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Archive for the ‘Jewish’ Category

It’s no secret that antisemitism around the world is on an upswing. While the entrenched antisemitism in the Muslim world is disturbing, it is no surprise, and appears to be going nowhere. Over the past few decades, however, it was believed by many that antisemitism in the West was on its way out. From the unbridled antisemism of the torturers and murderers of Ilan Halimi, in the country of “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” in 2006, on the one hand, to poorly masked antisemitism at anti-Israel demonstrations, on the other, it is clear the Jews are very far from being “accord[ed] everything… as individuals.”

Even though organizations in the UK have been reporting an upswing even in things like mistreatment of Jewish schoolchildren by their classmates, overt acts of antisemitism seem, for the time being, to be out of the mainstream. Nevertheless, as Howard Jacobson writes in The New Republic, “in the spirit of the national conversation about Israel, in the slow seepage of familiar anti-Semitic calumnies into the conversation–there, it seems to me, one can find growing reason for English Jews to be concerned.” The British media has been adding to this concern, serving as a mouthpiece for what columnists who refer to Israeli “bloodlust” and compare Gazans to Jews in Auschwitz.

Yet it is not only on that side of the pond that the media is inching in a worrying direction. Roger Cohen of the overly esteemed New York Times, in a series of columns inexplicably intended to exculpate Iran and ward off an attack against the nascent nuclear theocracy, claims that the very presence of Jews of in Iran undermines the vision of Iran as “an apocalyptic regime.” This sounds like a grander version of the “some of my best friends are Jews” argument, offered in defense of Iran.

Jacobson rightly mentions Caryl Churchill as “accusing Jews of the same addiction to blood-spilling” in her libelous play, Seven Jewish Children. Her surprise at the invocation of blood libels in reference to her play “only demonstrates how unquestioningly integral to English leftist thinking the bloodlust of the Israeli has become.”

With regards to the future, Israel will continue to defend itself. That cannot, and should not, stop. Jews, the world over, will continue to bear some of the brunt of the anger against the Jewish state. And the latest increase in simple Jew-hatred will probably not dissipate anytime soon, ebbing and flowing in a seemingly eternal rhythm.

Modern Zionism came about as a response to the modern dangers, and the everpresent threat to the Jewish people. Over the past few decades, Jewish organizations, at least in the US, have chosen to focus on the danger of assimilation, “killing the Jews with love,” as some have quipped. The age-old dangers, however, are back.

Zionism, however, is more than simply a reaction – it is the independent expression of Jewish independence, by the Jewish people, subject to no one else. The legend, of the father of modern Zionism sparked to action by the French antisemitism exhibited in the Dreyfus trial, may or may not be accurate. In any case, antisemitism did play a big part in bringing about modern Jewish sovereignty.

No one enjoys being unwanted, persecuted, and worse. The popularity of Jews AS JEWS is not going to go up overnight. The obvious first answer, therefore, is Israel. But Jewish flight is not a positive image, and do we really want Jews to simply pick up and flee their current homes? On its face, maybe not. However, if antisemitism did finally help restore national independence last century, then perhaps that is the answer, the appropriate next step. Mass emigration from the Arab world, and the Soviet Union have happened. Is Western Aliyah next? However the question to be asked is not whence, but whither? Will en masse immigration to Israel, in effect, create a large ghetto in the Middle East – or will it be the next step, in what a friend of mine calls Jewish Renaissance?

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I’m probably paraphrasing badly, but someone once told me that the true sign of a liberal is that will stand for anyone’s belief – as long they agree they should have it. In other words, freedom of expression does not apply for those who differ from you. I would hope that is not true for all (who claim to be) proponents of civil liberties and freedom of speech, but it certainly seems to be the case when it comes to the criticism of religious soldiers in the IDF.

A few weeks ago, in an event marking the brigade’s performance in Operation Cast Lead, a group of religious, observant paratroopers left the event, in order to avoid listening to a woman singer. This was not out of protest, but because their belief is that halacha forbids for men to listen to a woman singing.

In response, the IDF chief education officer, Brigadier-General (tat-aluf) Gen. Eli Shermeister, “called the incident a ‘worrisome phenomenon’ that ‘should not be accorded continued legitimacy.'” Why should religious practices be delegitimized, according to an officer in the army of the Jewish state? Because allowing participants to leave an event “designed to foster group cohesion” would “defeat the purpose” of such an event. I don’t understand, if group cohesion is so important, wouldn’t an event acceptable to all members of the group be best suited to achieve such a goal?

Mordechai Keidar, in an opinion piece in Ynet, hits the nail on the head, “In a liberal state with free media, I would expect open and innovative thinking that would show tolerance to different people.” Where is this is tolerance?

Dr. Esther Herzog does not agree (Hebrew). She attributes “gross and ugly contempt exhibited by [Keidar’s] column towards the secular culture and educational system, that points more to ignorance and close-mindedness than to openness and cultural-social sensitivity.” How is she able to say that with a straight face? The only ones who exhibited a lack of sensitivity and close-mindedness here are those who dare to say that religious soldiers should not be permitted to practice religion.

Herzog continues, in essence calling Judaism chauvinistic, mischaracterizing the soldiers’ actions as “boycotting women.” She claims that accusing the secular community of a lack of values is a smokescreen for “discrimination, deprivation, and exploitation of women.” The differences between the religious and secular communities are much more than gender-based, and by characterizing everything she does not like as sexual discrimination, Herzog is crying wolf, and badly.

Keidar’s accusation that “a cultural vacuum [has been] imparted to a whole generation of young people by the secular education system” because of its “drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and the club culture,” is one that needs to be addressed, not deflected. It needs to be examined, for secular need not mean value-less, and should not mean anti-religious, either. And if Israel is really the “liberal state” it claims to be, then freedoms need to be accorded even to those with whom IDF event planners disagree.

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The fact that there is an ongoing PR war for Israel on campuses is no secret. A multitude of speakers, social events, editorials, student groups on both sides – all devoted to protecting or harming Israel’s reputation on campus in the West.

Much less known is how tarnished the image of Israel is in Israel itself. During Operation Cast Lead large demonstrations were held in places like the University of Haifa and Hebrew University, waving enemy flags and accusing Israel of committing massacres in Gaza.

If it were simple that then it would not be so alarming. Freedom of speech is an important value, and protesters, comprised of a minority group of enemy sympathizers, will only anger the Zionist majority, thereby undermining their own cause. However, these sentiments are not checked at the door to the lecture hall.

A recent study by Im Tirtzu* illustrates a worrisome picture of higher education in Israel. The study is not short, and is important for the understanding some of the reasons behind the abandonment of Zionism in favor of pseudo-universalism. However, the most important findings concern materials assigned in classes that deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Six well known, and relatively well-represented, scholars were chosen and syllabi from classes at Israeli universities were examined to see which of these scholars’ work was assigned, and how many times. These scholars are, on one side, Baruch Kimmerling (read Benny Morris review, destorying Kimmerling’s book), Uri Ram (proudly “post-Zionist”), and Edward Said (need I say more?). On the other side, are Amnon Rubinstein (legal scholar, former Meretz MK, who has written widely on Zionism), Ruth Gavison (law professor who has also written on the dilemma of Jewish-Democratic state), and Shlomo Avineri (written widely on political philosophy, as well as Zionism).

Of these scholars, Kimmerling’s work was assigned 23 times, Uri Ram’s 10 times and Edward Said – four times. Ruth Gavison, Amnon Rubinstein and Shlomo Avineri’s work, combined, was only assigned seven times.

The study also looked at academic publications by the political science departments of universities, and found that, overall, nearly 80% of studies published are either anti-Zionist or anti-nationalist in general.

Academic freedom is important. Very important. Repressing that freedom is bad. However, if Zionism stands on solid grounds, and is based on historical facts (and it does), then Israel’s students are being taught by professors who harbor more than just a bias against Israel. They are misleading, at best, and at worst – lying.

In any case, the question must be raised – how is it, that in Israel, of all places, this is happening practically unnoticed?

*The link does not work now, because Im Tirtzu’s website is temporarily (I hope) down.

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I’ve waited a few days to post this, in hopes that an English-language newspaper will pick it up, but it appears to be completely off the radar. Israel prides itself on being the Jewish home, where Jews always have been and always will be welcome, regardless of any other factor. Especially the color of their skin. Nevertheless, the residents of at least one neighborhood in Ashkelon seem to think they are living in the past. America’s past.

Ynet published an article (but only in Hebrew) about a couple trying to buy a home in Ashkelon. Their real estate agent tried to inquire about an apartment, on behalf of the couple, who are of Ethiopian origin, and was given a rather rude awakening by the owner who was trying to sell his apartment.

“There are no Ethiopians in this area. Never have been and never will be. That is our policy…anyone can come, but not Ethiopians. The whole building is like this. I hope so, at least, in order to maintain the value of the apartment and the value of the building.”

Apparently, this is not news to city hall. Former Deputy Mayor Avi Vaknin said he has “encountered this phenomenon numerous times, and shocked every time.” He also added that it is good that it is being “revealed in all of its ugliness because only [that] will help fight such ugly phenomenons.” Really? That’s the only way to fight this? This, coming from a city hall official (albeit former). I don’t understand.

Not only has this been going on for years, but the media does not think it is even newsworthy. That’s a great Aliyah draw.

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googleelectionsEarly results are trickling in (official Knesset site, but only in Hebrew), and calculations of electoral math has begun. Results, which have been relatively stable seem to suggest that the largest party will be Kadima, headed by Livni, with 28 seats. Yet, she will only be able to claim the premiership if one of the parties to her right sells out.

Right now, the Left-wing bloc (Kadima, Labor, Meretz, Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad) has 55 seats. In theory, this would mean Livni has seven fewer seats than she needs for a majority. However, Ahmed Tibi, of Balad, said before the elections that the Arab parties would not help Livni form a bloc, no matter the price. This effectively leaves Livni with a 48-seat bloc.

In the past, Shas has joined a Left-wing government, and seemed willing to do so only a few short months ago, when Livni was tasked with forming a coalition following Olmert’s resignation. She refused to give into Shas’ demands (monetary and Jerusalem), and today was the result. One of her biggest selling points during the campaign was that she refused to capitulate to Shas.

Furthermore, Shas chairman, Eli Yishai (projected: 11 seats), said tonight that “there is no doubt that the people have chosen the Right,” (Hebrew source) implying they would throw their support behind Netanyahu, and not Livni. Then again, Shas has shown in the past that in return for Shas’ support, one must only, literally, pay a price. And even then Livni will only have 59 seats (maybe 63, if Hadash votes along with Shas).

The other kingmaker in these elections is the man the media loves to hate – Yisrael Beitenu chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, and his projected 15 seats. While he did say that he prefers a Right-wing coalition, he refused to endorse either Netanyahu nor Livni. I think that is more of a power play than anything else. The odds of Livni forming a coalition with him are not particularly high. Livni would have a hard time convincing Labor, not to mention Meretz (3 seats), to join such a coalition. This coalition would be pretty unstable, only narrowly adding up to a majority, with 63 seats (unless pigs start flying and Hadash sits in the same government with Lieberman, making it 67). It is more likely that Lieberman is trying to play hard to get, in order to squeeze a better coalition deal out of Netanyahu.

There are two remaining scenarios paving Livni’s way to the Prime Minister’s Office. The first is highly unlikely – Likud joining a Kadima-led coalition. The scenarios I have already described, all lead to a quick collapse of the government and the Knesset, with elections yet again on the horizon. If he joined Livni’s government, he would only be breathing life into a government comatose before it would even be sworn into office, not to mention he has already declared victory.

The last option Livni has is a rotation government. In such an arrangement, she would serve as PM for two years, and then Netanyahu would serve for two years (or vice versa), or some other similar schedule of rotation. This sort of agreement would not be unprecedented, as Yitzchak Shamir and Shimon Peres had a similar agreement in the early 1980s.

This would only happen, though, if Netanyahu would truly be convinced that he could not form the coalition on his own. Despite calls for a unity government during the campaign, if Netanyahu is able to maintain the support the 65-seat Right-wing bloc, Peres will have no choice but to nominate him to head the next government. In the meantime, however, more chaos shall ensue.

EDIT: The soldiers’ votes will only be counted Thursday, and with nearly 200,000 votes (though many vote in their regular polling places, so the numbers are still unclear) they have the potential to change the results by a few seats.

EDIT2: Numbers have been changed to reflect the latest, slightly different results (100% in, as of now – but in Israel, as in Israel – numbers are not yet final).

EDIT3: It should be recalled that, in 2001, Netanyahu essentially gave up the premiership to Sharon, arguing that he could not form a coalition on the basis of already formed Knesset (elected in 1999, with Barak). Considering Sharon’s meteoric rise and mega-stature since, one can only assume that he has regretted that moment ever since. History is a powerful motivator. He will not let this one slip by, and I think he will do everything in his power to prevent Livni from assuming the country’s highest office – even if the current chaos deteriorates into new elections without any new government.

UPDATE: Jameel adds an accurate clarification, that the “100%” of votes tallied, does not include special ballots (soldiers, diplomats, sailors, prisoners and hospital patients.)

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Israel pretends to be a free country. However, it seems that when things get a little difficult, the authorities prefer to capitulate in the face of threats, rather than live up to their responsibilities.

Last week, Justice Eliezer Rivlin turned down Mazuz’s request to deny Baruch Marzel from officiating as chairman of the ballot committee in Um El-Fahem. Rivlin, head of the Central Elections Committee was exactly right when he said “it was the authorities’ job to keep the peace regardless of those present at the ballot boxes.”

In spite of this, the police decided they were not part of these authorities, those who have a responsibility to actively keep the peace, and Marzel was banned from entering a city in the State of Israel. Israel is now an independent state, but an Israeli citizen can be banned from traveling lawfully around his own country, because of views he harbors. If there is legitimate fear his appearance will cause riots – those who riot need to be arrested and brought to justice. Apparently not in Israel.

Arieh Eldad, National Union Knesset Member, went to Um El-Fahem, as Marzel’s replacement on the ballot committee. Yet, it seems that even an MK cannot be safe in Um El-Fahem, and he had to request a police escort, in order to leave the city safely.

The city’s leadership, however, responded in favor criminal activity, “they tricked us and brought in Eldad instead of Marzel,” said Apu Agbaria, a representative of Hadash. If you do not like what he has to say, or what he stands for – protest, vote, go on strike. Do not, however, try and claim that banning him from entering Um El-Fahem is, in any way, acceptable. If Ahmed Tibi were banned from entering Modi’in, for example, because of fear of rioters, what would the public’s reaction be?

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Over at Esser Agaroth, the 203rd edition of Haveil Havalim.

Happy Tu Bishvat

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