Du bow digestgermany edition march 31, 2011

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A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations

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Du bow digestgermany edition march 31, 2011

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netTo receive DuBow Digest directly, send your e-mail address todubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONMarch 31, 2011Dear Friends:It’s been an action packed few weeks in Germany with three State elections, theclosing down of 7 nuclear plants and its abstention from the “no fly” resolution at theUnited Nations. As usual, none of that makes big headlines in the U.S. even thoughall of it was noted. It usually takes a while for happenings in the FRG to filter down tous so that we can see the international importance of Germany’s positions onevents. The facts that Chancellor Merkel’s coalition has been weakened and thatGermany chose not to take a leadership role in dealing with the Libyan situation willeventually come up on the American Jewish “screen” as their importance becomesclearer.Of more pressing concern to American Jews is, of course, the overall situation in theMiddle East and how it will affect Israel. The fact that Germany and other EUcountries have asked the UN to come up with some sort of outline peace plan thatmight bring the parties back into direct negotiations will, when better understood,will, I believe, not go down well in the Jewish community. (See article below).The increase of Palestinian violence (again, see below) weighs heavily even thoughit does not seem to have gotten out of hand. Retaliation follows retaliation. Thatseems to be the pattern of life in that part of the world.The domestic political scene here is relatively quiet. The possible Republicanpresidential candidates are beginning to declare themselves so they can raisemoney and support in order to participate in the primaries next year. Running foroffice is an expensive business. Pres. Obama will, of course, not need to be involved 1
  2. 2. in a primary as no Democratic opposition is expected. He should go into the generalelection with a big war chest ($1 billion?). In spite of what is seen as a “spotty”record on Israel, I would expect the usual, perhaps slightly diminished,overwhelming Jewish support for him.That’s enough of my rambling. Let’s get on to the news…IN THIS EDITIONTERRORISM, EMOTION & UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES – When a horribleact of terrorism takes place, what results?THE JERUSALEM BOMBING – Hindering peace? Sure! What else?MORE THOUGHTS ON THE PEACE PROCESS – None of them very positive.GOOD INTENSIONS? – Will an EU peace plan help?CATHOLIC – JEWISH RELATIONS – Dialogue helps.MONITORING HATE CRIMES – The European Commission puts “money where itsmouth is”. However, does it “do the job”?AMERICAN JEWS & ISRAEL’S SECURITY – The Israelis realize an obvious truth.J-STREET HEARINGS – American Jewish organizations tell the Israelis to ‘mix out”.TERRORISM, EMOTION & UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCESThe horrible stabbing murder of 5 members of an Israeli family including 3 smallchildren in the West Bank settlement of Itamar hit Israel like a thunderbolt.The Washington Post reported, “The brutality of the attack at Itamar, a community offervent religious nationalists near the Palestinian city of Nablus, shocked Israelisand triggered retaliation by militant settlers who stoned Palestinian cars and homesand torched vehicles in several locations across the West Bank.In a response to the slayings, the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saida group of senior ministers had approved “measured construction” of up to 500housing units in several large Israeli settlements in the West Bank: Maa’lehAdumim, Ariel, the Etzion settlement bloc and Kiryat Sefer.A self-imposed Israeli moratorium on new building in West Bank settlements expiredin late September. Since then, there has been a spurt of settlement construction 2
  3. 3. involving previously approved homes, but the decision announced Sunday was thefirst approval of new building plans.Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said the decision to build had been takenwith “full transparency with the Americans,” suggesting that Washington had beennotified. Regev emphasized that the new construction would be in large settlementsthat he said were expected to remain part of Israel in any future peace accord andthat the Israeli government saw “no contradiction’’ between the plan and an eventualagreement on a Palestinian state.The murderers, in all likelihood, did not think much, or at all, about what results theirterrible act might bring about. Nor did they understand or care about the emotions ofthe Israeli people or how their act might affect the Israel – Palestinian peaceprocess. Well, the Israelis have feelings too. This sort of horrible occurrence hastriggered off an enormous surge of energy in Israel. The announcement that morebuilding in the West Bank would take place was, in my opinion, the very least thegovernment could do in order to deal with the emotions most Israelis were feeling.I believe that emotions are not sufficiently factored in when considering politicalsituations. What is currently going on in the Arab world is the best example. Thefeelings of people are real and should be part and parcel of any thinking about agiven political situation.One might argue that the Israeli government is taking advantage of a situation thateven some of the Palestinian leadership has denounced. I would respond by sayingthat acts, particularly when they are thoughtless, have unintended consequences.When those acts trigger off emotions the results become facts and have to be dealtwith accordingly. While some settlers threw stones at Arab cars, etc. the Israelimilitary did not move in and start shooting. The announcement of more building isabout as low a level as any reaction could be.As mentioned in my last edition, it appears that that face to face negotiations for thetime being are dead anyway. The Palestinians are going to take their case to the UNand so there is really very little to discuss in relation to restarting the negotiatingprocess.If you have different thoughts on the matter I’d like to hear them.To read the Washington Post story click here.http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israel-to-expand-west-bank-settlements-in-response-to-slayings-of-five-in-home/2011/03/13/ABs5G2T_story.htmlTHE JERUSALEM BOMBINGNot two weeks after the Itamar knifing deaths, a terrorist bomb was planted at 3
  4. 4. Jerusalem’s main bus station killing a woman and wounding many. It was the firstsuch bombing in four years. At about the same time rockets from Gaza startedfalling on Israeli communities in the southern part of the country once again. TheIsraeli Air Force retaliated with attacks on Hamas installations and the tunnels thatbring weapons into Gaza from Egypt.If there was ever an ill timed visit, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates,came to Israel to discuss the resumption of the peace talks with political leadersthere. He arrived just as about any hope for peace talks, given the terror attacks andbombing, evaporated in Israel.According to The Jerusalem Post, “(Gates) will make the general argument that ...the Israelis have a very deep strategic interest in getting out in front of the wave ofpopulism thats sweeping the region," the official said, speaking on condition ofanonymity."Showing real progress on the peace track with the Palestinians would put them in amuch better position for where the regions likely to be in six months or a year fromnow."Who knows? Maybe Gates is right. But given the current situation with terrorismincreasing once again and the Palestinians seemingly lacking interest in direct talksby plotting a UN strategy, Gates probably should have saved his breath and stuck tothe more important subjects of regional security and Iran.No matter how bad the current situation is, thinking and planning for the futurebeyond has to continue. The next article tries to look down the road for the next yearor so. The prognosis is not very good.MORE THOUGHTS ON THE PEACE PROCESSIn my last edition I quoted some of the thoughts of Aaron David Miller of theWoodrow Wilson International Center, who I consider one of the mostknowledgeable analysts of the Middle East situation. Writing again in the New YorkTimes, Mr. Miller notes, “This is going to be a great year for Middle East peaceinitiatives, but likely a very bad one for Middle East peace.There’s a good chance that in coming months we’ll see a lot of process but notmuch peace. The transformative changes now sweeping the Arab world haveknocked everybody off balance, made bold decision making more difficult, andsharpened divisions within the Arab, Palestinian and Israeli worlds over how topursue serious peace-making. Events have also left the Obama administrationplaying catch-up in response to the Arab Spring, and, in regard to Libya and maybeelsewhere, the Arab Winter. 4
  5. 5. After writing about what the U.S. and Israel might do which will result in nothinghappening, Mr. Miller, in talking about the Palestinians notes, “And they will with aUnited Nations initiative in coming months designed to create a virtual Palestinianstate through resolution, rhetoric and recognition. This could make a strong pointwithout making much of a difference. Palestinians might actually declare statehoodon the ground. But this would demonstrate profound weakness rather than strength.Palestinians don’t control Gaza, their putative capital in East Jerusalem, or evenmost of the West Bank.Not a pretty picture, to be sure, but it’s a fair assessment of what happens when youhave an absence of leadership, real urgency, an effective third-party mediator andthe presence of big gaps between the sides on the core issues. Put some of thesethings back in play and who knows, it’s the land of miracles, maybe you’ll get one onthe peace process.I would only add that Mr. Miller’s last sentence expresses more hope than I have. Ireally don’t believe in miracles.GOOD INTENSIONS?I guess one should credit Germany, Great Britain and France for having goodintensions. Y-Net News and other media outlets are reporting, “Britain, France andGermany want the United Nations and the European Union to propose the outlinesof a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would lead to theestablishment of a Palestinian state, UN diplomats said. The three European countries, all members of the UN Security Council, arepressing for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union to propose asettlement text at a meeting in mid-April of the Quartet of Mideast mediators, thediplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks are taking place inprivate. The quartet includes the UN, EU, US and Russia.The aim is to get a basis for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume. Putting the jobin the hands of the EU and the UN would sideline the United States, Israels closestally which has tried unsuccessfully for months to get face-to-face negotiations going,as well as Russia, an ally of the Palestinians.The big question mark is whether the United States would allow the Europeans andUN to take the lead in trying to resolve the standoff, and that is likely to depend onwhether the Israelis give a green light, the diplomats said.Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to President Barack Obamas target date ofSeptember 2011 for an agreement, but negotiations collapsed weeks after theyrestarted last September because Israel ended its moratorium on settlementconstruction. 5
  6. 6. The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel halts settlementbuilding in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands captured in the Six Day Warwhich the Palestinians want for their future state.Since the US efforts have been unsuccessful, diplomats said the three Europeanpowers decided to try a new approach in hopes of breaking the deadlock. The diplomats said the three European countries have delivered the message inkey capitals –including Washington and Jerusalem – that if the parameters of a finalsettlement are endorsed, the Palestinians will return to the negotiating table. In their joint statement of Feb. 18, Britain, France and Germany said their goal"remains an agreement on final status issues and the welcoming of Palestine as afull member of the United Nations by September 2011." The three countries calledfor a resumption of direct negotiations between the parties toward a two-statesolution "as soon as possible." For the negotiations to be successful, they said, Israel and the Palestinians mustreach agreement on borders of the two states based on lines before the 1967 war"with equivalent land swaps as may be agreed between the parties" and reach "ajust, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question."The two sides also must agree on security arrangements and resolve the status ofJerusalem. If direct negotiations dont resume and succeed, one diplomat said, thePalestinians are likely to demand UN recognition of a Palestinian state.The diplomat said the United States will almost certainly never accept a unilateralPalestinian declaration of independence, or any other measure that does not includea negotiated peace agreement. Thats why the three Europeans are pressing for the parameters of a settlementwhich would hopefully lead to a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,the diplomat said.It’s hard for to believe that any of the three countries or the EU which individually orcollectively do not have any real leverage on either Israel or the Palestinians cansucceed. Of course, a coming together on the “final status agreement” would endthe stalemate. However, with Israel now watching the Arab world undergoingenormous changes which will have dramatic implications for them as well and thePalestinians still split into two warring factions, I fear that any agreement is very faroff – and for good reason.Frankly, I can’t really under stand the reasons behind this latest Euro proposal. Will itmake the trio of nations appear better in Arab eyes? Probably not! Will the U.S. andIsrael welcome an “outside” interference that is probably destined to go nowhere?Also, probably not! However, for their own purposes the EU, etc. can say they tried 6
  7. 7. and hope that some element will credit them for that. Will it change anything? I doubtit even though I’d love to be proven wrong.CATHOLIC – JEWISH RELATIONSDuring the last the last half of the 20th Century and into the 21st, the Jewishcommunity of the United States and particularly the American Jewish Committee hasinvolved itself in an important dialogue with the Catholic Church. The mere dialogueitself has brought about greater understanding and, in terms of the Catholic Church,changes in the way it looks at and relates to Jews.A couple of weeks ago the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC)met in Paris. A conference was held entitled, “Forty Years of Dialogue: Reflectionsand Future Perspectives.” The ILC, founded 40 years ago, is official body throughwhich the Vatican dialogues with Jews.AJC’s press release noted, “Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director ofInterreligious Affairs, addressed the historic transformation in the Catholic-Jewishrelationship over the past forty years. Rosen’s remarks served to frameconversations during the four-day ILC conference, which focused on Catholic-Jewish relations in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.Rabbi Rosen’s speech is a fascinating history of how the Jews and Catholics haverelated to one another in the last 40 years. The rapport has not been without its “upsand downs”. Like any relationship there are crisis moments and those of pureunderstanding and affirmation.Rabbi James Rudin, AJCs senior interreligious advisor and former IJCIC chair,offered the Jewish perspective on the future of Catholic-Jewish relations. Rudincalled for increased focus on Catholic communities in South America, Africa andEast Asia; expanded programming to engage Catholic and Jewish youth; and moreeffective use of technology and new media as tools for Catholic-Jewishengagement.The Catholic delegation attending the ILC gathering was led by Cardinal Kurt Koch,President of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.Rabbi Rudin in his talk got into some of the real problems Jews and Catholics facetogether. He said, “The rapid and continuing global population growth has majorconsequences for Catholics and Jews. Since the fifth century, Europe and, morerecently, North America, have been the key centers of Catholic population, clericalleadership, religious thought and theology. However, today most of the world’sChristians, including Catholics, reside in South America, Africa, and Asia; it is ademographic trend that is accelerating even as the number of Christians, includingCatholics, is either barely holding steady or actually declining in Europe and North 7
  8. 8. America. Christian and Jewish communities on those two continents are older in ageand fewer in number than their co-religionists in the rest of the world, especiallywhen compared to residents of the “Third World.”Could Europe and North America, the long time spiritual, intellectual and populationcores of Catholicism and Judaism, be losing their dominance and influence? We donot know the answer to that question because human history is always more than aseries of demographic statistics and geographical trends.Rudin concluded by saying, “Those engaged in the Christian-Jewish encountermight recall Bette Davis’ famous line in the American 1950 award winning film, “AllAbout Eve:” “Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”But Hollywood must not have the last pessimistic or negative word regarding ourfuture relations. Instead, I conclude with the prophet Zachariah who spoke of“prisoners of hope.” (Zach. 9:12). That is who we are or we would not be here today.And that is who we must always be in the future.The subject matter is important and what these two leaders have to say is reallycritical to religious life in the future. Read a Vatican statement on the conference byclicking here. http://visnews-en.blogspot.com/2011/03/declaration-by-catholic-jewish-liaison.htmlMONITORING HATE CRIMESI was delighted to read in JTA that “The European Commission has awarded about$322,000 to three Jewish organizations and an NGO that monitor and record hatecrimes and incidents within the European Union.The groups have formed a joint two-year project called "Facing Facts!" to confronthate crime and help other nongovernmental organizations, governments and policeto improve their monitoring and reporting of such crimes, which are "a growingproblem in the European Union," according to a statement announcing the grantWednesday.A manual for trainers will be the centerpiece of the project. Its other tasks willinclude the introduction of standardized criteria for collecting statistics; the training ofvictim-advocacy groups; holding governments accountable to internationalagreements; and improving intergroup cooperation.EU member states are required to monitor and publish data on hate crime. Themuch broader membership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation inEurope is required to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, but "these obligations areoften unfulfilled," according to the announcement from the British-based Community 8
  9. 9. Security Trust, one of the four awardees. The group provides security advice to theJewish community of the United Kingdom.The other awardees are the Brussels-based A Jewish Contribution to an InclusiveEurope; the Dutch Center for Documentation and Information Israel; and theFederation of Dutch Associations for the Integration of Homosexuality. A fifth group,the International Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans and Intersex Association, is anassociate partner.Europe is not alone. We have plenty of hate crimes in the U.S. It seems whereverthere are minorities, some members of the perceived majority (they are not alwaysthe real majority) decide that people who don’t look like the majority or have customsthat are different get singled out for acts of violence.Infoplease.com points out that “Understanding the nature of those who commit hatecrimes may be the most difficult aspect to grasp. Contrary to the notion of hategroup conspiracies, most offenders act as lone wolves: small cells, pairs, orindividuals acting alone. Identifying individuals planning hate crimes is a formidabletask.If that is indeed the case, then the funding allocated by the European Commissionwould be wasted if it is spent only on educational purposes. The real work is theseeking out of those who are most likely to be the perpetrators of hate crimes. Notan easy task. Needless to say, those people (mostly young) who participate in NPDactivities would be a good starting point. However, getting to know who they are,being able to start a dialogue with them and then trying to separate them from otherhaters is the real task. I wish all the agencies who have received funds will use themwisely. I fear that new manuals and printed material won’t help. Good luck anyway.AMERICAN JEWS & ISRAEL’S SECURITYSometimes I’m flabbergasted by polls results and at other times I wonder whyanybody spent money on a meaningless questionaire. Recently The Jerusalem Postreported on one that is definitely in the latter category. A story by Ruth Eglash noted,“The majority of Israelis believe that the US Jewish community is vital to theircountry’s security and political existence, a Teleseker poll carried out last week onbehalf of the Israel and Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation has revealed.Carried out to coincide with the launch of the new Ruderman Fellowship Program,which aims to educate Knesset members about the intricacies of the organizedJewish community in the US, the poll saw an overwhelming 87 percent ofrespondents answering "very important" and "quite important" to the question: "Howimportant is the American Jewish community to Israel’s security and politicalexistence?" 9
  10. 10. Why anyone needed a poll to tell anybody, particularly members of Israel’s Knesset(parliament), that the 6 million or so American Jews in the U.S. are critical to Israel’ssecurity is beyond me. If Knesset members didn’t know that before being electedthey don’t belong there to begin with.Having been critical of the reason for the poll, I do think that one of the findings isimportant. Eglash writes, “In addition, the majority (73%) of the 500 adultsquestioned for the survey said they believed that Israelis could learn a lot from thereligious pluralism practiced in the American Jewish community, even thoughstreams of Judaism alternative to the orthodox are not officially recognized in Israel.It is my opinion that it is about time that Israel moved a little more quickly torecognize the Reform and Conservative (Masorti) movements. They don’t have to gooverboard but some official recognition is called for. After all, these two importantsegments of American Jewry are critical to Israel’s security.The Ruderman family Foundation’s attempt to “educate Knesset members about theintricacies of the organized Jewish community in the US, is, indeed worthwhile. Thedifferences between the way American Jews and Israelis are organized and carryout their communal duties are immense. Such an educational program is veryworthwhile.So, in conclusion, I think the idea and the program are terrific. It’s the cost of the pollthat could have been saved.J-STREET HEARINGSAll too frequently folks in Germany (and elsewhere) think that the American Jewishmainstrem organizations parrot whatever the Israeli government says and does. Nottrue!J-Street is an American Jewish peace oriented organization which is extremelycritical of Israeli peace policy. Indeed, so much so that a committee of the IsraeliKnesset on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs met recently to debatewhether the group is anti-Israel.If you expected AJC and ADL, both very mainstream, to go along with the idea thatsuch hearings should be held, you would be very disappointed.A JTA story related, "In holding hearings on whether a voluntary American Jewishorganization is indeed a pro-Israel lobby, the Knesset committee has interfered in anentirely inappropriate way in the internal affairs of the American Jewish community,”the American Jewish Committee said in its statement Thursday, a day after directorsof the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby testified at the hearing inJerusalem. 10
  11. 11. Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation Leagues national director, also hasslammed the hearings as undue Israeli interference in American Jewishorganizational life.”My guess is that we have probably heard the last of such hearings. There probablyis some line that when crossed denotes an organization as anti-Israel (or antianything for that matter) but for Americans “freedom of speech” is sacred and it is tothe credit of both AJC and ADL that they spoke out on the matter. In any case, theIsraeli government should mix out.***********************************************************************************************See you in April. 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 11

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