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May 26, 2016 6:46 am

More Positive Signs for the Israel-China Relationship

avatar by Judith Bergman

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is greeted by children while on his visit to China May 6, 2013. Photo: Israel GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is greeted by children while on his visit to China in May, 2013. Photo: Israel GPO.

Welcome to the beauty of Chinese-Israeli cultural relations. Seen against the backdrop of solid loathing of all things Israeli that so dominates the European cultural establishment, the relations between China and Israel almost seem like something out of a dreamlike alternate reality.

The good news is that there is nothing imaginary about them. The story of popular Israeli children’s writer Yanetz Levi, author of the series “Adventures of Uncle Arie,” which has sold more than 700,000 copies in Israel, is a good example of this.

Levi arrived in China this week and was received like a rock star. Fifty thousand copies of his books sold in China before he arrived, and since his arrival tens of thousands more have been sold. In one school alone, 5,000 copies were purchased. While that may not seem like much for a country the size of China, with a population of more than 1 billion, it is still very impressive for a children’s writer from small Israel. The Chinese children greeted him like a superstar, shouting “Lioooshushu” (the equivalent of “Uncle Arie” in Chinese) as he came to their schools. What is there not to love? Evidently, Chinese children are not raised on a BDS-infused diet of lies and hatred.

According to the Israeli Embassy in Beijing, “Israeli culture and its diversity are very popular in China. In addition, culture is an important instrument for deepening relations between the Israeli and Chinese peoples. Bringing Yanetz Levi is an excellent example of the unique connection between the two cultures. The embassy will continue to bring different Israeli artists to increase the Chinese public’s exposure [to Israel].”

This is of course what all embassies do, including Israeli embassies in Europe, but there Israel has little long-lasting success to show for its efforts in the cultural fields. Only this week, British professor Catherine Hall refused to accept Tel Aviv University’s prestigious Dan David prize for her work in gender history, after the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement called on her and other recipients to refuse the prize due to “Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.”

Such pathetic anti-Israeli posturing seems almost inconceivable from a Chinese scholar. Last August, 19Chinese teenagers came to visit Israel as their prize for winning a prestigious science contest in their country. Given a choice of travel destinations, the teenagers chose Israel, where they attended a special 10-day workshop hosted by Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

That says something about the high standing of Israel in China, but it also speaks volumes about the respect for Israel’s accomplishments, which Chinese children evidently learn and hold from an early age.

“For China, Israel is never a small country, but rather, a happy and innovative startup nation with many cutting-edge technologies and rich experience in governing social affairs,” Chinese Ambassador to Israel Gao Yanping said in 2014.

As Levi’s popularity proves, Israeli and Chinese children appear to cherish the same kind of children’s books; there appears to be no brainwashing going on about Israel and the “detrimental effects” of too much exposure to “Zionist” literature, as one imagines taking place among the BDS-infatuated European cultural elites. Already today, there are places in Europe, including Sweden, where classic children’s literature is reviewed by publishing houses for the purpose of altering or deleting potentially “offensive” passages for the more sensitive political palates of the current generations. Several Swedish and Danish writers have even had books taken off the market in Sweden. The step toward limiting other works of litrature simply because of its national origins is a very small one in the current toxic climate of BDS and political correctness.

It is therefore an example of unusual normalcy that China is increasingly proving to be a thriving and growing place for cultural exchange with Israel. The positive ramifications of that relationship can hardly be overestimated, nor should they be taken for granted.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom. 

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