The Southeast Region of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was nearly done with a night of honor and celebration May 19 when the infiltrators struck.
FIDF Regional Chairman Garry Sobel was in the middle of his pitch for donations when two women at a table near the doors to the Georgia Aquarium ballroom jumped up to make their plea to “free Palestine.” By the time most of the 500 people at the gala understood what was happening and began to boo, the stunt was over.
The two women who caused the commotion and the man who shot a low-quality video of their exploits with his cellphone were forced out of the ballroom and the aquarium, and Sobel hardly missed a beat as he resumed his praise for the women of the IDF and made his call for donations.
The stunt didn’t hurt fundraising; the gala raised more than half a million dollars. It didn’t detract from the tributes paid earlier to Israeli Consul General Opher Aviran and his wife, Talyah, or the celebration throughout the night of the brave women who stand side by side with men in 95 percent of IDF jobs. And half a minute of chanting and singing didn’t change any minds about the IDF, Israel or the Palestinians.
The stunt and its social media celebrations afterward had the feel of a student prank, including mocking text messages the instigator, Cox Enterprises heir Jim Chambers, sent to FIDF Executive Director Seth Baron with references to the Mossad and poor intelligence. No one was ever in any danger at an event whose security included Atlanta police and the Israeli consulate’s finest.
So why did Chambers chip in more than $600 of the family fortune for tickets to get the protesters inside instead of lining up with the picketers outside who shouted at every car entering the parking lot?
What was the point?
In part, it was a morale booster for the anti-Israel progressives, those who look at Israel as an expression of European colonialism and the Palestinians as the blameless victims of 67 years of white oppression.
In part, it was a shot at the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, Robbie Friedmann’s program to strengthen U.S.-Israeli ties and share Israeli expertise with American police. Even though GILEE — a frequent target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement — had nothing to do with the FIDF dinner, Chambers’ press release about the stunt prominently mentioned the program.
And in part, it was terror.
Not “Your life is in danger wherever you go” terror, the kind that some Palestinians try to inflict on their Israeli neighbors through knife attacks, rockets and car driven into crowds at bus stops. But certainly “We want you to feel uncomfortable and know that you can’t hide” terror.
Chambers and friends wanted to infiltrate the pro-Israel comfort zone. They wanted to shake us up so that we might think twice before attending the next pro-Israel event.
Don’t let them win. Try to go to one more pro-Israel event this year than last. Reach a little deeper when you donate to FIDF and other organizations doing good work in Israel, such as Jewish National Fund. Smile and thank Israel’s foes for the donations if they try this sort of stunt again. Otherwise, don’t give them another thought.