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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘opinion’

The Truth is a Minority Opinion

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

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

This morning I got an email from an American correspondent asking what are the arguments for the legitimacy of Israeli communities (not ‘settlements’) across the Green Line, including all of Jerusalem. When I responded, I realized that although I have written about this before, it needs to be repeated – and repeated, because in this case the truth is a minority opinion. So here is a slightly more complete version of my answer:

The Jewish people have a legal, historical and moral right to live anywhere in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean; and the only sovereign power in this region is Israel, the state of the Jewish people. Here is why:

From a legal point of view, the land was originally a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ceased to exist at the end of WWI. “Palestine” was set aside for the Jewish people by the Palestine Mandate, which was supposed to be administered for their benefit by Britain, which then tried to subvert it for its own interests. It’s clear that while the intent of the Mandate was that all residents would have civil rights, rights to a “national home” were reserved for the Jewish people, who were also explicitly granted the right of “close settlement on the land”. This was affirmed for all the land from the river to the sea by the representatives of the international community in 1923.

The partition resolution of November 1947 (UNGA 181) was non-binding – a recommendation for a permanent settlement after the end of the Mandate. But it was never implemented. In 1948, the Arabs rejected the UN’s partition resolution and invaded the territory of the former Mandate, blatantly violating  the UN Charter in an attempt to acquire the territory for themselves. The 1949 ceasefire agreement that ended hostilities was not a peace agreement, and both sides insisted that that the ceasefire lines were not political boundaries. Their only significance was to mark the locations of the armies when the shooting stopped.

The 19-year Jordanian annexation of the territory it controlled that followed was illegal, only recognized by Britain (and maybe Pakistan). This occupation did not change the status of the land in any way.

The state of Israel was declared in 1948 and recognized by numerous other states. But what were its borders? Certainly not the armistice lines and not the recommendations of the partition resolution. However, legal scholars Eugene Kontorovich and Avi Bell recently provided a clear answer:

Israel’s borders and territorial scope are a source of seemingly endless debate. Remarkably, despite the intensity of the debates, little attention has been paid to relevance of the doctrine of uti possidetis juris to resolving legal aspects of the border dispute. Uti possidetis juris is widely acknowledged as the doctrine of customary international law that is central to determining territorial sovereignty in the era of decolonization. The doctrine provides that emerging states presumptively inherit their pre-independence administrative boundaries.

Applied to the case of Israel, uti possidetis juris would dictate that Israel inherit the boundaries of the Mandate of Palestine as they existed in May, 1948. The doctrine would thus support Israeli claims to any or all of the currently hotly disputed areas of Jerusalem (including East Jerusalem), the West Bank, and even potentially the Gaza Strip (though not the Golan Heights)

Israel’s practical acquisition of sovereignty over all the land in 1967 is thus entirely legitimate. And since Israel did not occupy land belonging to any other sovereign power, it is incorrect to refer to Judea and Samaria as “occupied territory.” Naftali Bennett’s statement that “you can’t occupy your own land” is precisely correct.

Article 49 of the 4th Geneva convention, the usual justification for saying that settlements are illegal only applies to occupied territory, which Judea and Samaria are not. But even if they were occupied territory, the intent of article 49 was to prevent forcible transfer of a population the way the Nazis sent German Jews to occupied Poland, not people moving of their own free will.

From a historical point of view, the Palestinians claim that they lived here for generations and European Jews came and displaced them. But in fact all but a few ‘Palestinians’ are descended from Arabs who migrated to the area for economic reasons after the advent of Zionism, and even fewer arrived before the invasion by Muhammad Ali in the 1830s. The Jewish connection to the land doesn’t need further explication. Judea and Samaria, in fact, represent the biblical heartland of the Jewish people, where its history took place and where its holy places are located. If there is any part of the land of Israel that should belong to the Jewish people, it is Judea (including Jerusalem) and Samaria.

From a moral point of view, the Palestinians have had criminal leaders that have relied on war and  terrorism to achieve their goals. Haj Amin al-Husseini started several pogroms in pre-state Palestine, and then collaborated with Hitler in his attempt to bring the Holocaust to the Middle East. Yasser Arafat and the PLO popularized airline (and other) hijacking to blackmail nations into supporting his goals, and was responsible for at least one major regional war (Lebanon 1982) and countless massacres and terror attacks against Israel and other nations. Hamas explicitly calls for genocide against Jews and is guilty of numerous war crimes. Palestinians have refused territorial compromises when offered and have started several wars against Israel (1947, second intifada, Hamas wars). Why should they be allowed to benefit from these actions?

Jerusalem. One interesting additional issue is the insistence of the US State Department that no part of Jerusalem, eastern or western, belongs to Israel. The 1947 partition resolution called for Jerusalem to be under international control. But as I noted, the resolution was only advisory and was never implemented. The Mandate did not give any special status to Jerusalem. The State Department’s insistence on this point is inconsistent, given that it appears to agree that Acco and Nazareth, which were to be parts of the Arab state proposed in 1947, are currently parts of Israel. It is also indefensible. And the deliberate vehemence with which the Obama Administration has pressed this view is irrational, insulting and clearly anti-Zionist.

I hope the information in this post will be helpful to my correspondent, and to others as well. I’ll add that nothing would make me happier than to hear the Government of Israel make an unambiguous declaration of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, as is our legal, historical and moral right.

Vic Rosenthal

It’s My Opinion: Be A Man

Monday, December 5th, 2016

The heroic action of a nine-year-old South Florida boy has gone viral. The youngster, Joseph Levy, caught his brother, Eitan, in mid-air as the 11 month old wriggled off of a changing table and careened toward the floor. Joseph ran over from across the room and caught the baby in his arms.

Joseph acted with prowess. The heart-stopping incident happened in a flash. His mother had turned her head for a moment and did not see what was happening. The near accident took place in the space of a few seconds.

The episode was captured on the family’s home camera. Joseph’s mother, Tila, released the footage to create awareness to other parents of what can happen in a split second of not being vigilant. Anyone who views the video will agree.

In Pirkei Avot, Hillel asserts,“In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man.” Hillel was urging his followers to be a mensch, a person who is naturally a hero because of doing the right thing. There are times in life that there is no one else to act and we are called on to take the initiative and do what needs to be done.

After the Hebrews were freed from Egypt, they stood at the edge of the yam suf. The Egyptians had changed their minds and were coming in their chariots to take back their slaves. The people cried and prayed. According to the Midrash, Hashem ordered, “Stop crying and stop praying and jump in.” Only when Nachshun jumped in to his nose did the sea part.

Congratulations, Joseph Levy. You are a role model for us all. You jumped in. You saved your brother. Kol hakavod.

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Monday, November 21st, 2016

The great philosophers gave us much to consider. Their ideas have been recognized and contemplated. Their thoughts and advice have been respected and heeded, their words examined and weighed.

It is quite ironic, however, that one of the great axioms of all time did not come from Aristotle or Plato or even a great rabbi or religious leader. It came from a baseball icon and his observation on the 1973 National League pennant race.

Manager Yogi Berra’s New York Mets were far out of first place when he uttered the now famous phrase “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The remark proved prescient. Berra’s team persevered and went on to the World Series.

The result of the presidential election is an example of this phenomenon. Popular wisdom posited that there was no way Donald Trump could possibly win. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were headed to the White House. The certainty was great.

Pundits were confident in their assumptions. They offered charts and tabulations proving their expectations. They quoted polls. They cited profiles and statistics. On election night, even when actual voting numbers came, many broadcasters continued spinning an unlikely path to a Democratic victory. They could not believe they had been mistaken.

Yes, it truly ain’t over till it’s over. The mainstream media had it wrong. Their preset agenda and insulation kept them from seeing the real fear, anxiety, frustration, and alienation felt by a good portion of the electorate. Issues such as the economy, jobs, border control, terrorism, and a disastrous national insurance plan became impetus for wanting a change.

Hopefully, Americans will learn from what has been a grueling and difficult period and use this fresh start to unite and work together as a winning team.

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: Diversity 101

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Several South Florida synagogues used a new prayer book this year. Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe was presented to the membership of four Reform congregations this high holiday season. The book is meant to offset what many felt to be the “insensitive” words and themes found in traditional Jewish texts.

“Countertexts” are presented throughout the volume. They are intended to encourage a more open-minded style and discard imagery that might feel uncomfortable in its religious approach. The old liturgy seemed to be filled with xenophobia and in need of a fresh eye.

The idea that traditional Judaism relies on halacha (Jewish law) and Jewish practice seemed to smack of exclusivity in a culture that reveres diversity. Sources in Mishkan HaNefesh include non-Jewish poets and writers like Walt Whitman and Jewish writers like Allen Ginsberg and Grace Paley.

Mishkan HaNefesh was put together with a decidedly non-patriarchal agenda. God is referred to in both feminine and masculine pronouns and terms. Brides and grooms are referred to as non-gender “couples.” Political correctness is paramount. The comfort level of each and every reader is imperative.

The people responsible for Mishkan HaNefesh accomplished their goal. Their prayer book is truly p.c. It embraces all.

And perhaps that is its downfall.

Authentic Judaism’s authority comes from Hashem, not people’s sensitivities. Its directive is the Torah, not attainment of every individual’s optimal comfort level.

The efforts of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which published the book, were obviously well-intentioned. However, the obsession with emphasizing feel-good political correctness in lieu of legitimate Jewish concepts removes Mishkan HaNefesh from consideration as a serious Jewish resource. The book’s content is more akin to a text used in a liberal university’s diversity 101 class than to a Jewish New Year machzor.

Perhaps the authors of Mishkan HaNefesh would benefit from heeding the tagline of a popular hot dog commercial and “answer to a higher authority.”

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: Shanah Tovah

Monday, October 10th, 2016

The South Florida community is reeling from the shocking death of beloved Miami Marlins superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez, who was born in Cuba, finally made it to the shores of South Florida when he was 15. He and his mother had previously endured three failed attempts to escape from the oppressive communist regime.

During the dangerous crossing, someone on the boat fell in the water. The teenager didn’t hesitate. He jumped overboard to help his compatriot. Incredibly, it turned out the near-drowning victim was his own mother. He saved her life.

The boy grew up and became a talented and famous Florida baseball player. It wasn’t just the sports community that admired Fernandez. He was an amazing athlete, but beyond that he was thought of as a positive role model, especially among the exile community.

Fernandez was 24 when he died. He and two close friends were killed in a terrible boating accident in the waters off Miami Beach. Jose Fernandez had a future. He had plans. How could this have happened?

We have all heard the Yiddish proverb, “A mensh tracht un gut luft” – man plans and God laughs. Apparently, man is not always the final arbiter. Life is actually quite tenuous. Sometimes an unexpected calamity really gets our attention. People of every religion, ethnicity, and background have been moved by this tragedy.

The recent Rosh Hashanah holiday and the upcoming day of Yom Kippur are reflective of the fragility of human existence. It’s easy to get used to operating on autopilot mode. The “high holidays” create a reality check.

“…How many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire…” These heavy words are part of the liturgy at this solemn time. We are urged to be introspective and examine our lives. Hopefully, this process will act as a catalyst to entering the year with a positive, new, and good start.

Gmar Chatimah Tovah. May you be entered in the book of life and only for good. Shanah Tovah – a happy, healthy, and sweet new year.

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: Free Yom Kippur And Rosh Hashanah Tickets

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, The Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, and many participating synagogues in Florida have joined forces to make sure that every Jew can be accommodated with seats for the upcoming Jewish holidays. It is a very special project.

Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are traditionally times that synagogues raise funds by charging for seats in their sanctuaries. However, this expense can be a very difficult challenge for those who barely manage financially from month to month. Unfortunately, these are times where living from paycheck to paycheck is not an unusual occurrence.

Families who have just dealt with back-to-school clothing and expenses find themselves tapped out. Seniors who live on social security or pensions often do not have a dollar to spare. Just putting food on the table and a roof overhead is a daunting task for many of our brothers and sisters.

For some unaffiliated Jews, attendance at a synagogue on the “high holidays” is the last vestige of clinging to their faith. It should not be taken away.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh – All Israel is responsible for one another. If you or someone you know can use this help go online at Jewish.Miami.org/highholidays, which includes a link to the list of participating synagogues, or phone 305-371-7328.

To accommodate everyone and to ensure security, advance registration is required.

See you in shul!

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: Recipe For Disaster

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Temple Beth El in Hollywood, Florida has launched something called “Shabbat Lite.” The innovative Friday night service will begin this month. It is an attempt to accommodate members of the congregation who, according to a story in the local Sun-Sentinel Newspaper, are very busy and “need a taste of Shabbos, even if we can’t devote an entire day to it.”

The abbreviated service is 18 minutes long. Congregational leader Rabbi Allan Tuffs hopes to meet the needs of his time-challenged congregants. The service will incorporate candles, Kiddush, challah, prayers and songs. It will begin at 6 p.m. and end at 6:18 and will leave open the option for attendees to go home to a family Shabbat dinner or “to a nice restaurant or a walk on the beach.”

Unfortunately, Beth El’s quick and easy approach to Judaism is not a unique endeavor in our community. Many synagogues and Jewish organizations have gone out of their way to host and hype a myriad of happenings that are targeted at increasing attendance but have little or nothing to do with Jewish practice or custom. Usually, in the long run, they fall short of their goal.

The simple truth is that despite the best of intentions, efforts to dumb down and modify Jewish tradition always fails in the end. The pintele Yid, that stubborn little spark in the soul of a Jew, rejects the obvious pandering. It is turned off by the misguided efforts. It longs for an authentic experience.

Attempts to accommodate everyone wind up accommodating no one. Speed dating may work for a select few seeking a date, but speed davening works for none seeking spirituality. Efforts to make Judaism “easier” make it irrelevant and meaningless.

The ba’al teshuvah movement prove this premise. The “lite” approach may be successful when it comes to ingredients in fat-free cooking. But in terms of Judaism, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Shelley Benveniste

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/its-my-opinion-recipe-for-disaster/2016/09/12/

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