Category Archives: Media

Richard Goldstone

It was a strange experience for me watching the recent debate at Brandeis University between Ambassador Dore Gold and Richard Goldstone.  Strange in that I was listening to what I would have expected someone like Jimmy Carter to be saying about Israel but saying it with a South African accent.  It has been a most upsetting almost shattering experience for the South African Jewish community to have one of their own primarily responsible for a report that accuses Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The South African Jewish community is today about 80,000 strong, down from a peak of 120,000 in the early 1970s.  It is however a community almost universally committed to the Jewish State and one that has a sizable expatriate community living in Israel.  South African Jews have been prominent in organizations like the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress.  They are often seen as a model community for their organizational structure and strong Zionist commitment.

Up to the time the report came out many hoped that it would be balanced, fair and objective.  It was too much to ask for.  It was, after all, a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council which has focused on Israel to the almost total exclusion of the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses world wide.  In South Africa, Goldstone had been regarded as a favorite son by the Jewish community.  He was a widely respected and able jurist who had been appointed to the country’s highest court.  He involved himself in the Jewish community, held leadership positions in Jewish organizations including the presidency of Ort International and was a trustee of the Hebrew University.  Those who knew him well would swear to his Zionist credentials.  Now both he and his name would be linked forever to the most Israel-damning document since the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with Racism.

The reasons Richard Goldstone agreed to chair the commission and issue such a report one can only speculate. Maybe he is an opportunist with his eye on the position of Secretary General of the United Nations. Maybe, maybe not.

Anyone for Twitter?

We live in an age of rapid communication and the forms of that are multifold.

Although cell phones, email and facebook may be the most common, new forms of inter-person contact are emerging.  Twitter(a microblogging tool using one’s cell phone) is the most recent and allows for near continuous access to people’s lives. It may be overkill but 200,000 people follow every movement of the rapper,50-Cent.  Events are advertised using these multitude of communicative devices and organizations (including AJC) are taking note that to get the message out awareness of what is available and what works is vital..

 AJC is holding a unique event on March 31. It will feature pioneers in Internet innovation,Craig Newmark of Craigslist fame and Matt Muhllenweg,whose blogging innovations are already legendary.They will discuss their almost revolutionary work on opposite ends of the the Internet time line. It should make for fascinating listening and there will be time for audience participation.

The venue is the Delancey Street complex at 600 The Embarcadero in San Francisco. The entrance is on the Embarcadero 100 yards south of the Delancey Street Restaurant.  There is a charge of $20 to cover expenses.

The event starts at 6:00pm and should wrap up around 7:30pm.

RSVP by email – sanfrancisco@ajc.org or by phone @ (415) 777-3820

Download an event flier here

Fatima Shocker

There has been a rash of anti Semitic incidents in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict over the past week. In each case the AJC has responded with alacrity and forcefully to the events.

The Turkish Prime Minister has continued his vindictive rhetoric against the State of Israel resulting in an outbreak of anti Semitic incidents in Istanbul (the sign in one store window reads, “Dogs are welcome, Jews are not”). In Venezuela the Israeli ambassador was expelled, diplomatic ties were severed and the President, Hugo Chavez described the Israeli government as “genocidal”. No doubt encouraged by these statements, vandals desecrated the Tiferes Israel synagogue in Caracas destroying a Torah scroll and spray painting graffiti on the walls. Chavez believe it or not placed the blame on the Jewish community themselves! (AJC is organizing a solidarity visit to Venezuela in support of the country’s 15,000 Jews)

However nothing has pained me personally more than the spate of anti Semitism emanating from government and non government sectors in my native land of South Africa. The most notorious of these incidents was the statement made by the deputy foreign minister, Fatima Hajaig at an anti- Israel rally during the last days of the Gaza conflict. The rally was held to retain momentum in instituting a diplomatic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel. Hajaig told a delirious cheering crowd that there has not been a single day since the creation of Israel that a Palestinian has not been killed. She went on, “They (the Jews) in fact control America. No matter which government comes in to power, the control of America like the control of most western countries is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country you cannot expect anything else.” Wow, how is that for diplomacy and what does it say about the caliber of the South African foreign ministry?

The South African Jewish community has responded by reporting the deputy foreign minister to the country’s Human Rights Commission citing her comments as ”undiluted and vicious hate speech promoting or propagating hatred against the Jewish people.” Let’s see what happens. In addition a letter from AJC’s national president and national executive director was sent to the President of South Africa in response to the comments made by Hajaig.

In another nefarious incident an email was sent out, ostensibly by one of the country’s leading banks depicting photographs from the Nazi era alongside photographs from the Gaza conflict with the unmistakable message that the Israelis behavior is no different than that of the Nazis. The bank issued a statement that an employee and certainly not the bank had sent the email and repudiated its contents. And there is more. A group of Muslims compiled a list of Jewish owned businesses and called on all South Africans to boycott them. Fortunately a different group of Muslims, many prominent, strongly criticized the boycott call.

Project New Car

A recent editorial in the New York Times referred to the “cornucopia of hybrid and electric vehicles “ at the north American international Auto Show and the acknowledgement of the urgent need to deliver fuel efficient cars and trucks. It is of course timely as expensive gas will most surely return and environmental pressures will similarly increase. (The editorial later questioned whether electric cars will be affordable)

We heard today, January 26 the Obama administration will allow states to tighten standards for auto emissions. In 2002 California adopted the first state law requiring auto manufacturers to begin reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gasses. In the past it had routinely received permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to set tougher standards than the rest of the country.

However, in 2007 the E.P.A. rejected a California application to enact tougher standards (13 other states were part of the application.)The Obama administration is now set to reverse that denial. California and the 17 other states make up more than 50% of the country’s automobile market.

Which brings me to AJC’s “Project New Car” which is aimed at state and, local governments and municipalities’ nation –wide. This initiative calls for AJC chapters to advocate their state and local governments purchase a new (hybrid or electric) kind of car and light truck in the future.

Which brings me to electric cars. The nine counties in the Bay Area (including of course the three biggest cities of San Francisco, San José and Oakland) have entered into an agreement with Shai Agassi’s company “Better Place” whereby Better Place would invest $1 billion in a network of electric vehicle charging stations to cover the Bay Area by 2012. In return for Better Places” investment the nine counties will collectively create cohesive regulations for electric cars and offer tax breaks.

Energy security demands a loosening of our dependence on imported oil and the beginning of a new era is taking shape right here in the Bay Area!!

January 16, 2009

Two media items caught my attention today.

One was a clever cartoon in the San Francisco Examiner. It depicted a crowd at an anti Israel rally. The signs carried were vicious, “Israel butchers” and “Death to Israel”. One such individual quite obviously Osama bin Laden was saying to two astonished non Arabs carrying these signs,” Glad you could make it to the rally!”

I often wonder if those far to the left Jews who attend these anti Israel rallies understand they are aligning themselves with anti Israel and anti U.S. groups like the so called “International Solidarity Movement” and “Answer” whose mission statements (either obliquely or directly) call for the destruction of the State of Israel. But maybe they are no more than self hating Jews and a world without Israel would suit them just fine. In the bay area there are probably more of them than in other parts of the U.S. and most of them hide out in Berkeley. Well they are going to be disappointed. Israel is going nowhere and will continue to be a Jewish homeland for a long, long time.

The other media item was a report on one of the N.P.R. news bulletins and it referred to the more than 10,000 people (yes, ten thousand) who have been killed in Sri Lanka over the last few decades. Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island nation off the south east coast of India. Sri Lanka was best known for its fine tea and accomplished cricketers but now add in the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group responsible for most of that body count. However all the mayhem in Sri Lanka receives the slightest of media attention (not to mention hardly a peep at the U.N.) but Israel responding to a barrage of missiles and mortars fired by Hamas terrorists over a period of many years becomes the leading front page news item world- wide, receives condemnation for its act of self defense from again all corners of the globe and gives Arabs and non Arabs cause to stage demonstrations and rallies in cities as far flung as Paris, Sydney and Istanbul.

The demonstrations have often contained distinct elements of virulent anti Semitism (include the bay area in that) and for the Jews of these far flung places it has been a most uncomfortable sight. The scathing attacks on Israel by the Prime Minister of Turkey (a country with whom Israel has had military ties) have unsettled the Turkish Jewish population and there have been rumors of a boycott of Jewish owned stores. So again why is there this insatiable obsession with Israel and an almost total indifference to Sri Lanka and bastions of freedom and democracy like Zimbabwe, Belarus, and Libya –there is a lengthy list. Well my teacher once told me” Jews are news” and I would like to add that the world cannot stomach tough, resilient militarily successful Jews. But they love dead Jews. Ever notice how much sympathetic attention the holocaust receives?

The success of Israel as a nation in so many respects, a nation that embodies the very best of human values, a nation that is finding medical cures, that is innovative in fields like agriculture, technology, science, music and the arts is galling to so many. But for them I have one of my favorite expressions,” Am Yisrael Chai-The people of Israel lives!”