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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hasbarah’

Observations on American Jewry

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I’ve been in Phoenix, Arizona for almost a week.  Although I’ve been here a number of times before, this is the first visit in which I’ve met up with the Jewish community.

Since I’ve been there before, I do know that there are some kosher restaurants, which not every Jewish community has.  That’s an indication of numbers and also of Jewish tourism.

I have friends who have lived in the Phoenix area, which includes Scottsdale and Tempe, and from them I’ve learned that there are a number of synagogues and the usual controversies and “feuds.”

Considering that my Phoenix friends are very connected to Israel, mostly living in Israel, I was surprised by how many people I met on Shabbat who have never been there.  The reasons are mainly financial.  Just to remind you, not all American Jews are wealthy.  I was in the Young Israel of phoenix, which is a very warm and welcoming community.

I had been asked to speak to the women’s class on Shabbat.  Since Shabbat was TU B’Shavat, the 35th anniversary of the return of Jews to Shiloh.  Shiloh, where I live, is now a nice sized active and warm community.  It’s located in the same spot where biblical Shiloh was.  Barely a mile from my house is the location where the Biblical Tabernacle was located for 369 years.

Since I traveled the day after Israeli elections, I’m not all that up to date with the news in Israel and was concerned that people would want information I couldn’t give.  But besides my host, who has an excellent knowledge of what’s happening in Israel, most people I met weren’t really interested.

In Israel, many of us mistakenly think that world Jewry and international politicians have nothing else on their minds but what’s happening in Israel.  The truth is the opposite, and if Israeli politicians, media, etc, would stop trying to please “the world,” then we’d be totally ignored.  There would be lots less pressure on Israel. Just like any other bully situation, the best defense is using strength against them.  All we have to do is tell all the international diplomats to mind their own business and we must stick to that line.  Don’t discuss the issues at all.

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A Nation that Stands Apart

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Today’s New York Times‘ editorial, Israel Ducks on Human Rights, a day after providing a platform for an anti-Israel, factually wrong op-ed about taking Israel/is to the ICC (and which Julian Ku wrote“If this is the Palestinian strategy to resolve their dispute with Israel, than the prospects for the settlement of this dispute are even more remote than I had previously believed.”), asserts that

Israel has increasingly isolated itself from the world with its hard-line policies on West Bank settlements, the Gaza embargo and other issues. This week, it unwisely set itself further apart with a decision to withhold cooperation from a United Nations Human Rights Council review of its human rights practices. If this paper, or any rational person, still considers the UNHRC objective, unstained,  impartial, considerate, reasonable, unbiased or somehow otherwise actually concerned with human rights and not an Israel-bashing forum whose members have ten times more problems with human rights than Israel while ignoring the human rights fiascoes in other places much worse, not to admit all the complaints against Israel are true, I stress, then the readership of the NYT as well as its editors is to be pitied.  By the way, the U.N. Human Rights Coordinator rep in Jerusalem has not yet replied or acknowledged my appeal.

The editorial even notes:

…The council…is clearly not without faults. More than half of the resolutions passed by the council since it started work in 2006 have focused on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and Israel is the only country that is a standing item on the agenda for the council’s biannual meetings.  The council hasn’t always been an effective human rights champion. But… Well, we don’t accept “buts” anymore.

The paper then contradicts itself, saying, “Israel shows not only an unwillingness to undergo the same scrutiny as all other countries.” But there is no “same scrutiny”! That’s the point.

The paper issue a threat or two and then adds that “Any new governing coalition that emerges from Israel’s recent elections should realize that there’s a cost to standing apart.”

Except that “Standing apart” is normative Jewishness. The anti-Semites stand us apart. Media bias stands us apart.Our uniqueness stands us apart. Our history and our achievements stand us apart. The Bible stands us apart. Numbers 23:9: “lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not take the nations into consideration” (my translation).

While it would be better if the nations treated us better, understood us better, aided us more, at the fundamental level, we have to take that “apartness” into consideration.

Visit My Right Word.

Dani Dayan, Caroline Glick Debate the Yesha Communities Issue

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

I mentioned the debate here.

Here’s Dayan speaking:

Caroline Glick’s words can be found here at the 49th minute or so.

Here’s what she wrote about the experience:

…in one particularly ugly segment, Levy made the scurrilous accusation that Israel systematically steals land from the Palestinians. Both Dayan and I demanded that he provide just one example of his charge. And the audience raged against us for our temerity at insisting that he provide substantiation for his baseless allegation. In the event, he failed to substantiate his allegation.

At another point, I was asked how I defend the Nazi state of Israel. When I responded by among other things giving the Nazi pedigree of the Palestinian nationalist movement founded by Nazi agent Haj Amin el Husseini and currently led by Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas, the crowd angrily shouted me down.

I want to note that the audience was made up of upper crust, wealthy British people, not unwashed rabble rousers. And yet they behaved in many respects like a mob when presented with pro-Israel positions…

I was prepared to conduct a civilized debate based on facts and reasoned argumentation. I expected it to be a difficult experience. I was not expecting to be greeted by a well-dressed mob. My pessimism about Europeans’ capacity to avail themselves to reasoned, fact-based argumentation about Israel has only deepened from the experience.

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Why Bibi is Not Intimidated by Obama

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

I’m sure Jeffrey Goldberg got it right. Whatever the reason the President leaked his unhappiness with Bibi to Goldberg just a few days before the Israeli election – whether in an effort to influence the vote against Bibi, serve payback to Bibi for a perceived preference for Romney, or because the President could simply no longer suppress his dissatisfaction – it must indeed be unnerving to be the most powerful man on Earth and have the elected leader of a tiny Middle Eastern country defy you.

That’s especially when that country, in your opinion, owes you so much! You are their only reliable friend who watches helplessly as that little nation continues to isolate itself through its self-destructive policies. According to Goldberg, Obama has “become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart… Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are… Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”

If only Israel would recognize the President’s genius. If only it would stop building in Jerusalem and E1 and allow the President to sprinkle his magic peace dust, then Hamas would beat its rockets into ploughshares and Hezbollah would turn its bombs into pruning hooks. But no. Ungrateful to the last, Bibi insists on disobeying the President and claiming all of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capitol.

No doubt the President is likewise mystified at the Israeli people as well. How could the polls show that they will this week re-elect the intransigent Prime Minister who is doing so much to harm their country? The most powerful man on Earth is reduced to watching from the sidelines and complaining to journalists that he knows how to protect Israel far better than the Israelis themselves.

Such an ungrateful nation.

And yet, perhaps the Israelis have finally figured out that they are a sovereign people whom, while immensely grateful to America for its friendship and support, are still best qualified to judge their security needs better than anyone else. Perhaps they have come to understand that another Democratic president named Bill Clinton, whom no one would argue has a sincere love of the Jewish people and a Jewish son-in-law, still pushed Israel into the Oslo agreements that left a thousand Israeli civilians blown to bits. Perhaps they have come to understand that if Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, was correct that, as a legislator from Nebraska he was “not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator,” then the Prime Minister of Israel is the likewise the leader of the Jewish state who must put the security of the Israeli people even before a nod of approval from the President of the United States.

Over the past four years Bibi has grown into one of Israel’s greatest leaders ever. The country is booming economically and in terms of security. Cranes dot the skyline of expanding Israeli cities, terror incidents are negligible compared to the Clinton era, and unlike the anemic American economy, Israel is humming along at about four percent annual growth. And if President Obama is right that, in spite of this prosperity, Israel is isolated in world opinion, then it is arguably no more so than it has been in the past, and, besides, what is better, a popular Israel riddled with dead Jews or an unpopular Israel filled with living ones?

But what President Obama does not understand about Netanyahu is that the inflexibility he accuses him of is born not of a narrow-minded obstinacy but rather of a confident Jewish pride and deep-seated conviction that has been Bibi’s lifelong hallmark.

In my desire in 1990 to launch a robust response to anti-Israel speeches at the Oxford Union, I booked Netanyahu to lecture at the University. Bibi, just 41 years old, had already electrified the world as Israel’s most capable defender at the U.N. Bibi agreed to come with a single stipulation: “If I’m already making the trip, then work me like a horse.”

We obliged.

We picked him up in a special branch police car and as we drove through the grandeur of Oxford’s ancient center, he commented on the majesty of British academia and its incongruence with some of the petty anti-Israel sentiment that is often expressed within its halls. Arriving at St. Antony’s College for a private forum with Oxford Middle East experts, Bibi put one foot on a chair and for the next 90 minutes held forth on the justice of Israel’s cause, surrounded as it was by nation’s sworn to its destruction. As he finished, the attacks came in fast and furious in what had to be one of the most hostile audiences he ever addressed. He did not blink, he did not flinch, he did not bend. When the last question ended, he turned to me to ask what next.

Why Jews Are So Bad at PR

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The biggest question surrounding the State of Israel is why it is so hated. The conventional wisdom is that the world remains hopelessly anti-Semitic and is therefore deeply biased against the Jewish State. No doubt there is some truth to this assertion.

But to absolve Israel and the Jewish people of any involvement in this monumental failure to communicate strikes me as convenient and allows us to blame others for our shortcomings.

In truth, while the State of Israel was asleep the Arabs pulled off one of the great propaganda coups in global history. They somehow convinced the nations of the world that six million embattled Jews, with a deep commitment to democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism were the aggressors in a war with hundreds of millions of oil-rich Arabs, whose governmental commitment to women’s and religious rights is tenuous at best and appalling at worst. The Palestinians in particular demonstrated a black belt in PR by convincing the world that amid their rejection of every peace deal ever offered to them, including the 1947 UN Partition plan, that it is Israel that has no interest in peace.

More than anything else ours is an age of media. Those who master media rise to great heights while those with contempt for PR most often fall. In 2000 Barack Obama lost in his run for Congress. Eight years later he was the most powerful man on earth. Why? Because in that time he mastered the media, wooed radio and TV producers, and won over op-ed columnists with his vision for America. Agree or disagree with this policies, his meteoric rise is a demonstration of how mastery over the organs of communication ultimately leads to mastery over the opinions of the people.

Yet here we are, a nation with a Biblical charge of serving as a light unto the Nations, that is simply terrible at communication. Perhaps we Jews feel that we will never be understood anyway, so why try. Or perhaps it’s that Israel’s cause seems so self-evidently just that it requires no explanation. Or maybe it’s that we find PR to be trite and superficial, all form with little substance. No matter the explanation, we have ceded the PR ground to Israel’s enemies.

The price paid is steep. What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor? Indeed, in the recent war in Gaza Israel did well in the PR battle precisely because it was using a defensive weapon – Iron Dome – which the world, amid its bias, could not possibly construe as an offensive instrument.

But the people paying the biggest price for Israel’s often deplorable PR efforts are Jewish students on campus the world over. It is at universities which are, for the most part, great bastions of liberalism that PR attacks against Israel are the most strategically coordinated and most effective. I remember as Rabbi at Oxford how well funded the Arab student organizations were while we struggled to convince donors of the importance of influencing impressionable young minds with pro-Israel advocates. Inevitably, the haphazard Jewish response by mostly volunteer activists on the world’s campuses is no match for the well-coordinated and well-funded efforts of anti-Israel campaigns that have become de rigueur on campuses throughout the world.

It is for this reason that at universities, more than anywhere else, there must be an effort to galvanize Jewish student leaders who are naturals at PR. And they must be cultivated from an early age.

The news stories this week that Ron Dermer, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s senior adviser, may be tapped to be Israel’s next Ambassador to the United States, is a case in point. If the news is accurate then American Jewry can look forward to an electrifying few years of pro-Israel arguments on the American airwaves with little previous parallel. Michael Oren, Israel’s current Ambassador, is already one of the greatest communicators ever to occupy the role. As a world class historian prior to taking the post, he has further distinguished himself as an eloquent and magisterial defender of the Jewish State.

Cut from the same cloth, Dermer will take this to the next level. In my experience, Ron is quite simply the most capable and erudite advocate for Israel alive anywhere in the world today. From the time that he arrived at Oxford in the mid-1990s as a brilliant political science superstar from the University of Pennsylvania, he shone as a leader and as one of the University’s most charismatic students. At the time, the battles we faced in making the case for Israel at one of the world’s premier universities was intense. Oxford receives a great deal of Arab philanthropy and each year graduates the sons and daughters of the leading Arab families of the Middle East. In addition, the University has long had a romantic history of Arabism and Lawrence of Arabia was one of Oxford’s greatest twentieth century products.

Taking Advantage of the Siege of Jerusalem

Monday, December 24th, 2012

The 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, which fell out yesterday, commemorates an important precursor to the current siege that surrounds Jerusalem. Important, not because of the similarities between now and then but because of the refreshing opportunity implicit in the post-modern siege, both for Israel and for those who seek to impede its actions.

Regional conquest and domination were the obvious goals and the ultimate results of Nebuchadnezzar II‘s siege of Jerusalem on the Tenth of Tevet, 588 years B.C.E. Ancient Babylonia was building its empire and Jerusalem was not to stand in its way. To this day Jews the world over fast on the Tenth of Tevet, aligning their worldview with that of their biblical prophets who viewed the siege as a harbinger of the Temple’s destruction, the fall of Jerusalem and the Jewish exile. But must a siege always spell doom?

The odds were stacked against Jerusalem. Judea’s brethren in the northern kingdom of Samaria had long been overrun, exiled and dispersed. Clearly, the domineering Babylonians had the military advantage over the civilians within Jerusalem’s walls and the diplomatic edge over the Judean kings who were largely subservient to Babylonia. Once the siege was in full swing the only offense that could be offered was a strong defense. As time would tell, seasoned wellsprings of uncompromising leadership and inspired camaraderie had long dried up. If not Nebuchadnezzar II it would have been someone else. Jerusalem’s days were numbered.

A curious and historic role reversal has come to the fore in the wake of the international E-1 frenzy. Under normal circumstances, he who lays a siege is he who has the upper hand. But traditional sieges have always presented a clear and present danger to their victims. When the battlefield is replaced by press rooms and war is waged with windy condemnations, can the aggressor assume that he has a strategic advantage? Should he? And need the besieged party shudder at the thought of protracted belligerence?

Belabored, anticipated, thoughtless and knee-jerk attacks from EU countries regarding Israel’s decision to fortify its capital city awaken a true sense of sympathy for Europe’s impotence beyond its own borders. Berating Israeli diplomats adds some spice to the anti-Israel monotony, but photo ops are short lived and shifting the props on the set makes no impact on the ground. Indeed, the tragedy of fruitless attempts to impact the Middle East via mass media and open letters from Diaspora Rabbis to Israel’s Prime Minister lies not in the inefficacy of these failed approaches, but in the desperate delusion that they may actually make a difference.

Israel was infamously slow on the uptake when it came to identifying the sophisticated public relations war that it now faces on all sides. But it has become far more concerned about being forced  to live in bomb shelters than it is threatened by condescending statements by statesmen who care little for the survival of its sovereignty. Notwithstanding the multiplicity of narratives about what Israel was, is and will be, reality has a power all its own.

To date, Israel has emerged as the indisputable victor of the international diplomatic and propaganda siege that has befallen its capital city and, by extension, its people. On the foot-heels of Operation Pillar of Defense and on the eve of national elections, external pressure applied to Israel serves to strengthen the resolve of its people. Israelis have learned to live with international disdain for their very presence in the only country they can call home. Instead of apologetics, they engage in self-preservation. When Tel Aviv is hit by the same rockets that have consistently plagued Sderot, the people of Israel band together. There’s a reality on the ground and it will not yield to those who launch endless assaults from the world of ideas.

But is this a war that Israel wants to win? And if it is, then is this the way that Israel wants to win it?

Sure, the triumph of Zionism against relentless surrounding pressure is sweet. Yes, it’s difficult for Israelis to avoid a boost to their national ethos and ego following incessant efforts by their detractors to aggrandize the significance of the Jewish State by singling out the heinous crime of building homes while turning a blind eye to Syria’s gruesome civil war. But Israel has little to gain from its own self justification. And such an activity has even less to offer.

In many respects, today’s siege of Jerusalem amounts not to an undermining of its would-be fortifications but to a desperate cry for help from the international community. In a season when Western nations experience swift demographic overhauls, at a time when fiscal cliffs loom just around the bend and in a climate of nuclear proliferation among the world’s less predictable parties, somehow or other Israel grows increasingly stable. How does Israel survive in the Middle East? How does it manage to thrive?

In a benevolent and unwarranted attempt to judge the rhetoric of the international community favorably, we can attempt to attribute an optimistic angle to the world’s otherwise inexplicably disproportionate preoccupation with Israel. Perhaps, deep down inside, these nations want Israel to configure new algorithms for the benefit of humanity. After all, if Israel can save itself, then maybe it can save others as well. If Israel can generate a successful formula for coexistence with its Arab neighbors from without and from within, then maybe “peace on Earth” is not an empty slogan. If Israel can learn from the lessons of its past, then maybe the construction of Jerusalem will be viewed as a greater contribution to mankind than its destruction.

Jerusalem’s besiegers are a captive audience. It’s time for Israel to speak.

European Friends, European Foes

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

We wrote yesterday ["11-Dec-12: On screaming silence and thundering demagoguery"] about the almost complete silence of the governments of Europe in the face of the sickening bigotry and repeated incitements to terrorism of the Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in a series of speeches this past weekend in the Gaza Strip.

We mentioned how the EU has poured withering criticism on Israel for its plan to build housing for several thousand families in Jerusalem, while uttering only the faintest bleat over Mashaal’s whipping up the Palestinian Arabs into a death-to-Israel frenzy.

About that bleat: turns out it happened only because of what Israel Radio calls “an 11th-hour intervention by Germany and the Czech Republic“. Here’s the statement that the pressure achieved:

“The EU finds inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to existunacceptable.”

Let history record that four of the EU member states opposed any condemnation at all of Mashaal’s calls for Israel’s annihilation and destruction. The four are Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Ireland.

To his credit, and his country’s, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle acknowledged today that his country was responsible for inserting the condemnation of Hamas into the EU statement.

“We absolutely condemn the statements by Hamas leader Mashaal. Anyone who questions the right of Israel to exist can not be a partner for peace talks. Mashaal’s public pronouncements demonstrate to the world how justified Israel’s security concerns are…”

The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana famously observed that

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

Given the massive demographic changes washing over Europe, and the spirit of cowardly appeasement in the air, it appears that those who cannot remember Santayana or the message he sought to impart are condemned to live through just what he warned would happen.

Visit This Ongoing War.

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