by Benjamin Kerstein
Israeli film used to be almost exclusively—and aggressively—secular. With the rise of the ultra-Orthodox director Rama Burshtein and others, that’s changing.
Meet Abu Musab al-Suri. Tom Wilson.
In the midst of Middle East chaos, Hamas backs the seemingly strong horse. Jonathan Halevi.
Rationalism, theology, and Rolling Stone. Gil Student.
From Islamic manuscripts to Quaker bonnets to Torah scrolls. Jenna Weissman Joselit.
Against the protestations of many Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish leaders. Colin Schindler.
The cost of freedom on Israel's 69th birthday
By JPOST EDITORIAL
There was a time not too long ago when we knew what it meant to be helpless. As our nation pauses once again in this roller coaster spring of remembrance and celebration, we observe a second national ritual of solemn commemoration and mourning, honoring the memories of the fallen who died so that the nation may live.
So soon after we celebrate the festival of our people’s liberation from slavery two millennia ago, we mourn the slaughter of a third of the Jewish nation in the Holocaust, followed by honoring the thousands of our youth who since the birth of the Jewish state have died – and who continue to be sacrificed – defending a formerly powerless people in its nascent homeland.
In his famous poem “The Silver Platter,” Natan Alterman wrote at the dawn of our independence: “And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky slowly dimming over smoking frontiers, As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle... the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”
Death in battle is not served on a silver platter. The cost of freedom is high, and the citizens of Israel have been paying it officially for 69 years of statehood. We acknowledge it in a uniquely Israeli way: by integrally linking the celebration of the ongoing miracle of our national independence with a preceding day of remembrance honoring those whose sacrifice made it possible.
At a time when the president of the United States is expected to visit near to when we mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of our capital, attention is naturally focusing on the shared values of our two democracies. Both nations have memorial days, but the US celebration after nearly 250 years of independence has become more a weekend of celebrating the advent of summer.
Bereaved Americans also visit cemeteries on US Memorial Day, but nationally it is a rather nonchalant observance, known more popularly for the running of the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR motor races, the Memorial Tournament golf event and even the final of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship.
Americans have been paying for their freedom over and over for more than two centuries, time enough for many citizens to take their freedom for granted. Israel as it is about to celebrate only the first seven decades of its independence still cannot take its existence for granted.
As the nation prepares to welcome the American president next month, we would do well to recall the words of two of his predecessors regarding the cost of the democratic freedoms we share.
Abraham Lincoln spoke of the purpose of remembering such sacrifice after the Battle of Gettysburg, when the Civil War threatened to destroy the Union.
He called on the country to commit itself to honoring the slain by acknowledging the meaning of their deaths: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
This line has meaning for all Israelis who know that we will always have to pay the cost of our freedom.
There was a time not too long ago when we knew what it meant to be helpless as the world watched as millions of Jews were being murdered. Our memorial day is about the true meaning of Zionism: Jewish self-determination and national liberation. After only seven decades of independence so far, Israelis have come to understand and to mark the integral link between destruction and rebirth, sorrow and gladness.
This is the meaning of our emancipation: that we are able to express our freedom through the miracle of the sovereign state of Israel, now home to nearly half the world’s Jewish population. The Jewish people persevered and created a modern state in its ancient homeland after the first hundred years of Zionism, despite the Holocaust and in defiance of succeeding attempts to destroy it.
We honor the memories of those who died protecting it, which are the blessings we share every day of our national existence.
Yom Hazikaron / Yom Haatzmaut
On this upcoming Yom Hazikaron, AFSI mourns with our loved ones and friends in Israel, and on this upcoming Yom Haatzmaut, we celebrate Israel's independence with you.
Established unofficially in 1948, and enacted into law in 1963, the 4th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar was decreed Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, a day to honor and memorialize those who fell in service to the State.
This year, Yom Hazikaron is on Monday, May 1,and like all Israeli holidays, begins the evening before.
According to Arutz Sheva,
On the eve of Israel's 57th Memorial Day, the Defense Ministry published the official figures of the number of fallen soldiers in Israel.
Twenty-three thousand, five hundred and forty four Jewish and Israeli soldiers, policemen, and guards have fallen in defense of the State of Israel and the pre-state Jewish community from 1860, when the Jewish community of Jerusalem expanded beyond the walls of the Old City and began to provide its own security, until today.
Sixty casualties have been added to the number of fallen soldiers since last Memorial Day (May 6, 2016), Additionally, 37 IDF veterans died over the past year as a result of injuries they received in combat.
The number of bereaved families in Israel in 2017 includes 9,157 bereaved parents, 4,881 widows of IDF soldiers and security forces, 1,843 orphans under to the age of 30, and thousands of bereaved and orphaned children over the age of 30.
A one-minute siren will be heard all over the country on Sunday, 4 Iyar, April 30th, at 8:00 p.m., marking the opening of Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. Immediately after the siren, the memorial rallies will begin. On Monday, a two-minute siren will be sounded, followed by state memorial ceremonies and memorial ceremonies throughout the country.
Yom Hazikaron immediately precedes Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. The solemn commemorations observed on Yom Hazikaron transition into lively celebrations in honor of Israel's independence.
It is a humbling and exhilarating time to be in Israel; to mourn while remembering fallen loved ones, and then to celebrate the rebirth of the State of Israel and the freedom and security it affords to Jews in Israel and worldwide.
Am Yisrael Chai!
** Anti-Israel BDS Campaigns Kick Off on Campuses Across US - The recent push for anti-Israel student government referendums coincides with the start of Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual event held on campuses around the world in February and March.BDS o
Israel, the Mideast + Politics
WALL STREET JOURNAL
by Jay Solomon
February 2, 2017
The Trump administration is set to impose fresh sanctions on dozens of Iranian entities for their alleged role in missile development and terrorism, in a move likely to escalate U.S. tensions with Tehran, according to people close to the deliberations. The penalties on these Iranian companies, individuals and military organizations could be announced as early as Friday, said these individuals. They would follow the Trump White House’s announcement on Wednesday that it was putting Iran “on notice” for its recent ballistic missile tests and support for militant groups in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. President Donald Trump campaigned on taking a tough line on Iran, and his administration is currently reviewing the terms of the landmark nuclear deal…READ MORE
by Michael Wilner
February 2, 2017
The White House warned Israel on Thursday – in a surprising statement – to cease settlement announcements that are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties. The official told the Post that the White House was not consulted on Israel’s unprecedented announcement of 5,500 new settlement housing units over the course of his first two weeks in office. “As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal,” the official said. READ MORE
by Dan Shapiro
January 31, 2017
It never failed. In five years serving as U.S. ambassador to Israel, whenever I spoke before an Israeli audience, the first or second question was always: “When will the United States move its embassy to Jerusalem?” My answer invariably wove through Jerusalem’s unique history and American interests in the two-state solution. It culminated in Congress’s 1995 passage of legislation requiring the transfer of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — but only after the inclusion of a waiver authority permitting the president to delay the move for six months at a time, if he determined it was in the U.S. national security interest. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama exercised the waiver like clockwork, citing the need to prevent damage to ongoing efforts to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. READ MORE
January 30, 2017
Most voters approve of President Trump’s temporary halt to refugees and visitors from several Middle Eastern and African countries until the government can do a better job of keeping out individuals who are terrorist threats. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters favor a temporary ban on refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen until the federal government approves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here. Thirty-three percent (33%) are opposed, while 10% are undecided. READ MORE
January 30 2017
A Quinnipiac University national poll conducted January 5 – 9 showed American voters support 48 – 42 percent “suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.” The independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll also found in the January 5 – 9 survey that American voters support 53 – 41 percent “requiring immigrants from Muslim countries to register with the federal government.” READ MORE
January 31, 2017
Americans are sharply divided over President Donald Trump’s order to temporarily block U.S. entry for all refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries, with slightly more approving the measure than disapproving, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday. The Jan. 30-31 poll found that 49 percent of American adults said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed with Trump’s order, while 41 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed and another 10 percent said they don’t know. READ MORE
by Caroline Glick
January 30, 2017
…The American Jewish uproar at Trump’s actions shows first and foremost the cynicism of the leftist Jewish leadership. It isn’t simply that left-wing activists like Hetfield and Eisner cynically ignore that Trump’s order is based on Obama’s policies, which they didn’t oppose. It is that in their expressed concerned for would-be Muslim refugees to the US they refuse to recognize that the plight of Muslims as Muslims in places like Syria and Iraq is not the same as the plight of Christians and Yazidis as Christians and Yazidis in these lands. The “Jews” in the present circumstances are not the Muslims, who are nowhere targeted for genocide. The “Jews” in the present circumstances are the Christians and Yazidis and other religious minorities, whom Trump’s impassioned Jewish opponents and Obama’s impassioned Jewish champions fail to defend. READ MORE
by Jack Montgomery
January 28, 2017
Jiří Ovčáček, spokesman for Czech president Miloš Zeman, says that the U.S. is now an ally of the Slavic republic in the fight against mass immigration, contending that President Donald Trump is, unlike “EU elites”, concerned primarily “with the safety of his citizens”. Ovčáček was defending the swift implementation of an executive order by the U.S. president on ‘Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals’, which temporarily prohibits all asylum seekers from entering the United States and indefinitely prohibits Syrian asylum seekers from entering the United States while a thorough review of the refugee vetting process is undertaken. READ MORE
Me neither: “Ask yourself whether you have ever seen Republicans/conservatives rioting, turning over police cars, looting, setting places of business on fire, and shouting obscenities while marching” [VIDEO]
THE DAILY SIGNAL
by Walter E. Williams
February 1, 2017
One can only imagine the widespread media, political, and intellectual condemnation of Republicans and conservatives if, after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, they had gone on a violent and vicious tear all over the nation as did Democrats and liberals after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. They committed acts such as assaulting Trump supporters, setting fires, and stoning police. Suppose Republicans/conservatives had carried signs that read “F— Obama” or talked about “blowing up the White House.” The news media, instead of calling them protesters, would have labeled them evil racists, obstructionists, and everything else except a child of God. READ MORE
In a desperately misguided attempt to placate the palpable fear of allowing thousands of Muslim refugees into United States without proper security screenings just ...
Friends, Jewish leaders, Clergy and family;
As you know, I am a Psychiatrist who has worked both in the public and private sectors and as an educator since 1975. That was my answer to the torture and loss my family experienced for the "sin" of being Jewish in the former Czechoslovakia (continually occupied and annexed, now The Ukraine). Amazing, my anger did not propel me to become a terrorist.
I support "Am Yisrael" and the land of Israel by bringing educational programs to my communities in NYC and in New Jersey. Organizations I work with include: ZOA, JBS TV, JNF, JerusalemU, CAMERA, Reservists on Duty, The Truth about Israel, Our Soldiers Speak, SPACA, Americans for Peace & Tolerance and various synagogues.
I have been privileged to meet amazing people from whom I have learned a great deal and with whom I have partnered. I am lucky to have the most brilliant and accomplished friends in addition to my loving family and first grandchild.
I am grateful to have a plaque in memory of my father, (William Vilko, Bela Wilkowitz) at Ammunition Hill with the help of JNF. I am grateful to Rabbi Mark Golub for enabling me and my mom to tell some of our stories on JBS TV. I always hope that some of my missing relatives will contact me.
Some time ago a new narrative became popular; comparing Jewish survivors of the Shoah to Muslim refugees. At the same time, my mom and thousands of other survivors in Israel and in the diaspora are suffering because Jewish communal organizations and The Claims Conference have failed them. I was taught that "Tikun Olum" begins at home. Why are so many Jews paying attention to others who want to gain entry to the US while neglecting those people in need already here/
I have gotten the most insulting messages from "friends" about this issue. Even posting articles on Facebook with none of my comments leads to attacks on my character which I also experienced when reserving venues for JerusalemU.com courses, "Lashan Hara".
I hope that the American Jewish community now suffering from political fighting; intermarriage; apathy; disrespect towards clergy and members of synagogues as well as poor leadership many of whom have abandoned both survivors and Israel, recovers quickly. I will not be using Facebook. Please go to my website instead: www.drnaomionisrael.com
I am currently planning two programs:
February 18-19: Tuvia Tennenbaum (author of Catch the Jew) in New Jersey sponsored by ZOA
March Defending Israel on Campus part 3 in Manhattan with a panel of speakers including: Ambassador Danny Ayalon, Charles Jacobs, Dr. Mordechai Kedar which will be sponsored by ZOA, CAMERA and others.
From a day devoted to informing high school students and their parents of antisemitism on college campuses, Danny Ayalon and Charles Jacobs headline a series of ...
US sent $221 million to Palestinians in Obama’s last hours
by Matthew Lee and Richard Lardner
January 23, 2017
Officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority that GOP members of Congress had been blocking. A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. READ MORE
Former Iranian Official, Pro-Tehran Lobbyist Hosted at Obama White House Dozens of Times
by Adam Kredo
January 13, 2017
Two high-level Iranian government backers, including a former Islamic Republic official and another accused of lobbying on Tehran’s behalf, were hosted at the Obama White House for more than 30 meetings with top officials at key junctures in the former administration’s contested diplomacy with Iran, according to White House visitor logs that provide a window into the former administration’s outreach to leading pro-Iran advocates. Seyed Mousavian, a former Iranian diplomat and head of its national security council, was hosted at the White House at least three times, while Trita Parsi, a pro-Iran advocate long accused of hiding his ties to the Iranian government, met with Obama administration officials some 33 times, according to recently updated visitor logs. READ MORE
Ralph Nader Slams Keith Ellison for ‘Toning Down’ His Stance on Israel
By Madina Toure
January 22, 2017
Former Green Party presidential contender Ralph Nader accused Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison yesterday of changing his stance on Israel to appease political elites as part of his bid to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee—and that he can’t tell if the “real Keith Ellison” or a “transformed, conditioned Keith Ellison” would take over the party if he triumphs in next months internal election. Ellison, an African-American and the first Muslim ever elected to the House, has faced some resistance from more conservative factions in party because of his since-repudiated past association with the Nation of Islam and his occasional criticism of Israel. READ MORE
Obama’s self-revealing final act
by Charles Krauthammer
January 19, 2017
At the 2015 White House correspondents’ dinner, he joked about whether he had a bucket list: “Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”…Turns out, he wasn’t kidding…The other last-minute Obama bombshell occurred four weeks earlier when, for the first time in nearly a half-century, the United States abandoned Israel on a crucial Security Council resolution, allowing the passage of a condemnation that will plague both Israel and its citizens for years to come. After eight years of reassurance, Obama seized the chance — free of political accountability for himself and his potential Democratic successor — to do permanent damage to Israel. (The U.S. has no power to reverse the Security Council resolution.) READ MORE
“I have seriously been told that under Trump, it is very possible that Jews, uppity blacks, and others will be placed in concentration camps!”
What’s up with my American friends
by Vic Rosenthal
January 23, 2017
It’s been almost three years since the day that I left the USA with no plans to return, almost three years since I got on a plane knowing that I no longer owned a home or a car or a business in America. I had already grown estranged from my liberal Jewish community before then, as I found myself becoming more and more politically conservative, and more and more unhappy with its failure to understand what seemed blindingly obvious to me: that the survival of the Jewish people depended on the state of Israel. The liberal institutions – like the Obama Administration, the Democratic Party, NPR, the NY Times and the Reform Movement – that were so important to them were on the wrong side of what was the most important issue of all to me. READ MORE
Senior Israeli Diplomat Dore Gold Says Obama’s Arrogance Hurt Relationship W/Israel
by Jeff Dunetz
January 22, 2017
Now that Obama has been replaced by Donald Trump, those who served in the Israeli government can start to unburden themselves about the anti-Israel Obama administration that left office last week. The first to speak out was Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, former Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and advisor to Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu. On Friday, Israeli Newspaper Makor Rishon (First Source) published an interview with Gold who spoke about the incredible arrogance of Barack Obama, who along with saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, thought he knew more about what Israel and the Palestinians needed than Israel and the Palestinians knew themselves. READ MORE
The “Fake News” Censorship Industry
by Robbie Travers
January 21, 2017
Name a single person or organisation you trust to control your speech. Whom would you trust to control what you can read, or make decisions on what is true and what is false for you? Whom do you trust to police what you think? The German government thinks it knows exactly who should be the arbiter of truth and what articles you should be allowed to post. Itself! After a bill was proposed by German lawmakers, which threatened fines of up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for publishing “fake news,” Facebook decided to use an organisation called Correctiv, described as a German fact-checking non-profit organisation, to decide whether reported stories are “real” or “fake.” READ MORE
J Street Obit: “An organization vilified by former friends, distanced from the left in Israel and distrusted by many more as a result of the mishandling of its own reputation”
J Street’s dead end
by Gregg Roman
January 22, 2017
[With Obama as President] The fledgling J Street found itself at the top table with veteran Jewish and pro-Israel organizations at the White House, with almost unprecedented access during Obama’s two terms. It wasn’t merely a spectator: J Street saw itself as a vital part of the administration’s strategy and policy on Israel and the peace process. It prided itself on the puppeteer role it played in defending the White House or pushing its policy platform. “We were the blocking-back, clearing space for the quarterback to do what we wanted him to do,” said J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, in 2011. READ MORE
#Trump will “lead a divided nation and lacks a popular mandate, just as President Bill Clinton did when he was elected with only a plurality of the popular vote”
REAL CLEAR POLITICS
The Peaceful Transfer of Power — and Its Enemies
by Charles Lipson
January 22, 2017
We mouth the formulaic words but reflect too little on the political miracle that is the peaceful transfer of power. The enormous authority entrusted to the president shifts from someone who leaves office voluntarily, without a bullet fired, to another who assumes office by oft-repeated constitutional procedures. These powers quietly transfer from one party to another, from one set of policies and preferences to another, and often from one section of the country to another…In our constitutional democracy, the transfer of power will only remain peaceful if it is considered legitimate by nearly all our people and their representatives. Our shared sense of legitimacy has been imperiled in our last three elections. READ MORE
Friday, January 13th, 2017
President Barack Obama promised that his would be the most transparent administration in US history. And the truth is, it was. At least in relation to his policies toward the Muslim world, Obama told us precisely what he intended to do and then he did it.
A mere week remains of Obama’s tenure in office. But Obama remains intent on carrying on as if he will never leave power. He has pledged to continue to implement his goals for the next week and then to serve as the most outspoken ex-president in US history.
In all of Obama’s recent appearances, his message is one of vindication. I came. I succeeded. I will continue to succeed. I represent the good people, the people of tomorrow. My opponents represent the Manichean, backward past. We will fight them forever and we will prevail.
Tuesday Obama gave his final interview to the Israeli media to Ilana Dayan from Channel 2’s Uvda news magazine. Dayan usually tries to come off as an intellectual. On Tuesday’s show, she cast aside professionalism however, and succumbed to her inner teenybopper. Among her other questions, she asked Obama the secret to his preternatural ability to touch people’s souls.
The only significant exchange in their conversation came when Dayan asked Obama about the speech he gave on June 4, 2009, in Cairo. Does he still stand by all the things he said in that speech? Would he give that speech again today, given all that has since happened in the region, she asked.
Absolutely, Obama responded.
The speech, he insisted was “aspirational” rather than programmatic. And the aspirations that he expressed in that address were correct.
If Dayan had been able to put aside her hero worship for a moment, she would have stopped Obama right then and there. His claim was preposterous.
But, given her decision to expose herself as a slobbering groupie, Dayan let it slide.
To salvage the good name of the journalism, and more important, to understand Obama’s actual record and its consequences, it is critical however to return to that speech.
Obama’s speech at Cairo University was the most important speech of his presidency. In it he laid out both his “aspirational” vision of relations between the West and the Islamic world and his plans for implementing his vision. The fundamentally transformed world he will leave President-elect Donald Trump to contend with next Friday was transformed on the basis of that speech.
Obama’s address that day at Cairo University lasted for nearly an hour. In the first half he set out his framework for understanding the nature of the US’s relations with the Muslim world and the relationship between the Western world and Islam more generally. He also expressed his vision for how that relationship should change.
The US-led West he explained had sinned against the Muslim world through colonialism and racism.
It needed to make amends for its past and make Muslims feel comfortable and respected, particularly female Muslims, covered from head to toe.
As for the Muslims, well, September 11 was wrong but didn’t reflect the truth of Islam, which is extraordinary. Obama thrice praised “the Holy Koran.” He quoted it admiringly. He waxed poetic in his appreciation for all the great contributions Islamic civilization has made to the world – he even made up a few. And he insisted falsely that Islam has always been a significant part of the American experience.
In his dichotomy between two human paths – the West’s and Islam’s – although he faulted the records of both, Obama judged the US and the West more harshly than Islam.
In the second half of his address, Obama detailed his plans for changing the West’s relations with Islam in a manner that reflected the true natures of both.
In hindsight, it is clear that during the seven and a half years of his presidency that followed that speech, all of Obama’s actions involved implementing the policy blueprint he laid out in Cairo.
He never deviated from the course he spelled out.
Obama promised to withdraw US forces from Iraq regardless of the consequences. And he did.
He promised he would keep US forces in Afghanistan but gave them no clear mission other than being nice to everyone and giving Afghans a lot of money. And those have been his orders ever since.
Then he turned his attention to Israel and the Palestinians. Obama opened this section by presenting his ideological framework for understanding the conflict. Israel he insisted was not established out of respect of the Jews’ national rights to their historic homeland. It was established as a consolation prize to the Jews after the Holocaust.
That is, Israel is a product of European colonialism, just as Iran and Hamas claim.
In contrast, the Palestinians are the indigenous people of the land. They have been the primary victims of the colonial West’s post-Holocaust guilty conscience. Their suffering is real and legitimate.
Hamas’s opposition to Israel is legitimate, he indicated. Through omission, Obama made clear that he has no ideological problem with Hamas – only with its chosen means of achieving its goal.
Rather than fire missiles at Israel, he said, Hamas should learn from its fellow victims of white European colonialist racists in South Africa, in India, and among the African-American community.
Like them Hamas should use nonviolent means to achieve its just aims.
Obama’s decision attack Israel at the UN Security Council last month, his attempts to force Israel to accept Hamas’s cease-fire demands during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, his consistent demand that Israel renounce Jewish civil and property rights in united Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, his current refusal to rule out the possibility of enabling another anti-Israel resolution to pass at the Security Council next week, and his contempt for the Israeli Right all are explained, envisioned and justified explicitly or implicitly in his Cairo speech.
One of the more notable but less discussed aspects of Obama’s assertion that the Palestinians are in the right and Israel is in the wrong in the speech, was his embrace of Hamas. Obama made no mention of the PLO or the Palestinian Authority or Fatah in his speech. He mentioned only Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which shares the Brotherhood’s commitment to annihilating Israel and wiping out the Jewish people worldwide.
Sitting in the audience that day in Cairo were members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak rightly viewed Obama’s insistence that the brothers be invited to his address as a hostile act. Due to this assessment, Mubarak boycotted the speech and refused to greet Obama at the Cairo airport.
Two years later, Obama supported Mubarak’s overthrow and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to replace him.
Back to the speech.
Having embraced the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch, branded Israel a colonial implant and discredited the US’s moral claim to world leadership, Obama turned his attention to Iran.
Obama made clear that his intention as president was to appease the ayatollahs. America he explained had earned their hatred because in 1953 the CIA overthrew the pro-Soviet regime in Iran and installed the pro-American shah in its place.
True, since then the Iranians have done all sorts of mean things to America. But America’s original sin of intervening in 1953 justified Iran’s aggression.
Obama indicated that he intended to appease Iran by enabling its illicit nuclear program to progress.
Ignoring the fact that Iran’s illegal nuclear program placed it in material breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Obama argued that as an NPT signatory, Iran had a right to a peaceful nuclear program. As for the US and the rest of the members of the nuclear club, Obama intended to convince everyone to destroy their nuclear arsenals.
And in the succeeding years, he took a hacksaw to America’s nuclear force
After Obama’s speech in Cairo, no one had any cause for surprise at the reports this week that he approved the transfer of 116 tons of uranium to Iran. Likewise, no one should have been surprised by his nuclear deal or by his willingness to see Iran take over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. No one should be surprised by his cash payoffs to the regime or his passivity in the face of repeated Iranian acts of aggression against US naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
Everything that Obama has done since he gave that speech was alluded to or spelled out that day.
Certainly, nothing he has done was inconsistent with what he said.
The consequences of Obama’s worldview and the policies he laid out in Cairo have been an unmitigated disaster for everyone. The Islamic world is in turmoil. The rising forces are those that Obama favored that day: The jihadists.
ISIS, which Obama allowed to develop and grow, has become the ideological guide not only of jihadists in the Middle East but of Muslims in the West as well. Consequently it has destabilized not only Iraq and Syria but Europe as well. As the victims of the Islamist massacres in San Bernardino, Boston, Ft. Hood, Orlando and beyond can attest, American citizens are also paying the price for Obama’s program.
Thanks to Obama, the Iranian regime survived the Green Revolution. Due to his policies, Iran is both the master of its nuclear fate and the rising regional hegemon.
Together with its Russian partners, whose return to regional power after a 30-year absence Obama enabled, Iran has overseen the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Sunnis in Syria and paved the way for the refugee crisis that threatens the future of the European Union.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Islamist leader, was a principle beneficiary of Obama’s admiration of Islamism. Erdogan rode Obama’s wave to destroy the last vestiges of the secular Turkish Republic.
Now he is poised to leave NATO in favor of an alliance with Russia.
Obama and his followers see none of this. Faithful only to their ideology, Obama and his followers in the US and around the world refuse to see the connection between the policies borne of that ideology and their destructive consequences. They refuse to recognize that the hatred for Western civilization and in particular of the Jewish state Obama gave voice to in Cairo, and his parallel expression of admiration for radical Islamic enemies of the West, have had and will continue to have horrific consequences for the US and for the world as a whole.
Cairo is Obama’s legacy. His followers’ refusal to acknowledge this truth means that it falls to those Obama reviles to recognize the wages of the most transparent presidency in history. It is their responsibility to undo the ideological and concrete damage to humanity the program he first unveiled in that address and assiduously implemented ever since has wrought.
Friday, December 30th, 2016
UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was the first prong of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s lame duck campaign against Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on Wednesday was the second.
On January 15, stage 3 will commence in Paris. At France’s lame duck President Francois Hollande’s international conference, the foreign ministers of some fifty states are expected to adopt as their own the anti-Israel principles Kerry set forth in his speech.
The next day it will be Obama’s turn. Obama can be expected to use the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to present the Palestinian war to annihilate Israel as a natural progression from the American civil rights movement that King led fifty years ago.
Finally, sometime between January 17 and 19, Obama intends for the Security Council to reconvene and follow the gang at the Paris conference by adopting Kerry’s positions as a new Security Council resolution. That follow-on resolution may also recognize “Palestine” and grant it full membership in the UN.
True, Kerry said the administration will not put forward another Security Council resolution. But as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained in his response to Kerry’s address, there is ample reason to suspect that France or Sweden, or both, will put forth such a resolution. Since the draft will simply be a restatement of Kerry’s speech, Obama will not veto it.
Whether or not Obama gets his second Security Council resolution remains to be seen. But if he succeeds or fails, he’s already caused most the damage. A follow-on resolution will only amplify the blow Israel absorbed with 2334.
Resolution 2334 harms Israel in two ways. First, it effectively abrogates Security Council resolution 242 from 1967 which formed the basis of Israeli policymaking for the past 49 years. Second, 2334 gives a strategic boost to the international campaign to boycott the Jewish state.
Resolution 242 anchored the ceasefire between Israel and its neighbors at the end of the Six Day War. It stipulated that in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel’s right to exist in secure and defensible borders, Israel would cede some of the territories it took control over during the war. 242 assumed that Israel has a right to hold these areas and that an Israeli decision to cede some of them to its neighbors in exchange for peace would constitute a major concession.
242 is deliberately phrased to ensure that Israel would not be expected to cede all of the lands it took control over in the Six Day War. The resolution speaks of “territories,” rather than “the territories” or “all the territories” that Israel took control over during the war.
Resolution 2334 rejects 242’s founding assumptions. 2334 asserts that Israel has no right to any of the lands it took control over during the war. From the Western Wall to Shiloh from Hebron to Ariel, 2334 says all Israeli presence in the areas beyond the 1949 armistice lines is crime.
Given that Israel has no right to hold territory under 2334, it naturally follows that the Palestinians have no incentive to give Israel peace. So they won’t. The peace process, like the two-state solution ended last Friday night to the raucous applause of all Security Council members.
As for the boycott campaign against Israel, contrary to what has been widely argued, 2334 does not strengthen the boycott of “settlements.” 2334 gives a strategic boost to the boycott of Israel as a whole.
2334 calls on states “to distinguish in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” Since no Israeli firms make that distinction, all Israeli economic activity is now threatened with boycott. Tnuva is an “occupation” dairy because it supplies communities beyond the 1949 lines with dairy products.
Bank Hapoalim is an “occupation” bank because it operates ATM machines in post-1967 neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Fox clothing chain is an “occupation” chain because it has a store in Gush Etzion. And so on and so forth.
Resolution 2334 gives Europe and its NGOs a green light to wage a complete trade and cultural boycotts against all of Israel.
Obama is not using his final weeks in office to wage war on Israel because he hates Netanyahu. He is not deliberately denying 3,500 years of Jewish history in the Land of Israel because the Knesset it set to pass the Regulations Law that will make it marginally easier for Jews to exercise property rights in Judea and Samaria, as Kerry and UN ambassador Samantha Power claimed.
Obama’s onslaught against Israel is the natural endpoint of a policy he has consistently followed since he first entered the White House. In June 2009, Obama denied the Jews’ 3,500 years of history in the land of Israel in his speech in Cairo before an audience packed with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead of the truth, Obama adopted the Islamist propaganda lie that Israel was established because Europe felt guilty about the Holocaust.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has rejected the guiding principle of resolution 242. His anti-Semitic demand that Israel deny its Jewish citizens their civil and property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria simply because they are Jews is just as antithetical to 242 as resolution 2334.
In his address on Wednesday, Kerry repeatedly castigated the government while flattering the Israeli Left in yet another attempt to divide and polarize Israeli society. Kerry’s professed support for the Israeli Left is deeply ironic because Israeli leftists are the primary casualties of Obama’s anti-Israel assault
In the post-242 world that Obama initiated, the UN makes no distinction between Jerusalem and Nablus, between Gush Etzion and Jenin, or between Maaleh Adumim and Ramallah. In this world, Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog’s plan to retain a mere 2-3 percent of Judea and Samaria is no more acceptable than Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett’s plan to apply Israeli law to 60 percent of the area or to other plans calling for Israeli law to be applied to all of Judea and Samaria. All are equally unlawful. All are equally unacceptable.
For the next three weeks, the government’s focus must be centered on Obama and minimizing the damage he is able to cause Israel. Since Israel cannot convince Hollande to cancel his conference or Obama not to give his speech, Israel efforts must be concentrated on scuttling Obama’s plan to enact a follow-on Security Council resolution.
To scuttle another resolution, Israel needs to convince seven members of the Security Council not to support it. Only measures that secure the support of 9 out of 15 Security Council members are permitted to come to a vote. The states that are most susceptible to Israeli lobbying are Italy, Ethiopia, Japan, Egypt, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia.
Netanyahu’s furious response to 2334 advance the goal of blocking a vote on a follow-on resolution in two ways. First, they create Israeli leverage in seeking to convince member states to oppose voting on an additional resolution before January 20.
Second, Netanyahu’s seemingly unrestrained response to the Obama administration’s onslaught enables President-elect Donald Trump to join him in pressuring Security Council members to oppose bringing a new resolution for a vote.
By taking an extreme position of total rejection of Obama’s actions, Netanyahu is enabling Trump to block a vote while striking a moderate tone.
In three weeks, Obama’s war with Israel will end. His final legacy – the destruction of the land for peace paradigm and the two-state policymaking model obligate Israel, for the first time in fifty years, to determine its long-term goals in relation to the international community, the Palestinians and Judea and Samaria themselves
Regarding the international community, the Security Council opened the door for its members to boycott Israel. As a result, Israel should show the UN and its factotums the door. Israel should work to de-internationalize the Palestinian conflict by expelling UN personnel from its territory.
The same is the case with the EU. Once Britain exits the EU, Israel should end the EU’s illegal operations in Judea and Samaria and declare EU personnel acting illegally persona non grata.
As for the Palestinians, resolution 2334 obligates Israel to reconsider its recognition of the PLO. Since 1993, Israel has recognized the PLO despite its deep and continuous engagement in terrorism. Israel legitimized the PLO because the terror group was ostensibly its partner in peace.
Now, after the PLO successfully killed the peace process by getting the Security Council to abrogate 242, Israel’s continued recognition of the PLO makes little sense. Neither PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas nor his deputies in Fatah – convicted, imprisoned mass murderer and terror master Marwan Barghouti and Jibril Rajoub who said he wishes he had a nuclear bomb so he could drop it on Israel and tried to get Israel expelled from FIFA — have any interest in recognizing Israel, let alone making peace with it. The same of course can be said for the PLO’s coalition partner Hamas.
An Israeli decision to stop recognizing the PLO will also have implications for the Trump administration. In the aftermath of 2334, calls in Congress are steadily mounting for the US cancel its recognition of the PLO and end US financial support for the Palestinian Authority. If Israel has already ended its recognition of the PLO, chances will rise that the US will follow suit. Such a US move will have positive strategic implications for Israel.
There is also the question of the Palestinian militias that are deployed to Judea and Samaria as part of the peace process that Obama and the PLO officially ended last Friday. In the coming weeks and months, Israel will need to decide what to do about these hostile militias that take their orders from leaders who reject peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Finally, there are the territories themselves. For 50 years, Israel has used the land for peace paradigm as a way not to decide what to do with Judea and Samaria. Now that 242 has been effectively abrogated, Israel has to decide what it wants. The no brainer is to allow Jews to build wherever they have the legal right to build. If the UN says Israel has no rights to Jerusalem, then Israel has no reason to distinguish between Jerusalem and Elon Moreh.
More broadly, given that for the foreseeable future, there will be no Palestinian Authority interested in making peace with Israel, Israel needs to think about the best way to administer them going forward. The obvious step of applying Israeli law to Area C now becomes almost inarguable.
Shortly before Obama took office eight years ago, he promised to “fundamentally transform” America. Trump’s election scuttled any chance he had of doing so.
But by enabling resolution 2334 to pass in the Security Council, Obama has succeeded in fundamentally transforming the nature of the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Israel’s actions in the coming weeks will determine whether it is fundamentally transformed for better or for worse.
Posted on December 28, 2016
By Daniel Pipes/JNS.org
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was photographed Dec. 21 carrying a copy of “Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History,” by John David Lewis (Princeton University Press, 2010). In that book, Lewis looks at six case studies and argues that in them all "the tide of war turned when one side tasted defeat and its will to continue, rather than stiffening, collapsed."
That Netanyahu should in any way be thinking along these lines is particularly encouraging at this moment of flux—when Sunni Arab states focus as never before on a non-Israeli threat (namely the Iranian one), Obama leaves Israel in the lurch at the United Nations Security Council and insurgent politics disrupt across the West. In other words, the timing’s exactly right to apply Lewis’s argument to the Palestinians. Actually, Israel successfully pursued a strategy of forcing the taste of defeat on its enemies through its first 45 years, so this would be a return to old ways.
That strategy starts by recognizing that, since the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Palestinians and Israelis have pursued static and opposite goals. The Palestinians adopted a policy of rejectionism with the intent to eliminate every vestige of Jewish presence in what is now the territory of Israel. Differences among Palestinians tend to be tactical: Talk to the Israelis to win concessions or stick to total rejectionism? The Palestinian Authority represents the first approach and Hamas the second.
On the Israeli side, nearly everyone agrees on the need to win acceptance by Palestinians (and other Arabs and Muslims); differences are again tactical. Show Palestinians what they can gain from Zionism or break the Palestinians’ will? The Labor and Likud parties argue this out.
These two pursuits—rejectionism and acceptance—have remained basically unchanged for a century. Varying ideologies, objectives, tactics, strategies and actors mean details have varied, even as fundamentals remain remarkably in place. Wars and treaties come and go, leading to only minor shifts.
Deterrence—that is, convincing Palestinians and the Arab states to accept Israel’s existence by threatening painful retaliation—underlay Israel’s formidable record from 1948-1993 of strategic vision and tactical brilliance.
That said, deterrence did not finish the job; as Israelis built a modern, democratic, affluent and powerful country, the fact that Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and (increasingly) the left still rejected it became a source of mounting frustration. Israel’s impatient, on-the-go populace grew weary with the slow-moving and passive aspects of deterrence.
That impatience led to the diplomatic process that culminated with the handshake confirming the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn in September 1993. Those accords, however, quickly disappointed both sides.
Things went so wrong in part because Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian Authority leadership pretended to abandon rejectionism and accept Israel’s existence but, in fact, they sought Israel’s elimination in new, more sophisticated ways, replacing force with delegitimization.
In part, too, the Israelis made a profound mistake, having entered the Oslo process with a false premise that war can be concluded through goodwill and compromise. In fact, Israeli concessions aggravated Palestinian hostility.
The Oslo exercise showed the futility of Israeli concessions to Palestinians when the latter fail to live up to their obligations. By signaling Israeli weakness, Oslo made a bad situation worse. What is conventionally called the “peace process” should more accurately be dubbed the “war process.”
This brings us to my key concepts, victory and defeat. Victory means successfully imposing one’s will on the enemy, compelling him through loss to give up his war ambitions. Wars end, the historical record shows, not through goodwill but through defeat. He who does not win loses.
Thinkers and warriors through the ages concur on the importance of victory as the proper goal of warfare. For example, Aristotle wrote that “victory is the end of generalship” and Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, “In war, there is no substitute for victory.” Technological advancement has not altered this enduring human truth.
Israel has just one option to win Palestinian acceptance: a return to its old policy of deterrence, punishing Palestinians when they aggress. Deterrence amounts to more than tough tactics, which every Israeli government pursues; it requires systemic policies that encourage Palestinians to accept Israel and discourage rejectionism. It requires a long-term strategy that breaks the will and promotes a change of heart.
The goal here is not Palestinian love of Zion but closing down the apparatus of war: shuttering suicide factories, removing the demonization of Jews and Israel, recognizing Jewish ties to Jerusalem and “normalizing” relations with Israelis. Palestinian acceptance of Israel will be achieved when, over a protracted period and with complete consistency, the violence ends, replaced by sharply worded démarches and letters to the editor.
Ironically, an Israeli victory liberates Palestinians by compelling them to come to terms with their irredentist fantasies and the empty rhetoric of revolution. Defeat also frees them to improve their own lives. Unleashed from a genocidal obsession against Israel, Palestinians can become a normal people and develop their polity, economy, society and culture. That said, this change won’t be easy or quick: Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction and despair. There is no shortcut.
For Washington to be helpful means supporting Israel taking tough steps. It means diplomatic support for Israel, such as undoing the “Palestine refugee” farce and rejecting the claim of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is premature until Palestinians accept the Jewish state. The central issues of the Oslo Accords cannot be usefully discussed so long as one party still rejects the other. But negotiations can re-open and take up anew the Oslo issues if and when Palestinians accept the Jewish state. That prospect, however, lies in the distant future. For now, Israel needs to win.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. This analysis derives from a longer article in the January issue of Commentary magazine. © 2016 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Obama’s strategic campaign against his country can only be defeated by a counter campaign by his successor.
In 1989, following her tenure as President Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick described how the Palestinians have used the UN to destroy Israel.
Following outgoing US President Barack Obama’s assault on Israel at the UN Security Council last Friday, longtime UN observer Claudia Rossett wrote an important article at PJMedia where she recalled Kirkpatrick’s words.
In “How the PLO was legitimized,” published in Commentary, Kirkpatrick said that Yasser Arafat and the PLO worked “to come to power through international diplomacy – reinforced by murder.”
Kirkpatrick explained, “The long march through the UN has produced many benefits for the PLO. It has created a people where there was none; a claim where there was none. Now the PLO is seeking to create a state where there already is one. That will take more than resolutions and more than an ‘international peace conference.’ But having succeeded so well over the years in its campaign to delegitimize Israel, the PLO might yet also succeed in bringing the campaign to a triumphant conclusion, with consequences for the Jewish state that would be nothing short of catastrophic.”
As Rossett noted, in falsely arguing that Obama’s support for Friday’s UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is in line with Reagan’s policies, Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power deliberately distorted the historical record of US policy toward Israel and the PLO-led UN onslaught against the Jewish state.
As Rosett noted, in stark contrast to Power’s self-serving lie, neither Reagan nor George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush would have ever countenanced a resolution like 2334.
Obama’s predecessors’ opposition to the war against Israel at the UN was not merely an expression of their support for Israel. They acted also out of a fealty to US power, which is directly targeted by that war.
It is critical that we understand how this is the case, and why the implications of Resolution 2334 are disastrous to the US itself.
Resolution 2334 is being presented as an “anti-settlement” resolution. But it is not an anti-settlement resolution.
Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and neighborhoods in Jerusalem are being used – as they always have been used – as a means of delegitimizing the Jewish state as a whole, and legitimizing Palestinian terrorists and Islamic terrorists more generally. Resolution 2334 serves to criminalize Israel and its people and to undermine Israel’s right to exist, while embracing Palestinian terrorists and empowering them in their war to annihilate Israel.
America’s historic refusal to countenance such actions at the UN Security was never a purely altruistic position. It was also a stand for American power and the inherent justice of American superpower status and global leadership.
Throughout most of its history, the UN has served as a proxy battlefield first of the Cold War, and since the destruction of the Soviet Union, for the war against the US-led free world. Beginning in the early 1960s, the Soviets viewed the political war against Israel at the UN as a means to undermine the moral basis for the US-led West. If Israel, the only human rights defending state in the Middle East, and the US’s only stable ally in the region could be delegitimized, then the very coherence of the US-led Western claim to moral superiority against the totalitarian Soviet empire would be undone.
Hence, the first Soviet attempt at the UN to castigate Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, as a form of racism was made in 1965, two years before Israel took control of Judea and Samaria and united Jerusalem in the Six Day War.
That attempt failed. But nine years later the wording first raised in 1965 was adopted by the UN General Assembly which passed resolution 3379 slandering libeled Zionism as “a form of racism.”
With their automatic majority in the General Assembly and all other UN organs, the Soviets used the Palestinian war against Israel as a proxy for their war against America. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the Islamic bloc, backed by members of the former Soviet bloc, the non-aligned bloc and the Europeans continued their campaign. The only thing that kept them from winning was the US and its Security Council veto.
When Obama chose to lead the anti-Israel lynch mob at the Security Council last week, he did more than deliver the PLO terrorist organization its greatest victory to date against Israel. He delivered a strategic victory to the anti-American forces that seek to destroy the coherence of American superpower status. That is, he carried out a strategic strike on American power.
By leading the gang rape of Israel on Friday, Obama undermined the rationale for American power. Why should the US assert a sovereign right to stand against the radical forces that control the UN? If US agrees that Israel is committing a crime by respecting the civil and human rights of its citizens to live in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, then how can America claim that it has the right to defend its own rights and interests, when those clash with the views of the vast majority of state members of the UN? Following Obama’s assault on Israel Friday, Senators Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz called for the US to end its financial support for the UN at least until the Security Council abrogates Resolution 2334. They are correct.
But it isn’t anger at how Obama has and is expected to continue to use the Security Council to imperil Israel that should inform the incoming Trump administration’s actions. Rather a determination to maintain US power and secure its national security requires that the UN be permanently defunded and defanged.
For eight years, through his embrace and empowerment of US enemies, betrayal and weakening of US allies, emaciation of the US armed forces and repeated apologies for America’s past assertions of global leadership, Obama has waged a determined war against US superpower status. The last vestige of the strategic and moral rationale for US power was the protection America afforded Israel at the Security Council.
Now with that gone, it has become a strategic imperative for the US to render the UN irrelevant. This can only be undertaken by permanently defunding this corrupt institution and using the US’s Security Council veto to end the UN’s role as the arbiter of international peace and security, by among other things, ending the deployment of UN forces to battle zones.
Only by stripping the UN of its financial wherewithal to assault US allies and American interests and by denying it the institutional and operational capacity to serve as an arbiter of disputes morally and legally superior to the US can America protect its sovereignty and advance its interests.
Only by denying those associated with the UN the prestige that confers to an institution legitimized by democrat and autocrat alike can the incoming Trump administration rebuild America’s reputation and power.
It is not surprising that Obama is carrying out the final act of his presidency at the UN. Obama has made no attempt to hide his desire to eliminate America’s independence of action. By elevating the post of UN ambassador to a cabinet level position at the outset of his presidency, Obama signaled his conviction that this corrupt institution is the equal of the US government.
This early signal was transformed into an open policy when Obama used the Security Council as a means to bypass the US Senate in implementing his nuclear deal with Iran.
Now, by ignoring the near consensus position of both parties that the US should block anti-Israel resolutions from being adopted at the Security Council and plotting further action against Israel at the Security Council in his final weeks in office, Obama has made clear his position and his aim.
Obama is not leading the war against Israel at the Security Council simply to advance the PLO’s war for the annihilation of Israel. He is acting in this manner to undermine the legitimacy of American power.
Obama’s strategic campaign against his country can only be defeated by a counter campaign by his successor.
Luckily, by eschewing multilateral entanglements in favor of bilateral partnerships during his presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump has demonstrated that he understands the threat and will adopt the only possible means of countering it. To reassert and rebuild the rationale for American power, the Trump administration must permanently defund the UN and reject its legitimacy as an institution of global governance.
Menachem Begin To Joe Biden: I Am Not A Jew With Trembling Knees
By: Ronn Torossian
Published: April 3rd, 2015
While the Obama Administration continues their pressure on Israel, for at least Vice President Joe Biden, it would not be the first time that there has been personal animosity with an Israeli leader. The reality is that while some of the names change, this conflict is about Israel’s refusal to surrender to a Palestinian Arab enemy who seeks to destroy them. The United States is wrong to pressure Israel – yet, this too shall pass.
History often repeats itself.
On June 22 1982, Joe Biden was a Senator from Delaware and confronted then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during his Senate Foreign Relations committee testimony, threatening to cut off aid to Israel. Begin forcefully responded, “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”
As media reports that the United States Government continues to pressure Israel, the reality is that America must respect the will of the Israeli public, whom overwhelmingly re-elected a Netanyahu government. As a senior Israeli elected official noted, “Settlement building will be one of the basic guidelines of the next government and just as I don’t interfere in America if they build in Florida or California, they don’t need to interfere in building in Judea or Samaria.”
Senator Biden reportedly banged the table with his fist, and Begin retorted, “This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.”
After the meeting, Sen. Moynihan approached Begin and praised him for his cutting reply. To which Begin answered with thanks, defining his stand against threats.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the leader of the Revisionist movement, which both Begin & Netanyahu emanate from noted in 1940 that, “We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmed agree with it or not.”
World leaders would be apt to remember these words and times.
Dec 29, 2016
Responding to Obama’s malicious betrayal of Israel
As predicted, on the eve of his retirement President Barack Obama betrayed Israel. The former long-standing congregant of the paranoid anti-Semitic pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright who has a penchant for supporting to the Moslem Brotherhood, broke with forty years of U.S. bipartisan policy of protecting the Jewish state from the wolves at the United Nations.
His action as a lame duck president was a last ditch effort aimed at undermining his successor’s intended policies, realizing that it is virtually impossible to rescind a Security Council resolution. At the end of his eight years in office he exhibited an unprecedented abuse of power knowing that in his last month he would be unaccountable, despite the fact that his vindictive initiative was totally opposed by Congress, the American people and even by many members of his own party.
European countries represented on the Security Council voted in favor of this abominable resolution 2334 which was essentially drafted and orchestrated by the US and ultimately initiated by New Zealand, a Western country whose foreign policy is largely determined by the extent that it promotes export of lamb. Its co-sponsors were the rogue state of Venezuela, as well as Malaysia and Senegal.
The resolution, passed during the week that Aleppo was conquered by President Assad in the midst of brutal torture and massacres of thousands of innocent civilians, highlights the duplicity and hypocrisy of the United Nations, a body dominated by anti-Israeli and rogue states with democracies groveling in an effort to appease the dominant Muslim nations.
It will serve as an instrument for Israel's adversaries to further promote boycott, divestment and sanctions and the International Criminal Court will be encouraged to define Israel as a criminal state.
It officially nullifies the disastrous Oslo Accords, negates UN Resolution 242 and repudiates the concept of defensible borders. It paves the way for criminalizing all settlers, including those in the major blocs that will always remain part of Israel and even Jews resident in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. It actually defines the Old City of Jerusalem and the Kotel (Western Wall) as occupied Palestinian territory.
In this context the Palestinians will demand that any future negotiations accept these bizarre territorial definitions as opening benchmarks – a status that no Israeli government would ever contemplate accepting. The UN Resolution has effectively negated the concept of direct negotiations, thus ensuring that a peaceful solution to the conflict is more remote than ever.
In this poisonous anti-Israeli international climate, we should not be influenced by the pessimistic prophets of doom in our midst.
We are more powerful today than ever before and in the course of our history we have successfully overcome far greater threats to our existence than the United Nations. Now is a time for us to display unity and strength.
Despite the many initial concerns, we should thank the Almighty that the American people elected Donald Trump as president. Were we now faced with a Clinton Democratic Administration, which in all likelihood would retain Obama’s policies, we would be confronting a real nightmare.
In this context, if the proclaimed decision to move the U.S Embassy to Jerusalem is implemented it will send the world a powerful message. To his credit, Trump used all his weight as an incoming president in efforts to ward off the UN resolution, albeit unsuccessfully. He described the UN “just as a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” and stressed that after January 20th “things at the UN will be different”. In the wake of his selection of pro-Israeli David Friedman as ambassador to Israel he appointed another pro-Israeli from his team, Jason Greenblatt as his point man for Middle East negotiations. He also demonstratively refused to grant an audience to retiring UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.
In light of these developments most of the mainstream Jewish leadership who were in denial for over eight years should share a deep sense of guilt and shame.
They remained silent as Obama treated Israel diplomatically as a rogue state whilst he groveled to the Ayatollah. They continued voting for him and we now see how he repaid them. The only consistent critic was indefatigable Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America who has now been more than vindicated.
Individual American Jews are free to express their personal political opinions in any manner they deem fit, but mainstream Jewish organizations are obliged to avoid activity which reflects political bias. The disgusting behavior of liberal mainstream leaders exploiting their positions to promote a partisan bias against Trump, including accusations of anti-Semitism against him and his co-workers before and during the elections, now stands out as being utterly unethical and outrageous.
After the elections the Anti-Defamation League, the religious Conservative and Reform leaders all issued statements conveying their anguish and even mourning the results. Some of these publicly supported the election to the Democratic Party leadership of the Muslim extreme left-wing anti-Israeli congressman Keith Ellison whilst bitterly protesting Trump’s appointment of a pro-Israeli ambassador. Others even protested that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would harm the peace process.
The climax was the almost comic but bizarre boycott by major liberal mainstream Jewish organizations of a Hanukah celebration hosted by the Presidents’ Conference at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington because it was being held in a Trump-owned hotel.
But now is the time for us to look forward and unite. This U.N. resolution was not just about settlements. It was to undermine the security of the state and pave the way for anti-Semitic boycotts and sanctions by those seeking Israel's demise.
The resolution employing Obama’s malevolent views made no distinction between isolated outposts and settlements in outlying regions and Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem including the Western Wall.
Any Jew who endorses the view that Judaism’s most sacred site - formerly occupied by the Jordanians who denied Jews access to worship – is occupied territory is reminiscent of medieval “mosers” (informers), who were ostracized from the religious and social life of the community. Those in J Street, The New Israel Fund and other far left Jewish groups who consider Jewish districts of Jerusalem and Judaism’s holiest site to be “occupied territories” should be regarded as renegades and treated as such.
The immediate challenge is to encourage the incoming Trump administration to salvage what it can from Obama’s betrayal of Israel.
There are grounds for hoping that when the extremism of this resolution is fully comprehended some countries will have a change of heart. Besides, if current trends prevail, many European countries will follow the pattern of America and elect governments which will be far more pro-Israel than those appeasing the Muslims.
But above all, we must be optimistic that if President Trump will stand by his recent statements, Israel may enjoy the closest relationship it has ever had with the United States - which could more than compensate for the UN whose rogue actions have encouraged Trump to display open contempt. This is relevant when taking into account that the US funds 25% of the UN budget.
Most important to note is that the moderate Sunni countries of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will be desperate to ally themselves with Trump and are hardly likely to do more than express formal protests if and when the US treats Israel as a genuine ally.
But for this to be effective, Israel must tread cautiously and not provoke the incoming administration by seeking to impose arrangements without prior consultation.
Naftali Bennett and other right-wing elements should be silenced and Prime Minister Netanyahu must be enabled to determine the attitude of the new administration. They should also realize that whilst there is close to a consensus for ultimately annexing the settlement blocs and creating defensible borders, most Israelis do not seek to incorporate Judea and Samaria in their entirety because this would effectively lead to the demise of a Jewish state and its substitution by a binational state which would be swallowed up by the Arab world.
The recent statements and settlement policies certainly provided Obama with additional ammunition to justify his perfidious initiative. But it is almost certain that he would have acted no differently had the government not been engaged in any public discussion because his prime intent, since the day of his inauguration, has consistently been to impose such a settlement on Israel.
The reality is that all political parties - other than the Joint Arab list and Meretz - are no less opposed to this resolution than the government. This is surely a time for all political parties to set aside parochial squabbles and act in the national interest by displaying strength and unity.
This will not be the first time that we overcame major challenges and subsequently emerged stronger than ever.
Despite this despicable UN resolution, the new Trump Administration could lead to major changes in the global arena which may have dramatic positive repercussions for Israel and so gives us cause to be confident and optimistic.
Isi Leibler may be contacted at email@example.com
Kerry's Speech Will Make Peace Harder
by Alan M. Dershowitz • December 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm
What if the Secretary of State gave a policy speech and no one cared? Because Secretary Kerry's speech came after its abstention on the Security Council vote, few in Israel will pay any attention to anything he said. Had the speech came before the abstention, there would have been some possibility of it influencing the debate within Israel. But following the U.S. abstention, Kerry has lost all credibility with Israelis across the political spectrum.
This is why his speech wasn't even aired live on Israeli TV.
The speech itself was as one-sided as the abstention. It failed to mention the repeated offers from Israel to end the occupation and settlements, and to create a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza: Arafat's rejection of the Clinton-Barak proposals in 2000-2001: and Abbas' failure to respond to the Olmert offer in 2008. To fail to mention these important points is to demonstrate the bias of the speaker.
SWU WEEKLY MIDDLE EAST REPORT
The Obama Administration Double Standard on Housing Units in the Territories
The Obama administration expressed outrage last October at Israel’s plan to construct 300 new homes in Judea and Samaria, but no such outrage at the Palestinians building of 15,000 illegal housing units.
By: Joseph Puder
The Obama Administrations unprecedented vote to abstain rather than cast the traditional veto on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334, was, in the words of Professor Alan Dershowitz, “nasty” and referring to Obama as pulling a “bait and switch.” In a Fox-News interview, Dershowitz related that President Obama called him to ask for his support. Obama, Dershowitz recalled, said, “I will always have Israel’s back.” Dershowitz added, he indeed “stabbed” Israel in the back. The Obama administration rejection of the traditional U.S. policy toward Israel has to do with a personal vendetta against Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and anger over the election of Donald Trump as president. There is moreover, a double-standard vis-à-vis housing in the territories.
UNSC Resolution 2334 is a non-binding document and deals with Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes “flagrant violation” of International law that has “no legal validity,” and demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligation as an “occupying power” under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The December 23, 2016 UNSC resolution obfuscates history and reality. It is reminiscent of the notorious 1975 UN Resolution that equated Zionism (Israel national liberation movement) with racism, this time with the Obama administration’s collusion, albeit, without naming it Zionism. The very term “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,” is outrageously false. Israel did not take “Palestinian territory in 1967, it took Jordanian territory, which the Jordanian Arab Legion illegally occupied in 1948. Israel won Judea and Samaria (West Bank) in a defensive war, after being attacked by Jordan. There was never a state of Palestine, nor Palestinian territories. What might have been “Palestinian territories” was rejected by Arab-Palestinians in 1947 during the UN vote on the Partition of (British) Mandatory Palestine. The Palestinian-Arabs, unlike Jewish-Palestinians, rejected the partition, choosing instead to annihilate the nascent Jewish state.
Ambassador Alan Baker, an Israeli expert on International law, former Israeli ambassador to Canada, and director of The Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out that the Palestinian claim that “settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians (1949) is false. But both the text of that convention, and the post-World War II circumstances under which it was drafted, clearly indicate that it was never intended to refer to situations like Israel’s settlements. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Article 49 relates to situations where populations are coerced into being transferred. There is nothing to link such circumstances to Israel’s settlement policy.
During the negotiations on the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Arab states initiated an addition to the text in order to render it applicable to Israel’s settlement policy. This was indicative of the international community’s acknowledgment that the original 1949 Geneva Convention language was simply not relevant to Israel’s settlements.
The continued reliance by the international community on the Geneva Convention as the basis for determining the illegality of Israel’s settlements fails to take into account the unique nature of the history, legal framework, and negotiating circumstances regarding the West Bank.
A special regime between Israel and the Palestinians is set out in a series of agreements negotiated between 1993 and 1999 that are still valid – that govern all issues between them, settlements included. In this framework there is no specific provision restricting planning, zoning, and continued construction by either party. The Palestinians cannot now invoke the Geneva Convention regime in order to bypass previous internationally acknowledged agreements.”
Naturally, nothing has been said by the Obama administration about the illegal Arab-Palestinian construction of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Bassam Tawil, a Gatestone Institute scholar based in the Middle East, pointed out that, “Apparently, settlements are only a ‘major obstacle to peace’ when they are constructed by Jews. The EU and some Islamic governments and organizations are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank. The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media, who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.”
Tawil rhetorically asked “Who is behind the unprecedented wave of illegal construction? According to Arab residents of Jerusalem, many of the ‘contractors’ are actually land-thieves and thugs who lay their hands on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad. But they also point out that the EU, the PLO and some Arab and Islamic governments are funding the project. ‘They spot an empty plot of land and quickly move in to seize control over it,’ said a resident whose land was confiscated by the illegal contractors.”
Arab-Palestinian construction is not only illegal but unsafe as well. While the construction of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria has long been carried out with proper licenses, and within the framework of the law, the Arab-Palestinian construction does not begin to meet even the minimum standards required by engineers, architects, and housing planners. The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground. Moreover, half the apartments built remain empty, in spite of the ludicrous price tag of $25,000 - $50,000 per unit, when comparable Jewish housing is $250,000 and up. The answer is, of course, the EU funding. These homes have been built without permits, corroborated by the fact that unauthorized or illegal building by Palestinians is an ongoing problem in Area C, solely under Israeli control.
It is the same EU countries who voted to declare the Western Wall of Solomon’s Temple , and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem as “Palestinian territory” at last Friday’s vote (December 23, 2016), funded Palestinian housing, while repeatedly condemning Israeli construction due to family enlargement. Yet, in the Oslo Accords framework there is no specific provision restricting planning, zoning, and continued construction by either party in Judea and Samaria. The difference is that Jewish construction is done lawfully, legally, and safe, while the Palestinian construction is unlawful, unsafe, and serves one purpose only - to avoid negotiating with Israel a peaceful disposition of the territories called Judea and Samaria.
The UN, Britain and the Obama administration expressed outrage last October at Israel’s plan to construct 300 new homes in Judea and Samaria, but no such outrage at the genocide in Syria, or the building of 15,000 illegal Palestinian housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. The Obama administrations deliberate abstention in last Friday’s vote, which was akin to voting “yes” for this notoriously anti-Israel biased resolution, is inimical to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and will serve to further encourage the PA to incite against the Jewish state, while avoiding a negotiated settlement with Israel. It also exposes the double-standard used by the Obama administration in dealing with Israel.
By: Evelyn Gordon
Published: December 28th, 2016
There’s really only one suitable Zionist response to last week’s UN Security Council resolution on the settlements: massive settlement construction. That’s the appropriate response for more than one reason, but I’ll focus here on the most obvious one: The resolution proves conclusively that Israel gets no credit for showing restraint on this issue, so there’s no earthly reason why it should continue suffering the costs of restraint.
As I’ve written repeatedly in the past, data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows that there has been less settlement construction under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than under any of his predecessors. Nor is this a matter of partisan dispute: The left-wing daily Haaretz, a virulent opponent of both Netanyahu and the settlements, used the same data to reach the same conclusion last year.
Moreover, fully three-quarters of the growth in the settlements’ population under Netanyahu has been in the major blocs, which every serious international peace proposal for decades has concluded will remain Israeli under any Israeli-Palestinian deal. Again, this isn’t a matter of partisan dispute; that three-quarters figure comes from Shaul Arieli, a veteran peace activist who is also a virulent opponent of Netanyahu and the settlements.
Finally, almost all the growth in the settler population under Netanyahu has stemmed from natural increase – i.e. women having babies – rather than people actually moving to the settlements. The Haaretz report put the proportion at 74 percent; Arieli’s study, which is more recent, put it at almost 90 percent. Either way, the bottom line is that the only way Israel could have prevented this growth was by passing legislation requiring the forced sterilization of every woman in the settlements. Even the UN hasn’t demanded that yet.
For Netanyahu, this restraint has come at a real price. First, it caused him political damage, because it infuriated his voter base. The result, as I’ve noted before, is that by last month, he was facing an open revolt in his own party over the issue.
Second, it caused Israel strategic damage, because it kept the country from strengthening its hold over areas that most Israeli governments have considered essential for security under any future agreement. To take just one example, all Israeli premiers have deemed the E1 corridor, which links Jerusalem with the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement bloc, critical for Israel’s security – even Yitzhak Rabin, the patron saint of the peace process. Moreover, E1 in no way prevents the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state, and has actually been assigned to Israel by every serious international peace plan ever proposed. Yet for years, Israel has refrained from building there out of deference to international public opinion, even as illegal Palestinian construction has mushroomed in this formerly empty area. The result is that it now has no “facts on the ground” to act as a counterweight to Palestinian claims. And since Palestinian claims always enjoy the international community’s automatic support, facts on the ground, in the form of large numbers of Israelis whom it’s
simply too difficult to evacuate, are Israel’s best guarantee of retaining areas it deems essential to its security.
Third, settlement restraint has caused major financial damage by exacerbating Israel’s massive housing crisis. As of last year, the price of an average apartment had soared to 146 average monthly salaries, more than double the ratio in most other countries, and up from just 43 in 2008; rents have risen correspondingly. In short, housing in Israel has simply become unaffordable for most people, and that’s a major threat to Israel’s future: People will neither remain in nor move to a country where they can’t even afford to put a roof over their head. Yet substantial building in the settlement blocs and eastern Jerusalem – where Netanyahu has also imposed an undeclared freeze in deference to the international community – could have alleviated the shortage responsible for this massive price rise. The settlement blocs are all within commuting distance of the center of the country, which is where the jobs are, and thus where people want to live; inside the Green Line, in contrast, there are few empty areas left in the country’s narrow waist. And in Jerusalem, the housing shortage is the main reason why the capital loses some 18,000 Jews every year.
Netanyahu was willing to absorb all this damage in the belief that international leaders, regardless of what they said publicly, would know the truth about the brakes he has put on settlement construction and support him when it mattered. But to most of the world, the facts have never mattered where Israel is concerned, and it turns out the same is true of the post-truth Obama Administration: Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes justified America’s support for the resolution (and support is the right word, because in this case, abstaining was no different than voting yes) with the spurious claim that the vote was motivated by an “acceleration of settlement activity” under Netanyahu.
It’s hard to say what impact the resolution will actually have, but there are at least two possible negative consequences. First, its declaration that the settlements are “a flagrant violation under international law” could spur the International Criminal Court, which is already considering a case against Israel over the settlements, to go ahead with it, by assuring prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that such action would enjoy widespread international support. Second, its demand that all states “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” provides a tailwind for international boycotts and sanctions against Israel and Israeli companies, since Israel itself considers some of those territories – for example, the Western Wall – to be sovereign Israeli territory.
So if Israel is going to be accused of “accelerated settlement activity” and slapped with potentially serious consequences no matter how much restraint it shows, there’s no justification whatsoever for it to incur the very real costs of this restraint. Hence there’s only one sensible response to this resolution: Build, baby, build.
About the Author: Evelyn Gordon has worked as a journalist and commentator in Israel since 1990. She writes frequently for Commentary magazine’s blog.
DEC. 28 2016 Mosaic Magazine
The American decision to abstain from voting on the UN’s recent condemnation of Israeli settlements was, writes Mark Goldfeder, “the cowardly move of a lame-duck politician” intent on taking “a symbolic parting shot at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump.” Concerning the widely held notion that Israeli settlements violate international law, Goldfeder comments:
In 1922 the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine established an area (which included the West Bank) to be a national home for the Jewish people. Article 6 of the mandate explicitly encouraged “close settlement by Jews on the land.” . . . [U]nder the international legal principle of Uti possidetis juris, . . . emerging states presumptively inherit their pre-independence administrative boundaries, and thus international law clearly dictates that Israel [would] inherit the boundaries of the Mandate of Palestine as they existed in May 1948. Israel thus has title to the land. . . .
If there was ever an [illegal] occupation of Palestinian territory, it happened between 1948 and 1967, when two of the invading Arab armies, Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza Strip) occupied territory that they had taken through aggressive action—the kind of aggressive action that the new [Security Council] resolution explicitly reminds us is forbidden under international law. This was, of course, territory that was part of the Mandate for Palestine and therefore rightfully under Israeli title. . . . The [pre-1967] Green Line was drawn for no other reason than to mark off on a map how far the two invading armies had managed to get. The armistice agreements themselves state that these were not ever meant to be actual borders. Thus to give meaning under international law to these “pre-1967 lines” is, ironically, to ratify retroactively aggression against the mandate and to support occupation. . . .
As [Israel’s seizure of these areas during the Six-Day War] was the only defensive re-conquest of previously occupied territory that has ever happened under the UN charter, one might be forgiven for wondering if the law on this point is somewhat murky, but it is not; . . . pre-1967 sources evidence the fact that defensive conquest would be considered legitimate, but the truth is that even if the law was somehow gray in this area, one of the clearest doctrines of international law is the Lotus principle, which says that sovereign states may act in any way they wish so long as they do not contravene an explicit prohibition. [In other words], if there is no law against it—and there is no law against defensive re-conquest—then it is legal under international law. . . .
[This] is not to say that on a political level the settlement issue is at all clear-cut. It is certainly true that the areas in question are disputed territory, and that “settlements are one of the obstacles to peace” in the sense that it would be helpful for the negotiations (at least for one side) if Israel would stop.
But it is also true that there is no consensus on what other “obstacles” there are, or how many there are, or how much of an “obstacle” the settlements are, or why only Israeli and not Palestinian settlements, and whether the Israeli settlements, which actually cover only 1.7 percent of the disputed West Bank territory, are in fact a necessary bargaining chip for Israel to hold when dealing with an opponent that still refuses to recognize its very right to exist.
by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
December 25, 2003
BECAUSE CHANUKAH usually occurs in December, it is sometimes thought of as the "Jewish Christmas." It isn't, of course. And yet it is fair to say that the reason for Chanukah's popularity — especially in America, where it is the most widely observed Jewish holiday after Passover and Yom Kippur — is precisely its proximity to Christmas.
Chanukah used to be regarded as a minor half-holiday, cheerful but low-key. It has become something bigger and brighter in response to Christmas, which transforms each December into a brilliant winter festival of parties, decorations, and music. Attracted by the joy of the season, not wanting their children to feel left out of all the merriment and gift-giving, American Jews in the 20th century began to make much more of Chanukah than their grandparents ever had. Today Chanukah is well established as part of the annual "holiday season," complete with parties, decorations, and music of its own. Its enhanced status is a tribute both to the assimilating tug of America's majority culture and to the remarkable openness of that culture to Jewish customs and belief.
Ironically, Chanukah was established to commemorate the very opposite of cultural assimilation. It dates back nearly 22 centuries, to the successful Jewish revolt against Antiochus IV, one of the line of Syrian-Greek monarchs who ruled the northern branch of Alexander the Great's collapsed empire. Alexander had been respectful of the Jews' monotheistic religion, but Antiochus was determined to impose Hellenism, with its pagan gods and its cult of the body, throughout his domains. When he met resistance in Judea, he made Judaism illegal.
Sabbath observance, circumcision, and the study of Torah were banned on pain of death. A statue of Zeus was installed in the Temple in Jerusalem, and swine were sacrificed before it. Some Jews embraced the new order and willingly abandoned the God and faith of their ancestors. Those who wouldn't were cruelly punished. Ancient writings tell the story of Hannah and her seven sons, who were captured by Antiochus's troops and commanded to bow to an idol. One by one, each boy refused — and was tortured to death before his mother's eyes.
The fight to reclaim Jewish religious autonomy began in 167 BCE. In the town of Modi'in, an elderly priest named Mattathias refused a Syrian order to sacrifice to an idol. When an apostate Jew stepped forward to comply, Mattathias killed the man and tore down the altar. Then he and his five sons took to the hills and launched a guerrilla war against the armies of the empire.
When Mattathias died, his third son, Judah Maccabee, took command. He and his band of fighters were impossibly outnumbered, yet they won one miraculous victory after another. In 164 BCE, they recaptured the desecrated Temple, which they cleansed and purified and rededicated to God. On the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, the menorah — the candelabra symbolizing the divine presence — was rekindled. For eight days, throngs of Jews celebrated the Temple's restoration. "All the people prostrated themselves," records the book of Maccabees, "worshipping and praising Heaven that their cause had prospered."
In truth, though, their cause hadn't prospered — not yet. The fighting went on for years. It was not until 142 BCE — more than two decades later — that the Jews finally regained control of their land. Geopolitically, that was the moment of real triumph.
But Chanukah isn't about political power. It isn't about military victory. It isn't even about freedom of worship, notwithstanding the fact that the revolt of the Maccabees marks the first time in history that a people rose up to fight religious persecution.
What Chanukah commemorates at heart is the Jewish yearning for God, for the concentrated holiness of the Temple and its service. The defeat of the Syrian-Greeks was a wonder, but the spiritual climax of the Maccabees' rebellion occurred when the menorah was rekindled and God's presence among His people could be felt once again.
Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday not found in the Hebrew Bible and the only one rooted in a military campaign. And yet its focus is almost entirely spiritual, not physical. For example, there is no feast associated with Chanukah, the way there is with Passover and Purim, the two other Jewish festivals of deliverance. Its religious observance is concentrated on flame, nothing more. And the menorah's lights may only be gazed at; it is forbidden to use them for any physical purpose — not even to read by.
The lack of a physical side to Chanukah is unusual but appropriate. For the Maccabees' war against the Hellenists was ultimately a war against a worldview that elevated the physical above all, that venerated beauty, not holiness; the body, not the soul. The Jews fought to preserve a different view of the world — one with God, not man, at its center.
Had they failed, Judaism would have died. Because they triumphed, the Jewish religion survived. And from it, two centuries later, Christianity was born.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)