In his editorial last week, Ami’s editor Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter raised an important point about religious Jews’ presidential election priorities.
An interview he conducted earlier this summer included assertions about President Obama that, were they true, would properly earn the president the opprobrium of Jews concerned with Israel’s wellbeing (all Jews, one hopes).
While reasonable people can certainly think that a Republican president would be better for Israel, I subsequently pointed out that the assertions that appeared in Ami were unsubstantiated.
Now Rabbi Frankfurter has now chosen to level a new charge against the president, about his “social agenda,” which Newt Gingrich informed (or told) Rabbi Frankfurter is to create a “very, very secular America, in which religion can exist for about one hour a week.”
That alleged “ongoing effort to chase G-d out of the public sphere” (Rabbi Frankfurter’s words) began (in Mr. Gingrich’s) “with the Supreme Court decision on school prayer in 1963.” When Mr. Obama was two years old (the little rascal).
My defense of Mr. Obama on the issues of Israel and national security were never aimed at promoting his candidacy, but simply an effort to respect truth, and to urge the shunning of over-the-top … Read More >>
Last week’s four day joint US-Israel naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, which were boycotted by Turkey and included the sort of guided-missile destroyers that could theoretically help defend Israel against Iranian missiles, formed an interesting backdrop for the latest attempt by my dear friend Chanan Gordon to besmirch President Obama.
Chanan, in Ami Magazine, was responding to a recent column of mine in that periodical, itself a response to an interview there in which he claimed that Mr. Obama is psychologically troubled, ideologically radical and dangerous to Israel.
I pointed out in my column that Chanan’s judgment was based on unnamed “reliable sources,” wild speculation and was largely informed, it seemed, by some inexplicable animus he harbors, for no justifiable reason, for Mr. Obama.
Last week, Ami provided Chanan four pages of the magazine to present a more cogent argument for his accusations.
What those pages offered were the following revelations:
1) Chanan lived in a Harvard dorm whose other residents included people who would come, years later, to play roles in Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. And one fellow who taught Chanan about a radical professor whom Mr. Obama once introduced at a rally about diversity at … Read More >>
It is painful to publicly criticize something written by a dear friend. But improper public words require a public response.
I have known Chanan Gordon for years and deeply admire his passion to bring all Jews closer to their religious heritage. But Ami’s interview of him in a recent issue left me saddened and puzzled.
He pronounces President Obama an “intellectual lightweight,” “arrogant,” possessive of “a grandiose sense of self-importance” and “a sense of entitlement”; and asserts that his reelection would be a “tragedy.” Reb Chanan’s credentials for reaching those conclusions are that he attended Harvard at the same time as Mr. Obama, and “was close to people who were close to him.” They may even have been in one class together.
Reb Chanan considers it somehow iniquitous that, when at Harvard, Mr. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review but wrote no articles for it. What’s more, he “heard that Obama took pains to recalibrate its ideological disposition.” Also, the man who would become president, Reb Chanan asserts, was “not popular” with others at Harvard.
“Reliable sources” are cited, one contending that Mr. Obama cut off communication with two former financial backers—a sign, in Reb … Read More >>
July 9, 2012
Parragon Books Ltd email@example.com
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing as the public affairs director of a national Jewish organization, Agudath Israel of America, whose Education Affairs division services Jewish private schools across North America.
A constituent who serves as a school librarian in two New York private schools has called to our attention some disturbing passages in a Parragon-published text.
The “Encyclopedia of World History: From the Stone Age to the 21st Century” includes, in the section “The Modern World,” an entry for “Israel and Palestine” (pp. 208-209).
It asserts that “the land around Jerusalem” was “the ancient homeland of the Jews,” and that after their expulsion from the Holy Land, their “desire to return led to a long conflict with the people living there.” It then notes that “small numbers of Jews, known as Zionists, began to settle in Palestine in the 1880’s.”
Leaving aside that the ancient Jewish monarchy in the Holy Land is understood by historians to have extended well beyond the environs of Jerusalem, the insinuation that there was no Jewish presence in the area for centuries until the late nineteenth century is not true. It is, to be … Read More >>
Item: Iran’s vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, took the occasion of an International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking conference in Tehran to tell the assembled that the Talmud and “Zionists” dedicated to it are responsible for the spread of illegal drugs around the world.
Dear Mr. Rahimi,
Oh, great, esteemed vice president of the beneficent, revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran, you have exposed us mightily! Revealed us mercilessly! Nailed us good! The raven-eyed maidens of the Hereafter are singing your praises—may you merit to meet them soon!
How did you manage to uncover our plots and machinations? We have tried so very hard to hide our true intentions, to cloak our nefarious plans with a smokescreen of good deeds, religious devotion, and charity. Somehow, though, in your astuteness, you have ferreted out the truth, that our “objective is the destruction of the world” and that “the spread of narcotics in the world emanates from the teachings of the Talmud.”
As it states clearly in Baba Maiseh 1b: “Any Jew who causes a non-Jew to become addicted to an illegal substance is praiseworthy! Adds Rabbi Narish, ‘he can deduct the expenses from his federal income tax.’ Say the … Read More >>
Over fifty years ago, I was playing checkers with my father, a”h, on a Sunday morning. The next oldest brother in our family line-up, not yet five years old, sat on my father’s lap. Suddenly, he could not contain himself and shouted out, “Look, Daddy, look,” before proceeding to make a quintuple jump. I don’t recall ever playing checkers again.
I was put in mind of that quintuple jump last week, on Tuesday morning, when Israel awakened to learn that the elections in September voted on by the Knesset just the day before would not be taking place. Instead the largest peacetime coalition in Israel’s history had been assembled in the small hours of the morning. Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, the official leader of the opposition when we went to bed, had joined the governing coalition, brining his 29 Kadima MKs together with him. The day before Mofaz had been lambasting Netanyahu as a “liar” from the podium of the Knesset. Now he had accepted the position of Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister.
And most surprising, not one of the country’s political analysts – of which Israel has more per capita than any other country – had seen this coming. … Read More >>
In the wake of President Obama’s sharing of his personal feeling that the millennia-old institution of marriage should be redefined in contemporary America, National Jewish Democratic Council chair Marc R. Stanley declared his admiration for the president’s demonstration of “the values of tikkun olam.”
A political group is entitled to its opinion, no less than a president is to his. But to imply that a religious value like “tikkun olam” – and by association, Judaism – is somehow implicated in a position like the one the president articulated, is outrageous, offensive and wrong.
We hereby state, clearly and without qualification, that the Torah forbids homosexual acts, and sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.
The Orthodox Jewish constituency represented by Agudath Israel of America, as well as countless other Jews who respect the Jewish religious tradition, remain staunch in their opposition to redefining marriage.
First it was the BBC telling the truth about Israel’s humane efforts against terrorism, and the desires of Gazans to continue to fight the “occupation” of Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv.
For those who have been following the case of George Zimmerman, who claimed to have shot an African-American teenager in self-defense, was believed, and then was charged following protests and a media willing to charge him with racism (despite Zimmerman, who is Hispanic (and, despite the name, not Jewish) serving as a mentor to two African-American children), something similar happened last week. ABC News first joined the media’s conviction of Zimmerman in abstentia, scanning grainy security camera footage and hastily pronouncing that there were no signs of injury on the back of George Zimmerman’s head, casting doubt on his story. Last week, however, ABC not only released an exclusive photograph claiming to show the bloodied back of Zimmerman’s head, but also pointed out that the image, taken with a cell phone, included encapsulated information showing that it was taken near Zimmerman’s location 3 minutes after the shooting was heard on 911 tapes. In other words, his claim of self-defense appears quite likely to have been true all … Read More >>
There isn’t a sane person on the planet—at least if evil counts as insanity—who doesn’t wish for Iran to be forced to abandon its nuclear ambitions (or to have them vaporized by one or another air force).
Many American Jews—most Orthodox Jews likely among them—feel that the military option is the only realistic one, and that it needs to be employed as soon as possible. Actually, yesterday.
It’s an understandable feeling. Iran’s president hasn’t made a secret of his lust for a world without an Israel, or of his country’s progress in producing nuclear material. (Though he has tried mightily to make secrets of the whereabouts of Iran’s nuclear facilities and of its less-than-peaceful plans for the uranium it is enriching).
It has become an article of faith for many that economic pressure on Iran is futile, that negotiations will only buy the mullahcracy time. To disagree is apostasy.
In this view, the apostate-in-chief is President Obama. Yes, he declared at last week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington that “I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary” regarding Iran. But he is nevertheless inclined to give the unprecedented sanctions that have … Read More >>
by Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt
Your book, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots, touched a lot of nerves and unsettled a lot of hearts in the Orthodox Jewish community. It is not every day that a Satmar woman divorces her husband, moves to Manhattan and writes a tell-all book about the experience. It is not every day that a Satmar woman writes about her Chassidic experience with derision and her sexual relations without inhibition.
My wife’s family is from Satmar, too. Her great-great grandfather was the shochet and chazzan in Satmar, Hungary, serving Grand Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum before WWII. Her great-grandfather left Satmar in the 1930s and moved to Portsmouth, England where he served as the Orthodox pulpit rabbi of a less than observant congregation. His wife wanted to raise their children in a more modern environment and he went along with that decision. He never trimmed his beard or payos in Satmar but did so in Portsmouth. His wife shaved her hair in Satmar but didn’t do so in Portsmouth.
They didn’t write a book about the ordeal, as you did. They respected their parents’ insular ways even if they couldn’t follow the path themselves. … Read More >>
Hatred. No, “blind hatred,” a “hatred so visceral that anything the man supports must be bad, wrong, and shot down,” because he’s “anti-American, anti-Semitic, or a baby-killing godless Communist.” It’s an “all-encompassing” hatred.
It’s about acting “to tear down the other side, rather than show their strength through intelligent, reasoned discourse.” “The knee-jerk Obama-hatred just runs so deep that all logic flies out the window.”
All of the above comes from Gavriella Lerner’s screed in the Forward, helpfully entitled “The Truth About Orthodoxy’s Obama-Hatred.” In brief, it is her argument that since Jewish law permits many forms of birth control in a variety of situations, the decision of the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel to “align themselves with the Catholic Church” is simply because they hate Obama, rather than because they believe in controlling women — which, according to her, is the only alternative.
Now of course, if she had cared in the least about what both groups actually had to say, it wasn’t at all hard to figure out their rationale. One, in fact, needs to be a member of neither organization to discern that the administration’s new policy is an assault upon religious freedoms, and, … Read More >>
It was over a decade ago, in the wake of a spate of terrible terrorist attacks on Jews in Eretz Yisrael, that the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah called upon Jews to recite chapters of Tehillim (they suggested chapters 83, 130, and 142) in shul after davening, followed by the short prayer “Acheinu,” a supplication to G-d to show mercy to His people. Many shuls, to their great credit, to this day still dutifully seize that special merit at the end of their services. None of us can know what dangers that collective credit may have averted, may be averting still.
It occurred to me, though, that recent events might well inspire us—not only those of us Jews who look to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah for guidance, but all good-hearted Jews, charedi, “modern Orthodox,” non-Orthodox, “traditional,” and secular-minded alike—to consider reciting the holy words with special concentration, and the short prayer with an additional, somewhat different, intent.
For we have witnessed of late…
Reports of verbal and physical attacks on innocent Jews, even children, by other Jews who were, ostensibly, dissatisfied with their marks’ level of modesty.
The exploitation of media to bring such outrages, and exaggerations of … Read More >>
What could be the connection between intensified Israeli media incitement against haredim and the appearance of a new Yom-tov prayerbook designed exclusively for Israeli Jews? On the surface, none. But let’s glance beneath the surface.
Media incitement against haredim is old hat, an automatic Pavlovian reaction against their favorite bête noir. Were there no haredim, they would have to be invented for the benefit of the secular elites and their servile media. Whipping boys are hard to find.
Recently, however, the incitement has become unusually shrill. Granted, haredi society is far from perfect, and the behavior of some of its adherents far from exemplary. But even though one expects higher standards from those who defend Torah values, the fact is that whenever a haredi commits a wrong that would normally be reported on the page 15, the anti-religious media, religiously faithful to the tradition of yellow journalism, pounce on it and create a media circus: screaming headlines, attack columns, admonishing editorials.
Certainly the ugly behavior of some haredi hooligans, such as those in Beit Shemesh, are abhorrent. They bring shame to the name of Gd, Torah, and Orthodox Jewry, trampling upon the pleasant dracheha darchei noam face of Torah. … Read More >>
by Michael Freund
This past Sunday I got a first-hand glimpse of one of the hottest phenomena in American pop culture and sports.
The venue was Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, the occasion was the first round of the National Football League playoffs.
Just prior to the start of the game between the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons, after the Giants had come onto the field, eight of their players headed toward the end zone, where they did something entirely unexpected.
These hulking and intimidating behemoths, who make their living by strapping on layers of protective body gear and pummelling their opponents, each knelt down on one knee, bowed their heads, and offered a silent prayer.
This act has come to be known as “Tebowing,” after Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, whose signature prayerful genuflections have become a popular and internet sensation.
Tebow, who has led his team to some stunning comeback victories, including this past weekend when he tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers, is an unabashed fan of his Christian faith. He talks about it in interviews and does not shy away from publicly thanking … Read More >>
by Dovid Kornreich
There is a recurrent theme that I’ve read on Jblogs and newspapers, and it has two parts:
1) Chareidi society somehow engenders extremism and these incidents in Beit Shemesh are its bitter fruit.
2) Neglect by the rest of Chareidi leadership to publicly condemn the extreme acts is a form of acquiescence by silence.
The response to the first charge is that your average chareidi individual living in, let’s say Bayit Vegan or Har Nof, shares very little of the *cultural* values and norms of Mea She’arim Chareidim. The sad reality is that Chareidim are an extremely factionalized and subdivided group, and the divisions are deep and operate on many different levels of which outsiders simply have no appreciation.
True, on religious and political issues vis-a-vis non-Chareidim and especially the non-religious, most Chareidim seem to rally together as a unified group to oppose a common threat. But socially, there is very little meaningful contact between Mea Shea’rim Charedim (and their RBS offshoots) and the rest of the Chareidi population.
So one can’t credibly say that “Chareidi society” engenders violence, extremism, intolerance etc. There is very little *culturally* that unites all Chareidim. And it is the uniquely … Read More >>
One of the many downsides of a world that moves as quickly as ours is that many of us feel we must react to events in “real time” rather than after some research and thought. Leon Wieseltier once wisely remarked that the concept of such immediate reaction (he was speaking of blogs) is predicated on the ridiculous idea that our first thoughts are our best thoughts. Reactions, in other words, are one animal; thoughtful judgments, an entirely different genus.
Enough time has passed—I hope—for a measured, non-knee-jerk, objective look at events of several weeks ago that were very quickly reacted to by many in the Jewish world. The events comprised a trifecta of sorts of alleged anti-Israel sentiment: a speech by the U.S. Secretary of State; remarks by an American ambassador; and the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s response to a question.
It didn’t help, of course, that a presidential election is looming. Republican candidates led the charge, claiming that the trio of (as they portrayed them) dastardly comments were just proof to their charge that the current administration hates Israel.
The remarks Hillary Clinton reportedly made at a private gathering in Washington were indeed offensive. Ms. Clinton seemed to … Read More >>
For all the protests to the contrary, recent news articles (and comments right here on Cross-Currents) have demonstrated why Agudath Israel felt the need to warn against confusing the behavior of isolated thugs with the sincere religious convictions of many Orthodox Jews. With alarming speed, the voluntary separation of genders in public spaces has been muddled with spitting on seven-year-old children.
Like it or not, or whether our favorite writer Naomi Ragen has heard of it, it is true in Halacha that a man should not walk behind a woman. Manoach walked after his wife, and for this reason was called an Am HaAretz (ignoramus). You and I and most everyone else might not consider sitting behind a woman to be problematic, but I know many Chassidim do — and I’m not willing to tell them how to observe their religion. Freedom of association and freedom of religion apply to Chassidim too. If they don’t want to sit behind a woman, does that mean they don’t deserve to ride public transportation?
Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely is the most recent to demonstrate that she doesn’t believe that Chassidim should have these freedoms. She recently, with her entourage and … Read More >>
I have been too busy to post as often as I wanted, and yet wanted to say something, anything, about the fool who said his “rabbis” told him it was ok to spit at a child because she wasn’t dressed the way he wanted. It’s shocking, it’s appalling, and of course has been used to stir up an anti-charedi media frenzy — as if the men and women who voluntarily separate on public transportation are somehow related to lunatic sikrikim (loosely, fanatics) who listen only to the “rabbis” found in their feeble imaginations.
So it was something of a relief to receive the following in my inbox, from the authoritative source of charedi Rabbinic thought in America, putting to rest once and for all the idea that these thugs have rabbinic backing and sparing me the task of writing something more coherent myself:
Upon consultation with its rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement today:
Reports of recent events in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh are deeply disturbing.
Violence of any sort, whether physical or verbal, by self-appointed “guardians” of modesty is reprehensible. Such conduct is beyond the bounds of decent, moral – Jewish! – … Read More >>
I was honestly humbled by the participation of the speakers who preceded me at the Sunday morning session of Agudath Israel of America’s most recent national convention.
They were: the venerable Malcolm Hoenlein (whose name, I noted, seems hinted at in the verse “Bnai Tziyon yagilu b’Malcolm”), and the likewise rightly celebrated Professor Aaron Twerski. The topic was “The Lamb Among Seventy Wolves”—the precarious position of the Jewish people among the nations.
Mr. Hoenlein provided a comprehensive overview of contemporary anti-Semitism and geopolitics; Professor Twerski focused on the dismaying import for Jews of the world economic situation.
My assignment was to address spiritual threats to our people.
I suggested that the distinction between spiritual and physical menaces may be illusionary, that the former in fact underlie the latter.
Fighting anti-Semitism, and its illegitimate offspring anti-Israel-ism, must be a priority. At the same time, though, a mesora-attuned mindset must always know that Jews’ wellbeing is ultimately not a function of articles, activism or armaments. Those are tools. What empowers them is where we stand, as a community and as individuals, in matters of the spirit.
It should be obvious. Jews comprise 2/10ths of 1 percent … Read More >>
To judge from the media, both Israeli and international, the status of women in Israel is under an assault of crisis proportions. No less a figure than U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has chimed in that the status of women in Israel reminds her of Tehran. Much of the recent discussion, however, has been overwrought, even hysterical.
The first salvo in the current media campaign came in response to the dismissal of four national religious cadets from the IDF near the completion of a rigorous officers training course after they absented themselves from a female singing performance and refused orders to return. The soldiers never asked that the singers in question stop. No conceivable “right” of any woman was infringed. All the soldiers requested was that the IDF not force them to violate their religious beliefs.
The performance fulfilled no conceivable military purpose; it certainly was not a morale booster for the soldiers who asked to be excused. The dismissal of the four soldiers, in whose training the IDF had invested heavily, did, however, come at the expense of the IDF’s fighting ability.
By refusing to religiously accommodate the soldiers, even at the potential cost of losing some of its finest soldiers, the IDF gave ironic support for one haredi argument for draft deferrals. The haredim argue that Torah learning takes precedence over the IDF’s manpower needs. The IDF now agrees that other values trump the IDF’s military needs – in this case, the value of showing national religious soldiers who is boss and avoiding any offense to women soldiers. The IDF also buttressed one of the major haredi concerns about IDF service for its young – that the IDF will be used as an instrument of socialization towards secular Israeli values.
LAST WEEK, the media was up-in-arms again, albeit only for one or two news cycles, over the news that a group of male students at the Technion had been permitted to use the gym on a male-only basis for one hour a week (at a late hour during which the gym had previously been closed). No women’s group had asked for similar privileges, and the Technion would certainly have granted them had they done so. So the entire issue was over whether separate gyms should ever be tolerated.
Harvard University granted much more extensive separate swimming privileges to Muslim female students a few years ago without much fanfare. Only the presumed religious sensitivities of the male students at the Technion turned the case into a cause célèbre.
Most normal human beings, at least outside the precincts of Ivy League student dorms, still prefer separate toilet and shower facilities. There are certain functions we feel more comfortable performing without the presence of the opposite sex. Gym rats of both sexes generally exercise with minimal attire designed for that purpose. But many would be inhibited from exercising in their preferred attire if they knew that they would have to expose their less than perfect bodies to members of the opposite sex. The proliferation of women-only gyms is not limited to chareidi neighborhoods.
REJECTION OF ANY SEPARATION between the sexes has become a fetish. A considerable body of research demonstrates that both teenage boys and girls learn better in single-sex schools. Yet any attempt to create single-sex public schools will inevitably be greeted treated as an insult to women. Over a decade ago, New York City sought to create an all-girls high school in Harlem. Feminists cried foul. It did not occur to them that the teenage girls attending the school would have been able to walk down the halls for the first time in their lives without being harassed or worse. That case remains for me the classic illustration of rigid ideology trumping the human consequences.
Continue reading → First, Let’s Calm Down
In order to fully appreciate the absurdity of Court President Dorit Beinisch’s charge that even the most minimal proposed changes in Israel’s method of judicial selection represent an attempt to undermine “the democracy upon which our society rests,” one need only know one fact: Israel’s method of judicial selection is absolutely unique in the democratic world.
No other system gives so much power to sitting Supreme Court justices to choose their future colleagues and successors. Only India among the world’s democracies also gives sitting justices a role in the judicial selection process. Are all the rest, then, not really democratic? Even by Israeli standards that claim of the unique wisdom of our system reflects a remarkable degree of hubris.
IN TRUTH, IT IS THE SUPREME COURT ITSELF that represents the greatest challenge to Israeli democracy. Richard Posner, considered by many the most brilliant living American jurist, defines democracy as “a system of governance in which the key officials stand for election at relatively short intervals and are thus accountable to the citizenry.” Judicial review, in which courts strike down statutes or substitute their policy judgments for those of elected officials or their delegatees, is in inherent tension with representative democracy so defined.
To minimize that tension, Alexander Hamilton argued in The Federalist Papers that the judiciary must remain “the least dangerous branch,” with no power over “the purse or sword.” Retaining the status as “the least dangerous branch,” wrote the great constitutional scholar Alexander Bickel, in his seminal book of that name, requires justices to exercise restrain and avoid entering into the realm of politics and making decisions primarily based on their personal values.
Beinisch’s mentor, former Court President Aharon Barak, completely rejected any such restraint. He abandoned traditional doctrines of judicial restraint – standing and justiciability – famously declaring that “everything is justiciable” including troop deployments in wartime, and permitted any citizen who objected to a particular governmental decision to bring a suit directly to BaGaTz, the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice. He boldly usurped traditional legislative perogatives – for instance, appointing a commission to consider the issue of road closings on Shabbat nationwide.
As Professor Ruth Gavison and many others have argued, the Israeli Supreme Court determines national “norms” to a degree without parallel in the Western world. Former Court President Moshe Landau accused the Court under Barak of having taken on the role of Platonic guardians, “a role that they are utterly incapable of fulfilling and for which they have no training.”
Barak was untroubled by the tension between the power he claimed for the Court, an unelected and unrepresentative body, and representative democracy precisely because he entertained so little respect for the Israeli people and its elected representatives. A justice, he argued in Judicial Discretion should reflect the values of the “enlightened public,” and admitted that the standard of “enlightenment” would frequently be that of the justice himself. Barak and his acolytes, like Beinisch, primarily conceive of democracy as a “substantive” set of rights, to be determined by judges, often out of whole cloth or by importation from other legal systems, as opposed to a process of selecting the people’s representatives. The doctrine of “substantive democracy,” incidentally, is that which allowed the former Soviet Union to style itself a “socialist republic.”
THOUGH BARAK ATTEMPTED TO PORTRAY the Court as a professional body, deciding technical legal questions, nothing could be farther from the truth. Under his rule, the Court showed little interest in clarifying thorny issues of private law – in such areas as torts and intellectual property. Barak and his successor greatly preferred to act as the final arbiters of every government decision guided only by their own standard of “reasonability.”
The Israeli Supreme Court is the most highly politicized in the world. It is child’s play to juxtapose decisions, often ones decided the same day by the same panel, in ways that make it clear that the results are wholly dependent on the identity of the parties and the politics of the justices. (For my analysis of some particularly egregious examples see “Inconsistent Justice,” Jerusalem Post, January 5, 2001).
As Evelyn Gordon pointed out this week, Court President Beinisch has imposed explicitly political criteria for selection to the Court. Reversing her earlier position on the appointment of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, she declared him unfit for the Court on the grounds that he has been depicted as “right-wing” in the media. The jaw drops. Could Beinisch be unaware that she is perceived as “left-wing?” Or does she think that label is irrelevant because it is synonymous with the “enlightened values” that are supposed to guide the Court, according to Barak. Now, as Gordon notes, not only do the three sitting justices themselves wield a veto over any candidate not to their liking, but so does the media, the other remaining bastion of left-wing power.
Continue reading → Who is Undermining Israeli Democracy?
by Michael Freund
What a remarkable breath of fresh air.
For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.
“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.
Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.
Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.
Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.
Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”
A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.
Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.
Continue reading → The Invention of Palestine
About the hostility of the Obama administration to Israel there is no longer room for honest doubt. A few weeks back, President Obama commiserated “privately” (albeit via an open mike) with French President Sarkozy about the tribulations of dealing with a “liar” like Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Obama one-upped Sarkozy with the plaint, “I have to deal with him every day.” And over the last two weeks, senior administration officials have been taking their own private musings public.
Most significantly, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dismissed the idea that the instability confronting Israel on every border makes it impossible for Israel to contemplate further territorial concessions at present. The time is always right for Israeli withdrawals, Panetta implied, urging Israel “to get back to the _____ bargaining table.” In the same speech, Panetta did everything possible to assure the Iranian leadership that the United States will never employ military force to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
Next up, Howard Gutman, U.S. ambassador to Belgium and a major Obama fundraiser, insisted that one must distinguish between historical anti-Semitism (bad) and the hatred of Israel shared by Muslims around the globe (fully understandable.)
Finally, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton got into the act. In a private gathering at the Saban Center, she worried aloud about the anti-democratic trends in Israeli society and the increasing segregation of Israeli women, which, she said, put her in mind of Iran.
NO LESS ALARMING THAN THE hostility towards Israel that underlies these remarks was the ignorance and stupidity exposed. The Obama administration came into power firmly in the so-called “realist” camp of foreign policy of whom some of the leading avatars are Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zgbiniew Brzezenski, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. (The latter two are the authors of the infamous The Israel Lobby.) Chief among the fixed verities of the “realist” school is that Israel lies at the heart of most of the world’s problems, and certainly those of the Middle East, and that America’s interests lie in drawing closer to the Muslim world.
No amount of empirical observance, it would seem, could ever force a reexamination of that axiom. For if there is one thing that Arab Spring — whose initial promise (for some) has now given way to a dark Arab Winter — demonstrates it is that the deformities and backwardness of the Muslim Middle East have nothing to do with Israel. That backwardness pervaded the Middle East before Israel came into being, and would continue to plague the Middle East if Israel were to disappear tomorrow. The overthrow of the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and the threatened end of the forty plus year rule of the Assads in Syria has nothing to do with Israel. The uprisings in each of those countries revealed the extent of the internal grievances of subject Muslim populations and the magnitude of the fissures in Arab society.
Continue reading → Does Anyone See a Pattern Here?
In today’s Jerusalem Post, Naomi Ragen “accused the plaintiff, author Sarah Shapiro of ‘working out of a desire to silence my criticism of the Haredi community’s treatment of women, which I have done for years.’” True to form, the JPost made no effort to present Mrs. Shapiro’s reaction to this claim — in fact, it obtained no comment at all from Mrs. Shapiro or her legal team not quoted from the court documents. But it does raise a question that we must pose to Ms. Ragen:
From: Naomi Ragen [address redacted] To: talkback [domain redacted for less spam] Date: May 24 2008 – 7:45pm
Please be advised and warned that the material containing Ms. Shapiro’s assertions are libelous and publication of this material on Crosscurrents leaves the site and all those associated with it open to legal action for libel.
[Naomi Ragen promotional footer redacted.]
Who, again, is trying to silence people?
The seemingly insatiable appetite of the Forward for anti-Orthodox scandal-mongering has claimed its latest prey, Touro College, a “Jewish-oriented institution that reaches out especially to Orthodox students” (never mind that a full 32% of its student body is “minorities,” and that in 2007 the college opened a medical school in Harlem, specifically to improve medical care in that community and increase the number of “minorities” practicing medicine).
According to the paper, the college “came under pointed questioning by curriculum experts after the Forward revealed that it granted academic credits for an online course put together by a pro-Israel advocacy group, ” known as Jerusalem Online U. As one reads further, however, it becomes clear that the course didn’t exactly “[come] under pointed questioning by curriculum experts.” Rather, one Zachary Lockman, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, “reviewed the course syllabus on the Forward’s behalf.”
And what did the good professor find? That “[i]f Touro College has pretentions to be a serious academic institution, this is not a course that students should get credit for.” Zachary Lockman offering expert opinion on the impartiality of an academic course on the Middle East?! This … Read More >>