Lessons from the latest tragedy

April 17th, 2014
Mizrachi Family

Baruch Mizrachi, z”l and family

Funeral of Baruch Mizrachi, z'l

Funeral of Baruch Mizrachi

It is incredible what political simpletons Jews are.  They shut their eyes to one of the most elementary rules of life, that you must not “meet halfway” those who do not want to meet you. — Ze’ev Jabotinsky

It is too painful to write these stories, so I will let you read the details here.

It still isn’t clear whether Baruch Mizrachi, a man who had devoted his life to protecting the Jewish people in their land, was targeted because of his job, or simply murdered because he was a Jew. It doesn’t matter. The question is, when is enough enough? When does the State of Israel decide that the Palestinian Arabs are a hostile enemy and start treating them as such (my guess is that the people of Israel already understand this)?

The police will be looking very seriously for the murderers, at least the ones that waited by the side of the road and pulled the trigger. When they find them, will they be hanged as justice demands? Or will they be jailed for a few years where they can take college courses and receive generous pensions from the Palestinian Authority, until they are released either as part of a ransom agreement or because of pressure from the anti-Jewish administration of Barack Obama?

When will the State of Israel begin to act on the fact, which everyone knows to be true, that the Palestinian Arab leadership as well as the average Palestinian in the street, is dedicated to the Palestinian Cause of removing the Jewish presence from ‘their’ land, which includes everything from the river to the sea?

When will Israelis understand that the Land of Israel, all of it, belongs to the Jewish people, both by historical right and international law? When will they take concrete steps to realize this? When will they stop internalizing the lies of the Arabs and the Jew-hating Europeans and allowing the inappropriate and neurotic guilt of the Left to paralyze them?

Ze’ev Jabotinsky explained it 90 years ago. Menachem Begin always understood it.

How many families will suffer like the Mizrachis until we finally get it?

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Actually, Brandeis got it very wrong

April 15th, 2014
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The recent controversy over Brandeis University’s withdrawal of its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali is symptomatic of the disconnect from reality prevalent in academia. Let’s look at Hirsi Ali’s “virulently anti-Muslim public statements” quoted by the Brandeis faculty members who signed a letter to the university president, urging him to rescind the offer:

David Cohen quotes Ms. Hirsi Ali as saying: “Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder. The police may foil plots and freeze bank accounts in the short term, but the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realise that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself….Islam is the new fascism” (London Evening Standard, 2-7-07). Rogier van Bakel quotes her as follows: “Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love….Those are lovely concepts of God. They can’t compare to the fire-breathing Allah who inspires jihadism and totalitarianism.” Van Bakel notes religions’ ability to bring about change for good: “Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?” Ms. Hirsi Ali responds, “Only if Islam is defeated.” Van Bakel asks, “Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?” To that she responds, “No. Islam, period.” (Reason, 11-07)

These are the statements which caused 87 faculty members to be “filled with shame,” because, in part, they “cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali’s triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples.”

They are entitled to their opinion that the “non-western peoples” that mutilated Ms. Hirsi Ali and murder women for the crime of being rape victims are not culturally backward, but I think she is certainly as well and probably more qualified to make this judgment than the Brandeis faculty.

It is hard for me to see why her position should fill them with shame to the point that they won’t allow their university to honor a woman who has quite literally put her life on the line to end these practices!

I was unable to find an argument worth discussing in the faculty letter, so I turned to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the former head of the Union for Reform Judaism. Here is why he believes that “Brandeis got it right:”

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s sweeping statements of condemnation do not make vital distinctions that civilized people must always make. I am referring to the distinctions between radical and fanatic versions of Islam and moderate and centrist versions of Islam. As we Jews know very well, there are real consequences when entire populations are represented in the public imagination by their worst elements.

If any major American university were to award an honorary degree to a political or cultural figure who had spoken in such broadly condemnatory terms about Jews, the Jewish community would be outraged — and rightly so. The task of American Jews and all Americans is to join with our Muslim friends in the fight against religious fanaticism in Islam and in all other religious traditions; it is to promote the values of justice, love, and moderation that are common to all the major religious faiths. But we cannot do that if we insist on honoring those who, however sympathetic their backgrounds and moving their personal stories, have made the mistake of demonizing all Muslims and bashing Islam.

Rabbi Yoffie himself fails to make a critical distinction, that between an ideology and a population. Hirsi Ali criticizes Islam, with which she has intimate knowledge, as an ideology, one which has elements that are pro-violence, intolerant, anti-democratic, misogynist, anti-Jewish and more. She believes that these elements are inherent in Islam, that they are an essential part of it. Hence she “bashes” Islam.

But she does not “demonize all Muslims.” This is an entirely different thing, and one that Hirsi Ali is careful to avoid. I am sure she would agree with Yoffie that there are radical and moderate Muslims; but in her analysis, a moderate Muslim is one that, for whatever reason, does not act out the more offensive parts of the Islamic ideology.

Criticism of ideologies, even vituperative criticism, has been part and parcel of legitimate discourse in the West since the Enlightenment. I’m sure that many members of the Brandeis faculty curse capitalism every morning before breakfast, and nobody is “filled by shame” by this. Half of the world’s Internet sites would go dark and there would be no more political speeches if one couldn’t criticize ideology.

To shut down critical discussion of an ideology by trying to assassinate the character (and in the case of Ms. Hirsi Ali, the person) of the critic, simply because the ideology is a religious one, is unreasonable.

Yoffie’s comparison to criticism of Judaism is instructive. He conflates Jew-hatred — the ‘racial’ form practiced by the Nazis, the religion-based version of the Spanish Inquisition, or the conspiratorial type preached by Frazier Glenn Cross (or Miller), which are clearly unacceptable, with ideological objections, which are not.

For example, there are misogynist and intolerant threads in Haredi Judaism which I oppose, as I oppose the universalist themes and conflation of Jewish ethics with leftist politics that appear in Reform Judaism. Public expression of this criticism does not make a me a bigot who hates Haredim or Reform Jews, or even wishes them ill.

There is a difference between Judaism and Islam, which is that the pernicious parts of the ideology that are found in Islam form an essential part of it, and one which at the present time is becoming more and more prevalent in the normative practice of Islam. One could say that more and more Muslims are becoming ‘radicalized’, or as I prefer, beginning to act according to Islamic ideology.

Normative Judaism, in which the understanding of the texts has undergone a process of moderation through the rabbinical tradition, strongly negates the idea that violent episodes (e.g., genocide in the book of Joshua) should be a guide to behavior today — precisely the opposite of what is happening in Islam with the spread of Islamist doctrine.

Muslim organizations like CAIR are trying to make it unacceptable to voice any “criticism of religion,” which they equate to a form of bigotry. But disagreement, no matter how vehement, with an ideology is worlds apart from hating its adherents.

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Europe’s chutzpah can’t hide decline

April 12th, 2014

Thanks to the perspicacious David F. for bringing this to my attention:

European Union officials alleged on Friday that Israel demolished EU-funded housing shelters outside of Ma’aleh Adumim earlier in the week, AFP reported.

Eighteen tin huts built to house Palestinians during the unusually severe winter weather this year were “partially funded by EU member states,” according to the report.

EU officials demanded financial compensation from Israel to Brussels in response to the demolition of three of the structures, Belgian news service EurActiv reported.

“We should ask for compensation from Israel whenever EU-funded humanitarian aid projects are destroyed,” EurActiv quoted an anonymous EU diplomat as saying.

The thought processes of the “EU officials” are remarkable. They finance illegal construction, and then expect to be compensated for their losses when the authorities intervene. If I pay someone to steal a car for me and he is arrested, can I sue the police to get my money back? Probably I would get arrested too! What should happen here is that the EU should pay any relevant fines plus the cost of demolishing the illegal structures.

But there is more. The EU gives large amounts of money to the Palestinian authority, much of which is used to pay the salaries of jailed terrorists — in other words, to reward them for every manner of crime, including murder. How about the EU paying Israel compensation for the actions of its, well, employees?

The EU is not acting from humanitarian motives (the Arabs of Judea and Samaria are better off than in any other Middle Eastern nation). It is financing subversion, sabotage and terrorism against the Jewish state.

The European demand for compensation makes sense in the context of their historic superiority complex, particularly with regard to the Jews, whom they do not believe have a right to sovereignty. How else can they justify their interference with the laws of someone else’s country?

The Arabs and others have a point when they complain about the colonialist arrogance that still characterizes Europe, long after its empires are gone and its vitality is trickling away in inexorable economic and demographic decline.

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Why EU doesn’t care if its aid helps Palestinians

April 10th, 2014
If antisemitic aliens from space were to attack Israel, would the EU support them?

If antisemitic aliens from space were to attack Israel, would the EU support them?

Michael Theurer is chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control. Here is an excerpt from a piece he published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

In its report, issued in December, the European Court of Auditors revealed major dysfunctions in the management of EU financial support to the Palestinian Authority, and called for a serious overhaul of the funding mechanism.

Among other things, the court criticized the absence of any conditions for EU aid to the Palestinian Authority, an approach that reduces the potential leverage of the EU to push for more reforms from the Palestinian Authority. This is a surprising exception to the EU’s famous “more-for-more” principle, according to which the EU offers stronger partnership and more incentives to countries that make more progress toward democratic reforms. This principle applies to every other recipient of EU aid in the world. In other words, the Palestinian Authority is the only body that receives EU funds regardless of its human-rights record or economic performance.

The court also revealed that, since 2007, “a considerable number” of Palestinian Authority civil servants in Gaza have received their salaries partly funded through EU aid—even though they “were not going to work due to the political situation in Gaza.” How exactly does this contribute to peace-building? And how can the EU preserve its credibility back home when it pays salaries to people who don’t work, while millions of European citizens are unemployed?

The court also found that the EU paid insufficient attention to the fungibility of the funds it provided to the Palestinian Authority. There is reason to believe that EU financial assistance has allowed the Palestinian Authority to use its own general budget to support terrorist or criminal activities.

The Palestinian Authority, for example, allocates a significant portion of its budget to paying salaries to Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism offenses. These salaries are up to five times higher than the average salary in the West Bank. Prisoners also receive large grants from the Palestinian Authority. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2012 the Palestinian Authority’s payments to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons and to the families of deceased terrorists (including suicide bombers) together accounted for more than 16% of the annual foreign donations and grants to the budget of the Palestinian Authority. In February this year the Palestinian minister for prisoners’ affairs announced that €30 million will be allocated to current or former prisoners in 2014. [my emphasis]

At a time when many European economies are struggling, it might seem strange that the EU would flush away so much money in support of a corrupt dictatorship which is moving in the opposite direction from being a viable country, and which behaves in a way that is contrary to the ideals of peace and freedom that the EU purports to espouse.

But that isn’t the end of it. The Europeans, as the EU, as individual governments and in the form of large Europe-based charitable organizations, also provide a large amount of funding — millions of Euros annually — to organizations run by Israelis. These are in general anti-Zionist groups, on the extreme left of the Israeli political spectrum, which would be extremely marginal if they had to depend on domestic contributions.

It is hard to see how either of these enterprises improves the life of the average Palestinian. The corrupt PLO and dole/graft based economy stifle domestic development and maintain the confrontation with Israel. Indeed, the EU is directly financing radical extremism in the PA.

The Israeli NGOs that are nourished by the Europeans also do not play a positive role. In general they act — by means of propaganda, civil (and not-so-civil) disobedience, and legal maneuvers — to limit Israel’s ability to defend itself against terrorism or even outright warfare. They also work abroad to reduce popular support for Israel (for example, the EU-funded ‘Breaking the Silence’ group tours American campuses with a message that the IDF commits war crimes). Again, rather than promote peace, they encourage the most radical elements among the Palestinian Arabs in their belief that Israel can be overcome by force.

I would be remiss if I ended this piece here, because there is another area in which even more millions of Euros are spent, supposedly on behalf of the Palestinians. This of course is UNRWA, the unique Palestinian welfare agency, to which the EU is the second largest contributor, after the US. UNRWA functions to subsidize large families of refugee descendents, while it does nothing to resettle them. It is no more or less than the enabler of the PLO demographic weapon against Israel, and is structured to maintain the people in its care as stateless and mostly jobless paupers, while they receive ‘education’ from teachers associated with various terrorist organizations.

With all this ‘help’ from their friends, the Palestinians are more angry and frustrated than ever. Is that surprising? Not really, because European policy is not really about helping Palestinians. It is not ‘about’ them at all. In reality, it is about the Jewish state, which is the target of all of this money and effort.

That, in a sentence, is why the EU does not care if the money it gives to the PA helps Palestinians. As long as it weakens Israel, it is achieving its objective.

Face it, if aliens from space were to attack Israel, the EU would probably give them a grant!

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Kerry’s ‘poof’ moment

April 9th, 2014
...poof, that was sort of the moment

…poof, that was sort of the moment

Today this story appeared in my local newspaper:

Israeli settlement plans sank peace talks

By Paul Richter
Tribune Washington Bureau
[The Tribune Company owns The LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, and numerous other newspapers and media properties -- ed.]

Washington — Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday that Israel’s announcement last week of new housing for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem led to the breakdown of his eight-month effort to reach a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. …

“Seven hundred settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said. …

First, let me note that The Fresno Bee should have prefaced its headline with “Kerry says” or just “Kerry:” As it stands it is simply and egregiously false.

Now I’ll list a few things about this story that my neighbors probably aren’t aware of, and won’t be made aware of by their local paper or numerous other media that use content from the same source.

1. Israel had agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, most guilty of murder, in four batches, in return for the Palestinians’ participating in direct negotiations. After the third round of releases in December, the Palestinians stopped meeting with the Israelis. The PA, not Israel, violated its commitment.

2. Released murderers were feted as heroes by the Palestinian Authority (PA) on their return, including murderers of old people, women and children. Incitement to murder continued unabated in PA media. The PA, not Israel, violated the spirit of ‘peace’ negotiations.

3. Israel delayed the release of the final batch of murderers because a) the Palestinians would not agree to extend negotiations further and b) the Palestinians were demanding that prisoners who were Israeli citizens also should be included, something Israel had not previously agreed to. The PA first broke its promise to sit at the table with Israel, and then made new demands.

4. Three days after the scheduled prisoner release, the Palestinians violated their written commitments to Israel and the US that they would seek statehood through bilateral negotiations rather than directly from the UN, by applying to join some 15 UN treaties and conventions. At this point, PM Netanyahu decided that Israel would not release the last batch of murderers. Can you blame him?

5. One of the sticking points during negotiations was the Palestinian refusal to agree to some formulation of the idea that an agreement would recognize that Israel — the part that would remain after a Palestinian state was created — belonged to the Jewish people (as opposed to the Palestinian Arabs). They refused to say that an agreement would end claims against Israel, negate their demand for a ‘right of return’, or end the conflict. In other words, the PA is ready to receive Israel’s terms of surrender, but not to compromise for peace.

6. Finally, the housing tenders that Kerry referred to were located in the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, in Jerusalem, one of the neighborhoods that — if it were agreed that Jerusalem would be divided — would certainly continue to be part of Israel. So they could have absolutely no effect on a peace agreement. And these were announced after the Palestinians made their move to the UN.

But this is what made the negotiations go ‘poof’, according to Mr. Kerry!

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Stop pretending

April 3rd, 2014

Today everyone is concerned that the negotiations with the Palestinians will “fall apart.” If that happens, it is said, there will be severe consequences for Israel: boycotts and delegitimization (because no matter what, Israel will be blamed for the failure of the talks), possibly another violent intifada (because Palestinians will then be even more ‘frustrated’ than usual), there will be anti-Israel actions by the UN, the Americans will stop supporting Israel diplomatically, etc.

Therefore, it is said that Israel must do everything possible to ensure that the talks continue.

This is despite the fact that everyone must know by now that the Palestinians will not and cannot honestly agree to end the conflict. As I said the other day, even if we offer them a state in all of Judea and Samaria — leaving aside the security considerations that make this impossible — they will never stop insisting that the part of the land of Israel that they don’t get also belongs to them, and will never stop trying to get it.

This is the essence of the Palestinian narrative, the Palestinian Cause, and what they have been assiduously teaching their youth. This is why Palestinian refugee status is hereditary, and why there are hundreds of thousands of refugees who are not permitted to assimilate in their countries of residence, and why they demand a “right of return.” This isn’t rocket science (pardon the expression). Just ask a Palestinian.

But if we know that the talks can’t succeed, why keep up the pretense? Well, in order to avoid the consequences discussed in the first paragraph.

My hypothetical visitor from Mars is shaking what would be his head, if he were an Earthling. This is so pointless.

But it is not pointless for the Palestinians. They have made it clear to the US that they will talk only if they are paid to do so. So they receive bribes, including money and military aid (to, er, “fight terrorism.”) Most important, every time there is a ‘crisis’ in negotiations (which they create), they threaten to walk away unless they get something from Israel. They present their demands, and the US explains to Israel that it’s necessary to “generate good will,” to “build confidence,” or to “strengthen (the allegedly moderate) Abbas.” So Israel releases 104 murderers, for example. This has been going on literally for decades.

Note that Israel gets nothing in return, except a continuation of the talks that we know will not succeed. And the Palestinian demands are never satisfied. Israel offers an additional 400 prisoners? Not enough, say the Palestinians, give us 1000! A construction freeze in Judea and Samaria? Not enough, it must include eastern Jerusalem!

I submit that the consequences of continuing the talks are worse than letting them fall. It will happen anyway at some point, and Israel will be worse off because of all the concessions it has made along the way.

Israel doesn’t need to be ashamed of its history and of its possession of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. It doesn’t need to apologize for its struggle to keep the Jewish homeland that has been reestablished after almost 2000 years. And it doesn’t need to pretend that its enemies — who themselves don’t pretend otherwise — are interested in coexistence.

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Two questions

April 2nd, 2014

Today I would simply like you to read the words of so-called “right-wing” MK Danny Danon, and then think about two questions.

Would the U.S. release individuals swearing to continue waging jihad in order to liberate their lands? Definitely not. The number of killers operating against the U.S. who received the death sentence [mostly extra-judicially -- ed.] or who are being held in military prisons on life [or indeterminate] sentences is growing. And, of course, every U.S. leader knows that any individual who radiates weakness in the face of those who scorned American pride could end up losing his seat. Are U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s measures implying that they have lost their respect for us? Does somebody truly believe that the pain felt by families of terror victims hurts any less? Does somebody actually think American blood runs redder than Israeli blood? Where do they find the gall to ask us to release hordes of killers after we sent our best, for the sake of state security, to risk their lives for the sake of bringing in these terrorists, some of whom were holding ticking bombs?

Introducing the name “Pollard” into the equation is a cynical, harmful attempt to exploit certain Jewish values, including the value of “returning our sons to their land,” over others. For 29 years, Jonathan Pollard has languished in prison so the U.S. could teach its good friend in the Middle East a lesson. Our friend the U.S. is forcing us to try to complete an unfair equation: one prisoner for 426. One man, who paid his dues over dozens of years in prison, who is not a threat to society, for hundreds of menacing terrorists, several of whom committed murder or were complicit in the slaughter of hundreds of Israelis. We all want to see Pollard out of jail and in Israel, but not like this.

The questions:

1. When does the relationship Israel has with the US become too expensive for its benefits? Has it already?

2. Has Israel traded the independence it gained through its historic and agonizing struggle for a role as a satellite of the US? Is it already too late to regain it?

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Obama administration’s use of Pollard is despicable

April 1st, 2014

The ransoming of captives [פדיון שבויים] takes precedence over the feeding and clothing of the poor. Indeed there is no religious duty more meritorious than the ransoming of captives, for not only is the captive included in the generality of the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked, but his very life is in jeopardy. — Rambam (Moses Maimonides)

CNN reports:

Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. intelligence agent who was convicted of spying for Israel, could be released before the Jewish holiday of Passover as part of efforts to save Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, an Israeli official involved in the talks told CNN. …

Kerry stated Tuesday night that “no agreement has been reached with respect to any prisoner” — be it Pollard, whom he was asked about, or anyone else — though talks involving all parties are ongoing in hopes of reaching a broader agreement.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that President Barack Obama hasn’t decided whether to release the convicted spy at Israel’s request. …

In exchange for the release, the sources have said that Israel would have to make significant concessions to the Palestinians, which could include a settlement freeze, the release of additional [Palestinian and/or Israeli Arab] prisoners beyond the current group in dispute and an agreement to continue peace negotiations beyond the end-of-April deadline.

The continued imprisonment (29 years) of Jonathan Pollard, the highly disproportionate sentence he received and the dishonest conduct of the government in his affair are a blot on the supposedly equal justice system of the United States.

Pollard should have been released long ago, but it seems that the government has been waiting for the moment at which it could exact the heaviest ransom. It’s true that nations act according to interests, and concepts like justice and mercy are not relevant to interests. On the other hand, nations have leaders who make decisions, and they are ultimately held to account by God, if not by history.

Last August, Israel agreed to release a total of 104 Arab prisoners, most of them convicted of murder (including multiple murderers) in order to persuade the PLO-ruled Palestinian Authority (PA) to engage in peace talks. Israel was aware that the talks would lead nowhere, but it was considered more important to remain in the good graces of the US. Three of four scheduled prisoner releases have been carried out; in each case, freed murderers were greeted as honored heroes on their return to the PA. There was a great public outcry in Israel — after all, these are murderers and Israel has received nothing in return from the PLO except more incitement to murder.

The fourth and last release has been held up by Israel, primarily because it includes Arab citizens of Israel, whose release calls Israel’s sovereignty over its own citizens into question, and because the PLO has hardened its positions rather than moving closer to an agreement.

Now the US is raising the possibility of freeing Pollard in return for going ahead with the last scheduled prisoner release, and acceding to even more PLO demands. This could be the last time it will be possible for the US to play this particular card, since Pollard is not well and could die in prison (and on the conscience of Barack Obama).

In other words, the US wants to use its Jewish captive — he is no more than that, because he has long since paid his debt to the US for his offenses — to extract concessions from Israel to benefit the PLO, one of the most vicious of terrorist organizations in recent history and one which has absolutely zero desire to end its conflict with Israel.

The fourth prisoner release will damage and humiliate Israel while strengthening the PLO. Other concessions as demanded will do the same. It goes without saying that continuing the negotiations with the PLO will only result in more opportunities for the US to pressure Israel to meet new Palestinian demands.

So Benjamin Netanyahu (leaving aside the significant political consequences for his government that will follow from this decision) is left with a very difficult choice. Should he take the deal, release more murderers to go home to their heroes’ receptions and lifetime pensions (paid for mostly by US taxpayers), compromise Israel’s claim on the territories by freezing construction, and reward the PLO for its intransigence in other ways?

Or should he reject it, almost certainly to see an old Jew die in prison, a Jew that he is enjoined to redeem from captivity both by his tradition and his position as head of the Jewish state — after all, one of the reasons for the founding of the Jewish state was to provide a refuge for Jews everywhere?

There is a precedent. In 1286, scholar and rabbi Meïr of Rothenburg was arrested and imprisoned in Germany (purportedly for leading a band of Jews attempting to emigrate to Palestine).

The account of a young contemporary of Meïr, who was in very close relations with him, seems to indicate, however, that Meïr had entirely different reasons for emigrating. He says that the emperor demanded a great sum of money from the Jews, which the latter would not or could not pay, and that consequently their leader feared—and justly so, as the sequel showed—that the emperor would seize him as a hostage …

The Jewish communities of course did everything to secure the liberation of their greatest teacher; but the ransom demanded by the government—30,000 marks, according to one report—was such an exorbitant one that the negotiations dragged. A later authority … says that Meïr himself prevented any such high sum being paid for his liberation lest the government should repeat this expedient of imprisoning important men for the purpose of extorting money. He therefore remained in prison from June 28, 1286, until his death (1293).

It’s understood, therefore, that a ransom can be too high, in which case it is permissible to allow a captive to go unredeemed.

This is one of those (frequent) times when I am glad that I am not the Prime Minister of Israel! I don’t know what he will decide, but it is absolutely despicable for the Obama Administration to use Pollard in this way, despicable to place the Prime Minister in this position, and — more than anything — despicable to support the PLO (because that is what this amounts to) in its project to eliminate the Jewish state.

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Suddenly, it’s 1947

March 31st, 2014

News item:

US Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to overcome the controversy surrounding the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by changing the definition to “the national homeland of the Jews”, the London-based Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper reported Saturday morning.

The report, that quoted western diplomatic sources, noted that in exchange for Kerry’s initiative, the Palestinians would have to agree that the Palestinian capital would be established only in parts of East Jerusalem; it was further reported that the Palestinians have rejected the proposal.

Suddenly, it’s 1947. Or 1920. The nations still can’t decide if the Jewish people deserve a state, or something less than one. I’m sure I don’t understand the difference between a “Jewish state” and a “national homeland of the Jews,” and I’m not going to speculate. Israel is a state, and a lot of Jewish blood was spilled to make it so.

This, actually, is what brought it into being, not  the “international community,” the declaration of Lord Balfour or the decisions of various world powers, the League of Nations or the UN.

Today, because of a combination of cowardice, avarice and Jew-hatred, the nations would like to take back any commitments they may have made to the Jews. But the Jewish state rests on its own accomplishments and struggles, not on their acquiescence.

So let them try. Those who say that the Palestinians ought not to be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state are correct. Who are we to take away the Cause that is their reason for being? On the other hand, who are they to say that we ought to give away parts of our homeland to our enemies?

More, who are they to say that Israel should release murderers so that these same Palestinians will agree to continue talking, when so far all they have talked about is how we should give up everything we won with the aforesaid Jewish blood?

There is a Jewish state because the Jews rose up and threw out the British, who had even then gone back on their commitment to nurture a Jewish homeland, and who condemned thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands, of European Jews to death at the hands of the Nazis by their policies. After that, the Jews had to fight wars and terrorism waged by the Arab nations, whose ethnic and religious prejudice made a Jewish state in the Middle East unacceptable to them.

But they will have to accept it, like it or not. And we don’t have to pretend that their motives are anything other than primitive prejudice.

Recently I had a discussion with a visitor from Mars. He said that he found it difficult to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It went like this:

VFM: What do the Israelis want?
Me: They want the Palestinians to stop trying to kill them. In return, they will give them some of their very small homeland for a new Arab state. But they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to take it.

VFM: The Palestinians want a state, and the Israelis want to give it to them? But why won’t the Palestinians take it?
Me: Because they won’t take it unless the Israelis agree that the part that they don’t give them belongs to the Palestinians too.

VFM: That doesn’t sound fair. I suppose the Palestinians must be very powerful in order to demand so much.
Me: No, actually Israel is much stronger militarily and economically.

VFM: Then what’s the point in talking to them?
Me: Ask John Kerry.

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My farewell to local Jews

March 28th, 2014

I have been the editor of our local Jewish Federation newsletter for several years. Now that I am about to leave and go back to Israel, I wrote a “last editorial,” a letter to my (liberal) Jewish friends. I think it might be of broader interest, so I am reproducing it here.

By Vic Rosenthal

This will be the last Federation Focus that I will edit. Some of you know that after almost exactly 26 years, Lise and I are moving back to Israel. It’s a strange feeling – on the one hand I’ll be with two of my three children and 7 of 8 grandchildren; but on the other, Fresno will always be my home.

This part of my life, in a place where I found a great deal of warmth and friendship from Jewish and non-Jewish people, is ending and a new one beginning. At times like these my thoughts turn beyond my personal concerns, to history and to our people.

I was born in the US during WWII, which means that I grew up in one of the most remarkable places and times, an environment in which, among other things, a Jew didn’t have to worry about being murdered for being a Jew. It doesn’t sound like much, but it has been quite special in Diaspora history. By the time I was 20, barriers to Jews in various occupations, quotas at universities and real estate restrictions were virtually gone.  A Jew in America could be an American and a Jew.

The horror of the Holocaust stunned Americans like General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who saw death camps with his own eyes in 1945. This, they felt, was the natural outcome of Jew-hatred, and they vehemently rejected it. Since then, traditional Jew-hatred has been marginalized in America, along with all forms of racism and ethnic prejudice. It is simply not acceptable, at least in polite society.

But something else took its place.

Around 1968, Yasser Arafat took over the PLO, an organization dedicated to ending Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. Until then, the PLO’s rhetoric was the usual “throw the Jews into the sea” variety, which – especially after the Holocaust – didn’t go over very well in the West. So Arafat sought out, and received, advice from the masters of propaganda at the Soviet KGB.

And they told him to turn the story around: instead of a tiny Jewish state standing up against the might of a racist, genocidal Arab world, instead of Arabs trying to end Jewish sovereignty and self-determination, they told him to present the conflict as the struggle of a powerless, indigenous third-world people, the ‘Palestinians’, to be free of their colonial oppressors.

Although this required a distortion of history – suddenly, Arabs from Syria or Egypt who had been in Palestine for one or two generations had to be presented as the remnants of a millennia-old ‘Palestinian’ civilization, and Jews who were hated and exterminated in Europe became ‘European colonialists’ – it fit in perfectly with the decolonization movements throughout the world, the civil rights movement in the US, the perception of the Vietnam war as a colonial war, and the New Left’s hatred of ‘American imperialism’.

Later, the language of civil rights was invoked with the 1975 ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution in the UN, followed by the 2001 Durban Conference in which Israel was accused of being an ‘apartheid state’ and likened to South Africa before the overthrow of the apartheid regime. Ugly words, with absolutely no connection to the truth, but by this time a large group of people were ready to believe almost anything negative about Israel.

And the Arabs and their supporters provided plenty of material, expertly exaggerating real events, making up things that didn’t happen, and even staging ’atrocities’ for the benefit of the media (the word ‘Pallywood’ was coined to describe these productions). Israeli efforts at getting the truth out were often late and inadequate.

The degree of animus against Israel on the Left became so great that it disconnected not only from the facts, but from logic. Israel was demonized, and every accusation against her was believed – just as the medieval Jews were accused of poisoning wells and making matzah from Christian blood. A double standard was applied – Israel’s every action in self-defense was subjected to intense scrutiny while serious human rights violations committed by other countries were ignored. Finally, Israel was delegitimized – its enemies argued that its evil was so great that (unlike any other country in the world), it should not even exist.

Instead of hating Jewish people (which is still taboo, at least in the US), they hate – no less irrationally – the Jewish state. This is often presented as simple political disagreement with Israeli policy, but the “three Ds” (as they were called by Natan Sharansky) – demonization, double standard and delegitimization – always give it away.

This extreme hatred of Israel has been called “the new anti-Semitism.”

This puts tremendous pressure on American Jews. Many Jewish immigrants found a place on the American Left, particularly in the labor movement (my grandfather was secretary of his chapter of the ILGWU). They strongly supported FDR and the Democratic Party. Their children and grandchildren were in the forefront of the anti-Vietnam War movement and the student revolts of the 1960s. They grew up, had children of their own, and sent them to ‘good’ colleges where ‘academic freedom’ has come to mean ‘political indoctrination’. They read the New York Times and listen to NPR.

The election of Barack Obama has torn the relationship wide open. How could Jews not support the first black president, who many see as the final triumph of the civil rights movement that they supported so strongly? But at the same time, despite positive rhetoric, the administration’s actual policies toward Israel have been remarkably unsympathetic and even dangerous.

Today, many Jewish Americans are ambivalent about Israel (or even openly hostile), believing – incorrectly – that Israel acts in ways that contradict their liberal or progressive ideals. Jews are even at the forefront of some of the most vicious anti-Israel organizations in the US. This subversion of American Jewish support for Israel has been one of the greatest accomplishments of the forces that want to deny the Jewish people their right to sovereignty in the one tiny Jewish state.

The writer Peter Beinart made a career out of saying that Israel has forced American Jews to choose between their liberalism and Zionism. This is inaccurate. The truth is that a perversion of liberalism is making “new anti-Semites” out of them.

Most of us don’t remember a time when there wasn’t a state of Israel – when a Jew had no homeland and was physically and psychologically dependent on his non-Jewish hosts. When a Jew didn’t belong, wherever he lived.

History tells us that it will not always be so easy to live in the Diaspora. American society is changing rapidly, and the unique situation that has held since 1945 will not continue forever. It will not always be possible to be comfortable as both an American and a Jew, particularly a Zionist Jew. Did you know that the IRS already gives ‘special treatment’ to organizations that support Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria?

The existence of a strong Jewish state is essential to the continued existence of the Jewish people, and the support of the US – or at least the indifference of the US – is essential to the state. Unfortunately, for various reasons US policy today is less pro-Israel than it has been at any time since 1948.

As I say goodbye to my Jewish friends in the Central Valley, I ask you to open your eyes. Don’t let yourselves become unwitting agents of a new incarnation of the old hatred that we have faced for thousands of years, just because it falsely presents itself as ‘progressive’.

If we, American Jews, don’t fight for our country to support Israel, who will?

And if not now, when?

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Erekat’s Palestinian fairy tale

March 26th, 2014
Palestinian negotiator and teller of tall tales Saeb Erekat

Palestinian negotiator and teller of tall tales Saeb Erekat

I am the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho. — Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator

On the contrary, former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker notes:

According to genealogical research of the Bedouin families in Israel, the Erekat family belongs to the extensive Huweitat clan, which originated in the area between the Liya valley, near Taif, in the vicinity of Mecca in the northern Hejaz region, close to the town of Hekl in the Sarawat Mountains, 350 km. from the Jordanian border, and northern Aqaba. Bedouin genealogical literature claims that the Huweitat clan is a Sharifi clan allied with their cousins the Hashemites. The Huweitat clan settled not only in Israel but also in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sinai Peninsula by Ras Seeder.

A branch of this clan settled in geographic Palestine in several waves of immigration that started some 200 years ago, ending during the period of the Arab Revolt and First World War. Apparently, the family to which Erekat belongs settled in Abu Dis near Jerusalem during the last of these waves, which occurred in the early twentieth century, after the Jewish immigration to the area.

Amb. Baker also quotes Dr. Shaul Bartal of the Middle Eastern Studies department of Bar-Ilan University:

The Palestinians are not the farmers who have lived in Palestine for generations, but rather immigrants who only arrived recently. It was only toward the latter stages of the nineteenth century that the country began to blossom thanks to the emergence of a new presence – Zionism – and the amazing results. In 1878, the population of the country numbered 141,000 Muslims who lived here permanently, with at least 25 percent of them considered to be newly arrived immigrants who came mostly from Egypt.

Various studies done over a span of years by Moshe Brawer, Gideon Kressel, and other scholars clearly show that most Arab families who settled in the villages along the coastal plain and the area that would later become the State of Israel originated from Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan….Other studies show that the waves of immigrants came here in droves from Arab countries during the period of the British Mandate.

Why do I bother (and why did Baker, whose well-documented paper should be read in full)? Not, I think, because being indigenous is of such overriding importance in determining ‘who owns the land’. After all, ‘indigenous’ is a highly relative concept. Yes, the Jews are more indigenous to Judea than the ‘Palestinians’, but probably the descendents of the ancient Philistines (also, incidentally, not the contemporary ‘Palestinians’) have more roots than the Jews in what is today Tel Aviv.

Peoples migrate, assimilate, conquer and get conquered, wax and die out. Legitimacy comes from a combination of factors, of which one is prior possession, but it is not the only one. Modern international law (the UN charter) does not recognize taking land by force; rather, it prefers diplomatic consensus, which is why the Jewish people argue that they legitimately obtained title to the entire land of Israel with the San Remo conference of 1920, and legitimately defended it in 1967. Of course, the reason that the international community chose Palestine for the Jewish homeland was the Jewish people’s historical provenance there.

The Arabs, by inventing their own historical narrative and denying the Jewish one, wish to lay the groundwork to overthrow the just decision that was made by the international community in 1920, before its institutions became corrupted by Arab oil and terrorism as well as postmodern Jew-hatred.

Happily, it is also true that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and today’s Israel is capable of defending itself, as long as it can stay unified — despite some of its intellectuals who appear to have accepted the narrative of their own deadly enemies.

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Blessing and curse

March 23rd, 2014

Dry Bones Theology

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. — Gen. 12:3

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. — Barack Obama, April 2009

No, I do not have an opinion on whether or not the well-known biblical promise will be fulfilled. But there is a sense in which betrayals — of allies and ideals — do indeed bring down a curse on a nation.

The US is a liberal democratic country, one in which belief in the rights of freedom of speech and religious expression are almost fetishistic.  You would expect that it would support other nations with similar ideals, and that its policies would favor freedom and tolerance, and oppose oppressive regimes. But lately it has been doing the opposite.

George W. Bush was explicit in his belief that promoting democracy around the world was one of the most important goals of his policy. Perhaps the implementation was naive, but who can disagree with the intention?

Apparently the present administration has decided that Islamism is the wave of the future, despite being fundamentally anti-democratic, racist and misogynistic, and denying just about all the basic freedoms that are so important to us. Regardless, Obama’s America has decided to back the strong horse, support the Muslim Brotherhood, and not push too hard against Iran.

This is cynical and, worse, a betrayal of the principles that our nation is founded on. Now maybe you think the US is really playing with a deck stacked against the poor and ‘people of color’, etc., and those principles are just a lot of propaganda to keep the chumps in line. Even if you are right, though, aren’t these the ideals that we, as a nation, should be trying to realize?

Even if it is true that the US committed genocide against the indigenous inhabitants, even if it is true that the institution of slavery existed here for hundreds of years, does this falsify the ideal of  equal justice and opportunity for all humans that we should be striving to achieve today? Of course not.

Our exceptionalism consists in the belief that we Americans have a commitment to live according to the principles of “liberty and justice for all,” as it says in the Pledge of Allegiance, and a duty to champion these values in the world — because we believe they are right.

We believe they are objectively better than the values of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Iranian regime because they reject the idea that some humans (male Muslims) ought to have more rights than others, because they understand that slavery is wrong, women are not chattel, executions for apostasy and homosexuality are repugnant, and that planning and preparing for religious genocide is not acceptable. Exceptionalism is not simply chauvinism, as the President’s comment suggests; it has a moral basis.

Can you honestly say that the Brotherhood and the Iranian regime are not morally worse than we are, just different? I think you can’t.

Our recent loss of power and prestige — as Israel’s Moshe Ya’alon recently pointed out to the enormous discomfort of the administration — is due directly to the lack of confidence in American ideals in those at the very top of our political pyramid. Vladimir Putin’s opponents may not admire him, but they respect him because of his consistency in pursuit of his goals. Our administration behaves inconsistently because it doesn’t know what its goals are, so naturally we get no respect.

If there is a political sense to the biblical curse, this is it. Yes, the US is betraying Israel, its true ally and the only country in the region that shares its values. It is also betraying these values, and is beginning to pay a high price for it.

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