Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rabbi

A Rabbi Breaks Ranks

Here’s an Israel story everyone should keep tabs on. For the first time that I can recall, an ultra-Orthodox member of the Knesset has openly defied the authority of his party’s spiritual leaders. This comes after Rabbi Haim Amsalem of Shas spoke out against the lifestyle of married yeshiva students who prefer to study Torah and live off handouts rather than get a job — in other words, against the central ideal that defines ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel today. Over the weekend, his party’s official newspaper ran a series of articles slamming him, and now the party leadership, its four-man Council of Torah Sages headed by Shas’s spiritual leader, former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has called on him to quit, adding that if he does not, he’ll be little more than a “thief in the night.” One Shas commentator likened him to Amalek, the Ur-enemy of the Jews, whose memory is, according to the Bible, to be “wiped out.”

Amsalem, however, is sticking to his guns. Calling the handouts “shameful,” he has refused to give up his Knesset post, arguing (probably correctly) that his views reflect those of the great majority of Shas voters.

Why is this story so important? First, because Amsalem is giving voice to an increasingly discontented voter base for Shas — an electorate that walks a thin line between embracing Rabbi Yosef and his defense of Sephardic Judaism while living a lifestyle that, for the most part, is traditional rather than ultra-Orthodox, which means that they work for a living and don’t necessarily buy into the Ashkenazic-invented ideal of Torah study as a full-time job. For the first time, they have a rabbi that speaks his mind for the things they actually believe in.

Second, because here we have the most vivid example of the clash between democracy and religious authority. As a duly elected member of parliament, Amsalem has every legal right to keep his post. Yet the Orthodox parties in Israel have always been run according to a model in which their representatives in parliament accept party discipline not just as a political duty but as a religious one as well. Amsalem’s fate will tell us a lot about whether democracy or religion has supremacy in the Jewish state.

Third, because Amsalem has raised a powerful challenge to the very idea of rabbinic authority. Over the centuries, rabbis have claimed a moral right to tell their flocks what to do, on the grounds that their extensive study gives them the requisite expertise in the religious law. The dirty little secret, however, is that there is no formal hierarchical establishment in Judaism akin to what exists in the Catholic Church. In practice, rabbis have authority only over whoever chooses to follow them. The result is that rabbis who don’t take seriously the underlying values of their followers end up having no one to lead. Beneath the veneer of top-down authority, rabbinic politics has always been far more democratic than most rabbis would admit.

If Shas’s rabbis are reacting wildly to Amsalem’s challenge, it’s because they perceive a real threat to their hold on power. But as the Jerusalem Post‘s Jeff Barak points out, Amsalem is giving a rare, clear voice to what a great many of Shas’s own voters already believe. How this plays out could well determine the future of the Shas party, the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate as a whole, and a certain slice of democratic life in Israel as well.

Here’s an Israel story everyone should keep tabs on. For the first time that I can recall, an ultra-Orthodox member of the Knesset has openly defied the authority of his party’s spiritual leaders. This comes after Rabbi Haim Amsalem of Shas spoke out against the lifestyle of married yeshiva students who prefer to study Torah and live off handouts rather than get a job — in other words, against the central ideal that defines ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel today. Over the weekend, his party’s official newspaper ran a series of articles slamming him, and now the party leadership, its four-man Council of Torah Sages headed by Shas’s spiritual leader, former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has called on him to quit, adding that if he does not, he’ll be little more than a “thief in the night.” One Shas commentator likened him to Amalek, the Ur-enemy of the Jews, whose memory is, according to the Bible, to be “wiped out.”

Amsalem, however, is sticking to his guns. Calling the handouts “shameful,” he has refused to give up his Knesset post, arguing (probably correctly) that his views reflect those of the great majority of Shas voters.

Why is this story so important? First, because Amsalem is giving voice to an increasingly discontented voter base for Shas — an electorate that walks a thin line between embracing Rabbi Yosef and his defense of Sephardic Judaism while living a lifestyle that, for the most part, is traditional rather than ultra-Orthodox, which means that they work for a living and don’t necessarily buy into the Ashkenazic-invented ideal of Torah study as a full-time job. For the first time, they have a rabbi that speaks his mind for the things they actually believe in.

Second, because here we have the most vivid example of the clash between democracy and religious authority. As a duly elected member of parliament, Amsalem has every legal right to keep his post. Yet the Orthodox parties in Israel have always been run according to a model in which their representatives in parliament accept party discipline not just as a political duty but as a religious one as well. Amsalem’s fate will tell us a lot about whether democracy or religion has supremacy in the Jewish state.

Third, because Amsalem has raised a powerful challenge to the very idea of rabbinic authority. Over the centuries, rabbis have claimed a moral right to tell their flocks what to do, on the grounds that their extensive study gives them the requisite expertise in the religious law. The dirty little secret, however, is that there is no formal hierarchical establishment in Judaism akin to what exists in the Catholic Church. In practice, rabbis have authority only over whoever chooses to follow them. The result is that rabbis who don’t take seriously the underlying values of their followers end up having no one to lead. Beneath the veneer of top-down authority, rabbinic politics has always been far more democratic than most rabbis would admit.

If Shas’s rabbis are reacting wildly to Amsalem’s challenge, it’s because they perceive a real threat to their hold on power. But as the Jerusalem Post‘s Jeff Barak points out, Amsalem is giving a rare, clear voice to what a great many of Shas’s own voters already believe. How this plays out could well determine the future of the Shas party, the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate as a whole, and a certain slice of democratic life in Israel as well.

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The Wondrous Comedy Stylings of Rabbi Michael Lerner

I must confess I get a thrill up my leg when I see I’ve received an e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun magazine, because I know I’m about to have a really good laugh. Today’s e-mail is a Thanksgiving missive:

No matter how difficult it may be in a world filled with pain and cruelty, there are moments when it is important to stop looking at all the problems and focus on all the good. And that’s part of what Thanksgiving could be about for you this year. Life is so amazing, and our universe so awesome, filled with realities that transcend our capacity to comprehend, and inviting us to awe and wonder and radical amazement! Give yourself and your friends a day dedicated to truly feeling those kinds of feelings!!!! …

It might start with a group of friends or family taking a walk to visit some part of nature that they really love. … It might continue with each family member, guest, or friend being asked to bring something (a book, a poem, a video, a movie, a song, a musical instrument to play some music, a cd or dvd) that they believe will give you an experience for which you are grateful. …

Then, you might consider asking each person to share something that they particularly appreciate in another person who is there at the
gathering. Or to tell about some other person who has been a special teacher, friend, or care-giver to you during the past year. Even if you are only a guest at someone else’s celebration, you can initiate or at least suggest this to the people you meet there! To prepare, you might even make a list of the things you are truly grateful for in your life before you go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. …

So at this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the joke? Ah, it’s all in the set-up, you see. Because here’s the punchline:

I think you will find that when you’ve followed some of these steps preparatory to the meal, that you can then turn the conversation to talk about the absurdity of the War in Afghanistan and the misguided nature of the War on Terror. … Or talk about the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East and the need for a progressive Middle Path which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and refuses to play the “blame game” of which side is “really bad” and which side is “really good” but instead recognizes that both sides have co-created this mess. You might even want to discuss the misguided move by the US to offer military incentives to Israel to restart negotiations. … For all the “realists” at your table ask them how well they think things turned out for Obama and the Democrats these past two years by following the “realistic” path in D.C. rather than fighting for a more progressive or visionary alternative.

Yes, greet Thanksgiving with wonder and amazement by attacking the U.S. and Israel, and then attack people at your Thanksgiving table for having the temerity to think or have thought otherwise!!!! (Those four exclamation points courtesy of Rabbi Michael Lerner, who loves exclamation points almost as much as he likes to draw analogues between Israel and Nazi Germany!!!!)!!!!

I must confess I get a thrill up my leg when I see I’ve received an e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun magazine, because I know I’m about to have a really good laugh. Today’s e-mail is a Thanksgiving missive:

No matter how difficult it may be in a world filled with pain and cruelty, there are moments when it is important to stop looking at all the problems and focus on all the good. And that’s part of what Thanksgiving could be about for you this year. Life is so amazing, and our universe so awesome, filled with realities that transcend our capacity to comprehend, and inviting us to awe and wonder and radical amazement! Give yourself and your friends a day dedicated to truly feeling those kinds of feelings!!!! …

It might start with a group of friends or family taking a walk to visit some part of nature that they really love. … It might continue with each family member, guest, or friend being asked to bring something (a book, a poem, a video, a movie, a song, a musical instrument to play some music, a cd or dvd) that they believe will give you an experience for which you are grateful. …

Then, you might consider asking each person to share something that they particularly appreciate in another person who is there at the
gathering. Or to tell about some other person who has been a special teacher, friend, or care-giver to you during the past year. Even if you are only a guest at someone else’s celebration, you can initiate or at least suggest this to the people you meet there! To prepare, you might even make a list of the things you are truly grateful for in your life before you go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. …

So at this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the joke? Ah, it’s all in the set-up, you see. Because here’s the punchline:

I think you will find that when you’ve followed some of these steps preparatory to the meal, that you can then turn the conversation to talk about the absurdity of the War in Afghanistan and the misguided nature of the War on Terror. … Or talk about the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East and the need for a progressive Middle Path which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and refuses to play the “blame game” of which side is “really bad” and which side is “really good” but instead recognizes that both sides have co-created this mess. You might even want to discuss the misguided move by the US to offer military incentives to Israel to restart negotiations. … For all the “realists” at your table ask them how well they think things turned out for Obama and the Democrats these past two years by following the “realistic” path in D.C. rather than fighting for a more progressive or visionary alternative.

Yes, greet Thanksgiving with wonder and amazement by attacking the U.S. and Israel, and then attack people at your Thanksgiving table for having the temerity to think or have thought otherwise!!!! (Those four exclamation points courtesy of Rabbi Michael Lerner, who loves exclamation points almost as much as he likes to draw analogues between Israel and Nazi Germany!!!!)!!!!

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Ground Zero Mosque: A Public Debate

This evening, November 9, at 6 p.m., a public forum will be held on the topic of “The Ground Zero Mosque: To Build or Not to Build?” at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs. The panel discussing the question will be composed of COMMENTARY executive editor Jonathan S. Tobin, author of “The Mosque and the Mythical Backlash,” which appeared in the magazine’s October issue; Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion; and the Reverend Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York. The moderator will be COMMENTARY contributor Kenneth L. Marcus, Lillie & Nathan Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality & Justice in America.

The forum will be held at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, Newman Vertical Campus, 14th Floor, Room 14-220, at 55 Lexington Avenue in New York City. To RSVP, please click here.

This evening, November 9, at 6 p.m., a public forum will be held on the topic of “The Ground Zero Mosque: To Build or Not to Build?” at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs. The panel discussing the question will be composed of COMMENTARY executive editor Jonathan S. Tobin, author of “The Mosque and the Mythical Backlash,” which appeared in the magazine’s October issue; Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion; and the Reverend Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York. The moderator will be COMMENTARY contributor Kenneth L. Marcus, Lillie & Nathan Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality & Justice in America.

The forum will be held at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, Newman Vertical Campus, 14th Floor, Room 14-220, at 55 Lexington Avenue in New York City. To RSVP, please click here.

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RE: Time to Jump Off the J Street Bandwagon

One of the most curious formulations presented in the JTA article that Jennifer referenced is the claim put forward by Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs that J Street had helped “suck the wind out of anti-Israel divestment efforts by presenting a credible left-wing, pro-Israel alternative.” Gutow said the group had been praised by “a number of the JCPA’s constituent network of local community relations councils” for its work on this issue.

In order to understand this statement, one has to understand that a great many, if not most, local Jewish community-relations councils have historically been the preserve of hard-core ideological liberals within the organized Jewish world. So it is not surprising that in this largely leftist bastion there would be many who identify with a group whose main purpose is to act as a Jewish cheering section for Obama-administration pressure on Israel.

But the notion that J Street has played much of a role in channeling leftist energy away from all-out anti-Zionism into the allegedly more productive stance of saving Israel from itself via U.S. pressure seems to be more a matter of the group’s spin cycle than anything else. While J Street was formed as something of a Jewish rump of leftist MoveOn.org activism, the idea that the organization spent any time or energy combating the divestment movement is pure fantasy. One would have thought that an organization that billed itself as being “pro-Israel” as well as “pro-peace” would have taken the lead in opposing anti-Israel hate around the country, but that was never J Street’s priority or even a minor aspect of its activity. Nor is there any evidence that there has been any shift in allegiance on the part of anti-Israel activists from those backing divestment and opposing the Jewish state’s very existence to J Street, as Gutow contends.

From its first day, J Street’s focus has always been on undermining AIPAC and usurping that umbrella group’s function as the voice of the Jewish community on Israel in Washington. But the group has spent the past two years busily burning bridges with mainstream pro-Israel liberals by opposing Israeli self-defense against Hamas in Gaza and defending the lies of the UN’s Goldstone Commission.

Its loss of influence in Washington predates the revelations that its leaders have consistently lied about their sources of financial support. Indeed, the Obama administration’s decision to embark on a “charm offensive” with the Jewish community in the wake of its disastrous attempts to pressure the Israeli government over Jewish rights in Jerusalem earlier this year illustrates that the White House knows that J Street is a Potemkin Village whose attempts to overturn the community’s pro-Israel consensus have been an utter failure. Moreover, contrary to Gutow’s assertions that the general disgust being expressed about J Street’s lies about George Soros are merely “legalisms,” they are indicative of a mendacity that extended beyond accounts of its finances to its policy prescriptions.

As for the manner in which some in the organized community have made nice with Soros, the explanation for this is not exactly a mystery. Numerous Jewish organizations have been trying to get in Soros’s good graces for many years for the same reason they flatter any potential wealthy contributor: they covet his money. That he has consistently stiffed them and instead given his money to Israel-bashers like Human Rights Watch and a leftist front group like J Street merely renders their obsequiousness embarrassing but hardly surprising.

One of the most curious formulations presented in the JTA article that Jennifer referenced is the claim put forward by Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs that J Street had helped “suck the wind out of anti-Israel divestment efforts by presenting a credible left-wing, pro-Israel alternative.” Gutow said the group had been praised by “a number of the JCPA’s constituent network of local community relations councils” for its work on this issue.

In order to understand this statement, one has to understand that a great many, if not most, local Jewish community-relations councils have historically been the preserve of hard-core ideological liberals within the organized Jewish world. So it is not surprising that in this largely leftist bastion there would be many who identify with a group whose main purpose is to act as a Jewish cheering section for Obama-administration pressure on Israel.

But the notion that J Street has played much of a role in channeling leftist energy away from all-out anti-Zionism into the allegedly more productive stance of saving Israel from itself via U.S. pressure seems to be more a matter of the group’s spin cycle than anything else. While J Street was formed as something of a Jewish rump of leftist MoveOn.org activism, the idea that the organization spent any time or energy combating the divestment movement is pure fantasy. One would have thought that an organization that billed itself as being “pro-Israel” as well as “pro-peace” would have taken the lead in opposing anti-Israel hate around the country, but that was never J Street’s priority or even a minor aspect of its activity. Nor is there any evidence that there has been any shift in allegiance on the part of anti-Israel activists from those backing divestment and opposing the Jewish state’s very existence to J Street, as Gutow contends.

From its first day, J Street’s focus has always been on undermining AIPAC and usurping that umbrella group’s function as the voice of the Jewish community on Israel in Washington. But the group has spent the past two years busily burning bridges with mainstream pro-Israel liberals by opposing Israeli self-defense against Hamas in Gaza and defending the lies of the UN’s Goldstone Commission.

Its loss of influence in Washington predates the revelations that its leaders have consistently lied about their sources of financial support. Indeed, the Obama administration’s decision to embark on a “charm offensive” with the Jewish community in the wake of its disastrous attempts to pressure the Israeli government over Jewish rights in Jerusalem earlier this year illustrates that the White House knows that J Street is a Potemkin Village whose attempts to overturn the community’s pro-Israel consensus have been an utter failure. Moreover, contrary to Gutow’s assertions that the general disgust being expressed about J Street’s lies about George Soros are merely “legalisms,” they are indicative of a mendacity that extended beyond accounts of its finances to its policy prescriptions.

As for the manner in which some in the organized community have made nice with Soros, the explanation for this is not exactly a mystery. Numerous Jewish organizations have been trying to get in Soros’s good graces for many years for the same reason they flatter any potential wealthy contributor: they covet his money. That he has consistently stiffed them and instead given his money to Israel-bashers like Human Rights Watch and a leftist front group like J Street merely renders their obsequiousness embarrassing but hardly surprising.

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RE: Why There Is No Peace

Bibi is indeed coming under pressure to halt the peace-talks charade. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) are an energy boost to murderousness and terror. The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”

MK Uri Ariel  (National Union) called on Netanyahu to freeze the nascent negotiations slated to begin on Thursday in Washington. “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.” …

Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said [MK Aryeh] Eldad. “Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”

Other officials were “more ambiguous,” and still others insisted that this showed how vital talks are. (The same nonsense emanated from our own State Department.)

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put out a tough-minded statement:

“Far from being ‘senseless’, these cold blooded execution style Hamas murders underscore the reality that PA President Abbas does not fully control Palestinian territories,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who are respectively the  Founder and Dean and Associate Dean of the international Jewish human rights NGO. “Hamas is exercising its murderous veto power over any proposed peaceful solution two-state solution, and as long the Palestinian people back them, they will never have peace,” they added.

“Today’s murders prove that the peace talks in Washington will go nowhere until the world stops demanding that Israel make ‘more painful concessions for peace’ and instead focus on how to defang and oust Hamas from power,” Rabbi Hier and Rabbi Cooper concluded.

So now we have a test. Where is the condemnation from CAIR and from Imam Rauf? Now would be the time to prove their alleged ”moderate” bona fides. But more important, where is the statement – in Arabic — from Mahmoud Abbas declaring that the terrorist acts are contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and calling for a complete cessation of all violence? That would seem to be the first order of business at the peace talks. Because you can’t have peace when one side is still killing. And you will hear that, oh, that was Hamas and Abbas can’t control them. Well then what, pray tell, is the point of a “peace agreement”?

It would be a fine idea if Bibi did return for the funerals — not cancel the talks, but emphasize that the safety of his citizens is his highest priority. If he doesn’t make that crystal clear, why should others take him seriously?

Bibi is indeed coming under pressure to halt the peace-talks charade. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) are an energy boost to murderousness and terror. The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”

MK Uri Ariel  (National Union) called on Netanyahu to freeze the nascent negotiations slated to begin on Thursday in Washington. “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.” …

Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said [MK Aryeh] Eldad. “Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”

Other officials were “more ambiguous,” and still others insisted that this showed how vital talks are. (The same nonsense emanated from our own State Department.)

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put out a tough-minded statement:

“Far from being ‘senseless’, these cold blooded execution style Hamas murders underscore the reality that PA President Abbas does not fully control Palestinian territories,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who are respectively the  Founder and Dean and Associate Dean of the international Jewish human rights NGO. “Hamas is exercising its murderous veto power over any proposed peaceful solution two-state solution, and as long the Palestinian people back them, they will never have peace,” they added.

“Today’s murders prove that the peace talks in Washington will go nowhere until the world stops demanding that Israel make ‘more painful concessions for peace’ and instead focus on how to defang and oust Hamas from power,” Rabbi Hier and Rabbi Cooper concluded.

So now we have a test. Where is the condemnation from CAIR and from Imam Rauf? Now would be the time to prove their alleged ”moderate” bona fides. But more important, where is the statement – in Arabic — from Mahmoud Abbas declaring that the terrorist acts are contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and calling for a complete cessation of all violence? That would seem to be the first order of business at the peace talks. Because you can’t have peace when one side is still killing. And you will hear that, oh, that was Hamas and Abbas can’t control them. Well then what, pray tell, is the point of a “peace agreement”?

It would be a fine idea if Bibi did return for the funerals — not cancel the talks, but emphasize that the safety of his citizens is his highest priority. If he doesn’t make that crystal clear, why should others take him seriously?

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RE: Mosque Builders Drop Mask of ‘Reconciliation’

The other guest on that segment of This Week, Jennifer, Rabbi Joy Levitt of the Jewish Community Center, seemed awfully ignorant of the religious history of New York City. She said:

Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. … The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

Unlike the New England Puritans, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland, the Dutch did not come to Manhattan to escape religious persecution or to build a shining city on a hill. They came to Manhattan to make a buck. Indeed, they did not even get around to building a proper church for 17 years. Named after St. Nicholas, Santa Claus has been the city’s patron saint ever since. (In fact, the modern version of Santa Claus is a wholly New York invention, developed by such New York writers as Clement Moore and the cartoonist Thomas Nast.)

Peter Stuyvesant, however, was a deeply religious man, adhering to the Dutch Reform Church. He banned both Jews and Quakers from New Amsterdam. They appealed to the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam in what is known as the Flushing Remonstrance, often considered the birth of religious freedom in America. The company wrote Governor Stuyvesant and instructed him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business so that the Jews and Quakers could mind theirs.

Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1654, while Stuyvesant was still very much governor of New Amsterdam. It is the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, now located at Central Park West and 70th Street. It did not require an act of Congress (which wouldn’t even exist until 1789 and Washington wouldn’t be the capital until 1800). All it took was a sharp rap on the knuckles by the Dutch West India Company to remind Peter Stuyvesant what New Amsterdam was all about.

And if the British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City, how did Shearith Israel build one on Mill Street in 1730?

The other guest on that segment of This Week, Jennifer, Rabbi Joy Levitt of the Jewish Community Center, seemed awfully ignorant of the religious history of New York City. She said:

Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. … The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

Unlike the New England Puritans, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland, the Dutch did not come to Manhattan to escape religious persecution or to build a shining city on a hill. They came to Manhattan to make a buck. Indeed, they did not even get around to building a proper church for 17 years. Named after St. Nicholas, Santa Claus has been the city’s patron saint ever since. (In fact, the modern version of Santa Claus is a wholly New York invention, developed by such New York writers as Clement Moore and the cartoonist Thomas Nast.)

Peter Stuyvesant, however, was a deeply religious man, adhering to the Dutch Reform Church. He banned both Jews and Quakers from New Amsterdam. They appealed to the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam in what is known as the Flushing Remonstrance, often considered the birth of religious freedom in America. The company wrote Governor Stuyvesant and instructed him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business so that the Jews and Quakers could mind theirs.

Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1654, while Stuyvesant was still very much governor of New Amsterdam. It is the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, now located at Central Park West and 70th Street. It did not require an act of Congress (which wouldn’t even exist until 1789 and Washington wouldn’t be the capital until 1800). All it took was a sharp rap on the knuckles by the Dutch West India Company to remind Peter Stuyvesant what New Amsterdam was all about.

And if the British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City, how did Shearith Israel build one on Mill Street in 1730?

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Mosque Builders Drop Mask of ‘Reconciliation’

Apparently getting their talking points from David Axelrod (or is it the other way around?), the Ground Zero mosque builders are comparing opposition to the mosque to anti-Semitism. Honest:

A leader of a planned Muslim community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero compared opposition to the project to the persecution of Jews, in comments that could add to the controversy over the center’s proposed site. … Ms. [Daisy] Khan, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, vowed to push ahead with plans to build a 15-story complex two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, saying there was “too much at stake.”

The words could further inflame an already angry debate about the proposed location of the community center, which opponents denounce as a “victory mosque.”

Ya think? Now you might expect Khan’s inflammatory assertion to have been seriously challenged by the interviewer. Not with Christiane Amanpour as the host. The discussion went like this:

AMANPOUR: You talked about the state of Islam in the United States. And then we have this “Time” magazine cover that’s being talked about a lot right now. Basically, is America Islamophobic?

Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?

KHAN: Yes, I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious — Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what’s going on around the nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with what she just said and how she described it?

LEVITT: Well, there is some part of it that feels very familiar, you know. Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and the 1700s. The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

A liberal with a Jewish organization was incensed: “Any suggestion that this particular mosque not be built in this particular place, and the objections of family members of 9/11, are in any way analogous to anti-Semitism or the struggles of the Jewish community in America is as insensitive and ignorant as it is offensive.” He continued:

And while it is not the case with this Imam, who at least appears to reject radicalism — despite his unwillingness to call Hamas a terrorist group and his suggestion that some terrorists are better than others — there is no corollary to Judaism, from the birth of the religion to that practiced by the first immigrants to this great country of ours or by Jews today. Judaism has never called for restoring the caliphate or violent jihad to kill Americans and infidels. You will hear that in mosques in America and around the world, but never in a synagogue, now or ever. To invoke anti-Semitism and ignore that further contradiction in the broader debate, and the concomitant lack of an Islamic reformation — as we have seen in both Judaism and Christianity — is also dishonest.

Nor did Amanpour challenge the imam’s refusal to detail the source(s) of the mosque’s funding:

AMANPOUR: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

KHAN: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that JCC got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also…

LEVITT: What Daisy means by that is that we went to our neighbors, we said who believes in our vision, who believes in a center of tolerance, who believes in diversity? We went to parlor (ph) meetings in people’s houses, and that’s how the support for the JCC came about.

That’s it. Not a single question about foreign funding or whether they’d open up their books. There was a good reason to go on This Week. (I suspect they wouldn’t have gone with Jake Tapper.)

The obscene comparison between opposition to the mosque and anti-Semitism (how do Abe Foxman, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean feel about this?) should obliterate the left’s claim that this is all about “understanding” and “reconciliation.” It seems the mosque builders are interested, just as their critics claimed, in perpetuating the Muslim victimology meme and stirring dissension. And how interesting that they chose to stir the pot with Jewish analogies.

Apparently getting their talking points from David Axelrod (or is it the other way around?), the Ground Zero mosque builders are comparing opposition to the mosque to anti-Semitism. Honest:

A leader of a planned Muslim community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero compared opposition to the project to the persecution of Jews, in comments that could add to the controversy over the center’s proposed site. … Ms. [Daisy] Khan, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, vowed to push ahead with plans to build a 15-story complex two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, saying there was “too much at stake.”

The words could further inflame an already angry debate about the proposed location of the community center, which opponents denounce as a “victory mosque.”

Ya think? Now you might expect Khan’s inflammatory assertion to have been seriously challenged by the interviewer. Not with Christiane Amanpour as the host. The discussion went like this:

AMANPOUR: You talked about the state of Islam in the United States. And then we have this “Time” magazine cover that’s being talked about a lot right now. Basically, is America Islamophobic?

Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?

KHAN: Yes, I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious — Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what’s going on around the nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with what she just said and how she described it?

LEVITT: Well, there is some part of it that feels very familiar, you know. Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and the 1700s. The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

A liberal with a Jewish organization was incensed: “Any suggestion that this particular mosque not be built in this particular place, and the objections of family members of 9/11, are in any way analogous to anti-Semitism or the struggles of the Jewish community in America is as insensitive and ignorant as it is offensive.” He continued:

And while it is not the case with this Imam, who at least appears to reject radicalism — despite his unwillingness to call Hamas a terrorist group and his suggestion that some terrorists are better than others — there is no corollary to Judaism, from the birth of the religion to that practiced by the first immigrants to this great country of ours or by Jews today. Judaism has never called for restoring the caliphate or violent jihad to kill Americans and infidels. You will hear that in mosques in America and around the world, but never in a synagogue, now or ever. To invoke anti-Semitism and ignore that further contradiction in the broader debate, and the concomitant lack of an Islamic reformation — as we have seen in both Judaism and Christianity — is also dishonest.

Nor did Amanpour challenge the imam’s refusal to detail the source(s) of the mosque’s funding:

AMANPOUR: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

KHAN: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that JCC got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also…

LEVITT: What Daisy means by that is that we went to our neighbors, we said who believes in our vision, who believes in a center of tolerance, who believes in diversity? We went to parlor (ph) meetings in people’s houses, and that’s how the support for the JCC came about.

That’s it. Not a single question about foreign funding or whether they’d open up their books. There was a good reason to go on This Week. (I suspect they wouldn’t have gone with Jake Tapper.)

The obscene comparison between opposition to the mosque and anti-Semitism (how do Abe Foxman, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean feel about this?) should obliterate the left’s claim that this is all about “understanding” and “reconciliation.” It seems the mosque builders are interested, just as their critics claimed, in perpetuating the Muslim victimology meme and stirring dissension. And how interesting that they chose to stir the pot with Jewish analogies.

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Religious Intolerance in the Middle East: Where Should We Focus?

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980′s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries – but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980′s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries – but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

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RE: We’ll Learn His Feelings in Time

Rick, this gives us additional insight into the behavior of Rabbi Jack Moline, who in his ample writings never revealed that Obama brushed off the Israel invitation. Moline organized the event, screened out open critics of Obama, and then covered up Obama’s terse response.

Why conceal Obama’s response? Of course Moline knew quite well that Jews would be insulted and dismayed by the curt retort. And after all, it was Moline’s job to improve Obama’s standing with American Jews. Thankfully, there was a more honest rabbi in attendance.

As for Moline. he might want to think about the whole bearing-false-witness thing. It’s No. 9.

Rick, this gives us additional insight into the behavior of Rabbi Jack Moline, who in his ample writings never revealed that Obama brushed off the Israel invitation. Moline organized the event, screened out open critics of Obama, and then covered up Obama’s terse response.

Why conceal Obama’s response? Of course Moline knew quite well that Jews would be insulted and dismayed by the curt retort. And after all, it was Moline’s job to improve Obama’s standing with American Jews. Thankfully, there was a more honest rabbi in attendance.

As for Moline. he might want to think about the whole bearing-false-witness thing. It’s No. 9.

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We’ll Learn His Feelings in Time

Rabbi Victor Urecki — one of the 15 rabbis who met with Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross at the White House last month — gave a lengthy talk on June 3 to his congregation about the meetings. The transcript is posted on his Facebook page, which describes him as a “liberal Democrat.” His talk answers a question that Rabbi Jack Moline’s description of the meetings (previously discussed by Jen and me) left hanging: after the rabbis suggested that Obama travel to Israel and speak directly to Israelis, what was the response?

Urecki described the issue the rabbis presented as follows (I have omitted his extended baseball metaphor about needing the key player to bat):

I, and others, raised the issue that the President himself needs to be more fully engaged and show both Israelis and members of the pro-Israel community that he gets it, that we need to see a President that shows, like previous Presidents, that Israel is a friend. This outreach to us is good, but things won’t change until the President does the outreach and we are not seeing that vis-à-vis Israel. He needs to talk directly to the Israelis. … [He] needs to visit Jerusalem and do what he did in Cairo in ’09, namely reach out to Israelis who have serious concerns about him and show he understands their fears.

Here in unabridged form is Urecki’s description of the response the rabbis received:

The answer I and others got was the President will find his opportunities to make his feelings known in time. And that was it.

You don’t need to be a pitcher to read the signs from Barack Obama.

Rabbi Victor Urecki — one of the 15 rabbis who met with Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross at the White House last month — gave a lengthy talk on June 3 to his congregation about the meetings. The transcript is posted on his Facebook page, which describes him as a “liberal Democrat.” His talk answers a question that Rabbi Jack Moline’s description of the meetings (previously discussed by Jen and me) left hanging: after the rabbis suggested that Obama travel to Israel and speak directly to Israelis, what was the response?

Urecki described the issue the rabbis presented as follows (I have omitted his extended baseball metaphor about needing the key player to bat):

I, and others, raised the issue that the President himself needs to be more fully engaged and show both Israelis and members of the pro-Israel community that he gets it, that we need to see a President that shows, like previous Presidents, that Israel is a friend. This outreach to us is good, but things won’t change until the President does the outreach and we are not seeing that vis-à-vis Israel. He needs to talk directly to the Israelis. … [He] needs to visit Jerusalem and do what he did in Cairo in ’09, namely reach out to Israelis who have serious concerns about him and show he understands their fears.

Here in unabridged form is Urecki’s description of the response the rabbis received:

The answer I and others got was the President will find his opportunities to make his feelings known in time. And that was it.

You don’t need to be a pitcher to read the signs from Barack Obama.

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RE: Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

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Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline, who organized the spin-a-thon for the White House attended by a group of rabbis, has circulated an e-mail summarizing the meeting. It is, to be blunt, embarrassing.

As to the build-up, Moline lets on that no one predisposed to say nasty things about Obama was invited, nor was anyone who didn’t vote for him. (“We also wanted people who had not engaged in the kinds of behaviors I mentioned in my introduction, which is to say people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”) How comfy for the White House to be assured of a hand-selected group of those Jews who ignored all signs of Obama’s antipathy toward Israel (20 years in Rev. Wright’s church isn’t nothing) and who voted for Rashid Khalidi’s pal. In other words, these are Jews prone to disregard evidence of Obama’s hostility toward the Jewish state.

As to the substance, Moline got this response to a query as to why a Jerusalem housing permit was more important than stopping an Iranian nuclear program:

I can tell you that our hosts bristled, and they objected mightily to the comparison. Amb. Ross, who is the person in charge of Iran policy, made it clear that nothing is off the table when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The goal, however, is not to secure a short-term delay, but to remove possibility that efforts at creating a nuclear arsenal will resurface. That requires isolating Iran in the world community. Two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the United States was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed, but both Russia and China are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will relieve them of the need to participate in sanctions and other isolating activities. (I might add here that yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made that Russia and China have signed onto sanctions.) The President spends a huge amount of time every day working on the problem of Iran, and is making progress. Ultimately, the goal is to see the fissures in Iranian society open to create a climate for systemic change.

Let’s count the inanities in that one. First,  Dennis Ross is in charge of Iran policy but hasn’t apparently been able to stop multiple officials from clearly signaling that military force is off the table. Second, it’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world (there were multiple sanctions passed for Iran’s violations of UN agreements) or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel. Third, Moline certainly got the sanctions wrong — Russia has been exempted and the sanctions are of minimal value. The administration — of course — concealed Russia’s carve-outs from the assembled group. (Swell to hide the ball from the rabbis, nu?) And lastly, Obama may be working hard but there’s no credible plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, as Robert Gates pointed out earlier in the year when he sent up a warning flag.

Next up was the building issue, in which Ross, now the facilitator in chief who has chosen to disregard past lessons learned about Palestinian intransigence, tries to snow the rabbis with this howler:

As for building in Jerusalem, Amb. Ross very calmly pointed out that US policy on building in any territory captured in 1967 has not changed since the Johnson administration. The US has objected officially to all such activity which is defined by policy as settlements. He also noted that the last four high-level US officials to visit Israel were greeted by announcements of new settlement activity, going back to Sec’y of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration. He emphasized that he understood that there were reasons in Israeli domestic politics that may have influenced those decisions, but it was no way to treat an ally out to make a point of support. Amb. Ross said that the matter of settlements and the matter of Palestinian provocations are avoidable distractions. A simple code of conduct that would move talks forward could prevent both, and the administration has been pressing both sides to adopt one.

Ross chose not to mention the Sharon-Bush agreements, on which the Obama team reneged, or to acknowledge that no other administration has made an international incident out of Jerusalem building. And it’s pure gall to chastise Israel that their conduct is “no way to treat an ally.” Apparently Ross was so desperate to return to one final round in government that he is now willing not only to join an administration hostile to Israel but also to join in the Israel-bashing.

Moline then reports on the list of forehead-slappers. There was this: “The Obama administration has been consistent in its support of Israel.” Oh really? Condemning the Jewish state is consistent support? Leaking the potential for an imposed peace deal is consistent support? Repeatedly snubbing Bibi is consistent support? And holding up the Cairo speech as evidence of their support, as Moline reports, is bizarre. It is this speech in which Obama cast the Palestinians in the role of enslaved African Americans, posited that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, soft-pedaled Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and chose to largely ignore 60 years of wars and rejectionism by the Palestinians and by Israel’s neighbors.

Then there is this one: “There has been no change in US policy toward Israel in the United Nations.” Whoa! We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.

Moline reports that the administration’s representatives explained the order of their priorities: stopping Iran’s nuclear program, getting out of Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Unclear then, why every administration figure who speaks in public, including the president in Cairo, emphasizes the latter and gives short-shrift to Iran. Unclear then why the president has voiced a que sera, sera view of sanctions, carved out Russia from UN sanctions, and spent the last 17 months not promoting regime change, not adhering to deadlines, and not imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Moline said the major responses from the rabbis were to urge Obama to visit Israel, to express some concern of there being a double standard for Israel and to tell Obama that they were not ”confident from the President himself that he feels Israel in his kishkes.” Not confident? Well, when you handpick the audience and don’t have knowledgeable representatives willing to take on the administration’s fabrications, that’s what you get. And finally, Moline gets very upset — more upset than at the president — for critics questioning the motives and actions of Rahm Emanuel.

This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.

Rabbi Jack Moline, who organized the spin-a-thon for the White House attended by a group of rabbis, has circulated an e-mail summarizing the meeting. It is, to be blunt, embarrassing.

As to the build-up, Moline lets on that no one predisposed to say nasty things about Obama was invited, nor was anyone who didn’t vote for him. (“We also wanted people who had not engaged in the kinds of behaviors I mentioned in my introduction, which is to say people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”) How comfy for the White House to be assured of a hand-selected group of those Jews who ignored all signs of Obama’s antipathy toward Israel (20 years in Rev. Wright’s church isn’t nothing) and who voted for Rashid Khalidi’s pal. In other words, these are Jews prone to disregard evidence of Obama’s hostility toward the Jewish state.

As to the substance, Moline got this response to a query as to why a Jerusalem housing permit was more important than stopping an Iranian nuclear program:

I can tell you that our hosts bristled, and they objected mightily to the comparison. Amb. Ross, who is the person in charge of Iran policy, made it clear that nothing is off the table when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The goal, however, is not to secure a short-term delay, but to remove possibility that efforts at creating a nuclear arsenal will resurface. That requires isolating Iran in the world community. Two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the United States was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed, but both Russia and China are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will relieve them of the need to participate in sanctions and other isolating activities. (I might add here that yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made that Russia and China have signed onto sanctions.) The President spends a huge amount of time every day working on the problem of Iran, and is making progress. Ultimately, the goal is to see the fissures in Iranian society open to create a climate for systemic change.

Let’s count the inanities in that one. First,  Dennis Ross is in charge of Iran policy but hasn’t apparently been able to stop multiple officials from clearly signaling that military force is off the table. Second, it’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world (there were multiple sanctions passed for Iran’s violations of UN agreements) or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel. Third, Moline certainly got the sanctions wrong — Russia has been exempted and the sanctions are of minimal value. The administration — of course — concealed Russia’s carve-outs from the assembled group. (Swell to hide the ball from the rabbis, nu?) And lastly, Obama may be working hard but there’s no credible plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, as Robert Gates pointed out earlier in the year when he sent up a warning flag.

Next up was the building issue, in which Ross, now the facilitator in chief who has chosen to disregard past lessons learned about Palestinian intransigence, tries to snow the rabbis with this howler:

As for building in Jerusalem, Amb. Ross very calmly pointed out that US policy on building in any territory captured in 1967 has not changed since the Johnson administration. The US has objected officially to all such activity which is defined by policy as settlements. He also noted that the last four high-level US officials to visit Israel were greeted by announcements of new settlement activity, going back to Sec’y of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration. He emphasized that he understood that there were reasons in Israeli domestic politics that may have influenced those decisions, but it was no way to treat an ally out to make a point of support. Amb. Ross said that the matter of settlements and the matter of Palestinian provocations are avoidable distractions. A simple code of conduct that would move talks forward could prevent both, and the administration has been pressing both sides to adopt one.

Ross chose not to mention the Sharon-Bush agreements, on which the Obama team reneged, or to acknowledge that no other administration has made an international incident out of Jerusalem building. And it’s pure gall to chastise Israel that their conduct is “no way to treat an ally.” Apparently Ross was so desperate to return to one final round in government that he is now willing not only to join an administration hostile to Israel but also to join in the Israel-bashing.

Moline then reports on the list of forehead-slappers. There was this: “The Obama administration has been consistent in its support of Israel.” Oh really? Condemning the Jewish state is consistent support? Leaking the potential for an imposed peace deal is consistent support? Repeatedly snubbing Bibi is consistent support? And holding up the Cairo speech as evidence of their support, as Moline reports, is bizarre. It is this speech in which Obama cast the Palestinians in the role of enslaved African Americans, posited that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, soft-pedaled Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and chose to largely ignore 60 years of wars and rejectionism by the Palestinians and by Israel’s neighbors.

Then there is this one: “There has been no change in US policy toward Israel in the United Nations.” Whoa! We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.

Moline reports that the administration’s representatives explained the order of their priorities: stopping Iran’s nuclear program, getting out of Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Unclear then, why every administration figure who speaks in public, including the president in Cairo, emphasizes the latter and gives short-shrift to Iran. Unclear then why the president has voiced a que sera, sera view of sanctions, carved out Russia from UN sanctions, and spent the last 17 months not promoting regime change, not adhering to deadlines, and not imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Moline said the major responses from the rabbis were to urge Obama to visit Israel, to express some concern of there being a double standard for Israel and to tell Obama that they were not ”confident from the President himself that he feels Israel in his kishkes.” Not confident? Well, when you handpick the audience and don’t have knowledgeable representatives willing to take on the administration’s fabrications, that’s what you get. And finally, Moline gets very upset — more upset than at the president — for critics questioning the motives and actions of Rahm Emanuel.

This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.

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RE: Rabbis Spun by Rahm Emanuel

COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter points out that it may be the rabbis — or one, at least — who were doing the spinning. Citing a JTA article, she writes:

“Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., initiated the meetings after a talk he had with his friend Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, about the Obama administration’s perceived lack of friendliness toward Israel.” So it wasn’t Obama, or Jewy-Jew Emanuel who were worried about Jewish support eroding. It was Moline who was already a self-declared Obama booster who decided it was time to have the White House help a bunch of pulpit rabbis to write their Shabbat sermons. And it seems to have worked. “The rabbis in attendance … took the message home. ‘Our president is every bit as committed to Israel’s safety and security as any previous administration,’ Rabbi Aaron Rubinger said in a May 8 Shabbat morning sermon at Congregation Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Orlando, Fla. ‘I do not believe the president is abandoning Israel or has any intention of abandoning Israel.’”

This is the state of at least a significant segment of American Jewry — desperate to shill for Obama, blind to the peril that Israel faces, and oblivious to the historical legacy that awaits them, as well as their precious president, if Iran goes nuclear — or if Israel is forced to do what the U.S. should, namely, use military force to defuse an existential threat to the Jewish state. Again we must ask:

What is it about liberals and the longing for what Neal Kozodoy once so brilliantly called “the ratifying kick in the teeth”? Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?

And the mainstream Jewish organizations are no better, failing to sound the alarm and incapable of taking on a president whose name remains affixed to the bumpers of so many of their members’ cars. For those who portray themselves as leaders of the Jewish community and friends of Israel but who, as one Israel hand e-mails, “cling to liberalism, secularism and pacifism,” there is now the stark reality that they do so at the expense of the Jewish state.

COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter points out that it may be the rabbis — or one, at least — who were doing the spinning. Citing a JTA article, she writes:

“Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., initiated the meetings after a talk he had with his friend Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, about the Obama administration’s perceived lack of friendliness toward Israel.” So it wasn’t Obama, or Jewy-Jew Emanuel who were worried about Jewish support eroding. It was Moline who was already a self-declared Obama booster who decided it was time to have the White House help a bunch of pulpit rabbis to write their Shabbat sermons. And it seems to have worked. “The rabbis in attendance … took the message home. ‘Our president is every bit as committed to Israel’s safety and security as any previous administration,’ Rabbi Aaron Rubinger said in a May 8 Shabbat morning sermon at Congregation Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Orlando, Fla. ‘I do not believe the president is abandoning Israel or has any intention of abandoning Israel.’”

This is the state of at least a significant segment of American Jewry — desperate to shill for Obama, blind to the peril that Israel faces, and oblivious to the historical legacy that awaits them, as well as their precious president, if Iran goes nuclear — or if Israel is forced to do what the U.S. should, namely, use military force to defuse an existential threat to the Jewish state. Again we must ask:

What is it about liberals and the longing for what Neal Kozodoy once so brilliantly called “the ratifying kick in the teeth”? Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?

And the mainstream Jewish organizations are no better, failing to sound the alarm and incapable of taking on a president whose name remains affixed to the bumpers of so many of their members’ cars. For those who portray themselves as leaders of the Jewish community and friends of Israel but who, as one Israel hand e-mails, “cling to liberalism, secularism and pacifism,” there is now the stark reality that they do so at the expense of the Jewish state.

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RE: RE: J Street Comes Clean

Noah, your apt comments are not limited to the J Street crowd. It seems that now is the time when many on the faux pro-Israel left dare to show their core beliefs. High on that list is that Israel is guilty of “war crimes” and that international bodies like the august Human Rights Council should intervene to prevent such “crimes” — i.e., prevent Israel from defending itself against terrorists who hide behind baby cribs and old women’s skirts. So we learn that Tikkun magazine will give its 25th annual ethics award next year to … ready? … none other than Richard Goldstone. “The politics of meaning” (New Age babble for the far-left agenda) guru and Tikkun founder Michael Lerner is pleased to honor such a man as Goldstone, whose shoddy libel against the IDF has long since been ably and completely demolished:

Tikkun’s founder and editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, told JTA that the decision to recognize Goldstone was made prior to the bar mitzvah brouhaha and that the timing of the announcement was the result of his “outrageous” treatment by his fellow South African Jews.

Goldstone is doing a service “for the Jewish people in reinforcing the notion that our ethical judgments are not tied to blind support for any government,” Lerner said.

He said the award stems from Goldstone’s record on human rights and is a “reflection on his contribution to the Jewish people in affirming the independence of loyalty to the policies of the State of Israel.”

Translation: there is no higher achievement than betraying — with half-truths and outright lies – the Jewish state. I’m sure the J Street crowd will hoot and holler as Goldstone accepts the honor. After all, they had quite a hand in penning his defense. This then is the face of the not-at-all-pro-Israel left. It’s about time they showed what they are all about — delegitimizing and emasculating the Jewish state.

Noah, your apt comments are not limited to the J Street crowd. It seems that now is the time when many on the faux pro-Israel left dare to show their core beliefs. High on that list is that Israel is guilty of “war crimes” and that international bodies like the august Human Rights Council should intervene to prevent such “crimes” — i.e., prevent Israel from defending itself against terrorists who hide behind baby cribs and old women’s skirts. So we learn that Tikkun magazine will give its 25th annual ethics award next year to … ready? … none other than Richard Goldstone. “The politics of meaning” (New Age babble for the far-left agenda) guru and Tikkun founder Michael Lerner is pleased to honor such a man as Goldstone, whose shoddy libel against the IDF has long since been ably and completely demolished:

Tikkun’s founder and editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, told JTA that the decision to recognize Goldstone was made prior to the bar mitzvah brouhaha and that the timing of the announcement was the result of his “outrageous” treatment by his fellow South African Jews.

Goldstone is doing a service “for the Jewish people in reinforcing the notion that our ethical judgments are not tied to blind support for any government,” Lerner said.

He said the award stems from Goldstone’s record on human rights and is a “reflection on his contribution to the Jewish people in affirming the independence of loyalty to the policies of the State of Israel.”

Translation: there is no higher achievement than betraying — with half-truths and outright lies – the Jewish state. I’m sure the J Street crowd will hoot and holler as Goldstone accepts the honor. After all, they had quite a hand in penning his defense. This then is the face of the not-at-all-pro-Israel left. It’s about time they showed what they are all about — delegitimizing and emasculating the Jewish state.

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RE: Do They Know What Obama Is up To?

Well, some American Jews plainly do. A reader passes on this account of a recent gathering in California, suggesting that there is a motivated group of Jews not at all pleased with Obama’s Middle East policy:

Last night I went to a town hall meeting on Israel featuring Congressman Brad Sherman at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, called by the rabbi in response to the concern over the deteriorating relationship between  President Obama and the State and the people of Israel. Sherman is a 7th-term Jewish Congressman with strong ties to the Jewish community, who has always been considered very pro-Israel. Sherman must have expected a hostile crowd, as he did not allow anyone to talk to him directly. Questions were submitted in writing and chosen and paraphrased by the moderator (Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who did do a very good job expressing the written concerns of the audience while also being fair and hospitable to Sherman).

Nearly all the questions dealt with the controversy. The meeting hall of this large congregation was packed, and the temple’s parking lot  was entirely full, forcing people to park on the street nearby.  Nearly all questions and audience feedback were negative, with virtually no applause for Sherman’s answers. There was lots of clapping for hostile questions, lots of hostile rumblings as he tried to answer charges, and some answers were booed. Even the moderator at the end basically accused Sherman of not actually answering a lot of the questions. The audience was not sold on Obama being pro-Israel, nor on Sherman’s excuses for the current situation.

Sherman portrayed himself as more pro-Israel and more concerned about Iran than any U.S. president during his Congressional service. He shrugged off the current controversy as something we will have forgotten in a few years, arguing that the U.S. relationship with Israel is fine because the foreign aid package remains and we haven’t yet stopped vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. While he promised action on his part concerning sanctions on Iran, he expressed skepticism that anything would really be done (at one point “joking” that the rabbi would be more useful than he, as if divine intervention would be required), and kept emphasizing that any military option would spike gas prices. These statements did not go over well.

Most negative were the reactions when when he repeatedly wrote off his and Obama’s critics as die hard right wingers who would be angry regardless. The moderator polled the audience and showed that the room was about 60/40 McCain voters, meaning there were in fact many angry Obama voters there (and that Obama opponents of all kinds are energized in this community). The most applause was for the question of whether many Jews would switch their votes to Republican because of this controversy — which fired up the crowd and those potential switchers.

Well, one crowd is not necessarily indicative of the entire community, but this suggests that those most concerned about Israel — and willing to turn out to ask questions of their congressman — are the most aggrieved by Obama’s policies. Whether this translates into a drop-off in Jews’ financial support and/or votes for Obama and like-minded lawmakers is an open question. But one wonders what they are waiting for. A declaration by Iran that they do in fact possess a nuclear weapon? An announcement by Obama that he’s going to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state unless Israel accepts his imposed deal? Really, if not now, when?

Well, some American Jews plainly do. A reader passes on this account of a recent gathering in California, suggesting that there is a motivated group of Jews not at all pleased with Obama’s Middle East policy:

Last night I went to a town hall meeting on Israel featuring Congressman Brad Sherman at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, called by the rabbi in response to the concern over the deteriorating relationship between  President Obama and the State and the people of Israel. Sherman is a 7th-term Jewish Congressman with strong ties to the Jewish community, who has always been considered very pro-Israel. Sherman must have expected a hostile crowd, as he did not allow anyone to talk to him directly. Questions were submitted in writing and chosen and paraphrased by the moderator (Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who did do a very good job expressing the written concerns of the audience while also being fair and hospitable to Sherman).

Nearly all the questions dealt with the controversy. The meeting hall of this large congregation was packed, and the temple’s parking lot  was entirely full, forcing people to park on the street nearby.  Nearly all questions and audience feedback were negative, with virtually no applause for Sherman’s answers. There was lots of clapping for hostile questions, lots of hostile rumblings as he tried to answer charges, and some answers were booed. Even the moderator at the end basically accused Sherman of not actually answering a lot of the questions. The audience was not sold on Obama being pro-Israel, nor on Sherman’s excuses for the current situation.

Sherman portrayed himself as more pro-Israel and more concerned about Iran than any U.S. president during his Congressional service. He shrugged off the current controversy as something we will have forgotten in a few years, arguing that the U.S. relationship with Israel is fine because the foreign aid package remains and we haven’t yet stopped vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. While he promised action on his part concerning sanctions on Iran, he expressed skepticism that anything would really be done (at one point “joking” that the rabbi would be more useful than he, as if divine intervention would be required), and kept emphasizing that any military option would spike gas prices. These statements did not go over well.

Most negative were the reactions when when he repeatedly wrote off his and Obama’s critics as die hard right wingers who would be angry regardless. The moderator polled the audience and showed that the room was about 60/40 McCain voters, meaning there were in fact many angry Obama voters there (and that Obama opponents of all kinds are energized in this community). The most applause was for the question of whether many Jews would switch their votes to Republican because of this controversy — which fired up the crowd and those potential switchers.

Well, one crowd is not necessarily indicative of the entire community, but this suggests that those most concerned about Israel — and willing to turn out to ask questions of their congressman — are the most aggrieved by Obama’s policies. Whether this translates into a drop-off in Jews’ financial support and/or votes for Obama and like-minded lawmakers is an open question. But one wonders what they are waiting for. A declaration by Iran that they do in fact possess a nuclear weapon? An announcement by Obama that he’s going to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state unless Israel accepts his imposed deal? Really, if not now, when?

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Jewish Voters Deceived

Those disturbed by President Obama’s habit of saying one thing in the campaign and doing another while in office have another example, this one on foreign policy. And those disturbed by the talk of the president issuing his own Arab-Israeli peace plan have another, related question to ponder: what is Carter-administration official Zbigniew Brzezinski doing in the room? During the presidential campaign, candidate Obama addressed the issue of Brzezinski’s role directly at least twice when asked about it by concerned Jewish voters. Relations between Brzezinski and the Obama campaign were already an issue, with Alan Dershowitz having publicly called on Obama to repudiate Brzezinski when he met with about 100 members of the Cleveland Jewish Community on February 24, 2008. Here’s what he said:

I know Brzezinski. He’s not one of my key advisors. I’ve had lunch with him once, I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe 3 times. … I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally….

Then, on April 16, 2008, candidate Obama met with Jewish leaders from the Philadelphia area. This is how the New York Sun reported the April 16 meeting:

Rabbi Neil Cooper of Beth Hillel-Beth El Synagogue came away skeptical. He said he buttonholed the candidate as he was leaving the event and asked him about the connection between Mr. Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Obama campaign. “From my perspective, the devil here is going to be in the details,” Rabbi Cooper said. “The questions I have have to do with his very pronouncements on Israel on the one hand, which are positive, and then he seems to attract all kinds of other people who have a different agenda on Israel, like Brzezinski. I said, ‘Why don’t you get rid of Brzezinski?’ He says he listens to Brzezinski on certain things but not when it comes to Israel. (Emphasis added.)

Now comes a report in the New York Times according to which, at a White House meeting, President Obama asked Mr. Brzezinski for his advice on whether to put forward an American plan for Arab-Israeli peace. Worse, present at this same meeting was Brent Scowcroft, whom, back during the campaign, Obama proxies were criticizing Senator McCain for listening to. President Obama says consumers need a new regulatory agency to protect them from being conned by greedy bankers. But as far as fraudulent sales jobs go, the one that the Democrat pulled on Jewish voters in 2008 is one for the ages.

Those disturbed by President Obama’s habit of saying one thing in the campaign and doing another while in office have another example, this one on foreign policy. And those disturbed by the talk of the president issuing his own Arab-Israeli peace plan have another, related question to ponder: what is Carter-administration official Zbigniew Brzezinski doing in the room? During the presidential campaign, candidate Obama addressed the issue of Brzezinski’s role directly at least twice when asked about it by concerned Jewish voters. Relations between Brzezinski and the Obama campaign were already an issue, with Alan Dershowitz having publicly called on Obama to repudiate Brzezinski when he met with about 100 members of the Cleveland Jewish Community on February 24, 2008. Here’s what he said:

I know Brzezinski. He’s not one of my key advisors. I’ve had lunch with him once, I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe 3 times. … I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally….

Then, on April 16, 2008, candidate Obama met with Jewish leaders from the Philadelphia area. This is how the New York Sun reported the April 16 meeting:

Rabbi Neil Cooper of Beth Hillel-Beth El Synagogue came away skeptical. He said he buttonholed the candidate as he was leaving the event and asked him about the connection between Mr. Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Obama campaign. “From my perspective, the devil here is going to be in the details,” Rabbi Cooper said. “The questions I have have to do with his very pronouncements on Israel on the one hand, which are positive, and then he seems to attract all kinds of other people who have a different agenda on Israel, like Brzezinski. I said, ‘Why don’t you get rid of Brzezinski?’ He says he listens to Brzezinski on certain things but not when it comes to Israel. (Emphasis added.)

Now comes a report in the New York Times according to which, at a White House meeting, President Obama asked Mr. Brzezinski for his advice on whether to put forward an American plan for Arab-Israeli peace. Worse, present at this same meeting was Brent Scowcroft, whom, back during the campaign, Obama proxies were criticizing Senator McCain for listening to. President Obama says consumers need a new regulatory agency to protect them from being conned by greedy bankers. But as far as fraudulent sales jobs go, the one that the Democrat pulled on Jewish voters in 2008 is one for the ages.

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You Want Moral Clarity?

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

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Mainstream Media Discovers Tom Campbell’s Israel Issue

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

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Back to the Future

A year into the Obama administration, a pattern has been established for public diplomacy with Israel versus the Palestinians. For Israel, the administration airs an ongoing series of petty complaints, most of which relate to housing construction in Obama-disapproved neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Such construction is hurting the peace process, intones Robert Gibbs; it prevents the recommencement of negotiations and is inconsistent with the Road Map, he laments.

Even defensive IDF operations, such as the one last week that eliminated three Fatah murderers, are now reason for public finger-wagging from the administration and requests for “clarification.” This was done on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. There indeed should have been a request for clarification, but it should have been directed at the PA, given the fact that the terrorists in question were on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah.

By contrast, the administration has been indifferent to Palestinian terrorism and its official celebration by the PA. I can’t recall a single instance in which the president or a prominent member of his administration criticized the Palestinians for anything. Maybe it’s because the PA has been doing such a commendable job when it comes to incitement and terrorism? Not quite.

In just the past week, official PA television has hailed the first female Palestinian suicide bomber; PA president Mahmoud Abbas personally honored Dalal Mughrabi, a legend of Palestinian terrorism who participated in the coastal-road massacre, the deadliest act of terrorism in Israel’s history (37 innocents were murdered); and both Abbas and the supposedly moderate PA Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, celebrated the killers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, who was gunned down by members of Fatah while driving last week.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that a federal judge “complained that the Obama administration was ‘particularly unhelpful’ and the State Department ‘mealy-mouthed’ in refusing to provide official guidance” on a lawsuit that implicates the Palestinian Authority in the terror murder of an American citizen.

President Obama is repeating one of the worst mistakes of the Oslo period, when the official promotion of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority was studiously ignored on behalf of the larger “peace” mission. We know how successful that strategy was.

A year into the Obama administration, a pattern has been established for public diplomacy with Israel versus the Palestinians. For Israel, the administration airs an ongoing series of petty complaints, most of which relate to housing construction in Obama-disapproved neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Such construction is hurting the peace process, intones Robert Gibbs; it prevents the recommencement of negotiations and is inconsistent with the Road Map, he laments.

Even defensive IDF operations, such as the one last week that eliminated three Fatah murderers, are now reason for public finger-wagging from the administration and requests for “clarification.” This was done on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. There indeed should have been a request for clarification, but it should have been directed at the PA, given the fact that the terrorists in question were on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah.

By contrast, the administration has been indifferent to Palestinian terrorism and its official celebration by the PA. I can’t recall a single instance in which the president or a prominent member of his administration criticized the Palestinians for anything. Maybe it’s because the PA has been doing such a commendable job when it comes to incitement and terrorism? Not quite.

In just the past week, official PA television has hailed the first female Palestinian suicide bomber; PA president Mahmoud Abbas personally honored Dalal Mughrabi, a legend of Palestinian terrorism who participated in the coastal-road massacre, the deadliest act of terrorism in Israel’s history (37 innocents were murdered); and both Abbas and the supposedly moderate PA Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, celebrated the killers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, who was gunned down by members of Fatah while driving last week.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that a federal judge “complained that the Obama administration was ‘particularly unhelpful’ and the State Department ‘mealy-mouthed’ in refusing to provide official guidance” on a lawsuit that implicates the Palestinian Authority in the terror murder of an American citizen.

President Obama is repeating one of the worst mistakes of the Oslo period, when the official promotion of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority was studiously ignored on behalf of the larger “peace” mission. We know how successful that strategy was.

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Toward a Saner Policy on Free Speech

Kudos to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for yesterday’s decision to oust a yeshiva from the hesder program, which combines Torah study with army service, thereby laying down an important principle: the right to say what you please does not include the right to do so on the government’s dime.

The Har Bracha Yeshiva was expelled because its head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, repeatedly urged his soldier-students to disobey orders to evacuate settlements. Were Melamed a private individual, this would have been unexceptionable. I vehemently oppose such disobedience, because it would undermine the army, on which Israel’s survival depends. But the other side has serious arguments as well — from the importance of obeying one’s conscience to the value of civil disobedience as a way of protesting problematic policies. Hence in principle, Melamed’s position is a legitimate part of the ongoing political debate.

But it ought to be clear that you cannot urge your soldier-students to disobey orders while accepting NIS 700,000 a year — 20 percent of your budget — from the very army you are telling them to disobey. The army need not and should not be funding activities aimed at undermining its ability to function.

Unfortunately, Barak’s decision did not fully establish this principle, as one other yeshiva whose head advocates disobedience remains in the hesder (which includes 61 yeshivas altogether). Indeed, Barak probably wouldn’t have expelled Har Bracha had Melamed not publicly humiliated him by refusing even to meet with him to discuss the issue.

Still, this is the first time a yeshiva has ever been removed from the program. And therefore it sets an important precedent.

What is necessary now is to expand this precedent to other areas of Israeli life. For instance, while it’s legitimate in principle for a professor to advocate boycotting Israel, it is not legitimate to do so while accepting a salary from the very university — and often, the very state — you are asking your overseas colleagues to boycott. How private institutions handle this issue is their business, but most Israeli colleges and universities are state funded. And the state should not be underwriting the paychecks of those who are soliciting others to boycott it.

Similarly, while it’s legitimate for ultra-Orthodox parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs, the state need not and should not finance a curriculum it deems inimical to its long-term health — because that curriculum both preaches eschewing work and army service in favor of full-time Torah study and omits secular subjects necessary to the modern workplace, such as English and math. Yet currently, the state covers up to 75 percent of these schools’ budgets.

For too long, Israel has acted as if the right to free speech includes the right to government financing for your views. Barak’s decision is a first step toward a more rational policy under which people may still say what they please, but the state will no longer finance views it deems inimical. Its importance thus goes far beyond a single yeshiva.

Kudos to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for yesterday’s decision to oust a yeshiva from the hesder program, which combines Torah study with army service, thereby laying down an important principle: the right to say what you please does not include the right to do so on the government’s dime.

The Har Bracha Yeshiva was expelled because its head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, repeatedly urged his soldier-students to disobey orders to evacuate settlements. Were Melamed a private individual, this would have been unexceptionable. I vehemently oppose such disobedience, because it would undermine the army, on which Israel’s survival depends. But the other side has serious arguments as well — from the importance of obeying one’s conscience to the value of civil disobedience as a way of protesting problematic policies. Hence in principle, Melamed’s position is a legitimate part of the ongoing political debate.

But it ought to be clear that you cannot urge your soldier-students to disobey orders while accepting NIS 700,000 a year — 20 percent of your budget — from the very army you are telling them to disobey. The army need not and should not be funding activities aimed at undermining its ability to function.

Unfortunately, Barak’s decision did not fully establish this principle, as one other yeshiva whose head advocates disobedience remains in the hesder (which includes 61 yeshivas altogether). Indeed, Barak probably wouldn’t have expelled Har Bracha had Melamed not publicly humiliated him by refusing even to meet with him to discuss the issue.

Still, this is the first time a yeshiva has ever been removed from the program. And therefore it sets an important precedent.

What is necessary now is to expand this precedent to other areas of Israeli life. For instance, while it’s legitimate in principle for a professor to advocate boycotting Israel, it is not legitimate to do so while accepting a salary from the very university — and often, the very state — you are asking your overseas colleagues to boycott. How private institutions handle this issue is their business, but most Israeli colleges and universities are state funded. And the state should not be underwriting the paychecks of those who are soliciting others to boycott it.

Similarly, while it’s legitimate for ultra-Orthodox parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs, the state need not and should not finance a curriculum it deems inimical to its long-term health — because that curriculum both preaches eschewing work and army service in favor of full-time Torah study and omits secular subjects necessary to the modern workplace, such as English and math. Yet currently, the state covers up to 75 percent of these schools’ budgets.

For too long, Israel has acted as if the right to free speech includes the right to government financing for your views. Barak’s decision is a first step toward a more rational policy under which people may still say what they please, but the state will no longer finance views it deems inimical. Its importance thus goes far beyond a single yeshiva.

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