Unrest in West Bank Refugee Camps Is a Sign of What Palestinian Statehood Might Bring

For some time, the Palestinian Authority has been failing to keep the peace in the refugee camps under its control; there have even been gunfights between PA security forces and militants, some of whom belong to a wing of Mahmoud Abbas’s own Fatah faction. This breakdown of order, writes Evelyn Gordon, says much about the prospects of Palestinian statehood:

[T]he refugee camps are precisely the kind of open sore that Palestinian statehood is theoretically supposed to solve.

In reality, however, the PA has done nothing for the refugees. More than two decades after the PA’s establishment, the refugees’ schooling, healthcare, and welfare allowances are still provided for and funded wholly by UNRWA, the UN agency created especially for this purpose. Or, to be more precise, by the Western countries that fund most of UNRWA’s budget. Nor has the PA moved a single refugee into better housing. And this isn’t because Israel has somehow prevented it from doing so; most of the refugee camps are located in Area A, the part of the West Bank under full Palestinian control. . . .

Moreover, this neglect is quite deliberate: the PA doesn’t see the refugees as citizens to be served, but as a weapon aimed at Israel. They are kept in miserable conditions for the express purpose of creating sympathy for the Palestinian demand that they all be relocated to Israel, thereby eradicating its Jewish majority. . . . Palestinian officials have said quite openly that the refugees will never be granted citizenship in a Palestinian state. . .

In other words, Palestinian statehood now won’t solve a single problem, but assuredly will create a lot of new ones.

More about: Israel & ZionismPalestinian Authority,Palestinian refugeesPalestinian statehoodUNRWA

Why I Changed My Mind about Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism


The Return of Bernard Lewis


American and Israeli Jews, Compared

NOV. 7 2016

Following its much-discussed survey of American Jewry from 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a similar survey of Israeli Jews. Herewith, a comparison of the two communities based on the results of these surveys, accompanied by video interviews with both experts and ordinary Jews:

[A]lthough Israeli Jews are—on the whole—more religious than American Jews, that’s not the whole story. Because 22 percent of Israeli Jews are Orthodox and an even larger number are secular, Israel has a more religiously polarized Jewish public than America does.

For example, while proportionately there are more Israeli Jews than American Jews who attend synagogue weekly (27 percent vs. 11 percent), there also are more Israeli Jews than American Jews who never attend synagogue (33 percent vs. 22 percent). . . .

Jews in the U.S. and Israel also differ on what “being Jewish” means to them, personally. While both groups largely agree that remembering the Holocaust is vital to their Jewish identity, Americans are far more likely than Israelis to say that pursuing ethics, morality, and justice in society, as well as displaying “intellectual curiosity” and having a “good sense of humor,” are essential to what being Jewish means to them. Israeli Jews, meanwhile, more commonly highlight observance of Jewish law and a connection to Jewish history, culture, or community. . . .

Jewish Americans feel a strong emotional connection with the Jewish state: a solid majority say they are either “very” or “somewhat” attached to Israel and that caring about Israel is either “essential” or “important” to what being Jewish means to them. The connection is felt both ways: most Israeli Jews say Jewish Americans have a good impact on the way things are going in Israel. In addition, most Israeli Jews say that a thriving Diaspora is vital to the long-term survival of the Jewish people and that Jews in the two countries share a “common destiny.”

Isi Leibler: Ronald Lauder: A unique global Jewish leader

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016

The Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress meeting in Jerusalem this week will highlight the impressive turnabout of this organization since the election of Ronald Lauder as president.

The WJC was founded in Geneva 80 years ago, as the stormy winds of Nazism were driving toward the Final Solution.

It has served as the umbrella body representing Jewish communities throughout the free world. Successive WJC presidents had access to world leaders and, after the creation of the Jewish state, usually acted in concert with the Israeli government. Its most notable achievements were the German reparations agreement negotiated by Nahum Goldman with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, which boosted the fledgling Israeli economy and enabled it to develop. Subsequently, in the 1980s, Edgar Bronfman successfully arranged a compensation package for Holocaust victims and their heirs — in particular the Swiss banking settlement which realized $1.25 billion of unclaimed assets deposited by Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

In addition to this and supporting the State of Israel, the WJC has played a major role in combating anti-Semitism, promoting Jewish rights at the United Nations, engaging in interfaith activities, assisting small communities and campaigning to free Soviet Jewry and other Jews under duress.

However, in 2004, in my capacity as senior vice president of the WJC, I discovered serious financial irregularities. In my efforts to rectify the situation, those controlling the organization decided to cover up the scandal and, unable to silence me, had me censured and effectively expelled at the WJC Plenary Assembly in Brussels in 2005 in the presence of 500 delegates. I was ultimately totally vindicated but, unfortunately, only after intervention of the New York State Attorney General, resulting in the dismissal of the senior executives of the organization. The negative media exposure of the scandal, not to mention the crude efforts to bury the fraud and the defamation proceedings against me, severely tarnished the reputation of the WJC. Its assets were significantly depleted, having been squandered to finance legal battles and investigations. Once donors were apprised of the facts, contributions ceased and the WJC effectively became bankrupt and almost collapsed.

Ronald Lauder was elected president in June 2007, despite the fact that many of his advisers sought to dissuade him, arguing that the WJC was irreparable. He was to prove them wrong.

Born in New York, Ronald is a son of Estée Lauder and one of the heirs to her massive cosmetics empire.

Aside from major business pursuits, Lauder became engaged in political activism but had scant Jewish upbringing and initially was somewhat remote from Jewish issues.

He is a passionate art connoisseur and in New York he established the unique Neue Galerie art museum, dedicated to early 20th century German and Austrian art. He is reputed to own the largest private collection of medieval and Renaissance armor.

When President Ronald Reagan appointed him ambassador to Austria in 1986 Ronald Lauder became conscious of his own Central European Jewish origins, especially as he witnessed the mass migration of Soviet Jews via Vienna. This led to his launch of a massive project to fund educational institutions — initially kindergartens and schools but ultimately even a rabbinical seminary — to rebuild Jewish life for remnants of the communities that had survived the Holocaust. Currently, the Ronald S Lauder Foundation supports 62 projects throughout 16 Central and Eastern European countries. It is a historic philanthropic enterprise which contributes in a major manner to the renewal of the remnants of Jewish life in the region — and one in which Lauder modestly tends to understate his dominant role.

It was in Austria, when Lauder confronted Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, whose Nazi involvement was subsequently exposed by the WJC, that he first witnessed the effects of anti-Semitism and became passionately engaged both with Israel and Jewish affairs.

Around this time, he met Benjamin Netanyahu, the charismatic young Israeli ambassador to the U.N., and immediately identified him as a future leader and provided him with crucial support — a significant factor during the early stages of Netanyahu’s political career.

Lauder subsequently became chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in 1999. His financial support of Israel and Jewish causes massively expanded, yet with minimum publicity and coupled with an inclination to understate his philanthropic input. I can also personally testify to the compassionate manner with which he quietly supported bereaved families, especially those in his employ.

When he was elected president of the ailing WJC, Lauder was obliged initially to personally contribute the bulk of the substantial global budget.

He also faced the daunting challenge of reconstructing the organization, which necessitated the recruitment of an entirely new team of professional leaders. After confronting huge obstacles, he finally appointed Robert Singer as the chief executive officer. Singer was formerly attached to the Israeli prime minister’s Soviet Jewry liaison bureau and subsequently headed World ORT, the global Jewish educational and vocational network, for 14 years. Under Lauder’s guidance, Singer assumed responsibility for all of the WJC global offices and the recruitment of new professionals.

Although it was a tough challenge, Lauder can justly claim to have successfully resurrected the WJC and reclaimed its position as one of the most pre-eminent and respected global Jewish organizations, recognized as representing world Jewry. Today, statements by Lauder are quoted in the global media and he has become the voice of world Jewry on issues of anti-Semitism, Holocaust commemoration and advocacy for Israel. His speeches are impressive and present a positive Jewish image unmatched by any other current Jewish lay leader.

Lauder has access to major global leaders and statesmen — from Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin, as well as the heads of moderate Arab states. He liaises closely with Israeli leaders and has assumed a crucial role in the struggle against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and global anti-Semitism.

Once again the WJC provides a forum for the smaller Jewish community leaders to meet, exchange views and seek direction in order to operate on a broad Jewish global level.

Lauder has created a young leadership group — the Jewish Diplomatic Corps — designed to nurture future Jewish leaders, and has restructured the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians and the Israel Council of Foreign Relations. The Commission for Art Recovery was established to return Nazi-confiscated artworks to their rightful owners or their heirs.

Lauder’s high level of respect in the WJC is demonstrated by the decision of a two-thirds majority to override the constitution limiting the presidency to a two-term period in order that he continue to lead the organization for a third term.

Ronald Lauder has emerged as a renaissance global Jewish lay leader. On occasion, we have had cause to differ and I have criticized some of his policies and may do so again. But I have never questioned his utter sincerity and concern for the welfare of the Jewish people. He represents a beacon of light in an otherwise sadly depleted Jewish lay leadership. He has restored the WJC to its central leadership position in the Jewish world and deserves our appreciation.

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom

Isi Leibler: Haredim — an impending Kulturkampf

SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, one senses an impending explosion between Israeli mainstream society and the ultra-Orthodox.

For years, tensions have steadily grown as influential haredi rabbis strived to prevent their followers from integrating into Israeli society. Unlike their counterparts in the Diaspora and contrary to historical precedent, these rabbis discourage gainful employment and encourage reliance on social welfare, insisting that their followers engage in “full-time” learning. Aside from the poverty this imposes, it presents an ever-growing burden on the economy. These rabbis also issue edicts adamantly opposing the draft. This generates enormous resentment among the vast majority of Israelis who are enraged that their taxes are employed to subsidize those who reject productive employment and refuse to share the defense burden.

Moreover, these radicals have hijacked the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts and have imposed the most stringent interpretations of Jewish law on the nation. This has already had catastrophic consequences in relation to issues of marriage, divorce and conversion.

In recent months, the sheer vulgarity and gutter language expressed by some haredi rabbis and politicians against other Jewish groups has exceeded all boundaries. This is particularly despicable behavior when it emanates from those purporting to uphold the banner of religiosity and Jewish tradition.

Unfortunately, their success is largely the result of our current dysfunctional political system in which haredim retain the balance of power and are in a position to effectively blackmail governments into making unprincipled concessions.

Those who criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud for surrendering to the haredim fail to recall that most other parties were similarly willing to concede to the ultra-Orthodox when they were in power.

The previous government in which haredim were excluded was an exception, and the progress and reforms achieved during that term were all reversed when this current coalition again became dependent on the haredim. This was exemplified by the annulment in some extreme haredi schools of core curriculum obligations and the neutralization of efforts to encourage haredim to volunteer for army service. They triumphantly exulted at this “success.”

We have also witnessed unprecedented attempts to retroactively annul conversions, the rejection of conversions from respected Orthodox rabbis who do not share their stringent approach, the attempt to exclude rabbis associated with the Tzohar organization and Modern Orthodoxy from conducting marriage ceremonies, the vile level of hostility aimed at non-Orthodox groups, the breached negotiations over access to the Western Wall by non-Orthodox groups, and more.

The arrogant and ruthless approach of the haredim to these and other issues has intensified public anger against them.

Most of us take pride in the fact that, while the religious and secular camps would each prefer that the pendulum swing further in its own direction, over the years we have succeeded in reaching an accommodation. By and large, while varying somewhat in observance according to the composition of residents, a unique Shabbat atmosphere prevails throughout Israel and remains the core of our religious and national tradition — but it remains the most contentious issue which requires give and take. However, this should not lead to freely opening up commerce on Shabbat, which would make it almost impossible for observant Jews to remain in business.

Feeling triumphant, the haredi political parties presumed that they could now move further in their coercive efforts of intensified Shabbat observance. Their recent attempt to close down road and rail work on Shabbat massively inconvenienced and outraged hundreds of thousands of Israelis whose trains were halted the following day. Although the issue was finally resolved by the intervention of the High Court, it created unprecedented resentment throughout the nation.

The impact of the rage was reflected in opinion polls, showing the anti-haredi Yesh Atid party headed by Yair Lapid — for the first time — enjoying greater electoral support than the dominant Likud.

Unless they alter their course, haredim could face a severe backlash. An anti-religious government could seek to impose a complete separation of religion and state. This would undermine the delicate balance achieved over the years which has enabled observant and secular Jews to live in harmony and mutual respect. Anti-haredi extremists would seek to obliterate haredi society overnight and in all likelihood blur the distinction between religious extremists and religious moderates who represent a crucial component of Israeli society. They could undermine the basic Jewish foundation of the state.

Let it be said that the majority of haredim are an asset to Jewish society — the antithesis of the highly vocal Hebrew-speaking Canaanites, many of whom are effectively post-Zionists. The ultra-Orthodox devotion to spiritual issues and their exemplary charitable endeavors in supporting those in need are a welcome contrast to the materialism and hedonism that prevails in our society. In the Diaspora, they were an important component of community life. But they also took pride in earning a livelihood, as well as becoming learned Jews.

In the early days of the state, the Chief Rabbinate was headed by worldly personalities such as Rabbis Yitzhak Herzog and Shlomo Goren. They and many others, such as Haifa Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, who recently passed away, were also proud religious Zionists who sought to interpret Halachah (Jewish law) in line with the requirements of a modern, evolving industrial state.

Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodox parties assumed a pivotal position and were able to control the destiny of governments, purging the moderates and imposing their ultra-stringent ideas on the nation in regard to issues of conversion, marriage, army service and participation in the workforce.

Now, the upsurge of public rage against the haredim which arose in response to the closure of the railways, should be considered a wake-up call.

Some of the more visionary haredi leaders are already implementing changes, such as providing secular studies to enable increased gainful employment. There are also small but growing numbers entering the IDF.

Ironically, despite the resentment against haredi extremism, the country has undergone a major spiritual revival and the respect displayed to religious Jews, even by secular authorities, is unprecedented. Among rank-and-file haredi youngsters, there is evidence of a decline in the impact of the anti-Zionist rhetoric of their rabbis.

The economic impact of a growing number of haredim who are dependent on state welfare because they are discouraged from engaging in productive labor will ultimately create an explosive situation.

What is needed to move forward is the formation of a united front against coercion. Needless to say, in the Knesset that remains a pipe dream.

Habayit Hayehudi is in a position to promote a national discourse that would create an awareness of the need to reform the current structure and promote a moderate, noncoercive religious environment.

While Education Minister Naftali Bennett is doing a good job, this would be his real challenge. His most important mandate is to ensure that religious Zionism assumes the central moderating role in Israeli society. This was the main factor motivating the creation of the party. By initiating such a discourse, engaging worldly national religious intellectuals and rabbis such as Yosef Carmel, David Stav, Shlomo Riskin and others from the more liberal-minded Tzohar group, as well as enlightened haredim, Bennett could avert a major upheaval which has the explosive potential to wreak untold havoc on our long-range social fabric. He could achieve a significant contribution toward healing the rift between religious extremists and the mainstream community and truly make his mark in history.

These are complex issues which can only be resolved by rational discourse, tolerance and accommodation. Utmost efforts must be made to minimize coercion and engage in dialogue in which all parties compromise.

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom

Isi Leibler: Rosh Hashana 5777: Gratitude and Optimism

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

We are confronted by a multitude of security threats and diplomatic challenges but the prophets of doom and gloom are selective and masochistic.

Israel is a democratic oasis in a region that has reverted to the Dark Ages and barbarism. We face ongoing terror throughout the land accompanied by direct threats from Iran and its satellite, Hezbollah, and we are aware that the only factor deterring these terrorist entities is the power of the Israel Defense Forces.

On the diplomatic front, despite the renewal of crucial long-term U.S. defense support, the Obama administration — at best — continues to treat Israel and the Palestinians with moral equivalence. There is concern that after the presidential elections, President Barack Obama may enable the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution that would undermine Israel’s central security requirements and negate her needs for defensible borders.

Many American Jewish leaders lack the will to resist and tend to be neutral. They feel that by criticizing or distancing themselves from Israel, they will ingratiate themselves with their liberal friends for whom antipathy to Israel is a basic prerequisite. These trends also reflect the impact of intermarriage and confusion of Jewish values with universalistic rhetoric. Notwithstanding this disturbing trend, the overwhelming bulk of observant Jews remain committed to Israel.

Unfortunately, any realistic hopes for a peace settlement are delusionary with the current Palestinian leadership. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made major concessions that even Yitzhak Rabin vowed he would never permit, is being blamed for not finding a solution.

Nevertheless, as we move into the New Year 5777, we must resist pessimism and assess our situation in the context of the dramatic overall progress we have achieved in nearly every field.

A review of the rest of the world reveals that today, nearly every nation is facing threats from Islamic fundamentalist terror. The situation for Jews in Europe, which only recently boasted that it had erased the alleged evils of nationalism, is appalling. Jews, more so than their neighbors, are subject to abuse, violence and terror attacks from crazed Islamic fanatics heightened by the ISIS terrorists who are imbedded among the millions of Middle East “refugees.” Even in the U.S., the “goldene medina,” Jews, especially university students, are experiencing an unprecedented intensification of overt anti-Semitism.

What would the future portend for us today were we reliant on the “sympathy” of the world and not empowered with a Jewish state that fights the battles for Jews everywhere and provides Diaspora Jews with the assurance that even if their world collapses, they will always find haven in Israel?

The reality is that few of us appreciate that we live in an age of miracles no less dramatic than our Exodus from Egypt. We must be grateful that within the relatively short span of 68 years, we have not merely resurrected ourselves as a state and grown tenfold, but achieved one of the greatest national success stories in recorded history.

Holocaust survivors, persecuted Jews from Muslim countries, Jews suffering oppression in the countries of the former Soviet Union, Ethiopian Jews and others from all corners of the globe have participated in the ingathering of the exiles and have miraculously been molded into the dynamic, pulsating and resilient powerhouse that Israel represents today.

We take for granted that the IDF is, by far, the most powerful military force in the region, capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating the combined forces of all our adversaries.

We have no illusions about the flagrant bias and pogrom atmosphere generated against us at the United Nations. But our alliance with the American people, based on shared values, remains as strong as ever. Admittedly, anti-Israeli hostility from the radical wing of the Democratic Party has been heightened by Obama’s obsession to “create daylight” between Israel and the U.S. in order to appease the Muslim world. Yet this did not inhibit the extension of a 10-year military aid commitment which reinforces the premier alliance we enjoy with the U.S.

But beyond the alliance with the U.S., Israel under Netanyahu has deepened its relationship with a wide spectrum of nations over the past 12 months.

Ironically, there is a hope that the remarkable and unprecedented relationship with Russia’s Putin could even be an additional factor deterring Iran and Hezbollah from renewing hostilities.

The relationship with India has never been as strong as it is today and we have developed solid economic links with China, Japan and other East Asian countries.

There have been remarkable diplomatic breakthroughs in Africa with the potential for major economic and political development, as well as a strengthening of relations in Latin America.

The most incredible change has been in our relationships with the moderate Sunni states. We are partnering with Egypt against Islamic fundamentalists in the Sinai Peninsula and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has effectively praised Israel and publicly condemned Muslim extremism. There is even covert cooperation with the Saudis and the Gulf states, which recognize Israel as a critical element in the confrontation with the Iranians seeking regional hegemony.

This has yet to be reflected in the foreign policies of these countries, which still tend to engage in ritual anti-Israeli condemnations. But one senses that in the not too distant future, the winds of change will also impact on their public postures.

Beyond diplomacy, in the midst of global economic chaos, Israel’s economy has been outstandingly successful. Our ongoing progress in high-tech and biotech and our global contribution to cyber defense and security represent our biggest exports.

Two recent developments are amazing. The first is the discovery of gas fields, albeit ineptly handled politically, but which nevertheless presents a fantastic opportunity for us in economic and politically strategic terms which will soon be realized. The second, which we take for granted, is the remarkable success of our desalination program which provides 80 percent of our water needs and far exceeds that of any other country. It also represents yet another major contribution by Israel to global welfare.

But the greatest reason for us to rejoice is that we, from all ideological streams, are privileged to bring up our children as proud and committed Jews living in a Jewish state that provides a Jewish education, and in which the Hebrew language, culture and festivals create a unique Jewish lifestyle.

This is encapsulated by a pulsating modern Hebrew language, which is the lingua franca for Jews from totally different cultures; religious studies in schools and yeshivot with more Jews familiar with the texts and teachings of Judaism than at any time in our history; and the privilege of living in a Jewish state where our youth does not experience the anti-Semitism that their Diaspora counterparts must increasingly endure.

Yes, we have a dysfunctional political system and societal squabbles. But we remain a democratic state and today there is a greater consensus than at any time since the disastrous Oslo Accords divided the nation. The vast majority recognize that a one-state solution would destroy us but also realize that we cannot make further territorial concessions until we have Palestinian leaders willing to make peace. In the meantime, despite opinions to the contrary, Israel has managed to flourish with the status quo since 1967, with surveys ranking Israelis among the happiest and most contented people in the world.

Notwithstanding a bigoted and obscurantist Chief Rabbinate and extremist haredi political parties, Israelis overall have become more observant and respectful of tradition. There is also every indication that over the next decade, economic pressures will have a profound impact on the ultra-Orthodox and will gradually bring about their integration into Israeli society.

Our grandparents would not have remotely dreamed that immediately after the Holocaust, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a Jewish state would be created, and would within 70 years be the largest Jewish community in the world.

Indeed now is the time for Diaspora Jews — especially those in Europe — to honestly question the quality of Jewish life available to their children in an increasingly hostile environment. Hopefully, many will join us in our great venture or at least encourage their children to do so. We will welcome them with open arms and are confident that they too would appreciate why we consider it a joy and a privilege as Israeli Jews to live in our own homeland, with every reason to be optimistic about the Jewish future.

Despite the challenges facing us, we are the blessed generation of Jews. We should give thanks to the Almighty and pray that He continues watching over us during these turbulent times.

Shanah tovah!

This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom

Isi Leibler: Strength and unity will overcome our adversaries

October 20, 2016

The abysmal failure of most governments to display even a pretense of morality when formulating resolutions relating to international affairs was again highlighted by the latest outrageous resolution relating to Jerusalem endorsed by UNESCO.

The promotion of this travesty by the Arab states merely highlights their manifestly false narrative denying Jewish continuity with Jerusalem. But it was the purportedly civilized countries, including the majority of European countries, many of whom claim to be friends of Israel, whose abstentions provided an aura of legitimacy to this obscene resolution. Such shameful behavior only serves to re-emphasize that these countries are solely motivated by short-term realpolitik, which induces their groveling to the Muslims even if this requires forfeiting morality and blatantly endorsing historical lies. Every European country should have opposed this deplorable resolution.

The UNESCO abomination should be viewed as a component of the concerted global effort designed to exploit Israel’s “intransigency” in order to impose indefensible borders, a demand to which no Israeli government could accede.

More significantly, despite the recent consummation of the multibillion-dollar defense agreement, the U.S. administration uses any pretext to condemn Israel, employing unprecedentedly harsh language, which starkly contrasts with the deference it conveys to the Iranian terrorist state. It has protested far more vigorously against Israeli home construction in the “settlements” (including entirely Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem) than the butchering of thousands in the regional civil conflicts.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton explicitly promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she would maintain the U.S. veto and resolutely oppose any efforts by the United Nations to impose a solution, agreeing that negotiations could only be implemented directly between Israelis and Palestinians.  But there is genuine concern that, despite her electoral promises, after the elections, President Barack Obama in his remaining two months in office may seek to impose a settlement on Israel which he has always sought. He could do this through support of a “binding” U.N. Security Council resolution or merely not employ a U.S. veto against such a resolution.

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, expressed his contempt for the U.N. using the dismissive nonsense phrase “Um, shmum” (perhaps best translated “U.N., shmu-N.”). Netanyahu also noted that “the U.N., begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce.”

Nevertheless, we need to gird ourselves over the next few months for an intense hostile diplomatic campaign, including efforts to impose sanctions on us.

In these circumstances, we should have confidence in our strength. As Ben-Gurion stated: “Our future does not depend on what the goyim say, but rather on what the Jews will do.” Israel has never been in as strong a position as it is today and even many of the countries that castigate us have developed important covert economic and defense relationships with us. In addition, despite the Obama antagonism and an emerging hostile Democratic sector, public opinion in the U.S. remains extremely positive toward Israel.

But displaying our strength can only be effective if we demonstrate a united front on these issues. This is a time for our political representatives to recognize that we face a concerted global effort to undermine us and they must suspend the personal and parochial backbiting that typifies our dysfunctional political system.

But that requires facing difficult and unpalatable truths.

Netanyahu is far from perfect and many Israelis harbor a strong animus toward him and point out that he is even unpopular in his own party. There are those who snidely remark that his closest supporters resemble moths attracted to a flame and subsequently burn out or are unceremoniously dismissed. There is a strong feeling that after such a long term in office, it is time for a change. And apart from Israel Hayom, the Israeli media has consistently vilified him more fiercely than any previous leader.

However, the reality is that currently there is no suitable political leader remotely capable of replacing him in his crucial diplomatic activity.

Indeed, despite his faults, history will record Netanyahu as being an outstanding diplomat who has successfully walked a tightrope with a hostile American administration — refusing to concede on critical security issues but retaining sufficient flexibility to avoid a total rift. He has covertly achieved an unprecedented level of cooperation with the moderate Sunni states, especially Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. He has quietly developed relations with a swathe of countries such as China, India and African and Latin American countries. He has created a unique and delicate relationship with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, an unprecedented state of affairs of which nobody could have anticipated. He is blessed with a golden tongue and has the gift of being able to articulate the case for Israel to the world that no other leader could match.

Whatever his political status may be a year hence, by any objective criteria, Netanyahu is the leader Israel needs during the coming months. And if our politicians have any semblance of commitment to the national interest, they should support his foreign policy, which the vast majority of Israelis would endorse.

That includes denying further unilateral territorial concessions, which would undermine our security, and no annexation of territories, which would oblige us to incorporate another 3 million or so Arabs, transforming us into another Lebanon. Despite the despicable behavior of Abbas and Fatah, we should support Netanyahu’s offer to negotiate without preconditions. But endorsing a Palestinian state under the current conditions would be suicidal.

The mainstream opposition groups in office have a national obligation to publicly support such a policy.

In this environment, holding Netanyahu responsible for the failure to progress the peace process with the duplicitous Abbas, or blaming him for the disastrous relationship with Obama, provides ammunition for our enemies and confuses and destabilizes our friends and allies.

Netanyahu is aware of the importance of unity under these current circumstances and has sought to widen his narrow coalition. But regrettably, most of Israel’s politicians ignore the national interest, minimize the crisis we face and continue indulging in their petty political intrigues.

The Labor party is in shambles, with party leader Isaac Herzog unable to control the substantial number of delusional leftist MKs who have betrayed the tradition of Labor Zionism and adopted a post-Zionist approach — which would have horrified the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has emerged in recent months as the most impressive opposition leader. He has moved to the center and, aside from routine personal attacks on the prime minister, espouses policies that are basically indistinguishable from those of the government. He has aspirations to assume leadership of the nation and has gained considerable support from the electorate. But impressive interviews and speeches are a far cry from the heavy burden of decision-making and leadership.

If Lapid can rise above the political morass and emerge as the first opposition leader to support Netanyahu’s efforts, he would convey the message to the world that Israel is united in its determination to resist all efforts to undermine its security. This could have a major impact on the incoming U.S. president and may revert the diplomatic tide flowing against Israel. Should Lapid act as a statesman and promote the national interest, he would display qualities that would appeal to most Israelis who are nauseated by the shenanigans of their elected representatives and, in so doing, would also advance his own objective of becoming a future prime minister.

Today Israel is stronger than ever and if we display unity, we can and will overcome all the challenges we face.

 Browse more articles like this at www.wordfromjerusalem.com

Keep Jerusalem's Response to the UNESCO Resolution

Dear Friends,

On the eve of Sukkot, the Jewish festival which the Bible records will be celebrated, not only by the Jewish people, but universally in Jerusalem with joy and peace, we are confronted by a cynical effort by some nations of the world to deny basic truths relating to the Jewish people's eternal capital. Additionally they are trying to fabricate other 'truths' in a feeble effort to delete Judaism's age old connection to Jerusalem and replace it with a regime of hate, terror and tyranny. 

We ask you to read this response and forward it to your friends and colleagues so that perhaps this little bit of light can dispel much darkness being spread at and by the UN.

Keep Jerusalem- Im Eshkachech's response to the UNESCO Resolution:

Opening statement: The UNESCO resolution is factually flawed and includes gross omissions which exacerbate the severity of the lies, inaccuracies and blatant anti-antisemitism that this document reflects. Furthermore it goes against and "mocks the lofty and sincere aims and hopes set out in the 1945 Constitution of UNESCO to combat ignorance, prejudice, suspicion, inequality and mistrust between peoples, and to advance dignity, equality, mutual respect and intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind". (Amb Alan Baker)

1.  Historical Facts: Jerusalem has served as capital of Jewish states as early as 2,880 years ago – and was never the capital of any other nation. The Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple is documented in the Bible, Mishnah, Talmud and myriad scholarly and history books over millennia.  Jewish history and connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular PREDATES the arrival of Islam to Jerusalem by THOUSANDS OF YEARS. Jerusalem is mentioned 641 times in the Bible – and not once in the Quran. 

2. Sanctity: The Temple Mount is not just a mount but, rather, the “home of God.” A permanent temple to the God of Israel stood there, the extension of the “Tabernacle” – the place where the shekhinah dwelled during the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. According to the Book of Chronicles, it was King David who broke the ground for the building of the Temple. The Bible, in the Book of Samuel (2) tells how David bought this piece of land from Aravnah the Jebusite for 50 shekels. King Solomon, David’s son, built the Temple on the plot of land that was purchased from Aravnah’s threshing floor – that is, on Mount Moriah.  It was here that God tested Abraham, and the Binding of Isaac transpired. The Mishnah in Tractate Middoth details the measurements of the Temple Mount. Tractate Keilim sets forth ten ascending degrees of holiness in the Land of Israel, Jerusalem, and at the Temple itself. For generations Jews longed for Jerusalem and the Temple, expressing their yearning in piyyutim (liturgical poems) and prayers. The Temple was the center of the Jewish people’s spiritual life. 

The destruction of the two Temples – the first by Nebuchadnezzer (586 BCE) and the second by the Romans (70 CE) – altered the reality in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, (although there has been a continuous Jewish presence there ever since)  but also fostered generations of dreamers and poets who prayed and yearned for Jerusalem and the Temple. (Nadav Shragai)

3. Modern History: Israel liberated Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in June 1967 from illegal Jordanian occupation of 19 years. Jordan's annexation of east Jerusalem in 1950 was only recognized by one country in the world - Pakistan. 

4. Empirical Evidence: A myriad of archaeological artifacts have been discovered in and around the Temple Mount,  giving indisputable evidence to the connection of the Jewish people to this site dating back thousands of years. UNESCO's denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple is to deny 3,000 years of Middle eastern history.

5. Moslem Concurrence: Even the famous virulently anti-Semitic mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini published in 1924, through the Supreme Moslem Council of which he was the head, a guide which includes the statement: “Its [the Temple Mount’s] identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” 

In previous centuries Moslem clerics had noted this fact in their writings. Only in our time have the Moslems distorted the history of the site and denied the Jewish connection with it. (Courtesy of Dr. Gabi Barkai)

6. Legal Rights: Jewish legal rights to Jerusalem were unanimously and internationally recognized in 1922 by the League of Nations, based on the San Remo Conference of two years earlier. No similar rights were accorded to Arabs. 

Furthermore,  Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, explains:

"State [Israel] acting in lawful exercise of its right of self defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense. ... Where the prior holder [Jordan] of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense, [Israel] has,against that prior holder, better title.
As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."

7 Occupation: Israel cannot be an occupier of an area that it has sovereign, historic, legal and moral rights to.

8.  Christianity: By denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple , the UNESCO resolution in effect is denying ALL OF CHRISTIANITY which  is intrinsically based and flows from the Old Testament and mentions the Jewish Temple in the New Testament in many places.

 (could the anti-semitism of the Christian countries who either supported or abstained from this resolution be so great that they are willing to deligitimize or even disqualify their own religion for the sake of attacking Judaism and Israel?)

9Human rights: Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East and it's respect for and upholding of civil and religious rights, irrespective of race, religion, color or preference is well documented and recognized throughout the civilized world. On the other hand, the commitment to and record of human rights and freedom by the Palestinian Authority and the other sponsors of this resolution are dismal and non existent. To accuse Israel of denying such rights is libelous, inciteful and encourages terror.

 The accusations in the Resolution are spurious at best and incitement to terror and violence at worst.

10The age-old Jewish sites – the “Cave of Machpela” in Hebron, and “the Cave of Rachel” close to Bethlehem – are universally acknowledged to be the burial sites of the forefathers of the Jewish People Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Rachel respectively. This is clearly shown in the book of Genesis in the Bible and many other places in holy and historic books. Yet they are cynically denominated by this curious UNESCO decision as “The two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al Ibrahimi Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem”.

The cynicism is further compounded by a curious condemnation of Israel’s refusal “to remove the two Palestinian sites from Israel’s national heritage list”! Out of the 58 states members of the UNESCO Executive Board, France, Spain, Sweden, Russia and Slovenia – all ostensibly “friends” of Israel – supported this obnoxious and shameful decision, while only six states voted against – Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. (Amb Alan Baker)

 Despite this deep stain on truth and humanity, I would like to wish you and your family a Chag sameach,


Chaim Silberstein                              חיים סילברשטיין
Founder and President                           מייסד ונשיא
Keep Jerusalem - Im Eshkachech         "אם אשכחך"
Binyan Kesher Liyerushalayim       בניין קשר לירושלים      

If Jews and Arabs Can Live in Peace in Israel, Why Not in a Palestinian State?

SEPT. 21 2016

Responding to the hue and cry in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in which the term “ethnic cleansing” was used to describe the Palestinian Authority’s aspirations for the West Bank, Moshe Arens writes:

[E]thnic cleansing is being carried out at this moment in parts of Iraq and Syria. Shiites are getting rid of Sunnis and Sunnis are getting rid of Shiites, and both are getting rid of Christians.

So why did Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent use of that phrase cause such an uproar? Is it because he referred to Judea and Samaria, a territory that the proponents of the “two-state” solution envisage as part of the future Palestinian state? . . . [S]ome people claim that the settlements [there] are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace, . . . based on the assumption that this area should be reserved for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and this state should be a homogeneous Arab state. [But] it can’t be argued that the removal of the Jews there would not be an act of ethnic cleansing.

Underlying the opposition of many who object to Jewish settlements in the area is the assumption that Jews and Arabs cannot live peaceably together and should therefore be separated. . . . [Everyone involved in this discussion needs] to be reminded of the obvious—that Jews and Arabs are living peaceably together in the state of Israel, and if ever a Palestinian state were to be established existing side by side with Israel in peace, there is no reason it shouldn’t contain a Jewish minority.

As a matter of fact, such a minority might actually prove an economic asset to that state. So what’s all the fuss about?

If American Jews and Israel Are Drifting Apart, What's the Reason?


The Twilight of French Jewry, the Twilight of France


Israel’s Grand Strategy, Explained by One of Its Architects

SEPT. 21 2016

With the Middle East engulfed in war, Israel has sought to stay uninvolved in the turmoil while keeping its borders reasonably secure. Moshe Yaalon, who served until recently as Israel’s defense minister, and previously as the IDF chief of staff, discusses Jerusalem’s current approach to the region, including its policy of nonintervention in “internal Arab conflicts,” its response to terror, and its pursuit and maintenance of alliances with Sunni states not dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. In his view, the greatest threat to Israel remains the Iranian nuclear program, and he urges the U.S. to take a stronger stance against the Islamic Republic. (Interview by Robert Satloff. Video, 92 minutes. A summary is available at the link below.)

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iranian nuclear programIsrael & ZionismIsraeli grand strategyMiddle EastMoshe Yaalon

Setting the Record Straight about the West’s Role in the Creation of Israel

SEPT. 21 2016

Israel’s detractors regularly claim that the establishment of a Jewish state was part of the European colonial agenda, and that it remains nothing more than an outpost of European imperialism. The reality,Jonathan Adelman and Asaf Romirowsky point out, was closer to the opposite:

Consider the convocation of the First Zionist Congress by Theodor Herzl in Basel in 1897. At the congress there was no real involvement of international powers. Before his death in 1904, Herzl met key leaders in Germany, England, Ottoman Turkey, and the Vatican. While achieving some legitimacy for the movement, he failed to make any deals with them. . . . [Even the] 1917 British Balfour Declaration of support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine was matched by other British promises of Arab sovereignty in the same area. . . .

The refusal of the British colonial masters of Palestine to allow more than a handful of Jews (75,000 in 1939–1944 and none thereafter) into Palestine while millions were eager to emigrate there was matched by the 1939 British declaration that it supported an Arab state in Palestine. . . . [D]uring the 1945-1948 period, England sent 80,000 troops to Palestine to put down any Jewish moves to create a state.

In the November 1947 United Nations vote for [the creation of] a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine, the British refused to support the resolution. The winning votes were provided by a bloc that could never be considered a Western colonial power—the Soviet Union and its East European allies. . . .

[In short], the notion that colonial and great powers were the main force behind the creation of Israel is not supported by history. It was precisely the great powers and colonial powers who made the Jewish path to the creation of Israel so very difficult.

Mosaic: What, Exactly, Would a Palestinian State Look Like?

Sept. 20 2016

So asks Daniel Doron, noting that there is scarcely a head of state or diplomat who, while professing loyalty to the “two-state solution,” devotes any attention to this question. If the performance of the Palestinian Authority is a guide, the answer is not promising:

[The Oslo Accords] enabled Yasir Arafat to establish a corrupt dictatorship whose energies were directed at the destruction of Israel no matter the cost to the disenfranchised poor in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians had enjoyed relative freedom and prosperity under a mostly benign Israeli occupation. Under Arafat they experienced an iron fist as he jailed, tortured, and murdered any who opposed him (and many he only imagined opposed him).

One of Arafat’s first actions was to destroy the economic “peace process” begun in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, a process of informal reconciliation through economic cooperation that lasted twenty years. . . .

There were remarkably few terrorist attacks during this period. The few that occurred were mostly perpetrated by PLO hirelings. Not that the Palestinians were enamored of Israeli occupation: no one likes to live under occupation, even a relatively benign one. But, realizing the economic and social benefits it brought them, many Palestinians found the occupation a lesser evil and learned to live with it. . . .

After Oslo, [by contrast], the Palestinians were subjected to . . . a kleptocracy run by Arafat. To this day, the Palestinian Authority continues to rob, oppress, and impoverish its citizens. . . .

Peace can still be resuscitated, but not while the Palestinian Authority continues to be supported by billions from U.S. and European taxpayers. Only then will decent Palestinians, now terrorized into silence, be able to build a civil society, the basis for a better life and a healthy polity. Such a civil society would negotiate a real and lasting peace with Israel.

A Civil Lawsuit Under the Anti-Terrorism Act


Israelis rely on their government to retaliate against terrorism with force. Americans, however, are generally mere spectators to Middle East violence.

Short of taking up terrorism to settle their scores and obtain the justice owed to them, what else are American victims of Palestinian terrorism to do when they are denied relief in their own courtrooms? Unless the US Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal, the likelihood is that their day in court has ended bitterly, their prayers for relief silenced by the procedural niceties that give justice a bad name.

Such was the situation 10 American families faced last week when a federal appeals court overturned a $655.5 million verdict against the PLO and Palestinian Authority for six terrorist attacks committed in Israel between 2002 and 2004.

Israelis rely on their government to retaliate against terrorism with force. Americans, however, are generally mere spectators to Middle East violence. Occasionally while visiting Israel they find themselves in the right place, but disastrously at the wrong time. When that happens, Israeli reprisals are not proxies for American losses. Americans expect their own retribution. But the American government all too often placates rather than punishes Palestinians – tit for tat is Israel’s regional headache.

Without other recourse, these Americans sought relief via a civil lawsuit under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which grants American casualties of international terrorism a legal forum in federal court. Ironically, the law owes its existence not to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but rather to Palestinian terrorism itself – specifically, the 1985 murder of Leon Klinghoffer on the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

All throughout the seven-week trial, there was emotional testimony from the eight surviving victims. Courtroom proceedings, when conducted correctly, are great repositories of emotional catharsis.

Monetary damages are not all that injured parties hope to receive when they place their faith in the law.

After the evidence of machine-gun attacks and suicide bombings, the jury awarded treble damages to the American families.

On appeal, however, the court, while acknowledging the horrific nature of the attacks ruled that there was no jurisdiction over this matter, since the connections between the defendants and the United States were insufficient to grant the court the authority to hear the case.

The court reasoned that the attacks in Israel had not been “expressly aimed at the United States.” The shooters fired “indiscriminately and chose sites for their suicide bomb attacks that were ‘full of people,’ because they sought to kill ‘as many people as possible.’” Yet, as for the “people” the PLO had in mind, national origin was less important than ethnic makeup.

All that mattered was that their victims were Jews.

Wasn’t that similarly true in the murder of Leon Klinghoffer? He wasn’t tossed overboard while still in his wheelchair because he was an American. That he was an American was a bonus for his captors. He was targeted because he was Jewish. The fact that he was an American eventually gave rise to the enactment of an anti-terrorism law that, if it means anything, operates to protect Americans no matter where they fall victim to terrorism, or how.

The court’s narrow interpretation of the statute is troubling and nonsensical. Should it apply only in cases of homegrown terrorism where the actors openly declare their enmity against the United States? Unfortunately, terrorism is not practiced quite that neatly, nor does it abide by conventional rules of warfare. In the gruesome game of international terror, chaos is king and grievances are for suckers.

Suicide bombers detonate without knowing the nationality of everyone within range. Those who ram cars into crowded bus stops are not checking passports.

Knife-wielding Palestinians sometimes unwittingly stab a tourist without ties to Israel, or even to Judaism. The dogs of war are mere puppies in the dirty business of terrorism, where civilian casualties are the unkindest cuts of all.

Yet, not unlike the American debates over the Patriot Act, this ruling privileges constitutional due process over a more satisfying moral outcome where those responsible for atrocity are held to account.

The Supreme Court has written that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” – meaning, too strict an adherence to its principles could end with the death of a nation. How ironic, then, that such a document should be exploited to serve the dark objectives of suicide bombers.

In this case, procedural, jurisdictional rules protected terrorists from paying at least a monetary price for their crimes. Those who cause terrorism and scoff at the rule of law should not receive its benefits, and American citizens who come before their courts deserve better.

The author is a novelist, essayist and a Distinguished Fellow at NYU School of Law. He is the author of, among other titles, The Myth of Moral Justice and Payback: The Case for Revenge.

Life During Wartime

As terrorist attacks become more common, public tolerance for liberal pieties will wane

By Bret Stephens

Long after I returned to the U.S. after living in Jerusalem I kept thinking about soft targets. The peak-hour commuter train that took me from Westchester to Grand Central. The snaking queue outside the security checkpoint at La Guardia Airport. The theater crowds near Times Square.
All of these places were vulnerable and most of them undefended. Why, I wondered, weren’t they being attacked?

This was in late 2004, when Jack Bauer was an American hero and memories of 9/11 were vivid. Yet friends who were nervous about boarding a flight seemed nonchalant about much more plausible threats. Maybe they expected the next attack would be on the same grand scale of 9/11. Maybe they thought the perpetrators would be supervillains in the mold of Osama bin Laden, not fried-chicken vendors like Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the suspected 23rd Street bomber.

Life in Israel had taught me differently. Between January 2002, when I moved to the country, and October 2004, when I left, there were 85 suicide bombings, which took the lives of 543 Israelis. Palestinian gun attacks claimed hundreds of additional victims. In a small country it meant that most everyone knew one of those victims, or knew someone who knew someone.

To this day the bombings are landmarks in my life. March 2002: Cafe Moment, just down the street from my apartment, where my future wife had arranged to meet a friend who canceled at the last minute. Eleven dead. September 2003: Cafe Hillel, another neighborhood hangout, where seven people were murdered, including 20-year-old Nava Applebaum and her father, David, on the eve of her wedding. January 2004: Bus No. 19 on Gaza Street, which I witnessed close-up before the ambulances arrived. Another 11 dead and 13 seriously injured, including Jerusalem Post reporter Erik Schechter.

Living in those circumstances had a strange dichotomous quality. Things were absolutely fine until they absolutely weren’t. Memories of bombings mix with other memories: jogs around the walls of the old city, weekend outings to the beach, the daily grind of editing a newspaper. The sense of normality was achieved through an effort of will and a touch of fatalism. Past a certain point, fearing for your own safety becomes exhausting. You give it up.

But it wasn’t just psychological adjustment that made life livable. Israelis recoiled after each bombing, mourned every victim, then picked themselves up. Cafe Moment reopened weeks after it was destroyed. The army and police could not provide constant security, so every restaurant and supermarket hired an armed guard, every mall and hotel set up metal detectors, and people went out. More than a few attacks were stopped by lone Israeli civilians who prevented massacres through the expedient of a handgun.

As for the Israeli government, after much hesitation it did what governments are supposed to do: It fought. In April 2002 then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent Israeli tanks into Jenin, Bethlehem and every other nest of Palestinian terror. He trapped Yasser Arafat in his little palace in Ramallah. He ordered the killing of Hamas’s leaders in Gaza.

All this was done in the teeth of overwhelming international condemnation and the tut-tutting of experts who insisted only a “political solution” could break the “cycle of violence.” Instead, the Israeli military broke that cycle by building a wall and crippling the Palestinians’ capacity to perpetrate violence. In 2002 there were 47 bombings. In 2007 the number had come down to one.

What’s the lesson here for Americans? This past weekend’s terrorist attacks hold at least two. One is that there is a benefit for a society that allows competent and responsible adults to carry guns, like the off-duty police officer who shot the knife-wielding jihadist in St. Cloud, Minn. Another is that there is an equal benefit in the surveillance methods that allowed police in New York and New Jersey to swiftly identify and arrest Mr. Rahimi before his bombing spree took any lives.

These are lessons the political left in this country doesn’t want to hear, lest they unsettle established convictions that weapons can only cause violence, not stop it, and that security is the antithesis of, not a precondition to, civil liberty.

But hear them they will. The eclipse of al Qaeda by Islamic State means the terrorist threat is evolving from elaborately planned spectaculars such as 9/11 or the 2004 Madrid train bombings to hastily improvised and executed blood orgies of the sort we saw this year in Nice and Orlando. As attacks become more frequent and closer to everyday life, public tolerance for liberal pieties will wane. Not least among the casualties of the Palestinian intifada was the Israeli left.

Living in Israel in those crowded years taught me that free people aren’t so easily cowed by terror, and that jihadists are no match for a determined democracy. But it also taught me that democracies rarely muster their full reserves of determination until they’ve been bloodied one time too many. 

Israeli Settlements, the Violet Line & Cheshire Cat

by Malcolm Lowe  •  September 7, 2016 at 4:00 am

  • All the settlements created by Israel before the Oslo accords are legitimate, including the new Israeli housing estates created in the extended boundaries of Jerusalem. As long as the "interim period" envisaged in those accords remains in force, Israel is allowed to build within the originally defined pre-Oslo boundaries of the settlements, but is not allowed to change their pre-Oslo status. The Palestinians are not excluded from demanding a total Israeli withdrawal to the ceasefire lines of 1949, but Israel is likewise not excluded from demanding the retention not merely of the settlements but also of any other part of the Mandatory Palestine of 1947.

  • The Fourth Geneva Convention contains a Part I that applies to wars both within a Power and between Powers. Otherwise, the Convention applies primarily to wars between Powers alone. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians began as a civil war under the British Mandate for Palestine and continued as such until at least the late 1980s. Until then, consequently, Part I of the Convention applied to the conflict, including Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line, but Part III – which purportedly forbids the existence of such settlements – did not yet apply. Part III became relevant, if at all, only for events that postdated the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Picture: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat at the Oslo accord signing ceremony on September 13, 1993.
Arafat clearly never abandoned the struggle to eliminate the State of Israel. In 1996, Arafat publicly stated: "We Palestinians will take over everything ... You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel, and establish a purely Palestinian state. ... I have no use for Jews; they are and remain, Jews." (Image source: Vince Musi / The White House)

If there is anything that perplexes good friends of Israel, it is the issue of settlements beyond the "Green Line" (a misleading term, as we shall see). In a familiar phenomenon, a foreign politician arrives in Jerusalem to make a speech that manifests genuine admiration of the State of Israel and its achievements, but proceeds to an equally genuine cry of distress over its settlement policies. Why? Because they are supposedly "illegal under international law."

Continue Reading Article

Nicholas Kristof’s Obscene Comparison: Injured Syrian Girl Is Not Anne Frank

Jewish refugees did not cause an explosion of rape and sexual violence as Muslim refugees have in Sweden and Germany

By Abraham H. Miller • 08/29/16 3:00pm

Anne Frank is not an injured Syrian girl, and to make the comparison, as Nicholas Kristof does, is to stand on the verge of the obscene. Anne Frank had no place to go. The Roosevelt administration callously and cynically closed America’s doors to Jews by an aggressive enforcement of immigration quotas even in instances where they did not apply.

Even the American Virgin Islands, immune from America’s immigration quotas, was shut, as were academic exceptions to quotas. When it came to European Jews, Roosevelt seemed almost as paranoid as he was about Japanese Americans, whose internment in camps was protested by none other than FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in a six-page, secret memo to the attorney general.

The doors of numerous countries are open to the Syrian and other Muslim refugees. The debate is over how many should be taken—not whether they should be taken at all.
The Syrians have advocates in the highest reaches of Western governments and the European Union. The Jews had almost no advocates.

The Syrians have other Arab and Muslim states that share a common cultural and religious heritage. The Jews had no such thing.

The British Foreign Office and the American State Department cynically made a coordinated decision that it was better for Jews to die in Hitler’s gas chambers than to be rescued.

There were not even refugee camps for Europe’s Jews until Henry Morgenthau shamed Roosevelt into creating them in North Africa, in 1944, near the end of the war.

Switzerland took in a small number of Jewish refugees, as did Sweden, and Japan before 1941. Of the nations of the world, only China, a country without a history of anti-Semitism, took in a significant number.

Had Anne Frank’s family miraculously made it to Morocco, her father would have been put into a Vichy slave labor camp to build the Pan-Saharan Railway, in conditions rivaling the infamous Japanese Death Railway for which 32 Japanese military official were convicted of war crimes and executed.

Western European Jews like the Franks were highly acculturated and even assimilated. They were well educated, fluent in numerous languages, economically successful, and devotees of Western culture. They were largely secular.

They did not believe their religion was triumphalist, that they had a religious obligation to holy war, and that the culture that absorbed them should yield its way of doing things to theirs.

It is nearly impossible to imagine Jewish refugees demanding kosher food as Somali refugees in Minneapolis demand free Halal food. It is nearly impossible that Jewish refugees would have gone to court to demand a different school than the one to which their children were assigned as is happening with Muslim refugees in Pennsylvania.

Jewish refugees did not cause an explosion of rape and sexual violence as Muslim refugees have in Sweden and Germany.

Jewish refugees were victims of lies: that they were Nazi spies and Bolshevik agitators. But that does not mean that Islamic refugees were not educated in a culture that hates Jews and LBGT people, views women as inferior to men, even before the law.

The juxtaposition of what Jews were in the 1930s and what Muslim refugees are in 2016 is an exercise in the absurd.

Our first obligation is not to any refugees but to preserve our democratic way of life.
That does not mean we have no obligation to help those who need help. There are numerous Arab and Muslim countries that share a common culture, language, and religious orientation with the refugees. The resources of the world would be better used resettling them where the attitudes in which they were acculturated will be similar to that of the larger society.

Some of these countries are among the wealthiest in the world. It would be better to make them acknowledge their obligation to their “kit and kin” than to make absurd comparisons with all the Anne Franks of Europe who perished under the Nazis.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter

Future of Israel and our "peace partners"

"No Room for the Zionist Entity in the Region"

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  August 18, 2016 at 5:00 am

  • "The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Wakf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except Jihad." — Hamas Charter.

  • Hamas's decision to participate in the upcoming local and municipal elections will further strengthen the movement and pave the way for it to extend its control from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

  • "The Zionist entity will not be part of this region. We will continue to resist it until the liberation of our land and the return of our people." — Musa Abu Marzouk, senior Hamas official.

  • How precisely Hamas intends to "serve" the Palestinians by running in the elections is somewhat murky. Abu Marzouk did not talk about building new schools and parks for the Palestinians. When he talks about "serving" the people, he means only one thing: recruiting Palestinians to Hamas and jihad against Israel and the Jews.

U.S. Held Cash Until Iran Freed Prisoners

Two weeks ago the WSJ revealed the Obama administration sent Iran $400 million in cash while the Iranians released some American hostages [a]. That triggered a debate about whether the payment was a ransom: critics insisted the two were linked but the administration said they were unrelated.

Then one of the released hostages, Pastor Saeed Abedini, seemed to confirm it was a ransom: he said that according to an Iranian intelligence official at the airport, the hostages' plane was held overnight while the Iranians waited for a second plane, presumably the plane with the cash [b]. The administration flatly denied that sequencing to journalists, saying the hostages weren't held up pending the cash. But officials wouldn't clarify the timing any further, and eventually a State Department spokesperson said it was "pretty much" a waste of time for reporters to keep asking about it [c].

The WSJ locked down the sequencing anyway. The cash payment was absolutely conditioned on the hostage release.

The trick is that the administration didn't technically lie to reporters: Iran didn't hold up the hostages until the cash arrived, according to the WSJ. Instead it was the administration which held up the cash until Iran let the hostages get into the air --

New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran... U.S. officials wouldn't let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran... Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day... Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency.

The full article is pasted below. There's another scoop in there - about how the Iranians loaded the cash into an IRGC-linked airline - which is a completely separate issue from the ransom, but is still likely to deepen controversy over the transfer.


Aug. 17, 2016 5:27 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran, based on accounts from U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation.

U.S. officials wouldn't let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17, the officials said. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the money was owed by the U.S. to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.

But the handling of the payment and its connection to the release of the Americans have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.

The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer authorized by Mr. Obama took place.

Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the round-trip flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies stacked on shipping pallets—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.

“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official.

Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.

The payment marked the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration announced it had reached with Tehran in January to resolve a decades-old legal dispute traced back to the final days of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His government paid $400 million into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 for military parts that were never delivered because of the Islamic revolution that toppled him.

Mr. Obama said on Aug. 4 that it was necessary to procure the cash for Iran because of economic sanctions on the country.

One other U.S. citizen freed in the January prisoner exchange was released separately.

Republican lawmakers have charged that the $400 million payment equated to a ransom paid by the White House to gain the release of the Americans.

Republican leaders said they are preparing to hold hearings on the $400 million transfer once Congress returns from its summer break in September. Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), chairman of a House investigative body, sent letters to the Justice and Treasury Departments, as well as the Federal Reserve, on Aug. 10 requesting all records related to the Iran exchange.

Mr. Duffy asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to identify all “persons within the Department authorizing or otherwise taking steps to carry out the payment.”

Senior Justice officials objected to the $400 million cash transfer due to fears it would be seen as a ransom payment, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Lawmakers have focused on the mechanics of the $400 million cash transfer to try to back their allegations that the delivery of the money was in exchange for the return of the jailed Americans.

One of the Americans released in January as part of the prisoner exchange, a Catholic pastor named Saeed Abedini, said he and other American prisoners were kept waiting at Mehrabad airport for more than 20 hours from Jan. 16 to the morning of Jan. 17. He said in an interview that he was told by a senior Iranian intelligence official at the time that their departure was contingent upon the movements of a second airplane.

Mr. Abedini said he was asked to testify next month before the House Foreign Relations Committee.

State Department officials have rebutted Mr. Abedini’s comments, saying the delay in his plane’s departure wasn’t related to a second plane or the payment of the $400 million. They said the delay was solely tied to U.S. efforts to locate the wife and mother of another imprisoned American, the Washington Post’s former Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, and ensuring they were allowed to board the Swiss plane as well.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Iran Air in 2011 for allegedly ferrying weapons and supplies for Tehran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Treasury said in its designation that “IRGC officers occasionally take control over Iran Air flights carrying special IRGC-related cargo.”

Lawmakers are concerned the IRGC may have gained control of the cash once in Tehran. U.S. officials said they are not certain how Iran has used the $400 million that was returned.

The Treasury Department lifted sanctions on Iran Air on Jan. 16—the day before the cash and prisoner transfers—as part of the landmark nuclear agreement reached between Iran, the U.S. and other global powers. The U.S. has maintained sanctions on a second Iranian air carrier, Mahan Air, for its alleged role in facilitating arms shipments for the IRGC.

Obama administration officials have confirmed that they have paid the remaining $1.3 billion to Iran as part of the settlement reached in January on the failed arms deal. This marked the interest accrued over the past 37 years on the original $400 million paid by Iran.

U.S. officials, however, have refused to disclose how the Obama administration made this additional payment. Lawmakers are seeking to determine whether this money was also paid in cash or if the Treasury Department was able to wire it electronically.


[a] http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sent-cash-to-iran-as-americans-were-freed-1470181874
[b] http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2016/08/04/freed-american-hostage-waited-all-night-at-airport.html
[c] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/08/260911.htm


White House Partner Asked Soros for $750K to Fund Pro-Iran Deal ‘Echo Chamber’

Ploughshares Fund needed cash to spin media, pay off ‘validators’

BY: Adam Kredo 
August 18, 2016 5:00 am

An organization that played a key role in the White House’s effort to mislead the public and Congress about last summer’s nuclear agreement with Iran requested $750,000 for this campaign from a foundation backed by liberal billionaire George Soros, according to funding documents leaked to the public.

The Ploughshares Fund, a liberal organization cited by top White House officials as a chief architect of the Obama administration’s campaign to push the Iran deal, requested the cash from Soros’s Open Society Foundations so that it could pay off “experts and validators” of the administration’s diplomacy with Iran, according to a funding proposal titled, “Defending Iran Nuclear Diplomacy.”

The March 2015 funding request was leaked online as part of a massive document disclosure that revealed Soros’s efforts to fund a large network of liberal nonprofits and political groups.

The disclosure of the Ploughshares request shines further light on backroom efforts by the White House and its top allies to create what they called an “echo chamber” to galvanize public support for the nuclear deal with Iran.

Ploughshares was cited by senior White House officials as a chief architect of this campaign, which flooded the media with various experts touting the deal.

Ploughshares requested the $750,000 in order to solidify its pro-Iran network and bring others into the fold, according to the funding request.

This included efforts to “broaden and better coordinate circle of experts and validators who support diplomacy, including prominent US, European and Israeli military and diplomatic personalities, as well as Iranian human rights and civil society leaders,” according to the document.

Ploughshares raised concerns that opponents of the deal would scuttle negotiations before the administration achieved a final agreement.

“One potential risk is that unforeseen events or actions by opponents in the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Israel somehow make a deal impossible before the grant is fully implemented,” the document states. “Another potential risk is that negotiations on an accord or implementation phases extend beyond timeframe of the grant, and opportunities to derail diplomacy persist after resources might have been expended.”

The money would be used to facilitate “mainstream and social media outreach by validators along with other public and private efforts to shape the debate in support of an agreement and continued diplomacy,” the request states.

Ploughshares also hoped to “increase outreach by coalition members and validators to policymakers with focus on long-term impact of the deal on regional and global security issues where potential cooperation with Iran could be beneficial.”

The request provides a glimpse into efforts by the White House and its allies to strengthen its grasp on the media in order to prevent negative coverage of the Iran agreement.

The Free Beacon disclosed earlier this week that the Washington Post published an op-ed by a contributor employed by organizations that had taken money from Ploughshares. The op-ed advocated in favor of a recent $400 million cash payment to Iran, but the author and the newspaper did not disclose this relationship.

The scandal also has engulfed National Public Radio, which took money from Ploughshares while conducting interviews with proponents of the deal. NPR was also caught cancelling interviews with top congressional opponents of the agreement.

One foreign policy consultant who has worked intimately with Congress on the Iran deal said that the Ploughshares funding request is further proof that the White House’s efforts were well funded and highly influential.

“You couldn’t turn around last summer without bumping into some Iran deal booster complaining about all the money that skeptics were spending,” the source said. “Now we find out that the architects of the Iran echo chamber were soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars from dark money groups to pour into manipulating the media and pushing fabricated experts into the mainstream.”

Neither the Open Society Foundations nor Ploughshares returned requests for comment.

Can One Be Simultaneously a Zionist and a Great Historian of Islam?

To Edward Said, the answer was a thunderous no. Bernard Lewis’s life and career, including his steadfast support of Israel, definitively demonstrate otherwise.


Itamar Rabinovich, president of the Israel Institute, is a former ambassador of Israel to the United States (1993-1996). Among his books is a biography of Yitzḥak Rabin, forthcoming from Yale.

Can one be a Zionist and, at the same time, a great historian of Islam and the Arabs? As Martin Kramer’s essay, “The Return of Bernard Lewis,” amply attests, and as its subject’s life and career unambiguously demonstrate, the answer is a resounding yes.

Before going further, we need to pause at the peculiarity of the question itself—a question seldom posed in other contexts. No one normally asks whether a Protestant American scholar living at the time of the cold war could simultaneously be a great historian of Russia or an expert on Soviet foreign policy. By contrast, however, a powerful current of opinion has long held Western and non-Muslim scholars to be disqualified by definition from the objective study of Islam and the Arabs.

In recent decades, the most influential statement of such rejectionism was Edward Said’s 1978 book Orientalism. There Said argued that, from its beginnings in the 19th century until the present day, Western study of the Middle East has been not only uninformed but manipulative of historical fact, infected by patronizing arrogance, and a willing accomplice of imperialist designs on Muslim lands and peoples.

In the roster of contemporary “Orientalists” vilified by Said and his many supporters and followers in the academic world, the one subjected to the harshest attack has been Bernard Lewis. In Lewis’s case, the vitriol has been compounded by the fact that here is a scholar both Jewish and a supporter of Israel—self-evident indicators, in the Saidian scheme, of anti-Muslim prejudice and an innate incapacity for true historical understanding.

Putting these spurious allegations to rest would be a waste of time and space. Lewis’s enormous body of work speaks for itself. One need only note in addition that Lewis’s scholarship and expertise are everywhere reinforced by an obvious spirit of empathy with Arab and Muslim peoples, not to mention, as those who know him will readily testify, enduring friendships with many individual Arabs and Muslims.

And, yes, he is also a Zionist: the product of a warm Anglo-Jewish home and of early years spent in a Zionist youth movement. The latter connection lapsed as he began his scholarly career in the late 1930s and then served in the British army during World War II. But by the late 40s and 50s, with his academic life flourishing and his reputation growing, Lewis counted numbers of Israelis as his students and friends and developed an academic relationship with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

For a long time, these links formed just one aspect among others in a rich and busy life. Then, in the early 1970s, with Lewis’s move from England to the U.S. and tenure at Princeton University, a change occurred. It was then that he established a close relationship with Tel Aviv University, where I was serving as a professor and chairman of Middle East studies. From then on, just about every winter for more than 40 years, he would regularly spend several weeks in the city, finally buying an apartment and extending his annual visits into months.

At Tel Aviv University, Lewis was for many years a senior fellow at the Sackler Institute for Advanced Studies. But his real home was the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, of which I and, later, Asher Susser and Martin Kramer served as directors. During a typical visit, he would deliver two public lectures and devote time to both formal and informal meetings with faculty and graduate students. The lectures soon became major cultural events, filling the university’s largest auditorium with an eager audience of students, faculty, and the general public. Simultaneously, having retained his ties to the Hebrew University, Lewis would normally deliver an annual lecture there as well, using the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues.

Bernard has always been generous about sharing both his vast erudition and his deep wisdom, and, once you’ve penetrated a witty and deceptively remote exterior, his warm and cordial temperament.  For me personally, those annual visits, supplemented over the years by meetings in other cities and on other continents, became a meaningful and quite essential element of life itself.

If the move to the U.S. and the inauguration of annual visits to Israel made up one change, a second had to do with Bernard’s new role in America as a prominent public intellectual. To be sure, his advice and his presence had been sought earlier in the clubby atmosphere of the British foreign office, but now he acquired a different role. Taken up by Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a Democratic Senator from the state of Washington and vigorous exponent of an activist American role in world affairs, he was invited to testify before Congress and to meet with and advise Washington’s policy elite. Alongside his scholarly work, he also began to write essays on public policy for a general readership; of these, perhaps still the best-known and the most influential was “The Return of Islam.”

In this new and continuing role as public intellectual, Lewis never became an advocate of Israel or its policies. What he did do during his visits was to meet with Israeli leaders and, as in America, share his knowledge and insights.

At one point, it is true, that role expanded somewhat. The year was 1971. Bernard was persuaded by a friend, the Egyptian diplomat Tahseen Bashir, that President Anwar Sadat had decided to seek peace with Israel and was ready to pursue the possibility of an interim settlement. Bashir asked Lewis to convey this message to senior members of Prime Minister Golda Meir’s cabinet—and he did.

It would be gratifying to report that, in a life full of achievements and successes, Bernard Lewis’s effort to broker an opening with Israel’s main enemy was a crowning event. But as everyone knows, history unfolded otherwise. Over the decades, a great deal of ink has been spilled over the meaning and consequences of the Israeli government’s decision not to test Sadat’s overture. Had it done so, might the October 1973 war, with all of its trauma, have been averted?

A strong case can be made that, in 1971-72, Sadat entertained a highly limited conception of what peace with Israel would and would not entail, and that only defeat in 1973 would persuade him that Israel was militarily invincible. But this is necessarily speculative; what we know is that the Egyptian president was evidently serious enough to test the waters, that the Meir government was determined to maintain the status quo, that Egypt did subsequently attack and war did take place, and that peace, whether or not it could have been reached in 1972, was finally concluded in 1979.

In the pre-modern era, or so a story goes, a Catholic astronomer was asked how he reconciled his science with his religion. He responded: when I gaze at the stars I do not think about God, and when I pray to God I do not think about the stars. Bernard Lewis may be said to have followed a similar course. He is first and foremost a scholar, a historian, for whom professional standards and integrity are sacrosanct. He has also been intensely interested in policy, and as a public intellectual has made lastingly important contributions to public discourse on the Middle East. And he is a proud Jew and a committed supporter of the Jewish state, though one—it bears repeating in the light of Saidian calumnies to the contrary—who has never engaged in advocacy for that state. Between his scholarship and his sentiments, the scholar has always known where to draw the line.

A Prescience of the Past: Bernard Lewis

Bernard Lewis’s vast erudition, combined with his rare ability to let the past speak through him, enables him to grasp the present in all its depth. JUNE 16 2016

About the author Eric Ormsby is the author of, among other books, Theodicy in Islamic ThoughtMoses Maimonides and His Time, and seven volumes of poetry.

My old paperback copy of Bernard Lewis’s The Arabs in History (1950) has long since fallen to tatters, its individual signatures now detached, its margins festooned with comments, its pages dog-eared and smudged. It was the first work on Arab history that I read as a student, and if I cling to my battered copy to this day, it is not solely for sentimental reasons or because it remains unmatched as a concise account of a distant culture. The book enshrines an authorial passion that communicates itself to the reader. And my own clumsy annotations reflect that passion.

It seems to me that this same fascination with his subject has characterized all of Bernard Lewis’s many books on the Near East and on Islam. He takes a serious delight in history; there is a pleasurable momentum in his narratives; he carries his readers along with him. At the same time, there is nothing breezy or glib about his writing. Each sentence is laden with hard-won fact or, when facts are in doubt, with sensible and reasoned speculation.

In responding to my old friend and classmate Martin Kramer’s superb tribute, “The Return of Bernard Lewis,” I would add only a word or two about what strikes me as one of Lewis’s most impressive, yet least noted, accomplishments as a historian: his prose style. A master of English prose, he stands squarely in the great English tradition of historical writing; it is no accident that sly echoes of Edward Gibbon, as well as of other classic historians, may be discerned in his writing. These echoes are unobtrusive but palpable.

This is not to say that Lewis writes in some fusty and antiquated style but that his spare, swift, often ironic language carries a charge, a cluster of resonances. Nor does this have anything to do with what Lewis’s arch-critic Edward Said sneeringly termed his “veneer of omniscient tranquil authority.” Lewis is the least tranquil of historians. There is a nervous energy to his best sentences.

Consider this brief passage from The Emergence of Modern Turkey, his masterpiece of 1961:

Kemal Atatürk was a man of swift and decisive action, of sudden and often violent decision. A tough and brilliant soldier, a hard drinker and wencher, he was in all things a man of immense will and abounding vitality. By his contemporaries he was often called a dictator, and in a sense he certainly was. But in saying this one must remember that his rule was very different from that of other men, in Europe and the Middle East yesterday and today, to whom the same term is applied. An autocrat by personal and professional bias, dominating and imperious by temperament, he yet showed a respect for decency and legality, for human and political standards, that is in astonishing contrast with the behavior of lesser and more pretentious men. His was a dictatorship without the uneasy over-the-shoulder glance, the terror of the doorbell, the dark menace of the concentration camp.

This passage—I cite it and return to it often, as I do to my sadly tattered Arabs in History—reveals Lewis’s brilliance as a stylist. The contradictions of Atatürk’s character are caught in a few blunt epithets, but the whole capsule portrait is carefully qualified to convey an immediate sense of the subject’s “abounding vitality.” And though there are deliberately archaic touches—like the word “wencher” (which my spell checker keeps correcting to “wincher”)—the final, ominous phrases bring the portrait chillingly up to date. The prose is as swift as Atatürk himself: it possesses a stylistic aura, a savor of the past, that gives depth and subtlety to the portrait.

Lewis’s erudition, even more in evidence in his writing since his “retirement” decades ago, seems to me to have been constantly nourished by his love and reverence for language—not only the several Middle Eastern and European languages of which he has such a mastery but the English language as well. This abiding affection is much on display in his graceful translations of classical Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish poetry collected in Music of a Distant Drum (2001).

The rare ability to let others, distant in time and culture, speak through him was already manifest in his indispensable two-volume anthology Islam: from the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople (1974): another of his books that I have read to tatters and taught from for decades. Here, in texts and documents that he himself translated directly from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Judeo-Arabic, we catch the words and sometimes the very inflections of long-vanished caliphs and viziers, merchants and mystics, rebels and dissidents.

Like Martin Kramer,I first met Bernard Lewis over 40 years ago. The occasion was a picnic reception at Princeton University to mark his arrival at the department of Near Eastern studies. Unfortunately for me, I had completed my course work and so had no opportunity to study with him. But I remember being struck from that first meeting by his unpretentiousness and by what I can only call a distinctive courtliness of manner. He brought a new rigor into the study of his field but it was, so to speak, a gentle rigor. His devotion to his students soon became legendary. In our occasional conversations, usually on library matters (I was then curator of Princeton’s Near East collections), I was charmed by his wit and rather feline sense of humor.

Some 30 years later, while serving in the 2000s as director of McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies, I had the pleasure of inviting Bernard Lewis to give a named lecture. To my surprise, several of my colleagues were outraged and noisily boycotted the lecture. For days before and after, the dread epithet “Orientalist!” could be heard, spat out angrily in the institute’s corridors. This fusty term, resurrected by Said’s slovenly and mendacious 1978 diatribe Orientalism, which singled Lewis out as a target, seemed to be the best my colleagues could come up with from their paltry arsenal of invective; so out-of-date did their indignation seem, they might as well have been hissing “poltroon!” Lewis, by contrast, not only gave a brilliant lecture but was as courtly and elegant as ever.

Martin Kramer writes of Lewis’s rare prescience. At the McGill lecture, it struck me that his was a special form of prescience, a prescience of the past, with all of its slippery mutations and nebulous certainties—and that only such prescience, founded on vast erudition, could enable one to interpret the present. It seemed to me then that Bernard Lewis, by that time well into his nineties, had grasped the present in all its depth while his detractors were still caught in some narrow time-warp.

In offering the warmest best wishes and congratulations to Bernard Lewis on his hundredth birthday, I have to admit to a certain sense of startlement. To his students and admirers, Bernard Lewis has always seemed ageless. As a scholar, teacher, writer, editor, and translator—and, latterly, as a sage—he has always been present, like the peak one glimpses from a window: reassuringly solid but various, too, ever receptive to the changing light.

Israel Hayom | Why are Jews not 'radicalized?'

By Judith Bergman

According to the most popular and largely dominant theory of why Muslims become radicalized, the more they feel discriminated against, the more likely they are to engage in terrorism and join terrorist groups such as Islamic State.

This theory claims to be research based. It is only fitting, therefore, to examine why it is not equally applicable to Jews, including Jews who live in Israel. After all, Muslims are not a small minority in the world, with around 1.5 billion adherents of Islam, compared to the roughly 14 million Jews in the world. Outside their home countries, especially in Europe, Muslims often constitute very large minorities, whereas Jews constitute far smaller and much more vulnerable minorities that are often subject to alienation and racism from all sides, Muslim and non-Muslim.

Israel is itself in a minority: the only Jewish state in the world, located in a region of largely Muslim states, most of them hostile. The Muslim states often work as a pack -- the Organization of Islamic Cooperation consists of 57 members, 56 of which are also members of the U.N. -- to bully the small Jewish nation.

If we go by the theory, after the Holocaust the Jews should have terrorized their respective European countries endlessly, yet there are no Jewish terrorists. After having been singled out and discriminated against, demonized, dehumanized, humiliated, tortured in unimaginable ways, forced into ghettos, and transported to their gruesome deaths, the surviving Jews did not respond with hatred and killing sprees. They responded with untold resilience, a willingness to pick themselves up and rise from the ashes, and forged ahead despite the crimes that had been committed against them.

Jews today in Europe, and increasingly in the United States, especially on university campuses, experience anti-Semitism on a scale unseen since World War II. They face increasingly violent anti-Semitism, especially in France, and very real terror threats that have already cost several Jewish lives. However, it has not occurred to a single researcher to as much as mention the risks of "Judeophobia" leading to an increase of radicalization among European Jews or among young American Jews on campuses.

Israel is a chapter of its own. Since the 1967 Six-Day war, Israel has been at the receiving end of an unimaginable amount of international abuse, especially at the hands of the U.N., where it has been repeatedly singled out for opprobrium simply because the Arab nations and their many allies in the U.N. possess the majority necessary to bully the Jewish state.

Most recently, this international bullying surfaced at the Rio Olympics, where the head of the Lebanese Olympic delegation blocked Israeli athletes from boarding a bus that the teams were supposed to share, and where Joud Fahmy of Saudi Arabia forfeited a first-round judo match to avoid facing Israel.

Not that this kind of Arab behavior is anything new: In June, Syrian boxer Ala Ghasoun refused to participate in an Olympic qualifying match against an Israeli contender, saying that to do so "would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the State of Israel." Israel cannot compete in world football tournaments in Asia, but has to instead compete in Europe, since so many Arab states refuse to play against Israel. Yet no one speaks of "Judeophobia" at the Olympics. Imagine the outrage if the situation had been reversed and an Israeli athlete had refused to compete against a Muslim. What then?

So much discrimination, unique among the nations, and yet Israel somehow does not turn into a terrorist state. On the contrary, Israel is almost always a first responder when natural disasters strike, often offering help to those very states who bully it at every given opportunity. In addition, Israel spends most of its energy on innovations that benefit not only Israel but the world.

Similarly, the theory of radicalization does not apply to those Christians and others who are oppressed and under constant attack -- frequently from Muslims -- around the world. Tibetans have not turned into ax-wielding murderers because China has occupied their country for over half a century, nor have the Biafrans and other non-Muslim Nigerians who are ruthlessly murdered in Nigeria by government troops and Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen terrorists begun to bomb or hack to death their opponents in response.

That is because the theory is utterly false. If it had an iota of merit, we would see others reacting in the same way, given the same -- and at times much worse -- circumstances. They do not. Nevertheless, the theory persists.

Islamophobia and discrimination are not the source of Muslim radicalization and never were. If the West wants to battle Islamic terrorism successfully, it should internalize this, and fast.

I Agree with Cornel West by Stephen Flatow


I agree with Cornel West

By Stephen M. Flatow/JNS.org

I agree with Cornel West.

I never thought I would find myself writing those words. West, a leading African-American author and intellectual, is a vicious critic of Israel. He supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He says Israel's leaders are "war criminals." In a speech at Princeton last year, he made the wildly absurd claim that the Israelis "are killing hundreds [of Palestinians] daily."

But even a broken clock gives the right time twice a day, so on the rare occasion that West utters words of truth about the Palestinians or Israel, I must acknowledge that.

West was appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to serve on the Democratic Party's Platform Committee. He lobbied hard for a platform plank supporting the Palestinian cause, and was partly successful.

Speaking to a Jerusalem Post reporter on July 26, on the floor of the Democratic convention, West said that he was disappointed the platform did not go further, but he vowed to continue his struggle. He declared: "The Palestinians will be free, brother. Ain’t no doubt about that.”

And that's where Cornel and I agree.

Since 1995, more than 98 percent of the Palestinians have been living under the occupation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) (and, since 2007, 100 percent of the residents of Gaza have been living under the occupation of Hamas). Ain't no doubt in my mind: one day, brother, the Palestinians will be free of the cruel totalitarian Palestinian regimes that occupy and oppress them.

One day, brother, the Palestinians will have the freedom to democratically choose their leaders. Mahmoud Abbas was elected head of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005 for a four year term.  Yet somehow he is still in office, seven and a half years since his term expired. And Hamas has not held a democratic election since taking over the Gaza Strip nine years ago.

One day, brother, the Palestinians will have the right to freedom of speech.  Najat Abu Baker, a member of the Palestinian parliament, recently hid out in the parliament building for seventeen days to avoid being arrested by the PA police. The warrant for arrest was issued because --as the New York Timesput it-- "Ms. Abu Baker said Mr. Abbas should resign and suggested that there would be money to pay educators if ministers were not so corrupt."

One day, brother, the Palestinians will have the right to free assembly. Earlier this year, 20,000 Palestinian public school teachers went on strike because they had not been paid (those were the unpaid educators to whom Ms. Abu Baker was referring). When some dissidents tried to hold a rally in support of the strikers, "the PA security services set up rings of checkpoints to prevent the teachers from attending the demonstration," according to Ha'aretz. Twenty teachers and two school principals who did manage to reach the rally were arrested for doing so.

One day, brother, the Palestinians will no longer have their basic human rights violated by the Palestinian occupation regime. According to the State Department's most recent report on human rights around the world, the PA is guilty of"abuse and mistreatment of detainees, poor and overcrowded detention facilities, prolonged detention, and infringements on privacy rights;" "restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly;" "limits on freedom of association and movement;" "discrimination against persons with disabilities" and "discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status;" and "limits on worker rights," including "forced labor."

So, I agree with Cornel West: one day, the Palestinians will be free. The question is--how long will it take Professor West to acknowledge just who it is that the Palestinians need to be liberated from?

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

Unfortunately, Cornel West lives and works in Princeton NJ

Gemunder Center Distinguished Fellow IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror on Israel's Active Defenses

Israel's Active Defenses: Tactical Success with Strategic Implications

By IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror - 8/5/16

Over the course of its history, Israel has faced a series of attempts to uproot the Jewish people from its land, including terrorism and massive conventional armies. Today the main threat comes from thousands of rockets and missiles in the hands primarily of Hezbollah, Hamas and their patron Iran. Israel's development of missile defenses to counter this threat is a technological triumph, but also creates a set of strategic dilemmas. Because these defenses can reduce its own casualties almost to zero, how can Israel justify self-defense against rocket and missile attacks when its enemies launch these weapons behind human shields? This has real implications for Israel's deterrence against adversaries like Hezbollah and Hamas.

The first challenge, which began before the establishment of the state, was a civilian terror campaign. This campaign took various forms, but overall, consisted of a series of waves of terror that began with the arrival of the first Zionist immigrants at the end of the 19th century, continued through the attacks of 1921 and 1936, and the fierce battles held between the U.N. resolution on partition in November 1947 and the invasion of the Arab armies on May 15, 1948. After the establishment of the state, the terror campaign was less coordinated, lasting up until the first terror attack conducted by an organized movement, Fatah, in 1965. The waves of terror have continued with varying levels of intensity up to today, most recently in the form of "lone wolf attacks" with guns or knives.

The second challenge, interstate warfare, began with the end of the British Mandate, when the armies of seven Arab countries invaded the nascent Israel. These rounds of warfare continued over a 25-year period, with the last war against regular armies having taken place in 1973. Throughout the years since, up until the US invasion of Iraq and the Arab Spring, Israel was surrounded by millions of troops, tens of thousands of artillery pieces, thousands of tanks, and many hundreds of warplanes. Israel handed the Arab armies a series of resounding defeats on the battlefield, and thus wars of this kind became less attractive to Arab states.

The third, contemporary challenge is rooted in the failures of the civilian terror campaign and regular Arab armies against Israel. Now, Israel's opponents instead invested immense resources in large-scale firepower based on rockets and missiles. Following the Arab Spring, and the removal of the Syrian army as a threat to Israel, non-state combatant organizations-mainly Hezbollah, but also Hamas-have constructed most of their force around this type of firepower.

Today, Israel's civilian population is threatened by some 120,000 rockets and missiles. Most of them-over 100,000-are held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, while up to 5,000 rockets are deployed in Gaza by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The remainder consist of several hundred ballistic missiles in Iran, and several hundred rockets held by Islamic State in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel has invested significant efforts in shifting the balance of power against missiles and rockets. While all the rockets fired by Hezbollah in 2006 toward Israeli population centers found their targets; in 2014, 90 percent of the rockets fired by Hamas toward Israeli civilian targets, which Israel decided to defend, were intercepted by the Iron Dome active defense system.

This represents a revolution in Israel's ability to defend itself against the main threat to its armed forces and to its civilian and military home front. This is a first-rate technological achievement, which, together with the Arrow 2 system, provides Israel with a good level of defense. With the completion of the David's Sling system within the coming year, and of the Arrow 3 system within the next two years, Israel will be even better protected. We owe a great debt to American aid; but this success is founded on Israeli genius, originality, creativity, and of course a large-scale Israeli financial investment. This is an expensive project, at around $7-10 billion, in addition to the high-quality personnel required for the new defensive array.

Due to the drastic reduction in the number of casualties and the extent of destruction caused to Israel, active defense reduces the amount of pressure on Israeli leaders to wipe out enemy rocket and missile capabilities, and to do so as quickly as possible. Simply put, the success of Iron Dome has saved the lives of many of Israelis and much more of the Palestinians, because it has allowed the Israeli government and the IDF to be far more circumspect in the use of firepower. However, this success also brings with it some fundamental problems at the strategic policy level.

First, given that the number of interceptors is limited, where should the defense system be activated, and where should rockets "be allowed to fall" within Israel? This is a difficult question of priorities. Is it more important, in these kinds of operations, to protect the civilian population, or to protect the armed forces and military infrastructure so that the fight against the enemy can continue? It is clear that Hezbollah's main goal is to harm as many civilians as possible. It is necessary to take into account the pressure that can be expected from the civilian home front to defend them, but it is also clear that only the armed forces can shorten the war and strike at Hezbollah's launching capabilities. This creates very difficult trade-offs: where should the interceptors be allotted-to defend civilians, or to defend various elements of the military system? Should an attack on IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv be prevented, at the cost of a missile being allowed to hit the Bavli neighborhood a mile or two north of there?

Second, what are the implications of a reduced number of casualties on Israel's home front? This being the case, what would be the justification for Israel to inflict large losses on the other side? What are the international implications of such a situation, including legal considerations? I recently watched a public debate at Oxford, during which it was claimed that Israel is guilty of war crimes, with one of the most vocal arguments being the ratio between civilian casualties-according to the speaker, seven Israelis killed versus 1,500 Palestinians. The truth is that while Israel defends its citizens and invests boundless efforts toward this end, Hamas intentionally sacrifices its civilians, all of whom are "human shields" as far as it is concerned. Ironically, the world (or at least the gentleman from Oxford) would like to punish Israel for this. Both sides are successful in their efforts: Israel acts legally, and saves its civilians; Hamas acts illegally, yet the end result is that Israel's legitimacy is damaged. The irony would only be increased should a case be brought against Israel at the International Court of Justice, with any accusation of disproportionate use of force being essentially based on Israel's very success in defending its own citizens. This was not the intention of the authors of the relevant international conventions.

This problem will become even more evident if Israel goes on the offensive in order to strike at the other side's launch capabilities. If ground forces are deployed, there will be large numbers of casualties on the other side, many of them civilians, because these organizations operate from within civilian areas and among civilian populations. How can such a number of deaths be justified internationally while, due to active and passive defense systems, the number of Israeli civilian casualties will be very small? The terror organizations make cynical use of the naïve international audiences to fight Israel, with a great deal of success. This is particularly relevant concerning the next conflict with Hezbollah: ground forces will have to be used at some stage, given that the number of missiles they hold is too large to be dealt with solely by the interceptors Israel currently possesses.

There is a third dilemma. The Israeli government needs legitimacy from the populace for operations. If there are no civilian casualties or very few, will the government have the legitimacy to embark on military operations that may result in many soldiers being killed, in particular ground offensives?

These dilemmas give rise to some very important questions about Israel's ability to survive in this volatile region. There is a serious claim made that Israel's deterrent capabilities have reduced significantly because in this new situation, it is difficult for a government to take a decision that may endanger lives, especially with regards to deploying ground forces. Ironically, the success of the active defense systems provides a certain immunity for Israel's enemies, who know that embedding themselves sin civilian populations makes it harder to defeat their launch capabilities without the use of Israeli ground forces. It is the very success of Iron Dome, and of the other elements of the active and passive defense systems that ties Israel's hands from acting against its enemies, who feel less threatened and at greater liberty to use rockets and missiles.


  • The success of Iron Dome has saved the lives of many of Israelis and much more of Palestinians, because it has allowed the Israeli government and the IDF to be far more circumspect in the use of firepower.
  • The more successful the active defense systems are, then ironically, the less legitimacy Israel has for acting to prevent the enemy firing on it. Enemy launchers are deployed within a civilian population, and any strike against them would result in a large number of civilian casualties, out of all proportion to the low number of Israeli casualties from enemy fire.
  • The question of legitimacy is even harder when it comes to the use of ground forces, when internal legitimacy also becomes a consideration for decision makers. Ground forces will have to be used at some stage against Hezbollah, given that the number of missiles they hold is too large to be dealt with by the interceptors Israel currently has, and these questions will be asked both domestically and internationally.
  • Israel must build four layers of defense against missiles, rockets and mortar fire (at all ranges), improve its ability to intercept increasingly accurate missiles, and be able to withstand lengthy rounds of warfare requiring very large numbers of interceptors.
  • Intelligent use of active defense and ground forces, and high readiness of the civilian home front - including advanced passive defenses like shelters and orderly evacuation of civilians from areas under attack - are necessary against the greatest conventional threat Israel will face in the next few years.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror is a distinguished fellow at JINSA's Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy. He is also the Greg and Anne Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and former national security advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel. He served 36 years in senior IDF posts, including commander of the Military Colleges, military secretary to the Minister of Defense, director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Military Intelligence, and chief intelligence officer of the Northern Command.

Israel, it’s not you — it’s them, by Thane Rosenbaum

AUGUST 4, 2016, 12:01 AM

Some Jewish progressives once again find themselves in writhing agony over Israel and its litany of misdeeds against the Palestinians.

Two recent essays in Haaretz assiduously condemn Zionism, singling Israel out as a source of shame for Jews who can no longer tolerate a lone democracy wedged into a region where stoning women, torching homosexuals and beheading journalists are not crimes but hobbies, and where life is made miserable for anyone who doesn’t long for the stone age of the last Caliphate.

Columnist Gideon Levy declared that Israel is “evil” — not quite as bad as the Nazis, but surely a nation irredeemably at fault for an unjustified “Occupation” and detentions that demonstrate arbitrary cruelty and not self-defense. And two American historians, Hasia Diner and Marjorie Feld, pronounced that Israel (and any synagogue with Zionist sensibilities), is now finally off their Christmas lists — no longer will they visit, support, or even say a kind word about the Jewish state, so repugnant has Israel become in their purified eyes.

Yes, Israel, it’s you. If you didn’t exist, all the world’s problems would magically disappear, and some on the Jewish left, like Levy, Diner and Feld, would finally be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience.

Welcome to the delusions of Jews who can’t live with themselves until they publicly disavow the one country on the planet that would accept them without condition.

We’ve heard this song before; the one-note wonder that epitomizes the moral superiority of some Jewish liberals:

“Oh, Israel, I visited you as a child and planted a tree. I spent a summer on a kibbutz, got sunburn, and learned a new dance. I always loved you, but no more.” (Note the back of the hand pressed dramatically against forehead, voice trembling.) “Your imperfection has stained me as a complicit Jew. Your policies toward the Palestinians have hurt me personally, and for this reason, you have lost my loyalty and love.”

For those not gagging, you’ll be happy to know that there is a phrase for such pathetic posturing: moral narcissism. Somehow Israel’s historic geographic dilemma, surrounded by authoritarian despots, Islamic fanatics, and parents who martyr their children in ways that make even barbarians blanch, is subordinated to the disapproval of Jews who feel that Israel owes them an apology.

Imagine their disappointment in the Jewish state for failing to live up to their high standards, where nothing is asked of Muslim societies and everything is demanded of the Jewish one. How convenient that, for the most part, they can safely pout from afar, the daily reality of knife-wielding and rocket-launching Palestinians of no special concern on American college campuses or the copy desk of American magazines.

In this twisted morality play of smug self-importance, the existential costs of living in the Middle East becomes secondary to the higher mission of enabling certain Jews to forgive Israel and love it once again. What is Israel, after all, if some Jewish writers and academics can’t go to lunch and face their friends? What personal hardship. Zionism exudes all social ills, especially bad manners.

Unfortunately, this kind of pandering to anti-Semites and anti-colonialists has been going on for some time. In faculty lounges, intellectual circles, and certain fashionable parties, equating Zionism with Nazism, racism, and whatever it was that Attila the Hun practiced in his day has become the calling card of the Jewish jet set. “Some of my best friends are Jewish” is no longer the exoneration of choice; “I know Jews who despise Israel” is the new secret password among polite company

After all, it’s not hard to impress those who can’t find Israel on a map, and who casually fail to acknowledge the number of wars Arab nations have waged against Israel and the various peace proposals the Palestinians have rejected over the years.

Palestinian charters to annihilate the Jewish state, along with an odious slogan such as, “from the river to the sea,” are not mere trash talk. Blindness to such willful wish fulfillment is more than pathology, it’s prejudice — the moral hypocrisy of losing all perspective on the sorry condition of human rights among Muslim nations. Israel’s neighbors murder and dehumanize hundreds of thousands of their own people with no global outcry. Israel disarms a terrorist and bloody murder is suddenly too generous a description.

Israel is not perfect, but in the Middle East, northern Africa and Persian Gulf, it’s earthly paradise, which is why Arab Israelis would choose to live nowhere else, and why journalists who cover the region live and report out of Israel, where freedom of the press allows them to criticize the one nation where no matter what they write, their necks will still be securely attached to their heads.

Note to Levy, Diner and Feld and their sympathizers: Please, go find another country that will make you feel better about yourselves. Israel has enough troubles without having to worry about your delicate, ever-needy self-regard.