Op-Ed: So What if He Apologized for Visiting Arafat's Grave?
Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPRThe author is CEO of 5WPR, 1 of the 25 largest PR Agencies in the US.
Imagine if a black leader led a group of students in a trip where they took a picture in front of the grave of a KKK leader who had lynched African-Americans?
Instead, try to imagine that an American Jewish leader (who is paid $482,000 by a Jewish philanthropy) took a pilgrimage to the grave of Baruch Goldstein and explained Goldstein’s “narrative.” When challenged, imagine said leader defended his action.
Do you think in either scenario said leader would remain employed?
Now, stop imagining. Barry Shrage, the president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies - Greater Boston's Jewish Federation - chose to defend a visit by a group of Harvard students to pay tribute at Palestinian Arab leader Yasser Arafat's grave. Arafat was an arch-terrorist, a mass murderer - of course, much revered by the PA - and despite it, Shrage apparently had no problem with participating in the glorification of his memory, opting instead to attack those who called out the visit. Awful and despicable behavior.
And perhaps what is just as sickening is that there is some sort of a debate brewing about whether it is permissible for a Jewish organization to pay for a visit to the grave of Yasser Arafat. Eventually Shrage "apologized" for the visit, but the damage to those students and to Israel is done. What a sign of moral bankruptcy that it was even considered.
Combined Jewish Philanthropies (the local Federation) and Hillel funded this trip, where students proudly took pictures in front of Arafat’s grave. Shrage first responded by claiming that critics were "on the extreme edge of the Jewish community" and "did not understand the complexities of life in Israel."
The extremist is Shrage, whose actions and behavior are well beyond the pale. Even those Jews and Israelis who support the peace process do not believe that Arafat was someone whose grave they can visit, let alone someone to admire.
While students blog on the Harvard College Israel Trek blog that “Our intention was not to honor Arafat, but rather to learn about the Palestinian narrative, of which Arafat is an important part,” donors to the Federation and Hillel are paying for young people to smile in front of the grave of a mass murderer. What, exactly, did they learn? Just what Aunt Annie must have in mind when writing her annual check to the UJA.
Perhaps Barry Shrage should go and live in Ramallah for a week as the proud Jewish leader he claims to be. As he says “We believe that understanding those challenges and opportunities from a first-hand perspective is the best way to create knowledgeable and informed supporters of Israel and to strengthen the bonds between the American and Israeli people.” Surely, after a week in Ramallah Barry Shrage will have a “much better understanding and connection with the Israeli people.” Think he’d return in one piece?
How much security will $482,000 buy an American Jewish leader in Ramallah?