Australian broadcaster rejects ‘Promise’ complaints

An Australian TV broadcaster rejected complaints from Jewish groups that a controversial series “endorses and reinforces demeaning stereotypes about Jews.”

Special Broadcasting Service ombudsman Sally Begbie this week dismissed a 31-page complaint by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry into “The Promise,” a four-part drama that screened in Australia late last year.

The ECAJ, an umbrella body for the country’s Jewish groups, argued in its submission that the series breached the broadcaster’s code because it portrays its Jewish characters as “variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical.”

The series, first broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4, deals with the experiences of a British soldier during the Palestine mandate, and his granddaughter, who returns to the region after discovering his diary.

It drew criticism from British Jews for being reductive and absolving Britain of its responsibility for the evolution of the conflict in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as for depicting Palestinians as saintly and poor and Israelis as wealthy and callous.

Some reviewers repeated these critiques, although others said the series was balanced.

“The series shamelessly and persistently utilizes the anti-Semitic motif of the greedy Jew,” the ECAJ submission said. “It is a landmark in the creeping rehabilitation of anti-Semitism in Western culture.”

In dismissing the complaint, the SBS Complaints Committee said in a seven-page rebuttal that the series did not violate the SBS Codes of Practice and that “the ordinary reasonable viewer fully appreciated that The Promise was a fictional drama and nothing more than that.”

It also noted that “accuracy per se” was not a requirement in respect of a drama and said it was “an oversimplification to cast the drama as being bad Jews versus good Palestinians.”

ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim described the SBS response as “disappointing and unsatisfactory.”

Glenn Beck reneges on promise to rabbis

Yesterday, Glenn Beck and the leadership of Fox News made a mockery of their commitment to me and two rabbis. Let me take a few steps back to tell you why what happened yesterday scares me.

On Tuesday night, many in our community were gathered together, in Brooklyn, in Dayton, in Santa Barbara. Seventy-two years ago, the homes, shops, and synagogues of many of our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were ransacked, broken, and burned as Nazi storm troopers destroyed towns and villages across Germany and Austria. Many historians view Kristallnacht as the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust.

Washington Post journalist Dana Milbank has observed that Fox News host Glenn Beck has a bit of a Nazi fetish. From Obama’s inauguration through June 2010, Beck had “202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels.” Yesterday he spoke again about the Holocaust. But it was not to commemorate Kristallnacht. It was to engage in an insidious form of Holocaust revisionism. His motivation? To score political points against George Soros, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor.

As many of you know, I was the subject of a personal attack by Glenn Beck in May of this year. Responding to an article I wrote supporting a government role to advance the common good, Beck scolded me, declaring that my words “are what led to the death camps in Germany” and that I “as a Jew, should know better.” To discuss this and other, similar comments, on July 26, I joined rabbis Steve Gutow and David Ellenson, on behalf of fourteen prominent leaders of national Jewish organizations, in a meeting with Fox News President Roger Ailes and the producer of Glenn Beck’s television show, Joel Cheatwood. We spoke for almost an hour about the concerns held by many Jews about Glenn Beck’s constant and often inappropriate invocation of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany on the air.

We were assured by Ailes and Cheatwood that they understand our concerns and would explain them to Beck. Two days later, I received a hand-written note from Beck, which stated: “Simon, Joel shared the details of your meeting yesterday. Please know that I understand the sensitivity and sacred nature of this dark chapter in Human History. Thank you for your candor and helpful thoughts.”

Yesterday, Glenn Beck and the leadership of Fox News made a mockery of their professed understanding. In his own words, “George Soros used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps.”

No one who truly understands “the sensitivity and sacred nature” of the Holocaust would deliberately and grotesquely mischaracterize the experience of a 13-year-old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary whose father hid him with a non-Jewish family to keep him alive. Many other Jews survived the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by changing their identities and hiding with Righteous Gentiles. With today’s falsehoods, Beck has engaged in a form of Holocaust revisionism.

I have had the privilege recently of getting to know George Soros. During our conversations, he made it clear that his experience surviving the Holocaust seared a simple but profound truth in his brain. Jews suffer in nationalist societies and thrive in open societies. When he began his philanthropy, it was driven by this insight. It’s why he named his foundation the Open Society Institute. This year alone, he has donated $700 million in an effort to make the world safe for all outsiders, to protect the weak from being preyed on by the powerful. It is what motivated one of his sons to pursue a PhD in Jewish Studies, with a focus on Modern European Jewish history.

Yet according to Glenn Beck, Soros “is a collaborator” who “saw people into the gas chambers.” So what’s the truth? It’s no secret. Here is the account provided by Michael T. Kaufman in his 2002 biography, Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire.

This is what actually happened. Shortly after George went to live with Baumbach [the Righteous Gentile hiding Soros], the man was assigned to take inventory on the vast estate of Mor Kornfeld, an extremely wealthy aristocrat of Jewish origin. The Kornfeld family had the wealth, wisdom and connections to be able to leave some of its belongings behind in exchange for permission to make their way to Lisbon. Baumbach was ordered to go to the Kornfeld estate and inventory the artworks, furnishings, and other property. Rather than leave his “godson” [Soros] behind in Budapest for three days, he took the boy with him. As Baumbach itemized the material, George walked around the grounds and spent time with Kornfeld’s staff. It was his first visit to such a mansion, and the first time he rode a horse. He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was Sandor Kiss. Among his practical concerns was to make sure that no one saw him pee.

Of all the new “Tea Party” leaders, Glenn Beck is one of the most vitriolic, and – with more than 800 hours of on-air time a year – the most visible. His portrayal of Soros today as the “Puppet Master,” as the special was called, evokes anti-Semitic stereotypes from the “devaluer of many currencies” to “advocate for one world government” from “anti-American” to “thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us.”

Beck’s words have consequences. They advance a world view that ultimately places Jews like Soros in the crosshairs, not unlike what we saw with Father Coughlin in the 1930s or the John Birch Society in the 1950s. Byron Williams, a Beck acolyte who recently engaged in a shoot-out with police on his way to kill “people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU,” shares his hero’s hatred of Soros and other “progressives.” Given the more than 40 percent of Jews self-identify as liberal, this hatred targets us.

I will be sending a letter with other Jewish leaders to Glenn Beck, Roger Ailes, and Rupert Murdoch, expressing to them what I have expressed to you. I will be in touch with you again tomorrow as we begin to respond to this most recent outrage. Thank you in advance for your continued support in the days and weeks to come.

A Wise Peace

The first thing Itzhak Frankenthal did after his son’s murder was exact threepromises from his wife. First, he said, the couple would not blameGod. Second, they would thank God for at least allowing them to havetheir son’s remains to bury. Many Israeli families never receive thebodies of their loved ones killed by war or, in Arik Frankenthal’scase, by terrorists. Lastly, Frankenthal made his wife promise thattheir life without Arik would go on. After sitting


, Frankenthal walked intohis children’s room, turned on the TV, and told them that they mustgo back to doing normal things.

But Frankenthal is the first to acknowledge thathis life has never been the same since July 7, 1994, when Arik’s bodywas found dumped in a village near Ramallah, riddled with bulletholes and stab wounds. The soldier had been hitchhiking home on leavewhen he was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists. He was19.

Before his murder, Arik, an Orthodox Jew, had beendrawn to the nascent religious Zionist peace movement. He had spokento his father about Oz V’Shalom/Netivot Shalom, a group thatmaintains that Jewish law, or halacha, requires Israel tocompromise with the Palestinians. One month after his son’s death,Frankenthal dissolved his business interests and threw hisconsiderable energies behind Oz V’Shalom — eventually becomingexecutive director.

He also organized 50 families who have lost lovedones to terror to speak out for compromise. “We are suffering,” hesays of the family group. “We know what it means to lose ourchildren. Eventually, we will have to give the Palestinians a state,but, in the meantime, we will lose more children. Why wait?”

If you want to sway public opinion in Israel’sskeptical society, you better come armed with the right credentials.Frankenthal, the Orthodox father who lost a son to terrorism, knowshe has, if nothing else, instant credibility.

He can understand those unwilling to concede anypart of the Land of Israel, which they believe God granted the Jewishpeople. “I know it belongs to us,” he says, “but we realize we can’thold on to all of Greater Israel without paying a very high price,losing our morale and losing our children.” The Jewish law of savinglife, pikuach nefesh, clearly overrides the value of expanding Jewishterritory. “There is nothing in all of Jewish values about lettingchildren die for a bigger Israel,” he says. “Why hold on to the Tombof the Fathers [near Hebron] to create graves for ourchildren?”

Oz V’Shalom’s message has resonated in a worldwhere Orthodoxy more often than not connotes fundamentalism. “Thepeople who are credible are religious people talking peace andcompromise,” says Frankenthal.

The organization has grown from 450 to 4,500members. The next step is to market the group’s peace plan, whichcalls for Israel to annex about 7 percent of the West Bank and Gaza,and along with it about 100,000 of the 130,000 settlers. The rest ofthose areas would become a Palestinian state, devoid of heavyarmaments.

The group devised the plan after Frankenthal heldmeetings with Israelis of all political leanings, generals andPalestinians. A just peace, he concluded, is impossible. How can heever exact justice for the murder of his son? “Don’t look for a justpeace,” he says, “look for a wise peace.”

Frankenthal is in Los Angeles as part of afund-raising drive to help Oz V’Shalom distribute its “Wise Peace”plan in Israel and to educate settlers and religious students on thehalacha of peace.

Because of his background, Frankenthal has beenable to take his message where other peace activists rarely tread. Hewill speak on Saturday morning at the Orthodox B’nai David-JudeaCongregation on Pico Boulevard and on Sunday at Temple Israel ofHollywood. Both events are open to the public.

In his pursuit of peace, Frankenthal is fearlessand focused. “Since Arik’s murder, nothing upsets me. When I wonderif what I’m doing is right, Arik reaches out to me and says, ‘Thankyou, Dad.'”

For more information, write Oz V’Shalom, P.O.B.4433, Jerusalem, Israel, 91043. Tel. (02) -566-4711. — Robert Eshman,Managing Editor

A Women’s Peace

Perhaps it was only coincidence, but just as ElNiño made a last swirl through Los Angeles, two of Israel’smost outspoken feminists/peace activists, Naomi Chazan and GaliaGolan, swept through town with their gusty critiques of the Jewishstate’s political and social progress.

At a lecture last month organized by Friends ofGivat Haviva, Chazan spoke of her sadness, anger and disappointmentover the stagnation of the peace process.

“Nothing is moving in the peace process. Nothing,”she said.

According to Chazan, the stalled peace process hascontributed to Israel’s economic recession, a sharp division amongcitizens, and an unpleasant mood in Israel. One of the most upsettingresults of the frozen negotiations with Arab countries are the sourrelations that Israel now suffers with other countries. Some, shesaid, are even considering applying economic sanctions onIsrael.

“Three years ago, we were flying high in theinternational arena, and now people don’t even want to talk to us,”said Chazan.

Galia Golan, in an interview with The JewishJournal, expressed similar sentiments.

“With Rabin, tourism was up, investments were up,morale was up. We were beginning to be part of the region,” saidGolan, professor of Soviet East European Studies at Hebrew Universityand founding member and spokesperson for Peace Now.

In contrast to the hope and excitement thatIsraelis felt during the Rabin years, many now feel isolated,disillusioned and disappointed. Many had hoped that the Netanyahugovernment would support the Oslo accords and witness thecontinuation of Israel’s political and economic successes, Golansaid.

“This [Netanyahu] government was democraticallyelected, but I don’t think this is what they were elected to do,” shesaid.

Golan and Chazan may have rained some on Israel’s50th-birthday parades, but their criticism of government policy wasmitigated by news of headway the two women were making in improvingthe status of women in Israel. One purpose of Golan’s visit to theUnited States was to raise funds for the Lafer Center for Women’sStudies at Hebrew University, the only program of its kind at anIsraeli University. In early June, scholars will meet in Jerusalemfor the Lafer Center Conference on Women in the Yishuv and the EarlyState, which will be held jointly with Brandeis University.

As chair of the Knesset’s Committee on thePersonal Status of Women, Chazan helped push through the legislativebody a bill that defines and prohibits sexual harassment ingovernment offices and institutions.

Despite their recent achievements, Golan andChazan note two major obstacles that Israeli women still face: thepolitical influence of the religious parties, who have limitednotions of women’s roles, and sexism in the army. The message manywomen receive in the army is that they are not needed. But Golanmaintains that peace will improve the situation of women.

“The army is sexist. It is a patriarchalsituation. With peace, the social importance of the army will recede.This will be good for women,” said Golan.

“We’re not looking for peace because peace is anobjective,” said Chazan. “We’re looking for peace as a vehicle for ajust society in Israel.” — OritArfa, Contributing Writer