Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein wants to end military aid to Israel


Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein suggested she would end all military aid to Israel if elected president in the fall.

In an interview with As part of that “ethical” relationship, Stein said, she would end military aid to Israel since it would be “decisively against our common values, to support apartheid, to support home demolitions, to support occupation, to support violations of international law.”

Stein also blasted Sheldon Adelson, claiming that he “contributes a huge amount of money to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu” to mess with Israeli politics. “If I was living in Israel, and I knew that one of the major funders of a very oppressive right-wing government was coming from outside of my country, I would be up in arms about it,” she told the weekly magazine.

Hoping to pick up the mantle of Bernie Sanders’s leftist revolution in the Democratic Party, Stein said she would go to Israel “with all humility” because “nobody has been a bigger violator of these rights and values than our own country.”

Sanders, during the Democratic primary, criticized Israel for using ‘disproportionate” force against Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza. “I do believe that Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, and has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area, some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed,” he said during a televised debate in April. “Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was.”

In an interview with Haaretz during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month, the Green Party candidate dodged questions about her views on the two-state solution. Instead, she said it’s up to the people of Israel and the Palestinians to decide on bringing an end to the conflict. “The good people of Israel and Palestine are getting together, in grassroots groups, for human rights, and we should support them in their attempt to get past this horrible gridlock that the United States has enabled,” she was quoted as saying. “This is upon the people of Israel and Palestine, on the basis of human rights, to continue building confidence and find the way out of this.”

Stein is polling at 4 percent in recent national polls.

Is Israel an apartheid state?


I grew up in South Africa during the apartheid years, born to parents who had survived the Nazis. Thus, I heard firsthand what they experienced, which shaped my sensitivity to social justice and support for civil disobedience against that regime.

In 1948, the South African government, under Prime Minister Daniel Francois “D.F.” Malan, introduced apartheid laws, many of which were based on the 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws, building on the race-based discriminatory laws that had existed for a century under British rule.

Thus, in 1949, the Mixed Marriages Act forbade marriages between whites and nonwhites, while the Immorality Act of 1950 criminalized sexual relations between whites and other races. In the same year, the Suppression of Communism Act effectively silenced those who opposed the regime’s racial policies. The Group Areas Act (1950) made residential separation compulsory, which forced nonwhites into ghettoes. The Separate Amenities Act (1953) enforced separate public premises, vehicles and services along racial lines. The Population Registration Act (1950) had already classified every citizen into his or her racial group as determined by the government. Blacks were required to always carry with them their passbooks, which included a photo, fingerprints and other information. Being caught without the passbook resulted in immediate arrest. I remember talking to a Black woman, who then went to buy cigarettes across the street. Leaving her passbook in her handbag on a table, she was immediately arrested by passing police and jailed for two weeks.

 In 1953, Minister of Native Affairs Hendrik Verwoerd, who became prime minister in 1958, introduced the Bantu (Black) Education Act, which legalized inferior ad hoc education for Black people. Verwoerd wrote, “There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … ” 

Apartheid laws also extended to the Dutch Reformed Church, known as “the (apartheid) government at prayer.” Black employees were often barred from attending the funeral services of their white employers, in addition to regular Sunday services at white churches.

These apartheid laws were by no means exhaustive. Their purpose was to isolate and depersonalize South Africans of color, just as Germany had done to its Jews.

Israel has nothing that remotely resembles the apartheid laws. On the contrary, Israel has attempted to level the playing field by introducing affirmative-action programs that represent the diversity of Israeli society. While not perfect, these programs are class-based rather than race-based, so as to include as many disadvantaged citizens as possible regardless of ethnic background. The result is that many Arab Israelis have benefited, together with Jewish Israelis from poor non-European backgrounds. By contrast, South Africa emphasized and exploited racial distinctions among its own citizens in order to promote discrimination and impoverishment, thereby ensuring the regime’s own racial hegemony.

In apartheid South Africa, Blacks were mostly barred from the professions and kept as unskilled “labor units,” as Verwoerd outlined. By contrast, in Israel, where Arabs comprise 20 percent of the population, 35 percent of Israeli pharmacists are Arabs. The director of emergency medicine at Jerusalem’s famous Hadassah Medical Center is Dr. Aziz Darawshe, an Arab Israeli whose mother was illiterate and whose father had four years of schooling. His siblings include physicians, a dentist, an engineer and five sisters also attended college.

In 2013, a female Israeli Muslim, Mais Ali-Saleh, graduated as valedictorian from Israel’s top medical school, the Technion. Recently, Education Minister Naftali Bennett congratulated Mohammed Zeidan on being Israel’s top high school graduate (he posted the highest score on a standardized test). He will join his sister at the Technion. By contrast, Black South African students were generally not permitted on campus except as janitors.

In South Africa, the police and military played a key role in supporting apartheid — often violently. In Israel, Arabic-speaking Israelis such as Brig.  Gen. Imad Fares and Col. Ghassan Elian, commander of the elite Golani Brigade, have risen to positions that were unthinkable for Blacks or Indians in South Africa. Recently, Arab-Israeli Jamal Hakrush was appointed deputy police commissioner.

Although life-saving measures such as the security barrier and checks on Arabs are in place to save lives from terror attacks, these do not apply to Arab Israelis but to those who are not Israeli citizens outside the cease-fire lines. By contrast, the South African apartheid regime discriminated against its Black citizens. An American or German tourist could attend a theater or stroll on the beach — activities denied to Black South African citizens.

Recently, Israeli-Arab Ta’alin Abu Hanna won the Miss Trans Israel pageant. She remarked that had she been in an Arab country, she probably would have been murdered. In apartheid South Africa, a person of color could not even enter an art or music competition, let alone a beauty pageant.

Bishop Desmond Tutu and those organizations that promote events such as Israel Apartheid Week are not only misleading, they insult the memory of apartheid’s victims just as Holocaust distorters/deniers do. Unfortunately, they have also profoundly embarrassed genuine liberals by misrepresenting and distorting the truth through misguided political correctness and devious populism.


Ron Jontof-Hutter is senior research fellow at the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. He is also the author of a satire on populist anti-Semitism titled “The Trombone Man: Tales of a Misogynist.”

Full-page ad in L.A. Times calls Israel apartheid state; Variety previously rejected it


On Wednesday morning, Feb. 24, The Los Angeles Times published a full-page ad sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation calling Israel an apartheid state and saying it distracts the public from human rights abuses; the same ad had been rejected by Variety.

The ad appears on page 8 of the Calendar section and implores Oscar nominees to “#SKIPTHETRIP,” referring to a luxury trip to Israel offered in a gift bag of various items from Explore Israel (a tourist agency) and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. The gift is being offered to 25 Oscar nominees in the acting and directing categories, plus Chris Rock, host of Sunday night’s Academy Awards presentation. According to The Daily Beast, the total value of the gifts in the bags is about $200,000, including the free 10-day VIP trip to Israel, which is believed to be worth about $55,000. The gift bag also offers one year’s worth of unlimited Audi car rentals from Silvercar, a 15-day walking tour of Japan, a lifetime supply of skin creams from Lizora, and a number of other luxury items. Distinctive Assets, an L.A.-based marketing firm, organized the gift bags.

[RELATED: Disputed territories – undisputed double standard]

The Times’ ad describes the free trip to Israel as “at the expense of Palestinians,” and calls on the celebrities receiving the gifts to not “endorse Israeli apartheid.”

“This year’s top Oscar nominees are getting a $55,000 trip to Israel, sponsored by the Israeli government,” the ad reads. “This is part of a larger ‘Brand Israel’ strategy to use celebrities to distract from almost 50 years of illegal occupation of Palestinian land and human rights abuses including separate laws for Palestinians.” 

Oscar nominees who have said they would not “visit Israel professionally,” according to Jewish Voice for Peace, include Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) and Asif Kapadia, whose documentary, “Amy,” is nominated for Best Documentary (Feature). Kapadia is not among those being offered the gift.

Both Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are left-wing groups that support the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which claims Israel is an “apartheid state” and aims to weaken Israel and isolate its economy from the rest of the world.

On Monday, Jewish Voice for Peace sent out a press release stating that the entertainment news magazine Variety had refused to publish the ad after initially accepting it. The release said that Variety’s Director of Strategic Partnerships told Jewish Voice for Peace that the ad’s “topic is too sensitive at this time” and that publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns had rejected it. Variety did not respond to requests for comment from The Jewish Journal.

Ari Wohlfeiler, Jewish Voice for Peace’s deputy director, said in an email that the price of running the ad was the standard rate for any ad in that section of the L.A. Times – about $10,000. Asked whether an image in the ad of what appears to be a trip voucher to Israel was an image of the actual voucher from the Oscar gift bag, Wohlfeiler said, “As far as we know.”

Wohlfeiler said that when Variety rejected the ad, it did not offer suggestions for edits that might make it acceptable. The L.A. Times also had some editorial requirements, he said, but was willing to run the ad once they were met. “They required we put a bar at the top explaining overly that this was an ad paid for by JVP and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and asked that we remove a link to a webpage describing Variety’s refusal to print the ad,” Wohlfeiler said.

Hillary Manning, a spokeswoman for the L.A. Times, said the newspaper doesn’t discuss any specific ad buys, but that it “accepts advocacy and opinion-based advertising in its pages” and that this ad “was reviewed to ensure that it meets our standards and guidelines.”

Haim Saban, a film and television producer who's also a major supporter of Israel, connected the ad to the BDS movement, saying it follows a pattern of hate toward the Jewish state: “The BDS has made it clear that their purpose is to delegitimize Israel using whatever tactic they can. In this case, using the Oscars for a hate-filled message.”

Saban suggested that anyone viewing the ad “should regard it for what it is – an organization trying to spread anti-Semitism.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, condemned the L.A. Times for running the ad, but added he’s not surprised, noting that in 2006 the newspaper had published an op-ed by Khaled Mashal titled, “We shall never recognize…a Zionist state on our soil.” Mashal heads the political wing of Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist group whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel.

“For a leading newspaper that has already provided op-ed space to a senior person of Hamas, whose charter is to destroy the Jewish state, what’s the big deal about accepting an ad that’s a lie?” Cooper asked, rhetorically.

Cooper said groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation want to stop celebrities from visiting Israel because “Israel sells itself” to tourists.

“It’s an open society with plenty of warts and plenty of problems, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out pretty quickly that to call it an apartheid state is a lie,” Cooper said. “For the L.A. Times, after other publications in this town rejected it, for the L.A. Times to allow unencumbered Israel apartheid on a full-page ad is a massive victory for people who oppose peace.”

On Feb. 26, JVP, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Artists for Palestine UK and the Palestinian Performing Arts Network sent satirical invitations to representatives for the same 25 nominees “to visit Palestine and experience life through the eyes of Palestinians living under apartheid and military occupation,” according to a press release. Guests would receive an “occupied territories swagbag,” including “settler-inflicted beatings” and an “uprooted olive tree.”

In response to the ad in the L.A. Times, Creative Community for Peace, a Los Angeles-based entertainment industry organization dedicated to countering cultural boycotts of Israel, created the hashtag, #TAKETHETRIP, and the organization posted an altered version of the Times ad on its Facebook page that reads, “This Free Trip to Israel Can Advance Peace with the Palestinians.”

“We were aware JVP attempted to put an ad in Variety. We were aware of that and we’re following it closely,” Jill Hoyt, director at Creative Community for Peace, said in a phone interview. “I can’t say I knew they were planning an ad in the Los Angeles Times today, but once we saw it, we felt the need to respond as we did on social media, and obviously to share with you and other people we think it’s not helpful toward achieving peace and … to get to some kind of resolution.”

Actor Josh Malina, an active supporter of Israel, said it's important to call out hate speech, but to do it wisely: “The anti-Israel forces are certainly strong and vocal, and when they cross the line into hate speech and anti-Semitism, as they often do, they should be called on it,” Malina wrote in an email. “That said, I would urge people who consider themselves pro-Israel to consider that this doesn’t preclude them from being pro-Palestinian as well. We rail against BDS groups because they judge Israel with a striking double-standard, refusing to recognize and reckon with Palestinian violence and terrorism. Let us on the pro-Israel 'side' avoid making the same mistake. Palestinians are fellow human beings. As with all other countries, there are legitimate criticisms to be made of Israeli actions, and these should be part of the discussion. Ultimately, anyone who suggests that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is something other than a conflict between two parties, is guilty of misrepresenting the truth, and is not helping to create an environment where positive progress might be made.”

The gift bags have caused concern on other fronts, as well. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which oversees the Oscars and does not give out bags, filed a civil suit on Feb. 16 against Distinctive Assets, the marketer behind the gifts, accusing the company of trademark infringement, false advertising and trademark dilution, according to a complaint available on the United States District Court website.

The BDS movement applauded AMPAS’ decision to sue Distinctive Assets, even though the suit has nothing to do with Israel.

“The Academy’s decision to sue Distinctive Assets was based purely on its need to protect its intellectual property and clarify that it is not affiliated in any way with Distinctive Assets or its gift bags,” an AMPAS spokesperson said. “Politics played no role in the decision, and neither the destination of any of the trips involved in Distinctive Assets' gift packages, nor who was paying for them, was relevant to the Academy choosing to file suit.”

***

UPDATE (Monday, Feb. 29, 10:30am): This story was updated to reflect a satirical invitation sent by pro-BDS groups on Feb. 26.

Jewish Journal senior writer Danielle Berrin and Naomi Pfefferman, the Journal's arts & entertainment editor, contributed to this report.

Kerry stands by record, wishes for ‘apartheid’ rewind


Secretary of State John Kerry defended his Israel record, but also agreed that his use of the word “apartheid” to describe the dangers of a failed peace process was not appropriate in a U.S. context.

“I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution,” Kerry said in a statement posted late Monday titled “On Support for Israel.”

“While Justice Minister (Tzipi) Livni, former Prime Ministers (Ehud) Barak and (Ehud) Olmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home,” he said.

Kerry, who in recent months has made it clear that he is irked by allegations that he is not pro-Israel, strongly defended his record.

“I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe,” he said.

Kerry made his original remarks during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, which includes senior officials from the United States, Europe, Russia and Japan, the Daily Beast reported on Sunday evening.

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative,” Kerry said, according to the Daily Beast, “because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

The remarks drew sharp criticisms from Jewish groups, chief among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but also from Jewish Democrats, including the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Top Republicans also called for an apology.

“The use of the word apartheid has routinely been dismissed as both offensive and inaccurate, and Secretary Kerry’s use of it makes peace even harder to achieve,” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader and the most senior Jewish official in government, said in a statement.

Jewish Dems blast Kerry for ‘Apartheid’ remark


Jewish Democrats called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to apologize for warning that the failure to achieve a two-state solution could lead to apartheid.

“We express our deep disappointment that the Secretary of State has chosen to invoke the specter of ‘apartheid’ in discussing his concerns about the failing peace process,” the National Jewish Democratic Council said Monday in a statement.

Kerry made the remarks during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, which includes senior officials from the United States, Europe, Russia and Japan, the Daily Beast reported on Sunday evening, saying it had obtained a recording of the closed-door meeting.

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative,” Kerry said, according to the Daily Beast, “because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

The remarks drew sharp criticisms from Jewish groups, chief among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but the NJDC statement was notable in that partisan groups rarely criticize party leaders.

“We reject entirely that racially-based governance inherent in that word in any way describes Israel, as well as the implication that the government of Israel uses such prejudice to formalize disadvantages for any of its citizens or neighbors,” the NJDC said. “It is surprising that Secretary Kerry would use this term and he should apologize and eschew the use of that formulation in the future.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is Jewish and who has strongly defended the Obama administration’s Israel record, also slammed the remarks on Twitter. “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous,” she said.

Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, on Monday would not confirm that Kerry had made the remarks, but she noted that Israeli prime ministers have issued similar warnings and added that Kerry believed Israel was currently a robust democracy.

Simon Wiesenthal on the ‘apartheid’ remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry


The Simon Wiesenthal Center is shocked by the reported statement made by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, raising the specter that Israel is in danger of becoming an apartheid state if a two-state solution with the Palestinians is not reached.

[Related: Kerry stands by record, wishes for ‘apartheid’ rewind]

“For sixty-six years, living in a neighborhood surrounded by dictators, feudal states and theocracies, enduring five wars and suicide bombing campaigns, Israel has succeeded in establishing and maintaining one of the strongest and freest democracies in the world, protecting the rights of Jews, Muslims and Christians and remains today one of the strongest and freest democracies in the world”, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Secretary of State Kerry does not contribute to the prospect for peace by repeating a lie concocted by those who seek Israel’s destruction. The fact is confirmed by numerous polls that Arabs in the Holy Land prefer living in Israel. We commend Secretary Kerry’s tireless efforts to bring peace to the region, but urge him to correct this canard, which can only strengthen the anti-peace movement,” they concluded.

Activists protest Israeli gay pride float in New Zealand


Police removed several activists from the gay pride parade in New Zealand who broke through barricades to protest Israel’s entry.

Saying they were criticizing Israel’s “pinkwashing” of human rights, a handful of protesters dressed in pink and bearing placards protesting “Israeli apartheid” tried to approach the float at the beginning of the parade in Auckland on Saturday night. The float was organized by Israel’s embassy in the capital.

Patricia Deen, the embassy’s spokeswoman, said, “We were just there because we are proud of who we are, the fact that we are the only country in the Middle East where gay people are accepted. We were also there to promote the Tel Aviv gay parade.”

She added, “Their pride parade is one of the biggest parties in the whole wide world. We have a proud Israeli and Jewish gay community in New Zealand and in Israel.”

Deen also told GayNZ.com, “Even though we were being disrupted, it was in the beginning of the parade. But through the whole parade we were being cheered, people were saying ‘shalom.’ ”

The fracas came as a group of 40 activists, led by anti-apartheid campaigner John Minto, traveled from Auckland to Wellington, also on Saturday night, to boycott the Batsheva Dance Company, which was performing at the New Zealand Festival for the first time. They were met by a group of pro-Israel demonstrators led by David Zwartz, the former honorary Israeli consul.

“The counter-demonstration came from the Wellington Jewish community and a strong contingent from Christian supporters of Israel,” Zwartz told JTA. “The main focus of our counter-protest was the falseness of the allegation that Israel is an apartheid state.”

At least five ticket holders decided not to attend the acclaimed dance troupe’s performance, according to local media.

Israel’s ambassador, Yosef Livne, attended the premiere on Friday night. The embassy partially sponsored the troupe’s visit to New Zealand, which has been hailed by critics.

 

Exploiting Israel’s Negev Bedouin


While many believe that a successful peace process will end demonization of Israel based on incendiary terms such as “apartheid” and “racism,” and in accompanying boycott campaigns, the evidence suggests that this hatred goes far deeper. Indeed, the organizations that lead these campaigns are not focused on the post-1967 “occupation”, but rather target all of 1948 Israel, from Kiryat Shemona, along the border with Lebanon (and Hezbollah), to Eilat at the southern tip. For these groups, any form of Jewish self-determination and sovereignty equality, is, in their language, a form of racism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. And Israeli Jews who live in the Negev or Tel Aviv are “settlers”.

For example, a number of political non-governmental organizations (NGOs) recently launched campaigns that exploit the complex issues surrounding land claims on behalf of Israel's Negev Bedouin population. The Negev, with the city of Beersheva, Ben Gurion University, and Soroka hospital, constitutes over half of the country's territory. As the Israeli Bedouin population grew significantly in recent decades, partly due to the practice of polygamy and very high birthrates, illegal building, without planning or environmental considerations, has expanded widely. As is true for any other competent government, the Israeli leadership has sought to change course, in form of assisting the Bedouin by creating new towns, with schools, clinics and other necessary facilities.

[Read a response to Gerald M. Steinberg]

In response, anti-Israel NGOs that cynically use the cover of human rights hit the road with global tours, including in the United States and Europe, attacking the plan, repeating labels such as “ethnic cleansing”, “racial discrimination,” and “human rights violations”. In slick publications, videos, and presentations before the UN and European parliamentary groups, NGOs have falsely referred to the Negev Bedouin as “Palestinian victims”, and Israeli Jewish residents in the Negev as “settlers”. The campaign erases 4000 years of Jewish history in the Negev (from the arrival of Abraham in Beersheva), thereby delegitimizing Israeli sovereignty. Noted Israeli columnist Ben-Dror Yemini reviewed a slick propaganda video produced by Rabbis for Human Rights, portraying Israel “as the cruel anti-Semitic ruler, expelling and disinheriting and destroying and robbing…” (Funding for this video and for other campaigns of radical NGOs that exploit Bedouin issue is provided by groups such as the US-based New Israel Fund.)

Similarly, a radical organization calling itself “Jewish Voices for Peace”, which supports BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) has suddenly discovered the Bedouin Negev issue. Little is know about JVP’s membership or its sources of funding (over $1 million dollars annually), but its primary agenda is to promote anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda, in order to “drive a wedge” over support for Israel in the American Jewish community. In particular, JVP targeted participants in the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial conference, taking place in San Diego.

With little knowledge of the details, “progressive Jews” are deemed as likely to accept and sympathize with the campaign to “help the Negev Bedouin” stand up to the “powerful Israeli state which seeks to deprive them of their land”.

In contrast, American Jews are unlikely to hear the Bedouins themselves, unfiltered by officials of political NGOs, because their leaders lack the resources for these global tours and press campaigns. For example, Abed Tarabin, leader of one of central clans in the Negev, recently noted that “The opposition to the plan comes from belligerent politicians, making noise for their own purposes. It doesn’t come from real Bedouin leaders who are concerned with their people. There is plenty of room in the Negev for everybody, and it is good that the government is working to improve things and is investing money in us”.

These views rarely make it into many journalists writing about Israel simply repeat the unsupported NGO allegations, and exclude the Bedouins themselves. In a major article based on NGO claims, and accompanied by emotionally moving photos, the New York Times correspondent greatly exaggerated the number of individuals that would be affected by the Israeli plan. She also quoted radicals who again referred to “insidious racism, ethnic cleansing or even apartheid”, as well as “a land grab that ignores their culture and traditions.”

The prevalence of such campaigns regarding the Negev, within Israel’s 1948 “Green Line”, suggests that a peace agreement with the Palestinians will not end the demonization and boycotts. For Israelis and American Jews who support a two-state solution, the need to oppose such misleading and hate-based campaigns should be a major priority.


Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is the president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute and recipient of the 2013 Menachem Begin Prize.

Kerry urges Israel, Palestinians to make peace like Mandela


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry closed another Middle East troubleshooting mission on Friday by urging Israel and the Palestinians to follow Nelson Mandela's lead and make peace.

The death on Thursday of Mandela, who fought apartheid in South Africa and became its first black president, was mourned across the globe, including by Israelis and Palestinians – the latter calling him an inspiration for their statehood struggle.

Kerry wants to coax the two sides towards a negotiated accord, and set a nine-month deadline when talks were launched in July. But both sides have indicated they are pessimistic about the outcome.

Before departing from Tel Aviv after a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Kerry quoted Mandela as having said, in the face of challenges, that “it always seems impossible until it is done”.

“That example of Nelson Mandela is an example we all need to take to heart as we try to reach a two-state solution,” Kerry told reporters, referring to the international vision of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank.

One of those areas, the West Bank and adjoining East Jerusalem, has been extensively settled by Israel, leaving Palestinians worried too little space will be left for them.

The other area, Gaza, was quit by Israel in 2005 and is now ruled by armed Hamas Islamists who spurn coexistence with the Jewish state. Many Israelis question whether U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could commit his Hamas rivals to peacemaking.

SECURITY PROPOSALS

On Thursday, Kerry said he presented Israel with “some thoughts” about improving its security under any eventual accord. Neither side detailed these, but Israel has long said it would want to keep a military presence between the West Bank and Jordan, as well as swathes of Jewish settlements.

Abbas's administration opposes major Israeli annexations, deeming the settlements illegal – as do most world powers.

The Palestinians rejected Kerry's security proposals after he raised them with Abbas on Thursday, a Palestinian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, denied that account but did not say what Kerry and Abbas had discussed.

After the meeting, Kerry commended Abbas for “his steadfast commitment to stay at the peace negotiations, despite the difficulties that he and the Palestinians have perceived in the process”. Kerry said he might return to the region next week.

On Friday, he sounded more upbeat, saying: “I believe we are closer than we have been in years in bringing about the peace and prosperity and security that all the people in this region deserve and have been yearning for.”

Kerry's peace mediation was overshadowed, in Israeli eyes, by his role in a Nov. 24 international deal easing sanctions on Iran in return for some curbs on its disputed nuclear programme.

An irate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the agreement clinched in Geneva as a “historic mistake” that helped Tehran's limping economy while leaving it with the means to make a nuclear bomb – though the Iranians deny having such designs.

In their three meetings this week, Kerry and Netanyahu took pains to reaffirm their friendship and said Israel and the United States would confer closely on keeping core sanctions against Iran in place while a final nuclear deal is crafted.

Kerry said on Friday that, thanks to the Geneva agreement, “I am personally convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that Israel is safer today … We have stopped their (Iran's nuclear) programme where it is.”

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

Nelson Mandela, apartheid fighter and former South African president, dies at 95


Nelson Mandela guided South Africa from the shackles of apartheid to multi-racial democracy, as an icon of peace and reconciliation who came to embody the struggle for justice around the world.

Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule, Mandela emerged determined to use his prestige and charisma to bring down apartheid while avoiding a civil war.

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994.

“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.”

In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honour he shared with F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who freed him from prison three years earlier and negotiated the end of apartheid.

Mandela went on to play a prominent role on the world stage as an advocate of human dignity in the face of challenges ranging from political repression to AIDS.

He formally left public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his adoring countrymen: “Don't call me. I'll call you”. But he remained one of the world's most revered public figures, combining celebrity sparkle with an unwavering message of freedom, respect and human rights.

[From our archives: A South African-born rabbi reflects
on Nelson Mandela and the Jewish community
]

Whether defending himself at his own treason trial in 1963 or addressing world leaders years later as a greying elder statesman, he radiated an image of moral rectitude expressed in measured tones, often leavened by a mischievous humour.

“He is at the epicentre of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are,” Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature, once remarked.

Mandela's years behind bars made him the world's most celebrated political prisoner and a leader of mythic stature for millions of black South Africans and other oppressed people far beyond his country's borders.

Charged with capital offences in the 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he told the court.

“It is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

DESTINED TO LEAD

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, destined to lead as the son of the chief councillor to the paramount chief of the Thembu people in Transkei.

He chose to devote his life to the fight against white domination. He studied at Fort Hare University, an elite black college, but left in 1940 short of completing his studies and became involved with the African National Congress (ANC), founding its Youth League in 1944 with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.

Mandela worked as a law clerk then became a lawyer who ran one of the few practices that served blacks.

In 1952 he and others were charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act but their nine-month sentence was suspended for two years.

Mandela was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid, going underground in 1961 to form the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, or 'Spear of the Nation' in Zulu.

He left South Africa and travelled the continent and Europe, studying guerrilla warfare and building support for the ANC.

After his return in 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. While serving that sentence, he was charged with sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government along with other anti-apartheid leaders in the Rivonia Trial.

Branded a terrorist by his enemies, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, isolated from millions of his countrymen as they suffered oppression, violence and forced resettlement under the apartheid regime of racial segregation.

He was incarcerated on Robben Island, a penal colony off Cape Town, where he would spend the next 18 years before being moved to mainland prisons.

He was behind bars when an uprising broke out in the huge township of Soweto in 1976 and when others erupted in violence in the 1980s. But when the regime realised it was time to negotiate, it was Mandela to whom it turned.

In his later years in prison, he met President P.W. Botha and his successor de Klerk.

When he was released on Feb. 11, 1990, walking away from the Victor Verster prison hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, the event was watched live by television viewers across the world.

“As I finally walked through those gates … I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were at last over,” Mandela wrote of that day.

ELECTIONS AND RECONCILATION

In the next four years, thousands of people died in political violence. Most were blacks killed in fighting between ANC supporters and Zulus loyal to Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, although right-wing whites also staged violent actions to upset the moves towards democracy.

Mandela prevented a racial explosion after the murder of popular Communist Party leader Chris Hani by a white assassin in 1993, appealing for calm in a national television address. That same year, he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Talks between the ANC and the government began in 1991, leading to South Africa's first all-race elections on April 27, 1994.

The run-up to the vote was marred by fighting, including gun battles in Johannesburg townships and virtual war in the Zulu stronghold of KwaZulu Natal.

But Mandela campaigned across the country, enthralling adoring crowds of blacks and wooing whites with assurances that there was a place for them in the new South Africa.

The election result was never in doubt and his inauguration in Pretoria on May 10, 1994, was a celebration of a peoples' freedom.

Mandela made reconciliation the theme of his presidency. He took tea with his former jailers and won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa's national rugby team – once a symbol of white supremacy – at the final of the World Cup in 1995 at Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium.

The hallmark of Mandela's mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated apartheid crimes on both sides and tried to heal the wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.

In 1999, Mandela, often criticised for having a woolly grasp of economics, handed over to younger leaders – a voluntary departure from power cited as an example to long-ruling African leaders.

A restful retirement was not on the cards as Mandela shifted his energies to fighting South Africa's AIDS crisis.

He spoke against the stigma surrounding the infection, while successor Thabo Mbeki was accused of failing to comprehend the extent of the crisis.

The fight became personal in early 2005 when Mandela lost his only surviving son to the disease.

But the stress of his long struggle contributed to the break-up of his marriage to equally fierce anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie.

The country shared the pain of their divorce in 1996 before watching his courtship of Graca Machel, widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday in 1998.

Friends adored “Madiba”, the clan name by which he is known. People lauded his humanity, kindness, attention and dignity.

Unable to shake the habits of prison, Mandela rose daily between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to exercise and read. He drank little and was a fervent anti-smoker.

An amateur boxer in his younger days, Mandela often said the discipline and tactics drawn from training helped him to endure prison and the political battles after his release.

RAINBOW NATION

But prison and old age took their toll on his health.

Mandela was treated in the 1980s for tuberculosis and later required an operation to repair damage to his eyes as well as treatment for prostate cancer in 2001. His spirit, however, remained strong.

“If cancer wins I will still be the better winner,” he told reporters in September of that year. “When I go to the next world, the first thing I will do is look for an ANC office to renew my membership.”

Most South Africans are proud of their post-apartheid multi-racial 'Rainbow Nation'.

But Mandela's legacy of tolerance and reconciliation has been threatened in recent years by squabbling between factions in the ANC and social tensions in a country that, despite its political liberation, still suffers great inequalities.

Mandela's last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he donned a fur cap in the South African winter and rode on a golf cart, waving to an exuberant crowd of 90,000 at the soccer World Cup final, one of the biggest events in the country's post-apartheid history.

“I leave it to the public to decide how they should remember me,” he said on South African television before his retirement.

“But I should like to be remembered as an ordinary South African who together with others has made his humble contribution.”

Writing by Andrew Quinn and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Angus MacSwan

Jews in Mandela’s South Africa


The year was 1994; South Africa was hanging on a thread. The first free general election was about to take place on April 27.

The world was waiting with baited breath to see whether civil war would erupt and blood would be shed.

 I had just moved from Cape Town to live in the most dangerous city in the world, Johannesburg. I could not have been more excited about my upcoming wedding four weeks from that date.  

When I was 8 years old, I remember sitting next to my grandfather and asking “Why did you not take the boat from Vilna to America?” “My darling,” he said, “do you think Jews could go anywhere they wanted?”

 There was a small quota in 1927 allowing Jews to emigrate from Lithuania to South Africa. So three generations ago, my grandparents fled oppression and anti-Semitism to go to a country on a different continent where some had rights, but many did not.

In hindsight, when I read about the events leading up to the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, including the violence occurring on a daily basis in the townships and the tribal fighting, I am amazed at not only the turmoil and uncertainty in which we lived, but also how we continued with “life as normal”

I lived three minutes away from Alexandria Township, and hearing gunshots and seeing smoke from our balcony was a common occurrence.   However, since media censorship was still in place, we did not hear or see or read about most of the turmoil and violence. It was the outside world that truly had more insight into what was going on in South Africa. I remember some of our relatives and friends fleeing the country before our wedding, being convinced civil war would break out at any minute.

Instead of fearing the new political situation and its possible implications for me and the Jewish community in South Africa, I was filled with a sense of hopeful anticipation and a sense of purpose that all young people and specifically women could play in this new democratic country.

I foresaw the many opportunities in this  “New South Africa” At 25, I had started a market research company and would go into township and tribal areas to conduct in-depth interviews and group discussions with my teams of interviewers. Since no research had previously been conducted in any of these areas, and all groups had been kept separate from each other under the Apartheid system, we had very little understanding of the cultures, attitudes, needs and wants of communities.

I was fascinated by the differences in each tribe’s culture and realized that understanding a person’s culture is the foundation of respect in a new society.  When I lectured to research students on how to go about conducting qualitative and quantitative research it was many times them who taught me the appropriate terms of respect and endearment when addressing people of various ages.

From being a feared and regarded by many white South Africa as “persona non grata” whose name was mentioned in whispers, ” Nelson Mandela became our savior and leader. He assured each and every person that no matter their religious affiliations, tribal roots or the color of their skin, they had a home in the new South Africa — the “rainbow nation”. 

Despite these assurances, the many opportunities that presented themselves in the new South Africa and the adoration and respect for Nelson Mandela, I feared for the future of the Jewish Community in the New South Africa. I read about and witnessed the horrific, escalating daily crimes and the close alliances that the New African National Congress (ANC) government had formed with then Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro and Muammar Gadhafi.

For generations, Jews in South Africa had been asking, “Is there a place for us, do we have a future?”  Before Mandela was elected President, we personally, and as a community, continuously debated this topic.

Now, with Mandela’s passing, we continue to ask the same question. While the world and the political environment have changed over the past 19 years, the debate for Jews in South Africa remains the same.

Mandela was a hero because he understood each group’s and each community’s insecurities and fears.  When one suffers, it is easy to become insulated and myopic. Mandela experienced suffering, dedicated his life to the freedom struggle, having spent 27 years in prison, sacrificing his family life and enduring harsh conditions. Yet somehow, he was able not only to forgive and reach out to those who had tormented him, but also to show empathize with them at the very things they feared.

Each time I heard Mandela speak, dressed in his famous “ African shirts,” I think of a man of immense power, but with amazing humility, modesty and compassion. To South African Jews, and to people throughout the world, he has a value we will never be able to quantify.  He represents the very best of human kindness, one that always tried to build a better South Africa for all South Africans.

Today as a Jew, what concerns me most is that there is no one in the South African Government who can maintain that same level of empathy and closeness for the South African Jewish community or who understands the Jewish community’s affiliations with Israel as Mandela did. He understood that Israel is not just a country, but also a part of each Jewish person.

South Africa’s Jewish community, in particular, will be forever grateful for the influence Mandela had on their lives not just as President, but also for the respect he showed for every religion.


Leora Raikin is a South African fiber artist, author, teacher and speaker on African tribal arts and customs through African Folklore Embroidery as well as The Jews of Southern Africa- From Vilna, to Cape Town to Los Angeles.  www.aflembroidery.com She has lectured at  Skirball Cultural Museum and was guest artist at Camp Ramah. In South Africa she founded Strategic Property Research and was awarded Business Achiever of the year for her work in post-apartheid research. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Gary and son Joshua.

If not the blacks, the Jews


Fresh off President Obama’s South Africa, and as the world still holds its breath for Nelson Mandela, Roger Cohen offers this take on the attitudes of South Africa’s Jews during apartheid:

South Africa was as good a place as any for a Jew to live in the 20th century. A friend of the family let slip a sentiment widely felt but seldom articulated: “Thank God for the blacks. If not for them it would be us.” Jews on the whole kept their heads down; better just to keep stumm. Flossie voted for Helen Suzman’s anti-apartheid Progressive Party and then prayed the National Party remained in power. She was not alone in such genteel hypocrisy.

And on Robben Island, Mandela cultivates not hatred — that would be too easy for the whites — but the power of patience and perseverance.

The blacks were a form of protection. If you are busy persecuting tens of millions of blacks you do not have much time left over for tens of thousands of Jews. For South African Jews, aware of the corpse-filled ditches of the Europe they had fled, the knowledge of the 69 blacks cut down at Sharpeville in 1960 was discomfiting. But this was not genocide, after all. Most, with conspicuous exceptions (more proportionately among Jews than any other white South Africans), looked away.

Cohen has been a regular critic of Israel, and it’s likely he had Israelis at least passingly in mind in penning this next paragraph. But given the recent convulsions elsewhere in the Middle East, its a warning at least as applicable to Egyptians and Syrians:

I have been dreaming of Mandela. An old idea: He who touches one human being touches all humanity. I have been murmuring his name: He broke the cycle of conflict by placing the future above the past, humanity above vengeance.

He reminded us of what is most precious in Jewish ethics: What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man — or, as the Mosaic book says many times, you are to treat the stranger well for “you were a stranger in a strange land.” Repair the world. Be a light unto nations.

UC Irvine student divestment vote rejected by school officials


A resolution passed by the UC Irvine undergraduate student council calling on the university to divest from companies that “profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine” has been rejected by the UCI administration.

At the same time, leaders of the Orange County Jewish community denounced “the nonbinding resolution, drafted and introduced with no forewarning by a small group of students with a personal agenda and deliberated in the absence of students with opposing views.”

The Nov. 13 student council resolution, titled “Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid” and passed unanimously 16 to 0, asked the UCI administration, and the UC system as a whole, to divest specifically from Caterpillar, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Raytheon and other companies.

[Related: UC-Irvine student senate approves non-binding divestment resolution on Israel]

In a news release, the student council described the resolution, introduced by council members Sabreen Shalabi and Shadi Jafari, as “a historic move that could initiate a domino effect across American campuses.”

In response, the UCI administration released a statement on Nov. 14 on the resolution stating that “such divestment is not the policy of this campus, nor is it the policy of the University of California. The UC Board of Regents‘ policy requires this action only when the U.S. government deems it necessary. No such declaration has been made regarding Israel.”

Shalom C. Elcott, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation & Family Service of Orange County, lauded the strong ties between UCI and Israeli universities and promised that this work “will not be undermined by divisive efforts…that are contrary to the interests of students.”

In past years, the UCI campus has been the scene of numerous incidents between Muslim and Jewish students, with some Jewish groups criticizing the administration for its failure to take remedial action.

However, earlier this year, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake led a faculty delegation to Israel, which signed cooperation agreements with Ben-Gurion University, Hebrew University, Technion and Tel Aviv University.

Israel angered by South African move on settlement goods


Israel accused South Africa on Thursday of behaving like an apartheid state by requiring Israeli goods made by West Bank settlers to be labeled as originating from occupied Palestinian territory.

The rhetoric is likely to strain Israel’s relations with South Africa, whose ruling African National Congress fought to end the apartheid regime.

The ANC had strongly backed the Palestinian cause while Israel was one of the few countries to have strong ties with South Africa’s white-minority government, which relinquished power in 1994.

Israeli trade with South Africa is modest but the impact of Pretoria’s decision on goods-labeling has raised Israeli concern that other states could follow suit and bolster calls by Palestinians to boycott Israeli products made in the West Bank.

The European Union grants a tariff exemption to imports from Israel but not to those coming from the West Bank and other territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it would summon South Africa’s ambassador to lodge a protest over the decision on labeling goods from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“Unfortunately it turns out the change that has begun in South Africa over the years has not brought about any basic change in the country, and it remains an apartheid state,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in response to Pretoria’s move.

“At the moment South Africa’s apartheid is aimed at Israel,” added Ayalon, a nationalist hardliner in right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Ayalon did not elaborate on what he meant by associating the labeling decision with apartheid.

There was no immediate response from South Africa.

The South African government said on Wednesday the cabinet had approved a measure “requiring the labeling of goods or products emanating from IOT (Israeli-occupied territory) to prevent consumers being led to believe that such goods come from Israel.”

When Pretoria first proposed the measure in May, Israeli Industry and Trade Minister Shalom Simhon said it would be a problem if other countries did the same thing.

Israel criticized Britain in 2009 for advising supermarkets to label produce from Jewish settlements clearly, to distinguish them from goods produced by Palestinians.

The World Court has ruled that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law and Palestinians say they will deny them the viable state they seek in the territory and in the Gaza Strip.

Israel says the future of settlements should be decided through peace talks, which have been frozen since 2010, largely over the settlement issue.

Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza in 2005. About 2.5 million Palestinians and 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Capetown; Writing by Ori Lewis and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich

Walker refuses to authorize Hebrew ‘Color Purple’


The author of the “Color Purple” refused to authorize a Hebrew translation of her prize-winning work, citing what she called Israel’s “Apartheid state.”

In a June 9 letter to Yedioth Books, Alice Walker said she would not allow the publication of the book into Hebrew because “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”

In her letter, posted Sunday by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on its website, Walker supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and offered her hope that the BDS movement “will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”

It was not clear when Yedioth Books, an imprint of the daily Yedioth Achronoth newspaper, made the request, or whether Walker could in fact stop translation of the book. At least one version of the book has already appeared in Hebrew translation, in the 1980s.

Walker said Israelis policies were “worse” than the segregation she suffered as an American youth and said South Africans had told her it was worse than Apartheid.

The Color Purple, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was adapted into a movie in 1985 directed by Jewish filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The novel and the film, which was nominated for 11 Oscars, treat racism in the American south in the first part of the 20th century and sexism among blacks.

Walker has intensified her anti-Israel activism in recent years, traveling to the Gaza Strip to advocate on behalf of the Palestinians.

German opposition head rues referring to Hebron situation as ‘apartheid’


The leader of Germany’s main opposition party acknowledged that he may have gone too far when he wrote on Facebook that Israel is running an “apartheid regime” in Hebron.

Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, said Thursday that the choice of words he used on the social network the previous day had been “drastic.”

“But that is exactly how the Palestinians in Hebron experience the situation,” he said. “This drastic terminology came to mind for me, and not only for me, during our discussions and visits in Hebron.”

Gabriel’s original remarks following a visit to Hebron this week spread rapidly on the the social network.

“It’s a zone without legal rights for Palestinians,” he wrote. “It is an apartheid regime, and there’s no justification for it.”

Gabriel in Thursday’s comments said he never intended to compare Israel with the former regime in South Africa “because this comparison would be worse than unfair to Israel, and would also have the effect of downplaying” the crimes of the apartheid state.

His original statement came as Israel was reeling from a series of rocket attacks from Gaza. The comments elicited hundreds of impassioned responses attacking and supporting Gabriel, and prompted an outcry from political and Jewish leaders.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, posted a response on his own Facebook site calling Gabriel’s comment “idiocy” that reflected poorly on his party.

While agreeing that the situation for some 180,000 Palestinians in Hebron is a “catastrophe” due to the actions of a “few hundred very, very radical settlers,” this does not amount to apartheid, Kramer said. “It’s a stupid comparison.”

Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, told JTA that the comment “exceeds all acceptable boundaries to a critical discussion about Israel and compares one of Germany’s closest allies to a racist, nondemocratic state.”

The Jewish caucus of the Social Democratic Party also found Gabriel’s comments inappropriate. Gregor Wettberg, co-chair of the Berlin Brandenburg chapter of the caucus, said it was perfectly fair to criticize the situation for Palestinians in Hebron, which “is not in any way positive for the State of Israel or something that needs to be supported or defended by Jews or anyone.” But it is neither accurate nor wise to use the word apartheid, he said.

“We all know in Germany, and he should know it, too, that the term is used by certain kinds of people in a certain kind of way … to express their general dislike of Israel,” Wettberg said.

Gabriel should have thought twice before expressing his emotions via Facebook, he added.

German seminary honors anti-apartheid activist


Germany’s Progressive Jewish seminary has given its highest honor to a former anti-apartheid activist with roots in Berlin.

Helen Zille, the prime minister of South Africa’s Western Cape Province, received the annual Abraham Geiger Prize from the Potsdam-based Abraham Geiger College in ceremonies Monday at the Berlin headquarters of the state of Bavaria. Zille also heads the Democratic Alliance Party and is a former mayor of Cape Town.

The award came just as the college signed a new deal with the University of Potsdam, making rabbinical studies a part of the university’s philosophy department.

Zille, 60, grand-niece of the famous German artist and political caricaturist Heinrich Zille (1858-1929), was honored for the “courage and commitment with which she has fought for a democratic South Africa.” Zille said she considered the prize “a great honor and an encouragement to keep on going. Social commitment runs in the family.”

Reportedly, Zille plans to dedicate the more than $13,000 prize to a scholarship fund for students from South Africa who are accepted into the Geiger College rabbinical program. The first rabbis were ordained there in 2001.

Among the guests at Monday’s ceremony was U.S. Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, who was to meet with top German political leaders during his stay. Fuchs’ family came from Leipzig.

During her stay in Berlin, Zille visited the grave of her paternal great-uncle for the first time. Heinrich Zille, who was not Jewish, was known for calling attention to the plight of underprivileged, poor and handicapped people in his drawings. Helen Zille’s parents, who both had Jewish roots, fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and settled in South Africa.

As a journalist in the 1970s, Zille investigated the 1977 death in police custody of student leader Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness movement.

Also Monday, the University of Potsdam, seat of the Geiger College, renewed its 10-year-old contract with the rabbinical seminary, declaring its intentions to create a Department for Rabbinical Studies within the university’s philosophy faculty.

The ceremonial event was hosted by Horst Seehofer, governor of the state of Bavaria, who delivered the laudatio for Zille. The annual prize, named after one of the founders of liberal Judaism, honors those who have contributed to promoting pluralism.

Jewish anti-apartheid activists honored


Arthur Goldreich, an anti-apartheid struggle activist, was honored posthumously by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies during its national conference in Johannesburg.

Goldreich, who died in Israel in May this year at the age of 82 and who had fought as a volunteer in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, was awarded the board’s annual human rights award on Sunday.

In the early 1960s, Goldreich provided shelter and a meeting place for the African National Congress and helped plan armed resistance activities there with Nelson Mandela. Goldreich was arrested in 1963, along with virtually the entire top leadership of the ANC.

He and another Jewish prisoner made a daring escape from jail and managed to flee the country, avoiding the biggest manhunt in its history, while the other prisoners, with Mandela, were convicted of treason in the famous Rivonia trial.

Goldreich moved back to Israel, where he spent the rest of his life. He lived in Jerusalem, establishing the Bezalel School of Industrial and Environmental Design.

Michael Schneider, another former anti-apartheid activist who fled South Africa in 1964 to escape a police dragnet for his sabotage activities and later went on to become CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, spoke to the conference.

“Jewish Memories of Mandela,” a new book edited by David Saks, associate director of the Board of Deputies, was launched at the conference. The book deals with the role played by Jews in Mandela’s life and struggle and in the triumph of democracy in South Africa.

African stamps honor Jews who fought apartheid


Every year, Jews around the world tell the story of the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in roughly the same way. And every year, familiar props help bring that story to life.

This Passover, two local Jews — a businessman and an eminent rabbi — are hoping to introduce to the seder a rarely told story about Jews who fought for freedom, bringing to the table a new object that could sit comfortably alongside the bitter herbs, matzah and charoset.

The new visual aid is three sheets of commemorative stamps, which tell the story of the many South African Jews who worked to bring an end to apartheid. The stamps, issued recently by three small West African countries, honor 12 brave Jewish activists, thanks to the efforts of Grant Gochin, a South African-born, Los Angeles-based money manager, who also serves as the Honorary Consul of Togo.

From the earliest days of the ruthless regime that denied South Africans the basic rights of citizenship, Jews were disproportionately found on the front lines of the internal resistance movement. The “Legendary Heroes of Africa” stamps were jointly released on March 1 by the postal authorities of The Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Each country authorized a single sheet of four unique stamps, of which fewer than 100,000 copies were printed. Each stamp includes one individual’s name and picture, along with a Star of David and two Hebrew letters, bet and hay, the traditional inscription included on printed matter that serves as a nod to the divine assistance that helps projects come to fruition.

Gochin, who was himself involved in the anti-apartheid movement, worked for a full year to realize his idea, and when he showed the stamps to Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, the rabbi saw a story that could complement the traditional narrative of the Israelite slaves being freed from bondage in Egypt.

“Here you have contemporary heroes who really did effect an exodus,” Feinstein said, “who really did bring light out of darkness, and life out of death.”

The individuals on the “Heroes” stamps are not household names. Feinstein said he knew of Ruth First, a prominent South African journalist whose anti-apartheid activism landed her in jail, then in exile and ultimately led to her being killed by a letter bomb in 1982. He had also met Helen Suzman, who for years was the lone voice speaking out against apartheid in South Africa’s parliament; she was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize and is “the best-known out of all of them,” Gochin said. “There was no way not to issue a stamp for her.”

At a time when Israel is regularly accused of being an apartheid state, Gochin wants to remind people of the true origins of the word.

“There is zero comparison between apartheid and what happens in Israel,” Gochin said. “It is an absolutely outrageous falsehood that is demeaning to the victims of apartheid and to anybody that stood against apartheid, to compare the rights that everybody enjoys in Israel to the way people were victimized in South Africa.”

That intention may explain why a few prominent Jewish South African anti-apartheid activists are absent from the “Heroes” series. Two politicians, Ronnie Kasrils and the late Joe Slovo — both as well known as anti-Zionists as for their anti-apartheid activism — are not among the 12 featured on the stamps. 

Other than First (who was married to Slovo) and Suzman, the 10 others on the stamps have received far less acclaim. “All of these people were just so ordinary and so unpretentious, down to earth and not looking for accolades,” Gochin said. “Their legacy is being forgotten, and we can’t allow that.”

Their stories all can be found on the Web site legendaryheroesofafrica.com — along with those of Gochin’s aunt and uncle, Esther and Hymie Barsel.

Legendary Heroes of Africa stamp sheet from Gambia featuring, from left, Hilda Bernstein, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein, Ruth First, Ronald Segal.

Gochin’s cousin, Sunny Lubner, who now lives in Fort Myers, Fla., remembers her parents not just as leaders in the anti-apartheid movement, but as strong supporters of equality across the board. “They decided early on that they did not want to live in a society that frowned on blacks, Jews, communists, gays — everything,” Lubner said. “They were really ahead of their time in all of those issues.”

Like most South African Jews, the Barsels were both of Lithuanian descent, or Litvaks. Esther was born in Lithuania; Hymie was the son of two immigrants from that region.

“These were people coming to South Africa having experienced intense hatred against them,” Gochin said of South Africa’s Litvak Jews, many of whom arrived in the years that followed the 1915 expulsion of Jews from Lithuania. “And they got to South Africa,” Gochin said, “and they saw hatred against black people.”

Some Jews were reluctant to speak out, fearing they might make themselves unwelcome in their new haven. “At the same time,” Gochin said, “there was this other side that said, ‘How can you possibly stand by and see being done to other people what was done to us?’ You have to stand up.”

Jews made up just 2 percent of the white population of apartheid-era South Africa, but they constituted at least half of the country’s white anti-apartheid activists, Gochin said.

Signing up for the fight against apartheid was an easy way to make life in South Africa very difficult. “We always knew that our house was under surveillance,” Lubner said. “We always knew that our phone was tapped.”

Lubner was 8 years old in 1956 when her father was accused of treason, along with 155 other eminent anti-apartheid activists. “South Africa was such a police state at that point that people were afraid of being associated with us,” Lubner said. “Very few of our relatives would have anything to do with us.”

Hymie Barsel was held for three years before the apartheid-era government dropped the treason charges. While in jail, he was brutally tortured. “They were very clever,” Lubner said of her father’s captors. “They would inflict damage on the spleen, which apparently is very difficult to detect.”

Esther Barsel, who was not tried in 1956, went to prison for her part in the anti-apartheid struggle in 1964. She spent four years in jail, followed by five years of house arrest. She had to get police permission to attend her daughter’s wedding in 1968. Lubner got married in a Johannesburg synagogue 10 minutes from her childhood home. “She [Esther Barsel] had to be home by 10 o’clock that night,” Lubner recalled.

Hymie Barsel died in 1987 without seeing the fruits of his activism. Esther Barsel, however, lived to see the end of the apartheid system, which began to be dismantled in 1990. South Africa has since honored her memory in various ways — the cell where she was incarcerated has been turned into a memorial installation, and when she died in 2008, Nelson Mandela publicly mourned her passing.

Black students group slams ‘apartheid’ abuse


An African American students group took out ads in college newspapers blasting “Israel Apartheid week” organizers for abusing the term.

In a full page entitled “words matter” and appearing in the newspapers on April 7, Vanguard Leadership Group accuses Students for Justice in Palestine of a “false and deeply offensive” characterization of Israel.

“SJP has chosen to manipulate rather than inform with this illegitimate analogy,” Vanguard says in the ad, signed by its members attending a number of historically black colleges. “We request that you immediately stop referring to Israel as an apartheid society and to acknowledge that the Arab minority in Israel enjoys full citizenship with voting rights and representation in the government.”

The ad appeared in newspapers on campuses that saw “Israel Apartheid Week” activity in February, including Brown University, the University of California-Los Angeles, Columbia and the University of Maryland.

Vanguard, a leadership development group for students from historically black universities, has in recent years forged ties with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its members have visited Israel.

African countries honor apartheid-fighting Jews with stamps


Three African countries issued a set of commemorative postal sheets remembering famous Jews who fought apartheid in South Africa.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia issued the three black-and-white postal stamp sheets at the beginning of March.

“This stamp issue acknowledges the extraordinary sacrifices made by Jews to the liberation of their African brethren, and these stamps recognize some of the most significant contributors to global humanity in the 20th Century,” reads the introduction to a website dedicated to the new stamps.

The stamps honor from Liberia, Helen Suzman, Eli Weinberg, Esther Barsel and Hymie Barsel; from Sierra Leone, Yetta Barenblatt, Ray Alexander Simons, Baruch Hirson and Norma Kitson; and from Gambia, Ruth First, Hilda Bernstein, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein and Ronald Segal.

South Africa likens Israeli restrictions to apartheid


The South African government has compared new Israeli military restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank to apartheid pass laws.

The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement condemning the restrictions as “a gross violation of an individual’s human rights,” saying that the military order “further exacerbates the already fragile situation in Palestine,” according to a report in the daily Cape Times.

Israel has said the newly updated military order, designed to prevent infiltrations into the West Bank by requiring that residents have proper identification, has been in effect for many years. The order was updated recently to require an immediate hearing before a judge for illegal movement.

Avichai Adrai, the Israeli army spokesman for the Arabic media, said last week in a conference call with Palestinian journalists that the order actually will help legalize the presence of Gaza Palestinians who fled the coastal strip and now reside in the West Bank.

Americans for Peace now has charged that the updated order, which went into effect April 13, could lead to the arrest of an unknown number of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, as well as internationals living and working there.

“South Africa, because of its history, is particularly sensitive to the infringement of human rights that the carrying of a permit implies and the unilateral punishments that can be brought to bear on an individual by the state,” the South African statement said. It also said that the provisions were unclear and seemed “to disregard the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.”

The other ‘N- word’


Few words have the power to upset individuals and corrode a conversation more than the N-word. Its very use short-circuits rational discourse. Thrown around with frequency in certain circles, the N-word provokes and torments, gaining totemic power with each use.

The N-word I refer to is, of course, “Nazi.”

Over 60 years after the end of World War II, the N-word and its relatives, the F-bomb (“fascist”) and the H-bomb (“Hitler”), continue to wreak havoc on our language and political discourse.

For years, leftist critics have been quick to brand their rightwing opponents as fascists and spiritual heirs of der Fuhrer. Just months ago, the cultural critic and erstwhile Democratic political consultant Naomi Wolf published an entire book dedicated to the proposition that America is sliding toward fascism.

Lately, the right has gotten in on the act. Members of the Bush administration have branded Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a modern-day Hitler. And Jonah Goldberg, an editor at National Review, has published a book with the subtle title, “Liberal Fascism.”

Ironically, what Goldberg denounces as “argumentum ad hitlerum” is the very form of rhetoric he engages in. Only he says that such fascistic behavior is the domain of the left and not his beloved right.

Unfortunately for Wolf, Goldberg and others who let the N-word fly and drop F-bombs, their logic is deeply flawed. Although Socrates was a man and Hitler was a man, Socrates was not Hitler.

Writers like Wolf and Goldberg may argue that they are trying to learn from history in order not to repeat it, but labeling Ahmadinejad “Hitler” or Bush a “Nazi” or the entire Democratic Party since Woodrow Wilson a fascist movement sheds only heat and no light on the topics and cheapen the terms themselves.

In addition, these labels are not mere descriptions, but calls to action. For example, if Ahmadinejad is Hitler and Iran is Nazi Germany, then there is no question whether we need to strike Iran. And, if Bush is a fascist, then armed resistance is imperative.

For Jews and supporters of Israel, the use and abuse of these terms (not to mention the A-bomb, “apartheid,” and the other H-bomb, “Holocaust”) is particularly troubling. When critics of Israel label it the new South Africa guilty of committing a Holocaust, it precludes any reasoned discussion of the conflict or potential solutions. Instead, Zionism becomes racism, and the Jewish people must be denied the right to fulfill their national aspirations.

Amos Oz has warned against failing to differentiate between degrees of evil. I would go one step further and caution that use of the N-word, F-bombs and H-bombs represents the evil of banality and demonstrates a failing to understand both the past and the present.

When one starts on the track, there really is no stopping: school uniforms are fascistic; reverie for natural splendor is Nazi-like; and any charismatic demagogue becomes Hitler.

Instead of reaching for incendiary metaphors and historically inaccurate labels, we should strive, in the words of Pasternak, “to call each thing by its right name.”

Neither Ahmadinejad nor Bush is Hitler. The new left was not the Gestapo. Neocons are not Nazis. And Israel is not South Africa.

However, whether Los Angeles’ traffic is the devil incarnate is no longer even a question.

Jordan Susman is an associate at the law firm of Holme Roberts & Owen. He has written numerous articles for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the Orange County Register. Before moving to Los Angeles, he was a Voice of Israel foreign desk correspondent in Jerusalem.

Muslims and Jews must move on and strengthen ties


Muslim-Jewish relations in Los Angeles have undoubtedly undergone a test the past several weeks, the outcome of which is still unclear. But out of an acrimonious political battle,
many Muslims would like to move on and attempt to re-establish discussion and dialogue with our fellow Jewish Angelenos.

What is being referred to is last week’s decision by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations to give its John Allen Buggs Humanitarian Award to Muslim leader Dr. Maher Hathout and the vitriolic rhetoric from a segment of the Jewish community in the weeks preceding. It has, amongst other things, been a trial for Muslim-Jewish relations. But interestingly enough, the period has also seen certain bonds between the two groups solidify.

Based on his past criticisms of Israel, a segment of the Jewish community engaged in what can be fairly called a smear campaign against Hathout. In doing so, it took a long-standing moderate and intellectual Muslim leader and painted him as an extremist in an attempt to make him, and the organizations he represents, politically radioactive.

In a Sept. 1 press release, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) called Hathout “a radical Islamic leader masquerading as a moderate and deceiving the American public.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on Sept. 6 accused Hathout of “promoting violence, hatred and divisiveness”; this again because Hathout likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to “apartheid,” a term even Israeli news organizations use to characterize Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.

Led by these two groups, and eventually joined by others such as The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the FBI-designated terrorist group, the Jewish Defense League, an unsuccessful campaign to rescind the award was orchestrated.

This unfortunate effort, filled with more anger by some of these groups than I care to describe, did nothing but build resentment in Muslims. In their view, this campaign continued a pattern of opposing Muslim political integration purely because of its differing viewpoint on a foreign country.

But to others in the Jewish community, Hathout was none of the above. In fact, Hathout and the organizations of which he is a part, should be embraced and recognized for their struggle to bring moderation to the Muslim community and harmony in interfaith relations.

The Progressive Jewish Alliance, Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple, Rabbi Steve Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah and David Wolf, son of the prominent late Rabbi Alfred Wolf of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, were among the numerous interfaith leaders attesting to Hathout’s genuine and decades-long effort to build harmony and trust amongst Jews and Muslims in Los Angeles. Yes, they acknowledge there are differences on the Middle East, but that should never exclude Muslims like Hathout from the political process or make him ineligible to receive the award.

To these Jewish leaders who had the courage to stand on principle, we express our deep thanks. Their actions should not only make many Jews proud; they have also set an example for us as Muslim Americans. They represent the best of what Muslim-Jewish relations can bring.

To the AJCommittee, ZOA, Jewish Federation and others who have never really engaged us in dialogue, we stand at the ready. We stand ready to meet and engage on our differences, not expecting to come to agreement but expecting to make things more civil.

Brutal tactics such as those used in this campaign risk poisoning overall Muslim-Jewish relations and building resentment. Such a negative outcome could potentially impact not just Muslims and Jews in Los Angeles but, unfortunately, extend into Muslim-Jewish relations around the country.

To those in the Jewish community who know us, it is time to take our efforts to the next level. Rather than predicate our relations on the dynamics of the Middle East (of which we have no control and to which we actually stand opposed to dictatorial Arab regimes), we should work on domestic issues, such as homelessness, health care, education and other issues which our respective faiths have much in common and which effect us equally as members of the same society.

At the end of the day, Muslims and Jews have far more in common than they realize. It is time to start building on those commonalities for the betterment of our communities, our nation, and our world.

Omar Ricci is chairman of the

Truth Trumps Presbyterian Divestment Resolution


Last week, delegates to the Presbyterian Church USA’s (PCUSA) General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala., voted to undo their hateful 2004 anti-Israel divestment resolution. Understanding its significance requires a crash course in obscure acronyms.

The first is BDS, which stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It is the cornerstone of the Palestinian lobby’s strategy to delegitimize Israel.

The next is WCC, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches — an international umbrella group of mainline Protestant denominations, including America’s Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Methodist Churches. The WCC’s monomaniacal animus toward Israel is reflected in a moral crusade promoting such measures as economic boycotts and demanding the dismantling of its life-saving anti-terrorism barrier.

And then there was the United Nation’s WCAR, its World Conference Against Racism, which proved to be the launching pad for labeling Israel as the apartheid state of the 21st century. Israel’s friends have had a difficult time counteracting this campaign, which has wide support in Europe, on campuses and in some U.S. churches.

All this reflects the three D’s — demonization, double-standard and delegitimization — Natan Sharansky’s litmus test dividing acceptable criticism of Israel and outright anti-Semitism.

The WCC demonizes the Jewish state by issuing a tsunami of resolutions against Israel, far more than all trouble spots around the globe combined. Israel is a greater problem than genocide in Sudan, concentration camps in North Korea, prosecution of converts to Christianity in Muslim nations and the suppression of Tibet, to name a few.

Meanwhile, Protestant denominations demanding the dismantling of Israel’s security fence — without ever suggesting an alternative to protect against suicide bombing — constitutes a chilling double-standard. Demands are made to no other country to give free access for terrorists to mass murder in buses and restaurants.

And in the name of peace, Protestant denominations partner with organizations like Sabeel, whose answer to Israel’s “occupation” is a one-state solution (i.e., populated by an Arab majority) that delegitimizes Israel by insuring that it will not remain a Jewish state.

The BDS people want Americans to equate Israel with apartheid and come to treat it as an illegal, pariah vestige of European colonialism.

Last week, a group of Presbyterian activists had enough. They engineered a major setback to the well-oiled divestment machine.

The language of the 2004 PCUSA resolution — which had spurred similar talk and action in all of the other mainline Protestant denominations — was replaced with new language that spoke of investment in peaceful enterprises, rather than divestment. It included an apology to Jews for the hurt that the old “flawed” measure had caused.

While critical of some parts of the security fence, it asserted that it “does not believe that the Presbyterian Church (USA) should tell a sovereign nation whether or how it can protect its borders or handle matters of national defense.”

Delegates approved the new resolution with a 94 percent vote, after defeating two attempts by their own leadership to water it down. They then broke new ground by voting overwhelmingly to condemn all suicide bombings as crimes against humanity and to urge other churches and the United Nations to adopt a measure that would empower victims of terror to legally pursue those who incite and sponsor the real scourge of the 21st century.

The battle is hardly over. The highly politicized elements embedded in the PCUSA administration and in other mainline denominations will not roll over and play dead. Boycott efforts continue in Europe (as in continuing calls in Britain for academic boycott) and in Canada (where the largest public sector labor union recently voted to boycott Israeli goods).

But if Birmingham is not a final victory, it does provide the Jewish community an opportunity. We now know that rank-and-file Protestants are supportive of Israel’s struggle, even if that support has been weakened through years of one-sided propaganda fed by their churches’ administration.

We know that Jewry has dedicated Presbyterian friends within, who have worked tirelessly to put an end to the unfair targeting of the Jewish state. We have been reminded that fair-minded people are open to hear Israel’s narrative.

We recently accompanied 11 Presbyterians on a trip to Israel, where they met people never seen on the official trips organized by PCUSA leadership. We traveled to Birmingham to dialogue with delegates and to testify before the crucial Peacemaking Committee.

We were honored to present to the assembled Presbyterian leaders Dr. Judea Pearl, father of the Wall Street Journal reporter who was brutally slain in Pakistan with the words, “I am a Jew,” on his lips. With great dignity and clarity, Pearl rose above the din of the likes of Norman Finkelstein and other imported anti-Zionist Jews to tell delegates that divestment did not aid a single Palestinian, was not supported by the Israeli peace lobby and only succeeded in strengthening those who aid terror.

Finally, we also confirmed that there is a direct correlation between popular Presbyterian support for Israel with the quality of contacts they had with their Jewish neighbors.

Bottom line: We can neutralize corrosive anti-Israel propaganda with one tool — the truth. The only effective way to convey that truth is personal contact. Christians should hear from Jews why Israel is important and that there is more than one narrative about the Holy Land.

To achieve that goal, every neighborhood synagogue and temple has the potential to serve as facilitators of Israel’s hopes and aspirations, and along the way give our non-Jewish friends a chance to understand why Israel is so precious to us.

The destruction of Israel’s moral position will only be achieved if the lies repeated over and over again go unchallenged. Telling the truth over and over again is the only antidote. We can only do this by sitting together.

In 1963, the KKK dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four black girls attending Sunday school. Civil Rights leaders used the event to galvanize support from fence-sitting moderates and help transform a nation.

Time will tell if Jews turn their Birmingham moment into a wider effort to reach out to millions of decent Americans targeted by an insidious campaign to make Zionism a dirty word and to cripple Israel’s ability to defend herself.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the center’s director of interfaith affairs.

Seeing Red Over Green’s Israel Policy


Local leaders of the Green Party are working to overturn an anti-Israel resolution that has become official party policy. Resolution 190, which passed in November, calls for a boycott of and divestment from Israel until “the full individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people are realized.”

Indicating that they have “lost several party members as a result” of the resolution, the L.A. Green Party’s County Council wrote a formal letter stating that “the issue is far more complex than is captured in the resolution” and referred to the resolution as “divisive.” Resolution 190, which urges all companies, governments and student organizations around the world to boycott and divest from the Jewish state, makes no reference to violence that targets Israeli civilians, such as suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Nor does it take into account, for example, the nuclear threat from Iran or human rights violations in countries hostile to Israel.

Resolution 190 was adopted by the Green Party after four weeks of discussion, which culminated in approval by national party delegates in online voting.

Leading the effort to denounce and rescind the resolution are Gary Acheatel, a Beverly Hills High graduate who founded Advocates for Israel in Oregon two years ago, and Lorna Salzman, a New Yorker who ran in Green Party primaries as a presidential candidate in 2004. They have disseminated two substitute resolutions that aim to “initiate a broad, open dialogue” involving state committee members and the Israeli Green Party.

In a shift of rhetoric, the substitute language removes the onus from Israel and proposes a policy of opposing “U.S. military aid … to all countries that have a record of violating human rights, including the mistreatment and inequality of women….”

The internal conflict over Resolution 190 exposes deep rifts within the party. While the Green Party has long dedicated itself to ecological matters, there is some debate as to whether the party’s platform embraces human rights and peace, especially within the context of foreign policy.

When an issue is “far from what is already agreed upon in our national platform,” said Michael Feinstein, former mayor of Santa Monica and co-founder of the Green Party of California, “it is necessary to reach further into the party’s grass roots to ensure that positions taken are truly reflective of our membership.”

But Ruth Weill, a member of the Wisconsin Green Party, the source of Resolution 190, said the Green Party has always taken stands on issues of social justice: “We’re the party that’s been trying to end the Iraq War for three years.”

Weill, who like Feinstein is Jewish, adds that Resolution 190 is justified because of Israel’s “continued occupation, cutting off of water aquifers, violating tons of international laws.”

Supporters of Israel and Israel itself often have been on the defensive because of general hostility toward the nation but also specifically because of opposition to the Israeli presence in territories since the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1975, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War and the first oil crisis, the United Nations passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism. The United Nations rescinded that resolution in 1991.

Some Arab and Muslim-majority nations have long practiced an economic boycott of Israel, but in recent years the idea has gained some traction in the West. Israel has been equated with regimes like apartheid-era South Africa, even as other nations that notably violate human rights, such as North Korea and China, escape similar censure. The Presbyterian Church (USA) two years ago passed an anti-Israel resolution. Other entities have refused to do so. The British University Teachers Union and residents of Somerville, Mass., a suburb of Boston, rejected resolutions that proposed divestment from Israel, according to published reports.

Resolution 190 was the brainchild of two Wisconsin Greens, Ben Manski, who is Jewish, and Mohammed Abed, a member of Al-Awda, an Islamic organization that advocates for Palestinians’ right of return. Abed said that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is “comparable in many ways to South African apartheid.”

Manski defends the procedures by which Resolution 190 became party policy. He said that there was a “lengthy discussion” over four weeks and then online voting over two weeks. Although only 72 of 126 Green Party national delegates voted on this resolution, it was approved overwhelmingly; 55 supported it, 7 voted against it and 10 abstained.

Manski hails the process as “one of the most democratic, deliberative and transparent” of any party. However, the Israeli Green Party, which called Resolution 190 “a breach in trust,” was not consulted during the debate. Most Greens in Los Angeles County were also unaware of the resolution until after it passed, according to local party members interviewed.

“The vast majority of active Greens in L.A. County and across California had no idea that this was being debated or voted upon,” said Feinstein, who added that L.A. County has roughly 25,000 registered Greens, which he asserted is more than Wisconsin or any other state except California and New York.

At the time of the Kosovo war, said Feinstein, the German Green Party, which is part of the international Green Party, held a national meeting to discuss intervention in that Balkan republic.

“Here, we had an e-mail vote,” said Feinstein.

It isn’t entirely settled what it would take to rescind the resolution — whether it would require a majority or two-thirds vote. Nor is it clear what form the vote would take. But the critics don’t intend to let the matter go.

A series of talking points, circulated by Salzman and Acheatel, argue that Resolution 190 “reflects interference by and manipulation of the [Green Party] by outside special interest groups.”

They specifically cite Al-Awda and the American Muslim Association. Of these outside parties, Salzman said, “As far as I’m concerned, they wrote the declaration.”

Resolution co-author Abed called this “utter garbage,” adding, “Ben Manski and I wrote it as members of the Green Party,” not as representatives of any other organization.

 

Songs of Power


On a December day in 1993, an anxious Lee Hirsch sat on a747 bound for riot-torn South Africa with $600 and a small video camera.

The 20-year-old filmmaker didn’t know a soul inJohannesburg, but he had two telephone numbers and a mission: To make adocumentary about the protest music that had spurred the anti-apartheidmovement. To buy his ticket, he had sold his car and ignored the StateDepartment official who had called about the travel advisory.

“It was months after [American student] Amy Biehl had beenmurdered in Cape Town, and the plane was empty,” said Hirsch, a politicallyprogressive Jew from Long Island. “I was very scared, and I was prepared toturn around and go home the next day.”

Instead, he struggled for nine years to make “Amandla! ARevolution in Four-Part Harmony,” which won the audience and Freedom ofExpression Awards at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and opens today in LosAngeles. Named for the Xhosa word for power, the exuberant movie explores the historyof apartheid and the music that helped overturn it. While some of the songshave previously been featured on the soundtracks of fictional films such as”Cry Freedom,” the documentary is the first to explore the phenomenon ofprotest music itself.

For the energetic Hirsch, who punctuates conversation withyouthful invectives such as “awesome,” one inspiration was the Jewish mandateof tikkun olam (repairing the world).

“I learned about it in a college class on the earlyChasidim, the Jewish radicals of their day,” said Hirsch, whose previous filmprofiled his godfather, the Holocaust survivor. “Coming out of the Jewishhistory of oppression, I feel we have the responsibility to stand up and makethe world a better place. In ‘Amandla!’ I wanted to show the power of music toaffect this kind of social and political change.”

Hirsch has been preoccupied with anti-apartheid music sincesuccessfully lobbying his Vermont boarding school to divest its South Africanholdings in the 1980s.

“I’d watch a news broadcast about unrest in a township andrealize that people were singing, because I could hear it under thenewscaster’s voice,” he said. “I started becoming obsessed with the music, andI vowed to learn more.”

Easier said than done. No studies or books existed on thesongs, which were largely undocumented. And the white, Jewish filmmaker didn’tknow any of the black activists or performers. His first break came when hecalled one of his telephone contacts two days after arriving in Johannesburgand reached a Zulu family whose son was prominent in the MK, the military wingof the African National Congress. Before long, he was tagging along tounderground meetings in the townships, which he describes as “row after row ofunpaved streets and garbage burning in overstuffed receptacles.”

“Suddenly, I was in the middle of things,” he said.

By the mid-1990s, Hirsch had partnered with “Amandla!”producer Sherry Simpson, an African American TV music producer based in LosAngeles, and had relocated to Johannesburg to develop the film. Over the nextfive years, he criss-crossed the country with his video camera, filling 12notebooks with research and persuading activists to appear in his film.

Parliament member Thandi Modise described how she sang tocomfort herself when her water broke during a prison beating and she was dumpedin her dank cell to give birth. An ex-death row warden stood in the former”hanging room” at Pretoria Central Prison and recalled leading shackledactivists to the gallows (they sang, too).

At a 1995 rally, Hirsch filmed a beaming President NelsonMandela dancing to a victory song before the country’s first democraticelections. 

He believes he was granted the access because he was aneager American, not a white South African; it didn’t hurt that he was Jewish.”It’s well known that most of the white anti-apartheid activists were Jews,” hesaid by telephone from his publicist’s office in Manhattan. “These people wereloved by the black community as if they were black, as if they were one of theirown.”

For two years, Hirsch lived in the guest bedroom of one suchactivist, Dr. Paul Davis, a “struggle doctor” who cared for detainees when theywere released from prison. Hirsch grew to love the multicultural Shabbatdinners Paul held with his wife, Allison Russell, a chief physician at thelargest black hospital in South Africa. “They were a tremendous inspiration tome,” Hirsch said of the couple. “We talked a lot about tikkun olam and what ourresponsibilities are to the world as Jews.”

Ten years after Hirsch set off on that empty flight forJohannesburg, he still considers directing socially-conscious films to be oneof those responsibilities. “I want to make movies that fuse my activism with alarger audience,” he said.

“Amandla!” opens Feb. 28 at Laemmle Sunset 5, 8000 SunsetBlvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; and in March in Orange County. 

Durban, the Sequel


Geneva and Ann Arbor, Mich., may be a world apart, but they now have something in common: both are settings for a reinvigorated effort to undercut the very legitimacy of Israel.

The same folks responsible for turning this summer’s Durban conference on racism into an anti-Israel free-for-all are getting set for an encore performance in Geneva next week. And in college towns like Ann Arbor, Arab and Muslim student groups are using spurious comparisons with South Africa to discredit Israel.

Neither effort alone will succeed, but cumulatively, the campaign, which also includes the movement to charge Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with war crimes, can only make it harder to reach the goal many boosters of these efforts claim to support — genuine peace.

The central theme in both efforts is this: Israel is the new apartheid state, as illegitimate in its existence as the South African government whose blatantly racist policies produced revulsion around the world and, ultimately, economic sanctions that helped bring about its demise.

That was the message promoted by the hijackers of this summer’s United Nations-sponsored racism conference in Durban. The target wasn’t Israeli policy; it was an attack on the idea of a Jewish State, and on the Jews who support it — portrayed as every bit as contemptible as the racists who supported the old South African regime. The fact that the conference was held in Durban added resonance to the charge, exactly as protest planners had intended.

Durban was a failure for Arab and Islamic nations in some key respects. The final conference document ducked the "Zionism as racism" charge, and Washington, recognizing it for the farce it was, boycotted the meeting.

But the meeting garnered enormous media attention; the anti-Israel slurs were repeated endlessly around the world. Respected international groups raised few objections. That was enough to encourage anti-Israel forces to move on to Geneva, where a meeting of the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War will take place Dec. 5.

The convention, who signed the rules on Aug. 12, 1949, has met only once before; that meeting, too, was convened solely to take political swipes at Israel.

Countless wars have taken place in those 52 years, countless atrocities against civilians, but only Israel has been singled out for censure by having a special session called to consider its actions.

The anti-Israel coalition will also bring many of the same nongovernmental groups that sullied this summer’s racism conference to Geneva. Their overall goal: a formal acknowledgment by the international body that Israel is in violation of the convention, and, outside the official meeting, another anti-Israel feeding frenzy.

There’s nothing new in efforts to use international organizations to discredit Israel, as a long series of unbalanced U.N. resolutions demonstrates. But there is a new vehemence in the effort and a new sophistication. Themes have been updated to appeal to Third-World nations and a European bloc that is susceptible to the anti-colonialism pitch. International human rights groups have been drawn in.

In the case of Durban, U.N. human rights officials played a facilitating role in the anti-Israel ambush; it was Switzerland that gave in to Arab and Muslim importuning and called next week’s Geneva conference, and it’s the E.U., again defying a U.S. boycott, that is lending it international credibility.

Geneva has the potential to be much more damaging than Durban; even a watered-down resolution passed by the signatory nations will create the impression — patently absurd, but gratifying to anti-Zionists — that Israel alone is guilty of violating a widely recognized, important human rights treaty. There’s also an expanding domestic front to the new anti-Israel campaign.

Earlier this year, Islamic and Arab groups on campuses across the country called for a "divestment" campaign against Israel similar to the successful effort in the 1970s and 1980s in which colleges and city governments were pressed to get rid of their investments in racist South Africa. Palestinian students’ groups had scheduled a national conference on the subject for October, but it was postponed after the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, there are signs the campaign is resuming, especially in traditionally liberal college towns such as Berkeley and Ann Arbor. It is being supported even by some Israeli human rights activists.

Realistically, this effort is unlikely to produce any significant economic pressure on Israel. Overall, support for Israel is at record levels; Ann Arbor and Berkeley are hardly Main-Street America.

But that’s not the point; promoters of the effort hope to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy in small but important increments.

Ideological Insults


As terror struck New York and Washington, D.C., Jewish activists were still recovering from the ideological bomb of a U.N. conference that lashed out at Israel as racist and apartheid.

The final governmental declaration adopted here last Saturday by the U.N. World Conference Against Racism was dramatically toned down in its criticism of Israel.

But an earlier declaration by non-governmental organizations remains on the ledger as, in the view of Jewish activists, the most damning indictment of Jews since World War II.

The impact of the NGO declaration may be seen when a series of U.N. forums resumes later this month.

Israel and the United States withdrew their delegations from Durban several days after the NGO declaration, and vigorous lobbying by European governments managed to remove direct references to Israel from the conference’s final governmental declaration.

That prompted back-slapping in Jerusalem — but the document nevertheless criticizes the Jewish State by implication.

Compromise language adopted Saturday, after the conference had been extended a day in the search for a settlement, condemned anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The Arab bloc’s last-minute effort to label foreign occupation “among the forms and sources of racial discrimination” was also rejected.

But the conference did recognize the “plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation.”

In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior breathed a sigh of relief that the document did not “include one word condemning Israel.” Foreign Minister Shimon Peres described it as an “accomplishment for Israeli foreign policy.”

Beneath the spin, though, lay a more ominous truth.

It would be one thing for the United Nations to acknowledge the Palestinian “plight” at say, the U.N. General Assembly. It’s another when the linkage is made at an anti-racism conference.

The implication is that Palestinian suffering is a result of racism — and that Israel therefore must be practicing racism.

In contrast to the governmental declaration, the NGO declaration requires no parsing. It accuses Israel of “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “racism” and “apartheid.”

It calls for the creation of an international tribunal to investigate war crimes and other crimes that Israel allegedly has committed against the Palestinians.

And it unveils what Jewish observers say is a strategy aimed at dismantling Israel through extreme international isolation.

In linking Israel with the old South Africa as pariah apartheid states based on notions of racial superiority, the NGO declaration proposes a similar recipe for dismantling — “mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel” and the “launch of an international anti-Israel apartheid movement” through “a global solidarity campaign network of international civil society, U.N. bodies and agencies, business communities, and to end the conspiracy of silence among states, particularly the European Union and the United States.”

While the “apartheid” tag is new, some Jewish activists suggested it is merely an escalation in the Palestinian diplomatic offensive against Israel.

“No doubt, the language adopted here is another brick in the wall for those using international human-rights mechanisms to delegitimize or even dismantle the Jewish State,” said Stacy Burdett, the Anti-Defamation League’s associate director of government affairs. “This movement has always existed. But our opponents have demonstrated an unprecedented sophistication and cunning.”

While the language may have changed, the intent remains the same, said Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and renowned human rights lawyer.

“In a world in which human rights has emerged as the secular religion of our time, Israel, portrayed as the worst of human-rights violators, is the new anti-Christ,” said Cotler, who worked closely with the Jewish caucus in Durban.

“Classical anti-Semitism was discrimination against or denial of the right of individual Jews to live as equal members of a free society,” he said. “The new anti-Jewishness is discrimination against [Israel], or denial of the right of the Jewish State to live as an equal member of the family of nations.”

The declaration was so harsh that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said she would not recommend it to governmental delegates as a guideline for their own declaration.

However, Robinson said, she also was determined that the final declaration recognize the Palestinians’ “suffering” — indicating her belief that a racism conference was the proper context for Palestinian complaints.

While some observers and activists dismissed the NGO declaration as irrelevant, the Palestinians and their allies will be able to claim that the “voice of civil society” has spoken, since roughly 8,000 NGO delegates from around the world were on hand.

Jewish activists suggested that the NGO statement was so caustic that Palestinian sympathizers felt they could ease off in the government document, appearing magnanimous and open to compromise.

But Jewish observers said they wouldn’t be surprised if the “racist, apartheid” mantra comes up again when the U.N. General Assembly reconvenes in New York later this month, at an upcoming U.N. conference on children, at the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and in other forums.

In addition, pro-Palestinian student groups plan to launch a nationwide campaign Oct. 12-14, urging people and institutions to divest from “Israeli apartheid,” a la South Africa.

The declaration raises other questions.

Some wonder whether the European defense of Israel in the waning days of the conference was motivated by a sense of justice or Europe’s longtime desire to play a more influential role in the Mideast crisis.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, whose country currently holds the E.U.’s rotating presidency, hinted as much when, at a press conference late Friday night, he boasted that the continent is emerging as a “peace power.”

Since the intifada broke out a year ago, the Palestinians have been pushing to marginalize the Americans — whom the Arab world considers hopelessly allied to Israel — and to “internationalize” the Mideast crisis by bringing in other parties.

When the European Union came to Israel’s defense at Durban, a Jordanian journalist lashed out at Michel, suggesting that the E.U.’s hard bargaining was damaging its status as a “neutral” player.

Finally, with the Mideast conflict drowning out practically all other causes at Durban — and detracting from a potentially historic apology for slavery — there was concern about who would be blamed for the missed opportunity.

Some at Durban grumbled about U.S. Jewish groups and Israel, alleging that they have too much influence in Washington and orchestrated the U.S. pullout.

“Those groups who didn’t get their issues aired fully will be looking for someone to blame,” said Alan Gold, a spokesman for B’nai B’rith International. “And the historic scapegoating is of the Jews.”