Remembering Simone Veil

Simone Veil. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen.

By Frances Novack
Simone Veil, the Auschwitz survivor and France’s Health Minister, died at the age of 89. As Health Minister, she fought for laws that changed the lives of millions and which revealed the power for good an extraordinary woman can wield.   Veil, who passed away on June 30, was a staunch defender of the European project, which promotes integrated economic legislation to make Europe a political union, as well as a key figure in her own country’s reforms focusing on women’s health.  
Deported to Auschwitz with her mother and a sister at l6, Simone Jacob survived the “death march” and became determined to better the world.
After the war, she studied at the famous Institut d’etudes politiques  (Sciences Po)  in Paris, where she met and then married Antoine Veil. She passed the competitive exam to become a magistrate, and was surprised when in 1974, then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac asked her to be Health Minister.  Here she improved access to contraception and aided people with disabilities.  But her greatest distinction — and fiercest battle — was for passage of the law legalizing abortion in 1975, still called the Veil Law today. Vilified by many — one opponent accused her of wanting to put babies ‘in the oven” — she spoke movingly before the French Parliament, where she  “apologized” for bringing women’s point of view to the virtually all-male assembly, insisting that every abortion remained a tragedy, but that it was necessary. No woman ever makes that decision lightly, she asserted, but women do have to make it.

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The Denial of Genocidal Intent: The Dangerous New Rhetoric of Jewish Voice for Peace

 

While Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing organization focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was spiraling through one of the worst weeks in its history earlier this month with a bitter public feud over its use of LGBT Jews for politics, many neglected to write about a far more disturbing talking point the organization tried to push with modest success: Israel provoked the Six Day War and was never under threat of annihilation.

The assertion was born out of two articles published in the first week of June to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the war. The first was published by “The Intercept,” an online left-wing news source. The second was in “Mondoweiss,” an extreme far-left website, whose sole purpose is to reframe any Israel-related news as tied to oppressing Palestinians.

The two articles’ respective headlines?

A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie

Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival

Both of these articles were shared by Jewish Voice for Peace via its national Facebook page, local Facebook pages, and its members’ Twitter handles. The sole purpose of sharing these articles, which rely on scant evidence and are quite obviously trying to revise history, is to eliminate Arab leaders’ statements of intent and the original intent behind Israel’s June offensive: Self-Defense.

JewishVirtualLibrary.org.

Armies Surrounding Israel, May, 1967, Graphic: Jewish Virtual Library.

Three weeks before the war, Egypt closed shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Suez Canal to Israeli commerce, itself an act of war. Egypt’s president at the time, Gamil Abdul Nassir, ordered UN peacekeeping forces to leave the Sinai Peninsula, where they had been stationed as a buffer between the Israeli and Egyptian armies after the 1956 Suez War.

What followed was three weeks of threats to destroy the world’s only Jewish country – not just from Nassir, but other leaders in the Arab world who pledged to supply troops to a war of annihilation against Israel.

On May 20, 1967, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, who would launch a bloody coup for power in 1970 responsible for nearly 50 years of Assad dynastic rule in Syria, said very clearly, “Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse any aggression, but to initiate the act ourselves, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland of Palestine. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. I believe that the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.”

On May 26, 1967, Nassir said an invasion of Israel using those Sinai-based troops would be for one central purpose: “The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.”

On May 31, 1967, President Aref of Iraq minced no words about his army’s intent in a war by saying, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear: to wipe Israel off the map.”

Jewish Voice for Peace is erasing history. None of these facts are addressed in the two articles cited above.

The “Intercept” piece was written by journalist Mehdi Hasan. His entire thesis is based on a single out-of-context quote attributed to General Matityahu Peled who said Israel was not in danger of genocide and that the notion was “born and bred after the war.”

The quote completely ignores the statements of intent from Arab leaders, which started decades before the crisis of 1967. The question here is not one of capability, but one of intent. While scholars debate the skills and preparedness of the two sides of the war, they are not debating what Nassir’s side claimed it would do if it got the upper-hand.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s tweet of article “A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie.”

Tweets like this one, from JVP Media Program Manager Naomi Dann, have one clear goal in mind: Delete the legitimacy of Israel’s self-defense and eliminate the major reason why the Six Day War occurred from the conversation. This further desensitizes people to revising Israel’s history and casting it as an imperial power.

The second article on “Mondoweiss” focuses on the theories of Norman Finkelstein, a known anti-Israel advocate who is not regarded as an objective source on the conflict.

Finkelstein applies the final result of the war as if it were Israel’s intent all along: Conquer territory and never relinquish it. That assumption relies on an impossible-to-plan chain of events to manifest Israel’s supposed and risky goal.

First, Egypt would have to block Israeli shipping and order UN peacekeepers out of the peninsula. Then Arab leaders from all countries, including a reluctant Jordan, would have to agree to a multinational alliance to invade Israel. Then those forces would have to NOT attack.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Facebook post of article “Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival.”

Finkelstein, precariously, claims Nassir had no intention of going to war with Israel. But the blockade of Israeli shipping was itself an act of war.

He then claims Israel’s masterful generals pulled the wool over the eyes of their own citizens. He then ignores Egypt’s deployment in the Sinai to say, “The leaders were culpable twice over; they provoked the crisis and then launched an unprovoked attack.”

This rehash of history intends to recast all the characters in the events leading up to Israel’s preemptive strike: Israel was the aggressor, not the threatened. Israel provoked the war, not Arab armies threatening destruction. Nassir was never serious about war, and pointing to Nassir’s literal acts of war is not relevant.

This is a clear denial of genocidal intent.

It is a rare thing in 20th century history to look at the crime of attempted genocide. The case more often, humanity had to look back and wonder why no one acted to save the Jews in World War II, the Armenians in World War I or the Tutsis in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. With 20/20 hindsight, we realize the murderous rhetoric of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, the Young Turks in the 1910s, and the Hutu government in 1994.

But we have a case, in 1967, when Israel heard these threats, built on decades of rhetoric, to destroy its existence. Israel, through a combination of preparedness and fear, struck first and averted what many thought would be a second Holocaust.

Denying the intent of Arab leaders to wage genocide against Israelis is akin to denying genocides after they have happened. Trafficking in this level of historical revisionism is no different than white supremacist denials of the Holocaust and Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide.

Jewish Voice of Peace should be ashamed of itself.

 

 

 

 

Congressman Evans: Senate Healthcare Bill Is a Disgrace

Congressman Dwight Evans. Photo: Wikipedia.

Congressman Dwight Evans. Photo: Wikipedia.

Democratic Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02) released the following statement after Senate Republican Leadership unveiled a draft of their healthcare bill:

Republicans in the House and Senate say Obamacare is collapsing in our communities nationwide; yet today as a response to fix this ‘so called’ crisis, Senate Republican Leadership has released their draft of a bill that does nothing but reduce access to adequate healthcare. As it stands now, the Senate healthcare bill makes extreme cuts to the federal Medicaid program and doubles down on the President’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care).
[Read more…]

School Board Sizes Up Enrollment

By Samuel Haut 

Lower Merion School District meeting. Photo: Sam Haut.

As student enrollment rates increase, Lower Merion struggles to find solutions to accommodate class sizes. On Wednesday night, the school board for Lower Merion School District held a public meeting to tackle class size issues in middle and high schools.

The event, which drew about 30 people, was the sixth meeting this year in the series “Students, Today’s Challenges.” The previous meeting, held on May 27, centered on class size problems facing the elementary schools.

[Read more…]

Reps. Evans and Fitzpatrick Urged Bipartisan Showing at Congressional Baseball Game

Congressmen Dwight Evans (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) issued a joint statement encouraging members of both parties to come together after the shooting on an Alexandria, Virginia, baseball field that left five people injured, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the Republican majority whip, who remains in critical condition. At the time, Republican members of Congress were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game. The shooter, who had professed disdain for Republicans, was killed during an exchange of gunfire. Here is the statement released on the day of the shooting by Evans and Fitzpatrick: [Read more…]

Responding Jewishly to Trump Withdrawing the US From the Paris Climate Pact

By Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

President Donald Trump announcing the U.S. withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Photo courtesy of CNN.

President Donald J. Trump has received well-deserved condem­nation from leaders of many nations, governors and mayors, environ­mentalists, corporate CEOs, Jewish and other religious organizations, and others, for withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris climate change pact that was agreed to by all the 195 nations that attended, including Israel and the United States. How should Jews respond to the U.S. withdrawal?

First Jews should become very familiar with the issues involved. Ten important climate-related factors that Jews should be aware of are:

  1. Science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and 99.9% of peer-reviewed papers on the issue in respected scientific journals argue that climate change is real, is largely caused by human activities, and poses great threats to humanity. All 195 nations at the December 2015 Paris climate change conference agreed that immediate steps must be taken to combat climate change.
  2. Carbon dioxide levels from Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii

    Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 17 warmest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. 2016 is the warmest year globally since 1880, when temperature records were first kept, breaking the record held before by 2015 and previously by 2014, meaning we now have had three consecutive years of record temperatures..

  3. Polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide  have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This has caused an increase elevation in oceans worldwide with the potential for major flooding.
  4. There has been an increase in the number and severity of droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods.
  5. California has been subjected to so many severe climate events (heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and mudslides when heavy rains occur) recently that its governor, Jerry Brown, stated that, “Humanity is on a collision course with nature.” California serves as an example of how climate change can wreak havoc.
  6. Many climate experts believe that we are close to a tipping point due to positive feedback loops, when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur.
  7. While many climate scientists think that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 400 ppm in 2015, and the amount is increasing by 2 – 3 ppm per year.
  8. While climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), largely because that is the best that can be hoped for with current trends and momentum, the world is now on track for an average increase of 4 – 6 degrees Celsius, which would result in great human suffering and significant threats to human civilization.
  9. The Pentagon and other military groups think that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refuges fleeing from droughts, wildfire, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.
  10. The conservative group ConservAmerica formerly known as “Republicans for Environmental Protection,” is very concerned about climate change threats. They are working to end the
    denial about climate threats and the urgency of working to avert them on the part of the vast majority of Republicans, but so far with very limited success.

Second, Jews should consider Judaism’s powerful teachings that can be applied to environmental sustainability. These include:

  1. “In the hour when the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the first man, he took him and let him pass before all the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him: ‘See my works, how fine and excellent they are. Now all that I created I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt or destroy my world. For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.’” (Midrash: Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28)
  2. Genesis 2:15 indicates that the human role is to work the land but also to guard and preserve it. Jews are mandated to be shomrei ha’adama, “guardians of the earth,” co-workers with God in working for tikkun olam, healing and repairing the world.
  3. Judaism teaches: “Who is the wise person? The one who considers the future consequences of his or her actions.” (Tamid 32a)
  4. The Jewish sages extended Deuteronomy 20:19, 20, prohibiting the destruction of fruit trees in wartime to build battery rams to overcome an enemy fortification, to make a general prohibition against unnecessarily destroying anything of value.

Jews participating in 2014 climate march. Photo by Jon Leiner.

Given the above, Jews should be in the forefront of efforts to help avert a climate catastrophe. We should strive to make tikkun olam a central focus of all aspects of Jewish life today. We should try to significantly reduce our individual carbon footprints by recycling, using efficient light bulbs and other items, eating less meat, reducing our use of automobiles by walking, biking, sharing rides, and using mass transit, when appropriate, and in other ways. We should actively support efforts to increase efficiencies of automobiles and other items, shift to renewable sources of energy, and other societal steps that reduce greenhouse emissions. We should try to arrange programs on climate change at synagogues, Jewish centers, and other Jewish venues, write letters to editors, speak to family members, friends, neighbors, an co-workers, and take other steps to increase awareness of the seriousness of climate threats and how applying Jewish values can help reduce them. In summary we should do everything possible to reduce climate change and to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.

 

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus of College of Staten Island. Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Mathematics and Global Survival, and Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, and over 250 articles at JewishVeg.org/schwartz
Trump’s announcement of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord:

Recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron denounces Trump’s climate skepticism and announces a website offering four-year grants of to American researchers, businessmen, teachers and students to work in France on climate change.

I have a message for you guys.

Posted by Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, February 9, 2017

 

Other Philadelphia Jewish Voice articles on climate change:

Thousands of Jews Participate in People’s Climate March

Protecting Creation: A Jewish Response to Climate Change