Tag: Jewish History

Review: Jonatan Meir, Literary Hasidism: The Life and Works of Michael Levi Rodkinson.




Jonatan Meir, Literary Hasidism: The Life and Works of Michael Levi Rodkinson. Translated from Hebrew: Jeffrey G. Amshalem. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2016.  ix + 257 pp.  ISBN: 9780815634478


When Martin Buber introduced Hasidic tales to the world through his polished retellings and philosophical commentary, he presented them as sacred texts, comparable to Sufi and Zen stories. Among researchers who accepted this premise, Kabbalah scholar Joseph Dan made a major contribution in his book Hasipur haHasidi (1975), which analyzes Hasidic tales as expressions of Kabbalistic theology.


In his later work, however, Dan presented a surprisingly different view of Hasidic stories. Many of them, he argues, were not written by Hasidim at all, but by Maskilim – rationalistic intellectuals antipathetic to Hasidic ways. These authors took advantage of the gullibility of religious readers, and also catered to a nostalgic but increasingly secularized non-Hasidic readership.


The poster child for Dan’s revisionist view is Michael Levi Frumkin, later Rodkinson, (1845-1904), author of books of Hasidic tales as well as sharp criticisms of Hasidic practice. Dan presents Frumkin/Rodkinson as a typical author of Hasidic stories, while quoting contemporary characterizations of him as a man motivated by greed and hypocrisy.


Jonatan Meir’s Literary Hasidism refutes Dan’s thesis, at least regarding Rodkinson. Meir also engages with the genre of Hasidic hagiography as a whole, and provides a rich overview of Rodkinson’s entire literary career. This is an important contribution to scholarship on the authors of books of Hasidic tales and their historical context. Previously, Gedalyah Nigal compiled bibliographic and biographic data on many such authors. Ira Robinson analyzed the literary work of Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg (grandfather of Canadian literary icon Mordecai Richler), author of Hasidic tales and of the best-known version of the Golem legend. I have studied the works of Israel Berger and Abraham Hayim Michelsohn, authors of early twentieth-century compilations of Hasidic stories which were among Martin Buber’s sources, in my Imagining Holiness: Classic Hasidic Tales in Modern Times (2009).


 Meir’s contribution to the study of Hasidic tales is well written and thoroughly researched; this English version incorporates additional research since the 2012 Hebrew edition (ix). At the same time, it is an easy read for an academic study, with only 143 pages of text (followed by 111 pages of notes and bibliography), dealing with an intriguing person. Jeffrey Amshalem’s English translation is clear and readable, and seems to avoid the common pitfall of confusing rabbinic, Yiddish/Ashkenazi, and Israeli meanings of Hebrew words. Only the copy editing needed more care; for example, the name of Martin Buber’s grandfather, a significant scholar and a friend of Rodkinson’s, appears as Solomon, Salomon, and Shlomo; an interesting observation on trends in Hasidic hagiography since the 1980s is endnoted to a source dated 1972 (87).


The book begins with Rodkinson’s enemies – so intemperate were their attacks on Rodkinson and so influential have they been on the sparse scholarship about him. Rodkinson moved in a milieu of Eastern European Jewish writers who spilled a great deal of ink attacking each other. His chief enemy, Ephraim Deinard, emerges from Meir’s summary as a very unattractive character, yet worthy of a biography of his own. Meir undermines aspects of Dan’s argument that rely on Deinard, whose polemics against Rodkinson were probably no more accurate than his attacks on other notable figures like Hillel Zeitlin or Eliezer ben Yehudah.


            Following this introduction, the first chapter is entitled “The Life and Works of Michael Levi Rodkinson.” Meir appears to have found and read every book, article, and periodical published by Rodkinson – a remarkable achievement in itself. This extensive research allows him to present a full picture of Rodkinson’s intense and eclectic working life as an author, publisher, and journal editor in Eastern and Western Europe, England, and the United States, in various genres, ideologies, and languages. His final great project was an abridgement of the Talmud and the publication of an English translation of the abridgement. The Rodkinson Talmud is still available in libraries, and on the internet, with no indication that it is anything but the entire Talmud (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/FullTalmud.pdf). But it never played the role that Rodkinson intended for it: to serve as the foundation of a revived rabbinic Judaism, distinct from both secularized liberalism and traditionalist Orthodoxy.


Chapter Two places Rodkinson’s three books of Hasidic tales, first printed in 1864, in the context of other such works published at the time. Some scholarship has referred to a “fifty-year silence” between the first printing of Shivhei haBesht, stories in praise of the Baal Shem Tov (and Shivhei haRan, in praise of Nahman of Breslov, generally ignored in these discussions) and the wave of Hasidic story compilations in the mid-1860s. Following Gedalyah Nigal and others, Meir points out that Hasidic stories were certainly being told orally, and included in books of sermons, during the “silent” decades. Thus there is really no “silence” to be accounted for, but there is a sudden flourishing of books of stories to be explained. Meir sees this as part of a more general flourishing of Hebrew and Yiddish literature among the Orthodox, the Hasidim, and the enemies of Hasidism, the Maskilim, all motivated in part by opposition to each other’s publications. He clearly and thoughtfully delineates the historical context.


I am particularly struck by Meir’s insight into the enduring influence of the Maskilim on scholarship about Hasidic tales. Both the exaggerated view of stories as Hasidic “holy scripture” and the counter-argument that “hagiography is a low literary form, a folk literature” can be traced to the Maskilim who obsessively denounced and satirized Hasidic tales (85).


The third and final chapter reviews Rodkinson’s relationship with Hasidism over the course of his career. There appears to be no reason to doubt that Rodkinson the author of Hasidic tales, a young man proud of his distinguished Habad lineage, was a sincere Hasid. Only later – contrary to Dan’s assessment – did he become a Maskil. For years, however, he was a Maskil interested in Hasidic stories and broadly sympathetic to Hasidism. Only late in his life did the occasional mentions of Hasidism in his writings become harshly derogatory; even then, he specifically exempted Habad, and especially the writings of his renowned grandfather Aharon of Starosselje, from any such criticism.


A brief epilogue partially endorses Dan’s view of Rodkinson as the founder of a romanticized depiction of Hasidism by modern non-Hasidic authors. Meir, however, relates this to Rodkinson’s Maskilic period, rather than to his 1864 books of Hasidic tales as in Dan’s argument. This would need more fleshing out to be convincing; Meir does not show any connection between Rodkinson’s Maskilic writings and “neo-Hasidic” authors.


            Overall, the English title of this book is less accurate than that of its Hebrew original, Shivhei Rodkinson: Michael Levi Rodkinson and Hasidism – an ironic fulfillment of a satiric “prophecy” by Rodkinson’s enemy Deinard (4). This is primarily a study of the literary relationship between Rodkinson and Hasidism, not a full “life and works.” Aspects of Rodkinson’s career unrelated to Hasidism are described in enough detail to arouse interest – he seems to have pioneered an ideal of non-partisan journalism that scarcely existed in his time (21) – but not explored at length.


Meir scarcely gives us personal details about Rodkinson’s life. We read in quick succession that he pleaded for help “to bury the wife of his youth” and that he had a “son born to him in his old age,” all without names (80). Deinard’s accusation that Rodkinson was a compulsive womanizer is not addressed. Most frustratingly, though perhaps for want of evidence, we get no indication of how Rodkinson felt about his embrace of Haskalah and abandonment of Hasidism – except for a glimpse of later-life nostalgia for “a ‘Hasidish drink’” with friends (79).


Thus this book leaves me wanting to know more about its subject – surely a success for Meir’s project of rescuing Michael Levi Frumkin/Rodkinson from opprobrium and obscurity. It also makes a significant contribution to the scholarly understanding of Hasidic hagiography, a genre that continues to charm and fascinate both Hasidic and “Maskilic” readers.


Justin Jaron Lewis


University of Manitoba

Ira Robinson: Avraham Novershtern, Kan gar ha’am hayehudi: sifrut yidish be’artsot habrit [Here Dwells the Jewish People: A Cent


Avraham Novershtern, Kan gar ha’am hayehudi: sifrut yidish be’artsot habrit [Here Dwells the Jewish People: A Century of American Yiddish Literature] Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2015. 747 pp.  ISBN: 978-965-493-822-8.


The phenomenon of secular Yiddish literature, beginning in the late nineteenth century, is an immensely important part of the story of Jewish cultural creativity in modern times.  By the early twenty-first century, this phenomenon is largely a memory.  For contemporary Jews, other than those who live in Hasidic enclaves which cultivate Yiddish as a means of communal solidarity, Yiddish constitutes a memory to be revisited and utilized in a post-vernacular context.   The thousands of men and women, poets, novelists, essayists, and critics, who together produced , for a brief century, a formidable body of artistic and literary creativity in Yiddish have disappeared from the consciousness of contemporary Jews save for those, like Isaac Bashevis Singer,  who have been translated into other languages and are known by their translations.  The relatively small community of several thousand academics and Yiddish cultural activists able to read and communicate in secular Yiddish and to access its treasures in the original language do not seem to constitute a sufficient critical mass that will markedly change this situation.


This is what makes Avraham Novershtern’s massive Hebrew volume an event of great cultural importance for all those for whom no aspect of Jewish cultural creativity should be alien.  From his position as Professor of Yiddish at the Hebrew University, Novershtern has spent decades carefully reading and researching Yiddish literature, and the present volume marks the masterful culmination of his efforts.  Novershtern’s book concentrates on the American center of Yiddish literature while always requiring the reader to understand that the true story of the achievement of American Yiddish literature can be appreciated only by comparing America with the two other great centers of Yiddish cultural creativity in the twentieth century–Poland and the Soviet Union.  In Poland, however, that creativity was cruelly cut off by the extermination of European Jewry during the Holocaust.  The promise of Yiddish cultural continuity in the Soviet Union as well was artificially cut off by Stalinist policies and purges. 


That left America as the one major center to enjoy unimpeded by external forces the rise of secular Yiddish culture (from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, culminating in the 1920s) and its subsequent decline (from mid-twentieth century on).  For that reason alone, America would have been important for the story of Yiddish literature.   Beyond that, however, Novershtern emphasizes that America was the place where Yiddish theater and journalism flourished earlier and more lastingly than anywhere else and that cultural influences between Europe and America travelled in both directions.


The length of Novershtern’s book is necessary for several reasons.  One of them is that he has a really complex story to tell and this story has only been partially told in previous literary criticism and scholarship in Yiddish, English, and Hebrew.  Secondly, he is writing in Hebrew for a Hebrew-reading audience.  Israel is the place where the struggle for the primacy of the Hebrew language as the everyday language of the Jewish people resulted in the “othering” of Yiddish.  For the Hebrew readers of Israel, heirs to this “othering,” Novershtern attempts to convey the immense cultural importance of American Jewry in general and of Yiddish creativity in America in particular through both historical reconstruction and artistic presentation.  Thus for every poet and novelist he analyzes, Novershtern offers not merely copious and extensive citations in the original Yiddish.  Each citation is offered in a Hebrew translation that is not merely accurate, but also displays great artistic merit.


The book begins with several general chapters that enable the reader to understand the major trends of the story in all its complexity.   Then readers are treated to studies of the works of a number of individual poets and novelists, with the bulk of the attention given to poets (both A. Leyeles and Yankev Glatstein merit two chapters apiece).  While obviously not every writer of merit received that sort of extended attention (the book was certainly not conceived as an encyclopedia) enough has been said by Novershtern to give the discerning reader a well-planned entrée into the world of the authors and critics and the issues they confronted.  The lengthy and detailed timeline included at the end of the book (699-720) is one of the book’s most valuable features, helping the reader see the forest as well as the individual trees. 


As has been said, Here Dwells the Jewish People is a work of Israeli scholarship in Hebrew meant to satisfy the needs of the Israeli academic community.  In its breadth and scope, there is no exact equivalent in English but it is my hope that it will be translated speedily for the benefit of an English-speaking reading public that will certainly greatly appreciate this important contribution to our knowledge of Jewish cultural creativity in North America.


Ira Robinson


Concordia University

Baruch Cohen: PURIM 2017—5777



In Loving Memory of Malka – z”l


The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods. It remains forever new because enemies of the Jews will not allow it to grow old. The Book of Esther breathes love for Judaism, even as it tells of, and foretells, the everlasting attacks, hostility, and enmity against the Jews in diasporic lands.


Wherever the Jews have lived there have arisen new Hamans to enslave and persecute them. Purim gave the Jews courage in the darkest hours, and the hope that they would see the downfall of their enemies. The story of Purim in the Book of Esther is one that expresses   the ties that united the Jews then, and today.


It is not strange that, since the festival of Purim is connected to a story about the indestructibility of the Jewish People, it will be celebrated forever by young and old. This book is one that unites all Jews, connecting ordinary people to those who attained the highest honors. Purim, a holiday that celebrates liberation, expresses something we Jews have not always had the opportunity to enjoy–the playful, light-hearted side of life.


In Purim, with its reading of the Book of Esther, its groggers decrying the mention of Haman’s name, and its costume-contests for the young, the Jew found a day, when we can revel and enjoy life together.

Purim Sameach to all CIJR’s readers and friends!


(Baruch Cohen, who celebrated his 97th birthday last October,

 is CIJR’s long-time Research Chairman


Purim 2017—5777: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 10, 2017— The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods.

Purim Guide for the Perplexed: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017— a. Purim’s historical background…

Is a Disbanded European Union Good for Israel?: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2017— After the Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario.

Why Dutch Sentiment Has Turned Against Immigrants: Leonid Bershidsky, Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2017— Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, Ijburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it.


On Topic Links


Purim Drink and Diplomacy: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2017

Anti-Semitism and Aliyah: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2017

The Future of the European Union?: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 2, 2017

The Prospect for Russia's Jews: Maxim D. Shrayer, Mosaic, Mar. 6, 2017


    PURIM 2017—5777

                                      Baruch Cohen

        CIJR, Mar. 10, 2017


In Loving Memory of Malka – z”l


The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods. It remains forever new because enemies of the Jews will not allow it to grow old. The Book of Esther breathes love for Judaism, even as it tells of, and foretells, the everlasting attacks, hostility, and enmity against the Jews in diasporic lands.


Wherever the Jews have lived there have arisen new Hamans to enslave and persecute them. Purim gave the Jews courage in the darkest hours, and the hope that they would see the downfall of their enemies. The story of Purim in the Book of Esther is one that expresses the ties that united the Jews then, and today.


It is not strange that, since the festival of Purim is connected to a story about the indestructibility of the Jewish People, it will be celebrated forever by young and old. This book is one that unites all Jews, connecting ordinary people to those who attained the highest honors. Purim, a holiday that celebrates liberation, expresses something we Jews have not always had the opportunity to enjoy–the playful, light-hearted side of life.


In Purim, with its reading of the Book of Esther, its groggers decrying the mention of Haman’s name, and its costume-contests for the young, the Jew found a day, when we can revel and enjoy life together. Purim Sameach to all CIJR’s readers and friends!


Baruch Cohen, who celebrated his 97th birthday last October, is CIJR’s long-time Research Chairman           




                                  PURIM GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED

         Yoram Ettinger

                                                                 Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017


Purim’s historical background: a. The 586 BCE destruction of the First Jewish Temple (on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), and the expulsion of Jews from Judea & Samaria, by the Babylonian Emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, triggered a wave of Jewish emigration to Babylon and Persia, which eventually replaced Babylon as the leading regional power.*In 538 BCE, Xerxes the Great, Persia’s King Ahasuerus, who succeeded Darius the Great, proclaimed his support for the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple and the resurrection of national Jewish life in the Land of Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish Homeland.


Ahasuerus established a coalition of countries, which launched the Greco-Persian Wars of 499-449 BCE, attempting to expand the Persian Empire westward. However, Persia was resoundingly defeated (e.g., the 490 BCE and 480 BCE battles of Marathon and Salamis), and Ahasuerus’ authority in Persia was gravely eroded. An attempted coup – by Bigtan and Teresh – against Ahasuerus was thwarted by Mordechai, a retired Jewish military commander, who relayed critical intelligence to Queen Esther, his cousin (or niece).  Just like Joseph, who adopted an Egyptian name (Zaphnat Paa’ne’ach), so did Mordechai adopt a Persian name (derived from Marduk, a Mesopotamian god). Both Joseph and Mordechai reasserted their roots in the face of a clear and present lethal threat to the Jewish people.


b. Purim is the holiday that foiled an ancient 9/11.  The numerical value (e.g., the letter “a” would be 1, “b”=2, etc.) of the Hebrew spelling of King (מלך=90) Ahasuerus (אחשורוש=821) – who ordered the annihilation of Jews – is 911…., just like the dates of Kristallnacht (9.11.1938) and the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem (9.11 – the ninth day of the eleventh Jewish month).


c. “Purimfest 1946” yelled Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek, October 28, 1946, page 46).  On October 16, 1946, ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg.  An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. According to a Jewish survivor, the late Eliezer Cotler, Julius Streicher’s library, in his ranch (which served as a camp for young Jewish survivors on their way to Israel), documented Streicher’s interest in Purim’s relevance to the fate of the enemies of the Jewish people. Streicher underlined, in red ink, each reference to the Amalekites and Haman…. (The origin of the Aryan race is claimed to be in Iran/Persia….). According to the Scroll of Esther, King Ahasuerus allowed the Jews to defend themselves and hang Haman and his ten sons.  According to the Talmud (Megillah tractate, 16a), Haman had an 11th child, a daughter, who committed suicide following her father’s demise.


d. Purim’s physical and spiritual clash of Civilizations between the values and worldviews of Mordechai and Haman, exemplifies an early edition of the clash among nations, communities and within each person: between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, just like Adam/Eve vs. the Snake, Abel VS. Cain, Abraham vs. Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob vs. Esau (grandfather of Amalek, the deadliest enemy of the Jewish people), the Maccabees vs. the Assyrians, the Allies vs. the Nazis, the West vs. the Communist Bloc and the Free World vs. Islamic rogue regimes and terrorist organizations. The numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of “blessed Mordechai” () and “cursed Haman” () is identical, 502, cautioning us that evil can be easily misperceived as benevolence.


e. Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th days of the Jewish month of Adar.  Adar (אדר) is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir ( glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent.  It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism). According to the Babylonian Talmud, Adar is featured as a month of happiness, singing and dancing. The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication. Hence, Adar is the only Jewish month, which doubles itself during the 7 leap years, in each 19 year cycle. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day in non-walled towns, and in Jerusalem on the 15th day of Adar, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People from the jaws of a holocaust in Persia.  It also commemorates the 161 BCE victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    


Yoram Ettinger is a Keynote Speaker at CIJR’s 29th Anniversary Gala: “Israel’s Contributions Biblical & Modern to Western Civilization,” March 26, 2017 (Montreal). For more information and registration click the following link—Ed.






                                         Manfred Gerstenfeld

                                            Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2017


After the Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario. To create a framework of thought it is worthwhile to start analyzing what that could mean for Israel, even though Israel will not play any role in the process if it develops.


Particularly in the new century, the EU has taken increasingly hostile and occasionally antisemitic positions toward Israel on several issues. This led the Simon Wiesenthal Center to put the EU in third place in its 2015 list of worldwide promoters of antisemitic and/or anti-Israel incidents. It gave as reason: “The European Union has chosen to label products from the Golan Heights and disputed territories on the West Bank alone, ignoring the products of other occupied and disputed territories in the world such as Western Sahara, Kashmir, Tibet and products from areas controlled by terrorist Hamas and Hezbollah. This use of double standards against Israel typifies modern anti-Israelism and has been at the core of antisemitism for many centuries.”


The above example of discrimination is only one of the many justified criticisms Israel has of the EU. This hostility originates on a continent where the greatest mass murder of the Jews to ever take place occurred less than a hundred years ago. The Holocaust was not a German and Austrian project alone. Many other European authorities and individuals collaborated. Some elements of its impact continue to exist today. Today there is a large amount of indirect support of Israel-hatred and antisemitism coming from Europe. The European Commission has done nothing to develop selection procedures concerning immigration from Muslim countries with high levels of antisemitism. There is a testimony from the Dutch former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein that when he raised the issue of Muslim immigration in a meeting of the EC around 2000, his colleagues considered him a racist. Nor has the EU, with all of its talk about the rise in antisemitism, tried to develop a unified reporting system for antisemitic incidents in its member countries.


One major argument which seemingly favored the existence of the EU from an Israeli viewpoint has been that some member countries could take stronger anti-Israel positions if they were not bound by common EU positions. In recent months, various actions taken by France have shown that this argument is weaker than often considered. Presidential elections are due there within several weeks. The presidency of Socialist François Hollande has been such a failure that for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, a sitting president is not running for a second term. He did the favor to two journalists, Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme, of giving them access to regular private conversations during his time in office. In their recently released book, they list “impotence” as the main characteristic of the Hollande presidency.


Recently, Israel became an even more convenient scapegoat for the French authorities. In January, France organized a useless international conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The organizers knew that a few days later US President Donald Trump, who holds radically different views from his predecessor, would be inaugurated. France subsequently could not even obtain the adoption of the conference’s statement in the EU Foreign Affairs Council, as it was blocked by Britain. It is not far-fetched to assume that the French Socialists hope to attract Muslim voters, of which there are many, with their anti-Israel positions.


When the new Swedish government, dominated by the Social Democrats, was installed in 2014, one of its earliest actions was to recognize the non-existent Palestinian state. It well knew that if there were free elections among Palestinians in the West Bank, the genocide-promoting Hamas would most likely obtain a majority. The Swedish government did not feel the need to act in coordination with its EU partners on this issue. The Irish foreign minister, Charles Flanagan, has stated that his government constantly considers recognizing a Palestinian state.


Against this background, the disappearance of the EU would mainly present advantages for Israel. If the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would be abolished, a source of ongoing multilateral incitement against Israel would end. The disappearance of the European Commission’s Legal Service would also be very positive for Israel. It is responsible for the one-sided opinion that the West Bank is occupied territory according to international law and that the settlements are illegal. Many leading international legal experts contest this position.


Whether the EU remains as it is, whether some countries leave it, or whether it is abandoned altogether, should not be of particular interest to Israel. If the EU disappears, the Common Market will most likely remain. So will collaboration in research and a few other fields of interest to Israel. There will also be a common interest in continuing to jointly fight terrorism, mainly that committed by Muslims. When countries will need to guard their own borders, this may make them more sensitive to Israel’s problems.


Finally, there is one great advantage to the disappearance of the EU. The Israeli population is substantially bigger than that of 14 of the 28 EU member states. Another six have populations on the same order of magnitude. Only eight have much larger populations. Israel’s force in bilateral relations will greatly increase if compared to the current confrontation with the EU behemoth with its more than 500 million inhabitants.





                                                       Leonid Bershidsky

                                                  Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2017


Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, Ijburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it. Ijburg is a curious place, an architectural wonder, built in the middle of a lake on reclaimed land and partly on water. She still keeps the blog alive, but curiosity has given way to frustration: It’s all about the unpleasantness of living next to Muslim immigrants.


“I used to vote Labor,” Lammers told me. “I was quite politically correct. But now I no longer am.” She is a determined supporter of Geert Wilders and his anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, PVV, the front-runner in the Netherlands’ March 15 election. She is also a character in a book by nationalist writer Joost Niemoeller, called “Angry,” published last month and already on the best-seller list. The anger fueling the Wilders campaign is real and tangible in the Netherlands, but — like the anger of Donald Trump’s voters in the U.S. — it’s rooted in the existence of parallel realities in a society where efforts at social and cultural integration have run into major obstacles.


Lammers’ reality is stark. The owner of a translation bureau, she’s a native Amsterdammer, forced out of the city center by steeply rising real estate prices. When she and her husband bought their house on the water in Ijburg, she says the real estate agent didn’t tell her the neighborhood would become the arena of what she calls a “social experiment” — an effort by the city government to put middle class homeowners and social housing renters in one innovative urban development. Initially, Ijburg had a village feel: People with similar backgrounds bought the houses so they could stay in Amsterdam, and soon they all knew each other. Then the immigrants started moving in, brought over from suburbs where their cheap housing was demolished; 30 percent of Ijburg housing turned out to be earmarked for the social renters.


“We have to share the gardens in some blocks, elevators in others,” Lammers says. “So people started experiencing bad things — cars scratched, elevators urinated in. There’s now a mosque on my street, a radical one.” (The mosque’s Facebook page, removed since locals complained to the authorities, contained references to a radical preacher and to Islamic Brotherhood, an organization some countries consider terrorist). Some of Lammers immigrant neighbors soon found out what she was writing on her blog, and Moroccan youths started yelling “cancer whore” at her on the street, she says. According to the Amsterdam city government, Ijburg has one of the highest youth crime rates of all the city neighborhoods. Immigrants living in Ijburg have one of the lowest scores in Amsterdam on the Dutch government’s integration scale.


Niemoeller, who presented the first copy of his book to Wilders, says the anger he described had to do with a sense of displacement. In Amsterdam, the middle class can no longer afford to live in the city center because of gentrification and the growing influx of tourists, but the cheaper neighborhoods where they have moved have been rapidly filling with families from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. “The atmosphere on the street changes, and people feel they no longer belong,” Niemoeller says. “But there’s no place else to go.” Lammers says she can’t afford to leave her house and still stay in Amsterdam, where her small business operates.


Wilders became an anti-immigrant politician in part because he witnessed a similar change in his neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s, he lived in Kanaleneiland, an Utrecht neighborhood that, in those two decades, was transformed from nearly all-white to international, then to Muslim-dominated. Wilders has said in speeches that he was mugged and had to run for safety more than once. A longtime admirer of the Israeli far right, he blamed the changes on the nature of Islam. To him and his supporters, mosques are “hate palaces” and North African muggers are “street terrorists.”


Though Wilders supporters say the immigrants run the streets, they themselves don’t feel that way. Murat, a car mechanic who moved to the Netherlands from Turkey 30 years ago, lives in the city of Almere, built from scratch since 1980 on a drained swamp east of Amsterdam. Almere is multiethnic, with about 30 percent immigrant population — and a city council in which Wilders’ PVV is the biggest party.


“If I tried to write a book about all the times when I was stopped in the street by the police for nothing, just because I have dark hair, or pulled over in my car for no violation, the book would be this thick,” says Murat, spreading his palms about a foot apart. “If I could save enough money, I’d move back to Turkey, but good luck with that here.” Murat says his Turkish name prevents him from getting better-paying jobs, and there are facts to support this: Last year, a Dutch think tank sent out identical resumes under different names and found that a native-born Dutch person’s probability of being invited for a job interview was almost twice as high as a Moroccan immigrant’s.


Then there’s a third perspective — that of the “leftist elite” Wilders is fond of denouncing. Rob Wijnberg, founder of the investigative journalism website De Correspondent, has written columns reaching out to Wilders voters in search of a common ground. When I ask him about the Muslims in his neighborhood — he says there are many — he shrugs. “They’re just my neighbors,” he says.


There’s a factual basis for this worldview, too. The Netherlands is an exceptionally safe country. It has one-third the rape rate and one-fifth the murder rate of the U.S. Amsterdam is a safe city by European standards, too. I wandered in Ijburg after dark and saw no Moroccan teenage gangs hanging out on street corners. The streets were clean and largely deserted. In Utrecht, I walked around Kanaleneiland. The kids frolicking on the Anne Frank School playground were dark-skinned, and the Turkish mosque next to the shopping center lacked a minaret. I felt safe and comfortable.


The problem is bringing all the conflicting — and somewhat justified — worldviews together. It’s especially different in the Netherlands with its history of a pillared society, in which people of different religions and backgrounds never mingled. Marriages between Catholics and Protestants were frowned upon, but the general attitude was live and let live — “liberalism as apathy,” as Wijnberg puts it. In part because of this traditional attitude, when the immigrants arrived as guest workers in the 1950s to rebuild the Netherlands after World War II and then jump-start its industries, they just formed a separate pillar. They were especially easy for the Dutch to put up with because the government promised to send them back when their work was done. It never happened, of course — but neither really did integration.


“The Netherlands is a segregated society,” Wijnberg says. “It’s not just black versus white, it’s also higher-educated versus lower-educated. Because there are no churches, no schools, even no pubs to which to go together, the only place where we can bump into each other is probably a soccer game.” As in the U.S., Wilders supporters and their left-wing opponents read different newspapers and watch different TV channels. The idea of integration is less about melding the two sides than forcing one to adopt the other.


Wilders supporters are telling immigrants to adopt the host country’s culture — which, in the Netherlands’ case, includes gay marriage, widely available abortion and euthanasia — or leave. The immigrants say little, but they have closed the corner pub and replaced the traditional butcher’s with a halal one. The leftists want the Wilders supporters to be less xenophobic and more accepting of other cultures — just like them. “We are intolerant of people who are intolerant of our tolerance,” as political historian Hubert Smeets put it.


This being the Netherlands, a trading nation that prides itself on its ability to find a consensus, this tug of war will eventually result in some kind of compromise. Though Wilders probably won’t govern after the March election since no big party wants to form a coalition with PVV, Niemoeller expects his strong showing to shift the national consensus. “We have these almost mystical changes,” he says. “Our elite changed to a ’60s liberal mentality in one summer. We went from rejection to acceptance of euthanasia in one summer — nobody could see why. So maybe we’ll end up agreeing that Islam is a big problem in the same way.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!




On Topic Links


Purim Drink and Diplomacy: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2017— Purim combines two of my passions: politics and wine. With the holiday ten days away, I offer a reflection on the dangers of “daylight” in diplomacy, and suggestions how to stock your fridge with great new Israeli wines.

Anti-Semitism and Aliyah: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2017—Political correctness still seems to impel us to continue chanting the mantra that we are prohibited from relating to anti-Semitism as a cause for settling in Israel and insisting that the only motivation for aliyah today is to enable a committed Jew to lead a truly Jewish life in his homeland.

The Future of the European Union?: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 2, 2017—The European Commission has published a document outlining five scenarios for how the European Union could evolve within the next ten years. The so-called White Paper on the Future of Europe, which will be presented at the Rome Summit on March 25, 2017 to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Union, is intended to be "the starting point for a wider public debate on the future of our continent."

The Prospect for Russia's Jews: Maxim D. Shrayer, Mosaic, Mar. 6, 2017—Why do you stay here?” “I have a son here,” he replied. And then he added: “God gave me as a Jew such a place in life—to live in Russia.” “What about the other Jews, why do they stay here?” “About the others I don’t know, but I imagine they too are needed here by nature and the Creator.”













Not All the News That’s Fit to Print: Richard L. Cravatts, Frontpage, Dec. 7, 2016— When Elmer Davis, director of FDR’s Office of War Information, observed that “. . . you cannot do much with people who are convinced that they are the sole authorized custodians of Truth and that whoever differs from them is ipso facto wrong” he may well have been speaking about editors of college newspapers…

Fixing ‘News That’s Fit to Print’: Jerold Auerbach, Algemeiner, Oct. 31, 2016 — Rami Nazzal is a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem who guides tours “freely and safely across borders,” providing “a window into the reality of Palestine.”

The Führer and the Fourth Estate: Sean Durns, Times of Israel, Nov. 23, 2016— There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth, and to shame the devil,” U.S. commentator Walter Lippman once said.

The End Game: Machla Abramovitz, Michpacha, Dec. 2017— They believe in the coming of a messianic epoch, one in which humanity will unite and peace and justice will reign.


On Topic Links


One Thing Voters Agree On: Better Campaign Coverage Was Needed: Liz Spayd, New York Times, Nov. 19, 2016

Author of New York Times Magazine Jerusalem Article Signed Pro-Boycott Petition: Ira Stoll, Algemeiner, Dec. 6, 2016 Maclean’s Photo Essay Is Pure Palestinian Propaganda : Honest Reporting, Nov. 7, 2016

Western Media Confused After Discovering Israel Not Involved in Most Middle East Conflicts: Rube Silverhill, Mideast Beast, Dec., 2016



Richard L. Cravatts                                                      

Frontpage, Dec. 7, 2016


When Elmer Davis, director of FDR’s Office of War Information, observed that “. . . you cannot do much with people who are convinced that they are the sole authorized custodians of Truth and that whoever differs from them is ipso facto wrong” he may well have been speaking about editors of college newspapers who have purposely violated the central purpose of journalism and have allowed one ideology, not facts and alternate opinions, to hijack the editorial composition of their publications and purge their respective newspapers of any content—news or opinion—that contradicts a pro-Palestinian narrative and would provide a defense of Israel.


The latest example is a controversy involving The McGill Daily and its recent astonishing admission that it is the paper’s policy to not publish “pieces which promote a Zionist worldview, or any other ideology which we consider oppressive.” “While we recognize that, for some, Zionism represents an important freedom project,” the editors wrote in a defense of their odious policy, “we also recognize that it functions as a settler-colonial ideology that perpetuates the displacement and the oppression of the Palestinian people.”


A McGill student, Molly Harris, had filed a complaint with the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) equity committee. In that complaint, Harris contended that, based on the paper’s obvious anti-Israel bias, and “a set of virulently anti-Semitic tweets from a McGill Daily writer,” a “culture of anti-Semitism” defined the Daily—a belief seemingly confirmed by the fact that several of the paper’s editors themselves are BDS supporters and none of the staffers are Jewish. Of course, in addition to the existence of a fundamental anti-Semitism permeating the editorial environment of The Daily, there is also the core issue of what responsibility a newspaper has to not insert personal biases and ideology into its stories, and to provide space for alternate views on many issues—including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—in the opinion sections of the paper


At Connecticut College, Professor Andrew Pessin also found himself vilified on campus, not only by a cadre of ethnic hustlers and activists, but by fellow faculty and an administration that were slow to defend Pessin’s right to express himself—even when, as in this case, his ideas were certainly within the realm of reasonable conversation about a difficult topic: the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Central to the campaign of libels waged against Pessin was the part played by the College’s student newspaper, The College Voice.


In August of 2014, during Israel’s incursions into Gaza to suppress deadly rocket fire aimed at Jewish citizens, Pessin, a teacher of religion and philosophy, wrote on his Facebook page a description of how he perceived Hamas, the ruling political entity in Gaza: “One image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.” That image of a pit bull did not sit well with at least one Connecticut College student, Lamiya Khandaker, a pro-Palestinian activist, who complained publicly about Pessin’s old Facebook post; he thereupon deleted the offending Facebook entry, and even proffered an apology, but Pessin’s apology was insufficient for the ever-suffering moral narcissists on his campus.


In fact, editors of The College Voice insisted that Pessin’s thoughts were “dehumanizing” to Palestinians and had “caused widespread alarm in the campus community.” The paper’s editor, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, initiated a campaign of lies against Dr. Pessin, contending that his post “caused widespread alarm in the campus community,” that the college community could and should “identify racism when we see it,” and that the very students viciously attacking Pessin for his thoughts were themselves “victims of racism.” In March 2015, the College Voice even ran three op-eds, beginning on the paper’s front page, that condemned Pessin and accused him of racism and comparing Palestinians to rabid dogs.


The Wesleyan University community also underwent collective apoplexy over a 2015 opinion submission in the school’s student newspaper, The Argus, which critically examined the Black Lives Matter movement. The thoughtful, relatively-benign op-ed, written by sophomore Bryan Stascavage, a 30-year-old Iraq veteran and self-described “moderate conservative,” questioned if the behavior of some BLM supporters “cheering after [a police] officer is killed, chanting that they want more pigs to fry like bacon” showed a moral and ideological flaw in the movement, leading him to wonder, “is the movement itself actually achieving anything positive? Does it have the potential for positive change?”


That opinion was apparently more than many of the sensitive fellow Wesleyan students could bear, and the newspaper’s staff was inundated with denunciations of the implicit racism of the offending op-ed and the “white privilege” demonstrated by its author, demands that apologies be issued by the paper’s editors, the widespread theft of The Argus around campus, and calls for sensitivity/social justice training for staffers. College students have now taken a new, misguided approach in their attempt to suppress speech whose content they do not approve of, as they seem to have done at Wesleyan. On college campuses, to paraphrase George Orwell, all views are equal, but some are more equal than others…                         

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



FIXING ‘NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT’                                                                                              

Jerold Auerbach                                                                                                 

Algemeiner, Oct. 31, 2016


Rami Nazzal is a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem who guides tours “freely and safely across borders,” providing “a window into the reality of Palestine.” He identifies himself as “a fixer for journalists, writers, photographers, film producers.” Surely his most prominent “fixee” is The New York Times.


By now a bevy of Times reporters have been the beneficiaries of his tours. He led former Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren to a group of Palestinian musicians, who created an “intifada soundtrack” that featured such hits as “Stab the Zionist and say God is great” and “Say hello to being a martyr.” He guided science reporter James Glanz to “the violent east Jerusalem slum” of Issawiya, filled with the “acrid stench of burning trash.” There, to the reporter’s surprise, Palestinian residents were raising “exquisitely groomed Arabian horses,” an affection that “helps them to endure life under Israeli occupation.”


Nazzal’s journalistic tour de force came in May, when he led Glanz to the sparkling new Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, north of Ramallah. In nearly 1,000 words, they described the Palestinian struggle “to build political and civic institutions while resisting Israel’s occupation;” recounted the story of the (ousted) director who planned to feature “artistic interpretations of things like keys and photographs that Palestinians around the world have kept from the homes they fled or were forced from in what is now Israel;” and anticipated the imminent “high-profile opening ceremony a few days after the 68th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe” of Israel’s founding. Gazing at the sparkling new building, “rising above a terraced garden with carefully selected trees,” a museum sponsor exulted: “It’s as if the building is coming out of the womb, the Palestinian Mother Nature.”


The museum, Glanz and Nazzal enthused, would “have almost everything: a stunning, contemporary new building; space to celebrate and redefine Palestinian art, history and culture; an outdoor amphitheater; a terraced garden.” There was, however, a conspicuous omission: “One thing the museum will not have,” they wrote, “is exhibitions.” But, the museum’s chairman explained, Palestinians were “so in need of positive energy” that it seemed “worthwhile to open even an empty building.” Glanz and Nazzal did not contemplate what an empty museum might reveal about the content of Palestinian history and culture.


Inevitably, Peter Baker, the new Times Jerusalem bureau chief, was also taken for a ride by Nazzal. In Tulkarm, on the western edge of the West Bank, they met with Shifa al-Qudsi, “a Palestinian hairdresser driven to anger, despair and hopelessness” by the Israeli occupation. Seeking “revenge” for “her beleaguered people,” she had intended to pretend to be pregnant, wearing a suicide belt beneath her maternity dress, with full awareness that it would “rip her from limb to limb” (and leave her daughter an orphan). But, “with luck,” it would also kill many Israelis. Her own luck expired with her pre-attack arrest. Convicted of “conspiracy to commit premeditated killing and possession of explosives,” she spent six years in an Israeli prison.


There, Baker and Nazzal recounted in a front-page story (October 29), she “transformed herself from a would-be deliverer of death into a messenger of peace.” Offering “a window into the world of terrorism” that has recently inspired young Palestinians to launch the “stabbing intifada,” she explained “the kind of thinking that makes sacrificing oneself seem like a rational response to deep feelings of grievance.” After all, Israelis “occupy your home, your land, they kill your relatives and your people.” The only option is “to seek revenge.” The beguiled Times reporters did not care to provide a statistical update on the stabbing intifada: 3,635 Palestinian attacks (2,188 against civilians); 26 Israelis killed and 511 wounded. The reformed Ms. Qudsi is now a member of Combatants for Peace. It joins peace-seeking Palestinians and Israelis – former fighters and soldiers — in a new “jihad”: “The world must know the Palestinians’ land is occupied.” Now that yet another Times reporter has partnered with self-described “fixer” Rami Nazzal, her message is news fit to print.    



THE FÜHRER AND THE FOURTH ESTATE                           

Sean Durns                                                                    

Times of Israel, Nov. 23, 2016


There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth, and to shame the devil,” U.S. commentator Walter Lippman once said. How then, did the U.S. media cover a man responsible for some of the most evil and heinous acts in recorded history: Adolf Hitler? Press coverage of the German dictator defies a simple and neat summary, as the U.S. media was not, and has never been, a monolithic entity and coverage of Hitler naturally changed over time. Nonetheless, some patterns can be discerned from a cursory glance at the early years of Nazi rule.


Upon Hitler’s ascension to power in 1933, some U.S. news outlets did not see a devil, but rather, much needed stability being brought to a country that had been in economic and social upheaval since before the Great War. Hitler and the Nazis were providing a “dark land a clear light of hope,” according to a 1933 dispatch by the Christian Science Monitor that was cited by the American historian Dr. Rafael Medoff (“The American Papers That Praised Hitler,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 20, 2015). CSM praised, at its outset, Nazi rule for bringing order; quite literally for making the trains arrive “punctually.”


The U.S. press baron William Randolph Hearst was quoted by Putzi Hanfstaegnl, an early Hitler backer, about his purported views on the Nazi rise to power. According to the Aug. 23, 1934 issue of The New York Times, Hearst said that Hitler’s “Germany is battling for her liberation from the mischievous provisions of the Treaty of Versailles…This battle, in fact, can only be viewed as a struggle which all liberty-loving people are bound to follow with understanding and sympathy.” Although Hearst’s publications initially published articles by Hitler and his fellow fascist Benito Mussolini, the businessman, and the empire at his disposal, would eventually become a critic of Nazi rule and an advocate for their Jewish victims.


Other U.S. newspapers, despite evidence to the contrary, including the virulent antisemitism easily discerned in Hitler’s writings and speeches, nonetheless sought to look for moderation in the new Nazi regime. As Medoff has pointed out, the Berlin bureau chief for The New York Times, Frederick Birchall, claimed that there was a “new moderation” in the political atmosphere after Hitler took power. Similarly, The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin stated in a Jan. 30, 1933 report that “there have been indications of moderation” by Hitler.


Elsewhere, some journalists displayed a tendency to underestimate the objectives of the new authoritarian regime. The Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist, Hubert Knickerbocker, was one of the more perceptive members of the press to cover Nazi Germany. As detailed in Andrew Nagorski’s 2012 book Hiterland, Knickerbocker—in contrast to many of his colleagues—was one of the first to record rising anti-Semitism and to note it’s centrality to Nazi ideology. Yet, when it came to Nazi war aims, in 1933 Knickerbocker believed that, “The odds are too great against Germany for anyone but a mad German to consider making war now against France and her allies. Contrary to a considerable body of opinion abroad, it may be positively asserted that there are no madmen running Germany today.”


But as Ian Kershaw noted in his two-volume biography of the German dictator, Hitler’s rhetoric and Nazi ideology itself had begun to emphasize the need for Lebensraum (living space) from the late 1920s onwards. Some outlets had been misreading Hitler long before he came to power. For example, The New York Times, in a Nov. 21, 1922 article claimed, “Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded.” “He was,” they assured readers, “merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.” What The Times missed of course, was that anti-Semitism was central to the Nazi movement’s “political purposes.”


Long after Hitler became the Führer—after he enacted the Nuremberg Laws, dispossessed Jews and opened concentration camps—The New York Times would, in at least one article, proceed from the minimization of his ideology to outright hagiography. As my CAMERA colleague Gilead Ini pointed out, a 1939 New York Times Magazine article entitled “Herr Hitler At Home In The Clouds,” failed to critically detail Hitler’s policies, opting instead to record that the dictator “makes no secret of being fond of chocolate,” that he “likes an after-breakfast stroll on his mountain” and, perhaps most absurdly, that “Hitler can be a good listener.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Machla Abramovitz


Michpacha, Dec. 2017


They believe in the coming of a messianic epoch, one in which humanity will unite and peace and justice will reign. Their enemies are conservatives and traditionalists, or those who fail to comprehend the arc of history and humanity’s final destiny. No, they’re not an apocalyptic cult hatching a plot in a South American jungle hideout, but modern progressives who subscribe to the idea of “millennialism.”


Richard Landes, a former professor of Medieval Studies at Boston University, and currently the senior fellow with the Center of International Communication at Bar Ilan University, is one of their leading critics. For decades, Landes has been studying the phenomenon of millennialism, or the belief that a messianic era of justice, peace, and abundance is coming soon, often preceded by a massive disruptive event. Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump and the protests that have exploded nationwide, the world is witness to the expression of millennialism.


“Those who are protesting his election are not only criticizing Trump, but his supporters, who they dismiss as undereducated ‘deplorables’ who love their guns and their religion,” says Landes, who came to observant Judaism as an adult. “[To their way of thinking, Trump supporters] are mere offshoots of the Middle Ages, whereas Hillary Clinton supporters have advanced beyond that.” Were it only an academic meme, this kind of millennialism wouldn’t much concern the Jewish community. But in the 21st century, messianic progressives have joined their fellow millennial dreamers, the Muslim jihadis, and embraced a common apocalyptic narrative with an ultimate enemy – Israel.


“BDS is essentially a cognitive war (cogwar) campaign of Caliphaters — active, cataclysmic (apocalyptic) millennialists who believe that Islam will dominate the world under one global caliphate — that have teamed up with the global progressive left, who have been duped into thinking that Israel is the cause of the world’s woes,” said Landes, who recently delivered the keynote address at the Montreal-based Canadian Institute of Jewish Research’s (CIJR) conference on “BDS and the Campus Delegitimization of Israel.”


“That’s the folly of the progressives: to side with the most regressive messianic movement on the planet against the most progressive country in the world. Morally speaking, it’s just breathtaking.” Landes is perhaps best known as the man who helped expose the al-Durah hoax and coined the term “Pallywood” (Palestinian Hollywood). At the start of the second intifada, a young Palestinian named Mohammed al-Durah was allegedly shot to death by the Israeli army and died in his father’s arms. His death throes were captured by France 2 TV and became an iconic image of Palestinian victimhood. “This image represented the moment when Islamic apocalyptic discourse about the genocidal Israelis who intentionally kill Palestinian children, was mainstreamed in the Western media,” says Landes, who also serves as the chairman of the council of scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. “This sentiment was all the more horrendous given that Mohammad’s death was a fake. When I looked into it, I was amazed by the widespread use of footage staged by Palestinians, run as news by Western journalists.”


The son of Professor David Landes, a renowned Harvard economic historian, Landes’ personal journey marked a departure not only from the secular intellectualism of his youth toward observant Judaism (he was inspired by Rabbi Joseph Leibowitz in the 1980s, while living in Berkeley, California), but later departed from former friends and colleagues within academia. This mindset, Landes acknowledges, continues to affect his relationships with friends and colleagues. “Since 2000, there has been a steady decline in the number of academics I talk with, work with, and exchange ideas with.” Of late, Landes has focused on educating university-aged students on the cognitive war that is currently being waged on today’s campuses – a war for which he feels they are woefully unprepared.


The concept of millennialism — the belief in a coming Utopia — features greatly in your work. Heaven on Earth, deals comprehensively with this subject. Please explain what this is and why it is such an important subject for today’s university students to understand and appreciate?


Millennialism is the idea that there will come a time when things will get better; therefore, we have to put factors in motion that will transform over generations. Its concepts, for the good and the bad, permeate our culture in multiple ways, which needn’t be religious. Western progressivism is based on a millennialist idea. When not revolutionary, it tends toward transformational millennialism, that is a gradual, nonviolent change that occurs because people’s awareness changes. Modern progressives start from what Pirkei Avos tells us: the toil is long and it’s not up to us to relinquish it, or finish it. For them, this is the time to finish it.


“What we witness today is a marriage between pre-modern sadism (the jihadists who hate the infidels) and post-modern masochism (the ones who klap al cheit),” says Professor Landes. “Trump had disappointed their millennial expectations” This millennialism activated by a sense of apocalyptic imminence can get darker. Fueled by a sense that the world is unbearably evil and corrupt, they believe that now is the time for evil to vanish from the earth. For many apocalyptic millennialists, the process will be cataclysmic: vast destruction of evil precedes the victory of good. In passive scenarios, like Christian Rapture, G-d is the major agent of this destruction: in active ones, like global Jihad, the believer is the major agent, G-d’s weapon of destruction.


ISIS is a Sunni Muslim millennialist cult. They believe in the establishment of a global caliphate and are willing to kill and be killed to establish it. Some Shiites also share this desire to bring on this messianic age. Iranian President Ayatollah Khamenei actually believes he is paving the way for the “hidden Imam” to emerge. And when that doesn’t happen on its own, apocalyptic zealots are not averse to suicidal action that will force the hand of G-d, in this case the Mahdi to come to their rescue. So when Secretary of State John Kerry states that the Iranian leaders are rational and would never do anything to bring on their own destruction (like nuke Israel) he doesn’t understand their motivating ideology…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


Machla Abramovitz & Richard Landes are CIJR Academic Fellows

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!




On Topic Links


One Thing Voters Agree On: Better Campaign Coverage Was Needed: Liz Spayd, New York Times, Nov. 19, 2016—There is a group of 10 friends in Charlotte, N.C., all women, all in their 50s, all white. They’re college educated with successful careers, and they have a message for The New York Times: Come visit us. They voted for Donald Trump and don’t consider themselves homophobic, racist or anti-Muslim. But now, they say, thanks to The Times and its fixation on Trump’s most extreme supporters, most people think they are. They would like a chance to show otherwise, and one of them, Cindy Capwell, wrote my office to extend the invitation.

Author of New York Times Magazine Jerusalem Article Signed Pro-Boycott Petition: Ira Stoll, Algemeiner, Dec. 6, 2016 —Concern and questions are mounting as additional details emerge about an article in Sunday’s New York Times magazine highlighting what the article described as squalid conditions in a Jerusalem refugee camp.

Maclean’s Photo Essay Is Pure Palestinian Propaganda : Honest Reporting, Nov. 7, 2016—Re: Maclean’s Magazine: David Sherman, Toronto: Your photo essay shows destruction, but fails to explain why there was “Israeli shelling” and “the Israeli-Gaza conflict that destroyed much of Beit Lahiya,” leaving the uninformed reader to draw conclusions that Israel attacked Gaza for no reason, leaving misery in its wake. The photo essay should have provided some context, and should have described Israel‘s actions as a defensive war against thousands of rockets and dozens of tunnels aimed at Israeli civilians. Describing and showing the destruction without context merely reinforces the false narrative sold to the public that Israel is at fault.

Western Media Confused After Discovering Israel Not Involved in Most Middle East Conflicts: Rube Silverhill, Mideast Beast, Dec., 2016— Due to escalating tensions in Middle Eastern countries, arriving Western journalists were shocked to discover that the Middle East has a ton of conflicts, and very few are even remotely related to Israel. “I always write about the ‘Middle Eastern’ conflict being Israelis vs. Palestinians, but it turns out, the Middle East is a huge, complex, messed up region,” a BBC journalist exclaimed. “Who knew?”




Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Dec. 1, 2016: The mix of politics and culture is far too complex to be predictable.

Jews Can be Anti-Semites Too!: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 28, 2016 — In a worldwide anti-Semitism competition for Jews, Gilad Atzmon would probably represent Great Britain.

In Honor of Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands: Letter from a Forgotten Jew: David Harris, Huffington Post, Nov. 29, 2016— I am a forgotten Jew.

50 Years Ago, ‘Mud Angels’ Came to Flooded Florence to Save Centuries of Jewish History: Rossella Tercatin, Times of Israel, Nov. 30, 2016 — On the morning of Friday, November 4, 1966, 18-year-old Andrea Belgrado was fast asleep in his family’s home across the street from the Great Synagogue of Florence.



On Topic Links


A View from Iraq & Syria (Prof. Frederick Krantz & Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari Discuss the Issues Facing Middle East Christians): The Hagmann Report, Dec. 1, 2016

Obama Administration Turns Palestinian-American Terrorist Into Victim: Stephen Flatlow, Algemeiner, Dec. 1, 2016

Ryerson Students Stage Walkout Over Holocaust Education Motion : Jodie Shupac, CJN, Dec. 1, 2016

The Mutating Virus: Understanding Antisemitism: Rabbi Sacks, rabbisacks.org, Sept. 27, 2016




Victor Davis Hanson

                   National Review, Dec. 1, 2016


The mix of politics and culture is far too complex to be predictable. Even the best-laid political plans can lead to unintended consequences, both good and bad — what we sometimes call irony, nemesis, or karma. Take the election of 2008, which ushered Barack Obama and the Democrats into absolute control of the presidency, House, and Senate, also generating popular goodwill over Obama’s landmark candidacy.


Instead of ensuring a heralded generation of Democratic rule, Obama alienated both friends and foes almost immediately. He rammed through the unworkable Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. He prevaricated about Obamacare’s costs and savings. Huge budget deficits followed. Racial polarization ensued. Apologies abroad on behalf of America proved a national turnoff.


By the final pushback of 2016, the Obama administration had proven to be a rare gift to the Republican party. The GOP now controls the presidency, Congress, governorships, and state legislatures to a degree not seen since the 1920s. “Hope and change” ebullition in 2008 brought the Republicans salvation — and the Democrats countless disasters. The Republican establishment hated Donald Trump. So did the conservative media. His unorthodox positions on trade, immigration, and entitlements alienated many. His vulgarity turned off even more. Pundits warned that he had brought civil war and ruin to the Republican party.


But instead of ruin, Trump delivered to the Republicans their most astounding political edge in nearly a century. The candidate who was most despised by the party unified it in a way no other nominee could have. Obama proved Israel’s best friend — even though that was never his intention. By simultaneously alienating Israel and the Sunni moderates in Jordan and Egypt, and by warming up to the Muslim Brotherhood, appeasing Iran, and issuing empty red lines to the Assad regime in Syria, Obama infuriated but also united the entire so-called moderate Middle East.


The result was that Arab nations suddenly no longer saw Israel as an existential threat. Instead, it was seen as similarly shunned by the U.S. — and as the only military power capable of standing up to the soon-to-be-nuclear theocracy in Iran that hates Sunni Arabs and Israelis alike. Today, Israel is in the historic position of being courted by its former enemies, as foreign fuel importers line up to buy its huge, newly discovered deposits of natural gas. As the Arab Spring and the Islamic State destroyed neighboring nations, Israel’s democracy and free market appeared as an even stronger beacon in the storm. Almost every major initiative that Obama pushed has largely failed. Obamacare is a mess. He nearly doubled the national debt in eight years. Economic growth is at its slowest in decades. The reset with Russia, the Asian pivot, abruptly leaving Iraq, discounting the Islamic State, red lines in Syria, the Iran deal — all proved foreign-policy disasters.


Yet Obama has been quiet about one of the greatest economic revolutions in American history, one that has kept the U.S. economy afloat: a radical transformation from crippling energy dependency to veritable fossil-fuel independence. The United States has become the world’s greatest combined producer of coal, natural gas, and oil. It is poised to be an energy exporter to much of the world. The revolution in fracking and horizontal drilling has brought in much-needed federal revenue, increased jobs, weakened Russia and our OPEC rivals, and given trillions of dollars in fuel savings to American consumers. Yet Obama opposed the energy revolution at every step. He radically curtailed the leasing of federal lands for new drilling, stopped the Keystone XL pipeline, and subsidized inefficient and often crony-capitalist wind and solar projects. Nonetheless, Obama’s eventual failure to stop new drilling ended up his one success.


Hillary Clinton, in her presidential bid, did everything by the playbook — and therefore her campaign went catastrophically wrong. Her campaign raised more than $1 billion. She ran far more ads than did Trump. She won over the sycophantic press. She got all the celebrity endorsements. She united the Democratic party. Logically, Clinton should have won. The media worked hand in glove with her campaign. Her ground game and voter registration drives made Trump’s look pathetic. More Trump Administration ‘Clever Fox’ Mattis Keith Ellison’s Bad Week General Mattis Is a Great Man — and a Good One Yet all that money, press, and orthodoxy only confirmed suspicions that Clinton was a slick but wooden candidate. She became so scripted that even her Twitter feed was composed by a committee.


The more she followed her boring narrative, the more she made the amateur Trump seem authentic and energized in comparison. Doing everything right ended up for Hillary as doing everything wrong — and ensured the greatest upset in American political history. The ancient Greeks taught us that arrogance brings payback, that nothing is sure in a fickle universe, that none of us can be judged successful and happy until we die, and that moderation and humility alone protect us from own darker sides. In 2016, what could never have happened usually did.                  



Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

Arutz Sheva, Nov. 28, 2016


In a worldwide anti-Semitism competition for Jews, Gilad Atzmon would probably represent Great Britain. The slurs published by this musician, an Israeli who says he has torn up his passport, are so major that even the Palestinian Electronic Intifada site has dissociated itself from his anti-Semitism. The analysis of his statements can thus serve as a paradigm for similar assessments of fallacious smears by Jewish anti-Semites.


The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism is an appropriate tool to analyze the publications of this serial defamer of Israel and the Jews. The definition needed the agreement of its 31 member countries — among them Great Britain. The IHRA definition says that it is anti-Semitic to accuse “the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.” The definition includes that it is anti-Semitic to “draw comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” Atzmon derides the Holocaust and its survivors in an article titled “After all, I am a proper Zionist Jew…I am a Holocaust Survivor,” where he writes, “Yes, I am a survivor, for I have managed to survive all of the scary accounts of the Holocaust.” He adds: “I am also totally against Holocaust denial. I clearly resent those who deny the genocides taking place in the name of the Holocaust. Palestine is one example…”


Atzmon often also sets his sights on so-called Jewish “progressives.” These include the Jewish anti-Zionist left. He attacks, for instance, the American Max Blumenthal, who has repeatedly made comparisons between Israel and Nazis.  In an article titled “Goyim Must Obey,” Atzmon accuses the Jewish anti-Zionists of telling “Goyim and even Palestinians what they may or may not do and who they may or may not listen to” just like the world-controlling chosen people in the first place.  He adds “maybe telling Goyim of all ages and ranks what they "must" do is just part of being chosen – (I’m not chosen anymore so I can’t say)” he adds. This ensures that no one can mistake Atzmon’s anti-Semitism for “legitimate criticism of Israel under the assertion that “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.”


Atzmon’s views are classic anti-Semitism in line with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, whose veracity he defends. Atzmon even attacks Jews who completely disavow Judaism and Zionism. One is Shlomo Sand – an Israeli historian and self-described ex-Jew who wrote The Invention of the Jewish People. Another is Avigail Abarbanel – a former Israeli who is now a pro-Palestinian activist and writer for the anti-Israel site Mondoweiss, and a psychotherapist in Australia. According to Atzmon they are still infected with “kosher binary thinking” and continued attachment to Jewish tribalism, as well as an obsession with the Holocaust.


He also claims that Abarbanel refuses to be introspective enough to “look in the mirror and identify what is it about them (Jews) that evokes so much animosity in so many different times and in so many different places…something Bernard Lazare, an early Zionist did…” Lazare, who died more than hundred years ago, made many self-hating comments in his analysis of anti-Semitism.  The IHRA definition says that “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions, is an example of anti-Semitism.”


Some of Atzmon’s remarks fall in this category of the IHRA definition when he asks: “Why are the Jews, a people who are obsessed with their own past, so afraid of other people, say ‘White’ people, being nostalgic for their own past?” He answers his own question with “The progressive Jew grasps that the working class are nostalgic for a pre-Jerusalem Dominated society; a time when American politics weren’t controlled by the likes of Saban, Soros, Goldman Sachs and other global capitalists who are isolated from production, manufacturing and farming.” Jewish conspiracy and Jewish power are a staple of Atzmon’s mendacious smears. He writes: “Jewish power is the power to silence criticism of Jewish power… and explicates further, “For people who live in the USA, Britain and France, Jewish Power is the medium through which our politics is taking place.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





LETTER FROM A FORGOTTEN JEW                                                                    

David Harris                                                                           

Huffington Post, Nov. 29, 2016


I am a forgotten Jew. My roots are nearly 2,600 years old, my ancestors made landmark contributions to world civilization, and my presence was felt from North Africa to the Fertile Crescent — but I barely exist today. You see, I am a Jew from the Arab world. No, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve fallen into a semantic trap. I predated the Arab conquest in just about every country in which I lived. When Arab invaders conquered North Africa, for example, I had already been present there for more than six centuries.


Today, you cannot find a trace of me in most of this vast region. Try seeking me out in Iraq. Remember the Babylonian exile from ancient Judea, following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE? Remember the vibrant Jewish community that emerged there and produced the Babylonian Talmud? Do you know that in the ninth century, under Muslim rule, we Jews in Iraq were forced to wear a distinctive yellow patch on our clothing — a precursor of the infamous Nazi yellow badge — and faced other discriminatory measures? Or that in the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, we faced onerous taxes, the destruction of several synagogues, and severe repression?


And I wonder if you have ever heard of the Farhud, the breakdown of law and order, in Baghdad in June 1941. As an AJC specialist, George Gruen, reported: “In a spasm of uncontrolled violence, between 170 and 180 Jews were killed, more than 900 were wounded, and 14,500 Jews sustained material losses through the looting or destruction of their stores and homes. Although the government eventually restored order… Jews were squeezed out of government employment, limited in schools, and subjected to imprisonment, heavy fines, or sequestration of their property on the flimsiest of charges of being connected to either or both of the two banned movements. Indeed, Communism and Zionism were frequently equated in the statutes. In Iraq the mere receipt of a letter from a Jew in Palestine [pre-1948] was sufficient to bring about arrest and loss of property.”


At our peak, we were 135,000 Jews in 1948, and we were a vitally important factor in virtually every aspect of Iraqi society. To illustrate our role, here is what the Encyclopedia Judaica wrote about Iraqi Jewry: “During the 20th century, Jewish intellectuals, authors, and poets made an important contribution to the Arabic language and literature by writing books and numerous essays.” By 1950 other Iraqi Jews and I were faced with the revocation of citizenship, seizure of assets, and, most ominously, public hangings. A year earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Sa’id had told the British ambassador in Amman of a plan to expel the entire Jewish community and place us at Jordan’s doorstep. The ambassador later recounted the episode in a memoir entitled From the Wings: Amman Memoirs, 1947-1951.


Miraculously, in 1951 about 100,000 of us got out, thanks to the extraordinary help of Israel, but with little more than the clothes on our backs. The Israelis dubbed the rescue Operation Ezra and Nehemiah. Those of us who stayed lived in perpetual fear — fear of violence and more public hangings, as occurred on January 27, 1969, when nine Jews were hanged in the center of Baghdad on trumped-up charges, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis wildly cheered the executions. The rest of us got out one way or another, including friends of mine who found safety in Iran when it was ruled by the Shah.


Now there are no Jews left to speak of, nor are there monuments, museums, or other reminders of our presence on Iraqi soil for twenty-six centuries. Do the textbooks used in Iraqi schools today refer to our one-time presence, to our positive contribution to the evolution of Iraqi society and culture? Not a chance. 2,600 years are erased, wiped out, as if they never happened. Can you put yourself in my shoes and feel the excruciating pain of loss and invisibility?…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





FLORENCE TO SAVE CENTURIES OF JEWISH HISTORY                                                  

Rossella Tercatin                                                                                                                        

Times of Israel, Nov. 30, 2016


On the morning of Friday, November 4, 1966, 18-year-old Andrea Belgrado was fast asleep in his family’s home across the street from the Great Synagogue of Florence. It was the Italian national holiday marking the World War I armistice, and like most teenagers, Belgrado was taking advantage of the occasion to sleep in.


But his dreams came to an abrupt end when his father — Fernando Belgrado, the chief rabbi of Florence — woke him up and rushed him to the synagogue. Rumors were flying that the Arno River had flooded its banks and its waters had started to cover the city. “In the beginning, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but suddenly the manhole in front of the synagogue burst open and started to spew liters and liters of water. At that point we understood that the situation was serious,” Andrea Belgrado recalls in a phone conversation with The Times of Israel.


Together with a couple of other people, Belgrado and his father began to remove some of the Torah scrolls from the ark and carry them to the women’s section upstairs. “However the water level continued rising, coming from the main entrance as well as from the back of the synagogue. When it reached our thighs, my father stopped us, reminding us that the Jewish tradition values nothing greater than human life. Therefore, we left to get out of harm’s way,” Belgrado says. It was the beginning of the flood that marked Florence’s worst natural catastrophe in modern times, turning the city into what the Italian national press agency described as “a boundless lake immersed in darkness.”


In some neighborhoods, the water reached up to five meters (16 feet) high — and almost two meters (six feet) in the synagogue — covering houses and stores. The flood water savaged monuments and artistic sites renowned the world over, such as the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and the Basilica di Santa Croce, dragging along with it cars, bicycles and all kind of debris. Over 30 people lost their lives, thousands their homes, tens of thousands were left without electricity, gas, running water. And a million books were devastated, including 15,000 Jewish books and manuscripts located in the Jewish community library and archives, along with 90 Torah scrolls that were kept in the several holy arks in the synagogue building.


To mark the 50th anniversary of the Arno Flood, some of these books, together with Judaica objects, are featured in the exhibit “And the Waters Subsided” (named for the verse in Genesis 8:1 describing the aftermath of the biblical Noah’s flood). The exhibit was launched at the end of October at the National Library of Florence, and will run until January 27, 2017. “I remember walking from my house to the synagogue on Shabbat morning. I can still feel the silence of that day, the deep silence, and the dark, with everything covered in black mud,” recalls Umberto Di Gioacchino, who was 25 years old and worked as the secretary of the local Jewish school at the time of the flood.


During the night between Friday and Saturday, the waters had in fact receded, leaving behind a thick layer of mud mixed with sewage and diesel oil leaked from damaged boilers and heating systems. By this time, the citizens of Florence had started to react, helped by thousands of young people who flocked to Tuscany from all over Italy and the world to assist the population in need and save the unique artistic heritage of the area. They were the so called “mud angels,” as journalist Giovanni Grazzini described them in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.


Among them were also many Jews who wanted to help the Jewish community of Florence recover and preserve the treasure trove of books, scrolls and artifacts accumulated over the centuries through donations and bequests. “I went to Florence with a group of friends from the Jewish Youth Center in Milan. We had graduated high school a few months before, and we felt it was important to give our contribution. The moment we got there, they gave us blotting paper to insert between the pages of the books. There were thousands of them, all taken out on the tables in the attempt to have them dry. It was a deeply saddening view,” recalls Cecilia Nizza from Milan.


The sight of the devastation wrought in the synagogue would soon bring about even more tragic consequences. A contingent of young men from the Jewish community of Rome had also come to Florence. Among them was Luciano Camerino, a Holocaust survivor — one of just 16 who made it back alive after the infamous October 16, 1943 Nazi raid on the Rome ghetto. When he saw the shocking situation in the synagogue, Camerino suffered a heart attack and died that night in the hospital at the age of 40.


As the volunteers worked hard to clean the synagogue of the pervading mud, the dozens of parchment Torah scrolls were unrolled and spread out to dry. They were later transported to the Great Synagogue in Rome to be hung out in a cleaner, less-humid environment. Almost all of the scrolls were eventually deemed too severely damaged to be saved, and in September 1987 they were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Rifredi in Florence, according to the Jewish tradition for damaged holy texts. Only three of the Torahs were kept and restored — albeit not for ritual use — and are now part of the exhibition…                                                       

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]        



CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!


On Topic Links


A View from Iraq & Syria (Prof. Frederick Krantz & Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari discuss the issues facing Middle East Christians): The Hagmann Report, Dec. 1, 2016—Prof. Frederick Krantz (CIJR) & Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari (Near East Center For Strategic Management) discuss the issues facing Middle East Christians on The Hagmann Report radio program.

Obama Administration Turns Palestinian-American Terrorist Into Victim: Stephen Flatlow, Algemeiner, Dec. 1, 2016—After years of silence, the Obama administration has finally spoken out about an American citizen who was killed in Israel. There’s just one catch: The focus of the administration’s sudden concern is not for an American who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist. Its focus is a Palestinian-American terrorist who tried to murder Israelis.

Ryerson Students Stage Walkout Over Holocaust Education Motion : Jodie Shupac, CJN, Dec. 1, 2016—Jewish groups allege that naked anti-Semitism was behind what they say was a walkout at a Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) meeting staged by Muslim and pro-Palestinian students that stymied a motion to commemorate Holocaust Education Week.

The Mutating Virus: Understanding Antisemitism: Rabbi Sacks, rabbisacks.org, Sept. 27, 2016—Transcript of a speech by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at “The Future of the Jewish Communities in Europe” Conference at The European Parliament on 27th September 2016 in Brussels.





Ira Robinson: Sara Zfatman. Jewish Exorcism in Early Modern Ashkenaz [Hebrew]. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2015






One of the salient characteristics of spiritual life in Europe in the early modern era (the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries) was an increased sensitivity to supernatural phenomena, particularly those ascribed to the demonic realm.  In the Christian world in this era, this was expressed in a veritable epidemic of accusations of witchcraft, mostly against women, as well as frequent and persistent accusations against Jews that they were in league with the devil, and that they regularly desecrated Christian sacra. Within Jewish communities, a similar dynamic translated, among other things, into a series of narratives concerning spirits of the dead taking possession of the bodies of the living [dybbuk].


These spirit possession narratives have long held an important place in the Jewish folkloric imagination and they spurred a significant modern literary creation: the early twentieth century play “The Dybbuk” by S. Ansky.  The early modern Jewish narratives, which begin in earnest in the kabbala-suffused intellectual atmosphere of Safed in the sixteenth century, have been studied by both Gedalyahu Nigal and, more recently, by J.H. Chajes in his English book, Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism (2003).


Sara Zfatman of the Hebrew University, who specializes in early modern Yiddish literature and folklore, uses her formidable literary investigative abilities in order to shine important new light on spirit possession narratives among Ashkenazic communities in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  In particular, this book showcases her talent as a meticulous literary detective in tracking down two major and several additional minor literary sources (some surviving in only one copy) in both Hebrew and Yiddish describing a spirit possession and exorcism that occurred in the Moravian town of Nikolsburg in 1696.  She considers the Nikolsburg narratives to be of great significance as the model followed by subsequent spirit possession narratives among Ashkenazic Jews.


By judiciously comparing her sources and correlating them with the knowledge we possess of Moravian Jewry and its rabbinate of that era, the author shows us not merely the bare facts of the incident (from several mostly complementary perspectives) but also with considerable specificity how the exorcism was handled and by whom.  Most importantly, beyond the narrative sources, she has identified a manuscript (Oxford 1965, opp. 485) that she claims was the “handbook” utilized by the scholar conducting the exorcism, Moshe ben Menahem Preger.


Zfatman’s analysis, therefore, gives us a unique vantage point from which to examine the praxis of kabbala ma’asit [“practical kabbala”], the expertise of those claiming to be able to utilize the numinous power contained in divine names.  The men who performed the exorcism rituals that Zfatman describes in such minute detail were often called ba’alei shem [masters of the utilization of divine names].  These men, the most famous of whom was Israel ben Eliezer, whom Hasidim revere as the founder of their movement, were much in demand in the Ashkenazi world of the eighteenth century from the Polish Commonwealth in the east to London in the west for healing, exorcism, protective amulets, and much else.  Zfatman’s study adds significantly to our growing understanding of these men, what they believed, and how they practiced their profession.


Zfatman’s discussion of Ashkenazic intellectuals at the turn of the eighteenth century almost inevitably brings her to a consideration of the influence of the seventeenth century messianic movement of Shabbetai Zvi on these men.  Scholars of early modern Judaism have long noted the tremendous influence and lasting power of Sabbatian belief on many rabbis, preachers, and scribes who remained within Jewish communities (as well as others whose Sabbatian beliefs drove them beyond the Jewish community into conversion to Islam or Christianity).  Zfatman’s investigation largely substantiates Yehuda Liebes’ findings in this area and convincingly demonstrates that a large number of the men who took part in the Nikolsburg exorcism were likely Sabbatian believers themselves or at the very least travelled in intellectual circles replete with such believers.


Beyond its meticulous textual analysis which, refreshingly, lets us know not merely what Zfatman has discovered, but also those details on which she is still unclear, the book has the merit of publishing some 250 pages of primary documents in Yiddish and Hebrew that allow the reader to examine the material she presents on their own.  The book should be read by all those wishing to delve deeply into the spiritual and intellectual world of Ashkenazi Jews in early modernity.


Ira Robinson is a Professor of Judaic Studies in the Department of Religion,

Concordia University, and a CIJR Academic Fellow



Shavuot 5776 – 2016: Zman Matan Toratenu. The Time of the Giving of the Torah: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, June 10, 2016— The festival of Shavuot underlines the spiritually significant lesson that the release from bondage and winning of political freedom does not constitute freedom unless it culminates in the spiritual discipline  of duty to Am Israel, and Israel’s acceptance of the Torah.

The Expulsion of Jews from Lithuania and Courland on Shavuot 1915: Larry Domnitch, Algemeiner, June 9, 2016 — Shavuot 1915 was one of the largest single expulsions of Jews since Roman times.During this bleak period, more than 200,000 Jews in Lithuania and Courland were abruptly forced from their homes and into dire circumstances.

Tel Aviv Attacks: Israelis Want Peace But Need a Peace Partner: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, June 9, 2016— Earlier this week, my Paris-based colleague, Dr. Shimon Samuels and I met with senior officials in Berlin that focused on the implications of 1 million Middle Eastern migrants/refugees coming to Germany

Bernard Lewis and Me: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, May 31, 2016— The historian Bernard Lewis celebrates his 100th birthday (May 31).  ‎


On Topic Links


Policeman Lets Sarona Terrorist into his Home, Leaves, Then Realizes What He’s Done: Jewish Press, June 10, 2016

World’s Israel-Friendly Reactions to Terror Attack Don’t Herald Newfound Support: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016

Tel Aviv Terror Attack Shatters Five Myths: Stephen M. Flatow, JNS, June 9, 2016

The Sound of Silence (Bamidbar, Covenant & Conversation 5776 on Spirituality): Jonathan Sacks, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016



THE TIME OF THE GIVING OF THE TORAH                                                     

                          Baruch Cohen                                           

CIJR, June 10, 2016


The festival of Shavuot underlines the spiritually significant lesson that the release from bondage and winning of political freedom does not constitute freedom unless it culminates in the spiritual discipline of duty to Am Israel, and Israel’s acceptance of the Torah


Na'aseh v'nishma: “We will do and we will listen”.


Custom calls us to sit all night during the festival and read excerpts from the Torah and Rabbinical texts. Tikkun Leil Shavuot contains excerpts from the Bible, Rabbinic texts, Mishnah, and Zohar.


For me, the most meaningful of these customary readings is the superb love story of “The Book of Ruth.” The touching story of Ruth and Boaz is set in the time of the Judges. Boaz fell in love with Ruth, and they were married in the presence of ten elders (minyan) who served as witness. The union’s blessing has often been recited: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel” (Ruth 4:11)

Ruth gave birth to a son, Obed, whose son Jesse fathered David.


NB: It is customary to read the beautiful Book of Ruth on this holiday of Shavuot because events recorded in this book also took place at harvest time. Ruth’s love for the Torah, and loyalty to the people of Israel, were exemplified in her saying: “For wherever you go, I will go! Your people shall be my people, your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).                

Chag Shavuot Sameach! Happy Shavuot!


Baruch Cohen, CIJR’s Research Chairman, will be 97 in October.




                          THE EXPULSION OF JEWS FROM LITHUANIA


Larry Domnitch                                         

                              Algemeiner, June 9, 2016


Shavuot 1915 was one of the largest single expulsions of Jews since Roman times. During this bleak period, more than 200,000 Jews in Lithuania and Courland were abruptly forced from their homes and into dire circumstances.

With the advance of the German army on the Eastern front in the spring of 1915, retreating Russian forces vented their fury against the Jews and blamed them for their losses. They leveled spurious accusations of treason and spying, and expelled Jews near the war front. From province to province throughout Poland, multitudes of Jews were expelled. Many also fled from their homes in fear of pogroms.


By March, German forces approached Lithuania as Russian forces continued their retreat. The first expulsion in Lithuanian took place in the small town of Botki. In April, in the town of Kuzhi, the local Jews were accused of hiding German troops in their homes. Although proofs brought by members of the Duma (Russian Parliament) exposed the charges as fiction, the accusations had already spread throughout Russia via newspaper reports and became another pretext to persecute Russian Jewry. The mass expulsion from Lithuania soon commenced.


While they were preparing for the upcoming Shavuot holiday, notices appeared calling for the Jews living in areas closer to the war front to vacate their homes over the next day or two days. Most of the notices gave 24 hours or even less time.

In just a few days, Lithuanian Jewry, whose legacy went back of hundreds of years, made a hasty exit. Even the sick and the infirmed were included in the decree. Those who did not comply faced execution.


With the evening of May 5 approaching, multitudes of Jews headed out into an environment of unknown perils. Most fled by foot, with few provisions, harassed and robbed, facing attacks on the roads as they began their desperate search for refuge. Out in the open fields facing numerous dangers, Kiddush for the holidays was recited and Minyanim were organized to recite the holiday prayers.


In Courland, otherwise known as Latvia, Jews faced a similar fate, although the expulsion was enforced a day or two later; most often on the holiday itself. A Jewish military physician watched as hundreds of Jews in the town of Keidan hastily gathered their belongings. In shock and despair he asked them why they were being expelled. They responded, “because we are Jews!” With tears in his eyes he replied, “I risk my head for them and they exile my brothers.”


Such was the case for the one half million Russian Jews who valiantly served in the Tsar’s army while so many of their families faced persecution. As the exodus began in the town of Keidan, according to one eye-witness, “People bid farewell. On our last night in Keidan, they slept on their bundles as cannon fire shook the walls or their homes.”


The mood in Lithuania was beyond description. But it was also a time when Jewish communities bestowed tremendous kindness upon one another. Assistance was offered to refugees arriving at their towns, which included food, lodging, and sometimes employment. The Yekapo organization, an abbreviation for the “Jewish Community Relief War Victims” would wait at train stations and other locations to offer aid. Sometimes the very communities assisting the refugees would soon become refugees themselves, forced out by the same or a subsequent decree.


Some exiles went to Vilna, where there was no expulsion. One rabbi described the reaction of the Vilna community to their arrival, “It was the first day of Shavuot and the Jews of Vilna went to synagogue not knowing that the first train with all those expelled was already arriving at Novo-Vileika … Notwithstanding that it was a holy day, meeting places here quickly organized and each Jewish family of Vilna was required to bring something edible … In the course of two hours, thousands of kilograms of bread, sugar, meat, cheese, eggs, boiled meat, and herring were collected.”


The expulsion decree did not last. Soon after, commander in chief of the Russian armies, Nikolai Nikolayevich, informed the military authorities that mass expulsions of Jews were no longer desired since the economy was damaged as a result. He proposed that Jews should be expelled only from one place at a time, where it was deemed “necessary.”


The long-term impact of the expulsion was significant. With the dismantling of Jewish communities, the religious life of Russian Jewry markedly declined. The religious institutions that were the lifeline of the community such as the cheder, the mikveh, the synagogue, and the yeshiva were diminished by the massive sudden dislodging of Lithuanian Jewry. Jewish life in Russia would never be the same.


Due to the severity of the expulsions, the Pale Settlement, which forcibly confined Russia’s Jews since the end of the 18th century, officially ended with a decree in August 1915 allowing Jews to move to Eastern Russia. The intention was not to free the Jews from the confinement of the Pale, but to keep them out of the proximity of the war front due to irrational suspicions of Jewish disloyalty.


Shavuot 1915 marked times of tragedy and challenge faced by Jewry. In one small vacant Lithuanian synagogue on the first day of Shavuot, where Jewish refugees had gathered to pray, a leading rabbi among the group arose and stood before the shocked and traumatized group and offered the following brief consoling words. “We have faced other difficulties before. Someday, this too shall pass. Now, let us say the Hallel prayers.”




TEL AVIV ATTACKS:                                                                   

ISRAELIS WANT PEACE BUT NEED A PEACE PARTNER                                                             

Rabbi Abraham Cooper                                                                                                             

Fox News, June 9, 2016


Earlier this week, my Paris-based colleague, Dr. Shimon Samuels and I met with senior officials in Berlin that focused on the implications of 1 million Middle Eastern migrants/refugees coming to Germany. Social integration and the challenge of changing the problematic attitudes brought from their cultures about women, gays, and Jews was the focus of many of our conversations.


But despite the serious challenges we confronted in our meetings we were buoyed by the newfound resolve we heard in Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Berlin: European authorities are united in their revulsion of and commitment to defeat terrorism in their midst. They tell us they will not shirk from confronting the multiple global and homegrown threats and are determined to secure the safety and security of their citizens.


Yet, that commitment disappears at Israel’s borders. The latest outrage took place in the midst of the Middle East’s most tolerant city, Tel Aviv on Wednesday.


On a beautiful evening, two nicely dressed young men, ordered food and then took out weapons and murdered four Israelis and gravely wounding many others. The perpetrators, who were later caught by police, are now being celebrated throughout the Palestinian Territories and globally online, as heroes.


Everyone in Israel knows that such brutal attacks will continue. Why should the terrorist butchery stop, when the world rewards such behavior?


France, which cannot secure its own streets from young Muslim toughs and which has suffered devastating terrorist attacks, found time to convene a conference last week to promote an international “peace plan” for the Israel/Palestinian conflict. They didn’t bother consulting with or inviting Israelis to the table, though the Jewish State will be expected to pay the bill. Palestinians will continue to enjoy billions in aid (most of which disappears into the deep pockets of the corrupt Palestinian Authority) from the European Union, from the United States, from ‘human rights’ NGOs and from Church groups, no matter what terrorist outrage is unleashed on Israelis.


For Palestinians, terrorism does pay. They have been given a moral free pass by much of the world. So even Europe struggles to uncover terrorist cells, to come up with ways to stop hateful theology and pro-terrorist social media from infecting a generation of disaffected Muslim youth in their midst, they provide a moral blank check to Palestinian terrorism and continue to write real checks to help pay for hate education and a virulently anti-Israel media.


There are rumors about that President Obama will instruct our UN Ambassador Samantha Power, not to veto a French-led Security Council Resolution this Fall that will make draconian one-sided demands of Israel in the name of “peace”. The boilerplate reaction to the murders of the four Israelis by our State Department reveals more in what it doesn’t say:


“The United States condemns today’s horrific terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in the strongest possible terms. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and our hopes for a quick recovery for those wounded. These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians can never be justified. We are in touch with Israeli authorities to express our support and concern.”


Not one word of rebuke of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza City. Those crocodile tears dried almost before they were shed. Here’s the bottom line. Israelis want peace but need a peace partner. Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s ‘pro-peace’ Left publicly stated that a two-state solution is impossible right now because there is no Palestinian partner. 


If the EU, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, the NGO community, the international Media truly want to leave a legacy of peace for The Holy Land, they must start holding the Palestinians to the same standard of all civilized people. Anything less will kill prospects for peace and ignite more chaos and bloodshed.                                                     






Daniel Pipes                                              

Israel Hayom, May 31, 2016


The historian Bernard Lewis celebrates his 100th birthday (May 31).  ‎Three quotes establish his career. Martin Kramer, a former student of Lewis, sums up his teacher's ‎accomplishments: ‎


"Bernard Lewis emerged as the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East. His ‎elegant syntheses made Islamic history accessible to a broad public in Europe and America. In his more ‎specialized studies, he pioneered social and economic history and the use of the vast Ottoman archives. ‎His work on the premodern Muslim world conveyed both its splendid richness and its smug self-‎satisfaction. His studies in modern history rendered intelligible the inner dialogues of Muslim peoples in ‎their encounter with the values and power of the West."


The University of California's R. Stephen Humphreys notes "the extraordinary range of his scholarship [and] his ‎capacity to command the totality of Islamic and Middle Eastern history from Muhammad down to the present ‎day." And, as the late Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University put it on Lewis' 90th birthday, he is "the oracle ‎of this new age of the Americans in the lands of the Arab and Islamic worlds." ‎


Lewis' career spanned a monumental 75 years, from his first article ("The Islamic Guilds") in 1937 to his ‎autobiography in 2012. Midway, in 1969, he entered my life. In Israel the summer between my sophomore and ‎junior years in college, with my aspirations to become a mathematician in doubt, I thought of switching to ‎Middle East studies. To sample this new field, I visited Ludwig Mayer's renowned bookstore in Jerusalem and ‎purchased "The Arabs in History," Lewis' 1950 book. ‎


It launched my career. Over the next 47 years, Lewis continued to exert a profound influence on my studies. ‎Although never his formal student, I absorbed his views, reading nearly all his writings and favorably reviewing ‎seven of his books (in 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1994, 1996, and 2000), far more than those of any other author. ‎His name appears on 508 pages of my website. Beyond numbers, he more than anyone else influenced my ‎understanding of the Middle East and Islam. ‎


That said, he and I argued strenuously during the George W. Bush years, narrowly on Iraq policy (I was more ‎skeptical of U.S. efforts) and broadly on the matter of bringing freedom to the Middle East (ditto). ‎


I first met Professor Lewis in 1973 in London, when he generously invited me to his house and offered advice ‎on my doctoral studies. I saw him most recently, twice, at his small apartment in the Philadelphia suburbs. ‎


He's impressively fit in body and mind, spending time on the computer, ever the raconteur ("What's a Jewish ‎joke? One which non-Jews can't understand and Jews have heard a better version of"), and conjuring up ‎anecdotes from a time before the rest of us were born (his 1946 discussion with Abba Eban about the latter's ‎career choices). It's wonderful to see him doing well even if it's sadly understandable that he no longer engages ‎in scholarship nor opines on current events. ‎


Born a mere 15 days after the Sykes-Picot agreement that defined the modern Middle East, their common May ‎centennial finds Syria and Iraq in shreds but Bernard Lewis is, more than ever, an inspiration to his many self-‎identified disciples, including this one. ‎


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters:

Chag Shavuot Sameach!, Happy Shavuot!, & Shabbat Shalom!



On Topic Links


Policeman Lets Sarona Terrorist into his Home, Leaves, Then Realizes What He’s Done: Jewish Press, June 10, 2016 —This story should be tagged under Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture: a policeman who lives near the area where the shooting attack took place Wednesday night let one of the terrorists into his home and gave him water, unaware of his identity.

World’s Israel-Friendly Reactions to Terror Attack Don’t Herald Newfound Support: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016 —In their statements on Wednesday’s deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv, world leaders refrained from their usual chorus of asking both Israelis and Palestinians, in the same breath, to exercise “restraint” and to resume peace talks.

Tel Aviv Terror Attack Shatters Five Myths: Stephen M. Flatow, JNS, June 9, 2016 —The June 8 terrorist massacre in Tel Aviv exposed all five of the major myths that cloud discussions of Israel and the Palestinians.

The Sound of Silence (Bamidbar, Covenant & Conversation 5776 on Spirituality): Jonathan Sacks, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016—Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So the sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time of the giving of the Torah. Bamibar means, “In the desert.” What, then, is the connection between the desert and the Torah, the wilderness and God’s word?










Baruch Cohen: New Year 5776: A Few Thoughts






In Loving Memory of Malka Z”L



The name Rosh HaShanah as it is used in the Bible (Ezekiel 40:1) simply means the beginning of the year, and does not designate the festival. The Babylonian name Tishri seems to derive from the root Seru, which means “to begin.” The ancient Semitic people thought of the year as the beginning of autumn, the time of the late harvest.


The Hebrew expression “be-zet ha-shanah” (at the end of the year) and “tekufat ha-shanah” (at the end-turning of the year), by which the Feast of Ingathering, or Sukkoth, (which is, in a popular sense, the equivalent of the priestly Day of Remembrance), is dated to Exodus 23:16 and 34:22 respectively.


Rosh HaShanah stresses a universalist motif. The prayers are not for Israel alone, but for the entire world ─ for redemption, for righteousness and truth, for Haolam Koolo, the whole world. This is the great plea for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, the Kingdom of righteousness and truth in the spirit of brotherhood, and the annihilation of lies, inequality and tyranny.


Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlov (1772-1810) used to say: to me the main holiday is  Rosh HaShana. “For in no time at all the whole year passes…in the twinkling of an eye” (Si Hot he-Ran, No. 214).


Rosh HaShana New Year prayers are not for Israel and the Jewish People alone, but for the redemption of the entire world. The wonderful Hebrew cry from the heart for Hesh Bon Hanefesh, a “taking of stock” of our soul, is for an inner accounting, a judgement upon oneself, and is also a call for redemption of the entire world, Haolam Koolo, Shanah Tova u’mtuka, a sweet New Year 5776 to all!


(Baruch Cohen is CIJR’s Research Chairman)



We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 




Bibi’s Not Churchill, Nor Obama Chamberlain—But Congressional Speech Does Draw Blood, Upsetting U.S.-Iran Nuclear Applecart: Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Mar. 5, 2015 — Munich 1938 analogies being made to describe Israeli P.M. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress are inexact. 

The Story Behind Marble Moses in Netanyahu’s Speech: Anav Silverman, Jewish Press, Mar. 4, 2015 — While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced several cultural, political, and historical figures throughout his highly-anticipated speech to Congress on Tuesday March 3 – including Harry S. Truman, Queen Esther, Robert Frost, and Elie Wiesel – he concluded his historical address with the biblical figure of the prophet Moses.

Purim-Shpiels:  CIJR, Mar. 6, 2015


On Topic Links


Israel Issues on L’Chayim (Video): Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 2, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy: Drybones, Mar. 6, 2014

How J Street Misled Obama Into Netanyahu Speech Debacle: Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2014

Why Obama's Criticism of Netanyahu's Iran Speech Is Flawed: Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project, Mar. 5, 2014







Frederick Krantz

CIJR, Mar. 5, 2015


Munich 1938 analogies being made to describe Israeli P.M. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress are inexact.  Israel is indeed a small country excluded from talks affecting its fate, but while there are certain analogies, Netanyahu isn’t Churchill, Obama isn’t Chamberlain, nor is Israel a helpless victim facing “German”, i.e. Iranian, aggression.  Indeed, Netanyahu’s powerful critique, made before an overwhelmingly approving joint American legislature and carried on most radio and T.V. networks across America and the world, has clearly drawn political blood.


Most commentators—even those critical of Mr. Netanyahu’s supposed use of the venue for  political reasons (the Israeli election is only two weeks away)–agreed with Isaac Herzog (Labor), his domestic electoral opponent, that “the speech we heard today was impressive”. 


They also generally agreed that its substantive critique of the deal moved the Iran negotiation issue off a largely unexamined dead center, reinforcing the bi-partisan Congressional demand that any deal be subject to its approval and, if necessary, strengthening.  Such opposition has been  reinforced and given renewed life.


Netanyahu was careful to emphasize that he sought not to destroy the deal, but to help achieve the best deal possible, for Israel and the U.S. He underlined that this means not only the substantial dismantling of Iran’s capacity to produce sufficient fissionable material and the means to deliver it (its so-far unrestricted intercontinental ballistic missile development), but also an end to Teheran’s broad  backing of M.E. and international terrorist regimes. 


Iran’s unrelenting pro-terrorist activities were noted: in the Middle East, in Gaza (Hamas), Lebanon (Hezbollah), Syria (Assad and, paradoxically, IS), Iraq (Shi’ite militias), Yemen (the now-dominant Houthi rebels), and also internationally, in Argentina (1992, 29 dead in the Israeli Embassy and (1994, 87 dead)  AMIA Jewish Community Center bombings, the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC (and, Netanyahu might have added, its support for the Chavez dictatorship in Venezuela).


Indeed, the careful delineation of the extremist Iranian Islamist dictatorship’s record as the primary supporter of world-wide terrorism (generally ignored by an Administration increasingly viewed as seeking a Shiite alliance against Sunni extremists) was one of the speech’s strongest dimensions. It threw light on the key question of why Obama makes concessions to such a thuggish entity–having initially pledged to eliminate its bomb-making capacity entirely, but now allowing retention of both processing plants and thousands of centrifuges, with an agreement end-term of only ten years (with even this now rejected by the regime ). 


This, and his reminding his distinguished audience of the long record of Iranian nuclear subterfuge and broken agreements, right up to this week’s IAEA statement about continued, and hidden, Iranian nuclear weapons research, served to raise key issues: why give up sanctions, which brought Iran to the table; why not press for tougher terms, especially given the current collapse of oil prices; and why uncritically assume the reliability of any agreement entered into with Teheran?


The impact of the speech on Congress, and on the American people, will undoubtedly make selling it in what looks to be its current naïve and trusting form harder, if not impossible, for the Obama Administration. In this respect, Netanyahu, for whom the deal raises immediate existential questions for Israel, clearly succeeded in his primary mission.


The key question now is, What can Israel do if Obama, who gives every indication of pressing on with the current deal, signs it, and manages to either evade, or somehow to maneuver, Congressional approval?


Here there are only two possible answers: either Israel accepts the fact that, sooner or later (probably sooner) Iran is a nuclear power, threshold or actual, and forges some kind of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy neutralizing its arsenal; or Israel decides that it has to remove, or substantially reduce, Iran’s nuclear capacity militarily.


The first instance is not promising. The extremist Islamic Iranian regime is not the nuclear-armed Soviet Union which the U.S. faced in the Cold War: it is a millenarial theocratic structure seeking regional hegemony, and for which a coming titanic Messianic confrontation with the infidels is an article of faith. Far from rationally backing away from such a nuclear Armageddon, as the Soviets did, Teheran may well welcome it.


The second instance, Israel alone acting militarily against Iran to destroy or severely delimit its nuclear potential, is also fraught with dangers. Aside from issue of Israel’s military capacity to achieve such a result, there is also the problem of Iran’s retaliatory ability, which involves not only its own military assets, but those of its regional clients (e.g., Hezbollah’s proven arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and missiles, Syria’s remaining chemical weapons capacity (and its own missile arsenal), and even—if a general Middle East war were sparked—unstable Islamist Pakistan’s nuclear potential.


On the other hand, a region (and a world) in which a genocidal Iranian regime–pledged to destroy the “Zionist entity” and, unresponsive to MAD considerations, actually possessed multiple nuclear war-heads and a missile delivery system–is simply an unbearable existential reality for the tiny Jewish Israel.


Publically raising and underlining such issues, consciously obscured by the Obama Administration’s P.R. for an Iran nuclear agreement which has clearly become a major ”legacy” goal, is the clear achievement of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech.


So no, it is not exactly 1938—but not because the “Great Powers” (the 5+1 of the US., Britain, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany, the last five of which look forward to resuming their lucrative pre-sanctions contracts with Teheran) are  incapable of selling out a tiny state. And it is not 1938 because Netanyahu in fact literally thinks he is Churchill (though he was, before his speech, presented by Congress with a bust of the great British Prime Minister [a similar one was removed from the Oval Office by Obama as his first Presidential act in 2009]).


No, it is not 1938 because modern Israel—though like Czechoslovakia excluded from the conference affecting its fate—is not the weak and defenceless state dismembered and finally given over to Nazi destruction by Western  appeasement. (NB: March 15th is the anniversary of the final post-Munich German invasion and conquest of Czechoslovakia.)


Where the Munich analogy most clearly breaks down is clear from  the concluding words of the Israeli leader’s  address to Congress.


Having initially noted the emblematic importance of the coming Purim holiday, with its celebration of Israel’s triumph over an earlier Persian regime’s attempt to destroy the Jewish People, and directly addressing Holocaust witness Elie Wiesel, symbolically as well as physically present in the audience, Netanyahu guaranteed that “the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies…are over…Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand”.


Netanyahu concluded his address to tumultuous applause by stressing Israel’s and America’s shared heritage and values.  He pointed to the largely unknown sculptural relief of Moses, savior of the Jewish people,  placed above the Congressional chamber,  quoting—in Hebrew and in English–the great Jewish leader’s Biblical call to his People, and to Congress: “Be strong and resolute, neither fear not dread” our enemies.


Should the Iranian nuclear treaty in its present form be signed, and should Obama, as promised, veto any Congressional role insofar as its final approval (and, potentially, enhanced treaty safeguards) is concerned, it would then remain for Israel, alone, to deal with the existential threat . How, and whether, it would so, remain key questions—concerning the latter issue, the Israeli leader’s speech seems clear enough.


(Prof. Frederick Krantz is President and Director of the Canadian

Institute for Jewish Research  in Montreal and Toronto)






Anav Silverman                                                                                                                  

Jewish Press, Mar. 4, 2015



While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced several cultural, political, and historical figures throughout his highly-anticipated speech to Congress on Tuesday March 3 – including Harry S. Truman, Queen Esther, Robert Frost, and Elie Wiesel – he concluded his historical address with the biblical figure of the prophet Moses.


The Israeli prime minister did not just mention Moses in passing, he also pointed to the image of Moses in the form of white Vermont marble relief, hanging over the gallery doors overlooking the lawmakers in the House of Representatives Chamber. Netanyahu spoke of the biblical leader, saying “Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land. And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years.”


It was probably the first time that the marble relief portrait of Moses hanging in the House Chamber ever received such public acknowledgement.


The portrait, designed by artist Jean de Marco, is one 23 marble reliefs that depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principals that underlie American law, according to the Architect of the Capitol, a U.S. government website. The site is devoted to providing historic and current information about the function and architecture of the U.S. Capitol Building where Netanyahu gave his speech before a joint-session of Congress.


On either side of the portrait of Moses, there are 11 profiles in the eastern half of the chamber that face left and eleven in the western half, which face right, so that all look toward the full-face relief of Moses in the center. He is described on the site as a Hebrew prophet and lawgiver, who transformed a wandering people into a nation and received the Ten Commandments.


The other profiles include writer of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson; King of Babylonia, Hammurabi; Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman; Athenian statesman, Solon; Napoleon I, and Maimonides, among other significant leaders from different periods of history.


The image of Moses and other leaders of civilizations and societies have been hanging in the chamber for 65 years. Scholars from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia Historical Society of Washington D.C. chose the subjects with the help of authoritative members of the Library of Congress over six decades ago. A special committee of five Members of the House of Representatives and the Architect of the Capitol approved the selection, and the reliefs were installed when the House Chamber was remodeled from 1949-1950.


Prime Minister Netanyahu at the end of his speech quoted Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy, stating in Hebrew, “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them,” which were the leader’s parting words to the Israelites before they entered the land of Israel. For Netanyahu, they were words that highlighted the strength of friendship shared by the United States and Israel, two countries with a deep respect for the timeless road of history and the challenges along the way.







CIJR, Mar. 6, 2015




“Look, it’s no secret that the United States is no longer a key player in the Middle East. We hope that this move will not only bolster our regional presence, but also will further improve our ties with one of the world’s most  rapidly developing economies,” — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The White House announced Monday its plans to re-open an embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran, 36 years after it was closed in the wake of the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power. The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic since the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, when supporters of the Ayatollah took over the U.S. embassy and held 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for over one year. Now, with Iranian relations and the West improving rapidly, and Obama regularly meeting his Iranian counterpart, the “moderate mullah” Hassan Rouhani, Washington believes an embassy in Tehran will further accelerate the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers. Iran “should achieve its desired goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon as soon as possible, and our re-opening the Embassy will only help bring that goal,” Kerry said. (Washington Appeaser, Mar. 4, 2015)  








ISLAMIC STATE TO HOST 2026 WORLD CUP (Zurich) — FIFA, the governing body of soccer’s World Cup, announced today from its Zurich headquarters that Islamic State, the world’s newest, and most media-savvy, terrorist state will host the 2026 World Cup. FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter told reporters that I.S. won the bid over other “worthy nations” that had applied to host the event, such as North Korea, Iran and Libya because they “would have no problem finding slaves to build the enormous infrastructure required to host such an event.” FIFA has already been criticized for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a nation that has a dubious record of sponsoring terrorists such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose temperatures during the summer months usually exceed 40C. When asked why a murderous, Islamist entity such as I.S. should receive the honor of hosting soccer’s most prestigious tournament, Blatter said that “we really had no choice but to give it to them because, if we didn’t, we would have been labeled Islamophobic.” (New York Roast, Mar. 1, 2015)




EGYPTIAN CLERICS ANNOUNCE MAJOR “REVOLUTION” IN ISLAM: BEER (Cairo) — Islamic religious authorities announced this week a major revolution in Islamic law, the first change to Islamic doctrines in hundreds of years. According to an Al-Azhar spokesman, the drinking of beer will be permitted by male jihadis returning from conquest in lands controlled by the “infidel.” Al-Azhar is a major authority of Sunni Islam and center of Islamic learning, located in Cairo and founded in the tenth century. It is thought that the permission of beer drinking by jihadis is in response to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, who recently called for “a religious revolution” in Islamic thinking. Al-Sisi has been a vocal critic of the Islamist violence that has bedeviled the Muslim world since 9-11. An Al-Azhar spokesman told reporters that “Sisi asked for change, he will have change. All our glorious fighters can now get drunk and enjoy themselves, Inshallah, like those American soldiers we see in Hollywood movies such as Apocalypse Now.” An Islamic State fighter, speaking to the BBC from the first-ever Oktoberfest held in the fledgling I.S. capital Raqqa: “My friend, nothing beats having a cold one after a long day of rampaging, enslaving villagers, and decapitating Christians…Alahu Akbar! Alahu Akbar!” (Daily Snail-Mail, Feb. 27, 2015)    




IDF “BAMBOOZLED,” PURCHASES AGING, USED SUBMARINES FROM CANADA (Haifa) — The IDF has rarely made mistakes in its illustrious history. On Monday, however, the Defense Ministry announced it had made a “grave error” when it agreed to buy four aging and un-seaworthy Victoria-class submarines from the Canadian Navy. The cost of the submarines was one billion Canadian dollars. The submarines, already used when purchased by the Canadians from Britain’s Royal Navy, have been plagued with mechanical problems since delivery, and will likely never see combat. “We made a mistake, that’s all I can say,” a visibly distraught Gadi Eizenkot, the new Chief of Staff of the IDF, said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “Those shifty Canucks bamboozled us!” he added. Ever since crippling Western sanctions against Israel took effect last December, the IDF has been unable to acquire any new military equipment from the U.S., or any of its other sources. The much-anticipated, nuclear-capable, Dolphin-class subs, built by Germany and slated for delivery this year, were canceled. Canada is the only country still refusing to impose sanctions on the Jewish State, and is currently Israel’s only source of military hardware. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who normally speaks highly of Israeli-Canadian relations, said “the proud IDF, heirs to a great fighting force starting with the Jewish Legion, through the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, to the recent conflict against Hamas, is now buying used lemons from the Canadian Military, oy vey!” (HaHa’retz, Mar. 2, 2015)    



CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Shabbat Shallom!






On Topic



Israel Issues on L’Chayim (Video): Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 2, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy: Drybones, Mar. 6, 2014

How J Street Misled Obama Into Netanyahu Speech Debacle: Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2014—Who misled President Obama into his losing showdown over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s blockbuster speech to Congress?

Why Obama's Criticism of Netanyahu's Iran Speech Is Flawed: Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project, Mar. 5, 2014—Politico has published an article listing the "5 things President Obama's team thinks [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu got wrong." These five arguments are merely obfuscating talking points for those wish to bury their heads in the sand about the Iranian nuclear threat.





















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