Sunday, March 17, 2024

Clarity Over Stabbing Israel in the Back

Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer (The Hill)
The following is a statement from the Agudah about Senator Schumer's recent remarks. They are exactly right and their statement follows in its entirety:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has a long and distinguished record of strongly supporting the security and welfare of the State of Israel and its citizens. Understanding the millennia-old plight and oppression of the Jewish people, his love and devotion toward Israel are intense and deeply personal. He feels the existential threat that Israel faces and the hate and viciousness that surround her. The pain of Israel, as experienced before and after October 7, is his own. And Israel’s desire for peace, too, is his own. Anyone who knows Senator Schumer, and who reads the words of his major address on Middle East peace, knows this to be true.

We are saddened, though, that important aspects of Senator Schumer’s address crossed a line. Indeed, it was the wrong message at the wrong time.

Putting aside the various policy pronouncements and analyses included in his statement, we are deeply concerned that the Senator directly intervened in the internal affairs of a sovereign foreign nation, a robust democracy, and a staunch American ally, by explicitly calling for new Israeli elections and more than intimating what he believes the outcome of those elections should be.

He further asserted that, if there are no new elections in Israel or if new elections in Israel do not result in an outcome that accords with his preferred policy perspectives, then the United States “will have no choice” but to leverage its aid to Israel in a manner that will exert pressure on Israel to divert its actions from what it deems to be in the nation’s best interests and the elected will of the people.

 These intrusive assertions by Senator Schumer would be inappropriate, offensive, and counterproductive at any time. But leveling accusations and criticisms against a steadfast friend during a time of war will only further endanger Israel’s soldiers while they are fighting and dying in pursuit of eradicating the scourge of terrorism.

As the U.S.’s highest-ranking Jewish elected official ever, Senator Schumer has surely reached a pinnacle in American politics. But assuming the role of speaking on behalf of “a silent majority” of American Jewry goes too far. He has no such authority or power. If anything, his historic role and high station in our nation confer upon him the responsibility to carefully heed his words and use them wisely.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Orthodox Judaism and LGBTQ: Upholding Tradition and Moral Principles

By ChatGPT,  'Guest Contributor'

The following post was written in seconds by an Artificial Intelligence program called ChatGPT. I present it here in its entirety without having altered a single word. As always the views expressed do not necessarily reflect my own. But they sure seem to. It follows in its entirety (Scary!):

The relationship between Orthodox Judaism and LGBTQ rights has been an ongoing topic of discussion and introspection within religious circles. Orthodox Jews face the challenge of maintaining their deeply rooted traditions while navigating the evolving societal understanding of human sexuality and gender identity. In this opinion piece, we will explore the complexities surrounding this relationship, highlighting the importance of upholding tradition and moral principles.

Orthodox Judaism places a strong emphasis on the adherence to Halakha, the Jewish religious law. It is this commitment to Halakha that serves as the foundation of Orthodox Jewish life. Within this framework, Orthodox teachings traditionally view same-sex relationships as incompatible with Halakha, reflecting the timeless values and moral principles that guide the community.

For LGBTQ individuals within the Orthodox community, reconciling their sexual orientation or gender identity with religious teachings can be a deeply personal and challenging process. The Orthodox Jewish approach, rooted in the belief that Halakha represents the divine will, often necessitates a delicate balance between religious devotion and personal identity.

Despite the inherent tensions, it is important to appreciate the commitment of Orthodox Jews to their religious principles and the moral framework they uphold. Their adherence to tradition is not borne out of bigotry or prejudice, but rather from a sincere desire to live in accordance with what they believe to be the will of God.

While Orthodox Judaism may be perceived as conservative on LGBTQ issues, it is vital to recognize that the community has not turned a blind eye to the struggles faced by LGBTQ individuals within its midst. Many Orthodox rabbis and scholars have engaged in thoughtful and compassionate conversations, seeking to provide support and guidance while staying true to the tenets of Halakha.

Efforts have been made within the Orthodox community to foster understanding and inclusion without compromising deeply held beliefs. Organizations have emerged to create safe spaces, facilitate respectful dialogue, and offer resources to LGBTQ individuals and their families, allowing them to navigate their personal journeys within the bounds of Orthodoxy.

The principles of Emes Ve-Emunah, truth and faith, remain central to these discussions. Orthodox Jews grapple with sincere explorations of Halakha, acknowledging the complexities surrounding LGBTQ issues while remaining grounded in their commitment to tradition. By engaging in respectful dialogue and deepening their understanding, Orthodox Jews demonstrate their unwavering dedication to upholding the teachings and values that have guided them throughout generations.

The relationship between Orthodox Judaism and LGBTQ rights is undoubtedly intricate and multifaceted. It requires navigating a delicate balance between upholding tradition and embracing the evolving realities of human experiences. Orthodox Jews strive to maintain their fidelity to Halakha while recognizing the challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals and their families.

As we reflect on this ongoing discourse, it is essential to approach it with respect and empathy, acknowledging the deeply held beliefs and moral principles that guide the Orthodox community. By fostering an environment of understanding and compassion, Orthodox Judaism can continue to evolve and navigate this complex landscape, while remaining true to the rich tapestry of tradition that has sustained the community for centuries.

In upholding tradition and moral principles, Orthodox Judaism seeks to preserve its values while engaging in thoughtful and compassionate discussions on LGBTQ issues. By doing so, the Orthodox community aims to create an environment where all individuals are respected and valued, fostering a vibrant and inclusive community that remains steadfast in its commitment to tradition.


Monday, July 25, 2022

The Radically Changing Face of Religious Zionism

Far-right MKs Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and Bezalel Smotrich (TOI)
This article in the Times of Israel by Rabbi Yosef Blau explains the changes in Religious Zionism that have taken place since pre state days. And they are stark.  It follows in its entirety and should be read by anyone that cares about the holy land.

The Israeli party most opposed to the inclusion of an Arab party in the governing coalition was the Religious Zionist party. Its leadership vetoed former prime minister Netanyahu’s attempt to create a government when he was making tracks to rely on the support of an Arab party. The pressure put on religious Zionist members of the Bennett government focused on the inclusion of that same Arab party, as it happens, in the coalition, and indeed led to the government’s demise. Opposing a particular Arab party may be justified, but this blanket rejection of any Arab party simply for being an Arab party reflects a problematic perspective when it comes to minority rights.

This position of the Religious Zionist party diverges radically from the original approach of religious Zionism (the movement, not the party that took the movement’s name), when it came to Jewish law (halakhah) and minority rights. In the early years of the State of Israel, the major rabbinic figures of the religious Zionist world all justified giving minorities –Arabs too – full rights, including the ability to be elected to government positions.

Indeed, even before the state was established, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook permitted the sale of land in Israel to Muslims, as an essential component of the “heter mechirah,” selling the land of Israel to a non-Jew during the sabbatical year. He thereby enabled Jewish farmers to work the land despite the shemitah requirement that the land lie fallow – a key compromise to achieve success in the resettlement of the land.

Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, the Ashkenazic chief rabbi when Israel was established, wrote a lengthy article justifying awarding full political rights to all minorities in the new state. Rabbi Uziel, in the comparable Sephardic role, agreed – and to the extent that he thought that Rabbi Herzog’s long written justification of minority rights was problematic, it was because the very effort implied that these rights were ever in doubt. At least six different halakhic rationales were employed by different religious Zionist rabbis to explain why minorities should have full rights in Israel (see Minorities in the State of Israel: The Halakhic View, by E. Haddad, 2010, Hebrew).

By 1985, the leadership of one of Israel’s foundational religious Zionist youth groups, Bnei Akiva, put out a book, “חביב אדם שנברא בצלם; לקט מקורות ומאמרים לברור היחס לנוכרי ומעמדו בארץ” (“Beloved is Man for He was Created in God’s Image: A sourcebook on attitudes towards foreigners and their status in Israel”) to help participants understand the rights of non-Jews in the Jewish state, and to clarify the potentially troubling statements in rabbinic literature that appear to disparage non-Jews. The endeavor implies that there were those who confronted the Bnei Akiva youth (or were a concern for the future) wielding citations from rabbinic literature to “prove” that non-Jews (in this case, surely Arabs) should not have full rights. The religious Zionist leadership clearly disagreed, and set out to teach the young people of the community to defend the state’s provision of full rights for minorities.

Bnei Akiva should not have had to work so hard. Israel’s Declaration of Independence – a binding commitment, surely – describes Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, and also presents the state as democratic, giving full rights to minorities.

How far did the binding commitment of the Declaration of Independence go? Rabbi Yehuda Amital believed it created a halakhic obligation, similar to the one the biblical Joshua was under with regard to the Givonim, a people who were welcome to live in the Israelites’ domain – essentially as Members of the Tribe (with a few salient differences when it came to particulars of marriage, the priesthood, and so on).

Even the United Nations 1947 Partition Plan, aimed at creating two states for Jews and Arabs, also presumed that the result would be two democratic states.

But some key elements shifted some Israelis, indeed, some religious Zionists, away from the givens of democracy. Perhaps it began with the interpretation of the remarkable military victory of the Six Day War as miraculous. In contrast to the UN’s role in Israel’s creation, which seemed a reasonable outcome of very human geopolitical negotiations – despite the halakhic significance that some rabbis attached to the UN decision at the time – the military routing of Israel’s enemies in such a dramatic way suggested divine intervention as the basis for the military superiority of the Jewish state.

And that youth group training was right on the money. It was in the mid-1980s that new rabbinic voices began to emerge, with a different take on Israel’s geopolitical reality. These rabbis were students of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook (son of Rabbi A. I Kook cited above), a strong opponent to the notion of Israel returning any of the land it had gained during the Six Day War. But adding that territory to Israel would more than double the percentage of Arabs in the local population. That “influx” would threaten the Jewish character of the Jewish state if granted full democratic rights. And so Rabbi Zvi Yehuda’s disciples began to question the extent and the nature of the rights given to the Arab minority – one rabbi, Elisha Aviner, attempted a distinction between individual rights and national rights, to alleviate the potential challenges to come.

The sense of miraculous in 1967 also gave rise to an increase in messianic anticipation – a feeling that the Jewish people were on the brink of redemption in a more immediate way than the creation of the state itself had let people believe. With confidence in Israel’s military superiority and the feeling of better things on the horizon, many in the religious Zionist camp began to turn away from the outside world. Values and priorities became centralized in the Jewish world. Democracy began to be perceived as a Western value – that is, not necessarily a Jewish one. It is a short step from rejecting democratic principles to removing, or reducing, the civil rights of minorities.

To be clear: not all religious Zionist rabbis and thinkers made this shift, but it has become entrenched in the religious Zionist community. Perhaps the most dramatic confirmation of that is the approbation some rabbis gave to Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 mass shooting of Arabs who were praying in Hebron. Arabs were recast as enemies and potential terrorists – inherently.

By 2010, a rabbinical degree prohibited selling or renting property to Arabs – a direct contradiction of Rabbi Abraham Kook’s position on selling land. His ruling about the status of Muslims was simply ignored. And when Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein opposed the prohibition, its supporters challenged his halakhic stature because he accepted the possibility of trading territory for peace, rejecting his stance on the one question because of disdain for his views in an unrelated area.

The religious Zionist community is not monolithic, and Rabbi Lichtenstein’s students and supporters are an important component of it. A substantial number of religious Zionists sit in the Knesset in an array of parties outside of the Religious Zionist party, after all. But the party that bears the community’s name represents a different, and potentially larger (the numbers are not clear) segment of Israeli society. Were the next election held today, polls indicate that the Religious Zionist party would win 10 seats. And if the party were headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir, it would win even more.

The obvious implications of the growing adherence to the perspective of the Religious Zionist party are political. But the struggle to define the halakhic perspective of religious Zionism with regard to minority rights in Israel, and democracy overall, has broader significance. The religious Zionists who helped found the State of Israel were not isolationists, and their approach to minorities was a singular reflection of that. But in the current milieu, the question of whether one can approach the modern world through a prism of Torah when that modern world is being rejected in the name of Torah is of particular concern.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Sex Abuse - The False Narrative of False Reporting

by Shana Aaronson

Shana Aaronson (TOI)
It's been awhile since I've posted anything here. But when this important Times of Israel article caught my eye, I felt it imperative to pass it along.  Shana's words speaks for themselves. So without further comment, they follow: 

When you work in sexual assault advocacy, you are privy to an endless amount of inaccurate information that gets thrown around, whether it be on the internet or shared at the shabbos table.

Inaccurate and misleading information is always damaging. But if I had to point to just one issue where myths do by far the most damage in the fight against sexual abuse and assault, it’s those surrounding false reports. Calling out those who intentionally promote myths around false reporting is perhaps one the most effectives ways to give those abused the confidence to come forward and seek justice. 

“The #MeToo movement was so important and no one is a bigger feminist than me, but it’s open season on men now. Anyone can get angry at anyone and accuse them of abusing them and there are no measures in place to protect men from false allegations.”

“So many men’s lives have been ruined by false reports; there’s an epidemic of false allegations”

“I know it’s just a matter of time before some woman accuses me of something!”

“The longer I work in education the more likely I know it is that some student is going to say I was inappropriate with them.”

“I’m happy to allow a victim to go to the police if the abuse really happened, but there are so many cases of false allegations that you have to make sure it really happened first!”

Have you ever heard any of the above? I have. I’ve heard variations of every one of those sentences, on at least one occasion, by influential people in our communities.

Obviously, false reports can have severe consequences and ramifications on an innocent person’s life… which is exactly why there *are* so many measures in place to make sure they don’t go anywhere. 

When a victim makes a report, they are questioned extensively by the police. Indictments can not be filed based on vague allegations; they need specific descriptions of abuse, on specific dates (or at least a close approximation of the date of the incident) with as many details as possible. This is incredibly difficult for victims to recount, because traumatic memories just don’t lend themselves well to this kind of recall. But this is the law, and this is how the system works. I have watched detectives sit with victims for hours while they try to verbalize and sometimes physically simulate the horrific actions perpetrated against their bodies and souls. I have sat with victims pouring over diaries and journals, recounting holidays and birthdays marred by sexual assault, all in an effort to give law enforcement the necessary timeline.

Because when you accuse someone of assault, the unspeakable needs to be spoken… or else the case gets thrown out. 

I will not even get into the confrontation process, or to court testimonies, because *the vast majority of cases don’t even make it that far*. I’ll get to that shortly. 

So that’s all good and fine when it comes to police reports, you might say. But what about the media? They accuse people all the time! 

Do they though? I’ve worked with tens of journalists, and participated in numerous exposes of sex offenders and predators. The investigative process and due diligence is strict and extensive, to say the least. Media outlets have deep pockets which make them very attractive targets for libel and slander lawsuits. Mainstream media outlets have a legal TEAM devoted to protecting them, and those lawyers review every such allegation before it airs. And by “reviews”, I mean goes through with a fine tooth comb. They require multiple victims to be willing to share their stories on the record. They require recordings or documentation, endless corroboration. The vast majority of cases known to journalists never see the light of day because they can’t get enough evidence to meet the incredibly high standards set by their legal departments. 

And let’s talk about Israel’s slander laws for a moment. Israel has some incredibly restrictive laws with regard to slander and defamation. By “restrictive”, I mean the laws make it far easier to sue than in other places, like the US. For example, you do not need to prove that you were damaged in order to sue for defamation in Israel. Cases are virtually never thrown out during pre-trial motions, so pretty much anyone can sue anyone if they can point to even remote slander against them. Now they may lose, but abusers frequently count on victims panicking and dropping their allegations when confronted with the prospect of a lawsuit. Because even if you’ll win in the end – it’s a headache, expensive, and pretty darn terrifying if you’ve never dealt with the legal system before. 

Speaking from personal experience – I’ve been sued or involved in lawsuits more than once and it’s one of the less pleasant experiences I’ve had. Bearing in mind that I am a well-connected (in this area) professional with an organization and a team of professionals and a board of directors and insurance and several lawyers… And it has still been incredibly unpleasant, time-consuming and stressful. If you’re a traumatized victim of sexual abuse with little financial resources, just working up the courage to tell your story – and you’re slapped with a lawsuit… you’re terrified.  

In all of the years that I’ve been working in this field and all the hundreds (thousands??) of victims I’ve spoken to, I have been privy to exactly three instances of cases that may have been false reports. 

In all three cases, no one’s life was ruined by the false report. In the worst case scenario, the whole situation amounted to a very awkward conversation or two for the accused. 

But you know what I’ve seen hundreds (thousands) of? 

Cases closed due to “lack of evidence”. 

Journalists dropping stories because they couldn’t gather enough evidence to publish. 

Victims not being believed due to the abuser manipulating and grooming the community.

Victims terrified to get help because of social stigma. 

Abusers going on to abuse and prey on others because initial allegations were not taken seriously. 




Claiming “there is nothing stopping anyone from accusing anyone of abuse or assault” is a ridiculous distortion of reality.

So what about numbers?

Your children (both male and female) have a one in 5 chance of being molested before they turn 18 (in Israel, that’s boys and girls). You (if you’re a woman) and the women in your life have a 1 in 6 chance of being the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. As a man, you have a 1 in 6 chance of being the victim of sexual molestation, assault, or attempted assault in your lifetime.  (For these and other statistics, visit and

And out of actual 1,000 assault cases, .07 false reports of sexual assault will be made to the police. 

Put simply, focusing on false allegations is like the statistical equivalent of refusing to wear a seatbelt because of those rare cases when people are killed in an accident because of their seatbelt. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s horrific. But it’s not even remotely the primary danger at play, and *it is almost always focused on to the detriment of the actual, real, present, and likely dangers*. 

Obviously if you’re the rare individual who was falsely convicted for rape and sat in jail before being exonerated, you don’t really care about statistics – you care about being falsely convicted and the months or years of your life that you’ll never get back. That’s more than understandable. But the claim that “there is an epidemic of men being falsely accused of sexual assault” is a lie. 

There is no epidemic of false allegations. There is a terrible and rare smattering of false allegations. 

And the idea that you need to first “verify” if an allegation is true before reporting it? 

That’s called interfering with a criminal case, at best, and corruption of evidence or witness tampering or intimidation, at worst. You do not need to “verify” anything before performing your legal, moral, and halachic obligation to report abuse. There are official bodies whose job it is to investigate those alleged crimes – do not interfere. Building a case with sufficient evidence is difficult enough without interference in the process.

“False allegations are so prevalent, it’s just a matter of time before someone accuses ME of something!’ and “The longer I work in education the more likely I know it is that some student is going to say I was inappropriate with them.”

Over the years, I have heard three prominent individuals throw out that line publicly. All three of those men were predators. That’s not a cute, casual, little soundbyte. That’s called laying the groundwork for a defense and reputational comeback and an upcoming “See! I told you it was just a matter of time before someone accused me!” Don’t be naive. No one has reason to believe that it’s “just a matter of time” before someone accuses them of sexual assault… unless they’ve committed sexual assault. 

Those who promote the false narrative that a major problem with sexual abuse is the amount of false complaints, are themselves part of the problem. This myth undermines confidence in the ability of journalists, activists and the criminal justice system to understand when a complaint is serious or not, and perhaps most importantly, it undermines the confidence (already a scarce commodity) of those who have been subjected to sexual abuse or intimidation that they will receive a proper hearing and the ability to achieve a just outcome. 

So the next time someone you know begins to talk about false accusations, please remember all of this somewhere in the back of your mind. Perhaps consider, who stands to actually gain in this situation by being dishonest? Is the concern here really false allegations, or are “false allegations” being used as a smokescreen for the far more prevalent injustices? 

And then, use your words and actions to help create safer, honest, and just communities.

Shana Aaronson is the Executive Director of Magen for Jewish Communities, an Israel based non-profit providing education, awareness, mental health support, advocacy, and investigations around sexual abuse and its effect on individuals, families and communities. Shana holds a degree in psychology, certification in educational guidance counseling, training in abuse prevention with at-risk youth, and IFS therapy. Shana formerly served as the Assistant Director at Tzofiah, as social services coordinator for Magen Child Protective Services, and as COO of US based Jewish Community Watch. She volunteers as a madrichat kallot and birth assistant to women with histories of sexual and physical trauma. Shana lives with her family in Mateh Yehuda, Israel.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

'A Promised Land' Explains a Lot

The former President in the Oval Office (JNS)
A very insightful review of former President Barack Obama's new book as it pertains to Israel - by Dov Lipman:

(November 26, 2020 / JNS) I have never criticized former U.S. President Barack Obama publicly—neither during my time in the Knesset nor anywhere else—despite my having disagreed with many of his policies. I am of the strong opinion that Israelis should not engage in or interfere with American politics, and I regularly offer a blanket thank you to all American presidents, including Obama, for their economic and military support for Israel.

However, his memoir, A Promised Land, is filled with historical inaccuracies that I feel the need to address. His telling of Israel’s story (at the beginning of Chapter 25) not only exhibits a flawed understanding of the region—which clearly impacted his policies as president—but misleads readers in a way that will forever shape their negative perspective of the Jewish state.

Obama relates, for example, how the British were “occupying Palestine” when they issued the Balfour Declaration calling for a Jewish state. But labeling Great Britain as an “occupier” clearly casts doubt on its legitimacy to determine anything about the future of the Holy Land—and that wasn’t the situation.

While it is true that England had no legal rights in Palestine when the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917, that changed just five years later. The League of Nations, precursor to the United Nations, gave the British legal rights over Palestine in its 1922 “Mandate for Palestine,” which specifically mentions “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

The League also said that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

The former president’s noted omission of the internationally agreed-upon mandate for the British to establish a home for the Jews in Palestine misinforms the reader, who will conclude that the movement for a Jewish state in Palestine had no legitimacy or international consent.

“Over the next 20 years, Zionist leaders mobilized a surge of Jewish migration to Palestine,” Obama writes, creating the image that once the British illegally began the process of forming a Jewish state in Palestine, Jews suddenly started flocking there.

The truth is that Jews, who maintained a continual presence throughout the 2,000 years that most were exiled from the land, had already been moving to Palestine in large numbers way before then; considerably more than 100,000 immigrants arrived in the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Then, in the 1920s, high numbers fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe could only find safe haven in Palestine, due to the United States having instituted quotas in 1924 on the number of Jews who could enter America.

The number of immigrants rose even more in the 1930s, when Adolf Hitler rose to power and began his conquest of Europe while the world remained silent.

Historical context is important, and once Obama chose to write about the history, he should have provided the full context and portrayed the Jews as they were: a persecuted and desperate people searching for safety, and not, as he implies, strong conquerors flooding into Palestine.

His claim that the new immigrants “organized highly trained armed forces to defend their settlements” is also misleading. A more accurate way to describe it would have been: “Because the Arabs in the region mercilessly attacked the Jewish areas, the Jewish refugees had no choice but to take up arms to defend themselves.”

Acknowledging that the Arabs were attacking Jews before there was even a state of Israel is important historical context for understanding the Israeli-Arab conflict.

A Promised Land recounts, as well, how the U.N. passed a partition plan for Palestine in November 1947, by dividing the country into a Jewish and Arab state, which the “Zionist leaders,” as he calls them, accepted, but to which the “Arab Palestinians, as well as surrounding Arab nations that were just emerging from colonial rule, strenuously objected.”

Obama’s use of “Zionist leaders” instead of “Jewish leaders” plays right into the current international climate, in which it is politically correct to be “anti-Zionist,” while unacceptable to be anti-Jewish. (In reality, Zionism is the movement for Jews to live in their biblical and historic homeland, so being against that actually is anti-Semitism, but that’s for another discussion.)

The description of “Arab nations that were just emerging from colonial rule” is a clear attempt to justify the Arab refusal of the U.N. Partition Plan. Those poor “Arab nations” that have been suffering due to outsiders colonizing their “nations” simply could not accept another “colonial” entity, the Jews, entering the region.

But the truth is that with the exception of Egypt, which was not colonized, none of the neighboring countries that rejected the partition plan had been established states before World War I. Yes, the post-war mandates of the League of Nations gave control in the region to the British and the French for a few decades, but this was in place of the Ottoman Empire that had controlled the region for centuries. Thus, the image of countries emerging from long-standing colonial rule as a subtle attempt to justify their objection to the Partition Plan is simply false.

Obama tells the story of the establishment of the State of Israel in two sentences, which are nothing short of outright revisionist history: “As Britain withdrew, the two sides quickly fell into war. And with Jewish militias claiming victory in 1948, the state of Israel was officially born.”

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. The two sides didn’t “fall into war” when Britain withdrew; the two sides had been fighting for decades, with the Arabs—who rejected more than half-a-century of efforts to establish a Jewish state in the region—attacking the Jews, and the Jews defending themselves. When the British then left the area in May 1948, the Jews made a very difficult decision to declare their independence based on the U.N. Partition Plan, which gave the right for a Jewish state alongside an Arab state.

There were no “Jewish militias claiming victory.” There was a unified Jewish army that formed the Israel Defense Forces, which knew that the surrounding Arab countries would begin an all-out assault to destroy Israel the moment its Jewish leadership declared an independent fledgling Jewish state. And that is exactly what the Arab armies did. The new State of Israel fought off that assault for months, emerging in 1949 both weakened and fragile.

Obama’s perspective on the formation of the State of Israel no doubt affected his foreign policy regarding the Jewish state. If one sees Israel as a colonial force occupying the land as a result of its armed militias, then it will be treated as an outsider that wronged others to establish itself as a state. The former president misleads others into believing this, as well.

The most disingenuous sentence of Obama’s history of Israel is in his description of what happened during the 30 years following Israel’s establishment: “For the next three decades, Israel would engage in a succession of conflicts with its Arab neighbors…”

What? I had to read that sentence many times, because I could not believe that a president of the United States could write such misleading, deceptive and damaging words about his country’s close ally.

Israel did not “engage” in any conflict with the surrounding Arab countries. The Arab armies and their terrorists attacked Israel again and again, and Israelis fought to defend themselves.

A straightforward history of Middle East wars involving Israel yields this basic truth. Facts are facts, and the former president’s misrepresentation of Israel as a country that sought conflict instead of peace—one that willingly engaged in wars with the Arabs—does an injustice to peace-seeking Israel and riles up anti-Israel sentiment.

Obama’s description of the 1967 Six-Day Way continues this revisionism: “A greatly outnumbered Israeli military routed the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. In the process, Israel seized control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.”

Here he fails to address what led up to the war, when all those Arab armies gathered along Israel’s borders and declared their intention to wipe it off the map. He doesn’t describe Israel’s pleading with Jordan not to enter the war, nor that Jordan altogether had no legal rights to the West Bank, which it occupied in 1948 and annexed against international law in 1950.

Most significantly, Obama fails to mention Israel’s willingness, immediately after the war, to withdraw from all the areas that it won in its defensive battle in exchange for peace; and by extension, he also fails to tell of the Arab League’s “Three Nos” in response to that offer: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

This omission serves once again to portray Israel as the aggressive occupier that seeks conflict and not peace.

The former president continues with another outright falsehood, which helps give insight into his policies regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The “rise of the PLO (the Palestinian Liberation Organization)” was a “result” of the Six-Day War he writes. That makes it seem like the Palestinian liberation movement—including its violent and murderous attacks against Israelis—was only a result of Israel’s taking control over the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

It strengthens the message that if only Israel would vacate these areas, there would be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is what spurs leaders around the world to suggest that Israeli settlements in these areas are the obstacle to peace in the region.

But there is one flaw with this story and logic. It’s not true. The PLO was established in 1964—three years before Israel was in control of any of those “occupied” areas, and three years before there were any settlements.

What exactly was this Palestinian organization liberating at that time? Is there any conclusion other than the liberation of the Jewish state in its entirety? What other option could there be?

This is why the “Free Palestine” movement chants, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” They are against the existence of Israel anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They see such a state as a colonial enterprise with armed militias grabbing the land of others, just as Obama leads readers to believe when describing the formation of the state.

The false description of the PLO rising after 1967 serves the narrative that the “occupation” and the settlements are the cause of the conflict, and this, no doubt, had a direct impact on Obama’s “not one brick” policy, including freezing settlement construction, in an effort to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama describes the failed Camp David accords of 2000, in which former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians more than 90 percent of what they were asking for.

“Arafat demanded more concessions, however, and talks collapsed in recrimination,” he writes. But the talks didn’t simply “collapse.” Sixty-six days later, Arafat unleashed the Second Intifada, in which 1,137 Israeli civilians were murdered and 8,341 were maimed by Yasser Arafat-funded terrorists who blew themselves up in Israeli buses and cafes.

Don’t trust my word on this. Mamduh Nofal, former military commander of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, revealed that following Camp David, “Arafat told us, ‘Now we are going to fight so we must be ready.’”

In addition, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said in September 2010 that in the summer of 2000, as soon as Arafat understood that all of his demands would not be met, he instructed Hamas, Fatah and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to begin attacking Israel. And Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, has verified that the Second Intifada was pre-planned by Arafat.

Not only does Obama fail to accurately connect the Second Intifada to Arafat’s not receiving everything the Palestinians asked for at Camp David—demands that would have prevented Israel from being able to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism—but he seems to place the blame for the intifada on Israel.

He describes the September 2000 visit of Israel’s opposition leader and subsequent prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as “provocative” and a “stunt” that “enraged Arabs near and far.”

But Obama neglects to mention that Sharon only visited there after Israel’s Interior Ministry received assurances from the security chief of the Palestinian Authority that no uproar would arise as a result of the visit.

In fact, Jibril Rajoub, head of Preventive Security in the West Bank, confirmed that Sharon could visit the sensitive area as long as he did not enter a mosque or pray publicly, rules to which Sharon adhered.

Even more incredibly, Obama describes the Temple Mount as “one of Islam’s holiest sites,” making no mention that it is the holiest site in Judaism.

An innocent reader who is unfamiliar with the region and its history reads this and concludes that it was simply wrong for a Jewish leader to walk onto a Muslim religious site. On the other hand, if he or she knew that it is the holiest site for Jews, then they would more likely wonder why there was anything wrong with Sharon’s having gone there—except Obama omits that part, leading anyone to conclude that Sharon was in the wrong.

That omission, together with the exclusion of Arafat’s plans for the intifada right after negotiations at Camp David failed, can only lead one to conclude that Israel was responsible for the five years of bloodshed during the Second Intifada.

Obama’s history lesson continues with the tension between Israel and Gaza. Remarkably, he makes zero mention of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005, when Israel pulled out all of its troops from the Strip while forcing 9,000 Jewish citizens to leave their homes.

Anyone reading the president’s description of the wars between Israel and Hamas would never know that Israel no longer “occupies” Gaza, and that the Palestinians have been free to build a wondrous “Israeli-free” Palestinian state there for the last 15 years. That omission is glaring.

Finally, Obama’s misleading words describing Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire on its civilian population only serves to inflame and incite anti-Israel sentiment worldwide. That response, he writes, included “Israeli Apache helicopters leveling entire neighborhoods” in Gaza—Apache helicopters that he identifies as coming from the U.S., a subtle or not-too-subtle questioning of whether the United States should be providing Israel with military aid if it is used in this manner.

More importantly, what does he mean by “leveling entire neighborhoods,” other than to imply that Israel indiscriminately bombs Gazan neighborhoods, willfully murdering innocent people? And what human being on Earth wouldn’t be riled up to condemn Israel for such inhumane activity?

The problem is that it’s false. Israel targets terrorist leaders and the rockets that they fire into Israeli cities. Tragically, Hamas leaders use innocent Palestinians as human shields by hiding behind them in civilian neighborhoods, and by launching rockets into Israel from there and from hospitals and mosques.

Israel does its best not to kill innocent people—even airdropping leaflets announcing an imminent airstrike—and calls off missions to destroy rocket launchers or kill terrorist leaders when there are too many civilians in the area. Israel most certainly does not launch retaliatory attacks that aimlessly “level” entire neighborhoods.

I have no problem with criticism of Israel. We can debate the issues in intellectually honest discussions, and in the end, we may have to agree to disagree about Israel’s policies. But no one should accept a book that is filled with historical inaccuracies that invariably lead innocent and unknowing readers to reach false conclusions. Such a devastating book has real-life ramifications and consequences.

It is terribly disappointing. I surely would have expected truth, accuracy and fairness from Barack Obama, America’s 44th president. But the falsehoods and inaccuracies in this memoir only feed the theory that Obama was, in fact, anti-Israel. Now, through A Promised Land, he seeks to convince others to join him.

Dov Lipman served as a member of the 19th Knesset.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Hidden Zionists

By Rabbi Marvin Hier

Rabbi Marvin Hier (SWC)
Simon Weisenthal Center Founder and Dean (and Academy Award winner), Rabbi Hier makes some very keen observations in his JNS article. Hard to argue with:

It is common knowledge to anyone that studies the phenomenal trajectory of the State of Israel that the miracle of its creation in 1948 would not have occurred without the pivotal role and support of non-Jews—Christians who, unexpectedly and against all odds, suddenly seem to arrive at the scene to take charge at key moments in the young Jewish state’s 72-year history.

Harry S. Truman, a virtually unknown senator from Missouri, replaces Henry Wallace as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s pick as vice president and, following the death of FDR, succeeds him. Truman then presides over not only the defeat of Nazism, but the creation of the United Nations, and in 1948 becomes the first to recognize the creation of the Jewish state. In doing so, he defies the recommendation of his own Secretary of State, Gen. George Marshall, a decorated World War II hero, who warns him that such a recognition would endanger the United States by severing America’s relationship with the oil-producing Arab world.

It was non-Jews again who played the decisive role in helping Shimon Peres and Israel build the Dimona nuclear plant in southern Israel, which to this day continues to be Israel’s strongest deterrent against the combined terrorist threat now posed by Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. Peres, with David Ben-Gurion’s blessing, went to Paris, where he befriended three French officials, two of whom—Guy Mollet and Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury—later became the country’s prime ministers and agreed to lease Israel uranium, a move that forever changed the strategic Arab advantage over the tiny Jewish state.

In our time, there was President Donald Trump, fresh from “The Apprentice” fame, who after coming to the White House makes his historic and bold decision to be the first American president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital—a move that is not only opposed by the entire Arab world as premature and endangering prospects for Middle East peace, but even opposed by some Jewish Democratic members of the U.S. Congress.

his idea of the unexpected appearance of non-Jewish heroes—suddenly from out of nowhere, stepping out of the shadows—is not at all new. On the contrary, it is a well-articulated concept that made its appearance at the very dawn of Jewish history.

As the 20th-century Talmudist and thinker Rabbi Joseph B, Soloveitchik points out, it was not only Abraham the Jew who discovered and yearned for Zion, but Terach his non-Jewish father who first led him there. As the Torah clearly states, “and Terach took Abraham his son … to go to the land of Canaan” (Gen XI, V31). “Terach’s relationship with his son Abraham had been hostile … infused with hatred and insanity he had conspired with the local tyrants to destroy his own son both physically and spiritually … what changed his mind? … stirrings of repentance … the thought that perhaps his sons way was correct … a well-known revered and respected manufacturer of idols suddenly abandoned everything to begin his life anew … father and son formally locked in combat now started together on the march to Canaan … in order to be a great teacher one must be able to reach his own family … that occurred when Terach who once hated Abraham now reverses course and personally escorts him to the promised land.”

What Rabbi Soloveitchik is teaching is what the whole world is now witnessing. Non-Jews, both Christians and now even Muslims, like the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, are stepping forth to recognize the legitimacy of today’s Zionists as the descendants and great-grandchildren of Abraham, just as Terach himself once came forth to recognize the legitimacy of his son Abraham, the founder and great lover of Zion.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Foreign Policy Coup for the Trump Administration

Netanyahu speaks with Trump and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed
What are the odds that the mainstream media will either ignore this story. Or minimize it's significance if they don't ignore it. From the Jewish Press:

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached an historic peace agreement, the first such event to take place since Israel and Jordan signed their peace treaty in 1994. The two countries are expected soon to exchange ambassadors and embassies, Reuters reported. 

President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi closed the deal — to be known as the “Abraham Accords” — Thursday in a phone conversation. A joint statement issued by the three nations said the three leaders had “agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”

“This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region,” the statement said.

Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications and other issues, the statement said.

However, there’s a catch: “A result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty” over areas of the West Bank that were envisioned in the U.S. peace plan unveiled by Trump in January.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz have been deeply involved in the negotiations for the agreement, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

One of the most important benefits to emerge from this agreement will be the expansion and accelerated cooperation between Israel and the UAE on COVID-19 treatment and vaccine development, which is to take place immediately.

“Israel for the foreseeable future will be focused on building this relationship and pursuing all the advantages that can come from having this new relationship with this country, and we also breaks the ice for doing more normalizations and peace agreements with other regional players as well,” a White House official told Reuters.