(JTA) — Since December, Israel’s top diplomat in New York has found himself in an odd-couple relationship with the government he represents. Now, that relationship looks like it may be on the rocks after he criticized his government’s signature legislation.
Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general in New York, was appointed to the position in 2021 by the short-lived centrist government that had unseated longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Zamir was a former deputy mayor of the liberal city of Tel Aviv, and had previously served briefly under Netanyahu as tourism minister — before resigning in protest.
But when Netanyahu returned to power at the end of last year, leading a coalition with far-right partners, Zamir stayed in his position in New York — long thought of as a coveted seat in Israel’s foreign service. He kept serving even as other senior diplomats — such as Israel’s ambassadors to France and Canada — resigned rather than represent Netanyahu again.
Now, Zamir has clashed with Netanyahu and is heading back to Jerusalem to explain himself. The order to fly home to clarify his remarks, given by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, came after Zamir implicitly criticized Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of the country’s judiciary, which would sap the Israeli Supreme Court of much of its power and independence.
“Right now, we’re in a very dramatic period,” he said in remarks to a gala dinner in New York City on Thursday night hosted by Anu, the Museum of the Jewish People, which is located in Tel Aviv. His statement was first reported by Barak Ravid, a reporter for Israel’s Walla News and the U.S. outlet Axios.
Zamir, who was appointed to a three-year term, said being a diplomat sometimes means defending policies one doesn’t agree with but continued, “That’s not the point in the last few weeks.”
“I’m deeply concerned in the direction the country is going in right now,” he said. “If we want to have a national home and we want it to be everyone’s home, it really must be democratic.”
Zamir was alluding to the fears of an expansive range of critics — including hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets in frequent protests — that the judicial overhaul would threaten Israeli democracy. The legislation, which is currently advancing through Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, would allow a bare majority of parliament to override court decisions and would give the governing coalition full control over Supreme Court appointments. Its defenders say it will allow the government to enact the wishes of Israel’s right-wing majority.
Zamir isn’t the first diplomat to fret over the legislation. Last week, Simon Seroussi, the spokesman of the Israeli embassy in Paris, warned in a leaked cable that “in recent weeks, we have identified a worrying trend of French journalists, editors, academics, and commentators who are known as pro-Israel speaking critically, even very critically, about Israel” due to the legislation as well as violence by Israeli settlers, according to the Times of Israel.
Seroussi’s cable came ahead of a visit by Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who said in a private speech in Paris on Sunday night that “There’s no such thing as the Palestinian people.” according to Israeli reports.
Israeli actor and producer Noa Tishby, who was appointed last year as an unpaid envoy for Israel, has also criticized the court legislation. The government is considering cutting ties with Tishby as a result, Israeli media reported on Sunday.
Zamir’s wife, actress Maya Wertheimer, delivered her own implicit criticism of the legislation on Sunday during an appearance at the kickoff gala of Tel Aviv Fashion Week. She walked in a show that featured Ivri Lider, an Israeli singer, who was wearing a blue dress bearing the seal of the state of Israel, along with a gold crown. Stenciled on his chest were the words “free in our land,” a quote from the Israeli national anthem.
Lider wrote on Instagram that his outfit, designed by Aviad Arik Herman, was called “Dress of Democracy” and said the crown was made of gavels representing “the importance of the judicial system.” Wertheimer carried an oversized passport and plane ticket during her appearance in the show, which also featured Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and the former head of the left-wing Meretz Party, Zehava Galon, wearing a dress emblazoned with the faces of Israeli women in politics.
Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN
Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.
Bill Maher tells it like it is when it comes to what “the river to the sea” really means
Bill Maher cuts to the chase like no one else. Here’s a link to a segment from the most recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” where he exposes the total hypocrisy of the “useful idiots” everywhere chanting “from the river to the sea”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP-CRXROorw
Jewish community holds solidarity rally November 25
The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg held a rally in support of Israel on Saturday evening, November 25.
A number of speakers addressed the crowd of 800, including Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation; Members of Parliament Ben Carr & Marty Morantz; Yolanda Papini-Pollock of Winnipeg Friends of Israel; Paula McPherson, former Brock Corydon teacher; and Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation.
Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg
Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed
Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs