IRANIAN ELECTION ANALYSIS: All Iran candidates will bolster Hamas, Hezbollah ties


One winner has already been declared in the Iranian elections: The Internet, used by more than 23 million Iranians, or 34 percent of the population. But that figure alone cannot be used to determine which of the four candidates will win. At the very most, one can assume most Web users will vote for reformist candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, rather than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Mohsen Rezeai.

Although the presidential race is based mostly on the individual skills of the candidates, their agendas and public record are no less important. The candidates have almost insignificant differences on issues of core interest to the West and Israel. All of the candidates have said they are willing to hold a dialogue with the U.S., but say it would be gradual and depend on U.S. policy. Even Ahmadinejad has expressed his willingness to talk to the U.S. Read the full story at HAARETZ.com.

Analysis: Sarah Palin . . . and the Jews


When Sen. John McCain tapped Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate today, the Jewish political blogosphere — as loud and fast and opinionated as (for lack of a better word) the Gentile Web — came to a screeching halt.

After all, you can fight about John McCain, and Barack Obama, and Joe Biden . . .but Sarah Palin?

It took an Internet eternity for Jewish Republicans to come out swinging for Sarah, an just as long for Jewish Democrats to hit back.

“Homerun!” Larry Greenfield, the California director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, wrote me via e-mail five hours after McCain’s announcement. “Governor Palin has a very close relationship with the Jewish community of Alaska, with Chabad (Rabbi Greenberg) and with AIPAC. She is close to the Frozen Chosen!”

Seconds later came a blast from Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) claiming Palin endorsed Pat Buchanan’s presidential run in 2000: “John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for President in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans.”

Oh, now it’s getting good.

When Sen. Barack Obama picked Sen. Joe Biden last week, the Democrats had nothing but praise for the long term senator, citing positive comments from AIPAC and decades of foreign policy experience. And Jewish e-mail boxes filled with Biden’s now familiar quote: “You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I’m a Zionist.”

Then Republican Jews struck.

An e-mail quickly circulated linking to an article on a right-leaning web site claiming Biden was in the pocket of the Iranian mullahs. As for AIPAC’s kind words about Biden? “AIPAC has to say nice things,” a Republican activist told me. “They have to be bi-partisan.” And that pro-Zionist quote? Pretty words, just like his boss, Obama.

The Dems responded with a further defense of Biden’s record. If you could call Biden’s support for Israel into question, said the Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council Ira Forman, then you could call Golda Meir’s loyalty to Israel in question.

The Veep debate among Jews is important because there are many Jewish voters who are still a bit leery about Obama. Jews traditionally vote Democratic (upwards of 75 percent voted for John Kerry in 2004 — and we didn’t even really like him). A growing number of Jews have found a home in the Republican party, and are fairly candidate-proof — they vote red no matter what.

A significant number of Jewish voters, however, will change their vote depending on which candidate they perceive as “better for Israel.” These voters believe that Israel is facing immediate existential threats from Palestinian terror, from a near-nuclear Iran, and from over-eager politicians forcing it to make dangerous territorial concessions for the sake of elusive peace. These voters — call them “Israel Firsters” — see their one vote as crucial to preventing another Holocaust, and theirs are the votes that Jewish Dems and Jewish Republicans are fighting over.

Obama and Israel is the battleground issue for Jewish voters in the 2008 election — these are the Jewish votes up for grabs in this race. If Republicans can paint Obama as a Muslim or Muslim sympathizer, as an appeaser to Iran, as inexperienced on foreign policy, as insufficiently caring about Israel in his kishkes — the Yiddish word for guts — then they can peel off Jewish votes.

This strategy won’t matter in heavily pro-Democratic states like California and New York, but it can matter in swing states like Ohio and Florida. And it matters elsewhere in the race: Jews give money, Jews get involved, Jews shape opinion far out of proportion to their numbers. (Yes, there are only six of us in the entire country. Amazing what controlling the media will get you!)

Enter Sarah.

If McCain had picked Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge or — cue the bar mitzvah band — Joe Lieberman, he would have unquestionably swept up the Israel Firsters. These men have track records and gravitas when it comes to Israel and foreign policy. (This debate among Jews and Israel reflects the larger foreign policy concerns about Obama that Republicans are making the centerpiece of their opposition. Many conflicts in Jewish life mirror conflicts in the larger culture — that’s Anthropology 101).

But he chose Sarah Palin: former mayor of a small Alaska town, governor of Alaska, devout Christian.

For Jews who are not necessarily Israel Firsters, she carries some positives and negatives. Positives: she is a crusader for good government and a fiscal conservative. She is smart and successful and patriotic. Jews like all these things.

“As governor of Alaska, Palin has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Alaska’s Jewish community. She has demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of the community and has been accessible and responsive,” said Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks.

Negatives: She is anti-abortion.

Jews are among the largest pro-choice constituency in the country. She has, according to one web site, supported the idea of teaching Creationism and evolution in public schools. “‘Teach both,” she was quoted as saying on a local TV station. “You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.'”

Dependence on foreign oil is a major issue for American Jews, since a lot of that oil comes from regimes that hate Israel and support terror.

Republican Jews are emphasizing Palin’s desire to drill Alaskan oil and develop domestic oil resources as away to decrease our dependence.

“Palin has been a leader on the critical issue of energy independence and lessening our need to buy oil from nations not sharing American and Israel’s foreign policy,” Brooks said in his statement.

But Jews are also pro-environment, and have jumped on the alternative energy (hybrid) bandwagon in a big way. Obama’s convention speech calling for a 10 year campaign to switch to alternative sources of energy may carry deeper resonance.

For the Israel Firsters, Palin may be a problem. Palin has no foreign policy experience. No Israel experience. Her AIPAC rating? When you enter her name on the AIPAC home page, you get this:

Your search - palin - did not match any documents.
No pages were found containing "palin".

The RJC’s Greenfield says her AIPAC relationships are great, but confined to Alaska. And Republicans are now marshalling a great comeback to the charge that Palin once supported Pat Buchanan.

Buchanan is anathema to the Jews. He is someone who has blamed Israel and American Jews for directing American foreign policy against American interests. He has spoken kindly of Adolph Hitler — who is not popular with Jews — and, well, this is going to be interesting.

Sarah Palin might cause the Israel Firsters, who seemed to be pretty much done with Obama, to take a second look.


Rob Eshman is Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and JewishJournal.com.




Sarah Heath (Palin), sportscaster

A birthday gift


Here we are, Jews in every corner of the world, awash in a frenzy of celebrations for Israel — all because of a birthday. And not just any birthday, mind you, but one that ends in a zero.

In a marketing-obsessed world, milestones give us an easy way to promote our brands. For lovers of Israel, promoting the brand of Israel is important business, especially since the country has taken a real beating over the years. So naturally, when a chance comes up to give that brand a little shine — like a 60th birthday — we run with it.

That’s why this year, Israel@60 has become the hot Jewish brand.

Every Jewish newspaper in the world has devoted a special section. Every Jewish community is doing multiple celebrations. Israeli embassies and consul offices are busy squeezing every ounce of Israel@60 good will from their local communities. World leaders are sending messages of congratulations. Elites from everywhere are gathering in Jerusalem at the invitation of President Shimon Peres. And, of course, every Jewish writer of note is weighing in with their personal reflections on the state of the Zionist project. (My favorite is Yossi Klein Halevi’s piece in this week’s issue.)

There’s something intoxicating about all this activity. I feel like I’m getting drunk on Israel. The Jewish world is rising up and giving my cherished Israel a celebration for the ages.

So why, then, do I also feel a certain emptiness?

Is it because I’m too aware of the growing dangers that Israel faces? Or that I know most of the world will go right back to hating us once the party’s over, or that these kind of big-bang celebrations just leave us with one big hangover?

Maybe, but I think there’s more. I see a missed opportunity. I love the sense of pride that the celebrations have fired up, but I wish someone had launched the Israel@60 campaign with this theme: “What will you give Israel for her birthday?”

That’s right: What will you give Israel for her birthday? What I think is missing from all the hoopla is a birthday gift from each of us to the Israel we love.

And I don’t mean money. Money is the gift for normal times. A 60th anniversary is not a normal time. It’s a time to celebrate, yes, but also to reflect, take stock, look deep inside of ourselves — and offer a special gift.

Imagine going to celebrate your parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. What kind of gift would you bring? Would it be personal? Would it have special meaning?

Now imagine going to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary. What’s the most personal and meaningful gift you can make? What is your unique passion or talent? What can you bring to the party to show your love for the honoree?

Whatever your thing is, it’s worth bringing. If you’re a musician, organizer, writer, artist, environmentalist, cook, teacher, activist, comedian, doctor, architect, rabbi, Web designer, business tycoon or filmmaker, whatever your passion, it can become your personal gift to Israel.

Make a film. Write a poem. Start a Web site. Help at a soup kitchen. Organize a trip to Israel. Find a cause dear to your heart. In short, look at what Israel needs, and see how your talents match up.

So, what about me, what’s my “thing” for Israel?

These days, the advertising guy in me would love to promote a side of Israel the world rarely sees — the good side. God knows the anti-Israel propaganda machine has done a remarkable job of turning Israel into a globally reviled country. And God knows Israel has more than enough critics who expose her many mistakes and weaknesses. But who is balancing the picture? Who is showing the other side? Who is spreading the word on Israel’s many contributions to the world?

Of the $1 billion a year in Jewish philanthropy, how much do you think goes to advertise in the mainstream media the numerous contributions Israel makes to humanity? Virtually zero.

So this is my birthday gift to Israel: Ads4Israel.com.

It’s a new organization whose mission will be to create and run ads worldwide that show Israel’s incredible gifts to the world, in such areas as combating disease, developing alternative fuels, fighting world hunger, creating life-changing technologies, revolutionizing agriculture and much more. There are literally hundreds of areas where Israel has helped make the world a better place, and Ads4Israel will do its share to let the world know. The Web site will offer a variety of ads that donors will be able to support and help run.

Why ads? They’re dramatic, quick and efficient. You can reach 100 million people with a powerful message in a few seconds. Grass-roots efforts, conferences, articles, books, Web sites, etc., are all valuable, but when 99 percent of the planet has been poisoned by three-second visual sound-bites about Israel, the best way to fight back is with equally powerful sound-bites.

Will this solve Israel’s image problem overnight? Nothing can. But we can at least raise immediate awareness of Israel’s value to the world, and that’s a gift.

We each have a gift. What will be your birthday gift?

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Sabra love


I’ve been considering giving up on Israeli men, at least the purebred Israeli men, the sabras. What’s painful is that I say this as someone who has made my home in Jerusalem, and I am hesitant to make harsh generalizations about Israeli bachelors, especially as Israel celebrates its 60th. It makes me feel like the biblical spies who returned to Moses whining about the Land of Israel. Nevertheless, my 10-odd years of living here have led me to think that I’m not compatible with a good majority of secular Israeli men.

When I first landed in this country as a wide-eyed, optimistic Zionist, Israeli men captured my fascination — and I’ll admit — my early 20s lust. They were the “New Jews” who had cast off the spiritual and physical shackles of exile to invent a self-sufficient Jewish culture in the land of Israel.

Almost anything they did seemed to me to embody deep Jewish meaning — whether they worked as engineers, manual laborers, farmers, actors or restaurateurs. I saw them as Zionists simply because they were making a living here, however mundane their jobs.

I needed only look at the Israeli studs to feel turned on, both spiritually and physically, which may explain why early on I had far more short-term, heated romances with sabras than serious relationships. Compared to their American Jewish counterparts, Israelis exuded a physical vitality and sexiness, enhanced by their years in army, where they developed hard abs and chiseled arms.

But as time wore on, I discovered the layered character of my fascination with Israeli men wasn’t mutual.

“Why did you come here?” they’d often ask on our first date in complete bewilderment. Or they’d try to pick me up with the line, “Can you teach me English?” with an unstated hope that they might marry me for a green card.

These de facto Zionist pioneers have become, like the state they live in, mere pragmatists, preoccupied with basic survival.

They channel any sense of Jewish obligation into their Israel Defense Forces service. When that’s done, they travel to Thailand or India for a year to satisfy their wanderlust, enroll in university to study a practical major (I’ve dated quite a few computer programmers), invest their savings in a down payment for an apartment, get married, have children, etc. Their lives are like target practice — get the degree, get the job, get the girl.

Even the questions Israeli men ask me on JDate chats are matter-of-fact: What do you do? Where do you live? Who do you live with? Do you rent or own? I rarely am asked intelligent questions about my thoughts, my values, my unconventional Zionist dreams.

I thought I’d get more engaging conversation from a producer for an Israeli news show who I met at a bar last month. Finally, maybe an Israeli man with whom I could discuss Israeli politics, religion, God. Over candlelight and wine the night after we met, I started telling him about my aliyah experience and the novel I’m writing about the disengagement.

“What else?” he responded with no real interest.

I felt like answering: You are sitting across from an American Jewish Israeli woman who left her family to live in the conflicted land you research, and that’s all you have to ask? After a few awkward silences, he found the icebreaker: “Wanna come to my place?”

So if not sabras, who should I date? There are always fellow immigrants, but most of the time they remind me of the dorky American Jewish men I longed to escape — uncomfortable with their bodies, secluded in an Anglo community, disconnected from mainstream Israeli society.

The real catches here are the mixed-breed men born to at least one American parent. They usually inherit an American mentality, a sense of Zionist purpose and fluent English from their ex-pat parent, while being completely immersed in Israeli culture. Unfortunately, the ones I know are all taken.

What about Israelis who veer off the practical course to study political science, philosophy or the arts?

Usually they exhibit passion for Israel. Too bad it’s negative.

I’ve met quite a few hot settlers who bear a rare mix of manliness, patriotism and Jewish sensitivity — but maybe too much Jewish sensitivity. They only date women who keep Shabbat, if they’re not already married by age 25.

So, does that leave me only with non-Jews? About two years ago, I went out with a non-Jew in Los Angeles. Over a date consisting of a two-course dinner (more than many Israeli men offer), we had great discussions about the nature of Israel’s Jewish democracy.

More recently, I went out with a Danish student living in Israel. He was so blond I had to wear sunglasses. We, too, couldn’t stop talking about the problems and triumphs of this country. Ultimately, though, we weren’t compatible.

Lately, I find myself on the lookout for non-Israelis when I go out. A few weeks ago, my Tel Aviv friend, Anat, and I had a wonderful time getting “picked up” by two Swedes who were on a study trip to Israel. One was a tall, strapping dirty blond, and the other a four-eyed, genteel brunette. I said hello, and 10 seconds later they were handing us beers.

We took them to a dance club, and we talked for two hours in the “make-out” lounge without making out. They engaged us with questions about Israel and our life here without the expectation of sex that often underlies my dates with Israelis.

Israeli men, at least the good-looking ones, rarely buy girls drinks. I don’t think they like to spend their hard-earned money on an unsure thing. Or maybe, underneath their hard exterior, they’re afraid of rejection.

Still, even as I question Israeli men as relationship prospects, I can’t shake off my admiration for them. After all, they are the Jewish men who put their lives on the line for me, for all Israeli citizens and for Jewish people all over the world.

I remind myself that in between their reserve duty, they are just trying to make the most of their lives here, even as they are building this country to ensure that I can remain here to live the Zionist dream they don’t seem too interested in.

So I’ll try not to give up so soon.


Orit was a contestant in a Valentines Day beauty pagaent in Jerusalem.

U.S. Jews Laud Withdrawal Vote


American Jewish organizations rushed Tuesday afternoon to express support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal plan.

Sharon’s initiative was “not an easy decision, but we fully share the Israeli government’s view that it was the right decision to safeguard the future of the State of Israel,” the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, said in a statement.

“We salute Prime Minister Sharon’s bold initiative and pledge our public support for the implementation of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza,” leaders of the Anti-Defamation League said.

In a more tepid statement, the chairman and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed “support for the Knesset vote approving the Gaza disengagement plan,” noting that “further votes will be necessary for various stages of implementation.”

“We hope that all parties will be able to come together to work on implementation and to minimize divisiveness,” James Tisch and Malcolm Hoenlein said.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said that Tuesday’s developments were tough.

“This policy not only rewards and appeases terrorists, but the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza will make it much easier for terrorists to set up bomb factories and bring weapons into Gaza, including even more dangerous and accurate missiles that will threaten major cities within Israel,” Klein said.

Nearly all the Jewish groups issuing statements noted the impending anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, urging Israeli leaders to summon courage for peace with the Palestinians — and urging opponents to eschew violence.

“As we approach the ninth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, we are again reminded of the urgent need for civility. We join with the vast majority of Israelis in urging respect for the lawful decisions of Israel’s elected leaders,” Harris said.

Applauding Israel for reaching a “historic milestone on its decades-long quest for peace and security,” the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) also recalled Rabin’s memory.

In commemorating Rabin, the group said that “today’s vote motivates us even more to do all we can to support his unfulfilled quest for two states living side-by-side in peace and security,” JCPA Chair Marie Abrams said.

Americans for Peace Now took its kudos a step further, saying the Knesset move was precedent setting.

“Approval of this disengagement plan sets an important precedent for the evacuation of other settlements in the years ahead,” President and CEO Debra DeLee said. — Rachel Pomerance, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New Form of Anti-Semitism


British Jews are facing a new form of anti-Semitism so unlike its past incarnations that it should be known by a new name, Judeophobia, according to a new study by a leading Jewish think tank.

Coming after conferences on anti-Semitism in New York, Amsterdam, Paris and Vienna, the book, "A New Anti-Semitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st-Century Britain," is something of a symposium unto itself.

It includes essays by 17 writers, ranging from Britain’s Orthodox chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, to journalists, lawyers, novelists, trade unionists, academics and financial professionals. Put together by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, the book contains a wide range of views. But a closing essay by editors Barry Kosmin, the institute’s director, and criminologist Paul Iganski teases out themes on which many of the essayists agree.

Despite a few high-profile incidents of synagogue and cemetery vandalism and occasional attacks on Jews, "the new anti-Semitism" does not aim at the physical harm or elimination of Jews, the editors argue. For the most part, the new threat comes not from the far right but from the intellectual left and focuses heavily on criticism of Israel — a distinction the British Jewish community has failed to address, they say.

"This is a different kind of anti-Semitism from Auschwitz, and the Jewish community has to learn that," Kosmin stressed. "Jews are looking for Nazis, when the problem is Stalinists."

The book suggests that academia, the trade union movement and leading media outlets, such as the BBC and the Guardian and Independent newspapers, are guilty of what the institute calls "institutionalized Judeophobia." A concept adapted from U.S. black power activist Stokeley Carmichael, institutionalized Judeophobia results in hostility to Jews — especially as personified by the State of Israel — even if no individual within the organization is necessarily anti-Semitic.

"A New Anti-Semitism?" has an entire section on the media, with a number of authors taking the liberal media to task for its coverage of Israel and for the way many journalists have gone on the counterattack against Jewish criticism of such reporting.

"’Criticize Israel and you are an anti-Semite, just as surely as if you were throwing a pot of paint at a synagogue in Paris,’ the diplomatic editor of the Observer wrote in a particularly offensive article that helped to set the debate going," academic Peter Pulzer writes in one essay.

Pulzer sets out a number of criteria to determine when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism. These include comparing Israel to the Nazis and attacking anonymous collectives, such as "the Jewish community," "the Jewish lobby" or "the Jewish vote."

Jonathan Freedland, a columnist for the Guardian, considers whether anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. "Some anti-Zionists are anti-Semites and should be fought like enemies," Freedland concludes. But, he adds, "others are presenting us with a cogent challenge to our core values," and it’s necessary to respond to them with intellectual honesty. "There is no more Zionist project than that," he says.

Not all the essayists paint gloomy pictures. Antony Lerman, editor of the Anti-Semitism World Report, says that "to see anti-Semitism as the determining factor in Jewish life is to ignore the broader context. There is no mass discrimination against Jews, no state-sponsored anti-Semitism, no suppression of Jewish culture in the communist bloc, no anti-Semitism encouraged by the hierarchies of either the Protestant or the Catholic churches," he writes. "Jews are experiencing unprecedented freedom and success."

The rebuilding of Jewish monuments and culture — not the desecration of cemeteries — is the defining feature of Jewish life in Europe today, Lerman says.

Such arguments are a far cry from those of academic Robert Wistrich, who looks at militant Islam and concludes, "This is a grim picture and these are dark days."

Sacks — who initially was reluctant even to discuss anti-Semitism — testified before Parliament that "we are witnessing the second great mutation of anti-Semitism in modern times, from racial anti-Semitism to religious anti-Zionism, with the added premise that all Jews are Zionists."

At least one Jewish campaigner against racism, Edie Friedman, is deeply suspicious of the editors’ thesis. The director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Friedman did not contribute to the book and has read only excerpts, but those excerpts concerned her, she said.

"The danger of coining phrases like ‘Judeophobia’ is that you could make people more reluctant to participate in society," she said. "I think we have to see the evidence before inventing new terms. And the evidence is based on ‘this dinner party I went to,’ and that’s not good enough."

The center-left intelligentsia is the greatest source of "institutional Judeophobia," the book’s editors say. That presents a challenge for a Jewish community that long has focused on physical security, rather than on what Kosmin calls a "Judeophobia about ideas."

"It is far easier to get heated or engaged with broken tombstones," Kosmin said. "But the problem is much more complex and subtle in our more complex, complicated society."

Making Marriage Work


Like marijuana?

Believe in men’s rights?

Want a secular state?

If you happen to have an offbeat or nonmainstream platform
for Israel, now is the time to run in the Jan. 28 parliamentary elections. One
lesson to be learned from the list of the 30 parties vying for Knesset is that
Israelis are disenfranchised, and looking for alternatives to the major
National Security issue. 

And while Aleh Yarok (Green Leaf) — the party promoting
marijuana legalization — always seems to hit the headlines a week or two before
elections (despite publicity before the last elections in 1999, the party
mustered 34,029 votes, representing slightly more than 1 percent of the
electorate — 15,000 votes short of the 1.5 percent threshold for Knesset
membership), other parties with less headline-grabbing platforms are really set
to win big.

Take Tommy Lapid’s Shinui (change) Party. Their two-page
campaign booklet doesn’t get to their political leanings until the second page.
The self-described “democratic, secular, liberal, Zionist, peace-seeking party”
platform includes creating “a secular state, a free-market economy,
[obligatory] military service.”

Does 2 percent of the country really believe legalizing pot
is the most important issue? Are 12 percent really going to vote for Lapid, a
former in-your-face talk-show host whose primary goal is to secularize the
country? (Incidentally, Shinui is attempting to do for the secular what the
religious parties — and in particular, Shas — have done for years: exchange its
vote on security for social benefits such as money for schools.)

“I’ve covered a lot of Israeli elections, but I have never
seen one like this. I’ve never seen the Israeli public less interested in the
two major parties — indeed, in the whole event,” Thomas Friedman wrote in The
New York Times on Jan. 19.

What this means for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is an even
bigger headache on Jan. 29 than he had on Nov. 5, 2002, when he called for new
elections (can anyone actually remember why?). But it also means that the major
parties had better start looking at secondary campaign positions if they want
to be relevant to the Israeli people.

Israelis, in answer to the question, “How is everything?”
might reply: “Hakol B’seder, chutz mimah she’lo b’seder” (Everything is all
right, except for what isn’t all right). The situation with the Palestinians is
so not all right, and the Israelis feel so powerless, that everything else just
seems so much more important.

 

Meanwhile, in Orange County and Los Angeles, the tide seems
to be turning the other way vis-à-vis involvement. Last month, the Israel Merchant
Faire at Tarbut V’Torah in Irvine attracted some 4,000 people and took in
$10,000 — enough to make a sizeable donation to the Israel Emergency Fund,
according to Charlene Zuckerman of Laguna Niguel, who chaired the event; one
vendor reportedly made $40,000 on the day.

And on Feb. 9, MERIT and the JCC will present a public
lecture, “An Update from the Front” with Mark Paredes, press attache of the
Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles and Dr. Yaron Brook, executive
director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

In Los Angeles, this month saw the University of Judaism’s
lecture series featuring Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and former Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger, attended by almost 6,000 people. Peres also gave an
informal talk to some 100 of Hollywood’s glitterati (including Barbra
Streisand, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Annette Benning and Warren Beatty),
hosted by fellow countryman and producer Arnon Milchen (“L.A. Confidential”).

A similar group of impressive Hollywood stars turned up at
the home of DeVito and Perlman to hear out another set of visitors, Mohammed
Darawshe and Daniel Lubetsky, of One Voice: Silent No Longer, a grassroots
petition effort seeking more than 1 million Arab and Israeli signatures urging
an end to the violence and a commitment to peace.

And finally, on Sunday, Jan. 19, some 400 people from
throughout Southern California attended a full-day workshop at Temple Beth Am
in Los Angeles, “Learning How to Defend Israel: On Campus, In the Media, To the
White House, At your Office.” The StandWithUs Advocacy Conference actually had
to turn away more than 100 people from the intense and practical seminar.

Among those who turned out were students from UC Irvine and
other local universities. These students, said StandWithUs organizers, often
face virulent anti-Israel speakers and protests on their campuses.

What does all the activity on this side of the Atlantic mean? While the Israelis are deciding between indifference and apathy, the
American Jews are finally beginning to wake up from their 30-year slumber. When I lived in Israel I remember screaming at my friends in America how
important some issue was, and how can they not know about it, and why do they
want to talk about the latest Spielberg movie?

Now, I find it’s the reverse: from Los Angeles, I’m calling
them for their opinions on the upcoming elections, the latest diplomatic effort
and no, I don’t want to talk about the latest Spielberg movie.

It might take two to make a marriage work — but usually it’s
one party’s commitment that balances a lack of it on the disinterested one’s
part. American Jews’ increasing involvement in a process that Israelis are
ready to throw the towel at — well, that’s just what the marriage counselor
ordered. That, maybe, instead of a toke of the green stuff.