Tag: Festival of Freedom

PASSOVER: JEWISH FLIGHTS TO FREEDOM, RECENT & ANCIENT AND TO RECOVERED JEWISH SOVEREIGNTY, DIGNITY IN OUR LAND

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Passover's Enduring Message of Freedom: Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2013—On Monday, millions of children will ask their parents: Why is tonight different from all other nights of the year? Children asking this question in Jewish homes around the world will be told that the Passover festival commemorates the liberation of their people from enslavement in Egypt and celebrates the civilization that emerged from that breakout into independence.

 

The Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands: Rachel Avraham, United With Israel, Mar. 25, 2013—As Jews around the world celebrate Passover and remember their ancestors’ exodus from Egypt, it is also important to remember the modern day Jewish exodus from Arab lands. In 1945, around one million Jews lived in Jewish communities residing in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Many of these communities predated Islam.

 

The Exodus Enigma: Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013—As Passover approaches it may be worth looking once more for extra-biblical evidence of the Exodus. Archaeologists are reluctant to discuss the subject as there is absolutely no external evidence for it, they say. On the other hand the Hebrew Bible is so explicit, and the folk memory is so important to us as Jews, that archaeologists prefer not to get involved. 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Who are the Forgotten Refugees? : Forgotten Refugees.org

From Egypt to the Gulag: Making Matzot for the Needy: Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 25, 2013

Portuguese Island to See First Seder in Decades: Times of Israel, Mar. 24, 2013

And I Shall Take You to Me for a Nation: Rabbi Yisrael (Kane) Kaniel, B'Ahavat Yisrael, Mar. 22, 2013

Seder 5773 – The Night of the Past and the Future: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013

 

 

 

PASSOVER'S ENDURING MESSAGE OF FREEDOM

Ruth R. Wisse

Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2013

 

On Monday, millions of children will ask their parents: Why is tonight different from all other nights of the year? Children asking this question in Jewish homes around the world will be told that the Passover festival commemorates the liberation of their people from enslavement in Egypt and celebrates the civilization that emerged from that breakout into independence. Families gathered at an orchestrated meal—the Seder—will begin the story by tasting the bitterness of subjection, make their way through debates over interpretations of the event, and culminate in joyful and occasionally (after the designated four cups of wine) raucous song.

 

Nor will the ironies of liberation be lost on households that have laboriously prepared for its re-enactment: No one who observes the exacting requirements of Passover can doubt the disciplining challenges involved in attaining freedom.

 

Our family celebrates Passover with personal as well as historical freight. In the summer of 1940, my parents executed our flight from a fate worse than slavery at the hands of the Soviets and the Nazis who took turns subjugating the Romanian city we escaped, Czernowitz. Every successful getaway like ours was studded with improbabilities that some call miracles.

 

In his recital of the Passover Haggadah (the text that guides the Seder meal), my father put special emphasis on the phrase: "And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt—not by the hands of an angel, and not by the hands of a seraph, and not by the hands of a messenger, but the Holy One, blessed be he, himself, in his own glory and in his own person." My father said we should likewise carry out life's toughest tasks ourselves rather than entrust them to agents. He may have had in mind his own rescue of us and his failure to save members of his family who were murdered.

 

We were never to forget that our timely exit from Europe coincided with the loss of several million others like us. Every year, we include in our family reading of the Haggadah a postwar insert circulated by the Canadian Jewish Congress honouring both those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and those who went down fighting:

 

"On the first day of Passover the remnants in the Ghetto of Warsaw rose up against the adversary, even as in the days of Judah the Maccabee. 'They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided' [2 Samuel 1:23], and they brought redemption to the name of Israel through all the world."

 

This tribute concludes with one of Maimonides's 13 principles of faith: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the messiah—and though he tarry, yet I believe." Participants in our Seder traditionally differ in how deeply they linger over the tarrying and how fervently over the belief. Passover is the first of the Jewish holidays to have broken through ethnic boundaries—at least in America—to become regarded as a paradigm of the freedom story. President Obama has hosted Seders at the White House. An annual cascade of new Haggadahs demonstrates the multiple ways that the festival is nowadays observed and understood.

 

But the most inspiring incarnation of the exodus has been the one that reversed it: the recovery of the Jewish homeland from foreign occupiers after millennia of exile. Not by the hands of an angel and not by the hands of a messenger, but by the self-reliance that their ancestors had practiced for millennia, and by keeping faith with their vow to return to Jerusalem, the settlers of Israel accomplished one of the greatest national feats in history.

 

Jews reclaimed their political independence in the land of Israel in the same decade that witnessed the genocidal slaughter of one-third of their people. They did so not only by mobilizing skills honed through centuries of adaptation to foreign rule but by reactivating powers that were dormant for centuries. Can the legendary crossing of the Red Sea compare with the marvel of several million Jewish migrants and refugees from lands as disparate as Ethiopia and Latvia forging a common, democratic Jewish state? Are the plagues that persuaded Pharaoh to "let my people go" or the miracles in the desert as stunning as Israel's ability to withstand the preposterously asymmetrical Arab aggression against it? The revival of Hebrew from sacral high status into national vernacular is an unparalleled linguistic feat. Entrepreneurship in Israel has won it the title of "start-up nation."

 

The traditional Passover Seder concludes with the pledge, "Next year in Jerusalem," which the British poet William Blake nationalized in the vow not to rest "Till we have built Jerusalem / In England's green & pleasant Land." Yet modern Israel represents an immense human accomplishment that may even go beyond the prophetic vision. Passover today includes a story of national liberation at least the equal of the one in the Book of Exodus that served as its inspiration.

 

Ms. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of "Jews and Power" (Schocken, 20007).

 

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THE JEWISH EXODUS FROM ARAB LANDS

Rachel Avraham

United With Israel, Mar. 25, 2013

 

As Jews around the world celebrate Passover and remember their ancestors’ exodus from Egypt, it is also important to remember the modern day Jewish exodus from Arab lands. In 1945, around one million Jews lived in Jewish communities residing in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Many of these communities predated Islam. Jews in Arab states greatly contributed towards their societies. Sasson Heskel, a Baghdadi Jew, was an Iraqi Finance Minister in the 19th centruy, while an Egyptian Jew named Murad Bey helped draft the Egyptian Constitution in the 1930’s and Layla Murad, also an Egyptian Jew, was the great diva of Arabic music during the mid 1900′s. However, in the days leading up to Israel’s independence in 1948, many Arab states grew oppressive towards their Jewish citizens, who had lived beside Arabs since antiquity.

 

From 1947 through 1948, Jews in the Arab Middle East were systematically persecuted, with anti-Jewish pogroms erupting and Jewish property being confiscated. The Iraqi government declared that Zionism was a capital offense; the Syrian government froze Jewish bank accounts; a bomb set off in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo resulted in the death of 70 Jews; and a pogrom in Aden led to the death of 80 Jews, as well as the destruction of countless Jewish homes. As a result of such persecutions, between 1948 and 1972, 820,000 Jews from Arabian countries would become refugees, with 200,000 settling in Europe and the United States, while an additional 586,000 moving to Israel. The descendants of the Jewish refugees from Arab states presently make up around half of the Israeli population.

 

A Haggadah the from the Forgotten Jewish Exodus website includes the following prayer on Passover, “As we hold the bread of affliction, we recall that more than 3,000 years ago our ancestors went forth from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel. Many never left the Middle East. Today, we remember not only the bitterness of that slavery, but also the forgotten exodus of one million Jews who fled the Middle East and North Africa in the 20th century. The Jewish people have been living in Egypt and throughout the Middle East for more than 3,000 years. As Jews, we take pride in being the Middle East’s oldest, existing ethnic group.”

 

Upon discussing Jewish contributions to Arab states and the oppression that Jews endured within Arab countries, which ultimately led to their exodus from these lands, it asserts, “We hold the bread of affliction and recall the 135,000 Jews of Iraq who once made up a plurality of the city of Baghdad; the 40,000 Jews of Libya, where today no Jews remain; and the 80,000 Jews of Egypt, many of whom in 1956 received government expulsion orders. Just as the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise, these modern Egyptian Jewish refugees did not have time to pack their bags. And hundreds of thousands more.”

 

It concludes, “The scars of the past can heal. But justice can only be achieved when peoples and governments in the Middle East recognize the plight of the forgotten million refugees. This year, we pray for the day when justice will be achieved for the Jews of the Middle East and when all peoples of the region will live together in peace and harmony. Amen.” As one Egyptian Jewish refugee, Joseph Abdel Wahed, asserted, “On Passover, it is a Jewish tradition that in retelling the Exodus story we should feel as if we, ourselves, experienced persecution and the Exodus from Egypt. I hope that this year we can also take a moment to experience the modern exodus of Middle Eastern Jews.”

 

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THE EXODUS ENIGMA

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013

 

As Passover approaches it may be worth looking once more for extra-biblical evidence of the Exodus. Archeologists are reluctant to discuss the subject as there is absolutely no external evidence for it, they say. On the other hand the Hebrew Bible is so explicit, and the folk memory is so important to us as Jews, that archeologists prefer not to get involved. It is true that there is no direct evidence, but there is the possibility of approaching the subject obliquely.

 

The biblical record of the whole Exodus episode is one set of miracles after another, from the slaying of the firstborn in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea to the collapse of the walls of Jericho in Canaan. Moses is heavily involved but it is the hand of God that rules supreme, and attempts to explain the magic rod that cures scorpion bites, the blow that brings water from the rock, the manna that falls from heaven and so on, have all failed in terms of reality. They are all miracles and archaeologists cannot deal with miracles. However there remain a number of themes that can be re-examined in the light of Egyptian history.

 

First, the Children of Israel were in Egypt as slave-workers and specialists in producing and working in mud-brick, under harsh conditions. Secondly, they left Egypt as a scratch army under a scratch general, Moses. And thirdly, they constructed a shrine or tabernacle, the Mishkan, in glorious Technicolor and luxurious detail, all in the middle of a most barren wilderness. Now, there is one period of Egyptian history which can accommodate these three different scenarios.

 

Mud-brick in Egypt was not used for monuments, such as temples and pyramids, which were considered to be worthy of stonework. It was reserved for plain domestic houses, in a process that was both cheap and quick, and it would have been surprising to find great numbers of workers, such as the Israelites, engaged in such work, as domestic buildings were largely constructed by homeowners themselves.

 

But there was one enormous mud-brick project in Egypt that would have required large numbers of semi-skilled workers, and that was the city of Akhetaten (“Horizon of the Aten”). It was the brainchild of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten, who required a new city as the center of his religious revolution, and needed it quickly. Akhenaten had imposed on his people the new religion of the worship of the one god, the Aten, the disc of the Sun, to the exclusion of the other multifarious gods, and he wanted his new city to be away from the traditional religious centers of Memphis and Thebes so that he could quickly promote his revolutionary ideas without contamination from the old beliefs and their priests.

 

With the help of slave laborers and the army, the main portion of the city was completed in two years, and the final works in another six years. It was the largest mud-brick construction known to us in the Egyptian world and it is probable that the Israelites were conscripted to carry out the work. They had to work hard and fast under insistent taskmasters in the burning heat of the site, later called El Amarna, on the east bank of the Nile, half-way between Thebes and Memphis, yet they had decent housing they were allowed to build for themselves and their families, just to the east of the new city, so they survived and multiplied in numbers.

 

Akhenaten had this city built to a well-ordered plan in record time, but his reforms were not popular, certainly not with the priests and not with the population, who were used to worshiping multiple gods and liked it that way. Thus, when Akhenaten died, only eight years after the city was completed, there was a general evacuation by the inhabitants, who went back to their old villages and took with them some of the wonderfully rich artifacts that the new town had produced. The city was left to the wind and the weather and the blowing sands that covered it until it was exposed by an early 20th-century German expedition that set out from Berlin, financed by the Jewish millionaire philanthropist James Simon.

 

As the population left, so did the workers, the army and the Israelites and, as compensation for their back-breaking work, they took with them precious materials and provisions for their long trek back to their ancient land of Canaan. To ready themselves for a dangerous journey through enemy territory, they formed themselves into an amateur army under the leadership of the amateur general Moses, who was one of theirs, but had been educated in Egyptian ways and had adopted the new religion of one God above all others. And what the Israelites needed on their journey was a shrine, a tabernacle, what their leader later called the Mishkan, where he could communicate with the one God.

 

Now, Akhenaten had been succeeded by one of his sons-in-law, the young Tutankhamun, whose duty it was to oversee the return to religious sanity after the death of his father-in-law, who had died without a son and heir. Tutankhamun was left to regulate the chaos that took place on the death of Akhenaten. But he was powerless to stop the population from leaving the city and, as we know, he himself left for Thebes where he died young, leaving a very rich set of royal treasures in his tomb, but there was no battle-shrine to be found.

 

Every Pharaoh had a battle-shrine, as we know from the case of Rameses II, whose own is shown on the walls of his temple at Abu Simbel, as erected for him at the battle of Kadesh. It is a two-room shrine within a large courtyard, and the inner room of the shrine had a central podium surmounted by two figures with outstretched wings protecting a single deity, which in this case is a non-representational tablet or cartouche.

This battle-shrine is uncannily like the biblical Mishkan described in Exodus 25, even up to the Ark with its two cherubim. From his tomb we know that the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a battle chariot, ready to go to war, so he would have had a battle-shrine to go with it.

 

WE MAY speculate that the shrine, which would have been of the finest materials, like all the rest of King Tut’s heirloom, was carried off by the Israelites in their escape from the city. In that way they had a ready-made tabernacle, and were able to have it adapted to their very own Mishkan, by Bezalel and Oholiab, the Israelite craftsmen, in the midst of that barren Wilderness where there were neither precious materials nor luxury furnishings to be found.

 

This scenario, of the Israelites building the mud-brick city of Akhetaten, escaping from it while impounding for their own use the battle-shrine of prince and Pharaoh Tutankhamun, could be equated with the account of the Exodus of the Children of Israel and the construction of the Mishkan, whose description takes up so many chapters of the biblical Book of Exodus.

 

And when would all that have taken place? Akhenaten died about the year 1334 BCE and Tutankhamun in 1325 BCE, so the period of the Exodus would have been between 1330 and 1320 BCE. That could correspond with the biblical date of 430 years after the Children of Israel entered Egypt (Exodus 12:40), which would then be about 1755 BCE, which is some hundred years before the Hyksos ruled Egypt, and it was with them, ancient Jewish historian Josephus claims, the Israelites came.

 

On the other hand it was a hundred years too late for the date of 480 years before the building of the Solomonic Temple (I Kings 6:1). In other words, it was a hundred years too early for one, and a hundred years too late for the other, thus not a bad average to correspond with the two fixed biblical dates for the Exodus.

 

As for the army formed by the fleeing Israelites, this is clearly hinted at in the biblical record, which says that they left Egypt “armed in groups of fifty” (Exodus 13:18). They were counted as men of military age, from 20 years of age and upwards, and they protected the Mishkan by encamping around it in military order by their individual standards, “Degel mahane Yehudah…” flag of the camp of Judah (Numbers 2:3) and so on, tribe by tribe. They were only a scratch army and nearly lost the first war with Amalek but, after Jethro had advised Moses how to form a professional force with trusted chieftains over ranks of ten and fifty, and a hundred and a thousand (Exodus 18:21), they never, as a complete army, lost another battle in Sinai or Transjordan.

 

In conclusion, we can say there was one period in Egyptian history when an Exodus could have taken place. It was after the completion of an enormous mud-brick project, when an opportunity arose for the Israelites to escape, when there was a practical foundation for the elaborate Mishkan of the Sinai Desert, adapted from an Egyptian model, and when there was good reason for the Israelites to form an army and be counted in military ranks and numbers. And if that was indeed the period, then Akhenaten was the Pharaoh of the Oppression and Tutankhamun the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

 

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg is a senior fellow at the W.F Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem.

 

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On Topic

 

 

Who are the Forgotten Refugees? : Forgotten Refugees.org —The forgotten refugees are Jewish refugees from Muslim lands that: were forced to leave their birthplace due to intimidation from their governments and neighbors or  foresaw the eventual persecution at the hands of the governments of their host states and their neighbors These Jewish refugees, in many cases, were not allowed to sell their property, businesses or goods before departing.  Many Muslim governments profitted from their departure, obtaining in many cases large swaths of land and big businesses. 

 

From Egypt to the Gulag: Making Matzot for the Needy: Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 25, 2013—The grandson of a Gulag prisoner, Avraham ben Avraham Haim, exiled by the Soviet regime to Siberia during the Second World War, has donated 500 boxes of hand-made matzot for soldiers and the poor. The descendants of Avraham, the Golinsky family, decided this year to commemorate a unique act of dedication to the Jewish faith that their grandfather performed in the cruel conditions of a Soviet forced labour camp.

 

Portuguese Island to See First Seder in Decades: Times of Israel, Mar. 24, 2013—Descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism centuries ago will attend the first seder in decades on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast of Africa. Thirteen Jews — some of them Bnei Anousim, the descendants of Portuguese Jews targeted for conversion during the Inquisition — will gather in Funchal, the capital of the archipelago, on Passover eve, according to Shavei Israel, an organization devoted to bringing so-called lost Jews back to Judaism. According to the organization, the seder will be the first recorded Passover feast to take place on the island in centuries.

 

And I Shall Take You to Me for a Nation: Rabbi Yisrael (Kane) Kaniel, B'Ahavat Yisrael, Mar. 22, 2013—As we approach the joyous holiday of Pesach (Passover) and we prepare for the festive seder, we are reminded of the verse in the Torah in which G–d tells the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “And I shall take you to Me for a nation” (Shmot 6:7).

 

Seder 5773 – The Night of the Past and the Future: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013—The Pessah Haggada conveys the secret which helped the Jewish nation survive for thousands of years: passing on to the next generation the heritage of the past and the history of how the Jewish nation was created. The message inherent in this is that without a past, one cannot build a future, and that if we do not remember where we came from, we will not know where to go.

 

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PASSOVER — FESTIVAL OF FREEDOM, OBAMA LECTURES ISRAEL BUT WON’T LET POLLARD GO!

Download an abbreviated version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

 

The Festival of Freedom: Passover, 5773: Baruch Cohen, Mar. 22, 2013—Passover is the festival of Freedom! Gathering around the festive seder table provides a feeling of warmth and sustaining joy. The Haggadah  is the story of a living drama, not the record of a dead event.  When we recite it we are performing an act of remembrance, a unique and personal identification in the here and now!

 

The Buck Stops Here: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2013—Freedom for Jonathan Pollard is a matter of Israeli national consensus. More than 200,000 Israelis signed a petition calling upon President Barack Obama to bring Pollard with him to Israel, but that didn’t happen.

 

Obama Lectured Israelis, Promised and Applauded Arab Palestinians: Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Mar. 22nd, 2013—U.S. President Barack Obama gave two speeches on Thursday, March 21, one to Arab Palestinians in a joint press conference with acting head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and the other to Israelis at the Jerusalem Convention Center.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Obama in Jerusalem: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Mar 21, 2013

The Obama Visit and American Jewry: Isi Liebler, Israel Hayom, Mar. 20, 2013

Bennett: A Nation Cannot Occupy its Own Land: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post,Mar. 21, 2013

‘Free Pollard’ Hunger-Striker Going Strong: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 22, 2013

Full Text of Obama's Jerusalem Speech: Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2013

 

 

 

The Festival of Freedom: Passover, 5773

Baruch Cohen

 

In memory of our beloved Malca z”l

 

Passover is a story of hope.

Elie Weisel

 

   Passover is the festival of Freedom! Gathering around the festive seder table provides a feeling of warmth and sustaining joy.

 

   The Haggadah  is the story of a living drama, not the record of a dead event.  When we recite it we are performing an act of remembrance, a unique and personal identification in the here and now!

 

   Historically, the spirit of Passover represents a glorious symbol of the struggle for human dignity, the eternal quest for freedom and justice.

 

   During centuries of adversity, we Jews, have found renewed strength and hope in the Passover story. Every person, in every generation, must regard herself/himself, as having been personally freed from slavery. We renew from our past the strength and confidence to struggle for our final victory, our final aim: Eretz Israel, the State of Israel.

 

  Around the festive seder table the stories we tell recall our long history, and we gain confidence to hold firmly to our conviction that justice and freedom for all women and men will prevail.

 

   The reading of the Haggadah reaffirms our self-confidence and reliance on the god of Israel, and His love of justice and concern for Israel and all humanity.

 

Hag Pesach Sameach!

Happy Passover to the entire House of Israel and to all CIJR supporters and friends..

 

 

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THE BUCK STOPS HERE

 

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2013

 

Freedom for Jonathan Pollard is a matter of Israeli national consensus. More than 200,000 Israelis signed a petition calling upon President Barack Obama to bring Pollard with him to Israel, but that didn’t happen. In the US, 30 national Jewish organizations have issued a pre-Passover appeal to President Obama led by Conference of Presidents leaders Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, requesting that Obama release Pollard prior to his 10,000th day of imprisonment, on April 8, 2013.

 

After wishing Obama a successful trip to the Middle East, they respectfully and urgently requested that the president “act on the commutation of his sentence to time served before this milestone is reached. Mr. Pollard, whose health has deteriorated, has expressed remorse and regret repeatedly.”

 

Obama’s answer to a question about Pollard in an interview with Channel 2 television last week was troubling and insensitive. He did not seem to be aware of the concern among the Israeli public and US Jewry over the injustice of Pollard’s life sentence, nor of the fear that Pollard’s failing health threatens to end his life after 28 years in prison.

 

On the contrary, Obama responded by reducing Pollard’s plight to that of a common criminal who just wants to get out of jail early. He implied that Pollard was trying to jump the line without following proper procedure.

The president’s response distanced himself from any direct responsibility for Pollard’s fate: He suggested that Pollard should avail himself of the procedures offered by the US justice system which may have “the potential to ultimately release him.”

 

Obama stated that his own involvement is limited by law to observing from a distance to ensure that all prisoners are treated equally, including Pollard. The truth of the matter is quite at odds with Obama’s take.

Pollard’s petition for executive clemency landed on the president’s desk on October 15, 2010. It was presented after Pollard had been in prison for 25 years and had exhausted all legal remedies and procedures.

 

Nine supplemental filings have been added to Pollard’s petition for clemency over the past two years. Each additional filing contained copies of letters from high-ranking American officials urging Obama to commute Pollard’s disproportionate sentence to time served as a matter of justice.

 

Among those calling for Pollard’s release are those who have first-hand knowledge of the case and are familiar with the secret files. They include former CIA director R. James Woolsey, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former senator and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence J. Korb, and former attorney-general Michael Muckasey. In their opinion, keeping Pollard in prison any longer is intolerable and unjust. Former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger have declared in letters to the president that the people who are best informed about the classified material Pollard passed to Israel favor his release.

 

Pollard’s clemency file contains numerous petitions by American congressmen and senators, public officials, religious leaders, retired judges, law professors and a host of other notable individuals and groups calling for his release as a matter of justice. Bolstering the outpouring of support for Pollard’s release, a recently declassified 1987 CIA damage assessment puts the lie to American allegations that have been used for over a quarter of a century to justify Pollard’s continued incarceration.

 

Now in Israel on his first official visit, President Obama owes a formal response to official appeals by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Pollard’s release. But more important, Pollard is owed a response to his petition for clemency, and not a brush-off. Pollard did as the president suggested. He followed procedure. That procedure, once exhausted, led to the petition that is sitting on the president’s desk.

 

It is not only the president’s constitutional right to set Pollard free from his grossly disproportionate life sentence. It is his duty. Pollard is not an ordinary prisoner. He is an Israeli citizen and the victim of a grave injustice that has gone on far too long. Only Obama can set Pollard free and with the same stroke of his pen repair the American system of justice and restore Israel’s confidence in our closest ally. Mr. President, the buck stops with you and the time is now.

 

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OBAMA LECTURED ISRAELIS, PROMISED AND
APPLAUDED ARAB PALESTINIANS

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Jewish Press, March 22nd, 2013

 

U.S. President Barack Obama gave two speeches on Thursday, March 21, one to Arab Palestinians in a joint press conference with acting head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and the other to Israelis at the Jerusalem Convention Center.

 

His talks were ostensibly about the state of relations between the different parties, but everyone knew that the animating impulse was to kickstart the “Middle East Peace Process.” Everyone who watched the speeches or read the transcripts, are now desperately looking at the tea leaves to see what just happened. The substance of Obama’s two speeches, the venues in which they were given, the words chosen, the words avoided, taken all together paint a vivid picture of this president and his beliefs about the region.

 

One speech he gave in Ramallah, the acknowledged seat of government of the Palestinian Authority, where he gave a joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, the acting leader of the PA.  The other he gave in Jerusalem, not at the seat of Israel’s government, and not directed to Israel’s elected leaders.

 

At the Jerusalem speech the U.S. president spoke directly to the citizenry of Israel, mostly university students – minus those, such as students at a newly credentialed Israeli university located in Ariel – which is situated beyond the “green line” and, apparently, for Obama is beyond the Pale, ironic given the large number of Arabs who are students at that university.

 

The speeches revealed little that is new: Obama believes there should be two states on the land, one, the Jewish homeland, Israel, and the other, a new one for Arab Palestinians, called Palestine.  He criticized Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist entities, praised what he said was the Palestinian Authority’s transparency, institution-building and security services, and lauded Israeli ingenuity. “Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated,” Obama told the audience in Jerusalem.

 

But there were clear indications of what Obama believes, and what he wants to have happen between Israel and the Arab Palestinians. He believes that the Arab Palestinians, like all “oppressed” people, are yearning for freedom which, when granted, will quell their hatred for their oppressors.  He certainly sees their plight as akin to that of African Americans before the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery. And he links the idea of slavery and second status-hood of African Americans with Arab Palestinians.

 

And those of us in the United States understand that change takes time but it is also possible, because there was a time when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities in their own country as somebody else’s daughters.

 

Obama talked about the Jewish people who were slaves in Egypt, and who had suffered pogroms and genocide and their freedom, expressed in Zionism. “The idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own,” Obama said, and that once the Jews achieved that, they should know that “responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.”  Suggesting, not too subtly, that it is the responsibility of Israelis to enable Arab Palestinians to enjoy their freedom in their own homeland.

 

Appealing directly to the Israeli people, the U.S. president said

 

The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized.  Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes.  It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.  It is not just when settler violence goes unpunished.  It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.  Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

 

In other words, Obama believes virtually every one of the points of the false narrative that have been spun since Arafat was brought back from Tunisia: the Arab Palestinians are the sole native people, Israeli “settlers” commit violence and that violence goes unpunished, Arab Palestinian farmers are prevented from farming “their” land, the movements of Arab Palestinians are restricted for no reason other than Israeli arrogance and greed, Arab Palestinians have been unfairly expelled from their land and they live under a state of Occupation in their own land, and, ultimately and completely, the land belongs, always belonged and must belong to the Arab Palestinians.
 

When in Ramallah, the U.S. president did not mention any responsibilities for peace owed by his listeners.  Instead, he talked about the recent release of U.S. funds “to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances.”  The only discussion of terrorism when speaking in Ramallah was directed at Hamas. As recently as last month, however, a PA terror group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Israel from Gaza.

 

Just as the U.S. president told the Israelis that the Arabs deserve their own state and that it is the responsibility of Israelis to give it to them, he made the same points to the Arab Palestinian audience gathered in Ramallah.

 

The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it.  Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities.  Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope — that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity.  Put simply, the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own.

 

When in Jerusalem, Obama talked about Hizbollah and the Assad regime, and also Iran, as contributing to Israel’s security issues, but nothing about the constant terror attempts by those under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, including the Al Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is responsible for more terrorist attacks than any other Arab Palestinian terrorist group.

 

Obama proclaimed in Ramallah that the U.S. seeks “an independent, a viable and a contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people.”  To the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, he said the same thing except he left out the word “contiguous.” And the U.S. president congratulated the PA on its achievements of which he and the U.S. , “as its single largest donor of assistance” is so proud: increased transparency, efficiency, stronger and more professional security forces, and institution building.

 

Obama acknowledged that there are disagreements between the two sides – he referred to them as “irritants”: the “Israelis have concerns about rockets flying into their cities at night,” and for the Arab Palestinians it is “the continued settlement activity in the West Bank area.”   But, he said,

 

My argument is even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement, may be engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement — because if we get an agreement then it will be very clear what the nature of that agreement is: there will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish state of Israel.

 

While side-stepping the Arab insistent focus on the problem of settlement building – and this is what gave rise to furious responses in the Arab media – Obama described the core goal in this way: “How do we get sovereignty for the Palestinian people, and how do we assure security for the Israeli people?” He wants a “broad-based agreement that assures the Palestinians that they have a state, and you have a comprehensive approach that ensures Israel the kind of security they need.” Apparently the new buzz words will be “sovereignty” and “security.”

 

The problem, of course, with Obama’s vision is that determining boundaries is a fixed decision – the land doesn’t move, there can’t be any change, while a promise, a commitment, even a sworn statement guaranteeing peace is permeable and depends on the commitment of millions of people – many of whom have rather poor track records – to honor it.

 

And just in case anyone hoped to pretend that the PA understands negotiations happen when both sides to a conflict agree to make substantial compromises in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory goal, that delusion was put to rest.  When Mahmoud Abbas introduced President Obama to the gathered crowd in Ramallah, he spoke briefly but made clear what his intentions are, have been, and will always be.

 

Abbas stated that his people have suffered from “the calamities of the Nakba (the re-birth of Israel),” that the land has belonged to the Arab Palestinian people” since ancient times,” Jerusalem “the Lady of the Cities” must be the capital of the “independent state of Palestine,” that peace cannot come so long as there are “walls, settlements, arrests, denial of refugee rights,” and that the Arab Palestinian people fully intend to join forces with Hamas, thereby “ending the division [to] achieve the Palestinian reconciliation.” Okay then.

 

There was one new hopeful development that the U.S. president hoped to see replicated.  When Obama spoke to the audience in Jerusalem, he revealed that he envisions the future state of Palestine to mirror the current state of Israel in terms of being an open society, committed to education, entrepreneurship, one that is opposed to corruption and is a hub for regional trade:

 

One of the great ironies of what is happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for – education and entrepreneurship; the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, to connect to the global economy – those things can be found in Israel.

 

Obama described a program run by a U.S. company, Cisco, in Jeruslaem, where “young Arab engineers and Palestinian engineers” are hired because they are so well qualified, so talented.  He went on to share his fantasy – and it is a fantasy – of such a program taking place in “Palestine”:

 

Well, imagine if you have a strong, independent state that’s peaceful — and all that talent that currently is being untapped that could be creating jobs and businesses and prosperity throughout this area.

 

Perhaps people have difficulty imagining that because everyone in the Middle East knows it is not going to happen.  There will be no Jews working in those programs alongside the “well qualified, so talented” Arab Palestinian engineers in “Palestine,” because no Jew will be allowed in the state that he and so many Westerners are trying so desperately hard to help create.

 

So “two states for two people” is likely to be replaced with “sovereignty and security,” the West will continue pretending that: the PA is a non-terrorist political group deserving of continuing U.S. aid, the Israeli government is intransigent and unwilling to make concessions, and it is Israel which bears all responsibility for ensuring that a Palestinian state  – created in its own image – comes into existence as soon as possible. Nothing new.

 

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On Topic

 

 

 

Obama in Jerusalem: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Mar 21, 2013—President Obama spoke to the Israeli people today, at the Jerusalem Convention Center. His remarks moved his administration toward the pre-Obama consensus views of the Clinton and Bush administrations, indeed at several points echoing Bush’s 2008 speech to the Knesset. But he presented a view of the chances for peace with the Palestinians that was far rosier than reality permits—or than he may really believe.

 

The Obama Visit and American Jewry: Isi Liebler, Israel Hayom, Mar. 20, 2013—[Obama] is arriving at a time when the political influence of American Jewry, the most affluent and powerful Diaspora community in our history, is in decline. This is starkly exemplified by its failure to influence successive Administrations to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard whose unprecedented inhumane treatment is now even raising ugly allegations of discriminatory prejudice.

 

Bennett: A Nation Cannot Occupy its Own Land: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post,Mar. 21, 2013—Reactions from MKs to US President Barack Obama’s speech in Jerusalem on Thursday ranged from excited support to condemnation. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett mentioned the rockets fired at Sderot in the morning, saying they were the result of the previous withdrawal from land, as were thousands of victims over the years.

 

‘Free Pollard’ Hunger-Striker Going Strong: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 22, 2013—Over one week after beginning a one-man hunger strike under Jerusalem’s Bridge of Strings to free Jonathan Pollard, Michael Foa, 52, a member of Likud, remains resilient, and has been joined by another protester who is also foregoing food.

 

Full Text of Obama's Jerusalem Speech: Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2013—Shalom. It is an honor to be here with you in Jerusalem, and I am so grateful for the welcome that I have received from the people of Israel. I bring with me the support of the American people, and the friendship that binds us together.

 

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