Dr. Ron Weiser AM
Once again, it is quite surreal being in Israel.
And on many levels.
But why should this trip be any different?
In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv the biggest challenge is finding a seat in overcrowded cafés or restaurants, whilst the residents of the south are still dealing with those “peaceful protesters” from Gaza.
You know the ones burning the fields of Israeli towns and villages with their “peaceful” kites and almost nightly firing rockets into Israel to show how much they really want co-existence.
And as Israel, with some UN and USA backing, attempts to work out how to get as much aid as possible into the Hamas run enclave, the Palestinian Authority led by that other “peacenik”, Abbas – demanding, (demanding mind you) that no aid be given to Gaza until Hamas recognises his authority. Abbas is a real humanitarian!
If this is how much he cares about his fellow Arabs, what hope have we got when it comes to the Jews.
Up north is another looming catastrophe.
After two days of watching CNN, which I do not normally do in Australia, hoping for some sanity and fairness but seeing none, I just had to switch off.
CNN must have written the definition of surreal into their broadcast guidelines.
Multiple times daily the CNN anchor led with the story of the growing Syrian refugee crisis on the Israeli and Jordanian border.
Not one word from the anchor in the backgrounding of the story about what has caused this latest tragedy.
Nothing about the Syrian government with the backing of Russia and Iran pounding their own citizens. Not a mention that Assad, with the tacit or active agreement of his partners Putin and Rouhani, are deliberately taking a policy to bomb everyone in their way including women and children, directly causing hundreds of deaths and many thousands of Syrians to flee towards the Israeli lines.
No, the CNN anchor repeatedly begins the story with criticism of Israel for not allowing these people into Israel and for not providing aid.
She invariably starts her piece saying that because of Israel’s refusal to help, these people have no tents and no medical supplies and no food.
Simultaneously in the background, CNN is playing video footage of tents, medical aid and food stations without a hint of embarrassment or understanding of the irony of what they want to pass for serious news.
She then switches to the CNN journalist on the ground who directly contradicts the anchor in every way and even shows footage of the Israelis opening the fence and driving tents, medical supplies and food through to the Syrians on the other side.
Next hour, the CNN anchor, completely contrary to her supposed commitment to accurate reporting, repeats exactly the same false criticism of Israel once more.
And again, with CNN’s own pictures putting the lie to her words and again the local journalists explaining that Israel has been helping the Syrian refugees and has been doing so for years.
And it struck me that this macabre dance is similar to the one being played out in parts of the Jewish world.
It is beyond reasonable logic to try and comprehend just how sections of Diaspora Jewry talk about Israel, despite the true pictures playing in the background even as they speak.
There are many things one can criticise any country about, and Israel is no exception.
But when Jews are willing to follow and treat with any credibility people like Michael Chabon, Breaking the Silence’s latest pin up boy, then we are truly in deep trouble.
Chabon is a Pulitzer prize winning author from Berkeley. He says that the Israeli presence in the West Bank is “the most grievous injustice I have seen in my life”.
Perhaps Chabon should get out more.
Organisations that sponsor this sort of extreme exaggeration and hyperbole and who host such opinions, are more focussed on promoting their own distorted agenda rather than the reality their presentation simply does not accord with.
Just like the CNN anchor.
Chabon gave us the further benefit of his wisdom when he was foolishly invited to speak to the graduating class of the Hebrew Union College on the 14th of May in Los Angeles.
There, part of his speech was devoted to calling for an end to Jewish in-marriage. An end to Jew marrying Jew.
Chabon said: “An endogamous marriage is a ghetto of two. … It draws a circle around the married couple, inscribes them – and any eventual children who come along – within a figurative wall of tradition, custom, shared history, and a common inheritance of chromosomes and culture.”
To be clear, according to Chabon that is a bad thing. He strongly advocated out-marriage.
To be even clearer, such views are not the views a Zionist organisation would promote. They are in fact anti-Zionist.
Zionism and Israel are at their core about one thing – Jewish continuity.
Jewish continuity in the Diaspora is in danger – we all know that.
Presenting a false, grossly exaggerated, negative picture of Israel drives young Jews away from Israel, not towards her.
And in turn, quickens the pace of young Diaspora Jews leaving the collective.
We can no longer regard organisations and people that work to distort a balanced contextual nuanced understanding of Israel as merely naïve.
The lightning rod for discontent is made out to be Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The amazing thing to see and understand here in Israel is that he is even more popular today than when he was first elected.
And that no-one can see any challenger on the horizon from any political party.
This is not a failing of democracy, this is a failing of any opposition party to come up with a credible alternative leader or more importantly, alternate policies.
Perhaps that tells us something about the current real consensus in Israel on many of the challenges she faces.
The only person that can bring Netanyahu down in the present climate is Attorney General Mandelblit.
Just because these disaffected Jewish Diaspora groups do not see eye to eye with the majority of the people in Israel does not mean that the people of Israel do not care about human rights, democratic values or the rule of law.
What a conceit it truly is for people, safe from the problems of the Middle East, to look down on Israeli morality and try and promulgate the falsehood that only they are the keepers of the Jewish conscience.
As the numbers of Syrians approaching Israel’s borders increase, the pressures on Israel will also increase. Israel will continue to deal with this refugee crisis in a humanitarian way and whilst observing the rule of law.
She will provide all of the assistance she can to a problem she had no role in causing. But Israel cannot remain a Jewish State and at the same time allow hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish people into the only Jewish State that exists.
Whether it is the Africans in South Tel Aviv, or the Syrians on the Golan, they understand the values of Israeli society better than many Diaspora Jews – that is precisely why they head towards Israel and these Jewish critics do not.
And of course, fringe groups like Breaking The Silence who having failed to garner any real support in Israel run around the world like the CNN anchor distorting the picture, are legal in Israel.
That by the way, demonstrates very well just how free Israeli society really is.
Being legal however, does not make something necessarily good.
Smoking is legal – it still kills.
The challenge for Israel in terms of Diaspora Jewry is how to enable particularly young Jews around the world, to see the actual pictures I saw on CNN last week, rather than hearing the noise of an ideological agenda out of touch with the reality of Israel, trying to shout over the top of them.
Dr Ron Weiser AM
Dr. Ron Weiser AM is the Zionist Federation of Australia Public Affairs Chairman and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.