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Du bow digestgermany edition july 29, 2011

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONJuly 29, 2011Dear Friends:My apologies for getting this edition out to you so late. However, a trip to the WestCoast, short weekend vacations, etc. plus some very hot weather when it wasalmost impossible to write caused some serious laziness on my part. So, myapologies!The extreme heat has left us for a while so it’s just ordinary hot at the moment. TheU.S. debt ceiling debate in Washington (how much the U.S. is able to borrow) haskidnapped most of the media headlines and added to the heat (but not the light). .The Democrats and the Republicans in the Congress plus the President himselfseem to be involved in something like mud wrestling with, at this moment, noresolution in sight. Something has to happen soon or the government won’t be ableto pay its bills. Given the state of our economy, there are a lot of Americans who arealready in that position.The issues that I normally write about have certainly (again, at this moment) gottenvery little attention. However, the Palestinian situation is on schedule to come frontand center again in September when the battlefield of choice will be the UnitedNations. While the media might not be paying much attention to it, the Jewishcommunity certainly is. Much of it is covered below.Let’s get on with the non-debt ceiling news…IN THIS EDITIONMIDDLE EAST EXPLANATION – An Arab journalist says it better than I can.GAZA FLOTILLA FIZZLE – A political act dies before it starts. 1
  2. 2. GAZA LUXURY? – Amongst poverty a 5 star hotel.PALESTINIAN POVERTY – Will economic disaster change minds?HOLDING ON – Small American Jewish communities try to survive.U.S. FUNDING FOR ISRAEL – Congress holds steady. How come?NORWAY EXTREMISM & THE JEWS – The implications of mass murder.WORMS – The city, not the fish bait. Its great historyMIDDLE EAST EXPLANATIONEvery once in a while I come across a “think piece” which says something I believethoroughly myself but says it a lot better than I could. Such a “paper’ is one writtenby Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, a veteran award-winning journalist whohas been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He studied atHebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliatednewspaper in Jerusalem.Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the eyes andears of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Toameh’s piece waspublished by the Hudson Institute (U.S.)So, I am going to excerpt most of it so you will know what both he and I think aboutthe current Israel – Palestinian situation. It follows:The Palestinians are divided today into two camps – one that is radical and anotherthat is less radical -- or "moderate" in the words of the West.The radical camp is headed by Hamas and other extremist groups such as theIslamic Jihad organization.This camps message is: We want 100% of everything and we will not make anyconcessions to Israel. We want all the land, from the Mediterranean to the JordanRiver. We want to replace Israel with an Islamic state where Jews who wish to couldlive as a minority.There is no point in talking about the possibility of negotiating with this radical campabout peace, especially as its declared goal is to eliminate Israel -- not make peacewith it. 2
  3. 3. The only thing Israel could talk to the radicals about is how and when to dismantlethe Jewish state and send Israelis to Europe, Russia, the US and their Arabcountries of origin.The less radical camp, headed by the PLO and a minority of secular Palestinians, isalso saying that it wants 100%, but only of the pre-1967 lines -– meaning the entireWest Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.Like the radicals, the "moderate" camp is also saying that it will not and cannot makeany concessions to Israel on its territorial demands.With such positions, it is hard to see how the peace process could lead to anythingpositive. The radicals do not want to negotiate with Israel because they do notrecognize its right to exist and believe it should be wiped off the face of the earth.The so-called moderates say they are ready to return to the negotiating table, butonly if Israel agrees in advance to give them 100% of their demands.Yet the central problem is that even if Israel does accept all their demands, neithercamp is willing to commit to ending the conflict. This is basically why the 2000 CampDavid summit failed – because Yasser Arafat was not prepared to sign anydocument that called for end of conflict even after a peace deal were reachedbetween Israel and the Palestinians.Further, no "moderate" Palestinian leader would dare to sign such a document out offear of being denounced by his people -- and the rest of the Arab and Islamiccountries -- for having "sold out" to Israel by giving up the claim to all of the land.Because the less-radical camp knows that Israel will not and cannot accept all theirdemands, they have decided to stay away from the peace talks. They have insteadchosen to negotiate with the international community about the establishment of aPalestinian state. That is why they prefer to negotiate with France, Germany, Britainand South American countries about the two-state solution.The Palestinian Authority, which today represents the less-radical camp, is hopingthat the international community will give the Palestinians what Israel is not giving itat the negotiating table. The goal of the Palestinian Authority leadership is tointernationalize the conflict with the hope of imposing a solution on Israel. This is themain reason why it has decided to go to the UN in September with a request torecognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.The UN may approve the Palestinian Authoritys request. But the Palestinians willonly get a state on paper – in the form of another meaningless UN resolution. Theonly way to achieve a state is through negotiations with Israel, whether thePalestinians like Israel or not. 3
  4. 4. And the Palestinians have good reason to be optimistic about negotiations withIsrael. A majority of Jews, according to several public opinion polls, believe in thetwo-state solution. The only debate inside Israel today is not whether there shouldbe a Palestinian state, but how much land the Palestinians will get.Hence it would be wise if Mahmoud Abbas refrained from pushing Israel to thecorner through his statehood bid, and agreed to return immediately to thenegotiating table.Moreover, Abbas needs to be warned that his September initiative could becounterproductive for the Palestinians and damaging for the two-state solution. Suchan initiative would not only damage the Palestinians relations with the US and mostEU countries, who are all opposed to the statehood plan; these parties have alsohinted that financial aid to the Palestinians would be affected if Abbas insisted onproceeding with his plan. The Palestinians would then be held responsible forsabotaging the peace process by embarking on a unilateral step in violation of theOslo Accords.Thats what the Palestinian Authority would say. The Americans and Europeansdisagree and thats why they are urging the Palestinians to return to thenegotiations. Add to this the fact that Israel has repeatedly expressed its desire toresume the peace talks.I could add my own commentary but, frankly, he has said it all. Punkt!GAZA FLOTILLA FIZZLEDuring the last couple of months in both DuBow Digest and your local media therehave been many stories about the second Flotilla that was forming in Greece andwould be trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.The announced purpose of the blockade runners was to deliver humanitarian aid toGaza even though it is pretty well understood now that the Gazans have sufficientmedicines and foodstuffs. Those materials come through hundreds of illegal tunnelsand the through the Egyptian checkpoints which, by the way, are still not fully opento their fellow Arabs. The Egyptians talk a good game but keep strict regulations inforce about passage of people and materials from/to Egypt.Seeing the true agenda of the blockade runners as a political one and nothumanitarian at all, Israel, the U.S., the Quartet, the EU and the UN all were criticalof the flotilla exercise. The Greek government, following the UN position decided toquarantine the 6 or 7 ships that were supposed to sail together as an armada. Mostof the ships are still being held by the Greeks. 4
  5. 5. One ship, a French flag yacht carrying 10 people by saying they were bound foranother port was able to leave Greece. Y-Net News reported, “The Israeli Navystopped the Gaza-bound flotilla ship. Israeli marines met no resistance by theactivists. Around 10:30 am, Israel Navy ships intercepted the French vessel, hailed itand informed it that is was nearing the Gaza blockade lines and must head toAshdod Port or Egypt.The Navy stressed that at any time prior to marines boarding the ship, it will allowthe vessel to turn around and sail to another destination.The ship refused to divert its course and was boarded… Navy sources said thetakeover was uneventful and that the passengers were transferred to one of thenaval ships participating in the mission, where a physician made sure they were ingood health and they were provided with food and water. The Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) said the activists aboard the Frenchship were effectively entering Israel illegally and will be dealt with as such.The PIA said that the activists are likely to be deported, a process which will also barthem from entering Israel in the next 10 years. The activists, the PIA added, will begiven the choice of flying back to their respective homelands immediately, or waitingin detention facility for a hearing before a judge.I think it has become clear to everyone that the flotilla idea was political to begin withand was a Hamas public relations gimmick. This is not to say that the vast majorityof Gazans do not live on very little in the way of money and that many areunemployed. However, I came across another article that I thought was interestingthat describes another side of what is going on in that God forsaken strip of land.See below.GAZA LUXURY?One thing Gaza has going for it is that it sits directly on the Mediterranean. Y-NetNews in another story reported, “As the world deals with attempts to deliver aid toGaza the Strips residents are preparing for the inauguration of a new luxury hotel. The hotel, called Moby Dick, will be inaugurated in the coming days, and Gazanshope it attracts not just Hamas men but also Western tourists. If they do arrive,theyll be able to enjoy luxurious banquet halls made of marble and stone, first-classrestaurants and a shining swimming pool.The inauguration of the new hotel is another sign of the economic recovery in theStrip. Despite campaigns calling on Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza, even HamasPrime Minister Ismail Haniyeh admits that things are going well. 5
  6. 6. "We have emerged from the siege stage and are now at the development andconstruction stage," he said. "We have no problem obtaining cement, iron and otherconstruction materials. The storehouses in Gaza are full – we received everythingthrough the tunnels." Indeed, this summer marks the start of a new fashion in Gaza: Renting out roomson the beach. Such a room will cost a family about NIS 1,400 (about $405) a dayand the demand is high.Where is the money coming from especially in such large amounts? Clearly thetunnel operators and merchants are doing pretty well. I would imagine (no proofthough) that the Hamas big shots are also living a life somewhat better than theaverage Gazan who is stuck with high prices and little income. My guess is thateventually the average guy will look at the opulence and say to himself, “Is this whatall the dying, depravation and sordid living was all about?” I hope he does and if heanswers his own question truthfully perhaps common sense will prevail and somesort of peace with Israel might eventuate.PALESTINIAN POVERTYAfter reading about Gaza luxury and writing the above piece, I came across anotherstory in the NY TIMES written by Ethan Bronner. It underlines my thoughts in the lastparagraph (above). He writes, “As the Palestinian Authority faces some of thehardest choices in its history regarding relations with Israel, membership in theUnited Nations and unity with Hamas, it is mired in a severe economic crisis, leadingmany here to a sense of foreboding and despair.More than 150,000 state employees, whose salaries support a million people, hadtheir wages cut in half this month. Palestinian banks have lent the government morethan $1 billion and do not want to lend more. Some ministries have temporarily lostelectricity because they have not paid their bills. Last week, the government ordereda reduction in the price of bread, leading to bakery strikes. Garbage is piling up.The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts next week; nightly family gatherings anda three-day holiday mean that spending will double. Many people already have largebank loans. September will bring bills for educational fees and school supplies; theolive harvest, when Israeli settler violence is expected to increase; and a likelydiplomatic showdown at the United Nations.“This is, without doubt, the worst financial crisis the Palestinian Authority has everfaced,” said Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, generally known for a can-do, upbeatattitude. “This could not have come at a worse time. I don’t know how this ends. Idon’t have an answer.”I’m probably wrong and I probably do not think like a Palestinian. However, if I was 6
  7. 7. one I’d be pushing hard for some sort of peace agreement so that my family couldhave some semblance of a decent life. I’d be thinking, “Maybe I’m dreaming but isthis intolerable sort of life we’re living, which could change for the better, is stagnantbecause we’re not willing to somehow recognize Israel as a Jewish state? Is it worthit? There are 6 or 7 million Jews in Israel. They are not going anywhere and ourbrothers can’t budge them. Maybe we can get some sort of diplomatic edge but howlong will it take before life becomes livable?”The Bronner article gives more of the details regarding the Palestinian economy.Click here to read it.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/world/middleeast/28palestinians.html?ref=ethanbronnerHOLDING ONJews in the U.S. these days live in the large cities. It was not always so. The easternEuropean immigration of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries brought Jews to manysmaller communities. Sometimes following relatives, they were able to establishthemselves frequently becoming small business workers and, eventually, owners.Many small stores in these communities, especially ones that sold clothing, wereowned by Jews.As the second, third and fourth generations grew up and became universityeducated, a movement to larger cities, and places with more opportunities, resultedin their leaving the small towns with very few Jews. Today many of these smallercommunities are struggling in an effort to keep Jewish life alive.Howard Shapiro writing in The Forward tells the story of a few of these towns thatare trying to hold on to their Jewish culture and religious life. He writes, “In possibly150 or so communities across the United States, a decline in Jewish numbersmirrors Butte’s (Ed. Note: Butte, Montana), and although congregants may be indenial, the responsibilities of running synagogues will eventually force them intotaking action. That action is becoming visible on several fronts, as synagogues lookfor help with issues they never before considered, let alone imagined.In the case of Butte’s B’nai Israel, it comes in the form of a congregational living will,a way to plan for the day when there will be no B’nai Israel. The members haveturned to the Jewish Community Legacy Project, which helps synagogues so thatwhen the time comes, the institutions are not simply shuttered and abandoned.In synagogues throughout the South, many dwindling congregations are turning toanother outlet, the Mississippi-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of SouthernJewish Life, for help. Much of the institute’s relief comes in providing ways to keepcongregations in operation — supplying educational programs or sending out RabbiMarshal Klaven to congregations with no active rabbi. Klaven has led services in 32 7
  8. 8. Jewish congregations across the South in the past two years, from Mishkan Israel inSelma, Ala., to Temple Israel in Paducah, Ky.In some cases, synagogues look into mergers, combine educational services orinvite smaller havurot, fellowships, to share facilities — a practice that for some timehas brought in new members to synagogues looking to balance a budget. And whilesome synagogues may be able to call on their congregants to stem losses inmembership that threaten their institutions’ futures, large gifts from individuals orfoundations have not been an answer to congregations in need of life support.Stuart Rockoff, director of history for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of SouthernJewish Life (notes) “My job is to make sure that the history of a congregation in acommunity is not forgotten.”The problem, he said, “is that much of the funding in the Jewish world is gearedtoward the future, to creating the next generation of Jews.”That generation is being created outside the places where many small-town Jews,the current generation of parents, grew up. “We are a wandering people,” Evanssaid. “The average life of a synagogue building in the United States today is 50years. Populations shift. We move. Icons come and icons go. Hopefully, the Jewishcommunity lives on well beyond you and me.”In my eyes the attempt to hold on to whatever Judaism is still alive in a community isa noble effort. It’s probably a losing proposition but one should not just let historydeteriorate. Some people ask me why Germany is putting so much money intorebuilding synagogues and cemeteries in places where there are no Jews. I answerthat Jewish life is part of their history and, therefore, important to their future. Thesame thing hold true in Sumter, S.C. and Paducah, KY.You can read the whole story by clicking here. http://www.jidaily.com/JeMmt/eU.S. FUNDING FOR ISRAELThe Democrats and Republicans in our Congress may not be able to agree onmuch, especially financial matters. However, the one thing they seem to be able tocome together on is financial support for Israel.JTA recently reported, “House Republican and Democratic appropriators saidassistance to Israel would continue at existing levels, although they agreed on littleelse.U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House of RepresentativesAppropriations Committee, in a joint statement with Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas),chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of Appropriations, said that 8
  9. 9. Israels $3.075 billion in aid would remain unaffected under the 2012 State andForeign Operations Act.Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the foreign operationssubcommittee, said she was "pleased" that the measure "fully funds ourcommitment to ensure our ally Israel maintains its qualitative military edge," but shedecried other proposed cuts, saying the result would be to "downsize" the StateDepartment and the U.S. Agency for International Development.Granger countered that the cuts ensure "tough oversight and accountability."The appropriations bill, which outlines spending, is a companion to the StateDepartment authorization bill approved last week by the House Foreign AffairsCommittee, which sets conditions for spending.It is a little peculiar (especially to American Jews who always expect the worst) thatthis little country (it is little in size) finds its way to great levels of support no matterwhich party is in power. As I have tried to explain previously, it is not only the“Jewish lobby”, which is well organized and effective that ensures Congressionalsupport. It is the sense of concern for the only democracy in the Middle East and asense of shared values that touches something deep in the American psyche.Members of the Congress are affected as well and so support continues as before.NORWAY EXTREMISM & THE JEWSSometimes those that claim to be your friends (or, at least your allies) are in realityyour worst enemies. Uriel Hellman writing in JTA notes, “…in recent years, asEuropean xenophobia has focused on the exploding growth of Muslims on thecontinent, right-wing anti-Semitism has been replaced in some corners by outreachto Jews and Israel. It’s part of an effort in far-right movements to gain broader,mainstream support for an anti-Muslim alliance opposed to the notion of amulticultural Europe.Indeed, in the anti-Muslim manifesto attributed to Anders Behring Breivik, theaccused perpetrator of the July 22 deadly attacks in Oslo and the nearby Norwegianisland of Utoya, the pseudonymous author expresses sympathy for Israel’s plightand cites numerous critiques of the Palestinians.“Aided by a pre-existing anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, European media havebeen willing to demonize the United States and Israel while remaining largely silenton the topic Eurabia,” the author writes in his manifesto, titled “2083: A EuropeanDeclaration of Independence.”Later, he lists four potential political allies among Israel’s political parties: Likud,Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and National Union.” 9
  10. 10. Breivik’s apparent proto-Zionist viewpoint is shared by a number of far-right leadersaround Europe.“The Arab-Israeli conflict illustrates the struggle between Western culture and radicalIslam,” Filip Dewinter, the head of Belgium’s far-right, anti-immigrant Vlaams BelangParty, said last December during a visit to Tel Aviv."Israel is of central importance to us," German Freedom Party head ReneStadtkewitz told JTA last year. What Israelis do to fight terrorism, he said, "is whatwe would have to be doing here. And I am very thankful that they are doing it."About the last thing in the world Jews and Israel need is to be linked with people likeBreivik, DeWinter and Stadtkewitz.Jewish leaders in Europe, who in recent days have taken pains to distancethemselves from Breivik’s proto-Zionism, long have warned that even far rightistswho do not espouse anti-Semitism are dangerous for the Jews.Far rightists “want a Sweden for the Swedes, France for the French and Jews toIsrael,” Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress,told JTA last October.“Islamism certainly is a danger to the Jews and to Western democracy,” StephanKramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA lastyear. “The way to fight [Islamists] is not, however, to demonize and ostracize allMuslims.”“A large-scale hate crime attack such as the one in Norway demonstrates the clearand present danger of incitement against political, ethnic and religious groups,” saidDeidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin Ramer Institutefor German-Jewish Relations. “Hate crimes are among the most insidious ofdangers to democracy.”One cannot blame what happened in Oslo on all Norwegians. However, it is wellknown that Norway has the reputation as the most anti-Israel tending toward anti-Semitism country in Europe. When hate is in the air it’s like a virus. It spreads.Norway should think long and hard about itself.WORMSMichael Brenner, a German-Jewish Professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMünchen reviewed a book, German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms. byNils H. Roemer which appeared in Humanities & Social Science On-Line. 10
  11. 11. I’m sure most Germans are familiar with the small city of Worms but I wonder howmany are familiar with its important Jewish history. Brenner writes, “There is no lackof local German-Jewish histories. Before 1933 they were typically written by thelocal rabbi. In the last three or four decades, non-Jewish archivists, teachers, andamateur historians made it their task to record the history of the now-oftextinguished Jewish histories in their places of residence. This book, however, is notjust another local history. It is the first account of the memory of a particular Jewishcommunity. No other place is better suited for such a study than the community ofWorms. Much beyond its local significance, Worms has become the foremost lieu dememoire of Ashkenaz. In the words of former Israeli president Chaim Herzog, thecity was “a symbol of the great and tragic drama of European Jewish fate as it issymbolic of the remarkable interweaving--for better or worse--of German and Jewishlife for a thousand years” (p. 1).Worms is best known for its medieval past, both in German and Jewish memory: thesite of the Nibelungen and German emperors was also the place were Rashi studiedand where the oldest European synagogue stood until its destruction in 1938. In themodern period Worms became increasingly peripheral. Today Worms is a marginaltown of 80,000 inhabitants. Roemer writes about its rich history and its decline, butmore than that he traces the recollection and invention of local Jewish traditions.The narratives about the city’s mythic Jewish origins, the memory of its rabbi-scholars and martyrs, and the rich folkloristic lore developed by the descendents ofWorms Jews serve as an excellent example for the way Jewish identity was shapedin the pre-modern period.One particularity of Worms’s Jewish history is its continuity. Among the cities locatedin today’s Germany, only Worms and Frankfurt can look back on a Jewish historythat was not abruptly ended by expulsion in the late Middle Ages or the earlymodern period. Worms, the third-largest community after Prague and Frankfurt inthe early modern period, retained a distinct Jewish cultural heritage well into thetwentieth century.The recording of Jewish memory started long before modern historiography. As inmany other places, the local martyrs, starting with the victims of the first crusade of1096, were memorized in a Memorbuch. On the other side of the memory spectrum,the blind-folded Synagogue at the Worms Cathedral shaped the view manyChristian citizens had of their Jewish neighbors. Another memory still visible today isthe medieval Jewish cemetery with gravestones of Jewish luminaries, among themthe famous thirteenth-century rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, who was captured on hisjourney to the Holy Land and died in prison after being brutally tortured. His andother graves became sites of early pilgrimages and made Worms an attraction forJewish travelers already before the age of mass tourism.Brenner continues on about the history of Worms. His review of Roemer’s bookshould whet the appetite of those who are interested in German Jewish history and 11
  12. 12. its implications for today’s German and Jewish contemporary life. I’m sure itsworthwhile reading.See you again in August************************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12
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