Archive for category Israel

My party, right or wrong

Why Republicans shouldn’t expect to win over Jewish voters

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If Moses won’t come to the mountain, bring the mountain to Moses.

This might be the tagline from conservative strategists’ latest brainstorm: according to Politico, the Republican Jewish Coalition is spearheading a multi-million dollar campaign to woo Jewish voters away from their generations-long love affair with the Democrat party.

A more accurate tagline might be: Good night and good luck.

The proposed PR blitz presumes that the party loyalty of American Jews can be weakened by a two-pronged attack.  First, invoking American policy toward Israel.  Second, attributing the resurgence of anti-Semitism to liberal political policy.

Both assumptions are flawed, and here’s why.

Most American Jews are deeply conflicted about the State of Israel.  As I explain in my article, “Why Jews are Liberals,” the average American Jew has largely abandoned every outward vestige of his Judaism.  All he has left is the echo of Jewish idealism, the mission to elevate human society by serving as a model of virtue.

That’s good as far as it goes.  But untethered from the practices of traditional Jewish observance, that idealism has no discernible outlet except through the causes of social justice – which, perforce, require supporting every underdog against every establishment, any David against any Goliath.

Based on that template, the First World, along with its every manifestation, is intrinsically evil.  Western Civilization, capitalism, the tech industry, and economic success – all these must be lumped together as villains and oppressors.  The success of American Jews themselves is atoned for through Jewish guilt and active support for victims.

Those victims are defined, for the sake of convenience, as any person or group opposing or opposed by people or nations of privilege.  And since Israel is an American ally, a military power, and an economic dynamo, by definition it automatically gets filed in the category of “oppressor.”

This is why the perverse rewriting of history that brands Israel as an aggressor and occupier garners so little objection from American Jews.  It doesn’t fit the narrative; therefore, it challenges the basic assumptions of what American Jews believe.  See no evil; hear no evil.

That’s why American Jews, 78% of whom supported Barack Obama in 2008, continued to support him overwhelmingly in 2012.  Despite a long record of undisguised and unapologetic animus toward Israel, Mr. Obama retained 69% of the Jewish vote when he ran for reelection.  There’s little cause to believe that Donald Trump could ever erode that margin significantly further.

The issue of anti-Semitism is even more of a non-starter, for much the same reasons.

Despite many generations of history proving otherwise, secular Jews have long believed that anti-Semitism is the natural consequence of drawing attention to themselves.  The remedy is to blend in.  And, since most American Jews associate only with liberals and progressives, they can’t even conceptualize deviating from the party line as a viable option.

With so much invested in progressive ideology, American Jews won’t let little details like Democrat Congresswoman IIhan Omar’s open anti-Semitism or Beto O’Rourke’s slur of Benyamin Netanyahu shake their party loyalty.  Always, ideology trumps ethnicity.

It’s worth noting that the large majority of Orthodox Jews identify themselves as politically conservative.  The failure of social justice programs, abandonment of traditional values, and militant hostility toward Israel provide more than enough reason for the religious to reject progressive liberalism in general and the Democrat party in particular.

But the religious still make up only a small minority of American Jews, and the Republicans don’t need a campaign to win them over.

What strategy should be employed to turn American Jews?  The same one that should be used toward mainstream liberals. Rather than trying to shame them by challenging the political allegiance, quietly leave them agonize over their party’s abdication to the extreme left wing.  They may not vote Republican, but they may stay home and note vote at all.

Published in Jewish World Review and the Jewish Press

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More Moral Confusion over Israel

Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

imagesAfter Charles Krauthammer wrote so articulately about the moral clarity in Gaza (July 18), it is astonishing that there remains such profound moral confusion.

Exactly why are Arielle Klagsbrun, Hedy Epstein and Maya Harris (“The American Jewish community must value all life,” July 22) so eager to misrepresent the history of Israel, and to condemn their fellow Jews for the unspeakable crimes of self-defense and survival? They denounce the “illegal occupation” of captured territories. Why are they not equally concerned about the Jewish-owned land appropriated by Arab governments — all 38,625 square miles of it (compared to Israel’s total area of 7,992 square miles)? Why do they condemn Israel as oppressors when it was the Palestinian Authority that rejected Ehud Barak’s offer — after the Camp David Accords of 2000 — to return an equivalent amount of territory to that captured in the defensive 1967 war?

Have they forgotten that Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and handed it over to the Palestinians, who promptly destroyed much of the infrastructure the Israelis left behind and embarked on a campaign of terrorism against Israel?

Most important, by what twisted logic do they suggest that Israel is guilty of murdering the Palestinian civilians used by Hamas as human shields to protect the rockets targeting Israeli civilians in an unprovoked rain of terror? It should be obvious that there would be peace tomorrow if the Palestinian leadership would stop seeking Israel’s destruction today.

Even the Washington Post editorial staff has reached the inevitable conclusion that the leaders of Hamas have no motive other than to sacrifice their own people on the altar of public opinion in hope of inciting world condemnation against Israel for defending itself. If they read the letter written by Ms. Klagsbrun, Ms. Epstein and Ms. Harris, the Hamas terrorists will rejoice, as their people die, knowing that their stratagem has not been completely in vain.

 

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An open letter to the administration and student government of UCDavis

Although the recent UC Davis divestment resolution against Israel ended in a deadlock, I suppose there is still some silver lining: at least half the people casting votes can be considered clear-headed.  But as for the others, please tell me — what exactly were you thinking?

imagesDid you buy into former President Jimmy Carter’s accusation condemning Israel as an apartheid state?  If so, how do you explain Israeli Arabs having a higher standard of living than Arabs in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq?  or a higher literacy rate?  or higher life expectancy?  Does it mean nothing to you that Israel is the only democracy in the Mideast?  that only in Israel women have equal rights and equal education?  that Palestinians who work for Israeli companies like Sodastream oppose the boycott you advocate to save them from oppression?

If you are outraged by the unequal treatment of Israeli Arabs, how do you explain that Israel has Arab members of Parliament proportional to its Arab citizenry?  How is it symptomatic of apartheid that Israel has or has had an Arab deputy Prime Minister, an Arab Supreme Court justice, an Arab national soccer team captain, and an Arab Miss Israel?

Where is your outrage toward apartheid in Arab countries that oppress their Jewish minorities?  Or are there too few Jews for you to apply the term apartheid in Arab countries that are essentially Judenrein?  In case the flight of oppressed Jews from Arab countries is news to you, look at the decline in Jewish populations from 1948 until today:

Algeria:           140,000 to <100
Egypt:             80,000 to <100
Iraq:                 150,000 to 40
Lebanon:         30,000 to 30
Libya:              30,000 to 0
Morocco:         500,000 to 700
Syria:               30,000 to <100
Yemen:            55,000 to <200

You denounce the “illegal occupation” of captured territories.  Why are you not equally concerned about the Jewish-owned land appropriated by Arab governments — all 38,625 square miles of it (compared to Israel’s total area of 7,992 square miles)?  Why do you continue to condemn Israel as intransigent when it was the Palestinian Authority that rejected Ehud Barak’s offer — after the Camp David Accords of 2000 — to return an equivalent amount of territory to that captured in the defensive 1967 war?  And by what twisted rationalization do you fault Israel for not sitting down to negotiate with Arab leaders who continue to call for Israel’s destruction and deny its right to exist?

As for those of you who abstained:  were you lacking clarity or courage?

Why are you not railing against the far more egregious human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, and myriad other nations all over the globe?  Even if political correctness is the explanation, please explain why quantifiable Arab oppression is accepted while fabricated Israeli “oppression” is not.

But if the real reason, as seems likely, is old-fashioned anti-Semitism, then let’s trade in that antiseptic euphemism and call your worldview what it really is:  Jew-hatred, plain and simple.

UC Davis was once an institution to be proud of.  For the first time in thirty years, I am ashamed of my alma mater.

Rabbi Yonason (Jonathan) Goldson
Class of 1983

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Searching for the Way out of Exile

imagesAt first glance, the soggy, green downs of Ulster bear little resemblance to the parched and craggy hills of Israel.  But a gentle tugging at the cultural fabric of either place unravels an unmistakable common thread:  two peoples, impossibly close geographically, impossibly distant ideologically, with more than enough fuel for hatred between them to burn until the coming of the Messiah.  Tromping over hills and through city streets, however, first in one place and then in the other, I discovered a more compelling similarity:  the bitter struggle of humanity in exile.

“Which are the bad parts of town, the ones I should avoid?” I asked the owner of the bed-and-breakfast where I passed my first night in Belfast.

She dutifully pointed out the Shankhill neighborhood on my map, cautioning me to steer clear of it.  I thanked her and, with sophomoric self-confidence, proceeded there directly.

It was the summer of 1984, and central Belfast exuded all the charm of a city under martial law. Policemen on patrol wore flack jackets.  An armored personnel carrier idled at a major intersection waiting for the signal to change.  Blown out shells of buildings sprouted weeds, and street signs warned, DO NOT LEAVE CAR UNATTENDED.  But as I worked my way up Shankhill, I discovered even more disconcerting landmarks:  elementary school yards swathed in barbed-wire and churches pocked with scars from automatic-rifle fire.

I stopped in at a corner pub and took a seat at the bar beside two locals.  Each was nursing a pint of Guinness.  Another glass, two-thirds full with boiled snails, rested between them.  The men took turns using a bent eight-penny nail to dig each snail out of its shell before popping the meat into their mouths.

Click here to read the whole essay.

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St. Patrick’s Day Re-Reflections

At first glance, the soggy, green downs of Ulster bear little resemblance to the parched and craggy hills of Israel.  But a gentle tugging at the cultural fabric of either place unravels an unmistakable common thread:  two peoples, impossibly close geographically, impossibly distant ideologically, with more than enough fuel for hatred between them to burn until the coming of the Messiah.  Tromping over hills and through city streets, however, first in one place and then in the other, I discovered a more compelling similarity:  the bitter struggle of humanity in exile.

“Which are the bad parts of town, the ones I should avoid?” I asked the owner of the bed-and-breakfast where I passed my first night in Belfast.

She dutifully pointed out the Shankhill neighborhood on my map, cautioning me to steer clear of it.  I thanked her and, with sophomoric self-confidence, proceeded there directly.

Read the whole article here.

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The Media War on Israel

I ask the New York Times:  Why does the paper give equal placement to the photo of Jews mourning Mrs. Mira Scharf and the photo of Muslims mourning Ahmed al-Jabari, the terrorist mastermind largely responsible for Mrs. Scharf’s murder? I ask the anchors of NPR, why does virtually every story covering violence in the Mideast begin with Israeli fire and Arab causalities, mimicking the sardonic Israeli joke that Western reporting typically begins:  Israel incites violence by retaliating?

And I ask the editors, writers, and news anchors of CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the BBC and major news outlets around the globe, why do you continue to ignore the facts and the history that prove only one irrefutable equation – that Israel’s neighbors are as disinterested in peace as Israel is in war?

Read the whole article here.

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Netanyahu Advisor Strikes a Blow for Responsible Journalism

To the New York Times:

I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times.  Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan’s admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative.  Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.

This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state.  It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.

The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known.   They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace.   They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole.  Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.

Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel.    Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.

Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune.   After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”

The only “positive” piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.

Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone’s previous submission.  In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position.   According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.

Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply.   It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S.  House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions.   In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.

So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer.  We wouldn’t want to be seen as “Bibiwashing” the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Sincerely,

Ron Dermer
Senior advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu

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