April 17, 2013
Yom Ha'Atzmaut is over, and we return to "normal," whatever that means today. But first I want to extend the theme of Yom Ha'Atzmaut for just a moment.
Credit: Dartmouth Hillel
With all of the writing I did two days ago, I have not yet, this year, done justice to what Israel means for me, and for the Jewish people (even for those Jewish people who have opted not to care).
With all of my being, I am grateful to be an Israeli, and to be part of the stream of Jewish history that leads us here. The hand of the Almighty is clear in our ingathering: Today -- with over six million Jews -- we have the largest Jewish population in the world. It is anticipated that within 20 years the majority of the world's Jews will live here. More Jewish study goes on now here than at any time or place in our history. Our people are happy -- every poll indicates this -- and proud to be Israeli. And we choose life -- having the highest birth rate of Jews anywhere. This is our Jewish future.
The story of Pam Geller -- and her talks this past Sunday on Sharia law -- is hardly over. It has many layers, many ramifications, and information continues to come to me.
I've been told by persons in the know that the rabbi of Great Neck Synagogue -- Rabbi Polakoff -- is a mensch and was not responsible for the decision to cancel Geller's talk. That decision was made by the Executive Board of the synagogue. Background -- provided to me on a not-for-publication basis -- on the arm twisting they were subject to is vastly complex and considerably obscene. Which is not to say they should have caved.
Of the two rabbis who then invited Geller to speak, I had focused on Rabbi Yosef Geisinsky of Chabad of Great Neck because of the miracle of his return to health after being pronounced dead.
But, having now received additional information about him (with thanks to Gene S.), I want to return to talk about Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El in Edison, NJ.
The good rabbi, age 65, who received his ordination as well as a doctorate in education from Yeshiva University, lost most of his family in the Shoa. He has dedicated his life to "Never Again," and he means it. He speaks out when he needs to and is unafraid, even in the face of threats. He says we are in 1938 all over again.
Once he invited Pam Geller to speak at his shul, the threats -- obscene verbal communication and even threats of firebombing -- started coming in; swastikas were painted on his house. The threats are on file with authorities and are being investigated; he had police protection. But, he told me, it's just not about inviting Pam Geller: he takes the same positions she does, and he is frequently threatened. On at least one occasion, he and his wife were physically attacked. But he is not frightened into stopping.
We need a thousand Rabbi Rosenbergs. Ten thousand.
I should add, he is the one who started Rabbis for Romney, in the face of the Rabbis for Obama movement.
Rabbi Rosenberg is looking for paid speaking engagements anywhere in the US, and would welcome donations to his shul to help sustain it.
If you think you can help -- spreading word about him, offering a speaking engagement, or providing other assistance -- please, be in touch with him directly: firstname.lastname@example.org .
I salute him, as should we all.
And then, I add this: There are two rabbis -- Reform rabbis -- in the region of Great Neck who have taken a strong stand against Geller. She writes about this here:
Read: Truth Must Have A Place In A Synagogue
The rabbis are Michael White, senior rabbi of Temple Sinai of Roslyn (Heights) and Jerome Davidson rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth El of Great Neck. Because Geller speaks the truth, they label what she says "hate speech," and would deny her freedom of speech. Shutting her up is more important to them than dealing with the virulently anti-Jewish positions of some of those they are so eager to defend, whom they refer to as "fellow Americans of a different Abrahamic religion." They declare: "we cherish our relationships and friendships within the local Muslim community," but they are mum about Islamic verbal attacks on Israel.
I invite you to see this seven-minute video (which I thank Dan F. for bringing to my attention) that neatly exposes the fallacy of criticism of Geller. The person speaking here is not identified, but his position is so clear, so on-mark that I don't hesitate to share it:
My friends, I grow more and more afraid for America. Not just because of the horrendous Boston attack, but because of this: the fear among Jews, their reluctance to take a stand for Israel, and their eagerness to defend the very Muslims who would do Israel in if they could. Their stance is nothing but mindless political correctness (a disease that inundates the US today).
It behooves each of us to be well informed and to continue to speak out forcefully. Only then is there hope.
As to other news, it's difficult to know where to begin:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that he is going to Gaza next month. This, after a delay in making the announcement, pending a visit to the White House. This is a "counterproductive" move. declares the State Department.
On Saturday, Erdogan announced that Turkey would not be sending an envoy back to Israel until Israel completely removed the blockade on Gaza. Return of the envoy was supposed to be part of the "normalization of diplomatic ties" that followed Netanyahu's apology.
This is in addition to the fact that Turkey has voiced objections to Israeli participation in an upcoming Mediterranean Dialogue group (a NATO event); this would have been the first time that Israel participated since 2008.
An Israeli negotiating team is scheduled to be in Turkey soon to discuss compensation for the Turkish dead on the Mavi Marmara. But according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Turkish officials are warning that:
"Israel should perfectly know that this is not a process of bargaining. Compensation talks should not be turned into horse trading or dirty bargaining."Read: 'Turkey warns Israel against dirty bargaining'
In other words, Israel should immediately and without discussion provide the very substantial sums (reported to possibly be as much as million dollars per person) that Turkey demands.
Reconciliation with Turkey is going smashingly well, isn't it?
Reminder: Gestures that can be read as weakness do not work with Muslims.
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has submitted his resignation to PA putative president Mahmoud Abbas, and Abbas has accepted it. (Putative? His term ran out in January 2009 but he's still called president.) This is in spite of efforts by the US (specifically Secretary of State Kerry) and European nations to convince Abbas not to accept it.
Fayyad, who is not a member of Fatah, had been tolerated by Abbas because he is the darling of the Western world, the one considered most moderate and most trustworthy. But in fact, there has been bad blood between the two for some time and many members of Fatah have, over time, urged Abbas to get rid of Fayyad.
Barak Ravid -- who asks if Fayyad's resignation is "The beginning of the end of the PA?" -- explains:
"The resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday is a dramatic development. Its ramifications won't just reverberate in the part of the West Bank under Palestinian control, but also affect Israel and the Obama administration's efforts to renew the peace process, as well as the European Union's policy towards the Palestinians.Read: Fayyad's resignation: The beginning of the end of the PA?
"...the U.S., and the EU, which both regularly provide economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, Fayyad was the go-to man. The former International Monetary Fund economist was educated in the U.S. and was a symbol of good governance and the war on corruption. ...
"But it was this success that itself bore within it the seeds of his demise. Fayyad, who served as prime minister since 2007, resigned after his relations with PA President Mahmoud Abbas deteriorated, reaching an unprecedented low. The crisis of confidence between the two leaders was sharp and irreparable. Abbas and the Fatah party's old guard that surround him saw Fayyad as a political rival who needed to be eliminated."
Commentary editor Jonathan Tobin, who sees in Fayyad's leaving the bankruptcy of Oslo, has written (emphasis added):
"Fayyad’s tragedy was not just that both Fatah and Hamas wanted to be rid of him but that he was a man with virtually no support among ordinary Palestinians. So long as shedding Jewish blood is the main factor that gives a Palestinian political party credibility, men like Fayyad will have no chance no matter how much they are applauded by Americans or Israelis. The collapse of his effort to change Palestinian politics is therefore a key moment that should signal to the world that it must dispense with the theories of both Peres and Rabin and cease ignoring reality in favor of illusions.Read: Fayyad’s Exit Signals Oslo’s Bankruptcy
"That is something that groups and governments determined to keep funneling cash into the coffers of the PA and to push Israel to make concessions to it must understand. Until they do, the discussion about the peace process will continue to be a tragic waste of time and effort."
Khaled Abu Toameh, a courageous Muslim Arab Israeli journalist who knows his stuff, gave a slightly different slant here (emphasis added):
"The Fatah leaders are yearning for the days of Yasser Arafat, when they were able to steal international aid earmarked for helping Palestinians. The Palestinians' problem with Fayyad is that he did not sit even one day in an Israeli prison. For them, graduating from an Israeli prison is even more important that going to any university."Read: Palestinians: Why Salam Fayyad Stands No Chance against Fatah
Hopefully, you're duly noting the nature of our "peace partners." And this can be added to your store of information:
Amalia L., a reader from the US who was visiting in Efrat [in Gush Etzion] this week, wrote the following to me:
"And as the siren went on to honor the fallen [Israeli soldiers on Yom Hazikaron] in [the Arab village] al Khadr on the hill in back of us, fireworks were set off to celebrate their demise."What was it that Tobin wrote, above, about shedding Jewish blood?
The latest word from Syria is that Assad should not yet be counted out. Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah has written a briefing on this for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He says:
"On the second anniversary of the Syrian civil war, those who hurriedly announced the demise of the Assad regime realize that the existing power structures are strong enough to endure a war of attrition with the rebels...Read: Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War
"...the pillars of the regime remain in place. Assad has proved that he has the resolve to conduct effective campaigns against the rebels in a very hostile international environment, while continuing to rule and provide for the daily life of the population under his control...
Information on events in Syria has come from mostly biased sources. The Syrian NGO known as the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has become a privileged source of information on Syria. Yet, in fact, it is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood..."
At the very same time that it is becoming apparent that Assad is not going so quickly, there are now second thoughts about whether it would be beneficial for Israel, and the Middle East more broadly, to see him go down after all. We are engaged in one of those scenarios in which the choices are either awful or more awful.
What is happening in Syria is that it is growing obvious that those who would take over from Assad would likely be radical Islamists -- jihadists. While Assad has kept the border with Israel quiet, the jihadists would turn towards infiltration into Israel and attacks upon Israel.
Just days ago, the Jewish Policy Center addressed this growing concern (emphasis added):
"Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) declared a merger with Mohammad al-Julani's Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) or the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian Salafi rebel group. Both groups, with the urging of al-Qaeda central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, seek to make an Islamic state across the region.Read: Syria's al-Nusra Front Pledges Allegiance to Al-Qaeda
"JN..[since January 2012] has continued to be one of the most prominent groups leading the fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Their status is the result of AQI's help and the sponsorship of wealthy sheikhs from Gulf states who have been providing money and weapons. Washington designated the group as a terrorist organization last December for carrying out nearly 600 attacks, primarily against regime targets that also resulted in the deaths of many civilians. JN members are often suspected of, or claim responsibility for, large car bombings and suicide attacks, especially in cities.
"More moderate forces, such as many in the Free Syrian Army, distanced themselves from JN. 'We don't support the ideology of Al-Nusra, said an FSA spokesman..."
"But what is becoming clear is that unless Washington can find the right rebels to support and has a proverbial dog in this fight, Syria's future will be determined either by al-Qaeda franchises or Bashar al-Assad..."
And then there is Iran. Over Yom Ha'Atzmaut, we heard from two military leaders here on this subject:
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz gave an extensive interview on Israel Radio that was aired yesterday (emphasis added).
Asked if Israel had the capacity to attack Iran by itself, he responded:
"Unequivocally, yes.Denying that top military and political leaders argue about hitting Iran, the general said:
"The Iranian challenge is a meaningful one. We must look at it strategically long-term. We will do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done."
"There are long, continuous discussions, and I presume we'll have more of those in the future."Read: Gantz: IDF can attack Iran nuke sites on its own
Credit: Michael Fattal/Haaretz
For his part, speaking at a Yom Ha'Atzmaut reception at the Defense Ministry yesterday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said (emphasis added):
"We may yet have to independently neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat.Read: Ya'alon: War of Independence Goes On
"The world must lead the battle against Iran, but Israel must take into account the possibility that it may be forced to defend itself, by itself."
While from the US Senate -- bless them -- we are getting support. Yesterday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted "Senate Resolution 65," which stipulates that the US will assist Israel diplomatically, economically and militarily if the Jewish state is compelled to take military action against Iran “in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”
Sponsored by the Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Resolution has secured the bipartisan support of 79 co-sponsors. It must now be adopted by the full Senate, a technicality.
Two rockets from the Sinai exploded in Eilat at about 9 AM this morning; no injuries were caused.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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