January 10, 2011
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
U.N. to fire Tomuschat. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay defended him, but eventually
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 –
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
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.
“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
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
See you again later in the month.
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 –