Alex Ryvchin is a writer, speaker, and media contributor on the Arab-Israeli conflict, foreign and national affairs, and religion and identity. He is a lawyer and the Director of Public Affairs at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. His new book is “The Anti-Israel Agenda: Inside the Political War on the Jewish State” (Gefen Publishing House, 2017).
He was born in Kiev, Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union. In 1987, his family was allowed to leave the Soviet Union as ‘refuseniks,’ and sought refuge in Australia. Beyond “The Anti-Israel Agenda,” Ryvchin has written for the Morning Herald, the Huffington Post, the Canberra Times, and the Jerusalem Post, as well as other syndicated publications and media outlets worldwide. He resides in Sydney with his wife Vicki and daughters Lilah and Elly.
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr. – Newsblaze.com columnist I note that you are originally from the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine or whatever you wish to call it at the time of your birth.
Author Alex Ryvchin, “The Anti-Israel Agenda: Inside the Political War on the Jewish State” – I was born in Kiev in Ukraine. My family left there when I was three-and-a-half-years-old. My parents were labeled ‘refuseniks’ in the 1980’s. They were refused any rights, their jobs were taken from them and as Jewish dissidents they sought another country to take us. We took the route of many Jews and spent nine months in Italy. We waited to see which country would take us and fortunately Australia did so. It is a beautiful open and free country in stark contrast to the Soviet Union where we came from. We acclimated, learned the language and fit into the society.
Schwab – It sounds like things worked out very well.
Ryvchin – Australia is much like America should be. Immigrants need to accept the responsibilities of citizenship.
Schwab – You write in the book that it is an inter-Arab rivalry to destroy Israel. Can you pontificate on that?
Ryvchin – That began with the ‘Six Day War’ in 1967. Arabs were jockeying to see who would emerge the leader of nations siding against Israel. Egypt took the lead soon after that war and led the way as the leader of the fight. They placed about 100,000 troops on the southern border. The provocations on one front or another played out among the Egyptian allies in the conflict until 1979 when President Carter brought Israel and Egypt to the peace table and a treaty was signed.
Schwab – You mention the words “Arab Street” in the book. What does that mean?
Ryvchin – The “Arab Street” is a reference to the Arab people and the dictators they are ruled under. They are subject to their whims of the moment which was very prevalent in the 1960’s and 70’s. They actually still do to a degree aggravating the tensions of their peoples and directing the common cause of their problems at Israel. It diverts their eyes from the extremes and corruption of the regimes themselves.
Schwab – Who in the Arab world at this moment would you consider to be friends of Israel?
Rvychin – Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 that was unthinkable after leading the aggression in 1967 and 1973. They now have a widespread security agreement. In 1984, Israel signed an agreement with the Jordanians. There is a growing realization that Israel is not the center of the problems these nations face. Iran is the growing nemesis for many Arab countries as Israel begins to formulate more growing alliances with the Islamic world including Indonesia. The idea is that Israel is a good business partner worthy of cooperation rather than attempting to tear it down.
Schwab – You have said that the Palestine movement is pre-occupied with symbols and no substance. What does that mean?
Rvychin – The Palestinian manipulation of its people is symbolic. The flag waving over the idea of any substantial conversation is an example. The bloodshed in Israel now is largely due to the Palestinian manipulation of UNESCO. They play to the Palestinian agenda. They claim exclusive privilege of holy sites for instance in Israel’s second largest city, Hebron. UNESCO is sympathetic to these wishes. It emboldens the Palestinians to violence as we have seen the last few weeks in Jerusalem.
Schwab – You write that Zionism is no more than the secular national movement of the Jewish people. Comment on that.
Ryvchin – It is gathering up the people as a nation from where they came. It is no different than any other national movement of any people in the world.
Schwab – It is fifty years since the “Six Day War.” Do you consider the Israeli people any safer in 2017 than 50-years-ago?
Ryvchin – Yes. Their military is the strongest by far in the region. They are stronger than all the combined forces that exist in that part of the world. The Israelis must stay strong economically and avoid political isolation with the rest of the world. That would be the downfall of the nation state.
Schwab – Comparing the two administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, which makes Israel safer?
Ryvchin – I think more than likely it would be Trump. But the thing about Trump that is predictable is he is unpredictable. He is trying very hard to broker a peace; with a dialogue there is always hope. As far as Obama and his polities in Syria, he emboldened the militant forces in the region.
Schwab – Many Americans find the Middle East peace process endless. Do you find it to be as much a business at this point as any real sort of process with a conclusion? Will there ever be real peace for Israel or is this just an industry without end?
Ryvchin – The political will has to be there. The most dangerous threat to real peace is the Palestinians’ indulgence in national forums. They feel they can secure their borders and their definition of peace in this way.
Schwab – Do you feel the United Nations has been a hindrance to Israel in their quest for peace with their neighbors?
Ryvchin – It did not form Israel, but the UN recognized it in 1947. UN democratic processes are open to manipulation and distortion. The majority of countries involved are not democratic and therefore they hold a majority in every U.N. body. So much of the U.N. energy is spent on human rights issues in Israel when it should be spent in Cuba, etc. The U.N. is no friend of Israel, but I am optimistic with the new Secretary General and the U.N. Ambassador from the United States, Nikki Haley, that better times are coming. She (Haley) shows that speaking plainly and truthfully makes great things happen.
Schwab – Is Iran the wild card for things to go south in the Middle East; specifically Israel?
Ryvchin – Speaking of the “Arab Street,” Iran is very good at whipping up the frenzy of its people and pointing to Israel as the cause of their problems. They fund some of the most malignant terrorist organizations in the region including Hezbollah. There will continue to be tensions with Iran until the day comes they stop such practices.
Schwab – What would prompt Israel to action?
Ryvchin – You mean militarily I assume. Israel has a very simple foreign policy. If you leave her alone, she will do the same. If you make war, she will strike back with everything she has. The nuclear ambitions of the Iranians and the Assad regime in Syria are all deeply worrisome for Israel. If there were a threat of nuclear weapons being deployed, I think Israel would react immediately.
Schwab – The Russian/Iranian connection in Syria. What problems do you see with this relationship for Israel in the future?
Ryvchin – Russian President Putin is a very skilled politician. The relationship between him and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has become much closer. Israel knows that Russia has a greater role to play in the region.
Schwab – Don’t you find it a paradox the Russians are in bed with the Iranians?
Ryvchin – It is the nature of the world at the moment. The real world dictates the Israeli government speaks with Russia, which is the main back-up for the Iranians. Israel can have no direct ties with Iran. Perhaps a closer relationship with Russia will benefit peace in the region. It is the reality of the situation.
Schwab – You mention U.S. campus hatred towards Israel.
Ryvchin – Part of that is linked to Russia. Russia once was a great supporter of Israel some 50-years ago. Like the academic community, things changed. Now the academics view Israel as colonialists. They are in favor of arbitrary conflict. If you dare show up to be pro-Israel, you will be shouted down. Much like the Soviet Union spurned their Jewish population, academics now encourage their flock to do the same with Israel.
Schwab – I find this all very confusing. Most universities in this country are liberal. Not just liberal, far left liberal. How can they react to the Israelis this way. And beyond that, how is it that the Jewish electorate of this country tend to vote for the Democratic Party candidates? Not too long ago, the Israelis were more than a bit upset with the Obama administration.
Ryvchin – American Jews tend to think of themselves as Americans. They vote basically on domestic matters. Health and education are their priorities. Because of this, they tend to be left-leaning. Unless the Democratic Party becomes overtly hostile to Israel, it will remain that way. If the party seems to turn towards people like Keith Ellison, who lost out as the Democratic Party chairman, it will quickly side with the GOP. If the party becomes more than the progressive party of ideals, then changes will occur. In terms of the campus uprising, it is all about language. The Israelis are portrayed these days as the occupiers. Campus militants are for what is “anti.” It fits well into their venue. It is the aggressor versus the victim. Oversimplified language that young minds take hold with. It is seductive to resist and stand up to the perceived authority.
Schwab – It’s no secret that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was overjoyed to see Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
Ryvchin – I think Netanyahu would have been happy with Hillary Clinton when it came to her policies toward Israel. However, his friendship with Trump has undoubtedly led to more Jewish votes for the Republicans. Obama’s U.N. Security Council vote on 2334 was not appreciated by the Israelis. They felt it was a gesture of turning America’s back on a key ally in the Middle East.
Schwab – The book is “The Anti-Israel Agenda: Inside the Political War on the Jewish State.” It is presently in release and Alex Ryvchin is the author. Thank you for spending a few moments with our readers and good luck with this important topic.
Ryvchin – Thank you.