Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

On February 26, 2015, Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed in the New York Times called “The Human Stain” that was more than flawed- it was wrong; it was more than anti-Israel, it was anti-Semitic.

Among the many incorrect and racist statements were his claims that the “West Bank” and “East Jerusalem” were Arab. Here are some quick thoughts about his statement that “nibbling of Arab land is just plain wrong.

IMG_2118
Judean Desert down to the Jordan Valley

Geography

The west bank of the Jordan and eastern Jerusalem are not part of the Arabian Peninsula. That landmass is located east of Israel. The borders of the region are surrounded by water on three sides (the peninsula) and the northwestern edge of Saudi Arabia is the land border.

The countries that constitute the Arab land in addition to Saudi Arabia are: Oman; Kuwait; UAE; Bahrain; Qatar; and Yemen. The Arabian Plate on which the peninsula rests includes parts of southern Jordan and southern Iraq.

Neither the Arabian Peninsula nor the Arabian plate cross the Jordan River, hence there is no geographical basis for referring to any land west of the Jordan as “Arab Land.”

Population

The “Arab Nation” spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th and 8th centuries when Muslim invasion of neighboring lands brought Islam and Arabs to those areas. Those Muslim conquests brought Arabs to southern Spain called Andalusia. No one refers to Spain as Arab land today.

Politics

The Arab countries formed a “League of Arab States” which includes 22 countries. That group is political in nature and does not speak to the actual people and culture of the countries. For example, Syria was suspended from the League in 2011 due to its civil war. Palestine was admitted as a member in 1945 (the entire British Mandate of Palestine which includes Israel today) even though it was not an independent country.

To refer to the west bank of the Jordan as “Arab” because Palestine is a member state would also mean that Israel is an Arab state. Is that part of Kristof’s real message? Does he feel that Israel is not a valid entity and is occupying “Arab land”?

Ruby all Israel  29 (1)
Binyamin Region

Government Sovereignty

A “Land” is distinguishable from lowercase “land” in that one conveys sovereignty and ownership. The land on the west bank of the Jordan River is disputed land without independent sovereignty. Israel administers the land after Jordan attacked Israel in 1967 and subsequently lost the territory. Jordan gave up all claims to the land in 1988, including “East Jerusalem”. “Arab East Jerusalem” in capital letters makes no sense in any interpretation as sovereignty and administration belongs to Israel (albeit not recognized in much of the world) but the eastern part of the city is also not recognized, nor under sovereignty of Arabs, nor part of the Arab peninsula, and is 40% Jewish.

While many Palestinian Arabs claim the west bank of the Jordan as part of a future state and “East Jerusalem” as such state’s capital, the rule of the land is still in negotiations. As of this date, the land is much more Israeli than it is Palestinian.

Exclusivity

Liberals and progressives typically argue that no land should be the exclusive right of a single racial or religious group. No one refers to “White Selma” where only whites can live or “Black Harlem” where only blacks should be permitted to live.

While people refer to the Islamic State of Iran, Iran claims that it welcomes people of all faiths. Israel, the Jewish State, is 25% non-Jewish. Turkey, which is a secular Islamic state, is mostly non-Arab but has many Arabs living in the country.

Not only is the west bank of the Jordan not “Arab”, but the suggestion that it should be limited only to Arabs is racist and anti-Semitic. That policy was put into place under the Jordanian Arabs that attacked Israel in 1948 and expelled all of the Jews from the area including the eastern part of Jerusalem, counter the Fourth Geneva Convention.

IMG_4963
South of Bethlehem

Private Property

Land ultimately falls into two categories: private land and public land. Private land changes hands with the owner and is not considered to belong forever to a particular religion or people. One day it may be owned by an Arab, the next day by a Jew and the next by a WASP.

Public lands are administered by the government. As discussed above, the west bank of the Jordan is administered by Israel. The eastern part of Jerusalem was annexed by Israel decades ago.

Therefore neither the west bank of the Jordan River nor “East Jerusalem” can be considered “Arab land.”

History

For 400 years the Ottomans ruled Palestine and allowed Jews to live everywhere without restriction. They lived in Jericho and Jerusalem and throughout the region. The Ottomans welcomed the Yemenite Jews who founded Silwan in the eastern part of Jerusalem just outside the city walls in 1881 – in what Kristof terms “Arab East Jerusalem.

The international community gave the British the Mandate to govern Palestine in 1922, in which it specifically stated that the entire mandate – including Kristof’s “Arab West Bank” – “shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes” (Article 6). The mandate further stated in Article 15 “No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief”.

 DSC_1020
Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem, founded by Yemenite Jews in 1881

Countering the Bible

As detailed above, there is no basis for naming places “Arab West Bank” or “Arab East Jerusalem”.   To claim that any land inherently belongs to a single group is a direct lift from the Old Testament in which God gives the land of Canaan to the Jews. Jews have always considered the entire land holy for that reason. Modern claims that part of that land is inherently Arab (and not Jewish) is done to specifically counter the Bible and any Jewish claim to the land.

Of course, the Jewish faith that asserts that the land is holy has nothing to do with sovereignty or private ownership. Jews have always considered the land holy, even in 1400 when they had no sovereignty, and Jews today who do not own land in Israel. The land is holy to Jews, which motivates many Jews to move there.

Kristof’s claim that this specific land (the “West Bank” which didn’t even exist as an entity or term until recently) is Arab is meant to directly confront the Jewish belief that the land was given to Jews by God. Just as the Times never uses the Jewish terminology of “Judea and Samaria” to remove Jewish connection to this land, Kristof attempts to sever the Jewish connection by stating it is inherently “Arab”. It is wrong in fact and intention.

Jews have always and will always consider Judea and Samaria/ the west Bank of the Jordan as holy regardless of its sovereignty, or the religion and ethnicity of a person living in a house on the land. Such sentiments do not preclude any type of peace deal.

Kristof wrote that The 350,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank — not even counting those in Arab East Jerusalem — impede any Middle East peace and stain Israel’s image,” can only be viewed as an obstacle to peace for racists that want a Jew-free state.

Attacking the Jewish faith is not a path to peace. Antisemitic calls for banning Jews from anywhere – let alone places they consider holy and lived in for thousands of years – is disgraceful.  The “Human Stain” is Kristof’s and those that share such sentiments.

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ObamaCar to Address Garage Inequality

A satire

As huge storms battered the northeastern United States over the past week, President Obama noted how much harder it was for poor people to get to work. He called a press conference to highlight the growing garage inequality in the country. His opening remarks articulated that there is “a dangerous and growing garage inequality which produces a lack of mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America.

snow cars
Digging out in Boston

Noting how many poor people could not store their cars in warm garages and needed to dig out of the deep snow, Obama said “that success shouldn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, having a garage or a car with seat warmers,” and that storms like the ones over the past few weeks “decrease mobility and pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream.

Obama has proposed “Promise Zones in urban and rural communities where we’re going to support local efforts focused on a national goal of getting everyone an enclosed parking spot.

Valerie Jarrett said the situation was “ridiculous” and that poor people need to better appreciate that “their being discriminated against and the reasons for insufficient parking and enclosed structures in poor neighborhoods” is rich privilege. She has recommended making it mandatory for all cars to have seats that can reach 34.5 degrees Celsius by 2022. Cars without seat-warmers can be traded in under a new “Cash for Cold Assets” program.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said that he was looking for Congress to authorize millions for public heated garage infrastructure.

Obama added that as recently as the 1950s, “the gap between the most expensive car and the least expensive car was 7 to 1.  Today that gap is 70 to 1.

Obama has said he will likely fund the ObamaCar programs with an excise tax of 2.3% on manufacturers of tires and garages, and cars over $65,000.

Lobbyists for the shovel industry are attempting to repeal the law.

Je Suis Redux

The famous French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) once famously said: “Je pense, donc je suis,” or in English “I think, therefore I am.” That statement as well as his other works earned him the title of the father of western philosophy.

The concept Descartes put forth of the centrality of “thinking” and “being” is profound on several levels and had a significant impact on western society.  The expression has an interesting sequel today.

thinker
French Sculptor Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

Descartes did not call out overt action verbs like eating, running or talking to prove his existence. He argued that something as fundamental as brain activity proved that he was alive. Such an approach has led to interesting debates about brain death and the status of life today.

On a philosophical level, Descartes was plagued with doubt about everything: not just about ethereal matters such as the existence of a supreme being, but whether the world as he saw it existed at all. He considered whether it was all just his imagination, just a dream. He concluded that the actual process of considering whether anything at all existed, proved that he indeed did exist.

Je Suis 2015

The world was given a brief tutorial of French in 2015. In response to the horrible killings at the offices of Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, people around the world held signs and banners that read “Je Suis Charlie,” “Je Suis Juif (Jew),” “Je Suis Policier (Police)”. A few weeks later, when another terrorist shot people in Copenhagen, the signs “Je Suis Danois (Danish)” showed support for the people of Denmark.

jesuisjuif
“Je Suis” rally in Paris,
January 2015

The expression “Je Suis…”, “I am…” in those contexts expressed people’s solidarity with the cause for which people died (freedom of press, speech or religion), essentially reaffirming that those liberties live on. While individuals may have been killed, there are others that cherish those same beliefs who remain alive. While the victims are dead, the freedoms are not vanquished.

Je Suis…” attested to the strength of people’s convictions.  While the terrorists were killed by police in both Paris and Copenhagen, people did not deceive themselves that there were many other would-be-terrorists who might commit similar acts. Yet they stood defiantly with placards held high and passions held firm.


Consider that hundreds of years ago the father of western philosophy made a statement that was born from his complete doubt in anything and everything. He imagined that nothing was real, even his own existence. Doubt Affirmed Life.

In 2015, people rallied because of the murder of people who shared a similar western philosophy. In mourning the deaths, people realized the depth of their own convictions. Death Affirmed Belief.

The sequel of Je Suis in France may be a perfect mirror image of the original. But the central theme remains the freedom and ability to question and believe.


Other First.one.Through article:

Dancing with the Asteroids: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/dancing-with-the-asteroids/

 

I’m Offended, You’re Dead

The US President and the media have portrayed “radical extremists” as angry about cartoons of the Muslim prophet by western media. Such a view focuses very narrowly on the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. This is because democracies consider freedom of speech a fundamental right in their societies and object strongly to such rights coming under fire. Should the media and democracies look more broadly, they would note the broader attacks on basic human rights that Islam imposes where it is in control.

The “hateful ideology” (as US President Obama calls it) is not simply an “ideology” by a few “extremists”. The basic laws of several Islamic countries trample on many fundamental human rights. Islamic laws do not only challenge what you can say, but often attack the essence of who you are, and enforce double standards regarding what you can do. To aggravate the Islamic illiberal attitudes further, the laws impose severe punishments to the offenses, often the death sentence.

 muslim protest
Muslim Protest in England

What you said

Blasphemy is clearly part of the objection of the Muslim killers. Whether Charlie Hebdo (2015), Copenhagen (2005; 2015) or Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands (2004), the drawings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed were considered offenses deserving of murder. Those attacks made news and drew world attention because they happened in Western Europe. In the Islamic world, blasphemy is considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Pakistan recently sentenced a blasphemer to death, but the laws and actions do not often attract the world’s attention.

Asa Bibi
Asa Bibi sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy,
November 2014

Who you are

Islamic countries impose the death sentence on people for simply being who they are.  Innocent civilians are viewed as criminals even though they harm no one.

  • Apostasy is the act of changing religion. In several Islamic countries, the act of converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by death. Those countries include: Afghanistan; Brunei; Mauritania; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; United Arab Emirates; and Yemen. Many other countries also consider it a crime, punishable by a year or more in prison.
  • Being Gay is considered a crime in 76 countries in 2015. There are several Islamic countries that sentence gays to death including: Iran; Iraq; Mauritania; Nigeria; Qatar; Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
  • Islamic terrorists targeted Jews in recent attacks in Jerusalem; Paris and Copenhagen. Many Muslims feel that non-believers are doomed and should be killed according to Islamic teachings. While many Islamic countries do not sentence non-Muslims to death, they subject the non-Muslims to secondary “dhimmi” status and make them pay special taxes. There are “radical” Islamic groups like Boko Haram and ISIS that are actively killing non-Muslims throughout NigeriaIraq, and Libya.

gay hang iran
An estimated 4,000 gays have been killed in Iran since 1979

What you do

Some Islamic countries have laws that prevent persecuted segments of society from doing what other members of society (Muslims, men) can do freely.  The double standards and misogyny are simply part of the culture that the world ignores.

  • In Saudi Arabia, there are laws that prevent women from driving cars; only men can drive.
  • In Pakistan, girls are prevented from going to school to get an education; only boys can go to school.
  • In many Southeast Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, a girl who reject a boy’s marriage proposal may be disfigured either by having her nose and ears cut off, or acid poured on her face. Boys do not deal with such issues.
  • In Israel, the Jordanian Muslim Waqf prevents Jews from praying on the Jewish Temple Mount; only Muslims are allowed to pray on the entire 35 acre site.
  • In Gaza and Islamic countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, people kill female family members in “honor killings” if they dress inappropriately or date unapproved men. Men do not face honor killings.

KSA women drive
Woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia,
December 2014

How they Respond

The punishment for many of these basic activities that people in the western world take for granted, is death.  The death sentence is often brutal and public.

“Minor” infractions also can yield a death sentence:

  • Adulterers are stoned to death in Iran; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; UAE; Yemen
  • Drug traffickers are killed in: Egypt; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Kuwait; Oman; Saudi Arabia; South Sudan; Syria and UAE
  • Prostitutes are killed in Sudan

The Danger

The view that a few “extremists” have hijacked Islam and are attacking the freedom of press is both myopic in terms of history and geography, and hazy in terms of numbers and scope. In reviewing the laws and actions of several Islamic countries, one can better understand the gross intolerance and extremism in their societies. Many Muslims are offended by a great many things, and will kill the offender.

If the West limits its review to freedom of speech in the world of social media, the conversation becomes limited as well.  Hate speech versus freedom of speech, and attitudes towards censorship of social media (such as in Turkey) are worthwhile discussions, but far too narrow.  The value of jobs and economic development for a handful of radicals is brought up by the Obama administration because he misses the larger point. Obama argues for “reasonableness and restraint” from countries because he views the attacks on them as limited to a handful of radicals.

That flawed worldview led Obama to abandon Iraq without helping secure the vacuum.  It will lead an Obama administration to enable Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

Perhaps it is time for Obama to visit Cairo again as he did on his first international trip in 2009.  This time he will meet a new leader in al-Sisi who has called for a “revamping” in Islam. Maybe al-Sisi should be on Obama’s Iran negotiating team.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Murderous governments

Blasphemy

My Terrorism

US Hypocrisy – “Reasonableness and Restraint”

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Jews in the Midst

Summary: Jews are vulnerable members of society. They are not on the fringe on the one hand, nor are they just a regular part of the broader community, on the other. As such, they must be actively protected by governments and citizens alike.

copenhagen jews
Jews in Copenhagen laying flowers where a Jewish man was gunned down,
February 2015 

No Canary in the Mine

Well-meaning people have referred to Jews as the “canary in the mine” when it comes to terrorism. They argue that various attacks on Jews in Europe, Israel and Asia by Islamic radicals over the past years should be seen in the context of an oncoming onslaught on the broader civilized world.

Canaries are treated as disposal life forms that coal miners bring into mines to detect poisonous gases. They assume that if the canary is alive, the air is breathable; however, should the canary die, they should evacuate immediately. The sole role of the canary is to detect danger and benefit the people in the mine.

Jews were not brought to Europe or Asia to serve as warning signs for non-Jews. They are not inferior life forms meant to live solely for the benefit of the broader society. They are proud citizens of their home countries.

 hyperkosher
Paris kosher supermarket where four Jews were killed,
January 2015

Not a Fringe Group

Jews are integrated into society in each country where the live. They have homes in the hearts of the country; they have jobs at corporations, in the government and military. They speak the language and have employment rates that are comparable to their fellow countrymen.

Jews are not a fringe group that fails to assimilate, that doesn’t speak the language or has high unemployment. They are not financial drains on society and do not have incarceration rates above the community averages.

Jews are a fabric of society. They are “everymen,” with particular beliefs and customs.

mumbai chabad
Chabad House in Mumbai where six people were murdered,
November 2008 

No “Random” Attack

While Jews are a basic part of the fabric of society, they are uniquely targeted by Islamic radicals. Terrorist attackers who assaulted major cities including Mumbai (2008), Paris (2015) and Copenhagen (2015), took time to specifically attack this small minority.

While US President Obama and his administration initially called the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris a “random” attack, he back-tracked to corroborate the statement of the French government which clearly stated that the attack stemmed from antisemitism.

Even while embedded in society, Jews are picked out for attack for the simple reason that they are Jewish.

 bruseels museum
Attack on Jewish Museum in Brussels killed four,
May 2014

Jews in the Midst

There was a movie made in 1988 about a woman, Dian Fossey, who fought to protect gorillas in Uganda. These special creatures were a unique part of the Ugandan landscape that were singled out for slaughter. Dian fought both the government and locals to protect those “Gorillas in the Mist”.  It was a brave action on the part of an individual to take on so many to save the group from butchery.

It is the obligation of governments to protect their citizens.  The leaders in Germany and France have correctly stated that they will take action to ensure that their Jewish communities are safe.

It is time for all governments and citizens to speak loudly and act defiantly in protecting their vulnerable neighbors and countrymen, the Jews in their midst.

 scariest-riots-anti-semitism-men
Riots against Israel and Jews in France,
July 2014

Israel in Europe

The governments of Europe must do more than just assign police officers to synagogues and Jewish centers. They must also declare that Jews everywhere – including in Israel – cannot be targets of jihad.  As part of that effort, they should confront the biases in their governments that are uniquely against the Jewish State, such as:

  • delisting Hamas as a terrorist organization despite its calls to kill Jews and eradicate Israel
  • European Union blaming Israel for the failure of the peace talks without acknowledging the various actions the Palestinians took to sabotage the talks

The list of European actions against the Jewish State over the past year was long, and to an absurd level when compared to EU actions and comments towards murderous regimes such as Iran and Syria. The people in the streets noted, and held anti-Israel rallies which became anti-Semitic riots.

It was against that backdrop of both murders by homegrown terrorists and the anti-Israel actions of the governments that made Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invite the Jews of Europe to come to Israel.

The governments of Europe must declare their strong commitment to a safe and secure Israel.  Such actions should include declaring Hamas a terrorist organization and not recognizing a Palestinian state until it prohibits the promotion of antisemitism and Holocaust denial.  The governments should not pass any BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) actions against Israel any more than they do for other disputed territories such as Kashmir and Cyprus.

The leaders of several European countries acknowledge that there is a problem of anti-Semitism spreading in the continent.  They must be aggressive in confronting it in every manner possible.

Jews in the Midst

Summary: Jews are vulnerable members of society. They are not on the fringe on the one hand, nor are they just a regular part of the broader community, on the other. As such, they must be actively protected by governments and citizens alike.

 

No Canary in the Mine

Well-meaning people have referred to Jews as the “canary in the mine” when it comes to terrorism. They argue that various attacks on Jews in Europe, Israel and Asia by Islamic radicals over the past years should be seen in the context of an oncoming onslaught on the broader civilized world.

Canaries are treated as disposal life forms that coal miners bring into mines to detect poisonous gases. They assume that if the canary is alive, the air is breathable; however, should the canary die, they should evacuate immediately. The sole role of the canary is to detect danger and benefit the people in the mine.

Jews were not brought to Europe or Asia to serve as warning signs for non-Jews. They are not inferior life forms meant to live solely for the benefit of the broader society. They are proud citizens of their home countries.

 

Not a Fringe Group

Jews are integrated into society in each country where the live. They have homes in the hearts of the country; they have jobs at corporations, in the government and military. They speak the language and have employment rates that are comparable to their fellow countrymen.

Jews are not a fringe group that fails to assimilate, that doesn’t speak the language or has high unemployment. They are not financial drains on society and do not have incarceration rates above the community averages.

Jews are a fabric of society. They are “everymen,” with particular beliefs and customs.

 

No “Random” Attack

While Jews are a basic part of the fabric of society, they are uniquely targeted by Islamic radicals. Terrorist attackers who assaulted major cities including Mumbai (2008), Paris (2015) and Copenhagen (2015), took time to specifically attack this small minority.

While US President Obama and his administration initially called the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris a “random” attack, he back-tracked to corroborate the statement of the French government which clearly stated that the attack stemmed from antisemitism.

Even while embedded in society, Jews are picked out for attack for the simple reason that they are Jewish.

 

Jews in the Midst

There was a movie made in 1988 about a woman, Dian Fossey, who fought to protect gorillas in Uganda. These special creatures were a unique part of the Ugandan landscape that were singled out for slaughter. Dian fought both the government and locals to protect those “Gorillas in the Mist”.  It was a brave action on the part of an individual to take on so many to save the group from butchery.

It is the obligation of governments to protect their citizens.  The leaders in Germany and France have correctly stated that they will take action to ensure that their Jewish communities are safe.

It is time for all governments and citizens to speak loudly and act defiantly in protecting their vulnerable neighbors and countrymen, the Jews in their midst.

 

Israel in Europe

The governments of Europe must do more than just assign police officers to synagogues and Jewish centers. They must also declare that Jews everywhere – including in Israel – cannot be targets of jihad.  As part of that effort, they should confront the biases in their governments that are uniquely against the Jewish State, such as:

  • delisting Hamas as a terrorist organization despite its calls to kill Jews and eradicate Israel
  • European Union blaming Israel for the failure of the peace talks without acknowledging the various actions the Palestinians took to sabotage the talks

The list of European actions against the Jewish State over the past year was long, and to an absurd level when compared to EU actions and comments towards murderous regimes such as Iran and Syria. The people in the streets noted, and held anti-Israel rallies which became anti-Semitic riots.

It was against that backdrop of both murders by homegrown terrorists and the anti-Israel actions of the governments that made Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invite the Jews of Europe to come to Israel.

The governments of Europe must declare their strong commitment to a safe and secure Israel.  Such actions should include declaring Hamas a terrorist organization and not recognizing a Palestinian state until it prohibits the promotion of antisemitism and Holocaust denial.  The governments should not pass any BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) actions against Israel any more than they do for other disputed territories such as Kashmir and Cyprus.

The leaders of several European countries acknowledge that there is a problem of anti-Semitism spreading in the continent.  They must be aggressive in confronting it in every manner possible.

On Accepting Invitations

Summary: While Obama can pretend to be insulted by Netanyahu’s failure to follow protocol in accepting an invitation to speak to a joint session of Congress, Obama did much worse to Netanyahu in 2013. It shows that if you are a friend, you forgive, and if you want to be angry, you can always find a cause to validate your anger.

bibi congress
Israeli PM Netanyahu addressing US Congress May 2011

There is a brouhaha over Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accepting an invitation from US Speaker of the House John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress in March 2015 about Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons. The complaint, according to the White House, is about a failure to follow protocol – one would imagine, a forgivable error. However, the comments from an unnamed senior source at the White House fumes that accepting the invitation was a direct insult to the president, and that Netanyahu “spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.

Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation specifically addressed to him, to discuss a topic that he considers an existential threat to his country, to speak to an incredible audience that also cares deeply about the subject of Iran doesn’t seem to be a snub to Obama at face value. However, if one considers that the audience does not agree with the president’s current course of action, and that Netanyahu’s opinion does not fit squarely with the president’s approach, well, that’s a different story- that could theoretically have been a snub and attempt to bypass the president that is…what’s the word? Familiar.

Obama Declined Invitation to Speak to the Israeli Knesset

In March 2013, Israel invited US President Barack Obama to visit Israel and speak to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Both of the two previous US presidents, Bill Clinton (1994) and George W Bush (2008) addressed the Knesset while they were in office. Obama declined the invitation.

clinton knesset
Present Bill Clinton Addressing Israeli Knesset 1994

This US administration wanted to bypass the Israeli government and address the Israeli citizens directly, saying that Obama had a speech for “the Israeli public and that really was our priority.” The White House arranged to have an audience of students from Israeli universities (except he did not allow students from schools on the West Bank of the Jordan) to hear his remarks.

  • Was declining an invitation to speak to the Knesset a nice thing to do? It is not something Israel extends to most world leaders.
  • Was it appropriate to use that same time slot to speak to “the Israeli public” instead? Did Obama not realize that Israel is the democracy and the politicians are elected by the people and represent the people? (As opposed to his “New Beginnings” address to the Egyptian government in 2009.
  • Obama cherry-picked his “Israeli public” to be those young people who may have been more receptive to his remarks than an audience that truly represented the broad opinions of the citizens of the country and the Knesset.

How did Netanyahu react to these insulting actions of the White House? Did he take umbrage? Did he refuse to see Obama and did Bibi direct members of his political party to ignore Obama on his visit? Not at all. He acted like a perfect host.

Note that these various 2013 actions of Obama were not a single failure to coordinate as it was for the 2015 Netanyahu invitation. Obama carefully scripted the entire Knesset-snub, direct-to-some of-the-people message.

In Obama’s opening remarks to the student body he said: “any drama between me and my friend, Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet (an Israeli comedy show)”. I wonder how Obama will react if Bibi opts to make a similar joke about his buddy “Barack” in his address to Congress in March.

obama israelUS President Obama speaking to Israeli STUDENTS 2013

And what was the crux of Obama’s speech in March 2013? Why did he feel the need to give a cold-shoulder to the Knesset and Netanyahu?

On the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama argued that a “strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons….But Iran must know this time is not unlimited.  And I’ve made the position of the United States of America clear:  Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.“ Words that sounded nice to a generation that believed “hope” was a policy.

Obama knew that the Israeli Knesset and Prime Minister Netanyahu were very skeptical about Obama’s push to curtail sanctions on Iran. Obama therefore opted to bypass them and speak to a select audience that would applaud his vision.

Netanyahu Accepts Invitation to Speak to US Congress

Now, two years have passed and Iran is closer to nuclear weapons. Obama scaled back Iranian sanctions and has continued to delay the timetable he laid out to stop their nuclear program. The majority of Congress doesn’t like the situation and they don’t agree with Obama’s process.

As such, the House Speaker asked a close ally which is in the crosshairs of the Iranian regime to call out the president for the failed process. Netanyahu’s response: “As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel. This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel’s position and in order to defend its future and its existence.”

Does Obama really lack complete sensitivity to Israel’s fears about a nuclear Iran that he would inflate a matter of protocol over an invitation to such a degree?  Or is it just a ploy for Obama to influence Israel’s elections by trying to put downhis friend Bibi”?



 Emily Post Five Points on Accepting an Invitation

There are a good number of people who have suggested that Netanyahu should cancel his March speech. Of course, they include his political opponents in Israel, but they also include some Democrats in the US Congress and leaders of Jewish organizations.

Emily Post, the expert of etiquette, suggests five key steps to responding to an invitation:

  • “RSVP: reply promptly”: done
  • “Reply in the Manner Indicated”: done, but partially outside of normal protocol
  • “Is that Your Final Answer?” SEE BELOW
  • “May I bring…?”: not relevant
  • Say “Thank you”: done

According to invitation etiquette, there are very few instances to change a response:

  • Changing a ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ is only acceptable on account of: illness or injury, a death in the family or an unavoidable professional or business conflict. Call your hosts immediately.” Vice President Joe Biden and some Democrats seem to be manufacturing this excuse for not attending now.
  • Canceling because you have a “better” offer is a sure fire way to get dropped from ALL the guest lists.
  • Being a “no show” is unacceptable.
  • Changing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ is OK only if it will not upset the hosts’ arrangements.”

In short, it is inappropriate for Netanyahu to turn down the invitation at this time. It would be up to Speaker Boehner to consider changing the date of the invitation, should he choose to smooth this inflated side-issue to get everyone focused on the main issue.

The Churlish Turkish Leadership

Under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has continued to slide further and further into the extreme right towards militant Islam. It has (coincidentally?) also pushed the country closer to US President Obama and further from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

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Turkish leader Erdogan on magazine cover

In terms, of the continued suppression of freedom and liberty in Turkey:

The Turkish leader has also led his country into repeated confrontations with Israel due to his adamant support for the terrorist group Hamas, a group sworn to the destruction of Israel:

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The strong rightward shift has not changed the relationship between Erdogan and Obama.

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  • Obama considered Erdogan in his top five friends among international heads of state (January 2012)
  • Obama used his relationship to coerce an apology from Netanyahu to Erdogan for the assailants killed on the flotilla (March 2013)
  • US continued to contort itself to make Turkey happy as the US tried to help Kurdish fighters against ISIS, while Turkey did almost nothing in the fight, as it despised the Kurds (October 2014)

As described above, the Netanyahu apology to Erdogan did nothing to repair relations between Israel and Turkey and nothing slowed Erdogan’s crackdown on freedom in Turkey.  The Obama administration twisted itself every-which-way to excuse terrible Turkish policies (whether its treatment of the Kurds, failure to support war on ISIS, suppression of freedoms at home…) while it picks on Israel for matters of protocol.

To listen to liberal media and democrats these days, you would think that it was Israel that was acting “churlish” for matters of protocol as opposed to specific attacks on Israel.

Here is the satirical music video by First.One.Through about the sad state of the world, where victims must apologize to the aggressors (music by Joe Cocker):


Related First.One.Through articles:

NY Times support of Erdogan over Netanyahu: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/new-york-times-talking-turkey/

 

Israel, Mother Nature’s Son

Judaism is celebrating its New Year’s tonight – for trees.

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Almond trees blooming in the Galilee

You will not find Jews sticking candles into tree bark, or trees pounding piñatas held aloft by tall people. But the holiday exists as a milestone, typically with people eating various fruits which were grown in Israel.

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz wrote an article about how the New Year for Trees – Tu b’Shvat – evolved over the centuries. It began as a note on the calendar and became more significant as Jews were evicted from the holy land. People made a deliberate effort to connect with the land of Israel, so the holiday grew into a minor festival.

Today, we have a have a more environmentally-aware conception of the day. Rabbi Steinsaltz writes that we acknowledge “that all living creatures — plants included — have a connection with the human spirit, a common bond of life. It means that all the forms of life around us are not only meant to furnish us with materials for our subsistence. They actually share a definition of life with us, of growth, or bearing fruit.”

The modern country of Israel has been deeply connected to the land since the early pioneers tilled the land and fought off malaria in the swamps in the north.  Today the country stands as a leader in environmentally-friendly projects:

Here is the celebratory First-One-Through music video with music by the Beatles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7-HFK5KTDQ

It is remarkable to consider that this same land went through so many cycles in its history. The bible often referred to the land as “flowing with milk and honey”. The biblical commentator Ramban taught that that expression referred to the nectar in the fruit that was so rich and over-flowing, due to an extremely fertile land.

However, just 150 years ago, the land was in serious neglect under the Ottomans. In 1867, Mark Twain remarked while he visited that the holy land was “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.

The modern state of Israel can be proud and reflect on its accomplishments during the New Year for Trees.

Enjoy the holiday.

Bibi’s Paris Speech in Context

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu came to Paris, France in January 2015 to show his support for free speech and to confront anti-Semitism in the wake of terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket. He addressed a large Jewish audience at the Grand Synagogue where he invited the Jews to make aliyah – to move to Israel.netanyahu paris shul

“Any Jew who chooses to come to Israel will be greeted with open arms and an open heart, it is not a foreign nation, and hopefully they and you will one day come to Israel.”

Many people criticized his statement including, not surprisingly, his Israeli political opponents during an election season.  The French were also unhappy with the call to move to Israel. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
French President Francois Hollande made a similar statement a few days later: “French people of the Jewish faith, your place is here, in your home. France is your country.

It is right and proper that the leaders of France seek to assure the country’s Jewish citizens that France is their home and they should not flee the country from fear.  But to berate Netanyahu for his remarks does not take into account the climate in which the invitation to move to the Jewish State was made.

Consider that Netanyahu did not come to France and invite the French Jews after attacks targeting their community in 2012 or 2006. But he felt that the situation for Jews in Europe had deteriorated significantly throughout 2014 which compelled him to invite the largest Jewish population in Europe, with an estimated 500,000 people, to move to Israel:

In summary, the year before the Paris shootings was a cascade of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities in Europe.  The year 2014 began with Netanyahu releasing terrorists to push forward a peace initiative (of which he was very skeptical) at the urging of the USA and Europe.  It proved meaningless to the peace process and world opinion; Israel and Jews in Europe were attacked throughout the year, first by Palestinians and then by Europeans.

For Netanyahu, the prior twelve months had:

  1. Israel release prisoners, including Palestinian murderers of Israeli civilians, at the direct urging of allies
  2. Their Palestinian counter-party break peace talks by joining with Hamas and international organizations
  3. A summer in which: three teenagers were abducted and murdered; Israel located an extensive Hamas tunnel network from Gaza into Israel to launch attacks; Israel combated thousands of incoming missiles from Gaza. Yet Israel was still criticized by Europe and the global community for defensive actions
  4. European cities launch multiple riots against Jews
  5. European countries reward the Palestinians with admission to more world bodies and votes of endorsement
  6. The European Union remove Hamas from its terrorist list

For Netanyahu – and many Jews – the year in Europe echoed back 75 years to a period in which the continent nearly annihilated its Jewish citizens.  It was bad enough that Israelis contend with Palestinian Arabs that are more extreme than the Nazis of the 1930s.  But that Europeans embraced this ideaology was truly frightening, particularly as it stood in contrast to values they claimed to support.

In 1939, at the early stages of the Holocaust, Britain drafted the White Paper at the behest of Arabs in the Middle East, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine at the outset of the Holocaust – a move which likely killed over 100,000 Jews – despite the specific mandate to facilitate the immigration of Jews to their homeland.

In 2015, the Prime Minister of Israel heard the calls to kill Jews, and made clear that a world with an established Jewish State will not allow a repeat of the European Holocaust.


Related First One Through articles:

Europe hurting the peace process: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/failing-negotiation-102-europe/

Europe penalizing Israel even though Palestinians are the reluctant peace partner: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/european-narrative-over-facts/

Jews continue to move out of Europe to Israel and the US music video (Diana Ross): https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/the-loss-of-jews-in-europe-continues/

Ignoring Jihad only when it comes to Israel: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/radical-jihadists-in-europe-and-dislocated-and-alienated-palestinians-in-Israel/