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Yediot to Abe Foxman: Are we anti-Semitic too?

September 14, 2010 13 comments

Not exactly, but close.

For those of you who have missed the latest chapter of what Matt Duss calls “the continuing attempt to redefine ‘blood libel’ as ‘saying things about Israel I don’t particularly like'”, here’s a brief: This week’s TIME Magazine cover story was a feature by Karl Vick, entitled “Why Israel doesn’t care about peace” was not very useful from the current Hasbara perspective. Unfortunately, attacking it on its merits proved to be somewhat difficult. But Abe Foxman is always ready to play the anti-Semitism card. Haaretz:

A Time magazine cover story claiming Israelis are more interested in their booming economy than reaching an historical peace agreement with the Palestinians is another version of the anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews prefer money above any other interest, the Anti Defamation League said in a statement on Thursday.

This vile anti-Semitism has apparently penetrated Israel’s largest daily,  Yediot Acharonoth. Here’s how senior political columinist Sima Kadmon wraps her analysis of the latest polling on this morning front-page (entitled “Goodbye to peace”, full translation and poll results at bottom of this post):

What has happened to us? When did we come to be so lacking in faith? A week ago Time magazine ran a cover story about why Israelis don’t want peace. Many people criticized the article’s point of departure.

When one reads the findings of this poll, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that that thesis is not so ludicrous.

Goodbye to peace

Sima Kadmon, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page three with front-page teaser]

Profound pessimism — that would probably be deemed the understatement of the year in describing the Israeli public’s positions on the morning that the prime minister leaves for a summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.

A Mina Tzemah poll that was conducted yesterday proves that the Israeli public has lost its faith: it has lost its faith in Netanyahu’s intentions, it has lost its faith in Abu Mazen’s abilities and his intentions to be a partner, it has lost its faith in peace. And worst of all, it has lost hope.

It would seem that somewhere along the way to a peace arrangement with the Palestinians we turned into a bitter, untrusting, weary and despairing people. Only that can explain how 48% are opposed (versus 45% who support) a peace arrangement with the Palestinians in which they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and Israel concedes most of the territories in the West Bank, while keeping the settlement blocs in Israeli possession. Since when would a plan of that sort be unacceptable to the public, when would we not have endorsed such a plan wholeheartedly?

Perhaps the reason is that only 36% of the public believes that Netanyahu is sincere in his intentions to reach an arrangement with the Palestinians. Fifty-six percent believe that he is doing everything as a result of American pressure. And that is relatively good in comparison to what the Israeli public thinks about Abu Mazen’s intentions. Only 23% believe that Abu Mazen and the Palestinians are sincere in their intentions. Seventy percent believe that they were forced into the talks by American pressure. So is it any wonder that only a quarter of the Israeli public, 25%, believe that there is a chance that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will lead to a peace agreement? Seventy-one percent reject that notion.

And if that is the state of affairs and there is no chance of reaching a peace arrangement, why continue with the internal disagreements about a construction freeze? Why continue to wrack our brains on compromises, on calming tempers? Let’s tell everyone we’re not playing that game any more and go all out. When the respondents were asked whether they believed that the resumption of construction would lead to the derailment of the talks with the Palestinians, 68% said they believed it would certainly lead to their derailment. Nevertheless, 51% of the public believes that construction should be resumed everywhere throughout Judea and Samaria. In other words, despite the fact that a large majority believes that a resumption of construction while talks are underway will derail those talks, that course of action is acceptable to more than half of the Israeli public.

Even when the respondents are offered the option of a compromise in which construction is partially suspended and will be pursued mainly in the settlement blocs—a compromise that on the face of things ought to be acceptable to a majority of the public—it turns out that only 42% are prepared to consider that possibility. Thirty-two percent of the public object to that compromise because they believe that the construction moratorium ought to be ended altogether.

What has happened to us? When did we come to be so lacking in faith? A week ago Time magazine ran a cover story about why Israelis don’t want peace. Many people criticized the article’s point of departure.

When one reads the findings of this poll, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that that thesis is not so ludicrous.

—-

Poll: Majority opposed to moratorium

Poll by Dahaf Polling Institute, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page three with front-page teaser]

Q: Should Netanyahu extend the settlement construction freeze after September 26, or should construction be resumed?

Extend construction freeze: 39%

Resume construction: 51%

No response/don’t know: 10%

Q: Would you support a compromise in which construction in the territories is partially suspended—in other words, for there to be construction only in the settlement blocs?

I would support such a compromise: 42%

I am opposed because the construction freeze should be comprehensive: 20%

I am opposed because the construction freeze should be ended: 32%

No response/don’t know: 6%

Q: Do you believe that Netanyahu is serious in his intentions to reach an agreement, or do you believe that he has entered negotiations because of American pressure?

Because of American pressure: 56%

His intentions are sincere: 36%

No response/don’t know: 8%

Read more…

Report: Kahana’s JDL reorganizing to provide Amb. Oren security at US public events

February 14, 2010 5 comments

On Thursday (February 11, 2010,) we reported on the involvement of Kahanists in anti-NIF advocacy in the US. The story below, from this morning’s Israel Hayom (a tabloid owned by Sheldon Adelson,) reports that (apparently following the UC Irvine incident) they are now organizing to provide security for Ambassador Michael Oren and other Israeli dignitaries at US public events. Hopefully, the results of this initiative will not resemble scenes from The Altamont Free Concert.

Kahana lives? Kahana is revived

The initiative: To revive the Jewish Defense League that Kahana founded; The goal: To protect Israeli speakers abroad

Efrat Porsher, Israel Hayom, February 14 2010

JDL Logo

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Israel’s US Ambassador Michael Oren may not like the new initiative, but in the wake of recent incidents, they and other representatives of Israel worldwide are in for some unexpected help from extreme-right activists.

In recent days, prominent right-wing activists conversed with activists of the Jewish Defense League abroad, as well as with other right-wing activists and students who attend universities in the USA and Europe, who expressed an interest in the idea of reviving the League.  The Jewish Defense League was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahana in the late 1960s, and it was active for some two decades before it faded away.

Ben-Gvir

The idea to revive the League was born after pro-Palestinian students interrupted lectures by Ayalon and Oren in US and British universities.  The League will work in two directions.  First, organization activists will show up at events that Israeli diplomats are expected to address and try to prevent students from interrupting their lectures.  Second, they will prevent diplomats from enemy countries or from countries that are hostile toward Israel from speaking at university venues.  “Those who exploded events attended by Israeli representatives will live to regret it,” said right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Kach, Kahana’s political movement, was outlawed in 1988.

Sheizaf: The split personality of liberal Jewish-Americans, Ctd.

January 14, 2010 2 comments

Cross-posted from Promised Land.

I had some interesting responses to my post on the “split personality” of American liberal Jews. One of them was from Rabbi Jason Miller from Detroit, Michigan, who posted on his blog some of his thoughts regarding this issue. Among other things, he refers to “the seemingly ironic position that so many liberal American Jews find themselves in concerning their views on Israel.”

Admittedly, I am in this category. I never criticize Israel or its government’s policies publicly, because, well, it’s Israel — my Israel, my homeland. The Jewish state has enough critics, I reason; it could use more people playing defense for the team. But when it comes to religious pluralism, I have no problem expressing my frustration for the control that the ultra-Orthodox wields in Israel. A monopoly by one denomination of a religion for all official religious acts is not democratic.

I think that Rabbi Miller is being very honest here about his views on Israel. In a different post, he refers to the acceptance of Gays and Lesbians by the Jewish community as one of the most important development of the decade. This is another example of something that the religious establishment in Israel wouldn’t even consider doing – in fact, Rabbis and religious MKs here led the fight against Gay rights – and Rabbi Miller has no problems speaking against Israel’s orthodoxy.

I wonder, however, what is the different, in the eyes of a liberal person, between Gay and Arab rights. I understand Jews’ hesitations to come out publicly against Israel on issues that involve national security, but when it comes to minorities’ rights, the current government in Jerusalem is far worse than any administration America had in the past fifty years, yet Jews – who took part in some of the great civil rights fights in the US – remain very careful not to criticize Israel on these matters.

Just recently, the Knesset passed a law which would  allow Jewish settlements inside Israel (not to be confused with West Bank settlements), build on public state land, to forbid Arab citizens from purchasing a home within them. At the same time, the Knesset turned down a bill that was meant to make the state allocate land to Jews and Arab on an equal basis.

Doesn’t the fact that Rabbi Miller views Israel as his homeland only makes it more urgent to protest when this country is marching down the “separate but equal” road?

———————–

Going back to the national security issue, my question to Israel’s liberal supporters is if they can imagine a time in which it would be justified to come out publicly against Israel.

Naturally, this is something liberal Israelis ask themselves all the time – when does it become justified to speak against our country, even our community. Often I wonder how would a certain post or news item I might quote here be viewed, used or misused or taken out of context when people around the world read it.

Among leftist bloggers who write in English, we joke that after one raises some critical or controversial issue, you start by being praised by those fighting for peace and civil liberties, than by anti-Israelis, later on by anti-Semites, and finally Holocaust deniers. Naturally, many of these responses are not exactly what we aim for, but still, we think that some of Israel’s actions – more and more lately – deserve to be criticized publicly. The truth – about the West Bank, or about Gaza, or about civil liberties in Israel – must be told, even if it occasionally leads to some unfortunate consequences.

Sometimes I get the feeling that many American Jews exempt themselves from this dilemma by simply accepting Jerusalem’s view all the time. So again, my question to them is this: Can they think of an event that will make them come out against Israel, both privately and publicly?

———————–

Maybe there are signs of change. Here is something I read at James Besser’s blog on The Jewish Week, And Besser is far from being anti-Israeli or a radical lefty:

…there’s something disturbing about the growing determination to stifle debate in an American Jewish community with a multiplicity of pro-Israel views. Israelis engage in vigorous debate about these issues all the time, but apparently our own leaders believe that support for Israel is so shaky here that we can’t raise issues like whether or not the Gaza blockade is in Israel’s long-term security interests.

Interestingly, Besser makes the same point I had: that some of the stuff written on the Israeli mainstream media would be unacceptable for American Jews had it appeared at their town’s paper. After quoting the Haaretz editorial calling to reconsider the siege on Gaza, he wonders:

Wouldn’t any American Jewish group making such an argument be tarred as a violator of the pro-Israel orthodoxy, shunned, called “dangerous” to the Jewish state?

What do you think?

Please comment at Promised Land.

State-sponsored incitement: Israel’s glass house

January 12, 2010 2 comments

It appears that Palestinian incitement is back in Israel’s public advocacy arsenal.

Netanyahu

From a Jerusalem Post report on Sunday’s (January 10 2010) Israeli cabinet meeting:

Basing himself on information provided by the Palestinian Media Watch, Netanyahu said that “incitement continues in the Palestinian media and education system; in its official media outlets and in the schools under its supervision. These serious actions represent a harsh violation of the Palestinians’ international obligation to prevent incitement. I say to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority [Mahmoud Abbas]: Stop the incitement. This is not how peace is made.”

From a report in the January 7 2010 edition of Haaretz:

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a complaint to the White House several days ago lamenting ongoing incitement against Israel by Palestinian leaders.

In the complaint, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office urged their American counterparts to demand that Palestinians President Mahmoud Abbas cease to glorify the memory of terrorists who murdered Israelis. The complaint went on to insist that the Palestinians live alongside Israelis peacefully and spread peace. […]

This complaint is the first of its kind — against Palestinian incitement — to gain media attention in Israel, after many years during which Israel largely refrained from making official complaints, or delivered these complaints discreetly to the Palestinian president.

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen

Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar demonstrates this morning (January 12 2010; full annotated text after the cut) that on this issue Netanyahu is throwing stones from within a glass house:

“Shabbat Beshabato,” [is] a weekly pamphlet on the Torah portion distributed in thousands of copies to synagogues all over Israel. Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, the founder of the Conversion Authority and head of the Tsomet Institute of Halacha and Technology [Hebrew], wrote in the most recent edition that “the time has come ‘to declare war’ on the Israeli Arabs, and of course on the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, who are not loyal to the state, using clear tests to determine this, and to designate them as ‘enemies.'” […]

What kind of enlightened democracy finances a body that is behind the publication of unacceptable remarks against its citizens? The Tsomet Institute, like quite a few “rogue elements” (such as the Od Yosef Hai Shechem yeshiva, whose rabbi, Yitzhak Shapira, permits the killing of gentile babies) receives thousands of shekels annually from the state. In 2007-2008, Tsomet received from the Science and Technology Ministry over NIS 580,000, and another NIS 100,000 or so from the Ministry of Education, as well as NIS 200,000 from the Gush Etzion Regional Council.

Yisrael Rosen and his institute are known in the US for their Kosher technological solutions the problems posed by a modern observant life. In Israel, the Rabbi serves as an official consultant to a range [Hebrew] of government bodies, including the Police and the IDF. Incitement, however, is also a regular Rosen product: In 2006 and 2008 he published Halacha interpretations equating Palestinians with Amalek and calling for their destruction.

We have no incitement here

Column, Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, January 12 2010

The prime minister complains, and rightly so, that the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas took part in a ceremony naming a square after a female terrorist. Really the time has come to change the name of all the squares named after suicide bombers and members of the pre-state undergrounds, murderers and freedom fighters. Benjamin Netanyahu protests, and rightly so, the incitement-filled publications against Israel distributed by the Palestinians.

Indeed, as he said two days ago to American senators, “this is not how you make peace.” This is not the time to encourage religious fanatics and fund extremist organizations that incite against their Jewish neighbors.

Among us, those who incite against the Arab neighbors are always “rogue elements.” So why do Israeli governments irrigate them with public water? Take for example, “Shabbat Beshabato,” a weekly pamphlet on the Torah portion distributed in thousands of copies to synagogues all over Israel. Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, the founder of the Conversion Authority and head of the Tsomet Institute of Halacha and Technology [Hebrew], wrote in the most recent edition that “the time has come ‘to declare war’ on the Israeli Arabs, and of course on the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, who are not loyal to the state, using clear tests to determine this, and to designate them as ‘enemies.'” Read more…

Sheizaf: Liberal Jews and Israel — A case of split personality disorder

January 6, 2010 5 comments

Cross-posted from Promised Land Blog.

Last Saturday I met an Israeli-American friend who came for a short visit from his studies in Europe. We talked some politics, and finally came to an issue which always puzzles me: the fact that American Jews are unwilling — almost unable — to criticize Israel, both in public and in private, and even when Israeli policies contradict their own beliefs. My friend noted that if some of the articles on the Israeli media – and not even the most radical ones – were to be printed in the US and signed by non-Jews, they would be considered by most Jewish readers like an example of dangerous Israel-bashing, sometimes even anti-Semitism.

I’ve became more aware of this issue myself since I started writing this blog. Things I say or write which are well within the public debate in Israel are sometimes viewed as outrageous by American Jewish readers; at the same time, events which would make the same readers furious if they happened in the US – for example, the Israeli municipality which tried to prevent Arabs from dating Jewish girls – are met with indifference.

Naturally, I’m generalizing here. Between millions of Jews you can obviously find all kinds of voices – and this is part of the reason I hesitated before writing this post – but I think one can recognize some sort of mainstream opinion within the Jewish community, which both echoes the official Israeli policies, regardless of the identity of the government in Jerusalem, and at the same time, turns a blind eye on events which might distort the image of Israel which this community holds. And this is something which is hard to understand.

———————–

All known data indicates that the vast majority of US Jews support the democratic party, and many consider themselves as liberals (Barack Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote). Yet except for a group of well known activists, you can hardly hear these people criticize Israel, which is not exactly a picture-perfect liberal democracy.

I am not talking here about the old Jewish establishment or about AIPAC. AIPAC are professional politicians. Their status is based on their connections to the Israeli governments, and their ability to promote Israeli interests in Washington. Breaking up with Israel — even just criticizing Israeli politics — will not just hurt their status, it will simply leave them unemployed. Expecting AIPAC or other Jewish leaders with good ties in Jerusalem to declare that, for example, Israel should lift the siege on Gaza, is like asking an insurance lobbyist to speak in the name of the public option.

Naturally, I don’t expect anything from Jewish neo-cons either. These people like Netanyahu, they supported George Bush, and they will go on speaking about culture wars and Islamo-Facists versus Judeo-Christians even on the day Mahmoud Haniya converts to Zionism. You can agree or disagree with them, but at least their views are consistent.

With the Liberals it’s quiet a different story. It’s obvious they care much about Israel, and some of them are very passionate about politics and extremely well-informed about what’s going on here, but from time to time, I get the feeling they hold back some of their views.

I don’t think many liberals, if they really are ones, can accept the siege on Gaza. Even if they think that Hamas is to blame for the current state of affairs, surly they don’t support collective punishment against 1.5 million people, do they? What would they say if the US was to seal the areas in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan where the insurgents are hiding, not letting even basic supply in or out, preventing civilians from growing food or working, and practically leaving the entire population on the brink of starvation? I presume many Americans will oppose such policies. Read more…

A little sanity from Jeffrey Goldberg

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Commenting on the latest bout of indignation, from people who have made sanctimonious outrage their profession — this time about the elevation of Pope Pius XII to sainthood

The Catholic Church today is respectful of Jews and Israel; it also adores its former Popes. I don’t see a contradiction. I’m not sure why I’m so unmoved by these Jewish protests — maybe because I think Jews should keep their powder dry for actual problems. Or maybe because excessive whining is just so damn annoying.

Those ‘actual problems’ include the obliteration, in Israel, of so many values I was brought up to believe were what Judaism was all about.

Video: Interview with Israel’s Chief Pathologist on unauthorized organ harvesting (with some context)

December 22, 2009 2 comments

I’ve uploaded the video broadcast on Israeli TV on Friday (December 18 2009) with Israel’s former Chief Pathologist, Prof. Yehuda Hiss, admitting that he oversaw the unauthorized harvesting of organs in the ’90s. You can view it here, and a translated transcript with some hyperlinks is after the cut. If anybody wants to help and caption the video, that would be great: download it, upload to your account, caption and send me the link so I can re-upload.

Yehuda Hiss

Short story

There is no corroboration of what appears to be the way most of the world now perceives as the assertion of the now infamous Aftonbladet op-ed — that Palestinians were targeted and killed by Israel for the purpose of  harvesting their organs. If anything, Israel was an equal opportunity organ thief. All cadavers going through the National Center for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir were subject to this treatment, including at least one IDF soldier. The Palestinian connection is indirect — because they are occupied by Israel, some of their cadavers also went into this production line. This is not to understate the criminality of the practice, nor it’s immorality and hypocrisy, especially from a culture that places so much value in the integrity of cadavers and a state obsessed with their recovery from enemy hands. The classic blood libel — that Jews kill gentiles and use their bodies — has not been affirmed, however.

Long (and more important) story

The behavior of the Government of Israel has made the jobs of anti-Semites and blood libelers much easier. I am not referring to its policies on the Palestinian issue, to the monstrous beliefs and actions of right-wing Jewish fundamentalists, nor to the medieval theocrats who increasingly govern the personal lives of Israelis of all persuasions. I am referring to a political class, unable to deal coherently with the country’s core problems, which has made demagoguery, disguised as “defense of the Jewish people,” a primary weapon in its communications arsenal.

A government that truly cared about defending Jews from anti-Semitism would have  reacted to the Aftonbladet op-ed by publishing Prof. Hiss’ confession on its own, in the same paper and within a short period of time. That way, it would have remained a Swedish tabloid flap and not fueled an un-extinguishable global debate. Embarrassing but not dangerous.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Instead, either incompetently or maliciously, Netanyahu and Lieberman used it to show their mettle in standing-up to the pro-Palestinian Europeans, with the Israeli neoconservative chorus, like Dore Gold and Gerald Steinberg, enthusiastically cheering. End result: Much of the world became aware of Aftonbladet allegation and now has also heard that someone exposed an Israeli admitting that it was true. That is how modern communications works, as Netanyahu, the self-proclaimed hasbara expert, should know. The damage is not limited to this specific libel, because it contributes to the perception that, as a matter of course, Israelis lie until caught.

One does not have too look far for proof that this behavior is pathological (and I don’t mean that as a pun.) Last Thursday, (December 17 2009) the Arbeit Macht Frei sign was stolen from Auschwitz. No self-respecting Israeli politician lost even a moment in decrying the anti-Semitism/neo-Nazism behind the incident. Sunday is cabinet meeting day. From the first morning radio newscast to the late-night TV news wrap Ministers tried to outdo each other in sanctimony and pathos. Then, this evening (December 22 2009,) some very minor reporting that it was theft-on-order for a collector (I am aware that the fact that he is Swedish may well keep the anti-semitic conspiracy alive. But I think readers get my point.) Tomorrow is another day, which might very well bring another incident to give these addicts their polemic fix.

When I was younger, progressives here expressed their humanistic worldview by saying that they were Israelis before they were Jews. I don’t think that works any more.

Channel Two TV News, Ulpan Shishi [Friday Newsmagazine], December 18 2009

Narrator Yair Lapid: For years it has been rumored that dark things were happening in the National Center for Forensic Medicine [popularly known as the Forensic Institute] in Abu-Kabir that must not happen.  Courageous doctors who worked in the autopsy cellars occasionally tried to break through the wall of silence and alert the media of what was really going on there, but when their testimonies were published, others denied them.  This evening, Ulpan Shishi will air the facts for the first time.  A small tape with the recorded voice of Prof. Yehuda Hiss, the institute director, where he reveals how — ceaselessly, for almost a decade — organs were harvested there without the knowledge of the victims’ families.  Yifat Glick has the story. Read more…

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