This past Wednesday evening, our community welcomed The Honorable Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. Due to security concerns, we were unable to open the event to our entire community. The following are some of his insights:
- Iran continues to be the number one concern for the State of Israel. They continue to fund proxy terrorist groups in the region that encircle Israel, including Hezbollah in the north, Hamas in Gaza, and continue to support Palestinian terrorism by offering to pay $7,000 to those who attack Israeli citizens.
- Anti-Semitism continues to escalate around the world. The United States is not immune. In 2014, the FBI reported that 58% of all hate crimes in the United States were against Jews and the Jewish State. The next largest group were Muslims at 16%.
- The “3 D’s – demonization, double standard, delegitimization. There are tremendous efforts across the world to impugn Israel with at least one of these monikers.
Israel is demonized by being compared to Nazism, Gaza to Auschwitz, and accusations of genocide. Recently at the United Nations, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas literally accused Israel of genocide. Ambassador Dermer shared the following statistic -- since 1920, which many see as the beginning of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (96 years), 20,000 people in total have been killed on both sides of the conflict. The Ambassador shared stories of meetings with his counterparts from other countries who all grossly overestimate the number due to the attention the conflict receives. How does this compare to 900,000 killed in Rwanda, 400,000 in Darfur, and the approximately 300,000 in Syria in just the past five years?
There is the double standard that Israel is held to different than all other countries. Israel is not perfect, yet its military continues to be pointed out as perhaps the most moral army in the world. The IDF goes to great lengths to protect innocent Palestinians, including Israeli soldiers who have lost their lives protecting them.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is focused on thedelegitimization of Israel. Ambassador Dermer said he can understand organizations who wish to boycott based on a set of principles that are applied equally to all others. Sadly, the BDS movement is singularly focused on the State of Israel. Therein lies the problem.
This May, the United Methodist Church will have its convention in Portland. In June, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church will do the same. Both will raise resolutions to advance boycotts against Israel. It is a major moment for our community to “stand up and speak out” – and the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council is already taking steps to advance our agenda.We will soon tell you how you can get involved.
What is so disheartening about Church groups boycotting Israel is that throughout the Middle East, Christian communities are being decimated. There is only one country where Christians are free and safe – in Israel. In fact, Israel’s Christian population is now five times larger than it was in 1948. But Christian groups want to divest from Israel – and no other country in the region?
The Ambassador believes that there is absolutely legitimate criticism of Israel. He broke groups into two categories – “enemies and adversaries.” Enemies are solely focused on harming Israel. Adversaries, however, raise critical issues and desire ways to improve Israel.
In closing, Ambassador Dermer asked everyone to continue to support the State of Israel. Always start with the positives – the only democracy in the Middle East. Plus, the myriad of ways Israel is transforming the world through science and medicine, technology, agriculture, and water technology. Moreover, Ambassador Dermer highlighted three gifts Israel offers the Jewish people – a “voice of our own” (in the past, Jews had to ask others to plead our case), a refuge (for centuries Jews were persecuted with no place to go), and the ability for Jews to defend ourselves.
This is the third time (at the event I mentioned it was only the second, but have been corrected) Israel’s Ambassador has been to Portland. In 1974, then Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin came, and in 1988, Ambassador Moshe Arad visited Portland. Let’s hope it does not take another 28 years for a visit.
We are truly grateful to Ambassador Dermer, and his wife Rhoda, for making time to visit our community. Moreover, we are proud of our strong partnership with the Israeli Consulate, including Consul-General Andy David, in San Francisco who works so closely with us.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is again proud to partner with Kesser Israel and Jewish Family and Child Service in raising funds for the Passover4All/Maot Chittim Project -- guaranteeing some 120 families (350+ people) will have Passover meals. A gift of just $36 will purchase a kosher chicken, eggs, matza, gefilte fish, potatoes, and wine for the holiday.
Our goal again this year is to raise $5000 in ten short days -- start now by clicking here. 100% of every donation will go to purchase food box items, which will be distributed during Good Deeds Day on April 17. Help us in this effort and make Passover available for all in our community.
Speaking of Good Deeds Day on April 17, we encourage you to volunteer with family and friends in a wide-range of community activities (family-friendly options are available). We also will have a Hand to Hand Household Item Donation Drive. And, new (!), this year, all projects are being held on the Schnitzer Family Campus in conjunction with J-Serve Day of Teen Service (a great way for 6th - 12th graders to earn service-learning hours).
Good Deeds Day is presented annually by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. We are delighted to partner with the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and our many project sponsors and community supporters. Register now! Any questions, please call 503-245-6449 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.