Du bow digest germany edition march 20, 2012

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Du bow digest germany edition march 20, 2012

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONMarch 20, 2012Dear Friends:As I was finishing up this edition, the horrible news of the murders at the Jewishschool in Toulouse emerged on my computer. It certainly cast a pall over theexpectation I had for the upcoming usually joyous Passover holiday.It appears that the murderer picked out a Jewish institution for the terrorist killing.What a tragedy! One can only feel terribly sorry for the remaining members of thefamilies of those that perished and hope that the terrorist is brought to justice so hecan no longer kill innocent people.Adding to the dark feeling the Toulouse murders provided me with was the stupidand unfeeling remarks on the subject made by the EU’s High Representative,Catherine Ashton. Speaking at a Palestinian refugee’s conference shereportedly made a connection between the children killed in the rampage with thosekilled in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Of course, the killing of children, for that matter thekilling of anyone, is awful. However, to make a political matter out of Toulouse wherethe murderer grabbed a child by the hair and then shot her in the head is soinsensitive that Ms. Ashton should be ashamed of herself.I have more to say about Ms. Ashton below. I wonder how you in the EU countriesfeel about her. After all, when she speaks she is speaking for you as well.Perhaps we’ll all feel better as we get closer to the start of Passover and Easterwhich begin on the same weekend. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.Let’s get on to the news…IN THIS EDITIONPASSOVER – The great family holiday on the Jewish calendarA NEW GERMAN PRESIDENT – Hopefully an important moral voice. 1
  2. 2. EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY: A GENUINE NON-STARTER – Is theresuch a thing as EU foreign policy. Does the foreign policy chief have more than onetune?ROCKETS RED GLARE – Who’s running the Gaza show these days?OBAMA & NETANYAHU & IRAN - An analysis of the meeting.JEWS & JEWS – Why the discord?HATE GROUPS: USA STYLE – Extremists? We’ve got plenty of them.PASSOVERIn a little more than two weeks the Jewish holiday of Passover will begin. Jews seemto have a lot of holidays but, to me, Passover is the most important. Why? Becauseit is the time of the year when families come together for the Passover meal (Seder).It is the great family get-together holiday. Incidentally, if family is not available it isfrequently friends or even strangers who will invite you in to participate in the Sedermeal – and you don’t even have to be Jewish.If you are not 100% up on what it is all about, let me fill you in a bit from Wikipedia.Passover (Pesach), is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story ofthe Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar,which is in spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and is celebrated for seven or eightdays. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israelescape slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaohwould release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was theslaughter of the first-born. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts oftheir homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of theLord passed over these homes, an easy way to remember the holiday.It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover (first twonights in communities outside the land of Israel) for a special dinner called a Seder (‫—סדר‬derived from the Hebrew word for "order", referring to the very specific order ofthe ritual). The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect theimportance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt isretold using a special text called the Haggadah.Children have a very important role in the Passover Seder. Traditionally the 2
  3. 3. youngest child is prompted to ask questions about the Passover Seder, beginningwith the words, Mah Nishtana HaLeila HaZeh (Why is this night different from allother nights?). The questions encourage the gathering to discuss the significance ofthe symbols in the meal.There is a lot more to both the ceremony and the meaning. Click here to read theWikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover . Most important! If you attend aSeder, enjoy it!A NEW GERMAN PRESIDENTThe formal installation of Joachim Gauck as the new German president wentpractically unnoticed here in the United States. As I have pointed out before,Americans do not understand parliamentary governments very well. After Gauckwas appointed there were a few articles which referred to him as playing “a largelyceremonial role”. My 2 ½ years living in Berlin tells me that that will not be the case.To me the German President should be the “moral voice” guiding the country. Heshould be something like a Chief Rabbi or the Pope giving guidance rather thanbeing a politician. I felt that both Presidents Herzog and Rau played that roleexceedingly well during my Berlin years. Both understood fully the difficulties of therelationship between Jewry and Germany. Both were exceedingly sensitive to theconnection with Israel and with the Jewish community of the United States.Over the years I met Gauck a few times. A memorable (to me) meeting took placewhen I was shepparding an AJC group. During the conversation I mentioned the factthat I had established a relationship for AJC with the Jewish Community in EastBerlin in the 1980’s. He thanked me for doing that and made me feel as if I had donesomething important. I was tremendously flattered.As far as I can tell, Gauck has not spoken out about Israel’s situation previously. It issomething many of us will wait expectantly to hear in the near future.An old friend of mine and former Bundestag member, Gert Weisskirchen, wrote tome about Gauck saying, “Liberty has been his deep personal passion. He has towork out an understanding of justice, which may build a bridge between liberty andsolidarity. These three values are the very strongholds of European modernsocieties, binding citizens all over the European Union together. I know Joachimpersonally from revolutionary times. One can trust him unconditionally. He is readyto learn open minded. Now he will show his ability to represent the new Germany –embedded into the frame of enduring friendship with Northamerica, crossingBorders, being national or cultural.”We can only hope and pray he succeeds. 3
  4. 4. EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY: A GENUINE NON-STARTERIn writing two different newsletters as I do, one basically for folks in Germany aboutAmerican Jewry and the second for American Jews about Germany, I am verysensitive about being consistent. When there is an issue that might be of interest toboth the easiest thing to do is to print what I have to say in both editions. Whatfollows below is an article I originally wrote for my American Edition. I would be veryappreciative if you would drop me an e-mail after reading it to let me know whetheryou agree with me and Tom Wilson (see last paragraph) or not. If not, why not. Youcan click here for an e-mail form dubowdigest@optonline.netTwo years ago the EU decided that it should have a unified foreign policy. Beforeironing out all the problems that trying to get 27 independent nations to agree onanything might bring about, the EU set up a foreign service called the ExternalAction Service (EAD) and appointed a “foreign minister”, Lady Catherine Ashton ofGreat Britain to the post with the title of “High Representative for Foreign Affairs andSecurity Policy”. Lady Ashton’s greatest problem is (and was) the fact that most(all?) of the countries were not willing to give up their independent views on mostimportant matters. As far as I could tell (and I tried to follow her career as best Icould) about 90% of what she had to say was criticism of Israel and the way it washandling the Palestinian problem.DW recently reported, “EU foreign ministers are concerned about the blocs role onthe global stage. During a meeting in Copenhagen, the debate focused on the EUswaning influence and its foreign policy towards Syria and Iran.A closer look at the blocs diplomatic services was to be on the agenda when EUforeign ministers met for two days of informal talks in Copenhagen: establishing jointembassies abroad as well as making better use of the fledgling External ActionService (EAD) - at least according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.When asked by reporters at the outset of the gathering about her choice of topics inthe face of mounting violence in Syria, Ashton - who has been in charge of the EUsnew external action service since its inception two years ago - was unperturbed. TheEU, she said, has expressed a joint point of view on Syria and was trying to pushdiplomatic efforts to solve the crisis.Ashton faces quite some criticism of what is perceived as her lack of initiative.French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe criticized her diplomatic efforts, calling forbetter policy coordination. "We must improve the workings of the European externalaction service and the way they mix with diplomatic efforts of union members," hesaidPolands Minister for Europe, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz on the other hand, urged morepatience. "Dont forget, the EAD is still a tiny baby, it has to grow and become more 4
  5. 5. visible and stronger." Finlands Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja declared it is notAshtons fault, nor is the EAD to blame - its the member states, whose willingness tocooperate is waning."What we are actually losing is relevance. Who listens to the EU?" Tuomioja said.German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was content with Ashtonswork, but concerned about European policies becoming more national. He warnedthat Europe could only assert itself worldwide if it continues to develop further. Inorder to strengthen common ground, Westerwelle called for a European president,elected by the people, and a European constitution. He brushed aside objectionsthat such projects were far in the future. "We should start this discussion now - if 500million people are involved, itll take a few years."In my opinion the possibility of a European President is just not in the cards. Even ifsuch an office was established, the holder would as powerless as is Lady Ashton. Ithink Finland’s Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja has it right, “Who listens to the EU?”As long as the strong countries such as France, Germany and the UK are not willingto give up their foreign policy independence having a high Representative and anExternal Action Service is useless. They might be able to deal with a few non-controversial problems but the big stuff is going to handled in Paris, Berlin & London.If anyone “listens to the EU” it’s only because there is agreement in those threeplaces.Of course, Lady Ashton can continue to be critical of Israel to get a few headlines.Frankly, when she started out I was concerned about her troublesome role. I’m notanymore. I treat her pronouncements as static – nothing more!P.S. If you think I am critical of Lady Ashton you should read Tom Wilson, ResearchDirector at the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, where he also heads theTransatlantic Affairs Project. Writing in The Times of Israel he is stronger in hisdistaste for the Lady than I am and he feels that EU foreign policy generally isbankrupt when it comes to Israel. Click here to read his thoughts.http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-moral-bankruptcy-of-european-foreign-policy.ROCKETS RED GLAREWhen Francis Scott Key wrote the words to America’s national anthem, The StarSpangled Banner, during the War of 1812, he included the words, “And the rocketsred glare, the bombs bursting in air, he might have been talking about southernIsrael in March of 2012 when the citizens of the cities and towns in that part of thecountry were subjected to a raft of terrorist rocketing coming from Gaza.While it is true that the mass rocket attack grew out of Israel assassinating Zuhair al- 5
  6. 6. Qaissi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, the Israeli military feltit necessary to take this action. To see the rationale click here.http://www.timesofisrael.com/why-the-idf-felt-it-had-to-strike-at-zuhair-al-qaissi/The pinpoint strike which did not kill any civilians kicked off the worst Gaza basedattacks in months. Israel has had its problems over the years with Hamas which hasruled Gaza since they engineered a coup which deposed the more moderate Fatah.It now looks as if Hamas has lost its total control as the rocketing came from smallergroups, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.After a truce was brought about by Egypt, The Jerusalem Post reported, “Hamas willhave to live with the fact that PRC, Islamic Jihad pose a challenge to its control overGaza. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, the two groups whowere behind the rocket and mortar attacks on Israel, have proven that Hamas is nolonger the major player in the Gaza Strip.As of this week, Hamas will have to live with the fact that these two groups pose achallenge to the Islamist movement’s control over the Gaza Strip. Until recently,Hamas had shown zero tolerance toward armed groups that defied its policies andrule. On a number of occasions, Hamas security forces did not hesitate to detainmembers of Islamic Jihad and the PRC who violated previous truces with Israel.But now the rules of the game in the Gaza Strip appear to have changed. For thefirst time, Hamas refrained from taking action against the armed groups, insteadseeking the help of the Egyptians in persuading Islamic Jihad and PRC to agree tohalt their attacks.By turning to the Egyptians, Hamas is in fact admitting that it no longer has influenceover small armed groups operating in the Gaza Strip.The latest round of violence has put Hamas in the same position that the PalestinianAuthority found itself in when it controlled the Gaza Strip before 2007.Today, Hamas is facing the same kind of criticism that was directed back then at thePA: That it is sitting on the fence while Israel is launching military strikes against theGaza Strip.…what is clear today is that Islamic Jihad and PRC, whose members fired dozens ofrockets and mortars at Israel over four days, are posing a serious challenge toHamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip.There are, of course, greater implications of this sort of radicalization of the GazaStrip over and above the immediate rocketing problem which, by the way, has lastedbeyond the date and time of the cease fire. If this random terrorism continuesoutside the control of Hamas, there is little doubt that Israel will find it necessary totake stronger action including possibly another military invasion. No one wants that 6
  7. 7. including Hamas but the Israeli government will increasingly be under politicalpressure to act.The decentralization of authority in Gaza can only further put off any possibility of aresumption of a peace process. The amalgamation of Fatah & Hamas into a newgovernment that was agreed to has never come to pass and the Palestinianelections that were planned for this year seem as far off as ever. Readhttp://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-reconciliation-not-likely-this-year/It is clear that Palestinian fragmentation once again rules the day. Just more of thesame as usual, I guess but more dangerous without a central governing force.OBAMA & NETANYAHU & IRANIn early March Israeli Prime Minister Bibi (Everyone calls him that) Netanyahu cameto Washington for a meeting with President Barack (People rarely call him that)Obama mostly to discuss what they individually or collectively can do to keep Iranfrom developing a nuclear bomb. They huddled together and both spoke at theAIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Annual Meeting, the largest get-together of pro-Israel supporters (14,000 this year) held during the year.Both leaders made statements after their meeting and both spoke at the AIPACmeeting yet no one knows exactly what was said or what was agreed on. RonKampeas writing in JTA noted, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu iswaiting and watching when it comes to Iran -- although for how long, no one knows.Analysts and Jewish organizational officials who speak with Israeli and U.S.government say Netanyahu came away from his meeting last week with PresidentObama feeling that he has a strategic partner in seeking to keep Iran from obtaininga nuclear weapon. But, they say, he has yet to decide whether Obama’s tactics willdo the job or if Israel must strike.Critical Israeli conclusions from Netanyahus meeting with Obama have yet to berevealed in part because Israeli officials may still be considering their course ofaction, suggested Jason Isaacson, international relations director for the AmericanJewish Committee."We don’t yet know the crucial decisions," or if there are any, he said.“It was a worthwhile visit,” Isaacson said. “There is greater understanding thanexisted before, and there had been pretty considerable understanding before.”David Makovsky, a senior analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,outlined a number of theories that have cropped up in the wake of the meeting: ThatNetanyahu will wait until after European oil sanctions kick in this summer to decide 7
  8. 8. on a course of action, or that he would launch a strike before the American electionsin order not to be locked in by the powers of a newly elected president to set aninternational agenda. Or that he would not act at all.“There were a lot of convergences between the president and the prime minister,but timing wasn’t one of them,” Makovsky said. “Obama said we have plenty of timein his speech” to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “and that is not theIsraeli perception.”It was hard to pin down how much time Israel believes it has, in part because itscalculations are based on Western intelligence, which may not be entirely reliable. Akey factor, Makovsky said, was when and whether Iran developed the capability toenrich uranium to weapons grade levels, 93 percent.“Israel has two questions: Will conversion to highly enriched uranium be detected inreal time, and will the United States be able to act in real time,” he said.A consensus is that the main takeaway of the meeting last week between the twoleaders is that they had moved toward one another: Obama in making explicit thepossibility of a U.S. military strike on Iran, in underscoring Israel’s sovereign right todefend itself, and in rejecting a strategy of containing Iran; and Netanyahu inratcheting down threats of military action.“For now the chances of an Israeli attack against Iran have receded,” said AlirezaNader, an expert on Iran-Israel relations at the Rand Corp., an independent thinktank that often consults with the U.S. government. “I wouldn’t say the military optionis off the table. We’ll have to see what Netanyahu says in the next few days orweeks.”What precisely is the time frame for a make-or-break decision by Netanyahu onwhether to strike is a matter of conjecture?Some suggest that Netanyahu cannot act before the consequences are clear oftough oil sanctions that the European Union is set to impose on Iran, if only becauseNetanyahu has pressed so hard for the sanctions. The sanctions are set to kick inon June 1, and it will take weeks to see if they have had an effect on Iran’sconsiderations of whether to advance its suspected nuclear program.“More than ever the idea that the sanctions could lead to a change in behavior of theIranians is guiding us,” a senior European diplomat said, speaking of the mood onthe continent.Aaron David Miller, a former top Middle East negotiator under a number ofpresidents, wrote that despite the differences, the Iranians would understand afterthe meeting that Obama and Netanyahu were united in a determination to preventthe Islamic Republic from going nuclear. 8
  9. 9. “Perhaps the most important development to emerge from the meeting last weekwas Obamas clear reset of the frame of reference within which American policytoward Iran will now play out,” he wrote on CNN’s website. “He gave very little awayto the prime minister in terms of assurances, let alone guarantees, of Americanmilitary action against Iran. But he did highlight the new vocabulary: Containment ofIran and its nuclear program wont do anymore. Prevention of an Iranian nuclearweapon is now the strategic objective.”Considering that no one really knows what actually took place between the twonational leaders, the thoughts of those quoted above probably pretty well assessesthe positions and agreements (and non-agreements) that were staked out. It looksas if an attack on Iran is not in the cards anytime soon.The economic noose around Iran’s neck is tightening. AP reported, “Iran was largelycut off from global commerce on Thursday (March 15), when the company thathandles financial transactions said it was severing ties with many Iranian banks -part of an international effort to discourage Tehran from developing nuclearweapons.The action is meant to enforce European Union sanctions, as global financialtransactions are impossible without using SWIFT, and will go a long way towardisolating Iran financially.The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, is abanking hub crucial to oil, financial transactions and other trades.Because of its reach, SWIFTs decision to cut off about 30 Iranian banks andsubsidiaries could hinder not only banking but also the countrys lucrative crude oilindustry and possibly hurt Iranian households that depend on remittances fromrelatives living abroad."Disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT," saidLazaro Campos, chief executive of the company. "It is a direct result of internationaland multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran."The ball is more and more being placed in Iran’s court. Now it’s the curbing offinancial transactions and this summer it will be the EU’s oil boycott. The Iraniangovernment seems to have its own inside problems with President Ahmadinejadlosing power to Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and maybe being pushedout of office.So, that’s the situation. Much depends how it all works out and that, of course, onlytime will tell. Stay tuned!JEWS & JEWS 9
  10. 10. I have made the case before that a great problem in the Jewish world is thesometime difficult relationship between American & Israeli Jews. I have underlinedthe point that we are a small people, with a history of being physically attacked andalmost destroyed. We have to live frequently surrounded by those infected with thevirus of anti-Semitism. It would be suicidal if we let our different orientations andbackgrounds tear us apart.It is frustrating and difficult to understand why these two groups of Jews cannot becloser. An article in he The Times of Israel quoting my AJC colleague, Rabbi EdRettig gives us an interesting view. Ed is American born who made “aliyah” to Israelwhen he was 18 and so finds himself on both sides of the equation.According to Rettig, the discord was exacerbated by the Holocaust but is rooted inthe foundations of the United States and its basis in Protestant Reformation culture.“America is the only country in the world whose founders are dissentingProtestants,” he says. This is significant because these very religious thinkers weredeeply involved with personal processes: “The individual is the legitimator ofreligious practice” in the US. He chooses to be “saved”; he chooses when and howto pray.Conversely, the foundations of Israel are about the collective, the Jewish People,versus the individual. There is a state religion, not a separation of church and state.In Israel there is “an identity by fate. Much like a relationship with a parent. ‘I am thechild of my parents. I would die for my parents, go to war, etc.’ The relationship islifelong. With American Jewry, it is more like a relationship with a spouse: a choice,like marriage.“The assumptions of Jewish identity are so different.”I think Ed’s supposition is very helpful – individual vs. collective. Perhaps he’s right.I’m going to think more about that.The rest of the article deals with programs and views of three “thinkers” on thesubject. Read it and you will better understand what sorts of efforts are being madeto bridge this very troublesome gap. Click here to access it.http://www.timesofisrael.com/bridging-the-israel-diaspora-divide/HATE GROUPS: USA STYLEI wouldn’t want you to think that Germany with its NPD is the only country thatharbors hate groups. Not only does the good old USA have its share but, accordingto the New York Times, the number of such groups is rising. 10
  11. 11. According to Kim Stevenson, “Fed by antagonism toward President Obama,resentment toward changing racial demographics and the economic rift between richand poor, the number of so-called hate groups and antigovernment organizations inthe nation has continued to grow, according to a report released Wednesday by theSouthern Poverty Law Center.The center, which has kept track of such groups for 30 years, recorded 1,018 hategroups operating last year.The number of groups whose ideology is organized against specific racial, religious,sexual or other characteristics has risen steadily since 2000, when 602 wereidentified, the center said. Antigay groups, for example, have risen to 27 from 17 in2010.The report also described a “stunning” rise in the number of groups it identifies aspart of the so-called patriot and militia movements, whose ideologies include deepdistrust of the federal government.In 2011, the center tracked 1,274 of those groups, up from 824 the year before.“They represent both a kind of right-wing populist rage and a left-wing populist ragethat has gotten all mixed up in anger toward the government,” said Mark Potok ofthe Southern Poverty Law Center and the author of the report.One of the groups that was moved from the “patriot” list to the hate group list thisyear is the Georgia Militia, some of whose members were indicted last year in afailed plot to blow up government buildings and spread poison along Atlantafreeways. They were reclassified because their speech includes anti-Semitism.The far-right patriot movement gained steam in 1994 after the government usedviolence to shut down groups at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Tex. It peaked afterthe 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and began to fade. Its rise began anew in 2008,after the election of Mr. Obama and the beginning of the recession.There have been declines in some hate groups, including native extremist groupslike the Militiamen, which focused on illegal immigration. Chapters of the Ku KluxKlan fell to 152, from 221.Luckily, none of these groups have been able to organize politically and none areofficially represented in a state or the national legislature. However, they provide anever present danger. While their major focus is on issues such as immigration andintegration, anti-Semitism is never far from their beliefs and programs. Should theU.S. enter into some sort of military action against Iran, no doubt that part of theirpolitical propaganda will be aimed at “the Jews” for dragging the country into war.Unhappily that might “sell” in less extreme parts of the American population.Generally speaking, Jews understand that when hate emerges against any group or 11
  12. 12. for any purpose – we are the target or the next in line as a hate subject.*****************************************************************************************See you again in April.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

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