Germany edition august 11, 2010
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Germany edition august 11, 2010

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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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Germany edition august 11, 2010 Germany edition august 11, 2010 Document Transcript

  • AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER GERMANY EDITION August 11, 2010 Dear Friends: I thought I’d wait until the end of August to send this edition but since it’s never quiet in the Jewish world there’s a lot to report on even in mid-month. Recently American Jews have been focused on the UN probe of the Gaza flotilla event with the Israelis finally agreeing to be part of it. Most are delighted that the newest member of our Supreme Court, Elana Kagan, was sworn in which now gives us three Jewish members out of the nine seats on the highest court in the nation – a record. (She’s also the third woman – also a record). There was a lot of anxiety over the skirmish at the Lebanese border (1 Israeli and 3 Lebanese killed) but cooler heads prevailed so no new war broke out. Last, but not least, there has been great variations (in and out of the Jewish community) as to whether a mosque should be built in close proximity to “Ground Zero” in lower Manhattan close to the place where 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. So, in spite of a very hot (but dry) summer here in New York things are happening so let’s get on with the news. IN THIS EDITION WHAT’S IN A NAME? PLENTY! – If Conservative Jewry changes its name, will anything really change? THE SWASTIKA – DOWNGRADED OR UPGRADED? – It’s no longer just a mark of just anti-Semitism. 1
  • LINKAGE – Does linking the Israel-Palestinian dispute to all the other ills of the world bring them closer to solutions – or is linkage just a ploy? DEATH OF A JEWISH ORGANIZATION – PART II – The demise of the American Jewish Congress provides an insight into the workings of other Jewish organizations in the U.S. REFUGEES - How other Arabs see the Palestinian refugees and the differences between them and the Germans who were dispossessed in 1945. COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS – CLICK HERE WHAT’S IN A NAME? PLENTY! There are three major denominations in American Jewry – Orthodox, Reform and Conservative. The Conservative movement placed somewhere in-between the other two, in order to somehow clarify exactly what it is, is considering a name change. After all, we are living in the world of mass and immediate media where “branding” has become important so that institutions and businesses can be more easily identified. If you didn’t know that “DD” stands for DuBow Digest you might think it identifies “Drop Dead” – not a motto I would want my readers to associate with my beloved journal. Names identify! They’re important! According to the Forward, Arnold Eisen, the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Conservative Judaism’s leading flagship academic center, acknowledged that the movement’s name is now being debated, along with much else, among its leaders. “I’m open to it. I’m open to it,” Eisen told the journalists when asked about the possibility of a name change. Leaders of Conservative-affiliated organizations want to find a name that will better capture what they want the movement to represent, he said. “The leading candidate right now, I think, is just to go with the name ‘Masorti,’ which captures things better than the word ‘Conservative’ captures them. So I am open to suggestions; I am open to a name change,” Eisen said. Masorti, the Hebrew word for “traditional,” is how Conservative Judaism is known outside North America. But in a country as deeply resistant to unknown foreign coinages as America is, would the word communicate a meaningful message to its intended audiences, both Jewish and non-Jewish? Of course, there are many suggestions. Most also note that the Movement needs to identify its goals before re-branding itself. That makes a lot of sense since 2
  • many see it as only the half-way point between Orthodox and Reform. One thing is for sure, the leaders of the Conservative Movement do not want anybody to associate it with conservative political movement. While I’m sure there are members of the latter in the former, the religious Conservative Movement is strictly non-partisan. Actually, the discussion of name change is helpful. It gives its members a chance to think about what they really are, where they want to go and how they want to be identified. By the way, for those of you in Berlin, Rabbi Gesa Ederberg heads a Masorti congregation there which meets on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue. Pay her a visit. Tell her I sent you. As far as the name change is concerned, I’ll let you know what happens. THE SWASTIKA – DOWNGRADED OR UPGRADED? I know well that the displays of the swastika in Germany are considered illegal and actionable under the criminal law. That is not the case in the U.S. even though here it is generally considered to be an obscene Nazi symbol. While painting swastikas on a synagogue is usually considered a “hate crime” flying one from your window is not. In general, even though I have not done any scientific research, when one sees a swastika the association (I believe) is usually Nazi/ anti-Semitic. Perhaps it’s only Jews who see it that way. Many young people today, I fear, would be hard pressed to explain to you what a Nazi is or even what anti-Semitism is. In any case… The Jewish Week recently reported, “The painting of a swastika — that dark, ubiquitous signature of hateful vandals everywhere — is no longer automatically considered an act of anti-Semitism under new guidelines for recording attacks against Jews announced this week by the Anti-Defamation League. The most prominent Jewish defense agency in the country, perhaps in the world, announced on Tuesday that it has revamped its guidelines for recording anti- Semitic incidents in its annual survey for the first time in 30 years, taking a more conservative approach. “We know that the swastika has, for some, lost its meaning as the primary symbol of Nazism and instead become a more generalized symbol of hate,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, who was a hidden child during the Holocaust in a statement. “So we are being more careful to include graffiti incidents that specifically target Jews or Jewish institutions as we continue the process of re-evaluating and redefining how we measure anti-Jewish incidents.” 3
  • For the ADL, therefore, the swastika is no longer just a Nazi symbol to be understood as something automatically anti-Semitic. Will their re-definition hold water with the general public? Perhaps! If you’re interested in how the ADL evaluate the occurrences of anti-Semitism and how they evaluate the raw data, click here. http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national/adl_downgrades_swastika_jewish_ hate_symbol LINKAGE Be warned! I’m going to suggest that you read a rather long article. I have frequently wondered whether an end to the Israel – Palestinian dispute with some sort of a peace agreement (which I do not see happening any time soon) would change the chemistry between, for instance, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, the current Turkish government and Israel. Would these Israel antagonists put Israel on the “good list” and find another victim on which to blame all the troubles that beset them? How would it affect the U.S.? Would we be able to establish better relationships with the Muslim world if only the Israelis came to some sort of an agreement with the Palestinians? Would we and the rest of the Western World be more secure if this long-standing conflict came to an end? Is linkage a ”big lie” which places American foreign policy on a fault ridden basis or is it a legitimate foreign policy goal ? An interesting and important article appeared in World Affairs by James Kirchick entitled The Broken Link: What Peace Won’t Fix. It tackles the linkage question and among many important points Mr. Kirchick makes is, “….the linkage theory, which has acquired the status of received wisdom, continues to survive reality checks, today achieving doctrinal status. The clearest indication of linkage’s dogmatic status arrived in a speech delivered last year by National Security Adviser Jim Jones. “If there was any one problem I’d tell [the] president he should solve, this would be it,” Jones told a room full of supporters of J Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby founded in 2008 to support greater American pressure on Israel. This must mean that the failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict presents a greater danger to the United States than a nuclear Iran, al-Qaeda’s continuing terror campaign, or the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, just to name a few of the threats facing the country. And this is because, according to linkage doctrine, “solving” the Arab-Israeli conflict would alleviate, if not outright eliminate, all of these other, second-order problems. The recent obsession with linking the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian question to 4
  • broader world peace might give one the impression that the theory is somehow new. But linkage is a myth that various Arab leaders and intellectuals have been pushing for sixty years. Today, the argument is merely a moderated form of the earlier claim (still widely held by Arabs, if not expressed by their leaders) that the very presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East would be “contrary to the Arabs’ birthright” and “only lead to trouble and bloodshed and probably to a third world war,” as a representative of the Arab League to the United Nations said in 1947. Today, with the existence of Israel a reality and successive Arab attempts to destroy it thwarted, the claim has been modified. Now it is the lack of a Palestinian state, rather than the existence of Israel itself, that is supposed to enflame the hearts of Arabs and Muslims from Marrakech to Riyadh to Lahore and everywhere in between. This much, at least, is clear from the history of linkage: the Arabs have learned which positions sell and which don’t. You will do your understanding of majority American Jewish thinking on the Middle East if you read the Kirchick article. Do so by clicking here. http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/articles/2010-JulyAugust/full-Kirchick- JA-2010.html DEATH OF A JEWISH ORGANIZATION – PART II In the last issue I wrote about the demise of the American Jewish Congress, one of America’s outstanding Jewish “defense” agencies. I pointed out that I thought its failure to pay attention to its fund raising and moving from a liberal to a conservative (politically) point of view caused it to lose much of its support. James Besser, the Washington correspondent for The Jewish Week, an important national weekly, has followed up with a column on the subject (his second). I am going to quote from it not so much to enlighten you further about the Congress but because it will give you some genuine insight into the current major priorities of American Jewry. Read and think about it and you will understand us a lot better. ”It is a given in the Jewish philanthropic world that two issues trump all others when it comes to opening Jewish wallets: a threatened Israel and overt anti- Semitism. Actually, anti-Semitism isn't a big factor for most American Jews, so if you're a Jewish fundraiser, it's all Israel, all the time. Jews whose primary interest is Israel tend to be highly focused and motivated, with a narrow range of concerns; Jews whose primary focus is domestic tend to be all over the map, focusing on domestic abuse, church-state separation, poverty, the environment, women's issues, civil rights....the list is pretty much endless. 5
  • AIPAC can raise money like crazy because it focuses on a single issue that has a strong emotional charge; multi-issue domestic groups have a much harder time because there are so many issues, and so many other organizations specifically devoted to those issues. The community is more divided than it used to be on issues like government funding for religious institutions. And many believe the biggest church-state battles have already been won; Jewish public students don't have to recite the Lord's Prayer in public schools, the way my parents did. These struck me as valid points, but it doesn't change my bottom line: one reason the AJ Congress failed is that it became just one more Jewish organization saying the same things about Israel and its critics and about anti- Semitism. It no longer could distinguish itself from the alphabet soup of Jewish agencies putting out almost identical press releases and using identical talking points. But his argument does point to a growing communal problem. Most Jews remain liberal, and most focus more on domestic concerns than on Israel. But multi-issue organizations like the AJ Congress have a harder and harder time raising money on these issues in today's intensely competitive philanthropic climate. That's probably why the most successful groups – the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League come to mind – spend more and more of their time on Israel, the philanthropic mother lode.” There’s more but those are the main points I want to get across. Jewish organizations in the U.S. live in a free market system. They are responsive to their members and donors. Fund raising is the key to survival. The issues that “sell” are the ones that are the keys. By and large, they do not receive any government money. In fact those that are issue oriented must be “non-partisan”. (not connected politically). If they are not, they run the risk of losing their ability to have the money donated to them considered “tax exempt”. In almost all cases, without tax exemption, the amount of money raised would be negligible, a situation most agencies could not survive. So, now you know a lot more about Jewish organizational life. By the way, if you want to read the entire Besser article, click here. http://www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/political_insider/more_aj_congress_and_perils_pro gressive_domestic_activism 6
  • REFUGEES I myself have written recently about the awful situation of the Palestinians who live in squalid camps throughout the Middle East and the treatment they received from their fellow Arabs. I thought I was alone. Not so! I recently came across an article by a Canadian journalist, Robert Fulford who is a Toronto author, broadcaster, and editor as well. He writes a weekly column for The National Post and is a frequent contributor to Toronto Life, Canadian Art, and CBC radio and television. He recently wrote a piece Frozen in Time; Addicted to Pity which in the National Post (Canada). Mr. Fulford makes the point, “only the Palestinians cling to their "refugee" status decade after decade. They present themselves as helpless victims of Israeli aggression. They await rescue-- as they have been awaiting it for three generations, since Israel was founded in 1948. Andrew Roberts, a much-admired British historian, raised the issue of Palestinian refugees in a speech excerpted in the National Post on Tuesday. He argued, correctly, that Arab governments "are rich enough to have economically solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago." The 5,000 or so members of the Saudi royal family could probably handle it by themselves. Why haven't they done so? They much prefer to let Palestinians remain poor. Every wretched, ill-fed and ill-housed Palestinian can be used as a living rebuke to Israel. The Arab countries love the Palestinians, praise them and pray for them. They just don't want them moving permanently into their neighbourhoods. The Arab League advises Arab states to deny citizenship to Palestinians, "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland." They pretend it's a favour. It also means Arabs can hire Palestinian workers when they need them and send them home when the economy sags. The treatment of the Palestinians has become a major crime of omission committed by the rich Arabs against the poor in collusion with the UN. And no politician, ever, compares the Palestinians to other refugees. Sol Stern, trying in a recent City Journal article to bring some perspective to the Palestinian question, noted that in 1945 about 11 million ethnic German civilians, living in Central and Eastern Europe, were expelled from their homes "and force- marched to Germany by the Red Army, with help from the Czech and Polish governments. Historians estimate that two million died on the way." The survivors built new lives as best they could. Some still speak of reparations they deserve. None argue that they should live in squalor until they receive justice. The enemies of Israel have taught the world to pity the Palestinians and grant 7
  • them an almost sacred position among the victims of colonialism. They deserve pity, of course, but pity for what their fellow Arabs have done to them. If I had written the Fulford article you might well accuse me of “special pleading”. However, Fulford is not at all talking about Israel or its treatment of the Palestinians. He’s talking about Arab-Arab relations – how the Palestinians are being treated by “their own kind”. I have to say the man has a point. And, the way he relates the post WW II German refugees to the Palestinians is very interesting. A Palestinian – Israeli peace treaty might help but if you sit and think about the plight of the refugees which has nothing to do with Israel you will see that a political settlement for these people will not even come close to solving their problems. ******************************************************************************************** DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at dubowdigest@optonline.net Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com & www.dubowdigest.wordpress.com 8
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