The New York Times Pre-Occupation with Lies

On March 9, 2017, The New York Times wrote an editorial called “Israel Says Dissenters Are Unwelcome.” The NYT editorial board did not simply disagree with Israel’s decision to bar entry to people that advocated for boycotting the Jewish State, it mischaracterized the situation completely.


New York Times editorial on March 9, 2017

In the editorial, the paper littered the article with the words “occupation” and “settlements.” It never stated that Israel does not view Jews living on the east side of the arbitrary Green Line (EGL) as an occupation, as international law in 1920 and 1922 explicitly gave Jews those exact rights. It never stated that advocates of the BDS campaign are adopting an anti-Semitic platform that was instituted by the Jordanians who expelled all of the Jews from the region in 1949, then annexed it and gave citizenship only to non-Jews. It did not give the readers the facts that the Palestinian Arabs have adopted this policy and have a law that selling any land to a Jew is punishable by death.

Further, the Times wrote that “The United States, Israel’s strongest military supporter, has consistently held that settlement building in the occupied territories is illegal.” That is a boldface lie. President Carter was the only US president to call Jews living in EGL/West Bank illegal. All others – including President Obama – used language like “unhelpful” or, as Obama said “illegitimate.”

Lastly, the editorial stated that BDS supporters are those “who support the search for a lasting peace.” The BDS campaign is all about anti-normalization of Jews and Arabs living and working together. It is either a call by anti-Semites and Israel haters, or by others that believe that a Jew-free state is the only solution for peace. If that is true, then Israel should apply the same logic and expel every Arab from the Jewish State. But the NYT labeled Israelis who advocate such approach as “far-right extremists.” Why not use the same label for BDS-supporters?


The editorial page is a place where the paper makes its opinions, and the paper has every right to state its ignorant views. However, printing outright lies and misinformation does nothing to educate readers. Other than to the fact that the Times consistently ignores facts.


Related First.One.Through articles:

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The Legal Israeli Settlements

The Israeli Peace Process versus the Palestinian Divorce Proceedings

New York Times Lies about the Gentleness of Zionism

The Many Lies of Jimmy Carter

New York Times Confusion on Free Speech

Israel’s Freedom of the Press; New York Times “Nonsense”

Social Media’s “Fake News” and Mainstream Media’s Half-Truths

The New York Times wants the military to defeat terrorists (but not Hamas)

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Take Names in the Propaganda War

The International Apartheid Week began its thirteenth annual hate-fest of lying propaganda this week. It’s aim is to circle the globe with calls on college campuses to end the Jewish State.

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Israel Apartheid Week at Columbia University

The basic call of IAW is to mischaracterize various foundational elements about Israel and urge today’s youth to destroy the “illegal” country. As stated on its website:

“The coming year (2017) will mark 100 years of Palestinian resistance against settler colonialism, since the inception of the Balfour Declaration. IAW will be an opportunity to reflect on this resistance and further advance BDS campaigns for the continued growth and impact of the movement.”

Note that the group claims that the “settler colonialism” began in 1917, when the British recognized in the Balfour Declaration – followed by the international community in 1920 (San Remo Agreement) and 1922 (Mandate of Palestine) – the historic rights of Jews to live in their homeland. For the IAW, the “apartheid” did not happen in 1967 after the Jordanians attacked Israel and lost the land east of the Green Line (EGL)/West Bank, but when international community made the following statement:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

A national home for the Jewish people – regardless of such borders – is an anathema to the IAW. As such, it seeks to undermine Israel and to destroy this democratic country by any means possible.

The lies and incitement to purge undesirables are not new ideas.

In Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels used anti-Semitic propaganda to enlist Europe to eradicate its Jewish population in World War II. In Asia today, ISIS uses online videos to recruit more jihadists to rid “non-believers” from its desired caliphate.

And on college campuses, IAW is using its propaganda to destroy the Jewish State.

Your Role

The Department of Homeland Security has trademarked a phrase “If you see something, say something.” The goal is to engage all Americans to be active in fighting terrorism. Similarly, the United Nations has a Counterterrorism Strategy which includes a goal to “prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts and prevent such conduct.

As IAW comes onto college campuses with a mission of destroying a democratic member of the United Nations, it is incumbent on every person to video every person that takes part in IAW – ideally getting their names – and reporting to law enforcement any calls to destroy the Jewish State.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

The UN is Watering the Seeds of Anti-Jewish Hate Speech for Future Massacres

The UN Fails on its Own Measures to address the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism

Elie Wiesel on Words

Martin Luther King and Zionism

The “Unclean” Jew in the Crosshairs

The Legal Israeli Settlements

Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

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Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Israel Has Returned Excellent Wine Making Back to the Middle East

There is one country in the Middle East that has reintroduced the art of wine making to international acclaim, after centuries of barely producing any wine at all: Israel.

Ancient History of Wine in the Holy Land

The Old Testament is full of stories of the use of wine in the Holy Land, and Judaism features wine prominently in many of its commandments.

Ancient synagogues in Israel are replete with vines and grapes adorning mosaics and columns in the Galilee, Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria. The architecture and art of the Romans who ruled in the region 2000 years ago also feature grapes and wine prominently.

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Ancient Synagogue in the Golan Heights featuring vines and grapes
along the portals to the Torah Ark (photo: First.One.Through)

The prevalence of vineyards and wine in the Holy Land came to a stop when Arabs invaded en masse in the 7th century, bringing Islam’s ban of alcohol to the region.  Further, an earthquake in 749CE led to a destruction of most of the synagogues and buildings that featured grapes and wine in the region.

For the next 1100 years, whether ruled by Arabs or non-Arab Muslims (the Ottomans), the land barely produced any wine at all.

Jews Bringing Wine back to the Holy Land

Some of the earliest records of wineries reopening in the Holy Land include Rabbi Yitzchak Shor in 1848, and Rabbi Avram Teperberg, who opened a winery in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1870.  The modern record of the longest continually operating wineries goes to the efforts of Baron Edmund de Rothschild, who established vineyards in Palestine and shortly thereafter the winery, Carmel, with a location in Rishon Le Zion (1890) and another in Zichron Yaakov (1892).

Winemaking spread further after the Six Day War in 1967, after Israel took control of Judea and Samaria which had been illegally annexed by Jordan in 1950. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in that war as well, as Syria had used that high plateau to bombard Israel’s Galilee region below it.  Israel turned both of those areas into thriving wine making regions, as they had been historically.

While there were 14 wineries in the Holy Land when the Jewish State was reestablished in 1948, there are over 200 wineries in the country today, with some estimates that include the very small wineries to being over 350 wineries.

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Entrance to Psagot Winery in the Binyamin section
of Judea and Samaria/ the West Bank

(photo: FirstOneThrough)

Wine Production in the Middle East

Today, Israel stands apart from the rest of the Middle East regarding wine production. The only neighbor that approaches the Jewish State’s fondness for wine is Lebanon, which not coincidentally, has a large Christian population.

Israel produced 31 million liters of wine in 2014. Lebanon placed second with just half Israel’s volume, 15.4 million liters. Egypt only produced 3m liters, while Syria, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the other regional countries did not rank at all.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese drink much more wine than they produce locally, 21.3m liters. In contrast, Israel consumes a small portion of the wine it produces, only 7.8m liters, and exports the rest around the world.

While the Muslim-dominated countries in the region do not produce wine, they do consume negligible amounts: Jordan consumes 373,000 liters, Egypt 225,000, KSA 114,000, and Syria just 15,000, a combined total that is less than 10% of Israel’s consumption, even while their population dwarfs Israel by over 17 times.

Medals, Awards and Notables

The Israelis have not just begun producing wine in the region again, they have perfected the art form.

Over the past several years, the Israeli wineries have produced excellent wines and have entered various competitions, including those held in Europe.  Wineries like Carmel (2010) and Golan Heights Winery (2011) even started winning top prizes at those events.

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Golan Heights Winery in Katzrin (photo: First.One.Through)

The Vineyards in Disputed Territories

Many of the award-winning wines are derived from grapes grown and wineries located in the disputed territories.

The Golan Heights was allocated to Syria under the Sykes-Picot Agreement after World War I.  Syria ruled the area until 1967, when Israel took the region from Syria to protect the Galilee region from persistent Syrian shelling.  Today, even in the midst of a bloody civil war that has claimed nearly half a million people, Syria continues to demand that the lands be returned.

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Some Israeli vineyards in the Golan Heights
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

The land east of the 1949 Armistice “Green” Line, (east of the Green Line, EGL, or the west bank of the Jordan River) was allocated to be part of the reestablished Jewish homeland in international law in 1920 and 1922 in the San Remo Agreement and the Mandate for Palestine, respectively. However, in 1947, the United Nations sought to divide the mandate into distinct Jewish and Arab states (which the Arabs rejected). The Arabs attacked Israel in 1948, took hold of EGL in 1949, and in 1950 the Jordanians annexed the area and renamed it the “West Bank.”  The Arabs want this land for a new country to be called Palestine.

Due to the disputed nature of the Golan Heights and the EGL/West Bank, there are international efforts underway to use distinct labels for the products from these regions.  Some governments contend that labeling the products as “Made in Israel,” is inaccurate, even though countries around the world use labels in such fashion for territories regularly.  Some stores have gone further, and boycott wines and other products produced in these contested areas.  The various products made in the Israeli territories account for about $250 million in exports, or about 1% of Israel’s export economy.

It is interesting that some of the countries that lead this boycott effort are the largest consumer of wine in the world.  They include: France (#2); Italy (#3); Germany (#4); the UK (#6); and Spain (#7). One would imagine that those countries would be thrilled that Israel has brought back award-winning wine production to the region that Islam had obliterated for centuries.  The Israelis not only share their values, but export items they adore.


Israel produces a wide variety of great wines today.  The wines run from the ancient – yes ancient, as Israelis are using science to bring back old wine recipes extracted from sediment found in ancient pottery, to brand new wines like Jezreel, a new winery established by an American family that made aliyah.

For lovers of wine around the world who are thrilled to see the Jewish State bring back the holy land’s great history of producing wine which was destroyed for a thousand years, don’t just buy the wine, insist that your local store stock the shelves with Israeli wines as well.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

Israel, Mother Nature’s Son

Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

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Israel is Found and Lost in Barcelona

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the largest conference dedicated to the enormous mobile ecosystem, and is, by far, the largest conference hosted in the beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain each year. The conference in February 2016 drew about 100,000 people from around the world. Israel was both well very well and very poorly represented.

Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry had a section of Hall 5 with 65 companies presenting, including Audiocodes and Alvarion. In Hall 2, the Israel Marketing Association had meeting spaces for over 20 companies including Kaltura and Radware. Other Israeli companies had large stand-alone booths in various halls including Allot Communication and Amdocs. And there was yet additional Israeli representation that was only observable to the observant, where Israeli technologies (as opposed to the companies) were featured within large non-Israeli companies that had acquired Israeli firms, such as Red Bend Software within Harman.

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Israeli companies at MWC in Barcelona, Spain, February 2016
(photo: First.One.Through)

The various Israeli companies attested to the enormous technology leadership that the small country had at the show. Thousands of people came to the Israeli booths to meet with their existing business partners and to learn about emerging technologies such as those from StoreDot and Insert.

Despite the significant Israeli presence, the MWC decided not to highlight Israel among the flags of the world at the show.

At the inside courtyard at the show’s southern entrance, and outside at the northern entrance, the MWC hoisted the flags of dozens of countries. They included countries that were prominent at the show including the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, China, India, Germany and Spain. Yet there were also flags of countries with little presence at the show, including: Mexico; Ukraine; and Argentina. Remarkably, the flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran were also flying high in the air.

But Israel’s flag was absent.

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30 flags from around the world inside the entrance at MWC in Barcelona, Spain
(photo: First.One.Through)

A little over 500 years ago, Spain expelled its 200,000 Jews, but recently, the country made efforts to mend ties with Jews. It finally recognized Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people in 2011, and in 2012, the country stated that it would grant Spanish citizenship to those Jews who could demonstrate that they were descended from Jews expelled in 1492. The same day that the Barcelona conference began, another city in Spain announced that it would not participate in any BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel.

For its part, the Mobile World Congress clearly did not participate in any BDS activity in allowing over 140 Israeli companies to present at the show. They did not block over 1000 Israelis from attending the event. Yet why did the blue and white Israeli flag with the Star of David get snubbed?

MWC published an article that was broadly distributed on the first day of the show about a study completed by the large Spanish Telecom phone company, Telefonica, about the state of the digital ecosystem among 34 countries. Among the findings highlighted in the MWC article, was that Saudi Arabia was, by far, the country with the worst digital ecosystem relative to the country’s wealth.  Yet MWC chose to fly the flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) outside the convention center, alongside the Spanish flag.

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Country flags outside northern entrance of Barcelona convention center.
KSA flag on right between South Korea and Spain.

(photo: First.One.Through)

What do you think could have been the thinking of flying the flag of Saudi Arabia, but not flying the Israeli flag?


Related First.One.Through articles:

The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

European Narrative over Facts

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J Street’s Select Appreciation of Transparency

J Street, a far-left lobbying group which calls itself “pro-Israel” has a select appreciation for the value of transparency.  Consider its statements in the recent past:

On October 23, 2015, the group stated: “J Street congratulates delegates to the World Zionist Congress for overwhelmingly approving a resolution requiring the institutions it oversees to provide Jewish communities around the world with comprehensive and accurate information on their budget, finances and activities.

This was an important vote for democracy and accountability. Jews in Israel and around the world should know where the money they raise to support the State of Israel is invested. They should know that these funds are spent in ways consistent with Jewish values and in a manner that advances Israel’s future as a secure democratic homeland of the Jewish people.  
 
For too long, the actions of vital institutions like the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization have operated in secrecy, cloaked in deliberate confusion. Investigations have raised serious concerns about corruption. Meanwhile, some of these organizations, under the direction of the Government of Israel, have funneled funds to strengthen settlements in the West Bank at the expense of needy communities within Israel’s 1967 boundaries…. This massive support shows that financial transparency is something Jews around the world can unite around.”

J Street seemed particularly happy with the notion of clearly showing the flow of funds at organizations as it promoted “democracy,” “accountability” and “transparency.”

However, if the transparency of the flow of funds came against parties J Street supported, like those that opposed settlements, J Street reversed its opinion.

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Executive Director of J Street, Jeremy Ben Ami
(photo: JTA/J Street)

On December 28, 2015, J Street condemned the Israeli government for a bill that would provide financial transparency of NGOs (non-governmental governmental organizations):

J Street is deeply concerned and disappointed by the Israeli cabinet’s decision Sunday to send to the Knesset for approval a one-sided bill aimed at restricting the work of progressive non-governmental organizations which monitor human rights and oppose the occupation…. The bill, which was introduced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the right-wing Jewish Home party, would create a series of onerous new requirements that aim to demonize and discredit progressive organizations. Under the guise of “transparency,” these groups would have to identify themselves as foreign agents on the grounds that they receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments. Meanwhile, right-wing organizations, which receive significant funding from private foreign entities, would be free to continue to funnel money to West Bank settlements and to other anti-democratic causes without being subject to the same requirements.”

Somehow, J Street likes transparency in some situations, while not in others.

The group claims that the bill only targets progressive groups, but that is not the case at all.  All NGOs, whether left-wing or right-wing, would be forced to declare if they received the majority of their funding from foreign governments.  All NGOs funded by private foreign entities – left-wing ones like George Soros’s Open Society, or right-wing groups – would not need to declare if that they were foreign entities.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and current MK (Kulanu) Michael Oren believes that the bill to provide transparency would hurt Israel’s ties to the United States.  He suggested including labels for private donations as well as governmental donations. “You either have transparency, or you don’t.

Perhaps a solution to meet everyone’s goals on transparency would be to label groups funded by foreign governments “Foreign Entities,” and those sponsored by private foreign money “Internationally Sponsored.”


J Street is always keen to expose, highlight and label Jews living in Judea and Samaria and those that support them.  As it states on its website: “Communal institutions should provide full transparency to supporters regarding the source, amount and purpose of funds transferred through their accounts to institutions and programs on the West Bank.

That is why J Street also supports removing the “Made in Israel” label of products made in the “West Bank,” and using a distinct label of products as being “Made in the West Bank.”

Just don’t make J Street or its supporters provide transparency itself on its foreign funding.


Note:  To learn more about which organizations and countries support the various lobbying and activist groups, go to NGO-Monitor.  For example, the anti-Zionism group Adalah received money from: Switzerland; Belgium; Netherlands; Germany; Sweden; Denmark; the EU as detailed here.

NGO Monitor


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J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

Adalah, Dismantling Zionism

Squeezing Zionism

Liberals’ Biggest Enemies of 2015

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J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

The BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel and Israeli companies has been going on for several years.  According to Professor Eugene Kontorovich, the movement focuses on three main areas: campuses; companies and countries.  He notes that the college campus activities get a lot of attention, but have little practical impact.  The BDS of specific Israeli companies have more direct financial ramifications on the targeted companies (like Sodastream), while actions by countries can have the most severe impact on the Jewish State.

In that light, it is interesting to note the actions of J Street, which describes itself as a “Pro-Israel” group.

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J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami
(photo: JTA/ J Street)

There is no question that the country with the largest economic and security relationship with Israel is the United States.  As detailed in “International-Domestic Abuse: Obama and Netanyahu,” the US is by far Israel’s largest trading partner.  Further, Israel relies on the US not only for $3 billion in military aid each year, but protection at the United Nations Security Council.

Therefore, the threat of the United States government putting pressure on Israel is many magnitudes more significant than a group of angry anthropologists on college campuses.  Such US pressure could cripple Israel both on a financial front and the security of its people.

And that is exactly what J Street proposes.

January 2011: “[I]f the [UN] Resolution [condemning Israeli settlements] does come to a vote, we urge the Obama administration to work to craft language, particularly around Jerusalem, that it can support condemning settlement activity and promoting a two-state solution.

While we hope never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations, we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.”

J Street advocated that the United States abandon Israel at the UN Security Council, a place where the US is often the only voice of support.  The statement above was so reprehensible to many, that even devout liberal politician Gary Ackerman (D-NY) condemned the group and stated that he would have nothing to do with it.

J Street continued:

In September 2014: “J Street urges the United States government to undertake a thorough review of its policy toward Israeli settlements and to announce the steps it will take if Israel goes forward with this decision. As a first step, it should declare now that it is the view of the United States that settlements are not merely “unhelpful” or “illegitimate” but illegal under international law as laid out in the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

There are many leading international authorities (as well as the government of Israel itself) that clearly lay out why the settlements are neither illegal, nor counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, it was the Jordanian annexation of the “West Bank” in 1950 and the expulsion of all of the Jews from the area that was clearly counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Not only does J Street not side with the Israeli government in this regard, it “urges the United States government” to penalize Israel at the United Nations security council and elsewhere.

These official policy statements of J Street have implications well beyond angry annoying voices at universities.  They put Israel directly at risk.

J Street may make proclamations that they do not support BDS, but their voices and lobbying efforts are actually much more dangerous to the security of Israel.


Related First One Through articles:

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

Liberals’ Biggest Enemies of 2015

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

Adalah, Dismantling Zionism

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Rick Jacobs’ Particular Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) held its biennial in Orlando, FL in November 2015. The head of the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, gave opening remarks that laid out his personal politics and worldview as the belief system of Reform Judaism.

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Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs
November 2015

Politics

Rabbi Jacobs is not a stranger to politics. In November 2014, Jacobs urged the state of Israel to not go forward with legislation to reaffirm its Jewish character. His position was that Israel needs more pluralism than Judaism; more universalism than particularism. In his opening speech to the Reform Movement one year later, he made clear that Judaism itself needed more of that approach too.

Jacobs spoke about Jewish values that are rooted in the Torah such as loving the stranger in your midst. He said that “thirty-six times the bible reminds us ‘v’ahavtem et ha’ger’ – to love the resident alien and treat the stranger as ourselves.” Indeed, such quotes are throughout the bible such as:

  • “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)
  • You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21)
  • He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

However, Jacobs opted to then announce his own personal political views as being the official mantra of the Reform Movement: specifically that Jews living east of the Green Line (EGL) in Judea and Samaria is wrong and should be opposed. He stated the “Reform Movement has long opposed Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank. The occupation threatens the very Zionism that we hold dear: the living expression of a Jewish democratic state.

Ignore for a moment that the global community endorsed Jews living throughout Palestine in the British Mandate of 1922.  How does a movement that prides itself on universalism advocate that anyone should be banned from living somewhere? How does a Jewish movement call for Jews being barred from living anywhere? How can a rabbi advocate for an anti-Semitic policy that is also directly against the bible?

Jacobs wants to see peace in holy land; he has no monopoly on that desire.

But why does a policy of welcoming strangers, mean adopting their hateful agenda? While Palestinian Arabs may demand Jews be prevented from buying and living in homes east of the Green Line (EGL), why should Jews endorse the same policy? There are many paths to a two state solution – and actual peace – that would not bar Jews from living in parts of the holy land.

The vast majority of Jews living EGL/ Judea and Samaria, want to live at peace with their Arab neighbors. These are lands that Jews have lived in for thousands of years and without any prohibitions from the League of Nations nor under the Ottomans before them.

While many Reform Jews may agree with Jacobs and his J Street view, does Reform Judaism leave no room for Jews with different views? Is Reform Judaism only open to radical liberals?

A Failure to Educate and Celebrate Israel

Jacobs did passionately defend Israel and spoke clearly of his opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).  He continued that many young people “feel that Israel has become too intolerant, not only of Arab citizens, but also of non-Orthodox Jews, Ethiopian Jews, LGBT Jews, asylum seekers and others.” He tacitly agreed to this viewpoint.

Exactly how does Jacobs believe that he defends Israel?  Just by saying that he is against BDS?

Why doesn’t he educate people and celebrate the accomplishments of Israel? Why isn’t he and the Reform Movement at the forefront of telling fellow liberal friends that Israel is the most liberal country in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and in much of the world?


Jacobs called for a Reform Judaism that welcomes everyone in something he called “audacious hospitality.” He advocated a universalistic approach to the world over one of particularism.

Yet the leader of the Reform movement put forth a narrow political agenda regarding Israel that only spoke to a slice of its members, and by doing so created a wedge within the community about Israel. He failed to educate the community about Israel’s values that it shares, and thereby left a gap between Reform Judaism and the Jewish State.

There is a lot to love about Israel and much to learn about the different approaches to peace in the Middle East.  It would be better – and more consistent – for Rabbi Jacobs to understand that Reform Jews have a range of opinions about Israel that are consistent with Judaism and “loving one’s neighbor as thyself”, not in priority over oneself.

It would also go a long way to healing rifts between the broader Jewish community, and between the diaspora community and Israel.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

A Disservice to Jewish Community

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

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The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

The European Union has taken upon itself to challenge the labelling of products that are made east of the Green Line as “Made in Israel”.   They should consider international norms and the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians before doing so.

“Made in USA” in US Territories

It is common practice for countries that have territories that are not incorporated into the country, to label products produced in those locations as being made in the country. For example, products produced in American Samoa (say for Sears Department stores) sport the “Made in USA” label even though the products were produced thousands of miles away from US shores on an island that was never part of the country by non-US citizens.

“Made in Israel” in Israeli Territory

Similarly, Israeli law allows products made in Israeli territory to carry the “Made in Israel” label.  The differences between the US and Israeli polices are that the products made in Area C of the West Bank are made by Israeli citizens, and many countries consider the Israeli territory to not be Israeli at all.

The claim that Area C is not Israeli is peculiar, since the land is specifically designated as Israeli territory by the 1993 Oslo II Accords that were agreed to and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That agreement laid out that Israel continues to have both civil and security control of Area C.  The final determination of control of the area will be decided in a final status agreement, which has not yet occurred. Until that time, the area remains Israeli territory (as opposed to Area A which is Palestinian Authority Territory).

Reasons behind Labelling

The labeling of products is meant to do two main things: inform a consumer about the origins of a product; and distinguish items as they relate to taxes and tariffs.

In the United States, labelling a product from American Samoa as being “Made in USA” may be misleading to consumers about the true origin of the item, but it is consistent as it relates to tariffs. The same holds true for Israeli policy towards items from Area C.

From the EU’s perspective, not only does it seek to inform European consumers about the precise location of origin of foreign products, it wishes to uniquely harm Israel as it disputes the Israeli claim over Area C (despite the Israel-Palestinian Authority agreement noted above). It is therefore requiring a change of labels from “Made in Israel” to “Made in the West Bank” for items produced east of the Green Line.

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Dates in London, England labelled “West Bank”
(photo: Friends of Al Aqsa London)

Israel has attempted to stop the European Union from embarking on this policy. It fears that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement will hurt its economy by not only not purchasing Israeli products, but by trying to ban the items from store shelves. Some argue that providing a distinct label for products from the settlements would actually help Israel as there are people in Europe who only seek to avoid products from the settlements, but would gladly purchase items from within Israel’s 1949 Armistice Lines. The reality is that many organizations that are promoting the EU policy for distinct labelling of Israel vs. “West Bank” seek to boycott and harm all of Israel. For example, Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA) prints advertisements that call for boycotting all products from anywhere in Israel and its territory.

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Ad by FOA calling for Boycott of products from “Israel, West Bank (Settlements) & Jordan Valley”

As it relates to taxes and tariffs, the European Union established a framework of trading with Israel in the EU-Israel Association Agreement (1995) which took effect in June 2000. The language in the agreement repeatedly refers to “countries and territories” which can be interpreted broadly to include territories of both European member states as well as Israel.

EU Action Only for Israel

The European Union distinction of strictly labelling products to exclude Israeli territory is unique for Israel.  The EU makes no distinctions for countries where it does not challenge the legal authority (like the US with American Samoa), AND for other countries where it disagrees with the claim on disputed land. Some examples:

  • In 1974, Turkey illegally seized one-third of the Cyprus and declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity which is not recognized by any country in the world other than Turkey. Yet the EU avoids heated discussions with Turkey over the labelling of products from TRNC such as its famous halloumi cheese.
  • When it comes to China, the EU trips over itself to facilitate trade. As stated on the EU website on trade: “China is the EU’s biggest source of imports by far, and has also become one of the EU’s fastest growing export markets. The EU has also become China’s biggest source of imports. China and Europe now trade well over €1 billion a day.” Trade includes items made in Tibet, and the EU has not addressed any specific “Made in Tibet” labelling. This is despite China occupying Tibet and transferring 7.5 million Chinese into the territory, counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • India has a long running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. The EU stated that it is “committed to further increase their trade flows in both goods and services as well as bilateral investment and access to public procurement through the Free Trade Agreement negotiations that were launched in 2007.” No specific labelling program has been discussed for items coming from Kashmir.

The European Union has shown a unique fascination with Israeli territories.

  • It makes no labelling distinction for other disputed territories such as Tibet and Kashmir to assist consumers
  • It does not dispute the tariff system that countries use for its territories like the United States with American Samoa
  • The EU ignores the Oslo II agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which specifically segment the Israeli settlements in Area C as Israeli territory
  • It ignores its own trade agreement with Israel

And the EU does all of these things knowing full well of the intention of the BDS movement to leverage their actions to harm the Jewish State.

Double standards and unique critical attention for Israel is considered anti-Semitism, even by US President Barack Obama who said “[if] you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology… you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

It would appear that many Europeans would choose to wear the “Anti-Semitism” label with honor.


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

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Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

 Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic, penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Angry voices are again being heard about J Street due to their position in favor of the Iranian nuclear deal promoted by the Obama administration. Is Wieseltier correct in that we only seek to hear our own voices and that “the orthodoxies and the bubbles and the closed loops and the echo chambers are everywhere?” Is there a “red line” that J Street and others have crossed and therefore deserve to be excluded from the broad tent of acceptable conversation?

Individual Hate Speech

Many countries have laws that ban hate speech. Sometimes the exact language is clearly spelled out about what cannot be said publicly and sometimes it is more general in nature.

For example, several European countries, including Germany, have laws that prohibit Holocaust denial. Those countries took such steps not simply because such expressions offend Jews, but because of the continent’s failure to step in and protect Jews which led to their slaughter. Silence became complicity which must never be allowed to happen again.

For its part, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 16/18 whose goal is “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.” The resolution was drafted principally at the behest of Islamic countries who were worried about the spread of “Islamophobia.”

The various laws against hate speech all seek to curtail an incitement to violence and harm. The banned speech relates to a specific group of people (ie. Muslims) and not a concept (for example, a religion like Islam).  While a person can legally say disparaging remarks about a concept (“Communism is evil”), one risks breaking the law by attacking a group of people (“All Communists should be beaten up”).

Banned Groups

Hate Speech laws are typically drafted against individuals. However, laws are also drafted against groups that incite violence.  Israel banned two political parties, Kach and Kahane Chai in 1994 as they were defined as terrorist organizations.  The groups’ ideology was based on the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane who called for expelling Arabs from Israel, thereby running afoul of the premise of calling for negative actions against people.  Israel has also banned some Arab parties from running in elections which supported terrorism.

BDS, Hamas and Iran

Liberals and J Street supporters feel that BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), Hamas and the Iranian nuclear deal should be rightly within civil discourse.  However, do these topics and groups support violence against people, or are they just broad discussions about policies and ideas?

BDS: Reasonable people can arrive at different conclusions about Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Some feel that all the settlements are completely legal as called for in international law in 1922, while others feel that Jews living east of the Green Line is against international law as recently stated by the UN Secretary General. Those competing viewpoints would fall within legal and acceptable conversation, both in public society and in an open-minded pro-Israel community.

However, inciting hatred against settlers is inciting violence.  Calling on the economic strangulation of Jews who legally purchased homes and businesses is akin to hate speech.  As such, new laws are being passed which specifically outlaw supporting BDS.

Hamas: Hamas is a rabidly anti-Semitic organization that calls for the complete destruction of Israel. It has fired well over 10,000 rockets into Israel, killed thousands of people in hundreds of attacks. Since completely taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has engaged in three wars against Israel.

Supporting Hamas in any way is supporting terror.  It should be banned completely in public society and in the pro-Israel tent.

Iranian nuclear deal: The Iranian nuclear agreement took various turns over the past several years. As Iran openly calls for the destruction of Israel, any group supporting Iran or helping Iran obtain weaponry would be supporting violence against Israel.

While the Iranian deal may arguably slow down Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, it certainly gives Iran tremendous financing and weaponry.  As such, 78% of Israelis oppose the Iran deal in its current format.

J Street Views

J Street has taken provocative stances on these three issues.

  • On BDS, the group technically states that it opposes the BDS movement, while it supports efforts that do call for BDS, particularly of communities east of the Green Line.
  • On Hamas, the group’s own website states that “Hamas is a political movement with an important and significant base of support within Palestinian society… and we support efforts by third parties to achieve reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas which Israel opposes] and a unity government.”  One could similarly say that the Nazi party was a political party.
  • On Iran, the group launched a major campaign to support the deal, in direct opposition to pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC and the government of Israel itself. J Street was even against Iranian sanctions in 2009.

20150724_072448
 Full page J Street Advertisement supporting Iran Deal
New York Times July 25, 2015

On these issues which directly harm Israelis and the state of Israel, J Street has sided against the stated desires of the government of Israel.  Each time, they have taken stances which closely align with Israel’s enemies which seek to harm the country and its citizens.

Further, and most alarmingly, J Street has urged the Obama administration to vote against Israel at the United Nations Security Council, which is the sole voice of support in many instances. That action was so reprehensible, that even devout liberal politician Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated….America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.

Erekat
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat at J Street Conference
March 2015 (photo: J Street)

A Related View from Tisha b’Av

The Talmud relates a story about the reason the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed:

In Gittin 56ab the Talmud tells the story of zealots who wanted to fight the Romans as they got ready to attack Jerusalem. These zealots burned decades worth of food that had been stored in Jerusalem in order to force the residents of the city to confront the Romans.

These zealots undoubtedly considered themselves pro-Jewish. They thought that by destroying all safeguards and alternative options, they could force the rest of the Jewish people to adopt their position in the battle against Rome.

J Street, like the zealots 2000 years ago, view themselves as pro-Israel. While some parts of the Arab and Muslim world (f/k/a Romans) may seek to attack and destroy Israel, J Street views their approach to the conflict as the only logical course of action.  As such, they have engaged in co-opting the US government to take positions against those sought by the government of Israel.  Like the zealots who burned all of Jerusalem’s food supplies (now known as US support), they feel that Israel stripped of all of the territories won in 1967, without a Gaza blockade, and with a nuclear pact in place with Iran will secure Israel’s future. J Street is pursuing global and US pressure to make that happen, rather than seeking to convince the Israeli government.

JStreet-Map
Bookmark designed for J Street Conference
(Photo: Lisa Goldman)

 In the minds of many, the J Street positions have made them the a modern-looking version of Neturei Karta, the anti-Zionist Chasidic sect, similar to the clean-shaven Jewish outreach people who market a more modern version of Chabad outreach.


Debating the merits of different approaches for how Israel deals with hostile neighbors is within constructive debate.  Consistently arguing in favor of Israel’s enemies that seek to destroy the country and kill its people is akin to inciting violence.

Review the statements and positions of J Street here and consider whether such voices deserve to be heard in your community.


Related First One Through articles:

New York Times Confusion on Free Speech

Selective Speech

A Disservice to Jewish Community

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Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

The Israeli Peace Process versus the Palestinian Divorce Proceedings

Summary: The gap in resolving the long running Israel-Palestinian Question has to do with the goals of each party: the Israelis believe they have been engaged in a peace process between peoples while the Palestinians are negotiating a divorce settlement between countries.

Politicians and the media – both well-meaning and otherwise – have blamed various parties for the failures to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When they are not directly pointing accusing fingers, they still use language which conveys their biases. A person needn’t look past the language used in discussions about Jewish homes beyond the Green Line/ 1949 Armistice Lines – the “settlements”.

“Settlements”

“Viability”: As detailed in “A Viable Palestinian State”, various parties have described the “settlements” as a hindrance to a viable Palestinian state. The statement is meant as a direct attack on Israel, and is absurd. If a Palestinian state cannot exist with a 5% Jewish population, then surely Israel cannot exist with a 20% Muslim population. Are the people that make such a comment looking for Israel to expel a million Israeli Arabs?

Similarly, if a viable Palestine is compromised because such new country would be only 15km across at a single point, surely Israel cannot exist in its current configuration with a 15km narrow corridor for a dozen kilometers. Are these politicians and media pundits suggesting that Israel must annex the entire spine of the land?

“Complication” and “Provocation”: Another sentiment that is expressed is that settlements “complicate the peace process.” As conveyed in June 2015 by the New York Times in an article called “Israel’s work on a West Bank Site Gives Rise to New Suspicion,” even existing homes purchased by private individuals (as opposed to new communities established by the Israeli government) hurt the peace process. The article described a man who purchased an abandoned building and surrounding property: “Leftist Israeli politicians and advocacy groups have reacted with alarm, suspecting a new settlement in the occupied West Bank [a NYT term] that would further complicate the peace process.

This statement is similar to the rebuke of the Obama administration to Jews buying and moving into homes they own in Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem. As detailed in the FirstOneThrough article “Obama supports Anti-Semitic Palestinian Agenda of Jew-Free State,” the Obama administration condemned Jews for legally buying homes and becoming neighbors in an Arab neighborhood east of the Green Line, referring to such basic act of living as a provocation.

And therein lies the basic gap in understanding the actions, intentions and goals of the two sides.

20150610_080707
New York Times article quoting “leftists” that claim that individual Jews owning land east of the Green Line “complicates peace”

Israeli Peace Process

The primary stated goals of the negotiations were to get to a peace based on two states:

  • The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu May 2011
  • Our goal is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The process is the one of direct negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to resolve all the permanent status issues and end the occupation that began in 1967 under which Palestinians have suffered so much.” Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas June 2003

As part of making peace with Palestinian Arabs, Israel has stated it will enable a new state of Palestine to be created.  For their part, the Palestinian Arabs are interested in their new state to be self-governing and to not deal with Israeli Jews. Israel has focused on peace with the people; Palestinians have focused on separation of the people. Two states living side-by-side in peace is not the same as two people living side-by-side in peace.

A peace process is best established with various personal, commercial and governmental relationships and dealings. Such interactions would enable the parties to navigate ongoing thorny issues like water rights and security.  It would enable partnerships to develop tourism and the economy.

Israel understands the importance of establishing relationships with its Arab neighbors.  As soon as the country was founded in 1948, the country granted 160,000 non-Jews citizenship and extended an offer and desire for peace with the neighboring Arab countries.  When Israel annexed Jerusalem, it offered all of the people there citizenship.  As of 2015, non-Jews account for 25% of Israel and have full rights in the most liberal country in the region, and one of the most liberal in the world. In the 2015 Israeli election, the Arab party placed third among the dozen parties seeking seats in the Knesset.

Over the decades, Israel forged peace agreements with neighboring Arab countries Egypt and Jordan.  It has stated that it is ready to so with Palestinian Arabs and the other neighboring countries as well.

Palestinian Divorce Proceedings

When Israel captured the area east of the Green Line in 1967 after it was attacked by the Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs, it rescinded the Jordanian ban on Jews living in the area (from 1949-67).  Israel allowed Jews to live and establish themselves in the region once again where they bought existing houses next to Arabs, built new houses, and created new companies.

All of which, made the Palestinian Arabs angry.

The Palestinians do not want Jewish neighbors in a new state.  Acting President Abbas made very clear his intention when he declared “we will not see the presence of a single Israeli – soldier or civilian – on our lands.”

The Palestinians do not want any Jewish businesses in a new state.  Despite the extraordinary efforts that some companies like Sodastream went through to hire Palestinian Arabs in its plant east of the Green Line (EGL) to work alongside Israeli Arabs and Jews, Palestinians put pressure on the company to abandon the area – which it did. Palestinians promote a BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of all businesses established by Jews in the EGL.

Palestinians think Jews have no rights to buy or live anywhere in the land. They think the entire region – including Israel – is Arab land and that Jews have no history in the region. One can often hear Abbas and other Palestinians refer to the “Judaization” of the land, as if the holy land never had Jews.

The Palestinians reject the legitimacy of Israel itself. While the Palestinians will acknowledge the fact that Israel exists and will negotiate with it, they do not view the existence of the Jewish state as legitimate. They consider Jews colonialists and Israel a foreign colonial enterprise.  As such, they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish State.

The Palestinians are not looking for peace with Israel, nor are they seeking peace with Jews. They view the presence of both in the entire holy land as illegitimate. Their goals are to completely separate themselves from Israel and Jews in their own state, and to reestablish a majority Arab presence inside of Israel. Within their new country, the Palestinians do not want a single Israeli person or business.  Inside of Israel, they want millions of Arabs that are second and third generation removed from Arabs that once lived in the land, to specifically move to Israel because they feel that such land is also Arab land which Jews took illegally.

 

That is why Jewish “settlements” east of the Green Line are inaccurately called obstacles to a “peace process.” Jewish homes and businesses east of the Green Line do NOT “complicate the peace process”, they complicate the divorce proceedings that the Palestinians desire. A Jewish presence can only be called a “provocation” to a people that want to be rid of Jews.

It is not inaccurate to state that Jewish homes in EGL complicate permanent status negotiations, but it is an inversion of the truth to claim that they hurt the “peace process.”

 


Related First One Through articles:

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

Delivery of the Fictional Palestinian Keys

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria