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Perfect Response to Westboro Baptist Church Threat to Picket Robin Williams Funeral (VIDEO)

August 19, 2014

Kudos to Australian comic Adam Hills for this clever and humorous response to that evil, loathsome private family church in Topeka, KS.

Another Example of Israel’s Drift Away From Both Jewish and Democratic Values

August 15, 2014

In the world of authoritarianism there is only one truth and that truth is determined by the powers that be. In an authentic democracy, freedom of thought, freedom speech, freedom to disagree with one another and your government are the foundations on which the democratic state exists. And when it comes to Judaism, one need only peruse the tens of thousands of Rabbinic opinions that have been penned by great Jewish minds over past 3,000 years to appreciate how much Judaism values intellectualism and diversity in thought.  As important as intellectual honesty, Judaism demands that we see each and every individual life, Jewish or not, as sacred and created in the Divine Image.

JTA is reporting today that one of the most respected human rights groups in Israel, B’Tselem will no longer be

Palestinian children killed in the recent Gaza conflict

Palestinian children killed in the recent Gaza conflict

considered as a legitimate placement site for those people who elect to participate in Israel’s national community service program. The reason given was that B’Tselem had acted “against the state and its soldiers.” And what reprehensible thing did the human rights organization do to be accused of treasonous behavior?  B’Tselem has sought to put a human face on the casualties of the recent war in Gaza by seeking to broadcast the names of Palestinian children killed in the conflict. (FYI, the names of the Palestinian children who were “collateral damage” in the war are being displayed on the B’Tselem web site.)

In informing the organization of his decision the director of the national community service program, Sar-Shalom Jerbi stated:

Director of Israel's national community service program, Sar-Shalom Jerbi

Sar-Shalom Jerbi

“there is a clear line separating a legitimate political opinion in the Israeli political discourse and the dissemination and publication of lies and slander in Israel and worldwide …. Therefore I see no possibility of continuing to approve your organization as a participating body in the national civilian service, which receives assistance from the State of Israel.”

This story is yet another tangible example of the Jewish state’s ongoing drift to the far reaches of the political right. A nationalistic, authoritarian mentality would seem to be in control of a nation that once upon a time celebrated its democratic character and the Jewish values that guided its leadership.  This sad story is a textbook example of how authoritarian governments operate:

We control the flow of information.  

We stand ready to punish those people and groups who don’t promote the party line.

Israel’s founders would be ashamed.

AND THIS, FROM THE 8/19/2014 EDITION OF HAARETZ: American Jewish leaders fiddle while Israeli democracy burns Jews fight for freedom, equality and minority rights in America but exempt themselves from the same battle in Israel.

Robin Williams – We Will Miss You! Thank You For Moments Like This (VIDEO)

August 11, 2014
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Just last week, Robin Williams Tweeted this photo with the caption: “Too late for a career change? Rabbi Robin”

 

President Obama On Israel’s Survival

August 10, 2014

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Shmuel Rosener’s F*ck You to Jewish Liberals

August 8, 2014

Todays edition of the New York Times included a very polite, well written F*CK YOU LIBERAL JEWS from pundit Shmuel Rosner.  Rather than simply blowing us off as fair-weather friends who live elsewhere,  Rosner time and verbiage would have been better spent trying to defend indefensible: the hostile positions of Israeli hawks who think that “mowing the grass” by killing a couple of thousand people every few years is somehow more desirable than trying to exist with a state of Palestine.

(reprinted from the 8/7/2014 edition of the New York Times)

Israel’s Fair-Weather Fans

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TEL AVIV — The Israeli song “Ein Li Eretz Acheret” is a curious tune. “I have no other country,” go the lyrics, “even if my land is on fire.”

It’s hard to find a Jewish Israeli who doesn’t identify with it. Lefty Israelis interpret it as a protest song. It was sung at demonstrations against the 1982 Lebanon War and vigils following the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Israelis on the right interpret it as a patriotic song about attachment to the land; they sang it after terrorist attacks and during the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

I was reminded of the song in recent days as I read a string of articles by smart, savvy, knowledgeable, non-Israeli Jews, who say that the brutal war in Gaza has made them question their Zionism.

What unites these writers, of course, is that all of them do have another country. And that’s why, when push comes to shove, the Israeli government doesn’t — and shouldn’t — listen to them.

These writers aren’t all cut from the same cloth, but their arguments are similar. There’s a heart-warming side to their articles; they are all clearly concerned about Israel. “I care about Israel personally, rather than abstractly,” the American journalist Ezra Klein wrote in Vox. On the other hand, they are disappointed, sometimes horrified, by an Israel for which they still care, but not as much as they used to. Roger Cohen, writing in these pages, argued that current Israeli policies are a “betrayal of the Zionism in which I still believe.” Their conclusions are also similar: They are “less sympathetic” to Israel than before, as Jonathan Chait put it in New York magazine.

As a group, they are a shining example of a phenomenon that Atlantic Monthly and Haaretz columnist Peter Beinart has popularized: the distancing of liberal Jews from Israel, especially in the United States.

The core of Mr. Beinart’s argument is that “particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists” because of Israel’s hawkish policies. It’s a shaky theory, and experts still argue about the scope of the trend. But there’s no doubt that many liberal Jews feel uncomfortable with Israel. Mr. Beinart, citing the criticisms of the wildly popular Jewish comedian Jon Stewart, argued last week that if “Israel continues to elect governments hostile to a viable Palestinian state — the American mood will incrementally shift.”

This is a bleak prediction, because support from America is a cornerstone of Israel’s security. If Jewish liberals aim to erode that support, they should remember that Israel has managed in the past to make do, even with weakened American support. But I assume their motivation is different. Sometimes it feels as if liberal Zionist critics are trying to ensure that Israel’s deeds do not rub off on them. At other times, it feels as if they’re trying to clear their conscience of something for which they feel partially responsible.

They seem to believe that the implied threat that Israel might lose Jewish supporters abroad will somehow convince the government to alter its policies. This is a self-aggrandizing fantasy and reveals a poor grasp of the way Israel operates. To put it bluntly: These Jews are very important, but not nearly important enough to make Israelis pursue policies that put Israeli lives at risk.

Let me be clear: I believe Israel’s relations with Jews around the world are crucially important. Indeed, I’ve devoted a great deal of my career to thinking and writing about this topic. I often find myself preaching to Israelis about the need to be more considerate of more liberal Jewish views on issues ranging from religious conversion to women’s prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. But I would never expect Israelis to gamble on our security and our lives for the sake of accommodating the political sensitivities of people who live far away.

Of course, not all Israeli policies are smart, and it’s not imperative that all Jews agree with them. Israelis are susceptible to persuasion. But using the threat of eroding Jewish support as a scare tactic stands in the way of effective persuasion.

Israelis, like most people, prefer to take advice from those they believe have their best interests at heart. But is that really the case here?

If all Jews are a family, it would be natural for Israelis to expect the unconditional love of their non-Israeli Jewish kin. If Jews aren’t a family, and their support can be withdrawn, then Israelis have no reason to pay special attention to the complaints of non-Israeli Jews.

Moreover, the threat of liberal Jews distancing themselves from Israel is a hollow one. Jews of other nationalities are the proud and patriotic citizens of other countries, and they are free to make the decision to detach themselves from the greatest Jewish enterprise of the last two millenniums.

But they aren’t like baseball fans who move from New York to Boston and, with great difficulty, stop rooting for the Yankees and learn to cheer for the Red Sox. If they still want to root for a Jewish state, there’s no substitute for Israel. If they believe there is a need for Jewish sovereignty, Israel is the only option available to them. Like in that song, there is no other country even if the land is on fire.

Clearly, these critics of Israel’s behavior believe that Israelis themselves would be safer if the country adopted their prescribed liberal policies. That might be true, but it makes no difference.

On matters of life and death, war and peace, Israelis are going to make their own decisions. If they lose the support of some liberal Jews over it, that would be regrettable, but so be it.

Israel will have to learn to survive without that support, and I’m certain it will.

Shmuel Rosner is the political editor at The Jewish Journal and a fellow at The Jewish People Policy Institute.

Let’s Clear About the Ideas and Values That Hamas Promotes

August 8, 2014

The Israel – Palestinian – Arab – Muslim conflict is anything but simple. There are reasonable people on both sides of the conflict; there are bigoted, intolerant haters on both sides. While the government of Israel is the legitimately elected authority that governs and speaks for the Jewish State, Hamas is certainly not the official -or the most important voice in the Palestinian community.

This current confrontation is not between the Jews and Arabs, it’s not between Jews and Muslims, it’s not between Israel and all Arabs. The Gaza conflict is a confrontation between the State of Israel and Hamas.  And yes, one can be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank and not be a supporter of Hamas.

But lets’ be very honest  about what it means to believe that Hamas is a legitimate quasi-governmental authority that is  worthy of recognition and respect: It means supporting a gang of radical religious extremists who believe that anyone who is not a Muslim is an infidel; it means supporting an entity that is anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-women, anti-gay.

While I’ll be the first to suggest that Israel has intentionally thwarted  efforts to create a demilitarized Palestinian State, the Gaza confrontation is between radical Islam and universal values that fanatics must renounce to justify their murderous contempt for others.

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Maybe the real problem is that Abass has no one on the “other side” to negotiate with

August 6, 2014

For years, many on the political right in Israel have suggested that “Israel has no one to negotiate with on the Palestinian side.”  Could it be that the problem is the exact opposite?  Abass knows what has to happen and wants to make peace with Israel but there’s no one on the “other side” who doesn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth about believing in a two state solution while finding fault with anything and everything Abbas’ says or does and is always coming up with unreasonable demands and pre-conditions for moving the peace process forward.  

(reprinted from the 8/7/2014 edition of Haaretz)

Mahmoud Abbas’ crucial message to Israel

Two crucial statements by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas mark a sea change in the Palestinian narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

By Carlo Strenger
Mahmoud Abbas has gradually made the transition from a relatively pale figure to a leader of stature. He has not only abbas_2414003bdone this through his very serious negotiations with Ehud Olmert in 2007 and 2008, that came very close to reaching an agreement. He has also done this with two crucial statements that signal a sea change in the Palestinian narrative.Almost two years ago, Abbas said that the second intifada was the greatest mistake the Palestinians ever made. This admission, unfortunately, is all too true: the second intifada has made most Israelis profoundly unwilling to take risks for peace. They wonder why they should, once again, trust Palestinians who blew up hundreds of Israelis when the peace process came to a standstill after the failed Camp David summit. In his interview with Henrique Cymerman, which aired a few days ago on Israel’s Channel 2, Abbas took a second step of possibly even greater importance. He explicitly said that the Arab world and the Palestinians made a crucial error by rejecting the UN partition plan in 1947. In doing so, Abbas is the first Palestinian leader to change a sacrosanct element of the Palestinian narrative: self-representation as pure victims. Palestinians have always spoken of the expulsion of more than 700,000 of their fellow nationals in 1948 as the Nakba, the catastrophe that befell them. While it would be both inhuman and stupid to deny the Palestinian tragedy, the Palestinians’ refusing to take any responsibility for their fate has not served them well, and has contributed to the conflict’s intractability. The rejection of the 1947 partition plan was one in a series of catastrophic mistakes they made. The first of these was choosing the intransigent Husseini clan as leaders early in the 20th century, while the latest was the shelling of Southern Israel after the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, where Palestinians have shown little political wisdom. Abbas’ admission that the Palestinian people’s fate could have been dramatically different if they had made wiser decisions is crucially important, because the Palestinian denial of responsibility for their own fate has led them to a state of freeze. Instead of moving toward compromise with Israel, too many Palestinians have waited for too many years for a reversal of history. They forget that they joined an all out war against Israel in 1948 and that they need to accept the consequences of their decision. The Middle Eastern conflict has been described masterfully in Benny Morris’ Righteous Victims, and the book’s title sums up one of the conflict’s essential aspects. Both sides insist that they are righteous. Both sides insist that they are victims forced into their deeds by the other side’s inhumanity, cruelty and intransigence. Abbas’ move towards acknowledging Palestinians’ mistakes and accepting partial responsibility for their fate is of great importance. Without it, Palestinians will never be able to mourn the loss of their original homes in 1948 and to move towards compromise based on the 1967 borders. Not all Palestinians will greet Abbas’ admission with joy, but it could be an important step toward changing the intransigent rhetoric of the conflict. It is also a truly crucial step. The position of righteous victim that both sides have been locked into has made true dialogue impossible. Each side was locked into the preconception that any genuine overture to the other side, in fact any acknowledgment of the other side’s humanity, would have grievous consequences by breaking the position of absolute righteousness. According to Henrique Cymerman, Abbas personally made sure that the full-length forty minute interview was aired on Palestinian prime time TV “for educational purposes.” This is also a very significant step. Israelis have, for years, complained that Palestinians spoke very differently to their own constituency than to the outside world. In this case Abbas wanted to make sure that the viewers of Israel’s most viewed channel would see exactly the same as his Palestinian constituency. Abbas also explicitly said that he would see an agreement with Israel as the end of conflict. As to the refugee question, he told Cymerman that it was clear to him that Israel could not integrate large numbers of Palestinians, and that he had endorsed the position of the Arab League Peace proposal that Israel could veto any Palestinian’s return to Israel. Netanyahu and Lieberman have, time and again, tried to paint Abbas as the peace refusenik, but their case for this position is growing weaker. This is why Lieberman has lately chosen to air one of his beloved undiplomatic statements, saying that Abbas is the greatest obstacle to peace. Abbas is a threat to Lieberman and Israel’s right, because he weakens their case for the claim that there is no Palestinian partner for peace originally formulated by Ehud Barak. Lieberman knows that Abbas is serious about peace, and that only Olmert’s resignation prevented the signing of an agreement. Abbas has now made his position clear to Israel’s public. He has done this loudly, clearly and without reservation. It is time for Israel’s public to ask whether it wants a government that refuses to engage with Israel’s best chance to end the Israel-Palestine conflict.  
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