My Word: Talking back to talking heads

Nadav Guedj representing Israel performs during a dress rehearsal for the second semifinal of the upcoming 60th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna (photo credit: REUTERS)
Nadav Guedj representing Israel performs during a dress rehearsal for the second semifinal of the upcoming 60th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I’m hearing voices. And they’re driving me crazy. Every time I open my inbox, there seems to be another press release from another “voice.”
Among the many emails waiting for me when I got back to my computer after the Shavuot holiday, for example, was one from Jewish Voice for Peace with “quotes for publication” following the visit by US President Barack Obama to the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. “We cannot be silent” read the press statement, which continues: “Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace executive director: ‘As Israel moves further away from democracy, entrenching policies of discrimination, segregation and inequality, now is long past the time for polite words of criticism. Israel’s recent election proves that it will take outside pressure to compel Israel to upholding the shared values of which the President spoke.’” And I always thought holding elections and abiding by the results, whether you liked them or not, is democracy – not justification for foreign pressure to be exerted on a sovereign state.
I understand, however, that JVP members are “deeply disturbed,” as they put it.
They’re also disturbing.
Haaretz is filled with different voices, nearly all speaking for the Left. Take this piece by Gidon Biger published for Jerusalem Day last week, a copy of which also landed unrequested in my inbox.
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Biger, a professor emeritus of geography, writes: “Jerusalem, according to scientific research, has existed for about 4,000 years.
During the first 1,000 years it had no connection to the Jewish people. Jerusalem isn’t the capital of the Jews.” He goes on to explain, “During the time of the patriarchs, Jerusalem did not figure in their activity at all.”
I wonder if he’d listen if I said that by that logic, Biger should have no problem with the Jewish presence in Hebron.
Many of the voices try to sound balanced.
They usually fail. Some make me lose my equilibrium in the process. For example, a report by Amnesty International released this week under the catchy title “Strangling Necks: Abduction, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel Conflict” brings to light “a series of abuses, such as the extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians and the arrest and torture of dozens of others, including members and supporters of Hamas’s political rivals, Fatah.”
And here comes the punchline: “It is absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International in the press release.
The statement reached me on Tuesday, a few hours before rocket alerts were sounded in southern Israel as a Grad rocket was fired at Ashdod. As I heard the Arab League protesting Israel’s response the following day my inner voice was saying: “It is absolutely appalling that, while Hamas and its Islamic Jihad allies were launching more than 4,000 projectiles on the Israeli civilian population and breaking 11 cease-fires in 50 days, it is Israel that gets blamed ‘for inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza.’” Amnesty International called on the Palestinian authorities, including Hamas, “to co-operate with independent and impartial international investigative mechanisms, judicial or non-judicial, including the Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2014.”
Ah, the UN Human Rights Council.
That’s not just a voice. That’s the trigger of a silent scream. True, it did ultimately remove Libya under Muammar Gaddafi shortly before his downfall, but its not so illustrious members still include China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.
Incidentally, if you want to “get a-head” in a new career, Saudi Arabia is reportedly seeking eight additional public executioners because of the increased workload. I assume women, Jews, Christians and the openly gay need not apply. They don’t have a voice in the Sunni kingdom frequently described as “moderate.”
Last week, the hypocrisy made me laugh.
As the UN Watch monitoring group pointed out, while streets were strewn with corpses in Palmyra, in what was once Syria and is now under Islamic State control, the annual assembly of the UN’s World Health Organization declared Israel to be the world’s worst human rights violator in the field of healthcare and ordered “health-related technical assistance” for “the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan.”
I’m not sure anyone, Jew, Druse or Alawite, on the Israeli side of the border on the Golan wants to go to Syria rather than the hospitals in Safed, Nahariya, Afula or Haifa for treatment. Israeli hospitals, after all, have treated more than 1,500 Syrians caught up in the civil war. None voiced a preference for trying to find a doctor in Damascus instead.
Maybe we should send in the clowns – the medical clowns who flew to Nepal to cheer the victims of the earthquake as teams of Israeli doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers helped them deal with the physical and emotional trauma; the clowns who cheered children, many of them from Muslim countries, as they received the gift of life in the amazing Save a Child’s Heart program at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
Just four countries were the voice of conscience – Australia, Canada, Israel and the US. The motion passed (with the help of most of our European “friends”) by a vote of 104 to four with six abstentions.
I kicked the FIFA story around in my column last week, and as I write these lines it is unknown whether there will be a vote on Friday on the demand by Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub that the Israel Football Association be suspended from the sport’s international body, which is now embroiled in a huge corruption scandal.
Despite the attempts by FIFA to get Rajoub, a former security prisoner, to handle his complaints in a more sporting fashion, the Fatah official was having none of it. Last week, he submitted an official complaint that a Palestinian player had been detained for two hours at the Allenby Crossing.
(According to later reports, the crossing into Jordan had not been coordinated and the player had been previously detained for allegedly acting as a courier for Hamas.) Rajoub sounds like a crybaby when you hear about what the Israeli judo team experienced at the World Masters Competition in Morocco this week: They were held for eight hours without food or water at the airport, and when they finally got to the event they were booed and the hosts initially refused to show the Israeli flag on the scoreboard.
Is anybody listening? One almost pleasant sound could be heard last week: Nadav Guedj, Israel’s 16-year-old contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest, managed to reach a very respectable ninth position with his party song “Golden Boy.”
I think I heard sighs of relief that politics hadn’t got the better of the event. Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst, who won last year’s Eurovision, is scheduled to be the guest of honor at the Tel Aviv Pride Parade on June 12. Almost every artist who voices the desire to perform in Israel is met by an ugly, intensive campaign by boycott supporters of the likes of Roger Waters. The same goes for Israelis seeking to appear abroad.
Singer Achinoam Nini, better known abroad as Noa, represented Israel in the 2009 Eurovision along with Israeli Arab Mira Awad. She is a passionate peace activist, but this did not stop BDS supporters from trying to disrupt her recent show in Spain.
This is what she posted on Facebook last week: “The concert in Logrono was fantastic, Despite the boycott demonstration.
Here is what I said to the audience before the show: Dear friends, all my adult life, I have worked for peace and dialogue, in my music and words, in my actions and most of all, in my heart. For this commitment to peace, I have paid a high price. But I will not remain silent. The Boycott movement wants to aggressively shut my mouth by bullying and slander. They strive to shut the mouth of every citizen of my country, including millions who strive for peace and work for it, as I do, despite the actions of the government, and despite threats by local extremists. At the end, all extremists are the same, they see only black and white. Art is about freedom and dialogue. A country like Spain, who has lived the nightmare of fascism, should know well the result of taking away freedom of speech, of silencing those who dare to speak out against the majority.
Nevertheless, I will continue to raise my voice. Thank you for listening.”
Personally, I long for some peace and quiet disturbed only by the voice of reason.
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