We are the people

We are the people; the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that the haters, the anti-Semites and the anti-Zionists refuse to acknowledge. We are the people whose integrity, whose values, whose right to be is called into question by those who, for reasons unfathomable and ominous, choose to point a bloody finger. We are the people who, surrounded by sworn enemies, refuse to be intimidated.

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We are the people who live by the Talmudic teaching: ‘for whoever destroys a soul, it is as if he destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world.’ Yet we, in honouring our own basic human right to survive are compelled to fight the war on terror on two fronts, here in Israel and on the world’s stage.


We are the people for whom Tikkun Olam (healing the world) is a prerequisite. We teach our children to respect the other and the world around us. We are the people whose army operates by a code of conduct that demands purity of arms and an unprecedented level of humanitarianism in our defence while facing an enemy that thrusts its women and children in the line of fire, that goads and taunts. We, who must rise above and beyond the call of duty, refuse to be defined by the warped perceptions of the inciteful and the incited and those deceived ones who would do us harm.
We are the people who when mourning our dead also mourn the casualties of our adversaries. We are the people who, no matter how committed or otherwise we are in our faith, will ask forgiveness from God even when we are not at fault.

We are the people who, when disaster strikes anywhere in the world, are first on the front lines, mobilising medical, search and rescue squads and post-trauma experts to repair the shattered lives of devastated populations delivering them from catastrophe to reconstruction and rehabilitation. Whether it be famine in Kenya, outbreaks of Ebola in Sierra Leonie, typhoons in the Philippines, earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in the USA, it is we who will dig deeper and delve further in order to save a life, even the lives of sworn enemies who pray for our demise.

We are the people who speak the universal language of healing, of caring. Since December 2013, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have medically treated more than 2,000 Syrian casualties of the Syrian civil war, many of them women and children, and sent them to Israeli hospitals for further care. When dehydrated refugees looking for safe haven from the Syrian battle ground landed on the shores of Greece, it was a team of volunteer Israeli medics that came to their aid. As Former Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres said, “We are all human beings. Who can be indifferent to the sight of this horrible massacre, the sight of children in small coffins, and of screaming mothers?” Medical assistance to Syrian civil war casualties, the IDF says, is a humanitarian initiative.

We are the people who, despite suffering a daily onslaught of indiscriminate car ramming, shootings and knife attacks, persist in saving the lives of babies and children with life-threatening heart defects from Gaza to Tanzania. Children and their families from developing countries as well those from Syria, Iraq, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Romania are brought to Israel for life-saving surgery by top paediatric surgeons regardless of religion, race or creed. Israel, in her humanitarian mission, does not discriminate.

We are the people who have little choice but to abide the slander, to deflect the poison pen arrows and victimisation of our people with diplomacy and good deeds, lest we offend the meek critic.  The world watches us and waits to trip us up. Erroneously  described by a former French Ambassador to the UK (Daniel Bernard) as, ‘Israel, that shitty little country,’ we are more inclined to be defined by the great Greek philosopher Plato when he coined the prophetic  phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’  Israel, so poor in natural resources, has had no option but to pool its brainpower in order to survive and thrive and to support those who need our help, because we are committed to salvation.

We are the people who deliver. From ground-breaking irrigation and water purification processes to agricultural advancement, from life-saving cures to terror-busting cyber security and from technological and scientific breakthroughs to ecological and life-enhancing inventions, we lead where others follow. Many millions of people around the world owe a debt of gratitude to that uniquely Israeli chutzpah that compels us to push the boundaries of discovery to new frontiers and to share it, loudly and proudly, with a world that needs Israel more than it cares to admit.

We are the people, the citizens of the glorious yet tiny State of Israel – one of the smallest nations on the planet. Half her area is desert and only 20% is arable, and so it is that we, the people have replaced the mantra, ‘location, location, location’ with a far more fitting description:’ innovation, innovation, innovation.’

And thus, we the people of the State of Israel ask you, beg you, the people of the rest of the world not to define us with ridiculously ill-fitting and ill-willed labels as you often do. In this tiny strip of a country, we unite as a force for good to heal the world. Ours is a positive, life-enhancing, life-saving contribution. We are the people who believe in saving the world. Let us be defined for that.

We are the people. Am Israel Chai

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Advocate IsraelClowns to the left of me,  jokers to the right,  here I am stuck in the middle with you, crooned Stealer’s Wheel in 1972. And here I am, in Israel in the year 2016 – and all the jokers and all the clowns are busy blogging, posting and tweeting their political differences when, in fact, what is really needed around these parts is, dare I say it, more unity and less bitching about the political leanings of the other.

Don’t get me wrong. Free speech is good, actually, it’s great and it is the very underpinning of  democracy, one of the principles upon which the State of Israel stands. Political persuasion is a matter of free choice and not forced upon us by dictatorial regimes, as practiced by the near neighbours. Here in Israel,  we listen to the political jargon of would-be leaders, we evaluate promises, false or far reaching, we watch party political broadcasts and we make our own informed conclusions, whether rightly or leftly and echoing the mantra of whichever party we happen to trust at that crucial moment of the polls. And then,  we go into the booth and cast our vote.

And that is as it should be. The criticisms and rants that ensue when one or the other politician says something remotely daring are to be expected. Below the belt jibes make for entertaining TV viewing and the more ambiguous a remark the better for the popular press that love to jump on a ‘he said, she said’ bandwagon. Sensationalism sells and  a good old rummage through the dustbins of power to see what naughty bits can be unearthed is the stuff that copywriters dreams are made of. Any Brit who ever watched Prime Minister’s Question Time is used to the slings and arrows of the game, set and match of the liberals, left wing and  right wing.

But you know what? Now is just not the time for heated exchanges on everything that is wrong with us as a nation. Not here in Israel, when we are all bleeding from the same wound. Now is the time when the Israeli nation needs to chuck its political differences out of the window and stand united against terror. In its fight for survival, Israel needs to put her best foot forward and practice some good old fashioned unity.

With the exception of the January 1st atrocity when two young men were murdered and seven others were injured in a little pub on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street and many of us changed our Facebook status to ‘We are all Tel Aviv’ and ran to light memorial candles at the scene of the crime in an outpouring of sympathy, we no longer wring our hands in despair when yet another attack is reported. No. Some of those among us give credence to the perpetrators citing human rights issues – as if we Israelis are not deserving of the most basic human right – to actually be alive.

In the past three months, Israel has suffered the most horrific terror attacks imaginable. Horrific in their sporadic frequency, their simple brutality  and almost effortless execution. This wave of terror that has taken the lives of 30 people and rising, that has ruined the lives of scores more and that threatens every Israeli everywhere, escalates – and with it so does our immunity.

Are we, as a nation, so naive to think that criticism of political figures, of blaming the government, of  pointing the finger at our leaders will actually put an end to this terror? Are we really so foolish that  we effectively anaesthetize our own pain and our own fears and yet deal with great sensitivity those who openly and brazenly call for our destruction?

Oh I see, you’ve raised your eyebrows. How dare I say that? Doesn’t every Israeli bleed when another Israeli is mowed down, stabbed, run over or shot? Don’t we wring our hands, look up to the skies and plead with God to make this torment stop? Well, yes we do but with each passing  attack,  we reinforce our own personal defence mechanism of detachment and thank our lucky stars that we were not there, at that time in that place, because we could have been and will be again.  And as the frequency of these evil attacks peaks, our reaction reaches new troughs.  And by that fact, we are as  guilty as the world’s media for ignoring Israel’s reality. And why? Because as much as we try, and we have tried, we just cannot fathom it. To our Western values, to our moral compass, it is beyond our power of reason. It is incomprehensible, as inconceivable as  Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s credibility as a partner for peace when he quite openly states that stabbing and mowing down Jews in Israel is justified, and who incites terror with every word he utters and as incomprehensible as the apologists amongst us who make feeble excuses for the perpetrators of this terror based on some misguided belief that somehow it can be avoided if we appease the dragon.

So, without answers to the real issues, we resort to playing the blasphemy game –  defaming the politicians that we did not vote for and besmirching their policies, their ethics and in doing so, we invite the contempt of an already fuming world, frustrated by its own shortcomings in dealing with a peril so much larger than we are.  We invite them to look into our transparent world of democracy and find us wanting.

As we with one hand  sift through the dustbins of those who swear allegiance to the state,  and with the other hand we hold out an olive branch to those who spit in our faces time after time, isn’t it time we looked in the mirror and saw the Jew staring us back in the face?  And as Jews, shouldn’t we march proudly shoulder to shoulder into the fray instead of bickering between ourselves on political technicalities?

As history has proved, as Jews we will not be judged by our political affiliations When we are marched, we are marched as Jews. As one.

Tricia Schwitzer serves on both the World WIZO Executive and the Executive of Friends of WIZO. Prior to joining the executive, Tricia is also on the committee of Truth Be Told, an advocacy group countering misinformation relating to Israel. Special projects undertaken for World WIZO include Israel advocacy, social media marketing material and promotional writing. 

An army that marches on its principles

I was far too old to join the army when I made aliyah some 13 years ago, but this does not lessen the profound respect and enthusiasm I have for this principled army. In my own little way I serve Israel by serving WIZO (as all WIZO chaverot do), so when I visit WIZO day care centres and see the adorable toddlers at play, I always remember that one day these wide-eyed innocent cherubs will be drafted into the IDF (Israel Defense Force) and their mothers will weep in pride and trepidation as they become Israeli soldiers, charged with the responsibility of defending the country.

While the fundamental goal of the IDF is ‘to defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat terrorism which threaten the daily life,’ there are certain humanitarian preconditions written into its code of conduct. Whilst IDF soldiers have a responsibility to fight, to dedicate all their strength and even sacrifice their lives in the defense of the State, they must operate according to the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Credibility, personal example, respect for human life, purity of arms, professionalism, discipline, comradeship and a sense of mission all form the basis of the ‘Spirit of the IDF’.
This is the spirit that demands that they carry out their duties with initiative, involvement and diligence within the framework of their authority. As role models, they will demand of themselves as they demand of others. They may use their weapons and force only for the purpose of their mission, only to the necessary extent and will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.

The IDF,​ called ‘the most moral army in the world’ by British Army Colonel Richard Kemp, is an army dedicated to humanitarian principles in tandem with the State of Israel. Unfortunately, on the world’s media stage, the IDF is often portrayed as a Goliath, a guerilla force, even, heaven forbid, a terrorist regime. Nothing could be further than the truth. The IDF is Israel’s pride. Its code of ethics, known as the ‘Spirit of the IDF’ encompasses democratic principles, universal moral values and the dignity of human life totally in sync with Jewish values. Furthermore, military action can be taken only against military targets; the use of force must be proportional.

Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF. Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked. Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners. Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested. Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to themselves and to enemies. Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal. Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts and soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles and soldiers must report all violations of this code. The IDF is an army that marches on these principles and woe betide any soldier who does not adhere. Of course, individuals make mistakes with tragic consequences.

For anyone, let alone teenagers at the tender age of 18, it’s a heavy burden to bear but conscription in Israel is compulsory and totally necessary, given the volatility of the region, the sensitivity of the situation and the cunning of an enemy that hides behind its own children. As Golda Meir said, “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”

I get upset, no – I get angry, when I see the IDF portrayed as the aggressor. I know it not to be true. The reality is that Israel’s children have the unenviable task of defending me and mine, you and yours – and all of Israel. The Jewish State, that sits so precariously in the centre of a geographical mine field, cannot afford to lose one battle, cannot afford to lose one soldier and its heart breaks at the collateral damage of any life lost, Muslim, Jewish, black or white.

Just like every mother in Israel whose child dons the uniform, picks up his kitbag and goes off to the army base, I see that the ‘tough guy in khaki’ is just the little toddler who clung to the nursery nurse on his first day at a WIZO day care centre not so many years ago. My heart, and I know yours too, goes with him on his mission. God bless the IDF.

The fetid stench of BDS

The bizarre alliance between the far left and far right plays out on Europe’s streets and its blind hatred is focussed on that tiny dot on the Middle Eastern map. Little Israel. With this unholy union of extremists comes a wave of hatred with no credible basis, which gathers strength as it twists and turns truths into lies and facts into gross disinformation. It is BDS and it stands for bullying, discrimination, and sabotage.

Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so too would BDS by any other definition smell as fetid. It is no less a dirty ploy by ill-meaning, Israel-bashing, Jew-hating folk to undermine the credibility, the legality and the fiscal standing of the State of Israel. In its own words: to use ‘punitive economic means’ to pressure Israel to rectify wrongs done to human rights in the Palestinian Territories. Perhaps these deluded yet colluded BDS supporters would be better placed to divest their sympathies from the actual poverty-mongering human rights wrongdoers – the Hamas leadership that encourage shaheedism (martyrdom) by even the youngest of children as evidenced by the newly sharpened lust for stabbings of random Israelis, Arabs, tourists, foreign workers or whoever else happens to be going about their innocent business in the wrong place (Israel) at the wrong (anytime at all) time.

But no. The myopic BDS pedlars wheel out their propaganda posters of tearful Palestinian mothers hugging doe-eyed babies (the bloodier the better). They push the Palestinian victimization ticket by portraying the ‘tough guy’ Israeli soldier occupiers in anti-Christ proportions. They turn blind eyes and deaf ears to such wrong-doings. They gingerly sidestep the spilling of Israeli blood, which is happening at alarmingly increasing rates, and continue to point an accusatory finger at Israel, bolstered by an equally blinkered media machine that continues to contort the grammar in their strap lines to the point of reporting that the poor little terrorist was shot dead, after which he stabbed the victim. Precisely.

This whole BDS debacle is a joke. It is baseless and positively boring. It has been done to death and it lacks integrity. By the very singling out of Israel as the Goliath of the Middle East (when in fact she is a tiny but pertinent David), by calling her the bully, the perpetrator of all things bad in the world, the BDS camp merely highlights its own prejudices and the boycott, divestment and sanctions platform is wearing mightily thin.

So go ask, yes I dare you, any of those Free Palestine flag wavers who prance about outside little Israeli-owned cosmetic shops on UK high streets on windswept Saturdays if they actually know who they are boycotting, why they are demanding sanctions and from what they are divesting and you will hear, by way of a reply, some inflammatory claptrap about all Israelis being child killers.

And worse, is the, ‘oh no, mate, we don’t have any issue with Jews, it’s the bloody Zionists we can’t stand,’ stance adopted by the corduroy jacket-wearing grey-bearded knobs (yes, knobs). You may have met these types, with their Arafat inspired keffiyehs draped around their necks, lurking in derelict doorways flogging the Socialist Worker on British inner city street; they who join the Free Palestine claptrap throng when pickings are thin on anti-fracking marches. We’ve all experienced them, this gaggle of rent-a-crowd opportunists, die-hard anti-Semites, Roger Waters devotees and belligerent British Muslims, who when challenged to explain their objectives, burst out in a rousing chant of ‘Palestine shall be free, from the river to the sea.’ Because, quite simply, they have no idea whatsoever what the hell it is that they are protesting with such conviction.

In these frightening times when we are all Charlie, when we are all Paris, Mali or indeed wherever the hell the next sickening act of Islamic terrorism will occur, in these days when no city can outwit the toxic malevolence of Islamic State, the barbarism of the big guys in Syria is overlooked by the baying crowds who quite farcically appoint Israel as the purveyor of all that is wrong in the world. Something stinks. BDS Stinks. It really stinks

Unleash the Zionist within you

Lion in Zion newI am a Zionist. I will shout it from the rooftops and I have no time, nor patience for those who walk among us who don’t admit to their own Zionism, as if it  were a bad habit to be kept under wraps. My goodness, if diversity  can come out of the cupboard in all its rainbow colours, well why not Zionism with her flag of blue and white?  And if our Christian friends care to stand up for Israel, then what excuse have we for keeping shtum in a world that turns the volume ever higher so our detractors can be heard loud and proud?

We are so few and  our voices are muted by a baying crowd who would have our guts for garters in schools, universities, on the streets and on social media. Now is really not the time to hide our Magen Davids.  We’ve done that, been there and  what good did that ever do  us?

There is no justification for inaction when it comes to facing off a bully.  And, again,  the bullies are out in force on Europe’s streets, in British cities, with their angst turned against Israel and against you, against the Jew, against me and against the principles that we all hold dear.

“Yes, we are Jewish but we don’t want to make a fuss, don’t want to invite trouble.”  I’ve heard that more than once and it does not wash with me.

“I met some lovely people on holiday, but I didn’t tell them I lived in Israel.”  Heard that one, too. Tut, tut.

As the far right and far left extremists unite ever closer to create a twisted alliance of Jew-hatred in Europe, fuelled by a convenient loathing for Israel,  the word Zionism is demonized. The State of Israel suffers the slings and arrows (not to mention more damaging missiles) of  the new anti-Semite who has  been drip fed shocking images of babies in rags and weeping mothers, all victims of the  ‘occupation of Palestine’  – which shows Israel as a mighty Goliath and the poor Palestinians as little brave David hurling rockets. Oops, sorry. I meant rocks.

Peeling back the benevolent shrouds under which hides  the United Nations, global NGOs such as Amnesty International, War on Want, Save the Children and many others,  an anti-Israel stance on every front will be revealed.  The latest debacle, Obama’s submission to Iranian aspirations to become  a nuclear super power,  hammers home the nails in Israel’s coffin. The consequences for Israel’s security, indeed Israel’s survival are dire.  The BDS movement  a rapidly  growing yet entirely moronic cooperative of diligent stupidity works tirelessly to compliment all the other mud-throwing opportunists who have an unfathomable distaste for that (sic) ‘shitty little country’ Israel. Throw mud at the word ‘Zionism’ and it sticks. Israel’s reputation is besmirched by those who peddle  double standards, ignorance and prejudice   Oh come on, why sugar coat the pill? It is Jew-hatred.  Add to this, the left-leaning Israeli academics who bleat on about human rights violations ignoring facts on the ground – that Israel is the only democracy in the region where they could possibly  have such unpatriotic opinions and not be stoned, hung, drawn and quartered for outing their opinions and that Israel’s army is lauded for its code of conduct, an ethical code of humanitarianism.

And now, in the aftermath of Protective Edge and with radical Islam’s venomous tentacles whipping through Europe, a  different brand of Jew-hatred is unfurled.  Call it anti-Zionism and you get approval and a pat on the back for your  political-correctness. Yeah right. Call it what it is and you are the bad one. You are a trouble maker. The legitimacy of the word Zionism has suffered by its own hand of late, with far-right Israeli extremists pouring burning fat on the fire (somewhat literally with the recent arson attack that left a Palestinian baby and his  father dead),  but there is one fundamental  distinction between the Zionists and those who run, kicking and screaming, to burn Israel’s flag and beat down its door.  And that difference comes from a mindset, which is poles apart. There is more likelihood of  falling into one of  Hamas’s  tunnels than bridging the gaping hole that divides the  two ideologies – one that sanctifies life and the other? Something to do with martyrdom and the ravishing of 72 virgins in heaven (but don’t get too carried away with that thought).

While Israelis gather in their thousands in the town square in silent vigil for a dead Palestinian baby and pray for peace, for tolerance, for an end to mindless violence, the Palestinians who embrace the indoctrination of Hamas and other known terrorist organizations  take to the streets, running riot, shooting rifles in the air. They pound their chests and  shriek to Allah – asking  him (her?) for the power to retaliate.  And when he/she answers their prayers rewarding them with the murder of an Israeli man, woman or child (the more the merrier),  their children dance in the streets, receiving sweets in celebration of what is not perceived by them to be a crime but their god-given right.  And as the terrorist regime Hamas calls for more attacks against settlers to avenge the death of the father of the Palestinian baby killed in the Duma attack, Israelis continue to gather in peaceful protest and point the finger, the Israeli finger, at the ‘settlers’  – their Israeli brothers and sisters. There is something fundamentally wrong with this. Don’t they realize that the  presumably Jewish perpetrator of this terrorist act will be dealt with in the harshest manner according to the law?  He will have the book thrown at him and nobody will celebrate by handing out sweets to the kids. That is for sure. We, Israelis,  are collectively ashamed that ‘one of us’ and that includes the settlers in my opinion,  should dare to act with such a disdain for his fellow Israeli, knowing the implications. As if we needed any more reasons to be vilified.

Yet, apart from a handful of grass roots pro-Israel organizations who take to the streets in their own localities to identify with Israel and to stamp out the defamers while defending their own way of life against Islam’s more warped supporters, and a few lone voices who speak their truths against a popular army  of Jew-bating,  Israel hating bigots, there are many among us for whom wearing our Zionism with pride  is just not an option.

“We don’t want to get involved,”  they say. “We don’t want to offend anyone. We are scared.”  Wrong, wrong, wrong. Lose the victim mentality. Stand your ground and stand up for Israel..  A very good friend of mine who is a staunch defender of Israel  put it well, when she said, ‘Be a warrior not a  worrier.’ I subscribe to that wisdom.

Get out there, armed with facts, fight lies with truth and wave your Israeli flag as if your life depended on it because, actually,  it just might.