Every other day I say that the U.S. discussion of Israel and Palestine is improving, but actions speak louder than words, and here are three recent stories showing the remarkable degree of infusion of Israel in American institutions. Each goes beyond mere hasbara, or propaganda, to institutional sponsorship of Israeli causes.
The first one is on Capitol Hill. Tomorrow night, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a pro-Israel organization, is holding a propaganda exhibition at the Rayburn House Office Building on 3500 years of “the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.” Two rightwing congresspeople are officiating. But notice who’s there, Irina Bokova, the director of UNESCO. She is in the running for secretary-general of the U.N. to succeed Ban Ki-moon. (The Security Council nominates the Secretary General.)
We would love to invite you to the Capitol Hill premier of Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Historic Exhibition, People Land Book: The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land on Wednesday, November 18th from 5:00PM to 7:00PM in the Rayburn House Office Building. The exhibit showcases the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and is highly visual.
Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Minority Member House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center will be making remarks at the event.
Next. And maybe more disturbing: The Israeli government is marketing arms to Pennsylvania and West Virginia state government. That’s how I interpret this PDF of a filing by the Philadelphia PR company, Ceisler Media, as a Foreign Agent with the Justice Department. The PR firm serves the Consulate General of Israel for the Mid-Atlantic Region. It is helping Israel to get a “positive image” in the mid-Atlantic.
And in its filing, Ceisler reports on a meeting last spring between Israeli officials and the Pennsylvania emergency management agency, the Pennsylvania state police and the Pennsylvania national guard at the lieutenant governor’s office in Harrisburg.
The international defense cooperation department of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD) is uniquely positioned as an essential division within the IMOD, while having a close ongoing relationship with Israel’s defense industry. SIBAT [an international arm of the Israeli ministry of Defense] facilitates international cooperation through its various services, including generating Government-to-Government agreements, establishing joint ventures and locating relevant technological solutions for specific requirements…
The objective of this visit is to establish a relationship and a dialogue with the heads of Pennsylvania’s military/security forces and to identify opportunities for potential business-to-business areas of mutual interest and industrial collaboration between Israel and Pennsylvania.
It did the same in West Virginia:
On Wednesday, February 25, Directors of the Israeli Defense Corporation will meet with national, state, and local officials, including federal and state representatives, the West Virginia National Guard, Homeland Security and more. SIBAT, the internatioal defense cooperation directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD) is uniquely positioned as an essential division within the IMOD, while having a close, ongoing relationship with Israel’s defense industry. The goal of this visit is to establish a relationship on a state level for mutual business benefit.
SIBAT is particularly interested in West Virginia’s energy infrastructure and emergency preparedness… SIBAT will follow up with the Israel delegation to begin pursuing cooperative agreements with West Virginia
Then there was this conference at Temple University in Philadelphia (which was publicly announced at the time):
On Wednesday, April 29th, three Scranton-area companies, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC), Lockheed Martin and Nammo Pocal Inc., will travel to Temple University’s Center City Campus in Philadelphia for the Israeli Defense and Security Conference. The event, which is co-hosted by the Consulate General of Israel, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (PICC), is designed to encourage strategic partnerships between U.S. and Israeli defense-oriented companies.
The announcement includes several promotions of Israeli law:
Investment executive and private investor Mitchell R. Julis has made a gift to Harvard Law School to establish the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law…
Martha Minow, [dean of] Harvard Law School, said: “Throughout history, Jewish law has made profound contributions to legal thought and practice, and it remains vibrant and relevant around the world. Through their extraordinary generosity, the Julis Family has created significant new opportunities for our community to explore this living legal tradition as well as the laws and legal discourse of a nation, which shares the same roots and many new branches….
[Julis said:] “Finally, under Dean Minow’s inspiring leadership, Joleen and I know that Harvard Law School is an ideal place for a full and open and civil discussion of the multiple views and issues in Jewish and Israeli law, and our family is privileged to support the scholars and students who will build on this knowledge going forward.”…
“Jewish law and Israeli law are distinct and different, yet they also interact and make claims on each other. It makes sense to study them both in the same program, even as we study them independently,” said Feldman.
Tablet points out that Yale established a program in Islamic law this fall, with a gift from a Saudi Arabian. Harvard also has an Islamic law program. In the Yale announcement, though, Islamic law is offered as a field to be studied for its importance, not as a model. And from Harvard’s announcement of the Julis-Rabinowitz program, it doesn’t look like the program will explore Israeli human rights abuses, let alone the subservience of the Israeli legal system to the illegal occupation.
Minow was preceded at Harvard Law School by Elena Kagan, now of course a Supreme Court justice, and Kagan has also lavishly praised Israeli law; the Israeli judge Aharon Barak was a model to her: “my judicial hero,” “the judge who has best advanced democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and justice.” Yet Aharon Barak was a committed Zionist. Shlomo Sand writes in his book, The Invention of the Jewish People, that while Barak strived more than other judges to honor Palestinian rights, he celebrated Israeli law as a system based on Halakhic (Torah-derived) and Zionist elements. Among those Zionist elements was the need to “liberate” land for Jewish settlement. “A Jewish state is one for which Jewish settlement in its fields, cities and villages comes before anything else,” Barak said. That’s “Judaization,” Sand explained, or the removal of Palestinians to make way for Jews.
Will the Harvard program find such law problematic?
The Harvard program will be led by “one of the nation’s leading public intellectuals” in Noah Feldman, who is an expert on Islamic law. He worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq during that failed experiment in international law, and has promoted the idea of the United States as a guarantor of security in the Middle East. He is also famous for his story that the yeshiva he attended in NY removed his and his future wife’s images from a reunion photograph because she is Korean-American. In that article, he repudiated the Torah’s call on Jews to commit genocide against “Amalekites”, which some have interpreted to include Palestinians.
Thanks to Janet McMahon of WRMEA.