web analytics
December 9, 2016 / 9 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘military’

Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (VII)

Friday, November 25th, 2016

In July 1981, Judge Aubrey E. Robinson granted Simcha Goldman a temporary restraining order preventing the Air Force from enforcing its headgear regulation. After a full hearing in September 1981, Robinson again ruled in favor of Goldman, enjoining the Air Force from enforcing its uniform regulations that prevented Goldman from wearing his yarmulke while in uniform. Robinson held that the regulations violated the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause and noted that the military failed to show any objective studies showing that religious exemptions would erode morale in the military.

It looked like Simcha Goldman had won his own private battle; the court upheld his right to wear a yarmulke in service and the Air Force did not challenge this ruling. Then suddenly things starting moving like a force of air.

The wing commander at the March Air Force base decided that there should be no exceptions to their regulations. This sentiment was conveyed to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) who apprised the Under Secretary of the Air Force. The Under Secretary walked out of his office in the Pentagon, headed left down the corridor a full 27 yards and then deposited the request upon the desk of the Secretary of the Air Force.

There wasn’t all that much further that this could climb other than out the door of the Pentagon and across the Potomac four miles to the White House. Prudency urgently demanded that some arresting sobriety be applied. Judge Robinson’s decision applied to Dr. Simcha Goldman only. The injunction addressed the petitioner exclusively and could impact on no other serviceperson.

If the Air Force were to launch an appeal and the court would reject it, the Goldman decision would then become the law for all. A betting man probably would have rejected such odds and consequences; but then again, a betting man is not a military man. Indeed.

The Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of Defense appealed the District Court decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The government in its appeal argued that wearing a yarmulke in the military was an obstacle to uniformity, esprit de corps and teamwork.

Goldman’s defense was that the military’s regulations violated the protection afforded in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

When may the government enforce a law that burdens an individual’s free exercise of their religious beliefs is a question that has been the source of fierce legal debate. Goldman’s counsel, Mr. Nathan Lewin, argued that Goldman’s privilege of free exercise in this case should be analyzed under the standard enunciated in the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision Sherbert v. Verner.

The Sherbert case started in 1957 when Adell Sherbert became a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, a Christian denomination that teaches that Saturday, not Sunday, is the proper day for the Christian Sabbath, and accordingly Saturday is the day of rest. Two years after this affiliation, the workweek at the mill where she was employed in Spartanburg, South Carolina changed to six days; and Sherbert refused to work on Saturday causing her to be discharged from her employment.

Sherbert looked for Monday-to-Friday work with the other three mills in Spartanburg but failed to find suitable employment. She then filed for unemployment compensation benefits under the South Carolina Unemployment Compensation Act. The South Carolina Employment Security Commission denied the request claiming that her religious justification for refusing suitable Saturday work was not adequately compelling.

Judgment was based on the state law which provides that, to be eligible for benefits, a claimant must be “able to work and…available for work;” and a claimant is ineligible for benefits “if…he has failed, without good cause…to accept available suitable work when offered him by the employment office or the employer….” In other words, the Commission only provided unemployment benefits to people for whom work was not available, not to people who were unavailable to work.

Sherbert sued, claiming that the denial of benefits was an unconstitutional infringement of her First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The Court of Common Pleas for Spartanburg County rejected this claim and found for the Employment Security Commission (ESC). Sherbert then appealed this decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court’s decision by rejecting the appellant’s contention that the South Carolina statute abridged her right to the free exercise of her religion.

(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a peasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

US Delegation Visits Israel to Learn Emergency Response Technology

Monday, November 14th, 2016

A delegation led by the chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau visited Israel last week to learn new techniques in emergency response, according to Defense News.

The delegation, hosted by Israel’s Homefront Command, was led by Air Force General Joseph Lengyiel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Participants watched a large-scale exercise in northern Israel, where emergency responders trained in alerting and assisting civilians “under threat” by Hezbollah terrorists.

The Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group has an arsenal of nearly 100,000 rockets and missiles stored in the mountains and valleys across the border from northern Israel.

The American delegation also was briefed on the latest technology being used in Israel, including the “personal alert” service, an individual warning system that sends alerts straight to one’s smart phone.

In addition, the group learned about the new “National Alert” system, a central command and control system that activates and sends out alerts across all the warning channels of Homefront Command.

Hana Levi Julian

Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (VI)

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

In April, 1981 Rabbi Dr. Simcha Goldman was forbidden from wearing a yarmulke while serving in the US Air Force. He brought the matter to court, suing the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, on behalf of the Air Force for having violated his First Amendment rights under the Free-Exercise clause. The Air Force countered that it had strong interests in maintaining a rigid uniform requirement to maintain esprit de corps and teamwork.

The legal irony was that when Goldman sued the military he was already out of service, hence the issue of the yarmulke was moot; courts deal with actual problems, not theoretical ones. However, since Goldman was prompted to take emergency leave consequential to the Air Force’s refusal to allow him to wear a yarmulke in service, he lost several days of work and compensation to the tune of $100.

Goldman was suing over the civil rights issue, but as Dovi Butler from COLPA was putting together the case for him, the attorney asked if there was anything else that he wanted to throw in. The $100 was an afterthought, but only because of this, the theoretical – and no longer pertinent issue of the yarmulke – was resuscitated.

This paltry $100 over which the case was convened would result in the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars on Uncle Sam’s tab in court-related expenses.

Goldman sought to acquire a permanent injunction along the lines of the temporary restraining order, and the Air Force – after initially waffling – resolved that it would fight. Their decision contained an inherent gamble, as the temporary restraining order, and the permanent injunction that Goldman sought, would have awarded him alone the right to wear a yarmulke in service. But if the Air Force was to lose their challenge, this might open a floodgate of requests for head coverings from turbans to taqiyahs to kafiyehs – all with a legal precedent from a district court.

And yet, and yet, the Air Force had made their decision and decided to call in the big guns. We’re talking very big and top guns, respectively. The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force appealed the district court decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

All stops were unplugged for the Air Force’s appeal. At tax-payer’s expense, Captain Simcha Goldman was flown from California to Washington D.C. to give a deposition. It is extremely unusual – nearly unprecedented – for the defendant being sued to cover the expenses of the plaintiff. It also demonstrates how determined the Air Force was to high-handedly quash this lawsuit.

It might also be assumed that they believed (Simcha’s words) Goldman to be a big mouth, and he would inevitably say something in the deposition that could be used against him.

In order to fortify their case, for which they were going to great lengths and sparing no expense, the Department of Defense felt it essential to bone up on their knowledge of Jewish law as it pertained to wearing a yarmulke. Farcically, the authority they employed to instruct them was a Jewish Conservative chaplain, hardly an expert in the intricacies of halacha.

The thrust of the Air Force’s defense was that the Constitution only protected a genuine religious law; not a personal preference. Wearing a yarmulke, they argued, was not the law. This was to be established by subjecting Goldman to a battery of questions formulated by their expert non-scholar, argued by a military lawyer absolutely clueless about what he was trying to prove before judges even more in the dark, unfamiliar with the terms and not comprehending the concepts.

Here is some of the legal wizardry marshaled by the Air Force’s Litigation Dream Team to highlight how arbitrary and non-binding Jewish law is.

*Orthodox Jews do not eat meat and milk together, yet they are not required to have two separate refrigerators. Are they?!

A: The prohibition is to consume meat and milk together; not to store them together. Refrigerators have not been known to do the former.

*Do you wear tzitzis as prescribed by the Biblical Verse Numbers 15:38.

A: I do

*So why are you concealing them?

A: To display them openly would be a violation of military protocol and uniform regulation.

*“Aha!” cried the prosecution with an exult of victory, “if you compromise on this issue, why were you so intransigent on the yarmulke issue?”

A: The requirement to wear tzitzit may be fulfilled whether they are concealed or not. There is no way to cover the head in a concealed way.

This would have and should have been an adequate answer, but Simcha Goldman decided to get legalistic and elaborated that not all of the commandments have the same weight. Some are biblical, some are rabbinic. Some rabbinic laws may actually carry more weight than a biblically ordained law.

Goldman plowed on inducing the kind of excitement reserved for a logarithm chart. Despite the judges’ best efforts, one magistrate’s eyes were glazed, another looked about as numb as a guy doped up for a bypass and the third seemed oddly unenriched by the fine distinctions between rabbinic and biblical law. But this was not about to stop Team Air Force.

*Do you wear a yarmulke when you take a shower?

A: A yarmulke is meant to display fear of Heaven when one is out and about. There is no need to cover one’s head in the privacy of a shower, nor is it in any way practical.

*JAG’s military lawyer grasped at the straw. Do you mean to imply that there is no requirement to fear Heaven in a shower?

Instead of replying the obvious, which would have – admittedly – required some halachic clarification which would have surely been lost on the judges, Goldman flustered. In this moment of indecision. another question was fired causing the plaintiff to reply, “I do not know.”

*What do you mean, “You do not know? You are a rabbi; you must know the answer.”

Nathan Lewin, who represented Goldman in the hearing, could take no more of this and wisely retorted, “Not every lawyer knows the answer to every legal question.”

In summation it would be fair to say that although the courtroom had all the excitement of a mausoleum on a slow day, witnesses recalled that although the Defense’s Talmudic arguments did not score any points, they were nonetheless humor-inducive.

Just like in the restraining order, Judge Aubrey Robinson ruled again in favor of Goldman in a decision rendered in April, 1982. The main attorneys for Dr. Goldman were Nathan Lewin and Dovi Butler; Dennis Rapps wrote the brief. The judge noted that the military failed to show any objective studies conveying that religious exemptions would erode morale in the military.

(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Report: S. Korean Military May Lease Israeli Reconnaissance Satellite

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

South Korea may lease a reconnaissance satellite from Israel to obtain information on North Korea’s military activities, military officials told the Yonhap news agency Tuesday. Currently, South Korea relies on US reconnaissance satellites for military information on the North’s nuclear and missile-related maneuvers.

“The military is expected to have its own surveillance satellites as early as 2023 that will allow Seoul to closely monitor military activities in North Korea,” a ministry official said, adding that this “is years behind the defense ministry’s original schedule to deploy five surveillance satellites between 2021 and 2022 as part of the country’s ‘kill chain’ strike system to deal with missile threats from the North.”

Faced with increasing nuclear and missile threats by the North, the government is looking to lease a reconnaissance satellite from Israel or other foreign countries, the official said.

Last September Israel launched the Ofek 11 satellite, with better spying capabilities than its predecessors, such as following targets with a higher efficiency and accuracy than previous spy satellites.

Pyongyang has conducted five nuclear tests in the past decade and launched a series of missiles, including an intermediate-range ballistic missile which is believed to be capable of reaching US territories in the Pacific like Guam.


Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (V)

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

After these turn of events, Goldman weighed his scant options. He considered requesting the Jewish Defense League (JDL) to conduct a protest across from the base, and he had some other not-fully-prudent ideas, but in the end he did the smartest thing that he could have done, which was to contact COLPA who advised him – among other things – not to organize any protests.

Goldman recounts that his predicament – one against the entire military establishment – was at the same time stressful and, oddly, exhilarating. He felt as if the Almighty was tapping him on the shoulder and whispering, “I want you to pull this off for Me.”

Goldman received the slightest of reprieves when the military defense counsel (who was all incredulity that Goldman refused a direct order and continued to walk around the base wearing a yarmulke) argued that the Letter of Reprimand should and could not be placed in Goldman’s file, for at the time of the order’s non-compliance the Defense Counsel was out-of-town.

The council further advised, upon examining the file, that Goldman take immediate advantage of the six days of leave that were coming to him. Simcha complied with this advice, applied for emergency leave – which was granted – providing him with nearly a week’s reprieve.

COLPA’s handling of the case was spearheaded by David Butler who worked for Nathan Lewin. Butler apprised Goldman that they were seeking injunctive relief from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (the correct address for military matters) claiming that the Air Force had violated Goldman’s First Amendment rights under the Free-Exercise Clause.

The district court under Judge Aubrey E. Robinson (the very same judge who had ruled in favor of Rabbi Geller) granted Goldman a temporary restraining order on July 3, 1981, preventing the Air Force from enforcing its headgear regulation.

“There can be no doubt that the Plaintiff’s insistence on wearing a yarmulke is motivated by his religious convictions, and therefore is entitled to First Amendment protection,” Robinson wrote. “Because of the seriousness of the First Amendment allegations,” he continued, “and resulting pressure on the Plaintiff to abandon his religious observances, injunctive relief is appropriate.” Judge Robinson also ordered the Air Force to withdraw the letter of reprimand and negative performance evaluation given to Goldman.

As a restraining order is filed in court it is technically a public matter. Factually, court orders are filed all the time, and no one in the public is the wiser. But in this instance an alert reporter was present – and sensing a serendipitous moment – was going to turn this routine court procedure into a national scoop.

After the termination of his emergency leave, yarmulke-adorned-Goldman returned to the base protected by a court order. No commander appreciates his wings clipped by an underling – how much more so in the wing-sensitive Air Force – and, as always, action begets a reaction.

Simcha Goldman received notice that the courtesy that the Air Force afforded him regarding Sabbath accommodation would be curtailed. The standing arrangement was that he worked one-and-a-half hours later on Thursdays so that he could depart one-and-a-half hours earlier on Fridays (Sabbath observance commences with sundown on Friday and concludes at nightfall on Saturday) in order to spend the Sabbath with his family that lived 90 minutes from the base.

The Air Force could deny Goldman the courtesy, as they were not requiring him to violate his Sabbath. Nothing prevented Goldman from observing the Sabbath by remaining in his office on the base for the duration of the 25-hour period, sans his family.

The fact that the Air Force lost nothing by allowing him to work extra hours on Thursday to compensate for what he would miss on Friday was immaterial. The matter was up to their discretion and this was a fight that Simcha Goldman could not win. The same could be argued regarding the yarmulke, but Goldman was emotionally unable to abandon that battle.

Because of his dogged commitment to principle, he ignored – initially – conventional wisdom which dictated for Captain Goldman to drop out of the Air Force and curtail the wave of hardships that were engulfing him. But no wisdom, conventional or otherwise, was able to dissuade him from fighting for his religious rights.

Alas, prudency would yet prevail. Despite Simcha’s desire to remain in service, it no longer made any sense, and was thrusting him into thornier dilemmas and further jeopardy. Daily. The four-year obligation that he owed the Air Force to compensate for funding his education was completed in August, 1981 and, reluctantly, he retired.

Simcha Goldman’s lawsuit against the Air Force came to trial in late September, 1981. He was suing the Air Force for… the $100 he had been docked in wages by being forced to take emergency leave. This created an interesting, legal paradox.


(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

U.S., Israel Sign Historic Military Aid Bill

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The United States and Israel made history last week, signing the largest ever military assistance package between the two allies.

“I think it is a message of deterrence to Israel’s enemies in the Middle East,” David Makovsky, a former U.S. senior adviser on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told JNS.

“Whatever U.S.-Israel policies differences there have been over the past several years, there now is a rock solid long term commitment to Israel’s security. There’s no adversary in the Middle East that has a commitment in advance of $38 billion dollars in support.”

The new security deal, which covers fiscal years 2019 to 2028, stands at $38 billion or $3.8 billion per year.

“This unprecedented agreement will ensure Israel maintains a strategic military edge over the next decade, which is the largest military aid package ever given to any other nation,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said the agreement “sends an important message to the entire region of the Middle East of the enduring strength of the U.S.- Israel special relationship.”

“It underscores to those who have tried to portray a fraying in the fabric of the relationship that the two countries have the strongest security and intelligence cooperation and an enduring commitment to mutual support,” he said.

While the aid package was widely praised by Israeli and American leaders, it includes a number of notable changes from the existing military aid agreement that may fuel questions over the deal.

Previously, Israel obtained additional funding for its missile defense program on an ad hoc basis from Congress. Under the new agreement, this funding, roughly $5 billion, will be included in the agreement and committed toward missile defense assistance, therefore eliminating Israeli lobbying with Congress.

It also includes an end to Israel’s ability to use the military aid within its own defense industry and to lobby Congress for additional funding for its missile defense program.

Makovsky believes it was important for Netanyahu to enter the agreement with Obama to bolster the bipartisan consensus on Israel.

“For Netanyahu, this was important to have this is done under Obama’s signature,” said Makovsky, who serves as distinguished fellow and director of the Project on Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “People question bipartisanship when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship and here you have a liberal Democrat president who’s signing off on ten more years of military support for Israel.”


Sean Savage

American Military Aid: Bad for America; Worse for Israel

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

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

See, you trust in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; where on if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him. – Isaiah 36:6

Reactions to the signing of a 10-year $38 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) for American military aid to Israel are coming in, as predictable as the moon and the tides. The man Netanyahu calls Israel’s “worst Prime Minister ever”, Ehud Barak, claims that Netanyahu could have obtained another $7 billion a year if only he hadn’t opposed Obama’s Iran deal so strongly. Similar remarks have come from the parliamentary opposition, unsurprisingly. Others thank America for its commitment at a time that its own military budgets are being slashed. Still others curse it for helping Israel with its continued ‘genocide’ against the ‘Palestinians’, who have tripled in number since 1970.

The truth is that Israel does not need and should phase out military aid from the US. It is bad for Israel and bad for the US.

  • Israel doesn’t need it: The $3.8 billion per year that will come from the US is about a quarter of Israel’s 2015-16 defense budget of $15.47 billion. This is a lot of money, but consider that the government’s overall budget is about $89 billion, and Israel’s gross domestic product today is close to $300 billion, almost double what it was 10 years ago.

In addition, the new agreement phases out Israel’s ability to spend any of it outside of the US. In the past, up to about a quarter of the aid could be spent in Israel. Does anyone doubt that many items can be procured here or elsewhere, at lower cost? I don’t. The F-35 alone costs about $200 million per aircraft. Are there alternatives? We might be able to find out if we went shopping with our own money (possibly the F-15SE would become available).

Finally, increased investment in our military industries would improve our ability to sell our products to other countries, helping to offset the loss of US aid.

  • Aid gives the US administration too much leverage over Israeli policies and actions:  PM Netanyahu will be meeting with Barack Obama next week at the UN. Obama will certainly make demands about Israeli-PA relations, the blockade of Gaza, and more. Do we want to give him a club to hold over our heads?

During the Gaza War in 2014, Obama cut off the supply of Hellfire missiles and other items in response to (tendentious) complaints that Israel had deliberately shelled a UN school. The more we can reduce our dependence on aid, the more equipment like this can be manufactured at home.

Israel needs freedom of action to respond to threats. The aid comes with too many strings attached.

  • Aid distorts our military purchase decisions: If you can get your army boots – or fighter aircraft – “for free” then maybe you settle for something that doesn’t meet your needs quite as well as a product  you have to pay for.  The decisions about what we will be given are based in part on US policy objectives and, since the aid is in effect a direct subsidy to the US defense industry, domestic American considerations – not what’s best for Israel.

For example, it has been suggested that manned fighter aircraft will be much less important in future warfare than drones, but we get ‘free’ fighter planes from America and build our own drones; so we have lots and lots of manned fighter planes – maybe more than we need.

The F-35, with its cost and all its problems, stands out. As I wrote a few weeks ago, would Israel even have considered replacing its F-16 fleet with F-35s if the first batch weren’t ‘free’?

  • Aid corrupts our military decision-makers: The word ‘corrupts’ is a strong word, but may not be out of place. If you are a Chief of Staff, and a quarter of your budget comes from America, wouldn’t you take the US administration’s wishes into account when considering whether or not to take some particular action (say, bombing Iranian nuclear installations)? How could you not do so? Enough said.
  • Aid cripples the development of our own military industries: This may be the most important consideration of all. Although the new MOU represents an increase from the previous $3.1 billion a year, it phases out over five years the ability to spend up to about a quarter of it for locally-produced goods. If we don’t have the capability to produce our own weapons, our dependence on the US becomes even greater, and we lose the jobs and technical know-how that come from it. Buying our own would pump additional money into our economy, which helps offset the loss of American aid. Even the IDF’s boots, formerly made in Israel, are now ordered from the US.
  • Aid doesn’t necessarily guarantee a qualitative edge: One of the rationales for US military aid was that the US promised to maintain our “qualitative military edge” (QME) over our enemies, as a way of counteracting their numerical superiority. But the US has more and more been selling its best weapons to anyone who can pay for them. The way to maintain the QME, then, is for Israel to use her technological abilities to develop weapons and countermeasures for her own use that will not be available to her enemies.
  • Aid damages Israel’s standing as a sovereign state: A nation that is dependent on another for its defense is a satellite, not an ally. In order to maintain her national self-respect, Israel should pay for her own defense. In addition, Israel’s accepting aid provides ammunition for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda in America.
  • Phasing out aid is better for America: The US is burdened by a large and growing debt. The end of military aid to Israel can only help America meet her own civilian and military needs.


Naturally, there will be objections.

Israel can’t afford expensive systems like the F-35 without aid. First, it’s not true, and second, maybe we don’t need such expensive systems, or so many of them.

But the US makes the world’s best weapons. Perhaps. If so, we should buy them with our own money. I’m not suggesting we break relations with the US. And who is to say that our home-made products won’t fit our unique needs better?

But it takes time to build up our industries. True, which is why I want to phase out the aid over a period of years rather than cutting it off sharply.

But what about the close cooperation between Israeli and the US defense industries? I’m not suggesting that such cooperation couldn’t continue, but in a framework of mutually beneficial business deals when indicated, as partners rather than clients.

But AIPAC works so hard making it possible. Yes, and Israel should be grateful to AIPAC and to its friends in the US Congress that for decades have made it possible for Israel to survive in its dangerous neighborhood against great odds. But the situation has changed. What used to be a necessity became a luxury, and then changed into a dangerous overindulgence. It’s not like there aren’t other critical issues that AIPAC could focus on.


In recent years much has changed in the world and in the Middle East. Israel, which was a third-rate power that managed to win her wars against great odds, became a first-rate power that nevertheless seems to be stymied and incapable of decisively prevailing over much weaker opponents. Although there are several reasons for this, one of the main ones is the increasing influence and control over Israeli decision-making by the US – whose government, at the same time, has become less and less supportive.

I’m sorry to say that I believe the US is in serious economic, social, political and even security trouble today – truly a broken reed. I hope it will repair itself. But like Isaiah’s Egypt, it is not a staff to lean upon.

Vic Rosenthal

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/abu-yehuda/american-military-aid-bad-for-america-worse-for-israel/2016/09/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: