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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘President Clinton’

Will Syria Be Obama’s Rwanda?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

When I visited Rwanda last month, I was preceded by President Clinton who arrived the day before. Clinton is a regular visitor to Rwanda and his Clinton Global Initiative does excellent humanitarian work in the central African nation. There is a reason the former President cares so deeply and sincerely about the Rwandan people. When he was President in 1994 he refused to even meet with his senior staff to discuss the genocide that broke out on April 6th and for the next three months would become the fastest slaughter of human life in recorded history, with one million dying in just three months. Four years later, he returned as President to offer an apology: ‘The international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of the responsibility for this tragedy . . . We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We should not have allowed the refugee camps to become safe havens for the killers. We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide.’ The genocide was all coordinated from a single radio station. A single bombing run against the RTLM Hutu Power radio transmitting antenna would have made it impossible for the Hutus to coordinate their genocide. But on the very same day, as Phillip Gourevitch explains in his definitive account of the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will Be Killed with Our Families, the Security Council, with the Clinton Administration’s blessing, ordered the UN force under Dallaire reduced by ninety percent to a skeleton staff of 270 troops who would powerlessly witness the slaughter to come. The United States was asked to fire a single missile that would have destroyed the transmitter. The Clinton Administration refused because it was spooked by the events of Black Hawk down that had transpired a few months earlier in October, 1993. But that one missile could have largely prevented a mass atrocity that claimed the lives of nearly one million people.

In two weeks time – on 29 September during UN week – our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, will host a public discussion between President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Professor Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Laureate, on the subject of genocide, sponsored by Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt. It’s a timely conversation not only because of the impending twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide but especially because of the international community’s failure to punish Bashar Assad for slaughtering children in Syria. Despite the eight genocides perpetrated in the twentieth century and the universal cries of ‘Never Again,’ it seems that the world can still not summon the resolve to bring massive retaliation against those who gas innocent civilians.

From the outset of the Syrian civil war, when Bashar Assad turned on his people and started murdering them in their tens of thousands, President Obama had a moral obligation to travel to the UN and announce that the United States would seek an indictment against President Assad as a war criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity. Instead, two years of atrocities were accompanied by little American condemnation. Finally, when Assad gassed his people, including 400 children, President Obama showed courage and fortitude in demanding that Assad be held accountable for this abomination. I was inspired by his seemingly unshakable determination to hold this killer accountable for his crimes.

It’s been downhill ever since.

Rather than striking at Assad’s air force and air fields – not to mention his presidential palaces – so that the slaughter could be minimized and Assad personally punished, President Obama announced that he was going to Congress for approval. Where was the urgency? Kids were being killed. Wasn’t there a danger that Assad would gas his people further, or even just continue to slaughter them with more conventional weapons? The delay allowed Assad to go on TV with Charlie Rose and come across as calm, measured, and reasonable, thereby further undermining the urgency of an attack and sowing more doubts in the minds of the public as to whether this monster deserved to be hit.

Next, Obama’s hesitations brought Russia into the mix. Putin has vetoed every Security Council measure intended to hold Assad accountable and is the principle reason why Assad has not had criminal charges brought against him at the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Next we had Putin lecturing Americans about values in The New York Times and how American belief in its own exceptionalism was elitist and dangerous. Little did the Russian dictator understand that it’s not Americans who are exceptional but their values. We value life, we hate autocracy, we are sickened by mass murder, and we dedicate our national strength toward protecting the weak. If Putin were to embrace, rather than trample, on these values, then he too would be exceptional.

So now we have Russia and the UN serving as guarantors that Syria will somehow declare and destroy its chemical weapons arsenal. But how will we know we’ve found them all? And how long will the process take? Does Assad get to continue killing people with conventional weapons while this process drags on for months? And what are the consequences for Assad if he does not follow through on his commitments?

America, the world’s guarantor of freedom and human rights, now comes across as weak and befuddled in the face of clear violations of every humane law of civility. If the world’s most powerful nation can’t make up its mind to strike at someone who slaughters children, then what hope is there for the words “Never Again” to actually have teeth? If a man shoots up a school here in the United States, but subsequently agrees to have law enforcement confiscate all his weapons, is he then not punished? Will noone pay a price for the children who were murdered in Damascus?

Syria was President Obama’s moment to prove once and for all that he is serious about human rights and the infinite value of human life. He did an admirable job helping to get rid of the butcher in Libya, Kaddafi. He was outstanding in taking the decision – without any Congressional approval – to strike deep in the heart of Pakistan against arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

How sad that President Obama is so muddying his legacy by showing irresolution in the face of so clear a moral imperative.

Mr. President. Stop dithering. Children are dying. The ancient Rabbis said that ‘in a place where there are no men stand up and become one.’ Britain won’t punish Assad and Russia is out to protect him. It’s time for you to stand up and lead. The world is watching.

More Things to Come — in America

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

In a previous post, I imagined the situation in 2018, with Israel’s traditional Arab and Iranian enemies mostly toothless as a result of Sunni-Shiite conflict and economic incompetence, while a new threat emanates from a viciously anti-Jewish Western Europe. There, traditional European Jew-hatred has combined with the influence of a rapidly growing Muslim population to produce a true witches’ brew of hatred for Jews and their state.

But as one commenter noted, there was a country that, despite its importance, was not mentioned even once: the US. And the reason was that although the trends for Europe seemed clear, my ability to imagine the future here in the US was far weaker, producing only cloudy visions.

Or maybe I just wasn’t comfortable with what I envisioned. But let me flip the switch on the time machine anyway.

It’s 2018. President Clinton is halfway through her first term, having been helped to a landslide victory by a lackluster Republican candidate nominated by a fractured party split between representatives of extractive industries, social conservatives and Tea Party libertarians. Although the media that had so single-mindedly shilled for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 had begun to tire of him when the heavy hand of the Justice Department fell on them in 2013, Ms Clinton convinced the press that she was on their side. After all, wasn’t her own daughter a TV journalist?

Demographic changes also helped. Hispanics and Asians represented a greater share of the population than in 2012, and these groups voted heavily Democratic, especially as Clinton and her husband had campaigned hard for the American Immigration and Diversity Act of 2014, which provided a relatively unobstructed path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (and future Democratic voters). Many people voted for Ms Clinton simply because they thought it was time to give a woman a chance (it was hard to argue that male politicians hadn’t screwed up big time).

Although the Republican Party had traditionally been considered the party of ‘big business’, 2018′s biggest businesses — Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. — gave large contributions to Democratic candidates, and only smaller ‘insurance’ donations to Republicans.

Finally, there were some less savory aspects to the election. Small businesspeople thought twice about publicly supporting Republican candidates out of fear of regulatory agencies and the IRS, which were even more politically active than in 2013, despite the furor that had arisen then. Lists were compiled of voters that had moved or died, and since there was no requirement for ID to vote in most states, others voted in their places. Information from the massive NSA databases about ordinary Americans found its way to political operatives.

It was no contest for the presidency, and only slightly less unbalanced in the House and Senate.

Not that the Congress mattered that much anymore. Despite its constitutionally mandated role, its continued paralysis through the Obama years made it inevitable that the Executive Branch would find ways around it. By 2018, many of its debates were only political posturing, while the real decisions were taken by the administration by executive orders. Some politicians made quaint speeches about the Constitution, to little effect. “What can we do?” said administration spokespeople. “The Congress is dysfunctional.”

Although the Democrats had campaigned against income inequality, it turned out that the rich — especially the super-rich — were continuing to get richer, and the poor and middle-class poorer. Despite the commitments of the ‘progressive’ administration, health-care and other services for the poor, disabled, mentally ill, homeless, etc., suffered more and more for lack of funds. Many roamed the streets, begging and stealing to survive.

Shortly after Clinton’s election at the tail end of the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2016, Hezbollah activated several terrorist cells who had infiltrated the US from South America via the Mexican border. They succeeded in detonating bombs at LA International Airport and several Jewish institutions in Los Angeles. They also invaded the Israeli consulate there, killing several security personnel and taking numerous hostages. Although Israel sent a security team, the terrorists began executing hostages before they arrived, and the LAPD stormed the building, resulting in a bloodbath of terrorists, hostages and police.

After the LAX bomb was determined to contain radioactive materials — a ‘dirty bomb’ — the centrally-located airport was abandoned at huge cost. Property values tumbled within a 30-mile radius (although the contamination was in fact limited to the airport area). The city of Los Angeles was forced to declare bankruptcy when it could not come close to balancing its budget.

Many Americans asked how this could have been allowed to happen, given the degree of surveillance that they had become used to, including tracking of cellphone usage, emails, monitoring of the content of voice communications, and a massive expansion of facial recognition software which received inputs from hundreds of thousands of cameras in public areas and matched it to databases of passport and driver’s license photos. Since these programs were revealed in 2013, they had become even more pervasive — and the security agencies developed incredibly powerful search tools than can spit out complete dossiers on the lives of individual people or groups, by analyzing literally trillions of database entries in moments.

President Clinton promised to “bring the terrorists to justice,” but Israel had already destroyed the Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon, so all she could do was send the few surviving terrorists to Guantanamo (which she promised to close). US Muslim organizations such as CAIR, ISNA, etc., swung into action to forestall an expected ‘wave of Islamophobia’. Liberal churches and Reform Temples throughout the country held special meetings in which representatives of those organizations ‘explained’ the difference between ‘bad’ (Shiite) Muslims like Hezbollah, and ‘good’ Muslim-Brotherhood types like themselves. They also hinted that the patience of even ‘good’ Muslims could run out if the US continued to support the existence of a Jewish state.

It was argued that ‘hate speech’ against Islam was partly responsible for the anger against the West, and that — while everybody had a right to free expression — certain videos and blogs should be removed from the Internet, because they exacerbated a bad situation. Many people agreed. The Clinton Administration hinted that “it knew how to deal with hate-mongers” and would take steps to do so.

The Administration issued a classified executive order called the “Homeland Protection Act” [HPA] which was explained as a response to the “West Coast 9/11.” Since it was classified, the contents were not revealed, but it was understood that it was necessary to deal with the emergency, just like the broad surveillance measures. It was thought that it temporarily suspended certain parts of the Bill of Rights. Again, many Americans agreed, and those who didn’t understood that they needed to be very careful about how they expressed their disagreement.

Some Americans were taken into custody under the HPA. Interestingly, they were mostly right-wingers, not Islamic terrorists. But the HPA apparently didn’t require that they be publicly charged, so in essence they disappeared.

The Canadian Prime Minister expressed his concern about the erosion of civil rights in the US, especially since many Americans were crossing the border into Canada daily. The US government responded by beefing up its control of the Canadian border, subjecting suspected emigrants to impromptu examinations to ensure that they were not trying to avoid their US tax obligations. The Administration issued an executive order than anyone leaving the US had to prove that they had paid all due taxes or post a bond. In some places, they built a wall.

Impossible? I wonder.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

‘We Have An Obligation To Stand Even Taller’ – An Interview With Political Consultant Hank Sheinkopf

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Hank Sheinkopf is a master of the rough world of political campaigning. As president of Sheinkopf Communications, he’s worked on some 700 political campaigns on four continents, including 44 American states. His clients have included President Clinton and Mayor Bloomberg. Sought after for comment by major media outlets, he is a CNN contributor and has lectured at NYU, Harvard, and Fordham.

An Orthodox Jew living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his wife and two children, Sheinkopf met recently with The Jewish Press to talk about politics, religion and Israel.

The Jewish Press: Who was the first candidate you worked for?

Sheinkopf:The first person in politics I worked with for pay was Herman Badillo, when he ran for mayor in 1969. I found him very refreshing because he talked about coalitions between middle income and poor people, and I respected him immensely because he came here from Puerto Rico as an orphan, without a dime in his pocket. He worked as a pin setter in a bowling alley and somehow made a life for himself and became a lawyer and an accountant. I never met anyone who had that kind of success coming from nothing. And because of that experience I knew I could do something with my life.

Who was the most memorable politician you worked with?

I’ve worked for a lot of extraordinary people. I worked for Mayor Bloomberg, for President Clinton, for former governor Eliot Spitzer. Among the smartest people I’ve met are Bloomberg, Clinton and Leonel Fernandez, president of the Dominican Republic. Clinton started out with nothing and became the leader of the world, regardless of what people may say about him. And while most politicians make decisions based on how they’re going to get reelected, Bloomberg’s dynamic for decision making is “How can I do the good thing?” or “How can I make the city I love better?”

You campaign mainly for Democratic candidates. Have you ever turned any candidates down? Do you identify politically with Democrats and encourage others, specifically Jews, to vote for them?

I have turned people down. Do I agree with everyone I’ve worked for? No. For years this was strictly a Democratic shop, but I reject categorically the argument that Jews are required to be Republicans or Democrats. Everyone who thinks everything was wonderful with Bush should thank God that presidential terms end at a certain point because Condoleezza Rice would have cut Jerusalem in half. If I had to say where my prejudices are, I believe in free association, which is good as a Jew. I don’t think people’s associations ought to be regulated.

Who will run for New York governor in 2010?

Rick Lazio is out there as a candidate, as well as Andrew Cuomo and David Paterson. Paterson is going through a brief upsurge now because he’s taken on the State Senate. But after January 1, when the budget starts to kick in and people understand what a serious fix New York is in, they will probably be less likely to stand with the governor. I would say Andrew Cuomo’s time is coming. He’s very smart, very competent, and he’s been a friend of the Jewish people.

With President Obama’s poll numbers sinking, do you forecast a backlash in the 2010 midterm elections against the Democrats?

Obamism is not a political party, it’s a social movement. And I think social movements, when they ultimately achieve their goals, lose their sense of purpose. They tend to dissipate. And if they don’t achieve them, their adherents’ anger will increase substantially and they’ll walk away out of frustration. This social movement was based on one charismatic figure and a set of ideas around him, mostly about change. It may have been difficult to sell had George Bush not been the president previously. But people are beginning to wonder, “Where’s the beef?” They don’t see things happening quickly.

Maybe they see things happening too quickly and think Obama is moving radically on too many issues.

You may be correct. There is an argument to be made that he’s moving too quickly and too radically for some. Americans don’t like that kind of change. They don’t like anything related to the economy to move too quickly. They see the economy as precision timed, almost like a clock. If you move one of the parts, something falls apart. The stimulus package may not be working the way it should. What is happening and what they perceive to be happening is that some are benefiting and large numbers of Americans are not.

Do you agree with those who say America has hit moral bottom?

The problem is we have a moral moment where, without question, religion is under attack. I would argue we have hit a point where religion has become the enemy. This is the acme of the 20th century progressive argument. And that manifests itself in different ways.

We have the Catholic church suffering severe problems in the United States from a decline in membership and activity, and people are deriding evangelicals’ religiosity. We have Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street talking blithely about how his staff is all intermarried and how they have Buddhist Seders. They equate the Palestinian experience with the Jewish experience, which is insane. They are trying to dilute religiosity to fit in, and it’s not going to work.

How would you propose strengthening Jewish pride?

Those of us who want to protect our children’s future have an obligation to stand even taller. We should be educating our people, and we need to get people more involved in religious practice. Judaism is not passive – it is a commitment. We have to somehow breathe that fire, and from the fire will come people who are proud of themselves. But not by passivity. Torah study and Torah involvement and living as a Jew are practical, activist activities.

Given Israel’s dismal image, do you think a comprehensive public relations campaign would work, or would it be a case of too little, too late?

I’ve been the saying the same thing in public speeches for the past ten years – the Jewish community should take the plaques off its walls, melt down whatever silver is useable, and figure out how to fund a means of setting up programming for cable and radio to publicize our point of view. Stop trying to convince the Jews; convince the non-Jews. We should be talking to fundamentalist Christians and evangelicals. We need these Christian folks badly. They know the Tanach sometimes better than our co-religionists do, and they have tremendous respect for us as a people. We need them in Congress too because the most important person in our lives today is the chairperson of the defense appropriations sub-committee.

Ten years from now the young people coming behind us in the pro-Israel community are not necessarily going to do what is needed. They don’t have the commitment and they’ve had it too easy. If you took a census of most Jewish organizations, you will find that there is a decline in membership. It tells you that those of us who are still engaged, mostly because of some level of religiosity, will have a bigger job to do. And the way to shortcut that job is to communicate the moral argument, within the context of security for the world, to those who will ultimately make those decisions.

How would you advise American Jews to best take advantage of Christian support?

First, you have to stop listening to the Reform movement and others who somehow want to deride them. And to those who reject them for fear of missionizing, I say, no one is going to missionize me. I guarantee it. If your faith is strong enough, how can anyone missionize you? No one is converting me to anything except to a stronger belief in protecting the State of Israel, because without that the world will fall. Any time Jews have been under attack, wars have occurred, economies have fallen, terrible things have happened to humanity. The Christians apparently understand this better than a lot of our coreligionists do.

Israelis themselves seem to have bought into many of the anti-Israel arguments put forward by the left. How do you account for that?

One problem is that we Jews, and Israelis in particular, are being constantly told how bad we are. We read the web, the newspapers, the scandalous coverage of Israel by The New York Times and other outlets, and we believe that is the truth. When you are told all the time that you are bad you will ultimately believe it.

Jews are the only people I know who actually believe what other people go around thinking about them all day long. We should be worried only about what God is thinking about us and about how to safeguard the extraordinary piece of property He gave us. Either you believe in the future of the Jewish people or you don’t. We should stop this nonsense that somehow we’ve done something wrong. I would frankly say, “Go to hell if you don’t like Operation Cast Lead – next time don’t bomb us.”

How do you explain the durability of the belief among Israelis and other Jews that concessions will somehow buy Israel peace and the world’s affection?

Jews engage in extraordinary self-denial. If someone tells you he’s going to kill you, he means it. Jews don’t believe it because they don’t want to believe it. There is the incessant belief that if only we do this or that, others will love us. But Jews fail to comprehend that the world does not mind if we get killed. Only we mind if we get killed.

I was one of five Jews invited to meet with Khaddafi when he was in New York for the General Assembly. Khaddafi told us of his very simple solution to the Jewish problem. “First,” he said, “you must stop speaking Hebrew. Second, you must stop wrapping those straps around your arms. And third, you must mix in with the local population and let all the four million Palestinians come home.”

I said to myself, this sounds just like J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami – the anti-religious fervor; the denial of our right, given to us by God, to property that He owns. We’re losing the moral moment. Israel represents that which is good, and those who would destroy Israel or make it a servant to the nations as opposed to a leader of the nations are those who hate God. And our mission is to uplift God. That’s the job we have to do.

Jews Mostly Comfortable With Obama’s Early Appointees

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama’s “team of rivals” is turning into a collection well known to the Jewish community, which should comfort those who expressed apprehension about the president-elect’s possible Cabinet choices.


  Obama is fulfilling pledges he made during a grueling election campaign by reaching out to notables in both parties with deep wells of experience.


  While Obama has yet to announce his foreign policy team formally – he publicized his economic team Monday – a welter of leaks has lined up U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of state and former NATO commander Gen. James Jones as his national security adviser.


  Some Jewish observers are uneasy over who might prevail in a rivalry between Clinton, who is seen as pro-Israel, and Jones, about whom some Jewish observers have expressed reservations.


  Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC foreign policy chief who now writes a blog hosted by the Middle East Forum, has raised concerns about Jones that have redounded in the conservative Jewish world through e-mails. Rosen’s piece on Jones was titled “Jones to be National Security Adviser; wrote harsh report on Israel.”


  Condoleezza Rice, the current secretary of state, added Jones last year to her team of generals monitoring the “road map” peace plan launched by President Bush in 2003. Jones reportedly wanted to publish a report that was harshly critical of Israel’s failure to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian security force and to allow more freedom of movement for the Palestinians.


  But the report, which was never published, also was tough on the Palestinian force, expressing doubts about its readiness to meet Israeli expectations that it would contain terrorism. And in public forums and as NATO’s commander in chief, Jones has been friendly to Israel and its regional security concerns.


  As for Clinton, her deep ties to the pro-Israel community date back to her days as the first lady of Arkansas, when she gained an admiration for the Jewish state after introducing Israeli early childhood programs in Arkansas.


  She endured some criticism from pro-Israel groups while her husband was president – for her infamous embrace of Yasser Arafat’s wife and for being a stalking horse for Palestinian statehood, floating the idea without President Clinton’s administration formally proposing it – but as a U.S. senator Clinton has been solidly pro-Israel, emphasizing the need for Palestinians to temper incitement against Israel as a precondition for peace.


  Her likely deputy will be James Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser under President Clinton. Deputy secretaries of state often serve as day-to-day point men in dealings with the Middle East, and Steinberg’s record is reassuring to the pro-Israel establishment. He has advocated an increased role for Arab states in helping to create conditions for a Palestinian state, long the position of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.


  Some in the pro-Israel community have expressed concerns about others who might make it into Obama’s inner circle, noting that after the election it emerged that Obama had been speaking frequently with Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush who supports making eastern Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state and advocates putting an international peacekeeping force in the West Bank.


  In the Washington Post of Nov. 21, Scowcroft, in op-ed article co-authored with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser and a longtime critic of the pro-Israel lobby, argued in favor of those positions.


  But Steven Spiegel, a UCLA political scientist who advises the Israel Policy Forum, said the fact that Scowcroft and Brzezinski felt they needed to make their case in a newspaper rather than privately to Obama demonstrates that they don’t have the president-elect’s ear when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.


  ”If Scowcroft was sure the president-elect was on his side, he wouldn’t be taking this public,” Spiegel said.


  Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Obama’s deliberative style means that he’s unlikely to press Israel into an accelerated peace process, especially with Hamas terrorists still controlling the Gaza Strip and making a comprehensive deal unworkable.


  ”He’s very pragmatic, during the campaign and in his appointments,” Reich said of Obama. “For those who want him from day one to put two feet in the peace process, it’s not going to happen. It’s going to be deliberate; nothing’s going to happen overnight.”


  Obama’s emphasis will be the economic crisis, Spiegel said. On foreign policy, he said, Obama is deliberatively choosing people who will have the independence to handle the international stage, but without drama: Clinton as diplomat, Jones as a tough-minded coordinator.


  ”What these appointments suggest to me is that he’s got to solve his economic problems first and foremost,” Spiegel said.


  It was “ridiculous” to worry about Jones, he said, with a Cabinet that includes Clinton and a White House that has as senior advisers Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod – both of whom are deeply pro-Israel.


  Meanwhile, Obama’s domestic choices have been widely praised among Jewish groups.


  The United Jewish Communities federation umbrella organization has issued several news releases hailing Obama’s appointments, including the selection of former Sen. Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as chief of Homeland Security.


  By contrast, over the past several years the UJC criticized the Bush administration for starving federal entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Obama also pledged during the campaign to move away from Democratic Party dogma when it comes to church-state issues, favoring, for instance, vouchers for families who send their children to private schools, including parochial schools.


  The Jewish community is divided on the voucher issue and is waiting to see what Obama’s education appointments augur.


  However, the Orthodox Union already has praised two appointments announced Monday to the White House’s Domestic Policy Council: The incoming director of the council, Melody Barnes, and her deputy, Heather Higginbottom, are both former Senate staffers who helped author legislation protecting religious rights in the work place and in federal institutions.                                          

(JTA)

Kerry, Carter And Israel

Wednesday, May 5th, 2004

Faced with running against the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman, John Kerry started in February to modify his position on Israel. Just before the New York primary, he put out word that his support for Jimmy Carter and James Baker as potential envoys to the peace process had been a “staff mistake: – their names had supposedly been inserted by unnamed staffers into a Kerry speech and distributed to the press before Kerry could remove them.

Kerry’s brother arranged a meeting in late February with Jewish leaders in Manhattan, at which Kerry reportedly assured the group he was “trying to align himself almost entirely behind Bush’s foreign policy’ on Israel. One person left the meeting predicting the Jewish community will see little difference between Bush and Kerry on Israel “because both sides are saying the right things.”

A useful way to test that observation is to review Kerry’s comments on Israel in his April 18 appearance on “{Meet the Press.” Those comments have gone virtually unreported and unanalyzed, because they appeared consistent with Bush’s position on Israel, and thus were not “news.”

But the interview sheds important light on Kerry’s views - and they are poles apart from Bush’s.

In the portion of the interview dealing with Israel, Kerry was asked whether he supported Bush’s April 14 letter regarding the West Bank settlements and the “right of return.” Kerry answered “yes.” Russert asked “completely?” and Kerry said “yes.”

The single-word answers seemed designed - per the strategy adopted for the New York primary – to align Kerry behind Bush on Israel, say the “right things,” and move on to other issues.

But the rest of the “Meet the Press” discussion was more revealing. First, there was this exchange:

Russert: You also said in December that you would consider as presidential ambassadors to the Middle East President Clinton, but also former President Carter and Secretary of State Baker. You then met with Jewish leaders and said, “I will not send Carter or Baker.’ Why”

Kerry: I think that what I was trying to talk about, Tim, was a kind of potential for bipartisanship as to how you might be able to approach putting a special envoy in place. The names obviously need to be acceptable to everybody within the community. You’ve got to do that as a matter of diplomacy. Subsequent to those names being floated, obviously, some people have different views about it.


That answer was better than the previous “staff mistake” explanation, which had tended to rankle at least part of the Jewish community, since it was demonstrably untrue.

Except that naming Carter had not been “a kind of potential,” nor had his name been merely “floated,” nor was it part of an approach intended to be “acceptable to everybody within the community.”

Here is what Kerry said in December, in a formal presentation to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he had come to “discuss what I would do as president to change a foreign policy that is radically wrong”:

[I]t may be easier to break the stalemate and end the violence fostered by extremists if the end game is the focus, not the steps leading up to it.


In the first days of a Kerry administration, I will appoint a presidential ambassador to the peace process who will report directly to me and the secretary of State, and who will work day to day to move that process forward.


There are a number of uniquely qualified Americans among whom I would consider appointing, including President Carter, former Secretary of State James Baker or . . . . President Clinton. And I might add, I have had conversations with both President Clinton and President Carter about their willingness to do this . . . .


And it’s astonishing to me that we are not picking up somewhere near where we left off at Taba, where most of the difficult issues were resolved, in many ways.

If you think we should move directly to the “end game” (and abandon a formal Quartet Road Map that aims at “progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties” in three stages - starting with the “Palestinians immediately undertak[ing] an unconditional cessation of violence”) - and if you also think it is “astonishing” that we do not just pick up with Taba – then there is only one person you would want as your envoy (with the possible exception of James Baker): Jimmy Carter.

On November 3, 2003 – one month before Kerry’s presentation to the Council on Foreign Relations – Carter announced in USA Today that the Road Map was a “dead issue.” In his article, Carter endorsed the imminent Geneva Accord - an agreement negotiated privately by Israelis and Palestinians who had played key roles at Taba – as an “alternative” to “step-by-step approaches.” He argued a “comprehensive peace agreement” could bring peace – if Washington would give that process “full backing.”

So on December 3, 2003, when Kerry went before the most prestigious foreign policy forum in the United States, to make a major foreign policy address, and

* listed the Israel-Palestinian conflict as an example of a Bush foreign policy gone “radically wrong,”

* suggested that the “end game is the focus, not the steps leading up to it,”

* proposed to appoint a “presidential ambassador” to the peace process “in the first days of a Kerry administration,”

* named Jimmy Carter as a prospective envoy, and

* announced he had already talked to Carter about it,


Kerry was not simply “floating a name.” He was endorsing a major shift in U.S. relations with Israel - far beyond anything Howard “Even-Handed” Dean had suggested.

But that was then, right? Later, he disavowed Carter as a prospective envoy, and on “Meet the Press” said he “completely” supports the Bush position on Israel. The nuanced Senator Kerry had changed his position – right?

In a word, no.

After Kerry gave Russert his non-answer about Carter (“I think that what I was trying to talk about, Tim, was a kind of potential . . .”), Russert followed up:

Russert: Why do you think Carter and Baker are not acceptable?

Kerry: Well, that’s not important. What’s important is how to resolve the crisis, how do you move forward. I believe there?s a way to move forward, I’m convinced of that.
[In other words: Why did you suggest Carter and then reject him? None of your business, Tim.]

Now, I think what the president did in the last few days is to recognize a reality that even President Clinton came to. If you’re going to have a Jewish state, and that is what we are committed to do and that is what Israel is, you cannot have a right of return that’s open-ended or something. You just can’t do it. It’s always been a non-starter. I personally said that at a speech I gave to the Arab community in New York at the World Economic Forum. I’ve said that.


It would be interesting to know what Kerry meant by “even” President Clinton. It might also be interesting to see a copy of Kerry’s World Economic Forum speech, to see exactly what he “personally said” to the Arab community.

That speech is not on Kerry’s campaign website nor on his senate office website, and the summary of it on the World Economic Forum website does not mention any Kerry discussion of the “right of return.” Repeated e-mails to Kerry’s campaign over the past two weeks have not produced a copy.

Until one can review that speech, there is reason to be skeptical of Kerry’s rejection of the “right of return,” since, in his later October 17, 2003 speech to the Arab American Institute, he did not discuss it, much less label it a “non-starter.”

In his 2003 speech, Kerry said he knew “how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build a barrier off the green line” – which he called “another barrier to peace.” He also said he knew that peace “looks very close . . . [to] Taba in January of 2001″ and promised he would have a Middle East envoy who “would never depart” and would be “of such stature” that “we could move the process forward” along the lines of Taba.

One is also skeptical about Kerry’s rejection of the right of return given the way he phrased his “Meet the Press” answer. Kerry’s position was that “. . . you cannot have a right of return that’s openended or something.”

He did not reject a right of return. He rejected a right of return that’s “open-ended or something.” He left open the possibility of a limited right of return, one that would allegedly not affect the character of Israel as a Jewish state.

If that sounds familiar, there is a reason: Taba.

Taba was a set of marathon talks between Israeli and Palestinian delegations at the Egyptian resort of Taba between January 22 and January 28, 2001, conducted by Israel under fire, during the fourth month of the war brought by Arafat after he rejected a state in substantially all of the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem:

“The Barak government continued to offer concessions to the Palestinians, but neither the Israeli public nor the Knesset supported these positions. Ariel Sharon’s landslide victory was only days away on February 6, 2001. . . . Barak was hoping for some breakthrough that would bolster his election chances in the few weeks remaining of his term as Prime Minister.” – PalestineFacts.org.

One of the desperate concessions Barak offered the Palestinians that fateful week was a limited right of return. The Palestinians claimed they had a right of return under the December 11, 1948 UN General Assembly Resolution 194. According to the EU description of the permanent status talks at Taba:

“The Palestinian side reiterated that the Palestinian refugees should have the right of return to their homes in accordance with the interpretation of [UN Resolution] 194. The Israeli side expressed its understanding that the wish to return as per wording of [Resolution] 194 shall be implemented within the framework of one of the following programs: [return to Israel, to Israel swapped territory, to the Palestine state, rehabilitation in host country and relocation to third country]. . . .”

According to the EU summary, the Israeli side informally suggested a 15-year absorption program, with 40,000 in the first five years, but the Palestinian side did not present a number. The Palestinians took the position that “negotiations could not start without an Israeli opening position” – without, in other words, a formal Israeli acknowledgment of the principle under discussion.

As in the conversation with the woman at the bar, the essential point would be established first; the price would be negotiated after that.

According to Yossi Alpher, former senior adviser to Barak, “The formulae presented at the Taba negotiations in January 2001 for bridging the right of return gap did little to reduce Israeli anxiety. It emerged that Palestinians interpreted Israel’s reported readiness to state that a refugee agreement constitutes implementation of Resolution 194, as an Israeli acknowledgment of the right of return.”

In other words, if Israel formally proposed limits on an alleged Palestinian “right” to return to Israel, Israel would have effectively conceded the existence of such a right – with no assurance that the “limits” on that “right” could be successfully negotiated, or (if negotiated) actually implemented, or (if actually implemented) accepted as final by future generations.

The heart of the Bush April 14 letter to Sharon is its unambiguous statement that Palestinians will return to Palestine, not Israel. There can be no negotiation over the specifics of a “limited” right of return without Israel effectively conceding something that has no basis in either international law or UN Resolution 194 itself, and that would be used to de-legitimize the Jewish state.

The Bush Letter is a major step forward toward peace, because peace will not come as long as the Palestinians think there is a chance for return, or a chance to negotiate a principle that will lead to it later. The problem is not a right of return that is “open-ended or something.” The problem is that discussion of any “right of return” is a non-starter.

Taba was a strategic disaster for Israel and for the prospect of peace, because it demonstrated that Israel – having already offered maximum territorial concessions – would, if that offer were rejected, offer even more dramatic concessions, proving that additional war would produce even better terms, that it was not necessary for the Palestinians to concede a “right of return,” that the leaders of Israel were desperate for peace, and that there was no penalty for the rejection of Oslo. On the contrary, there was the reward of more negotiations, and new concessions, even while a renewed war (foresworn at Oslo) was in progress.

To suggest – in the midst of a barbaric post-Oslo war, now in its fourth year – that the thing to do is abandon the Road Map, with its insistence on an end to violence, and to pick up where we left off at Taba, with its discussions about a “limited” right of return, is (there is no other word) astonishing.

But that was Kerry’s position at the Council on Foreign Relations in December, and, as his “Meet the Press” phrasing shows, it still appears to be his position now. His support of Bush on Israel is far from “complete.”

And that is why he couldn’t answer the question why Carter was “not acceptable.” To Kerry, he wasn’t and isn’t unacceptable. On the contrary, Kerry’s approach to Israel is Jimmy Carter’s, whether Carter ends up as the envoy or not.


Rick Richman edits Jewish Current Issues.

Letters To The Editor

Friday, January 16th, 2004

Adelson Will Be Missed

With a deep sense of sorrow and loss, I must express my sadness to the family and friends of Professor Howard Adelson, a”h, and to all the staff of The Jewish Press.

This reader regularly enjoyed and appreciated his insightful analysis, his sharp efficient writing style, and his mince-no-words approach to the issues he addressed. The pain of his absence will linger, for his uniqueness cannot be replaced.

Speaking as a friend in spirit, I thank you for all you have given us, and may your many friends in spirit pay tribute to your memory.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY



Ignoring The Issue

I commend The Jewish Press for its refusal to buy into the mass pretense that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky is somehow not ducking the upcoming homosexual festival in his city. The issue was not even mentioned in any of the numerous soirees held for him on his recent visit to the U.S. Not at the Agudah Convention, and not at the Boro Park breakfast.

In fact, I understand from someone who was there that it was only at a press conference after the formal part of the breakfast that a representative of The Jewish Press raised the issue – to the visible consternation of both Councilman Simcha Felder and Mayor Lupoliansky

I am sick and tired of these make-nice lovefests. There are serious issues out there, and we have a right to expect that those who want our respect earn it by squarely facing them.

Chaim Basch
(Via E-Mail)


Disagrees On Riskin

Re your Dec. 12 editorial  ‘A Shocking Affront’:

There you go again. How is it that you have the chutzpah to challenge the interpretation of a recognized scholar like Rabbi Steven Riskin? Not only is he the officially recognized chief rabbi of Efrat, but he is acknowledged as a spiritual leader by thousands. What entitles the
Jewish Press to challenge that judgment?

And by what right does The Jewish Press dismiss “today’s popular rabbinic discourse” as being presumptuous? Would you deny the modern- day rabbinate the right to share inventive biblical insights? Did creative Torah scholarship end centuries ago?

Jenna Feinberg
New York, NY



In With The Modern!

Once again, Neanderthal-like, The Jewish Press has denigrated modern religious scholarship. You seem to be unable to come to terms with the fact that modern Jews think and are not prepared to limit their understanding of the Torah to the thinking of the past, no matter the
source. Please understand that I am not suggesting that we discard or ignore the past, but for the life of me I wonder why The Jewish Press is so down on our current leaders. It’s almost as if you want to see the Judaism of the 21st century held captive to what was taught many years
ago, and that you view those who are committed to those teachings as the only legitimate gatekeepers.

Robert Schechter
Brooklyn, NY


Too Soft On Truman

In his Jewish Press front-page essay purporting to “deconstruct” the Mideast strategy of George W. Bush, Mitchell G. Bard offers readers a bucolic view of former president Harry Truman – a view that, given historical reality, is deeply flawed.

This flaw is most glaring when Bard advances his adulatory theory of a supposedly friendly and sympathetic Truman compelled to make the “difficult” choice between, on the one hand, Secretary of State George C. Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forrestal, both of whom bitterly opposed recognition of a Jewish state, and, on the other hand, presidential advisers Clark Clifford and David Niles, both of whom favored recognition.

The choice facing Truman should not have been difficult in any event, but especially not with the horrors of the Holocaust still so fresh in everyone’s mind. The UN resolution in question was merely to partition the land between an Arab state and a minuscule and truncated Jewish
state.

And when the Jews of the newly created State of Israel needed his help the most, the ‘sympathetic’ Truman embargoed arms essential for their survival. The only means the Jews had of securing arms to defend themselves was through purchases on the open market of surplus military stocks from World War II. The funds came from contributions of Jews around the world, collected at functions, meetings, synagogues, etc.

Truman was actually annoyed to receive many letters from Jews urging him to recognize, and later to arm, the new Jewish state. Yes, Truman worked with a number of Jews, including the legendary Bernard Baruch, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and others, but he had a dark side when
it came to his views on the Jews - a side Bard ignores.

Others, including the columnist Sid Zion, have offered a much more realistic assessment of the reason for Truman?s grudging recognition of Israel: It was not so much out of any sense of compassion for the world’s surviving and persecuted Jews, but, rather, as a way to ensure Jewish loyalty in the 1948 election that, at the time, he seemed certain to lose to Thomas Dewey, the popular Republican governor of New York.

Truman was never a friend of the Jews, just another typical political exploiter of Jewish votes. Anti-Semitism flourished in America in those war years, and the White House was no exception.

Jerry Boris
Philadelphia, PA


Invisible Bride?

I enjoy the “Machberes” column by Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum very much.

However, something about last week’s story “Vishnitzer Shidduch” didn’t seem quite right. The column began by telling us that a gentleman named Dovid Hager became engaged. To whom? He became engaged to “the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchok Yochanan Hager, Williamsburg
Vishnitzer Rav.”

The article continued by informing us of the name of the kalah’s grandfather and the names of the chasan’s father and grandfather. What was not mentioned at all in the entire article? The kalah’s name! Is her name not as important as the chasan’s name? In the section of the kesubah where the kalah’s name is supposed to appear, is her name going to be written in, or is it just going to say “HaKalah bas Rav Yitzchok Yochanan?” I don’t think the kesubah will be valid if they do that.

In the future please include the actual name of the kalah so that your readers will know that the kalah is worthy of getting married for reasons other than being the daughter of a chassidishe rav.

Barry J. Koppel
Kew Gardens Hills, NY



Editorial ‘Off The Mark’

Usually, even when I do not agree with them, I find Jewish Press
editorials to be well thought out. Nonetheless, the final two paragraphs
of the Nov. 21 editorial titled “The Number 50″ was, in my estimation,
way off the mark from an authentic Jewish perspective. I quote:

“A review of the Forward 50 makes clear that the Forward’s agenda of secularizing Judaism is being pursued with a vengeance. The inclusion of Ruth Messinger - described as the executive director of the American Jewish World Service, “a smaller agency making grants to Third World anti-hunger projects and deploying Jewish volunteers in Peace Corps-style programs to fight poverty and disease” – is but one of many examples.

“In any event, it occurred to us that if the cumulative contributions of them all were as significant as reported, why in Heaven’s Name isn’t the world in better shape than it is? I have no real argument with the editorial’s central point that the Forward was glorifying an overly secular Jewish approach with its list. The example cited, however, is that of a Jewish person dedicated to fighting poverty and disease around the world. What better kiddush Hashem could there be? Doesn’t The Jewish Press itself often highlight and feature (and rightly so) Israeli medical teams and army specialty units that assist other countries in cases of earthquakes or epidemics)? Is not the learning of Torah meant to sensitize us and teach us how to do more chesed for more people, and to refine our morality and ethics?

Unfortunately, this editorial appears to presume as a forgone conclusion that the mission of this person is antithetical to supposedly more authentic Jewish activities (like sitting and learning in one’s arba amot?). I might not have been all that surprised to find this assumption, unfortunately, in other Orthodox publications, but I never would have expected it from The Jewish Press.

Finally, the editorial?s final paragraph is just silly and glib. This question could easily be turned around and asked about our many great rabbanim and teachers today and throughout history. But do we degrade the incredible accomplishments of our Torah leaders throughout the
generations by questioning why, in light of those accomplishments, the world is not ‘in better shape than it is?’

Tzvi Mauer
Efrat, Israel


Editor’s Response: The point of our editorial was not to denigrate the good deeds the Forward looked to as qualification for inclusion on its list, or indeed those who performed them. What we continue to object to is any notion that the good deeds
define one as a Jew rather than as a good person who happens to be Jewish. Surely, under that logic, even non-Jews would qualify for the list.

The premise of the Forward list is that if one contributes positively to the common good, it matters not whether one even thinks about the observance of the Sabbath, the laws of kashruth, family purity, etc. We think it does matter - a great deal, in fact
- whether one commits to the observance of mitzvot as mitzvot.

In sum, while everything Jewish is good, not everything good is peculiarly Jewish. Put another way, Judaism is a normative faith.

Finally, our “silly and glib” observation about the sad state of affairs was a reaction in kind to the sophomoric, feel-good aura surrounding the Forward’s list.



Gore, Dean, And The Zeitgeist Of The Democratic Party

While Al Gore’s recent endorsement of Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination created a media feeding frenzy, I sat back and said to myself, “No big surprise here.”

What shocks me is the number of pundits asking how Gore could have done this to poor, loyal Joe Lieberman. Again, why the surprise? When did the Clinton/Gore team ever reward loyalty unless there was something to be gained in return?

The bigger story is that this just validates all the op-eds I’ve written suggesting that Orthodox
Jews do not belong in the Democratic party. When Lieberman was selected by Gore in 2000, I wrote that his role was two-fold: to make the party kosher and, as one Democrat strategist put it, to “take G-d back” from the Republicans.

Well, three years have gone by and I guess the Democrats don’t need G-d anymore.

When Gore needed an image makeover after eight years of sexual misconduct and other bad
behavior in the White House by President Clinton, he picked a man who is a Sabbath observer, eats kosher, and is not uncomfortable talking about his faith.

Three years ago, Lieberman was applauded by many for speaking of the importance of G-d and faith. Now, Democratic front-runner Howard Dean says we should ignore “issues like G-d, gays, guns, and abortion.”

This total reversal in Gore’s mind as to who better represents the hearts and minds of
Democrats should help answer the question voters have been asking for two years, namely: “I wonder how Al Gore would have responded to 9-11 had he been president?”

It was just prior to the impeachment hearings on President Clinton that Senator Lieberman
announced from the Senate floor that President Clinton behaved inappropriately. For this he was lionized as “the conscience of the Senate.”

It seems now that neither conscience nor honor is a qualification required by the Democratic
party.

I wonder whether those Jewish voters who say that a candidate’s support for Israel is
paramount will vote for a Democrat like Howard Dean (assuming he wins the Democratic
nomination) - a man who has called for even-handedness in how the U.S. views the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Alan Skorski
(Via E-Mail)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Skorski is a Republican activist and frequent op-ed
contributor to The Jewish Press.




Defending Israel’s Borders


Clinton Championed ‘Greater Israel’?

I found Joseph Schick’s article (“Defending Israel’s Right To Secure Borders,” Dec. 12) to be a valuable historical lesson. But while few would deny the wording and intent of Resolution 242, the sad fact is that not a single American administration since 1948 has embraced the idea of a “greater Israel.” At the risk of sounding heretical, Bill Clinton came closer than anyone. President Bush is not even a close second. And Mr. Schick does not offer anything to counter the apparent reality that the U.S., as far as Israel is concerned, is the only game in town.

Sheldon Katz
Miami, FL



What About The Palestinians?

Given the length of Joseph Schick’s article, it would have been nice if he spent a few lines
focusing on the dilemma that has confronted every Israeli government: what to do with the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live there. Perhaps the Pereses and Beilins of the world are more in touch with reality than the Schicks. Certainly they deserve better than to be portrayed as craven appeasers.

Helene Hymowitz
(Via E-Mail)



Skewed Perspective

Joseph Schick is like many of us in the Jewish community. We seem to think that the world is the Jewish people writ large. It may surprise us that out there in the boonies, there is scant support for Israeli triumphalism even as there is support for Israel as a home for the Jews. We mix the two notions at our peril.

Miles Glassman
New York, NY



Worth The Wait

At long last a carefully presented, cogent statement of Israel’s rights in Judea and Samaria. We should all now resolve to bring this message to Washington and our elected officials: We will not be misled by political and diplomatic chicanery. Thank you, Joseph Schick, for a well-researched, well-written article. I’ve waited for something like this for a long, long time and e-mailed it to several friends and relatives.

David Perlmutter
(Via E-Mail)


Intellectual WMD

Armed with Mr. Schick’s vast arsenal of quotes taken straight from the mouths of so many
diplomats, leaders and other notables, I already have forced several of my leftist friends to
reconsider their cherished little myths. Articles like Mr. Schick’s are what make The Jewish Press stand out.

Carl Aptowitz
(Via E-Mail)  

The Best And The Brightest

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2002

Every year at this time the conservative Media Research Center compiles the most outrageously biased and stupefyingly dumb remarks made by media people during the previous 12 months. Even the quickest perusal of these gems should forever still any doubts about the media’s inherent liberal bias and stupefying shallowness.

Here are just a few of the Monitor’s personal favorites (for all of the quotes, see “The Best Notable Quotables of 2001″ on the center’s website, www.mrc.org):

“Nineteen days after the presidential election, Florida’s Republican secretary of state is about to announce the winner – as she sees it and decrees it – of the state’s potentially decisive 25 electoral votes….

“The believed certification – as the Republican secretary of state sees it – is coming just hours after a court ordered deadline for counties to submit their hand count and recount totals….

“The reason we’re on the air right across-the-board nationally is because Florida’s secretary of state – a Republican, as we’ve mentioned before – campaigned actively for George Bush, well-connected to Governor Bush’s brother Jeb Bush in Florida, but a woman who has consistently said, ‘I’m trying to do my job, right down to the letter of the law, as best I can’…She will certify - as she sees it – who gets Florida’s 25 electoral votes….

“What’s happening here is the certification – as the Florida secretary of state sees it and decrees it – is being signed…. After this, it will be, at least in the opinion of the secretary of state, that the results will be final….” [All italics in this entry added for emphasis.]

- Dan Rather, during a CBS News Special Report on the Nov. 26 official certification of Florida’s vote.

Bill O’Reilly: “I want to ask you flat out, do you think President Clinton’s an honest man?”

Dan Rather: “Yes, I think he’s an honest man.”

O’Reilly: “Do you, really?”

Rather: “I do.”

O’Reilly: “Even though he lied to [PBS newsman] Jim Lehrer’s face about the Lewinsky case?”

Rather: “Who among us has not lied about something?”

O’Reilly: “Well, I didn’t lie to anyone’s face on national television. I don’t think you have, have you?”

Rather: “I don’t think I ever have. I hope I never have. But, look, it’s one thing … ”

O’Reilly: “How can you say he’s an honest guy then?”

Rather: “Well, because I think he is. I think at core he’s an honest person. I know that you have a different view. I know that you consider it sort of astonishing anybody would say so, but I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”

- Exchange on Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, May 15.

“Since September 11, the word ‘terrorist’ has come to mean someone who is radical, Islamic and foreign. But many believe we have as much to fear from a home-grown group of anti-abortion crusaders.”

- Reporter Jami Floyd on ABC’s 20/20, Nov. 28

“Throughout his eight years in office, President Clinton warned us that the next great menace was international terrorism….He also brought unprecedented prosperity to our nation….This lecture series is about the human spirit. To me and millions of others, President Clinton has always personified that. He is the man from Hope, and that is what he has given us, hope. We miss him. Thank you, Mr. President.”

- Former UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas introducing Clinton at Oct. 9 Greater Washington Society of Association Executives lecture

“There is no liberal bias in the press in the whole. In fact, if there is a bias, it’s on the other side. It’s hard to find a person, really, truly, of the liberal persuasion who are [sic] making any important decisions in any important media institutions in this country now….”

- Time magazine’s Jack White, Sept. 1, Inside Washington.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

American Jewry’s New Religion

Wednesday, June 27th, 2001
Rabbi Daniel Lapin has this rather refreshing habit of going against the Jewish establishment’s liberal grain. He’s also quite obviously unafraid of taking on even the most cherished folkways of American Jewry, perhaps most notably its obsession with the Holocaust – an obsession he views as nothing less than detrimental to the spiritual health of the community.The president of Toward Tradition, a politically conservative organization dedicated to fighting the corrosive effects of secularism in American society, Rabbi Lapin has long decried the iconic status the Holocaust has assumed among Jews, inevitably as a secular substitute for vibrant religious observance.

‘It’s interesting to reflect,’ he observed last month, ‘that we Jews are, after all, inheritors of a religion that instructs us to ‘choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). ‘Yet our community leaders are constantly choosing to assail us with images of death, as if Judaism were some weird death cult. And they charge us for it!

‘I wish the Holocaust was remembered as it should be, on Tisha b’Av. Then all that money could be spent on something genuinely life-promoting, like teaching young Jews about Judaism.’

It should come as no surprise that Rabbi Lapin exhibits little enthusiasm for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. In fact, Toward Tradition has called for ‘a complete defunding’ of the institution by the Federal government, which currently foots 60 percent of the museum’s budget.

In a press release issued last February, Rabbi Lapin’s organization noted that ‘In just the past four years, the museum has come under fire for showing visitors a film that blames Nazism on Christianity – a libelous distortion; seeking to appoint as director of its Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies a scholar who had compared the election of President Reagan to the rise of Nazism; celebrating a book that charged Israel with ‘ethnic cleansing’; and sponsoring a panel that accused the CIA of ‘genocide.’ ‘
As for the museum’s most recent embarrassment, the press release took note of the fact that the chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Rabbi Irving ‘Yitz’ Greenberg, had written a letter to then-President Clinton – on museum stationery – in which Greenberg declared that to allow the fugitive Marc Rich to return to the U.S. free from fear of prosecution would be ‘one of the most G-dlike actions that anyone could ever do.’As the statement wryly pointed out, ‘The G-dlike President Clinton accepted this advice (along with generous contributions from the ex-wife of Mr. Rich).’ The statement also made mention of published reports that ‘a philanthropic interest linked with Rabbi Greenberg had received from Mr. Rich some $5 million.’

The press release concluded with a statement from Rabbi Lapin: ‘As time goes by, it becomes increasingly hard to see how one might explain to, let us say, a wheat farmer in Iowa why his tax dollars should go to support such an institution. Nor is it as if the United States had anything whatever to do with the Holocaust, a fact that made the museum a questionable object of federal largesse to begin with.’

In a timely piece appearing this week on NationalReviewOnline, Rabbi Lapin gives a broader context to his dismay with how the cult of the Holocaust has displaced Judaism in American Jewish life, comparing the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day with that of Shavuot.

‘In the former case,’ he writes, ‘enthusiastic Jews young and old crowded synagogues, temples, and Jewish Community Centers around the country….Community leaders of every denomination warned us not to forget our history.

‘And yet, just a few weeks later, on Shavuot, the day commemorating the giving of the Torah, when the people of Israel became a nation, most Jews [preferred] to forget history. Year after year, in spite of its centrality to all of Jewish existence…Shavuot is trumped by Holocaust Remembrance Day.’

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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