Sunday, December 23, 2007

Respectfully Submitted for Your Review

One of the pro-Israel lists to which I subscribe forwarded a message from a monitored anti-Israel list, which stated as follows:

"Marcy Winograd is the co-founder of the LA Jews for Peace collectiveand a long-time anti-war activist in Los Angeles . Inspired by author Joel Kovel's book Overcoming Zionism, she is interested in assembling and publishing an anthology entitled: From Zionism to Humanism:Personal Stories of Jews Who Dare to Speak Out. If you know of Jews who might be interested in contributing to her anthology, please encourage them to submit their story to Marcy at"

(Note the implicit slur that Zionism, self-determination for the Jewish people in our homeland, is incompatible with humanism. I wonder how she feels about threatening to flog people for naming a teddy bear Mohammed? Also, it's interesting that she was inspired by the Kovel book. This book, distributed by the University of Michigan via a contract with UK-based Pluto Press, has brought much criticism to the university for distributing it, since it is filled with anti-Israel propaganda and doesn't deserve the imprimatur of a prestigious university. It operates from the premise that the Jewish state should not exist at all. You can read a recent column in the Jerusalem Post about the book here.)

It was suggested that those of us on the pro-Israel side might want to submit our stories as well.
Here's mine. If I hear back from Ms Winograd, I will let you know; I'm not holding my breath. Readers may want to submit their own stories about speaking out for Israel as well.

In the interests of full editorial disclosure: the first sentence below is completely false. I only wrote it to get her to start reading it; I've been an Israel advocate for years. When I was in college, I posted (on my dormitory door-- we didn't HAVE blogs or listserves then) Chaim Herzog's speech at the UN condemning the General Assembly for its "Zionism is Racism" resolution. Those words apply to Ms Winograd today no less than they applied to the "diplomats" who voted for that piece of verbal sewage.

"While I had always been politically inclined, Israel was never really the focus of activity for me. I became involved while in medical school with Physicians for Social Responsibility and in my professional career as a pediatrician was working on legislative issues involving child health. Things were always happening in Israel but they didn't affect me here.

Then came the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000 and the war in Iraq in 2003. Suddenly, the situation in Israel seemed to be relevant here in the Bay Area, since the anti-war marches and rallies seemed filled with not only condemnations of Israel but outright support of terrorist acts against Israeli civilians. Why was all this happening? Then I realized that the answer really came down to racism--
Israel was being accused of being a racist state in that it was established as a Jewish state, and those who were calling for its replacement by a "binational" state (which would quickly become another Arab state by demographics) felt that this would resolve a fundamental wrong in the world.

After reading and hearing so much of what these anti-Zionists had to say, I realized that they were partially right-- there is a problem of racism as it pertains to Israel. But the problem was staring those protesters right in the mirror! Racism was inherent in their attitudes towards Israel.

Why do I say this? Consider that Israel is singled out for condemnation when crimes being ignored include the genocide in Darfur, the human trafficking and oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, the religious repression of Christians throughout the Arab world, and the elimination of the culture and history of the Tibetans by the Chinese. There's also the singling out of the only Jewish state as somehow racist in a world with 23 members of the Arab League and 57 members of the Islamic Conference (every one of which declares itself to be an Islamic state), but where only the Jewish people are told that we are not entitled to self-determination. For that matter, Israelis were accused of having stolen land from "indigenous" Palestinians-- by those living on land that belonged to the Miwok Indians, on which Europeans never even set foot until the 18th century! My own heritage stems much more from the Land of Israel than it does from San Francisco, yet my presence here is unchallenged by those who would accept that I am a legitimate target should I decide to live in Israel.

But even more, there is a subtler form of racism against the Palestinians-- the racism of diminished expectations: the racism that refuses to hold them to standards of behavior such as not blowing up women and children in busses and restaurants then publicly celebrating it; the racism that gives them a pass for indoctrinating children into hatred; the racism that says that it's OK for Arabs to have exclusionary states that discriminate against other religions, other ethnic groups, and even their own women; the racism that says that because they have darker skin that they must be right.

So I do speak out-- I stand up for Israel as a Jewish state against those who welcome its destruction. Is Israel a perfect country? Of course not; I haven't found that country yet. Does that validate the thugocracy of Arafat, the Taliban-like rule of Hamas, rockets landing on Sderot? Does that validate the hysterical anti-Zionist rhetoric in this country, which is frequently accompanied by anti-Semitic imagery not usually seen in public except in Arab countries? No. And that's why I speak out."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Israel Promoted on "Progressive" Radio Station

Far too often, those of us involved in Hasbara find ourselves in opposition to self-styled "progressives" who endorse such values as mass murder of civilians, religious repression, suppression of women's rights, and intimidation of journalists-- as long as the perpetrators of those crimes are acting against Israel and can be excused as fighting "occupation". Yet last week in the San Francisco Bay Area, ground zero for this sort of doublethink, a progressive radio station aired an interview about how Israel is a world leader in green energy. The interview aired during peak listening hour (the afternoon drive time) on KKGN "Green Radio".

Jonathan Carey is the founder of Blue Star PR ("The Jewish Ink Tank"), a nonprofit based in San Francisco that turns out a variety of pro-Israel PR materials. He was interviewed about BlueStar's latest campaign: putting up posters in kiosks in downtown San Francisco promoting Israel's role in developing renewable and greener energy sources, helping to end our dependence not only on petroleum itself, but on the repressive and undemocratic regimes that control it. Jonathan also makes a very cogent point in the interview about how Saudi Arabia might be escaping well-deserved criticism for its treatment of women and minorities because Western countries are afraid to alienate those who control the oil spigots. (Of course, given the recent history of Saudi donations to American universities with their accompanying potential for political ramifications, one also can wonder how many of the anti-Israel organizations in this country receive some of those oil profits)

There are other groups also attempting to promote "Israel beyond the conflict" (a phrase formerly used by, which also promotes Israeli achievements in science, technology and culture along with politics-now they just say "A Focus Beyond"). Is this approach effective? I don't know; I'll leave that to opinion pollsters and the like. We all know that this sort of PR isn't going to convince the hard-core anti-Israel contingent, for whom even the development by Israel of endless free green energy and a cure for cancer wouldn't get them to even admit the legitimacy of the Jewish state (And there's WAY too many of that sort around!). But for those whose worldview isn't grounded into excusing any type of behavior in the name of "struggling against occupation", this sort of information can help generate positive impressions of Israel-- which are in too short supply these days.

You can listen to the entire (6 minute) clip while viewing the posters here.