Geneva Pact Generates Ray of Optimism

Some thoughts, optimistic ones, on the effects already felt from the Geneva agreement:

1) The view from the Israeli street is that the agreement is another trick, another Palestinian trick to fool Israel into believing that they really want peace, and then, when our guard is down, they’ll swallow us whole.

Yet if that’s the case, why is the Palestinian street up in arms? Yasser Abed Rabbo and his Palestinian delegation to Geneva have been branded traitors and collaborators by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and thousands of furiously protesting Palestinians. This is as good as a death sentence.

Rabbo’s house has been sprayed with gunfire. A campaign of "intimidation and terrorism" has been carried out by Fatah hardliners against pro-Geneva party members, according to The Jerusalem Post.

All this is a reminder that the Palestinians, as a whole, are by no means ready to make peace with Israel. Violent, uncompromising forces are still calling the shots in that society, literally and figuratively. As for the Palestinians’ leader, his view of Geneva, like his view of all matters, depends on how he sees it affecting his power and prestige on a given day.

But all this, on the other hand, says something very different about Rabbo and the several hundred Palestinians who went to Geneva with him. Why are they subjecting themselves to such abuse from their own people, why are they placing themselves and their families in danger, if all they really want is to destroy Israel?

If that was their goal, they would have done much better to stay home, go along with the program, keep Israel bogged down in the West Bank and Gaza and just let demography run its course. That’s the way to destroy Israel.

Instead, despite the bullets, the threats and the fatwas (religious decrees), they left their homes, signed a "virtual" peace agreement with Israelis in the most publicly exposed forum imaginable and came home again. These are brave people.

They are not anywhere close to being in power in Palestinian areas, in fact, they are held in contempt by the powers that be there, but they are a force. Who knows, maybe even one with potential.

For decades, Israelis have been demanding, "Where is the Arab world’s Peace Now?" It was just founded in Geneva.

2) The focus of Israeli criticism of the agreement is that the Palestinians don’t really give up the right of return, that it’s a trick, they actually keep the right of return and all 4 million Palestinian refugees can come swooping down on Israel, and there’s nothing we’ll be able to do about it, because Yossi Beilin signed this agreement, this death warrant.

But again, ask the Palestinian street if the Geneva agreement gives up what they hold sacred as their right of return. This is what all the uproar in the territories has been about.

This is why, on the day of the signing ceremony, "[T]he Palestinian Religious Scholars Association, one of the leading Islamic bodies in the Palestinian Authority, issued a fatwa forbidding any Muslim from signing an agreement that forgoes the right of return for all refugees to their original homes in Israel," as The Jerusalem Post reported.

If this is another Palestinian trick, why aren’t they laughing in the refugee camps?

3) Given the entrenchment and determination of the settlers and their political backers, starting with Ariel Sharon, it’s easy to believe that Israel will never find the strength to cut the rope with the Palestinians. Yet the overwhelming Western support for the Geneva accord is a reminder that the settlers and their friends are up against the aggregate will of every government in the world — including the Bush administration, the best friend the Israeli right ever had in the White House.

The presence at the Geneva signing ceremony of an official U.S. observer and the meeting in Washington between Beilin, Rabbo and Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a rude message to the Israeli government. (Since the Sharon government doesn’t respond to gentle U.S. criticism of the occupation, rudeness has become necessary.)

The Bush administration’s message was that it does not view the takeover of the West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel’s defense. Moreover, it does not view the Israeli takeover as part of the U.S.-led war on terror but rather as a huge obstacle to progress in this war.

By encouraging the Geneva agreement, was the Bush administration out to destroy Israel, too?

4) The agreement is a reminder to the rest of the world that not all Palestinians and Israelis are dug in for eternal war and unmoved by any other possibility. The reaction to Geneva from the street — both streets — is a reminder that this description does fit most Palestinians and Israelis. Not everyone, though. There is an opposition — on both sides, now — and it may have just come alive.

All in all, not bad for a "virtual" peace agreement.

Larry Derfner is The Journal’s Tel Aviv correspondent

ADL Marks 90 Years

The Anti-Defamation League is celebrating its 90th anniversary this week, marking its beginnings in Chicago when Sigmund Livingston, a young Jewish lawyer, watched a vaudeville show portraying Jews as greedy, dishonest characters with hooked noses and thick accents.

Knowing that such stereotypes were pervasive, Livingston and other members of his local B’nai B’rith chapter formed a committee to protest ethnically offensive Vaudeville acts. They were surprised when the Vaudville mangers agreed to remove the material from their shows — they simply had not realized that such humor was offensive.

In 1913 Livingston moved to formalize his group with a $200 budget and two desks in his law office as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Soon afterward, in an atmosphere of rampant anti-Semitism, Leo Frank, an Atlanta pencil factory manager, was found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit, and in 1915, he was lynched by a vigilante mob. The ADL was in business.

In the nine decades since, the ADL has expanded beyond anything Livingston could have imagined. However, it has never lost sight of the aims in its original charter: "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all."

In the 1920s, the unemployment and economic distress after World War I led to the scapegoating of Jews and discrimination in education, employment and housing. During that period, the Ku Klux Klan was revitalized and the ADL’s model legislation to unmask the KKK became the basis for state laws.

The time of fighting against quotas and job discrimination was overshadowed by a new sense of urgency in the 1930s, as fascism and Nazism gained ground in Europe. Jews were blamed for the nation’s economic woes and for bringing the country to the brink of war. The ADL monitored and exposed the growing fascist movement in America, through expanded fact-finding work and sharing of data with law enforcement, the press and the public.

With the establishment of the State of Israel it became a new priority for the ADL to make the case for United States’ only democratic ally in the Mideast.

At home, the ADL helped to abolish discrimination in college admissions, liberalize immigration laws and end Jim Crow segregation and the no-Jews-allowed policies of numerous resorts and hotels. Joining with the African American community, the ADL was on the front lines in the South, fighting for passage of landmark Civil Rights legislation.

Following the Israeli-Arab wars of 1967 and 1973 and frequent anti-Israel resolutions passed by the United Nations, the ADL continued to make the case for the Jewish state to the United States and the world.

During the 1980s, the ADL continued to expose hatemongers such as Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam and former KKK leaders David Duke and Tom Metzger. The ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents became an important measure of anti-Semitism and a model adopted by other minority groups.

The 1990s brought the new technology of the Internet, which quickly became an important tool for anti-Semites, racists and extremists. During the ’90s, the ADL wrote model hate crimes legislation that is now on the books in 46 states.

The new century brought a new intifada, coupled with suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism in Israel and abroad. Following Sept. 11, the "big lie," the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory blaming Jews for Sept. 11, spread through most of the world.

This past year has seen a continued rise in global anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement in Arab and Muslim media. In Europe, classic anti-Semitism has been compounded by anti-Israel sentiment, with violent and lethal results.

Recently, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a gathering of 57 Islamic nations that Jews are the enemy of Islam — that we control the world and must be defeated. Not a single leader in attendance stood up to challenge his remarks.

How do we continue the good fight in the face of such enormous challenges and adversity? We just do. Every day, evidence comes across my desk of what can happen when we allow prejudice to invade our culture and we fail to fight bigotry with every fiber of our being.

The Matthew Shepards of this world end up tied to fences in Laramie, Wyo., and the James Byrds of this world are dragged behind a truck in Jasper, Texas.

In Los Angeles, we have witnessed the North Valley Jewish Community Center shootings and the murder of a Filipino postal worker, the serial beating of gays in West Hollywood, fatalities in the terrorist shootings at Los Angeles International Airport, the beating of a developmentally disabled African American minor by police officers in Inglewood, the attack on Jewish youths by a group of Muslim youths and an Immigration and Naturalization Service sting operation to round up men and boys from Middle Eastern countries.

We have challenged each of these wrongs publicly, while assisting victims and prosecutors privately. We continue to counteract anti-Semitic stereotypes and to fight all forms of prejudice, bigotry and discrimination as we have since 1913. After 90 years, we have learned a lot and gained worldwide recognition.

We want nothing so much as to put ourselves out of business. Sadly, we are still very much in demand.

On Sunday, Dec. 7, the ADL will honor the lifetime achievements of Billy and Tootsie Veprin. The evening will also feature entertainment by Lou Rawls and a presentation by activist and author Irshad Manji. For information, call, (310) 446-8000, ext. 260.

Amanda Susskind is director of the Pacific Southwest region of the Anti-Defamation League.

An Open Letter to Avraham Burg

On Sept. 26, the Journal published an opinion piece by MK Avraham Burg critical of Israel’s current government (“Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses.”) The following is a reply to Burg. To see Burg’s letter, go to

Dear Avrum,

I’ve known you — within our long-time family friendship — for many years. I never commented on any of your political statements when you gave them to Israeli newspapers.

However, your article “A Failed Israeli Society is Collapsing” is especially disappointing because it was not only published in Israel, but also abroad in the “International Herald Tribune,” “Le Monde” (Paris) and “Suddeutsche Zeitung” (Munich). Under these circumstances I cannot restrain myself from reacting to it.

I must protest against your level of argumentation and the style of your essay. Your way of presenting issues is irresponsible, undemocratic and lacks basic honesty. It ignores all the great values that are the basis of the Jewish State up to this day.

In very general accusations — which are characteristic of the whole article — you say that the Israeli nation (!) today rests on a “scaffolding of corruption.” No word about Israel being a state with a most developed judicial system and courts that are open to all parts of Israeli society (Arabs included) in order to supervise justice in the State of Israel and to fight corruption in all its manifestations — a tiny state surrounded by totalitarian governments that are not bound by the rule of law. No word about the vast majority dedicated to Israel without any personal corruption whatsoever. No word about the tremendous job done in Israel with the huge emigration from Russia and Ethiopia. No word about the thousands of volunteers fulfilling a wonderful task for all underprivileged people — from handicapped children to helpless aged persons. No word about the free press of Israel, which detects openly any irregularities within the government and its branches. No word about the unlimited devotion to Israel’s security, even by regular citizens who endanger their lives in order to minimize the destruction done by terror acts.

You write that settlements are “run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers.”

The settlements have been built since 1967 with the help of the Israeli government (Labor and Likud alike) and even their political opponents know that most of the settlers are great idealists. Far from being corrupt and amoral, they are loyal citizens. It is one thing to advocate removal of settlements, and another to demonize the settlers in such an unjust way.

How can you ignore the Jewish historic approach in your analysis of events? One example: Tens of thousands of Arabs worked for many, many years in Israel. Their entry to Israel started to be made difficult only after terrorists were smuggled in with the workers. To speak about the Palestinian difficulties with the roadblocks without mentioning the reasons that brought them about is morally questionable.

What is even worse: You invent the lie that Israel has “ceased to care about the children of Palestinians.” You describe all of Israel as an inhuman entity and cause with this statement irreparable damage to Israel’s moral image. As you surely know, the truth is the opposite: Despite the Palestinian children being educated to become genocide murderers and despite their being abused as shields for terrorists, Israel does whatever possible to avoid unnecessary damage to the lives of Palestinian children. Examples: The deaths of 23 soldiers in Jenin — who were sacrificed in order to avoid a massive attack on the civilian population. Another recent example: Israel could have killed the main heads of the Hamas movement in Gaza, but refrained from using a stronger bomb in order not to endanger too many civilians. I don’t know any other nation in the world that would act with such moral considerations even in their fight against frightfully inhuman terrorists.

“We must remove all the settlements — all of them” — what an odd, unreflective statement! If Israel has no rights in the disputed territories gained through the ’67 war, how will you react to the request of the Palestinian prime minister that Israel has to go back to the 1948 borders and quit the “occupied territories” of the Independence War? And how will you morally reject the PLO argument, taught in the Palestinian schoolbooks, that all of Israel is “occupied” territories?

Can it be historically justified that Israel leaves Hebron, Gush Etzion or even great parts of Jerusalem, so that a future Palestinian state becomes “judenrein” while now, in Israel, there live more than a million Arabs with political rights?

Never in your article do you mention “peace” (perhaps you don’t believe in the possibility of a peace treaty after the Barak experience), but you still expect — in a most irresponsible way — that Israel go back to the “Auschwitz” borders of ’67, even without a permanent peace process.

Your appeal to “Israel’s friends abroad, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, presidents and prime ministers” to influence the road Israel is going on is a clear undermining of Israel’s democracy. Now that you and your party are a minority, you appeal to political forces outside Israel to interfere in Israel’s affairs. Who would believe that this undemocratic view is expressed in a call from a man who was speaker of the Israeli parliament?

“The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.” The majority of Israel would like to assist the Arabs to fulfill these needs. But as long as their dream is “to kill Jews wherever you find them,” Israel cannot be expected to assist them in making this dream reality.

It is truly unbelievable that a man of your position should have no hesitation, as a Jew and as a Zionist, to weaken the struggle of the Jewish People in Israel with an article full of generalizations, platitudes and baseless accusations, not mentioning with one word the high level of Jewish values and humane behavior kept alive in the State of Israel, despite the brutality used by its neighbors during all the years of its existence.

An old Jewish saying states that one of the greatest sins is to humiliate another human being in public. It is your right (and perhaps even your duty) to publicize your political views, but I am afraid that with your irresponsible article in significant publications worldwide, you transgressed this basic rule by humiliating the People of Israel in a most unqualified, ugly manner.

Arthur Cohn is a Swiss-based film producer whose productions include “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” “Central Station” and “One Day in September.”

Political Prophylactics

It was an ominous warning affixed to the plastic-covered condom, which was glued on a rust-colored postcard with pictures of dirty mattresses: "Practice Safe Politics."

Below, a glaring surgeon general-like admonition: "Warning: This condom will not protect you from the real intentions of the Christian right wing. Abstinence from strange bedfellows is advised."

The guerrilla campaign is sponsored by, an organization that "aims to rouse the public to challenge and change the sexist and other discriminatory practices in the American Jewish community," according to their Web site. "We use biting satire and real-life facts to criticize our community’s narrow-minded priorities. Jewish Women Watching remains anonymous to focus attention on the issues — not ourselves."

Under the headline "Strange Bedfellows," the flip side of the postcard asks, "Why is the Jewish community in bed with Pat Roberston … Jerry Falwell … Ralph Reed?" At the same time it outs the Zionist Organization of America, the Israeli Embassy and the Anti-Defamation League for "sleeping" with them.

The clandestine group has enacted other campaigns, primarily on Purim and during the High Holidays. In September 2001, they placed a deceptively familiar ad in The New York Times meant to mimic Chabad Lubavitch’s ads regarding lighting candles. "Jewish Women and Girls," began the ad, using the same Chabad words, "Hold your community accountable. Sexism is a Sin. Jewish Women Watching," read the rest of the ad.

"We will continue to protest the patronizing, sexist attitudes we encounter in the Jewish community every day," the anonymous Jewish Women Watching leader wrote to The Jewish Week in an interview last year.