Mobilize now against Iran and save the world

Just over three years ago, at the first-ever global forum on anti-Semitism organized by the State of Israel, the essential task was to define the beast — the new anti-Semitism. Since then, as
the fourth such global gathering meets this week, efforts to incorporate the “three-D” distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and the new anti-Semitism — demonization, double standards and delegitimization — have become part of international documents and discourse.

These and other accomplishments, as important as they are, have been dwarfed by the quantum leap anti-Semitism itself has taken. It has leapfrogged from isolated attacks against Jews to incitement to genocide — the actual elimination of the Jewish state.

This shift has come in the form of a pincer movement. On one side, we have the Iranian regime, which is denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” while racing to develop the physical means of doing so. On the other side, we have what is, in effect, international silence in response, coupled with a growing willingness to discuss Israel’s existence as a mistake, an anachronism or a provocation.

We must recognize the fact that though sympathy for Iran’s expressed goal of Israel’s destruction is hardly mainstream, the idea of a world without Israel is more acceptable in polite company, the media and academia today than Hitler’s expressed goal of a Europe without Jews was in 1939.

Given this situation, it should be clear that we are beyond the stage of definitions. The Jewish world now must mobilize at a level no less than during the struggles to establish the State of Israel and to free Soviet Jewry. It is this latter struggle that presents the most potent model for action today.

Though both sides of the genocidal pincer are in quite advanced stages of development, the Jewish world remains mired in premobilization debates reminiscent of the early stages of the Soviet Jewry struggle in the 1960s. This may be hard to recall in light of the subsequent success, but back then a debate raged among Jews over whether a campaign to free Soviet Jewry was “too parochial,” and whether being out front risked making it too much of a “Jewish issue.”

Before these internal debates were resolved, the Soviet Jewry effort could not be regarded as a movement capable of attracting allies and moving governments. Nor were such debates easily, or ever fully, put to rest.

As late as 1987, when the by then-mature and powerful movement organized the largest-ever Soviet Jewry rally on Washington’s mall to coincide with Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit, some Jewish leaders wondered if the community could be mobilized, and if such a rally would be counterproductive. They warned that only a few thousand souls would brave the winter weather, and that the Jewish community would be considered “warmongers” who were spoiling the recent warming of U.S.-Soviet relations.

In actuality, over 250,000 people came to a rally that was pivotal in opening the floodgates, not just to 10,000 or 20,000 Jews, which seemed like a dream at the time, but to a million Jews who came to Israel over the following decade.

Since it has been a while, a reminder is in order of what full mobilization looks like.

First, as Shlomo Avineri has recently proposed, Iranian officials should get the Soviet treatment. Just as no Soviet official, including sport and cultural delegations, could travel without being accosted by protests and hostile questions, so it should be with anyone representing the Iranian regime. As in the Soviet case, such protests will not change Iranian behavior, but they are critical to creating a climate that will influence the policies of Western governments.

Second, an inventory of the governments and companies that provide Iran with refined oil, huge trade deals and even military and nuclear assistance should be taken, and public pressure be put on them to end their complicity with a regime that is racing to genocide.

Third, the pension funds of U.S. states should be divested from all companies that trade with or invest in Iran. This divestment campaign must be pursued without apologies or hesitation.

Fourth, every country that is party to the Genocide Convention should be called upon to fulfill its obligation under that treaty and seek an indictment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the charge of incitement to genocide, which is a “punishable offense” under Article III of that treaty.

Fifth, human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which are heavily nourished by Jewish values, passion and funding, must stop squeezing both sides of the genocidal pincer.

These groups must be challenged, on the one hand, to press for enforcement of the Genocide Treaty, to stand up for human rights in Iran, and to oppose and expose Iranian support for terrorism. On the other hand, they must stop perverting the sacred cause of human rights into a cudgel in Iran’s hands against Israel. This happened just months ago when, during the Lebanon War, such groups all but ignored Hezbollah’s terrorism from behind human shields and called Israel’s self-defense a “war crime.”

Just as the two sides of the pincer themselves are connected, so too must be the efforts to combat them. All the above steps concern the Iranian side of the pincer. But combating the other side, the denial of Israel’s right to exist, is no less critical — and more difficult, since at times they necessitate confronting not a rogue regime, but our own cherished institutions. On this front:

First, universities that provide chairs for professors who campaign against Israel’s right to exist should be boycotted. In a number of countries, denying the Holocaust is a criminal act. In the current context, denying Israel’s right to exist lays the groundwork for a second holocaust even more directly than does denying history.

Therefore, the promulgation of such an ideology should be fought even by societies that justifiably revere freedom of speech.

Security Fence Fails in Barring Criticism

An austere monolith of reinforced concrete, the 25-foot-high wall that separates parts of Israel from the West Bank conjures images of the Berlin Wall, Hadrian’s Wall or even the Great Wall of China.

But some Israelis fear that the wall — part of a security barrier that will have electronic fences, ditches, patrols and high-tech monitoring devices — may bear a greater resemblance to the Maginot Line, the fortification France built in the 1930s to protect itself from a German assault. The supposedly impregnable line of defense failed to protect France from the German invasion in 1940.

The Middle Eastern wall, being built to protect Israel from Palestinian infiltration and assault, already has failed. Last week, Palestinian terrorists managed to crawl through a sewage tunnel underneath the barrier near the Palestinian city of Kalkilya, cut through steel grating and make it to Israel’s Highway 6, where they shot to death Noam Leibowitz, a 7-year-old girl in a passing car.

Only small sections of the fence actually will include a wall — those portions of the barrier in areas where Palestinian towns and cities come so close to the fence that Palestinians could shoot at Israelis nearby.

Called the “security fence” by the military establishment and the “separation fence” by many others, the barrier has been assailed in the press and by some right-wing politicians as a white elephant — a costly obstacle unable to thwart determined terrorists.

Yet this is hardly the first time the $200 million, 100-mile-long fence has come under political fire. Ever since the Israeli Cabinet gave the nod to contractors to begin their massive excavations last July, the fence has served as a lightning rod for controversy.

It runs roughly along the contours of the Green Line, which demarcates the boundary that separates Israel proper from the West Bank, which was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. At certain points, however, the fence is will cut east into the West Bank to protect large Jewish settlements.

The Palestinian Authority has charged that the fence is the first step in the establishment of a border that would create a Bantustan-style Palestinian state, with isolated communities in noncontiguous territories at the mercy of the Israeli army. Palestinians living along the Green Line also have accused the Israeli government of stealing their lands to clear a path for the fence — though they have been compensated for their losses.

For their part, Israeli settlers fear the fence could one day isolate them on the Palestinian side of an international border. Though Israel says the location of the fence is temporary and could be moved after a final peace agreement, many believe the fence will establish the de facto border of a future Palestinian state, which most settlers vehemently oppose.

“We’ve opposed the fence since it was first debated in the government almost two years ago,” said David Wilder, a leader of Hebron’s Jewish community. “It is a de facto political determination — in fact a border — which only radiates weakness to the Arabs. And, as the last few weeks have shown, it does not stop terror.”

One should not build a fence to fight against terrorism, he said, adding, “The only way to prevent terror is to uproot it where it starts, in Palestinian cities.”

Put simply, the underlying principle behind the fence is physical separation: Israelis here, Palestinians there.

“Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean live 10 million people,” Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister, said at a conference last week that examined the failures of the July 2000 Camp David summit.

The land between the river and the sea can “either be a Jewish state or a democracy,” Barak said. If Israel annexes the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Palestinians are not given the vote, he said, “then Israel will be an apartheid state.”

In his 90-minute speech, Barak slammed the current Israeli government for dragging its feet in building the wall. He said that had the wall been built sooner — plans for the fence were explored as early as 1994 under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin — then an additional “five hundred people could have been walking among us today.”

Dozens of local Israeli leaders, whose communities are situated close to the Green Line, have been making the same argument. Some, like Danny Atar of the Gilboa Regional Council, have said the Sharon government’s delays in building the fence constitute criminal negligence.

Defense Ministry sources contend that the fence’s construction is a Herculean task.

“It’s like building a superhighway on tough terrain under constant attack,” said Netzach Mashiach, the Defense Ministry’s manager of the project.

Over the past 11 months and despite a bitterly cold and wet winter, Defense Ministry officials said, contractors have excavated 15 million tons of earth, replaced it with millions of tons of gravel, sand and concrete and laid the groundwork for a “dead zone” stretching 65 yards on either side of the fence.

Besides the millions of dollars worth of electronic equipment required to monitor movement along the fence, the ministry will install 310,000 square yards of metal fencing and 1,000 miles of barbed wire.

Military sources interviewed at the site of last week’s terrorist shooting said the project has been hampered by frequent Palestinian sabotage. Looters also have been stealing everything that is not bolted down — and much that is, they added.

“We lay down a stretch of 100 meters of fencing, and they steal or destroy 50 of it,” one source said.

Mashiach said a fence is only as good as the forces that monitor it and the intelligence units that provide the Israeli army with alerts.

“Every obstacle can be infiltrated if it is not properly patrolled and maintained,” he said.

The fence’s failure to save the life of last week’s young casualty is not due to faulty construction, but to the fact that the fence is not yet complete, Mashiach said.

The day after the attack, the sewage tunnel under the fence near Kalkilya still had not been fitted with electronic monitoring systems. There were no soldiers posted in the guardhouses set up every 500 yards along the 1,300-yard wall. Army patrols were sporadic.

The fence is slated for completion in early July, according to Mashiach, though he said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was “a few days” late.

Kalkilya, along with several other Palestinian cities that straddle the fence line, are especially problematic, said Itzhak Ron, the security officer in charge of protecting the residents of the Southern Sharon Regional Council, which abuts Kalkilya.

The teeming Palestinian city looms on a hill barely 800 yards from the eastern edge of the Israeli city of Kfar Saba. Separating the two cities is problematic, Ron said, because for years, workers from the West Bank city have been dependent on jobs in Israel. Even the Palestinian water, sewage and electrical grids are connected to those on the Israeli side.

“We never promised that this would provide 100 percent security, because nothing can,” Mashiach said. “This is the reality in which we live.'”

Center Construction Moves Ahead Despite Shortfall

Though Irvine’s Samueli Jewish Campus is $2 million short of $20 million required to finish a community building, the project’s supporters are moving ahead to avoid the potential costs of delay.

Permits for the 123,000-square-foot building adjacent to Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School were issued in March.

"We’re moving ahead as originally scheduled," said Ralph Stern, of Tustin, who is leading fundraising. In a communitywide appeal in May 2002, he promised a fiscally conservative stance: construction would start when financial goals were met.

"If it weren’t for potentially inflationary pressure, we wouldn’t have started," he said last month.

Waiting for the till to fill would incur extra costs from disbanding the building’s construction team, an expected hike in steel prices and bid escalation due to a predicted surge of postwar construction, Stern said. Known costs alone amounted to $500,000, said Irving M. Chase, of Irvine, a member of the capital campaign committee.

"This is one way to protect the bids we had," Stern said.

Adequate funds have been pledged for the $6.5 million first phase, which includes grading, utilities, a foundation and steel-support structure. Stern hopes to raise the remainder by July, as the initial construction nears completion.

An anonymous donor and Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry Samueli provided two-thirds of the project’s total $60 million cost. Jewish agencies now in Costa Mesa anticipate relocating next spring.


This is what happens in this week’s parsha. In Parshat Pekuday,
Moses gives the Israelites an accounting of how much gold, silver and copper
was contributed to build the mishkan (the Tabernacle that held the Ten
Commandments). This helps the Israelites to truly own the mishkan — it is their
own creation that they can now offer to God. Moses knew that doing the math
helped the Israelites feel good about their generosity.

March 8 is International Women’s Day!

The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United
States in 1909. It became International Women’s Day in 1911, when European
women joined the movement to promote and protect the equal rights of women.
Only a few days later, the famous and tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire
occurred in New York. More than 140 working girls, mostly Italian and Jewish
immigrants, were killed. This spurred women around the world to join the
movement to improve women’s working conditions, salaries and participation in
politics. Women have come a long way since those days.

Mom, Can We Keep Him?

If your kids are out of the house and you’re experiencing empty-nest syndrome, how about considering adoption? Don’t worry though, this adoptee will be pretty low-maintenance — all he needs is a caring family, food, water and, of course, plenty of fly-repellent gel.

The adoptees are donkeys that are a part of the Israel-based charity, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land (SHADH). The U.K.-registered organization was founded to rescue and protect abused and abandoned donkeys and mules in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Apparently, the beasts of burden are so greatly burdened in the Middle East that they have captured the attention of SHADH, animal rights activists and concerned families around the globe. Sold for as little as 100 shekels (approximately $20) in Israel and the disputed territories, there is very little value attached to a donkey’s well-being. As a result, when donkeys are injured, sick or too old to work, they are often abandoned and left to starve; many suffer from abuse.

Founded by Lucy Fensom, a former

airline stewardess, SHADH is dedicated to the rescue of these oppressed animals and committed to improving their plight through community-wide education. Abandoned donkeys are taken to SHADH’s “Safe Haven,” located 40 minutes from Tel Aviv at Moshav Gan Yoshiya, where they can live in a safe and protected environment. There are currently 29 donkeys at Safe Haven and all are up for adoption for only $6 per month.

While the animals must stay at Safe Haven — they don’t make great house pets — families will receive a photograph of their donkey, an official certificate of adoption — and full visitation rights.

For more information on adopting a donkey, visit

ERA –Israeli Style

The Knesset has passed a landmark law granting equal rights to women in every sphere of Israeli life — after the bill’s sponsor gave up her committee seat to a male colleague.

Along with granting women equality in the workplace, the military and in other spheres of society, the new law also lays out the rights of women over their bodies and protects women from violence and sexual exploitation.

The legislation passed Wednesday is an amendment to a law passed in 1951 that set out in general terms the principle of equality in Israeli society.

After adamantly opposing the bill for a year, the fervently Orthodox Shas Party withdrew its threat to sabotage the legislation after Knesset member Yael Dayan, the bill’s chief sponsor, gave up her place on the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to a Shas legislator.

“For two years I have been trying to get this law through,” Dayan was quoted as saying. “I spoke for an entire year with rabbis. They demanded revisions. Shas officials told me all the time, ‘It will never be passed.’

“If I knew it was possible to resolve the matter this way, I would have done it a long time ago.”

The bill was slated to be brought before the Knesset last month, on International Women’s Day.

But, at the urging of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Dayan pulled the bill from the agenda at the last minute after Shas threatened to turn the vote into a no-confidence motion in the government.

Barak came to the Knesset to participate in Wednesday’s 49-2 vote.

The bill was backed by all the parties in the Knesset, with the exception of the fervently Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) bloc.

Knesset member Moshe Gafni, a member of UTJ, said the concept of equal rights for the sexes is inherently wrong.

“There are certain roles for a woman and for a man,” Gafni said. “There is also concern the Supreme Court can take this declaration and use it in a manner that goes against the outlook of the majority of the residents of the country.”

Dayan said the “deal” that removed the final obstacle to the bill’s passage was launched in a casual conversation in the Knesset corridors in which she joked that she was ready to do anything, even give up her position on the committee.

Shas, however, denied any agreement had been reached.

Shas legislator Yair Peretz, who is to assume Dayan’s seat on the committee, said Dayan had asked that Shas withdraw its threat to submit a no-confidence motion if the legislation were presented for a vote.

“I consulted with the rabbis and told her we won’t oppose” the bill, Peretz said.