“Now, you may hear from advocates that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers that don’t want to leave can just stay in Palestine like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point, my friends; the Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s law.
Does anyone here really believe that the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?”
US Secretary of State John Kerry made a public speech after the UN Security Council voted to condemn Israelis living east of the Green Line as “illegal” and an obstacle to peace. In his speech, Kerry chose to continue to attack Israel’s actions as being illegal and contrary to peace, even though the US didn’t technically vote in favor of the resolution (the US abstention alone was enough to let it pass).
The quote above is symbolic of the Kerry’s passive-aggressive vitriol against the Jewish State.
John Kerry admonishing Israel December 28, 2016 (photo: AP)
Kerry chose to ignore the vile anti-Semitism that is the essence of the Palestinian Authority’s demand that no Jews be allowed to live in a new Palestinian State. Instead, he placed the blame on Israeli Jews, commenting that no Jew would consider living in a home subject to Palestinian law. Really?
Does Kerry realize that there were 1 million Jews living in Muslim lands from Morocco to Afghanistan during this century? Most of those Jews fled countries like Egypt and Morocco during the 1950s and 1960s when those governments began Anti-Semitic edicts. The Jews in Afghanistan fled in the 1930s. Jews from Yemen started to leave in the 1880s, and established communities like Silwan in the eastern part of Jerusalem (which the UN claims is “occupied Palestinian territory.”)
During the Ottoman rule in Palestine, Jews were the fastest growing group by far. Consider that from 1800 to 1922, the number of Jews in Palestine grew by almost 3.5 times, while the number of Muslims grew by less than 2 times. Further, Jews have been a MAJORITY in Jerusalem since the 1860s. During this time period, the Jews in Jerusalem called themselves Palestinian Jews.
Until the reestablishment of the Jewish State in 1948, there was no exclusive use of the term “Palestinian” to refer to only Arabs. People called themselves Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Christians or Palestinian Arabs for centuries before the Palestinian Liberation Organization adopted the term for their exclusive use under the 1964 PLO Charter Article 6: “The Palestinians are those Arab citizens who were living normally in Palestine up to 1947, whether they remained or were expelled. Every child who was born to a Palestinian parent after this date whether in Palestine or outside is a Palestinian.”
Jews once had a long history of living in Muslim countries, including in Palestine under the Ottoman Turks. However, the history of Jews willingly living in Muslim countries disappeared when rabid anti-Semitism took hold of their governments and forced Jews to flee their homes throughout the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, with the sole exception of Palestine/Israel.
Anti-Semitism is still rife in Muslim countries, and the Palestinian Arabs are the most anti-Semitic, with 93% holding anti-Semitic opinions according to the latest ADL poll. Is that the reason that Kerry believes that no settler “will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine,” as such laws would likely be completely anti-Semitic (like current laws in which selling land to a Jew is a capital offense)?
If that is the case, why doesn’t the Obama administration EVER castigate the Palestinian Arabs and its leadership for their gross anti-Semitism? Does the desire for Palestinian Arab self-determination trump the fact that the Arabs would likely impose anti-Jewish laws? Are the United States and United Nations actively seeking to create a Nazi state alongside Israel?
If the United States believes that the Palestinian Arabs are grossly anti-Semitic, how does it pretend that the two-state solution will have Israel “living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors?” How could any country expect Israel to go along with such a dangerous plan?
Which goes to the essence of Kerry’s comment above. To sell the notion of a peace agreement, the core of the problem MUST be the Israelis.
If Kerry were to admit that the lack of a peace agreement stems from Palestinian Authority anti-Semitism and the rejection of the basic human rights of Jews to live in the land, he would be tacitly admitting that there can never be peace. However, by portraying the problem as stemming from Israel’s settlements, he cut off the line of reasoning. A Judenrein Palestine that is the GOAL would indicate that the entire peace process is a sham; however, a Judenrein Palestine that is simply a BYPRODUCT of arriving at a two-state solution, masks the lethal inherent flaw.
As Kerry casually tossed out the notion that Israeli Jews should “self-deport” from lands that international law mandated to them in the 1920s but which the UN Security Council now has ignored, he threw a red herring before people hungry for peace. All but the deaf and blind saw through the deception.
Over the past decades, the literary world has seen the introduction of a new specialized category of books enter the mainstream and become very popular: do-it-yourself books, or DIY for short. Books like the “…For Dummies” have been written on a wide range of topics, ranging from auto repair, to football, to computer programming. People believed that they could understand – or at least become proficient at a subject – by reading a book by someone they never heard of or knew.
Yet people purchased the books without knowledge of the author for a few reasons: 1) they obviously wanted to learn the material, and wanted an easy to understand tutorial; 2) they knew the brand covered lot of topics and was widely popular; and 3) they may have heard good reviews from a friend. One would imagine that if the people heard bad reviews or knew that the author was a failure, no one would touch the books.
Is this formulation true in politics? If people want to learn something from a former politician, would they care if the person was a failure? If no one they respect likes the politician’s opinion would they listen? Or would the brand of their position (their title) hold enough clout that they would pay any attention to what that person had to say?
US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled the world for the last four years with a fantastic brand: the global diplomat for the most powerful country in the world and a leading democracy. His credentials opened doors in every part of the globe, as countries sought to trade with US, or to obtain US protection and aid.
But Kerry’s impact on the Middle East was terrible. The eight years of the Obama administration watched the region spiral into killing fields and a race for nuclear weapons. One of the results for the failures in word and deed has been the worst refugee crisis in generations, with millions of Muslims and Arabs fleeing into the western world.
Americans noted the failed foreign policy (and domestic too), and voted out any continuation of Obama’s policies.
So as he was leaving office, Obama doubled down on his failure. He gave tacit approval to a UN Security Council resolution condemening Israelis living across an invisible line as “illegal,” and then his Secretary of Defense John Kerry condemned Israel in a long speech. Presumably the speech was for Israelis and Palestinian Arab consumption, as well as their leadership. It was likely intended for in the incoming Trump administration as well.
The issue for all of these consumers is that the authors are confirmed failures. The Obama administration could not get the Palestinian Authoity to even engage seriously with Israel. Instead, the PA sought unilateral action at the United Nations to become a state. It was rewarded by the Obama administration with another UN victory, but no movement towards peace.
With such a tarnished image, and a step from retirement, why would Israelis or their leadership pay heed to the actions and comments of Obama and Kerry? Have any of their supporters “bought the book” and think there are pearls of wisdom to be found?
Only the left-wing fringe group, J Street, that has long pushed the Obama administration to condemn Israel at the United Nations, applauded the UN resolution and Kerry’s speech. In language that masked the far flung liberal mindset of the group, it stated that such a move was “bipartisan” in the hope of swinging would-be “pro-Israel, pro-peace” consumers to ingest the bile.
John Kerry spoke to the world about the centrality of Israel’s security to any peace agreement, even after a history of the State Department giving only scant lip service to Israel’s need to fight terrorism, while the US enabled Iran to keep its entire nuclear weapons infrastructure. Kerry said that “friendships require mutual repect.” Is that why Obama snubbed Israel by turning down an invitation to speak to the Knesset and opted to address Israeli students – long before Netanyahu came to address Congress in 2015?
Neither the Israeli people nor Israeli leadership was listening to Kerry. The Trump administration made clear that they think the Obama/ Kerry policies were total failures. The major pro-Israel groups came out against the UN vote and Kerry’s speech, and went on to educate the broader pro-Israel community that the remarks were disgraceful, and the approach unacceptable.
Which leaves a person to wonder who Kerry was actually addressing.
The reality was that the speech was not meant as a call to action for Israel or the incoming Trump administration to move the region towards peace. Kerry was addressing the Arab world and telling them they were right all along. Kerry followed a long list of Democrats seeking a lavish life in retirement, like Jimmy Carter, the Clinton Foundation and Al Gore.
Kerry used the western world as a vehicle to show his devotion to the Palestinian cause. He treated the Israelis as mere tools so that he can enjoy the splendors of the Arab world.
For those that seek actual peace in the Middle East, the declaration and observations of a failure should be treated in the manner it deserves.
“1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;”
On December 23, 2016, the United States opted to abstain from a UN Security Council resolution that allowed the body to condemn all Israeli “settlements” living east of the 1949 Armistice Lines/ the Green Line as illegal. Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations addressed the council after the vote to explain her reasons.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power December 23, 2016
Ms. Power began her speech by underscoring “the United States’ deep and long-standing commitment to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.” But her rationale really took aim with the goal of two states, not a comprehensive peace.
The Israeli Actions
She claimed that the “United States’ long-standing position that Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967:
undermines Israel’s security,
harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and
erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region.”
Each point is deeply flawed.
Israel is the tiniest and most isolated country in the Middle East and much of the world. It is only 15km across (without the West Bank) around its most densely populated areas. The capital sits on the border of the West Bank, a situation that is impossible from a security perspective, especially considering the country has been in a state of war with its neighbors for virtually the entirety of its existence. To state that enlarging its narrow borders undermines its security is obviously false.
The second comment that the settlements harm the viability of a Palestinian State is ridiculous. Annexing portions of Area C of the West Bank such as E1 and Maale Adumim would make a Palestinian State in the West Bank 15km across at a single narrow place- not for many kilometers as is the case for Israel. The argument that a Palestinian state cannot be viable if it is 15km narrow at a single point underscores that Israel should annex the entire middle of the land.
Ms. Power reserved her comment about peace – theoretically what most concerned her – for the very end. Because the connection to settlements it is nonsensical. How can Jews in a new Palestinian State undermine peace? Doesn’t peace mean getting along?
Not for the Obama administration.
Power clarified that: “One cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict. One has to make a choice between settlements and separation.”
If that is indeed the US position that peace can only be achieved by completely separating the parties, ensuring that no Jews be allowed to live east of the Green Line, then it would stand to reason that the US must be promoting the notion that all Arabs be expelled from Israel. How can Israel incorporate over 1 million Arabs if separation is the key to peace?
The Obama administration pulled their world-view together when Power addressed the problems stemming from the actions of Palestinian Arabs:
“For Palestinian leaders, that means recognizing the obvious: that in addition to taking innocent lives – the incitement to violence, the glorification of terrorists, and the growth of violent extremism erodes prospects for peace, as this resolution makes crystal clear.“
The comment that violent extremism and the murder of innocents “erodes the prospects for peace,” is not stating the obvious; it NEGATES the obvious by destroying its very definition. Killing someone doesn’t undermine the prospects for living, it ENDS living.
When acting-President of the Palestinian Authority names schools, squares and soccer tournaments after terrorists who killed civilians, it CONTRADICTS peace.
When Abbas takes to the loudspeakers asking for martyrs to converge on Jerusalem, he NEGATES peace.
When Palestinian Arabs vote the terrorist group Hamas – which has the most anti-Semitic charter in the world which calls for the complete destruction of Israel and murder of Jews – to a whopping 58% of the parliament, they DESTROY peace.
When 93% of Palestinian Arabs are anti-Semites, they NULLIFY peace.
When the UN Secretary General says that he supports the integration of Hamas into a Palestinian unity government, the global body UNDERMINES peace.
Power conflated the “prospects for peace” and a new Palestinian state. She essentially argued that Palestinian Arabs are only killing now to get a new state, and will stop when they get independence. Such approach willfully ignored the inconvenient fact that Hamas launched three wars from Gaza since Israel withdrew from the region.
Power recognized the threat of violence; she just felt that enough military hardware would make the inconvenient violence manageable:
“Israelis are rightfully concerned about making sure there is not a new terrorist haven next door. President Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security because that is what we believe in.”
While Power argued that the United States would supply enough military equipment to ensure a viable and secure Israel, even in narrow borders, she stated the armament was intended to combat “a new terrorist haven.” She seemed to have missed the point that the terrorists are not new. They are part of the established elected Palestinian government itself, and supported by the world body that just condemned Israel.
When Power opened her remarks at the UNSC discussing a “comprehensive and lasting peace,” she was only addressing the Israelis. Only the Israelis are seeking peace; the Palestinian Arabs are seeking a state.
The notion that Palestinian Arab violence undermines the “prospects for peace” is wishful thinking that the violence will stop once a Palestinian State is created. The violence that is incited and celebrated by Palestinian leadership is pure evil, and undermines the rationale of allowing such a state to come into being at all. While all people deserve freedom and self-determination, should the United Nations actively endorse the creation of a violent and anti-Semitic regime as a pathway towards peace and stability?
On December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements east of the Green Line as “illegal” and called for the removal of all of them, including those in Jerusalem. It passed because the US decided to abstain, rather than veto such resolutions as it typically does.
There is a pathway to right this wrong, as a new US administration and head of the United Nations will soon take over.
On December 12, 2016, former Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres was sworn in as the new United Nations Secretary General, and on December 19, Republican Donald Trump secured the electoral college to become the next president of the United States. Both men can restart positive relations with the State of Israel. The recommendations listed below are just a few positive actions that can promote peace in the Middle East.
Positive Actions for the United States
President Barack Obama had a very rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was not simply a matter of personal chemistry; Obama took various steps to create significant “daylight” between the US and Israel. Trump can fix those Obama missteps.
1. Recommit to the 2004 Bush Letter.
On April 14, 2004, US President George W Bush wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, giving Israel assurances of US support in conjunction with Sharon’s planned withdrawal of Israeli presence from Gaza. The language in the letter had bipartisan support, and the 2008 Democratic Platform used key clauses from the letter as its official policy regarding Israel.
However, Obama opted to ignore the letter and all of the US commitments. He gutted key components of US assurances, and had the 2012 Democratic platform remove all of the Israeli-oriented positions completely.
Those commitments from President Bush included:
“United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.”
“Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”
“Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.”
“The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”
“Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations.”
“The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.”
“It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”
“In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.”
“the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders”
“the United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent”
“the United States believes that all states in the region have special responsibilities: to support the building of the institutions of a Palestinian state; to fight terrorism, and cut off all forms of assistance to individuals and groups engaged in terrorism; and to begin now to move toward more normal relations with the State of Israel.”
The Trump administration should recommit to these principles that were abandoned under Obama.
2. Clearly Define that the Obstacle to Peace is anti-normalization, not settlements.
The goal of two-states living in peace starts with the desire to live in peace, not the desire for two states. A Palestinian Authority leadership that incites violence cannot be rewarded with a state. Parties that engage in BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of Israel or Israeli territories are anti-Semitic and work against a two state solution.
Obama inverted this formulation, and pushed for two states before pushing for peace. He fought Israeli settlements, including asking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements in 2009, shortly after assuming office. No movement was made by the Palestinian Authority to advance peace. No matter, Obama took a parting shot at Israel by allowing the UN Security Council resolution labeling the settlements as illegal, as if that would advance peace.
Trump should focus on stopping the Arab incitement to violence and glorification of murderers. Penalties should be assessed including withholding US financial assistance and meeting with American leaders should the Palestinian Authority not reform.
3. Terror must be stopped and fought completely.
As the world has started to confront terror in recent years, much the way Israel has since being reestablished, it has fought the terrorism with absolute clarity and global support. Not so for Israel.
Obama asked Israel to confront terrorism with “reasonableness and restraint,” something that the US hasn’t done in its ongoing war against terrorism since September 11, 2001.
Donald Trump should give Israel the same complete support in combatting evil, as every other country in the world is offered when it confronts terrorism.
4. Recognize Anti-Semitism
For a reason only known to him, President Obama was loathe to call out anti-Semitism.
When Islamic terrorists killed people in Paris, France, including in a kosher supermarket, Obama called that attack “random,” and his administration twisted itself to refrain from stating the obvious – that the killers went to kill Jews.
When Obama gave his final State of the Union address, he once again decided to call out “Islamophobia” in the United States, as he did often in his presidency. He did this even though an average Jew is two times more likely to be targeted by hate crimes than an average Muslim. But there was no mention of anti-Semitism.
The Jewish State is not oblivious to the treatment of Jews in America and France, home to the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel. By recognizing anti-Semitism with a fraction of the concern that Obama showed for Islamophobia, would be a very positive step for US-Israel relations.
Donald Trump addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition, December 2015 (photo: FirstOneThrough)
5. Clarity: Settlements are not illegal; no Hamas in a Palestinian Unity Government
In taking the four actions noted above, the United States government will once again underscore its long-held bipartisan approaches to Israel. Repeating the assurance that Israel must have “defensible borders” that will not “return to the Armistice lines of 1949,” recognizes that many Israeli settlements over the Green Line will be incorporated into Israel. This is a sharp reversal from the anti-Semitic comments of the Obama administration that felt that any Jew living over the Green Line – even in existing apartments in Jerusalem – are anti-peace, and now, with a wink to the UNSC resolution, illegal.
Further, understanding that Israel must “take actions against terrorist organizations” like Hamas, offers more support to banning the organization from any Palestinian unity government.
The Trump administration should underscore these two points clearly, as it can have a positive impact in how other allies and the United Nations treat Israel.
Positive Actions for the United Nations
The United Nations is a cesspool of autocrats and dictators.
The UN is the poster child of a “bucket of deplorables” of homophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, xenophobes and racists. As such, the UN Secretary General is often viewed as the deplorable mascot.
It is difficult – ney, impossible – to get many of these countries to be civil, and the UNSG cannot enforce peaceful interactions in the world. However, he can make changes to how the institution itself runs, and his own comments as they relate to Israel.
1. Fold UNRWA into the UNHCR
The United Nations created an organization for Palestinian Arab refugees on December 8, 1949. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was created as a temporary agency to help Arabs that lost their homes after five neighboring Arab countries invaded Israel after it declared statehood in May 1948. Today, UNRWA has morphed into something unrecognizable, giving “refugee” status to millions of descendants of refugees and perpetuating a conflict.
As the incoming UNSG knows, having served as the High Commissioner of Refugees from 2005 to 2015, there is another UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, which works with ACTUAL refugees that are fleeing war zones. It provides real relief for families in transition. It works with millions of refugees from around the world with a fraction of the budget of UNRWA.
More significantly, the UNHCR focuses on providing services for civilians without taking sides in a conflict. Not so UNRWA, which consistently attacks Israel and tells grandchildren of refugees that – with UNRWA’s help – they will return to homes and villages that no longer exist in Israel.
UNRWA perpetuates the suffering of the stateless Arabs from Palestine, and the ongoing conflict with Israel. Over the course of five years, UNRWA should be closed and services should be transitioned to the same relief agency that the rest of the world uses, UNHCR. The descendants of refugees from the 1948-9 Israeli-Arab war should have their ability to obtain services gradually withdrawn.
2. Isolate Iran
Any United Nations member state that threatens to destroy another member state should be completely isolated. Such a state should no longer be allowed to chair any committee. It should no longer be allowed to vote on any resolution. Its flag should be removed from the hall and from the exterior of the all United Nations buildings.
The inspections of the nuclear facilities should not just be rigorous in ensuring that Iran is in compliance. It should be reinforced without any rights or approvals by Iran.
Such treatment should remain in place until such state clearly rescinds such threats.
3. Remove the Standing Measure Against Israel
The UN Human Rights Council has a standing agenda item to criticize only one country in the world – Israel. It must stop the practice immediately.
4. Clean House in the UN Media Centre
The UN has a press group that summarizes the many sessions that happen at the sprawling UN and its many agencies. It selects what items to cover, which people to highlight and the quotes to cover in the stories.
In an organization which is littered with Israel-bashers, the UN Media Centre takes the hate to yet another level. It edits quotes from people that appear sympathetic to Israel and magnifies injuries by Palestinian Arabs. That is not a recipe for fairness or to advance peace. It is a form of incitement itself.
5. Clarity: No Hamas in the Palestinian Government; Stand with Israel
In addition to fixing the anti-Israel bias that is structurally part of the UN, Antonio Guterres should make his own opinions about the Israeli-Arab relationship known.
Outgoing UNSG Ban Ki Moon often stated that he stood with Gaza, and encouraged Hamas to become part of a Palestinian Authority unity government. It was disgusting and disgraceful to every Israeli and civilized person to watch the head of the UN promote a vile anti-Semitic terrorist group that openly calls for killing Jews and destroying Israel. The sentiment was aggravated by Ban Ki Moon’s never stating that he stood with Israel in its fight against terrorism.
Mr. Guterres should be clear that he supports Israel and every country’s fight against terror. He must be clear that there is no room for Hamas in any conversation whatsoever, until it replaces its charter and states that it seeks peace with Israel.
The United States had historically been the best and biggest ally of Israel, while the United Nations abused the Jewish State as if the organization was the reincarnation of the Spanish Inquisition. Obama left his legacy as a horrific foreign policy president, as he threw his lot in with the real bucket of deplorables.
With the five steps outlined above for both the US and UN, the relationship with Israel can be reset, and the cause of peace in the region advanced.
The various religious denominations in Judaism have coexisted peacefully in the United States for over one hundred years. Each denomination has very different viewpoints on the Torah and on acceptable practices and customs in matters of religious life. The choices each make are distinct, and they do not seek to control or influence how the other denominations choose to interpret or handle their religious lives. As such, the tolerance that each exhibits for the other is just a consequence, not a goal. The groups are not fighting over the same remote control. They lead parallel lives.
It is with this in mind that I note the various themes and calls for “tolerance” over the past months from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism.
Jacobs opens his message with a note from Dr. Shaye Cohen who claimed that the battle of the Hasmoneans “marks the first time in recorded history that a war was begun in defense of religious liberty and individual freedom of belief.” An interesting point from a Harvard professor with a PhD in Ancient History.
However, the comment was quickly misinterpreted by Jacobs. In the following paragraph he wrote that “The Maccabees fought the first battle for religious tolerance in history. (emphasis added).” That is a complete distortion of Cohen’s comment and of history.
Judah the Maccabee in battle
The story of Chanukah related to the Syrian Greeks trying to Hellenize the Jews over 2100 years ago. The Greeks did not seek to introduce another alternative form of religious practice into the Holy Land. They sought to replace Judaism by defiling the Jews’ religious places. The fight was an ALL-OR-NONE proposition.
The reaction by the Hasmoneans was similar in nature. The fought back for “religious liberty” and to rid the land of pagan practices. They countered the defilement of the Temple with purifying the Temple. They responded to the introduction of pagan practices with its expulsion. The last thing that Chanukah celebrated was “religious tolerance.” It was a battle between all-or-nones.
Reform’s View of Tolerance in Israel Today
Judea and Samaria
Rabbi Jacobs misunderstanding of tolerance stretches from his interpretation of history in the Holy Land from over 2000 years ago until today.
In November 2015, Jacobs addressed his reform movement’s biennial in a keynote address. In this important speech about the direction of Reform Judaism he said (at 24:30) “Our Reform Movement, we have long opposed Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank (applause). The occupation threatens the very Zionism we hold dear.” He declared that his religious movement opposed Jews living in parts of the Holy Land. Seemingly not very tolerant.
He continued: “- the living expression of a Jewish and democratic state. It causes pain and hardship to the Palestinians and alienates Israel from friends and allies around the world. Only two states for two peoples, both states viable and secure, living side-by-side in peace, will bring this tragic conflict to its long-awaited end (loud applause).” Jacobs argued for a tolerance achieved by separation. A divide into two distinct states. However, he really meant a specific state of Arabs which should have no Jews, and a second state of Israel with both Jews and Arabs (the “progressive” two state solution is 1.5 states for Arabs and 0.5 states for Jews).
It was a curious twist on tolerance, for a “progressive” to condemn a Jewish “settler” that sought to live in peace alongside Arabs.
Rabbi Jacobs comments in November 2015 seemed to come into conflict with his actions a few months later.
In July 2016, Rabbi Jacobs marched into the occupied territories and demanded rights for Reform Jews.
Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, center, participating in a prayer service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 4, 2016. (photo: Courtesy of the URJ)
Rabbi Jacobs came to the Old City of Jerusalem to pray and advocate for new privileges for non-Orthodox Jews. He did not seem to care or notice that much of the world considers the Old City of Jerusalem to be occupied Palestinian territory. That same territory which he thinks should be under Palestinian Authority, a political agency which advocates against Jews living anywhere in the area and seeks to stop the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.
His mind-bending views on “tolerance” continued as he led and advocated for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel.
The Kotel is the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple Mount. It has was the area set aside by Suleiman I 450 years ago for Jews to pray, after he kicked them off of the Temple Mount itself. Since 1967, the area has functioned as an Orthodox synagogue, and only Orthodox prayer practices are allowed there.
Jacobs seeks to change that and demands the legality of non-Orthodox practices at the Western Wall. He is not satisfied with non-Orthodox prayers happening at the Southern Wall (which is actually bigger and prettier), away from the Orthodox services. We wants the Orthodox to tolerate his practices at the Kotel.
This is quite a different approach than Jacobs applies in other situations. Jacobs normally advocates for peace via separation; tolerance via parallel paths. Yet when it comes to the Kotel, (in an area he thinks shouldn’t even be part of Israel), he has demanded to impose his practices in the space of others.
Real Tolerance in Israel Today
The story of Chanukah was a fight for “religious liberty.” The all-or-none approach of the Greeks was countered with an all-or-none purge by the Jews. Neither side sought “religious tolerance.”
Remarkably, Modern Israel has taken a different approach.
While the Arabs of the Middle East sought to stop Jewish immigration – even at the dawn of the Holocaust – Israel opted to grant 160,000 non-Jews Israeli citizenship when it declared a state in 1948.
Even though the Arabs expelled all of the Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem in 1949, after Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, it handed religious control of the Jewish Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf.
Even though the Arabs continue to advocate for a Jew-free state, Israel has allowed all Arabs in Jerusalem to apply for Israeli citizenship since it annexed the eastern part of the city.
In a world where the all-or-none approach is typically met with an all-or-none response, Israel has shown remarkable tolerance and acceptance of “the other.”
Rabbi Jacobs chose to distort the meaning of Chanukah and turned it into a call for advocacy on behalf Muslims in Burma in a global fight for religious tolerance. It is a nice message, but one not found in Chanukah, and disconnected from his attitudes towards Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.
Let’s celebrate the holiday of Chanukah and the miracle of Modern Israel. It is a story that liberals can enjoy without distorting history and the English language.
On December 16, 2016, Preisdent Barack Obama held his last press conference as president. In his remarks, he discussed why the Democrats lost the election. He said that “People feel as if they’re not being heard. Democrats are characterized as coastal liberal latte-sipping politically-correct out-of-touch folks.”
President Barack Obama at his final press conference
Some liberals were upset by Obama’s comment. They noted that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes, so they claim that the Democrats’ message was indeed heard and appreciated by the majority of Americans.
However, that margin of victory was indeed found in the coastal liberal areas. Look at election results in just eight counties in California:
Hillary Clinton’s entire margin of victory in the popular vote was eclipsed in just these eight coastal latte-sipping politically-correct out-of-touch counties. Other California liberal counties like Marin, Sonoma and Orange counties added hundreds of thousands of incremental votes for Clinton.
Put another way, Republican President-elect Donald Trump won the popular vote as well as the electoral college outside of the California coastal counties.
What kind of liberal laws are found in these counties that are not typical of the rest of America?
Sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants
First in transgender laws in bathrooms and locker rooms
Most liberal abortion laws in the country
First cities to increase minimum wage to highest levels in the country
Highest income taxes
Highest “sin taxes” for alcohol and tobacco
Toughest gun laws
Right to Die laws
Equal pay laws making it easier for women to sue bosses
Voting law that automatically registers people who get licenses to vote
Cities make it illegal for grocers to provide plastic bags
A liberal neighbor to the north – Portland, Oregon – just passed a law that makes it a crime for a CEO to make too much money relative to his other workers. Another push by the liberal coast to advance a measure counter to American values.
So when Obama suggests that Democrats “have to be in the [non-liberal] communities,” to retake the White House, he simplified the Clinton and Democrats’ problem. The reality is that the Democrats have to reengage the entire country, not just a couple of isolated “communities,” and consider whether the entire country wants to embrace its left-wing platform.
On December 19, 2016, a Turkish policeman assassinated the Russian Ambassador to Turkey. The killer loudly proclaimed in front of rolling cameras that he did so because of the killings happening in Syria in the civil war that has claimed 500,000 lives. He called out the city of Aleppo, which was under siege by the Syrian Assad regime with the assistance of Russia.
The murder of Russian diplomat Andrey Karlov in Ankara. (Photo: REUTERS)
The United Nations outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the assassination. His comment implied that there was no basis for the attack.
“The Secretary-General is appalled by this senseless act of terror and emphasizes that there can be no justification for the targeting of diplomatic personnel and civilians.”
Did Ban Ki Moon not watch the video or read the transcript of why the murderer committed the act? Did he not appreciate Russia’s role in the massacre in Aleppo? Or did he feel that the murder of a Russian diplomat had nothing to do with alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people?
By way of comparison, consider how Ban Ki Moon discussed the Palestinian Arab terrorism against Israelis in 2014. He said:
“We must address these underlying issues – including mutual recognition, occupation, despair and the denial of dignity — so people do not feel they have to resort to violence as a means of expressing their grievances.”
When it came to the murder of Israeli civilians, the UNSG seemed to sympathize with the Palestinian Arab murderers. He did not speak of “senseless acts of terror,” but of the “underlying issues” behind the attacks. He did not say that there was “no justification” for the murder of innocents, but that the killings were a natural means of “expressing their grievances.”
While more Syrians have been killed in the year 2016 than the combined total of all Palestinian Arabs, Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians in every war with Israel since 1948, the UN cannot comprehend the grievances of Syrians or why they might “resort to violence.”
While at the same time, no murder of Israelis can ever be “senseless” for the United Nations.
J Street touts itself as an alternative to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It is not. It is the liberal alternative to the Republican Jewish Coalition, the RJC.
The difference is important.
By not using a clear delineator that the group is a left-wing partisan organization by using a name like Progressive Jewish Coalition, J Street misleads the public that it is a mainstream group. It uses a benign tagline “The Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans,” as opposed to the more clear tagline as used by the RJC, “Fostering & enhancing ties between the American Jewish Community & Republican Lawmakers.” By doing so, J Street has attempted to displace the actual bipartisan mainstream group AIPAC. It is completely misleading.
As evidence of its partisanship, consider that the people JStreetPAC supported in the 2016 election were all Democrats.
There is no crime in being a partisan group. Indeed, the RJC points out that it views J Street as the competition as it supports Republican candidates for office. The RJC does not pretend to be anything but biased.
Marketing materials produced by the Republican Jewish Coalition comparing its performance in the 2016 elections to J Street
However, when the media quotes J Street, it appears that it is quoting a balanced pro-Israel group, rather than a part of the Democratic machine. Articles by the Times quote AIPAC and J Street, as if the two are balanced with one being hawkish and the latter dovish. That absurdity gives a false message to readers. The media should either only quote AIPAC, or use quotes from both J Street and the RJC.
As the Republicans take control of the White House and both the Senate and House of Representatives, one can envision that J Street will be attacking appointments, bills and positions over the next few years. The media and readers must keep in mind that the views of J Street are simply those of the opposition, and do not represent the Jewish community’s independent views on Israel.
There is no shortage of anti-Semitism in the world.
The Anti Defamation League (ADL) conducted polls in 2014 (somewhat updated in 2015) which showed that many people felt that Jews had too much control of the media and financial markets. Some respondents believed that Jews were too pompous or were engaged in activities that made people hate them.
The Islamic countries were the most anti-Semitic by a far margin. The rankings:
West Bank & Gaza: 93% of the areas are anti-Semites
you get the idea.
These percentages dwarfed the non-Muslim countries like Japan 23%, Italy 20%, and Brazil 16%.
A further analysis revealed a split in the nature of the anti-Semitic feelings. Even countries which showed an inclination for Jew-hatred, appreciated that Jews were not responsible for the wars in the world. That was an opinion uniquely held by Muslims.
Consider Turkey and Greece. The two neighboring countries have a long and strained relationship with each other, mostly over land and religious matters (Turkey is Muslim and Greece is Christian). Interestingly, the countries have nearly identical negative feelings towards Jews, with Turkey and Greece having 70% and 67% anti-Semitic attitudes, respectively. However, the underlying reasons behind the hatred in the two countries were quite different.
In 2015, 76% of Turks felt that Jews had too much power in the financial markets, while 85% of Greeks held that opinion (note that Greece had been going through dire financial problems). Roughly 63% of Turks felt that Jews had too much control over the global media, while 58% of Greeks felt the same. And 55% of Turks felt that Jews discussed the Holocaust too much, while 70% of Greeks felt the same.
Similar attitudes overall, and a trend that would suggest that Greeks were even more anti-Semitic than the Turks.
However, when the question was posed “Are Jews responsible for most of the world’s wars?” 53% of the people in Turkey responded yes, while only 33% of the people in Greece agreed. A wide margin of difference.
Outside of the Muslim world, very few countries believed that Jews were responsible for world wars, even among the anti-Semites.
In Poland, with 37% anti-Semites, only 14% believed Jews had anything to do with wars
In Ukraine (32% anti-Semitic), only 14% believed Jews were tied to wars
Spain, 29% anti-Semitic and 11% believed a Jewish connection to wars
Latvia, 28% anti-Semitic; 12% tied Jews to wars
Argentina, 24% anti-Semitic and 14% tied Jews to wars
The ADL started to segment the respondents of some European countries with a significant Muslim population. The Muslims were significantly more anti-Semitic than fellow citizens.
In France, only 4% and 6% of atheists and Christians, respectively, believed that Jews were responsible for wars. The percentage was 24% for Muslims in France
In the United Kingdom, 6% of both atheists and Christians believed that Jews were responsible for wars, but 34% of the Muslims in the UK held that view – over five times as many.
In Malaysia, 23% of Buddhists think that Jews are responsible for wars, but 78% of Muslims believe – over three times as many.
As the non-Muslim world sees the Muslim world at war with itself in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, it has concluded that Jews have nothing to do with the anarchy, death and destruction. But the Islamic world turns to an old familiar scapegoat and blames the Jews.
Consider the most anti-Semitic regions of the world again. The Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Yemen and Libya top the list. There are fewer Jews in Iraq, Yemen and Libya COMBINED than there are in a New York City subway car. Yet those countries – at war – are the most anti-Semitic.
They believe that the cause of their misfortune is not their own inept governments or co-religionists. It is the Jews.
Syrian security officers gather in front of destroyed buildings where triple bombs exploded at the Saadallah al-Jabri square, in Aleppo city, on October 3, 2012.
The terrorist Islamic group Hamas makes its thoughts clear in its charter, Article 22:
“For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. They took into consideration the causes affecting the current of events. They strived to amass great and substantive material wealth which they devoted to the realisation of their dream. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”
The world watches in horror the brutality of ISIS torturing and slaughtering anyone outside of their narrow Islamic view. The world is appalled at the destruction of Aleppo and the murder of civilians in Syria. And the world understands full well, that this is battle where the Jews have no part.
A horrific terrorist attack on a Coptic Church in Cairo Egypt killed dozens on December 11, 2016. The coverage in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal could not have been more different, and underline an ongoing difference between the two papers: the WSJ does not shy away from telling its viewers about radical Muslims targeting Christians and Jews in the Middle East, while the NYT would rather minimize that story, and highlight the Muslims are also victims in the wave of jihadists.
Cover of The Wall Street Journal December 12, 2016
The cover page of the WSJ had a single large color photograph of the carnage in Cairo. The boldface title of the picture read” “Bombing in Cairo Kills Dozens of Christians, Mostly Women.” The caption continued: “Targeted: A nun surveys a church attached to Cairo’s Coptic cathedral, where at least 25 were killed in a bombing on Sunday. A8” The paper did not seek to place the blame on radical Muslims on the cover, but it did make clear that Christians were specifically targeted in the attack.
Now consider the coverage in the Times.
Cover of The New York Times December 12, 2016
The main picture on the NYT cover page was about discrimination against poor people. It was part of a multi-day story of the Times about injustices faced by people of color and the indigent. The smaller picture on the bottom of the page discussed how ISIS marked up the pages of children’s books, presumably of Muslim children. There was no coverage of the attack on the Christian community in Egypt.
Page A4 in the Times, December 12, 2016
The Times did cover the story in the middle of the paper. On page A4 there was a copy of the same picture that the Wall Street Journal posted in color on the front page. However, the Times posted it in black-and-white. The Times shrunk the picture to such a level, that it was almost hard to notice it compared to the giant picture of Nigerian refugees (people of color) in the middle of the page. The headline of the bombing attack did state that the “Bombing Targets Egypt’s Christian Minority,” however, it is a question of whether anyone would pause to read the article compared to the prominent article on the page “Niger Feels Ripple Effect of Boko Haram.”
The Times coverage of world affairs follows a familiar pattern: Christians and Jews do suffer, but hardly as much as Muslims and people of color. Racism and Islamophobia are the themes of the Times. Do not get distracted by tinges of hatred of Christians and Jews. To do so, would be to invert victim and perpetrator.