“We lost Europe,” was the way one Foreign Ministry official put Thursday morning when Germany announced it would abstain on Palestinian non-member observer state status, rather than vote against it. Indeed, twelve European Union member states elected to abstain altogether — including the United Kingdom, Poland, and the Netherlands — while fourteen voted in favor, amongst them France, Spain, and Italy.
The only nation — not only in the European Union but across the entire continent — to vote with Israel and the United States and against enhanced Palestinian status was the Czech Republic, even while the other nations of eastern Europe abstained.
The Czech Republic and Israel have maintained good relations since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Dr Seán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London, believes that this is the result of an Atlanticist foreign policy outlook where the interests of the United States are also the interests of the Czechs.
Across central and eastern Europe, there is an especial appreciation for the United States’ role in the Cold War and their championing of NATO expansion beyond the Iron Curtain. “This perception is especially strong on the right of Czech politics and among politicians in the centre with connections to the dissident movement,” Hanley explained, and can in part account for Václav Havel’s support for the liberation of Iraq in 2003 and more recent Czech lobbying to host part of the United States’ missile defence shield on their soil.
Washington’s stars came out on Thursday night to bid farewell to retiring Senator Joseph Lieberman, at an event hosted by Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.
It was a slate of guests that would make any Washington party organizer envious, including former vice president Dick Cheney, looking in good shape after a heart transplant, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
But the real show stopper was Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, who turned the otherwise polite set of greetings into a roast for his longtime friend Lieberman.
“I have a major announcement to make,” McCain opened, “I’m converting to Judaism.”
An unprecedented lawsuit against a Jewish non-profit whose programs aim to “convert” gay men could become a “watershed moment” in history, says the head of a national advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Jews.
The case against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), brought yesterday in New Jersey Superior Court, would also “be a moment like in the Wizard of Oz, when the supposed wizard gets exposed as someone who’s not a good, truth-telling leader, but someone who’s destroying his community,” says Idit Klein, executive director of Boston-based Keshet.
So-called conversion therapy programs like JONAH “are destructive to the individuals they serve, and destructive in their message of bias and false claims of ‘curing’ people,” Klein told the Forward. “They clearly do not work, and have no basis in any kind of valid understanding of human psyche and identity.”
For Orthodox Jews who seek some kind of guidance through conversion therapy, results can be especially “devastating”, Klein said.
LISTEN TO A PODCAST WITH GAY ORTHODOX JEWS DISCUSSING THEIR FAITH AND SEXUALITY
“Gay men who grew up Orthodox and got treated by JONAH have talked about self-loathing, degradation, and damage to their sense of self, not to mention profound damage to their relationship with Judaism and the Jewish community,” she said. “It’s particularly painful for someone who grew up in Yeshiva, studies Tanakh, and relates to text as a source of authority in their lives. To be told ‘something’s wrong with you, it’s against Hashem and Torah,’ has driven people to take their own lives.”
My recent interview for The Forward with New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, while she was covering the recent conflagration between Israel and Hamas from inside Gaza, was instigated by a remark I read in one of her Facebook posts. So, obviously, I regarded Rudoren’s providing personal reflection and commentary on the situation beyond what she was writing for publication in the Times to be a positive thing.
However, others took a more negative view of these social media posts and let their opinions be known. Most notably, the blogger Philip Weiss, citing examples of Rudoren’s posts on his Mondoweiss website, took issue with how, in his view, “[Rudoren] seems culturally bound inside the Israeli experience.”
Now, we learn from NYT’s Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that in response to this “problematic” situation, the paper “is taking steps to make sure that Ms. Rudoren’s further social media efforts go more smoothly. The foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, is assigning an editor on the foreign desk in New York to work closely with Ms. Rudoren on her social media posts.”
Here’s Jon Stewart Leibowitz doing his best Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev: Ribono Shel Olom, what the @!*#! are you doing?
The announcement, made by Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, that his government will support the Palestinian Authority’s bid for “non-member observer status” at the United Nations next week is hardly news, but nevertheless newsworthy.
The news, of course, has been in the offing for quite some time. France’s Socialist Party, which has historically enjoyed closer ties with Israel than have the nation’s Gaullist and conservative parties, has long been an advocate for Palestinian statehood. In 1982, shortly after becoming president, François Mitterrand spoke to this very issue in a speech he gave before the Knesset. When he began his own run for the presidency last year, Mitterrand’s disciple François Hollande announced sixty campaign promises: the next to last was that he would support international recognition of a Palestinian state.
There was little surprise, as a result, when Fabius, during an exchange in the National Assembly, affirmed that France, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, would “with coherence and lucidity” vote “oui” at the U.N. This desire for coherence applies not just to past commitments made by Hollande and the Socialists, but also public opinion: according to a recent poll published in the newspaper Le Figaro, nearly 80% of the French believe that Palestinians should have their own nation. As for lucidity, the bloodshed in Gaza, which tragically has burnished Hamas’ image while tarnishing Fatah’s, deeply concerns the Quai d’Orsay (France’s equivalent of our own Foggy Bottom). Mahmoud Abbas is the best hope for peace, they believe, but they fear this frail hope will collapse under the weight of recent events.
When it was announced that the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) had signed contracts with Hyatt Hotels for upcoming conventions — including their signature Consultation on Conscience and L’Taken Social Justice Seminars — many who stood in solidarity with Hyatt workers believed it was moment of truth for the Jewish community.
Would the RAC, one of the most prominent and venerable social justice organizations in the American Jewish community, go ahead with their plans to hold high profile conventions in boycotted hotels? Or would they grasp the critical importance of this moment and opt to hold their events elsewhere?
Some background: When they learned of the contracts, concerned Jewish clergy as well as the Hyatt workers’ union, UNITE HERE, formally asked the RAC and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to honor the recently announced global boycott of Hyatt. Last month, the URJ and RAC met with union leaders and Hyatt employees. They learned that Hyatt summarily fired nearly 100 housekeepers from three Boston-area hotels in August 2009, replacing longtime housekeepers with temps at far lower rates of pay. They learned that Hyatt has been undermining the stability of jobs by increasingly subcontracting their workers. They learned Hyatt has been undermining the safety of jobs by increasing housekeeping workloads to dangerous levels. And they learned that Hyatt has been actively thwarting efforts by non-union hotel workers to exercise their fundamental right as workers to collectively bargain.
The RAC and the URJ also heard from high ranking officials at Hyatt. Not surprisingly, Hyatt challenged the union’s claims of unjust treatment of workers. While they admitted there may have been problems at some of their hotels in the past, they insisted that they had now been addressed.
With Congress plunging into talks to avoid the much-feared fiscal cliff, the Jewish community’s umbrella organization for policy is cautiously weighing in.
In a letter to Congress, Rabbi Steve Gutow, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’s president and CEO, urged lawmakers to keep in mind the impact of budget cuts on the poor and needy when sitting down to discuss a compromise.
He pointedly avoided the biggest question of all: whether taxes should go up for the wealthiest Americans.
“We recognize the significant challenges facing our country’s fiscal stability and the immense pressures to reduce the deficit,” the letter to Congress states, “still we call on you to ensure that, in a nation as wealthy and generous as ours, every American is simultaneously provided the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential, and no American must live in a state of destitution.”
Specifically, the JCPA is calling on members of Congress to avoid cuts to anti-poverty programs including food stamps (SNAP), Earned Income Tax Credit, unemployment insurance, nutrition programs for women and children, home energy assistance, and Medicaid. The group also asked that programs providing opportunities for those in need, such as Pell grants, will be spared from cuts.
“We believe that deficit reduction should be carefully calibrated to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected, opportunity for all is promoted, and justice is pursued,” Gutow wrote.
While stressing the need to solve the budget deficit in a “bipartisan, civil fashion,” the group, carefully tiptoed around the issue of tax hikes and made no reference to the administration position which proposed raising taxes for those earning more than $250,000 as a crucial measure alongside cuts in government spending. This seems to be in line with the Jewish federations umbrella group which has also avoided taking a stand on the issue of tax increases.
Like many Jewish leaders, I have devoted the majority of my professional life to advocating on behalf of my denomination. Sometimes the need is concrete, other times ideological. From supporting the worldwide network of the 600-plus Conservative kehillot to agitating on behalf of a Judaism that is pluralistic, intellectually compelling and rooted in tradition, my religious identity is often inextricable from my personal Jewish “brand.”
Much of this is unavoidable. Not a month goes by without an invitation to speak about a topic of endless fascination to the Jewish public: the current state of Conservative Judaism. Whether joining together with the heads of my sister organizations to construct a wide lens view or honing on a particular geography — I will be moderating a panel discussion on the renaissance of Conservative Judaism on Manhattan’s East Side in December — I declare myself, time and again, a spokesperson for Conservative Judaism.
But I was reminded of the limits of denominationalism this past week in the course of my hastily arranged Solidarity Tour to Israel on Day 7 of Operation Pillar of Defense. Organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, I joined with a group of North American Jewish leaders from United Synagogue to the Union for Reform Judaism to the Orthodox Union to the Jewish Federations of North America and other Zionist groups.
Together, we visited the mayors of the cities most affected by Hamas missiles, the injured civilians and soldiers, the damaged property, the brave Israeli citizens under threat of extinction every single day. Together we met with Israeli president Shimon Peres. Together we boarded buses from Ashkelon to Beer Sheva to Jerusalem, united as Jews, representatives of our denominations, yes, but stripped of the agendas that occupy us back in our offices in North America.
A week ago, I spent part of the day scrambling in ditches in the south of Israel as rocket alarms sounded when I was on the road. Today, the situation is calm and the children are back at school. But residents are left wondering who will foot the bill.
They aren’t talking about the cost of Operation Pillar of Defense itself, but of the financial cost that they suffered as a result of it. Many families had their homes or property damaged, and while public compensation funds are available, they take a long time and lots of form filling. But even in families where homes and cars are fine, the bank balance often isn’t.
Lots of people missed almost two weeks of work for the military operation and preceding rocket fire, and while some will be getting paid as normal, it depends on their employment arrangements and many won’t. For small businesses, the conflict spells financial woes.
It’s unclear exactly how southerners will be reimbursed for lost income and how long it will take. But the political context is important. Labor, which is the main challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu list, has just put the issue on the campaigning agenda, releasing a five-point socioeconomic rehabilitation plan for the south. which prioritizes compensation.
The last thing that Netanyahu will want is Labor having poster boys and girls from the south saying they are still suffering economically from the war that he started. The fact there’s an election coming up seems to mean that they stand a better chance than normal of getting things sorted out promptly.
Some news, apparently, is fit to print, but not too boldly. Take, for example, the demure self-censorship on display Saturday in the New York Times’ eye-opening report, headlined “On Island, Largely Blue, an Exception: Trump Tower,” on the handful of New York City neighborhoods that voted for Mitt Romney over President Obama. Overall, the city voted Obama over Romney 81% to 18%.
The headline and the first five paragraphs were about the two isolated election precincts on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Island where Romney won half or more of the vote. It wasn’t until paragraph 7 to find out that the main news began to trickle out: that the “deepest single bloc of Republican support in all the five boroughs” was a four-square-block section of Gravesend, Brooklyn, “dotted with Sephardic temples and yeshivas.”
Finally, well into the jump, we learned that Romney “enjoyed strong support from a range of neighborhoods with large populations of Orthodox Jews.” Many precincts in Borough Park, Kew Gardens Hills and Sheepshead Bay (which is largely Russian, not Orthodox) voted 90% GOP. A note on the accompanying map gave you the money quote: “Mr. Obama’s worst precincts were in Orthodox Jewish areas like Ocean Parkway and Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Kew Gardens Hills in Queens.”
The map shows the city’s 5,286 precincts as a sea of blue and red dots, shaded darker or lighter to indicate higher or lower percentages of partisan leaning. The darkest red voted over 80% for Romney, while pale pink gave him 50% to 65%. In addition to the broad swathes of dark red running down Brooklyn from Hasidic Borough Park down Sephardic Ocean Park to Russian Brighton Beach, there are dark red clusters in mostly Italian-American Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, and mostly Irish-American (and storm-ravaged) Breezy Point, Queens.
By all accounts, it was a nerve-wracking time for the 75,000 Israeli reservists called up in preparation for a ground offensive in Gaza last week.
“The next days were an emotional roller coaster ride,” wrote Marc Goldberg, who reported to duty on November 18, in a blog post for The Times of Israel. “I was prepped to go in and then stood down, only to be prepped to go back in again and stood down again and again…most of the time was spent hanging around waiting for something to happen, waiting for the final decision to get us moving.”
And when soldiers spend their time hanging around and waiting, things happen. Things like a bunch of reservists doing a khaki-clad rendition of the international smash hit “Gangnam Style.” Ariel Maoz, apparently one of the dancing soldiers, posted the video on his Facebook page and it went viral, attracting the attention of the news media.
On a more serious note, Goldberg wrote of arguments among members of his units as to whether the IDF should and would actually enter Gaza. “Then word came down about the ceasefire. Though there many who were angry that we wouldn’t be going in, the sense of relief that slowly swept through the company was palpable,” he wrote.
It looked as if today’s primaries to choose the candidate roster for Israel’s ruling Likud party was going to be delayed by Operation Pillar of Defense. But the party showed resilience and went to the polls as scheduled — only to have the process descend in to a shambles by problems with the snazzy computerized system on which members are meant to vote.
Several polling stations have closed due to malfunctions and at other stations some people have been told that the system is out of service but they should come back later. Gideon Saar, Likud lawmaker and Education Minister, has called the voting process “a farce” and suggested it should be rescheduled.
What does this mean politically? Given that it’s presumed to be almost certain that Likud will form the next government (along with its running partner Yisrael Beytenu), the composition of the party is very important in setting the legislative agenda for the next Knesset.
But before considering the significance of the computer problem let’s factor in another relevant point. Likud members also have the weather to contend with. It’s a rainy day in large parts of Israel, and Israelis don’t like to go out in the rain unless they really have to. Now, in Likud, it’s the strongly pro-settlement right wingers who are the most determined to vote, and who are most likely to make sure that the make the poll despite the obstacles. And as we reported here there’s a large number of highly ideological new recruits to Likud who are determined for the party to make a sharp right turn. This could well be their day.
The Drunken Ship pub in Rome was host to 30 Tottenham Hotspur fans, in town to watch their soccer team’s Europa League encounter with S.S. Lazio last Wednesday night. At approximately 1 a.m. Thursday, Lazio so-called ultras —extremist hooligan fans — turned up at the bar armed with stones, metal bars, and knuckle dusters and clad in motorcycle helmets and scarves to obscure their identities.
The ultras smashed up the place, breaking windows and turning over tables, and then proceeded to assault the Tottenham fans. Of those who attempted to escape, Ashley Mills, 25, was stabbed in the leg with a switch blade and received several wounds to the head. The whole incident was over in around ten to twenty minutes, but in all ten Spurs supporters were injured, one seriously. Two Lazio ultras, Francesco Ianari, 26, and Mauro Pinnelli, 27, have been charged with attempted murder for the attack on Mills.
Police are currently investigating the motive behind the assault, with a number of factors pointing towards anti-Semitism.
Lazio has had a long association with Italian fascism. It was as the club favoured by Benito Mussolini, and this connection has not dimmed amongst the ultras who continue to unveil pro-fascist banner at matches. Witnesses at the scene of the assault heard the assailants shouting “Jews!” as they entered the bar and carried out the battering, and at the game itself on Thursday evening home supporters chanted “Juden Tottenham” as the two teams played out a 0-0 draw.
Lazio fans also unfurled “Free Palestine” banners in the stands.
There had been a relative calm in my small part of the world — a gentrified area of south Tel Aviv where the tree-lined narrow streets are scattered with bustling restaurants and coffee shops — where my biggest concern was finding a working Telo-Fun bike machine.
Before last week, words like miklat (bomb shelter), Iron Dome, red alert siren and bus bombings were not part of my daily vocabulary or thoughts. How quickly that changes.
Mixed with the usual sounds of Bob Marley singing and chopping vegetables, an unfamiliar howl lofted into our studio apartment. “Is that a siren?” we said, in disbelief. Sure, the chances of rockets are more likely than rain in this part of the world. But the reality that one would actually be aimed for in Tel Aviv is a different story. After pausing for a second in shock, we followed the sounds of footsteps to the ground floor, where all of us living in the same building quickly discovered the lack of any bomb shelter.
Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, will be enthroned as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury on March 21, 2013. He will be the latest principal leader of the Church of England in a line that goes back more than 1,400 years. Notably, Welby is also most likely the only head of the worldwide Anglican Communion to be descended from Jews.
According to Welby’s biography on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website, his father’s family were German Jewish immigrants who had come to England in the late 19th century to escape anti-Semitism. They apparently, “integrated quickly,” which one could take to mean that they soon converted to Anglicanism.
Welby, 56, will be assuming his new role at a time when the Anglican Church finds itself in an inner struggle on the issue of the consecration of female bishops. The General Synod, the Church legislature, voted on November 20 against allowing women to become bishops.
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former Prime Minister and the center left’s “if only” man, is expected to confirm any moment that he won’t be running for Knesset.
Soon after the January 22 election was announced, speculation has abounded that if Olmert made a comeback and pulled together a broad center-left alliance he could actually win and once again become Prime Minister. From there, it was said, the Middle East would be his oyster — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently said that he was close to a deal with Olmert in 2008, intimating that the two could return to this point if Olmert returned.
There was some polling to back up this dream. In fact, it appeared that when Likud decided a month ago to run on a joint ticket with Yisrael Beytenu it was a case of Netanyahu trying to ensure that he would have the most Knesset mandates behind him even if Olmert entered the race.
But then came Operation Pillar of Defense, knocking the issues championed by the center-left — Israeli-Palestinian peace and socio-economic issues — off the public agenda and putting security at the forefront. Even if it was right a couple of weeks ago, the national mood in Israel isn’t right for Olmert now.
And so, for the second time in his career, Olmert leaves us all wondering what could’ve been. What could’ve been on the Israeli-Palestinian front had scandal not forced him out of office when it did? Was he planning on running in the coming elections? If so, what could’ve been during and after the election has it not been for Pillar of Defense?
After an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire kicked in last night, the Israel-Gaza border has been calm today. The residents of Southern Israel can once again go about their business without running for cover, and residents of Gaza no longer have Israeli planes overhead, striking terrorist targets but also scaring and sometimes killing or harming civilians.
However, it seems that most Israelis are against the ceasefire, or at least they were before it went in to force.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a good idea that this was the case when he confirmed the ceasefire. “Now, I realize that there are citizens who expect a harsher military action and we may very well need to do that,” he said. “But at present, the right thing for the State of Israel is to exhaust this possibility of reaching a long-term cease-fire.”
Now, pollsters are presenting evidence for this feeling. According to Shiluv Millward Brown surveys for Israel’s Channel 2, some 70% of respondents were against a ceasefire a few hours it went in to effect.
I spoke with Izzeldin Abuelaish this morning, as fighting raged between Israel and Hamas. His anguished words could serve as a rallying cry for the way forward.
Abuelaish is the Gazan doctor whose daughters and niece were killed by Israeli bombs in the closing days of the last military conflict with Hamas, his desperate cries captured on Israeli TV. I met him after the publication of his memoir, “I Shall Not Hate”, and was impressed by his humanity and stubborn optimism. The book is being issued in paperback in France, and I caught up with him by phone in Paris.
The optimism remains, but you have to search hard for it. He sounds furious that the violence was once again destroying his home and making the kind of coexistence he champions that much more elusive.
Forward editor-in-chief discussed the battle in Gaza and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an appearance on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC.
Eisner pointed out that Palestinians are plagued by internal divisions that complicate the peace process. She also noted that many American Jews are watching the conflagration with nervous concern.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes lavished praise on the Forward’s Larry Cohler-Esses for his groundbreaking interview with top Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook. Watch the entire show below.