ASEAN thinkers and influencers visit Israel

June 8, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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A visit to Save a Child’s Heart at the Wolfson Hospital, learning about the Roots Palestinian/Israeli project and praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount were some of the highlights experienced by a delegation of top Southeast Asian journalists and analysts who recently visited Israel.

The delegation with Colin Rubenstein (left) and incoming Israeli Ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer (4th from right)

The group of policy analysts, journalists and editors, hailing from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, toured Israel as participants in the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s (AIJAC’s) Rambam Israel Fellowship Program, accompanied by AIJAC executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein.

“Most international affairs experts agree that this century will see the major focus of world events move away from the Atlantic and increasingly centre on East and Southeast Asia. Moreover, Asia may be a key to countering the growing international campaign of delegitimisation against Israel,” Dr Rubenstein told J-Wire.

“The Rambam program has for several years been taking journalists, academics, government officials, Muslim leaders and others from Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines  to Israel. The positive effects of these short study visits on key Asian opinion leaders cannot be over-estimated.”

In addition to touring Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Sderot, the group also met leading Palestinian officials in Ramallah and were impressed by the new Palestinian city of Rawabi in the West Bank.

Additionally, the delegation visited Yad Vashem, experienced Shabbat hospitality in Jerusalem, saw firsthand Israel’s volatile Northern border and met with Issa Jaber, the mayor of Abu Gosh.

The group also heard from top analysts including former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council Eran Lerman, NGO Monitor director Gerald Steinberg, Palestinian Affairs analyst Khaled Abu Toameh, Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus and leading foreign affairs officials, Ambassador Mark Sofer and Dr Tal Becker.

Dr Rubenstein said many participants from Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, when exposed to the realities on the ground in Israel and the West Bank, recognise that a two-state resolution is what is needed, and Israel is not the party primarily obstructing this outcome from eventuating.

“The trips expose participants to various aspects of Israel, and to the complexities of both Israel’s and the Palestinians’ situation, and to help with their understanding of the region,” he said.

“And they go back home and unhesitatingly tell their publics – exposing them to views and information they rarely see in their own media.”

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