|Israel Resource Review
||14th October, 2002
Syrian Foreign Ministry Summons
US Ambassador in Damascus to Protest US Objections to
Syrian/Russian Nuclear Cooperation
October 14, 2002
The Syrian foreign ministry on Sunday morning summoned the US ambassador in Damascus and gave him an official protest on what was promoted by spokesmen by the US Department of State on the Syrian- Russian cooperation in the field of nuclear researches.
The Syrian foreign ministry asked also for an official explanations for the reasons behind that at the time the US knows that Syria had joined to the NPT in 1969, and to the international guarantees agreement in 1994, and that its received delegations from the International agency for atomic energy, whose all reports stress that the Syrian nuclear program is dedicated for peaceful purposes. Syria, besides, and since 1987 has been calling for making the Middle East a zone free from all nuclear weapons, foremost being the nuclear weapons and under the supervision of the UN.
The Syrian foreign ministry also expressed its great regret over the standing cooperation between Israel and the USA in various areas of armament, and the US silence over the Israeli nuclear weapons especially as Israel refuses to put its nuclear institutions under the supervision of the International Agency for Atomic Energy, noting that Israel is the only country on the region which owns nuclear weapons, according to several reports issued in the USA.
This release can be found at:
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When Will We Open Our Eyes and
Stand Up as Jews
When I was asked to write an article on the Muslim Activism and anti-Semitism that I had encountered in the USA, specifically that with dangerous tone, I knew that it was an article that needed to be written. After a few days, I became reticent to address this topic. True to form Hashem provided me with a conversation that highlighted the necessity for me, however in order to do the topic justice, I decided to make a slight amendment thus including experiences from South Africa as well.
As I mentioned in a farewell speech prior to making Aliyah from South Africa, we are living in times where Hashem is crying out to us to hear Him. We are being tested left, right and center, from flash floods to hurricanes, tornadoes to terrorist attacks, crime of all forms and sizes. You name it, it is happening and the message throughout is strong, important and a united one. Yes, we can even affect nature through our prayers and our actions. However this is a topic for another article. For now, let us take a look at what is occurring amongst and between our fellow man, and this includes every single one of us.
Recently we were witness to the terrorist attacks of the Twin Towers in USA on 11/9/2001. How could this happen? Many Americans were shocked at the act against democracy. We have to open our eyes to what is happening world over. We have to open our ears to the message therein and then to take action. We can no longer afford to hide behind the false belief that First World Countries will protect us or that any place is exempt from anti-Semitic actions.
Let me help to open your eyes through a series of examples. I have lived and worked in South Africa, UK and USA and experienced anti-Semitism at its most basal form. My first experience that was contained a threat to my personal to my personal security occurred when I was working in a hospital in South Africa. I was requested to evaluate a patient with a view to whether he was eligible for a disability grant. When he was found to be fit to work, the patient threatened me, my life and that of my family. He had connections within a certain political group. Seeing my name on my hospital identity card, the threats intensified. With a very Jewish surname, this was a very real risk. The Medical Superintendent took me off the case for my own security. Precautions for my family were also discussed.
Dramatic action? No. About a year later, there was an incident in South Africa where following a march of Muslims in the center of town; the home of a known Jewish family was set alight. Lest you think that you are exempt of such attacks in USA, let me describe a few incidents that occurred in USA. Around the same time as the fire of this Jewish home, I was working in a public school in USA. Once I had recovered from the shock of the poor conditions in this "First World Country" school, I set about to fulfill my oath to provide the best possible service to those students I was servicing. This necessitated program development, organization of the department and setting a high standard for service delivery. Why go to so much trouble? Quite simply because as a Jew I am bound to uphold any oath that I take, failure to do so is akin to using Hashem's name in vain. We Jews also have a moral obligation to uphold. I could not sit back and watch while human rights were blatantly being violated.
Immediately after beginning to do what I could to assist the students, I met with resistance. I was harassed by colleagues for being hard working. Taken aback I pushed on only to discover that some students were angry at receiving quality treatment, for it made them wonder why they had missed out in the previous years. With limited emotional expression, their response was physical and three different students hit me in the face on three occasions.
Regularly my life was at risk for working in an area where gangsters are abundant. Being a white South African and Jewish to boot, put me at risk. The solution offered was to keep a low profile and to leave work immediately the school bell rang, so that I would catch the train or bus while there were many people around.
The highlight of my experience occurred when I began to implement and recommend various programs together with equipment required. I was regularly warned to keep my Jewish identity a secret. Not so easy with a surname like mine. Finally I was warned that should I continue the development, my life would be at risk. At first I ignored this but the threat was issued again. Astonished at this response I sought out the one teacher who was really helpful who just happened to be Jewish as well. He explained that many teachers were involved in gangs and did not like the program development or the fact that I am Jewish. It was thought that some gangs had Muslim association or at least influence. The message was clear, if I valued my life; I would discontinue what I was doing.
As a Jew with a strong moral obligation, I could not turn my back on the situation. I resolved to make Aliyah as my stand that improving conditions is necessary and that my first responsibility is to Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. Before I did so, I took certain steps to ensure that justice would be met for the students.
My journey to make Aliyah took me back to South Africa, where once again Anti-Semitism reared its ugly head. This occurred in many forms, one being a few shops that accepted my artwork but shelved it at the back of the shop, as they did not like my name. This action prevented my work from being seen by the public with a loss of potential sales and income.
After a few weeks of applying work rehabilitation skills to help a beggar, I put an end to the relationship when he demanded an unreasonable amount of money. His response was a string of verbal anti-Semitic abuse, which included a threat to me and to my car. My car was stolen a few weeks later and the detective in charge of the case noted that the beggar was involved in a Muslim Activist Group. I was forced to move in a hurry with a real potential to leave the country for my own safety.
I could continue with more examples, but I feel the message is
clear. Anti-Semitism is rife and the only response we can make
is to stand up and be noted and counted as the Jews that we are.
This means being united as a people. It means being a "Light
unto the Nations" as to how to treat our fellow man, even and
despite when our lives are threatened. It means fighting for our
Country of Eretz Yisrael. It means being aware at all times of
the dangers and threat that are occurring and to have the
courage o four convictions to stand up and say " WE ARE JEWS".
G-d gave us a specific way to live and we need to live this
lifestyle with Bitachon that He will guide and protect us
through difficult time. He has given the promise that fulfilling
our mission will result in the final Redemption, which is the
only way to bring World Peace. We can no longer bury our heads
in the sand. We do not want a repeat of 11 September nor can we
afford the loss of a single life or drop of blood. The time is
NOW. The message is clear. Be the real Jew that you are, walk
hand in hand with your fellow Jew and in the ways of Hashem.
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How an Innocuous Children Book
Award Conference Became a Forum for Israel Bashing
The IBBY Jubilee Congress In Basel: You wouldn't believe it
Last week I was honored to represent Israel at the International Congress on Children's Literature that took place in Basel, Switzerland, since my book "The Rainbow Child" was on the honors list. The Congress was organized by IBBY - the International Board on Books for Young People. This organization was founded after the Second World War by a brave Jewish lady called Yella Lepman. She returned to the ruins of Germany after the war and decided that the only way to give the children a better future was to give them hope for a different world through children's literature. The only children's books available in Germany at this time contained Nazi propaganda, and Yella Lepman's vision was to provide the children with books free of racism, books with the message of universal humanity. In 1946 she founded the International Library for Youth, and in 1952 she founded IBBY. Over the years the organization has come to function in more and more countries, promoting tolerance and cross-cultural understanding through children's books. A section of the Congress was devoted to Yella Lepman's life, strangely she was described as having left Germany during the war out of necessity - I had to look up her biography to discover that she was Jewish. A curious omission, which following later events in the Congress seemed of sinister significance.
Aside from the Honors List the organization gives the much-coveted Anderson prize to one writer and one illustrator who have excelled in their field. In 1986 Uri Orlev honored Israel by receiving this prize for his writing.
This Jubilee Congress was attended by over 400 people from 50 different member countries, and included several distinguished guests. Empress Michiko of Japan was followed by her many assistants, and a trail of newspaper reporters trying to capture her apparent modesty and the regal air which surrounded her. Mrs. Mubarac was thoroughly surrounded by an impressive display of tall well-dressed bodyguards. The opening ceremony was also attended by Ruth Driefuss, the Interior Minister for the Swiss Confederacy.
The subject of the Conference was "Children's Literature: A global Challenge", and included many interesting lectures by previous Anderson Prize winners. This year the prize was presented to the British writer Aiden Chambers and the British illustrator Quinton Blake. In the opening ceremony Chambers spent a large part of his speech paying tribute to Anne Frank, from who he derived so much inspiration. Once again, her identity and the circumstances of her death were not mentioned. However the terrible plight of the children of Palestine was referred to twice, (by Chambers and by the Irish writer Michael O'Brien).
When I entered the Congress I searched for the lady I had communicated with through email, to thank her for the invitation. She was talking somewhat uncomfortably with a rather angry woman, who was protesting vehemently about some great injustice. I soon realized this was a Palestinian woman from Ramallah, complaining about having "Israel" printed on her lapel badge. With a black pen she erased the offensive word and wrote Palestine. I thought, rightly, that this would not be the end of the story.
Despite my naturally shy character I made every effort to befriend as many people as possible during the breaks, as we wondered round the exhibitions of books with our cups of coffee. Everybody was smiling and friendly, unperturbed by my lapel badge marked "Israel". Everybody except for a certain Palestinian woman.
In one of the sessions I learnt of a writer from Greece and an illustrator from Turkey who met in Tel Aviv at an International Conference in 1987 and decided, despite the animosity between their two countries, to create a book together. The book is called "A Bridge of Sea."
In the atmosphere of cross-cultural communication that had developed, I decided to try and approach the Palestinian woman. I told her about the book "A Bridge of Sea", and commented that between us there is no sea. I asked her what she thought of the idea of a Palestinian and an Israeli writing a book together.
"I'm not a writer," she stated, obviously trying to brush me away. (later I discovered her name was Helou Jehan, and she runs the 'Tamar Community Center' in Ramallah).
"But you must know Palestinian writers?" I asked.
"You have a million Palestinians under occupation, and you don't know any writers?" She practically spat at me.
When I think about it now, I think there is a sea between us. It is a sea of blood. Who could have strength to build bridges over such a sea?
Needless to say Helou Jehan did not come to see the presentation of my book, nor that of Shin Shifra whose book "Alilot Galgamesh" was on the Honors List for translation.
My presentation was shared by an Iranian illustrator who proved extremely friendly, as he displayed his beautiful book "The Rainbow World".
During the last panel session, in the middle of a debate, the Irish writer Michael O'Brien unexpectedly took the microphone. In an impassioned address he demanded that IBBY accept Palestine as a full member section.
Here it would be pertinent to explain the criteria for acceptance to IBBY. States recognized by the UN can be members as 'sections', while anybody else can be a member as an individual.
Horrified by the emotional and antagonistic way the proposal had been made I raised my hand. 400 heads turned, and 800 curious eyes peered at me expectantly.
"We would be the first to welcome Palestinian books on peace and cross-cultural understanding" I said, "unfortunately there is a tremendous amount of propaganda promoting violence being produced on the West Bank today, and the terrible encouragement of children to partake in such violence. Since IBBY was founded to create an alternative to Nazi propaganda, before you reach a decision like this you have to be sure that there is no racism in the literature." I concluded by repeating what I had learnt of "The Bridge of Sea", and how this could be a model for us.
Immediately I was accused of racism myself by the Palestinian woman, and the air became thick with an invisible emotional cloud threatening to choke us all.
The debate was stopped, and it was announced that the issue would be voted upon at the General Assembly in the afternoon.
I rushed to search for my Israeli colleagues, and was amazed to find all but Shin Shifra totally indifferent to what was going on.
This is the place to remind you that IBBY is not a political organization, but an international organization trying to create a dialogue between different cultures through books. If it became politicized, in my opinion, it would be finished. Writers are not in a position to solve the problems of the Middle East; writers are in a position to write about these problems, to create a dialogue between writers. Who would like to see children in the West Bank reading books promoting peace more than us? But this will not be achieved by condemning Israel, by failing to recognize the suffering of all children in the Middle East, including our children who have become the terrorist's favorite targets in the last couple of years.
This is what Shin Shifra and I tried to tell our colleagues at the General Assembly after hearing three provocative anti-Israel speeches (two by the British delegates and one by the Irish). Feelings were running high, and we found ourselves more or less alone.
My heart goes out to all those Israelis abroad who have to stand daily at the edge of that huge abyss which opens up momentarily, unexpectedly, between yourself, as an Israeli, and all the others…the abyss which turns each debate, on whatever topic, into something ugly and full of misunderstanding. That which obligates us, at times like these, to abandon our books and pick up the flag, miserably bearing collective responsibility…but we came here with beautiful words written on bright shiny pages, with colorful drawings, and these are what represent us . . . but this Palestinian woman from Ramallah, who is not even a writer, brought with her only her anger, and not even one book.
With a heavy heart I left after the voting without discovering the results. Perhaps as Israelis we carry a stone in our heart everywhere we go.
In the evening, with little enthusiasm I made my way to the banquet that was to end the Congress. As I entered people began to come towards me, individually, and express their admiration for our courage, and some of them also nodded in agreement. The vote that had been taken was only a recommendation to the Executive Committee, which would have to review the issue again. But the vote was 23 in favor of accepting Palestine, 20 against, 3 abstained, and 3 who left the room in protest.
Then someone whispered in my ear that the place we were sitting was the same place that Herzel, in 1897, had the first Zionist Congress. Then the state of Israel was just a dream. The next day I visited the hotel where he stayed, and a light rain brushed my face. I remembered a quotation from the Congress:
"Sometimes we cannot allow ourselves to be like the rosebush and wait for the spring to come, sometimes we must be the rain, and cause the changes ourselves."
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