Israel’s foreign relations improving, SWU gala told
by Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO – Amid growing indignation over aggressive Palestinian tactics at universities throughout the Diaspora, Dore Gold, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, provided a note of optimism at a StandWithUs banquet last Saturday night attended by over 500 Israel supporters.
Interviewed on stage by Waxie Sanitary Supply Chairman and CEO Charles Wax, Ambassador Gold said that Israel is improving its bilateral relations in the Arab world, in Asia, Africa, and in Latin America. He added that it is his hope that countries which are becoming Israel’s economic partners may also vote with Israel at the United Nations, where anti-Israel resolutions are perennial. Such a development, he added, may take a little time and need a little help from Israel’s friends in the United States.
The Festival of Lights Gala Dinner at the Marriott Marquis also heard pep talks from Roz Rothstein, founder and CEO of StandWithUs; Sara Miller, the organization’s San Diego director; and from an Arab-Israeli who has risked his life to defend Israel, Yahya Mahamid. Julian Josephson, who with his wife Jenny cosponsored the dinner along with Shirley and Harold Pidgeon, made a fundraising appeal. An Israeli acapella group, Kippalive, entertained throughout the dinner.
In his interview with Wax, Gold noted that Israel reached agreement with the United Arab Emirates to have a mission at the International Renewable Energy Agency headquartered in Abu Dhabi. While this is not the same as opening a consulate or an embassy in the UAE, it is a step forward, according to Gold.
He also pointed out that economic relations have vastly improved between Israel and China, India and Vietnam, and that India has been voting more often with Israel at the United Nations. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Uganda on the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe rescue raid, in which his brother Yoni was killed, he was met by seven East African leaders. On a later occasion, he visited Guinea (Conakry) in West Africa, and relationships between Israel and sub-Saharan African countries are spreading across the continent. Gold also praised the progressively improving relations between Israel and such Latin American countries as Argentina and Brazil.
People who say that Israel is becoming more internationally isolated “don’t know what they are talking about,” Gold declared.
Asked about Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s efforts to moderate his nation’s image, Gold responded, “Well I wish him luck,” adding that a Saudi Arabia that moves away from its previous sponsorship of terrorism to a more moderate role will benefit the Middle East and the world.
Asked what pro-Israel developments may be occurring in Saudi Arabia, Gold demurred, saying “much of what is going on cannot be disclosed.”
Concerning Iran’s efforts to establish a crescent of countries north of Israel – including, from east to west, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon—Gold said that Israel must make clear that as the war against ISIS is coming to a close, that Israel “cannot tolerate” a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria.
As for an estimated 150,000 missiles pointed by Hezbollah in Lebanon against Israel, Gold said these missiles are in blatant disregard of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which declared that the area between the Israel/ Lebanon border and the Litani River should be free of weapons. Nevertheless, he said, Hezbollah has been able to hide these weapons in some 200 Lebanese villages. He said the United Nations should act to remove that weaponry.
Asked about Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, Gold said the world needs to know that this is not really a dispute over territory, but rather one over whether Israel should continue to exist in the Middle East. He pointed out that Israel voluntarily withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and instead of promoting peace, the withdrawal resulted in an immediate increase of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.
So it’s not a matter of Israel simply giving up land to secure peace, whatever agreement is made with the Palestinians must also provide for Israel’s security, he stressed.
Prior to the colloquy between Wax and Gold, StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein outlined the hostile situation faced by Jewish students on numerous campuses. In August, Students for Justice in Palestine issued a document linking white supremacy, racism and Zionism and also said violence against Israeli interests is okay because it is a matter of “resistance,” Rothstein reported.
At UC Berkeley, she noted, attorney Alan Dershowitz spoke in favor of Israel, prompting the appearance in the campus newspaper of an anti-Semitic cartoon that looked like something out of the Nazi propaganda magazine Der Sturmer– for which the University felt compelled to apologize. At McGill University in Montreal, she said, pro-Israel students were prevented from becoming members of the student council. At Rutgers University in New Jersey, anti-Semitic cartoons were published on one professor’s website.
Even in training classes for high school teachers about Islam, some course material was slipped in vilifying Jews, Rothstein said.
To counteract such developments, StandWithUs has opened 18 offices around the world, staffed with 100 dedicated organizers who work with students and with community organizations to stand up against such vilification. The president of San Diego’s StandWithUs chapter, attorney Mitch Danzig, was successful representing on a pro bono basis a group of pro-Israel protesters who had been denouncing an Oakland, California, mural glorifying a Palestinian terrorist. The owner of the market at which the mural was displayed tried to sue the students for interfering with his business, but Danzig was successful in having the case dismissed.
Sara Miller, San Diego’s StandWithUs director, said anti-Israel forces are active on both the UC San Diego campus and at San Diego State University. She said the local chapter has developed programs for the college level, high school, and middle school, and may soon develop educational programs about Israel for elementary school students.
Another speaker at the dinner was Yahya Mahamid, an Israeli Arab who registered his protest against the kidnapping in 2014 of three Israeli teenagers, who were later found murdered — Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel.
Mahamid, who had worked in a Tel Aviv hotel, said he spoke out because his mother had taught him not to be silent in the face of evil. His courage earned him and his family death threats, and eventually he made alliance with StandWithUs, which came to his aid. Now Mahamid tells his story at venues around the world. In the last two months, he said, he has told his story in 120 speeches.
Josephson, in making a fundraising appeal, urged attendees to help protect their college-aged children and grandchildren against the “unbridled hatred spewed at them on campuses.” He added that pro-Israel Americans “must deal with the scathing cauldron of hate that confronts our children.”
Donald H. Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected] which. San Diego Jewish World along with The Moderate Voice is a member of the San Diego Online News Association. This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World.