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DuBow Digest -Germany edition october 10, 2010

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  • 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.net GERMANY EDITION October 10, 2010 Dear Friends in Germany: Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Die Wende. What has been accomplished in 20 years is just mind boggling. It should make all Germans very proud. Here in the U.S. we are deeply involved in the upcoming national elections where it looks as if the Republicans will be taking over at least the House or the Senate – or both. Unless the total Congress and the President are of the same party, the last two years of a presidential term are years when nothing too much gets done in the way of meaningful legislation. The 2012 presidential race begins as soon as the numbers on Nov. 2nd are counted. As far as the Jewish community is concerned, the major concern is whether the Israeli - Palestinian peace process will continue or come to a screeching halt before it gets anywhere. There is nothing much we can do, nor is there unanimity of opinion as to what should be done, so we can only wait like the rest of the world and see what happens. However, let’s not wait for the news. That is something we can do something about. So, here goes… IN THIS EDITION UNIFICATION: 20th ANNIVERSARY – The view from the U.S. DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTION – The peace process and the “freeze”. How Israelis look at it. PLEASE READ THIS! A JEWISH STATE? – What it means to different people. CUFI – Christians United for Israel. Who are they? How important? What’s on 1
  • 2. their minds? THYSSEN KRUPP – THREE CHEERS – They did the right thing! RABBI-LESS JUDAISM – A do it yourself congregation. JEWISH EXODUS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE – Important Jewish advisers leave. Any up or downside for the Jewish community? WAGNER: NOT YET – The Israelis are just not ready. UNIFICATION: 20th ANNIVERSARY The 20th anniversary of German Unification (or re-unification) went by very quietly in the U.S. The New York Times ran an article dealing with the differences between East & West and, of course, it got a passing mention in most of the media but not much else. In thinking about it, it occurred to me that in the U.S. one had to be about 35 years old or older to really remember much about the German Democratic Republic. The “fall of the Wall” with its pictures of people sitting on top of it, etc. made much of a splash but who remembers the 4 plus 2 negotiations? It almost seems like ancient history. Unified Germany has become so much of a reality that its divided status seems almost as distant as when there was a Union and a Confederacy here in the U.S. Interestingly, my own agency, the American Jewish Committee (from whom I am partially (mostly?) retired, did remember it and issued a press release on the subject. It noted, "Unification has not always been an easy, problem-free process for Germany. For many East Germans, for instance, the transition has had its share of psychological and professional challenges. For the German economy, the cost of bringing East Germany up to the West German standard has been staggering. But there can be no question that unification was right for Germany, right for Europe, and right for the world. An enlarged, democratic Germany continues to inspire confidence and has proved the skeptics wrong. At AJC, we are proud of the position we took in 1990, and we are pleased to add our voice of congratulations to the Federal Republic of Germany on this auspicious anniversary." Indeed, AJC, with its long connection to Germany, even very early, was the first American Jewish organization to support unification. It was very clear that moving 17 million people from a dictatorship to a democracy and removing an anti-Israel country from central Europe was what we here call a “no brainer”. You can read the entire AJC statement by clicking here. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx? c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=2818289&ct=8737791&notoc=1 2
  • 3. The NY Times story is available by clicking here. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/world/europe/01germany.html? scp=1&sq=Erfurt&st=cse DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTION There are always two sides to every dispute (or else there wouldn’t be a dispute). The Israel – Palestine dispute is no exception. In this very difficult time we mostly hear one side – the Israelis refuse to stop building settlements! I wonder if it occurs to reasonable people that there may be another side to the conflict. Might it be possible that the Israelis have at least a little right on their side? Could elements of their reasoning be correct so that “building settlements” is not some sort of exploitive, empire building action that deserves immediate condemnation? I came across an article in the JTA which I am going to reprint in full because I think it explains what most (certainly, not all) Israelis feel about the building freeze and what should happen eventually in the West Bank, which by the way, was always referred to as Judea and Samaria until about 40 years ago. In reading it (I hope you will), please remember that Israel is a genuinely democratic country. Its government represents the will of the populace. Some may not like Netanyahu but he is no dictator. The article was written by Uriel Heilman, JTA’s Managing Editor. JERUSALEM (JTA) -- In the four weeks since direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed, settlement construction has been identified widely as the most immediate obstacle to the survival of negotiations. In media accounts about the diplomatic standoff over the issue, Israel’s decision not to extend its self-imposed 10-month freeze on settlement building has been portrayed as a slap in the face to the Obama administration, deepening Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and creating more stumbling blocks to a final peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. This week, world leaders reportedly telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge him to extend the freeze. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an end to settlement building following a meeting in Paris with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Quartet peacemaking envoy Tony Blair met with Netanyahu twice over four days. All to no avail. The Palestinians, meanwhile, say they will wait a week before carrying out the threat of withdrawing from the peace talks. 3
  • 4. "Of course we don't want to end negotiations; we want to continue,” Abbas told Europe 1 radio, according to Israel’s daily Haaretz. “But if colonization continues, we will be forced to end them.” In Israel, the only response is the rumbling of earth-moving equipment headed for construction sites in the West Bank. That’s because what is perceived around the world as Israeli stubbornness is seen much differently in Israel. The differences in outlook cut to the heart not only of how Israelis view these negotiations but how they view the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state. In Jerusalem, it is the Palestinians who are seen as stubborn for sticking to their insistence that settlement building be halted before coming to the negotiating table. Never before had such a precondition been imposed on negotiations; in the past, Israelis and Palestinians talked while both continued to build in their respective West Bank communities. Having offered the freeze unilaterally 10 months ago to coax the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and satisfy U.S. demands for an Israeli good-will gesture, the Israeli government sees itself as the accommodating party whose gesture was never reciprocated. Rather, it took the Palestinian nine months to agree to resume negotiations, leaving virtually no time for substantive progress before the freeze expired. Then there are the political considerations: Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition partners made clear that extending the freeze was a nonstarter. Perhaps most important, however, the freeze was seen by many Israelis as unfair. The vast majority of the 300,000 or so Jews who live in the West Bank are families living in bedroom communities within easy commuting distance of Jerusalem or metropolitan Tel Aviv. While some Israelis moved to the settlements for ideological reasons, for many the motivating factor was economic: Housing was much cheaper in the West Bank than in Israel proper. What’s more, for decades the government offered Israelis economic incentives to settle across the Green Line -- the 1949 armistice line that marked the Jordan- Israel border until the 1967 Six-Day War. During the freeze, these Israelis saw themselves as unfairly penalized: Why were they barred from expanding their homes when their Palestinians neighbors were not? "Stop making us look like monsters," Yigal Dilmoni, director of the information office for the Yesha Council, the settlers’ umbrella organization, told JTA in a recent interview. 4
  • 5. The problem, of course, stems from the ambiguous nature of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Most nations view the area as illegally occupied by Israel. The Israeli government views it as disputed territory captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. While Israel annexed some territories captured in that war (eastern Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria) and withdrew from others either unilaterally or within a peace deal (the Sinai Peninsula in a deal with Egypt, the Gaza Strip unilaterally), Israel left the West Bank in legal limbo. The Palestinians claim the land as the site of their future state. In Israel, many on the right believe that Israel should not cede an inch, and many on the left say settlements are a crime and the West Bank should be entirely Palestinian. But the majority Israeli view is that most of the West Bank will end up as Palestine while parts of it -- large Jewish settlement blocs adjacent to the Green Line -- will be annexed to Israel. In almost all the scenarios, Israel plans to keep the major settlement blocs. Among them are Gush Etzion, a largely religious cluster of towns with some 55,000 people less than 10 miles from Jerusalem; Maale Adumim, a mixed religious-secular city of some 35,000 about five miles east of Jerusalem; and Modiin Illit, a haredi Orthodox city of some 45,000 located less than two miles inside the West Bank, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. More difficult is Ariel, a city of 18,000 located approximately 13 miles inside the West Bank. Israel also aims to keep the smaller settlements near the West Bank- Israel boundary. This plan encompasses the vast majority of the settler population. Israeli officials say they have received assurances from U.S. officials that this would be the case -- most notably in the April 2004 letter by then-President George W. Bush to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Operating under this assumption, the Israeli government viewed a complete, open-ended settlement freeze as unreasonable: If the major settlement blocs will be Israeli, why stop building within them? After 10 months of an experimental freeze to see what it would elicit from the Palestinians, their return to the negotiating table was not enough. It was time for the experiment to end. I think Heilman points out quite accurately the various feelings that abound in Israel. Should the feelings of the majority be taken into account by the U.S. and the other members of the Quartet? Is there something the Palestinians and the 5
  • 6. other Arab countries should be doing in a positive vein to convince Israel that it should go along with another freeze? In reading this I hope you come to the understanding that in this dispute there are, indeed, two sides. I have written previously that I do not believe much will result from the current negotiations – and then I fervently hoped I was wrong. I’m still hoping! A JEWISH STATE? What’s in an explanatory term? Obviously more than almost any Jew in the United States would even think about. The term in question is “a Jewish state”. 99.9% of American Jews – and, perhaps, all non-Jews if asked whether Israel was “a Jewish state” would reply, “Of course”. I haven’t done any surveys but my guess is that in Europe the answer would pretty much be the same. However, in the Arab world that is not the case. As Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post points out, “Describing Israel as a "Jewish state" may seem like standard boilerplate in the United States, often used in newspaper articles and television programs. But words can carry deep meanings, especially in Middle East diplomacy. For the Israeli government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" would mean acceptance that the Jews have existed in the Middle East for thousands of years - and that Palestinian refugees have no claim to return to property they fled or were forced to flee when Israel was founded six decades ago. Palestinians see their "right of return" as a sacred tenet. They regard a "Jewish state" as a trap, a new demand that did not come up during years of negotiations in the 1990s or in peace treaties reached with Egypt and Jordan. …Palestinian and Arab officials contend that labeling Israel a "Jewish state" calls into question the rights of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who comprise 20 percent of Israel's population. In a 2009 speech, Abbas heaped scorn on the concept. "What is a 'Jewish state'? We call it the 'State of Israel.' You can call yourselves whatever you want," he said. "You can call yourselves whatever you want. But I will not accept it. . . .You can call yourselves the Zionist Republic, the Hebrew, the National, the Socialist [Republic], call it whatever you like. I don't care. Michael B. Oren, the current Israeli ambassador to the United States, says that the question of a "Jewish state" is "not only important, it is paramount.” 6
  • 7. The fact that there is an Arab Republic of Egypt, a Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and an Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t seem to bother Mr. Abbas. It doesn’t bother me either. They are what they are. However, it’s this kind of thing that leads me to have little faith in any sort of peace process. If Pres. Obama is able to impose an agreement Israel and most of the world will continue to call it a Jewish state and Palestine will refer to it otherwise. So it goes in the world of politics. CUFI Is the largest and, perhaps, the most “under the radar” influential organization in the U.S. supporting Israel organized by American Jews? If you guessed “yes” you would be wrong. It is actually Christians United for Israel, made up of mostly evangelical Christians, headed by Rev. John Hagee. Recently, according to JTA, (CUFI) “garnered more than 130,000 signatures on a petition calling for the indictment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide. "Incitement to genocide is a crime under international law,” CUFI founder John Hagee said the day Ahmadinejad spoke. “Ahmadinejad's statements and threats constitute a clear pattern of incitement to genocide against Israel. The time has come for the international community to act to stop this tyrant before he is able to fulfill his threats." Hagee is a Texas pastor who has enormous reach through TV (160 stations) and Radio(50 stations) and is credited with reaching 99 million homes internationally with his sermons. In terms of his views on the Middle East he believes, (Wikipedia), “Because the territory now known as Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank was ruled by the Ottoman Turks prior to World War I, then controlled by the British, and later partitioned under United Nations mandate, Hagee argues that the land does not belong to the Arabs, and that the name "Palestine" (deriving from that of the ancient Philistines) was imposed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to punish the Jews for their revolt against the Roman Empire. Hagee maintains there is no Palestinian language, and no historic Palestinian nation, and that most people identifying as Palestinians immigrated from other Arab states. Hagee strongly and vocally supports an American-Israeli pre-emptive military strike on Iran.” One would think that Rev. Hagee would be warmly embraced by most American Jews but that is not the case. His stance on most social-domestic issues is far to the right of where the majority of liberal leaning American Jews stand. In addition, he is frequently linked to the most right wing Israeli positions which also are 7
  • 8. questioned, again, by the majority of American Jews. Add to this the disquieting feeling that in the back of Rev. Hagee’s mind is the eventual goal of converting all Jews to Christianity. However, more Jews today are embracing CUFI as important because of its friendship toward Israel and because these are very troubled times for the Jewish State. The increasing feeling is that Israel needs all the friends it can get at the moment and the concerns about conversion can be put off for a later (if ever) time. THYSSEN KRUPP – THREE CHEERS I doubt seriously that anyone who is Jewish and old enough to remember World War II and its aftermath, would feel anything but horror when seeing the name “Krupp”. However, today is a different day. Recently the American Jewish Committee publicly commended Thyssen Krupp. (Press release) AJC praised the German steel conglomerate Thyssen Krupp for announcing that it will prohibit all new business with Iran. A company spokesman said it is acting in support of German, EU and U.S. trade sanctions against Tehran, which has defied four UN Security Council resolutions demanding transparency over its nuclear program. “Thyssen Krupp’s decision to withdraw from Iran is commendable,” said Deidre Berger, Director of AJC’s Berlin Office. “It demonstrates growing corporate awareness that it does not pay to do business with Iran as long as it continues to pursue nuclear weapons and promote terrorism.” It’s probably not very good for T-K’s business but it certainly is the right thing to do. So, I add my three cheers! RABBI-LESS JUDAISM Since one of the goals of DuBow Digest is to give you some insights into American Jewish life, I thought I should mention rabbi-less, synagogue-less congregations. Throughout the U.S. a considerable number of Jews meet together in homes without a rabbi and hold services that are intimate and family oriented. Incidentally, though I am not a religion expert, I believe that a rabbi is not necessary in order to hold a religious service. While in the Western world rabbis serve in the clergy role, there most important function is to teach. Of course, services should be learning experiences and so their presence is a usually a big plus. However, if non-rabbi congregation members pledge themselves to learn and teach those are important factors in the meaning such congregations have for the individual members. Natasha Mozgovaya, writing in Haaretz notes, “At present, some 20,000 people are paying members of independent minyanim (quorums), which makes this a somewhat negligible phenomenon in light of the estimated five to seven million 8
  • 9. Jews in America. But the number of such communities in the country has grown since they were first established a little over a decade ago. The independent minyanim are now starting to spread to suburban areas and to attract more young families with children. The impact of this movement on American synagogue life is not clear, but its activity is generally welcome, especially since so many young Jews have distanced themselves from the greater community in recent years. The independent minyan offers an alternative, one generally based on a halakhic (traditionally religious) model, for many who are looking both to get involved in a community and for spiritual fulfillment. Often, they are well educated Jewishly”. Ms. Mozgovaya has written quite an extensive article on the subject. If interested, click here to read it. http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/capital- quorum-forum-1.315444 JEWISH EXODUS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE One of the falsehoods that float around is that Jews have undue influence in the White House because some of Pres. Obama’s closest advisers are Jewish. For almost the last two years, Rahm Emanuel has been the President’s Chief of Staff and David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser have had offices practically next door to him. Recently Emanuel resigned his position to return to Chicago to enter the mayoral race there and Axelrod is expected to leave shortly to also go back to Chicago to start up Obama’s 2012 run for re-election. Interestingly, while both were in office Obama’s popularity in the American Jewish community declined because of the perception that he is not as dedicated to Israel as was his predecessor G.W. Bush. His apparent focus on trying to influence the Muslim world was seen by some as a diminution of a commitment to Israel. Having Jewish staff didn’t help. Interestingly, Bush, who did not have many close Jewish advisers, was seen as “Israel’s best friend” – but, of course, not by all Jews. In any case, the Emanuel position has been filled by Peter Rouse, a non-Jew and the Axelrod position is not expected to be filled at all. Will all this make a big difference in “Jewish influence”? I doubt it as do many others in the Jewish world. Obama does what he sees best for American interests and the fact that the guy next door has been Bar Mitzvahed or not I doubt will make one shekel’s worth of difference. 9
  • 10. JTA has done a story on this matter which you can read by clicking here. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/10/05/2741151/emanuel-gone-axelrod- going-but-access-will-remain WAGNER: NOT YET Haaretz, and I’m sure many newspapers in Germany, carried the story about Richard Wagner’s great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner canceling her trip to Israel where she “had planned to call a press conference on October 13, during which was to extend an invitation to the Israel Chamber Orchestra to open the Wagner festival next July. She had planned to precede the announcement of the invitation with comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in honor of the occasion.” The ties with the Bayreuth festival were established by the new director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, Austrian Jewish conductor Roberto Paternostro, who is friends with Katharina Wagner. In an interview with Haaretz, Paternostro explained that the two thought up the idea in Frankfurt a year ago, as an act of reconciliation between the Wagner family and Israel. I can understand Frau Wagner’s reluctance to face demonstrations in Israel which would only exacerbate the tensions between Germans and Israelis. It’s too bad all this became public as the mere news itself only heightens negative emotions on both sides. Elements in Israel are just not up to having Richard Wagner even talked about. Even 65 years after the end of the war the wounds are still too painful. However, those of us who are committed to improving the relationship between Germany and Jews have to just keep working at it. Both Katharina Wagner and Roberto Paternostro deserve congratulations. ****************************************************************************************** See you again later in the month. 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 10
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