How Not To Advocate for Israel

Obama%20Fox%20530[1]Last week we saw four examples of how not to advocate for Israel:

1. Don’t back lawsuits you can’t win.

The Supreme Court struck down a law that forced the President, through the Secretary of State, to identify, upon request, citizens born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel even though the United States has never acknowledged Israel nor any other country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

President Bush did not enforce this law, and neither has President Obama. No one should have been surprised that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Executive Branch. But as a result of this short-sighted lawsuit, which never should have been brought, the Palestinians are claiming victory and pro-Israel groups are upset.
[Read more…]

Iran Lawmaker Admits: Sanctions Caused 45% Drop In Oil Revenue

Abadan Oil Refinery— by David Streeter

The AP reported that an Iranian lawmaker admitted that the international sanctions movement led by President Barack Obama has caused a devastating 45% drop in Iran’s oil revenue. According to the AP:

Iran’s revenues from vital oil and gas exports have dropped by 45 percent because of sanctions over its suspect nuclear program, a senior lawmaker said Monday, a clear admission that sanctions over Iran’s suspect nuclear program are having a severe impact. […]

Gholam Reza Kateb, head of the parliament’s budget committee, said oil exports have dropped 40 percent in the last nine months compared to the corresponding period last year. He said banking sanctions also contributed to the 45 percent reduction in revenues.

After the jump: Newly-Appointed Senate Comissioner Rand Paul Wants to See “Gradual” Cuts to Israel’s Aid‏.

Iran is under U.N. sanctions and Western oil, banking and trade restrictions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which is a potential pathway for nuclear weapons development. The U.S. and its allies believe Iran might be on a path toward producing nuclear bombs. […]

Crude oil exports account for nearly 80 percent of Iran’s foreign revenue.

Kateb said details of the steep revenue drop emerged Monday in a report by Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi to the parliament on the status of crude oil and liquid gas sales.

‘On the basis of the report, oil sales are down 40 percent and income has dropped 45 percent in the last nine months,’ Kateb was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying. […]

The government is already facing a cash crunch from the drop in oil revenues as a result of Western sanctions that Iran calls it an ‘economic war.’ […]

In another sign of the effectiveness of the sanctions, most flights operated by Iranian airlines to domestic and international destinations have been cancelled because of unpaid debts. […]

Iranian airlines nearly doubled prices of plane tickets in November because of higher fuel prices and the plunging value of the Iranian rial against foreign currencies.

Senator Rand Paul Wants to See “Gradual” Cuts to Israel’s Aid‏Rand Paul in Louisville
On his current trip to the Middle East, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) — who is among the newest members to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — said that he would like to see “gradual” cuts to Israel’s aid.

The Jerusalem Post reported (emphasis added):

[Senator Paul] said he favored a gradual reduction of US foreign aid, which he said stands at approximately $30 billion a year.

About $3b. goes to Israel annually in military aid, 74 percent of which must be spent in the US.

‘I’m all for gradualism,’ he said. ‘I would start a little more quickly with those who are enemies of Israel, and enemies of the US. I would like to see their aid end more quickly. With regards to Israel, it could be a gradual phenomenon.’

“As we’ve said many times before, Senator Paul’s misguided views on aid to Israel are plain wrong and do not reflect the myriad benefits that come from American assistance to Israel,” said NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris.

As we predicted on Friday, Paul’s appointment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would give him a bigger platform from which to spout his radical views. It appears that we were correct — and pro-Israel Republicans are utterly failing to intervene. Now is as good a time as any for them to take a stand against Paul’s dangerous vision for Israel’s aid — as many pro-Israel Democratic senators did when he first started pushing for cuts to Israel’s aid.

It’s Time to Throw the Obama Smears ‘Under the Bus’

Reprinted courtesy of the NJDC and Jerusalem Post

— by David A. Harris

The pro-Israel community must work to expand and broaden itself so that we can continue the tradition of broad bipartisan support for Israel.

This past election, we heard many scurrilous claims – if not outright lies – from some partisan Republicans and political conservatives both here and in Israel, individuals committed to putting Mitt Romney in the White House at almost any cost. After four years of President Barack Obama’s pro-Israel presidency, one of the most odious claims was that if given a second term, the president would somehow “throw Israel under the bus” and reveal a sinister version of himself that he’d kept under wraps during his first term.

More after the jump.
Many Republicans insisted on this deeply disturbing narrative and similar claims, but the overwhelming majority of American Jews demonstrated that they saw through these myths on Election Day. And in November 2012, Israel’s supporters around the world saw these bogus claims shattered by more of the president’s singular pro- Israel leadership.

But a key question lingers: when will the anti-Obama Israel myths stop? And when will partisan Republicans end the disgraceful and dangerous tactic of turning Israel into an election wedge issue – something they did in this election to an extent never seen before? Let’s pause for a reality check.

Shortly after Election Day, the president and members of his administration clearly supported Israel’s right to defend itself as Operation Pillar of Defense began. Indeed, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres multiple times throughout the conflict in order to convey their support and discuss the constructive roles the United States could play.

The president and members of his administration personally condemned Hamas’ rockets and placed the blame for the escalation squarely at Hamas’ feet. In addition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shuttled around the region to ensure that Egypt would play an important role in reining in Hamas and instituting a vital cease-fire.

But of course even before Pillar of Defense began, President Obama and his administration were outspoken champions of the revolutionary Iron Dome missile defense system – which the Bush administration greeted with skepticism and ultimately took a pass on, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Iron Dome proved itself effective against Hamas’s rockets and prevented countless Israeli casualties prior to Pillar of Defense. But the critical test took place during the heavy barrage of rockets during the operation itself – and the Iron Dome passed with flying colors, while garnering praise throughout the Israeli government. Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said that if the Iron Dome was traded in the stock market, “it would have multiplied its share value several times over.”

Israeli officials lined up after the conflict to thank President Obama for his support of Israel’s actions and for the Iron Dome. In particular, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – Israel’s most decorated soldier – reiterated what he has proudly declared over and over: “The security relationship, as well as the intelligence relationship between our two countries, has never been so close… and we are highly thankful for this.”

However, the president’s support for Israel began long before the war.

The president and UN Ambassador Susan Rice were Israel’s best allies in the United Nations throughout the past four years. Under their leadership, the United States amassed an unprecedented 100% pro-Israel voting record in the UN, passed the most significant Iran sanctions ever, and made significant progress combating what Ambassador Rice dubbed “anti-Israel crap.”

So it should have surprised nobody that the United States worked assiduously and voted against the Palestinians’ upgrade to UN non-member observer status. Even though the vote’s result was apparent well before the General Assembly convened that day, America’s delegation made an impassioned case against the upgrade and reiterated that stunts in the Israel-obsessed UN are no substitute for direct negotiations.

President Obama led and acted precisely the way a deeply pro-Israel president would, and he deserves our community’s thanks. While some of the president’s critics have expressed their appreciation, many have not. The harshest critics – who routinely spewed venom and lies during the campaign – should be lining up single file to make up for the embarrassment they’ve caused the pro-Israel community with their absurd attacks.

Their silence – and continuing malfeasance – should concern all of us who care about the US-Israel relationship.

The pro-Israel community must work to expand and broaden itself so that we can continue the tradition of broad bipartisan support for Israel.

One of the best ways to start is by giving credit where credit is due – and by throwing the Obama smears themselves “under the bus,” once and for all.

The writer is president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Netanyahu Tries His Hand (and foot) At Sports (and arts)

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met yesterday with the 38 members of Israel’s Olympic delegation. He present the delegation with this drawing showing a Israeli athlete on the winners podium holding an Israeli flag. His note in Hebrew reads:

To the Israeli Olympic Delegation.
Faster, higher, stronger!
With success,
Benjamin Netanyahu

According to JTA, “Bibi also gave them Olympic medals — made of chocolate.”

Netanyahu is no stranger to sports himself. Just last month, the Prime Minister injured his leg playing a soccer match with Jewish and Arab youths. His leg will be in a cast for several weeks. Now, according to the Jerusalem Post, “the Prime Minister’s office “is debating how to hold a Netanyahu-Romney photo-op without showing the cast on the prime minister’s leg.”

Words Can Kill!

Hearts have their own natural biological pacemaker that allows them to beat on their own accord even when the brain dies.

— Robby Berman

People don’t like to talk about death. But I can’t help it. It’s my job. I encourage Jews to donate organs upon death to the general public. It is a difficult profession and journalists are constantly making my job even tougher. Recently a four-month-old Israeli baby boy died. Some Israeli media reported he died on Friday while others reported he died on Sunday. Why were they confused? Because his brain died on Friday and his heart died on Sunday.

More after the jump.

Hearts, yours and mine, have their own natural biological pacemaker that allows them to beat on their own accord even when the brain dies. (Go to YouTube and type in the words “dead frog beating heart” and see for yourself.) The heart is not connected to the brain in any meaningful way, and as long as it is artificially receiving oxygen from a ventilator it can take a licking and keep on ticking for a few more days before it, too, dies.

So which is it? Did the baby die on Friday, when his brain died, or did he die on Sunday, when his heart died? The Israeli Medical Association, Israeli legislation, the Ministry of Health, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Medical Association of almost every country in the world all understand that when a person’s brain dies death has occurred. In other words the organism is dead but its organs can remain alive for a few more days.

Why? Because they are artificially — and incidentally — being given oxygen by a ventilator.

Well, if it is resoundingly clear that brain death is death then why did some Israeli media organs get it wrong? Why did IBA English TV News and The Jerusalem Post, among others, report the baby had died on Sunday when his heart stopped beating? Why didn’t they say he died on Friday when his brain died? The answer is not a good one. It is because it would have felt weird to say on Friday that a baby that is warm to the touch — whose heart is still beating — is dead, and it would have felt weird to say on Sunday that a dead baby had been lying in the hospital with a beating heart for two days.

Not only is describing the functional reality of brain death difficult to put into words, it’s hard to decide how to refer to the baby himself. What do you call him? If you accept brain death as death, should the baby be called a braindead patient? The word “patient” implies he is alive. Should he be called a brain-dead corpse? If he is a corpse, why is he being kept in a hospital bed attached to a ventilator? And if he is dead, why are we calling him brain dead? He should just be referred to as dead. He should be called the deceased, not the brain-dead deceased.

This is not simply an exercise in semantics. This is an important issue that all responsible citizens have to wrap their heads around.

The words chosen by family members, doctors and journalists can lead to life or death decisions.

Israel has one of the lowest organ donor registration rates in the world. So the words chosen by the chosen people will have an impact on how family members and the public perceive a brain-dead corpse (hear how weird this term sounds?).

Is he a living patient or is he a corpse whose heart doesn’t know enough to stop beating because it has an artificial supply of oxygen? Your answer will influence your decision whether or not to donate organs. If he is alive, then understandably you will not donate his organs. But if he is dead, you will consider it. And since one organ donor can save eight lives the stakes are high – especially if you are one of the 100 Israelis that will die this year waiting for an organ that will not be donated.

Another dangerously inaccurate and misleading term that is the darling of doctors and journalists is “life support.” Sometimes a living patient needs help to breathe and so he is put on a ventilator. His life is indeed being supported by the ventilator. But if a brain-dead corpse (whose heart is still beating) is on a vent, his life is not being supported because he is already dead. And to say he is “on life support” implies he is alive, again inhibiting donation of his organs.

If I am being asked to remove life support I am killing my loved one.

It would be just as inappropriate to use this term if I were to attach a football to a ventilator (which could easily be done) and see it reported in The Jerusalem Post that I put a football on a life-support machine. The ventilator simply vents air in and out of the thing it is attached to. A vent is a vent is a vent and nothing more. The word ventilator is accurate as it is neutral and should always be used.

Israeli medical and Israeli media professionals have an obligation to the public to use exact terms and to be consistent in their reporting. If a health reporter insists that the baby died on Sunday when his heart stopped beating then she should also, for the sake of consistency, report that doctors are murdering patients every time they remove organs from a brain-dead donor because the heart is still beating.

Consistency is the bedrock of clarity and currently Israeli medical reporting is rolling around on shifting sands. An Israeli journalist who reports that a brain-dead baby died upon cessation of heartbeat contradicts the understanding of the medical community in practically every country in the world, as well as contradicting the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Knesset of Israel and the Ministry of Health of Israel. A journalist who uses the term “life-support,” when she should have written ventilator, contributes to people’s decisions not to donate organs resulting in the needless deaths of more than 100 Israelis every year. Choosing our words carefully is good advice for conversation as well as for journalism.

The writer has an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a freelance writer and the founder and director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society.

Israel’s YouTube Rorschach for American Jewry

— by Ilan Chaim

Ordinary Israelis living in Israel can ask aloud what Israeli prime ministers and diplomats cannot: Why did so many American Jews react with such hysteria over some ads encouraging Israelis to come home?

Was it the atrocious, inaccurate hype in the headline of Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic kvetch? There was no statement in his blog that backed up the sensationalist head, “Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews.” The word marriage was not mentioned in the ads.

I can only speculate as to why my former Jerusalem Post colleague was so hypersensitive to the topic and reacted so vehemently. “These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America.” Not at all, Jeff-they argue that it is impossible for Israelis to remain Israeli in America.

The only YouTube clip that featured a couple, the one above about Israel’s Memorial Day, did not say anything about intermarriage between Israelis and Americans. It was deliberately unclear whether the relationship was between a married couple or boyfriend and girlfriend. The Hebrew tag at the end referred to “partner.”

This is because the point was not intermarriage, but Israeli identity. Not that an Israeli risks losing his or her Jewish identity by marrying an American, but losing Israeli identity by living in America, no matter what the ethnic identity of the spouse. This point was perhaps made more clearly in the other videos: the danger of losing one’s Israeli identity-or that of one’s children-by assimilation.

The more subtle message in this example from a series of unsubtle messages is that a non-Israeli spouse, by definition, cannot understand what it means to be an Israeli. There is nothing insulting in this fact of life, nothing to take offense at. The male partner is presented as clueless-but neither American Jew clueless nor goy clueless, just non-Israeli clueless.

Memorial Day in Israel is coupled with Independence Day. A day of national mourning segues into a day of national celebration: The terrible cost of independence and freedom is inextricably linked to its joy in a dramatic, nationally observed cathartic transition. No American partner in a relationship with an Israeli can possibly fathom this while living in a country whose Memorial Day has long ago lost its memory. The chasm between drivers at the Indianapolis 500 and drivers stopping their cars and standing at attention at the sound of sirens throughout Israel is a fact.

Leaving aside the issue of inter-religious intermarriage, can an American Jew, even one who participates in an Israeli memorial ceremony at the local JCC, have anything but a vicarious understanding of what an Israeli feels?

The message in this clip is a rather brutal statement of the fact that, despite all the feel-good Zionist propaganda, we are not one. Our experience is not your experience; our understanding is direct and empirical-yours may be of the best intentions, but is theoretical. No American Jew should take offense if I point out the fact that I and my four children have served in the Israel Defense Forces.

More after the jump.
A word on journalistic integrity. Aside from the inaccurate headline, Goldberg’s lament begins with a rather unfortunate, snarky slant. It’s not “the Netanyahu government’s Immigration Absorption Ministry.” It’s not Netanyahu’s IDF, either. But if he makes this association because he assumes that Netanyahu knows what’s going on in all his bloated coalition government’s ministries, he’s obviously forgotten Shas minister Eli Yishai’s gift of housing developments to Vice President Joe Biden.

The Absorption Ministry is not making a statement on intermarriage, but on Israelis living in the Diaspora. The little girl who Skypes her grandparents in the homeland about Christmas in the video on the right is not engaged to marry an American. She is being raised by parents who apparently want to fit in with the majority culture, not by one of the many Israeli families who discover and benefit greatly from the rich variety of Jewish life in America.

You’ve heard of the brain drain? That’s what happens when lots of Israelis who start out studying or looking to strike it rich in America end up never coming home. We need Israelis in Israel, not in Palo Alto.

As crude and/or heavy handed as the videos may be, they reflect a sad reality: Israelis, particularly their young children, risk losing their identity surrounded by the American culture. A non-hypothetical example: A sabra couple I know are living in New Jersey, where the husband works for a hi-tech company. They are secular, but in their native Rehovot they wouldn’t think of driving, working, or going to school on Yom Kippur, because to do so would violate the norms of the majority culture. In New Jersey on Yom Kippur, the kids went to public school, the husband to work, and they have a Christmas tree to fit in with the neighbors.

Israel is trying, albeit in a rather clumsy way, to encourage its citizens to return home. It is not out to insult Americans or show contempt for American Jewry.

“The idea communicated in these ads,” Goldberg writes, “that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik.” Wrong again: The campaign was not aimed at American Jews, but at expatriate Israelis.

Classic, not archaic, Zionism argues that Jews truly concerned about the Jewish national future should live in Israel. American Jews can live full and meaningful Jewish lives in America; Israelis cannot live full and meaningful Israeli lives in America. The difference is being part of the majority culture. Secular or religious, Israel is, at least for the time being, a majority Jewish state.

Lobby for us in Washington, marry our sons and daughters, but live in Israel. Maybe that’s the key to this overreaction: Could American Jews be insulted at being reminded that Israel wants its citizens to come home-and feel guilty at not availing themselves of the same opportunity?

The Jewish Federations of North America joined the indignant misunderstanding:

While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel. We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.

Not to be left out, Abe Foxman pronounced the ADL’s verdict:

We find these videos heavy-handed, and even demeaning…we are concerned that some may be offended by what the video implies about American Jewry.

I’m still at a loss to understand the ferocity of the reaction to this campaign. Is it the intermarriage thing? Is it because people who are divorced (no pun intended) from their Jewish identity to begin with feel some kind of guilt at being reminded of there being a much stronger Jewish identity in Israel? Is it people who are perhaps proud of being among the less than 15 percent of American Jews who have ever visited Israel, but nevertheless feel uncomfortable that we want to live here, and by implication, want them to also?

It’s instructive to note that Israeli wags have instantly responded to the bloggish hullaballoo by producing matching satirical takeoffs on the three insulting videos. Their treatment on YouTube for Hebrew speakers shows why the ministry’s heavy handed, mawkish approach actually insults Israelis — not American Jews. The counter-videos shown on the right, featuring caricatures of familiar obnoxious Israeli behavior, are produced by the fictitious “Ministry of Escape.” Their message: These Israelis should stay abroad. The real ministry’s message should extol the joys of living in Israel, where Jews whether secular or religious are part of the majority culture.

No secular Jewish Israeli child fails to know when each Jewish holiday is, just as no secular Jewish American child could possibly fail to know when Christmas is; but does that secular Jewish American child know the Jewish holidays?

Are American Jews really insulted by what they perceive as Israeli ethno-centricity and chutzpa, or are they having an allergic reaction to the strength of a dearly purchased Israeli Jewish identity that they, despite their celebrated free birthright, don’t have?

For that matter, we Israelis have noticed that the much (self-)touted communal answer to the failure of America’s Jewish educational system and its over-50 percent intermarriage rate is a program called “Birthright Israel” — not “Birthright New York.”

This deal is not about American Jews. It’s about Israeli expatriates. It’s not about you, it’s about us. It’s not about us not being able to maintain a sense of Jewish identity in America; it’s about us not being able to maintain an Israeli identity in America. It should not be insulting to you if I want to be me.

The writer is a former chief copy editor of The Jerusalem Post and consultant to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

Separate Fact from Fiction of Obama’s Israel Record

— by Jason Attermann

Pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey wrote an opinion piece for The Jerusalem Post warning about the false smears likely to be spread by right-wingers against President Barack Obama’s strong pro-Israel record as the presidential campaign heats up.

The campaign to delegitimize President Obama in the eyes of pro-Israel voters will only intensify between now and November 6….

Opponents of territorial compromise and Americans who use concern for Israel to mask concern about paying their fair share of taxes compose most of the 20-25 percent of Jews who vote Republican. But that’s not enough to win an election; hence their efforts to distort President Obama’s record on Israel. Most Jews support the Democratic domestic agenda, so if there is no reason to oppose the president based on Israel, there is no reason to oppose him at all.

Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the previous administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, taken US Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and is mounting a diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

More after the jump.
According to Sheffey, Obama’s detractors will attempt to delegitimize his extensive commitment to Israel’s security through the techniques of “repetition of falsehoods,” “baseless speculation,” and “guilt by association”-all of which have been engaged in before. Sheffey simplifies the situation as merely one of separating the facts of Obama’s actions from the fiction perpetuated by his opponents:

President Obama has surrounded himself with pro-Israel advisers, from Hillary Clinton to Dan Shapiro to Joe Biden to Rahm Emanuel. Yet we still hear about alleged influences from Obama’s past. Obama has been president for nearly three years. Evaluate President Obama the way the pro- Israel community has always evaluated our leaders and representatives: by looking at what they’ve done, not by trying to read their minds or via conjectures about influences that are impossible to prove or disprove.

If unprecedented military cooperation between the US and Israel, unambiguous opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and unrelenting defense of Israel in international forums is what happens when someone knows Jeremiah Wright, we ought to send all our candidates to his church. President Obama’s record proves that he is one of the best friends of Israel ever to occupy the White House. The only question is whether attempts to manipulate the emotions of pro-Israel voters by distorting the president’s record will succeed. The answer depends on our ability to separate fact from fiction.