Over the past month and a half, the unity of the Jews of Israel has been overwhelming. No one would ever hope for the tragic events that have aroused feelings of closeness – the kidnapping of three yeshiva students and Operation Preventive Edge in Gaza – but the tangible desire of Jews to draw closer to one another cannot be denied.
Tens of thousands of Jews, from across the Israeli spectrum, attended the funerals of two “lone” soldiers from America – Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg – whom they did not know personally. And in communities across Israel, Jews are reaching out to one another with acts of chesed, both great and small.
Beit Shemesh, the scene of bitter intra-religious confrontation over the past two years and of a highly divisive mayoral election and subsequent re-run, has proven fertile grounds for various campaigns for unity. All sides of the religious and political divide in Beit Shemesh were eager to put the bitter feelings of the two mayoral campaigns behind. Two “unity” tefillah gatherings for Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach, H”yd, were the first steps towards doing so. The gatherings drew chareidi, national religious, Yerushalmi/chassidiche, and secular women. Two more are scheduled for this week on behalf of the soldiers in Gaza.
After 40,000 reservists were called up for Operation Protective Edge, Mrs. Sharon Isaacson, a member of the chareidi community of Ramat Beit Shemesh — Aleph, began thinking about a former student of hers at MMY Seminary whose husband had been called up, and how difficult it must be for wives of reservists taking care of children alone while worrying about their husbands. She decided – with the enthusiastic support of her husband and children – to do something. Between various communal forums, including one for national religious rabbis in Beit Shemesh, and calls to the head of the community center, social workers, and friends, she put together over several days a list of women in Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh whose husbands have been called up.
Then she started enlisting her friends in the chareidi community, who soon outnumbered the number of wives whose husbands were in service by a considerable margin. That turned out to be a good thing, for there was plenty of assistance needed – e.g., a woman just after childbirth, another woman with five little kids under seven. The first step of visiting with cakes and offering words of support and appreciation was soon followed by more concrete tasks – providing cooked meals, babysitting, driving, and shopping. Mrs. Isaacson even found a therapist to donate her services for a traumatized wife who was not coping with her fears.
While collecting her list of wives whose husbands were in Gaza, Mrs. Isaacson also began accumulating a list of women whose sons are in Gaza. Someone gave her the phone number of a Chassidic woman who lives in Kiryat HaChareidi, adjacent to the Modern Orthodox Sheinfeld community where the Beit Orot school, which was the scene of so much controversy nearly two years ago. She is one of the founders of a group called Ayin Tov, which includes women from both the various chareidi neighborhoods and the modern orthodox/national religious neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh. Among its members are women whose daughters attend Beit Orot and others from Ramat Beit Shemesh – Beis, home to the handful of crazies who harassed the girls. Ayin Tova brings the women together to get to know one another and create more ahavas Yisrael. That Chassidic woman immediately volunteered her group to contact women with sons in the army and to daven for their sons.
May these steps towards reconciliation in Beit Shemesh be the harbinger for Mashiach’s arrival this Tisha B’Av.
According to the latest CNN poll, 57% of Americans think that Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip are fully justified, while 39% think that Israel’s actions are “too much.” One might interpret those figures optimistically: It is doubtful support for Israel is higher in any other Western country. On the other hand, I would be more than a little dismayed to learn that 39% of Americans believe in mermaids or the tooth fairy, and I fail to see any plausible distinction between that belief and the claim that Israel has been employing excessive force.
But it gets worse. Over half of Democrats are within that 39%. And to judge by their recent statements and actions, it appears that the president and secretary of state are among the believers in mermaids. Fox News caught Secretary of State Kerry in an unguarded moment sarcastically speaking of Palestinian civilian casualties in heavy fighting in Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint action, a hell of a pinpoint action.” Once he knew he was back on camera, Kerry quickly reverted to message; Israel has a right to defend itself; he was just reacting to the tragedy of innocent lives lost; war is hell.
But the anger in his voice directed at Israel, when he did not know he was being filmed, was as unmistakable as it was unjustified, for he could have known little of how many of those killed were actually civilians or of the circumstances of their deaths. Kerry promptly dispatched himself to the Middle East – uninvited, as former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren noted undiplomatically – with the acquiescence of President Obama, who expressed his own “serious concerns” about rising civilian casualties.
Gazan casualties, however, are a measure of precisely nothing except Hamas’s callous disregard for the lives of those living in Gaza and its cynicism about the ease of manipulating the Western media. Any civilians killed in Gaza have died only because Hamas locates its prime military assets in civilian neighborhoods and fights from among civilians. For good measure, it encourages, sometimes forcibly, civilians to remain in those neighborhoods, even when they have been given ample warning of pending Israeli strikes. In both international law and morality, the responsibility for civilians killed as collateral damage from legitimate military action rests solely on the shoulders of those who place their military assets in close proximity to civilians.
Kerry’s sarcasm about Israel’s “pinpoint” actions aside, what Col. Richard Kemp, former High Commander of British expeditionary forces Afghanistan and someone with a lifetime of experience in asymmetric conflicts, said of the IDF in Operation Cast Lead, remains true today: No army in the history of warfare has done more to minimize civilian deaths.
That the IDF is employed in legitimate military actions is beyond cavil. U.S. satellites, using infrared imagery have identified sixty tunnels from Gaza into Israel, from which hundreds of Hamas fighters could have emerged in a coordinated attack and slaughtered hundreds of Jews living close to the border. Bombs under kindergartens and other high casualty targets have already been discovered in some of those tunnels.
So great is the threat posed by those tunnels that the toughest question put to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a recent press conference was: How could you have even contemplated accepting a ceasefire before the IDF had succeeded in blowing up more than a few of the attack tunnels that constitute such a mortal danger? He had nothing to answer other than that he counted on Hamas to reject the ceasefire – likely true. As is so often the case, Canadian Prime Minister Harper put it best: Self-defense is “not merely an Israeli right, but an Israeli obligation.”
The United States has no national interest in stopping the fighting before Israel has destroyed all the attack tunnels and seriously degraded the network of tunnels sheltering rockets and rocket launchers under Gaza City. The United States has, or should recognize that it has, a dog in this fight – i.e.. that a quasi-terrorist state should be thoroughly defeated and that its aggressive launch of nearly 2,000 rockets at Israel’s civilian population and attempted cross-border attacks should be rewarded with an unambiguous defeat. Pressuring Israel to stop short of that goal is a betrayal of Israel, the West, and ultimately the people of Gaza.
Daniel Pipes has frequently pointed out that only the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan paved the way for those two countries to leave beside their authoritarian pasts and join the democratic world. And Professor Mordecai Kedar of Bar Ilan University argues that Egypt’s Anwar Sadat was only willing to make peace with Israel after the thoroughgoing Egyptian defeat in 1973. Despite the element of surprise – in stark contrast to 1967, when Israel destroyed the Egyptian and Syrian air forces in the first hours of fighting – and Egypt’s initial success in crossing the Suez Canal, the war ended with Egypt’s Third Army completely surrounded and with no alternative to surrender. Only then did Sadat realize Egypt and its allies could not defeat Israel militarily and embark on the path to peace. In short, a thoroughgoing defeat often benefits no party so greatly as the defeated because it forces a re-examination of failed ideologies.
Even from a humanitarian standpoint, letting Hamas cynically play on Western heartstrings to save itself will only encourage more warfare and civilian casualties. Not that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry cannot sleep at night out of worry over less than 400 Gazan women and children. They have managed to sleep quite peacefully, thank you, and play numerous rounds of golf, while passively looking on as 170,000 human beings have been killed in Syria and many millions turned into desperate refugees.
The best thing we can do for loved ones who have developed unsavory habits – gambling, drinking, etc. – is letting them bear the natural consequences of their actions. Rocketing civilian populations of your far more powerful neighbor and plotting mass terror attacks is precisely such an unsavory habit. By seeking to secure a ceasefire before Hamas has suffered a richly deserved defeat, Obama and Kerry are only ensuring that it will live to fight another day, and that hundreds more Gazan civilians will be killed.
There is a name for that in the psychological literature for those who out of an excess of sympathy facilitate self-destructive behaviors of their loved ones: enablers. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry should not be Hamas’s enablers.
Written prior to Secretary of State Kerry’s farcical ceasefire proposal and President Obama’s intense pressure on Israel to accept it.
The two constants of the Obama administration’s foreign policy have both been on ample display in the efforts to force upon Israel a premature ceasefire to the fighting in Gaza. The first constant has been the consistent betrayal of allies – originally Poland and Czechoslovakia – to curry favor with enemies – i.e., Russia. Bernard Lewis long ago described the United States under Obama as “neither trusted by its friends nor feared by its enemies.”
The second constant has been an inexplicable affection for the Muslim Brotherhood, its supporters – Turkey and Qatar, and its offshoots – Hamas. Had the Obama administration had its way there would still be a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. Instead of the current Egyptian government closing down Hamas’s smuggling tunnels across the Philadelphi Corridor and fighting Islamic jihadists in the Sinai, Hamas would still be smuggling in rockets and concrete for its offensive tunnels and the Islamic jihadists would be extending their control over the Sinai.
With respect to the betrayal of allies, it would be nearly impossible to overstate the shock in Israel at the proposed ceasefire agreement Kerry put before the Israeli cabinet last Friday. The normally fractious cabinet rejected the proposal out of hand by an unanimous 19-0 vote, with the most left-wing member of the cabinet, Tzipi Livni, telling Kerry that his proposal was a non-starter.
The anger of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas at being by-passed by Kerry, who chose to negotiate with Hamas through its chosen interlocutors Turkey and Qatar, and not with the Abbas, who at least on paper heads a Palestinian unity government of which Hamas is nominally part, nearly matched the Israelis’, and was thoroughly vented in the official PA media. Nor was Egypt thrilled to have its ceasefire proposal, which Prime Minister Netanyahu had previously accepted, ditched in favor of Hamas’s demands channeled via Turkey and Qatar.
With respect to Obama’s affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood, Barak Ravid of the left-wing Ha’aretz, summed up the Kerry proposal thusly: [I]t might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. The document recognized Hamas’s position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’s disposal.”
After dumping this package of goodies on Israel, Kerry jetted off to France, where he was photographed the next day yukking it up with the Turkish and Qatari ambassadors. His choice of friends brought no joy to Jerusalem, or to Cairo, Amman, or Ramallah for that matter. Just days earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, whom Obama once called his best friend in the Middle East, had accused Netanyahu of being worse than Hitler. And Qatar, with which the U.S. has just signed an 11 billion dollar arms deal, is Hamas’s major financier and arms supplier. It has provided Hamas with nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars over the last two years. It is also the principal bankroller behind the ISIS, which has proclaimed a new caliphate in the vast expanse of Syrian and Iraqi territory it now controls. For good measure, Qatar provides better than half a billion dollars annually to jihadist groups in Libya.
WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA PRESSURED NETANYAHU to accept a ceasefire on Sunday night, he left any discussion of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip to a distant (and never to be reached future) when the conflict with Hamas (whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel) will somehow be peacefully resolved. At the same time he put the easing of the blockade on Gaza at the top of immediate concerns, even as Hamas’s pouring of all the concrete allowed to be imported under previous U.S. brokered ceasefire agreements into attack tunnels has made the necessity of the blockade on Gaza more evident than ever before.
The Kerry/Obama proposal effectively rewards Hamas for starting a war by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Obama presumably knows that there is no way in the world that Prime Minister Netanyahu could accept the Kerry proposal for an immediate ceasefire as a basis of discussion. The Israeli public, which at presents gives Netanyahu an 82% approval rating (approximately twice Obama’s), would have his head if Operation Preventive Edge ended before the government had certified that it has found and destroyed all the attack tunnels extending from Gaza into the Israel. Maariv reports that captured Hamas operatives have revealed plans for a mass terror attack on Rosh Hashanah employing multiple offensive tunnels. No one living near the Gaza border wants to live with such a threat underfoot.
Close to 50,000 reservists have been mobilized for Operation Protective Edge. Beyond the strain placed on the families of reservists, that mobilization costs the Israeli economy hundreds of millions of shekels daily. A ceasefire, especially one likely to be broken many times, only serves to multiply the costs of mobilization. In addition, it would provide Hamas with an opportunity to regroup and thus likely result in the loss of more Jewish lives, when the hostilities inevitably resume.
Israel has paid a terrible price in the blood of its soldiers – more than fifty of whom have been killed to date – out of recognition that the battle is one for our homes, as Netanyahu puts it. Should Israelis come to feel that blood was shed in vain, as would be the case if this turns out to be just another “mowing the lawn” operation, they will exact a high price from those deemed responsible.
In April 2002, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, after a month in which over 130 Jews lost their lives in terror attacks. A far friendlier American president, George W. Bush, ordered Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop the operation early on, before the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank had been dealt a serious blow. Sharon ignored him, and the operation continued for another three weeks.
Then too Israel paid a heavy price – 39 soldiers, including 13 killed in a booby-trapped house that any other army in the world would have destroyed from the outside without worrying if there might still be civilians inside. But the result of Operation Defensive Shield was an almost total stoppage of terrorism from Judaea and Samaria. Netanyahu will be judged according to the standard set by Sharon.
So unbalanced and lacking in any chance of doing anything other than fraying ties between the White House and Jerusalem was the American ceasefire proposal that one cannot help but think that the Obama put it forward to goad Republicans in Congress into trying to impeach him, as a means to boost his popularity.
TO UNDERSTAND THE LAST THREE WEEKS of fighting, it is necessary to keep in mind only three uncontestable points. First, Hamas started the fighting by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel, and could have stopped it by accepting an early Egyptian ceasefire proposal. It never considered doing so out of a desire to be able to declare “victory,” with a high casualty attack on the IDF or Israeli civilians.
The Federal Aviation Agency handed Hamas its first such “victory” when it banned American carriers from landing in Israel for a 24-hour period last week. Ha’aretz’s Amos Harel charged that the decision, which exacerbated Israelis’ sense of vulnerability and fears of being isolated, was designed by the Obama administration to give Israel a taste of the pressure that might be forthcoming if it does not go along with American demands.
The second point to remember is that Hamas if fully responsible, in both international law and morality, for the lives of its civilians lost in fighting. The number of Palestinian civilian casualties — no matter how wildly exaggerated – tells us nothing about Israeli brutality or lack of sufficient solicitude for Arab lives. Those casualties measure only one thing – Hamas’s complete indifference to the lives of those under their control. MEMRI and other groups have amassed numerous clips of Hamas calling upon citizens to sacrifice themselves by refusing to heed Israeli warnings to vacate combat zones.
To cite the number of civilian casualties as mandating a ceasefire as Obama and Kerry have done is to hand Hamas an important victory in reward for its callousness to its own subjects. It allows Hamas to decide when to start a conflict with Israel and to determine when it will end by ramping up civilian casualties as need be. Rewarded behavior is likely to be repeated behavior.
Why self-inflicted Palestinian casualties should horrify Obama more than the nearly 200,000 killed in Syria over the last three years is hard to say. Daniel Greenfield, however, hinted to a possible answer in an article entitled “Too Bad Assad Isn’t Jewish.”
Finally, Israel has not only the right but the obligation to remove imminent threats to the lives of its citizens. It will not do to keep repeating the mantra of Israel’s right to defend its citizens while denying it any practical means of doing so because the enemy’s deliberately chosen strategy of locating all military assets in highly populated areas inevitably results in many civilian casualties.
A right to self-defense that is purely theoretical but without practical application is of little value. That, however, is all that Obama and Kerry have had to offer us.
I get lots of correspondence, but a few paragraphs of something in my inbox today struck me as incisive and worthwhile sharing. It is doubly valuable in light of the opinion poll at the beginning of Operation Protective Edge that showed both black- and Latino-American support for Israel about twice that for the Palestinians.
Sorry to keep drawing parallels of the conflict to the historic experience of my ethnicity, but when I go through this exercise, it really helps me to see how absurd the claims and actions are of the anti-Israel contingent. Bear with me. There are persons of other ethnic minorities who have also turned to their respective historical experiences to come to the same conclusions as I. I read a good one today from “an angry black woman.” There is also this account from someone who is Metis.
For me as a Mexican who descends from people who saw their land truly stolen—not bought as the Zionists did—by people who had no historic, social, genetic or cultural connection to the American Southwest —again, completely unlike the Zionists—I can still stand behind supporting the government of the usurpers enough to embrace it as my government. Why? Because the bones of this government—the US Constitution—are fine and beautiful. The flesh encasing that skeleton in the 19th century may have run contrary to the ideals expressed in the Constitution, but much of that flesh has changed, owing to the fact that it did run contrary to the “bones” of our government.
I think many Mexican Americans in the 20th century instinctively recognized that fundamental reality even as they continued to face severe discrimination before and after their US military service. My family members were cognizant of the discrimination they faced, but were fiercely patriotic to the US and critical of Mexico … something I couldn’t quite grasp when I was in high school and college. Only years later did I come to realize that they rightly knew that the US is the best place to be. We have a Constitution that gives all its citizens hope enough to weather the storms.
If an indigenous people can come to embrace the government of the usurpers, ever more so ought Arabic-speaking Christians embrace the government enacted by Zionists—a people who were not usurpers, but indigenous as well (allowing for different parameters) and are, at the least, spiritual brethren. I hope Israelis—Jewish and Christian—find a way to foster this relationship.
Below are remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice to the National Jewish Leaders Assembly today (July 28) at the National Press Club in Washington.
I thought they might be of interest to Cross-Currents readers.
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you so much Bob for that incredibly generous introduction. I also want to thank my friend Malcolm and express my personal gratitude for this invitation. And it’s good to be back at the Conference of Presidents and seeing so many friends and familiar faces. Many of you have come from Jewish communities across this country in a strong show of support for Israel.
These are indeed difficult days. Today, together, all of us who care about the State of Israel are again confronted with the challenges of a dangerous and imperfect world: Of sirens and shelters. Young people called yet again to war. (Audience interruption). Of a land where, in the haunting phrase of Yitzhak Rabin, “parents bury their children.”
Today is the first day of Av, the month when Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. It’s a reminder that the Jewish people have endured much worse than rockets and survived much stronger enemies than Hamas. You have been tested by tragedy and time, by history and hatred. But each time, am yisrael chai: the people of Israel live.
This is a time of worry for all who care about Israel. But, here’s one thing you never have to worry about: America’s support for the State of Israel. As President Obama declared before the Israeli people in Jerusalem: “so long as there is a United States of America … you are not alone.”
That’s why, from the moment that terrorist rockets began to rain down on Israel, this Administration, from President Obama on down, has made it clear: Israel has the same, unequivocal right to self-defense as every other nation. No nation can accept terrorists tunneling into its territory or rockets crashing down on its people.
President Obama has been equally clear about who has been responsible for the violence. Hamas fired the rockets. Hamas deliberately targeted Israeli citizens, particularly civilians. Hamas refused an early plan for a ceasefire. Hamas, in a time of glaring human need, instead of investing in the future of Gaza’s children, built tunnels to kidnap and kill Israelis. So Hamas initiated this conflict. And, Hamas has dragged it on.
But, America and Israel are also united by a shared belief we each strive to honor: that every person is created equal and “b’tzelem elokim”—in the image of God.
I know we all share deep concern about the suffering and deaths of innocent people that arise from a conflict like this one – in Gaza as well as in Israel. The people of Gaza, many of whom disapprove of Hamas and suffer under its misrule, are trapped in the crossfire. The loss of children has been particularily heartbreaking.
As President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed yesterday, the United States supports an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. That humanitarian ceasefire should lead to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. For the sake of innocents on both sides, the rockets must stop. We need to bring the violence and civilian casualties to an end, and we are concerned that continued fighting could further destabilize the West Bank. We need to protect Israel’s security and help it reach an arrangement where it will not be attacked again in another year or two. We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must result in the disarmament of terrorist groups. So we will work closely with Israel, regional partners, and the international community to achieve this goal once a sustainable ceasefire is agreed.
Let me also take a moment to acknowledge, as Ambassador Dermer did, the extraordinary efforts of Secretary Kerry. I must tell you: we’ve been dismayed by some press reports in Israel mischaracterizing his efforts last week to achieve a ceasefire. We know these misleading reports in turn raise concerns here at home in America.
The reality is that John Kerry on behalf of the United States has been working every step of the way with Israel, in support of our shared interests. Both in public and in private, we have strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets and tunnel attacks, and we’ve engaged together in sensitive negotiations. We will continue to do so. And, we’ll continue to set the record straight when anyone distorts the facts.
As we pursue diplomacy, we are grateful that the amazing Iron Dome anti-rocket system – researched and funded jointly by Israel and America – stands watch over Israel’s cities.
During my most recent visit to Israel in May, I saw first-hand the technology at Palmachim Air Force Base. I met the young Israelis who operate the system—dedicated men and women now working around the clock. In recent weeks, on average, over 100 rockets a day have been fired at Israel. Iron Dome has literally meant the difference between life and death. And I’m deeply proud that President Obama helped make it possible. And, I’m proud that – with his enthusiastic support—the United States will more than double our investment in Iron Dome. The President also instructed the Secretary of Defense to inform Congress last week that we support an additional $225 million to accelerate the production of Iron Dome components in Israel this year and maintain Israel’s stockpile of interceptor missiles. Now, Congress has a critical opportunity this week to fund the President’s supplemental request, so that Israel can remain secure.
Iron Dome makes it clear yet again: America has Israel’s back. We have always had a truly special relationship—ever since President Truman made America the first nation in the world to recognize the State of Israel in May 1948, just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence. The seeds of friendship planted that day have grown into a mighty oak– strong, sturdy, and enduring.
Our governments have never been in closer touch, including through the delegation of senior officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, and Defense, and the CIA that I led to Israel, on behalf of the President, in May. We are in constant contact, constant consultation, constant cooperation. And by the way, that’s why I was late getting here—I was on the phone in the basement with my Israeli counterpart. So it is constant, it is daily and it is highly constructive.
Our commitment to protect Israel’s qualitative military edge remains absolute. Just ask Israel’s generals. Our security assistance to Israel is at a record high.
The relationship is even stronger between our peoples. Just last week, 30,000 Israelis came to the funeral of Max Steinberg, a young man from Los Angeles who joined the Israel Defense Forces and was killed in Gaza. Another 20,000 came to pay respects to Sean Carmeli, from Texas.
Israel is not alone—not in war, not in peace.
And because America staunchly supports Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state, we’ll also continue doing what we can to bring about a just, comprehensive, and secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians –two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security. We are committed to strengthening Israel’s security in achieving this goal –and cementing Israel’s rightful place among the community nations.
Which brings me to my next point. We don’t just fight for Israel’s security. We also fight for Israel’s legitimacy.
As President Obama said in Jerusalem, “those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.”
No country is immune to criticism – nor should it be. But when that criticism takes the form of singling out just one country unfairly, bitterly, and relentlessly—over and over and over—that’s just wrong, and we all know it.
I saw this firsthand during my years at the United Nations, where America always has Israel’s back when its basic right of self-defense is challenged. Believe me, I remember all too well the fight against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. So, last week, when the United Nations Human Rights Council again passed a one-sided resolution calling for a commission of inquiry that will have no positive impact and should never have been created– the United States stood with Israel and said “no.” We were the lone vote in the Human Rights Council. Even our closest friends on the Council abstained. It was 29-1. But the “1”, as usual, was America. That’s what we mean when we say “you are not alone.”
We take that stand on principle. It’s important not just for Israel, but for the credibility of the United Nations itself. The UN does exceptional, lifesaving things around the world: empowering women and girls, keeping the peace in far-flung conflict zones, providing humanitarian aid whether in Gaza, Syria, or Congo and around the world. The world needs the United Nations. So when countries single out Israel for unfair treatment at the UN, it isn’t just a problem for Israel. It’s a problem for all of us.
And, today, we also see anti-Semitism flaring up around the world, including in Europe. The pretext is the passions coming out of the current conflict, but we all know it has its roots in something ancient and ugly—and we should not shy away from calling it by its name.
It’s one thing to use the right of free expression to criticize particular policies of a particular government. No nation is immune from criticism, fair and otherwise, including our own—take it from me as a former UN ambassador. But an anti-Jewish riot is not a policy critique. It’s not free expression when a protest turns into a mob that attacks a synagogue and a kosher grocery store. It’s one thing when the message is “end the fighting,” but when the message is “Death to the Jews,” it’s an outrage. And it’s dangerous when the mayor of a major city takes to Twitter to invoke Hitler and incite hostility against the Israeli Embassy, which he called “the despicable murderers’ consulate.” That’s just hate, and it’s got to stop. As the late Tom Lantos used to say, “the veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.”
And so when leaders in Tehran talk openly about ending the State of Israel, that’s just one more reason why America is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we have marshaled unprecedented economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran. We have brought Iran to the negotiating table and signed a Joint Plan of Action that halted Iran’s progress on its nuclear program—and rolled it back in key respects for the first time in nearly a decade. This interim agreement has given us the time and space to try to negotiate a comprehensive solution. To date, we have made meaningful progress on some key issues, although we remain far apart on several others. As a result, we decided – along with the European Union, Germany and the other permanent members of the Security Council – to extend the agreement until November 24th.
Our goal remains clear: a comprehensive, verifiable deal that can assure the world that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that will offer confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. But let me be blunt about two things—maybe I should say two other things. First, we will not accept a bad deal under any circumstances—even if that means no deal. And second, we will do what we must to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
All this is rooted in a very special friendship between the United States and Israel, stretching back from before Israel’s birth to today. And, for me, it’s rooted in powerful personal experience. I will never forget my very first visit to Israel. I was just 14, and I went with my younger brother and my beloved late father, who was then on the Board of Directors of Trans World Airlines. On that trip, we bowed our heads at Yad Vashem, floated in the Dead Sea, walked the lanes of the Old City, climbed Masada, and picked fruit at a kibbutz. I learned by heart the words of the Sh’ma.
And here’s something that has always stayed with me: to go on that first trip, I was privileged to take one of the very first flights from Cairo to Tel Aviv, just after Israel and Egypt had signed the Camp David Accords. That peace seemed impossible for so long—but it wasn’t. That peace, enduring to this day, reminds us that human conflict and human problems can be resolved by human courage. You know that. It’s why you’re here today, and it’s why I came too.
My friends, these are difficult days. But as Israel’s former president, my friend Shimon Peres, likes to say: “There are no hopeless situations, just hopeless people.” We all know a few of them. So let us remember, especially in troubled times, that despair is a sin, and service is a duty. America doesn’t lose hope. The Jewish people don’t lose hope. And the State of Israel doesn’t lose hope. That’s why Israel’s national anthem is “Hatikvah”— the hope. And that’s why, in this imperfect and dangerous world, we ask together for God’s blessing and help. We pray for security and for peace — but we know that it’s not enough just to pray for it. We’ve got to work for it—together, united, and determined. Because, as President Kennedy once said, “here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” And that is what we strive to do together every day. Thank you.
I cannot reveal my source. All I can say is that it happened as he patrolled late at night in a Beit Hanoun street abandoned by its residents, walking a few paces ahead of the rest of his unit. He saw a figure, standing to the side, shrouded in light. “Sholom alechah, my son,” he said. His voice was redolent with peace and tranquility. My friend instantly realized that this figure was not of this world, and responded, “Sholom alechah, rabi u-mori. I presume that you are Eliyahu ha-Navi?” The figure smiled. “Not quite. They used to call me Levi Yitzchok, and I have been watching the events here with keen interest. I had to come back to revise one of my more famous songs – A Din Toyre Mit G-tt.” He handed my friend a handwritten scrap of paper, and vanished into the night.
Good morning to You, Ribbono shel Olam.
I, Levi Yitzchak, son of Sarah Sosho of Berditchev,
I come to you with a Din Torah from Your people, Yisrael.
What do you want of Your people Yisrael?
For everywhere I look it says, “Say to the People of Israel.”
And every other verse says, … Read More >>
by Avrohom Gordimer
Cross-Currents readership is all too familiar with discussion about Open Orthodoxy; every nook and cranny of Open Orthodoxy could be explored with a critical eye through Cross-Currents’ numerous articles on the subject, spanning a lengthy period of time. Once the major issues of Open Orthodoxy had been fully brought to the table, it was decided that our focus and energy should be directed elsewhere, as the Orthodox public assumedly had been presented with enough information about Open Orthodoxy to be well-informed, if not saturated. More discussion about Open Orthodoxy seemed moot, and it was hoped and supposed that Open Orthodox leadership would constructively utilize the criticisms to recalibrate the movement’s trajectory onto a more normative path.
However, we were dead wrong, for as we turned our attention away, the nature and magnitude of the challenges presented by Open Orthodoxy increased beyond imagination. Over the past several months, the intellectual leadership of Open Orthodoxy openly embraced highly problematic positions regarding the origins of Torah She-b’al Peh; Open Orthodox rabbis around the United States engaged in new, more radical types of interfaith and interdenominational endeavors that could make one’s hair stand on end; and much more.
… Read More >>
The solution to the long and ongoing war between Hamas and Israel is an obvious one, and it consists of two words: Gazan Spring.
Everyone knows the facts. Hamas, pledged to Israel’s destruction, is the de facto government in Gaza. In the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January, 2006, it won 74 out of 132 seats. Even though the United States and the European Union refused to recognize Hamas’ right to govern any area of the Palestinian Authority, it took control of Gaza and, began to fight with Fatah, its Palestinian rival. Over subsequent years, clashes and truces between the two groups became the recurrent reality. Many hundreds of Palestinians have been killed there by their fellow Palestinians.
Just before the recent spate of violence between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas entered into an agreement with Hamas to form a unity government. That latest attempt to heal the rift between the Palestinian faction that aims to eradicate Israel and the one that professes to back a two-state solution was widely expected to eventually meet the fate of previous, similar Fatah-Hamas pacts, which fell apart as a result of the two groups’ inherently diametric stances.
Now, with Israel’s … Read More >>
As I write on Thursday afternoon [July 17] more than 1300 Hamas rockets have been fired at Israel without causing a single fatality. (An Israeli volunteer assisting troops in the South was killed by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip.)
Of course, many of us remember miracles of an even greater magnitude during the first Gulf War when 39 Iraqi Scud missiles – with vastly larger payloads than the Hamas rockets – hit Israel. Yehuda Barkan, at that time one of Israel’s most popular screen stars, had, like Yisro, an “ear” to hear. Though he describes his life at that time as totally involved in the pleasures of the flesh, he could not shake the feeling that something miraculous had occurred.
Thirty-nine Scuds hit Israel, in many cases causing huge damage, and no one was killed directly by the missiles. (That’s how Barkan tells the story today, though I remember that one person was killed – someone who enjoyed riding his motorcycle through the streets of Bnei Brak on Shabbos.) Yet Saddam Hussein fired only one Scud at Saudi Arabia, and killed 25 American servicemen on their base.
Soon after he began to mull over the contrast, Barkan stopped … Read More >>
I am convinced that Israel had no choice but to undertake a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip, and that the time has never been so propitious in terms of what can be achieved by such an operation. “Mowing the grass” for the third time in five and a half years is not sufficient, and will only result in a higher cost later.
That said, I am relieved not to be the one charged with actually making that decision. In the natural order, a ground invasion of Gaza will certainly cost many Jewish lives, perhaps hundreds. Anyone who does not feel the weight of such a decision should not be prime minister of Israel. On the other hand, anyone who cannot make such a decision should not be prime minister of Israel.
No national leader in the world faces as many such decisions weighing the costs of lives now versus those likely to be lost at a future date due to inaction as the prime minister of Israel . Such balancing, which in the nature of things must always be made in a state of uncertainty, is implicated in every prisoner exchange and it is at the heart … Read More >>
From day one of its existence, the sole raison d’etre of the Hamas quasi-state in Gaza has been to kill Jews, the more the merrier.
Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has siphoned off billions of dollars of foreign aid money to build a vast labyrinth of underground tunnels, whose only purpose is to hide rockets to be launched at Israel’s civilian population and to facilitate mass terror attacks in the form of cross border raids on kibbutzim, moshavim and towns close to the border.
All the human energy of the Gaza Strip has gone into the digging of the tunnels, often by hand. The very magnitude of the effort both impresses and depresses, for it is a measure of the hatred of Jews of Hamas and its followers.
Hamas proudly proclaims its goal of reclaiming the entirety of Palestine and killing all the Jews in its Charter. Article VI of the Charter announces that the Islamic Resistance Movement exists to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Article VII states that the final resurrection will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and the very trees call out, “There is a Jew … Read More >>
by Asher Brander
As of last Friday, no soldiers had fallen. Now we have 32 korbanos. Hashem Yerachem
In a trip that started out for us with chasunos, we and the whole country are busy with shivas and levayas – even as one can not fail to acknowledge the revealed miracles of this war, B’chasdei Hashem.
There are almost no words of machlokes to be heard. People are packing anything (energy bars, tissues and t-shirts) and everything to send to the soldiers. Tehillim is said across the spectrum. Chassidishe Rebbes are “holding tish” in Gaza.
By now, most have heard the story of Max Steinberg – a free-spirited young man who hesitatingly came to Israel in 2012 on Birthright with his siblings, was touched in a profoundly personal and deep way, decided that this was the country of his calling, fought to get into Golani and fought and died in Gaza on that bloody Sunday this past week where we lost 13 beautiful young men. On Wednesday, among tens of thousands, we attended his funeral.
One wonders: How does a secular young man with almost no Jewish education, who barely knew hebrew, merit to have a funeral with aza … Read More >>
by Shaya Karlinsky
We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.
In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously … Read More >>
As Israel applies itself to the task of rooting out terrorists in Gaza, and destroying their tunnels and rocket launchers, there have been, as always when Israel acts to defend herself, condemnations of her effort to protect her citizens from an enemy bent on murdering them.
Seizing on the tragic consequences of even as just a war as the one Israel is conducting against Hamas, the condemners vehemently protest Israel’s actions – and, in the time-honored tradition of Jew-hatred, wax violent against Jews, wherever they may be.
And so, we have come to witness over recent weeks hatred and violence directed toward Jewish communities in France and other countries. Such incidents are reminiscent of an earlier, darker time in our history when hatred of Jews was openly and unabashedly expressed both verbally and physically. Witnessing these attacks today is a stark and chilling reminder that the scourge of anti-Semitism remains a malignant reality in the modern world.
Without questioning the sentiments or actions of the French government, or of the other governments involved, the fact that these incidents have primarily taken place in Europe, where just decades ago many “ordinary citizens” were complicit in the persecution and extermination … Read More >>
Long-time readers are by now familiar with Rosenblum’s Rule: Where Torah Jews are in the majority their attention to issues of Kiddush Hashem declines; when they are in the minority, especially a small minority their intrapersonal behavior improves. I first formulated this rule many years ago while observing a group of kindergarten age kids in Boro Park rush out of class and promptly block all traffic on the street adjacent to their cheder. That was their turf, and they were not going to be deterred by the honking of a line of irritated drivers. One of the research projects I’d like to see the newly formed Center for Jewish Reseach and Communication undertake is a comparative study of the attitudes of those raised in all-chareidi environments to those raised in religiously mixed cities and towns. Until then, Rosenblum’s Rule remains only a hypothesis based on anecdotal observation. But further anecdotal evidence of the positive side of the rule came last Erev Shabbos. My wife and I were in the Galilee for around 24 hours, and decided to visit the Torah community in Carmiel, where I know exactly one person, the son-in-law of a close friend. When I was a … Read More >>
Even more remarkable than the article itself was where it appeared.
Written by Elissa Strauss, an essayist and a “co-artistic director” of a “non-religious Jewish house of study for culture-makers at the 14th Street Y” in New York, the piece – “What Did the Orthodox Do Now?!” – graced the pages of the Forward, where Ms. Strauss is a contributing editor.
The essay’s focus was the non-Orthodox Jewish media’s “fixation with Haredi Jews”; those organs’ “hunger for sensationalism” in their reportage on the Orthodox community; the “crude laziness” evidenced by such tunnel vision; and the reduction of “a whole community of Jews” to “a kind of caricature in stories that often traffic in stereotypes.”
Points well taken, and the Forward, of course, is a good example of such invidious ink-spilling. It has some excellent reporters but also maintains a stable of writers and bloggers with chronically jaundiced views of the charedi world. And so it deserves credit for publishing Ms. Strauss’ piece, which was essentially a rebuke of its own journalistic bent with regard to our community.
Ms. Strauss attributes the obsessive negativity displayed by some non-Orthodox writers for charedim to a desire to feel a “moral superiority” … Read More >>
I just can’t seem to remember whether President Obama telephoned me last night. It was a busy evening. I had a chasuna, a seder and davened Maariv.
No, I’m quite sure I didn’t get a call from the White House. But the father of murdered Arab teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir did receive one the other day from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader expressed his deep condolences for what authorities have described as a nationalism-inspired killing, and pledged that the “perpetrators of this horrific crime” would face the full severity of the law. “There is no place for such murderers” in Israeli society, Mr. Netanyahu said.
Asked later by the Jerusalem Post about the call, the father said that he had received dozens of phone calls and couldn’t recall if Mr. Netanyahu had been among the callers. Ishaq Abu Khdeir, a representative of the Arab victim’s family, denied outright that the Prime Minister had telephoned the family. “This is a false claim,” he said.
The family also refused, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, to allow Israeli president Shimon Peres to pay a condolence call in person. When security personnel arrived to prepare … Read More >>
The mind reels from trying to wrap itself around the fact that fellow Jews could not only have murdered an innocent Arab teenager, but done so by sadistically setting him on fire.
But there is no longer any escaping the fact that the murderers of Mohammed Abu Kdheir were in all likelihood Jewish.
As she has done so frequently in recent weeks, Rachel Fraenkel, still in mourning for her son Naftali, spoke for the almost all Israelis in her message of condolence to Mohammed’s parents: “No mother should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Mohammed’s parents. . . . The shedding of innocent blood is in defiance of all morality, of the Torah, and is against the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in this country.”
Magnifying the evil of the deed itself is the utter senselessness of it. The perpetrators have thrown their own lives away. If convicted, there is far less chance that they will ever be freed from prison than that the murderers of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, if captured, will one day be released in another … Read More >>