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Don’t talk about Israel with the black community, former diplomat advises US Jewish groups

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Ido Aharoni, a longtime diplomat for Israel, warned American Jewish groups that they should not talk about Israel when trying to build ties with African American organizations. Because then Israel “is defined by its problem”– its treatment of Palestinians. So, change the subject!

At a New York event last November, Aharoni was asked about “intersectionality” and “black-Palestinian solidarity.” As the US becomes a “browner, more international, more leftwing society”– what is Israel’s strategy? Aharoni, Israel’s former consul-general in New York who is now a professor of international relations at NYU, said:

I’ll answer this the same way I did when I worked for the Israeli government. It’s not good for Israel to be the defining factor in this conversation. What do I mean by that? The human rights groups that work on ethnic understanding, they should take Israel out of the equation. So if I’m the Anti Defamation League, you know, when Israel is relevant, talk about Israel. But Israel should not be the main thing that you rally around in your conversation with the African-American community, for example. It’s a strategic mistake, and it shouldn’t be that way. And there are many organizations that over the years excelled in establishing ties with the African American community, for example, ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the JCRC [Jewish Community Relations Council]….

My advice would be to take Israel out of that equation. And just to develop the ties. You can say, But how can we take Israel out of the equation? Well, the agenda of the American Jewish community with the African-American community should not be centered around Israel. Israel could be part of it. But it should not be the main thing. That’s my point. Because if it’s the main thing, Israel is defined by its problem.

Aharoni conceded that that “problem” is turning off American Jews too.

There is a very dominant political conversation, and it’s a problematic conversation for American liberal Jews, and I understand that… But Israel is a lot more than that… Israel is a place where there’s room for everybody.

That dominant political conversation is a reference to the unending occupation, the unlivable conditions in Gaza, the discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel.

Aharoni talked about growing rifts inside American Jewry over Israel with David Margolick of Vanity Fair magazine, on the stage of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in November. (The talk was posted online 2 weeks ago).

Aharoni, who served as a diplomat in high positions for 25 years, repeatedly deflected Margolick’s efforts to show that the relationship of progressive American Jews with Israel “is in tatters.”

For instance, when Margolick said that students protesting at the University of California in 1964 did Israeli folkdancing to pass the time the night they occupied the administration building– “unabashedly affiliating themselves with the Zionist enterprise” — Aharoni dismissed that as a moment in time. The embrace of American Jews with Zionism only lasted from 1948 to 1982, and the Lebanon war.

But then in ’82 Israel very skilfully…exported its own social political and even ethnic rifts to America. The American Jewish community mirrored the divide and rifts in Israel…. Discussing Lebanon, they were almost offended. How could you have done this to us? How can you invade Lebanon?

Aharoni went on, “Zionism from the day that it was introduced was never a big hit among Jews… Zionism in 2018 has never been more popular in North America than it is today. Never. That’s a fact. 1948– only 17 percent of American Jews identified as Zionists.”

Yes there are many liberal American Jews who feel “uncomfortable” with Israeli policy, but the Israel supporters are stronger than ever, he said.

When I joined the foreign service, the American Jewish Committee was not the major international factor it is today, practically serving as the foreign ministry of the Jewish people and doing great work, not just on behalf of Israel.

He continued, The AIPAC policy conference in 1991 used to attract between 1500 to 2500 people. Today 18,000 is a regular number. The Jewish National Fund barely existed in ’91, he said, raising $2.5 million a year. Today it has set the goal of raising $1 billion, and is well on its way, raising $120 million a year.

Aharoni cited a Foreign Ministry study of the American population showing that only a small number of Americans don’t like Israel, and the vast majority are just sick of the subject.

There are about 8 percent of the American people who do not buy whatever it is Israel is trying to sell them. We identify them in the study as members of the intellectual elite… You’re not going to win with the Noam Chomskys of the world.

Only a tiny fraction of that 8 percent are true “delegitimizers,” Aharoni said. The vast majority of the 8 percent are critical of Israel but think it has a right to exist.

The rest of the US population loves Israel or can be won over. He said 22 percent of the American people feel deeply connected to Israel. They are mostly Christian and respond to Israel on cultural/religious, not political grounds. “But they love Israel.”

And in the middle, 70 percent of the American people, they don’t care about Israel, Israel is not relevant to their lives…. They’ve been fatigued by the conflict… They just want it to end. They say, Come back to me when you have a solution.

Israel doesn’t understand and I have to say that American Jewish organizations don’t understand that as well: we have to try very hard to establish relevance among those 70 percent…The 70 percent in the middle are the real goal… Many of them are liberal politically.

Aharoni said the real gamechanger for the 70 percent is Birthright and programs similar to Birthright, free trips to Israel. Israel should be bringing 50,000 Americans a year to Israel, he said, to show what a great progressive place it is.

This is as American Jews are turning off to Birthright… And as people of color are turning off to Israel. Some just can’t get the “problem” out of their minds.

 

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53 Responses

  1. amigo
    amigo
    January 3, 2019, 1:53 pm

    “Israel is a place where there’s room for everybody.”Ahoroni.

    Should read!!.

    “Israel is a place where there’s room for everybody who is Jewish”.

    All the rest can go and live elsewhere and we stand by ready and willing to give them the necessary incentive to leave.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      January 3, 2019, 5:44 pm

      Well room for every Ashkenazi Jew. Others are second class or even worse.

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        January 3, 2019, 6:47 pm

        Not every Ashkenazi Jew. Some are more equal than others!

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      January 4, 2019, 12:57 am

      Israel is always bragging about its diversity. I guess most Americans think Israeli diversity is the same as American diversity. And cherished as much too!

  2. Talkback
    Talkback
    January 3, 2019, 3:05 pm

    Don’t mention the war!

  3. annie
    annie
    January 3, 2019, 4:57 pm

    there’s many great quotes in this article i can’t stop laughing!

    • Xpat
      Xpat
      January 3, 2019, 5:14 pm

      My favorite is: “But then in ’82 Israel very skilfully…exported its own social political and even ethnic rifts to America.”
      Without Israel we wouldn’t even know how to fight each other.
      Israel is at the center of the universe: they invented the Jaffa orange, cherry tomatoes and the political and ethnic divide in America.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 3, 2019, 7:20 pm

        “Without Israel we wouldn’t even know how to fight each other.” “Xpat”

        So you see a lot of reasons why the Jewish and Black communities in America should “fight each other” and have an “ethnic divide” other than Zionism?

        What might those reasons be?

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        January 4, 2019, 4:08 am

        Xpat: “Israel is at the center of the universe: they invented the Jaffa orange, cherry tomatoes and the political and ethnic divide in America”

        He was only talking about the divide and rifts amongst American Jews, because he continues with:

        “And the American Jewish community mirrored the devide and the rifts in Israel”. (5:44)

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 4, 2019, 11:37 am

        “Talkback” , we must be patient. Sometimes it takes an American-Israeli citizen and IDF vet a little bit of time to adjust to being a “pro-Palestinian activist”. And an expert on “left-wing antisemitism”.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        January 4, 2019, 5:59 pm

        It wasn’t that clear and explicit, but only contextual, mooser.

        I’m more suprised that he didn’t accuse him of north-down-inwards-antisemitism.
        Israel “skillfully” exporting its own ‘social political and ethnic rifts’ to America?!? Wth.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      January 3, 2019, 6:08 pm

      He basically admitts that the more you know about Israel, the less you are going to like and visit it. And how marvelous it is that people nowadays can personalize their news input and can filter out the truth about Israel. And that Evangelical Christians know nothing about Israel and are only interested in their theology.

      Ignorance is bliss.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        January 4, 2019, 1:04 am

        Sort of. I think he also meant we now make our news feeds on the internet by which web sites we frequent, and google, and then the system’s commercial ad algorithms kick in and we get sent those pop-ups, etc–filtering also done for you automatically so you can, e.g., keep up on the NFL teams or sales on purses, etc.

  4. Citizen
    Citizen
    January 4, 2019, 12:43 am

    “Don’t try to defend Israel, try to sell Israel!”
    “It should be the story of the victor, not the victim.”
    “Israel doesn’t yet understand that today, people make their own news feeds” (on the internet, they choose whom and what web sites or blogs they read–not like in old days when an editor at your newspaper decided what was important for you to read.)
    “8% of Americans won’t buy anything Israel sells/says; 20% love Israel (including 70,000 Evangelicals, who care about Israel for religious reasons, not political reasons–most wouldn’t even know who Israel’s PM is: Netanyahu. And 70% don’t care about Israel at all.”

  5. Citizen
    Citizen
    January 4, 2019, 12:49 am

    “Of all America’s minorities, only the Jews are claimed to be striving always to rule, to control the world. It’s always been so, and not because of socio-economic reasons. Jews have always been accused so, even when they had no such power at all.” (Gee, how powerful was the average Jew compared to the average serf back in those days?)

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      January 5, 2019, 12:02 pm

      “(Gee, how powerful was the average Jew compared to the average serf back in those days?)”

      Jews in Czarist Russia were often trapped by a socialist undertow, or caught by the riptide of revolution. They hung ten.

      They were freed in about 1861, so I guess you could say the serf’s up.

  6. Citizen
    Citizen
    January 4, 2019, 12:55 am

    “2018 was a great year for vacations to Israel from around the world because nobody cancelled their reservations except American Jews. Why? Because all those vacationers had not been reading about what was going on in Gaza so they were not afraid it might be too dangerous in Israel.”

  7. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    January 4, 2019, 7:37 am

    America has been Israel`s client state basically since 1967 and specifically since the shameful reaction to the USS Liberty attack. Things are however changing rapidly and the changes are coming albeit inadvertently from some surprising quarters. Daffy Donald has opened up a can of worms with regards to America`s role in “policing” the globe and bankrolling the cost of US operations and support in faraway places. Can`t be long particularly given the new make up of the Senate before very serious questions are being asked about the $3.8 billion annual Ziobung bankrolling of what appears to be and what certainly claims to be a rich and thriving country.
    Also perhaps the question “Why don`t we divert the $3.8 billion to the construction of the wall and the subsequent annual $3.8 billion bungs to the upkeep of the wall and a general beefing up of America`s homeland security ?”

    Tick tick

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      January 4, 2019, 10:11 am

      Yes, that’s the right question. Don’t hold your breath to hear it raised on mainstream news, so as to inform consent of the citizenry of USA. AOC was discussed on Morning Joe this morning & a guest pundit told us she was wrong when she said Gaza was occupied. Joe & Mitka nodded, had no follow up. In other words, nothing more there, let’s move on, thus ignoring yet again a chance to actually inform the public, as e.g.,, “Well, Gaza might not be occupied in the sense Israel occupies the West Bank & East Jerusalem, but it’s under blockade–siege, by air, land, & sea & that’s why the Gaza folks protested near the fence most of last year–& got murdered & maimed by IDF snipers.”

    • genesto
      genesto
      January 4, 2019, 5:49 pm

      Sure. Given the choice, I’d rather we build a senseless wall than continue to arm Israel while it attacks Palestinians.

      Fine, Donald, go ahead and build your damn wall, and then some, while we retreat into isolationism. After all, isolationism is better than endless war, right?

  8. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    January 4, 2019, 8:49 am

    In their ongoing pathetic attempt to legitimize racist Zionism and the resulting dispossession/expulsion of the indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arabs, “Israel’s” leaders are increasingly forced to reach out to fascistic regimes around the world for recognition and acceptance.

    Here’s the most recent example:
    https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/watch-benjamin-netanyahu-is-splashed-all-over-a-new-brazilian-stamp-1.6802088

    Video: “WATCH: Benjamin Netanyahu Is Splashed All Over a New Brazilian Stamp”

    “The stamp was revealed during an event held by Brazilian Christian friends of Israel, and bears the Hebrew word for ‘savior.'”

    Haaretz, Dec. 31/18

    “In honor of the prime minister’s visit to Brazil this week, the state of Amazonas has launched a new stamp celebrating 70 years of Israel’s independence with a photo of Benjamin Netanyahu.

    “The stamp was unveiled during an event held by Brazilian Christian Friends of Israel. At the event, Benjamin Netanyahu said ‘We have no better friends in the world than the Evangelical community.’ The stamp is also printed with the Hebrew word for ‘savior.'”

    “During his trip, Netanyahu met with Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. The two discussed Brazil moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel offered information and procurement opportunities to assist Bolsonaro’s flagship project, domestic security, including the sale of drones with facial recognition technology.”

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      January 4, 2019, 10:17 am

      The first thing Jair has done is cut the minimum age. And, as Netanyahu has tweeted, he said Brazil will move its embassy, the only question is not if, but when. Israel has been running all over S America and Africa, cutting deals with the local tyrant regimes. One of them is Brazil will be buying a bunch of made-in-Israel drones–Israel is #1 in drone exports, even though it’s the size of NJ & US military aid has long devoted about 2 5% of it to direct funding of Israel’s war industry so its in direct competition with US MIC.

  9. punterweger
    punterweger
    January 4, 2019, 10:08 am

    Israel is not even for everyone who is Jewish. Under its anti-BDS law numerous Jews have been refused entry.

  10. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    January 4, 2019, 12:26 pm

    How much longer is israel going to be afraid of the truth? How much longer are we citizens prepared to be fooled by this nation?

    • John O
      John O
      January 4, 2019, 1:38 pm

      Israel is a country that has failed to come to terms with its history. Stuck as I am here in the UK, I know exactly how that plays out – denial, stretched out as far as possible to avoid the later stages of the grieving process kicking in.

      • catalan
        catalan
        January 4, 2019, 3:09 pm

        “Israel is a country that has failed to come to terms with its history. “ John
        I can see that. I can’t come to terms with both my history or my future. A bunch of hours spent in offices making money to be followed by physical and mental decline and possibly painful and prolonged death. If a person can’t come to terms with our own meaninglessness why expect it from a country.

  11. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    January 4, 2019, 2:47 pm

    Daft Donald has called out all those wealthy countries in receipt of US taxpayers money and queried why America should be funding them. Zioland not mentioned but certainly fits the bill.

    No great panic for Israeli Zios though. If the $3.8 billion per annum is diverted instead to the MAGA priority Great Wall and America First homeland security then all the Israeli Firsters in the US led by Shellfish Adelson will no doubt step up to the plate and plug the sudden hole in the Zioland economy – won`t they ??

    https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/us-will-help-other-countries-but-not-wealthy-ones-trump/articleshow/66358926.cms

  12. bcg
    bcg
    January 4, 2019, 4:00 pm

    @Catalan: “If a person can’t come to terms with our own meaninglessness why expect it from a country.”

    Can you tell us what you want? It’s easy to tell from most peoples comments here what they want; some want one state with equal rights, some want Nakba II, etc. I can’t tell what it is you want, except maybe a prescription for prozac. What exactly is your position on the issues discussed here?

    • catalan
      catalan
      January 4, 2019, 5:00 pm

      “Can you tell us what you want?” Bcg
      Well I have accepted that Zionism is doomed and Israel is finished. So you could say I am here just to witness its demise. Also, I don’t think you are giving full credit to Mondoweiss commenters – there are many other topics discussed here. My favorite is the tribalism of Jews vs the universality of Muslims and Christians. Since Jews are tribal, they help each other out to get money and power. So I am trying to get in on all this money and learn about the tribal networks. You know, for personal enrichment.

      • bcg
        bcg
        January 4, 2019, 5:28 pm

        @Catalan: I can tell I asked the wrong question. It should have been,
        “Can you tell us what you want, without irony and sarcasm, if that’s possible?”

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 4, 2019, 5:29 pm

        “So I am trying to get in on all this money and learn about the tribal networks. You know, for personal enrichment.”

        With 42%? Good luck, “catalan”.

      • eljay
        eljay
        January 4, 2019, 6:29 pm

        || Mooser: “So I am trying to get in on all this money and learn about the tribal networks. You know, for personal enrichment.”

        With 42%? Good luck, “catalan”. ||

        It’s strange how, lately, he’s been boasting about how Arab he is but suddenly – when money and power are involved – he wants to be Jewish. It’s hard to know whether he’s an anti-Semitic Arab or just a self-loathing one.

  13. catalan
    catalan
    January 4, 2019, 5:40 pm

    “With 42%? Good luck, “catalan”.” Mooser
    You forget the 23 percent middle eastern. It shows that we, the Sephardim are true Jews that come from Israel. Whereas the Ashkenazi are Slavo Turks (judging from you more Turk than Slav). Also, it’s quality over quantity. It turns out that I might be related to Amadeo Modigliani (and a pretty amazing elderly gentleman from New York who might be my third cousin). Who can you claim relation to? Besides some Turkmeni sultan, at best?

    • bcg
      bcg
      January 4, 2019, 7:51 pm

      Can you tell us what you want, without irony and sarcasm, if that’s possible?

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        January 5, 2019, 11:57 am

        @jon66
        “I have Greek friends who take pride in the idea that their ancestors “invented democracy” but they wouldn’t list it as a personal achievement.”

        A totally different thing than what catalan is doing and implying.

        @Stephen Shenfield

        If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

        Feel free to be a loser if you chose to and it gives you a source of pride. For the record I think you’re wrong and don’t recognize you as any sort of knowledgeable or authoritative source.

        It’s only a word, which I used due to a seriously injured hand which interferes with typing. I could have used gone with a longer form such as claiming credit for the achievements of others indicates and serious lack of self worth and a hidden insecurity about one’s own achievements.

        Loser works fine despite your extremely weird interpretation and philosophy.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      January 4, 2019, 9:33 pm

      @catalan

      “Who can you claim relation to?”

      And that reflects on you in what way?

      Most normal people rest upon their own acheivements. It takes a true loser to try to bolster their cred by claiming a relationship to someone who has acheived something.

      Kind of like the way zionists try to lay claim to Jewish acheivements.

      It’s actually quite funny but in a very pathetic way.

      • catalan
        catalan
        January 4, 2019, 10:42 pm

        “It takes a true loser to try to bolster their cred by claiming a relationship to someone who has acheived something. “ oldgeezer
        But I am a loser and have no achievements to speak of. So the only thing I can claim is the achievements of others. You see, I am tribal, not a universalist like you. I am also of very limited intelligence or skill. Therefore, you can forigive me that I take pride in the achievements of the distant Italian cousins. Gotta forgive a man when he has nothing else.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        Stephen Shenfield
        January 5, 2019, 10:25 am

        I wish we all could stop labeling one another and ourselves as ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. To be called a ‘loser’ in the competitive struggle of an individualist class society should be taken as a compliment because it means you lack the ruthless, manipulative and selfish qualities needed to ‘win’. ‘Loser’ as an insult is a sign of social pathology.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        January 5, 2019, 11:17 am

        OG,
        “Most normal people rest upon their own acheivements”
        I wish that were true, but I don’t think it is. People often take pride/credit for the accomplishments of their ancestors, ethnic group, political group, etc.
        I think there is a difference between a general pride in one’s country, etc and the sort of accomplishments one puts on their CV. I have Greek friends who take pride in the idea that their ancestors “invented democracy” but they wouldn’t list it as a personal achievement.

      • catalan
        catalan
        January 5, 2019, 12:12 pm

        “Most normal people rest upon their own acheivements” oldgeezer
        But what about those of us without any achievements. Just mediocre Joes that are never going to paint Sistine chapels write symphonies or play a decent game of chess? Can’t we take pride in our distant cousins or ancestors?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 5, 2019, 12:34 pm

        “But I am a loser and have no achievements to speak of.”

        Didn’t Tom Jones already cover this?

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        January 5, 2019, 2:37 pm

        @Catalan

        If you can’t take pride in your own achievements or actions then you aren’t doing the right things.

        Take pride in an ancestor or relative’s achievements? Sure provided you aren’t dimwitted and self obsessed to the point that you somehow think it has any reflection on you. There is a difference between being proud for them and trying to reflect that on yourself.

        I am not surprised that you would. You frequently show your narcissism to all who read this site.

      • catalan
        catalan
        January 5, 2019, 3:41 pm

        “You frequently show your narcissism to all who read this site.” Oldgeezer
        I admit to any human failing. But I don’t get why that matters. In case you didn’t know – Zionism has lost and Israel is finished. Also tribalism is gone and is replaced by universalism. Why not just enjoy your victory? Think of me as a supremacist, tribalist, and narcissist remnant of times long ago. Your side won.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 5, 2019, 5:29 pm

        “Think of me as a supremacist, tribalist, and narcissist remnant of times long ago. Your side won.” “catalan”

        You should still be penalized for Balkan the thread.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        January 5, 2019, 10:05 pm

        “Can’t we take pride in our distant cousins or ancestors?”

        No.

        But you can take pride in being too sensible to take pride in your distant cousins or ancestors.

      • catalan
        catalan
        January 5, 2019, 11:10 pm

        “No. But you can take pride in being too sensible to take pride in your distant cousins or ancestors.” Roha
        So humorless. It was all in jest. Warren Buffet, a wise and generous man and also one of the wealthiest, said recently that the secret to happiness is love. It’s as good advice as any. So this year I plan to respond to all the hatred with love. I won’t get rich like him, surely, but maybe I will be happier.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        January 5, 2019, 11:52 pm

        I think this pride thing is too rigid. Here’s a quote in response to Tlaib and her thobe.
        “Like Representative @RashidaTlaib, I take pride in my Palestinian ancestry.”
        .”https://mondoweiss.net/2019/01/palestinian-inspires-tweetyourthobe/
        Is this woman incorrect in taking pride? Of course not.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 6, 2019, 4:58 pm

        “But you can take pride in being too sensible to take pride in your distant cousins or ancestors.”

        As that well-known model of a modern Major-General once said, while tormented with the anguish dread of falsehood unatoned, and contemplating his ancestors tomb:

        “In this chapel are ancestors: you cannot deny that. With the estate, I bought the chapel and its contents. I don’t know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are, and I shudder to think that their descendant by purchase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon!”

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        January 7, 2019, 12:01 am

        Most of us get our ancestors dumped on us, whether we wanted them or not.

        If you’ve actually made an effort to acquire them, by purchase, then you might have reason for being proud of them. (Assuming you’ve chosen a decent set. )

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      January 5, 2019, 11:27 am

      ” Who can you claim relation to? Besides some Turkmeni sultan, at best?”

      I’m a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the 5th of July.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      January 5, 2019, 12:05 pm

      catalan: “You forget the 23 percent middle eastern. It shows that we, the Sephardim are true Jews that come from Israel.”

      Since when does “middle eastern” mean sephardic? Are you 23% turkish?

      catalan: “Also, it’s quality over quantity.”

      Now that’s a real supremacist to say. But which quality would that be?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        January 5, 2019, 2:02 pm

        “Also, it’s quality over quantity.” “catalan”

        42% is less than 98-100%. About half, as a matter of fact. What “quality” do you have which overcomes this deficit of the right stuff?

  14. Talkback
    Talkback
    January 4, 2019, 6:12 pm

    A very interesting article about his propaganda approach:
    https://forward.com/news/2070/israel-aims-to-improve-its-public-image/

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