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December 05, 1986 - Image 52

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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52

Friday, December 5, 1986





THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS



erusalem — It doesn't
happen very often that
journalists themselves,
or rather the articles that
they write, become news. The
series on the Jewish Agency,
"Where Do All Our Dollars
Go?" published this spring in
the Baltimore Jewish Times
and The Jewish News, raised
quite a row when it appeared
in booklet form in June at
the Jewish Agency Assembly
in Jerusalem. In addition, the
series was the subject of arti-
cles and commentaries in the
American Jewish press as
well as i _ n the Israeli media.
Now that the dust has
cleared a bit, it is time to
react to the commentaries, or
comment on the reactions —
whichever you prefer.
Personally speaking, this
notoriety has been a mixed
blessing. Certainly every j our-
nalist wants his work to be
recognized. It's definitely
satisfying to see one's name
in the papers or to see that
what one writes has an im-
pact. But in this case, along
with recognition came brick-
bats thrown by a few Israeli
politicians who accused me of
being part of an "anti-
Zionist" conspiracy led by
certain American Jewish
philanthropists.
As a former American who
has lived in Israel for the past
16 years, part of that time as
a journalist, I have had a
good vantage point from
which to view recent develop-
ments in Israel - Diaspora rela-
tions. Over the past few
years, I have realized that
many American Jews want to
become more involved in
Israel through their com-
munity's Jewish federation.
But they are no longer as will-
ing to give their contributions
to the United Jewish Appeal,
which in turn hands the
money over to the Agency,
without asking questions
about where it ends up.
Such people have become
increasingly frustrated be-
cause they don't understand
how the Agency functions or
how it relates to the World
Zionist Organization — which
runs the Agency together
with the Diaspora fund-
raising bodies. And they have
become increasingly annoyed
because they can't always get
straight answers to their
questions from Agency or
WZO officials. I felt that a
series of articles focusing on
some of the major issues now
being discussed in these
bodies would help Diaspora
Jewry understand how the

Charles Hoffman is a jour-
nalist based in Jerusalem who
has written widely on Israel-
Diaspora relations.

system works. I believe that
this aim has been vindicated
by the fact that thousands of
copies of the series have been
circulated in Jewish com-
munities all across North
America and even by national
organizations like the UJA.
I fail to understand why
providing this information,
which is otherwise not
available, to the American
Jewish community — a com-
munity that poured over $8
billion into Israel through the
Agency/WZO over the years
— should be denounced as
"anti-Zionist." The act of
"heresy" for which I have
been accused was apparently
in revealing information
damaging to the interests of

"Many delegates
were astounded
by some of the
revelations in the
articles. And I was
astouned that they
were astounded."

the political establishment
that feeds off the Agency and
WZO.
Likewise, some leaders of
the philanthropic establish-
ment were upset that I had
ungraciously stripped away
some of the myths that they
had carefully woven around
the Agency through years of
fund-raising campaigns.
The series was never in-
tended to encompass the en-
tire scope of operations of the
Agency and WZO, which
spend about $500 million a
year on a wide variety of ac-
tivities such as summer pro-
grams in Israel for Diaspora
youth, the establishment of
new rural settlements and the
care of new immigrants.
Those who have criticized the
series on this score fail to
distinguish between jour-
nalism, which points a
spotlight at distinct
segments of our problematic
world, and public relations,
which, if it admits the ex-
istence of problems at all,
always obscures them in the
warm and hazy glow of past
glories and achievements.
Even though I expected the
series to raise some eyebrows
— at least among those with
the stamina to plow through
the long and complex articles
— the magnitude of the con-
troversy it aroused surprised
me as well as others. Why did
this happen?
The first rule of survival for
any political establishment
under attack is to ignore or
downplay controversy stirred
up by the media and carry on
as before once it blows over.
For some reason, the heads of

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