DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—I'm deeply honored to announce that Ruth Wasserman Lande has joined the Advisory Board of ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
We met on Tuesday for coffee at the Burj al-Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, to finalize the agreement and to discuss from her background and experience.
We also picked up a conversation we began back in Jerusalem, discussing a wide range of other issues, from her views on the future of Arab-Israeli peace-making and why she agreed to speak at this Global Investment Forum of Arabs and Israelis here in Dubai, to her views on the extreme media bias manifesting against Israel and against peace, to the importance of Israel doing more to strengthen its strategic alliance with the world’s 600 million Evangelicals.
The first thing you need to know about Lande is that she served as a foreign policy adviser to the late Israeli President Shimon Peres, one of the founding fathers of our country.
She served for many years in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, including a three-year stint posted in Egypt.
More recently, she served as a member of Knesset as a member of Blue and White, the center-right party founded and led by current Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
As I have gotten to know her over the past year, I have been impressed by her strategic thinking, her love for both Jews and Arabs, and her understanding of the importance Christians generally and Evangelicals in particular play in standing with Israel and helping to advance peace.
As such, I have no doubt she will make an excellent addition to our Advisory Board as we continue working to build the most trusted English-language news source for Christians who care about events and trends in Israel, the Middle East and North Africa.
Here is part two of my interview with her.
COMBATTING MEDIA LIES ABOUT ISRAEL
JOEL ROSENBERG: Ruth, let's start with the obvious question. Thank you so much for joining our advisory board. But why have you done so?
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: I have believed for years in cooperation and in working together in order to make people better understand the complexity both of the region and the intricacies of the different populations who live in the Holy Land and in Jerusalem, in the other cities in Israel. And I believe in really embracing anyone who truly embraces Israel and the Jewish people, and to work together to see how we can make Israel better.
ROSENBERG: I appreciate that so much. As you know, because we've spent quite a bit of time talking about it – you and me and my wife, including in our home not long ago – this news site, and our sister site, ALL ARAB NEWS, is not only for Christians. We're being tracked by and watched by Jews and Muslims and people of other faiths and of no faith. But it is primarily for Evangelicals. There are 600 million of us worldwide, and 60 million in the United States alone. And Evangelicals have an enormous love for and enormous interest in Israel. Yet they are concerned. They’re asking, “Where do I go to find news and analysis that is not anti-Israel or skewed?” That is something I know that you've been very concerned about. And I think the Gaza war recently with Hamas and with Islamic Jihad put in stark relief all over again just how hostile so much of the media is against us.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: I think that the international media very much simplifies complex messages. For example, I just spent quite a significant amount of time speaking on the South African Broadcasting Corporation, to a very antagonistic audience, in order to explain what has been going on with the Gaza war. I’m doing everything I can on media interviews to explain to fair-minded people what is really happening here, what we are really facing, because far too often the international media won’t do the job. They have a very skewed vision of Israel. But I believe it’s very important for people to get a better comprehension of the intricacies and the complexities that we face in Israel. So, I have spent a lot of time in the last three weeks on different media channels, both in Israel and abroad, trying to explain things to people.
Joel, I very much appreciate what ALL ISRAEL NEWS is doing, not only for Evangelicals, but for others too. You’re really working to provide depth and insight into what is going on. And this is very important and I’m very secure in my sharing my message with you and with others because I know that the truth is on our side – 4,500 rockets being fired from a civilian population in Gaza to a civilian population in Israel is inhumane and cannot be ignored.
ROSENBERG: You’re right, and in the case of Gaza, as you just said, you have 4,500 rockets coming in, unprovoked. Okay, there's some disagreements about how to keep security on the Temple Mount. That's important, but it's not worth firing over 4,500 rockets over, right? There's a dispute, a property dispute, in an East Jerusalem neighborhood called Sheikh Jarrah. We did a big story on it last week to walk people through exactly what is going on. Yet people are willing to go on television or in the newspapers or on radio and say, because of those property disputes, Hamas has every right to go fire rockets at Israel. And the media just sort of reports that kind of narrative.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: Right – and that is insane to me. Think about it. Let’s take an American Evangelical living in Ohio, just as an example. What if 4,500 rockets were fired at them in Ohio – not in Jerusalem, not in Israel, not in Tel Aviv, but in Ohio. Does that make sense? Is that right? What if 80% of the population of Ohio had to leave their jobs, leave restaurants, leave their stores and leave every single thing that they are doing? What if their kids were developing post-traumatic stress disorders because they kept hearing the air raid sirens again and again – which is hysterically frightening and the wooing sound goes into your body and into your bones again and again and again? What if you had to run into your security room or bomb shelter, hoping that neither your house nor your family will be hurt, and again, there are 4,500 rockets flying at you in Ohio? Would a person in Ohio not expect their own government to do something about it? Of course they would.
COMBATTING RISING ANTI-SEMITISM
ROSENBERG: I’m actually compiling for a different story for ALL ISRAEL NEWS some of the worst examples of extreme media bias against Israel in the recent war. Not all. We can't possibly fill up our entire new site with examples of horrific media bias against Israel. But I’ll be publishing that story soon. And I believe that the terrible anti-Israeli bias we are seeing in American and international media outlets is beginning to turn into anti-Semitism attacks in the streets of the U.S. and other countries. This is very serious.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: True. Anti-Semitism has risen to frightening trends. I think that it should awaken every right-minded person throughout the world about hate speech that some things are absolutely unacceptable. Innocent Jewish civilians throughout the world are being attacked – in New York, in Los Angeles, in Canada, in Toronto. Wait. Where are we? Are we not in the 21st century?
Now the Human Rights Committee in the United Nations has singled out Israel as the only country in the entire universe committing human rights violations. How is that possible? If we examine for one second which countries are sitting on that committee, the hypocrisy is physically painful. So now the UN is giving legitimacy to the horrendous anti-Semitism that is rising.
Now hate, in my experience, never stays in one very limited space. Once there is hate, it sprays onwards to other people. Hatred of Jewish people is terrible. But it will also seep into hatred against other people, against people just because they are black or Catholic or Orthodox or anything else. Hate is something that we need to deal with as intelligent and honest people in the 21st century.
LOVING ISRAEL WHILE ALSO LOVING ARABS
ROSENBERG: I agree with you, Ruth, and one of the things I have been very encouraged by as I have gotten to know you – and one of the reasons I asked you to come on to the Advisory Board – is that you have such a strong love for Israel. You have served in the Knesset. You have served one of the great leaders of Israel, Shimon Peres. And your brand of Zionism means that Israel has a right to exist and has the right to create a safe Jewish state with a robust democracy. But you also have a true love for Arabs.
I would like your voice to be heard more on our site and among Christians around the world. Many people don’t realize that you can be strongly pro-Israel while also loving and showing compassion towards Arabs. And that really is your vision and also was Shimon Peres’ vision. Talk a little bit about that, about how you see Israel and Palestinians and then why you're going to the Gulf for this very interesting summit.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: Thank you for saying those wonderful and warm words, Joel. As you know, 80% of Israel are Jewish people. And 20% of our population is non-Jewish – some are Arab Christians, most are Arab Muslims, some are Druze, some are Bedouins from the North. We really have a non-homogenous kind of a society and we are a democratic country. The very essence of Israel is Jewish, but it's also democratic, as well. We it isimportant to me to help our minority populations and include them in everyday life. Some of them are Arab doctors. Some of them are Arab nurses that have been very active recently at fighting the pandemic alongside Jewish Israeli nurses and doctors. Some of them are Arab judges, high court judges, CEOs of the very biggest banks and hospitals in Israel. They are part and parcel of Israeli society. This may not be something that most people in the world know or think about. And, of course, that's not normally an issue that is talked about in international media. On the contrary, it's only talked about when Jews and Arabs fight within Israel, as has happened recently in the in the very recent fighting, which I believe very much has been instigated by haters of Israel from outside like Qatar, like Hamas, like Iran and other entities. But it’s important to me that we love and serve Arab Israelis, and other minorities, just like we love and serve Israeli Jews.
ROSENBERG: You spent many years of your life with your family in South Africa. You describe a pluralistic Jewish democracy with and Arab population of 20% or so. Would you just take a moment and explain what apartheid is? Because many people accuse Israel of being an “apartheid state,” when it is not. And let’s be honest – Gaza has zero Jews. The West Bank run by the Palestinian Authority has zero Jews. Syria has zero Jews. Jordan has zero Jews. Egypt, I know personally, has 15 Jews. Most Arab countries have no Jews. Yet the media and our critics say that Israel is an apartheid state when we have more than 20% Arabs and they have freedom to vote and run for office and rise to the highest levels of society, whereas in most Arab countries Jews were driven out or have no chance to rise.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: That is so true. When I was a child, when I was nine years old, my family decided to move to South Africa. We had family members there and my father and mother had moved to Cape Town. It was already the end of the era of illegal apartheid. But one could see, let's say, the results were still there in the minds of people because it infected the country for many years. Physically, for example, in the parks, you still saw benches where it was “whites only” or “blacks only.” And as a child who grew up in Israel in the south of Tel Aviv where we played ball outside with black children, white children, yellow children, we really didn't see any difference. So, for me, it was quite shocking.
I lived in South Africa until I ended my high school education. So I was very much impacted by the whole era of post-legal apartheid and Nelson Mandela was being released from prison. So I know what apartheid looks like. And when people speak about apartheid vis-a-vis the State of Israel, it's insane to me.. It's absolutely insane. And, in fact, it belittles what horrors have been done to Jewish people in the Arab world, and in Europe. Apartheid is wrong. Treating one race well and another race terribly is wrong. But that is not what Israel does. I have many, many Arab friends in Israel. I go to their homes. They are free to practice their religion completely freely. They are free to practice anything that they want. They are free to study any way they want. They are, in fact, even some kind of advantages to being an Israeli Arab. For example, you can get stipends to study in universities that are more generous if you're an Arab than if you are Jewish. If you are an Arab, Muslim or a Druze and you are doing the military service like I did, you receive land at 90% discount, as an example. And land, of course, is one of the most expensive commodities in this country because of the lack thereof. I,as somebody who did three years of military service, was discharged honorably as a captain. I do reserve duty. But I'm not getting anything like that generous benefit like Arab Israelis get. So, to say that this country is an apartheid country is not only hateful, it is misleading and telling people lies.
ROSENBERG: It really is slander. It's not just ignorance. It is slanderous. And it's dangerous.
Okay, so, you have come to Dubai. You are going to speak to the Global Investment Summit. You will be on a panel with another of our advisory board members, Ambassador Houda Nonoo from the Kingdom of Bahrain. You’ll also be talking with another guest of ALL ISRAEL NEWS, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. So, just talk a little more about why you came and why you believe Shimon Peres’s vision for the Middle East – a “New Middle East” – is coming to pass.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: I think the Abraham Accords are groundbreaking, game changing, nothing less. The fact that we today can go to Dubai to speak as an Israeli, that I don't have to hide my identity, is amazing. That is something that I could not have imagined two or three years ago. And this makes me hopeful that things may still go the right way vis-a-vis the Palestinians, and for the region in general.
I am especially impressed by the courage demonstrated by the UAE leadership to be the first Arab nation in a quarter of century to not only make peace with Israel but to normalize relations with Israel. And the Emiratis stand strongly behind their commitment. They stand for peace openly, even though at times it's difficult, even though a lot of my Emirati friends have a lot of hate talk on the social media networks and a lot of criticism against their leadership and against them personally and their family members. Yet they stand strong because they have decided that peace needs to be given a kind of a successful model and they are leading this model and I salute them for that.
I will come here every time there is an opportunity to be Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, to stand by our friends.
BUILDING A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE WITH CHRISTIANS
ROSENBERG: I agree and very well put. Last question. There's so much more to talk about. We will keep interviewing you in the days and months and years ahead. But the last issue I want to discuss was a survey that was released last week describing young Evangelicals in the United States whose support for Israel is significantly lower than their parents or their grandparents. There's a growing concern that young Evangelicals may be may be starting to turn away from Israel. I think it's too early to draw that conclusion myself from the numbers I'm seeing. But I think there's there's definitely a gap. And it is concerning.
Mostly, of course, this is the Christian world's responsibility. I think that most of these young people aren not being taught the Bible from Genesis through the New Testament book of Revelation. Therefore, they're missing God's heart and plan and purpose and love for Israel and the Jewish people. And if you miss that story, you will have a very different view of Israel than God does. You’ll see it as just some country that is not really that special, that maybe God doesn't have a special plan for it. So, I think that's the main reason that this gap is growing – a lack of solid biblical education.
But I do think this is all made worse by media bias and political bias against Israel.
Now, I said this on i24 News the other night – I have been proposing for quite a while that Israel's next government, Israel's next prime minister, should appoint an ambassador dedicated specifically to the Christian world. Yes, Israeli-Christian relations should be part of the prime minister's portfolio. It should also be part of the foreign minister’s portfolio, and that of every Israeli ambassador. But I think we really need an ambassador specifically for this.
I would love your thoughts on this. Israel has never had such an ambassador. Prime Minister Netanyahu did promise it two years ago at the Christian Media Summit that I attended in Jerusalem. And since then, admittedly, there hasn't been a solid, functioning government. Rather, we’ve had four rounds of elections. And we're still trying to form a government. But I would like you thoughts on the merits of my idea and the need for Israel to not to take Christians – especially Evangelicals – for granted.
RUTH WASSERMAN LANDE: Absolutely. Joel, thank you for asking me that question, because it allows me to really explain and put forward my thoughts. I very much support your idea. In fact, not only do I support, but if I have any influence, I will embark on a mission to campaign for this idea. Because I think it is extremely important and I say this to you, looking in your eyes and giving you my word, because I think it is extremely important. We do need such an ambassador.
And we have to use media better. ALL ISRAEL NEWS is an important element in reaching and educating all Christians, and especially younger Christians, because the media – and especially social media – has great influence on young people. So we need to use this important and impactful tool to speak to the younger generation. The government of Israel needs to do a much better job explaining our country, and our values, and what we we are doing, for instance. What you speak about regarding teaching the Bible, of course, is so important. But regarding social media messaging, there is not enough manpower in the Israeli government to be effective, not enough budget.
ROSENBERG: Well, let's make it a joint mission. Ruth Wasserman Lande, thank you so much for joining the ALL ISRAEL NEWS Advisory Board. And thank you for this interview.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.