A few weeks ago one of my Israeli readers alerted me to an announcement by Beit HaTefutzot, the Museum of the Diaspora, that it would conclude its international meeting with the bestowal of the NADAV Awards to the far-right media advocacy group, LATMA, which created the We Con the World video, ridiculing those murdered by the IDF during the Mavi Marmara attack. In that post, I reviewed several other LATMA videos which were replete with anti-Obama material which even featured an actor playing him in Black face. At best, one can say that the producers of the video were ignorant of the entire tradition of minstrelsy and Black face, in which whites portrayed Blacks as buffoons and worse. Do I hear Israeli racism, anyone?
The relationship between the Museum and NADAV, a group whose ostensible mission is to strengthen Jewish identity, is a series of twisted filaments whose only common thread is the Russian Jewish oligarch, Leonard Nevzlin. The latter rescued Beit HaTefutzot from a serious financial crisis with a lifesaving $6-million gift and chairs its board. Nevzlin’s wife appears to run NADAV. So they’re keeping it all in the family. The fact that the Museum announced the event on its website and one of its key funders and board members is a sponsor of both the institution and NADAV indicates the clear overlap between the two.
This award has also become a reflection on Tel Aviv University, where the Museum is currently housed and some of whose faculty sit on its board of directors. One has to wonder whether anyone at the University spent any time contemplating how this award reflects on the academic reputation of the institution.
After the release of We Con the World, the propaganda feature was so in tune with Israel’s official government hasbara that the foreign ministry even publicly took credit for the video as an official government production, which it wasn’t. There was a little mud on someone’s face over that one. But you can’t blame the PR flack for making the mistake, since the anti-Muslim racism featured in the clip was completely in accord with offical government policies.
In a related matter, Haaretz (covering the story better late than never), indicates that Israeli law defines the Museum as the “center of the communities of Israel in the State and in the world.” The mission of Beit Ha-Tefutzot is to serve as a “center for Jewish dialogue that will enable non-Jews to understand the Jewish people.” One must ask whether the hosting the award of We Con the World by the Museum is the model of Jewish dialogue which founder Nahum Goldman had in mind. And whether the NAVAD Award represents another official Israeli endorsement of the racism inherent in it.
Not so, claims the Museum’s director, Avinoam Armoni, who told Haaretz and another source that the Award had nothing whatsoever to do with the Museum. Not so mysteriously, the Museum’s web page celebrating the Award has been “cleansed” of any reference to the video or LATMA. The official word is that the entire event was a “mistake.” Interesting though that the director only decided it was a mistake when Haaretz approached him for a comment. When I and Noam Sheizaf first wrote about it, it wasn’t.
Nevzlin’s NADAV is now attempting to weasel its way out of responsibility for the entire mess by claiming it honored the clip, but not LATMA itself. As if someone We Con the World is kosher entertainment while turning Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama into Nazis isn’t. C’mon Nevzlin, you give the award to the clip you give the award to Caroline Glick and all her disgusting fellow Muslim-bashers. Own up to your own embrace of Jewish hate.
They’ve even come up with this loo-loo of a public statement:
The clip caused, among many Jews a deep sense of Jewish pride during a time of conflict. The prize was given to this specific project for a brilliant use of modern media and achievement of extraordinary results in the wider world along with encouragement of a populist debate in the Jewish world.