Sunday, January 26, 2014

Obama and Israel

Israel to Kerry: Back Off

Obama utterly disdains the Israelis. 
January 20, 2014
April is the deadline John Kerry has set for himself. By then he aims to negotiate a peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He’s been at it for six months, to the dismay of pretty much everyone, especially the Israelis.
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon blew his stack at Kerry. Yaalon said, in conversations with American and Israeli officials, that Kerry “operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” He added, “The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn’t worth the paper it was written on.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded, saying “The remarks of the Israeli defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israeli’s security needs.” You can read that two ways. What Yaalon said in characterizing Kerry and his actions is entirely accurate.
Yaalon’s remarks — for which he later apologized unnecessarily — are a clear indication that, contrary to Obama’s insistence, the gap between Israel and America is very wide and is getting wider. To fully understand that gap — and why Kerry and Obama are making the situation vastly worse — we need to give it some context.
The context begins and ends with Obama and his utter disdain for the Israelis and everything that has to do with what had been, until Obama, the one ally we had in the Middle East. Obama’s mindset, expectedly shared by his cabinet and other representatives, is that it’s always the Israelis who are the obstacle to peace, whether it’s peace with the Palestinians or peace with Iran.
Obama’s Islamocentric foreign policy has been evident since before his election. Obama has always regarded Israel with disdain, a fact that has been evidenced repeatedly by his — and his cabinet members’ — actions. The disdain is not just his personal dislike for Prime Minister Netanyahu: it’s much deeper.
For example, Bob Gates, in his memoir Duty, recounts a January 2010 memo he sent to National Security Advisor Jim Jones proposing a meeting with Obama on a possible Israeli attack on Iran and whether we’d help Israel, hinder it, or do nothing. Obama closed the resulting meeting, saying he was making no decision.
In March 2010, when Joe Biden visited Israel, the Israelis announced the construction of new housing in Jerusalem, angering Obama enormously. At the time, the White House evidently believed it was more dangerous for the Israelis to build a few apartments in the West Bank than for the Palestinians and Hezbollah to fire missiles at Israeli civilians. In a White House meeting later that month, Obama presented Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands to reduce American anger with Israel and then abruptly left the meeting to have dinner elsewhere in the White House, telling Netanyahu, “I’m still around. Let me know if there’s anything new.”
Never before or since has the prime minister of any nation been treated so harshly in the White House.
In December 2011, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians had to be solved by Israel getting back to the “damn [negotiating] table.” And now we have an unprecedented scolding of John Kerry by one of Israel’s top ministers.
The Israelis have to tolerate Obama’s preaching and Kerry’s lectures, but only up to a point. That point has been reached.
Consider Yaalon’s remark that the American plan for security arrangements isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. But what is the plan? We already know it in detail.
In May 2011, the day before Netanyahu came to Washington to confer on precisely those points, Obama gave a speech in which he declared that Israel should go back to its pre-1967 war borders, adjusted for land swaps to meet their needs and the Palestinians’. This is the plan that Kerry presented to Yaalon.
And there is certainly no difference in Israel’s position, announced immediately after Obama’s 2011 speech, that the pre-1967 borders were indefensible. Not that they were questionable, not that they could be the basis for compromise: they are indefensible. Yaalon’s rejection of Obama’s plan is not new, nor should it be controversial.
The lack of controversy should result from the facts on the map. The pre-1967 borders would leave the terrorist Assad regime (or whichever jihadist group is running Syria if and when Assad falls) control of the Golan Heights and pretty much the entire West Bank area up through Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. Israelis would have to get Palestinian government permission to go to their capital city.
There should be no controversy about Yaalon’s other remarks. Yaalon implied that he and other Israeli leaders are being lectured by Kerry who — by background and experience — is unequipped to lecture them on anything, much less their nearly seven decades of enduring attacks from Palestinian terrorists (such as Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip) and all its neighboring Arab states.
If Yaalon had the inclination, it should be he lecturing Kerry on the realities of those wars. I can understand his reluctance to do so. As Bill Buckley once said, you can’t argue with the invincibly ignorant.
This brings us to the intolerable lie of the week. Ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has been assuring us that he is a strong supporter of Israel, that our relationship with Israel is as solid as ever and that he will not do anything to weaken it. That is a lie, or at least three lies strung together in a ball of spin.
I keep going back to the Gates book because I just finished it and it’s fresh in my mind. The January 2010 Gates memo and meeting in which Obama memorably insisted on not deciding whether we’d support or oppose Israel in the event they attacked Iran presaged a series of events.
First is the campaign of hard pressure Obama has placed relentlessly on Israel to not attack Iran. Next was Obama’s refusal to sell Israel the penetrator bombs they’d need for an attack on some of Iran’s hardened nuclear sites. Third is one of the necessary effects of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran which no one beyond this column has been willing to raise.
For the duration of the agreement — six months from January 21, to be renewed for as long as Obama is willing to let Iran do what it wishes — Israel’s hands are tied. They cannot attack Iran because to do so would pit them against the United States. Israel would become an outlaw nation, would find itself sanctioned by the UN and denied American aid which would be tied up or cut off entirely. It would be in danger of losing its last friend in the world.
Time is what the Iranians have needed, and time is what American presidents have been eager to give them. We know that the Iranians’ top nuclear negotiator says that they’d be able to reverse the effects of the Obama agreement in one day: that is, they’d be able to resume enriching uranium to 20% almost instantaneously. And we know that it is much easier — and much faster — to further enrich the 20% enriched uranium. It’s faster and easier to get from 20% to 50% and from 50% to 90% — weapons grade — than it was to get it to 20%.
George W. Bush gave Iran eight years to enrich uranium and develop and test the other technologies you need to build a nuclear weapon. Barack Obama has given them another five. And now he’s prevented the Israelis from denying them any more time.
The only difference between the threat Iran poses to Israel and the threat it poses to us is the geographic fact that Israel is closer. We are still, to Iran, the Great Satan, and they are as much at war with us now as they have been since they seized our Tehran embassy in 1979.
Israel is now more isolated and alone than it has ever been. We’ve gone from the time in 1973 when U.S. Air Force fighters were being armed and fueled to fly into the fight the Israelis seemed to be losing to this time, when we’re tying the Israelis hands. And it’s all based on the intolerable lie Obama is spinning, to wit that we’re still Israel’s best ally. Regarding Iran, we’re not pursuing our own interests, far less those of our allies.

Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

outraged we want to defend Israel

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are reportedly beside themselves with rage due to the fact that American Jewish groups are defending Israel.
According to Israeli radio, sources are saying that "Jewish activism in Congress" is driving the administration up the wall. The precise issues involved were not made clear, but they are almost certainly to do with Israel and especially Iran. On all other issues, American Jewish groups overwhelmingly support Obama.
Israeli diplomats are reportedly concerned that
The Israeli government is increasingly being viewed as fanning the flames among American Jews by encouraging them to promote the official government position while making no room for opposing viewpoints.
What these "opposing viewpoints" might be - that American Jews should not advocate for their beliefs, perhaps - is not mentioned either, but the argument is a familiar one from advocates of the "Israel lobby" conspiracy theory.
This theory holds that Jewish groups like AIPAC wield too much power over the American government, and push out "opposing viewpoints." In its most extreme form, the conspiracy theorists hold that Israel controls American policy itself.

Easier eligibility Birthright trips

Alumni of Teen Israel Experiences are Eligible
Applicants who have already been to Israel on a peer trip before the age of 18 are now eligible. This change impacts teens who traveled to Israel as part of a summer tour, a class trip, and many other high school age programs.

Applicants Ages 27-29 are Eligible for Professional Trips
Applicants up to age 29 are eligible for certain professional-oriented trips so long as they are involved in that profession. This summer, Israel Outdoors is offering such trips formedical professionals and business professionals.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Darwin,supernova,parashat mishpatim jewu 480

Darwin,supernova,parashat mishpatim jewu 480

Parashat Mishpatim 18/54 Ex. 21 JewU 356

no surprise-truth does not matter

Israel PM slams suspension of UNESCO exhibit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives to chair the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on January 19, 2014
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives to chair the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on January 19, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ilia Yefimovich)
Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel's premier on Sunday condemned a decision by the UN cultural agency to postpone an exhibit tracing 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and Israel, following pressure from Arab countries.
UNESCO had said on Friday it was postponing the exhibit after receiving a letter from the 22-member Arab Group which expressed concern it "could impact negatively on the peace process and current negotiations under way in the Middle East."
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied the exhibit would damage talks with the Palestinians, which began in July but have shown little sign of progress.
"It would not harm the negotiations. Negotiations are based on facts, on the truth, which is never harmful," Netanyahu told ministers at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu countered that what had harmed the talks were European moves to summon Israeli ambassadors over recent settlement announcements, referring to the construction tenders as "matters of no substance," while ignoring "significant violations" by the Palestinians.
On Thursday, Israeli ambassadors in London, Rome, Paris and Madrid were called in for explanations in a move Netanyahu slammed as "hypocritical."
"The one-sided approach toward Israel does not advance peace –- it pushes peace further away," he said.
The exhibition, "The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land," was due to open Tuesday at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris.
Israel's relations with UNESCO have been at a major low since October 2011 when the Palestinians were admitted to the organisation as a full member.
In response, Israel and Washington cut funding to UNESCO, sparking a major financial crisis at the agency and putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ten Commandments JewU 22 learn about them from a jewish view

Sharon's legacy

Commentary Magazine


Assessing Sharon’s Complex Legacy

When larger-than-life figures such as former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon die, writers struggle to adequately summarize their legacies. But few historic leaders are as as difficult to assess as Sharon, who died yesterday after lingering for eight years in a vegetative state following a cerebral hemorrhage suffered in January 2006. A man born in 1928 whose military and political career reflected the entire history of the State of Israel, there is simply no analogy to be drawn between Sharon and any contemporary American leader. It’s not just that he was, perhaps, the last of those who were part of the Jewish state’s founding generation to pass from the scene. Nor does Sharon’s decision to withdraw from Gaza during his last years in power — making him a belated hero to many on the left and causing him to be reviled by his erstwhile backers on the right — entirely explain why it is so hard to neatly pigeonhole his career.
Love him or hate him, there was never any denying that Sharon was an extraordinary soldier and one of those rightly seen as one of the chief architects of the victories of the Israel Defense Forces during the several wars it was forced to fight to defend the state’s existence in its first decades. Nor could even his sternest critics deny that he was almost as good a politician as he was a military man. By the time illness felled him he bestrode his country’s political scene and, at least for a short time appeared to have permanently altered its balance with the creation of a new centrist party built around his personal reputation and philosophy.
But though the Jewish state’s enemies decry him as a war criminal because they believe Israel has no right to defend itself against those who seek its destruction, the problem with understanding Sharon goes well beyond the usual pro-Zionist/anti-Zionist arguments or even those that divided Israeli politics during his long career. Sharon may have seen himself as consistent in his concerns for his country’s safety, but his behavior and decisions always reflected an impulsive nature that was impatient with hierarchy and the norms of the democratic political process. As such, it is impossible to talk about what he accomplished and what he tried to do without resorting to conditional praise or criticism.

As Elliott Abrams, who dealt directly with him during the George W. Bush administration, writes here in COMMENTARY, Sharon was a bundle of contradictions that made him fascinating. He played at being the bluff citizen soldier/farmer in the tradition of the Roman hero Cincinnatus, but he was actually something of an intellectual, sensitive to criticism and capable of looking at problems from a variety of points of view. He was capable of complex thinking. The British military historian Peter Young described Sharon’s plan for an assault on an Egyptian position in the Sinai during the Six-Day War as almost impossibly complicated yet brilliant. But his defining characteristic from his earliest days in command to his last days in power appeared to be an indomitable belief in his personal judgment and a determination to ignore other points of view. Sometimes this worked; but not always. And sometimes the cost to others—and to Sharon—was greater than he imagined.
The examples of when his brash resolve was not only right but also inspired are integral to the history of Israel’s early conflicts. His decisive leadership as the head of the country’s first commando unit and its paratroop brigade stemmed the tide of cross-border terrorism that threatened to overwhelm the country in its first decade. Similarly, his exploits during the Six-Day War, his campaign quelling terror in Gaza in the early 1970s and, most memorably, when he led the counter-attack across the Suez Canal against Egyptian forces during the Yom Kippur War that turned the tide of that conflict, showed the benefits of having a general who didn’t always play by the rules. His heroism in this era etched for him a permanent place of honor in Jewish history. The same can be said for his decisive reaction to the second intifada as prime minister when he commanded a counter-attack and ordered the construction of a security fence that effectively defeated the terrorists.
However, that same impulsive nature would sometimes prove disastrous. His decision to ignore orders during the Sinai campaign of 1956 resulted in a deadly ambush of his paratroop brigade at the Mitla Pass. Many of its veterans never forgave him. On a larger scale, this scenario played out again when he turned the limited offensive against Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon that Prime Minister Menachem Begin agreed to in 1982 into a drive to Beirut that embroiled Israel in an ill-conceived attempt to transform Lebanese politics that was bound to fail. That was bad enough, but the alliance with Lebanese Christians also led Sharon to ignore warning signs of trouble and resulted in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians by the Christians that allowed Israel’s critics to claim the entire offensive was a war crime. Time Magazine and others that claimed he was directly responsible for the crimes committed by Lebanese who had suffered their own atrocities at Palestinian hands, in fact libeled Sharon. But Sharon had still blundered and his unwillingness to work cooperatively with colleagues or superiors was, at least in part, to blame.
That same characteristic was at play when he made the decision to try to break the logjam with the Palestinians by making unilateral gestures that would, he hoped, determine Israel’s borders without a peace agreement. In this case, the same “bulldozer” that helped establish settlements throughout the territories used his determination to push through the forced evacuation of 9,000 Jews from Gaza. He put the proposal to a vote of Likud Party members but ignored the negative result. As Abrams notes, he did the same thing again by firing recalcitrant ministers in order to get the Cabinet to approve the scheme. His decision to ignite what Israeli political writers called the “big bang” and destroy the Likud in order to create a new centrist faction called Kadima was a product of the same belief in his own star. He skimmed the leading opportunists of both Likud and Labor together under the same tent and, seemingly, altered the country’s politics forever by promoting a new pragmatism built on the clear failures of both the right and the left.
But though we are being subjected to a chorus of eulogies lamenting that Sharon’s stroke cut short a real chance for peace, the Gaza gambit was as much a flawed big idea as the drive to Beirut. We are now told that the magic force of Sharon’s personality and political popularity would have somehow enabled Israel to set its own borders and then effectively hamstring Palestinian terrorism. But just as unforeseen circumstances proved that Sharon’s strategically brilliant vision for transforming Lebanon from a Palestinian terror bastion into an ally was inherently flawed, so, too, was the notion that the Gaza withdrawal would lead to de facto, if not  de jure, peace. As I wrote last week, the unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn is what is preventing peace, not the lack of a leader of Sharon’s stature. For all of his great qualities and dedication to ensuring Israel’s security, Sharon’s popularity would not have survived the Hamas coup in Gaza and the years of missile strikes that followed. Nor would his plan for unilateral withdrawals in the West Bank have rallied the world behind Israel’s position. Though Sharon believed, as Abrams writes, that he had achieved a lasting victory by getting Bush to back Israel’s position on the settlement blocs, that triumph didn’t survive Bush’s replacement by Barack Obama.
At a time when the Jewish people needed great soldiers, Sharon was exactly that. His leadership qualities and dogged persistence in pursuit of power also inspires our admiration as we study his three-decade run as an Israeli politician. He wanted a secure Israel as well as an end to the conflict with the Arab world and if he did not succeed (and probably could not have even if he had not fallen ill) in the latter endeavor, he deserves credit for trying. But his career also demonstrates that while a lone wolf can sometimes achieve great things, a man who can’t work comfortably within democratic structures or listen to colleagues is also liable to create disasters. Ariel Sharon’s memory should be as a blessing, but his career is a cautionary tale about the inherent limits of his unique style of leadership.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

More on the future of Conservative Judaism

Jewish Review of Books


Cognitive Dissonance

As careful Jewish Review of Books readers have undoubtedly noticed, my interlocutors, who include some of the most distinguished and perceptive figures in Conservative Judaism, largely agree with me about the condition of the Conservative movement. As Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky writes, “there is no denying that in the last 30 or 40 years, Masorti/Conservative Jewish ideology has inspired fewer people than it once did.” In fact, says Rabbi Susan Grossman, my assessment “may have been too kind.” Jonathan D. Sarna, a leading historian of American Judaism, states that “Daniel Gordis is right” that the Pew numbers are devastating.
We also agree on several other points: the importance of studying Judaism through a historical prism, that halakha is fundamentally dynamic (even if, I believe, intentionally hesitantly so), the legitimacy of biblical criticism, and the urgent need for expanded roles for women in Jewish life. In fact, those were the ideas that drew me to The Jewish Theological Seminary some 30 years ago, and it was because I still believe they are critical that I wrote with sadness (even if I was insufficiently lachrymose for Kalmanofsky) about the cataclysmic erosion of Conservative Judaism.
Rabbis Elliot N. Dorff, Noah Bickart, and Gordon Tucker are right that Conservative Judaism’s ideas are alive and well, albeit often in institutions outside the movement. But that does raise a question: If the ideas of Conservative Judaism are so vital and continue to flourish elsewhere, why did the movement sputter? Or, to put matters less abstractly, if one goes to Friday night services on the campus of Harvard or Columbia, Penn or Maryland, why is it the Orthodox services that are packed and overflowing with energy?
There isn’t, of course, a single answer, but I would like to sharpen one point from my original essay: Conservative Judaism was never sufficiently aspirational. Instead of insisting that halakha might give congregants aspirational ideals, it recalibrated Jewish practice for maximum comfort. It failed to recognize that the space between the “is” and the “ought” is where we grow deeper.
In the Orthodox congregation in which I grew up in Baltimore in the 1970s, many of the worshippers drove to shul, while we, the Conservative Jewish family, walked. The parking lot was chained closed and our co-parishioners knew that what they were doing was not “permitted,” but they managed (the adjacent streets were clogged with parked cars), and it never dawned on them to ask the rabbi to sanction their driving. Today, their children do not drive, in part because their rabbis held the line.
But in response to the same phenomenon, Conservative Judaism sanctioned driving on Shabbat. It eradicated that productive cognitive dissonance for its members and, in so doing, created a Judaism that was non-aspirational. And the Pew results show what happens when Judaism doesn’t push us.
While few Orthodox Jews drive on Shabbat these days, cognitive dissonance persists. For instance, many American Modern Orthodox Jews eat dairy food or fish in non-kosher restaurants. Some will do it in their hometowns, others only when they are away for business or out of town on vacation. Do they believe that this practice is halakhically justified or justifiable? They do not. They live with the tension between what they do and what they know that Jewish law, and their rabbinic leaders, demand of them. The ensuing tension means that Judaism—like their marriages, their roles as parents, their professions—demands that they grow.
But when the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards ruled in 1952 that “Fish dinners in non-kosher eating places shall not be construed as a violation of the dietary laws,” the movement illustrated once again its determination to fashion for its adherents an easy, dissonance-free spiritual life; in so doing, it also erased the aspirational drive so central to Jewish flourishing.
What all this suggests, though many Orthodox rabbis will publicly deny it, is that a large percentage of Modern Orthodox Jews are not theologically Orthodox; “revelation” and “commandment” are key words in the lexicon of their communities, but not so deep down, they’re motivated as much by sociology as theology.  When the daughter of a childhood friend of mine recently married, she bought a sheitel, a wig, in order to keep her hair covered at all times. This would have been unimaginable in the crowd in which we grew up. When I asked her mother where the kids were heading for their honeymoon, she mentioned a place where I knew there was no kosher food. How were they doing that, I gently inquired? When they’re away, they eat in non-kosher restaurants, she told me.
Halakhically, eating out in such restaurants is far more problematic than not wearing a sheitel(which many would claim is not necessary at all). But intellectual consistency, the celebrated hallmark of Conservative Judaism, is not what these young people are seeking. What they want is meaning, community, closeness, and a sense of striving (incidentally, that’s what their non-Orthodox peers seek too). They have found these things in a halakhically demanding universe. And, although some of my interlocutors would scoff at their way of life, the fact is that it works.
In that community, the Jewish calendar is the metronome of life; they have homes infused with much more ritual, they learn more Torah, they intermarry much less, they visit Israel more often than their Conservative and Reform peers. They sing together and daven (which is not the same thing as worshipping) together. The best of them (not all, not enough) read just as much, think as broadly, and are as fully engaged in the modern world as their non-Orthodox counterparts, despite the intellectual tensions.
Many of the women among them find the opportunities for high-level Talmud study—opportunities that their mothers did not have—a profound indication that even in Modern Orthodoxy, feminism is alive and well. Pace Professor Judith Hauptman, most of them don’t need “ritual egalitarianism” to feel that they matter. Those who do, leave. That is what is wonderful about the American Jewish spiritual marketplace. (For the record, despite Dorff’s intentionally misleading suggestion to the contrary, nothing in my original article can fairly be construed as an endorsement of Orthodoxy.)
In the 1970s and 1980s, when I was young and searching for a theological justification for the halakha to which I was committed in the face of the biblical criticism I was studying, I talked to my grandfather. A leading intellectual light of the Conservative movement, he had to havesomething to say, didn’t he? But no matter how hard I pushed, we always ended up in the same place. Why did halakha matter? It was, he told me, minhag k’lal yisrael. “This is simply what Jews do.” This is how we Jews live; it’s the ticket to belonging. “Stop all your theologizing,” he basically said to me. “Life’s real decisions are about belonging and sustaining, not about theology.” Not his words, but his point. And he was largely right.

Minhag k’lal yisrael works, but it’s working for Modern Orthodoxy—because Orthodoxy was never afraid of cognitive dissonance. Does it help that Orthodox rabbis still speak in theological terms? Yes, it does, and that would have been challenging for Conservative rabbis. It may not have worked even had we tried; there is something powerful about the theological certainty that is elusive for most of the lettered class, and that is undoubtedly the reason that Pew shows Modern Orthodoxy struggling now too.
But we could have given it a much better shot. We could have cajoled and inspired, encouraging our congregants to conform themselves to Jewish tradition, rather than working to shape the tradition to their fleeting, ostensible needs. (Rabbi David B. Starr is quite right to point to the extraordinary model of such leadership that Rabbi Yakov Hilsenrath afforded us both; it’s instructive, however, that Rabbi Hilsenrath never joined the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.) We were too complacent. It didn’t matter, we told ourselves, how many of our flock were actually toeing the line. “It is peculiar for someone who is aware of, and speaking for, Jewish tradition to argue that smaller numbers mean lessened potency and fitness for survival,” writes Tucker in his response to me. (Really? His claim seems to be that because there are young Jews who are serious but not Orthodox, few of whom wish to affiliate with the Conservative movement, this proves the vitality of the Conservative movement?) Since they’re ostensibly not worried by the numbers, several of my interlocutors insist that no change in strategy is necessary. (As one observer has noted, not a single one of them actually offered a concrete suggestion of what Conservative Judaism should do.) Dorff writes:
We should do exactly what Jewish leaders ... have [always] done, even when the large majority of Jews did not believe or act in the same way—namely, live and teach the kind of Judaism that Conservative Judaism represents with as much vigor and creativity as we can muster.
Kalmanofsky says he’ll “keep plugging away, hopefully, optimistically, persistently.” There’s an air of nobility to such soldiering on, but, unfortunately, it’s the nobility of Don Quixote.
I would ask my interlocutors this: Are our ideas important in some Platonic sense, simply by virtue of their existence, or do they matter because we want them to shape the future of the Jewish people? Are you as committed to the survival of the Jewish people as you are to the “rightness” of those deeply held principles? If you are, then simply soldiering on will not do. We must articulate the ideas that we believe are critical to Judaism’s survival and then we must work—doggedly, creatively, and effectively—to get them deeply rooted in as wide a swath of American Jews as possible.

We live in a frightening and uncharted Jewish world. Despite all appearances of stability, ours is a period not unlike that of almost 2,000 years ago, after the Temple had been destroyed. Then as now, it was entirely unclear what sort of Judaism could sustain our people into the future.
The Sadducees were not wrong when they insisted that they were the rightful leaders of the people and the Temple (even in its absence), their divinely sanctioned seat of power. But others in that period looked at a shattered Jewish world and chose otherwise. Essenes opted for a focus on ritual and moral purity, avoiding contact with almost everyone else. Proto-Christians, then still Jewish, had a very different vision of what Judaism could become. The rabbis dared to invent something almost unrecognizable as Judaism. Their “heretical” notions—that Judaism could be geographically decentralized, that sacred time would replace sacred space, that prayer would substitute for sacrifice, and that a learned elite would assume the leadership roles once the province of priests—must have seemed utterly absurd to many.
We are no less shattered than the Jews of 100 C.E. The extraordinarily rich, vibrant, heterogeneous world of Polish Jewry was annihilated less than a lifetime ago. When 700,000 Jews were evicted from Arab lands in the late 1940s, Jewish life all along the Mediterranean’s north coast essentially came to an end. So, too, did Jewish life in Yemen, Iraq, and Iran, for all intents and purposes.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Koran says Israel should be Jewish

What Does The Koran Really Say About Jews And The Land Of Israel?

Posted on 10/3/2013 by 

The Koran recognizes that Israel is the land of the Jews


Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Director of the Istituto Culturale della Comunita Islamica Italiana (Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community) in Rome, who will speak on the sanctity of Jerusalem to the Jewish People.

The sources he intends to quote, from both the Bible and the Qur’an, indicate that, just as Mecca is sacred to Islam, so is Jerusalem sacred to Judaism. He sees no contradiction in the fact that Jerusalem, also sacred to the Muslims, should be under Jewish sovereignty.

As he tells us, he is no politician; he is merely giving us the benefit of his opinion as a theologian, a religious scholar: There is nothing wrong, he says, with Jerusalem being the undivided capital of the Jewish State, under Israeli sovereignty.

Here is ample illustration of my conviction that our ideas may be corroborated from various directions. 

And this is, I repeat, only one of the topics to be discussed here.

I am indebted to President Weizman for hosting the opening session of the seminar. Let me express the hope that our discussions will be interesting and fruitful.

Jerusalem: Three-Fold Religious Heritage for a Contemporary Single Administration

Any discussion of the problem of sovereignty over Jerusalem necessarily means involvement in a kind of investigation that has political, cultural, psychological and religious implications. For Jew or Muslim, religious or secular, thinking of Jerusalem means to feel reason and sentiment mingled together.
In this paper I do not want to enter into specific features directly connected with politics; but, as a Muslim scholar and man of religion, only to try and determine whether, from an Islamic point of view, there is some well-grounded theological reason that makes it impossible for Muslims to accept the idea of recognizing Jerusalem both as an Islamic holy place and as the capital of the State of Israel.

Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Director of the Istituto Culturale della Comunita Islamica Italiana (Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community) in Rome, spoke on the sanctity of Jerusalem to the Jewish People.

The sources he quotes from, both the Bible and the Qur’an, indicate that, just as Mecca is sacred to Islam, so is Jerusalem sacred to Judaism. He sees no contradiction in the fact that Jerusalem, also sacred to the Muslims, should be under Jewish sovereignty.

There is nothing wrong, he says, with Jerusalem being the undivided capital of the Jewish State, under Israeli sovereignty.

1.1 Sovereignty belongs to God

First, I would like to emphasize that the idea of considering Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel as a western “invasion”, and Zionists as new “colonizers”, is very recent and has no relation to the basic features of Islamic faith. According to the Qur’an, no person, people or religious community can claim a permanent right of possession over a certain territory, since the earth belongs exclusively to God, Who is free to entrust sovereign rights to anyone He likes and for as long as He likes:

قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاء وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاء وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَاء وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَاء بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ إِنَّكَ عَلَىَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

“Say: ‘O God, King of the kingdom, Thou givest the kingdom to whom Thou pleasest, and Thou strippest off the kingdom from whom Thou pleasest; Thou endurest with honour whom Thou pleasest, and Thou bringest low whom Thou pleasest; all the best is in Thy hand. Verily, Thou hast power over all things’”.
Qur’an, Sura Al-i-Imran (“The Imrans”), 3:26 (Palazzi translation)

From this verse one can deduce a basic principle of the monotheistic philosophy of history: God can choose as He likes as to relationships between peoples and countries. Sometimes He gives a land to a people, and sometime He takes His possession back and gives it to another people. In general terms, one might say that He gives as a reward for obedience and takes back as a punishment for wickedness, but this rule does not permit us to say that God’s ways are always plain and clear to our understanding.

1.2 Anti-Zionism is un-Islamic

The idea of Islam as a factor that prevents Arabs from recognizing any sovereign right of Jews over Palestine is quite recent and can by no means be found in Islamic classical sources. To see anti-Zionism as a direct consequence of Islam is a form of explicit misunderstanding which implies the transformation of Islam from a religion into a secularized ideology.

This was originally done by the late mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, who was responsible for most of the Arab defeats and during World War Two collaborated with Adolf Hitler. Later, Jamal el-Din Abd el-Nasser based his policy on Pan-Arabism, hatred for Jews and alliance with the Soviet Union. All these doctrines were the real cause of Arab backwardness. Most of Nasser’s mistakes were afterwards corrected by the martyr Anwar Sadat.

Following the defeat of Nasserism, “fundamentalist” movements made anti-Zionism an outstanding part of their propaganda, trying to describe the so-called “fight for liberation of Palestine” as rooted in Islamic tradition and derived from religious principles.

1.3 Both the Bible and the Qur’an confirm that God gave the Land of Israel to the Children of Israel, and that He will bring the Children of Israel back to the Land of Israel at the End of Days

This plan for the transformation of Islam into an ideology of political struggle nevertheless encounters a significant obstacle, since both the Qur’an and the Torah indicate quite clearly that the link between the Children of Israel and the Land of Canaan does not depend on any kind of colonization project but directly on the will of God Almighty.

We learn from Jewish and Islamic Scriptures that God, through His chosen servant Moses, decided to free the offspring of Israel from slavery in Egypt and to make them inheritors of the Promised Land. Whoever claims that Jewish sovereignty over Palestine is something recent and dependent on political machinations is in fact denying the history of revelation and prophecy, as well as the clear teachings of the holy books.

The Qur’an cites the exact words with which Moses ordered the Israelites to conquer the Land:

وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ اللّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ جَعَلَ فِيكُمْ أَنبِيَاء وَجَعَلَكُم مُّلُوكًا وَآتَاكُم مَّا لَمْ يُؤْتِ أَحَدًا مِّن الْعَالَمِين يَا قَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الأَرْضَ المُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِي كَتَبَ اللّهُ لَكُمْ وَلاَ تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَى أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنقَلِبُوا خَاسِرِينَ

“And (remember) when Moses said to his people: ‘O My People, call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O My People, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin”.
Qur’an, Sura Maida (“The Table”), 5:20-21 (Palazzi translation)

Moreover – and “fundamentalists” (Wahhabis) always “forget” this point – the Holy Qur’an quite openly refers to the reinstatement of the Jews in the Land of Israel before the Last Judgment, where it says:

وَقُلْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِ لِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اسْكُنُواْ الأَرْضَ فَإِذَا جَاء وَعْدُ الآخِرَةِ جِئْنَا بِكُمْ لَفِيفًا

“And thereafter We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, We will gather you together in a mingled crowd’”.
Qur’an, Sura al-Isra (The Night Journey) – Bani Isra’il (Children of Israel), 17:104 (Palazzi translation)

1.4 Jewish Sovereignty over Jerusalem

The most common argument against Islamic acknowledgment of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is that, as al-Quds is a holy place for Muslims, Muslims cannot accept its being ruled by non-Muslims, because such acceptance would be a betrayal of Islam.

Before expressing our point of view on this question, we must reflect upon the reason that Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque hold such a sacred position in Islam. As everyone should know, the definition of Jerusalem as an Islamic holy place depends upon al-Mi’raj, the Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven, which began from the Holy Rock.

While remembering this, we must admit that there is no real link between al-Mi’raj and sovereign rights over Jerusalem, since when al-Mi’raj took place the city was not under Islamic, but under Byzantine administration. Moreover, the Qur’an expressly recognises that Jerusalem plays the same role for Jews that Mecca has for Muslims.
We read:

مَّا تَبِعُواْ قِبْلَتَكَ وَمَا أَنتَ بِتَابِعٍ قِبْلَتَهُمْ وَمَا بَعْضُهُم بِتَابِعٍ قِبْلَةَ بَعْضٍ

“They would not follow thy direction of prayer (qibla), nor art thou to follow their direction of prayer; nor indeed will they follow each other’s direction of prayer”.
Qur’an, Sura Al Baqarah (“The Heifer”), 2:145 (Palazzi translation)

All Qur’anic commentators explain that “thy qibla” is clearly the Ka’ba of Mecca, while “their qibla” refers to the Temple Mount (bayt al-maqdis) in Jerusalem. To cite just one of the most important of them, we read in Qadi Baydawi’s commentary:

“Verily, in their prayers Jews orient themselves toward the Rock (sakhrah), while Christians orientated themselves eastwards”.
M. Sheikh Zadeh, Hashiyya ala tafsir al-Qadi al-Baydawi, (Istanbul: 1979)

As opposed to what Islamic “fundamentalists” (Wahhabis) continuously claim, the Book of Islam – as we have just now seen – recognises the Temple Mount (bayt al-maqdis) in Jerusalem as the Jewish direction of prayer. Some Muslim exegetes also quote the Book of Daniel as proof of this:

“And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house — now his windows were open in his upper chamber toward Jerusalem — and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime”.
Daniel 6:11

After reviewing the most relevant Qur’anic passages in this connection, one easily concludes that, as no one wishes to deny Muslims complete sovereignty over Mecca, from an Islamic point of view there is no sound theological reason to deny Jews the same rights over Jerusalem.

If we see ourselves as religious men, we must necessarily include justice among our qualities. As regards the argument, we have to admit that the same idea of justice requires that we treat Jews, Christians and Muslims equally. No community can demand for itself privileges that it is not ready to recognise for others.

We know that Roman Catholics see Rome as their own capital. The fact that Rome has the largest mosque in Europe and an ancient Jewish community does not alter its role as the world center of Catholicism. Even more can be said of Mecca: It is the main religious center for Muslims the world over and is completely under Islamic administration.

Respecting this principle of fair-mindedness, we necessarily conclude that Israelis as a nation and Jews as a religion must have their own political and religious capital, under their sole administration, even though it contains certain places regarded as sacred by the other two Abrahamic faiths (Christianity and Islam).

To my mind, this is the only realistic ground for any discussion of the future of the Holy City. The other parties must understand that Jews will never agree to have less rights than other religions, and that Israelis will never agree to see David’s City divided into two parts.

If everyone was happy to see the Berlin Wall destroyed, it was because the very idea of forced separation within a single city is something objectionable to human sensitivity. We cannot even think of creating another Berlin in the heart of the Middle East. Of course, the idea of “two Jerusalems”, if ever realized, will by no means be a solution, but a source of new troubles and conflicts.

It is quite clear that the future of Jerusalem requires general agreement. In our opinion, the only reliable partners for Israel seem to be the Holy See and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. They must understand that Israelis will never agree even to discuss the possibility of dividing their capital and spiritual center, while Israel must grant Christians and Muslims considerable autonomy in the administration of their respective Holy Places.

Those who speak of Jerusalem as the future capital of “two different states” know very well that this kind of proposal has no basis in reality. It is time to suggest imaginative solutions, and to become involved in a global project for the development of the Middle East as a whole, so that peaceful coexistence with Israel can make a real contribution to overcoming the backwardness of most Islamic countries.

1.5 Prohibiting Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims from praying on the Temple Mount (bayt al-maqdis)

The administration of the holy places in Jerusalem is a very complicated issue, and it is not possible here to enter into details. We would nevertheless like to mention something that appears unbearable for any person of religious conscience: The fact that at present the Islamic administration of bayt al-maqdis (Temple Mount) permits Jews to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. There are special officials in the area whose task is to ensure that Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount are not moving their lips in prayer.

To my mind, this is clearly opposed to Islamic prescriptions and rules. We have seen that the Holy Qur’an declares the Rock a qibla (direction of prayer) for Jews. How then, is it possible that – in the name of Islam – someone dares to forbid Jews to pray in the place that God has appointed as their qibla?

This is a clear example of a case in which pseudo-religious principles may work against the real spirit of religion. Moreover, we must ask: Is it possible for someone who believes in God to forbid another human to pray? What kind of religion can let us interfere in the relationship between the Creator and His creatures?

On this point the Qur’an says:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُواْ بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close to them: I answer the prayer of every suppliant who calleth on Me”.

Qur’an, Sura al-Baqarah (“The Cow”), 2:186 (Palazzi translation)

This verse explains that God is always close to His servants when they are praying. Wherever we are and whoever we are, according to the Qur’an we can be sure that God is listening to our prayers and will answer them, although, of course, we are not always able to understand His response.

This being the case, no one who believes in God can possibly prevent others praying, notwithstanding the fact that they belong to another religious tradition.

The very idea of opposing someone’s prayers reveals a really deep lack of faith.