Du bow digestgermany edition jan. 10, 2011

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Du bow digestgermany edition jan. 10, 2011

  1. 1. GERMANY EDITION January 10, 2011 Dear Friends: The holidays are over and I’m back. During my absence I had an absolutely great time shepherding the 2010 German participants in the AJC – Konrad Adenauer Foundation through Washington, Atlanta and finally in New York. There were eight of them and each individually was an outstanding personality. It was really an honor to be with them. My wife and I took a brief vacation up to the Berkshires (they are either hills or small mountains) after, luckily, being home during a genuine blizzard we experienced here on the East Coast. However, I’m sure you don’t want to hear about our snow problems. From what I can gather you had it worse than we did. I know that politics in almost all the European countries comes to a halt in late December. It pretty much did hear as well. However, Pres. Obama was able to get quite a few things passed before the switch to the new Congress took place. However, our new Congress has come into session with the Republicans in a much stronger role especially in the House of Representatives where they now have a majority. Even during the holiday season events do not stand still. Last year’s (2010) problems are still with us. So, let’s get on with the news. DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Sol Stern, a Contributing Editor of City Journal published by the Manhattan Institute, writing in Jewish Ideas Daily, reviews a book Transforming Fire by Jonathan Spyer. I have not read the book which is about Spyer’s experiences in the last Lebanon War. However, the review posits a depressing point of view about the long term Arab-Israeli situation. However, it rings very true to me. Stern notes, “Spyer raises the most profound questions about Israel's future. In his judgment, the reality is that the Jewish state now faces a new mode of warfare: Islamist/jihadist (rather than political/nationalist) in character and relentless in its seriousness. With Hizballah and Hamas sitting on its northern and southern borders, and with Iran, the principal backer of these two terrorist organizations, about to go nuclear, the Jewish state has entered into what Spyer characterizes as a permanent cold war. By its nature, this overarching struggle is wholly unrelated to whether or not Israel ends its "occupation" of the West Bank. 1
  2. 2. It is hard to disagree with Spyer's diagnosis. If anything, his cold-war analogy is inadequate to describe the situation. Israel's mortal enemies are not an ocean away as in the U.S.-USSR cold war; they are a short bus ride from Jerusalem in either direction. Nor are the Islamists interested in any territorial or political settlement; they are interested in Israel's elimination. This is, in sum, a 30- or 40- year or perhaps even longer hot war, on and off that will challenge Israel's democratic society and severely test the fortitude of its people in unprecedented ways. So the question I have for myself (and maybe you) is, does it make a long range difference for Israel’s ultimate existence for the Israelis to bend over backwards to make some sort of (probably) non-long range deal with the Palestinians about the West Bank if the “cold war” as Spyer puts it is to last much longer. Would it not be in Israel’s self-interest to carve out what it is they need for long term security, put up with the near term slings and arrows that would come their way for being unwilling to make “negotiate” and then get ready for the severe test of fortitude that they will have to suffer through for a long time to come? I am not an Israeli nor am I the sort of American Jew who wants Israel to fight wars to the last Israeli. Through their democracy they will have to make up their own minds and decide whether the outcome of current negotiations will make a long range difference. Solomon! Where are you? We need your wisdom. RICHARD HOLBROOKE Anybody who knows anything about American diplomacy was terribly saddened to hear about the untimely death of Richard Holbrooke, who, at the time of his passing, was President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Holbrooke was one of our most accomplished diplomats and in the 1990’s was the American Ambassador to Germany. According to JTA, “…as assistant secretary of state for Europe in 1994, assigned by Clinton the task of resolving the Bosnian war, Holbrooke worked tirelessly and would brook no refusals. By the beginning of 1996 he had forged a peace deal, the Dayton accords, that seemed shaky but has endured. It was his greatest accomplishment. What is not generally known is that the Ambassador’s parents were both Jewish. Though he had an anglicized name and probably not active religiously, he was not squeamish about his Jewish roots. (JTA) Holbrooke, who became known for his confrontational style, prominently hung a photo of his grandfather in a German World War I uniform at the ambassador's residence and would point out to German visitors that this proud German patriot also happened to have been Jewish. 2
  3. 3. He became more interested in his Judaism when his third wife, and widow, Kati Marton, raised a Roman Catholic, discovered that her own parents were Hungarian Jews who hid their identity. Jewish or not, the U.S. has lost an invaluable public servant who dedicated his life to the cause of peace. HOW MANY ARE THERE? For the last 5 or 6 years we have been answering the question, “How many Jews are there in the U.S.?” with the answer – 5.5 million. It turns out that is an underestimate. The Jerusalem Post reports, “The American Jewish population is larger than suspected, according to new estimates compiled by Brandeis University. The suburban Boston university’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute is estimating that there are some 6.5 million people in the United States who are either Jewish by religion or who self-identify as Jewish. The figure represents a 20 percent increase in the number of Jews since 1990. The numbers were drawn from a synthesis of data from more than 150 nationwide surveys conducted by the US government and other agencies, as well as from national polling organizations. They refute information gathered in the last National Jewish Population Survey, a census-like study that had been conducted every decade by the Jewish federation system before being discontinued this year. The final survey showed that between 1990 and 2000-01, the population dropped from 5.5 million to 5.2 million. A parallel polling by Brandeis of 1,400 Jews revealed that more than 80 percent of respondents who indicated that they are Jewish identify as such by religion, while the rest identify as Jewish by some other criteria. According to the study, 1.27 million Jews who identify by religion are younger than 18. The Steinhardt center has not yet broken down other demographic data from the survey, but will roll out more information about demographics, socioeconomic status and other areas over the course of the next year, the center’s director, Len Saxe, told JTA. For those of us who care about Jewish continuity this is very good news. We’re a small people. Perhaps 14 or 15 million altogether worldwide. Over the last few thousand years we’ve become quite a focus for non-Jews so it seems as if there are many more of us. Let’s hope the million extra we just found in the U.S. interest themselves in Jewish affairs. I’m sure the organized Jewish community 3
  4. 4. here would be more than happy to build a larger tent for our expanded tribe. PROFESSOR TOMUSCHAT’S REPUTATION Christian Tomuschat is an eminent German Professor of Law at Humboldt University in Berlin. A recent event involving the UN’s Human Rights Council and his resignation from an important committee has certainly damaged his reputation for fairness and integrity. Following the Gaza War the UN Human Rights Council decided to institute a study and report on human rights violations during that episode. The Human Rights Council has a terrible record of lack of fairness when it comes to Israel and, indeed, the Council and its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission have both spent the majority of their time criticizing Israel on various matters. Thinking that their report would pass world muster for being evenhanded, they appointed Judge Richard Goldstone, a Jewish jurist from South Africa to head the report committee. The report was as unfair as most of the previous ones the UN has issued in years gone by. The next move was to appoint a committee to implement the findings of the report even though Israel had strongly rejected the report as being biased. To head the committee they appointed Prof. Tomuschat. UN Watch, an AJC affiliate, indeed watches these sorts of things closely. After a little research UN Watch found that Prof. Tomuschat was anything but impartial and he was forced to resign. The following is from the Washington Post: Christian Tomuschat, the German law professor who questions whether America and the West provoked the 9/11 attacks, and who represented the pro-Hezbollah side in a debate on the 2006 Lebanon war, has resigned from the U.N. committee to enforce the Goldstone Report. The biased U.N. probe is now headless, and in disarray. As reported in a Washington Post blog, the unprecedented resignation followed a global campaign by UN Watch to oust Professor Tomuschat, on grounds that his egregious bias breached his obligation under international law to be objective and impartial. UN Watch's team of researchers tracked down and translated Professor Tomuschat's German academic writings, publishing a 30-page report that revealed how the U.N. official had frequently compared Israeli actions with "World War II barbarism." When Tomuschat presented his report to the council plenary -- calling for Israel's Tzipi Livini to be investigated for "war crimes" -- UN Watch was the only one to take the floor and challenge his bias, citing the professor's legal work for PLO chief Yasser Arafat, and his repeated descriptions of Israel as a “state terrorist.” Thousands took action on unwatch.org to urge the 4
  5. 5. U.N. to fire Tomuschat. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay defended him, but eventually he resigned. The Tomuschat matter has nothing to do with Germany even though Tomuschat is German. I had not heard of him before. Maybe he’s famous – or maybe not. It has to do with the UN, its Human Rights Council and its totally corrupt dealings regarding Israel. One must be led to believe that Prof. Tomuschat’s reputation as being totally anti-Israel was not unknown to those at the Council who appointed him. The appointment says a lot about the atmosphere that permeates the Council. If being anti-Israel and trying to delegitimate it were qualifications for the job, then the Tomuschat appointment was totally logical. Why appoint someone who can’t be counted on? The acceptance of the assignment by Tomuschat says a lot about him. My guess is that he expected to produce the usual anti-Israel (and expected) report and could say to his Council fellows that he did a good job. However, did he think that his long record would go unnoticed? Probably! Talking about probabilities, he’s probably angry that his record has come to light and that he has been (as we say in the States) bitten in the rear end by it. I’m sure he must be damning the Israelis and, maybe even the Jews, for dirtying his reputation. It’s an ugly story. There are several morals to it. The first is that if you want to find someone to do your dirty work you usually don’t have to look very far. The second is that if you are looking to a world body for fairness and objectivity – don’t! DURBAN THREE In an earlier edition I wrote about the possibility that the UN would vote to hold yet another hate filled anti-Israel “human rights” conference which, following One and Two, would be called Durban Three. The JTA reported, “When the original U.N. anti-racism conference, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, devolved into an anti-Israel hate fest, Jewish groups around the world were caught unawares. So when the Durban Review Conference was called for Geneva in 2009, Jewish activists started their fight early, convincing numerous countries to boycott the conference, dubbed Durban II, effectively blocking it from becoming a repeat of Durban I. Now, with last week’s U.N. vote to authorize Durban III – a U.N. General Assembly session planned for September 2011 to commemorate the original Durban conference – the battle lines again are being drawn. 5
  6. 6. “The vote of the U.N. General Assembly, while not unexpected, sets the stage for a celebration of the outrageous events that took place during Durban I, which were permeated by manifestations of bigotry and hatred," said a statement from the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The event is scheduled to be held shortly after the 10th anniversary commemoration of September 11th. It is hard to imagine a more insensitive action, recalling that the attack on the World Trade Center that killed thousands was carried out by those influenced by the same hateful ideologies that Durban I came to represent.” The first plans to boycott Durban III already are taking shape. Canada announced in November that it would boycott the September 2011 session on “Combating racism and follow-up of the Durban Program of Action." "Canada will not participate in this charade," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at a Nov. 25 news conference. "Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it." Both the United States and Israel have warned about Durban III turning into another occasion for gratuitous Israel-bashing. When the matter came to a vote last Friday, the vote was 104-22 in favor of the special General Assembly session; 33 countries abstained. “We voted ‘no’ because the Durban Declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated,” said a statement by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice. “The United States is fully committed to upholding the human rights of all individuals and to combating racial discrimination, intolerance and bigotry. We stand ready to work with all partners to uphold human rights and fight racism around the world.” There is, of course, more to the story. Why would the anti-Israel forces want to, once again, hold a two or three day conference which has no power to change anything – except to impact public opinion? Therein, of course, lays the real reason. The Durban conferences are a vehicle to add to the tools that are being utilized to delegitimate Israel. It is a weapon in the long range non-shooting part of the war (see Does IT Make A Difference -above) to eliminate the Jewish state from an area (Middle East) in which it is seen as an interloper. If you see it in those terms then the Durban exercise comes into focus and makes sense. CAN WE EVER ADMIT FAILURE? In writing this newsletter I try to stick to quoting news stories and, in general, stay 6
  7. 7. away from “opinion pieces”. Voicing my own opinions is enough. However, once in a while I come across a personal opinion that I think rings with such truth that I believe it merits reporting and commentary. Such a piece is Can We Ever Admit Failure? which appeared in Jewish Journal.com a Los Angeles website. It was written by David Suissa who is a columnist for the Jewish Journal and also the editor of OLAM, a news media portal. The admission that Suissa calls for is the admission on the part of the Israeli government that peace is not achievable at this moment in history. He calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu to honestly admit that and to stop talking as if it were. I happen to agree with him. In the article Suissa notes, “The way I see it, Israel has one option left: Stop the swagger and start speaking the truth. The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” is a deal-killer. So is a return to non-defensible borders, and so is the presence of a terrorist state in Gaza. Instead of looking so macho and responsible, Israel should just be candid. Netanyahu had no business calling Abbas his “peace partner” after the wily Abbas dragged his feet for nine months during Israel’s 10-month settlement freeze. He should have said, bluntly: “This is not the behavior of a peace partner.” By looking so darn optimistic while the other side looked so darn pessimistic, Bibi ended up looking so darn guilty. The fact that peace is immensely desirable has nothing to do with the reality that it is immensely unobtainable. If anything, the more Israel has shown its desire, the more the price has gone up. The Palestinians have said “no, no, no, no” to every peace offer Israel has ever put on the table. Seriously: What are the chances that Abbas will receive a better offer from Bibi (Netanyahu) than the generous one he rejected from Olmert two years ago? With Hamas breathing down his neck, how likely is it that Abbas can even deliver on a peace deal? Let’s stop faking it. The status quo may be untenable, but a fake peace process makes it even worse. There’s no deal at the moment. That’s the annoying truth. Admitting this truth may not be macho or practical, but at least it’s honest. Israel should fess up that it doesn’t have the power to turn enemies into peacemakers. If such honesty spares us the pathetic spectacle of grown men pretending to make peace, that alone would be a miracle. There is more to the article and you can read the whole thing by clicking here. http://www.jewishjournal.com/david_suissa/article/can_we_ever_admit_failure_2010121 5 7
  8. 8. I have been saying for sometime that I hoped I was wrong about the Obama peace plans. After this last attempt with the Palestinians saying that there could be no more negotiations until the settlement question was frozen I realized that my initial feelings were correct. A peace – any peace is not a possibility at present and the best we could hope for was “no war”. I think that is, at least realistic. Israel is deeply beholden to the United States so, in all likelihood this false waltz between Netanyahu and Obama will continue. Outward perceptions are important to both parties. We can only hope that matters will change sometime in the future when real negotiations can become a possibility. Unhappily that time is not now. JEWISH REFUGEES During the Arab Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 many Arabs for various reasons left their homes in what is now Israel and the West Bank and became refugees. I have written before about the “camps’ they remain in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries. During the “negotiations” between the Palestinians and Israel one of the main Palestinian discussion items and demands is for these refugees to return to “their homes”. I have also written about the fact that during and following these wars there was a mass exodus of Jews from Arab lands to Israel also for various reasons. Over the years little has been said about these refuges because they were taken in by Israel and have become well integrated into the Israeli population. However, if the negotiations ever get back on track fairness would dictate that their rights be taken into consideration in any sort of a settlement. Until very recently even the Israeli negotiators haven’t raised the question – at least not very publicly. However, in a recent article the Jerusalem Post noted, “With the Palestinian refugee issue one of the core issues expected to be at the center of the US's new diplomatic push, the foreign ministry is actively engaged in an effort to ensure that Jewish refuges who fled Arab lands are not forgotten. Deputy Foreign Ministry Danny Ayalon, who is leading the push to include Jewish refugees in the core issue discussion with the US about refugees, said "it is vitally important to return this issue to the international agenda. It is a matter of justice, closure and righting a wrong." Ayalon, whose father came to Israel after being forced out of Algeria, said this issue has "a practical as well as a moral aspect. The demands from the two sides are asymmetrical, the Palestinians talk of rights and justice [for Palestinian refugees], yet the rights and justice of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands have 8
  9. 9. been ignored and suppressed for too long. In an article Ayalon wrote in September in the Jerusalem Post entitled "I am a refugee," Ayalon said that while some 750,000 Arabs fled or left Mandatory Palestine, there were some 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands. "We are going to make an effort now to bring to the forefront the plight of the Jews from the Arab countries,” he said. The foreign ministry, in an effort to place this issue high on the international agenda, has appointed an official to coordinate the matter. He has met over the last few weeks with historical and legal experts, and is preparing a detailed position paper that will be entered into the discussion on the refugee issue. “We will make sure that this will be an important and integral part of the negotiations for a final settlement," Ayalon said. "Just as the Arab refugees is an issue, so is the Jewish refugees.” Frankly, I don’t expect much to happen on this issue. The Israelis are certainly not going to welcome any substantial (or even insubstantial) Palestinians into territory they control and the Arab nations or the Palestinians are not going to pay reparations to the refugees from their countries nor would the refugees, now Israelis, want to move back. However, it is an issue and makes the possibilities of a peace anytime soon even more remote. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: SENATOR & ORTHODOX JEW According to Wikipedia Joseph Isadore Lieberman (born February 24, 1942) is the junior United States Senator from Connecticut. First elected to the Senate in 1988, Lieberman was elected to a fourth term on November 7, 2006. In the 2000 United States presidential election, Lieberman was the Democratic nominee for Vice President, running with presidential nominee Al Gore, becoming the first Jewish candidate on a major American political party presidential ticket. The Gore–Lieberman ticket won the popular vote but ultimately failed to gain the electoral votes needed to win the controversial election. Lieberman ran for re- election to the U.S. Senate while he was also Gore's running mate, and he was re-elected by the voters of Connecticut. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2004 presidential election. During his re-election bid in 2006, he lost the Democratic Party primary election but won re-election in the general election as a third party candidate under the party label "Connecticut for Lieberman". What happened in 2006 is that Lieberman, considered too conservative for the Connecticut Democratic Party, he lost the primary election and decided to run as an “Independent”. He won! 9
  10. 10. In 2008 he backed his friend John McCain, the Republican candidate for President which further alienated him from the Democrats. Now we come to the interesting part – Considered a social conservative, surprisingly he became the leader in the Congress for the removal of the “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” policy which kept open homosexuals from service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Howard Kurtz writing in The Daily Beast (a terrible name for a very good and informative news blog) said, “The left may still hate his hawkish politics, but the independent’s lead role in repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ earned him respect. Howard Kurtz talks to Lieberman about what drove his vote. For the senator most reviled by much of the left, it was the chance to deliver an elusive victory on a cause long embraced by liberals. Joe Lieberman, the exiled Democrat, worked tirelessly in rounding up enough votes for the Senate to repeal the don’t ask don’t tell policy in a rare Saturday session. You could practically hear some lefties swallowing hard in giving grudging credit to a man who lost his Democratic primary in Connecticut four years ago, only to win as an independent, speak at the 2008 GOP convention and nearly wind up as John McCain’s running mate. Now even a more interesting point… When I asked Lieberman why he felt so strongly about the issue—he co- sponsored a gay rights bill as a Connecticut legislator in the 1970s—he went on for a bit quoting the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. But then he turned more personal: “I’m a Jewish-American,” he said, “a member of a minority group raised from the earliest part of my life to be deeply grateful for all the rights and opportunities and freedom afforded Americans.” Growing up in Stamford, he said, “I had no real awareness of anyone who was gay.” He met some gays at Yale, “but they were still really covert.” He recalls learning that a “wonderful teacher” of one of his children was gay, and over the years, “as I was meeting with gay rights groups, all of their stories were in my mind.” You must give the man credit. He follows his sense of moral direction and votes his conscience. Incidentally, Senator Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew. No, he doesn’t walk around with a head covering or long side curls. However, when he 10
  11. 11. was running for Vice President he did not campaign on the Jewish Sabbath. I guess his moral compass tells him that when matters of grave importance confront him, as they did with “Don’t ask. Don’t tell”. Working on Saturday (the Sabbath) is allowable. It is. It was. And an important liberal milestone in American life was passed largely through the efforts of this Orthodox Jew. THE NEW CONGRESS & ISRAEL Natasha Mozgovaya regularly “blogs” for the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz on the United States (Focus U.S.A.). She recently wrote about the New Congress that has just been sworn in in Washington. The House of Representatives is now in the hands of the Republicans and so for the first time in four years that the two houses of the Congress are “split”. Ms. M. feels that foreign aid to Israel will remain a priority even though the Republicans are dedicated to budget cutting. She feels (as I do) that the “peace process” is not going anywhere, anytime soon. Read what she has to say on other issues. Click here. http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/focus-u-s-a/what-the-changes-in-washington-mean-for- israel-in-2011-1.335582 ******************************************************************************************** See you again later in the month. CORRECTION In the last edition I incorrectly wrote that the Durban III Conference slated to be held in New York was to take place in 2012. It will actually be held this year – 2011. Sorry! 11

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