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Archive for the ‘Jewish’ Category

Politics as usual. That’s what I should think. It happens all the time. People who hold important positions in the government of Israel act out of self-interest, for cheap political ends, as opposed to representing the people.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has long been a particularly disgusting individual of this sort. This past week he made an official request to bar Baruch Marzel from chairing the ballot committee in Um El-Fahem for “security concerns.” Mazuz is concerned that Marzel will offend the residents of Um El-Fahem to the level that the state is concerned for his safety. In this case, the police is responsible to prevent criminal activity. The police is required to stop anyone who want to harm Marzel. Mazuz is not supposed to instruct the state’s institutions to cave in the face of criminal threats.

If, as Mazuz claims, “Marzel’s very presence in the Arab village would be enough to set off a riot” then the legal issue is with said “Arab village” and not with Marzel, whose service as committee chairman is perfectly legal.

In spite of Mazuz’s attempt to evade responsibility, Eliezer Rivlin, who heads the Central Elections Committee turned down the Attorney General’s request. Rivlin is right on the money when he said “it was the authorities’ job to keep the peace regardless of those present at the ballot boxes,” and that if there is “evidence of a brewing riot the State should take the necessary measures to prevent it.”

The city of Um El-Fahem has announced that it will deliberately act the laws of Israel, “block all the entrances to the town and the police will bear the full responsibility for what goes on that day.” What is it that will happen that day? And why will it happen? “We shall urge all city residents to hit the streets and not allow him to enter.” A premeditated riot. So Mazuz has decided to attempt to capitulate, not deal with rioters.

Threats should be met with force, not with attempts to curtail Jewish freedom of movement in the Jewish state.

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Dati or Torani?

The community known as “national religious” (dati leumi) has been undergoing many changes over the past 30 or so years. This community, largely congruent with the religious Zionist movement, prides itself for having a “mixed community.” This means that men and women are not completely shielded from one another. However, over the years, a disconnect has been forming between the leadership and the members of the community. It has become more en vogue to be “more religious.” Bnei Akiva used to be an a priori desegregated youth group. Now, it is more prestigious in many places for a Bnei Akiva branch to be segregated. Group activities in such places are conducted for boys and girls separately. These communities usually also have segregated schools, as well, and not for pedagogical reasons.

In recent years, this trend has manifested itself in yet another way – the surge of Torani schools. This labeling carries with it yet more coercion. When such a school surfaces (usually by way of converting a Mamlachti Dati school), boys and girls are forceably segregated, and a community who had thought of itself as a dati leumi, wakes up and sees it has become hardal. Members of the community are afraid to speak up, for fear of public censure, for being seen as not religious enough.

Efrat Shapira-Rosenberg has written about such an experience, of waking up and finding she is suddenly “not religious enough.” (Hebrew) “The prevalent position in the dati community today is that torani people are the serious ones… Someone needs to get up, stop the flow, stop the inferiority feelings and the apologetics, and to stand proudly for what we are, and in what we believe.”

Much has been made in recent years of the fact that members of this community have taken up so many key leadership positions in the army, that so many serve in elite units, and so many volunteer and go to officers’ school. This community, however, is eating itself from the inside out. A move towards stringency is not always a good thing, andif you are strong in your beliefs, moving to the right does not make you stronger in those same beliefs.

People who do believe that being torani is good have every right to hold these beliefs. However, much more is happening here. New communities are not being founded on the basis of this ideology. Established communities are being told they are not truly religious, and being forced to change, against the will of most. The consequences of this coercion are manifold. At the very least, when the children in these places will see one thing at home, and learn another in school, many more will choose to just leave everything behind.

The religious Zionist community is an important part of Israel. However, sometimes the self-proclaimed leaders, “the Rabbis”, don’t always know best. Very often, in fact. As the Rabbi of my community once said, if we all listened to the Rabbis, there would be no State of Israel today. So if “the Rabbis” do not stand down, there will soon be a lot of people who are without a community, and the happily torani community will bear more than a passing resemblence to simply haredim who do serve in the army.

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What Now?

I’m still trying to figure out how enormous of a mistake was committed by entering into this “unilateral truce.” I’m afraid that in our neighborhood, where image sometimes matters more than the facts on the ground, the politicos may have undone any good the IDF worked so hard to achieve.

Apart from all of the lives lost and hurt on the Israeli side, there were many civilians killed. Yes, legally, those responsible for those deaths are Hamas, and no one else. Nevertheless, those death were justified in the name of removing the threat against Israel. What does it mean if we did not remove the threat? If the government did not even really try? Israel’s political system is beyond corrupt and self-serving. There is no accountability (and no, there really isn’t a word for accountability in Hebrew). More on that, though, in another post sometime soon.

In the meantime go check out a few blog carnivals / roundups:

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Ynet reports: “Israel declares unilateral Gaza truce.” Wrong. A truce cannot be unilateral. A truce is agreed upon. This a capitulation, yet another mistake in a long line of errors, collectively known as Olmert’s policies.

Regardless of why this operation was initiated, or why now, Hamas is an enemy that doesn’t only need to be “hit hard.” It needs to go. That is not an easy undertaking, but it is necessary. Nevertheless, the Israeli government is cowering in the face of international opinion, instead of even completing the limited task they set out for the IDF: stopping the rockets. How does Hamas respond? In words – The victims of this war will be the basis for the continuation of the fighting and hostility vis-à-vis the Israeli side.” And in actions – only today, several more rockets were launched at Be’er Sheva.

Finally, a military operation was finally started, again (as in 2006), and again the IDF will cease its fire while Gilad Schalit is still held by the enemy. The reason for Cast Lead is the same as the reason for its end: politics. The troika (Olmert, Livni, Barak) do want to lose to the Likud next month, and after Hamas did not cease its murder attempts for the past few years, they thought they could gain popular support by appealing to what the public wants just before the elections. Nevertheless, their campaign failed. Labor did rise slightly in the polls, but Kadima stayed at more or less the same level, still trailing Likud.

If this is the end of Cast Lead then it is a failure. Yes, many battles were won. Yes, Hamas’ capabilities have been severely damaged, and numerous key figures have been eliminated. However, if they still refuse to surrender, if they still disparage Israel by declaring “if this is all the strength they have, they failed in defeating the Palestinian people,” then Israel cannot claim to be victorious.

This “truce” will only serve to hurt Israel in the future. It will cost more Israeli lives. There was no legitimate strategy, were no real aims, from the very beginning. Nor is there a legitimate strategy in endng now. This is all very disheartening.

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Military and political aspects here, international opinion here, etymology of Cast Lead, and first, second, and third parts about the Arab World’s opinion, and the Israeli public’s reaction (at time of writing).

The reaction of the Jewish world in the diaspora to the events in Gaza has been, frankly, highly disappointing. Not extremely surprising, but disappointing nonetheless. I do not mean that I expected an outpouring of support for Israel, but at the very least, not to take an indefensible stand against Israel. Granted, most young American Jews don’t care about Israel very much, but, as a Zionist, I cannot help but express my disdain for opinions that, in effect, value Israel’s enemy over the lives of fellow Jews.

I attended a rally in support of Israel last week, in Washington D.C. No, I still don’t believe rallies and demonstrations from over here change much over there. However, I was pleased to see that most of the Jewish community and its leaders do support Israel and do support Israel’s self-defense. In the back of the room (the rally took place in a synogogue that is also used to host events from time to time), there were two girls holding up signs saying “Not in my name.” I wanted to say, that if that is how you think, and you say that from over here – then yes, Israel is not acting in your name, for you have effectively cut yourself off from the Jewish people. You have rendered yourself solely part of some amorphous group that calls itself “culturally Jewish,” or “Jew-ish.” Jews are a people, and don’t worry, Israel doesn’t act in your name, Israel acts in defense of the Jewish state.

About eight months ago, an organization by the name of J Street was founded, a left-wing political action committee on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East. They portend to represent the silent majority among American Jews, which I doubt. But if they do, American Jewry is even more hopeless than I thought. Relatively early during the Gaza campaign, they came out with a long statement, calling for an immediate end for violence in the region, and showed their utter lack of understanding when it comes to Israel:

While there is nothing “right” in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing “right” in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.

I could go on about how Israel is not “punishing” anyone. Punitive actions have not be carried out by Israel in decades. I could call them on the moral equivalency they, in effect, claim exists between Israel and Hamas’s actions. I could criticize their extreme naviete, at best, and at worst, their willingness to allow Israelis to be targets of Hamas’s antisemitism. However, others have done this for me. First, Eric Yoffie (president of the Union for Reform Judaism), not a man with whom I ordinarily agree, has responded to J Street directly, calling their statement “deeply distressing” and “morally deficient,” and he correctly sees the “Israeli government doing what it must to end rocket attacks against its citizenry.”

Another, much harsher, response to J Street, takes an extra step and calls them anti-Israel. Noah Pollack writes in Commentary’s blog, Contentions, and questions “any limits to [J Street’s] capacity for self-delusion about the nature of Hamas,” and declares: “It is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is — an anti-Israel group.” Even Jeffrey Goldberg, on the opposite end of the political spectrum from most of Commentary’s writers, said about their statement: “J Street Blows It.”

James Kirchick, also at Contentions, made the strongest argument against J Street. Since arguing with them point-by-point would be futile, Kirchick said this: “Street has the right to its extreme leftist, capitulationist opinions, but it does not have the right to claim, as Ben-Ami once did, that it represents the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews.’” Game. Set. Match. They have every right to their opinions. However, they represent, largely, well, themselves.

Another player on the Jewish world scene is blog, Jewschool. With the start of Cast Lead, this was posted. Advocating against Israeli self-defense, the writer preempts any intellectual discourse, calling it a “perverse game of rhetorical ping-pong,” and accuses Israel of “squeezing the life out of Gaza.” I might be not up to date on the latest terminology, but will someone please explain to me how allowing thousands of tons of medical supplies and food furthers a cause of “squeezing the life out of Gaza”? Not to mention the warnings, so that empty buildings will be hit, or the dud missiles, or the Gazans being treated by Israel, in Israeli facilities. But no, the Jewish world’s reaction is apparently another example of “protest oppression and human-rights abuse anywhere in the world, but are all too willing to give Israel a pass.” He accuses world Jewry of practicing a double-standard against Israel. Unbelievable.

While in France, and in New York people rally in defense of Israel, on sites such as Jewschool and in Canada Jewish groups attack “Israel’s massacre,” effectively in defense of Hamas. The Canadian group is either confusing or practicing demagoguery, drawing a false analogy between targeting civilians and implementing a ground offensive. With regards to larger organizations, here is JTA’s overview of their positions.

To sum up, most of world Jewry supports the operation, but an increasingly loud minority, claiming to represent more people than they actually do, has come out against Israel, not only from a strategic standpoint, but claiming Israel has no moral standing to act in self-defense.

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Haveil Havalim #200

The Harvey Edition, #200 is up, hosted by Jack.

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The Value of Birthright?

I  actually do think that Birthright has had a lot of positive consequences. While I am not aware of any studies on the topic, I do believe that the increase in North American aliyah is, at least somewhat, a result of Birthright. Many aspects of the program, however, remain unexamined. These include the value of such a massive investment of Jewish communal funds, and the marginal return on this incredible expense (costing the Israeli taxpayer, as well).

Talking:Loud::Saying Nothing raises a lot of these questions, and suggests how these vast sums of money might be better directed. Unfortunately, I do not see anything changing anytime soon, because Talking Loud’s proposal would, in effect, leave the diasporic Jewish organizations and leaders, community-less.

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