Archive | U.S./Israel/World

Tel Aviv attack victims remembered

Posted on 16 June 2016 by admin

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Michael Feige, a sociologist and anthropologist specializing in Israeli society, was among the four victims being mourned in the aftermath of the June 8 terror attack in Tel Aviv.
Feige, 58, a professor in the Israel studies program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, was in a restaurant at the Sarona Market, a popular spot in the central part of the city, when he was shot dead.
The three others killed were Ido Ben Ari, 42, of Ramat Gan; Mila Mishayev, 33, of Ashkelon, and Ilana Navaa, 39, of Tel Aviv.
Remembering Feige, members of the H-Judaic Jewish Studies Network called him “a creative scholar, an engaging teacher, and a beloved human being.”
Ilan Troen, a professor at Ben-Gurion University and Brandeis University in suburban Boston, said Feige was “a gentle man and a sensitive teacher.”
Feige, who lived with his wife and three daughters in Ramat Gan, was perhaps best known for the 2009 book “Settling in the Hearts: Fundamentalism, Time and Space in the Occupied Territories,” published by Wayne State University Press. He had written several articles against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.
He also published in Hebrew the book One Space, Two Places: Gush Emunim, Peace Now and the Construction of Israeli Space, published in Jerusalem by Magnes Press in 2002.
His daughter is to be married soon, according to The Times of Israel.
Troen said in a statement that Feige was engaged in original research on the settlement movement and Gush Emunim, as well as on Peace Now, the use of archaeology in contemporary Israel, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and religious fundamentalism, and the place of David Ben-Gurion in national memory.
Feige spent a year as a fellow of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to Israel, where he joined the Ben-Gurion Research Center for the Study of Israel and Zionism at the Ben-Gurion University campus in Sde Boker. He was serving as the head of the BGU program in Israel studies.
Ben Ari was eating at a restaurant with his wife and two children when the attack occurred; his wife was among the injured. He worked in a senior position with Coca-Cola and had served in the Israeli army’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit. Ben Ari was a cousin by marriage of Forward contributing editor David Hazony.
“He was a reservist, received a commendation from the president, was the salt of the earth, a charming father and wonderful brother,” his sister, Reut, told Ynet.
Mishayev was waiting for her fiancé to arrive when the attack occurred. She reportedly called her husband-to-be after she was shot and before she died.
Navaa is survived by her husband, four daughters and her parents.
The two alleged attackers are 21-year-old cousins from the Palestinian town of Yatta in the Hebron Hills in the southern West Bank; the Israel Defense Forces has imposed a closure on the town.
One was shot and is being treated in the same Tel Aviv hospital as the victims, while the other was captured after fleeing the scene. A third man suspected of being involved in the attack has also been apprehended.
In the hours following the attack, Israel’s Defense Ministry rescinded all of the tens of thousands of permits given to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would have permitted them to visit family in Israel or the Old City of Jerusalem and pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque in honor of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Some 83,000 such permits were canceled, the Defense Ministry’s coordinator for government activities in the territories told the Israeli media.
The ministry also froze hundreds of work permits allowing Palestinians to work in Israel.

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Iran accord lead topic at AJC’s Dallas meeting

Posted on 10 September 2015 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
bent@texasjewishpost.com

DALLAS — Two prominent speakers will take center stage at the American Jewish Committee Dallas annual meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10 to discuss how the Iran nuclear deal is expected to impact the Jewish community.
This meeting also will see the installation of the AJC Dallas 2015-2016 officers and board members as well as the welcoming of the newly hired AJC Dallas regional director.
The 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. meeting is free and open to the public. It takes place in the Fonberg Family Chapel of Congregation Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave. Registration will be from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
AJC officials said it is a timely and germane idea to review the long-term nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers after nearly two years of negotiations. The agreement Iran entered into with the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany severely limits the country’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
However, the deal is not well thought of by everyone.
“The Iran Deal has dominated headlines for months now and has created some real tension within the Jewish community — not just here in Dallas but across the United States,” explained Kim Kamen, associate director of the Department of Regional Offices at AJC. “This is an issue of the utmost concern. The Jewish community is small but powerful and we are concerned about the rift or potential rift that has been caused by the partisan politics brought into the mix. We chose these speakers in part to educate — and in part to speak to that rift, bring better understanding, and provide guidance and the next steps into the future.”
These speakers have also discussed their presentation topic, “Healing Potential Rifts: How the Iran Deal Impacts the Jewish Community,” with other Jewish communities in areas as far away as Cincinnati.
Those speakers include:
• Eitan Levon, consul general of Israel to the Southwest. He was appointed this year to head the Consulate General to the Southwest United States responsible for the five-state region of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Before that, Levon was Israel’s representative to the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva. He has served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more than two decades in various positions, including director of International Affairs in Jerusalem.
Levon holds a master’s degree in National Security from the Israeli National Defense College at Haifa University.
He is married and has three children.
• Julie Fishman Rayman, AJC’s director of Political Outreach, Office of Government & International Affairs.
Before coming to AJC in January 2012, Rayman was senior advisor to former U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-11th District, covering foreign policy, human rights, defense and homeland security.
In addition to a variety of senior political liaison responsibilities, Rayman is the lead legislative advocate of the AJC’s foreign policy priorities. Before working on The Hill, she was director of college initiatives at BBYO and Hillel director for Georgetown University.
Rayman holds a master’s degree from the National Defense University in Strategic Security Studies, with a concentration in counterterrorism. She also holds an M.A. from Georgetown University in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Religious Studies, and a B.A. from American University.
Toward the end of the meeting, members will get the chance to meet new Regional Director Joel Schwitzer, whose last job was as the development director of the ADL regional office in Dallas. Schwitzer is being formally introduced at the meeting although he only officially joins AJC Wednesday Sept. 16.
Schwitzer is the husband of Beri Kaplan Schwitzer, the new director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson. Together, they have identical twin daughters, Mira and Zoe, who turned 13 on Sept. 5.
Joel Schwitzer brings much experience in nonprofit management, communications, and development and a deep understanding of and passion for AJC’s mission and priorities, Kamen explained.
Also, Schwitzer is a Dallas native, and has held impressive roles with the Jewish Federation here in Dallas; Hillel in Champaign, Illinois; and the Dallas ADL, Ladd Hirsch, president of the Dallas region of the AJC, stated in a news release.
“Meeting several times over the summer, this committee arrived at a unanimous decision regarding Joel’s selection — and they echo my excitement in welcoming him to AJC Dallas,” Hirsch said in the release.
Dessert will follow this event. Dietary laws will be observed.

 

 

 

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AJC Dallas 2015-2016 Executive Committee and Board of Directors

Doug Baer:  Executive Committee Member At-Large
Ken Bendalin: Co-VP Intergroup Affairs
Michelle Caplan
Margot Lebenberg Carter:  VP Development
Christopher (Chris) Cheniae: Co-VP Intergroup Affairs
Bill Davidoff
Sandy Donsky
Rabbi Zvi Drizin
Gary Eisenstat:  Immediate Past President
Deborah Gilbert: Co- VP Leadership Development
Monte Hurst
Maureen Israelson
David Jacobs
Matthew Ladin
Adam Lampert
Brett Levy
Randy Lieberman
Michael Meyers:  Co-VP Israel and Jewish Relations
Benton Middleman:  Co-VP Israel and Jewish Relations
Scott Miller
Bryan Rigg
Steve Schachter:  Co-VP Leadership Development
Shane Stein
Karla Steinberg:  Co-VP Intergroup Affairs
Raymond Termini:  Co-VP International Affairs
Janice Sweet Weinberg
Harriet Whiting:  Executive Committee Member At-Large
Harrison Yoss:  Co-VP International Affairs
Jeff Zlotky

Leonard A. (Ladd) Hirsch: President, AJC Dallas

MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL BOARD OF GOVERNORS

Lawrence (Larry) D. Ginsburg
Madeline (Maddy) Unterberg

NEW BOARD MEMBERS
FOR 2015-2016:

Judith Barton
Stuart Blaugrund
Doug French
Bob Krakow
Mitch Moskowitz
Howard Rubin
Ellen Sher
Andrea Weinstein
Tina Wasserman

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Rabbi’s calling: Rebuild Jewish Poland

Rabbi’s calling: Rebuild Jewish Poland

Posted on 21 May 2015 by admin

By Ben Tinsley
bent@texasjewishpost.com


DALLAS — Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich knows how to take a punch.
That’s why the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance wants others to hear his story.
The gumption and bravery he showed taking a punch to the face from an anti-Semitic assailant in 2006 is the central reason he has been selected as the featured speaker for the 6:30 p.m. June 4 Upstander Series presentation.
That incident happened right after Schudrich tried to speak with the man, who had just exclaimed “Poland for Poles!” as the rabbi was heading to Warsaw’s main synagogue with a group of people, wire reports state.
But there are differing accounts of what happened next: In one, the chief rabbi squarely returned the punch. In another, Schudrich tried to punch him back — but was stopped from doing so with a face full of pepper spray from his attacker.
The incident caused great concern because the assailant had ties to soccer-related hooliganism as well as “Nazi organizations.” One account went as far as to describe the attacker as a “skinhead.”
But the controversy caused by the incident fell squarely in the chief rabbi’s wheelhouse, who moved to Warsaw in 1990 primarily to help organize and invigorate the fractured Jewish population.
For centuries, Poland was home to the largest Jewish community on the globe, but as much as 90 percent of this population was murdered during the Holocaust. According to accounts, Warsaw was home to 393,000 Jews prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland, but only 5,000 remained in 1945.
The very few who survived departed and never came back. Some stayed but they hid their Jewish roots — effectively preventing their descendants from learning about their heritage.
The rabbi, a native New Yorker, set out to change that.
In a Washington Post story, Schudrich was quoted as saying, “One guy would visit me and say, ‘Rabbi, there are no Jews left in Poland, except for my aunt.’ Another one would say, ‘Rabbi, there are no Jews left in Poland, except for my old classmate from the third grade.’ After a while, you’d begin to put all the aunts and third-grade classmates together, and you were talking real numbers.”
In recent years, that amount has increased to 25,000 — an estimated 0.065 percent of the country’s population. This tiny figure is evidenced by the opening of the first JCC in the Polish capital, according to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee website.
In a comment forwarded through Terri Arends, group fitness director at the JCC of Dallas, to the Texas Jewish Post, Schudrich emphasized the importance of increasing the Jewish population in Poland.
“When Jews around the world discuss Poland, they have an obligation not only to remember the past, but also to recognize the work being done to bring as many Jews here in Poland back to the Jewish people,” Schudrich said.
Max Glauben, a Holocaust survivor and member of the Dallas Holocaust museum board, said a nice Jewish community is developing in Poland, largely because of Chief Rabbi Schudrich’s efforts. But far too many people are still only now coming to terms with their true heritage.
“The thing is, many of the Jewish youngsters were turned over to non-Jewish people to be raised and many of them are just now realizing they are Jewish,” he said.
Glauben said he knows Schudrich and believes he’s doing good work.
“I’ve been in the synagogue with him more than one time,” Glauben said. “… He’s a New Yorker but very nice and a good rabbi. He’s done a lot of good over there.”

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Middle East briefing: Helping Nepal, coalition, US support

Posted on 30 April 2015 by admin

Last Saturday, minutes after Israel heard the news of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal, the Israeli Foreign Ministry set up a 24/7 Emergency and Crisis Management Center with the goal of providing an immediate and appropriate response to the disaster and coordinate rescue, medical and humanitarian aid to Israelis, Nepalese and others who were caught up in the disaster.
According to an MFA bulletin issued Monday: “The first Israeli rescue plane, from the Home Front Command, landed in Kathmandu on Sunday (26 April) and brought back to Israel the first group of Israelis, including newborn babies. A Magen David Adom plane landed in Nepal, also on Sunday, and delivered a delegation of doctors and paramedics who settled in at the Chabad House. The plane returned to Israel with another group of Israelis.”
Three IDF air force planes arrived in Nepal on Monday loaded with emergency aid. They also brought back more stranded Israelis.
Two El Al planes — one cargo and one passenger — arrived Tuesday carrying a team from the Israeli Ministry of Health and a large delegation of Home Front Command — more than 200 doctors, sanitation engineers, machinery technicians and others — as well as medical equipment (portable monitors, oxygen tanks, ventilators, medicine, X-ray machines, resuscitation kits) and engineering equipment.
After unloading their cargo, the planes returned to Israel carrying more Israeli travelers.
According to one witness at the airport, while preparing the planes for the return flights, the Israeli crews handed out sandwiches, oranges and water to the hundreds of stranded travelers, of all nations, that were waiting desperately to be rescued. Several Nepalese officials commented that no other country cares for its citizens as Israel does.
As of Tuesday morning, out of hundreds of Israelis currently still in Nepal, several dozen have not been found. The Department for Israelis Abroad at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem is leading the efforts to establish contact with them.

The new Israeli government

Not yet! As of Tuesday, with only six days left of the 14-day extension that President Rivlin gave Prime Minister designate Netanyahu, the coalition has yet to be finalized.
Not that there is a shortage of candidates. With Netanyahu needing at least 61 sitting Knesset members to form a coalition, there are plenty of potential “wannabe” ministers and deputy ministers in the parties considered ideological “natural partners” in a right-wing government, to give him at least 61, and possibly 67 seats.
But there’s the problem: Everyone wants a “job” or control over a ministry or committee that will allow them to spread patronage and benefits to their constituents … at a cost of tens of millions of dollars each year … all from the small national taxpayer-funded coffers, which also have to support crucial government sectors like the IDF and national security, as well as education, power, infrastructure, development and more.
While Netanyahu has not yet formed a coalition, bits of information leaked from the negotiations indicate that he might be close.
For example: until the last Knesset changed a “Basic (constitutional) Law,” past Israeli governments have included dozens of ministers, deputies and “ministers without portfolio.” But according to the new law, as of this election the Israeli government can have only 18 ministers and four deputy ministers.
However, Netanyahu indicated Monday that the Knesset might have to pass a new law that would enable him to form a broader coalition, with up to 22 ministers and six deputy ministers, in order to satisfy the ambitions of potential partners who refuse to compromise on their demands for portfolios, personal benefits and constituent-related budgets. If that happens, then the so-called “cost of democracy” in Israel will go through the roof…

US support for Israel

Sunday night I was encouraged by the warm, enthusiastic and unreserved support for Israel that reverberated through the packed ballroom during AIPAC’s annual event in Dallas. And I’m not talking about the very impressive gathering of over 1,200 local AIPAC members and supporters, whose very participation in this signature evening speaks volumes about their support for our historical and eternal Jewish homeland.
No — what encouraged me were the statements by the politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, seniors and juniors. While they all made the obligatory comments about “shared values” of democracy, human rights, justice and America’s long-term commitment to Israel’s security, I was pleasantly surprised that most of them, from both parties, specifically mentioned the current and immediate threat to Israel, the U.S. and the Middle East from a nuclear-armed Iran.
All agreed that a diplomatic resolution that prevents Iran from ever reaching that stage is preferable … and that Congress should be involved before a bad deal with the extreme Islamist, terror-sponsoring Republic of Iran is signed.

The ‘Bad Deal’

Last Friday, Iran and the P5+1 negotiators, led by the U.S., renewed talks in Vienna. After the first round Iran foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said that the U.S. negotiating delegation gave the Iranian nuclear team “very useful” explanations regarding the removal of anti-Iran sanctions. He could be referring to the desperate attempt by the US, according to The Wall Street Journal and several news agencies, to bribe Iran into signing a worthless and unenforceable “deal” by agreeing to release $30-50 billion of funds, frozen under the UN Security Council sanctions resolution, immediately … and with only an Iranian highly questionable “promise” to comply … maybe.
What a week this has been:
Israel projecting a bright and shining “light to the nations,” despite Bibi’s obstacles to forming a coalition and tension rises in the North and South.
U.S. grassroots political support for Israel’s security (at least in DFW) is at its height.
The weak U.S.-led P5+1 appears to be abandoning the pledge that “no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal” in favor of “any deal at any cost.”
This week we’re two out of three … let’s see what next week brings.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.

Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: gil@swjc.org

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Israeli experts: Netanyahu consistent on two-state issue

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

By Alex Traiman/JNS.org

Fresh off a decisive election victory, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself in yet another diplomatic storm with U.S. President Barack Obama over pre-election comments that a Palestinian state would not be established under his watch. Netanyahu later clarified that he wants “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.” But were his initial remarks even a policy change in the first place?
Mainstream media outlets reported that Netanyahu’s pre-election comments were a significant departure from a 2009 speech he gave at Bar-Ilan University, in which he publicly supported a two-state solution for the first time. But on March 19, after accusations that he changed his mind on the issue to attract right-wing voters in the election, Netanyahu told NBC News, “I haven’t changed my policy. I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”
Within Israel, both supporters and opponents of Netanyahu agree with the prime minister’s self-assessment.
“I think that he still has the same position,” Professor Ephraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told JNS.org. “He would be willing to make a territorial compromise. If you remember the 2009 speech, Netanyahu qualified his willingness to accept a Palestinian state that is demilitarized and recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.”
“He still thinks that this is probably the best outcome,” Inbar said. “But at this stage, he doesn’t see that the Palestinians are ready in any way. This is why he made this statement [before the election]. … You have to take a close look at what he said, which is to comment on the likelihood of a two-state solution.”
In one of his last campaign stops before the election, at Har Homa — a Jewish neighborhood with approximately 20,000 residents bordering several Palestinian neighborhoods on the southeast edge of Jerusalem — Netanyahu told the NRG website March 16 that “anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu went on to say, “This is the true reality that has been created in past years. Those that ignore it are burying their heads in the sand. The left does this, buries its head in the sand, time and again.” When asked explicitly if a Palestinian state would not be created under his leadership, Netanyahu replied, “Indeed.”

Hard line in negotiations?

Those statements jumped to the top of both Israeli and international headlines, giving the strong impression that Netanyahu’s upcoming term would take a harder line on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations than his last two terms. Yet even Netanyahu’s opponents on the left are not up in arms over the policy ramifications of his recent comments.
“At least in his public statements and discourse, this obviously marks a different approach,” Gilead Sher, a senior research fellow and head of the Center for Applied Negotiations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told JNS.org. “However, I think Netanyahu did very little, if anything, to pursue any kind of path that would enable the creation of a reality of two states for two people during his last two terms.”
In 2009, Netanyahu said at Bar-Ilan University, “In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side by side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other.”
Netanyahu then added some caveats.
“If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel’s security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state,” he said.
A closer look at the newly dissected and debated 2009 speech indicates a strong hesitancy to rush Israel toward the types of historic compromises the Jewish state would need to make to facilitate the creation of Palestinian state.
“The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality,” Netanyahu said at the time.
Sher, who served as a lead negotiator in talks with the Palestinians under former prime minister Ehud Barak at Camp David and in several other rounds of both known and covert negotiations, believes Netanyahu’s 2009 speech never intended to lay the groundwork for a realistic two-state solution.
“Basically what he did in practice is delegitimize the two-state solution, delegitimize and undermine the negotiations process, and that is the subtext of his Bar-Ilan speech—and the subtext is obviously what became the text of his speech prior to the recent election,” Sher told JNS.org.
‘Real, sustained peace’ for Israel, Palestine
Days after his election win, the mainstream media again cast Netanyahu as a “flip-flopper” when he reaffirmed his support for a two-state solution. The prime minister, however, told NBC News that what had changed were not his views, but “the reality” on the ground.
“The Palestinian leader (Mahmoud Abbas) refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces,” Netanyahu said. “We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”
The question that remains both within Israel and abroad relates to Netanyahu’s caveats for a two-state solution — Palestinian demilitarization and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Are those caveats the honest outcomes of a well-intentioned peace accord, or is likely Palestinian rejection of those conditions meant to serve as the basis for the prime minister’s never signing an accord in the first place?
“I think that eventually, if negotiations are indeed resumed, I believe there is no other way but for the respective parties to each acknowledge the right of self-determination of the other as the national homeland of its people,” INSS fellow Sher told JNS.org. “So this is obviously one of the outcomes of a bilateral negotiations process.”
Sher—a proponent of restarting negotiations with the Palestinians and even making unilateral territorial withdrawals in the absence of a peace accord—said, “One of the basic core parameters is Palestine being a demilitarized state. However, having said all that, I see very long odds for bilateral negotiations to resume under a government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
The Begin-Sadat Center’s Inbar concurs with Sher’s assessment, but he places the blame for the failure to negotiate squarely on the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian national movement is dysfunctional, and I don’t think it is ready for historic consequences with the Zionist movement. … The unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is what keeps the Palestinians away from negotiations,” Inbar said.
Moving forward, the perception that both the Israelis and Palestinians are currently disinterested in any kind of peace arrangement appears to anger the White House. Obama told The Huffington Post in comments published March 21 that Netanyahu’s pre-election comments on a Palestinian state mean that “we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
“[The Obama administration is] impatient with Netanyahu, which I do not totally understand,” Inbar told JNS.org. “He did not say that he is against a two-state solution. He said that at this stage it is not likely. Anybody who looks at how the Palestinians are behaving will agree.”
Responding to criticism on Fox News, Netanyahu said, “You can’t force the people of Israel, who’ve just elected me by a wide margin, to bring them peace and security, to secure the State of Israel, to accept terms that would endanger the very survival of the State of Israel. I don’t think that’s the direction of American policy. I hope it’s not.”

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Netanyahu facing challenges, criticism from liberals

Posted on 25 March 2015 by admin

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing escalating criticism and pressure from the White House, he could use some help from Israel’s erstwhile allies in the American Jewish community — especially those with sway in liberal and Democratic circles.
But several leading Jewish liberal critics of Netanyahu are working to rally American Jewish opinion against him by stepping up their condemnations of the prime minister and calling on the United States to ratchet up the pressure on Israel.
The epicenter of this liberal Jewish push is the annual J Street conference in Washington, where in a speech Saturday night to 3,000 attendees, the group’s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, accused Netanyahu of harming the U.S.-Israel relationship through “partisan gamesmanship” and called on the Obama administration to put forth the parameters for a resolution to the conflict at the U.N. Security Council.
Ben-Ami’s remarks came days after another harsh Netanyahu critic, Peter Beinart, called for the Obama administration to “punish” Israel on several fronts — including by backing Palestinian “bids” at the United Nations and denying visas to and freezing the assets of Israeli settler leaders. Beinart also urged American Jews to ensure that Netanyahu and members of his Cabinet are met with protesters at Jewish events.
While more establishment liberal and centrist Jewish organizations show no signs of writing off the prime minister or endorsing such aggressive steps, some have expressed concerns about Netanyahu’s 11th-hour campaign tactics — specifically his vow that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch and his urging supporters to counter the “droves” of Arabs coming out to vote.
Leaders of the two largest religious streams in American Judaism, the Reform and Conservative movements, both issued statements last week condemning Netanyahu’s comments about Arab-Israeli voters.
“Because we proudly and unreservedly continue our unflagging support for the State of Israel, its citizens and its values, we must condemn the prime minister’s statement, singling out Arab citizens for exercising their legitimate right to vote,” the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement Thursday. “It is incumbent upon Jews around the world to denounce the prime minister’s divisive and undemocratic statement and we do so here.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called the statement “disheartening” and a “naked appeal to his hard-right base’s fears rather than their hopes.”
For his part, Netanyahu moved quickly post-election to contain the damage from his pre-election remarks, holding interviews with several U.S. media outlets in which he insisted that he remains committed to a two-state solution, but circumstances do not allow for one because of Palestinian intransigence and ongoing turmoil across the region. In a sign that Netanyahu was seeking to send the word out beyond his conservative base, the prime minister not only did an interview with Fox News, but talked with two leading liberal media outlets, MSNBC and NPR.
Several mainstream centrist organizations — including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League — were quick to embrace Netanyahu’s postelection insistence. AIPAC criticized the Obama administration for having “rebuffed” the prime minister’s efforts to put relations with the United States back on track.
But Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff who spoke Monday at the J Street conference, held his ground.
“We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the prime minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations,” McDonough told J Street.

Fallout from ‘droves’ comment

Netanyahu has also sought to contain the damage from his Election Day appeal to supporters to counter the “droves” of Arabs heading to the polls. Netanyahu said he did not intend to suppress Arab voters, only to inspire his base, and Tuesday he apologized directly to a group of Arab-Israeli leaders gathered at his residence in Jerusalem.
Yet even as Netanyahu sought to defuse the controversy over his remarks, reports suggested that the makeup of his emerging coalition could keep U.S.-Israeli tensions boiling on several fronts.
The first party he invited into the government was Jewish Home, which rejects a Palestinian state. Another likely coalition partner, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, who recently said that disloyal Arab-Israelis should be beheaded. The coalition government is also likely to include haredi Orthodox parties, whose rejection of non-Orthodox streams has been a cause of tension with U.S. Jews for decades.
Still, the mood at the J Street conference was one of jubilance in defeat, as speaker after speaker spoke of “clarity” now that Netanyahu had repudiated the two-state solution.
“There’s more fuel in advocacy movements when you’re fired up in opposition to something,” Ben-Ami told JTA.
One star of the conference was Stav Shaffir, the 29-year-old Labor Party member whose pre-election Knesset speech accusing Netanyahu’s government of abdicating Zionist leadership by neglecting the marginalized went viral online.
Saying her message to J Street was one of hope, Shaffir told reporters that when she encountered a depressed conferencegoer, she counseled activism.
“I don’t accept despair as a political strategy,” she said.

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Roiling region, pessimism behind Kerry’s urgency on peace talks

Posted on 01 August 2013 by admin

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — After 20 years of stops, starts and a bloody intifada in between, John Kerry believes he can pull out a final status Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in nine months.

What clock is the U.S. secretary of state trying to beat?

According to his aides, the one ticking down as Syria and Egypt roil into unknowable futures and Palestinians fume at the prospect of never achieving sovereignty.

“It’s becoming more complicated on the ground, and a feeling of pessimism is settling in among Israelis and Palestinians,” said a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s getting harder, not easier.”

On Tuesday July 30, Kerry disclosed few details about a process that has been arranged and conducted largely behind a veil of secrecy.

Kerry said the next round of meetings would be conducted in the region and that Israel had agreed to take steps to ease conditions for the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza reference was new. Since the Hamas takeover of the strip in 2007, Israeli confidence-building measures have focused only on areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

“The parties have agreed to remain engaged in sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues, and they will meet within the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian territories in order to begin the process of formal negotiation,” Kerry said in an appearance at the State Department flanked by the top negotiator from each side, Tzipi Livni for Israel and Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians.

The breadth of Kerry’s ambition is breathtaking given the failure of multiple U.S. administrations over two decades to bring the conflict to a close and end the deep skepticism that exists on both sides. In recent weeks, top Israeli officials have declared the two-state solution dead and talked of managing rather than resolving the conflict.

Kerry did not specify which issues are considered “core.” They would have to include not only the borders of a Palestinian state but also the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees — issues that scuttled the 2000 Camp David talks.

Since the 2000 talks, the conventional wisdom has been to first address borders and only then proceed to the more intractable parts of the conflict.

But the clock is ticking loud enough that it appears to have roused Israeli and Palestinian leaders who had not given an inch since October 2010, when the last round of talks stopped.

“Our ability to impact the internal situation in Egypt or in Syria is very limited, but we can potentially impact our relationship with the Palestinians in a way that will increase stability in at least part of our region and perhaps better enable us to cope with the turmoil occurring elsewhere,” said Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington.

To get the latest round of talks started, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave up his insistent demand that Israel reinstate a settlement freeze prior to negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release 104 Palestinians imprisoned for violent acts dating to before the launch of the 1993 Oslo process.

Netanyahu could make such a move in part because he is secure in his government and has the backing of Israelis who for years have told pollsters that they would accept the terms of a final-status agreement negotiated by their government, said Peter Medding, an emeritus professor of political science at Hebrew University.

“He does not have anyone ready to jump ship, not at this stage,” Medding said. “There’s a clear warning sign for people to the right of him who feel he’s betraying the settlers, but who feel if he they jump out, he has the Labor party supporting him from the opposition. Those who are unhappy with what he is doing don’t have much of an option.”

Netanyahu may be following in the footsteps of other Likud party leaders such as Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin and Ehud Olmert, hardliners who ultimately abandoned the idea of keeping all the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“The question is, what is the alternative,” Medding said. “There is a part of Bibi that understands however terrible it is that a two-state solution is the only way to go as far as Israel is concerned. This may be best way for Israel to proceed in an Arab world which is having its own significant problems.”

Kerry has been relentless in pushing the sides to the table, making six trips to the region in recent months and shuttling continuously between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.

“This is the man, Secretary Kerry, who showed everyone that nothing can stop true believers,” Livni said Tuesday. “And thank you for that.”

Two factors were central to the strategy pursued by Kerry and President Obama, who met Tuesday morning with the negotiators: reassure the Israelis that they would not be sold out and keep as much as possible under wraps.

Obama’s March visit to Israel, in which he emphasized the closeness of the defense relationship between the United States and Israel, as well as historic Jewish ties to the land, did much to advance the first element. And Kerry vowed to maintain the radio silence that got him this far, emphasizing that only he was authorized to speak publicly about the talks, per agreement with the parties.

“That means that no one should consider any reports, articles or other — or even rumors — reliable unless they come directly from me, and I guarantee you they won’t.”

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What Boston hospitals learned from Israel

Posted on 25 April 2013 by admin

By Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Minutes after a terrorist attack killed three at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, doctors and nurses at the city’s hospitals faced a harrowing scene — severed limbs, burned bodies, shrapnel buried in skin.

For Boston doctors, the challenge presented by last week’s bombing was unprecedented — but they were prepared.

Many of the city’s hospitals have doctors with actual battlefield experience. Others have trauma experience from deployments on humanitarian missions, like the one that followed the Haitian earthquake, and have learned from presentations by veterans of other terror attacks like the one at a movie theater in Colorado.

But they have benefited as well from the expertise developed by Israeli physicians over decades of treating victims of terrorist attacks — expertise that Israel has shared with scores of doctors and hospitals around the world. Eight years ago, four Israeli doctors and a staff of nurses spent two days at Massachusetts General Hospital teaching hospital staff the methods pioneered in Israel.

Various groups of Dallas doctors have visited Israel through Partnership 2gether to learn from Israeli physicians over the past several years. Dr. Ed Goodman, an infectious disease specialist in Dallas, participated in the Emergency Response Group at Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, Israel for eight years and learned about Israeli medical techniques first-hand.

Every time he went to Israel, he learned something new, he said.

“Most American physicians are unaware of how to deal with mass casualties because we don’t have them very often,” he said. “Israelis deal with it on a regular basis. Every hospital in Israel has a mass disaster plan and everyone has a written document about what to do and where to go. It’s amazing and it’s important that every doctor is America has the opportunity to learn from Israeli doctors.”

According to the New Yorker magazine, every Boston patient who reached the hospital alive has survived.

“We had periods where every week we had an attack,” said Dror Soffer, director of the trauma division at the Tel Aviv Medical Center, who participated in the delegation. “It becomes your routine.”

Techniques that were “routine” in Israel by 2005, and helped save lives in Boston last week, began evolving in the 1990s, when Israel experienced a spate of bus bombings. Israeli doctors “rewrote the bible of blast trauma,” said Avi Rivkind, the director of surgery at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, where 60 percent of Israeli victims have been treated.

Much of what Israel has learned about treating attack victims was done on the fly. In 1996, a 19-year-old soldier arrived at the Hadassah hospital following a bus bombing with severe injuries to her chest and esophagus. Doctors put chest drains on her lungs and performed endoscopies twice a day to stop the bleeding. Both techniques are now regular practices.

“We were sure she was going to die, and she survived,” Rivkind said.

A riskier move came five years later when Adi Huja arrived at Hadassah with massive blood loss following an attack in downtown Jerusalem. Rivkind realized his team wasn’t controlling the bleeding, so he directed staff to administer a shot of NovoSeven — a staggeringly expensive coagulant typically used for hemophiliacs that was not approved for a trauma situation. But it worked and Huja survived.

Rivkind is an internationally recognized expert in terror medicine and widely considered one of the great brains behind Israeli innovations that have been adopted around the world.

Trained at Hebrew University, the Hadassah Medical Center and the Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems in Baltimore, he has contributed to several volumes on trauma surgery and post-attack care, and authored a number of seminal medical studies. Rivkind was the personal physician for the late Israeli President Ezer Weizman, helped care for Ariel Sharon when the prime minister fell into a coma following a stroke, and has performed near-miraculous feats, once reviving a soldier shot in the heart who had been pronounced dead in the field.

Organizing the emergency room, Rivkind said, is as important as treating patients correctly. During the second intifada, Hadassah developed what he called the “accordion method,” a method of moving patients through various stages of assessment with maximal efficiency. The process has become standard in hospitals across Israel and around the world.

Some of what distinguishes Israeli trauma doctors is qualities that are hard to teach. Rivkind has said he keeps two beepers and a cell phone on him at all times, even in bed. Even when calls come in the middle of the night, a small army of medical professionals can usually be relied on to arrive at their posts within minutes, sometimes even ahead of the ambulances carrying the wounded.

“Whenever there was an alarm, we jumped, ran and called our homes, and then got ready to absorb patients,” said Liora Utitz, the mass-casualty coordinator at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. “I felt very safe. The volunteerism of everyone gave me strength.”

“We have tens of years of cumulative trauma experience,” Rivkind said. “We’ve learned not to give up.”

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BREAKING NEWS: New pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, has Jewish connections

BREAKING NEWS: New pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, has Jewish connections

Posted on 13 March 2013 by admin

The Conclave Of Cardinals Have Elected A New Pope To Lead The World's Catholics(JTA) – Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentinian cardinal who was elected pope and will take the name Francis I, is said to have a good relationship with Argentinian Jews.

Bergoglio, 76, a Jesuit, was the choice of the College of Cardinals on Wednesday following two days of voting in Vatican City. He is the first pope to come from outside Europe in more than a millennium; reflecting the changing demographics of Catholics, he comes from Latin America.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio attended Rosh Hashanah services at the Benei Tikva Slijot synagogue in September 2007.

Rabbi David Rosen, the director of interfaith affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told JTA that the new pope is a “warm and sweet and modest man” known in Buenos Aires for doing his own cooking and personally answering his phone.

After the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, he “showed solidarity with the Jewish community,” Rosen said.

In 2005, Bergoglio was the first public personality to sign a petition for justice in the AMIA bombing case. He also was one of the signatories on a document called “85 victims, 85 signatures” as part of the bombing’s 11th anniversary. In June 2010, he visited the rebuilt AMIA building to talk with Jewish leaders.

“Those who said Benedict was the last pope who would be a pope that lived through the Shoah, or that said there would not be another pope who had a personal connection to the Jewish people, they were wrong,” Rosen said.

Soon after the chimney of the Sistine Chapel sent up a puff of white smoke signifying that the cardinals had selected a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, Francis addressed thousands of faithful from the balcony of St. Peter’s Baslica.

“Buonasera,” he told them, saying “Good evening” in Italian, and thanked his fellow cardinals for going “almost to the ends of the earth” to find him.

Benedict was the first pontiff to step down since 1415.

Israel Singer, the former head of the World Jewish Congress, said he spent time working with Bergoglio when the two were distributing aid to the poor in Buenos Aires in the early 2000s, part of a joint Jewish-Catholic program called Tzedaka.

“We went out to the barrios where Jews and Catholics were suffering together,” Singer told JTA. “If everyone sat in chairs with handles, he would sit in the one without. He was always looking to be more modest. He’s going to find it hard to wear all these uniforms.”

Bergoglio also wrote the foreward of a book by Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a Buenos Aires legislator, and referred to him as “one of my teachers.”

Last November, Bergoglio hosted a Kristallnacht memorial event at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Rabbi Alejandro Avruj from the NCI-Emanuel World Masorti congregation.

He also has worked with the Latin American Jewish Congress and held meetings with Jewish youth who participate in its New Generations program.

“The Latin American Jewish Congress has had a close relationship with Jorge Bergoglio for several years,” Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, told JTA. “We know his values and strengths. We have no doubt he will do a great job leading the Catholic Church.”

In his visit to the Buenos Aires synagogue, according to the Catholic Zenit news agency, Bergoglio told the congregation that he was there to examine his heart “like a pilgrim, together with you, my elder brothers.”

“Today, here in this synagogue, we are made newly aware of the fact that we are a people on a journey and we place ourselves in God’s presence,” Zenit quoted the then-archbishop as saying. “We must look at him and let him look at us, to examine our heart in his presence and to ask ourselves if we are walking blamelessly.”

Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, offered Italian Jewry’s congratulations to the new pope with the “most fervent wishes” that his pontificate could bring “peace and brotherhood to all humanity.”

In particular, Gattegna voiced the hope that there would be a continuation “with reciprocal satisfaction” of “the intense course of dialogue that the Jews have always hoped for and that has been also realized through the work of the popes who have led the church in the recent past.”

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Rocket strikes southern outskirts of Tel Aviv

Posted on 15 November 2012 by admin

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rocket fired from Gaza struck the metropolitan Tel Aviv area Thursday night.

The rocket fell in Holon on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv, according to reports, after warning sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak Thursday evening.  It was the first time since the Gulf War in 1990 that a warning siren was sounded in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, according to reports.

No damage or injuries occurred, Ynet reported. Islamic Jihad reportedly took responsibility for the attack, which came two hours after two rockets struck Rishon Lezion, located about 10 miles south of Tel Aviv.

More than 140 rockets fired from Gaza have struck southern Israel since the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari Wednesday evening.

Earlier Thursday, three Israelis were killed when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit their apartment in southern Israel.

The rocket that struck the Kiryat Malachi apartment Thursday morning also injured a baby girl and a 4-year-old boy. A second building in Kiryat Malachi also was hit.

The deaths were the first fatalities suffered by Israel in its escalating confrontation with Hamas. Rockets continued to rain down on communities in southern Israel overnight into Thursday. Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces bombed about 100 medium- and long-range rocket launch and infrastructure sites throughout Gaza, according to an IDF spokesman.

Some 90 rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, according to the IDF, but a school in Ofakim and a home in Ashdod were hit, along with a factory near Ashkelon.

“This has significantly damaged the rocket launch capabilities and munitions warehouses operated by Hamas and other terror organizations,” the IDF said in a statement. “The aim of targeting these sites is to impair the rocket launching capability of terror organizations in the Gaza strip and damage their further buildup.”

Israel’s Air Force also bombed several rocket launching squads as they prepared to fire rockets toward southern Israel, according to the IDF.

Fifteen Palestinians have been killed and more than 100 injured in the Israeli strikes, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported Thursday.

Israel also has mobilized several infantry units and called up reserve troops. Israel last entered Gaza with ground troops during the monthlong Gaza war that began in December 2008.

The strike on Jabari followed four days of rocket fire from Gaza terrorist groups on southern Israel. More than 150 rockets reportedly were fired from Gaza during that time, causing damage to homes and factories.

Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz al-Dinn Al-Qassam Brigades, reportedly said in a statement following the attack, “The occupation has opened the gates of hell on itself.”

The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted peace activist Gershon Baskin as saying that hours before he was assassinated, Jabari had received a draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel and that senior Israeli officials were aware of the draft.

Thursday morning, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Israel’s ramped-up Gaza operation at the request of Egypt, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. The envoys of Israel and the Palestinians offered presentations at the meeting.

The Security Council failed to endorse a plan of action, agreeing only to issue a statement saying that the emergency meeting took place.

“We have demonstrated maximum restraint for years, but the Israeli government has a right and a duty to respond to these attacks,” Israeli U.N. envoy Ron Prosor told the council. “Israel will not play Russian roulette with the lives of our citizens.”

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour referred to “Israel’s malicious onslaught, using the most lethal military means and illegal measures against the defenseless Palestinian civilian population.”

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. Wednesday night, President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and voiced support for Israel’s right to self-defense while urging Netanyahu to avoid civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Egypt withdrew its ambassador to Israel over the Gaza strikes. Israel’s ambassador to Cairo, Yaakov Amitai, also was called back to Jerusalem out of fear for his safety in the face of expected protests.The embassy staff was evacuated Wednesday.

Israel’s Security Cabinet Wednesday night authorized the call-up of reserve units, per the direction of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Cabinet authorized the IDF to “continue vigorous action against the terrorist infrastructures operating from the Gaza Strip against the civilian population in Israel in order to bring about an improvement in the security reality and allow a normal life for the residents of the State of Israel.”

“Alongside the military effort, Israel will, to the best of its ability, work to avoid harming civilians while honoring the humanitarian needs of the population, in keeping with the rules of international law,” the directive said.

In a statement issued Thursday evening to the foreign press, Netanyahu said that world leaders have an understanding of Israel’s need and right to defend itself.

“There is no moral symmetry; there is no moral equivalence, between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “The terrorists are committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli civilians and they hide behind Palestinian civilians. And by contrast, Israel takes every measure to avoid civilian casualties.

“I saw today a picture of a bleeding Israeli baby. This picture says it all: Hamas deliberately targets our children, and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children. Despite this reality, and it’s a very difficult reality, Israel will continue to do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties.”

The current operation in Gaza has been dubbed Pillar of Defense, a reference to the cloud that followed the Israelites in the desert according to the Bible. The pillar of clouds shielded and protected the Israelites.

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