Tag: Jewish Courage

“THE DEVIL THAT NEVER DIES”: Antisemitism & Anti-Israelism Persist in Academia, UN, Media, and among Leftists, But A New Polish Museum & Sir Winton Offer Hope

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How the Jewish State is Being Demonized: Clifford D. May, National Post, Oct. 30, 2014— Last week, a terrorist drove his car into a crowd at a light rail station in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old baby.

Willful Blindness To Academic Anti-Semitism: Richard L. Cravatts, Jewish Press, Oct. 29, 2014 — As yet more evidence that academics are regularly able to engage in what George Orwell sardonically referred to as “doublethink” – “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” 40 professors of Jewish studies recently published a denunciation of a study that named professors who have been identified as expressing “anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric.”

Amid Growing European Anti-Semitism, New Jewish Museum in Poland ‘Reveals Hope’ : Ruth Ellen Gruber, JTA, Oct. 28, 2014 — In a Europe wracked by fears of rising anti-Semitism, and in a country whose Jews were all but annihilated in the Holocaust, a dazzling new “museum of life” celebrates the Jewish past and looks forward to a vital future.

An Old Man in Prague: Roger Cohen, New York Times, Oct. 30, 2014 — An old man went to Prague this week.

On Topic Links


Europe’s Alarming New Anti-Semitism: Jonathan Sacks, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2, 2014

Nobel Prize Winner Patrick Modiano Summons the Shadow-World of Postwar French Jewry: Clémence Boulouque, Tablet, Oct. 20, 2014

Eichmann Before Jerusalem (Book Excerpt): Bettina Stangneth, National Post, Oct. 30, 2014

The Democratic Embrace of Al Sharpton: Heather Mac Donald, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2014




HOW THE JEWISH STATE IS BEING DEMONIZED                                           

Clifford D. May                                                                                                   

National Post, Oct. 30, 2014


Last week, a terrorist drove his car into a crowd at a light rail station in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old baby. Eight others were injured, including a 22-year-old woman who died a few days later. The attacker fled the scene pursued by police who shot and killed him. Terrorists also have struck in Ottawa and New York in recent days. So Israelis are not alone. But many feel alone — perceiving that an increasing number of Europeans and Americans see them not as a tiny nation on the front lines in a global conflict against jihadism, but as bullies culpable for the war being waged against them.


The first AP report on the terrorist attack bolstered that impression. It carried the headline: “Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem.” A little later, that was changed to “Car slams into east Jerusalem train station.” Finally, following protests on social media, the headline became: “Palestinian kills baby at Jerusalem station.” There also was this: The Fatah movement, led by “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the vehicular terrorist a “heroic martyr” who had “executed the Jerusalem operation which led to the running over of settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem.” If that evoked outrage in any Western capitals, I missed it.



Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Studies, has been studying the growth of anti-Israelism. He presents his analysis in a cogent and valuable book: Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel. Start with the good news if for no other reason than there’s not much of it: Polls show a clear majority of Americans continue to support Israel, continue to believe the Jewish state has a right to exist and to defend itself. But over the last few decades, intellectuals of the Left, academics, the UN, human rights organizations, some mainstream Protestant churches and the media have grown not just unsympathetic but, in many cases, hostile toward Israel and Israelis. At the same time, they have been indulgent of Israel’s enemies, Islamist terrorists included. An article over the weekend in the International Herald Tribune noted that “Britain’s center-left Labour Party often sympathizes instinctively with the Palestinian cause.” Hamas — which claimed responsibility for the murders of the woman and child in Jerusalem last week — defines the Palestinian cause as the extermination of Israel and the murder of Jews. (It’s in the Hamas Charter. Look it up.)


If Britain’s Labour Party sympathizes with that, it is probably a learned, not instinctive, response. Muravchik notes that as recently as the 1960s, Israel was almost universally admired. Leon Uris’ Exodus shaped the prevailing narrative, one which saw “the founding of the Jewish state as a story of heroism, sacrifice and redemption … both just and necessary.” Muravchik recounts how, in May 1967, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser sent his troops into the Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping (an act of war) and vowed that Egypt, joined by other Arab armies, would “destroy Israel … This is Arab power. This is the true resurrection of the Arab nation.” Opinion in the West, popular and elite alike, came down firmly in support of the Jewish state. “As the crisis deepened,” Muravchik writes, “a luminous group of intellectuals,” including thousands of academics, called upon the U.S. government to help Israelis defend themselves. When the fighting concluded, Israel had prevailed, taking Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan. U.S. Sen. George McGovern, who would become the Democratic Party’s “peace candidate” in 1972, said he hoped Israel would “not give up a foot of ground” until the Arabs made peace.


This summer, by stark contrast, as Hamas fired thousands of missiles at Israel, anger was directed at Israel. The media focused almost exclusively on Palestinian victims — even though the Israeli Defense Forces did more than any army in history ever has to protect non-combatants, many of whom Hamas used as human shields. How did this change come about? After the 1967 war, Israel’s enemies and critics stopped talking about an Arab-Israeli conflict. It became a Palestinian-Israeli conflict instead. The new David was supported by the diplomatic, political and economic clout of 22 Arab states, oil giants among them, as well as more than 50 nations that self-identify as Islamic. Another significant factor has been what Muravchik calls “the transformation of the paradigm of Leftism from class struggle to ethnic struggle.” More than half of all Israeli Jews come from families who for centuries made their homes in Muslim lands. In the 1940s and 1950s, most of them were forced to flee. Nevertheless, the narrative shaped by the Left is of oppressed third world Palestinians rising against colonialist European usurpers.


Views prevalent on the Left have a tendency to “seep, albeit in diluted form, into the mainstream,” Muravchik adds. And the “anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.” Muravchik doesn’t rule out the possibility that, should this process continue, should “Israel’s enemies succeed, the result could be a second Holocaust.” I was looking forward to Muravchik’s thoughts on efforts to counter the rise of anti-Israelism (and the anti-Semitism now inextricably attached to it), why such efforts have fallen short, and what else might be considered by those who are anti-anti-Israeli – or even just anti-genocide. But he didn’t provide that. Perhaps he will tackle the subject in his next book. Or maybe he is leaving the task to writers of a less scholarly and more activist bent. Either way, he has made a persuasive case that such thinking is urgently needed.




WILLFUL BLINDNESS TO ACADEMIC ANTI-SEMITISM                                 

Richard L. Cravatts                                                                                                     

Jewish Press, Oct. 29, 2014


As yet more evidence that academics are regularly able to engage in what George Orwell sardonically referred to as “doublethink” – “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” 40 professors of Jewish studies recently published a denunciation of a study that named professors who have been identified as expressing “anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric.” While the 40 academic “heavyweights” claim they, of course, reject anti-Semitism totally as part of teaching, they were equally repelled by the tactics and possible effects of the AMCHA Initiative report, a comprehensive review of the attitudes about Israel of some 200 professors who signed an online petition during the latest Gaza incursion that called for an academic boycott against Israeli scholars. Calling “the actions of AMCHA deplorable,” the indignant professors were insulted by the organization’s “technique of monitoring lectures, symposia and conferences,” something which they believe “strains the basic principle of academic freedom on which the American university is built.”


Only in the inverted reality of academia could a group of largely Jewish professors denounce a study which had as its core purpose to alert students to professors who have demonstrated, publicly and seemingly proudly, that they harbor anti-Israel attitudes, attitudes which unfortunately frequently morph into anti-Semitic thought and speech as part of discussions about Israel and the Middle East. Since the individuals named in the report teach in the area of Middle East studies, they are also likely to bring that anti-Israel bias into the classroom with them, and students, therefore, would obviously benefit from AMCHA’s report. Can anyone believe that had the AMCHA Initiative issued a report that revealed the existence of endemic racism, or homophobia, or sexism, or Islamophobia in university coursework, and had warned students who might be negatively impacted to steer clear of courses taught by those offending professors, these same 40 feckless professors would have denounced such reports as potentially having a negative effect on teaching and learning?


Why should a professor’s political attitudes not be known to students, especially, as in this case, when those anti-Israel attitudes are extremely germane to their area of teaching, namely Middle East studies? The AMCHA researchers did not furtively investigate the private lives of the 200 professors, nor did they delve through their association memberships, reading habits, or private writings without the professors’ knowledge or consent. They were not spied upon and their courses taped by students. The signatories were also skeptical about the guidelines used by AMCHA to gauge instances of anti-Semitism and an acceptable definition by which campus speech, teaching, publications, and events could be judged to include manifestations of anti-Semitism and not just vituperation and critique of Israel. AMCHA’s “definition of antisemitism is so undiscriminating as to be meaningless,” the professors’ statement asserted, ignoring the fact that AMCHA based its own definition on earlier working definitions of anti-Semitism carefully developed by the U.S. State Department, the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now the Fundamental Rights Agency), and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law, among others.


It is not as if campuses are unaware of the prevailing sensitivities of groups normally considered to be protected classes – black students, gay students, Muslim students, Hispanics, among others. Earlier this month, in a breathtaking act of moral incoherence, Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS) voted against condemning ISIS after the Black Students Officer, Malia Bouattia, opposed the motion, not because students did not have sincere concern for Syrians and Kurds being slaughtered, but because “condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for . . . blatant Islamophobia.” None of the Jewish Studies professors seemed to be concerned with investigations of purported instances of Islamophobia on campus and elsewhere, and how exposing those occurrences might lead to a stifling of someone’s academic free speech or “chilling” of scholarly debate. In fact, FBI statistics indicate that acts of anti-Semitism occur with eight times the regularity of anti-Muslim incidents, and that between 2011 and 2012 alone, the number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses tripled.


So regardless of how significant the professors seem to think the problem of anti-Semitism actually is, and whether they wish to minimize the virulence of anti-Semitism because they insist on conflating it with, and making it part of, the furious academic debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the AMCHA report shows us that the “oldest hatred” is still with us, creeping noxiously up the ivy walls.                                





NEW JEWISH MUSEUM IN POLAND ‘REVEALS HOPE’                                   

Ruth Ellen Gruber                                                                                                        

JTA, Oct. 28, 2014


In a Europe wracked by fears of rising anti-Semitism, and in a country whose Jews were all but annihilated in the Holocaust, a dazzling new “museum of life” celebrates the Jewish past and looks forward to a vital future. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday jointly inaugurated the long-awaited core exhibit of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a more than $100 million complex first conceived more than 20 years ago. “It is not a museum of the Holocaust, it is a museum of life,” Rivlin, who was making his first trip abroad since his election this summer, declared at the opening ceremony. “It is the place that commemorates everything that is gone and will never return. And it reveals hope for a different future.” Komorowski stressed the same hopes, declaring that the museum opening was a history-making event that bore witness to Poland’s development into a democratic state since the fall of communism. “One of the central themes in our drive to freedom was to put right the account of history that had been corrupted, manipulated and distorted in so many ways during the non-democratic communist era,” Komorowski said.


Before the Holocaust, some 3.3 million Jews lived in Polish lands. Thousands of survivors fled anti-Semitism in the postwar period. The fall of communism sparked a remarkable revival in Jewish life and identity, but the Jewish population today is still tiny, estimated at 15,000-20,000 in a country of nearly 40 million people. “We are here!” Auschwitz survivor Marian Turski, chairman of the Council of the Jewish Historical Institute, one of the institutional founders of the museum, said in an emotional speech at the opening ceremony. “That is the message: We are here!” The museum is housed in a shimmering glass building erected on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto facing the dramatic monument erected atop the rubble left when the Nazis crushed the ghetto uprising in 1943. Described as a “theatre of history,” the core exhibit uses state-of-the-art technology and multimedia installations to narrate 1,000 years of Polish Jewish history.


The exhibition’s eight thematic and chronological galleries detail the complex ebb and flow of Jewish life in Poland from the early middle ages to the present, including periods of prosperity as well as persecution. They recount grand events but also use letters, diaries, photos and other intimate material to provide personal viewpoints. This is particularly notable in the Holocaust gallery, which narrates the history through the words and deeds of the people who experienced it.  Other highlights include the reconstructed and elaborately painted ceiling and bimah of the now-destroyed wooden synagogue in Gwozdziec (in present-day Ukraine) and a painted animation of 24 hours in the life of the famous yeshiva in Volozhin (now Belarus).


But the core exhibit is only part of the story. The museum’s impact “stretches way, way beyond the building,” said Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland. “And it’s not about a museum of the history of Polish Jews — it’s about Polish Jews. History means past, and it’s not about the past.” Hundreds of thousands of people — Poles and Jews, locals and foreigners — have visited the museum in the 18 months since the building was opened to the public. Organizers expect a half-million or more each year now that the core exhibit has been opened. The museum is part of a wider movement since the fall of communism “to reconnect with the past, including the Jewish past,” said Dariusz Stola, the museum’s director. “The museum is the most visible element in this movement. But without the broader movement it wouldn’t have happened.” This broader movement includes a number of new Jewish studies programs at Polish universities, new or revamped museums, permanent exhibits and memorials on Jewish or Holocaust themes in a number of provincial towns and scores of grassroots initiatives ranging from Jewish cemetery cleanup actions to Jewish culture festivals. This year alone, some 40 Jewish culture festivals took place in Poland, mostly in places where no Jews live today. “The Jewish presence in Polish consciousness is vast, vast,” said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the program director of the core exhibit. “It means that there is a kind of inverse relationship between the numbers of Jews living in Poland and what we call Jewish presence in Polish consciousness.”


The POLIN museum was built as a public-private institution, with the Polish government and the city of Warsaw providing $60 million for construction and more than 500 private and institutional donors, many of them Jewish, contributing $48 million for the core exhibition. “Though Europe has seen a recent rise in anti-Semitism, in Poland we are seeing a revitalization of Jewish life and culture that is being experienced by – and truly driven by – both Poland’s Jewish and gentile communities,” the San Francisco-based philanthropist Tad Taube, head of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation, said in a statement. The two organizations were the largest private donors to the museum with a total contribution of $16 million. “The opening of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a game changer that will break down negative stereotypes about Poland,” Taube said. The hope, his statement added, is that its lessons “will have ripple effects throughout Eastern Europe as Poland’s neighbors seek to develop their own major modern cultural institutions and broader, more inclusive narratives of their multicultural histories.”





AN OLD MAN IN PRAGUE                                                                              

Roger Cohen                                                                                                      

New York Times, Oct. 30, 2014


An old man went to Prague this week. He had spent much of his life keeping quiet about his deeds. They spoke for themselves. Now he said, “In a way perhaps I shouldn’t have lived so long to give everybody the opportunity to exaggerate everything in the way they are doing today.” At the age of 105, Sir Nicholas Winton is still inclined toward self-effacement. He did what any normal human being would, only at a time when most of Europe had gone mad. A London stockbroker, born into a family of German Jewish immigrants who had changed their name from Wertheim and converted to Christianity, he rescued 669 children, most of them Jews, from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. They came to Britain in eight transports. The ninth was canceled when Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The 250 children destined for it journeyed instead into the inferno of the Holocaust.


Winton, through family connections, knew enough of the Third Reich to see the naïveté of British officialdom still inclined to dismiss Hitler as a buffoon and talk of another war as fanciful. He raised money; he procured visas; he found foster families. His day job was at the Stock Exchange. The rest of his time he devoted to saving the doomed. There were enough bystanders. He wanted to help. Now he has outlived many of those he saved and long enough to know that thousands of their descendants owe their lives to him.

Back in Prague, 75 years on, Winton received the Order of the White Lion, the highest honor of the Czech Republic. The Czech Air Force sent a plane. He was serenaded at Prague Castle, in the presence of a handful of his octogenarian “children.” The only problem, he said, was that countries refused to accept unaccompanied children; only England would. One hundred years, he said, is “a heck of a long time.” The things he said were understated. At 105, one does not change one’s manner.


Only in 1988 did Winton’s wartime work begin to be known. His wife found a scrapbook chronicling his deeds. He appeared on a BBC television show whose host, Esther Rantzen, asked those in the audience who owed their lives to him to stand. Many did. Honors accrued. Now there are statues of him in London and Prague. “I didn’t really keep it secret,” he once said. “I just didn’t talk about it.” Such discretion is riveting to our exhibitionist age. To live today is to self-promote or perish. Social media tugs the private into the public sphere with an almost irresistible force. Be followed, be friended — or be forgotten. This imperative creates a great deal of tension and unhappiness. Most people, much of the time, have a need to be quiet and still, and feel disinclined to raise their voice. Yet they sense that if they do not, they risk being seen as losers. Device anxiety, that restless tug to the little screen, is a reflection of a spreading inability to live without 140-character public affirmation. When the device is dead, so are you.


What gets forgotten, in the cacophony, is how new this state of affairs is. Winton’s disinclination to talk was not unusual. Silence was the reflex of the postwar generation. What was done was done because it was the right thing to do and therefore unworthy of note. Certainly among Jews silence was the norm. Survivors scarcely spoke of their torment. They did not tell their children. They repressed their memories. Perhaps discretion seemed the safer course; certainly it seemed the more dignified. Perhaps the very trauma brought wordlessness. The Cold War was not conducive to truth-telling. Anguish was better suffered in silence than passed along (although of course it filtered to the next generation anyway.)


But there was something else, something really unsayable. Survival itself was somehow shameful, unbearable. By what right, after all, had one lived when those 250 children had not? Menachem Begin, the former Israeli prime minister whose parents and brother were killed by the Nazis, put this sentiment well: “Against the eyes of every son of the nation appear and reappear the carriages of death. … The Black Nights when the sound of an infernal screeching of wheels and the sighs of the condemned press in from afar and interrupt one’s slumber; to remind one of what happened to mother, father, brothers, to a son, a daughter, a People. In these inescapable moments every Jew in the country feels unwell because he is well. He asks himself: Is there not something treasonous in his existence.”


Winton’s anonymity, for decades after the war, was of course also the result of the silence or reserve of the hundreds he had saved. How strange that seems today, when we must emote about everything. The deed speaks — and occasionally someone lives long enough to know in what degree.


CIJR Wishes all our Friends and Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!




On Topic


Europe’s Alarming New Anti-Semitism: Jonathan Sacks, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2, 2014—This year, Europe’s Jews enter Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, with a degree of apprehension I have not known in my lifetime. Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. Never again has become ever again.

Nobel Prize Winner Patrick Modiano Summons the Shadow-World of Postwar French Jewry: Clémence Boulouque, Tablet, Oct. 20, 2014—Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier (“So that you don’t get lost in the neighborhood”), Patrick Modiano’s latest novel, which came out one week before he received the Nobel Prize, opens on a quote by Stendhal: “I cannot give the reality of facts, I can only present its shadow.”

Eichmann Before Jerusalem (Book Excerpt): Bettina Stangneth, National Post, Oct. 30, 2014 —Adolf Eichmann’s fame surpasses even that of SS leader Heinrich Himmler and holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich. So why write another book? It was the simplest of questions: I wanted to find out who knew Adolf Eichmann before the Mossad famously snatched him from Argentina and put him before a court in Israel.

The Democratic Embrace of Al Sharpton: Heather Mac Donald, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2014—The Rev. Al Sharpton once epitomized New York’s bad old days of the 1980s, when the then-corpulent, gold-medallion-bedecked tub thumper inflamed racial hatred and courted violence.





















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Shlomo Riskin

Jerusalem Post August 24, 2012

'When you draw near to a city to wage war against it, you shall call out to it for peace' (Deut. 20:10)

‘When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee.’
(Shoftim; Deuteronomy 20:19)

Despite the bad press we constantly receive at the hands of the media, I do not believe there is an army in the history of world warfare which operates with the degree of ethical sensitivity that is followed by the Israel Defense Forces. We never target civilians despite the fact that our enemy targets only Jewish civilians. We have always subscribed to a policy known as “purity of arms,” the foundation for which harks back to the Bible, and particularly to this week’s portion of Shoftim.

Both Maimonides and Nahmanides maintain that this principle of initially requesting peace before waging war – and for Maimonides that includes the enemies’ willingness to accept the seven Noahide laws of morality, most notably “Thou shalt not murder” (Maimonides, Laws of Kings 6:1; Nahmanides ad loc.) – applies even when waging a battle in self-defense, even when warring against Amalek or the seven indigenous inhabitants of the Land of Canaan.

But then, as we read further, the picture seems to get a bit complex, even murky. The Bible continues to prescribe that if the enemy refuses to make peace, then “from those of the cities which the Lord your God has given you as an inheritance, you shall not leave any living being alive; you must utterly destroy them” (Deuteronomy 20:16, 17).

This would seem to include innocent women and children. How are we to understand our compassionate Bible, which teaches that every human being is created in the Divine image and is therefore inviolate, sanctioning the destruction of innocent residents?

To compound our question, only two verses after the command to “utterly destroy” appears the following curious and exquisitely sensitive Divine charge (Deut.20:19): “When you lay siege to a city… to wage war against it and capture it, you may not destroy a fruit tree to lift an axe against it; after all, it is from it that you eat; so you may not destroy it because the human being [derives his sustenance from] the tree of the field” (or alternatively rendered – is the tree of the field a human being who is capable of escaping a siege?).

Can it be that our Torah cares more about a fruit tree than about innocent human beings? Furthermore, the very next chapter and the conclusion of our Torah portion records the law of a broken- necked heifer (egla arufa). If a murdered corpse is found in the field between two Israelite cities with the assailant unknown, the elders of the nearest city must break the neck of a heifer for an atonement sacrifice, declaring: “Our hands have not shed this blood and our eyes have not witnessed [the crime]; forgive Your nation Israel” (Deut. 21:1-9).

Clearly as a postscript to the laws of obligatory and voluntary war found in our portion, the Bible is attempting to caution the Israelites not to become callous at the loss of life, even the loss of one innocent human being. Indeed, the elders of the city must take responsibility and make atonement for this unsolved murder, proclaiming their innocence but at the same time admitting their moral complicity in a crime which might have been prevented had they taken proper precautions and exhibited great vigilance in providing protection and adequate welfare services. Once again, if the Torah is so sensitive to the loss of an individual life, how can our Sacred Law command that we destroy women and children? First of all, one might argue that a fruit tree, which gives human beings nutrition, the wherewithal to live, is of greater benefit than an individual born into an environment that preaches death to all who reject jihadic fundamentalism or who do not pass the test of Aryan elitism. Such individuals are sub-apples, because they are out to destroy free society.

Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin – dean of Yeshivat Volozhin at the end of the 19th century – in his masterful commentary on the Bible known as Ha’emek Davar, provides the beginning of a second answer. He insists that when the Bible ordains that we “utterly destroy” even the women and children, this is limited “to those who gather against us in battle; those who remain at home are not to be destroyed by us” (Ha’emek Davar, Deut. 7:1, 2). It is almost as though he took into account our war against the Palestinians, who send young women and children into the thick of the battle as decoys, cover-ups and suicidal homicide bombers. We are trained to be compassionate, even in the midst of warfare; nevertheless, “those who rise up to murder innocents, even if they themselves are children, must be killed” if humanity is to survive and good is to triumph over evil.

Indeed, war stinks, but for the sake of a free humanity we sometimes have no choice than to destroy evil in order that good may prevail. Michael Walzer, in his classic Just and Unjust Wars, maintains that a soldier’s life is not worth more than an innocent victim’s life. But if the “innocent victim” has “bought into” the evil of the enemy, or if the enemy is a terrorist purposely waging war from the thick of residential areas because they know our ethical standards, we dare not allow them to gain the edge and enable evil to triumph.

Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas, walks the streets of Gaza not with powerful bodyguards but with five small children, knowing that Israel would not risk harming them. Yes, we must try as much as possible to wage a moral war; but never to the point of allowing immorality to triumph. Our Sages correctly teach: “Those who are compassionate to the cruel will end up being cruel to the compassionate!”    (Top)

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, August 29, 2012

One of the conundrums associated with the enduring nature of global anti-Semitism which has soared exponentially in recent years is why, having made such disproportionate contributions towards all levels of civilization and left major imprints on science, ethics, medicine, culture and the arts, we Jews continue to act as a magnet for such virulent hatred.  Equally bizarre is the failure of formerly oppressed groups and nations to reciprocate or even acknowledge the extraordinary Jewish contributions in support of their struggles towards overcoming persecution, discrimination, abuse of human rights and achieving independence.
This is typified by the fact that whereas there is no American group comparable to the Jews who sacrificed so much to help African-Americans to overcome racial discrimination and their struggle for civil rights, ironically, today they are amongst the foremost US racial or ethnic groups promoting anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.
The recent loathsome outburst by the African-American writer Alice Walker, who sought to prohibit her novel – relating to racism – from being translated into Hebrew, typifies this.…[As does] the current South African government, which is today bitterly anti-Israeli despite the fact that individual South African Jews were at the vanguard of the struggle against apartheid, many having been forced to leave the country during the apartheid regime.
Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose anti-Israeli outbursts have now morphed into vulgar populist anti-Jewish diatribes, conceded that “in our struggle against apartheid, the greatest supporters were the Jewish people….They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones.”
But in the same breath he paved the way for his government’s recent anti- Israeli initiatives by calling for divestment from Israel which “has oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa” and descends into primitive anti-Semitism referring to Jews as “a peculiar people” who “once oppressed and killed” are now “empowered”, and “refuse to listen and disobey God.”
Similar attitudes prevail amongst a number of Third World leaders. I will never forget a meeting in New Delhi in 1981 with the late Indian president, Indira Gandhi, in which she erupted in a frenzied anti-Israeli outburst laced with rage against “international Jewish power”– which she claimed was responsible for having turned the US against India.…
History records the numerous misguided Jewish idealists in Europe and the United States who, in the 1930s, abandoned Judaism and Zionism and devoted their lives towards promoting and even worshipping the false messianic cause of communism.…Yet these same Jewish communists who, out of a misplaced exclusive commitment to universalism, devoted their lives to fanatically serving an evil totalitarian system, subsequently themselves became victims of the anti- Semitic purges and bogus trials initiated by Stalin in the late 1930s, the murder of the Jewish writers in 1948, which culminated with the infamous 1952 Moscow Doctors’ plot.
These initiatives, unquestionably motivated by feral anti-Semitism, would probably have resulted in massive deportations of Jews to the Gulag were it not for Stalin’s timely demise in 1953. There are Jews today who still maintain that the universalist tradition in Judaism obliges us to set aside our own “parochial” Jewish interests and in order to concentrate exclusively on making the world a better place by combating injustice.
Yet in reality, the alleged tension between the Jewish role in maintaining itself as a particularistic nation and promoting universalistic ethical values is often exaggerated and not mutually exclusive. Abraham did not smash the idols and Moses did not struggle for his people’s freedom in order to create a cult. They served the Jewish people but were also providing messages of universal significance to humanity.
An example of the fusion between both concepts is reflected in the oft quoted sentence from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers), “If I am not for myself who will be for me?” But it is balanced by the following sentence, “And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” There is thus every justification for us to take pride in the actions of Jews who contributed towards tikkun olam – repairing a fractured world – and making it a better place for mankind.
That many oppressed groups struggling for freedom, on whose behalf we fought frequently at considerable personal cost, subsequently turned against us, must not deter us from our universalistic obligations towards humanity and ongoing commitment to promote justice and human rights.
When viewing the world in today’s troubled times, we, the Jewish people who have overcome powerlessness and miraculously regained nationhood, are obliged to recognize that our overriding priority must be to safeguard ourselves against those seeking to destroy us. In times of peril, it is both rational and incumbent to focus on our families and our own people before attempting to reform the world. By prioritizing the particularistic goals of defending and securing the well-being of the Jewish State and the Jewish people against those still seeking to fulfill Hitler’s objectives, we are ensuring that Jews will survive. One of the by-products of this will enable us to continue as in the past to contribute towards tikkun olam.    (Top)

Barbara Sofer

The Jerusalem Post August 30, 2012

In this season of taking stock, of counting our blessings and regretting our faults, we recognize with profound appreciation that we live at a time when the Jewish communities of the world are free.
When I speak to student groups about one of the great dramas of my lifetime – the exodus of the Jews of Russia and how, to use Natan Sharansky’s words, “housewives and students” defeated the powerful Soviet Union, I might as well be telling them a Hanukka story. They don’t know who Sharansky is, and the term “Prisoner of Zion” has little meaning.  That’s not a criticism. What moulded our lives doesn’t have to mould theirs.
In more recent times, we have directed our efforts to finding and freeing individual Jews, mostly soldiers of the IDF who are missing in action: Ron Arad, Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz, Guy Hever, Zachary Baumel. I wonder if I am the only one who, for so many years, included Gilad ben Aviva (Schalit) in the entreaties of my daily prayers? And who sees that he occasionally still finds his way in, before I remind myself that he was freed last October?
Where does Yehonatan ben Malka fit in our private and community prayers?   He’s not incarcerated in an underground cell in Gaza or in a Communist prison. Yehonatan ben Malka is an Israeli citizen whose exact location we know. Prisoner number 09185016. Butner Federal Correction Complex in Granville County, North Carolina. Jonathan Pollard….
Grave errors had been made in America towards the Jewish people. Although I felt unhampered by my Jewish identity to attend any university, a generation earlier talented Jews faced admission quotas and certain branches of the armed forces were known to be difficult for Jews to enter. The US, with its wide-open spaces and supposed immigrant culture, didn’t take on an organized rescue policy for Jewish victims of Nazi Germany until 1944.  Think of the 937 passengers on the ship called the St. Louis, refugees from Germany, sailing so close to Florida that they could see the lights of Miami, being turned back to the Nazis in May 1939.
Public opposition to immigration, xenophobia and anti-Semitism kept immigration restrictions rigid even after World War II. In addition to the moral greatness of saving the Jewish people, imagine what America would be like today if the country had taken in the Jews of Europe. Take even the simplest parameter: Nobel Prize winners. Thirty-seven percent of American winners are Jews – and that is without the Six Million.…
Jonathan Pollard was born in Texas in August 1954, and grew up in Indiana.  While working as an American civilian in intelligence in Washington, Pollard saw classified material that contained information about maintaining Israel’s security. I don’t care that he was paid – Mossad agents get salaries, too, for taking on dangerous work.
You can spend hours reading the details of his case online and the strong opinions it has generated. Here’s the short of it: Pollard’s illegal activities for Israel were detected. He sought asylum in the Israeli Embassy in Washington but was rejected. To avoid an embarrassing trial, Pollard was persuaded to agree to a plea bargain that would also guarantee that he wasn’t given a maximum sentence. He expressed profound regret for his actions. The prosecutor complied with the plea agreement and asked for “only a substantial number of years in prison.” Nonetheless, Judge Aubrey Robinson, Jr. imposed a life sentence after hearing a “damage assessment memorandum” from the defense secretary.
That was in 1987. Unless he receives a presidential pardon, Pollard’s possible parole won’t come until November 21, 2015.  No one has ever revealed what documents Pollard gave Israel in 11 deliveries of confidential files about the Middle East. Was the information critical in convincing Israel to knock out the nuclear plant in Osirak, Iraq? If so, his perspicuity saved not only Jewish lives but American lives, too.
WHY, THEN, is he still in jail?
Among those who opposed Pollard’s release was his former boss, the late US Navy Rear Adm. Sumner Shapiro, who served as director of the Office of Naval Intelligence from 1978 to 1982. Said Shapiro: “We work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are, and to have somebody screw it up… and then to have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me.”  Pollard’s incarceration, then, isn’t only about spying. To a Jew who rose to the rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy, he should be punished for threatening the hard-won proof that he was as loyal an American as his neighbors.
After shameful denials, Israel admitted that Pollard was working for us and declared him an Israeli citizen. His release is often mentioned in connection with prisoner swaps and peace deals, to sweeten an otherwise hard-to swallow deal. Former US deputy defense secretary Lawrence Korb said “the severity of Pollard’s sentence is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies” in American foreign policy.” Do any of us doubt that US Vice President Joe Biden’s vituperation against Pollard had less do with the spy’s deeds than his anger towards the State of Israel?
Nonetheless, more than a quarter century after Pollard was jailed, many voices across the political spectrum agree that his punishment was excessive. Left-wing Congressman Barney Frank is in rare agreement with rightwing former House speaker Newt Gingrich on this one. Former CIA director James Woolsey says Pollard’s punishment is excessive. Even former defence secretary Caspar Weinberger admitted that “the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance.”
As we enter 5773 – an election year in the US – Jews of every political orientation should be able to agree that the time to release Pollard and make their views known is now. Synagogue members of every orientation should include him in public declarations. To quote accused spy Sharansky, who now heads the Jewish Agency: “The time has come to vigorously and loudly demand his freedom.”
From one Prisoner of Zion to another.  (Top)

William Kristol

Weekly Standard,  July 16, 2012

"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us,” we are told. So we take this occasion to praise three admirable individuals who died in the past two weeks. Each of them was extraordinary in his or her own right, but each of them also exemplified the virtues of a remarkable generation.
Anna Schwartz, who died June 21 at age 96, was an economist who helped overturn the understanding of the causes of the Great Depression. Writing with her coauthor, Milton Friedman, she showed that government—in this case, the Federal Reserve—helped turn a business-cycle recession into a full-blown depression. More generally, her rigorous scholarship and careful analysis over the years exposed wishful policy-making and put facile punditry to shame—and bolstered the empirical case for limited government, free markets, and the rule of law.
Yitzhak Shamir, who died June 30 also at age 96, immigrated to Palestine in 1935. After first serving in the Zionist military organization, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, he led the militant Lohamei Herut Israel—Fighters for the Freedom of Israel—in the 1940s in the fight for Israel’s independence. His means were not always respectable, and he did what he judged necessary—though no more. Founders cannot always be fastidious, and statesmanship involves moral dilemmas. Shamir resolved those dilemmas in favor of the safety and well-being of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Then, as foreign minister and prime minister 40 years later, he resisted pressure for concessions by Israel for the sake of a fanciful peace process—while opening wide the doors of Israel to massive immigration from Russia and elsewhere, immigration that has, as he foresaw, immensely strengthened the nation he served so selflessly and resolutely.
Joseph Cropsey, who died July 1 at age 92, was a professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago and an early student and associate of the philosopher Leo Strauss. Convinced that Strauss had rediscovered the great tradition of political philosophy and reopened the possibility of seriously encountering the great thinkers of the past, he devoted himself to teaching alongside and working on behalf of Strauss, notably organizing the important volume of essays that he co-edited with him, History of Political Philosophy. He also compiled his own lasting and distinguished body of scholarship on subjects ranging from Plato to Adam Smith.
Schwartz, Shamir, and Cropsey were by all accounts very impressive human beings: loving spouses and fine parents, good and loyal friends, dedicated and responsible colleagues, individuals of humane disposition and, as it happens, dry wit.
But what is most striking about all three of them is a certain intellectual, moral, and political toughness. They faced challenge and tragedy. They set out against strong currents, joined in the beginning by only a few colleagues, opposed in their various enterprises by large and powerful establishments and a complacent and dominant conventional wisdom. They resolutely faced the odds against them, they were disciplined and intelligent in pursuing their causes, they fought, they persevered, and, to a considerable degree, they prevailed—against all the powers that stood in their way, against all the temptations to go along and get along.
They were strong leaders. But they were strong enough to be willing to follow those they deemed worth following, men of the first rank whom they admired and thought had gotten it right. Joe Cropsey—a considerable scholar and thinker—was willing to serve as a junior partner to his teacher, Leo Strauss. Yitzhak Shamir—a forceful fighter and leader—was proud to serve as a lieutenant to his captains, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. Anna Schwartz—who had a more subtle understanding of the relationship of politics to economics than many of her colleagues—was happy to cede the spotlight to them.
What a group! What representatives of a departing generation! One looks up in admiration at their austere courage, their flinty strength, their determination to think seriously about the right path and then set out on it and stick to it—without any expectation of immediate reward or easy gratification.
Their lives remind us of the difference between success, however lauded, and true human achievement, and of the difference between mediocrity, however brilliant, and lasting distinction. And their lives remind us of the moral and intellectual conditions of freedom.(Top)