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Du bow Digest Germany Edition June 30, 2011

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DuBow Digest is a newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

DuBow Digest is a newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

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  • 1. GERMANY EDITIONJUNE 30, 2011Dear Friends:There is deep concern in the American Jewish community about both the upcomingGaza flotilla due to leave this week and the implications of the planned Palestinianunilateral declaration of statehood. Neither will succeed to the degree that thepeople behind them hope for. Some feel that Israel will suffer diplomatically but Ithink that will pale when contrasted to the real disaster that awaits the Palestinianpeople in the West Bank and Gaza. Both items are addressed below.Summer has arrived in New York with sun, warmth and, perhaps, a little bit too muchhumidity. New York State has just approved same-sex marriage – another great steptoward equality. The more conservative elements in the Jewish community wereopposed. We are a disputatious people.Our national politicians are battling over fiscal responsibility and the national debt. Iguess there is some chance that the U.S. might default if the national debt limit is notincreased. You may find us on line behind the Greeks looking for a bailout.(Editor’s Personal Note: My colleague, Lena Altman, a native German, who hasworked for AJC in New York for 8 years, is returning to Berlin to be part of DeidreBerger’s AJC staff there. She, her husband and small child are looking for a 4 roomapartment to rent. Does anybody out there know of a vacancy? If so, please write toLena directly at altmanl@ajc.org . Any help will be appreciated. Thanks!)Let’s get on with the news…IN THIS EDITIONGAZA FLOTILLA No. 2 – Does disaster await? For whom?UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF STATEHOOD – The real question is, “Wholoses?”JERUSALEM – What about the people who live there?WESTERWELLE & NIEBEL – The German stance on statehood.DEMOCRACRY & SECURITY – A different (and interesting) way to look at the wayJews see these issues.JEWS & THE TEA PARTY – Is conservatism becoming appealing? 1
  • 2. ISOLATIONISM – Is it growing in the Republican Party?WHAT DO ISRAELI JEWS THINK? – An interesting poll.GAZA FLOTILLA No. 2It appears that in spite of it being warned against by the U.S., the UN Secy. General,Turkey and Greece, the organizers of the Gaza Flotilla No. 2 are determined to goahead with their attempt to reach Gaza. (Y-Net News) Even “Germany’s Left Party(Ed. Note: Not known for being pro-Israel) passed a resolution earlier this monthbarring the party’s parliamentary representatives and employees from participatingin the upcoming flotilla to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, whichremains under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas.”Since Israel has liberalized what is allowed to reach Gaza through its own bordersand that of Egypt (also there are many illegal tunnels) there is no medical or food“emergency”. So, one must conclude (with even a scintilla of objectivity) that thepurpose of the mission is purely political and has nothing to do with relief.If, indeed, that is the case, on whose behalf is this confrontation being carried out?The citizens of Gaza are not without political leadership. The “government” ofHamas rules and, therefore, it seems to me that the ultimate goal of the flotilla is tosupport what is considered by both the U.S. and the EU as a terrorist organization.Is this what the “do-gooders” making the voyage want to do? Are they beingdeceived by Hamas propaganda? They will not be the first group of (perhaps) wellmeaning people to fall for a false political line. Many in Europe during the rise ofcommunism became communists themselves thinking that they were joining a noblecause. It didn’t turn out to be so noble and what Hamas preaches, quite frankly, iseven more toxic.I am sure that not all the flotilla participants are those only dedicated to good deeds.I have a strong suspicion that many harbor anti-Semitic feelings to go along withtheir outward manifestations of anti-Israelism. To my way of thinking it’s O.K. to beopposed to the Israeli policy as long as one checks with his/her own conscience.However, to be supportive of a terrorist organization that in its charter dedicatesitself to the destruction of Israel goes beyond the bounds of acceptance.To read about Gaza’s current state of being click herehttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/world/middleeast/26gaza.html?_r=1&hpDavid Harris, AJC’s Executive Director has written about this matter. Click here toread it. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=6178309&ct=10882177&notoc=1 2
  • 3. Maybe common sense will prevail and the flotilla will be cancelled. However, zealotsare not normally sensible so I imagine it will sail and be confronted. Let’s hope noone gets hurt.UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF STATEHOODUnless there is some dramatic change wherein the Palestinians and the Israelis canfind their way back to the bargaining table, the Palestinians are going to go to theUN General Assembly for a unilateral declaration of statehood in September. It willpass in the GA but since UN official statehood requires Security Council approvalthey will not become a fully recognized nation. This scenario is based on theexpectation that Fatah and Hamas can stick to their unifying agreement which is nota given at this moment. If they can’t, all bets are off and the outcome is anyone’sguess.Let’s assume that they will be able to somehow stay with their agreement.I am not a fortune teller or a prognosticator but I have been trying to think throughwhat will happen next. Certainly, Israel will declare the “peace process” null and voidand that will put the possibility of any further negotiations off the table for a very longtime to come.Daniel Schwammenthal wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Israel isnt going to simplypack up and accept a one-sided imposition of borders or principles that ignore thecountrys legitimate security concerns. The Palestinians will gain real sovereigntyonly through peace talks with Israel where both sides will have to make painfulcompromises.And that is the fatal flaw inherent in the U.N. vote: Any parameters and bordersendorsed in September, however vague, would automatically become non-negotiable positions for the Palestinians. No Palestinian Authority leader could everafford to be "less Palestinian" than the U.N. So if some EU members insist onbacking a U.N. vote, theyll only help make a temporary stalemate permanent.What about the Oslo Agreements? (Schwammenthal again) Any such violation ofpast agreements could easily turn bloody. Palestinians who are led to believe that aU.N. vote will bring about immediate independence will be terribly disappointed inSeptember. Similar instances of disappointment in the past have often reignitedviolence, and not only in the region itself. Over the past several years, trouble in theMiddle East has routinely fueled attacks on Jewish communities in Europe. EUleaders need to be careful not to inadvertently fan the flames of a conflict that mightplay itself out in their own streets. “You don’t have to be a fortune teller to figure out that a unilateral declaration will notbenefit the Palestinian people. After a veto in the Security Council, Pres. Obama will 3
  • 4. be under tremendous pressure to cut off all funding for the Palestinian Authority.Other sources may also dry up especially if violence breaks out. The two pieces ofthe Palestinian territory are totally dependant on outside funding. There is barely anyindustry or marketable exports. What little there is will dwindle further. I believe theliving standard will severely drop and the Palestinian people will be the real losers.Let’s hope that negotiations can back on track. No one needs more in the way ofdisasters and I fear that may be the order of the day with a unilateral declaration.JERUSALEMIn the Arab – Israeli dispute one of the main issues that always comes up and has tobe decided is the fate of Jerusalem. Will it remain all Israeli? Will it be split into dualIsraeli and Palestinian capitals, etc. etc. etc.Rarely does anyone actually talk about the people who live there, what their liveslook like and what their current status is. Whatever the political situation dictates it istheir well being that be affected most directly.Rabbi Ed Rettig, AJC’s Acting Israel Director has addressed that in a recent articleentitled “Jerusalem Prognosis”. In it he notes, “…in our passionate discussion of thecause of Jerusalem we tend to lose sight of the people who live there. As we ponderthe city’s political future we do well to consider the Jerusalemites, those mostdirectly engaged in that future. Jerusalem is home to about three quarters of amillion people, most with large families, low incomes, and, unless things changedrastically, relatively poor economic prospects.The invaluable Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) released its 2011Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem providing facts and figures. While the rawstatistics are two years old (the usual delay in scholarly JIIS analytic studies), theyilluminate long-term trends. The city is home to 773,000 people, three times the1967 population of 266,300. Its ethnic makeup has shifted somewhat. In 1967 thecity was about one quarter Arab, while in 2009 Arabs constituted over a third of thepopulation. On the Jewish side, the growth in population has been overwhelminglyHaredi (ultra-Orthodox). In 2009 Haredim made up 29% of the population whilethose self-defined as “secular” were down to about 20%. As 62% of Jewish childrenin Jerusalem study in Haredi schools, this trend on the Jewish side is likely tocontinue.Jerusalemites have many children. The birthrate for both Muslim Arabs (3.9 birthsper woman) and Jews (4.1 births per woman) is much higher than in the rest of thecountry, although the Muslim Arab birthrate is slowly coming down. (Christian Arabs,who account for only a small portion of the population of the city have a very lowbirthrate.)Politically, the much proclaimed “unity” of the city is a fiction for one major structural 4
  • 5. reason. Over the years, the Palestinians have boycotted Jerusalem’s municipalelections as a way of demonstrating their long-term non-acquiescence in theunification of the city. But this comes at the high price of shortchanging themselvesin the allocation of resources.Municipal politicians work in much the same way all over the world, seeking tofurther the interests of constituencies that elect them. Their successes (andreelection chances) are often a function of how aggressively they pursue thoseinterests, often at the expense of broader policy issues. Critics of Israel charge itwith discriminatory policies against Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, but the realreason those neighborhoods get fewer resources lies elsewhere. Palestinians do notsit on the Municipal Council as a result of their election boycott, and thus have norepresentatives at the table when the political game is played and resourcesallocated. An example of the opposite strategy can be seen in the Haredicommunities, which participate in elections and whose representatives are skilled atthe art of leveraging that participation and receiving municipal resources far inexcess of what their community produces in tax revenues.There’s more. Click here to read it. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=2818289&ct=10875921&notoc=1After reading Ed’s article I felt a deep sense that in talking about political situationsfrom afar we do not sufficiently take into account those that have to have to bear theburden of war and disruption. For instance, I feel sorry for the poor Syrian peoplewho have had to give up their homes and have had to face the death of loved onesfor no reason other than they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time;Let’s hope it doesn’t happen in Jerusalem.WESTERWELLE & NIEBELForeign Minister Westerwelle, while visiting in Jerusalem came out strongly againstthe move in the UN that the Palestinians are planning for a unilateral declaration ofstatehood.On June 13 D-W World.de reported, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelleand Development Minister Dirk Niebel are visiting Israel and the Palestinianterritories on Monday and Tuesday, where they will try to convince Palestinians todrop their plan to gain UN recognition for an independent state outside theframework of the stalled peace process."We must convince the Palestinians that a unilateral declaration of independence isthe wrong way to go," Niebel said in an interview with the news magazine DerSpiegel. 5
  • 6. Niebel said he would advise the Palestinians to present instead a resolution callingfor a two-state solution based on the border before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, asproposed by US President Barack Obama."We believe that any standstill in the Middle East peace process at the present timerepresents a setback, given the changes in the Arab world," Foreign MinisterWesterwelles spokesman Andreas Peschke said in Berlin.France and other European countries have indicated that they would recognize aPalestinian state while German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Palestinianindependence must be negotiated within the framework of talks with Israel.The most interesting part of the story is not the position that Westerwelle has taken.It is consistent with the Chancellor’s position and, I guess, is in lockstep with theCoalition’s agreed upon position. The more interesting point is the suggestion that anon-State resolution be introduced. Of course, the 1967 border proposal is a non-starter as far as Israel is concerned but the idea of a substitute resolution seems (atleast to me) novel. A substitute could be some sort of a face saver for Abbas andallow him to get back to negotiations instead of going down a road that would kill offnegotiations for a long time to come. Germany’s diplomatic touch may have somechance of success. However, if it puts blame on Israel it will lead to another blindalley and a likely end to negotiations.DEMOCRACRY & SECURITYIn most issues of DuBow Digest I try to point out where American Jews stand on theimportant matters that confront them. Of course, there is a wide spectrum of opinionon almost all issues and I find it hard sometimes to identify the major underlyingmotivating forces that individual Jews have particularly on those issues surroundingIsrael’s security and its future.In a recent The Jerusalem Post article by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, the President of theUnion for Reform Judaism Rabbi Yoffie said, “When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we generally divide Jews into hawks and doves or right-wingersand left-wingers. But a more accurate division might be “security Jews” vs.“democracy Jews.”“Security Jews” are those whose greatest concern is Israel’s vulnerability to militaryattack. They emphasize Israel’s fragility as a small state in a badneighborhood. They call for defensible borders, and for strategic depth that did notexist prior to 1967. They talk of a military presence along the Jordan River that willenable Israel to repel a possible invasion from current or future enemies.“Democracy Jews” are those whose focus is on retaining Israel’s character as aJewish and democratic state. They worry about Israeli control of Palestinians in the 6
  • 7. territories. They insist that “Jewish and democratic” cannot be a cliché or an emptyslogan, but must mean a state that has a secure Jewish majority and is democraticin the commonly accepted meaning of that term. They focus less on the specifics ofwhat a peace arrangement might look like and more on the political outcomes thatsuch an arrangement must assure.Most “security Jews,” of course, voice support for a democratic State of Israel andmost “democracy Jews” voice support for a militarily secure State of Israel. But inboth their internal thought processes and public advocacy, each group is primarilyfocused on the value that they see as most important at this moment.There is more to the article and you will have to click on the following link to seewhere Rabbi Yoffie himself comes out on the issue. Click here.http://blogs.jpost.com/content/security-jews-vs-democracy-jewsI believe that the template that Rabbi Yoffie provides us with is, in many ways moreimportant than his own position which, indeed, you might find interesting. It is a greathelp in understanding the two issues that most Jews grapple with when thinkingabout the future of the Jewish State.There are, of course, people on the extremes of each position but they are notextremists. They are only convinced that one position is better than the one at theopposite end of the spectrum. I believe that most Jews (in the U.S. and elsewhere)find themselves somewhere further toward the middle and the numbers slidedepending on the situation of the day. There is no question that with the Palestinianattempts to delegitimize Israel and move away from direct negotiations have movedthe current slide toward security.JEWS & THE TEA PARTYThe Tea Party, which represents some of the most extreme right wing elements inthe Republican Party, does not seem to be the kind of political home for AmericanJews, who have been, by and large liberal and closely connected to the DemocraticParty.However, the Jewish daily Forward reported, “…one researcher thinks thecommunity is warming up to the movement.“Historically, we’ve seen the community as being liberal, but now a counter voice isemerging,” said Steven Windmueller of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Instituteof Religion.A recent Internet survey of Jews, conducted by Windmueller, found that about 42%thought the Tea Party movement was “refreshing” versus an equal percentage that 7
  • 8. found it “alarming.” More support for the Tea Party idea came from Republicans,Orthodox Jews and males, and less from Democrats, Reform Jews and females.Even Windmueller cautioned that his study “does not permit one to make anydefining conclusions.” Among other things, its 2,300 or so participants wererecruited via publicity on the websites of Jewish newspapers and Jewishorganizations — an outreach method bound to exclude the large percentage ofJews who are relatively less affiliated. The replies that respondents gave to variousquestions in the poll indicated that the sample obtained through this outreach skewsto the right compared with that of a scientifically selected random sample.Nevertheless, Windmueller argues that his study shows “a distinctive Jewishconservative voice emerging on Israel-related matters and an array of domesticsocial issues” among “highly engaged Jews.”Others disagree. Political scientist Kenneth Wald, of the University of Florida,argued that Jewish support for Tea Party ideas or candidates is still marginal. “Theremay be some Jews who are fiscally conservative, but it is a far cry from actuallysupporting the Tea Party,” he said.…the question of support for Israel was never the key concern Jewish voters hadwith the Tea Party.From the outset, conventional wisdom had it that Tea Partiers, with their program ofradically cutting government budgets and decreasing government’s role in daily life,would have a difficult time wooing Jewish voters. This was an agenda seen asrunning counter to the Jewish community’s historically broad support forgovernment-funded social programs.Jewish activists also took issue with statements coming from Tea Party membersthat seemed to indicate a certain lack of sensitivity to the issue of church and stateseparation.“Some of the Tea Party’s prominent candidates in 2010 made a very bad impressionon the Jewish community,” Wald said. “Jews have an allergic reaction to talk about adivine role in the political world.” A public opinion report published in February by thePew Research Center found strong support for the Tea Party movement amongthose who agree with the views of the conservative Christian movement.But it was this same report, based on combined surveys taken between November2010 and February that also found that Jews were not altogether alienated from theTea Party phenomena. According to that report, 15% of Jewish respondents agreedwith the Tea Party, while 49% disagreed and 35% had no opinion. While thesefigures showed a Jewish community far from supportive of the movement, they alsoindicated a potential for Jewish votes. Perhaps more important for some Tea Party 8
  • 9. figures gearing up for presidential runs, they may also suggest a potential donorpool within a community known for political giving.“Jews are experiencing the same things other Americans are: a combination of fear,anger and uncertainty about their own future,” Windmueller said.I think Steve Windmueller’s last sentence tells a lot about where American Jews arethese days. Fear, anger & uncertainty are taking their toll. Add to that these sameconcerns about Israel and you have a pretty good picture of where the great middleof Jewish American now finds itself.ISOLATIONISMI don’t want to dwell too long on the Tea Party. However, while they are a relativelysmall group at the right end of the political spectrum they are not a distinct politicalparty. They are what I would term “a movement”. However, they have influence andthat influence is strong in the Republican Party (GOP). Some see the seeds ofisolationism beginning to emerge from a number of their positions.Senator John McCain, the GOP’s last presidential candidate who believes in arobust American foreign policy is beginning to worry about the isolationist trend in hisown party. The Jerusalem Post notes, “Discussing the (Republican primary) race onABC News earlier in the week, he made no bones about being “concerned aboutwhat the candidates in New Hampshire the other night said.”He explained, “This is isolationism. There’s always been an isolationist strain in theRepublican Party, the Pat Buchanan wing of our party.But now it seems to have moved more center-stage, so to speak.”How foreign policy issues play out in the campaign for the Republican nominationhas yet to be seen, and many analysts don’t consider the views expressed to add upto outright isolationism, but rather a trend away from the expansive action favoredby neoconservatives.How foreign policy issues play out in the campaign for the Republican nominationhas yet to be seen, and many analysts don’t consider the views expressed to add upto outright isolationism, but rather a trend away from the expansive action favoredby neoconservatives.It’s also not clear whether such a Republican stance would push President BarackObama further toward disengagement as well, as his party’s left flank has longcalled for a smaller American footprint overseas, or whether he’d tack toward thecenter and more interventionist policies as a line of attack against his opponents.Either way, the debate could have profound implications for American involvement 9
  • 10. in the Middle East, and thus for Israel.Democratic defenders of Israel see in the Republican posturing an opening to attackthe opposition and warn Jewish voters of dire consequences should the GOPprevail.“You’re seeing in this election a real isolationist trend from the Republican party,especially the Tea Party wing of the party, which is [worrying] for all of us whobelieve in a robust and engaged US foreign policy,” said Matt Dorf, who did Jewishoutreach for the Democratic National Committee during the 2008 campaign.If this movement toward isolationism is real (it’s too early to tell) then there are, ofcourse, profound implications for U.S. – European relations. Needless to say, theaffect on Israel and the entire Middle East would also be important.I do not as yet see a “trend’, however, it something that should be watched and I willdo the best I can to do so for you.WHAT DO ISRAELI JEWS THINK?I thought you might be interested in a recent poll taken by B’nai Brith International(as reported in The Jerusalem Post) regarding the current feelings and attitudes ofIsraeli Jews especially in relation to those of us who live in the U.S.71 percent of the Israeli-Jewish respondents said Israel should always be ready tomeet and maintain contact with Jewish organizations – including those that questionits decisions – while only 20 percent opposed.Organizations such as J Street, which are frequently criticized by both the Israeligovernment and some American Jewish organizations for it’s “peace’ attitude,interestingly, fare better on the “Israeli street” than here.”This poll underscores what we have always said, which is that even if an Israeligovernment disagrees with the criticism or alternative policies put forward by Jewsliving abroad, it still must engage with them, said Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of JStreet.“This failure, coupled with ad hominem attacks, is a distraction from the realchallenges we all face, which is how we protect the existence of a democratic andJewish Israel.”“The results of the survey were significant and really demonstrate the closeconnection between Israelis and Diaspora Jewry,” Alan Schneider, the director forB’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, said. “For the first time, we were able toestablish not just strong support and identification of Israelis with the Diaspora that 10
  • 11. has been demonstrated in our earlier surveys, but to show the extent of actual familyconnections. This shows us that Diaspora Jewry is a part of most Israelis’ daily lifeand concerns.”The survey also asked how they feel about receiving support from non-Jews. Overthe past decades, the Christian- Zionist community in America has been an ardentsupporter of the Jewish State, donating millions through groups, like theInternational Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and lobbying lawmakers in the USto back Jerusalem politically. Half of those polled supported the continueddevelopment of the relationship. (Ed. Note – Half didn’t!)In my opinion the survey doesn’t break much new ground except in noting thegreater tolerance Israelis have for J Street type American Jewish organizations than,perhaps, their American counterparts have.In addition, though not really explained, Israelis seem to have a strong connection toJews in the Diaspora. It sort of flies in the face of those that claim that the world’stwo major Jewish communities are drifting away from one another. I’ve always beensuspicious of that point of view. Family is family and if Jews feel nothing elsestrongly it is a sense of responsibility we have for one another. Tribal? I’d say anemphatic “yes”.See you again in July.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 11
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