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August 17, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 17, 2012 : By Eric R. Mandel How does one respond to a malicious campaign of anti-Israel advertising, which distorts the facts and slanders Israel? Should all anti-Israel criticism elicit a response? These questions can be answered with a question: When has it ever been good for Israel or its supporters to remain silent when faced with anti-Semitism? Last month anti-Israel billboards appeared on plat- forms of the Metro-North commuter network in West- chester County, New York and ConnecticuL The posters showed a shrinking Palestine, By Brent Sasley ARLINGTON, Texas (JTA)--It&apos;s often said these days that the left in Israel not only is decimated, but it continues to cling to long outdated idealism about how to solve the conflict with the Palestinians and withdraw from the West Bank. Also that it's out of touch with Israelis' current preoccupations and the settlers' successes. Avra- ham Burg's latest editorial in The New York Times is taken as illustrative of this. Certainly the left is no lon- ger in the dominant position it once occupied. The conven- tional date for the beginning of its end is 1977, when the Labor Party lost the election to Likud. Not only was the right's version of Zionism and priorities regarding the West Bank now dominant, but La- bor was stagnating, changing demographics undermined its popular appeal and the state bureaucracy--previously By Elli Fischer Jewish Ideas Daily Last week, the Deferral of Military Service for Yeshiva Students Law, better known as the Tal Law, expired. This law is the latest enactment of the so-called "status quo arrangement," which frames the uneasy relation- ship between Israel's Haredi and secular populations. As such, the expiration of the law and the majority's desire to draft Haredim en masse into the military up- sets a fragile balance. Why is the TaJ Law such a sensitive issue, and how exactly did Israel come to this legislative impasse? The story of the law goes back to the months leading up to Israel!s independence, to an agreement between David Ben-Gurion, then head of the quasi-gov- ernmental Jewish Agency Executive, and the heads of the Haredi Agudath Israel organization. As U.N. fact- finders arrived in 1947 to "make recommendations . • . concerning the future government of Palestine," Ben- Gurion sought a united front of all Jews in Palestine, and consequently made the concessions necessary to get the Haredirn on board• One such concession, first granted in early 1948, was the exemption of yeshiva When silence isn't golden which falsely portrayed Israel as a nation built on someone else's land. The goal of the campaign is to paint Israel as a state beyond the pale, a pariah nation that stole someone else's land. Is it anti-Semitic to call Israel's founding illegitimate or work for its destruction? According to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now Funda- mental Rights Agency), "De- nying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist er]deavor" constitutes anti-Semitism. Using words, images and campaigns to spread distor- tions and misinformation and brand Israel as illegitimate, is part of the coordinated strategy of the Boycott, Di- vestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It seeks to characterize Israel as a nation that deserves to be punished through Boycotts, Divestments, and sanctioned by the world community. The Israel advocacy orga- nization StandWithUs has taken the lead and opposed anti-Israel advertising cam- paigns throughout the Unit- ed States. It placed pro-Israel posters at the same Metro North commuter stations where the anti-Israel ads were displayed. The Stand- WithUs campaign promotes Israel's image and positive contributions to the vorld, while also making the case of the 3000-year-old historical tie of the Jewish people to the land. Most importantly, the ads show that Israel has been actively and sincerely searching for peace. They depict a clear record of Arab and Palestinian rejection- ism, which began on the day of Israel's founding, and unfortunately still remains to this day. One of the ads pictures two boys, one Israeli the other Palestinian with their arms wrapped around one another. The caption reads, "Israel needs a partner for peace. Urge the Palestinjans to accept Israel as their Jewish neighbor." So why is it necessary to respond to anti-Israel ad- vertising? Most Americans know very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When presented with images and words that challenge the Jewish narrative and the very legitimacy of the Jew- ish State, many people do not have the knowledge to refute the negative allega- tions. According to a 2012 Gallop poll, most Americans sympathize with Israel. Yet 39 percent of Americans in the survey did not sympathize with Israel. Delegitimization of Israel through anti-Israel advertising can erode support The Israeli left's growing pragmatism PAGE 5A for Israel, by widening the numbers of unsympathetic. StandWithUs believes that a targeted campaign that presents the compelling case for Israel is an important way to educate people who may • fall prey to misinformation. Our CEO, Roz Rothstein, said, "We cannot allow the public to be misled by the • factual distortions in yet an- other anti-Israel campaign. We are committed to coun- tering anti-Israel campaigns whenever they appear" I personally find that com- forting because I too believe that sometimes, silence is not golden. Eric R. Mandel is co-chair of StandWith Us/NY. filled with party officials and sympathizers--soon was replaced by non-Laborites. The left fell into an ide- ational and political rut from which it did not re-emerge until yitzhak Rabin and Labor won the 1992 elections. But it was a shak victory: the Oslo Accords opened up space for a renewal of rightist ideas, enabled by the unprecedented nature of Oslo's concessions and facilitated by Benjamin Netanyahu's acceptance of Rabin's demonization. The murder of Rabin, Hamas" terrorism campaign in 1996 and the right's contin- ued campaign against those who argued for making deals " with the PLO delegitimized the entire left. Ron Pundak and Yair Hirschfeld, the initial driving force behind the Oslo talks, were cast as representative of the naive and out-of-touch idealism of the left. It is true that the left did en- ter a fantasy world for the rest students from conscription into the pre-state militia. To be sure, not all ye- shiva students in 1948 were Haredi, and many Haredim served in the military. With time, however, the Haredi community increasingly adopted the Hazon Ish's ideal of the "society of schol- ars,"while religious-Zionist yeshiva students opted to integrate Torah study with military service. Thus, the issue of deferral for yeshiva students became associ- ated solely with the Haredi population. No law was passed recog- nizing the unique status of yeshiva students: Instead, in 1949 the Defense Min- ister (conveniently, also Ben-Gurion) was granted discretion as to who would and would not be drafted, and the ministry allowed students to defer conscrip- tion for as long as they remained in yeshiva• But within a few years, with Haredi demographic" growth outpacing that of the rest of the Israeli population, the number of yeshiva deferrals more than tripled. Objections were also raised that some students were enrolling in yeshiva in order to dodge the draft. The issue was revisited in 1954 and again in 1968, but no profound adjustments were made. Eventually, in of the 1990s and part of the 2000s. It retreated into itself, lamenting its previous power and accomplishments, feeling sorry for itself and sulking at the population's lack of inter- est. The main political vehicle, the Labor Party, was busy destroying itse.lf by incessant infighting and incoherent policy messages• Then, the main idea the left had been promoting since 1992--resolving the conflict with the Palestin- ians through land withdraw- als--was appropriated. Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlements and formed the Kadima Party, drawing away some of the left's former lead- ers (including Shimon Peres, closely associated with Oslo) and its voters. The paradox, however, is Sharon proved that the left's ideas were no longer unten- able, they just lacked the right politics. A great many on the left have come to realize this; the problem is that many out- side observers don't make this distinction• Instead, they hold to the evocative writings of Burg or intellectuals likeAmos Oz and David Grossman.While these writers call out the right on the damage they contend it's doing to Israel and demand that Israelis take action to stop this process, they remain tied to a nostalgic and passive no- tion of what the left should look like.And observers see them as the true representation of the Israeli left. They aren't. None of them represents either the fierce anger or the increasing prag- matism that has emerged among the left. At the same time, the part of the left that is involved in politics more directly does not share that older sense of idealism or wish to return to the "good old days" of the early 1990s. They have adopted a grittier realism based on analysis of public opinion trends and contemporary • conditions Tal tales 1970, it came before Israel's Supreme Court, but the challenge was rejected. The status quo was politically and legally secure• The 1977 electoral victory of Menachem Begin's Likud heralded the emergence of a two-party system in Israel, enabling the smaller Haredi parties to wield more influence as the larger par- ties offered concessions in return for their coalitional cooperation. This rise of Haredi power and the re- sultant increase in material benefits to yeshiva students left Israel's middle class with a sense of injustice• The resentment toward the Haredi community was manifest in electoral pledges to end wholesale Haredi deferrals and entitle- ments, and was arguably a key motive for last sum- mer's test protests. Still, the arrangement continued: as of early 2011 there were more than 61,000 yeshiva students deferring military service. Sowhy might change now be afoot? The answer lies with the Supreme Court. Having rejected two earlier peti- tions against the deterrals, in 1986 the court changed its mind, as Justice Aharon Barak judged the Defense Minister's exercise of au- thority reasonable but left the door open to reconsid- eration in the future, which he did as Chief Justice in 1998. In light of the grow- ingrift within Israeli society and the burgeoning number of deferrals, he reasoned, yeshiva students' deferrals must be enshrined in a legislative act. In response to the ruling, the government established a committee headed by re- tired Justice Zvi Tal to make legislative recommenda- tions. Those recommenda- tions formed the basis of the Tal Law, passed in 2002, which enshrined exemptions for full-time yeshiva stu- dents, but also enacted mea- sures to encourageHaredim to do an abbreviated service and enter the workforce. The measures were un- successful, and the court intervened again in 2006, giving the law another five years to prove more success- ful. Although modest results were achieved in that time, the court was still dissatis- fied, and in February 2012 judged the Tal Law to be unconstitutional--forbid- ding its extension beyond the summer. Over the past few months, every conceivable option has been proposed, from drafting everyone equally (even if that would mean wholesale jail- ing of Haredi draft dodgers) to cancellation of the draft As Lior Amihai of Peace Now explained it to me dur- ing a recent tour of the West Bank, the moral argument against occupation simply no longer matters--Israelis are not directly concerned with it anymore. Rather, given the growing economic disparities in Israel, the social protests, the preoccupation with consumerism and their own individual priorities, Israelis care more about the costs of occupation. Indeed, surveys of Israelis and the public statements of the lead- ers of the social protests both indicate that the settlers and Palestinians have no place in their considerations of their future, Peace Now's new campaign focuses on the tiny percent- age of the settler population as the recipient of massive government expenditures. The settlements, they argue, should be evacuated because they hurt the average Israeli citizen within the Green Line who otherwise would be the target for more government resources. Labor also has adopted this change of direction. Its • new leader, Shelly Yachi- movich, refuses to discuss either the conflict or the settlements, preferring to hit Netanyahu and Likud on social and economic policy. If current polling trends are anything to go by, the tactic is working. Of course, the right re- mains dominant in Israeli politics, and that's unlikely to change in the next election. But it's a mistake to think of the Israeli left as stuck in the 1990s. It isn't, and we sh6uld avoid placing the older intel- lectuals as the source of its ideas today. - Brent Sasley teachesIsraeli .and Middle East politics at the University of Texas at Ar- lin, gton, and blogs at Mideast Matrix• He can be reached on Twitter on twitter.corn besasley. altogether in favor of a pro- fessional army. Ultimately, Netanyahu faces effectively the same question Ben- Gurion faced in 1947: Will yeshiva students be forcibly conscripted or will they serve if and when they so choose? It is unrealistic to imagine that the uneasy relationship between Israel's Haredi and secular populations that has prevailed over the last 70 years will shift overnight. Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu is choosing the path of com- promise and gradual change, with the goal of encouraging yeshiva students to enlist voluntarily. Elli Fischer, a writer and translator who lives in Modi'in, Israel, did not serve in the IDF due to his flat feet, allergies and hypothyroid- ism. This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily <www.jew!shideas- daily.corn> and is reprinted with permission.. Dry Bones THREAT.