05 February 2010
The following opinion article by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was published in 'Jüdische Allgemeine', Germany's leading Jewish newspaper, on 5 February 2010 (click on this link to read the German version).
We are all in the same boat
By Ronald S. Lauder
Around the world, Israel-bashing is becoming ever more fashionable. The UN’s obsession with Israel is well known, not just that at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. At sporting events, Israeli athletes are disturbed by protestors, as could be witnessed during a tennis tournament in New Zealand two weeks ago. Trade unions are calling for sanctions and an economic boycott to be imposed on Israel.
Media and human rights organizations also excessively focus on Israel’s alleged misdemeanors. The founder of Human Rights Watch accused his own group of treating Israel like a pariah state.
What does all this have to with us Diaspora Jews? Quite a lot. We feel the effects of this persistent Israel-bashing – irrespective of our personal views on the Middle East conflict.
Israel’s opponents often apply double standards. Some of them are prejudiced against Jews, but where that is not the case people encourage anti-Semitism by singling out and unfairly criticizing Israel. The repercussions can be felt on our doorsteps: In the aftermath of Israel’s military campaigns in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza 2009, anti-Semitism spiked.
When they saw distorted accounts in the media of alleged Israeli wrongdoing, many Jewish leaders in the Diaspora quickly rose to defend the Jewish state. They knew they had to speak out for Israel because if Jews don’t do it, there are not a great many people left to do it. If we don’t want to become irrelevant and lose our influence, we must strengthen our community organizations, improve cooperation on all levels and recruit more young Jewish talent.
By setting up the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps, comprised of young professionals from around the globe, the World Jewish Congress has made a first step in that direction. These ‘Jewish Diplomats’ are a formidable force when it comes to advocating the interests of Jewish communities.
Whoever believes that the Middle East peace process can be advanced by pressurizing Israel into making painful compromises that are detrimental to its own safety, is wrong. Only a strong, self-confident Israel, one that has the support of the West, will sign a peace treaty. We Jews must explain this to politicians and journalists in our respective countries and ask them not to pillory Israel. Lending support to the Jewish state – which most of us consider the heart and soul of the Jewish people – has become the key task of the Diaspora. We must not be afraid to say so aloud.
This requires better cooperation between the many Jewish organizations that exist. In the past, reckless behavior and petty infighting was the hallmark of some of them, but we must act in a dignified way if we want our opinions to be heard.
Many Jewish groups fight for the same goals, and perhaps there are too many. Yet it is crucial that we unite our forces. Recent efforts such as the ‘Jewish Coalition’ at the UN Durban Review Conference in Geneva proved that a common effort can bring better results than going it alone.
Where will we stand in ten years from now? Probably, the distinction between Jews in Israel and those living elsewhere will perhaps become irrelevant. In times of globalization the challenges faced by world Jewry will be very similar to those faced by Israel, e.g. the threat posed by Islamist terror groups, or the widening gap between secular and religious Jews. This will have repercussions for Jewish communities everywhere.
The old debate of whether or not all Jews should settle in Israel will probably subside. Israel today has the largest Jewish population of any country in the world. Yet its strength will not only derive from its numbers but from it being an international powerhouse in business, science and technology. Diaspora Jews should support it wherever they can.
Those who want to drive a wedge between Israel and the Diaspora must not be allowed to succeed.
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