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February 14, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 14, 2014 Boycott From page 1A Kingdom and the Nether- lands already label goods made in the settlements, and the European Union has threatened repeatedly to take the labeling continent-wide. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned last week that Israel could face even greater boycott pressure if peace talks with the Palestinians collapse. Butseveral CEOs of compa- nies that operate factories in the settlements acknowledged that while boycotts could hurt sales, they don't yet represent a serious threat to business. Yehuda Cohen, CEO of the plastics company Lip- ski, which has a factory in the northern West Bank Barkan industrial park, says sales dropped 17 percent in 2010 when local Palestin- ians started boycotting his products. His company has since recovered, growing by 18 percent last year. Though only a fraction of Lipski's products are shipped abroad--18 percent of total sales are for export, of which a majority goes to Europe-- Cohen acknowledges that the EU move to label settlement products is a real threat. La- beling settlement products, Cohen says, could hamper relations with retailers. "I don't thinkwe've come to the level ofaboycott, but label- ing is half a boycott," Cohen said. "The retailer will say, 'I don't want problems. Israel is not acting well.'" A European boycott could have a much larger impact on S0daStream, which according to a 2012 Bloomberg News report looks to Europe for a majority of sales. The com- pany's CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, subsequently told the Forward recently that having a factory in a settlement was a "pain in the ass." The impact of a boycott, though hardly irrelevant, would be more limited for Psagot and Lipski, neither of which are as reliant on Euro- pean business. But neither Burg nor Cohen share Birnbaum's sentiments about the virtues of operating a business in the West Bank. Nor does Rami Levy, the head of the budget supermarket chain Rami Levy Hashikma Market, which operates three locations in the West Bank. For Burg, his vineyard's location is in part an ideologi- cal statement of opposition to a Palestinian state. Cohen said he supports Israeli-Pal- estinian peace talks and the goal of a two-state solution. Like other CEOs of companies with West Bank operations, he believes his company furthers the cause of peace by giving jobs to Palestinians. "Not only does it not do damage, it provides an exam- ple of how to live together, how we can do business together," Levy said. "When you open businesses, you create more jobs. Just don't discriminate based on religion, race and nationality." Levy, whose chain employs about 2,000 Palestinians, was part of a delegation of 100 Israeli businessmen to the World Economic Forum in Da- vos, Switzerland, last month aimed at encouraging a peace agreement. More than half the 90 employees of Lipski's West Bank factory are Palestinians. Cohen employs four Palestin- ians out of 20 total employees. Hilik Bar, who chairs the Knesset Caucus for Further- Psagot Winery, located in wine to Europe in 2013. ing Relations Between Israel and Europe, said Levy's argu- ment won't convince Europe- ans in the absence of a peace agreement. Bar strongly op- poses boycotts, but the Labor party lawmaker believes the government needs to pursue peace more aggressively. "It's not just the two [Scan- PAGE 15A courtesy Psagot Winery an Israeli West Bank settlement, exported 16,000 bottles of dinavian] banks; it is spread- ing everywhere," said Bar, who also chairs the Caucus for the Promotion of a Solution for the Israeli-Arab Conflict. "Israel has an image as a state worthy to isolate. It's a whole world we're giving up on eco- nomically as long as we don't come to a two-state solution." But Levy claims not to be worried. Europeans, he says, talk a good game when it comes to settlements, but ultimately they're focused on the bottom line. "If we let them profit, in the end they'll invest," he said. "The Europeans know one thing: Israel treats themwell." Harris From page 5A onslaught of five Arab stand- ing armies that launched their attack on Israel's first day of existence, is almost beyond imagination. To understand the es- sence of Israel's meaning, it is enough to ask how the history of the Jewish people might have been different had there been a Jewish state in. 1933, in 1938, or even in 1941. If Israel had controlled its borders and the right of entry instead of Britain, if Israel had had embassies and consulates throughout Europe, how many more Jews might have escaped and found sanctuary? Instead, Jews had to rely on the goodwill of embas- sies and consulates of other countries and, with woefully few exceptions, they found there neither the "good" nor the "will" to assist. I witnessed firsthand what Israeli embassies and consul- ates meant to Jews drawn by the pull of Zion or the push of hatred. I stood in the courtyard of the Israeli embassy in Moscow and saw thousands of Jews seeking a quick exit from a Soviet Union in the throes of cataclysmic change, fearful that the change might be in the direc- tion of renewed chauvinism and anti-Semitism. Awestruck, I watched up- close as Israel never faltered, not even for a moment, in transporting Soviet Jews to the Jewish homeland, even as Scud missiles launched from Iraq traumatized the nation in 1991. It says a lot about the conditions they were leaving behind that these Jews contin- ued to board planes for TelAviv while missiles were exploding in Israeli population centers. In fact, on two occasions I sat in sealed rooms with Soviet Jewish families who had just arrived in Israel during these missile attacks. Not once did any of them question their de- cision to establish new lives in the Jewish state. And equally, it says a lot about Israel that, amid all the pressing security concerns, it managed to con- tinue to welcome these new immigrants without missing a beat. And how can I ever forget the surge of pride--Jewish pride--that completely en- veloped me in July 1976 on hearing the astonishing news of Israel's daring rescue of the 106 Jewish hostages held by Arab and German terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda, over 2,000 miles from Israel's borders? The unmistakable message: Jews in danger will never again be alone, without hope, and totally dependent on oth- ers for their safety. Not least, I can still remem- ber, as if it were yesterday, my very first visit to Israel. It was in 1970, and I was not quite 21 years old. I didn't know what to ex- pect, but I recall being quite emotional from the moment I boarded the E1 A1 plane to the very first glimpse of the Is- raeli coastline from the plane's window. As I disembarked, I surprised myself by wanting to kiss the ground. In the ensuing weeks, I marveled at everything I saw. To me, itwas as if every apartment building, factory, school, orange grove, and Egged bus was nothing less than a miracle. A state, a Jewish state, was unfolding before my very eyes. After centuries of persecu- tions, pogroms, exiles, ghet- tos, pales of settlement, in- quisitions, blood libels, forced conversions, discriminatory legislation, and immigration restrictions--and, no less, after centuries of prayers, dreams, and yearning - the Jews had come back home and were the masters of their own fate. I was overwhelmed by the mix of people, backgrounds, languages, and lifestyles, and by the intensity of life itself. Everyone, it seemed, had a compelling story to tell. There we re Holocaust survivors with harrowing tales of their years in the camps. There were Jews from Arab countries, whose stories of persecution in such countries as Iraq, Libya, and Syria were little known at the time. There were the first Jews arriving from the U.S.S.R. seeking repatriation in the Jewish homeland. There were the sabras--native-born Israelis--many of whose fami- lies had lived in Palestine for generations. There were local Arabs, both Christian and Muslim. There were Druze, whose religious practices are kept secret from the outside world. The list goes on and on. I was moved beyond words by the sight of Jerusalem and the fervor with which Jews of all backgrounds prayed at the Western Wall. Coming from a nation that was at the time deeply divided and demoral- ized, I found my Israeli peers to be unabashedly proud of their country, eager to serve in the military, and, in many cases, determined to volunteer for the most elite combat units. They felt personally involved in the enterprise of building a Jewish state, more than 1,800 years after the Romans defeated the Bar Kochba re- volt, the last Jewish attempt at sovereignty on this very land. Moreover, there is the tricky and underappreciated issue of the potential clash between the messy realities of state- hood and the ideals and faith of a people. It is one thing for a people to live their religion as a minority; it is quite an- other to exercise sovereignty as the majority population while remaining true to one's ethical standards. Inevitably, tension will arise between a people's spiritual or moral self-definition and the exigen- cies of statecraft, between our highest concepts of human nature and the daily realities of individuals in decision- making positions wielding power and balancing a variety of competing interests. Israelis are among the newer practitioners of state- craft. With all its remark- able success, consider the daunting political, social, and economic challenges in the United States 65 or even 165 years after independence, or, for that matter, the chal- lenges it faces today, including stubborn social inequalities. And let's not forget that the United States, unlike Israel, is a vast country blessed with abundant natural resources, oceans on two-and-a half sides, a gentle neighbor to the north, and a weaker neighbor to the south. In just 65 years, Israel has built a thriving democracy, unique in the region, includ- ing a Supreme Court prepared to overrule the prime minister or the military establish- ment, a feisty parliament that includes every imaginable viewpoint along the politi- cal spectrum, a robust civil society, and a vigorous press. It has built an economy whose per capita GNP exceeds the combined total of its four contiguous sovereign. It has built universities and research centers that have contributed to advancing the world's frontiers of knowledge in countless ways, and won a slew of Nobel Prizes in the process. It has built one of the world's most powerful mili- taries-always under civilian control, I might add--to en- sure its survival in a rough- and-tumble neighborhood. It has shown the world how a tiny nation, no larger than New Jersey or Wales, can, by sheer ingenuity, will, cour- age, and commitment, defend Paiss itself against those who would destroy it through conven- tional armies or armies of suicide bombers. And it has done all this while striving to adhere to a strict code of military conduct that has few rivals in the democratic world in the face of an enemy prepared to send children to the front lines and seek cover in mosques, schools, and hospitals. It has built a quality of life that ranks it among the world's healthiest nations and with a particularly high life expectancy, indeed higher than that of the U.S. It has built a thriving cul- ture, whose musicians, writ- ers, and artists are admired far beyond Israel's borders. In doing so, it has lovingly taken an ancient language, Hebrew, and rendered it modern to accommodate the vocabulary of the contemporary world. It has built a climate of respect for other faith groups, including Baha'i, Christianity and Islam, and their places of worship. Can any other nation in the area make the same claim? It has built an agricultural sector that has had much to teach developing nations about turning an arid soil into fields of fruits, vegetables, cotton, and flowers. Step back from the twists and turns of the daily in- formation overload coming from the Middle East and consider the sweep of the last 65 years. Look at the light-years traveled since the darkness of the Holocaust, and marvel at the miracle of a decimated people returning to a tiny sliver of land and successfully building a mod- ern, vibrant state against all the odds, on that ancient foundation. In the final analysis, then, the story of Israel is the won- drous realization of a 3,500- year link among a land, a faith, a language, a people, and avi- sion. It isan unparalleled story of tenacity and determination, of courage and renewal. And it is ultimately a metaphor for the triumph of enduring hope over the temptation of despair. DavidA. Harris is the exec- utive director of the American Jewish Committee. From page 5A Israel either. That's the truth as pro-Israel progressives worldwide see it. But let's leave the Pales- tinians aside for a moment. What blurring the lines be- tween Israel and its military occupation accomplishes is not just the perpetuation of the occupation. Israel's existence as a democratic state is grounded in the values and institutions it shares with other democra- cies, including freedom of speech and conscience, an independent judiciary and an untrammeled civil society. It is no accident that in the past five years, those values and institutions have come under attack from those whose defend the settlement enterprise at virtually any cost. The harassment and punitive legislation aimed at human rights groups, which inconveniently docu- ment the abuses inherent in occupation, is a deliberate strategy as well. Anyone who has spent 10 minutes watching Palestin- ians queue up at a checkpoint to get to work or a hospital in Israel knows that Israeli democracy comes to a halt at that checkpoint. Anyone who drives on a road forbidden to Palestinians and guarded by barbed wire and watchtowers, or reads the graffiti left at the scene by settler vigilantes dur- ing their "price-tag" attacks, cannot help but understand why the occupation is com- pared to other historical examples of oppression and injustice. Abraham Lincoln said of our own country that "this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free." Although the oc- cupation is not slavery, he would have recognized that a pernicious institution poi- sons the entire body politic, and that there can be no such thing as freedom for one group and subjugation for another in a functioning democracy. The blurring of lines be- tween Israel and the territory it occupies and administers militarily serves the short- term purposes of the settlers and their apologists. In the long term, however, if and when those lines really dis- appear, when Israel becomes identical to the occupation and its democracy is sacrificed to those with a messianic vi- sion of the Jewish state, then the Zionist enterprise will have failed. And those of us who love Israel, and believe in the promise that a state founded by Jews would reflect the love of freedom and equal- ity that is part of the Jewish heritage--we will have failed, as well. Naomi Paiss is vice presi- dent of public affairs for the New Israel Fund.