בראשית החודש התקיים דיון בפרלמנט הקנדי בנושאי התוכנית החדשה של נשיא ארה”ב, דונלד טראמפ, תנועת הבי.די.אס וביטחון.
בנושא התוכנית של טראמפ שאל חבר הפלרמנט מטעם המפלגה הדמוקרטית החדשה, אלכנסדר בולריס: “הממשלה הליברלית הנוכחית מתרברבת על המונטין של קנדה על הבמה העולמית. עם זאת, הממשלה מסרבת לגנות את מדיניות המזרח התיכון החדשה של טראמפ, שתאפשר להעניק לגיטימציה לכיבוש הבלתי חוקי של שטחים פלסטינים, מחריפים המתחים בין הצדדים ומסתבכת האופציה להשגת פיתרון של שלום. במקום להוקיע את התוכנית, הליברלים רוצים ללמוד אותה. אין מה ללמוד. תוכנית זו לא תסייע לשני הצדדים לנהל משא ומתן לשלום בר-קיימא, או לשים קץ לעוולות שעומדות בפני הפלסטינים. מתי הממשלה תוקיע את המדיניות החדשה של טראמפ?”
ראש הממשלה, ג’סטין טרודו, הישיב לשאלת בולוריס: “המדיניות של קנדה ביחס למזרח התיכון נקבעה מזה זמן רב והיא ברורה מאוד. אנו מחויבים לפיתרון של שתי מדינות, באמצעות משא ומתן שיתנהל ישירות על ידי שני הצדדים המעורבים. זה לוקח בחשבון שישראל צריכה להיות בטוחה ודמוקרטית ופלסטין צריכה להיות בטוחה ודמוקרטית. אנו פועלים למען מטרה זו בצורה סבירה עם שותפינו באזור ובכל העולם”.
בנושא תנועת הבי.די.אס שאל חבר הפרלמנט מטעם המפלגה השמרנית, דיוויד סוויט: “תנועת החרם והסנקציות ממשיכה במערכה נגד ישראל בקמפוסים בערים השונות בקנדה. בחצר האחורית שלי, כשזה קרה לראשונה, כמה מתנועת הבי.די.אס קראו להטיל סנקציות נגד פרופסורים יהודים באוניברסיטת מקמאסטר בהמילטון. לאור העלייה המדאיגה של האנטישמיות בקנדה, בצפון אמריקה ובעולם, האם הממשלה הליברלית יכולה להבהיר אם היא רואה את תנועת הבי.די.אס כאנטישמית?”
שר החוץ, פרנסואה-פיליפ שמפיין, הישיב לשאלת סוויט: “אנו תמיד עומדים על הערכים הקנדיים והעקרונות הקנדיים ונמשיך לעשות זאת לא רק בקנדה אלא על הבמה הבינלאומית”.
בנושא בטיחות הציבור שאל חבר הפרלמנט מטעם המפלגה השמרנית, גראנט גנוס: “לפני כשנה וחצי הצעתי בפרלמנט לקבוע כי כוח קודס של משמרות המהפכה האיראניים הם ישות ארגונית טרוריסטית. הצעת החוק אושרה בתמיכת נציגי הממשלה הליברלית. המטוס האזרחי האוקראיני הופל על ידי משמרות המהפכה באיראן בחודש שעבר, וקנדים רבים נהרגו. אני רוצה הסבר מדוע הממשלה בחרה שלא לרשום את החוק הנ”ל?”
השר לביטון פנים ולהיערכות לשעת חירום, ביל בלייר, הישיב לשאלת גנוס: “אנו ממשיכים במחויבות שלנו לשמור על הביטחון של הקנדים. אנו ממשיכים לעבוד ביחד עם מדינות אחרות להבטיח שאיראן תישא באחראיות על תמיכתה בטרור. אנו הטלנו סקנציות על איראן ועל כוח קודס של משמרות המהפכה האיראניים, וכן על בכירים בהנהגתם. קנדה כבר עשתה מספר פעולות נגד משמרות המהפכה האיראניים ובהן רישום הארגון כארגון טרור. בשנה שעברה הוספנו שלוש קבוצות שקשורות לשלטון האיראני לחוק הפלילי, שמגדיר אותן כגופי טרור. רישום גורמים לרשימה הוא תהליך מתמשך. גורמי הממשלה ממשיכים לבדוק ולהעריך את כל קבוצות ולעקוב אחר התפתחויות חדשות”.
גנוס שאל שוב: “מדוע בחרה הממשלה שלא לרשום את כוח קודס כישות טרור, שנה וחצי לאחר שאושר החוק”.
בלייר ענה: “רישום גורמים אלה הוא תהליך מתמשך. אנו סומכים על גורמי ממשלה שימשיכו להעריך את כל הקבוצות ולעקוב אחר התפתחויות חדשות. כוח קודס כבר נרשם על ידי קנדה כישות טרוריסטית. בשנה שעברה עשינו צעד נוסף והוספנו עוד שלוש קבוצות איראניות לרשימת ארגוני טרור תחת החוק הפלילי. אנו ממשיכים לעסוק בתהליך הזה ולעקוב אחר ההתפתחויות ככל שהן מתגלות”.
A participant in Playing Fair, Leading Peace in Jaffa. (photo from Peres Center)
“I did not know I could play with Jews or talk to them. Now I want to and I can,” wrote an Arab middle school student whose school was one of 10 – five Jewish, five Arab – to participate in Playing Fair, Leading Peace, created by the Jaffa-based Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to unite Jewish and Arab Israeli children through soccer.
In 2018-2019, Playing Fair, Leading Peace engaged 300 fifth- to seventh-graders in Arab and Jewish sectors of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Kalansua, Kfar Saba, Beersheva and Tel Sheva. In each participating school, one class is matched with one class from the corresponding nearby school. Kids and their teachers are guided by two specially trained university students (one Jewish, one Arab) in five tolerance education and prep sessions held at their own school, and in five joint soccer matches on one another’s turf.
In these games, Arabs don’t play against Jews; each team mixes children from the hosting and visiting schools. And there are no referees; the children are given the responsibility of determining rules and mediating disputes.
“They need to communicate to solve issues during the game by themselves. This is a smart component of the program,” said Tamar Hay-Sagiv, director of the education for peace and innovation department at the Peres Center.
But it’s not an easy component, because one side speaks Hebrew and the other speaks Arabic. “We tackle the language issue by teaching through sports. They learn the language of ‘the other’ while they play,” said Hay-Sagiv.
Nor is it a simple matter to convince parents to allow cross-visits.
“There are fears and stereotypes to overcome,” acknowledged Hay-Sagiv. “We had one child in the south whose family was afraid for him to travel to a Bedouin school. It was a trust-building process between his parents and the head of the school, who gave us full support and made the family comfortable in allowing the visit. It’s always a challenge for Jewish schools to agree to travel to Arab communities, but the hospitality they receive is unbelievable.”
One child wrote on the evaluation form after the first visit: “Even after they prepared us, I was still afraid of them, but when I met them, they looked like us, only with different clothing.”
As for stereotypes, it’s not only about the Arab-Jewish divide but also about gender. “We’ve had girls thinking they are not allowed to play soccer,” said Hay-Sagiv. “We have to overcome that, too. We try to create a safe space for everyone that is fun and interactive.”
For the last 18 years, the Peres Center has used sports, specifically soccer, as a tool to break down barriers between youth, Hay-Sagiv told Israel21c.
The centre’s flagship project, Twinned Peace Sports Schools (TPSS), involves leadership training and mixed teams led by professional coaches. Britain’s Prince William kicked around a ball with the TPSS team in Jaffa during his visit to Israel last summer.
TPSS, started in 2002, is the first and longest-running initiative of its kind in the region. Hay-Sagiv said it “significantly influences Arab and Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian girls and boys to become agents of positive change in their community and around the world.”
The Peres Center sought a way to scale up this successful, but limited, peace-building-through-sports program in a more accessible and less expensive format that would also involve nonathletic children.
“Based on our experience, we thought it would be interesting to get into Jewish and Arab schools during school hours and engage full classrooms. This way, we can reach all the boys and girls, as well as their teachers,” said Hay-Sagiv. When the other children in the host school observe the mixed teams playing soccer together, “it’s unbelievable to see the reactions to this unusual sight. That also has an impact.”
Playing Fair, Leading Peace is supported by the Israel Football Association, which oversees Israel’s national football (soccer) team comprised of Jewish and Arab Israelis, and captained by Circassian-Israeli Muslim Bibras Natkho. The program also works with the National Union of Israeli Students (representing all Israeli universities) and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
“Hopefully, next [school] year, we will double the number of participating schools,” said Hay-Sagiv.
She explained that fifth- to seventh-graders were chosen for the program “because we see this as a crucial age for exposing them to this type of experience. Verbally, they are well developed and they’re going into a tough age. You have enough time to work with them during school hours, and it’s still possible at this age to work with boys and girls together.”
Based on questionnaires distributed before and after the activity, Hay-Sagiv and her staff can see that the program effects changes in attitude.
“I want to feel with them exactly the way I feel with my friends,” wrote one child.
“I hope that we will become one family that does joint activities in togetherness and tolerance,” wrote another.
Hay-Sagiv isn’t surprised by this impact, having seen the inroads made over the years by Twinned Peace Sports Schools.
“We’re traveling to Poland to organize a sports tournament in Warsaw with Israelis, Poles, Germans, Hungarians and Russians to mark 80 years since World War II, hopefully in September,” she said. “We are thinking of bringing a mixed Jewish and Arab team from Israel.”
Israel21c is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.
Gabriella Goliger’s Eva Salomon’s War is an intriguing novel. (photo by Ben Welland))
Award-winning Canadian author Gabriella Goliger has written Eva Salomon’s War (Bedazzled Ink Publishing, 2018), an intriguing novel set between the rise of the German Nazi state and the founding of the state of Israel – two complex historical phenomena whose aftershocks we are still experiencing. But, for Eva Salomon, those huge events are mainly engines moving her own story forward from timid German-Jewish adolescent to courageous Israeli young woman. The novel takes us through many intricacies of the competing historical strands that form the background of Eva’s life. Readers familiar with various bits and pieces of the history can connect the dots through her eyes.
Written as a first-person bildungsroman, the book opens as the Nazis close in on the Jews, who are wondering which of the many possible responses to embrace. Should they stay and resist? Stay, pray and keep their heads down? Should they emigrate, and, if so, where? Should they join the movement to build a Zionist workers’ state in Palestine? So many choices, so many unknowns, and so much peril attached to each decision.
Eva’s beloved older sister, Liesel, immigrates to a socialist kibbutz in the Galilee. Sixteen-year-old Eva and her embittered, widowed father migrate to Tel Aviv. We know what happens to the relatives who feel too old to make the trip.
The character of Eva is loosely based on Goliger’s own aunt. Letters between Eva and Liesel give us many illustrative details of Jewish life in Palestine in those years. In Breslau, they had enjoyed middle-class lives. In Palestine, they quickly have to learn working-class skills and they have to adapt to their shabby new realities among people with no time for pity or introspection.
Kibbutz life is physically harsh but relieved by the high level of ideological commitment between the comrades: “I sleep in a tent and the food is plain, but I never have to think about where my next meal is coming from. Everything is communal and allotted to me, down to my shoes and socks.” Eva flees the misery of life in her father’s tiny flat and finds a place to live with Malka, a Hungarian Jewish seamstress who helps her accommodate to her reduced circumstances.
Malka transforms Eva from a ragged miserable waif to a well-dressed young woman who can make her way in the vibrant, uncertain Jewish Palestinian world. Eva learns the meaning of “ein breirah” – no choice – a theme resonating not only throughout the novel but throughout the decades to the present day as one formative part of Israeli Jewish culture.
Eva finds work as an ozerit (cleaning lady) and starts putting together a life of sorts. She finds a music shop that affords her a bit of pleasure – “my refuge, my paradise” – phonograph records feeding her delight in classical music and her longing for romance. Fittingly, it is where she meets Constable Duncan Rees of His Majesty’s Palestine Police. Their romance encapsulates many conflicting layers of identity, culture, desire and belonging.
Throughout the novel, most of the characters are rent by doubts and competing loyalties. Only the fanatics of all stripes know certainty. The portrayal of Eva’s unbending Orthodox father, seemingly bereft of feeling for his wayward daughter, I found puzzling. We never see anything through his eyes, never understand his inner realities.
Eva is at war with her father, with all rigid religious and political belief systems, with her situation of loving the wrong person, and with her own competing claims of duty. Her personal war intersects with the fighting in Europe, the fighting between Arabs and Jews, the infighting between the various Zionist factions and, crucially, with the growing resistance to the British presence in Palestine.
Eva is a Jewish refugee. Duncan is charged with upholding British laws controlling Jewish immigrants. Despite the growing cultural-personal-political tensions, Eva enjoys their romance. She experiences pleasure and the delights of physical intimacy, which she keeps secret as much as possible. “The more he was my secret, the tighter, I felt, was our bond.” Their emotional intimacy is harder to sustain. One feels it can’t last and I wondered throughout how Goliger was going to handle it (no spoiler here).
The British White Paper on Palestine brings it all to a head. Tensions explode into violence all over the land, from many different directions, aimed at “traitors” to all the intersecting causes. For each faction, “we” are highly individuated and the others are an undifferentiated “they.” Eva, essentially an apolitical person, is helplessly caught up in the sectarian brutality.
One can’t help but read the novel through the prism of the tragic unfolding of events since 1948. Goliger vividly illustrates the human urgencies propelling Arabs and Jews in all directions, and the emotional realities behind all the ideologies.
Near the end, I was reminded of Anne Frank’s “In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart.” Eva reflects, “I believe a better world is dawning because … because ein breirah. I must.”
Deborah Yaffe lives in Victoria, where she formerly taught in the women’s studies department of the University of Victoria. An active secular Jewish feminist since reading Elana Dykewomon and Irena Klepfisz in the 1980s, she is grateful for the many Israeli individuals and organizations working against Jewish persecution of Arab Israelis and Palestinians.
U.S. President Donald Trump with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Presidential Palace, Bethlehem, May 2017. (photo by the White House)
Mahmoud Abbas has had enough. Thirteen years into his four-year term as elected leader of the Palestinian people, he has nothing of substance to show for his efforts and his friends are abandoning him.
On Sunday, his frustration was on full display during a two-and-a-half-hour speech.
Things have been building up lately for Abbas and his Fatah faction and, at a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council, he finally let loose.
Naturally, he focused on Israel, which he declared a European colonialist enterprise and denied Jewish connection to the land.
“Israel is a colonialist project that has nothing to do with Jews,” Abbas said. “The Jews were used as a tool under the concept of the Promised Land – call it whatever you want. Everything has been made up.”
Abbas, who has a doctorate in history, has taken a creative approach the discipline from the start, when his dissertation discounted the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis and contended that European Jews were collaborators in their own genocide in order to advance the cause of Zionism.
Of course, Abbas also railed against the U.S. president for his announced intention to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Abbas accused Donald Trump of destroying the prospects for peace.
“Yekhreb Beitak,” Abbas said in the general direction of Trump. According to the Associated Press, the curse literally translates as “may your house be demolished.”
“In colloquial Palestinian Arabic,” AP explained, “the phrase can have different connotations, from a harsh to a casual insult, but its use in a widely watched speech seemed jarring – and could exacerbate his already fragile relationship with an American president who is particularly averse to criticism.”
If the U.S. president is a notorious hothead, that’s exactly how Abbas appeared Sunday, but certainly not without reason.
What must hurt more than anything is that Abbas now sees those who have been the Palestinians’ historic allies softening their resolve. As a New York Times investigation earlier this month indicated, while Arab leaders from Egypt to Saudi Arabia were making appropriate noises in public about Trump’s Jerusalem gambit, behind the scenes they are giving every indication that they won’t expend political energy on the matter.
The irony is clear – and for Abbas and his allies it must be especially painful.
The welfare of Palestinians has never been a genuine priority for the Arab world, even as they have propelled the Palestinian cause to the top of the global agenda, paralyzing the United Nations in the process. For Arab leaders, Palestinians have always been little more than a battering ram with which to land blow after blow against the Zionist entity. Palestinian life under Israeli occupation and autocratic leaders is filled with small and large indignities.
Now that geopolitics suggests Israel is not so much the regional threat that Iran poses, the Palestinians, once a useful weapon for the Arabs in their 70-year confrontation with Israel, are being cast aside.
Abbas’s obvious frustration Sunday suggests there may finally be a change afoot to the status quo that has been unsatisfactory for Israelis and even more so for Palestinians. What the future looks like for the Palestinians – and for their relations with Israel – remains unclear.
Note: The headline of this editorial has been changed. In the Jan. 19 newspaper, the piece ran as “Abbas rightly irked,” which misled some readers to think that we agreed with Mahmoud Abbas’s remarks. We in no way condone his abandonment of historical fact, his inhumane accusation that Jews were complicit in the Holocaust or the many other false and immoral statements in his two-and-a-half-hour diatribe.
The Peace Factory founders Joana Osman and Ronny Edry spoke at the University of British Columbia on Feb. 6. (photo by Zach Sagorin)
“Israel loves Iran,” “Palestine loves Israel,” “Israel loves Palestine,” “Iran loves Israel & Palestine.” The Peace Factory uses social media to connect people in the Middle East, to build relationships and see one another as human beings with visions of peace.
“People may not like the idea of inclusion, the idea of welcoming everyone, but that’s why we are here – to invite those people to learn about the various cultures and faiths that are around us,” said Shem Arce when introducing the Active Community Dialogue (ACD) event Make a Friend, Make Peace. “With some dialogue and understanding we can create a community for everyone – no matter their religion, culture or ethnic background.”
Arce, a University of British Columbia film studies student from Mexico, recently began ACD with the goal of combating discrimination through meaningful, respectful dialogue and interactions.
ACD’s Make a Friend, Make Peace event on Feb. 6 featured a presentation from the founders of the Peace Factory: Ronny Edry, an Israeli graphic designer living in Tel Aviv, and Joana Osman, a Palestinian living in Munich. The pair also spoke at King David High School.
The UBC event drew dozens of people, and Edry showed the crowd a poster he uploaded to Facebook in 2012, when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “was calling for preemptive strike on Iran,” when “it was quite stressing.”
The graphic designer decided to send something else to Iran. He designed a brightly coloured poster with a photo of him holding his daughter and bold text declaring, “Iranians / we will never bomb your country / We ♥ You.” Edry told the audience that the “five first comments were ‘delete it’” but, after leaving the poster online, he was surprised to find that “Iranians were commenting on the picture” and a line of communication was created.
“If something works, do it again,” said Edry. Soon, he added, “a lot of Iranians and Israelis started having a conversation.”
Interestingly, the security guard of the ACD event, an Iranian-Canadian man, had participated in the Peace Factory movement.
“When you don’t know someone and you close your eyes and think of the enemy, you end up thinking of some kind of monster,” said Edry. In Israel, “most of the time on the TV, they won’t show you the nice people of Iran.”
But, after starting the “Israel loves Iran” campaign, Edry received pictures from Iranians wanting to join. The movement has enabled many Iranians and Israelis to connect and build friendships online. And it continues to grow, with more than 121,000 likes and more than one million unique visitors each week to the “Israel loves Iran” Facebook page and more than two million views of Edry’s Ted Talk. The movement is continuing, with “both sides sharing stories and pictures of themselves,” said Edry.
With the success of “Israel loves Iran,” Edry said people were “coming up to me and saying, ‘Why don’t you do the same campaign with the Palestinians?’”
Soon after, Osman founded the group “Palestine loves Israel” to create a platform for Palestinians and Israelis to get to know one another through social media.
Together, Edry and Osman created the Peace Factory to “try to rehumanize the [other side] and give them a face and a story.”
Osman said building these connections “changes everything because, once you make a friend on the other side, everything changes for you.”
Osman said she asked herself, “As one person what can you do?” Her answer was, “You can be part of the change and you start communicating … if you can change one person’s mind, that may be enough.”
She added, “The enemy is nothing like you have in your mind … and, when you get to see his face and you see nice people,” you realize “they are not that bad.”
The Peace Factory’s vision is of a free and democratic Middle East, and they intend to build bridges and friendships to connect people with the same vision.
“It is not that we deny there is a conflict,” Osman said. “We have to pay attention to it, but I strongly believe that the solution can’t come from politics, it comes from people, real people connecting to each other…. Once you understand the other side is a real people with real pain … you come to the conclusion we are one people, one human race, with one goal to live in peace.”
A leisurely walk through Jerusalem’s Old City will let visitors see many manifestations of political propaganda, packaged in many forms, all sold to the visitor with a smile. Here, a “Free Palestine” T-shirt is offered for sale in the shuk alongside an Israel Defence Forces T-shirt. (photo by Edgar Asher)
Matisyahu, the reggae rapper whose refusal to be bullied into a political pledge resulted in his being removed from the lineup of a Spanish music festival, was eventually allowed to perform last weekend.
Global outrage over the politicizing of the musical event – and the potential whiff of antisemitism – led organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash Festival to reverse their demand that the Jewish American musician pledge support for an independent Palestine. (Not a two-state solution, mind you, or a negotiated settlement of the conflict.)
After he received an apology, Matisyahu accepted the invitation to play after all. He mounted the stage to heckles and chants of “out, out,” from multiple audience members waving large Palestinian flags.
“Let music be your flag,” he urged the audience as he proceeded with his 45-minute set, ending with a spine-tingling rendition of “Jerusalem,” a defiant anthem of Jewish survival and resilience: “3,000 years with no place to be / And they want me to give up my milk and honey,” he sang. “Don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea / Not the country but the dwelling of His majesty … Rebuild the Temple and the crown of glory / Years gone by, about sixty / Burn in the oven in this century / And the gas tried to choke, but it couldn’t choke me / I will not lie down, I will not fall asleep.… Afraid of the truth and our dark history / Why is everybody always chasing we?”
The incident was a nasty one, certainly, but its lesson is beautiful. Do not let bullies win, whether they attack you because of who you are or the ideas you carry. It is an issue we reflected on locally earlier this summer when outside forces attacked our community for hosting speakers from the New Israel Fund and it is an issue we face continually from the BDS movement, which, in the Matisyahu imbroglio, has shown its true colors.
Matisyahu also showed his. And it was a thing to see.
More senseless violence has hit Jerusalem in recent months, with the brutal murder of four worshippers at a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood late last year and multiple stabbings and car attacks. Some folks, while on the one hand wanting to ensure the world learns of these heinous acts, will, on the other hand, continue to ask why the media is so obsessed with Israel.
I was reminded of this question not too long ago via a short CNN video clip with journalist Matti Friedman in which he discusses an article he wrote for Tablet last summer that’s taken on a new life online. To make his case that the media is unfairly biased against Israel, Friedman cites the 2013 death toll in Jerusalem compared to Portland (more deaths in Portland), and the century-long Arab-Israeli conflict toll compared to the ongoing carnage in Syria (more lives lost in Syria). He adds that, in the overall reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian saga, Israel is unfairly portrayed as the aggressor while the Palestinians are cast as victims rather than as agents of their own fate.
The question of presumed agency is a key one in the conflict: how the conflict actors themselves see it, and how others can serve to reinforce these roles. It’s a fair point.
However, to truly understand why individuals, media markets, foreign policy actors and international organizations devote so much time and energy to the Israeli-Palestinian nexus, we’d need some in-depth research to really understand their motivations. For now, here are several plausible reasons that seek to raise the discussion beyond the reductionist assumption that there is a “media bias against Israel” and the related, if unspoken, accusation that the world simply hates the Jewish state.
Perhaps most importantly, American taxpayers provide a significant annual sum of money to Israel, via the $3 billion in annual U.S. aid granted to Israel. It’s natural that the government and the voters in that country at least would disproportionately concern themselves with the region.
Second, the Israel-Palestine core is the heartland of the three main monotheistic religions. The role of religious symbolism in Western art, literature, film and culture in general is significant. The region, in short, has long captured the imagination of many.
Third, Israel – unlike Syria – is a democracy. Citizens of democracies tend to hold other democracies to democratic standards. That means that violence committed in the name of democratic values – for better or worse – sometimes gets more airtime.
Fourth, as others have written before, Israel is seen by many as a colonial transplant. There are very good arguments against a simplistic understanding of Israel as a colonial project. (There is no core state to which settlers send extracted resources, for example.) But there is no getting around the fact that Israel’s birth was precipitated in part by Europe’s carving up of the region into mandate territories after the First World War. The shred of the colonial shadow succeeds in galvanizing a certain political consciousness that other conflicts, especially civil ones within non-democracies, simply don’t, unfortunately perhaps.
Fifth, once Israel came into existence, it was seen by many as a plucky state surviving against all odds. It’s a narrative that Israel and the engines of Diaspora Jewry have themselves succeeded in promoting. That the world continues its fascination with Arab-Israeli geopolitics, played out now partly through the Palestinians, is, therefore, not surprising.
Sixth, Jews tend to punch above their collective weight in many aspects of popular culture: entertainment, the arts, literature and so on. That the Jewish state and its goings-on figure so prominently in the media can be seen as a benign extension of this. Add to this the fact that some of the players in the contemporary Israeli-Palestinian saga also hold American citizenship (three of the victims of the Har Nof synagogue attack held dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship, while the fourth was British Israeli) and the effect is magnified.
Finally, as for Friedman’s comparison between the disproportionate attention given to death and destruction in Israel compared to, say, in Portland, one could say that political violence naturally garners more international concern – again, sadly for those who are ignored – than death caused by typical urban ills such as poverty, petty crime, drugs or traffic accidents.
In sum, I’ve suggested seven plausible reasons why the world might be “obsessed” with Israel, none of them having to do with base hatred of the country or of Jews. Of course, there’s nothing saying that any of these possible reasons obviate the need to look antisemitism in the eye wherever it genuinely appears, or to spend more time analyzing the Palestinian part of the equation. But let’s at least consider the array of possibilities out there before we assume that the world is against us.
Mira Sucharovis an associate professor of political science at Carleton University. She blogs at Haaretz and the Jewish Daily Forward. A version of this article was originally published on haartez.com.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014. (photo from UN photo/Amanda Voisard)
The Israeli government has launched a public diplomacy campaign to discredit the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to start an inquiry into what the Palestinians call Israeli “war crimes” in the disputed territories.
According to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the inquiry – which was initiated after a request by the Palestinian Authority – is not a formal investigation, but rather “a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the [ICC’s] Rome Statute.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently signed the Rome Statute in order to join the ICC after failing to get a UN Security Council resolution passed that called for Israel’s withdrawal from the disputed territories by 2017.
Israel’s campaign against the ICC inquiry will focus on the fact that the because the charges were filed by the PA, which is not a state, the court has no authority to act. In addition, the campaign will point out the court’s bias against Israel – a country on the frontline of the war against terrorism that makes sure to abide by international law by way of an independent legal system.
The Israeli government decided to launch the public diplomacy campaign at an emergency meeting in response to the ICC decision that was convened by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The meeting, which took place at Netanyahu’s office, was attended by Israeli security, legal and diplomatic officials.
The ICC’s decision to launch the inquiry into Israeli actions is “the height of hypocrisy and the opposite of justice,” Netanyahu said on Sunday at the start of this week’s cabinet meeting, two days after the court announced the inquiry.
“During my years of public service, both as UN ambassador and as prime minister, I encountered these kinds of events, but this decision by the [ICC] prosecutor is in a league of its own,” Netanyahu said. “It gives international legitimacy to international terrorism.”
The prime minister said Israel would fight the ICC’s decision with every means it has available, including the enlistment of its allies. Along those lines, Israel is lobbying member states of the ICC to cut funding for the tribunal, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday. Israel, which like the United States does not belong to the ICC, hopes to dent funding for the court that is drawn from its 122 member states in accordance with the size of member states’ economies, said Lieberman.
“We will demand of our friends in Canada, in Australia and in Germany simply to stop funding it,” Lieberman told Israel Radio.
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this week. (photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO)
After a hostile greeting by protesters in the Palestinian Authority capital of Ramallah, who pelted his convoy with shoes and eggs, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird returned to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and President Reuven Rivlin.
According to reports, Ramallah activists carried signs reading “Baird you are not welcome in Palestine.” Baird has opposed the PA’s bid for war crimes charges against Israel and other moves by the PA at the United Nations. Ottawa has also been vocally supportive of Israel during Stephen Harper’s tenure.
The foreign minister’s visit came on the anniversary of Harper’s tour of the region in 2014. Baird hoped to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to the strategic partnership and agreements forged on that visit. “Canada deeply values its close ties with Israel,” Baird said prior to his trip.
Baird traveled to Ramallah Sunday morning to meet with PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. At that meeting, which Baird called “cordial and constructive,” Baird and Maliki discussed Canada’s “desire for a future of peace and prosperity, stability and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Baird said Canada considers itself a “friend” to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “As friends, we have candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion,” he said, adding that he asked Maliki to “strongly reconsider the consequences of moving forward with any action that may be counterproductive to a negotiated solution with the state of Israel.”
Last week, the PA brought war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, along with ongoing efforts to seek sanctions at the UN. Baird said these moves, “will not contribute to peace and security in the region.”
As Canadians, said Baird, “we strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we will play our part to defend Israel from international attempts to delegitimize it.”
“Canada believes strongly in a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” Baird said prior to the trip. “Negotiations provide the only viable path to lasting peace.”
Returning from Ramallah Sunday afternoon, Baird met privately with Lieberman.
Lieberman has earned scorn with his plan to annex Israeli Arab villages to the PA. Under Lieberman’s plan, only those Arab citizens who moved to Israeli-controlled areas and pledged loyalty to the state of Israel would retain their current citizenship. Once considered a contender for prime minister, Lieberman’s chances have been diminished considerably by recent corruption allegations.
The ministers jointly signed four memoranda of understanding and agreements, including a declaration of solidarity and friendship, and a declaration on trade that Baird said aims “to double the value of our [countries’] commercial relationship.”
Baird said that with the rise of worldwide terrorism, including October’s attack on the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, “the relationship between Canada and Israel is stronger than ever been, and getting stronger every day.”
Business development between the two countries will be targeted specifically in the area of defence, security and cyber security, Baird said.
Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici and other official representatives from both countries remained after Baird’s departure for award presentations to the 10 finalists of Grand Challenges Israel (GCI). Inspired by Grand Challenges Canada (GCC), which is led by chief executive officer Peter Singer, who received the Order of Canada in 2011, GCI rewards entrepreneurs for advances in affordable health care for the developing world. Finalists, chosen from more than 100 entries, presented innovations in water purification, disease diagnosis and an affordable wheelchair for children. Worldwide, the Grand Challenges initiative was launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003.
Baird’s trip to the region included a stop in Egypt, which he visited prior to the Israel leg of his trip. There, he met with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry but failed to ensure the release of Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, convicted for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is now banned in Egypt.
A year ago, on Jan. 20, Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to speak in the Knesset. His remarks about Israel’s right to exist and defend itself received a standing ovation, along with jeers and catcalls from Israeli Arab MKs who walked out in protest. On that visit, Harper pledged millions of dollars in increased support for the PA. Although Harper’s visit was well received by the Israeli media, the Canadian press was critical of Harper’s large delegation and “rigid” pro-Israel stance.
Baird’s Israel agenda originally included stops at the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, both atop the Temple Mount area behind the Western Wall in Jerusalem. No reason was given for the decision to cancel visits there. Harper canceled a similar visit a year ago.
Baird met Netanyahu on Monday afternoon before leaving Israel. He continued to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the 2015 World Economic Forum from Jan. 21-24.
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