If you’ve been following the news in the American and international press, you’ve probably heard that the unity talks between Fatah and Hamas have reached a new and alarming phase. According to an Associated Press report that’s been widely reproduced, Hamas has agreed to join the Fatah-dominated umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, the body that has been negotiating with Israel for the past 20 years, which “could have deep repercussions. Hamas has opposed the peace talks and rejects Israel’s right to exist. A strong Hamas voice in the group would further complicate the already troubled Mideast diplomatic process.” Not surprisingly, “Israeli officials reacted with alarm to the emerging agreement.”
But the Hebrew press is telling a different story. Both Haaretz and Ynet report—in their Hebrew versions only—that Hamas has agreed, as a condition of joining the PLO, to discontinue “armed struggle” against Israel and apparently has agreed to accept Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders, alongside Israel.
The Ynet report quotes Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas directly, from an interview he gave to a Belgian television network a month ago, stating flatly that Hamas political secretary Khaled Meshaal had accepted both those conditions. The article appears in English translation on the Ynetnew.com website in a truncated version with the paragraph on Hamas peace concessions excised. Here’s what the original Hebrew version says:
Let me begin by saying that I have great respect for The Jewish Journal, a smart Los Angeles-based newspaper and website. The Forward is part of the Journal’s new iPad app, the first in the Jewish world. And nobody covers Jewish Hollywood better.
So I’ve been following the work of Shmuel Rosner, a well-known Israeli journalist who is now writing for the Journal. Just today, Rosner announced that his signature feature, The Israel Factor will also migrate to his new professional home. The Israel Factor is a panel of “Israel experts” created by Rosner to comment on and rank American politicians and political candidates.
I’ll put aside for a moment my serious concerns about whether and how American voters should consider the views of non-Americans in choosing a candidate. There’s an even more fundamental problem with this panel.
It’s made up of only men.
We are starting to get in the spirit of the holiday here at the Forward. And who better to help us than the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (hat tip to Shmuel Rosner for pointing us to this foot-tapper). This makes me love America:
The following article was posted today (December 20) on the Hebrew-language website DoctorsOnly.co.il (the translation is mine). It pretty much speaks for itself. Thanks to Chemi Shalev for flagging it on Facebook.
Exclusion of Women in the Health System: Two female researchers who won an award were not permitted to come up on stage to accept the award and were asked to sit in the balcony
The two prize-winners, including Prof. Chani Ma’ayan of Hadassah, were not allowed to come on stage during an official Health Ministry event and were asked to send a man to accept the award for them. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman: They agreed
Dr. Chani Ma’ayan, the director of the Israel Center for Family Dysautonomia at Hadassah Hospital-Mount Scopus, and Mrs. Naamah Holtzer, the supervising nurse at the Israel Center for Family Dysautonomia, had a personal experience of exclusion as women during an awards ceremony for outstanding research that took place at Shaare Zedek Hospital on September 25. The prizes were handed out by the deputy minister of health, Yaakov Litzman [party leader of United Torah Judaism – jjg] at a state ceremony funded by the Ministry of Health.
When lobbyist Jack Abramoff appeared in federal court, where he was eventually convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy, he faced a sartorial dilemma.
Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, wondered whether he wear his kippah and risk smearing the Jewish people with his transgressions? Or should he cover his silver mop with a fedora, which would diminish his religiosity in the public eye? In the end, Abramoff went with the fedora, a look, he said, that garnered him accusations of being a gangster.
Abramoff’s soul searching, which he details in his new book, “Capitol Punishment,” was of great interest to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Orthodox pop writer and spiritual advisor to the stars. Boteach invited Abramoff, who got out of prison last year, to a chat in Manhattan Thursday night to talk about Abramoff’s Jewish identity, his crimes and punishment.
The take-away was simple: if Abramoff was ambivalent about expressing his Jewish identity during his sentencing, then he has decided to embrace it full-on as he seeks repentance.
Sitting in the front of a wood paneled room on the 10th floor of the Manhattan Jewish Experience on the upper West Side, Boteach acted the stern therapist to Abramoff’s strangely gregarious penitent.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has drawn a lot of heat in the last few weeks, on himself and the administration, for his December 2 comment that Israel needs to “just get to the damn table” with the Palestinians. After all, his critics note, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been declaring since 2009 that he’s ready to resume negotiations without preconditions, and the Palestinians have been refusing. How did it become Israel’s fault that the talks have been frozen for two and a half years?
Panetta’s remarks sounded so off-base that a lot of open-minded people are beginning to think the Obama-doesn’t-heart-Israel crowd had it right. The American Jewish Committee’s Ed Rettig tried to turn it around by arguing that Panetta was actually telling both sides to return to the table. Watching the video itself, that’s not so clear. First Ken Pollack asks Panetta what Israel should do, and Panetta says “Just get to the damn table.” A moment later he says the two sides need to work it out but they can’t unless they get to the damn table. Either way, it’s been trumpeted all over the world for two weeks now as directed at Israel, and if it’s a misinterpretation, I haven’t heard Panetta trying to correct it. (If you know better, weigh in.)
On the other hand, Panetta’s line sounds a little less odd when you consider who else is demanding that Israel return to the negotiating table. Yuval Diskin, who stepped down as Shin Bet director last June, said exactly that in a talk to students in southern Israel on October 26. Gabi Ashkenazi, who stepped down as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said it June 20 in a talk in Toronto. Both Ashkenazi and Diskin were in their jobs, holding two of the three highest positions in Israeli security, when Netanyahu began calling for talks and Abbas first began refusing. They were involved in all the briefings—in fact, they were the ones who were supplying Netanyahu with his intelligence. Why would they say that he’s the one who needs to get back to the table?
Never before has the shaving of one man’s beard prompted such an outcry.
When Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu posted pics, early Tuesday, of his newly-shaven (and nearly unrecognizable) face, and later posted a statement on his blog saying that there’s “no more Chassidic reggae superstar” and “sorry folks, all you get is me….no alias,” many people gasped in shock. Including me.
After all, the guy has built a career on compositions fusing frank yearning for connection with God and a serious roots reggae dancehall beat. That he has beatboxed so impressively while wearing the long beard and black frockcoat of a serious Hasid has made his success all the more delectable.
And he has been extremely successful, topping the Billboard charts, two of his albums reaching gold status, has more than 1.3 million Twitter followers and is so part of general culture that he was the punch line of a joke in the movie “Knocked Up.”
Now that he is shucking off his coat, has shaved off the long side locks along with his beard and is describing his religious persona as “an alias,” it is leaving his legion fans wondering what, in addition to two new albums and a movie role, will come next.
The growing ideological connection between the Republican Party in the United States and the Netanyahu government in Israel doesn’t extend to tax policy, it seems. With little fanfare, the Knesset last week approved an increase in corporate taxes and personal taxes on the very rich, going where the GOP here threatens never to tread.
The legislation was prompted by recommendations in the Trajtenberg Committee report, a government-appointed group charged with responding to the social justice protests that roiled Israel through the summer and fall. While the percentage changes may not sound like much — corporate taxes will go up to 25% from 24%, while the highest tax bracket for the very rich will rise to 48% from 45% — it’s the trend line that’s significant. When Benjamin Netanyahu was campaigning for prime minister, he promised to lower taxes by 2017.
Now he’s raising them.
Newt Gingrich’s December 9 Declaration of Palestinian Inventedness (“we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs”) caused a bit of a stir at the Saturday night GOP debate.
Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul condemned the remark as, in Paul’s words, “just stirrin’ up trouble.” Interestingly, though, both agreed that Gingrich’s point was historically accurate. No one on stage disagreed.
Responding to the charge of troublemaking, Newt doubled down, adding some historical detail to show that the “Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story.”
Somebody ought to have the courage to go all the way back to the 1921 League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, point out the context in which Israel came into existence, and ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.
Let’s take the professor at his word and go back to the League of Nations mandate. What do we find? First, that it’s from 1922, not 1921. Second, it’s not a “mandate for a Jewish homeland.” It is titled “Mandate for Palestine.” The difference is critical. The purpose of a mandate, as defined in the 1919 Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22, was to govern territories formerly controlled by other states (mainly meaning the losers in World War I) and prepare them for independence. One of the conditions of the Palestine mandate was to help prepare a Jewish national home in Palestine (nothing about Palestine as a whole being a Jewish home). The mandate defines “all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion,” as “citizens” (the mandate’s language) of Palestine, which in turn is defined in the league covenant as a state-in-the-making. In other words, from August 12, 1922, Palestine was a political entity in international law, not just a geographic one, and its inhabitants were legally defined — and universally described—as “Palestinians.” Some were known as Palestinian Jews, some as Palestinian Arabs. The term was in general use long before 1977.
We too were taken aback by Rick Perry’s new campaign video — the swagger, the Christian language, the denigration of gays, and America described as feminine with Perry posing as its shining defender.
He was, for certain, trying to appeal to evangelical voters, and perhaps he’ll be releasing the Jewish version of the ad in a few days. But until he does, let’s be thankful for Rabbi Jason Miller who has given us a taste of what it might look like:
To see the original Perry ad, it’s after the jump.
Imagine that contemporary American Jews run their own government system made up of just three ministries. Depending on how you see the world, you work in one of the three. Are you a Department of Defense Jew — someone who sees threats to Jews and Israel at every turn? A Department of Education Jew — someone committed to religion and education? Or a Department of Health and Human Services Jew — a person devoted to progressivism, looking beyond the Jewish community to make common cause with other groups?
The three categories — more succinctly described as “protective,” “expressive,” and “progressive” — capture the ideological breadth of active American Jews, according to Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University’s Wagner School. Cohen spelled out the distinctions at a BJPA event, during which a Department of Defense Jew and a Department Health and Human Services Jew dialogued about the tension between expressing Jewish values and advancing Jewish interests.
The Department of Defense Jew was Ruth Wisse, a Harvard professor of Yiddish. Her counterpart in the in the Department of Health and Human Services was Joy Levitt, the Executive Director of Manhattan’s Jewish Community Center.
The third annual Forward survey of the leadership and compensation of the top national Jewish not-for-profits will be published tomorrow. In it, you’ll find answers to questions such as:
Are more women running these organizations this year?
Why is it so financially advantageous to be a Republican?
Which top executive also has his wife and son on his payroll?
Three weeks ago, the Forward published a story about the dramatic increase in arrests of Orthodox men for child sexual abuse in Brooklyn. The figure that the Forward published — 89 men arrested and charged between October 2009 and October 2011 — was given to this newspaper during two separate conversations with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s spokesman Jerry Schmetterer in early November. When the Forward asked for written confirmation, Schmetterer responded by e-mail: “We are not prepared to discuss this at this time. Perhaps towards the end of November.”
Well, November has come and gone and District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office continues to avoid confirming the number or to answer related questions.
The Forward has requested the names of the 89 Orthodox men who were arrested and the crimes they were charged with. It has also asked the DA to explain the reason behind the startling rise in arrests.
During the previous two years — October 2007 to October 2009 — the DA arrested and charged 26 Orthodox men with sexual abuse. At the time, a D.A. spokesman said these arrests included “some cases” that involved adult victims. Prior to that, the frequency of arrests was much lower.
For my money, the response to the Israeli absorption ministry’s “Bring ‘Em Home” video campaign was a tad overblown. It’s not like tenuousness of the next generation’s Jewish identity and the fraying of ties to Israel haven’t ever come up before. Be that as it may, some of the replies have been particularly entertaining. Here’s one that’s circulating on YouTube:
The long knives are out for another Jewish liberal who committed the sin of stating the uncomfortably obvious truth about the causal effect between Israeli policy and Muslim anti-Semitism.
It’s a truth that has been studied by Israeli security experts and acknowledged by Israeli governments, but it runs counter to the right-wing doctrine that Israeli policy and action exist in a vacuum and Muslims are only pretending to be enraged.
The latest to run afoul of the truth police is the American ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman. As reported in Friday’s Yediot Ahronot and posted on Ynet the next day, Gutman was addressing a group of European Jewish lawyers gathered November 30 to discuss anti-Semitism. In his remarks, posted in full on the website of the European Jewish Union, he drew a distinction between “classic bigotry” directed against Jews for being Jews—which his own father experienced as a Polish Holocaust survivors—and a newer form of Jew-hatred that is a spillover from the Israeli-Arab conflict and can therefore be mitigated by reducing Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
… there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.
This is a complex problem indeed. It requires its own analysis and solutions. And the analysis I submit is not served simply by lumping the problem with past instances of anti-Jewish beliefs and actions or those that exist today among minority haters under a uniform banner of “anti-Semitism.”
Predictably, partisan Republicans are jumping all over it, claiming it reflects President Obama’s supposed dislike of Israel, accusing Gutman of “blaming Israel for anti-Semitism” and calling for him to be fired (first out of the box: the Republican Jewish Coalition here, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and his Emergency Committee for Israel here, as well as Gingrich and Romney here).
In fact, the Israeli Defense Ministry and IDF have been studying the same question that Gutman addresses - European anti-Semitism as a spillover from the Mideast conflict - for the better part of a decade. And drawing more radical conclusions than Gutman did.
You wouldn’t expect a host to say anything bad about his guest of honor. But American Council for World Jewry chairman Jack Rosen was especially gracious about the message delivered by President Obama at a fundraiser held at Rosen’s Manhattan home.
“He made, I think, a solid case for having stood with Israel on the crisis issues facing Israel, which are security cooperation and Iran,” said Rosen, a real estate developer who came to prominence as chair of the now-inactive American Jewish Congress.
Rosen, who has raised money for both Democrats and Republicans, called the Forward a couple of days after the event. He readily conceded that Obama came with hat in hand. Besides raising cash, he also wanted to send an inclusive message to Jewish leaders.
“He came because fundraising took place, but I also think he wanted to reach out and have a dialog with the Jewish community, and that was an added benefit here,” Rosen said of the November 30 event. “We had a frank discussion on the issues that mattered to the community, certainly with regard to Israel.”
This is a difficult moment for American Jews.
To wake up and discover, as did the Forward’s Gal Beckerman, that the Israeli Ministry of Absorption is actively trying to convince Israeli expatriates living in the U.S. that they should come back to Israel by dramatizing the risk of assimilation of their kids and grandkids — this is a cause for outrage.
Gal is not alone. Writing in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg is appalled. “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads,” he writes. Over at the Daily Beast, Allison Yarrow calls the ads “pandering” and “ham-handed,” drawing the conclusion that “many Israeli writers, thought-leaders, politicians, and rabbis believe assimilated American Jews are not Jews at all.”
Don’t get me wrong. These critics are probably right about the infelicity of the ads. I doubt the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption had any inkling of what it was getting itself into — or why they neglected to realize that these ads would drive American Jews bananas.
Yet in the hysteria of the response, the insecurity of American Jewish life is laid bare. This, rather than the campaign itself, is the real story.
President Barack Obama reasserted his administration’s support for Israel to a group of donors convened by one of America’s most influential Jewish fundraisers in Manhattan Tuesday night.
“I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration,” Obama told a small audience at the home of Jack Rosen, chair of the American Council for World Jewry, and of the American Jewish Congress, a group that has been mostly inactive since last year.
While introducing Obama, Rosen referred to “concerns” among American Jews about the relationship between Israel and the United States, an Associated Press report said.
In his address, Obama cited intelligence cooperation and American support for Israel’s anti-missile defense system, called Iron Dome, as representative of his administration’s security support for Israel.
So Rick Perry stands before a town hall meeting at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm’s College in New Hampshire and, on his own, with no prompting or sneaky questioning, made it clear that he thought only Americans 21 years old and over are allowed to vote. This may be one of the stupidest statements this presidential candidate has uttered so far, and you know that he has set a high bar for himself.
He obviously hasn’t read the U.S. Constitution. Or my book.
A few years ago, I published “Taking Back the Vote: Getting American Youth Involved in our Democracy.” Okay, so it never made it on Oprah’s must-read list, but the book was appreciated by many who believe that our society and our government can do more to encourage youth voting and civic engagement. In fact, the good people at Saint Anselm’s invited me to speak there on just this subject.
Usually when another blogger sufficiently channels my own anger about something that has me piqued, I tend to just try and let it go and give them the last word. And that was my first reaction this morning when I read, with increasing agitation, Jeffrey Goldberg’s post about a new Israeli ad campaign targeted at yordim, those ex-pat Israelis who have made their home in the States. He managed to capture the utter absurdity of its scare mongering approach. Even if you marry an American Jew, your children won’t know the difference between Chanukah and Christmas! They will never call you Aba! Goldberg also pointed out something that should have been apparent to the geniuses who came up with this idea: that these ads might just alienate American Jews a bit. And, also, if Israel is concerned about losing its citizens to the West — not an illegitimate concern — then maybe they could think of a more positive way of calling them back home than telling them they will be responsible for erasing the Jewish people.
I guess I’m not done.
You see, I am the child of yordim, the fearful spawn that the ads refer to, those “who will not remain Israeli.” And it’s more than a little offensive to see my entire Jewish (and, yes, Israeli) identity dismissed as irrelevant because of my parents’ decision to emigrate before I was born. Not only do I speak Hebrew fluently, know just a little bit about the Jewish holidays, and, yes, call my father “Aba” — but so does my two-year-old daughter!