Friday, November 28, 2008

Tyranny of the Majority: Israel-Bashing as Spectator Sport at Turtle Bay

This past week, the United Nations commemorated the "Annual International Solidarity Day with the Palestinian People." On Monday, the film, "La Terre Parle Arabe" or "The Land Speaks Arabic" showcased, complemented by a public exhibit mourning the 60 years of Israel's existence. The exhibit, given special prominence in the lobby of the UN, is called "The Palestinians' 60 years of Struggle and Enduring Hope."
Ironically, the date that marks the commemoration is November 29th, 1947. On that day, the U.N. voted to establish both a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. Had the Arab world supported the vote, the Palestinians could also be celebrating 60 years of independence. Other opportunities for Palestinian independence surfaced over the ensuing years , most notably in 2000-2001. The 'Clinton Parameters' offered at Taba early in 2001 included over 96% of contiguous West Bank land; all of Gaza; a capital in eastern Jerusalem with Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem under Palestinian Authority control; and--unbeknownst to most in the west--$30 billion in reparations for those Palestinians worldwide who chose not to exercise their 'right of return' to the new Palestinian state. The Palestinian counter-offer was the 2nd Intifada, more aptly understood by Israelis as "The Terror War."
Scant mention is made of any of this history at Turtle Bay. Instead, Israel is routinely demonized--regularly compared to the Nazis--and her very existence, sanctioned as few other modern states have been, by the very same United Nations that works so tirelessly to delegitimize her, is under constant question.
Six resolutions have just been adopted condemning only Israel for human rights violations--see below. The total number of resolutions against Israel by the General Assembly is expected to reach 20 this fall. That compares with only 4 resolutions critical of human rights records in any of the remaining 191 UN member nations. Those other member nations include Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Congo, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
And on Tuesday, the President of the GA, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, implored his all-too-willing accomplices to call a spade a spade, and label Israel as a practitioner of Apartheid.
"Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away, and I believe it is very important we in the United Nations use this term," d'Escoto Brockmann said. "We must not be afraid to call something for what it is."
Not Judenrein Saudi Arabia, where Christian and Jewish bibles are forbidden, where women cannot drive or vote, where petty theft can merit hand amputations, and where alleged adultery can be the cause for 'stoning to death.' Rather, it is Israel, where come February's elections, it is quite possible that women will head all three branches of government, where 10 Arab ministers exercise their parliamentary duties in the Knesset; Israel, with Arabs on the Supreme Court; Israel, where Arab women enjoy freedom of speech, religion & the right to vote; Israel, a champion of gay rights, is the country singled out for excoriation.
The Jerusalem Post's response:
"To state the obvious: The conflict between the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arabs has nothing to do with apartheid.
There is no system of racial segregation in the West Bank. There is a state of de-facto belligerency between West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Hamas-controlled Gaza seeks Israel's annihilation, not civil rights. Jews are not colonizers in Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, Israel's government is ready to abandon much of the Jews' ancient heartland for peace with security.
As the padre (
Catholic Priest & GA Pres, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann) speaks from the den of iniquity that is the General Assembly, we ask: "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3)
As Yossi Klein Halevi has noted, for Israelis, the Jewish concept of Tikun Olam is about more than just doing good in the world. It is also about resisting evil in its myriad forms. World Jewry must take up that mantle as well and take the lead in confronting Turtle Bay. The consequences of remaining silent could again prove disastrous for our people.
david brumer

General Assembly adopts six resolutions condemning Israel (Press Release

The UN, Israel and racism
in The Economist on Durban II
Nov. 27, 2008
The whole thing was a “festival of hate and anti-Semitism”, says Hillel Neuer, head of UN Watch. He predicts the Geneva meeting will be just as bad. Its cause is not helped by the fact that it is being organised by the UN’s much-criticised Human Rights Council, with Libya chairing a preparatory panel that includes Iran, Cuba, Russia and Pakistan.

UN General Assembly President Accuses Israel of Apartheid and Calls for a Campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel The President of the UN General Assembly has launched an unprecedented attack on a UN member state from the Assembly podium. Going beyond even existing UN resolutions, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua accused Israel of apartheid and called for "a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions" against it. Reminiscent of a classic antisemitic slur, Brockmann (himself a Roman Catholic priest and one-time official of the World Council of Churches) also claimed our Palestinian "brothers and sisters are being crucified" by Israel.His remarks were made on November 24, 2008 during the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This annual event marks the adoption of the General Assembly's partition resolution which called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state on November 29, 1947. (11/25/2008)

United Nations: Observance Of International Day Of Solidarity With Palestinian People To Be Held At United Nations Headquarters On 24 November

Top UN official: Israel's policies are like apartheid of bygone era
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev in September called Brockmann an "Israel hater" for having hugged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a vocal enemy of Israel. Meanwhile, other diplomatic attacks against Israel were expected Tuesday on the second day of the annual debate. The event is usually observed on November 29, to coincide with the UN's resolution in 1947 to establish a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.

Israel Protests Boycott Call by UN General Assembly President - Yitzhak BenhorinIsrael filed a formal complaint with the UN on Tuesday over statements made by General Assembly President Father Miguel Brockmann of Nicaragua, who called for an international boycott of Israel after accusing it of being an apartheid regime. The UN is currently marking its annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and the General Assembly is hosting a series of anti-Israel venues, including films comparing Israel to the Nazi regime. Israeli Ambassador Gabriella Shalev slammed the UN as being disconnected from reality, and lamented its anti-Israel tone at a time when Israel is engaged in peace talks with the PA. She said if discussions were to focus on the Middle East, they should also touch on Iran's repeated threats to destroy Israel, Syria's armament of terror ists, Hamas' rocket attacks on Israeli towns, and Hizbullah's growing strength. (Ynet News)

Given its long history of having one set of rules for the Jewish state and another for everyone else, it is all too tempting for decent men and women to block out the UN's Annual Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People which has consecrated November 29 as a day of hate against, and delegitimization of, the Jewish state.
But at this newspaper we are haunted by the words of Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Daniel Pearl, Gilad Shalit, Simchat Torah & the Power of Life, Hope, & Faith

By the Jewish calendar, Daniel Pearl's birthday falls on Simchat Torah this year. Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz has written a beautiful piece commemorating this convergence. He also reminds us to remember Gilad Shalit in our hakafot dedications tonight and tomorrow. As Jews we know how important it is to resist the logical temptation to despair. Through the wisdom of our forefathers, the Jewish calendar incorporates obligatory celebration, joy, and hope in the face of the darkness that also prevails upon us. And so it is this Simchat Torah that we hold our heads--and our Torahs--up high, and commemorate that which is transcendent, and distinguishes us.
david brumer

P.S. Those of you who are in Seattle, don't forget the Daniel Pearl World Music Day Concert this coming Sunday, the 26th at The Kline Galland Home (3-5pm). Rabbi Jim Mirel is leading an all-star Klezmer Band Jam along with performances by many other local musicians, dancers, etc.

Daniel Pearl, Gilad Shalit, and the exercise of power
Bradley Burston

Tonight, take a moment to think of Daniel Pearl. You may remember the name. Perhaps you will remember because of the brutality and horror of his death. Tonight, take a moment to consider in a new light, his life. You will be taking part in an exercise of power. It is the power of co-existence over cruelty, of faith in humankind over fanaticism, of appreciation for differences over xenophobia, of the heart over the heel, of music over killing. It is an exercise in the power of life over death. This month, the world over, in hundreds and hundreds of concert halls, schools, places of worship, parks and private homes, people who never met Danny Pearl will celebrate his birthday, and keep a part of him alive.

He was also a passionate musician, a true believer in bridging diverse cultures with music, and a fervent and far-reaching practitioner of that belief. After nine days in captivity, Danny Pearl died a hideous death in early 2002. The next day, his friend George Pehlivanian, who was guest conductor that night of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, dedicated the performance to Daniel Pearl and "to the triumph of hope over despair." By his birthday, October 10, musicians around the world had begun to take part in World Music Days, dedicating them to Daniel Pearl's faith in shared humanity and the universal power of music.

According to the Jewish calendar, Danny Pearl's birthday coincides this week with the festival of Simhat Torah, which is marked by alternating cycles of biblical readings and hakafot, unbridled rejoicing in circles, dancing and singing while carrying the Torah. In some congregations this week, hakafot will be dedicated to Danny Pearl's ideals. There will be those, as well, like the Birkat Shalom congregation at Kibbutz Gezer, who will include not only Danny Pearl but also Gilad Shalit, captive now nearly 850 days, in dedicating the hakafot.

This is a holiday which forces people to rejoice. It is a holiday which jars people into rethinking despair. It is a holiday which obliges us to consider that the essence of immortality is the juncture of memory and community and acts of hope against hope, of joy against all better judgment. The Torah is taken out at night, unusual in itself. The very last verse of the last book is read and then, the very first verse of the first book.

A new beginning, which incorporates an end, the circles of celebrants suggesting that it is neither end nor beginning, but continuity. A profound signal that life, memory, and good works are more powerful than killing, and, in the end, more permanent. It is tragic, but also inspiring, that it has only been since his death that Danny Pearl's message reached a wide audience. His family and friends, and thousands around the world who learned of him too late to have known him, have seen to it that World Music Days have grown year by year in number and scope.This week, Danny Pearl would have turned 45. This month, there will be as many as one thousand World Music Days events dedicated to bridging cultures and creeds in scores of countries.

By sheer coincidence, here in Tel Aviv, sprayed in paint on one of the seediest walls of a decrepit building, the words "Know Hope" appeared today. It is an exercise of power to celebrate life in a world like this. It is an exercise of bravery to come to know and admire the differences between people, the diversity that only in concert, together, can truly deserve the name humanity.Take a moment to think of Danny Pearl tonight. And of Gilad Shalit.Take heart. Know hope.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heartfelt Reflections on Daniel Pearl's Legacy & Jewish Identity: Judea Pearl in Seattle at StandWithUs Community Luncheon

Judea Pearl graced Seattle with his presence this past Thursday, speaking at a SWU
Community Luncheon on the topic of co-existence and the prospects for peace in the Middle East and beyond. A projection of his slain son Daniel beamed luminously overhead, with a larger than life radiant smile and twinkle in his vibrant eyes.

Judea detailed how the unspeakable horror of Daniel's death ultimately energized him to turn the brutal personal tragedy into an opportunity for healing, deeper understanding and, on a more global level, to help galvanize the West in its battle against the dark forces of fanaticism, intolerance and hatred. He spoke of the paramount importance of identity (an appropriate follow-up to this blog's last posting; 'Sharansky: Why Identity Matters'). Daniel's last words to his murderers in that dark basement in Karachi were: "My father is Jewish; my mother is Jewish; I am Jewish." For Judea, the decoding of Daniel's proud but matter-of-fact emphasis on identity in his last words was the key to a deeper understanding of that identity.

Daniel, like his father, was a secular Jew. However, Judaism profoundly informed his worldview and his sense of self. For Daniel, Judaism was the cultural language of his larger, extended family; a source of strength, understanding and connection to a greater historical identity. In "I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl," Judea writes

To Danny, "I am Jewish" meant "I must understand." Or in other words: "I am possessed with a historically-baked obsession to understand and repair things, because my wandering ancestors, hardened by centuries of persecution and discrimination, have taught me to mistrust all dogmas and ideologies and to question authority and the status quo and conventional wisdom. So, as a Jew, I have inherited no other mental tranquilizer except that chronic urge to question and to understand.

"I understand suffering, because the suffering of my ancestors is etched on my consciousness.
"I understand justice, because I was distilled by injustice.
"I understand Muslims' suffering as well, for I have seen your people in Kosovo, I have worked with your carpet weavers in Iran, and I have sung with your pearl divers in Qatar.
"'I am Jewish' means I am reminding you of the challenge of understanding. So let's come to our senses."

Endeavoring to better understand the quiet and dignified heroism of his son Daniel, Judea was impelled to explore his own roots, leading inevitably to a deeper appreciation of how Judaism shaped him. For Judea, being Jewish is a happy marriage of choice and history. "The first lays claim to universalism, the second to tribalism." It is through a fortified tribal identity, with the etchings of several thousand years of memory, collective history and generationally transmitted narratives that Judaism indelibly marks our consciousness. It is this bedrock foundation of tribal identity that then allows us to go out into the world and contribute to pluralism, diversity, and the universal values of our larger civilization. And it is precisely these values and virtues that are under assault by the forces of evil that murdered Daniel but could not kill his vision of creating a better world filled with tolerance, hope, and respect for all peoples.

Judea Pearl spoke of Jewishness being first a reflection of peoplehood and nationhood, Am Yisrael, and secondarily of Judaism as a religion. He quoted his friend Yossi Klein Halevi, who said that "We were a people before we received the Torah". That we are a people with a religious identity, which makes us different from Christianity and Islam and which is why you can be an atheist and still be a Jew in relatively good standing if you identify with your people's narrative and contribute to its well being. Judea noted that for us as a people, race, religion, language, imagery and country are inextricably interconnected, and our history is deeply intwined with that small parcel of land described in the Old Testament. He noted that Judaism, as well as Zionism was born on Mt. Sinai, as well as on the slopes of Masada and the banks of the Jordan River.

When it came to sharing that small parcel of land, Judea did not mince words. He pronounced that the modern dilemma between Israelis and Palestinians was a "conflict of two equally legitimate, indigenous peoples, both limping along with their respective defects." On the Israeli, Jewish side, we limp because of our long absence from the land in significant numbers and holding power. The Palestinians limp because they have only crafted a national narrative since the advent of modern Zionism. They have no national holidays; they don't give their children names derived from the mountains, valleys, rivers and history-laden sites. He cautioned too that as long as Palestinian educational institutions don't acknowledge the permanency of the Jewish State, the only conclusion our side can make is that they're not yet serious about reaching an authentic accommodation. That as long they are not creating permanent housing arrangements for their refugees, it can only signify that "they don't mean business."

Judea implored us to take up the call for a return to common sense, dignity, decency and sanity; the clarion call of his beloved son Daniel. He asked us to remember that we are Daniel Pearl's kin and to spread his message of respect for openness, curiosity, diversity and pluralism, and at the same time to take pride in our own unique history and identity. To relish our identities as Jewish-Americans and remember that America remains the "largest exporter of hope, pluralism, and basic human freedoms."

In the battle against hatred, intolerance, and radicalism, Judea Pearl beseeched us to

Empower the troops of peace here at home, and I consider your children and grandchildren to be the elite forces of these troops.

I consider these youngsters semiclones of Danny--talented, curious, principled, and friendly--and I tell myself: Look at the kind of hatred they will be facing when they grow up. They deserve encouragement. They deserve to be told, "You are OK. You are not the bloodthirst baby-killing money-hungry imperialists that Danny's killers and their intellectual sympathizers on college campuses try to portray you as. No. You are Daniel Pearl's kin.

"Like him you will be traveling the world with a pen and a fiddle trying to make sense of what you see; like him you will make friends with thousands of strangers, Jews and non-Jews, and enrich their lives with humor, music, and new insights; and like him you will offer your humble contribution to tikkun olam by insisting, with all the stubbornness of your ancestors, 'I am Jewish! Come to your senses!'

"So go ahead and repair the world. You can do it!"

Visit "The Daniel Pearl Foundation" at check out the upcoming annual "World Music Days" festivals around the world. And call your musician friends, rabbis, cantors, and community leaders and make sure they are aware of the inspirational benefits that your synagogue/congregation/school/center, etc. can derive from participating in the upcoming Daniel Pearl World Music Days, October 1-31, 2008.

Below, a podcast of Judea Pearl's Sept 18th appearance on the Dave Ross radio show

Judea Pearl on the Dave Ross KIRO 710 Radio Show; Sept 18th

10:00 am-11:00 am Download mp3

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sharansky: Why Identity Matters

On July 16th, former refusenik and living hero, Natan Sharansky spoke before about a hundred people at Seattle Town Hall, making the case that strong identities are the best bulwark against tyranny and fundamentalism. His new book, "Defending Identity" points the way towards reinvigorating the West in its struggle to maintain its freedoms and democracies in an increasingly intolerant world.

Sharanksy begins with John Lennon's idealistic song "Imagine," where the future utopia will consist of a borderless world "and the world will live as one."

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion too.
Imagine all the people,
Living life in peace.

He contrasts this with the declaration by the spiritual leader of Al Qaeda that "we will win because the West loves life and we love death." Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said the same in an interview in 2004, after a prisoner swap (yes, another earlier one) between Israel and his group: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death."

It would be a mistake though to assume that these Islamic fundamentalists are crazed martyrs who wish death upon themselves for its own sake. Rather, their identity is a powerful force that gives meaning and purpose to life beyond the physical and material. The jihadists hold beliefs--however horrifying and foreign to us--for which they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. And they see the West as divorced from any distinct sense of identity, unwilling to make sacrifices for any cause larger than the self. In short, they see us as having lost the will to fight, defend or die for our beliefs. And indeed, for many in the West, John Lennon's song has become an anthem of post-modern, post-nationalist universalism.

For Natan Sharanky, the struggle for freedom and human rights, and the struggle to reclaim his Jewish identity evolved almost simultaneously and coalesced into a single expression. Because of a reinvigorated Jewish identity, he gained the courage to publicly speak out against Soviet tyranny and demand his freedom to emigrate to Israel and reconnect with his people and his history. His willingness to risk everything for that right earned him 9 years in the Soviet gulag system. Those years of incarceration taught him the value of strong identities. He discovered that cultural, religious, ethnic and nationalist identities were not in opposition to democracy and freedom, but rather, strengthened them. The prisoners with the strongest identities, whether Siberian Pentecostals, Latvian nationalists, Orthodox Christians or Crimean Tatars were those with whom he could most identify, and more importantly, trust.

Sharansky sees American pluralism fostering strong, discrete identities in the service of a cohesive collective. E pluribus unum: Out of many, one. It is America's great strength that in allowing for the full expression of hyphenated identities, whether they be Greek Orthodox-American, Italian-American or Muslim-American, an ultimately stronger national identity is forged. The European experiment, exemplified by French efforts to make every citizen a Frenchman first, has proven to be an abysmal failure. Banning head scarves has not helped integrate Muslims into French society; instead, the edict has further alienated them from French society.

Sharansky tells the story of how one of his heroes in the Refusenik movement, Senator Henry 'Scoop' Jackson, greeted one of his young staffers on the morning of a Jewish holiday, surprised to see him show up for work. Jackson asked, "Why are you here? Isn't this your holiday?" The young staffer, for many years now a close friend of Sharansky, replied to Jackson, "The work for you is more important." Jackson responded, "Look, my boy, if you really want to be a good American you should be a good Jew."

We live in a world today that claims to celebrate multiculturalism and diversity, yet makes value judgments about which are the 'good' and 'bad' cultures, ethnicities and peoples. Just like in Orwell's "Animal Farm," all ethnicities and national independence movements are equal, but some are more "equal" than others. Europe appears willing to sever itself from much of its past identity in the service of a new post-nationalist, universalist model of co-existence, perhaps in part due to its post-colonial guilt.
Ironically, harsh limits are placed on relatively innocuous expressions of identity in the public sphere (like the head-scarf ban), yet European governments give Muslim minorities a pass when it comes to the abrogation of basic democratic norms. Thus, a blind eye is turned towards underage marriages, wife beatings, genital mutilations and honor killings, to name but a few of the gross transgressions of western civilization's most fundamental democratic precepts of equality, freedom, and human rights.

Sharansky ends his book reminding us that societies with attenuated identities are imperiled. That the free world's shield against tyranny, oppression and intolerance is "its own identity, vigorously asserted and framed by a commitment to democratic life." Only through an alliance of freedom and identity can a real peace be forged and a true multi-cultured world thrive.

david brumer

An afterthought: Ariel Sharon, Israel's fallen leader, knew a thing or two about the power of identity. And the fiercely secular, sabra-soldier, defined himself first as a Jew. In an interview with Ari Shavit (The General), published in the January 23rd, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, Sharon noted that Israel's raison d'etre "is to be the place where Jews will finally be cured of their mortal illness, their eternal wandering." But he also expressed his doubts about our ability to maintain our sovereignty, to secure a Jewish future in the land and preserve it when young Israelis didn't know their bible (remember, this from a secularist, but one who was steeped in his Jewish identity and the history of his people) and weren't familiar with their history. He lamented their unwillingness to defend the Jewish right to the land. “One generation after another is drifting away from anything Jewish,” he said.
This deteriorating connection with Jewish identity worried Sharon greatly. On the other hand, he spoke of the Arabs with great envy when it came to their powerful identities and convictions. "If there's something that I respect about the Arabs, it's the fact that they never change their position. They know much better how to keep their honor and their land. The Palestinian leadership did not give up any of its demands, not one inch."

Interesting to also remember Jabotinsky's words before the British Parliament in 1937 about the need for Jews to reclaim their ancient homeland. He said, referring to the Arabs in Palestine, “I fully understand that any minority would prefer to be a majority. It is quite understandable that the Arabs of Palestine would also prefer Palestine to be Arab state No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6-that I quite understand. But when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation.”
While we are no longer starving, it may be time to renourish our souls and proudly renew our identities; identities that are eternally connected to Zion.

See other reviews below

Praise for DEFENDING IDENTITY:Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy

By Natan Sharansky with Shira Wolosky Weiss
Public Affairs, 2008

Defending Identity
by Rob Eshman
The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, July 16, 2008

Sharansky on Tour Promoting Identity, Freedom
by Andy-Levy Ajzenkopf
Canadian Jewish News, July 1, 2008

Center Field: Group Pride Guarantees Individual Freedom
by Gil Troy
Jerusalem Post, June 30, 2008

Natan Sharansky to Speak in Teaneck Former Refusenik to Explore Relationship Between Identity and Democracy
New Jersey Jewish Standard, June 20, 2008

Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values
by Natan Sharansky
The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2008

The West Must Embrace Democratic Values in Order to Defeat Terrorism
by Natan Sharansky and Shira Wolosky Weiss
New York Daily News, June 15, 2008

Identity, Freedom, or Both?
by Natan Sharansky
US News and World Report, June 13, 2008

Sharansky's New Tune: Give Identity a Chance
by Bryan Schwartzman
Jewish Exponent, June 12, 2008

Bush Talks With Israeli Author Before Meeting With Olmert
by Michael Abramowitz
The Washington Post, June 5, 2008

The Thorny Question of Who You Are
Review by Michael Skapinker
June 15 2008

McCain and Sharansky
The New York Sun, June 5, 2008

The Foundation of Democracy: Sharansky's 'Defending Identity'
review by Ira Stoll
The New York Sun, May 28, 2008

View from America: Rediscovering the will to win
by Jonathan Tobin
The Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2008

Click Here to Read More..

Friday, July 4, 2008

Turning Plowshares into Swords

Wednesday's horrific terror attack is a reminder that despite hudnas, tahidiyas, 'peace talks,' shelf agreements, lulls in violence, and grandiose expectations for quick fix solutions to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the enemies of Israel, of which there remain legions, do not rest from their dream of destroying the Jewish State. And contrary to the "conventional wisdom," which predicted that the building of the separation barrier, the targeted killings of terror leaders, and the maintenance of an IDF and intelligence presence in the West Bank would be ineffective and counterproductive, terrorism has been markedly down these past four years. But terror attacks in Israel have been down for the aforementioned reasons; not for lack of will and desire on the part of the purveyors of the attacks.
As Gerald Steinberg points out below, "Palestinians have been raised on the armed struggle, and many are capable of acting on their own, with whatever weapons are most readily available. The steady flow of incitement in the media plays a central role in this process, including Palestinian television programming preaching the virtues of martyrdom and the glory of fighting the Zionist enemy. As a result, the isolated action may appear to be spontaneous, but the foundation and preparations are never far away."
And even Bradley Burston, who is about as liberal-minded--in the best sense of the term--and critical of his own society as one gets, is beginning to wonder "What is it that Palestinians really want? I no longer believe that it's as simple as wanting statehood. This is what I don't yet want to admit: that for all these years, what a critical mass of Palestinians want most, perhaps even more than statehood, may be nothing more than seeing Jews dead and gone."
At what point does the West reassess its continued support and enabling of the Palestinians? It's lavishing of billions of dollars in aide? When do we demand real accountability and responsibility on the part of the Palestinians and their leaders? What if Wednesday's bulldozer terrorist had managed to go the last few hundred meters and mow down dozens, if not hundreds of civilians at Mehane Yehuda Market? What then?
david brumer

Terror's Predictable Spontaneity - Gerald M. Steinberg
The constant pattern for over sixty years has been that whenever violent attacks against Israelis were contained on one front, another front was immediately opened, often involving a different form of violence. When the suicide bombing campaign was halted by Operation Defensive Shield and the construction of a security barrier, the rocket barrages started from Gaza. Now the shaky cease-fire in Gaza is the signal for a new and different form of violence against Israeli civilians.
Palestinians have been raised on the armed struggle, and many are capable of acting on their own, with whatever weapons are most readily available. The steady flow of incitement in the media plays a central role in this process, including Palestinian television programming preaching the virtues of martyrdom and the glory of fighting the Zionist enemy. As a result, the isolated action may appear to be spontaneous, but the foundation and preparations are never far away.
Palestinians have also learned that the United Nations and the powerful groups claiming to promote human rights rarely respond to such attacks in contrast to the consistent and predictable condemnations of Israeli attacks. In the Second Lebanon War, and in recent months, the Gaza rocket attacks, the statements and campaigns by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many other groups focused primarily on accusing Israel of "collective punishment" and "war crimes" in its reports (the fact that these legal terms are distorted beyond recognition in this context is generally ignored). Thus, Palestinian violence has the double impact of killing Israelis while also contributing to the demonization of Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Terrorism as a Natural Act - Bradley Burston
On a quiet morning in Jerusalem, a man behind the wheel of a bulldozer has taken it upon himself to kill Jews. Women and children and the elderly and the infirm. What's a decent person to think when Palestinian groups fall over one another trying to claim the bulldozer attack? And when one of the groups is the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade? What is it that Palestinians really want? I no longer believe that it's as simple as wanting statehood. This is what I don't yet want to admit: that for all these years, what a critical mass of Palestinians want most, perhaps even more than statehood, may be nothing more than seeing Jews dead and gone. (Ha'aretz)

Why Were We Surprised? - Moshe Elad
In July 1989, a member of Islamic Jihad from Gaza boarded a bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As the bus ascended the hills, the terrorist walked up to the driver and pulled the wheel to the right, sending the bus into the valley below and murdering 16 people. Wednesday's terror attack, where a terrorist driving a bulldozer plowed into pedestrians and vehicles in Jerusalem, should not have come as a surprise. It is well known that the motivation of terror groups has not declined. Col. (res.) Moshe Elad currently researches Palestinian society at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion. (Ynet News)

Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jewish Battles in Seattle: Finkelstein/UW, the real 'Naqba,' & Initiative 97--'Divest from War & Occupation'

On Norman Finkelstein's UW appearance, the real naqba, and I-97, the Seattle initiative on divestiture from 'war and occupation.'

Raising questions

JTNews’ coverage of Norman Finkelstein’s May 8 University of Washington lecture (“A question of motives, not of legitimacy,” May 16) raises questions the Seattle Jewish community would do well to ponder. Why would a failed academic, a proud Hezbollah collaborator (“we are all Hezbollah today”), who is celebrated on neo-Nazi Web sites the world over, who was denied tenure last year at DePaul University for his decidedly unscholarly work, a polemicist who regularly resorts to malicious ad hominem attacks against Jewish personages such as Alan Dershowitz (“a moral pervert”) and Elie Wiesel (“the resident clown in the Holocaust circus”), and a rabid denouncer and demonizer of Israel (“I don’t see why Israel’s apologists would be offended by a comparison to the Gestapo…”) would be featured in a Jewish community newspaper, with barely a nod to his pariah-like status in the mainstream Jewish world. Your article regurgitates the main points of Finkelstein’s lecture without challengi ng the straw man argument he makes regarding Israel’s alleged breaches of international law (Finkelstein holds up the International Court of Justice as the supreme arbiter of world justice; never mind that the court’s very legitimacy is seriously in question). Finkelstein essentially gets a free pass, with no hint that he is persona non grata in respectable academic circles. Instead, Finkelstein is referred to as a “controversial professor” who challenges orthodox Western views regarding Israel “in the measured tones of an academic lecturer, which is precisely what he is.” No substantive context is provided nor is any question raised as to why Finkelstein was invited by the Graduate School and the Simpson Center of the UW during the week of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of modern Israel. We are informed that “Finkelstein”s appearance was coordinated in concert with commemorations of the ‘Nakba’ or ‘catastrophe,’ the term used by Arab and pro-Palestinian activists to describe Israel’s independence.” Coincidentally, just this week Finkelstein was barred from entering Israel, a ban the Jewish State rarely exercises. The Seattle Jewish community should be asking ourselves why he is welcomed and feted here, and why such a fringe voice beyond the pale of civil discourse is further legitimized in our Jewish newspaper.

David Brumer
Executive Committee StandWithUs Northwest

The obvious facts

I don’t have a problem with Prof. Finkelstein criticizing Israel’s policies regarding the occupied territories, the Security Wall, or the settlements lecture (“A question of motives, not of legitimacy,” May 16). These are legitimate topics of discussion and reasonable men can differ as to the wisdom or folly of these policies. But when he makes the accusation that Israel’s founding fathers engaged in anti-Arab “ethnic cleansing” during the 1948 War of Independence, he puts himself beyond the pale of reasonable men. This is as vile and nasty a lie as I have ever heard from the lumpen intellectuals that make up the let’s-hate-our-own-country wing of the Israeli Nihilist Left. How do I know it’s a lie? The obvious facts are these. Before the 1948 War of Independence, Jews and Arabs lived all over the territory of British Mandate Palestine and in many areas side-by-side. When the 1948 War of Independence was over and the dust had cleared, in the areas that the Jews controlled, h undreds of thousands of Arabs still lived — a good 1/3 of the total population. In the areas that the Arabs controlled, mainly East Jerusalem and the so-called West Bank, there wasn’t a single Jew left alive. In fact, the Arabs even destroyed the Jewish cemeteries so you can even say that there wasn’t a single Jew left alive in these areas or even dead! So who were the real ethnic cleansers in 1948, Prof. Finkelstein? Who? And what about the large and ancient Jewish communities of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen? Where are they now, Prof. Finkelstein, where are they now? Gone with the wind. Ethnic cleansing, anyone? For 60 years, Israel has had to earn its survival every day. It is surrounded by large and well-equipped Arab armies just waiting for it to show weakness in order to attack. And when that attack comes, if due to years of vicious internal and external anti-Israel propaganda the morale of the I.D.F. is weak and that of the average Israeli citizen even weaker, the Arabs will gain the ultimate victory they have fruitlessly sought for 60 years and millions of Jews will again be put to the sword. And then you will see, Prof. Finkelstein, then you will see what ethnic cleansing really means.

Jeffrey Weiser

Boycott the boycotters

Since it is now a core belief of academic “progressives” that Israel is the world’s most wicked country, and responsible for all the globe’s miseries except (perhaps) avian flu, it’s hardly surprising that the very day of that country’s 60th birthday should, in an act of depraved malevolence, have been marked at UW by the appearance, courtesy of the Simpson Center and the Graduate School, of two Israel-hating lecturers. We were treated to both Norman Finkelstein, the failed academic and beloved dream-Jew of all the world’s anti-Semites, and Yitzhak Laor, a second-tier poet who specializes in depicting Israel as the devil’s experiment station. Laor delivered the (once prestigious) John Danz Lecture. A few people at UW may remember that the Danz lectures were founded to deal with the subject of “the role of science in society and in understanding a rational universe.” Since the UW Graduate School long ago decided to disregard the intentions of the Danz family and bring an endless parade of distinctly non-scientific but very leftist lecturers — Edward Said, Angela Davis, Naomi Wolf — the appearance of Yitzhak Laor, who is less a scientist than any 12-year-old with a chemistry set, is no occasion for surprise. But Laor’s appearance raises another question. Since UW president Mark Emmert last year issued a ringing denunciation of the Nazi-style movement to boycott Israeli universities and scholars, how is it that the Graduate School (at the urging of the departments of Comparative Literature, English, and Near Eastern Languages) brings to campus, and at considerable expense, one of the promoters of that boycott? President Emmert showed a clear understanding that the boycott of Israel is anti-Semitic because it uses a double standard: if one thinks that Israeli policies toward Palestinian Arabs are objectionable, are they really worse than Russian actions in Chechnya, Chinese actions toward Tibetans, Turkish actions toward the Kurds? But where are the boycotts of Russia, China, and Turkey? What President Emmert now needs to do is to require the Graduate School (also the Simpson Center, etc.) to boycott the boycotters. Words of condemnation are not enough. If boycotters of Israel are not given a taste of their own medicine, [and] made to pay a price for anti-Semitic actions, the highly organized international assault on Israel, in which Laor and Finkelstein are devoted functionaries, will grow by the weakness it feeds on.
Edward Alexander
Professor Emeritus of English, UW

The real catastrophe
David Shayne
Special to JTNews

Norman Finkelstein’s claims on Israel misrepresent history
The last JTNews featured an article about Norman Finkelstein’s participation in local “Naqba” observances. While discussing his remarks at length, the article omitted pertinent facts about Finkelstein himself and the origin of “Naqba” day. Although described as an “academic lecturer,” Finkelstein is not tenured at any university, and was essentially forced out at De Paul University for numerous reasons, including inadequate academic diligence and the controversial conduct discussed below. Finkelstein’s views are typical of extremist and intrinsically anti-Israel factions that can be found on many American campuses. More disturbing is Finkelstein’s penchant for bizarre and outlandish conduct and writings. He has engaged in outrageous ad hominem attacks against individuals he personally disagrees with — for example, he has called the outspoken Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel a “clown,” “ridiculous,” and a “wimp.” He called Professor Alan Dershowitz a Nazi and apparently agr eed (or arranged?) to have his anti-Dershowitz comments published with a disgustingly offensive cartoon. He preserves these zany antics for posterity on his Web site, As for the Israel-Arab conflict, his views are likewise bizarre and detached from reality. For example, on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” radio program, he characterized the 1988 intifada as “non-violent” civil protest (the families of dozens of murdered Israeli soldiers and civilians, or the thousands injured during that time may disagree), and claimed that Israel was the only country in the world that “legalized torture.” Many citizens of places like Myanmar and Uganda would be surprised to learn that “fact.” Others of his views, as expressed in the JTNews, are no less controversial and outlandish.

The article devotes considerable discussion to the International Court of Justice Opinion regarding Israel’s barrier wall. Setting aside the fact that the opinion was merely advisory, and that many ICJ judges came from countries hostile to Israel, the opinion is flawed at many levels. Roslyn Higgins, a renowned international legal scholar and one of the judges, wrote a separate opinion, wherein, although she concurred in the final result, she scathingly criticized the poor reasoning of the opinion and its obvious anti-Israel bias. (The opinion was authored by Shi Jiuyong, a former representative of communist China — the same country that conquered and occupied Tibet). In yet another misrepresentation, Finkelstein remarked on Goodman’s radio show that the ICJ opinion superceded UN Security Council Resolution 242. (The UN Security Council passed Res. 242 immediately after the Six Day War. It calls on Israel to withdraw from some of the territory it captured, while at the same time calling on the Arab States to recognize Israel within secure borders, (but it does not reference a Palestinian Arab state)). Any international legal scholar knows such a statement is nonsense; the ICJ does not trump or bind the UN Security Council, and certainly not in an advisory opinion! His accusation that Israel committed “ethnic cleansing” in 1948 is likewise biased and wrong. The term “ethnic cleansing” is a Serbian euphemism to describe their mini-genocide against Bosnian Muslims during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Israel’s war of independence bears no similarity. In 1947, Arabs launched a naked war of aggression without any legal or moral justification while the Jews defended themselves and fought for their very lives‭. To be sure, ‬It was an ugly war fought between poorly trained civilians‭, with human rights abuses occurring on both sides. The conflict caused large numbers of Jewish and Arab refugees, not just in Palestine but in other countries as well. Finkelstein blames the Jews alone, and ignores the numerous Arab war crimes, which include starting the war to begin with. So much for academic objectivity. Which brings u s to “Naqba” day itself. The very concept, (“Naqba” is Arabic for “disaster” or “catastrophe,” and refers to Israel’s founding in 1948), is a classic example of Orwellian double-speak. The Arabs started an unjustified war. They lost. So of course it was a “Naqba” for them. But it was a “Naqba” also for the Jews who suffered. Entire villages were destroyed, and thousands of civilians and soldiers, some of whom had survived the recent Nazi Holocaust, were killed or wounded. Jews lost access to their holiest sites and most ancient habitations, which fell under Arab control. By way of example, World War II resulted in a “naqba” for the peoples of Russia and Germany (among other nations). But is there any doubt that only Hitler and his Nazis were morally responsible for the suffering of the German people? Wars cause suffering, and people who start them cannot later pretend to be innocent victims. Finkelstein’s strong anti-Israel bias and inaccurate and bizarre pronouncements undermi ne his credibility. Finkelstein distorts the historical record. The “Naqba” is a distortion of the historical record. Both should be exposed for what they truly are.

The Real Nakba - Shlomo Avineri

When the Palestinians mark what they call the "Nakba" (catastrophe) on May 15, they would do well to consider that their real failure did not occur in 1948: It had already happened earlier, and it continues to happen now. The real Nakba occurs before our eyes - and theirs - every day, at every hour, and Hamas' violent coup in Gaza is only the most recent example of it.
While Palestinians may see themselves, with much justification, as the victims of the Zionist movement's successful establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the reasons for their historical failure should be sought elsewhere: in the inability of the Palestinian national movement to create the political and social institutional framework that is the necessary foundation for nation-building. The history of national movements teaches us that national consciousness, strong as it may be, is not enough: Movements that could not create the ins titutional system vital for their success failed.
It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of the Palestinian national movement, as quite a few members of the Zionist camp did in the past; it is an error that many continue to make today. But it was Haim Arlosoroff - then a young man in his early 20s - who as early as 1921 recognized that what the Zionist movement faced was not a series of violent events, but a national movement. The Palestinian national movement, however, has been accompanied by a long string of failures, which have been rooted in its inability to form frameworks of consensus and solidarity; these failures weakened and fragmented it, and it seems that this is a problem the Palestinians have not been able to overcome to this day. The first and sharpest expression of this failure came in the years 1936-1939, during the Palestinian uprising against British rule. This rebellion failed not only because it was brutally suppressed by the British colonial authorities or because the Haganah (pre-state underground) forces were able to defend the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine).

What happened is that the Palestinians were unable to establish institutions that would be acceptable to all parts of Arab society in the country, and when internal disputes arose over the nature of the struggle, the rebellion evolved into an intra-Palestinian civil war. More Palestinians died at the hands of rival armed Palestinian militias than were killed in clashes with the British army or with the Haganah. Within Palestinian s o ciety there is tendency to suppress the memory of this violent struggle, which took place between the militias associated with the Husseinis and those tied to the Nashashibis. But this suppression only deepens the failure and makes it more difficult to draw lessons from it. A similar failure came in 1948: Although most of Palestinian society was opposed to the plan for the partition of Palestine adopted by the United Nations on November 29, 1947, the Palestinians proved unable to create a unified military and political apparatus for confronting the Yishuv. The Arab Higher Committee was never more than a group of traditional dignitaries, and it did not oversee an effective system comparable to the Yishuv's "state-in-the-making." The violent Palestinian resistance to the partition plan consisted of attacks by armed militias in the Jerusalem area, in the Galilee and around Jaf fa , militias that operated without centralized coordination and guidance. The Palestinian defeat was to a large extent the result of an inability to establish a central military command. The leaders of the militias - Abdel Qader al-Husseini, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, Hassan Salameh - never answered to any central authority, and if the Yishuv referred to the militias as "gangs," the term had propagandist value, of course , but it also contained a great deal of truth.
Critical movements
Anyone familiar with the history of the Yishuv may comment, and accurately, that the Jews had their own splinter groups that refused to accept the authority of the majority, which called itself "the organized Yis huv ." This is true, of course - but at the critical moments it was David Ben-Gurion who made the fateful decisions, thus ensuring the unity of command and of political legitimacy. The Altalena affair [a violent 1948 confrontation between the newly formed Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun, one of the pre-state militias] was the watershed moment in this matter, and so the fledgling state guaranteed what German sociologist Max Weber has called the defining feature of state sovereignty: the existence of a monopoly based on the legitimate use of force. The same did not happen within the Arab community in Palestine in 1948. The consequences were swift in coming: not only a failed struggle with the Yishuv, but an inability to extract from the defeat even a remnant of national authority. Had the Arab community possessed a leadership with broad legitimacy, it presumably would have been able to create a Palestinian national entity in those parts of Palestine that remained under Arab control. But even when an "all-Palestine government" was established in Gaza, headed by the mufti, it was an Egyptian puppet government, which could never impose its authority on the West Bank, then under Jordanian control, and it soon disappeared.
Palestinian history might have been different if the Palestinians had had institutions and an organizational system capable of confronting the Egyptian occupation in Gaza and the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank, and which might have tried to extricate a Palestinian state even out of the clutches of the 1948 defeat. When confronting this series of failures, the Palestinians tend to att ribute them to their own weakness and to the difficult conditions that prevailed after the military defeat to Israel. In some ways this is true, but it is irrelevant: National movements are not built under convenient conditions; they must always face enemies, foreign rulers, occupation. We need not go very far to compare the Palestinian failure with the success of the Algerian national movement, which confronted an occupying regime far stronger and crueler than the Zionist movement, and yet managed to create an organizational, diplomatic and military system that not only successfully confronted the French, but was able - not without problems - to create the foundation for an independent Algerian state.
The de facto shattering of the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas coup in Gaza is the extension of this failure. Even now the Palestinians are inclined to blame Israel, the Americans, the international community; but the real, essential responsibility ultimately lies with the Palestinians themselves. Elections were held, Hamas won, Fatah lost - and both groups have been unable to sustain a framework whose legitimacy is accepted by both sides. Fatah and Hamas, after all, are not just two parties operating within a democratic consensus: They are also armed militias, and their electoral strength is to a large extent rooted in their military power. All pan-Arabic attempts to unite them, such as the Mecca agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia last year, have failed in the face of this reality, which shows that ultimately power in Palestinian society grows (as Mao Tse-tung once said in a different context) out of the barrel of a gun. Hamas' violent military coup in Gaza against what was supposed to be the locus of Palestinian legitimacy is only a repetition, under different conditions, of the Palestinian gang wars of 1938-9. The fact that there is no model of an Arab democratic state to follow also does n ot help.
To be clear: These words are not written in order to question the legitimacy of the Palestinian movement or the Palestinians' right to a state. They are meant to point out a profound internal social failure, one the Palestinians avoid confronting and which many Israelis ignore, since so much of the Israeli discourse on the Palestinian issue is conducted from the narrow perspective of security concerns. Moreover, parts of the Israeli left, rightfully troubled by the ongoing occupation, avoid holding the Palestinians responsible in any way for their situation, out of reasons of political correctness. Such a patronizing approach is not helpful to the Palestinians.
What is now happening in Gaza is the real Palestinian Nakba: the tendency to blame outside factors only blurs matters. Clearly, Palestinian society is in distress, and much of it is owing to 40 years of occupation. But this is a too-easy excuse: In the years after 1945, it would have been easy for the Yishuv to blame British rule, the Arab opposition, and the trauma of the Holocaust, and to wallow in the mire of self-righteousness as a way of explaining why a Jewish state could not be established under such difficult circumstances.
But the framework of the Zionist movement, as established by Herzl, with its elected institutions, its multi-party pluralism anchored in a basic solidarity, and the formulation of national authority despite the instances of dissent and splintering - all these provided an organizational and institutional foundation that made it possible to marshal the human and econ omic resources necessary for coping with the harsh reality that followed the UN partition resolution. The fate of the Palestinians now lies in the balance, and it is in their own hands. Those who look at their history will have trouble imagining Fatah and Hamas settling their dispute by creating a joint, legitimate framework. Perhaps Egypt or Saudi Arabia can foster the signing of some piece of paper or another, like the Mecca agreement.
What matters, however, is not a piece of paper but an effective organizational and institutional framework and a commitment to shouldering the burden of a common legitimacy, which is necessary for constructing a nation. Such a framework must encompass the disarming of militias and entrusting one national authority with a monopoly on the use of force. Without this, there will also be no chance of an agreement with Israel, which is vital for the establishment of a Palestinian state. These things should be said clearly, as difficult as they may be: If the Palestinians do not find a way to extricate themselves from their harsh historical reality, they ultimately will not have a state. It will be bad for them, and bad for Israel.

Israel-advocacy groups take aim at divestment initiative
Leyna Krow • Assistant Editor, JTNews
Posted: May 30, 2008

Deborah Portnoff Rettman

Israel-advocacy organization StandWithUs Northwest is fighting the legality of a ballot initiative (I-97), which, if it passes, would bar the City of Seattle from investing employee pension funds in certain corporations that do business with Israel. I-97, spearheaded by a group called Seattle Divest from War and Occupation, links divestment from Israel with divestment from companies involved in the war in Iraq, such as Halliburton. It stipulates that city employee retirement funds ought not to be invested in corporations involved in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories — including the Golan Heights. The initiative also states that, in the event that Israel were to attack Iran without U.N. authorization, the city would be required to divest from Israeli government bonds. “I know a lot of groups out there are starting to think seriously about the ways they invest their money, and we’d like the city of Seattle to do the same. That’s basically what this is about,” said Judith Kolokoff, spokesperson for I-97. “There are plenty of places to invest, not just in companies that support wars.” Kolokoff was quick to point out that the initiative specifically targets American and Israeli companies that profit from Israel’s “occupied and besieged territories.” The initiative specifically includes the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. While the ownership of the Golan is disputed with Syria, the land itself is not occupied. The measure would not require the city to divest from Israeli businesses entirely. However, Rob Jacobs, the regional director for StandWithUs Northwest, feels that the initiative paints an inaccurate picture of the situation in Israel by lumping it together with Iraq. “They’re trying to vilify Israel and put it in the same camp with Iraq, and it doesn’t deserve to be there,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs worries that since I-97 pairs divestment from Israel with divestment from Iraq, voters may be signing the petition out of concern over the war, without taking into consideration the impact it would have on Israel. Several supporters of StandWithUs who approached signature gatherers for the measure were told the initiative only had to do with Iraq, Jacobs said. The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the American Jewish Committee and the Washington Israel Business Council joined StandWithUs Northwest at a hearing at King County Superior Court on May 15 to challenge the initiative over what they considered flawed and imprecise language within the initiative. They asked the judge to revise the initiative summary to more clearly reflect its emphasis on companies that do business with Israel, as well as those involved in the Iraq war. More than 70 members of the local Jewish community, including students from both Northwest Yeshiva High School and the Seattle Hebrew Academy, attended the hearing to show their concern over I-97. Ultimately, Judge Steven Gonzalez, who presided over the hearing, agreed that the original title of the initiative was misleading, and wrote a revised version. However, he said he did not feel it was so misleading as to necessitate invalidating the signatures that had already been collected. At the time of the hearing, Seattle Divest from War and Occupation had collected around 10 percent of the required 18,000 signatures. Jacobs said his suit had not requested that the already-collected signatures be dropped. According to Ron Leibsohn, community services chair for the Jewish Federation, this month’s court appearance was only the first in several legal steps the organizations plan to take in an attempt to stop I-97 from making it to the ballot. If the initiative cannot be blocked through legal channels, StandWithUs Northwest and the Jewish Federation intend to take their fight to the street. They have already begun fundraising efforts to cover future legal costs and an opposition campaign. “There’s a lot of support for Israel in this community and we want to pull everyone together on this,” Leibsohn said. Kolokoff, who is Jewish, said she was not surprised by the reaction of StandWithUs Northwest and other Israel-advocacy groups to the initiative. “A lot of people feel to raise any question about Israel is tantamount to a crime,” she said. “We want to make it clear that this initiative is not about Israel, it’s about war and occupation and we’re targeting companies, not countries.” Kolokoff remains optimistic that Seattle Divest from War and Occupation will get the signatures they need for I-97 to appear on the ballot. If they succeed, I-97 will be the first initiative of its kind to do so in a major U.S. city. In 2005, a similar motion focusing exclusively on companies that do business with Israel failed to pass through the city council of Somerville, Mass. Officials from the city retirement office did not return calls by press time concerning th e economic impact and administrative ramifications the initiative would have on either employee pension funds or the companies from which those funds would be divested, were it to pass. Still, it’s the spirit behind the initiative, rather than its practical implications that is truly worrisome to local Israel advocates. Leibsohn said he feels it is important to stop the initiative from reaching the ballot not out of concern for the economic impact it could have on Israel, but because of the message Seattle’s divestment would send to the rest of the country. “We wouldn’t want this to pass in Seattle and then spread to other communities,” he said. “That’s why we think it’s important to stop it here.”

Seattle City Attorney Joins the Seattle Jewish Community to Oppose I-97
Friends,Great news! Yesterday afternoon, we received the City of Seattle's Answer to our Complaint in StandWithUs v. Divest from War Campaign. The City, a defendant in the case, sided with us against the supporters of I-97!
Click here to download the City's Answer.For those who are just learning about Initiative 97, I-97 was filed and is supported by a coalition of pro-Palestinian and anti-war groups. It would have the City of Seattle divest from Israel if Israel ever attacked Iran to destroy Iran's nuclear weapon program and would have the City divest from companies that sell products to Israel for use in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.The City of Seattle filed a cross-claim against the other defendants in the case, the supporters of I-97, arguing that I-97 would require that the City make investment decisions in place of the Seattle Employees Retirement Board. The Retirement Board, the City states, is the only body legally authorized to make such decisions.

The City continues, arguing that "investment of the city retirement system funds can only be made . . . through the board otherwise responsible for management of the pension system's funds and not through voter initiative." [Emphasis added].The voters do not have the power to force the intentionally independent investment managers to play politics with the current and retired Seattle employees' retirement fund.The City seeks "[d]eclaratory judgment that I-97 is beyond the scope of the local initiative power . . . because the power to invest city retirement funds and to establish investment policy is exclusively vested by state law in the city's . . . retirement system's board."The City's Answer closes with the following: "Cross-Claimant City of Seattle prays that the court . . . [d]eclare that I-97 in its entirety is invalid because it is beyond the scope of the local initiative power and is therefore null and void as a City of Seattle initiative." [Emphasis added].
While this is tremendous news and reason to be optimistic, the City's support for our position does not mean that the court will agree. We have not won yet. There are legal costs to cover and we still have to prepare to run a campaign against I-97 this November. We don't have the luxury of waiting to see what the court will do.
Again, it's important to note that our opposition to I-97 is part of a joint community effort that, in addition to the plaintiffs, StandWithUs and the Washington-Israel Business Council, also includes the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the American Jewish Committee. Other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and individuals have already indicated that they would like to join the suit as additional plaintiffs.
As I said in my last email on this issue, our joint effort to fight I-97 is one of the best examples of positive collaboration that I have seen and I am proud of our Seattle Jewish community's response. You should be proud, too.
All of these organizations will need both your volunteer and financial support.
You can help by donating money to cover our portion of the costs of the current legal challenge and the political groundwork that we must prepare now if we are to fight a strong campaign against the initiative if it does end up on the ballot.
If you are able to help financially, please contact me, Rob Jacobs, at 206.204.6070 or by emailing me at You can also donate directly over the web at
Also, let us know now if you'd be willing to staff phone banks, "door knob" and in other ways contribute time to help defeat the initiative if the sponsors win in court and then collect the necessary signatures. Again, if you are willing to volunteer, please let us know at
And while Initiative 97 is currently a focus of our attention, our community is facing an ongoing public relations attack on Israel on many fronts - in our high schools, on our college and university campuses, in the churches, in civic organizations and in the press. Initiative 97 is just one battle. Long after it goes away, we'll still need your efforts and financial support to fight for fair and balanced treatment of Israel in our community.
We're countering bias and misinformation by bringing speakers to our local schools and educating our students about Israel. We're teaching our educators and community leaders about the situation in the Middle East and about Israel as a country, not just a conflict. We're responding to bias in the media.
StandWithUs Northwest has been doing vital work here in our community to support Israel. We cannot do it alone. Please support our efforts.
Thank you!
Rob Jacobs

Regional DirectorStandWithUs Northwest
4616 NE 25th Avenue, #347
Seattle, WA 98105
206.204.0676 (office and fax)

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

American Jews and Israel: Last week on NPR's KUOW

Last week, I joined Rabbi Anson Laytner of the AJC and Wendy Somerson of Jewish Voice for Peace on the Steve Scher show, Weekday. Michael Oren also contributed to the program via tape from his home in Jerusalem, speaking with authority on what it's like to be American born and Israeli by choice, having lived in Israel since 1979 (he also spends time in the States, teaching, lecturing and traveling the country last year as part of his book tour).
Towards the end of the broadcast, Ms. Somerson made the claim that Israel still maintains an active occupation over Gaza, controlling the air space, water, and border crossings. That Gaza is a 'power-cooker' where the Israelis control the fuel, are strangling the Gazans, and have taken away their electricity. For Ms. Somerson, then, it's no surprise that there are rockets regularly launched into Israel proper. The solution is simple: "Start negotiating."
Never mind that Hamas refuses to: renounce violence, recognize Israel's very right to exist, or respect existing agreements.
Apparently, Ms. Somerson is also unaware of the fact that the Hamas leadership is very adept at orchestrating humanitarian crises in order to manipulate world opinion against Israel. Aside from stealing the fuel supplies that are earmarked for Gazan hospitals, schools and what industry still exists (aside from bomb-making), Hamas and its co-conspirators continue to attack vital crossing points and energy supply lines along the Gaza-Israel border.
Just last month, suicide bombers drove 3 explosives-laden vehicles into the Kerem Shalom crossing. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were wounded in the attack. At least a couple of hundred trucks providing essential food and medical supplies pass through this crossing each week.
Two weeks prior to that, terrorists attacked the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, which delivers almost 800,000 gallons of fuel every week to Gazan hospitals and to the Gaza City power station. Two Israeli workers were killed in that "negotiation," civilians who are there to facilitate the delivery of the fuel to Gaza. On May 4th, the IDF had to stop food and fuel shipments because the delivery vehicles came under heavy mortar fire. And early this morning, a Palestinian suicide truck packed with 4.5 tons of explosives blew up just outside the Erez crossing. Islamic Jihad said it and Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade cooperated in the attack.
These are but a sampling of the facts on the ground. But all this escapes the notice of Ms. Somerson, perhaps because, as she sheepishly admitted at the beginning of the broadcast, she has actually never even stepped foot in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza. She'd like to go someday, though.
david brumer
The full podcast is available below.
Thursday on Weekday at 9:00 a.m.
5/15/2008 at 9:00 a.m.
Go to 10:00 a.m.
Photo by tina.gao

American Jews and Israel
RealAudio MP3: high low
Israel celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence this month. President Bush is in Israel along with other world leaders. Many American Jews are celebrating, while some stand in solidarity with Palestinians. Today we speak with leaders in Western Washington's Jewish community across the political spectrum. What does Israel mean to American Jews? What does it mean to be pro–Israel? What should America's relationship with Israel be, and what role do American Jews have in shaping it? What role have American Jews had in shaping Israel itself?

Guests:Rabbi Anson Laytner is executive director of the American Jewish Committee's Seattle chapter. He is an adjunct theology and religious studies professor at Seattle University.

David Brumer is on the Executive Committee of StandWithUs Northwest, a group dedicated to "promoting greater understanding and support for Israel in the Pacific Northwest." He is a member of the Israel Bonds Speakers Bureau, and as such promotes investment in securities issued by the State of Israel. He writes the blog BRUMSPEAK and has a day job as a geriatric social worker and psychotherapist.

Dr. Wendy Somerson helped found the Seattle chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP "supports the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self–determination" and calls for "an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem." The group is a member of the Al–Nakba coalition, which held an event May 10 to commemorate Palestinian resistance. Dr. Somerson has a PhD in English from the University of Washington and has written curricula on Jews' ethnic diversity for the Jewish Federation in Seattle.

Michael Oren is a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a research center in Jerusalem. He's the author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present. He grew up in New Jersey and moved to Israel in the 1970s. He served in the Israeli army during the first Lebanon war.

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