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There’s a pro-Israel ‘BIG RIG’ coming down the highway of public opinion

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid

LOS ANGELES — Anti-Israel activists are now putting all their energy into their Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Their goal is to portray Israel and Israelis as pariahs that should be excluded from all international spheres—diplomatic, political, economic, social, and cultural.
 
Jews have been victims of such policies before.  In the millennia of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East, they have been singled out, demonized, and excluded, as they were, for example, in 13th century England and 1930’s Europe. The Jewish State, too, has experienced such policies since its founding when Arab nations implemented strict exclusion and boycotts against Israel, most of which are still in place. The current global BDS campaign began in 2001 and grew after 2005, when Israel effectively defeated the terrorist campaign known as the Second Intifada. Today, hard core anti-Israel activists around the world are feverishly lobbying artists, universities, churches, retailers, unions, municipalities, and other institutions to adopt BDS.
 
Any public figures, retailers, institutions or organizations that adopt or defer to BDS policies should themselves be boycotted.

They should be boycotted because they advocate destructive rather than constructive, measures. BDS is anti-coexistence, undermines peace efforts, and does nothing to help Palestinians begin state building, improve their lives, or move toward reconciliation.
 
They should be boycotted because BDS policies are fundamentally anti-Semitic even though some of the movement’s advocates are Jews. The campaign uses the propaganda techniques and imagery of classical anti-Semitism now applied not to individual Jews, but to the world’s largest Jewish community and its only Jewish State. Boycott activists strip away all context for Israel’s actions, such as ongoing terrorism and the virulent ideology that propels it, in order to depict Israel as motivated by sheer malice in what are often simply modern blood libels. They obsessively put a microscope on Israel to detect its flaws, and expect it to live up to standards they do not expect of any other nation.  They never call for BDS against nations that do systematically commit war crimes and human rights abuses, such as Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Bashir’s Sudan, Lebanon’s apartheid practices against Palestinians, or Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus and violent repression of its Kurdish minority.
 
They should be boycotted because of their hypocrisy.  Where was the outrage of the boycotters, who claim to be champions of social justice and human rights, when the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign targeted innocent Jewish men, women, and children, and Hamas fired thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities, murdering toddlers and turning daily life into a lethal game of Russian roulette?  Where were they when Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust even as he called for genocide against Jews?  Where is their protest against the Judeophobic incitement that dominates the Middle East?  Their callous indifference and implicit support of murdering Jews is both morally perverse and anti-Semitic.
 
Above all, they should be boycotted because they endorse the agendas of the dictatorial regimes and radical Islamist groups who share their hatred of the Jewish State and who are also enemies of human rights, social justice values, tolerance, and modernity. These states and groups like Hamas oppress women, persecute religious and other minorities, and oppress their own citizens. Those who adopt BDS should be exposed and pay the price for supporting and enabling the intransigent enemies of humanitarian and liberal values.
 
Boycotting those who comply with BDS means that any university that does not unequivocally denounce campus divestment campaigns should not receive another nickel from donors who care about fairness, the survival of Israel, and modern liberal values.  Recording artists who refuse to perform in Israel should be labeled as extremists for the regressive, anti-Semitic values they endorse. Fair-minded people should stop buying their records and attending their concerts.  Consumers should boycott any retailers who refuse to stock Israeli products, and support the new StandWithUs campaign, “BIG” and “RIG,” acronyms for “Buy Israeli Goods” and “Request Israeli Goods.”
 
It is time to expose the distorted values that drive the BDS movement, and its alliance with the most repressive and dangerous forces in the world today.  It is time to unequivocally say no to this BDS movement and to all who would consider complying with it.

Roz Rothstein is CEO of StandWithUs.  Roberta Seid, PhD is Education Director, StandWithUs.  This article also appeared in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles

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Poverty rate in Israel higher than in Mexico

August 24, 2010 1 comment

Editor’s Note:  The following story, “The Threat from Within,  is reprinted with permission from The Forward, in which it appears in the August 27 issue.

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In May, when Israel was invited to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 31-nation club of the world’s most elite, developed economies, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called it “a badge of honor.” Indeed, it is.

Acceptance means that Israel can now access sources of capital investment available only to developed countries, but it means something even more rewarding: It’s a legitimization of the tiny country’s economic strength and innovation capacity, reinforcing the image of the scrappy “start-up nation” — where once early Zionists made the barren deserts bloom, now their 21st-century heirs are driving a high-speed technological revolution.

No surprise that the number of millionaires in Israel soared by 43% in just one year, from 2008 to 2009, a rate bested only by Hong Kong and India.

But the “start-up nation” narrative hides another story: Poverty in Israel is more widespread than in any of the other OECD countries, worse than even Turkey and Mexico. Almost one in five Israelis live in poverty, according to OECD guidelines; for children, the rate is nearly one in three.

This economic inequality, among the highest in the world, poses a serious danger to Israeli society beyond that caused by war or terrorism. Poverty in Israel is a direct result of non-employment, the fact that many Israelis will not or cannot work. The two largest segments of citizens outside the labor force are Haredi men, 67% of whom study full-time, helped by government subsidy, and Arab women, 80% of whom are at home, prevented by culture and discrimination from participating in the workforce. A government report issued in July said that Haredi unemployment alone will cost the Israeli economy $1.55 billion in 2010 — 300% higher than the comparable cost in 2000.

And the consequences are not just economic. Those who don’t work generally don’t serve in the Israel Defense Forces, absenting themselves from a fundamental pillar of Israeli life, sowing resentment among the majority and, given the high birth rate among the poor, threatening military capacity in the future. With nearly half of Israeli primary school students either Haredi or Arab, who will defend the country in 20 years?

‘When this country was very poor, we had our act together,” notes Dan Ben-David, an economist and executive director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, a think tank and research center supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

“Now the percentage of families dependent on government is growing all the time.”

“The fundamental problem is that a large and increasing share of the Israeli population is receiving neither the tools nor the conditions to work in a modern community,” he says. “It harms them personally. It harms us nationally.”

It should be noted that while Ben-David’s data are generally accepted, his interpretation has been disputed. Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the Reut Institute, another nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Israel, believes that the Haredi community has awakened to the challenge and is entering the workforce in ever growing numbers.

“Very few societies drive themselves over the abyss without survival mechanisms kicking in,” Grinstein argues.

Nonetheless, among the Haredim this shift is slow and fraught with resistance. Back in June, ultra-Orthodox protests against a high court ruling on a school segregation case nearly shut down Jerusalem for a day, but another ruling issued earlier that week was arguably more important. The court ordered that, by the end of this year, the government stop paying welfare to an estimated 11,000 married yeshiva students who chose study instead of work.

While Haredi political leaders have vowed to restore those cuts, they must be rebuffed; government action is essential to turn around this dangerous trend. The numbers of Haredi unemployed surely would be even higher had not then-finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu instituted cuts in child allowances and yeshiva subsidies in 2003.

But simply cutting off benefits won’t address the root causes of non-employment, and is hardly the right step for a moral society. Israeli Arabs want to work, but are isolated from employment centers and discriminated against by employers; Arab women face the additional hurdle of living in a culture where female autonomy is suppressed. In far too many Haredi communities, full-time learning is prized above economic self-sufficiency — a relatively new phenomenon. Ben-David points out that 30 years ago, the rate of non-employment for Haredim was 21%. Now it is more than three times that amount.

Clearly what’s needed is a committed investment in education and social programs to provide the wherewithal for these significant minorities to integrate into the high-tech economy of Israel’s future. There truly is no time to lose. Ben-David estimates that if present growth rates continue, by 2040, 78% of Israel’s children will be studying in the Haredi or Arab education systems.

And if the fate of worldwide Jewry is tied to the fate of Israel, as we believe, then this stark situation — generally hidden from most Diaspora Jews — must not be ignored or denied. Ben-David has been amassing and analyzing this worrying economic data for years, but only recently put aside his concerns about going public because of the urgency of the message.

“This country is on an unsustainable long-term trajectory,” he warns. “We’re a very young country — if we educate our youth, the sky’s the limit. But we’re quickly reaching the point of no return. This is the only Jewish country we have. This better concern the Jewish people.”

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Preceding provided by The Forward via the Trylon SMR Agency

BBC defends its documentary on Gaza Flotilla against charges of bias toward Israel

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

LONDON (WJC)–The editors of the BBC television program ‘Panorama’ have issued a strong rebuff to viewers who claimed that a report into the Israeli flotilla raid in May, entitled ‘Death in the Med and broadcast on Monday, had been biased in Israel’s favor.

Pro-Palestinian groups attacked the BBC for its criticism of those onboard the Gaza flotilla. The program’s presenter Jane Corbin concluded: “The bid to break the naval blockade wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza. It was a political move designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community.”

The Zionist Federation in Britain praised the documentary and urged supporters to thank the BBC for its fair coverage.

In response to the widespread complaints, the BBC issued a statement which said: “This program intended to explore the considerable confusion about what actually happened on the Mavi Marmara on the day in question. Israel has been accused of breaking international law by seizing a Turkish ship. Israel says they were terrorists. Turkey insists they were innocent victims. Viewers were shown a wide range of opinions and whenever a question of authenticity of footage arose, we made this clear.”

The BBC said the program makers had spoken extensively “to the groups and individuals involved in the incident, including three Israeli commandos involved in the raid; the head of the IHH, Bülent Yildirim; the Free Gaza coordinator onboard the Mavi Marmara, Lubna Masarwa; three Turkish activists and Irish activist Ken O’Keefe, all who were onboard the Turkish ship on the night it was raided by an Israeli naval command.

“We also spoke to Hamas official Dr Ahmed Yousef in Gaza. They were all given sufficient time and a platform to make their points. Overall we dismiss claims that this program showed bias in favor of Israel. The program’s aim was to try to uncover what really happened on the Mavi Marmara. ‘Panorama’ went to great lengths to give opposing sides the opportunity to air their views and we felt the program accordingly carried out its analysis in a fair, impartial and balanced manner. We simply allowed viewers to make up their own minds in their own time based on what they saw and heard.”

Activist Ken O’Keefe and the Muslim Defense League in the UK have announced that they will stage a protest outside the BBC headquarters on Sunday.

Watch the BBC documentary about the flotilla raid on YouTube:

Part 1

Part 2

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Turkey snubs Israeli diplomat during Iftar

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

ANKARA (WJC)–Israel’s envoy to Turkey has not been invited to an ‘iftar’ dinner hosted by PM Erdogan’s party for representatives of the diplomatic corps in Turkey. Ambassador Gabi Levi did not receive an invitation to Ramadan fast-breaking dinner, to which all senior diplomats in Turkey have been invited for the past four years.

The dinner is hosted annually by the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish media reported over the weekend that the exclusion was meant to express anger over Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla, which led to the death of nine Turkish citizens aboard a Turkish-flagged ship.

During a press conference, Omer Çelik, an AKP member of parliament, said “the reason for not inviting the Israeli ambassador is not on a personal level,” but rather a symbolic act against Israel’s policies. “Anyone who is unjust or inequitable cannot pass the threshold of the AKP headquarters,” he said.

An unnamed official of the Israeli Foreign Ministry called the non-invitation of Levi an “escalation” in bilateral relations between the two countries, but said: “We will act responsibly and will not be dragged into the Turkish dance of swords.”

The incident was the latest sign of deteriorating ties between the two formerly close allies. Relations hit a low point after Israel’s raid on an international flotilla that aimed to break the blockade of Gaza.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama personally warned Erdogan in June that Turkey risks not getting some of the weapons it wants to buy from the United States unless it improves its relationship with Israel, the ‘Financial Times’ reports, quoting an unidentified Obama administration official. This may include US-made drones Turkey wants to combat the Kurdish PKK separatist group, the paper said.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Poll finds Arabs in support of nuclear Iran

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJC)–An opinion poll conducted in several Arab countries has found that 57 per cent of respondents believe Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons and regard this as a positive outcome for the Middle East.

The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll was carried by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami in conjunction with the polling firm Zogby International. This year’s poll surveyed 4,000 people in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, during the months June and July.

Among the most striking findings is that US President Obama’s popularity in the Arab world has declined sharply over the past 12 months, and only 20 percent of those surveyed approve of him now. Last year, following his Cairo speech, 45 percent of respondents viewed him positively. Professor Telhami said much of the decline in Obama’s ratings was due to disillusionment about the president’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, identified by 61 per cent of respondents as the US policy they were most disappointed with.

Asked to name which world leader they admire most, respondents for the first time favored Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, who launched a number of verbal attacks on Israel following the deadly raid of the Gaza-bound ‘Freedom Flotilla’. President Obama’s name did not even show up on this year’s most-admired leaders list.

Only 3 per cent of respondents said they empathized with the Jewish people if they watched programs about the Holocaust, with 88 per cent saying they resented such material, or had mixed feelings.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Open letter to Fareed Zakaria concerning the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

August 14, 2010 3 comments

Isaac Yetiv

Dear Mr Zakaria:

 
As an assiduous viewer of your Sunday TV show  (CNN/GPS), which I have always enjoyed for your judicious commentaries, the choice of your experts, and your well-prepared and deeply-probing questions, I have earned the right to express my disappointment.

The case in point is your position on the  controversial decision to build a mosque on Ground Zero in New York (your program of Sunday 8 Aug. 2010.)  I believe that your support for building the mosque was a knee-jerk reaction to ADL’s strong opposition to it, and that if you dig deeper, you might revise your opinion.  ( Already, in your interview with Anderson Cooper a few days later, you seemed less sanguine; I even detected some regretful tone) . The following analysis will hopefully help:

 
First, unless I missed something, you deliberately talk about “a center:” I didn’t hear you say the word “mosque.”  This is, of course, disingenuous and misleading. A “center” without a “mosque” is a less loaded proposition, and would have aroused less resistance and outrage.
 
Second, you call Imam Raouf a “moderate” or “a Bin Laden nightmare” while conveniently occulting from your discourse his own pronouncements such as ” America was the accessory to the crime of 9/11 ”  or “Bin Laden is made in the U.S.” and that he, Rauf,  would like “a Sharia-compliant America” (where , as you know, an adulteress is stoned and an apostate is HALAL to be killed etc.) He also  could not bring himself to admit that Hamas is a terrorist organization (“I am not a politician,”he said, “and terrorism is a complicated problem.”) There are also rumors I can’t ascertain that he has indirect links with terrorist organizations and that his father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
Besides, even if all that is not true, there is no guarantee that he will not be “used” as Imam for a short time, and then replaced with a more radical Islamist  (the type of Al-Awlaki who was Imam in a mosque in Virginia frequented by two of the 19 hijackers of 9/11) who  will use the mosque as a hotbed for radical  Islamists, a center of recruitment, and as a MADRASA  to inculcate the Wahabi extremist religious ideology that has produced 9/11 and other violent eruptions elsewhere, notably in the Muslim world and with mainly Muslim victims.

Rauf refused to say where the money (100 millions !!) will come from. A foreign country? a sponsor of terrorism? the terrorists themselves? It is clear that those who will finance the project will dictate its content and its programs. Recent events clearly demonstrate that an “investment” of such magnitude can only come  from a few oil-rich theocracies that have produced nine-eleven and other terrorist calamities. Is that scenario not plausible?  Do you want to take that risk?

 
The fact that Imam Raouf was (or is being ) sent to the Middle-East by the State Department to “explain” to the Muslims that we, Americans, are nice people, and we love them etc…was used by the proponents to prove that he is, as you said, a “moderate.”
This initiative was already tried by the Bush State Department with Karen Hughes, at great cost, and failed lamentably. It only shows once more the naivete and gross ineptitude of the Arabists who dominate the Agency and who still “don’t get it.” Would that the love of the radical Islamists could be acquired with some logical explanation ! Instead, the fear is that Imam Rauf will enjoy a junket at American taxpayer expense which he will use as a fundraiser for his projected mosque from those same oil-rich potentates.
 
Third, this is absolutely not a case of freedom of religion or first amendment rights, as it was demagogued by the politicians, including ,most recently, the president,after a few weeks of reflection and hesitation . (A better case of violation of the first amendment can be made with what was recently discovered, namely that our taxpayer money has been spent –by Bush and Obama–to build and refurbish mosques in Egypt, Tanzania, and Iraq,  maybe elsewhere too. So much for the separation of church (!) and state .) But not in this case: America is a free country and we cherish all freedoms. There is no “establishment of religion” or preventing “the exercise therof.” There are more than a hundred mosques in New York only, about 3,000 in the US. (How many churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? Syria?Jordan?)        
                                                                                                                                                It is a case of what I would call ” zoning for reasons of security, sensitivity to the feelings of the victims of 9/11, common decency,and domestic peace.” The onus of proof is on the proponents of building the  mosque precisely at that point and not a few miles away.
 
Many experts believe that a 15-story-100 million dollar mosque (at odds with the beautiful tenet of Islam which is modesty) ,towering above other religions’ houses of worship in the heart of New York ,or even elsewhere, and funded by the most extremist ideologues of the Wahabi doctrine of Islam, is a high-security risk. They ,of course, rely on past performance. A former CIA operative and expert on terrorism sees it as “a magnet for militants,” a training ground for future agents of mischief, and a center for proselytizing.
 
But security is not the only concern for the opponents. Their cry of outrage is fueled by the arrogant insensitivity to the feelings of the families of the victims of 9/11 (including Muslims) and of the majority of Americans (recent poll shows 69 % opposed against 28 % approving.) This project is also fomenting confrontation and threatening domestic peace.
There seems to be an awakening of the masses, as opposed to the lethargy of the leaders, in other places, too. In Temecula, California. in Wisconsin, in Tennessee, we see the same opposition to building mosques, and in Germany, the authorities have just closed a mosque in Hamburg which was frequented by Mohammed Atta and his acolytes.
Many real moderate Muslims spoke out against the project which they see as an unnecessary provocation. One of them, a prominent woman, president of an Islamic organization, Raheel Raza, explained at length on TV why she opposed the project. Another Muslim woman, originally from Iran, Neda Belurchi, published an article in which she lamented the loss of her dear mother as a passenger in one of the planes destroyed  in nine-eleven. She called the proposed mosque “a symbol of victory for militant Islam.”
 
So why, one might ask, the insistence on building the mosque precisely at ground zero? Why did they reject a compromise solution by the Governor of New York who offered them another area that will not stir the enormous controversy? You, Fareed,  may be more familiar with a  view of Islam, that of South East Asia, which is very different from the Middle-East interpretation and implementation . The latter  is stricter and more fundamentalist and ideologist, especially the Wahabi kind. As you surely know, in the study of conflict resolution, we distinguish between “conflicts of interest,” readily amenable to compromise solutions acceptable to both sides, and “conflicts of ideology” that brook no compromise, especially if the ideology is of the religious kind and involves the “word of God,” or if one side demands the destruction of the other “before it can negotiate” as in the case of Hamas and Hizballah toward Israel.
 
Those who want to build the mosque at ground zero, and their financiers in the Middle-East, want to make a point: that a mammoth shrine of Islam towering above all other minuscule houses of worship of other faiths, in the heart of New York, in the heart of America,
with the mellifluous stentorian voice of the MUEZZIN resonating far away and calling the flock to prayers five times a day, with Allahu Akbar exclamations full of symbolism, is a vivid proof of  victory of fundamentalist and militant Islam (just as Belurchi said.)
This act of triumphalism is in keeping with medieval war and lore . It was the norm for the victors (not only Muslims) to erect their own house of worship on the ruins of their defeated enemies’ shrines. We can see many examples in Spain , or in Turkey such as the Hagia Sofia mosque in Istanbul which was a Byzantine church in Constantinople, or the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem built on the Jewish Temple Mount.

The 9/11 atrocities were seen by the perpetrators and their sponsors (to be sure, a minority, to be distinguished from real moderate Muslims, and certainly from Islam as a respectable religion no less than the others)

as a “victory.” They danced in the streets to celebrate it. For them, what better way to triumph than enshrine the place with the projected mammoth mosque?
Historically, triumphalism uses symbolism to enhance its effect: the selected title to the project, “The Cordoba initiative,” was intended as a reminder of the “Golden Age” in Muslim Spain where different religions lived in peace and harmony (which is true), but in the 11 th century,the Almohades invasion changed all that with its persecutions of Jews and Christians of whom many fled for their life (the most famous were the scholars Maimonides and Averroes.) It was reported , whether true or false, that the organizers of the project planned to inaugurate the mosque …on September 11 of next year “as an act of commemoration for the souls of the victims,” but many see that,if true, as adding insult to injury. A Muslim lady said on TV: “that is sticking it in your face.”
 
One may ask: ” If it is so bad, why have the mayor of New York and some elected officials, all Jews, thrown their hats in the arena  on the side of the promoters? The answer is simple: it is political correctness run amok. The Muslim ladies quoted above called them “bleeding-heart liberal elites.”

I dare to go farther: as an avowed foe of political correctness of any kind– I believe it is our collective enemy number one because it obscures the truth, and afflicts us with willful blindness, and the truth, for me, remains the supreme criterion for any judgment– I say with sadness that the Jewish leaders on the Left, in general, suffer from the Jewish disease of what I call “universalitis.” They can’t take their own side in a dispute, the others are always right. They speak in the abstract, on what should be rather than what is.  To parody a popular adage, they don’t see the log in the eye of the others but they see the straw in their eye.

They indulge in self-deluding pieties on liberty, rights, constitution, and they defend those who reject them violently. In the words of Lenin in another context (speaking of the Communists in the West) they are “useful idiots.” To the point that they even brave the 69 % and growing opponents among their constituents. I believe they will not be re-elected.

I also believe the mosque will not be built on ground zero. As for Obama, safely protected by those Jewish politicians, he has an uncanny ability to do things against the majority of the people’s wishes. And he, too, will pay politically.

 
Conclusion: As documented above, I do not see the controversy as “religious,” akin to the “disputations” in Spain and France during the Inquisition. It is not a matter of theology, on which religion is right. I see it as matter of security even more than sensitivity to the sufferers. Can you, or anyone of the defenders, declare with some degree of certitude, that a mosque of this magnitude in America does not present any danger to our security?  If not, it is irresponsible to let it happen. We should use common sense: “when in doubt, abstain !”  Use caution, be prudent.

Maybe we should prohibit all religions, for the sake of fairness, to limit their houses of worship to no more than  2-3 floors. We should “respect and suspect” everyone,and not endanger the security of all because of political correctness. And if it is difficult to decide, I suggest to use “Le Pari” (the Wager) of Blaise Pascal. He wrote :” Let us wager that God exists. If we are right, we gain eternity; if we are wrong, what did we lose, a few pleasures or sacrifices, nothing.”

  
Applied here, it will be: ” If we build such a mosque, we expose ourselves to a potential huge danger but if we don’t, we avoid such catastrophe even if  we will annoy some group by limiting their “rights.” For me, the choice is clear.
I hope you reconsider your position, and you will have the courage to proclaim it. Thank you for your attention.
Prof. Isaac Yetiv
La Jolla, CA

Israel’s idealism often overwhelms its governmental delivery system

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — Israel is too small and too poor for the demands that it lays upon itself, and are imposed by the world.

My favorite newspaper photo of the day shows a file room at a court house. It came with a story about a plaintiff’s case of medical malpractice that failed on account of a lost file. We see in the picture what we  know about government offices, hospitals and other public facilities. There is too much to do in order to assure proper treatment. 
 
Just last evening on our walk around French Hill we encountered a problem that might have justified a call to the police, but where the prospect of quick service versus the severity of the problem deterred us from making the call.

We passed by a group of Arabs dressed as if they had come from a family feast to celebrate the end of a daily Ramadan fast. Suddenly a boy of about 14 jumped, yelled, smacked his hand against a parked car, and swaggered off as if he had rendered appropriate damage to a Jew’s property.

Call the cops and point out the vandal? Last time we called the police was a more serious event of an Arab assaulting a young woman. At that time our first call to the emergency number broke off in the midst of our report. When we did make contact, it took 10 minutes for the first patrol car to arrive. This in a neighborhood bordering an Arab community with a high incidence of minor and not so minor incidents.

So last night we continued on our walk, frustrated at the system and angry at ourselves for choosing the easy over what might have been the appropriate decision.

Another case: the Supreme Court has ordered the government to reconsider the appointment of a woman to the commission investigating the seizure of the Turkish flotilla.

What to do? The law requires that such bodies include a woman, but the Court made its decision after the commission had already heard what are likely to be the most important witnesses from the government and the military.

The entire investigation is a farce. So what that nine fighters (terrorists, if you will) were killed in a military operation? How many operations of American and NATO forces have caused as many casualties in the area from Iraq eastward without provoking the United Nations and pressuring the soldiers’ home country to conduct a public investigation?

Another case: Ha’aretz is exposing that several thousand illegals from Africa have been held in detention longer than the period of time allowed by law before their cases are settled. Many of these individuals have no documents and come from countries without functioning governments. But a judge may look at the law, and order that individuals held too long be let out on the street. The individuals waiting for such a determination look something like those files pictured above: too many to deal with according to requirements.

Who’s responsible? Both Israelis and the world. Seekers of justice work to impose whatever regulations they pick up from elsewhere in order to make things better here. The people making the demands are  Israelis and Jews feeling that Israel must be at least as good as other countries.

Then there is the world, always on edge in search of a new accusation that can be made against Israel.

Remember those 400 children of illegal immigrants ordered deported. There are daily articles describing citizen and overseas activists–from Eilie Wiesel downward–concerned that Israel might despoil itself by expelling children who should not be here.

None of these are bad ideas, but Israel does not have the population or resources of all those countries serving as models of public policy. And the resources that it does have are allocated more than elsewhere to defense. Staying alive comes at the cost of an ideal public administration or an environment as clean as that of Germany.
Overall, the country does not do badly with what it has. Its health and welfare, the incidence of violent crime, and the safety of its prisons look better than in the United States, but that is an easy standard of comparison. There is no other country where all of the universities are on the Chinese list of the 500 best in the world.

Thinking about making it better, I return to those moments last evening when I considered calling the cops against that teenager from Isaweea. Most likely the police had more serious things to do. One of my neighbors has a dented car, and an Arab is feeling good that he did something to the Jews. I am angry at myself, but would have been even angrier if the call to the police did not go through, if the patrol car came too late, or was met by women screaming about a racist Jew who had summoned the police for no reason about a well behaved boy.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University