Briefs: West Bank withdrawals coming, Peres says; Israel wants U.S. to stay the course on P.A.

West Bank withdrawals coming, Peres says

Israel plans to remove some West Bank settlements according to Shimon Peres.

The Israeli vice premier said Saturday that, while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to “realign” the West Bank deployment was shelved after last year’s Lebanon war, settlement evacuations are still on the agenda.

“Yes, settlements will be removed — not all the settlements, and I’m not even sure most of the settlements,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 television, adding that the number of communities evacuated could be in the dozens. “I think that a serious effort will be made to do that which we undertook to do, which is removing settlements.” Peres said the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority could affect the scale and pace of the withdrawals by accepting peace talks with Israel.

Israel wants U.S. to stay the course on P.A.

Israel is trying to shore up U.S. objections to the planned Palestinian Authority coalition government. Top aides of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traveled Sunday to Washington, where they will urge Bush administration officials not to yield to European calls to engage the Hamas-Fatah unity government when it is formed.

The Palestinian Authority power-sharing pact, which was signed in Saudi Arabia last month, contains a vague reference to “respecting” past peace deals with Israel, falling short of Western demands that the Hamas-led government recognize the Jewish state and renounce terrorism. But Israel believes that some European nations are wavering for fear that the Palestinian Authority’s continued isolation will harm its president, Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and a perceived moderate.

Separately, U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey was in Israel on Sunday for talks with local officials on the effect of the Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority, and whether such measures could also be applied against Iran’s nuclear program.

Jordan’s King Abdullah wants more U.S. involvement

Jordan’s King Abdullah said the United States was not balanced in its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

“It is our duty to push this great nation, and others, to take balanced positions and support the peace process,” Abdullah told Jordanian television in a weekend interview ahead of a trip to the United States. He said Washington should use its influence on Israel “to prove its transparency to the peoples of the region, and that it is not biased.”

Abdullah, whose pro-Western country is considered an important regional broker, suggested that Israel was not displaying sincerity in its efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

“The main responsibility lies with Israel, which must choose either to remain a prisoner of the mentality of ‘Israel the fortress’ or to live in peace and stability with its neighbors,” he said.

Hungarian political unrest spurs anti-Semitism

Hungary’s leader warned of rising anti-Semitism. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said in an interview published over the weekend that the hatred of Jews in Hungary has reached new heights since a wave of anti-government protests last year.

“I have to say that there have never been so many anti-Semitic remarks as now,” Gyurcsany told Britain’s Times newspaper.

Hungary’s left-leaning government was disgraced in September after it was revealed to have lied about the economy in order to win the previous election. Gyurcsany said that during the resulting demonstrations, protesters tried to blame Jewish politicians, apparently with the encouragement of right-wing opposition members.

“There is something horrible happening,” said Gyurcsany, whose wife is of Jewish descent.

Hadassah receives $75 million for Jerusalem hospital

Hadassah received a $75 million contribution for a new inpatient tower at its Jerusalem hospital. William and Karen Davidson gave the gift on behalf of Guardian Industries Corp. of Auburn Hills, Mich., of which William Davidson is president. Hadassah will name the new facility at the Hadassah Medical Center the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in memory of William Davidson’s mother, who was a founder of the organization’s Detroit chapter.

“The power of family is truly a binding one, and I feel privileged to be the third generation to support Hadassah’s goals and achievements,” Davidson said in a statement.

Davidson, who owns several sports teams, including the Detroit Pistons, said he was impressed by the way Hadassah treats patients of all religions and backgrounds. The $210 million inpatient tower will be a 14-story structure with 500 beds, 20 state-of-the-art operating rooms and 50 intensive-care beds. The tower is expected to boost Hadassah’s capabilities in many fields, such as cardiology, telemedicine and laparoscopic surgery, and will facilitate the use of advanced robotics and computers.

Minister denies war crimes allegations

An Israeli Cabinet minister denied Egyptian accusations that he was involved in the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war.

Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a retired army general, said Sunday that his record during the 1967 war with Egypt was spotless. His comments came after some of his former subordinates said in an Israeli documentary that they had killed Egyptian prisoners, a claim that was picked up by the official Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram and prompted calls in the Egyptian Parliament for Ben-Eliezer to be tried for war crimes.

“The commandos under me did not kill Egyptian soldiers,” Ben-Eliezer, who is due to visit Egypt later this week, told Yediot Achronot.

“When the commandos encountered POWs from an Egyptian battalion, they gave them food and water.”

RJC launches anti-Reform Iraq resolution

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) launched an effort opposing the Reform movement’s call for withdrawal from Iraq.

“If you or someone you know is a member of the Reform movement, you should know that the movement’s leadership is pushing the Executive Committee of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Board of Trustees to adopt a dangerous and wrongheaded resolution opposing the U.S. efforts in Iraq,” the RJC said in an action alert sent out this week.

It urged RJC members who belong to Reform synagogues to register their protests locally and nationally. “RJC will continue to speak out on this and make it clear that the Union for Reform Judaism does not speak for all Reform Jews or all Jews in general,” the RJC said.


Speaking Out

As members of the faculty at the University of Judaism (UJ), we are ashamed and disgusted by the performance of Al Franken and Ann Coulter in the Department of Continuing Education’s Speaker Series (“Sectarian Violence,” March 31). Some of us expressed our opposition when the event was announced. Over our objections, the event went forward.

The UJ claims to speak for Judaism, a tradition that warns of the destructive power of negative speech. We are dismayed that the UJ has been co-opted into the worst aspects of the political culture of violent verbal confrontation and ethnic slurs. The UJ, like American society more generally, has benefited from racial and ethnic diversity. We are disappointed that the UJ has enabled, and paid, a speaker who would voice the worst types of ethnic stereotypes and slurs.

We call on the administration, the Department of Continuing Education and the board to apologize to the Latino members of the University community, our students and co-workers. Furthermore, we call upon the Department of Continuing Education program and other appropriate members of the UJ to ensure that we do not select as future speakers those whose biases so clearly violate our principles regarding the treatment of fellow human beings. We hope that in the future, all of the UJ’s public programs will reflect the core mission of the UJ, teaching its students to be informed by Jewish values and to be leaders who seek justice in democratic ways and are cognizant of the global community of which we are a part.

Professor Aryeh Cohen, Talmud
Rabbi Pinchas Giller, Kabbalah
Rabbi Gail Labovitz, Talmud
Professor David Lennartz, Bioethics
Professor Lois Oppenheim, Political Science

Accidental Empire Awry

Your feature piece, “Irrational Exuberance” where Gershom Goremberg’s new book “Accidental Empire” is excerpted (together with Howard Kaplan’s accompanying review), does a tremendous disservice to our understanding of the settler movement and the historical facts surrounding the developments in the Golan, West Bank, Gaza and Sinai (“The Unsettling Struggle,” April 14). Having now read the book and Goremberg’s wholesale indictment of the entire enterprise, what is a revealed is a work that is tainted by prejudice and obfuscation.

Nowhere in Goremberg’s book is there even a hint of the very positive impact that Israeli settlement had on the lives of the Palestinians themselves. No mention of the fact that before the Israelis arrived there was no running water system for outlying villages, a primitive electrical grid, no commuter roads, one bank, one university, no industry and very few employment opportunities.

Goremberg also fails to illustrate the true historical significance of the West Bank to the Jewish people. To understand either Gush Emmunim, religious Zionists or even any secular politician such as Shimon Peres — all of whom became enamored of a policy of settlement — one must also understand the deep historical connection of the Jewish people to such places as Shechem (Nablus), Hebron, Jericho and Mount Ebal. Goremberg’s failure to provide this narrative robs his explanation of the “accidental empire” of true historical context, transforming a dream which is thousands of years old into a mere land grab, driven by Jewish acquisitiveness and nationalistic imperialism.

Avi Davis


While reading Amy Klein’s column regarding the selection of Professor Arnold Eisen as JTS’s new chancellor (“View of Eisen From L.A.: Thumbs Up,” April 28), I was surprised that my name was misspelled and that the article misstated my title and employer.

I also was disappointed at the way comments from our conversation were used. In the article, she quotes me on the issue of gay and lesbian ordination in the Conservative movement. The quotation is accurate per se, but the context within our conversation was not. In fact, my actual preference, as I told her repeatedly, was to make no comment on this issue at all. I did not, as the article states, focus immediately on Eisen’s position on gay ordination. After being pressed repeatedly by Ms. Klein on this topic, I stated my reason for not responding in the media, namely, that this issue, whatever its resolution, will divide Jews within the movement. I added that public comments from rabbis in the media while official deliberations continue may not help to heal our movement.

The social psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote that the only constant is change. Thus, the critical question is not whether we change, but how we might do so in a manner that is ultimately most inclusive, not only of those of diverse sexual orientations, but also of those with differing views, and those who represent different generations, regions and nationalities within our movement. I am even more convinced now that the media is an unhealthy forum for any part of a process that aims to increase sanctity, inclusiveness, and dignity.

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
Rancho Palos Verdes

Editor’s note: The Journal regrets the errors regarding Rabbi Jeret’s name and title.

Hate Speech

I object to your decision to print Marsha Roseman’s letter in the April 28 Jewish Journal, which you titled “Silent Majority.” The issue of illegal immigration is hotly contested and not easily resolved; however, there is a vast difference between letters that express ideas or opinions and those that consist of little more than hate speech and indiscriminate racism directed toward every Latino. Roseman’s vitriolic letter is of the latter category and has no place in a mainstream newspaper. You can do better.

Alice Garfield
via e-mail


OU: ‘Kosher’ Thong Is Wrong

Some might have found the joke funny, but the Orthodox
Union (OU) isn’t laughing. In May, Castaic resident Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik
started , an online T-shirt shop that features humorous Jewish slogans — some mellow, some crude. One of the more sexually provocative designs featured the well-known OU kosher symbol with the phrase “Eat me — I’m kosher,” available on T-shirts, boxers and thongs.

“I didn’t think there would be any competition and that it wouldn’t damage their trademark at all,” said Brynjegard-Bialik, who sent the design to OU to make sure everything was, um, kosher.

“They were willing to consider it…. I took that as potential approval,” he said.

However, OU has very strict controls on how its symbol is used, even in parody. The organization objected to the use of its symbol on a “Gefilte” fish car plaque, a spoof on the Jesus fish.

Baruch Cywiak of the OU’s Trademark Compliance Department objected to the YidGear design the moment it crossed his desk.

“If we’re going to allow people to use this trademark in anyway they wish … it’s going to dilute the value of the mark,” he said.

Cywiak said he found some of the designs on YidGear to be funny, but found the OU kosher design to be “in poor taste.”

“Humor should not be used in such fashion as to harm something else. And in this case there would be harm to us,” he said.

Brynjegard-Bialik complied with the OU’s decision and recently removed the product from his site. The graphic designer said he was disappointed in the OU’s response, and is thinking of a way to retool the design that doesn’t infringe on any kosher agency’s trademark.

“All of these shirts are in fun. That one is certainly a parody,” he said. “My intention is to not hurt, attack or demean anyone, but to provide an outlet for us to enjoy being Jewish.”