NY Jewish Week carries a disturbing article noting that rightist pro-Israel groups are screaming bloody murder at the United Jewish Communities campaign on behalf of northern Israel communities hard hit by the recent Hezbollah rockets attacks during the Lebanon war. What’s wrong? UJC is raising funds not only on behalf of Israeli Jews. It’s doing the unthinkable: it’s fundraising on behalf of Israeli ARABS as well! Imagine that!
A broad swath of center-right American Jewish groups is expressing shock and outrage that millions of dollars being raised by Jewish federations in North America for the post-war recovery effort in Israel is being used in part to help Israeli Arabs.
“To placate Israeli Arabs in the north who were celebrating Israel’s defeat is totally absurd,” fumed Helen Freedman, former director of the Americans for a Safe Israel. “Let the Arab countries take care of them. They are a fifth column that is working to support Hezbollah and Hamas, and we foolish Jews are saying there is no difference between Israeli Arabs and Jews who were victims of this war.”
Stephen Savitsky, president of the Orthodox Union whose own Israel emergency campaign merged with that of the United Jewish Communities, said…the idea of the [OU’s] campaign, Savitsky said, was to “raise money to help Jews in need.”
“There may be non-Jews up there [in northern Israel who were helped], but that was not the purpose of why we raised the money or provided the services,” he added. “We hope it is going to Jews because that is what we are here for — to help any Jew in need. … If we help in Haifa and there are non-Jews there, we should not discriminate. But we would not go to an Arab village or town to give services.”
A spokesman for the UJC said the money raised did not go to municipalities but rather to provide services for those in need — Jews and Arabs alike.
These people have a hard time remembering the supposed basis of the State of Israel. While it is a majority Jewish state, it is not supposed to be exclusively a Jewish state. It is not a Jewish theocracy. It contains Israeli Arab citizens. To their credit, the UJC recognized this and allocated a small percentage of its funds for Israeli Arabs. In fact, a quite cogent argument could be made that Israeli Arab villages suffered inordinately in the Hezbollah attacks and that funding should go to Israeli Arabs at least in proportion to their population (18%) if not the amount of suffering and damage they experienced which would be even greater.
I find it laughable that the Jewish Week reporter graces this group of Jewish racists with the descriptor “center-right.” Americans for a Safe Israel and OU centrist? In whose wild imagination? They’re the right side of our community and by no stretch can be called centrist.
The article makes clear that right-wing paranoia among some American Jewish groups knows no bounds:
Freedman said figures supplied by the UJC indicate that fully one-third of the money the UJC has collected is designated for Israeli Arabs. But Howard Rieger, the UJC’s president and CEO, said the “figure is on the order of 3 percent.”
When pressed, Freedman backed off the one-third figure. “But it sure doesn’t come out to 3 percent,” she insisted.
These are the actual numbers:
Rieger, when asked for a breakdown of the money, said that of the $92 million spent to date from the Israel Emergency Campaign, a total of $9 million, or some 10 percent [of what has been spent to date], “went to [Israeli] Arabs.” He said the campaign has thus far raised $329 million in pledges, and defended the decision to use the money to help Israeli Arabs and Druze.
“About one-third to one-half of those killed [by Hezbollah rockets] were Israeli Arabs, as well as Druze who serve in the Israel Defense Forces and died in the IDF,” he said. “We were getting kids out of harm’s way [in the north], and we think it is a fair and valid use of the funds” to help Israeli Jewish and Arab youngsters.
Rieger said his organization was asked at the very beginning if it wanted to treat Israeli Jews and Arabs differently and that “our answer was no.”
“We’re proud of that,” he said.
As well he should be.
As for this American Jewish leader, she’s proud of her race hatred:
“I am sure that most people who give to the UJC have no clue that a percentage of their money is going to Arabs,” she said. “I think they would be horrified.”
And a leader of Young Israel seems not to understand the meaning of prejudice and intolerance:
Steven Mostofsky, president of the National Council of Young Israel, said: “It’s not that I want to seem harsh or that this is an anti-Arab statement, but money raised from Jews because of a war against Jews should only be used for Jews,” he said. “There are plenty of Arab not-for-profits in the United States. They should be supporting the Arabs. … Any money that is raised because of the recent war should go to benefit the Jews who suffered in the war — those whose houses and businesses were destroyed and hospitalized soldiers whose families need support.”
Indeed, that doesn’t seem harsh or anti-Arab at all. Does it? I’ve got news for these folks. The Federation-based fundraising campaigns in Jewish communities across the U.S. proclaim their support for “Israel.” Israel includes the Israeli Arab citizens who live within it. Israel’s Declaration of Independence even proclaims this. If the UJC or these intolerant yokels want to change things their campaigns should make clear they’re raising money not for “Israel,” but only for a single group within Israel–Jews.
Mort Klein of the far-right Zionist Organization of American is always good for a racist quote and he doesn’t disappoint on this issue. He justifies refusing aid to Israel’s Arabs by mounting the old “dual loyalty” canard used for ages against Jews in our own country:
“…Many Israeli Arabs blamed Israel and not Hezbollah for the damage done during the war. That makes one legitimately question whether Israeli Arabs are as loyal to the state as Israeli Jews,” he said. “In my 13 years of speaking around the country, I regularly hear concerns about Israeli Arabs not being committed to Israel as a Jewish state, and whether this could undermine and endanger Israel from within.”
It should be noted that these sentiments come forth regularly from far-right Kahanist Israeli politicians like Avigdor Lieberman and Benny Elon. This is “center-right” opinion? It’s no wonder that the organized Jewish leadership is so conservative if opinions like these are labelled “center-right.”
It should be noted that not only are these Israeli Arabs citizens, they pay taxes, they serve in the Israeli police, they teach in public schools, they are social workers, they are journalists with Hebrew language newspapers and TV, they act in Israeli films and plays, and some of them serve in the IDF. And for all that they are deemed fifth columnists and enemies of the state by bigots like Klein and the others. It’s a shande for the Jews.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.