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About Ari Bussel
In the series "Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related - the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts - and so is this "point - counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.
Past Articles
Stop Blaming the Messenger
A Changing Reality
Fighting for Our Country, Fighting for our Lives
The Second Disengagement

Ari Bussel
Stop Blaming the Messenger
September 3, 2009
 

Ten days ago, the Los Angeles Times published an Op-Ed by an Israeli Professor from Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The article called for a boycott of Israel. It was neither on the front page nor written by a known anti-Semite, but the community is up in arms.

 

Suddenly, the local Jewish community in Greater Los Angeles finds the message delivered daily by the Los Angeles Times unpleasant. I say suddenly, but over the past three decades, there have been repeated calls to cancel subscriptions and withdraw advertisement dollars, to very little or no avail. The Los Angeles Times main readership remains Jewish, as are many of its advertisers.

 

If most readers were enemies of Israel, they would be dancing in the streets – like the Palestinians and other Arabs on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Their wholehearted support of the publication and general euphoria would have drowned out any opposing views. The uproar indicates the readership remains predominantly Jewish.

 

The morning of the article, I received a call from an outraged major donor to Israeli causes asking what to do. I took it in stride, suggesting the only effective way to fight is to withhold funding. It took him just a few minutes to call me back. He is a member of a very influential circle of friends whose names every person would recognize. Only one of these is a major BGU donor and half the University is named for his and his wife’s contributions.

 

Many were outraged and an Israeli advocacy group on campus called for a demonstration against the professor who authored the piece. The local Israeli paper ran full-page interviews with both the local Israeli Consul General and the President of the University. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles financially benefited from the Op-Ed when the American Associates of BGU bought a full-page ad. The Executive VP of the American Associates suggested he would "be happy to help [Dr. Gordon] pack” if he chooses "a home that more closely identifies with [his] values and beliefs.”

 

This was just the tip of the iceberg: today, Prof. Rivka Carmi, the President of BGU was allowed an equal platform and her main argument was, "like it or not, Gordon cannot be readily dismissed.” What a field day for the Los Angeles Times. Last week at an Anti-Defamation League function, I listened to a disgruntled person who had already contacted the Op-Ed editor four times. But suddenly, I found myself in the peculiar position of defending the newspaper.

 

Clearly, Prof. Gordon touched a very raw nerve, and has done so in the minds of major BGU donors. Money, my friends, is a great catalyst for change; withholding donor funding, a most effective weapon.

 

The problem is not an Israeli’s call to boycott Israel. Too many others in academia share harmful positions against the Jewish Homeland. Closer to home, UCLA’s David Myers caused a mini-storm with his Op-Ed published at exactly the same time in the Jewish Journal, a very left-leaning paper.

 

What is unique about Ben Gurion University of the Negev is the name it carries and its location in Be’er Sheva, the capital city of the Southern part of Israel, home to 900,000 Israelis. Across the street is its associate Soroka Hospital. David Ben Gurion’s vision for the future of the Jewish Homeland, and his realization very late in life of the need to support what is right, not what is politically convenient, is the reason he chose to be buried in the Negev.

 

At BGU one should see Israeli flags flowing, waving to all passersby and instilling pride in the student population. Unfortunately, much like the other leading Israeli educational institutions, the Israeli flag is absent, lest it offend. I asked a doctor on the faculty about this policy and received no answer. The only university in Israel where the Israeli flag flies and the Declaration of Independence is in every classroom is Ariel University Center in Judea and Samaria.

 

BGU and teaching hospital are unique for so many reasons. Allow me to present only one. During Operation Cast Lead, Be’er Sheva was in the range of Gaza rockets, only 60 seconds away. While visiting the Hospital with the who’s who of Israel, I noticed four Bedouin women, covered in black from head to toe, eyes barely visible. As these modest four sat on the grass having lunch, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, to ensure I was still in Israel and not Afghanistan. Four Muslim women is a surreal image knowing sirens may wail at any second. That exactly is the desert, where heat can create visions of flowing water springs.

 

I walked with the hospital spokesperson and she was not at all as astonished as I to see Arabs and Jews co-exist so naturally. All lived with the threat of death and destruction launched by the Hamas lunatics in Gaza. Hamas "heroes” clearly did not distinguish between the lives of the enemy or their own people. Only when equality is thus embedded and one cannot separate a Jewish doctor or nurse from a Muslim one, does it become clear to any observer Israel is not an Apartheid state.

 

But Professor Gordon thinks differently and the LA Times allowed him a platform, just as the Jerusalem Post provides another Israel basher each week. Why should this particular diatribe against Israel cause such a stir? Why complain so bitterly about the LA Times and not the J Post?

 

I believe both the Jewish and Israeli communities are finally fed up and have awakened to the realization the enemy is within. We, the Jewish community at large, should not blame the LA Times for its attitudes when Jews and Israelis freely spew the same venomous hatred.

 

True, dirty laundry should be washed at home, but boycotting Israel has long been heard internationally. Baseless, outrageous, counter-productive and basically a very valuable weapon, these cries against Israel stem from innate, deeply embedded hatred. It is purely and simply anti-Semitism. Professor Gordon’s demand is no different than Prof. Myers’s position that kidnapping Israeli soldiers is a justifiable weapon.

 

The aftermath of the LA Times article teaches two things: First, donor revolt is a very valuable tool and withholding funding garners attention. Second, the Israeli and Jewish communities have slowly accepted the realization they are at war. Now they must focus on the Israeli Public Diplomacy front, where the battle is raging and they are mounting incalculable losses.
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