Grapevine: Israel and the European Union

Many of the survivors who reached Israel’s shores during the period of the British Mandate fought in the War of Independence.

Prime Minister Netanyahu reads Jerusalem Post (photo credit: Illustrative Photo )
Prime Minister Netanyahu reads Jerusalem Post
(photo credit: Illustrative Photo )
THERE IS an unmistakable link between Independence Day, Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Holocaust Remembrance Day. Many of the survivors who reached Israel’s shores during the period of the British Mandate fought in the War of Independence. Some paid the supreme sacrifice, not as victims but as victors. World War II ended on VE Day, May 8, 1945. The establishment of the State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948, the Council of Europe established on May 5, 1949; and Europe Day, meant as a celebration of peace and unity in Europe, is celebrated on May 9, in commemoration of the 1950 proposal by French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann that some kind of new European community of states be organized. Europe Day also coincides with the date on which the Soviet Union celebrated the end of the WWII, and the tradition is carried on by Russia.
Israel’s relations with the European Union have not always been smooth sailing, and certain criticisms of Israel by the EU have prompted some Israelis to regard it as hostile to Israel. This contention was denied by Ambassador Andrew Standley, head of the delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel, at a panel discussion at the Konrad Adenauer Center in Jerusalem to celebrate the publication of the book, Israel and the European Union: A Documentary History, which is yet another collaborative effort by Sharon Pardo and Joel Peters (who previously produced Uneasy Neighbors: Israel and the European Union). Standley stated that it was a mischaracterization of reality to say that the EU has no concern for Israel’s security. He admitted that the EU cannot position itself as a military strategic ally in the same way as the United States, nor can it provide the same guarantees for security, but he insisted that the EU cares deeply for Israel’s security and wellbeing.
The event, co-hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Center for the Study of European Politics and Society at Ben-Gurion University and the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, also had its lighter moments. Laurence Weinbaum, editor-in-chief of the ICFR’s Journal of Foreign Affairs, defined a diplomat as someone who thinks twice before saying nothing, to which Standley responded, “Perhaps I don’t think at all before saying something.” BGU’s Prof. David Newman, dean of the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, observed that he and Standley share a common interest not only in the politics of Europe but also in the football fields of Europe.
The affable Sharon Pardo, who is the director of BGU’s Center for the Study of European Politics and Society and the Department of Politics and Government, is one of Israel’s most knowledgeable experts on Europe, and he also has a huge affinity for Europe – joint factors that prompted Standley to say that Pardo should be the next EU representative after Standley concludes his tour of duty in a year-and-a-half. “He has the expertise and commitment, the understanding and empathy,” said Standley, half seriously and half in jest. On the other hand, Standley, who was a kibbutz volunteer on four different occasions in the 1970s, might care to be an honorary ambassador for Israel. As for an EU representative to succeed Standley, Newman pointed out that by the time Standley leaves, a “young man” by the name of Shimon Peres will be looking for a job.
■ NO CEREMONY in Israel is more symbolic of the phoenix rising from the ashes than the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, because among the soldiers participating are sons, daughters, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of survivors who emerged emaciated from the camps, the forests and places where they had been hidden and rebuilt their lives and their families. There are also child Holocaust survivors who became heroes of sorts in Israel.
Among them is Arie Oz, who was born in Germany as Harry Klausner and who was hidden together with his parents by a Christian family in Holland during WWII. Oz and his parents came to Israel in 1946. Ten years later he was a pilot in the Israel Air Force and led transport squadrons in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. After leaving the Air Force he joined El Al, where he spent more than three decades and was chief of special operations. He was one of the Hercules pilots in the Entebbe rescue operation in 1976. A less daring but more emotional operation for Oz was the swift and daring airlift of some 1,400 Ethiopian Jews in May 1991, known as Operation Solomon. His was the first 747 to land in Addis Ababa. The plane had 760 seats, but more than 1,000 people crowded onto the plane. (The official figure was 1,067, but there were actually around 50 more; mothers scared that they would be separated from their infants hid them in the folds of their clothing.) Afterwards, Oz went to the United States to raise funds to finance the absorption of immigrants from Ethiopia. He has maintained an abiding interest in Israel’s Ethiopian community and, like other pilots involved in Operation Solomon and Operation Moses, he supports the current effort by Ethiopian immigrants and Sabras of Ethiopian background who want to mainstream into Israeli society.
In an interview on Israel Radio, Oz said that if he were in the position to do so, he would close down any school that refused to take in Ethiopian students. Israel was created as a haven for the Jewish people, and no one has a right to discriminate against anyone just because of the color of their skin or their place of origin, said Oz..
The Jerusalem Municipality has made several attempts to get rid of the Ethiopian tent around the corner from the Prime Minister’s Residence. The tent (or its occupants) has upset a number of people at City Hall but not the residents of Rehavia and Talbiye, who regularly stop to speak to the well-organized young men and women who are campaigning for equal opportunities.
■ ANOTHER CHILD Holocaust survivor is government minister Yossi Peled, who led the Israel delegation to New York last week for the opening on Holocaust Remembrance Day of the exhibition “With Me Here Are Six Million Accusers: The Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem,” which will run through May 28 in the visitors’ lobby of the United Nations building. The first part of the title comes from the opening statement delivered by Eichmann’s chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, at Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem.
Also included in the delegation were Hausner’s son, Amos, and daughter, Tamar Hausner-Raveh, who are both lawyers. Born in Belgium as Jozef Mendelvich, Peled, 71, never knew his father. His parents had fled Poland to Belgium and after his birth deposited him with a Catholic Belgian family. All of Peled’s relatives, with the exceptions of his mother and sister, either perished or were murdered in Auschwitz. When his mother came for him after the war, he was six years old and did not know her. He was shocked to learn he was Jewish.
For Peled, a retired IDF general and the former head of the Northern Command, this has been a turbulent year. In January, for the first time in his life, he recited Kaddish for the father he never knew. He said the prayer in Wansee, where the Nazis had deliberated over the final solution to the Jewish problem.
In New York he spoke at several Holocaust-related events, sharing platforms with Elie Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt and Ron Prosor, among others, and even came face to face with a man who had been his teacher in Belgium when Peled was only three years old.
He wants to take the Eichmann exhibition to Wansee with a group of IDF soldiers who by their very existence symbolize the failure of Hitler’s policy. The final exhibition will be at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem, formerly known as Beit Ha’Am, where the Eichmann trail was held half a century ago.
■ EVEN THOUGH his colleague, British Ambassador Matthew Gould, was not present at the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth luncheon to hear the accolades that US Ambassador Dan Shapiro plied on both Gould and the country he represents, it was interesting to learn that Shapiro spent part of his childhood in England, just as he spent part of his youth in Israel. It was difficult to tell which was the “holy land,” he admitted, given that both his parents were English professors and his father, whose field was Shakespeare, was on an exchange program between the University of Illinois and the University of Reading. Needless to say, the Shapiro family spent a lot of time at Stratford upon Avon.
■ TAKING INTO account his extremely busy schedule, it’s little short of a wonder that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu finds time to read the newspapers, let alone surf the Internet or read books. One of the papers he obviously enjoys reading is The Jerusalem Post, judging by the expression on his face as he skimmed through a front-page item.
■ WHENEVER SOME senior official who has committed a misdemeanor gets off with a tap on the wrist or at least a fine, the media immediately jumps in to cite the Buzaglo test. In most cases, the senior official is an Ashkenazi of both influence and affluence, and “Buzaglo” is someone of North African origin, a factor that instantly creates a distinction not only in background but in the way that each is penalized for the misdemeanor. Buzaglo usually gets the rough end of the stick.
The Buzaglo test does not apply for Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias because he’s not Ashkenazi – but that doesn't prevent him from circumventing the law. According to a report in Bonus, the financial section of Yediot Yerushalayim, Atias was found guilty of illegally constructing an addition to his apartment on Jerusalem’s Rehov Ha’kablan. The enlargement encroached on the area jointly owned by all the residents in the apartment complex. That was in 2004, when Atias was not yet a member of Knesset, let alone a minister. The court ordered the demolition of the illegal structure at the time. In 2008, with the demolition order not yet implemented, Atias managed to get an extension which was accompanied by an order that he personally take responsibility for demolishing the illegal structure. In January of this year, neighbors learned that an attempt was being made to get retroactive approval for the construction. As this would be at their expense, they were understandably angry. In March the neighbors collectively opposed the new initiative and this month the municipal committee for construction and housing, headed by Kobi Kahlon, gave the construction the kosher stamp. It doesn't yet end there, because the district committee for construction and housing, which also has a say in these matters, may decide that what was illegal for the past eight years remains illegal. On the other hand, if the district committee concurs with the local committee, this will set a precedent that will make it difficult to prosecute anyone else who decides to enlarge their apartment without going through the usual bureaucratic hassles.
■ OPERATION EMBRACE, a US-headquartered non-profit organization that offers direct financial assistance for medical, therapeutic and rehabilitative needs to injured survivors of terror attacks in Israel and also provides emotional support through post traumatic stress disorder programs, does extensive work in Sderot as well as in other parts of the country. This month it hosted a day in Ra’anana for families and individuals from Sderot, Ashkelon and Eshkol who suffer a variety of trauma-related disorders. Three busloads of people from the South were welcomed to Ra’anana by Mayor Nahum Hofri. The Ra’anana Municipality partnered with Operation Embrace to provide a fun day filled with sports and other activities.
Ra’anana has an extraordinary record for social and community responsibility, especially among those of the city’s residents who come from English speaking countries. Operation Embrace, which encourages family involvement in its various projects, also has bar/bat mitzva projects in which youngsters find ways to raise funds for victims of terror. Among the people at the Ra’anana fun day were Robyn and Jonathan Cohen, who contributed generously to the costs involved in the event in honor of the bat mitzva of their daughter, Talia.
■ THE LONG arm of the law eventually catches up with those who disdain the rules, as sports commentator and former soccer star Itzik Zohar has discovered. Zohar, who consistently parked his car in no-parking zones and ignored the notices of fines left on his windshield by municipal traffic inspectors, racked up an enormous number of offences between 2003 and 20120. Some people might freak out at receiving a dozen tickets for parking violations in seven years, but Zohar, who received 429 tickets over this period, acted as though they were just a waste of paper. The Tel Aviv Municipality eventually lost patience and took him to court, where the judge ordered him to pay NIS 192,000 to the municipality plus court costs of NIS 15,000. There goes the cost of a new car. From the testimony given by the municipality, it would appear that Zohar is very fond of new cars because the parking violations that he committed involved 14 different cars, indicating that he likes to change his car every six months.