AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION
October 25, 2010
This is a busy time in the U.S. In about a week we will have our midterm
elections with many State Governors, some Senators and the entire U.S. House
of Representatives up for election. The common wisdom at the moment is that
the Senate will remain in Democratic hands but by the slimmest of margins. It
looks as if the Republicans will win the House as they need to gain 39 seats over
what they have at the present. Most think they’ll gain 50 as many of the
Democrats who won in normally Republican districts and rode in on the coattails
of Pres. Obama two years ago will lose as those districts revert to “normal”.
However, all of the above is “common wisdom” which is frequently not so wise.
By the way, some think that a Republican House will not be as bad for Obama as
he would then have an “enemy” to attack in the next two years as he gets ready
for his 2012 re-election bid.
If one is not glued to the TV getting election returns, you’ll probably find that
person watching the baseball World Series which starts this week. And, if the
citizenry isn’t interested in either, there is also the opening of the professional
basketball season (NBA).
As far as which of these sports is bloodier, without doubt it’s politics.
On to the news…
IN THIS EDITION
ISRAEL: A JEWISH STATE – How important is it that Israel be considered a
AMERICAN JEWS, OBAMA & THE ELECTION – The impact of the Jews and
Jewish issues on the upcoming election.
ASHTON: NONSENSE AGAIN – Lady Ashton talks a little nonsense.
ISRAELI LOYALTY OATH – Some Israelis want it. Others not. Does it measure
up to the one we have here in the U.S.?
DELEGITIMATION – What can’t be won in war might be in diplomatic pressure.
ISRAEL: A JEWISH STATE
We are now getting down to basics – what the kids call “the real stuff”. The Israel
– Palestine peace negotiations have faltered presumably on the issue of
“settlement building” which, frankly, in itself, is not at all a genuinely basic issue.
Obviously, it’s an issue, but in my opinion not a basic one. Prime Minister
Netanyahu has agreed publicly that he would see to it that the “freeze” would be
extended if the Palestinians would agree that Israel is a “Jewish State”. The offer
was a non-starter and was immediately rejected.
How come? Well, according to the Washington Times as it points out, “The
preamble to the Palestinian Basic Law notes "the continuous attachment of the
Arab Palestinian people to the land of their fathers and forefathers" and claims,
"the organic relationship between the Palestinian people, their history and their
land has confirmed itself in their unceasing effort to prompt the world to
recognize the rights of the Arab Palestinian people and their national entity."
Article 1 asserts, "Palestine is part of the larger Arab world, and the Palestinian
people are part of the Arab nation." Article 4 proclaims, "Islam is the official
religion in Palestine" and "the principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main
source of legislation." Article 116 states, "laws shall be promulgated in the name
of the Palestinian Arab people."
As far as Hamas is concerned, “…the Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct
Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way
of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."
I would say that there is not much room for negotiation there.
On the other side, a recent AJC poll showed, “American Jews remain nearly
unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to
recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement. In March and in
2009, the figure was 94 percent.
My guess is that among Israeli Jews the numbers are about the same, perhaps
even larger. The Washington Times further notes, “Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu explains that Israel was established as "the national state of the
Jewish People, as the sovereign state of the Jewish People in its historic
homeland." The U.S. State Department reiterated yesterday that "both President
Obama and Secretary Clinton are committed to Israel's democracy as a Jewish
Does this very basic, religio-emotional difference mean that the negotiating
process is over? Not necessarily. Diplomacy is a wondrous and sometimes a
difficult art to understand. In some cases agreements can be hammered out with
the two competing parties interpreting the same language differently and happy
enough with that arrangement if each side gets enough in the final analysis.
Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel and recognize each other – and
have diplomatic relations. However, in those instances there was not disputed
land in question. The current situation is much more difficult.
We will have to wait and see how the process plays itself out. I remain semi-
hopeful but when basic concepts have to be negotiated and ground given by
each, I find myself on the negative side of the hope equation.
AMERICAN JEWS, OBAMA & THE ELECTION
The AJC survey mentioned above found that “Jewish approval of President
Obama is dropping…”
Some 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of the
Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to a just-
completed American Jewish Committee survey, its second national survey of
American Jewish opinion conducted this year. This is the first time two surveys
were commissioned in the same calendar year.
AJC’s earlier survey, conducted in March, found that 55 percent approved and
37 percent disapproved.
Overall approval of Obama’s performance as president dropped to 51 percent,
from 57 percent in March. Obama captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the
presidential election two years ago.
American Jewish confidence in Obama's approach to Iran has dropped, with 43
percent approving of the administration's handling of the Iran nuclear issue
compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 percent disapprove, up from 42
percent. Some 59 percent support and 35 percent oppose U.S. military action to
prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Some 70 percent support and
some 26 oppose Israeli military action.
Regarding dismantling West Bank settlements as part of a permanent agreement
with the Palestinians, 6 percent say all should be evacuated, while 56 percent
say some should and 37 percent say none should be dismantled.
A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem
as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent say Israel should compromise on the city’s
status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
When you receive this edition of DuBow Digest our national election will only be
a few days off. Many experts, as noted above, expect that the Democrats will not
do well. Democratic candidates will probably suffer from losses in the Jewish
community because of the perceived weaknesses in the Obama Middle East
policies. However, Jews are less than 2% of the population even though they are
more of a force in some of the large cities and their attached suburbs. Such is my
Having now expressed my own opinion, I should mention that James Besser,
who knows a lot more about politics than I do (He is a political reporter for The
Jewish Week), makes the interesting point that he feels that “…while partisan
forces are trying to spin a number of races as meaningful tests of what it means
to be pro-Israel and to milk that for partisan value, in reality Middle East matters
are all but invisible as factors shaping the outcome of the vote.”
” You can count on one hand the congressional races in which Israel and Obama
administration Middle East policy is playing any substantial role. And even in
those, it's highly unlikely to prove decisive.
It's a conceit of our community – and a slur by anti-Semites and Israel lobby-
phobes - that our special issues dominate American politics. They don't – and
that's even more true that usual in this year's explosive political environment.
The much more interesting question: to what extent will Jewish voters reflect the
anti-government, anti-incumbent anti-just-about-everything mood of voters in
general? Here we can only guess. My own guess: they will, to a degree but not
an overwhelming one. And it will be very much a race-by-race thing.”
Perhaps he will prove out to be correct.
I will wait a couple of weeks for the political dust to settle before writing again on
the election. However, if you’re interested in polls and forecasting click here to be
connected to “538” which is the best I’ve ever seen. The fellow who does it, Nate
Silver, is so good he has been co-opted by the New York Times.
ASHTON: NONSENSE AGAIN
I have not been reluctant in the past to be critical of the EU’s High
Representative – policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who seems to come forth with
an anti-Israel statement every time the Middle East needs to be mentioned. Her
latest is worse – foolish.
After Netanyahu offered to extend the settlement freeze for acceptance of Israel
as a Jewish State, Lady Ashton noted (Jerusalem Post), “We support the two
democratic states living side by side in peace and security," a spokeswoman for
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told AFP. "We also stress that the
future states of Palestine and Israel will need to fully guarantee equality to all
Basically in the case of Israel, this means whether they are Jewish or not," said
the spokeswoman Maja Kocijancik.
How about Palestinian or not?
The statement is absurd because there are no Jews in Palestine nor is there any
chance that any would live there. If they did would they be given equal rights?
Might they serve in the Palestinian parliament as Arabs do in Israel? Would they
be “citizens” entitled to a passport?
I understand that (some?) Europeans are pleased to have a unified foreign policy
and diplomatic service. And, while I think it denigrates independent German
foreign policy so be it. Of course, Germany must make its own decisions on who
represents it. However, when it comes to Israel I don’t think the EU
representative is very evenhanded.
ISRAELI LOYALTY OATH
A storm of concern and protest arose in Israel and in the Jewish world when the
Israeli cabinet approved of an oath of allegiance that would be recited only by
those not eligible to enter the country under the Law of Return, which would
mainly affect Palestinians seeking naturalization because they are married to
Israeli Arabs, or foreign workers.
This decision sparked angry claims, both inside Israel and abroad, including by
Jewish groups overseas, that the proposal discriminated against non-Jews in a
country where there was not supposed be any discrimination.
In a statement AJC noted, "AJC expresses its concern about the Israeli Cabinet's
decision to approve a draft amendment to Israel's citizenship law that calls for
non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and a
democratic state," a statement issued Wednesday by the group said.
"AJC wholeheartedly supports the principle that Israel is the nation-state of the
Jewish people and is proud of the fact that Israel is a genuine and vibrant
democracy, indeed the only democracy in the Middle East," it said. "However,
applying different standards, based on ethnicity, to applicants seeking the
country's citizenship may detract from the noble cause that the amendment
purports to promote. AJC hopes that the Israeli Cabinet will carefully review all
the ramifications of this amendment before it advances further."
Recognizing the inequality of the proposed target group, (Jerusalem Post)
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman
… to prepare a bill obliging all people seeking Israeli citizenship, including Jews
immigrating here under the Law of Return, to pledge allegiance to Israel as a
“Jewish, democratic state.”
The change did not muzzle the criticism from both right and left. Minorities Affairs
Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) said the change “doesn’t heal the damage
to Israel internationally and to relations with Israeli Arabs.”
“This is a delusional decision, as the previous one was,” MK Moshe Gafni
(United Torah Judaism) said in a statement Monday night. “If there are Arabs
who are not loyal to the State of Israel and wish to act against it, a declaration
will change nothing.
“For Jews, for whom the Law of Return was passed, the declaration has no
meaning either, and the gentiles who immigrate by the power of the Law of
Return do not understand the wording of the declaration, and come to the
country for totally different reasons.
“Instead of the prime minister taking care of the citizens’ real problems, like the
housing crisis, he is dealing with nonsense.
Besides [responding to] the disagreement over such a proposal, it will benefit
neither the state nor its citizens. I will adamantly object to this proposal, and I
hope it won’t have a majority in the Knesset,” Gafni said.
United Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi responded to Netanyahu’s decision by saying
that the bill was still wrong.
“Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman are competing in their
fascism,” Tibi said. “Forcing Arabs and Jews to identify ethnically and
ideologically with the state is completely unnecessary.”
Kadima MK Shlomo Molla, originally from Ethiopia, accused Netanyahu of
zigzagging and harming the rights of immigrants that he said were guaranteed by
the Declaration of Independence.
Needless to say, the oath as originally stated was aimed at Arabs and not Jews.
Does including everybody make it better? The hard reality of the Middle East
situation is that Israel has a population of about 20% who are Israeli Arabs.
Where do they stand on the concept of their country being a Jewish state? Thus
far – an unanswered question.
Incidentally, the U.S. has a loyalty oath that new citizens must take which makes
the proposed Israeli oath look like weak tea.”(It)requires new Americans to
absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any
foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty”; promise to “support and defend
the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies,
foreign and domestic”; promise to “bear arms” and “perform noncombatant”
service at the direction of the U.S. government; and swear that one takes the
oath “freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion” in the
name of God Almighty himself…”
There is, of course, a difference in having a loyalty oath that is aimed at inclusion
as opposed to exclusion. In addition, loyalty oaths sometimes lead to extremism
and unfair prosecutions. The U.S. had its troubles with this sort of thing 1n the
1950’s during the Communist witch hunts and McCarthyism that prevailed here.
The Israeli oath will have to be debated and passed by the Knesset – not an
easy task. We’ll keep you advised as to what happens.
Jews in the U.S. and those in Israel are not very concerned about Israel’s
physical security except the threat that is perceived from Iran having a nuclear
weapon. Except for that, and that’s a big exception, the Israelis, as they have
proven in five or six wars, can take care of themselves. The biggest threat
currently perceived is that of international delegitimation. There are rumors in
diplomatic circles that if the current peace process comes apart, there will be a
movement in the UN for it to recognize a Palestinian nation with the 1948
borders. I’m not sure what that would do in a positive way for the Palestinians but
it would surely complicate Israel’s international position and plunge the Middle
East into another long period of turmoil, increase the power of terrorist
organizations and put any sort of peace off for many years to come.
Since I quoted AJC in the article above, I want to introduce what I think is the
most informative piece on the subject which will give you the American Jewish
perspective. The AJC article entitled, “The Campaign Against Israel’s Legitimacy:
Answers to Israel’s Critics is by Aaron Jacob, AJC’s Associate Director of
International Affairs and served as Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative to
the United Nations at the rank of Ambassador from 1998 to 2002.
Aaron’s paper is 11 pages long but that should not deter you, if you have any
interest in the subject at all, from reading what I consider the best thought
through study of the subject. He covers history, Zionism, the UN, the One-State
solution and colonialism among other subjects.
11 pages goes by quickly (it’s in big print) and you will come out after the 5 or 6
minutes it takes to read it, whether you agree with its conclusions or not,
thoroughly versed on this very important subject.
Click here to read it. http://www.ajc.org/atf/cf/%7B42D75369-D582-4380-8395-
See you again after the American election.
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted
at firstname.lastname@example.org Both the American and Germany editions are also
posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com.