Antony Lerman is beginning to remind me of my former mother-in-law. Her experience of raising children had been gained in 1950s Casablanca and she had some pretty antiquated ideas (dentists; please look away now) such as tying a spoonful of honey into the corner of a clean cotton diaper to act as a pacifier for a new baby, or swaddling; supposedly to ‘straighten the spine’. As we were obviously newcomers to the job of raising our firstborn, she believed that her experience compared to our lack of it made her an authority to be listened to on every subject and no amount of explanation of the fact that times, practices and place had changed would convince her otherwise. So it is too with Lerman; in his CiF article of February 26th his basic premise is that he knows best when it comes to running a democracy and he proceeds to liberally dispense his unsolicited advice and admonishments.
“It’s hard to credit that a country that wants to be seen as on a par with EU members doesn’t understand that it’s a sign of democracy in practice to allow civil society organisations to operate freely. Restricting them in the way the new law proposes will thus undermine Israel’s democracy. The political landscape, especially as reflected in the Knesset, is already unreceptive to alternative civil society views.”
What exactly has got Mr. Lerman’s boxer shorts in such a twist this time? Well, it is the fact that Israel appears to have finally woken up to the fact (and none too soon) that not only are there numerous organisations working towards the undermining of the very fabric of Israeli society, but that some of them are being funded by foreign organisations and even governments. It is Israel’s realisation that such a situation cannot be allowed to continue unchecked which has irked Lerman to the point of making dramatic diagnoses regarding the supposed ill health of Israel’s democracy and seeing ‘right wing’ bogey men behind every statement or decision with which he happens not to agree.
This raises two questions. The first is on precisely what authority do people like Mr. Lerman and so many others deem it acceptable to try to influence Israel’s internal affairs? On the one hand, Lerman and his comrades at IJV and now JNews are constantly telling us that Zionism is not the only Jewish narrative. Fair enough, but surely in that case those who do not wish to identify with Israel and Zionism should just get on with their own affairs and stop interfering in a project in which they do not wish to play a part. If, however, they do wish to influence internal Israeli policy then the acceptable way to do that is to make aliyah, pay taxes, send their sons and daughters to the army and take part in Israel’s (frequent!) democratic elections. That, Mr. Lerman, is democracy, but of course it is also the more demanding choice: much easier to stay where you are and purchase influence using money channelled through outfits like the New Israel Fund which bypass Israel’s democratic process completely.
The hypocrisy of the over-righteous indignation at being exposed for what they actually support indicates very clearly that the funders of NGOs such as Adalah and Al Haq have no interest in the democratic process. Despite their claims of being impartial humanitarian organisations, too many of these outfits are far from that when it comes to Israeli human rights and their insidious agenda is painfully obvious.
The second question is why people with Tony Lerman’s type of agenda inevitably seem to put their own ideologies forward as some sort of shining example of what Israel should aspire to become. Besides the fact that this shows gross ignorance of the specific and often unique problems faced by Israel, it is also incredibly facetious to think that those who do not live in such circumstances have all the answers to another country’s dilemmas. We constantly see such attitudes reflected in the comments on CiF and of course this article was no different. And as is the case with many of these suspect NGOs supported by the NIF and others, so too with many a CiF commenter: what drives them is not noble humanitarian concern for the Palestinians, but a deep and vindictive desire to see the end of Israel’s success.
26 Feb 2010, 11:07AM
These are desperate times for Israel and its colonial ambitions.
The attacks on the compassionate and humane individuals who seek to ameliorate the appalling consequences of the demolitions, annexations and colonisation demonstrate the quivering fear that the Zionist establishment feels as its misdeeds are more widely publicised.
God bless those decent people, both Israeli and non-Israeli, who bravely defend the poor and oppressed; is it too much to hope that our own government finds some courage and takes appropriate action to support them? A ban on travel to the UK for all those involved in the occupation would be a good start.
26 Feb 2010, 12:39PM
Can we please establish for once and for all the meaning of Zionism?
Zionism is the desire for self determination for the Jewish people in their ancestoral homeland. very importanlty Zionism is not exclusive. It is inclusive.
To describe zionism thus is disingenous and not telling the full truth. You can claim it is a desire for a homeland for the jewish people, but please do not leave out the fact that to achieve that necessitated the removal and subjugation of indigenous people. And to claim israel is the ancestral homeland of world jewry is to ignore and indeed perhaps attempt to hide the undeniable history of conversion and proselyzation which judaism has.
To bandy the word around like a ubiquitous insult is bloody annoying
Zionism, which is a most unsavoury ideology, was and is more than simply ‘annoying’ to the palestinians.
26 Feb 2010, 11:38AM
I am quite happy to have Israel degenerate – then the arguments for us to cut our links with Israel will be irrefutable.
Israel is too racist for my liking already and I don’t think this will ever ever change so anything that spurs us to stay away from them and end any so-called alliance with them is not something I feel negative about.
26 Feb 2010, 11:52AM
It all depends on what you mean by “work against”. But yes, I do think that promoting anti-racism IS working against the current state of Israel since racism is inherent to the Zionists project. It wouldn’t however be working against the people of Israel.
I think its all a waste of money anyway since we’ll never get the Israelis to change.
Best to just stay away from the entire powder keg.
26 Feb 2010, 3:06PM
## Non-violent Palestinian resistance has been quashed by Israeli security forces##
Despite this I beg the good Palestinian people to never take up arms ever..unless under the direst of circumstances…for example in order to save their children from direct assault. The world is swinging against this brutal and cold regime.It will not last.
26 Feb 2010, 12:39PM
No, FeildingMelish, I canot agree. The problem about Zionism is that it meets fascism half way, through the homeland question. It was always a retreat rather than being outgoing. It was not good for the Jews. The Jewish peoples need have no truck with it. Israel is not the totality of the Jewish peoples. Israel is desperate to be included in the EU and many resources are ploughed into exactly that. So Israel needs at least to display a civilised attitude and behaviour.
The claim voiced by the above commentator is of course a reflection of Lerman’s attitude too: ‘if only those Israelis were more civilised – more like us’. But do these people really have so much to feel smug about or does their attitude in fact disguise a startling lack of self-awareness? After all, there is ample evidence of the influence of foreign funding affecting British society and in particular, UK universities. From Iranian funding at Durham, through Muslim Brotherhood cash at Exeter and Saudi petrodollars at Oxford among others, the influence of foreign money is being felt on British campuses in a big way. A 2009 report by the Centre for Social Cohesion goes into detail, but the bottom line was expressed by Professor Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University’s Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies:
He called on the Government to ban universities from accepting money from Saudi or Islamic groups to fund Islamic studies; for all university donations to be made public, and for a public inquiry into foreign funding. Major donations include £20 million from the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia towards the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, due to open next year, which is associated to the university.
Prof Glees’s report claims that over the past five years, 70 per cent of politics lectures at the Middle Eastern Centre at St Antony’s College, Oxford, were “implacably hostile” to the West and Israel – an allegation denied by Oxford.
The issue of the foreign funding of British academic institutions is not confined to extremism on campus; “Wafic Saïd, founding benefactor and board member of the [Oxford] University’s business school, helped to broker the al-Yamamah arms deal that BAE Systems this week admitted was negotiated using illegal practices.” Neither, of course, is the influence of foreign money confined to Britain; Australia is also seeing similar activity.
Tony Lerman would do well to take note of the pernicious influence of foreign Islamist money in his own country and realise that Britain actually has something to learn from Israel’s newfound resolve regarding the external purchase of influence over domestic policy which can have a detrimental effect on the core values of a democratic state. Although he seems to think that being seen as “on a par with the EU” is something to which Israel should aspire, having too often been obliged to negotiate situations like that depicted in the video below on my way to and from work in the UK is one of the reasons why I personally would say to Tony Lerman ‘thanks, but no thanks’; being like you is not what Israel should be aiming for. We can do better than that.