Backtrack on Student Trip to Arafat's Grave
Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, has formally apologized for his charity's sponsorship of the Harvard College Israel Trek that resulted in a tribute at Palestinian Arab leader Yasser Arafat's grave, TruthRevolt reported Friday.
Shrage came under fire several days ago for publishing a letter about the controversial visit, claiming that pro-Israel bloggers deriding the visit were "on the extreme edge of the Jewish community" and "did not understand the complexities of life in Israel."
Shrage backtracked on his comments Friday, noting that he failed to see both sides of the role of pro-Israel blogging.
In yesterday’s message I emphasized the dangers of bloggers and others who use the power and reach of the internet to distort meaning. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the work we do in support of Israel every day would never accuse CJP of using a mission to glorify Yasser Arafat. Of course that kind of messaging ultimately distorts reality, weakens our community and worse yet weakens the ability of people like our trek organizers to do their work: spreading Israel’s message and strengthening Israel Advocacy.
The Jewish community and the State of Israel are beset by many enemies, who privately wish for and publicly call for our eradication. They hardly need the assistance of some who are eager to spread distortions and facts taken out of context far and wide on the internet.
But I failed to also point out that bloggers can serve a useful purpose. They can closely monitor the work of the Jewish community. Bloggers who operate with adherence to facts and proper context keep us on the right track and expose weaknesses that, if addressed can ultimately strengthen our community.
The apology also included an apology to TruthRevolt over the comments, as well as a statement condemning the visit, which did not appear on the official itinerary for the trip.
"While the dialogue with Palestinian leaders was essential to the purposes and success of the mission, the photo at the grave was deeply offensive," Shrage wrote. "Yasser Arafat was a vicious terrorist who caused the death of thousands of innocents but in addition, his hatred of Israel caused him to destroy a promising peace process."