Davar Acher: Another View
Yesterday I posted, an open letter from Rabbi Arik Ascherman on l'affair NIF. I acompanied it by my own pessimistic commentary on Rabbi Ashcherman's closing remarks that maybe gam ze l'tovah - maybe this too is for good.
Well, I don't know if it is a Rabbinic thing (do they feel compelled to give us hope?), or if the view of progressive people living in Israel really is less pessimistic than my own, but an essay by Rabbi Dow Marmur also takes the glass-half-full view of the latest right wing attack on progressive NGOs in Israel.
Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto - the largest and richest reform congregation in Canada. He has always been one of the more progressive Rabbis within Canadian Jewry. He now lives half the year in Jerusalem and half the year in Toronto. Below is his take on the NIF story.
Deficient in statesmanship - made more obvious each day by Israel’s foreign minister whom the prime minister seems unable, or unwilling, to tame - the Government of Israel has clearly erred by not cooperating with Judge Richard Goldstone when he was compiling his now notorious report. ...
I surmise that government supporters are embarrassed and want to divert attention by finding scapegoats “on the left.” Perhaps that’s why an obscure group, described as Zionist and rumored to have been financed by American evangelicals (!), has turned on the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its president Naomi Chazan because the NIF supports agencies that may have cooperated with Goldstone and/or now favors his findings.
The intention may have been that, as the NIF is on the margin of pro-Israel philanthropy in the Diaspora, Jews would turn against it to “explain” why Goldstone went wrong, whitewash government ineptitude, and celebrate why they don’t support the NIF. In some instances it may have worked; e.g., Chazan’s visit to Australia has been cancelled. In general, however, it has been the other way around: the NIF has gained new, almost unprecedented, far and wide recognition and encouragement.
Not only have many and diverse Jewish organizations in the Diaspora – including the American Reform movement – issued strongly worded statements in favour of NIF, but Israeli papers carry full-page ads signed by many of the country’s writers, artists, actors, academics, some business people, and the chair of the Israeli Reform rabbis condemning the vilification of Chazan and praising the NIF.
The attacks have been vicious. One cartoon, for example, in a lame attempt to exploit the double meaning of keren, both “fund” and “horn” in Hebrew, depicts her in a way reminiscent of Der Sturmer. But they’ve misfired. A lot of people have come to pledge renewed support for the NIF, which should probably now be grateful to the group that attacked it, and perhaps even make a contribution to its budget.
There’re reasons to be upset about the forces of darkness that appear at the slightest provocation in Jewish life in general and Israeli society in particular. But there’s no reason for despair, because there’re many good people around. They’ve been alerted to the new and compelling arguments for doing more for – and with – all groups that reflect the noblest values of Judaism, many of which the NIF encourages and supports.One the other hand, we have the opinion of Noam Sheizaf expressed in his PromisedLandBlog. Sheizaf is an Israeli journalist, clearly on the left - but the Zionist left to be sure;
Jerusalem 5.2.10 Dow Marmur
He notes that the anti-NIF street demonstrations and newspaper ads and self censorship by the Israeli media, are being followed up by committee investigations in the Knesset. And these are being lead by members of both the government and the opposition parties. He sums up his reporting on the NIF affair by saying
Something very big, and very deep, is going on in Israel. Human right and peace activists feel, maybe for the first time, real anxiety, even fear.
I tend to agree with Prof. Eyal Gross, which views these development as a “shooting the messenger” syndrome, which has to do with the growing pressure on Israel to end the occupation of the West bank and remove the siege on Gaza.
Since my feeling is that both the public and the government are not ready yet for real concessions, the public anger is likely to increase in the near future. No doubt, the tiny Israeli left and the Arab minority are about to face some very difficult months, probably even years.