On her recent visit to Los Angeles, I had a private meeting with the 72 year old elder stateswoman of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel and the co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, Greta Berlin.
Now why would a Zionist supporter of Israel, and the former Director of Media at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles meet with someone who supports the destruction of the State of Israel, as we know it? Good question! As a strong supporter of Israel, some people question why I would give a public platform to these people to bash Israel.
I believe that it is important to get to know and understand the people who hate us and not bury our heads in the sand and wish them away. If we understand them we can refute them. The BDS Movement is not going away any time soon and they have had some success on many levels.
In a world where 10% of the people believe that Elvis is still alive, you can never get all the people to love you no matter what you do and that goes for Israel as well. However how small the BDS movement is, they make a lot of noise and the danger for Israel and its supporters is that if they don’t fight back and simply ignore them, the majority of the world population who doesn’t know Tel Aviv from Jenin will only hear the BDS side of the story and they will start to believe in their message.
Having spent almost three hours with Berlin drinking tea and discussing the Mid-East situation and her life, I decided I wasn’t going to debate her I already did that and kicked her tuchus on my show. I wanted to get to know her as a person and to understand why she thinks and believes what she does. The BDS movement against Israel is not made up of evil people with devils horns, but with many nice misguided people including Jews, who put the wrath of the world and all its problems onto Israel. Berlin, in fact is a pretty charming woman.
I began a public discussion with Greta Berlin, three years ago when I hosted a popular Jewish/Israeli talk show on the radio and she was a guest a couple of times. I believe we hit it off when I introduced her in my own unique way.
I stated that my next guest was married twice. The first time was to a Palestinian and the second time was to a Jew and that’s why she has the last name Berlin.I said obviously that the Palestinian must have been a better lover than the Jewish Mr. Berlin because she strongly supports the Palestinians, rather than the Israelis.
We laughed and we got along. We had frank discussions and I let my audience, my callers do all the screaming, yelling and cursing and trust me no one held back, everything goes on internet radio and some of what was said cannot be repeated in this family publication.
When I found out that Berlin, who lives in France, would be in Los Angeles, to promote her book “Freedom Sailors” (the story about the first flotilla trip to Gaza) I suggested we meet.
Berlin believes in a one State solution for Israel and the Palestinians. She compares Israel to South Africa and says that a peaceful two State solution is not possible. “There can’t be two States with the West Bank cut up like Swiss cheese. It has to be one man, one vote” she states.
The story of the controversial co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and one of Israel’s strongest critics began in the Mid-West where she was raised by parents who said “we have an obligation to people who are not as fortunate as we are”. Her father was a union organizer and was called a “communist”.
Her second husband, a Palestinian born in Safed, Israel fled Israel with his family during the War of Independence in 1948. “As long as my daughter cannot return to Safed, where her father was born and raised, then there is no justice for the Palestinians” Berlin says.
Her message to Israel’s supporters is that “you need to stop your support of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians.” “You cannot continue to support a country like South Africa on steroids. You need to say I’m sorry for the actions of 1948 and 1967 and set up reconciliation councils like what was done in South Africa and learn to share the sandbox”.
“I don’t support any political entity, including the United Sates and Hamas” states Berlin who left America for France in 2004, when President Bush got re-elected. “I sold everything and left for France in protest.”
From her home in France, Berlin co-founded the Free Gaza Movement, the flotilla movement that sends ships to Gaza to protest Israel’s blockade of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip.
“When you put a Star of David on a death machine and aim it at kids in Gaza, no wonder why they hate you. I condemn all violence against any civilians including Israel’s violence against Palestinian civilians or Palestinian violence against Israelis. I’m a non-violent activist, but I’m not a pacifist. If someone comes to my door I will protect my children. There is a difference between attacking and self defense.” “Israel has no right to stop us” says Berlin, who led the first successful trip to Gaza’s blocked waters in August 2008.
Berlin campaigns hard for the BDS movement against Israel, and points to being instrumental in cancelling the entire Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, and convincing Roger Waters and Elvis Costello to cancel concerts in Israel. She is also against any artists playing military benefits in the US as well declaring that “Americans are occupiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Berlin, strongly denies being anti-Semitic and claims to have many Jewish friends including Israelis. Berlin made the news last year for an anti-Semitic video that she re-posted on her Facebook page which declared that the “Zionists collaborated with the Nazis”. “I am sorry that I didn’t watch the video before I re-posted it. That was my mistake. I did it from my phone. The video was ridiculous and I apologized for the content.” Berlin jokes that “I was married 14 years to an Arab and 14 years to a Jew, and if anyone has the right to be anti-Semitic, it is me”.
Besides her book tour, Berlin is organizing another flotilla to Gaza in the spring, this time sailing from Gaza to Europe to show “the world that Gaza has a right to its own sea and has a right to sail boats in and out of its port” she declares.
After having met with Berlin, my resolve to defend Israel has become stronger. Not all the haters of Israel carry guns some carry sweet smiles. However humanistic and well intentioned that these people are, people like Berlin in the media, can do more damage to Israel than a Hamas fighter and that is the danger.