Carrying a Torch


Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters.

The fifth day of the month of Iyar is your Independence Day. Yes — yours! And by this, I mean you, Los Angeles Jews; you, New York Jews; you, Chicago Jews, Sydney Jews, London Jews, Paris Jews. That this day is my Independence Day goes without saying: I was born in Israel, I have lived here for most of my life, and my children have grown up and matured in this county. But I insist it is also yours, the Jews whose Independence Day is July 4, July 14, and all others. You fortunate cousins have two of these to celebrate. Independence Day of your respective countries and the Independence Day that all Jews share (except for those insisting on being annoyingly quarrelsome).

Last week, the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) published a summary of its recommendations based on a yearlong dialogue in which hundreds of Jews around the world participated. Titled “70 Years of Israel-Diaspora Relations: The Next Generation,” this study offers a framework for Israel-Diaspora relations in the coming decades of, one hopes, Jewish independence. The study showed us (John Ruskay and I served as heads of this project) that “Diaspora and Israeli Jews agree that all Jews have a ‘stake’ in the State of Israel and, therefore, the right and duty to help sustain it.” This means that Israel is both a cause for celebration (Independence Day is yours, too) and also a burden (“help sustain it”).

Embracing this burden is not always easy. Israel has problems, it has frustrating habits and questionable policies. Israelis are not always forthcoming, and rarely attentive, and sometimes condescending. For some Jews, having to battle with Israel over these things is torturous and exhausting. And that’s why it is necessary, even essential, that you celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. Israel ought not be just a burden, not just a cause of worry and apprehension, a distant dark cloud of Middle East reality. Israel must be a joy.

Do “Jews” truly believe that all Jews have a stake in the Jewish state? The data we collected at JPPI shows that indeed, they do — with the caveat that “Jews” means many Jews, but not all of them. (I assume there is nothing in the world on which all Jews agree.) But alongside the data, there is also a reality, filled with confusing signals coming from all sides. There are non-Israeli Jews pretending they no longer care (or maybe they truly don’t), and there are Jewish Israelis arguing that Israel and its interests is the only thing that matters (forgetting that Israel is a project for the Jewish people, not the other way around).

Israel ought not be just a burden, not just a cause of worry and apprehension. Israel must be a joy.

Consider the following reminder: Last year, representatives of world Jewry were invited to light a torch in the ceremony that opens the Independence Day festivities. Not all Israelis appreciated this move. Israeli author and pundit Irit Linur forcefully argued at the time that “the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry sometimes looks like the communications between a mother spaceship and mission control in Houston. But it’s the spaceship that has to get to Mars safely, when all is said and done, whereas the folks in Houston will head home at the end of the day whether the spaceship lands or crashes.” In other words: We Israelis live here and will die if necessary; you American Jews might care for us, but you don’t have real skin in the game. Hence, when the torches are lit in Jerusalem, “the proper place for anyone who’s not an Israeli is in the visitors’ gallery.”

Linur has a case. JPPI makes the opposite case by recommending that Israel “regularly take measures designed to show solidarity with Diaspora Jewry and the recognition of its importance,” including “regular symbolic participation of dignitaries in major Israeli public ceremonies.”

This year, Israel was too late to invite notable Jews (Mayim Bialik, Steven Spielberg) to light a torch and, hence, ended up having no Diaspora representative on its roster of torch lighters.

This ought to be considered a symbolic mishap: Israel’s last-minute-improvisation mentality meets the orderly Jewish-American mentality.

This ought to be considered a positive mishap: Better late than never. Next year, we might get it right.

This ought to be considered a lame invitation: Independence Day is yours, too — come celebrate it, even when the host isn’t the most gracious.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Strikeout Over Syria?


The U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey fires a Tomahawk land attack missile April 14, 2018. U.S. Navy/Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels/Handout via REUTERS.

The United States, Great Britain and France on April 13 launched a coordinated military strike targeting three chemical weapons facilities in Syria, in response to the reported use of such weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad the previous week in Douma. The Western intervention — the most significant during the seven-year Syrian civil war, with some 100 missiles having been fired — received mixed reviews in Washington, London and Paris, with some praising the resolve of leaders to uphold the longstanding international norm of preventing the use of nonconventional weapons, whereas others maintained that Assad got off too easy or altogether denounced the West’s interjection of itself into another war abroad.

Where the Middle East is concerned, much of the public, as well as some governments, are perennially weary of any Western involvement in regional conflicts, especially in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the 2011 NATO operation that removed from power longtime Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Given that coalition forces did not uncover stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Libya (in fact, there is evidence that Saddam Hussein transferred them to Syria), and taking into account that Tripoli had voluntarily ended its nuclear program in exchange for better relations with the West, many are skeptical that the latest attack was, in fact, geared toward preventing Assad’s use of chemical arms rather than advancing Western interests.

There is a divide largely along political and religious lines, with Shiite-ruled countries aligned with Iran, Assad’s main backer along with Russia, having denounced the attack. For instance, the defense minister of Lebanon — controlled by Tehran’s Hezbollah proxy, which itself is heavily involved in the fighting in Syria — described the mission as “a flagrant violation of international law.” Iraq, which is increasingly being pulled into the Islamic Republic’s orbit, warned that such action “threatens the security and stability of the region and gives terrorism another opportunity to expand.”

By contrast, Sunni Muslim states, led by Saudi Arabia, expressed support for the Western strikes, with the Arab League having called for an international probe into the “criminal” use of chemical weapons. Nonetheless, some analysts deemed the reaction relatively muted, perhaps a reflection of the concern on the part of Persian Gulf states that the U.S. could use the mission as a pretext to pull American troops out of Syria.

The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

“[The Western attack on Syria] was very limited, as it was designed to show Assad that there will be consequences any time he uses chemical weapons against his people, but at the same time not to make the Russians mad.” — Gad Shimron

Sulaiman Al-Akeily, a Saudi political analyst, said that, given its limited scope, the attack did not achieve its intended effect — a position shared by many in Riyadh, which may explain why King Salman made no mention of it during a high-profile summit the next day.

“The strikes served only to give Assad legitimacy because [they] did not reduce his military power and his position on the ground was not weakened,” Al-Akeil said. “Moreover, the operation did not cover enough locations in Syria, especially strategic military bases, which are the most important things to be destroyed. It also did not target any Iranian assets.”

Instead, Al-Akeily contended that the West’s motivation was “to wash away the guilt” of having done relatively little to prevent Assad’s massacres. But even this, he explained, was largely a show, given that “the Syrian regime was threatened for a whole week, which gave it time to transfer chemical weapons to Russian warehouses.”

Eran Singer, an Israeli political analyst specializing in the Arab world, agreed that the Western assault had little effect on the overall dynamics of the war, an assessment reinforced by former Mossad agent Gad Shimron. “It achieved the goal of putting restrictions on Assad’s regime,” Singer said. “The Syrian government is still winning many battles around the country, and this will not change.”

Shimron, while describing the strikes as moderately successful, stressed that the operation should have been broader in scope: “It was very limited, as it was designed to show Assad that there will be consequences any time he uses chemical weapons against his people, but at the same time not to make the Russians mad.”

Hanna Issa, a Palestinian law professor, slammed the Western “aggression,” which he argued contravened international law. “It is totally unacceptable for three countries that are members of the [United Nations] Security Council to behave like that,” he said. Furthermore, he noted that the attack occurred before international inspectors arrived in Douma to investigate whether chemical weapons had indeed been used.

Despite the criticism, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley asserted that the strikes were “justified, legitimate and proportionate,” adding that U.S. military forces remained “locked and loaded” in the event Assad were to use nonconventional arms in the future.

The ‘Reality’ of the Jewish State


We all live with dichotomies, but possibly none is more powerful than our differing views about the idea of nationhood. In the 19th century, the emancipated Jew emerges with a profound belief in the power of modernity and the capacity to dream about and act upon the idea of forming a national homeland for the Jewish people. For the first time in 2,000 years Jews would be able to affirm their national pride and gain their own political identity.

Indeed, the unfolding events of the 20th century would embolden the Jewish people, both as Zionists reclaiming their dream of statehood and as political actors operating within the modern world. The Zionist case was built in part around the illusion that once the Jewish people obtained their homeland, anti-Semitism would dissipate, as Jews would no longer be treated as a marginalized community. To the contrary, as Jews were claiming their political legitimacy, the forces that have historically haunted our people, the enemies of our community and the emerging opponents of the Jewish state, were reinventing their case against Judaism and Zionism. The seeds of modern anti-Semitism would be established.

At each turn of this experiment in nation-building, there would exist “the idea,” with its various proponents offering definitions of the perfect Jewish national model; and then there would be the haunting realities of constructing and defending a new state amid an array of political and religious threats.

Just as the saga of Jewish nation-building culminated with the establishment of the State of Israel 70 years ago, the very political powers that endorsed the creation of Israel began to move beyond their own historic commitment to the nation-state system. In the post-World War II era, governments began constructing military, political and economic alliances, in part leaving Israel in an isolated and vulnerable position, bereft of any immediate partners. Jews had been given a state, absent any assurances that it could be sustained as a viable enterprise.

At the same moment, Jews would come to terms with their uneasy historic encounter with Christianity, as the Roman Catholic Church charted a new pathway forward in advancing Christian-Jewish understanding. These extraordinary events would be offset by the rise of radical Islam with its commitment to the destruction of Israel and the marginalization of the Jewish people. If Christianity defined much of Western Jewish history, Islam would emerge as the significant religious player in these times.

Over the course of its history, Israel’s relationship with its Jewish world partners has undergone a series of transitions. Against the backdrop of the Holocaust during the middle years of the 20th century, we would be reminded that Israel’s “survivability” would be seen as critical to the welfare of the Jewish enterprise. “One people, one destiny” would be the dominant motif during the first 20 years of statehood. In that era, Israel would enjoy a broad degree of Diaspora support.

“Sustainability” would be the defining element for the next quarter of a century. Here, the nature of the Jewish partnership, symbolized by the United Jewish Appeal campaign theme of the time, “We are One,” would rest on garnering and maintaining the political, economic and military support vital to Israel’s standing. This period would profoundly change Israel’s partners as much as it transformed the State of Israel.

As a result of the Six-Day War of 1967, we all became Israelis, as our pride and confidence soared. This transformative moment fundamentally changed a particular generation from being identified as “Jewish Americans” to becoming “American Jews,” as we no longer defined ourselves only through our religious standing but now saw our Jewishness as core to our identity.

Jews had been given a state, absent any assurances that it could be sustained as a viable enterprise.

Jews would be reborn as a new class of people, empowered to reconstruct its identity as well as the image of what Israel represented. For those of us who recall the extraordinary week of June 6, 1967, it would be transformative to our Jewish consciousness. There existed a unique sense of awe at what had happened and what it would mean. Over time, we romanticized these events, creating new images of the war while allowing its memories to forever shape our lives. That moment, however, also represented a distortion of the coming realities.

That time frame would also lay the foundation for the fundamental divisions over Israel’s definition of its character. It would generate the seeds defining the great political divide. Again, the idea of Jewish nationalism would be set against its core realities. The divisive issues of settlements, Palestinian rights, the divisions between religion and state, and a conversation around the character and substance of what it may mean to be a “democratic, Jewish state” would emerge over the succeeding decades.

Over these past 25 years, Israel would move away from those themes that reflected its earlier vulnerable position to one that might be seen as “symbolic” or even as an exemplar of political and social ingenuity as the Jewish state emerged as a technologically accomplished “startup” nation with a sophisticated economy and an advanced military. In this third phase, Israel transformed itself from its dependency role to being the dominant player in global Jewish matters. But this moment in time also created a fundamental disruption in its historic partnership with its Diaspora as a widening divide unfolded.

One can find deep divisions today between the liberal-orientated attitudes of a majority of American Jews and the center-right views of the government in Jerusalem and its supporters over such complex issues as settlements and human rights. More particularly, some Jewish Americans are uncomfortable with recent Israeli initiatives and proposals that seek to curb the free speech rights of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement supporters and legislation denying admission into the Jewish state of individuals associated with specific anti-Israel movements. Just as American-Jewish liberals defended the Obama administration’s record on Israel, supporters of President Donald Trump embrace his policies in connection with the Jewish state, creating a significant political conflict among Israel’s historic partners.

Israel defenders have argued on what basis should Diaspora communities have the right to publicly critique Israel over its policies and actions? Ought that “right” be left to the citizens of the Jewish nation? Responders from the Diaspora push back, challenging that assumption, noting that Israel was created as the collective expression of the Jewish people, and as such, all Jews not only have the right to express their views but have an obligation to assert their ideas. Once again, the idea of Israel would come up against the realities of its politics.

Beyond these internecine battles, the question of how the international community ought to engage Iran or the issue of what constitutes anti-Semitic behavior in connection with dissent around Israel remind us of other elements contributing to this deep crevice that today defines these conversations.

In place of creative dialogue, one finds only disagreement and discord. Some American-Jewish critics’ arguments are framed in moral terms, suggesting that Israel “ought” to be held to a higher standard. In their minds, Israel is failing at this point to live up to the Jewish values that have informed and shaped the state’s Zionist heritage. For Jewish Americans who express their disappointment or despair over Israel’s move to the political right, the state has lost their trust. Israel’s political establishment is seen as either politically corrupt or operating around a set of deeply flawed assumptions. Adding to these divisions, as demonstrated by the most recent population studies, the declining levels of Jewish engagement with Israel, especially on the part of younger Jews, present another challenge to Israeli authorities and to American-Jewish leaders. The image of a perfect Jewish society is yet again challenged by its political realities.

As these debates unfold, the Jewish opponents of Israel’s politics are dismissed as misguided or worse, undermining the Jewish state by their betrayal to defend and protect this historic experiment in nation-building. Each side offers descriptions of the other seeking to minimize the political standing of their opponents, while reasserting their own definition of the state’s meaning. To advance our various perspectives, we have introduced terms such as naïve, foolish, destructive and disingenuous, which we employ to define the “other.”

Israelis and American Jews have their respective visions or images of the Jewish state. Some of these fixed notions today have become labels that we place on one another. Israel’s “romantics” are identified as individuals still holding onto an earlier image of the state’s Zionist origins. Others might be described as “political realists” because they focus on the multiple military and security threats that have defined the state’s history and remain its core challenges. Possibly, a third constituency could be defined as “bound by history,” in which specific events, such as the Oslo Accord and its promise of peace, resonate as the pivotal moment in Israel’s diplomatic journey. For this cohort, particular personalities or events have ultimately defined their vision of how the state ought to act and what it must become.

Upon reflection, with its enthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump, Israel symbolically might serve as an ideal “red state” base for this president; contrastingly, many American Jews might metaphorically represent a “blue state” constituency, with their overriding opposition to this White House along with their current discomfort, even disillusionment, with Israeli policies. Again, labels and images are employed to establish our credentials as “realists” or “idealists” in constructing our expectations for Israel.

The internal disagreements among Israelis represent a different type of contest over the Jewish state’s political destiny. Inside the land, these wars around national perspectives take on a geopolitical battleground engaging “the state of Tel Aviv,” with its secular, liberal orientation, against “the state of Jerusalem,” with its traditional religious, politically conservative orientation.

With the rise of the “intersectionality” debate in this nation, many American Jews are being forced to choose between their social justice priorities and their Zionist passions. Maybe for the first time in American history, Jews are engaging with allies on specific issues of discrimination and victimhood where they find common ground, yet knowing that these “friends” espouse views that may be perceived as anti-Israel because this movement seeks to incorporate Israel as a purveyor of racism.

On this anniversary of Israeli statehood, how can we find common ground as our various images and expectations of Israel come up against its political realities? We are dramatically reminded that this experiment in state-building is a relatively new venture in the annals of Jewish history, hardly a significant period of time to develop a mature, sophisticated understanding of how a nation, its citizens or its Diaspora partners “ought” to behave and operate. Jewish history readily informs us that where our people remain in discord between our historic expectations and the realities of nation-building, the political outcomes have been unsettling and even problematic.


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. Windmueller’s writings can be found on thewindreport.com. A version of this article originally appeared on eJewishphilanthropy.com.

A ‘Better’ Word for Israel


There’s something inexplicable about Israel. On the surface, we know it’s one of the most maligned countries on earth. If I told you that the U.N. General Assembly adopted 97 resolutions that singled out a specific country for condemnation from 2012 to 2015, and that 83 of those were against Israel, you might yawn, right? So what else is new?

But as the Journal’s Aaron Bandler mentions in a column this week, CNN’s Jake Tapper wasn’t too jaded to tell his viewers:

“Considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel deserving of 86 percent of the world’s condemnation?”

Of course not, but we already knew that. In any case, the extreme bashing of Israel is not the point of this column — which I happen to be writing from Israel this week. My point is to understand what makes Israel tick, in particular: How does a country function when it’s so hated?

The first thing that comes to mind is “busyness.” Everyone in Israel seems superbusy, whether they’re working, playing,  praying or arguing. It’s like when people go through a difficult time — a divorce, a job loss, etc. — and friends tell them, “It’s important to always stay busy,” because the more one wallows in angst, the worse things get.

I’ve been walking around the streets of Tel Aviv for the past couple of days — the kind of thing I’ve done hundreds of times over the years, in areas throughout the country — and I’ve been struck again by this Israeli busyness. They might have read this morning that some famous singer has canceled a performance under pressure from BDS, but they’re too busy to let it affect their reality. There’s a family to feed, a party to plan, a cause to advance, a film to complete, an argument to win, a country to protect.

I’m sure it annoys many Israelis to live in the most condemned country on earth, but since this is not a problem they can solve, they just move on to other concerns, like their daily lives.

I’m sure it annoys many Israelis to live in the most condemned nation on earth, but since this is not a problem they can solve, they just move on to other concerns, like their daily lives.

But there’s something else. Israelis are busy because they have the freedom to live as they wish. This freedom is a rare commodity in their neighborhood. On the  Freedom House website, a chart from 2013 shows 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Twelve are listed as “not free,” five are listed as “partially free,” and one is listed as “free.” Can you guess which country is free?

Here’s how Freedom House summarized the state of the region:

“The Middle East and North Africa holds some of the worst records of freedom of expression in the world. Many countries in the region lack legal protection for human rights and the rule of law is undermined by a lack of independent judiciaries.

“The 2011 Arab Spring popular protests brought hope for improvements but devastating wars, foreign intervention and instability have since made it an extremely dangerous environment for journalists, civil society and human rights defenders, forcing millions to leave in search of safety.”

Note the absurdity: The one country out of 18 deemed “free” gets 86 percent of the U.N.’s condemnations. Israelis must feel this absurdity. They know they live in a messy, flawed country that is far from perfect, but they also feel the blatant injustice of being singled-out for condemnation more than any other country.

What’s more, they know they live in a free country where they can express themselves anyway they like. Arab Israelis, for example, are free to publicly mourn Israel’s most joyous day of the year, its Day of Independence, as their official Nakba, or catastrophe.

Notwithstanding that freedom, my guess is that most of those Arab-Israelis would not want to leave this “catastrophe” for one of those “partially free” or “not free” Arab countries. In fact, in a poll conducted last year by the Israel Democracy Institute, 66 percent of Arab Israelis said they see Israel’s situation as “good” or “very good,” while 57 percent said their personal situation was “good” or “very good.”

Which brings me to the “B” word: Better.

A society that allows you the freedom to express yourself is better than one that doesn’t. On that level, yes, Israel is better.

“Better” is one of those politically incorrect words you never want to say in polite company. Different, yes, but not better. If you claim, for example, that Country A is better than Country B, someone might get offended and say, “Who gives you the right to judge?”

Well, in the case of Israel, the world does. If groups like the U.N. have enough chutzpah to treat one country, Israel, worse than all others, then Israel can certainly push back with this simple truth: A society that allows you the freedom to express yourself is better than one that doesn’t. On that level, yes, Israel is better.

It’s a tragic irony that this “better” country of the Middle East is also the most reviled. But Israelis are not agonizing over this state of affairs. They’re too busy expressing themselves.

Third Generation of The Holocaust, a former soldier in the IDF


I am a third generation of the Holocaust, and a former soldier in the IDF.

I was born in a small town in the center of a well-developed country. My most vivid memories from my childhood are music, laughter and quality family-time. My worst experience as a child was when I crashed my bike at the age of five, getting scratches on my knees. My parents gave me everything I wanted and needed, and my night’s sleep was tight and calm.

Since a very early age, my fellow classmates and I were taught that all of this was made possible thanks to our grandparents. At first by our parents, then by our Kindergarten teachers, our teachers, our commanders in the army and now – our professors at the University. When my grandparents were my age, they did not have a comfortable life or a calm night’s sleep. They woke up every day to the scenery of sand, mud and swamps and often to the sound of gunfire. They fought hard, every day, with the dream in their heart that their children and children’s children would have a normal life and safe happy, safe childhood.

My mother’s parents were native Israelis, because their families were smart enough to escape to the swampy state-to-be from Poland, before it was too late. Not all of their relatives were that alert, and were brutally murdered by the Nazi killing machine.

My father’s parents came from Iraq in the 1950’s, and lived in a transit camp until there was a place for them to live in at the newly established State of Israel. Many of my friends’ grandparents are Holocaust survivors, some of them are still unable to talk about those dark times. Together, natives, survivors and patriots from east and west, joined forces for us, their descendants.

Now, as they become older, it is our time to step to center-stage and do our part, as the third generation of the Holocaust. We are the last generation to hear about “those days,” where the country was built after the nightmares of the Holocaust, from first hand. We are the last generation to speak to the heroes who built this country and the heroes who survived the worst, and our life- mission of commemorating and educating will soon begin.  If I heard a testimony from a Holocaust survivor every year from first to 12th grade, and could ask my grandparents questions every day, my children would not have that privilege. They will have to rely on the stories, documentaries, and recorded testimonies. 

It is our mission to keep the memory alive, and in this time of the year it becomes clearer than ever. This special week of the year reminds us all the story of Israel, which is often being described here with the sentence: From Holocaust to Revival (free translation from Hebrew- משואה לתקומה).

With the memory of the Holocaust, we carry constant personal and public grief of the people we lost while fighting to keep our home in Israel – soldiers and civilians, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who died protecting our country, or during a normal day that ended in a tragic terror attack.

This story of Israel, which is still being written, is told every year, during one week in April or May (The Hebrew months Nissan and Iyar). On the 27th of Nissan, we mention the national Holocaust Day; on the 4th of Iyar we mention the national Memorial Day; on the 5th of Iyar we mention our Independence Day. Those three dates tell the story of Israel, in order: we survived the Holocaust to build the state of Israel. From having nothing, we got to have everything, but sadly, this “everything” had its toll, when we lost many in our never-ending battle for our home.

During these days of remembrance, schools change their itinerary and people are allowed to skip work. Ceremonies are held in every public facility, and a grand nation – wide ceremony takes place in Jerusalem and is aired on national television. During these three days, stores are closed, and the entire nation is committed to the essence of the special day. During these days, for a brief moment, everyone stops everything and bow their heads down in grief as a siren is heard throughout the country. During those three days, the television and radio broadcasts are altered, and are dedicated to tell the story, for everyone to know.

With time, the reasons to fully commit to those days could become vaguer and it would be our responsibility to remember and cherish them, making sure our children would not forget them either. In times of Holocaust denial, growing anti-Semitism, growing indifference and threats from our neighboring countries, those reasons must burn in our guts and be our guiding light.

I am a third generation of the Holocaust and a former IDF soldier. Israel was given to me on a silver platter, with the promise to remember those who handed it to me, 70 years ago, and every single day since.

I promise to always remember and never forget. I promise to remember and remind my past, so that my children would be able to create the future.

For more updates about the day-to-day life in Israel, you can follow Israelife on Facebook here.

Iran Threatens to Retaliate Against Israel for Syrian Airstrikes


FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

The Iranian regime announced on April 16 that they will soon retaliate against Israel for their recent airstrikes against Syria.

According to the Times of Israel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasem ominously declared that Israel “should not be able to take action and be exempt from punishment.”

“The Syrian and resistance forces will respond in a timely fashion and appropriately in the region,” Qasemi said.

Qasemi also lashed out at the United States for their airstrikes against Syria on April 13, claiming that the Iraq War in 2003 showed that the U.S. was willing to fabricate information to start wars.

Israel still has not directly stated they were the ones who had launched airstrikes against Syria on April 9, although an Israeli military official reportedly told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that Israel did in fact launch the strikes.

“We will not allow Iranian consolidation in Syria,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on April 16. “We won’t allow any restriction when it comes to Israel’s security interests.”

This is the latest in escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, as on April 13 the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that an Iranian drone that had penetrated Israeli airspace in February was laced with explosives and was set to attack Israel.

Iran seems to be becoming increasingly belligerent. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Iran will be flaunting more advanced ballistic missiles at a military parade on April 18.

“The range of the missile has doubled to fly 8 to 12km farther compared with the previous version and given the regional threats that we are facing, they can be highly effective in combats in short-range combat zones,” Iranian Airborne Commander Yousef Qorbani told Iranian media.

Iran has already entrenched itself in Syria, as the regime in Tehran has help prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and use Syria as a supply line to its terror proxy Hezbollah.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told Fox News on April 15 that the Trump administration sees “Iran as a destabilizing factor.”

“Other administrations failed to do this in the past — look at Iran through the totality of its bad actions around the world,” Nauert said. “And we see that clear every single day in Syria, what they’re doing and the misery they’re causing.”

IDF: Captured Iranian Drone Was Set to Hit Israel with Explosives


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures before delivering a speech in Mashad, Iran, March 21, 2018. Leader.ir/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) announced on April 13 that an Iranian drone that breached Israel in February was on its way to attack Israel with explosives.

The IDF tweeted that the drone “was armed with explosives & was tasked to attack Israel.”

“By intercepting the Iranian UAV, IAF combat helicopters prevented the attack Iran had hoped to carry out in Israel,” the IDF wrote. “The UAV was identified & tracked by Israeli defense systems until its destruction, effectively eliminating any threat the Iranian UAV posed.”

Here is video footage of the drone being captured:

According to YNet News, Iran claimed that the drone had “advanced intelligence gathering systems for electronic signals, images, communications and radar systems.”

The Iranian drone is eerily similar to a United States drone that Iran captured in 2011. The Obama administration meekly asked for Iran to return it, a request that was naturally shot down by the Iranian regime.

Back in February, Israel responded to Iran sending the drone by launching a flurry of 122 airstrikes against the Iranians in Syria. An Israeli F-16 was shot down by the Syrian Army, although the pilots survived.

“We dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defiantly said at the time. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit. We will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us.”

Report: IDF Fears Hamas Is Training Terrorists to Kidnap IDF Soldiers During Border Riots


An undated image released on March 21, 2018 by the Israeli military relates to an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor on Sept 6, 2007. IDF/Handout via Reuters

A new report from an Israeli news outlets states that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is deeply concerned that Hamas is training its members to kidnap IDF soldiers during the border riots.

The Israeli news outlet, Walla, is reporting that the IDF has feared ever since the riots started that the protesters would be used as human shields by Hamas to breach the Israel-Gaza border fence and launch terror attacks against Israel. They are concerned that Hamas will use Molotov cocktails to cause fires on the Israeli border, which would presumably help lead them toward their goal of penetrating the fence and then start kidnapping IDF soldiers.

The IDF is preparing to keep the April 13 rioters as far away from the border fence to ensure that the Israeli border isn’t struck by Molotov cocktails.

Hamas certainly has a track record of kidnapping IDF soldiers, most notably the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers in the summer of 2014 that ignited an armed conflict between Hamas and Israel. There has been at least one Hamas plan to kidnap an IDF soldier foiled by Israel.

The Hamas-led Gaza riots started on March 30 to protest the displaced Arabs from the 1948 War for Independence and are expected to continue and escalate until May 15, the day after Israel celebrates its independence. Multiple people have died in violent clashes in these riots, most of which have been confirmed to be terrorists.

H/T: Algemeiner

Film Says Israel Should Control Holy Sites


In his new documentary, “Roadmap Jerusalem,” Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz argues that Israel should control access to all the religious sites in the nation’s capital.

After almost a decade working in Hollywood, Lebovitz decided to go to rabbinical school. He graduated in 2016 from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University in Los Angeles and currently serves as the rabbi of Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles.

The grandchild of four Holocaust survivors, Lebovitz initially began creating “Roadmap Jerusalem” in 2017, and the 26-minute film premiered at Adat Shalom last month.

“We live at a time when the international community at large, [and] UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has called into question our Jewish historical narrative,” Lebovitz said in an email to the Journal about the impetus for his film.  “The Jewish Community needs to become more vocal about the significance of facts when discussing Israel. If we believe Jerusalem to be so foundational in our ties to the land, and I believe it is, then we should do a better job explaining to people why we hold it in such regard.”

Lebovitz wanted the movie to explore the biblical, archaeological and political history of the city, and focused on three specific Jerusalemites with expertise in these areas: Rabbi Dov Lipman, who served in the Knesset from 2012-2015 as a member of the Yesh Atid secular centrist party; Jon Seligman from the Israel Antiquities Authority, who discussed the Jewish archeological and historical connections to the Temple Mount; and Vered Hollander-Goldfarb of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, with whom Lebovitz studied biblical texts.

In conducting these interviews, Lebovitz said he came to realize that only under the control of the modern State of Israel could all religions have unfettered access to their holy sites.

“I came to understand the prohibitive nature of the foreign empires [that] occupied the city for the last 2,000 years before 1967,” he said. “This is the first time in the history of Jerusalem that the ruling authority does not control the top of the Temple Mount.”

Lebovitz argues because Israel gave up control of the Temple Mount to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (Islamic religious trust) as a goodwill gesture, and because Israel also protects the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it is Israel that should control all of the city’s holy sites.

“We now live during a time of incredible access for all religions to all holy sites, and that is because of the State of Israel,” he said.

Asked by a viewer at the screening who the best audience for the film is, Lebovitz said he believed “friendly communities who already advocate for Israel need to add their voices to this conversation.” He added that communities critical of the film’s viewpoint “need to learn the history and significance of Jerusalem for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, and to see the current controversy in a broader context.”

Lebovitz believes Jerusalem is “the linchpin to the land of Israel. Jerusalem cements our right to a homeland there as our rightful inheritance.”

Jerusalem has been the spiritual and political capital of the Jews for over 2,000 years, Lebovitz said. “We [have] prayed three times a day [for thousands of years] to return to Jerusalem. I think that yearning and the return of Israeli control is similar to a compelling Hollywood love story with a happy ending.”

Visit roadmapjerusalem.com.


Mark Miller is a humorist and writer.

Pivoting East: Israel’s Developing Strategic Relationships in Asia


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands ahead of their talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing last month. Photo by Etienne Oliveau/Reuters

David Ben-Gurion foresaw the future in 1959 when he told the Knesset plenary that the Soviet-American domination of the world was “transient” because China and India would replace the geopolitical duo.

Noting that ancient Israel’s foreign relations were first confined to the Fertile Crescent and then extended only as far as Persia and Rome, Ben-Gurion realized that the modern world was built entirely differently: Asia’s place within it would be dominant, and this prominence would materialize sooner rather than later. “Two decades,” he predicted in 1966 while fielding questions from youths in Tel Aviv.

It has taken longer for both Asian giants to develop into economic powers, and for Israel’s originally Western-oriented foreign relations to start pivoting East.

Ben-Gurion’s Asian vision was, to be sure, ahead of its time.

Recognizing Communist China as early as 1950, over Washington’s objections, Ben-Gurion persuaded China to announce in 1954 the imminent establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel, only to then see Mao Zedong change course and fully back Israel’s enemies.

China’s original, utilitarian policy — based on Mao’s concern for maintaining ties with the Arab world and the Nonaligned Bloc, co-founded by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser — morphed over the next decade into ideological zeal, as Israel was seen as part of Western nations’ opposition to the Cultural Revolution’s philosophies.

A similar pattern evolved with India, under its anti-Zionist first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Considering demographic and economic trends, there is reason to believe that within about two generations most Israeli exports will head to Asian destinations.

After first refusing to recognize Israel, New Delhi finally did so in 1950 but took another three years for it to let Israel open a consulate in Mumbai (then called Bombay), while refusing to exchange ambassadors with the Jewish state.

The situation was better with Japan, which exchanged ambassadors with Israel in 1952, less than a month after the end of its occupation by the United States. Unlike China and India, Japan was now an American satellite, and as such lacked its fellow Asian powers’ urge to impress the Nonaligned Bloc.

However, Tokyo had economic reasons to keep Israel at arm’s length because its heavily industrialized economy depended for its existence on Middle Eastern oil. Japan’s leading businesses, including its major automakers — Mitsubishi, Toyota, Mazda and Honda — surrendered to the Arab League boycott. Therefore, Israel’s initial ties with Asia were subdued.

While altogether ostracized by the Muslim belt that stretches from Afghanistan through Bangladesh to Indonesia, not to mention the Arab lands on Asia’s western end, Jerusalem cozied up with relatively peripheral Thailand, Burma and the Philippines while patiently awaiting a breakthrough with the Asian powers.

Ironically, the only strategic partner Israel initially found in Asia was Iran, to which it sold arms and food and with which it built farms and neighborhoods while helping Iran’s oil deliveries to Europe through the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline.

Israel’s ties with Iran were severed in the wake of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which coincided with China’s abandonment of its own anti-Western fanaticism. But well before those developments, Israel-Asia relations began to transform, improbably and unnoticeably, in unassuming Singapore.

Surrounded by hostile Muslims while at odds with the Communist powers and unable to enlist Western governments’ military assistance, Singapore had an urgent need for an army — which Israel happily supplied.

Israel Defense Forces generals arrived in Singapore soon after its independence in 1965 and secretly built from scratch a powerful military that to this day is considered the best-equipped and trained army in its region. Israel, for its part, emerged with a strategic foothold in the Far East, forging a close alliance that flourishes to this day with what has since become one of the world’s richest and most stable countries.

The Singaporean saga was followed closely in Beijing, where the Soviet Union’s 1969 invasion of Afghanistan was viewed with alarm and Mao’s legacy was giving way to Deng Xiaoping’s economic U-turn.

Moscow’s unpredictability spurred Deng to order an inspection of the Chinese military’s hardware, after which he concluded that an upgrade was urgently needed. Realizing Israel’s success in Singapore, he began secretly buying Israeli arms.

Initially administered through the Israeli consulate in British-ruled Hong Kong, the Israeli-Chinese relationship would quietly mature while communism itself withered. The consequent disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and America’s emergence as the sole superpower, paved the way to the great diplomatic breakthrough Israel had awaited since its inception.

Israel and China exchanged ambassadors in January 1992. The following week, India said it would open an embassy in Tel Aviv. The following year, Israel and Vietnam established full diplomatic relations and Israel reopened its embassy in Seoul, which it had closed in 1978 due to cutbacks.

The diplomatic path to Asia that Ben-Gurion had mapped had thus been paved. Now, with military traffic already bustling along this route, the stage was set for the commercial relationship that would soon grow at breakneck speed.

The Israeli economy’s Asian era was launched by Japan, whose cautious investors concluded by the early 1990s that their fear of the Arab League boycott had become anachronistic.

The turning points in this regard were the Gulf War, which, as seen by Tokyo, pitted Arabs against Arabs regardless of Israel, and the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, which gave reason to believe that the intensity of the Arab-Israeli conflict was waning.

Consequently, Japan changed course.

Tokyo’s big investment houses began sending delegations to Tel Aviv, signaling that they now saw Israel as a diplomatically safe and financially lucrative destination for their clients. Asian capital began arriving to invest in Israel’s fast-maturing high-tech sector, while Japanese car models that Israelis had previously seen only in Europe and America now sparkled in Tel Aviv car dealerships and soon crowded Israeli highways.

Asia’s newly rising powers arrived on the heels of their Japanese role model.

With all diplomatic barriers collapsed, Asian-made clothes, toys, electronics and white goods swamped Israel’s newly proliferating shopping malls, while Israeli goods — from foodstuffs and computer software to military radars and avionics — flowed to the East.

By 2015, Israel saw its exports to Asia — which less than a quarter-century earlier were negligible — eclipse its exports to the U.S., comprising a quarter of overall Israeli exports and nearly equaling exports to Europe, which in 2015 stood at 28 percent.

Though Asia’s share of the Israel economy narrowed a bit in 2017 — thanks to renewed growth in Europe and the U.S. — the general trend is clear: Israeli exports are tilting to the East. Israel’s arms industry had $5.7 billion in sales in 2016, 40.1 percent of which were with Asian countries, well ahead of Europe’s 27.5 percent and North America’s 19.3 percent.

Considering demo-graphic and economic trends, there is reason to believe that within about two generations most Israeli exports will head to Asian destinations.

In terms of imports, in 2016 China sold more products and services to Israel than any other country, totaling 13.5 percent of Israel’s imports at $7.9 billion, ahead of U.S. imports at 12.3 percent and $7.2 billion.

Hardly a decade after China supplied a mere 0.6 percent of Israel’s imports, it seemed only natural in 2015 when Shanghai-based Bright Food bought a controlling share in Israel’s largest dairy food company, Tnuva, for an estimated $1.4 billion, while the Chinese investment group Fosun bought Israeli cosmetics giant Ahava for $27 million.

Israel’s trade with India, while smaller in quantity than with China — $1.15 billion in exports and $800 million in imports in 2016 — is more dramatic in its quality. The same Israel where India once would not even station an ambassador is now its second-largest arms supplier after Russia, having sold the subcontinent missiles, radars, artillery batteries, surveillance aircraft and other weapons.

A quarter-century’s worth of commercial commotion was underscored by a slew of high-profile diplomatic visits that in Israel’s first decades were unthinkable.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s five-day state visit to Israel in 2000 was followed by five visits to China by Israeli presidents and prime ministers, the last of whom were Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017 and the late Shimon Peres in 2014.

Netanyahu visited Japan in 2014 and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abbe visited Israel in 2015; President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited India in 1993 and 2003, respectively; India’s President Pranab Mukherjee visited Israel in 2015 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel last July; and Netanyahu visited the subcontinent in January accompanied by 130 businessmen.

The gradual pivot to Asia is also expressed in the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s recasting of its outposts worldwide, having decided to close its consulates in Minsk, Marseilles, Philadelphia and San Salvador, and open new ones in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Bangalore.

Those moves also explain Israel’s decision to join, as a co-founder, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Chinese-led version of the World Bank, despite American misgivings.

The relentless effort to create strategic partnerships with Asian powers registered one great failure, in 1999, when the Clinton administration torpedoed a signed deal to sell China American-made but Israeli-upgraded Phalcon spy planes.

The cancelation cost Israel a $350 million compensation fee to Beijing, and signaled a broad retreat from China’s defense deals with Jerusalem, although the two countries’ armies’ chiefs of  staff exchanged visits in 2011 and 2012.

Israel thus received a humbling reminder that its burgeoning Asia ties must be cultivated without compromising relations with its most important ally, the United States. Israel, therefore, sought a different kind of strategic relationship with China. Having found that formula within a few years, its implementation is now well underway.

Israel was not unique in buying toys, sweatshirts or dishwashers made in China. Similarly, what China bought in Israel, scores of other countries bought from the Jewish state, as well.

All this changed, however, when the two countries set out to help each other advance to the next phases in their very different economic histories, with Israel selling China educational goods and China selling Israel infrastructure projects.

Israel and China are forging a strategic partnership. … It is only a matter of time before this economic and educational hyperactivity impacts the Middle Eastern conflict.

Chinese public works giants have teamed up with Israeli companies in building the Carmel Tunnels under Haifa and the Acre-Karmiel railroad, and they are now involved in upgrading the Ashdod seaport and constructing Tel Aviv’s subway.

Most crucially for Israel, China wants, and is indeed poised, to build the planned Tel Aviv-Eilat railway, expected to be the greatest infrastructure project in the Jewish state’s history.

Israel, at the same time, set out to help China realize its next national aim: to shift part of its workforce from manufacturing to invention, and thus transition its economy of mass production to a post-industrial future.

Realizing Israel’s technological accomplishments, China’s Tsinghua University signed a deal in 2014 with Tel Aviv University to create a joint center for research of solar, hydrological and other environmental technologies.

In 2015, Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was hired to build a $130 million technological institute in Guangdong, China. And in April 2016, Jilin University signed an agreement with Ben-Gurion University to establish a center of entrepreneurship and innovation. East China Normal University followed up that agreement with an announcement that it would open, together with the Technion, a Chinese-funded program on the Technion campus that would specialize in neurobiology, biomedicine and other fields.

Thus, Israel and China are forging a strategic partnership, the likes of which Israel never previously experienced because no superpower ever used Israel to cultivate its own industrial development. It is only a matter of time before this economic and educational hyperactivity impacts the Middle Eastern conflict.

China, India and Japan can do wonders in this regard by imposing a peace deal on Israel’s enemies, while the U.S. imposes one on Israel. This will be particularly true for Iran, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States, which vitally need China to buy their oil and gas. China’s leverage in Tehran as a major petroleum buyer also applies to Japan and India.

The day when Asia plays such a role in the Mideast conflict may seem a distant reality right now, but then again, it has only been one generation since Chinese and Indian ambassadors arrived in the Jewish state, and 40 years since Jerusalem’s lone strategic partner in Asia was Tehran.


Amotz Asa-El is The Jerusalem Post’s senior commentator. A version of this article originally appeared in the Post.

Adam Milstein: Promoter of Israeliness


Photo by Ryan Torok.

Adam Milstein is a managing partner at Hager Pacific Properties, but is probably best known as the co-founder and chairman of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), a national organization that engages Israeli Americans through a variety of programming, including annual Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations, young adult groups and children’s educational communities.

He and his wife, Gila, run the Adam and Gila Milstein Foundation, which, among other activities, provides subsidies for high school students to attend the annual AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference.

Born in Haifa, Milstein, who is in his mid-60s, arrived in the United States 37 years ago to pursue an MBA at USC, and he never left. After finding success in real estate, he has devoted himself to various charitable causes, the majority of which are focused on support for Israel.

Milstein met with the Journal to discuss why charity plays an important part in his life; how the IAC has nurtured a culture of philanthropy among Israeli Americans, “Israeliness,” and the dangers facing Israel today on the eve of its 70th anniversary.

Jewish Journal: What have been the IAC’s greatest successes since its launch in 2007?

Adam Milstein: Before we started the IAC, you did not have any Israeli philanthropy. The Jewish community said, “If you are a philanthropist, then you are a Jewish philanthropist, and if you are not a philanthropist, you are Israeli.” Eleven years later, at [the IAC galas], we raised millions of dollars. In March, we [had] a gala here in Los Angeles, and not counting contributions from Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson, we raised $2.5 million.

Today, the Israeli-American community is considered a very philanthropic community. So, we created a culture of giving. We took a small idea and became a nationwide movement.

JJ: Why is engaging Israeli Americans important to the greater mission of supporting Israel?

AM: There is nobody better than an Israeli American to be an advocate for the State of Israel. We have the information; we have been there; we have fought in the army; we know it is a very dangerous neighborhood. We are Americans, and we think like Americans, and I think there is nobody that can be better spokespeople for Israel than people who are Israeli Americans.

Milstein served in the IDF from 1971-1974.

The Yom Kippur war was in October of 1973, the last year of his service.

JJ: What are the biggest threats facing Israel today?

AM: I think the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel is growing. Anti-Semitism is growing, and the fact we are passive and defensive is not helping us because it is intensifying.

JJ: Do you mean on college campuses specifically?

AM: Every place. BDS and anti-Semitism are related. Maybe on campus you call it BDS. Outside, it is anti-Semitism.

JJ: There are those who argue that BDS is not anti-Semitic.

AM: I understand you care about human rights and social justice, but if the only country in the world you have a problem with is the State of Israel, or the Jewish people, then it is related to the Jews and State of Israel. If you have a problem with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad killing people with chemical weapons, if you have problem with Iran hanging gays and lesbians from cranes, then I agree, it has nothing to do with Israel. But if every second resolution in the U.N. is about Israel, if in UNESCO every resolution is about Israel, then you understand there is anti-Semitism behind it.

And even though we say it is about the occupation, or the policies of the government, or it’s about Israel shooting someone who is trying to penetrate Israel from the outside, it is about Israel, and it is about the Jews, because we don’t hear any complaints about North Korea or China or Russia or anywhere else.

So, anti-Semitism is growing in the United States. I think, again, it is mostly growing — it is growing from the white supremacists — but mostly from the radical left and radical Muslims. And we need to think out of the box and come up with new strategies, because we clearly are not winning.

JJ: To what extent is Jewish identity connected to support of Israel?

AM: In the Israeli-American community, we don’t say you have to go to synagogue every day, pray and put on teffilin. We say you can connect to Israel and to your Jewish heritage through what we call “Israeliness.” Israeliness has to do with the culture, the food, the dancing, the fact that I met you one time and the next time I say, “You’re in town? I have an empty room. Come stay with me.”

JJ: What role do you see the IAC playing 10 years from now?

AM: I believe that we will become more and more the pro-Israel community in the U.S. This is in our mission, and we made it clear our support for Israel is unwavering, unconditional. And I think that this will separate us from the other organizations that are unsure if they need to criticize Israel or support Israel. They don’t see what we see. This is the only country we have. If you look at Israel, at the 70 years that have passed since independence, there are no other countries in the world that have accomplished so much.

Why Israel?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. The government of Israel responded to that atrocity, as well as Iran’s use of Syria as a thoroughfare for weapons transfers to terrorist groups like Hamas, by bombing Syria’s T4 airbase. The media responded by castigating Israel: for example, the Associated Press headlined, “Tensions ratchet up as Israel blamed for Syria missile strike,” and accompanied that story with a photo of suffering Syrian children targeted by Assad, making it seem that Israel had targeted the children.

That media treatment was no surprise — the week before, the terrorist group Hamas used large-scale protests against Israel on the Gaza border as a cover for terrorist attacks on Israeli troops. When Israeli troops responded with force, the media falsely suggested that Israel had indiscriminately fired into the crowd. Meanwhile, reporters touted the story of a supposed photographer killed by Israeli forces; it turns out that the photographer was a known Hamas officer.

A few weeks earlier and some 2,000 miles away in France, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was stabbed 11 times and her body set on fire by a Muslim neighbor who knew her well, and had convictions for rape and sexual assault. In 2017, there were 92 violent anti-Semitic incidents in France, a 28 percent year-on-year increase.

Moving across the English Channel, Israel’s Labor Party finally was forced to cut ties completely with the leader of the U.K.’s Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, a longtime anti-Semite who has routinely made nice with terrorists and defended open Jew-hatred in public. And, of course, in the United States, the alt-right’s anti-Semitism continues to make public discourse more crude and the Women’s March continues to make nice with anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan.

In other words, there is a reason for Israel to exist.

Israel’s self-interest is good for the Jews, good for the West and good for the world.

That reason is biblical, of course: Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and the wellspring of Jewish practice. God’s promise to the Jews is inextricably intertwined with the existence and future of the State of Israel.

But over the past few decades, too many Jews have forgotten about the practical need for the Jewish state. In the same way too many Jews ignored the Zionist movement, believing that assimilation into tolerant non-Jewish societies provided the best pathway to a decent life, too many Jews today see Israel as a remnant of a hackneyed and counterproductive ethnocentric worldview. That dislike for Israel’s very existence has led many Jews to demonstrate their “world citizen” bona fides by using every opportunity to criticize Israel.

But Israel’s existence is not about ethnocentrism. Israel is multiethnic and multicultural, of course: Judaism is a religion far more than an ethnicity, as Russian and Ethiopian Jews can attest. Israel’s existence, on a secular level, is about enshrining a state that is safe for Jews the world over — and that can defend Jews and Western values in the face of regional and international threats. When Israel stands up to Syrian atrocities, it is acting out of a Judaic commitment to prevent the degradation of human beings made in God’s image; when Israel offers a road for European Jews on the verge of extinction, it is acting not merely out of solidarity but out of decency. Israel is a decent country, because it was founded on a decent purpose — and because it was founded on the basis of a tradition of decency.

That doesn’t mean Israel’s government is mistake-free. Far from it. But Israel’s extraordinary treatment at the hands of the world community is a demonstration that Israel is an outlier — and that’s a good thing. The United Nations that condemns Israel is filled with repressive dictatorships and corrupt plutocracies; the supposed “family of nations” is more like a squabbling band of self-interested moral idiots.

When Syrian children, mostly Muslim, gasp from chlorine poisoning, it is Israeli jets that provide a possible respite. Israel doesn’t act out of the pure goodness of its heart; it acts from self-interest. But Israel’s self-interest is good for the Jews, good for the West and good for the world. Forgetting that means trusting that the better angels of others’ natures will persevere over their internal devils. Historically, that’s been a rotten bet.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

We Should Sacrifice, Not Just Celebrate


Yizkor stickers. Standing at attention. The blaring of a siren. Reading the names of fallen soldiers.

For many schools, these are the time-honored hallmarks of every commemoration for Yom HaZikaron. And although each component is important, the question is: Are they enough?

I reached out to my aunt and uncle, whose son was injured in Tzuk Eitan in 2014, to help me answer this question. In Tzuk Eitan, 67 soldiers were killed and 1,434 were wounded. My first cousin, Boaz, was one of those injured. My aunt, in talking about the “horim ha’shikulim” — the mothers and fathers whose children were killed and whose lives were forever changed one hot summer day in July 2014 — said:

“Each of these mothers will never again get to hear the front door opening and their son calling, ‘Hi, Ema! I’m home!’ Their beds will never be slept in, their clothes never worn, their seat at the table will always be empty, and their mothers will never get to see them grow into the people they were meant to be. This is a terrible, unbearable tragedy.”

But, she continued, “Boaz lives every day with the price he paid to keep us safe and our dream of Zion alive. Every day he deals with physical and emotional pain that few understand and fewer still can relate to. He will never be whole, and he will never be free of it. And like him are 50,000 other Israelis, all ‘nechai tzahal’ (injured veterans).”

Exposing our students to the wounded living heroes enables us to empathize with the very real struggles  of all Israelis.

The reality is that Israel, like many other countries, struggles with how to support its wounded veterans. It is easier to ignore them. Yet, we must be there for all the wounded soldiers. And exposing our students to the wounded living heroes enables us to understand and empathize with the very real struggles and anxieties of all Israelis.

Whose story should we tell? We need to honor the people who paid the ultimate price to protect all of us, and we need to honor those people who spend their lives continuing to pay the price for their sacrifice.

It’s no secret that American Jews have, in the past several years, been less enthusiastic in their support for Israel. The way to fundamentally combat this trend is, of course, at the level of education. We must develop curricula and school cultures that reinforce Zionist passion and identity. To that end, Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) and Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) serve as ripe opportunities for students to establish a connection to the Jewish state, its inhabitants and its history.

The questions arise: Should we consider different approaches to how we commemorate Yom HaZikaron? Should we limit the ceremony to those who gave up their lives, or can we include the wounded as well?

Every citizen of Israel, as we all know, must answer the call of duty for military service. Of course, that call of duty comes with tremendous risk — of losing one’s life  or suffering psychological and physical trauma.

We need to recall that, as mythical Israel turns 70, real Israelis live each day with the pain of sacrifice to make it a reality.

Let’s make sure we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Let’s remember that Yom HaZikaron changed throughout the years. Israel used to commemorate only the fallen soldiers of the 1948 War of Independence but changed to also commemorate those who gave their lives in pre-state years. Israel used to commemorate only those lost in war and changed to commemorating victims of terror as well.

My point is this: It is less important to follow an almost talmudic preciseness of what the day traditionally calls for than it is to connect our students to the sacrifices that real people make so that our unbelievable country, our dream — Medinat Yisrael — could exist.

Let’s come together as educators, parents and students to realize that the most important things are for our youth to connect with Israel, love Israel and care about Israel, and to commemorate those who gave up their lives and those whose lives are forever impacted.


Noam Weissman is senior vice president of education for Jerusalem U.  

When Truth Comes Marching In


The pesky truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict finally came out last week — and hardly anyone noticed. After decades of hearing that the key obstacle to peace is the Jewish presence in the West Bank, the “March of Return” protests from Gaza exposed a more fundamental obstacle — the Jewish presence in Israel.

These violent protests had nothing to do with the Jewish “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinian leaders have long claimed they want to build a Palestinian state. No, the thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Israeli border with Gaza were dying to return not to Ramallah — but to Tel Aviv and Haifa.

This is the first time we’ve witnessed such a concrete expression of a Palestinian demand that is an absolute deal-killer: The “return” of up to 5 million Palestinian refugees to Israel proper. Even the most leftist peace groups concede that Israel could never allow that. This delusional “right of return,” which Palestinian leaders have nurtured for decades as a sacred right, has always been a ticking time bomb. Sooner or later, it was bound to explode.

Last week, on the eve of Israel’s 70th anniversary, the truth exploded. There was no more pretending. When Palestinian rioters did everything they could to breach Israel’s border fence, it was not a Palestinian state they were after, it was the Jewish state.

This is the first time we’ve witnessed such a concrete expression of a Palestinian demand that is an absolute deal-killer: The “return” of up to 5 million Palestinian refugees to Israel proper.

The mainstream media hardly noticed this sea change, instead focusing on the same old formula we’ve seen a million times — Palestinian demonstrators plus violence equals dramatic coverage. Never mind that, this time, the demonstrators were trying to invade Israel.

To his credit, Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, picked up on the change right away in a letter to The New York Times:

“This was by no means a peaceful protest,” he wrote. “It was organized with the theme of the ‘right of return’ and featured literal calls by Hamas leaders in the crowds to march ‘on to Jerusalem,’ a theme consistent with the ideology of Hamas, which is to destroy the Jewish state and to reject any efforts at reconciliation or peace.”

Remember, we’re talking about Gaza here — a coastal enclave that Israel completely evacuated in the summer of 2005, in a heart-wrenching action that nearly tore apart the country after 7,000 Jews were expelled from their homes. Because there was no more “occupation” for the Palestinians to rail against, their leaders had to find something else.

They found Israel.

As Ben-Dror Yemini wrote on YNet:

“This wasn’t resistance to the settlement enterprise. This was the desire to annihilate Israel  —  as the march’s organizers publicly declared … ‘Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud,’ which is the Muslim battle cry, from days of old, to slaughter Jews. Not Zionists. Not Israelis. Jews.”

Don’t be fooled by the anti-Israel propaganda that Israel is still “occupying” Gaza because of its “blockade.” In one week alone in March, Israel’s Defense Ministry reported, 2,728 trucks entered the Gaza Strip from Israel, carrying 74,202 tons of supplies, including 87 tons of medical supplies, 15 tons of agricultural products, 1,506 tons of food supplies, and 51,044 tons of building supplies.

Had Arab leaders accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, there’d be no such thing as Palestinian refugees, and we would be celebrating two national birthdays next week instead of just one.

In addition, Israel supplies electricity to Gaza via 10 power lines and water via two pipelines. Of course, now that Palestinians burned 10,000 tires at the border to create havoc for Israeli forces, they’re complaining that Israel is not allowing tires to enter, just as they complained that Israel wasn’t allowing the entry of materials that would further a terror infrastructure.

Israel has made its share of mistakes over the years, but here’s a mistake it never made: Stopping Palestinian leaders from creating a “Gaza Riviera” in the Gaza Strip that would have become a world-renowned tourist destination. Had Palestinian leaders taken advantage of Israel’s evacuation to create a decent life for their people, Israel would have been the first country to help out.

It was not Israel’s decision to invest all that money in bombs and tunnels instead of schools, hotels and industrial parks. It was not Israel’s decision to teach the hatred of Jews in Palestinian schools rather than the love of life and peaceful co-existence.

While the media focus on the hell emanating from Gaza, Israelis imagine the hell that would emanate from the West Bank if it were controlled by a terror group like Hamas. Can you blame Israeli voters, who already see a genocidal Iran installed next door in Syria, if they dread the thought of a second Gaza on their doorstep?

Israel is not the enemy of the Palestinian people. The real enemy is their corrupt leadership that peddles hatred and pipe dreams instead of real hope.

Had Arab leaders accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, there’d be no such thing as Palestinian refugees, and we would be celebrating two national birthdays next week instead of just one.

Israel Allegedly Launched Airstrikes Against Syria After Assad Launches Chemical Attack Against His Own People


Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. To match Special Report RUSSIA-FLIGHTS/ Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/ via REUTERS/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

UPDATE: Iran is claiming that seven Iranian military personnel died in the airstrikes. Israel is now reportedly bracing itself for a counterattack by Iran’s proxy terror group Hezbollah.

ORIGINAL:

Israel allegedly launched airstrikes in Syria after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people over the weekend.

Russia and Syria claimed the strikes came from two Israeli F-15 planes, which resulted in 14 dead, including four Iranian military advisers in addition to multiple officers in the Syrian Army. Israel has not directly confirmed that they were the ones who launched the strikes, but their foreign ministry issued a statement condemning Assad for his chemical weapons attack.

“The attack shows clearly that Syria continues to possess lethal chemical weapons capabilities and even to manufacture new ones,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. “In so doing Syria is grossly violating its obligations and the decisions of the international community in this matter.”

Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Douma, a town that is close to Damascus and was held by the Syrian rebels, resulted in at least 40 people dead. According to The Times of Israel, “victims showed signs of gas poisoning including pupil dilation and foaming at the mouth” and there was also the scent of chlorine in the air.

Additionally, the Syrian American Medical Society has claimed that over “500 cases — the majority of whom are women and children — were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”

A local activist told NBC News, “Whole families, mothers and little children and babies, they were all dead. They tried to escape death, but here in Douma, there is death is everywhere.”

Assad and the Russian government have denied the attack, but President Trump isn’t buying their denial.

“To me there’s not much of a doubt,” Trump told reporters on April 9. “If they’re innocent why aren’t they allowing people to go in and prove [it].”

Trump is expected to announce if the U.S. is going to take any retaliatory measures against Syria for the chemical attack. Defense Secretary James Mattis wouldn’t rule out airstrikes against Syria.

According to Syrian media, Syrian and Iranian forces are already on the move out of fear of possible U.S. airstrikes.

Israel has launched numerous airstrikes against Syria over the years, mainly against Hezbollah. There is evidence to suggest that Israel’s alleged airstrikes were in part aimed at curbing Iran’s grip in Syria in addition to being a retaliation against Assad’s chemical attack.

North Carolina City Council Won’t Allow Israeli Training of Police Force


Screenshot from YouTube.

A North Carolina City Council issued a statement on April 5 declaring that they wouldn’t accept Israeli training of their police force.

The statement stemmed from a October petition from various groups – including Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) – calling for the Durham City Council to break away from Israeli training of the city’s police. Their rationale was that Israeli law enforcement’s supposed “long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color” would help “the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.”

“We want to live in a Durham that ensures true collective safety for all, and so we demand that the City of Durham immediately halt any partnerships that the Durham Police Department has or might enter into with the Israeli Defense Forces and/or the Israel Police,” the petition reads.

On April 4, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis issued a memo stating that while she had “training experience” in Israel, she has no intention of ever having her police force receiving training from Israelis. The city council stood behind Davis in their statement.

“In Durham, our community is working towards a time when we are beyond policing–when everyone has a good job and excellent health care and a safe, warm, affordable place to live,” the statement reads. “Until that time comes, we want police that is founded on earning the trust of the community.”

The statement proceeded to tout a decline in crime in Durham as well as “a profound cultural shift” in the police department.

“Black lives matter,” the statement reads. “We can make that phase real in Durham by rejecting the militarization of our police force in favor of a different kind of policing, and that is what we are doing in Durham right now.”

A letter signed by seven rabbis in the areas had advocated for the city council to not cave to the petition.

“To link Israel to white supremacy and other forms of hate speech in the U.S, to insinuate that Israel teaches American police to attack minorities in our country, or that problems in U.S. policing are due to the Israel/Palestinian conflict are insulting and will only serve to demonize Israel and the Jewish people,” the letter states. “Efforts to delegitimize Israel are a purposeful strategy by some organizations, part of a broader strategy to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, and one that is purposefully targeting Durham to accept terrible lies. No evidence exists that sharing best practices on counter-terrorism in society cannot be beneficial to those that listen, reflect and make decisions for their own communities.”

Guest columnist Peter Reitzes wrote in The Herald Sun that city council members signing onto the petition was “deeply disrespectful to the brave women and men of the Durham police force.”

“The City Council should be working respectfully and productively with the Durham police force; not aligning themselves with those who wish to eliminate it,” Reitzes wrote.

Reitzes pointed out that Israel played a role in preventing a terror attack against an Australian airliner.

“Through circumstances it never wanted, Israel has been forced to become a world leader in preventing terrorism,” Reitzes wrote. “Israel now shares its expertise in protecting and respecting communities.”

Reitzes then slammed JVP for bringing “its anti-police and anti-Israel agenda to the city of Durham.”

“City Council members are not helping the citizens of Durham by aligning themselves with an outside group that promotes anti-Semitism and seeks to defund the local police,” Reitzes wrote.

As Jewish Virtual Library explains, there have been joint police training sessions between Israel and the U.S. since 1997. In 2003, 33 top U.S. law enforcement officials went to Israel for a meeting on dealing with terror, and afterward then-Washington D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey called the meeting “invaluable.”

“They have so much more experience in dealing with this than we do in the United States,” Ramsey said.

We Need a New U.N.


Photo from Flickr.

Another week, another Israel bashing session at the United Nations.

Following the Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday that resulted in at least 16 dead, the U.N. Security Council responded by drafting a resolution calling for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to be investigated for the various Palestinian deaths. The resolution was vetoed by the United States, but the fact that the U.N. yet again put the blame on Israel instead of on the terror group Hamas, who are using civilians as human shields in an attempt to wage a war with Israel, is disgraceful.

This is par for the course for the Israel-hating U.N. On March 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel due to the Jewish state’s so-called “occupation” of East Jerusalem. The UNHRC has a bad habit of denouncing Israel at least once a week, the same UNHRC that consists of countries like Venezuela, China and Cuba, which aren’t exactly halcyons of human rights.

Then there are the reported anti-Semitic Facebook posts from United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) teachers, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaring the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron as belonging to the Palestinians… the list goes on and on.

The statistics prove it too: CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out in December that the U.N. General Assembly adopted 97 resolutions that singled out a specific country from 2012-15. The number that singled out Israel: 83.

“Considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?” Tapper said.

I would go a bit further: what does the U.N. do well, exactly?

It certainly doesn’t do well addressing actual human rights abuses, like the ones Tapper cited. Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has admitted that the international body “could have done much more” to stop the Rwanda genocide.

What about Russian and Chinese aggression? The U.N. tribunal’s 2016 ruling that China has no sovereign claim over the entirety of the South China sea has done nothing to stop Beijing from ramping up military exercises in the area. Similarly, the U.N. has done little to curb Vladimir Putin’s intervention into the Crimea.

Reminder: Russia and China wield veto power on the U.N. Security Council, preventing any real action to be taken on Syria, North Korea and Iran.

What about global poverty? A 2012 study conducted by New York University’s William Easterly and Mississippi State University’s Claudia Williamson concluded that the U.N.’s aid practices are toward the bottom among aid agencies worldwide. And as Chelsea Follett of HumanProgress noted, the U.N. is touting top-down, centralized government programs as the source for the decline in global poverty when in actuality it is economic freedom that has caused the dramatic decline in poverty.

The environment? A 2017 New York Times article detailed how the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund was established to help impoverished countries deal with climate changes, yet the money raised by the fund have gone toward questionable private sector projects instead of those countries. And the U.N.’s prized Paris Climate Accords’ impact on the climate would be negligible while harming the U.S. economy.

Peacekeeping? How can the U.N. be trusted in this area when their peacekeepers have been accused of sexually abusing women and girls in various countries and have been cited as the cause of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti?

With all this mind, is the U.N. really worth the nearly $8 billion that the U.S. allocates toward the international body?

The unfortunate truth is that the U.N. is a far cry from the bastion of freedom that the Allied powers intended when they first formed the international body in 1942 to fight the Axis powers. Freedom-loving countries like the U.S. and Israel are the minority in the U.N.; so long as that is the case, no reforms will solve the structurally flawed nature of the incompetent and immoral U.N.

 

This is what I’d love to see on the Global to-do list: Creating a new world body that will do justice to the ideals of the United Nations, an organization that has dishonored its very mission.

At Least Seven Dead As Hamas-Led Protesters Create Smoke Over Gaza Border


Palestinian demonstrators gather at the Israel-Gaza border during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border intensified on April 6, as at least seven protesters have died while protesters conjure smoke over the border.

Haaretz reports that, according to Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry, the seven dead Palestinians were killed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). An additional 1,070 were injured, but it appears that most of the injuries were due to smoke inhalation. The Gaza Health Ministry is claiming that 293 were wounded from the IDF.

The Times of Israel is reporting that the IDF is claiming that the protesters who were killed or hurt by the IDF were all members of Hamas and committing acts of violence.

“There were attempts to carry out acts of terrorism … using the smoke for cover,” IDF spokesman Rob Manelis said.

The IDF detailed Hamas’ use of smoke on Twitter:

The IDF then tweeted out a graphic highlighting how quickly Hamas terrorists could reach Israelis from the border:

The Palestinians are claiming that the smoke is due to Israel using some sort of nerve gas, despite the evidence to the contrary:

Here are some more scenes from the April 6 riots:

Around 20,000 protesters attended the April 6 riots, a decline from the estimated 30,000 a week earlier.

The riots at the border are all part of Hamas’ six week “March of Return” protests against the displacement of Arabs in the aftermath of Israel’s War of Independence. The riots are expected to escalate to May 15, the day after Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of being officially established as an independent Jewish nation. Hamas’ plan involves using civilians as human shields in order to penetrate the border and launch terror attacks against Israelis.

Ex-Leader of Qatar Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made history on April 2 by recognizing Israel’s right to exist in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. Now, a former Arab leader is following suit in this recognition of Israel.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar, tweeted on April 4, “Israelis have a right to live in their land in peace and safety, this is my conviction. I’ve had this conviction for many long years, and I still do.”

Despite this statement, Al Thani added that Qatar needs to do a better of job advocating of the rights of Palestinians and that the country needs to improve its diplomatic relations in the region.

“We need one who will rise among us from the defeat and shame that our nation is experiencing,” Al Thani said. “We are not interested in saying things just to impress others.”

Like Saudi Arabia, Qatar has been a funder of Islamic terror groups – specifically Hamas, in the case of Qatar – which is what makes these latest statements from Salman and Al Thani so noteworthy.

Qatar has been attempting to make inroads with the pro-Israel community over the past couple of months, hosting notable figures such as Alan Dershowitz and Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Mort Klein.

As a February Jerusalem Post article explains, Qatar’s sudden warmth toward the pro-Israel crowd is likely due to the fact that the Gulf Arab nation is feeling diplomatically isolated after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cut ties with Qatar over their funding of terrorism and growing ties with Iran. Consequently, Qatar has reached a point of desperation to where it needs to earn credibility with the United States and Israel.

The Post article goes into detail how Qatar’s shift has caused a rift in the pro-Israel community.

“On one side are those who argue that Qatar is attempting to use Jews, particularly pro-Israel Jewish leaders, to whitewash its image,” the Post’s Seth Frantzman reported. “It isn’t changing and Hamas is still hosted in Qatar, as well as other extremists and anti-Israel voices, such as former Israeli member of Knesset Azmi Bishara and Islamic theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. They point to recent and previous statements by the Israeli Embassy in Washington to Haaretz and Forbes opposing the trips.”

Frantzman continued, “Those who support the Qatari initiative say that there is an opportunity here, now that Doha is isolated, to get them to change. They argue Qatar has little leverage over Hamas and if Doha was able to get Hamas to release Israelis held in Gaza, it would merely prove Qatar’s influence. Therefore Doha’s inability to move on some key pro-Israel concerns is evidence that it isn’t close to Hamas.”

Al Thani’s recent tweets seem to be reflective of these developments between Qatar and the pro-Israel community.

Regardless, the timing of Salman’s statement to Goldberg and Al Thani’s tweets cannot be ignored; Salman’s recognition of Israel could be seen down the road as a watershed moment for Arab leaders recognizing the Jewish state’s right to exist.

Mayim Bialik to Deliver UCLA Commencement


Mayim Bialik. Courtesy of UCLA.

Maybe expressing an unpopular viewpoint could be the theme of Mayim Bialik’s forthcoming commencement address at UCLA.

On April 4, the public university announced its selection of the “The Big Bang Theory” actress and UCLA neuroscientist alumna as the distinguished alumna speaker for the UCLA College commencement on June 15.

“Dr. Bialik embodies the values of a Bruin,” UCLA College Senior Dean Patricia Turner said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has shown how hard work, determination and civic duty can lead to success. I know that our graduates will be inspired by her story as they set out to make their own mark in the world.”

What she will talk about when she addresses both commencement ceremonies, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in Pauley Pavilion, remains to be seen, but the experience of expressing challenging opinions during challenging times would be appropriate. Throughout her career, Bialik has never shied from supporting Israel. And following the publication of her 2017 New York Times essay, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” she demonstrated an ability to deal with backlash among those who accused her of victim blaming.

Bialik became a household name portraying the title character in the hit 1990s sitcom, “Blossom.”

After “Blossom” ended in 1995, Bialik enrolled at UCLA. While there, she was active at the campus Hillel, founding a women’s Rosh Chodesh group and participating in Hillel High Holiday services.

She is an observant Jew.

She earned her degree from UCLA in 2000, and her doctorate in 2007, before returning to the screen.

“I had no health insurance and missed performing and making people laugh,” she said in the aforementioned 2017 New York Times piece of her return to acting.

Since 2010, she has appeared on the popular CBS sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.” She plays Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who is romantically involved with Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper.

Killing 16 in Gaza to Save Thousands


Israeli soldiers deploy on the Israeli side of the border with the northern Gaza Strip, April 1, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

It was as easy to figure out Israel’s two main objectives in Gaza last week as it was hard to meet these objectives. Amid a decision by Hamas to arrange mass protest near the Gaza-Israeli border, Israel’s aim was 1) To prevent protesters from crossing the border into Israel — at all cost; and 2) To do this in a way that prevents bloodshed.

Israel’s No. 1 goal was achieved as no Palestinian entered, and there was no mass attempt to cross the border. Israel made the point: Crossing the line (of the border) is crossing a line (Israel’s red line). Israel will make this point again if necessary because no country can allow people whose intentions are spiteful to cross its border unharmed.

Was Israel’s No. 2 goal achieved? That is a good question for which there is no answer acceptable to all observers. Sixteen Gazans were killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) near the border. Palestinian leaders called it butchery. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it terrorism. Left-wing Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg proposed that Israel investigate the shootings. European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini called for an “independent” investigation into the use of live ammunition by Israel.

Of course, every loss of life is a cause for disappointment. And, indeed, 16 people killed is a lot, compared to no people killed. But 16 killed is also a few, compared to 200 people killed, or 2,000 people killed.

If you ask Israel’s military chiefs about last week’s outcome, this is what they’d tell you. IDF needed to kill 16 to prevent the killing of 200, maybe more. IDF needed to kill the 16 to make it clear that Israel will not be tolerant of any attempt to cross its border. An IDF senior officer would tell you this: Had IDF not killed 16, the leadership of Hamas might conclude that it can up the ante and test Israel, and this would force IDF to kill many more under much tenser circumstances. An IDF senior officer would tell you this: By killing 16 — most of which were Hamas operatives —many lives were saved.

If you truly care about saving Palestinian lives, you ought to be pleased with the relatively low number of Palestinians killed last week.

Were all 16 deaths necessary? No one can guarantee that. The Palestinians, by deciding to stage demonstrations that will gain them nothing, knew that it is rare in such events to have everything go as planned. They knew that in such events, a so-called “strategic corporal” — be it a low-ranking soldier, or a hot-headed activist, or a confused officer — can begin an avalanche of events that ends with bloodshed without ever intending to do it. They know that controlling many thousands of demonstrators is difficult, and that supervising the actions of thousands of soldiers is also difficult. When the situation is tense; when the soldier is tired; when there’s smoke and confusion; when the two main objectives — preventing crossing and refraining from bloodshed — somewhat contradict; when all this happens, mistakes should be expected. Mistakes should be taken into account.

It is possible that the leaders of the Palestinian protesters took them into account. In fact, it is likely that they wanted mistakes to happen, as their only hope to achieve anything by staging demonstrations is by relying on these mistakes. If there is an incident of questionable killing, it will serve those calling for investigations, calling for restraint, delegitimizing Israel’s means of defense, delegitimizing Israel’s right to control its border.

If you want to know why Israel is so pleased with the Donald Trump administration, consider what happened in Gaza last week and the president’s response to it. Finally, a U.S. administration that will not buy into the notion of “strong is always wrong.” Finally, an administration that sees through the propaganda and understands that calling for restraint is akin to robing Israel of its means of defense.

Calling for restraint is also the recipe for much more bloodshed, because hesitation on the part of Israel could easily lead to miscalculation by Hamas. And miscalculation could mean more people testing Israel’s resolve. And more people testing Israel’s resolve means less room for maneuvering, less time for response, fewer options other than using live ammunition.

Under no circumstances could Israel let tens of thousands of Gazans march into its territory.  So, if you truly care about saving Palestinian lives, you ought to be pleased with the relatively low number of Palestinians killed last week. You ought to hope that this sent a message clear enough to those thinking about next week’s demonstrations.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Gaza Reality Check: Terrorist-Run Territories Will Produce Terrorism


Palestinian protesters wave their national flag during a demonstration commemorating Land Day, near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City. Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images.

Chaos erupted along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on March 30 as the Hamas-sponsored “March of Return” descended into violent confrontations that left at least 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured. The incident was the first in a series of planned protests along the frontier over the next six weeks, culminating with the May 15 commemoration by Palestinians of the so-called Nakba (catastrophe) of Israel’s creation on Nakba Day.

While much of the international community denounced Jerusalem’s response to the storming of its border by a group estimated at 20,000 to 40,000 people — with some calling the reaction “disproportionate” — Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned on April 1 that the military would employ even tougher measures if the unrest continued. The defense chief also said that 90 percent of the protesters were Hamas officials or “activists” — accompanied by their families, including children — who were paid to sow disorder. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) asserted that at least 10 of the 16 individuals killed in the clash were members of Palestinian terror groups, with Hamas acknowledging that among the dead were five fighters from its ranks.

Many analysts were astonished by the widespread expressions of shock generated by the predictable outcome of an initiative spearheaded by a group dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state and considered a terrorist organization by the United States. Since assuming power in the Gaza Strip just over a decade ago, Hamas has fought three major conflicts with Israel — the most recent being the 50-day confrontation in the summer of 2014 — interspersed by the unprovoked firing of thousands of rockets at Israeli cities; the construction of a network of subterranean attack tunnels stretching into Israeli territory; and the kidnapping of numerous Israeli soldiers and civilians. This, as Hamas has reigned over Gaza with an iron fist, often using its “subjects” as a collective human shield and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on its war machine that could have gone toward alleviating the humanitarian plight in the enclave.

Yet, when another round of hostilities breaks out, so, too, does a familiar international chorus of refrains, ranging from “independent investigations” and “restraint by both sides” to accusations that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. And this by actors that seemingly should be capable of recognizing the certainty that terrorist-run territories invariably produce terrorism.

And that, as a tragic corollary, people are going to die.

“Hamas’ purpose was to see much more bloodshed and to inflame the whole area,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv, formerly the head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate. “Also, the Arab world has forgotten about Gaza and the Palestinians in general. The events of [March 30] were geared mostly toward getting attention because Hamas is in a desperate situation.

“Hamas’ purpose was to see much more bloodshed and to inflame the whole area.” — Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv

“The question of whether Israel acted correctly must be viewed in this context,” he told The Media Line, “and in this case there were casualties, but things could have been much worse. It is unfortunate that deaths occurred, but the incident was contained. Overall, it was the right deployment [of force by Israel].”

Ziv, who commanded the Israeli army’s Gaza Division, believes that the Palestinian enclave represents a Catch-22 situation for Jerusalem, in which its desire to improve the humanitarian situation there is tempered by the imperative of restraining Hamas. “Strategically, Israel is handling things militarily, and this is not comprehensive as it does not change the conditions on the ground. Hamas, as a government, does very little and is unwilling to go further. So the big question is whether Israel should assume more responsibility over the Strip. If not, little can be done and it may be that another round or two of escalation will be required to change the circumstances.”

But because Hamas currently is not interested in engaging Israel in a full-blown conflict, its leaders reverted to “popular resistance” which it knows can harm the Jewish state diplomatically. And with reason, because history shows that no matter the circumstances, the Israeli military’s actions — including unavoidable mistakes under frenzied conditions — are more apt to garner international headlines than Hamas’ instigation of crises.

Indeed, much of the focus in the aftermath of the fighting is on a video that purports to show an unarmed Palestinian being shot in the back while retreating from the border fence. Threats now abound to take Israel to the International Criminal Court over an incident for which no verifiable evidence has been presented. Moreover, given the number of Palestinians killed, Jerusalem has come under heavy criticism for tactics that it argues would be employed — without any afterthought — by every other country in the world under similar circumstances.

“Generally speaking, using live fire in such a complex arena is not illegal in and of itself, although it has to be used very carefully and only against legitimate targets,” Col. (res.) Liron A. Libman, previously the head of the IDF’s International Law Department, told The Media Line. “Also, there are rockets regularly fired on Israel and, a few weeks ago, an [improvised explosive device] that was planted along the border injured four soldiers. So the protest on [March 30] cannot be viewed as a normal demonstration whereby police use regular riot control measures.

“The fact that people were killed is troubling,” he continued, “but that is not evidence that Israel broke international law. Each and every occurrence must be investigated to determine whether the rules of engagement were followed.”

On the flip side, Libman stressed that Hamas, as an organization that controls territory, “has an obligation to keep its citizens out of harm’s way and should therefore have prevented people from approaching the border fence. It does look as though Hamas was attempting to benefit from putting civilians on the front lines.”

Recently, the White House convened a roundtable discussion on the situation in Gaza, attended by Israeli officials and counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, among other regional Arab countries. According to reports, American representatives made clear during the meeting that President Donald Trump views Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip as one of the most serious impediments not only to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking but also to the basic delivery of humanitarian aid to the enclave and its eventual reconstruction.

The U.S. administration therefore supported the recent failed reconciliation attempt between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, a pact that might have restored President Mahmoud Abbas’ control over Gaza. But Abbas refused to send a delegation to the White House for the Gaza talks, instead choosing to uphold a boycott of American officials that he imposed in the wake of Washington’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Accordingly, the prospect of political change in the Gaza Strip will remain exceedingly low for the foreseeable future. And as long as it is run by Hamas, the status quo can be expected to persist even as the international community expresses bewilderment and outrage with every new episode of violence.

Is There Anything Left To Say About the Holocaust?


The most unspeakable crime of the 20th century — or any century, for that matter — actually inspired a lot of people to speak about it. It’s the great paradox of the Holocaust. The mere thought of the genocide of European Jewry both paralyzes and demands action. It summons the silence and the scream. The contradictions are endless but understandable. The Holocaust is ineffable, and yet everyone wants to hear about it. It is unimaginable, and yet that never stopped artists from reimagining it.

Either as a duty to the dead or in response to the lurid, voyeuristic fascination it evokes, finding new ways to remember the Holocaust always has been a moral imperative. But in the 73 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, these collective acts of giving voice to its memory make one wonder: With all that speaking about the unspeakable, is there anything left to say, or has everything already been said about the Holocaust?

The question is overdue. Holocaust memory has grown a little stale over the past several years and fatigue has set in. The number of Yom HaShoah commemorations has declined around the world. With each passing year they dwindle, not unlike the number of survivors.

Perhaps the savagery of the world simply has caught up with the Holocaust in a twisted competition for evil supremacy. We are tragically becoming inured to the atrocious, surrounded by so many contenders. The poisonous gas, Zyklon B, used in Auschwitz and other death camps, now has a successor in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s deployment of sarin and other chemical agents against his own people. Beheadings by butchers known as ISIS — filmed for the viewing pleasure, indoctrination and recruitment of its followers — are so brazenly shocking that even the Nazis would have trembled. After all, the Nazis used Zyklon B so as not to waste bullets on Jews and out of concern that camp guards might lose the nerve to carry out barbaric orders. Poisonous pellets dropped into gas chambers enabled Nazis to avoid much of the dirty work. ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and Hamas never seem to have such problems. They are naturally good at and highly motivated to draw blood — Jewish, especially.

Other mass murders that followed — in Cambodia, Guatemala, Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo and Sudan — along with acts of global terrorism in Bali, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Nice, Paris, Berlin, Boston and, of course, New York during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and mass shootings in American schools and even on a Norwegian island, have undoubtedly caused an emotional distancing from the Holocaust.

One would think, however, that the Holocaust’s imprint is so strong, and its moral mystery so incomparable, its flame could never possibly die out.  Its impact on Western culture alone serves as an enduring monument to moral failure.

So many survivors have provided witness in one form or another. Holocaust survivors Elie Wiesel (“Night”) and Primo Levi (“Survival in Auschwitz”) wrote memoirs, while thousands have recorded oral histories. Filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg (“Schindler’s List”) and Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) arguably saved their best work for this macabre, intensely personal subject, although they improbably managed to include life-affirming endings. Novelists from William Styron (“Sophie’s Choice”) and Aharon Appelfeld (“Badenheim 1939”), to Markus Zusak (“The Book Thief”) and Art Spiegelman (graphic novel “Maus”) tinkered with the story without laying claim to it. There have been innumerable playwrights, as well. And of course, there was the iconic diary written by Anne Frank, whose precocious, smiling portrait is forever locked in our minds.

The only thing that could ever make the Holocaust disappear is the end of anti-Semitism itself.

And yet, the Holocaust is being forgotten and exploited. A surging wave of global anti-Semitism has surfaced with the added aim of pummeling and plundering the Holocaust. Who knows what will be left when this new period of anti-Semitic fervor comes to an end?

The timeline is fluid, and episodes all too frequent. Even Anne Frank is not spared. This past October, fans of the Italian soccer team Lazio, during a home match, distributed stickers with Anne Frank’s image dressed in the uniform of a rival Italian team. Several years ago, singer Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and signed the guest book with the words, “Anne Frank was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.”

We shouldn’t be that surprised, what with “Mein Kampf” back on sale in Germany. If things pick up, that book and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” will become required reading for a new generation of fascist fashionistas.

Other events around Europe are more disturbing, if not altogether heinous.

France, home to the largest Jewish population in Europe, is fast becoming a home a Jew is forced to flee. A few weeks ago, an elderly Holocaust survivor was savagely stabbed to death, her body then burned when her apartment was set on fire. A year earlier, a 66-year-old French-Jewish woman was thrown from her window to her death. Both incidents have been classified as anti-Semitic hate crimes. Also in France, a 15-year-old girl wearing a Jewish day-school uniform was slashed in the face; an 8-year-old boy wearing a yarmulke was beaten in the streets; and twin teen boys were nearly kidnapped, with one of them having his finger cut off.

These are only the recent anti-Semitic incidents in France. Years earlier, a young man, Ilan Halimi, was kidnapped and tortured to death. Three students standing outside of their Jewish day school in Toulouse were murdered in an attack, during which one of the girls had her throat slit.

Each of these crimes was committed by Muslims on a continent already soaked with Jewish blood. Who would have guessed that the Middle East crisis would follow the Jews to Europe, where they were still trying to rebuild their lives, seven decades after Auschwitz? No wonder they have been leaving France for Israel and other safer havens at a rate of 7,000 each year. Hunting season for Holocaust survivors and other French Jews is apparently the new rage, or let’s call it outrage. And in some circles, it is treated as a joke. French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala had a stage routine in which he asked audience members whether they would like to see the return of the gas chambers for Jews. (His anti-Semitic remarks resulted in convictions for hate speech in Belgium and France, where courts gave him suspended jail sentences.)

During the Gaza War in 2014 and the subsequent backlash against Israel throughout Europe, 200 Jews were trapped in a French synagogue as a mob gathered outside chanting, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!” and “Hitler was right!” Similar scenes with smoke and firebombs, anti-Semitic graffiti, the vandalizing of businesses, rock-throwing teenagers, the burning of the Israeli flag and the spray-painting of swastikas on synagogues, were reported in such cities as Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome and London.

In Poland, a legislative measure making it a crime to assert that the country was complicit in the Holocaust recently passed both legislative houses and has been signed into law by the Polish president. While 2 out of 3 European Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, the fate of Polish Jewry was far worse — 9 out of 10. And yet, today a jail sentence awaits anyone who defames Poland by calling attention to the fact that its people either assisted the Nazis or cheered them on.

The most recent assessment of global anti-Semitism conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) determined that 35 percent of people have never heard of the Holocaust, even while anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe are spiking. Other surveys confirm these statistics. Nearly half of Jews in France and 25 percent of Jews in Germany feel imperiled and are considering emigrating from those countries.

The United Nations has become its own persecutor of Jews through its hypocritical and ceaseless denunciation of the Jewish state. Israel is held to a shameful double standard of moral perfection that is demanded of no other country, while nothing is asked of Israel’s enemies. Meanwhile, the Holocaust lurks in the background, not as a sanctified event but as a bludgeoning instrument against Israel.

Holocaust memory has grown a little stale these past several years and fatigue has set in. The number of Yom HaShoah commemorations has declined around the world. … Perhaps the savagery of the world has simply caught up with the Holocaust in a twisted competition for evil supremacy.

The condemnation of Israel usually accompanies some false moral equivalence between the genocide of the Jews and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The fact that the Palestinian population has doubled since the Jewish presence in Gaza and the West Bank — an inconvenient mathematical truth that makes associating the Holocaust with the plight of the Palestinians a contradiction in terms — demonstrates the world’s bad faith when it comes to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. After all, Jews can’t mourn an atrocity or be shown any sympathy if they are repeating it against another people. The Holocaust has gone from an object lesson to a secret weapon against Israel and world Jewry.

There’s no greater example of this absurdity than the recent United Nations Human Rights Council decision to finally take up the cause of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. And how best to do that? Blame Israel for its continued “occupation” of the Golan Heights. This draft resolution will play well in the cheap seats, where anti-Semitic lunatics hold the Mossad responsible for 9/11 and accuse the Israel Defense Forces of harvesting the organs of Palestinians.

The United States has its own problems with the resurgence of anti-Semitism and the desecration of the Holocaust. The ADL reported that anti-Semitic incidents surged nearly 60 percent in 2017. The lowlight might have been the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., where protesters seemed especially eager to resurrect all sorts of Nazi nostalgia, from greeting each other with the Nazi salute to chanting “Sieg Heil!” Of course, that’s when they weren’t busy chanting “Jews will not replace us!”

President Donald Trump couldn’t bring himself to condemn Klansman David Duke during his campaign. After Charlottesville, he let it be known that there were “some very fine people” among the neo-Nazis, skinheads and Klansmen who gathered there.

Meanwhile, a Washington, D.C., city council member recently posted a video in which he blamed the Rothschild family for controlling the climate, causing natural disasters and making it snow in the nation’s capital. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, during one of his sermons in March, condemned “satanic Jews” for being “the mother and father of apartheid.” He went on to allege that Jews control the FBI and cause homosexuality within the African-American community through chemically altered marijuana. One of the organizers of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, who attended Farrakhan’s sermon, refused to condemn what he had to say about Jews.

Why are leaders suddenly having such difficulty repudiating anti-Semites? There was a time, not long ago, when such expressions of solidarity with Jews was both the decent and politically correct thing to do.

Even the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was not spared. The killer expressed anti-Semitic feelings on social media, and then, perhaps unknowingly but symbolic of something nonetheless, he fired shots into a Holocaust class, wounding four students.

Anti-Semitism is thriving on college campuses, with a new progressive variety disguised as a human rights campaign on behalf of Palestinians that quickly reveals its true intentions: a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that avowedly seeks to put an end to the Jewish state, drive Jews into the Mediterranean (what else did you think the chant “From the river to the sea” means?) or just leave them for the demographic dead in a one-state solution dominated by Arabs.

Universities have become infected with anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist hostility against Jews, all under the purifying banner of “intersectionality” and its anti-colonial crusade against “white privilege.” In this setting, Jews, bizarrely, fall into the category of white oppressors who never have experienced bigotry or prejudice, and where the Holocaust is openly dismissed as “white-on-white crime” — progressive slang that means oppression against whites is of no concern to social-justice warriors. Jews aren’t granted their own mass suffering. It’s far worse than Holocaust denial; it’s Holocaust erasure. In this narrative, Israel, tarred as an apartheid, colonialist state, loses its character as a haven in the aftermath of the Holocaust — because privileged Jews don’t deserve refuge from anything! The colonial tag on Israel never seems to credit Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews, and Arab Israelis, as evidence of its multicolored, pluralistic society. In the mind of the academy, Israel is comprised only of land thieves from Brooklyn and Brentwood alone.

It’s easy to live in Los Angeles or New York City and feel insulated from all this Holocaust debunking and desecration. (Unless you happen to be an undergrad at UCLA or Columbia.) These boroughs over the Brooklyn Bridge and tony neighborhoods off Interstate 10 and the 405 — where there are plenty of seders, well-attended synagogues and a generally welcoming disposition toward Jews — are like La-La Lands of quaintly oblivious comfort when compared with far less sunny destinations where Jew-hatred and Jew-killing present a very different climate.

All around the world, even throughout the United States, the grand experiment of Holocaust memory appears to have failed. Museums and memorials, although still well attended, are perceived as depressing amusement rides with statistics about mass murder, artifacts from concentration camps, and an occasional cattle car just to complete the necessary “real-feel,” “you-are-there” experience. After departing from such places of ephemeral horror, visitors emerge into the light and settle upon where to have lunch. Their confrontation with Holocaust memory lasts as long as Chinese food traveling through a digestive tract.

And as for all those cultural representations, apparently they too were unable to take emotional, resilient hold of most people for whom crimes against humanity are less compelling than this week’s lineup on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Clearly, too few bought into all the slogans and burning candles. We had hoped piety could have lasted longer. After all, there are Holocaust survivors alive today — unless they happen to live in France,  where a Jew is less likely to find an underwriter for a life insurance policy than an undertaker. With survivors still among us, how could we have forgotten and forsaken their European nightmare so soon?

Elie Wiesel once told me that the survivors made a catastrophic mistake after the Holocaust. In his opinion, instead of tentatively telling their tales and subjecting their memories to the Shoah and Fortunoff foundations’ oral testimony projects, they should have said nothing. Kept quiet. Driven everyone mad with curiosity. The world would have demanded to know what went on in those camps, killing fields, death marches and forced starvations, and the survivors would have replied with utter silence. Instead the survivors, along with everyone else, said too much, and now there may be nothing left to say.

Or is there?

With anti-Semitism and contempt for the Holocaust ascending from alt-right rallies and the progressive left on college campuses, along with Islamist calls for “death to Jews” and “wiping Israel from the map,” this is not a good time to take our eyes off the Holocaust, to become more complacent about its remembrance, and to delude ourselves into magical thinking that having a Jewish son-in-law in the West Wing is some kind of panacea to the world’s oldest prejudice.

Jews are clearly at a new phase for Holocaust memory. From the destruction of the Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms in the Pale of Settlement and murderous mayhem everywhere else, all capped by the Holocaust, welcome to its latest iteration: Call it Jew-hatred 4.0.

What did we think was going to happen? As long as there is anti-Semitism in the world, there will always be something to say about the Holocaust. They are symbiotic and co-dependent. The only thing that could ever make the Holocaust disappear is the end of anti-Semitism itself.

Good luck with that.

As Daniel Jonah Goldhagen observed in his book, “The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Anti-Semitism,” the Holocaust did not put an end to anti-Semitism in Europe. It just ushered in a period of dormancy from which anti-Semitism is always ready to reappear in familiar and unexpected ways.

The Holocaust was always a moral mystery. Unfathomability always has been its greatest allure. The mystery was never meant to be solved. The crimes of the Nazis consigned everyone — Jew and non-Jew — to a perpetual state of obligation. “Never Again” didn’t just mean that Jewish genocide would never be permitted to reoccur. It also meant that the world would never be finished with the Holocaust; it would always continue to haunt. The burden to remember the Holocaust, to hold it in mind and body as both emblem and amulet, is infinite and never ending.

That’s what “never” really means, and that’s why there will always be something left to say.


Thane Rosenbaum, a novelist, essayist and law professor, is the author of the post-Holocaust trilogy “The Golems of Gotham,” “Second Hand Smoke” and “Elijah Visible,” among other titles of fiction and nonfiction.

Saudi Prince Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist


FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is seen during a meeting with U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy/File Photo

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did something that is extraordinarily uncommon for an Arab leader: recognize Israel’s right to exist.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that was published on April 2, Salman declared, “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

Goldberg followed up by asking Salman if he had any religious objections to Israel’s existence, prompting Salman to respond that the Gulf Kingdom is only concerned “about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people.”

“We don’t have any objection against any other people,” Salman said.

Goldberg proceeded to ask Salman about the “anti-Semitic propaganda” that is promulgated in Saudi Arabia, which Salman dismissed as a non-existent issue.

“Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman,” Salman said. “Not just a friend—he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. “

The interview also featured Salman denouncing Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini as making “Hitler look good.”

“The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys,” Salman said. “He is the Hitler of the Middle East.”

Salman also criticized the Iran nuclear deal that was forged under the Obama administration.

“The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people,” Salman said. “They took $150 billion after the deal—can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them—please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150 billion.”

Salman added, “For Saudi Arabia, there is a 0.1 percent chance that this deal would work to change the country. For President Obama it was 50 percent. But even if there’s a 50 percent chance that it would work, we can’t risk it. The other 50 percent is war. We have to go to a scenario where there is no war.”

The full interview can be read here.

After the interview was published, Saudi King Salman, Prince Salman’s father, said through a state news agency that the Gulf Kingdom remains committed to “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia have never really had diplomatic relations, but Salman’s recognition of Israel is indicative of how the two countries and other Gulf Arab nations are being drawn into an alliance to fight the expansion of Iran and its proxies. The animosity between Iran and Israel is well known; Iran and Saudi Arabia are both vying for regional hegemony and establishing themselves as leaders of the Islamic world. There is also a major religious divide between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as the former is Shia and the latter is Sunni.

IDF Kills Palestinian Terrorist Who Breached Gaza Border Fence


A Palestinian holds a fire during clashes with Israeli troops at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) killed a Palestinian who breached the Gaza border fence on April 3 during protests along the border.

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, announced that the Palestinian, 25-year-old Ahmad Arafa was shot in the stomach. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed that Arafa was a part of their organization.

According to the Times of Israel, surveillance shows two of the men using the hole to enter the Israeli side of the fence, only to go back to Gaza as the IDF fired warning shots. The footage then ends, but according to the Jerusalem Post, Palestinian media is suggesting that the shooting of Arafa was related to that breach.

The IDF told the Times of Israel that they did fire shots at protesters who broke through the fence.

“The IDF will not allow security infrastructure and the fence, which protects Israeli citizens to be damaged, and we will take action against terrorists who are involved,” the IDF said in a statement. “We again warn against approaching the fence.”

The border riots have been ongoing since Friday, as part of Hamas’ six-week “March of Return” campaign to protest the Arabs that were displaced in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. At least 16 Palestinians have died in the protests, 11 of whom have been identified by the IDF as terrorists.

At Least 16 Dead in Hamas-Led Gaza Riots


Palestinians react as they evacuate a wounded person, during clashes with Israeli troops, at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 2, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

At least 16 people – 10 of whom have been identified as terrorists – were killed in riots along the border between Gaza and Israel on Mar. 30.

Around 30,000 Palestinians protested along the border as part of “the March of Return” to protest the displaced Arabs from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Anarchy ensued when some protestors began burning tires, hurling rocks at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and attempted to weaken and penetrate the border fence.

Consequently, the IDF designated the area as “a closed military zone” and clamped down on the rioters. The Palestinian health ministry is claiming that over 1,400 Palestinians were injured in the riots, but the IDF is pushing back by saying that the number of injured Palestinians is overstated since most were simply rattled by the riot control measures taken by the IDF.

Among the 16 dead, the IDF has identified 10 of them who were involved in terror organizations. Eight of the identified terrorists were a part of Hamas, one was involved in Islamic Jihad and the other was part of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Hamas has already begun celebrating the killed terrorists.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the IDF for their actions.

“Israel acts vigorously and with determination to protect its sovereignty and the security of its citizens,” Netanyahu said.

The violence on the border has declined significantly since, but Friday’s riots could be a precursor to something larger. According to CBN News, the “March of Return” is part of a six-week campaign involving Hamas using civilians as shields to breach the border and start another war with Israel.

“The immediate objective of the prospective fence-stormers is not so much to kill Israelis (though if that can be achieved, even better), but to get killed themselves,” Bar-Ilan University Prof. Hillel Frisch wrote in the The Begin Sadat-Center for Strategic Studies. “Their hope is that Israel will resort to force to maintain the border (as would any sovereign state) and thereby create the graphics and funerals that delegitimize Israel.”

Frish added that Hamas is hoping that Israel taking such action will result in another intifada from Palestinians in the West Banks and Arabs residing in Israel.

PA Continuing Payments to Terrorists Despite Taylor Force Act


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during a reception ceremony for Bulgarian President Rumen Radev in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is reportedly continuing their practice of funneling money to terrorists and their families despite the recent passage of the Taylor Force Act, which states that the United States will cut off funding to the PA if they continue to pay terrorists.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that shortly after the Taylor Force Act’s passage, a PA spokesman declared that they would be defying the law, stating, “In the eyes of our people, our nation, and our cause, the martyrs and prisoners are sacred symbols of freedom, struggle, protecting human dignity, and resistance to submission and humiliation. They constitute a right that is guaranteed to all people, and they cannot be bought and sold for all the money in the world.”

Furthermore, according to PMW, almost 8% of the PA’s 2018 budget uses money toward their fund to pay terrorists and their families.

Legislators in Israel and the United States are irate that the PA’s policy is still ongoing, with Knesset Member Oren Forer telling the Washington Free Beacon that any peace deal reached between Israel and the PA should ensure that such payments end.

“It is impossible that our so-called peace partners are paying and incentivizing murder, while pretending to talk peace,” Forer said.

The Taylor Force Act was signed into law on Mar. 23 as part of an omnibus spending bill. It was named after a U.S. veteran who was murdered at the hands of a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016. The terrorist, 22-year-old Bashar Masalha, is being paid $400 a month by the PA.

The PA paid Palestinian terrorists and their families $347 million overall in 2017. The PA received $357 million from the U.S. in 2016.

Letters to the Editor: Israel and Refugees, Anti-Semitism and Taylor Force Act


Israel Should Open Judaism to Refugees

I applaud Jonathan Zasloff for his clever arguments in favor of expanding the Israeli population by offering Jewish conversion to refugees and others seeking to immigrate to Israel (“Israel Should Open Judaism to Refugees,” March 23). I often wonder why we seem to be the only religion that makes conversion so difficult and unwelcoming. Why are we afraid of having more Jews in the world? We say we are proud of our religion and heritage. Then why don’t we try harder to share it with others? It makes no sense to me.

Zasloff’s persuasive reasoning does indeed make a lot of sense — both practically by increasing our numbers, and spiritually by spreading the word and meaning of Torah and our rabbinic sages throughout the world.

John F. Beckmann, Sherman Oaks


Author Seems Naïve About Anti-Semitism

I do not know what rock “(((Semitism)))” author Jonathan Weisman lives under, but anti-Semitism is alive and doing well in the United States (“A Call to Action in Age of Trump,” March 16).

There is nothing “new about the prominence of an anti-Semitic subculture in America.” Thanks to the 45th president, it has shown its ugly face even to most naïve Jews.

As for the signs pointing to it, Weisman has not even scratched the surface. He needs to look at the Sanders/Clinton/ Obama shenanigans to understand the reasons for the rise of Trumpism, as he coined it.

Rebecca Gottesfeld via email

Book critic Jonathan Kirsch makes no secret of sharing the views expressed by Jonathan Weisman in his book “(((Semitism)))” regarding the alleged increase of anti-Semitism during Donald Trump’s presidency. Unfortunately, Kirsch neglected to address glaring omissions in Weisman’s theory.

Although anti-Semitism is alive and well among the far right, in his modern-day “J’accuse” book, Weisman fails to acknowledge the entrenched anti-Semitism exhibited by the powerful left in the United States and Europe today. Unlike the fringe alt-right, the progressive left enjoys political power as well as a chokehold on our universities, from Jewish self-loather extraordinaire George Soros and his well-funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, to college campus leftist extremist anti-Israel professors brainwashing college students at almost every university across the country.

Richard Friedman, Culver City


The Importance of Studying Jewish History

I thoroughly read Mark Miller’s story about Jewish history (“Why Study Our History?” March 2) and I immediately wondered, “Why have I not thought about this?” I agree that one usually will not have motive to indulge in the studies of our humble beginnings. This topic really has a special place in my heart because I enjoy vacationing in Israel; seeing non-Jewish tourists there shows me the interest others have in our past. This makes me feel accepted by others. I really hope others get this great chance.

Jonathan Hazani via email


Jordan’s King Would Do Well to Follow Father

I agree with Dima Abumaria’s story “Jordan’s King Torn Between His Government, His People and Israel,” March 16. Abdullah has a problem (reacting to the killing of accused Palestinian knife-wielder Mohammed Al-Jawawdeh).

What was not made clear in the story is that appeasement of an angry populace has never proved the best course of action.

Reversal of the security measures on the Temple Mount bought nothing.

Getting out of Gaza bought nothing (other than relieving pressure on Israel from getting out of the West Bank).

Jordan’s king is turning back the clock on the wise courses his father and grandfather took when dealing with Palestinian assassins. He is sure to regret it. It doesn’t take a genius to foresee the problem ahead. Israel can survive it. I doubt that King Abdullah can.

Steve Klein via email


The Dark Side of ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

Eli Fink implied that Zionist and anti-Zionist views of the film “7 Days in Entebbe” are equally valid, by presenting both uncritically (“The Emotional Mission of ‘7 Days in Entebbe,’ ” March 23).

The truth is that the film is anti-Israeli propaganda:

The filmmakers portrayed one of the hijackers as conflicted about the action, honorable and merciful. Where did they get that?

They injected apology for the terrorism, as in service of a good cause. It was actually in service of a campaign of genocide against Jews.

Louis Richter, Reseda


Unity Behind Taylor Force

Over the past few weeks, the Journal published several stories and columns describing the political polarization of Americans, and in particular, the polarization among Jews regarding issues pertaining to Israel. One might think that the Taylor Force Act might be one that would receive bipartisan support.

The Taylor Force Act had strong bipartisan support, prompting Senate leadership a few weeks ago to hotline the bill, which would set it up to pass by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure that expedites passage of noncontroversial legislation. If no senator objects to the move, the measure is passed without the need for a floor vote. But the Taylor Force Act was blocked after Democratic senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California rejected the hotline, killing the unanimous consent process and forcing the bill to undergo the Senate’s lengthy cloture process.

On March 23, the Taylor F`orce Act passed as part of the omnibus spending bill. The spending bill has something in it that just about everyone wants and something in it that just about everyone opposes. Perhaps one of the few things that has brought Americans and American Jews together is support for the Taylor Force Act. There is a great need to stop funding Palestinian terrorism using U.S. taxpayer dollars. It’s unfortunate that the act would probably have never been passed except for the death of a great American, Taylor Force, who was killed at the age of 28 by Palestinian terrorists.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills


New-Look Journal

I want to congratulate you on a great redesign and introduction to a much more diverse paper that has views from all facets of the community.

The cover story on the possible meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump by Larry Greenfield (“What Will It Take?” March 16) is excellent, well laid out  and  makes it easy to understand the current situation.

Amy Raff, Los Angeles

State of Non-Affairs: Why Israel and Pakistan Don’t Relate


Pakistanis burn the U.S. and Israeli flags during a protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

Israel and Pakistan share parallel creation stories. The former was carved out of British-ruled Mandatory Palestine in 1948 to serve as a homeland for the Jewish people, while the latter was conceived in 1947 as a nation for Muslims living in British-occupied Hindu-majority India.

Throughout their histories, the two states have faced threats from their neighbors, with Israel having fought several conventional wars against Arab countries committed to its destruction, whereas Pakistan and India have engaged in three major military campaigns since Islamabad gained independence. Both Pakistan and Israel are also plagued by territorial conflicts, over the Kashmir region and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively.

The two countries also are regularly targeted by terrorism, are nuclear powers and both have complex interests in the world’s most complex and unstable theaters. Even the biggest difference between the states — that one is Jewish and the other Muslim — stems from a similarity, as both nations are fundamentally religious in nature.

Nevertheless, Israel and Pakistan have no diplomatic relations, despite other Muslim-majority countries having forged ties with the Jewish state, including Jordan, Egypt and Turkey in the Middle East and Azerbaijan, among others, in Central Asia.

According to Muhammed Shahid Masood Qazi, a prominent Pakistani lawyer and political analyst, none of the usual geopolitical suspects accounts for the absence of Jerusalem-Islamabad ties, especially when considering that Pakistan maintains relations, albeit strained ones, with India despite their violent past and present disputes. “Israel and Pakistan don’t share a border, have no trade disagreements and no people-to-people contact, yet there are no relations whatsoever,” Qazi said. “On the other hand, Pakistan and India share a volatile border of more than 3,000 kilometers and have fought major wars, but they nevertheless have political, economic and cultural links.”

In fact, Qazi believes that the only reason Pakistanis criticize Israel is because of the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. This is somewhat ironic, he noted, as Palestinian leaders have never publicly supported Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir, which is likely the result of Ramallah’s strong relationship with India.

Nimrod Goren, head of Mitvim — The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said courting Islamabad is not a priority for the Israeli government. Nevertheless, he said, “Israel aspires for better relations with regional countries, and a move for enhanced ties with Pakistan would surely be welcomed.”

Israel could help Islamabad in many ways, including by helping to rid Pakistan of its image as a nation that supports terrorism. On the flip side, Pakistan, through its closeness to Arab-Muslim countries, could help the Jewish state solve its conflict with the Palestinians.

To this end, various trial balloons seemingly have been launched to gauge the possibility of a rapprochement between the two countries. In 2016, reports surfaced that the Israeli and Pakistani armies took part in a joint drill and, more recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that his government does not view Pakistan as an enemy.

Noor Dahri, founder and director of the Pakistan Israel Alliance (PIA), is working to create a better understanding between Israelis and Pakistanis, as well as Jews and Muslims. An independent researcher based in London, he created the PIA after studying at Israel’s International Institute for Counter Terrorism.

Dahri highlighted the fact that following Israel’s declaration of independence, then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent a telegram to the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in a bid to establish diplomatic relations. “It was a great historical step taken by Israel but, unfortunately, this offer was denied by Pakistani officials,” Dahri said.

Decades later, this almost changed; that is, had former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto not been assassinated in December 2007. She reportedly intended to establish official ties with the Jewish state if she was elected premier in a vote scheduled for the following month. Bhutto purportedly went so far as to seek protection from the Mossad, Israel’s legendary spy agency.

Only a few years earlier, top Israeli and Pakistani diplomats held a landmark meeting in Istanbul. At the time, Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom talked about a potential realignment between the Jewish state and the entire Muslim world, whereas then-Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri publicly acknowledged that Islamabad had decided to “engage” Israel after its military and civilian withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

According to Dahri, Israeli and Pakistani officials have long conducted under-the-table dealings, as well as rare public interactions. For example, in January 2005, one of Pakistan’s leading periodicals, The News, interviewed former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who called for the two countries to have direct, open relations. Notably, the next day an angry mob stormed the newspaper’s office in Karachi.

Despite widespread animosity toward Israel, Dahri insists that the Jewish state could help Islamabad in many ways, including by helping to rid Pakistan of its image as a nation that supports terrorism. On the flip side, he contends that Pakistan, through its closeness to Arab-Muslim countries, could help Jerusalem solve its conflict with the Palestinians.

For now, though, most analysts agree that no formal Israeli-Pakistani rapprochement is on the horizon. As history suggests, it will likely take a concerted — and courageous — effort by leaders on both sides to bring the countries together.

U.N. Human Rights Council Calls for Ending Arms Sales to Israel


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a series of anti-Israel resolutions on Mar. 23, most notably one that calls for an arms embargo against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the arms embargo resolution asserted that Israel was in violation of international law for their supposed occupation of East Jerusalem, therefore the international community should follow international law and “end users known or likely to use the arms in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian and/or human rights law.” The resolution passed by a margin 27 to 4 and 15 abstentions.

Other anti-Israel resolutions passed by the UNHRC on Mar. 23 included declaring that Israel should withdraw from the Golan Heights, ending the building of settlements in Judea and Samaria and a return to pre-1967 borders.

The United States opposed all of the anti-Israel resolutions and countered with a resolution that nixed the UNHRC’s required weekly bashing of Israel.

“When the Human Rights Council treats Israel worse than North Korea, Iran, and Syria, it is the Council itself that is foolish and unworthy of its name. It is time for the countries who know better to demand changes,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in a statement. “Many countries agree that the Council’s agenda is grossly biased against Israel, but too few are willing to fight it. When that happens, as it did today, the Council fails to fulfill its duty to uphold human rights around the world.”

“The United States continues to evaluate our membership in the Human Rights Council. Our patience is not unlimited. Today’s actions make clear that the organization lacks the credibility needed to be a true advocate for human rights.”

Haley has repeatedly criticized the U.N. for singling out Israel while ignoring the likes of North Korea, Iran and Syria. U.N. Watch has noted “that the UNHRC is filled with representatives from countries like Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia that are swimming in multiple human rights abuses.”

In February, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) called for a boycott against the UNHRC.

“Putting it in context with the lack of attention to nations such as North Korea, where you have more starvation and torture and the ultimate totalitarian regime, where you have in Cuba a lack of freedoms and the abuses of human rights and dignity, and sadly this particular council has focused I believe in a very anti-Semitic and anti-Israel way of focusing condemnations on the democracy of Israel,” Wilson told the Free Beacon.

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