DuBow Digest Germany Edition Nov. 18, 2012


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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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DuBow Digest Germany Edition Nov. 18, 2012

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONNov. 17, 2012Dear Friends:With a shooting war going on between Israel and Hamas all other matters, all of asudden, do not seem very important. Like everyone else, I hope that it will come toan end shortly but the rockets from Gaza haven’t lessened in any way. I rememberreading somewhere that that it is easy to start a war but extremely difficult to endone. I hope that will not be the case here.As you will read below, our election is finally over with almost no change in themakeup of the government. Some of our economic problems may be finally facednow that the vitriolic language of the campaign has ceased. If so, I’m sure that willbe of some benefit to the situation in Europe.Almost all American politicians are supporting Israel in its latest conflict which is, ofcourse, welcome. Many in Europe, including the EU High Representative for ForeignAffairs Catherine Ashton, usually very critical of Israel has put the blame where itbelongs – on Hamas.Perhaps by the time you read this the violence will hopefully have ended. In themeantime, let’s get on with the news…IN THIS EDITIONGAZA – A troublesome situation that will not go away.THE ELECTION AND THE JEWS – Obama and the Dems still reign supreme.LARRY RAMER: IN MEMORIAM – A great leader in Jewish – Germanyunderstanding has passed away. 1
  2. 2. BDS & ANTI-SEMITISM – Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions.ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE U.S.: THE ADL REPORT: Less is better, but is that allthere is to it?THE DIASPORA MEETING IN FRANKFURT – What should Jews do to remainJewish?GAZAPerhaps it is stating the obvious that the current Gaza affair ranks supreme in thecurrent concern of the American Jewish community. When Israel is under attack allother issues pale in comparable importance.As soon as the first Hamas missile fell (actually they’ve been falling continually foryears to the tune of about 1,000 per annum) the political blame game began. All toofrequently Israel is immediately pronounced as the aggressor, however, this time itwas pretty obvious that Hamas deserved that title. The German government got itright. In a The Local.de article it reported, “The federal chancellor calls on theEgyptian government to use its influence on Hamas to push it towards a moderationof the violence," Merkels deputy spokesman Georg Streiter told a regulargovernment news conference.Streiter added that Merkel was following the escalation of the unrest in the MiddleEast "with great concern" and stressed: "It is Hamas in Gaza that is responsible forthe outbreak of the violence.""There is no justification for firing rockets on Israel which are causing massivesuffering to the Israeli population," Streiter added.Merkel - in Moscow on Friday - wants an "immediate" stop to the rocket fire, theofficial said."The Israeli government has the right and the duty to protect its population in anappropriate way."As I write this (Saturday morning) Israel continues its air war and Hamas continuesto fire its missiles. A ground war is a possibility but there is movement afoot to headthat off and arrange for, at least, a truce.The fighting and killing will eventually cease but the political situation will still await asolution. It is going to be a very long wait.The current questions are, “Why did Hamas choose to upgrade its terror rocketingnow? What is its goal?” Aaron David Miller writing for CNN notes, “Part of the 2
  3. 3. reason weve witnessed an uptick in the number of rocket attacks -- 750 this year --is that a variety of smaller groups that Hamas cannot control, or chooses not tocontrol, have been operating with greater impunity. Some are former Hamasmilitants, others are newbies, and they are testing the limits of Israels reactions withthe rocket attacks.In the face of this new competition, Hamas just cant fold up its tent and surrenderthe field. That means the Gaza-based organization needs to compete with or controlthese groups. And its tough for Hamas to function as Israels police officer,struggling to contain the smaller jihadi groups. After all, part of Hamas reason forbeing is its championing of the armed struggle, a cause it cant abandon.Now, with Hamas external base of operation undermined in Syria as a result of thepopular uprising there, Gaza becomes the main seat and repository of its legitimacy.And it must always demonstrate that its the key actor there. Unlike Fatah andPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, it doesnt want to launch a U.N.initiative for statehood or even toy with the notion of negotiating with Israel.Maintaining the military option remains paramount.I think Miller is right as far as he goes. Obviously, Hamas does not have anywhereclose to the means to compete with Israel militarily. They can’t win a shooting war. Idon’t believe that is their goal. What they want is to supplant Fatah as the leader ofthe Palestinian people and given the mindset of many (most?) Palestinians the onlyway to do that is to show “muscle” through armed struggle. The numbers ofPalestinian deaths seem to be of little concern.Given the fact of the “Arab Spring” Hamas also seems to want to strengthen itsposition with the new leaders throughout the Arab world. With the Egyptian PrimeMinister and the Tunisian Foreign Minister visiting Gaza and supporting Hamas theirpolitical positioning seems to have been enhanced.As far as Israel is concerned, their ultimate goal has been the maintenance of thestatus quo – no war, no violence. They do not have any desire to take over Gazaagain. They were glad to get rid of it when they gave it back to the Palestinians in2005. However, the new threat of missiles supplied by Iran that can reach Jerusalemand Tel Aviv adds a new element to their defense concerns. These weapons aresmuggled into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt and they pose a much greaterthreat than Israel has been under previously. If there is a ground war, it is theseweapons that will be one of the most important targets.When will it end permanently? Not soon. There cannot be any sort of real peace aslong as Hamas considers Israel illegitimate and is committed to its destruction. Ifthey conquered Israel what they would do with 6 or 7 million Jews is anybody’sguess. The Israelis do not intend to find out what the answer might be. 3
  4. 4. So, the best we can hope for is another truce that will have longer life than the lastone. Unhappily, some problems just do not have solutions. This is one of them.THE ELECTION AND THE JEWSThankfully the American election is over and the blizzard of political TV ads hasceased. Pres. Obama has been returned to office for another four year term and theDemocrats, contrary to early expectations, have maintained their majority in theSenate. It has even been somewhat enhanced (55-45)The Republicans continue to rule the House of Representatives and so, once again,we have a split government. Some argue that the American people like it that way.No one gets too much power and the parties have to reach consensus on majorissues. However, at present the two parties are very far apart, especially on mostdomestic issues, so middle of the road bargaining is very hard to come by.The Jewish community, as expected, remained loyal to the President and theDemocrats though with diminished numbers. The Jerusalem Post reported, “Jewishsupport for US President Barack Obama slipped in the 2012 presidential race butstill far surpassed that earned by Republican Mitt Romney, according to exit polls.On Tuesday, 69 percent of Jews cast their ballot for the Democratic candidate ascompared to 78% in 2008. Some 30% went for Republican Mitt Romney, up from22% for the party’s candidate in the last presidential race.Both parties took comfort in the outcome and used it to bolster their argument aboutthe political orientation of the Jewish community.“In no way, shape or form was this a narrow victory,” said Democratic pollster JimGerstein about the 2012 Jewish vote, which he said was closer to the 2008 resultsthan reflected in the exit polls. A group of academics and pollsters affiliated with theNational Jewish Democratic Council later adjusted the Jewish vote figure, which isnotoriously hard to track given the small sample size gathered in surveys, from fouryears ago down to 74% after compiling more data.Gerstein said that that means the drop in the Jewish vote - of about 5% - isconsistent with the drop in support for Obama overall among other keyconstituencies such as Catholics and white voters. Nationally, Obama’s popularsupport dropped from 53% of the vote to 50%.The Republican Jewish Coalition, however, argued that this year’s exit poll had to beconsidered in relation to the 2008 original exit poll number in order to get anaccurate comparison. 4
  5. 5. “If the Democrats want to lower their expectations to make their candidate lookbetter, that’s up to them,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks.He maintained that the 8-point increase for the Republican candidate represented“unambiguous inroads into the Jewish community” by the GOP, particularly givenwhat a large percentage jump it represented.The RJC launched an unprecedented $6.5 million campaign for Jewish votes,targeting swing states with phone calls, mailings, surrogate events and ads.“I thought we got a good return on the investment we made,” he said.Gerstein, who on Tuesday did an election night survey of Jewish voters for J Streetthat found results similar to the exit polls, disputed the efficacy of the RJC efforts,suggesting their efforts to peel away voters over topics like Israel and Iran wasmisplaced.According to his survey Tuesday, only 10% of Jews identified Israel as one of theirtwo main voting issues, and just 2% chose Iran.The RJC, however, in its own Tuesday survey found that 77% of Jews surveyed saidIsrael was an important issue to them compared to only 22% who didn’t.Of course, each party “spins” the results to their own benefit. However, after all issaid and done, American Jews continued to remain basically liberal and very muchconnected to the Democratic Party.American Jews, always very involved in government, have maintained a goodlynumber of members in both the House and Senate. The Senate will have 10 or 11(depending on who one considers to be Jewish) Jewish members – 10 Democratsand one Independent who actually caucuses with the Democrats.The House will have 22 Jewish Representatives – all Democrats except Eric Cantor,the House Majority Leader, and the second leading Republican in that body.In summary, the number of Jews in the Congress is slightly less than in the previousone, however, not much is changed. If you are interested in their names, click here.http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/11/07/3111351/jews-in-the-113th-congressLARRY RAMER: IN MEMORIAMThe field of American Jewish – German relations sustained a great loss recently withthe passing away of Lawrence “Larry” Ramer, the founder of AJC Berlin’s Lawrenceand Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. He died at his home in LosAngeles after a long illness and was 84 years old. 5
  6. 6. AJC noted in its press release, “Larry Ramer was a visionary,” said AJC ExecutiveDirector David Harris. “He was one of the first to understand German unification asan opportunity for advancing global security, for transatlantic relations, and relationswith Israel. This is a great loss for AJC, for the Jewish world, and for the numerouscultural and academic institutions which he supported with passion.”German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that “Ramer was a great architectof German-American understanding and a true friend of Germany.” The Germangovernment honored Ramer in 2000 with the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit inrecognition of his achievements in enhancing German-Jewish relations.The AJC Berlin Ramer Institute was created in 1993 to foster German-Jewishdialogue, support post-war democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany, advanceGerman-Israeli relations, and monitor anti-Semitism and extremism. When theInstitute moved to Berlin in 1998, global media covering the gala opening calledAJC’s presence in Berlin an “embassy” of the American Jewish community.Under Ramer’s leadership, AJC Berlin has strengthened enduring partnerships withfoundations from all political parties, deepened understanding among opinionleaders of relations with Israel, initiated programs to fight anti-Semitism, launched anoutreach to Germany’s large Turkish community, and created civic educationprograms with German educators now used widely in schools in Berlin andBrandenburg.“Larry Ramer’s faith in cooperation and partnership with Germany was a model ofreconciliation,” said Deidre Berger, director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute, whoworked closely with Ramer since 1999.“He was tireless in upholding Holocaust remembrance, while reminding others to bemindful of the need to secure democracy and promote security of the Jewishpeople. He was beloved for his forthright engagement and commitment to commontransatlantic values,” Berger continued. “His presence will be deeply missed, whilewe carry on the mission of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute.”Ramer was co-chair with Dr. Rita Suessmuth, former President of the GermanParliament, of the Ramer Institute Advisory Board, which includes notable publicleaders in Germany and the United States. During decades of involvement withAJC, Ramer served on the organization’s Executive Committee for many years.Ramer is survived by his wife, Lee, his children Doug, Stephanie and Susan, andtheir families, and his brother Bruce Ramer, who served as AJC National Presidentfrom 1998 to 2001.As the Founding Director of the Ramer Institute’s Berlin Office I had a great deal ofcontact with Larry Ramer. He was not one to financially support the Institute and 6
  7. 7. leave it at that. He was intimately interested in everything we did. He visited Berlinfrequently and undertook the responsibility for meeting many of Germany’s leadersand explaining the complexities of American Jewry to them. His contacts werealways meaningful. He advocated strong German support for Israel and for thoseother matters of importance to the Jewish people.Larry Ramer was a lovely and sweet man. We have lost a real champion. He will besorely missed by many people including yours truly. His Institute continues on as alegacy to his devotion to the improvement of relationships between Germany andthe Jewish people.BDS & ANTI-SEMITISMThe major program of anti-Israel countries and organizations throughout the world isgenerally known as “BDS” which stands for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”.Not being able to defeat Israel militarily, a strategy developed by Palestinian non-government organizations is to isolate it by attempting to delegitimate it.The BDS movement has raised a question in the minds of some as to whether bypromoting deligitimation and being anti-Zionist is it ipso facto anti-Semitic?My AJC colleague Steven Bayme has written a masterful piece on the subject. Inpart he says, “But does such delegitimation constitute anti-Semitism? I believe itdoes and for two reasons: First, there is no shortage of nation-states in thecontemporary world based upon ethnicity and religion. Ireland, France, Italy,Greece, among others all were established upon common ethnic and religiousfactors. Far more so, Arab-Islamic states rest upon principles of ethnicity and faith.Yet Israel alone is singled out as an illegitimate entity. This double standard alonequalifies the delegitimation movement as anti-Semitic. Second, however—andperhaps more significantly—as the late historian of Zionism Arthur Hertzberg onceargued, Zionism as an ideology represents the collective will of the Jewish people torealize its national aspirations and to deny Zionism was to deny the right of the Jewsto be themselves.This argument by no means connotes that Israeli policies are beyond criticism. Yetthere is a world of difference between opposition to one or another of Israel’s publicpolicies and denying Israel the moral right to exist as a nation-state. To be sure, pro-Israel advocates should refrain from trivializing criticism of Israel’s policies as anti-Semitic, as most indeed do. These critiques need to be addressed on the merits ofthe case and not on the biases—real or imagined—of the critics. But these samecritics, who generally claim to crave peace in the region, ought to acknowledge thatso long as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians revolves around politicalquestions about borders, refugees, settlements, etc., the conflict does remainsoluble. However, when the conflict becomes an existential one over Israel’slegitimacy as a nation-state, no meaningful peace is possible. Nor, frankly, would 7
  8. 8. any other nation-state consent to its own dismantling. And these critics fully acceptthe notion of an Arab state of Palestine with Islam as the state religion.Last, the statement and its defenders ask whether in the mind of Israel’s friends anyform of anti-Zionism may be free of anti-Semitism. Historically, there has been noshortage of respectable thinkers—both Jewish and non-Jewish—who were anti-Zionist either because they perceived Jewish identity as exclusively religious orbecause they perceived the Diaspora as the core ingredient of the future of the Jewsas a people. Both views have been discredited by history. A respectable anti-Zionism theoretically may well exist. But in the context of the twenty-first century,with Israel increasingly the hub of Jewish life and facing daily assaults upon her veryexistence, those who embrace anti-Zionism need to acknowledge that they allow noroom for Jewish self-determination and reject the right of the Jews to sustain theirdistinct and meaningful sense of peoplehoodThere is more to Steve’s article which appeared on the AJC website. You can read itby clicking here.http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=6178309&ct=12258181&notoc=1If you would like to read more about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) clickherehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott,_Divestment_and_SanctionsANTI-SEMITISM IN THE U.S.: THE ADL REPORTWhile I frequently write about anti-Semitism in Germany, I would not want you tothink that we do not have any here. We do! The major American Jewish organizationthat tracks this disease is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).For those of you who are not familiar with the ADL, Wikipedia notes, “The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an international non-governmental organization basedin the United States. Describing itself as "the nations premier civil rights/humanrelations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms ofbigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all," doing so through"information, education, legislation, and advocacy."Founded in October 1913 by The Independent Order of Bnai Brith, a Jewish serviceorganization in the United States, its original mission statement was "to stop, byappeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, thedefamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fairtreatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfairdiscrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens." The ADL has 29offices in the United States and three offices in other countries, with its headquarters 8
  9. 9. located in New York City.Y-Net News.com recently reported, “Acts of anti-Semitism reported throughout theUnited States in 2011 were at their lowest in two decades, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents.The audit, released last week, shows a decline of 13% over the previous year with atotal of 1,080 incidents reported, compared to 1,239 in 2010.“It is encouraging that over the past five or six years we have seen a consistentdecline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country and that thenumbers are now at a historic low,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.“To the extent that these incidents serve as a barometer, the decline shows that wehave made progress as a society in confronting anti-Semitism and pushing it to thefar fringes, making expressions of anti-Jewish hatred unacceptable."These declining numbers, while promising, must nevertheless be viewed in thecontext of other factors, including online expressions of anti-Semitism that areimpossible to quantify and often go unchecked.”Not surprisingly, the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported was higher in stateswith larger Jewish populations. The top four states with reported incidents were California with 235; New York, with195 incidents New Jersey, with 144 incidents in 2011, and Florida, with 111incidents in 2011.I guess I should be delighted that the number of anti-Semitic incidents is only atslightly more than 1,000 for the entire U.S. It is an accomplishment. However, I’mnot sure what a lessening of overt acts really means. As I have spelled out before, inmy opinion anti-Semitism is a disease – like TB. It can be arrested and gounderground but all too often when difficult times face a society it re-emergessometimes violently. In addition, those who have strong negative feelings aboutJews have found a new, somewhat more acceptable, way of expressing thosefeelings by criticism of Israel.Let me state the obvious here. Not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Israel, likeall nations, is open to legitimate critical evaluation. That is as it should be.In closing on this subject there is a bright side. Other “anti” feelings in the U.S. aresubsiding. Gay marriage is becoming more acceptable. We have an AfricanAmerican president who has now been re-elected. The politicians have discoveredthat we have a sizeable Hispanic population and they are being courted. Thosewithout citizenship may soon have a way of achieving that status. Asians are quicklybeing incorporated into mainstream America. 9
  10. 10. So why am I complaining? I’m old enough to remember when things weren’t sopositive and Jews had difficulties in getting certain jobs and being admitted to certainuniversities. It wasn’t a million years ago. So, I guess I should be more positiveabout the ADL report but certain memories are hard to erase.THE DIASPORA MEETING IN FRANKFURTDiaspora according to Wikipedia (A diaspora (from Greek "scattering, dispersion")] is"the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established orancestral homeland" or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than onelocation", or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of people with commonroots, particularly movements of an involuntary nature, such as the expulsion ofJews from the Middle East) as is well known)The Jewish diaspora, as is well known, is spread throughout the world, largely in theUnited States and European countries. As one might imagine, the smaller the group,the more difficult it is for the Jewish religion to be practiced, Jewish education for thechildren to be established and for Jewish culture to become part of family andcommunity life. So, in this world of instant communication and easier travel,meetings of representatives of the various Jewish communities coming together toshare strengths and weaknesses has become an important part of Jewish survival.Such a meeting has recently taken place in Frankfurt.Y-Net News.com recently reported, “The Jewish Studies Institute at FrankfurtUniversity is hosting a three-day international conference where experts from manycountries, and a variety of academic fields, examine the Jewish Diaspora and thehistoric and cultural connections between Jewish communities around the world.“We have people from the US, we have people from Israel, we have people who areOrthodox, we have people who are not even Jewish, with everybody here who isinterested in it and everybody brings their own point of view,” says ElizabethHollender of Frankfurt University. “Being an historian," says Naomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig of Tel Aviv University, "I thinkthat we can only be enriched by different facets of whatever it is, not only religion butany other concept, any other philosophical thought and I think it’s enriching theexchange that is now by far facilitated through the new media.”Like other ethnic diasporas, the Jewish Diaspora has faced many difficult situationsinvolving painful decisions, especially during the past century with the breakdown oftraditional Jewish life and the many challenges of modern ideologies andassimilation. 10
  11. 11. “We speak about Jews who assimilated and forgot many things about Judaism,there are other Jews who acculturated, that is to say that they took part of thegeneral culture, but they also remained Jews and they integrated non-Jewish cultureinto their own Jewish culture,” says Shlomo Berger of the University of Amsterdam. According to Ephraim Kanarfogel of New Yorks Yeshiva University, “It is possible inthe United States to not only to be a good American citizen but to be a very goodstudent and practitioner of Judaism, and the basic ideas of Judaism, the basichistory of Judaism, I think it’s a tremendous unifier.” “So we have a role there to explain what is Judaism," Shlomo Berger adds, "toshow the world how Judaism works, why is it important, what are the historical rolesof Judaism, and certainly in European history you cannot imagine European culturewithout Judaism.”“In Spain," says Esperanza Alfonso of the Spanish National Research Council,"there was a very Spanish National Research Council long presence of Judaism inthe Christian kingdoms of the Peninsula and also in the Peninsula under Islamiccontrol, and there is a legacy, a huge Jewish legacy in the Peninsula which ismanifested in many ways, in the material culture that the Jews left there, in thesynagogues that are still in the country now days, and in many ways in which theJews influenced the Spanish culture.”With the establishment of the State of Israel, most of the Jewish Diaspora reacted tothis challenge by adopting a position of supporting the new state while maintainingprimary loyalty to their home country. “We, living in the Diaspora," says Shlomo Berger, "we have certainly a role in theconnection of Jews with the world of the non-Jews so to speak, maybe even abigger role than Israel because we have a double role in fact, the Diaspora vis-a-visIsrael which is the center of Judaism, but we in the Diaspora must also operate vis-a-vis the non-Jewish society.” “Home, home for me for my parents for my children, and our future, safety," saysNaomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig. "My parents fought for the country, they were amongthose who established it, I fought for it and I am very glad that my children love thecountry.” “Israel to me is the Jewish homeland," says Ephraim Kanarfogel. "It is also thehome not only of Judaism but of Jewish culture and of Jewish learning.” With Jewish communities now present in 75 countries, Jewish identity and Jewishculture are beginning to play an increasingly larger role in a globalized, multiculturalworld. 11
  12. 12. In reading the above quotes you will see some of the questions faced by those Jewsliving in smaller Jewish communities surrounded by largely non-Jewish fellowcitizens and culture. In addition one can see the importance of Israel to thesepeople.In my opinion the problems for American Jews are somewhat different but somewhatthe same. Here, with large Jewish communities in quite a few cities, finding culture,learning and religious practice is not as much a problem. In fact, in some places it isso strong that, as Kanarfogel (above) points out “it’s a tremendous unifier.”However, the cultural magnetism of American life is very strong and so it is easy tomove away from a particular culture or religion and become a participant in the greatsecularity America offers.I hope that my adding this piece gives you some genuine insight to the problemssome Jews have in planning and implementing programs for Jewish survival andgrowth. In addition, I’m glad the meeting took place in Frankfurt. Germany is one ofthe places that I see Jewish life blossoming.*********************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 12