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November 9, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 9, 2012 ByGerald M. Steinberg There is now broad agree- ment in Israel that the pseu- do-poll and headline pub- lished by Haaretz on Oct. 23 ("Majority of Israelis support apartheid regime in Israel") was a mistake, to understate the case. Haaretz published a cor- rection (albeit a brief note on page 5, rather than as a major headline, as was the case for the original poll). Gideon Levy published a half-hearted retraction or explanation that primarily served to signal that even he, a hard-core warrior, realized the error. In columns and talk shows across the Israeli spectrum, the manipulative methodol- By Yoel Finkelman Jewish Ideas Daily In 1953, in a bold move, Israel passed a State Educa- tion Law. Before then, Israeli education was run by politi- cal movements and parties that used their schools not just to teach the three R's but to indoctrinate as many unsuspecting youngsters as possible. Matters reached a crisis point just after the founding of the state when the powers that be forced religious Sephardic immigrants into secular schools. Consensus grew around the idea that change was needed. In response, the 1953 law separated schools from the political parties by placing almost all of them under the jurisdiction of the central Ministry of Educa- tion-sort of. The law actually established four separate educational sys- tems, each with a certain mea- sure of autonomy. The largest By Ben Harris BOCA RATON, (JTA)--At about 10 a.m. on Election Day, a black sedan pulled up to the polling station at.the J.C. Mitchell Elementary School. "He threw Israel under the bus," said the car's driver, a chatty silver-haired man, as he helped an elderly woman from the back seat. "You vote your way and I'll vote mine," she replied, her eyes rolling as he set up her walker and oxygen tank and steered her toward the entrance. "I'm voting for the president." Little could better encap- sulate the drama unfolding among Jewish voters here in South Florida as the final day dawned onwhat has been abit- ter presidential campaign pit- ting the Democratic incum- bent, Barack Obama, against Republican Mitt Romney. As in past elections, the bulk of the Sunshine State's more than 600,000 Jews are expected to support the Dem- ocrat. But Republicans have shelled out millions to peel off some ofthatsupport--mainly The Haaretz poll travesty, NIF funding, and the Durban Strategy ogy and shallow questions were dissected. However, a great deal of damage has been done out- side Israel, where this farce was used to further the cam- paign of anti-Israel political warfare and demonization. The Guardian, Independent, the Globe and Mail (Toronto) and the Sydney Morning Her- ald ran the story accompanied by headlines as misleading as that of the original Haaretz piece: "Many Israelis sup- port apartheid-style state, poll suggests" and "The new Israeli apartheid." The poll that generated such attention was flawed in many dimensions, In Haaretz, former Israeli Minis= ter Yehuda Ben Meir slammed the false statements in the original article, chargingthat the actual conclusion to be drawn from the poll results "is exactly the opposite of what's written in the article's head- line" and that.the majority of Israelis are "unwilling to live in a country with an apartheid regime." As a "push" poll, in- volving only 503 people, this survey was driven by clear political objectives. These activities are an integral part of an ongoing campaign that began in the NGO Forum of the UN's 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Af- rica. The crudely anti-Semitic event was described by the late Congressman Tom Lantos as "an anti-A, merican and anti- Israel circus." Under the ban- ner of human rights and led by the Arab League and Iran, 5000 NGO officials adopted a declaration accusing Israel of "apartheid and ethnic cleans- ing" and adopted a strategy of "complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state... the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full ces- sation of all links." It is in this context that the poll, the headlines that followed (based on an equally misleading press release) and those responsible for it, must be understood. The pseudo-poll is an- other form of attack in this political war to demonize Israel. Responsibility for the attack, beyond Haaretz, lies with Amiram Goldblum, a founder of Peace Now, who runs the Yisraela Goldblum Fund (named after his late wife), which paid for costs, under the wider framework of the non-profit group known as "SigningAnew." This fund- ing, in turn, was provided by the New Israel Fund, and Goldblum is a member of NIF's International Council. In addition, according to Goldblum's press release, the "questions" used in this politi- cal stunt were formulated by individuals closely connected to the NIF, the Durban Strat- egy and BDS. Michael Sfard is legal counsel for a number of NGOs involved in this im- moral campaign, and Alon Liel (married to NIF's Execu- tive Director in Israel, Rachel Liel) has expressed his support for "targeted" boycotts in the Guardian and in the South Crisis in the curriculum was the secular educational track, but there were also reli- gious-Zionist andArab-Israeli tracks, while a fourth track, ultra-Orthodoxy's "Indepen- dent Stream," was required to teach just part of the Ministry of Education curriculum to qualify for government fund- ing. It sounded like aworkable compromise: the secular Zi- onists would generally run the show, religious Zionismwould be allowed to include more traditional Torah study, the Arab population would be fed a relatively pro-Zionist narra- tive, and the ultra-Orthodox would be brought into the culture of the State through a minimal core curriculum. At least thatwas the theory. In practice, the system has grown chaotic. The secular Zionist educational system now educates less than half of Israel's elementary school children and struggles to produce, students with even minimal Jewish literacy. The religious-Zionist educational system has remained joined at the hip with religious-Zionist political parties. Some of its Talmud Torah schools provide very little secular education, there is increased separation between the sexes, and schools frequently promote a politi- cally right-wingagenda. Ultra- Orthodoxeducatorshave found numerous ways to circumvent the Ministry of Education's general-education require- ments in boys' schools, and government after government has preferred ultra-Orthodox support to the risks of rocking the educational boat. As for the Arab syste m , for years Ministry of Education officials tried to let it of_ fer Arab cultural education while maintaining control over the history, citizen- ship and Hebrew-language curricula. But successive governments discriminated against Arab schools in the allocation of funding, mak- ing it even harder to meet the challenge of introducing Arabs to a Zionist-friendly historical narrative. More generally, the Israeli school system does not oper- ate in some namby-pamby environment of "soft multi- culturalism," with different cultures celebrating their uniqueness while accepting the multicultural project as a whole. Instead, Israel's is a "hard multiculturalism," in which various groUps have vastly different and mutually exclusive visions of public life. Religious-Zionist orthodoxy and ultra-Orthodoxy believe that secularism is not only prohibited by divine fiat but doomed to disappear. Arab educators have not relished their role as a minority in the Zionist state, and certainly have not adopted a Zionist narrative (nor, for that matter, is there any good reason why they should). The State's early decision to create separate education systems has reinforced the boundaries betweenreligious and secular populations that Florida's Jewish voters finally have their say of Jewish registered voters in Floridabacking the president, with 25 percent for Romney and the rest undecided. At the Bagel Tree cafe in Delray Beach, there was little evidence to suggest that the president had lost his strong support among the state's Jews. "If Romney gets in, he will not be president, he will be king," said Sandy Richter, who was sipping coffee with four friends, all ofwhomwere supporting Obama. "He's a tyrant." Across the restaurant, a parallel group of five men finishing their lunch said that they, too, were supporting the president. "I just don't like to lose any more of our freedoms," Alvin Wolff said. "My family should be able to do with their body what they want to do with it. I should be able to marry anybody I want to marry. I should be able to pray or not pray when I want to." The Bagel Tree is%cared next to the large and over- whelmingly Jewish King's Point retirement community, by impugning the president's record on Israel--and on the eve of Election Day they were brimming with confidence. "We're gonna win," said Sid Dinnerstein, the Re- publican Party chairman in Palm Beach County, where as of late October, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 100,000. "My Christian friends say to me, 'How could even 1 percent of Jewish people vote for this guy?' " For Obama and Romney, Florida is a big prize. Ac- cording to a New York Times analysis, if Obama wins here, Romney has to sweep all the other battleground states to pass the 270-vote threshold necessary to win the Electoral College and the presidency. In 2008, Obamawon here by less than 3 percentage points, but he won support from ap- proximately three-quarters of Florida Jewish voters, the bulk of whom reside in the state's three most populous coun- ties--Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. An American Jewish Committee survey in September found 69 percent make the educational chal- lenges s'o severe. Might Arab- Israelis feel less alienated if their schools had actually been given equal resources and their graduates equal so- cioeconomic opportunities? Would Haredi-poverty and low workforce participation have reached today's crisis propor- tions if government officials had actually linked funding to the adoption of reasonable levels of general education? In 2005 the Dovrat Com- mittee proposed the most obvious solution: that the government truly impose a national core curriculum on all schools and cut funding for schools that refused to comply. But the report was criticized for, among other things, not accommodating the real concerns of minor- ity groups. More important, Likud, which sponsored the committee, took a beating in the 2006 election--and the whole reportwas unceremoni- ously abandoned. Jerusalem's Van Leer Insti- tute recently tried another, "bottom-up" strategy: instead of looking to politicians to de- termine the core curriculum, it asked representatives of the residents of which Din- nerstein called "the most hardcore liberal Jews, maybe in America." Only one patron on Tuesday admitted to sup- porting Romney. "I have eight great-grand- children in Israel," said the Romney backer, a woman who declined to give her name but identified herself as pro- choice on abortion and as a Medicare beneficiary."Obama sat for 20 years in his church with that Rev. Wright. And I feel--I mean I know--he's an Arab lover." Such sentiments, how- ever, were rare--or at least rarely voiced--among the Jewish Floridians who were interviewed. Still, for all the solid Jewish backing of the president, there was a palpable lack of enthusiasm for the candidate who electrified the country four years ago with his talk of hope and change. Even many of the Obama backers agreed with Din- nerstein's prediction that the president would fall short of the level of Jewish support he Florida on page 19A PAGE 5A African media. Mordechai Bar-On and Ilan Baruch are also members of the NIF's International Council. Everyone connected with this travesty shares respon- sibility for the immense political damage that has been caused--Goldblum, in particular, owes the Israeli public an apology. And just as the NIF takes credit when its grantees impact positively on Israel, so too, must they take responsibility when its grantees like this do serious damage and demonize Israel as part of the Durban Strategy. Gerald M. Steinberg is president of Jerusalem-based research institution NGQ Monitor and is professor of political science at Bar llan University. each of the four educational streams to produce docu- ments setting out their own definitions of their groups' educational values and priori- ties. From these documents, it was hoped, there would emerge common denomina- tors that could be used to build a new system. It was a great experiment, if only because it was a genuine attempt to break the impasse. But this kind of initiative can go only so far: the common denomi- nators turn out to be broad abstractions like "human dignity," which sound good in a missionstatement but don't translate into practice. And the project cannot surmount the biggest problems, whether and how to teach Zionism in the Haredi and Arab educa- tional systems and provide serious general education in Haredi boys' high schools. The impasse remains. When someone figures out a way through it, there are many Israelis who would deeply love to be the first to know. Yoel Finkelman lives with his wife and five children in Beit Shemesh, Israel. He is the author of"Strictly Kosher Reading: Popular Literature and the Condition of Con- temporary Orthodoxy." This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily (www. and is reprinted with permission. Dry Bones I c00.,cH000000ll 1 OSSOL0000, lil 00OUG00: