President Donald Trump reading the first of three Executive Orders he will sign in the Oval Office on Jan. 23. Photo by Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images

Trump reiterates neutrality on two-state solution, but says he ‘likes’ it


President Donald Trump said he “likes” the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict while reiterating his noncommittal approach.

Asked during an interview with Reuters Thursday whether he had backed away from the two-state concept during his Feb. 15 joint White House appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said, “No, I like the two-state solution.”

But, he added, “I ultimately like what the both parties like.”

His position diverges with that of previous U.S. presidents, who said two states was the only viable solution for resolving the conflict.

According to Reuters, Trump “expressed his preference” for the two-state solution over the one-state one during the interview. But the article published by the news agency based on the interview contained no direct quotes by the president expressing such a preference.

During the meeting with Netanyahu, Trump told reporters, “I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one.”

2 Palestinians reported dead in Gaza tunnel blast


Two Palestinians were killed and five were injured in what Gaza authorities said was an airstrike on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’ health minister, Ashraf al-Qidra, said Thursday, the day after the strike, that it was carried out by Israel, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told Maan that the army was not involved in the incident.

Maan identified the two fatalities as men aged 24 and 38.

On Wednesday, four rockets were fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula towards the southern Israeli city of Eilat. No casualties were reported in the incident, which an affiliate of the Islamic State group said it had carried out.

A number of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the vast tunnel networks that lie below Hamas-controlled enclave. They are largely used for smuggling in the south and military purposes in the north.

Both Israel and Egypt have targeted the tunnels for destruction in the past.

On Thursday, six people were wounded in a shooting attack in the central Israeli city of Petach Tikvah.

Israeli police said a 19-year-old Palestinian man, Sadeq Nasser Awda from Nablus, opened fire Thursday afternoon near an outdoor market, Army Radio reported. The alleged assailant was arrested at the scene.

None of the wounded suffered life-threatening injuries, according to media reports.

The assembly hall of the Knesset on Oct. 31, 2016. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Knesset passes historic bill to legalize settlements on Palestinian land


The Israeli parliament passed a bill that would retroactively legalize some West Bank settlements built on private Palestinian land.

Knesset lawmakers voted 60-52 in favor of the measure late Monday to legalize some 4,000 settler homes.

The law, which prevents the government from demolishing the homes, comes less than a week after police forcibly evacuated the Amona outpost. It represents the first time the government has tried to implement Israeli law in Area C, part of the West Bank that is under Israeli civilian and military rule, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Knesset member Shuli Muallem-Refaeli of the pro-settler Jewish Home party said Monday that the bill was “dedicated to the brave people of Amona who were forced to go through what no Jewish family will have to again,” The Times of Israel reported.

The bill has drawn sharp condemnation. Leaders of the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid, the second and fourth largest parties in the Knesset, respectively, both warned against its passage.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not present for the vote, as his scheduled return from a trip to the United Kingdom was delayed.

Following a Monday meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu denied he had sought to delay the vote after Feb. 15, when he is set to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Haaretz reported.

“I never said that I want to delay the vote on this law,” Netanyahu said. “I said that I will act according to our national interest. That requires that we do not surprise our friends and keep them updated – and the American administration has been updated. This process was important for me because we are trying to act this way, especially with very close friends.”

On Thursday, Trump in his first statement on Israeli settlements since taking office said construction of new settlements “may not be helpful” in reaching a peace agreement, though he denied that existing settlements are impediments to a deal.

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, which have traditionally been hesitant to weigh in on Israeli domestic issues, both criticized the measure on Monday.

ADL leaders said it would harm Israel’s image abroad and lead to legal repercussions.

“[I]t is imperative that the Knesset recognizes that passing this law will be harmful to Israel’s image internationally and could undermine future efforts to achieving a two-state solution,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director.

The director of ADL’s Israel office, Carole Nuriel, added that the measure “may also trigger severe international legal repercussions.”

AJC said it was “deeply disappointed” about the bill’s passage and called on the Supreme Court to “reverse this misguided legislation.”

“The controversial Knesset action, ahead of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Trump in Washington, is misguided and likely to prove counter-productive to Israel’s core national interests,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

B’Tselem, a watchdog monitoring human rights abuses in the settlements, slammed the bill.

“The law passed by the Knesset today proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land,” the group said in a statement. “Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature.”

Peace Now, a left-leaning group promoting the two-state solution, also criticized passage.

“By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books,” the group said in a statement. “By giving a green light to settlers to build illegally on private Palestinian land, the legalization law is another step towards annexation and away from a two state solution.”

Courtesy of Simone Zimmerman.

Building a Jewish Left: A Q&A with Simone Zimmerman


In the space of five days in April, San Fernando Valley native Simone Zimmerman went from a rank-and-file activist against Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza to the most reviled figure of right-wing Zionism.

In the midst of an emotional and dramatic election campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tapped Zimmerman, then 25, to head his Jewish outreach. Shortly after, a year-old Facebook post surfaced where Zimmerman referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu using expletives.

She edited the curse words out about 10 hours later, but it was too late: Somebody had taken a screenshot, and her post spread through the press like a virus. She was Sanders’ national Jewish outreach coordinator for less than six days before the campaign acceded to the demands of various Jewish leaders and removed her from the post.

But before all that, Zimmerman grew up in a rather normal Jewish childhood in Los Angeles, spending 10 summers at Camp Ramah in Ojai and attending a Jewish high school. By the time she went to college, at UC Berkeley, she was beginning to question what she’d been told about Israel and whether she’d gotten the full picture. The questions never went away.

While living in New York City in 2014, Zimmerman was part of small group of young, progressive Jews who founded IfNotNow, a nationwide network of activists that objects to the status quo in the Palestinian territories and challenges mainstream Jewish organizations to do the same.

“For me, a lot of my identity, the work that I do, is a direct result of coming to the institutions of the Jewish community, asking hard questions and being turned away, and often being attacked and vilified,” she said.

Zimmerman spoke to the Journal this week in a phone call from Israel, where she’s spending a year. The interview was her first with the press, Jewish or otherwise, since the Sanders controversy. (A previous interview published in +972 Magazine was conducted by a fellow activist, Isaac Luria.)

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Jewish Journal: You’re in Israel for the yearlong Dorot Fellowship. Can you tell us what that means?

Simone Zimmerman: The Dorot Fellowship chooses a cohort of [American} Jews, mid-to-late 20s, for a personal a leadership development program. … We plan seminars for each other about Israel and Israeli society and we have community days that include everything from a storytelling workshop to… personal feedback sessions, learning how to give and receive feedback. It’s a laboratory for individuals to work on different aspects of themselves that they want to reflect on, grow in.

JJ: What do you hope to get out of your year in Israel?

SZ: First and foremost, I’m here in Israel very much to reconnect with the humanity of this place — the humanity, the complexity, the beauty of the world that Israelis and Palestinians live in here… I’m spending a lot of time getting to learn about the narratives and avenues for hope and change … I guess you could say it’s an opportunity to get beyond the headlines.

JJ: Your story seems to have turned you into something of an archetype for perhaps thousands of other likeminded young American Jews. Does that feel like a burden on you and if so, do you accept it?

SZ: Yes and yes. … [After the controversy] I did need a space to breathe, take care of myself, kind of be out of the spotlight a little bit, reflect, recharge, reorient. … I think my experience on the campaign, there are aspects of it that I really see as a tremendous opportunity. It gave huge visibility to IfNotNow. It broadcast a story … It’s really important that lots more people know that there are many, many young American Jews like me whose politics developed not, in spite of the Jewish establishment, but because of our experience there. For me, a lot of my identity, the work that I do, is a direct result of coming to the institutions of the Jewish community, asking hard questions and being turned away, and often being attacked and vilified. … For me, I think it’s important that people know this story.

JJ: Abraham Foxman came out shortly after retiring as head of the Anti-Defamation League to call for your firing. Why do you think the Jewish establishment was so terrified of — no offense — some 25-year-old from the San Fernando Valley?

SZ: They attack us so much because they know that we are not a minority and that we are a growing voice in the community. If they didn’t see us as a growing threat they wouldn’t feel the need to attack us. I think they know that as the occupation hits its 50th anniversary, as the Israeli government moves more and more to the right, American Jews are moving left, a lot of us, and we’re not willing to check our values at the door to maintain this pro-Israel consensus. True safety and liberation for Jews in the U.S. and in Israel actually depends not on supporting the occupation but fighting for freedom for all people.

JJ: Are you optimistic that the Jewish establishment will come around to your position on Israel, or do you think some institutions will have to be toppled before all is said and done?

SZ: I hope some institutions might come around. I think a lot of the institutions of our community were really founded to serve really just causes. And it makes me sad, it really hurts me to see that so many of them have strayed from what I think is their founding mission. … But IfNotNow, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a lot of these organizations, even T’ruah, these organizations and movements are going to be seeding the leaders that are going to start our own institutions … that in a few decades might make those other organizations totally irrelevant.

JJ: What does the future hold for Simone Zimmerman? Are you going to continue doing anti-occupation work?

SZ: I feel pretty clear that building a Jewish left and being part of the fight to end the occupation — that’s the work I’m going to be doing for a pretty long time. Exactly where and how, I’m not so sure yet.

JJ: Are you considering making aliyah and staying in Israel permanently?

SZ: Look, this place is really important to me. I have a lot of friends and family here. But I’m an American.

JJ: In 2014, you help start IfNotNow. Can you tell me about that?

SZ: IfNotNow started in New York City during the 2014 war in Gaza. The basic call to action was around Hillel’s three questions: “If I am not for me who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” … The actual action that we started doing was saying the Mourner’s Kaddish outside of Jewish institutions and reading the names of Israelis and Palestinians who were killed in the violence. It quickly moved to about eight other cities around the country. … Well over 1,000 people took action with us that summer. And we were shocked. … Once the war ended, we knew it was only a matter of time before there was another crisis, and we felt pretty committed to harnessing the voices of all the people who had come out to protest with us that summer. … We launched our training program a little over a year ago and at this point, there are 700 leaders in eight cities and quickly expanding, and over 4,000 people have taken action with IfNotNow.

JJ: Where do you see the future of the Jewish community moving at this point?

SZ: I’m more terrified and more hopeful in this moment than maybe I’ve ever been in my life. I’m terrified because I believe the threats that Donald Trump and his administration have made. I believe that real people are going to get hurt in the next four years. And as much as I believe that the Jewish establishment is out of touch and as many times as they’ve disappointed me over the years, it still really hurts to see them cozying up to white nationalists in the name of maintaining the status quo in Israel. On the flip side, I’m really hopeful because I really believe I’m part of a majority in the U.S. that actually believes in a better future. … We’re really excited to see more and more people in our community being forced to choose a side. I think that polarization [can be] such a really important opportunity and I hope a lot more people are really going to get involved and stand up for their values.

Palestinian statehood: An idea whose time has passed


J Street is worried. It sees its cherished dream of a Palestinian state slipping away.

J Street recently sent a letter to its supporters in which it complained that the Republican Party left Palestinian statehood out of its platform this year, and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee reportedly left the issue out of a talking points sheet that it recently distributed.

Here’s another reason for J Street to worry. Speaking Dec. 4 at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, Knesset Member Michael Oren said that the election of Donald Trump “spells the end of the two-state solution.” Oren is not some extremist. He is the widely respected former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., a representative of the moderate Kulanu Party, and himself a supporter of Palestinian statehood (with certain limitations).

It’s time to read the writing on the wall: Palestinian statehood is an idea whose time has passed.

It’s not as if creating a Palestinian state is some kind of cherished principle that has been recognized and supported by everybody since time immemorial. In fact, it’s a very recent proposal, and has always been fraught with problems.

There have been 12 American presidents since 1948. Only two (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) advocated creating a Palestinian state. Official U.S. policy has favored Palestinian statehood during only 16 of the 68 years since Israel was founded.

I’m not including those who advocated Palestinian statehood after they left office, namely Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. When presidents are in office, they need to deal with the real world, which is why a cockamamie idea like creating a Palestinian state has never come to fruition. Once presidents no longer have to deal with real-world consequences, they feel free to advocate any irresponsible policy that suits their post-presidential convenience. 

There have been 12 different Israeli prime ministers since the Jewish state was established in 1948. Only two of them (Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert) advocated creating a Palestinian state. I’m not including Benjamin Netanyahu, because his concept of a fully demilitarized “Palestine” that accepts Israel as a Jewish state is so far removed from what the Palestinians and their supporters demand that his position is really only hypothetical.

There have always been two arguments in favor of creating a Palestinian state. Neither of them has withstood the test of time.

The first was that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs had given up their goal of destroying Israel and had forsaken terrorism. According to this argument, they had changed their ways, so they could be trusted with their own state in Israel’s backyard.

This argument faced two major tests, and failed both times. President George H.W. Bush accepted this argument shortly after his election in 1988, and recognized Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Eighteen months later, when a major PLO faction tried to attack Israeli beachgoers in Tel Aviv and the nearby U.S. embassy, Bush realized he had been wrong and ended his relationship with Arafat. Then the U.S. recognized Arafat and the PLO a second time, after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. That blew up when Arafat tried to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into Gaza on the motor vessel Karine A in 2002.

The second argument for a Palestinian state was what became known as the “demographic time bomb” — the allegation that because of the high Arab birthrate, Israel will need to agree to a Palestinian state or it will become an apartheid-like ruler over the Palestinians. Yitzhak Rabin resolved that problem. In 1995, he withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. Now, they are residents of the Palestinian Authority, and they vote in Palestinian elections. They will never be Israeli citizens, will never vote in Israeli elections and will never threaten Israel’s Jewish demographic majority.

So Arafat settled the first debate. And Rabin settled the second debate. The debates are over. It is now plain as day that the Palestinians have not given up terrorism or forsaken their goal of destroying Israel, and would use a Palestinian state to advance that goal.

There may be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in our generation; not all international conflicts have solutions. One thing has now become clear: A Palestinian state next to Israel is not the solution. 


Stephen M. Flatow, a New Jersey attorney, is vice president of the Religious Zionists of America and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1995. 

Israeli soldier guilty of manslaughter in shooting Palestinian attacker


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

An Israeli military court convicted Sgt. Elor Azaria, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier of manslaughter after he shot dead a seriously wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron ten months ago. The shooting was filmed by the dovish Btselem organization, and ignited a furious debate in Israel. Azaria will be sentenced at a future hearing in several weeks.

Azaria did not show any emotion as the verdict was delivered, although he walked into the courtroom smiling, and hugged his mother.  After the verdict was delivered, one of Azaria's relatives was kicked out of the courtroom for screaming at the judge.

“Tomorrow there is no IDF,” she yelled, referring to the army. “The IDF is over.”

Another relative screamed “disgusting leftists” at the court and stormed out.

After the judges left the room, Azaria's mother screamed, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Azaria tried to comfort her and calm her as she screamed and cried.

In her opinion, Central Command Chief Justice Maya Heller said that Azaria had changed his story several times and that his version of events, that he believed the terrorist posed a threat to him, was “not credible.” She also said that it was Azaria's shooting that killed the terrorist, Abed al Fatah a-Sharif, who was lying wounded on the ground after he tried to stab a soldier.

“He opened fire in violation of orders, the terrorist did not pose any threat,” the judges wrote.

Before reading the verdict, Judge Heller read out claims of both the prosecution and the defense. She said that Azaria offered different version of what happened last March, first saying that the terrorist moved while he was lying on the ground, and Azaria thought his life was in danger. Later he said that the terrorist was already dead before Azaria opened fire.

During the trial, another soldier, named only as TM, testified that Azaria asked him, “How is it that my friend was stabbed and the terrorist is alive?” She said that statement had “significant weight in the decision.”

About 400 protestors gathered outside the military court to support Azaria. Waving Israeli flags, they accused the army and the government of unfairly targeting the soldier. They chanted “Death to the Terrorists” and “Free Elor.” Several protestors were arrested when they tried to block the street in front of the military court.

“I'm here for Elor – he should be freed,” Yardena Arbel told The Media Line. “Every terrorist should die. He (the terrorist) came to kill. Elor is the son of all of us. He entered all of our hearts.”

In Israel, there is universal conscription and most men and women serve in the army, with the exception of most Arab citizens of Israel, who can volunteer, and most ultra-Orthodox men. Soldiers are popular in Israeli society, and widely supported.

The case of Azaria deeply split the Israeli public. Some, like the demonstrators and others, believe that Azaria was unfairly targeted.

“They preferred the version of Btselem over the version of an IDF fighter,” Sharon Gal, the Azaria family's media advisor said. “They didn't give any weight to the evidence. It was like the court was detached from the fact that this was the area of an attack. I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers.”

Some in Israel felt that the verdict was a victory for the rule of law in Israel, and a reminder that there are strict rules about when a soldier can open fire.

“Today's conviction is a positive step toward reining in excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians,” said Sari Bashi, Israel advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. As Human Rights Watch has documented, however, the problem is not just one rogue soldier but also senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill.”

The shooting in Hebron came amid a wave of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks that have killed 42 soldiers and civilians in the past 15 months, and wounded dozens of others. 

Ayman Odeh, member of the Israeli parliament’s Joint List political bloc — representing parties led by Arab citizens of Israel in the Knesset — told the Ma’an News Agency  that the “main difference in this case was the presence of cameras which documented the crime thanks to Btselem.” 

Palestinians said that while the court did rule that B’Tselem’s videos were authentic and admissible, many other crimes against Palestinians are never investigated. The dovish Israeli Yesh Din organization issued a report that of the 186 investigations the Israeli army opened in 2015 investigating offenses against Palestinians, just four yielded indictments. Human Rights Watch criticized Israel's “shoot to kill” policy.

Many Israelis seemed torn about Azaria's verdict.

“I am afraid that after the verdict, soldiers will be afraid to shoot Palestinian terrorists and they will just run away,” Roni Yitzhayek, a Tel Aviv taxi driver told The Media Line. “I think he should be convicted, but sentenced only to time served.”

Yitzhayek's daughter is currently serving in the army as a combat soldier at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. He said that after watching the Azaria trial, he told his daughter that if a Palestinian ever tries to attack her, she should shoot at her legs, not try to kill her.

Last week, he said, that is exactly what happened. A female terrorist tried to attack soldiers at the checkpoint with a knife. His daughter opened fire, wounding the women in the legs.

The U.N. resolution, flawed as it is, supports the State of Israel


So here we are, entering 2017, still carrying 1967 on our backs.

Nineteen-sixty-seven was the year of the Six-Day War, when Israel, fearing imminent attack by its Arab neighbors, launched a pre-emptive strike that resulted in the capture of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It was a world-shaking moment, so much so that from that week until now, the status of these territories, the millions of Palestinians who live there, and the Jewish Israelis who have taken up residence in them has been an ongoing source of contention.

And by “contention” I mean violent revolts, war, civil disobedience, terror, negotiation, threats of apocalyptic holy war (in the case of Jerusalem) and one United Nations resolution after another.

Which brings us to the last couple of weeks.

If you want to understand the United Nations Security Council’s vote on Resolution 2334, the United States’ abstention, the apoplectic response of much of the American Jewish community to the abstention, and the subsequent speech by Secretary of State John Kerry laying out his vision for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you have to go back to 1967.

The country’s leaders never intended to capture the Golan, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel’s intention was to avoid destruction. Syria’s relentless pounding of Israeli villages from the heights pushed then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to stall the war’s ceasefire in order to quiet Syrian artillery once and for all. And King Hussein of Jordan’s unexpected entry into the war more than justified the capture of East Jerusalem and the takeover of the West Bank. 

When word came that an Israeli unit had just conquered the Arab city of Hebron on the West Bank, David Ben-Gurion, the founding prime minister of Israel, called the unit commander.

“Well done,” Ben-Gurion said. “Now give it back to them.” 

Neither then nor now does anyone think the conflict can be solved simply by “giving it back.” But Ben-Gurion’s warning reminds us that there is no one “Israeli” way of looking at this crisis.  

There have always been alternate and deeply conflicting visions of what Israel should do with the territories. Keeping them would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, or the creation of an apartheid state, or a multinational state of dubious stability. Dividing them into two states is no picnic, but that is American policy, and the official Israeli and Palestinian view. 

Over the past couple of weeks, as I followed the outrage to President Barack Obama’s abstention on Resolution 2334 and over Kerry’s speech, I wondered whether we Jews, who so ably recollect our ancient past, have lost the ability to remember all this recent history.

Fifty years ago, at the war’s end, President Lyndon B. Johnson led the effort to draft and pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, “Concerning Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East.” Since then, the policy of every U.S. administration has been based on the principles set forth in that resolution: an end to hostilities based on a negotiated territory-for-peace settlement, East Jerusalem included.

You could create a palimpsest over Kerry’s speech, the recent Security Council resolution, and the language of Resolution 242 and not see through any major differences.  

So, why the outrage?

Partly because over the past five decades, the American-Jewish community has come to see the territories Israel captured in 1967 as birthright. The absence of a sincere Palestinian negotiating partner, the weakness of the Israeli “peace camp,” the fervor and activism of Israel’s right-leaning governments and their American supporters, the reluctance of major American-Jewish organizations to challenge the settlements, the hypocrisy of a U.N. that obsesses over Israel while glancing at Syria, have all played a role in helping to normalize settlements.  

But make no mistake: the goal of the settlement movement has never been to gain leverage for eventual peace negotiations.  As Gershom Gorenberg documents in “The Accidental Empire,” the goal of the settlement movement is to make a two-state solution impossible, to claim and hold all the Land of Israel for the State of Israel. 

The U.N. resolution, flawed as it is, supports the State of Israel, just not activities across the Green Line. 

“A solid majority of the countries that voted for the U.N. Security Council resolution are not anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic,” wrote Barak Ravid in Yedioth Ahronoth. “The message of their vote was simple: It’s the settlements, stupid.”

But all that, as they say, is so 2016.

Now comes President Donald Trump and his promise to toss out the Israel policies of Obama; indeed, of seven previous administrations. This may mean moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, or encouraging more settlements, or sanctioning the plans of those in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex part of the West Bank. 

Should those things come to pass, something tells me the furor of late December will seem like the good old days — and the Six-Day War will continue to rage.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter ” target=”_blank”>@RobEshman.

Obama’s fatal legacy: Killing the peace process


You can make a strong case that President Barack Obama’s decision to allow United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass was very harmful to Israel. By endorsing the anti-Israel narrative that every square inch of territory captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967 — including the Jewish Quarter in East Jerusalem and the Western Wall — is “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” and that Jewish presence in those areas is a “flagrant violation of international law,” Obama didn’t just throw renegade West Bank settlers to the wolves — he threw all of Israel.

If a Tel Aviv dairy company, for instance, sells its cottage cheese to Jews in East Jerusalem, does it make that company complicit in a crime? And if a Jew lives in the Old City, can that Jew be arrested and tried in international legal courts?

I know, it sounds preposterous. But when you see the anti-Israel venom spewed by such movements as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), would it really surprise you to see them come after Israeli Jews in international criminal courts with the lethal weapon of Resolution 2334 firmly in their hands?

That resolution is the weapon Obama has provided to Israel’s enemies. It would be silly to expect they won’t use it. So, yes, allowing this resolution to pass is harmful to Israel and is a shameful final act for a president who has always claimed to have Israel’s back.

But it is shameful and tragic for another reason as well — because it has virtually killed the peace process.

By endorsing a resolution that effectively turns Israel into an outlaw state, Obama has eliminated all incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate, let alone compromise. In other words, if Israel’s No. 1 ally already has decided that 550,000 Israeli Jews are illegally occupying “Palestinian territory,” what is there for the Palestinians to negotiate?

What is often overlooked is that previous U.N. resolutions and international and bilateral agreements did not put Israel in such a box and allowed plenty of room for the parties to negotiate.

You can start with the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which, as Evelyn Gordon has documented in Commentary, explicitly allocated all of what is today Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as a “Jewish national home,” a right that was legally preserved by Article 80 of the founding U.N. Charter.

But even if you reject those 1922 Jewish rights, there is the venerable U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which followed the 1967 war. That resolution, which both parties have been quoting for decades as a basis for negotiations, was explicitly worded to allow Israel to keep parts of the disputed territory it captured during the war, by referring to “defensible borders” and requiring an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.”

Even the 1993 Oslo Accord lists “Jerusalem” and “settlements” as “issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations.” The point is, whether they thought settlements were illegal or not, peace processors were always savvy enough to allow Israel some leverage and wiggle room to negotiate.

Resolution 2334, by bluntly characterizing Israel as a land thief and making no distinction between illegal outposts and the Western Wall, pretty much obliterates that wiggle room.

Obama himself, at the very beginning of his term, also left no wiggle room and was equally blunt when he demanded that Israel freeze every brick of construction in every inch of post-1967 territory, including the settlement blocs and the Jewish Quarter. Since no Israeli government could ever meet such a draconian demand, Obama’s move essentially froze the peace process by undermining Israel’s negotiating position and giving the Palestinians the perfect excuse to stay away from peace talks.

With his failure to veto Resolution 2334, Obama has come full circle. His draconian demand from nearly eight years ago is now enshrined in the inner sanctum of the United Nations. He may have convinced himself he was only showing “tough love,” but the reality is that Obama has empowered Israel’s enemies, stripped Israel of its negotiating leverage and rewarded the Palestinians for their intransigence.

It is the height of chutzpah when Secretary of State John Kerry now lectures Israel on the importance of negotiating a two-state solution. It’s like saying: “We’ve taken away your negotiating chips — now go make a deal!”

This is why some of my pro-Israel friends who voted for Obama are in a state of disillusionment. They may be against Israeli settlements, but they fail to see how this late hit on Israel will be helpful. They see only harm — harm to Israel, harm to the peace process and harm to Obama’s legacy as a friend of the Jews.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Christmas crusade for peace (and an independent Palestine) in Bethlehem


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

A light with stars and snowflake Christmas lights, every year the city of Bethlehem, which is known as the birthplace of both Jesus and Christianity, hosts a series of Christmas celebrations. From parades and lighting a Christmas tree almost as big as the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City, to restoring mosaics at the famous Church of Nativity, the city is looking to promote itself and to strengthen the Christian community. 

Palestinian officials say Christmas celebrations are a chance to show the world that the Palestinians can govern themselves and to encourage others to support a two-state solution for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Of course it is in our interest to have a two-state solution,” said Issa Kassissieh, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See. “Here in Palestine, we are working to consolidate and to strengthen the roots of Christianity in Palestine.” 

According to Kassissieh, while about half of the residents of Bethlehem are Christian, only about 2 percent of all Palestinians in the West Bank are Christian. Promoting and strengthening the religion, however, is one of the top priorities of the Palestinian Authority, he said.  

Given the current political instability in the Middle East with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the armed conflict between ISIS and Iraqi forces in trying to retake Mosul, the region is losing many of its churches and connections to Christianity. Bethlehem is promoting itself as a defender of peace and stability. 

“Politics here are so multilayered,” said Ian Knowles, a Christian icon painter and the director of the Icon School in Bethlehem. “And Palestine, especially Bethlehem, is right on the fault line between many of these different forces.” 

The Icon School, which is affiliated with the Princess School of Traditional Art in London, teaches local and international students the technique and importance of icon painting. It is the only icon school in the Middle East. 

“Bethlehem is the place where, for Christians, matter suddenly matters,” Knowles said. “God becomes a little baby, he becomes part of the material world, and so what you can see becomes graced and full of something deeply spiritual.” 

The school has a dozen local Palestinian students. 

“It’s an art which is inherently hope-filled and hopeful,” Knowles said. 

Aside from promoting Christianity through religiously motivated artistic endeavors, the city also has generated both financial and political support from the international community in restoring and renovating the Church of Nativity in the Old City of Bethlehem. 

Built in the year 332, the church, which Christians believe is the actual birthplace of Jesus, was falling apart, especially with bad leaks in the roof. 

In 2009, after lengthy negotiations with the Greek Orthodox Church, the Franciscan Church and the Armenian Orthodox Church, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree calling for renovations to the Church of Nativity. 

The Palestinian government raised money to cover some of the expenses of the renovations; however, the work could not have been accomplished without financial support from many European and other Middle Eastern churches and countries. Spain, France, Hungary, Russia, Italy, Greece and even Morocco and Kuwait all contributed to the restoration. The total cost of restoring the church is just under $20 million and the work is expected to be completed in 2019. 

“We are supporting the Christian presence here in Palestine and in the Holy Land not only by preserving the Palestinian Christians but also by preserving and renovating their churches,” said Minister Ziad Al-Bandak, an adviser to Abbas. “Palestinians, in general, are for the two-state solution.” 

In accordance with the negotiations, the Holy See recognizes the state of Palestine based on the borders from 1967, which are the borders established after the Six-Day War, and, in return, the Palestinian leadership gives the Catholic Church full autonomy in the area, according to Kassissieh. 

Christmas is fast approaching. According to Vera Baboun, the mayor of Bethlehem, the city will have a procession of the patriarchs, a celebration before the Catholic midnight Mass on Christmas, a Christmas market and a number of plays and exhibitions showcasing the holiday spirit.  

Recently, the city, along with two international choirs and thousands of other visitors, lit the Christmas tree. 

“We lit the tree with a golden color because our message of Bethlehem is written with a golden font — it never rusts,” Baboun said. “The justice of the Palestinian cause is written with a golden font because it can and it will never rust.” 

The city of Bethlehem, only about 20 minutes from the city center of Jerusalem, is located in Area A of the West Bank, meaning it is under complete Palestinian civil and military control. Yet, residents say, they do not really have complete control, as Israel built a controversial barrier, which local residents call a “wall,” around the city, cutting it off from much of the West Bank.

Palestinian officials say the surrounding Jewish communities, which they call “settlements,” have led to a high unemployment rate of almost 30 percent, according to Samir Hazboun, the chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce. It also has led thousands of residents, many of them Christians, to leave the city and emigrate abroad.

Khalil Shoka, a Palestinian historian, said, “The younger generations are looking for a brighter future and they don’t find it here due to the impact of the separation wall and the Israeli policies, so most of them prefer to leave.”

Left-wing author A.B. Yehoshua agrees with Naftali Bennett’s West Bank plan


For years, left-wing Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua has been fighting for a Palestinian state. For years, right-wing Israeli politician Naftali Bennett has been fighting against one.

But now they agree.

Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio on Monday, Yehoshua made a shocking shift after nearly 50 years of peace activism: “It doesn’t make sense to talk about two states.”

“This solution is made more and more difficult, more and more problematic, and after 50 years it has become even harder because of what’s happening on the ground,” Yehoshua said in an interview marking his 80th birthday. “The solution was made impossible first because of the huge settlements that now require evacuating 450,000 people, which is completely delusional.”

Instead, Yehoshua took a page from the playbook of the Jewish Home party, the most hawkish in the Knesset. Bennett, the party’s chairman, vehemently opposes a two-state solution. He has pushed Israel to annex the portion of the West Bank that includes all Israeli settlements and some 100,000 Palestinians. Called Area C, the region makes up about 60 percent of West Bank land. Bennett’s plan would offer Israeli citizenship to Area C Palestinians.

Unlike Bennett, Yehoshua did not call for annexing the area. But he did suggest giving full or partial citizenship to the 100,000 Palestinians who live there.

Given that Jews who live in Area C already are full Israeli citizens, Yehoshua’s proposal ends up sounding a lot like Bennett’s.

“They conflict day and night with the settlers, and they suffer the issue of occupation in the hardest way,” Yehoshua said of Area C Palestinians. “I say to give them residency, like the [Arab] residents of Jerusalem … or even citizenship. That way, you upgrade their position. From the perspective of Israel’s demographics, there’s no problem.”

Yehoshua said his about-face “is not despair. It’s a specific solution to a substantial problem.” He said granting increased rights to Area C Palestinians means giving them benefits like unemployment insurance, Social Security and Israeli wages. Yehoshua sees it as an immediate improvement for some Palestinians, as long as a Palestinian state remains a distant aspiration.

Bennett responded on Twitter, claiming that “A.B. Yehoshua has adopted, in practice, the sovereignty plan I proposed in 2010.”

3 Palestinians arrested on suspicion of setting West Bank fires


Three Palestinians were arrested on suspicion of carrying out arson attacks in the West Bank during last month’s forest fires.

The three men were arrested on Nov. 26 in a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service, the Shin Bet said in a statement released on Sunday. The arrests had been under a gag order.

The three men, Hamdan Tzakar Hamdan Lami, 19; Jouad Muhammad Fayiz Daher, 19, and Vizid Ahmed Hamdan Lami, 24, are residents of the West Bank village of Iskaka, and are suspected of carrying out arson attacks near their village and near the southern approach to the city of Ariel in the northern West Bank.

The IDF investigation determined that the three had committed arson with nationalistic motives.

Three suspects were filmed by security cameras on Nov. 25 attempting to start a fire outside of Ariel, according to The Times of Israel.

Police officials have said they suspect arson in 29 of the 39 major fires, and in about one-third of the 90 total fires they investigated. There are no suspects in the large fires in Haifa and Zichron Yaakov, nor clear proof of arson.

Work of art makes ‘Jewish statement’ in UCLA dispute


The tortured saga of a UCLA graduate student who left the campus due to what he called pressure from pro-Palestinian elements got a happy epilogue of sorts last week.

On Nov. 14, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management unveiled “Warsaw,” a 2011 art piece by financier-turned-artist Robert Weingarten, depicting the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, on a second-floor landing of the school’s Cornell Hall. The business school’s decision to display the piece averted a donor’s threat to pull his art collection of more than 20 pieces that hang in its halls as a result of the student controversy.

The events that led to the unveiling of “Warsaw” began when Milan Chatterjee, a UCLA law student and former president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), decided over the summer to leave the university, citing harassment by the pro-Palestinian community. Chatterjee, who is Hindu, faced blowback after he made GSA funding for an event contingent on there being no discussion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

His departure was spurred by a “hostile and unsafe campus climate,” he wrote to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

When J.P. Morgan executive David Pollock learned of Chatterjee’s decision to leave, he was ready to take back the art collection he and his wife, Lynn, had lent to the business school some five years before. They had planned to leave their art there in perpetuity. Pollock called Weingarten, an old friend who created the artwork in the collection already on loan to UCLA, to discuss the situation. In the car with Weingarten when he took the call on speakerphone was Steve Fink, who, along with his brother, is a large donor to UCLA.

Listening in on the conversation, Fink had an idea of what Pollock could do instead of pulling his art: Why not lend the business school an additional art piece, this one representing the Jewish experience, to be hung alongside the others?

“That was gonna make a statement,” Fink said at the unveiling. “A strong Jewish statement.”

Exactly a week later, Pollock called back Weingarten, who knew exactly which art piece fit the bill.

 “I said, ‘I have something exactly in mind,’ ” Weingarten told the Journal.

Weingarten decided to lend UCLA “Warsaw” to hang along with his other works in Pollock’s collection. 

In “Warsaw,” pictures of the ghetto uprising are overlaid on modern photographs of the Polish capital. Weingarten said he was inspired by a trip he took to the location of the ghetto, where there was “no reminder, virtually,” of what had taken place. His work allows the viewer to look through the present and into the past, he said. 

“You’re looking at a very thin layer that separates civility and society from hatred and horror,” he told the crowd of some two dozen that gathered for the unveiling.

Pollock said he was “100 percent” satisfied with the compromise, calling it a “win-win situation” for him and the university. 

Speaking at the unveiling, he pointed to previous incidents on UCLA’s campus, such as when student government representatives questioned a nominee for student office about her Jewish background in February 2015, as evidence of a pattern of anti-Israel intimidation at the school.

 “We have to push back in every capacity,” he told the Journal at the event.

Learning of Chatterjee’s situation, Pollock said, it seemed threatening to pull his art was his best means of pushing back. But when he dashed off an email to Anderson Dean Judy Olian, herself the daughter of Holocaust survivors, she responded with a “really heartfelt and sincere” note expressing her concern.

 “They heard me immediately,” Pollock said. 

Olian quickly agreed to the idea of incorporating a new piece of art that speaks to the Jewish historical narrative.

 “This is as much a part of the education of our students — who we think of as future leaders — as what they learn in the classroom,” she said at the unveiling.

In a campus conversation on BDS often characterized by dissension and distrust, the “Warsaw” episode was a rare instance of compromise.

 “It’s positive when community members and alumni find ways to stay engaged with the university even as they question its actions,” Rabbi Aaron Lerner, executive director of Hillel at UCLA, wrote in an email. “That keeps them involved in the conversation and shows their devotion to UCLA, making it more likely that they will be able to create positive
change here.”

Trump: Israelis and Palestinians must negotiate peace themselves


In his first long statement about Israel since winning the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump called the Jewish state a “beacon of hope” and vowed to help it make peace with the Palestinians without imposing solutions.

Trump made the statement to Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish casino tycoon who donated significant funds to the Republican candidate’s campaign. The newspaper published the interview with Trump on Friday.

“Israel and America share so many of the same values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the importance of creating opportunities for all citizens to pursue their dreams,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people.”

Trump added that he hoped his administration would play a “significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” saying that any deal would have to be directly negotiated between the two sides. Peace, he added, “must be negotiated between the parties themselves and not imposed on them by others. Israel and the Jewish people deserve no less.”

France is currently pushing for an international conference to discuss peace in the Middle East, but Israel says any talks should be bilateral ones between the two sides.

The Palestinians have called for international involvement, accusing Israel of reneging on past agreements and expanding its settlements in the West Bank, as well as in eastern Jerusalem. Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting against Jews and Israelis, refusing to meet with Israeli officials to conduct peace talks and insisting on preconditions that Israel says effectively bar such talks from taking place.

Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, said Wednesday that the U.S. election result meant the idea of a Palestinian state was over. He was one of several right-wing politicians in Israel to hail Trump as a turning point from the policies advanced by President Barack Obama.

Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the vote on Tuesday, has been widely perceived as favoring a more impartial American attitude to the conflict than that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Jeremy Ben Ami and Morton A. Klein talk Israel, Palestinians, settlements and the two-state solution


Palestinians arrested for visiting sukkah of West Bank mayor released


Four Palestinians who were arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces after they visited the sukkah of a West Bank mayor were released following Israeli intervention.

The men who visited the Efrat sukkah of Oded Revivi were from the nearby Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis. They were released from PA custody on Sunday evening after the intervention of COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

The men had joined several dozen other Palestinians living near Efrat in visiting the sukkah along with about 30 Jewish Israelis during the harvest holiday as part of a peace event.

Earlier on Sunday, Revivi had issued a statement calling on the PA to release his guests. “It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority. Initiatives that seek to foster cooperation and peace between people should be encouraged, not silenced,” the statement had said.

In a Sunday afternoon Facebook post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastized human rights organizations for their silence in the wake of the arrests, calling it the organizations’ “great shame.” He called on the international community to intervene.

“I call on the international community to work to help free these innocent Palestinians whose imprisonment is yet another proof of the Palestinian refusal to make peace,” Netanyahu wrote.

Khaled Tafish, a parliamentarian in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said on Palestinian television, according to the Jerusalem Post, “If they knew that there would be a punishment and that they will be pursued for doing that, then the incident would not have happened.”

Palestinian Authority Deputy Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad Taha said the incident was under investigation and the men will be held accountable under Palestinian law, according to The Jerusalem Post. He also said Palestinians “condemn” the visit and that “visiting settlers is completely unacceptable.”

Iran’s president blames ‘Zionist groups’ for US ruling that he says violates nuclear deal


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed “Zionist pressure groups” for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling he said could undermine the Iran nuclear deal.

“The lack of compliance of the United States with the JCPOA in the last several months represents a flawed approach,” Rouhani said Thursday, addressing the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, the formal name for the deal that traded sanctions relief for a rollback of nuclear development in Iran.

“The latest case in point is the United States Supreme Court ruling to seize billions of dollars of the Iranian regime’s assets,” he said. “This demonstrated that the Zionist pressure groups could go as far as having the U.S. Congress pass offensive legislation forcing the highest judicial institution to uphold peremptory violations of international law.”

In April, the high court upheld a 2012 law that allows U.S. victims of Iran-backed terrorism to claim funds from the $2 billion in Bank Markazi’s assets held in the United States. Bank Markazi is Iran’s central bank.

Litigants include families of Marines killed in the 1983 Hezbollah attack on barracks in Beirut, and the Rubin family, whose family member was injured in a 1997 double suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. The family is represented by the Israeli NGO Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.

Rouhani said such rulings should be seen as a “wrongful international act” in violation of the deal.

The deal does not include the unfreezing of U.S.-held assets, although the Obama administration, in what was seen as a good-will gesture, unfroze $400 million in separate Iranian assets and delivered the money to Iran.

The Anti-Defamation League slammed what it said was Rouhani’s anti-Semitic language.

“President Rouhani’s U.N. address demonstrates clearly that there is no evidence of Iranian moderation,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said in a statement. “His espousing of noxious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories alleging ‘Zionist’ control of Congress must be condemned by the international community.”

Rouhani was otherwise bullish on the deal, saying Iran’s economy had improved – an implicit rebuke to hard-liners in his country who said the deal was not worth it.

He otherwise referred to Israel only once, unlike predecessors such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made hostility to Israel a centerpiece of their speeches. Rouhani was more focused on Islamic State terrorists, blaming Saudi Arabia for creating the environment in which they flourished.

“The oppressed Palestinians are still afflicted by a web of apartheid and oppressive polices set by the Zionist regime,” he said in his only reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the General Assembly: Abbas slams UN inaction, Netanyahu says UN ‘war against Israel’ is over


At the United Nations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would push for a resolution condemning West Bank settlements, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ties between Israel and the rest of the world were improving and that “the war against Israel at the U.N. is over.”

Speaking to the crowd of international leaders in New York on Thursday, Abbas continually blasted Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, while also criticizing the U.N. Security Council for not coming down harder on the Jewish state’s settlement expansion.

In his speech, during which he kept emphasizing that the Palestinian Authority was “the sole representative of the Palestinian people,” Abbas said the P.A. will push for a resolution condemning Israeli settlements and that he hoped “no one will cast a veto against this draft resolution.”

“What the Israeli government is doing in its pursuit of its expansionist settlement plans will destroy whatever possibility and hopes are left of the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” he said.

Abbas, who referred to Palestine as “a state under occupation,” also said Britain should apologize for signing the “infamous” Balfour Declaration, a 1917 letter that declared its support of Israel as the Jewish homeland.

The declaration, he said, “paved the road for the nakba,” an Arabic term referring to Israel’s victory in its war of independence and the displacement and dispersal of Palestinians that resulted.

The Palestinian leader also appealed to countries who had not yet recognized Palestine as a state to do so.

“Those who believe in the two-state solution should recognize both states, and not just one of them,” Abbas said.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, told the international leaders that their governments at home were changing their views of Israel for the better.

“The change will happen in this hall because back at home your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes toward Israel, and sooner or later that’s going to change the way you’re voting on Israel in the U.N.,” he said after blasting the international body’s past condemnations of Israeli policy.

The Israeli prime minister cited improved ties with African and Asian countries, but said relations with neighboring countries were the most significant change.

“The biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place elsewhere, it’s taking place in the Arab world,” he said, calling peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan “anchors of stability” in the Middle East.

Netanyahu said he welcomed “the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative,” a nod to Saudi Arabia, which initiated the peace proposal that has not been accepted by Israel.

He mocked Abbas’ call to  launch “a lawsuit against Britain” over the Balfour Declaration, saying it was as “absurd” as suing Abraham for buying land in Hebron in the Bible.

But Netanyahu also said he was open to dialogue, inviting Abbas to speak in the Knesset and saying he would be open to speaking to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.

In his speech, which came a day after he sat down with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu also emphasized the strong bond between Israel and the United States.

“We never forget that that our most cherished alliance, our deepest friendship, is with the United States of America, the most powerful and most generous nation in the world,” he said, adding that while “the U.N. denounces Israel, the U.S. supports Israel.”

 

Letters: Week of September 23rd, 2016.


Where Is Our Desire to Give?

David Suissa’s ingenious dovetailing of the story of Adam Krief and the Perutz Etz Jacob Hebrew Academy highlights an even bigger crisis in the Jewish world: the lack of giving (“Saving Adam Krief and Etz Jacob,” Sept. 16). At a recent bone marrow registry drive for Adam, I was excited to see many lining up but even more dismayed and even shocked at those who refused to test. I am excited to see how many young Jewish families are living in nice homes, in beautiful neighborhoods and driving luxurious cars but even more dismayed and even shocked that they refuse to donate money to schools, synagogues, hospitals or anything

What is it about this generation that celebrates a half-finished meal or a trip to Croatia on Facebook but we rarely see the same numbers of posts for donations, drives or projects that could improve the lives of one family, one community or one world? I hope that as we enter this time before the High Holy Days, that each one of us will reflect not only on what we have achieved for ourselves, but what we have provided for others. What are we willing to give up so that collectively we can gain so much more?

Tamar Andrews

Los Angeles

 

Add These to the Roster

Regarding your article on Jewish players with Hollywood  (“Jews Shined Among Stars on Hollywood Minor League Team,” Sept. 16), you missed at least one: second baseman Mike Chozen (1945). 

Inasmuch as you included an off-field employee of the Stars (Irv Kaze), it might have been good to mention probably the greatest and most creative concessionaire in baseball history. In an era when the only souvenir you could get at the ballpark was a cap and sometimes a yearbook, Danny Goodman with the Stars and for 25 years with the Dodgers (where his title was “Director of Advertising, Novelties and Souvenirs”) revolutionized the marketing of an array of “branded” items.  Now, even the lowest-level minor league clubs have souvenir shops with countless items available.  

Another worthy of mention would be Mark Scott, the Stars’ radio play-by-play man for a number of years.  

Bob Hoie
San Marino

 

Thoughts on ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

I truly enjoyed reading the article by Shmuel Rosner, because it emphasizes the fact that there are multiple opinions on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the Palestinians want to ethnically cleanse their potential Palestinian state for peace (“Why Netanyahu Is Right and Wrong About Palestinian ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ ” Sept. 16). Specifically, the article details how the demand for Jews to vacate the “Palestinian territory” may be outrageous, yet calling the demand an “ethnic cleansing” may be taking the situation too far. 

However, I do believe the author fails to mention that the Jews who live in “Palestinian territory” are in fact not forced to stay there by the Israeli government “to use as a negotiation card” or to get “sympathy from outsiders.” Rather, the people who currently live in what may become a Palestinian state have lived there all their lives and it is not in the government’s place to extract them whenever it becomes too much of an annoyance to Israel — as demonstrated by the disaster of Gush Katif, in which 8,600 people lost their homes during relocation out of the Gaza strip. While Netanyahu’s fiery statement may be brought into question, the right for Israelis to remain in their homes may not.

Shira Razi

Student at YULA High School

 

Palestinian Agenda 

Rob Eshman, surely you jest (“Ethnic Cleansing? Really?” Sept. 16). Have you ever read the Palestinian charter? Not only are you a Palestinian sympathizer but now you have become a Palestinian poster boy. If the Palestinians gained a state acceptable to them, in short order, Hamas would be nose-to-nose with Israelis.

As a practical and realistic matter, all countries have been taken from others with no exception. The only truism in this regard is that a country that possesses and controls its land, and can keep it, owns it.

C.P. Lefkowitz

Rancho Palos Verdes

 

Thanks for Supporting Troops

I enjoyed Ryan Torok’s article “A Home Away From Home for Lone Soldiers” (Sept. 16). Yasher koach for all those people who give of themselves, help support those soldiers and provide them a home away from home.

Adi Ohana

Los Angeles

 

Torah Wisdom

It was quite gratifying to read Rabbi Judith Halevy’s comment on Ki Tetze, “When You Go to War” (Sept. 16) with her emphasis on how a relatively minor commandment in ancient “primitive” times about how to sensitively treat an unmarried female captive should be a model of moral behavior for soldiers and all citizens in modern times as well.

Yona Sabar

via email

 

CORRECTION: A community story about Big Sunday (“Nonprofit Big Sunday’s Employment Program Is All About Working Well,” Sept. 16) ran under an incorrect byline. It was written by Eric Bazak.

Eliyahu Abramson

Israel must defeat the Palestinians


There is a recent controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments about ethnic cleansing in regards to the Palestinian leadership process on East Jerusalem and the territories. During the 46 years of my turbulent but interesting life, East Jerusalem was my third-longest residence, after my native city, Lvov, where I was raised, and Los Angeles, to where I immigrated in 1987. I was an international program student on Mount Scopus in Hebrew University living within view of the Wailing Wall and the Dome of Rock. I walked every day in East Jerusalem among Arab villages.

There is no equivalent and parallel in moral philosophy between Arabs and Jews. When Arabs took over East Jerusalem in 1948 they kicked out all the Jews, including those ultra-Orthodox and Sephardic ones, who lived there for centuries before the prophet Muhammad from East Jerusalem. Arabs cut Jewish access to the Jewish holiest sights. For the first time in history, Jews were not allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall, the holiest of holy sights of the Temple. Since Israel liberated Jerusalem in 1967’s preventative war, and up to now, almost half-a-century later, there was, is and will be hundreds of thousands, more than 300,000, to be more specific, of Palestinian Arabs living in the Jewish eternal capital.

In order for Israel to attain peace with the Palestinians, Israel must win and Palestinians must lose, despite the fact that unlike Prime Minister Netanyahu I recognize the existence and history of Palestinian Arabs.  During my visit as part of a Hillel student leadership mission to Israel, in 1990-1991, we met with then-Deputy Prime Minister, rising star in Israeli politics and dynamic English speaker Netanyahu. To my question, “Why cannot we be more humane to Arabs?”  Netanyahu answered by dismissing Arabs having even any basic rights. Arabs came to the land of Milk and Honey only after it was revived by the Zionists to work for the Jews, Bibi said, quoting Mark Twain.

I disagree with Netanyahu. But, Israel wants to survive, Palestinians want to annihilate Her.

Israel in every war against the Arabs was held back before finishing the job by the United States. That allowed Israel’s enemy to claim a victory each time despite their crushing defeats.

There is a change between my earlier position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year to my latter one articulated now.   In the earlier position I asserted that Israel gave up its trump card for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, in 2005, under Ariel Sharon’s leadership and George W. Bush’s presidency.  I criticized doing it without the framework of direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.  My more recent position is that the only way for Israel to survive is to win an all-in war against Palestinians.  Thus, withdrawing from Gaza and allowing Hamas terrorists to come into power there, was a move in the right direction, not a mistake. This is an indication of my switch from a more leftist position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a more moderate and even hawkish one.

This change is a reflection of my greater self-awareness of my leadership amongst the Jewish people, and my personal experiences in peace and stability in Israel.  I lived in Jerusalem after Israel defeated the First Palestinian Intifada and before Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yassir Arafat was revived from the dead. Arafat lived in his de facto fiasco exile in Tunis, but was brought forth by the leftist administration of Israeli Prime Minister Izhak Rabin. Rabin was elected in 1992, by Olim Chadashim, the new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, under the pressure from the George Bush Sr./Secretary of State James Baker administration. Bush and Baker were not big friends of Israel or even American Jews. The Republican administration was able to tie the American loan guarantees for Soviet Olim Chadashim resettlement to the re-election of Likud’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir would never recognize PLO as a partner in peace.  Rabin did. The result was the escalation of Palestinian violence against Israel on a much grander scale.

Palestinians I met in Jerusalem in 1991 were friendlier than Israeli Jews.  Palestinians in Jerusalem today are the cornerstone of the anti-Israel struggle to establish a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, the latest manifestation of this being the yearlong stabbing attacks and rein of terror.

My stronger pro-Israel stance necessitates a more pragmatic, even if less humanistic, approach toward Palestinians.  In order for Israel to survive, Palestinians, as a power, have to be defeated, as long as Palestinians’ true objective is the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. From the terrorist aspiration of driving all Jews into the sea, to their  “moderate” position of bringing millions of Palestinian refugees back to Israel, Palestinian leadership does not recognize the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Only after crushing defeat would Palestine accept Israel as the majority Jewish State with its capital in Jerusalem.


A former Refusenik (Soviet Dissident), Eliyahu Abramson came to Los Angeles to pursue creative writing and a career in the Jewish community. 

Israeli troops kill 3rd assailant on a day with several attacks


Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who stabbed a soldier in Hebron — one of several attacks reported on Friday.

The assailant had slashed the soldier in the face, The Times of Israel reported, citing the Magen David Adom emergency medical service.

Earlier, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who was trying to run over Israeli soldiers with a vehicle near Hebron, according to the Israeli army. A Palestinian woman in the car was critically wounded.

In eastern Jerusalem, Israeli troops shot and killed a man reported to be a Jordanian citizen who allegedly was trying to carry out a stabbing attack outside the Damascus Gate.

Also Friday, perpetrators threw rocks and glass bottles with paint at a bus between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement Maale Adumim, lightly injuring the driver, according to The Times of Israel. Police were searching the area to find the attackers.

On Thursday, a 30-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Ahmad Abed al-Fattah al-Sarrahin, died of gunshot wounds he sustained during a clash earlier in the day with Israeli forces that raided his village of Beit Ula in the southern West Bank district of Hebron.

UC Berkeley suspends student’s course labeled anti-Israel by critics


U.C. Berkeley has suspended a student-led course, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” after an outcry from Jewish community leaders who called it biased, anti-Zionist and in violation of the university's academic standards.

The university made the decision Tuesday after determining that the student facilitator, Paul Hadweh, “did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the DeCal program” for student-led courses, said Dan Mogulof, the school's assistant vice chancellor.

A day earlier, Berkeley Hillel had called upon U.C. President Janet Napolitano and U.C. Berkeley administrators to condemn the one-credit course in a strongly worded statement.

“Any perusal of the syllabus will show that this is a one-sided course which puts forth a political agenda. It does not tell the truth. It ignores history. It ignores facts, such as the inconvenient one that Jews have inhabited Israel for 3,000 years,” Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman said in the statement. “This course seems to be a matter of political indoctrination in the classroom and is a violation of the newly adopted principles by the U.C. regents on intolerance.”

The course was to be offered as part of the university's DeCal program, in which students propose and teach one-credit courses under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. Other DeCal classes offered this academic year include “Cal Pokeman Academy,” “Art Anatomy” and “Science in Oakland Elementary Schools.”

The course syllabus said it would cover the history of Palestine from the 1880s to the present and “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism.” Students were to be required to attend an event “relating to Palestine” during the semester and make a final presentation proposing a “decolonial alternative” to the region's problems, not restricted to the two-state solution.

Forty-three Jewish and educational organizations signed a letter by the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that monitors anti-Semitism in higher education, addressed to U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, expressing deep concern about the course.

“A review of the syllabus … reveals that the course's objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government's criteria for anti-Semitism and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish State and take action to eliminate it,” the letter stated. The letter called the faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, “a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine.”

Trump adviser endorses Netanyahu claim of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Palestinians


An adviser to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign backed up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinian demand for a removal of settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

“The prime minister of Israel correctly observes that the Palestinian demand to remove all Jews from their ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria is nothing short of an attempt at ethnic cleansing,” David Friedman, a longtime lawyer to the Republican presidential nominee and an adviser on Israel to his campaign, ” target=”_blank”>described as “inappropriate” Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinian opposition to settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”

“We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

In the video posted last week to Facebook, Netanyahu likens residents of the settlements to Arabs born in Israel.

Israel building an underground barrier along Gaza border, sources say


Israel has begun construction of an underground barrier along the frontier with the Gaza Strip that is meant to block cross-border tunnels built by Palestinian militants, Israeli defense and political sources said on Thursday.

Since being blindsided during a 2014 war by tunnel raiders from the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza, Israel has stepped up work on technologies for spotting the secret passages. Currently Israel has a fence along the border.

Military engineers unearthed and destroyed 32 tunnels during the war, Israeli officials say, and the military has since uncovered two others.

One Israeli political source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the government has already budgeted some 600 million shekels ($160 million) to build one section of the underground concrete barrier.

The barrier will eventually be about 65 km in length, the source said.

Israel's Defense Ministry declined to comment on the issue.

Pro-Palestinians disrupt NYC Council hearing on anti-BDS resolution


Pro-Palestinian activists and members of the Black Lives Matter movement on Thursday continuously disrupted a hearing held by the New York City Council Committee on Contracts on a 

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WATCH: Greenfield scolds Neturei Karta leader at anti-BDS hearing


New York City Councilman David Greenfield (Brooklyn – D) scolded the leader of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta for siding with pro-Palestinian activists at a Council committee hearing on an anti-BDS resolution on Thursday.

As seen in the video below, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss performed a sit-in on the floor of the Council’s chambers in protest of a “>frequent interruptions from pro-Palestinian activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Jewish supporters of the BDS movement. Security officers were forced to 

U.S. ‘deeply concerned’ over plans for settlement expansion


The U.S. State Department criticized an Israeli announcement approving the construction of hundreds of housing units in four West Bank settlements.

We’re deeply concerned by the government’s announcement to advance plans for these settlement units in the West Bank,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday, in answer to a reporter’s question during a briefing, hours after reports of the approval. “Since the Quartet report came out, we have seen a very significant acceleration of Israeli settlement activity that runs directly counter to the conclusions of the report. So far this year, Israel has promoted plans for over 2,500 units, including over 700 units retroactively approved in the West Bank.”

The Mideast Quartet, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N., called on Israel in June to stop building in the settlements and on the Palestinians to halt incitement.

Kirby said that the State Department is “particularly troubled by the policy of retroactively approving unauthorized settlement units and outposts that are themselves illegal under Israeli law. These policies have effectively given the Israeli Government a green light for the pervasive advancement of settlement activity in a new and potentially unlimited way. This significant expansion of the settlement enterprise poses a very serious and growing threat to the viability of the two-state solution.”

“Potentially unlimited” is a recent term used by the State Department, and seems to indicate U.S. concerns that Israel wants to annex the West Bank.

The Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee on Wednesday approved construction of 234 living units in Elkana in the northern West Bank, designated to be a nursing home; 30 homes in Beit Arye in the northern West Bank; and 20 homes in the Jerusalem ring neighborhood of Givat Zeev.

The committee also retroactively legalized 179 housing units built in the 1980s in Ofarim, part of the Beit Arye municipality.

The approval comes less than a week after Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, criticized Israel for continuing to build in West Bank settlements and neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, going against the recommendations issued in June by the Mideast Quartet.

Bernie Sanders’ new movement endorses candidates with a range of Israel views


A Florida state senator caught up in a boycott-Israel controversy. A Wisconsin state representative who combated anti-Israel bias on his campus.

The diversity of Israel-related outlooks among the 63 candidates endorsed by Our Revolution underscores the eclecticism of the left-leaning movement launched last week by Bernie Sanders.

The endorsed candidates represent an opening salvo by Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont. to build on the progressive following he earned in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests, has said that he wants to transform the party from the bottom up. Of the endorsed candidates, just 13 are running for Congress. Most are running for state legislatures, and some are running for local office.

That, coupled with Sanders’ longtime focus on economic reform, means that the group’s organic emphasis is on domestic issues.

Still, Our Revolution’s issues pages list foreign policy postures close to those Sanders touted during the campaign, including a call on Israel to end settlement activity and end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, and on the Palestinians to “unequivocally” recognize Israel’s right to exist. The group also calls for the United States to remain alert to the threat Iran poses to Israel and backs the two-state solution.

When it comes to Israel issues, Our Revolution’s endorsees run the gamut.

In a fundraising appeal on Wednesday, the group counted as one of its successes Dwight Bullard’s victory the day before in the Democratic primary for a Miami-Dade area state senate seat.

Bullard was the target of a pro-Israel protest over the weekend because of his participation in a tour of the West Bank earlier this year sponsored by a group that backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel. Bullard has said he is “agnostic” about BDS, but one of his opponents, Andrew Korge, said the trip was “disturbing.”

By contrast, Jonathan Brostoff, a Wisconsin state representative running for reelection, has been to Israel on the Birthright-Taglit program and led a pro-Israel group at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I was exposed to knee-jerk leftist anti-Israel stuff,” Brostoff told the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in 2008, describing how the trip converted him to pro-Israel activism. “I had a narrow range of false information regarding Israel before I went.” Jewish officials in Milwaukee said Brostoff remains strongly pro-Israel.

Another Our Revolution endorsee, Ilhan Omar, is a onetime refugee from Somalia running for Minnesota state representative. She reportedly told the Twin Cities Daily Planet earlier this year that she favored divesting the University of Minnesota of its Israel bonds. (The newspaper did not directly quote her, and JTA has asked Omar’s campaign to clarify her stance.) In the Aug. 9 primary, Omar defeated Phyllis Kahn, who is Jewish and who has held the Minneapolis-area seat for 44 years. Omar, running unopposed, will become the first Somali-born representative in the legislature.

In its appeal to donors, Our Revolution said Bullard’s victory in Florida alleviated the disappointment of its most prominent loss in backing Tim Canova, a law professor who sought to unseat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

Canova, who is not Jewish but who lived in Israel for a period, attacked her for backing last year’s Iran nuclear deal, which was opposed by much of the pro-Israel community. Ironically, his campaign pitted a pro-Sanders gentile against one of the most prominent Jews in the party, premised on the accusation that she was insufficiently pro-Israel — even though Sanders also backed the Iran deal.

Sanders opposed Wasserman Schultz because he believed she thwarted him in her capacity as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Wasserman Schultz  insisted she was neutral in the race, but on the eve of last month’s Democratic National Convention, a release of hacked emails showed her speaking of Sanders and the campaign in harsh terms, and she quit the party chairmanship.

Another one of Our Revolution’s losses on Tuesday was Aaron Baumann, the scion of a Jewish Arizona family, the Capins, with roots in the Tucson and Nogales area that date back more than a century.

Baumann failed to oust the incumbent state representative, Rosanna Gabaldon. (Also losing to Gabaldon was Daniel Hernandez, the congressional intern whose quick first aid helped save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the Jewish congresswoman who was shot in a 2011 spree that left six people dead.)

Other Jewish candidates endorsed by the group include Russell Feingold, attempting to wrest back Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seat from Ron Johnson, who defeated him in the 2010 Tea Party sweep of Congress; David Zuckerman, a Vermont state senator and farmer who belongs to the state’s Progressive Party and who is running for lieutenant governor; and Jamie Raskin, a state lawmaker running for Congress in Maryland’s Washington suburbs. Altogether, at least five of the 63 endorsees are Jewish.

Our Revolution’s 11-member board, announced this week, is chaired by Larry Cohen, until recently the president of the Communications Workers of America, and Huck Gutman, a University of Vermont literature professor who is one of Sanders’ oldest friends.

Also on the board is James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and a Sanders appointee to this year’s DNC platform-drafting committee who led an unsuccessful effort to include language critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Lone Duma firebombing survivor, 6, taken for ‘solidarity visit’ to Hamas terrorist’s demolished home


The Palestinian boy who was the lone survivor of an attack on his family’s West Bank home in Duma was taken for what was described as a “solidarity visit” to the demolished home of a Hamas terrorist who killed three, including an American citizen.

On Saturday, Ahmed Dawabsheh, 6, went with his grandfather Hussein to the Hebron home of Mohammad Abed al Basset Harub, Ynet reported. They were accompanied by Mohammad Qiq, a Hamas member who in February ended a 93-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison to protest his administrative detention — being held without charge or court appearance.

Ahmed was released from an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv in July, though he returns for ongoing treatment. His grandfather has been by his side since the July 2015 firebombing in the Duma village that killed the boy’s parents and younger brother. Right-wing Jewish extremists have been indicted in the attack.

In November, Harub shot into a minivan filled with passengers as well as another car in Gush Etzion, and then rammed his car into several other cars and bystanders. Among those killed in the attack was an 18-year-old yeshiva student, Ezra Schwartz, of Sharon, Massachusetts. Harub was shot and killed by Israeli security forces while trying to flee the scene.

Israeli soldier stabbed by Palestinian assailant in West Bank


An Israeli soldier was stabbed in an attack by a Palestinian assailant near the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank.

The stabber was shot and killed by the injured soldier at the scene of the attack on Wednesday afternoon.

Prior to the stabbing, rocks were thrown at several Israeli soldiers from a passing car. The soldiers forced the car off the road, and then faced the stabber, who exited the vehicle.

The soldier was evacuated from the scene for medical treatment, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF is investigating the attack.

‘Sausage Party’: Where food meets faith (and the F-word)


A new movie out just last weekend focuses on the role of faith in our daily lives: Who shapes our beliefs and what do we do when confronted with facts that directly contradict our belief system? Do we reject faith or double down on embracing it, despite any looming truths? The movie also tackles concepts of ethnic tribalism, moral relativism and more. You might not have guessed that this is Seth Rogen’s latest vehicle, “Sausage Party,” an R-rated animated film.

Don’t mistake the Pixar-spoofing CGI film for “Toy Story” or “Finding Dory” — this film featuring characters cursing a blue streak, is saturated with sexual innuendo and engages in one visually overwhelming and unbelievably graphic sex orgy. NPR called the film “gleefully profane.” 

The film centers on Frank, a protagonist sausage trying to find (and fill) his bun. But the writers — including actor-writer Rogen (who stars as Frank) and his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, along with their frequent collaborators and executive producers Ariel Shaffir and Kyle Hunter — went beyond the joke to construct a belief system for sentient food.

“We didn’t set out to write a movie about [faith],” Shaffir said in a phone interview. “The genesis was ‘the secret life of food.’ ” But as the writers discussed it, they realized that “the food can’t believe that they get eaten is the starting point, so what do they believe?” 

The food characters at the film’s fictional Shopwell’s supermarket expresses their beliefs every morning, in a musical number titled “The Great Beyond,” that deliberately recalls show-stoppers in “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Indeed, the song was composed by eight-time Oscar winner and 19-time Oscar nominee Alan Menken, who composed those Disney classics with his late partner, Howard Ashman, and with lyrics by Tony-nominated and Grammy-Award winning lyricist Glenn Slater. 

In the writing process, the filmmakers realized the song — in the script from the start — was actually the key to setting up the structure of faith for the film’s characters. 

“We tied it to the belief system and who created it and how it got changed and perverted throughout the aisles, making them at odds with each other,” said Hunter, who co-wrote the lyrics with Slater, along with Rogen, Goldberg and Shaffir.