Ha'aetz 28 December 2000

AN UNORTHODOX ITINERARY

By Israel Harel

Israel Foreign Ministry organizing trips in Israel in support of Palestinian propaganda.

The first few weeks of the Oslo War were hard not only on the citizens of Israel. In addition to their concern for Israel, Jews in many places around the world felt that the ground was burning in the diaspora as well. So many communities organized solidarity delegations that braved the trip to the Holy Land despite across-the-board warnings from all foreign offices.

Two weeks ago an Israeli spokesperson met with one such delegation. We came here to encourage you and get your support, they said, but instead what we got was (Palestinian leader) Ziad Abu Ziad. This would maybe make some sense in ordinary times, but at a time like this? That Israel should give him center stage to deliver his anti-Israeli propaganda? And with us as the audience? Jews who come to express their solidarity with Israel?

This week the same Israeli was asked to meet another delegation. When he inquired who the other speakers would be, he found that Ziad Abu Ziad was once again on the list. The organizers had nothing to say in their defense against the claim that only total derangement, if not worse, was the only explanation for what was supposed to be Israeli PR. Giving a podium to the enemy's best propagandists, from which to shatter the confidence of diaspora Jews in the righteousness of their people and of Israeli soldiers, is nothing short of deliberately sabotaging Israeli and Jewish fortitude, and all the more so when this is being done at a time of war.One such delegation, from a European country in which Arabs have been terrorizing Jews, was taken to Nazareth. Mayor Ramez Jerayssi, they reported, told them all about how Israeli policemen had deliberately massacred the Arabs. They were shown video clips shot by Arabs and cut to COGITO ERGO BOOM show only dead bodies, blood and funerals. When they tried to ask why they are shown nothing of the Arab vandalism, no shootings at the Israeli police and no footage of how the northern part of the country was cut off, they were told that this was Zionist propaganda.

Having successfully fostered such close bonds between the Jews of the diaspora and Israeli Arabs, the Foreign Ministry, which planned these visits, had but one more minute detail to complete as promised: to get the delegation together with the Jews of the Galilee, who had experienced first-hand the pelting, siege and road raids. But instead of this promised meeting, they were brought together with MKs Yael Dayan, Naomi Hazan, and Collette Avital. How foolish to think that Galilee residents would be the best to convey their own feelings. Professor Galia Golan, a Peace Now leader (and one of the people behind the ad published in the Arab press, blaming settlers for Arab terrorism) was also squeezed into this busy schedule.

On the third and final day of the visit, still in shock, the visitors were taken to Jerusalem. Now, they thought, they will finally have those long-awaited meetings for which they came here in the first place. But instead of following the plan and going to Yad Vashem, they were driven to the American Colony Hotel, a stronghold of Palestinian diplomacy and PR. The main item on the Jerusalem agenda, it turned out, was none other than Ziad Abu Ziad. With remarkable eloquence he explained that Israel and especially the settlers are the ones that waged the war. It is they who created provocation that the oppressed Palestinian people could no longer contain, and it is they who generated such desperation as that which led to the Ramallah lynching.

After lunch - at the American Colony, of course- there was no time left toexpress solidarity with Gilo. The organizers didn't think a meeting with soldiers (a photo with Israeli troops is a highly emotional and well appreciated momento for diaspora Jews) important enough. Although the delegates explicitly asked to meet Ethiopian immigrants, this was stricken from the agenda because of the long bonding meeting with Abu Ziad. Thus, directly from Mount Herzl, where they paid their respects at the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, the delegation was hauled directly to the airport.

The response of the Foreign Ministry: Our embassy in that country forwarded us the plan, at the delegation's request, and we simply scheduled the meetings they asked for.

(c) 2000 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved



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