Thursday, November 29, 2012

Defeat Hamas. There, I Said It.

We must drop the assumption that there is no way to vanquish Hamas. Terrorists have been defeated before.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The land of pharaohs: The more Egypt changes ...

No doubt many an Egyptian misses Hosni Mubarak and the familiar tyranny they had grown accustomed to, the way some Russians still pine for Stalin's oppressive rule. At least there was no question of who was in charge back then -- even if the next knock on the door might mean a government-paid vacation in Siberia, or worse.
Slavery does have its enchantments, its stability however deadly, its fleshpots if you're a house servant rather than a field hand. Witness the faux nostalgia for old times down on the plantation with Old Massa presiding over a happy scene from "Gone With the Wind," however false the image.
Evil can be romanticized in the imagination, and certainly in official histories. See the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, where faces of old leaders had a way of being air-brushed out in every new edition as today's Hero of The Revolution became tomorrow's unperson.
Even now the revolution that overthrew Egypt's last pharaoh is being reversed by its new one. Across the Middle East, the bright Arab spring turns to the usual winter of stunted hopes.
This familiar process isn't confined to our own time, or just the Middle East. It may be the natural course of modern revolutions, which still follow the pattern set by the French one, and make the American Revolution the great exception to a dismal rule -- a revolution that somehow brought liberty and order, thanks to a founding generation unmatched by revolutionaries elsewhere.

Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison ... where else do you find their counterparts? And our ever with-it intellectuals say America isn't exceptional. Tell it to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the tempest-tossed to whom the word for hope is still America.
Recommended reading: "The Anatomy of Revolution" by Crane Brinton, the classic that charts the progress, or rather regress, of modern revolutions as a series of shock waves from left to right till the pendulum reaches its Reign of Terror, then pauses as it reaches the end of its arc (Thermidor) and begins to swing back -- till a new tyrant succeeds the old, and it isn't always easy to tell the difference. Except that the new commissars and reichsministers may be crueler than the old czars and nobles.

Continue reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Palestinian U.N. Bid - 2 Sides

On November 29, 2012, the Palestinian Authority will request that the General Assembly adopt a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian representation from Observer status to a non-Member State of the United Nations. This follows last year’s failed attempt to have the United Nations Security Council consider their Unilateral Declaration of Independence. This is a matter of great significance and potential impact.

Unlike the Security Council, the General Assembly vote would not be legally binding, nor provide recognition as a state or full membership in the UN – but would still lead to serious consequences. Such an international mandate could enhance the upgraded entity’s ability to join other specialized agencies and possibly give it standing to petition the International Criminal Court against Israel – which PA President Abbas and other PA officials have long asserted is a primary goal. According to Abbas Zaki, member of the Fatah Central Committee, the PA will use UN recognition to void the Oslo accords and "go to all UN agencies to force the international community to take legal action against Israel."

The request for upgraded status will not resolve any of the core issues, including borders and refugees, and could trigger the cut-off of aid from the United States and other countries, as this unilateral action violates all previous agreements and is opposed by much of the Western world.

If this political maneuver is successful, not only will the conflict continue and the lives of Palestinians on the ground not change for the better, but this could potentially make things much worse. It will raise the expectations of Palestinians who will soon see that there is no improvement and perhaps, heavy losses. The proposed direct negotiations with Israel, long stalled by Abbas’ refusal to talk, would be further diminished. Israel would also take measures in response to reflect its disapproval.

Support Palestinian Statehood By 

THE cease-fire that ended the latest round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians has enhanced the popularity of the militant group Hamas. This extremist organization has become the only interlocutor for the Arab world, for the West and, indirectly, for Israel. But Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s existence or to negotiate with Israelis. Meanwhile, the pragmatic Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, is rapidly losing legitimacy and Israel’s recent strikes on Gaza will only weaken it further. Negotiating with Hamas may secure a lull, but Hamas cannot be a partner for peace.
If the world wants to express support for the Palestinian party that recognizes Israel, seeks to avoid violence, and genuinely wishes to reach a peace agreement in which a Palestinian state exists alongside — not instead of — Israel, it will have its chance later this week when Mr. Abbas makes his bid for recognition of Palestinian statehood before the United Nations. If American and Israeli opposition to a Palestinian bid continues, it could serve as a mortal blow to Mr. Abbas, and end up being a prize that enhances the power and legitimacy of Hamas.
It is paradoxical that Israel’s current government is so vehemently opposed to Mr. Abbas’s bid for recognition. After all, it was 65 years ago this week, on Nov. 29, 1947, that the Palestinians and their friends in the Arab world expressly rejected United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which recognized the need to establish a Jewish state alongside an Arab state in the former British Mandate territory of Palestine.

Related Video: Why a Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian Statehood is a Bad Idea

Monday, November 26, 2012


The air-raid siren catches us on the highway, driving to Grandpa Yonatan’s place, a few kilometres north of Tel Aviv. My wife, Shira, pulls over to the side of the road and we get out of the car, leaving the badminton rackets and feathered ball on the back seat. Lev holds my hand and says, “Daddy, I’m a little nervous.” He’s seven, and seven is the age when it’s not considered cool to talk about fear, so the word “nervous” is used instead. Following Home Front Command instructions, Shira lies down on the side of the road. I tell Lev that he has to lie down, too. But he keeps standing there, his small, sweaty hand clutching mine.

“Lie down already,” Shira says, raising her voice to be heard over the blaring siren.

“How’d you like to play a game of Pastrami Sandwich?” I ask Lev.

“What’s that?” he asks, not letting go of my hand.

“Mommy and I are slices of bread,” I explain, “and you’re a slice of pastrami, and we have to make a pastrami sandwich as fast as we can. Let’s go. First, you lie down on Mommy,” I say, and Lev lies down on Shira’s back and hugs her as hard as he can. I lie on top of them, pressing against the damp earth with my hands so as not to crush them.

“This feels good,” Lev says and smiles.

“Being the pastrami is the best,” Shira says under him.

“Pastrami!” I yell.

“Pastrami!” my wife yells.

“Pastrami!” Lev yells, his voice shaky, either from excitement or fear.

“Daddy,” Lev says, “look, there are ants crawling on Mommy.”

“Pastrami with ants!” I yell.

“Pastrami with ants!” my wife yells.

“Yech!” Lev yells.

And then we hear the boom. Loud, but far away. We stay lying one on top of the other, without moving, for a long time. My arms are starting to hurt from carrying my weight. From the corner of my eye, I can see other drivers who’ve been lying on the highway get up and brush the dirt off their clothes. I stand up, too.

“Lie down,” Lev tells me, “lie down, Daddy. You’re ruining the sandwich.”

I lie down for another minute, and say, “O.K., game’s over. We won.”

“But it’s nice,” Lev says. “Let’s stay like this a little more.”

We stay like that a few seconds longer. Mommy on the bottom, Daddy on the top, and in the middle, Lev and a few red ants. When we finally get up, Lev asks where the rocket is. I point in the direction the explosion came from. “It sounded like it exploded not far from our house,” I say.

Read more.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Operation Pillar of Defense: Lessons Learned

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, sitting, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing a cease-fire with Hamas at a news conference in Jerusalem,

Nov. 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)


(JTA) – As Israel and Hamas mostly stilled their guns Wednesday night after reaching a cease-fire agreement, ending eight days of intense bombardment, both sides took home some new lessons about their foes.
By firing longer-range rockets capable of reaching Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Hamas demonstrated for the first time that it could expand the borders of the missile battleground to include the densely populated center of Israel. Even under severe aerial bombardment, Hamas managed to launch some 1,500 missiles over the course of the week. Some traveled as far as 50 miles.
But with its Iron Dome missile defense system, Israel showed how technology can be a game changer on the battlefield. Of the missiles targeted by Iron Dome, which is designed to knock down only missiles aimed at populated areas, approximately 80 percent to 90 percent were eliminated, the Israeli military said. In all, the Israel Defense Forces said Iron Dome downed 421 missiles.
“Eight days ago, Israel launched an operation after terror attacks from Gaza escalated,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night. With several major terrorist commanders eliminated and much weapons infrastructure destroyed, he said, “we have decided to give cease-fire a chance.”

Israel suffered five fatalities in the fighting, all but one civilians. The Palestinians reported more than 140 killed, including militants and civilians. That’s approximately the same proportion of Israeli-to-Palestinian casualties the last time Israel and Hamas went to war, during the 22-day Operation Cast Lead launched in late 2008. But the Palestinian casualty rate this time was about one-third the rate of Cast Lead, when an average of 350 Palestinians were killed per week.
That’s probably because this round of fighting, which the IDF dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, did not include a ground invasion.

Palestinian casualties increased significantly during Israel’s ground invasion in the 2008-09 war, stoking international anger. As that war dragged on, Israeli critics said the military achieved diminishing returns the longer it stayed in Gaza and should have gotten out quicker.
This time, though Netanyahu threatened to send in ground troops -- calling up 75,000 reserve troops and massing tanks on the Israel-Gaza border -- he did not follow through on his threat.
Under the terms of the cease-fire, Israel agreed to halt its operation in Gaza, including targeted assassinations, and Palestinian terrorist groups agreed to stop their rocket fire and border attacks against Israel. Some sporadic fighting was still reported after the cease-fire went into effect Wednesday night.

So, who won, and what did the fighting accomplish?

If it holds, the cease-fire will have ended the rocket fire on southern Israel without any concessions to Hamas -- a clear victory for Israel. The operation also enabled Israel to do some damage to Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure, including killing the Hamas military chief, Ahmed Jabari. The IDF was able to do it all without undertaking a risky ground invasion that could have ratcheted up the casualty count on both sides and fueled more international ire.

On the plus side for Hamas, the group showed that despite Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip, terrorists are able to get their hands on increasingly potent and sophisticated weaponry, representing a greater threat to Israel. And despite Israel’s bombardment, Hamas’ rocket launching capability has not been destroyed. Few Israelis believe it’s anything but a matter of time before the rocket fire starts anew.

There are some very clear losers here.

Again, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority was left sitting on the sidelines while Hamas commanded Israel’s attention and claimed the mantle of the Palestinian cause. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, have been frozen since 2009. While Hamas did not achieve any tangible gains from the fighting, Palestinians in the more moderate Fatah-ruled West Bank rallied to Hamas’ side. The notion that negotiation rather than violence is the path toward Palestinian statehood seems to have suffered yet another setback.

While Hamas was emboldened by the Egyptian government’s very public and sympathetic stance, the sympathy didn’t translate into any concrete assistance on the ground. Egypt’s prime minister visited Gaza during the fighting as a show of solidarity, but Egypt kept out of the fighting and retained its role as a broker between Israel and Hamas.

That’s a triumph for President Mohamed Morsi, who showed that despite his affiliation with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -- Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian Islamist group -- he could play the role of mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egypt’s gain showed Turkey’s loss. Once Israel’s closest Middle East ally and a key conduit between Israel and the Arab world, Turkey was left on the sidelines of this conflict. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s description of Israel as a “terrorist state” may have won him fans among his Muslim base, but it also signaled that Turkey had lost its unique ability to act as a mediator in the conflict.

Finally, there’s the issue of cost for Israel. Each Iron Dome missile interceptor comes with a price tag in excess of $40,000, and Israelis suffered damage to infrastructure ranging from homes to schools to roads.

But President Obama has pledged to seek additional funding from Congress for the Iron Dome system. The United States already has sent Israel $275 million for Iron Dome over the last two years, and earlier this year the U.S. House of Representatives proposed an additional $680 million through 2015, with the Senate proposing an additional $210 million.

Iron Dome’s success during the fighting also could be a boon for Israel’s defense industry, as other countries facing similar rocket threats clamor for the pioneering missile defense system.
Whether that defense coupled with Israel’s offensive in Gaza is enough to deter Hamas from resuming its attacks remains unclear.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Daybreak: Bombers Strike Tel Aviv Bus

Just hours ago, Tel Aviv, which had seemingly been inoculated from the violence by its distance from Gaza and the efficacy of the Iron Dome system, was struck by bombers who targeted a bus within the city limits. 21 people were injured, the most seriously injured were teenagers. None of the injuries are expected to be life-threatening.

The United States and France were among the first to condemn the attack, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in the region to help revive the stalled ceasefire efforts, offered whatever assistance Israel needs. The attack was widely praised in the West Bank–where the attack reportedly originated–and in Gaza, where it was ‘blessed‘ by Hamas. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is linked to Fatah in the West Bank, took responsibility for the attack.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Crossing Religious Lines in an Israeli Hospital

JERUSALEM — There are no empty beds this day in the recovery room at the Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital. Doctors and nurses hover over patients. Manar Igbarya, 25, is giving a woman an injection and inspecting a bandage on her right leg. The Orthodox patient is absorbed in talking to her visiting husband. Everyone is chatting in Hebrew; nothing in this scene seems unusual, except that Ms. Igbarya is a Palestinian Muslim.

Muna al-Ayan, 22, who works as a secretary in the same hospital, wears a hijab; everyone recognizes her as a Muslim. She said it had been hard for her to find a job in the past because of that, but she was accepted at the hospital because “all they cared about was how I do my job.” Every so often, she said, smiling, a patient is surprised to see a Muslim working here.
Ashgan, 35, who asked not to be identified by her family name, works in the operating room as a nurse. “We all speak Hebrew, and all we do here is our job, though we all carry our Palestinian identity inside us,” she said, looking at the other two women. “No one can forget their identity.”
While more traditional Palestinian women marry in their early 20s, the members of this trio are all single. Each of them characterized the world inside the hospital as very different from that outside its walls, where Arab and Jewish Israelis live -- at least in some places -- side by side but barely interact.

“We are a team here, and there is no difference, if one is Jewish or Muslim or Christian: The task is to help the patients,” Ms. Igbarya said. Sometimes, she said, she glimpses questions in the eyes of some Jewish patients if they hear her speaking Arabic to Ms. Ayan or to Ashgan. 

There is a tension to Jerusalem even more intense than in other parts of Israel, in part because the city itself is a key source of dispute, important as it is to the religion of both Jews and Muslims.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Islamic Jihad leaders killed in strike, Hamas’ Maashal shuns stop to bombings

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- As Hamas' leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, brushed off a halt to bombings, Israeli airstrikes hit a Gaza media center and killed several leaders of Islamic Jihad.

The Israel Air Force's strike Monday evening -- the second on the center in two days -- killed Ramaz Harab, a top leader of Islamic Jihad's military wing, the Al Quds Brigades. At least three other Islamic Jihad leaders were in the building when it was hit, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Hamas' main television station, Al Aksa, is located on the top floor of the high-rise building.
In Cairo, meanwhile, Maashal said Monday during an hourlong news conference, "Whoever started the war must end it."

He told reporters that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested a cease-fire, a claim that Israel has denied, according to reports.

Maashal said there is a new spirit of cooperation among Palestinian factions due to the Israeli operation, which began on Nov. 14.

"Israel is the common enemy. Confrontation with the enemy is our moment of truth," he said. "We must end the political divide and unite around common institutions and around resistance to Israel. Our enemy cannot be treated with words, but only by force. No concessions should be made with Israel, given the new atmosphere in the Arab world."

Click here for updates on the Jewish vote, Jewish candidates and other election news.

Friday, November 16, 2012

U.S. Jews Fighting Wrong Battle

As rockets rain down on Israel, an Atlanta JCC bans Peter Beinart. When did we become so narrow-minded?

By Daniel Gordis|November 16, 2012
This has been a frightening and sad week in Israel. First, Hamas unleashed 160 rockets on Israeli towns. Then the IDF responded, and Israeli civilians were ordered—and many remain—in bomb shelters. And as was almost inevitable, some who did not heed the warnings were killed by rocket fire. At this writing, the end is nowhere in sight.
If there can be said to be a silver lining in this horrendous situation, it’s in the broad range of support for the prime minister’s decision to protect his citizens. “Labor, Kadima, Olmert, Livni back government’s air assault on Hamas,” reported the Times of Israel. But it shouldn’t take war for Jews to acknowledge that we’re utterly dependent on each other, no matter how deeply we may disagree.
Far from the fighting, the conversation among American Jews about Israel has become so toxic that it’s often impossible even for people who are allies to listen to each other. Not long ago, I was invited by a major national Jewish organization to give a lecture in the United States. Soon after, the person who’d invited me called me in Jerusalem to tell me that the major sponsors of the event had pulled their support and their funding because I’d signed a letter asking the Prime Minister Netanyahu to ignore a legal report claiming that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not technically an occupation.
“You’re not embarrassed?” I asked her. She couldn’t understand why she should possibly be embarrassed. She explained that her organization believed that the report was important for defending Israel’s international legitimacy. “That’s fine,” I said, “and I think that adopting it would do us great damage. But so what? Doesn’t the fact that we disagree make it all the more critical that we talk to each other? Or have we reached the point where your supporters will listen only to those with whom they agree completely? Your sponsors based their decision to invite me on a record of 15 years of writing and speaking. I do one thing that they don’t approve of, and they pull the plug?”
That’s precisely what they did. I ended up giving the lecture, but the sponsors never restored their support.
They represent, I believe, a scary anti-intellectual trend in the Jewish community. These people believe that an increasingly narrow tent will best protect the state of Israel, and so they continue to move the tent’s pegs. But they are doing just the opposite of bolstering the Jewish state: They weaken Israel and make it more vulnerable because they exclude enormous swaths of the community that we need—particularly on a week like this.
The latest example of this narrowing happened this week in Atlanta, where one of the country’s major Jewish book fairs canceled an appearance by the writer Peter Beinart. “As leaders of our agency, we want the center to always serve as a safe place for honest debate, but we want to balance that against the concerns of our patrons,” said Steven Cadranel, president of the Marcus Jewish Community Center. I have no unique knowledge of what actually transpired, but this has become an old story: Many Jewish organizations have been pushed into such corners by donors who refused to contribute to festivals or organizations who will host people whose views they find reprehensible. Jewish community professionals regularly find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
I disagree with Peter Beinart on more issues than I can count. I was appalled by his oped in the Times calling for a boycott on some Israelis, and I found his most recent book far too accommodating of Israel’s enemies and unfairly critical of Israel. I think he’s completely wrong when he asserts the occupation is the core cause of Israel’s marginality. But his views represent those of a not inconsiderable swath of American Jewry, so I agreed to debate him at Columbia University. Our debate was fun—and far more important, it was civil.
I don’t know how many minds were changed that night; Beinart’s wasn’t, and neither was mine. But we did model for the hundreds of people who were there and the many more who watched the debate online that the Jewish community doesn’t have the luxury of refusing to speak to those who disagree with us. Instead, Peter and I did what the Jews have always done: We engaged the ideas, assumptions, and moral positions of the other, and in the spirit of the brave marketplace of ideas that Judaism has always been, tried to make our most compelling case.
Are there no limits to who’s in the Zionist tent? Of course there are. For me, the litmus tests are Israel’s Jewishness, democracy, and security. Anyone publicly committed to those three—even if I believe that their policy ideas are wrong-minded—is in the tent. There are many Israeli politicians whose ideas I believe are na├»ve or dangerous. But should I say that they’re not Zionists? That would absurd. For the same reason, Beinart is in my tent.
Speaking with people who agree with me is no challenge. Engaging with those whose views seem to me dangerous is infinitely harder, but far more important. That sort of conversation is perhaps the most critical lesson that we inherit from centuries of Talmudic Judaism. The Talmud is essentially a 20-volume argument, in which even positions that “lost” the battle and were not codified into law are subjected to reverential examination. When Hillel and Shammai debate, Jewish law, or halakhah, almost always follows Hillel. But we still study Shammai with reverence. Even those views not codified, we believe, have insights to share and moral positions worth considering.
The American Jewish community is the most secure diaspora community the Jews have ever known. Economically, socially, politically, culturally—we have made it, and what we say and model is watched by countless others. Yet New York Times readers this week can only conclude that in the midst of that security and comfort, we’ve utterly abandoned the intellectual curiosity that has long been Judaism’s hallmark.
Are we not ashamed to have created a community so shrill that any semblance of that Talmudic curiosity has been banished? Has the People of the Book really become so uninterested in thinking?
Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His book Saving Israel won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Could Hamas Go Moderate?

Experts often say that one of the biggest obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace today is the split between the Palestinians' two major factions: Fatah and Hamas. Fatah cooperates with Israeli security forces and is committed in principle to the two-state solution. Hamas calls for Israel’s destruction and just bombarded southern Israel with rockets.
It's easy to forget, though, that in the 1980s Israel viewed the PLO, led by Fatah, much as it views Hamas now. The goal of the First Lebanon War, in 1982, was to oust the PLO from Beirut and to prevent it from attacking Israel -- while at the same time bolstering a moderate government in Lebanon. At that time, the PLO was committed in word and deed to Israel's destruction.
Eleven years after the Israeli invasion of Beirut, the PLO's Yasser Arafat signed an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn. What had changed? The PLO had agreed to recognize the Jewish state, to negotiate with it secretly and to renounce violence.
Is the same process happening now with Hamas? The organization continues to call for Israel's destruction, and rained bombs on it this week. But after winning Palestinian elections in 2006, six years of governing Gaza seem to have led recently to Hamas' pursuing stability. Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas, via Egypt, have happened several times. Evidence suggests that most of the bombs launched at Israel before this weekend were the work of more extremist groups such as Islamic Jihad, rather than Hamas. A recent New York Times story reported that Hamas is now "sharing an interest" with Israel in controlling these extremist groups. And an editorial yesterday in Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said that "Israel has no interest in Hamas being replaced by more extreme elements."
As long as southern Israel remains under attack, though, and Hamas continues to not recognize Israel, Israeli officials will be loath to call the group anything close to “moderate.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that "As far as Israel is concerned, Hamas is responsible for the rocket-fire and all other attempts to harm our soldiers and civilians [from Gaza], even when other groups participate. And it is Hamas that will pay the heavy price, a price that will be painful."
Another difference between the PLO's and Hamas' trajectories is that while the PLO was secular, Hamas is an Islamist group with an Islamist government in Gaza. This suggests that it will stay true to its foreign-policy fundamentalism as well. In an interview with the Forward this year, Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook said his organization "will not recognize Israel as a state." And the ascendance of Hamas' Egyptian sponsor, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, provides a boost to the group's policies.
So while we've been surprised before, an improved status quo with a moderate Hamas seems like a long shot -- at least for now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Netanyahu in meeting with envoys talks tough on stopping Gaza barrage

Rocket Fire From Gaza

JERUSALEM (JTA) --  Israel will "take whatever action is necessary to put a stop" to the barrage of rockets from Gaza targeting the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ambassadors.
Netanyahu met Monday in Ashkelon with some 100 foreign envoys to talk about Israel's response to the escalation of rocket fire on southern Israel in the past three days.
"I don’t know of any of your governments who could accept such a thing," Netanyahu said at the meeting. "I don’t know of any of the citizens of your cities who could find that acceptable and something that could proceed on a normal basis. I think the whole world understands that this is not acceptable.
"So we’re going to fight for the rights of our people to defend themselves. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this."
Israel's foreign missions reportedly were instructed to tell their host governments that Israel has lost patience with the situation on the Gaza border and could take some action, Israel Radio reported. As many as 150 rockets have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel since Saturday, according to reports.
"The prime minister is interested in preparing international public opinion for an Israeli military operation in Gaza," Haaretz reported a source in the Prime Minister's Office as saying.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly met Monday with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and the commander of the IDF's Southern Command, Tal Russo, to discuss and possibly change the IDF's policy regarding rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Ynet reported that senior intelligence officials also attended the meeting.
Israeli politicians spoke out Monday on the possibility of a heightened Israeli response to the Gaza provocation, including a ground operation.
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich told Army Radio that such an operation should not occur on the eve of national elections, which are set for Jan. 22.
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, head of the Kadima Party, called for the targeted killing of terrorist leaders. Mofaz is a former IDF chief of staff. 
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, who lives in Ashkelon, called for a ground invasion of Gaza, saying that terror cannot be destroyed just by air power. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In House Races, Jewish Democrats Fare Better Than Republicans

Jewish Democrats seeking congressional seats fared better in Tuesday’s election than Jewish Republicans.
In New York’s 1st District in Suffolk County, incumbent Democrat Rep. Tim Bishop warded off a second challenge by Randy Altschuler, who would have been a second Jewish Republican in Congress. While their 2010 match was so close the results weren’t determined for weeks, Altschuler conceded just after midnight Wednesday, with the vote count at 52 percent to 48 percent, according to Newsday.
In New Jersey, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a Republican, failed to win a new congressional seat in his match against Democrat incumbent Bill Pascrell, Jr.
In Florida, Lois Frankel and Alan Grayson won congressional seats.
Frankel, 64, a former member of the Florida House and an ex-mayor of West Palm Beach, defeated Adam Hasner, a former majority leader in the Florida state Senate who also is Jewish, on Tuesday.
Grayson, 54, the fiery liberal who had been unseated in the Republican electoral surge in 2010, returned to the House by defeating Todd Long in a newly created Orlando-area district.
In Ohio, Treasurer Josh Mandel failed in his bid to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Republicans hoping to win control of the U.S. Senate had placed great hope in Mandel, a former Marine who is Jewish. Brown is a strong ally of organized labor and a pillar of the Democratic Party's progressive wing.
Virginia’s Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, remains the only Jewish Republican in Congress.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Israeli leaders congratulate Obama

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Israeli leaders congratulated President Obama on his reelection.
"The strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S. is stronger than ever," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a short statement issued Wednesday morning in Israel shortly after Obama delivered his victory speech. "I will continue to work with President Obama in order to assure the interests that are vital to the security of the citizens of Israel."
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, according to a statement issued from the Prime Minister's Office.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement congratulating Obama as well as "all of the Senators and Members of Congress who were elected by the American people in an exemplary display of democracy."
“I have no doubt that the Obama administration will continue its policy –whereby Israel’s security is at its very foundations – as well as its efforts to tackle the challenges facing all of us in the region; all the while continuing to strive for further progress in the peace process," Barak said in a statement issued Wednesday morning in Israel. "I believe that in the tradition of deep friendship and with a backdrop of shared experiences accrued with President Obama, it also will be possible to overcome any differences in stance; should they arise.”
Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich also sent a letter of congratulations to Obama. "I have a lot of appreciation for your attempts to bring about change in American society, its agenda, and the values you promote - international values such as equality, fair economy, and accountability to citizens."
She also wished the president "success in your efforts to promote processes of peace and freedom around the world. We in Israel expect to continue the special relationship between Israel and America, which are real friends and allies. We hope your global leadership will create a better and safer future for in our region and in the entire world."
Shapiro on his Facebook page offered his congratulations to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on their reelection. He also offered "Congratulations to America on another election."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Iran’s Canadian assets frozen over $13M U.S. terrorism payout

An Ontario judge has issued a restraining order against Iran’s property in Canada — including its embassy in Ottawa and a former cultural centre in Toronto — as the family of an American woman killed in a terrorist attack tries to collect a $13-million judgment by a U.S. court from a wrongful death claim against Iran’s security agency.
Three properties were frozen, ensuring they are not sold or transferred, until court can decide whether they should be forfeited to the victim’s family to help satisfy the U.S. court award. The property is owned by the government of Iran or by an “alter ego” used “as a front” for Iran, court heard.
Justice Beth Allen of the Ontario Superior Court found that a case exists that Iran has title, either legally or beneficially, to the three properties, an initial success for the family of Marla Bennett. Ms. Bennett of San Diego was killed in 2002 in a bomb attack on the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem, where she was a graduate student in Judaic studies. She was 24.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Israel’s Netanyahu cool to Abbas’s hint at waiving Palestinian ‘right of return’

JERUSALEM Remarks by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suggesting that he was conceding the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees, a core issue in dispute with Israel, drew a wary response Sunday from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after setting off a storm of controversy in the Palestinian territories.
“Only in direct negotiations can the real positions be clarified,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “If Abu Mazen is really serious and intends to promote peace, as far as I’m concerned we can sit down together immediately.” Abu Mazen is Abbas’s nickname.
Netanyahu’s reaction contrasted with that of Israeli President Shimon Peres, who on Saturday praised Abbas’s comments to an Israeli television station as a “brave and important public declaration” by a “real partner for peace.” Some Israeli newspaper commentators also called the Palestinian leader’s remarks a significant development.
In an interview broadcast Friday on Israel’s Channel 2 television, Abbas attempted to reach out to the Israeli public after a protracted stalemate in peace efforts. The appearance came weeks before an expected Palestinian bid this month for recognition at the United Nations as a non-member observer state, and as an Israeli election campaign begins to gather steam.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Israeli Students Pray for America’s Hurricane Sandy Victims

As Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern coast of the United States, Israeli students studying in AMIT schools prayed for America’s well-being. Arutz Sheva reported that students read psalms in each of the 100 schools associated with the AMIT educational network.
AMIT director Dr. Amnon Eldar explained, “We have 25,000 students. Many of them are in Sderot, Ashkelon, and Be’er Sheva, and when they are in danger from rocket attacks, American Jews pray for them, support them, and come visit, and also help and contribute, because they are our brothers, our flesh and blood. Most citizens of the United States are good friends to the state of Israel, and when they are in trouble, we feel a real need to pray for them.”
Thus, as Rabbi Shimon Shushan of an AMIT Yeshiva in Petach Tikva explained, “We have a moral obligation to help our friends, and we believe we have the power to do what little is in our hands – and that is to pray for our brothers in the United States at this difficult time.”
Hurricane Damage, Arutz Sheva
As of now, Hurricane Sandy’s death toll has climbed to 40 people. 8.2 million Americans are currently living without electricity. New York was among the hardest hit, where the storm caused the worst damage ever to the city’s subway system in the 108 years that it has existed. New York’s Mayor said it may be days before the New York City subway is up and running again.
Yedioth Achronot reported, “The storm sent a nearly 14-foot (4.27-meter) surge of seawater, a record, coursing over Lower Manhattan’s seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. The water inundated tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown. A large tanker ship ran aground on the city’s Staten Island.” Thus far, Hurricane Sandy has caused $20 billion in property damages, as well as up to $30 billion in business losses, making it one of the most costly natural disasters in the history of the US. At times like this, Israelis stand in solidarity with the United States.
Reported by: Rachel Avraham for United With Israel

Thursday, November 1, 2012

For growing number of Polish gentiles, Jewish culture seen as part of their own heritage

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) Marek Tuszewicki is doing doctoral work at the Institute of Jewish Studies at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, teaches Yiddish at the Krakow JCC and leads a club that brings together those who like to sing Chasidic songs and read Yiddish literature. He also co-founded a Jewish literature and art quarterly called Cwiszn and publishes articles and poems in Yiddish.
There's just one thing: Tuszewicki is not himself Jewish.
"There is the whole Polish background with the ruins of cemeteries and synagogues from which there is no escape," Tuszewicki told JTA.
"There are more and more people interested in Yiddish and opportunities to learn," he said. “What are the proportions of Jews and non-Jews I cannot say exactly, but I'm sure at the university there are more students from non-Jewish backgrounds."
Tuszewicki is among the growing number of non-Jewish Poles who are immersing themselves in Jewish culture. They organize Jewish events or ceremonies commemorating the Jews who lived in their cities. They are building monuments and teaching others about the history of their Jewish neighbors. They write in Yiddish.
Many Poles have begin to look at Polish Jewish history as part of their own cultural heritage -- something to be appreciated and remembered, not cast aside.
"I know that many Poles are interested in Yiddish because it is the heritage of Poland,” Tuszewicki said. “Yiddish developed here and great Yiddish literature has been written here. Besides, it not only coexisted with Polish, but it also entered with it into intensive contact. Forgetting Yiddish we would forget an important part of our culture.”
Martyna Majewska is another of the many Polish gentiles to have charted a Jewish path. She was granted a scholarship from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous to teach about the Holocaust and Jewish history. She took part in education courses organized by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum.
Majewska also co-authored a book called "Warsaw: City of many cultures" that helps educators teach about Poland’s minority communities.
Now Majewska, along with Marcin Kozlinski, a fellow Polish gentile, is preparing the first postwar Polish animated fairy tale in Yiddish. It’s part of the Multicultural Mosaic of Tales and Legends project funded by the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. The Jewish story is titled "Happy Man" and will be a short animated film in three languages: Polish, English and Yiddish.
"We decided to create a series of stories so children could learn more about the fairy tales in different cultures and see that they have universal appeal,” Majewska said. “And another advantage of every fairy tale is that it can be seen in its original language, giving the opportunity to familiarize children with an unknown language.”
Bogdan Bialek does not speak Yiddish. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Bialystok, where he had Jewish friends. One was a neighbor who was a survivor of Auschwitz from whom he learned about the Holocaust.
Poland’s anti-Zionist campaign of 1968 decimated what Jewish life remained in Bialystok, and Bialek eventually moved away, marrying a girl from Kielce, the site of a 1946 pogrom resulting from a blood libel.
In Kielce, Bialek wanted to learn more about the massacre, in which 37 Jews and three non-Jewish Poles were killed. The locals, however, were reluctant to talk about it.
"In 1982, one of the priests warned me to not talk about this because Jews kidnapped children and made them into matzah,” he said. “I met with a Poland which I did not know before. Thus began my stubbornness confronting the city with the pogrom."

Even in the 1990s, with Poland emerging from its communist shell, it wasn't easy to talk openly about Jewish history. Bialek endured several attacks for delving into Jewish history. Perpetrators threw grenades into the newspaper office where he worked.
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