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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘cabinet’

Learning From The 1930s

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Several factors in the delegitimization of Israel by European agitators call to mind what Jews experienced in the late 1930s. To study this thoroughly would require a huge effort. Formulating a few key ideas, however, could easily come from reading a single book on that period.

One example is Duff Cooper’s autobiography Old Men Forget. The author, a former British Conservative minister, served as first lord of the Admiralty at the time of the Munich agreements. On September 29, 1938, England and France abandoned Czechoslovakia to Hitler by agreeing it had to give up part of its territory to Germany. This led to the German occupation of the entire country six months later.

Shortly before Munich, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spoke on the radio. Cooper writes that he had no words of sympathy for Czechoslovakia, only for Hitler.

Cooper resigned from the cabinet immediately after Munich. This act required great courage. Chamberlain was at the height of his popularity, as the agreement he signed promised long-term peace. Less than a year later, of course, war broke out after the German invasion of Poland.

In a diary entry dated May 22 1938, a time of continuous vicious German verbal attacks on Czechoslovakia, Cooper wrote about a cabinet meeting where “The general feeling seemed to be that great, brutal Czechoslovakia was bullying poor, peaceful little Germany…. It was decided to send off a telegram to tell the French to go carefully and not to rely too much on us, and another to urge the Czechs to make large concessions.”

This resembles the European Union’s ongoing criticism of Israel and its tiptoeing around the “peaceful Arab world” where many thousands have been slaughtered by their own countrymen.

In September 1938, another cabinet member, Viscount Hailsham, said to Cooper: “It all depends on whether we can trust Hitler.” Cooper asked, “Trust him for what? He has got everything he wants for the present and he has given no promises for the future.”

Can one trust Arab states or the Palestinians today? The great majority of Egyptians want to abolish the Camp David peace treaty in which their country got back Sinai without fighting. The Palestinian Authority glorifies murderers of Israeli civilians and names youth camps, streets and schools after them. Hamas has the genocide of the Jews written in its charter.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, many in Britain took the attitude that Poland was lost anyhow, so why should Britain continue to fight against Germany?

While the Germans were spending huge amounts of money on propaganda, the British were allocating none. Shortly after the outbreak of war, Cooper took off for the United States on a lecture tour. Before he left, Chamberlain sent a high-ranking official to request that Cooper abstain from saying anything that might sound like British propaganda.

“A former cabinet minister arrives from England and his country has just entered on a great war and he is advertised to lecture all over the United States on topics of current interest,” Cooper wrote. “What will his audiences expect of him except information about this war, the causes and the prospects of it? How can an Englishman give such information without presenting and defending the cause of his country? And what better form of propaganda could there be?”

Since Oslo we have had some Israeli governments emulate Chamberlain’s foolish position. While the current government has not done so, there certainly is vast room for improvement in the presentation of Israel’s case to the world.


Israel’s Cabinet Smashes Mega-Corporations

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Israel’s cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to force some of Israel’s largest conglomerates to break up, in an attempt to drive competition and reduce the cost of living.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Israel has one of the highest concentrations of corporate power in the developed world, with 10 of Israel’s largest business groups controlling a whopping 41 percent of public companies.

The new deal may force business conglomerates to choose between major financial or non-financial companies and will limit the number of tiers of their subsidiaries.

Companies will have four years to comply with the new regulations.

Finance Minister: Evacuating Beit El Is Morally Reprehensible

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz Sunday morning objected during the weekly cabinet meeting to the court-ordained plan to evacuate and demolish the Ulpana Hill neighborhood in Beit El.

Saying there are certain things which simply cannot be done morally, Steinitz added: “It is prohibited to evacuate Ulpana Hill on logical, Zionistic and moral grounds.”

He further noted that “even within the Green Line will not be evacuating an entire settlement or an entire neighborhood. I have suggested the principle of ‘seven square,’ meaning that any community with seven households or more, and has been on the ground for seven years or more will not be evacuated, even if someone proves ownership. Instead defendants would pay punitive damages. We would not have destroyed a neighborhood in Tel Aviv and Kfar Sava, even if after 20 years someone proves that he has title to the land.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak sharply criticized the Likud ministers who have been calling to prevent the evacuation of the Ulpana Hill neighborhood.

“There’s no no point in this rant,” Barak said at the start of the cabinet meeting, “much of this fervor is not based on a pragmatic discussion of the Ulpana neighborhood but comes out of other considerations which I do not wish to describe. The Defense and Civil Administrations are seeking, along with the Attorney General, to try and exhaust all our options.”

Ya’alon Wants Barak Removed from Decision Making on Hebron House, Jewish Communities

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Deputy Prime Minister Ya’acov Ya’alon on Wednesday accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of “starting up fires” after Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet had decided that the newly settled Machpela House, at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, would be evacuated by the end of the month only if it is proven that it had been purchased illegally. According to Ya’alon, Barak is purposefully “sticking up the process, not only in Hebron, but all across the Jewish communities.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his senior ministers have agreed to evacuate the residents of the disputed house in Hebron on April 26, “if it can be proven that it has been purchased illegally,” but despite the agreement, the battle between Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Likud members of Netanyahu’s government is raging.

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon is demanding that the entire affair in Hebron, as well as all issues concerning the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, be taken out of Barak’s jurisdiction.

In discussions Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Ya’alon said that Barak is only “starting fires in Judea and Samaria,” and that the mandate over these territories must be taken away from Barak and given to a team of cabinet ministers.

Ya’alon, who also holds the Strategic Issues portfolio, accused Barak of failing to solve problems. In Ya’alon’s opinion, the crucial issue in Hebron is the validity of the purchase documents in the possession of the new dwellers in Machpela House. He argued that “it is our duty to check the documents in Hebron,” and only if their validity is confirmed can we approve of their entry. He also commented that there is no security or policy issue regarding this matter, and that while the investigation is in process, “we will deposit the house’s security in the hands of the Army.”

“I have no idea why the Defense Minister says such an examination will take weeks, when it can all be finished in a few days,” Ya’alon said. “The Defense Minister prefers to stick up the proceedings… He is acting against government policy and hurts us and our ability to solve problems.”

Tal Law Will Not be Brought to Cabinet Vote

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced Thursday that the Tal Law will not be voted on by the cabinet next Sunday, despite statements last week to the contrary.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu had said that the law, which expires in August 2012, would not be extended for another five years. However, following internal disputes within his Cabinet, he later announced that the law would be extended for another five years.

Officials at the PMO said that there is no need for a government debate on the matter, as it will be discussed in the Knesset ahead of the vote over its five-year extension.

PM Netanyahu Condemns Jerusalem Mufti’s Anti-Semitic Speech

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu inveighed against the comments made by Jerusalem Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein that glorified the killing of Jews.

“These are heinous words that the world needs to condemn,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting. He called on Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate the PA religious leader for incitement after quoting an Islamic text attributed to Muhammad that calls for the killing of Jews.

In response, Hussein denied inciting the killing of Jews, saying he was merely quoting the Islamic text. “I can’t change the Hadith,” he retorted.

Energy minister and Yisrael Beiteinu MK Uzi Landau, reminded the cabinet that “this is not coming from Hamas, which we are used to – this is coming from Palestinian Authority television.”

Cabinet To Extend Law Denying Citizenship to Palestinians Who Marry Israelis

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet is expected to approve a one-year extension of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which bans Palestinians married to Israeli citizens from residing in Israel.

The preamble of the resolution that the cabinet will be discussing cites an Israel Security Service (Shin Bet) assessment that the law should be extended because Palestinians applying for spousal unification constitute “a heightened potential security risk.”

Since it is a temporary order, the Citizenship Law must continually be extended in order to remain in force.

Earlier this month, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected three petitions which claimed that the Citizenship Law is unconstitutional.

Forward-Looking Photographs

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward


Edited by Alana Newhouse


$39.95, W.W. Norton, 2007


http://www.wwnorton.com/  


 


  


         The smile is as unmistakable as the pointed white beard, long flowing side curls, black hat, robe and thick white socks. The rabbi, with his hands clasped behind his back, turns his head to his left and looks over his shoulder at the camera, as if amused to see a photographer present and curious why anyone would deem his presence a worthy photo op. The caption reads: “The grand rabbai of Satmar Hasidism, Joel Teitelbaum (right), standing at the railing of the deck of the Queen Mary at Pier 90 in New York. From the back of the photo: ‘This is the only picture taken of Teitelbaum on his journey from Israel.

 

         The photograph of the Satmar Rebbe is one of more than 500 photographs collected in Alana Newhouse’s A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward. In the book’s introduction, Newhouse, arts and culture editor at the Forward, uses the paper’s filing cabinet as a symbol of its significance to Jewish history and journalism.

 

         While conducting a reporter’s version of dumpster diving, Newhouse discovered a letter then Vice President Harry Truman wrote in February 1945 to his friend, former fellow soldier, and short-lived business partner Edward Jacobson. “Sixty years later I found a copy of the letter in a folder at the back of a metal filing cabinet drawer,” writes Newhouse. “The note, written by one of the most powerful men of the last century, had been filed under ‘Jacobson.’”

 

         As Newhouse explains, Jacobson is said to have influenced (at least in part) President Truman’s decision to recognize the State of Israel in 1948, though “one might fairly assume ‘Truman’ would trump ‘Jacobson’ in any filing system. But the metal cabinet in which I found that note is part of the archives of perhaps the most famous Jewish newspaper in the world. And to its staff and readers, the buck stopped at ‘Jacobson.’”

 

        


Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt (bearded), pictured with other cantors. According to the photo caption, Rosenblatt turned down a $100,000 offer from Warner Brothers to play Al Jolson’s father in The Jazz Singer, “because he believed it would demean his sacred calling. Nevertheless, he agreed to play a small part as himself, singing a Yiddish art song, for which he received star billing.” Image courtesy: W. W. Norton.

 

 


       The Forward‘s photo archive dates all the way back to the newspaper’s inception in the late 19th century. The book also collects more contemporary photographs, from pop singer Madonna at the Kabbalah Center’s 2003 release party for The 72 Names of God: Technology for the Soul to a flooded synagogue in New Orleans, a “Bark Mitzvah” (a canine Bar Mitzvah) and a chassid from New Square holding a fish reputed to have spoken and to have been possessed by the soul of a Canadian chassid.

 

 

        In one photograph (image one), a young man wearing a bowtie and suit with a drawing board over his knees sits on the right side of the photograph, happily engrossed in the moment. His bored-looking model, whose intense stare and wide eyes are only rivaled by the lion-shaped knockers on the door behind him, uncomfortably crosses his legs and locks his fingers together tightly, trying to hold his pose. The setting is regal, with a Roman bust in the corner between two handsome doors, and the artist has made himself right at home with a half smirk on his face. Perhaps the artist, Elias Grossman, who worked for the Forverts (the Yiddish Forward), smiles because he is aware of the mischief he is unraveling. His drawing of the sitter Benito Mussolini would later become an etching and appear in the New York Herald Tribune with the caption, “What Price Mussolini?” Upon publication, Grossman fled the fascist Italian ruler’s wrath.

 

 


Forverts employee, Elias Grossman sketches Benito Mussolini. Image courtesy: W. W. Norton.

 

 

         In Living Lens, Grossman’s photo sits on a double page spread beside another picture of a Jewish artist, sculptor Carl J. Longuet standing at a 1933 exhibit in Paris beside a bust he created of his great-grandfather Karl Marx. If one offers Marx’s receding hairline to Longuet and imagines him growing a bushy moustache and beard, the resemblance is apparent, particularly in the brows. (Incidentally, Marx was at one point a London correspondent for the Herald Tribune, so the two photographs are distantly related.)

 

 


Israel Rokeach, founder of the kosher food company which bears his name. Image courtesy: W. W. Norton.

 

 

         Another photograph (image two) portrays Israel Rokeach, who founded the kosher food company that bears his name. Rokeach wears a large black yarmulke and long white sideburns and beard. He sits writing with a pencil at his desk, surrounded by a phone and stacks of papers. A large framed canvas (the head of the portrait is cropped out of the image, but it might depict Rokeach himself) hangs over his chair. The photograph, which is catalogued in the section “From a Series on ‘Industry,’” illustrates how Jewish immigrants brought their traditional attire and appearances to a new country and managed to cling steadfastly to the old, even as they achieved a great deal of success with the new.

 

         Image Three captures Henrietta Szold (1860-1945), the founder of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Szold was a very accomplished woman, who taught three languages (French, German and Latin), history, mathematics and science at the Baltimore-based Misses Adams’ girls’ school for 15 years. Having studied Hebrew and the Talmud with her father, she taught at his synagogue in Baltimore. Somehow, she also managed to find the time to organize a night class for newly arrived Eastern European immigrants in American history and culture and to help start Hebras Zion, which might have been America’s first Zionist organization.

 

 


Henrietta Szold, former president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Image courtesy: W. W. Norton.

 

 

         Szold, who is pictured as a firm, serious woman in the Forward photograph, though she allows a bit of a smile to invade her face, worked for 23 years at Jewish Publication Society (JPS), and later traveled to (then) Palestine in 1909. Upon returning to New York, she immersed herself in American Zionist activism, ultimately forming the Hadassah Chapter of the Daughters of Zion (1912), which became simply Hadassah in 1914 – named for Queen Esther, identified in the Megillah as Hadassah. A 1920 trip back to Palestine saw Szold fundraising for what would become the Hadassah Medical Organization. She would later die at the Jerusalem-based Hadassah-Hebrew University Hospital she helped create.

 

         Living Lens presents a treasure trove of images that capture moments and figures fundamental to the American Jewish experience and the Jewish experience at large. The images capture the sacred and the secular side by side. A full page photograph of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, mixing flour for matzos in Jerusalem in 1925, sits beside another full page photograph of folksinger Isa Kremer aiming her pool cue as the world champion of billiards, Jack Schaefer looks on. Many other images in the book attest to the Forward‘s Socialist youth, from protests to members of the Workmen’s Circle. There was only room in this column to highlight a few of the photographs in the book, but it ought to be clear that it is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of photography, journalism and the American Jewish experience.

 

         Menachem Wecker is a painter, writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

 

         I graciously acknowledge the comprehensive biographies on Encyclopedia Britannica ( http://www.britannica.com/), which I used to research this article.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/forward-looking-photographs/2007/10/24/

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