By Dr Ron Weiser AM
The Chagim have passed and yet the month did not go by without some notable events that affect Israel in the international arena.
Just prior to Rosh Hashanah saw the funeral of Shimon Peres z”l.
Even in death, he continued to serve Israel.
The funeral was amazing, with over 80 world leaders coming to Israel, standing in front of Israeli flags in the Jewish capital Jerusalem, at Israel’s national cemetery Mt Herzl and paying tribute to a man whose history was the history of Israel.
Yes, it was a tribute to Shimon Peres and no, it cannot be divorced from a general recognition of Israel and her status amongst the nations.
Yes, even representatives of Arab countries were amongst those paying their respects.
Yes, even Mahmoud Abbas, cynical as his attendance may be viewed, came as well.
Despite this, the most notable absentees were the representatives of Israeli Arabs.
The first own goal of the past month was the boycott of Peres’ funeral by the elected representatives of Israeli Arabs, the Joint Arab List.
If there was ever a message that Israeli Arabs had a chance to send to the rest of their fellow citizens about really wanting to be part of the State of Israel, they missed this opportunity in a big way.
Roundly condemned for this action across the political spectrum in Israel and sowing the seeds of great doubt in the minds of Jewish Israelis as to whether Israeli Arabs really want to be part of the Israeli matrix, they gave the firm impression to the Israeli public that Lieberman’s plan of land and population swaps as part of the Two State Solution is something Israeli Arab leadership may be talking themselves into.
As we will see further on, there is much in common between the radical section of Israel’s Arab population and the increasingly unpopular and radical section of Israel’s far left.
They are both making statements and taking action that repulse the vast majority of Israeli citizens.
The second own goal of the month was scored by UNESCO in the form of its absurd resolution to ignore and deny any Jewish, or Christian for that matter, connection to Jerusalem.
Yes, the resolution was abominable, and yes it was appalling to see the countries that supported it and the countries that could only abstain instead of voting against.
But on the glass ¾’s full side, this time, unlike earlier in the year, not a single European country voted in favour and more countries abstained or voted against the resolution, than voted for it.
Even France which in April this year supported the resolution, abstained this time. I guess from the hypocritical French that was about as good as we could get.
Italy which abstained, followed up by Prime Minister Renzi stating that in future it would vote against such a resolution.
Mexico which voted for the resolution, only days later changed its vote to an abstention.
Does anyone think that the UNESCO resolution made Jews rethink whether they would go to the Kotel during the Chagim or not, or for that matter, did the earlier resolution have any effect on world leaders coming to Jerusalem for Shimon Peres’ funeral????
All the resolution did was to further damage UNESCO’s name and the credibility of the United Nations generally – ergo the second own goal.
The third own goal was scored by Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of New Israel Fund grantee, B’Tselem, who appeared before a UN Security Council hearing on October the 14th to present his statement against Israel’s actions in the West Bank/Judea, Samaria.
El-Ad went well beyond any red line when he called on the world community to take action against Israel.
In fact, El-Ad made a series of own goals all on his own:
- B’Tselem was unmasked showing it to be not a human rights organisation at all, but rather a political organisation whose aim is to undermine Israel’s sovereignty in order to pursue its aims.
- El-Ad’s appearance before the Security Council committee was criticised and condemned across the political spectrum in Israel uniting Israelis against such actions by the radical left.
- Whatever their views, Israelis are becoming increasingly disgusted with actions by the radical left in rushing to hostile international arenas calling for foreign intervention against Israel
- This action further alienated the vast majority of Israelis from the New Israel Fund, those who were already appalled by international lobbying against Israel by another New Israel Fund grantee, Breaking The Silence.
Whatever the perceived rights or wrongs of the causes these sorts of organisations claim to be fighting for, the left in Israel are increasingly distancing themselves from such organisations as they understand that in the international arena such actions present an existential threat to Israel herself, give succour to the BDS movement and continually and deliberately fail to understand and misrepresent the base cause for the lack of progress on peace.
And the fourth own goal was scored by Likud MK and coalition chairman David Bitan who in response to El-Ad’s Security Council speech, publicly called for El-Ad to be stripped of his Israeli citizenship.
Bitan’s ill-advised call, which in any case is absurd, served only to take the spotlight off El-Ad and move it on to questions about the Likud’s commitment to free speech and democratic norms.
No-one should be questioning El-Ad’s right to say whatever he wants.
The debate around these sort of New Israel Fund grantees should be about the accuracy of what they say, about their judgement in where and how they make their claims and to the extent their actions do or do not undermine the safety and security of Israeli citizens.
What Bitan did was to take the united pressure off El-Ad’s actions and turned the spotlight on his own right to make a fool of himself.
As I write this month’s column, I am on my way to Israel to participate in the next round of Jewish Agency meetings.
Last October our arrival in Israel coincided with the beginning of the wave of stabbings and other forms of terror incited by Mahmoud Abbas’ in his call to defend the Temple Mount.
In Abbas’ September 2015 speech, which was both broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV and posted on his personal website you will recall he said:
“We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem…blood spilled for Allah…Every Martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.
They have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
Hard to believe that this has been going on for a full year now.
Let’s hope the Palestinians will come to their senses soon and realise that violence and force will not be able to succeed.
And let’s also hope that we stop kicking own goals that only encourage the Palestinians to move further and further away from recognising that Israel is here to stay and that their focus must be not on attempting to eliminate Israel, but rather on living peacefully alongside her.
Dr Ron Weiser AM
Dr. Ron Weiser is the Zionist Federation of Australia Public Affairs Chairman and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.