Sherwin Pomerantz

Not Everything is Anti-Semitism

A few years ago I was in Amman, Jordan and picked up a copy of the Jordan Times, the local English language daily newspaper.

There was an article there about a conference held the day before dealing with the issue of the inability of a percentage of Jordanian women to become pregnant and bear children.  One of the speakers at the conference took pains to explain that the reason this was happening was because of the failure of the Israelis to make peace with the Palestinians.

The editor of the paper, seeing the absolute folly in linking these two totally unrelated issues so as to position them as cause and effect, wrote a blistering piece directed at the speaker and others like him.  In it he wrote that while it is handy to blame everything on the Israel-Palestinian conflict it was absurd to place the blame for Jordanian infertility on an unresolved regional conflict.

That story came to mind this week as I was reading about the flap regarding Saudi Arabian airlines and its rule of not permitting holders of only Israeli passports to use the airline, even if they are flying say from New York to Mumbai with only a change of planes in Riyadh.

The case was a test by someone in New York who tried to make such a reservation on line.  As is the custom when flying internationally, the airlines’ web site asks for the country under whose passport the passenger is travelling.  The passenger in question became incensed when Israel was not one of the available choices.  He then called the New York office of the airline and they confirmed that this was not an option and politely asked him if he had a different passport, after which he went to the press complaining that the airline was both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

But quite frankly this is all very understandable and has nothing to do with anti-anything.   Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and, as such, people holding only Israeli passports cannot enter the country.  But, you say, the passenger had no intention of entering Saudi Arabia.  True, but the airlines’ fear, no doubt, and rightfully so, is that if there were to be a glitch in the schedule and the passenger had to stay overnight in Saudi Arabia, he would not be allowed to leave the airport and enter the country, given his country of citizenship.

While the situation may be distasteful to many of us, the fact is that this is the case when diplomatic relations do not exist between two specific countries. 

Sadly, we are so sensitive to these kinds of issues that any time we see a situation like this we identify it as just one more example of being anti-something just as the Jordanian speaker reacted at the conference referred to above.

There is no question that we Jews have enemies in the world.  There is also no question that we Israelis have enemies in the world.  But not every action can be classified as yet another example of the world being against us.  The risk of doing so is to create an atmosphere where no one believes anyone who claims that something is anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli, and that would do us more damage than not being able to fly on Saudi Arabian airlines. 

A statement attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laërtius in his The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, where the sage was asked what those who tell lies gain by it and he answered “that when they speak truth they are not believed.”  Something to remember for sure.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.