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July 25, 2016 / 19 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘community’

Facebook: ‘Kill Jews’ Not Violation of Community Standards

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Facebook has always been the most accessible tool available to the average person for means of freedom of speech. Turns out terror organizations like Hamas are very aware of that, and largely use it to their advantage. Being a huge fan of freedom of speech, Facebook has made its terms of usage very, shall we say, flexible. For that reason, five families, Israeli and American, all of whom lost a family member in the recent murderous wave of terror, are suing Facebook for $1 billion. The lawsuit was brought under the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act that prohibits American businesses from providing any material support, including services, to designated terrorist groups and their leaders. In this case, that would apply to giving terror a stage on Facebook through memes, groups, pages, and viral hateful posts of incitement (all of which can be found in the hundreds on your favorite social media site).

I decided to test Facebook’s innocence (or lack thereof). I searched the social network for anti-Semitic groups and pages to report. I was disappointed, but not surprised, at how easily I came across “juicy” material. Firstly, I found a user whose profile name was followed by “(Kill Jews).” He actually decided to blatantly state his murderous views on Facebook, and had thus far not been called out for it. I proudly reported the profile to Facebook, assuming they had simply not yet seen this hateful profile name, claiming it to be “sharing inappropriate or offensive posts” (the closest option Facebook has to offer).

Next I found a large photo posted by a news page on Facebook called “Pure Stream.” This page has over 10,000 likes. The picture shows an “innocent” Palestinian child being “viciously attacked by an Israeli monster tank,” with the large bold text “Death to Israel.” This post had close to 200 shares, and close to 400 likes. That means, thanks to Facebook, this post was seen by tens of thousands of people, many of whom had no previous knowledge about Israel. And you know what they say about first impressions.

The most important viewers of this photo are the teenage Palestinians, raised to hate Israel and everything it stands for. When they are exposed to a photo stating “Death to Israel” with hundreds of likes and shares, this only strengthens their views and may very well push them over the edge from sitting in front of their computer to stabbing a mother and child in the streets. Once again, naively assuming Facebook had simply missed this hateful and blood-thirsty post, I reported it, claiming it to be a violent hate speech.

After about half an hour I received messages from Facebook regarding both of my reports. I was astonished, and yet not surprised, at Facebook’s uncaring response:

Facebook response

Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the photo you reported for promoting graphic violence and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”

So now you know that “Death to Israel” and “Kill Jews” are both well within proper community standards, and no, the year is not 1942.

Asher Schwartz

Community Currents – July 15, 2016

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Jewish Press Staff

The American Jewish Community has Already Embraced BDS Against “Settlements”

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Elder of Ziyon}

On Tuesday, I visited the newest university in Israel, Ariel University.

It is a beautiful campus with 15,000 students. Over a dozen buildings are being constructed right now as it expands. I was shown the robotics lab and spoke with an expert in making wine from grape varieties that have been proven to have been used in First and Second Temple times. (I plan to write about that in the future.)

Ariel University has the only free electron laser particle accelerator in the Middle East.

The campus has hundreds of Arab students.  Student groups foster dialogue between Jewish and Arab students. It also attracts students from around the world. (Most of the lectures are in English.)

It is building a hospital which will be available for all residents of the region, with the aim of building a medical school as well. Ambitious plans to add more dormitories and more research centers are bearing fruit.

It has what may be the only college-level program in the world to mainstream students on the Aspergers’ spectrum. I met one very polite young man in that program who said that he had been rejected from every school he applied to before Ariel accepted him and he is soon to graduate with a degree in Middle Eastern studies.

Ariel U is centrally located, easily accessible via Highway 5 which goes directly there from Tel Aviv. From Ariel University’s “upper campus,” on a clear day, you can see Israel’s entire coastal plain.

Ariel University is a Zionist success story, in the edge of a bustling and beautiful town of 20,000 residents.

But when American Jewish groups visit Israel, nearly all of them avoid visiting Ariel University.

Jewish Federation trips to Israel do not go to Ariel University (with very few exceptions.)

AIPAC doesn’t visit.

Even Birthright won’t visit – left-wing or right-wing trips avoid it.

Because Ariel University is across the Green Line.

American Jewish organizations, afraid of criticism from the Left, have decided that Ariel does not exist and it should not be visited. It is too controversial.

But here’s the thing. Virtually every Israeli politician from left to right considers Ariel to be non-negotiable in any peace plan,

If you visit the community you know why. It is a large town and strategically situated. It is part of Israel in every real sense. The idea of uprooting the town is unthinkable.

Amazingly, J-Street U has visited Ariel to see what it is like and what their ideological enemies are up to. Yet groups that are unabashedly Zionist do not want to visit.

Christian groups love to visit the university when they go on Israel trips. But Jewish Israel missions almost all will avoid it.

This is outrageous.

The same people who say that BDS is terrible, even when practiced against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, are effectively engaging in BDS themselves by avoiding visiting the incredible, and very Zionist, accomplishments of Ariel and Ariel University.

They cannot argue that Ariel is dangerous. (That is Birthright’s official reason.)  It isn’t. There were no incidents since the knife uprising began last September. Hamas rockets never reached Ariel. It has been far more dangerous to visit Jerusalem than Ariel over the past year.

They cannot argue that Ariel University is filled with messianic right-wing Jews. It isn’t. Some professors there are leftists, even Meretz-voters. Arab students can and do write their theses on the “Nakba.” Yarmulkas are the exception, not the rule.

At the very least, these American organizations that tell their participants that they are going to learn about both sides of the conflict are completely ignoring the biggest settlement, and only Israeli university, that is in the territories not adjacent to the Green Line.

If anyone is going to claim that they are well-educated on the conflict, shouldn’t they at least visit Ariel?

To have Jewish groups – liberal or conservative – essentially boycott Ariel sends a message that American Jews are out of sync with what most Israelis believe would be part of any peace agreement.

If you are planning a mission to Israel for your Jewish group, ask yourself why you shouldn’t visit a miraculous, modern and liberal campus that could teach most so-called “pro-peace, pro-Israel” groups a lot about real co-existence and peace.

Elder of Ziyon

Community Currents – July 8, 2016

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Jewish Press Staff

A Meeting with Magda Haroun, Head of Egypt’s Jewish Community

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Hard to believe our trip to Egypt lasted only four days given all the meetings we jammed into it. Dr Omer Salem hosted Rabbi Yaakov Nagen of the Otniel Yeshiva, Fulbright Scholar Dr Joseph Ringel and myself for a tour of Cairo in March 2016, to help develop personal relationships, so needed between our peoples.

We assumed that theology was the real stumbling block between Muslim and Jew, and expected to enter into theological debate. We found, however, that the overriding concern of those we met was the quality of life for their Arab brethren in the Holy Land.

We also learned that misinformation abounds in Egypt concerning the various philosophies that led to the founding of the state of Israel. We frequently heard this phrase, ‘Israel was founded only to be a Jewish state.’ This is inaccurate both from a religious perspective and from that of the founders of modern Zionism. The Torah has an extensive framework for the inclusion of the non-Jewish “ger toshav”, based upon Talmudic tractate Avodah Zarah 64b -65a, and Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.”

Regarding the oft-repeated statement, ‘Israel was founded only to be a Jewish state’ – Dr Joseph Ringel shares: “when I began learning Arabic, I was exposed to this perception in the Arab world.” And he was inspired to educate himself further. “The chief theorists for the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl and Asher Ginsberg (pen-name: Ahad ha-‘Am) held that Arabs had an important rule to play in Jewish society in the land of Israel and demanded they be treated equally. Aspects of religious Zionism had a strong universal element believing that Zion would become the harbinger of the messianic age and the conduit for divine blessing to flow to the entire world. Socialist Zionists regarded Zion as a place to create an ideal equality between all classes and ethnicities – Arabs included. The fact that less conciliatory voices exist does not mean Zionism as a whole is tainted; indeed, the existence of violent people in any national or religious movement does not mean the entire movement is tainted.”

We thus need to ensure we are educated about the rights of the non-Jewish residents of the land of Israel, as enshrined both in Torah and in modern Zionist thought.

Most importantly, we must ensure these rights are a reality. This closes the loop with the above noted concern expressed to us in Egypt – the condition of their Arab brethren in the Holy Land.

Dr Ringel adds, “the point of dialogue is to face various perceptions, shedding light upon who we are, and learning from each other.”

Here is one example:

Magda Haroun, President of the Egyptian Jewish Community

Magda Haroun deserves credit. The head of what remains of Egypt’s Jewish community, she openly maintains her Jewish identity at self-sacrifice, and reminisces about a cosmopolitan, tolerant Egyptian past, the memory of which she insists must be preserved.

She graciously hosted us at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue, Adly Street, Cairo. Hesitating a little before this small group of kippa-clad and scarf wearing orthodox Jews, she said, “I have views you probably will not agree with.” Rabbi Yaakov Nagen wisely responded, “we want to hear your views, if we wanted to hear only what we agree with. we could have stayed at home.”

First, some stories of Magda defending her Jewish identity in the face of rejection. When she was a child in school, the teacher denigrated Jews. The entire class turned to look at her, and she walked out. As a young adult, she requested a birth certificate, and the officials demanded her full contact information. When she asked why, they responded – “for security reasons,” as they suspected every Jew of spying for Israel. She refused to furnish the information, and left without a certificate. 1

She told us that upon her divorce, she retained her Jewish identity despite the threat that her husband, as a Muslim divorcing a non-Muslim wife, could take custody of their daughters at any time. She thus did not admit that she could not afford the girls’ expenses when he witheld financial support. She refused to give up her Jewish identity, even to rid herself of the constant threat she would lose her daughters.

Magda Haroun holds onto her dream, and her dream is this: Egyptian society will reclaim its cosmopolitan and tolerant heritage. Dr Ringel shared, “I studied the history of Jews in the Islamic world, and I know Egyptian Jews, some of whom were expelled, some of whom had traumatic experiences but some of whom have very strong memories. What I love about Egypt’s history is that it was such a beautiful culture. Egypt was a refuge for Jews from Yemen and from Russia, from Syria and Iraq. Yiddish was spoken here, both Karaites and Rabbinites lived here, and they all got along.”

Magda nodded enthusiastically, we were on the same page. She added, “Egypt was the land of refuge for people suffering all over the world. Look at Musa Ibn Maimon (Maimonedes), he was on the way to Palestine but he came through here and stayed here and died here.”

And she offers an inspiring humanitarian proposal. One of the Jewish cemeteries is under threat of falling into disrepair and neglect. It is located in the middle of the Bassateen slums. Magda’s dream is to get the Jewish community worldwide involved in renovating the slums, developing its schools and parks. “I cannot just build a wall around the slums. When the area will be developed, the residents of Bassateen will be the first to take care of the Jewish cemetery.” And they will feel positively about Jews as well.

I was in the company of visionaries. A great moment. Then we started getting out of step on two subjects: Magda’s view of the state of Israel, and the future of the remaining Torah scrolls in Egypt. But hang on, getting out of step during efforts at dialogue is to be expected.

Divisions in her School; Seeing her Relatives Emigrate

Regarding her view of the state of Israel, I wish to provide a bit of context first. Magda described what it was like as a child to suddenly have her schoolmates divided along religious lines. She studied in a French school, a lycee, and never knew who was Christian, Jew or Muslim, until they started imposing religion in the schools, after 1956. Then, they were divided up and sent to different classes to learn their own religion. No classes for Judaism, Magda was sent to the detention room.

Magda continues, “It was painful for me to see my relatives leave Egypt. They left for two reasons, the founding of the state of Israel and the rise of pan-Arabism. My father was a humanitarian, he loved humanity, in front of G-d, in front of each other, we are all equal. I never learned to make a difference

between black, white, poor, rich. When we were all divided up along religious lines at school, I said to my father that my Christian friends know what to do to make G-d happy, my Muslim friends know what to do to make G-d happy, what am I supposed to do? He led me to the mirror and said, ‘if when you look at yourself in the mirror, your eyes do not go down in shame, you know you have hurt no one, then you are making G-d happy.’ ”

Loyalty to Your Country – Even When that Country Betrays You

Magda made a statement that I would hear as a sentiment shared by other Egyptian Jews in days past: ”I was born in Egypt, I will live in Egypt and I will die in Egypt.”

That tenacity of identity and loyalty did not prevent the expulsion of the Jewish community from Egypt in the late 1950’s. Dr Ringel elaborates: the expulsions began under Nasser, following the 1956 war. Many Jews who lived in Egypt were not Egyptian citizens, as most of the Jews (with the exception of the indigenous Jewish population) hailed from foreign countries, which included Ottoman lands, Eastern Europe and Italy. Egypt was under de facto British control until after World War ll, despite some local autonomy, so that it made sense for these often multi-lingual families to acquire European passports. In addition, once autonomous Egypt began registering its population for citizenship, there was some discrimination against non-Muslims. In 1956, Nasser nationalized all foreign assets, and the fact that many Jews still only had European passports, despite their having lived in Egypt for a number of generations, made the expulsions easier to implement.

Magda said that a member of the Muslim brotherhood, Mr Essam El Eryan, did express regrets about the expulsions. “I thanked him for opening the Pandora’s box, but it is going to be very difficult for Jews to return, they left and put their roots in other countries already.”

And now there were six. Not six thousand or six hundred, but six Jews left in Egypt. But Magda was holding on, echoing a proud (though not very effective) Egyptian Jewish sentiment, determined to preserve the cosmopolitan ideal.

Haroun’s Demand: Egypt Must Honor its Jewish Heritage

When she became leader of Egypt’s Jewish community in 2013, Magda gave interviews in Egyptian newspapers and on television, with the conviction that Egyptian society be aware of its former thriving Jewish society and that the nation’s remaining Jews should be respected. She told us, “I walk in the streets and people know I am a Jew.” When I asked, “Do you feel safe in Egypt?” she responded adamantly “Of course I do!” She admits her sense of security is not shared by the other Jews who remain. “They are afraid of being suspected as spies for Israel.” So her stance is part reality, part ideological determination.

Magda said, “I have asked for help from Jewish communities around the world to preserve the Bassateen area because it is part of the heritage of this country. They want something in return.” She paused, her tone foreboding, grim, “they want the Torah scrolls.”

Dr Ringel explained, “they are afraid the Torah scrolls will go into disuse” and added that in order to achieve conciliation, the challenge of preserving both the Torah scrolls and the Jewish cemeteries should not be linked. Keep the issues separate. (He emphasizes that he was speaking as a private citizen in reaction to the information presented to him at the time and not representing any side.)

 

Dr Joseph Ringel with the Torah scrolls

Dr Joseph Ringel with the Torah scrolls

Keeping issues separate is probably a good rule of thumb in conciliation work. Right the wrong, improve a situation, without bartering. Deuteronomy 16:20 – “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.” The pasuk does not say to pursue justice as long as you get something in return. Psalm 43:15 – “Seek peace and pursue it.” According to the Midrash: “Seek peace, and pursue it means that you should seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9)

Magda Haroun and the State of Israel

Magda does not take money from Israel nor does she use a Rabbi from Israel. Her position against Zionism is part of her conviction in a cosmopolitan, varied society, and that a state in the modern age

should not be based on religion. “Maybe it made sense in the sixth century, but not today.” And she joined in the street protests in Cairo, 2011, against an Islamic government.

Her stance may also be influenced by the fact that, according to physician and author Dr Wakif Moustafa, “There are still laws on the Egyptian statute that criminalize Zionism and, should any Egyptian citizen declare themselves a Zionist, they risk losing their citizenship.”

Her boycott of Israel may well soften. Sure makes me feel bad. Indeed, Egyptian leaders such as Dr. Aly ElSamman call for the softening of the tatbia – boycott – of Israel. “Tatbia is not logical or ethical, we have a peace agreement.” 2

As the tide changes and there are increased calls in Egypt towards warmer relations with Israel, perhaps the relations between Israel’s Jews and the remaining Egyptian Jews can warm up as well.

Magda’s view of the state of Israel was a challenge to me, though it must be understood that it is a nuanced view, and as Rabbi Nagen said, “if we wanted to hear only what we agree with, we could have stayed home.”

And a further challenge waited in the wings – see next article: Hitting a Wall, Building a New Bridge. You Need to Take that Risk.

{This two part article emphasizes the process of conciliation and its challenges, it is not an exhaustive piece on Ms Haroun’s views and personal history.}

For more information on Magda Haroun, see:

http://www.cairoscene.com/BusinessAndPolitics/Partial-Collapse-in-Jewish-Synagogue-in-Alexandria

http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/interview-magda-haroun-head-egypt-s-jewish-community

See also:

Egypt: The Elusive Arab Spring, Dr. Wakif Mustafa, Gilgamesh Publishing 2014

Rights of the Ger Toshav in the Land of Israel: http://www.wikinoah.org/index.php?title=Ger_Toshav

Rebecca Abrahamson

Community Currents – July 1, 2016

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Jewish Press Staff

The Community Well

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Back in the olden days, people used to gather around the community well and collect their water.

Due to poor infrastructure planning, and unexpectedly low regional rain, some communities in the Shomron find themselves returning to those olden times, gathering around the modern version of that ancient watering hole.

Video of the Day

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