MASA drops anti-assimilation ad citing a ‘disconnect’ between Israeli and American Jews

Israel/Palestine
on 36 Comments

MASA and the Israel Agency have pulled their advertisement depicting intermarried Jews as lost. The JTA has a letter announcing the decision from MASA’s North American director:

While this campaign attempted to motivate the Israeli public to be more involved in this collective enterprise, the images that were chosen touched many raw nerves. Clearly, there was a disconnect around how some of the images and wording – designed to be provocative towards an Israeli public that for too long has been largely disconnected and disaffected from its responsibility towards its fellow Jews – would be received by many Jews outside of Israel.

This "disconnect" was made more explicit by Alon Friedman, MASA’s Director of Israel Operations in a Jerusalem Post interview about the controversy. Friedman explained:

"We understand these reactions," said Alon Friedman, Masa’s Director of Israel Operations, "but this campaign isn’t meant to encompass the entire Diaspora-Israel relationship." The problem, he explained, "is that when I speak to the Israelis [about Diaspora issues] I have to speak ‘Israeli,’ and when I speak to Americans I have to speak ‘American.’ But in the internet world, everybody hears both, and they misunderstand what you’re saying.

"This is a campaign [intended for] Israeli society, not for Jewish Agency officials or for American Jewry. We had to speak the language that Israeli society understands," he said.

It’s a good sign that this message doesn’t speak to American Jews and it raises the question – what is the "language that Israeli society understands"? This ad would seem to indicate that it is a language of ethnic exclusivity and homogeneity, and I agree that the ad is simply a reflection of the current obsession within Israel with ethnic separation and domination. But I continue to wonder – how much longer will the American Jewish community continue to blindly support a country that runs so counter to their values? And, is there a role for American Jews to help encourage Israel towards a more democratic and egalitarian future?

36 Responses

  1. DG
    September 8, 2009, 3:11 pm

    “…an Israeli public that for too long has been largely disconnected and disaffected from its responsibility towards its fellow Jews…”

    Israeli Jews are taught that it’s their responsibility to save the diaspora Jews. And the diaspora Jews are taught that it’s their responsibility to save the Israelis. And no one takes any responsibility at all for what’s being done in their name.

  2. Chris Moore
    September 8, 2009, 4:05 pm

    But wait a minute — don’t most American Jewish Zionists (the overwhelming majority of self-identifying Jews in this country) already harbor similar internal conversations and attitudes (“Bernie’s getting married; he fell lure to a goy shiksa”) as those encouraged by the aborted Israeli campaign? In fact, this site continues to document those kinds of attitudes among mainstream American Jewry, and the world capital of Jewry was merely trying further prompt Jewish attitudes that are already there.

    The “misunderstanding” is not that American Jewry wasn’t the intended audience for the campaign, it is that gentiles the world over were not supposed to hear the message, as well.

    “Oy! Foiled by the damn Internets again!”

    • DICKERSON3870
      September 8, 2009, 8:03 pm

      RE: “don’t most American Jewish Zionists (the overwhelming majority of self-identifying Jews in this country) already harbor similar internal conversations and attitude”

      MY COMMENT: I think perhaps many do; especially the older generation. However, it would be very presumptuous to characterize them as “the overwhelming majority” or even a bare majority of the self-identifying Jews in this country. What’s more, I think perhaps these “internal conversations” have existed to some degree or other amongst Jews and most, if not all, other ethno-religious groups for eons. I would further venture to say there is virtually an infinite variety of highly nuanced variations of the “internal conversation” you refer to.
      But that doesn’t necessary make it kosher for right-wing Israeli governments to in effect “proselytize” non-Israeli Jews in Europe, North America, etc by trying to intervene in the one of the most consequential and highly personal decisions individuals make during their lives. Having said that, since I do not identify as Jewish, it is certainly is not for me to say whether “the anti-assimilation ad” is appropriate or not.
      Now if Israel comes up with a program to “save” gay, Jewish Americans by luring them to Israel where they can be “cured”, married off, and then sent to settle in West Bank settlements and make lots and lots of Jewish babies……Well, I prefer not to deal with hypotheticals.
      But I do wonder how I would feel if: England became concerned about the dwindling percentage of its poulation that qualifies as WASPs; and England devised an “outreach program” consisting of a six month stay with a good English BNP family in York so as to discourage me from marrying a non-WASP (since I had been reported to them as being ‘at risk’ for marrying a certain beautiful, wealthy Asian woman I had met whilst in extended drug rehab); and England hoped that I would stay or eventually return to England with a good WASP wife (and perhaps even a mountain of cash to invest in good WASP investments) and thereby help keep England majority WASP. God save the Queen!

      • Chris Moore
        September 8, 2009, 8:59 pm

        “it would be very presumptuous to characterize [as Zionist] “the overwhelming majority” or even a bare majority of the self-identifying Jews in this country.”

        I think at this point organized Jewry, barring a few exceptions that prove the rule, have wound Zionism and organized Judaism so tightly, they are probably impossible to untangle. I also don’t believe Zionist ideology is out of alignment with Jewish doctrine contained in Talmud and Kabala. That said, I’m certainly willing to give individual Jews the benefit of the doubt. Problem is, none of the hugely disproportionate number of Jews in the U.S. congress, for example, are anti-Zionist. They’re all Jewish Zionists.

        Get back to me when even one explicitly anti-Zionist Jew is elected to Congress with strong organized Jewish support across a spectrum of the community.

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 4:34 am

      Correct. Every American knows who David Duke is; very few have heard the phrase
      “Silent Holocaust” or read about it the MSM. But curiousity finds it easily on the internet

  3. syvanen
    September 8, 2009, 4:20 pm

    This is too bad. One of the big problems with undermining the power of the lobby is that American Jews for the most part do not know how Israelis think. They are quiet oblivious to the overt antiArab racism that goes on there. This add campaign had the potential virtue to educate American Jews about what is going on over there. Just show them the adds, no explanation required, most would be appalled. Also it was a great opportunity for humor. We could sit back and ridicule and laugh at the Israeli war culture.

  4. doug
    September 8, 2009, 4:22 pm

    “he fell lure to a goy shiksa”

    Ah, tribalism. Same with America whites and blacks. It’s something to overcome but is somewhat universal. As a Japanese might mutter “Nihon no haji (shame of Japan),” It is the really the shame of humanity.

    • Chris Moore
      September 8, 2009, 7:18 pm

      I don’t know if it’s a shame, or if it’s a human version of “birds of a feather” syndrome. But it is certainly a shame when it progresses to the stage of ethnocentric supremacism and is leveraged into tribal warmongering as it has been by the Zionists.

      “Liberal” American Jewish Zionists are doubly dishonest, though, because they generally go about publicly professing the critical importance of inclusiveness, even as they whisper in each other’s ears about how crucial it is for Jews to discriminate against gentiles. Similarly, left-liberals run and get elected on a diversity and inclusiveness ticket even as they back quasi-fascist Israel to the hilt and disproportionately run and promote Jewish Zionists to the top echelons of their ranks.

      Clearly, diaspora Zionist liberal affectations are an integral component of their power-consolidation agenda on behalf of Jewish tribal interests; kind of a smiley face mask to throw the majority of gentiles off of their trail. Bait and switch, bait and switch…on and on until they have consolidated enough authoritarian power that objectors to their supremacy can be easily liquidated — just like the Palestinians.

  5. Shmuel
    September 8, 2009, 4:41 pm

    Hmmm. One message in Hebrew to an Israeli audience, and another in English to a western audience. Reminds me of an old Zionist favourite: One message in Arabic to Arab audiences, and another in English to western audiences. If I remember the old campaign correctly, we’re supposed to believe the racist, hate-filled message, and not the reasonable, peaceful one, right?

  6. Gellian
    September 8, 2009, 5:02 pm

    Phil, how dare you ask these questions! There is absolutely no difference between Israeli and American interests. Just ask Joe Lieberman. Or any other U.S. senator.

  7. Mooser
    September 8, 2009, 5:14 pm

    “And, is there a role for American Jews to help encourage Israel towards a more democratic and egalitarian future?”

    I’ll be chuckling over that one for days. What a sense of entitlement it bespeaks!
    Yeah, cause nobody is more open to persuasion in his rational self-interest than an Israeli. And no-one is more likely to listen to American Jews than an Israeli.

    You just keep dreaming those pleasant dreams.

    • syvanen
      September 8, 2009, 7:13 pm

      Don’t knock it. You are undermining poor Richard’s life work to persuade, in his inimitable style, Israelis to do nice to the Palestinians.

  8. wondering jew
    September 8, 2009, 7:26 pm

    Back to the topic of intermarriage: One of the best works of art on this subject was Mel Brooks’ “History of the World Part I”, the inquisition segment. In the segment, the torture of the Jews by Torquemada was set to music. The Jews continued to cling to their faith despite the torture, until the nuns stripped off their habits to reveal bathing suits and jumped into the pool, Esther Williams style. This the Jews could not withstand and they abandoned their faith. Brooks who was married to the nonJewish Anne Bancroft understood the irony of the ability of the Jewish people to withstand torture, but ultimately give up their faith through the non torture device of intermarriage.

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 4:58 am

      I like Mel Brooks especially for The Producers, and also because he was in the
      combat engineers, same as me. Here’s Anne on the reaction of her future mother in law:

      “When Mel told his Jewish mother he was marrying an Italian girl, she said: ‘Bring her over. I’ll be in the kitchen – with my head in the oven’.”
      Source: BBC

      Here’s my wife on the reaction of my future mother in law:
      “If you bring him over here I will pour hot boiling chicken soup on him!”

      Like Mel and Anne, we also got married by a muncipal clerk, using a passer-by
      as a witness.

  9. kylebisme
    September 8, 2009, 7:54 pm

    The problem, he explained, “is that when I speak to the Israelis [about Diaspora issues] I have to speak ‘Israeli,’ and when I speak to Americans I have to speak ‘American.’

    White man speaks with forked-tongue!

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 5:13 am

      The MASA video clip add depicts posters around a city akin to missing children
      or a pet cat, and one of the adds says “50%”–which I take to mean in context the assimilation rate among North American Jews:

      link to blogs.jta.org

  10. VR
    September 8, 2009, 8:24 pm

    I think doug September 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm, is the closest to the real issue on this one. In the sense that this is broadly practiced among humanity.

    However, on the subject which is a bit of an inside fight, even referring to all the rest of us as “the diaspora,” as opposed to the “real” Jews is really offensive. That this quite twisted group of Zionists which act the way they do – quite apart from historic Judaism, would express themselves as the bonafide group as opposed to everyone else. The truth of the matter is that most do not want to find their aliyah in Israel. Clashes over “who is a Jew” cooled American-Jewish attitudes to Israel well before the second Palestinian intifada.

    Many returning birthrighters have embarked on a search for new ways of what is colloquially called “doing Jewish” that have little to do with Israel or even religion. It is not just in America, France’s Jews bridled when Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s prime minister, said in 2004 that they should move to Israel. The community in France that is less split along denominational lines than elsewhere, is there to stay.

    In other words, the Israeli Jews at the “top” and all the rest beneath them is just not the way anyone looks at matters any longer. The majority of the community does not agree with all that Israel does, and that rough right wing Zionist community is becoming isolated. The days of indiscriminate support are numbered, and the majority of the community in the world wants peace – righteous peace and prosperity, a real life. The cracks are becoming obvious among the hardliner, and if Israel does not want to go the way of the dinosaur it must change into the true democracy that it says it is swiftly, not in word only but in deed.

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 4:43 am

      More wisdom by V; too bad AIPAC and the US Congress isn’t listening.

  11. potsherd
    September 8, 2009, 8:29 pm

    Speaking of a disconnect between US Jews and the Israeli establishment, this op-ed link to ynetnews.com in Ynet is of interest. The author is the Director of the Conservative Movement in Israel, which is considered by the Orthodox Israeli establishment is not really Jewish. Says Hess, “At this time already, among other reasons because of this systematic discrimination, American Jews are slowly losing interest in the State of Israel. Because if Israel rejects their Jewishness, why should they feel any sympathy for or attachment to it?”

    And ” Israel is the only democracy in the Western world that doesn’t offer freedom of worship to Jews.”

    Strong stuff.

    I really wonder, though, about the mikveh story – whether that is really state policy or one bride happened to be the victim of a bigoted gatekeeper.

  12. Elliot
    September 8, 2009, 10:04 pm

    Israelis have always been clueless about American Jews. This ad is powerful because it speaks to the gut of Israeli perceptions of life on the outside. Read Amos Oz, listen to any official Israeli spokesman and you’ll hear the same story. Only in the warm cocoon of the State of Israel can a Jew feel safe and live a life worth living. The Diaspora is the great, lonely abyss.

  13. Oscar
    September 8, 2009, 11:08 pm

    How wacky is this? The aliyah Jews of Israel put out this super-offensive ad (paid for by the Netanyahu government) that completely pisses off the diaspora Jews of America. The Semitic-supremacy of the ad is so off-putting that the MASA dudes actually have to use hasbara techniques on the American Jews to justify the campaign (“we’re now moving on to our next campaign”), rather than apologize for the offensiveness of its content. Hmm. I’m married to an American Jew, and I found the ad exceptionally offensive (as if I “abducted” my wife from her faith by marrying her). Could it be that American Jews also find this condescending and insulting as well? Wow.

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 4:48 am

      Same here. Imagine the Netanyahu regime thinks it’s not insulting… What’s the intermarriage rate in the USA these days, 50%? That’s quite a lot of criminal abductions.

  14. Julian
    September 9, 2009, 5:32 am

    “I also don’t believe Zionist ideology is out of alignment with Jewish doctrine contained in Talmud and Kabala.”

    You guys are expert at everything. Maybe you can tell us what the simiarities of Zionist thinking and the Kabala are?

    • Shmuel
      September 9, 2009, 5:51 am

      Julian,

      I happen to disagree with the philosophical (“doctrinal” sticks in my craw a little, and is not quite accurate with regard to Judaism) equivalence that some here have made between Judaism – as expressed in its traditional sources – and Zionism. I disagree with such an interpretation of Jewish tradition (certainly as an exclusive or even predominant one) and, of course, most Zionists wouldn’t know a tractate if it hit them on the head.

      Having said that, can you blame anyone for believing that such an equivalence exists? The State of Israel and organised Judaism throughout the world preach it and believe it. Personally, I am outraged and deeply saddened by this state of affairs, just as I am outraged by the cynical and despicable exploitation of the Holocaust as an excuse for hatred and violence. So please tell me what the real problem here is.

      • Citizen
        September 9, 2009, 7:09 am

        I agree with you, Shmuel.
        Also agree with your analysis as to why equivalence is believed by many.
        And I share your outrage.
        One aspect of the real problem is the use of Jewish religious beliefs to define and to justify
        the activities of a nation state supported by the only super-power in the world.

      • jimby
        September 9, 2009, 7:37 am

        after reading Julian’s post for a while I would suggest that he sees no problem with the current state of affairs in Israel and we should just butt out and shut the f##k up.

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 6:57 am

      It seems the question better asked is, are there any conflicts at all between Zionist and
      Kabala thinking?

      See, e.g., link to blogcatalog.com

      • Shmuel
        September 9, 2009, 7:18 am

        Citizen,

        There is no such thing as “Kabala thinking”. Can elements of Kabalah (a rather broad collection of many different mystical approaches) be harnessed by people of bad faith to support just about anything? Sure. But that is not the same as roping in the authors and readers of those traditions throughout the ages to that same immoral worldview, not to mention anachronistic thinking of the highest order.

        I am not an expert on Kabalah, but have studied a little (the real deal, not the Madonna version). Personally speaking, mysticism is not my cup of tea, but I see no connection whatsover to the ills of modern political Zionism.

      • kylebisme
        September 9, 2009, 7:52 am

        Until the horrors of WWII, the vast majority of religious Jews (Kabbalists and otherwise) considered the very idea establishing a Jewish state an affront to God. It was only after the Shorah that theological arguments to support Zionism gained any prominence. Jewish theological arguments that is, plenty of Christian nutjobs had been pimping the idea long before.

      • Citizen
        September 9, 2009, 9:37 am

        Shmuel,
        Point taken. I didn’t mean to suggest the principles, approaches, or elements of
        Kabalah have been or are always harnessed to support the current state of Israel right or wrong, so to say.

        Mystical avenues have been use throught history to support various heinous, essentially secular movements.

        And yes, what you say is also true, Kylebisme.

    • potsherd
      September 9, 2009, 9:21 am

      Julian calls anyone a “Jew-hater” who posts what he doesn’t like to see. I think we could do very well without Julian.

  15. Chris Moore
    September 9, 2009, 10:30 am

    @ Julian: “You guys are expert at everything. Maybe you can tell us what the simiarities of Zionist thinking and the Kabala are?”

    According to the Jewish Zionists, good Jews (religious Jews, ethnocentric Jews) and Judaism can only be actualized through Zionism. However, if a gentile points out that this has brought Zionism and organized Judaism into alignment, suddenly equating Zionism and Judaism is anti-semitic (presumably because they don’t want Israel’s loathsome actions potentially undermining their American network; they’ve got a good scam going.)

    Diaspora Jewish Zionists want all the advantages of network Zionism, but they don’t want to take any responsibility for what Israeli Zionism does. Julian and other diaspora Jewish Zionists like him are just riding the wake and using their “Judaism” as an insurance policy to hedge their bets.

    The Israelis better understand that their diaspora Zionist cousins won’t hesitate to throw them under the bus when things get ugly, and adjust their behavior accordingly. Most American JZ’s are just playing at Jew toy soldier anyway, just like they were playing at goy toy soldier in operation Lie America into Iraq War.

    At least the American anti-Zionist Jews have the decency to be straight up what they think of Israeli Zionism. American Jewish Zionists are just getting rich off the network with a backup plan to shelter in the synagogue and cry about how they’re being picked on just because they’re Jews.

    Goldman Sachs has already taken the ploy on a trial run.
    link to thedailybeast.com

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2009, 12:59 pm

      A gentile cannot win in this debate. Every critique gets reduced to anti-semitism. As somebody said on this blog recently, the logical premise of reduction to absurdity, in this context means
      reduction to anti-semitism.

  16. Citizen
    September 10, 2009, 12:26 pm

    @ Chris Moore:
    “According to the Jewish Zionists, good Jews (religious Jews, ethnocentric Jews) and Judaism can only be actualized through Zionism. However, if a gentile points out that this has brought Zionism and organized Judaism into alignment, suddenly equating Zionism and Judaism is anti-semitic (presumably because they don’t want Israel’s loathsome actions potentially undermining their American network; they’ve got a good scam going.)”

    Exactly. Zionists conflate the state of Israel and its actions with Judiasm. This equates
    any criticism of Israel as anti-semitic–bigoted against Jews per se, whether religious Jews or secular or atheist or agnonstic Jews; this in turn delflects any discussion of what
    is the morality of the USA enabling Israel to do what it does? The question avoided is
    what does Israel’s activities have to do with USA moral and ethical principles?

  17. Elliot
    September 10, 2009, 1:11 pm

    The indefatigable Israeli analyst, Gideon Levy rejects the Masa ad for the Israeli Left:

    link to haaretz.com

    He makes several of the points that have been made here including that the campaign is pointless (no amount of lipstick can change Israel’s image) and offensive (“racist, despicable, disgusting”) .

    I think it is significant that he takes on a central myth of Zionism that is still advanced by the mainstream media in Israel – that Jews are safer in Israel than elsewlere:

    “Life in Israel is more dangerous for Jews, in any event, than in any other [place in the world]“

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