Baruch Cohen

In loving memory of Malca z’l

As we celebrate 64 years of the State of Israel’s independence, our thoughts are with Jonathan Pollard, imprisoned since 1985. Twenty-seven years for an offense—passing classified information to an ally during peacetime—that has historically garnered an average sentence of 2-4 years: A travesty of justice!

The numerous appeals to American Presidents—including to Barack Obama—requesting clemency for Pollard, remain unanswered! Enough is enough! Friends of Israel the world over must not remain silent. Jews and non-Jews alike must not rest until Pollard is freed!

Let us not forget that Pollard’s actions were guided solely by a genuine concern for the security of Israel, the closest and most stalwart US ally. He has expressed remorse and overpaid his debt to society. It is therefore time to free Pollard now!

Our brother has served long enough! We must celebrate Israel’s 64th year of independence with Pollard among us, a free man.

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)

The following is excerpted from remarks titled, One Jewish People, One Jewish Reality, delivered by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Michael B. Oren,
at the
Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum Conference in Detroit on May 6.

…[Recently], some American Jews were discussing a call to boycott products made by Israeli settlements in the West Bank. I followed that debate closely, as is my duty as ambassador. I was curious to know whether anybody seriously thought such a boycott could be implemented—whether a distinction could be made between the computer chip made in a settlement and the computer itself. I was curious to know how, in the absence of Palestinian peace partners, such a boycott might contribute to a two-state solution. I wondered whether those calling for the boycott realized how much they strengthened the case for boycotting all Israeli products and delegitimizing the Jewish state.

But what most struck me—not as an ambassador but as an Israeli and as an Israeli father, was the fact that, on the same day that my son was worrying about [training] his raw [IDF] recruits and my daughter about rockets in Beersheva, a portion of the American Jewish community was debating whether or not to buy Ahava hand products. Something is wrong here. Terribly wrong.

When I grew up in the [US], the slogan of the United Jewish Appeal was “We are One.” Today, that same logo is more likely to raise eyebrows than funds. No doubt, a majority of American Jews care deeply about the security of Israel and oppose those seeking to undermine it.… And yet, sometimes it seems that we, Israelis and American Jews, not only inhabit different countries but different universes, different realities.… Let me be clear: at stake is not merely Israel’s policies or rights of American Jews to criticize them. At stake is nothing less than the unity of a Jewish people.

Throughout much of our history, that unity was taken for granted. According to Medieval documents found in the attic of a Cairo synagogue, a Jew living in eighth century Baghdad could travel to Mumbai or to Cordova or to Paris and be received like a cousin by the local Jewish community. He could be housed and fed and could even cash a check! We partook in a tradition thousands of years old. We were mishpuchah [family]. And if we ever forgot we were mishpuchah, the world would quickly remind us. We were bound by our tradition, but also by our often hostile surroundings.

All that began to change with the Enlightenment and the collapse of the ghetto walls. A wellspring of spiritual and political energy was unleashed. Suddenly, there were Reform as well as Conservative and Orthodox Jews; Jews not only in the schmata [clothing] business but in the medical business, even the business of running countries. Suddenly, there were Central European Jews and Eastern Europe Jews and Sepharadi Jews, from lands further east still. There were nationalist Jews who thought of themselves as Frenchmen or Italians first and Communists who weren’t really Jews anymore but members of an international proletariat. Most peripheral were the Zionists.… In [America], on the eve of World War I, out of a Jewish population of close to three million, a mere 10,000 were Zionists.

Much of that changed during World War II. Reform Jews, Conservative, Orthodox, Central and Eastern European and Sepharadi Jews, Communists, Nationalists, Zionists—all were reunited on the trains to Auschwitz. The Holocaust forced us to rethink the meaning of Jewish peoplehood. Were we Jews simply because we were victims, as Jean-Paul Sartre philosophized? Or were there positive aspects to Jewish identity that transcended all cultural, ritual, and political differences and bound us together eternally?

For a great many, the answer was, yes, we are Jews—not because the anti-Semites say we are but because we revere our tradition, we belong to a community, and we share a birthright, the Land of Israel. And as an affirmation of that identity, in an act of national will unrivaled in human history, we rose from the Holocaust’s ashes and recreated our ancient state, the State of Israel.

That state belongs to you and me in a way that no other state can. For our attachment to it is not contingent on our passport or place of birth. Rather, it is contingent on membership in a Jewish people that has spanned much of the globe and most of recorded history. Israel is our state, a work in progress in which every Jew can play a part. Of course, sovereignty is messy, and Jews can and will disagree about Israeli policies without necessarily loving Israel any less. Still, people often ask me, “how do you define pro-Israel?” I have some elementary answers.

The person who is pro-Israel recalls what Jewish life was like without a Jewish state and works to ensure that there always will be a Jewish state. The pro-Israel person is grateful every day that he or she lives in a time in Jewish history when there is a proud and independent Jewish state.… [And] irrespective of politics, the pro-Israel person asks, “how can I contribute to Israel, how can I enrich it and be enriched by it?…”

A pro-Israel person appreciates the immense threats the people of Israel face every day. She knows that Israel, alone, cannot bring peace with the Palestinians, but that the Palestinians have the agency—the responsibility—to denounce terror, reject Hamas, and accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state. The pro-Israel person understands the threats to Israel of not achieving peace, but also understands the threat to Israel of making a peace that will quickly unravel and transform the West Bank into another Gaza.

The pro-Israel person empathizes with those who live under the constant hazard of missile attack and with those who devote years of their lives—indeed risk their lives—for the safety of the Jewish state. The pro-Israel person recognizes the supreme danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and acknowledges that…Israel has the right to defend itself against any Middle Eastern threat.…

Finally, a pro-Israel person takes pride in Israel’s incalculable successes. In our world-class universities, our pioneering achievements in medicine, economics, alternative energy; in the fact that we have more technological patents, more scientific papers, more start-ups and more Nobel Prizes per capita than any country in the world; that, after Canada, we’re the most educated population in the world, our stock market is rated the world’s best investment, and Tel Aviv is listed as the third most fun and first most gay-friendly city on earth. We have the only growing Christian population in the Middle East and we’re one of the world’s oldest democracies.…

The pro-Israel person sees Israelis—left, right, religious, secular—not as some distant “Other” but as part of a whole—a dynamic, creative, rambunctious, and precious whole. The pro-Israel people are those who view even those who disagree with them politically as part of their people, as mishpuchah.…

We are a people. And because we are people, we have been able to overcome adversity. Peoplehood is the secret to our success.… Yes, we face daunting challenges, but with the Jewish people united and behind [Israel], we can overcome them all. That’s why the great task of our generation is to preserve our unity.…

Our duty is to create one Jewish universe, one Jewish reality. Our duty is to create a world in which our kids are your kids, a world in which our problems, no matter how big, belong to us all. And so do our accomplishments. Our task is to ensure that the Jewish people and the Jewish state are, and will remain, inseparable.

Tevi Troy

Tablet, April 24, 2012

Now that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the Republican primary, the long-anticipated election showdown between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is beginning to heat up. And one thing is becoming clear even at this early stage: The 2012 presidential race, between a Mormon Republican and a Christian Democrat, is shaping up to be one of the most Jewish elections in American history.…

We’ve had very Jewish elections before, perhaps none more than 2000, when Joe Lieberman was on the Democratic ballot as vice president. But this year, the involvement of Jews in all elements of the political process, combined with increased Jewish confidence and security as a community, is manifesting itself on the political stage—most notably, on both sides of the political aisle. These factors, as well as the potential for Mitt Romney to take advantage of President Obama’s rough patches with Israel to peel away some of his Jewish support, have made the Jewish role in the 2012 election more prominent than in any previous race.


Though Jews seem to be everywhere in politics these days—as candidates, strategists, officials, fundraisers, commentators, and more—the high level of Jewish involvement in national politics would have been unfathomable in the 19th century. In 1813, for example, President Madison appointed Mordecai Manuel Noah as U.S. consul to Tunis, only to have the Islamic government there object to having a Jew in the role (so much for the idea that Islamic anti-Semitism is a post-Israel phenomenon). The State Department, headed by future president James Monroe, acceded to the request.… It would be 40 years before there was another equally prominent Jewish appointee in the form of Democratic fundraiser August Belmont, whom Franklin Pierce named U.S. minister to The Hague in 1853.

Jews did emerge in presidential politics during the Civil War—but not in a positive way. In 1862, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s infamous General Orders No. 11 expelled Jews from the Department of the Tennessee, an area under Union Army Control. A delegation of Jews lobbied President Abraham Lincoln to rescind the order, a request that the president quickly granted. Yet the order became even more relevant when Grant ran for president in 1868. Grant’s candidacy presented a real challenge to American Jews, who, for the first time, faced the question of whether to cast their votes as Jews or as Americans.…

The Jews broke through in the 20th century, when Theodore Roosevelt named Oscar Straus to be Secretary of Commerce, making Straus the first Jewish Cabinet secretary. William Howard Taft became the first president to invite a Jew—Sears President Julius Rosenwald—to dinner at the White House in 1912. In addition, 1920 GOP candidate Warren G. Harding benefited from a campaign song written and performed by the Jewish entertainer Al Jolson, titled “Harding, You’re the Man for Us.”

Despite these groundbreaking steps taken by Republican presidents, for the most part Jews have been an assumed part of the Democratic coalition since Franklin Roosevelt built his New Deal majorities.… Over the last century, no GOP candidate has won the majority of the Jewish vote, although Harding—perhaps thanks to Al Jolson—did secure a plurality in 1920. Democrats have won, without fail, the Jewish vote in every election since FDR.…


In 2008, Barack Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote…[and] it’s certainly the case that the president has had a number of high-profile Jewish events, including the first White House Passover Seder, and appointed a number of Jews to senior positions. Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was Jewish. Obama’s second chief of staff, Bill Daley, wasn’t—and he did not work out so well. In January, Obama replaced Daley with Jack Lew, who is not only Jewish but Orthodox to boot. David Axelrod, the Obama campaign’s chief strategist, is also Jewish.…

Despite these overt and symbolic nods, over the past four years, President Obama’s relations with Israel have increasingly become the subject of intense debate inside and outside the Jewish community. Obama’s given everyone—particularly the Republicans—a lot of material on this subject, with his refusal to take a picture with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March 2010; his hot-mic criticism in November 2011 of Netanyahu during discussions with French President Nicolas Sarkozy; and his orchestrated rebuke of Israel after Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem in early 2010.…

The Obama campaign is apparently well aware of the discontent in the Jewish community regarding Obama’s positions on Israel.… A February Pew poll found that “Even Jewish voters, who have traditionally been and remain one of the strongest Democratic constituencies, have moved noticeably in the Republican direction.” A more recent poll shows that 62 percent of Jews would back Obama in November,…[16 percentage points] lower than what he received in 2008.…

Of course, it is not surprising to have Jews a major part of the conversation on the Democratic side of the aisle. Democrats typically can count on at least 75 percent of the Jewish vote, and Jewish money, much of it from Wall Street and Hollywood, is crucial to funding the Democratic Party. Furthermore, 13 of the 53 senators who caucus with the Democrats are Jewish—almost 25 percent. Two of those 53 senators are Independents, both of whom are Jewish. There are 26 Jewish members of Congress. Twenty-five of them are Democrats. (The one who isn’t, Eric Cantor, is the House Majority Leader.)

So, why is this year different from all other years? In how much the Republican conversation has focused on Jews as well. Newt Gingrich made a splash in the Jewish world—and everywhere else—thanks to Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson and Adelson’s Israeli-born wife, who single-handedly allowed Gingrich to stay in the race months after he seemed to have run his course..…

Texas Gov. Rick Perry…held a fundraiser in New York specifically targeted at reaching out to Orthodox Jews.… Another…candidate—the staunchly pro-Israel Tea Party Republican Michele Bachmann—tried to use the word “chutzpah” in a Fox News appearance. Suffice it to say, it didn’t go well, and the choots-pah clip flew around the Web.

As for the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney has busted out the “ch” word as well, accusing Joe Biden of chutzpah for criticizing Romney on the economy. Biden, for his part, has said that Romney has chutzpah for calling Obama “out of touch.” Both men got the pronunciation mostly right—or at least more right than Bachmann.

Romney has also declared that his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel. The New York Times recently ran a front-page story on the decades-long friendship between Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who met at the Boston Consulting Group back in 1976.… John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador the United Nations, has joked that the friendship between the two means that Netanyahu could expect to get at least a sandwich and a cup of coffee from a Romney White House, a reference to the time that Obama left Netanyahu and his team alone in the White House while he went off to get dinner without the Israeli leader.

There are a number of reasons why the Jewish community gets so much attention in a nation that is about 98 percent not Jewish. Part of this stems from a strong Jewish presence in key election battleground states such as Ohio and Florida, as well as Jewish involvement in the political, fundraising, and media worlds. But it is also a testament to this country—the way it not only welcomes immigrant groups but also folds them into the fabric of American life, while allowing them to maintain what makes them distinctive.…

It is unclear at this point how much the Jewish vote itself will shape the election come fall, or what the final outcome will be. But…the American Jewish community will continue to both seek validation through the electoral process, as well as provide validation to the country as a whole. And through their outsized role in multiple aspects of the presidential campaigns unfolding before us, Jews will continue to shape the race.

(Tevi Troy was the White House Jewish liaison under President George W. Bush.)

Charles Krauthammer

Washington Post, May 10, 2012

In May 1967, in brazen violation of previous truce agreements, Egypt ordered U.N. peacekeepers out of the Sinai, marched 120,000 troops to the Israeli border, blockaded the Straits of Tiran (Israel’s southern outlet to the world’s oceans), abruptly signed a military pact with Jordan and, together with Syria, pledged war for the final destruction of Israel.

May ‘67 was Israel’s most fearful, desperate month. The country was surrounded and alone. Previous great-power guarantees proved worthless.… Time was running out. Forced into mass mobilization in order to protect against invasion—and with a military consisting overwhelmingly of civilian reservists—life ground to a halt. The country was dying.

On June 5, Israel launched a preemptive strike on the Egyptian air force, then proceeded to lightning victories on three fronts. The Six-Day War is legend, but less remembered is that, four days earlier, the nationalist opposition (Menachem Begin’s Likud precursor) was for the first time ever brought into the government, creating an emergency national-unity coalition.

Everyone understood why. You do not undertake a supremely risky preemptive war without the full participation of a broad coalition representing a national consensus.

Forty-five years later, in the middle of the night of May 7-8, 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked his country by bringing the main opposition party, Kadima, into a national unity government. Shocking because just hours earlier, the Knesset was expediting a bill to call early elections in September. Why did the high-flying Netanyahu call off elections he was sure to win?

Because for Israelis today, it is May ‘67. The dread is not quite as acute: The mood is not despair, just foreboding. Time is running out, but not quite as fast. War is not four days away, but it looms. Israelis today face the greatest threat to their existence—nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic mullahs publicly pledged to Israel’s annihilation—since May ‘67. The world is again telling Israelis to do nothing as it looks for a way out. But if such a way is not found—as in ‘67—Israelis know that they will once again have to defend themselves, by themselves.

Such a fateful decision demands a national consensus. By creating the largest coalition in nearly three decades, Netanyahu is establishing the political premise for a preemptive strike, should it come to that. The new government commands an astonishing 94 Knesset seats out of 120, described by one Israeli columnist as a “hundred tons of solid concrete.”

So much for the recent media hype about some great domestic resistance to Netanyahu’s hard line on Iran.… For centrist Kadima (it pulled Israel out of Gaza) to join a Likud-led coalition whose defense minister is a former Labor prime minister (who once offered half of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat) is the very definition of national unity—and refutes the popular “Israel is divided” meme.…

To be sure, Netanyahu and Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz offered more prosaic reasons for their merger: to mandate national service for now exempt ultra-Orthodox youth, to change the election law to reduce the disproportionate influence of minor parties and to seek negotiations with the Palestinians. But Netanyahu, the first Likud prime minister to recognize Palestinian statehood, did not need Kadima for him to enter peace talks. For two years he’s been waiting for Mahmoud Abbas to show up at the table. Abbas hasn’t. And won’t. Nothing will change on that front.

What does change is Israel’s position vis-a-vis Iran. The wall-to-wall coalition demonstrates Israel’s political readiness to attack, if necessary. (Its military readiness is not in doubt.) Those counseling Israeli submission, resignation or just endless patience can no longer dismiss Israel’s tough stance as the work of irredeemable right-wingers. Not with a government now representing 78 percent of the country.

Netanyahu forfeited September elections that would have given him four more years in power. He chose instead to form a national coalition that guarantees 18 months of stability—18 months during which, if the world does not act (whether by diplomacy or otherwise) to stop Iran, Israel will. And it will not be the work of one man, one party or one ideological faction. As in 1967, it will be the work of a nation.