Ran Bar-Yoshafat

Ran Bar-Yoshafat is a young Israeli from Ramat HaSharon – a coastal city just north of Tel Aviv. He is currently pursuing his MBA at Tel Aviv University.  Ran has a law degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he did his law residency in the legal department of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, working with the Education, Culture and Sports Committee, the House Committee and the Childcare Committee. For the past four years he has worked freelance for MASA, an umbrella exchange organization in Israel for Jewish youth, for which he gives lectures about Israel’s political and security issues, and teaches leadership courses.  Ran has a passion for education and advocacy and is a member of groups including StandWithUs Israeli Fellowship program, the World Union of Jewish Students, and the Word Jewish Diplomatic Corps; he is also on the board of the IMPACT! Alumni club – a branch of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces that gives scholarships to low-income ex-soldiers. As part of his community outreach work, Ran helps minority groups in Israel, such as Ethiopian Jews, those with learning disabilities, and the ultra-Orthodox to prepare and pass the Israeli university entrance exam, so that they can enroll in university, obtain a higher education, join the Israeli workforce and have a better future.  In 1999 and 2000, Ran was Israeli national champion for mixed martial arts, and served in an elite Special Forces unit in the Israeli defense forces.

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July 26, 2012

You are not a peace activist, you are just a racist

There is nothing more ignorant to me than people who call for the boycott of Israel, saying it is in the name of human rights and or the pursuit of peace. Boycotting Israel is not a new concept by any means. The Arab League boycotted the Jews who lived in Israel in the beginning of the 1900’s. The same Arab League then renewed the decision in the 1950’s, calling for an official boycott against the State of Israel. It continues today. While the Arab League purports to boycott Israel for many reasons, the truth of the matter is that these boycotts where always anti-Semitic in nature. Today, the boycott comes also from the exact opposite side of the map – from the people who should be supporting freedom, liberty and liberal values – The radical left.

Some people say Israel is like South Africa. In South Africa, an apartheid regime separated black people from white people. In Israel, an apartheid regime supposedly separates Arabs and Jews. In the case of South Africa, the boycott took down the regime. I don’t mean to destroy this  interesting comparison with fact, but I’d like to point out that Israel, a Jewish state, is the ONLY place in the Middle East where Arab citizens have full and equal rights. That is not true of any of Israel’s neighbors, all Arab countries. Israeli Arabs serve in the Parliament, in the Government, in the Army, in the Supreme Court and in any other part of the Israeli society they desire.

The people Israel is supposedly not treating equally amongst its citizens, are not in fact, Israeli Arab citizens. They are Palestinians, who are not citizens of Israel – nor do they want to be. If they did, there wouldn’t be a conflict amongst other things, and they would have the same rights as every other Israeli citizen, Jews or Arab alike.

Palestinians, of their own choosing, have their own government, army, municipality and everything else an independent people needs to run itself. I hate to point out the obvious, but I don’t know any other people of the world other than the Palestinians, who can declare a country not its own, of not treating them like the country’s citizens. Can French citizens demand America grant them the rights of American citizens? Can Canadian citizens demand China grant Canadians the same rights as a Chinese citizen? Has there ever been a call for a boycott of any other country besides Israel, by the French, Chinese or whoever feels this way, based on fictitious rights due them?

It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?  Yet the boycott continues and is picking up speed in some places.

Some people say “it is the right thing to do”. Based on what? They think it will promote peace – by pressuring Israelis which will result in the Israeli government eventually changing its policies on non citizens wanting the same rights as Israeli citizens?

This is where the plot thickens: There are all kinds of boycott approaches: some like to boycott only parts of Israel, some like to boycott all of Israel, and some are even willing to boycott people who are not even directly connected to Israel but perhaps sell some Israeli products in their store outside Israel or sell Israeli style food in the US, for example.

The first group is the group that calls for boycotting products that were made in the Judea and Samaria area (what some people call “the West Bank” – even though the only thing it is west of is Jordan). This is an excuse. No one is boycotting the “area”. Israeli products are being boycotted because they are made by Jews.

Think about it – the same factory with the same employees making the same product, only with a Palestinian owner – would that factory be boycotted? No, they’d call the goods Palestinian  made and promote them. When the owner is Jewish, it does not matter if he likes Israel or not, if he would like to live under Palestinian government (oh, that’s right, he could not – it is against the Palestinian laws to allow Jews to live in that territory), or if he is just working at the same factory his great grandfather owned before the reestablishment of the state of Israel because his family has been there for centuries.

The second group, which makes less sense than boycotting just an area of Israel, is boycotting all of Israel.

Are we really to believe that in the world of mistreatment, cruelty and quite frankly countries where leaders slaughter their own people, Israel stands out in any way shape or form? Why not China, Russia, or Syria where people are murdered on a daily basis? If the reasoning for the boycott is the inner policies, it seems a bit strange to boycott the only country in the Middle East that is a democracy and has its citizens living in the best conditions, unless the true nature of the boycott is not what is being stated as the reason.

The third group is the most absurd as it endorses the boycotting of Israeli goods, no matter where they are produced or sold. Some products sold in Israel are not actually made in Israel so Israel is not the only one affected. That is simple. Boycotting establishments outside of Israel that make Israeli style food or sell a few Israeli products is for a person endorsing kindness and fair treatment, the equivalent of being a bully in a school yard. There is no point or value. It is pure bullying and adversely affecting an individual’s livelihood for no reason, particularly because it doesn’t hurt Israel financially at all, if that is the goal.

The excuse for all 3 of these groups is that Israel is so bad: Its policies regarding the Palestinians should be opposed and Israel will use force if necessary, to secure itself. Am I missing something? Doesn’t every country do that and have that right? Perhaps the only difference is that Israel must secure itself on a regular and sometimes daily basis because rockets are being hurled into civilian areas within Israel. Name one other country, besides Israel, who would tolerate its citizens from being threatened on a regular basis and even remotely use the restraint Israel has. Remember, Israel is being attacked from a close proximity.

These groups also say they believe that Israel practices collective punishment (Israel doesn’t – but for the sake of this discussion, let’s not confuse ourselves with facts), and if you are against collective punishment, what better way to act against it than to collectively punish all Israelis and anyone connected directly or indirectly with Israel – right wing, left wing, regardless of their position, socioeconomic situation, etc, as long as all of Israel is suffering.

While telling the world to boycott Israel, most boycott activists would not openly say what the boycott is really about. We know it is not really about apartheid because there is no apartheid if one party is not a citizen of the country. We know it is not really about finding Israeli government policy offensive. If the Israeli government is so offensive, please tell me how come Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the death of any and all Jews inside and outside of Israel, is not being boycotted?

The boycott is about actively hurting the Jews financially and otherwise. How else can one explain anti-Israel activists trying to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel while ignoring the fact that by following the same rhetoric they use when discussing Israel, they should be spending their time boycotting many of Israel’s neighbors, and not Israel. At the very least, if they are going to persist with this ridiculous, fictitious argument, why are they not simultaneously boycotting any other country?

The irony is that the Palestinians themselves do not boycott Israeli products and the people that are immediately affected by many of the boycotts are the Palestinians. For example, when a Hummus company is being boycotted, the owner will start to lose money and eventually need to let employees go so she does not go out of business. Her employees will most likely be Palestinian farmers.

I was boycotted many times when I visited the USA to lecture. People said me: “I don’t talk to Israelis!” It did not make any sense to me. I am not a big fan of Ahmadinajad, the Iranian president, but I would not protest in front of a Persian restaurant. I fail to see the connection and have no issue with any individual who happens to share a faith or nationality with Ahmadinajad.

People hated me, without even knowing me. They boycotted me because I have a connection to Israel. Under the guise of human rights activism, we are seeing a new kind of racism as well as a familiar kind of anti semitism. Some are based on nationality, and some, well, are just racist and anti semitic and it is time we called them out on it.

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April 27, 2012

Something smells, and it is not the cheese

A group of people from Europe decided to deal with the biggest problem of the world today. No – not Iran, a country that is trying to get nuclear weapons, kills gay people, not allow women to have any rights and wants to kill everyone who is not exactly like them. No, it is not Syria, where over 10,000 people have been murdered, and the slaughter of civilians continues unchecked every day. No, it is not their goal to address the different rampages of genocide that are happening in various countries in Africa. No, it is not Hamas rule over the Palestinian people in Gaza, where the terror is on both sides – shooting at innocent Israelis while hiding behind innocent Palestinian children. It is none of the above. It is – who else? – ISRAEL!

So, like my government said – I thank you, dear “peace activist”, for deciding to come and criticize my country. Wait – did I say criticize? I wish; what you are doing is demonizing me. You see, dear “peace activist”, when your country allows Muslims to actually dress like Muslims (it is called freedom of religion), when your country stops killing its OWN citizens when they protest in riots, where not only did the police blatantly use excessive force, but the PEOPLE themselves killed, stole, and burned cars of other innocent people who had nothing to do with them — then, you should find the time to look at how I deal with people who try to explode on me.

Some countries in Europe have a king. Yes, the head of state in that country is a king. No, it is not 1012, it is 2012. That is the situation in many democratic countries such as Belgium, Denmark, England, Spain, Sweden, Norway… the list continues. But they don’t like my democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East, because it is not following their standards. Now, I know, and I hope whoever is reading this knows, that the king in the countries above is just a figure, and not actually running the state. But what if you don’t? What if that is the only information you hear about these countries? That is how I feel when Europeans criticize my country – not connected to the reality on the ground.

I think a short history lesson is in place. You see, unlike the Belgian people, whatever that means, the Jewish people actually have a culture of 3,500 years in the land of Israel, with non-stop continuity on the land, despite different empires that expelled most of the Jews time and time again.

We did not take anyone’s land; we came home. I speak the same language my ancestors spoke 3,500 years ago, I eat the same food, live where they lived. The name “Palestine” was given to the area after the Romans took over the land, to deprive it of its Jewish identity as punishment for daring to rebel to protect our homeland. Under the British Mandate, the Palestine Post was the name of the local Jewish newspaper. The Palestine Bank was the Jewish bank. Why am I saying this? Not to prevent the Palestinian people to have a right to be whatever they want to be – but so that the people in Belgium, France, and other countries will understand that I did not take anyone’s land, I am simply dwelling in my home.

The most amazing thing is that Israel, as the home for the Jewish people, is not only a home for the Jews. Everyone who is a citizen of Israel (and that is a crucial point) has full equal rights – no matter what religion, ethnicity, skin color or gender. The only country in the Middle East where Palestinians have FULL equal rights is Israel. The only place in the Middle East where Muslims have full equal rights is yet again, Israel.

Dear “peace activists”, you complain about the fact the Israel is checking people who enter its borders. People who are not citizens of Israel. Well, please, enlighten me; is there any country in the world that does not check people when they enter? Can I come to your country without going through airport security? Can I please have full civil rights in your country? And if not, does that make you an apartheid state?

With all due respect, you need to take a long hard look at how you treat your own people, your citizens, and your heads of state, before you judge how my country tries to balance security issues and human rights, with people who are not citizens of my country and call repeatedly for its destruction. When you say you don’t like my country and that it is not a democracy, and yet you live in a country with a king and with less freedom of religion, well dear peace activists, you are a hypocrite. I am not sure you can understand this so I am going to write it in ways for you to understand – a way suitable for the child that you are: I am rubber, you are glue, and every lie you say about me comes back and sticks to you.

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March 27, 2012

Israel is just trying to fool everyone

Israel. Israel with its constant goal of defending itself to the international community, justifying its actions, proving its significance to the world, its support of human rights and mainly, pretending that it is not an ‘apartheid’ state, its false pretenses runs so deep that it is reflected in all its actions. Allow me to share some examples of this sickening phenomenon.

“Security”

Israel’s actions are inconceivable. Namely, its Apartheid wall.  They claim that just because 97% of this wall is really a fence, it should be referred to as a fence. This is their attempt at convincing the international community that it is not an apartheid wall. Wall or fence, it serves the same purpose: Segregation.  Israel justifies this wall. They claim that it was built in order to protect their citizens from “suicide bombers” and thus, only constructed it 34 years after the establishment of their state. This 34 year wait was really just a cover-up for their real intentions. They said the purpose was to protect them from “suicide bombers”. Suicide bombers I ask you? These are young men and woman, freedom fighters! And while fighting for freedom, casualties sometimes take form in the killings of a thousand Israeli woman, men and children. But accidents happen while fighting for freedom. It is hard to understand the Israeli nerve, to claim that the building of the wall was due to the attacks against Israelis between the years of 2000-2005. Why not tell the truth? Why not give the real reason for the construction of the wall? They want more land. That’s all they have ever really wanted, and they will take it at any cost. The decrease in suicide bombings since its construction is yet just another reason on their list of excuses. I mean, yeah, they did give the whole Sinai Peninsula, which is more than twice the size of the Israeli state, but I just know they are in it for the land.

Israel also has “check-points” – A place where they have the audacity to violate privacy laws in order to conduct a physical check that will determine if individuals have explosives on them.  As a result, people have to wait in line for hours. They justify this “security check” by checking everyone: Israelis, Palestinians and tourists alike, but it practice, it is only the Palestinian people. I mean, they are the only ones who suffer. So what if every Israeli is being checked whenever they go to a shopping mall, a school or a bank? They only check the 7.3 million people in Israel as well so they can justify the checking of the Palestinians. Where else in the entire world does one have to go through security in order to enter the country?  Aside from every single airport… but this is a bad example since unlike in airports, Israel’s security measures are intentional in order to hurt the Palestinian people. Look at the facts – the checkpoint go up and down. Again, the Israelis pretend it is because of the terror alerts, when obviously it is because of the mood of the current Israeli government. I mean, what makes more sense to you?

“Equal Rights”

One of Israel’s biggest violations is its attempt to disguise itself as a democracy. They do so by providing their citizens with equal rights such as the rights to vote, to be elected etc. They have freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech – all under the false pretenses of being a democracy. But it does not stop there; they even have Arab members of Knesset (The Israeli Parliament) dating back to the first elections in 1948.  The most amazing thing about these Arab members of Knesset is that they each belong to different parties from all different political spectrums. Israel even had an Israeli-Arab Supreme Court Judge who convicted the former Jewish president, sending him to jail. Look how far this Jewish state will go in order to fool the world into thinking that it is a democracy, when it is clear that they are not. They are not, since they are not treating the Palestinians who are not within Israeli borders as equal citizens. Are they? Granted, these Palestinians are NOT citizens of Israel, NOR DO THEY WANT TO BE, but shouldn’t they get equal rights to that of an Israeli citizen, Jewish, Christian or Muslim alike? I mean, shouldn’t all Mexicans receive US rights? And all Canadians receive full Holland rights?

Pink washing

Israel tries to look like a vibrant democracy and by doing so, provide the LGBTQ community with full rights. They have Gay Members of Knesset. LGBTQ organizations even receive money from the government, adoption rights, legal homosexuality, legal protection for Gays from discrimination and hate crimes, spousal benefits, and if that is not enough, they allow them to remain “out of the closet” while serving in the Israeli Army. But obviously, the reason for this is in order to pretend that they care. Tel-Aviv was recently chosen as the number one place in the world to be Gay. Can you imagine how far Israel will go in order to pretend that it cares for these issues? Disgusting right?

Humanitarian aid

Israel, once again with their attempt at showing the world how deeply they “care” for others, is almost always the first to send aid after a humanitarian crises occurs. From Mexico to Argentina, Turkey to El Salvador. India, Peru, and Indonesia – Israel always provides help – just for its own sake. They don’t only help, but rather, they take it one step further: During the Rwanda refugee crisis, Israel opened field hospitals to aid the refuges. Israel sent supplies to Sri Lanka after the flood in 2003, and sent a mission to Southeast Asia after the 2004 Tsunami. Oh, and of course, their poor attempt to look like they care in Haiti, where they were the first on the scene with the best hospitals.

To prove how much they care, Israel goes to the extreme by providing agriculture assistance to over 30 countries worldwide, sharing medical discoveries and helping refugee resettlement. They even have an organization called “Save A child’s Heart”, where they treated over 1,500 children from over 20 countries around the world where medical care is unavailable. Many of them, by the way, are Palestinians. Can you imagine the Israeli nerve? “Helping” people when we all know they are all just doing it to harm the Palestinians. The connection may seem unclear, but if you think about it – it has to be because they want to harm them, no?

This false pretense has existed for too long. It has been going on for over 63 years, ever since Israel was established. I guess it is all part of a smart master plan; a plan to fake being a democracy and then argue when the truth is exposed.

(For those who still don’t get it – this article was written in a sarcastic tone. To say Israel is anything BUT a Democracy can only show a lack of some basic information)

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March 17, 2012

Rockets and Airstrikes – Again

I open my computer to catch up on the news in Israel, as I am currently in the US for a couple of months. Sadly, what I found was that once again, the southern part of Israel is under rocket fire. In the recent escalation that began on Friday, March 9, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired more than 200 rockets into Israel. Many of these rockets struck major Israeli population centers. More than one million Israelis live under the threat of rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Those who live closest to the Gaza Strip have only 15 seconds to find shelter after hearing an alarm.

I was hoping to find some information about it in the NY times, but it seems that the only mentioning was that Israel killed a civilian. A civilian. It amazes me how the status of a terrorist upgrades when he is killed. We are talking about a terrorist who planned, funded, and directed the combined terror attack that took place on Route 12 in August 2011, in which 40 Israeli civilians were injured, and who was involved in rocket fire at Israel, as well as in the attack on the Nahal Oz fuel terminal in April 2008 (in which two Israeli citizens were killed). Not to mention the transferring funds from Hezbollah to terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Don’t get me wrong – there are, unfortunately, civilians who are killed in Gaza. 26 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes: 22 terrorists and four civilians. Innocent people who die on both side is a tragedy and should be condemned – by both sides, just like Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz expressed regret over the civilian deaths on the Palestinian side.

The number of casualties is actually larger on the Palestinian side. However, I don’t believe Israel needs to apologize for making sure its citizens are safe. Most of the damage to residential zones was prevented by the Iron Dome system, which intercepts missiles headed for population centers. The Iron Dome, however, is not the main reason for the difference in numbers of casualties on the two sides. The main difference is that when Israel is attacked, the government sends its people to the shelters and the combatants to the battlefield. Hamas does not. Hamas deliberately operates in civilian areas, putting the life of the Palestinians at risk.

I believe that most people, in Israel and in the Gaza strip, just want to be able to go to sleep without having to fear a missile will fall on them. Not mentioning the suffering of over one million Israelis, and that marking Israel as the aggressor is the right formula for the extremist to continue to work on their next attack. Why wouldn’t they? All they hear in their own media is that Israel is killing innocent civilians. You see, in the Israeli media, I was able to hear about the suffering of the people in Gaza. But the people of Gaza do not hear about the suffering of my people. They won’t get it from their media. They can’t, because they are controlled by Hamas.

In Israel, people will criticize to government. Some will say they didn’t do enough, some will say they did too much. That is one of the problems and benefits of living in a Democracy. In Gaza, unfortunately, the people will have to try to rebuild after the chaos done mainly by their government. I hope the fighting will end soon and that people on both sides can go on to live their normal lives, and that the next time I open the computer I’ll hear about peace talks. Hope – but don’t believe it will be, at least not as long as Hamas are in control.

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March 7, 2012

Peace – what does it mean?

There are many definitions for the word “peace”. One definition is a state or period of mutual concord between governments; a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity. Another definition is a state in which there is no war or fighting. (from Webster Online Dictionary)

I find it very interesting when people use the second definition, mainly with concern to Israel. There is a real chance for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which will come to fruition from both sitting together at the negotiation table, reaching an agreement of some sort. I believe the vast majority on both sides are talking about peace of this sort.

The latter definition, however, can be reached by other means. One of these means is the destruction of Israel and kicking all the Jews out of the land. That is also “peace” – right? Wrong! But this is exactly what some “peace” movements are trying to do. The best example is the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, who are calling to create boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. I wonder if ever in the history of men two sides stopped fighting because a third party demanded that a fourth party should not talk to one of the two parties that are fighting. Another example to this hypocrisy is the “Jewish Voice for Peace” organization. This organization claims somehow to recognize Israel’s right to exist, yet at the same time it calls openly for the world to divest against Israel. These “peace” activists can come in many shapes. Some even like to carry fire arm, knifes and iron bars. They like to use the word “peace” to poetically describe themselves as the victims. Some like to inject even more incitement into the region, by spreading lies about Israel, and using harsh and negative “sound bytes” like “apartheid”, presenting the situation in the Middle East as a simple black and white scenario, with Israel as the bad side.

Personally I think it is insulting to use the apartheid analogy. It’s not just harmful, but completely false and inaccurate, and does a real disservice to any person who suffered under real apartheid in South Africa, and an injustice to any person who suffers under real apartheid today in South Sudan, Darfur, etc. these are crimes which are, sadly enough, ignored by the world. One of the most important parts of this is the fact that all of Israeli governmental policy is almost always taken out of context. People with short memory do not remember the massive wave of terror Israel was facing between the years 2000 and 2005. People forget that the checkpoints, security fence, and other restrictions only started to exist because 30-40 terrorist would enter Israel every day, murdering and the most brutal ways thousands of Israeli civilians – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and other minorities.

The sad thing is that this context is actually making it more difficult for the Israelis and the Palestinian to have a true dialogue. Furthermore, it is a disservice even more for the Palestinians than to the Israelis. Free Gaza? Great! Free Gaza… from HAMAS! A terrorist organization, that in the year 2006 has killed more Palestinian civilians in Gaza than the Israeli Defense forces during Operation Cast Lead — not to mention the violation of basic human rights like killing people who are Christians because of the fact they are Christians, gender segregation, forcing people to wear certain clothes, creating a Muslim criminal court system (which allows executing people for being gay, or just in general not following the Muslim laws), and not allowing freedom of press, assembly or religion. The saddest thing in my mind is that these “peace activists” are so caught up in their cause, that they have stopped noticing that they have become violent.

The only way to solve a conflict is with a dialogue. Not talking to one side, Israel or Israel supporters (which is what organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other representatives of the BDS movement are doing) is the opposite of peace. It is causing both sides to be more alienated from each other. So the next time that you talk about peace, please, think about the definition you would prefer using – an open dialogue to bring a period of mutual concord between governments, or a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity — and not just to eliminate one side.