Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Palestinian Student Defends Her Visit to Auschwitz

 “It is impossible for me to make believe that there was no human tragedy perpetrated against millions of Jews and non-Jews.”

Zeina M. Barakat for The Atlantic
A Palestinian Student Defends Her Visit to AuschwitzIn March, I was one of 27 Palestinian students who visited the Auschwitz-­Birkenau death camps with Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi. When we returned from Poland, the condemnation of our trip—and of Professor Dajani himself—in the media, and on Facebook and Twitter, was deafening. Equally deafening was the silence of my fellow travelers, who were so cowed into muteness by the virulence of the criticism that only a couple came to Professor Dajani’s defense.

As the coordinator of the Palestinian team, I am now breaking this silence.

For the last decade—ever since I enrolled in the American Studies program at al-Quds University in Jerusalem, received my master’s degree, and then moved to the other side of the desk to became a lecturer—Professor Dajani has been my teacher and mentor. Learning about the Holocaust—and its universal message about the threat of intolerance and genocide—has been a central theme of our work. Together, we co-authored with Martin Rau a book in Arabic on the Holocaust to create awareness of this most tragic event among Palestinians. We distributed the book both inside and outside the university, delivered lectures to civic groups, and showed films on the Holocaust in our workshops. More than once, we took our students to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Finally, the time came to travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

This was not solely a Palestinian affair. Our program, titled “From Stone to Flesh,” was a joint effort of three institutions—Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Tel Aviv University, and Ben Gurion University of the Negev—along with a Palestinian civil-society group founded by Professor Dajani called “al-Wasatia,” which means “moderation” in Arabic. The weeklong trip to Poland was funded by the German Research Foundation. Al-Quds University played no role in the program.

When we Palestinians returned from the unprecedented visit, a voyage that broke historic barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding, we were welcomed not with thanks and congratulations but with an explosion of criticism. Professor Dajani was the target of especially vicious attack by extreme Palestinian nationalists, who accused him of “selling out” to the Jews.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Waiting for the Palestinian Godot

Why are we repeatedly surprised every time Mahmoud Abbas fails to sign a peace agreement with Israel?

By Ari Shavit

Palestinian GodotThere are some moments a journalist will never forget. In early 1997, Yossi Beilin decided to trust me, and show me the document that proved that peace was within reach. The then-prominent and creative politician from the Labor movement opened up a safe, took out a stack of printed pages, and laid them down on the table like a player with a winning poker hand.

Rumors were rife about the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, but only a few had the opportunity to see the document with their own eyes or hold it in their hands. I was one of those few. With mouth agape I read the comprehensive outline for peace that had been formulated 18 months earlier by two brilliant champions of peace -- one, Israeli, and one, Palestinian. The document left nothing to chance: Mahmoud Abbas is ready to sign a permanent agreement. The refugee from Safed had overcome the ghosts of the past and the ideas of the past, and was willing to build a joint Israeli-Palestinian future, based on coexistence. If we could only get out from under the Likud’s thumb, and get Benjamin Netanyahu out of office, he will join us, hand in hand, walking toward the two-state solution. Abbas is a serious partner for true peace, the one with whom we can make a historic breakthrough toward reconciliation.

We understood. We did what was necessary. In 1999, we ousted Likud and Netanyahu. In 2000, we went to the peace summit at Camp David. Whoops, surprise: Abbas didn’t bring the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan to Camp David, or any other draft of a peace proposal. The opposite was true: He was one of the staunchest objectors, and his demand for the right of return prevented any progress.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Israel suspends peace talks over Palestinian unity deal

Government says it won’t negotiate with PA government that includes Hamas; PM: ‘Whoever chooses Hamas’s terror does not want peace’

By Raphael Ahren for Times of Israel

suspends peace talksIsrael on Thursday afternoon announced the suspension of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement of a unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

The top-level inner cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ministers “decided unanimously that it will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that incorporates Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel,” a statement said after an emergency meeting that lasted throughout Thursday afternoon. Israel also said it plans to introduce economic sanctions against the PA, which will reportedly include withholding tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Israeli officials said the government decision had been carefully worded so as not to rule out a possible resumption of peace talks if, in the next five weeks, PA President Mahmoud Abbas fails to agree with Hamas on the composition of a unity government as scheduled. At the same time, the wording was also designed to make plain that Israel will not negotiate with any Palestinian government that rests on Hamas support even if there are actually no Hamas ministers sitting around the cabinet table. Palestinian sources have said that Abbas intends to form a government of technocrats that might feature no Hamas or Fatah ministers.

A Palestinian Authority official said the PA would consider “all options” in response to Israel’s decision.

Israel had already called off a scheduled session of negotiations on Wednesday evening, soon after the unity pact was announced in Gaza.

“Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen [Abbas] made a deal with a murderous terror organization that calls for the destruction of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after Thursday’s meeting.

 Continue reading.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Israeli and Palestinian, Brought Together by Breast Cancer

"We are not the ones at war," Ibtisam told me. "It’s our governments, not us."

By Ruth Ebenstein for The Atlantic

Brought Together by Breast CancerWith a tinge of anxiety, I maneuvered my six-seater Fiat through a neighborhood in East Jerusalem that I did not know—and that most Jewish Israelis don’t frequent. Aboard were my mom, my kids, and my friends Ibtisam and Ahmed Erekat. After our family get-together, I was giving the Erekats a ride to the stores on Salah al-Din street, where they would shop and then head home to al-Eizariya, their village under joint Israeli-Palestinian control on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives.

I asked Ahmed the name of the neighborhood. “A-Tur,” he replied. ‘Wasn’t that the home turf of someone who had tried to blow himself up on a public bus some 10 years earlier?’ I thought to myself, before pushing that thought to the back of my mind.

My mom was sandwiched cozily in the front seat in between Ibtisam and me, and my sons, Yuval, 7, and Eitan, 5, were playing a game with Ahmed, Ibtisam’s husband, in the back seat. Every time I glanced at the rearview mirror and saw my two giggling boys, I couldn’t help but smile. There was something so normal and mundane about giving the Erekats a lift. As if, for just a moment, our friendship could exist absent the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The view from my car window could have been a Monet: Purple bougainvillea jutted out of sparkling Jerusalem limestone, forming a makeshift arch against a cloudless blue sky. The autumn sun warmed my forearm. The road stretched before us, empty and quiet.

 Continue reading.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Murdered at Auschwitz

My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was murdered in Auschwitz and don't you ever forget me.

by Benjamin Brafman for

Murdered at AuschwitzI did not survive – I was murdered at Auschwitz.

My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was "murdered" at Auschwitz. I did not die at Auschwitz. I was "murdered" at Auschwitz.

None of you know me. None of the people in this room have ever met me; not even my own grandson, Ben Brafman, who many of you know, has ever met me. I have authorized my grandson to speak for me, because although I was murdered, I was not silenced. You must be reminded of my life and of my murder – not my death – my murder. The murder of my family – of your family – of so many families...
This is my story – a true story. A sad, horrific story.

My story, like so many of your stories, has a wonderful beginning, a very terrible middle and a tragic, horrible end that Baruch Hashem was not really the end, because although I and part of my family were brutalized and murdered, a part of my family miraculously survived – and because some did survive, my grandson is here to speak for me, to tell you "my" story, his grandfather's story, my life story and my death story. The story of a life that was brutally taken from me, from my beautiful wife, Malka, my beautiful, sweet daughter, Sima, her young, handsome husband, Yaakov and their baby, my granddaughter, my "first" granddaughter, Chaya Sarah, my little Chaya Sarah, who at two years old was ripped screaming from her mother's arms and thrown into an oven at Auschwitz as if she did not matter.

I speak to tell you that my little Chayala did matter, we all mattered.
Nazi killers murdered my Chayala and 1.5 million other Jewish children.

Chaya Sarah was the only grandchild I ever knew and I loved her as only a grandfather can love a grandchild and Nazi killers murdered her, my Chayala and 1.5 million other Jewish children. They took our nachas – our life and our joy and our hope. They took our babies and turned them into ashes.

Continue reading.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ukraine Is Not Ordering Its Jews to Register

BY JULIA IOFFE for New Republic

Bogus FlyerToday, the Western press caught up with the Ukrainian rumor mill: apparently, the People's Republic of Donetsk had ordered all Jews over the age of 16 to pay a fee of $50 U.S. and register with the new "authorities," or face loss of citizenship or expulsion. This was laid out in officious-looking fliers pasted on the local synagogue. One local snapped a photo of the fliers and sent it to a friend in Israel, who then took it to the Israeli press and, voila, an international scandal: American Twitter is abuzz with it, Drudge is hawking it, and, today in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the fliers as "grotesque."

The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as "a provocation," which it clearly is. "It's an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry," says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. "I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east."

Why? The Russian government has been playing up the (real but small) role of fascists and neo-Nazis in the victory of the EuroMaidan in Kiev. The Ukrainian government, utterly powerless to fight off the Russians and their local stooges, have had to rely on other methods, like leaking taped phone calls of allegedly local separatists getting their commands from Moscow. This may be just another tactic to smear the so-called anti-Maidan in the east of Ukraine: you think we're fascists? Well, take a look at these guys.

Indeed, the Russian web chatter has sniffed the hand of the Dnipropetrovsk city government. (Dnipropetrovsk is another eastern Ukrainian city, but one that has been spared this chaos, in part because of the firm hand of its new regional governor, Jewish businessman Ihor Kolomoisky. One (Jewish) blogger said he received a similar looking flier from an official in the Dnipropetrovsk city administration.

On the other hand, says Vladimir Fedorin, an independent Russian journalist working in Ukraine, we shouldn't totally dismiss these fliers. "I think the fliers are fake, but the anti-Maidan crowd is a collection of the hardcore 'alternative' variety and criminals, so it's possible some of them are capable of this." To wit, there were also reports of teenagers distributing these fliers.

So, in conclusion: the Jews of Donetsk and eastern Ukraine may have been asked by a leaflet to register, but it has not been enforced nor are any Ukrainian Jews registering themselves. If that changes, I'll be all over it, but so far, you can breathe easy. No Holocaust 2.0 just yet.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mayor of Kansas shooter’s hometown: I agree with his views

Dan Clevenger, who once called himself a friend of Frazier Miller, accuses Jews of destroying country

By Lazar Berman for Times of Israel
ClevengerThe mayor of Marionville, Missouri, hometown of the suspect in the weekend’s fatal shootings outside two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City, said this week that he agreed with some of Frazier Miller’s views on Jews.

“I kind of agreed with him on some things but I don’t like to express that too much,” Dan Clevenger said Monday in an interview with Springfield, Missouri’s KSPR news.

“There’s some things going on in this country that’s destroying us,” said Clevenger, who also owns a repair shop in Marionville. “We’ve got a false economy. And it’s some of those corporations, are run by Jews, cause the names are there.”

Almost a decade ago, Clevenger called himself a friend of Miller’s in an anti-Semitic letter to a local newspaper.

“I’m a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warning,” he wrote in an October 26, 2004 letter to the Aurora Advertiser.

“The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United States work force,” Clevenger continued. “That is why our factories left.”

He added that the medical industry “made a few Jews rich by killin’ us off.”

Despite Clevenger’s anti-Semitic views and his friendship with the alleged shooter, he called for the death penalty for Miller.

Continue reading.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jews (and non-Jews) with health concerns find the Passover aisle liberating

By Hillel Kuttler for JTA

passover Gluten FreeBALTIMORE (JTA) – Grasping a jar of jam in the Passover aisle of a large supermarket here, Kevin Brinson turned to a stranger and asked, “Do you know when Passover ends this year?”

Brinson isn’t dreading the holiday to the extent that two weeks before its start, he’s already anticipating its conclusion.

In fact, he eagerly awaits Passover each year. For Brinson, who isn’t Jewish, Passover is personal.

Having a medical intolerance of corn, Brinson, an electronics technician with the city’s Transit Authority, knows he’ll find an array of products on the shelves each spring that aren’t readily available the rest of the year. He then purchases items free of corn and corn syrup – for Brinson, this means mayonnaise, ketchup, macaroons and Coca-Cola – before the holiday.

And as soon as Passover ends, he returns to buy in bulk whatever’s been drastically discounted when the demand drops.

While corn is not a prohibited food for Passover observers, it falls into the category of kitniyot, or legumes, that Ashkenazic Jews traditionally avoid.

Foods omitting other ingredients bothersome or dangerous to those with sensitivities or allergies similarly find a market among consumers who don’t observe Passover but look for items with kosher-for-Passover certification. They include people who avoid products containing gluten and seek items that substitute potato starch for wheat because of the holiday’s prohibitions against consuming leavened products.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of the kashrus division of the Orthodox Union, said he’s unable to quantify the sales of such items to those not observing Passover but who buy products for medical reasons. Still, like for kosher products year-round, “the market is larger than for people who are just concerned with kosher-dietary laws,” he said.

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For more Passover news, check out our    page.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Former Terrorist: The Arabs Are to Blame for Their Situation

A self-described former terrorist, Dr. Tawfik Hamid states that the Arabs' suffering must be acknowledged, but the source of their suffering is their own leadership.

By: Aryeh Savir, Tazpit News Agency

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is a unique and solitary voice in the Islamic world. A self-described former terrorist, he was a member of the militant al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who later on became the second in command of Al-Qaeda and now heads it. He stresses he has never actually committed an act of violence.

Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Hamid has a medical degree in internal medicine and a master’s degree in cognitive psychology and educational techniques. He writes that some twenty-five years ago, he recognized the threat of radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic texts. Hamid believes the real message of Islam has been hijacked by many people throughout history. Those people defamed Islam and portrayed it incorrectly. He says he started to preach in mosques to promote his message of and, as a result, became a target of Islamic militants, who threatened his life.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ancient Chinese Jewish Community to Hold First Traditional Seder in China

The Seder, which is being sponsored by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, will be conducted for the first time by 28-year-old Tzuri (Heng) Shi, who made Aliyah from Kaifeng a few years ago with the help of Shavei Israel and completed his formal return to Judaism last year.

By: Jewish Press Staff

Chinese SederKaifeng, China, April 7 – Nearly 100 members of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, are expected to attend a first-of-its-kind traditional Passover Seder that will take place next Monday, April 14, at the start of the holiday in Kaifeng. The Seder, which is being sponsored by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, will be conducted for the first time by 28-year-old Tzuri (Heng) Shi, who made Aliyah from Kaifeng a few years ago with the help of Shavei Israel and completed his formal return to Judaism last year.

As part of the preparation for the upcoming Seder, Tzuri was sent to Kaifeng by the Shavei Israel organization with all of the traditional Passover items including: Kosher Matzah packages from Israel, Kosher for Passover wine, Passover Haggadahs, which were prepared especially in Hebrew and Chinese, Kosher for Passover cakes, traditional red horseradish, and traditional Charoset.

“We are proud and excited to organize this historic event,” said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund. “Kaifeng’s Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their Jewish roots as they prepare for Passover,” he added.

Scholars believe the first Jews settled in Kaifeng, which was one of China’s imperial capitals, during the 8th or 9th Century. They are said to have been Sephardic Jewish merchants from Persia or Iraq who made their way eastward along the Silk Route and established themselves in the city with the blessing of the Chinese emperor.

In 1163, Kaifeng’s Jews built a large and beautiful synagogue, which was subsequently renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions throughout the centuries. At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Kaifeng Jewish community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people. But widespread intermarriage and assimilation, as well as the death of the community’s last rabbi, brought about its demise by the middle of the 19th century.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Washington watch: The blame game

By Douglas Bloomfield for

The prisoners, Palestinian and Pollard, are really a sideshow and have nothing to do with the core issues.

Netat KlosWhat happens when you combine Let’s Make A Deal and The Price Is Right? You get the Israeli- Palestinian Blame Game masquerading as a peace process. The host of the show is the indefatigable John Kerry, and the contestants are Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, who wish he’d leave them alone and go back to Rome or Crimea or Vienna or Brussels or wherever it is that people really want his help.

The crisis du jour is Israel’s reluctance to release 26 prisoners unless it gets something tangible in return, namely Palestinian agreement to keep the peace talks going into 2015. Abbas won’t commit himself until the 26 are freed and Netanyahu sweetens the deal. The latest group of prisoners slated for release includes Israeli Arabs, which has generated intense opposition across Israel.

The Netanyahu government also complained that the Palestinians have failed to engage in serious and good faith negotiations. Netanyahu’s former national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror, claims that over two decades of negotiations the Palestinians “did not budge an inch. In certain areas, they even moved backwards.”

The Palestinians respond with a similar charge, charging that Netanyahu has retreated from terms offered by two of his predecessors; the prime minister insists that doesn’t count since the Palestinians rejected those offers and Netanyahu opposed them at the time.

Back at the souk, Netanyahu is offering several hundred low-level criminals, but no murderers, and a partial settlement freeze, but he says he wants “something in return.”

It looks like he’ll get that, in the person of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. President Barack Obama is reportedly ready to free Pollard as an incentive for Netanyahu.

That certainly won’t sway Pollard’s supporters, who are largely opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Their hero’s freedom would not change a single vote.

Continue reading.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An Alternative Model for Pro-Israel Liberals

Yesterday Jvillage printed Alan Dershhowitz's column blasting JStreet. What's a liberal to do? Read on...
Evelyn Gordon for Commentary

Evelyn GordonAlan Dershowitz has a blistering column in Haaretz explaining why no self-respecting pro-Israel liberal should support J Street. Yet many genuinely pro-Israel liberals will likely continue doing so, for the same reason they continue giving to the New Israel Fund despite its track record of funding political warfare against Israel: They want an outlet for pro-Israel sentiment that also allows them to try to alter Israeli policies, whether foreign or domestic, with which they disagree. And absent a genuine outlet, it’s human nature to cling instead to groups that falsely purport to fill this niche, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Hence an alternative model for pro-Israel liberalism is desperately needed.

The good news is that such a model exists. The bad news is that few people know about it–which is why Haaretz’s profile of philanthropist Robert Price earlier this month ought to be required reading for pro-Israel liberals. Price, who self-identifies as “toward the J Street side of things,” is a major donor to Israel, but on principle, he refuses to give to any Jewish Israeli institution: He focuses exclusively on the most disadvantaged fifth of Israeli society–the Arab community. Yet unlike, say, the NIF, Price doesn’t seek to “empower” Israeli Arabs by financing their leadership’s political war on Israel. Instead, he tries to promote Israeli Arabs’ integration, by focusing on educational initiatives that will ultimately improve their job prospects and earning power: early-childhood community centers in Arab towns and, more recently, an Arabic-language version of PJ Library. As he put it, “Arabs represent 20 percent of the population and have an opportunity, we think, to be productive citizens and to actually enrich the fabric of life in Israel if provided reasonable opportunities.”

This is a radical contrast to the NIF, which claims to promote integration but actually promotes Arab separatism. For instance, it’s a major funder of Adalah, an Israeli Arab NGO that actively promotes boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, terms Israel an “apartheid state,” and demands a “right of return” for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees. It was also a major funder of Mada al-Carmel, another Israeli Arab NGO, whose flagship project was the infamous Haifa Declaration. This document, compiled by dozens of Israeli Arab intellectuals, terms Zionism a “colonial-settler project” that, “in concert with world imperialism,” succeeded in 1948 “in occupying our homeland and transforming it into a state for the Jews,” partly by committing “massacres.” Israel, it adds, can atone for this sin only by transforming itself into a binational state with an Arab majority (via an influx of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees).Continue reading.