No Rabbi – It’s Not Jewish Love for Our ‘Historical, Religious Narrative’ That Prevents Peace


Photo from Pixabay.

On the 10th of Tammuz (in the Hebrew calendar) the last king of Israel, King Zedekiah, was captured by the Babylonians, who had conquered Jerusalem the day before. Zedekiah was captured after he fled Jerusalem through a subterranean tunnel to Jericho. Exactly 2,606 years later, an article was published in the Forward by American Rabbi Philip Graubart titled “‘Letters To My Palestinian Neighbor’ Is Not The Book We Need Right Now.

I have to admit, when I first saw the title, I thought the article would be about how even though most “moderate” elements of Palestinian leadership: (a) engage in blatant Holocaust denial; (b) promote vicious anti-Semitic canards, such as Jews poison water wells; and (c) deny any Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel — all while promoting and rewarding the murder of Jews (such as through the Palestinian Authority’s “Pay to Slay” program), that this article would argue that we need to wait for a massive sea change in Palestinian Arab culture and leadership before Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” could make a credible difference and help advance the peace process.

Instead, this article took the opposite approach and actually accused Halevi of being too jingoistic, too stuck in the Jewish “narrative.”

Imagining a “Palestinian moderate,” who has never assumed leadership among the various Arab groups representing the Palestinians, Graubart posits that after reading Halevi’s book, this imaginary Palestinian Arab moderate might say to Halevi “why waste time with you? … we already agree on the basics.

Reading such a statement raises the question, what “basics” does Rabbi Graubart think Palestinian Arab “moderates” agree on with Halevi? As should be clear from Halevi’s scholarship, he believes Jews have a deep historical, religious and national connection to the land of Israel. As should be also clear to anyone paying attention, the “moderate leaders” among the Palestinians who run the Palestinian Authority (who are also sadly the least rabidly Jew-hating and extremist among the various Palestinian Arabs factions who have any chance of ruling any Palestinian state in the near future), do not believe the Jewish people are even a people, let alone a people who have a deep 3,300 year old love affair with the land of Israel.

As recently as January 15, 2018 Mahmoud Abbas, the “President for Life” of the Palestinian Authority, gave a speech where he said: Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews.” This same “moderate” leader not only wrote a thesis back in 1982 at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which denies and trivializes the Holocaust, and is a featured part of the current curriculum in Palestinian Authority schools; he also, on April 30, 2018, gave a speech where he once again trivialized the Holocaust and said that to the extent the Nazis murdered Jews, their murder was not caused by anti-Semitism, but by … “Jewish financial behavior.”

So again, what “basics” does Graubart think the “moderate Palestinian” and Halevi agree on?

Then apparently ignoring the last 100 years of history (at least), Graubart claims that the main problem with Halevi’s book is that it makes claims – mostly about Halevi’s “loving embrace of religious biblical narrative” – that “no Palestinian could accept” and that the “biblical impulse to build settlements in the West Bank [Judea and  Samaria] is precisely what’s sabotaged an agreement.”

So the “moderate” Palestinian Arab leadership turn down offers in 1937, 1948, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008 to have the first-ever independent Arab state west of the Jordan River, and it is the desire of Jews to establish and live in Jewish communities in their biblical homeland that “sabotaged” a peace agreement? It wasn’t Arafat’s rejection in 2000 of an offer to have an independent Palestinian Arab state in all of Gaza and over 90% of Judea & Samaria, and his decision to instead launch the Second Intifada, which led to the murder of more than 1,000 Jews? It wasn’t Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection – without a counteroffer – of an even better offer from Israel in 2008? It wasn’t the decision to turn land Israel fully relinquished (the Gaza strip in 2005) into a terror state run by a genocidal organization whose very Charter calls for the murder of every Jew on the planet, including Graubart?

No. According to Graubart, it isn’t Palestinian anti-Semitism, the Palestinian dismissal of any Jewish connection to the land of Israel or even the Palestinian rejection (in favor of violence) of offer after offer to have an independent Arab state in a land where there has never been one before in history that is to blame for the absence of a peace agreement. It is the Jews’ “biblical impulse” to live in Judea that is the problem.

Graubart even disparages the “impulse” of Jews to live in Hebron, one of the most holy and historically important cities for the Jewish people. Hebron, a city where Jews have lived for centuries and where our ancestors in 1929 were literally massacred, ethnically cleansed from and prevented from returning to (by the Jordanian Army after it illegally conquered and controlled all of Judea and & Samaria in 1949). Per Graubart, however, it is the “religious longing” of Jews to live in places like Hebron that is the obstacle to peace, all while 1.5 million Arabs can live among more than 6 million Jews in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv Yafo, etc. without their presence “sabotaging” peace.

There is so much that is problematic with this perspective it is difficult to know where to start. Perhaps the most obvious problem is that, just like most arguments of the “blame Israel” camp, Graubart’s open letter to Halevi implies the Palestinian Arabs have no agency or responsibility for their actions, and that peace (or the lack thereof) is solely a function of what we Jews choose to do (or not do). The other problem is that this article completely whitewashes nearly 100 years of Arab rejection of peace in favor of violence and more than 1,400 years of Arab persecution of Jews throughout the Middle East, as well as the widely held belief among far too many Arabs that Jews can only be second class (dhimmi) in Arab conquered land, never sovereign and independent.

What Graubart’s piece (albeit likely unwittingly) does a great job of capturing, is the growing divide between many secular Jews in the United States  and the overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel. Jews, like Yossi Klein Halevi, who are in Israel considered quite moderate or even left-leaning.

This divide is represented most strikingly in Graubart’s article where he writes the following illuminating and astonishing paragraph directed at Halevi:

“In fact, if your book taught me anything, it’s that we must begin the admittedly difficult process of privileging basic values over national, religious narratives. In discussing Arab rejectionism after the Six-Day War, you write, ‘What people, in our place, would have resisted reclaiming land it regarded as its own for thousands of years?’ But the answer to this question is obvious: a people who valued peace and democracy and human rights over historical/religious narrative. People who weren’t willing to sabotage future peace negotiations by giving in to religious longings, no matter how deeply felt. People who loved peace more than they loved the ancient stories of their people. In other words, people like you and me and many Jews, in Israel and out. But not, sadly, enough.”

Wow. I agree with Graubart on one thing for certain. This is “sad.” It is sad that it is becoming more and more evident that many Jews living in relative safety in the United States  have not internalized the lessons most Jews in Israel have learned from the history of the last 100 years. It also becoming more and more evident that many of today’s secular leaning Jews in America are not very different from the many Jews in America who before 1940 rejected the very idea of Jews seeking sovereignty and independence in our indigenous homeland.

After all, if we just “privileged basic values” (depending – of course – on whose “basic values” we are talking about) “over national, religious narratives,” then why drain swamps, irrigate deserts, establish fence and stockade kibbutzim all over the land of Israel (where you were certain to be plagued by malaria and were almost always immediately attacked by your Arab neighbors)? Why revive Hebrew from being not only our religious tongue but our national language? Why even fight for our freedom and independence against five Arab armies and nearly a half-dozen Arab militias sworn to snuff out our independence before it even happened?

After all, if we value “peace” above everything else, then we could all just give up on our indigenous faith, stop being “stiff-necked” Jews, and convert to either Christianity or Islam or perhaps to the new pseudo-religion of “secular-humanism.” If only, our forefathers had thought of this solution … Plainly, that would have made the Jew-haters much happier and much more “peaceful” toward us.

Thankfully, most of our forefathers didn’t think abdicating our religious values and our “religious longings” to live in Zion was the way to go, as not only would there be no modern state of Israel today, but Graubart would also have needed to find a very different job; as by now the world would have been Jew-free and Judaism would be like the ancient faiths of Minoanism, Mithraism, and Ashurism After all, if we valued “peace” above everything else, including the justice of Jews being able to live anywhere in the land of Israel, then is there anything worth fighting for?

Of course, by Graubart’s definition, the Maccabees would also be disparaged as people who were “willing to sabotage future peace negotiations by giving in to religious longings.” A people unwilling to “love peace more than they loved the ancient stories of their people.” After all, the Hellenists “just” wanted us to accept their “narrative” and to stop insisting on our sovereignty and freedom in our religious, historical and indigenous homeland; just like so many Hellenized or Islamized people do today.

Today, most Palestinian Arabs reject the idea that there were ever Maccabees who fought to liberate the land of Israel and Jerusalem from the yoke of the Hellenists. And this is where Graubart is the most mistaken in his rejection of Halevi’s book. Graubart assumes it is the Jewish respect and love of our “historical/religious narrative” that is somehow the obstacle to peace. The reality is that it is, and has always been, the Arab rejection of Jewish history and our deep connection to the land of Israel that is the obstacle to peace. The Arab rejection of the fact (not “narrative”) that 2,606 years before Graubart published his article that there was a Jewish king named Zedekiah fleeing the Babylonians and their destruction of the first Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

And that is the ultimate message of Halevi’s book. In order for there to be peace, the Palestinian Arabs are going to have to meet us halfway and stop asking us to accept that their relatively new Palestinian identity deserves two independent Arab states in the former British Mandate for Palestine (as Jordan is the first); all while they reject more than 3,000 years of Jewish history and Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the land of Israel.

As should be painfully apparent, there are many other things wrong with this open letter to Halevi, but the most glaring problem is the willingness to disparage the “historical, religious narrative” of our people, which is at the core for why we finally have an independent and sovereign state in our indigenous homeland after 2,000 years of recurring persecution, oppression and mass murder of Jews in the Diaspora.

Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is very active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including Stand With Us, T.E.A.M. and the FIDF. He is also a frequent guest on the One America News Network, including shows like The Tipping Point and The Daily Ledger where he is called on to discuss matters related to Israel and the Middle East.

Shmuel Rosner: In the Mideast, a dangerous summer ahead


Jewish Journal Political Editor and New York Times contributor Shmuel Rosner helps us make sense of a Middle East that is getting more dangerous and complicated by the day.

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Amanda Berman: Can progressives also be Zionists?


Amanda Berman, founder of the Zioness movement, discusses the opposition liberal Zionists have faced within the progressive movement, and how her new movement is working to change that.

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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.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values


Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

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Dr. Micah Goodman: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?


Israeli scholar Micah Goodman weighs in on the world’s most intractable conflict — and his ideas for a solution. He explains it all in his bestselling new book, Catch 67, which uses philosophical insights to tackle the Israel–Palestinian conflict.

“Everyone always talks about solving or not solving the conflict. What about shrinking the conflict?” -Dr. Micah Goodman

 

David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman in the studios

From left: David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman

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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.

Melanie Mayron: From ‘Thirtysomething’ to Sixtysomething


Actress and director Melanie Mayron has managed to carve out a long career in Hollywood. Now 65 years old, she landed her first role in a significant film in “Harry & Tonto” in 1974. She is best known for her performances in Claudia Weill’s critically acclaimed independent feature, “Girlfriends” (1978), for which she was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Award (BAFTA); “Playing for Time” (1980), a CBS special starring Vanessa Redgrave; and Costa-Gavras’ film “Missing” (1982), with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. She won an Emmy Award in 1989 for supporting actress in a drama series for her role as photographer Melissa Steadman on ABC’s “thirtysomething.” She has directed episodes of “thirtysomething” as well as many other well-known shows, including “In Treatment” and “The Larry Sanders Show” on HBO, “Dawson’s Creek” on the former WB Network, and “GLOW” on Netflix.  Recently, she’s had a recurring role in and directed several episodes of The CW Television Network’s “Jane the Virgin.”

What part has your Jewish upbringing and heritage played in your work and life? 

A huge part. My father is from Palestine. He fought in the war in 1948 to make the State of Israel. He was a medic in the air force and army. My grandparents lived there. So I visited Israel all through my childhood. I spent half of fourth grade there. My great-great grandparents’ names are on a monument in Tel Aviv as among the founders of Tel Aviv — David and Rosa Mizrahi.

How did you land the role of Melissa Steadman on the ABC drama “thirtysomething”?

Ed Zwick and Marshal Herskovitz, who created “thirtysomething,” had seen me in “Girlfriends” and were interested in me from that film. I think once Ken Olin and I were cast — and we were the only Jewish actors in the cast — they decided to make us cousins. And Jewish.

What inspired you to direct?

[I had] a side business. I shot actors’ headshots for extra money when I was starting out as a young actress. I knew lenses, as I shot with a 35 mm camera.

“All actresses seem to get put out to pasture in their mid-40s, and then, if they are lucky, appear again as grandmothers or in senior roles later in life. There is a black hole as an actress from mid-40s to 70. And then, hopefully, you are right for roles again.”

Have you encountered ageism in Hollywood, and if so, how have you dealt with it?

All actresses seem to get put out to pasture in their mid-40s, and then, if they are lucky, appear again as grandmothers or in senior roles later in life. There is a black hole as an actress from mid-40s to 70. And then, hopefully, you are right for roles again. As for directing, there hasn’t been any ageism yet, for me anyway. I mean, it is tougher to get work, and there is so much competition for directing work, but for some people, they value your experience.

Any thoughts or experiences you’d care to share about the current #MeToo movement?

I think it is about time. Women have been second-class citizens forever. But as we raise our voices together, we will raise each other and raise the consciousness of the world. And we all, women and men, will be better off because of it.

What’s coming up for you?

I just completed a film called “Snapshots,” which is playing film festivals now. It is picking up awards, which is so exciting. It stars Piper Laurie, Brooke Adams and a wonderful cast of actors. We are looking at an August release, I am told.

Any charities close to your heart?

Planned Parenthood. The National Women’s Health Network. The SPCA. The Humane Society.


Mark Miller is a humorist and journalist who has performed stand-up comedy on TV and written for various sitcoms. His first book, a collection of humorous essays about dating and romance, is “500 Dates: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars.”

Jerusalem: What Comes Next?


There were many things that President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was not. It was not the start of the apocalypse. It was not the start of a successful political peace strategy. Nor was it earth-shattering in terms of its actual practical effects.

So, what was it? It was an international humiliation for a Palestinian community that believed in negotiations. It was an abdication of the role of sole arbitration by the United States. And it was a reality check for everyone concerned.

The United States, at least for the next three years, will not be able to singlehandedly bring the parties back to the table. Of course, even before this, the reality was that even if negotiations had — by some miracle — restarted, few were confident that the societies or their respective leaders were ready for a credible process.

If the Jerusalem announcement has stopped the fake horizon of talks, what replaces it? What credibly fills the vacuum?

There are many who would like to use this moment to push a pressured or coercive approach — the idea that with more force the decision-making calculation will change and a different outcome will result. Given the extreme violence of the Second Intifada and the structural violence that the occupation brings daily, the evidence does not indicate that what we need is more force. If there were a coercive solution to this problem, it would have happened already.

Coercion is seductive, as it puts all the pressure on the party on the other side of the equation. Supporters of both Israel and Palestine can point to the pressure points they feel are most effective and motivate others to apply pressure there while ignoring the significant challenges within their own communities.

Ignoring the power of coercion within decision-making is a mistake, but so is fetishizing it. If this isn’t the moment for pressure, what is it the time for?

To confront the generational challenge, we need a long-term strategy.

Israeli and Palestinian young people truly mistrust one another. With limited or no interaction with one another, they rely on their media and leadership to inform them about their counterparts. The result has been anything but positive. Annual polls of Israelis and Palestinians show that large majorities believe that the opposing community harbors extreme exclusionist or genocidal views.

To confront the generational challenge that the conflict presents, we need a generational long-term strategy to re-engage the communities — something broader than traditional people-to-people programs. We need an agenda that considers how to create community resilience against violence and develop leaders to create constituencies for peace when a credible political process eventually occurs.

As the executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, I have been pushing for the creation of a multilateral international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace that can help answer the question, “What are we doing to make sure that the next generation does not hate one another?” The need has never been higher.

Beyond the fund, however, we need to move beyond the politics of demographics. For the past few years, more and more voices in the center and left of both Israel and the Jewish Diaspora have been pushing the politics of separation to make their case for peace now. The American-Jewish community funds shared-society programing in Israel while also paying for billboards that bemoan the demographic threat posed by the Arab community. That needs to stop.

This is not a moment for coercion but for laying a solid foundation.

One could make the spurious argument that you can use racism to motivate voters if you believe that peace is just a vote away. It is not. If we are in a generational struggle, then we need to tackle the educational challenges created through ethnic conflict, not exacerbate the worst fears of the populations.

The uncertainty of the moment should lead all of us to return to the basic values and principles that motivate and guide us. There are hundreds of opportunities to invest in values we can all stand behind, whether by investing in the bilingual communities of the Hand in Hand school network, working with youth across Jerusalem’s faith communities with Kids4Peace or supporting agricultural cooperatives with the Near East Foundation.

This is not a moment for coercion but for laying a solid foundation. We should support young people as they build communities that demonstrate that a different future is possible, one of collective humanity and mutual dependence. This is a generational struggle, but one that depends on people themselves rather than the geopolitical currents that are buffeting our global society.


Joel Braunold is executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Report: UNICEF to Blacklist IDF Based On Info from Anti-Israel Groups


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A new report is stating that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be blacklisting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) based on information fed to them from various anti-Israel organizations.

According to Fox News, UNICEF is funneling anti-Israel propaganda to the U.N. secretary-general in an attempt to put the IDF on a list of organizations that includes al-Qaeda and ISIS that violate the rights of children, a move that could result in sanctions.

The Fox News report highlighted writings from NGO Monitor stating that UNICEF provides “legitimacy to false and distorted claims made by the NGOs, which are fed through a UNICEF database to a variety of U.N. publications.”

“These publications do not note that the accusations originate with unqualified and partial activists, some from groups with alleged ties to terror organizations, or that they were not verified by credible independent bodies,” wrote NGO Monitor.

NGO Monitor pointed to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is designated as a terror organization by the State Department, and the Defense for Children-International Palestine, as examples of radically anti-Israel organizations that UNICEF receives its information from.

UNICEF disputed the notion that they were being given slanted information.

“The monitoring and reporting process is led by a working group, which brings together U.N. agencies and international, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs,” UNICEF’s spokesperson told Fox News. “These organizations are selected based on their ability to regularly provide accurate, reliable, impartial and objective data on children affected by armed conflict.”

Read the full report here.

According to U.N. Watch, UNICEF was one of 16 signatory U.N. agencies on a document stating that the U.N. would provide the Palestinians with at least $18 million for “legal recourse” against Israel.

Peace Through Raising Expectations


I support the plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I acknowledge this is a controversial topic, and I will observe the talmudic principle of stating the primary, opposing viewpoint before my own:

“The American Embassy in Israel shouldn’t be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at this time because it will result in violence, impair the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and further destabilize a region already beset with violence and chaos.”

I disagree with this view because it expects the worst from Palestinian Arabs and Arabs in general. I believe it is racist to assume that these groups will become violent merely because something happens that displeases them.

It is true that actions by Israel and the United States have met with violence in the past. If we dig deeper, however, we find that the real obstacle to peace is a Palestinian leadership that benefits financially from the ongoing cycle of violence. One need look only at the personal fortune of Yasser Arafat at the time of his death — a stash worth more than $1 billion — to grasp the profound impact of the leadership’s corruption on the Palestinian people.

Fourteen years later, Arafat’s successors continue to hire protesters for suicide missions by offering lifetime payments of $3,000 a month to their families, distributed through the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund. Thousands of families receive these payments, funded entirely by foreign aid. Needless to say, the politicians take a huge cut for themselves.

The real obstacle to peace is a Palestinian leadership that benefits financially from the ongoing cycle of violence.

It’s a simple cycle: incite violence against Israelis, exploit the predictable military response for publicity, receive payments from sympathetic nations and skim for personal gain.

The leaders of this operation are not motivated to imagine peace with Israel because it would take money out of their pockets. Bypassing such leaders is the key to forging the elusive peace.

In announcing the intention to move the embassy, President Donald Trump noted that 1) the modern State of Israel declared Jerusalem its capital decades ago and has thus governed itself ever since; 2) the American pretense that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital has not contributed to peace in the region; and 3) most importantly, Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

This truth has never been taught in Palestinian schools. The fact that Jerusalem is mentioned by name 622 times in the Torah and has been the focus of Jewish prayer for 2,000 years, and has never been the capital of any other nation, doesn’t matter if such facts are not communicated to the population that is being manipulated into violence.

The proposed embassy move, which carries tremendous symbolic weight, bypasses the Palestinian Authority gatekeepers and communicates to the Palestinian-Arab people that Israel and Jerusalem will never be parted. It brings us closer to peace by respecting them enough to assume that violence is neither their only form of communication nor negotiation, when presented with actual facts.

In its coverage of the embassy story, however, the Los Angeles Times noted on its front page that the president’s announcement sent “a sense of anger and apprehension coursing through the Arab world.”

This is the racism of low expectations. How can relocating the diplomatic office to reflect a historical and practical reality create apprehension for Arabs? Who is threatening them? It’s as if the L.A. Times already is justifying the violence it expects from the Arab world.

If more violence comes, and I pray it does not, it will not be because the United States respects Israel’s right to determine its own capital like every other nation. Such violence would arise from the same corrupt leadership that has always benefited from it. If we recognize these leaders and hate peddlers for what they are, we may well hasten the day when new leadership arises that seeks to build a genuine peace and more hopeful future for Palestinians.

This kind of revolution can’t happen if we don’t engage with the people directly. Let’s assume they want peace and they’re open to new ideas. Let’s raise our expectations.

Such assumptions won’t make the road to peace a smooth one,  but at least there will be a road.


Salvador Litvak shares his love of Judaism every day  at facebook.com/accidentaltalmudist.

The Bukhari Renaissance Woman


Photo by Efrat Lotenberg

The living room in an apartment in Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood was heaving with people, young and old, most of whom had tears streaming down their cheeks from laughter. Their host, Eti-Jon Eliezerov, had just finished a skit impersonating a Bukharian Jew cooking up a storm.

According to Bukhari tradition, a woman’s worth, jokes Eliezerov in a sing-song voice, is measured by whether she can peel a potato in one go.

“The peel has to be a single coil and must remain thin,” Eliezerov emphasizes.

At the age of 13, her father fell in love with her mother after observing her chop a carrot with dazzling agility.

Eliezerov was born and raised in the house in Florentine where, today, she hosts evenings celebrating Bukharian Jewish heritage. She returned to live there in 2011 after a 32-year absence, during which she married — much to her parents’ chagrin — an Ashkenazi. Together, they had three children.

Eliezerov’s parents arrived in Palestine in 1935 from Samarkand, modern-day Uzbekistan. Along with hundreds of thousands of their Jewish brethren in Central Asia, they spoke a Jewish dialect of the Tajik-Persian language. It was a grueling, two-year trudge by foot to the Holy Land, with multiple tragedies and pitfalls along the way, including a stint in an Afghani prison and the death of Eliezerov’s older sister.

When speaking of her parents, Eliezerov’s voice oozes unbridled adulation. Her mother, a dancer, and her father, a musician, traveled the world together giving traditional Bukhari performances. But little Eti, at 6 years old, paid a steep price for their wanderlust. At a loss for what to do with her, her parents put Eliezerov in an ultra-Orthodox orphanage in the coastal town of Netanya for a year and a half while her parents took off on a tour to Paris. Later on, she was moved to another institution in the town of Bnei Barak. It was only in fourth grade that Eliezerov returned to her parents’ home in Florentine.

“My mother was devastated. She whined to me: ‘But his eyebrows aren’t even black!’ ” — Eti-Jon Eliezerov

Eliezerov said she feels no bitterness toward them. “I’m not angry. I was never angry at them. I’m not able to get angry at them.”

“My parents were the warmest, most hospitable people,” she says.

She credits her up-and-down childhood in her later choice to become a therapist, specializing in psychodrama and gestalt.

These days, though, Eliezerov says her calling is to restore the Florentine neighborhood to its heyday. Today, the neighborhood, which hugs Jaffa on one side and the fancy Neve Tzedek district on the other, is a haven for hipster millennials. The Florentine that Eliezerov remembers from her childhood, though, brimmed with a fusion of culture and Jewish tradition.

“There was a lot of love in this neighborhood, everyone’s door was always open. It was colorful,” she says.

Eliezerov already has gotten the Tel Aviv municipality on board with bringing back the long-dead tradition of a parade through the streets on Simchat Torah. She also spearheaded an initiative called “Florentine in a Pot,” creating a bridge between the neighborhood’s old and young populations in which the elderly give cooking workshops infused with storytelling to their young neighbors.

And in her own house, Eliezerov is living her dream by hosting monthly evenings celebrating Bukhari culture. She wears traditional Bukhari garb and serves her guests Bukhari food, such as Plov, a rich rice dish embellished with meats and carrots. Armed with a doyra, a Bukhari drum, Eliezerov dances and sings lyrics that hark back to bygone days in Samarkand.

Although she is a born and bred Sabra, Eliezerov said she felt “just like I’d arrived home” when she traveled to Uzbekistan as a guide on a roots trip.

It’s a wonder, then, that in her early 20s she rebelled by marrying an Ashkenazi of Polish descent.

“My mother was devastated,” she said. “She whined to me: ‘But his eyebrows aren’t even black!’”

Eyebrows, it seems, are not inconsequential in Bukhari tradition. Despite her choice of partner, Eliezerov was adamant to preserve some of the Bukhari traditions relating to marriage and as such she insisted on a Koshchinon, the traditional eyebrow grooming ritual. According to Eliezerov, Bukhari women are forbidden from touching their eyebrows – which, she points out, is often a unibrow – until they are about to get married. A few days before the wedding, and prior to immersion in the mikveh, the bride is surrounded by married friends and relatives who watch as the Koshchin – the eyebrow groomer – shapes her brows using a special blade and string. The Koshchin usually doubles as a comedienne, stage whispering in the bride’s ear crass nothings about what awaits her in matrimony. Special songs are sung at the occasion, and in keeping with Bukhari tradition, endless trays of food are served. To gasps of oohs and aahs, the mother of the bride also presents her daughter’s dowry, consisting of flowing gowns and dresses and bedsheets.

Nevertheless, after a 30-year marriage, Eliezerov divorced her husband. He was, in her words, too far from religion. Especially after her adult son became religious, she realized just how much she missed the faith of her childhood. These days, Eliezerov, who returned to being an observant Jew, feels like she finally has found her place in the world.

“I’m in my childhood home, making people laugh, making them cry, using my talents to move people,” she says.

“All my life, I’ve waited for this.”

Palestinian Rioters Appear to Be Transported and Protected By Ambulances


Screenshot from Twitter.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is claiming that ambulances were used to transport and protect Palestinian rioters, and there is video evidence to substantiate their claim.

Here is the video showing the rioters being dropped from a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance to a riot in Ramallah:

The IDF also took photos of Palestinian rioters throwing rocks at IDF soldiers from behind an ambulance on Saturday, seemingly used the shield as a shield against the IDF.

“The rioters knew that security forces in the field would not employ riot dispersal tactics against an ambulance, and they used it to harm the forces while shielding themselves,” the IDF said in a statement.

Yoav Mordechai, the major general of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) wrote a letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross demanding that “the incident be investigated,” as the Palestinian Red Crescent claims to be “neutral” in Israeli-Palestinian disputes.

The Palestinian Red Crescent is denying that their ambulances were used in riots, issuing photographs to substantiate their claim that one of the masked rioters was a girl in need of medical help.

“PRCS affirms that it abides and shall always abide by its fundamental principles in general, and the principles of neutrality and impartiality in particular,” the organization said on Facebook. “PRCS affirms that it has done nothing but discharge its humanitarian mission and provide treatment to those who need it.”

However, the Palestinian Red Crescent did not explain what the other two rioters were doing in ambulance.

There have been prior instances of ambulances being used to aid and abet terrorists, as outlined here and here.

Times of Israel Middle Easy Analyst Avi Issachoroff has previously written that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah were involved in organizing the “Days of Rage” riots that were launched in response to President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

State Department Continues to Not Recognize Jerusalem As Capital of Israel On Government Documents


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses a news conference during a meeting of OSCE Foreign Ministers in Vienna, Austria, December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The State Department has long refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on their government documents and they are still refusing to do so even after President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement on Wednesday.

The Associated Press reports that the State Department will continue its policy of not listing Jerusalem-born American citizens as being born in Israel on passports. However, the policy does recognize Palestine as the birthplace of those who were born in Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel in 1948.

“At this time, there are no changes to our current practices regarding place of birth on Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and U.S. Passports,” the State Department told the AP.

Additionally, the department won’t redraw their maps, but they will use some sort of marker to demarcate the city as Israel’s capital.

“The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations,” the State Department told the AP. “The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”

The State Department also has yet to be specify if other documents will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The AP report does highlight how the State Department could be a potential roadblock toward Trump establishing an embassy in Jerusalem. The department is already stating that it could take at least “three to four years” to make the move, even though the mayor of Jerusalem has stated it could theoretically only take a couple of minutes by turning the U.S. consulate into an embassy.

Additionally, the State Department under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has repeatedly pointed the finger at Israel as the culprit for Palestinian terrorism and has previously denied that Israel has any claim on the city.

There have been prior reports of tension between Trump and Tillerson, although Tillerson has denied such reports and Trump hasn’t publicly stated that Tillerson’s job is in danger.

Boycotting the Israel Boycotter in Germany


FILE PHOTO: British rock star Roger Waters of Pink Floyd walks along the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, June 21, 2006. REUTERS/Ahmad Mezhir/File Photo

“It’s hopeless.”

“Petitions are so stupid.”

“He won’t even read your email.”

These were some comments Malca Goldstein-Wolf received when she told people she was going to start a movement to get the director of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), the Cologne-based affiliate of Germany’s consortium of public broadcasters known as ARD, to pull out of sponsoring an upcoming June concert by Israel’s most famous boycott advocate, Roger Waters. The ex-Pink Floyd front man regularly makes headlines these days as the leader of the cultural wing of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Goldstein-Wolf proved the skeptics wrong. When she reached out to WDR Director Tom Buhrow, sending him a Change.org petition with more than 1,500 signatures, Buhrow decided to end WDR’s sponsorship of the Waters concert. After Germany’s popular tabloid Bild broke the story, four other ARD regional affiliates followed Buhrow’s lead.

“I’m so sick of this growing anti-Semitism, so I decided to do something about it.” — Malca Goldstein-Wolf

While Waters’ summer concert tour in Germany will still go on, Goldstein-Wolf, 48, is pleased that it will do so without help from the German taxpayer.

“I’m just an amateur activist,” she said via Skype from her home in Cologne. “I don’t do things like this normally but I’m so sick of this growing anti-Semitism, so I decided to do something about it. I heard the promotion on WDR, and I couldn’t believe they wanted to support Waters. I thought: ‘Oh, my God. This is impossible.’ So I just sat down and wrote to Buhrow, and I did this petition.”

One columnist for Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said ARD should thank Goldstein-Wolf for saving the broadcasters from embarrassment. Waters’ concerts sometimes feature politically controversial antics, such as releasing a pig-shaped balloon — based on an image from Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, “Animals” — emblazoned with dozens of illustrations, including a Star of David and corporate logos. Waters has pressured well-known artists scheduled to perform in Israel to cancel shows.

Goldstein-Wolf, who comes from the world of fashion, was born in Frankfurt. Her Jewish father journeyed to Israel from Romania, while her mother converted to Judaism when Goldstein-Wolf was a child. Her husband is the biological grandson of a Nazi whose widow married an Auschwitz survivor and then raised him as his own grandson. Goldstein-Wolf, who visited Israel regularly in her youth, said she considers the Jewish state as the “life insurance for all Jews in the world.”

But according to Goldstein-Wolf, Germany’s true hero in the story is Buhrow for taking a stand.

“I was really kind of desperate when I wrote,” Goldstein-Wolf said. “The answer he gave me was absolutely touching. I would have never even thought about getting such an answer. He has my deep respect for it.”

Buhrow’s email response to her was brief and to the point. “I sense that not many words or arguments will convince you, rather clear action,” he wrote. “I’m notifying you, because it’s important for me that you believe how important your feelings are to me, that I’m responding to your request: the collaboration with the concert has ended.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany praised ARD’s decision, with its president Joseph Schuster stating: “The swift and decisive reaction of the broadcasters to massive public criticism is an important sign that rampant Israel-related anti-Semitism has no place in Germany.”

Waters’ German promoter, Marek Lieberberg, a son of Holocaust survivors, called ARD’s decision “ridiculous.”

“Two things have to be separated here: private opinion and artistic work” the 71-year-old CEO of Live Nation Germany told a German newspaper. “The canon of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd is and remains brilliant. On the other hand, he has a questionable private opinion about Israel and is quite an open member of boycott movement, which I completely reject. But I cannot and will not deny him his right to freedom of expression.”

While Goldstein-Wolf is proud of this particular victory, she foresees more battles ahead. Most recently, German courts backed Kuwait Airways’ rejection of Israeli passengers. Israel also had to pull out of an exhibition at the Frankfurt Bible Museum showcasing the Dead Sea Scrolls because the German government couldn’t guarantee their return should Palestinian or Jordanian authorities claim them.

For now, though, Goldstein-Wolf will focus her efforts on BDS and artists involved in the movement.

“There’s no option to give up,” she said. “You always have to fight. If you’re really authentic, if you touch people, there’s always a chance to change things.”

Who Will Protect Children From The Morally Bankrupt Palestinian Children Protection Act?


Killing children, no matter the number, is the ultimate crime against the present and future. The Jewish people having suffered the unfathomable blow of having a generation of their children—1.5 million futures wiped out by the Nazis during the Holocaust—are acutely sensitive to this issue.

But how to react when adults entomb children to dig tunnels on a mission-to-murder other children? What to do when those in power groom youngsters to be the next generation of human shields, or axe wielders, or suicide bombers?

US Representative Barbara McCollum’s (DFL-Minn.) answer is to blame Israelis when they have no choice but to do what they did  a few weeks ago with the shooting of a 17 year-old Palestinian after he nearly murdered a 35-year-old father, injured a 70-year-old Jew standing at a curb and tried to stab other Jews near the community of Efrat.

Just before Thanksgiving, Representative McCollum introduced a House bill 4391, to restrict U.S. aid to Israel if “Israeli military forces or police” engage in “physical violence” or use “military detention” against Palestinians under the age of 18. In other words, should it become law, the next terrorist attack, just like the one in Efrat, would likely trigger a U.S. aid cutoff against Israel, our only reliable Mideast ally, for the crime of defending its citizens every time a Palestinian kid, indoctrinated with hate tries to murder or maim an Israeli.

The use of Palestinian children to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews in the Holy Land actually predates the 1948 Israel War of Independence. In Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism, David M. Rosen shows how during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem modeled his lethal child soldiers after the Nazis’ Hitler Youth.

Last year, Representative McCollum was silent when on January 17, 2016, 16-year-old Morad Abdullah Adais broke into the home of Dafna Meir, mother of six children 4 to 17, in the town of Otniel, armed with an 8-inch knife. Later he bragged, “I plunged the knife into her so deeply that most of it was inside her body. She started screaming, the children saw me and also started screaming, then I stabbed her in her upper body another three or four times. She tried to fight me and tried to take the knife from me. The two children who were there were still screaming, but she continued to resist, so I pushed her, and overpowered her.”

Under McCollum’s bill the Israeli army’s arrest of Adais would likely also be deemed “illegal and abusive.”

Hamas doesn’t even try very hard to hide its criminal and systematic abuse of Palestinian children. A televised video is available for anyone to see children from ages of 3 to 5 dressed like suicide bombers, 10 to 13 year-olds embracing a collective death wish, while 14-year-olds prepare for suicide attacks, sometimes wishing farewell to their beaming parents.

The UN-backed Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers tries to redress such human rights abuse that spans the globe from Africa to Southeast Asia. Indeed, even the UN Security Council designated a “Red Hand Day” to highlight such ultimate serial abuse of children. Yet Hamas openly commits war crimes, not only by targeting Israeli toddlers with rockets, but against Palestinian children who are sacrificed as “human shields.” Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, leverage control of the school curricula, the mosques, and TV to promote a culture that reveres death over life, that prepares youngsters for the next war.

Already in 2012, journalist Nicolas Pelham, no friend of Israel, wrote in The Journal of Palestinian Studies, condemning a “cavalier approach to child labor and tunnel fatalities [that has] damaged the [Palestinian] movement’s standing with human-rights groups, despite government assurances dating back to 2008 that it was considering curbs”. During a police patrol that the author was permitted to accompany in December 2011, nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 individuals have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials.

Far from imitating the song lyric about constructing a “stairway to paradise,” Hamas prefers to build tunnels to hell.

Embarrassed by revelations, such as Pelham’s about high casualties against child suicide tunnel builders, Hamas decided that the best defense is a good Big Lie offense. It launched a new PR campaign to coincide with Israel’s upcoming 70th anniversary- accusing the Israel Army for “crimes” of killing innocent Palestinian children. No mention of Hamas’ child recruits for violence and terrorism.

Whatever her motivation, McCollum and her nine co-sponsors unfortunately are serving as willing instruments of Hamas’  inversion of this awful truth.

And now, the promised Palestinian “days of rage” over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. To be sure, it will be young Palestinians that the “brave” leaders of Hamas and Fatah will use as cannon fodder for their bloody photo ops. So the real question remains: Who will finally stand up and demand that Palestinian youth really be protected– from their corrupt and cynical leaders and from the morally bankrupt “Protection Act”?


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Israeli Soldier Murdered by Palestinians in Likely Terror Attack


Screenshot from Twitter.

An Israeli soldier has been murdered by Palestinians in what is believed to be a terror attack.

The 20-year-old soldier, who has yet to be identified, was fatally stabbed in his upper torso at a bus stop outside a mall in the city of Arad at approximately 9:30 pm on Thursday. The soldier proceeded to try and get help by stepping in front of a car, where he began vomiting blood.

“He was conscious and tried to say something but couldn’t,” the driver of the car told Ynet News. “We tried to help him, he fell to the ground. We called Magen David Adom and put a towel on him.”

By the time paramedics arrived, the solider was no longer breathing and didn’t have a pulse.

“We provided life-saving medical care and performed advanced resuscitation techniques, but we were ultimately forced to declare him dead at the scene,” said MDA paramedic Ziv Shapira.

Video footage of the scene of the attack can be seem below:

There are two Palestinian suspects connected to the murder and they are still at large. The police, Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces are all working together in trying to find them, even going as far as setting up roadblocks and sending out a helicopter.

The preliminary investigation suggests that the attack was “nationalistically motivated.” Arad Mayor Nissan Ben-Homo said, “The working assumption is that this was a terror attack.”

Eyewitness to History: Nov. 29, 1947, in Jerusalem


Crowds in Tel Aviv celebrate the U.N.’s vote for partition in 1947. Photo courtesy of the Government Press Office, Jerusalem. Photo by Hans Pinn

When the news broke in Jerusalem of the United Nations’ vote to partition Palestine, it was a Saturday night after sunset. I was 25 and a student at Hebrew University, taking a year off from my rabbinical program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I was living with my grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, in Kerem Avraham, a highly religious neighborhood.

That night, all of Jerusalem erupted into joy. People ran into the streets, shouting, singing and dancing in a frenzy. Grocery stores opened to hand out free bottles of wine to the celebrators. Cars and trucks roamed the streets, offering rides to anyone who wanted to whoop it up.

The growing crowds all headed toward the Jewish Agency building on King George Street, the unofficial headquarters of the underground Jewish government. Hundreds of people danced the horah and sang Hebrew songs with wild enthusiasm.

Suddenly, Golda Meir stepped onto the balcony overlooking the crowd and asked for silence. She expressed our feeling of joy for the fulfillment of our 2,000-year-old dream of re-creating a Jewish state in Israel. But she warned us that dreams came at a price. The United Nations was not handing us a state. We would have to earn it with our lives. We would have to defend it from our enemies, and many Jewish lives would be lost before the state would be born.

Everyone became very somber as the realization of her message took hold. One could sense a powerful resolve settling in.

And then the singing and dancing resumed.


Joshua Stampfer is rabbi emeritus at Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Ore.

Report: Michigan Students Behind Divestment Resolution Made Controversial Statements About Jews and Israel


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A new report suggests that the students behind University of Michigan’s anti-Israel divestment resolution made some controversial statements about Jews and Israel.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained video of  Ahmed Ismail, who is a part of the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) club that pushed the resolution, referred to Zionism as “a dirty political ideology” and tried to disassociate Israel from Judaism.

“There’s no nation called ‘Judaism,'” said Ismail. “Where on the map is there a country called ‘Jews’?”

Ismail defended his comments to the Free Beacon, stating: “Any person who is a Zionist believes in the State of Israel, even though it oppresses and kills millions of Palestinians—which I call terrorism.”

Ismail said that while most Jews were Zionists, he didn’t think Judaism inherently breeds terrorism and that he had several Jewish friends.

The video also caught students concurring with the notion that the pro-Palestinian crowd should reconsider its “past nonviolent stance” as well as a Palestinian student telling a Jewish student she wouldn’t engage in a conversation with him simply because he’s pro-Israel.

“I’m not going to have a conversation with you,” the student said. “Those are my guiding principles.”

The Palestinian student did tell the Jewish student that he could listen to her.

Earlier in November, the University of Michigan’s student government passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that conducted business in Israel. The university signaled that it wouldn’t be divesting from any company in the near future since it wouldn’t make sense from a business standpoint.

Hours after the resolution passed, a swastika was found emblazoned in the men’s bathroom in one of the university buildings.

University of Michigan Student Government Passes Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

University of Michigan’s student government passed a resolution on Wednesday morning that called for the university to form a committee to look into possibly divesting from companies that operated in Israel.

The resolution passed with a vote of 23 in favor, 17 against and five others who abstained. The vote occurred under a secret ballot with the rationale that it was necessary to protect pro-Palestinian students from being blacklisted.

Those who argued in favor of the resolution claimed that it wasn’t targeting Israel, it was giving representation to the Palestinians.

“I want to emphasize over and over again that this resolution emphasizes the voices of Palestinian students … and to give this community a voice for the first time in CSG history is to not take away from any other community,” said senior Hafsa Tout, a representative from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Those against it argued that the resolution was in fact targeting Israel and the Jewish people.

“It was about singling out Israel as the sole entity responsible for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” Tilly Shames, the director of the university’s Hillel chapter, told Jewish students. “And that’s an oversimplification, overgeneralization of an historically complex conflict that really can’t be attributed to one side or the other.”

Despite the resolution’s passage, the university won’t be divesting from these companies that conduct business in Israel.

“The university’s longstanding policy is to shield the endowment from political pressures and to base our investment decisions solely on financial factors such as risk and return,” said Rick Fitzgerald, the university’s spokesman.

There had been 10 prior attempts to pass the resolution, they had all failed.

Q&A with Laëtitia Eïdo: Actress Wants Her Work to Be a ‘Link Between People’


Photo by David Zamind

With a French father and Lebanese mother, “Fauda” star Laëtitia Eïdo attributes her versatility as an actress to her mixed ethnicity, as well as family religious ties to “the three big religions”: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

In her breakout role on the Israeli-created Netflix hit, Eïdo plays Shirin, a Palestinian doctor who works in the West Bank and becomes romantically involved with an Israeli special forces officer working undercover as an Arab. During an interview from Paris, Eïdo talked about the ways “Fauda” — which premiered its second season opener this month at the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles — has resonated across the globe and impacted her own attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You can also catch her in theaters on Nov. 17 as the star of the Israeli film “Holy Air.”

Jewish Journal: I read that you’re French of Lebanese descent. What is your relationship to Israel/Palestine and how did you end up on an Israeli show?

Laëtitia Eïdo: I was born and raised in the south of France in a small area called Ardèche, a very beautiful town next to Lyon. [But] my family is very mixed. Actually, [while working in Israel] I discovered that I have some Lebanese Jewish family that came to Israel in the ’70s. Before that, my relationship to the show was just the relationship of a French actress brought to Israel by her roles. It started with “Dancing Arabs” (“A Borrowed Identity” in the U.S.) by Eran Riklis, and what happened is “Fauda’s” director watched the movie and wanted to work with me. [One day] my mother told me, “By the way, do you know that we have Jewish family?” I was even more mixed than I thought!

JJ: How does your mixed background serve you as an actress?

LE: What I try to be in my life and bring through my work is to be a link between people. My character, Shirin, in “Fauda,” is close to this, because she has a French father and spends more time in Paris than in Palestine. And the fact that she hasn’t spent much time in Palestine or Israel makes her neither on one side or the other. It positions her in this in-between space, which allows her to feel compassion, which is important as a doctor. And it allows her to refuse to be part of the conflict. She’s able to break those imaginary borders between people. This is exactly what I have inherited, being a mix of three religions and mixed cultures.

JJ: What are the biggest misconceptions you think people have about Israel and Palestine?

LE: It’s the same misconception on both sides, because I’ve been on both sides of the border. People are told that they’re different and they should fear the other side. But when it comes to a personal level — not on a political one — families are the same on both sides. They laugh and cry for the same things. And, actually, I really can’t tell where the hummus is the best!

JJ: Israel is controversial subject matter in many parts of the world. Has the reception to “Fauda” been different depending on where you are in the world?

LE: The reception to the show is intense everywhere. Apparently, the show is becoming a big hit in the Middle East — in countries like Lebanon, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In Israel and Palestine, some people love the show, and others think the show is not balanced enough. But it’s really important to remember the show is a fiction, made of stories based on a much more complex and unreachable reality. As an artist I focus on some positive things, like the fact that since the show was first aired in Israel, some teachers had to open Arabic classes for new students wanting to understand their neighbors.

JJ: On “Fauda,” your character has an affair with an Israeli who pretends to be Arab. Do you think it’s possible an Israeli/Palestinian love affair could occur under the current circumstances? 

LE: I can only tell what I see around me. It’s still too rare, but these love stories do exist. They’ve always existed in any conflict in the world, and they will [continue to] exist. More, of course, would be better, because it helps shutting down the fear, as people and families get to know and understand each other through this mixed relationship.

The War We Rarely Hear About


It seems like so long ago. Do you remember the years 2000 to 2004, when pizza parlors and cafes and discotheques were being blown up by Palestinian terrorists on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

Over those four years of the Second Intifada, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, more than 130 Palestinian terror attacks killed over 1,000 Israelis and wounded thousands more.

I remember how we would brace ourselves for ongoing news of these attacks—which seemed to come weekly. There was almost a sense of despair: How does a free and open society stop suicide bombers who are determined to blow themselves up in the midst of civilians?

By some kind of military miracle, Israel found a way to fight back and prevail. After a particularly horrifying attack on a group of Jews enjoying a Passover seder, Israel launched a massive military campaign to root out terror cells and weapon factories throughout the West Bank. It was called Operation Defensive Shield. This was the loud war that received endless coverage in the media.

Journalism thrives on these kind of wars, when reporters and photojournalists can embed themselves with troops and report from the ground. News consumers are riveted by the dramatic war footage and the human stories that come out of this reporting. Operation Defensive Shield was no exception.

But while the military operation was getting most of the attention, another war was going on, one without reporters and cameras.

This was the quiet war against terror financing, the war we rarely hear about, the war that follows the money and is indispensable.

While one war was rooting out the terrorists, this other war was rooting out the money that funded those terrorists.

The inside story of this financial war on terror is the subject of our cover story this week, as our political editor, Shmuel Rosner, reviews “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters.”

I remember meeting the co-author of the book, attorney activist Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, in her Tel Aviv office during the Second Intifada. She had this soft spoken demeanor.

While pro-Israel activists work on “education,” she works on seizing terrorist assets.

I’m sure there’s plenty of top secret information she couldn’t share with me. But what she did share was interesting enough. Darshan-Leitner was fighting her own war against terror, using international courts. She was moved by a visit in the early 1990s to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Atlanta, the civil rights group that used lawsuits to take on neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. This inspired her to eventually start Shurat HaDin (“Letter of the Law”), an Israel-based nonprofit legal center that has been at the forefront of the legal fight on terrorism.

We often talk about the importance of the “PR War”— about how public opinion is so important in the new media age. Darshan-Leitner has gone in another direction. The tools of her trade are depositions, lawsuits, testimonies under oaths and other legal weapons. While pro-Israel activists work on “education,” she works on seizing terrorist assets. She battles not in the court of public opinion but the court of legal opinion.

Over the past 15 years, according to the Shurat HaDin website, her team has represented terror victims everywhere from Israel and the United States to Canada and Iran. Her group “files motions, seizes assets, and sends warnings to state-sponsors of terror letting them know the consequences of supporting known terror groups. Shurat HaDin has put terrorists and terror-sponsoring organizations on their heels, forcing them to spend vast sums on legal fees and preventing them from using the Western banking industry to fund terrorism.”

Since its inception, Shurat HaDin has won over $1 billion in judgments, which has led to the freezing of more than $600 million in assets around the world, with more than $120 million in actual awards. Talk about metrics.

So, when she emailed me a few weeks ago to tell me about her new book, it was a no-brainer. This is an important and fascinating story. It reminds us that the war against terror can’t be won by tanks and troops alone. The quiet warriors who combat terror in courts and global banks are just as critical. While Operation Defensive Shield was playing on television, the special unit Harpoon was operating. in clandestine places that starved the terrorists of funds and resources.

One of the roles of journalism is to dig behind the headlines and show you what doesn’t always appear in the mainstream press. Darshan-Leitner’s new book does just that, and it elevates the unsung heroes in the war on terror.

11 lawmakers warn against demolition of Palestinian villages


A general view shows a Palestinian flag and tents in Susiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron July 20, 2015. Sitting under a fig tree to escape the searing sun, Jihad Nuwaja looks out on the only land he knows - the dry expanse of the Hebron hills in the southern West Bank. Within days, his home is set to be demolished and he, his wife and 10 children expelled. Nuwaja's family is one of handful living in tents and prefabricated structures at Susiya, a Palestinian village spread across several rocky hillsides between a Jewish settlement to the south and a Jewish archaeological site to the north - land Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) authored a letter signed by 11 House Democrats urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure the Israeli government and prevent the demolition of Palestinian villages Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar. “We ask you that you work with your counterparts in the Israeli government to prevent the demolition of these villages, the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, and the expropriation of their lands,” the lawmakers said.

Located in the West Bank, the village of Susiya has attracted significant international attention. The Israeli government says that the homes in Susiya were built illegally, and the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Defense Ministry has the right to demolish the structures.

Last week when asked the State Department’s view on the demolition orders for Susiya, a State Department official explained, “We are not going to comment on an Israeli Supreme Court decision.”

In a letter obtained by Jewish Insider, Charles Faulkner of the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs explained, “We are closely following developments in Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar… Consulate General officials continue to visit Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar to monitor the situation.” Faulkner added President Donald Trump is committed to achieving peace and “urged both sides to refrain from taking action which could undermine that goal.”

The Trump administration’s more muted response stands in contrast to the Obama administration. Past State Department spokesman John Kirby publicly called on Israel to “refrain” from carrying out the demolitions in 2015, which the Obama administration official labeled as “harmful and provocative.”

“It is yet another example of the double standard that anti-Israel politicians apply to the nation state of the Jewish people,” asserted Alan Dershowitz, former law professor at Harvard University. “When is the last time these members of Congress complained about a domestic issue involving another foreign ally? How would Congressmen feel if Israeli members of Knesset started writing letters complaining about how America is dealing with some of its issues?”

The letter was also signed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Deputy Director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), James McGovern (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Betty Mccollum (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

In September, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sponsored an event on Capitol Hill to highlight the condition of Susiya.

This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com.

The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People


It has been 100 years since the Balfour Declaration – issued by the British government on Nov. 2, 1917 – offered the first international recognition of Jewish national aspirations. In many ways, its importance is obvious: it encouraged some 400,000 European Jews to emigrate to Palestine in the years 1917-1940, and made it possible to lay the groundwork for the State of Israel.

But there is another significance that has not been fully recognized among modern historians, even though it tells us more about the current obstacles to peace than any of the usual explanations. I am speaking of the politico-philosophical precedent set by the Balfour Declaration regarding national identity, land ownership, self determination and the notion of “indigenous people.”

On the surface, the declaration’s text touches on none of these issues. Known as “history’s most famous letter,” this 67-word text actually reads like a holiday greeting card: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice that civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

A close examination, however, reveals two asymmetries which, by today’s standards, would probably evoke bitter objections. First, the words “people” and “national” are attached to Jews, not to the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, who are referred to as “communities.” Second, the non-Jewish communities are assured “civil and religious” rights, not national rights, let alone a “national home.”

This asymmetry is probably what infuriated Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi who, in an emotional lecture on Sept. 25 this year, reportedly pounded the table and blasted the Balfour Declaration as “a declaration of war by the British Empire on the indigenous population of the land it was promising to the Jewish people.”

Khalidi’s outrage at former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and his Declaration is hardly justified. First, the idea that the Arab population of Palestine harbors national aspiration would have been news to Balfour, just as it would have been to any political observer in 1917. Khalidi admits as much in his book, “The Iron Cage,” in which he labors to explain why Arabs did not develop a ripe sense of national identity until the late 1920s, when it was too late to “crush the Zionist Movement.”

Second, the Balfour Declaration did not preclude the creation of a “national home” for other national groups in the region, side by side with the Jewish polity. Ottoman Palestine, as we recall, embraced a huge territory which included Jordan and parts of Syria. Various partitions and coexisting constellations were proposed in the course of time, most notably by the Peel Commission of 1937 and by the United Nations in 1947. While Khalidi’s book never mentions these proposals as options, and we understand why, it was in effect the Balfour Declaration that opened these opportunities for Palestinian statehood.

Third – and this is critical – the concept of “indigenous population” has undergone a profound transformation since 1917, which Palestinian society refuses to accept to this day. By championing the Jewish plight for a homeland, the Balfour Declaration made it absolutely clear that there are other claimants to the title “indigenous population of the land” and that the arguments of those other claimants are no less defensible and no less supported by hard evidence and trust deeds.

The Balfour Declaration overturned the narrow conception of “indigenous people” as a group of tribes or families who happened to own land in a particular geographic location and pass it to their heirs over a number of generations. By focusing on the Jewish narrative, the declaration broadened the concept of indigeneity to include peoples who have maintained vivid collective memories of past civilizations and who shaped their identity through dreams of returning to the cradles of those civilizations.

This shift in the definition of indigineity was only implicit in the 67-word declaration. It was made explicit two years later, however, in Balfour’s introduction to Nachum Sokolow’s book, “History of Zionism, 1600-1919. ”

“The position of the Jews is unique,” Balfour wrote. “For them race, religion and country are inter-related, as they are inter-related in the case of no other race, no other religion, and no other country on earth. … In the case of no other religion is its past development so intimately bound up with the long political history of a petty territory wedged in between States more powerful far than it could ever be; in the case of no other religion are its aspirations and hopes expressed in language and imagery so utterly dependent for their meaning on the conviction that only from this one land, only through this one history, only by this one people, is full religious knowledge to spread through all the world.”

A man of wisdom and character, Balfour considered himself primarily a philosopher, not a historian or a statesman. It is amazing how this multifaceted individual managed to take time off his duties as Britain’s Foreign Secretary and study carefully the role that the Land of Israel had played in Jewish life through the ages. He captured this essence better than some of our most revered history professors, for whom Zionism is a 19th century invention that started with Theodor Herzl in 1896 and ended with the Six-Day War of 1967.

Balfour understood that Eretz Israel is an inextricable part of Jewish identity. Accordingly, he also understood that indigeneity is based on intellectual attachment and historical continuity no less than on physical presence or genetic lineage.

In 2014, when peace negotiations seemed somewhat hopeful, Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat was reported in The New York Times as saying: “the Palestinians could never accede to Israel’s demand that they recognize it as the nation-state of the Jewish people. … I cannot change my narrative.” A few months later, when pressed to explain what narrative defines his position Erekat told the Times of Israel: “I am the proud son of the Netufians and the Canaanites. I’ve been there for 5,500 years before Joshua. ”

On this centennial celebration of the Balfour Declaration it is worth reminding Erekat and Khalidi that the declaration’s most profound imprint on the world’s conciousness has been a universal understanding that the essence of indigineity is cultural and intellectual, not genetic or geographical.

Palestinian resistance to accepting their neighbors as equally indigenous to the region has been so obsessive and so counter-productive that it begs to be enlivened through a hypothetical scenario, however imaginary. I can’t resist imagining Balfour attending Khalidi’s lecture at Columbia, raising his hand and asking politely:

“Professor Khalidi, can you name a Canaanite figure that you are proud of? A Canaanite poem that you enjoy reciting? A Canaanite holiday that you celebrate? A Canaanite leader who is a role model to your children?

Replace the word “Canaanite” with “biblical” and you will find four questions that every Israeli child can answer half asleep.

There is merit and wisdom in hypothetical scenarios. In this case, I would hope it could mitigate the Palestinian claim to exclusive ownership of the title “indigenous people” and, God-willing, usher a genuine reconciliation effort based on mutual recognition and shared indigeneity.


JUDEA PEARL is Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science and Statistics at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Protesters Disrupt IDF Event in NYC


From left: Ram Asad, Jonathan Elkhoury and Mohammad Kabiya speak at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Reservists on Duty.

A group of anti-Israel protesters attempted to shut down an event in which Israel Defense Forces (IDF) speakers shared their experiences in Israel. While they disrupted the event, they were unable to shut it down.

The event, held by Reservists on Duty in Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan on Thursday, featured Arab speakers who served in the IDF explaining how Israel is not the apartheid nation that its critics claim it to be. Toward the end of the event, a man attempted to storm the stage while yelling curse words in Arabic. He was escorted out of the synagogue.

Other anti-Israel protesters began asking questions like “What makes you kill a little kid?” during the question-and-answer session. They weren’t happy with the speakers’ answers, prompting them to start “shouting, cursing at us, making a riot at the synagogue” according to Jonathan Elkhoury, the minority coordinator of Reservists on Duty.

“Immediately the police came and tried to calm everything down, but they wouldn’t calm down so they were forced to leave,” Elkhoury told the Journal. “They tried to shut our event down but they weren’t successful doing that.”

The protesters have yet to be identified, although they did identify themselves as Palestinians living in the United States. None of the protesters were arrested.

It was the second time that week that a Reservist on Duty event was disrupted. During Tuesday’s event at the University of Minnesota, a woman who claimed to be a Palestinian- American read prepared talking points that accused Elkhoury’s father of being a “cowardly rat” for serving in the South Lebanon Army (SLA) that was allied with Israel and accused strategic IDF consultant Mohammed Kabiya, an Israeli Bedouin, of being a “war criminal.”

The woman was eventually arrested for refusing to cease her behavior.

“It hurts them to see that our voices are strong and being listened to and that we are changing minds, so they want to shut us down,” said Elkhoury. “But they are not going to be successful doing that.”

Elkhoury added that “it’s about time that we stop being afraid to say the truth about Israel.”

Earlier in October, the Journal reported on Reservist on Duty’s event at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. The Journal’s coverage can be read here.

Episode 62 – When the World Fell Apart: 100 Years to WWI


ca. 1917, West of Cambrai, France --- Members of the Royal Navy maneuver a tank, or "landship," over a trench during the Battle of Cambrai just west of the French town. --- Image by © Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS

Since 2014 the world has been commemorating 100 years for the Great War, World War I. 16.5 Million people lost their lives in that war, and its results changed the world forever.

Among many influences, the one that is most relevant to the Jewish people, is the liberation of Israel – then Palestine – from the Turkish occupation, and the beginning of the British Mandate. This November we’re also commemorating 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. Signed by the British foreign minister Balfour, that document led to the fact that we’re sitting here right now with Kobi Hubara…

Kobi Hubara has been filling up pubs and venues with his popular history lectures throughout Tel Aviv, for years. He’s a researcher of history, a writer and a publicist, and he’s with us to talk about the war we know almost nothing about, its affect on the Jewish fate and and how it reshaped the world.

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With America’s blessing, Abbas signals a reconciliation with Hamas


US president Donald Trump with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a welcoming ceremony in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23. Photo by Flash90

The Trump administration is encouraging the Palestinian Authority to assume control of the Gaza Strip and leaving the door open for a role by Hamas in the subsequent Palestinian government.

But if such a move was once seen as a traditional predicate to a two-state solution, top Palestinian leaders are hedging their bets, saying they would not rule out a “one-state” solution in which Palestinians have the same one-person, one-vote rights as Israelis. Israeli leaders have long said that would mean the end of the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority government officials returned this week to the Gaza Strip, the first en masse visit — by Cabinet and security officials along with top bureaucrats — since Hamas’ bloody ouster of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement a decade ago.

It was a visit twice blessed by the Trump administration, first through a statement last week by the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and Russia that guides the peace process, and again Monday with a statement from Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator.

“The United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza, as noted in the September 28 Quartet statement,” Greenblatt said in a statement he posted on Twitter.

The Quartet statement, while itself also abjuring mention of “two states,” made it clear that it foresaw a single Palestinian entity under P.A. rule. It urged “the parties” — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — “to take concrete steps to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

This week’s P.A. visit to Gaza, brokered by Egypt, a key ally to the United States and Israel, is only for several days, but Husam Zomlot, the PLO envoy to Washington and a top Abbas adviser, anticipated a consolidation of the Palestinian Authority presence there.

Zomlot, speaking Monday to reporters here, noted that Hamas dissolved its governing body last week and said the Palestinian Authority expected this week that Hamas would formally hand over governance of the strip. The final stage, he said, would be elections.

“The return of the Palestinian Authority” to Gaza “is a milestone for the Palestinian Authority and of President Trump’s deal of the century,” Zomlot said, using a phrase Abbas used in a meeting with Trump on Sept. 20.

A signal of the White House’s seriousness is the likelihood that Hamas will continue to play a role in governing the strip. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, heeding Israeli concerns, rejected any role for Hamas in Palestinian governance, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly it would be a deal breaker.

Now, however, careful phrasing by U.S. and Palestinian officials strongly suggests that Hamas will not fade into the night. Zomlot called the changes in Gaza “the return of the consensus government,” the joint Hamas-P.A. venture that existed uneasily in 2006-07 and infuriated the administration of George W. Bush.

Greenblatt in his statement nodded to concerns about Hamas, a State Department-designated terrorist group, but in language vague enough to accommodate a Hamas role.

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.

That elides over earlier Israeli demands that not just a Palestinian government, but all of its components, must renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking Wednesday to a Likud party meeting in the West Bank, maintained — at least in part — a tough line on the terms of a reconciliation acceptable to Israel. He said Hamas must be disarmed, but did not count out explicitly keeping Hamas figures within the Palestinian Authority bureaucracy.

“We expect everyone who talks about a peace process to recognize the State of Israel and, of course, to recognize a Jewish state, and we are not prepared to accept bogus reconciliations in which the Palestinian side apparently reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said in Maale Adumim, a settlement of 40,000 located just east of Jerusalem.

“Whoever wants to make such a reconciliation, our understanding is very clear: Recognize the State of Israel, disband the Hamas military arm, sever the connection with Iran, which calls for our destruction, and so on and so forth. Even these very clear things must be clearly stated,” he said.

Without mentioning the two-state goal, Greenblatt’s statement nevertheless called on the Palestinian government to abide by “previous agreements.” These would presumably include the 2003 “road map” that was to have culminated in Palestinian statehood.

Still, Zomlot said the Palestinians wanted more clarity from the Trump administration.

“We cannot travel a journey without knowing a final destination,” he said. Zomlot referred to Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu in February, when the president said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

From the launch of the Oslo process in 1993 until now, Palestinian Authority officials have spoken of a one-state outcome only in pessimistic terms, casting it as a dystopia engendered by a failed process. Last month, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas in a first for a Palestinian leader said that if the two-state option collapses, Palestinians could embrace one state. It would not be a predominantly Jewish state covering Israel and most of the West Bank, an outcome popular among the Israeli right, but a binational state in which West Bank and Gaza Palestinians have full rights as citizens.

Abbas warned in his U.N. address that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you nor we will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”

Zomlot expanded on that possibility at his news briefing Monday.

“As long as we mean one man and one woman, one vote, we are fine with this,” he said, adding however that the two-state solution “remains absolutely the best option.”

Zomlot also addressed the Taylor Force Act, legislation named for an American stabbed to death last year by a Palestinian terrorist that would slash funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continued to subsidize the families of Palestinians jailed for or killed attacking Israelis.

Palestinians say the payments mostly go to the families of the wrongfully imprisoned. Zomlot said the Palestinians proposed a tripartite commission, to include the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that would consider whether to remove some families from the payrolls.

“We have engaged with the administration, we have a trilateral commission,” he said. “We would offer to the United States to be the sole arbitrator and we will accept [the decision]. Guess who rejected it? Israel.”

A senior Trump administration official suggested that Zomlot was overstating the offer.

“We only received a brief general outline about this proposal which did not answer key questions or present a viable solution to the real problem, which is the official policy of paying terrorists and their families,” the official told JTA.

A senior Israeli official told JTA that the offer missed the point — the Palestinians can stop the payments on their own.

“The Palestinians don’t need Israel, the U.S. or anyone else, they just need to do it,” the official said. “Unfortunately they won’t.”

These photos of Holocaust survivors from the SS Exodus are incredible


Children posing for a photo in hats that read “Exodus 1947” in a displaced persons camp in Germany, September 1947. Photo by Robert Gary

In the summer of 1947, when the British turned away the SS Exodus from the shores of Palestine, the world was watching.

Before the eyes of the international media, British troops violently forced the ship’s passengers — most of them Holocaust survivors — onto ships back to Europe. The resulting reports helped turn public opinion in favor of the Zionist movement and against the pro-Arab British policy of limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine.

But much else was happening in the aftermath of World War II, and attention soon shifted elsewhere. One of the few journalists to stick with the story was Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent Robert Gary, who filed a series of reports from displaced persons camps in Germany.

Seventy years later and decades after his death, Gary is again drawing attention to the “Exodus Jews,” albeit mostly in Israel.

An album of 230 of his photos will be sold at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem on Oct. 31, and a number of the images reveal the reality inside the camps, where the Jews continued to prepare for life in Palestine under trying conditions.

Some of the photos, which have little to no captioning, capture the haunting similarities of the DP camps to those in which the Nazis interned and killed millions of Jews during the Holocaust, including images of Exodus Jews repairing barbed-wire fences under the watch of guards.

But others show the Jews participating in communal activities and preparing for their hoped-for future in Palestine. In one photo, Zionist emissaries from the territory — young women dressed in white T-shirts and shorts — appear to lead the Exodus Jews in a circular folk dance.

Shay Mendelovich, a researcher at Kedem, said he expects there to be a lot of interest in the album, which is being sold by an anoymous collector who bought it from the Gary family. Mendelovich predicted it could be sold for as much as $10,000.

“The photos are pretty unique,” he said. “There were other people in these camps. But Robert Gary was one of the few who had a camera and knew how to take pictures.”

Jews dancing in a DP camp in Germany, September 1947. (Robert Gary)

Between 1945 and 1952, more than 250,000 Jews lived in displaced persons camps and urban centers in Germany, Austria and Italy that were overseen by Allied authorities and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Despite having been liberated from the Nazi camps, they continued to languish in Europe under guard and behind barbed wire.

Gary was an American Jewish reporter who JTA sent to Europe to cover the aftermath of World War II. He detailed the living conditions in the camps more than a year before the Exodus journey: inadequate food; cold, crowded rooms; violence by guards and mind-numbing boredom. But he reported in September 1946 that the greatest concern among Jews was escaping Europe, preferably for Palestine.

“Certainly the DP’s are sensitive to the material things and sound off when things go bad (which is as it should be), but above all this is their natural desire to start a new life elsewhere for the bulk in Palestine, for others, in the U.S. and other lands,” he wrote. “Get any group of DP’s together and they’ll keep you busy with the number one question: When are we leaving?”

In July 1947, more than 4,500 Jews from the camps boarded the Exodus in France and set sail for Palestine without legal immigration certificates. They hoped to join the hundreds of thousands of Jews building a pro-Jewish state.

Organized by the Haganah, a Zionist paramilitary force in Palestine, the mission was the largest of dozens of mostly failed attempts at illegal Jewish immigration during the decades of British administration of the territory following World War I. The British largely sought to limit the arrival of Jews to Palestine out of deference to the often violent opposition of its Arab majority.

The Haganah had outfitted and manned the Exodus in hopes of outmaneuvering the British Navy and unloading the passengers on the beach. But near the end of its weeklong voyage, the British intercepted the ship off the shore of Palestine and brought it into the Haifa port. Troops removed resisting passengers there, injuring dozens and killing three, and loaded them on three ships back to Europe.

Even after two months on the Exodus, the passengers resisted setting foot back on the continent. When the British finally forced them ashore in September 1947 and into two displaced persons camps in occupied northern Germany — Poppendorf and Am Stau — many sang the Zionist anthem “Hatikvah” in protest. An unexploded time bomb, apparently designed to go off after the passengers were ashore, was later found on one of the ships.

Jews repairing fencing at a DP camp in Germany, September 1947. (Robert Gary)

The widely reported events won worldwide sympathy for European Jews and their national aspirations. An American newspaper headlined a story about the Exodus “Back to the Reich.” The Yugoslav delegate from from the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine called the affair “the best possible evidence we have for allowing Jews into Palestine.”

Later, the Exodus achieved legendary status, most famously as the inspiration and namesake of the 1958 best-seller by Leon Uris and the 1960 film starring Paul Newman. Some, including former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, credited the Exodus with a major role in the foundation of the State of Israel in May 1948.

Gary, who was stationed in Munich, had close ties to Zionist activists; he reported early and often on the continuing plight of the Exodus Jews in the camps. His dispatches highlighted their continued challenges, including malnutrition, and unabated longing to immigrate to Palestine.

In a report from Poppendorf days after the Exodus Jews arrived, Gary said the dark running joke in the camp was that the alternative to Palestine was simple: “Everyone would choose a tree from which to hang himself.”

“The Jews of Germany demand and expect a chance to start life anew under reasonably secure circumstances,” he wrote. “They feel these places exist mainly in Palestine and the U.S. And they are determined to get there, either by legal or illegal means, or just by plain old fashioned patience.”

Pnina Drori, who later became Gary’s wife, was among the emissaries that the Jewish Agency for Israel sent to the camps from Palestine to prepare the Jews for aliyah. As a kindergarten teacher, she taught the children Hebrew and Zionist songs. Other emissaries, she said, offered military training in preparation for the escalating battles with the Arab majority in Palestine.

“In the photos, you see a lot of young people in shorts and kind of Israeli clothes,” she said. “We were getting them ready for Israeli life, both good and bad. You have to remember Israel was at war at the time.”

A 1947 photo of the fake certificate identifying Robert Gary as a passenger of the SS Exodus. (Courtesy of Kedem Auction House)

Gary was one of the few journalists who continued visiting the DP camps in the weeks after the Exodus Jews returned to Europe. Somehow he even obtained a fake certificate identifying him as one of the former passengers of the ship. But by late September 1947, JTA reported that British authorities had tired of Gary’s critical coverage and barred him from entry.

“The fact that Gary and [New York newspaper PM reporter Maurice] Pearlman were the only correspondents still assigned to the story, and had remained at the camps, aroused the authorities, who charged that they ‘were snooping about too much,’” according to the report.

Israel declared independence in May 1948, and after Great Britain recognized the Jewish state in January 1949, it finally sent most of the remaining Exodus passengers to the new Jewish state. Nearly all the DP camps in Europe were closed by 1952 and the Jews dispersed around the world, most to Israel and the United States.

Gary soon immigrated to Israel, too. He married Drori in 1949, months after meeting her at a Hanukkah party at the Jewish Agency’s headquarters in Munich, and the couple moved to Jerusalem, where they had two daughters. Robert Gary took at job at The Jerusalem Post and later worked for the British news agency Reuters. Pnina Gary, 90, continued her acting career.

She said her husband always carried a camera with him when he was reporting, and their home was filled with photo albums.

Decades after Robert Gary died in Tel Aviv in 1987, at the age of 67, Pnina Gary wrote and starred in a hit play, “An Israeli Love Story.” It is based on her real-life romance with the first man she was supposed to marry, who was killed by local Arabs in an ambush on their kibbutz.

“We knew life wouldn’t be easy in Israel,” she said. “That’s not why anyone comes here.”

Iran’s president says security for Israel is ‘not possible,’ pleads for nuclear deal


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations on Sept. 20. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran delivered to the United Nations an extended plea to preserve the Iran nuclear deal while saying it was “not possible” to guarantee Israel security as long as it “usurped” Palestinian lands.

Rouhani, speaking Wednesday, derided the tough talk about his country delivered a day earlier by President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the launch of this year’s General Assembly in New York. His Twitter feed posted the lines as he spoke.

“Ugly, ignorant words were spoken by the U.S. president against the Iranian nation,” he said. “It’s disgraceful that the Zionist regime not committed to any international instrument or safeguard has the audacity to preach to peaceful nations.”

Trump and Netanyahu in their speeches both cast Iran as a rogue nation and said the 2015 nuclear deal trading sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program was an “embarrassment.” Trump hinted there would a change in U.S. posture toward the deal, and Netanyahu said it should either be amended or canceled outright.

Rouhani, whose government still fends off criticism from Iranian hardliners opposed to the plan, cast it as a template for international peace deals.

“It belongs to the international community in its entirety and not only one or two countries,” he said of the deal otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “The JCPOA can be a new model for global interactions.” Iran, he said, would “not be the first” to violate the deal.

Rouhani insisted that missile testing was “only for deterrence.” Trump and Netanyahu have said that Iran’s missile advances and its military adventurism are also reasons to re-examine the Iran deal.

The Iranian leader called for peaceful coexistence, but appeared to extend his invitation to everyone but Israel.

“It is not possible for a rogue and racist regime to trample upon the most basic rights of the Palestinians, and be usurpers of this land and enjoy security,” he said.

Rouhani’s predecessors and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have said they regard the entirety of Israel as illegitimate. Rouhani has not made his views clear.

He twice mentioned ancient Iranian gestures of friendship toward the Jews as exemplars of the current regime’s alleged commitment to diversity.

“We are the same people who rescued the Jews from Babylonian servility,” he said, referring to the Jewish communities established in Persia after they wer expelled by the Babylonians from Judea in the sixth century BCE. “Historically backing the oppressed, Iran upholds the right of the Palestinian people as it did those of the Jewish people centuries ago.”

Trump ignores Israeli-Palestinian peace in UN speech, says US cannot ‘abide’ Iran nuclear deal


President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations in New York on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

President Donald Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the United States cannot “abide” the Iran nuclear deal as it stands but notably omitted mention of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for an eventual nuclear program,” Trump said Tuesday on the first day of this year’s General Assembly in New York. Again calling the deal “one of the worst” he had ever encountered, the president said it was “an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

Trump has said there will be a “dramatic” adjustment to how the United States treats the deal by next month, when according to U.S. law, the United States just recertify Iranian adherence to the deal.

The 2015 deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. Critics of the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who, unusually for a leader, was in attendance during Trump’s speech — say the lifting of some restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program starting within a decade pave its path to a nuclear weapon. Defenders of the agreement say that other provisions written into the deal are sufficient to prevent Iran from getting a weapon.

Trump coupled Iran and North Korea as rogue regimes threatening stability worldwide. Several times he singled out Iran for its backing of the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon and the threat posed by the group to Israel.

Netanyahu responded effusively to the 40-minute address.

“In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” the Israeli leader said. “President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”

In not mentioning his administration’s efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, Trump departed from his predecessors. Saying an Israeli-Palestinian deal is critical to world peace is almost de rigeuer during the General Assembly, even for tiny far-flung nations that have no influence on the outcome.

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