Israel Resource Review 12th November, 2004


When the United Jewish Communities tried to Bequeathe the Isaiah Award for Peace to Arafat
David Bedein

As the United Jewish Communities convenes in its annual General Assembly, days after Yasser Arafat's death, I am still awaiting an expression of gratitude for saving the august organization from a terrible embarrassment

In October, 1999, the plan by United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of the Jewish establishment of North America, to award Arafat its Isaiah Peace Prize was all set.

The Isaiah Award had already been purchased, Arafat's office had been notified, and the presentation ceremony was scheduled for October 13 at the Palestinian Authority's office in Ramallah.

The ceremony was scheduled to take place before 120 members of the UJC's Prime Minister's Mission, 78 of whom had contributed at least $100,000 to be on the trip.

On October 5, 1999, just two days before the mission would leave for an eight day trip to France and Israel, senior UJC staffers were making final arrangements for the tour, which would include participants meeting with Arafat after the award ceremony. The award to Arafat would have marked the first major award to Arafat by a mainstream American Jewish organization.

However, as reported in the Jewish Advocate of Boston, "In the early afternoon of October 5, the dreams of UJC executives to present Arafat with the award slowly began to unravel. The plans changed slightly when the UJC was informed that Arafat would be in Tokyo and could not accept the award in person. However, senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials would be on hand to accept the award for Arafat".

A high ranking official of the Jewish Agency in Israel got wind of the planned award and was shocked. He provided written documentation to Israel Resource News Agency, which provided it to the Jewish Advocate in Boston, Mass. -- an internal memo from the UJC to the Jewish Agency in Israel in early October -- that the award had already been purchased and that Arafat was pleased to accept the award.

On October 5, a UJC communications assistant contacted the Jewish Advocate and confirmed that Arafat, indeed, would receive the award during the Prime Minister's Mission. "It's in recognition of his participation in the peace process," said the UJC worker. "We are concerned about peace and the welfare of the Jews in the world and Mr. Arafat is a partner with Israel in the peace process".

Later in the day, however, the same communications assistant called the Advocate and said that the UJC had decided not to give Arafat the award "because he will be in Tokyo" and would not be able to receive it.

The next day, UJC director Steve Solender and UJC spokeswoman Gail Hyman called the Advocate and denied that Arafat was ever to be the recipient.

Despite the denial by the UJC, the Advocate interviewed Dr. Anis Al-Qaq, the head of the PA's department of international cooperation, who stated that he had been informed by a United Israel Office (UIO) staff member in Jerusalem, Ronit Dotan, that press reports of the cancellation of the award to Arafat were wrong and that the UJC still planned to give Arafat the award at a later date.

Despite the continued denial, a senior cabinet minister closely aligned with then-Prime Minister Barak told the Jewish Advocate that he was aware of the planned award but applauded the decision by the UJC not to go through with it. "It is too soon to give the award now -- perhaps in two years when reality is different," he said.

In America and in Israel, news of the planned UJC award met with nearly unanimous condemnation. The Jewish Advocate report in its October 19th issue read as follows:

"In Boston, Consul General of Israel to New England Itzhak Levanon said Arafat is not yet eligible for awards. "Prizes and awards go to those who speak the language of peace and follow through in their acts and deeds. Peace is about education and respect. The sponsorship of anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations and the use of dual language, at home and abroad, is incompatible with current peace process efforts," he stated.

Larry Lowenthal, the director of the American Jewish Committee in New England was also critical of Arafat, specifically questioning his true desire to make peace. Said Lowenthal, "I would find it surprising that the UJC would consider a peace award to Arafat at this particular time. Quite Simply, the truly arduous 'final status' negotiations have not even begun. Jews should be aware that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have taken incredibly inflexible positions on the most sensitive issues: final borders, return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, Jerusalem, settlements, and water, to name the most obvious."

In New York, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said of Arafat "he hasn't earned it yet. We haven't made peace yet. The Arabs and the Palestinian Authority threaten boycotts. Where is the spirit of Isaiah?"

Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America called the award out of step with American public opinion. He referred to recent polls by Mideast Quarterly and the American Jewish Committee which have found that by a 3 to 1 margin, American Jews believe that Arafat still seeks to destroy Israel. "For a Jewish organization to give an award to Arafat is wrong," said Klein.

When asked about the policy of selecting the Isaiah Award winner, the UJC's Hyman said that protocols were being reviewed, and that a new policy for selecting a winner may be created in the future. "New protocols need to be established for UJC. We're working on developing those now," said Hyman."

The Forward, an independent weekly Jewish newspaper in New York, reported in a headline on November 4th , 1999 that the UJC went so far as to hire a top detective agency to find out who it was that leaked the report of the Isaiah Award for Peace to Israel Resource News Agency. In an article entitled, "Charity Hires a Gumshoe To Discover Who Leaked Its Plan To Honor Arafat: Celebrated Detective, Jules Kroll, Raises Eyebrows Among UJC Bigs" Forward correspondent Elissa Gootman reported that the President of the United Jewish Communities, Stephen Solender, confirmed to the Forward that Kroll Associates has already begun to investigate "where our system broke down?", so that the UJC can finally determine who had leaked the report of the Arafat award to The Jewish Advocate of Boston and the Israel Resource News Agency.

Gootman reported that "The hiring of Kroll Associates is prompting further outrage from Jewish leaders who were already upset by the news that the UJC was considering honoring Mr. Arafat" and that "The newly appointed chairman of the UJC's Campaign-Financial Resource Development pillar committee, Richard Wexler, called the hiring of Kroll "preposterous."

The first words that the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, uttered when hearing that the UJC would be using the services of Kroll Associates were, "Oh, for crying out loud." Rabbi Yoffie said, "The point here is that Jewish organizations, particularly large and important Jewish organizations that are in the public eye, really can't expect to maintain a high degree of secrecy . . . . For us to bring in private investigators to try to maintain a government-like atmosphere of secrecy -- as if the security of the free world depended on such matters -- I think is destructive of any organizational culture."

"By and large, the problem in the Jewish world is that we want more openness . . . . There's something unseemly about rushing around trying to block leaks or something, unless you're dealing with something in which issues of security of Jewish lives are at stake," Rabbi Yoffie said, adding, "It's important that the UJC succeed."

On the other hand, when Gootman asked if he supports the hiring of Kroll Associates to uncover who leaked the story about the Isaiah Award, the chairman of the UJC, Charles Bronfman, responded via facsimile: "I do support the decision to ask Kroll Associates to look at UJC's security measures."

Some leaders of Jewish Federations also voiced support for the UJC's decision to engage Kroll Associates. "I think an organization has a right to determine who speaks on its behalf and how information is disseminated. I don't find it hard to understand that an organization would take steps to ensure that it can act accordingly," the executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Ted Farber, told the Forward.

The executive vice president of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, Stephen Hoffman, told the Forward that "he had not heard about the decision to hire Kroll Associates in the wake of the Isaiah Award matter, but that it is a decision with which he empathizes. "If there was something about Arafat and if somebody leaked it inside the organization, I would be concerned about how people inside my organization are dealing with sensitive issues. And I would probably take appropriate steps to determine where things broke down," Mr. Hoffman said.

Mr. Hoffman said that if he had employees who "didn't have the discipline to know how an organization deals with sensitive issues," he would no longer want them in his company.

Epilogue For the past five years, spokespeople of the UJC have refused to express any regret for making the decision to honor Yasser Arafat with the "Isaiah Award for Peace."

At the same time, spokespeople of the UJC have consistently stated to the media for the past five years that the UJC never really intended to give Arafat any such award.

The Kroll Investigation produced no results. Israel Resource News Agency would not reveal its source for an award to Arafat that the UJC now denies ever existed. For the past five years, the UJC has quietly blacklisted me from addressing any constituency organization of the UJC for not cooperating with their investigation of my sources and for revealing their intention to honor Yasser Arafat.

From my point of view, the price of integrity is worth it. With the passing of Arafat, perhaps the UJC will thank our agency for preventing them from going down in history as bestowing such an honor on Yasser Arafat.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

The Christian-Jewish Alliance Behind Bush's Victory
Hagai Segal

Bush's victory over Kerry, an especially sweet victory of the forces of light, has rekindled an old complaint against the strange alliance of interests between the religious Right in the US and the religious Right in Israel. The smiles common to those who wear skullcaps here and those who wear crosses there when the results were announced angered many secular people in the Holy Land. Despite their support, in principle, for peace processes, they look balefully upon this new alliance.

They claim that there is something anti-historical about it. They have difficulty understanding how the settlement enterprise in Judea, Samaria and Gaza could form bonds of brotherly love with the American evangelical community or why Rabbi Elyashiv supports a devoted Christian such as Bush. After all the pogroms, after The Passion of the Christ, there should be eternal enmity between those who preserve the embers of both religions, and here all of a sudden they are hugging each other and even run a successful candidate in common for the White House.

But the truth is that there is nothing strange here. It is certainly no stranger than the common aim of the elitist left wing and fundamentalist Islam to establish a Palestinian state. When religious-Zionist leaders such as Benny Elon do not reject the Christian hand extended to them from the US and even shake it warmly, they are not transgressing their religion but fulfilling an ancient biblical prophecy, the vision of future reconciliation between Jews and the rest of the world.

This is not the place to quote the relevant verses (Micah 4, for example), but the general idea says that one day the gentiles will lay down the sword of their hatred against us and offer us their help. Although at the moment we are talking about approximately "only" fifty million American gentiles out of six billion gentiles throughout the world, but it is not a bad beginning.

Honestly, what is so bad if we have a hard kernel of support in the world's most significant empire? What is so bad if the most important man in the world sprouted from that kernel? All through the years the left wing has preached Israeli integration in global processes, yet when these processes suddenly align with Israeli interests, it is struck by mockery and disgust only because they stem from religious motives or could disrupt its schemes of retreat.

It is ridiculous to hear secular opinion-makers warn against supposed missionary plots by evangelical Christians in the US. Nearly every report in Hebrew about right-wing American support for Israel includes the allegation that the reason for the support is a despicable desire to Christianize those who dwell in Zion. It will not take much more to get United Torah Judaism and the Labor Party to submit an urgent joint proposal to the Knesset's agenda against the American mission's invasion of Israel.

So both can stop worrying. Christianity missed its historic opportunity to convert the Jews. The mission's time is over. Although many Christians still dream of the day that we recognize their savior and from time to time a few soul-hunters for Jesus wander around Jerusalem, they are no more than a curiosity. Tens of millions of American Christians support the idea of Greater Israel and of a strong Israel, and not for missionary reasons. It is far more important to them to persuade George Bush to support the settlements than to convince settlers to convert.

This appeared in Maariv on November 9th, 2004

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Why the People of Katif Do Not Want to Accept "Legal Compensation"
Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim

My cousin's daughter, a Tel Aviv lawyer, called last night. "Be realistic" she said. "You know that you are going to be expelled from Gush Katif. So get yourself a lawyer and start negotiating for money now!"

We chatted a bit about family news and then I explained why I wouldn't discuss the expulsion or compensation law with her or with any lawyer.

My dear lawyer/cousin, please understand. There is something otherworldly about Gush Katif. We are tucked into a corner of the world with our homes and lawns but more than that we have a sense of purpose. For four and a half years we have been bombarded and instead of fleeing as is normal to do, we stayed, refusing to budge. My friend, Zimra, said "It is hard to be a Jew and obey the commandments of Hashem. But the settlement of Eretz Yisroel is one of the most important commandments of all. If we choose to live in danger to fulfill this mitzvah then we expect our children to do the same."

Living in Gush Katif means having an exceptional relationship with the Almighty. We personally see His endless miracles and we acknowledge them. Psychologists visit to give us strength but they leave having been strengthened by us. We have heard that Gush Katif people are beautiful and our faces reflect an inner glow that sends a clear message to the Prime Minister and his Knesset that we will not give up the land of Israel to the Arab enemy. If the Good Lord had wanted us to depart he would have weakened our resolve. Instead we show strength and will not capitulate to the draconian laws that the Knesset has just passed.

Have you read the "Laws of Compensation", dear lawyer?

If we do not agree to give away our homes or farms by a certain cut-off date, our homes will be confiscated. All of our personal belongings will belong to the State without recourse to compensation. We will be forcibly removed, brought to a makeshift court to be included into the prisons now being built. We will have no recourse to a lawyer. Specially trained soldiers and police can beat us. If we resist we can be given a five-year prison sentence. In a short while the law against demonstrations or meetings between more than three people will be put into effect. The list goes on and on.

We heard that Natan Sharansky turned white when he read the 89 pages of the disengagement plan. It reminded him of his period of incarceration in Russia because he refused to capitulate to "the law". Sharansky said "This is worse than the worst laws of the Soviet Union."

No, we are not realistic. For the sake of Israel and for the future of democracy in Israel we dare not be "realistic".

Dear lawyer, read the laws that the lawmakers have just signed. The laws are illegal and immoral. Gush Katif will remain long after this Knesset falls.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

To show Palestinians Respect - Expect Compliance
Dr. Aaron Lerner
Director, IMRA

If British Prime Minister Tony Blair wants me and my family here in Israel to risk our lives in "confidence building gestures" to the Palestinian leadership he should look elsewhere. We are not dying to improve Mr. Blair's re-election prospects.

But if the British, French, UN, Israeli Left, etc. really want to make a contribution to the development of a serious Palestinian post-Arafat leadership they should stop treating them as if they were savages leading an uncontrollable mob and instead show them respect by actually expecting proper behavior.

It is not acceptable for Palestinian leaders to call for a continuation of the intifada against Israel nor can Palestinian violence be tolerated.

It is not acceptable that illegal militias continue to operate.

And the list goes on.

Each time so-called friends of the Palestinians engage in apologetics instead of expecting and demanding Palestinian compliance they make it just that much more unlikely that the Palestinians will ever get their act together. After all, why should the Palestinian leadership take the heat for complying when compliance is not actually required - just verbiage and photo ops.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan sends the same destructive message to the Palestinians: regardless of what the Palestinians do or don' t do, Israel is going to retreat from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria next summer.

In the coming days the die will be cast. If the apologetics continue unabated the opportunity for a true change for the better will be lost.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Go to the Israel Resource Review homepage

The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine Authority.
You can contact us on