Tag: Jewish Left

UNIVERSITIES: CHAMPIONS OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS & IDENTITY POLITICS, LEADERS OF THE “GLOBAL DESCENT INTO AMORALITY”

Global Chaos — a Byproduct of the Failure to Confront Evil: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, July 21, 2016— A generation ago, the term evil had meaning. There were no bleeding hearts — certainly no Jews — who minimized the malevolency of the Nazis. Evil was evil.

Western Universities: The Best Indoctrination Money Can Buy: Dr. Denis MacEoin, Breaking Israel News, June 28, 2016 — In asking why Western civilization has been the greatest in history, many point to European and, later, American military power…

Anthropology: Abandon All Truth Ye Who Enter: Philip Carl Salzman, Daily Caller, July 19, 2016— In the decades after WWII, anthropologists carried out ethnographic field research in the Middle East inspired by a scientific spirit to discover the cultures of the region and their dynamics.

Can You be Jewish and Liberal? The Evidence Says: Not So Easy: Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal, July, 2016— What kind of question is this?

 

On Topic Links

 

AIPAC’s Moment of Decision: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, July 12, 2015

UNESCO and the Denial of Jewish History: Ricki Hollander, Algemeiner, July 19, 2016

Pro-Israel Campus Groups: UC Irvine ‘Dragging Out, Burying’ Investigation Into Violent Anti-Israel Protest: Lea Spyer, Algemeiner, July 18, 2016

The Sterile, Vapid, Chauvinistic Alley of Identity Politics: Rex Murphy, National Post, June 11, 2016

 

 

GLOBAL CHAOS — A BYPRODUCT OF THE FAILURE TO CONFRONT EVIL

Isi Leibler  

                                                 Candidly Speaking, July 21, 2016

 

A generation ago, the term evil had meaning. There were no bleeding hearts — certainly no Jews — who minimized the malevolency of the Nazis. Evil was evil. Today, as moral relativism dominates, the world has effectively abandoned the concept of evil, replacing it with a “sophisticated” political correctness in which aggressors and victims are frequently considered moral equivalents. For example, critics of Islamic terror are accused of Islamophobia.

 

There is “shock “at the mass murders and beheadings by Islamic fundamentalists but we are told that it is misleading to describe such behavior as “evil” because this diverts attention from the real source — colonial exploitation. We also repeatedly hear the mantra that social and economic suffering cause desperation and provide the incentive for jihadi recruitment. Yet the majority of ISIS terrorists operating in Western cities are university graduates from middle class families. Moreover the Western governments, whose countries now face terror attacks from “sleepers” and home-bred ISIS supporters, bury their heads in the sand and refuse to face the reality of the evil enemy of Islamic fundamentalism incubated in Muslim communities whose rank and file is unwilling or fearful to expose the jihadists in their midst.

 

At the core of this is the refusal to identify and confront the Islamic fundamentalist threat as a global evil seeking to destroy the Judeo-Christian moral heritage and substitute democracy with Sharia law or the caliphate. This evasion of using concepts such as good and evil is evidenced by the treatment of Israel which, in this context, is truly the canary in the coal mine and spotlights the global descent into amorality. Thus for example: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East region — a society based on law and equality and unqualified freedom of expression. Despite hostile Arab neighbors seeking its destruction, it provides full political equality to all its citizens Arab and Jew alike. Visit a hospital, shopping mall or park to appreciate how outrageous it is to employ terms like apartheid in Israel.

 

Contrast this with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, where basic human rights are denied and where a criminal society promotes terrorism. Its mullahs glorify “shaheeds” and mothers proudly boast about their martyred children on TV and express the hope that more of their offspring will follow. The PA and Hamas provide substantial pensions to families of those killed while murdering Jews or jailed in Israeli prisons. Schools, city squares and football clubs are named in their honor. Moreover, every time a Jew is murdered, spontaneous celebrations erupt in Palestinian streets. Truly a culture of death.

 

Yet the global community continuously applies moral equivalence to Israel democracy and the criminal Palestinian society. Evil is ignored. Two Israeli prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, were rebuffed by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas when they offered the Palestinians 97% of the territories previously occupied by the Jordanians. The “right-wing” Benjamin Netanyahu made far more extensive concessions than Yitzchak Rabin was ever willing to contemplate, including support for a two-state policy subject to security guarantees and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian objective remains to terminate Jewish sovereignty in stages by demanding concessions without any reciprocity. Yet the global community — headed by the Obama administration — at best blamed both sides equally for the breakdown in negotiations but usually held Israel responsible. Again, a denial of evil and the application of moral equivalence.

 

The Middle East region is reminiscent of the Dark Ages with half a million innocent civilians butchered and over 4 million displaced from their homes. Instead of addressing these atrocities, the Obama administration leads the pack in demonizing Israelis for home construction in Jewish neighborhoods. This obsession over “settlements,” which other than Jerusalem comprise 3% of the territories formally administered by the Jordanians, is utterly bizarre. Nobody would argue that an Israeli Arab is prohibited from building on property he purchased. However, Jews who bought land legitimately over the so-called Green Line are criminalized. How grotesque it is that an Israeli extending a terrace in his Jerusalem home could lead to sanctions while a few kilometers away, murder and mayhem continue unabated.

 

Western leaders and their media display cowardice when they grovel to the Islamists in their reporting of terrorist atrocities with their implications that terrorist acts like the stabbing to death of a 13-year-old girl in her bed in Israel are “resistance to occupation”. It is despicable when U.S. and European representatives remain silent at the U.N. as the PA president receives standing ovations after delivering his blood libels against Israel and denies any connection between Jews and Jerusalem. When they support or abstain from U.N. resolutions demonizing or delegitimizing the Jewish state, they become active accomplices to evil. Moral equivalence — which is the order of the day in relation to Israel — was a precursor to a global collapse of confidence among rank-and-file masses in democratic countries…

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

 

 

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                        WESTERN UNIVERSITIES:

THE BEST INDOCTRINATION MONEY CAN BUY                                                                          

                 Dr. Denis MacEoin                                                                                     

     Breaking Israel News, June 28, 2016

 

In asking why Western civilization has been the greatest in history, many point to European and, later, American military power, the strength of the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires, their command of the oceans, or the progress brought about through the Industrial Revolution. Today, of course, there is a general trend to picture Western achievements in a uniformly negative light, often for valid reasons, including our use of slavery or the mistreatment of so many Native Americans. This negativity is, however, highly selective. Why, for example, are Western Christian empires considered a blight on mankind while the great many Muslim empires of the past — which lasted over a much longer period, engaged in the largest and longest-lasting slave trade in history, sought to impose one religion over all others, and placed enormous barriers on rational thought from about the 10th century — regarded as a blessing?

 

The greatness of the modern West owes much to those discoverers, conquerors, and traders and to the worldwide enterprises they built — just as the Islamic empires had their explorers, traders, and international networks (as in the great Sufi orders). Important civilizations were created in both realms: great urban developments, great architecture, the first universities, great poetry, great art, great philosophy, a flurry of scientific and mathematical activity in the Muslim middle ages, and then in the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution in Europe. The tendency of modern liberals to wring apologies out of governments for the actions of their ancestors, from the slave trade to Orientalist depictions of the peoples of Islam, is a pointless attempt to re-write history. There are, of course, no calls for Muslim governments to apologize for anything from their slave trade to the early Arab conquests.

 

The modern world of the West is a product of a period that created the greatest advances in human history: the Enlightenment. From that era we can date the beginnings of the most important strengths of our modern world. It is these strengths, in spite of the many blessings they have bestowed and their role as buttresses for cohesive societies, that are derided and often attacked from the Islamic sphere as well as by forces within the West. It is not hard to remember what those strengths are: liberal democracy, human rights, religious tolerance, international instruments for the managing of conflict, women’s rights, minority rights of all kinds, legislation out of political debate, an abhorrence of tyranny, freedom of thought, belief, and speech, critical inquiry, freedom of the press and other media, secularization that permits freedom of religious worship, and safety for the authors of opinions that dissent.

 

Of these blessings, the most important would seem the last: freedom of thought, belief, and speech, critical inquiry, freedom of the press and other media, secularization that permits freedom of religious expression, and safety for the authors of dissenting opinions. Without them, none of the others would last. There is also another, closely related to them: academic freedom. The liberation of the universities from the 18th century onwards from restrictions placed on scholars by kings and churches, the use of censorship to maintain the status quo, the blocking of scientific advances by appeals to scripture or the power of the clergy or simple traditionalism and all the other forces of obscurantism, meant a quantum leap, not just in the physical sciences, but in all areas of human understanding, from politics to society to philosophy and to religion and the arts. We owe more than we often imagine to the freedoms of academia: that a teacher or researcher may not be censored, dismissed, or financially ruined for expressing his opinions; that publications, whether books, monographs or entire learned journals, be free to include critical, even controversial content, and that controversy itself, far from being an impediment to a search for truth, is an essential mechanism for that search to take place.

 

This process did not take hold in the Islamic world, where, as mentioned, rationality was dismissed in favour of faith, from public and scholarly discourse early on. Starting with an internal dispute between rationalists and theologians of a fundamentalist bent, the shift from fairly open enquiry was shut down when the dogma of the Qur’an’s “uncreatedness,” perfection and infallibility was established. Questioning was a risk to faith; it was safer to avoid hellfire by accepting all aspects of sacred scripture and law without a “wherefore?” or “why?” This doctrine of infallibility and the dangers of reason were promulgated by the most important thinker in the history of Islam, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111). According to this doctrine, God acts at every instant within every atom, destroying and creating as He wills, so that it is impossible to predict just what will happen at any given moment — thus precluding the need or worth of rational enquiry. It is this conclusion that creates the fatalism which denies any human responsibility for the slightest action or exercise of personal will…

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

 

                                                                       

 

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ANTHROPOLOGY: ABANDON ALL TRUTH YE WHO ENTER                                                     

Philip Carl Salzman                                                                                               

Daily Caller, July 19, 2016

 

In the decades after WWII, anthropologists carried out ethnographic field research in the Middle East inspired by a scientific spirit to discover the cultures of the region and their dynamics. Among those who produced sound, grounded research were Fredrik Barth on the Basseri nomads, William Irons on the Yomut Turkmen, Lois Beck on the Qashqa’i confederation, William Lancaster on the Rwala Bedouin, and A. S. Bujra on Yemen. I had the privilege of carrying out field research among the Baluchi tribes of Iran.

 

However, anthropologists, including those studying the Middle East, gradually moved away from a scientific perspective toward a more subjective and politicized view. They were influenced in part by Edward Said, who in Orientalism (1978) argued that Western accounts of the Middle East were fabrications invented to justify imperialist invasion, colonial imposition, and oppression of local peoples. This “postcolonial” view blames Western imperialism for myriad problems worldwide, a view which neglects the cultures and agency of people around the globe.

 

This intellectual revolution has infected anthropology (among many fields) with a dangerous, self-contradictory nihilism that rejects the possibility of objective Truth toward which we may move and posits many different truths held by different peoples — all equally valid. Yet they behave as if their belief in many truths must be treated as The Truth that must not be questioned.

 

Anthropologists insist on the relativity of knowledge, except when it comes to their own statements, which they take to be The Absolute Truth. One should not, however, expect anthropologists who believe in “many truths” to encourage a diversity of opinion within their university departments. Intellectual homogeneity is enforced, with Marxism, postcolonialism, and radical feminism the principal approved paths to enlightenment. Classical liberal beliefs in markets, liberty, and individual rights are verboten.

 

So, today, is the once-regnant faith in science itself rejected as the best way of uncovering the truth about anthropologists’ subjects. Witchcraft, oracles, ancient religious systems, voodoo, and just about any pseudo-science that denies the validity of Western systems of thought are championed as equally valid paths to knowledge in fields from botany to medicine. Of course, anthropologists still employ the latest products of scientific research and live as affluent Westerners, but they do not claim that the way they live conforms to their beliefs.

 

This abandonment of objective methodologies underscores anthropologists’ belief that their discipline is not the science of humankind as upheld by its original practitioners, but a subjective, political commitment to a “praxis” that will liberate the world’s oppressed. The result is deplorably partisan, faux “anthropological” accounts by notoriously partisan writers, such as Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture, edited by Rebecca L. Stein and Ted Swedenburg, and Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory, by Ahmad H. Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod. Yet past and current “praxis” in such places as the USSR, Eastern Europe, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Cambodia, and Cuba, and its consequences for the people concerned, holds little interest to anthropologists.

 

The same moral and intellectual incoherence underlies anthropologists’ insistence that they do not study culture and cultures since these are invalid concepts from a bygone age. Rather, anthropology’s mission is the study of victims and their oppressors. Among the many “victims,” Palestinians are awarded pride of place, their century of violence against Jews and their public commitment to refuse any compromise or cooperation with others notwithstanding. Israeli Jews, on the other hand, are often characterized by anthropologists, using “postcolonial” Leninist terminology, as “settler colonialists” even though Jews are the indigenous population of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank), are agents of no metropolitan home country, and originate as much from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Russia as from Europe and North America.

 

Such is the inevitable result of contemporary anthropology, which has jettisoned the objective, scientifically-grounded study of humankind’s cultures in favor of advocating for selected “victims” of supposed Western perfidy. The outcome of this abandonment of the search for Truth is not a plethora of “truths,” but a regnant false Truth that reduces scholarship to advocacy and demands blind adherence to approved yet false narratives. If anthropologists hope to restore the integrity of their field, they must abandon their intellectually flaccid, morally corrupt habits and readopt the scientific objectivity toward their subjects that marked their discipline from its inception.

 

Philip Carl Salzman is a Professor of Anthropology at McGill University and a CIJR Academic Fellow

                                                           

                                                                       

 

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                               CAN YOU BE JEWISH AND LIBERAL?

THE EVIDENCE SAYS: NOT SO EASY

Shmuel Rosner                      

                                                  Jewish Journal, July, 2016

 

What kind of question is this? Of course you can be Jewish and liberal. Millions of American Jews prove it every day of their lives. They are – Jewish Americans – the most liberal group in America. And they are – well – Jewish Americans. That is to say: Jewish.

 

And yet, the question stands. The evidence makes it necessary. The numbers make it real. Not real in the sense that it is impossible to be Jewish and liberal – real in the sense that the combination of Jewish and liberal apparently presents a unique challenge for those of us who worry about the Jewish future. Numbers have this annoying habit of forcing an inconvenient reality upon us. Numbers assembled by Prof. Steven Cohen have often forced inconvenient reality upon us in recent years – and I suspect his recent collection of numbers could do it again.

 

Cohen presented these numbers at a keynote address at the last NRJE (Network for Research in Jewish Education) annual conference last month. He opened his presentation by sharing the headline that American Jews are “very” liberal. His alternate read as follows: “Does being liberal conflict with Jewish engagement? (Definitely).”

 

Definitely. Conflict. These are strong words that surely justify the question “Can you be Jewish and Liberal?” – strong words backed by evidence. American Jews are “disproportionately liberal, in terms of self-definition,” Cohen says and shows. 51% of them are “liberal” or “very liberal”. They are “secular, in terms of their beliefs & religious participation. About as religious as non-churched Christians.” All this data is based on further analysis of the numbers presented in the 2013 PEW report on American Jewry. 56% of Reform Jews are liberal – 18% of them “very liberal.” 28% of “other Jews” – Jews that do not belong to any denomination – are “very liberal.” Younger Jews are somewhat more liberal. “Jews’ liberalism,” Cohen said, “is not going away very soon.”

 

So what? The more liberal they are, the less their tendency to be actively “Jewish.” The level of liberalism is high among those who raise non-Jewish children “or who are married to non-Jews.” Liberal Jews feel less responsible for other Jews. They have a somewhat lesser sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Only a third of the “very liberal” (34%) feel that “being Jewish is very important” – compared to 54% of “right of center” non-Orthodox Jews. The “very liberal” don’t belong to synagogues (18%), have less Jewish friends, and tend less than others to fast on Yom Kippur or light Shabbat candles. Their attachment to Israel is markedly lower than the attachment of less liberal Jews.

 

That is to say: all across the board – feelings, activities, traditions, and affiliations – the liberals show a lesser level of engagement. The correlation between liberalism and disengagement is “modest” when it comes to “feelings” (Feel responsible for Jews in need, Feel a sense of belonging to the Jewish people, Feel being Jewish is very important). It is “strong” when it comes to “religious engagement” (Being religious very important, Kosher home, Shabbat candles usually+, Attends services monthly). It is also “strong” when it comes to “Israel attachment” (Israel essential to being Jewish, Feel very attached to Israel). In other words: liberal Jews feel moderately passionate about being Jewish; but they do not appreciate religion and do not appreciate Israel, and they especially do not appreciate hawkish views on Israel.

 

If you are a reasonably curious Jew – if you have had a chance to meet with Jews and speak with Jews in the United States – if you haven’t just returned from a mission to Mars – none of this should be a huge surprise to you. I assume that the numbers were not a huge surprise to Prof. Cohen when he assembled the data and analyzed it. He surely is curious enough, has spoken to many Jews (probably too many for his own good), and is still waiting for his turn to go to Mars. What Cohen does with the numbers is not to unearth a shocking revelation, it is to try and force a conversation about an unpleasant reality – a reality that American Jews do not like to discuss.

 

Why is it so difficult to seriously discuss these numbers and this reality? That’s simple: because often times liberal Jews tend to value their “liberalism” more than they value their “Jewishness” (this is me speaking, not Cohen. I am not sure he’d agree). If the numbers tell a story from which one learns that liberalism and Judaism cannot go hand in hand, the liberals will choose liberalism. So the obvious policy of Jewish leaders and institutions is to avoid this seeming contradiction – to hide it for as long as possible and thus not force the choice on a growing group of Jewish liberals. It is good not to force this choice on liberal Jews, because it is a false choice (somewhat similar to the one often forced on Israel between Jewishness and democracy). It is good not to force this false choice, but it's not good to not discuss these true numbers. These numbers have meaning…

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

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On Topic Links

 

AIPAC’s Moment of Decision: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, July 12, 2015—Later this month the Republicans and Democrats will hold their respective conventions. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will officially become the presidential nominees. Ahead of the conventions, both parties selected delegates to draft their platforms. The Democratic platform committee convened late last month.

UNESCO and the Denial of Jewish History: Ricki Hollander, Algemeiner, July 19, 2016 —For years, Palestinians and other Arabs have tried to deny the historical record and usurp Jewish holy sites. Their latest attempt to do so takes the form of a Palestinian-Jordanian draft resolution to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, calling for a return of the Temple Mount to its alleged “historic” status quo before 1967 — as if history starts and ends with Jordan’s 19-year, illegal occupation of eastern Jerusalem, during which Jews were expelled from the area.

Pro-Israel Campus Groups: UC Irvine ‘Dragging Out, Burying’ Investigation Into Violent Anti-Israel Protest: Lea Spyer, Algemeiner, July 18, 2016 —Officials at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) appear to be “burying” the institution’s own investigation into a violent anti-Israel protest in May, leaving student demonstrators off the hook for their actions, the heads of two Israel advocacy campus groups told The Algemeiner on Monday.

The Sterile, Vapid, Chauvinistic Alley of Identity Politics: Rex Murphy, National Post, June 11, 2016—Identity politics is an instrument of division and a stew of contradictions. Curiously or otherwise, this thought emerges out of the one of Donald Trump’s many flare-ups, his current denunciations of the judge hearing the case of the university that bears Trump’s name.

 

Asaf Romirowsky: Out in Left Field

Twenty years after the Oslo peace process, and now with the collapse of the recent negotiations mediated by John Kerry, Jewish American leftists groups are still trying to figure out what “peace” means. But the problem is that they can’t agree on what the current reality is in the first place.

 

The late Middle Eastern historian Barry Rubin noted that,

 

“Philosophical idealism means deriving conclusions about the world from the mind rather than material evidence. If one simply asserts that certain ideas are “fair” and “just” these must take precedence. Therefore, the fact that the left’s program had failed so miserably and that liberal programs weren’t working becomes irrelevant. What’s important is that they should work and eventually – with enough time, money and effort – they will do so because they right. That’s why the phrase is political correctness and not factual correctness.”

 

Rubin’s observation describes the unshakable devotion of the Jewish American left to the idea of Oslo and a negotiated peace. Peace is just and inevitable. But they ignore its failure and instead cling to the notion that settlements are the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The result is more wishful thinking, that even now Hamas may change its colors under the Palestinian unity government. Of course, more money is needed to invest in this righteous process. And pressuring Israel is a necessity; Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is legitimate but only against settlements and their products.

 

The cognitive dissonance displayed by the American Jewish left highlights their own unease regarding values that clearly do not mesh with the realities of the Middle East. The belief that the “occupation” is the defining prism through which everything about the Palestinians is explained and all their actions justified has become near absolute. Occupation justifies “resistance,” that is to say, terrorism.

 

In contrast, such lovers of Zion have a difficult time grappling with the “harsh” Israeli reality under the leadership of “hawkish” governments. We witnessed this when J Street finally condemned the recent kidnappings of the three teenagers in the West Bank by stating, “J Street condemns in the strongest terms the kidnapping of three teenagers last week in the occupied West Bank.” The “occupation” is why the teens were kidnapped, and other kidnappings that have taken place throughout Israel are ignored.

 

The “truth” in this narrative also stands in contrast to the mainstream Israeli Left, which does support concessions for real peace yet is not ignorant regarding realities which demand strong, decisive action against constant threats.

 

Yossi Klein Halevi astutely observes that Israelis are “centrist [as] regards a Palestinian state as an existential necessity for Israel – saving us from the impossible choice between Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state, or the moral burden of occupying another people, from growing pariah status. But a centrist also regards a Palestinian state as an existential threat to Israel – risking rocket attacks from the Samarian highlands on the coastal plain, where most Israelis live, transforming greater Tel Aviv into Sderot, the besieged Israeli town bordering Gaza that has been on the receiving end of thousands of rockets over the last decade. A centrist has two nightmares about Israel’s future. The first is that there won’t be a Palestinian state. The second is that there will be.”

 

The centrality of the settlements is really an empty issue, which deflects notice from the core issues that truly obstruct a negotiated settlement. There is little debate over the fact that – should a peace agreement be completed – there will be a redistribution of land. Most of the bargaining is about whether these exchanges will take the shape of a total phased Israeli withdrawal, or an exchange of land annexing the more populous Israeli towns to Israel for other land in the Jordan Valley or Negev desert. But this must be left to the parties to decide and not imposed by outside powers.

 

Overall, the on-going cognitive dissonance regarding peace in the Middle East is what drives American Jewish leftist groups such as JStreet and American for Peace Now to convince themselves and their supporters that a framework can indeed be parachuted into the Middle East employing BDS, however limited, as the vehicle to bring about a two state solution. It is an oxymoron to advocate that you want peace between Israelis and Palestinians and that boycotts will engender that peace. Ultimately, by doing so these groups themselves open the question regarding the continued existence of the Jewish state.

 

Evidence and research on the Middle East are no match for idealism and universalism. Consequently, the pervasive view within leftist circles when it comes to the Israelis and Palestinians is that it is their moral duty to quote Saul Alinsky to “organize the organized.” A real peace is indeed the goal but a strong dose of reality is needed to help us get there.

 

Isi Leibler: The Fake “Martyrdom” of J Street

Despite widespread predictions to the contrary, J Street failed dismally to gain admission into the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (Presidents Conference). It was unable to obtain the constitutionally required two thirds majority and could not even muster a simple majority. Only a third of the constituents supported its affiliation.

 

An embittered J Street and its allies have launched a campaign seeking to portray itself as a martyr, claiming to have been blackballed by a fanatically right-wing Jewish establishment which is blindly supportive of Israel, brooks no dissent in its ranks and is effectively a bigoted reactionary body undermining the pluralism and tolerance of the American Jewish community. The reality is that the Presidents Conference also includes left-wing organizations such as Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu and the Jewish Labor Committee. It is also noteworthy that Rabbi Meir Kahane’s right wing Jewish Defense League was previously excluded.

 

There have even been false allegations that the voting was rigged. In fact, J Street was given a fair hearing and overwhelmingly rejected by a majority of organizations, many of whom were neither right-wing nor Orthodox. The most vocal condemnation against the exclusion came from Rabbi Richard Jacobs, head of the Union of Reform Judaism – a former member of the J Street Board of Rabbis – who even threatened to withdraw the Reform movement from the Presidents Conference. Yet, were he to do so, this would create a schism within his own movement. One need only read the recent moving appeal by Rabbi Richard Block, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) calling on rabbis to stand by and express solidarity rather than continuously criticize Israel, to appreciate that Rabbi Jacobs’ enthusiastic support of J Street would not be endorsed by all his colleagues and constituency.

 

His criticisms were endorsed by Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly who described the vote as “misguided and destructive”. Yet, in the same breath, she conceded that she had “painfully witnessed” rabbis in her own movement facing searing criticism from members for having joined the J Street “rabbinic cabinet”.

 

What was the justification for excluding J Street from the Jewish mainstream umbrella organization? Was it, as J Street would have us believe, an intolerant expression of prevailing bigotry, a fear of engaging in dialogue, an attempt to deny freedom of expression to a dissenting minority, an effort to enforce conformity and exclude dissidents from the ‘big tent’ of the Jewish community?

 

Nobody is seeking to suppress the right of J Street to express its views – which receive media coverage far in excess of its standing and influence within the Jewish community. Nor is there fear of engaging in dialogue and debate with J Street. On the contrary, I recollect that a few years ago during a visit to New York, when invited to participate in a TV debate, J Street informed the compere that it refused to share a platform with me.

 

The crux of the issue, which has distressed many well-intentioned people, is the confused belief that the community has a moral obligation to encompass all viewpoints in the ‘big tent’ and that this was breached by excluding this purportedly “pro-Israel, pro-peace” liberal, humanistic organization. This presupposes that an organization, primarily created with the express purpose of serving as a vehicle to express support for Israel, should take under its umbrella organizations committed to opposing its raison d’etre.

 

Most committed Jews believe in the centrality of Israel in Jewish life. They also recognize that as a matter of decency, Diaspora Jews should recognize that issues relating to security should be determined exclusively by Israelis whose decisions could have life and death repercussions on them and their children. The Presidents Conference has respected this status, irrespective of the political composition of the democratically elected government of Israel and despite its constituents spanning the broad political spectrum from Americans for Peace Now to the hawkish ZOA. Despite J Street allegations to the contrary, the Presidents Conference also steadfastly endorses a two state policy.

 

AIPAC is the most proactive organization promoting the case for Israel on a ground level and can take most of the credit for the bipartisan Congressional support that Israel currently enjoys. One of J Street’s principal objectives is to undermine AIPAC by maliciously and falsely labeling it an “extreme right wing organization”, even accusing it of generating anti-Semitism by its “one-sided support for Israel,” which creates hostile feelings that American Jews harbor dual loyalties.

 

When J Street describes itself as “pro-peace pro-Israel”, it is simply engaging in Orwellian doubletalk. In reality, it is actively campaigning to encourage the US government to exert greater pressure on the democratically elected government of Israel. It has the chutzpah to insist that it knows better than Israelis what is good for them and that they should be treated with “tough love” like parents with drug-addicted children.

 

To cite a few examples of J Street’s bizarre “pro-Israel” initiatives:

 

During Operation Cast Lead, J Street described Israel’s action as an “escalation” that was “counterproductive” and “disproportionate”. It ascribed moral equivalency to both sides, finding difficulty in distinguishing “between who is right and who is wrong” and “picking a side”.

Despite its self-designated “pro-Israel” tag, J Street actively canvasses for and raises millions of dollars to fund anti-Israeli Congressional candidates.

J Street claims to oppose Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, but invites pro BDS groups to promote their case at its conferences.

A cofounder of J Street, Daniel Levy, is on record describing Israel’s creation as “an act that went wrong”.

J Street collaborated with the biased UN Goldstone Committee which accused Israel of engaging in war crimes. It even facilitated meetings on Capitol Hill for Goldstone to promote his wretched now discredited report.

For a long time, J Street totally opposed any sanctions being applied against Iran. It now lobbies against promoting the threat of military action.

In 2011 J Street actively canvassed the White House not to veto a one-sided UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel.

J Street described the behavior of IDF commandos on the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla ship as “cruel brutality”.

J Street encourages its campus extension to promote discredited anti-Israeli groups like “Breaking the Silence” which promote lies about alleged IDF war crimes.

It opposed a 2011 congressional petition condemning Palestinian incitement.

J Street refuses to condemn the PA-Hamas deal.

Most recently, it defended Secretary of State John Kerry’s offensive remarks that Israel could become “an apartheid state”.

Until it was conclusively exposed, J Street leader, Jeremy Ben Ami, lied repeatedly to conceal that George Soros, the vicious anti-Israeli financier, was and still represents one of the principal funders of J Street. There are also other donors with questionable political interests.
It is surely undeniable that J Street is in fact canvassing and promoting anti-Israeli initiatives whilst castigating and seeking to undermine the policies of the democratically elected government of Israel. If J-Street’s self-description of being pro-Israel were to be accepted, we would truly be living in Alice in Wonderland.

 

Reform leader Rabbi Jacobs says that there should be “no litmus test of ideological orientation” applied to candidates for the Presidents Conference. Under such terms Jews-for- Jesus and the Neturei Karta would presumably also qualify for membership.

 

Rather than sanctimoniously castigating the majority of organizations who voted to reject J Street, Rabbi Jacobs and Rabbi Schonfeld should consider reviewing their own educational programs which seem to lead many of their rabbis towards supporting anti-Zionist leftists who demonize the Jewish state. They should concentrate on educating youngsters about the values and achievements of the Jewish state and its central role for the future of the Jewish people.

 

Bringing organizations which display constant hostility to Israel into a mainstream umbrella body committed to promoting Israel would not widen the Jewish tent. It would destroy it.

OBAMA’S ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS, “DESPERATE” CALLS FOR UNILATERAL WITHDRAWAL, & “GIVE PEACE A CHANCE” MANTRA

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 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org



                                           

Obama-Netanyahu Rift is Unbridgeable: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 9, 2014— In an unprecedented breach of diplomatic etiquette, President Obama once again sandbagged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Michael Oren’s Perilous Plan B: David M. Weinberg, Tablet, Mar. 4, 2014 — The Israeli political Left is perilously anxious.

The Israeli Solution: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 24, 2014 — In its annual survey of American Jewry published last October, the American Jewish Committee found that 75 percent of American Jews agree with the statement, “The goal of the Arabs is not a peaceful two-state agreement with Israel, but rather the destruction of Israel.”

Give Peace a Chance?: Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 20, 2014 — In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s main character Von Humboldt Fleisher is the consummate American, caring about America more than anything else.

 

On Topic Links

 

Netanyahu at AIPAC: Rebutting Obama, Affirming Israel: P. David Hornik, Frontpage, Mar. 5, 2014

Book Review: Caroline Glick: Explaining the Right’s Alternative to the World: Ted Belman, Israpundit, Jan. 5, 2014

Obama’s ‘If Not Now, When?’: Algemeiner, Mar. 7, 2014
A Disturbing Double Standard: Sarah N. Stern, American Thinker, Jan. 15, 2014

 

                                     

OBAMA-NETANYAHU RIFT IS UNBRIDGEABLE                              

Isi Leibler                                         

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 9, 2014

 

In an unprecedented breach of diplomatic etiquette, President Obama once again sandbagged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In a carefully orchestrated interview with Jeff Goldberg, a columnist for Bloomberg, released a few hours before the prime minister’s arrival in the US, Obama reverted to his May 2011 role as an Israel basher and engaged in personal savaging and humiliation of Netanyahu. This despite Netanyahu’s intimation that Israel intended to adopt the Kerry framework, albeit with reservations.

Obama accused Netanyahu of leading his country toward disaster, condemned the “more aggressive settlement construction” and rhetorically asked, “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank?” He effusively praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who had rejected prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer for 97 percent of territories over the Green Line and refused to even conduct negotiations unless Israel released mass murderers whom he currently fetes as heroes. Obama made no reference to Palestinian intransigence and total unwillingness to compromise.

Obama’s most ominous remark was a veiled threat that unless Israel made further concessions, the US would be limited in its ability to protect Israel from “international fallout” at the United Nations and other international bodies. Some allege that Obama was playing a “good cop, bad cop” routine with Secretary of State John Kerry, who despite his earlier role conveying similar intimidating threats against Israel was now reverting to a pro-Israel posture. The more likely explanation is that in the absence of another election, Obama no longer feels obliged to be nice to Israel and is unconstrained in promoting his biased outlook.

To Netanyahu’s credit, he retained his cool and avoided directly confronting Obama’s offensive remarks. He said that “Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t.” He added, “The tango in the Middle East needs at least three. For years, there have been two – Israel and the US. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present.” Reiterating his desire to achieve a peace settlement, he nevertheless emphasized that he would resist any pressures that could compromise Israel’s security needs.
In the midst of this, the Ukraine crisis exploded and Obama’s impotent response again highlighted the dramatic retreat of the US from the world stage.

Obama’s incompetence and failed diplomacy led to the debacle in Syria which, combined with his misguided support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, paved the path for Russia to resume its role as a central player in the Middle East. Obama’s courting and appeasement of extremist adversaries like Iran and his alienation of friends, and hollow threats, have convinced traditional allies that the United States has become a paper tiger and can no longer be relied upon. Many regard Obama as even more ineffective than president Jimmy Carter.

However, when faced with another insoluble maelstrom in the Ukraine and humiliation at the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin and requiring congressional support, Obama must have realized that it would be somewhat bizarre to launch a new confrontation with a democratic ally. At the joint press meeting with Netanyahu, Obama gushed that “we do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and a bond between our two countries and our two peoples is unbreakable.” In a 360-degree reversal, he commended Netanyahu’s efforts and praised him for having “conducted these negotiations with the level of seriousness and commitments that reflects his leadership.” Netanyahu responded indirectly to Obama’s earlier outburst stressing that “the best way to guarantee peace is to be strong and that’s what the people of Israel expect me to do – to stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state.” He emphasized that “what we want is peace – not a piece of paper… a real peace… based on mutual recognition… a peace that we can defend.” He urged Obama to cooperate with Israel to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. He concluded with formal praise of President Obama and especially John Kerry for their tireless efforts to promote peace.

After the meeting, according to news agency AJP, a senior administration official described the talks as “not as contentious as on previous encounters” and said that the president told Netanyahu that he would “push Palestinians” to match any Israeli concessions. And so we witnessed an extraordinary reversal. At the subsequent AIPAC conference, Kerry was effusive in his praise of Israel and Netanyahu. He called on Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and stressed that Israel could not compromise its security.

In his AIPAC address, Netanyahu made scant reference to the president. He restated the danger of a nuclear Iran, reiterated the need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and refused to compromise on security issues. The bulk of his speech was devoted to passionately conveying his desire to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, stressing the great economic, political and social benefits that peace would bring to Israel and the region. The speech reflected the centrist position that he had adopted and thrust the onus on the Palestinians. It was an extraordinary display of good diplomacy, for which Netanyahu deserves full credit.

Yet we should be under no illusions. Despite the ultimate ritual exchange of diplomatic pleasantries, the negative chemistry and ideological differences between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu seem unbridgeable. Obama’s calculated savage outburst against Netanyahu prior to his arrival stands in stark contrast to the soft and engaging language he consistently employs toward leaders of rogue states like Iran. Despite the chaos and bloodshed engulfing the Middle East and other parts of the world, Obama remains obsessed with beating up Israel. His latest outburst reinforced the concerns of most of the Israeli public that he lacks any real understanding of the situation and confirmed their estimate of him as the most hostile US president Israel had ever encountered…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]

                                                                       

Contents
                                        

MICHAEL OREN’S PERILOUS PLAN B                                    

David M. Weinberg

Times of Israel, Feb. 26, 2014

 

The Israeli political Left is perilously anxious. The same people who once sold us Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas as peace partners are now telling us that peace with the Palestinians is probably impossible yet the existing situation is unacceptable. Therefore, they now say, unilateral withdrawal from part or all of the West Bank is Israel’s best/only remaining course of action, and it is urgent. In the Left’s newfangled political parlance, unilateral withdrawal is being giving a heroic shine. It involves “acting boldly to set Israel’s borders without being hostage to the Palestinians;” “making peace without (Palestinian) partners;” tearing down settlements in the distant reaches of the West Bank in order to “signal” to the world that our government is “serious” about compromise; “showing” America that Israel is not interested in “forever being an occupying power”; and so forth.

 

In Ambassador Michael Oren’s thinking, unilateral Israeli withdrawal is elevated even further and accorded almost angelic status. “I would supplant the word unilateralism with Zionism,” Oren gushes. “One good definition of Zionism is Jews taking their destiny in their hands… We do not outsource our fundamental destiny to Palestinian decision making.” Ambassador Oren’s over-the-top salesmanship of Plan B (– unilateral withdrawal as “the Zionist option”!) suggests that he knows that Mahmoud Abbas won’t settle with Israel. “I believe the Palestinians have never indicated a willingness to meet our minimum requirements, which are recognition of Israel’s permanence and legitimacy as a Jewish state and end of claims and end of conflict,” Oren admits.

 

Alas, the only thing new about Oren’s “Plan B” is the sad adding of his important voice to the emerging, dodgy mindset of unilateralism. Others already are into detailed planning for unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria. Former IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who now heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), also says that if peace talks with the Palestinians fail – and he assesses that they will – Israel should withdraw unilaterally from 85 percent of the West Bank. This will “advance Israel towards a two-state situation, even if there is no two-state solution,” he and his colleagues wrote in their annual strategic assessment. Such a withdrawal will improve Israel’s demographic and international situation, Yadlin contends, and will supposedly gain Israel “the ability to be firmer on the Iranian subject and get the United States on board.” Oren similarly argues (without a shred of logical evidence) that unilateral withdrawal would “help take the wind out of the growing BDS movement, particularly in Europe.”

 

At previous INSS conferences, former defense ministers Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz also touted unilateral Israeli action. “We are on borrowed time,” Barak said in June 2012. “We will reach a wall, and we’ll pay the price. If it isn’t possible to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, we must consider an interim arrangement or even a unilateral move.” Last year, Barak’s former bureau chief, Gilad Sher presented an INSS team report entitled “The Palestinian Issue: Toward a Reality of Two States” which also advocated unilateral Israeli withdrawal. And Sher is co-chairman of an organization called “Blue White Future” which is pushing a “compensation law” that would provide payment to tens of thousands of settlers for leaving their West Bank homes.

 

I say that Israel should reject such desperate, dangerous and illogical proposals for unilateral withdrawal. Unilateral withdrawal won’t bring security or peace to Israel. It won’t even provide Israel with “diplomatic legitimacy” or breathing room, as its adherents claim. Rather, as the Lebanon and Gaza precedents prove, unilateral Israel withdrawal guarantees continuation of the conflict and even its escalation. Consider: The Yadlin and Oren plans both speak of unilateral Israeli action to re-draw the map of settlement in Judea and Samaria (i.e., to expel Israelis from their homes). But this would not bring diplomatic quiet. It would only encourage Palestinian maximalism. The Palestinians would (once again) discover that there is no reason to compromise with Israel on any issue (borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, recognition), since Israelis will eventually tear themselves down and out of the West Bank, anyway. All they (the Palestinians) need to do is sit tight, remain intransigent, and demand more.

 

Thus, it makes no sense to dangle before Mahmoud Abbas the hope that Israel will, out of desperation, unilaterally withdraw. Furthermore, withdrawal from the heights of Judea and Samaria without real peace and security would be a very risky move. We’re not talking about the relatively isolated and distant Gaza Strip, but the heartland of Israel in close proximity to our two biggest population centers: greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Yadlin and Oren respond to this by asserting that even after a unilateral withdrawal the IDF would remain positioned in the West Bank at key strategic junctures and installations. But this of course turns the whole unilateral withdrawal proposal into rank nonsense. The Palestinians and much of the world would contend that the “occupation” continues (just as they do with regard to Gaza, even today, where Israeli troops just ring the border). And worse yet still, this would turn the West Bank into southern Lebanon. Everybody remembers, I hope, just how badly Israel’s “security zone” in southern Lebanon worked out. Our forces there had no legitimacy whatsoever, brought us sustained international opprobrium, and suffered heavy casualties. That’s exactly what would befall the rump Israeli troop presence in the West Bank once our civilian settlements were unilaterally torn down and out of the area.

 

Prime Minister Netanyahu should ignore his former ambassador’s new/old ideas for unilateral Israeli withdrawal. He should resist the temptation to buy fleeting international approval (and perhaps purchase short-term domestic political gain) by sacrificing the country’s long-term strategic needs and most fundamental diplomatic principles. Instead, Israel should sit tight and wait out the Palestinians until they crawl back to the real peace negotiating table with mature leaders and realistic expectations. In the meantime, Israel needs perseverance, not impatience, from its diplomats.

 

                                                                                                 

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THE ISRAELI SOLUTION                                                    

Caroline Glick                                                                                          Jerusalem Post, Feb. 24, 2014

 

In its annual survey of American Jewry published last October, the American Jewish Committee found that 75 percent of American Jews agree with the statement, “The goal of the Arabs is not a peaceful two-state agreement with Israel, but rather the destruction of Israel.” And yet, American Jews supported the establishment of a Palestinian state 50% to 47%. Next week over 10,000 predominantly Jewish American supporters of Israel will gather in Washington at AIPAC’s annual policy conference. Given their high commitment to Israel, probably most of those gathered belong to the 47% of American Jews who opposed Palestinian statehood. Yet at the conference they will embrace the two-state formula. And on March 4 they will go up to Capitol Hill and tell their representatives that they support it. They will do so not because they are addled. They will do so because for the past 20 years all they have heard is that Israel has no alternative to the two-state plan.

 

Israel’s fervent and committed supporters at AIPAC have been told that Israel needs a Palestinian state more than the PLO does. Only by bringing such a state into existence in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem can Israel get the Palestinian demographic albatross off its neck. These committed supporters of the Jewish state have been sternly lectured that Israel is doomed if it doesn’t give the Palestinians an outlet for their political impulses outside of Israel, because within a year or two there will be more Palestinians than Israelis west of the Jordan. The same day AIPAC’s delegates meet with members of both houses of Congress, my new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East will be released… In my book, I show that the demographic time bomb is a dud, and a malicious one at that. In 1997, the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Hassan Abu Libdeh told The New York Times that he was carrying out a census which would serve as a “civil intifada,” that is, as a statistical terror assault. And he was right. The goal of terrorism is to force a target population to take actions it otherwise would not have taken. The goal of statistical warfare is to manipulate numbers to coerce a target society into taking actions that it would otherwise not take.

 

The Palestinian census claimed that by 2015, Arabs would be the majority west of the Jordan River. And once Jews were the minority, the Arabs could destroy Israel just by demanding the vote. The Clinton administration, the US Jewish leadership and the Israeli Left rushed to embrace the findings, even though they were totally inconsistent with annual Palestinian population surveys the Israeli military government conducted from 1967 through 1996. All crowed that true, the PLO still supports terrorism, but if Israel didn’t cough up the territories, it would be demographically overwhelmed. It took seven years until an independent group of Israeli and American researchers studied the PLO data and exposed the fraud at their foundation. The American- Israeli Demographic Research Group showed that the Palestinian data inflated the Arab population by a whopping 50 percent. The news for Israel has only gotten better in the intervening years. The Jewish fertility rate has increased as the Palestinian rates have collapsed along with those of the Muslim world as a whole. Israeli Jews now have higher fertility rates than the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, (3.04 vs. 2.91 children per woman). Israel’s immigration rate is high and rising. Palestinian emigration rates have skyrocketed over the past decade. The demographic good news has percolated throughout Israeli society. And with the news, more and more Israeli politicians have come to favor applying Israeli law to all or parts of Judea and Samaria, just as Israel successfully applied its laws to united Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the past.

Most Likud members of Knesset and all members of the Bayit Yehudi party support partial or full implementation of Israeli law in the areas. 59% of Israeli Jews support such action as well and support doing so unilaterally. Indeed, even leftist Israelis support Israel’s unilateral application of its laws to parts of Judea and Samaria. For instance, former ambassador to the US Michael Oren supports the unilateral withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria. But Oren foresees the retention of the major Israeli settlement blocs under Israeli law. In the absence of a peace deal, such a step can only be taken through the unilateral application of Israeli law to those areas. In the current Knesset session, members have submitted two bills calling for the application of Israeli law to the large Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria and to the Jordan Valley, respectively. But while all of this is going on in Israel, Israel’s supporters in the US remain in the dark about the existence of a better – facts based – alternative path for Israel…                        

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]                                                               

                                                                                                 

Contents
                                  

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE?                                                              

Daniel Gordis                                           

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 20, 2014

 

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s main character Von Humboldt Fleisher is the consummate American, caring about America more than anything else. He also reads voraciously, but the more he reads, the more despondent he becomes – because he’s not seeking that sort of complexity. He wants a simpler universe. “History,” Bellow says of Humboldt the American, “was a nightmare during which he was trying to get a good night’s sleep.”

 

Fifty years before Bellow’s novel, in 1907, Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote his third and final play, A Strange Land. In it, he introduces the young Russian Jew, Gonta, just back from several years in America. Gonta had gone to America “to forget,” he says. And when asked what it was that he was hoping to forget, he responds, “Who I was.” Two utterly different writers, one American and one European, separated by an ocean, by largely competing ideologies and by half a century. Yet for both, America was the place where one could essentially put on blinders. In America, you could forget who you were; in America, you could get a good night’s sleep even in the midst of the nightmare called history. That, of course, has been key to America’s greatness, to its optimism, to its sense that every problem has a solution. It has come of age fighting most of its wars in lands far away, buffered by large oceans that make the world the object of interest – but not the source of personal distress.

 

Israel could not be more different. No one goes to Israel, temporarily or permanently, to forget who they are. No one goes to Israel to get a good night’s sleep in the midst of the nightmare called history. To go to Israel is to have who you are be the focus of your very existence. To go to Israel is to sometimes live the nightmare even when you’re awake. No oceans here to serve as buffers. No luxury of fighting our wars far away, in lands we will never see. During the Second Lebanon War and more recent Gaza conflicts, our friends packed up food for their sons who were on the front – sometimes for Shabbat, and sometimes just because – loaded up the trunk of their car, and drove to deliver the food to the boys. No Iraq or Afghanistan – out of sight and often out of mind – here. The DNA of the world’s two largest Jewish communities could not be more different.

 

We need each other and have much to learn from each other, but we could not be more dissimilar. One is a place where you can imagine that if you play your cards right, you’ll have no enemies; the other is a place where such a delusion can get you killed. One is a place where young people have “Holocaust fatigue” and wish to hear no more about it – after all, it was a long time ago, and it’s time to move on; the other is a place where Yad Vashem is a national institution, where Holocaust imagery and memory are to be found everywhere, where Israeli rightists printed posters of Yitzhak Rabin dressed as Hitler (and then pretended to wonder why he was assassinated), where haredim dress their kids up as concentration camp victims to make a political point, and where the Shoah is – for better and for worse – a reminder of the Jewish people’s very real vulnerability.

 

That is why the “give peace a chance” mantra of many thoughtful, Israel- committed and well-intentioned Diaspora Jewish leaders strikes many middle-of-the-political-road Israelis as ludicrous. “If US Secretary of State John Kerry fails, it will be because the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships could not summon the courage to take the painful steps required for peace, security and dignity,” said one recently. Ah, the luxury of balance, of optimism, of the belief that every conflict has a solution. It’s the gift of the buffer of the oceans…                                                                                                          

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]                                               

                                                                          

Netanyahu at AIPAC: Rebutting Obama, Affirming Israel: P. David Hornik, Frontpage, Mar. 5, 2014 —On Sunday, even before Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had arrived in America for his current visit, President Obama was portraying him in an interview to Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg as the obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Book Review: Caroline Glick: Explaining the Right’s Alternative to the World: Ted Belman, Israpundit, Jan. 5, 2014—In her new book, journalist Caroline Glick lays out a political plan built on application of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. Here too, the question of how to deal with the demographic issue is a leading concern, but in this case, Israeli sovereignty becomes a surprising and essential demographic solution.

Obama’s ‘If Not Now, When?’: Algemeiner, Mar. 7, 2014 —U.S. President Barack Obama assumes that regional and global circumstances are now conducive for a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
A Disturbing Double Standard: Sarah N. Stern, American Thinker, Jan. 15, 2014 —Afghan President Hamid Karzi has recently authorized the release of 72 prisoners, regarded as a threat to the security of the United States

 

 

 

 

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JEWISH THEMES, ISSUES: “19TH CENTURY” PUTIN BRINGS ONCE “JEWISH” CRIMEA BACK TO RUSSIA; TIKKUN OLAM CRITIQUED, AS ISRAEL PRIZE GOES TO TALMUDIST

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 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org



                                           

The Wages of Weakness: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Mar. 6, 2014— Vladimir Putin is a lucky man. And he’s got three more years of luck to come.

Before Crimea Was an Ethnic Russian Stronghold, It Was a Potential Jewish Homeland: Jeffrey Veidlinger, Tablet, Mar. 4, 2014 — “On the way to Sevastopol, not too far from Simferopol,” begins what is probably the most famous Yiddish song from the Soviet Union, “Hey Dzhankoye.”  

On the Tikkun Olam Fetish: Steven Plaut, Arutz Sheva, Dec. 22, 2014— What are we to make of Tikkun Olam proclamations?

How Shamma Friedman, Winner of This Year’s Israel Prize, Revolutionized Talmud Study: Shai Secunda, Tablet, Jan. 21, 2014 — Zionism, a polemical issue, still causes fiery debate amid Israeli and international politics and is seen by some as a movement, culture and mentality that is no longer viable in the current Israel.

 

On Topic Links

 

Ukrainian Jews Adjusting to Life in Uncertain Times: Sam Sokol, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2014

For the Kremlin, Ukrainian Anti-Semitism Is a Tool for Scaring Russians in Crimea: Hannah Thoburn, Tablet, Mar. 7, 2014

Putin Can’t Stop: David Brooks, New York Times, Mar. 3, 2014
How Two Montrealers Made an Oscar Favourite About Alice Herz-Sommer: Matthew Hays, Globe & Mail, Feb. 28, 2014

 

                                     

THE WAGES OF WEAKNESS                                                      

Charles Krauthammer                                                    

Washington Post, Mar. 6, 2014

 

Vladimir Putin is a lucky man. And he’s got three more years of luck to come. He takes Crimea, and President Obama says it’s not in Russia’s interest, not even strategically clever. Indeed, it’s a sign of weakness. Really? Crimea belonged to Moscow for 200 years. Russia annexed it 20 years before Jefferson acquired Louisiana. Lost it in the humiliation of the 1990s. Putin got it back in about three days without firing a shot. Now Russia looms over the rest of eastern and southern Ukraine. Putin can take that anytime he wants — if he wants. He has already destabilized the nationalist government in Kiev. Ukraine is now truncated and on the life support of U.S. and European money (much of which — cash for gas — will end up in Putin’s treasury anyway).

 

Obama says Putin is on the wrong side of history, and Secretary of State John Kerry says Putin’s is “really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century.” This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion — the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides — is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman’s club where violations of territorial integrity just don’t happen. “That is not 21st-century, G-8, major-nation behavior,” says Kerry. Makes invasion sound like a breach of etiquette — like using the wrong fork at a Beacon Hill dinner party.

 

How to figure out Obama’s foreign policy? In his first U.N. speech, he says: “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” On what planet? Followed by the assertion that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” — like NATO? — “make no sense in an interconnected world.” Putin’s more cynical advisers might have thought such adolescent universalism to be a ruse. But Obama coupled these amazing words with even more amazing actions.

 

(1) Upon coming into office, he initiated the famous “reset” to undo the “drift” in relations that had occurred during the George W. Bush years. But that drift was largely due to the freezing of relations Bush imposed after Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Obama undid that pushback and wiped the slate clean — demanding nothing in return. (2) Canceled missile-defense agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. Without even consulting them. A huge concession to Putin’s threats — while again asking nothing in return. And sending a message that, while Eastern Europe may think it achieved post-Cold War independence, in reality it remains in play, subject to Russian influence and interests. (3) In 2012, Obama assured Dmitry Medvedevthat he would be even more flexible with Putin on missile defense as soon as he got past the election. (4) The Syria debacle. Obama painted himself into a corner on chemical weapons — threatening to bomb and then backing down — and allowed Putin to rescue him with a promise to get rid of Syria’s stockpiles. Obama hailed this as a great win-win, when both knew — or did Obama really not know? — that he had just conferred priceless legitimacy on Bashar al-Assad and made Russia the major regional arbiter for the first time in 40 years. (5) Obama keeps cutting defense spending. His latest budget will reduce it to 3 percent of GDP by 2016 and cut the army to pre-Pearl Harbor size — just as Russia is rebuilding, as Iran is going nuclear and as China announces yet another 12-plus percent increase in military spending.

 

Puzzling. There is no U.S. financial emergency, no budgetary collapse. Obama declares an end to austerity — for every government department except the military. Can Putin be faulted for believing that if he bites off Crimea and threatens Kiev, Obama’s response will be minimal and his ability to lead the Europeans even less so? Would Putin have lunged for Ukraine if he didn’t have such a clueless adversary? No one can say for sure. But it certainly made Putin’s decision easier. Russia will get kicked out of the G-8 — if Obama can get Angela Merkel to go along. Big deal. Putin does care about financial sanctions, but the Europeans are already divided and squabbling among themselves. Next weekend’s Crimean referendum will ask if it should be returned to Mother Russia. Can Putin refuse? He can already see the history textbooks: Catherine the Great took Crimea, Vlad (the Great?) won it back. Not bad for a 19th-century man.

 

                                                                         

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BEFORE CRIMEA WAS AN ETHNIC RUSSIAN STRONGHOLD,

IT WAS A POTENTIAL JEWISH HOMELAND                                  

Jeffrey Veidlinger

Tablet, Mar. 4, 2014

 

“On the way to Sevastopol, not too far from Simferopol,” begins what is probably the most famous Yiddish song from the Soviet Union, “Hey Dzhankoye.” The song, named after a collective farm near the Crimean town of Dzhankoy, celebrates the alleged victories of the Soviet collectivization drive of the 1920s and 1930s, which, according to the song, magically transformed Jewish merchants into farmers. “Who says that Jews can only trade?” asks the final verse of the song, “Just take a look at Dzhan.” Now, as the new government in Kiev struggles to find its footing after the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian troops are occupying the Crimea in the name of protecting ethnic Russians and, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested at the United Nations, combating anti-Semitic ultra-nationalists—an ironic twist, less than a century after the Kremlin contemplated the peninsula as the site of a potential Jewish homeland.

 

Jews have been living in the peninsula since ancient times, largely divided into two communities: the Krymchaks, who followed rabbinical Judaism, and the Karaites, who rejected the Oral Torah. Soon after Catherine the Great conquered the region from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, she opened it up to Jewish settlement, hoping that the Jews would serve as a bulwark against the Turks. Although Jews were later barred from living in the major cities, the peninsula promised open spaces and freedom to adventurous Jews seeking new frontiers and willing to take up a spade. Tens of thousands of mostly young Jews settled in this part of “New Russia” over the next century. The Crimea became so identified with Russia’s Jewish history, in fact, that Jewish activists in St. Petersburg pointed to the long legacy of Crimean Jews as an argument for Jewish emancipation in the empire—after all, they claimed, Jews had been living there longer than Russians. (The 19th-century Karaite historian Avraam Firkovich even tried to argue that Karaites were living in the Crimea before the time of Jesus Christ, and he fabricated tombstone inscriptions to prove it.)

 

Jewish residents of the Crimea were also deeply engaged in the critical Jewish question of the time—Zionism—and by the late 19th century the area had become a training ground for future Zionist pioneers, who practiced agricultural techniques there before relocating to Palestine. Joseph Trumpeldor—who famously gave his life defending the northern Galilee settlement of Tel Hai with the motto “It is good to die for our country”—once trained potential migrants in the Crimea. (One Crimean settlement was named Tel Hai in his honor.)

 

In the early 1920s, the new Soviet government once again turned its attention to the peninsula. Concerned that the Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, and Germans who mostly populated the region were anti-Communist, officials in Moscow were eager to buy the loyalty of new recruits with land grants and promises of autonomy in the agriculturally rich peninsula. When the American agronomist and communal activist Joseph A. Rosen suggested providing financial support through the Joint Distribution Committee to resettle Jewish victims of the pogroms in the region, the Kremlin jumped at the opportunity. In 1923, the Politburo accepted a proposal for establishing a Jewish Autonomous Region in the Crimea, before reversing itself a few months later.

 

Nevertheless, from 1924 until 1938, the Joint Distribution Committee, through its subsidiary American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation and with the financial support of American Jewish philanthropists like Julius Rosenwald, supported Jewish agricultural settlements in Soviet Crimea. Numerous Jewish collective farms and even whole Jewish districts sprouted over the next few years. The dream of building a Jewish republic in the Crimea remained alive until the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Most of the Jewish colonists in the Crimea fled east to seek safety far from the front; entire collective farms fled together, traveling in convoys eastward, just ahead of the German troops, all the way to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan. There they reestablished their collective farms, and many joined the Red Army to fight the Nazis. As the war dragged on, Stalin dispatched two representatives of the newly established Soviet Jewish Antifascist Committee—Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels and Yiddish poet Itsik Fefer—to the United States and other Allied countries to raise support among Western Jews for the Soviet war effort. In New York, Mikhoels and Fefer met with representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee, who spoke of renewing their support for Jewish colonies in the Crimea once the peninsula was liberated from Nazi control.

 

In 1944, the Red Army routed the Germans out of the Crimea. Stalin ordered the deportation of about 180,000 Crimean Tatars in retaliation for their alleged collaboration with the enemy. Soviet troops ordered Tatar families to pack up their allotted 80 kilograms of belongings and board trains out of the region; soon thereafter, tens of thousands of Jews returned to the Crimea from the east to resettle the colonies they had been forced to abandon. It was in the context of this chaos that Mikhoels and Fefer met with the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and discussed the idea of establishing a Jewish homeland in the Crimea. Molotov seemed like a sympathetic ally. Stalin had appointed him in May 1939 to replace Maxim Litvinov, whose Jewish roots made him an awkward choice to lead the coming negotiations with Nazi Germany; three months later, Molotov signed the nonaggression pact that would allow Germany to invade Poland, beginning WWII. Yet Molotov was not unfriendly toward Jews; his wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina, was from a Jewish family in southern Ukraine and had a sister who had emigrated to Palestine. Mikhoels and Fefer left the meeting convinced that Molotov would support the plan and followed through by sending a memorandum outlining the proposal to Stalin. But instead, Stalin used the Crimean proposal as a pretext for a major assault on Soviet Jewry.

 

The United Nations vote in support of the establishment of the State of Israel in November 1947 had rendered a Jewish homeland in the Crimea superfluous and reinforced Stalin’s suspicions of Jewish national aspirations. On the night of Jan. 12, 1948, Stalin had Mikhoels murdered, signifying the beginning of Stalin’s campaign against the Jews. Over the next 13 months, Fefer, Zhemchuzhina, and numerous other members of the Jewish Antifascist Committee were arrested. Zhemchuzhina was exiled to Kazakhstan. Fifteen others were tried in secret on the charge of conspiring with the United States to establish a Jewish republic in the Crimea. On Aug. 12, 1952, in what came to be known as the Night of the Murdered Poets, 13 of the defendants, including Fefer and well-known Yiddish writers Dovid Bergelson, Dovid Hofshteyn, Leyb Kvitko, Peretz Markish, and Yiddish actor Benjamin Zuskin, were executed in Moscow’s Lubyanka Prison. Two years later, the Kremlin settled the fate of the Crimea when it transferred the peninsula to the administrative authority of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]

 

Contents
                                  

ON THE TIKKUN OLAM FETISH                                                         

Steven Plaut                                                                                  

Arutz Sheva, Dec. 22, 2013

 

"The central mitzvah or commandment for our era is the mitzvah of Tikkun Olam.   It is the defining mission of Jews to strive for the repair of the world by making society more just, fair, egalitarian, and sensitive. Judaism demands that we repair the world by striving for social justice.  It is the mission of Jews in the Divine Plan for the universe to repair the world by repairing man, by improving and advancing mankind."

 

The above paragraph is a fair representation of what has become the defining raison d'etre of Judaism as conveyed by non-Orthodox liberal Jewish organizations and synagogues in America.  It is not a direct citation from any of them, but is an accurate paraphrase of what has become the canon of non-Orthodox Jewish liberalism in our time. It is the "modernized" and contemporary "reinterpretation" of "Jewish ethics" as defined and inculcated by much of the Reform and Conservative movements.  It is also the "theology" of Jewish radical leftist groups operating at the fringes of the Jewish community, including the "Renewal/ALEPH" movement, the "Eco-Judaism" groups, the "Tikkun community" of people and groups that are satellites to the magazine by that same name published by tikkun-activist Michael Lerner, and what remains of the "Reconstructionists."  Lerner, it should be added, discovers "repair of the world" even in LSD consumption.

 

What are we to make of Tikkun Olam proclamations? The most important thing that must be understood about the Tikkun Olam catechism in the United States is that each and every sentence in the above proclamation is false. First of all, there is no such thing as a mitzvah or commandment of Tikkun Olam.   Jews are nowhere commanded to "repair the world."  In all the authoritative or traditional compilations of the commandments of Judaism, none list Tikkun Olam.  The expression itself does not appear anywhere in the Torah or in the entire Bible. 

 

Those assimilationist liberals who insist that the entire "ethics of the Prophets" can be reduced to the pursuit of Tikkun Olam have to explain why none of the Books of the Prophets use the term. Tikkun Olam is used sporadically in the Talmud, but as a technical term for resolution of certain judicial problems that arise before rabbinic courts. The only place the expression appears in Jewish prayer is in the "Aleinu" and there it clearly has nothing at all to do with social justice.  In the "Aleinu," Tikkun Olam is explicitly explained in the prayer text itself as the quest to eliminate pagan superstition and to see God's rule of the universe implemented. It is a theological concept, not a social, political or environmental one. In Judaism, the world does not get repaired by redistribution of income and wealth nor by cutting carbon emissions, but by humans subordinating themselves to God's will.  

 

Secondly, Tikkun Olam does not mean that Jews are obligated to strive to make the earth a more just, clean, fair and equal place.  Nowhere in Judaism are Jews commanded to restructure or re-engineer the societies of nations.  Jews have a certain obligation to participate in the Jewish community and to assist other Jews, especially Jews living in hardship, including through charity.  Even within the Jewish community, there is no religious imperative or justification for coerced schemes of income or wealth redistribution, aside from payments to the Levites and priests.  And while there is no prohibition against Jews using their resources to assist the downtrodden among the non-Jewish nations, there is also no Judaic imperative to do so. The Torah and the Prophets do speak out about the plight of Jewish widows, orphans, and converts, but in every single case where the matter is brought up, the concern is for protecting the rights of these weaker groups in the courts, assuring they do not face judicial discrimination.  There is no official obligation to transfer resources to these disadvantaged groups except for the "tithe for the poor" collected out of agricultural produce in two years out of seven.  (If you do the math, it averages out to about 3% of farm resources per year.) 

 

The idea that it is somehow the religious duty of Jews to "repair mankind" is not only unfounded  it is a manifestation of the ignorance of assimilationist Jewish liberals.  The simple fact of the matter is that in actual Judaism, it is none of the business of Jews to fix or repair humanity.  More generally, in Judaism it is the job of Jews to repair the Jews – a not inconsiderable task – not to repair the world… Indeed, the very notion that Jews are so ethically superior that they are entitled to instruct non-Jews in ethics is completely foreign to Judaism.  The self-image of Jews in the Torah is that of a group of people awash in their own moral failures and foibles, from the Golden Calf to the paganism of the era of the kings of Judah and Israel.  The moral imperative of the Torah is for the Jews to improve and reevaluate their own behavior, not to pretend to have the moral superiority to preach to the entire non-Jewish world. 

"Man" may very well be in need of redemption and improvement and repair, but it is not the business or job of the Jews to carry these things out.   And it would be hubris to think that Jews are morally equipped to do so.  Jews have more than their hands full in attempting to repair Jews…It is… wrong to attempt to recruit the Torah and Tikkun Olam as artillery support for ideological positions regarding other fashionable questions of the day.   Probably one of the most common misuses of Tikkun Olam by liberals involves environmentalist trendiness.  But the only real environmentalist statement by the Torah is that God will never allow planetary destruction to take place, and that every time one sees a rainbow in the sky one should remember that the doomsday warnings by the radical environmentalists about man destroying the planet are negated by the Torah…                                                                      

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]                                                                                              

Contents
                                  

HOW SHAMMA FRIEDMAN, WINNER OF THIS YEAR’S

ISRAEL PRIZE, REVOLUTIONIZED TALMUD STUDY                   

Shai Secunda                                           

Tablet, Jan. 21, 2014

 

This past Sunday, sitting amidst the curated clutter of his peaceful study near Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, the accomplished Talmud scholar Shamma Friedman wrapped up a typical afternoon of work. Suddenly, the phone rang. Friedman picked up the receiver to hear a secretary announce that the Israeli Education Minister, Shai Piron, would be on the line shortly. Then, the pensive silence of hopeful expectation. After the conversation was through, the professor eased himself into his chair and disbelievingly gazed out the window at the fading January light. Within minutes, the internet lit up with the news that Friedman would be awarded the seventh Israel Prize in Talmud at a special Independence Day ceremony. He phoned his wife Rachel, closed the door to his study, and made the short trip home to celebrate the good tidings.

Shamma Friedman, professor of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Schechter Institute, is the most important Talmudist of his generation. That may sound like a desperately arcane perch, but marginality is of course a relative concept. Friedman’s accomplishments would appear inconsequential only to those not privy to the longest and most absorbing conversation the Jewish people have ever held—the study of the Talmud.

 

The Talmud itself might paradoxically be described as a marginal bedrock. It is the foundational work of normative Judaism, yet it often seems hopelessly consumed by language games and conceptual digressions. Ostensibly, the Talmud is structured as a commentary on an early third-century rabbinic legal compilation known as the Mishna; in practice, it ranges far beyond that. Everything that comes into view is ripe for analysis, and anything is fair game for extensive discussion—from weighty questions of theology to locker-room banter between obese rabbis.

 

Within the confines of that narrow vastness, Friedman made multiple breakthroughs—and still remains an impressively productive scholar. He wrote extensively on Rabbinic Hebrew, published studies on talmudic manuscripts, explored the composition of talmudic narratives, examined the relationship between the Mishna and related works, and produced important scholarship on towering medieval Talmudists like Maimonides. But arguably, Friedman’s greatest legacy has been to untangle the Talmud’s complicated textual web, and show how it was actually put together.

 

Most of the rabbis named in the Talmud lived in Mesopotamia during a time in history now known as late antiquity. Their primary activity was to learn and discuss the Mishna and other rabbinic texts which, incredibly, were at that time not yet written down. For a thousand years, early Talmud commentators and modern scholars alike had assumed that the Talmud was essentially a transcript of those original rabbinic discussions. Yet, over the course of the twentieth century, scholars began to question this view. In the 1970s, two Talmudists—David Weiss-Halivni (the recipient of the last Israel Prize) and Friedman—published groundbreaking research that focused on the question of the Talmud’s composition. By independently demonstrating that unnamed editors who lived significantly after the Talmud’s rabbis played a central role in the corpus’ creation, these Talmudists drastically changed the way scholars understood the composition of the talmudic text, and more importantly, the way it is to be studied…                                        

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]                 

                             

CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters Shabbat Shalom!

                                                                          

Ukrainian Jews Adjusting to Life in Uncertain Times: Sam Sokol, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2014 —The turmoil in Ukraine has left one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities on edge.

For the Kremlin, Ukrainian Anti-Semitism Is a Tool for Scaring Russians in Crimea: Hannah Thoburn

, Tablet, Mar. 7, 2014 —You know the joke: Ask two Jews a question, get three opinions.

Putin Can’t Stop: David Brooks, New York Times, Mar. 3, 2014 —Even cynics like to feel moral. Even hard-eyed men who play power politics need to feel that their efforts are part of a great historic mission.
How Two Montrealers Made an Oscar Favourite About Alice Herz-Sommer: Matthew Hays, Globe & Mail, Feb. 28, 2014

 

 

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OBAMA & BOSTON TERROR – “ISLAMISM” TO US? —FOR JEWS, IS “PROGRESSIVE” ANTISEMITISM THE NEW CONTEXT?

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Contents:                          

 

 

Boston Terror Update: Washington Post, April  19, 2013—Police said one suspect is dead and a manhunt was underway for a second suspect after a police officer was killed at MIT and the suspects led police on a chase and into a violent confrontation involving explosions and gunfire in Watertown, Mass. about 10 miles west of Boston.
 

Obama and the Language of Terror: Charles Krauthammer, National Post, Apr. 18, 2013—Terrorism is speech — speech that gathers its audience by killing innocents as theatrically as possible. The 19th-century anarchist Paul Brousse called it “propaganda by deed.” Accordingly, the Boston Marathon attack, the first successful terror bombing in the U.S. since 9/11, was designed for maximum effect.

 

“Progressive” Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism: Alvin H. Rosenfeld, American Jewish Committee, Dec. 2006

“German fascism came and went. Soviet Communism came and went. Anti-Semitism came and stayed.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, offered these discerning words in response to a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which the president of Iran denounced Israel as “a disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map.”

 

Jewish Guilt: Peter Lopatin, Commentary, April 2013—At the beginning of his new book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, David Nirenberg makes an underappreciated point: Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, non-Jews have spilled much ink and devoted much consideration not only to the Jews in their midst but also to “the Jews” in their imagination.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Chechen Terrorism: What You Need to Know: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, Apr 19, 2013

Muslim Anti-Semitism in Western Europe: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Tundra Tabloids, Feb. 2013

Principled Dupedom: On the Moral Imperative to Be Stupid: Richard Landes, Augean Stables, April 18, 2013

 

 

 

BOSTON TERROR UPDATE
Washington Post, April  19, 2013

Police said one suspect is dead and a manhunt was underway for a second suspect after a police officer was killed at MIT and the suspects led police on a chase and into a violent confrontation involving explosions and gunfire in Watertown, Mass. about 10 miles west of Boston. The suspects were linked to the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured 176 near the race finish line Monday. They are [Chechen] brothers, law enforcement officials said Friday morning. The one still at large was identified by law enforcement authorities as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge. Law enforcement officials said they believe Tsarnaev may be strapped with explosives. They are taking extreme precautions in Watertown and other nearby suburbs, where residents are being required to remain inside with their doors locked  in [an unprecedented] state of complete lockdown

Top of Page

 

 

OBAMA AND THE LANGUAGE OF TERROR

Charles Krauthammer

National Post, Apr. 18, 2013

 

 

Terrorism is speech — speech that gathers its audience by killing innocents as theatrically as possible. The 19th-century anarchist Paul Brousse called it “propaganda by deed.” Accordingly, the Boston Marathon attack, the first successful terror bombing in the U.S. since 9/11, was designed for maximum effect. At the finish line there would be not only news cameras but also hundreds of personal videos to amplify the message. But what message? There was no claim of responsibility, no explanatory propaganda. Indeed, was it terrorism at all?

 

There was much ado about President Obama’s non-use of the word “terrorism” in his first statement to the nation after the bombing. Indeed, the very next morning, he took to the White House briefing room for no other reason than to pronounce the event an “act of terrorism.” He justified the update as a response to “what we now know.” But there had been no new information overnight. Nothing changed, except a certain trepidation about the original omission.

 

There was no need to be so sensitive, however. The president said that terrorism is any bombing aimed at civilians. Not quite. Terrorism is any attack on civilians for a political purpose. Until you know the purpose, you can’t know if it is terrorism.  Sometimes an attack can have no purpose. The Tucson shooter who nearly killed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was simply deranged, a certified paranoid schizophrenic. Or there might be some personal vendetta — a purpose, but not political. In the Boston case, conceivably a grudge against the marathon, its organizers or something associated with the race.

 

That, of course, is extremely improbable. (Schizophrenics are too disorganized to set off simultaneous bombs, for example.) It’s overwhelmingly likely that the Boston attack was political, and therefore terrorism. Nonetheless, the president’s non-use of the word was no big deal. Why then was he so sensitive that he came out the next morning to correct the omission?

 

Answer: Benghazi, in which the administration had been roundly and correctly criticized for refusing to call it terrorism for so long. Benghazi, however, was totally different. There, the word mattered very much. There were two possible explanations for the killing of the four Americans: a deliberate pre-planned attack (terrorism), or a spontaneous demonstration gone wild. The administration tried to peddle the spontaneous demonstration story in order to place the blame on a mob incited by a nutty Coptic American who had made an offensive video. This would have spared the administration any culpability. To use the word terrorism, meaning deliberate attack, would have undermined the blame-shifting and raised exactly the questions — about warnings ignored, inadequate security, absence of contingency plans — that have dogged the administration for months.

 

In Boston, in contrast, there is no question about deliberateness. Nor is anyone blaming the administration for inadequate warning or protection. Here, the linguistic challenge for the president is quite different. What if this turns out to be the work of Islamists? The history of domestic attacks since 9/11 would suggest the odds are about 50-50, although the crude technique and the unclaimed responsibility would suggest a somewhat lower probability.

 

But if it is nevertheless found to be Islamist, will Obama use the word? His administration obsessively adopts language that extirpates any possible connection between Islam and terrorism. It insists on calling jihadists “violent extremists” without ever telling us what they’re extreme about. It even classified the Fort Hood shooting, in which the killer screamed “Allahu Akbar” as he murdered 13 people, as “workplace violence.”

 

In a speech just last month in Jerusalem, the president referred to the rising tide of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists as the rise of “non-secular parties.” Non-secular? Isn’t that a euphemism for “religious,” i.e., Islamist? Yet Obama couldn’t say the word. This is no linguistic triviality. He wouldn’t be tripping over himself to avoid any reference to Islam if it was insignificant.

 

Obama has performed admirably during the Boston crisis, speaking both reassuringly and with determination. But he continues to be linguistically uneasy. His wavering over the word terrorism is telling, though in this case unimportant. The real test will come when we learn the motive for the attack.

 

As of this writing, we don’t know. It could be Islamist, white supremacist, anarchist, anything. What words will Obama use? It is a measure of the emptiness of Obama’s preferred description — “violent extremists” — that, even as we know nothing, it can already be applied to Boston bomber(s). Which means, the designation is meaningless.

 

 

 

“PROGRESSIVE” JEWISH THOUGHT AND THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM

Alvin H. Rosenfeld

American Jewish Committee, Dec. 2006

 

“German fascism came and went. Soviet Communism came and went. Anti-Semitism came and stayed.”1 Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, offered these discerning words in response to a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which the president of Iran denounced Israel as “a disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map.” A few days after this incendiary declaration, the Iranian leader followed up with more of the same, dismissing the Nazi Holocaust as a “myth” or “fairy tale.”  Shocked by such unabashed outpouring of anti-Jewish venom and by numerous parallels to it, Rabbi Sacks confessed that the reemergence of anti- Semitism “is one of the most frightening phenomena in [my] lifetime– because it’s happened after sixty years of Holocaust education, anti-racist legislation, and interfaith dialogue.”

 

In light of this disturbing trend, this paper will reflect upon two questions: (1) What, if anything, is new about the “new” anti-Semitism? (2) In what ways might Jews themselves, especially so-called “rogressive” Jews, be contributing to the intellectual and political climate that helps to foster such hostility, especially in its anti-Zionist forms?3 Before proceeding to examine these issues, though, it will be helpful to review some of the developments that give rise to them in the first place.

 

Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the Muslim World

 

Over the past year, copies of a new Turkish translation of Mein Kampf have been selling in Istanbul and other Turkish cities at the same pace that lottery tickets go in America. The popularity of Adolf Hitler’s diatribe against the Jews is so great that eleven different publishers are currently marketing it; even so, bookstores evidently cannot keep up with the demand. New editions of Mein Kampf have also appeared in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and it is readily available in Arabic translation in London bookstores. 

 

The obvious appeal of this noxious book is one ominous sign among many that yesterday’s ghosts are once again stirring. At the same time, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, another classic work of anti-Semitic literature, is also selling well in Turkey, as it is in Arabic translation throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Long ago exposed as fraudulent, this bogus tale of a Jewish plot to take over the world has emerged from a period of dormancy and disgrace to wide circulation today in Arabic-speaking countries.

 

Two years ago, at a much-publicized exhibition of religious books in the Alexandria library in Egypt, the Protocols was prominently displayed next to a Torah scroll as one of Judaism’s “sacred texts.” A favorite in Iran, it was made available in English translation at the Iranian exhibition booth at the 2005 Frankfurt International Book Fair (as were such related titles, in Arabic, as The Jewish Role in the 9/11 Destruction of the World Trade Center, The World Jewish Conspiracy, Three Thousand Years of Jewish Iniquity, The End of Israel, etc.). The notion of a well-plotted Jewish scheme to seize power on a global scale is reiterated as well in the charter of Hamas, which cites the Protocols as an authoritative source to prove, among other things, that “there was no war that broke out anywhere without their [the Jews’] fingerprints on it.” Additionally, the Protocols has inspired recent TV serial broadcasts in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab states….

 

A Conflation of Interests: Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in Europe

 

One manifestation of the new anti-Semitism can be found right here—in a conflation of interests among those on the far right, segments of the intellectual left, and radical Islam. While formal alliances among these otherwise disparate groups are not readily apparent, they share one thing in common: a suspicion of Jews and, especially, an emphatic dislike of the Jewish state. Growing from these inclinations, an aggressive mood of censure and hostility has developed and led to an outbreak of malicious activities over the past few years that has been well documented: Jews have been beaten on the streets of European cities; scores of synagogues, Jewish schools, and other communal institutions have been set on fire or

otherwise attacked; Jewish cemeteries and sites of Holocaust commemoration have been repeatedly desecrated; and the Jewish populations of Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, and other cities now

live with more uncertainty about their welfare than they have felt for decades….

 

What Is New in Today’s Anti-Semitism?

 

What does all this anti-Jewish hostility tell us? Despite the huge scandal of the Holocaust, which most Jews probably thought would prevent public manifestations of anti-Semitism from ever appearing again, the genie is once more out of the bottle. Is there a new anti-Semitism today? There is, and while much of it resembles the anti-Semitism of the past, certain features of present-day hostility to Jews and sometimes also to Judaism do seem new. One is that, like so much else today, Jew-hatred has been globalized and leaps effortlessly across borders. In the past, antagonism to Jews tended to take the form of localized activities, but thanks to the Internet and other global media, anti-Semitism now belongs to the world at large.

 

With the press of a computer key, it can be accessed and distributed in a flash. Two, while often drawing on the same repertoire of fabricated claims against the Jews as in the past—that they are clannish, conspiratorial, money-hungry, manipulative, predatory, etc.—anti-Semitism is protean and evolves. As already indicated, it may, for instance, promote images of Jews as poisoners, but instead of contaminating wells, as they were said to do in the medieval period, or blood, as in the Nazi period, this time Jews may be accused of contaminating the atmosphere itself or targeting DNA. Three, some of the most virulent sources of today’s anti-Semitism are located within the Muslim world, not, as in the past, within Christendom.

 

While some of this negative passion is attributed to Muslim anger toward Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, much of it predates the violence brought on by the recent intifadas and has roots within Arab Muslim culture. To understand Muslim anti-Semitism today, one has to see it as part of a crisis within Islam itself, as well as part of its deep-seated grievances against the West. Four, and most prominently, some of the most impassioned charges leveled against the Jews today involve vicious accusations against the Jewish state. Anti-Zionism, in fact, is the form that much of today’s anti-Semitism takes, so much so that some now see earlier attempts to rid the world of Jews finding a parallel in present day desires to get rid of the Jewish state….

 

Progressives’ Complaint: Radicals, Rabbis, and Peacemakers

 

The true end point of these views is not just to force the Israelis out of the territories they have occupied since 1967, but to force an end to the Jewish state itself. This goal is suggested more implicitly than explicitly in some of the contributions to Wrestling with Zion, but it gets spelled out quite openly in Seth Farber’s collection of interviews with anti-Zionist Jews. The book’s contributors include Noam Chomsky, Steve Quester, Joel Kovel, Norton Mezvinsky, Ora Wise, Norman Finkelstein, Phyllis Bennis, Adam Shapiro, Daniel Boyarin, Rabbi David Weiss, and Marc Ellis, most of whom are identified as “progressive.”

 

Whatever substantive meaning the term “progressive” may once have had, it appears in Radicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers as little more than a self-validating honorific—the presumed equivalent of moral and political virtue itself. Like “peace,” “justice,” and much else in the contemporary lexicon of leftist rhetoric at its most dogmatic, “progressive” has worn badly; and in Farber’s overheated book, the term appears either as a pious gesture in the direction of utopian politics or, with reference to Zionism, signals views that can only be called regressive.

 

The Israel that emerges in Radicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers—a country characterized as “amoral,” “barbaric,” “brutal,” “destructive,” “fascistic,” “oppressive,” “racist,” “sordid,” and “uncivilized”—is indistinguishable from the despised country regularly denounced by the most impassioned anti-Semites. As pictured by Farber and his colleagues, Israel is guilty of every sin that a modern nation-state is capable of committing—from “apartheid” and “state terrorism” to “ethnic cleansing,” “crimes against humanity,” and “pure genocide.”

 

No convincing evidence is offered to support any of these extreme charges. Rather, as demonstrated by the contributors to this book, it is an unquestioned assumption of their collective thinking that Israel is an inherently racist, oppressive, and singularly brutal country and, ipso facto, stands guilty as charged. For what is alleged to be its racist, systematic cruelty, the Jewish state is likened to the Ku Klux Klan and South Africa during the worst years of apartheid rule. Lest these analogies be considered too tame, Farber quotes the theologian Marc Ellis, who favors references of a still stronger kind: “‘What the Nazis had not succeeded in accomplishing … we as Jews have embarked upon” (p. 15)…..

Some of the harshest anti-Israel vehemence in today’s political rhetoric is their creation, as are the now frequently heard notions that “Zionism is the real enemy of the Jewish people,” that it is subversive of Judaism, the primary source of today’s anti-Semitism, and that the dissolution of Israel—conceived of as a morally repugnant, even criminal state—would be “good” not only for the Jews, but for world peace in general. The cumulative effect of these hostile ideas, which have been moving steadily from the margins to the mainstream of “progressive” opinion, has been to reenergize ugly ideas and aggressive passions long considered to be dormant, if not dead…..

 

Alvin H. Rosenfeld is professor of English and Jewish Studies and director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts, Indiana University. 

 

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JEWISH GUILT 

Peter Lopatin
Commentary, April 2013

 

Anti-Judaism:The Western Tradition: David Nirenberg, W.W. Norton, 624 pages

At the beginning of his new book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, David Nirenberg makes an underappreciated point: Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, non-Jews have spilled much ink and devoted much consideration not only to the Jews in their midst but also to “the Jews” in their imagination. Anti-Semitism differs from other systems of prejudice in that Judaism is an actual fetish object of those who hate Jews. Nirenberg, who teaches medieval history and social thought at the University of Chicago, asks the critical historical question:Why did so many diverse cultures—even many cultures with no Jews living  among them—think so much about Judaism?” The rest of this splendid and original book is his extended answer.

Nirenberg argues that anti-Judaism is a mode of thinking that emerges from a view of Judaism itself as “not only the religion of specific people with specific beliefs, but also a category, a set of ideas and attributes with which non-Jews can make sense of and criticize their world.” And as such, it has achieved extraordinary (if often delusional and ominous) explanatory power. Anti-Judaic hermeneutics, writes Nirenberg, lie at the heart of “one of the darkest questions of modernity: how, in the middle of the twentieth century, an astounding number of the world’s most educated citizens were willing to believe that Jews and Judaism posed so grave a threat to civilization that they needed to be exterminated.”

But his exploration of the topic begins long before the rise of the Third Reich. Nirenberg works his way through nearly 2,500 years of European history and makes the case that “anti-Judaism should not be understood as some archaic or irrational closet in the vast edifices of Western thought. It was rather one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed.”

In fifth century b.c.e. Egypt, recurrent themes about Jews and their religion manifested themselves, such as the Jews as imperialist agents, slaves to legalism, creatures of carnality, fanatics, and misanthropes. Judaism was often viewed as synonymous with irrationalism, self-love, particularism, and being preoccupied with contract, property, and law.

But it was with the advent of the early Christian Church that anti-Judaism first provided answers to pressing doctrinal questions and served as a strong polemical weapon in theological disputes. Though there was room for nuance, differing parties used anti-Judaism toward the same end: “to make sense of the flesh in terms of the spirit, of the earthly city in terms of the heavenly one, of the political order in terms of the prophetic oracles through the perpetual defeat of the Jews.” Judaism and its legacy stood in the way of the true kingdom of God.

Saint Paul figures prominently in Nirenberg’s analysis, for it is in Paul’s struggles with the Jewish origins of Christianity that we can discern the emergence of motifs that would form the foundations of Christian anti-Judaism. Paul attributed to the Jews, writes Nirenberg, a “misplaced attention to the world of law, letter, and flesh” (the latter exemplified by ritual circumcision). This criticism was not a trivial matter: Paul’s “logic identified with Jews a cardinal error for the believer of Jesus—that of giving excessive attention to the ‘flesh’ of the text and of the person.” As Paul declared in his second letter to the Corinthians: “The letter kills, the spirit vivifies.” This point would resonate throughout the creation of Church dogma with great and worrisome significance for Jews.

Martin Luther, by his own account, wished to free Christians from the tyranny of Church “law,” whose authority he loudly and resolutely denied. “I declare that neither pope nor bishop nor any other person has the right to impose a syllable of law upon a Christian man without his own consent,” he wrote. As Nirenberg points out, “Luther’s reconceptualization of the ways in which the language of scripture relates humans to their world and their God rewrote the roles played by Jews as figures of Christian thought.”

The Roman Church, for Luther, had become shackled to the law and had thereby moved away from the gospel. It had, as it were, become more “Jewish,” leading Luther to declare, in 1523, that “he who would be a good Christian might also have to become a Jew.” And so he recast the Hebrew Bible such that its literal meaning was to be understood as the life of Jesus. After executing this audacious move, the continued existence of the Jews became, for Luther, almost unbearably offensive to Christian sensibility: “They are given to all people in the whole world to tread down,” he wrote of Jews, “just like scum in an alley, which is thrown out because it is of absolutely no use to anyone, except to soil one’s feet.”

The “use” of the Jews, however, was very much the point—and, crucially, they need not have been real Jews at that. Nirenberg notes that in Luther’s time, Jews “had been expelled from most of the cities and territories of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as from England, France, Spain, and much of Italy.” Luther’s criticism of Judaism, therefore, was deployed not principally against Jews but rather against his Christian rivals, “whether Papists or (later) Protestants more radical than himself.”

Luther recognized that an authentic understanding of Christian scripture demanded that “its Judaizing potential needed to be contained.” For the actual Jews who remained in Luther’s Germany, the consequences were dire. As Luther’s battles with his Papist and Protestant enemies grew in rancor, his vitriol toward Jews became more overtly murderous. “Burn their synagogues…force them to work,” he wrote, “and deal with them with utter mercilessness, as Moses did in the wilderness when he struck three thousand dead.” Jews were expelled from Saxony in 1537, from Thuringia in 1540, and from Brunswick in 1543. In 1572, the synagogue of Berlin was destroyed; expulsions from Brandenburg and the (Calvinist) Palatinate followed in 1573 and 1575, respectively.

Nirenberg seeks to establish anti-Judaism as a “Western tradition,” and that tradition comprises more than the history of Christianity. Nirenberg highlights the anti-Judaism of numerous Western thinkers and writers. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare draws heavily on the chronic fear that the Christian soul and the Christian polity might become “Judaized” through a Catholic emphasis on the law. As with Luther’s Germany, what’s most telling for Nirenberg is the extreme scarcity of actual Jews in the British Isles at the time.

Similarly, in pre-revolutionary France, Jews were less than one-fifth of 1 percent of the country’s population, yet they featured prominently in the theorizing of the philosophes. In his encyclopedia, published in 1750, Diderot says of the Jews: “They are like the pegs and nails that one uses in a great building, and which are necessary to join all its parts.” Other philosophes formed what Nirenberg describes as a “unified field theory” of anti-Judaism to explain the conflict between faith and reason. They began with the Jews’ “enmity toward the spirit” and proceeded from there. As a result, the Enlightenment’s “most famous treatises on toleration and freedom of thought depended on separating Judaism from Christianity, and isolating the former in an archaic and execrable past,” Nirenberg writes.

In 1785, Immanuel Kant drew on Paul’s anti-Judaic foundation in his separation of morality and empiricism. Yet that didn’t stop Hegel, 14 years later, from criticizing Kant on further anti-Judaic grounds, writing of Kant’s recourse to the “Jewish principle of opposing thought to reality, reason to sense, [a principle involving] the rending of life and a lifeless connection between God and the world.” Thus, throughout modern European history, amid the throes of turbulent conflict, non-Jewish thinkers of enduring influence deployed depictions of Jews and Judaism as essential weapons in their internecine struggles.

Nirenberg expands upon this catalogue right through to the present. Although today, as global politics is on the ascent and religion on the decline, anti-Judaism has taken on a more political tint. “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel.’?” From Western citizens who resent being “dragged into” deadly far-off conflicts to Middle-Eastern Muslims who desire well-being and freedom, the perceived Jewish obsession with fanaticism and particularism now causes greatest offense in the simple existence of a Jewish state. 

In a way, this evolution confirms Nirenberg’s initial thesis and bolsters the significance of his excellent book. If anti-Judaism is an explanatory ideology having almost nothing to do with actual Jews who may dwell among its adherents, what purer wellspring exists than an entirely separate country of Jews? With the actual populated Jewish state perceived as a foreign and remote patch of conflict for most of the world’s citizens, the Israel of the anti-Semitic imagination is given free rein in a manner unseen for millennia.

 

 

On Topic

 

 

 

 

Chechen Terrorism: What You Need to Know: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, Apr 19, 2013—Chechen terrorism may be less familiar to most Americans than that carried out by fighters from the Middle East or Afghanistan and Pakistan, but Chechen separatists have fought a long and bloody war against Russia in the region’s long war of independence from Moscow.

 

Muslim Anti-Semitism in Western Europe: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Tundra Tabloids, Feb. 2013—European governments often avoid exposing Muslim anti-Semitism. In colonial times, Western racism far exceeded any other discrimination. With these guilt feelings, to accuse an immigrant minority group of having a high percentage of people who hate another minority – i.e., the Jews – is not done.

 

Principled Dupedom: On the Moral Imperative to Be Stupid: Richard Landes, Augean Stables, April 18, 2013

One of the major weaknesses of Westerners in the current cognitive war with Islamic imperialism is a seemingly boundless commitment to being fooled. It’s almost as if, on principle, we need to accept lies from the other side as true, lest we be accused of being racist.

 

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