Friday, September 17, 2010

A Meaningful Fast

Tonight at sunset is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Observant Jews fast for 24 hours and go to services. It is meant to be a day of prayer, reflection and repentance.

There are three forms or good wishes I see around Yom Kippur every year: a wish for an easy fast, a wish for a meaningful fast, and the more religious Gmar Hatima Tov, a wish that the person receiving the greeting is inscribed in the book of life for good.

While roughly 70% of Israel's Jewish population is categorized as secular I read this week that only 6% refrain from observances during the High Holy Days. I believe it is the same for many American and other diaspora Jews who disregard observance during most of the year. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are different.

So... if you are observing the Yom Kippur holiday this year, may it be a meaningful fast and a meaningful day for you.

NOTE: Cross-posted from my personal blog.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Shana Tovah

This evening at sundown is the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It is also the beginning of the High Holy Days for Jewish people, 10 days of reflection and penitence. It is the start of the year 5177, a year that is shaping up to be interesting to say the least.

New year's resolutions are not part of the Jewish tradition but I am going to make one anyway. In the coming year I will be reviving this blog and writing actively about Israel and Jewish issues. If there ever was a time when we needed more pro-Israel voices, more hasbara than now, well... I haven't seen it. The old saw, attributed to Lenin, that a lie told enough times becomes the truth, has certainly shown itself to be true in discussions of and news coverage of Israel and the Middle East. It is time I once again take an active role in debunking myths and discrediting lies and telling the truth about what is happening in our world.

I would like to take a moment to wish everyone Shana Tovah. May the coming year be happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet for you.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Today I received an interesting response to one of my old blog posts on another website. I haven't changed a thing so the spelling, usage and capitalization errors belongs to the anonymous author.
You people - christian and jewish zionists have decieved American and the American taxpayer to send over 150billion in aid to Israel and now they disrespect our President - your a traitor.

Very nice. This is, of course, mild, compared to some of the virulently hateful anti-Semitic comments I receive.

Since when has disagreeing with the President been considered disrespectful? I've always believed that a vigorous and open political debate is the hallmark of a free society. Also, since when is disagreeing with the President the equivalent of being a traitor? That may have been the case in the old Soviet Union and it may still be in Cuba today, but not in the United States.

Then let's look at what this person had to say. Israel receives less than $3 billion a year in US aid, $2.4 billion of which is military aid, not $150 billion. President Obama's 2010 budget calls for $2.8 billion in aid to Israel. According to the Congressional Research Service total aid to Israel, from the creation of the state in 1948 until 2007 was $101 billion. In other words, his number is from fantasy land, not the real world. He or she also neglects to mention that a large portion of aid is in the form of loan guarantees which Israel repays with interest.

What does the United States get for that aid? First there is almost completely unrestricted access to Israeli intelligence, the best there is in the Middle East. Second is the access to Israeli technology which is used extensively by the U.S. military. Third is the guaranteed availability of an entire (admittedly small) country as a base if ever the United States military wanted to use it. The U.S. also has been able to veto technology sales it doesn't like. The Clinton administration encouraged Israeli technology sales to China, including some military technology. When President Bush decided that Israel should make no further sales the Israeli government complied despite the loss of billions in revenue.

"You people", all us awful Jewish and Christian Zionists, are a majority of the American people, and a solid majority at that. According to recent polls 80% of Americans see Israel as an ally and nearly two thirds say they support Israel. Meanwhile President Obama's latest approval rating is at 48% according to the latest Rasmussen Reports number. Maybe the majority of Americans are really "traitors" too.

Nobody has fooled the American people. The American people have made choices and the government has acted on them precisely because support for Israel is in the American interest. It's a pity some people are so blinded by their prejudices that they make up numbers and throw around accusations without bothering about little things like facts.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hag Sameach! Happy Passover! A Zissen Pesach!

I hope everyone reading this has a great Pesach. For those of you who aren’t Jewish and don’t know much about the holiday, Pesach (Passover) is the celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt as told in the biblical book of Exodus. It’s all about freedom, something which is always worth celebrating wherever we find it.

Pesach is also about the food! Really good homemade matzo ball soup is to die for. I’ve also have some Israeli chocolate this year and some triple dipped bittersweet chocolate covered matzoh.

I’ll be back during Hol Hamoed with more to say. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to post as frequently as I’d like. With Israel under unprecedented pressure and so much misinformation out there we need more Zionist voices giving the other side of the story and I will try to do my little part.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Would Muslims Surrender Mecca? Should Catholics Give Up The Vatican?

Would Muslims surrender Mecca? Should Catholics give up the Vatican? These may seem like ridiculous questions. The answer to both by any sane person would be "of course not." Why on earth would the answer to "Would Jews ever surrender Jerusalem?" be any different? The answer is simple. It shouldn't.

With the exception of a seven year period in the sixth century when the Persians restored Jewish sovereignty, the Jewish people were denied a homeland from 70 C.E. until 1948. During that time the Jewish people suffered pogroms, expulsions, mass murder, persecution, and assorted other forms of denial of basic human rights. Throughout that time the Jewish people prayed for one thing consistently: "Next year in Jerusalem." It's part of the Passover seder, the ceremonial feast, which the world's Jewish population will celebrate in two weeks time.

Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, is a Zionist prayer in song, a prayer for a Jewish home in the land of Zion and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is stressed and is in the refrain, the only part of the anthem which is repeated. Here is a translation of the lyrics:
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul still yearns,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
An eye still gazes toward Zion;

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

These words, taken from a poem and set to music in 1888, are the essence of Zionism. More, they are the essence of Jewish national and cultural identity.

In recent days some have said that Prime Minister Netanyahu, and indeed the nation of Israel as a whole, will eventually have to make a choice between concessions which amount to surrendering sovereignty over much of Jerusalem or the friendship between Israel and the United States. Actually, that is no choice at all. Jews simply will not surrender sovereignty over Jerusalem. Those, particularly in the United States, who argue that we should include Jews who have somehow become divorced from their traditions, culture, their very identity as Jews. If we have to say goodbye to those people and say goodbye to support from the White House then that is what we will do.

Notice that I have made this argument without even once referring to Jewish and Christian religious beliefs. Of course it is religion which makes Jerusalem holy to Jews, just as Mecca is holy to Muslims and the Vatican is holy to Catholics. These beliefs, which the majority of Americans happen to share, are also being challenged by the White House. That has never been a recipe for much political support.

During Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence my father fought to lift the siege of Jerusalem. To him a Jewish state and the city of Jerusalem was worth fighting for. I can't say my views are any different. Israel survived against what seemed like impossible odds without any American help then. If need be it will do so again.

Anyone who insists that Israel should offer sovereignty as a concession prior to any negotiations for peace, with nothing in return, is asking Israel to surrender. What is the point of a Jewish state if not to maintain Jewish identity and hold on to what is precious to the Jewish people? Anyone who demands such a thing is no friend of Israel or the Jewish people, even if they can claim to be Jewish by birth. Oh, and yes, that includes the Obama Administration and anyone within the administration who insists that Israel not build in Ramat Shlomo or anywhere else in our holy city and capital.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When It Comes To Jerusalem, The Washington Post and President Obama Rewrite History

The Washington Post had an article by Howard Schneider yesterday about the dispute over property in in Sheikh Jarrah, a small Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. I have no problem with an article that presents both the Israeli and Palestinian side of a story like this. I have a huge problem with asserting facts which simply are not in evidence and skewing the picture in favor of one side, in this case the Palestinians.

The article plays fast and loose with the facts. For example, it states that
"Israel asserts its jurisdiction over the entire city -- including Arab areas it captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a step not recognized by the international community."

First, the United States did recognize all of Jerusalem as part of Israel in The Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. In addition there are several countries which do have embassies in Jerusalem. To say that the "international community" as a whole doesn't recognize Israel's sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem is inaccurate. The international community is not monolithic and is divided on this issue unless, of course, you don't consider the United States part of the international community.

Yes, the Obama administration has protested the eviction of Arabs from Sheikh Jarrah. They argue that any change of the status quo undermines the peace process. Never mind that the land was taken by force from Jewish owners in 1948. Never mind that the United Nations, which moved the original 28 Arab families into the neighborhood, never obtained or provided any title to the property. Never mind that the families would have had tenancy rights and could not be evicted under Israeli law if they paid rent to the rightful owners. Never mind that the issue was decided through a very long legal process, complete with appeals and due process of law. None of those facts matter. The Obama administration has decided, in advance of any negotiation, that Jerusalem will be divided again. Never mind that President Obama has no say in the matter whatsoever, has no jurisdiction over Jerusalem, and is in effect ignoring American law.

Yes, the article does mention the Jewish ownership but it assumes that "East Jerusalem" is rightfully somehow Palestinian. Please read my post on the relevant parts of the history of Jerusalem from 2007. One point which every article like this ignores:
What made east Jerusalem Arab? 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation ending in 1967. In 1948 when Jordan captured the old, walled city they destroyed 58 synagogues. 58! I somehow don't think Arabs were worshiping in those synagogues. Yep, in 1948 there were still lots of Jews in "Arab East Jerusalem".

As the article correctly points out, Silwan, another eastern Jerusalem neighborhood embroiled in a property dispute, was a haven for Yemeni Jews in the 1800s. These were Jews escaping persecution in the Arab world. Why are changes which are a result of Jordanian occupation just fine while reversing those changes as a result of Israel capturing the eastern part of the city unacceptable? Somehow it's acceptable to ignore the fact that there were Israeli controlled enclaves in "East Jerusalem" between 1948 and 1967 and there never was a clean east/west division of the city.

Certainly the Obama administration is working under false assumptions when it comes to Jerusalem. The President of the United States should know better. Unfortunately, the position of his administration is nothing new. It is a continuation of misguided Bush administration policy. The last President who seemed to understand the history was Bill Clinton. How do those who claim that American Jews or a pro-Israel lobby have some sort of undo influence on U.S. foreign policy explain a decidedly pro-Palestinian position on an issue so critical not only to Israel but to Jewish identity as a whole?

The article assumes, like so many others, that "East Jerusalem" is Arab, period, end of story. To the Washington Post this clearly isn't open to debate. They even have the Office of the President agreeing with this incorrect assertion. History to the contrary is conveniently ignored. This is a sort of pernicious, almost hidden media bias in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel. Since the Washington Post is so well respected their assumptions become the assumptions of many in the American public. After all, who has the authority and credibility to challenge the Washington Post, especially when their misinformation is repeated at the highest levels of government?

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Sign Of Things To Come? Malmö, Sweeden: Jewish Population Flees Violent Anti-Semitism

A most disturbing report by Avi Yelin for Arutz Sheva two weeks ago detailed how members of the tiny Jewish community in Malmö, Sweden's southern city, are fleeing violent anti-Semitism. In a city with only 700 Jewish residents there were 79 crimes against Jews reported to the Malmö police last year, doubling the number reported in 2008. The article continues:
"Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have been repeatedly defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, and a chapel at another Jewish burial site in Malmö was firebombed last January"

Fredrik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmö is pessimistic about the future of his community unless there is a "complete change in attitude." That seems unlikely in Sweden.

While various and sundry media reports claim that the U.K. has the highest level of anti-Semitism in Europe, Sweden cannot be far behind. For example, Sweden's daily newspaper with the largest circulation, Aftonbladet, reported last August that Israel was murdering young Palestinians and harvesting their organs. The report is yet another piece of blood libel worthy of The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. The reaction by the Swedish government, including Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, to Israeli outrage caused a serious rift in relations between the two countries. In a detailed report published last month, Mikael Tossavainen chronicles the events, the subsequent fallout, and the consequences of the Aftonbladet piece.

The diplomatic crisis is, to me, a secondary issue. Much more serious are the impact on public opinion. How many people believed the story? How many used it to further hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism in general? Just last week I reported that an anti-Semitic blogger claimed that Israel's aid to Haiti after the earthquake last month was a ruse to allow for the harvesting of organs there. Last August Nathalie Rothschild wrote a piece for Spiked Online that started with this premise:
"An article about the IDF stealing organs suggests ancient myths are becoming acceptable again in polite society."

That certainly seems to be the case in Sweden.

Yossi Klein Halevi, in a September article for Jewish World review makes a point that sums up the situation perfectly:
"Accusations like the Swedish blood libel aren’t just a threat to Israel’s good name, but could become a physical threat to Jews everywhere. The Israeli “crimes” raised by Aftonbladet are precisely the kind of rationale used by terrorists to incite violence against Jews. In the current atmosphere, where the most inconceivable conspiracy theories involving Jews are readily believed by millions in the Muslim world, Aftonbladet’s recklessness is, potentially, an incitement to murder."

The problem is far more widespread than just the Muslim world. Violent anti-Semitism is becoming a worldwide epidemic.

The former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, noted that the Aftonbladet incident is hardly unique, but rather reflects a trend across Sweden and, indeed, all of western Europe.
“In the last two decades, Israel has been indiscriminately attacked by European governments while the European press routinely distorts information coming from the Middle East. The Swedish press has been at the forefront of this trend, and with the article published last week by Aftonbladet it has clearly gone over the bend. About 80 percent of the newspapers there, especially the four national papers in Stockholm and hundreds of papers in the countryside, which set the tone in Sweden, are connected in some way to the Social Democrat movement and the trade unions, both of which are anti-Israel. There is a kind of dictatorship of the Social Democrats over the press in Sweden.

We have to face the facts. Israel cannot keep ignoring the onslaught coming from Europe, especially Western Europe and the EU countries. This demonizing of Israel is a very real threat that must be taken seriously."

Lets look at the consequences of the demonization of Israel: Jews in Malmö now feel they must flee for their lives. Hatred of Israel is the justification for anti-Semitic attacks across Europe and the Americas as well. I have to conclude that those who routinely claim that constant criticism of Israel doesn't equate to anti-Semitism are simply ignoring the facts and the consequences of their words.

Anti-Semitism in Europe is now reported to be at the highest level since World War II. The very people who hate Israel make it clear that now, more than ever, a safe, secure Israel is vital to the survival of the Jewish people. It remains a refuge for Jews who are reviled and persecuted the world over.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

No Israeli Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The two week IDF rescue and medical mission to Haiti drew some absolutely amazing press. Even media outlets normally critical of Israel couldn't heap enough praise on what Israelis did in Haiti. For example, watch this brief (under two minute) report on CNN:

Here is another CNN story about Israeli rescue efforts. Even some in the Arab media covered the story. Here is what Palestinian-American journalist Ray Hanania had to say:
"200,000 Haitians died in an earthquake. They sent doctors and supplies to help. That is a good thing. Just because we are fighting with Israel doesn't mean we should sneer at that assistance to people in need. YES, I wish Israel could show the same compassion for Palestinians. But Israel and Haiti are not at war and Israelis and Palestinians (mainly Hamas and the settlers) are."

Despite this some have used the IDF efforts in Haiti as an excuse to bash Israel according to an article in Ha'aretz published on January 21. Those who hate Israel accuse the Jewish state of giving aid not out of concern for the suffering in that country, but rather for ulterior motives:
"...for a shocking number of others, the bottom line is simple: Israel, and Israelis, can do no right. In its most extreme there are those who have accused Israel of using the Haiti catastrophe as a new reservoir for harvesting organs.

But even many of those who shun blood libels, have seized on the Haiti mission to bash Israel, revealing in many cases a hatred - and a bigotry - that borders on the visceral.

'I guess giving Israel credit for good deeds in Haiti,' wrote reader John Smithson on the widely read Mondoweiss site, 'is like watching a serial killer or other sociopathic type mow an old woman's lawn (or some other charitable thing).'

This sort of reaction is not surprising giving the almost daily anti-Israel diatribes found on that website. The Ha'aretz article continues:
"The contention is that Israel sent aid to Haiti on purely cynical motives [...] it is nothing short of racism to maintain, in Haiti and in general, that Israelis can do no right.

In his book The Case For Peace, Alan Dershowitz claims that many of the supporters of the Palestinians in the West are "more Palestinian than the Palestinians" and that their hatred of and vitriol towards Israel is far greater than what is found among Palestinian Arabs. This latest round of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred, complete with blood libel which would make the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion proud, is a prime example. No Israeli deed, no matter how noble, will go unpunished by those who truly hate the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A British Commander's Testimony On The Goldstone Report and Gaza

The Goldstone Report is, unfortunately, once again in the news day in and day out. The usual media outlets and organizations who work to demonize and delegitimize Israel are once again treating it as a statement of fact rather than a biased and one sided political propaganda piece. This despite the fact that the Obama administration condemned the report as, in the words of U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, "one-sided and deeply flawed". The critics of Israel never mention, as a Miami Herald editorial did, that Operation Cast Lead followed "eight years of relentless rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups." Daily rocket attacks against civilians in Israel continue to this day without one word of protest from the international community.

I know many in the world see the United States as hopelessly biased in Israel's favor. The British, on the other hand, have not exactly had warm relations with Israel lately and, indeed, the U.K. has been the country with the highest level of anti-Semitism in Europe. Perhaps the testimony of a high ranking British military officer will be a bit more convincing.

Colonel Richard Kemp served as commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. He previously has served as a commander in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia. UN Watch has provided not only video of his October 16, 2009 testimony but also translations into nine languages. Here are some of his most salient points:
During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.


The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.

I urge everyone to read or watch Col. Kemp's full testimony and pass it on to anyone who quotes the Goldstone report as some sort of evidence of Israeli war crimes.