Archive for June, 2011

Rabbi Jacobs confirmed URJ President, critics ignored

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

by Vic Rosenthal

A press release from the Union for Reform Judaism:

New York, June 12, 2011- The Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism today unanimously and enthusiastically elected Rabbi Richard Jacobs to serve as its next President. Only the fourth person to hold the office since its creation in 1943, Jacobs follows Rabbis Maurice Eisendrath, Alexander Schindler and Eric Yoffie. Rabbi Jacobs currently serves as Senior Rabbi at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY, and will assume the URJ Presidency in 2012.

The fourth person to hold this office, Rabbi Jacobs is also the first to be a member of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet and a board member of the New Israel Fund (NIF) — organizations which are, despite their denials, anti-Zionist. He is also the first to take part in a demonstration against Jewish sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem.

The unanimity and enthusiasm of the Board is noted. It’s not unimaginable that at least one of them was a little uneasy, but kept quiet for shalom beit. Let’s hope so.

Current URJ President Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie remarked, “There were, to be sure, many fine candidates, but the selection of Rabbi Jacobs as the next President of the Union was an extraordinary and an inspired choice, and one that has been greeted with acclaim throughout our Movement

One hundred Reform Jews purchased advertisements in Jewish publications to oppose Rabbi Jacobs. You can see one of them here. What are we, chopped liver? Plenty of Reform Rabbis and professionals agreed with us too, although I expect some were intimidated by the threats to their livelihoods coming from Rabbi Jacobs’ supporters.

This really is the essence of the problem: A self-appointed elite that has defined “the movement” as only those that share their political perspective.

As Rabbi Jacobs winds down his responsibilities with Westchester Reform Temple, he also will step down from his involvement in other organizations, boards and advisory committees during the first years of his Presidency in order to focus his energies on the task ahead of him. Additionally, as President of the URJ, he will assume many new official posts on Jewish communal organizations including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, among others.

Presumably this means that he will give up his positions with J Street and the NIF for a while, but may return to them later, when things quiet down.

Is this supposed to make his critics feel better? Our problem is not his workload! How about a statement that as President of the URJ he understands that it is inappropriate for him to belong to — let alone take a leadership role in — these organizations?

As I wrote a few days ago, this appointment is a triumph for J Street, who now can inject their pernicious point of view into multiple mainstream Jewish organizations.

The URJ press release treats Rabbi Jacobs’ critics as if they are invisible, but Jacobs himself, in his acceptance speech does not:

First, I stand squarely in the tradition of Rabbis Schindler and Yoffie, that I will never, ever compromise on Israel’s security, never. I will ever lift up our efforts to strengthen it as a Jewish and democratic state, and that I will be proud to work to advance the Israel policies that this Movement has adopted over the past generations.

Second, and just as important, I hope that when the time comes for such a debate, that it will be a machlochet L’shem shamayim – a dispute for the sake of heaven…that we will conduct that debate with passion, to be sure. I hope and pray we will always debate with passion — but with civility and a respect for those who hold differing views.

I hope we will work to learn what others really think, and have really said, rather than relying on rumors, half-truths and outright lies. I hope that we will talk about real issues, and not find people guilty by association. I hope that anyone who wants to know what I think about something will ask me. As you will learn, I’m not exactly shy.

As his supporters have done, Rabbi Jacobs himself takes the low road. I certainly haven’t, in any of my posts about his nomination, relied on “rumors, half-truths and outright lies” or told any of them. I challenge Rabbi Jacobs to come up with even one. And I have not tried to divine what is in his mind. I have simply pointed out that he is an activist in two organizations that I and others have documented, over and over, as taking positions inimical to the state of Israel.

Further, here’s a logic lesson: it’s not “guilt by association.” Let’s look at an example of real guilt by association. Consider this:

  1. I was seen having a beer with Tony Soprano.
  2. Therefore I must be a member of the Mafia.

Agreed, unsound reasoning. Guilt by association.  But what about this?

  1. Rabbi Jacobs has a leadership role in J Street.
  2. Therefore Rabbi Jacobs supports, in general, the actions and principles of J Street.

That is a much better argument, isn’t it? Sure, he will say that he doesn’t agree with all of their actions. But unless he agrees with most of them, why would he be a part of it?

Here is what I want to know about what Rabbi Jacobs thinks. I would like him to answer this question:

What is there about an organization that lobbies for the US to allow a motion condemning Israel to pass in the security council, that lobbied against a congressional letter condemning incitement in the official Palestinian Authority media and the naming of public squares after terrorists that killed Israeli children, that introduced the author of the Goldstone Report to members of Congress and supported the Goldstone report that accused the IDF of war crimes, that applauds the Hamas-Fatah pact, that lobbied against a congressional resolution calling for sanctions on Iran, that called for an immediate cease-fire on day 1 of Operation Cast Lead while the Qassams were raining down on southern Israel, whose co-founder thinks that the creation of Israel was a mistake, that takes money from a former president of the Arab-American Institute, a Turkish maker of antisemitic films, and the self-proclaimed anti-Zionist George Soros (and lies about it) — what is there about J Street that you don’t understand?

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Obama’s latest squeeze play against Israel

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

The Washington Times reports:

The White House is pressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly adopt President Obama’s view that Israel’s pre-1967 border should be the basis for future peace talks.

The Obama White House appealed to Jewish leaders on Friday that the request of Israel was part of an effort to head off Palestinian plans to declare an independent state at the United Nations in September.

The Jerusalem Post adds:

Steve Simon, senior National Security Council advisor on the Middle East, held a conference call with Jewish leaders on Friday in which he said that the Palestinians had indicated that they would move forward with talks on the basis of Obama’s plan if Israel agreed to as well and that the US was now waiting for Israel’s answer, according to participants on the off-the-record call.

They said Simon also noted that the US was reasonably confident the Palestinians would abandon their effort to go to the UN in the case of such a scenario.

First, note that the implications of the Obama plan are that Israel must, as a precondition to negotiations, agree to return to 1949 armistice lines, in contravention of UNSC resolution 242 that has been the basis of all Israeli/Arab peace negotiations since 1967.

Yes, Obama mentioned “agreed-on swaps,” but if there is no agreement — if the Arabs don’t agree — then Israel still goes back to 1949 lines. And the withdrawal has to take place before negotiations on refugees and Jerusalem begin. If the Arabs insist on a ‘right of return’ and all of Jerusalem, what will Israel do — take back Judea and Samaria?

Second, note that the US has reneged on the commitment it made in the 2004 “Bush letter” that refugees would return only to ‘Palestine’, and not to Israel. In 2009, Hillary Clinton said that the letter was ‘informal’ and “did not become part of the official position of the United States government.”

Until recently, it was understood in the US that a ‘right of return’ for Arab refugees to Israel was unthinkable. Now, apparently not so much. So much for the written word of the President of the United States.

The administration now has a new argument for why Israel has to hurry up and surrender, “real quick,” as my teenage son used to say. If we don’t ‘head them off’, the Palestinians will “go to the UN” (shudder).

But the Palestinians can go to the UN General Assembly with their automatic majority any time they want and get yet another nonbinding resolution, which will mean exactly nothing.

A security council resolution could have teeth — but the US can stop any such resolution with its veto. So where’s the urgency? Perhaps the administration is suggesting that it would not be so quick to veto the next anti-Israel SC resolution, unless Israel plays along?

The Palestinians are playing their role to the hilt as always. They are ready to “move forward” — it’s just Israel that’s holding up the works!

Here we go again, just like the settlement freeze: the tag team of the Obama administration and the Palestinians jointly escalate Arab demands and make it look like Israel is at fault.

All this is just more proof that the administration’s goal is to get the Arabs what they want: Israel out of the territories with no recognition, no end of conflict, and no negation of their demand for ‘right of return’.

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Shorts: what’s coming, the nakba, Obama’s worried about Jews

Friday, June 10th, 2011

What’s coming (and why the US is making it worse)

This is the best short summary of what Israel and the US are facing. Everyone should read this:

The Coming Crisis in the Middle East, by Barry Rubin


The nakba

My local newspaper published an AP article last week in which they mentioned the “millions of Palestinians that fled” Israel’s War of Independence. They didn’t see fit to publish my letter in which I pointed out that the actual number was more like 600,000. But many people, even Zionists, don’t know the true circumstances of said flight. Were they ethnically cleansed at gunpoint the way the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem were?

Not exactly. Efraim Karsh writes (in Ha’aretz of all places!):

In the largest and best-known example of Arab-instigated exodus, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa (on April 21-22 ) on the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective “government” of the Palestinian Arabs [controlled by the Nazi Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini — ed.]. Only days earlier, Tiberias’ 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes (a fortnight after the exodus, Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner of Palestine, reported that the Tiberias Jews “would welcome [the] Arabs back”). In Jaffa, Palestine’s largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea; in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods, while in Beisan [Beit Shean] the women and children were ordered out as Transjordan’s Arab Legion dug in.

Were there cases in which Jewish troops forced Arab residents from their homes? Yes, particularly the fortified villages along the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem road, which prevented the passage of food and supplies to Jerusalem. Was it the exception rather than the rule? Almost certainly.


Jews deserting Obama?

Are Jews likely to vote Republican next November as a result of his Israel policy? More importantly, will Jewish money stop flowing into the Democratic Party? Ron Kampeas writes in JTA:

Where the Jews stand on Obama matters not just because of the Jewish vote, which is significant in key swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but also because of Jewish money. The 2012 presidential election will be the first since a Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate giving to candidates. The Obama campaign has said it will need more money than ever because big business tends to lean Republican.

Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and estimates over the years have reckoned that Jewish donors provide between one-third and two-thirds of the party’s money.

“Every two or four years Republicans say, ‘This is the year Jewish voters, or donors, or activists, are going to trend Republican,’ ” said Steve Rabinowitz, a strategist who advises Democrats and Jewish groups. “Every November it turns out not to be true.”

There are some Jews who simply cannot overcome their distaste for Republican domestic policy. Obama would have to grow a Hitler mustache and wear a kefiya to work in order for these people to vote against him. And of course there is the hard core of left-wing Jews who represent the Jewish opposition to Israel — they like it when Obama pressures Israel.

But what about the majority of American Jews who are pro-Israel, as the recent Luntz poll showed? I don’t think the Democratic spin that the position implied by his May 19th speech is no different from that of previous administrations is convincing at all (and I’m a Democrat). I think that many Jewish Democrats are very uneasy about the president and his advisers on this issue.

It might not be enough to make them vote Republican. But it might keep them — and their money — at home.


Shabbat shalom!

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Mainstream Jewish groups infiltrated by anti-Israel J Street

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Item: the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston, in a controversial vote on May 25, decided to keep J Street as a member. The JCRC of Hartford, Connecticut is co-sponsoring an event with J Street on June 13th, despite community opposition.

Item: the University of Pennsylvania Hillel allowed J Street to hold the kickoff event in February for its new local network in its space; the Harvard Hillel cooperated with J Street U (downloadable video) to host Breaking the Silence in March; and the Columbia-Barnard Hillel hosted a “Bagel Brunch” with J Street of NYC this month.

Item: the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has nominated, and despite protests will probably confirm, J Street and New Israel Fund activist Rabbi Richard Jacobs as its new president.

In all of these cases the argument was made that J Street represents a legitimately pro-Israel point of view — dovish, left-wing, perhaps, but nevertheless pro-Israel. A point of view that might be taken by someone who wants Israel to survive and thrive, but disagrees with the policies of the present government because they are too ‘hard-line’ toward the Palestinians. A point of view that belongs ‘in the big tent’ with other shades of Jewish opinion. A ‘loyal opposition’, so to speak. After all, there are plenty of Israelis that disagree with their government, too.

In the 30 posts that I’ve written about J Street I’ve argued that this is not the case. I’ve argued that there is direct evidence — J Street’s official positions and their lobbying activities — that show that J Street acts against the interests of the Jewish state. Lobbying for a security council resolution condemning Israel, in favor of the Goldstone report, against sanctions on Iran, even against a congressional letter denouncing the continuing Palestinian incitement to hatred at the time of the vicious murder of the Fogel family, cannot possibly be construed as ‘pro-Israel’.

There is also indirect evidence that J Street is actually an anti-Israel organization: the fact that it has received funds from individuals and groups that are anything but pro-Israel, like the former president of the Arab-American institute and anti-Zionist George Soros (about which they lied for at least a year). Further evidence is the fact that J Street invited anti-Zionists and supporters of boycott-divestment-sanctions to speak at their convention, where they received enthusiastic applause — including the vicious Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy.

I will go as far as to say this: the J Street leadership is consciously aligned with Israel’s enemies, even if some of its uninformed supporters still think of themselves as merely pro-Israel peaceniks. Its true goal is not to make Israel ‘better’, but to help replace it with an Arab state.

The Boston JCRC is already learning what it means to invite J Street ‘into the tent’:

In a January 2011 meeting, the group’s representative successfully pushed through a motion diluting the language in a statement calling for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The same person also pushed through a motion opposing Israel’s insistence on direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Yet another vote almost succeeded in calling for division of Jerusalem. — Andrea Levin, “Jewry with the fringe on top: Boston JCRC boosts J Street,” Boston Jewish Advocate

A recent poll shows that the great majority of American Jews do not agree with J Street’s point of view. Nevertheless, the strategy of infiltrating mainstream Jewish organizations like JCRCs and campus Hillels is proving to be a highly effective way to amplify a fringe ideology — indeed, an ideology which is exactly the opposite of what it claims to be.

The nomination of Rabbi Jacobs to head the URJ represents the opening of an entirely new chapter in the saga, because there are more Reform Jews in America than any other denomination. Several Reform rabbis that I talked to indicated that they were blindsided by the vehemence of the opposition to Rabbi Jacobs from pro-Israel Reform Jews. It may sound odd, but apparently many of them, concerned about financial and management issues in the movement, did not think to ask whether Jacobs’ position on Israel might become a problem!

This may be so, but I’m certain that there is a well-organized group that was very conscious of ideology regarding Israel, and committed to getting their kind of candidate selected. The takeover of the URJ is perhaps the greatest triumph yet — Jacobs is certain to be confirmed — for the strategy of infiltration.

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Yet another bad idea

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Yesterday I called the Obama Administration “the most anti-Israel … ever.”

I can’t guess how much is caused by incompetence and how much by animosity toward Israel, but the screwups continue. Barry Rubin summed them up this morning in a remarkable 200 words (more or less):

1. Obama demands freeze on all Israeli construction in existing settlements, undoing 16 years of U.S. and Palestinian Authority (PA) acceptance of that policy. PA makes that its basic demand and won’t talk. No sanctions by Obama against PA. No talks.

2. Israel calls bluff and freezes; PA won’t talk. Obama demands freeze extended to Jerusalem. Israel complies. PA still won’t talk. Freeze expires and PA won’t talk unless new freeze. No sanctions by Obama against PA. No talks

3. Obama calls for 1967 borders with swaps. His plan: Israel turns over the entire West Bank, then they talk about the swaps! PA makes that their basic demand and won’t talk. (You can fill in the next two sentences).

4. PA makes merger deal with Hamas, antisemitic, anti-American, terrorist group that advocates genocide; expels Christians from the Gaza Strip; teaches children to be suicide bombers; rejects the peace process; and is client of Iran, Syria, and Muslim Brotherhood. (You can fill in the next two sentences).

5. PA forces Obama to veto unilateral independence demand at the UN making US “more unpopular” in Arab and Muslim world, destroying what has been just about his highest foreign policy priority. (You can fill in the next two sentences).

But there’s even more:

The Obama Administration may soon present the Turkish government with a proposition to stop the upcoming flotilla to Gaza and restore relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported on Friday.

The offer, first reported by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, would involve Ankara hosting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, according to the report. The White House is expected to soon officially make the offer to Turkey. — Jerusalem Post

If this is correct, it’s an awful idea. Turkish PM Erdoğan has ramped up anti-Israel and antisemitic feelings in Turkey since he came to power, with quantum leaps on the occasion of the Gaza war and the Mavi Marmara affair — whose fatal turn was clearly premeditated at the highest levels of the Turkish government. Erdoğan has moved his country out of the American orbit and into the Iran-Syria-Hamas axis. Giving Turkey influence over negotiations involving Israel’s security is like asking the wolf to mediate between the fox and the hens.

Turkish general elections are scheduled for next week. This proposal, whether or not it is serious, will certainly give Erdoğan’s AK party a boost. Even Obama sees Turkey as a major regional player, they can trumpet, thanks to our brilliant Prime Minister.

There’s no doubt that Turkey would have conditions for restoring relations with Jerusalem as well — Erdoğan has mentioned an apology and compensation paid to Turkey for the dead terrorists of the Mavi Marmara before — and he would almost certainly demand that Israel recognize a Palestinian government containing Hamas and lift the sea blockade of Gaza.

Erdoğan is also anti-American — but since when was that a reason to not ‘engage’? An AKP victory weakens America in the Middle East. Why is Obama helping them?

So we have the Obama administration a) helping Israel’s enemies win elections, b) proposing that said enemies influence critical decisions about Israel’s security, c) helping them press their absurd claims against Israel and last but not least, d) strengthening the Islamist bloc in the Middle East to our own disadvantage.

There is little chance that Israel would agree to meet the Palestinians in Erdoğan’s Turkey. How does this proposal advance the cause of peace?

Let me repeat one of my favorite lines:

Stupid or evil? You decide.

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