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Mr. Prime Minister: Don’t Take Diaspora Jews for Granted: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2014— Under the leadership of the indefatigable Malcolm Hoenlein, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a unique umbrella organization, is gathering in Jerusalem this week.
The Dark Side of the War on 'the One Percent': Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 3, 2014 — Two phenomena: anti-Semitism and American class conflict. Is there any connection between them?Book
Review: 'Genesis,' by John B. Judis: Jordan Chandler Hirsch: Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2014— The library of books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vast, and it grows every year.
Arab, Muslim and Pro-Israel: Abdel Bioud, Times of Israel, Feb. 11, 2014 — I know, I know, I know what you’re already thinking: ‘’oh God, not another piece on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the same old arguments regurgitated over and over again, for the last 60 years’’. You couldn’t be more wrong. Bear with me.
Interview: The Sweeper of Dreams, with Alma Deutscher (Video): Youtube, Jan. 3, 2014
Arab Demonization of Jews Is a Historical Anomaly—and Shows the Limits of Today’s Leaders: Aomar Boum, Tablet, Feb. 21, 2014
Hillel Explains When ‘Open Hillel’ Will Result in Disaffiliation: Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Feb. 20, 2014
Film Exposé of J Street Reveals Decaying Core of Moral Narcissism: Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Feb. 21, 2014
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2014
Under the leadership of the indefatigable Malcolm Hoenlein, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a unique umbrella organization, is gathering in Jerusalem this week. Its members, leaders of America’s most prominent Jewish organizations, will be briefed directly by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and senior government ministers. Alas, unless the unexpected happens and the prime minister reads the riot act to his ministers, these American activists will receive mixed messages and are likely to return to the US more confused than when they arrived.
They will be baffled by what they learn about the current round of the so-called “peace negotiations.” It now appears that Israel will accept – with major reservations – the framework accord for negotiations as a non-binding document. In contrast, the Palestinians seem poised to reject it outright. And yet, despite the Palestinian intransigence, Israel will continue to be bombarded by demands to make further concessions.
They will find it difficult to make sense of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s role in the process. Encouraged by a flow of demands and petitions from Jewish liberals urging Netanyahu to be “grateful” to Kerry and “not sit idly by” (whatever that means) and risk forgoing the opportunity for peace, Kerry has displayed a complete lack of evenhandedness in the negotiations. He does not pressure the Palestinians, although he has made multiple threats against Israel, and proposed extreme and dangerous interventions, such as substituting the IDF presence in the Jordan Valley with electronic fences and NATO troops.
Disregarding the fact that he represents Israel’s ally, he has alluded to the “dangers” of boycotts, sanctions and delegitimization unless Israel becomes more accommodating – a thinly veiled threat that we can be sure the Europeans heard. Moreover, it was unconscionable that Kerry failed to relate to the vicious incitement of recent weeks, when released Palestinian killers were sanctified as national heroes and, in many cases, actually recounted their ghoulish murders of innocent civilians on state television.
But ultimately, Netanyahu and his government bear the main burden of responsibility for the bewilderment that Diaspora Jews (and many Israelis) are experiencing over the negotiations. While the prime minister initially robustly rejected key security concessions that Kerry demanded, he subsequently caved in to pressure and papered over the differences. Meanwhile, in absolute contradiction to the position adopted by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – the traditional hardliner – then embarked on an “I love Kerry” campaign, preposterously suggesting that the deals proposed were the best Israel could ever expect. If Netanyahu orchestrated this as a “good cop, bad cop” performance, it seriously backfired. On the other hand, if the foreign minister is running his own mini-government, that is totally unacceptable.
This confusion has had major ramifications in the US, particularly for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the jewel in the crown of American Israel activism. But in recent months, its reputation was tarnished and its standing weakened by failed efforts that resulted primarily from mixed signals it received. Despite AIPAC’s strong Iranian sanction campaign (it obtained bipartisan endorsement and the backing of 59 members of the US Senate, just four votes short to carry the vote), it backed down from its effort due to massive pressure from President Barack Obama, who went so far as to misleadingly proclaim that passage of tougher sanctions against Iran was tantamount to a declaration of war. While Prime Minister Netanyahu initially encouraged AIPAC to proceed with its campaign he is also said to have pressured AIPAC to withdraw in order to placate Obama prior to their meeting in March.
AIPAC is also facing problems that are unrelated to Israel’s current lack of strategic clarity. It has become so obsessed with bipartisanship that the withdrawal of a number of Democrats made them fear a breakdown, and this is said to have also contributed to the decision to pull out its support for the initiative. In the process, AIPAC alienated and left some of its key congressional supporters out on a limb with the Republicans defiantly carrying on. With the increasingly aggressive attitudes against Israel emerging from leftist minority groups within the Democratic Party, complex challenges are likely to arise in future which cannot always be subordinated to the interests of bipartisanship. Nonetheless, the AIPAC debacle is symptomatic of the strained relationship between the Netanyahu government and Jewish organizations trying to support it. The government’s impulsive statements and ministers’ irresponsible public criticism and shrill outbursts have understandably exasperated even committed mainstream supporters of Israel and made them lose credibility…
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Jordan Chandler Hirsch
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 3, 2014
Two phenomena: anti-Semitism and American class conflict. Is there any connection between them? In a letter to this newspaper, the noted venture capitalist Tom Perkins called attention to certain parallels, as he saw them, between Nazi Germany's war against the Jews and American progressives' war on the "one percent." For comparing two such historically disparate societies, Mr. Perkins was promptly and heatedly denounced. But is there something to be said for his comparison—not of Germany and the United States, of course, but of the politics at work in the two situations? The place to begin is at the starting point: with the rise of anti-Semitism, modernity's most successful and least understood political movement.
The German political activist Wilhelm Marr, originally a man of the left, organized a movement in the 1870s that charged Jews with using their skills "to conquer Germany from within." Distinguishing the movement that he called anti-Semitism from earlier forms of anti-Judaism, Marr argued on professedly rational grounds that Jews were taking unfair advantage of the emerging democratic order in Europe, with its promise of individual rights and open competition, in order to dominate the fields of finance, culture and social ideas. Though some of Marr's rhetoric and imagery was based on earlier stereotypes, he was right to insist that anti-Semitism was a new response to new conditions, channeling grievance and blame against highly visible beneficiaries of freedom and opportunity.
These were some of its typical ploys: Are you unemployed? The Jews have your jobs. Is your family mired in poverty? The Rothschilds have your money. Do you feel more insecure in the city than you did on the land? The Jews are trapping you in factories and charging you exorbitant rents. Anti-Semitism accused Jews of undermining Christian authority and corrupting the German legal system, the arts and the press. Jews were said to be rabid internationalists spreading Bolshevism—and ruthless capitalists exploiting for their own gain the nation's natural and human resources. To ambitious politicians seeking office, to rulers of still largely illiterate populations, "the Jews" became a convenient catchall explanation for deep-rooted and sometimes intractable problems.
But though the origins of modern anti-Semitism may be traced to Germany, anti-Semitism itself remains sui generis and cannot be simply conflated with either Germany or Hitler. True, the latter gained power on a platform of anti-Semitism and then proceeded to put his Final Solution into effect, but the modern organization of politics against the Jews is independent of Nazism—and of fascism, since the Italian variant did not specifically target the Jews. Features of anti-Semitism are present in other political movements, on the left fully as much the right.
The parallel that Tom Perkins drew in his letter was especially irksome to his respondents on the left, many of whom are supporters of President Obama's sallies against Wall Street and the "one percent." These critics might profitably consult Robert Wistrich, today's leading historian of anti-Semitism. His "From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel" (2012) documents the often profound anti-Semitism that has affected socialists and leftists from Karl Marx to today's anti-Israel movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions. It was Marx who said, "The bill of exchange is the Jew's actual god," putting a Jewish face on capitalism and accusing both Judaism and capitalism of converting man and nature into "alienable and saleable objects."
Herein lies one structural connection between a politics of blame directed specifically at Jews and a politics of grievance directed against "the rich." The ranks of those harping on "unfairly" high earners include figures in American political life at all levels who have been entrusted with the care of our open society; in channeling blame for today's deep-rooted and seemingly intractable problems toward the beneficiaries of that society's competitive freedoms, they are playing with fire. I say this not only, and not even primarily, because some of those beneficiaries happen also to be Jews. So far, mainstream American politicians and supporters of movements like Occupy Wall Street have confined their attacks to the nameless "one percent," and in any case it is doubtful that today any U.S. politician would be electable on an explicitly anti-Jewish platform.
My point is broader: Stoking class envy is a step in a familiar, dangerous and highly incendiary process. Any ideology or movement, right or left, that is organized negatively—against rather than for—enjoys an inherent advantage in politics, mobilizing unappeasable energies that never have to default on their announced goal of cleansing the body politic of its alleged poisons. In this respect, one might think of anti-Semitism as the purest and most murderous example of an enduring political archetype: the negative campaign. That campaign has its international as well as its domestic front. Modern anti-Zionism, itself a patented invention of Soviet Communism and now the lingua franca of the international left, uses Israel just as anti-Semitism uses Jews, directing grievance and blame and eliminationist zeal against an entire collectivity that has flourished on the world scene thanks to the blessings of freedom and opportunity.
Herein lies a deeper structural connection. On the global front today, the much larger and more obvious beneficiary of those same blessings is the democratic capitalist system of the United States, and the ultimate target of the ultimate negative campaign is the American people. Anyone seeking to understand the inner workings of such a campaign will find much food for thought in Mr. Perkins's parallel.
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2014
The library of books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vast, and it grows every year. John Judis's Genesis claims to distinguish itself by focusing on President Harry Truman's efforts "to resolve the conflict between Jew and Arab." Mr. Judis thinks that we can learn from Truman's failures and wants readers "to approach the subject from when the conflict actually began." But Genesis distinguishes itself in another way: It isn't so much a history as an inquisition—one that weighs the moral balance of the conflict from on high and finds Zionism, and its American supporters, guilty.
The author, a senior editor of the New Republic, begins by surveying the 50 years of Jewish-Arab tensions in Palestine that preceded the birth of the Jewish state in 1948. While rehashing the origins of both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, he casts the movement for Jewish statehood as an inherently colonialist enterprise and the Arabs as its victims. The Zionist pioneers settling in Palestine, the author writes, committed "many of the sins that Western European countries had visited upon native populations," displacing locals and stifling their "natural development." In making this charge, he equates Europe's mightiest powers with its greatest victims, the Jews—a stateless people seeking refuge in their ancient home by legitimately purchasing and cultivating land. Throughout this preamble, Mr. Judis accuses the Zionist movement of rejecting compromise and "social justice." But regarding the most heinous Arab actions—such as the 1929 massacre of the Jewish community of Hebron or the five-country invasion of the nascent state of Israel in 1948, which followed the Arabs' rejection of the first United Nations peace plan—the author is more forgiving. These he largely plays down or characterizes as understandable responses to Jewish provocation.
There is a good reason why this partisan early narrative sounds familiar: It is nearly 200 pages of mostly regurgitated secondary sources. If Mr. Judis were dedicated to telling an original story about Truman, he shouldn't have devoted half of his book to this carbon-copy history. But he isn't primarily concerned with how Truman came to recognize the state of Israel or even, really, with the fate of Palestine. Instead, Mr. Judis is consumed by what he views as the pernicious influence of diaspora Jewish Zionists on the British and American governments. The author traces the sinister sway of Zionism to the drafting of the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 document in which Britain pledged to establish a Jewish national home in Palestine. Chaim Weizmann, a chemist whose scientific discoveries greatly aided the British during World War I, "charmed his way up the ladder of authority until he reached the top," Mr. Judis writes, and then suckered some key British figures into supporting the Zionist cause. When, after the war, others attempted to dilute Britain's commitment to the Balfour Declaration, Zionist activists in Britain consistently "blocked" their efforts.
A running theme is that had these Jews been patriotic Britons, they wouldn't have lobbied for Zionism. Mr. Judis uncritically cites Prime Minister H.H. Asquith receiving a pro-Zionist memo from Herbert Samuel, a Jewish cabinet member, and noting in a private letter that "it is a curious illustration . . . that 'race is everything' to find this almost lyrical outburst proceeding from the well-ordered and methodical brain of [Samuel]." Mr. Judis thus deploys the bigotry of yesteryear to bolster his contemporary arguments.
What British Zionists did in London, Mr. Judis claims, American Zionists would do in Washington. By the end of the 1930s, Zionist activists, apparently not as all-powerful as "Genesis" would have readers think, failed to prevent Britain from decisively abandoning the Balfour Declaration. But as British power in the region receded following World War II, both Zionists and Arabs realized that their fortunes rested with the United States. Truman, who had no Middle East experience, was advised by Britain and by the U.S. Defense and State Departments to side with the Arabs. For three years, he anguished over whether to support Zionism. He weighed Arab sentiment against Jewish plight and political expediency against his sense of morality, while always seeking to uphold U.S. national interests.
"Genesis" reduces this tortuous deliberation into a simplistic tale of Jewish bullying. In its few pages of background on Truman's relationship with Jews and Zionism, the book discards well-documented complexity to insist that the president didn't sympathize with Jewish sovereignty. Truman, Mr. Judis says, was browbeaten by "unrelenting and obnoxious" pressure from Zionist activists. The president would ultimately bow before Zionist advocates "not because he believed in their cause," but out of electoral concerns. Mr. Judis accuses one figure, Abba Hillel Silver, of putting "the Zionist cause above party politics—and, in effect, above any domestic agenda." If a Democrat failed to fully endorse Zionism, Mr. Judis writes, Silver "tried to use the Jewish vote and Jewish contributions against him." Here and elsewhere, "Genesis" treats issue-driven voter lobbying, a staple of American democracy, as if it were high treason.
The author blames Truman's endorsement of a Jewish state—as opposed to a binational state in Palestine—on American Jewish liberals, who are the true targets of "Genesis." Mr. Judis is mystified by the fact that liberals who "supported labor rights, civil rights, and the first amendment," such as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, could also support Zionism. In doing so, he says, these otherwise stalwart progressive champions "abandoned their principles." Zionism, for Mr. Judis, is a kind of sin against liberalism. Near the end, he quotes a saying of Jesus: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" and castigates Israel's Jews for having "gained a world of their own, but at the expense of another people." An author who brandishes his liberal commitments at every turn ends up invoking a Christian teaching on greed to condemn the Jews for sacrificing another people at the altar of their own interest.
Times of Israel, Feb. 11, 2014
I know, I know, I know what you’re already thinking: ‘’oh God, not another piece on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the same old arguments regurgitated over and over again, for the last 60 years’’. You couldn’t be more wrong. Bear with me.
I’m Abdel. I was born in Algeria and lived there for a little over a decade. During that time, I had the distinct pleasure to go through a brutal civil war where Islamists (supported financially and morally by Hamas, Iran and Saudi Arabia) where trying to take over the country to impose their worldview on everyone else. Friends and family members of mine were killed and the country almost went down the drain. My parents, who were executives at the time, were also involved politically. Specifically, they were leading political parties who’re trying to get religion out of politics– in the midst of an Islamic insurgency. You can only imagine how more problematic their personal and familial situation became: regular death threats, bullet proof door in our home, different itineraries and time to get to work, et cetera. In sum, it was a living hell. Oh, did I mention that I’m the VP communication for McGill Students for Israel? Now, why? Why does a guy who’s born in a country that does not even recognize Israel come to support it? Below is the case for Israel from the perspective of someone who grew up and lived in a self-proclaimed Arab and Muslim country.
As a libertarian, individual liberty and freedom are values that I cherish very dearly. So, in order for me to understand a situation, I use those two values as guiding principles to shed some light on what is really happening. By applying that freedom filter to the Israeli-Arab conflict, you get the following: All Arab countries are dictatorships. That is, you have ruling gangster families on top, who use their monopoly of violence (via the military) to kill/imprison anyone who questions their business plan.
The business plan is the following:
1. Use force to maintain power and keep disarmed humans living in fear. 2. Send kids to government controlled schools so they can get indoctrinated with four things: The ruling family is great (à la Kim Jung Il). Their country is the greatest. The Palestinian cause is something that is part of their identity. Force feed them Islam so it can be used as a tool to control (I use the term force feed because I was force fed Islam in the Algerian government school since day 1). 3. While people are brainwashed and live in fear, negotiate a percentage on those resource/construction contracts (SNC-Lavalin anyone?). 4. Profit.
It comes as no surprise that the output of such a disastrous mix can only be chaos. On one hand you have the insane families in power who are trying to steal as much money as possible, while using violence against their own people. On the other hand, you have the by-product of this insanity- the Islamists. That is, confused people who had their vision of reality completely distorted by the system they were born in. This vicious cycle has been going on for decades, the result of which was the so-called Arab spring or Arab winter (i.e. the by-product of the system, the Islamists, is taking over). Clearly, this circus will go on for another decade if not more.
Now, what about Israel? If you’re a citizen there, your basic freedoms are respected. You can live peacefully, raise a family, and send your kids to competitive and globally recognized universities. This simple basic respect for human dignity put them light-years ahead of any Arab state. As a human being who seeks to improve himself, Israel is a logical choice. It is the only place in the Middle East where your potential can be fully expressed. Based on the values it stands for and the principles that it was founded on, Israel is a force of good for that region and for the world. And remember, this is not coming from a Jewish or an Israeli individual. It’s coming from someone with a Muslim name and an Arab face (which looks pretty good by the way), who actually lived and was raised in an Arab country. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m talking about and I’m just fantasizing from 5,000 miles away, like most people do.
From an individual and rational perspective, it is hard to argue against what I’ve said above. But even then, even if you drop any rational judgement and go tribal on this issue, the Jewish people are the Arabs’ cousins! If your cousins were being slaughtered and discriminated against all over the world (remember the MS St. Louis, the ship filled with Jewish refugees during WWII, that was turned away by Canada and the U.S. to go back to Europe?), wouldn’t you welcome them with your arms wide open? Jewish people have suffered greatly and the only people in the world that should have welcomed and protected them were their cousins, the Arabs. And it’s not like they had an option to flee to a “Jewish” country like you have for so-called Muslim and Christian ones. They were not welcome anywhere on planet earth. Do you fully realize the magnitude of this? The bottom line is this: this is a historical opportunity to start over but on the right foot this time. An opportunity to write history as it should have been from the beginning. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste; you might not have another one.
[Abdel Bioud is a graduate student at McGill Universitty and the is the vice president of communication for the McGill Students for Israel Association.]
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Interview: The Sweeper of Dreams, with Alma Deutscher (Video): Youtube, Jan. 3, 2014
Arab Demonization of Jews Is a Historical Anomaly—and Shows the Limits of Today’s Leaders: Aomar Boum, Tablet, Feb. 21, 2014 —In his 1886 best-seller La France Juive, Édouard Drumont—the spiritual father of French anti-Semitism—wrote, “All comes from the Jew, all returns to the Jew.”
Hillel Explains When ‘Open Hillel’ Will Result in Disaffiliation: Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Feb. 20, 2014 —Over the last few months, Jewish student groups on two American campuses affiliated with the Hillel International Foundation publicly rejected Hillel’s guidelines for partnership.
Film Exposé of J Street Reveals Decaying Core of Moral Narcissism: Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Feb. 21, 2014 —Is it really possible to get all of the most important information about the no-longer upstart, but still disingenuous J Street into a one hour film, one that provides sufficient background information for the uninitiated to be able to grasp just what could be wrong with the organization that promotes itself as “pro-peace, pro-Israel”?
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