Israel is No More Mr. Nice Guy

(Originally published on Israel Hayom)

Israel always plays nice. For decades, we have been allowing those who demonize and delegitimize Israel to cross our borders and do their dirty work against us on our own soil.

The Palestinian village of Bil’in has become one very real symbol of this kind of “activist tourism,” where anti-Israel foreign activists gather to provoke fights with the Israel Defense Forces in order to gain propaganda footage for the international media.

The reasoning behind Israel’s welcoming policy is that we are a democracy, and we will allow even those who wish us nothing but harm to benefit from our democratic policies. But the real reason is more likely a fear of the international backlash that denying entry to Israel-haters would elicit. Whatever the case may be, the policy has always been a big mistake. As a sovereign nation, Israel should be free to turn anyone it wishes away at the border.

However, the policy finally appears to have been put to rest, at least as far as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement is concerned. On Sunday, Israel’s Interior and Public Security ministers declared that they planned to establish a taskforce aimed at expelling BDS supporters and preventing their entry into Israel. According to the press release, dozens of organizations inside Israel are actively collecting information to promote boycotts and international isolation. The new taskforce will be responsible for identifying such efforts and combating them.

Much like the NGO law, which is compelling NGOs to divulge any foreign funding, this effort is likely to outrage the usual suspects in the international media and NGO community. Israel’s answer to this should be a polite “mind your own business.” Israel owes no one any explanations for defending itself against those who wish to destroy it. As Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said: “We must not allow boycott activists to enter Israel. This is a necessary step given the maliciousness of these delegitimizing activists who work to spread lies and to distort the reality of our region.”

This is a logical and natural move, and it should have been implemented as soon as the BDS movement surfaced. We have bent over backward so far to accommodate the so-called international community and its “concerns” that frankly our backs are about to break.

We should also expect an outcry from the European Union and several of its individual member states. Many of the organizations that promote BDS are sponsored to a lesser or greater degree by the EU, one or more of its member states (particularly Germany and the Scandinavian countries), or both, bringing into serious question whether these organizations are truly non-governmental in the first place.

It will doubtless be embarrassing for the EU to see its activists expelled and returned home. And rest assured: Those who will scream the loudest will be those who wished most fervently for the destruction of Israel. Thus, the new policy is likely to have the welcome side effect of outing those European nations that have truly been working against us by funding organizations that are deeply hostile toward Israel.

The presence of foreign, hostile activists operating on Israeli soil collecting information to use against us in the international arena is not only unique to Israel (show me one other country where such operations are systematically put into place with substantial financial backing from foreign governments), but also an embarrassing disgrace for these foreign, mainly European, governments, that are betraying their obligations under international law to engage with Israel only through diplomatic and legal channels.

Israel must demand a clear answer as to why these supposedly friendly nations support anti-Israel efforts. Is it customary for countries that cooperate and enjoy full diplomatic relations to engage in hostile activities against each other behind each other’s backs? The question is simple and has an even simpler answer.

Israel Protesting France’s Support For Terrorism

In response to a recent terror attack in a French church, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent his condolences to France during today’s Cabinet meeting. He then pointed out that evidence shows France is one of several European nations providing monetary support to organizations and NGO’s that incite terror and boycotts against Israel.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last week that there is a need for a “thorough review to form a new relationship with French Islam” and that France will take up measures to stop foreign aid to mosques as a new step in the fight against Islamic terror. This is hypocrisy at its best when we find that France is interested in curbing Islamic terror locally but is not hesitant to support Islamic terror in Israel.

“Terror is terror in all places, and incitement is incitement all over the world,” Netanyahu said. “I heard about a discussion that took place last week in the French government about preventing foreign money from organizations that harm French citizens. That sounds familiar to us. We are also concerned about these types of contribution to organizations that reject Israel’s existence.”

This is even more absurd when we find that France need Israel’s help in stopping terror attacks.

Last week, the Israeli Ambassador to France condemned the French initiative to grant honorary citizenship to Marwan Barghouti, a known terrorist responsible for hundreds of deaths.

The questions stands: What does France stand for? Why are they openly supporting terrorism in their own country and abroad?

A Year After Quake, Israelis Still Helping Nepal Recover

Israeli NGOs were among the first to arrive after the disaster and are among the last to leave, running a variety of programs in stricken areas.

April 25, 2015, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale devastated Nepal. Just over two weeks later, the country was rattled again by a magnitude 7.3 quake centered northeast of Kathmandu. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, 22,000 injured and hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed or damaged in the twin quakes.

As with most international disasters, Israel was among the first countries to send humanitarian aid in many forms. The lifesaving and rehabilitation activities of the Israeli government, military and various NGOs were so significant that the Nepalese came to see Israel as a source of inspiration.

Whether it was pulling survivors from the rubble, delivering babies and treating the injured, cheering traumatized children, teaching resilience techniques, rebuilding villages or introducing lifesaving innovations, Israelis were prominent in all aspects of relief work.

A year later, Israeli nonprofits Tevel b’Tzedek (The Earth in Justice) and IsraAID are still on the scene helping Nepali villagers get back on their feet, and expect to be there for some time to come.

The Earth in Justice

Tevel b’Tzedek, founded by Rabbi Micha Odenheimer with the goal of engaging young Jews and Israelis in the developing world, began its humanitarian work in Nepal in 2007. The original plan was to cycle volunteers to one impoverished district at a time.

“When the earthquake hit, we were in the second cycle,” Deputy Director Elana Kaminka tells ISRAEL21c. “But the quake hit the communities from the first cycle and we knew these people, so we redeployed to those communities in addition to continuing with the ones in the second cycle, which also was hit by the earthquake. In addition, we took on a third district that was affected.”

The organization’s connections and understanding of the region were of invaluable help to other NGOs arriving on the scene.

“The JDC [Jewish Joint Distribution Committee], which is one of our donors, showed up the day after the earthquake,” says Kaminka. “We’re not a disaster-relief organization and they have more expertise in that but had no knowledge of Nepal and no staff here, so we joined forces and have been working closely together.”

One of their joint projects is a youth service program modeled after the Israeli shnat sherut, year of national service, in earthquake-devastated villages. “We train and provide a small stipend to 40 youth leaders to take a role in rebuilding their own communities,” says Kaminka. “People always think about Israeli technology and agriculture, and we do introduce technologies such as drip irrigation, but Israeli social models are also interesting.”

Tevel helped an Israeli medical team from Natan International Humanitarian Aid with logistics immediately after the earthquake; and recently finished a project with Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency-response network, to distribute building supplies and food to 800 Nepali families.

With support from the Pears Foundation, Shusterman Foundation and Crown Foundation, Tevel has also worked with volunteers from the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, World Jewish Relief and others.

Bishnu Chapagain, the Nepali director of Tevel’s activities in Nepal, earned his doctorate in plant science in Israel at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His agricultural training is critical to Tevel’s long-term project to introduce Nepali farmers to Israeli farming practices.

Currently, a variety of Tevel recovery programs in agriculture, education, disaster-risk reduction, resilience, crisis intervention and income generation are benefiting some 25,000 villagers in six of Nepal’s most impoverished regions.

Naomi Baum
Naomi Baum, retired founder-director of the Resilience Unit at theIsrael Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma of Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital, teaching resilience techniques to Nepalese women on behalf of Tevel b’Tzedek. Photo via Facebook
The projects are run by 80 Nepali and 59 Israeli staff and volunteers working side by side, fulfilling a three-year commitment to the government of Nepal.

“We don’t come and tell them what to do,” stresses Kaminka. “They tell us what they need help with and we approach our work as a partnership with them. Our focus is not only giving out things but developing people in the community who can take on these projects long after we’re gone.”

This year, Tevel b’Tzedek was the first Israeli organization recognized in Nepal as an INGO (international NGO) among 127 others, including major players such as Save the Children and Care International. “This is a major accomplishment for the Israeli development world. The other NGOs see that there is an Israeli face at the table,” says Kaminka.

“We are now recruiting for the fall 2016 sessions of both our one-monthExchange for Change program and seven-month Tevel Fellowship program, which mixes pairs of Israeli and Nepali volunteers in some of the poorest and most remote villages. We need great people who want to help rebuild Nepal.”


IsraAID arrived in Nepal the second day after the earthquake to help rescue survivors and establish a temporary field clinic in northeast Nepal.

The organization now runs a variety of humanitarian projects in Nepal under the direction of 55 Nepali and five Israeli staffers, says IsraAID Global Partnership Director Yotam Polizer, who visits every other month and directs all the NGO’s activities in Asia. “We’ll be there at least three more years because these are all long-term initiatives,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

Polizer was quite familiar with the country before the earthquake through his previous positions at Tevel b’Tzedek and at the Israeli embassy in Kathmandu.

“I had gained knowledge of Nepal and its language and had many contacts there, so I was able to build a team quickly when IsraAID arrived,” Polizer tells ISRAEL21c.

Working in all six affected districts with support from the American Jewish Committee and Jewish Federation network, IsraAID brings in Israeli specialists to train local NGOs to run initiatives such as an emotional support hotline. “We have an office and training center in Kathmandu,” says Polizer.

Ahead of this past winter, IsraAID and a Korean NGO distributed more than 1,000 packages of warm clothing to Nepali children affected by the earthquake. Polizer points out that the goal was not only to protect the children from the cold but also to ensure their ability to attend school during the winter.

IsraAID in Nepal
IsraAID and a partner NGO distributed warm clothing to 1,000 children in earthquake-affected communities of Nepal. Photo courtesy of IsraAID Nepal

“We helped establish a factory that now employs 130 women and is expanding to employ 500 in the next year or so. They sell honey to local stores and to tourists in Nepal. Each woman receives one beehive stacked with a colony of local Himalayan bees to start her venture,” Polizer says.

Nepalese women in beekeeping jackets
IsraAID’s HoneyAID project equips and trains Nepalese women to be beekeepers. Photo courtesy of IsraAID Nepal

“Theater is an important part of the Nepali culture, and they don’t have electricity or Internet so it’s the best way to deliver messages,” explains Polizer. “Altogether, more than 70,000 people have taken part in our theater program, and the model is now being adopted by UNICEF.”

As IsraAID also continues to work actively in Japan five years after the tsunami (the only foreign organization still on the ground after arriving to help in relief efforts in March 2011), several partnerships have developed between its teams in Fukushima and Nepal.

The Japanese government is funding Disaster Specialist Education, a program where Israeli and Japanese experts who have worked with IsraAID in Fukushima are sent to a Nepali university to train a cadre of disaster-relief professionals such as social workers.

Polizer is especially excited about an exchange program involving five high school students from Nepal and five from Fukushima.

“The Nepali teens came to Japan and they learned from one another and created bonds,” says Polizer. “This was significant because it’s rare for victims of different disasters to make contact with one another. We hope to do more of this. We are fundraising for it now because it was really successful.”

(Originally published on