Nov 16 2008

Jesse Jackson – Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Published by under Election,Thoughts

Once again Jesse Jackson has managed to open his mouth and insert his foot. It seems that the two are magnetically attracted to one another. While I don’t necessarily attribute much to the New York Post, this piece caught my attention.

As Jackson put it the most important change in American foreign policy will be the end of “decades of putting Israel’s interests first” (Taheri, Amir, “The O Jesse Knows“, The New York Post, October 14th 2008) and that “‘Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades’ remain strong, they’ll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House” (Taheri, Amir, “The O Jesse Knows“, The New York Post, October 14th 2008).

Now, Obama’s campaign has already made it quite clear that Jackson does not speak for or advise Senator Obama. It is quite clear from the quote above that the good Reverand is still as anti-semitic as he has always been and goes so far as to bring back the spectre of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in his quote. He is trying to portray American Jews as being a fifth column in America and using our supposed power to guide American foreign policy.

Normally I would discount the Rev. Jackson as being a has-been and a wacko…but I, as a Jew, do worry about the untested Obama. My hope is that Biden’s experience will temper Obama’s lack of it in this area and will result in a continued strong support for Israel. I have no immediate problem with Obama’s willingness to speak with Iran and other enemies of the United States. Both Generals Petreaus and McKiernon believe that we should pursue dialogue before military actions and I feel that they have some experience in this matter…clearly the Bush doctrine hasn’t gotten us anywhere but mired in Iraq.

My biggest concern is that an Obama administration will be overtly hostile to Israel and pro-Palestinian given the fact that Senator Obama has relied on the likes of Daniel Kurtzer, former Air Force Chief of Staff “Tony” McPeak, and Anthony Lake as advisors. However, I believe that Senator Obama is smarter than to take the advice of this group seriously. I feel that Senator Obama is still the better choice as he can help put America back on track…and a strong America is the best support for Israel. As it is, we will have to wait and see on November 4th.

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Aug 18 2008

The Danger of Redrawing Borders

Published by under Thoughts

The recent fighting in South Ossetia and Russia’s support for the separatists as well as those in Georgia’s province of Abkhazia has significant overtones beyond the current fighting. The implications down the road in terms of territorial integrity are enormous — not just for the Georgians but for everyone else as well. Hizbullah has already used this methodology in it’s terror campaign against Israel. After Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon to the Internationally recognized border and was certified as having done so by the United Nations, Hizbullah concocted a new objective — the return of Shebaa Farms. It turns out the Shebaa Farms area is in a soft of limbo state. Syria sometimes claims that the Shebaa Farms is its territory and sometimes claims that it belongs to Lebanon. The Lebanese government is equally ambiguous in terms of its maps.

The United Nations, however, has certified that Israel, after withdrawing from Southern Lebanon in 2000 has met its obligations with regards to United Nations Security Council Resolution 425.

“On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government’s position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defense and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic.”

In a June 18, 2000 statement, the Security Council noted that Israel and Lebanon had confirmed to the Secretary General, that identification of the withdrawal line was solely the responsibility of the UN and that both sides would respect the line as identified.

(“Shebaa Farms“, Wikipedia, August 2, 2008 )

Nevertheless this has not stopped Hizbullah from continuing to demand the return of the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon. If the world presses Israel to cede the Shebaa Farms territory it will send a dangerous signal to men like Hassan Nasrallah, Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev. Like their Middle East counterpart Nasrallah, Putin and Medvedev see a Russia flush with petrodollars and able to exert its influence once more. And they’re using their new found muscles on Georgia. By distributing Russian passports to the citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as appointing Russians to those territories governments Mr. Putin has south to “redraw” the border between Russia and Georgia. It’s a stepwise process — first extend your citizenship into areas you want to take then start a war to make the world pay attention and force the other side to give you what you want. And the world seems quite willing to do so.

The writing is on the wall in Israel. In June of 2008 Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice visited Lebanon and declared that there must be a solution to the disputed Shebaa Farms area (“Lebanon: Visit by U.S. Secretary of State“, Keesing’s World News Archive, June 23, 2008 ). What dispute? Both Lebanon and Israel have agreed that the United Nations is the sole body which could determine the withdrawl line between Israel and Lebanon and both Israel and Lebanon agreed that they would abide by the UN’s decision. But here we have the Secretary of State for the U.S. saying that the area must be negotiated over and possibly the international border redrawn.

It is extermely destructive. If the precedent is set that no border, even if it is unanimously certified by the UN Security Council, is final — that is if each “certified” border is merely the starting point for a new border dispute then any peace — whether it is between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, Russia and Georgia or Russia and any of the former Soviet republics — between neighboring states is impossible. And this is exactly what Putin is hoping for. If the world were to turn to Georgia and pressure it to cede Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the Russians and redraw the border in the Russian’s favor then Putin would set his sights on other border regions similarly until he has slowly cut up and swallowed his neighbors one piece at a time.

The U.S. and the rest of the world must stand up to men like Hassan Nasrallah and Valdimir Putin and tell them in no uncertain terms that this behavior is simply unacceptable. To do so Russia should be denied membership in the World Trade Organization, she should be ousted from the G8, and Georgia and Ukraine should be included in NATO at the earliest opportunity. It doesn’t matter if the man behind the plan is the Prime Minister of Russia or the leader of a terrorist organization — the world must stand up to these villians and tell them that such behavior is unacceptable and will have consequences.

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Jul 25 2008

Tough Love for Israel?

Published by under Israel

I was recently reading Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column in the New York Times, “Tough Love for Israel” in which he argues that what Israel needs now from America isn’t “more love, but tougher love”. He uses the responses he received on his own blog, nytimes.com/ontheground after he wrote an op-ed in the Times from Hebron. The writes in “Tough Love for Israel” that he received many counter-arguments to his points in the previous opinion piece and challenges to address them. One of the first ones he focuses on is the Jewish presence in Hebron:

Jews lived in Hebron for 1,800 years continuously … until their community was murdered in 1929 by their Arab neighbors. The Jews in Hebron today — those “settlers” — have reclaimed Jewish property. So I don’t see what makes them illegitimate or illegal. (Irving)

Mr. Kristof counters

“True, Jews have deep ties to Hebron, just as Christians do to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but none of these bonds confer any right to live in these places or even visit them”

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com).

Interesting. Just because we had previously deep ties to Hebron, Joseph’s Tomb, and other places in the West Bank, we don’t have the right to live there or visit. Ok, let’s take that argument on face value. I can live with that. But I can hear the Palestinian Arabs, and I’m sure all Arabs in general, howling right about now. That also negates their beloved “Right of Return” if they accept that argument. It is such a simplistic position because it negates the ability of any displaced persons from ever being allowed to return to their homes after a conflict. However, his response goes even further…remember what he says “but none of these bonds confer any right to live in these places or even visit them.” So that means that under a two-state solution the Palestinians can deny Israelis the right to even visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are buried. Of course the world would simply turn a blind eye to that but if Israel were to reciprocate and deny Arabs the right to visit, say, the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount Israel would be decried as an apartheid state (nothing new about this slander) and a rascist state (again, the left-wind already makes this claim). Nevertheless, I suspect that this probably wouldn’t happen (at least not “officially”) since it would cut down on tourism in the nascent Palestinian Arab state.

Let’s look at another argument Mr. Kristof received:

One side is a beautiful, literate, medically and scientifically and artistically an advanced society. The other side wants to throw bombs. Why shouldn’t there be a fence? (Mileway)

And Mr. Kristof counters:

So, build a fence. But construct it on the 1967 borders, not Palestinian land — and especially not where it divides Palestinian farmers from their land.

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com)

This is a hard one to argue against. The only argument that I can see is that there are “realities on the ground” as President Bush once said that need to be considered. I would argue that a land swap should be considered to compensate for land that cannot be excluded from the Israeli side of the fence. But let’s continue. Another counterargument Mr. Kristof received was:

While I do condemn this type of violence, it pales in contrast to Palestinian suicide bombers, rockets and other acts of terror against Jews. (Jay)

To which Mr. Kristof pulls statistics from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization:

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that a total of 123 Israeli minors have been killed by Palestinians since the second intifada began in 2000, compared with 951 Palestinian minors killed by Israeli security forces.

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com

True, the number of casualties on the Palestinian Arab side has been greater than the Israeli side but I believe that he misses the point. It’s not just more Palestinian Arab youths have died but the Jay is focusing on the nature of the attacks. The Palestinian Arab terrorists are deliberately targeting civilians and other targets that will illicit the greatest fear and horror in the Israeli public. On top of that the terrorists are operating from civilian areas and doing so knowing full well that civilians will be killed in any Israeli response. If they truly cared for their people they would follow the 4th Geneva Convention that explicitly bars an armed militia for operating within civilian areas and requires them to separate from civilian populated areas. Israel’s response, while regretably killing civilians, is aimed at the terrorist bases of operation. We are not deliberately targeting the civilians like the Palestinian Arab terrorists do with regards to Isrealis. In fact, during the second Lebanon War, the Israeli army, in many cases, went to great extremes to try and limit collateral civilian casualties during the fighting and in some cases this resulted in greater casualties among the soldiers. War is a dirty business…that’s why it’s a thing to be avoided. The problem seems to be that the Western nations (America and Europe) believe that it’s something that can be conducted “cleanly”.

Let’s move on to the last counterargument that Mr. Kristof brings up in his op-ed:

To withdraw from the West Bank without a partner on the Palestinian side will find Israel in the same fix it has once it withdrew from Gaza: a rain of daily rockets. Yes, the security barrier causes hardship, but terrorist attacks have almost disappeared. That means my kids can ride the bus, go to unguarded restaurants and not worry about being blown up on their way to school. Find another way to keep my kids safe, and I’ll happily tear down the barrier. (Laura)

On this one Mr. Kristof responds:

This is the argument that I have the most trouble countering. Laura has a point: The barrier and checkpoints have reduced terrorism. But as presently implemented, they — and the settlements — also reduce the prospect of a long-term peace agreement that is the best hope for Laura’s children.

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com)

The separation barrier has done more to reduce the number of terrorist attacks inside pre-1967 Israel than anything else tried since the start of the first Intifada. It has made living inside of pre-1967 Israel safer albeit not completely safe since there have been terrorist attacks since the barrier was built and completed.

However, Mr. Kristof doesn’t stop there. He continues:

If Israel were to stop the settlements, ease the checkpoints, allow people in and out more freely, and negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights and with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal, then peace might still elude the region. But Israel would at least be doing everything possible to secure its long-term future, rather than bolstering Hamas.

.(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com)

Let’s review his arguments. Israel should:

  1. “stop the settlements” — ok by me,
  2. “ease the checkpoints” — how do you do this and ensure that Terrorists will not get through undetected?,
  3. “allow people in and out more freely” — again, see my question with regards to the checkpoints,
  4. “negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights” — eh? Let’s see where the current talks with Syria being held in Turkey lead. If all it leads to is a cold and meaningless peace in exchange for the Golan Heights then what has Israel really gained?
  5. “negotiate more ethusiastically…with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal” — hmmm…let’s see. The Saudi peace proposal calls for:
    • Full withdrawl of Israel from all Arab lands captured since 1967 – i.e. “Land for Peace” – Israel’s stance since 1967
    • Implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 — no surprise there
    • The establishiment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital — a little sticky as to what would be considered “east Jerusalem”
    • A just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (i.e. “The Right of Return”) — hmmm…Mr. Kristof’s logic above however states that deep ties to places does not “confer any right to live in these places or even visit them.” That’s a bit of a problem.
    • The normalization of relations in the context of a comprehensive peace — that’s pretty vague.

In essence Mr. Kristof is putting all of the onus on Israel and none of it on the Palestinian Arabs or any of the Arab states in the region for the failure of the peace process. He argues that if Israel would, in essence, “just be reasonable” and give the Arabs what they want then we would have peace in the Middle East. What he fails to point out is that Israel has been trying that approach with the withdrawal from Gaza and southern Lebanon and look where it has gotten them — rockets rain down daily on the Israeli city of Sderot and occassionally on Ashkelon, anti-semitic incitement continues not just in Gaza but in the West Bank as well where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rules (Mr. Kristof calls him Israel’s “most reasonable partner ever”), and Hizbollah is already preparing it’s next pretext for war. The Jerusalem Report noted on July 16th 2008 that

According to the Hizbullah-affiliated daily Al-Akhbar, (deputy chair of Lebanon’s Supreme Shi’ite Islamic Council, Sheikh Abed al-Amir) Kiblan declared that seven villages whose Shi’ite inhabitants fled in 1948, and which were subsequently destroyed, “must return to their owners, our country and our people,” and Hizbullah’s arms would achieve this.

Gordon, Evelyn,Civil Fights: Hizbullah’s Next Pretext,The Jerusalem Post, July 16th 2008 )

These villages are inside of pre-1967 Israel and represent the Arab approach to demanding more and more from Israel even when it meets the its obligations according to the UN. Mr. Kristof misses it completely. His approach puts no burden on the Palestinian Arabs or the Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in putting forth honest, meaningful concessions into the peace process. In essence, they need have no “skin in the game” according to him. And, according to him, the only way for a new President, whether it’s Barack Obama or John McCain, to move the peace process forward is to show Israel “tough love.” Sorry…been there…done that. What is needed is a fresh and realistic approach…not “tough love.”

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Jul 18 2008

A Sad Day for Israel

Published by under Israel,Rants

Yesterday the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were returned to Israel in exchange for the remains of 199 Lebanese and Arab guerilla fighters and five others including Samir Qantar. Today, Ehud Goldwasser was buried and the pictures of the weeping widow and family breaks my heart. The Israeli government gave away too much. Now the enemies of Israel will feel that all they need to do is kidnap and kill Israeli soldiers to get what their prisoners released. Prime Minister Olmert has shown terrible judgement in this matter by releasing the murderer Qantar along with the others. Here is a man who murdered a 31-year old father in front of his four year old daughter before smashing her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle. And now he is being paraded by Hezbollah as a “hero.” And if you doubt the connection between these terrorist murderes and the philosophy of Adolph Hitler…just look at the pictures here. He truly is Adolph Qantar. May his name and his memory be blotted out.

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May 29 2008

A Perspective on the Conversion Controversy

Published by under Israel,Judaism

I have to give it to the Sephardim…they are much more realistic and much more pragmatic about some issues.

To give a little background, there is currently a big, brewing controversy in Israel and in Judaism as a whole with regards to conversion. It seems that a rabbinic court in Ashdod issued a ruling that essentially nullified the conversion of a woman who had converted to Judaism 15 years previously. She converted under the supervision of Rabbi Chaim Druckman who is currently (at least until June) the head of the Israeli Conversion Authority that was set up by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Anyway, a panel of judges from the High Rabbinical Court (of which the current Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar is president) has now issued a ruling that all conversions conducted by Rabbi Druckman were to be questioned and possibly nullified. This throws thousands of people who were converted under Rabbi Druckman through the Conversion Authority into a limbo — and not just them but also their children.

Now, Rabbi Amar has promised that he would nullify this ruling — which, as far as I know, he hasn’t done yet. The High Rabbinical Court is apparently packed with Chareidi rabbis who seem to believe that if a person converts to Judaism and then years down the road “goes off the path” then their conversion is invalid from the beginning and therefore can be retroactively nullified. I, personally, cannot understand how they can make such a decision but the impact can be devastating.

I was, however, sent a link to the this post that gives a Sephardi perspective on this whole issue and on how the mainstream Sephardi see converts. It’s very interesting that the rabbis on the High Rabbinical Court can feel that if someone converts and then years later relaxes in their observance or loses their faith that therefore the convert was insincere from the beginning and that their conversion was not valid. I wonder how they can make such a broad decision that future actions (even actions many years down the road) can determine whether a convert is sincere in their conversion at the time of the conversion. I especially liked the opinion by a former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Benzion Uziel, who said

The Beit Din does not need to know whether he will observe them. Otherwise you would close the door on all conversion, since we can never know what he will do. From this it is clear that conversion is not dependent on any future observance.
“The Sephardi Perspective: It is time to decide”

I think that says it all. You cannot predicate a person’s behavior today on what they may do tomorrow. Unfortunately the panel of rabbinical judges from the High Rabbinical Court do not seem to see this possibility.

Another issue that concerns me greatly is that the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has invited the Israeli rabbinate to start “overseeing” the conversions that are conducted by the RCA. They have decided to create regional rabbinic conversion courts that would be staffed by rabbis approved by the Israeli rabbinate and they would be the only ones whose conversions would be recognized by the Israeli rabbinate. I think that the RCA has made a major mistake in this regard and have signed away alot of their leverage with the Israeli rabbinate who can now choose the most strict Chareidi rabbis to be on these courts. This will cause significant problems down the road that have yet to be foreseen.

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