Forward Thinking

Lukewarm Response to Anti-Palestinian Letter

By Nathan Guttman

Congressional efforts to shut down the Palestinian delegation office in Washington have garnered only tepid support.

A letter, co-authored by the outgoing and incoming leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from both parties and calling on the President to close the PLO office in Washington, has closed on Friday with only 239 signatures.

The letter came in response to the United Nations November 29 vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, a status strongly opposed by Israel and by the United States.

While not a bad number for a congressional effort, this figure is on the lower end of support for AIPAC-backed initiative. Letters supported by the pro-Israel lobby in recent years easily got more than 300 signatures.

The party breakdown shows clearly more support for the measure by Republicans, with 172 co-signers. Only 67 Democrats signed on.

Why the chilly reception to the anti-Palestinian measure?

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Is It Palestine Yet?

By Nathan Guttman

Is it “Palestine” yet?

Following the November 29 United Nations vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, the Palestinian Authority reportedly decided to officially change its name, and from now on to be referred to simply as “Palestine.” The term Palestinian Authority is a product of the 1993 Oslo Accords in which Israel and the PLO agreed to establish an entity which would rule the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

It is one of many monikers used by the international community to describe the Palestinians. The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is widely used by the U.N. and other international organizations. The Palestinian Territories is commonly used by the United States and European countries. The media, including the Forward, usually strives to simply refer to the Palestinians. Some Israelis call the West Bank by the Biblical names Judea and Samaria, which ignore the Palestinians and refers only to the area.

Should the U.N. vote put an end to this discussion? After all, if an overwhelming majority of nations voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, then one could deduce that it is a state, the state of Palestine.

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More on Eli Valley's Controversial Comic

By Jane Eisner

Eli Valley’s provocative comic about the controversy caused by Bnai Jeshurun’s rabbis continues to garner controversy of its own. I’ve been reading comments and posts like this one that are sympathetic to Eli’s scathing look at the rabbis and their stand on Palestinian statehood, and try to grapple with the larger issue of when and how rabbis should speak their minds.

But there are other readers who continue to be dismayed by Eli’s message. Here is another one of those letters.

The point of the Eli Valley cartoon is that Rabbi Rolando Matalon, the main target, planned a groveling apology as he drafted his original statement. In other words, the point of the cartoon is that Roly is a hypocrite and a liar. There is no other reading of the text of the cartoon. The Forward would never run an op-ed saying, “Rabbi Matalon is a liar and a hypocrite” because the Forward knows that is not true. So why publish an editorial cartoon saying the same thing? Even if blog standards are lower than print, they cannot be that low. This cartoon should not have been run. Kathleen Peratis

And a second:

I was shocked and dismayed to see the Forward pile on to denigrate the BJ rabbis in this awful cartoon. With friends like you, progressive Jews, trying to love both Israel and express their Jewish social justice values. certainly need no enemies which as you know are not in short supply. With sadness and disappointment. Deborah Sagner

More thoughts? Send them to us.

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Behind the French 'Oui' for Abbas

By Robert Zaretsky

getty images

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.

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