Top 10 Non-Jews Positively Influencing the Jewish Future, 2014
Five years have now passed since I first published my annual list of non-Jews who are worthy of recognition for their positive impact on Jewish lives and the Jewish state.
Looking back, it is fascinating to see how the list has evolved, with some personalities fading from prominence and others emerging to take their place. Some have remained constant throughout the years.
As I have pointed out in the past, my choices are by no means scientific and are primarily intended to prompt interest in this unique group of individuals. Hailing from various countries, ethnic backgrounds and religious groups, the list includes heads of state, business tycoons and spiritual and political leaders. While some of their contributions came through effort and sacrifice, for others they seemed like second nature, but all are surely worthy of our recognition. As such, I present my fifth annual list of the “Top 10 Non-Jews Positively Influencing the Jewish Future.”
The biggest milestone over the past year was Israel’s summer war against Hamas in Gaza, which saw lines drawn between those that supported Israel’s defensive campaign and those that called for the Jewish state to end its operations. The meteoric rise of renewed antisemitic expression during the war should have prompted world leaders to rise up and defend their Jewish populations. Few took sufficient steps, but some of the efforts were notable and are reflected on the list.
Also worth noting is that this year saw the publication of a book about philosemitism by one of the list’s alumni. In an article for the UK’s Telegraph famed British writer Julie Burchill announced that she decided to write Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philosemite after discovering herself on the list.
At the time Burchill wrote of the revelation: “I all but hugged my substantial bulk with glee. Gone was the bitter experience of being recently routed from the synagogue. I was officially a friend of the Jews once more!”
Of course I welcome your feedback on my selections, and your recommendations for next year’s list, in the comments section below.
10. Anett Haskia
Haskia, a Muslim-Arab Zionist hairdresser from the Israeli city of Acre made a name for herself during the summer’s Operation Protective Edge when she regularly appeared on television to defend Israel’s army.
A mother of three, her children serve in the IDF and she maintains an active social media presence. Recently she announced her candidacy to run for parliament in Israel’s Jewish Home political party and could serve as a significant positive inspiration to other members of Israel’s substantial Muslim-Arab population who traditionally side with the Palestinian narrative.
9. Eric Pickles
Britain’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Pickles unveiled new laws this week to combat the country’s rise in antisemitism
The measures include funding for extra security at Jewish schools, and tough punishments for online hate crime as well as teaching schoolchildren about the Holocaust.
The Conservative politician is also a backer of Israeli-British trade and is supportive of the Conservative Friends of Israel group.
8. Manuel Valls
France’s Prime Minister Valls, the country’s former interior minister, has been a leader in the struggle against rampant violence facing Europe’s largest Jewish community.
Openly recognizing the twinning of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment, in July Valls condemned “an anti-Semite who hides his hatred of the Jew behind an appearance of anti-Zionism and the hatred of Israel.”
In 2002, while mayor of the Paris suburb of Evry, Valls joined the weekly synagogue walk after the local Jewish community faced violent attacks, signaling to the perpetrators that the Jews had a powerful ally, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“To many French Jews, Valls is something of a hero for his unusually robust defense of Israel and the French Jewish community,” the Post said. “His elevation is seen as a reassuring sign amid one of French Jewry’s most troublesome periods.”
7. John Hagee
Pastor Hagee’s Christian’s United for Israel has emerged as the world’s largest pro-Israel grassroots membership group. With over 1.2 million members CUFI has made it clear to the leaders of the US, Israel’s greatest ally, that support for Israel is far more widespread than just the Jewish community.
Outspoken, and criticized for his 1999 assertion that the Holocaust was allowed by God to compel Jews to move to Israel, Hagee later voiced genuine regret and has made contributions to the Jewish people so significant that any past insensitivities can be forgiven.
In the early days of Operation Protective Edge, Hagee’s group gathered in Washington DC some 5000 strong where the pastor told his flock, “We’ve come to Washington to ask our government to stop demanding for Israel to show restraint.”
6. Rupert Murdoch
Many of the titles and channels owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation and Twenty-First Century Fox, have, for the most part, covered stories relating to Jews and Israel in a balanced and fair manner, and Murdoch himself has described himself as an ardent Zionist and philosemite.
Murdoch has been recognized by a number of major Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti Defamation League, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage .
At a dinner late last year for an Israeli charity Murdoch told the audience, “You know as I do that as Israel goes, so goes […] our morality and our very existence as freedom loving citizens of the world.”
5. Tony Abbott
The government of Australia’s Prime Minister Abbott has been the most pro-Israel in recent memory. In June it resolved to stop referring to East Jerusalem as “occupied” territory and to adopt additional similar steps.
During the failed United Nations Security Council vote this week to force an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Abbott’s Australia was the only country to join the US in opposing the move.
During Protective Edge the prime minister was firm in his defense of Israeli actions saying, “The problem in the Middle East is that in the end so many people are not prepared to accept Israel’s right to exist.”
Abbot has earned strong support from the country’s Jewish community.
4. Stephen Harper
As Prime Minister of Canada, Harper has consistently led those members of the international community who have risen to the defense of the Jewish state.
In support of Israel’s Gaza campaign, Harper was forthright.
“Canada is unequivocally behind Israel,” Harper said. “We support its right to defend itself, by itself, against these terror attacks, and urge Hamas to immediately cease their indiscriminate attacks on innocent Israeli civilians.”
In 2012, Harper ensured that his government was among the few that opposed the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral move for acceptance at the United Nations.
At a meeting in New York in 2013, Harper said that “There is nothing more short sighted in Western capitals in our time than the softening support for Israel,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. Israel, he said, “is the one strong stable democratic western ally that we have in” the Middle East.
3. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Perhaps an unexpected inclusion on the list, El-Sisi actually topped last year’s list for his unrelenting war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, albeit likely for his own purposes.
El-Sisi has effectively stunted the flow of deadly weapons to the coastal enclave through shutting down hundreds of smuggling tunnels, and, in 2014, creating a substantial buffer zone between Sinai and the Strip.
Despite his heavy handed, autocratic rule Israeli officials have praised the impact El-Sisi has had, specifically as Hamas has proven to be the single group responsible for the most Jewish deaths over the past two decades.
During the summer’s war, El-Sisi all but forced Hamas to accept Israel’s ceasefire terms. Later, he reportedly went so far as to offer a segment of the Sinai peninsula as land for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
2. Mitch McConnell
As the incoming Senate majority leader, McConnell’s commitment to the US-Israel relationship has become more significant than ever.
Now spearheading domestic opposition to President Obama’s widely criticized foreign policy, McConnell and his Republicans may serve as the only obstacle to the Administration’s reckless and irresponsible pandering to the Iranian mullahs.
Additionally, he could lead the drive to cut funding from the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations in the event that unilateral moves towards Palestinian statehood and demonizing Israel continue apace.
During Protective Edge, McConnell ensured that domestic politics wouldn’t interfere in US funding for Israel’s lifesaving Iron Dome missile defense system by introducing an aid package that was independent of a controversial immigration bill.
1. Narendra Modi
Since his sweeping ascension to India’s top job, Modi has used almost every opportunity to promote Israel-India ties.
In November, Bloomberg News reported that “Modi is openly boosting ties with Israel, strengthening a relationship that has largely grown outside of the public spotlight over the past two decades.”
The moves, which began with a meeting between Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Netanayhu, include billions in defense deals, and speculation that India is reconsidering its pro-Palestinian stance at the United Nations.
In November, the two allies successfully tested an advanced missile system, which was hailed by an adviser to the Indian defense minister as “an important milestone in the cooperation between India and Israel,” The Times of Israel reported.
In December, Modi tweeted a Chanukah greeting in Hebrew which wished his “Jewish friends a happy Chanukah! May this Festival of Lights and the festive season ring in peace, hope and well-being for all.”