web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Council’

Obama Administration Stabs Israel in the Back

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

The Founders in their wisdom divided the powers of government; some to the Executive, some to the Legislative. The power of the purse went to Congress; diplomacy to the Executive.

How that shakes out matters to the U.S. and our democratic allies.

The democracy of Israel, for example, had a good week with Congress. The Senate adopted, by unanimous consent (and 69 sponsors), a bill increasing coordination in the fields of missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence, and cyber-security. It also called for enhancing Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), a difficult-to-measure state of affairs, but a concept that friends of Israel appreciate. The House already passed its version of the same legislation.

The practicality of the bill is striking: do things, share things, develop things, produce things, and protect things. These are security enhancements that can only be done with an ally. Congress wants to do them with Israel.

President Obama, on the other hand, has been doing diplomacy, which by its nature skirts the concrete. Many administrations, including this one, believe speech is action. Diplomats fear they won’t get credit for damage avoided, so they often choose to produce no outcome all – just another meeting set for later – and never end the “process.” Playing for compromise – or even a respectable loss – can be satisfactory. Talking can replace doing. That may work for the United States, a big country with room to maneuver when it makes mistakes, but Israel lives much closer to the edge. Diplomatic trouble can quickly become economic, political or military trouble.

The UN Security Council has not managed to have a discussion about Syria since April, but the President has finally figured out how to have the Council “briefed” on the subject by Navi Pillai – a renowned Israel-basher. The French wanted to discuss Syria. The Russians were willing only if the US-French-British adventure in Libya was on the docket. Rotating member Pakistan wanted to hang Israel. And so a deal was done – give up Israel for Syria – protecting the French, skirting the Russians, and accommodating our friends the Pakistanis. As a veto-wielding member, the U.S. could have nixed the program, but instead insisted only that the Syrian meeting be held in the morning and the Israel-bashing in the afternoon; Ms. Pillai will have time in between for lunch.

Read the unparalleled Anne Bayevsky for the details.

France, by the way, was the only European country to agree that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem should be listed as a Palestinian UNESCO Heritage Site. The US is not a member of the World Heritage Committee. Our delegate campaigned against the vote, but lost. We are accustomed to losing in the UN, and it seems not to bother us much as it should for a country that covers nearly a quarter of the U.N.’s payroll with a blank check, no questions asked (or, more accurately, no answers given).

In the UN Human Rights Council, our representative Eileen Donahoe again remonstrated the Council for its “biased and disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by this standing agenda item.”

The “standing agenda item” is Item 7, “Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab territories.” It mandates that every discussion in the Council have a component devoted to (castigating) Israel. Ms. Donahoe objects – but she knows (her boss, the President, knows) she will lose every time because she is sitting with the likes of Congo, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Qatar, Cuba, the PRC and Malaysia. Players rotate (terms on the Council are three years), but the number of countries with unspeakable human rights records far exceeds the number of democratic countries, and the number of countries that vote en bloc (Arab/Muslim/African) far exceeds the number voting independently. The Council will always contain a preponderance of authoritarian countries whose governments engage in human rights abuses and have nothing to lose by castigating Israel.

President Obama stated that the U.S. would engage the Syrian uprising in the context of UN-sponsored discussion and UN-sponsored plans. Over last weekend, the UN-sponsored Syria Action Group convened in Geneva. Neither the Syrian government nor the opposition attended. The final communiqué told both how to behave; both rejected the tutorial. The U.S. and Russia also have also publicly disagreed about the implications of the document.

Day Two of the Presidential Conference Closes with Pessimism about the Global Economy

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, and Financial Times Reporter Martin Wolf headlined a panel led by Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer.

The panel, which focused on the future of the global economy was highlighted by a general sense of pessimism, with several members noting that tough times lay ahead, particularly for Europe.

When the discussion turned to the strength of the Eurozone, an especially grim picture emerged.

“If things are just left to unfold as they are now,” said Wolf, “with the resources they put up for it – the Euro zone is going to fail.”

Ferguson echoed this stormy forecast, noting that the current stagnation may be a precursor for larger problems, saying, “We ain’t seen nothing yet. The flash crash (of 2008) will be nothing compared to the next crash.”

The session also included Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Alan Bollard and was preceded by an address from Alassane Ouatarra, President of the Ivory Coast.

While the panelists tended to see a bleak picture, President Outarra’s address was filled with optimism in the strength and potential of the growing African economies, calling them the “African Lions.” Yet, he too recognized that economic prosperity needs stability.

“The democratic process is irreversible,” said Ouatarra, “but we need to win the war of security for economic development so that the next generation can benefit too.”

My Machberes

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Cemetery Restoration:
The Jewish Press At The Forefront

With the contributions of Torah Editor (and rav of Khal Bnei Matisyahu) Rabbi Yaakov Klass and the editorial leadership of Senior Editor Jason Maoz, The Jewish Press and this column have been privileged to assist in the resolution of cemetery preservation efforts abroad.

We are particularly proud to have been of assistance in the cemetery preservation and restoration impasse deliberations in Romania and Spain that were favorably moved ahead and successfully resolved. The following press release from the Admas Kodesh organization reflects the positive results of the many efforts invested:

Admas Kodesh Resolution on Jewish Cemeteries
Ratified by the Council of Europe

At the initiative of Admas Kodesh, the Standing Committee of the Council of Europe has unanimously adopted a landmark resolution on the protection of Jewish cemeteries at its meeting in Tirana, Albania, on May 25, 2012.

This milestone has been reached after a seven-year campaign of intense lobbying at this major European body based in Strasbourg, representing 47 European member states and composed of 636 parliamentarians.

Brooklyn-based Admas Kodeshis the American arm of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, also known as C.P.J.C.E., has extensive legal and political experience in the fields of human rights, freedom of religion, protection and preservation of cultural heritage, and education. This leadership has been recognized in the Council’s resolution.

The initiative for this important resolution, which will hopefully have a major effect on the protection of hundreds of thousands of Jewish graves in Europe, came from Rabbi Abraham Ginsburg, secretary general of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. Having actively been involved in campaigns to protect Jewish cemeteries and mass graves in a number of Eastern and Western European towns, Rabbi Abraham Ginsburg realized that recognition of the importance of protecting Jewish cemeteries must be addressed within a European political and legal framework.

With the active support of the revered Rosh Yeshiva and President of the C.P.J.C.E., Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, and Rabbi Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, Mattersdorfer Rov and leading member of the American Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, and Rabbi Yitzchok Zekel Pollak, Dayan of Machsike Hadass Kehila of Antwerp, together with Rabbi Chaim David Zweibel and David Moskowitz of New York, Mr. Nathan Rothschild of Zurich, and Professor Zvi Loonstein of Amsterdam, the long slow bureaucratic processes of Council of Europe were gradually set into motion, leading to this significant outcome.

Raising awareness of the particular Jewish sanctity of all Jewish burial sites including Jewish mass graves made a tremendous Kiddush Hashem throughout the Council’s different committees involved.

Admas Kodesh praises the open-mindedness of Council delegates who were presented for the first time with a comprehensive explanation of the Jewish laws pertaining to burial sites. They truly marveled at the beauty of the halacha.

The necessity of consulting with world-recognized Rabbonim on questions relating to Jewish burial sites at risk was emphasized, and C.P.J.C.E. compiled a special treatise on “The Sacred Obligation of Burial and Life After Death in Jewish Belief,” containing explanatory notes on this subject written by Rabbi Schlesinger, revered Rosh Yeshiva Horomo in London, and head of the CPJCE’s Rabbinical Board. The role and dedication of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe has been highlighted in the resolution and its leadership in this field has been recognized.

The massive legal research involved in this campaign was conducted by Professor Christians, expert in religious freedom at Louvain-La-Neuve University, who also compiled, at the request of Admas Kodesh, a major study on “Protection and Preservation of Jewish cemeteries and Mass graves in European and national law.”

Meeting with the consul general of Romania.

The resolution, based on these major essays, declares: “The Assembly asserts that right of freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights upholds the right of the deceased to rest in peace in accordance with their religious belief and the responsibility to protect human dignity in a broader sense, by ensuring that deceased persons are preserved in their place of burial in a manner compatible with their religious practice.”

The explanatory memorandum of the resolution has been built on a detailed report written by C.P.J.C.E. experts. It contains a description of Jewish burial sites, the threats they face, consequences of desecration, case studies, examples of difficult cases and good practices for protection of Jewish burial places.

Israel Cuts Contacts with UN Human Rights Council

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Israel has officially decided to end all contact and cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council and will not permit the entry of the Council’s ‘fact-finding’ observers, after passage of a resolution calling for a probe of Israel’s conduct in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the decision on Monday.

The UN body resolved “to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission” to “investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the…right of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.” The resolution, the first ‘fact-finding mission’ authorized by the 47-member Council, was adopted by a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions. The United States was the lone dissenter.

The Israeli government has not said if and how it intends to sanction the Palestinians, who initiated the resolution.

Israel Radio reported on Sunday that Israel was considering suspending tax transfers to the Palestinians and, according to a report in Yediot Ahronot, freezing an initiative to allocate 5,000 new work permits to Palestinians.

“We have many resources but we will act with discretion and will not shoot from the hip,” Deputy FM Danny Ayalon responded when asked what measures Israel might take.

Outraged Israeli Leaders Pledge Boycott of UN Human Rights Council, Punitive Measures Against Palestinians

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The fury sparked in Israel by the UN Human Rights Council’s passage of a resolution Thursday – which ordered a fact-finding inquiry into Israeli settlements and their infringement on the rights of Palestinians – has shown no signs of abating, as the Israeli security cabinet is set to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss possible punitive measures.

The UN body resolved “to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission” to “investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the…right of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.” The resolution, the first ‘fact-finding mission’ authorized by the 47-member Council, was adopted by a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions. The United States was the lone dissenter. Beyond the predictable reflexive anti-Israel votes (Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Norway), Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium were among those that voted for the resolution. Even those countries that have stood with Israel in past UN votes (Czech Republic, Poland, Guatemala, Hungary) only managed to cast abstentions, which in UN forums is often the closest Israel can get to an expression of support.

In the same session, the Council also approved four other resolutions against Israel: on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (44 for, 1 against [USA], two abstentions [Cameroon, Guatemala]); on the Right of the Palestinian People to Self-Determination (46 for, 1 against [USA]); on the Follow-up to UN Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza (29 for, 1 against [USA], and 17 abstentions); and on Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan (33 for, 1 against [USA], and 13 abstentions). All except for the last resolution were submitted by ‘Palestine’.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that Israel would not be cooperating with the Council: “We have no reason to continue cooperating with a hypocritical organization which specializes in double-speak and has a mission to smear us…We know in advance what their conclusions will be.”  Israel Radio reported that Israel is considering simply barring entry to delegates of the Council. Ayalon also warned the Palestinian Authority that it should not expect “cooperation” from Israel “while it is fighting it in international forums.”

Israel Radio also reported on Sunday that Israel was considering punitive measures against the Palestinians like suspending tax transfers and, according to a report in Yediot Ahronot, freezing an initiative to allocate 5,000 new work permits to Palestinians.

“We have many resources but we will act with discretion and will not shoot from the hip,” Ayalon responded when asked what measures Israel might take.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu responded angrily to the vote, saying the Council “should be ashamed of itself…the Council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.”

Avigdor lieberman, speaking to Israel Radio while on a visit to Singapore said, “[t]his hypocritical organization has nothing to do with human rights. Its bias and lack of objectivity are obvious…We will not be actors in this theatre of the absurd, where 70 percent of the council’s decisions are hostile to Israel.”

Lieberman continued to blast the Council on Sunday, saying: “We are considering asking free countries like the United States to withdraw from this organization.” But the US State Department quickly quashed this possibility by issuing a statement that appeared to defend the Council’s work, saying that it had “helped spur action on a series of important human rights situations around the world,” but added that the US condemns the Council’s anti-Israel bias which “continues to unnecessarily politicize the Council’s human rights agenda.”

 

 

 

 

A Decade after Demise of his Alternative Station, MK Katz Alters Broadcasting Authority Law

Monday, March 5th, 2012

A change proposed in the Broadcasting Authority Act by National Union Chairman MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzale) has been accepted, and the law will now read: “The composition of the Supervisory Council will reflect, as closely as possible, the entire range of prevailing public opinion.”

The Knesset Economic Committee held a heated discussion Monday over the composition of the incoming Broadcasting Authority Supervisory Council. MK Katz argued that the previous text, which stipulated that “the composition of the Council will reflect, if possible, the range of prevailing public views,” created a distortion, and therefore large communities felt alienated and segregated from public broadcasting.

Ketzale argued that the “if possible” clause was a slippery slope that had led to the current situation, where only two out of 31 members of the outgoing council wear a kippa.

Ketzale insisted on entering into the language of the act a correlation between the actual findings of the Central Bureau of Statistics regarding the different segments of the Israeli public and the makeup of the Council.

Representative of the Department of Justice attorney Dana Neufeld argued that it was unacceptable to allow strictly mathematical figures to determine the makeup of the Broadcasting Authority Supervisory Council.

MK Katz asked if she would still feel that way if the new Council were to be composed of 29 bearded Haredim and only two Secular members.

In the end, with assistance from Committee Chair MK Carmel Shama-Cohen, a “softer” version of Ketzale’s text was accepted, and the law now reads “as closely as possible,” instead of “if possible,” regarding the statistical correlation and the council’s membership.

Since the founding of the state, there have been complaints from segments of Israel’s public which felt that their opinions, traditions and culture were under-represented by the majority Ashkenazi elite that had the run of the state’s public media. In the years since that early period, bitterness and resentment have been growing, as the nation’s major media outlets are considered to be held “captive” by a relatively small cultural elite. While it may no longer be as readily identified ethnically, it has been seen by many to be forcing the views and cultural preferences of a very small minority, while blocking access to the public means of production and dissemination from many who hold competing views.

MK Katz himself was involved in the late 1980s and through the ’90s in running a pirate radio station called Arutz Sheva off the coast of Tel-Aviv, serving up alternative programming and giving the state’s official broadcasters a run for their money.

In February 1999, the Knesset passed a law legalizing the operation of Arutz Sheva and absolving it of earlier illegal broadcasting, but Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on an appeal that the law was null and void. In October 2003, ten employees of Arutz Sheva were convicted of operating an illegal radio station, and then station director Ya’akov Katz (Ketzaleh) was convicted on two counts of perjury.

Creating the means, today, of appointing a Broadcasting Authority Supervisory Council which would act to bring into the public broadcasting fold voices that so far have been barred from government-sponsored studios will surely bring closure to Katz’s own two and a half decades of struggle.

Demonstrations And Remonstrations On Agunah Day

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Those who are subjected to emotional suffering tend to be kept out of society’s line of sight. All the more so when society is either the cause of the suffering or can alleviate it and does not do so.

On the individual level, suffering takes up all of one’s energy, attempts to escape it consume one’s financial resources, and all of one’s time is expended in its alleviation. As a result, it is easy for the average person not to notice the suffering or to ignore it.

Fortunately, tools have been developed that serve as reminders that stir our conscience. One such tool is the determination of particular calendar days to raise awareness of a specific phenomenon. This is the purpose of International Agunah Day.

Ta’anit Esther, which falls on March 7 this year, has been set aside to remind us that there are women suffering in our midst as their Jewish husbands refuse to free them from the bonds of marriage despite the marriage’s utter breakdown. In doing so, the husband creates the agunah – the victim of get-refusal.

Not much has been done since last year’s Agunah Day to resolve the agunah problem. If anything, the problem has grown more acute – witness the weekly seruv listings on the pages of The Jewish Press. The refusal of Jewish men to grant Jewish women a get has been reported on the pages of various Jewish-American and Israeli publications and, even more devastating for Jewish society, the general media, both mainstream and social: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

The standing of Jews is weakened every time those who aren’t Jewish read, see or hear about the inability of a grown woman to exercise her human right to leave a failed marriage. Her inability is an expression of the inability of the greater Jewish society – laypersons and rabbis alike – because it is due to the quiet acceptance of her suffering. The inaction in our communities and in our rabbinic establishment is more than a reflection of our ignoring the problem. It is actually a cause of the problem.

Get-refusal is a particularly insidious form of domestic abuse, since the abuser justifies his actions to himself. After he has totally convinced himself he is acting in accordance with societal mores it is easy for him to continue in his recalcitrance. As it is, the community around him is wont to “keep out of other people’s private affairs” and will conveniently ignore the suffering caused to the agunah, thus adding to it.

When rabbis do get involved and issue a ruling that the man has made his wife into an agunah, it may have been so long in coming that the husband’s obstinacy has been buttressed and reinforced by society’s inaction up to that point.

Fortunately, not all Orthodox Jews are complacent in this simplistic ignoring of the agunah problem. For example, the Yeshiva University-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot in the United States and the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel have extended help in many forms to many agunot, working to ease the women’s pain and bring about a resolution. Indeed ORA has organized numerous demonstrations over the past few years, held in protest of recalcitrant husbands’ abuse of power.

It is interesting to note that the clear majority of protestors in the earlier demonstrations were Modern Orthodox, with “yeshivish” individuals joining later on. The crying out against abuse of agunot coupled with the relative lack of public disapproval gives the impression that the more stringent a community in its adherence to kashrut, Torah study and dress code, the more lax it is in its adherence to two crucial mitzvot: lo ta’amod al dam rey’echa and hocheyach tochiach et amitecha.

In the first instance, one is instructed by Torah law not to stand idly by when one’s fellow Jew is suffering, when that person is in need of help, when one’s support can make the difference. The latter mitzvah makes it incumbent on the God-fearing Jew to remonstrate one who is behaving improperly and transgressing a commandment. The agunah and the get-refuser, respectively, are prime examples of these categories. Where is the community’s stringency in obeying these two mitzvot? Where are the societal demonstrations of zero tolerance for any instance of get-refusal?

The Rabbinical Council of America resolved in 1994 “that every member of the Rabbinical Council of America will utilize prenuptial agreements, which will aid in our community’s efforts to guarantee that the get will not be used as a negotiating tool in divorce procedures. ” How many other sectors of Orthodox Jewry have made a similar declaration?

Any society is judged by how it treats its weak and suffering. Just read the words of our prophets. For Jews, that is the measure of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name. Tragically, the get-refuser and the society that turns a blind eye to his actions choose to ignore that responsibility. For the desecration of God’s name is not caused only by the get-refuser himself. The entire Orthodox Jewish community is responsible.

Unchaining The Agunah Problem

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

In producing “Women Unchained,” a daring yet dignified film about women who can’t get a get – a Jewish divorce – filmmakers Beverly Siegel and Leta Lenik have done Jewish society a favor. By tackling the agunah problem with deep understanding of this complex issue, these two women have made it possible for rabbis and laypersons, ordinarily pitted against each other on this issue, to really hear the other side.

First, some definitions. A Jewish woman whose husband refuses to give her a get is called an agunah, from the Hebrew word that means anchored. According to traditional Jewish law, which serves as the basis of jurisprudence on matters of personal status for all Jews in Israel, an agunah is not free to remarry and build a new life, even if she is civilly divorced, until she receives a get from her husband.

Moreover, for the get to be considered kosher, it must be given by the man of his own free will; it cannot ordinarily be forced. It is his decision, not the rabbis’ decision.

If an agunah flouts this restriction and marries civilly without a get and gives birth to a child, the child of that forbidden union may be stigmatized as a mamzer and, as such, be barred from marrying freely in a traditional Jewish ceremony anywhere in the world. No comparable penalty strikes a child fathered by a divorced or separated man who has not given his wife a get. This is the core of the problem. And this is the reason why some men hold out for – and get – astronomical sums of money to “buy” their free will.

“Women Unchained” tells the stories of five Orthodox women who are victims of their husband’s refusal to give them a get. Without resorting to hyperbole or hysterics, the filmmakers involve the viewer in the constrained rhythm of the women’s daily lives.

One works in the cafeteria of a Jewish day school to support her daughters, while waiting 10 years for her husband to release her. Another sits home alone at the computer shut out from joining a Jewish dating website because women who are divorced must have a get to be accepted. Another, a former victim of domestic violence whose father paid dearly to buy her get, tends her garden and tartly observes, “Each weed is a recalcitrant husband. Yank.”

Exposing the impact of get abuse on family members, the teenage daughter of one of the agunot asks why she should marry a Jewish man, if it might land her in the same situation as her mother. “I know I’m Jewish,” she says in a poignant scene, “but maybe I should just have a live-in boyfriend, so at least I’ll be able to be free.”

As personal sagas develop, narrator Mayim Bialik (a Ph.D. in neuroscience, though she’s better known for her roles in the television sitcoms “Blossom” and “The Big Bang Theory”) elegantly and with insight carries viewers on a journey that doesn’t flinch from describing the phenomena of domestic violence; get abuse; the traditional Jewish ban on reporting another Jew to secular authorities; Orthodox rabbinic inertia; hit men; and, in accounting-ledger detail, the “getonomics” that pinched the father of one agunah for $500,000 to buy his daughter’s freedom.

Historical background is engagingly conveyed while interviews with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski; Rabbi Gedalya Schwartz of the CRC; Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes; Project Eden founder Henna White; family law expert Alexandra Leichter; author/therapist M. Gary Neuman, and leading agunah-rights advocates (this author included), help to crystallize the important issues.

Lest one think non-Orthodox Jews are immune to these problems, the impact of the get issue on non-Orthodox Jews is deftly explained by Rabbi Seth Farber, who notes that if new olim want “to open a marriage file in Israel, they will have to provide certification from a recognized Orthodox rabbi.” A woman who’s been divorced will have to produce a get and in the case of the daughter of a woman who’s been divorced, “the rabbinate will insist on seeing an Orthodox get from the mother before they allow the daughter to open a marriage file.”

From the U.S. to Israel to Peru, unexpected twists and turns – some filmed in real time – bring the viewer to outrage as well as laughter out of disbelief. Nevertheless, this film does not leave us empty-handed or helpless. A clear statement is made to all marrying couples and their parents: A good Jewish marriage is one where the couple signs a prenuptial agreement for the prevention of get-refusal. It works.

There is nothing easy about dealing with the agunah problem. It’s extremely uncomfortable to talk about; it’s difficult to explain to the uninitiated; following the Jewish law that leads to the problem is confusing if one is not a Talmudic scholar; it’s especially incomprehensible to those who were born with the silver spoon of civil rights built in to their lives.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/unchaining-the-agunah-problem/2011/12/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: