The violent clashes with religious extremists in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, have been going on for years but they rose to a new level in the past week, drawing national and international attention to a problem the government has been reluctant to confront. The attack on an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl who was spit upon, called a slut and subjected to indignities by men claiming to have the permission of their rabbis brought shame to the religious community and to the nation's reputation for tolerance.
The stories of these religious fanatics who throw eggs and bags of excrement and hurl obscene curses at children, who want to prevent men and women from walking on the same side of the street or sitting in the same sections of public buses are by now well known. These zealots present to the world an ugly portrait of Israel.
And don't blame the anti-Israel foreign press; the story was covered extensively in every Israeli newspaper, radio and television station and all over the Internet. It also got extensive international coverage, notably in American newspapers and television.
Everywhere that is but the Daily Alert, a Jewish establishment newsletter that touts itself as a summary of the important news out of the Middle East. If you were naïve enough to depend on the Daily Alert for your news, as many are, then the riots and violence in Beit Shemesh never happened. That may be because the publication is prepared by the right-leaning Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and distributed by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The Daily Alert summarizes a dozen or so of what are supposedly the top stories of importance to friends of Israel and is distributed free daily to hundreds of Jewish organizations, synagogues, community leaders and activists around the country.
Inexplicably, it didn't have space for news about strife on Israeli streets that divides the nation although there was enough room for stories with headlines like "Arab Man Who Stoned Jewish Vehicle in Jerusalem Gets 4 Years," "How Did Israeli Pencils Reach Saudi Retail Chain?" and a photo titled "Hamas Women March with Kalashnikov Rifles in Gaza."
One gets the impression that the COP's policy is to block out news that reflects badly on the Israeli right and the religious establishment, while shining all its spotlights on anything that shows Arabs, particularly Palestinians, in a negative light.
That's not news, it's propaganda, even if it's for a cause you believe in.
The COP does a great disservice to the American Jewish community it claims to represent, treating Jewish leaders and activists as though they are not smart enough to be trusted with the truth.