Grapeline: Out of favor

Until a year ago, former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath was among Palestinian dignitaries permitted to travel freely between the PA , Israel and Jordan.

Nabil Sha'ath 370 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Nabil Sha'ath 370
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Several prominent personalities in the Palestinian Authority were born in what is the State of Israel. Among them is Dr. Nabil Sha’ath, 74, who like PA President Mahmoud Abbas, was born in Safed.
Formerly the chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel, Sha’ath was also the first PA foreign minister, and also served in a number of other high-ranking capacities.
Until a year ago, he was among those Palestinian dignitaries permitted to travel freely between the PA , Israel and Jordan.
Now, according to an interview that he gave to veteran Yediot Aharonot Arab affairs reporter Smadar Perry, who is also an occasional writer for The Jerusalem Post, this privilege has been taken from him.
During his years as a negotiator and minister, he made many friends and acquaintances in Israel, including the late Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who died a year ago. Sha’ath even managed to visit Lipkin-Shahak in November of last year, when the latter was already close to death’s door.
After that, Sha’ath – who is currently chairman of the committee engaged in writing the Palestinian constitution – was stripped of his special privileges. Whenever he wanted to travel abroad, including visits to Jordan, he had to stand in line for hours at the crossing into Jordan – just like nearly every other Palestinian.
Sha’ath doesn’t know why he is being punished, he told Perry, but it was hinted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is penalizing him for allegedly being involved in incitement against Israel. Sha’ath learned that the order to deprive him of his privileges came not from Israel’s intelligence organizations nor from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), but from the Prime Minister’s Office. In a way, it boosted his popularity in the PA , when the population saw that he was being treated like everyone else.
Sha’ath has never attacked Netanyahu personally, nor has he ever called for violence against Israel, he told Perry, but as a Palestinian, he has been critical of the policies of a series of Israeli governments.
Three weeks ago, he was invited to participate in a conference at Tel Aviv University, and only on the day prior to the event was he given permission to enter Israel, with the stipulation that the permit was strictly for five hours, including the travel time from Ramallah to Tel Aviv University and back. Sha’ath swallowed the humiliation, but fate determined otherwise. On the evening prior to the conference, Abbas came to his home and embraced him, and then by way of softening bad news uttered an old Arab proverb: “We have been destined to drink from the same cup.” Sha’ath was aware that Abbas had lost a son to a heart attack, and understood from the proverb that his own eldest son, who had been a resident of Cairo, had died due to the same cause. “I nearly fainted,” he told Perry.
■ AS THE generation of survivors continues to fade, there is increasing concern as to how the memory of the Holocaust will be perpetuated.
Second-generation survivors who have grown up hearing what their parents and other family members were subjected to, or have learned of it only recently from parents – who in the twilight of their lives finally told the stories that had been locked up for so long – will continue the lesson into the third generation.
Some have been doing this for years, but the message rings louder and deeper when a second-generation commemoration includes people who have achieved fame. Golda Meir, when she was prime minister, addressed a gathering in Tel Aviv of the World Federation of Jewish Journalists, and told her audience it was a mistake to say that the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews – because they murdered not only the people whose deaths they physically caused, but also all future progeny that those people might have had for eternity.
What she said at that time becomes even more relevant today when scanning the list of second- generation survivor participants in an upcoming Holocaust commemoration conference, which will take place at ZOA House in Tel Aviv on Thursday, January 23, under the auspices of the Senior Citizens Ministry, Next Generation to Holocaust and Heroism, and Yad Vashem. Speakers will include, among others: poet Agi Mishol; video, photo and cinema artist Michal Rovner; author, screenwriter and playwright Nava Semel; movie director Tzipi Reibenbach; Auschwitz survivor and veteran journalist Noah Klieger; child Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is currently chairman of the Yad Vashem Council; and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Many Holocaust survivors who are members of the various survivor and European hometown organizations have also indicated they will attend.
■ ISRAEL HAS a special place in the hearts of Koreans, due to the role it played in an almost anonymous capacity in bringing the Korean War to an end. That may explain why Korean electronics king Samsung has invested so much in its R&D facilities in this country, and why it has become involved in Israeli philanthropic and social network activities.
This includes helping out with digital education. Samsung Israel CEO D.S. Choi showed up this week at the Kibbutzim Seminar College in Tel Aviv, to inaugurate a digital classroom that had been donated by his company; Samsung has a close relationship with Israel’s digitally oriented academic community.
At the company’s first Smart TV developer’s conference, held at the College of Management Academic Studies in July 2012, there were representatives of eight Israeli universities and colleges. The digital classroom at the Kibbutzim Seminar College is similar to other digital classrooms that Samsung has donated in the US and elsewhere. It contains smart platforms that serve as a technological base to provide teachers with all their requirements, enabling them to choose what to apply when. New-generation tablets enable solutions to many problems that were previously difficult to solve.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Choi said this was yet another opportunity for the company to give back to the community. Samsung was proud to donate the most advanced technology, he said, but it also needed a partner that knew what to do with this technology.
College president Prof. Tzipi Libman replied that Samsung’s contribution to education in Israel has allowed the country to maintain its reputation as a start-up nation.
■ NUMEROUS CELEBRITIES from the entertainment industry, together with IDF top brass past and present, celebrated the grand finale of the 20th-anniversary festivities of Galgalatz, the musical and road safety adjunct to Army Radio.
Among those in attendance were Transportation Minister Israel Katz; IDF head of human resources Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai; Army Radio commander-in-chief Yaron Dekel; Galgalatz CEO Dalit Ofer; IDF chief education officer Avner Paz-Tzuk; former heads of Army Radio Yitzhak Tunic, Moshe Shlonsky and Avi Benayahu, who later served as IDF spokesman; public relations personalities Ran and Hila Rahav; MK Merav Michaeli, who went from a broadcasting career that started at Army Radio to a political career that landed her in the Knesset; television and radio personality Erez Tal; singer and actress Gali Atari; singer, composer and instrumentalist Rami Kleinstein; singers Efrat Gosh, Alon Olearchik, Keren Peles, Dudu Tassa, Ehud Banai, Marina Maximillian Blumin and Aviv Gefen; as well as many others.
Early in the evening, Gefen sang a tribute to Arik Einstein, performing one of his popular songs, Sa L’at (Drive Slowly), which was the first song ever broadcast on Army Radio’s Galgalatz.
■ TODAY IS the last of the three days of culture co-sponsored by the Mifal Hapayis national lottery, the Culture and Sport Ministry and the Cultural Institutions Forum. By the end of the day, more than 400 cultural events will have been held in some 120 cities, towns and villages across the country, at an entry fee of NIS 20 or less.
During the three-day cultural blitz launched Wednesday at Tel Aviv City Hall – in the presence of Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Mifal Hapayis chairman Uzi Dayan, the Cameri Theater’s Noam Semel, Cultural Institutions Forum chairman Itamar Gurevich, Israel Ballet artistic director Ido Tadmor, and Yiddishpiel director Sasi Keshet and his wife, Yona Elian, who is starring in the Yiddish production Mirele Efros – entry to museums was free of charge, and the price for tickets to movies, concerts, theater performances, etc. was in many cases barely symbolic.
Livnat said she was happy to see the project get off the ground, in line with her ministry’s policy of social justice – which is to make culture accessible to all, including the economically distressed, especially those living in peripheral areas. Dayan noted this was a unique initiative, the first of its kind in Israel, and was aimed at strengthening an appreciation for quality culture – by making a variety of cultural events available to those members of the public who might otherwise be unable to afford them.
■ NOT WITHSTA NDING BOYCOTTS and divestments, Israelis continue to gain positive recognition in numerous global organizations and institutions.
A recent example is that of Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce, who was elected this month to serve on the general council of the World Chambers Federation, a leading international business organization.
Participants in the election included more than 1,200 chambers of commerce from 125 countries, with Lynn ranking sixth among 20 leaders elected in the final results. Considering anti-Israel sentiments, which have been widely publicized in various countries, this is a remarkable achievement.
WCF member countries hostile to Israel include Iran, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia; in addition, there are hostile organizations in other countries such as South Africa.
The WCF elections are divided among the continents, and Lynn was the first to be elected in the Middle East and Africa categories, together with the president of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, ranking 19th. The final composition of the council includes representation from all parts of membership worldwide, comprising 10 representatives from the Americas, 10 representatives from the Africa/ Middle East region, 12 Asia representatives and 18 representatives from Europe.
■ ONE OF the leading icons among Israel’s photographers is David Rubinger, who served for many years as the photographer for Time magazine, and whose photos have appeared in many exhibitions in Israel and around the world. Over the years he has won many prizes and awards, and continues to do so, even though he’s not quite as busy as he used to be.
His latest accolade has come from the Palm Beach Photographic Center, which has selected him as the 2014 recipient of the prestigious FOTO mentor Award in honor of his lifetime achievements. The PBPC awards committee selects one photographer each year to receive the award, which is presented along with other awards at the annual FOTO fusion Dinner.
The PBPC writes on its website that Rubinger is the preeminent Israeli photojournalist, whose work is the only photography on permanent display in the Knesset. His photographs document more than 60 years of the extraordinary transition of Israel from a newly formed state of a mere 600,000 people, to the high-tech nation of more than 7 million. Indeed, President Shimon Peres called Rubinger “the photographer of the nation-in-themaking.”
The announcement continues, “In many ways, Rubinger’s own story reflects the history of Israel that he has recorded so faithfully with his camera. Born in Vienna in 1924, he emigrated to British Palestine in 1939 to escape the Nazis, and developed a passion for photography while serving in the British army’s Jewish Brigade in World War II.
“After fighting in Israel’s War of Independence, he became a professional news photographer – first for Israeli media, then for Time-Life. As Time–Life’s primary photographer for the region for almost 50 years, Rubinger covered all of Israel’s wars from the frontlines, and was given unprecedented access to governmental leaders, many of whom have allowed him a remarkable degree of access to their lives. Ariel Sharon once said, ‘I trust Rubinger, even though I know he doesn’t vote for me.’ This enabled him to take many memorable photographs and be present on historical occasions.
“But Rubinger has not confined his reporting to war and politics. By photographing the successive waves of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the Arab world, Russia and Ethiopia, he has also created a valuable record of Israel’s transformation from a country of 600,000 to a nation of 7 million. Rubinger’s signature photograph is of Israeli paratroopers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, shortly after its recapture by Israeli forces in the 1967 Six Day War.”
An exhibition of his extensive photo coverage will open at the FOTO mentor Museum on January 16, and will remain on view until March 2014.
■ WHILE VISITING Israel last week to deliver a lecture at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat (BESA ) Center for Strategic Studies, Nebojša Radmanovic, one of the three rotating presidents of Bosnia-Herzegovina, met with university president Prof.
Daniel Herschkowitz, and the two agreed to establish exploratory committees for avenues for academic cooperation between BIU and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“Bosnia-Herzegovina is immersed in ongoing problems. We can learn a lot from Israel in dealing with ongoing conflicts which have lasted for decades, as well as those which arise from day to day,” Radmanovic told Herschkowitz, in the presence of Bosnia-Herzegovina Ambassador Branko Kesic and various BIU faculty members. “We can also learn from you in terms of higher education in general, and education in particular, as we proceed toward becoming a member of the European Union.”
Later, in his lecture on the Balkans in international relations at the BESA Center, Radmanovic noted similarities between the Balkans and the Middle East, regions representing a combination of different civilizations since ancient times that until today experience ethnic conflict and political instability.
He received resounding applause when he said he did not support the PA ’s effort to pursue statehood through the UN. “This step is not compatible with peace and stability; there is no one-sided solution that can contribute to peace and stability. A solution can only come about if it is agreed upon by the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Otherwise, I can’t support it,” said Radmanovic, expanding on this point in a subsequent media interview.
He expressed steadfast support for the further development of a peaceful and prosperous Israel, and the achievement of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
During his brief stay in Israel, Radmanovic also met with President Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and laid a wreath at Yad Vashem.
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