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Editorial Article

Tel Aviv University - Yehuda (Judd) Ne'eman (Dept of Film and Television) has no problem accepting the Israel Prize (and the prize money) from the State he condemns

Alon Ben Shaul
3.3.2009

see the Editorial in Hebrew, go here

An Independent Day's Farce

The "prestigious" Israel's Prize is moving rapidly from the outrageous to the ridiculous. Last year it lavished the honor on Prof. Zeev Sternhell, who advised Palestinian suicide bombers to confine their terrorism to the settlers. This year it is the turn of Yehuda (Judd) Ne'eman of Tel Aviv Univeristy, for "film making." He has accused Israel of Apartheid and war crimes, called to boycott its institutions and supports the right of return. Yet again the far-leftists, inspired by a like-minded failed minister of education (Yuli Tamir, Labor Party), are scratching one another's back...

On 5 January; while the war in Gaza was still raging, "Judd" Ne'eman signed a petition that was presented to many embassies in Israel. He and many of his far-leftist anti-Zionist colleagues were calling for an urgent international intervention in order to stop Israel from continuing the war it was waging. According to them the war was not against Hamas, but against "the Palestinian people in Gaza."

He and the other signatories expressed the belief that "Israel’s atrocities will not cease without a massive intervention by the international community." They also called upon the UN Security Council to "convene an emergency session and adopt concrete measures, including the imposition of sanctions, in order to ensure Israel's fulfillment of its obligations under international humanitarian law." They cited Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and called the UN to prosecute those Israelis "responsible for grave breaches of the Convention." Ne'eman and his crowd did not stop there. They contacted EU embassies in Tel-Aviv to advise their governments to cease the dialogue in which Israel's status upgrade is under discussion.

It is intriguing to see how, time and again, the Ne'emans do not let any facts alter their one-sided arguments about the conflict in the Middle East. In their assault upon their own country, they knowingly ignore the events that preceded the recent military operation in Gaza. Not a word has been uttered by them about the constant barrage of missiles, rockets and mortar shells that turned the life of so many Israelis living around Gaza Strip into a living hell for so many years. They simply chose to ignore the plight of citizens in Sderot and Ashqelon, who lived under the shadow of mortal danger since the beginning of the decade.

On the contrary, in their zeal to condemn Israel, the new "prize winner" and other extreme leftists view the Palestinians as people who could do no wrong. "As if the occupation was not enough," they wrote in their petition, "the brutal ongoing repression of the Palestinian population, the construction of settlements and the siege of Gaza, now comes the bombardment of the civilian population: men, women, old folks and children. Hundreds of dead, hundreds of injured, overwhelmed hospitals, and the central medicine depot of Gaza bombed…  Even the 'ship Dignity of the Free Gaza movement,' which brought emergency medical supplies and a number of physicians was also attacked. Israel has returned to openly committing war crimes, worse than what we have seen in a long time."

Worst still, Ne'eman and his ilk condemn other countries for not attacking Israel for its "destructive criminal policy."  They exclaimed, "Except for some rather weak official condemnation, the international community is reluctant to intervene, The United States openly supports the Israeli violence and Europe, although voicing some condemnation, is unwilling to seriously consider withdrawing the 'gift' it handed Israel by upgrading its relations with the European Union."

And then the Ne'emans returned to their favorite theme – the Israeli Apartheid. "In the past the world knew how to fight criminal policies. The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves: its trade relations are flourishing, academic and cultural cooperation continue and intensify with diplomatic support."

Even by the standards of the Israeli far left, these extremist ranting words deserve special attention. The protesters crossed all boundaries of decency and fair argument, by pleading with outside governments to bring Israel to its knees. They lament the fact that their own country is still able to function, and they call upon the international community to bring it to the verge of impoverishment and isolation. Here Prof. Ne'eman advocates not only a policy that would disintegrate Israel's economy, but also an academic boycott, including of those colleagues who sit next-door to his office at Tel Aviv University. And without the inevitable comparison to the white minority regime in Pretoria no anti-Israel argument is complete today, when advanced by the Ne'emans.

"A Jewish life-support drug"

Long before the Gaza operation, Ne'eman was party to another initiative. It was called the Olga Declaration, the brainchild of a few radical leftists who scribed a mission statement in the Israeli town of Givat Olga. "The State of Israel," the document started, "was supposed to grant security to Jews," but instead, "it has created a death-trap whose inhabitants live in constant danger, the likes of which is not experienced by any other Jewish community…"

The petitioners asserted that the State of Israel was supposed to tear down the walls of the ghetto and instead "it is now constructing the biggest ghetto in the entire history of the Jews." For them Israel is not even a democracy, "as it has set up a colonial structure, combining unmistakable elements of apartheid with the arbitrariness of brutal military occupation."

The Ne'emans (some of them are known notorious ultra-leftists like Michael Warshavsky and Haim Hanegby – surely they will be next in line for the prize) wrote that since its foundation "Israel has lived by its sword." But they also have an interesting psychological observation. They note that an incessant succession of 'retaliations,' military operations and wars has become the "life-support drug of Israel's Jews." And now, almost four years after the beginning of the 'second Palestinian Intifada,' "Israel is up to its neck in the mire of occupation and oppression, while it goes on extending the settlements and multiplying the outposts, repeating to itself ad nauseam that "we have no partner for peace."

In their diatribe they write: "We are living in a benighted colonial reality - in the heart of darkness. Thirty-seven years after Israel conquered the last of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, over three and a half million Palestinians under its rule are penned up in their towns and villages. The term 'Palestinian State' - which for years embodied the peace option - is being used by many Israeli politicians as a mirage phrase, a spin on the reality of occupation: 'In the future,' they whisper with a knowing wink, 'the Palestinian entity in the Territories may be called a 'state'.' And meanwhile Israel is amplifying the devastation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as if determined to pulverize the Palestinian people to dust"

The Ne'emans propose an alternative outlook based upon the following principles: "Coexistence of the peoples of this country, based on mutual recognition, equal partnership and implementation of historical justice." All that may sound nice, but they do not hide their real intention. As people who are "united in a critique of Zionism," they condemn Israel's refusal to acknowledge the indigenous people of Palestine and on denial of their rights..." Then, "adding insult to injury, Israel persists in its refusal to bear any responsibility for its deeds, from the expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from their homeland more than half a century ago, to the present erection of ghetto walls around the remaining Palestinians in the towns and villages of the West Bank."

They inevitably reach the conclusion that "this country belongs to all its sons and daughters - citizens and residents, both present and absentees (the uprooted Palestinian citizens of Israel in ‘48) - with no discrimination on personal or communal grounds, irrespective of citizenship or nationality, religion, culture, ethnicity or gender. Thus we demand the immediate annulment of all laws, regulations and practices that discriminate between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and the dissolution of all institutions, organizations and authorities based on such laws, regulations and practices." In short, they see no reason why Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state.

Enjoying both worlds

Yehuda Ne'eman, like so many of members of the Far Left academic mafia, is a hypocrite. He already made clear that he would not refuse the Prize, awarded by the "judges" Prof. Ram Levi, director Orna Ben Dor and Dr. Anat Preminger. "I feel like I belong and I don't belong; the part that belongs very much wants to be a part of things and receive recognition, while the part that doesn't belong is kicking and telling me all the things a person has to say to himself and not to anyone else," he told Ha'aretz, after expressing delight at the news of the Prize. "With all the horrible things Israel does, I know that from the perspective of history, on the scale of evil, we are not at the top of the chart."  How comforting.

His arguments are as flimsy as his previous political accusations. He is willing to accept the honor of the state of Israel on Independent Day because, according to his logic, Israel is not as criminal as, say, Sudan, Burma, Zimbabwe or Nazi Germany. And if we consult history, the logic could be stretched even further, as far as the last world war. Maybe Israel is not that atrocious after all, at least not when it comes to his receiving a great big cash prize! Would he be willing to become a Zionist if it would win him the lottery?

But at least his gross hypocrisy is bizarrely consistent. Two and a half years ago, at the annual Haifa Film Festival where he won an award for his contribution to Israeli film, Ne'eman noted his difficulty in accepting a prize from the establishment. "As a filmmaker, I never shook hands with the government. So upon receiving this prize as well, my hand is trembling slightly," he said. He added that his films are meant to open viewers' eyes to Israel's political reality, because the military here trains young men to "abandon their bodies for the sake of the state."

The new prize-winner is not an ordinary anti-Zionist leftist. In addition to his support for the so called Palestinian 'right of return', meaning their right to flood Israel with Arab migrants and destroy it, he expressed in the past solidarity for the Palestinian "armed struggle," meaning terrorism. On one occasion he declared this explicitly on the podium of Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.

Ne'eman formed his opinion of the conflict from an early age, before 1948, as a child in the Jewish southern settlement of Mazkeret Batya. He recalls playing with Arab children who lived across the valley in the village of Aqir. When he made his first visit to the village after the war, he could only find empty houses and that left a mark on him. Yet, he joined the IDF as a combat medic, participated in what he termed as ''ethnic cleansing" on the Golan Heights during Six Day War and lived to tell the tale…

He has actually never studied film making, but was twice able to head the film department at TAU.  That says a lot about hiring standards there. His films were seen mostly by his personal friends and students, and hardly reached a wide audience. He himself admitted that his films were all failures, and at one point in his career he refused to make any more of them. "My works do not interest anybody," he once complained. That pathetic track record was lost upon the ''judges'' that awarded the prize to him. They regarded him as "subversive and full of vision…an artist, researcher, teacher and leader of artists, he has left his mark on crucial junctures in the history of Israeli film since the 1960s." They meant subversive as a compliment.

Let's challenge Prof. Ne'eman: Be true to your convictions and refuse the prize!! You still have a few months to change your mind. However, if you do go ahead and accept it, try to be brave for a change. In your acceptance speech, voice your opinion about the country you love to hate, call for the 'right of return' for Palestinians seeking a second Holocaust, make your South Africa analogies and denounce Israel's war crimes!  Put your mouth where the prize money is!

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Op-Ed articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il