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December 6, 2013

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PAGE 4A We've lost our narrative HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 6, 2013 By Gary Rosenblatt The Jewish Week Ari Shavit, the popular Israeli newspaper columnist for Haaretz, seems to be everywhere in the American media these days, talking about his newly published and highly praised book, "My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel." That's a good thing for those of us who believe that the better Israel is known and understood, flaws and all, the more it will be appreciated and supported In the past week Shavit, 57, and a native of Rehovot, was on "The Charlie Rose Show" and NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross; he was interviewed at the 92nd Street Y by his friend, New Yorker editor David Remnick; and his book was heralded three times in The New York Times with increasingly superlative acclaim. Last Tuesday, Shavit spent several hours at The Jewish Week, noting in an interview that he is already anticipating his next trip to the U.S., in January, when he will visit a number of college campuses. He said he hopes to engage students in a "deep and different dialogue" about an Israel that must be criticized for its treatment of Palestinians and "celebrated for the miracle it is." "I'ma total Zionist," he said in his rich bari- tone voice with the trace of a British accent. (He has family in England and spends summers there.) Unlike many of his countrymenShavit understands and appreciates the importance of American Jewry. Indeed, he says we need,. each other--that Israel cannot deal with the Palestinians and Iran without American Jewish support. "And you have Pew," he says, referring to the recent Pew Research Center Egyptian Nazi scandal exposes academic dishonesty By Ben Cohen Imagine the following scenario. A storied American university holds a conference on the future of democracy in Europe. Among the invited speakers are representatives of two of the continent's neo-Nazi parties, Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece. Better yet, imagine that same university holding a conference on current trends in Israeli politics, featuring a speaker who is an open admirer of Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish extremist who murdered 29 worshippers and wounded more than 100 when he opened fire in a Palestinian mosque in Hebron in 1994. You might think that the ensuing public outcry would be so raucous that the invitations would be rescinded. Or, more accurately, you might conclude that this thought experiment is pointless, because the invitations would never have been extended in the first place. European neo-Nazis and Jewish ultranationalists are definitely two distinct groups who wouldn't get a look-in on an American campus. But what if the Nazis are also Arabs? No, that's not a thought experiment. This exact dilemrna surfaced last week, after George- town University's Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding annodnced a Dec. 5 conference titled "Egypt and the Struggle for Democracy." Among the speakers was a little-known Egyptian Copt named Remy Jan, who was invited because he is a founder of an equally little-known activist group in Egypt called "Christians Against the Coup'--the "coup" in this case being the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi as Egyptian president this past July. A handful of bloggers and journ'alists did some digging on Jan. They came up with a particularly juicy detail of Jan's career that had apparently eluded the organizers of the conference. Jan, they revealed, was also a founder of the Egyptian Nazi Party. Once the news broke, the Ai Waleed Center swiftly canceled Jan's invitation. At the same time, they claimed no prior knowledge of Jan's Nazi loyalties. "We had no idea that there was this issue out there," said the center's director, John Esposito, in response to a series of tweets from Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that highlighted Jan's affiliation. Another conference participant, Dalia Mogahed, who is a former adviser to President Barack Obama on interfaith mat- ters, tweeted this about Jan's invite: "I can assure you the organizers had no idea about his 'other baggage.'" Had the conference organizers done their due diligence, they would have had a very clear idea of Jan's toxic beliefs. After all, we're not talking about a cloak and dagger espionage operation. A few seconds of Googling would have taken them to avideo from 2011, in which Jan and other Egyptian Nazis explained their raison d'etre to a shocked Egyptian television host. Also, the Alwaleed Center has a Facebook account, as does Jan. Had the conference orga- nizers paid a brief visit to the Facebook page of a man they were willing to fly to Washington, they would have discovered that he'd posted several pictures of Adolf Hitler alongside ad- miring tributes to the Fuhrer. That they failed to do any of these things reinforces a suspicion that many of us have had about the blindness in the western academic world toward prejudice, bigotry and racism not against, but among, Arabs and Muslims. And in my view, it is this--and not the specific invitation to Jan--that is the real concern here. What's needed is a reality check. We have to stop thinking that institutions like the Alwaleed Center are dispassionate centers of academic inquiry. They are political advocacy operations, as proven by the Dec. 5 conference on Egypt, which is chock full of speakers from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose views on subjects like Jews and Israel are little different from those of the disinvited Remy Jan. As the distinguished academic Martin Kramer observed, at the launch ceremony for the Alwaleed Center, which was a project of a private university, Georgetown, and a private businessman, the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal AI Saud, both the U.S. and Saudi flags were on display. Kraroer wrote, tellingly, "The national flags send the implied message that this deal is somehow in the interests of. the two countries and deserves their blessing." Is it in our national interest to treat Islamists as honored guests with avaluable perspective? Most Americans would demur if asked this question. And quite a few of them would ask how we got to a situation where universities are presenting political messaging as honest scholarship. That's the right question to ask. Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Cohmentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Mosaic, and many other publications. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. x x x CEN-TRAL FLORIDA'S INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE x x ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yonsha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carrno Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim 8hipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER CO. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman Joyce Gore email: Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky study showing the precipitous decline among non-Orthodox Jews in terms of religious and communal engagement. "There is no way you can keep progressive Jews in the community without us," he said, asserting that Israel and American Jewry must find more ways to work together. But he noted that it is an uphill battle to reach those young Jews "who see Israel as an embarrassment. "We need to make Israel attractive and sexy again," he said, "and to connect it with the heart of the Jewish experience. My mission is to change the Israel conversation and revive the sense of a relevant, renewed Zionism." A tall order, but Shavit lacks neither self- confidence nor talent. And he would like to see his book, which explores and exposes Israel's best and worst qualities, as the ticket to the anticipated conversation. Open, Honest Account Like others who have lauded "My Promised Land," a personalized history of Israel over the last century, I admire its ability to confrontthe country's deepest moral flaws without losing sight of the miracle of its existence, and its remarkable successes. Shavit gives us an open and honest ac- count of the real Israel, from the early wave of European pioneers at the end of the 19th century, like his great-grandfather, who gave up a lucrative life in London to settle in the barren land, to the 2011 social protest on the streets of Tel Aviv and the foreign policy plan- ners dealing with the existential challenge of Iran today. Along the way there are chapters on the success of the orange industry in the 1920s; the development of the country's nuclear program in Dimona, and all it symbolized; the 1950s generation of Holocaust survivors who settled in Israel and quietly committed to create new life; the growth of the settlement movement; the author's army service as a guard in a Gaza prison, an experience that prompted him to become active in the peace movement; the emergence of the haredi Sephardi party, Shas, under Aryeh Deri; and the sex, drugs and hedonism of Tel Aviv in the early years of the 21st century. Most powerful, though, is the chapter on the killing of scores of Arabs and the expulsion of thousands from the city of Lydda (now Lod) during the 1948 War of Independence. With toughness and tenderness, Shavit interviews Jews involved in the fighting, and describes their confusion and anguish, and he imagines. "the columns of the homeless," more than 30,000 leaving their city in stunned silence. "Do I wash my hands of Zionism?" he asks in the book. Though "horrified" by what took place, "when I try to be honest about it," he writes, "I see that the choice is stark: either reject Zionism because of Lydda, or accept Zionism along with Lydda." For Shavit, the answer is clear, if not simple: "I'll stand by the damned. Because I know if it wasn't for them, I would not have been born. They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live." Shavit presents Israel in all its complexity: Rosenblatt on page 15A Letter from Israel Tough decisions that ain't easy By Ira Sharkansky The best feature of the Iran dealmand maybe its only good feature--is that there is a deal, showing that the Iranians are willing todeal. The weakest points from an Israeli perspec- tive are the Iranians, the U.S. administration, and the U.N. agency charged with inspection, none of which are particularly trustworthy. Some may object to an Israeli perspective. Primary for Americans, Europeans, Russians, and Chinese is what is good for them. Yet an Israeli perspective is legitimate in itself, especially for Israelis, and in this context may claim wider legitimacy. Remember, Iranians at the very top of that country saying that Israel has no legitimate right to exist. The combination of that bombast, plus Shi- ite aggressiveness and the prospect of atomic weapons is more than enough justification for worry, and for action if Israelis decide to act. Among the worries are different assertions of what is in and what is not in the agreement, and that elements included in the English version do not appear in the Farsi. The deal does not restrain the Iranians from continuing to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, not only to Israel, but also to Europe and America. There is also a misleading American sales pitch that sanctions remaining in place pro- hibit firms from doing business with Iran. That does not square with the news that the deal frees as much as $7 billion for Iran to use now. If American and European firms cannot legally deal with them, the Chinese, Russians, and South Koreans may find their way, perhaps serving also as way stations for European and American companies. Commentators attributed an initial spike in the NYSE on the first day of business after the signing to investor optimism about the deal. Some are calculating what Americans can expect by way of a drop in gasoline prices. For Israelis, Americans' fascination with the price of gas tells us how easy it is to abandon us. Are we worth as much as a dollar a gallon? The deal is for six months, may be extended, and leaves some tough bargaining about anything more complete. We can expect some static about this deal not closing all it was supposed to close, and assertions that it is natural to expect internal Iranian problems of communications and administration. Given the Iranian record, we should also expect to hear about hidden facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has a sloppy record of inspection and reporting. It overlooked for years .what Iran and Syria were building. North Korea must also affect our judgment. Alan Dershowitz saysthat Obama made a "cataclysmic error of gigantic proportions... (and that Israel) has the absolute right to prevent a country that has threatened its de- struction from developing nuclear weapons... That's a right in law; it's a right in morality, and it's a right in diplomacy." The British foreign minister has warned Israel not to take the law into its own hands. Obama has said that Israel has a right to be suspicious, but he is praising himself for choosing diplomacy over force. He promises to consult with Israel about the final agree- ment with Iran. The Americans have announced that they will provide Israel with advanced weaponry. Currently there are military exercises involving Israel, the U.S., Greece, and Italy. With all the bad and good, should we expect any better from this White House on Iran than the Americans are getting from Obaroacare? There is also a stalemate with the European Union that may cost Israel some 300 million euros for research grants and investments if it does not accept EU dictates about facilities over the 1967 borders. In this season of Chanukah, we have heard from Israelis ana overseas Jews that it is a time to be bold, and support Benyaroin Netanyahu in his role as the present day leader of a Mac- cabean army. That is nice symbolisro, but we should remember that the Maccabeans turned bad after a few years. It would be most heroic to send the planes eastward, tell the Europeans to stuff their euros, end European and American aspirations by annexing the West Bank, tell MahmoudAb- bas to behave himself in Ramallah and John Kerry to stay in Washington. The day after all that we could celebrate. The day after the party would be difficult. Remember the prime lesson of politics. Every day you have to eat something smelly. But how much? Is it better to exercise the care appropriate for a small country with limited power, and to weigh carefully the costs and benefits known and unknown, or to choose heroism fueled by religious legend? It ain't easy. Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University o f Jerusalem.