Friday, September 15, 2023

Interview With Aryeh Lightstone On The Third Anniversary of The Abraham Accords

Aryeh Lightstone served as an advisor to US Ambassador David Friedman and as special envoy to the Abraham Accords. His account of his experiences, Let My People Know, was published last year. Today is the third anniversary of the announcing of the Accords. 

I recently had the opportunity to interview Aryeh Lightstone, days before the news that there was progress in getting Saudi Arabia to join the Accords. The text has been edited for clarity.

How does it feel to prove all of the experts wrong by negotiating the Abraham Accords Then Trump is voted out of office, those "experts" are back -- and they are back to spouting the old disproven policy.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

The US vs Palestinian Terrorism -- In 2016, Congressman Ron DeSantis Said The Quiet Part Out Loud

Chana Nachenberg, an American, died on May 31.

She was the last of the 16 victims of the Sbarro Massacre to die, the last victim of the Hamas terrorist  Ahlam Tamimi who masterminded that terrorist attack and lives today in Jordan, free and something of a celebrity.

If the US is frustrated by Jordan's refusal to honor its extradition treaty and hand over the terrorist, it is hiding it well. On May 25, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the 77th anniversary of Jordanian independence:

The United States and Jordan share an enduring, strategic relationship deeply rooted in shared interests and values. We appreciate the important role Jordan plays in promoting peace and security across the region and countering violent extremism. (emphasis added)

During her hearing a few weeks ago on her nomination as the next US Ambassador to Jordan, Yael Lempert resisted Sen. Ted Cruz's suggestion that every tool should be used in order to pressure Jordan into honoring its treaty, including withholding aid. Lempert replied:

I think that that would need to be weighed very carefully against the range of issues and priorities that we have with the Jordanians before considering such a step, which I think would be profound.
Of course, Lempert added the expected, "I think that what I can confirm to you is that I will do everything in my power to ensure that Ahlam Tamimi faces justice in the United States," but the impression remains that somehow in the interests of Middle East peace, the US has to be careful not to apply too much pressure, that special considerations need to be taken into account.

But it's not that Jordan is completely opposed to extraditing terrorists.

Just last month, Jordan agreed with UAE to extradite Khalaf Abdul Rahman Al-Rumaithi. According to UAE, Al-Rumaithi was a wanted terrorist they had tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years for "establishing a secret organization affiliated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood." On the other hand, HRW claimed he was one of the victims of the mass trials of 94 government critics of the government, resulting in 69 convictions. The Jordanian court opposed the extradition, yet Al-Rumaithi ended up being extradited anyway.

That is an interesting counterpoint to the case of Ahlam Tamimi, where the court also opposed extradition, yet despite a formal treaty, the court's decision stood, while in the case of UAE, the decision -- and authority -- of the Jordanian court was pushed aside. Arnold Roth, whose daughter was one of Tamimi's victims, pointed out the double standard:

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies suggested that a different consideration was at play:

Of course, the difference might be whether the victims were Arabs -- or Jews.

This inability of the US to pressure Arab countries on the issue of terrorism -- even when the US provides funding -- is evident in US relations with the Palestinian Authority as well.

At the end of May, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During her testimony, Leaf admitted that the PA was still making "pay-to-slay" payments to the terrorists including the families of terrorists who killed Americans and Israelis.
“We are working to bring pay-to-slay to an end. Period,” Leaf said. Asked if the administration had succeeded, Leaf replied, “not yet.”
Is the Biden administration working as hard to end "pay-to-slay" as it is on getting Jordan to extradite Tamimi, who is responsible for the Americans who died in the Sbarro Massacre?

Putting aside the claim by the White House that they can bypass both the PA and the PLO and provide money directly to the Palestinian Arabs without violating the Taylor Force Act, why is the Biden Administration welcoming terrorists to the White House?

As Sen. Cruz put it: 

You sent a report to Congress that officially certified that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO…have not met the legal requirements for ‘terminating payments for acts of terrorism against Israeli and US citizens. Now publicly, the administration defends engaging with terrorists, you claim things are going well, but when you file a statutorily mandated report with Congress, you admit the PLO is continuing what are called ‘pay-to-slay’ payments. They are paying for terrorists to murder Americans and to murder Israelis. And nonetheless, this administration is bringing those terrorist leaders to Washington, is bringing them to cocktail parties to wine and dine political leaders. [emphasis added]
Is this so different from King Abdullah II of Jordan being welcomed in the US and praised as a great friend of the US and ally in the fight against terrorism, while he refuses to honor his extradition treaty with the US and harbors the women who masterminded the Sbarro Massacre which killed Americans?

This possibility of a double standard when it comes to Middle East terrorism that affects Americans was expressed out loud in 2016 during a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The subject was Seeking Justice for Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel. Chairing the hearing was then-Congressman Ron DeSantis. The issue was the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism within the Department of Justice and whether it was fulfilling its function in obtaining justice for the families of the victims of Palestinian terrorism.

At one point, DeSantis addressed Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the US Department of Justice. It became clear that there was a discrepancy between the number of terrorists being brought to justice who killed Americans in the Middle East as opposed to terrorists who killed Americans anywhere else in the world:

Mr. DeSantis: Mr. Wiegmann, the committee has counted that since '93, at least 64 Americans have been killed, as well as two unborn children, and 91 have been wounded by terrorists in Israel in disputed territories.

How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans in Israel or disputed territories has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted during this time period?

Mr. Wiegmann: I think the answer is--is none.

Mr. DeSantis: Okay. How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans anywhere else overseas has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted?

Mr. Wiegmann: I don't have an exact figure for you.

Mr. DeSantis: But it would be a decent size number, though, correct? 
Mr. Wiegmann: It would be a significant number, yes.

Here is the video:

A little later, DeSantis looked for an explanation for this discrepancy:
Mr. DeSantis: Now, it's- been alleged that the reason that DOJ does not prosecute the Palestinian terrorists who harm Americans in Israel, the disputed territories, is that the Department of Justice is concerned that such prosecutions will harm efforts to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or that it will actually harm the Palestinian Authority.

So let me ask you straight up, is that a consideration the Department of Justice?

Mr. Wiegmann: I can assure that is obsolutely not the case.

Mr. DeSantis: And has the State Department ever made arguments to the Department of Justice to handle some of the Palestinian terrorism cases differently than you may normally handle, say, a terrorism case in Asia?

Mr. Wiegmann: Absolutely not.

Here is the video:


Wiegmann says flat out in his testimony that there is no consideration making the US pull their punches when it comes to bringing Palestinian terrorists to justice -- neither a concern for possible harm to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, nor a concern that extraditing Palestinian terrorists might harm the Palestinian Authority.

Yet those suspicions persist and now some believe that it is Jordan that the US is concerned might be harmed by insisting on extraditing the terrorist responsible for the deaths of Americans, even as we see that there are considerations that cause Jordan to extradite to a fellow Arab country but not to its US ally.

There is nothing to indicate that Wiegmann was not telling the truth.
Yet the fact remains that American survivors of Palestinian terrorism, the families of the victims -- and the families who lost loved ones in the Sbarro Massacre are not getting the justice that was promised to them and that they deserve.

If this is not because of political reasons, then what is the reason?

Monday, July 03, 2023

Interview With Alex Ryvchin, Author of The 7 Deadly Myths

I recently had the opportunity to interview the author Alex Ryvchin on his new book which presents a different approach to addressing antisemitism.

The answers have been slightly edited for clarity,

Over the years, many books have been written about antisemitism from different perspectives. How is your book different?

Many books have addressed the ‘why’ of antisemitism. Why are the Jews so hated? Why have such things been inflicted on them? Why do they continue to be targeted? This book will go some way to explaining the 'why' but my central interest is the ‘how’? How does antisemitism function in practice? How is it transmitted around the world and generation to generation. 

This question of ‘how’ led me to the seven deadly myths. It is through this complex and well-honed mythology that antisemitism thrives. As Isaac Herzog said in reference to my book: 

By shifting emphasis from the ‘why’ of this puzzling and dangerous phenomenon to the ‘how’ of the mechanics of its transmission, Ryvchin points to the possibility of actually confronting and diffusing it.

You mention in your book that it could be used in the classroom. There is discussion about Holocaust education -- and how it has failed, both in making people knowledgeable and in changing attitudes. What do you think are some of the causes for this and how would your book and a curriculum based on it overcome these problems?

Holocaust education is vital and I support it entirely. Within the study of the Holocaust we learn not only about the process by which the European Jews were destroyed, we observe everything of which man is capable of – sadism, cruelty, heroism, strength, apathy and cowardice. But in terms of understanding the hatred of the Jews, the Holocaust answers few questions. In fact, it raises these questions to fever pitch and leaves them unresolved. This is why despite so many admirable endeavors in Holocaust commemoration and education, antisemitism has continued to rise. 

Trying to understand antisemitism through the Holocaust is also highly problematic as it positions antisemitism as a historical event and not something in the here and now. It would be like trying to teach anti-Black racism and ending the story with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. It also falsely positions it as solely a product of race science, fascism and totalitarianism which completely ignores its political and religious sources and manifestations. 

This has all contributed to the extremely limited and poor understanding of antisemitism in society, despite it being the most lethal and persistent hatred. This is why it is essential to teach antisemitism itself, what it looks like, how it is expressed, what it continues to do to our communities and wider society.

Why do you think antisemitism persists even after the Holocaust -- why wasn't the world "scared straight" by the murder of 6 million Jews? 

Because antisemitism was too ingrained. Antisemitism was soaked into the world’s consciousness through centuries of lies, mythology and propaganda. It emanated from religious sources, nationalist heroes and popular culture. Even the horror of the Holocaust and the most devastating war in history could not dislodge it. 

As is often forgotten, Jews continued to be massacred in Europe even after liberation from Nazi occupation. To give one example, the Polish Peasants Party passed a resolution in 1946 thanking Hitler for destroying the Jews and calling for the expulsion of any survivors. Forty-two Jewish survivors were clubbed to death in Kielce, Poland. One of the heroes of the Sobibor Camp Uprising was murdered by nationalists after escaping a camp which had virtually no survivors. So of course, today, when the Holocaust is considered ancient history to many, the same myths and conspiracy theories that made it possible, are resurgent.

If, as you write, antisemitism is not just a result of bad information but is a result of "a defect in reasoning" what is the best we can hope to accomplish in the fight against antisemitism?

Our aim in fighting antisemitism is not elimination – it is a disease without a cure. Our aim is to inoculate as many people as possible from catching it. 

There are only two ways to do this. The first is education. But it must be the right education. If we can systematically debunk antisemitic mythology, as my book does, far fewer people will be susceptible to it. Once this education occurs, there has to be engagement. The mythical Jew – bloodthirsty, all-powerful, vengeful, obsessed with money cannot coexist with the real, flesh and blood Jew. The more that people see the real Jew, the weaker these myths become.

Considering the longevity and intensity of antisemitism, to what do you ascribe the survival of Jews and the Jewish identity?

Antisemitism has certainly been a contributing factor to our tenacity. It has hardened our minds and matured our souls. Being hated and excluded also makes us seek familiar company. 

But the secret to our survival, in my view, stems from our perspective on life which stems from our teachings, our traditions and national holidays. We live life as though on a mission. This gives us our restless energy, our refusal to be bystanders and our refusal to submit and die. We have important work to do.

You write that your book is not only for the classroom but also for policymakers -- how could you see your book being used? 

During my recent US book tour, I had the honor of presenting to law enforcement about my book. They were fascinated by this approach of reducing antisemitism into these 7 deadly myths. This provided them with a clear means of monitoring antisemitism, seeing the sorts of mental processes that lead to horrific acts and enabling them to prevent hate crimes in future. 

This education is really critical to understanding antisemitism, how it works and how it can be stopped. Antisemitism is so poorly understood and any plan to combat it must begin by overcoming this. This is where my book can be really helpful.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Is CAIR's Claim That It Advocates For The US Muslim Community True?

Zahra Billoo attacked US Jews last year at the American Muslims for Palestine Conference, singling out as 'enemies' not only Jewish organizations but also "Zionist Synagogues." CAIR's national office came to her defense. After all, Billoo is the executive director of their San Franciso branch.

Among those Billoo targeted:

We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League. We need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation. We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues. We need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses, because just because they are your friends today, doesn’t mean that they have your back when it comes to human rights.

And Billoo also pointed out those Jewish groups that she finds 'acceptable':

Know your JVP leadership, your SJP leadership, your IfNotNow leadership, the list goes on. Know who is on your side. Build community with them, because the next thing I’m going to tell you is to know your enemies.

One would imagine that CAIR would agree with Billoo that groups like JVP and IfNotNow are groups that represent the kinds of Jews that are acceptable and can be associated with.

Which is kind of odd.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

What The Media Is Missing In Their Reports On Campus Antisemitism

Vicious antisemitic attacks against Jewish students on campus are certainly nothing new, but one particular incident led to a potential tool that could both help protect Jewish students and offer acknowledgment of their Zionist identity.

Let's take a look back.

In 2016, San Francisco State University was rated 10th on The Algemeiner's List of the US and Canada’s Worst Campuses for Jewish Students, based on the ongoing disruption of activities and deliberate intimidation of the students.  One of the incidents that earned SFSU their inclusion on The Algemeiner's list was their response to an appearance by the then-Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat when he came to speak. Anti-Israel students disrupted the speech.

But it was more than just a disruption.
And it resulted not only being included on a list -- it led to a lawsuit. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

Has Deborah Lipstadt Undercut Both Herself And Future Antisemitism Envoys?

When Holocaust deniers are not going around denying that the Holocaust ever happened or claiming that it is exaggerated, they like to make comparisons between Israel and Nazis.

In an interview in 2011 with Haaretz, the Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt called these sorts of comparisons "Holocaust abuse": 

Renowned Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt says that American and Israeli politicians who invoke the Holocaust for contemporary political purposes are engaging in “Holocaust abuse”, which is similar to “soft-core denial” of the Holocaust...

When you take these terrible moments in our history, and you use it for contemporary purposes, in order to fulfill your political objectives, you mangle history, you trample on it,” she said.  [emphasis added]

Strong words.
And Lipstadt knows what she is talking about.

After all, this past July Biden nominated Lipstadt as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

So how did Lipstadt react a little over a month later, when Biden was on the presidential campaign and said about Trump:

He’s sort of like Goebbels. You say the lie long enough, keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, it becomes common knowledge

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Recalling Israel's Initial Response To Hamas Rocket Attacks

Of the attitudes of the international community towards Israel, one of the most maddening is criticism of Israeli reaction to the terrorist rocket attacks launched by Hamas -- and the lack of international condemnation of those rocket attacks themselves, deliberately launched against civilian targets.

We criticize the West for its lack of sustained outrage against Hamas targeting civilians.
We note that no country would tolerate such attacks without taking strong measures to stop such attacks.

But does Israel itself bear any of the responsibility for the failure of the international community to condemn these deliberate terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians?

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

'Grey's Anatomy' And 'Nurses': Negative Portrayals Of Orthodox Jews Are Symptomatic Of A Bigger Problem

I still remember when our family went to Disney World, years ago, and we went to the exhibit for "It's A Small World After All." To illustrate the point, the exhibit contained caricatures of every nationality. 

The typical Israeli was depicted as -- a Chassid.
Maybe the people at Disney had trouble figuring out what an Israeli is. 
Or perhaps they thought their visitors did.

Times haven't changed.
Depictions of Jews in the media are often accurate.

As an extreme example, take the new show on NBC called Nurses:

Thursday, November 19, 2020

What Does "The Jewish Vote" Even Mean -- And Is There Enough Of It To Go Around?

This past election, once again the perpetual question that inevitably came up was about 'the Jewish vote': which candidate won it -- and why does it even matter? The Democrats consistently brag that they own the Jewish vote, while the Republicans just keep on claiming that they are just on the verge of acquiring it.

This bipartisan fight over the Jewish vote can be traced back to Herbert Hoover.

In their 2012 book "Herbert Hoover and The Jews," Rafael Medoff and Sonja Wentling, propose that the Jewish vote became a thing in the leadup to the 1944 presidential election, when Roosevelt ran for his 4th term, against Thomas Dewey. 

Remember When Farrakhan Said Palestinian Arabs Were Bloodsuckers?

If Blacks are a minority and Jews are a minority, why is there such tension between them?

One element that caused this friction is the way social interaction between Jews and Blacks was structured in the 1960's.

According to the book "Israel in the Black American Perspective" (1985):
In the Black community Jews were frequently associated with wealth and "parasitism." Under the least propitious circumstances, Blacks usually met Jews as storekeepers and landlords--the most visible representatives of an oppressive economic system. Such meetings were not likely to promote good will and mutual respect. [p4]
But if Jewish storekeepers and landlords are such a significant reason for how Blacks viewed Jews, why would that hatred seem to be so focused on Jews?