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Du Bow Digest Germany Edition Dec. 16, 2012 ii

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  • 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONDecember 15, 2012Dear Friends:At the moment, as I write this, it is very hard for me to think about the joys of theHanukkah and Christmas holiday season. The shooting and killings that took placein Newtown, Connecticut have overwhelmed us all here in the U.S. This added tothe impending “Fiscal Cliff” budget situation have left many of us in the U.S. with afeeling of impending doom. To read about it click here. http://bonds.about.com/od/Issues-in-the-News/a/What-Is-The-Fiscal-Cliff.htmIn my youth I followed a daily comic strip in one off our local newspapers called L’ilAbner. One of the characters, Joe Btfsplk walked around with a constant black cloudover his head. It was with him wherever he went and disaster followed. I sort of feelthat the U.S. is under Joe’s cloud at the moment.If you’re interested in what Joe looked like click here.http://deniskitchen.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=bios.joe.btfsplkHowever, I imagine that in a few days Joe’s spell will fade away. The Hanukkah/Christmas/ New Year holiday feeling will come back into focus and perhaps the“Fiscal Cliff” disaster will be averted.I’m trying to be positive! The best of the holiday season to you all. I hope you willhave a healthy and happy 2013.On to the news…HANUKKAH – The real meaning of the holiday.THE PALESTINIANS, THE GERMANS & THE UN – A disappointment. 1
  • 2. ISRAELI & GERMAN CABINETS MEET – Disappointments aside, the relationshipremains strong.KHALED MASHAAL, ISRAEL & FOUR EURO STATES – Disappointment anddouble standards.JEWISH SECURITY IN EUROPE – Not an encouraging situation.CIRCUMCISION - A positive outcome.HANUKKAHI had hoped to get this segment about Hanukkah out to you prior to the Hanukkahholiday but other things got in the way of my writing and e-mailing schedule so youwill receive it shortly after it ends. Sorry!Though late, Hanukkah has become an important milepost in the Jewish year so I’vedecided to include it with the hope you will get something out of it in spite of itstardiness. If you’re a stickler for promptness then you can consider this the firstHanukkah article you’ll be receiving for 2013 though it’s about 11 ½ months early.Hilary Leila Krieger, the Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post wrote inThe New York Times, “Hanukkah is one of the most widely celebrated Jewishholidays in America. But unlike Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover (or eventhe lesser-known Sukkot and Shavuot), all of which are explicitly mentioned in theTorah, Hanukkah gets only a brief, sketchy reference in the Talmud, the voluminouscollection of Jewish oral law and tradition written down hundreds of years after theMaccabees’ revolt.There for the first time the miracle of the oil is recorded: the ancient temple inJerusalem held an eternal flame, but after the desecration by the foreign invaders —including the sacrificing of pigs, a non-kosher animal, on the altar — only one day’sworth of purified oil remained. Yet the faithful went ahead and lighted it.The oil burned in the rededicated temple for eight days, long enough for a newsupply to arrive. Hence the practice of lighting candles for eight nights to observeHanukkah, which means dedication in Hebrew. (Perhaps just as significantly, thereference to oil also gave rise to a holiday tradition of eating foods like potatopancakes and doughnuts that had been cooked in it.)Though Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, 19th-century activists in Americapromoted it to encourage their coreligionists to take pride in their heritage. Duringthe 20th century it was embraced more broadly by Jews who wanted to fit in withother Americans celebrating the holiday season — and to make their kids feel betterabout not getting anything from Santa. 2
  • 3. It helped, of course, that Hanukkah falls near Christmas on the calendar andtraditionally involved candles and small monetary gifts. Over time, children beganreceiving grander presents, and Hanukkah-themed season’s greeting cardsproliferated. Some families even started to purchase “Hanukkah bushes,” smalltrees often decked out with Stars of David and miniature Maccabees.By the 1980s, when I was a child, menorahs had been placed next to mangers inthe public square and Hanukkah songs had been incorporated into winter holidayconcerts. Despite this recognition, I still felt excluded enough to brag to classmatesthat my holiday was better than Christmas, since it had eight days of gift giving,instead of one.While elevating Hanukkah does a lot of good for children’s morale, ignoring orsanitizing its historical basis does a great disservice to the Jewish past and present.The original miracle of Hanukkah was that a committed band of people led asuccessful uprising against a much larger force, paving the way for Jewishindependence and perhaps keeping Judaism itself from disappearing. It’s anamazing story, resonant with America’s own founding, that offers powerful lessonsabout standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those in power.Many believe the rabbis in the Talmud recounted the miracle of the light alongsidethe military victory because they did not want to glorify war. That in itself is animportant teaching, as are the holiday’s related messages of renewal, hope andturning away from darkness.But it’s a story with dark chapters as well, including the Maccabean leaders’religious zealotry, forced conversions and deadly attacks on their neighbors. Thesetransgressions need to be grappled with. And that is precisely what the mostimportant Jewish holidays do: Jews on Passover spill out wine from their glasses toacknowledge Egyptian suffering caused by the 10 plagues, and congregations atRosh Hashana read and struggle with God’s order to Abraham to bind his son Isaacas a sacrifice.If we’re going to magnify Hanukkah, we should do so because it offers the deepermeaning and opportunity for introspection that the major Jewish holidays provide.I agree with everything Ms. Krieger has written. If it’s just candle lights and presentswhy bother celebrating it? I have the feeling that a lot of Christians feel the sameway about Christmas. If the message gets lost then just plain celebration doesn’tmean very much.THE PALESTINIANS, THE GERMANS & THE UNDuring the last month or so the most important international matter affecting the 3
  • 4. American Jewish community with its deep commitment to Israel was the UN’sapproval of Palestine as a non-member Observer. Whether it moved things closer tosome sort of a “peace agreement” is in great dispute. It can be seen that way or,given the Israeli response one might say it moved it further away.Since the German abstention vote was so unwelcome by both Israel and the U.S. itwas of considerable importance. I covered all the happenings in my AMERICANEDITION. Rather than try to paraphrase what I wrote, I’ve decided, as I dooccasionally, just to reprint the original. It follows below.********************************************************************************************There is no question that Israel & the U.S. suffered a seeming diplomatic defeat inthe UN over the matter of the Palestinian status. Only the U.S., Israel itself, Canadaand the Czech Republic among the important nations supported a “no” vote when itcame to non-member observer state for Palestine.Following the vote almost anybody who is anybody gave their opinion on who wonand who lost and what the implications for the future were. Taking into considerationthe recent Gaza War (I don’t know what else to call it) and now the UN vote, I’m notsure the Palestinians won anything. Maybe they got some sort of an emotionalfeeling of victory but they got a lot of people killed, much of their infrastructuredestroyed and some sort of recognition by the UN. However, the facts on the groundremain unchanged except that Israel has announced some new construction in theWest Bank. Such was the Palestinian victory!I’m going to leave it up to you to read the general media so you can make up yourown mind about winners and losers. I will only deal with the action Germany took (ordidn’t take) and then you can make a personal decision on that as well.On the basis that there can be no peace without direct face to face negotiations, itwas the hope of Israel, the U.S. and most of the organized American Jewishcommunity that Germany would vote “no” on the Palestine matter and, perhaps,bring other Western European along with it. It didn’t happen. How come?HaaretzAccording to Haaretz, “…the hardest blow came from Berlin. In Jerusalem, Germanywas considered a certainty to vote against the UN resolution, and the Germandecision not to oppose the Palestinian bid but rather to abstain shocked the topbrass at the Foreign Ministry and Prime Ministers office. A top German official whotook part in discussions in Berlin, however, stressed that the writing was on the wall.The senior German official, who has requested anonymity because of the sensitivityof the issue, told Haaretz that Germany has been trying to help Israel on thePalestinian issue for a long time but Israel has not taken the necessary steps to 4
  • 5. advance the peace process. "The Israelis," he said, "did not respond in any way toour request to make a gesture on settlements."Israeli officials were furious with the Germans. "The turnaround in the British positioncaused the Germans to change their vote since they did not want to remain isolatedwithin the European Union," said a Foreign Ministry official.Indecisive and confusing Israeli conduct surrounding the Palestinians move at theUN has angered decision-makers in Germany. The Germans feel they have beentaken advantage of, and that Israeli officials have been secretive and uncooperative.The high-ranking German official said "the resolution" to recognize a Palestinianstate "is positive in one sense - it clearly recognizes the two-state solution and theright of existence of the State of Israel."The German decision to abstain in the UN vote is expected to exacerbate theconsiderable tension between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu, which has been an issue in recent years, regardless of thecurrent situation. There is a great deal of anger among officials in the PrimeMinisters Office over the change in Germanys position, especially since themessages coming from the Germans until yesterday morning indicated it was theirintention to vote against the resolution.There is no question that the abstention was not a happy outcome. However, aplanned summit meeting in Berlin between the governments of Israel and Germanywent ahead. (More on that later). The disagreement concerning the vote at the UNdid, somewhat, cast a shadow on the discussions. Ever since Netanyahu becameprime minister four years ago, his relations with Merkel have been strained. Onehears that numerous times Merkel felt Netanyahu did not keep promises he hadmade to her, and she was especially angry at the continuation of the construction inthe settlements.Spiegel On-LineInterestingly Spiegel On-Line seemed more interested in the fact that the Europeannations did not vote as a bloc than in the issue itself at hand. They opined, “For theEuropean Union, however, the vote once again exposed the 27-member blocsinability to reach consensus on foreign policy issues. Most EU countries, to be sure,voted in favor of Palestinian observer status, including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal,Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark. Non-EU states Switzerland and Norway alsosupported Abbas. But others, including Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany,abstained in an effort at neutrality. Only one EU member state, the Czech Republic,voted against the Palestinians."We have doubts that todays resolution brings the peace process forward," saidGerman UN Ambassador Peter Wittig, echoing the statement released earlier in the 5
  • 6. day from the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. He said he feared it would do more harmthan good.Unconfirmed rumors & discussionWho knows if any of this is accurate but it seems to confirm what was published inHaaretz. It is said that the Chancellor herself, according to numerous sources, isupset with the issue of settlements (she has expressed herself publicly and harshlyon this for some time) and the ongoing weakening of Abbas through the lack oftangible progress on negotiations. There is a feeling among the Germans that withIsrael’s security situation collapsing on all sides due to Arab political instability, thesituation with the Palestinians must be settled soon and Abbas strengthened.The final deciding factor for the Chancellor, the rumor goes, was evidently thelanguage of the resolution itself and its emphasis on the two-state solution.Chancellor Merkel is committed to a two-state solution, which she feels is the onlyoption for maintaining a democratic Jewish state.Deutsche WelleAs disappointing to many as the German Government’s abstention was, theopposition party Social Democrats (SPD) seem even to have been more pro-Palestinian. DW reported, “The fact that the EU could not agree on a policy was aserious problem, said Rolf Mützenich, foreign policy spokesman for Germanyscenter-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). He told Deutsche Welle that a "yes" fromGermany would have been perfectly feasible. "I believe we must do everything wecan to support the forces in Palestine that want a peaceful agreement with Israeland a fair two-state solution. And that is what President Abbas stands for."Abstaining from the vote was the least that Germany could have done for thePalestinian president, Mützenich continued. The internal Palestinian conflictbetween Hamas and Fatah, which Abbas leads, was enough for him to deal with, heargued. "It would have been a fatal signal if on top of that he hadnt had the supportof important European governments on the international stage, or even beenweakened by them," he said.While the abstention vote caused ill feeling and ruffled personal feathers life goeson. The position of nations is almost always based on perceived national interest,rarely personal feelings. In this case the interests of the two countries involveddiverged. Germany has to consider its interests with the Arab and Islamic countrieswhile Israel is dealing at the forefront with immediate national security issues. Thisdoes not mean that there was or will be a rupture of relations between the two asexemplified by the joint cabinet meeting which took place a week or so following theUN vote.Read on about it… 6
  • 7. ISRAELI & GERMAN CABINETS MEETA week after the UN vote the annual get-together of the Israeli and German cabinetstook place in Berlin. This annual happening underscores the closeness of the twocountries though their governments might have strong differences concerning policy– which, indeed, they have.After the UN vote, but prior to the joint cabinet meeting, Chancellor Merkelreaffirmed her commitment to Israel’s security. A Jerusalem Post article noted,"Germany will always stand on the side of Israel on the issue (of Israeli security),"Merkel said in her weekly podcast, and spoke of Berlins vocal backing for Israelduring its latest clashes with Hamas. Israel has not only the right but the duty toprotect its citizens," she added.Shortly thereafter “Netanyahu and his ministers [held] consultations with theirGerman counterparts in Berlin. Their talks cover[ed] economic and trade ties andcooperation in science and education as well as regional security issues.Agree to DisagreeAs the cabinets came together Spiegel On-Line reported, “Despite recentdifferences between Germany and Israel over settlement construction plans on theWest Bank, Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu pledged friendship onThursday in Berlin. They have, said the chancellor, agreed to disagree.Given that horrific history, Merkel told Netanyahu that she is fully aware "what apleasure it is that we can cooperate today." She praised the two countriescollaboration when it comes to education and research, and extolled Israel as beingthe only democracy in the Middle East. The message was clear: The German-Israelirelationship is so solid that occasional differences of opinion are not a threat. And onThursday in Berlin, the pair made little effort to hide those differences.On Wednesday evening, prior to Thursdays high-level meetings between Israeli andGerman cabinet members, Netanyahu joined Merkel for dinner in the Chancellery.The two talked about bilateral cooperation, but also about the current situation in theMiddle East, including in Egypt, and the danger of chemical weapons in Syria. Theyalso talked, of course, about the plans recently announced by Netanyahusgovernment to build 3,000 new housing units for settlers near Jerusalem.Brief and to the PointThe construction plans, intended as a punishment of the Palestinians for theirsuccessful application to the United Nations last week for non-member observerstatus, involve area E-1 between East Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, and would 7
  • 8. essentially cut the West Bank in two [Ed. Note: That is not accurate]. And it is anissue that has long been a point of contention in Merkels relationship withNetanyahu. In September 2011, Merkel even became irate in a telephoneconversation with the Israeli prime minister during a discussion of West Banksettlements. The differences have not disappeared in the meantime."On the settlement question, we have agreed to disagree," said Merkel on Thursday.Netanyahu struck a similar tone: "One should be able to voice different opinionsamong friends.The foundations of German-Israeli relations are "untouchable" Merkel affirmed,adding "and they withstand differences of opinion."To read the article click here http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-and-netanyahu-pledge-friendship-in-berlin-despite-differences-a-871458.htmlSomething else to worry about. There is little doubt that the German government’sattitude toward Israel is far more positive than that of the general population. Forinstance the Israeli government position on the extension of building in the E-1 areais seen as a hindrance to any possible peace. Many in Germany see thePalestinians as an oppressed minority and the Israelis as oppressors. That attitudeis one that is not unique to Germany but is apparent throughout Europe. My guess isthat even in the Czech Republic, which alone voted with Israel in the UN on thePalestinian matter, the attitudes of the populace is far more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli.It is very far from clear as to how that situation might be reversed. The rocketing ofIsrael by Hamas triggered statements by various governments saying that they hadthe right to defend themselves but I doubt if that moved public opinion.It is a very difficult and troubling situation.KHALED MASHAAL, ISRAEL & FOUR EURO STATESBefore I leave the subject of Israel, etc. I want to briefly talk about the attitude towardit on the part of at least four European states.The media recently focused on the return of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to Gaza.He was greeted as a hero and in a speech as reported by The Times of Israel hesaid, “…that the Palestinians would continue to fight to annihilate Israel.“We are not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for usand nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way,” he said. “We cannotrecognize Israel’s legitimacy.” 8
  • 9. O.K. I expect that kind of verbiage from the likes of Mashaal. That sort of attitude, toa large extent, is what is keeping the Palestinians from sitting down at a negotiationsession. The Hamas extreme position which has weight in Gaza and makes Abbasand Fatah seem weak holds the possibilities of peace as hostage. In any case, that’stheir position. They seem to feel that time is on their side and somehow Israel willeventually crumble and they will “annihilate Israel”.While I expect Mashaal to be Mashaal I expect better from the member states of theEU. TToI further reported, “Four European Union member states reportedlyopposed an official condemnation of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s incitement-filled speech last weekend, leading to harsh responses from Israeli leaders thatEurope was being one-sided.According to an Israel Radio report Wednesday, Denmark, Finland, Portugal andIreland pressured European foreign ministers to condemn Israel solely for its E1settlement construction plan at a meeting of the body’s foreign council Monday.In the end, the statement included a brief rebuke of Hamas’s call for Israel’sdestruction, after an 11th-hour intervention by Germany and the Czech Republic,Israel Radio reported.First of all let me say that I, and I think all Jews, should be thankful for theintervention of Germany and the Czech Republic. However, I am at a loss tounderstand the position of Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Ireland. There does notseem to be even a semblance of fairness in what they wanted to vote for. Even if weassume that Israel’s threat to build more settlements in the E-1 area is illegal andshould be condemned, what does that have to do with Mashaal’s stated desire toannihilate Israel? Should Israel be delegitimized? And what about the rocketing ofIsrael by Mashaal’s Hamas? Where were the four nations on that issue?Would I be wrong in saying that at least among those States there is a strong Israelbias? Thankfully Germany and the Czechs did the right thing. Where were thevoices of the other EU countries?I’d be interested in your thoughts on the matter.JEWISH SECURITY IN EUROPEIn Europe whenever there is some sort of military action involving Israeldemonstrations and, at times, violence breaks out. Needless to say, it putsEuropean Jews in a state of insecurity. They feel, with considerable justification thatthey must ramp up their security apparatus to ward off attacks that might be coming.In some countries, such as Germany, the government is sympathetic to the needsso police protection is provided. Go by any synagogue on a Friday evening prior to 9
  • 10. Sabbath services and you will see that sort of protection. In addition, at least inBerlin (the place I know best) there is internal security as well. Try to get into theShabbat services and you will go through metal detectors and questions as to whoyou are.The situation throughout Europe is much worse than it is in Germany. The smallerthe Jewish community, the more of their own resources they have to expend. Myguess is that even in the smaller communities in Germany security is pretty tight.The fact is that now, after the end of World War II and the defeat of Nazism, Jewishlife in Europe is still fraught with anti-Semitism, anti-Israelism and a mixture of thetwo. Sad and troubling!Recently, The Times of Israel ran an article on the subject. It noted, “There’s notelling what would ignite the next wave of attacks against our communities,” MosheKantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, said at a crisismanagement training session that drew leaders from 36 Jewish communities toBrussels on Nov. 6, eight days before the Israeli military launched its OperationPillar of Defense. “It could be hostilities between Israel and Iran or in Gaza or astupid film on Muslims in YouTube. We have to assume its coming.”Nine months after a deadly attack by a Muslim extremist claimed four lives at aJewish school in Toulouse, France, European Jewish leaders are beginning to takesteps to address some glaring gaps in the security capabilities of the continent’sJewish communities. But the process is hindered by the enormous costs involvedand differing views of where the primary responsibility lies for ensuring Jewishsafety.Approximately half of Europe’s Jewish communities have no crisis-managementplan in place. Even in large communities demonstrably at risk of attack like France,which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of about 500,000, securityresources remain scarce, and some congregations have virtually no protection.“Nine months ago, Jewish communities in Europe received a wake-up call whenMohammed Merah, a 23-year-old Muslim radical, killed three children and a rabbi inToulouse,” said Arie Zuckerman, secretary-general of the European Jewish Fund,which bankrolls much of the EJC’s activity. “At the same time, the spike in anti-Semitic attacks coincides with a recession, which is hampering communities’ abilityto carry the burden of security costs.”“The subject of funding for security is particularly painful for Europe’s smallercommunities,” said Anne Sender, a former president of the Jewish Community ofOslo, which has just 750 members. “We simply don’t have the deep pockets thatlarger communities have.”Norway’s Jews spend just $87,000 annually on security — about half of what theyraise each year in fees that also support education and religious services, accordingto Ervin Kohn, the community’s current president. 10
  • 11. There is more to the article and, of course, much more to the story which one wouldhope that someday there would be no need to write about it or print it. You can readit in its entirety by clicking here.http://www.timesofisrael.com/low-on-funds-and-state-protection-europes-jews-remain-vulnerableCIRCUMCISIONThe legal battle in Germany over the matter of male circumcision received a lot ofcoverage in the media here in the U.S. The fact that the controversy has been finallysettled (we think) is good news. It was causing a great deal of anxiety aboutGermany in the American Jewish community.An AJC press release noted, “AJC praised Germany’s Parliament for approving alaw, by a vote of 434 to 100, with 46 abstentions, to allow circumcision for religiousreasons.”The Bundestag action is a welcome affirmation of Germany’s commitmentto religious freedom," said Deidre Berger, director of AJCs Berlin Office. AJC is theglobal Jewish advocacy organization.“Circumcision is critical to Jewish and Muslim religious life,” said Berger. “TheGerman parliament’s action should put to rest reprehensible allegations that Jewishand Muslim religious upbringing violates children’s rights and endangers the welfareof children.”Todays vote followed a prolonged public debate prompted by a local German courtruling in Cologne in June determining that circumcision is a criminally liableprocedure. While having limited jurisdictional validity, the Cologne judgment sparkednational and global controversy on the legal and medical consequences ofcircumcision.AJC Berlin’s report, “Facts and Myths about the Circumcision Controversy,” exposedsignificant distortions, fallacies and prejudices in claims made by anti-circumcisionactivists about alleged medical dangers of male circumcision. Chancellor AngelaMerkel quoted directly from the AJC Berlin report, and mentioned Deidre Berger byname, when speaking about the circumcision controversy during a recent awardsceremony at the Berlin Jewish Community.“The notion that Jewish and Muslim males, together with up to a third of the earth’smale population, have permanent psychological and physical damage is patentlyabsurd,” said Berger. “The new German legislation should once and for all consignthe arguments of circumcision opponents to the dustbin of history.”Berger, however, expressed concern about anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentimentsthat surfaced during the public debate on circumcision. 11
  • 12. “Serious media in Germany quoted individuals who claimed on the basis of flawedmedical evidence that Judaism and Islam are primitive and archaic religions," saidBerger. "Some even outrageously depicted German Jewish and Muslim citizens asforeign elements in German society.”Berger praised the German government and parliament for their efforts “to counter amisguided local court ruling. The legislation is a victory for religious freedom andtolerance."German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser Schnarrenberger said in recentinterviews that the legislation reaffirms existing practice regarding circumcision.“If there is something to be learned from the circumcision debate, it is that religiousfreedom and diversity are core principles of a vibrant democracy,” said Berger.I imagine (maybe incorrectly) that court challenges to the new law are still possible.If that is the case I hope that they are done away with quickly. The practice ofcircumcision has been a vital part of Judaism for thousands of years. To haveGermany call it into question has not helped the cause of German – Jewishunderstanding, something we should all work for. Let’s hope that the Bundestag lawhas put an end to the controversy.********************************************************************************************Happy New Year! See you again in January,DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12