On July 16, 2013 the European Union issued a new directive demanding that all deals or transactions or commerce with Israel exclude the “West Bank.” It brought to mind the words of Sidney Aaron “Paddy” Chayefsky, an American playwright, screenwriter and novelist who won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. Chayefsky was a staunch […]
A Stav For All Seasons William Mehlman
Israel, being a place where square pegs are regularly adjusted to round holes, one should perhaps be prepared to accept with a certain degree of sang-froid a meeting of the minds between a “Haredi” (ultra-Orthodox) minority wedded to a calcified religious status quo and a fundamentalist secular minority in avid pursuit of a bill of divorcement of the Jewish nation-state from its Biblical roots.
Such is the situation that defines itself in the passionate opposition of both factions to the candidacy of Rabbi David Stav for the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel’s two and a half million-member “Ashkenazic” (Western-oriented) community in an election to be decided sometime in June. The passion aroused by Stav’s candidacy is hardly surprising. While the triumphant emergence of 41 year-old Naftali Bennett and his 12-member “HaBayit HaYehudi” (“The Jewish Home”) religious Zionist party from the recent national election was expected to open a window to some fresh air on the national religious scene, Stav’s arrival might be more accurately compared to a “Nor’easter.“
Bennett, who brought religious Zionism back from a political Siberia, promised, among other things, to wrest the chief rabbinate from the clutches of a coercive anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox cabal and return it to Zionist auspices; to put a moderate, compassionate face on the procedures dealing with marriage, divorce and conversion; and to lend moral, political and halachic (religious legal) support for injecting a modest core of mathematics, science and English into the all-Torah curriculum of the Haredi yeshiva network.
Orwell — Alive and Well in Canada
The indispensable Mark Steyn reports in National Review Online on the Orwellian episode in Canada in which Inspector Ricky Veerappen, head of the York Regional Police’s “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau,” warned the rabbi planning to host a speech by Pamela Geller that her speech “would not be endorsed by York Regional Police.” As Steyn observes, it is not up to the police “to endorse” speech and the fact that the police thinks it is “testifies to how deep runs the spongey, insinuating soft-totalitarian rot of ‘diversity.'” Steyn notes that when cops are sent around to synagogues to threaten rabbis in the name of diversity and inclusion, it “must give the old-school fascists a laugh at their Monday-night poker game in hell.”
The BBC — Beyond Parody
The BBC is one of the most practiced calumniators of Israel. It recently outdid itself, defending a May 1 article on the BBC News website by its BBC Arabic reporter Ahmed Maher entitled “Tunisia’s Last Jews at Ease Despite Troubled Past.” A reader contacted BBC Watch to protest Maher’s claim that he had searched the web extensively in an effort to corroborate media reports of alleged YouTube videos showing radical Islamists threatening Tunisian Jews but could find none of them. The reader provided BBC Watch with four video clips that had apparently eluded Mr. Maher’s search.
The BBC’s response was a doozy. The BBC said it had contacted Mr. Maher who reaffirmed that there were no attacks on Tunisian Jews, that “the chants heard in the four links cited are against ‘the State of Israel and Jews but not Tunisian Jews.'” As for the fact that one of the demonstrations on the video was held in front of the Tunis synagogue, the BBC says that Mr. Maher had consulted “one of the most prominent Salafi, Wahabi sheikhs in post-revolution Tunisia” and he said this was “taken out of context” because the protesters were on their way to the Egyptian embassy and just stopped in front of the synagogue to express their anger at “the Zionist entity.”
As the Algemeiner says: “Get it? According to the BBC, if Tunisian Islamists (and presumably any elsewhere too) chant ‘Killing the Jews is a duty’ or ‘Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud’ or ‘the army of Mohammed will return,’ then local Jews have nothing whatsoever to worry about because in fact they are not referring to them–or indeed to Jews at all–but to Israel, which should apparently be perfectly understandable.”
In 1869 Samuel Clemens, known to the world as Mark Twain, published The Innocents Abroad, an account of one of the first organized group tours of Americans to Europe and the Holy Land. He found Palestine “a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land,” in Jerusalem nothing but “rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt.”
Whatever one thinks of Edward Said as a literary critic, in The Question of Palestine, speaking of “the Palestinian Arab…who happened to be living on the land [which was] being tilled, villages and towns built and lived in by thousands of natives” Said implies that this description applies to the time of which George Eliot is writing in Daniel Deronda. But the land to which George Eliot sends Daniel Deronda and his bride was, at the time of which she writes, according to Mark Twain, a bleak and barren country, barely populated.
It was to be developed in the years to come, the last couple of decades of the nineteenth century, by Jewish emigrants from Europe, bringing with them modern means of agriculture, irrigating the land, growing crops and introducing modern medicine along with clean water, establishing villages and towns which drew Arabs from around the region seeking better lives with a higher standard of living. Trouble was to come in later years, but that is beyond the time of which George Eliot writes and in which she sends her hero to his new life in Palestine, These arrivals displaced no one, and actually provided improved living conditions for those who lived among them. In a common phrase, they made the desert bloom.
In Chapters 46 to 56 of his account of his travels in the Holy Land, Mark Twain, an objective observer with no ax to grind, describes a “blistering, naked, treeless land….whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds; a silent, mournful expanse.” The Christian holy sites were surrounded “by bald hills and howling deserts…ugly and cramped, squalid, uncomfortable and filthy,”…the population “in ragged, soiled and scanty raiment, all abject beggars.” He found Jerusalem “mournful and dreary and lifeless” and added, “I would not want to live here.” He saw few inhabitants but “lawless Bedouins up in arms.” Leaving Samaria for “barren” Judea, “We saw but two living creatures. They were gazelles”…in “a desert paved with loose stones, void of vegetation, glaring in the fierce sun.”
Editor’s note: Sarah Honig talks of the way Israeli concessions, intended to bolster its image, have the opposite effect. Yet Israelis seem incapable of learning from experience. Emanuel Navon describes the recent annual conference of the leading Israeli think tank, The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), where the main agenda was to promote the idea of unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria. Most worrying, although the INSS project defies logic (as a result of the 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza Israel was forced to go to war in December 2008 to stop the shelling of its citizens, resulting in the public relations catastrophes of the Goldstone Report and the Marmara incident), Navon observes that “implementing it seems to be what Benjamin Netanyahu is up to.” He has imposed a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, has been talking of the virtues of referenda, and is working on neutralizing his own Likud party through a top-down appointment system in place of primary elections. To Navon it looks like the Sharon scenario all over again.)
The wardrobe adaptability of the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is very telling. The same goes for his cousin, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.
When it serves their purposes, Qatar’s staggeringly wealthy two most powerful players strut about in very traditional Arab garb. But when the occasion deems it expedient, they soothe subliminal western anxieties by donning tailored suits of the exceptionally elegant sort that proliferates in European Union forums. That purportedly imparts an impression of trustworthiness.
The cousins’ policy line is just as chameleon-like. There’s a yawning gap between their utterances in English and in Arabic.
Not too many years ago, Qatar was an Israeli success story, or so it was widely believed in Jerusalem. Relations with Doha, especially trade ties, flourished from the mid-Nineties. They weren’t formal or full, yet they were hardly covert. Everyone knew about them. Unnamed Qatari higher-ups had reportedly visited Israel and Shimon Peres, then deputy premier, openly visited Qatar in 2007. Tzipi Livni did the same a year later. Other Israelis, such as Ehud Barak, hobnobbed with the emir.
But Qatar unilaterally abrogated these ties after Operation Cast Lead. Doha offered to restore them if Israel allowed unrestricted shipments of building materials to Gaza. Since these can be used to build bunkers, Israel refused.
However, the Qatari transformation isn’t only Israeli-linked. Qatar had become the financial sponsor of the misnamed Arab Spring, bankrolling assorted Muslim Brotherhood insurgents and their allies. The upheavals shaking the Arab world – Syria foremost – were in effect orchestrated by Doha.
The emir – despite his excellent personal ties with Israelis, Americans and other Westerners – has used his clout and unimaginable riches to bring to power and sustain Islamist forces that are fundamentally inimical to the West, to say nothing of their implacable hatred for the Jewish state.
With abundant hype, pomp and circumstance the emir visited Gaza last autumn. It was the first such high-profile gesture by a head of state since Hamas seized power in 2007. It allowed Gaza to eclipse Ramallah and demonstrate that the post-Arab-Spring rise of the Muslim Brotherhood bolsters Hamas, itself a Brotherhood offshoot.
This yet again underscored the Brotherhood’s reinforced impact, via collusion with Gulf State Islamists. The inherent incendiary potential cannot be belittled, even if US President Barak Obama prefers to obfuscate the gloomy reality he has helped create.
No matter what spin was spun, the emir was clearly seen as meddling in the intra-Palestinian squabbles, putting his full political weight behind the utterly rejectionist Hamas that explicitly proclaims its aspiration to destroy Israel.
The emir underwrites his support with financial largesse as well. This puts him in league with particularly fanatic forces. He has, for example, been a most generous benefactor to such militant jihadist groups as Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida subsidiary now on the warpath in Syria.
Gather round, everybody. I bear important news. Anti-Semitism no longer exists! Ring out, ye bells, the longest hatred has ceased to be. It’s kaput, kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. It’s a stiff, ladies and gentlemen. An ex-prejudice!
I first heard the news in a motion passed by the [London] University and College Union declaring that criticism of Israel can “never” be anti-Semitic which, if “never” means “never”, is a guarantee that Jew-hating is over, because … Well, because it’s impossible to believe that an active anti-Semite wouldn’t – if only opportunistically – seek out somewhere to nestle in the manifold pleats of Israel-bashing, whether in generally diffuse anti-Zionism, or in more specific boycott and divestment campaigns, Israeli apartheid weeks, end the occupation movements and the like. Of course, you don’t have to hate Jews to hate Israel, but tell me that not a single Jew-hater finds the activity congenial, that criticising Israel can “never” be an expression of Jew-hating, not even when it takes the form of accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs, then it follows that there’s no Jew-hating left.
These tidings would seem to be confirmed by Judge Anthony Snelson who, investigating a complaint that the union was institutionally anti-Semitic, encountered not a trace of any such beast, no suggestion it had lurked or was lurking, not the faintest rustle of its cerements, not so much as a frozen shadow on a wall.
“The Jewish religion is under attack in Europe”, declared the Conference of European Rabbis president Pinchas Goldschmidt. Many polls (such as the study on behalf of the German Social Democratic Friedrich Ebert Foundation) bring an iconic number measuring the disaster: 150,000,000 Europeans have a delegitimizing and demonizing view of the State of Israel and its citizens.
For a large sector of Europe, the cities, skyscrapers, hospitals, cinemas, and schools on that tiny sliver of land named “Israel” are merely real estate that will be restored to Islam once this malefic Jewish form is swept away.
This is a popular mobilization against Israel in the “Raus mit Uns” spirit. 150,000,000 Western citizens believe that Zionism is a misconceived project to be brought to an end as soon as possible. It is the consequence of the Palestinian-Islamic psychological war (note: the European Union has just contributed 20 million euros to the payment of salaries and pensions for April of nearly 76,000 Palestinian Arabs).
See what happened to Europe’s Jews in little more than a week.
· In Hungary, where Adolf Eichmann obsessively hunted down all the Jews, a wave of fascist Judeophobia is poisoning the social cohesion and the head of the Raoul Wallenberg Association was injured in and anti-Semitic attack.
(Editor’s note: While attention has been concentrated on the abuse of power by the IRS in relation to tea party-connected organizations, Jewish organizations have also been targeted. The ZOA’s tax exempt status was challenged and Z Street (Z stands for Zionism in deliberate contrast to the anti-Israel J Street), after years of vainly waiting for IRS approval, brought suit and is finally –two and a half years after filing its complaint– scheduled to have its day in the District of Columbia federal district court on July 2. Below is a section from Z Street’s complaint to the court, worth reading both because it exposes the real behind-the-scenes grounds the IRS targets Jewish organizations–if they differ from Obama’s policies–and reveals the absurd grounds offered up front.)
A. The plaintiff in this case, Z Street, is a nonprofit organization devoted to educating the public about Zionism….
B. Z Street brings this case because, through its corporate counsel, Z Street was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied, because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” These statements by an IRS official that the IRS maintains special policies (hereinafter the “Israel Special Policy”) governing applications for tax-exempt status by organizations which deal with Israel, and which requires particularly intense scrutiny of such applications and an enhanced risk of denial if made by organizations which espouse or support positions inconsistent with the Obama administration’s Israel policies, constitute an explicit admission of the crudest form of viewpoint discrimination, and one which is both totally un-American and flatly unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
C. Z Street brings this case seeking a Declaratory Judgment that the Israel Special Policy violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; and for injunctive relief barring application of the Israel Special Policy to Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status or to similar applications by any other organization; and to compel full public disclosure regarding the origin, development, approval, substance and application of the Israel Special Policy.
An underreported tragedy of the Middle East is the persecution and exodus of Christian communities that have lived there for centuries, some for millennia, well before the advent of Islam. The irony is that today Israel is the only country where the Christian population is growing. The sorry exception is in the Arab controlled regions of Judea and Samaria.
Lela Gilbert, in her inspiring book Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of
a Christian Sojourner, describes her life in a country she came to visit but now makes her home.
Although Gilbert grew up in a family supportive of Israel, for her the defining moment was Israel’s triumph in the 1967 War–whose 46th anniversary will be celebrated on June 5th this year. She watched with concern as, in the following decades, Israel’s enemies increased in number, with Muslims joined by fellow travellers throughout the world, including the leadership of the mainline churches who shrugged off the fiercest faith driven diatribes against Jews, Christians and other “infidels.”
Alarmed by these trends, in 2006 Gilbert decided to visit the land that fascinated her as a writer and as a practicing Christian. To her family’s surprise and to Israel’s great benefit, Gilbert would be no ordinary tourist. She rented a flat in Jerusalem and began her sojourn. She currently divides her time between Jerusalem and California.
What is amazing about this book is the way Lela Gilbert resonates to Israel’s dangers, its security concerns, its diversity, its army, its vitality and its destiny, feeling them as her own. In her words: “….I came with the conviction that an assault upon Jews is an implicit assault upon Christians, since it strikes at the root of the same ancient tree.” She experiences the hypocrisy, the lies and libels of the world’s “enlightened” elite; she feels horror at the unspeakable jihadist terrorists who murdered the Fogel family including women and babies in their beds. She absorbs “the heavy weight of sadness pressed against the whole country.” She also has witnessed the fear of Christians in PA-ruled Bethlehem, similar to the fear of Christians throughout the Muslim world–in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.