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Passover 5775: The Festival of Freedom: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Apr. 2, 2015 — The Seder ceremony is not only an act of pious recollection, but also a unique and inspired tradition for blending the past, present and future into a simple comprehensive and transcendent experience.
Uniting to Resist Obama's Unprecedented Hostility: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 1, 2015— It is ironic that as we prepare to celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, we are facing vicious efforts by the vindictive leader of the United States, our greatest ally, who is abandoning us – the only democratic state in a region suffused with barbarism.
The U.N.’s War on Israel: Ron Prosor, New York Times, Mar. 31, 2015 — The United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Principle Vs. Compromise: Rabbi Asher Jacobson, Mar. 31, 2015 — The deadline of March 29, 2015 is upon us and there has been much debate concerning the two distinct approaches of dealing with Iran: President Obama’s vs. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s.
Passover: Liberating God, Jews and Judaism: James A. Diamond, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 1, 2015
As Palestinians Go To ICC, NGO Files War Crimes Complaint Against Hamas: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 31, 2015
UN Claims Israel is World’s Worst Violator of Women’s Rights: Anne Bayefsky, Algemeiner, Mar. 20, 2015
Blood, Idolatry, Or War: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, Mar. 26, 2015
CIJR, Apr. 2, 2015
In loving memory of Malca, z”l
“Great and mighty, as it is written” (Exodus 1.7)
“And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, waxed exceedingly, and the land was filled with them”
(The Passover Haggadah)
The Seder ceremony is not only an act of pious recollection, but also a unique and inspired tradition for blending the past, present and future into a simple comprehensive and transcendent experience.
The actors in this story are not only the Israelites, led out of bondage by their leader, Moses, but all generations of Israelis through all of time. In an ideal sense all Israel went forth out of Egypt, and all Israel stood at Sinai, before the presence of God.
When the trumpet sounded in history, it sounded for all ages, and its echo lives on forever.
“Every person in every generation” says a passage in the Mishna, must look upon himself as if he has personally come forth out of Egypt. It was not only our forbears alone that the Holy One redeemed, but also ourselves.
The Passover, as told in the Haggadah book, recounts how Israel moved from darkness into light, from the ignorance and shame of idolatry to the glory of the Jewish People’s high monotheistic calling.
The Passover story is a continuing experience. The event possesses a story and a history, involving the children of all generations. It is equally true that this particular historical occasion, the Exodus, is not confined to a single moment in time. The journey through the wilderness in the wake of a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, is at the center of the eternal progress of Israel toward the kingdom of God on earth.
The festival of Passover has two basic messages, whose significance holds true even in modern times. The first is that deliverance from slavery and misery, from suffering and insult, and the decision to do away with ignorance and dependence, lies as much in our hands as in God’s.
The second Passover message is that deliverance is continual. The festival of Passover is celebrated – according to the Haggadah – as an answer to the “wise son”, “because of that which the lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt”. And the “wise son”, represented by all the People of Israel, understands.
Hag Pesach Sameach, a Happy Passover holiday, to all CIJR members, friends and the entire House of Israel.
(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman of CIJR, and a member of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center)
Jerusalem Post, Apr. 1, 2015
It is ironic that as we prepare to celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, we are facing vicious efforts by the vindictive leader of the United States, our greatest ally, who is abandoning us – the only democratic state in a region suffused with barbarism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is obliged to respond diplomatically to the outrageous provocations directed against him by President Barack Obama. But we Israeli citizens must rise above political correctness and come to terms with an unpleasant reality.
The president of the United States, the leader of the free world and of Western civilization, is not merely venting his personal frustration against Netanyahu or having tantrums over the decision of Israelis to reelect him. Obama himself stresses that he is motivated by ideological reasons that can be traced back to the Cairo speech he delivered after his first election. He has escalated his hostility to Israel while simultaneously endearing himself and even groveling to Iran.
Indeed, addressing the anti-Israeli J Street Conference, Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, even employed Palestinian clichés insisting that “an occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end” without any reference to the fact that two Israeli prime ministers had been spurned by Yasser Arafat and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when they had offered them 95 percent of the former Jordanian- occupied territories.
The personal attacks accusing Netanyahu as a racist and a liar are also being cynically used by Obama as a pretext to pursue two objectives. Firstly, the president is seeking to neutralize Israel as he finalizes the nuclear deal with the Iranian mullahs. It is noteworthy that former CIA director David Petraeus has now publicly virtually echoed Netanyahu’s critical remarks about US policy. Secondly, Obama is seeking to further his long-term objective of forcing Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and create a Palestinian state – which remains committed to destroy Israel. Should the US implement its threat to refrain from exercising its veto at the UN, Israel will confront a severe diplomatic crisis and may ultimately face sanctions. France has already announced that it will soon submit a resolution along these lines to the Security Council.
At such a time, we must stand united to resist the pressures from Obama and the Europeans to make further unilateral concessions, which would represent a long-term existential threat. This will require Israeli politicians to change their approach and prioritize the national interest ahead of their own ambitions or egocentricities. It starts with President Reuven Rivlin, who, while initially endearing himself to the nation as a man of the people, seems to have lost perspective. His role is as a facilitator and an apolitical symbol of the state, not to instruct Netanyahu on the composition of the government he should create. And it is unbecoming for him to tell the incoming prime minister to repair relations with the US administration – as though Netanyahu was responsible for the tension. Rivlin also provides fuel for our adversaries when he continues criticizing his prime minister over a single inappropriately worded sentence relating to the Arab bloc expressed during the heat of an election, which Netanyahu subsequently clarified and apologized for – all the more so when the Americans challenge his sincerity and actually call him a liar.
Moreover, much as we admire our president’s liberal tendencies, he surely seemed to have lost his bearings when he sent a letter of support to J Street, an American Jewish group condemned by his government that is now calling on Obama to punish Israel, encouraging the boycott of settlement products and providing a platform for BDS supporters. Rivlin must behave apolitically and eschew controversial political statements that undermine the government’s standing on the international level.
Netanyahu is now pursuing the daunting task of forming a coalition in which all the smaller parties are engaging in the traditional horse trading, primarily seeking to promote themselves without reference to the national interest. For example, most Israelis will be angered that a convicted felon will probably be appointed to a senior ministry, but there is nothing they can do about it. It is difficult to comprehend Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett, who is demanding the Foreign Ministry or Defense Ministry. His annexationist policies are hardly suited to the position of Israel’s foreign minister, and Moshe Ya’alon has proved his mettle as defense minister and should not be replaced. Bennett should immediately have accepted the education portfolio, which should be the most important ministry for his party enabling them to promote Jewish values – and for which his voters cast their ballots…
There is absolutely no possibility of meaningful negotiations with the PA while it is cozying up to Hamas and intensifying the level of incitement to unprecedented levels. Even if the duplicitous Abbas were to change his tune, he could not make a single compromise without enraging his own constituents. Besides, with the Americans shamelessly employing Palestinian rhetoric to defame Israel, pressuring it to accept indefensible borders and threatening to give the green light to the United Nations to condemn and ultimately sanction Israel, the Palestinians have no incentive to engage in meaningful negotiations. Under such circumstances, the policy differences between Likud and Zionist Union are not significant. In terms of Iran, the Zionist Union, no less than Likud, is bitterly opposed to Obama’s capitulation to the Iranian mullahs…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
New York Times, Mar. 31, 2015
The United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It was intended to be a temple of peace, but this once great global body has been overrun by the repressive regimes that violate human rights and undermine international security.
In 1949, when the United Nations admitted Israel as a member state, it had 58 member countries and about half had a democratic orientation. Today, the landscape of the organization has changed drastically. From 51 member states at its founding in 1945, the institution has grown to 193 members — fewer than half of which are democracies. The very nations that deny democratic rights to their people abuse the United Nations’ democratic forums to advance their interests. The largest of these groups comprises members from the 120-member-strong bloc known as the Non-Aligned Movement. Since 2012, the bloc has been chaired by Iran, which has used its position to bolster its allies and marginalize Israel.
In March, the United Nations closed the annual meeting of its Commission on the Status of Women by publishing a report that effectively singled out just one country for condemnation: Israel. The commission apparently had nothing to say about the Sudanese girls who are subjected to female genital mutilation. It also had nothing to say about the Iranian women who have been punished for crimes of “adultery” by stoning. These oversights may have something to do with the fact that both Iran and Sudan sit on the 45-member commission.
Then there is the United Nations Human Rights Council (the body that replaced the Commission on Human Rights in 2006). Its membership includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela — nations where you risk life and liberty if you express dissenting opinions. Yet these governments stand in judgment on the rest of us. In 2007, Sudan chaired a committee overseeing human rights — even as its president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was being investigated for crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, for which the International Criminal Court later issued arrest warrants. Saudi Arabia — a regime notorious for public executions and floggings like that, most recently, of the blogger Raif Badawi — sits on the Human Rights Council, despite regularly receiving the worst possible ratings on civil liberties and political rights from the independent watchdog Freedom House.
In 2013, Iran was elected to the committee responsible for disarmament — even as it continued its nuclear expansion, support for terrorism and the destruction of Israel. Last year, an Iranian served as a vice chair of the General Assembly’s legal committee, an inexplicable choice given that Iranian citizens are routinely denied due process and fair trials. Knowing this history, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, in the 2014-15 session alone, the General Assembly adopted about 20 resolutions critical of Israel, while the human rights situations in Iran, Syria and North Korea merited just one condemnation apiece. Day after day, member states turn a blind eye to the most deplorable crimes.
Iran? Just one hostile resolution for a nation that, on average, executes citizens at a rate of two a day for “crimes” that include homosexuality, apostasy and the vague offense of being an “enemy of God.” North Korea? Just one negative resolution even though it has imprisoned more than 200,000 citizens, throws children into forced labor camps and subjects its population to food shortages and famine as a result of government policies. Syria? Again, just one resolution for a government that has pursued a war against its own people that has caused the deaths of at least 220,000 men, women and children — many by torture, starvation, chemical weapons and barrel bombs dropped on markets and schools.
Christians now number among the world’s most persecuted religious groups in Muslim countries, yet this human rights crisis is almost completely ignored by the United Nations. Instead, Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and an area in the region where the Christian population is actually growing, often seems to be the only nation the United Nations cares about.
Nowhere is anti-Israel bias more obvious than in the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The council addresses the human rights abuses of all countries in the world under a program known as Agenda Item 4. That is, all countries but one. Israel is the only nation that is singled out for criticism by virtue of a special program, known as Agenda Item 7. A result, according to the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch, is that more than 50 percent of all condemnatory resolutions are directed at the Jewish state. Following last summer’s conflict in Gaza, the Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry and selected William Schabas, a Canadian law professor, to chair the investigation. In February, Mr. Schabas was forced to resign after documents came to light revealing that, in 2012, he had done consulting work for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Surprisingly, this fact slipped Mr. Schabas’s mind during his vetting process.
It was clear from the outset that Mr. Schabas was not an impartial arbiter since he had a record of public statements suggesting that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the former president, Shimon Peres, should face trial at the International Criminal Court. When Israel protested, however, the United Nations ignored it. I am often asked how I can stand the tide of hatred aimed at Israel. Our response to the United Nations’ accusations is to speak tirelessly for those who are denied a voice in most of the Middle East — women, minorities, the L.G.B.T. community — and to fight daily efforts by totalitarian regimes to undermine democratic societies. Based on the fact that Israel is a thriving society, I believe we are winning.
Later this year, chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement will transfer to Venezuela, Iran’s ally. For the foreseeable future, we can expect more of the same. The problem with the United Nations is that the leaders of many of its member states do not rule with the consent of the governed. Instead, they use the body as a forum to deflect attention from their own ruthless rule. In so doing, they turn a stage for courageous statecraft into a tragic theater of the absurd.
Rabbi Asher Jacobson
Mar. 31, 2015
The deadline of March 29, 2015 [has passed] and there has been much debate concerning the two distinct approaches of dealing with Iran: President Obama’s vs. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s. While both administrations agree that Iran is controlled by radical Islamic fundamentalists, they disagree on what is the best approach to halt, contain and stop the Iranians’ quest to achieve nuclear proliferation, and to avoid a nuclear arm’s race in the dangerous Middle East.
The White House Administration believes that through allowance and compromise, they will win co-operation and achieve a temporary halt and circumvention for ten years. The Israeli government strongly contends that when confronting a regime that is guided by radicalism it must be countered with uncompromising principles of justice, thereby insisting that Iran’s nuclear capabilities be significantly dismantled before lifting any sanctions.
When it comes to conflict resolution Judaism has a unique approach. The Talmud often favors Peshara, Compromise, as opposed to finding the exact right Judgment, especially when the exact right is not at all easily clear. So in matters of complex civil and economic disputes you will find Jewish law leaning on the side of compromise. But when a principle is at stake, there is a paradigm shift in the law. Studying in yeshiva I was deeply moved by the law articulated in the Talmud: “A group of people are walking along a road when they are stopped by heathens, who say to them, ‘Give us one of you and we will kill him. If not, we will kill all of you’. Let them all be killed, and let them not surrender one soul from Israel”. (Palestinian Talmud, Terumot 8:10)
When it comes to right and wrong, good and bad, the Torah has always guided us to establish clear lines, called Havdalah, distinct separation. When we as a society allow a criminal to commit a “half” crime, instead of protecting the innocent we are perverting justice– and for Justice to endure, its principles must be preserved.
Throughout history, radicals have given Jewish communities an ultimatum either to submit their principles or face expulsion and annihilation. Many Jews refused to forego their faith, and though precious lives have been lost in the process, the principles were not only kept intact, but shined even stronger for the next generation.
At the Passover table this year, let us recall the “pinnacle moment” when Moses stood before Pharaoh–when truth spoke to power in the quest to bring dignity to all humanity. After nine plagues the Egyptians were weakened by heavenly sanctions that crippled Egypt and its economy. The plagues forced Pharaoh to sit at the negotiation table with Moses: Pharaoh, broken and desperate, declared, “I will let your people go, your youth and your elders your sons and your daughters may go to serve G-d, but your flocks and your cattle must remain.”
This offer represented 95% of what Moses first demanded of Pharaoh –a clear victory—yet Moses refused and insisted in the next verse that “not a single hoof will remain” (Lo teshaer parsah). Though many Jews argued to accept Pharoah’s deal, Moses remained steadfast, because when fighting for the principle of justice there is no room to compromise and thus to give dignity to the unjust. Here history has proven over and again that when the righteous stand up, truth and justice prevail.
Ve Chag Kasher Ve Sameach
(Rabbi Asher Jacobson is leader of Congregation Chevra Kadisha in Montreal)
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Hag Pesach Sameach, a Happy Passover Holiday
Passover: Liberating God, Jews and Judaism: James A. Diamond, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 1, 2015 —Passover is a time not just to commemorate an ancient historical event of national Jewish liberation, but also to reflect on the nature of God and the kind of allegiance that God continues to demand.
As Palestinians Go To ICC, NGO Files War Crimes Complaint Against Hamas: Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 31, 2015 —Shurat Hadin filed a war crimes complaint with the US Department of Justice against a range of Hamas commanders for indiscriminate rocket fire against Ben-Gurion Airport during last summer’s Gaza war.
UN Claims Israel is World’s Worst Violator of Women’s Rights: Anne Bayefsky, Algemeiner, Mar. 20, 2015 —Guess who is the number one violator of women’s rights in the world today? Israel. Violating the rights of Palestinian women.
Blood, Idolatry, Or War: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, Mar. 26, 2015 —This week’s sedrah, speaking about sacrifices, prohibits the eating of blood. “Wherever you live, you must not eat the blood of any bird or animal. If anyone eats blood, that person must be cut off from his people” (Leviticus 7:26-27).
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