Top Jewish Agency official: Stifling criticism of Israel could backfire


Some 1,800 Jewish leaders brainstorm new program to engage young Diaspora Jews.


In a sharp departure from the message delivered by other world Jewish leaders this week, a senior Jewish Agency official has warned that attempts in recent days to stifle criticism abroad of Israeli policies could ultimately backfire.

If you want to engage young people with this country, you have to teach them that it’s about wrestling as well as hugging Israel,” said Jewish Agency Director-General Alan Hoffmann in an interview with Haaretz. “If the message is that you can only hug Israel, you will lose these young people.”

Earlier this week, Israeli and American Jewish leaders made strong statements against supporters of the global campaign to boycott Israel. Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, convening in Jerusalem this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, and Malcolm Hoenlein, the longtime leader of the Jewish American organization, all used the term “anti-Semitism” to describe the boycott movement, with the latter going so far as to describe it as the “21st century form of 20th century anti-Semitism.”

Every single day when I hear Haaretz thud downstairs in my building at 5 in the morning and I go down and open the newspaper, what I see is the gap between the Israel that should be and the Israel that is, and that gap between what it should be and what it is is for me the most exciting part of living here,” said Hoffmann. “I think that’s what this country is all about, and it’s a very exciting message. And that’s what gets lost in the uni-dimensional way that Israel is dealt with by people who have a uni-dimensional understanding of things.”

‘The next Birthright’

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations happens to coincide this week with another event taking place in Jerusalem that Hoffman has been involved in spearheading: a three-day online brainstorming marathon to generate ideas for programs that would enhance connections between Israel and Jewish communities abroad. About 1,800 participants around the world have been weighing in online on proposals prepared by a forum known as the “Government of Israel and World Jewry Joint Initiative,” whose unofficial mandate has been to come up with the “next Birthright” – a reference to the highly successful program, launched in 2000, that brings young Jews to Israel on free 10-day trips.

The forum plans to incorporate ideas and feedback from the participants in this week’s session into its final report, scheduled to be presented to the government of Israel and world Jewish leaders in September. Among other recommendations, it will propose that the government of Israel double its investment over the next five years in educational programs that target Jews abroad from 400 million shekels a year to 800 million shekels a year ($114 million – $228 million). According to the proposal, Jewish institutions and philanthropists abroad would contribute 2 shekels for every 1 shekel allocated by the Israeli government toward these programs.

Asked what kinds of programs were being considered, Hoffmann said: “When we refer to the ‘next Birthright,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to Israel. That was a huge idea, something that engaged the minds and energies of world Jewry, and ultimately their pocketbooks. But another important arena we need to be focusing on is the college campuses and getting young Jews more engaged there.”

There’s all this talk about finding new ways to engage young Jews abroad and strengthen their connection to Israel. But no one seems to be talking about the elephant in the room, namely the occupation and the bad rap that Israel gets for it all over the world. That could definitely account for why so many young Jews abroad have a hard time feeling connected to Israel – couldn’t it?

I believe that to the degree that young people have a nuanced, complex understanding of Israel, they will have a nuanced complex relationship with Israel, and they will have the same kind of complex relationship as do your children and my children. There will be things they love about Israel and things they hate about Israel. Hopefully, there will be things about Israel they will want to fix, and that is what’s exciting for a young person. I totally agree with you about the elephant, but that’s part of the complexity of Israel that has to be wrestled with.”

This complexity, Hoffmann noted, is illustrated best in “Ari Shavit’s version of Israel,” referring to the recent published “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” by the Haaretz’s veteran journalist.

  1. #1 by Dante Ardenz on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    Yuck ! Thes same old paranoia,and self absorbing arrogance. These people are truly all mentally ill.

  2. #2 by bigcree1 on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    The self aggrandizing, obsessive compulsive, malignantly narcissistic supremacist jews. My gosh! Going on and on and on and on and on ad on about themselves and their failed ‘State’. It’s going down and circling the drain. The people of this planet of the more sane and rational mind have had it with this pusillanimous verbose lot of covetous parasite hardcore sociopathic Cult Kool-Aid drinking deluded dimwits. We will have our planet purged of this filth soon. Good riddance.

  3. #3 by kittie kittie on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    “Officials in Berlin view the Netanyahu government as being both incapable and unwilling when it comes to pushing forward in the peace process with the Palestinians. ”

    Jews don’t care what you think.

  4. #4 by mlo on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    Illegal occupation is a “complexity” what won’t these spinmeisters think of next.

  5. #5 by Ronald L. Waldron on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    Debate about Israel swirling at a fevered pitch:

    Now with debate about Israel swirling at a fevered pitch, I’m wondering how elastic a word like “connection” is actually understood to be by Jewish communities across North American. One of the figures profiled in the New York Times piece expressed his dislike for what he sees as the worshiping of a military state. Another dislikes the melding of religion with nationalism. Yet another is active with Jewish Voice for Peace, a prime mover of the BDS agenda.

    Certainly there are many Zionist who would seek to ban these individuals from the podium of Jewish institutional conversation. But I would also venture a guess that each of these individuals, plus anyone who has ever talked about Israel at the dinner table, or written about it, or joined an organization seeking policy change, feels some sort of connection to Israel. If they didn’t, why would they care? And if I’m wrong, and they don’t personally feel a connection to Israel, then their intellectual positions will at least force the kind of dialogue that is becoming more and more necessary.

    Separation of Church and State: Religion is an individuals faith that should never be forced on anyone. Yet all military actions, and all wars are caused by such conflicts.

    No one can name a Religion that does not involve itself into war after war, and claim that their
    belief is the true faith, everyone else is wrong.
    How many GODS are there if any? Zionist certainly are the Anti-Christ, while Jews believe
    they are GODS chosen people, the children of Israel, It leaves no room for an Arab son of God
    The only people I myself can see as truly moral, and stay out of these conflicts are atheist.
    What if there is no GOD. Would we then have respect for each other, have compassion for
    each other. Depend on each other against the elements of nature. Would we have a chance for
    PEACE. That of course is impossible. BUT if we could respect borders, and each other we could
    possibly have PEACE in the world. Would we all gain from such?
    NO WE CAN”T, as long as we have the ZIONIST goal of total GLOBALIZATION & CONTROL by them.
    That being the underlying cause of all wars. No borders respected. These conflicts, wars, genocides, and chaos , will continue.

    Israelis, even more than the FBI, have a habit of “showing up too early” for terror events. The notorious dancing Israelis, Mossad agents who were arrested on 9/11 for filming and celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center, had their cameras in place, trained on the Twin Towers, before the first plane hit. They even admitted their foreknowledge on Israeli national television, saying “Our purpose was to document the event.”

    ZIONIST Jews Hate Christians
    Moral Decay (TOP DOWN)
    Dysfunctional Government and religious institutions brings about dysfunctional society.
    Google: Harry Reed, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, our leaders that are
    influenced by foreign J-Street. Wall Street & insider trading. Look
    at the contributions to campaigns, the trips to Israel, the appearances before such groups.
    Next, the gain in personal finances.
    Zionism, Jewish extremism and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today.

    We are the anti-Zionist’s “think tank.” We are an important part of the anti-Zionist’s mission to produce and disseminate ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and how Zionism policy choices are causing serious problems to the American Republic and other nations around the world.

  6. #6 by Mark Propheter on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    “This complexity, Hoffmann noted, is illustrated best in “Ari Shavit’s version of Israel,” referring to the recent published “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” by the Haaretz’s veteran journalist.”
    Try this analysis Hoffman!
    My Promised Land: There never was or is a “Promised Land” for the Jew!
    The Triumph: Was actually a tragedy for the Palestinians, the Muslim World and for the people of the world in general who truly want Peace!
    Tragedy: is truly measured by your response. In throwing money at young Jews for there support of this illegal genecide state! That has no buisness operating in the begining of the 21st century!
    The jig is up Hoffman! No matter how much money you shell out to bury the truth!

  7. #7 by Allen D. Post on 02/20/2014 - 9:34

    Just how do young Jewish males, or any male for that matter feel about being violated by
    their Rabbi as an infant. Having his penis mutilated, and sucked on by a cult leader with no
    medical background preforming a circumcision. How would any parent allow such a thing.

    Then of course mothers allow their Jewish Pediatrician to open their young daughters
    hymen, for what reason? Who knows. It is a very questionable practice. Fathers are rarely told about
    such procedure. It has occurred more frequently then many realize, and is done to non-Jewish
    patients also. Many women question what was done to them later in life, not realizing the causes
    of sexual frustration etc. A cult more then a religion.

  8. #8 by nooralhaqiqa on 02/21/2014 - 9:34

    “to open their daughters hymen”? Indeed for what reason is this never mentioned? In that patriarchal society the rabbis know everything, I am sure the men are fully aware of this happening. If of course the hymen has survived intact this long.

  9. #9 by Isaac on 02/21/2014 - 9:34

    “Inviting young Jews on a free 10 day trip to IsraHell”. I wonder who is going to pay for those trips, normally is the US taxpayers. Thanks to those bastards we have in Congress.

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