Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world."

Husseini with his BFF (Best Fuhrer Friend)

Alan Dershowitz has long been a staunch and outspoken defender of the Jewish State. In a July 26 blog for the Jerusalem Post, Dershowitz articulately flips the Palestinian narrative of Israel's creation on its head. That narrative essentially goes like this: Israel was born out of Western guilt for the Holocaust, Israel's creation punished the Palestinians even though they had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Unfortunately, for Europe's Jews and this narrative, this is categorically untrue.

Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian Arab leader during World War II, had a very prominent role in Hitler's 'Final Solution' and was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of European Jews. Behold:
"Husseini's significant contributions to the Holocaust were multi-fold: first, he pleaded with Hitler to exterminate European Jewry and advised the Nazis on how to do so; second, he visited Auschwitz and urged Eichmann and Himmler to accelerate the pace of the mass murder; third, he personally stopped 4,000 children, accompanied by 500 adults, from leaving Europe and had them sent to Auschwitz and gassed; fourth, he prevented another two thousand Jews from leaving Romania for Palestine and one thousand from leaving Hungary for Palestine, who were subsequently sent to death camps; fifth, he organized the killing of 12,600 Bosnian Jews by Muslims, whom he recruited to the Waffen-SS Nazi-Bosnian division."
Of course, these are the actions of one man. What of the rest of the Palestinian Arabs? Luckily, for the Jews of Palestine and the Arab world, Husseini's plans never came to fruition:
"Hitler assured Husseini about how he would be regarded following a Nazi victory and "the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere." In that hour, the mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. It would then be his task to set off the Arab operations that he had secretly prepared."
In other words, Hitler's 'Final Solution' would have been exported to the Middle East and over 1 million more Jews would have been slaughtered in the process. A sobering thought to be sure, even more so when Husseini's successors are considered. From Nasser, Arafat and the elder Assad, to Meshaal, Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad and the younger Assad, it is easy to see how the best-laid plans of genocidal maniacs have endured and, for the time being, gone awry.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"I kill myself to protect you and you're throwing me out?"

You don't want to rob this convenience store

The title of this post is an IDF elite combat soldier's direct quote. The soldier is responding to an employee of a Tel Aviv bar who is asking him to leave for wearing his IDF uniform, or as the bar employee put it:

"Your shirt symbolizes sh&^ and disgust, and as soon as I see your shirt, it hurts me. So before I hurt you, I'm asking you to leave."

The bar is called Rogatka (Slingshot), it's 100% vegan, and it's owned by an anarchist collective. The owners of Rogatka hope to attract "environmentalists, left-wing activists, and other likeminded people," as long as they're not wearing IDF uniforms.

Rogatka's owners fail to recognize who preserves their right to own a vegan/anarchist bar, who makes it possible for any bars to exist in Israel at all, and who makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect Israeli citizens (even the thankless ones). The 'who' in question, of course, are the men and women of the IDF, and they deserve better than this.

The sad irony here is trying to imagine how far an anarchist/vegan bar would get in a city that is not protected by the IDF, say Gaza or Damascus. Would the owners of such a bar require that the Hamas or Hezbollah members take off their ski masks and AK-47s before entry or, more likely, would the owners get carted to the gallows for having dissenting views and serving alcohol? Luckily for Rogatka's owners, that's only a rhetorical question.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

David Saranga's Public Diplomacy Op-Ed for Ynet

You might remember David Saranga, the Consul for Media and Public Affairs of Israel in the United States, from my post covering my Israel advocacy seminar in Boston. Today he wrote an Op-Ed for Yedioth Ahronoth's (an Israeli newspaper) website Ynetnews.com. In it, he writes about many of the topics he discussed during the Israel advocacy seminar; new media, social networking, and how Israel can use these tools to influence public perception. The article is linked below, along with a few snippets in case you don't have time to read an entire Op-Ed.

A new diplomatic approach

"More recently, the social networks that have now penetrated large segments of our society have become tools that allow us to spread Israel’s message directly - unmediated by the press. This can be achieved by Israel’s official governmental bodies, as well as the Israeli public, who is very much concerned about Israel’s image in the world..."
"The government, for all its innovation, cannot fight effectively by itself on all fronts in the era of the Internet. The fact that Israeli society is so technologically advanced can certainly help in spreading our message to different audiences. Israelis who are active in social networks, participate in international forums, and speak English - which is so widely spoken in Israel - can play an integral role in strengthening the country’s public diplomacy."

I have a feeling we'll be hearing from David Saranga a lot more in the future. He's spearheading Israel's public diplomacy and is helping Israel set the standard for outreach through new media and social networking. Keep on fighting the good fight, Consul.

Monday, July 13, 2009

18th Maccabiah Kicks off in Ramat Gan

Watch the opening ceremonies live online here:

Jewish Life TV

or here:


If the actual events don't fall within the hours of my Clark Kent job, I'll try to cover this more.


"Our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; and the goal is Palestine"

Many see Fatah and Hamas in the Jekyll and Hyde roles; but are they really that different?

In much of the world, and especially the West, Fatah and Hamas are seen as diametrically opposed. Fatah is the moderate, peaceful, and legitimate representative of the Palestinians, while Hamas is the tyrannical Islamist group bent on Israel's destruction. But is this really the case?

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) recently posted a video of a Fatah official declaring:
"Our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; and the goal is Palestine"
Palestine, of course, is referring not to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but to all of historic Palestine; namely the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. Sounds a little Hamas-esque, doesn't it?

Here's another choice quote advocating for Israel's destruction from Fatah MP Najat Abu Bakr:
"It doesn't mean that we don't want the 1948 borders, but rather that our current political program is to say that we want the 1967 borders."
So wanting to destroy Israel, while saying you don't, makes you moderate? At least Hamas is brazenly honest in their intentions. Why can't Fatah demonstrate the same, brutal honesty? As with most things, it boils down to money. Take it away, PA official Mohammed Dahlan:
"The Fatah movement does not recognize Israel, even today... [such recognition is] required of the government but not of the Fatah, so that this government will be able to offer the necessary assistance, to carry out the necessary reconstruction, to offer assistance to the sick, to bring relief to needy families... This can be dealt with [only] by a government that has relations with the international community, one that is acceptable to the international community, in order that we can work together and benefit from the international community."
This is akin to telling your welfare case worker you're looking for a job when you're actually lazing around all day watching TV. Instead of Dr. Jekyll, is Fatah the George Costanza of the Middle East? If only they were that harmless...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mike Wallace Interviews Abba Eban on Israel's 10th Anniversary

Abba Eban, the "voice of Israel"

You read that right, Israel's 10th anniversary. The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin recently unearthed this TV interview taped April 12, 1958. Abba Eban, then Israel's ambassador to America, masterfully and eloquently defends Israel's actions, viability, and very right to exist in this half hour interview. It might be his charming South African accent, but I find Eban to be infinitely more compelling, persuasive, and well-spoken than his 2009 counterparts. Here's a great quote to illustrate my point:

WALLACE: Can a Jew be a good Jew and still be opposed to Zionism and to Israel?

EBAN: In my own personal interpretation, I would say that a man who opposed the State of Israel and the great movement which brought it about, would be in revolt against the most constructive and creative events in the life of the Jewish people, and it's a fact that the great majority of our kinsmen everywhere, are exalted and uplifted by these events.

WALLACE: But Judaism is a religion, sir

EBAN: It is a religion, and it is a peoplehood, and it is a civilization, and it is a faith, and it is a memory; it is a world of thought and of spirit and of action and it cannot be restrictively defined.

And they say Bibi is a good speaker. Wow.

Give the interview a gander and decide for yourself:

Abba Eban: The Mike Wallace Interview

My reaction:

There are many aspects of Israel's present and past that share commonalities; yet there are also many paths from which the two have diverged. In 1958 it was Egypt, under Nasser, promoting its pan-Arab hegemonic views with the stated goal of eliminating the fledgling Jewish State. Israel is now at peace with Egypt, but the existential threat remains in Iran under Khamenei, attempting to control the region through Revolutionary Islam. Back then, public figures were comparing Israel's actions against Arabs to those of the Nazis against the Jews; today is no different. Diaspora Jews were accused of dual loyalties both then and now.

It's not all bad, however. Israel's economy in 1958 was weak in its nascent stages, while today Israel is a major player in the world economy with its high-tech, agriculture, and tourism industries. Furthermore, Israel is at peace with two of its Arab neighbors, enjoys a much stronger friendship with the United States, has reunified Jerusalem as its capital, and has seen its population nearly quadruple since 1958. Finally, in 2009 there are no more cigarette commercials on TV, much less interviewers smoking during a show. This was probably the most unbelievable aspect of the interview to me. Mike Wallace must have gone through half a pack of Parliaments in that half hour and, miraculously, he's still alive in 2009. Good on him.

As we've seen with the dramatic declines in cigarette advertising, a lot can change in 51 years. Although many of the same problems Israel faced in 1958 still exist today, others remain only in history books. Let us hope that 51 years from now, Israel will still be a thriving, strong state with even fewer problems than it has now.

Until next time, my name is Jordan Katz, the cigarette is Parliament.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Advocating for Israel - Part 2

One of Israel's Best Branding Representatives

Picking up where I left off in Advocating for Israel - Part 1, here's the sequel. Think of it as The Dark Knight to Batman Begins...
I'll be covering:
  • Israel and the Media
  • Branding Israel
  • The US-Israel Relationship Today and Tomorrow
Israel and the Media: After discussing the media's role in society, how the media set an agenda, and how the media frame their stories, we dove right into a discussion of a subject that was painfully obvious to the seminar participants; the media cannot ever be 100% objective. However, news out of Israel is not only subjective; it is sometimes very biased against the Jewish State. We discussed several reasons for why this bias exists, how it manifests, and viewed a few examples of the bias in action:
Some reasons why the bias exists:
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Ignorance or misrepresentation of the situation in Israel and the Middle East
  • Pallywood (i.e. "media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians and other Arabs designed to win the public relations war against Israel").
How the bias manifests in coverage of Israel:
  • Here's some Anti-Semitism you might recognize from a previous post
  • Here's a gross misrepresentation of a photo run in the New York Times with the caption; "An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount." The only problem is that the photo is depicting a Jew being defended by an Israeli policeman from Arabs in a neighborhood outside of the Old City altogether.
  • Here's a photo, carried by Reuters, of a comical example of Pallywood at work. Notice the daylight seeping through the curtains on the left side of the picture. Why would the suffering Palestinian lawmakers waste candles during an oppressive Israeli 'electricity blockade?' I'll answer that question with another; why waste an opportunity to make Israel look bad when Reuters is snapping photos?
For a much more in-depth examination of media bias in the Arab-Israeli conflict, check out HonestReporting, CAMERA, MEMRI, and PMW

Branding Israel: David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs of Israel in the United States, presented this segment of the seminar. Consul Saranga is the man behind Israel's efforts to rebrand itself through public diplomacy. Using focus groups, Web 2.0 technologies and public events, Israel is attempting to change the public's perceptions of the Jewish State. Due to Consul Saranga's Israel branding intiative, Israel is the first country to host an official blog, has its own YouTube and Facebook pages, held a photoshoot with Maxim Magazine showcasing the women of the IDF, and even conducted a press conference on Twitter during Operation Cast Lead. Clearly, Consul Saranga is a busy guy and we were very lucky to have him at our Israel Advocacy seminar.

After learning about the Israel branding initiative, we broke out into groups with the task to design an exhibit showcasing Israel at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, which is expected to attract 70 million visitors. After 30 minutes of brainstorming and using Crayola markers to illustrate our exhibits, the groups got together to present our ideas which, while distinct, shared some common themes:
  • Portraying Israel as a country with thousands of years of history and tradition, while at the same time illustrating its place as a modern, liberal democracy
  • Showcasing Israel's booming high-tech industry with hands-on opportunities for the Expo's attendees to use some of Israel's technologies
  • Displaying Israel's contributions to the green energy movement, focusing on Israel's innovations in solar power, water desalination, and energy independence
  • Showing that Israel is not just a Jewish State, but is a place welcome to members of all faiths, creeds and races.
It will be interesting to see how Israel actually presents itself in the Expo and, knowing Israelis, those responsible will probably decide at the last minute. Consul Saranga's words, not mine.

The US-Israel Relationship Today and Tomorrow: The last segment of a whirlwind two and a half day seminar, presented by Naomi Nuta of AIPAC's Boston offices.

Contrary to Walt and Mearsheimer's book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, AIPAC is not a devious organization attempting to elevate Israel at the expense of America. Rather, AIPAC represents a bipartisan voice of American Jews, does not give money to politicians, and takes into consideration both American and Israeli interests. A list of their accomplishments from the past half century can be found here. Some of the most pressing issues on AIPAC's radar are listed below:
  • Passing tough sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program
  • Ensuring Israel's qualitative military edge in the Middle East
  • Creating cooperation between Israel and the USA in energy and national security
AIPAC's actions are mutually beneficial to both Israel and the United States. Preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon benefits both countries, as it keeps the Middle East (relatively) stable and prevents a nuke from potentially targeting Tel Aviv or New York. Israel's qualitative military edge ensures the survival of the USA's greatest ally, and the only liberal democracy, in the region. Energy and national security cooperation reduce both the United States and Israel's dependence on foreign energy and keep both countries safe from terrorism.
AIPAC's work ultimately benefits both the United States and Israel; two allies with similar ideals, goals, challenges and enemies.

Conclusion: I'll keep this short since I imagine you're hunched over your screen trying to get to this marathon post's finish line. It was a great seminar with great guests, I learned a lot and consider myself to be a better advocate for Israel than I was before. Sometime soon, my DC cohorts and I will plan an Israel event based on what we learned in Boston. Stay tuned for that and I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Conflict-Free Israeli Gems

Israel21c.net is a non-profit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st century Israel that exists beyond the conflict; a description I shamelessly ripped from their website. They focus on the innovations in science, technology, art, music, and much more, coming from Israel today. Of course the conflict can't be totally ignored (especially by the mainstream American media), but it's always nice to hear about how Israel is contributing to the world outside of fighting terror. Israel21c.net is a great portal site for everything Israel, and I highly recommend you check it out.

The site even has a 'Did you Know?' page which lists dozens of factoids detailing Israel's accomplishments. I've handpicked a few to list here to whet your appetite (with my comments in parentheses):
  • Israel annually exports more than 1.5 billion flowers to the US and Europe (thus freeing countless husbands and boyfriends from sleepless nights on the couch.)
  • An Israeli company has developed the world's first video ringtones for cell phones - the Vringo (so now we get to hear and see Soulja Boy when our phones ring?!)
  • Bill Gates called Israel a major player in the high tech world (which is equivalent to Al Pacino calling you a major player in yelling.)
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was produced by Haim Saban, an Israeli whose family fled persecution in Egypt (is this really something to brag about?)
  • Most of the Windows NT operating system was developed by Microsoft-Israel (if it would have been Vista, this doesn't make the list.)
  • An Israeli doctor claims that he has succeeded in developing a female equivalent to Viagra called Sheagra (too much humor potential here, best to leave it alone.)
  • An Israeli study has shown that anger may trigger strokes (while a separate, 1-subject study found that anger may trigger a transformation into a giant, green, humanoid monster)
And that's just the beginning, be sure to view the complete list here, sans commentary. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Advocating for Israel - Part 1

With Cartoons like this, from America no Less, Israel Advocacy is Vital

Israel is under attack, and while the IDF has proven time and again to be more than capable of fending off military threats, there are other arenas in which the Jewish State's enemies are waging war. On these new battlefields, Israel's most important weapons are not fighter jets, missiles or guns, but persuasive arguments, truth-telling and education.

Between June 28 and 30, 2009, I participated in an Israel Education and Advocacy Seminar in Boston, MA, hosted by the David Project and Birthright Israel NEXT. Prominent speakers like Ehud Eiran, an expert on Israeli security, David Saranga, the Israeli Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the consulate General in New York, and Naomi Nuta, AIPAC's Boston Area Director, gave talks dealing with their respective fields of expertise. There were numerous group activities, break out sessions, and PowerPoint slides to digest, all with the intent to turn the attendees into educated and well prepared advocates for Israel. The seminar covered the following topics:
  • The Ideological Assault Against Israel
  • An Analysis of Israel's Security Challenges
  • Israel and the Media
  • Branding Israel
  • The US-Israel Relationship Today and Tomorrow

It's difficult to pack 3 days of lectures and activities into one blog post, so I'm going to briefly cover half of the topics in this post, leave you with a cliffhanger, and cover the second half in the next post.

The Ideological Assault Against Israel: The parties waging an ideological assault against Israel are varied, yet their main objective is the same; to mentally prepare the world for Israel's elimination. We discussed the 3 major aggressors and their tactics in the ideological battle; Arabs/Muslims, the ultra-left, and the ultra-right on the political spectrum. The tactics include dehumanizing Jews/Israel, painting Israelis as modern-day Nazis, accusing Israel of running an apartheid state (I'm looking at you, Jimmy Carter), denying historical Jewish claims to the land of Israel and especially Jerusalem, and economic and intellectual divestment. We broke into 4 groups dealing with a real-life divestment scenario in Somerville, MA, discussing our strategies and methods for countering Somerville's attempts to divest from Israel. Somerville's arguments for divestment were fairly typical:
"Palestinians have been subject to a system of extreme discrimination and human rights abuses including the forced dislocation in 1948."

"Somerville has money invested in Israel Bonds as well as military companies benefitting off of the attacks on Palestinians."
There was broad consensus amongst the seminar attendees as to how a divestment effort should be countered:
  • Build a diverse coalition of academia, politicians, Evangelical Christians, AIPAC, Arab Zionists and everyday people who support Israel (think Joe the Plumber) to combat the divestment efforts.
  • Craft a message that exposes the divestment supporters for totally ignoring the reasons why Israel needs to use force to keep its citizens safe, while making the case that the United States and Israel face similar threats of terrorism and are combating the same foes, and that the United States and Israel are both liberal democracies with similar ideals and principles that respect minority rights.
  • Strategically deliver the message through our coalition to refute the arguments made by the divestment supporters, illuminate the threats to Israel's security, and prove that the USA and Israel have similar interests and goals through lectures, town halls, debates and other public events.

This may seem like an excessive effort to keep a city of less than 80,000 from divesting from Israel, but it is important to consider that if one city divests from Israel, what's stopping others from following suit? Sending Israel's ideological opponents a clear message that Israel's supporters and advocates won't stand for the demonization, divestment or defamation of the Jewish State makes others less likely to attack Israel in the future. Just as the IDF serves as an effective deterrent to terrorists and Arab/Muslim states on the battlefield, so too can Israel advocates serve as effective ideological deterrents to Israel's enemies in the war of ideas.

An Analysis of Israel's Security Challenges: After discussing Israel's struggle against ideological enemies, Ehud Eiran, Research Fellow for the Belfer Center’s International Security Program at Harvard University, broke down Israel's current security threats by providing an historical context. Israel's historical threats stemmed from a variety of claims and beliefs on the part of Israel's enemies:
  • Jews are not a national group and therefore do not deserve a state
  • Historic Palestine is land entrusted by Allah to Muslims
  • Europeans created Israel out of guilt from the Holocaust
  • The 1948 War of Independence created Arab refugees
  • Israel is an affront and a humiliation to Muslim hegemony in the region
  • The neighboring regimes are not free and democratic societies
  • The 1967 6-Day War left Israel with millions of Palestinians under its control
  • And, let's face it, the Middle East isn't exactly Mayberry.

These conditions and beliefs gave rise to the attempted wars of annihilation against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, Palestinian terrorism as exemplified by the 1st and 2nd Intifadas, Hezbollah's creation in Lebanon, and the continuing policy of Arab/Muslim rejectionism.

Today, Israel still faces these attitudes and threats from its neighbors, with the added wrinkle of an Iranian regime bent on Israel's destruction by means of a nuclear bomb. Aside from its pursuit of nukes, Iran is also the primary funder of both Hamas and Hezbollah, and is attempting to export its Islamic Revolutionary worldview throughout the region. Needless to say, Iran's maniacal quest for atomic weapons and patronage of genocidal terror organizations are Israel's highest priorities on the security front today.

Our group activity dealt with preparing a strategy to communicate the reasons behind a hypothetical Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites. While this situation is not (yet) real like the Somerville Divestment case study, it is still useful to proactively craft a message justifying a strike on Iran's nuke sites. Each day that diplomatic overtures fail to contain Iran's nuclear program is a day closer to an Israeli strike being necessary, and it's far better to have your message at the ready. I'm sure Israel's PR people are diligently planning for such an event right now, and might even find an unlikely, albeit tacit, friend in attempting to justify its strike on Iranian nuclear sites; Saudi Arabia.

This wraps up the first part of my Boston odyssey in Israel advocacy. Stay tuned for part deux in the next couple of days.