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Dr. Simeon Abrahams: More Than A Footnote

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

 

There were Jews living during the nineteenth century who made substantial contributions to Yiddishkeit but who, unfortunately, are almost completely forgotten today. Their lives are at most a footnote in standard books dealing with American Jewish history. One such man was Dr. Simeon Abrahams, a pillar of the New York Jewish community during his relatively short life.

 

Simeon, the third child of Jacob and Catherine Eitlah (nee Dyer) Abrahams, was born in New York on January 12, 1810. Jacob served as the official shochet of the Spanish-Portuguese Congregation Shearith Israel from 1803 until 1813. Simeon, who remained a strictly observant Jew his entire life, continued his father’s affiliation with Shearith Israel, serving as the synagogue’s baal tokeah on Rosh Hashanah and as treasurer for a number of years. His interests also extended to the community at large. For example, in 1829 he became a volunteer fireman, serving in Phoenix Hose Company No. 22.

 

       In his earlier years and almost up to mature manhood he was in trade, then having acquired an ample competency he retired from business and devoted himself to study. He went to Jerusalem [in the late 1840s] and remained there for a number of years engaged in the study of the Torah and, it was said, became so well versed therein that the title of Rabbi was bestowed upon him and ever after, when called to the reading of the law, he was titled Rabbi.1

 

While in Jerusalem Simeon also studied mila and had a scribe write a booklet for him entitled Ze Sefer Haberit which contained the halachos and procedures of ritual circumcision.

 

Simeon returned to New York, probably in 1848. His extensive Torah knowledge made him a rarity at a time when many Jewish men residing in America could barely read Hebrew. He was soon very much in demand as a mohel, becoming one of the most active mohellim in New York during the 1860s.

 

In 1851 Abrahams enrolled in the University Medical College of New York and graduated two years later. Shortly thereafter he opened a medical practice. Dr. Abrahams also established a Jewish clinic where the poor could be treated at no cost. He did not forget his years of learning in Eretz Yisrael and was known to devote all his leisure time to Torah study.

 

Communal Activities

 

Dr. Abrahams was involved in a number of Jewish communal activities.

 

In 1841 several members of Shearith Israel started an adult school which they called “The Hebrew Literary and Religious Library Association.” Classes were held in the reading and translation of Hebrew, and in the laws and customs of the Jews. Simeon Abrahams, Montgomery Moses, and Professor Nordheimer of New York University were on the staff. It is not known how long the school lasted.2

 

Intermarriage was becoming increasingly prevalent during the nineteenth century. There were those who felt one should overlook the fact that a Jewish man had a gentile wife and accord him the same synagogue honors as those who had not intermarried. Dr. Abrahams felt this was wrong, maintaining that the Jewish community should take a strong stand against intermarriage. He made his views clear in a letter he wrote that appeared in 1845 in the monthly Jewish publication The Occident:

 

. How ridiculous it is to see a man who has married a gentile wife, and has for her sake given up every thing which his religion demands of him, mount the reading-desk on our most solemn days, and participate in the religious services of the day; or to see a woman who openly says that she has married a gentile, boldly entering the place of worship, and placing herself in the front ranks among the true daughters of Israel, as though she had not violated the duties of her religion. It is a great fault in the trustees of congregations, that they do nothing to prevent these things; and that they in a manner encourage them, by selling seats in their places of worship to persons of this class, thus setting a baleful example for their own sons and daughters.

 

To countenance acts like these is not the way to put a stop to them; not to punish by setting on them a mark of public disapprobation, is to encourage them; and surely we do not set a good example to the rising generation, whom, we pretend, we are striving to rear by all means at our disposal to become proper representatives of Judaism, whilst we do nothing to prevent this increasing bane of our nation, since we allow a person who has in a measure voluntarily abandoned his religion, to remain a member of our societies and congregations.

Among us the object of punishment is not so much the disgrace of the guilty as the deterring of the yet innocent from the committal of wrongs; and I therefore hold it requisite, in order to infuse a wholesome fear in the minds of the young, not to permit any of those who have married out of the congregation, be they men or women, to have any part or share with us in the religious rites or services of our ancient and holy religion; they have voluntarily withdrawn themselves from us, there let them remain, it is an act of their own, done without any necessity, and our very existence as Jews demands of us, as such, that they should not be permitted to re-enter, or to have extended to them, any of the rites or privileges of our religion; they should not be permitted to purchase or hire a seat in the Synagogues; the men should not be allowed to be called to the reading of the law, nor to be reckoned to make Minyan, nor in any way to be countenanced or regarded as Jews.

 

This may be considered severe punishment, but desperate diseases require desperate remedies. But however unpleasant it may be for a person to be compelled to refuse another those offices or services, by allowing the transgressors to retain their former rights in congregations and societies, the name of Jew, in this country especially, will, I fear, soon be a matter of history, but not of reality.3

 

Dr. Abrahams also took great interest in the activities of New York Jewry on behalf of their brethren in the Holy Land and was an active member of the Hebrah Terumat Hakodesh, a society that raised money to assist Jews in Eretz Yisrael. He also mounted opposition to the use in New York City public schools of books that advocated Christian doctrines. In The Occident he expressed his concern for the kashrus of oil used in cooking. In his opinion it was definitely possible that lard oil was being mixed with other oils, and hence Jews needed to be assured that the oil they used was indeed kosher.

 

*     *     *

 

Dr. Abrahams was preparing a translation of a portion of the Talmud at the time of his sudden death on April 14, 1867. The April 15 edition of The New York Times carried the following obituary:

 

Yesterday morning Dr. Simeon Abrahams, the well-known and highly esteemed physician, was found dead in his bed at his residence, No. 31 Bleecker Street. Dr. Abrahams retired on Saturday night in apparent good health, and when the domestic called him at 4 o’clock yesterday morning (his usual hour), she could obtain no reply, and as the deceased did not make his appearance at the breakfast table an investigation followed, when his death was ascertained. Coroner Schirmer will hold an inquest today. Death is supposed to have been caused by disease of the heart. Mr. Abrahams was a bachelor, and 58 years of age.

 

   Dr. Abrahams devoted his relatively short life to his people and to Torah Judaism. His efforts should not be forgotten.

 

 

   [1] A letter to Dr. S. Abrahams of New York as to the permissibility according to Jewish law of a post mortem Examination on the body of a deceased Israelite, Dr. B. Illowy April 6, 1856 available at

 www.jewish-history.com/Illoway/letter11.html.

      2 The Rise of the Jewish Community of New York, 1654-1860 by Hyman B. Grinstein, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1945, pages 252-253.

      3 The Occident, Volume II, No. 12, March 1845.

(www.jewish-history.com/Occident/volume2/mar1845/intermarry.html.

 

 

   Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Michael Oren’s Personal Convenience

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

According to Israel Army Radio, Prime Minister Netanyahu has offered to extend the moratorium on Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria for an additional three months in exchange for Jonathan Pollard’s freedom. That is, if Obama pardons Pollard, who has served 25 years of a life sentence for transferring classified documents to Israel, then Israel will agree to extend the ten-month moratorium on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, due to expire next week, for another three months.

 

True, the moratorium is an affront to Jewish human and civil rights and Netanyahu should have never bowed to Obama’s demand that he institute it. And yet, if the Americans agree to the deal, Israel should pounce on it. Such a deal would represent a diplomatic triumph for Israel and an act of human decency on the part of Obama rarely seen in politics these days.

 

It would be a diplomatic triumph because it would be the first time in memory that Israel conceded something temporary – a three-month extension of the moratorium – for something permanent, i.e., Pollard’s freedom.

 

It would be an act of human decency because the long-suffering Pollard is in poor health. Moreover, the U.S. has imprisoned Pollard longer than it has imprisoned any agent who spied for a U.S. ally. Indeed, he has served more time than most spies who have served America’s enemies.

 

If the deal goes through, it will be no thanks to Ambassador Michael Oren. In a radio interview in June, Oren sought to distance himself from the Pollard affair by falsely characterizing Pollard’s service to Israel. As Oren put it to Washington’s WTOP, the espionage operation involving Pollard was a “rogue organization in the Israeli intelligence community.”

 

When news of his comments was reported in Israel, Netanyahu reprimanded Oren and demanded that he issue a retraction. Netanyahu’s reprimand was itself a news event. It is very rare in Israel that a political leader is compelled to publicly chew out a diplomat.

 

In truth, it is a shame that Oren’s remarks weren’t viewed as sufficiently egregious for him to be removed from his position. Because the fact of the matter is that they were simply an amplification of a pattern of behavior that has characterized Oren’s tenure in Washington.

 

In the radio interview, Oren clearly preferred his own convenience to the interests of Israel and Pollard. It was unpleasant to be grilled about Israel’s past espionage against the U.S. and so rather than stand strongly by Pollard, Oren opted to cut him loose by discrediting what he did. On a daily basis, Oren has shown a marked propensity to prefer his own convenience to the unpleasant work of a diplomat especially as Israel confronts the Obama administration.

 

Obama’s demand that Jews be prohibited from building on their property in Judea and Samaria and later in Jerusalem simply because they are Jewish is part and parcel of his consistent belittlement of Jewish rights to Israel and hostility toward Israel’s alliance with the U.S. and its elected leadership. This hostility has been demonstrated in, among other things. the administration’s decision to join the anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council; its support for an international resolution singling out Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal for condemnation; its refusal to take effective action to scuttle Iran’s nuclear weapons program; and in Obama’s embrace of the Palestinian cause and his claim that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust.

 

Obama’s personal bad feelings toward Israel’s democratically elected leaders was evidenced in his early attempt to destabilize with the aim of overthrowing Netanyahu’s government and replace it with the Kadima Party. It continued to be demonstrated by Obama’s consistently shabby treatment of Netanyahu that included repeated public condemnations of Israel by the president and his senior aides and that reached its pinnacle in his humiliating treatment of Netanyahu during the premier’s visit to the White House in March.

 

According to Netanyahu’s aides who were with him, Obama left Netanyahu to have dinner with his family. When the Israelis asked for food, they were given celery sticks and non-kosher cheese and crackers. At that meeting and an earlier meeting between the two leaders, Obama refused to be photographed with Netanyahu and forced him to enter the White House through a side entrance.

 

Given the sensitivity of Israel’s position in the U.S., it would be wrong to expect Netanyahu or his aides to speak out publicly against the Obama administration’s contemptuous treatment of the Jewish state. And so it is not surprising that Netanyahu has consistently refused to publicly criticize Obama for his behavior.

 

But there is a world of difference between keeping one’s mouth shut and heaping undeserved praise on Obama for his purported great friendship towards Israel. And this is what Oren has done.

 

             Oren is a creature of the political Left. Just before he was appointed ambassador to the U.S., he restated his support for unilateral Israeli surrender of Judea and Samaria to Hamas and the PLO. In 2005 Oren volunteered to participate in the expulsion of the Jews of Gaza and after expelling the Jews of the community of Bedolah, he returned to Jerusalem and wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal extolling the virtues of Israel’s cannibalization of its own people.

 

            Given Oren’s stated political views, it is obviously uncomfortable for him to defend Israel in a Washington governed by the Left. And, again in the interest of his own convenience, Oren has adopted the role of Obama’s chief lobbyist to the U.S. Jewish community.

 

For instance, Oren has repeatedly, publicly and mendaciously denied that Obama mistreated Netanyahu during his visit to the White House in the spring. In a recent interview with American Jewish media, Oren extolled the virtues of Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in June 2009 where he claimed Israel owed its existence to the Holocaust and drew a parallel between the genocide of European Jewry and the absence of a Palestinian state.

 

After Netanyahu bowed to U.S. pressure to begin negotiations with Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas, Oren urged American Jews to lobby Congress on behalf of the talks. As he put it in a conference call with American Jewish leaders earlier this month, “Let your feelings be known to your representatives in Congress that you support this process and you support the decisions of the Israeli government within the process.”

 

Jewish activists who were present at Oren’s Rosh Hashanah reception at the Israeli Embassy this month said he gave “the best stump speech for President Obama” they had ever heard.

 

In abject contradiction of the public record, Oren has repeatedly stated that Obama heads an administration that is one of the most pro-Israel Washington has ever seen. Moreover, despite the fact that the Republican Party remains staunchly supportive of Israel while more and more Democratic members of Congress openly criticize Israeli policies and actions, Oren has repeatedly attacked Republicans for pointing out their Democratic counterparts’ record on Israel – on the grounds that by doing so, Republicans are making support for Israel a partisan issue.

 

In addition to being antithetical to Israel’s national interests, Oren’s behavior is antithetical to diplomatic protocol. It is unacceptable for a foreign emissary to stick his nose into the domestic politics of the country where he serves. Just as Yitzhak Rabin was rightly condemned for campaigning for Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential elections while he served as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, so Oren’s shameless lobbying for Obama should lead to his censure.

 

Oren has repeatedly demonstrated that just as he preferred his own convenience to Pollard’s plight, so he prefers his own convenience to his responsibility to serve the interests of the State of Israel in Washington while keeping his nose out of U.S. politics. For this behavior he should not simply be reprimanded. He should be recalled.


 


 



Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of every other month. Look for her next column in the Nov. 26 issue.

‘The Outlook For Israel Is Very Grave’: An Interview with AFSI’s Rael Jean Isaac

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Rael Jean Isaac was in the right place at the right time. Forty years ago, she found herself in Israel together with her husband, studying the various activist groups that had sprung up in Israel in the wake of the Six-Day War. Some argued for returning the lands won during the war; others, for keeping them. While researching the different movements for her doctoral thesis, she and her husband met veteran right-wing activist Shmuel Katz. The rest is history.

Shortly thereafter, due to Katz’s prodding, Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) was founded and Isaac’s husband became its first chairman. Ever since, AFSI has been one of the few voices consistently promoting a Greater Israel that includes all of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

A sociology professor for many years, Isaac today edits AFSI’s newsletter, Outpost. She wrote her first book in 1976, Israel Divided: Ideological Politics in the Jewish State, and since then has authored or co-authored Party and Politics in Israel: Three Visions of a Jewish State, The Coercive Utopians: Social Deception by America’s Power Players, Madness in the Streets: How Psychiatry and the Law Abandoned the Mentally Ill, and numerous articles and pamphlets, including the popular What Shimon Says, a compilation of bizarre quotes of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Isaac.

The Jewish Press: Back in 1969, you researched Israeli groups advocating the surrender of the West Bank. It seems like little has changed in 40 years.

Isaac: Actually, the peace movement at that time did not believe in the two-state solution. Only a small group argued for that. Most of them said that creating a Palestinian state would be an example of Israeli imperialism. It would be paternalistic. Most of them wanted to give the territories to Jordan.

Were there no other American Jewish organizations opposing territorial compromise when AFSI came on the scene in 1970?

The whole philosophy of the Israeli government and American Jewish organizations at the time was that the land should be returned for peace.

Actually, one focus of AFSI from the beginning was exposing Jewish organizations that pretended to support Israel while they, in fact, were trying to undermine her. The first of these was Breira, which was founded right after the ’73 war. It was the first organization to make criticism of Israel a “virtuous” and “courageous” act. It’s the antecedent of today’s J Street. They extolled powerlessness as essential to Judaism and power as necessarily oppressive and corrupting. Many rabbis joined Breira, especially Hillel rabbis.

But the leaders of the organization came from backgrounds and organizations that were nakedly anti-Israel, and AFSI exposed this in a pamphlet. Breira then quickly died as a result of internal disputes because a lot of people in Breira had no idea who their leaders were.

Do you ever feel lonely advocating policies that are at odds with those of most other American Jewish organizations?

It is lonely, but on the other hand, we’re convinced that we’re right. In fact, in the last Outpost, we assembled some of the things we wrote at the time of the Oslo Accords, and everything we predicted came to pass. So the confidence that we’re right keeps us going.

But don’t you sometimes think, “What’s the point? No matter what we do, Israel will continue to pursue policies inimical to its survival.”

Well, we’re there for the record and I think that’s important. For example, for the signing of the Oslo Accords, virtually all the Jewish organizations showed up on the White House lawn to applaud. I think it was important that there was an organization that said from the beginning that this is a disaster.

You also never know when you may have influence. We work with evangelical Christians and friendly members of Congress, and I think we’ve had an influence on them. Look, if you don’t do anything, you’re certainly not going to have any influence!

You do what you can. You’re part of the Jewish people and it’s up to you to try and avert any disaster even if it’s difficult and even if it seems discouraging. There was a time when the peace movement in Israel was terribly discouraged because they saw the tide going the other way. So you don’t know how things are going to turn out. It’s discouraging, but you keep going.

Some people criticize groups like AFSI for working closely with evangelical Christians, fearing that they have ulterior motives for supporting Israel.

What’s the difference what their agenda is? They love Israel and want to help. That’s what you need, especially now when the absence of support from anywhere else is so glaring.

What do you think about President Obama?

Obama is by far the most hostile-to-Israel president we’ve ever had. Carter is a close second, but his hostility became manifest after his presidency. Obama is clearly gearing up to exert massive international pressure against Israel, and he’ll have no difficulty getting China and Russia on board unlike the difficulty in getting them to pressure Iran on its nukes.

What is AFSI doing to combat this potential threat?

We’re trying to rally supporters and friendly congressmen. The Republicans are far more supportive on these issues than the Democrats, although that doesn’t have any effect on American Jews who go on massively supporting Democrats. Even now, apparently 55 percent of American Jews support Obama’s stance on Israel. My goodness!

A number of years ago, you co-authored a pamphlet, What Shimon Says, which is still on AFSI’s website, with about 200 strange quotations from Shimon Peres, such as, “It is a great mistake to learn from history. There’s nothing to learn from history” and “Papers are papers and realities are realities. We cannot judge the PLO and its leader just by what he is saying. Would we do so, we would be completely wrong and we would be in troubles.” How do you account for so many strange quotes coming forth from one man?

When it comes to the Jews, I’m always reminded of Sleeping Beauty. Fairy godmothers came to her christening with all kinds of wonderful gifts like beauty, wit and musical talent, but then there’s this angry overlooked fairy who shows up and says, “When she grows up she’ll prick her finger and die.” So the fairy godmothers gave the Jews intelligence, talent, and creativity so they could excel in a host of fields, but the angry overlooked fairy said all those gifts would be worthless because I’ll make the Jews political simpletons, and without political intelligence all the other gifts will prove worthless.

I think Shimon Peres is the perfect example of a political simpleton. And it’s a mark of the Jews’ political naivete that he’s considered some sort of wise man.

Israelis often say, “Yiyeh tov – It will be good.” Do you ever worry that they’re wrong and that Israel might cease to exist as an independent country in the coming decades?

It can happen. You continue to work, hoping that people will wake up to reality. But if the present trends continue the outlook is very grave.

Obama’s Jewish Defenders

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

   Two weeks ago, President Obama opened a diplomatic war on Israel. The proximate cause of his offensive was the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Board’s decision to approve the future construction of 1,600 housing units in northern Jerusalem.

 

   The goal of the assault is twofold. First, it seeks to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s control over Jerusalem in order to weaken Israel’s standing among the American public. As Obama adviser Martin Indyk mocked, Obama’s onslaught against Israel has made the Netanyahu government “supersensitive” about Jerusalem.

 

   Second, as Obama’s advisors explained to The Atlantic, through his unprecedented attacks on Israel’s right to sovereignty over its capital city, Obama is working to topple Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in the hopes of replacing it with a leftist government led by Tzipi Livni and Kadima.

 

   It is a startling turn of events. Obama of course was elected to the presidency with the overwhelming support of the American Jewish community. Part of that support – which netted him 78 percent of the Jewish vote – was based on his repeated assertion that he was absolutely committed to Israel’s security.

 

   Obama’s desire to overthrow the democratically elected government of Israel stands in contrast to his refusal to acknowledge the basic illegitimacy of the Iranian regime he seeks to appease. That government is founded on last June’s stolen presidential election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power amid massive opposition from the Iranian people.

 

   And of course the Iranian regime Obama coddles is publicly developing nuclear weapons with the declared purpose of destroying Israel; serves as the leading state sponsor of terrorism; and according to the U.S. and British militaries is training al Qaeda and Taliban fighters to kill U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

   In an interview with ABC News in January, Obama made clear that the transformative change he pledged to bring to America during the 2008 presidential campaign remained the goal of his administration. Indeed, he made clear that to enact the sort of unpopular, radical domestic and foreign policies he favors, he is willing to diminish his prospects for reelection. As he put it, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”

 

   To enact his deeply unpopular domestic agenda, Obama relies for support on labor unions, the leftist leadership of the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill, the leftist media and pressure organizations like MoveOn.org. These organs work to demonize Republicans while threatening Democrats who are not leftists with defunding and primary challenges in order to coerce them to support Obama’s radical domestic policies.

 

   Obama has cobbled together a similar coalition against the Netanyahu government specifically and against a strong Israel generally. His coalition for weakening the U.S. alliance with Israel is comprised of leftist Israelis – particularly the Kadima Party and the Israeli media – on the one hand and leftist pro-Palestinian American Jewish groups on the other. Together, these Israeli and American Jewish groups provide political cover for Obama’s onslaught against Israel and the U.S. alike.

 

   The Jerusalem planning board’s decision was non-political. The board is staffed by professional urban planners, representatives of the nature reserves authority and other statutory bodies who convene to determine whether building schemes comport with law and building regulations or not. Its meetings never attract much attention.

 

   As the Netanyahu government sought to understand how a routine meeting of the board became an international story, many officials alleged that Kadima had colluded with the Obama administration to exploit the board’s decision to provoke a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. Kadima’s purpose in this, it was argued, was to lower the public’s support for Netanyahu.

 

   These allegations have been supported by the fact that a week before Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Israel, Livni confidante and Kadima MK Yoel Hasson told Israeli Radio, “In the coming weeks we will see how messed up Netanyahu’s relations with the Europeans and Americans are.”

 

   Further, Makor Rishon’s senior columnist Amnon Lord reported last week that Kadima heavyweight Haim Ramon met with one of Obama’s senior Middle East advisers ahead of Biden’s visit. He also pointed out that Livni’s key political adviser Eyal Arad is also an adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

 

   Whether or not Kadima colluded with the Obama administration to cook up the crisis over building in Jerusalem, Livni and her cohorts were quick to loudly condemn Netanyahu for the decision – about which he was uninformed and regarding which he has no legal authority to intervene.

 

   In condemning Netanyahu, Livni and her Kadima colleagues were energetically assisted by the Israeli media.

 

   All the major commentators at all the major newspapers pounced on the story as a means to attack Netanyahu and side with the Obama administration. Prominent among these condemnations was Yediot Aharonot’s senior commentator Shimon Shiffer. Ignoring Biden’s long record in the Senate of rejecting every sanctions bill against Iran, and his fair-weathered support for Israel, Shiffer declared Biden the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the U.S. Senate while lambasting Netanyahu for “insulting” this great friend of Israel by not preventing a meeting he didn’t know about and had no authority to interfere with.

 

   With the Israeli Left actively supporting Obama’s onslaught against Netanyahu in Israel, Obama’s Jewish American surrogates J Street and Americans for Peace Now denounced his critics at home. In time for AIPAC’s annual policy conference this week, J-Street published a full page ad in The New York Times on Monday applauding Obama’s condemnation of Israel and calling for the administration to dictate the terms of a “peace” deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

   These Jewish American and Israeli forces provide cover not only for Obama to attack Israel but even for anti-Semites to gain credibility for their vicious broadsides against the Jewish state. So it is that last week The Washington Post published an op-ed by Prof. Stephen Walt, the co-author of the anti-Israel screed The Israel Lobby. In his article, Walt claimed AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti Defamation League are anti-Israel and that Obama, J Street and Americans for Peace Now are Israel’s true friends.

 

   By inference, of course, Walt asserted that he too, is a great friend of Israel – this is from a man who won his fame by claiming Israel’s Jewish American supporters operate in a conspiratorial, underhanded manner to influence U.S. foreign policy in a way that harms U.S. national security.

 

   By proclaiming that Obama is pro-Israel, his Jewish supporters in Israel and the U.S. invert reality. Their obvious intention is to use the jargon of supporting Israel to confuse, demoralize and disenfranchise Israel’s actual supporters in the U.S. while demonizing the majority of Israelis who believe Obama is hostile to Israel and support Netanyahu in his rejection of Obama’s pressure.

 

   The overwhelming majority of Israelis, and Israel’s actual supporters in the U.S., must hold these mendacious voices in Israel and in the American Jewish community alike accountable for their actions.

 

   Otherwise, by pretending to be pro-Israel while attacking Israel’s sovereign rights and actual supporters, these forces will do more than simply destabilize the democratically elected government of Israel. They will undermine the foundations of the U.S.-Israel alliance and endanger the security of the Jewish state and the wellbeing of the American Jewish community.


 


 


   Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of every other month. Look for her next column in the May 28 issue.

Obama’s Jewish Defenders

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

   Two weeks ago, President Obama opened a diplomatic war on Israel. The proximate cause of his offensive was the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Board’s decision to approve the future construction of 1,600 housing units in northern Jerusalem.

 

   The goal of the assault is twofold. First, it seeks to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s control over Jerusalem in order to weaken Israel’s standing among the American public. As Obama adviser Martin Indyk mocked, Obama’s onslaught against Israel has made the Netanyahu government “supersensitive” about Jerusalem.

 

   Second, as Obama’s advisors explained to The Atlantic, through his unprecedented attacks on Israel’s right to sovereignty over its capital city, Obama is working to topple Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in the hopes of replacing it with a leftist government led by Tzipi Livni and Kadima.

 

   It is a startling turn of events. Obama of course was elected to the presidency with the overwhelming support of the American Jewish community. Part of that support – which netted him 78 percent of the Jewish vote – was based on his repeated assertion that he was absolutely committed to Israel’s security.

 

   Obama’s desire to overthrow the democratically elected government of Israel stands in contrast to his refusal to acknowledge the basic illegitimacy of the Iranian regime he seeks to appease. That government is founded on last June’s stolen presidential election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power amid massive opposition from the Iranian people.

 

   And of course the Iranian regime Obama coddles is publicly developing nuclear weapons with the declared purpose of destroying Israel; serves as the leading state sponsor of terrorism; and according to the U.S. and British militaries is training al Qaeda and Taliban fighters to kill U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

   In an interview with ABC News in January, Obama made clear that the transformative change he pledged to bring to America during the 2008 presidential campaign remained the goal of his administration. Indeed, he made clear that to enact the sort of unpopular, radical domestic and foreign policies he favors, he is willing to diminish his prospects for reelection. As he put it, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”

 

   To enact his deeply unpopular domestic agenda, Obama relies for support on labor unions, the leftist leadership of the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill, the leftist media and pressure organizations like MoveOn.org. These organs work to demonize Republicans while threatening Democrats who are not leftists with defunding and primary challenges in order to coerce them to support Obama’s radical domestic policies.

 

   Obama has cobbled together a similar coalition against the Netanyahu government specifically and against a strong Israel generally. His coalition for weakening the U.S. alliance with Israel is comprised of leftist Israelis – particularly the Kadima Party and the Israeli media – on the one hand and leftist pro-Palestinian American Jewish groups on the other. Together, these Israeli and American Jewish groups provide political cover for Obama’s onslaught against Israel and the U.S. alike.

 

   The Jerusalem planning board’s decision was non-political. The board is staffed by professional urban planners, representatives of the nature reserves authority and other statutory bodies who convene to determine whether building schemes comport with law and building regulations or not. Its meetings never attract much attention.

 

   As the Netanyahu government sought to understand how a routine meeting of the board became an international story, many officials alleged that Kadima had colluded with the Obama administration to exploit the board’s decision to provoke a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. Kadima’s purpose in this, it was argued, was to lower the public’s support for Netanyahu.

 

   These allegations have been supported by the fact that a week before Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Israel, Livni confidante and Kadima MK Yoel Hasson told Israeli Radio, “In the coming weeks we will see how messed up Netanyahu’s relations with the Europeans and Americans are.”

 

   Further, Makor Rishon’s senior columnist Amnon Lord reported last week that Kadima heavyweight Haim Ramon met with one of Obama’s senior Middle East advisers ahead of Biden’s visit. He also pointed out that Livni’s key political adviser Eyal Arad is also an adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

 

   Whether or not Kadima colluded with the Obama administration to cook up the crisis over building in Jerusalem, Livni and her cohorts were quick to loudly condemn Netanyahu for the decision – about which he was uninformed and regarding which he has no legal authority to intervene.

 

   In condemning Netanyahu, Livni and her Kadima colleagues were energetically assisted by the Israeli media.

 

   All the major commentators at all the major newspapers pounced on the story as a means to attack Netanyahu and side with the Obama administration. Prominent among these condemnations was Yediot Aharonot’s senior commentator Shimon Shiffer. Ignoring Biden’s long record in the Senate of rejecting every sanctions bill against Iran, and his fair-weathered support for Israel, Shiffer declared Biden the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the U.S. Senate while lambasting Netanyahu for “insulting” this great friend of Israel by not preventing a meeting he didn’t know about and had no authority to interfere with.

 

   With the Israeli Left actively supporting Obama’s onslaught against Netanyahu in Israel, Obama’s Jewish American surrogates J Street and Americans for Peace Now denounced his critics at home. In time for AIPAC’s annual policy conference this week, J-Street published a full page ad in The New York Times on Monday applauding Obama’s condemnation of Israel and calling for the administration to dictate the terms of a “peace” deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

   These Jewish American and Israeli forces provide cover not only for Obama to attack Israel but even for anti-Semites to gain credibility for their vicious broadsides against the Jewish state. So it is that last week The Washington Post published an op-ed by Prof. Stephen Walt, the co-author of the anti-Israel screed The Israel Lobby. In his article, Walt claimed AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti Defamation League are anti-Israel and that Obama, J Street and Americans for Peace Now are Israel’s true friends.

 

   By inference, of course, Walt asserted that he too, is a great friend of Israel – this is from a man who won his fame by claiming Israel’s Jewish American supporters operate in a conspiratorial, underhanded manner to influence U.S. foreign policy in a way that harms U.S. national security.

 

   By proclaiming that Obama is pro-Israel, his Jewish supporters in Israel and the U.S. invert reality. Their obvious intention is to use the jargon of supporting Israel to confuse, demoralize and disenfranchise Israel’s actual supporters in the U.S. while demonizing the majority of Israelis who believe Obama is hostile to Israel and support Netanyahu in his rejection of Obama’s pressure.

 

   The overwhelming majority of Israelis, and Israel’s actual supporters in the U.S., must hold these mendacious voices in Israel and in the American Jewish community alike accountable for their actions.

 

   Otherwise, by pretending to be pro-Israel while attacking Israel’s sovereign rights and actual supporters, these forces will do more than simply destabilize the democratically elected government of Israel. They will undermine the foundations of the U.S.-Israel alliance and endanger the security of the Jewish state and the wellbeing of the American Jewish community.

 

 

   Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of every other month. Look for her next column in the May 28 issue.

Pollard’s Shadow

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


This month marks a distressing milestone – the 24th anniversary of Jonathan Pollard’s imprisonment for transferring classified information to Israel.

 

The Pollard case is a mark of shame for the American Jewish community. His plight and the politics surrounding it are rendered absurd when seen against the backdrop of the government’s reaction, and the reaction of some Jewish leaders to U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s jihadist massacre of 12 soldiers and one civilian at Ft. Hood earlier this month.

 

Pollard was arrested in November 1985 for transferring classified documents regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons and other crucial information to Israel. Pollard acted as an Israeli agent during a time of unprecedented animosity toward Israel in U.S. defense and intelligence circles.

 

Determined to punish Israel for is successful strike against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the U.S. froze Israel out of intelligence information regarding the Arab world which the Americans had until then shared with their Israeli counterparts on a routine basis. Indeed, the information Pollard transferred to Israel was arguably information the U.S. was required to transfer to Israel by dint of its commitment to protect Israel’s qualitative edge over its enemies.

 

In what has often been characterized as a miscarriage of justice, after Pollard was arrested and indicted the federal prosecution reneged on a plea bargain it had acceded to and convinced a judge to sentence Pollard to life in prison.

 

Even if his legal treatment was acceptable, both the fervor with which Pollard was prosecuted and the life sentence he received were wildly disproportionate to the treatment of agents of other states that like Israel are not adversaries of the U.S. Indeed, as Pollard’s father pointed out in an article last week in The Jerusalem Post, even John Walker Lindh, the U.S. citizen who was arrested for fighting with the Taliban in the war against the U.S. in Afghanistan, received only 21 years in prison for his act of war against the U.S.

 

And yet, despite Pollard’s unfair and inequitable treatment by federal authorities, the American Jewish community has been at best inconsistent in its attempts to secure Pollard’s release from prison. At no time in the past 24 years has the organized Jewish leadership made a concerted and public demand that Pollard be released. Moreover, at no time has it issued a ringing condemnation of his unfair treatment by the federal prosecution and prison authorities alike.

 

To the contrary, American Jewish leaders have consistently argued that if Pollard’s case is to be raised at all, it should be raised quietly, behind closed doors. Pollard, after all was guilty. Raising his case, it is argued will simply anger U.S. authorities, and strengthen the position of those who claim that neither American Jews nor Israelis can be trusted. Then too, it is claimed that raising the Pollard case publicly will signal the average American that Jews are treacherous.

 

Proof that this view is little more than an excuse for American Jewish leaders not to take the controversial route and demand Pollard’s release is their behavior on the issue during former president George W. Bush’s tenure in office.

 

It is inarguable that on a visceral level, Bush was favorably disposed to Israel. Facing an American president that clearly liked Israel and Israelis, it could have been expected that American Jews would seek to persuade Bush to grant Pollard clemency, particularly when as former CIA director R. James Woosley has noted, the U.S. and Israel are fighting the same enemy today.

 

And yet, it was during Bush’s tenure that American Jews in Washington found themselves under the greatest suspicion since Pollard’s arrest. During the friendly Bush years, American Jews – from then-deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the last American Jew on the National Security Council to AIPAC in the non-governmental sector – were placed under a microscope and pilloried as fifth columnists by political opponents and law enforcement bodies alike. American Jewish leaders were too busy defending the likes of AIPAC lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman from self-evidently false espionage charges to be bothered by Pollard’s plight.

 

What the Bush period indicates is that there is a built-in anti-Jewish bias in much of official Washington that is impervious to any particular administration’s position on Israel. Among this permanent bureaucracy, it is a writ of faith that American Jews are a priori fifth columnists and that Israel – the true source of their loyalty – is the most dangerous adversary the U.S. faces.

 

By the same token, as was made murderously clear with Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood, the same permanent bureaucracy holds that no Muslim Americans can ever be suspected as fifth columnists even when evidence to that effect is pouring in. The FBI refused to revoke Hasan’s security clearance despite his close association with known jihadists and his prolonged e-mail contact with an Islamic cleric with ties to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

 

The army for its part, refused to discharge Hasan from the service despite his repeated protestations of sympathy for enemies of America and his public justification of the murder of U.S. servicemen by Muslim-American soldiers.

 

In the aftermath of his rampage, during which he called out “Allahu Akbar” in a crowded room before shooting some forty people, official Washington went to absurd lengths to pretend away the obvious fact that Hasan was an enemy agent. Everyone from President Obama to Army Chief of Staff General George Casey to Fort Hood Commander Gen. Robert Cone to the FBI loudly proclaimed that we mustn’t jump to conclusions and that it isn’t clear, or there is no way of knowing, what motivated Hasan to murder his fellow soldiers and officers. Certainly there was no reason to suspect that the fact that he is Muslim has anything to do with his actions.

 

The contrasting experiences of American Jews and American Muslims in the U.S. government and in Washington generally are explained by two essential facts. First, to date, no one has been compelled to pay a political price for telling lies about American Jews. And second, many have been forced to pay a political price for telling the truth about American Muslims.

 

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this state of affairs is the central role many Jews have played both in legitimizing the suspicions cast on their innocent co-religionists and in delegitimizing the casting of justified suspicions on American Muslims with ties to jihadists at home and abroad.

 

From George Soros, who sponsors groups like J Street and the National Iranian-American Council that portray pro-Israel activists and those calling for Iran to be denied nuclear weapons as extremists to NYU Hillel Director Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, who called for Jews on campus to defend Muslims against those who point out that Hasan’s religion was the central motivator for his actions, American Jews are at the forefront of the effort to make it politically costly for Jews to voice support for Israel and for Americans of all backgrounds to point out that there are American-Muslim fifth columnists seeking to kill their countrymen in the name of their religion.

 

As Jonathan Pollard begins yet another year behind bars, it is time for the American Jewish community to stand up for its rights. Until a loud, consistent demand is made for equal treatment for American Jews, not only will Pollard remain in prison, but all American Jews who wish to serve their country will be forced to operate in the shadow of his persecution.


 


 


Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of each month. Her book “The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad,” is available at Amazon.com.

On The Passing Of Victor D. Sanua

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

   Victor D. Sanua, Ph.D., z”l, a pioneer in cross-cultural studies of mental illness, was also known for his studies on American Jewish communities and the Jews of Egypt, passed away July 12, at the age of 88 in Brooklyn, New York.

 

   At the time of his death Dr. Sanua was research professor in psychology at St. John’s University in Queens, from which he had officially retired in 1990. However, he continued publishing papers in psychology and conducting research on the history of the Jewish community of Egypt until recently.

 

   During his career, he published hundreds of articles, often focusing on familial and cultural factors in mental illness, particularly in depression, schizophrenia, and autism, and in the measurement of intelligence. He led and was active in many professional organizations.

 

   However, a significant portion of his papers dealt with topics related to Jews. Most prominently, as director of research at the Associated YM-YWHA’s of Greater New York from 1960-1965, he conducted studies that led him to predict correctly that the Jewish intermarriage rate, then no more than six percent, would skyrocket in succeeding generations.

 

   Dr. Sanua was born to a prominent Sephardic Jewish family of Turkish origin in Cairo, Egypt. One cousin, Jacob Sanua (Ya’qub Sanu’) was a prominent literary man and Egyptian nationalist; another, Moise, served as secretary to the chief rabbi of Egypt, Rabbi Nahum Effendi; and Edmund, Moise’s brother, was active in the Lehi (Stern Group) and fought in Israel’s War of Independence.

 

   As did most such families in Cairo, the family spoke French, the language of commerce, and the Judeo-Spanish dialect known as Ladino. Dr. Sanua also spoke Italian, the language of his citizenship. He learned English as a teenager and obtained two undergraduate degrees from the American University of Cairo in 1945 and 1949, where he developed his interest in psychology.

 

   Dr. Sanua immigrated to the United States in 1950, and received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1956, where he wrote his dissertation on differences of personality adjustment among different generations of American Jews and non-Jews.

 

   His first faculty appointment, in 1960, was at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, followed by stints at CCNY, Adelphi University and finally St. John’s. He spent his sabbatical year from 1973-1974 in Israel at Tel Aviv University and Tel Hashomer Hospital, where he treated initial psychiatric casualties during and after the Yom Kippur War, and produced studies on war, bereavement, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

   In retirement, Dr. Sanua focused on retrieving the heritage of the Jewish community of Egypt, which reached 80,000 in the early years of the past century and then was dispersed in the wake of the Arab-Israeli wars in the 1940s and 1950s. In publishing a series of newsletters devoted to the historical legacy of this community, he established a worldwide network of correspondents who contributed to this publication.

 

   The newsletters, along with other publications by Dr. Sanua on the history of Sephardic Jewry, were collected in his book, Egyptian Jewry: A Guide to Egyptian Jewry in the Mid-Twentieth Century. The newsletter was greatly enriched by Dr. Sanua’s unique trove of photographs of the Egyptian Jewish community he had smuggled out upon leaving Egypt in 1950.

 

   He was married for over 50 years to Stella Sardell Sanua, who passed away in 2006. He is survived by his sister Odette Benjamin, his children David and Marianne, and two grandchildren. The shloshim in honor of his memory will be held at his house at 2416 Quentin Road, Brooklyn, NY on Sunday, August 9 at 5:30 p.m.

 

   May his memory be for a blessing.

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