Fight the Enemy by Being More Jewish


I was at a big, beautiful Jewish wedding two weeks ago when something unusual interrupted the traditional chuppah ceremony: someone came up and read a poignant prayer inEnglish in support of our suffering Jewish brethren in Israel.

Initially, there was no doubt in my mind that this was an appropriate thing to do: dozens of Israeli soldiers had been killed in the preceding days, and the pain of this loss as well as the tremendous hardships in Israel over the past few weeks were undoubtedly on the minds of the assembled guests. But as the prayer wore on and the reader got all choked up, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was bringing unintended sadness to a moment of personal joy.

A great many of us are consumed by the nasty war of existence Israel has been fighting, by the international diplomatic backlash against the Jewish state, and by the renewed chutzpah of an enemy intent on destroying us. It is natural that we should do anything we can to help, whether through charitable donations, public demonstrations or even prayers at weddings.

But in our zeal to do something, in our all-consuming anger at a cowardly and unjust enemy, it is easy to fall into a trap of putting other important things on hold, like our Jewishness.

Think of how many Shabbat dinners have been littered with conversations about Katusha rockets, anti-tank missiles, hypocritical U.N. resolutions and the need for more ground troops. Not that these things are unimportant, but are they more important than our age-old traditions of joyful songs and holy conversations on Shabbat? I’ve often thought that one of Yasser Arafat’s hidden victories against the Jewish people was the darkening of millions of Shabbat dinners around the world.

The silver lining of Jewish unity in times of war is overrated. We forget how wars can throw us off our game. When you’re transfixed in front of Fox News or Arutz Sheva, who has the inclination to take the kids to do a mitzvah? When you spend hours at dinner tables and in living rooms railing against the injustices visited on the Jewish people, who can focus on increasing his or her Jewish learning, or going to a conference on honoring our parents or strengthening our relationships?

Wars are brutal: We yell, we fight, we give money. Judaism is anything but brutal. It’s delicate, complex, subtle. A war-like mentality is not our first choice. Wars promote coarseness, cockiness and smugness, not the ideal Jewish traits. We fight like lions when we have to, we express our outrage when we must, but we still keep an eye on the bigger fight: the need to strengthen our Jewish identity, beyond the temporary boost we get in times of war.

Cease-fire or no cease-fire, we seem to always be in crisis mode, which means we must be extra vigilant. When we’re fighting only to survive, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes us thrive. When fundraising letters promote one big crisis after another, it’s easy to abandon the little details and daily obligations that make up the core of Jewish identity. This gives succor to our enemies, for they seek to destroy not just Jews but Judaism itself.

It seems to me that one way we can foil this enemy is to stop agonizing so much over the news and start doing more Judaism.

I, for one, will make a vow to spend two fewer hours complaining about Israel’s situation and take my kids next Thursday to Tomchei Shabbat, the organization that provides Shabbat and holiday meals to the needy.

I will take another few hours from reading The New Republic, Commentary and The New York Times to take the kids to a retirement home to sing Shabbat songs.

I’ll take some more time from watching Bill O’Reilly and Hannity and Colmes to play Aleph Bet Bingo and the Rashi Memory Game with the kids, and I might even find time to set up that Rambam class with Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller we keep talking about.

And on Friday night, I promise not to talk about Katusha rockets, and I will sing quite loudly (to my children’s great torment) my favorite melodies.

Of course, I will continue to raise money for needy families in Israel, I will RSVP “yes” to any event that will help Israel, and I will continue to pray for the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Israel.

In other words, I will kvetch less and do more.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Chipping Away at Israel Support Endangers U.S.


I spent a fair amount of time in Israel in the late 1990s, traveling throughout the country. One of my many impressions of that nation was that there was a pervasive
desire by Israelis for a lasting, mutually beneficial peace with hostile neighbors.

At the time of my visit, I was a recovering ultraleftist who was open and generally sympathetic to the issues of Palestinians. But what is seared in my mind is the experience of sitting with a young woman during a lunchtime visit to a kibbutz near the Syrian border. On her lap sat her 3-year-old son and an automatic rifle was casually slung over her shoulder.

After a bit of polite chitchat, I asked her, “How are you going to be able to guarantee your son’s future with that weapon?”

She said guns could never do that. “Only a true and lasting peace with our neighbors can insure my child’s future” the woman told me.

I was thinking about that young Israeli as I watched rockets slam into Israel’s cities over the past few weeks.

Israel is getting lots of bad press these days. Easily influenced reporters from the BBC to CNN have made the argument — in one way or another — that this tiny Jewish state responded “disproportionately” to attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah — raids that killed Israeli soldiers and kidnapped others.

Parroting Hezbollah spokesmen, Israel’s Western opponents tell us that Israel has targeted civilians and United Nations personnel intentionally. This charge mimics the age-old anti-Semitic slur of Jewish blood lust, since those making this charge are hard pressed to explain how indiscriminately killing Arab civilians would serve Israel’s interests.

War is always a nasty affair — in this case complicated by terrorist operations that intentionally launch missiles from crowded urban neighborhoods, where innocent Lebanese civilians live. In other words, Iran-sponsored Hezbollah fighters cynically know that their actions will draw an immediate and deadly response, a reply that may mean death for innocent Lebanese civilians near the launch site. The resultant photos of death and destruction provide an all-important public relations advantage among willing Western media sources, as well as for the Al Jazeera network.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz points out that in various wars with enemy forces, Israel has killed far fewer civilians in proportion to the number of its own civilians than any country engaged in a comparable war. Yet, Israel is cited by the merlot-sipping set as the prime example of human rights violations.

Arguments of this kind are made with vigor and conviction in places like France and in the capitals of other European Union countries, where anti-Semitism is rampant, but are made, as well, by many here at home. It is part of a larger and disturbing pattern.

In a recent open letter, Noam Chomsky, the high priest of America’s crypto-Marxists, argues that Israel is at fault for the current warfare and that the kidnapping of Israeli military personnel should not have been the cause of a war of this intensity (the overreaction argument) since Israel supposedly holds “approximately 10,000 [Palestinians] in Israeli jails.” According to this view, all Palestinians held in Israeli jails, whatever the number, are innocent victims of the Jewish state — therefore judged by Chomsky and his ilk to be “political prisoners.”

On the heels of this, top human rights officials at the United Nations have said that Israel’s bombing in Lebanon “might constitute war crimes,” while generally avoiding comment on the indiscriminate shelling of cities in northern Israel by Hezbollah rocket fire — intended only to kill and maim Jewish civilians.

Some argue that the views of America’s hard left are marginal, and others see the United Nations as the emperor with no clothes. However, there is an undeniable influence here that cannot be disregarded. Chomsky — along with Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible — is one of the 10 most-quoted sources in the humanities, and despite ongoing scandals, the United Nations remains to be considered by many Americans to be a voice for peace.

The United Nation’s unsavory role in places like the Congo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Iraq remains unknown by many, although evidence from these places tells us that the United Nations may well be the world’s prime example of corruption, conciliation of dictatorships and moral timidity.

Giving new meaning to the word chutzpah, the United Nations has singled out the State of Israel for human rights condemnations more than any other nation in the world. This is more than a bit odd — since the world includes nations such as North Korea, Sudan and Cuba, among a host of others that ignore the concept of human rights.

Since 2000 in the United States, there has been an active and organized campaign by the radical left to promote divestment of city government, university, church and other investment portfolios from Israel and the companies that do business with that nation. The idea is to punish Israel for its policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — claimed to be oppressive and racist. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been embroiled in its own internally controversial plan since 2004 to “divest from Israel” — all the while declaring uncritical “solidarity with Palestinian liberation.”

And if all of this were not enough to test one’s patience, the Southern California chapter of the ACLU has decided to honor Salam Al-Marayati with its Religious Freedom Award at the group’s upcoming garden party.

Just this past week, Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, condemned the president for referring to “Islamo-fascism”; previously he had admonished journalists to “cease the use of Islamic terminology to explain this very clear political narrative” (referring to terrorist acts). He recently opined in the Los Angeles times that Hezbollah “is not just an army” and should be understood as a “massive political party and social welfare network.”

Terrorism with a smile? For this brand of “tolerant” thinking he gets a religious freedom award.

Obviously, it is not just leftists and Muslim or Arab American advocacy groups that blame Jews for almost everything. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraq’s parliament speaker, recently accused Jews of financing acts of violence in Iraq.
He said, “These acts [random killing and kidnappings] are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew.”

This kind of high-level bigotry raises questions about the future of Iraqi democracy and should — if Sept. 11 didn’t adequately do that — raise our antenna to the deadly serious nature of the international struggle against radical Islamism. The warfare in the Mideast reverberates close to home.

Is this simply Israel’s war to win or lose?

As William Kristol has pointed out, “Better to say that what’s under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.” Israel can’t afford to lose this conflict, nor can we. Here at home, those who chip away at American’s resolve to support Israel are chipping away at our own freedoms.

Joe R. Hicks is a social critic, the vice president of Community Advocate. Inc. and a talk radio host in Los Angeles.

Every Jew Is on the Front Lines of War


Ilan Halimi’s barbarous murder in France should awaken all Jews to the most significant truth of our times: Today, every Jew in the world is on the front lines of war.

As was the case 70 years ago, every Jew today is a target for our enemies, who shout from every soapbox and prove at every opportunity that their goal is the annihilation of the Jewish people. From 1933-1945, the enemy was Nazi Germany. Today, the enemy is political Islam. Its call for jihad aimed at annihilating the Jews and dominating the world is answered by millions of people throughout the world.

Among the lessons of the Holocaust, there is one that is almost never mentioned. That lesson is that it is possible, and indeed fairly easy, to exterminate the Jews. The fact that the Holocaust happened proves that it is absolutely possible for the Jewish people to be wiped off the map — just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal promise.

The story of Halimi’s murder at the hands of a terrorist gang of French Muslims brings to the surface the various pathologies now converging to make the prospect of annihilating all Jews seem possible to our enemies. First, there are the murderers who took such apparent pleasure and felt such pride in the fact that for 20 days they tortured their Jewish hostage to death.

This makes sense. Anti-Semitism in the Muslim-dominated suburbs of Paris and other French cities is all-encompassing.

As Nidra Poller related recently in The Wall Street Journal, “One of the most troubling aspects of this affair is the probable involvement of relatives and neighbors, beyond the immediate circle of the gang [of kidnappers], who were told about the Jewish hostage and dropped in to participate in the torture.”

It appears that Halimi’s murderers had some connection to Hamas. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that police found propaganda published by the Palestinian Charity Committee or the CBSP at the home of one of the suspects.

The European Jewish Press reported that Israel has alleged that the organization is a front group for Palestinian terrorists, and that in August 2003, the U.S. government froze the organization’s U.S. bank accounts, accusing it of links with Hamas.

Halimi’s family alleges that throughout the 20 days of his captivity, the French police refused to take the anti-Semitic motivations of the kidnappers into account. The investigators insisted on viewing his kidnapping as a garden variety kidnap-for-ransom criminal case, which they said generally involves no threat to the life of the captive.

The police maintained their refusal to investigate the anti-Semitic motivations of the kidnappers, in spite of the fact that in their e-mail and telephone communications with Halimi’s family, his captors repeatedly referred to his Judaism and on at least one occasion recited verses from the Quran, while Halimi was heard screaming in agony in the background.

The family alleges that if the police had been willing to acknowledge that Halimi was abducted because he was Jewish, they would have recognized that his life was in clear and immediate danger and acted with greater urgency.

Like the police, the French government waited an entire week after Halimi was found naked, with cuts and burns over 80 percent of his body, by a train station in suburban Paris, before acknowledging the anti-Semitic nature of the crime. According to press reports, the French government was at least partially motivated to suppress the issue of anti-Semitism because it feared inflaming the passions of French Muslims who make up between 10 to 13 percent of the French population and a quarter of the population under 25 years old.

(Now that the French government has acknowledged that the crime was motivated by hatred of Jews, it is behaving responsibly in pursuing the murderers and decrying the attack on French Jewry.)

In addition to the exterminationist anti-Semitism of Halimi’s murderers and the unwillingness of the French authorities to acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of the crime until it was too late, there is one more aspect of the case that bears note. That is Israel’s reaction to the atrocity. In short, there has been absolutely no official Israeli reaction to the abduction, torture and murder of a Jew in France by a predominantly Muslim terrorist gang that kidnapped, tortured and murdered him because he was a Jew.

No Israeli government minister, official or spokesman has condemned his murder. No Israeli official has demanded that the French authorities investigate why the police refused to take anti-Semitism into account during Halimi’s captivity. No Israeli official flew to Paris to participate in Halimi’s funeral or any other memorial or demonstration in his memory.

The Foreign Ministry’s Web site makes no mention of his murder. The Israeli Embassy in Paris — which has been without an ambassador for the past several months — only publicly expressed its condolences to the Halimi family on Feb. 23, 10 days after Halimi was found — this, when the French Jewish community considers Halimi’s murder to have been the greatest calamity to have befallen it in recent years; when aliyah rates rose 25 percent last year; when Halimi’s mother told reporters that her son had planned to make aliyah soon and was just staying in France to save money to finance his move to Israel.

For its part, as Michelle Mazel previously pointed out in The Jerusalem Post, the French press has noted that the Israeli media has not given the story prominent coverage. Halimi’s murder has not appeared on the front pages of the papers or at the top of the television or radio broadcasts.

Although appalling, the absence of an official Israeli outcry against Halimi’s murder is not the least surprising. Today, the unelected Kadima interim government, like the Israeli media, is doing everything in its power to lull the Israeli people into complacency toward the storm of war raging around us.

Against the daily barrages of Kassam rockets on southern Israel; nervous reports of Al Qaeda setting up shop in Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the ascension of Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority; and Iran’s threats of nuclear annihilation, Israel’s citizenry, under the spell of Kadima and the media, appears intent on ignoring the dangers and pretending that what happens to Jews in France has nothing to do with Jews elsewhere.

Israel’s societal meekness accords well with Kadima’s ideology. Its creed was best expressed by Foreign Minister, Justice Minister and Immigration Minister Tzipi Livni last month at the Herzliya Conference and is best characterized as “conditional Zionism.” In her speech, Livni explained that Israel’s international legitimacy is conditional. Unless a Palestinian state is established in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, she warned, Israel will lose its legitimacy as a Jewish state.

So for Livni, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Shimon Peres and the rest of the Kadima gang, unlike every other people in the world, the Jewish people do not have an inherent, natural right to exist as a free, sovereign and independent people in its homeland. For Kadima, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our land is conditional on our enemies’ acceptance of our right to be here.

Kadima’s conditional Zionism finds expression in its policies in Judea and Samaria. There, the gist of the government’s actions is that the only people with inherent human rights in Judea and Samaria are the Arabs.

Throughout the areas, the government, backed by the post-Zionist courts, prohibits Jews from building on land that Jews own. Today, as Moshe Rosenbaum, the mayor of Beit El explains, even receiving a permit to build an extension on a standing house or additional classrooms in a school is all but impossible.

While Olmert and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra have repeatedly condemned Jews for allegedly cutting down trees owned by Arabs in Judea and Samaria, the government has said nothing and done nothing to stop the wholesale destruction of Jewish orchards and national forests by Palestinians.

Over the past several months, in the vicinity of Gush Etzion alone, thousands of Jewish-owned trees have been chopped down by Arab vandals. Two national forests have been laid to waste. Busy directing their energies and attentions at delegitimizing the Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, the government has ignored Israel’s enemies.

And so, as Kassam attacks against Israel multiply by the day and Hamas leaders hold Jew-hating love fests with Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran, Olmert has assured us that Hamas is not a strategic threat to Israel.

When the Israeli government itself is claiming Jewish rights are not inherent but rather defined and granted by others, it can surprise no one that the government has ignored Halimi’s murder.

Luckily for both Israel and the Jews around the world, the current leadership is not our only option. We have other leaders, the most prominent among them being Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and former IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon. Both of these men understand well that the two most important lessons for the Jews from the Holocaust are that we must never grant anyone else the authority, legitimacy or power to define who we are or what our rights are, and we are all responsible for one another.

Recently, Ya’alon, who is currently based at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, came to Jerusalem for the day to speak at a conference on the strategic implications of Hamas’ takeover of the Palestinian Authority. There, Ya’alon explained what he considers to be the key to Israel’s security.

Israel, he said, has the military capability to defeat its enemies. But for Israel to be able to take the steps it needs to take to win the war being waged for our destruction, Ya’alon explained, first we need to accept the fact that we have an intrinsic, unconditional right to our land and our sovereignty.

Once we understand that our rights are unconditional, we will understand that we have an obligation to wage war against those who work for our destruction. That is, Ya’alon explained, that for Israel to survive, we need to return to our unconditional Zionism.

Sir Martin Gilbert, perhaps the preeminent British historian of World War II, has said, “The interesting thing about history is that it always repeats itself.”

As was the case in World War II, today the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world are being targeted for annihilation by an enemy bent on world domination. Halimi’s monstrous murder is just the latest sign of this disturbing reality. Today, as 70 years ago, the Jews are disserved by poor and weak leaders who refuse to see the dangers.

But if we learn from history and we assess our options, we will see that history needn’t repeat itself. It is within our power to reverse the course of our all too repetitious past.

Reprinted with permission from The Jerusalem Post.

Caroline B. Glick is the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.

 

For the Kids


Trees are Terrific

This week’s portion, Shoftim, talks all about trees. In one very important paragraph, we learn that we are never to cut down fruit trees, even when it is a time of war and the fruit trees belong to the enemy. God says: You are not going to war against the trees.

This passage teaches us something about the Jewish attitude toward nature. We must not destroy or waste the beautiful gifts that God has planted on this Earth. The name of this commandment is: bal tashchit (do not destroy or waste). It doesn’t just refer to fruit trees. It also means don’t trample the flowers in your Dad’s garden, turn the light off when you walk out of the room and throw your garbage in the trash and not into the ocean. Can you do that?

Hey Kids


In these portions, the borders of Israel are drawn in two different ways. Unfortunately, they conflict. Mattot indicates Israel’s borders extend from the Nile River to the Euphrates River. But Maseh is much more moderate and reports Israel’s borders are between Dan and Beersheva.

Israel is, to this very day, in a dispute over her borders. Maybe the Torah is trying to tell us something about borders. Maybe the Torah is saying: borders can be changed — and it is up to us to decide how to use them. Will we use them to shut other people out and call them our enemies, or will we expand them to include as many people as we can? Think about this next time you need to decide who you want to include as part of your group. You might see that when you open the border gates to someone you thought was your enemy, you will find that he or she has become your best friend.

Serious Play


We call it the Festival of Lights, but Chanukah starts in a very dark place.

It begins with two stories, each very serious. One tells of a severely outnumbered band of Jews who fought a powerful enemy for religious freedom. And there’s the other, even more painful tale of Jew vs. Jew, of the Macabees struggling with widespread Jewish assimilation into the culture and religion of that enemy. In many ways, Chanukah represents the most painful aspects of Jewish history, in one full account: the Jewish community facing threats both from outside and within.

The tales are so painful, in fact, that thinking about them can be depressing. And what’s worse, many aspects of Chanukah — bloody battles, inner fighting, treacherous choices between life and death — have been reenacted over and over again, throughout the centuries.

But despite the seriousness, despite the painful, dark history of Chanukkah, we spend eight days in lightness. We play, we sing, we eat — we remember the tales of the Macabees with latkes, gelt, songs and games. For us, Chanukah is a party — bright, sweet, joyous.

It’s serious, but we’re playful. The stories — dark and sobering — are recalled with light and celebration. How do the bloody battles of Chanukah translate into a ritual of fun?

The answer can found in the dreidel.

The Hebrew letters on each side of the toy — nun, gimmel, heh, and shin — famously serve as an acronym for neis gadol haya sham — “a great miracle happened there” — a reference to the miraculous eight-day staying power of the little bit of oil lighting the menorah in the Holy Temple when it was re-taken by the Macabees.

Like Chanukah itself, the dreidel is a combination of intensity and lightheartedness. Historically, it was initially adopted by Jews not as a game or toy, but as a front, a ruse used by persecuted Torah scholars who were forbidden by non-Jewish authorities from study. Pretending to play a game, rabbis would actually teach their students Torah, enabling the traditions to be passed to each new generation. How fitting then, to have those same toys in the hands of happy, free Jewish children today, spinning the dreidel as a simple game after learning Torah in security. The dreidel represents that same relationship between terror and confidence, between threats and joy, darkness and light.

The spinning top is actually even more than just a reminder of persecutions past, and more than a simple game for happy children. The Jewish mystical tradition teaches that the four letters on the sides of the dreidel have a wholly different significance. The nun is for neshama (soul); the gimmel is for guf (body); the shin is actually a sin, for sechel (mind); and the heh is for ha-kol (everything).

The playful little toy is a miniature, but complete person: body, mind, and soul — everything wrapped up together. And like the dreidel, we are also a combination of the playful and the serious. On one hand, we are light and fun and lively. But on the other hand, we spin out of control. We live in chaos. A human being is a dreidel: busy, moving. We reach near-vertigo, tilting and spinning until at last we finally drop. Like the Chanukah tales, our personal narratives are marked by difficult choices and numerous battles, both external and internal. A human being is a dreidel: spinning and falling, spinning and falling.

Yet we come up, again and again. How can that be?

Because, as the dreidel tells us: neis gadol haya sham. Great miracles happen, not just in ancient times, but now, constantly, for us, every single day. We spin and fall, but thanks to God’s miracles, we stand up to try again — as a nation and as individuals. That’s serious stuff. But it’s also worth celebrating.

Knowing Our Enemy


It is the Ides of March and the week before Purim. We know who Agag, King of Amalek — the enemy of the Jews — is, but are not sure who should beware.

As an FOD (Friend of Deborah Lipstadt), I sit in the British courtroom on March 15 and watch the expressions on her face as her career and her scholarship are taken apart by David Irving.

She is described both as a powerful queen bee manipulating drones all over the world — including JTA, the ADL, the Board of Deputies of British Jewry and the governments of several countries — and in the next moment as a little lamb who was “led astray” by Yehuda Bauer, director of Yad Vashem.

I have checked, and David Irving is mentioned on just 16 of the 278 pages of Lipstadt’s “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” the book that prompted his lawsuit. If one never looked at the book and just listened to his ranting, one would think that a personal critique of his oeuvre and the destruction of his livelihood comprise the main focus of Lipstadt’s endeavors.

Deborah is by turns incredulous, amused, angry and impassive. From time to time, she taps the keys of her laptop, eyes intent on the small screen. As always during the proceedings, she is silent. Her voice is not heard and her name is not mentioned in the trial listings.

The case is labeled Irving vs. Penguin & anr. She has been reduced to “another” or, at other times, “the second defendant.” This silence is very difficult for her and it is infuriating to Irving, who constantly berates her for not appearing in the witness box in her own defense.

But Deborah will not even give the appearance of debating a denier. Cross-examination by Irving would have forced her to respond to him on a one-to-one basis, suggesting that they have differing but equally legitimate versions of history. Her scholarship will have to stand on its own.

Richard Rampton, Deborah’s attorney, speaks eloquently for just about an hour before midday. Then, before the lunch break, Irving begins what is to be a nearly five-hour presentation.

The break is spent by most of the non-press spectators standing in line to assure entrance for the afternoon session. They discuss the trial. An attractive middle-aged blond woman whispers to me, “Who are you for? Irving?” Then quickly, “You don’t have to say.”

I reply, “I am Deborah’s friend.”

“Oh, good,” she replies. “I’m behind her too –and so are the old soldiers, they were there, they saw the camps and can’t believe the case was even accepted for trial!” I’m not as sanguine that so many are behind Deborah.

With the exception of the judge, all of the principal participants — the attorneys, the clerks, the researchers and the parties to the case — have to pass through the throng to enter the courtroom. So we see them all “up close and personal.”

Asking someone to save my place, I go to the ladies’ room just as Irving is coming out of the gents’. I am silent. What could I say?

Court resumes. Irving continues reading his closing argument, which runs more than 100 pages. The judge had urged him to summarize, but Irving hews closely to the text that was distributed, skipping only a paragraph here and there.

Then, nearly two hours into his presentation, comes the most dramatic moment of the day. Irving departs from his prepared speech. In the midst of refuting the defense contention that he is a neo-Nazi, illustrated early on in the trial by a video in which he is shown addressing a rally where young men begin to chant “Sieg Heil,” Irving turns to the judge, addressing him directly.

He says, “They shouted, ‘Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil‘ ” — and then, instead of saying “my Lord,” he calls the judge “mein Fuhrer.”

There is a collective gasp, then a ripple of laughter. Someone tells us later that the judge laughed out loud. I happened to be watching Rampton, Deborah’s attorney. His face rapidly registered incredulity, astonishment, wry amusement and finally satisfaction.

No one could believe what had just happened. Had we imagined it? Could he actually have addressed a British judge as “Mein Fuhrer”? Without a pause or change of inflection, Irving goes on with his speech as though nothing untoward has happened.

Later, Anthony Julius, Deborah’s brilliant solicitor, believes that either Irving wasn’t even aware of what he had said or just held himself under rigid control.

Irving has contended all along that he does not deny the Holocaust. But he spends the last hour and a half of his peroration “proving” that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were air raid shelters for the SS that were built over a mortuary. He even repeats his horrifying statement that more women died in the back seat of Kennedy’s car at Chappa-quidick than in gas chambers at Auschwitz. In other words, he repeats the denial in its crudest form. Doesn’t he realize what he is saying?

It is over. I agree to meet Deborah and close friends of hers from Atlanta at a dinner sponsored by a Jewish organization at a kosher restaurant in Golders Green where Julius will speak about Holocaust denial. Feeling like a very official FOD, I find myself at a table with Deborah, Julius and his family, and others.

Asked about the importance of the trial, Julius declines to speculate on the view of history. After all, he notes, if one had asked about the most difficult place for Jews at the end of the 19th century, one would have cited France after military officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of treason.

As to more immediate gains, he clearly takes pride in having defended Deborah Lipstadt and her work, along with the honor of historians from those who besmirch it, and litigating the Holocaust for the first time in England, as first generation witnesses fade away and there is a resurgence of neo-Nazi activity in Europe.

Finally, he says, it shows a side of British Jewry that is often hidden. As he puts it, “We don’t look for a fight, but if it comes to us, we will do it.”

The whole extraordinary defense team has “done it” for four years. Now their work is completed and the decision is up to the judge, who has promised a speedy opinion. Deborah Lipstadt’s work reminds us, as the Torah does in its passage about Amalek, of the importance of memory.

In my opinion, it is David Irving and his ilk who should beware.


Rela Mintz Geffen, a professor of sociology at Gratz College in Melrose Park, Pa, attended much of the London trial as a show of support for her friend.

Jockeying for Position


The luncheon menu reflected the confusion this week at the Washington policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group better known as AIPAC. The main course was hummus, falafel and baba ganoush, a Mediterranean medley that seemed to symbolize Israel’s integration into a New Middle East. Dessert, however, was hamantaschen — the Purim pastry that recalls Israel’s eternal battles against sworn enemies.

AIPAC holds a national conference in Washington every spring to flex its muscles and trumpet its closeness to the Israeli government. This year, it had the misfortune of scheduling the meeting for the very week when, as it happened, Israel wouldn’t have a government to speak of. The old government had just been defeated. The new one hadn’t been installed. Coalition negotiations were hot and heavy, and no Israeli politicians wanted to be away. And, so, instead of hearing at lunch from the two leading Knesset members invited to discuss the recent elections, delegates got to watch three Israeli spinmeisters blather via satellite. The hall was half-empty. Or half-full.

Ehud Barak’s unexpectedly decisive victory over Binyamin Netanyahu seems to have just about everyone disoriented and groping. Some folks are scared stiff and shouldn’t be. Others are floating on air when they should be sweating. Everywhere you go, people say they’re delighted. Suddenly, it turns out nobody liked Netanyahu very much. They just hid it well.

At the watering holes where the East Coast Jewish power elite gathers to meet and greet, there’s more jockeying for position these days than at the Kentucky Derby. Last Sunday, 500 guests turned up at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to toast Jordan’s young King Abdullah, at a reception hosted by Slimfast mogul S. Daniel Abraham and his dovish Center for Middle East Peace. A week earlier, barely 150 RSVP’s had come in. Once Israel’s ballots were counted, the guest list ballooned, as Likud supporters scrambled to be seen as friends of peace.

In conversations among Jewish liberals, the mood is one of giddy elation, but it’s often laced with anxiety. As Barak’s coalition plans unfold, reports from Israel suggest he intends to form a broad coalition with either Likud or Shas, the Sephardic fervently Orthodox party. Shas would support the peace process, but block progress toward religious freedom and pluralism. The Likud is far more open to civil liberties and pluralism, but might slow peace talks to a crawl. Suddenly, Peace Now types are eyeing Reform rabbis suspiciously, wondering who’s going to lose out to whom as they wait for Barak to make his move.

If most Reform rabbis aren’t eyeballing back, it’s only because most of them don’t yet know what’s going to hit them. Almost unanimously this week, Reform leaders were confidently citing Barak’s frequent statements in favor of religious freedom and pluralism as evidence that he would fight their fight.

That’s not how it looks to Israelis. “I’m extremely happy with his election, but I would be very surprised if he pushes pluralism,” said Rabbi Naamah Kelman, a Reform Jewish educator in Jerusalem. “It just isn’t a consensus position in Israel.”

“Barak is committed to religious freedom,” said a Barak aide, “but that’s not the same thing as what Americans mean by religious pluralism. He’s going to fight for issues that affect Israelis. Whether Reform rabbis can perform conversions affects people in Cleveland. I don’t think most Americans understand that.”

On Capitol Hill, where Netanyahu used to be greeted with cheers, “people are very positive” about Barak’s election, says Rep. Peter Deutsch, a Jewish Democrat from Florida. “The prime minister-elect has said all the right things, from the moment he was elected. It’s a very exciting time.”

Of course, you might say it’s easy for a Democrat to embrace the leader of a peace-and-social-democracy party. But what do Republicans make of him?

Why, no problem. “I don’t think there will be any difference in support for Israel,” says Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla. “I’ve been in Congress 18 years, and I’ve supported Israel right along regardless of the administration over there. We want to do what’s right.”

In fact, it now appears nobody in either party ever liked Netanyahu that much. “The majority of Republicans want to see the peace process move forward,” says Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat who’s a leader of pro-Israel legislative activity. “Nobody in Congress was ideologically committed to the Likud approach except Newt Gingrich, and he’s gone.”

Well, not entirely gone. Gingrich was a featured speaker at this year’s AIPAC conference. He delivered an inspirational talk to a private gathering of the lobby’s biggest donors. His message was the same one he’s delivered at AIPAC gatherings for years, usually to wild applause: that the world is “still a dangerous place” and the good guys should never let their guard down. Which is, come to think of it, Netanyahu’s message.

The lobby claims to be nonpartisan when it comes to Israeli politics. AIPAC leaders say they’re insulted by the charges from Barak aides that they’re “biased” in favor of Likud. “There’s just so much misinformation,” said AIPAC executive committee member Bernice Manocherian of New York. “We support the U.S.-Israel relationship, no matter who is in power.”

If AIPAC folks sound particularly touchy on the subject, it’s because their relationship with Israel’s new government is off to a bad start. Aides to Barak have let it be known that the prime minister-elect considers the lobby “biased” toward Likud. Others have said it before. But now it’s coming from Israel’s incoming prime minister. AIPAC needs the Israeli government behind it. That’s the whole point of being AIPAC.

Barak’s refusal to appear before the conference — even via satellite, even for a five-minute taped message — was a stinging rebuke. In the end, AIPACers took some comfort in a warm, last-minute letter from Barak that was read to the delegates, saying he looked forward to “enhancing the cooperation with you and with the entire American Jewish community.”

Barak’s aides warn against reading too much into the flap. The snub was intentional, and Barak does consider AIPAC biased. But now that he’s made his point, he has no intention of carrying a grudge into office. He’s convinced that he can work fine with AIPAC. His tent is a big tent.

Big enough for everyone he thinks he needs, anyway..


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.

+