The Price of Conscience for a Peculiar Breed of Israeli

True arbiting of a three-way slug-out in a world where bashing Israel pays, and pays well.

Steve Apfel,

OpEds Steve Apfel
Steve Apfel

The arguments and disclosures about to follow rely on a peculiarity found in Israelis of a certain type. You could say that Israelis of that type are a breed on their own. After all: picture a Greek, or a Scot who makes a living out of running down Greece or Scotland. If you can’t keep a straight face, then try it with an Israeli. Picture an Israeli who crafts a career, and makes good money out of bad mouthing Israel. A quick scout around NGO Monitor’s website  divulges case studies by the cupboard-full on this peculiar breed.

To skip to a practice not very different: we recall the paparazzi, and how they fed like vampire bats off the late Princess Di. A scandal story or photo of a stolen private moment made some media workers rich. So it is with Israel and her paparazzi hounders and "moral minders." A complete economic sector lives on stories that vaunt the inhumanity, crimes and misdemeanors of Israel’s leaders and soldiers.

“Made in Israel” crime pays. Europeans and anti-Zionist philanthropists write blank checks for stories on Israel behaving badly. The UN and BDS linked groups can’t get enough of this bad behavior. Fat rewards incentivize Israeli suppliers of the precious bad stories for world consumption. It’s no accident that a large part of this breed’s activity is spent on courting donors, which means dancing to the donors’ tune, which will always be, towards Israel, a bitter tune. The big money is never on sweet, pro-Israel tunes. You’d never get a sweet tune out of Holland, for one.         

“Dear Friends,” begins Hagai El-Ad, head of an aggressive trader of bad stories. “Today it was announced that B’Tselem has been nominated for this year’s Human Rights Tulip, the annual award given by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for promoting and supporting human rights in innovative ways. Our chances of winning depend on you and your vote. The Tulip is more than just a great honor. It comes with €100,000 to further human rights work.” Innovative is right. The bad news seller arms its Palestinian agents with cameras, the better to help them poke, prod and pry Zionist crimes out of the Holy Land.

That was one model. Another model has utility when Israel comes out of another war, and a rich harvest of criminal acts goes a-begging. Then partnering becomes the order of the day. Even while the last mini war with Gaza raged, a coalition of human rights outfits wrote to a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. The coalition of conscience wrote the Council to call for an immediate end to the targeting of civilian populations by all the parties; to condemn the deliberate, systematic and widespread targeting of Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in Gaza; and to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN Council duly arrived at the preordained verdict: “Guilty as charged” and B’Tselem was quick off the mark to leverage the verdict for ready cash: “The UN report on the 2014 Gaza Conflict cited our figures and findings more than those of any other human rights entity.”

Another outfit, Breaking the Silence, employs another business model. It cashes in not on cardboard cutout crimes but on cutout testimonies of anonymous soldiers, who happen to be on the outfit’s payroll. Buckets of money from Israel’s worst enemies change hands. Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence dances to the tune of Europe, Christian Aid, UNICEF and Oxfam. He admits it freely: the aim of donors is to end the occupation and bring on a Palestinian state, and on that score he secures the slush funds.

We’re now ready to adjudicate a three-way slug-out. The bill of fare consists of a PR executive from New York, two high-earning execs from a benevolent outfit, the New Israel Fund (NIF), and the Editor of Jerusalem Post. The PR executive wants to sue the NIF, the NIF wants to sue the PR executive, and both want to sue the Post. It would be the stuff of a roadside billboard, only there are no oiled bodies with bulging biceps. Instead of fisticuffs there are insults and lawyers’ threats, and the Opinion page of Jerusalem Post provides the roped-off ring and referee.  

The triangular slug-out boils down to a core question: is the NIF funding pro-boycott bodies, and if it is, would that make the NIF another enemy of the Jewish state? The PR exec insists that it is and it does; the NIF counters that it would never fund pro-boycotters; then qualifies it. Partial boycotts are OK. The NIF has no problem dolling out money to outfits which advocate a partial boycott: you know, those evil products made by evil settlers. Then semantics enter the ring, and no pugilist comes out with moral high ground intact. And all because the core argument should have been phrased in a different way.   

Had the argument been phrased correctly, the ungainly scrap need never have been. “Does the NIF dole out cash to bodies that make money from bad mouthing Israel?” There’s the nutty core. If such were the case, the PR man from New York City would have paraded, immediately, with the victor’s belt.