Among the resolutions of the 34th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem in 2002, one resolution called for criminalizing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Indeed, since then, there have been a growing number of attempts to stifle criticism of Israel by defining it as a new form of anti-Semitism. French journalists were put on trial for reporting the shooting of Palestinians; the BBC was excommunicated by the Israeli government; and campaigns to silence academic criticism of Israel have been mounted in the U.S., including one spearheaded by the hatemonger formerly known as Daniel Pipes.
So far, none of this has worked, but it appears that the setbacks suffered by Israel’s willing apologists have made at least some of them rethink their strategy. They now understand that Israel must consider the impact of its own military actions on world public opinion.
The proof is the following memo that found its way to my mailbox.
From: The CLOATSP-ME coalition (Concerned Liberals Of America for a True Secure Peace in the Middle East)
To: Shaul Mofaz, Minister of Defense, Israel
RE: Educating against Hate and Anti-Semitism
With the imminent collapse of the “Road Map,” we foresee Israel resuming its large scale operations against Palestinian cities and camps.
While we strongly believe Israel’s future depends on separation from the territories, we share with you a commitment to Israel’s security. In the spirit of that commitment, and out of deep worry for the future of Jewish identity, we call your attention to a problem that concerns us all.
We believe that the last cycle of military operations produced among many Palestinians, especially among the residents of targeted cities such as Jenin and Gaza, a visceral hatred towards Israel and Israelis. Even more troubling is the fact that these negative feelings are often directed toward Israeli soldiers as “Jews” — a usage that, in our opinion, is more than a whiff anti-Semitic in its effect, if not in its intention. Without trying to excuse the perpetrators, we note that the spreading of such feelings contribute to the pool of volunteers for suicide missions.
Worse, in the last three years, animosity toward Israel has grown exponentially all over the world, mostly as a result of media attention to the plight of Palestinians who suffered the results of Israel’s legitimate attempts to defend its citizens. Some of this animosity has spilled into attacks against Jews and Jewish symbols, including the burning of synagogues.
We note that certain actions by Israeli soldiers, for example, painting graffiti of the Star of David on the walls of Palestinian houses, contribute to these unhealthy and troubling attitudes.
You were the chief of staff during the recent massive Israeli offensives, including the destruction of the Jenin refugee camp, and are now in charge of Israel’s security policies.
We, therefore, implore you to spare no effort in combating the spread of anti-Semitism. And we respectfully suggest that Israeli soldiers take the following measures in any future attack on Palestinian targets:
· All ammunition, vehicles and weapons should be clearly marked as belonging to the state of Israel. If the mark includes a Star of David, an attached disclaimer should clarify that the Star of David isn’t used as a religious symbol but merely as a secular state symbol.
· Soldiers should be instructed not to use the Star of David when defacing Palestinian property. Soldiers should use the Menorah instead, because it is not as strongly associated with Jewish religion. Alternatively, the IDF could provide soldiers with defacement kits which include a sticker with the following disclaimer (in colloquial Arabic): “This humiliating act is performed by the State of Israel and has nothing to do with Jewish religion.”
· Regularly, but especially before air raids, Apache helicopters should drop leaflets explaining the difference in meaning between the adjectives “Jewish” and “Israeli.” The leaflets should be written in simple, colloquial Arabic. Recorded audiotapes should be used to reach the illiterate.
· Before every attack on civilians, jeeps equipped with loud speakers should drive around the target area explaining the reason for the attack in plain colloquial Arabic. After the attack, but before ambulances are allowed to reach the wounded, local residents should be rounded up and briefed by the commanding officer so that they understand how their misery contributed to Israel’s security. The briefing should include a clear statement that the attack was not carried out by Jews, but by Israeli soldiers. Available South Lebanese Army and Druze officers should be displayed prominently before the natives.
· Families whose houses have been demolished should receive a special folder of information about Israel with photos of lush Kibbutzim and colorful Tel-Aviv nightlife scenes. The folder should include material explaining that the loss of their homes clears the ground for another Jewish housing unit that will make the desert bloom. It is important to humanize Israelis and emphasize to the family that the soldiers who destroyed their houses are people just like themselves, and have families, too. Circumstances permitting, the commander in charge should arrange for informal meetings between the drivers of the bulldozers and the family, in which both sides will show each other pictures of their relatives.
· Military social workers should visit Palestinian children to teach workshops in anger management and dealing with the panoply of negative emotions, humiliation, despair, anger, hatred, suicidal rage, etc., that typically result from encounters with Israeli soldiers. An important part of the workshop will focus on explaining to the children why anti-Semitism is always wrong. For maximum results, we strongly recommend asking the experienced Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to write the material for this workshop.
· Army Education Officers should be dispatched to all Palestinian villages and neighborhoods. The officers should take advantage of the long curfews which keep the population indoors in order to pass from house to house educating people about the deep historical commitment of the Jewish religion to justice and human rights, the beauty of Jewish holidays, the celebrated self-mocking Jewish humor, and the significant contributions of Jews to world culture. Officers will distribute to Palestinian families free copies of Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams,” biographies of Einstein and Henrietta Szold, and free DVD recordings of “Annie Hall” and “Mad History of the World” (all translated into simple colloquial Arabic).
· As condition for their release, all Palestinians detained by the Israeli army, even for short periods, should attend seminars that explain international law in plain colloquial Arabic, particularly the prohibitions on indiscriminate attacks against civilians, terrorism, suicide bombs and other related crimes. The seminars should also thoroughly explain the reasons exempting Israel from the obligations of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, and allowing it to use collective punishment, torture, assassinations, and massive firepower against civilians. The last 10 minutes should be devoted to a rebuttal of the spurious comparison between what the Israeli army does and the actions of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Everybody can say that the night is dark, but only the finest rhetoric can make the day seem darker. We therefore recommend entrusting the curriculum to our best ethical and legal contortionists — Alan Dershowitz, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Walzer, etc.
· A special elite military unit, suggested code name Blueberry, should be created. The unit will specialize in quickly rounding up dozens of Palestinians and taking them to a guided tour through Yad Vashem (Holocaust) Museum. Specially trained Blueberry tour guides, versed in colloquial Arabic, will then explain to the abductees why it is never admissible to compare the suffering of the Jewish people to any other suffering in history, and why the suffering of the Jewish people gives Israel a special right to brutalize Palestinians. It is important that “Blueberry” soldiers refrain from the widespread practice of blindfolding abductees: Palestinians must be able to see the pictures from Auschwitz with their own eyes. Plastic handcuffs are fine. We recommend hiring a top talent in using the verbal equivalent of tear gas, perhaps Elie Wiesel, as “Blueberry’s” special pedagogical adviser.
· Injured Palestinians interested in communicating with the media should receive special sensitivity training from the army. Training should be also available to prospective local leaders. Military trainers should impress upon Palestinians (in simple colloquial Arabic) that they will continue to be killed and oppressed until they learn to speak in an inclusive, sensitive, responsible manner that expresses equal respect for members of all religions, nationalities and races, and recognizes in the diversity of existence the beauty of a shared humanity.
We sincerely hope that these measures will be a step towards countering the deplorable swell of hatred and anti-Semitism in the Middle East.
CLOATSP-ME co-existence committee.
Gabriel Ash was born in Romania and grew up in Israel. He is an unabashed “opssimist.” He writes his columns because the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword – and sometimes not. He lives in the United States.
Gabriel Ash encourages your comments: gash@YellowTimes.org