Was the EU bilked?
by Jonathan Rosenblum
July 13, 2001
The European Union has been spreading its largesse liberally with respect to Israel. That largesse has taken two forms: large grants to various "peace" groups in Israel for the purpose of moving the Israeli electorate to the Left and support for groups opposed to all Israeli settlement beyond the 1967 borders.
After eight years of fairly open manipulation of Israeli elections by the Clinton administration, foreign funding to influence internal Israeli politics no longer occasions surprise. When Ramparts magazine revealed in 1967 that the CIA was funding the international activities of the National Student Association, the NSA was instantly discredited and ceased to be a force on American university campuses. Today Israeli groups in the employ of foreign governments, not always suspect of having Israel's best interests at heart, feel no need to either deny or apologize for their sources of funding.
From the EU's point of view, its money has been well spent. MK Roman Bronfman received $320,000 for the purpose of moving the immigrant community into the "peace camp," according to EU documents revealed by Maariv's Yoav Yitzchak. Certainly Bronfman gave his best effort. In the 1999 election, he took the lead in arousing hatred for Sephardim and the religious among new immigrant to attract them to the Left, and after the election he deserted the centrist Yisrael B'Aliyah partywas . If the events of the last ten months have conspired to drive the Russian immigrants back to the Right, it is hardly Bronfman's fault.
And the Four Mother's Movement's campaign for withdrawal from Lebanon was so successful that Israel was out of Lebanon before Four Mothers could collect its $200,000 EU grant.
Other grantees may not have had a large impact on Israeli public opinion, but they have furthered the EU's interest in undermining both Jewish and non-Jewish support for Israel abroad. Gush Shalom, which received $200,000 through its affiliated Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), describes Palestinian violence since October is a "legitimate revolt against colonial oppression." That line does not have many buyers in Israel in Israel today. But when ICHAD's Jeffrey Halper convinced Amnesty International to report that Israel plans to demolish 6,000 illegally built Arab homes, Israel's international standing took another blow. (The July 10 New York Times reported the actual number of demolitions of illegally built homes as less than 14 per annum.)
Henry Siegman of the Council of Foreign Relations has an enviable track record of publishing op-ed pieces in the prestige press critical of the Israeli government, and fully deserved the EU grant for a project he was supervising. And the EU-funded supercomputer containing records of all pre-1948 Arab-owned property in Jerusalem housed at Orient House will prove handy for all Palestinians laying claim to their former holdings or seeking compensation from Israel.
One of the EU's grants, however, does raise questions as to whether the mandarins of the EU were hoodwinked out of a fair piece of change: a $200,000 grant to Tzvia Greenfield's Machon Mifne for the purpose of "encouraging the settlement and religious communities in Israel to change their prevailing negative attitudes towards peace and democracy." The national religious community is variously described in the document as "democracy-suspicious" and "non-educated."
Enlightenment, however, is soon to follow. Greenfield's contract with the EU boasts that "Machon Mifne "enjoys a unique position among the right-wing nationalistic audiences", which have so far been inaccessible to the peace and democracy camp" and has succeeded "penetrat[ing] the uttermost bastion of national-religious education."
Perhaps Greenfield's benefactors were misled into believing that she presently has great influence by virtue of her frequent media appearances. Yet the frequency of those appearances reveal more about the Israeli media's fondness for curiosa than about Greenfield's influence. No doubt there will always be an audience, in Tom Segev's words, of "secular Jews who love to hate the ultra-Orthodox" for a woman wearing a resolutely unstylish wig who is only too happy to confirm all their stereotypes. But the very qualities that endear Greenfield to that audience make her anathema among those she would influence.
An invitation to Greenfield to speak in a national-religious synagogue in Har Nof was quickly rescinded as soon synagogue members found out who she was. And if that was the reaction in her own neighborhood, with a largely English-speaking, university-educated membership, one can surmise her popularity among the larger national-religious community.
In her new book, "They Are Afraid," Greenfield puts both the chareidi and national-religious communities on the psychiatrists couch. Among the former she finds "hysteria" and a tendency towards necrophylia. The latter, she concludes, are not so much moved by the theology of Greater Israel as by the desire run the country and turn the secular population into the "Messiah's Donkey."
The centerpiece of her book is her theory that the ultra-Orthodox world has allied itself with Binyamin Netanyahu, dubbed the Prince of Darkness, out of hatred for the Zionist state, whose failure they crave. To see the Zionist enterprise fail, the chareidim are prepared to engulf us in all-out war. (Here Greenfield is reminiscent of the Israeli playwright who had a chareidi chorus praying for war to provide jobs for the chevra kadisha.)
Greenfield's thesis does not explain the far greater enthusiasm for Netanyahu among those who proclaim the State "to be the first flowering of the Redemption." The point, however, is not the validity of Greenfield's thesis, but rather the likelihood that those described by her as "fascists" or "necrophyliacs" or as "leading spiritually desiccated lives" will be attracted to her banner. Be religious Jews ever so tolerant, modest, and self-critical, it is doubtful that Greenfield will win friends or influence many of them with such epithets.
So was the EU duped? Probably not. They were no more paying Greenfield to dialogue with the religious world than they were paying the Four Mothers to set up a dialogue with Lebanese women, as specified in the latter's grant.
Like many on the post-Zionist Israeli Left, our EU benefactors see religion as the source of Jewish national identity, and that national identity as the only thing preventing peace from breaking out all over. For without that national identity, we will eventually throw in the towel and decide that the price of living is Israel is not worth it.
In short, they paid Greenfield to discredit Judaism. And she delivered.
Related Topics: Chareidim and Their Critics, Israeli Society
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