Tag: Jewish State

Manfred Gerstenfeld: Norwegian summer, Israel and the Jews

[Manfred Gerstenfeld is a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of which he has been Chairman for twelve years.]

Originally published in Yneet News.


The short Norwegian summer was this year not as quiet as usual. Some aspects of this are also relevant for Israel and the local Jewish community. Part of Norway’s problems are linked to last year’s murder of 77 people by Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya on 22 July.


The just-released conclusions of the government-appointed investigation commission are damning for Norway’s leadership. The report mentions a long list of major shortcomings among which poor protection of governmental buildings, weak police leadership and general disorganization. The ultimate responsibility for these failures lies with Labor Party Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.


His government has been proven greatly incompetent at protecting its own citizens. Yet it is a master at criticizing Israel. In particular, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere frequently condemns the Jerusalem government and tells it how to handle infinitely more complex challenges than Norway is able to deal with. This arrogance is often shared by Norwegian media editors, NGOs, some Lutheran bishops, trade union leaders and others among the country’s cultural elite.


Yet it was not difficult to understand that there were structural security problems in Norway already many years ago. In my 2008 book 'Behind the Humanitarian Mask,' the Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, I quoted the then-head of the Norwegian Army, General Robert Mood. He described his army’s capability as only being able to defend perhaps one neighborhood in Oslo, much less the entire country.


Besides the Breivik Commission report there were other reasons for a somewhat troubled summer. In the Netherlands, a major tank farm of the major Norwegian company Odfjell had to close. There had been leaks of flammable gases in addition to frequent security and environmental problems. When a Dutch security expert saw a picture of the actual installation, his first thought was that it was taken 30 years ago. Odfjell’s head office declared that security is taken extremely seriously, yet could not explain why the Dutch subsidiary had many failures in this field.


Norway’s cultural elite is fallaciously proud of its ethics. The country’s huge State Pensions’ Fund sold off shares of the Israeli company Elbit because it had manufactured components for Israel’s security fence. The latter has greatly reduced the number of Palestinian murders of Israeli civilians. A major explosion at the unethical and negligent Dutch subsidiary of Odfjell could however have endangered the surrounding population of about one million.


'Expect more Norwegian misconduct'


The leading Norwegian daily Aftenposten mentioned in an editorial that Odfjell was endangering Norway’s reputation abroad. In fact this reputation should have been downgraded long ago even if only because of the elites’ empathy with murderous and genocide promoting Palestinians and other criminals in Muslim states. Around the same time, the daily Dagbladet ran two articles detailing the corruption of Norwegian companies in dealings with dictator states.


A few weeks ago the University of Basel and the World Peace Academy, there suspended collaboration with Norwegian Peace scholar 'and father of Peace studies,' Johan Galtung. He had recommended the anti-Semitic forgery, the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' to an audience at Oslo University. Galtung said that one could not read this book without thinking of Goldman Sachs. He also suggested that the Jews were partly guilty of being murdered at Auschwitz. Some may wonder why no action has been taken against him in Norway. The answer is not difficult for those who are familiar with the profound hypocrisy of many among Norway’s cultural elite.


Much less noticeable yet noteworthy is the change in attitude of the Jewish community. For many years it played a significant role in publicly minimizing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in Norway. This was useful for the government. When foreigners dared to point out the obvious Norwegian hatemongering, the reaction was often: “Who knows better – the Norwegian Jews or these people who do not even live here?”


The whitewashing of the country’s unpleasant reality by local Jewish leaders was partly understandable after earlier experiences when they spoke out. About 10 years ago two community members who had been involved in discussing anti-Semitism publicly received bullets in their mail.


Yet even for the small Norwegian Jewish community, there are limits. The Center Party which is part of the government has recently come out in favor of prohibiting circumcision of boys. Ervin Kohn, the head of the Oslo Jewish community in July still said that he would rather be a Jew in Norway than in Spain and Hungary. In August Kohn said that if a 'prohibition of circumcision' law passes, there will no longer be a place for Jews in Norway. No foreign critic has ever gone this far.


Recently former US Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams has joined the increasing number of foreign critics of Norwegian anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. For those who are familiar with the many aberrations of the country’s cultural elite, there is only one conclusion: expect more Norwegian misconduct to arrive after the summer ends.


In anticipation of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s upcoming Sunday, 6 November 2011 International Conference, “Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel,” this week’s Daily Briefings will focus on the global effort to demonize the lone democracy in the Middle East. The series will provide insight into the pervasive “soft war” being waged against the Jewish State—in the media, in Europe, at the UN, on and off North American campuses, and in Israel itself. It will also convey relevant ways of combatting, and ultimately defeating, this dangerous propaganda campaign.

A video of the Conference will be posted on CIJR’s website, www.isranet.org. (For registration information call [514] 486-5544 or write Yvonne@isranet.org.)



Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2011

You have to hand it to the Palestinians. They decided to abandon the peace process and seek international recognition of the “State of Palestine”—a state in a de facto state of war with Israel. And they are pursuing their goal relentlessly.

This week their efforts bore their first fruit with the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) vote to accept “Palestine” as a full state member. It is not a coincidence that the PLO/PA decided to apply for membership for “Palestine” at UNESCO first. Since 1974, UNESCO has been an enthusiastic partner in the Palestinians’ bid to erase Jewish history, heritage and culture in the Land of Israel from the historical record.

In 1974, UNESCO voted to boycott Israel and to “withhold assistance from Israel in the fields of education, science and culture because of Israel’s persistent alteration of historic features in Jerusalem.” UNESCO’s moves to deny Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the rest of historic Israel have continued unabated ever since. For instance, in 1989, UNESCO condemned “Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem,” claiming it was destroying the city through “acts of interference, destruction and transformation.” In 1996, UNESCO held a symposium on Jerusalem at its Paris headquarters. No Jewish or Israeli groups were invited to participate.

Beginning in 1996, the Arab Wakf on the Temple Mount began systematically destroying artifacts of the Second Temple. The destruction was undertaken during illegal excavations under the Temple Mount carried out to construct an illegal, unlicensed mosque at Solomon’s Stables. UNESCO never bothered to condemn this act. It was silent despite the fact that the Wakf’s actions constituted a grave breach of the very international laws related to antiquities and sacred sites that UNESCO is charter bound to protect. Similarly, UNESCO never condemned Palestinian desecration of Rachel’s Tomb, of Joesph’s Tomb or of any of the ancient synagogues in Gaza and Jericho which they razed to the ground.

The reason for UNESCO’s miscarriage of its responsibilities is clear. Far from fulfilling its mission of protecting world heritage sites, since 1974 UNESCO has been a partner in one of the greatest cultural crimes in human history—the Palestinian and pan-Arab attempt to wipe Jewish history in the Land of Israel off the historical record. And UNESCO’s crimes in this area are unending. In 2009 it designated Jerusalem a “capital of Arab culture.” In 2010, it designated Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron as “Muslim mosques.” UNESCO’s campaign against Jewish history is not limited to Israel. In 1995, it passed a resolution marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Despite requests from Israel, the resolution made no mention of the Holocaust. In December 2010, UNESCO published a report on the history of science in the Arab world. Its report listed the great Jewish doctor and rabbinic scholar Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon—Maimonides—as a Muslim renamed “Moussa ben Maimoun.”

In light of UNESCO’s virulently anti-Jewish policies and actions, it is not surprising that it cooperated with the PLO/PA’s bid to achieve recognition of a state that is in a state of war with Israel.

More surprising than UNESCO’s behavior was the behavior of all but five EU member states. Aside from the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden, all EU member states either voted in favor of the Palestinian membership application or abstained.

The reason it is surprising is because the EU has made strengthening UN institutions and speeding up the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians to facilitate Palestinian independence the central aims of its foreign policy. And by supporting or failing to oppose the Palestinian membership bid, the Europeans undercut both aims.…

What the Europeans’ behavior at UNESCO indicates is that just as UNESCO is willing to undermine its mission to harm Israel, so the Europeans are willing to undermine the declared goals of their foreign policy if doing so will harm Israel.

This state of affairs has important consequences for Israel. To date, Israel has placed fostering good relations with EU member states high on its list of priorities. In light of the Europeans’ behavior at UNESCO, this ranking should be revised. The Europeans do not merit such high consideration by Israel.

Finally, the UNESCO vote exposed disturbing truths about US President Barack Obama’s position on Israel. Obama has been widely praised by American Jewish leaders as well as by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his announced commitment to veto the draft Security Council resolution recommending that the PLO/PA be granted full state membership at the UN. Obama’s pledge—forced out of him by massive congressional pressure—is touted as proof of his commitment to the US alliance with Israel.

But Obama’s response to the PLO/PA’s bid for UNESCO membership tells a different story. In the lead up to the vote, the Obama administration went out of its way not to threaten UNESCO. It did not threaten to withdraw the US from the organization. Instead, just days before the vote, US Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter addressed the body and praised the “great things [that] have happened at UNESCO,” over the past year. Kanter then announced the US’s bid for reelection to UNESCO’s executive board.

The administration did not attack the move as one that undermines chances of peace.… Rather, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland sufficed with claiming that the move was “regrettable,” and “premature.…”

As Claudia Rosett reported in Forbes on Tuesday, David Killion, the US ambassador to UNESCO, made what bordered on an apology for the US funding cut-off when he said, “We sincerely regret that the strenuous and well-intentioned efforts of many delegations to avoid this result fell short.” Killion added, “We pledge to continue our efforts to find ways to support and strengthen the important work of this vital organization.…”

To understand the full significance of the administration’s behavior, it is important to contrast it with the administration’s response to the Israeli government’s decision in the aftermath of the UNESCO vote to approve the construction of housing for Jews in Jerusalem, Ma’aleh Adumim and Efrat.… A US official told Reuters that the administration is “deeply disappointed” by the announcement. “We continue to make clear to the [Israeli] government [that] unilateral actions such as these work against efforts to resume direct negotiations and do not advance the goal of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties.”

So on the one hand, the Palestinians’ move to abandon the peace process and UNESCO’s support for their move is merely “regrettable” and “premature.” But on the other hand, Israel’s decision not to discriminate against Jewish property rights undermines efforts to resume peace talks and harm prospects for an agreement.…

In the end, the only way to defeat those who delegitimize Israel and deny our rights to our land, our nationhood and our history is to expose their corruption, and their malevolent, dishonest and hateful intentions towards the Jewish people and the Jewish state. That is, the only way to defeat the delegitimizers is to delegitimize them by proudly and consistently asserting Israel’s historic and legal rights and the justice of our cause.


Matt Hausman
Canada Free Press, October 12, 2011

A bill was introduced in the Knesset last year to amend Israel’s Oath of Allegiance to require all new immigrants to swear their loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic” state. The bill does not represent any great ideological shift, but rather is consistent with Israel’s Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws, which refer to her as a Jewish state multiple times and have the force and effect of a constitutional mandate.

Nevertheless, the proposed amendment has been roundly condemned by the political left and liberal press in Israel and abroad, with many commentators opining that it is incompatible with democratic principles. This assertion is nonsense, however, and serves only to camouflage the post-Zionist, anti-Zionist or anti-Israel sentiments of the proposal’s critics. It also betrays an ignorance regarding the fundamentals of democratic governance. In no way does official acknowledgment of Israel’s Jewish character compromise the individual rights and liberties of Israeli citizens, or inhibit the electoral process or the workings of her representative government.

The real issue for Israel’s critics is not the wording of the oath of allegiance. Any sovereign nation has the right to require new citizens to pledge allegiance to its national values. Indeed, naturalized immigrants in the United States are required to swear an oath to the Constitution as if it were holy writ. No, the real cause for progressive discomfort is Israel’s perceived audacity in proclaiming her essence as a Jewish state premised on Jewish values. None of Israel’s detractors would think to condemn Arab-Muslim countries that base their governments on Islamic law, or Jordan for enacting Nazi-like laws prohibiting Jews from citizenship, or the Saudis for prohibiting Jews entry to the Arabian peninsula, or the Palestinian Authority for openly inciting antisemitic hatred and supporting terrorism, calling for Israel’s destruction, and seeking to create a state through ethnic cleansing.

On the contrary, liberal commentators and pundits are conspicuously silent in the face of persistent Arab-Muslim rejectionism, racism and antisemitism, and they compound the perfidy of their silence by engaging in a secular form of taqiyya in order to disparage Jewish historical claims, and thereby Israel’s legitimacy. The pervasive anti-Israel bias of progressive political society is reflected in its disingenuous defense of Sharia as a benign expression of Islamic faith, its tendency to minimize the risk of Islamist terrorism…and its assurances of Arab-Muslim moderation despite the Palestinians’ stated goals of destroying Israel and exterminating her people.

Progressive criticism of the amendment to Israel’s oath does not arise out of any genuine concern for democratic values. Rather, it is fueled by the desire to delegitimize Israel by impugning her historical foundations, particularly as they are expressed in traditional Jewish nationalism and modern political Zionism. The pathological urge to belittle Jewish historical rights is, after all, the true motivation for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (“BDS”) movement and coordinated international efforts to cast Israel as a pariah state.…

If individual rights and liberties are considered the cornerstones of the American system, then Israel measures up well. Israel has an open electoral system in which Arabs and Jews vote, run for office, and participate in government; and in certain ways her system is perhaps even more open than that in the United States. Indeed, the Knesset has Arab members who voice anti-government and anti-Jewish rhetoric, openly sympathize with Israel’s enemies, and engage in seditious conduct that would likely constitute treason in the United States.…

Although Arab advocates claim that they are second-class citizens in Israeli society, there is no dispute that Israeli Arabs enjoy the highest standard of living, the lowest infant mortality rates, the longest life expectancy, and the highest literacy rates of any Arab population in the Mideast.…

Israel’s existence is justified precisely because she is a Jewish nation in the ancient homeland. No other sovereign nation existed in this land from the time of the Dispersion to the reestablishment of the modern state.… Israel exists as the homeland of an ancient people that maintained its national identity, religious integrity and connection to its land throughout the millennia. This connection is corporeal as well as spiritual and remains unbroken to the present day.…

Israel is first and foremost a Jewish nation. She is not a melting pot, but rather a patchwork where individual and minority rights are respected as long as they do not threaten her security and continuity as a Jewish state. No other country is expected to court national suicide by sacrificing its needs and ideals to placate hostile critics and enemies who are opposed to its very existence. Therefore, Israel must not indulge those who denigrate her existence and call for her destruction. Instead, she should rejoice in her history as the homeland of the Jewish People and her mission as their national refuge. When all is said and done, Israel’s Jewish character is her truth and the rest is just commentary.

(Matt Hausman is an attorney in New York State.)


Robert D. Blackwill & Walter B. Slocombe
Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2011

…Over the decades, American leaders have primarily explained the foundations of the US-Israel relationship by properly citing “shared values”: the two countries’ common democracy, mutual experience in fighting for freedom, roots in Judeo-Christian culture and civilization, and commitment to the right of nations…to live in security while manifesting the will of the people.… Arguments in favor of strong ties with Israel usually also include a second profound rationale for the depth of the relationship: the moral responsibility America bears to protect the small nation-state of the Jewish people.

Together, these two concepts…have been the pillars on which the United States has built a unique bilateral relationship with Israel that enjoys the deep, longstanding support of the American people, bilateral ties commonly described by a broad, bipartisan consensus of US political leaders as “unbreakable.” While accurate and indispensably important, this characterization of the core basis of the US-Israel relationship is incomplete because it fails to capture a third, crucial aspect: common national interests and collaborative action to advance those interests.…

US interests that especially involve the [Middle East] include: 1. preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons; 2. combating terrorism and the radical Islamist ideology from which it is spawned; 3. promoting an orderly process of democratic change and economic development in the region; 4. opposing the spread of Iranian influence and that of Iran’s partners and proxies; 5. ensuring the free flow of oil and gas at reasonable prices; 6. resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute through a process of negotiations; 7. protecting the security of Israel.

Israel’s national interests are virtually identical.… Indeed, there is no other Middle East country whose definition of national interests is so closely aligned with that of the United States.…

History provides numerous examples of specific Israeli actions that have benefited US national interests. During the Cold War, the most celebrated were Israel’s daring theft of Soviet radar from Egypt in 1969, Israel’s positive reply to President Nixon’s request to fly reconnaissance missions and mobilize troops to help turn around Syria’s invasion of Jordan in 1970, and Israel’s sharing of technical intelligence on numerous Soviet weapons systems captured during the 1967 and 1973 wars. More recently, Israeli counter-proliferation efforts—including bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981—have contributed substantially to US interests. And the 2007 attack on the North Korea-supplied Syrian reactor, never formally acknowledged by Israel, ensured that Bashar al-Assad’s progress toward a nuclear weapon…was stopped at an early stage.…

Today, Israeli contributions to US national interests range across a broad spectrum.… Through joint training and exercises as well as exchanges on military doctrine, the United States has benefited in the areas of counter-terrorism cooperation, tactical intelligence, and experience in urban warfare.… Increasingly, US homeland security and military agencies are turning to Israeli technology to solve some of their most vexing technical problems.… Israel is also a global pacesetter in active measures for armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rocket threats, and the techniques and procedures of robotics, all of which it has shared with the United States.…

Overall, the value of annual US purchases of Israeli defense articles has increased steadily over the past decade, from less than a half billion dollars in the early 2000s to about $1.5 billion today. Among the Israeli-developed defense equipment used by the US military are short-range unmanned aircraft systems that have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan; targeting pods on hundreds of Air Force, Navy, and Marine strike aircraft; a revolutionary helmet-mounted sight that is standard in nearly all frontline Air Force and Navy fighter aircraft; lifesaving armor installed in thousands of MRAP armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan; and a gun system for close-in defense of naval vessels against terrorist dinghies and small-boat swarms. Moreover, American and Israeli companies are working together to jointly produce Israel’s Iron Dome—the world’s first combat-proven counter-rocket system.

Counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation is deep and extensive.… Israel is a full partner in intelligence operations that benefit both countries, such as efforts to interdict the supply of parts to Iran’s nuclear program or to prevent weapons smuggling in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.…

Given that Iran and its allies in the greater Middle East represent clear and present dangers to US interests, Israel’s military—the most powerful in the region—plays an important role in addressing those threats posed especially by Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran itself. The ability of the Israeli armed forces to deter the military ambitions of destabilizing regional actors promotes American national interests because it presents our common enemies with an additional—and potent—military capability to resist their aggression.…

The conclusion of our analysis is that the US-Israel relationship is a significant asset to US national interests.… “US national interests” deserve equal billing with “shared values” and “moral responsibility” as fundamental rationales for the bilateral relationship.…

(Robert D. Blackwill is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations; he served under George W. Bush as US ambassador to India and then as deputy assistant to the president. Walter B. Slocomb, senior counsel in Caplin & Drysdale’s Washington, DC, office, served in the Pentagon throughout the Clinton and Carter administrations.)


Isi Leibler
Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2011


The Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization will be meeting in Jerusalem next week. Of late, the media have been conveying the message that many Diaspora Jews, especially youngsters, are becoming alienated from the Jewish state. It is sometimes even implied that more Jews are engaged in castigating than defending Israel.

This is certainly a wild exaggeration. Despite the combined impact of postmodernism and the hostile anti-Israeli environment, the majority of activists, including young people, remain faithful to the Jewish state, which represents the core of their Jewish identity.

However, it’s true that established Jewish leaders in many communities display a penchant to downplay pro-Israel advocacy and assume a low profile. This trend was boosted as the liberal media began highlighting and lauding as heroes Jews who demonize the Jewish state. This in turn emboldened them to demand recognition as legitimate members of the mainstream Jewish community.

Regrettably the response of many confused communal leaders was to prattle on about the virtues of enlarging the “Jewish tent” to include organizations like J Street, which inaccurately portray themselves as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” while shamelessly lobbying foreign governments to exert pressure on Israel. They failed to appreciate the incongruity of integrating into their ranks groups whose prime objective is to undermine Israel.

This chaotic arena led to what can only be described as bizarre behavior unprecedented in Jewish communal life: “rabbis” claiming to promote “tikkun olam” by actively supporting and engaging with avowed enemies of the Jewish people; debates conducted within federations as to whether Jewish philanthropic funding should be directed to organizations promoting anti-Israel plays and films; the New York Jewish Federation bestowing $1 million of charitable funds on the fervently anti-Israel George Soros-sponsored group Jewish Funds for Justice; individual Hillel directors treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a dispute between two morally equivalent parties, on occasion even favoring the Palestinians; and student activists in the UK, Canada and the United States being urged by Jewish establishment bodies to assume low profiles and avoid confronting anti- Israel demonstrations.

What typifies this insanity was a recent “very difficult decision” undertaken following a fervent debate at Brandeis University’s Hillel as to whether to exclude from the “big tent” Jewish Voices for Peace—an organization shamelessly calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The problem was resolved by endorsing a recommendation by Martin Raffel (senior vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs), who ruled that supporting boycotts of goods produced in the West Bank should be considered a legitimate (!) Jewish activity. However, as Jewish Voices for Peace also opposed an independent Jewish state, he felt that this “crossed a red line,” and the decision was made to exclude them! It is incomprehensible why preponderantly Zionist contributors to these philanthropic organizations tolerate such abuse of funds.

The principal reason for the emergence of such troubling developments seems to emanate from inadequate leadership. During the early years of the state, Labor Zionist governments invested major resources toward nurturing links with Diaspora Jewish leaders.

No aspiring Jewish communal leader would conceivably contemplate criticizing policies which could have life-or-death implications for Israelis.

However, recent government leaders, including prime ministers, have neglected Diaspora Jewish leadership, and instead fawned over wealthy Jews, from whom they solicit support for their political and personal enterprises.

Historically, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the World Zionist Organization (WZO) were the principal parties responsible for promoting the Zionist cause within Diaspora Jewish communities. In fact, their program of Kibbush Hakehilot—the Zionist “conquest of Jewish communities”—succeeded to such an extent that support for the Jewish state from “Zionist” and Jewish communal leaders became virtually indistinguishable.

Alas, that activity eroded in the 1980s, as JAFI was largely reduced to a bloated bureaucracratic instrumentality occupied with activities that could equally be conducted by other state instrumentalities.

Nobody disputes that JAFI still operates important Zionist educational projects like Birthright and Masa.

The seminars on delegitimization which they will be conducting at their forthcoming board meeting are a commendable academic exercise, but are duplicated by virtually every major Jewish organization engaged in public affairs, and the participants are not necessarily likely to be indulging in Israel advocacy. However, beyond such projects, JAFI has abysmally failed to fulfill its principal obligation—promoting the centrality of Israel in Jewish communal life throughout the world.

Despite great expectations, the chairman of JAFI, Natan Sharansky, a hero of the Jewish people and the symbol for renascent Zionism, has until now proven a major disappointment. He is perceived as having capitulated to the demands of wealthy (primarily American) board members determined to dilute core Zionist projects and transform JAFI into a replica of the American Jewish fundraising federation system.

Many Zionists were deeply frustrated with Sharansky’s decision to substitute JAFI’s traditional primary goal of aliya (which was already operated by Nefesh B’Nefesh) and concentrate almost exclusively on the vague objective of “promoting Jewish identity,” which surely does not conflict with aliya, and which everyone supports. Ironically the aliya department was disbanded precisely when Western countries began to emerge as a major new potential source of immigrants.

The WZO, whose funding has been drastically curtailed and which is now totally separated from JAFI, is justly regarded as an utterly impotent body with marginal impact on the Jewish world. It continues convening global meetings and congresses in which nobody takes the slightest interest. Other than the Australian, British and South African Zionist federations, which carry on with minimal support from the parent body, its Diaspora offshoots have disintegrated.

Today, WE desperately need a global Jewish pro-Israel caucus which could emerge from a reformed JAFI. But it should not depend on existing personnel tainted with failure, or primarily on wealthy donors. It must incorporate a wide cross-section of Diaspora and Israeli Jewish activists engaged in public communal life and encompassing all sides of the political spectrum and religious streams within Judaism. The sole proviso for entry should be a genuine commitment to promoting Israel as the center of the Jewish people.

The principal objective of a reformed JAFI must be the reconstruction of an unashamedly pro-Israel Jewish leadership in Diaspora communities, including within the American federations, Hillel and rabbinical bodies. It should endeavor to ensure that only those willing to publicly support the right of Israel to defend itself will be elected to communal leadership roles.

Such an action group should speak out when establishment communal leaders remain silent in the face of anti-Israel activity. Importantly, it should promote Zionist education and ensure that every Jewish high school allocates at least a few hours a week to teaching about modern Israel, so that when students arrive on campus they are sufficiently informed to respond to the anti-Israel onslaughts.

In the profoundly challenging times now confronting the Jewish people, action to bring about such changes should be considered an absolute priority.

Representing the vast majority of committed Jews, a group dedicated to these objectives would have a dramatic impact on the quality of Jewish communal life, and help restore bonds between the Diaspora and Israel.


Elliott Abrams

Council on Foreign Relations, July 14, 2011


Negotiations between Israel and the PLO have been stalled for many reasons, but a central issue is the Palestinian refusal to acknowledge Israel as a “Jewish state.”

The whole idea behind the partition of the Palestine Mandate in 1947 was, in the words of U.N. General Assembly resolution 181, the creation of an “Arab state” and a “Jewish state.” The Arab rejection of Israel as a Jewish state is in fact at the heart of the Middle East conflict. It is based on the widespread refusal to accept Israel as a permanent presence in the region, but is usually couched in more acceptable terminology—indeed, the language of “rights.” As one news story put it, “Palestinian negotiators have recognized Israel’s right to exist, but not as a Jewish state, which officials say would prejudice the right of return for refugees and violate the rights of Israel’s non-Jewish residents.”

In other words, the argument is that if Israel is a “Jewish state” it will certainly, unavoidably, necessarily discriminate against non-Jews. The problem with this debating point is that those who use it apply it only to Israel; no one ever voices any concern about states based on Islam and discriminating in favor of Muslims.

There are actually four states whose very name contains a religious reference: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. But beyond those, in every Muslim-majority country the constitution asserts a special role for Islam. The Jordanian constitution says “Islam is the religion of the State” and of course “No person shall ascend the Throne unless he is a Moslem…of Moslem parents.” No converts! But Jordan has a Christian minority that is five to eight percent of the population (Eastern Orthodox, Circassian, Melkite, and other sects).

Egypt is about ten or even fifteen percent Christian (Copts), but its current provisional constitution states that “Islam is the religion of the state.… Principles of Islamic law (Shari’a) are the principal source of legislation.” Moreover, this is unlikely to change: presidential candidate Mohammad ElBaradei, viewed as a Westernized moderate, recently released his version of a new Egyptian constitution that similarly holds “Islam shall be the religion of the state.… Sharia shall be the main source of legislation.”

The constitution of Malaysia states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation,” even though the country is only about sixty percent Muslim. It is roughly twenty percent Buddhist, ten percent Christian, and six percent Hindu, among other religions.

There are many similar examples. The religion of the state is Islam in Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait (where there are estimates that fifteen percent of the population is non-Muslim)—and one could lengthen the list. In Afghanistan, the constitution holds that “The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” and “No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.” The president must be a Muslim. The Saudis go one further, refusing even to have a constitution: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution.…”

It is worth adding that Muslim states are not alone in their religious ties. The constitution of Denmark, for example, states that “The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State,” and unsurprisingly “The King shall be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” Same for Norway: “The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State” and “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion.” And of course, the Queen of England is “Defender of the Faith,” and the faith is Anglican Christianity.

So what? So the usual arguments against the acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state are hypocritical and specious. Every Arab state is far more Islamic than the “Jewish state” of Israel is Jewish; to take one example, Israel imposes no religious test for the offices of president or prime minister. Moreover, the treatment of religious minorities is far better than in the Muslim states, as the flat ban on building even a single church in Saudi Arabia and the repeated violence against Christians in Egypt and Pakistan remind us. If some secular professor maintains that all states should be devoid of religious identity, fair enough; that is a principled argument. But when Arab political leaders say they will never acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, that isn’t an argument at all. It is a reminder of their continuing refusal to make peace with the Jewish state and with the very idea that the Jews can have a state in what they view as the Dar al-Islam.



Ynet News, July 22, 2011


What was once the most beautiful synagogue in Libya’s capital city can now be entered only by sneaking through a hole smashed in a back wall, climbing over dusty trash and crossing a stairwell strewn with abandoned shoes to a space occupied by cooing pigeons.

The synagogue, Dar al-Bishi, was once the center of a prosperous Jewish community, one whose last remnants were expelled decades ago in the early days of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Inside Libya, little trace of them remains. Abroad, however, surviving members and descendants of the community are very much alive, watching with fascination from afar as Gaddafi’s forces and a NATO-backed rebel insurgency battle for control of a country some of them still see as home.

“I have somewhat mixed feelings. I am sympathetic to people who want him out,” said Libya-born Gina Bublil-Waldman, referring to the embattled dictator.

But Bublil-Waldman, who heads an organization of Jews from Arab countries in San Francisco, said she was still angry and hurt by the memory of her family’s expulsion from Libya. Those feelings remained strong, she said, and at this point she “would be afraid to go.

Navit Barel, a 34-year-old Israeli of Libyan descent, said the upheaval made her want to visit the country where her parents were born. Her mother and father, now deceased, both grew up near the Dar al-Bishi synagogue.

“I feel like it brought back my yearning to talk to my father,” she said.

Libyan Jews seem proud of their heritage and even nostalgic for their ancestral home. But they are also bitter at the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of Libyan Muslims and at the eventual elimination of an ancient native community in a wave of anti-Jewish violence linked to the rise of the Zionist movement and the creation of Israel.

Today, most of the community’s few crumbling remains lie in Hara Kabira, a sandy slum that was once Tripoli’s Jewish quarter.

Inside the Dar al-Bishi synagogue, faded Hebrew above an empty ark where Torah scrolls were once kept reads “Shema Israel”—“Hear, O Israel”—the beginning of a Jewish prayer. The floor is strewn with decades of garbage.

What was once a ritual bath next to the synagogue now houses impoverished Libyan families. In a nearby alley, three arched doorways in a yellow facade are decorated with Jewish stars of David. The building was once the Ben Yehuda Jewish youth club, said Maurice Roumani, a Libyan-born Israeli and Libyan Jewry expert. Barel’s father, Eliyahu, taught Hebrew there.

The government now owns it.

Jews first arrived in what is now Libya some 2,300 years ago. They settled mostly in coastal towns like Tripoli and Benghazi and lived under a shifting string of rulers, including Romans, Ottoman Turks, Italians and ultimately the independent Arab state that has now descended into civil war.

Some prospered as merchants, physicians and jewelers. Under Muslim rule, they saw periods of relative tolerance and bursts of hostility. Italy took over in 1911, and eventually the fascist government of Benito Mussolini issued discriminatory laws against Jews, dismissing some from government jobs and ordering them to work on Saturdays, the Jewish day of rest.

In the 1940s, thousands were sent to concentration camps in North Africa where hundreds died. Some were deported to concentration camps in Germany and Austria.

Their troubles didn’t end with the war. Across the Arab world, anger about the Zionist project in Palestine turned Jewish neighbors into perceived enemies. In November 1945, mobs throughout Libya went on a three-day rampage, burning down Jewish shops and homes and killing at least 130 Jews, among them three dozen children.

After Israel was founded in 1948, it became a refuge for Jews of ancient Middle Eastern communities, including those of Libya. Barel’s father fled in 1949, and her mother soon after. Most were gone by the time Gaddafi seized power in 1969. The new dictator expelled the rest, who were ordered to leave with one suitcase and a small amount of cash.

Jewish properties were confiscated. There was no way to determine how many. Debts to Jews were officially erased. Jewish cemeteries were turned into dumping grounds or built over, and most of the dozens of synagogues around the country were either demolished or put to different use. Some became mosques. A community that numbered about 37,000 at its peak vanished.

Inside Libya, the memory of Jews is fading. Elderly Muslim residents who remember their neighbors stay silent, worried they’ll be accused of being Jewish sympathizers.

“There were Jews here once, but they left,” said one Muslim resident of Tripoli’s old Jewish quarter. He nervously shrugged when asked of their fate.

Still, the Libyan Jewish community left small legacies behind.

Their famous fish stew, known as hraimeh, is widely eaten in Libya today. Recently, a government official accompanying international reporters to a seafood restaurant in Tripoli called it “Jewish food” as he hungrily scooped it up. Muslims who defy their faith’s ban on alcohol imbibe homemade bocha, a fig-based spirit once made by local Jews.

Today, Libyan Jews and their descendants number around 110,000. Most live in Israel, with others in Italy and elsewhere. None, if any, have any desire to return as residents, but Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the embattled Gaddafi government, said they would be allowed back—if they first disavowed their Israeli citizenship. “They cannot have both,” Ibrahim said.

The Benghazi-based rebel government would not comment on whether it had any intention of mending relations with the country’s old Jewish community. Spokesman Jalal al-Gallal would say only that there would be “freedom of religion” in a future Libya.

Roumani, the Libyan Jewry expert, said he has a yearning to return, but knows that the places he knew are long gone.

Roumani described a memory of himself as a child in Benghazi: He is walking to synagogue with his father, listening to a chanted recitation of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, coming from a radio in a nearby cafe.

The synagogue is now a Coptic Christian church. His father’s grave was lost when Gaddafi’s regime built over the cemetery.


Fouad Ajami

Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2011


The late great Austrian economist F.A. Hayek would have seen the Arab Spring for the economic revolt it was right from the start. For generations the Arab populations had bartered away their political freedom for economic protection. They rose in rebellion when it dawned on them that the bargain had not worked, that the system of subsidies, and the promise of equality held out by the autocrats, had proven a colossal failure.

What Hayek would call the Arab world’s “road to serfdom” began when the old order of merchants and landholders was upended in the 1950s and ‘60s by a political and military class that assumed supreme power. The officers and ideologues who came to rule Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen were men contemptuous of the marketplace and of economic freedom. As a rule, they hailed from the underclass and had no regard for the sanctity of wealth and property. They had come to level the economic order, and they put the merchant classes, and those who were the mainstay of the free market, to flight.

It was in the 1950s that the foreign minorities who had figured prominently in the economic life of Egypt after the cotton boom of the 1860s, and who had drawn that country into the web of the world economy, would be sent packing. The Jews and the Greeks and the Italians would take with them their skills and habits. The military class, and the Fabian socialists around them, distrusted free trade and the marketplace and were determined to rule over them or without them.

The Egyptian way would help tilt the balance against the private sector in other Arab lands as well. In Iraq, the Jews of the country, on its soil for well over two millennia, were dispossessed and banished in 1950-51. They had mastered the retail trade and were the most active community in the commerce of Baghdad. Some Shiite merchants stepped into their role, but this was short-lived. Military officers and ideologues of the Baath Party from the “Sunni triangle”—men with little going for them save their lust for wealth and power—came into possession of the country and its oil wealth. They, like their counterparts in Egypt, were believers in central planning and “social equality.” By the 1980s, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni thug born from crushing poverty, would come to think of the wealth of the country as his own.

In Libya, a deranged Moammar Gadhafi did Saddam one better. After his 1969 military coup, he demolished the private sector in 1973 and established what he called “Islamic Socialism.” Gadhafi’s so-called popular democracy basically nationalized the entire economy, rendering the Libyan people superfluous by denying them the skills and the social capital necessary for a viable life.

In his 1944 masterpiece, “The Road to Serfdom,” Hayek wrote that in freedom-crushing totalitarian societies “the worst get on top.” In words that described the Europe of his time but also capture the contemporary Arab condition, he wrote: “To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own.”

This well describes the decades-long brutal dictatorship of Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, and now his son Bashar’s rule. It is said that Hafez began his dynasty with little more than a modest officer’s salary. His dominion would beget a family of enormous wealth: The Makhloufs, the in-laws of the House of Assad, came to control crucial sectors of the Syrian economy.

The Alawites, the religious sect to which the Assad clan belongs, had been poor peasants and sharecroppers, but political and military power raised them to new heights. The merchants of Damascus and Aleppo, and the landholders in Homs and Hama, were forced to submit to the new order. They could make their peace with the economy of extortion, cut Alawite officers into long-established businesses, or be swept aside.

But a decade or so ago this ruling bargain—subsidies and economic redistribution in return for popular quiescence—began to unravel. The populations in Arab lands had swelled and it had become virtually impossible to guarantee jobs for the young and poorly educated. Economic nationalism, and the war on the marketplace, had betrayed the Arabs. They had the highest unemployment levels among developing nations, the highest jobless rate among the young, and the lowest rates of economic participation among women. The Arab political order was living on borrowed time, and on fear of official terror.

Attempts at “reform” were made. But in the arc of the Arab economies, the public sector of one regime became the private sector of the next. Sons, sons-in-law and nephews of the rulers made a seamless transition into the rigged marketplace when “privatization” was forced onto stagnant enterprises. Of course, this bore no resemblance to market-driven economics in a transparent system. This was crony capitalism of the worst kind, and it was recognized as such by Arab populations. Indeed, this economic plunder was what finally severed the bond between Hosni Mubarak and an Egyptian population known for its timeless patience and stoicism.

The sad truth of Arab social and economic development is that the free-market reforms and economic liberalization that remade East Asia and Latin America bypassed the Arab world. This is the great challenge of the Arab Spring and of the forces that brought it about. The marketplace has had few, if any, Arab defenders. If the tremendous upheaval at play in Arab lands is driven by a desire to capture state power—and the economic prerogatives that come with political power—the revolution will reproduce the failures of the past.

In Yemen, a schoolteacher named Amani Ali, worn out by the poverty and anarchy of that poorest of Arab states, recently gave voice to a sentiment that has been the autocrats’ prop: “We don’t want change,” he said. “We don’t want freedom. We want food and safety.” True wisdom, and an end to their road to serfdom, will only come when the Arab people make the connection between economic and political liberty.

(Mr. Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution
is co-chairman of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.)