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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘power’

Tzohar Provides ‘Power to the People’ and Their IDF Soldiers

Monday, July 28th, 2014

There are many kinds of power banks — but the strongest of all is the power of love. That’s what keeps a soldier going; it’s why an Israeli soldier never falters when he faces the enemy. He knows he’s defending his family at home. Hearing a loved one’s voice helps to remind him why he’s there. It also helps to reassure those at home that their soldier at the friend is still okay.

The Tzohar organization has come up with a way to provide the essential power bank for soldiers whose batteries need recharging.

It’s been a long few days — or even weeks — for many husbands, fathers, sons and brothers currently serving in Operation Protective Edge stationed on the front lines or in battle. For their families back home it can feel like a lifetime – with many having gone for extended periods of time without speaking with their loved ones.

But a donor-backed initiatve of Tzohar, the religious Zionist rabbinical organization in Israel, has made it easier for soldiers to call home while they’re fighting in Gaza and stationed at the border.

Although safety concerns limit many of the soldiers from making phone calls from within the combat zone, the second problem was the lack of ‘juice — their phones ran out of battery days ago. Access to charging stations is extremely limited and sometimes even those who want to call are unable to, or have to resort to a few seconds on a friend’s phone.

Late Thursday Tzohar bought out the complete stock of some 4,000 chargers after discovering the one Israeli supplier who provides fully charged cell phone stick chargers. Over the course of Friday, the chargers were delivered to soldiers on the front lines from the Golani, Nachal, Givati, Paratroppers, Tanks, Engineering and Artillery Corps, with the intent of reaching them before Shabbat.

“As an active combat reservist, I know the IDF takes full care of any and all needs of its soldiers,” said Nachman Rosenberg, Executive Vice President of Tzohar and the organizer of this operation.

“Nonetheless, we were looking for something practical that could have a meaningful impact in boosting the morale of both the soldiers and their families. We hoped that this would enable families to wish Shabbat Shalom to their sons, husbands and fathers fighting Hamas terrorists on the front lines.”

After receiving his charger, Ophir, an officer in Golani expressed his gratitude to Tzohar and all those who contributed. “Seeing the support from all over the world, we feel like we are not alone. Being able to call home to wish a Shabbat Shalom to my mother not only makes her feel better, but renews my strength in this important mission. You have no idea how much this means to us.”

Time to End PA Pretense to Peace, Says FM Liberman

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

It’s time to unmask the Palestinian Authority’s pretense to peace, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday while meeting with diplomatic staff at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.

“[PA Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas’s actions brought Hamas to power in Gaza and now they will be brought to power in Judea and Samaria,” Mr. Liberman said.

He added that it does not really matter when elections in the Palestinian Authority are held. “Hamas is going to win and take over the Palestinian Authority,” he stated.

“There are those, particularly in Europe, who do not wish to acknowledge that the Palestinians are not interested in peace,” Mr. Liberman said bluntly.

“It’s time to take the mask off Chairman Abbas’s face and say loud and clear that he is a peace refusenik.”

The last democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority were held in January 2006 in response to pressure from the United States, and resulted in a landslide victory by the Hamas terrorist organization. Fatah and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Abbas retained his title as PA chairman at the time through swift political maneuvering; however, Hamas representatives swallowed the vast majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

A massive power struggle began within weeks, and a full-scale militia war between Fatah and Hamas was in progress by February in the streets of Gaza. By June 2006, Hamas seized full control of Gaza and expelled Fatah officials from the region altogether. The terror group severed Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian Authority and effectively created its own nation-state. That same month Hamas joined the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization in launching a two-front war against Israel (the “Second Lebanon War”) and kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel.

It took five years and the release of more than 1,000 PA Arab terrorist prisoners from Israeli jails to return Shalit to his family, miraculously alive.

Although numerous attempts by international Arab leaders since that time to create “unity governments” between Fatah and Hamas have failed, last month the two factions signed another agreement. In the intervening years, Hamas has managed to infiltrate the Ramallah-based PA. Operatives have planted numerous Hamas and the affiliated Islamic Jihad terror cells in villages throughout PA-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria. Both groups are backed by Iran.

Analysts believe that Mr. Liberman is indeed correct; with or without a unity government, eventually Hamas will take over the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria if Israel does not take action to intervene.

And then Israel will not only have Iran in its front yard on the northern border and in its backyard to the south, but also finally in the side yard as well, if not actually within the walls of the house.

Guardian’s Cartoon of Powerful Jews Manipulating Western Leaders

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Last November we posted about a political cartoon at the Guardian by Steve Bell depicting British foreign minister William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets being controlled by Binyamin Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support by these leaders during the war in Gaza.  Bell’s image evoked the canard of powerful Jews controlling western politicians for their own nefarious purposes and was hauntingly similar to more explicitly antisemitic cartoons routinely found in Arab and Islamist world.

The Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row a couple of weeks later, and actually rebuked Bell for ‘unintentionally’ using the visual language of antisemitic stereotypes.

While such cartoons often have more of an immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than lengthy essays, the damage done by such toxic ideas regarding ‘Jewish control’, in any form, should be taken seriously.  The Guardian narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in news reports and commentaries, often includes passages with the unmistakable  suggestion that Israel (and the pro-Israeli lobby) wields enormous power over ineffectual Western leaders – a theme present in a report by Harriet Sherwood and Julian Borger titled ‘Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling’, Nov. 11.  The story centered on nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) which ultimately unraveled largely due to concerns that the agreement would have eased sanctions on Iran without requiring that it cease enriching uranium.

The report by Sherwood and Borger included the following:

In a bid to contain the danger, the lead US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew straight from the talks in Geneva to Israel to reassure Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that the intended deal would not harm his country’s national interests.

The hastily arranged trip represented an acknowledgement of Netanyahu’s power to block a deal through his influence in the US Congress and in Europe. Egged on by the Israelis, the US Senate is poised to pass new sanctions that threaten to derail the talks before they get to their planned next round in 10 days’ time.

More immediately, Netanyahu demonstrated over the weekend that he could sway the Geneva talks from the inside through his relationship with Paris.

These passages of course strongly suggest that US congressional leaders take their marching orders from Jerusalem and that the French government’s position was not motivated by what it saw as its own national interests but, rather, as a result of the influence of the Israeli prime minister.

However, the deal was fatally flawed, according to many experts, due in part because it would have fallen short of the requirements in six resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council over the years which called on Iran to suspend ALL uranium enrichment – resolutions passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, rendering them binding under international law.

As Adam Chandler observed in an essay published at Tablet about the superficial analysis by Sherwood and Borger:

[Their argument] smacks of that paranoid, evergreen charge that all wars and international campaigns are waged on behalf of Israel, a claim that devolves from Israel into “the Jews” as it goes through portal after conspiratorial portal.

You don’t even need to believe that antisemitism is at play to nonetheless be contemptuous of the extraordinary myopia displayed in the Guardian report.  As Walter Russell Mead observed recently about the broader intellectual dynamic which unites antisemitism with anti-Zionism:

Weak minds…are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.

Guardian “journalists” may fancy themselves sophisticated, erudite and worldly, but their frequent ‘Zionist root cause’ explanations betray both their ideological bias and the extraordinarily facile nature of their reasoning.

Visit CIFWatch.

America’s Impending Defeat in Syria

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

It’s really pretty simple. The American people understandably don’t want to go to war with Syria, not to mention Syria’s patron of Iran and especially not to put into power the Muslim Brotherhood and murderous Islamists. Going to war is a serious matter to say the least. There’s no assurance how long it will take, how many lives it will cost, and what turns it may take.

In fact the Middle East has just had several examples of these wars. Iraq and Afghanistan cost a lot of money and lives as they extended for a much longer time than had been expected. In addition they derailed the Bush Administration’s electoral fortunes and domestic programs. With the main emphasis of the Obama Administration being a fundamental transformation of America such distractions are not desired.

There is one other important consideration. The Obama Administration does not accept the traditional diplomatic and great power strategies. It believes that it can reconcile with Islamist states; it does not comprehend deterrents; it does not keep faith with allies; and it does not believe in credibility, which is the belief that only power exerted can convince a foe of seriousness.

Of course, that wouldn’t rule out a one -time targeted attack but even if that were to be done is America going to fight a full-scale war on the ground with the American allies (including al-Qaeda) never satisfied and eager to stab them in the back?

The administration has trapped itself with two problems. One is that the rebels who are being supported in Syria are extreme radicals who may set off blood baths and regional instability if they win. The other is that a challenge has been given to very reckless forces: Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. When the United States threatens these three players the response is “make my day!”

So this is the situation. The United States is bluffing, it does not want to exert force and probably won’t. In other words, Iran and Syria would be quite willing to fight a war but the United States and its government doesn’t have the will to do so.

What is the optimum option for the Obama Administration ? To try to negotiate – as unlikely as it is – a deal in which some kind of interim or coalition arrangement would be arranged with Russia and Iran to make a transition from the current regime. And that mainly means stalling for time.

That could work, though, if the regime does not actually win in the war. Aid to rebels and some gimmicks, perhaps but no decisive action. Remember. though, that Iran cannot be said to have won as long as the civil war is continuing. The Administration can simply depend on denial, which should be sufficient for domestic purposes.

There is, however. a problem. The two sides Syrian sides want to wipe each other out. Why should the Russians and Iranians make a deal if they have a winning hand? No diplomatic arrangement is possible. In fact the diplomatic option is fictional or, to put it flatly, there is no alternative.

It is not inconceivable that the White House would consider easing sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program to have a chance on making a deal on Syria.

What is likely then is stalling, with the probability that the civil war will settle into stagnation for several years and thus a de facto partition of Syria. The United States simply can’t win given what it is willing to do. And in a great power standoff that’s a very dangerous situation.

Remember. though, that Iran cannot be said to have won as long as the civil war is continuing. The Administration can simply depend on denial, which should be sufficient for domestic purposes.

Finally, ask yourself one question: Will the United States under Obama dare a confrontation with Iran, Syria, and Russia to keep up American credibility, deterrence, and confidence of allies who it is already opposing on Egypt?

Of course not. This is already a president who could barely decide to kill Osama bin Laden.

The Truth About Syria

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

If you are interested in reading more about Syria, you’re welcome to read my book The Truth About Syria online or download it for free.

WHY SYRIA MATTERS

“It is my pleasure to meet with you in the new Middle East,” said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a speech to the Syrian Journalists’ Union on August 15, 2006.1 But Bashar’s new Middle East was neither the one hoped for by many since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s 1991 defeat in Kuwait nor expected when Bashar himself ascended the throne in 2000. Actually, it was not even new at all but rather a reversion, often in remarkable detail, to the Middle East of the 1950s through the 1980s. The Arab world, now accompanied by Iran, was re-embracing an era that was an unmitigated disaster for itself and extolling ideas and strategies which had repeatedly led it to catastrophe.

No Arab state had more to do with this important and tragic turnabout than does Syria, this development’s main architect and beneficiary. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab states wanted quiet; Iraq needed peace to rebuild itself. Even Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi, pressed by sanctions and scared by his Iraqi counterpart Saddam’s fate, was on his good behavior. Only Syria remained as a source of instability and radicalism.

Thus, a small state with a modest economy became the fulcrum on which the Middle East shifted and which, in turn, shook the globe. Indeed, Bashar’s version of the new Middle East may well persist for an entire generation. Does this make Bashar a fool or a genius? That cannot be determined directly. What can be said is that his policy is good for the regime, simultaneously brilliant and disastrous for Syria, and just plain disastrous for many others.

To understand Syria’s special feature, it is best to heed the all-important insight of a Lebanese-American scholar, Fouad Ajami: “Syria’s main asset, in contrast to Egypt’s preeminence and Saudi wealth, is its capacity for mischief.”

In the final analysis, the aforementioned mischief was in the service of regime maintenance, the all-encompassing cause and goal of the Syrian government’s behavior. Demagoguery, not the delivery of material benefits, is the basis of its power.

Why have those who govern Syria followed such a pattern for more than six decades under almost a dozen different regimes? The answer: Precisely because the country is a weak one in many respects. Aside from lacking Egypt’s power and Saudi Arabia’s money, it also falls short on internal coherence due to its diverse population and minority-dominated regime. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein used repression, ideology, and foreign adventures to hold together a system dominated by Sunni Arab Muslims who were only one-fifth of the population. In Syria, even more intense measures were needed to sustain an Alawite regime that rules based on a community only half as large proportionately.

To survive, then, the regime needs transcendent slogans and passionate external conflicts that help make its problems disappear. Arabism and, in more recent years, Islamism, are its solution. In this light, Syria’s rulers can claim to be not a rather inept, corrupt dictatorship but the rightful leaders of all Arabs and the champions of all Muslims. Their battle cries are very effectively used to justify oppression at home and aggression abroad. No other country in the world throws around the word “imperialism” more in describing foreign adversaries, and yet no other state on the globe follows a more classical imperialist policy.

In broad terms, this approach is followed by most, if not all, Arab governments, but Syria offers the purest example of the system. As for the consequences, two basic principles are useful to keep in mind:

1. It often seemed as if the worse Syria behaved, the better its regime does. Syrian leaders do not accept the Western view that moderation, compromise, an open economy, and peace are always better. When Syria acts radical, up to a point of course, it maximizes its main asset—causing trouble—which cancels out all its other weaknesses. As a dictatorship, militancy provided an excuse for tight controls and domestic popularity through its demagoguery.

2. Success for the regime and state means disaster for the people, society, and economy. The regime prospers by keeping Syrians believing that the battle against America and Israel, not freedom and prosperity, should be their top priority. External threats are used to justify internal repression. The state’s control over the economy means lower living standards for most while simultaneously preserving a rich ruling elite with lots of money to give to its supporters.

Abusing Clout

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

There is an article in the  New York Times that discusses the clout Chasidim in America have achieved. And it does not paint a flattering picture. Some might say that this is just typical New York Times bashing of religious Jews. But I’m not so sure it is. Let us examine the issue.

Chasidim do have clout. There is no question about it. How did they get so much clout? Prior to the Holocaust, Chasidim in America barely existed as an identifiable entity.  But they grew exponentially into huge numbers since the Holocaust. Chasidim tend to get married early (in some cases both bride and groom are in their teens) and have many children. A family of ten or more children is not uncommon. As a result, now over sixty years later they are a force to be reckoned with.

Although I have argued that – despite their rate of growth –  their current numbers do not necessarily predict their future dominance as a culture in Judaism… their numbers are very definitely huge as is their current influence in government. This is mostly seen in the power of their vote. If their rabbinic leadership tells them to vote for a certain candidate, they tend to do so in large numbers without question and without needing to know what that candidate stands for. This gives Chasidim as a group out-sized political power!

This power does not go to waste. This community uses it to their full advantage. When they make a request to a government official, he pays attention. And often sees to it that the request is granted.

I have no problem with using one’s clout to get things done for your community. There is nothing wrong with petitioning your government for your cause. It is no different than any group lobbying for their particular agenda. In that sense Chasidim are no different than – say – the gun lobby. It is the right of every American citizen – no less Chasidic citizens – to petition their government.

The question arises when petitioning for rights becomes pressuring for rights.  Requests then turn into demands with unspoken threats of political defeat in the next election if those demands aren’t met. Although it may be legal to do that – it can easily be interpreted as a form of political extortion to get what they want  – sometimes at the expense of others.That can only result in resentment at best… and at worst create (or expose latent) anti-Semitism.

First let me say that I view it unethical to vote for a candidate without knowing what he stands for just because you were told to do so by a rabbinic leader. I understand why they do this. It is obvious. It gives them an extraordinary amount of power over elected officials.  But one ought to vote for a candidate because of believing what he stands for – not because it will give your group collective power over him.

This is not good citizenship. And it makes religious looking Jews look bad. How does this affect the image of religious Jews in the world? Does this result in a positive image of Chasidim – or a negative one? What about the rest of Orthodox Jewry? Will we all be judged the way?

And how necessary are those demands? Are they Halachic or cultural? Let us look at some examples (described in the Times article) of achievements their clout has brought them.

How important is it for Chasidic women  to demand a female lifeguard at their beaches that are apparently sex segregated? Although I understand their request – it is a not a Halachic requirement to have a female lifeguard.  Is it worth exercising the community’s clout to get one?

I also do not understand why they insist on well water for their Pesach Matzos. They apparently object to chlorination. What does chlorine have to do with Chametz? It is not a leavening agent. It is a poison which if used in small quantities kills bacteria and has no harmful effects on human beings.

Separate – sex segregated public buses are now the norm in their neighborhood. Men in the front and women in the back. That is no doubt illegal. But since they do it voluntarily, no one bothers them. Is that so necessary? I know Chasidim consider separate seating on a bus to be more modest. But is violating the law the right thing to do if it isn’t a Halachic necessity – even if no one bothers them about it?

Adultery and Marriage: a Jewish Approach to Monogamy

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

It is well known that one of the Ten Commandments is the prohibition of adultery. Extramarital sex has historically been a man’s game, since the male sexual desire is stereotypically assumed to be uncontrollable. A recent survey by the National Opinion Research Center has shown, however, that the number of married American women having adulterous affairs has nearly doubled over the last decade. Today, 21 percent of men admit to having such affairs while 14.7 percent of women now admit to having them.

Sociologists explain that women today are more willing to cheat since they have stronger careers and aren’t as worried about the financial loss they would incur in a divorce. A recent Pew Research Center poll showing that working mothers are now the primary “breadwinners” in 37 percent of American homes (up from 11 percent in 1960) seems to bear this out, as these numbers roughly match the proportion of men and women having affairs. Most of these breadwinning women are single mothers, but 40 percent of them are married and earn more than their husbands. Perhaps it is true that when women began to enter the workforce in greater numbers and rise in the corporate world, they learned from and now emulate corporate male behavior.

In What do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner notes that women may be no different from men in their struggle with monogamy and desires for sexual novelty , although there may be differences depending on the situation. For example, research on rhesus monkeys demonstrated that males initiated sexual relations when the monkeys were kept in smaller cages, but in larger spaces the females initiated sexual relations. Significantly, this and other findings have occurred at the same time that the number of women in scientific research has soared. We hope that science has passed the era when scientists could claim that women suffered from “hysteria” (based on the Greek word for uterus), irrational behavior supposedly caused by disturbances in the uterus.

One might think that monogamy was considered to be against the norms of evolution, since a male biologically wants to have as many offspring as possible. Analysis of various animals living with their brood show that anywhere from 10 percent to 70 percent of their offspring have a father different from the male animal currently staying with the brood. Professor David P. Barash of the University of Washington famously quipped, “Infants have their infancy; adults, adultery.” Even among primates (which include humans), more than 200 species are not monogamous. However, British scientists have found that in the three species of primates in which monogamy evolved, it did so after a period where males had earlier committed infanticide. In reaction, fathers began to remain by their children and mothers to protect them from rival males, thus establishing the monogamous nuclear family. The virtual universality of this system among humans, and its staying power across civilizations, argues for its value.

Even among other species from beetles to baboons, while exogamous sex occurs, one mate will often react with a ferocious jealousy if it observes the other straying. Promiscuity may be necessary among some species for survival, but that does not mean that these creatures like it.

Marriage is one formal marker and arrangement for monogamy. In the Jewish tradition, marriage is a central institution, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik wrote about this unique commitment:

On the one hand, the great covenant [of marriage] has been compared by the prophets time and again to the betrothal of Israel to G-d; on the other hand, the ordinary betrothal of woman to man has been raised to the level of covenantal commitment. Marriage as such is called berit, a covenant. Apparently, the Bible thinks that the redeeming power of marriage consists in personalizing the sexual experience, in having two strangers, both endowed with equal dignity and worth, meet. And the objective medium of attaining that meeting is the assumption of covenantal obligations which are based upon the principle of equality. Hence, we have a clue to the understanding of the nature of matrimony. All we have to do is analyze the unique aspects of covenantal commitment and apply them to the matrimonial commitment (Family Redeemed, 41-42).

Knowing how hard it is to find the perfect partner, the Rabbis taught: “It is [as] difficult [for G-d] to match up [a man and a woman for marriage] as it is to split the sea (Sotah 2a).” Elsewhere in the Talmud, the Rabbis debate whether the primary goal of marriage is to produce offspring or about the marriage itself:

Rav Nachman said in the name of Shmuel that even though a man has many children, he may not remain without a wife, as it says: “It is not good that man be alone.” But others say that if he does have children then he may abstain from procreation and he may even abstain from taking a wife altogether (Yevamot 61b).

But even those who subscribe to the latter position, that it is not obligatory to get married, must agree that it’s still desirable and good (i.e., not legally required but clearly very good and important) to marry.

Rav Soloveitchik further explains:

Within the frame of reference of marriage, love becomes not an instinctual reaction of an excited heart to the shocking sudden encounter with beauty, but an intentional experience in reply to a metaphysical ethical summons, a response to the great challenge, replete with ethical motifs. Love, emerging from an existential moral awareness, is sustained not by the flame of passion, but by the strength of a Divine norm whose repetitious fulfillment re-awakens its vigor and force. The marriage partners, by imitating G-d who created a world in order to be concerned with and care for it, extend the frontiers for their communal living to their offspring, and by questing to love someone who is yet unborn, defy the power of erotic change and flux. The ethical yearning to create and share existence with someone as yet unknown redeems hedone by infusing it with axiological normative meaning and thus gives it a new aspect — that of faith. Since our eternal faith in G-d is something which defies rationalization, the mutual temporal faith of man and woman united in matrimony is just as paradoxical. History does not warrant our unswerving religious faith; likewise, utilitarian psychology denies the element of faith in the marriage institution (Family Redeemed, 42).

No one claims that monogamy is easy. We know from psychological studies that young people often have cognitive skills that are still evolving, and it is difficult to tell whether two people can grow compatibly over decades. The choice of a partner is a serious matter. Honest and loving marriage is central to the Jewish faith. We must do all we can to collaboratively preserve the holy covenant that strengthens our families and societies.

We must protect our own marriages and the institution of marriage. Adultery, as one of the many causes of failed marriages, must be rejected through ethical conviction and spiritual commitment. We must all have personal moral accountability, legitimate caring for our spouses and children, and Jewish commitment to the pledge of monogamy and shared covenant of love and devotion.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/adultery-and-marriage-a-jewish-approach-to-monogamy/2013/08/21/

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