This Is Not Peaceful Resistance

Hamas admitted that 50 of the 62 people killed in the recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border were Hamas members, while others among the dead have been identified as members of Islamic Jihad. In fact, organizers of the violence had laid out their intentions clearly, with the co-founder of Hamas saying unequivocally, “This is not peaceful resistance.”

We should take the organizers of this confrontation at their word. Orchestrated by Hamas, approximately 40,000 rioters gathered at the border and several thousand tried to storm into Israel at 13 locations. The campaign’s title “March of Return” reflects Hamas’ aim: to break the border fence and storm Israeli towns in order to attack and kidnap Israeli civilians. The closest Israeli communities are only half a mile away from the border. Israeli soldiers have been defending the border from what could lead to a successful breach of the fence. In this way, Israel has been acting as any sovereign nation would be expected to.

Israel made relentless efforts to prevent the Palestinian masses from violently breaching the border. These efforts included early warnings by leaflets, direct phone calls, radio and social media in Arabic, and other means.

In contrast, Hamas is taking steps to exacerbate the difficulties faced by its own people, as a play for international condemnation of Israel. Hamas turned back aid trucks containing medical supplies donated by Israel after the supplies had already entered Gaza. Despite the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, Hamas refused this humanitarian aid, returning it to Israel. This happened a week after Palestinians had sabotaged the Kerem Shalom aid crossing multiple times, including blowing up gas pipelines, in an attempt to bring about total chaos.

Israel’s need to defend itself and Hamas’ efforts to aggravate the plight of its own people are fundamental issues at the very core of the current violence. However, the way recent events have been framed does not do justice to the realities on the ground for either Israelis or Palestinians.

“Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal,” by Milton Viorst

Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal,” is ambitious in its scope, and original in its format. The history follows chapters on critical figures including Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, Vladimir Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook and Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, Menachem Begin, and a final chapter “Arriving at Netanyahu.” But it is clear from the outset that this will not be a fair and balanced history. [Read more…]

Sanders Strips the Facts From Gaza

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got it very wrong on Israel and Gaza. In an interview with the editorial board of The New York Daily News, Sanders absurdly claimed that Israel killed 10,000 innocent people in the 2014 Gaza War. After the Anti-Defamation League called on Sanders to correct his misstatement, the Sanders campaign issued a statement saying that Sanders was thinking of the number wounded, not the death toll, and that Sanders “immediately accepted” the interviewer’s finding that 2,000 Palestinians were killed. The ADL welcomed Sanders’ clarification, but Shai Franklin explains why Bernie-Come-Lately does no favors for Mideast peace.

There is no evidence in the record that Sanders accepted the 2,000 figure or that he acknowledged that the death toll included over 900 militants. Sanders’ ignorance of the death toll in Gaza demonstrates that he is not ready to be president and shows that while his heart might be in the right place, his head is not in the game.

Yair Rosenberg argues that Sanders’ “mistake had nothing to do with his being anti-Israel, and everything to do with his not knowing much about foreign policy.” Throughout the interview, Sanders showed his ignorance not only of foreign policy matters, but of domestic matters as well.

The American Jewish Committee correctly noted that Sanders still needs to clarify his “stinging and unjust” accusation that Israel’s self-defensive response was “indiscriminate.”

Compare Sanders’ views on the Gaza War to Hillary Clinton’s. Watch Hillary Clinton refuse to let Jon Stewart goad her into unfairly criticizing Israel’s conduct during the Gaza War. Hillary puts the blame squarely where it belongs: on Hamas.

Earth to Ban Ki-moon: Israel Offered to End “Occupation” at Camp David

Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

Ban Ki-moon is a curious kind of messenger.

He writes in The New York Times, “No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.” [Read more…]

How the Western World Funds Hamas’ Terrorism

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was founded in 1950, with its stated goals of providing “education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance” for 150,000 Palestinian Arab refugees.Aida, we will return

The organization was supposed to be temporary, but the number of “refugees” has since swelled to 5 million.

The Palestinian Arabs are the only people on the planet that have been accorded by the U.N. their own agency to deal with their refugee status; the rest of the world’s many millions of former refugees fall under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, and have for the most part been successfully integrated, transferred and settled.
[Read more…]

Ari Shavit Presents a New Zionism

september-9-2014-islamic-terrorism-marathon-race-webIsraeli author and journalist Ari Shavit is best known in the U.S. for his personal history of Israel from the nineteenth century to the present day: the New York Times bestseller My Promised Land, published in 2013.

In the book, he traces his family’s engagement with Israel, beginning with the experiences of his great-grandfather, a prominent London lawyer who toured Palestine in 1897. The Zionist saw the growth of anti-Semitism, particularly but not only in Eastern Europe, perceived that Jewish life would be increasingly difficult there, and subsequently relocated his family to Israel.

Shavit’s book follows the same paths as his ancestor across Israel, presenting the modern reality of a land shared unwillingly by two peoples. The principles of human dignity and freedom expressed in historic Zionism, he argues, have been lost in the battles since statehood and the occupation of surrounding lands that has come about.

Shavit spoke at the Adath Israel Congregation on September 18, laying out his viewpoints after the war of the past summer. Shavit was presented by Haddassah to an audience of more than 500 people, who hung on every word.

Jews and Arabs have different life narratives that express their conflict, but both have lost sight of their proper goals, Shavit said.

This painful summer marked the longest war Israel has suffered since independence. It brought back the experiences of sirens and of fleeing to shelters, forgotten since the 1970s. For the first time, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were within the reach of the bombs.

Israel’s independence, Shavit said, was the most just revolution of the 20th century. This revolution broke the previous relationships of Jews to both God and country, and provided choices where those didn’t exist before. However well intentioned the early settlers were, they were blind to the Palestinian presence, and vice versa. This failure to cope with reality has led to the present tragedy.

The Middle East, Shavit said, is the worst neighborhood in the world. Israel’s failure to deal with the Arab problem or to create a just society contrasts with the great success it has become. Israelis, who have learned to live in constant danger, have created the most constantly exciting and wonderful society, filled with immensely creative, productive and lively and alive people.

The battle with the Palestinians and the failure of Israel to make peace in past times has produced a violent, fascistic Hamas that oppresses its own people, and today stands in the way of a two-state solution.

The endless occupation and battle with the Palestinians also isolates Israel and undermines its position in the world, moving the state to isolation in the face of 1.6 billion Arabs. Shavit sees the apparent resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe as a result of the endless struggle with the Palestinians.

Shavit noted that the Iron Dome defense was possible only with the assistance of the U.S. He credited the Obama administration with vital support of Israel during the summer war.

Shavit defined four problems facing Israel:

  • the possibility of Iran achieving nuclear power, which he says will lead to a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East, the most unstable part of the world;
  • Arab chaos itself, with governments falling;
  • Regarding the Palestinians, Israel cannot stand pat but all efforts have fallen short and there is little opening today; and
  • past success of Zionism was based on taking the high ground of morality and justice; Israel today has lost that high ground and is undercutting its great alliances.

Shavit said that we must pacify Gaza with a new Marshall Plan. As we enter a fight with ISIS, we ought not to entangle ourselves with the regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia. And we must not allow ourselves to be perceived as part of a great Shiite war against Sunnis – 85% of all Muslims.

Moreover, Israel must renew and redefine Zionism along its earliest lines, built around human rights and justice. Older Jews will continue to support Israel, but younger western Jews, particularly those younger than 30, see the matter differently. Zionism has a good story to tell in the immense success of Israel, but the story has to be rewritten to make it “sexy” for those people too.

After his speech, Shavit was given a standing ovation by the crowd.

Cartoon courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles.

Gaza as Seen by a Progressive Zionist

Courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

Courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

— by Daylin Leach

As a progressive (or “liberal” as I grew up calling myself), I’ve been troubled by the divide I’ve seen in the progressive community over the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

While there are many good progressives on the national scene who, as I do, support Israel enthusiastically, I have also seen the unmistakable strain of anti-Israeli sentiment on the part of progressives I know, read, or interact with on social media. To me, much of what I’ve heard from these people with whom I normally share so much is both profoundly troubling, and antithetical to everything progressivism is supposed to be about.

First, when I say I am a progressive, let me tell you what I mean: the legislation in Pennsylvania legalizing same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour, mandating paid family leave, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana and taxing the use of plastic bags are not only bills I support, they are bills I’ve introduced. A number of commentators have nicknamed me “The Liberal Lion of Pennsylvania,” a moniker I proudly embraced during my recent Congressional campaign.

My views on foreign policy are similarly, if not quite as aggressively, progressive. I opposed the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Panama, and Grenada. However, I am not a pacifist; I supported going into Afghanistan to prevent those who attacked us on 9/11 from planning their next strike. Generally, I support more foreign aid to help alleviate poverty and a greater emphasis on human rights in our dealings with other nations.

Courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

To me, this general world view can lead to only one logical conclusion, which is the strong support of Israel in its current conflict with Hamas. There is one country in the Middle East which respects women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of political minorities, free speech and the right of dissent, and that is Israel. There is no other nation in the region which could, in any sense of the word, be considered progressive.

Hamas has a human rights record that can only be described as awful. Being gay is a crime punishable by death and women are subjected to strict dress codes, and are often the victims of “honor killings” while the Hamas government looks the other way. Religious minorities living in Gaza are subjected to almost daily governmental harassment, and one need only watch the news to see reports of extra-judicial killings of anyone even suspected of opposing Hamas’ war on Israel. There is no other context in which progressives would tolerate the sort of human rights violations against their own people that Hamas perpetuates every day.

It is certainly true that a large number of Gazans have lost their lives in the current conflict. And some of my progressive friends have correctly noted that many of them are innocent civilians and children.

But tragically, this is the case in all wars. We don’t fight wars against individuals; we fight against governmental regimes that control the weapons that threaten us. There were many innocent Japanese children during World War II. They were too young to know who Hideki Tojo was. But Tojo bombed Pearl Harbor. We had to fight back, sad in the knowledge that innocent people would die. Similarly, Israel has the right to defend itself when attacked, doing their best to minimize civilian casualties.

Many progressives, who share my strong preference for peace over war and rarely, if ever, find a legitimate reason for Israel (or the United States for that matter) to use force, somehow justify Hamas shooting rockets into Israel. The fact is that since Hamas assumed power, they have fired almost 15,000 rockets, killing dozens and injuring almost 2,000 Israelis. No other nation in the world would be expected to tolerate this.

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @

Perhaps we could all have some faint hope that the recently announced open-ended cease-fire will result in some progress in addressing the concerns of all sides. I understand that progressives feel the Palestinian people have legitimate grievances, and it seems to me that the negotiating table is the place to address them. But there is no grievance that would justify Hamas’ deliberate targeting of civilians, which is a war crime. And there is no progressive principle which would require Israel to silently endure countless attacks on its people.

We all have political heroes. As a progressive, I find my inspiration in the words of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These great, progressive leaders all achieved far more for their people than the rocket-launchers and suicide-bombers of Hamas have for theirs. I would hope that in time, the progressive community can come closer to speaking with one voice in condemning the sort of terrorism and genocide that can be found in the Hamas charter. If we as progressives really care about the suffering of the Palestinian people and peace, we have no other choice.

Lies, Statistics and Photos

— by Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin

Over the course of one week, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran 10 photos depicting attacks and damage in Gaza, and none depicting the effect of thousands of Hamas rockets on civilians in Israel, or any Hamas militants.

Between Sunday, July 27, and Saturday, August 2, The Inquirer did not miss a day:

1. “Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over the Gaza Strip…”;
2. “A cameraman records a scene as smoke rises from an Israeli air strike in Gaza City…”;
3. “Used artillery shells litter the ground [next to an Israeli tank]…”, and

4. “An Israeli soldier on a tank at the border…”;Wednesday:5. above a bold, upper-cased, above-the-fold A1 headline, “GAZA EXPLODES,” a 5×8-inch color shot of smoke and flames over mid-rise apartments, “Smoke and fire rise from an Israeli air strike over Gaza City…”,
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Deceptive Silence 50 Miles From Gaza

Marne Joan and Leora Shirit Rochester in their bomb shelter.

Marne Joan and Leora Shirit Rochester in their bomb shelter.

— by Marne Joan

Despite the war in Gaza, life seems to be going on fairly normally in Jerusalem. We have had “only” three alarms.

We have been busy with visiting friends and family from San Francisco, Milwaukee, New York City, Long Island, St. Paul, and Ukraine. Two weeks ago, we watched “The Wizard of Oz” at the semi-outdoor First Station. My daughter, Leora, just finished her month at the Ramah Day Camp in Jerusalem. The only change in her summer was that because of the war, the camp field trips were canceled. We are planning a trip to the North for a few days, starting with a Bar-Mitzvah at Kibbutz Hannaton, kayaking on the Jordan River, going to the Galit Chocolate Farm in Kibbutz Degania on the Sea of Galilee, possibly the hot springs in Hamat Gader, and the Saba Yossi Wood Workshop in Kibbutz Ein Gev, visiting friends in Kfar Tavor and in Dalyat Al-Carmel (a Druze town). Meanwhile, we go to parks, the supermarket, birthday parties, etc.

We are not panicky, nervous wrecks. Yes, life is pretty normal. But that is just on the surface.

When outside, I pick walking routes according to buildings I can run into if I hear a siren. I constantly check the news to see if anyone I know has been killed. I could not wait for the Muslim month of Ramadan to be over, because you can never be quite sure if you are hearing gun shots and rioting, or fireworks from the village nearby.

Every alarm puts me on edge. They actually changed the sirens on ambulances so that they would not sound like the air raid sirens.

When Leora goes downstairs to play, my parting words are not “have a good time,” but rather, “If there’s an alarm, I’ll meet you in the shelter.” When she leaves the house, I remind her to run into the closest building if she hears a siren. It took a week of no sirens in Jerusalem before I would leave her home alone, and only because she insisted and reassured me that she would be okay. Again, I remind her, “If there’s an alarm, take your cell phone, lock the door, and go down to the shelter.”

I have also had to make a few minor changes to activities in my daycare. We do not go to the playground, because if we hear an siren, how do I pick up four kids and run into a building? We do not do finger paints, because we have a minute and a half (which is still long compared to the 15 seconds they get in Sderot) to wash hands and go downstairs to the shelter. After the first alarm in Jerusalem, I started doing some of our activities in the shelter, so if, God forbid, we need to go there, it will not be a place of panic and fear; it will be a familiar place where they have already had some fun.

I cannot imagine what it is like for people in Sderot, Ashdod, Ashqelon or Beer Sheva, who have been dealing with daily, and sometimes hourly, rocket attacks for years.

I remember the sounds of Scuds landing daily for almost two months during the Gulf War in 1991, and feeling the windows vibrate every time one landed, or a Patriot missile was launched to intercept the Scuds. It took years before I could enjoy fireworks again. Every time I heard a boom in the sky I would tense up, holding back the tears, as all of the anxiety from the war returned. I had kept my calm during the war, but when it was over, I realized just how much I was affected by it, and the emotions and trauma caught me up.

We are coping with the situation with a lot with humor, and are doing our share for those working to protect us, and for those working to help them.

Leora, the kids in my daycare and I have been making cookies and cards for the soldiers in Gaza, and the hospital staff in Jerusalem, who are working exceptionally hard treating the wounded. The doctors, nurses, social workers, physical therapists and volunteers are being called up at all hours.

Every Friday, I send text messages to the soldiers I know in Gaza with words of encouragement and support, ending with “Shabbat Shalom and come home safely.”

Rosh Chodesh Av: Compassion Over Anger

Residents of a Gaza Neighborhood

Residents of a Gaza Neighborhood

The Jewish calendar sets aside three weeks each summer to mourn for the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is hard to believe that we who are so far from the sacrifices and offerings can sustain a sense of bereavement for so long.

Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows that intensity of grief may dissipate, but the empty space left behind is never completely filled. That is a human truth, not unique to Jews.

[Read more…]