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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘case’

Prosecution Quietly Closes Duma Arson Suspect Case for Lack of Evidence

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

The prosecution last week informed attorney Adi Keidar of the Honenu legal aid society that the investigation of Kokhav HaShahar youth coordinator Natanel Forkowitz, who was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Duma village arson murder, is being closed for lack of evidence. The announcement came six months after Forkowitz had been picked up by the Shabak secret police without any stated charges. He was then interrogated for 12 days without being allowed to see his lawyer.

According to Keidar, the admission of his client’s innocence was not initiated by the prosecution, but came in response to Keidar’s own inquiry regarding the status of Forkowitz’s case. Only then did Attorney Rachel Avishar Abeles from the Central District Prosecutor’s Office admit that the case had been closed.

Forkowitz, who was awarded the president’s badge of excellence during his military service, a family man with no criminal record, was guilty only of working as youth coordinator in Kokhav HaShahar, in the government run Hebrew Shepherd program to engage socially unaffiliated youth, a.k.a. hill youth. Forkowitz was picked up during his IDF reserves service.

The Shabak’s entire case against Forkowitz rested on the fact that he sold a vehicle to a youth hill from the Shilo block who was a suspect in the arson case. The interrogators insisted that Forkowitz had known of his vehicle’s involvement in the arson, and his own military record and his history of firm opposition to the “price tag” actions did not save him from the courts who kept extending his detention, relying on “secret information” his lawyers were not allowed to see.

In the end, there was no connection between the suspect in the Duma case and a vehicle, and the youth who had purchased it from Forkowitz was let go after 21-days’ detention that included abusive interrogation.

Attorney Keidar said in a statement that “this incident should disturb the sleep of all the citizens in this country, especially the residents of Judea and Samaria (Kokhav HaShahar is in the Benjamin region), who can find themselves in the all-powerful hold [of Shabak], detained under harsh conditions for no reason, all of it in order to serve the aims of Shabak interrogators who clearly knew all along that [Forkowitz] had no connection to the incident. It is also saddening that the courts have acquiesced to this behavior and did not cut it off at the beginning.”

David Israel

The Case for Paranoia

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Abu Yehuda}

I am sitting at my desk on a quiet day. There are no screaming sirens. Hezbollah isn’t bombarding us with its tens of thousands of missiles, and Hamas tunnels aren’t disgorging terrorists near kibbutz dining halls. Nobody has been stabbed yet today (as far as I know) by an Arab teenager. Iran’s nuclear project is not yet complete and the Islamic State is occupied with devising more ingenious ways to kill people. Bashar al-Assad is bombing hospitals, but they are in Syria, not here.

Nevertheless we are at war.

Israel is under severe and sustained bombardment from its enemies in the Muslim world and also Europe, the UK and the US, in two main non-physical spheres of combat.

One is the propaganda war, in which the world is saturation bombed with lies about how we are the vilest imaginable creatures who are constantly committing the most sadistic atrocities, particularly against angelic Palestinian children who only want to grow into peace-loving Palestinian adults.

The world is told that we entered this land that wasn’t ours and viciously dispossessed those aforementioned peace-lovers, punishing them for the sins of Hitler, which actually weren’t sins since we ourselves are worse than Hitler and deserved everything we got. Justice, it is told, requires that 11 million ‘Palestinians’ be allowed to come ‘back’ to the land they never saw and take our nice cars and buildings and rape our women, because everything belongs to them.

People hear that our communities are illegal (according to laws and interpretations they invent as they go along) and we are white Ashkenazi racist colonialist exploiters whom it is acceptable – obligatory – to ‘resist’ violently. Not only that, but we have hooked noses and are descended from apes and pigs.

Any means of resistance is legitimate, but anything we do to defend ourselves is illegal, because it is European white colonialism. Even if some of our skins are black and most of us are not from Europe.

There is also the BDS movement, which tries to weaken the state economically while at the same time driving home the lesson that we are so depraved, so subhuman, that civilized people mustn’t engage in any kind of intercourse with us, not in commerce, sport, academics, the arts or anything else. BDS is presented as a grass-roots movement, but it is organized with the support of the usual suspects, mostly European.

Somewhat more subtly, almost all of the American ‘mainstream’ media push a line according to which Israel is intransigent, its government is extremely right-wing and it has no interest in peace. It is suggested that our PM is afraid to take risks for peace and needs to be pushed. This is despite the fact that the government is precisely in the center of the Israeli political spectrum, and has made concessions to the Arabs more or less continuously since the Oslo accords were signed, including a total withdrawal from the Gaza strip. At the same time, the Palestinians have barely altered their positions – in some ways they have hardened them – and at present refuse to sit down with us at all.

All of these propaganda themes can be shown to be false, irrational or both. But it doesn’t matter. Other ‘occupations’ throughout the world, as well as actual genocides, sieges and horribly bloody wars get little or no attention. Only Israel is singled out. Accusations against Israel are often believed with no proof, but when Israel establishes that they are false, it is ignored.

The function of this assault of lies is to prepare the people of the world for the ultimate violent destruction of the Jewish people and their state, to make it understandable, even welcome, to them.

The other non-physical ‘war’ employs a multifaceted strategy of subversion inside Israel herself. Israel has an open society with a free press and a commitment to democratic governance and personal liberty. So our enemies dedicate massive amounts of money and manpower to exploit those characteristics in order to disrupt and destabilize our country.

Money is provided to anti-state extremists to support and nurture their organizations and allow them to carry out operations to feed the propaganda campaign, to promote conflict between Jewish and Arab citizens and to provide raw material for diplomatic and legal warfare against Israel in international forums. Anti-Israel activity by Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem is financed and encouraged, including illegal construction in areas supposedly under Israeli control. Demonstrations are organized with the intent of provoking security forces; international activists are pleased to provide video cameras to record the confrontations.

Attempts are made to influence our elections and to destabilize governments that the US administration and Europeans see as insufficiently compliant. The last election saw a major effort against Netanyahu, “V15,” run by a former advisor to President Obama. Financing for the project was murky, but a predecessor to V15 got a grant from the US State Department, “to promote coexistence.”

What we are planning is so important to the administration that in 2013 the CIA called Israel one of its main targets of surveillance – along with China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba! We should be flattered to be in such company.

Especially in the US where there still remains some support for Israel, a more subtle tactic is popular: loving us to death. Groups like J Street, the Israel Policy Forum, the Union for Reform Judaism and now even the ADL insist that they can’t possibly be any more pro-Israel, but then attack Israel’s democratically elected government and argue that they have a right to pressure Israel to change its policies. Naturally the changes they want are territorial concessions that will make our state indefensible. These groups are all close to the Obama Administration and follow its lead. It used to be possible to assume that Jewish organizations would be pro-Israel. Not anymore.

We mustn’t forget the international support for the Palestinians themselves: the billions given to UNRWA, whose task is to maintain and expand the population of Arabs claiming refugee status (they are the only group in history for whom such status is hereditary). UNRWA schools are used to teach Hamas ideology, and sometimes to store rockets that will be fired at Israel. More billions are fed to the Palestinian Authority, which uses them in part to pay salaries to convicted terrorists in Israel’s jails and for propaganda against Israel (much of the rest is simply diverted to the bank accounts of the ruling elite).

Finally, the Obama Administration has just concluded a process to strengthen Iran, the oft-declared enemy of both Israel and the US, which glories in its intention to destroy us both. Although the arrangement is supposed to serve American interests, it seems highly unlikely that it will benefit the US for Iran, where “death to America” is chanted by crowds on a daily basis, to be a nuclear-armed power in control of the entire Middle East. What is absolutely certain is that Israel’s survival has been made more difficult.

Next week there will be an international conference in Paris where several big nations will decide on ‘parameters’ that they would like to impose on Israel. The parameters will involve the usual concessions to render Israel vulnerable.

Yes, it’s paranoia. But not insanity. Much of the world is conspiring against my country. To be precise, there is a decentralized network of conspiracies, with centers located in the White House, Teheran, Riyadh, Paris, London, Ramallah and other places. Some of the participants are enemies of the others, but on this they seem to be able to cooperate: the anti-Zionist Left, the Jew-hating Right and the Muslims all agree that we have to go.

Has the world ever worked together so well for a cause? Such a massive common effort devoted to trying to accomplish one thing (in this case, our destruction)? Would they cooperate this well if an asteroid were heading for the earth? Think what the resources devoted to us could do if applied to problems like hunger, climate change, illiteracy or disease!

Vic Rosenthal

The Case for Israeli Sovereignty in the Golan Heights

Monday, May 16th, 2016

{Written by British-Israeli political commentator and writer Eylon Aslan-Levy. Originally posted to The Tower Magazine website}

The Golan Heights are back in the news, with concerns that a great power deal on Syria’s future might include renewed demands on Israel to return the territory to the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Israeli cabinet was helicoptered to the mountain ridge on April 17 for a special session, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he wished to “to send a clear message [to the world, that] Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights.”

Netanyahu was right to make such a statement. Whatever the political future of Syria, Middle East regional security requires international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Moreover, as the war-weary great powers seek a comprehensive settlement in Syria, they have a unique political and legal opportunity to do so.

With the rise of terrorism and the collapse of much of the Middle East into near-anarchy, the world is entering uncharted waters in which the normal rules of statecraft and international law offer no clear answers. The international community, therefore, has an opportunity to reinforce a troubled international order by recognizing the border between Syria and Israel east of the Golan Heights. It is vital that the international community conclusively end the ambiguity over the Golan’s fate in order to help stabilize the region in the decades ahead.
The Golan Heights is a strategic ridge abutting the Sea of Galilee. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War when it repelled an invasion by the Syrian army. Rejecting Israel’s surprise offer at the war’s end to return the Heights in exchange for peace, Syria launched a failed but bloody bid to recapture the Heights in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel formally annexed the Golan on December 14, 1981. Three days later, the United Nations Security Council unanimously declared the annexation null and void in Resolution 497, demanding that Israel rescind its decision. Responding to Netanyahu, the Security Council confirmed in April that its resolution still stands.

To date, even Israel’s allies remain unconvinced of its claims to the Golan. The day after Netanyahu vowed that the Heights would “forever remain under Israeli sovereignty,” the U.S. and Germany reaffirmed their position that the Golan is not under Israeli sovereignty in the first place. The U.S. State Department confirmed that it expects the fate of the Heights to be determined via negotiations—although by acknowledging that “the current situation in Syria does not allow this,” spokesman John Kirby implicitly legitimized Israel’s continued hold over the territory pending Syria’s reconstitution.

No serious observer, however, believes that Syria can be reconstituted. The Kurds declared an autonomous Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava) in March 2016, and will not surrender this freedom lightly. The Syrian opposition is against a formal partition of Syria, but the option of transforming the country into a federal state is on the table. If the country’s five-year-long civil war continues, interest in partition will likely grow, either as a last resort or recognition of an existing reality. The logical corollary of ceasefire efforts is that a de facto partition will begin to crystallize, as none of the warning parties will agree to govern together or be governed by each other. “We know how to make an omelet from an egg,” observed Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, but “I don’t know how to make an egg from an omelet.”

Any geopolitical settlement that involves redrawing Syria’s borders for the sake of regional security must also rubber-stamp Israel’s control of the Golan for the same purpose. The Heights have now been governed by Jerusalem for over twice as long as Damascus—49 years versus 22. It is time to recognize that change as permanent.
Broadly speaking, there are four key ways in which a state can cease to exist under international law. First, a state can splinter through a series of secessions, leaving behind a rump state that inherits its predecessor’s legal personality. For example, Russia is the recognized legal continuation of the USSR. Second, a state can be ripped apart by internal strife to such an extent that it is deemed to have ceased to exist and no single successor inherits its legal personality. Yugoslavia is an example of this. Third, a state can dissolve itself by agreement. Czechoslovakia, for instance, voted to divide itself out of existence. Fourth, a state can voluntarily merge or be absorbed into another state, as when East Germany dissolved itself when it was united with West Germany.

Syria could plausibly collapse along the lines of the first two possibilities: Secessions could leave a diminished core limping on like post-Soviet Russia; or the secessions could be of such magnitude that the world concludes Syria has ceased to exist, rejecting the claim that a rump Assad-governed enclave is the rightful continuation of Syria. But whatever happens, there will only be a stable border between these entities and Israel if the latter retains permanent control of the Golan Heights.

The current military situation in Syria.

The current military situation in Syria.

This Soviet-style scenario could play out as follows: Syria could experience a series of secessions, beginning with ISIS and the Kurds and extending to other rebel groups. If Damascus accedes to these secessions, betting on the survival of Assad’s Alawite minority in a smaller state, the new states’ independence would be universally recognized. In turn, the world could recognize the rump Syria as the legal successor of the old entity, including its continued claim over the Golan Heights. Indeed, the Vienna Convention on State Successions in Respect of Treaties is explicit in stating that “a succession of states as such does not affect a boundary established by treaty,” i.e., the legal instruments that created modern Syria.

Nevertheless, the promotion of new borders for the sake of regional security provides a golden opportunity to take other factors into account.

First, the Golan is vital to Israel’s security: Israel cannot risk the presence of a powerful army or jihadist guerillas along the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. This means that Israeli possession of the Golan is vital for regional security, because a war in which the Golan is used against Israel would have regional ramifications. Considering Hezbollah’s heavy involvement in the Syrian war, anything that allows the Iranian proxy to threaten Israeli territory increases the prospects and potential scope of a regional war in which Israel will use force that many will undoubtedly condemn as disproportionate in order to eliminate the threat of incessant rocket attacks on a vulnerable population. Indeed, it appears that Iran is formulating a Plan B for Syria that involves leaving a Hezbollah-style force on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights for the day after Syria ceases to be unitary state. Jerusalem needs to control the Heights in order to minimize this threat.

Second, the question of the Golan’s fate needs to be settled in order to prevent future instability. Whatever entities arise east of the Golan need to know that they have no chance of reaching the Sea of Galilee if war is to be prevented. Hezbollah and Iran are likely to invoke Israel’s presence on the Heights as an excuse for further aggression, so the world needs to resolve in advance that it will categorically reject such arguments and treat the Golan border as inviolable.

Third, the residents of the Golan wish to remain part of Israel. Increasing numbers of Golan Druze are taking Israeli citizenship. If other parts of Syria are splintering off because the residents reject being ruled by Damascus, the wishes of the Golan Druze, who have known Israeli rule for 50 years now, should be similarly respected. And that is before addressing the issue of the Israeli Jews living on the Golan. The world claims that the Golan is occupied, but in an ongoing comparative study, Prof. Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University Law School has found that the international community has generally been willing to allow settlers to vote in referenda on the fate of occupied territory. Thus, the Baker Plan envisioned Moroccan settlers voting on the fate of Western Sahara and the Annan Plan allowed Turkish settlers in Northern Cyprus to vote on the island’s fate.

If the international community were to follow its own established practice, it might propose a referendum in which all residents of the Golan—Jewish and Druze—could vote to accept Israel’s annexation of the territory. At any rate, this would be far less controversial than actually delivering these Druze into Assad’s hands.

There are other grounds on which the international community could legally ratify Israel’s control of the Heights. Consider the legal principle of “effectivity,” which was eloquently articulated by the Canadian Supreme Court in its landmark 1998 legal opinion on the possible secession of Quebec. This ruling “proclaims that an illegal act may eventually acquire legal status if, as a matter of empirical fact, it is recognized on the international plane.” Addressing fears that this would encourage illegal activity, the court clarified that “a subsequent condonation of an initially illegal act [does not] retroactively create a legal right to engage in the act in the first place.” This principle gives the world the ability to conclude that, although the initial annexation was illegal, and there is no right to annex occupied territory, the effectiveness of Israel’s policy means that it should receive retroactive approval, especially in light of a fundamental change of circumstances.

It is true that international law considers the crime of aggression to be a violation of jus cogens law, meaning that states must refrain from recognizing its effects. But the Heights were not conquered in an aggressive war, and the Security Council notably rejected the idea that the annexation was aggressive in a Jordanian draft resolution on the issue. Having recently annexed Crimea, even Russia should be open to reconsidering the case for defensive conquest.

Legally and politically, the case for recognizing Israel’s control of the Golan would be solid.
That would cover a Soviet-style collapse, in which Syria splinters but leaves behind an intact core. But should Syria be officially dissolved instead, as was Yugoslavia, by the secession of various regions, a radically new legal and political reality would be created.

Consider the following scenario: If Syria experiences multiple secessions, which might include the Assad regime fleeing Damascus in favor of a coastal Alawite state, it is possible that no new state would comprise a majority of Syria’s territory or population. In this case, the world powers might declare that Syria has ceased to exist and refuse to recognize any of the successor states emerging from the rubble as the inheritor of Syria’s legal personality. “Extinction is not effected by…prolonged anarchy within the State,” explained Justice James Crawford of the International Court of Justice, “provided that the original organs of the State…retain at least some semblance of control.” Syria could soon conclusively fail to meet that test.

After the Yugoslavian civil war erupted, it became clear that the country could not be reconstituted. The Badinter Arbitration Commission judged in 1991 that “Yugoslavia is in the process of dissolution.” Then, in 1992, the Security Council decreed in Resolution 777 that “the state formerly known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has ceased to exist” and stated that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, later known as Serbia and Montenegro, could not “continue automatically” Yugoslavia’s membership in the UN. The FRY’s claim to be Yugoslavia was widely disputed, since it did not contain a majority of its predecessor’s population or territory. In a subsequent treaty, the five successor states agreed to divide between them the former Yugoslavia’s rights and assets as sovereign equals.

Seven independent states and more autonomous regions eventually emerged from the former Yugoslavia.

Seven independent states and more autonomous regions eventually emerged from the former Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia dissolved despite the survival of its federal territories. The judgment that such a state in effect longer exists would be even stronger in the case of a unitary state collapsing along battle lines rather than internal boundaries, as Syria is doing now. In effect, no new state would have a strong claim to “be” Syria, and the world powers could declare that it has been extinguished with no single successor.

This would create a curious paradox or lacuna—a gap in the law. In effect, standing international resolutions would be demanding that Israel return territory to a state that no longer exists. Crucially, since none of the successor states would automatically inherit Syria’s rights and assets, none would inherit a prior legal right to the Golan Heights. Israel would have a prima facie obligation to hand over the territory, but no state in the world would have a legal claim to receive it. What would happen then?

The answer is that nobody knows. Syria’s successor states would have to justify their existence on the basis of the territories they control at the end of hostilities. They could not claim territory outside their effective control. This provides a unique window in which Israel’s claim to the Golan could be recognized with reference to its actual possession of the territory.

Such a situation would be almost unprecedented. It would be the first dissolution of a unitary, rather than federal, state in modern history, with one ironic exception—Palestine. When Mandatory Palestine collapsed into internecine warfare in 1948, the world recognized Israel’s boundaries not with reference to the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which was never implemented, but Israel’s actual possession of territory at the end of hostilities. It is true that claims to the territory by invading third parties were not recognized, namely Transjordan’s claim over the West Bank, but the ambiguity created by the unresolved question of sovereignty over this territory haunts the world to this day and remains a source of instability. By recognizing Israel’s control of the Golan, the world can prevent the emergence of another such anomaly that will only be a source of future grief.
The purpose of international law is to protect the international order, one in which states exist within secure and recognized borders. When the law provides no clear answers, it should be interpreted in the spirit of bolstering this international order. If the international community wishes to do this, nothing can legally stop it. The only way to bolster this international order and resolve the open question of the Golan is to recognize Israeli control over the territory.

From the Israeli perspective, this is obvious. Realistically speaking, there is no longer any incentive for Israel to return the Heights to Damascus. Until recently, some in Israel hoped to offer the Golan in order to seduce Syria away from the Iranian axis, a bold gamble to thwart Tehran’s push for regional hegemony. But with Iran emboldened by the recent nuclear deal and Syria now firmly under its domination, that possibility is foreclosed.

The process by which the world might recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Heights, however, will not be easy. The world needs not wait until the official collapse of Syria, but these scenarios may still be a way off, as the world powers resist recognizing the inevitable. Iran and Russia have every interest in maximizing Assad’s control over Syria, and would only write off the country as an absolute last resort. Recognizing breakaway states would raise uncomfortable questions about what is to be done about ISIS. And the current areas of control by various parties to the Syrian civil war do not neatly divide into separate, coherent entities that could be viable states.

But as surrounding states collapse further into a war of all against all, international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan would be a bold statement in defense of the international order. Should the world fail to make such a statement, the Middle East could yet pay a heavy price for the world’s failure to let an anachronistic policy fall into desuetude.

{Eylon Aslan-Levy is a British-Israeli political commentator and writer. He is a graduate of Oxford and Cambridge, and a veteran lone soldier in the IDF. Twitter: @EylonALevy }

The Tower

German Technology Giant Siemens AG to Pay $44 Million to Settle Israeli Corruption Case

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

German technology giant Siemens AG has agreed to pay Israel $44 Million to settle a charge that it bribed executives at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to win a bid to supply turbines from 1999 to 2005, Israel’s Justice Ministry announced Monday. The company has also agreed to appoint an external inspector to supervise its business in Israel.

“We are pleased that the Israeli State Authorities chose to have an arrangement that does not include an indictment against Siemens AG recognizing…. that Siemens fully cooperated in the course of the investigation,” Siemens said in an e-mailed statement.

Siemens AG says it plans to continue its business in Israel on a major scale, including purchasing Israeli products and services and investing in Israeli companies.

Six IEC executives are facing charges in Tel Aviv court for bribery and money laundering. They are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash bribes or, for the discriminating corrupt officials, transfers to their Swiss bank accounts.

Last October a former finance officer for Siemens in Argentina admitted to paying $100 million in bribes to government officials to secure a contract to produce national identity cards.

And prosecutors in Germany are investigating Siemens for allegedly charging $2.2 million for work that was never done at Berlin’s long-delayed new airport.


‘You Murder the Children’: Rav Soloveitchik on Abortion

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

When one thinks of Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l soon comes to mind for his leadership thereof. In our time, however, Modern Orthodoxy has become a vague term with problematic tendencies. As Rabbi Steven Pruzansky–who has numerous shiurim on Yeshiva University’s Torah website–recently wrote, “Too often, one finds in the Modern Orthodox world grievances of one sort or another against this or that aspect of Torah, as if Jews get to sit in judgment of God and His Torah.”

No issue might better crystallize the dissonance between Rav Soloveitchik’s Modern Orthodoxy and today’s than abortion. Let us consider the great man’s views.

During a shiur on Parashat Bo in 1975, Rav Soloveitchik stated that “to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted,” adding:

“I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it’s also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children.”

Rav Soloveitchik then predicted:

“And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they’ll be looked upon as reactionaries.”

Similar remarks appear in Reflections of the Rav:

“If the dominant principle governing the logos [“thinking capacity”] is that abortion is morally permissible because only a mother has a right to decide whether she wishes to be a mother, then infants may similarly have their lives terminated after birth. What if the child interferes with the promising brilliant career of the mother?”

These words might be jarring for those who view Rav Soloveitchik as the mild-mannered author of philosophically oriented books like The Lonely Man of Faith. Equally if not more jarring might be Rav Soloveitchik’s statements on sexual morality, which I discussed a few months ago.

Specific to abortion, one might counter that Rav Soloveitchik permitted an unborn child with Tay-Sachs disease to be aborted through the sixth month, but this proves just the opposite, namely: 1) What does this narrow, tragic case indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s general view of abortion? 2) What does it indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s view of abortion after the sixth month even in the case of Tay-Sachs? And vis-à-vis those who claim a woman’s absolute right to “terminate a pregnancy” at any point, I doubt such an attempt to (mis)represent Rav Soloveitchik as a “moderate” on abortion would be received agreeably. In this regard, one of Rav Soloveitchik’s sons-in-law, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, shlita, has observed in the context of abortion:

“Even if we were to accept that indeed it is the woman’s own body, we totally reject the conception that she then can do with it as she pleases. This is a completely anti-halakhic perception [emphasis added]. It rests on a secular assumption that, as it were, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3), as if we are the source of our own existence and therefore the masters of our own being. This is assuredly not the case.”

Rav Lichtenstein summarizes the worldview of that anti-halakhic perception as follows:

“The essence of modern secular culture is the notion of human sovereignty; individual man is master over himself, and collective man is master over his collective… From a religious point of view, of course, eilu va-eilu divrei avoda zara—both approaches are idolatrous. Here one establishes individual man as an idol, and the one idolizes, in humanistic terms, humanity as a whole. The basis of any religious perception of human existence is the sense that man is not a master: neither a master over the world around him, nor a master over himself.”

Yes, Rav Soloveitchik earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin (as likewise Rav Lichtenstein earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard). Yes, Rav Soloveitchik enjoyed classical music (especially Bach). And first and foremost, Rav Soloveitchik was a Torah Jew for whom Halachah was not some intellectual game or cultural style, rather an all-encompassing conviction with profound social implications. Thus his denunciations of abortion, which derived from the same worldview as these remarks in 1953:

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

The Internet, Halacha, and Olam HaBah

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It’s simply not possible. I don’t believe it. Nonetheless it is being reported as fact. Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel, has linked to the Hebrew language website B’Chadrei Charedim that quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s response to a question about smart-phones.

There is a Gemarah in Brachos that tells us that a man will lose his portion in Olam HaBah if he walks regularly behind a woman down a river. Rav Kanievsky was asked if this applies to someone who has in his possession an I-phone or the internet. His one word answer according to Chadrei was ‘ B’Vadai’ – absolutely! Anyone who uses an I-phone or the internet is in a category of losing his Olam HaBah – his heavenly reward in the world to come!

If this is true, then yet again, I think we all ought to all just go over to MacDonald’s and have a cheeseburger… or violate any other Miztvah in the Torah we want to violate. Why bother observing Halacha if you’ve lost your Olam Habah?

I happen to know Gedolei Torah and Roshei Yeshiva  who use I-phones and the internet. Are they all doomed?

Once again we have what appears to be a huge dis-connect between what a great Torah sage supposedly said – and reality. Either Rav Kanievsky does not know the extent of internet use among a great number of devoutly observant Jews, or this is a gross distortion or mischaracterization of his views. I think that both things are true. I don’t believe he said it and meant it to be interpreted as simply as that one word answer indicates.

I would not be surprised if this is yet another instance of Kanoim – religious zealots twisting the views of a elderly rabbinic leader to fit their agenda. I’m sure his position is far more nuanced than the one word answer (B’Vadai) he supposedly gave to a simple question.

The Agenda is obvious. There are people who are eager to destroy other Jews in a fit of self righteousness. They do not have these devices and do not want anyone else to have them either. So they make sure to twist the words of Gedolei Yisroel to assure it.

They may think they are doing the right thing. But they are by far doing far much more harm than good. They may in fact be responsible for pushing more religious Jews out of observance than saving them from using the internet.

By putting people who have smart-phones into a category of losing their Olam Habah, it is not too difficult to see many frustrated Frum people who have so often been put upon with comments like this say, ‘the heck with it!’ I may as well live a life of ease and not worry about violating Halacha. I won’t make to Olam HaBah anyway.

The Gemarah upon which this one word response attributed to Rav Kanievsky was based upon does not forbid the incidental following of a woman down a river. The loss of Olam Habah  that the Gemarah speaks of is only to those who purposely do so with lascivious thoughts and the intent to sin in that regard. And even then only if it is done on a regular basis.

I would add that even if someone regularly does things like that and has some sort of sexual addiction, he can get help… and do Teshuva. I find it very difficult to believe that the Gemarah’s intent is that someone loses his Olam HaBah permanently if he does that. It is also known that the Gemarah sometimes exaggerates to make a point. Which may be the case here.

If there is any comparison to be made between following a woman down a river and the world of the 21st century and the internet – it is in the area of purposely viewing pornography on it. The problem is not the internet. It is the websites one frequents… if those websites are pornographic. That is the comparison that Rav Kanievsky no doubt meant – if he said anything at all.  Accidentally accessing a pornographic website is not a cause for losing one’s Olam Habah.

But the Kanoim who publish stories like this do not want to be confused with the nuances of truth. They want convey the message that I-phones and any other device that can access the internet is so evil that one should not even touch it! For if they do, their Olam HaBah is at stake.

Harry Maryles

Leftist Leader Appalled by Police Gratuitous Tasing of Settler (Video)

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

“How can you be nauseated when you watch the riot police using the taser again and again on the settler Boaz Albert who’s lying on the floor screaming in pain,” writes on her Facebook page MK Zehava Gal-On, chair of the left wing Meretz party, who has no love lost for the settlement movement. But the level of abuse and brutality on the part of the police in this case has cut through political dividing lines.

A video produced and distributed by the Yitzhar outpost spokesperson’s office shows local resident Boaz Albert being subdued by a team of policemen who arrested him for breaking an administrative restraining order banning him from setting foot in the settlement.

His wife and children are living there. He sneaked in to see them. Somebody called the cops.

In the video, police barge into Albert’s home, the screen goes dark and we hear him screaming in pain. Then a police officer is seen holding a stun gun and threatening to use it against Albert who is begging not to be tasered again, crying out that he’s emphatically not resisting arrest—while one of the cops is saying:”Electricute him already.” Then four police carry Albert out in a manner that could not possibly enable him to resist them – then, in the dark we hear him screaming in agony as some cop apparently shot him full of volts just for the fun of it.

“There is no justification in the world for using this cruel weapon on a man who is not acting violently and does not present danger to the four cops who hover over him and who could easily arrest him without a problem.”

Gal-On said that she is fighting for the rights of settlers against police abuse, just as she’s fighting on behalf of Palestinians who are arrested without trial. She called on the right to join her in condemning both kinds of police violations of people’s civil rights.

Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar of “Women in Green” also condemned the “scandalous arrest of Boaz Albert, a resident of Yitzhar, a father of six, in a violent military operation in which security forces shot him and his brother with iron arrows from a Taser gun and wounded him. All this because of Albert’s ‘crime’ of refusing to obey the immoral and anti-democratic edict of expulsion that was given him.”

The Women in Green contend that “these expulsion orders are used solely against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria and not against Arab stone-throwers nor against the European anarchists that attack soldiers.”

Katsover and Matar call on the “Eretz Israel” lobby MKs to intervene in the case. Meanwhile, Albert has been set free by a district court judge in Lod on friday afternoon.

A demonstration is planned for 10 PM israel time, in the Beit El area, to protest police cruelty against Boaz Albert.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/leftist-leader-appalled-by-police-gratuitous-tasing-of-settler-video/2013/08/17/

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