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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘american’

Trump Refusing to Say Obama Is American, Trump Campaign Says He Does

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Washington Post in a Wednesday interview that was published on Thursday that he would not say that President Obama was born in the United States. The Post reporter, onboard Trump’s plane, mentioned Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who had said that he now believes Obama was born in this country, to which Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

Eight years ago, and then for the years that followed, Trump espoused publicly his view that President Obama was born overseas, probably in Kenya, the home of his African father, which made him ineligible for the presidency. In 2011 Obama released his Hawaiian birth certificate 2011, but Trump persisted with his claim and has yet to disavow it. Trump’s response to the document was, “Well I don’t know. Was it a birth certificate? You tell me. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows.”

When the Post reporter noted that the birther conspiracy theory could still hang over his candidacy, Trump “glared” and said, “I think it hangs over the reporters.”

Trump’s campaign released a statement late Thursday insisting the nominee actually believes Obama was born in the US. campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in the statement: “In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised.”

There is no record that Clinton herself or her campaign ever advanced the claim that Obama was not born in the United States. Factcheck.org reported that no journalistic report exists about a link between the Clinton camp and the theory. However, according to a Telegraph article, in April 2008 a Clinton supporter sent out an email saying, “Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth.”

JNi.Media

American Campuses And Jews Who Know Not Zion

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

As another academic year begins at American colleges and universities, one can expect to see a continuation of the pattern in recent years in which many Jewish students either take a neutral stance in the face of the currently rampant campus assault on Israel or actually join in the assault.

Among the latter, some embrace the self-described “pro-Israel” but, in fact, Israel-bashing campus incarnation of J-Street, while others go further and enlist in the ranks of groups less coy than J Street, groups that, for example,  more unambiguously promote the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) agenda against Israel.

These include the explicitly anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). A number of Jewish students even join the cadres of the often openly anti-Semitic Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), founded as an offshoot of the General Union of Palestinian Students and now the premiere BDS-cheerleading, Israel-demonizing organization on American campuses.

Significant voices in the Jewish community, looking at this phenomenon, and perceiving as well in some quarters beyond the universities a decrease in American Jewish identification with Israel, correlate these developments with supposed Israeli government failure to take steps towards advancing peace.

This argument has been made by, among others, Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week, a newspaper produced with the support of the UJA-Federation of New York.

In an article that appeared earlier this year under the title “Frustration with Israel Growing Here at Home,” Rosenblatt discusses what he reports as having heard from members of the Jewish community, including community leaders, of grievances against Israel. Seemingly topping the list, and reflecting a view clearly shared by Rosenblatt, is “The hard fact… that Israel’s leadership is moving in a direction at odds with the next generation of Americans, including many Jews, who want to see greater efforts to resolve the Palestinian conflict and who put the onus for the impasse on Jerusalem.”

In the same vein, Rosenblatt observes, “Whether or not it is fair, the strong perception today is that the Israeli government is moving further right, and intransigent…” And “One national leader told me he’d like to fly to Israel, with a group of his top colleagues, to try to convince Netanyahu in dramatic fashion of the need for ‘a plan, any plan’ to break the impasse.”

And while these statements are couched as representing what Rosenblatt has heard from others, it is in his own voice that he states near the end of the piece “… Netanyahu and his government will continue to make decisions based on their own narrow and immediate political interests, and we can only hope they will coincide with national interests as well.”

The obvious implication is that the author does not see the prime minister as having been acting in Israel’s national interest, and that – reflecting the thrust of the article – Rosenblatt is referring specifically to the prime minister’s not being forthcoming enough in the quest for peace.

But can the falling away from Israel observed among many Jewish students on American campuses and among others in the American Jewish community genuinely be correlated with Israel’s not doing enough to advance peace?

First, is it true that Israel is responsible for the impasse vis-a-vis peace?

Any objective look at the history of efforts to achieve peace and at the reality on the ground today can only conclude that the claim of Israeli culpability is not credible.

Palestinian leadership is currently divided between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas, which governs in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.

Hamas is openly dedicated not only to the killing of all Jews in Israel but all Jews worldwide. With Israel’s total withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians living there were free to turn the territory into another Singapore or Hong Kong and would have had wide Arab world and other support for doing so. That their leaders have chosen instead to eschew pursuing the building of a prosperous state for the sake of hewing to their genocidal priorities can hardly be blamed on Israel and cannot be remedied by any Israeli concessions.
The agenda of the Palestinian Authority differs little from that of Hamas. Abbas and his PA and Fatah associates insist on Israel’s illegitimacy and assert constantly that Jews have no historical, authentic connection to the land and are merely colonialist usurpers whose presence must be extirpated. The message hammered in their media, preached in their mosques, and taught in their schools is lurid defamation of Jews and the promotion of dedication to Jew-killing and to Israel’s destruction as the obligation of every Palestinian.

Abbas himself has repeatedly insisted that he will never recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders. He has rejected every offer of territorial compromise because proposals of a settlement have been conditioned on such Palestinian recognition of Israel and explicit acceptance of an agreement as a final status document. He and those around him refuse to forego future additional claims against Israel with the ultimate objective of the Jewish state’s dissolution. This was the same reason why Arafat in 2000 rejected Ehud Barak and President Clinton’s offers of a settlement and instead launched his terror war against Israel.

When Netanyahu imposed a ten-month moratorium on all construction within settlements, something no other prime minister had ever done, Abbas waited almost until the expiration of the moratorium to agree to a meeting and then predicated further meetings on an extension of the moratorium. Netanyahu has since been offering resuming bilateral negotiations without preconditions; Abbas refuses.

Abbas’s preferred scenario, like Arafat’s before him – the scenario Abbas is currently promoting at the UN and in Europe – is imposition of a territorial agreement on Israel backed up by international sanctions, an agreement that will entail no direct obligations on the PA but rather grant it a state without obliging it to forego further claims against Israel. It is the strategy enshrined in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1974 “plan of phases,” in which the PLO proposed to take whatever land it could gain by diplomacy and use that land as a base for pursuing Israel’s annihilation.

All of this is well known to anyone who cares to know. To correlate the falling away of support for Israel among some Jews, including some who have embraced stridently anti-Israel positions, with supposed Israeli intransigence vis-a-vis the quest for peace is disingenuous at best.

But there is a correlation to be made. Whatever weakening there is of Jewish support for Israel, on American campuses or elsewhere, can be correlated with the intensity of the local assault on Israel. Where the assault is most intense, so too is the falling away.

It has always been thus when Jews have been under siege, whether the target has been Diaspora Jewish communities or the Jewish state. Invariably some Jews have sought a solution to the painful onslaught by embracing the arguments of the attackers – however bigoted or absurd. They would either promote communal self-reform to, they imagine, placate the attackers; or detach themselves from the community to escape the assault; or even join the attackers to more dramatically disassociate themselves from the targeted Jews.

Israel’s experience of chronic besiegement has led to such reactions even within the country. Such predilections lay behind the Oslo process.

Arafat had never hidden his determination to pursue Israel’s destruction. Indeed, on the very night of the famous handshake on the White House lawn in September 1993, and the signing of the initial Oslo accords, Arafat was on Jordanian television from Washington explaining to his constituency and to the wider Arab world that they should understand Oslo as the first phase of the aforementioned “plan of phases” for Israel’s annihilation.

He and his associates repeated this and similar declarations of their ultimate objective, as well as engaged in other forms of anti-Israel incitement, throughout the weeks and months that followed. In addition, in the wake of Arafat’s arrival in the territories, terrorism reached levels of intensity never before seen in Israel.

Yet virtually half the population of Israel, and a much higher percentage of its elites, insisted on deluding themselves into believing that Israeli concessions via the Oslo process would placate the nation’s enemies and lead to peace.

Only after Arafat turned down all the concessions made by Ehud Barak at Camp David in the summer of 2000, likewise rejected President Clinton’s proposals, offered no counter-proposals, and instead launched his terror war, which over the ensuing few years killed more than a thousand Israelis and left thousands more horribly maimed, did those Israelis enthralled with Oslo begin to wake in large numbers from their delusions. Still more did so in response to Israel’s unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza in 2005 and receiving in return thousands of rockets aimed at its cities and villages and three mini-wars.

There remain Israelis who, despite all the intrusions of blood-soaked reality on their wishful reveries, continue to embrace fantasies of Palestinian leaders as peace partners and Israeli concessions as resolving the conflict. But they are far fewer now, as reflected in recent elections and opinion polls. It is significant, however, that greatly overrepresented among them are members of the nation’s elites – cultural, academic, journalistic, and elements of the political elite. Consequently, much of the chatter we hear from Israel, chatter dominated by those elites, entails reprises of Oslo-era delusions and gives a very misleading picture of what most Israelis think now.

Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, touches on this in a cogent response to Rosenblatt titled “Why Israel Is Frustrated with American Jewish Leaders: Fringe Israeli voices that polarize and demonize our society are given legitimacy and resources in America” (published by Rosenblatt, to his credit, in The Jewish Week on January 27, 2016). Steinberg points out that many American Jewish leaders take their cue from such marginal voices. He goes on: “Like most Israelis, I also hope for a peace plan, but not any plan, and certainly not one that will bring us yet another disaster when it fails…. So no, ‘any plan’ that helps Israel’s PR among liberal students, but makes our security situation even worse, is not better than the status quo.”

But the problem is not simply that American Jewish leaders respond to fringe Israeli voices that demonize Israel and do so because such voices, while marginal within Israel, are overrepresented within the Jewish state’s vocal elites. Rather, too many American Jewish leaders are predisposed to embrace the message of those voices, the message that a solution to the conflict could be had if Israel would only will it. And they are predisposed to that message because too many American Jewish leaders are swayed by the indictments of Israel coming from strata of America with which they identify: the Obama administration, major constituencies within the Democrat party, elements of the cultural elite, the liberal churches, the professoriate and its campuses.

They are eager to embrace these groups’ indictments as fair and reasonable, even though they are not, and to seek modification of Israeli policies to assuage the indicters, all – as Steinberg suggests – with little consideration of what most Israelis think or of Israel’s actual predicament.

Again, this is an old story. Indeed, criticism of Zionist aspirations by some Jewish leaders and elements of the broader Jewish community, criticism in deference to external pressures, long predated the modern Zionist movement. In, for example, German states in central Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a major argument invoked against extending civic rights to Jews was that the Jews constituted a separate nation and so were unfit for such rights. A common Jewish response was to disavow any such national self-comprehension; and new, reformist congregations even stripped the liturgy of references to longing for Zion and Jerusalem to emphasize this new self-definition.

In addition, as is typical when minorities embrace the indictments of the surrounding majorities and seek to appease them via self-reform, Jews following this course did not acknowledge they were doing so to appease bigoted attackers. Rather, they cast their course as moral and ethical. They argued that while Judaism always had its universal mission, a mission of promoting a more ethical, humane order in the world, Judaism as a light unto the nations, that mission had become Judaism’s exclusive role over the preceding two millennia and any return to national aspirations was an atavistic step to be shunned.

(It took the Holocaust to swing many leaders of Reform Judaism in America, a branch of the faith derived in large part from reformist German Jewish congregations, to support the Zionist project and recognize the Jewish desire for national self-determination as not atavistic after all.)

The anti-Jewish indictment arguing that Jews did not deserve equal civic rights because they were part of a separate nation, and the accommodating response by major elements of the community, merged with a related indictment and related response.

An additional, common anti-Jewish line of attack was that Jews were uniquely disposed to focus only on their own narrow, parochial interests and disregard the plight of those beyond their own community. The response by some Jewish leaders and others within the community was to eschew Jewish communal issues – even as Jews were confronted with particular challenges and particular threats; to ostentatiously demonstrate their devotion to addressing problems other than those of their own community; and to depict the abandonment of the former and devotion to the latter as the moral, ethical course.

Essentially the same dynamic can be seen at play today as many Jewish leaders and the communal institutions they head give priority to accommodating those elements of American society critical of Israel, elements which they – in a skewed vision of reality that has its own distinct history – are predisposed to see as representative of the moral, ethical course which is the proper, universal Jewish vocation. They are more prone to giving ground in the face of criticism of Israel by those elements, however unfair and biased the criticism, than in looking closely at the threats Israel faces and its strategic challenges and vulnerabilities and responding forcefully to critics who ignore those realities.

It should come as no shock then, given all this, that so many Jewish students go off to college knowing little of those realities. How can it be otherwise when – even looking at students who grow up in households connected to Jewish institutions – what they and their families hear in their temples and read in their Jewish newspapers and imbibe from other community organs is as likely to be indictments of Israeli policy, all too fully internalized by rabbis and editors and organization heads, than any informed, reality-based,  clear-sighted, intellectually honest and unapologetic defense of Israel?

And what do Jewish students encounter on campus? One reality greeting them will be a well-documented increase in anti-Semitism, including even, in some instances, physical assaults on Jews, much of it incited and perpetrated by the, again, often openly Jew-baiting Students for Justice in Palestine (or, perhaps more properly, Students for Judaeophobia), whose objective is Israel’s annihilation. As noted, they will also encounter some Jews among the mostly Muslim cadres of SJP.

Also greeting them on many campuses will be what is, in effect, SJP’s Jewish auxiliary, Jewish Voice for Peace. Like “Students for Justice in Palestine,” “Jewish Voice for Peace” is a propaganda-driven misnomer; the only peace the organization proffers for Israelis is the peace of the dead. A perusal of its website reveals its parroting of virtually every anti-Israel canard promoted by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and their fellow travelers, and its endorsing of those groups’ goals.

For JVP, prior to the League of Nations action mandating creation of a Jewish homeland in “Palestine,” the area was not part of the Ottoman Empire but rather a Palestinian Arab state which the Jews subsequently usurped; and there was no Arab expulsion of close to a million Jews from Arab nations, and no Arab efforts to annihilate the Jews of the Mandate, and Jews have no right to national self-determination, and Palestinian Arabs have the right to pursue Israel’s dissolution.

That a small minority of Jewish students take the extreme step of affiliating with JVP or SJP should not be entirely surprising. Motivations no doubt vary from individual to individual. Some, for example, may simply be following a family tradition of bowdlerized, ultimately auto-genocidal, Jewish “morality,” while others may be rebelling against a more conventional familial Jewish connectedness.

But the broader reality is that, again, whenever Jews have been under attack there have always been some who seek to escape the assault by joining the attackers.

Perhaps this is even more the case in an academic environment, as students are particularly eager to be accepted by their peers and their professors and to deck themselves in the current campus fashion, whether its hue be far-Left red or fascist brown. The strange contemporary alliance between red and brown, far Left “progressivism” and Islamist fascism, seems particularly compelling for some.

J Street’s campus operation, which, like the parent organization, characterizes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, and which promotes the parent organization’s policies, has drawn a much larger following among Jewish students than JVP or SJP. But its pro-Israel claims run counter to those policies.

Israelis of almost all political stripes reject a return to the pre-1967 armistice lines, the so-called Green Line, in any Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The consensus is, as the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242 (the key UN document relating to the territorial issue) asserted, that those lines left Israel too vulnerable and invited further aggression against the country.

Yitzhak Rabin, in his last Knesset speech prior to his assassination, listed West Bank areas – an incomplete list, he indicated – that Israel would need to retain and populate in any final settlement to assure its security and survival. Yet J Street opposes any Israeli presence beyond the Green Line and advocates the United States supporting, via unilateral policy initiatives or a UN Security Council resolution or an initiative in conjunction with other major powers, reversing Resolution 242 and endorsing the Green Line as the basis for defining a future border.

J Street also advocates the United States instituting punitive measures against Israel for any activity beyond the Green Line. It also claims that American administrations have consistently viewed settlements beyond the Green Line as “illegal,” when in fact only the Carter Administration labeled them illegal and, as attested to by many experts in the field, there is much in international law that weighs in favor of their legality.

Israelis have fought three wars against Hamas in Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, with each conflict triggered by Hamas attacks, particularly rocket fire, against Israel’s civilian population. Yet J Street has repeatedly drawn a moral equivalence between Israel and its openly genocidal foe, and has often parroted Hamas claims and statistics about the course of the conflicts and the resultant casualties.

J Street is consistently silent about the goals of Hamas and of the Palestinian Authority, their mutual rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders in “Palestine,” and the PA’s rejection of all negotiation proposals offered by Israel or by the United States.

J Street asserts it opposes the “global BDS movement” that targets all of Israel for boycott, divestment and sanction, but does not oppose BDS efforts targeting the territories beyond the Green Line. It sees such boycotts as consistent with its goal of promoting Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line. But, again, the vast majority of Israelis, along with notable Western military and strategic experts, believe that such a withdrawal would render Israel fatally vulnerable.

In addition, the “global BDS movement” also promotes, like J Street, more circumscribed boycotts limited to the territories, as in its partially successful efforts to advance such boycotts in Europe. It does so because it knows that even such limited boycotts, which serve to weaken Israel’s presence in the territories, in advancing the goal of Israeli retreat to the Green Line serves also to undermine Israel’s strategic viability and ultimate survival.

J Street has worked with supporters of the Iranian government and strongly backed last year’s agreement with Iran that legitimized that nation’s nuclear program and released to the mullahs over $100 billion in embargoed funds in exchange for limited curtailment of its pursuit of operable nuclear weapons. It did so even as Iran has consistently reasserted its goal of annihilating Israel and consistently used its resources to arm and finance terrorist proxies, such as Hizbullah, that target Israel.

The leadership of J Street is obviously less interested in the concerns of most Israelis and the realities of their predicament than in aligning itself with an American administration ambivalent at best towards those concerns and realities and with other elites in America who share similar attitudes.

Among Jewish students, J Street’s true believers are drawn largely from those whose priorities are the same. Its Jewish student support is also drawn from those who see in J Street a middle course between unabashed advocacy of the rightness of Israel’s case and the legitimacy of its concerns and outright embrace of the assaults of those who want Israel destroyed, a middle course that many hope will pass muster as compatible with the campus zeitgeist. The group also attracts some of the innocent and uninformed who are sympathetic to Israel but know too little to appreciate the dangers that J-Street’s agenda represents for Israelis.

It is particularly among the latter two groups that the failure of much of American Jewish leadership as reflected in Gary Rosenblatt’s article looms large, the failure of leaders who bewail the falling away from concern with Israel’s well-being but seek to place the onus for the falling away on Israel.

The assault on American Jewish students is intense and entails not only the hate-filled attacks of fellow students but all too often similar hatred emanating from faculty, especially in the humanities and social sciences (and even faculty focused on Jewish studies, as recently reflected in the ugly, intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt anti-Israel screed produced by Hasia Diner and Marjorie N. Fried and published in Haaretz on August 1), as well as the widespread tolerance of college and university administrations for the assault on Israel and its supporters.

Students are rendered more vulnerable to the corrosive impact of the assault on their identification with Israel when Jewish leaders are remiss in their responsibilities to counter that vulnerability both by arming students with the truth about Israel and by providing a strong counter-force against those forces engineering the assault.

Rather than offering such a counter-force, some leaders of major Jewish organizations actually extend support to those engaged in the campus assault on Israel. Earlier this year, the current head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, a former high-ranking Obama administration official, spoke to J Street students and essentially endorsed policies toward Israel promoted in J Street’s campus activities. The ADL, both under Greenblatt and his predecessor, Abe Foxman, has also criticized state and federal efforts to pass anti-BDS legislation, including legislation to withhold funds from institutions of higher learning that enact BDS measures.

The ADL has argued that its stance is based on the defense of freedom of speech. But it requires considerable logical contortion to twist into a free speech issue withholding taxpayer funds from publicly supported colleges and universities that pursue policies biased against Israel and ultimately aimed at undermining that nation’s viability. The ADL stance seems rather to be directed towards conforming to the political predilections of particular echelons in America with which its leaders identify, and to doing so with little regard for the impact on Israelis and their well-being.

Among campus developments illustrative of the failure of American Jewish leadership vis-a-vis Jewish college and university students, few are as noteworthy as the relatively new “Open Hillel” phenomenon.

Hillel has long provided a center for Jewish activities and connectedness on campuses for those students seeking such connectedness and has, of course, been the leading organization in doing so. It reports that it has a presence at more than 550 colleges and universities. With regard to Israel, Hillel International guidelines declare that the organization is “steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders as a member of the family of nations.”

The guidelines also assert that “Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; [or] exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.”

But in recent years, students on some campuses have taken exception to these guidelines and insisted, for example, that their campus Hillels host events co-sponsored by the virulently anti-Israel SJP and the hardly less anti-Israel JVP, both of which delegitimize and demonize Israel and seek to undermine its existence. Under the rubric “Open Hillel,” advocates of this course claim they are simply seeking to broaden the discussion of Israel beyond the positions articulated in the Hillel guidelines.

The first “Open Hillel” conference was held in the fall of 2014 and reportedly drew more than 350 participants. Jewish Voice for Peace played a prominent role in the conference program, as did other voices hostile to Israel and challenging of its very existence. An attendee, writing in The Tower Magazine, noted that “… while there were definitely some views expressed that were even more extreme than JVP, I never heard a single opinion expressed that could be called more ardently Zionist than J Street – which itself has a very problematic relationship with Zionism.”

Thus far only a handful of campus Hillels in America have declared themselves to have embraced the “Open Hillel” agenda. But in fact, many more do partner with organizations that support BDS at some level and promote other anti-Israel policies, most notably J Street but also at times groups such as JVP and even SJP. A key explanation for this is that many, likely most, rabbis serving as Hillel directors – either because of views held before coming to their Hillel position or because they have been won over to conforming to popular campus biases – are themselves sympathetic to the intellectually insupportable and morally obtuse blaming of Israeli policy for the absence of peace and for the wide hostility to Israel in academic circles.

In contrast, those Hillel directors who are fully supportive of Hillel International’s guidelines regarding Israel and are unabashed supporters of the Jewish state and its right to demand a genuine and defensible peace in return for concessions are a distinct minority.

Moreover, Hillel International has not aggressively sought to hold Hillel chapters to the guidelines on Israel as a condition for their continuing to use the Hillel name. Nor has the wider community of leading Jewish organizations openly addressed the highly problematic developments within this key Jewish campus institution, much less taken a stance on those developments. No doubt this is, again, in large part because so many prominent figures in those organizations are likely to be among the Jewish leaders who are not prepared to challenge Israel-baiting segments of society, such as major elements of academia, with which they identify, and prefer instead to blame Israeli policy for those groups’ hostility to Israel.

One hears some voices in Jewish leadership who are essentially sympathetic to the strong Hillel International parameters regarding Israel but at the same time argue that Jewish organizational life ought to provide a “big tent” and be open to Jews of all opinions who want to identify with the community.

Proponents of this view suggest, regarding Hillel, it ought to be seen as a positive that those Jewish students so critical of Israel nevertheless want to be part of campus Jewish communal life.

But of course they want to be part of Hillel not to share a common space with Jewish students different from themselves – Jewish students who, for example, see Israel differently from how they do. If that were their interest, they would create an “Open J Street” and “Open JVP.” Rather, they want to be part of Hillel so they can undermine support for Israel from within the flagship Jewish campus organization; so that they can use the organization in their quest to separate identifying with Israel – at least Israel as comprehended by and defended by the great majority of Israelis – from Jewish identity.

It is certainly true that one can identify as Jewish and even be committed to living life in a manner infused with Jewish content and yet be critical of the Zionist project or supportive of policies that would compromise Israel’s security and threaten its viability. But to welcome such people within a “big tent” of Jewish communal life is morally problematic. It entails giving communal sanction to those who would either deprive fellow Jews of the right of national self-determination accorded other groups or endanger the welfare and lives of the more than six million Jews for whom Israel is home.

Nor can the widespread hostility to Israel, nor the murderous hostility to all Jews that seeks justification in anti-Zionism, be legitimately invoked by Jews as a reason for challenging the Zionist project or Israeli policies vital to the security of the state. Again, it has been all too common for some Jews, in the face of anti-Jewish bigotry, even murderous bigotry, to blame other Jews rather than the haters.

More broadly, whatever the rationale or motivation, it is morally obtuse for Jewish leaders, such as those alluded to in the Gary Rosenblatt article cited earlier, to ignore the realities of Israel’s predicament and to insist on dangerous concessions by Israel to appease those indifferent to or hostile to the nation’s well-being, whether Jews or non-Jews, whether they are on American campuses or elsewhere.

Israel’s primary obligation is not to win a popularity contest either in the world at large or within some Jewish “big tent,” many of whose members have priorities inimical to the state’s well-being. Rather, its obligation is to protect and defend its citizens, build the state along the same ethical, Jewish and democratic principles that have been its essential guidelines since its founding, and to make its case as best its can to the world, including to the jaundiced within the Jewish world, but never to compromise its vital interests for the sake of advancing its case.

As Gerald Steinberg said in response to Rosenblatt, “… no, ‘any plan’ that helps Israel’s PR… but makes our security situation even worse, is not better than the status quo.” If that displeases some in the American Jewish establishment, then shame on them.

Kenneth Levin

Catching Up To Democratic Outreach, Trump Courts American Voters In Israel

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

In early August, Israeli media reported that the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had launched outreach to an estimated 300,000 eligible American voters living in Israel.

The Trump campaign is working with the Israel branch of Republicans Overseas, an organization that works to reach American citizens abroad who can vote via absentee ballot.

The Trump campaign has reportedly hired former Yediot Aharonot reporter Tzvika Brot and other political and public relations experts in order to reach American voters in Israel.

“Our efforts to reach American voters living or visiting Israel prior to the election are primarily through the Republican Overseas efforts,” which has also been working with groups such as the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) on this front, said Bo Denysyk, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign’s Special Voter Groups attached to Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.

Denysyk explained to JNS that although the Trump campaign is making efforts to reach eligible U.S. voters in various foreign countries, it is placing a special priority on Israel.

In order to be able to vote, Americans abroad need to fill out a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and submit it to their local election office in the U.S. every year. Before an election, such voters will receive an absentee ballot by mail or electronically, depending on their state’s rules. Voters abroad vote in the state where they last lived before leaving the U.S.

As there are large Jewish communities in battleground states such as Ohio and Florida, Denysyk said the Trump campaign is particularly interested in targeting Americans in Israel who come from those states and “can possibly provide the winning margin” during the election. Republicans Overseas estimates there are about 10,000-12,000 Republicans from Florida in Israel

A report published in March by the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford in the UK titled “America’s Overseas Voters: How They Could Decide the U.S. Presidency in 2016” notes past instances in which voters abroad made a difference in results in swing states, such as the famous case of the 2000 presidential election, in which overseas Florida ballots gave George W. Bush a narrow lead after the U.S. Supreme Court had stopped the state’s recount.

If the election had included the ballots that arrived after the Nov. 26 deadline, former vice president Al Gore would have won Florida – and the presidential election.

Professor Jay Sexton, former director of the Rothermere American Institute and co-author of the report, told JNS that efforts to reach U.S. voters in Israel “is a good move” because traditionally Republicans have had “inferior campaign infrastructure overseas” compared to the Democrats.

According to Sexton’s report, the comparable organization to Republicans Overseas on the Democrat side, Democrats Abroad, has traditionally had a more institutionalized relationship with the Democratic Party.

Alex Montgomery, communications director of Democrats Abroad, told JNS that the organization reaches out to its members in Israel and other countries “through e-mails and phone banking, reminding our members that they need to request their ballot to vote this year.”

“We will very shortly start running ads on social media across Israel to let potential voters know how they can vote and answer the many questions voters from abroad typically have about the voting process,” he said.

In Israel in particular, “there are tens of thousands of U.S. voters…so the impact in the U.S. can be considerable, particularly for Senate and House elections with tight races. And getting out the vote in Israel for Democratic candidates causes a ripple effect back home with U.S. voters who are influenced by their families and friends in Israel,” he added.

Meanwhile, Republicans Overseas is working to catch up to the Democrats on outreach to voters in foreign countries. Marc Zell, co-chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel and vice president of Republicans Overseas, recently acknowledged to the Jerusalem Post that outreach to American voters in Israel has begun late and has faced a lot of challenges. Nevertheless, he is optimistic about the project.

Alina Dain Sharon

Moscow Calming Israeli, American Fears of Russia-Turkey-Iran Coalition

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg between the two former feuding foes Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan “drew considerable attention,” government-run news agency TASS reported, noting that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement is coming while Russia has been expanding its relations with Iran and Ankara and Tehran have also been bridging the gaps between them, born by almost four decades of a volatile Islamic Republic on Turkey’s border. In fact, right after the failed coup last month, Erdogan announced, “We are determined to cooperate with Iran and Russia to address regional problems side by side and to step up our efforts considerably to restore peace and stability to the region.”

Should Israel be concerned? Apparently, the Russian news organ is eager to spread a message of calm regarding the new developments in the northern part of the region. And so an unsigned article this week polled experts who were skeptical regarding a developing strategic triangle of those three powers. According to the TASS experts, the most that will come out of the current statements are tactical political interaction and an upturn in economic cooperation. But even if it were true, and Russia, Turkey and Iran were to forge a strategic alliance, TASS continues its calming message, it would be for the best, because “these three countries can play a positive role, for instance, in overcoming the Syrian crisis.”

It isn’t clear who is panicking more at the moment—Jerusalem or Washington—over the possibility that Turkey, a NATO member, would switch sides and coalesce with Russia and Iran. Clearly, the US has a whole lot more to lose from such an emerging outcome. US Middle East policy traditionally relied on the “three-legged stool” comprised of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. As long as those three major local powers were in the Western camp, Soviet manipulations elsewhere could be mitigated. When Iran was lost under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the US attempted for the longest time to substitute Iraq for the missing stool leg, but the Iraqi regime never provided the stability the US enjoyed with the Shah. This is why the US is so determined to keep Turkey in the Western camp, because without a Western-allied Turkey, the US presence in the region would be severely downgraded.

Hence the need for the TASS calming story. It interviewed senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, who reassured the Western readers “there will be no trilateral union, of course. It should be ruled out for many reasons. At best one can expect some tactical alliance. This is so because Iran, Turkey and Russia have certain problems in their relations with the West and with the United States.” That’s code for Turkey would be punished severely, economically and otherwise, if it ever jumped ship.

Sazhin continued, “If one takes a look at the economic interests they share, it should be remembered that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan … are countries that produce and export hydrocarbons. They have a great deal to discuss in view of the current strained situation on the world market. As for Turkey, its role in delivering hydrocarbons to the West may be significant. But I don’t think that this triangle will be of strategic importance.”

Sazhin sees no fundamentally new geopolitical aspects in sight. “It’s about getting back to where we had been all the time. Arabs constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East. Non-Arab countries are few – Israel, Turkey and Iran. They had very close relations up to [the emergence of] the Islamic revolution in Iran.”

“In Iran, with its 80-million population, Turks and Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically very close to Turkey, constitute an estimated 18 to 25 million,” Sazhin said. “Bilateral relations existed not only at the Tehran-Ankara level. There were very strong people-to-people bonds. Plus the long-standing economic ties. But in politics post-revolution Iran and NATO member Turkey have drifted apart, of course.”

Research fellow Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Arab and Islamic Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute told TASS, “I don’t believe in the emergence of new political triangles. I don’t think some strategic changes will follow overnight to bring about changes to the configuration of alliances. A number of steps we’ve seen our friends and partners and those we are not on very friendly terms with us take are tactical. They stem from the current situation.”

Zvyagelskaya believes that to a large extent this is true of Turkey. “It is to be remembered that Erdogan’s wish to have closer relations is a result of certain internal political events, on the one hand, and soaring tensions in his country’s relations with the United States and the European Union, on the other. These steps by Erdogan are purely pragmatic and we should treat them accordingly. As far as I understand, nobody has any illusions on that score.”

JNi.Media

Tuesday 223 American Olim Made Israel their Home

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

On Tuesday, July 19, a flight with 223 olim from the US and Canada landed in Ben-Gurion International Airport, where a ceremony was held to welcome them to Israel.

KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar said that “the Aliyah to Israel is the foundation on which the Zionist enterprise stands. It is the clearest expression of our love to the land of Israel.”

“The strategic cooperation between KKL-JNF and Nefesh Be’Nefesh assists many diaspora Jews to find their way to Israel, build their home there, integrate in the Israeli society and contribute to the prosperity of Israel,” Atar said, adding, “I am sure that many Olim will encounter KKL-JNF down the road … We are here for you and proud of you.”

The 223 newcomers include Jews from 17 US states and two Canadian provinces, former servicemen from three different US Armed Forces units, families of all sizes, and young professionals.

JNi.Media

INTO THE FRAY: Israel and American Liberal Jewry: The REAL Reasons for the Rift

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Israel’s accomplishments have been remarkable.  Israel has created a thriving economy, and has been a refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy. Israel has generated a rich and diverse cultural life and its scientific and educational achievements have been exemplary.  In spite of these achievements, however, Israel in my view has gone astray…sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure.

– Rabbi David M. Gordis, Reflections on Israel 2016, Tikkun, February 22, 2016

 

Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom, and standing out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity. Israel is…an exceptional country that shares our most essential values. It is the only country in the Middle East where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are found. Therefore, support for Israel is an expression of our Americanism

–  Republican Party’s 2016 Platform

 

‘Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians?’ I have been asking that question now for 20 years probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.

– Alan Dershowitz, a longstanding supporter of Democratic Party, Jerusalem, June 9, 2015

 

In recent years there have been frequent reports of a growing rift between liberal Jewry in the US and Israel, and of the increasing difficulty liberal American Jews—particularly the younger generation—have in identifying with the Jewish state.

Neither inevitable nor irreversible

This is of course an entirely absurd state of affairs.

After all, if logic, common sense and truth had any significant role to play in determining the “liberal” discourse on Israel or “liberal” attitudes toward it, Israel would be enthusiastically embraced by all who purport to cherish liberal values, such as civil liberties, socio-cultural diversity and religious tolerance. Indeed, Israel would be held up as source of pride, celebrated as a shining example of how such values can be sustained in the most inclement of circumstances, which in many other places might well have been considered justification for considerably more authoritarian governance (see Dershowitz’s quote above).

Various profound explanations have been proposed to account for the emerging disconnect between the “liberal” Jews in the US and Israel, ranging from philosophical differences to divergent societal shifts in both countries. But while there might be some measure of validity to these claims, to my mind, they largely miss the point and the dominant reason for the rift is far more mundane.

Accordingly, this alleged “animus” is neither inherently inevitable, as several pundits appear to have to resigned themselves to, nor is it inherently irreversible—other than by some far-reaching transformation of Israeli society.

Narcissistic hypocrisy vs indolent incompetence

At the root of the “liberal” Jews disaffection with the Jewish nation-state lies a dual fault—the one of “liberal” Jewry, the other of the Jewish nation state itself.

On the one hand, liberal Jewry in the US has been gravely afflicted by a narcissistic hypocrisy, which sets unattainable standards for the Jewish state to avoid being the target of its disapproval. On the other hand, Israel, as the nation-state of the Jews, has been deplorably derelict in presenting its case to the world in general and to US Jewry in particular. This has left them gravely misinformed, allowing disapproval of its policy and disinformation as to its nature to go unchallenged—and hence to flourish.

Indeed, much of the disappointment expressed by liberal Jewry is rooted in a misperception of what Israel once was, and what it has become today.

In order to illustrate this, the moronic—and often self-contradictory—lament by David Gordis (not to be confused with his nephew Daniel Gordis) as to Israel’s alleged moral degradation, is perhaps a good place to start (see introductory excerpt).

After summarily dismissing Israel’s “remarkable accomplishments” in creating “a thriving economy”, providing “refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy” and generating “a rich and diverse cultural life and…scientific and educational achievements [that] have been exemplary”, Gordis perversely declares Israel a failed experiment—despite its staggering successes.

Totally detached from fact & reason

Gordis then goes on to elaborate on his abstruse indictment of Israel today:“Jewish life and thought have successfully navigated between three pairs of values that are in tension with one another. First, the Jewish experience has balanced the rational with the affective, the assertion with the question…Second, it has embraced both particularism with universalism, probing Jewish interiorities but looking out to the larger world, recognizing the common humanity of all people. Third, it has shaped positions which looked to the past for sources and inspiration but at the same time projected a vision for a world transformed in the future into something better than its current reality.”

Then in a wild diatribe, totally divorced from any semblance of reality, he blares:

“Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary. These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best”.

In reality, “present day Israel” is—demonstrably—far closer to the model of Gordis’s ideal than it ever was, certainly far more than it was back in the days for which he allegedly yearns.

Wrong on every count

Today Israeli society is driven far less by ideological zeal; it far less ideologically monolithic, far less under the sway of a doctrinaire socialistic hegemony, for which Gordis waxes nostalgic. How does that make it less rational?

Israel has been in the forefront in extending aid to “the other” whenever disaster has struck: In Nepal, in Haiti and even in providing life-saving medical treatment to the victims of the Syrian civil war–to name but a few of present day Israel’s humanitarian initiatives. How is that indicative of “the worst behaviors rather than the best”?

Israeli innovation and inventiveness in medicine, agriculture, water conservation is saving/improving the lives of multitudes across the globe? How is that indicative of Israel discarding the “universal?”

And Israel’s cutting edge activities in the field of space research and exploration have put it in the world’s top five countries in this sphere of human endeavor. So has Israel really discarded the visionary?

This is merely a small sampling of how intellectually dishonest the derogatory drivel of Israel’s “liberal” detractors has become.

This narcissistic hypocrisy was aptly exposed in a perceptive piece in a Washington Post blog by David Bernstein, professor of Law at George Mason University. He wrote: “Israeli Arabs have never been more integrated into Israeli society, or made more rapid economic and social progress, than…under Netanyahu… surrounded by hostile enemies, absorbing about four times its original population in refugees, very few of whom came from countries with a longstanding liberal or democratic traditions, expecting a progressive utopia to emerge was ridiculous. Creating a reasonably liberal, multiethnic, democratic state with religious freedom in a region where there aren’t any others should be more than enough to satisfy all but the most starry-eyed idealists.”

Indeed, it should.

Beneath the disingenuous gobbledygook

Of course, denigrating Israel because it fails to meet some unattainable criteria of human behavior, conjured up by disenchanted “liberal” Jews, serves no useful purpose other than to expose their self-centered insincerity—especially when they refrain from applying the same stringent standards to any other country, including their own.

For, once one strips away all the disingenuous gobbledygook, one comes to the core reason for “liberal” chagrin with Israel. This has nothing to do with how diverse or tolerant Israeli society has become, or the level of humanitarian relief it may extend to others, or how Israeli enterprise contributes to the betterment of mankind at large. It has to do with one – and only one—politically partisan issue—Israel’s interaction with the Palestinian-Arabs across the pre-1967 Green Line (a.k.a. the “Occupation”). The only remedial measure that “liberals” advance to deal with the “undemocratic blight” is to implement a “two-state-solution”.

Incredibly therefore, according to Israel’s “liberal” detractors, the only panacea for Israel’s “democracy deficit” is to facilitate the establishment of yet another Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks will be homophobic persecution of homosexuals, misogynistic discrimination against women and girls, intolerance of religious diversity, and repression of political dissent.

But this is not only wildly irrational in terms of its internal logic, it is equally imprudent in terms of its operational implications. After all, every time Israel has transferred territory to Arab control, it has sooner or later, become a platform to launch deadly attacks against it. Yet with unswerving doctrinaire zeal “liberals” cling to the perilous prescription of touting tyranny and bringing hundreds of kindergartens within the range of rockets and mortars along Israel’s eastern flank.

Down to the last Israeli

It would thus seem that much of US Jewry is so blinded by its obsessive attachment to the failed formula of two-states-for-two- people that they are prepared to defend it—paradoxically under the banner of liberal political philosophy – down to the last Israeli. Indeed, in its mindless subscription to the two-state notion as the touchstone of Israeli democracy, “liberal” Jewry disregards Israel’s many merits and highlights its inevitable defects—thus greatly contributing to its international de-legitimization across the globe. After all, who better for the Judeophobes to cite than the Jews themselves?

But beyond disregard for Israel’s virtues, US liberal Jews seem to be blind to the nature of its adversaries. Despite ample evidence, they refuse to acknowledge that Arab (including Palestinian Arab) animosity is not rooted in anything the Israel does—or does not do; but in what Israel is: Jewish. Concessions will not satiate Arab appetites, only whet them.

But if US “liberal” Jews frown upon the coercive measures that Israel is compelled to use against the Palestinian-Arabs, were they to apply the same criteria to their own country, they would have good reason to feel even more disenchanted. For when faced with threats far less severe than those faced by Israel, the US has responded far more vigorously and less discriminately than Israel, whether in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Yemen, with “collateral” civilian casualties dwarfing anything Israel has been accused of.

Yet strangely, few if any, embittered Jewish liberals have distanced themselves from the USA because they have been disappointed by American brutality and its failure to live up to their immaculate standards of state behavior.

Expose and inform

Given the facts on the ground, Israel should in fact be the proverbial “apple of the eye” of US liberal Jewry, an object of pride it is eager to be identified with—especially in light of the harrowing circumstances under which it is forced to exist.

Sadly, Israel has done inexcusably little to harness the facts to rebuff the attacks on its democratic credentials and has allowed imperative coercive actions to ensure the security of its civilians against an implacable foe, to be portrayed as racist brutality.

Thus, Israel is losing the support of the US diaspora by default. By spending a pittance on public diplomacy, it is by its own incompetence and impotence fostering the narratives of its adversaries.

The Spring 2016 edition of the Columbia University journal, “Current”, ran an interesting piece entitled “Reclaiming Alienated Liberals: Israel’s Imperative for Diaspora Jews” by Benjamin Davidoff, self-professed pro-Israel advocate. There are many things I disagree with in the article -such as the need for a Palestinian state and the call for Israel to empower J-Street, but on one matter Davidoff was spot on. He conveyed the feeling that pro-Israel advocates had been abandoned by Israel. He aptly notes: “Israel has an obligation to aid in pro-Israel advocacy on university campuses. Israel has largely ignored those fighting for Israel on campus and has failed to offer any true support for diaspora Jews… this issue directly affects the viability of the Israeli state in the future and should be of primary concern for Israel.”

On this he is quite right – and Israeli officialdom will ignore this obligation at the nation’s peril.

Dr. Martin Sherman

Misguided Criticism by American Jewish Liberals

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

27 Jewish “social justice organizations” recently wrote a widely-publicized open letter calling upon “political candidates to put an end to the racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia” which “has emerged in this year’s campaign.”

Naturally, all Jews – and decent people anywhere – agree racism of any form is unacceptable, and none of us approve of what these organizations describe as “hurtful characterizations of entire ethnic groups as criminals.”

All Americans can agree that “The Jewish community knows all too well what can happen when particular religious or ethnic groups become the focus of invective. We have witnessed the dangerous acts that can follow verbal expressions of hate.”As such, it was disappointing that a radical, extremist organization such as The New Israel Fund, which openly supports a boycott of Israel were among the organizations who signed this letter.

It is quite clear that today’s Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of old.

Israel must always be a bi-partisan issue and sadly we’ve recently seen that historic bond between Israel and the Democratic Party erode and weaken. Shamefully, elements of the Democratic Party are anti-Israel and doing all they can to destroy the pro-Israel consensus, as they stand shoulder to shoulder with those who boycott Israel.

Further, why did this letter not urge all candidates to stand with Israelis across the political spectrum who say no to dividing Jerusalem and a no nuclear Iran?

Naturally, all of us stand with the letter writers in condemning Anti-Semitism.  Therefore, why did this letter not urge all candidates to “shun advisors and close family friends” (i.e. Max Blumenthal) who are Anti-Israel, compare the Israel Defense Forces to Nazi Germany, refer to Israel as an “apartheid state” and harm the Jewish State.

As Alan Dershowitz—a Clinton supporter – notes, “Max Blumenthal is well outside the acceptable range of rhetoric about Israel. His constant comparisons between Nazi Germany and the Jewish state establish him as an extremist bigot whose greatest appeal is to anti-Semites and others who apply a double standard to the Jewish state.  Any political candidate who would associate himself or herself with such views would be unacceptable to Americans… I hope that the Clintons ask Sid to expressly disassociate himself from his son’s views–and if he refuses to, that they no longer work with him on any matters.”

 

The reality is that this letter was about what Jeff Jacoby, the op-ed editor of the Boston Globe has written namely that “liberalism has superseded Judaism as the religion of most American Jews.” As Author Norman Podhoretz wrote in “Why Are Jews Liberal” that “where the Torah of contemporary liberalism conflicts with the Torah of Judaism, it is the Torah of liberalism that prevails and the Torah of Judaism that must give way.”

While Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League claims this letter is not about “..a liberal or conservative issue”, he neglects to mention his recent embrace of J Street and to mention the fact that he is a former senior advisor to the most Anti-Israel President in modern history, Barack Obama.  That says it all.

Yes, we must all condemn Anti-Semitism – and we must also remember as Jacoby has written, “This liberalism isn’t rational. It isn’t sensible. It certainly isn’t good for the Jews.”

Hank Sheinkopf, Ronn Torossian

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