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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘east’

Go East

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The anniversary of the Yom Kipur War always reminds one of Israeli fallibility, arrogance, and overconfidence, yet at the same time of its capacity to defy the odds and come back from the brink. It was another example of our bringing disaster upon ourselves and then fighting back to survive. After all, that is what the name “Israel” means in the Bible: “to struggle with man and God and survive”.

If I were to listen to the voices, Jewish and non-Jewish, that I hear in such examples as The New York Times, in The New York Review of Books, the intellectual and leftwing talking heads of Europe and the USA, or indeed popular left wing opinion, I would have a depressing sense of impending catastrophe. This week Peter Beinart, in The New York Review of Books, tells us that we Jews neither know, nor understand, nor feel the suffering of the Palestinians, whether under Hamas or the PLO. Ian S. Lustick goes on at length in a one-sided peroration typical of The New York Times that the lays the blame on Israel for making the Two State Solution irrelevant. They are not entirely wrong. But I tell you I am bloody fed up with people lumping all Israelis, all Jews together in their simplistic apportioning of blame, seeing things in black and white rather than in greys. Palestinians are good victims. Israelis are bad oppressors. In fact, both are both. That’s what humans are, a mixture of good and bad.

Some Israelis, some Jews are indeed intolerable racists. It is as true as is the fact that in South Africa under Apartheid there were Jews who acquiesced, who remained silent and failed their moral duty. But it is equally true that many Jews fought long and hard and at great cost to themselves, to oppose Apartheid and to promote freedom for the black population. That the ANC finally triumphed has not replaced immorality with morality, discrimination with equality. Sadly, too often those who suffer respond not by continuing the drive towards greater freedom but by grabbing all they can for themselves. This is the usual consequence of most struggles for freedom. Similarly, in Zimbabwe the relatively benign but overtly racial regime of Ian Smith was replaced by the much more evil and murderous regime of black Mugabe. Good fighters for freedom turn into very bad governors of countries. But that is the price of the struggle. And politics is dirty and messy everywhere.

The role of government is to protect its citizens and the vision of its founders. Israel was created as a state with a Jewish heritage, just as much as Muslim states were established to preserve and propagate Muslim heritage. Most of us would like to see both as tolerant and democratic societies. Israel is imperfect indeed, but it is our homeland. If we care for it we should fight to protect it and to improve it, not to undermine it. We should focus just as much on those who are working hard on reconciliation, on doing good, not just on the bad, on Syrians treated in Israeli hospitals, on Israel providing for Gaza what Egypt is not. But don’t expect this from the anti-Israel amen chorus.

So how are we expected to relate to a dysfunctional Middle East that is constantly stirred up against us by a distorted Western mentality? Surely not by capitulating to its mental diseases. I suggest we try to ignore its pathologies as best we can. But I must stress, I do not advocate cutting ourselves off from the Muslim world. The Middle East is not the only Muslim location. I do not think the divide between Judaism and Islam is either inevitable or healthy. We have far more in common with each other than we do with Western religions. To both of us, religion is not a series of theological propositions but a way of life. However if we want to heal the breach we must look further east.

It always surprises Jews to learn that the Muslims of the Far East, from India to Indonesia, from Cambodia to China, see the Arab jihadis of the Middle East in much the same way that non-Orthodox Jews view Charedim. They regard the Salafists and the Wahhabis as over the top extremists. It’s true in both cases that guilt often leads them to support the pious at arm’s length. The Far East also has its extreme and violent Islamic movements and terrorists, but the general mood of Islam is far more benign the further you get from the Middle East. It is more tolerant, less anti-West, and less fixated on blaming everyone else, especially the Jews, for their own ills. Yes, you can quote me that nasty former Malayan premier Mahathir bin Mohamad, who blamed the Jews for everything. But, thank goodness, he was not typical. I believe Israel should reduce its links with Europe with is ghastly legacy and history. It should be cultivating relations and economic involvements with India, China, Korea, and other emerging powers out in the Far East.

Daniel Goldhagen, the controversial and outspoken American historian who wrote Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, has stirred things up with his latest book about Western anti-Semitism, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. Anthony Julius wrote a dismissive review in the Wall Street Journal accusing Goldhagen of sloppy research and unreliable statistics, even if he agrees with the core of his thesis. But even if Goldhagen exaggerates when he says 200 million Europeans compare Israelis to Nazis, let us reduce it by half. The fact is that huge swathes of opinion in Europe and the USA are venomously opposed to Israel’s existence on principle. So who is Israel to rely on? We knew Europe would never go to war to defend the Jews. Now we have seen all too clearly that the USA cannot be relied upon to fight. It is war weary. Israel must defend it itself as best it can, both socially and militarily. It is time to look for friends elsewhere.

In addition, I believe Judaism has more in common with and is more appreciated by the religion and mysticism of the East than of the West. The West is fixated on pain, suffering, guilt, and negativity. The East has much more positive religious energy. We have been identified with the Western religious tradition for too long. We have adopted too much of this guilt and pain. We could well redress the balance. It is time to think about a new alliance, a new love affair, with the Far East for Israel and Jews in general. I only hope our present leaders, secular and religious, will not be as myopic as those of the past.

US: Negotiations Resume Wednesday, ‘Outpost’ Construction Illegitimate

Friday, August 9th, 2013

In Thursday’s State department’s daily press briefing, Spokesperson Jen Psaki announced that the peace negotiations (lovingly nicknamed MEPP) between the Israelis and Palestinians will resume on August 14 in Jerusalem, to be followed by a meeting in Jericho.

In response to a question about the Israeli government’s decision to build between 800 and 1,000 more housing units on the wrong side of the “green line,” Psaki answered: “Our position on settlements has not changed. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and oppose any efforts to legitimize settlement outposts.”

But she was quick to add that Secretary of State John Kerry still “believes both of the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith and are committed to working together to make progress.” Meaning, she thinks the announcement was little more than some muscle flexing in Jerusalem, in preparation for the next bout with the Palestinians, nothing that couldn’t be shut down in a phone call. Indeed, she added, “We are speaking to the Government of Israel and making our concerns known.”

According to Psaki, Ambassador Martin Indyk, who’s been not-achieving peace in the Middle East since late last century, and Deputy Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein, also known as a Kerry staffer, “will travel to the region to help facilitate negotiations.”

But lest you raise your hopes in vain, according to Psaki, Kerry does not expect to make any announcements in the aftermath of this round of talks.

As The Jewish Press reported earlier, Secretary Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice held roundtable discussions with Jewish American and Arab American community leaders last night, and there’s one coming this Friday morning, at the White House. These meetings are expected to serve as “an opportunity to update community leaders on the resumption of direct final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as to hear directly from these community leaders about their perspectives.”

Indyk and Lowenstein also attend these two meetings.

Before the first meeting, Psaki stated the Secretary is “looking forward to these discussions with leaders who have been deeply involved in these issues for many, many years, and who share our goal of achieving a final status agreement with two states living side by side in peace and security.”

Or, as our reporter Lori Lowenthal Marcus put it: “Kerry Briefs Jewish ‘Leaders’ (Cheerleaders?) on MidEast Talks.”

To remind you, the first release of Palestinian prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands is scheduled for Tuesday, on the eve of the talks in Jerusalem.

As to the construction in outposts, about which the U.S. is so upset – it began with an announcement by Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this week, about renewing construction in East Jerusalem, a legally annexed area under Israeli sovereignty. But, of course, none of it is happening any time soon. As we told you over these screens, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home is the one coalition member which is not part of the peace negotiations “team.” By team, of course, they mean anyone but Bennett and Uri Ariel. So, the honorable minister’s ability to turn his promises about construction into actual construction is very similar to your and my ability in the same area.

So he might as well promise a million new uinit. Sounds better and has the same results.

7-Eleven on Grand Street

Friday, August 9th, 2013

To most of our readers around the globe, this might not mean much. But the idea of having a 7-Eleven outlet on Grand Street, on the very hallowed ground where Jewish immigrants—workers and scholars, poor and relatively less poor—have set foot for the first time in America… Well, frankly, I’m not sure what it means, but it certainly signals change. The Lower East Side is Moishe’s Bakery, not Denny’s. It’s small, individualized, personal—not a chain of identical stores selling identical products to millions.

20130731-115350Speaking of change, according to my friends at The Lo-Down, the website serving the old neighborhood with hyper-local news and tidbits, the first customer to purchase anything at all at the new 7-Eleven was my good friend and former client, Jacob Goldman, of Loho Realty, a man who’s been embracing change on the Lower East Side since change became in again.

My daughter was absolutely overjoyed with the news—she’s been a documented Slurpee addict since Slurpee was recognized as an addiction by the APA. My daughter declared she was starting to save for a ticket back, to have her frozen flavored drink.

And so the battle is being waged – Zionism and national renewal versus Slurpee. And I’m not betting on that one.

Video: Camp Jihad

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This film was shot on location in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, by a TV crew hired by the Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.


The Land without Muslims

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

There are countries in the world, mainly in Europe, that are presently undergoing significant cultural transformations as a result of Muslim immigration. France, Germany, Belgium and Holland are interesting examples of cases where immigration from Muslim countries, together with the Muslims’ high fertility rate, effects every area of life.

It is interesting to know that there is a country in the world whose official and public approach to the Muslim matter is totally different. This country is Japan. This country keeps a very low profile on all levels regarding the Muslim matter: On the diplomatic level, senior political figures from Islamic countries almost never visit Japan, and Japanese leaders rarely visit Muslim countries. The relations with Muslim countries are based on concerns such as oil and gas, which Japan imports from some Muslim countries. The official policy of Japan is not to give citizenship to Muslims who come to Japan, and even permits for permanent residency are given sparingly to Muslims.

Japan forbids exhorting people to adopt the religion of Islam (Dawah), and any Muslim who actively encourages conversion to Islam is seen as proselytizing to a foreign and undesirable culture. Few academic institutions teach the Arabic language. It is very difficult to import books of the Qur’an to Japan, and Muslims who come to Japan, are usually employees of foreign companies. In Japan there are very few mosques. The official policy of the Japanese authorities is to make every effort not to allow entry to Muslims, even if they are physicians, engineers and managers sent by foreign companies that are active in the region. Japanese society expects Muslim men to pray at home.

Japanese companies seeking foreign workers specifically note that they are not interested in Muslim workers. And any Muslim who does manage to enter Japan will find it very difficult  to rent an apartment. Anywhere a Muslim lives, the neighbors become uneasy. Japan forbids the establishment of Islamic organizations, so setting up Islamic institutions such as mosques and schools is almost impossible. In Tokyo there is only one imam.

In contrast with what is happening in Europe, very few Japanese are drawn to Islam. If a Japanese woman marries a Muslim, she will be considered an outcast by her social and familial environment. There is no application of Shari’a law in Japan. There is some food in Japan that is halal, kosher according to Islamic law, but it is not easy to find it in the supermarket.

The Japanese approach to Muslims is also evidenced by the numbers: in Japan there are 127 million residents, but only ten thousand Muslims, less than one hundredth of a percent. The number of Japanese who have converted is thought to be few. In Japan there are a few tens of thousands of foreign workers who are Muslim, mainly from Pakistan, who have managed to enter Japan as workers with construction companies. However, because of the negative attitude towards Islam they keep a low profile.

There are several reasons for this situation:

First, the Japanese tend to lump all Muslims together as fundamentalists who are unwilling to give up their traditional point of view and adopt modern ways of thinking and behavior. In Japan, Islam is perceived as a strange religion, that any intelligent person should avoid.

Second, most Japanese have no religion, but behaviors connected with the Shinto religion along with elements of Buddhism are integrated into national customs . In Japan, religion is connected to the nationalist concept, and prejudices exist towards foreigners whether they are Chinese, Korean, Malaysian or Indonesian, and Westerners don’t escape this phenomenon either. There are those who call this a “developed sense of nationalism” and there are those who call this “racism”. It seems that neither of these is wrong.

And Third, the Japanese dismiss the concept of monotheism and faith in an abstract god,  because their world concept is apparently connected to the material, not to faith and emotions. It seems that they group Judaism together with Islam. Christianity exists in Japan and is not regarded negatively, apparently because the image of Jesus perceived in Japan is like the images of Buddha and Shinto.

The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam. They make a clear distinction between their economic interest in resources of oil and gas from Muslim countries, which behooves Japan to maintain good relations with these countries on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Japanese nationalist viewpoints, which see Islam as something that is suitable for others, not for Japan, and therefore the Muslims must remain outside.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-land-without-muslims/2013/05/19/

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