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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Ami’

Palin, Other GOP Presidential Prospects Lash Obama On Israel

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


WASHINGTON – As Sarah Palin embarked on a tour for her just published book Going Rogue, she became the latest prospective Republican presidential candidate to criticize the Obama administration’s policy on Israel.


In an interview with ABC News last week, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate told Barbara Walters that Jewish settlements “should be allowed to be expanded upon” because “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.”


At least two other likely candidates for the GOP nomination in 2012 have made similar comments in recent months.


During a trip to Israel over the summer, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said the United States should not be telling Israelis where they can live.


And last month, in a speech to AIPAC leaders at a conference in San Diego, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney offered broader criticism of the administration’s Middle East policy, saying it was putting too much pressure on Israel and not enough on the Arab world.


Jewish Republican insiders said the Israel talk from the prospective 2012 candidates should not be seen as an effort to court Jewish voters, but simply a desire to weigh in on an issue that is important to the candidates themselves and to conservative voters in general.


Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former Bush administration liaison to the Jewish community, noted that there aren’t many Jewish voters in Republican primaries. But, he added, maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel alliance is an issue that unites the sometimes disparate elements of the conservative coalition – from neoconservatives to evangelical Christians to economic conservatives.


“If you want to be a conservative candidate, you have to check that pro-Israel box,” he said.


Some GOP insiders also said that Jewish Republicans make up a significant portion of the party’s financial base, and one way for candidates to become more attractive to such donors is to shore up their pro-Israel bona fides.


But right now, said Republican Jewish activist and fund-raiser Fred Zeidman, people are thinking much more about the 2010 races than they are about 2012 presidential hopefuls.


Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said he didn’t think there was political calculation in the criticism of Obama administration policy.


“These are individuals who believe very passionately and strongly in the security of Israel,” Brooks said. “They’re all private citizens and speaking out.”


Meanwhile, Palin’s remarks on settlements spurred a war of words between Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman and J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami.


Ben-Ami issued a statement saying that Palin’s “pandering to her right-wing base comes at the expense of the security of the State of Israel” and “the lives of those actually living the conflict.” The J Street leader said her words “reveal a glaring ignorance of damaging facts and a callous disregard of past and present U.S. policy.”


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have argued that limited settlement expansion should be permitted to accommodate the growth of families already living there, not for the purpose of absorbing immigrants.


J Street’s strong criticism of Palin drew a rebuke from Foxman, who specifically called JTA to slam J Street’s statement, asserting that it was “over the line.” Foxman said it was “the height of chutzpah” for J Street to claim that it knows what is best for the security of Israel.


“They’re attacking a celebrity for supporting Israel, but not in the way they want her to support Israel,” Foxman said.


Foxman acknowledged that he thought Palin’s remarks were a “simplistic effort to be supportive of the Israeli government,” but also insisted that they were “clear and well-intentioned” and “didn’t put any lives at stake.”


The ADL leader also questioned whether J Street should be calling itself “pro-Israel.”


Foxman noted that In addition to its negative reaction to Palin’s comments, J Street has criticized Israel’s invasion of Gaza, opposed new Iran sanctions at the present time and failed to support last month’s congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone report.


Ben-Ami struck back with an open letter to Foxman in which he reiterated his view that Palin’s comments were “outside the mainstream of American and Israeli thinking,” as well as “misinformed and dangerous.”


The J Street leader insisted that Foxman is not entitled to determine who is pro-Israel.


“You have every right to disagree with us. It’s a free country,” Ben-Ami wrote. “But you have no right to decide who is and is not pro-Israel based on whether they agree with your views.”

(JTA)

J Street’s Shameful Attacks On Pro-Israel Organizations

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

If J Street, the new left-wing Israel lobby, wants to be taken seriously by mainstream American Jewry, I suggest it immediately stop the patronizing argument that all those who disagree with the organization are ossified Jewish knuckle-draggers who see an anti-Semite behind every corner.
 
If accurate, the quotes attributed to J Street’s director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, in an article on his group in The New York Times Magazine this past Sunday, represent a breathtaking condescension toward ideological opponents that can only sow deep divisions within the Jewish community.
 
On why most of the pro-Israel lobbying groups support a hard line against terror, Ben Ami says they see “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.” Ben-Ami added that these groups stifle dissent because they argue that “we’re still on too-shaky ground to permit public disagreement.”
 
In Ben-Ami’s opinion, AIPAC is run by paranoid schizophrenics who fear another Holocaust may strike at any moment.
 
On Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza, which J Street strongly criticized, “Ben-Ami acknowledges that moments of crisis for Israel tap into the ancestral impulses . ‘There’s their grandmother’s voice in their ear; it’s the emotional side and the communal history, and it’s the fear of not wanting in some way to be responsible for the next great tragedy that will befall the Jewish people.’ “
 
So if you support Israel’s right to defend itself against missiles raining down on its kindergartens and nursing homes it’s not because you believe in a country’s legitimate right to defend itself against attack but because your reptilian Jewish brain has still not gotten over your great-grandmother being disemboweled by Cossacks.
 
Is this the way to conduct an honest discussion about Israel’s future – by painting those with whom you disagree as a bunch of loons who see Nazis about to storm Brooklyn?
 
The truth, of course, is that many people – myself included – who support the organizations J Street seeks to demonize – AIPAC, the ADL, the ZOA, and others – do so not because we fear the imminent mass extinction of all Jews but because we seek to prevent the cold-blooded murder of even one Jew.
 
In the year 2009 there is no reason we should have to put up with any anti-Semitic or anti-Israel prejudice, even if that prejudice doesn’t lead to gas chambers. Israel shouldn’t have to tolerate any bombs going off in its midst, even if they kill only a handful of Jews.
 
We support Israel not because it’s the final bunker when the skinheads finally conquer Miami Beach but because, like all proud Americans, we love freedom and democracy and we’re thrilled the Jewish state is the bastion of those precious values in a region that utterly repudiates them.
 
I am not one to get easily offended, but Ben-Ami’s words in The New York Times borders on the anti-Semitic. His caricature of leaders of major Jewish organizations – heroes like Malcolm Hoenlein, Howard Kohr, and Morton Klein – as mistrustful cranks who seek to hijack American foreign policy is deeply troubling, as is his contention that Jews who believe a tough military posture – after all the terror Israel has experienced despite two decades of land-for-peace-deals – are paranoid brutes stuck in the past.
 
I am prepared to accord Ben-Ami the benefit of the doubt – that his left-wing posture on Israel and his strong support of President Obama’s pressure on its government stems from a sincere desire to bring peace to the Jewish state. Ben-Ami is the scion of Israeli patriots and while I strongly disagree with his politics, I do not question the nobility of his motivation. Will he not afford me the same benefit of the doubt?
 
I am not here to attack J Street but to make a point. We need many voices in the Jewish community and if J Street feels left-wing Jews were not being heard in the halls of Congress, then by all means let it be remedied by the establishment of an alternative lobby. That’s what democracy is all about.
 
But J Street’s cheap tactics of creating its name by attacking AIPAC, the ADL, and the ZOA is shameful. There is room in our community for many voices without creating a civil war. We can be a community of one heart even if we are not of one mind.
 
Finally, amid Ben-Ami’s cutting words about how we who are disturbed by Obama’s unrelenting pressure on Israel are just a bunch of unreasonable fossils, will he really overlook those – like Hamas, Hizbullah, and Ahmadinejad – whose stated intention is indeed the destruction of Israel?
 
Would he argue that the Iranian president’s bark is worse than his bite even as he slaughters his own protesting countrymen in the streets?
 
It’s only 70 years since the start of World War II, and there are still Jews who have not forgotten that when dictators say they want to wipe a nation off the map, and build weapons with that very capability, they ought to be taken seriously.
 

As Henry Kissinger famously said, “Even a paranoid has some real enemies.”

 

 

            Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, has just published his newest book, “The Blessing of Enough: Rejecting Material Greed, Embracing Spiritual Hunger,” a man selection of the Sony EBook Store.

Art That Produces, Not Consumes

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Feminine Principals: Works in Iron, Fiber and Glass


Orna Ben-Ami, Georgette Benisty and Saara Gallin


Through January 14, 2007


The Yeshiva University Museum


15 West 16th Street, New York


212-294-8330, http://www.yumuseum.org


 

 

The current show at the Yeshiva University Museum is bizarrely titled. “Feminine Principals: Works in Iron, Fiber and Glass” carries unexpected implications on several counts. It is not often that women, especially Jewish women, are celebrated in the arts. Even less likely are exhibits of work by Jewish women artists who identify as feminists. But the invocation of “principals” – where “principles” seems more natural – suggests that the three artists in the show are the most important, feminist Jewish artists. Viewers who expect such results will be disappointed (since there is much feminist art that is at least as good that is not in the show). But the show is not without merit.

 

Orna Ben-Ami’s iron sculptures – which bombard the viewer who just enters the exhibit – contain strong narrative components. “I Can’t Paint 1″ is a canvas on an easel signed by the artist in both English and Hebrew. It is no wonder that the artist cannot paint, as the canvas is hopelessly torn. Art of this sort, which is art “about the inability to make art”, sets itself in companionship with the intellectual (and ultimately nihilistic) art forms of Dada and Surrealism, and it resembles some of Moico Yaker’s drawings, recently exhibited at the YU Museum called “Having Trouble to Pray.”

 

Hanging in a corner, near “I Can’t Paint 1,” is an enormous Torah pointer that looks like a gun. A suitcase with tree roots emerging from within sits on the floor nearby, perhaps combining the wandering Jew, who must always have packed bags ready for easy escape (thus the suitcase), with the Jew’s deep rooted identity. “Superior Power” shows tzitzis hanging from above, in a way that resembles a marionette, and a piece on mutar (allowed) andassur (forbidden) shows clothing behind bars, perhaps a commentary on the laws of modesty, or tzniut.

 

A statement from Ben-Ami is plastered on the wall above “I Can’t Paint 1“: Creating is like giving birth, so whatever the material will be, creating is very feminine. I am trying to soften the material-but more than this physical fact, what I am trying to do is put emotions in it.”

 

The fact that the iron sculptures are made by a woman is certainly significant. Most people think of ironwork as the domain of the male artist, who can cope with the weight, roughness and mess. Women are thought of as daintier artists who weave, sew or paint. But Ben-Ami shows how subjective this account is. And indeed, more than 50 years ago painting was considered a male endeavor, as Jewish artist Anni Albers and other women artists in the Bauhaus discovered when they were barred from painting.

 


 

Roots.” By Orna Ben-Ami, 1999. Courtesy of Yeshiva University Museum, New York,

May 7, 2006 – January 14, 2007.

 


 

But beyond the material, there seems to be little that is truly feminist about Ben-Ami’s work, even given her statements that seem to suggest that all art (even made by men) is feminist in its resemblance to giving birth. Georgette Benisty’s fabric figures follow suit. Benisty’s series is called Renouer (renewal), and according to the Museum pamphlet, they “reflect her desire to stitch together the dispersed fragments of her Moroccan past and French culture, interweaving the color, rhythm, architecture and antiquities of her native land through fabric, paint and collage.” But Benisty’s fabric works, like Ben-Ami’s iron works, do not immediately reveal how they fall under the banner of the “Feminine Principals” show title.

 

Saara Gallin’s glasswork, though, is deeply feminist in both content and form. Gallin says her work directly responds to “the spoken and unspoken conflict women face in regard to their roles today.” She speaks of stereotypes of women that are “presented and reinforced by advertising and the media.” To counter these stereotypes, Gallin aims to use her art to showcase “significant, although quiet, voices of the women who define themselves by producing, rather then consuming.”

 

What Gallin means by producing and consuming is not readily apparent. As she describes it, “I believe we must look at what people do rather than at what they say. Talk is cheap. The women I have singled out speak with their actions.”

 

One piece that attends to this theme is “Braishit – In the Beginning” (1998). The 48-inch tall sculpture is made of three layers of glass, held together with an aluminum frame. The work is heavily personal, and without the “explanation” hanging beside the sculpture, the work would remain entirely mysterious. The back layer has motifs like lions, fish and a palm tree, covered by a layer of swirls of yellow and gray. On the top layer there’s a white dove and the word “yes” written (sand-carved into the layer and gilded) several times, in yellow capital letters with exclamation marks.

 

Gallin describes the piece as part of an “affirmative” series that refers to creation. “My goal has been to honor people who, by their deeds, have touched the lives of countless individuals. They have responded to the cynicism, which threatens man [emphasis mine] throughout the ages with an emphatic YES! To life.” The affirmation of life emerges in the piece in the form of several signatures that Gallin describes as a fireman, a schoolteacher, two community leaders, two justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, an attorney and a doctor.

 



Am Echad” (One People). By Saara Gallin. Photograph by Steve Halpern, courtesy of the artist.


 


 

“Am Echad” is a similar venture, but the iconography has changed. Instead of the flora and fauna, “Am Echad” – Israel at its 50th birthday, Gallin reveals – showcases a Jewish star and abstract gold and blue shapes, all covered by the Hebrew word “keyn” (yes) in a variety of fonts. Gallin identifies the typefaces as “going back to early Haggadahs,” and the signatures this time come from a soldier in the Jewish brigade in WWII, a soldier in Haganah, a botanist at the University of the Negev, two international attorneys (a couple it seems), a founder of Kfar Blum, the artist’s children, a person who saved 1,000 orphans by bringing them from Tehran to Israel in WWII, and an individual who resigned from the Nobel Committee to avoid voting for Yasir Arafat.

 

Gallin’s other work in the show is somewhat less political. It includes a lot of work exhibited in a circular form contained in a pedestal that evokes a globe, a magnifying glass or a mirror. One piece explores clouds (perhaps the “Clouds of Glory” that protected the Jews in the desert), with circular red forms that could double as red blood cells. A series called “Aishet Chayil” (Women of Valor) shows a woman identified as Glueckel of Hameln (1645-1724) and another identified as Gracia Nasi (1510-1569) on what appears to be a coin. Another shows three women framed within the circle, surrounded by abstract shapes, some of which look like candies, others like footprints. Some of Gallin’s more realistic works in the gallery show menorahs and mezuzahs.

 



Gracia Nasi.” By Saara Gallin. Photograph by Steve Halpern, courtesy of the artist.


 

 

Gallin’s work can thus be compared to the graffiti art of French artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat had his own language (houses, the word “home,” abstract shapes, trees), and one can tell by “reading” his paintings that his work was highly personalized and that he took it very seriously. Each piece of Basquiat’s was almost entirely about his signature, as is much of graffiti art, and it is hard to imagine something more personal than that. But the language is ultimately opaque and too esoteric to understand completely. Gallin writes in the exhibit brochure: “Light is the symbol of the divine. Glass is the vehicle, which makes light perceptible. The quality most unique to glass is its relationship to light. No other medium has the range of transparency or versatility of glass. I think of my work as sculpting with light.”

 

The notion of sculpting with light through glass and the luminous surfaces that Gallin captures are worth further examination, and the black-and-white images on these pages do not do them justice. But as an exhibit, “Feminine Principals” must be credited more with opening a door to discussing some of the contemporary art that is being produced by Jewish women, without offering much of a discussion of the wealth and breadth of that emerging field.

 

Menachem Wecker is a painter and assistant editor of B’nai B’rith Magazine in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com

Time For Israeli Peaceniks To Get Real

Friday, December 5th, 2003

I recently had the opportunity to interview Shlomo Ben Ami, Israel’s foreign minister
during the Barak administration. Ben Ami was the chief Israeli negotiator at the Camp David
peace summit, where Yasir Arafat turned down an offer of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank, Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem, and responded with a terrorist war. (Editor’s Note: Mr. Klein’s interview with Ben Ami will appear in next week’s edition of The Jewish Press.)

For the most part, I was impressed by Ben Ami’s change in attitude after three years of
continued violence. But when I asked, half rhetorically, about Arafat’s intentions - whether he
thought Arafat is trying to destroy Israel, or ultimately wants peace - I was kind of shocked by
the response: “Well, you can never know what is the next stage in [Arafat's] mind. …”

Ben Ami went on to explain that he thinks Arafat’s strategy of terrorism is to internationalize the conflict so the Palestinians can be offered a more generous deal brokered by the international community instead of by America, which Arafat views as biased toward Israel.
C’mon. You never know what’s on Arafat’s mind?! Try watching a PLO soccer tournament in which each Palestinian team is named after a suicide bomber. Browse an Arafat-published textbook that teaches about the “Zionist entity in our midst which must be destroyed.” Tune into PLO-controlled television to see a moving map of Israel, dripping with blood, change into a beautiful, green “Palestine.” Arafat even wears a keffiyeh on his head that is shaped exactly like Israel.

Could Arafat’s intentions ? a state to replace Israel, not to live alongside it – be any more obvious?

And if he simply wants to internationalize the conflict, why has Arafat not made any such
declaration in exchange for a cease-fire? And what kind of “generous deal” could Arafat possibly hope to extract using the international community that couldn’t have been negotiated with an  incredibly willing Prime Minister Barak and an American president desperate to leave office with an Israeli-Palestinian settlement as his legacy?

If Arafat wanted a state, he would have had one by now. I could appreciate the confusion
regarding PLO strategy during the Oslo period, but it’s been three years since Camp David
sputtered into the bloodiest terror onslaught the Jewish state has ever faced, and Israel’s peace
camp still shows few signs that it understands why.

In fact, just last month former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, now a private citizen, flew to
Geneva where he negotiated an “accord” with former Palestinian minister Yasir Abed Rabbo that basically rehashes Oslo and Camp David - Israeli concessions in exchange for Palestinian
promises. Beilin’s efforts were met with the scorn it deserves, both by the Sharon government
and by the Israeli public. Some Knesset members went so far as to accuse Beilin and his ilk of
committing treason.

Oslo was a beautiful dream and Israel tried everything it could to make it work, but it’s high time to accept the reality of the situation: There is no Palestinian peace partner, and should
one ever emerge, things need to be handled much differently, in delicate stages that begin with
the absolute crushing of Arafat’s extensive terror apparatus.

And yet the Israeli Left still persists. The peace camp, which brought Arafat back from Tunis and believed so fervently that the PLO would abandon its stated goal of destroying Israel in
exchange for a state, has yet to own up to its mistakes, or admit that any fundamental change in direction is necessary.

It actually seems that the strategy of the left is not to reassess at all, but to wait until Ariel
Sharon somehow screws up so badly, the voters will have no choice but to turn back to the
opposition. Ben Ami basically told me as much: “I think the future of the Labor Party lies in the
future of the Sharon government. … Whenever the [ruling] government sees its powers eroded, this favors the opposition.”

In a way, there is something admirable about this attitude. It is reflective of a camp that
truly believes in what it stands for and does not just blow with the electoral winds. But Israeli
citizens must be given more credit. They will never again delude themselves into believing in
final status negotiations until an actual democratically-elected Palestinian governing body really,
truly proves over a long period of time that it has abandoned terrorism and is ready for peace.

The Left should have heard this loud and clear in the past two Israeli elections - Ariel
Sharon won by landslides and Labor lost almost half its Knesset seats.

With Rabin’s Oslo Accords and Barak’s Camp David attempt now unfortunately in shambles, and with Palestinian intentions as clear as ever, one would think the Israeli Left would finally admit the error of its ways and adopt accordingly. But it hasn’t. And until this happens, the
Israeli public will not allow it to become relevant again.

Aaron Klein, former editor of the Yeshiva University undergraduate newspaper,
previously conducted interviews with Yasir Arafat, Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of the Taliban. His account of his experience interviewing members of Osama bin Laden?s
organization, “My Weekend With the Enemy,” appeared in The Jewish Press in 1999.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/time-for-israeli-peaceniks-to-get-real/2003/12/05/

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