Editor: Rael Jean Isaac
Editorial Board: Ruth King, Rita Kramer

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Facebook Faceoff William Mehlman

“The power of the Israel Defense Forces is in the identification of its soldiers with the pain of the State of Israel,“ Jerusalem Post Oped editor Seth Frantzman observed in a recent column. The parameters of that identification was on power-point display in the viral response, as measured in Facebook “likes,” of over 100,000 current and reserve members of the world’s most celebrated military organization to the online publication of a video showing Nahal Brigade private David Admov holding off a gang of Arab teenagers that had surrounded him in Hebron with his Tavor assault rifle cocked to his shoulder.

That Admov saved himself a good deal of pain, or worse as his would-be assailants departed the scene, is incontestable. What that did for the “power of the IDF” is quite another matter, for Admov was summarily arrested, stripped of his Nahal Brigade combat status and sentenced to 20 days in jail. A belated assertion by IDF spokesman Brigadier General Moti Amoz that the private’s punishment had nothing to do with the cocked rifle incident but rather for having allegedly physically confronted one of his commanding officers didn’t create much traction with the tens of thousands, military and civilian, who posted pictures of themselves on their Facebook pages with signs declaring “We stand with David the Nahal soldier!” Ditto, IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Ganz’s order to his commanders to “tell your subordinates in a clear manner that Facebook is not a command tool…It is not a replacement or even a parallel channel for dialogue between commanders and their troops.”

“A telling statement,” Franzman remarks, patently one still deeply informed by an “our’s not to reason why” ethos of a bygone IDF generation. “They claim Facebook is not a channel for dialogue. So what is the channel for dialogue for soldiers who feel they are being sent out to do a job that not only will their higher-ups not do but in the performance of which they are not supported?” Franzman asks.

Marc Goldberg, writing in The Times of Israel concurs that Ganz’s response to what has been dubbed the IDF’s first “digital storm” seriously misses the point. “For a very long time,” he avers, “we have been sending our soldiers into an environment we haven’t trained them for and expected them to cope.” It isn’t dialogue with their commanders these 18 and 19 year-olds seek, he submits. “They’re looking for help. The frustration being expressed here is tangible. What if David hadn’t cocked his rifle and those people had rushed at him?” The fact is that none of the officers commanding him or their superiors want to say it’s OK to load your weapon against “civilians” even in perceived self-defense. “The higher the rank, the less inclined officers are to say these clear words soldiers need to hear.”


From the Editor Rael Jean Isaac

Israel Advocacy, New Haven JCRC Style

The New Haven Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) sought to appoint reform Rabbi Joshua Whinston, a member of J Street’s Rabbi’s Advisory Council, to be in charge of Israel advocacy. Appointing a J Street rabbi to head Israel advocacy is like putting Dr. Jack Kevorkian (Dr. Death) in charge of intensive care education or selecting al Qaeda to head the war on terror.
This is the back story. Elaine Braffman, a genuine supporter of Israel, was Israel Advocacy chair of the Greater New Haven Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council. A few weeks ago Alan Hillman, the chairman of JCRC, sent out a lengthy innocuous email to the board with a kicker in the last paragraph, in which he announced that he had asked Rabbi Whinston to co-chair the Israel advocacy committee.
Braffman was incensed at both what was done and the highhanded way in which it was done. She had been informed she had a co-chair via a public email, without being consulted or even told in advance. (When she confronted Hillman with this he replied airily that he knew she wouldn’t agree, so he didn’t tell her.) Her predictable disagreement was based on her justified view of J Street, which has rarely (if ever) found a position or action taken by Israel it can support, as a highly unsuitable voice for Israel advocacy.
Braffman called Sydney Perry, the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation, to find out what was going on and when her call went unreturned concluded Perry supported Hillman’s decision. Accordingly she wrote and circulated a letter of resignation to a limited number of people. It began “It is with great sadness that I am resigning as the Israel Advocacy chair…” and ended “I do believe that members of the Greater New Haven Jewish community have the right to know that with the appointment of Rabbi Whinston, J Street is now the primary voice for Israel Advocacy within the Federation and the JCRC.”
By refusing to depart silently, Braffman forced the JCRC to backtrack. Sydney Perry now says Rabbi Whinston will not be the chair of the Israel Advocacy committee.
But the wobble concerning J Street continues in Federations and JCRCs countrywide. Most are refusing to air the excellent documentary “The J Street Challenge” on the ground that it is “divisive.” For these supposed “community leaders” it’s not J Street that is divisive, but exposure of its activities.
There may be Jews so stupid and credulous that it is enough for them that J Street claims to be “pro-Israel;” indeed a glance at J Street’s glittery Advisory Council with its collection of Jewish Nobel prize winners, professors at major universities and captains of industry, is proof, as if more were needed, that a high IQ is perfectly compatible with political idiocy. Some on the Advisory Council, to be sure, are presumably fully aware of J Street’s agenda, folks like Ambassador George Cranwell Montgomery, former ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, Ambassador Ted Kattouf, former ambassador to Syria and the United Arab Emirates, Howard Sumka, former USAID director for the West Bank and Gaza and Robert Pelletreau, former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain. Not to mention funder-in-chief George Soros.

Destroying Israel—Twice
Shimon Peres will live in infamy for his role in laying the groundwork for the Oslo agreement with the PLO in 1993. As Oslo’s failure has become ever more obvious in the ensuing thirty years, Peres remains as obdurately blind as ever. Now that Secretary of State Kerry’s most recent grandiose effort—end the conflict once and for all in a few months–has blown up (an outcome as sure as death and taxes), Peres predictably has learned nothing. Says he: “We must find a way to restart the negotiations. My estimate is that Abu Mazen wants to achieve peace.”
Moreover it turns out—by his own account—that Peres was responsible for another decision that could prove fatal for Israel: the decision not to take out Iran’s nuclear program. In an interview with Israel Channel Two on Independence Day Peres boasted that he prevented Israel from attacking Iran. Along with elements in the military and intelligence services he had insisted the U.S. could be counted on to deal with the problem. As has become all too apparent, the Obama administration’s idea of dealing with the problem is not to prevent Iran from making nuclear bombs but to ensure that Israel does not act to prevent it.


MK Omer Bar-Lev “Invents” Bar-Lev Line II Mark Langfan

(Editor’s note: This article offers an answer to the words of the song Marlene Dietrich made famous “When will they ever learn?” The answer is never. Despite all evidence, there are Israeli politicians—including some who may well reach a position of power—who cling to the notion of retreat to something close to the 1949 borders as a panacea rather than a death sentence.)

A rocket fired from Judean and Samarian mountains into Tel Aviv is like firing a rocket from Brooklyn into Manhattan.
The Titanic was “unsinkable” until it sank on its first voyage. France’s Maginot Line was “unbreachable” until the German Panzers simply went around it. The Nazi secret-code Ultra was “unbreakable” until the Allies continuously broke it throughout World War II.

General Haim Bar-Lev, and the entire IDF, thought his eponymous “Bar-Lev” line on the Suez Canal was unbreachable until, one morning when Jews were in synagogues fasting in October 1973, the Egyptians breached it in two-hours-flat with water cannons.

So much for “genius” engineers and generals.

General Bar-Lev’s son, Omer Bar-Lev, is an MK (Labor) in the present Knesset. MK Bar-Lev is a highly decorated retired IDF officer. And MK Bar-Lev is not just a highly-decorated officer–he was the commander of the elite legendary commando unit Sayerat Matkal. And MK Bar-Lev also commanded the Jordan Valley unit of the IDF and worked with Achari, which encourages Israeli army enlistment. All of these are great achievements.
MK Bar-Lev, however, seems to think he has invented a new “unbreachable” defense line–the 1967 Green Line (more or less) or The Clinton Parameters. At the recent Jerusalem Post conference, he stated he wants to unilaterally retreat from much of Judea and Samaria. This resembles a case of like-father-like-son. In 2014, MK Bar-Lev is invested into a chimera as was his father in 1973. And MK Bar-Lev has just as sure a sense of invincible military power as had his father.

MK Bar-Lev uses three elements of “logic” to “prove” Israel should unilaterally leave Judea and Samaria and let whoever, and whatever fill the void.
1) Israel is a “Jewish” country and by Israel’s unilateral retreat from large areas of Judea and Samaria, it will return Israel to being “Jewish.”
2) After the 2005 Gaza retreat, although 15,000 Gaza rockets have since been fired into pre-1967 Israel, MK Bar-Lev says, “No one wants to re-invade, and re-occupy Gaza, so how was retreating from Gaza so bad? Therefore, it was the right decision to make.”
3) Since Israel is apparently content with the Gaza situation, Israel will be happy with the “West Bank” unilateral retreat situation of the future, even when that brings rockets to Tel Aviv.


Zionism 101: Far Better Than the Courses at Vassar or Stanford, and about $60,000 Cheaper Edward Alexander

(Editor’s note: Zionism 101 was Herbert Zweibon’s last project. Herb had become increasingly concerned with the need for basic Zionist education and had come up with this innovative way to use short films on the Internet to build a comprehensive course on Zionist history. He pegged David Isaac to carry out the project and David enlisted his brother Rafi. The Isaac brothers are implementing the idea both because of its importance and in honor of Herbert Zweibon, whom they had known since childhood. Herb Zweibon’s son Mark continues to fund the project as a tribute to his father’s legacy.)

To those of us old enough to remember the first Israel Independence Day, in 1948, it stands as one of the few redeeming events in a century of blood and shame, one of the greatest affirmations of the will to live that a martyred people has ever made. It has turned out to be much more than the thinly veiled form of assimilation that many of the orthodox at first mistook it for, or a solution to a personal identity crisis for people who felt no longer able to be “Jewish.” It has emerged, through much struggle, as integral to Judaism and not just to that mélange of habits, tendencies, and cultural styles called “Jewishness.” Cynthia Ozick has rightly described Zionism as the modern flowering of a great series of diverse intellectual and pietistic movements, all of them rooted in the yearning for human dignity symbolized by the Exodus from slavery that has characterized Jewish civilization for thousands of years. The creation of Israel just a few years after the Holocaust was, in the words of Ruth Wisse, the most hopeful sign for humanity since the dove returning to Noah from the primeval flood holding an olive branch.

Of course, you would never learn this from the typical college course on the subject of Zionism or Israel or the (misnamed) “Arab-Israeli Conflict.” At Vassar, for example, the chairman of Jewish Studies gives a course that openly boasts of its lack of objectivity and its full allegiance to the Arab “narrative”; at Indiana University a “chaired” professor in Jewish Studies offers a course on the subject in which the writings of Judith Butler and Jacqueline Rose are included among “Zionist” writings. (This is analogous to a school of medicine offering “Euthanasia 101? in its curriculum of “Life-preserving strategies.”) At Stanford you will be told by a political science professor (and former head of MESA–the Middle East Studies Association) that he makes no pretense at impartiality, and that “the state of Israel has already lost any moral justification for its existence.” For such instruction (frequently delivered by unkempt professors dressed in sweatshirts and blue jeans) about Israel and Zionism (to say nothing of what remains of world literature, history, and philosophy in the present


A Secret Memo

On May 8, 2014, two days after the White House released its fourth National Climate Assessment Report, this secret exchange occurred between two top White House staffers. (They used phony initials worrying—rightly as it turned out–the email might be leaked):

PJ: Al Gore, move over! With this Report, it’s tornadoes in your living room, right this minute. Hurricane Sandy is coming to take out your neighborhood any day now. Forget rising seas taking out New York a hundred years from now. End fossil fuels now, today, before they end you tomorrow morning.

AD: Still, the polls show climate change at the bottom of issues the public wants the government to address.

PJ: Bad marketing. All that babble about global warming. If you’re old and cold that sounds good. Climate change is worse. It sounds as scary as Donald Duck. Climate disruption hits home. What disrupts your life? Divorce. Disease. Losing your job.

AD: We scored with pollution. Thanks to us the words go together like cream and sugar—carbon dioxide pollution. Good going when you think that without carbon dioxide there are no plants and without plants there is no “us.”

PJ: Wasn’t it Prince Phillip who said he wanted to be reincarnated “as a killer virus to lower human population levels”?

AD: Let’s not go down that road. I still see a problem with credibility. The Heartland Institute said the report “reads like a press release from the Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists—probably because it essentially is a press release from the Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists.”

AD: You must be joking. The Heartland Institute is a bunch of deniers no one ever heard of. We’ve had a great press, Washington Post, New York Times. U.S. News and World Report is my favorite: “The National Climate Assessment dramatically changes the economics of climate change.” Whatever it costs, it’s better than food you can’t afford, water you can’t drink, your home that’s swallowed up by the sea.

PJ: Maybe this report will galvanize the public. But if not, what about a backup?

AD: There’s something in the works. On disease. Al Gore talked of galloping malaria. But in America, who worries about malaria? Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, now you’re talking. And we’ll have a report showing how they can only be explained by climate disruption. We’re lining up doctors to sign it now. We aim for 97% of them. If you are a denier–expect no reimbursements under Obamacare.

PJ: You don’t think this is a stretch?


The Real Palestinian Refugee Crisis Asaf Romirowsky

Perhaps the most insurmountable and explosive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the so-called “right of return”—the demand that millions of Palestinians must be allowed to “return” to the State of Israel under any peace agreement. While Israel has made clear that it cannot agree to this, since it would effectively destroy Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to compromise on the issue.
But how many actual refugees are there? Surely over the years, many of those displaced have passed away, and such status does not normally transfer from generation to generation.

The issue is so emotive because, in many ways, Palestinian identity itself is embodied in the collective belief in a “right of return” to “Palestine.” Along with the belief that resistance to Israel is permanent and holy, Palestinian identity is largely based on the idea that the Palestinians are, individually and communally, refugees; that they have been made so by Israel; and that the United Nations should support these refugees until they can return to what is now Israel.

This belief is passionately safeguarded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The organization was established in 1949 following the failure of the Arab war against Israel’s independence, and its original mandate was to provide services to the approximately 650,000 Arabs displaced by the conflict. Today, it is essentially a massive social welfare system serving millions of Palestinians, primarily in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. At the same time, its activities go well beyond simple humanitarianism. It plays a distinctly political role in Palestinian society, working to further the cause of Palestinian nationalism through politicized education, activism, anti-Israel propaganda, and other activities.

In effect, UNRWA has come to depend on the refugee problem itself. While the refugees benefit from its services, the organization benefits even more from the refugees. UNRWA has no incentive whatsoever to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem, since doing so would render it obsolete. As a result, the agency not only perpetuates the refugee problem, but has, in many ways, exacerbated it.

UNRWA’s role in perpetuating and even expanding the refugee problem is a complex one; but, more than anything else, it is the result of the agency’s own definition of a Palestinian refugee—which is unique in world history. The standard definition of a refugee, which applies in every case except that of the Palestinians, includes only those actually displaced in any given conflict. UNRWA has defined a Palestinian refugee as anyone whose “normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” But it has also continually expanded this definition, now stating “the children or grandchildren of such refugees are eligible for agency assistance if they are (a) registered with UNRWA, (b) living in the area of UNRWA’s operations, and (c) in need.”
As a result, the number of official Palestinian refugees—according to UNRWA—has expanded almost to the point of absurdity. The best estimates are that perhaps 650,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1948-1949; but

UNRWA now defines virtually every Palestinian born since that time as a refugee. That number now reaches well into the millions. This is quite simply unprecedented. In no other case has refugee status been expanded to include subsequent generations over a period of decades.

UNRWA’s involvement in Palestinian society is equally unique. Its role there has expanded from simple refugee relief to one of the most important and influential Palestinian institutions. In particular, the agency now employs nearly 30,000 people, most of whom are Palestinian. This makes UNRWA the single largest employer in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and indispensable to the Palestinian economy. As such, there is a strong economic incentive to keep the prosperous organization afloat.


The Jews of San Nicandro – A Tale of Faith, Conversion, and Zionism Ruth King

On January 28, 1935, a Polish Jew from Palestine, Jacques Faitlovich, a scholar famous for his untiring efforts on behalf of Ethiopian Jews, known as Falashas, and his efforts to bring them to Palestine, knocked on the door of an Italian man named Donato Manduzio who lived in San Nicandro, a small and fairly isolated town in southern Italy. When Manduzio, who now met a real Jew for the first time in his life, greeted him warmly, Faitlovich announced “I have come from Jerusalem to bring you greetings from all our brothers in the Holy Land.”

What propelled the peripatetic Faitlovich to visit San Nicandro and the home of Donato Manduzio? He had heard of the conversion of eighty Italian Catholics to Judaism and their efforts to connect and bond with Jews whom they now considered coreligionists and brothers. And Faitlovich’s goal was to bring as many Jews as possible to restore the Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Who was Donato Manduzio? He was a charismatic Catholic veteran of the First World War whose injuries left him virtually paralyzed and totally housebound. He was deeply inspired by the evangelical communities–Seventh Day Adventists,, Pentecontalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Baptists whose sermons and rituals were steeped in the Bible and Jewish history.
He began practicing the Jewish faith and ritual and many of his neighbors joined him. He proscribed the eating of pork and insisted on observance of the Sabbath. He urged his followers to give biblical names to their offspring, but also included Christian readings in his sermons.

The story of his followers and fellow converts whose faith endured in spite of the hardships of Catholic opprobrium, internal divisions and quarrels, Papal ostracism and criticism, the increasing anti-Semitism of Italy’s fascists who adopted harsh Nazi anti-Jewish laws, and the pursuit and murder of Jews during the Holocaust in Italy, as well as the initial resistance and distrust from Jewish Italian religious and fraternal organizations is told in John A. Davis’s marvelous book The Jews Of San Nicandro.


Editor: Rael Jean Isaac
Editorial Board: Herbert Zweibon, Ruth King

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May 2014
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