that you hear me out by reading to the end of my missive. In fact I ask you to share my letter with Noleen from beginning to end and to respond with your thoughts.

It has been a while since (inspired by you as head of ORT South Africa) I, together with Rabbi Bernard at Oxford Shule, established a school to teach the Killarney-Houghton Black domestic workers how to write, read, sew, cook and drive. It has been a while since you praised my father, Hubert Press, as one of the finest business brains  you had ever encountered. It has been a while since I dined with you, Noleen, David and Marilyn Rivkin, discussing opera.

Jewish life has been crying out for a man of the stature of Adolph Cremieux, of Justice Louis Brandeis, of Sir Moses Montefiore, people of the highest integrity and purpose. For those who champion their own people are remembered forever in the annals of history. But those who are self-serving are lost in a trail of ignominy.

South African Jewry stands tall and your efforts in championing Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa were applauded and earned you a  reputation as a man of stature.

I am bewildered by the direction you have taken as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This rogue Council has been tainted by a membership that does not condemn Iranian tyranny, Chinese oppression, African despotism, but spends their time condemning one country unjustly, Israel.

The Goldstone Commission bears your name. One would expect the mandate of any report to be objective, so that your name could be respected and a legacy ensured. Instead your committee ignored the facts, embraced bias and rendered the report bearing your name,  illegitimate.

You tried to defend yourself in the New York Times but it was transparent and not effective. You could have resigned from the commission and retained your integrity. You knew that Israel faced 12,000 Grads and Kassams from its Iran-backed terror base of Gaza, 8,000 irreversibly traumatizing the families and children of Sderot. You knew that the U.N. never passed one resolution condemning these deadly missiles. You knew that before and during Operation Cast Lead, Israel made thousands of cell phone calls to warn civilians. You knew that Israel sent thousands of texts to warn civilians. You knew that Israel dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets in Arabic (I managed to obtain one of these as evidence) to warn civilians. You knew that Israel aborted operations to avoid civilian deaths. You knew that Israel set up medical facilities on the edge of Gaza to treat civilians. You knew that Israel dropped supplies of food into Gaza to feed civilians.

You also knew that Hamas operatives are not “civilians”. You knew that not only were they not civilians, but that they hid behind their own civilians to fire on Israeli civilians. You knew that they misused ambulances for military purposes. You knew that mosques and schools were used for Hamas depots and launching pads. You knew that Hamas operatives kill or shoot at the legs of any Gazans refusing to target Israel.

The video footage and U-tube sequences are still available for any and all of us to witness.

You clearly knew that one of your team members had condemned Israel in a published letter, even before the conclusion of the incursion or  the beginning of your investigation. But you did not resign or distance yourself from the hypocrisy of this illegitimate report.  Instead, a tedious 500-page report of the 3 week battle was padded with pages from the tainted U.N. mockery of Israel’s security barrier (misnamed the “wall”). What a sad indictment of the charter of the United Nations.

Richard, you were indeed a respected legal giant in Johannesburg. This report did not arise from ignorance or naivete. I am trying so hard to resist the conclusion that your role and report might represent a self-serving desire to ingratiate yourself for a more senior position in the kangaroo court called the United Nations. But  if true – and one hopes that this is not the case – at what price?  Association with the infamous U.N.,  garners no respect in the USA so why would anyone seek to be head inmate at the U.N. Asylum?

I have been very direct as South Africans are want to be. But many of us South Africans have been tainted by the perfidy of the Goldstone report. This is the Jewish time of Judgment when the scales of fate are entered in the book of life and we all need to look into our souls. I am not sure how you could comfortably extricate yourself. Perhaps we could discuss this face to face.

Good Yomtov to you, Noleen and your family.

Regards,  Barbara Press Fix

Blood libels revisited

Recent reports of Israeli organ harvesting by the Swedish Aftonbladet reminded me of my childhood in Soviet Russia. As a kid growing up in Moscow, Palestinian refugees were perceived as the epitome of human despair.  The Soviet TV would present daily reports of humanitarian crimes perpetrated by the Israeli aggressors against powerless Palestinian civilians. Although I was only six at the time, I distinctly remember the gruesome reports from Sabra and Shatila that were broadcast on the evening news day in and day out. Whenever anyone in the house would wrap a blanket around himself to keep out the chills, my staunchly Zionist mother would tell him to stop walking around like a Palestinian refugee and go get a sweater.

Today, some 25 years later, I find disconcerting resemblance between Western – especially European – reporting of events in Israel and the best traditions of Pravda’s virulent anti-Semitism. By detaching the Palestinians’ plight from its overall historical context and inflating incidents out of proportion, the media has succeeded in vilifying Israel and creating an unprecedented wave of ill feeling towards a nation that has had to defend its right to exist since day one.

The truth is the Palestinians have remained refugees for 60 years not only because the Arab states have used every trick up their sleeve to keep them this way, but also because they are better off as refugees eating off Israel’s prosperity than as citizens in just about any Arab country. In a recent article in Asia Times, Spengler presents novel analysis of the Palestinians’ “plight” based on indisputable facts.

Palestinians enjoy higher GDP, life expectancy, and literacy rates than almost any Arab nation. Truth is Palestinian refugees are far better off economically and socially than the citizens of Egypt, Syria, or Jordan. A friend of mine, a bookkeeper at a Jerusalem nursing home, recently related her surprise when two new employees, both residing at the Shuafat refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem, produced gold Visa cards as means of identification. (Gold Visas are not issued routinely in Israel, unlike in the US.)

Palestinians do suffer from high incidence of violent crime, internal fighting, and confrontations with the Israeli army. But they have written that script themselves. After two intifadas and thousands of casualties on both sides, some Palestinians now find themselves longing for the “the Israeli hell.”

Unfortunately, the new brand of European freedom fighters is keeping all that off its radar. As Thomas Friedman observed in his classic From Beirut to Jerusalem Blood libels revisited, the Palestinians are the luckiest refugees ever born. And Western society has a special affinity for them, as they allow it to shrug off its conscience, as embodied by the Jews, by doing a hatchet job on Israel. Besides, vilifying Israel also comes in handy when fund raising in Saudi Arabia.

I often wonder what it will take for our neighbours from across the Mediterranean to get over their prejudices and begin viewing Israel in a more objective light. Then again, may be we should stop being surprised. After all, history usually repeats itself.

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