January 28, 2015

Let the Foreigner Come

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:47 pm by yisraelmedad

The activities of certain Christian pro-Israel/Zionism groups, foremost among them HaYovel*, to assist the farmers of Judea and Samaria has caused quite a negative reaction among Jews opposed to Christian cooperative ventures, most recently here and here, and this event.  The following is an expanded reworking of an article I published in Hebrew on the issue.

The remarkable historical development for the past several centuries has been that the Jewish people, while still being persecuted by Christians, are being, in a parallel development, assisted by Christians to realize the ancient dream of the ‘return to Zion’, a process they term as the “Restoration”, and thereby accomplish the establishment of the Jewish national home in Israel. This is true since the days of Sir Henry Finch who, 1621 wrote his “The World’s Great Restauration, or Calling of the Jews”, and Napoleon, Lord Shaftesbury and Laurence Oliphant (who wrote the Land of Gilead) including Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov and his conversations in 1827 with the convert Joseph Wolf to promote diplomacy with the British Consulate in Jerusalem on to Lord Balfour and his declaration and until the present day.

At the present, the help is being expressed at the highest levels in the corridors of governments, foreign ministries, Houses of Parliament and Congresses and on the ground, literally, in acts iof voluntary labor in the vineyards and orchards in the hills of Judea and Samaria, and, in the words of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed:

“In modern times, we have witnessed increased support for Israel among evangelical Christians…They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel…  “Christians fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah”, September 18, 2013.

Are we at a crossroads that requires a new understanding of the period we are in, a reality that demands a new paradigm of cooperation, one based on Biblical sources?

One new approach is this

“We’re not just talking about Christians wanting to help Jews out of solidarity or charity,” Hazony said. “We are talking about the dominant faith of Western civilization saying: ‘The Jews have something to give us, something that we need.’ This is not something that appears in the old playbook for Jewish-Christian dialogue.”

In relation to that, let’s recall that Maimonides in his Responsa, 148, permits teaching Torah to Bible-believing Christians because “they could return to the correct path”.  As the verse in Isaiah 27: outlines the three stages, first in future days, Yaakov will take root, and then Israel will flourish and then the whole world will benefit from those blessings we enjoy.  There is, however, another approach.

Coming Closer to Holiness

The new attitude to these Christians should not be shunning in its character, even if there is a justified suspicion that behind this phenomenon may be a desire to exploit our innocence as well as the historical experience of Church-generated anti-Semitism, the killing of Jews and forced conversions. That memory cannot be ignored. On the one hand, we must be wary of those whose intention is to attach themselves with the purpose of luring converts to Christianity. In my experience, volunteer agricultural activities in Yesha are not in that category, and certainly no Jewish residents were proselytized over the many years that these efforts have been conducted.  On the other hand, we need to recognize that the source of their enthusiasm is to help in fulfilling our Biblical prophecies as regards the redemption process.

The foreign volunteers come to us, to the communities of Judea and Samaria, to our orchards. They engage in pruning and planting and harvesting. They are involved in many tasks of manual labor jobs instead of Ishmael, in place of Thais and also in the work places where Jews do not consider cultivating a worthy enough profession. They also contribute and help us in our diplomatic, political and information struggles. They are impressed with biblical truth and the contemporary reality of Yesha and feel they must be part of it.

Do our own Biblical, Talmudic and Rabbinic sources contain relevant material that we can consult to provide us insights? King Solomon was sympathetic and considerate:

Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for Thy name’s sake– for they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy mighty hand, and of Thine outstretched arm–when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger called to Thee for; that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as doth Thy people Israel, and that they may know that Thy name is called upon this house which I have built. (I Kings 8:41-43)

The late 19th century commentator, the Malbim,  Meïr Leibush Weiser, notes and his description echoes to our own day, that even though the foreigner is in an estranged place which is “unworthy” from a Jewish religious perspective, nevertheless, Solomon asks of God to listen and pay attention to him:

The reason for his ‘coming’ is because it has become known among them that God is great and provides and He draws up the battle lines [ … ] it is well worthwhile to listen to him despite his lack of doing t’shuvah [ … ] even though his supplication is for something unworthy of itself…”.

During our history, the non-Jew “came” and he was afforded a favorable treatment. Examples include Jethro (“And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God; …And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God” Exodus 18:5;12) , Naaman (“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha” II Kings 5:8) and, at the time of redemption, many persons from all nations will come to Jerusalem (“And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established…and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…and we will walk in His paths’”, Isaiah 2:2-3).  Some may claim that a conversion process preceded this.

It is, however, worthy to note that Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, in illustrating his two concepts of tzaddik, in his Kedushat Levi on the portion of Noah, describes the preferred one who “who worships the Creator and causes to wicked to return to also being worshippers of the Creator just as Avraham would engage in conversion”. Judaism began as a conversionary religion and we will probably reach to the future stage of Redemption that way but it is not clear that that is at all supported by the texts in all the examples I include.

The Foreigner is Part of Redemption

In Chapter 61 of Isaiah, verses 1-5, we read:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…to bring good tidings…To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion…And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall renew the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers”.

It seems quite clear that the prophecy relating to the period when the Land of Israel is being reconstituted, from its towns to its fields, non-Jews will be involved, engaged in the labor of strengthening our hold on the land.  The Malbim extends our interpretation by noting that the “stranger” will be called a ‘son of the city’ “even if he is from another nation” and that idol worshippers will provide the needs of the children of Israel.  I find it difficult not to understand the meaning of this verse, as with others, that there surely will be a relationship of dependence on the work and labor of non-Jews.  The verse is employed in the Talmud, Tractate Berachot 35B, by R. Simeon b. Yohai whose opinion is that is it possible for Israel to plough, sow and reap and yet still be able to study Torah and replies:

Is that possible?…No; but when Israel perform the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others

The establishment of Israel in 1948, and the return of Israel to the historic homeland of the Jewish people following the Six-Days War in 1967 including regions that were stolen, represents a cognitive challenge, as well as practical, ideological and theological one, for the Jewish people and not solely for Jews. The development and empowerment of the people residing in Zion, the victories in its wars and its economic, scientific and social achievements pose for the non-Jews not only the question “Who is the Jewish people” but also “Who are we?”.

According to the vision of our prophets as we have seen, the reality of redemption also includes the coming of the strangers, first to help us and support us and then to recognize the best way to a belief in God and His word. So prophesizes the Prophet: “And the nations shall see thy triumph, and all kings thy glory; and thou shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall mark out.” (Isaiah 62:2), as well as “And aliens shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; for in My wrath I smote thee, but in My favor have I had compassion on thee…men may bring unto thee the wealth of the nations, and their kings in procession.  For that nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” (Isaiah 60:10-12)

Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zhitomir, the author of “The Light That Shines”, a student of the Maggid of Mezrich who immigrated to Eretz-Yisrael in 1798 (and in Haifa met Rabbi Nachman who was at that time in the country), interprets the verse in Zephaniah 3:9, “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD” with the radical understanding that the Jewish people must strengthen itself and speak forthrightly in a voice full of holiness, and so bring even the non-Jews to the sacredness:

“We can call to all, even the nations of the world, to bring them closer to the sacred [ … ] to extract from out of them their holy sparks, to bring them closer to the holy and in particular in the future when the level of attainment ability increases in the world from the youngest to the oldest. Then I will turn to the nations to turn them from bad to good, as recalled in the verse [Genesis 49:10] “until Shiloh comes” and such a pure language causes “unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be” that is, to assemble the nations to bring them close to the sacred […] for If Israel has the clear and sacred language they then can collect the sacred sparks within them that sustain them.”

The Way to Those Who Accompany

I would like to suggest a new perspective for discussion based on the current reality on the ground today which would be a “Change of Matrix”. As we are advancing through the stages of salvation, we must prepare, practically and especially consciously, the duty to promote the realization of this proposed dual track development. As I understand it, despite objections and the recoiling of certain rabbis, it is possible to approach the drafting a memorandum of understanding and commitments so that the process of “the foreigner who comes” will not constitute a risk of missionary attempts but a prelude to the next level – “the foreigners who accompany”.

After all, the same prophecies that promise the Jewish people its actual redemption (“And the broad places of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the broad places thereof…the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase…”, Zechariah 8:5;12) are related to the phenomenon of “the foreigner who comes” (“Thus saith the LORD of hosts: there shall come peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities…many peoples and mighty nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD”, Zechariah 8:20;22)

The second stage in this process is “the foreigner who accompanies” as it is said:

“Also the foreigners, that join themselves to the LORD, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants…Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah, 57:6;8)

According to the commentary “Metzudat Tzion”, composed by Rabbis David ben Aryeh Loeb and Yechiel Hillel Altschuel, father and son, who lived in Prague in the 17th century, the “foreigner” is not yet Jewish in this situation but is “fully equal to the citizen of Israel”, using the same Hebrew term as is found in Ezekiel 47:22, in Exodus 12:19 and Leviticus 16:29.  He is in a process of approaching Judaism, of coming near.  He is impressed with the strength of Israel and its revitalization in its land in all areas of endeavor and we are commanded to bring them closer so that they should eventually accompany us.

In addition, the Radak, Rav David Kimchi (1160–1235), of Provence, commenting on the declaration that the Temple will be a house of prayer “for all peoples”, that whereas the reference is to a stage when the nations adopt Judaism, nevertheless, he refers to the above mentioned verse in I Kings 48:

Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for Thy name’s sake—

and notes that if Solomon realized that if the non-Jew’s prayer would be acceptable within the Temple, then surely when a process of the nations returning to the true faith at a later time is occurring that the convert definitely will pray in the rebuilt Temple.

What is evident is that the foreigner is not to be rejected outright but to be encouraged to come closer and that as the redemption proceeds, there are various stages and, to me, our task is to begin to realign ourselves and to understand that outright opposition to any and all relationships is wrong.  Vigilance is still required.

For example, there are those who promote this illogical approach amongst Christians who purport to be pro-Israel:

We must come to fully understand that the following of Yeshua is the only true and proper extension of Israel spiritually, fulfilled through His life, sacrifice and resurrection, and that Christianity is Jewish. As hard as this maybe for Jewish people and even Christians to understand, if they do not accept Messiah, they like everyone else remain under the curse of sin; that current Judaism whether religious or reformed has no hope for Israel spiritually, except to keep them until their appointed time of awakening, which we know must come before Yeshua returns to us…God is not finished with Israel who must come into an awakening and that along with the church, Israel’s priesthood will be re-established when Yeshua returns.

Dangers exist but I still maintain that matters have altered and in fact, the true message of the Bible is being understood by Christians that delve into the realization of the essence of the Prophets in witnessing Israel’s successes today.  Jews are not released from the need to be able to refute such illogical theology and I am amazed that many Rabbis opposed to the volunteers are uninterested in educating our youth in this sphere, unlike my own experience.

It is not also my wish to relate to the Halachic issue of whether charity or gifts can be accepted from non-Jews.  The literature is not definitively clear-cut but is not totally prohibitive.  Are we perhaps to define the assistance we merit as a “gift”? Is it possible to pay something symbolic to avoid any problems? If we use the non-Jew to replace an electric fuse on the Shabbat or the arrangement for the selling of chametz, perhaps the barrier to their work in the fields is not so complicated. As for the matter of idolatry, in principle, are citizens of Thailand who are Buddhists more “kosher”? Is it better to have Arabs working in our fields?

In this time of our developing redemption, a long-time process, we are being spiritually and materially strengthened. Israel’s position and status should be the one supported in the face of Muslim hostility, local and regional, to Judaism as well as Christianity.  As we confront European anti-Zionism, resurgent world-wide anti-Semitism and, unfortunately, also America’s current diplomacy, we are required us to seek the assistance of friends and allies. Sometimes this aid can be purchased with money as part of the normal relationships between nations, or through mutual assistance in science and technology.  There exist also friends who from out of a spiritual recognition based on the writings of the Bible will come to join us. This assistance should not be shunned but rather we need place it within a framework so that Jews should not be harmed in the Land of Israel.  These initiatives, if non-proselytizing, are, in fact, to be welcomed as they also interconnect with the process of the ‘coming of the foreigner’, for their benefit as well as our welfare.

Of course, one could think that basing one’s paradigm on the words of the prophets has less of an authoritative weight than if it were anchored in the first Five Books of Moses, the actual Torah.  Actually, there is reference in Deuteronomy to this concept of the “coming of the foreigner”.  In Chapter 29, after Moses exhorts the children of Israel to refrain from idol worship and to preserve the special status of the nation predicated on the covenantal relationship as developed through the three patriarchs, verse 21 portrays the future when after the Jews did indeed stray from the commandments and the land of Israel suffered greatly and it reads

“in the last generation, your progeny who will rise ​out of you, and the foreigner who will come from a distant land, will see all the ​plagues dealt this land​ and the illnesses with which God caused it to suffer…”

Let us not ignore the attention paid to the nations of the world through acts for their own good.  In the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 684) we learn that Rabbi Yehuda is quoted saying, “How foolish the nations are! They have lost, yet they know not what they have lost. When the Holy Temple stood, the Altar [with its seventy bulls] would bring them forgiveness. Now – who will bring them forgiveness?

Even as we note that commentators point to the significance of the diminishing character as indicating a different level of spirituality, nevertheless, the bulls were sacrificed on behalf of the non-Jews.  In the above-mentioned verse, Isaiah 56:7, non-Jews bring their own sacrifices, which are of a special category.  So insists the Midrash Sifra 7 on the portion of Emor.  That was in the past.

Indeed, the future redemption has many phenomena and one of them is that a process of the non-Jew being impressed by Israel’s accomplishments and then his ‘coming’, later to be followed, hopefully, by ‘accompanying’ God’s nation, is very much in the matrix.

In the Talmudic tractate Pesachim 68A, a discussion is recorded on the subject of resurrection of the dead in the times of the Messiah. Incidentally, it is there that Samuel expresses his opinion, repeated by Maimonides, that “This world differs from the Messianic age only in respect of the servitude to governments”.  In any case, Rav Shmuel ben Nahmani, basing himself on Rav Yonatan, holds that the righteous are destined to resurrect the dead but ‘Ulla was opposed and made a distinction between Jews and non-Jews based on two verses in Isaiah, 25:8 and 65:20. Asked, “But what is the reason for heathens being mentioned in that circumstance?”, on the assumption that in the days of the Redemption there will be no more non-Jews, he notes a third verse, 61:5, in Isaiah: “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and aliens shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.”  The last Lubavitcher Rebbe viewed this discussion as indicating that even in the end of days there shall exist non-Jews and they shall be assisting the Jews.  The challenge for them, he wrote, is to deal with the verse in Zefaniah 3:9, “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one consent.”  The Hebrew for ‘consent’ there is shchem, shoulder, as if in the phrase shoulder-to-shoulder and, of course, recalls the city of Shchem, known by its Roman corrupted name, Nablus (Flavia Neapolis).

We should not summarily reject the “coming” and we should also avoid basing opposition solely on suspicions that cannot be proven and moreover, that there is no proof for the fears people are raising, but seek to categorize those who wish to be a part of Israel’s restoration for it is for their good as it is for that of Israel.  Moreover, it is illogical to declare this past century that we are in an era of ‘the beginning of the flowering of our redemption’ but refuse to begin to prepare for it when it is clear from the quotations I have included that we are expected to be ready for the ‘coming of the foreigner’.

At th final stage in writing this, I came across an academic article, “The Canaanites who ‘trusted in God’: an original interpretation of the fate of the Canaanites in rabbinic literature”, which includes a related aspect to my thesis written by Philo which intersects with my concept.

In his Hypothetica, Philo writes in 6.8 that the Israelites, upon entering the Land of Israel encountered the “the Syrians and Phoenicians…in that their land” and were

met with respectful treatment and honour from them

The author, from additional sections there, points out an approach by Philo that the Canaanites, as we refer to them, acknowledged the Israelites as “dearly beloved of God” who had “won the respect of their opponents who voluntarily surrendered their land to them”.

To me, this confirmed one of my fundamental perspectives: that in a process of redemption, the successes of the children of Israel will affect the non-Jew, and are intended to do so.  Their reaction should be necessarily one of respect and honor at the least for this is evidence that the prophecies are becoming realized and at this current time, the next stages are the “coming” and then the “accompanying”.  These are their challenges; our accomplishments are the catalysts.

True, as we witness, not all of the “foreigners”, the non-Jews, those among the pro-Zionist Christians, are of this frame of mind.  There are those, perhaps, who are need be encouraged in their process if they so wish, while others, who seek to cause us to stray from our path, must be identified and kept at bay.  What is to be recognized and dealt with is that there is the existence of those who ‘come’ which cannot be denied, or, indeed, ignored.  And their volunteer work is part of the era of the redemption.


The results of the 2014 harvest labor of Hayovel volunteers was 438 tons of grapes which should produce at least 258,000 bottles of wine.  Since 2004, they harvested over 2000 tons of grapes and olives which represents 156,000 work hours, saving labor costs of $1,100,000.


Posted in Uncategorized at 11:42 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Hypocrisy


Democracy, as Aristotle wrote, “define[s] freedom badly… everyone lives as he wants and toward whatever end he happens to crave.”

Elections can bring out the best and the worst in politicians. They can also highlight the wisest and silliest of attitudes and actions. After all, democracy, as Aristotle wrote, “define[s] freedom badly… everyone lives as he wants and toward whatever end he happens to crave.” Perhaps it was in that spirit that Meretz party leader MK Zahava Gal-On appealed to the Central Election Committee at the beginning of this week.

Her request to Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran in his capacity as chairman of the Central Elections Committee was to prevent Israel’s television and radio stations from broadcasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to both houses of the US Congress in March. She claimed that the speech should be considered as election campaigning, which is prohibited on the airwaves 60 days prior to election day.

In her brief, she attempts to prove that the appearance of the prime minister is for election campaigning purposes only. She uses the argument that the speech was planned without coordinating with the White House and against protocol. She also notes that the original date, scheduled for February 11, was shifted to March 3, only two weeks prior to election day. She even invokes US President Barack Obama’s remark that he would not meet with the prime minister so as not to interfere with Israel’s election process.

(As an aside, we note that Obama’s reaction is a gross violation of the very principle he is invoking. He is directly criticizing Israel’s prime minister during an election campaign and knowingly playing into the hands of the prime minister’s competitors.) An equally interesting parallel story that seems not quite to have caught the curiosity of Israel’s mainstream broadcast media is that of the activities of an Obama-linked aide’s involvement, quite direct, in an anti-Netanyahu electoral campaign here in Israel.

“One Voice” is funding a V-2015 campaign to defeat Netanyahu that includes five American campaign experts, including Jeremy Bird, an Obama campaign national field director. Bird is currently working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

A partner of One Voice is the US State Department.

Gal-On is not alone in this attempt to suppress freedom of speech. As reported in the Algemeiner, former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who was President Obama’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, called on Israel’s leaders “to stay out of America’s politics.” This did not prevent him, however, from noting on his Twitter account: “Why should Netanyahu be able to speak and Herzog not?” He further noted that “if [US House of Representatives speaker John] Boehner is placing Congress into the midst of the Israeli elections, why don’t the Democrats invite Herzog too?” Indyk obviously believes that Americans are allowed to interfere with Israeli politics – something he has been doing for too many years. Is this not hypocrisy? Israel held direct elections for the office of prime minister, on May 29, 1996. Then prime minister Shimon Peres orchestrated an international summit conference at Sharm a-Sheikh on March 13. One of those attending was US president Bill Clinton, who participated only to further the cause of peace, as it were. Peres then went on to organize for himself a trip to the US on April 30 to meet with president Clinton at the White House.

Of course, this too, was not considered by the media at that time to constitute involvement of the Americans in Israel’s elections. The visit, though, was already within the then 30-day period when direct broadcasting of candidates was prohibited.

Israel’s Media Watch appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent the broadcast of Peres’ visit to the White House. A young lawyer by the name of Tzipora Livni, a member of the Likud at that time, represented IMW.

We lost the case as Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who did not reject our reasoning, nevertheless decided on a technicality that we petitioned the court too late. Peres’ visit was broadcast live, but it did not help him. He lost the elections.

The law was subsequently revised and the paragraph prohibiting the broadcasting images of candidates within 30 days was abolished.

The limitation disallowing electioneering on the airwaves remains in effect. The major problem with the law is the definition of “electioneering.” Is it limited only to a direct call to the public to vote for someone, or can any candidate’s actions or words be considered electioneering? Back in 1999, IMW lobbied MKs to adopt a stricter interpretation of the law.

But in a conversation with then Meretz MK Dedi Zucker, he expressed the opinion that freedom of expression was paramount and that the law should be interpreted as leniently as possible. He was convinced that with a little more leeway and Netanyahu’s bashing by the media would result in a left-of-center electoral victory. He was correct. But today, the same Meretz party is attempting to turn the clock back and seek to bind a candidate into the straight-jacket they themselves rejected 15 years ago.

During the past decade, the Supreme Court judges chairing the Central Elections Committee adopted the lenient version of the law.

They preferred freedom of expression over the chance that the law would be violated. This interpretation, for example, allows the candidates to explain themselves, to present their positions on a variety of issues and defend themselves against criticism. The only thing it disallows is for a candidate to directly request that the public to vote for her or him.

With this in mind, it is of quite some interest to analyze Netanyahu’s appearance in Congress. Does Gal-On really believe that the prime minister will directly address that audience with a plea to vote for him? In fact, if he did so, Gal-On should implore the authorities to broadcast it, since it would show that Netanyahu is a fool, which he of course is not. As explained by the prime minister ad nauseam, he will go to Congress to lobby for stronger action against the Iranians. Does Gal-On really want this to be defined as electioneering? Consider the latest smear campaign against the prime minister. His opponents are using the testimony of former employees against his wife, Sarah Netanyahu. These employees have an ax to grind and their testimony, prior to court appearances, cannot be taken very seriously.

But is such negative campaigning considered to be electioneering? Of course not.

The public has a right to know if the prime minister is accused of a misdeed (which he is not in this case). Why then should the public not have the right to know if the prime minister is carrying out his job and doing it well, or not? The sad truth is that freedom of expression in the eyes of Gal-On and her Meretz cohorts is a selective right; it was Meretz leader Yossi Sarid who helped close down the Arutz 7 radio station while at the same time extolling the wonderful achievement of Abie Nathan and his illegal Voice of Peace radio station.

Hypocrisy seems to be a staple of the extreme Left in Israel, and it is media-assisted.


January 21, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: The media take us for a walk

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:01 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The media take us for a walk


Our media should be ashamed of itself.

Any researcher examining the Israeli media’s adherence to ethics guidelines (or lack thereof) during the past two decades would most probably find that the leading topic to be coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu himself acknowledged the phenomenon when he declared on May 13, 1999, that the media was fearful of him.

It was Haaretz’s Ari Shavit who surprisingly asked on December 26, 1997, why the Left hated Netanyahu so much.

“Why do our editorial pages read like an endless string of summary verdicts,” he wrote, “our feature pages… a series of firing squads all aimed in one direction… the wild, impassioned, ‘kill the beast’ atmosphere of bloodletting… how did it come to pass that decent, humane people are willingly taking part in the process of demonization, unabashedly fanning the flames of hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu?” Almost 20 years later it would seem that not much has changed. The current election campaign is in full swing, and once again central elements of Israel’s media find themselves die-cast in the mold of this relationship.

It started with a plethora of reports from biased organizations whose professional staff’s salaries depend on the country’s poverty levels. The media blew their claims of extreme poverty in Israel out of all proportion, and the blame was aimed at Netanyahu.

Then we had Channel 10’s blackmail of the government, using a sinister, low-angle snapshot of Netanyahu – which was quickly altered by management.

The latest chapter in this sordid story was the prime minister’s recent trip to Paris in the wake of the terrorist attacks there.

One of the central accusations against Netanyahu was that he pushed himself to the forefront of the world leaders attending the Paris rally. Haim Zisovitz, hosting Educational TV’s “Tik Tikshoret” program, highlighted the incident. A guest commentator, diplomatic pundit Moav Vardi from Channel 10, was honest enough to admit that the media focus on Netanyahu’s inserting himself into the front line and then his being left behind when the VIP bus departed was excessive, a result of media “hatred.”

Yediot Aharonot’s Nahum Barnea was particularly critical of Netanyahu’s decision to march in the front row of the unity rally. However, Barnea ignored what the French media did not: according to the official protocol disseminated ahead of the march, the various world leaders were to walk in the front line.

Barnea also didn’t like the fact that Netanyahu waved to the crowd, which responded with pro-Israel chants. Writers for the rabid anti-Israel blog site Mondoweiss also singled this out, recounting that “Haaretz says that Netanyahu’s Paris performance was a PR ‘disaster’… Reporter Ascher Schechter notes that Netanyahu is being mocked for pushing past Ibrahim Boubacar Keita… and for his ‘gauche waving’ during the march, when others were solemn.”

Netanyahu’s raised arm was interpreted by extreme leftist Michael Kaminer as being reminiscent of a Hitler salute. Igal Sarna also peddled that perverse interpretation of Netanyahu’s raised arm.

Of course, not only wasn’t Netanyahu the only one to wave at the rally, he wasn’t the first. One of us (YM) took the trouble to review the footage of the Paris march and noticed that even German Chancellor Angela Merkel could be seen lifting her arm in that gesture. But Israel’s radicals only saw Netanyahu.

Traditionally, Israel’s media would lash out fiercely at anyone who dared to use Holocaust arguments for present-day political purposes. During the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, for example, when some demonstrators wore a yellow star to express their abhorrence for the dictatorial practices of Ariel Sharon and his government, they were roundly ostracized.

Yet, these outrageous aspersions regarding Netanyahu passed almost without a whimper.

Instead of some sympathy for his distress and discussion of the outrageous French behavior – which in fact can be interpreted as an act hostile not only to the prime minister but to the whole country – too many media outlets took delight in castigating Netanyahu.

They were able to quote Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who stated to Niv Raskin that Netanyahu had “unfortunately” represented the “impolite” and “pushy” Israeli.

In our day and age, however, the truth ultimately becomes evident. The German newspaper Bild actually made the effort to review the footage of the event, and discovered that – lo and behold – the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, elected in 2005 and six years overdue for reelection, also pushed himself forward to gain a photo op.

It was this paper’s Caroline Glick who pointed out the real news value of the incident: that “the French tried to prevent Netanyahu from participating in the rally yesterday in Paris [but]… he had none of it and found an elegant way of pushing back.” She added that in “Channel 2’s coverage last night, they told the story through hateful French eyes…. They gave less than 5 seconds of coverage to [Netanyahu’s] reception at Paris’s Great Synagogue.”

Dr. Haim Shine, in the sympathetic-to-Netanyahu Israel Hayom, was angry.

“The Israeli media has decided to take the low road in its all-out attempt to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” he wrote, adding, “[Their] ‘Anyone but Bibi’ campaign… [and] their coverage is a akin to a burial ceremony for a free and honest press that does not bow to the economic interests of its owners.”

Another Netanyahu “crime” was his call on France’s Jews to immigrate to Israel. Here, too, some of the pundits had a ball. Netanyahu was “dancing on the blood,” utilizing a tragedy to further his electoral standing. The New York Times’ Jodi Ruderon devoted her January 14 story to the affair and reported that it “set off a backlash over the weekend.”

The duty of the Israeli government is to safeguard Jews wherever they are. Netanyahu feels that the most effective way to implement this basic tenet of Zionism is by advocating aliya to Israel. It is easier to safeguard people here than in the Diaspora. France’s political leadership did not like this call, but the Jews of France showered Netanyahu with praise and appreciation. The Israeli media, however, preferred to be negative.

Will the Netanyahu-bashing take its toll on the Likud on election day? Both academics as well as history show that the public’s reaction to negative media and intolerance is usually rather mature. The true victim of this bashing is all of Israel. This type of media behavior only feeds anti-Semites, enabling them to claim that they are only repeating what the Israeli media has said.

Our media should be ashamed of itself.


January 15, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: When satire is bullying

Posted in Media at 12:04 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: When satire is bullying


The post-Charlie Hebdo era has created a new difficulty in discussing satire.

Robert F. Darden, an associate professor of journalism and new media at Baylor University, is also a satirist who edited the now-defunct religious humor magazine The Wittenburg Door. He penned an op-ed titled “Why Satire Matters” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He noted that religious or political satire magazines have a unique business model in that success is evaluated by the number of subscriptions canceled with each issue, accompanied by the phrase “you have gone too far.”

His periodical’s motto was: “To use humor and satire to hold a mirror before the evangelical church.”

The post-Charlie Hebdo era has created a new difficulty in discussing satire. It has had a chilling affect, now being applied to any media criticism. The call raised is that all should be forcefully condemning the murderous attack as “an assault on the freedom of speech and the core tenets of democracy.”

Here in Israel, satire, especially that which was electronically broadcast, has a long and irreverent history. Motti Kirschenbaum was awarded an Israel Prize in the “art of radio, television and cinema” for his leadership of the television satire program Nikui Rosh (Head Flushing) in 1976. Over the years all three Israeli TV channels have provided a platform for many satirical programs. Some of the most outstanding, or more precisely outrageous ones include Chartzufim, Matzav HaUmmah, Eretz Nehederet and the current HaYehudim Ba’im (The Jews Are Coming) as well as the infamous Shai v’Dror radio show. All were heavily slanted to the Left, both in the political sense as well as their general cultural/artistic and religious content. The sole voice of Zionist-leaning satire, Latma, is supposed to go on air on TV Channel 1, but only after four years of stonewalling and managers taking all possible steps to prevent it from happening.

One might justify the bias by noting that historically, satire comes more naturally to the Left.

Its political philosophy and outlook on institutions of power are more confrontational as well as irreverent. The Left is most often outside of the power structure and denied access to it since the majority rejects its approach to social, economic and security issues.

Darden explains that “satire is an old and honorable response to the excesses of government and religion. When the people have no other voice, when the main media outlets are controlled by the state (or too fearful to challenge the state), satire flourishes. One of the few ways the citizen can hold the rich and powerful accountable is to employ humor and satire.” But from the perspective of a critical Israeli media consumer, here’s the rub: what if satire is used undemocratically to prop up certain elites, supressing the more genuine voices in a society? Satirist Efraim Sidon was quoted in The New York Times on November 8, 1996 saying, “We are the revenge of the silent majority.”

That attitude should be considered as a fulfillment of the academic analysis in Derek Penslar’s 1970 book Israel in History, in which he wrote, “Satirical literature attempts to subvert a cultural system through the manipulation of its foundational symbols.”

The question an Israeli media consumer need ask, especially when the programming is publicly funded or supervised by Knesset legislation, is what if those who use humor as a weapon when provided free airtime (and earn a living from it) are taking advantage of that airtime to present biased and largely one-dimensional material? True, satire’s blistering essence is mockery. It is and should be abrasive, annoying and acerbic.

But often, the reality, to quote Darden, is that if satire is making “fun of people less fortunate than you, even if it is for legitimate satiric effect, then it is not satire. It is bullying. Being a bully is never funny.”

An egregious example cheapshot propaganda posing as satire was one of the caricatures Haaretz included in its “salute” to the memory of the journalists and cartoonists slaughtered by two Islamist brothers last week in Paris.

Noa Olchovsky, one of several people invited to contribute their illustrations in Amos Schocken’s newspaper to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo dead, drew a black box and in its upper portion noted 10 crossed-out markings. In its lower portion she added marks for journalists who had been killed by Israeli fire during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge campaign against Hamas aggression.

In the middle she added not only “#JeSuisCharlie” but also ”#JeSuisGaza.”

In just a few pen strokes, Olchovsky maligned Israel. This wasn’t an exaggeration but a blatant lie.

She falsely and consciously accused Israel of carrying out a massacre.

On the one hand, two fanatics deliberately murdered a dozen people on the background of what they considered a blasphemous portrayal of the prophet Muhammad. On the other hand, Israel, with civilian targets being shelled and subjected to rocket-fire and attack after three teenagers were kidnapped and murdered, was responding to terrorism in self-defense, after having completely evacuated the territory of Gaza. Journalists were unintentionally killed, an event which occurs, regrettably, in many other conflicts around the world. But Olchovsky and Haaretz considered them to be equivalently outrageous acts.

In response, this past Sunday liberal left-wing Galatz anchor Razi Barkai brought the publisher of Haaretz Amos Schocken to task for this outrageous comparison.

Schocken’s response was tiresome, hiding behind freedom of speech.

Jewish humor is renowned, its satire a staple going back centuries. The Maskilim famously employed it against the Hassidim.

In this case, Haaretz’s satire was not intended to improve Israeli society and its politics but to undermine them. That is not at all funny.


January 7, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Media diversity?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:53 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Media diversity?


The lack of diversity is not limited to the rebirth of Zionism.

It is no secret that a central complaint against the Israeli media is its lack of diversity. For many years the media lacked pluralism, not only in the narrow realm of political inclinations and especially disinclinations, but also in general cultural preferences such as artistic, musical and literary endeavors. Fortunately, progress is evident. More and more religiously observant and right-wing journalists have joined the mainstream print media and electronic broadcasting outlets. The increasing number of religious entertainers and creators is also having its impact.

Some of the more noticeable Zionist-oriented and right-wing religious members of the media have even followed the footsteps of their secular post-Zionist counterparts, left their profession as journalists and entered politics. Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach and now Yinon Magal, who has been assured a safe place on the Bayit Yehudi list by its chairman, Naftali Bennett, are striking examples. It remains to be seen whether Magal will build on his media experience and have direct influence on media-related issues that arise in the Knesset and its deliberations.

Diversity has other aspects to it. In Great Britain, for example, diversity, as a bone of contention, relates to the ethnic makeup of the media. As Sajid Javid, the UK culture and media secretary, himself of Asian origin, has said recently, “statistics clearly showed there was a gap, given that just six percent of people working in newspapers, radio and television are from ethnic minorities compared with 14% of the population as a whole.” He claimed that in the business sector, for example, minorities are better represented. It would seem that in Israel ethnic diversity can also be improved – certainly the number of prominent non-Jewish journalists is much smaller than their proportion in the general population.

Cultural diversity is also an issue of quite some importance in Britain. The Creative Diversity Network is a forum of media organizations that monitor cultural diversity. Its members include senior producers from BBC, Channel 4, ITN, ITV, Sky and Turner Broadcasting.

Its report released this past September following a pilot study found that ethnic minorities, who are indeed under-represented, tended to be clustered around shows featuring what we would consider to be low-level entertainment, such as The X Factor and The Voice.

How does our Israeli media fare? One area that could use more diversity is original drama. Historical drama as a whole is lacking on our television screens, and what historical programs there are are all too often typified by an ever-increasing onslaught from within on our national narrative. This is not a new subject.

Already on February 22, 1978, the plenum of the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s (IBA) governing council decided to instruct its creative content employees “to prepare a comprehensive series of broadcasts on the history of the Zionist struggle and the justice of the national enterprise.” This decision was forced upon its members as a result of its own previous funding of Ram Levy’s television film based on Yizhar Smilansky’s short story Hirbet Hiz’a, with its (in)famous line: “What the hell are we doing here?” (Smilansky also became a Mapai MK and then a Rafi party MK, serving from 1949 to 1967).

That film provoked a major scandal. It was perceived as promoting the propaganda of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and, ultimately, anti-Israel terrorism. The fictional tale of the conquest of an Arab village and the expulsion of its remaining residents in “boxcars of exile” was based on the author’s 1948 wartime experience.

This film was a sign of things to come. The contemporary offerings of serious television fare, while justifying Israel as a free, democratic society, are false and hollow because there is so much not aired or produced. Indeed, the result of all this activity has been to turn the Zionist into a virtual anti-hero.

Oddly enough, the eventual “response” of the IBA was the 1981 “Pillar of Fire” historical series, broadcast in 19 episodes over a five-month period. Its origins stemmed from the 1975 United Nations “Zionism is Racism” resolution.

That series was severely criticized for ignoring Jews from Arab lands and the nationalist-camp opponents to the Mapai/Histadrut hegemony. Three decades later, it is now the producers of the post-Zionist narrative, who are mostly homegrown, well ensconced in our academia, our theaters and in exhibitions who accuse Israeli society of being racist. Our airwaves have not provided a significant and firm counter-voice to this false narrative.

Worse, chapters of Zionist history that do reflect a more patriotic and positive narrative are ignored. The struggle for the land, the superhuman efforts to reach the Land of Israel despite restrictions, the heroism of the battles for liberation from the repressive British regime and especially those of the Irgun and Lehi have hardly been mined for their contribution to the national spirit. We have often noted the lopsided satire on Israeli TV and will come back to this topic in a forthcoming column.

Public criticism of this lack of diversity has usually been treated in a critical and even derogatory manner as the left-of-center cultural chiefs among the writers, producers and directors who infiltrated the media dictated their own agenda. Any interference with their work was hotly contested as an attack on their self-awarded freedom to do whatever they pleased, and too often on the public’s expense.

At the BBC, the coming year will bring more than 40 hours of new drama commissions including a new adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, which deals with a terrorist bomb plot in Victorian London.

The parallel to the terror threat the UK has been facing for the past years is obvious. The controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, proudly announced that “the BBC supports the range of writers and ideas that these new announcements demonstrate.”

Could the same be said of our state-sponsored and funded networks? Do Channel 1’s “high-brow dramas,” Channel 2’s popular dramas and the current dramas available on satellite and cable channels adequately, pluralistically and democratically represent Israel’s national ethos and historical record? We think not, and that too much of the good story of Zionism is sadly lacking on Israel’s screens.

The lack of diversity is not limited to the rebirth of Zionism.

The BBC for years has given to the world dramas that cover England’s rich ancient history. The Jewish people have an enormously richer history, covering 2,000 years of Diaspora. Have we ever had a biography of Abravanel, Yehuda Halevi, etc.? Have the years of repression and anti-Semitic acts been given their due? Has the history of Jewish self-rule in the Diaspora, with all of its richness, received any attention? Do our viewers get to know Jewish historical leaders, their successes and failures? Israel’s media is controlled by an cultural elite that have little knowledge about and too often display even less respect for the Jewish people and its ethos. It is high time that this is changed. The Israeli people deserve better.


January 3, 2015

Pre-state ‘purity of arms’?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:45 pm by yisraelmedad

Jerusalem Post MAGAZINE

Book Review: Pre-state ‘purity of arms’?

by Yisrael Medad, 02/01/2015

Founding myths are powerful and necessary, even as they can be unjust in excluding elements of society.

Two such myths underpin Zionism and the State of Israel: that it was the pioneering socialist camp of the parties affiliated with the Mapai-dominated Histadrut labor federation which built the country, thereby achieving its independence; and that the dissident undergrounds of the Irgun and Stern Group not only did not contribute much to Israel’s establishment, but their actions were morally stained.

Instead of tohar haneshek, the principle of “purity of arms” practiced by the Hagana and Palmah, these myths say that the Irgun of David Raziel and Menachem Begin and the Stern Group of Avraham Stern soiled and stained Zionism with what the Yishuv’s leadership considered immoral actions.

Haggai Segal’s How My Grandmother Prevented a Civil War, both a personal and family history as well as a well-researched resolution of the death of the author’s uncle in Haifa in early 1948, confronts these two myths head-on.

Segal’s grandfather Yosef immigrated to then-Mandate Palestine in 1925 and was a founder of the Ahuza neighborhood of Haifa, then a near-deserted area on the Carmel. He taught until he was fired due to the politicized pro-Mapai system and raised his children, two of whom entered the ranks of the Irgun.

The murdered uncle, Yedidya, was caught up in a kidnapping/counter- kidnapping incident following a December 30, 1947, action by the Irgun at the Haifa Bay oil refinery that killed six Arabs, leading to the massacre of 39 Jewish workers there.

A senior Irgun commander was snatched, and a Hagana commander was taken in an unplanned abduction and held briefly in the hut of Yedidya Segal, then 21 years old. He was not involved in the kidnapping but the Hagana, suspecting he was, took him into custody for questioning. Yedidya’s body was found a day later (and only identified after another day had gone by), close to Tira.

At a 1950 libel trial against the Herut party newspaper, in which Paul Kollek, Teddy’s brother, sought to defend himself against charges of being involved in the presumed murder of Yedidya by Hagana members, Hagana witnesses testified to Irgun members’ methods of torture – which could not be called “pure” in the least.

Neither that six-decades-old trial nor the intervening years provided conclusive evidence as to Yedidya’s fate in the early morning hours of Monday, January 12. The author did discover a photograph of his uncle’s body, of which only a portion was permitted to be reproduced. Pathologist Dr. Alex Leboff concluded that in all probability the wounds displayed in the picture indicated he was not shot to death, but was severely beaten and tossed from a height or distance at the site at which he was found. Leboff, however, limited his opinion to professional conjecture, as only a proper postmortem operation would be admissible in a court of law – clearly not possible at this juncture.

Segal is convinced that his uncle’s presumed murder by Arabs was a staged affair.

In his memoirs, the Herut newspaper’s attorney, Shmuel Tamir, an Irgun veteran and later Israel’s justice minister, wrote that he suspected Alexander Rappaport of being the Hagana member who shot Yedidya, despite Rapapport’s denials.

Yet the real message of Segal’s book is that an incipient civil war was prevented – which Menachem Begin confirms in his work The Revolt. Segal points out that thanks to both Begin’s leadership and the forceful position adopted by his family, particularly his grandmother Malka, reprisal was staved off when they convinced his uncle, Benayahu Segal – himself a Hagana member – to yield on his plan to avenge his brother’s blood.

Segal mentions several instances of Hagana violence directed at fellow Jews, such as the Jacob de Haan assassination, the attempted assassination of Nili spy Yosef Lishansky and street brawls when ruffians of Haifa mayor Abba Hushi’s Hapoel Hatza’ir squad fell upon the members of the Betar youth movement loyal to Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

And there were too many more. In 1940, seven Jews, thought to be collaborating with British police on matters of illegal immigration and arms stockpiling, were killed by the Hagana and its POM unit. That August, having discovered that weapons from their arms store were stolen, the Hagana kidnapped and tortured the parents and brother of an Irgun member.

Despite recovering their property, which had actually been held by the newly formed Stern Group, they then, in a “punishment” action, besieged the Betar clubhouse in Herzliya and killed 21-yearold Eliyahu Shlomi, via blows to the head with a metal pipe.

In March 1947, Mordechai Berger was also beaten to death by pipe-wielding Hagana thugs in Tel Aviv, falsely suspected of providing intelligence to the British police. Even after the Yedidya Segal affair, on May 7, 1948, the Hagana kidnapped four Stern Group members in Haifa – brought first to the Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood, then to Kibbutz Beit Oren and from there to Kibbutz Mishmar Hayam.

It was only after the Stern Group snatched Yosef Avidar, a member of the Hagana’s High Command and a senior Hagana intelligence officer in Tel Aviv, that Levi Eshkol was delegated by David Ben-Gurion to negotiate the mutual releases.

I offer two corrections to the otherwise excellent translation. The term “dissidents” is the usual one employed in the academic literature to describe the Irgun and Stern Group, rather than “secessionists”; and, on page 82, the acronym for the Irgun is “Etzel,” not as noted.

The book is colored by Segal’s wryly humorous style, which makes this otherwise morbid and depressing chapter in pre-state history almost enthralling.

Segal does well in depicting his family as pioneers and defenders of Jewish unity, despite their personal loss.

And that is another founding myth which should be taught in our schools along with Hanita, Tel Hai and the Palmah liberation of Safed.

Yisrael Medad
In my book review, “Pre-state ‘purity of arms’?” (Jan. 2), allow me to correct two typos:
a) the line at the bottom of the first column in the print edition, “Hagana witnesses to Irgun members’ methods of torture”, should read: “Hagana witnesses testified to the methods of torture of Irgun members they had interned”.
b) at the bottom of the second column, the name of Abba Hushi’s thug squad was HaPoel, not “HaPoel HaTzair”.