“Next year in Palestine” was the largest headline on the first page of the Swiss
Neue Zuericher Zeitung (NZZ), which appeared in the December 29/30 edition of
The article, written by Martin Woker, an editor of the paper,
is not overly friendly to Israel, to say the least. Arguably, the headline
itself is a masterpiece of yellow journalism with an anti-Semitic flavor, which
has little respect for the feeling of Jews.
For two millennia, the Jewish
people have fervently wished for themselves to be “next year in Jerusalem.” The
saying expresses the deepest wishes of the Jewish people, who after having been
thrown out of the Temple and Jerusalem, prayed and beseeched the Almighty to
turn the wheel of history backwards and bring the Jewish people once again into
the promised land. Generations of families have instilled in their children the
hope that one day they all will be able to return to Jerusalem.
no regard for these deep feelings, for, after all who cares when a Jew is upset?
They misused this saying to express their deep hope that next year there will be
Palestinian state whose capital is in Jerusalem.
Woker begins his article
with an “objective” description of Israel’s construction program, utilizing the
birth of Jesus tale: “Maria and Joseph would not have had to find refuge in a
greater Jerusalem pigsty nowadays. There are thousands of apartments under
construction or in the planning stages, to the north and east of Bethlehem. The
Israeli government is facing harsh criticism from all over the world since these
are on occupied Palestinian territory and are limited to Jewish inhabitants
The article goes on to describe the changes taking place in the
Middle East and ends with: “Not every struggle for human rights must end in war,
as one may learn from the South African example. Accordingly, no one can predict
that all the new buildings in Greater Jerusalem will forever be available only
to those who today take into consideration only themselves and their ethnically
and divinely justified eternal right. It should be clear: God has also lit in
the Holy land the spark of unrest of the Orient.”
ISRAEL’S SWISS friends
were justifiably upset.
Walter Blum, a Catholic Swiss and the executive
secretary of the Swiss Israel society, reacted in a long letter to the NZZ’s
Chief Editor Markus Spillmann: “I was surprised by the title of the article, but
even more so, in view of the introductory statement using Maria and Joseph.
Independent of the fact that the ‘holy couple’ [being Jewish] would not have
been able to find themselves in pre-1967 Jordanian Bethlehem, if this is the
spirit emanating from an introductory remark to the readership, then I, a long
time reader of the NZZ find my soul to be in pain.”
He then continues: “I
am sorry that nowhere in your article do you find it necessary to note that
apart from the settlement policy, there is also this issue [where he refers
earlier to Hamas’s outspoken goal of eliminating the State of Israel] which
makes the two-state solution such a long suffering story.”
relates to Woker’s South African innuendo, noting the deep differences between
Israel’s right for existence as a Jewish state and the domination of the black
population of South Africa by only a 10 percent minority white
But Woker’s article was well appreciated by some of the NZZ’s
followers. The editors choose which letters to publicize. So, it was no surprise
that one Bruno Lanfraconi, from Lucerne, wrote: “It is additional evidence that
Israel purposely does everything possible to prevent a peaceful solution to the
Near East conflict... It is already many years that the Israelis are burdened
with a terrible guilt.”
Spillmann seemingly does not even realize how
anti-Semitic such a letter is in its damnation of the people of Israel.
few days later, Spillmann finally also published a letter by Liliane
Bernet-Bachmann who criticized Woker, noting that “Even according to the Oslo
accords, the Jewish- Israeli population has the right to live in the disputed
territories. This, as long as there isn’t another agreement which would change
the legal situation.”
BUT LET’S leave the Swiss alone. Where is Israel in
this outrageous media attack? Where is the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland who
should publicly defend Israel and the Jewish people against this onslaught?
Could it be that his lack of knowledge of the German language prevents him from
doing his job? And if so, why didn’t our former foreign minister, Avigdor
Liberman, or his deputy, Danny Ayalon, make sure that our representative in
Switzerland is capable of carrying out his job? This case is not
A while ago we also reported on the Israeli consul in San
Francisco, who was actively backing the controversial J Street
Ayalon was many times petitioned to do something about
this, but he didn’t even have the time needed to meet with Nathan Nestel, a
worried Israeli, to review the situation.
Instead of complaining about
the policies of the Israeli government, our ambassadors abroad should go out
there and do something about defending our good name. It is their job to counter
such media attacks and prevent them from happening again.
In fact, there
are some good “ambassadors,” such as the German (non-Jewish) journalist Ulrich
Sahm. In his most recent article, published on the Israelnetz website, Sahm
takes on the economic situation in the Palestinian State. He notes that the
Palestinian Authority, since its coming into existence in 1994, received more
development aid from the world than any other country.
have only themselves to blame for their economic misery, rather than the Israeli
occupation. But Sahm does not get his writing published in the NZZ, and
certainly not with a headline on the first page entitled “The truth about
Nor does he get to write a weekly article for the
German Spiegel online, which regularly publishes the anti-Israeli diatribes of
one Jakob Augstein.
The problem is not Hasbara per se, the real problem
is that for too many years our Foreign Ministry has been run by people who are
not competent enough, or unwilling to call a spade a spade.
If we are to
survive as a nation, then it is high time that our media scrutinizes the Foreign
Ministry and forces it to do its job.
The authors are respectively vice
chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il)