Archive for August, 2009

August 28, 2009

J’Accuse!

Unfortunately, today’s ever less justified vitriolic criticism of Israel necessitates bringing back this late-19th century term of indictment.  It is time to retire the largely politically correct yet fallacious mantra that most criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic.  Because it is!  Whether through ignorance or malevolence, most average everyday critics of Israel are anti-semitic by virtue of that criticism.

The Jewish community in particular has been careful not to levy unjustified charges of anti-semitism.  But now it is clear that anti-semitism is flourishing, masquerading in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel.  It is time to call it what it is.

As with anti-semitism over the eons, masses are led to it through ignorance.  Perversely, anti-semitism may have become more widespread in recent years as misinformation rooted in an anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias has been spread more widely and rapidly, courtesy of the information revolution, including, most notably, the internet.

Many eminent and articulate authors have written many eloquent and trenchant words exposing and documenting beyond doubt the double standards, hypocrisy, and mendacity – good indicators of anti-semitism – that are so common when it comes to many, but not all, discussions of Israel.  These authors have also demonstrably shown that Natan Sharansky’s test of Israel-related anti-semitism – double standards, demonization, and delegitimization – has readily been met.  Sadly, these are staples of criticism of Israel today.

One of the anti-semites’ buzzwords of criticism is that Israel’s military actions in Gaza were “disproportionate.”  Yet Hamas was not stopped by Israel’s actions and continued to fire rockets at Israel. Nor did it release its captive Israeli Gilad Shalit. Further, it even claimed “victory.”  So if Israel’s actions were in any way inappropriately “disproportionate”, it was that they were inadequate and insufficient to do the job – the opposite of what her detractors were saying in their anti-semitic accusations.

But all these defenses and explications documenting the anti-semitism in the world’s attacks on Israel should not even be necessary – open manifestations of anti-semitism are staring in the face anybody willing to see them. For one obvious example, why else in the eyes of both Palestinian Arabs and those of most of the world must be all lands over which the Palestinian Arabs have sovereignty be Judenrein?

Further examples include Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian textbooks that include overt anti-Jewish indoctrination.  And of course, the terrorist (“militant” or “activist” to the news media) group Hamas that rules Gaza has an openly anti-semitic charter.  For example, Article 7:

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and the trees will cry out: ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’ “

Also, both of Gaza’s neighboring states, Israel and Egypt, restrict crossing activity at their borders with it, a grievance of Hamas.  While Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel (the Jews), how many has it fired at Egypt (the Muslims) to “resist” its blockade?  None, of course.  Why not?  Answer:  Because Egypt is not a Jewish state.

While Hamas and its terrorist brethren take issue with Arab governments as well as Israel, the reason that Israel ranks highest among their targets is simply that it is a Jewish, not a Muslim, state.  That’s anti-semitism.

Israel’s numerous Jewish hyper-critics must also be mentioned, but only to point out the context of the long history of this plague of self-loathing Jews.  While obviously the ease of fitting in throughout most parts of the world is greatly facilitated by standing against Israel, I leave it to psychologists to further analyze the etiology of these individuals.

A major factor contributing to the prevalence of today’s anti-semitism is that the very Palestinian Arabs who elected their terrorist leaders have managed to ingratiate themselves with much of the world.  How they have done so is another story, but for here, chalk it up to fortuitous timing and tactics (for them), and a world with latent anti-semitic tendencies eager to adopt their anti-semitic narrative. How else to explain that simply being the enemies of the Jews would endear them to the world, above the cause of other desperate and more deserving peoples in Africa and Asia?  (The Palestinian Arabs have won more per capita international aid, by far, than any other group.  And, further, they have done so while incurring virtually no obligation to do anything in return.)

It is especially remarkable how they have been embraced in the West with such affection and with so little genuine rationale – despite the stated aspirations of Hamas, its fellow terrorist organizations, and its Iranian sponsors to subjugate to their Islamist rule not just Israel and the Jews, but the western world.

And then the West would hardly be in a position to worry about “disproportionate” Israeli actions.  That is a remarkable irony.  Love may not conquer all, but perhaps anti-semitism does?

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Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations

August 23, 2009
In fact, it is long past the time when most of the large, long-established mainstream American Jewish organizations outlived their usefulness.

You know the ones I am talking about – the ones with the constant fund-raising letters, sometimes enclosing trinkets (usually direct from China). The letters where they tell you how dire the situation is for Jews everywhere, and how crucial it is that you send them money so they can save the day. And save the day they can, they say, because they are in close contact with UN officials and foreign leaders, and because they have decades of experience.

What they don’t reconcile, however, is a critical contradiction:  if they are so good and effective and have been on the job for years, how things can be so bad? Of course, they can’t reconcile these incompatible facts.

Some of these organizations have a record of failure going back seventy years, when they suppressed information about the extent of the Holocaust and fought against saving Jews, or even establishing the State of Israel.

How could that possibly be? A good question. The most likely answer seems to be their leaders were more interested in maintaining good relationships within their power circles, notably with President Franklin Roosevelt, and were tinged with an excessively large dose of timidity and a fear of “making things worse.” (Readers interested in learning more about this incredible story can consult Heroes, Antiheroes and the Holocaust by David Morrison.)

Fast forward to today, and these Jewish organizations seem to be among the last to the table to recognize, much less address, the threat to us all from Islamic extremism. Perhaps is it a perceived need for atonement, that rather than face today’s enemies, they seem to prefer to wallow in memories and “lessons” of the Holocaust and the last-war threat from neo-Nazis?  A relevant side note is that these organizations’ invocations of the Holocaust are likely to omit any mention of the Arab complicity in it.  While not a Jewish organization per se, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s permanent exhibition is a case in point.

Here are two factors to evaluate how useful an organization is likely to be in promoting Jewish interests today:

  • Is it focused on fighting the prime and imminent threat to the western world as a whole, and to Jews in particular, of Islamofascism, or is it warning you about the relative non-threats of conservative Christians, sightings of neo-Nazis in Europe or a Jewish cemetery being desecrated with swastikas? Does the fact that Israelis in Sderot and elsewhere were recently bombarded every day for years from Gaza, and being killed and injured regularly, rate as much concern as the threat from the neo-Nazi bogeyman? Does the Jewish organization even let on that anti-semitism today is centered in the Muslim world, with a virulence every bit as horrific as the Nazis’?
  • Does the organization actually do anything useful, or does it plan more dialogue and meetings with intractable UN and foreign bureaucrats, who due to their own interests are not going be any more swayed by the organization’s pleadings this year than they were in any previous year?  Finding something truly useful to do is not that difficult – for example, the group could aid terror victims, Israeli soldiers, or others in need, or get word out defending Israel. And the organization could encourage the community to invest in Israel, to shop Israel, and to travel to Israel.

Unfortunately, you cannot rely on a good rating from major charity rating sites. They base their ratings on the groups’ compliance with their criteria, which notably do not include the intrinsic value of the groups’ underlying mission or activities. Indeed, some organizations linked to the promotion of terrorism have received the evaluators’ highest 4-star ratings, as they evidently pursue their missions effectively.

The sad truth of the matter seems to be that most of the old-line Jewish organizations (with the notable exception of the ZOA, the Zionist Organization of America) are so inculcated with their decades of affinity for traditional leftist Jewish causes that they are at least partly blind to today’s realities.

One recent example concerns the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. In March 2008, then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “The creation of a Palestinian state is not the required answer to Israel’s security needs” and that a future Palestinian state must comprise officials “who want not only to live in peace with Israel, but are also able to fight terror.”  I.e., establishing a Palestinian state then was not a good idea from the standpoint of Israel’s interests.

But the JCPA, a coalition of 14 major American Jewish groups and 125 local Jewish community relations councils, thought it knew better. With the exception of the abstention of its member Orthodox Union, the JCPA then voted unanimously for endorsing the establishment a Palestinian state [and without any conditions, such as demilitarization].

Fortunately, one can support Jewish interests without supporting these ineffective, or at worst, counterproductive, old-line Jewish organizations, as a new generation of groups has arisen, much more in tune with today’s real problems and needs. They are also much more effective in doing a lot with a lot less. One cannot help but be impressed by the work done by the relatively small and nimble new generation groups such as Stand With Us, CAMERA, One Family Fund, MEMRI, and Palestinian Media Watch.

Many long-established corporate titans are now gone, for good reason. There is no reason why the non-profit sector should be any different.

Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?

August 23, 2009
Barack Obama won the votes of a large majority of American Jews, despite the strident warnings of a small minority that he was no friend of Israel – and in fact would be a danger to her.

In a July 19 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Tobin, executive editor of Commentary magazine, and one of today’s most astute observers of the American Jewish community, stated that “there is no way that he would have won as much as three-quarters of the Jewish vote had not most believed him when he claimed he was a supporter of Israel.”

Obama’s actual position on Israel has become clear as he passed his six-month mark in office, and it certainly seems at variance with Obama the candidate’s assurances of his commitments to Israel and her security.

That might indicate that many of his Jewish voters were taken in. Yet it is hard to fathom how an ostensibly intelligent, engaged community could be so wrong in the face of so many clear warning signs. (To recount just one: Obama’s 20-year membership in the church of the anti-Israel and anti-semitic Reverend Wright, which was also the single largest beneficiary of his charitable giving.)

While Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain was rarely regarded as an ideal candidate, neither was he ever seriously considered a threat to Israel as was Obama. That leaves two alternative explanations to Obama’s Jewish voters being fooled by his campaign rhetoric.

One possibility is that these voters tend to support the position that Obama’s hard-nosed, strong arm tactics against Israel, and only Israel, coupled with his soft approach towards America’s and Israel’s enemies, really is in Israel’s interest. But it seems harder to justify that fatuous argument with every passing day.

The one remaining possibility as to how American Jews could have voted for Obama if the were not deceived by his campaign rhetoric regarding Israel seems to be the most plausible: While Tobin wrote, “Contrary to the boasts of the left and the fears of the right, most Jewish Democrats still care deeply about Israel,” that appears to be overly optimistic. The record of recent years just does not demonstrate much support for that argument.

The attachment to Israel of younger American Jews, in particular, is widely acknowledged to be problematic. And among much of the older generation, Jews may say they “care deeply about Israel,” but they don’t actually walk the walk very far to help her.

When I heard rumblings that some Americans were beginning to have “buyer’s remorse” about Obama, I began posing the question to my Jewish acquaintances. I could find no regrets among any of those who voted for him, nor did my Republican-leaning friends find any among their acquaintances. Nobody admitted to being deceived by Obama’s proclamations of support for Israel.

Recall that the obverse was also true: When it was patently clear that President George W. Bush was one of the best friends in that office Israel ever had, most American Jews continued to shun him nonetheless (although he did garner a slightly larger share of the Jewish vote than did the next Republican candidate, McCain). So Bush’s support for Israel did not win him the succor of legions of American Jews, just as Obama’s hostility to Israel today is not costing him his overwhelming Jewish backing.

This picture leads one reluctantly to conclude that most of Obama’s Jewish voters were not fooled by his campaign, but rather that, unfortunately, Israel is just not a major concern or issue to them. And that also explains why we are not seeing from his Jewish supporters the widespread and strong objections to his policies that Jonathan Tobin, and others, are looking for.

What is a “Supporter of Israel”?

August 23, 2009

Israel has no shortage of avowed detractors. It also has many genuine avid supporters. Even more people and institutions claim to “support Israel.” But what does “supporting Israel” really mean?

Sadly, and insidiously, in many cases, it means very little. It is the proverbial “talking the talk” without the willingness to “walk the walk.” Certainly, the climate in some circles, notably academia and the media, is apt to make the malleable fall on the denigrate-Israel team. But given the circles in which some others travel, it evidently is more comfortable to claim status as a supporter of Israel, rather than not.

A recent poll commissioned by The Israel Project illustrates that point: Eighty-two percent of the American Jews that took part in the survey said they support Israel, with most of them characterizing themselves as “strong supporters.” Yet when asked if they engage in conversation about Israel or defend Israel while talking to non-Jews, most of the participants replied negatively. Thus it appears that the majority of American Jews claim they “support Israel,” yet they are not even willing to “talk the talk”, much less “walk the walk.”

In life generally, it is important to know who your real allies are, and who are on the team or are friends in name only — whom you can count on, and who will dilute the effort; who will help, and who will not. And you want to know whether your contributions to an ostensibly pro-Israel organization are likely to help Israel’s cause, or be used in the service of another agenda.

While recognizing there are many ways to support Israel, here are some guidelines to judge whether one is a genuine supporter:

Action

What does the individual or organization actually do to support Israel, beyond claiming to be a supporter? If the answer is little or nothing, the verdict is self-evident.

A discussion of specific types of activities follows.

Speech

What does the individual or organization actually say beyond that he “supports Israel”? Something like “I support Israel but not its government,” or “I support Israel but not the occupation,” or “I support Israel but I want it to change”?

That is not support. It is a realm of the double standard applied to Israel. These “supporters” insist on virtual perfection for Israel (and, of course, only Israel). In this mindset, Israel and only Israel can be considered supported with a reservation, if not downright opposition appended in the same sentence. It makes as much sense as “I love that restaurant, but the food is terrible.” For another example, does any UN supporter ever say, “We should rely more on the UN, but the oil-for-food-scandal is a travesty”? (Not that any of Israel’s misdeeds compare to the oil-for-food-scandal.)

“I support Israel but not its government” is a common refrain, but most of these “supporters” repeating this mantra were saying the same thing of Israel’s previous governments led by Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, and every Israeli government for years before that.

Contributions and Membership

What organizations does the individual support with contributions and membership? Any pro-Israel organizations – groups that actually work on behalf of Israel?  A few that come are Friends of the IDF, Stand With Us, the Zionist Organization of America, and Honest Reporting. Or are groups such as these disdained and scorned as “extremist,” considered unworthy of support for some other reason, or perhaps just not considered important enough?

Of course, support of any Israeli organizations that don’t seek to “change” or tear down the state is also a mark of a true “supporter of Israel.” There are, of course, innumerable such Israeli organizations, such as Magen David Adom, One Family Fund, and Palestinian Media Watch.

Or does the “supporter” find that non-Israel causes always have a higher priority? Or, even worse, is the individual more comfortable with, and thus a contributor to organizations with an anti-Israel agenda, such as Oxfam, “Human Rights Watch”, and too many others of a similar bent?

And what do the ostensibly pro-Israel organizations themselves do, when perhaps Israel’s actual supporters are not paying attention? In a 2003 case, a major U.S. Jewish organization one might have relied on to lend support to Israel was devoting its resources to filing a legal brief supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program.

Many organizations that promote themselves as “supporters of Israel” or “Israel advocates” in fact operate more as largely neutral forums for Israel-related programs. They apparently feel compelled to provide a balance of speakers with some providing an obligatory bashing of Israel, to offset pro-Israel aspects of their programs. Apparently, for these groups, it is too politically incorrect to include only pro-Israel voices.

Somehow, compared to these “Israel Advocacy” organizations, advocates” of other entities don’t as often feel compelled to gratuitously invite speakers or authors to bash the subject of their advocacy. Do other “advocates”, perhaps your college’s alumni association or any chamber of commerce invite even lukewarm speakers? Not likely.

Then, according to the Forward, there was the case of America’s largest synagogue movement, the Union for Reform Judaism, representing 900 congregations and 1.5 million followers. It criticized Congress “for passing one-sided pro-Israel resolutions.” Maybe the Union for Reform Judaism (erroneously) thinks that it supports Israel, and that action is an example of doing so.

But probably most of the Union’s members did not even know of that action. And while undoubtedly some would have approved, others would not have. Did any ostensibly pro-Israel member congregations that were aware of the Union’s action repudiate it (much less withdraw from the Union)? Did any congregants press their congregations to do so?

In fact, many non-orthodox Jewish congregations appear to have a minimal concern for Israel, at most. That logically mirrors their congregants’ attitudes as revealed by the Israel Project’s poll. Action to support Israel just doesn’t cut it along with feel-good activities such as bingo and casino nights, and other, more “liberal” social action projects.

It goes without saying that “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur is commonly protested, but “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza is one of the few areas where these congregations did “support Israel.”

A number of congregations offer Israel token support, but may consider that support as generous. Many are willing to keep their Israeli flag in their sanctuary, but in many cases this is a holdover from years past when supporting Israel was less controversial.

Another example offered as congregational “support for Israel” is that of a 300-plus family congregation that plants one $7 tree in Israel for each of a few dozen B’nai Mitvot each year. In fact, that practice is a largely a symbolic gesture, and not one that provides any meaningful aid to the state or its people.

Media

Where does the “supporter of Israel” get his news?  The old mainstream media, such as most major newspapers, the BBC, or CNN?  It is very hard to be a true supporter of Israel while relying on these sources, as they relentlessly vilify and inculcate a subliminal or overt “Israel is bad” message.

A true supporter of Israel is apt to rely on niche sources of news and commentary that are more likely to present Israel in a more fair or even favorable light.

Politics

Does the “supporter of Israel” support, accept, or demonize Israel’s friends, such as are often found among conservative Christians and conservatives in general? Does the “supporter of Israel” support the war against Islamofascist terrorism? Or did the “supporter of Israel” cast his vote and his lot with anti-war groups laden with Israel vilification and anti-semitism?

Of course, a large majority of Israelis themselves prefer the former to the latter.

Shopping

Does the “supporter of Israel” seek Israeli products when shopping? For example, many U.S. supermarkets in metropolitan areas with a significant Jewish population carry a number of products made in Israel that supporters may purchase.

In contrast, I recall an instance of a Jewish Federation distributing giveaways made in China. When queried about the possibility of sourcing trinkets from Israel rather than China, Federation headquarters personnel reacted as if the question were from an alien.

Travel

Does the traveling “supporter of Israel” ever go to Israel, or is everywhere else a higher priority?

Investing

Is a more-than-trivial part of the “supporter of Israel’s” portfolio invested in Israel?

Investing in Israel is not difficult. Beyond the well-known Israel Bonds, there are many Israeli companies traded on other markets, with readily available information. In fact, the NASDAQ hosts more Israeli companies than any other nationality, save for the US. American mutual funds of Israeli securities are also available.

In Sum

These are among the factors that tend to indicate whether an individual or organization actually “supports Israel,” or just pays it lip service. If a consideration of these factors spurs anyone to realize that he can do more to genuinely support Israel, all the better.

The New American Jewish Bible

August 23, 2009

The New American Jewish Bible

I regret to report on the ascendence of an American Jewish version of “Replacement Theology” and a corresponding new American Jewish Bible. These have been adopted primarily in the Reform and secular sectors, as well as in the overlapping wider societal groups of Democrat Party faithful, academia, and the media establishment.

The new American Jewish Bible is the newspaper, and to a lesser degree, broadcast media outlets such as National Public Radio, the Public Broadcasting System, and commercial television networks. But this new American Jewish Bible is actually a false prophet.

As there are different translations of both the Torah and the Christian Bible, the newspaper comes in different geographic versions (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc.). And the broadcast networks each proselytize different versions of the same message.

This new American Jewish Bible pervasively influences, if not regulates, the life of those who have succumbed to its dominion. How often are you approached with the question, “did you see in The Paper…”, or “The Paper said…”? Undoubtedly much more often than “The Torah says…”.

How often do these people take their cues from The Paper, versus the Torah, or any other authoritative Judaic source? How much time do they spend reading The Paper versus any genuine Judaic source?

It has been claimed that Islam has been “hijacked” by extremists. While that may be true, it is clear that Judaism has been hijacked — by leftist interests, including the media. How else can you explain, for example, the widespread support in the Jewish community for same sex marriage, when the Torah dictates quite the opposite?

Readers of The Paper are influenced by it in all-encompassing areas of life, from public and political affairs to pop culture (e.g. this is a good play; that is a bad movie), science (“global warming” is real and bad), and even what to eat (recipes).

Indeed, some years ago, The Paper in all its geographic variants deliberately determined that it could best hook the most readers by diversifying from a focus on news to expound on a wide variety of lifestyle areas.

After faithfully subscribing to and reading the same newspaper every day of every week for decade after decade, it is only natural that most people would come to think what The Paper tells them to think, what to think about, and how to think, day after day, decade after decade.

Of course, some may religiously follow The Paper or their broadcaster because they found it to provide the views they thought to be valid, or because it provided what they wanted to hear. But these faithful probably do not represent a majority of readers and viewers – if only because historically there has been very real little choice in the range of views available in the media.

An irony that would be amusing if not for the severity of its implications relates to the view of society’s elites that religious fundamentalists tend to be uneducated and uninformed. The unfortunate fact is that it is the followers of the American media, The Paper and the broadcasters, who are remarkably ignorant and uninformed.

Just one example:  Polls reported that the majority of Obama voters did not even know that the Democrat Party had the majority control of Congress for the last two years. This misinformation did not stem from these voters studying the Torah; they were being “informed” by The Paper and the broadcasters. An obvious conclusion is that in informing the voting public of the fundamental issues in the election, The Paper (in all its geographic variants) and the broadcasters were miserable failures.

And these media to which so many American Jews look with reverence are the comfortable home for every variety of Israel-hater and anti-semite. For a taste of the prevalence of the Israel-haters and anti-semites getting their “information” from The Paper, take a look at the comments posted on the website of the Washington Post, for example, about any article relating to the Middle East, Israel or Jews.

While The Paper and the broadcasters have huge (although somewhat declining) followings, they are indeed false prophets. We must do all we can to counter them. That must include accepting what they or their followers say only with the greatest degree of skepticism, searching for and utilizing alternative sources of information, and working to “de-program” them and their followers at every opportunity.