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July 31, 2016 / 25 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Birnbaum’

Comprehensive Anti-BDS Campaign Launched at UN

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Over 1500 Anti-BDS activists bridged political, geographic, religious and generational divides to pack the UN General Assembly Hall for an anti-BDS summit hosted on Tuesday by Israel’s Mission to the UN. The event kicked off a larger initiative aimed at consolidating efforts to contend with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, fittingly entitled “Build Bridges, Not Boycotts”.

The day-long event grew out of a dawning realization that the State of Israel, world Jewish communities, and the numerous groups attempting to mount a response to BDS on their own, must join forces if inroads are to be made against the organization that has been attempting to pressure businesses, artists, and academics to blackball Israel for eleven years.

“YOU are the Iron Dome of the State of Israel,” Danon announced from the podium. “If we stand together, we can do this. One day you will tell your children – I was there when they stopped BDS.”

The call for unity was echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pre-recorded message and reiterated by a roster of keynote and workshop speakers that included Israeli Supreme Court VP Justice Elyakim Rubenstein; World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder; ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow; Son of Hamas author Mosab Hassan Yousef; CEO and vice president of World Jewish Congress Robert Singer and Soda Stream’s Daniel Birnbaum, as well as Frank Luntz; David Suissa; Emily Neilson-Winkler; David Sable; Alan Johnson of Bicom UK; actress Noa Tishby, and founder of Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Bassam Eid.

“I’m here today to get informed”, said Flo, president of student government at Brooklyn College, “we’ve had some issues on campus”. The 22 year old related the divisive effect that BDS can have on university life, “We have students who get riled up, and students who feel unsafe”.

For many of the students present the highlight – and the hero – of the day was reggae artist Matisyahu. The Jewish American singer had his own run-in with BDS last summer when was abruptly uninvited from Spain’s Sun Splash music festival following his refusal to discuss his views on Israel. After an ensuing uproar where the World Jewish Congress reached out to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the festival apologized, reinstated Matisyahu, and revealed that BDS strong-arming had been behind the decision to drop him.

When Matisyahu finally took the stage in Spain in front of a decidedly unwelcoming crowd, he belted out the song Jerusalem. The performer, who did an encore of Jerusalem at the UN on Tuesday, has since become a vocal anti-BDS activist.

“When you see someone like Matisyahu, who is so much bigger than you, and he’s standing up for what you believe in, it makes you feel like there’s someone behind you. You’re not alone”, said Rambam Mesifta student Naftali, at the UN for the day with friends from his Lawrence, New York high school.

Although so far the teens have so only encountered anti-Semitism on social media, they say are preparing for the day it will become face-to-face, which they consider all but inevitable. The boys are also fans of their host for the day. “I admire Ambassador Danon because he uses his power to take a stand and make a difference, instead of just having power for the sake of it”, explained Eli, another Rambam Mesifta student. Along with the rest of the participants, each of the friends left with a copy of A Guide for Combating Modern Day Anti-Semitism.

After a moving speech by Justice Rubenstein, who closed his remarks by proclaiming Am Yisroel Chai, several attendees were overheard expressing doubt that the BDS situation would ever improve. 62 year old New Yorker Sol was more optimistic. “Don’t give up, even miracles can happen,” he reminded those nearby.

As if to help Sol make his point, not 10 minutes later in the UN General Assembly – not normally the most embracing environment for Israel – 1500 voices could be heard singing the Israeli national anthem, HaTikva.

Stephanie Granot

SodaStream Forced to Lay Off Last PA Workers Thanks to Terror & BDS

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

The SodaStream plant in Lehavim was forced to lay off the remaining 74 Arab workers Monday who had transferred with the company in October from the Palestinian Authority.

SodaStream produces a small machine for homemakers to create their own fizzy drinks.

There was no choice. SodaStream had been forced to move from its site on the “other” side of the 1949 Armistice Line due to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement ending the jobs of 500 PA workers.

A boycott of Israeli products in PA-controlled territories had proved effective, persuading SodaStream there was no point in remaining in the area.

The BDS coordinator in the PA capital city of Ramallah – Mahmoud Nawaja’a – called the loss of the jobs at SodaStream “part of the price that should be paid in the process of ending the occupation.” But then, Nawaja’a was not one of those who lost his livelihood.

Last year’s European Union labeling requirements forcing Israeli companies to indicate whether their products were made in areas outside of pre-1967 Israel only aided and abetted the BDS boycotts.

The welcome move by the British government last month to ban the public sector boycotts of Israeli suppliers came too late for SodaStream’s PA Arab workers.

In addition, after the start of the terror wave, Israel cut off work permits because many of the murderous terrorists attacking innocent civilians were found to be PA residents with work permits and no criminal records.

That was the employment death knell for the PA workers who had been able to move with the company to its new location in Lehavim.

“There is no hope in Palestine,” Anas Abdul Wadud Ghayth told Voice of America. Ghayth is one of the Arab workers from the Palestinian Authority. “There is little work; we can’t be happy there like we were happy here.”

The company said it would fight to get the work permits back for its PA Arab employees.

“If the government of Israel does not allow the Palestinians to get to their jobs, I will bring those jobs to the Palestinians. That is not a threat. It is a fact,” said Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream’s CEO.

According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), 58,000 Palestinian Authority residents still hold permits to work in Israel. Another 27,000 are working for Israeli businesses in Jewish communities and industrial zones in Judea and Samaria.

Hana Levi Julian

Lessons for Israel-on-Campus from Scarlett Johansson

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Scarlet Johansson has demonstrated tremendous courage in facing down the anti-Israel, double standards of Oxfam and other organizations that trade in condemnation of the Jewish state. SodaStream, for which Johansson now serves as global brand ambassador, employs 500 Palestinians and 400 Arabs from Eastern Jerusalem. SodaStream’s Maale Adumim factory in the West Bank offers both a mosque and a synagogue, and Jewish and Arab employees share the company cafeteria together.

Last January, SodaStream CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, stated in an interview with Arab publication Al Monitor that “We practice equality and full cooperation both on the job and off it.” And upon receiving an invitation to the meet the Israeli President and receive an award, Birnbaum brought guests that included some of the Palestinian employees from the Maale Adumim factory and subjected himself to the same security checks.

Still, Johansson was condemned by Oxfam for associating with a company they claim contributes to the “denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” One would have expected her to buckle. After all, she is, while Jewish, not a professional pro-Israel spokesperson. Many have no idea that she’s even Jewish. Yet she responded by resigning as Oxfam’s global ambassador due to a “fundamental difference of opinion” and stood up for the Jewish state against ferocious international assault.

Bravo!

It’s a lesson that should be taken to heart by those who are concerned that Israel cannot win arguments in the marketplace of ideas.

Executives at Hillel and other Jewish campus leaders have expressed consternation at my organization’s announced plan to stage large-scale debates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to demonstrate the fearless conviction that Israel can win arguments in the marketplace of ideas.

Many have written to me pleading that dialogue is better than debate. They believe our debate series across the country will undermine harmony on campus and create friction and tension.

If only.

It’s time American Jewry faced up to facts. There is no harmony at the nation’s most troublesome campuses. There is, rather, an active, militant, and growing attempt to delegitimize Israel with Jewish students and other Zionists steadily losing significant ground. It’s happening on prominent American campuses, with leading academics from Yale, NYU and Northwestern, among others, supporting the American Studies Association boycott of Israel. It’s happening in Hollywood, whether it’s Emma Thompson’s protest of an Israeli theater group’s participation in a 2012 Shakespeare festival in England, or Elvis Costello cancelling two performances in Israel out of “a matter of instinct and conscience,” or Stevie Wonder not performing in Los Angeles at the gala benefit for Friends of the Israel Defense because he has “… always been against war, any war, anywhere,” or Roger Waters, former front man of Pink Floyd, branding Israel a “racist apartheid” regime.

But the lack of response to such anti-Israel sentiment is not because of cowardice or impotence but because American Jewry – especially those working on campus – has yet to accept that we have a battle on our hands.

There is noone to talk to at the BDS movement. These are people who hate Israel and employ garish double standards, wanting to punish one of the most humane democracies on earth while they overlook the glaring human rights abuses of nations like China and large swaths of the Arab world. They want to punish Israel even more than they want to stop the slaughter in Syria.

It’s time that we accept that for many campuses, organized, rules-based debate is exactly what is required.

Trying to secure pro-Israel speakers on campuses like UC Irvine or McGill can result in the kind of dangerous riots and chaos that prevented former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, Natan Sharansky, and Benjamin Netanyahu, from even being heard. Such hooliganism has been common in Britain for years where, for example, Deputy Ambassador to Britain Alon Roth-Snir was prevented from speaking at the University of Essex, Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was shouted down at Oxford by shouts of “Itbah Al-Yahud” [Slaughter the Jews] and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and at Edinburgh where Ambassador Daniel Taub, despite bring protected by a small army of British police and Israeli agents, still had his lecture disrupted.

Debates are different, inviting as they do from the outset the other side to present its case. The idea is not to bring anti-Israel speakers to Hillel, but to organize the debates in neutral, leading University venues where Israel’s case can finally be made.

I am traveling back to Oxford University, where I served as Rabbi for 11 years, for a debate on Iran, and the threat it poses, at the Oxford Union on 6 March. There will be many detractors of Israel, to be sure. But as I learned with the tens of debates I personally organized at Oxford, there is no better way to communicate one’s message than to demonstrate fearlessness and a belief in the courage of one’s convictions.

The Union is famous for its debates, something at which Oxford leads the world. It was at Oxford that I started the first modern debates on science and religion, featuring the world’s leading atheists like Richard Dawkins. Later I would debate the world’s other most famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens, at the 92nd St Y, a debate that has garnered nearly a million views online. In each of those cases there also was the assumption that religion could never hold its own against a modern science. But the many religious people who engaged Dawkins and Hitchens helped to demonstrate the intelligent side of religion and win over adherents.

I am astonished that our community is afraid of Israel debates. Does it stem from fear that Israel can’t defend itself? That students are not fair and will immediately support the Palestianian side?

Sometimes you have to accept that you have a battle on your hands and the only way to move forward is to embrace the fight.

The only bright spot in the failed campaign of Mitt Romney was the night he stunned the world in Denver with the power of his ideas and presentation in debate. Adlai Stevenson began turning the tide of Soviet propaganda when he engaged the Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin in debate at the United Nations, challenging him directly on his assertion that there were no offensive missiles in Cuba. Until then the communists were able to assert their bullying views in international forums almost with impunity. And that’s why Stevenson’s retort to the Soviets is today regarded as a classic moment.

The same applies to Israel’s need to fight on campus with its most eloquent spokespeople.

In my last column on this subject I argued that while falafel parties and Israeli dancing are important, there is no substitute for the kind of intellectual inspiration that can be offered in intelligent, rules-based debate. We are not the people of the matzo ball but the people of the book. It’s time to win the world over to our ideas by overcoming our reluctance to share and defend those ideas.

It is the purpose of our organization, This World: The Values Network, to offer the world’s foremost defenders of Israel, at our expense, along with an advertising budget and PR support, to pro-Israel campus organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who are prepared to help organize these debates.

If your organization qualifies and if you’re at a campus where Israel is under siege then please reach out to us.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

How Scarlett Helped the Palestinians: the hypocrisy of Oxfam

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

I was the president of my university’s chapter of Oxfam during my senior year of college. That year, together with other members, we organized a large, university-wide Hunger Banquet. The idea is simple, clever, and powerful: invite first-world college students interested in learning more about world hunger to a banquet. Then, randomly separate them into three groups, based on actual statistics about world hunger. Those from “rich countries”— about 15 people—sat at tables and received a three- course meal, with delicious, untouched food left over for about 30 more people. Those from “middle income countries” –around 30 people, received rice and beans, and had to sit on chairs without tables as they ate. Those from “poor countries,” about 50 people, had to sit on the floor and received only a cupful of rice for dinner. As the students ate their respective dinners and contemplated this unfair arrangement, I gave a talk about hunger around the world. The “first-world” students gazed sorrowfully at their hungry friends sitting on the floor, and were frustrated by the fact that they were not allowed to share the extra food with them. The event was eye-opening for my fellow students, and afterward, many donated money to Oxfam to help alleviate world hunger. I regret hosting that event.

I regret my involvement with Oxfam during my time in college.

Because I realized—too late— that Oxfam chooses to be blind and hypocritical. By attacking Soda Stream, a company that actually lifts the Palestinian people out of poverty by providing them with well-paying jobs close to their homes, they are inflicting poverty on the very people they claim to help. Even when Palestinian workers speak out against the boycott, their entreaties fall on deaf, self-righteous ears.

Scarlett Johansson was right to cut ties with Oxfam because the organization is morally bankrupt. If they truly cared about the Palestinians in the West Bank, they would realize that the highest form of charity is to provide a person with gainful employment, not to facilitate handouts to corrupt leaders with Mercedes-Benz addictions. Billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority do not reach the Palestinian people. The CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum, has said that he remains committed to the Palestinian workers and will not “throw them to the street,” but also admitted that the West Bank factory has been “a pain.” Thankfully, he cares enough to keep his business in the West Bank, for now. But what happens if the media pressure and boycott cause the company too great a loss? Who could fault them for moving the factory somewhere else? If that happens, Oxfam will be to blame for harming hard-working Palestinians who, after decades of conflict, just want a chance at a stable life and a future for their families.

In fact, raising the economic level of the Palestinian people will lead to more stability and, as a result, exactly what organizations like Oxfam claim to want for the developing world—better education, accountable leadership, and a peaceful state that continues to do business with Israel in a cooperative, productive way.

So don’t worry, Scarlett. Don’t feel guilty. You did the right thing. And I hope that Oxfam learns its lesson.

Roni Bat Lavi

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-scarlett-helped-the-palestinians-the-hypocrisy-of-oxfam/2014/02/03/

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