January 16, 2019

The Tree That Survives the Desert

Tu B’Shevat, a Jewish holiday commemorating the importance and sanctity of trees, could not be more fitting in this day and age. Undoubtedly, it’s not easy to be a tree these days. Extended drought periods induced by climate change make it more and more difficult for those that need water to survive. Add to this the constant increase in pests and invasive species, one gets an idea of the grim reality in which many tree species are forced to survive the rapid and extreme changes.

However, there are trees that remain strong and durable and even thrive in the most hostile conditions. In a new Israeli study, scientists found that the acacia tree in the Arava desert in Israel is the world’s largest tree growing in such a hot and dry climate. The tree has an even higher growth rate during the hot, rain-free desert summers than during the slightly wetter winters, and research into this remarkable resilience might provide valuable information about how to deal with climate change.         

One of the expected effects of climate change is the northward movement of the global desert strip and the transformation of semi-arid regions into desert-like regions. This process negatively impacts natural vegetation and agricultural produce, and as a result, jeopardizes the nutritional security of millions of people. Due to Israel’s unique geographical location at the transitional zone from the Mediterranean to the desert climate, many local studies look into the resilience of natural vegetation and drought-tolerant crops. 

Some of the latest research into acacia trees was conducted by Tamir Klein of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in collaboration with Gidon Winters of the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, and Shabtai Cohen of the Volcani Institute. For three consecutive years, the researchers tracked 10 acacia trees from two species that are distributed in the Arava desert — a strip of desert stretching about 41 miles between the Gulf of Eilat and the southern shore of the Dead Sea in Israel. The researchers looked at two species: Acacia tortilis (the flat-top tree known to us from African landscapes) Acacia raddiana. Tracking was done using stem thickness sensors (to determine if the trees grow or merely survive and remain the same size), water-flow sensors in the stem, and a camera that documents the state of the leaves. 

The area in which the trees are being examined, the Sheizaf Stream in the Arava, is hot and dry, with annual precipitation of only 20 millimeters (less than an inch). Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that the trees in the area grow for about two to three weeks a year, when the stream enjoys floods and rains, and are dormant for the rest of the year. “It was a naive thought,” Klein said. “We got exactly the opposite of what we expected. We found that the acacia trees grow very actively in summer, in the dry season.” In the winter, however, the growth of the trees actually stopped. 

These results are also significant on a global scale, Klein said. “Although there are very hot and dry places in the Sahara Desert, for example, they do not enable tree growth, or the few trees that exist in them do not grow on days when temperatures and dryness peaks. Understanding the mechanisms that help a tree survive in dry conditions is of supreme interest to science and decision-makers.” 

“In a new Israeli study, scientists found that the acacia tree in the Arava desert in Israel is the world’s largest tree growing in such a hot and dry climate.”

The researchers speculate that the survival secret of the acacia is a vast underground water source, which is available to the roots also in summer. In the Arava, there are a number of aquifers (underground water reservoirs), and the acacia trees have long roots, which can reach tens of meters of depth so that they may have access to one of these aquifers. The researchers’ hypothesis stems from the fact that water was found flowing through the trunks of the acacia tree all year round (as opposed to most trees in Israel) and also that the trees are green almost throughout the entire year. Additionally, the researchers found that the trees grow larger in summers that follow rainy winters when underground water sources fill up more.

“The tree has its origin in tropical Africa, from where it spread millions of years ago,” Klein said. “As a tropical tree, it is genetically programmed to grow in maximum light and heat conditions.”

In the next phase of the study, whose results have not yet been published, the researchers sought to understand in greater detail the source of the growth. They found that the trees perform photosynthesis even in summer and they can use it to grow during the hot season.

The researchers currently are trying to get a better idea of the unusual growth pattern several ways. On the one hand, they survey the water that flows through the tree in order to learn about the depth of its source. On the other hand, a collaboration between doctoral student Daphna Uni of Tamir Klein’s lab and Winters as well as Efrat Sheffer of Hebrew University is to test how much of the tree’s growth happens through photosynthesis products in summer and how much by using photosynthesis reservoirs. This year, another test is to compare the status of Israeli acacia trees to those growing in South Africa, where the climate is less extreme.

“In view of the climatic changes that are taking place right now, the research is of crucial importance,” Klein concluded.


A longer version of this article appeared on www.zavit.org.il.

Racheli Wachs is a staff writer at Zavit environmental news agency in Tel Aviv. 

Our Uncle Gadi Eizenkot

Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem; Photo by Ariel Schalit/Reuters

Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot is a stocky, unassuming, man. He was born and raised in Israel’s periphery. Never an aristocrat, never a prince, he is “a person’s person,” “a soldier’s soldier.” Earlier this week, he ended a four-year term as Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, his career celebrated, his character admired. Will he also end up being a politician, many asked. Noooo — many of his friends hurriedly said. He is much too decent to become a politician. 

Eizenkot was a down-to-earth chief of staff, rarely seeking the limelight. Was he a good general? To be honest, such things aren’t easy for a layman to determine. Many of the actions for which he was responsible are classified. Many of his initiatives will bear fruit only with time. Many of his decisions can only be judged when new realities emerge. 

To give an example: Eizenkot invested a lot of his energy in combatting Iran’s attempt to establish a base in Syria. He was, as Bret Stephens described it in a New York Times interview, “the first Israeli general to take Iran head on, in addition to fighting its proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere.” Obviously, Stephens admires him for that — as most Israelis do. But that battle is still ongoing, and it’s not known how it will end. When it does end, determining the exact contribution of each leader to the success (or failure) of the mission will be difficult. What is Eizenkot’s part, compared with that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the next Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi or Northern Command’s Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick?

Another example: Eizenkot convinced the government that launching a military operation in Gaza would be a mistake. His position, and Netanyahu’s ultimate decision to take his advice, ignited the political crisis whose ultimate result is the upcoming election (Lieberman quit, shrinking the size of the coalition, and making the election the next logical step). Was restraint in Gaza the right call? Only time will tell. In fact, not even time. A decision to refrain from action is sometimes necessary, just to make sure that all options were exhausted before a decision to go to war.

If so little is known, why is Eizenkot praise-worthy? Because he was well liked most of the time by most Israelis because he was trusted. In Israel, the chief of staff is not a distant professional, a war expert. Of course, his abilities as a soldier are of great importance, but his abilities as a public figure are no less important. The Ramatkal (the Hebrew term for chief of staff) is a family member. He is our uncle general, commander of our children (in my case, two boys under Eizenkot’s command). He decides if these young people go to war, and when and why. Israelis know that sometimes war is necessary, but need to trust their uncle general that he will enter into war only when war is essential. 

“Gadi Eizenkot was well liked most of the time by most Israelis because he was trusted.”

Eizenkot’s role as a public figure was paradoxical. He was successful in this role by avoiding publicity. He rarely gave interviews, rarely made bombastic statements and rarely attended galas, parties or glitzy events. He did not play the mass media “fame game.” He didn’t seem polished and slick. He didn’t project the image of a politician in uniform or a diplomat wannabe, like some of his famous predecessors.   

When a general isn’t seen as a politician or a soon-to-be politician, it doesn’t necessarily make him a better soldier. But it does make him a better Ramatkal. It makes him better at making the people whose security depends on him trustful. Can we be certain that he made all the right decisions? Hardly. Can we be sure that he stirred the IDF toward victory? No, we can’t. But we can be certain that he made his decisions in good faith and without misguided motives.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain online.

Gov. DeSantis Threatens Airbnb With Sanctions Over Judea and Samaria Policy

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) threatened Airbnb with sanctions on Tuesday if the company doesn’t end its policy to de-list from Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria.

DeSantis said at a press conference that Florida has a “moral obligation” to oppose Airbnb’s policy, which he decried as anti-Semitic.

“Airbnb claims it’s a company of inclusion and yet this policy only affects Jews who have homes on the West Bank,” DeSantis said. “It doesn’t appear to apply to anyone else on the face of the earth.”

DeSantis added that his administration would investigate Airbnb to see if it violates state law, which would result in the company being blacklisted by the state. If this were the case, then “the state would not invest its pension fund in the company if it goes public” and “municipalities might also not be able to enter into contracts with Airbnb,” according to WCJT.

“That would not be good, if you’re already on Florida’s hit list before you even got off the ground,” DeSantis said.

In the meantime, DeSantis has already barred state workers from using Airbnb for work purposes.

“BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement] is nothing more than a cloak for anti-Semitism,” DeSantis said, “and as long as I’m governor, BDS will be DOA (dead on arrival).”

DeSantis also announced that that he would ensure that Jewish day schools would receive at least $2 million in state funding in order to have proper security in light of the October shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and said that his first trip to a foreign country as governor would be to Israel.

Airbnb spokesperson Dan Breit responded to DeSantis by saying, “Airbnb has unequivocally rejected the BDS movement and we remain deeply committed to our more than 20,000 hosts in Israel.”

“We have worked with the Florida State Board of Administration on this matter, we remain committed to the more than 45,000 Airbnb hosts in Florida who share their homes with over 4.5 million visitors, and we’ll continue to do all we can to support our community,” Breit said.

Israeli-American Coalition (IAC) for Action chairman Shawn Evenhaim praised DeSantis’ “strong leadership” on the matter.

“He has positioned Florida as a leader, at a time when many states around the country have begun the process of evaluating Airbnb’s discriminatory new policy,” Evenhaim said. “As the anti-Semitic BDS Movement continues to pressure companies into adopting discriminatory practices, states have a responsibility to protect their interests by enforcing their anti-BDS laws.”

Rep. Tlaib Seen in Photo With Man Who Praised Hezbollah Leader

Screenshot from Twitter.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was seen photographed recently with a man who has repeatedly praised Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Abbas Hamideh, who is the co-founder and vice chair of an organization called Al-Awda, tweeted out the following:

According to a StandWithUs report, Hamideh has issued myriad social media posts praising Nasrallah, including a tweet from September 2016 where he wrote, “Long live Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah! Long live Syria and Palestine!” above a photo of Nasrallah holding up a firearm. Hamideh also wrote in a February 2016 Facebook post that Nasrallah is “the most honorable man on the face of the Earth.”

Max Samarov, executive director of research and campus strategy for StandWithUs, told the Journal in a phone interview that Nasrallah once said, paraphrasing, that “it’s good for Jews to gather in Israel so then they [Hezbollah] won’t have to hunt them around the world to kill them, they can kill them all in one place” and has been “cooperating with the dictator in Syria to slaughter his own people.”

Additionally, according to the StandWithUs report, Hamideh liked a June 2014 comment on Facebook that read, “Grrr… Shoot a Zio!!!” “Zio” has been used as an anti-Semitic slur after former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader David Duke’s frequent use of the term.

“This is somebody that no political leader should be associating with,” Samarov said.

Al-Awda is an organization that advocates for the “right of return” for Palestinians and their generations of descendants to return to Israel, which would “eliminate Israel as a Jewish democratic state,” Samarov argued.

According to the StandWithUs report, when former Israeli President Shimon Peres died, Al-Awda wrote on Facebook, “We will make sure to honor him with a public toilet in a Free Palestine! To hell with the war criminal!” Al-Awda also re-tweeted a tweet from Hamideh that had photos of Israeli flags burning with the caption “Real Jews.”

“They could accurately be described as a hate group,” Samarov said.

Samarov called on Tlaib to “unequivocally condemn” Hamideh.

“People like that shouldn’t be given any kind of platform or connection with important political leaders like members of Congress, Republican or Democrat,” Samarov said.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) told Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) that they stand “unequivocally against Abbas Hamideh’s radical record and his extremist anti-Israel views.”

“JDCA has repeatedly stated our strong policy disagreements with Rep. Rashida Tlaib and we urge her to make clear where she stands with regard to Abbas Hamideh,” the organization said.

Tlaib’s office did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment as of publication time.

Zioness Teach-In Discusses Difficulty of Being a Progressive Zionist

Screenshot from Facebook.

The Zioness Movement held a teach-in at University Synagogue on the evening Jan. 13, where a panel discussed the difficulty of being progressive Zionists.

The event started with a speech from Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Van Nuys), expressing optimism about the Jewish caucus in the California state legislature.

“For as much as conversation as there is about Jews not being welcome in progressive spaces and as much as we’ve all recoiled from what we’ve read about the Women’s March, there’s so much good stuff happening in Sacramento,” Gabriel said, pointing to the Jewish caucus’ work on various progressive causes like immigrant rights and criminal justice reform.

“We are doing this in a way where we are being present and proud of our Jewish values, proud of our support for Israel, proud of who we are and our history as a people, and I think that at this moment in time when folks are trying to push Jews out of progressive spaces, and that is an intentional thing, that our response is not to leave those spaces, but really to double down,” Gabriel said, “and to double down on the work that we’re trying to do, which we know is so consistent with our Jewish values and to be really proud of who we are.”

Arya Marvazy, managing director of JQ (Jewish Queers) International then discussed how he, as a gay Persian Zionist, has dealt with the “anti-Zionist and anti-Israel space” in the LGBTQ community.

“One of the things that they purport is that Israel, as a nation, is using this concept called ‘pinkwashing’ to make the masses feel like Israel is this beacon of light and hope for LGBTQ people… and ignore any hardship the Palestinians might face or ignore the Israel-Palestinian conflict in its entirety,” Marvazy said. “I could talk for a long time how false I believe that narrative to be, and I am surprised that even still today, how present that belief exists in queer communities that I’m a part of.”

Marvazy then recalled when he was at a gay Latino punk club in Downtown Los Angeles and a guy he was talking to outside told him, “Everyone is welcome here, everyone but Trump supporters and Zionists.”

“I just was taken aback,” Marvazy said, adding that he works “on that conversation daily.”

Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami, a Zioness board member, later said that “at the Women’s Marches there’s been an increasing anti-Semitic rhetoric that we’ve seen that often comes in the guise of anti-Zionism.”

“If you want to protest the policies of the state of Israel, that’s one thing,” Eger said. “But Zionism, when you say that you’re an anti-Zionist, you are bordering on anti-Semitism because Zionism is the national political expression of the ancient longing of the Jewish soul to return to the land of our people, a longing that we have had for thousands of years.”

Eger called on progressive Zionists to “claim our space” at the Women’s March.

“But we also have to stand there proudly as Jews,” Eger said.

Emiliana Guereca, the founder of Women’s March Los Angeles, distanced the local march from the national Women’s March leaders.

“As a Jewish woman, I have seen the rhetoric of Women’s March D.C… and I apologize to everyone and my children,” Guereca said.

She added that her children ask her why she continues to organize despite the rhetoric of the national Women’s March leaders, and what she tells them is she chooses to “confront” it because the “tough conversations need to continue.”

Joanna Mendelson, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) senior investigative researcher at the Center for Extremism, told the audience that 2016-17 saw “the largest single year increase” in anti-Semitism since the ADL started collecting such data and pointed to the Charlottesville riots as a big reason for that.

“The obsession with Jews is part and parcel of white supremacist ideology,” Mendelson said, adding that white supremacists fear “being consumed by a rising tide of color… manipulated by the Jews.”

Mendelson pointed to the social media posts from Tree of Life synagogue shooter Robert Bowers that frequently used the words “Jews,” “k—“ and “immigrants” as an example of this.

She then highlighted Louis Farrakhan’s “most vitriolic and hateful anti-Semitic rhetoric” and lamented his “sizable influence.”

“It is so important that we partner, that we reach out, and that we collaborate on these various issues,” Mendelson said.

Later in the program, Zioness founder Amanda Berman, who moderated the panel, explained that the point of the Zioness Movement is to provide a political home for progressive Zionists who have had their “seats at the table” in the progressive movement “taken away from us.” If progressive Zionists can’t reclaim their seats, then “we will build a new table,” Berman said.

“Even when it’s hard, we have to show up,” Berman said.

Other panelists included Valley Beth Shalom Rabbi Noah Farkas, Jewish Center for Justice founder Rabbi Joel Simonds and McCarty Memorial Church Rev. Eddie Anderson.

The full event can be seen below:

Zioness Los Angeles Teach-In

Join our slate of progressive and diverse Los Angeles leaders for a conversation on showing up and speaking out ahead of the Women’s March next weekend.

Posted by Zioness Movement on Sunday, January 13, 2019

Club Z Challenges IfNotNow to Debate on Israel

Screenshot from Facebook.

Club Z has challenged the progressive activist group IfNotNow group to a debate on Israel and the what Club Z says are the “publicity stunts” that IfNotNow uses to advance their agenda.

Club Z Teen Board member Ron Belman and alumni Sam Wolf and Daniel Rutenburg wrote in a letter posted to Twitter on Wednesday that the two organizations have differing viewpoints on what it means to be “pro-Israel.”

“Your organization staged a series of public media stunts to demonize Israel but is conspicuously silent about the country’s right to exist,” the letter states, highlighting IfNotNow’s Birthright walkouts because it “whitewashes the occupation.”

“We are puzzled by these words because know Birthright to be an entirely different experience,” the letter continues. “Those of us who have had the privilege of traveling to Israel with Birthright saw the Jewish state up close – in all of its beauty, complexities, and challenges.”

Belman, Wolf and Rutenberg offered IfNotNow the opportunity to debate them during Club Z’s Youth Zionist Leadership Forum, which takes place in San Francisco on Jan. 18-21.

“We’ll articulate the merits of Birthright and supporting the State of Israel, and you can share your opinion as well,” the trio wrote.

Belman told the Journal in a phone interview that “this is actually the first time that they’ve [IfNotNow] has been challenged in such a way” and he was particularly bothered by IfNotNow’s Birthright walkouts.

“They could have just not gone and not wasted other people’s time,” Belman said, adding the walkouts were than a “publicity stunt to make Israel look evil.”

“If they really do want to have this debate and actually show their side to other Jewish teens that will be at the forum, then they have their right to accept this open invitation,” Belman said.

IfNotNow has not responded to Club Z’s invitation as of publication time. IfNotNow also did not respond to the Journal’s multiple requests for comment as of publication time.

ADL: ‘Appalling and Disturbing’ That SF Jewish Café Owner Harassed for Supporting Israel

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) San Francisco affiliate told the Journal in a statement via email that it’s “appalling and disturbing” that a Jewish café owner in San Francisco is being harassed for being pro-Israel.

Manny Yekutiel started Manny’s as a “community space” for people to discuss social justice with cheap coffee and food. But he’s being hounded by some far-left groups for running a “Zionist Gentrification café”:

Protesters that have appeared at the café have broken a window as well as painted the words “F— Zionism” underneath a Star of David.

The Lucy Parsons Project also sent out a Dec. 5 email decrying Yekutiel’s “racist, Zionist, pro-Israel ideals.”

“We will not tolerate gentrifiers and Zionists attempts at invading and destroying our community through ‘woke-washing’!!” the email stated.

Among the quotes from Yekutiel that bothered the Lucy Parsons Project include “Happy 70th Birthday Israel!” and “I’m so proud of Israel and its people” on his Facebook page.

ADL San Francisco Regional Director Seth Brysk told the Journal, “It is appalling and disturbing that protestors are targeting Manny’s on the basis of Manny Yekutiel’s religion as well as his mere affirmation of the right under international law to Jewish self-determination, also known as Zionism.”

“Some have even resorted to anti-Semitic vandalism and personal harassment, disconnected from any mention of Israel,” Brysk said. “Anyone who values inclusion and dialogue, let alone peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis, must reject the extreme bias and fringe assertions of the protestors.”

Yekutiel, who has previously interned for the Obama administration and volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has said that while he supports Israel’s right to exist, he disagrees with numerous policies from its government, including how the Israeli government has handled the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“Everyone visiting San Francisco should go to Manny’s Cafe and support Manny Yekutiel who is a proud Zionist,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a statement via email.

Angela Davis Says Human Rights Award Was Revoked Because of ‘Support of Justice for Palestine’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Progressive activist Angela Davis is claiming that a civil rights award was rescinded from her because of her “support of justice for Palestine.”

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) announced on their website that they had chosen Davis in September to receive the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at their February 2019 gala; however myriad “concerned individuals and organizations” prompted them to re-evaluate their choice.

“Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based,” the statement read. “Therefore, on January 4, BCRI’s Board voted to rescind its invitation to Ms. Davis to honor her with the Shuttlesworth Award.”

They added, “We regret that this change is necessary, and apologize to our supporters, the community and Ms. Davis for the confusion we have caused. We will move forward with a keen focus on our mission: to enlighten each generation about civil and human rights by exploring our common past and working together in the present to build a better future.”

In a Facebook post, Davis claimed that it was her support for the Palestinians that caused her to lose the award.

“Although the BCRI refused my requests to reveal the substantive reasons for this action, I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue,” Davis wrote. “This seemed particularly unfortunate, given that my own freedom was secured – and indeed my life was saved – by a vast international movement.”

Davis added that she supports “Palestinian political prisoners just as I support current political prisoners in the Basque Country, in Catalunya, in India, and in other parts of the world.”

“I have indeed expressed opposition to policies and practices of the state of Israel, as I express similar opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to other discriminatory U.S. policies,” Davis wrote. “Through my experiences at Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City and at Brandeis University in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and my subsequent time in graduate school in Frankfurt, Germany, I learned to be as passionate about opposition to anti-Semitism as to racism.”

Davis highlighted her work “with Jewish organizations and individuals” on numerous issues, which she said was key in “my growing consciousness regarding the importance of protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

The New York Times pointed to a December piece from Southern Jewish Life editor Larry Brook that was published around the same time as BCRI says they started hearing concerns from several people. Brook’s piece notes that Davis is a staunch supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and that she has referred to Israel as an “apartheid” state. Brook also points out that Davis has lavished praise on Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted of a 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing that killed two college students, and has called for the release of Marwan Barghouti, the Al-Alqsa Martyrs terrorist who has called for “a Third Intifada.”

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote in his 1991 book Chutzpah that when he urged Davis to denounce the Soviet Union’s imprisonment of Jews, Davis’ secretary told him that she wouldn’t do so because “they are all Zionist fascists and opponents of socialism.”

In 1970, a then-17-year-old named Jonathan Jackson conducted a courtroom shooting in an attempt to create a hostage situation that would result in his older brother, George, being freed. The shooting resulted in four dead, including a judge. At least two of the firearms that Jackson had brought with him were purchased by Davis, which resulted in her being indicted for being complicit in Jackson’s crime. Davis was eventually acquitted.

JVP Posts, Deletes Tweets Defending Palestinians’ ‘Right to Resist Military Occupation’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) tweeted out a defense of Palestinians’ “right to resist military occupation” and then proceeded to delete those tweets.

On Wednesday morning, JVP shared a piece of art from 1978 that showed a Jewish woman shaking hands with an armed Palestinian woman with text that read, “Being Jewish is not the same as being a Zionist!”

Several people pointed out that the fact there is an armed Palestinian woman in the picture, which does not promote peace, prompting JVP to respond numerous times that they support “the right to resist military occupation”:

The aforementioned tweets from JVP were later deleted without an explanation given on their Twitter page. JVP did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment as of publication time.

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO StandWithUs, told the Journal in a statement via email, “Most Jews believe in Zionism and a better future for all people in the region – there is no contradiction.”

“JVP’s manipulative propaganda aside, one can support the rights of both Jews and Palestinians at the same time,” Rothstein said. “Furthermore, this is yet another example how JVP is not a voice for peace or the well-being of Jews. It is particularly outrageous that they would share an image supporting the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] in 1978 – the same year as the Coastal Road Massacre. 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were murdered in that attack by the terrorists JVP is glorifying.”

Similarly, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Journal in an emailed statement, “Of the 14 million Jews in the world, the majority of them are Zionists.”

“In 1938, no country in the world, including Western democracies, were willing to save Europe’s Jews,” Hier said. “The State of Israel and Zionism are the only guarantee that that will never, ever happen again.”

For more on JVP’s anti-Zionism, read the Anti-Defamation League’s profile on them here.

Moshe Arens, Former Israel Defense Minister, Dies at 93

990427-D-2987S-071 Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Arens answers a reporterÕs question during a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in the Pentagon on April 27, 1999. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

Moshe Arens, who died on Jan. 7 at 93, was one of the finest politicians in Israel’s history. He served as foreign minister and several stints as defense minister in the 1980s and ’90s. He discovered and groomed current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (but don’t hold it against him). He was gentle, wise, caring and optimistic. He loved Israel, even though he was not born in Israel. Perhaps he loved it as only someone who was not born in Israel can. We last spoke three or four months ago. The topic was his idea for a book he thought about writing.

He was a thoughtful man, and his thoughtfulness often led him in directions not in line with a party or a government of which he was a member. As news of his death saddened me, I contemplated some of these instances. While he was still involved in public life, Arens was a member of the polite yet stubborn opposition to some of Israel’s most crucial decisions. Looking back at his actions, one can imagine an alternative history for Israel. A “what if” history. I think he would appreciate such intellectual exercise.

What if Arens had the upper hand in the late 1970s, when he was part of a small faction opposing the peace agreement with Egypt? He never retracted his opposition to the Camp David Accords. Yes, he would say, peace with Egypt has its many advantages. And yet Arens believed that Israel’s decision to hand back all of Sinai to the Egyptians, to the last mile, was a strategic mistake that still haunts Israel. It was a precedent from which Israel can’t quite release itself. If Egypt got back the territory, why not Syria in the Golan Heights? Why not the 1967 line in the West Bank? Arens believed that Egypt didn’t have many cards at that time — that then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat couldn’t initiate another war if his maximalist demands were not met. He voted no. What if?

More than a decade later, Arens demanded action but was rebuffed by his boss, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. On Jan. 7, when veteran politicians reminisced about their relations with Arens, Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Sephardic-Charedi party Shas, said they were shouting at each other. Arens? Shouting? Apparently, this well-mannered man could do that when the stakes were high. And in the early ’90s, the stakes were high. The United States just launched operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and missiles were raining on Israel from the skies.

But there was a problem: The United States was leading a well-forged coalition of many nations —  including Arab nations — against Iraq. And its leaders — President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State James Baker and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney — wanted Israel to sit out this one, so as not to hand the Arabs a reason or an excuse to abandon the coalition. In other words: Israel was asked to get beaten up by the bully – Iraq – and do nothing.

This was not an easy request to swallow. Israel is not used to letting its neighbors attack it without paying a price. It is not used to letting others (the coalition) guarantee its security. Arens believed that Israel should act. Last year, a recording of an interview with then-Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Shomron was released in which Shomron describes how Arens — then the defense minister — approved a plan of attack. Arens didn’t realized that Shomron merely intended this to be a presentation of what Israel could do, not of what Israel ought do. Arens hurriedly called Cheney to warn that Israel was about to send in the air force. But in the cabinet meeting, the Israel Defense Forces took the the Americans’ side, and Arens, with several other ministers, remained in the minority.

Would the international coalition against Iraq collapse? Arens believed until his last day that Secretary of State James Baker was bluffing, and that the coalition would have survived an Israeli counterattack. Could Israel launch a successful operation against the scud missile launchers in western Iraq? Many military analysts have doubts. Was an Israeli response essential to maintaining its deterrence against Arab belligerents? It’s impossible to know.

What if? Arens insisted that his positions concerning Egypt and Iraq stand the test of time, but didn’t waste his days rehashing past debates. When he celebrated his 90th birthday, he said that all his dreams came true. As I mourn his passing, I envy his peace of mind.

Israel’s Election Handbook: Silent Treatment

Ehud Barak.

We call this format a Timesaver Guide to Israel’s Coming Elections. This will be a usual feature on Rosner’s Domain until April 9. We hope to make it short, factual, devoid of election hype, and of he-said-she-said no news, unimportant inside baseball gossip.

 

 

Bottom Line

Netanyahu utilizes his legal troubles to rally the base.

Main News

Netanyahu released a video demanding that any decision by the Attorney General concerning his indictment will be postponed until after Election Day.

The AG will reportedly announce his decision a few weeks before Election Day.

Schedule

First public appearance of General Benny Gantz – the head of the most fashionable party to the left of Netanyahu – is expected sometime. For now, Gantz’ silence draws ridicule but does not hurt him, politically speaking.

Developments to Watch

Political: There are too many parties. Talks about possible mergers will continue until the last minute. Can the center unify? Can the religious-right? Can Haredis?

Personal: A few players did not yet throw their hats into the ring. The two most important: Former PM Ehud Barak. Former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. It is not clear if any of them can tip the scale in a certain direction.

Legal: Netanyahu intensifies his attacks on the legal system. This strategy has two reasons. 1. His base is highly suspicious of the system. 2. His attacks are likely to draw angry responses, and some of them, by people much less experienced than him in public speaking, could help his campaign.

What’s the Race About

Is the legal system trying to topple an elected PM?

Possible Wild Cards:

A last-minute merger of all centrist parties (Gantz, Lapid, Livni, and maybe more).
A highly convincing indictment that leaves Netanyahu little choice but to seek a deal.

The Blocs and Their Meaning

We offer two options of political blocs. In the graphs bellow you can see what happened to these blocs since Dec. 30. Parties fractured, but blocs remain pretty much the same. The averages of polls since January 2018 (column 11) and of the last 10 polls (column 12) show relative stability. If things do not change, the right will win the election, but the Likud Party is going to need to convince at least one centrist party to join the coalition. This could become complicated for an indicted PM.

Focus on One Party

When Israel decided to go to election, The Jewish Home seemed like a midsize party. Then its two leaders, Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked, suddenly left it. Not it is a party whose future is unclear. It can be small – or disappear. That is, if the party does not meet the electoral threshold (four seats). In such case, the right-wing bloc could lose the equivalent of two to three seats.

The average number of seats currently projected by polls is 3.2. Namely – no seats.

 

 

 

 

Iran Meets with Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leaders

REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl//File Photo

The Iranian regime met with leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist organization in Tehran on Monday, where the PIJ terrorists reportedly bragged about their ability to unleash “thousands of missiles” against Israel.

Iran’s Press TV reported that the meeting included Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and PIJ Secretary General Ziad al-Nakhala. Islamic Jihad reportedly told the Iranian leaders that they and Hamas were in a prime position to launch attacks against Israel.

Iran also reportedly signaled that they and Hezbollah “will support the Palestinians in the next conflict,” indicating “a threat of launching a multi-front war against Israel,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

Khamenei also praised PIJ for what he saw as the weakening of Israel.

“During the previous two wars, the Zionist regime called for truce after 22 days on one occasion and eight days on another, but in the latest confrontation it requested a ceasefire after only 48 hours,” Khamenei said. “This means the Zionist regime has been brought to its knees.”

A senior congressional official told the Washington Free Beacon, “Iran is finding every new way to attack Israel and interfere with America’s efforts to bolster our Israeli allies.”

“One day it’s Hezbollah attack tunnels. Another day it’s drones from Syria,” the official said. “Today it’s apparently Palestinian attack tunnels. The only way this stops is if the U.S. Treasury Department and Congress finally drain them of resources.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tweeted in response that he is leading an effort to crack down on Iran’s finances:

The meeting came after President Trump announced that the United States will be completely withdrawing its forces from Syria.

Rep. Tlaib’s D.C. Office Map Has ‘Palestine’ Sticky Note Over Israel

Screenshot from Facebook.

A map in newly sworn-in Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Mich.) office has a “Palestine” sticky note where Israel should be.

 

 

 

 

Here is the photo of the map:

The note was roundly mocked and condemned on Twitter:

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in an email, “There is no country called Palestine.”

“The territory upon which the word ‘Palestine’ is affixed on this map is called the Palestinian territories,” Cooper added. “Palestinian statehood will be achieved, if and when, the Palestinian leaders are prepared to recognize the validity of the Jewish State as their neighbor.”

Tlaib was sworn into Congress on Thursday, with Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour attending. Tlaib supports a one-state solution and is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

My Letter to Amos

A letter that Rabbi Daniel Bouskila received from Amos Oz

Editor’s Note: Israeli writer, novelist, journalist and intellectual Amos Oz died Dec. 28 in Tel Aviv. He was 79. 

Dear Amos,

I’m sitting at my desk, painfully contemplating your untimely passing and trying to figure out how to express myself during this difficult moment. I want to write an article about you, but that’s so abstract and impersonal. Rather than writing the standard tribute, I decided to write this letter, from one friend to another. After all, it was through our letters — handwritten on small pieces of nondescript paper and airmailed in envelopes lined with red, white and blue — that you and I communicated for so many years. In those letters — written in your beautiful Hebrew handwriting with the crooked paragraphs that never properly aligned with the page’s margins — we exchanged ideas on Hebrew literature, the theology of Agnon and life in general. We freely expressed ourselves, explored new ideas and deepened our friendship. 

It’s not surprising that letter writing was such a powerful medium of communication for you. You elevated letter writing to an art form in your novel “Black Box,” whose diverse characters interact by writing letters to one another. You ingeniously showed us through the seemingly simple act of writing letters that one can construct an intriguing plot, develop characters in depth and transform mundane details of life into meaningful expressions of innermost emotions. 

You taught me how to appreciate those tiny details within a half-hour of when we first met. I had picked you up at Los Angeles International Airport on a Friday afternoon, and within a few minutes we were talking about what became our shared passion — the literature and persona of S.Y. Agnon. I was so engrossed in our discussion that I did not notice I had exceeded the speed limit. But a traffic cop noticed. There I was, with my literary role model in my car in our first-ever meeting, pulled over for a speeding ticket!

Once we parted ways with the friendly traffic officer, you remarkably put me at ease by saying, “I wonder if anybody actually reads all of the small, printed details on these traffic citations?” I looked over at you, wondering where you were going with this. “After all,” you continued in your poetic Hebrew, “somebody somewhere took the time and effort to painstakingly write this text. Somebody should honor that person by at least reading what they had to say.” Only you, Amos, a kind soul who reveled in the small, printed details of life, could remind me that behind the text of a speeding ticket is a person who took the time to compose it. Only you, Amos, a brilliant master of transforming mundane situations into exciting events, could elevate the annoyance of a speeding ticket into a potentially meaningful literary moment.

Your treatment of my speeding ticket reminds me of what you did in your masterful memoir “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” when you described with such loving detail the buildup toward the one phone call your family made every two to three months from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. With charm, wit and humor, you said, “I don’t remember whether we put on our best clothes for the expedition to the pharmacy, for the phone call to Tel Aviv, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we did. It was a solemn undertaking.” 

Your sensitivity toward the author behind the speeding-ticket text reminds me of another story you tell in “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” about the moral dilemma over selecting which cheese to buy at Mr. Auster’s grocery shop, the kibbutz cheese made by the Jewish cooperative Tnuva or the Arab cheese produced in the nearby village. Like the speeding ticket, behind each block of cheese stood people who produced it, and your dilemma expressed a personal sensitivity toward each of them.

That’s what made you such a great author, my dear friend, your sensitivity toward people and your deep interest in their personal lives and feelings. You were a great author, not only because of your literary talents and creative genius, but because you spent a lot of time listening to others. 

I experienced your gift as a listener at my own Shabbat dinner table, when I saw how you interacted with my family, especially my children. You told my then 10-year-old daughter, Shira, that you wrote stories for a living, and you asked her if she had any good stories to tell. “I just wrote a short story,” she said. “Well, Shira,” you replied, “I would love to hear it.” 

Shira brought the story to the table, and for the next eight minutes we all listened to her choppy first attempt at narrative fiction. You sat there patiently, with your eyes closed, attentive to every single word. As she finished reading the story — which included a character named Victoria who had discovered a dead body — your reaction was not a standard “Good job; I really enjoyed it. Keep writing, kid.” Instead, you looked at Shira and treated her as your peer. “Shira,” you said, “from the time Victoria discovered the dead body until she reported it to the police, I would have wanted to know a bit more about how she reacted and what she felt. Did she cry? Was she afraid? Did she tremble? I think you need to fill those gaps so we get to know Victoria more personally.” How amazing that you, an internationally famous author, paid such a huge compliment to my little daughter by taking her seriously, listening to the details of her story and critiquing it with constructive suggestions.

“You were a voice of social justice, and you taught us what it means to use words in a constructive fashion to combat racism, xenophobia, extremism and zealotry.”

In the same way you listened to Shira with care and respect, you listened to the voices of so many others. You were the master of penetrating the minds and souls of the “Israeli next door.” You invited us into their little shops, their kibbutz fields, their living rooms, their bedrooms and their hearts. In your novels, we never read sweeping epics romanticizing Israel on a grand scale. Instead, you chose to explore for us the internal struggles, triumphs, fears, romances, aspirations and disappointments of the average Israeli.

In your dark novel “My Michael,” you took us on a painful journey through Hannah Gonen’s loneliness and depression. Many years later, we learned that Hannah’s struggle was a lens into your beloved mother’s bouts with depression. The very titles of some of your novels, short-story anthologies and collections of essays — “Between Friends,” “Scenes from a Village Life” and “Here and There in the Land of Israel” — speak to the personal dimension of Israeli life that you opened up for us. As such, you were the poet of Israel’s inner soul. Through your pen and pencil (I know you wrote with both!), you gave voice to the people of Israel, one person at a time.

I admire you for your courage and strength to always speak your mind, especially when it went against the flow. You respected everyone but feared no one. You were a voice of social justice, and you taught us what it means to use words in a constructive fashion to combat racism, xenophobia, extremism and zealotry. While the common talk in Israel is often about the next war, you dared us to think differently and envision peace. In that sense, my friend, you were a modern-day prophet, making your death that much more painful for all of us. 

I know you did not define yourself as a religious person, but as I once told you during a deep discussion about Agnon we had in a Palo Alto hotel lobby, if the definition of “religious” can include those who challenge and question God, then you, Amos — like Agnon — had a deeply religious soul.

As I write this final letter to you, I do so with the painful awareness that, this time, I don’t expect a response. I don’t know how much postage it would take for this to reach heaven, but I do know that if there is a heaven, you are certainly there. If heaven exists, then you most definitely are in its literary salon, already engaged in deep conversations with Tolstoy, Chekhov, Brenner and Agnon, your literary peers. 

The world has lost a literary giant, and Israel has lost her voice of conscience. As for me, I have lost a dear personal friend.

With eternal love and admiration,

Daniel


Rabbi Daniel Bouskila is the director of the Sephardic Educational Center and the rabbi of the Westwood Village Synagogue.

Guy Serussi: The Kid Attorney

Guy Serussi with Eli Zohar Adv.

The Jewish state has the dubious honor of having the most attorneys per capita in the world. One out every 100 people in Israel is a lawyer, and Guy Serussi, a whip-smart, upstart attorney with a heart of gold is one of them.

Serussi’s legal career has been in high gear since his teens. He knew he wanted to pursue law after seeing the 1999 Denzel Washington movie “The Hurricane,” based on the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder.  

After being drafted into the military, Serussi’s army career was blighted by a knee injury and he was demoted to a clerical role in an office. 

“In my view, litigation is the best self-expression a lawyer can have. Being in court takes all your skills and tests them in real time.” — Guy Serussi 

At the time, Serussi, a Ramat Gan native of Libyan and Ladino stock, said he felt “totally hopeless.” However, it wasn’t long before he decided that instead of wasting his time pushing pens, he might as well start studying for a law degree, even though it’s rare for Israeli teens to begin higher education just after graduating from high school, and almost unheard of while still in the army. But, Serussi said, “I was bored and I had a lot of time on my hands.”

By the time he was 25, he had undertaken his internship, passed the bar, earned a master’s degree in political marketing and government, and was working at a firm specializing in civil and commercial litigation. 

Now 27 (an age when most Israeli law students are just about to graduate), Serussi has his own firm with divisions in real estate law, corporate law and his favorite, civil litigation.

“In my view, litigation is the best self-expression a lawyer can have,” Serussi said. “Being in court takes all your skills and tests them in real time.”

Did it bother him that the legal field is so saturated?

Serussi laughed. “My lawyer number is 76909,” he said, referencing his registration with the Israel Bar Association. “But I believe that if you’re good at it and you have passion, there’s room for everyone.”

Serussi decided 10 to 15 percent of his firm’s cases would be pro bono, “because it makes me feel good and I also believe that the good will come back.”

He gave an example of a client who approached him about a rogue tenant who wouldn’t evacuate an apartment owned by the client’s deceased mother. The bereaved man, who had inherited the apartment, had no money to pay Serussi, but the lawyer helped him at no cost and managed to get the tenant evicted. 

“One week ago, I received a phone call that his brother-in-law wants to sell his house for 10 million shekels ($2,700,000) and he needs a lawyer,” Serussi said. “You just never know what door is opened when you [help] someone.”

Serussi’s latest project seeks to help young lawyers by sharing the experiences, wisdom and tips of some of the greatest legal minds in the country. Called “Short Sentence,” the initiative sees Serussi interviewing venerable powerhouses: attorneys who founded some of Israel’s biggest firms and who boast a client base that runs the gamut from the military-industrial complex to the prime minister himself.  

“I listen to these lawyers telling me the do’s and don’ts of [the profession],” Serussi said, “and I think one day, I want to be like them.”

Airbnb: Bed and Breakfast on Homophobic Land

Photo from Flickr.

On Nov. 19, Airbnb issued a press release announcing it was “removing listings” in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.” The announcement was met with outrage by many Israelis and Jews around the world. The company’s decision came after a long coordinated and well-financed campaign led by multiple groups (including the misleadingly named Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink and others), many of which reject peaceful solutions altogether for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That being said, the most prominent group that led the campaign was Human Rights Watch (HRW), an issue for which HRW lobbied for at least two years. As an Israeli citizen, I am critical of the settlements myself, but I find this campaign and the decision of Airbnb, an online accommodation and vacation company, troubling.

But as a queer person, I find it hurtful and immoral. NGO Monitor highlighted that HRW, a nongovernmental organization, notes Airbnb’s policy regarding discrimination, which allows individuals to “make accommodation distinctions based on, for example, marital status, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation” when this is in adherence to local laws (for places outside of the United States and European Union), and even states, “Should it prove impossible for hosts of a certain area to list properties on a nondiscriminatory basis … Airbnb should disallow listings in that area.”

Although I started to read HRW’s report about Airbnb because I am an Israeli, I quickly realized that Airbnb’s policy is not only discriminatory toward Jewish Israelis, but also toward the LGBTQ community. As a queer person, I was disturbed and furious about HRW’s agenda and the organization’s complete disregard to the real discrimination that is at play. HRW didn’t pressure Airbnb about the 72 countries where being LGBTQ is illegal or the eight countries (seven of which have listings on Airbnb, and Iran, where Airbnb is looking to expand), where being LGBTQ can result in the death penalty and where transgender individuals are oppressed in the most horrific ways. It only pressured Airbnb about Israel, and wrongly so.

Outside of the settlements that were subjected to Airbnb’s new policy, within Palestinian society, families tend to see homosexuality, cross-dressing and transgender behavior as immoral acts against God, deserving of condemnation. A Pew study published in 2013 revealed the extremely homophobic attitude that prevails in Palestinian society, where only 1 percent of Palestinian respondents believed that homosexuality is morally “acceptable” behavior (countries with similar results included Egypt, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda). Some LGBTQ Palestinians have relocated to Israel, often fleeing harsh intolerance that includes being physically abused, disowned and even murdered. In Gaza, gay men have been thrown off of rooftops and dragged through the streets tied to motorcycles. 

However, the Palestinian territories are not the worst places for LGBTQ people. There are far worse countries where gender identification and sexuality often come at a heavy price, countries where Airbnb’s policy actively protects LGBTQ-phobia. In a region where gender segregation is widespread and dress codes are mostly enforced by law, where much of the social structure is based on the distinction between men and women, anything that challenges the status quo is tackled violently. Airbnb’s policy is that LGBTQ-phobic hosts are allowed to discriminate against users in this region.

Culturally, there is no tolerance for transgender people in the Middle East. The most horrific government in the Middle East for LGBTQ people is in Iran, where Airbnb is looking to provide accommodations listings. The Iranian government’s wel-coming of transgender people contrasts dramatically with its criminalization and severe punishment (often the death sentence), of homosexual activity. In Iran, gay men are encouraged to undergo gender reassignment, as the alternative is punishment and ultimately death.

As of 2008, Iran carried out more forced gender reassignment operations than any other nation in the world. This is while same-sex sexual activity is legally banned, in accordance with the Shiite version of Islamic law. Homosexuality is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic. As Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in 2007, when asked about Iranian homosexuals, “We don’t have this phenomenon in Iran.”

HRW also disingenuously discusses Egypt, where local laws could be interpreted to exclude same-sex and unmarried couples, but isn’t “aware of cases in which Airbnb hosts there faced official sanctions for renting properties to unmarried or same-sex couples.”

But in Egypt, according to Egyptian medical sources, almost all reassignment surgeries are female-to-male. This is due to the fact that trans women fear being associated with the stigma of homosexuality. This is the opposite from the situation in Iran, where the men feel pressured to undergo gender reassignment. However, this discrimination toward the LGBTQ community in Egypt is not mentioned in the HRW report.

My first reading of the HRW report was because of its campaign against Israeli settlements, however, as I read through this report, I realized that this campaign is not just wrong at its core, it is also wrong in the way it provides a cover-up for LGBTQ discrimination and human rights violations. Discrimination isn’t and can’t be selective; you cannot stand up for a specific political cause while ignoring all human rights violations and emboldening other forms of discrimination, specifically against the LGBTQ community.

I call on every LGBTQ person to condemn HRW’s deliberate belittling of our human rights and to boycott Airbnb until it changes its discriminatory policy. There is no moral justification for a company to profit from users that discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their gender or sexuality.


Hen Mazzig is an Israeli writer, public speaker and social justice activist from Tel Aviv. Twitter: @HenMazzig 

Israel’s Election Handbook: Can Netanyahu Survive “Indictment Election”?

Avi Gabbai, the new leader of Israel's centre-left Labour party, delivers his victory speech after winning the Labour party primary runoff, at an event in Tel Aviv, Israel July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

We call this format a Timesaver Guide to Israel’s Coming Elections. This will be a usual feature on Rosner’s Domain until April 9. We hope to make it short, factual, devoid of election hype, and of he-said-she-said no news, unimportant inside baseball gossip.

Bottom Line

Netanyahu’s legal issues will dominate the last leg of the election.

Main News

The Attorney General intends to inform the public prior to Election Day if he intends to indict Netanyahu.

A split in the Zionist Camp: Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni was kicked out by Labor leader Avi Gabbai, and is searching for a new political platform.

Schedule

A decision by the AG is expected within weeks – closer to Election Day but not too close.

Developments to Watch

Political: Will more parties commit not to seat with Netanyahu in a coalition if he is indicted?

Personal: Can Livni 1. Form a new platform that has a chance of success (it does not look good for her, numbers’ wise), or 2. Find a college that is willing to take her in as a partner (also doesn’t look good for her – no current enthusiasts).

Material: More countries are moving their embassies to Jerusalem (Honduras is next). This helps Netanyahu to argue that the “diplomatic tsunami” against Israel, promised by his rivals, was no more than scare tactic.

What’s the Race About

Can Netanyahu be Prime Minister and stand trial at the same time.

Possible Wild Cards:

A decision not to indict Netanyahu.

A deal with Netanyahu: Leave politics and get off the legal hook.

The Blocs and Their Meaning

We offer two options of political blocs. In the graphs bellow you can see what happened to these blocs since Dec. 25, the day new elections were announced. Since then, parties fractured, but blocs remain relatively stable.

 

And here you can see the averages of the two bloc options both since January 2018, and in the last round of polls on Dec. 30. As you can see, all changes are quite marginal. The left bloc is a little smaller today than it was earlier this year. The center is a little larger. The right does not have a coalition without some addition from the center (but it does not need more than one midsize additional party to form such coalition).

Focus on One Party

Shas, the Sephardic Haredi Party, is in crisis since the death of its spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. All polls predict that Shas is likely to decline from its current seven  seat situation. The question is: how much? Israel’s electoral threshold is 3.25%. Meaning: Shas must gain about four seats (we don’t know the exact result needed before the votes are counted) to have a place in the Knesset. Will it? As you can see, it’s possible, but shaky.

 

 

 

Five Things I Learned From Amos Oz

Amos Oz died December 28 at age 79.

I didn’t know Amos Oz, the Israeli literary giant who died of cancer on Dec. 28 at age 79. I only met him once, about 20 years ago, when he spoke at a synagogue in Los Angeles. At the time, I had launched a spiritual magazine that promoted Jewish unity. When the person who introduced us mentioned that I was into Jewish unity, Oz quipped that in the Jewish world, “Unity means if you agree with me, then we’ll have unity.” The man had a sense of humor.

When I reflected more seriously on what he had said, that became the first thing I learned from Oz: Don’t dream the wrong dreams. Jewish unity may sound wonderful, but it is a pipe dream. It’s nebulous and naïve. Oz could dream, but he was a hard-nosed dreamer. He knew how the world worked; he knew that sharp disagreement was built into the human condition.

Oz could dream, but he was a hard-nosed dreamer. He knew how the world worked; he knew that sharp disagreement was built into the human condition.

The second thing I learned from Oz came during the same conversation. “Disagreement is a good thing,” he told me, “until it turns into animosity. That I mind.” Here was a man of words drawing a red line for healthy discourse. He was telling us to disagree, yes, but disagree without anger, without rejection, without resentment. Twenty years later, when one sees the state of our communal discourse today, this red line resonates.

The third thing I learned from Oz is how to talk about the Holocaust. Six million Jews were not killed, he would say, “they were murdered.” When I heard him say that, I remember how he deviated from the theme of his talk to make a point about the difference between killing and murdering. It felt as if he had done so countless times. He was a man of words. He was telling us that you can’t truly honor the victims of the Holocaust without being clear and accurate about the kind of evil they encountered.

Another clear word from Oz helped me better understand the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was the fourth thing I learned from him. “We need a divorce from the Palestinians,” he would say. It took me years to fully appreciate the essential truth of that idea. Oz had a reputation for being a lefty peacenik, but his concept of divorce had nothing to do with leftism or peace delusions. If anything, it recognized the hard reality of irreconcilable differences. Over the years, more and more Israel supporters have come to appreciate this reality.

Oz was bitterly opposed to many policies of the Israeli government, but he was a deep lover of the country he called home, the place he wrote about with such poignant lyricism.

Oz was bitterly opposed to many policies of the Israeli government, but he was a deep lover of the country he called home, the place he wrote about with such poignant lyricism. How did he reconcile this paradox? This is the fifth thing I learned from Oz — the art of loving something that can drive you nuts. “I love Israel even when I can’t stand it,” he would say. These are the words of a lover. When someone very close to us does something we deeply dislike, we “can’t stand it” precisely because we love them so much.

Oz knew how to love, how to express his love, and how not to let go of that love. Among the many things that will form his legacy, this extraordinary love will be one of them.

Palestinian-American Sent to Prison for Life by PA for Selling Land to Jews

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

A Palestinian-American was sentenced to life in prison in the Palestinian territories for selling land to Jews.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the man, identified as 53-year-old Issam Akel, was found guilty on Monday by the Palestinian Grand Criminal Court of brokering a deal for the Jewish group Ateret Cohanim to purchase a house in Old City Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter. Akel is an East Jerusalem resident, where he has an Israeli ID card that provides him immunity from the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Under PA law, selling land to Jews is a crime that could result in the death penalty.

Akel was reportedly in Ramallah when he was arrested in October; it’s not known if he was visiting the city or if he was kidnapped by the PA from East Jerusalem and taken to Ramallah for prosecution.

Akel’s father, Jalal, told the Times of Israel that he was “surprised” by the sentence and rejected the notion that his son had sold land to Jews.

“We knew there was a trial happening, but we didn’t know this would happen,” Jalal Akel said.

A United States official told the Times of Israel that they were “aware” of Akel’s sentencing.

“When a U.S. citizen is incarcerated abroad, the US government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the official said.

Israel is investigating the matter and arrested two members of the PA in response, although they have both been released on bail.

Election Handbook Update: Jewish Home Crash

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Education Minister Naftali Bennett during the weekly Cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Israel, Aug. 30, 2016. (photo by REUTERS/Abir Sultan)

We have no choice but to update yesterday’s post: Split on the Right. That is, because we now have five new polls that include The New Right – the new party established by ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Note that these polls have a wide range of results. The new party gets from six seats to 14 seats according to these polls.

Note that when we look at the blocs, the change from before The New Right (look at the average of all polls) and after The New Right (look at the average of the last five polls) is insignificant. In other words: this political move matter greatly to the people and parties involved (The Jewish Home is eliminated in some of the new polls — if that happens, that’s the end of a very long political tradition). It might not matter much when it comes to the bottom line (a coalition of the right plus at least one centrist party).

 

Israel’s Election Handbook: A Day After Update

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event by his Likud Party in Tel Aviv, Israel August 9, 2017. Photo by Amir Cohen/REUTERS.

 

This is a short update of Israel’s Election Handbook from yesterday. We recommend that you read both to get the fuller picture.

Many media outlets conducted polls the day after new elections were announced. So, we use the opportunity to show how these polls change the picture of Israel’s political blocs’ map.

The bottom line is still similar to what we said yesterday: “the right-religious bloc does not have more than 60 seats and thus cannot form a coalition by itself. It will have to be joined by at least one of the centrist parties. The center and the left can theoretically form a majority – but only if they can agree to rely on the United Arab Party, an unlikely scenario. If things stay the way they are, the likely coalition will be one similar to the current coalition. The right, plus a party or two from the center – Netanyahu will have room for negotiations”.

We offer two options for potential political blocs. You can see the list of parties in each bloc for each option on the right.

 

 

If you are interested in averages, here is how the polls of the last 48 hours split the three blocs (the numbers refer to average number of projected seats in the Knesset):

 

Roseanne Barr to Tour Israel, Address Knesset

Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr is going to Israel with her friend and advisor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and his World Values Network next month, and will address the Knesset (Parliament) on Jan. 30.

“I very much look forward to my trip as a lover of Israel and friend of Rabbi Shmuley and ambassador of the World Values Network,” Barr said in a statement. “While I intend to further my own knowledge of Jewish and Israeli history, I have important work to do as a voice against the insidious and anti-Semitic BDS movement.

“We are in an age where Israeli innovation is ascendant and changing the world in areas of medicine, technology, media and the arts,” the embattled former “Roseanne” star said. “Israel is an oasis of openness, freedom, democracy and tolerance amidst a desert of brutality from an age gone by. I want to shout this from the heights of the Galilee to the halls of the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city.”

Rosner’s Torah Talk: Parshat Vayechi with Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi

Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi is the rabbi of Congregation Chevra Thilim, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco. He comes from a Hasidic family of rabbis that goes back many generations. Growing up in Brooklyn, he studied Kabbalah and Hasidic thought. He is one of the foremost experts on the Kabbalah on the West Coast and is a frequent lecturer.

This week’s Torah portion- Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)- is the final parsha of the book of Genesis. The parsha describes the final days of Jacob, the blessing given to his sons, Jacob’s death and burial, and the death of Joseph. Our discussion focuses on the centrality of the Land of Israel, and how come Jacob still had his best days in Egypt.

 

 

Previous Torah Talks on Veyechi

Rabbi Denise Eger

Rabbi Josh Yuter

Rabbi Joanne Heiligman

Rabbi Chaim Strauchler

 

L.A. City Councilman Denounces Airbnb’s Israel Policy

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz appears at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust for a vigil commemorating the refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939. Photo by Jill Brown/Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz has joined the chorus of pro-Israel voices denouncing hospitality company Airbnb for its decision to delist properties located in the West Bank.

In a Dec. 20 letter to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, Koretz said Airbnb’s actions demonstrate “prejudice, ignorance and hypocrisy. Simply put, this is an act of anti-Semitism and sets a double standard.”

“Airbnb, Inc. currently lists properties in Northern Cyprus, Tibet, the Western Saharan region, and other disputed territories where people have been displaced,” the letter continues. “However, Jewish settlements are being singled out for delisting by Airbnb, Inc. The decision made by your company is based on the position of taking one side in a two-sided conflict. There is no reason to ban the Israeli side’s listings and not the others, except on the basis of anti-Semitic sentiment.”

Koretz concludes the letter saying he will be calling on L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer to see what options are available to “curtail or prohibit” Airbnb from operating in Los Angeles until “they have suspended their policy of singling out Jewish settlements.”

Beverly Hills City Council has also denounced Airbnb’s decision.

 

 

Poem: Adonai Echad

Shema yisrael, adonai elohenu, adonai echad — 

watchword of the Jewish faith, declaring the oneness of God 

Listen Israel —

The lord is one.

The world is one.

Everything one. 

Created by the same creator

with the same atomic particles

in the same black bang.

Are you listening? 

No one is. 

We’re terrorized by terrorists,

suffocated by the smell of strangers 

who don’t know the lyrics to our song,

crawling back from AI truth

to 3-D myths of yesteryear

waiting for the savior 

who’ll convert our H2O to wine.

Ritalin’d and Klonopin’d, 

all we really want is peace

and a smaller piece of humble pie

in universe of blackened holes 

unmoved by what we’re praying for —

like prisoners trapped in Plato’s cave

unsure of the source of light.


Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has spent the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations. In the past several years, she has begun to write poetry — another nonprofit endeavor.

Artist of the Week: Laura Ben-David

“Tower of David,” 2018 taken by Laura Ben-David

Photo taken from within the Tower of David at the highest point in the Old City of Jerusalem, showing the glorious lights of the city during the holiday season.

Credit: LauraBenDavid.smugmug.com

David Brog: What’s the Best Way to Fight BDS?

David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, shares some innovative ideas about reconnecting the new generation with Israel.  This episode is sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.  Please visit them at wurz.yu.ed.  #ad

Follow David Suissa on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Cruz, Cotton Introduce Resolution Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) released a joint resolution on Dec. 18 that calls for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The resolution states that Syria used the Golan Heights as a strategic location to attack Israel until Israel took control of the area during the 1967 Six-Day War. The resolution proceeded to argue that since “Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, including with weapons of mass destruction” and that “Iran and its proxies have repeatedly attacked Israel from inside Syria,” it’s necessary for Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights to be recognized.

“Israel’s control over the Golan Heights provides a defensible border, deters attacks from hostile forces, facilitates intelligence gathering, and allows Israel to detect threats to its national security,” the resolution stated.

Cruz and Cotton said in a statement, “Israel’s northern border is threatened by Iranian forces and their proxies in Lebanon and Syria, including Hezbollah’s 150,000 rockets, armed drones, newly discovered terror tunnels, and more.”

“Meanwhile, with the ayatollahs’ help, Bashar al-Assad’s regime is on the verge of securing victory in Syria’s civil war,” they continued. “He may soon turn his attention back to threatening the Jewish state.”

According to Jewish Virtual Library, when the Golan Heights was under Syrian control, Israelis had to sleep in bomb shelters as protection from Syrian military snipers; Fatah was also allowed to roam free through the area. Israel eventually gained control of the territory in the aftermath Six-Day War; following the Yom Kippur War, Israel and Syria signed a disengagement agreement in 1974 that allowed Israel to maintain control over the Golan Heights.

“For Israel, relinquishing the Golan to a hostile Syria could jeopardize its early-warning system against surprise attack,” Jewish Virtual Library states. “Israel has built radars on Mt. Hermon, the highest point in the region. If Israel withdrew from the Golan and had to relocate these facilities to the lowlands of the Galilee, they would lose much of their strategic effectiveness.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that Trump administration officials have said that they don’t foresee the U.S. recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights anytime soon.

Pink Floyd Tribute Band to Perform in Israel Despite Waters’ Protests

Screenshot from Facebook.

The Pink Floyd tribute band UK Pink Floyd Experience will be performing in Israel after initially canceling their concerts after protests from Roger Waters.

Waters, the former bassist and frontman of Pink Floyd, wrote in a Dec. 7 Facebook post that he was “aghast” that the band was scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba on Jan. 4, 5, and 6, respectively.

“To sing my songs in front of segregated audiences in Israel, and contribute to the cultural whitewashing of the racist and apartheid government of that country, would be an act of unconscionable malice and disrespect,” Waters wrote.

The UK Pink Floyd Experience had canceled the shows as a result of the post, but Israeli musician and producer Ziv Rubinstein persuaded them to nix the cancellations.

“They wanted to come,” Rubinstein told the Times of Israel. “They’ve been here before, but they were scared. They were threatened by Mr. Waters.”

The band will be performing with Echoes, an Israeli Pink Floyd tribute band.

Two Nice Jewish Boys: Episode 118 – Breaking Down the Middle East Vol. II

(Photo by IDF)

This morning the sun rose. Birds were chirping and the Middle East was still turbulent.

Yes, even when Israel is not making headlines on CNN, things still tend to get pretty messy down here. We may not always feel it in our rose-colored-bubble of TLV, but the wheels of evil forces keep spinning, enemies are conspiring against us and we’re always prepared for the next war, which might be the last.

It is in times like this that it’s good to have someone around who can actually understands the Middle East, someone who’s devoted his life to explain Israel’s complexities. Someone who can provide us a little bit of context. Someone like Neil Lazarus.

Neil Lazarus is one of the most popular Israeli public speakers out there. He’s traveling the world, talking about Israel, BDS and Middle Eastern politics. His Youtube videos are all over the internet and his seminars are packed. We’re so glad to have him here on the show with us today, to talk about Israel’s current situation in the Middle East.

Neil Lazarus’ website, his Facebook and Twitter

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