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Interview With Aryeh Lightstone On The Third Anniversary of The Abraham Accords

Daled Amos - Fri, 15/09/2023 - 21:09
Aryeh Lightstone served as an advisor to US Ambassador David Friedman and as special envoy to the Abraham Accords. His account of his experiences, Let My People Know, was published last year. Today is the third anniversary of the announcing of the Accords. 
I recently had the opportunity to interview Aryeh Lightstone, days before the news that there was progress in getting Saudi Arabia to join the Accords. The text has been edited for clarity.

How does it feel to prove all of the experts wrong by negotiating the Abraham Accords Then Trump is voted out of office, those "experts" are back -- and they are back to spouting the old disproven policy.

That's why I wrote the book Let My People Know. In May of 2021, Matt Lee,  the great reporter for the AP, asked Ned Price, the spokesperson of the State Dept., what were these agreements called. And you can watch 2 minutes and 47 seconds of Ned Price turning himself into a pretzel to do anything but say the words "Abraham Accords." 

To me, that was insulting -- not because I needed to hear it, but because there were countries that took a risk and joined a circle of peace without preconditions and they called it the Abraham Accords. So for the US not to honor, recognize and support this agreement that it brokered, and walk away from it was so reprehensible. So that is why I wrote "Let My People Know" -- so that people will know about the Abraham Accords. And if people knew what they were, Democrats would be up in arms against such ignorance by the Biden administration. The very first time that the Biden Administration came out pro-actively supporting the Abraham Accords was the day after the Afghanistan debacle, so they know that it works. It's just a question of whether they can get past the personality and politics to get to the policy. They know it is good policy, it's just bad politics to openly say it. 

The Abraham Accords happened because of the leadership of Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman, yourself and others -- but it was more than that. What else had to fall into place, both in the Arab world and in Israel to make this happen?

Well, I think a couple of different things happened. 

Foremost, the United States is the undisputed superpower in the world and when we act that way, a lot of really good things happen. When we back away from that, there is a vacuum. And it is not filled by Costa Rica -- it is filled by the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians. And for all their genuflecting to others, the Democrats put the world at enormous risk. Every one of our allies knows who we are, but sometimes we don't know who we are. One of the greatest things we did was move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Israel didn't need us to do that, we needed to do that. We were afraid to move the embassy because of what other countries were going to say or do when we took an action that we wanted to do. But when we made that move, that was a superpower move. And when we opened up the embassy 6 months later, the rest of the countries in the region said, "Wait a second. This is an America who knows who they are and we want to be close to this America. And the path to Washington runs through Jerusalem." They know that the only democracy in the Middle East has a special relationship. And the closer those other countries are to that special relationship, the more they can elevate their own relationship with the United States. 

Secondly, Israel is an attractive friend because of its economy and because of its military strength. It is not a "noch schlepper." Just look at what world leaders said during COVID. They said that the solutions were going to come from the US or from Israel. Just look at the number of calls that the US National Security Council had with other countries. We had a twice-weekly call with Israel. We didn't have that with any other country. World leaders see the innovation, the power and the strength that comes out of Israel. Israel is the prettiest girl at the ball. 

You see the Arab countries who come and say that they want to build for the next hundred years, not re-litigate the last hundred years. How do they do that? They see that the Palestinian Arabs, by not moving forward on peace, are holding these Arab countries back and if they can move the Palestinian issue to the side then they can go ahead and take the next step forward. That takes a lot of guts and courage from those leaders.

Thirdly, Iran is terrifying.

Now suddenly the same Biden Administration that couldn't say the words "Abraham Accords" is now pushing it. What changed?

I'm very skeptical that anything gets done. And here's the reason: Biden hasn't officially invited Netanyahu to the US.  And when he met MBS last year in Saudi Arabia, the question was whether he was going to shake his hand or give him a fist bump. When the president cannot decide to embrace two of our allies, it is going to be very hard to picture him in that 3-way handshake. And the reason he cannot do that three-way handshake is that according to Biden's politics, MBS is a bad guy and Bibi is a terrible guy. And that's a shame because both of those leaders and the people they represent are incredibly important to the US. I don't see how Biden overcomes that.

The second thing is, why did it take them so long to come around to the Abraham Accords? Because who won in the Abraham Accords? Israel won -- which is not such a great thing in the world of progressive Democrats. The people that Obama tried to undercut -- MBS and Bibi -- got stronger. These are strong, great leaders that we need to support, but there is a difference between Democratic and Republican foreign policy. 

The more the Abraham Accords succeed, the less likely it is for there to be a two-state solution on the 1967 lines. And that is the great foreign policy goal of the Democrats. And the more you push the Abraham Accords, the less leverage the Palestinian Arabs have and the less likely meaningful concessions can be extracted for the Palestinians. That is really why the Democrats cannot get behind the Accords.  

So the Biden Admin is going to push the Abraham Accords even though they are antithetical to the JCPOA?

Getting the Saudis to join will guarantee three things:

Biden will win a Nobel Peace Prize.

There may be a grand bargain involving the Saudis and Israel to step back from protesting against the Iran Deal.

They can get meaningful concessions, or put Bibi in a situation where he will be forced to change his government or retreat from the judicial reform. 

The Saudis are the great prize that changes the Middle East forever.

Can you picture a scenario where it would be inadvisable for Israel to enter into the agreement with the Saudis?

I can picture a scenario in all situations where there would be a disadvantage. But for the most part, peace is a good thing with external countries and I do not imagine Netanyahu's government saying this would not be a good idea. This Israeli government has certain red lines and it is not going to move on these red lines. 

But won't the Saudis insist on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians?

The Emiratis told Israel that it had the option to apply or not apply sovereignty, but if it did not then they would start a relationship with them. Israel had not applied sovereignty up to that time, they still have not applied it, and now they have peace with five Muslim countries. Israel will call that a win. There are things the Saudis can ask that are beyond the pale and there are things that are very reasonable. 

We believe the problem is not the Palestinian people. The problem is the so-called leadership of the Palestinians. Anything that enfranchises the leadership is a mistake for the region and the Saudis see that also. If there is something that helps the Palestinians have better jobs and better opportunities, I think Israel would embrace it. I think the region should embrace it. 

You mentioned Russia, China, and Iran -- how dangerous are they to the Middle East in general and to the Abraham Accords in particular?

When China brokers a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the biggest losers at the table are the US and Israel, because as soon as the US retreats from the Middle East, even a little bit, someone else shows up. And if it is China, it means Russia and Iran as well. And that is dangerous. How much is that a danger to the Abraham Accords? The Abraham Accords have proven to be incredibly resilient. If the US does not project power appropriately, that will weaken Israel, because Israel has made clear they are with the US. You'll see other countries throughout the region and throughout the world who say they are not sure whether they love the Chinese policy or not, but they can count on it for the next 100 years. But US policy seems to change every four years -- and it doesn't change a little bit. It changes 180 degrees. It's really hard to make plans when you don't know whether the US is your ally, depending on who wins an election that you have no influence over. It's really a scary thing for our friends and allies and it weakens the United States. 

There has been talk over the past few weeks about whether the time has come that it would be beneficial for Israel for the US to end military aid. If the US were to do this, what kind of impact would that have on the Accords?

Every time the US takes a step back, that weakens Israel's hand because the US and Israel are so tightly linked. But in this case, the US weakens itself. The aid that goes to Israel is incredibly well-spent money in the US. The aid might not be in Israel's best interest, but it is in the US's best interest. 

By the way, it is absolutely in the US's best interest to make sure that Israel and the rest of the region are linked to the US and not to China. If you look at China's spreading influence, China has great natural resources, Russia has great natural resources, and Iran has great natural resources -- and now Saudi Arabia has the greatest natural resources. So if China secures that corridor, they become a power that is incredibly threatening to us. Forget about military reasons, just for economic and energy dominance. 

Now take the opposite approach: cut off China's influence in Iran, which is a natural place to cut off, and you have the entire Abraham Accord region extending through Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Israel -- all as one strong alliance, getting along with each other, all deregulated. That's unlimited land, unlimited workers, unlimited energy and unlimited economics -- all in the US corner, surpassing what China is able to do. This is the pivotal part of the math that we need to win, "we" meaning the US. We need to win the Middle East, purely with influence. Israel and UAE  are willing to defend themselves by themselves and the US gets a tremendous return on that investment. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we don't do that.

Why are the Saudis edging towards Iran and should we be afraid of how far they may go?

The Saudis are undergoing one of the greatest experiments in world history, of building a nation while reforming it and modernizing it all at the same time with basically unlimited resources. But this is a culture that does not adapt very quickly. They are cautious. But the Crown Prince MBS is not being cautious -- he is going at warp speed.  The agreement with Iran, brokered by China, reflects the Saudi attitude that they are not in the war business, they are not in the war of religion business -- they are in the building-a-nation business. So they want to be left alone, and this agreement is what it will cost to be left alone.

Again, this happened because the US took a step back. If the US had been there to say "This is our region and an attack on the Saudis is an attack on us" -- those words would matter, because no one wants to attack the US in a way that pokes the bear and it in turn attacks them. They only attack the US and their allies when we are weak. When we are strong, they don't do that.

It's in the Chinese interest to have the Saudis and Iran get along also.

But while the Saudis may want to be left alone, leaving other countries alone is not something Iran is known for -- as Syria, Lebanon and others can attest.

Yes, but Syria and Lebanon are not Saudi Arabia. The UAE re-established relations with Iran. They are basically saying "I accomplish nothing by considering you the axis of evil, especially since I don't have the axis of good on my side."

The Middle East is trying to get out of the war business and trying to get into the sustainability business, how to get from an oil and gas-based economy to an economy that works without oil and gas. They are trying to compete commercially, not ideologically. And because of that, they are trying to be friendly with everybody.

It is difficult to be friends with some countries. Iran is number one. But I think all of those countries look around and say "Well, Israel will probably take the brunt first and we'll see where the world is. See if the US can have a consistent policy towards Iran, whether Iran will turn nuclear." There are a lot of things that will happen in the next four to six years that will determine what people's permanent foreign policies are toward Iran. 

The Biden administration will condemn Israeli domestic policies but where are they on these people in Iran who are sacrificing their lives on the street, this ultimate bravery in a non-democratic world? Just contrast these two things and I don't know what set of world values somebody can have where they want to pick what is right and wrong in Israel but will not pick the side of truth versus falsehood in Iran. This is just moral bankruptcy.

Have the Abraham Accords had any positive influence on the Palestinian Arabs?

Two weeks ago, Abbas visited Jenin for the first time in eighteen years. To think that there is a Palestinian Authority is a joke. They are a bunch of different tribes that exist independently. If The US would work with specific individual leaders there, we could cultivate some meaningful relationships. But you need consistent policy across the board from Israel and from the US. 

If it hadn't been for COVID and if we had had the support of the Abraham Accord countries also, then the Emiratis or Saudis or Moroccans could have come in and built Palestinian Arab businesses and industrial zones -- better than the US or Israel could do it.

The way I rank the greatest beneficiaries of the Abraham Accords in order are the US, Israeli Arabs, the Abraham Accord countries, the Palestinian Arabs and finally Israel. We'll see if I'm right or not as this plays out in the next twenty years.

You mentioned Israeli Arabs. How do they benefit?

Put yourself in the shoes of an Israeli Arab. From an identity perspective, that is a difficult place to be when the rest of the region has chosen to isolate you instead of embrace you. And if you are looking at the leader of the Arab world in terms of modernity you are looking at the UAE, which is considered "cool" And if the UAE says that Israel is "cool", and I as an Israeli Arab can be a link between the UAE and Israel -- then that gives me a strategic advantage. I can be a bridge instead of being in isolation. So as more countries join and you have a uniform Middle East where you can land in Tel Aviv or in Abu Dhabi and take a train without needing your passport or a visa across Saudi and Oman and Qatar and Bahrain and Israel and Jordan -- at that point being an Israeli Arab is going to be very advantageous. That will solve their dual identity challenge.

I am very friendly with two Arab Israeli business leaders and their eyes light up when talking about the Abraham Accords because they speak both languages. I'm not talking about speaking to the investors but to the people of the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. Israeli Arabs realize that together with these Arabs and Israelis they can do incredible things. They see the unique opportunities they have. If you were to put the same Israeli Arab in Silicon Valley, they would be disadvantaged. It is the opposite of the Israeli who because of his networking background would fit right into Silicon Valley, but does not fit in as well as the Israeli Arab in Abraham Accord network.

 You wrote in an article in the Jerusalem Post last year that "the single greatest lever to encourage other countries to join the Abraham Accords, and yes that includes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is to show that the current Abraham Accord countries are a unique priority for Israel." Will the current tensions and protests in Israel negatively affect how its partners in the Abraham Accords see them as an ally?  

What bothers me in the current situation is the language of the protestors and counter-protestors. It is reprehensible and shows a complete lack of awareness of the precarious situation Israel finds itself in. For four years I told other countries you cannot use derogatory language about Israel and now you have Israelis using that exact language about each other. Now when someone applies terms like "apartheid" "dictator" etc to Israel, they don't have to quote one of our more progressive members of Congress. They can quote the opposition leader or the Prime Minister or the former Prime Minister. It has never worked out well. It's turning an opponent into an enemy. It's unforgivable if you know anything about Jewish history. It's unforgivable when you are trying to acclimate yourself to a region that doesn't have a lot of free speech and protests.

Why do we not hear as much about Arab travel to Israel as we hear about Israeli travel to Arab countries?

Two factors 

Israelis enjoy traveling everywhere. Compare this to the 1.2 million Emiratis and 400,000 Barhraininas -- about 1.6 million between them. Of the traditional Arab citizens of those countries, unmarried women are not going to travel on their own and the children are not going to travel until they are more established and married. So it is a fairly limited Arab population that is going to be traveling to Israel for non-business reasons. The flow is more in one direction.

To me, the big change will be when Jordanian and Egyptian businessmen and women are coming back and forth as business people and as tourists. That will be another sign of the warming of the region. There is an acculturation process that is going to happen.

If you go to Morocco or the UAE or Bahrain, they are thrilled with Israeli tourism and also the American Jewish tourism.

Any final words

Bottom line, does any of this really matter?

We understand how the Abraham Accords matter to Jews and people who are pro-Israel because of shared values. But why should the Accords matter to someone in Iowa or Kansas?

I'd like to make the argument that it matters meaningfully, primarily because under Trump we saw that when you act like a superpower and you stand with your allies and friends, you can end up with meaningful results that the so-called experts never predicted -- and the ramifications become incredibly meaningful. 

We were able to block out the Chinese from an area they were expanding into. Then, when we retreated, the Russians, Chinese and Iranians showed up. The Ukrainian situation would not have happened if the US had not retreated from the ME in the way that we did. To me, the Abraham Accords are the canary in the coal mine. As the Accords expand and grow, you will see the Chinese cautious about Taiwan and the Russians more hesitant about Ukraine. As we retreat, back off and have two distinct foreign policies, you will see chaos. Because it illustrates two foreign policies which are no foreign policies and anybody can run amuck. That is what you are seeing now.

Categories: Middle East

The US vs Palestinian Terrorism -- In 2016, Congressman Ron DeSantis Said The Quiet Part Out Loud

Daled Amos - Sun, 06/08/2023 - 20:02

Chana Nachenberg, an American, died on May 31.

She was the last of the 16 victims of the Sbarro Massacre to die, the last victim of the Hamas terrorist  Ahlam Tamimi who masterminded that terrorist attack and lives today in Jordan, free and something of a celebrity.

If the US is frustrated by Jordan's refusal to honor its extradition treaty and hand over the terrorist, it is hiding it well. On May 25, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the 77th anniversary of Jordanian independence:

The United States and Jordan share an enduring, strategic relationship deeply rooted in shared interests and values. We appreciate the important role Jordan plays in promoting peace and security across the region and countering violent extremism. (emphasis added)

During her hearing a few weeks ago on her nomination as the next US Ambassador to Jordan, Yael Lempert resisted Sen. Ted Cruz's suggestion that every tool should be used in order to pressure Jordan into honoring its treaty, including withholding aid. Lempert replied:

I think that that would need to be weighed very carefully against the range of issues and priorities that we have with the Jordanians before considering such a step, which I think would be profound.Of course, Lempert added the expected, "I think that what I can confirm to you is that I will do everything in my power to ensure that Ahlam Tamimi faces justice in the United States," but the impression remains that somehow in the interests of Middle East peace, the US has to be careful not to apply too much pressure, that special considerations need to be taken into account.

But it's not that Jordan is completely opposed to extraditing terrorists.

Just last month, Jordan agreed with UAE to extradite Khalaf Abdul Rahman Al-Rumaithi. According to UAE, Al-Rumaithi was a wanted terrorist they had tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years for "establishing a secret organization affiliated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood." On the other hand, HRW claimed he was one of the victims of the mass trials of 94 government critics of the government, resulting in 69 convictions. The Jordanian court opposed the extradition, yet Al-Rumaithi ended up being extradited anyway.

That is an interesting counterpoint to the case of Ahlam Tamimi, where the court also opposed extradition, yet despite a formal treaty, the court's decision stood, while in the case of UAE, the decision -- and authority -- of the Jordanian court was pushed aside. Arnold Roth, whose daughter was one of Tamimi's victims, pointed out the double standard:

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies suggested that a different consideration was at play:

Of course, the difference might be whether the victims were Arabs -- or Jews.

This inability of the US to pressure Arab countries on the issue of terrorism -- even when the US provides funding -- is evident in US relations with the Palestinian Authority as well.

At the end of May, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During her testimony, Leaf admitted that the PA was still making "pay-to-slay" payments to the terrorists including the families of terrorists who killed Americans and Israelis.“We are working to bring pay-to-slay to an end. Period,” Leaf said. Asked if the administration had succeeded, Leaf replied, “not yet.”Is the Biden administration working as hard to end "pay-to-slay" as it is on getting Jordan to extradite Tamimi, who is responsible for the Americans who died in the Sbarro Massacre?
Putting aside the claim by the White House that they can bypass both the PA and the PLO and provide money directly to the Palestinian Arabs without violating the Taylor Force Act, why is the Biden Administration welcoming terrorists to the White House?

As Sen. Cruz put it: 

You sent a report to Congress that officially certified that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO…have not met the legal requirements for ‘terminating payments for acts of terrorism against Israeli and US citizens. Now publicly, the administration defends engaging with terrorists, you claim things are going well, but when you file a statutorily mandated report with Congress, you admit the PLO is continuing what are called ‘pay-to-slay’ payments. They are paying for terrorists to murder Americans and to murder Israelis. And nonetheless, this administration is bringing those terrorist leaders to Washington, is bringing them to cocktail parties to wine and dine political leaders. [emphasis added]Is this so different from King Abdullah II of Jordan being welcomed in the US and praised as a great friend of the US and ally in the fight against terrorism, while he refuses to honor his extradition treaty with the US and harbors the women who masterminded the Sbarro Massacre which killed Americans?

This possibility of a double standard when it comes to Middle East terrorism that affects Americans was expressed out loud in 2016 during a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The subject was Seeking Justice for Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel. Chairing the hearing was then-Congressman Ron DeSantis. The issue was the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism within the Department of Justice and whether it was fulfilling its function in obtaining justice for the families of the victims of Palestinian terrorism.

At one point, DeSantis addressed Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the US Department of Justice. It became clear that there was a discrepancy between the number of terrorists being brought to justice who killed Americans in the Middle East as opposed to terrorists who killed Americans anywhere else in the world:

Mr. DeSantis: Mr. Wiegmann, the committee has counted that since '93, at least 64 Americans have been killed, as well as two unborn children, and 91 have been wounded by terrorists in Israel in disputed territories.

How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans in Israel or disputed territories has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted during this time period?

Mr. Wiegmann: I think the answer is--is none.

Mr. DeSantis: Okay. How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans anywhere else overseas has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted?

Mr. Wiegmann: I don't have an exact figure for you.

Mr. DeSantis: But it would be a decent size number, though, correct?  Mr. Wiegmann: It would be a significant number, yes.
Here is the video:

A little later, DeSantis looked for an explanation for this discrepancy:
Mr. DeSantis: Now, it's- been alleged that the reason that DOJ does not prosecute the Palestinian terrorists who harm Americans in Israel, the disputed territories, is that the Department of Justice is concerned that such prosecutions will harm efforts to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or that it will actually harm the Palestinian Authority.
So let me ask you straight up, is that a consideration the Department of Justice?

Mr. Wiegmann: I can assure that is obsolutely not the case.
Mr. DeSantis: And has the State Department ever made arguments to the Department of Justice to handle some of the Palestinian terrorism cases differently than you may normally handle, say, a terrorism case in Asia?
Mr. Wiegmann: Absolutely not.
Here is the video:

Wiegmann says flat out in his testimony that there is no consideration making the US pull their punches when it comes to bringing Palestinian terrorists to justice -- neither a concern for possible harm to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, nor a concern that extraditing Palestinian terrorists might harm the Palestinian Authority.
Yet those suspicions persist and now some believe that it is Jordan that the US is concerned might be harmed by insisting on extraditing the terrorist responsible for the deaths of Americans, even as we see that there are considerations that cause Jordan to extradite to a fellow Arab country but not to its US ally.
There is nothing to indicate that Wiegmann was not telling the truth.
Yet the fact remains that American survivors of Palestinian terrorism, the families of the victims -- and the families who lost loved ones in the Sbarro Massacre are not getting the justice that was promised to them and that they deserve.
If this is not because of political reasons, then what is the reason?

Categories: Middle East

Interview With Alex Ryvchin, Author of The 7 Deadly Myths

Daled Amos - Tue, 04/07/2023 - 04:48

I recently had the opportunity to interview the author Alex Ryvchin on his new book which presents a different approach to addressing antisemitism.

The answers have been slightly edited for clarity,

Over the years, many books have been written about antisemitism from different perspectives. How is your book different?

Many books have addressed the ‘why’ of antisemitism. Why are the Jews so hated? Why have such things been inflicted on them? Why do they continue to be targeted? This book will go some way to explaining the 'why' but my central interest is the ‘how’? How does antisemitism function in practice? How is it transmitted around the world and generation to generation. 

This question of ‘how’ led me to the seven deadly myths. It is through this complex and well-honed mythology that antisemitism thrives. As Isaac Herzog said in reference to my book: 

By shifting emphasis from the ‘why’ of this puzzling and dangerous phenomenon to the ‘how’ of the mechanics of its transmission, Ryvchin points to the possibility of actually confronting and diffusing it.

You mention in your book that it could be used in the classroom. There is discussion about Holocaust education -- and how it has failed, both in making people knowledgeable and in changing attitudes. What do you think are some of the causes for this and how would your book and a curriculum based on it overcome these problems?

Holocaust education is vital and I support it entirely. Within the study of the Holocaust we learn not only about the process by which the European Jews were destroyed, we observe everything of which man is capable of – sadism, cruelty, heroism, strength, apathy and cowardice. But in terms of understanding the hatred of the Jews, the Holocaust answers few questions. In fact, it raises these questions to fever pitch and leaves them unresolved. This is why despite so many admirable endeavors in Holocaust commemoration and education, antisemitism has continued to rise. 

Trying to understand antisemitism through the Holocaust is also highly problematic as it positions antisemitism as a historical event and not something in the here and now. It would be like trying to teach anti-Black racism and ending the story with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. It also falsely positions it as solely a product of race science, fascism and totalitarianism which completely ignores its political and religious sources and manifestations. 

This has all contributed to the extremely limited and poor understanding of antisemitism in society, despite it being the most lethal and persistent hatred. This is why it is essential to teach antisemitism itself, what it looks like, how it is expressed, what it continues to do to our communities and wider society.

Why do you think antisemitism persists even after the Holocaust -- why wasn't the world "scared straight" by the murder of 6 million Jews? 

Because antisemitism was too ingrained. Antisemitism was soaked into the world’s consciousness through centuries of lies, mythology and propaganda. It emanated from religious sources, nationalist heroes and popular culture. Even the horror of the Holocaust and the most devastating war in history could not dislodge it. 

As is often forgotten, Jews continued to be massacred in Europe even after liberation from Nazi occupation. To give one example, the Polish Peasants Party passed a resolution in 1946 thanking Hitler for destroying the Jews and calling for the expulsion of any survivors. Forty-two Jewish survivors were clubbed to death in Kielce, Poland. One of the heroes of the Sobibor Camp Uprising was murdered by nationalists after escaping a camp which had virtually no survivors. So of course, today, when the Holocaust is considered ancient history to many, the same myths and conspiracy theories that made it possible, are resurgent.

If, as you write, antisemitism is not just a result of bad information but is a result of "a defect in reasoning" what is the best we can hope to accomplish in the fight against antisemitism?

Our aim in fighting antisemitism is not elimination – it is a disease without a cure. Our aim is to inoculate as many people as possible from catching it. 

There are only two ways to do this. The first is education. But it must be the right education. If we can systematically debunk antisemitic mythology, as my book does, far fewer people will be susceptible to it. Once this education occurs, there has to be engagement. The mythical Jew – bloodthirsty, all-powerful, vengeful, obsessed with money cannot coexist with the real, flesh and blood Jew. The more that people see the real Jew, the weaker these myths become.

Considering the longevity and intensity of antisemitism, to what do you ascribe the survival of Jews and the Jewish identity?

Antisemitism has certainly been a contributing factor to our tenacity. It has hardened our minds and matured our souls. Being hated and excluded also makes us seek familiar company. 

But the secret to our survival, in my view, stems from our perspective on life which stems from our teachings, our traditions and national holidays. We live life as though on a mission. This gives us our restless energy, our refusal to be bystanders and our refusal to submit and die. We have important work to do.

You write that your book is not only for the classroom but also for policymakers -- how could you see your book being used? 

During my recent US book tour, I had the honor of presenting to law enforcement about my book. They were fascinated by this approach of reducing antisemitism into these 7 deadly myths. This provided them with a clear means of monitoring antisemitism, seeing the sorts of mental processes that lead to horrific acts and enabling them to prevent hate crimes in future. 

This education is really critical to understanding antisemitism, how it works and how it can be stopped. Antisemitism is so poorly understood and any plan to combat it must begin by overcoming this. This is where my book can be really helpful.

Categories: Middle East

Is CAIR's Claim That It Advocates For The US Muslim Community True?

Daled Amos - Fri, 24/06/2022 - 17:02

Zahra Billoo attacked US Jews last year at the American Muslims for Palestine Conference, singling out as 'enemies' not only Jewish organizations but also "Zionist Synagogues." CAIR's national office came to her defense. After all, Billoo is the executive director of their San Franciso branch.

Among those Billoo targeted:

We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League. We need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation. We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues. We need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses, because just because they are your friends today, doesn’t mean that they have your back when it comes to human rights.

And Billoo also pointed out those Jewish groups that she finds 'acceptable':

Know your JVP leadership, your SJP leadership, your IfNotNow leadership, the list goes on. Know who is on your side. Build community with them, because the next thing I’m going to tell you is to know your enemies.

One would imagine that CAIR would agree with Billoo that groups like JVP and IfNotNow are groups that represent the kinds of Jews that are acceptable and can be associated with.

Which is kind of odd.

Because it is not at all clear if CAIR itself, which claims to be "America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization," actually represents the US Muslim community it claims to serve.

Irina Tsukerman, a human rights lawyer and national security analyst, writes that CAIR is one of those Muslim organizations that have fabricated their human rights image:

through a combination of generous political donations and influence campaigns, and by outright disinformation, presenting themselves as the mainstream of Muslim American communities and as the authoritative voices on Muslim civil rights issues. In reality, these groups are a fringe minority recycling and cross-pollinating members from charity to charity, who nevertheless go to great lengths to suppress alternative voices. CAIR and others receive the sort of support that nascent community organizations do not; they portray themselves as pan-Islamic organizations ignoring the fact that Muslim American communities are culturally and religious diverse.

They have also gained legitimacy by being the only game in town and forming partnerships with political training groups, intelligence agencies and law enforcement, and soft power institutions.

Going a step further, Abdullah Antepli, Associate Professor of the Practice of Interfaith Relations at Duke University, has stated not only that Muslim organizations like CAIR and ISNA represent only a small fraction of the Muslim community in the US, but that such organizations pose a danger to American Muslims as well:

They don’t represent in any significant portion of the American Muslim community. They represent the organized Muslim community space, which is more or less like 10%. And they are bullying and thought policing that space irresponsibly, reprehensive really with so many consequences to the American Islam and American Muslim community.

Their damage is not limited to 10%. They are further alienating American Muslim communities. They are further marginalizing American Islam. They are damaging the image of Islam as a religion and Muslims as Americans, Muslims as a people. But by all means, they are not representative. [emphasis added]

This description of CAIR as a fringe group claiming a larger role for itself than it actually has, is supported by a Gallup poll published in 2011.

The poll supports CAIR's claim to be the largest organization representing the Muslim community -- if you compare it to how tiny the support is for the other groups. However, the fact that the majority of Muslim men did not think any Muslim organizations represented their interests or, put another way, that 88% of Muslim men did not think CAIR represented them is revealing. And the responses of female Muslims was no better.

But why doesn't CAIR have a large following?

In 2007, The Washington Examiner published information on the number of CAIR's members based on CAIR's tax records. It found that CAIR's membership plummeted from 29,000 in 2000 to less than 1,700 in 2006. Their annual income based on dues fell from $732,765 in 2000 when dues were $25, to $58,750 in 2016 when dues were higher at $35.

The terror attacks in 2001 may account for some of this.

But the article quotes M. Zuhdi Jasser, director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, who puts the blame on CAIR itself:

  • CAIR marginalized itself by exploiting the media attention it garnered in order to promote 'victimization issues' at the expense of representing the priorities of the American Muslims
  • CAIR's sympathy for Islamism combined with its apparent inability to condemn Muslim terrorist groups was a turn-off for American Muslims who did not share their ideology.
  • Some Muslims did not want to join an organization that may be linked to other groups that finance terrorism

According to The Washington Examiner, as a result of a shrinking membership and decreasing dues --

The organization instead is relying on about two dozen donors a year to contribute the majority of the money for CAIR’s budget, which reached nearly $3 million last year.

It would have been nice to know more about who was making those contributions because it seems likely that CAIR would have been more representative of the desires of those major contributors than to the few members who were paying dues.

Maybe it's time for another look at CAIR's membership and funding?

Another indication of CAIR's desperation is noted in the conclusion to the article, where it notes how CAIR exaggerates its role on behalf of the Muslim community:

CAIR constantly notes in its press releases that it cooperates with federal law-enforcement activities and claims to conduct sensitivity training for Homeland Security officials. A February press release from CAIR’s Chicago office says it met with Homeland Security immigration officials and made an agreement to “conduct sensitivity training to [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers and possibly prison personnel.”

When asked, officials from Homeland Security denied CAIR's claims, and a check of a database of government contracts since 2000 indicated that in fact CAIR was never awarded neither a grant nor a government contract.

A Homeland Security official noted:

The department does not have a formalized relationship with that particular organization. We do have formalized relations with other community groups with whom we do contracts for training and consultation on matters that are specific to a given community.

It is not uncommon for that particular organization to issue a press release attempting to overstate their interaction with the department. [emphasis added]

That was then. But what about now? 

It seems that CAIR is still desperate to stay in the spotlight.
How desperate?

The Middle East Forum (MEF) reported last year that CAIR opposed the appointment of a Muslim federal judge:

In a historic June 10 vote, the US Senate confirmed Judge Zahid Quraishi's appointment to the US District Court for New Jersey, making him the first Muslim federal judge in American history. Although the nomination received bipartisan support, an unlikely source sharply criticized Quraishi's appointment: a leading civil rights organization that claims to speak on behalf of Muslim American interests.

..."I would much rather have a white Christian judge with progressive values," said Zahra Billoo, head of CAIR's San Francisco branch, a supposedly non-partisan Islamic civil rights group. "It's not enough that he is Muslim. In fact, it's insulting," she added.

While the reasons given for opposing Quraishi were based on issues relating to his record, many Muslim groups were supportive of the appointment.

MEF suggests that CAIR's motives stem from jealousy -- and an inability to compete with an up-and-coming rival Muslim group:

Despite its former proximity to the White House, CAIR failed to accomplish what a relative newcomer to Muslim political advocacy circles has achieved in the first months of the Biden administration. Founded in 2017, the American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC) is loudly claiming credit for Quraishi's nomination, insisting that it played an "instrumental role" in selecting the judge from among "dozens of potential candidates."
...While CAIR's own political action committee raised a paltry $4,250 in federal donations last election cycle, APPAC gave over $1.3 million to the Biden campaign in a single August fundraiser. During this event, Biden was chummy with Ahmed, calling the APPAC chairman a "vouching force" in his community. [emphasis added]

Billoo's latest attack shows that CAIR is not about to change what it sees as a tried and true formula of radicalization and attacks on the Jewish community to maintain its status, at the expense of American Muslims.

When I asked Hussein Aboubakr Mansour, director of EMET’s Program for Emerging Democratic Voices From the Middle East, about how representative CAIR was of the Muslim community, he replied:

I'm sure a majority of American Muslims are not interested nor invested in any kind of activism and just trying to live normally. However I'm sure CAIR supporters numbers went up due to the radicalizing effect on the progressive wave on Muslim youth.

What will it take before CAIR is seen for what it is?

(Originally posted February 1, 2022 on Elder of Ziyon)

Categories: Middle East

What The Media Is Missing In Their Reports On Campus Antisemitism

Daled Amos - Tue, 28/12/2021 - 15:50

Vicious antisemitic attacks against Jewish students on campus are certainly nothing new, but one particular incident led to a potential tool that could both help protect Jewish students and offer acknowledgment of their Zionist identity.

Let's take a look back.

In 2016, San Francisco State University was rated 10th on The Algemeiner's List of the US and Canada’s Worst Campuses for Jewish Students, based on the ongoing disruption of activities and deliberate intimidation of the students.  One of the incidents that earned SFSU their inclusion on The Algemeiner's list was their response to an appearance by the then-Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat when he came to speak. Anti-Israel students disrupted the speech.

But it was more than just a disruption.
And it resulted not only being included on a list -- it led to a lawsuit. 

According to a Lawfare Project press release, the disruption in 2016 demonstrated that the administration of San Francisco State University itself was part of the problem:

The lawsuit was triggered following the alleged complicity of senior university administrators and police officers in the disruption of an April, 2016, speech by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. At that event organized by SF Hillel, Jewish students and audience members were subjected to genocidal and offensive chants and expletives by a raging mob that used bullhorns to intimidate and drown out the Mayor’s speech and physically threaten and intimidate members of the mostly-Jewish audience. At the same time, campus police – including the chief – stood by, on order from senior university administrators who instructed the police to “stand down” despite direct and implicit threats and violations of university codes governing campus conduct.

The civil rights lawsuit was brought by The Lawfare Project the following year against then-president Leslie Wong along with several other university officials. The lawsuit alleged that the situation had deteriorated to the point that “Jews are often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes on campus, and regularly text their friends to describe potential safety issues and suggest alternate, often circuitous, routes to campus destinations.”

In March 2019, California State University public university system settled.

As part of the settlement, SFSU agreed to the following:

  • Public statement: Issue a statement affirming that "it understands that, for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity";
  • Coordinator of Jewish Student Life: "Hire a Coordinator of Jewish Student Life within the Division of Equity & Community Inclusion" and dedicate suitable office space for this position;
  • External review of policies: "Retain an independent, external consultant to assess SFSU’s procedures for enforcement of applicable CSU system-wide anti-discrimination policies and student code of conduct";
  • Independent investigation of additional complaints: "SFSU will, for a period of 24 months, assign all complaints of religious discrimination under either E.O. 1096 or E.O. 1097 to an independent, outside investigator for investigation";
  • Funding viewpoint diversity: "SFSU will allocate an additional $200,000 to support educational outreach efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel or Zionist viewpoints) and inclusion and equity on the basis of religious identity (including but not limited to Jewish religious identity)"; and
  • Campus mural: Engage in the SFSU process to allocate "space on the SFSU campus for a mural to be installed under the oversight of the Division of Equity & Community Inclusion, paid for by the University, that will be designed by student groups of differing viewpoints on the issues that are the subject of this litigation to be agreed by the parties (including but not limited to Jewish, pro-Israel,  and/or Zionist student groups, should such student groups elect to participate in the process)."

That first condition -- San Francisco State University publicly acknowledging that "for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity" -- was an unprecedented recognition of the importance of Zionism to Jewish identity. 

Just imagine if universities across the country followed this example in recognition of Zionism. It could be the academic equivalent of the legislative campaign to have the boycott of Israel made illegal in all 50 states.

When I asked The Lawfare Project about the potential to establish these guarantees at other universities around the country, they responded that

we think Jewish students will recognize the need to fight for the same guarantees we’ve received in our settlement agreement with SFSU. We also believe that our success will serve as fertile ground upon which Jewish students can begin their journey to fight for their rights on campus. This is not something that should require legal enforcement. Take, for example, the stand taken in 2019 by Martha Pollak, president of Cornell University, in response to the demand by JVP to divest from Israel: BDS unfairly singles out one country in the world for sanction when there are many countries around the world whose governments’ policies may be viewed as controversial. Moreover, it places all of the responsibility for an extraordinarily complex geopolitical situation on just one country and frequently conflates the policies of the Israeli government with the very right of Israel to exist as a nation, which I find particularly troublesome. [emphasis added]

Pollak not only took a stand against BDS. She publicly stated her personal rejection of BDS and went beyond vague appeals to diversity and respect for ideas on campus.

But how many university presidents have been willing to deal head-on with the problem of Zionophobia on campus?
What are the chances of other universities adopting the measures in the settlement?
For that matter, has San Francisco State University really learned its lesson?

Apparently not.

In September 2020, the terrorist Leila Khaled was invited to speak at SFSU. Khaled participated in the hijacking of TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Tel Aviv in August 1969. The following year she took part in the hijacking of an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City.

So how did the president of SFSU, Lynn Mahoney, respond in light of the lawsuit settlement?

Let me be clear: I condemn the glorification of terrorism and use of violence against unarmed civilians. I strongly condemn antisemitism and other hateful ideologies that marginalize people based on their identities, origins or beliefs.

At the same time, I represent a public university, which is committed to academic freedom and the ability of faculty to conduct their teaching and scholarship without censorship.

Mahoney went on to pay lip service to the now-required recognition of the Zionist identity of the university's students:

My conversations with SF Hillel and Jewish student leaders have enhanced my appreciation for the deeply painful impact of this upcoming presenter, as well as past campus experiences. I understand that Zionism is an important part of the identity of many of our Jewish students. The university welcomes Jewish faculty and students expressing their beliefs and worldviews in the classroom and on the quad, through formal and informal programming. [emphasis added]

Prof. Judea Pearl, professor of computer science and statistics at UCLA and president of The Daniel Pearl Foundation, was unimpressed by Mahoney's attempt to reconcile welcoming a terrorist who targets Jews on the one hand with declaring support for the Jewish Zionist identity on the other. He points out:

it is a logical contradiction from the scientific perspective and a breach of contract from the legal perspective...and I’m known to be expert on the logical perspective.

For their part, The Lawfare Project, which spearheaded the drive to keep Khaled's proposed appearance at SFSU off of Zoom, agrees with Prof. Pearl from the legal perspective. They told me in no uncertain terms:

Should Khaled ever speak on campus, not only would that be a breach of the settlement agreement, but also a gross violation of the university’s fundamental responsibility to protect its Jewish students. [emphasis added]

But what is happening is more than just a continuation of antisemitic hatred on college campuses with the typical weak response by the university administration. We are all familiar with groups that claim to affiliate with the Jewish community while rejecting Israel and a Zionist identity. 

What is being overlooked is that there is a pro-Zionist voice at the beginning stages of asserting itself, and the public statement required by the lawsuit settlement is part of that -- even if imperfectly implemented by the university.

In a recent interview with Moment Magazine, Prof. Pearl described the developing situation:

I predict American Jewry will soon undergo a profound, painful and irreparable split. I cannot think of another period in Jewish history where the schism was so deep, and growing deeper so rapidly. I see the split in every aspect of life and on many levels...On the surface, most of our faculty and students are still sitting on the fence, true, but the polarization is growing; the Zionist group is becoming more assertive and is closing ranks rapidly, while the Zionophobic group is becoming louder, more organized and more aggressive. [emphasis added]

That pro-Zionist voice showed itself in response to a student at USC, Yasmeen Mashayech, who attacked Jews with tweets such as:

  • "I want to kill every motherf**cking Zionist"
  • "Death to Israel and its b**tch the U.S."
  • "Israel has no history just a criminal record"
  • "yel3an el yahood [curse the Jews]."

But even more important than those tweets and the criticism of the university's weak response is the reaction from Jewish leaders -- something that has been ignored by the media.

In An Open Letter to the Leadership of USC, more than 65 faculty members at USC took a stand: We, the undersigned faculty, wish to register our dismay about ongoing open expressions of anti-Semitism and Zionophobia on our campus that go unrebuked. The silence of our leadership on this matter is alienating, hurtful, and depressing. It amounts to tacit acceptance of a toxic atmosphere of hatred and hostility.

The letter went beyond just condemnation of antisemitism and rejecting the university claim that because of legal considerations, USC "cannot discuss university processes or actions with respect to a specific student, much less denounce them publicly." The faculty said it was time for the university to publicly welcome Zionists on campus:

Most importantly, Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli students, as well as those who support the right of the State of Israel to exist need to hear from our leaders that they are welcome on our campus. Such a statement would not infringe on free speech or take sides in political dispute. It is a call for character and dignity. It is overdue. [emphasis added]

This would parallel the SFSU's settlement agreement recognizing the Zionist identity of its students -- and not because Zionists need to be protected as victims. More than that.

Again, Prof. Pearl:

We want the university to say there is something noble about Zionism. Zionists are welcome here not because everybody needs to be protected, but because they can contribute here.

This is what has been missing till now from the hand wringing of universities, with their vague promises to their Jewish students that they will deal with antisemitism on campus.

This is what has to change.

And the SFSU lawsuit and the USC faculty letter show that there are those willing to start to demand it. 


Categories: Middle East

Has Deborah Lipstadt Undercut Both Herself And Future Antisemitism Envoys?

Daled Amos - Fri, 10/12/2021 - 16:02

When Holocaust deniers are not going around denying that the Holocaust ever happened or claiming that it is exaggerated, they like to make comparisons between Israel and Nazis.

In an interview in 2011 with Haaretz, the Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt called these sorts of comparisons "Holocaust abuse": 

Renowned Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt says that American and Israeli politicians who invoke the Holocaust for contemporary political purposes are engaging in “Holocaust abuse”, which is similar to “soft-core denial” of the Holocaust...

When you take these terrible moments in our history, and you use it for contemporary purposes, in order to fulfill your political objectives, you mangle history, you trample on it,” she said.  [emphasis added]

Strong words.
And Lipstadt knows what she is talking about.

After all, this past July Biden nominated Lipstadt as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

So how did Lipstadt react a little over a month later, when Biden was on the presidential campaign and said about Trump:

He’s sort of like Goebbels. You say the lie long enough, keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, it becomes common knowledge

Lipstadt supported the comparison to Goebbels:

Goebbels was very successful at what he did, and I think the comparison by Vice President Biden was a very apt comparison because we’re seeing a lot of this now.

In a tweet that she later deleted, Lipstadt went further, claiming that

had VP Biden — or anyone else — compared him to what Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, or Eichmann did, she/he would have been wrong. But a comparison to the master of the big lie, Josef Goebbels? That's historically apt. It's all about historical nuance.

Goebbels was more than a master propagandist. He was a supporter of the Final Solution.
Nuance only goes so far.

As Melanie Phillips notes:

But it wasn’t apt at all. The comparison was indefensible. Not only was it an egregiously unjustified smear against Trump; more importantly, it downplayed the evil of Goebbels and grossly disrespected the memory of those who were slaughtered in the Holocaust.

For it wasn’t simply that Goebbels was a lying propagandist. It was that he was a Nazi committed to the extermination of the Jews. To compare Trump to such an individual was ridiculous and shameful, and should have been robustly condemned.

And 3 days after Biden's comment, when the Jewish Democratic Council of America released a video comparing the Trump presidency to the Nazi era...

Unlike the ADL, The American Jewish Committee and The Simon Wiesenthal Center -- who all called for the JDC ad to be taken down -- Lipstadt again supported the use of Nazi images for political purposes:

But in the current era, Lipstadt said, the key to acceptable Holocaust comparisons is precision and nuance. Is it the Holocaust? No. But does the current era presage an authoritarian takeover? Maybe.

“People ask me, is this Kristallnacht?” she said. “Is this the beginning of pogroms, etc.? I don’t think those comparisons are correct. “However, I do think certain comparisons are fitting … it’s certainly not 1938,” when Nazis led the Kristallnacht pogroms throughout Germany. “It’s not even September 1935, and the Nuremberg Laws” institutionalizing racist policies.

“What it well might be is December 1932, Hitler comes to power on Jan. 30, 1933 — it might be Jan. 15, 1933.” [emphasis added]

So contrary to her comment in the tweet she deleted, Lipstadt actually does draw a connection between Trump and Hitler.

Nuance, indeed.

Now that Lipstadt has helpfully established that Holocaust comparisons are permitted when they adhere to "precision and nuance," are the people most likely to exploit Holocaust comparisons really going to care -- and how would Lipstadt as Antisemitism Envoy condemn Holocaust comparisons without those doing it laughing at her for her double standard?

For example -- just this week: European Jewish group outraged by use of yellow star during demonstration in Brussels against corona measures:

The European Jewish Association (EJA) reacted with outrage to the image of a yellow star, symbol of Nazi persecution of Jews, used by protestors during a demonstration in Brussels against the governmental corona measures on Sunday.

In a statement, EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said: “It is hard to know where to begin with how wrong this is.’’

Rabbi Margolin goes on to point out how comparisons with the Holocaust demonstrate a lack of understanding for the magnitude of what the Holocaust was:

It makes me sick to think how little people understand the hurt that such banners cause, and how little people have a true understanding and appreciation of the sheer scale and magnitude of the Holocaust. To those who marched today with a huge Yellow star, I say this: “just don’t. No matter how you feel about covid restrictions, nobody is tattooing your arms, nobody is herding you onto cattle trucks, and nobody wants you, your families and all your loved ones to die. Above all, educate yourselves and learn what this yellow star truly represents.”

Would Lipstadt echo Rabbi Margolin's words? Probably.

But how does someone who compares a president of the United States with the Nazi Goebbels ("60 percent of [the Jews] will have to be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work...A judgment is being carried out on the Jews that is barbaric but thoroughly deserved") go on to lecture others who use a yellow star to describe what they consider draconian corona measures?

Another question is: what about Democrats -- has Lipstadt been as critical of them?

According to Fox News:

President Biden’s nominee to serve as U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism once blasted Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial statements criticizing Israel.

 And The New York Post reports:

President Biden’s pick to serve as special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism has previously slammed Rep. Ilhan Omar for criticizing Israel.

But actually, in contrast to her comments on Trump that were made in public, Lipstadt's comments about Omar were made in response to a question during an interview:

Adam Rubenstein: As you begin to define antisemitism in your new book, Antisemitism: Here and Now, you write that “Antisemitism is not simply the hatred of something ‘foreign’ but the hatred of a perpetual evil in this world.” So on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comment about “foreign allegiance” in the context of pro-Israel Americans, and in discussion of her Jewish colleagues; what do you make of it? Is this textbook antisemitism?

Deborah Lipstadt: Sadly, I believe it is. Dual loyalties is part of the textbook accusations against Jews. They are cosmopolitans, globalists, not loyal to their country or fellow citizens.

Further on in the interview, it becomes clear that Lipstadt neither "blasts" nor "smashes" Omar's comments. Instead, she manages to criticize the statements, without condemning the person -- a far more judicious approach -- unlike in her comments about Trump.

But she bent over backward to excuse Omar:

AR: In your view, are Rep. Omar’s statements antisemitic or are they simply anti-Israel? Antisemitism and anti-Zionism aren’t in theory the same thing, but they often have connection points. Is what Rep. Omar says, her “foreign allegiance” comment, her support for BDS, and that support for Israel in Congress is “about the Benjamins,” i.e. Jewish money, simply “critical of Israel” or does it cross the line into antisemitism?

DL: This is such a nuanced topic and I deal with it in depth in the book. But simply put, (and giving her the benefit of the doubt… which is harder to do each time she engages in one of these attacks), she may think she is only criticizing Israel and its policies but one cannot ignore the fact that she is relying on traditional antisemitic tropes to do so...

Lipstadt goes even further in this comment, putting Omar in a select category of antisemitism:

What it suggests to me is that, at best, these people exist in a place where antisemitism is out in the ethosphere; they hear it, breath it in, and don’t even recognize it as antisemitism.

Similarly, in the case of Rev. Raphael Warnock, during the special election for senator of Georgia -- despite the anti-Israel sermon he gave in 2018, Lipstadt defended Warnock's later claim 2 years later in 2020 that he was pro-Israel.

Here is the key excerpt of the sermon:

As described by Jewish Insider:

Warnock’s 2018 sermon was delivered shortly after the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. “It’s been a tough week,” Warnock noted. “The administration opened up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Standing there [were] the president’s family and a few mealy-mouthed evangelical preachers who are responsible for the mess that we found ourselves in, both there and here — misquoting and misinterpreting the Scripture, talking about peace.”

Warnock went on to compare the struggle for Palestinian rights with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Meanwhile, young Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their very lives, struggling for water and struggling for their human dignity stood up in a non-violent protest, saying, ‘If we’re going to die, we’re going to die struggling.’ And yes, there may have been some folk who were violent, but we oughta know how that works out,” Warnock said. “We know what it’s like to stand up and have a peaceful demonstration and have the media focus on a few violent uprisings. But you have to look at those Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their human dignity and they have a right to self-determination, they have a right to breathe free.” 

“We need a two-state solution where all of God’s children can live together,” Warnock proclaimed in the 2018 video before proceeding to charge Israel with shooting innocent Palestinians. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. And I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more antisemitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.” [emphasis added]

Faced with his past remarks accusing Israel of killing peaceful Palestinian Arabs, Warnock's campaign gave an evasive response that posting the video showed that the other campaign was rummaging around videos to 'misrepresent' his actual views.

But just one year before the Georgia election, in March 2019, Warnock signed onto the Group Pilgrimage Statement on Israel and Palestine, which featured common distortions about Israel, including associating it with apartheid:

j. We saw the patterns that seem to have been borrowed and perfected from other previous oppressive regimes:
  1. The ever-present physical walls that wall in Palestinians in a political wall reminiscent of the Berlin Wall
  2. Roads built through occupied Palestinian villages, on which Palestinians are not permitted to drive; and homes and families divided by walls and barriers.
  3. The heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa.
  4. The laws of segregation that allow one thing for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians; we saw evidence of forced removals; homes abandoned, olive trees uprooted or confiscated and taken over, shops and businesses bolted with doors welded to close out any commercial activities. [emphasis added]

Yet Warnock's stand on Israel just a year after that is supposed to show that he did an about-face, now supporting Israel. 

He even appeared at AIPAC. Lipstadt writes:

How, I wondered, could someone who had said that, show up at AIPAC? To answer this question, I read his policy paper on Israel. In it, he expressed unequivocal support for Israel, for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, for a two-state solution, and for the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding, which when signed in 2016 constituted the largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history. He also unequivocally opposed conditioning aid to Israel, as some have proposed.

Lipstadt says that Warnock's new support for Israel answers the question of how he could appear at AIPAC. One might argue that such an abrupt change just one year later only deepens the questions.

In a piece for The Washington Examiner, Jackson Richman includes Lipstadt's support for Warnock as one of the reasons that Deborah Lipstadt should be voted down by the Senate:

Lipstadt said Warnock had come around on Israel-related issues — never mind that he did not apologize or repudiate his past statements and activities on that issue — such as opposing conditioning U.S. assistance to the Jewish state. She argued, "It would be hard for Warnock to repudiate his most recent views as expressed in his Israel policy paper and numerous interviews."

Except it would not have been hard to offer a sincere apology.

It's an odd argument for Lipstadt to make -- vote for Warnock, because even if he is not sincere in his current pro-Israel position, at least he won't be able to easily go back to his previously anti-Israel position.

But all this talk about Lipstadt being Antisemitism Envoy may be for naught, anyway.

Not because her nomination has stalled in the Senate.
But who's to say that Biden will pay any attention to Lipstadt anyway when it is politically inconvenient?

When Fox News wanted to report on the White House reaction to Lipstadt's criticism of Omar -- there wasn't any:

However; when asked if the administration agreed with its nominee’s views on Omar’s comments, the White House was silent, not responding to Fox News’ request for comment.

The Squad can rest easy.

Categories: Middle East

Recalling Israel's Initial Response To Hamas Rocket Attacks

Daled Amos - Thu, 09/12/2021 - 18:18

Of the attitudes of the international community towards Israel, one of the most maddening is criticism of Israeli reaction to the terrorist rocket attacks launched by Hamas -- and the lack of international condemnation of those rocket attacks themselves, deliberately launched against civilian targets.

We criticize the West for its lack of sustained outrage against Hamas targeting civilians.
We note that no country would tolerate such attacks without taking strong measures to stop such attacks.

But does Israel itself bear any of the responsibility for the failure of the international community to condemn these deliberate terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians?

In a 2012 article, Where 8,000 Rocket Launches Are Not a Casus Belli, Evelyn Gordon blames this on the indecisiveness of the IDF in retaliating against Gaza rockets as: the rotten fruit of a government policy that for years dismissed the rockets as a minor nuisance for reasons of petty politics: For the Kadima party, in power from 2005-2009, admitting the rockets were a problem meant admitting that its flagship policy, the Gaza pullout, was a disaster. A 2011 report for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, The Missile Threat from Gaza:From Nuisance to Strategic Threat, by Israeli missile defense expert Uzi Rubin notes how Israeli leaders at the time played down and even dismissed outright the Hamas rocket threat:
  • Dov Weisglass, senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, in June 2005 referred to the rockets as "flying terms of national risk management, they do not constitute a significant factor."

  • Koby Toren, then Director General of the Ministry of Defense, dismissed the the rockets in 2006 as nothing more than a "psychological threat" because of their low level of lethality.

  • Shimon Peres, then Deputy Prime Minister, complained in 2006, "Everyone is stoking the hysteria. What is the big deal? Kiryat Shmona was bombed for years."

  • Ehud Olmert was still downplaying the need for bomb shelters in 2007, announcing that "we will not shelter ourselves to death."

  • Deputy Minister of Defense, Maj. Gen. (res.) Matan Vilnai made a speech at the Knesset in 2008 comparing the complaints of Israeli communities near Gaza with the resilience of Jerusalem’s residents in the face of suicide attacks: "We in Jerusalem…suffered hundreds of dead...did we complain that we could not sleep at night?...Did we claim to have been forsaken?"
 In fairness to Peres, he did not totally ignore the Qassam threat. The same article  that quotes him minimizing the Qassams, also reports:


According to Peres, "Palestinians need to be told: Qassams Shmassams, we will persevere. We will not move from here." The deputy prime minister also accused that "our response stimulates the other side to strike. A series of measures must be taken to eliminate the Qassam." Peres declined to elaborate on what means he meant.

According to Rubin, Olmert qualified his comment about shelters with "...though there may be extreme situations in which we will have a limited response capability."

Also according to Rubin, Vilnai visited the Jewish areas near Gaza the very next day in order to correct the negative impression his comments made.

But the fact remains that Israeli leaders initially played down the threat of Qassam rockets coming out of Gaza.

For years.

The lack of a strong Israeli response to the Hamas rocket attacks took the US by surprise.

In a 2011 interview, former US envoy to Israel Dan Kurtzer said that PM Sharon's failure to respond to Hamas rocket attacks following the 2005 Disengagement was a major mistake: Kurtzer, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, said that immediately after Israel left the Gaza Strip he told Washington “to expect a very serious Israeli response to the first act of violence coming out of Gaza.”

...Kurtzer said his message to the Bush Administration was to be ready for a sharp Israeli military response to rocket fire, “and be ready to support it.”

“The success of disengagement rested on the aftermath of its implementation, so I was very surprised there was no reaction to the first rocket, second rocket and 15th rocket,” Kurtzer said.

Instead, according to Kurtzer, "Sharon argued that the rockets were landing in fields, 'not really that bad,' or were being fired by dissident elements, and not the Gaza leadership" -- setting the tone for excuses of Israeli leaders who followed.

As Gordon points out, one of the motives of the Israeli government in initially downplaying the rocket attacks was to defend the Disengagement itself.

But the Begin-Sadat Center report gives other reasons as well. After all, it was not just the leadership that showed disinterest:

the same Israeli public that withstood so determinately the suicide attacks from the West Bank, demonstrated a lack of unity and determination in contending with the Gaza rocket campaign.

The initial rocket attacks started in 2001 and need to be understood in the context of the Second Intifada that was creating a crisis at the time. Life in Sderot was "was calmer and more secure at the time than metropolitan areas like Netanya, Hadera or Jerusalem":

In hindsight, the scant attention paid to the campaign at its onset in 2001 is easy to justify against the backdrop of violence of the Second Intifada and the suicide terror offensive raging at the time through the heart of Israel's major cities, an offensive which reached its peak in April-May 2002. This absorbed all the attention of the general public as well as Israel's political and military leadership. The few hits, the negligible damage and the insignificant casualties inflicted by the primitive rockets launched at the time from Gaza were justifiably regarded as a minor nuisance compared to the ongoing terror campaign against Israel's traffic, public transportation, shopping malls and civic centers. [emphasis added]

But that does not explain the continued lackadaisical response the following year when Operation Defensive Shield was succeeding in combating the Second Intifada.

According to Rubin, both local as well as national leaders played down the threat during the first 3 years. Even when Israel took steps to invade nearby launching areas in Gaza and fired on rocket production areas that were further away,

At the same time, active defense – that is, anti-rocket systems that could destroy Gaza rockets in flight – was shunned repeatedly until about five years into the campaign when the shock of the Second Lebanon War prompted Israel's incumbent minister of defense [Amir Peretz] to initiate the development of an active defense system against short-range rockets. The failure to do so earlier is another indication of the low significance attributed to the rocket campaign against the south of the country by the political leadership of the time. [emphasis added]

The Second Lebanon War came to an end in mid-August, 2006 and Israel was focusing on the failure to secure an undisputed victory. During this time of soul searching, the priority was on rebuilding the IDF, recovering from economic losses, and repairing damage in northern Israel. The needs of the Israeli communities near Gaza were put on the back burner.

The decision to start development on Iron Dome was not taken until February, 2007 and Israeli bureaucracy delayed not only the development of Iron Dome but also the government-sponsored building of shelters.

The report gives several reasons for this:

  • The slow increase in the number of rockets and casualties after the first rocket hit Sderot in 2001 lulled residents as well as local and national leaders into inactivity. o A full-scale defense initiative against the rockets would have been an admission that the Disengagement was responsible for a deterioration in Israel's security.

  • There was disagreement over the correct strategy in response to the Qassams. Eli Moyal, the Mayor of Sderot was one of those who believed that civil protection was an admission that Israel was acceding to terrorist aggression -- "to accept civil protection is to accept terror as part of your life" and that instead of defensive measures, "the war should have been pursued aggressively."

  • There was a concern that as the terrorist rockets increased in range and efficiency, and more communities were put at risk, so too would there be an increased demand for costly population protection.

Today, we proudly point to Israel's system of shelters against terrorist attack from Gaza.

But according to Rubin:

In his 2005 report on the status of the school and kindergarten sheltering program in Sderot, the State Comptroller condemned the government's mishandling of the situation, calling it "a continuous debacle." This harsh term could well describe the government's handling of the entire sheltering program in southern Israel.

Israel has come a long way since that 2011 report, especially in terms of Iron Dome, which is now in demand by other countries facing similar threats.

But we tend to forget the initial slow response by Israel to the Qassam threat, and that may have served in part as an initial excuse by the international community to downplay the dangerous threat that Hamas rockets increasingly pose to Israeli civilians.

Categories: Middle East

'Grey's Anatomy' And 'Nurses': Negative Portrayals Of Orthodox Jews Are Symptomatic Of A Bigger Problem

Daled Amos - Tue, 02/03/2021 - 18:05
I still remember when our family went to Disney World, years ago, and we went to the exhibit for "It's A Small World After All." To illustrate the point, the exhibit contained caricatures of every nationality. 
The typical Israeli was depicted as -- a Chassid. Maybe the people at Disney had trouble figuring out what an Israeli is.  Or perhaps they thought their visitors did.
Times haven't changed.Depictions of Jews in the media are often accurate.
As an extreme example, take the new show on NBC called Nurses: Set in Toronto, "Nurses" follows five young nurses working on the frontlines of a busy downtown hospital, dedicating their lives to helping others, while struggling to help themselves. In a recent episode -- which NBC has now pulled off its digital platforms-- one of the subplots is that a Chassidic boy requires a bone transplant in order to be able to walk again.
The boy, with his father at his side, refuses the transplant because the bone might be from an Arab or a woman, or -- as the nurse sarcastically chimes in -- an Arab woman.

First @nbcsnl now @nbc 'Nurses' airs a viciously antisemitic episode filled with lies about Orthodox Jews.

"A dead goyim leg ... from an arab, a woman, G-d forbid an Arab women ... Israel ... without this next step you won't walk again".

Lies and libels lead to VIOLENCE!

— (@StopAntisemites) February 23, 2021 Elder of Ziyon outlines the extent to which the show Nurses mischaracterized Orthodox Jews as:
  • Being against any modern medical procedures
  • Being against grafting bone or tissue from non-Jews
  • Being against having women's organs or bones placed in men
  • Jewish men not directly addressing female nurses
  • Saying that prayer and medicine are incompatible
Against that background, we can understand The Wiesenthal Center's reaction: The writers of this scene check all the boxes of ignorance and pernicious negative stereotypes, right down to the name of the patient, Israel – paiyous and all.

In one scene, NBC has insulted and demonized religious Jews and Judaism.

Overreaction? Orthodox Jews are targeted for violent hate crimes – in the city of New York, Jews are number one target of hate crimes in US; this is no slip of the tongue. It was a vile, cheap attack masquerading as TV drama. What’s NBC going to do about it? (Note: Apparently the name of the patient is Ezriel, not Israel.)
It is insulting not only for the deliberately negative slant the show casts on Orthodox Jews, but the show's writers couldn't even be bothered to do the minimal research necessary to realize that under the circumstances, no Orthodox Jew and no Orthodox rabbi would object to such an operation.
The website TV Fanatic does offer a possible context for this sub-plot and what it was intended to do -- draw a comparison with the nurse, who is a religious Christian: I understand what they were going for. Ashley [the nurse] comes from a religious background. She has issues with her conservative Christian home and with her conservative Christian mother.

They were trying to draw a parallel and stir up some feeling for her with this push-button topic. Stir up some feeling? Mission accomplished!
But even so, the thinking behind the plot of this episode is not even new.
In 2005, Grey's Anatomy ran an episode with a similar sub-plot: a 17-year-old girl who has recently become more religious finds out that she has a potentially threatening heart condition that could kill her. The good news is that her life can be saved with an operation that will provide her with a new heart valve.
But the valve is from a pig.
The subplot revolves around her refusal to accept the operation because of the source of the valve.
As Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote in response to the show at the time: That Jewish law in no way forbids such use of pig parts (only their consumption – and not even that when life is endangered) is not noted; quite the contrary, the viewer is led to believe that the girl’s refusal would be the natural stance of any observant Jew. The silliness of the scenario is only compounded by the casting of a woman as the Orthodox girl’s rabbi (and the episode’s “good guy,” of course).

...But the most egregious element of the fantasy is the character’s, well, character. The Orthodox youth is portrayed as, in the words of one viewer, “a crazy fundamentalist fanatical Jew [who] was rude and behaved horrendously to the doctors who were only trying to help her.” The character belittles her less-observant parents, cursing like a sailor in the process. Just your standard-fare nice, newly religious Jewish girl. [emphasis added]
Realism and accuracy clearly were not considerations. The writer admitted to The Forward, "Whenever there is a story that has a rabbi I never see a woman, I just see old men. I wanted to clash with the stereotype a bit."
But there is more going on in this episode on Grey's Anatomy than just a clash in stereotypes of what a rabbi looks like. As in the episode in Nurses, in this episode of Grey's Anatomy, the writer deliberately created a character who was obnoxious because of her religiosity.
As Rabbi Shafran points out:
...If the character is a positive one, or even a neutral one, no one, save perhaps an anti-Semite, would complain. But if he or she is consciously crafted to be obnoxious – and not merely obnoxious, but obnoxious in her dedication to her ostensible religious beliefs – does that not border on provocation? [emphasis added]
So what is going on here?
In 2005, Wendy Shalit examined the books written about the ultra-Orthodox world, many of which painted a negative picture, and wondered aloud about the audience for such books: What is the market for this fiction? Does it simply satisfy our desire, as one of Mirvis's reviewers put it, to indulge in "eavesdropping on a closed world"? Or is there a deeper urge: do some readers want to believe the ultra-Orthodox are crooked and hypocritical, and thus lacking any competing claim to the truth? Perhaps, on the other hand, readers are genuinely interested in traditional Judaism but don't know where to look for more nuanced portraits of this world. Does the same desire to undermine the Orthodox Jews motivate the writers of these kinds of episodes on Grey's Anatomy and Nurses?
In response to criticism of her article, Shalit writes: For whatever reason, many writers today like to create immoral haredi and newly-religious characters. The truth is, I don't know why. Perhaps because they are not from these worlds, they fail to appreciate the idealism that's there. Or perhaps it's because, as Ms. Mirvis has admitted, nowadays "there is a great deal of discomfort with religiosity, and I have to admit, I feel it myself as well."

...But when all your Orthodox characters are cold and dysfunctional, and unlike anything this group understands itself to be, then I think one must ask what else might be going on. [emphasis added] Shalit ends this article with a challenge: Let's turn the tables. Suppose there is a new genre in American Jewish literature, in which Reform Jews are vilified regularly. There is the temple's secretary who kills one of her Hadassah sisters in order to get the latest Judith Lieber bag, and a gay Reform rabbi who seduces younger male congregants. There are idealistic college coeds who want to escape Reform life, but are daunted by the prospect of learning Hebrew, so they abuse drugs instead. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is such a genre. And suppose further that these novels are a bit short on character development, that they are primarily driven by page after page of weirdo Reform characters, and mouth agape, one must turn the pages in order to satisfy one's curiosity: what will this bad Reform bunch do next? The authors, who are not Reform themselves, are celebrated in the non-Jewish world and their Reform-bashing literature is translated into multiple languages.

How would we feel about such novels? My guess is that they would not be so popular, and the fact that we have toasted such literature about Orthodox Jews for so long might -- just might -- tell us something about our prejudices. [emphasis added] There was a time that simple curiosity was the driving force in the depiction of Orthodox Jews. In his review of the book This Ain't Kosher, Elliot Gertel reveals that "the (Jewish) producers of [the TV show] Kung Fu originally thought of making the martial arts master a Hasidic rebbe."
But those were simpler days that are long behind us.


Categories: Middle East

What Does "The Jewish Vote" Even Mean -- And Is There Enough Of It To Go Around?

Daled Amos - Thu, 19/11/2020 - 19:05
This past election, once again the perpetual question that inevitably came up was about 'the Jewish vote': which candidate won it -- and why does it even matter? The Democrats consistently brag that they own the Jewish vote, while the Republicans just keep on claiming that they are just on the verge of acquiring it.
This bipartisan fight over the Jewish vote can be traced back to Herbert Hoover.
In their 2012 book "Herbert Hoover and The Jews," Rafael Medoff and Sonja Wentling, propose that the Jewish vote became a thing in the leadup to the 1944 presidential election, when Roosevelt ran for his 4th term, against Thomas Dewey. 
A review of that book notes that in contrast to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was Hoover -- 10 years after he was voted out of office -- who stood up for European Jews. Hoover publicly advocated for the US to open its doors to Jewish refugees and repeatedly spoke out for Jews during the Holocaust years.
The book also reveals that although, at the time, Rabbi Stephen Wise and the Jewish leadership were wary of Republican politicians in general and of Hoover in particular, Republicans such as Hoover himself, Senator Robert Taft and Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce espoused strongly pro-Zionist and pro-rescue planks that were incorporated into the Republican convention’s 1944 platform. Only this threat to their monopoly of the “Jewish vote,” Medoff and Wentling argue, forced FDR and the Democrats to adopt similar planks, which have ever since remained unshakable for both parties. [emphasis added] But why would anyone ever bother with the Jewish vote to begin with? After all, for a voting bloc, there is not a lot to recommend it:
  • Jews are about 1.5% of the American population o That percentage is about half of what it was 50 years ago
  • And this percentage is continuing to shrink
  • As a bloc, it is not even unified -- with religious Jews tending to vote Republican and non-religious voting Democratic
  • While the vast majority of Jews support Israel, come election time Israel does not rank as a major issue
So what is the big deal?
In a 2016 video, Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis, listed some of the reasons why politicians vie over the Jewish vote, even despite its small size:
  • Despite their small numbers, Jews turn out to vote in high numbers -- according to one estimate, 85% of all eligible Jews vote in presidential elections o Jews historically contribute large amounts of money to political parties -- both Democratic and Republican.
  • Jews happen to live in key states that presidential candidates want to carry, such as Florida
  • There are indications that the Democratic party is moving away from Israel, which may present an opportunity for Republicans to capture more of the Jewish vote

Four years earlier, in a 2012 article, Shmuel Rosner added another reason why politicians consider  is important, and why the attention to the Jewish vote is out of proportion to its numbers:
One would say it's the influence that Jews have in the media and their solid presence in notable positions. Others would point to their presence in celebrity circles and the arts, while still others would look to the over-representation of Jews in American politics, as advisors, consultants, pollsters, analysts and elected officials.

But you can really just call it the bellwether factor. Jews are seen as major political players because they believe that their vote really counts, because they project self-importance. They might not tip elections, but they appear as if they can.  Going further back to 2010, Pew Research found indications that the perpetual prediction of Republican gains among the Jewish vote might actually be happening: The religious landscape is far more favorable to Republicans than was the case as recently as 2008. Half of white non-Hispanic Catholics (50%) currently identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up nine points since 2008. Among religiously unaffiliated voters, who have been stalwart supporters of Democrats in recent elections, 29% currently identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up from 25% in 2008 (the proportion identifying as Democrats has fallen seven points since then). And 33% of Jewish voters identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up from 20% in 2008. [emphasis added] In a different article, Rosner finds indications that Jews are not actually trending Republican -- they are trending libertarian, meaning that losses in the Democratic share of the Jewish vote are not necessarily translating straight into Republican gains.
But either way, Democrats cannot take the Jewish vote for granted anymore -- despite what they may say publicly.
In 2006, a Washington Post featured an article Future of Orthodox Jewish Vote Has Implications for GOP, based not only on the conservative views of Orthodox Jews, but also on their higher birth rate.
To which Jill Jacobs, executive director of T'ruah, responded: I’m not quite ready to buy this prediction. After all, who’s to say whether today’s Orthodox babies will grow up voting Republican, Democratic, Green, or Libertarian. (or whether today’s Orthodox babies will stay Orthodox, become Renewal rabbis, or even succumb the Jews for Jesus subway ads) Still, it’s an interesting assumption that Orthodox communities will always produce kids and adults who vote according to Jewish self-interest, narrowly defined. Yeah, and who's to say whether the Democratic party will someday stand idly by as the radical left progressives of their party openly attacked not only Israel but also accuse Israel's supporters of dual loyalty?
Then there is the argument on how to even define, and measure, the Jewish vote.
Yossie Hollander, chairman of the Israeli Institute for Economic Planning, claims Contrary to popular belief, most US Jews support Trump.
His reasoning? No one is counting the Jewish vote correctly because they are overlooking certain components of the American Jewish population:
  • Israelis who emigrate to the US and are citizens with voting rights -- estimates of the size of this group range from 600,000 to one million. Pollsters do not know how to reach and measure this group and manage to measure only a very small percentage of it.
  • The ultra-Orthodox -- while people talk about them as a political component of the Jewish vote, Hollander writes that because the percentage of their children is relatively higher compared to the average population, the number of eligible voters is not the same ratio as in other populations, and so they end up not being surveyed.
  • Immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their children -- there are about 350,000 of them and for a variety of reasons, they are rarely surveyed. 
  • The "Southwest Belt" -- Over the past 30 years, there has been massive immigration in US population centers from the north to areas in Orange County California, San Diego County, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Atlanta, and Florida. Jews are part of this migration, and as a result, the Jewish communities there are growing rapidly, mostly in conservative areas. According to Hollander, most polling models still use the old population model. 
That is a criticism of the methodology behind the polls.  Compare that with political consultant Jeff Ballabon, who takes a more sociological approach and compares the Jewish vote with the Irish vote.
Ever notice that no one talks about politicians going after "the Irish vote?" To be statistically meaningful or politically relevant, a characteristic must impact voting behavior. For example, there are almost 35 million Americans of Irish descent, but it’s been decades since presidential campaigns engaged in sustained Irish voter outreach. That’s because it’s long been difficult to distinguish anything sufficiently unique – identifiably Irish - about their political behavior. Most vote precisely as their education, profession, income, and zip code alone would predict. The exceptions tend to be active, practicing Catholics who elevate concerns relevant to their faith...

The use of the term “Jewish” interchangeably to mean both ethnicity (like “Irish”) and faith (like “Catholic”) obfuscates it, but the same phenomenon is true for America’s Jews.  [emphasis added] According to Ballabon, a large segment of American Jews, like Irish Americans, are arguably not uniquely Jewish in their own political behavior: The American Left seethes with enmity towards President Trump and is thoroughly wedded to the Democrats. The vast majority of Jews who follow suit proudly confirm that they do so as progressives with universal concerns; not parochially – not as part of a “Jewish Vote.” Even when they profess concern over antisemitism, it’s glaringly limited to those alleged by progressives to be malefactors. [emphasis added] Whether radical groups put the word "Jewish" in their name or name their group after a popular saying in Pirkei Avot, that often appears to be the full extent of their identification with their fellow Jews.
Meanwhile, as for the latest fight for bragging rights to the Jewish vote, the results of this last presidential election seem to validate that the Jewish vote is no longer limited to being a Democratic cheerleading squad.
While Biden easily got the majority of the Jewish vote -- there are indications that Trump improved his numbers for the Jewish vote, which made it possible to win the state of Florida, where an AP exit poll indicated he received 43% of the Jewish vote compared to 56% for Biden. Nationally, exit polls indicated Trump received the highest percent of the Jewish vote for a Republican in decades (30%), while the Jewish vote for Biden was low for a Democrat (68%).
There are hints that the conservative element of the Jewish vote may finally be coming into its own -- and the same Jewish vote that helped Biden in some states was successfully siphoned off by Trump to win others.
But at what cost is the Jewish vote being split?
Jonathan Tobin writes that Jews in America are among Trump’s fiercest opponents – but also his most fervent supporters: For Jewish liberals, Trump is an ally of antisemites and a proto-authoritarian whose character and conduct, statements mark him as a unique threat to democracy. They can’t understand why even one Jew would consider voting for him.

...It’s not for nothing that the Jewish Democratic Council has produced ads that more or less accuse Trump of being a Nazi and, despite the offensive nature of these analogies, have found them resonating with many liberal Jews. Tobin points out that Jews, like the rest of America, are divided into 2 political cultures which feed off of different circles on social media -- circles that usually don't include the other side. The overwhelming majority of non-Orthodox Jews identify with the social justice agenda of the Democratic Party and think it forms the core of Judaism and place it higher as a priority than support for Israel. On the other hand, Orthodox Jews, and non-Orthodox Jews who identify as politically conservative, see support for Israel as a decisive issue.
At home, the Orthodox and conservative groups don't see Trump’s embrace of nationalism as a threat. Instead, they see it as the best way to defend Jews against the antisemitism of the intersectional left which is assuming a more prominent and vocal role in the Democratic Party. 
Even Jews who are members of the same, educated classes who find Trump so offensive, share the distrust that the working-class has for the mainstream media that made it their mission to defeat him, working together with the liberal social media to censor conservative views and unflattering stories about Democrats. The choice boils down to how much value you place on having a president who may be flawed, but is historically pro-Israel and supportive of a conservative political agenda, as opposed to the cherished hope of Trump opponents: that a moderate liberal like Biden can restore a sense of pre-2016 normalcy, while also keeping in check the Democrats’ radical wing. In comparison with everything we hear about the need to address the divide between American Jews and Israelis, this developing rift within the Jewish community itself, as reflected by the split in the Jewish vote, is being overlooked. 
But it is unlikely to go away.
Categories: Middle East

Remember When Farrakhan Said Palestinian Arabs Were Bloodsuckers?

Daled Amos - Thu, 19/11/2020 - 15:53
If Blacks are a minority and Jews are a minority, why is there such tension between them?

One element that caused this friction is the way social interaction between Jews and Blacks was structured in the 1960's.

According to the book "Israel in the Black American Perspective" (1985):
In the Black community Jews were frequently associated with wealth and "parasitism." Under the least propitious circumstances, Blacks usually met Jews as storekeepers and landlords--the most visible representatives of an oppressive economic system. Such meetings were not likely to promote good will and mutual respect. [p4] But if Jewish storekeepers and landlords are such a significant reason for how Blacks viewed Jews, why would that hatred seem to be so focused on Jews?

In a footnote to that paragraph, the book's authors -- Robert G. Weisbord and Richard Kazarian, Jr. -- point out that Jews were not the only storekeepers and landlords that Blacks had contact with:
In some cities, New Orleans and Newark to mention just two, Italian-black relations were acrimonious for similar reasons. Of late, "exploitative" Korean merchants in Harlem have aroused the ire of Afro-Americans, some of whom have responded with "buy Black" campaigns and organized boycotts of the Korean businesses.

And in Detroit, Arab grocers, mostly Iraqui [sic] Christians, have experienced picketing by Blacks who denounced profiteering outsiders. Burning and looting occurred in 1983 following the killing of a Black youth by an Arab storekeeper.

Antagonism to the Arabs in Detroit was rooted in the frustrations Blacks feel when confronted by the more rapid economic progress made by first and second generation immigrants. Black hostility to the Iraquis [sic] in the Motor City is strikingly similar to that directed at the Jews in Gotham and elsewhere. [p6. Text divided into paragraphs for easier reading. Emphasis added] Over the decades, Race Riots were not directed only at Jews:
Similar to the 1943 Detroit Race Riots that devastated the Jewish population, and the 1967 Race Riots that left hundreds of Chaldean [Iraqi Arab Christian] businesses destroyed, Koreans too dealt with a destructive riot in 1992 Los Angeles. The context for the 1992 riotsis the reaction to the verdict that cleared the police officers who were videotaped beating Rodney King, a year after a Korean store owner shot and killed a 15-year-old Black girl because he thought she was stealing a bottle of orange juice --
The nearly weeklong, widespread rioting killed more than 50 people, injured more than 1,000 people and caused approximately $1 billion in damage, about half of which was sustained by Korean-owned businesses. Long-simmering cultural clashes between immigrant Korean business owners and predominately African-American customers spilled over with the acquittals. [emphasis added] In Chicago, there was friction between Blacks and Arab immigrants too:
Common complaints about stores predominantly owned by Muslims from Palestine, Jordan, and Yemen, are that they only provide low-quality food and don’t take any ownership over their role in the community. “The reality is that Englewood is changing, and if you don’t improve your model, in time you will go out of business,” says Gunn. Yet despite tensions between Blacks and other groups -- tensions that let to riots -- have you ever heard Farrakhan attack minorities other than Jews?

Actually, he did.

In 1995, The Chicago Tribune reported about
comments Farrakhan made Friday during a television interview in which he was quoted as saying Jews, Arabs, Koreans and Vietnamese were "bloodsuckers" who set up businesses in the black community but never gave back to those neighborhoods. Arabs?
Not just any Arabs.

The Buffalo News had the full quote:
In an interview with Reuters Television aped Oct. 4 and made public Friday, Mr. Farrakhan touched on several sensitive subjects that previously outraged Jewish leaders and prompted accusations of anti-Semitism against him.

"When we use the term 'bloodsucker,' it doesn't just apply to some members of the Jewish community. That could apply to any human being who does nothing for another but lays on that human being to suck the value of its life without returning anything," Mr. Farrakhan said in the interview.

"Many of the Jews who owned the homes, the apartments in the black community, we considered them bloodsuckers because they took from our community and built their community but didn't offer anything back to our community.

"And when the Jews left, the Palestinian Arabs came, Koreans came, Vietnamese and other ethnic and racial groups came. And so this is a type and we call them bloodsuckers."[emphasis added] Later, Farrakhan complained about the media for misreporting what he said: "It is unfortunate that the media is taking words that were spoken out of context to create division."

He never did make clear what the proper context for "bloodsuckers" was.

But the next day, Farrakhan did a turnaround, equating the suffering of Black Americans with other minority groups in the US:
In an address at Operation PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., Farrakhan said African-American men are dehumanized in the United States in the same way Japanese, Germans, Italians and, more recently, Koreans, Vietnamese and people of Middle Eastern descent have been treated in the U.S. during wars involving Americans.
..."We didn't feel their pain because they were considered the enemy," Farrakhan said to the gathering of about 100 people. "Thanks to the media manipulation, we are seen now as the enemy." To understand Farrakhan's turnaround, you need to keep in mind:
  • His original comment was on a Friday.
  • His "correction" was the next day, on Saturday.
  • Two days later, Monday -- was his Million Man March.
Farrakhan's statement standing up for other minorities was a cynical move to avoid bad press for his upcoming Million Man March in Washington.

So why did Farrakhan have it in for Palestinian Arabs?

According to The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Palestinian Arabs started arriving at the end of the 19th century, and many settled in Chicago in particular --
By the early 1970s, they owned nearly 20 percent of all small grocery and liquor stores in Chicago, most located in African American communities, although Chicago's 30,000 Palestinians represented less than 1 percent of the city's population. By the 1990s, Palestinians had maintained this niche, but they also diversified into used-car dealerships, gas stations, auto repair shops, ethnic stores, and fast-food restaurants, remaining, however, primarily a community of small business entrepreneurs serving mostly “minority” communities. According to the 1990 census, more than 45 percent of employed Palestinians in the Chicago area worked in retail trade. The second largest concentration—some 14 percent—were professionals. [emphasis added] As with Jews, Arab Christians, Italians and Asian-Americans, there were Palestinian Arabs, too, who were store owners in Black communities.

This is not to minimize the problem of race relations or deny the validity of alleged discrimination. But the knee-jerk reaction of Farrakhan to accuse such a varied group of immigrants of being 'bloodsuckers' exploiting the Black community reveals more about Farrakhan than it does about the various ethnic groups he attacked.

Maybe that is why Farrakhan ended up focusing his hate on one group alone -- Jews.

If you found this post interesting or informative, please it below. Thanks!
Categories: Middle East

Nixon, Rabin and Trump: Unfinished Business In The Middle East

Daled Amos - Thu, 19/11/2020 - 05:20
What is the hardest part of brokering a peace agreement?
-- Sometimes, it's just getting the two sides to sit down in the same room. -- Other times, the problem is getting the two sides just to talk. -- Even then, there is the problem of getting them to negotiate and be willing to make concessions.
And then there is the problem when you just run out of time.
Following the Yom Kippur War, in which Egypt and Syria were nearly victorious, a unique possibility for peace between Israel and Egypt presented itself. Nixon's airlift of crucial arms during the war was critical to Israel's victory -- and created an opportunity.
Richard Nixon. Public domain

Seeking to take advantage of this opportunity, in June 1974, Nixon became the first US president to visit Israel while in office.
As Rabin explained in a press conference after Nixon returned to the US: "Ever since the airlift of the Yom Kippur War, the Arabs have come to understand that America will not allow Israel to be weakened. A defeat of Israel is a victory for the USSR. Paradoxically, this is what has raised America's prestige in the Arab world, and has given Washington leverage. Today in the Middle East, Moscow is a synonym for instability and war, Washington for stability and negotiation." (Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers, p. 270)
Yitzhak Rabin. Public domain

This leverage as an honest broker would make it possible for the US to go beyond being a supporter of Israel's interests, and show that it was a strong and reliable ally to address the interests of the Arab world as well.
Meanwhile, Nixon began discussing with Egypt's Sadat the possibility of a final settlement, going step-by-step. On June 25, Nixon wrote to Sadat: Mr. President, I am convinced that we have witnessed in recent months a turning point in the history of the Middle East -- a turning toward an honorable, just, and endurinable peace -- and have ushered in a new era in U.S.-Arab relations. A direction has been set, and it is my firm intention to stay on the course we have chartered. (p. 271) Two months later, Nixon resigned.
The following month, Rabin was meeting with President Ford -- and Kissinger -- to continue what Nixon had started. The following year, in March, Kissinger came to the Middle East to conduct his "shuttle diplomacy," bouncing back and forth between Israel and Egypt. Kissinger pressured Rabin on a withdrawal from the Sinai, especially from the Mitla and Gidi passes, while Rabin wanted Sadat to commit himself to a "termination of the state of belligerency" with Israel.
Kissinger's efforts failed -- and he blamed Israel.
In the end, however, another attempt was made, culminating in an interim agreement known as Sinai II.
Just to get an idea of what Rabin was up against, here is an excerpt from the notes of a conversation between Sadat and Foreign Minister Fahmi with Ford and Kissinger. The context is the early warning stations in the Sinai that Rabin wanted to retain -- and Sadat's idea of a compromise, where they would be manned by US troops. Note the highlighted portions.

The term "honest broker" is overrated.
In any event, Rabin too ended up resigning because of the 'scandal' surrounding his wife, who had retained a bank account from the years when Rabin was Israel's ambassador to the US from 1968 to 1973. After that, the Israeli law forbidding citizens from holding bank accounts abroad came into play. However, another law prevented Rabin from resigning outright once the date for the next elections has been set. Instead, Rabin withdrew from the race as leader of the Labor Party, to be replaced from Shimon Peres to face Menachem Begin.
Begin became prime minister -- and it was during his term that a peace treaty with Egypt was signed. 
Rabin felt his role in making that peace treaty possible was never acknowledged, but at the same time he understood that was the way of things.
In his memoirs, Rabin wrote: When President Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem on 19 November 1977 I was no longer prime minister. Yet that visit -- and the subsequent moves toward achieving a peace treaty -- could never have come about were it not for the course my government adopted in signing the 1975 interim agreement. That our policy provoked the anger of Likud has not prevented Mr. Begin's government from reaping the fruits of our labors. Of course, that is how things should be, since the quest for peace is not a contest between political parties...The 1975 agreement with Egypt was never meant to be an end in itself. As its title implies, it was designed to advance the momentum toward peace, and in that sense it achieved its purpose. [emphasis added] (quoted in The Prime Ministers, p.302) Begin benefited from the foundation set by Nixon and the groundwork laid by Rabin, both of whom left their work unfinished. 
But that was not the last we heard from Rabin.
After serving as prime minister from 1974 to 1977, Rabin became prime minister again in 1992. And he was still focused on peace. In 1994, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the Oslo Accords, along with Shimon Peres and Arafat. Rabin also signed a peace treaty with Jordan that same year.
In late 1995, Rabin described to Yehuda Avner his view of the Middle East, a description that 25 years later sounds familiar: Number one: Israel is surrounded by two concentric circles. The inner circle is comprised of our immediate neighbors—Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and, by extension, Saudi Arabia. The outer circle comprises their neighbors—Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. Virtually all of them are rogue states, and some are going nuclear.

Number two, Iranian-inspired Islamic fundamentalism constitutes a threat to the inner circle no less than it does to Israel. Islamic fundamentalism is striving to destabilize the Gulf Emirates, has already created havoc in Syria, leaving twenty thousand dead, in Algeria, leaving one hundred thousand dead, in Egypt, leaving twenty-two thousand dead, in Jordan, leaving eight thousand dead, in the Horn of Africa—the Sudan and Somalia—leaving fourteen thousand dead, and in Yemen, leaving twelve thousand dead. And now it is gaining influence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Iran is the banker, pouring millions into the West Bank and Gaza in the form of social welfare and health and education programs, so that it can win the hearts of the population and feed religious fanaticism.

Thus, a confluence of interest has arisen between Israel and the inner circle, whose long-term strategic interest is the same as ours: to lessen the destabilizing consequences from the outer circle. At the end of the day, the inner circle recognizes they have less to fear from Israel than from their Muslim neighbors, not least from radicalized Islamic powers going nuclear.

Number three: the Arab-Israeli conflict was always considered to be a political one: a conflict between Arabs and Israelis. The fundamentalists are doing their level best to turn it into a religious conflict—Muslim against Jew, Islam against Judaism. And while a political conflict is possible to solve through negotiation and compromise, there are no solutions to a theological conflict. Then it is jihad—religious war: their God against our God. Were they to win, our conflict would go from war to war, and from stalemate to stalemate. [emphasis added] (p. 707) The context for this description of the Middle East is Rabin's response to Avner's question as to why he shook Arafat's hand at the signing of the Oslo Accords: He and his PLO represent the last vestige of secular Palestinian nationalism. We have nobody else to deal with. It is either the PLO or nothing. It is a long shot for a possible settlement, or the certainty of no settlement at all at a time when the radicals are going nuclear. With the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalism, negotiating with secular Palestinian Arabs made sense to Rabin.
Neither he -- nor then-President Clinton -- saw the potential in negotiating and working with other Arab states within those concentric circles. There's no reason they would, when all the contemporary thinking was focused on the Palestinian Arabs as a key to peace, a cold peace in line with the peace treaties signed with Egypt and Jordan with no thought of normalization. According to that thinking, it is either the Palestinian Arabs or nothing.
The Middle East achievements of the Trump administration this year took Rabin's outline and acted on it.
What Rabin might have further accomplished, we will never know.He was stopped again, this time by a bullet, from pursuing peace.
But like Nixon and Rabin, Trump too will not be pursuing his vision for peace to its full extent.

Categories: Middle East

Some Black Leaders Supported Zionism Before Herzl Did

Daled Amos - Sun, 15/11/2020 - 01:11
During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a reporter asked Golda Meir about African leaders that were cutting off diplomatic ties with Israel under Arab pressure. The reporter claimed this proved that Israel's African policy and the aid given was a waste of time. Golda Meir disagreed:
Because what I did for Africa was not just a policy of enlightened self-interest. I did it for the benefit of the African peoples, and deep in their hearts they know this to be true. It was an expression of my deepest historic instincts as a Jew, and a demonstration of my most profound and cherished values as a Labor Zionist. [The Prime Ministers, by Yehuda Avner, p. 236] Golda Meir was not the first Zionist to speak about helping Africa.

Herzl's novel, Altneuland, describes his vision of what Jewish Palestine would look like. At one point, one of the characters declares:
There is still one problem of racial misfortune unsolved. The depths of that problem, in all their horror, only a Jew can fathom. I mean the negro problem. Don't laugh, Mr. Kingscourt. Think of the hair-raising horrors of the slave trade. Human beings, because their skins are black, are stolen, carried off, and sold. Their descendants grow up in alien surroundings despised and hated because their skin is differently pigmented. I am not ashamed to say, though I be thought ridiculous, now that I have lived to see the restoration of the Jews, I should like to pave the way for the restoration of the Negroes. [Translated from the German by Dr. D. S. Blondheim, Federation of American Zionists, 1916, available online] Herzl's desire for Blacks to be restored to their homeland was mutual.

In fact, Black support for the Jewish State predates Herzl.

In their book, Israel in the Black American Perspective, Robert G. Weisbord and Richard Kazarian start with a chapter on early Black support for the Zionist idea.

As early as the post-Civil War era, when Blacks were still too focused on their survival and that of their families to concern themselves with foreign affairs, there were still a few Black intellectuals and leaders who kept abreast of events overseas.

Some saw parallels between their own situation and that of the Jews -- and others saw Zionism and the return to the Jewish homeland as the paradigm for the transplanted Africans in the US.

Here is a summary of what the book describes about some of those leaders --

Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912) Blyden was born in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, which had a significant Jewish population, and later immigrated to West Africa in 1851. He was an editor, a prolific writer of books and pamphlets, a linguist, a professor of classics, secretary of state of the newly established republic of Liberia, Liberian ambassador to Great Britain and president of Liberia College.

Edward Wilmot Blyden. Public Domain
As he describes in his book, The Jewish Question, while traveling in the Middle East in 1866, Blyden wanted to travel to "the original home of the Jews--to see Jerusalem and Mt. Zion, the joy of the whole earth." While in Jerusalem he went to the Western Wall.

Keep in mind that Theodor Herzl wasn't even born until 1860. Instead, this was the time of 'proto-Zionists' like Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, who wrote Derishat Ziyon (Seeking Zion), and Moses Hess, who wrote Rome and Jerusalem -- both published in 1862.

Weisbrod and Kazarian write:
In point of fact, Blyden in the 1860's and 1870's was much more of a Zionist than most Jews. He advocated Jewish settlement in Palestine, a phenomenon which, in his judgment would not have an adverse effect on the Arabs. Blyden reproved the sons of Abraham for remaining in the Diaspora and for not migrating to their ancient homeland, which the Ottoman Turks were misgoverning. Towards the end of the 19th century, with the resurgence of antisemitism in Russia, France and Germany, that political Zionism came into its own with Herzl and his publication of The Jewish State in 1896. The First Zionist Congress followed in 1897.

Blyden's booklet, The Jewish Question, was published the following year:
Blyden was familiar with Herzl's Jewish State and predicted that it propounded ideas which "have given such an impetus to the real work of the Jews as will tell with enormous effect upon their future history." Blyden also commented on the powerful influence of the "tidal wave from Vienna--that inspiration almost Mosaic in its originality and in its tendency, which drew crowds of Israelites to Basle in August 1897...and again in 1898." However, Blyden also thought that if the timing was not right, the Jewish State could be established elsewhere as well. He felt that because of the shared suffering of Jews and African Americans, they were specially qualified to be spiritual leaders in the world.

So he invited Jews to come to Africa --
Africa appeals to the Jew... to come with his scientific and other culture, gathered by his exile in many lands, and with his special spiritual endowments. As it turned out, when the British offered Herzl land in Africa in 1903 for a state, that invitation was nearly accepted.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)Booker T. Washington was such a celebrity during the latter part of his life that he was invited to have dinner with Theodore Roosevelt at the White House and to have tea with Queen Victoria.

He was born into slavery, but despite the hardships, he taught himself the alphabet, got an education and went on to found the Tuskegee Institute, which he headed for 35 years.

Booker T. Washington. public domain
From his childhood, Washington had an interest in Jews, based on his familiarity of Bible stories -- and drew parallels between the histories of Blacks and Jews. In a speech he delivered in 1905, Washington said: In Russia there are one-half as many Jews as there are Negroes in this country and yet I feel sure that within a month more Jews have been persecuted and killed than the whole number of our people who have been lynched during the past forty years. While Washington believed in thrift and hard work as key to Black equality, he also thought that progress could be achieved through racial solidarity -- just as it had helped Jews: There is, perhaps, no race that has suffered so much, not so much in America as in some of the countries in Europe. But these people have clung together. They have had a certain amount of unity, pride and love of race. Washington predicted success for Jews in the US, "a country where they were once despised and looked upon with scorn and derision" -- success that was achieved largely through dedication to education and enabled them to gain positions of power and preeminence.
He did not share the back-to-Africanism of Blyden, and did not see it as a solution to Black problems in the South. Similarly, while he was a friend of the Jews, Washington didn't see a Jewish State as much of a solution for Jews either. When asked if there was anything among Blacks that compared to the Zionist movement, Washington responded: I think it is with the African pretty much as it is with the Jews, there is a good deal of talk about it, but nothing is done, there is certainly no sign of an exodus to Liberia. Based on the lesser interest in Zionism in the US at the time, it is no wonder Washington was skeptical.
W.E.B Du Bois 1868-1963 Du Bois championed the cause of racial justice -- and of Zionism as well. He was born in Massachusetts and was educated at Fisk University in Nashville, at the University of Berlin and received a Ph.D from Harvard. He wrote historical treatises, sociological studies and essays on the important issues of the day. Du Bois was one of the founders of the NAACP.
He saw potential in the Balfour Declaration for a similar solution for Blacks. With the defeat of Germany in WWI,  his dream was an independent free central African state carved out of German East Africa and the Belgian Congo.
It didn't happen.

W.E.B Du Bois Public Domain

He believed that such an African state would have a mutually beneficial relationship with Blacks around the world, similar to the Zionist view of a Jewish state.  In 1919, Du Bois wrote an article in the NAACP magazine Crisis that The African movement means to us what the Zionist movement must mean to the Jews, the centralization of race effort and the recognition of a racial fount. To help bear the burden of Africa does not mean any lessening of effort in our problems at home. Rather it means increased interest. For an ebullition of action and feeling that results in an amelioration of the lot of Africa tends to ameliorate the conditions of colored peoples throughout the world. And no man liveth unto himself. Du Bois started a monthly magazine for Afro-African children around 1919 called The Brownie's Book. In it, he wrote about Zionism.
  • In the first issue, he told his readers about the new Jewish state planned "'round about Jerusalem"
  • Eight months later, he told them that a "great Zionist congress of the Jews is meeting in London"
  • He also noted proposals to "tax the Jews all over the world for the support of the new Jewish government in Palestine"
  • In January 1921, he wrote about the finished blueprints for a Hebrew university on the biblical Mount of Olives in Jerusalem o In 1929, he wrote about the "murder of Jews by Arabs in Palestine."
In 1948, Du Bois published "A Case for the Jews." In it, he described Zionism as a question of young and forward thinking Jews, bringing a new civilization into an old land and building up that land out of the ignorance, disease and poverty into which it had fallen, and by democratic methods to build a new and peculiarly fateful modern state. In June 26, 1948 the NAACP adopted a resolution that The valiant struggle of the people of Israel for independence serves as an inspiration to all persecuted people throughout the world. We havil the establishment of the new State of Israel and welcome it into the family of nations.'  Marcus Garvey 1887-1940 Born in Jamaica, Garvey was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He wrote that Africa needed to be transformed into a  Negro Empire where every Black man, whether he was born in Africa or in the Western world, will have the opportunity to develop on his own lines under the protection of the most favorable democratic institutions. His wife described his vision in a way similar to the Zionist goal of a Jewish state: Garvey saw Africa as a nation to which the African peoples of the world could look for help and support, moral and physical when ill-treated or abused for being black.
Marcus Garvey. Public Domain

In 1920, Garvey told a UNIA meeting that after WWI,  A new spirit, a new courage, has come to us simultaneously as it came to other peoples of the world. It came to us at the same time it came to the Jew. When the Jew said 'We shall have Palestine!' the same sentiment came to us when we said' We shall have Africa!' At the same time, the Jewish press was aware of what Garvey was doing and also saw the parallels between his pan-Africanism and Zionism. In the book, African Americans and Jews in the Twentieth Century, edited by V. P. Franklin, Hasia Diner notes in "Drawn Together By Self-Interest" that the Yiddish Press used the idioms of Jewish history to describe Marcus Garvey:

But Garvey was a complex -- and even contradictory -- figure when it came to Jews. There were statements he made that were antisemitic and when British Prime Minister Neville suggested in 1939 settling Jewish refugees in British Guiana, Garvey lashed out, claiming that British Guiana was a "Negro country" and criticized Zionism.
Walter White 1893-1955 In 1947, the UN voted on the partition of then-Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. It was an opportunity to finally create a Jewish state -- but a two-thirds majority was necessary to make it happen.
Enter Walter White.

Walter White. Public Domain
Zionists approached White, urging him to persuade two Black nations, Haiti and Liberia, to reverse their announced opposition to partition and to vote for it instead.
He was opposed to the idea of 'segregating' Jews from Arabs and resented the pressure Zionists put on him. Nevertheless, according to his autobiography, he helped "because Palestine seemed the only haven anywhere in the world for nearly one million Jews of Europe."
When the votes were cast, Liberia, Haiti and the Philippines all voted for partition -- and those votes were critical in achieving the 33 to 13 vote for partition.
Black leaders like these make for a sharp contrast to the likes of Sharpton and Farrakhan.

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Categories: Middle East

Has New York City Learned Nothing From The Crown Heights Riots?

Daled Amos - Mon, 30/12/2019 - 15:37
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the stabbing of 5 Orthodox Jews in Monsey.

But even though this attack happened in Monsey, it is part of a growing and increasingly alarming pattern inside New York City.

And no one expects these attacks to stop soon.

One reason for the pessimism is the failure by the media, elected officials and social media 'celebrities' to address the fact that, contrary to the accepted media narrative, these attacks on Orthodox Jews are being carried out by Blacks -- not by "White Supremacists."

Elder of Ziyon has posted about the reluctance among leftists to mention this common link among the majority of the attacks on Jews, either out of fear of being labeled racist or accused of inciting violence against the Black community:
Most blacks are not antisemitic, although the percentage is roughly double that of whites (in 2016, 23% compared to 10%.) No one is saying that all blacks should be blamed. But the fear of being labeled a racist is the major reason there has not been any effective outreach to the black community to help solve this problem.But this is not the first time that the fear of addressing Black antisemitism has manifested itself and prevented the media and community leaders from speaking out.

Remember the Crown Heights Riots?

In 2016, Seth Lipsky wrote for The New York Post, 25 years later, we still haven’t learned the lessons of the Crown Heights riot -- and in the 3 years since then, matters have only gotten worse:
Crown Heights erupted after a driver in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade lost control and killed a black child, Gavin Cato. For three days, historian Edward Shapiro would write, “bands of young blacks” had “roamed” the neighborhood, assaulting Jews. [Emphasis added]At the time, Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jewish student visiting from the University of Melbourne, was stabbed to death -- and his killer, Lemrick Nelson, was acquitted of murder by a New York jury. Two federal civil rights prosecutions were required before Nelson would be sent to prison, and in the end, he did 10 years on civil rights charges.

What stands out most for Lipsky is that during the Crown Heights Riots, neither the political nor the private leaders in the city could bring themselves to admit that the attacks on Jews were antisemitic.

Ari Goldman, who reported on those riots for The New York Times at the time, later wrote about the experience, noting the insistence by journalists at the time to frame the attacks as a result of a "racial conflict."

In Telling It Like It Wasn't, Goldman quotes AM Rosenthal, a former executive editor at The New York Times who said what others would not:
“The press,” Rosenthal wrote, “treats it all as some kind of cultural clash between a poverty-ridden people fed up with life and a powerful, prosperous and unfortunately peculiar bunch of stuck-up neighbors — very sad of course, but certainly understandable. No — it is an anti-Semitic pogrom and the words should not be left unsaid.” [emphasis added]Indeed, one journalist tweeted about the Monsey attack something similar - and later deleted their tweet:
The situation in NY (and let's be clear we don't know who perpetrated the Monsey attack yet) is *massively complicated* and a growing division among two communities. What we need right now is a way to find solidarity with each other against our shared enemy of white supremacy.Other tweets, in response to steps proposed by Mayor de Blasio last week to increase police protection of the Jewish community, were worse:
This sends a pretty stark message to non-Jews living in these neighborhoods that their safety matters less to @NYCMayor than the safety of their Jewish neighbors. That's really really bad for literally everyone except our common enemies, who benefit when we're divided.and
Worst move. One that many of us have been warning against for many months now. de Blasio has caved to the pressure of racist demagogues like Dov Hikind and now many young black men will be at risk.

This isn't about ending hate, it's transferring the violence to acceptable targets.We are seeing the same blind eye and lack of decisive action now that we saw 28 years ago.

Two years after the riots, in 1993, an exhaustive state investigation into the handly of what happened sharply criticized Mayor Dinkins for his failure to understand and act upon the severity of the crisis.

The Jewish community now is growing increasingly concerned that the current mayor does not understand what is happening any better.
Lipsky concludes his 2016 article pointing to attempts at reconciliation within Crown Heights, yet notes:Liberal elites have made no such progress. They have never lifted a finger for the Orthodox Jews. The animus that erupted as “Heil Hitler” in Crown Heights has broken out on some of our city’s finest campuses, which echo with “Zionists out” and “Long live the Intifada.”

And liberals are unalarmed that Black Lives Matter has begun to make common cause with the BDS movement against Israel. So 25 years after Crown Heights, it’s anyone’s guess where the next attacks will break out against the Jews. [emphasis added]These days, there is no longer any need to guess.

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Categories: Middle East

Is Bernie Sanders Supposed To Be A Symbol of Jewish Pride?

Daled Amos - Mon, 23/12/2019 - 14:52
Last week, Peter Beinart described Bernie Sanders as "the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in American history"

After all, it is a 'thing' now to talk up how 'Jewish' Bernie Sanders is.

I responded to Beinart's tweet:

There were a few responses to what I wrote, but they avoided the question of whether Bernie Sanders actually embraces his being Jewish. Instead, they attacked Lieberman -- totally missing the point.

Or avoiding it.

The fact is that Bernie Sanders, despite the best efforts of Beinart and others, has not registered as a Jew in the minds of voters.

Back in 2016, a Los Angeles Times article reported that Bernie Sanders fares poorly against Hillary Clinton with fellow Jews, polls indicate
Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone further than any other Jewish candidate in a presidential campaign, but he’s not garnering much support from Jewish voters, polls indicate...

Now that the campaign has moved to New York, however, which has the nation’s largest Jewish population, the numbers are in, and they’re not favorable.

That shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Both Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have long been popular among Jewish voters, and while American Jews tend to be liberal, they’re more often regular Democrats than the sorts of independents most drawn to Sanders.

On the other side, Sanders is not actively engaged in Jewish life. He has also been critical of Israel, although he lived briefly as a young man on a secular, socialist kibbutz. When asked about his faith, his responses have reflected a generalized commitment to liberal concepts of social justice as opposed to any specific link to Jewish ideals of equality. [emphasis added]The article is based on 2 polls: the Sienna College Poll, which found Clinton leading Sanders among Jewish voters by a 60%-38% margin and the NBC/Wall St. Journal/Marist poll,which found Clinton leading among Jews 65%-32%.

Putting aside where he stands on Israel, the fact remains that Sanders is not Jewishly involved and his inspiration is from socialism, not Judaism.

That is not a judgment on Sanders, just a recognition of where he stands.

In a presidential election pitting Sanders and Trump, Sanders would clearly get the majority of the Jewish vote, but that is because most Jews vote Democrat anyway and not because they think of him as a Jew.

Not only does he not embody Jewish pride, Sanders does not have a typical reaction to antisemitism either. At an event at the Apollo Theater in New York in April 2016, Sanders faced an antisemitic question:
“As you know,” opened the questioner, “the Zionist Jews–and I don’t mean to offend anybody–they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.” As this unfolded, Sanders began wagging his finger in dissent, and interjected to deem “Zionist Jews” a “bad phrase.” His interlocutor, pressed to articulate a question, concluded by saying, “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community? That’s all I’m asking.”

“No, no, no, that’s not what you’re asking,” Sanders quickly replied, in a nod to the question’s underlying prejudice. “I am proud to be Jewish,” he declared, to cheers from the audience. But then Sanders did something odd. Rather than using the question as a teaching moment to address and rebuke its anti-Semitic underpinnings, Sanders instead immediately pivoted to his stump speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Talking about Zionism and Israel,” he said, “I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people.” He never challenged the actual contents of the question, let alone labeled it anti-Semitic. [emphasis added]

It is tempting to compare Sanders' failure to address the clear antisemitism of the questioner with his making Linda Sarsour his surrogate. This is the same Linda Sarsour who in 2015 spoke at a Farrakhan rally. Then again, Sanders has met publicly with antisemite Al Sharpton.

Associations with Farrakhan and Sharpton don't seem to bother Bernie Sanders.

But that Sanders-Sarsour connection really is especially jarring.

And, as Ron Kampeas points out, that alliance of Sanders and Sarsour is self-contradictory as well.

Kampeas notes Sarsour's statement that:
Ask them this, how can you be against white supremacy in America and the idea of being in a state based on race and class, but then you support a state like Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else?” [emphasis added]Kampeas then points out that:
[Sanders] notes the time he spent in Israel as a young man and says “It is true that some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews, or when it plays into conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish power. I will always call out antisemitism when I see it.” [emphasis added]This leads Kampeas to the point:
Is there wiggle room to reconcile Sarsour’s rejection of a “state like Israel that is based on [Jewish] supremacy” and Sanders’ label for those who deny “the right of self-determination to Jews” as antisemites?This is an issue that does not seem to bother Sanders.

So if he does not embrace his being a Jew and not does publicly react to defend his being a Jew -- why is there this attempt to emphasize that Bernie Sanders is a Jew?

It seems there is an attempt to not only redefine what is and is not antisemitism, but even to redefine what it means to be a Jew -- something that no other minority has to put up with.

Maybe it is an attempt to redefine the connection between Jews and Israel, in the way that small radical fringe groups like If Not Now try to do.

But whatever the reason, this attempt to sell Sanders as a symbol of Jewish pride is a symptom of the weakening of Jewish identity in general and the problematic connection of Jews in the US with Israel.

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Categories: Middle East

Black Hebrew Israelites - Jewish Enough To Be Killed By Palestinian Terrorists

Daled Amos - Tue, 17/12/2019 - 03:03
Two Black Hebrew Israelites deliberately attacked a kosher grocery in Jersey City this past Tuesday.

We can leave it to the media to report who the Black Hebrew Israelites are.
There will be articles about just how Jewish they are, about their history and about their community in Israel.

But while they are not considered Jewish by the Israeli government, Black Hebrew Israelites are Jewish enough for Palestinian terrorists.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune in 2002, Death bridges gap for Black Hebrews:
Under a cool, clear sky and with a large crowd of mourners on hand, 32-year-old Aharon Ben-Yisrael Elis was buried Sunday in a new section of this town's cemetery.

He was the first of the Black Hebrews--a small group of African-Americans, most of whom came to Israel from Chicago more than three decades ago--to be born in Israel. He also was the first of the group to die from the terrorism that has haunted the Jews of Israel for years.Aharon Ben-Yisrael Elis. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Because the group had their own religion, combining Judaism with other beliefs, the Black Hebrews were not fully accepted into Israeli society and were not granted citizenship.

But those differences were set aside in the face of the terrorist attack:
Yet Elis' passing at the hands of a terrorist provoked an outpouring of Israeli mourners, including Dimona's mayor, a member of the Knesset and the two top rabbis from this town in the northern tip of the Negev desert. Elis was killed Thursday, one of six people slain by a Palestinian gunman who had stormed a banquet hall in a northern town where a bat mitzvah, or a coming-of-age ceremony, for a 12-year-old Israeli girl was under way.

...Dimona officials talked about how the Black Hebrews had found a home in their community and were welcomed. Av Shalom Vilan, a member of the Knesset from the left-of-center Meretz Party, said he hoped that the death of a Black Hebrew as a result of Arab violence would open the hearts and doors of Israel's society for citizenship for the group, which the Black Hebrews have long sought.

Rabbi Shalom Dayan, the chief Sephardic rabbi of Dimona, summed up in a few words what the others said Elis' death meant for the Black Hebrews' long-term quest to win full acceptance into Israeli society.

"You have just sealed one of the most difficult pacts with our Israeli society," Dayan said.More than that, the Israeli government took action too.

Israel destroyed the Palestinian broadcasting center and Israeli tanks came up to Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. Israeli troops entered Tulkarem, where they searched houses, detained a number of Palestinian Arabs and put the city under curfew.

But that was then.

And it makes this week's tragedy even more bitter.

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Categories: Middle East

Zionism As A Reflection of Jewish History Past and Present

Daled Amos - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 15:50
An interview with Alex Ryvchin, author of "Zionism: The Concise History"
(Originally posted on The Jewish Press)

Q: What do you see as the purpose of your new book, Zionism: The Concise History, and who is it for?

A: The whole concept of Zionism has been politically and strategically trashed by her enemies. The danger is that future generations will only know Zionism as an evil to be fought and the young people, whom we count on as the next advocates to tell the story of Zionism and defend it, today are generally apathetic or ignorant of this story. We hear people saying Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism or being Jewish, but I think Zionism is inextricably linked to Jewish history.

The story of Zionism is the story of the Jewish people. And if Jews don’t know that story and don’t take part in it, we will see greater rates of intermarriage and loss of identity.

For this reason, I’d like to see my book taught in schools and universities.

Q: One of the patterns in Jewish history is making questionable alliances with apparent enemies. You mention Herzl in this regard. Can you give an example, and do you think this is an unavoidable element of Zionism?

Herzl dealt with a lot of ardent antisemites like the Kaiser and the Russian Foreign Minister. He felt a cold synergy between the interests of Zionism and these rabid antisemites. Herzl thought that for the Jews to achieve the return to their ancestral land, these antisemites who are so keen to purge their countries of Jews would be accommodating. And indeed, many of them saw a benefit in a movement that could absorb a large number of Jews.

In any political campaign such as Zionism, there has to be a dose of realpolitik--to think not only about the idealism, but also how to practically achieve your goal. That means creating alliances with those you find unsavory. The danger is when you look at an alignment of interests as temporary and mistake that for good faith or long term alliances. To Herzl’s credit, he quickly realized he was not going to achieve the goals of Zionism through alliances with those who were fundamentally hostile to Jewish rights. That is why he shifted the Zionist movement from the European continent to Great Britain, where he found men who more driven by Christian ideals and a general passion for the idea of the Jews returning to their ancestral land.

Today, Israel has formed alliances with some nations that might really see a short term alignment of interests, but don’t harbor any great feeling of warmth towards the Jewish people. That is dangerous, but it is also the world that we live in. And as long as the Netanyahu government and the successive governments go into this with their eyes open, I think it is something that can and needs to be done. But at the same time, I think that Israel should act morally in this regard and call out antisemitism of far-right leaders around the world with whom they may have diplomatic relations. If those relations are genuine, they will withstand those criticisms.

Q: We know the Balfour Declaration favors the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine and that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” -- but it also says nothing should be done to prejudice “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” What was that issue?

A: The concern was that Zionism was not the universal position of the Jewish World. There was still discussion in the Jewish World what was best way to alleviate the suffering of the Jews was through assimilation. Not everyone was on the side of Zionism, particularly those who lived in liberal Democratic countries like the UK, Australia and the US. They did not see the need for a national movement to return to Palestine. They favored assimilation.

In order to assuage those concerns, that wording was put in, to say that basically, those Jews who preferred to live outside of the Jewish State would continue to live in the Diaspora with nothing to impede their rights. There was a concern that once the Jewish State was formed, Jews living outside that state would be viewed as alien, foreigners. That language in the Balfour Declaration was to protect them.

I am keen that people should read this book and apply its lessons to contemporary times. I think that is very important.

Bernie Sanders is different from those Jews in the early 20th century who were driven mainly by self-preservation. They were men who, despite being Jewish, soared to the heights of public life in the UK and Australia. They looked at Zionism, dedicated to liberating the Jewish people and alleviating their antisemitism and thought: what do I need this for; it will only have a detrimental effect on my standing!
Sanders is not motivated by that sort of calculus. He is an American Jew, deeply committed to perfecting American society, making it as just and equitable as possible the way he sees it. I think he views Zionism as a foreign project and doesn’t identify with it. Also, he is associated with the hard left who are rabidly anti-Zionist and has to placate them.

Alex Ryvchin, author of Zionism: The Concise History. Source: Screen-cap

Q: Originally, Arab leaders like Hussein ibn Ali and his son Amir Faisal allied with Chaim Weizmann and favored the re-establishment of a Jewish state. Then along came Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti, who incited riots and tried to prevent it. Today, are we seeing a shift back in the other direction?

A: Today the Arab states see the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. They see if you don’t threaten Israel, it won’t harm you back, will be good friends and share technology. Israel can become a dependable strategic ally in the face of much bigger threats like Iran.

But at the same time, one thing that Zionism teaches us is that alliances come and go, they rise and fall, and cannot really be depended on. They need to be used at that point in time. As long as Israel is economically, militarily, and diplomatically strong, that is the most important thing. Let Israel choose alliances at that point in time, but it cannot depend on anyone.

Q: In the last chapter of your book, you discuss anti-Zionism, which started off as Jewish opposition to Zionism. How is that different from today’s anti-Zionism on college campuses and expressed by politicians?

A: Early anti-Zionism is virtually unrecognizable from anti-Zionism today. The anti-Zionist Jews at the time were overwhelming loyal, proud Jews who cared deeply for the future of the Jewish people, but they had a different view on how to solve the problem of antisemitism in the streets. Their solution was the full immersion into the societies in which they lived. It was a legitimate point of view, but ultimately disproven.

The anti-Zionist Jews of today do not care about Jewish rights. Instead, they use their Jewishness to attack their own people. Rather than stand up against their oppressors, they side with them.

But once the state of Israel exists, anti-Zionism becomes not merely a different political position or philosophy, it now becomes the opposition to the existence of the state of Israel--a state that has now existed for over 70 years. Anti-Zionism is no longer a morally tenable position. That is why you will not find in the ranks of anti-Zionist Jews someone who cares about the future of the Jewish people. Instead, overwhelmingly you find selfish people of low character.

Q: You trace Great Britain’s change into an enemy of Zionism to its being a declining imperial power, stretched thin and wearied by Palestine. Some might see that as a description of the US. Do you think there is a danger of Zionist history repeating itself here too?

A: I think so. That description of Great Britain in the 1940s could apply to the US today. There is a growing trend, particularly under the current president, of isolationism and rethinking US foreign policy solely in terms of US interests. It is no longer fashionable to think the US should bring the values of democracy to the darkest places in the world and be a force for good.

There especially a risk with the progressive Democrats who don't have that instinctive warmth for the state of Israel as establishment Democrats have in the past.

Governments and allies come and go. Israel needs to remain strong and independent to preserve its interests. We have seen this already in the course of its existence.

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Categories: Middle East

The Left's Love For Ferocity Is Getting 'Progressively' Worse

Daled Amos - Mon, 07/10/2019 - 17:59
Last week, the controversial group Women's March informed us about a changing of the guard.

Gone were Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour. While Carmen Perez remained, the other three were replaced on the group's board by an assortment of new names and faces:

But one name stood out from the rest: Zahra Billoo.

Billoo's vile tweets were soon plastered all over Twitter, with different people offering their own personal collection of the Worst of the Worst of her attacks on Israel, Zionism and Jews.

Billoo combined unhinged accusations against Israel with whatever conspiracy theories were available:

Nor did Billoo limit herself to Israel, attacking Jewish rights groups that fight antisemitism, such as the Anti-Defamation League:

As a big fan of the terrorist group Hamas, Billoo came up with various analogies to defend the murder of Israeli civilians:

Like this:

And this:

And when her brother, Ahmed ibn Aslam, publicly wished in a fit of pique at Ben Gurion Airport that all Jews in Israel be killed...

...Billoo responded with her support for her brother against the evil Customs and Border Protection:

The uproar on Twitter was so loud and angry that Women's March dropped Billo from the board.

But not everyone was upset by Billoo's assorted vicious attacks.
Some saw Billoo's assault on Israel and Jews very differently.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace was ecstatic over Women March's new board and saw them all as a natural continuation of Sarsour, Mallory and Bland:

Somehow, vile and vicious attacks on Israel, Zionism and Jews are all part of being impactful, fierce and even inspiring.

What's going on here?

Last week, writing about the short-lived second wave of accusations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Peggy Noonan examined Why They’ll Never Stop Targeting Kavanaugh. More than a specific attempt to delegitimize the Supreme Court in order to head off an anticipated attack on Roe vs. Wade or a fixation on finishing off what Christine Blasey Ford started -- Noonan found a more general and pervasive issue underlying last weeks witch hunt:
the crazier parts of the progressive left increasingly see politics as public theater, with heroes and villains, cheers and hisses from the audience, and costumes, such as outfits from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Because modern politics is, for the lonely and strange on all sides, entertainment and diversion. And one’s people must be entertained. [emphasis added]Based on the gusto with which the nasty comments were being tweeted and retweeted by the likes of Billo, Sarsour, Tlaib and Omar it was clear that people were reveling in these attacks on twitter -- not just the people carrying out the attacks and perpetuating them, but also the people on Twitter who were merely following on Twitter, and cheering them on in the comments.

It's almost like a sport.

Here is a video from 3 years ago of political commentator Cenk Uyghur talking with John Iadarola in the days leading up to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, discussing picking representatives for drafting the Democratic Platform. Uyghur personifies the sports metaphor for politics taken to its logical conclusion, referring to Sanders' picks as "the aggressive progressives -- the change gang," and calling the choice of Cornel West  "a bold pick." Uyghur refers to them as "a great crew...when you bring these all-stars."

Watch the first 2:30 of the video:

(As an aside, at one point, Uyghur worked for MSNBC, where he replaced Keith Olbermann, who actually switched off between sports broadcasting and news.)

On the progressive left, the value placed on the inspirational value of such attacks makes for the adoption of some unexpected heroes.

During a 2006 teach-in at UC Berkeley about the Israel-Hezbollah war, American philosopher Judith Butler was asked a "bundle" of 4 questions:
1. Since Israel is an imperialist, colonial project, should resistance be based on social movements or the nation-state?

2. What is the power of the Israel Lobby and is questioning it antisemitic?

3. Since the Left hesitates to support Hamas and Hezbollah “just” because of their use of violence, does this hurt Palestinian solidarity?

4. Do Hamas and Hezbollah actually threaten Israel’s existence, as portrayed in some media?She started off by talking about "The Israel Lobby." Butler made no mention of AIPAC at all, but named instead the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League -- the reference to that last organization being a precursor to the attacks to come a few years later by Billoo -- and Sarsour.

Butler's whitewash of Hamas and Hezbollah was just what the audience was looking for:
Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. [emphasis added]The terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah do not feel limited to military targets and have deliberately killed civilians.

But according to Butler, these are not terrorist groups.
They are merely not "interested in non-violent politics"
According to the text of her answer, her response was met with applause.

This is not a 21st problem.
It is an enduring one.

In his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind, Harvard professor Allan Bloom writes:
I have seen young people, and older people too who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest of reasons. They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts. [emphasis added]Bloom is speaking to those like Vilkomerson who are enthralled by the ferocity of these attacks on Twitter, mistaking their attacks as a commitment worthy of emulation and adulation.

From Che Guevara and Yasir Arafat, the progressive left has now settled on Zahran Billoo, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

And Butler is no better, with her twisted excuses for terrorist groups as progressive social movements.

Like Bloom, the late Justice Antonin Scalia recognized the problem as well. In 2010, Scalia offered his advice during the commencement address at Langley High School, in Virginia, where his granddaughter was graduating:
And indeed, to thine ownself be true, depending upon who you think you are. It’s a belief that seems particularly to beset modern society, that believing deeply in something, and following that belief, is the most important thing a person could do. Get out there and picket, or boycott, or electioneer, or whatever. I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what’s right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he’s headed in the right direction.

...In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction. [emphasis added]Social media in general, and perhaps Twitter in particular, is a petri dish of a society where passionate attacks have long replaced any semblance of normal discussion.

And in this age of intersectionalism where a whole gamut of causes are being interwoven and championed with unheard-of ferocity -- Israel, Zionism and Jews are increasingly being targeted, with a reemergence -- and acceptance --  of antisemitism that we thought we would never see again.

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Categories: Middle East

Why Is Bernie Sanders Such a Magnet For Antisemites?

Daled Amos - Mon, 07/10/2019 - 15:04
One thing you can say about Bernie Sanders.
He sure does have some unexpected friends and admirers.
Bernie Sanders and FarrakhanFarrakhan was very clear in 2016 that he was not supporting Bernie Sanders.
You won't find him supporting Sanders for president now either.

And yet in 2016 Farrakhan went out of his way not to attack him as one of those "Satanic Jews".
According to Farrakhan, Bernie Sanders is one of those "decent" Jews:
"I have to say this about Mr. Sanders: he's a Jew, not a so-called Jew. He's trying to be decent..."

Bernie Sanders and Sharpton
'Nuff said.
Bernie Sanders and Ilhan OmarEarlier this year, Omar attacked AIPAC and accused her Jewish fellow Congressmen of dual loyalty:

Bernie Sanders wasted no time. During a conference call hosted by James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, Sanders confirmed that he had talked to Omar that night to give her his support.

Of course, it did not take long for Omar to again accuse Jews of dual loyalty:

But that did not dissuade Sanders. In June, Teen Vogue had a piece on how Bernie Sanders Teamed Up With Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal on a Plan to Cancel All Student Loan Debt

Bernie Sanders and James Zogby
In Lovable Bernie Whacks Israel, Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2016 thattwo of Sanders' appointments to the 15-member platform committee are so stunning. Professor Cornel West not only has called the Israeli prime minister a war criminal, but openly supports the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions), the most important attempt in the world to ostracize and delegitimize Israel.
West is joined on the committee by the longtime pro-Palestinian activist James Zogby. Together, reported The New York Times, they "vowed to upend what they see as the party's lopsided support of Israel." [emphasis added]Actually, lopsided would an apt description of Zogby's defense of Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists.

In 2006, Zogby defended Hezbollah's use of human shield's:
Zogby: I've said from the beginning that [Hezbollah's] behavior was reckless and provocative. But Israel bears the responsibility. It's like saying what Mort is saying and what those who want to make that case is saying, the girl who wore the short skirt deserved to get raped--James Taranto commented:
Zogby's claim that Hezbollah bears no responsibility for civilian casualties is outrageous, and his likening of Hezbollah to a rape victim is scandalously so.Elder of Ziyon quotes this example and gives another, one of Zogby defending Yasir Arafat. In an interview with Paula Zahn on CNN:
ZAHN: Mr. Zogby, how much responsibility do you think Yasser Arafat should bear for the ongoing troubles in the Middle East?

ZOGBY: Well, listen, it's -- we live in a kind of an "Alice in Wonderland" world here, where Ariel Sharon is the man of peace and Arafat becomes the obstacle to peace. We've lionized one and demonized the other, and I simply don't think this picture is accurate. The man has flaws...Imagine a world where Ariel Sharon removes every last Israeli from Gaza and gives it, along with the infrastructure intact, to Hamas while Arafat rejects Clinton's attempt to forge a peace deal -- this is the "Wonderland" Zogby inhabits. Arafat did not have flaws -- he was responsible for the deaths of unarmed civilians because they were Jews.

Bernie Sanders and Cornel West
Krauthammer writes about Cornel West:West doesn't even pretend, as do some left-wing "peace" groups, to be opposing Israeli policy in order to save it from itself. He makes the simpler case that occupation is unconscionable oppression and that until Israel abandons it, Israel deserves to be treated like apartheid South Africa -- anathematized, cut off, made to bleed morally and economically.Like Zogby, Cornel West, a BDS proponent, also makes excuses for Palestinian terrorism, writing that  the actions of Hamas “pale in the face of the US-supported Israeli slaughter of innocent civilians.” West once accused President Obama of being “most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”
Of course, Bernie Sanders is different.
Bernie Sanders and Linda Sarsour

Last weekend, Sanders made Sarsour his surrogate, allowing her to campaign on his behalf, creating a unique situation considering, as The Jerusalem Post put it, "that Sanders is Jewish and Sarsour is known as an anti-Israel, antisemitic activist."

Actually, what does he have to lose?
The Democrats have the Jewish vote anyway.

With Sarsour -- as with Simone Zimmerman before her -- Sanders can tap into the energy of progressives with minimal cost to a Jewish base which sided with Hillary anyway during the last election and is unlikely to flock to him this time around either. A poll in May showed Biden getting 47% of the Jewish vote among registered Democratic voters, compared to 11% for Sanders and Pete Buttigieg is doing better than either of them in terms of Jewish contributions.

Now we find out that 2 months ago, Sarsour -- along with Bob Bland and Tamika Mallory -- left the Woman's March.

This has been misinterpreted by some as a setback for Sarsour, and by extension, for Sanders:

If you check the article at The Hill, all it says is:
Women’s March has cut ties with three board members who were accused of anti-Semitism and has created a new, diverse board of 16 membersIt does not actually say the reason for cutting ties was because of their antisemtism. The article in the Washington Post that The Hill refers to is more expansive on why Bland, Mallory and Sarsour left:
The Women’s March is replacing three inaugural board members who have been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, infighting and financial mismanagement.That article also ties the issue of antisemitism not to Sarsour but to Mallory, who is a big supporter of Farrakhan.

Seth Mandel, editor of the Washington Examiner, was more on-target -- both Women's March in general and Sarsour in particular win:

Whether Sanders will benefit by this arrangement is an open question.
But Sarsour definitely has.

Bernie Sanders and Zahra BillooAmong those who will be replacing Sarsour is Zahra Billoo, a civil rights lawyer and the executive director of CAIR-SFBA.

She is also an antisemite.

As indicated by tweet

After tweet:

After tweet:

After tweet:

Check out Petra Marquardt-Bigman and Ryan Saavedra for many more such tweets.

And Billoo's hatred extends beyond just hatred of the state of Israel:
California imam Ahmed Billoo recently called for the mass extermination of Jews. Apparently impatient at the border-security protocols at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, he posted a prayer to Twitter with the hashtag "Zionists": "Oh God, reduce their numbers, exterminate them, and don't leave a single one alive."

Ahmed Billoo's sister is Zahra Billoo, director of the San Francisco branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). She is also an important figure in the Women's March movement, and has appeared alongside her brother at Women's March events.

...[Zahra Billoo] was curiously unwilling to offer any criticism when it came to her brother advocating mass-murder. On the contrary, Zahra Billoo made a heartfelt post to her brother on Facebook a mere few hours after he prayed for the extermination of Jews, apparently in relation to another public stand he had taken: "My brother makes me proud often, but there's a special kind of appreciation I have when he does this - puts his privilege to good use, asserting his rights, speaking out against border harassment, and thereby making it at least somewhat easier for those who are afraid or unable." [emphasis added]
And sure enough, Billoo is also a big fan of -- Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders is a convenient shield for antisemites.

He is Jewish -- but does not advertise that fact.
Sanders rarely talks about it publicly.

He may support Israel, but he adopts the progressive narrative about the extent of Gazan casualties during war between Israel and Hamas, as well as the narrative that makes armed Gazan rioters trying to break through into Israel as nothing more than peaceful protestors.

Sanders is also on-board when it comes to condemning and leveraging aid in order to push Israel (and only Israel) to "make peace".

He boils the conflict down to the simplest terms:
Israel has a right to exist in security, and at the same time the Palestinians have a state of their own.Who could argue with that?

To be fair, journalist Ron Kampeas finds Bernie Sanders to be typical of Jewish Americans:

Maybe Kampeas is right, and Sanders it typical.
But Sanders does come across as shy about his being a Jews and more defensive than most when it comes to Israel.

More to the point, I don't know if we can be so sanguine about this "norm" of Jewish American.
What really is so Jewish about being progressive?

Daniel Gordis writes that
most American Jews, having lost a sense of peoplehood and then a commitment to religion or Torah, have recently assumed an identity that is focused on little but politics. Yet as a form of politics, Judaism has, so far, found little to say that is uniquely Jewish. Gordis concludes the thought rather darkly:
And if we have nothing unique to say, does it really matter if American Jews do not survive?I would suggest that if we Jews in America cannot identify as Jews and feel unique as Jews, then there are those out there who will be only too happy to define our Jewish identity for their own purposes.

And the names of some of those people are on this page.

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Categories: Middle East

It Is Absurd To Blame The West For Muslim "Honor" Crimes

Daled Amos - Wed, 11/09/2019 - 19:00
On Thursday, August 29, Israa Ghrayeb was murdered by her family.

They were angered by a video she posted on social media of herself with the man she was soon to be engaged to. Her brother claimed she dishonored the family by showing the two of them together before they were married. The father called on the brother to beat Israa, and while trying to escape, Israa Ghrayeb fell from the second floor of their home, suffering serious spinal injuries. Then, while she was at the hospital, Ghrayeb was apparently attacked a second time and died.

The family claimed she died of a heart attack.

Another honor killing.
But this one was different.

Ghrayeb's murder has sparked outrage.

The Arab News reported last week on the angry reaction to her death
The death of a young Palestinian woman in the West Bank has sparked widespread outrage across the Middle East amid accusations that it is nothing but another case of so-called honor killing.

The suspicious circumstances of 21-year-old Israa Ghareeb’s death in Bethlehem have also drawn attention to a practice increasingly seen as a stain on the conscience of Middle East societies.

...Soon afterwards, #WeAreAllIsraa began to trend on Arabic Twitter, with more than 50,000 tweets displaying the hashtag.
This anger is not only against the Palestinian government -- it is also against Jordan.

There has never been a sovereign Palestinian state in what is now referred to as the "West Bank". Before Israel recaptured it in the Six Day War of 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule after it claimed it as its own during the 1948 War, the validity of which was recognized only by Great Britain and Pakistan.

The law that allows Palestinian men to kill female members of their family with relative impunity originates from Jordan.

Here is the original text of the Jordanian law, in article 340 of the Jordanian penal code, before being modified in 2001:

According to Article 99, this allows for reducing the sentence (via Google Translate):

Part IV - Responsibility

Chapter II - in mitigating reasons

Mitigating causes

Article 99

If the case is found to be mitigating, the court may order:

1. Instead of execution for life or fifteen to twenty-five years.

2. A- Instead of life imprisonment, the same penalty shall be imposed from fifteen to twenty years.

(B) Instead of 20 years of imprisonment, the same penalty shall be imposed from twelve to fifteen years.

3. It may degrade any other criminal penalty by not more than one third.

4. Except in the case of repetition, it may also reduce any sentence of a minimum of three years to a minimum of one year imprisonment.

5. If the court takes the mitigating reasons, it is not obliged to go down to the minimum penalty.
This is so embedded in Jordanian law, that it was even applied to a Jordanian who murdered his American wife in the US in 1994:
Mohammad Abequa, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan, confessed Wednesday in an Amman courtroom that he strangled his estranged wife in her New Jersey apartment in July. Abequa, 46, said he killed his 40-year-old Turkish-born wife, Nihal, to protect his honor, an argument accepted by Jordanian courts as a reason for a reduced sentence. He is charged with murdering his wife, whose body was found July 4 in the apartment in the community of Parsippany Troy-Hills, as well as kidnapping his children, Lisa, 6, and Sami, 3. Abequa brought the children to Jordan after his wife's death. In what was seen as an effort to get a reduced sentence, Abequa told a crowded courtroom that he lost his temper when his wife told him that the man leaving her house as he arrived was her boyfriend. 'I asked her who the man was, and she told me it was her boyfriend and showed me a new tattoo on her thigh that he gave her,' Abequa said. [emphasis added]At the time, the article contended that though Abequa could face the death penalty in Jordan if he was found guilty of murder, he might be able to avoid execution if he could convince the court that it was an 'honor killing.'
But judicial sources doubted Abequa would receive a reduced sentence because the highly publicized case has been the focus of U.S. interest and personal attention from Jordan's King Hussein.Those sources were wrong.

In 2000, The New York Times reported:
It was troubling enough to the victim's family that Mohammad Abequa, who murdered his wife in New Jersey in 1994 and fled to Jordan with their two young children, was sentenced to only 15 years by a Jordanian court.

But then yesterday came the news that the confessed killer had been pardoned for his crime after serving five years in prison, and had been set free.So how to begin to deal with this tragic injustice embedded in Jordanian law?

Blame France.

In an interview with Reem Abu Hassan, a lawyer and former minister of Social Development in Jordan, we are told that honor killings have nothing at all to do with Islam.
“We discovered that (Jordan) had taken this article from the Syrian penal code, which was taken from the French penal code,” Hassan explained. “So the basis for it was France: French law, not Islamic, nor Arabic.”

She noted: “Of course, France had abolished this article, and honor crimes were never again a problem the French legal system had to face.”

I realized how damaging colonization has been.

I felt a surprising sense of pain — but also hope — at this revelation. It made me realize just how damaging colonization has been for the Middle East.Let's put aside the irony of the long history of the colonization by the Islamic expansionism that itself reached as far as France.

Is there a basis for Jordan blaming France?
Then how to explain how widespread honor killing is within the Arab world?

The Arab News article quoted above provides the following chart

Is the influence of France really that widespread?
Are these honor killings just another manifestation of the kind of abuse found the world over?

That is what Rashida Tlaib would have us believe:

Are honor killings just another form of domestic violence?

Phylis Chesler, an American writer, psychotherapist, and professor emerita of psychology and women's studies at the College of Staten Island, takes a closer look at the distinction between honor killings and domestic violence, noting that
The frequent argument made by Muslim advocacy organizations that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam and that it is discriminatory to differentiate between honor killings and domestic violence is wrong.She demonstrates that there are differences, and that honor killings are in fact to an alarming degree an Islamic phenomenon. One key difference between domestic violence and Islamic honor killings is that unlike honor killers who tend not to be condemned by Muslim society

the batterer-murderer is seen as a criminal; no one defends him as a hero. Such men are often viewed as sociopaths, mentally ill, or evil.Here is a chart from Chesler's 2009 article Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence? outlining the differences:

Honor Killings Domestic Violence Committed mainly by Muslims against Muslim girls/young adult women. Committed by men of all faiths usually against adult women. Committed mainly by fathers against their teenage daughters and daughters in their early twenties. Wives and older-age daughters may also be victims, but to a lesser extent. Committed by an adult male spouse against an adult female spouse or intimate partner. Carefully planned. Death threats are often used as a means of control. The murder is often unplanned and spontaneous. The planning and execution involve multiple family members and can include mothers, sisters, brothers, male cousins, uncles, grandfathers, etc. If the girl escapes, the extended family will continue to search for her to kill her. The murder is carried out by one man with no family complicity. The reason given for the honor killing is that the girl or young woman has "dishonored" the family. The batterer-murderer does not claim any family concept of "honor." The reasons may range from a poorly cooked meal to suspected infidelity to the woman's trying to protect the children from his abuse or turning to the authorities for help. At least half the time, the killings are carried out with barbaric ferocity. The female victim is often raped, burned alive, stoned or beaten to death, cut at the throat, decapitated, stabbed numerous times, suffocated slowly, etc. While some men do beat a spouse to death, they often simply shoot or stab them. The extended family and community valorize the honor killing. They do not condemn the perpetrators in the name of Islam. Mainly, honor killings are seen as normative. The batterer-murderer is seen as a criminal; no one defends him as a hero. Such men are often viewed as sociopaths, mentally ill, or evil. The murderer(s) do not show remorse. Instead, they experience themselves as "victims," defending themselves from the girl's actions and trying to restore their lost family honor. Sometimes, remorse or regret is exhibited. The difference is more than between the Arab world and the West. There is also a distinction between Islam and other religions:
Families that kill for honor will threaten girls and women if they refuse to cover their hair, their faces, or their bodies or act as their family's domestic servant; wear makeup or Western clothing; choose friends from another religion; date; seek to obtain an advanced education; refuse an arranged marriage; seek a divorce from a violent husband; marry against their parents' wishes; or behave in ways that are considered too independent, which might mean anything from driving a car to spending time or living away from home or family. Fundamentalists of many religions may expect their women to meet some but not all of these expectations. But when women refuse to do so, Jews, Christians, and Buddhists are far more likely to shun rather than murder them. Muslims, however, do kill for honor, as do, to a lesser extent, Hindus and Sikhs.A year later, in an article describing a study that she did on Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings, Chesler dug deeper. She did a study of honor killings, analyzing 172 incidents and 230 honor-killing victims where 100 of the victims were murdered in the West and 130 additional victims were murdered in the Muslim world.

Her findings reflected the Arab News graph in how widespread honor killings are in the Muslim world.

The perpetrators and victims lived in 29 countries or territories: Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Gaza Strip, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the West Bank.

The conclusion:In this study, worldwide, 91 percent of perpetrators were Muslims. In North America, most killers (84 percent) were Muslims, with only a few Sikhs and even fewer Hindus perpetrating honor killings; in Europe, Muslims comprised an even larger majority at 96 percent while Sikhs were a tiny percentage. In Muslim countries, obviously almost all the perpetrators were Muslims. With only two exceptions, the victims were all members of the same religious group as their murderers.You cannot pin this all on France.

Here is the Jordanian law in Article 340 again, this time with revisions made in 2010:

Now the law specifies that the killing has to be done "immediately," apparently to allow for this to be a crime of passion as opposed to being premeditated.

Also, now in the spirit of evenhandedness, the woman is allowed to kill her husband as well, but without mentioning other relatives as is allowed to the man.

But the point of all this is not about nitpicking.

This is about dealing with the problem of honor killing by addressing the problem itself. Treating honor killings as just another manifestation of domestic abuse just avoids the issue and fails to understand this for what it is. That is why these public grassroots protests are an important step towards attacking the problem. There is more to be done than just applying a bandage to the existing law.

Now there are signs that people are beginning to realize that.

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Categories: Middle East

Israel Did Nothing To Create Hezbollah -- But Arafat Did

Daled Amos - Wed, 11/09/2019 - 16:01
With its recent clash with Israel, Hezbollah is again in the news. But for all of the attention Hezbollah gets, there are still elements of its history that remain ignored -- or just misrepresented.

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has written extensively about Hezbollah as well as Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Recently, Iran announced sanctions against the think tank itself.

In his article, The Secret History of Hezbollah, Badran writes that while the Hezbollah mythology claims that the group was founded in 1982, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, as a resistance group to the Israeli invasion that year -- the truth is:
Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been joined at the hip from the very beginning, even before the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Because Hezbollah's origins are directly tied to the origins of Iran's Islamic Revolution, the terrorist group's own beginnings go back to the rivalry between Iranian revolutionary factions that opposed the shah of Iran. The conflicts between these factions played themselves out not only in Iran, but among their followers in Lebanon as well.

Why Lebanon?

In Arafat and the Ayatollahs, Badran traces the relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the PLO back to the late 1960s, when Arafat rose to power. After the shah's crackdown in 1963, Iranian opposition groups adopted guerrilla tactics against the shah and by the end of that decade made contact with the PLO in Qatar, as well as Iraq -- where Khomeini had been living since 1965. Iranian guerrilla organizations looked for training and made their way to PLO camps in Jordan and South Yemen.

But during the early to mid 1970s, Lebanon was especially valuable as a training ground for these groups because of its weak government and lack of control:
Even before Lebanon’s own system collapsed, and the country plunged into civil war, fueled in part by Palestinian weapons and ambitions, the country had become a training ground for revolutionaries from all over the world, and a magnet for cadres of the main Iranian revolutionary factions, from Marxists to theocrats and everything in between.Iranian revolutionary activists gravitated to Lebanon -- not because of any interest in the fact that Lebanon bordered Israel, but because of the weakness of the Lebanese government. At the time, Lebanon was home to the PLO too, which had been kicked out of Jordan in 1970 following 'Black September'. The PLO was free to run their military training camps. Those camps made it possible for the anti-shah groups to get military training and weapons, contact other revolutionary groups, form alliances, and establish networks to support their fight against the Iranian regime.

Another plus for these Iranian factions, was Lebanon’s large Shiite population, which included the influential Iranian cleric Musa al-Sadr, who helped many of the Iranian opposition groups. Down the road, the networks of both Sadr and the PLO would continue to be helpful after the Iranian revolution, during the power struggle between Iran’s revolutionary factions that followed. Also among the Iranian groups operating in Lebanon at the time was the Liberation Movement of Iran (LMI). One of its leading figures was Mostafa Chamran, who together with the LMI worked closely with Sadr.

Sadr relied on the PLO for training his Amal militia -- but again, not for the purpose of fighting Israel. Instead, with the onset of the Lebanese civil war, Sadr wanted to protect his and the Shiite community’s interests from the other Lebanese factions.

In fact, both Sadr and Chamran were ambivalent about the Palestinians and the divide between Sadr and the PLO widened further:
  • In 1976, Sadr supported Syria’s entry into Lebanon, which the PLO opposed
  • At the same time, Palestinian attacks on Israel from the south of Lebanon endangered the Shiite villagers which worried both Sadr and Chamran.
Meanwhile, the other main faction of Iranian revolutionaries operating in Lebanon consisted of the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. That group maintained close relations with the PLO, while mistrusting Sadr and the LMI. This is the faction would go on to become part of the Islamic Republic party after the Iranian revolution. Many of them also became top commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

According to PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with the Iranian revolutionaries, Khomeini's group fear of a coup following their victory, led to the creation of the IRGC, for which he took personal credit, claiming he was approached specifically to draft the plan to form what became the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime.

According to Badran:
The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. One of those associated with this Khomeinist faction was Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, a student of Khomeini who would play a critical role in the emergence of Hezbollah. Another important figure, Mohammad Saleh Hosseini, played a key role in forming Hezbollah and was a founding member of the IRGC. Hosseini and the Khomeini's followers recruited young Shiites who were pro-Khomeini who became the nucleus of Hezbollah. The most famous of these was Imad Mughniyeh, who went on to become the group’s military commander and the mastermind of many of Hezbollah’s most notorious operations, such as the Marine barracks bombing in 1983.

The tensions between the Sadr and Khomeini camps in Lebanon played out back in Iran after the revolution. And then in August 1978, Sadr disappeared during a trip to Libya.

After Sadr’s disappearance, events accelerated. The shah was forced to leave Iran in January 1979, leaving the way open for Khomeini to return to Iran a few weeks later in triumph. Soon after, the Islamic Republic party was formed, bringing together Khomeini’s followers and the founding of the Islamic Republic. They began calling themselves Hezbollah, to distinguish themselves from their rivals, the LMI and allied factions.

By the summer of 1981, the Islamic Republic party finished taking sole control of the government, and called themselves “the Hezbollahi government.”

Mohammad Saleh Hosseini was assassinated in Beirut in April 1981, but by then the assets that he and the top IRGC leadership had been cultivating in Lebanon since the mid-70s were consolidated. Mughniyeh was summoned to Iran to discuss providing training for Hezbollah and in 1982, an Iranian delegation arrived in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Badran writes:
In the conventional narrative of Hezbollah’s origins, it is the arrival of this contingent, the work it did there, and the men it trained that is typically said to signal the organization’s birth. However, by the time Dehghan, Mohtashami, and Mughniyeh engineered the October 1983 attack that killed 241 American servicemen, the Khomeinists had already been active in Lebanon for over a decade. [emphasis added]In effect, just as Khomeini and his followers took over control of the revolution in Iran, they did the same thing where it had all began, in Lebanon:
And now it was all coming full circle as Iran’s triumphant Islamic Republicans, Hezbollah, spawned their namesake in Lebanon.Arafat must have been thrilled.

His support for Khomeini and for Hizbollah seemed to bode well for the terrorist's influence with Iran. In fact, when he arrived in Tehran on February 17, 1979, he was the first “foreign leader” to be invited to visit Iran -- just days after the victory of the revolution.

Arafat and Khomeini, 1979
Arafat tried to exploit his new-found friendship, but just like he did in Jordan, Arafat soon made himself unwelcome.
  • Arafat tried to mediate the US Embassy hostage crisis, but his interference angered Khomeini, and made him suspicious.
  • The Iraq-Iran war only made things worse. Arafat could not afford to side with Iran against Iraq and risk losing the support of the Arab world that funded the PLO. He tried to mediate, but Khomeini refused to even see him.
In the end, Arafat's plans backfired:
By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned the Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.And Hamas, at least, seems to have made its peace with that.

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Categories: Middle East