Sunday, October 30, 2016
What would be the reaction if a performing artist went around supporting a movement whose objective is the destruction of a nation and the denial of a people’s right of self-determination? If, when challenged, he resorted to some of the worst stereotypes and hateful language, what would be the reaction? It seems that when it comes to Roger Waters, Israel, and Jews, he goes on a concert tour and no one objects.
Not unlike Mel Gibson, who said some of the worst Jew-hating comments but who now is heralded as the director of the new movie Hacksaw Ridge. If Waters or Gibson made comments such as they have about any other nationality or ethnic group, they would be shunned. But, somehow, when it comes to Israel and Jews, their hate is acceptable.
My wife and I split our time between Jerusalem and Sacramento, California. We've been back in Sacramento for about six weeks. The community is excited and proud because after years of planning and several false starts, a world-class, state-of-the-art arena has just opened. It is the new home of the Sacramento Kings, it is set to host a vitual parade of singers and other stars, and it is widely expected that it will be the catalyst for the long-awaited revival of the downtown. In short, it is a hopeful, happy time for the community.
Although only an intermittent resident of Sacramento these days, I was enjoying the excitement and pride of my hometown friends; it's contagious. As I was skimming through a list of upcoming events, I was startled and, to put it mildly, disappointed, to see that Waters was scheduled for a show in June at the new Golden 1 Center. This is particularly offensive because the center received substantial funding from public funds.
If Mr. Waters made the kinds of comments about Mexico and Mexican Americans that he has made about Israel and Jews, the public justifiably would not stand for him appearing at the Golden One Center. And, yet, when it comes to Israel and Jews, he is booked and nary a word is said.
Just about two weeks ago I wrote to the primary owner of the team, who was the driving force behind the arena, and to several key personnel, as well as to outgoing Mayor Kevin Johnson and Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg. No response. Below is my letter.
I am heartened to note that American Express recently decided that it does not wish to be associated with Waters' campaign of hate.
Dear Mr. Ranadive:
The opening of the new Golden 1 Center is understandably a moment of great pride to Sacramento and the area. It represents a renaissance for the city and the entire region. Having grown up and spent a good part of my life in the city, and as a lifelong resident of the county, I share in the excitement and pride that the new arena has brought to the city and the region. The Center could not have been built and opened without the active support of the citizens of the Sacramento, and without a sizeable contribution of public funds.
As a Jew, a resident of Sacramento County, and as a citizen of both the United States and Israel, I was shocked, saddened, and disappointed when I recently learned that the arena will be hosting Roger Waters in June. Mr. Waters is an unabashed Jew-hater who supports a movement whose objective is to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
According to numerous news reports, on August 28th the United States expressed "concern" over reports that Iran has deployed Russian-made, highly sophisticated S-300 long-range missiles at the Fordo nuclear site in central Iran.
Today the United States expressed "deep concern" over the announcement by Israel that a step has been taken in the approval process for 500 new homes in areas across the Green Line. Several of the areas were, until the current U.S. Administration, always thought to be areas that would remain under Israeli jurisdiction in any peace deal.
"Concern" over deadly missiles guarding nuclear facilities of a country that is pledged to Israel's destruction, that continues to take aggressive actions and make aggressive statements toward the U.S., and that continues to be the greatest national exporter of terror. "Deep concern" over a step in the approval process for houses for Jews.
If American foreign policy can get any wackier than this, it is hard to imagine how.
If American foreign policy can get any wackier than this, it is hard to imagine how.
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)
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Sunday, June 19, 2016
My wife and I returned to Israel late Monday afternoon after a two month stay in the U.S. It was not an easy trip—two stops, 23 hours, a cancelled leg, lost luggage. But, as always, it felt good to be back.
Friends were visiting from California. So, despite our fatigue, we hit the ground running. Other than vegetating for a few days, what better way to recuperate from the ordeal that is today’s air transportation system than to introduce good friends to some of the fun and beauty of Jerusalem that the standard touring may have skipped over?
Yemin Moshe, drinks on the King David patio, Machane Yehuda, Café Itamar at Moshav Ora, the Israel Museum. A good time.
And one reminder of what it has taken to defend and build this Jewish home in this inhospitable neighborhood: Mt. Herzl. Our friends, and we, were moved as we walked through row after row of the graves of young people who died so that Jews might live freely in their own country.
The poignant finale: an elderly couple walking up to and bending down, readying to light a candle beside a grave stone in which the year 1982, along with a few details, was etched. The thought of that couple making that walk and lighting that candle for 34 long years is one very good way to put the irritations and complaints of daily life in the Jewish Homeland in perspective.
It was now Thursday afternoon. I asked our friends, who are members of our Conservative synagogue back in Sacramento, if they would like to join us for a different kind of Israeli experience. The main worship area of the Western Wall, the Kotel, has basically become an Orthodox synagogue controlled by the Orthodox rabbinate. All religious practice at the holiest site in Judaism is controlled by one segment of world Jewry.
Per their practice, men and women must worship separately. Those who disagree with this practice and wish to worship as they believe, i.e. Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews, are relegated to a distinct section called the Robinson’s Arch area, the entrance to which is through an archaeological center and not through the entrance to the Kotel.
The message is clear: You are not accepted. Yours is not a legitimate expression of Judaism. Ours is the only authentic Jewish practice. Sending that message is not a mistake. The powers-that-be openly express this belief in their many pronouncements over the issue.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Was it sincere outrage and indignation and concern for the country? Or was it typical cynical political grandstanding and exploitation?
Democrats have expressed outrage at Donald Trump's demagogic, myopic, and racist statements about Mexican Americans and Muslims. They've protested his tasteless, misogynistic attacks on women. They've bemoaned the fact that he, with the active participation of some of his Republican primary rivals, has taken the presidential campaign down to all-time lows.
They've been right to do so. I joined them in doing so.
The Democrats called on Republicans to join them and to refuse to support such a man as the nominee of their party. They've been right to so.
Some Republicans--not enough--have refused to support Trump, even if it means a Democrat wins the White House. Most of those Republicans have attributed their position to their lack of faith in Trump's conservative bona fides and to his crassness. A very few--not nearly enough--have attributed their position to Trump's racism and misogyny.
We have seen what is important to Republicans. Standing up against hate? Taking a principled stand? Being truly concerned about the nation? Or party unity? Winning the presidency at any cost? Stopping a candidate they seem to hate with a vengeance?
Now the Democrats face a similar test.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
All decent people mourn the death and destruction caused by the terrorists in Friday’s attacks in Paris. French President Hollande has identified the attackers as ISIS. These are truly evil people.
The Washington Post of Nov. 13 reports: 'According to reports, Hollande declared there that France was "going to lead a war," presumably against Islamist militants. He said his country's response would be "ruthless."' President Obama and other world leaders are offering their full sympathy and support.
This is in sharp contrast to the response when Israelis and Jews are the victims of terror. I am waiting for the U.S. State Department, the UN, and the EU to call on all parties to "exercise restraint" to end "the cycle of violence," to not use “excessive force” in responding, and to not use “disproportionate force.”
This is their usual mantra when Jews are killed in Israel and the territories due to terror. Are Jewish lives worth less than the lives lost in the terrible attack in France? Does not the murder of Jews by terrorists deserve the same response that Pres. Hollande now calls for?
When the Western world advocates a different response to terror by Palestinians because it somehow believes the Palestinians' alleged grievances are credible, or because the victims are Israelis or Jews, it gives a green light to terror elsewhere. In ISIS' thinking, its grievances are every bit as legitimate as those of the Palestinians, if not more so.
If terror is justified or excused, or if the victims are admonished to limit their response because of the alleged legitimacy of the attackers' grievance, terror becomes a legitimate tool for any allegedly aggrieved party.
Trying to pick and choose when terror is a legitimate tool is counterproductive and self-defeating. Excusing it or trying to mitigate the victims' response when the victims are Jews but not in other instances, demonstrates bigotry and immorality.
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)
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Thursday, November 12, 2015
The European Union moved forward today with its requirement that Israeli goods made in areas captured in the 1967 Six Day War be labeled as coming from the territories rather than from Israel. There is any number of valid reasons supporting the argument that this requirement is unfair, counterproductive, discriminatory, and anti-peace.
Knowing that these very good arguments will not convince the Europeans, who have created a sub-culture and cottage industry out of their disproportionate compassion for the “plight of the poor Palestinians” while demonizing Israel as the world’s worst oppressor, I suggest that Israeli manufacturers include the following along with the EU label requirements:
“Made by [company name] by [number of employees] making an average of [wages] per hour, [_X_] times more than the average wage in the territories, with health benefits, pension, [any other benefits], which are equal to the wages and benefits paid to Israeli employees at the company.”
The label should include a picture of one of the Palestinian employees and his family with a caption:
“[Name of employee] and his family, [names of family members in picture]. Employed [____] years. Annual salary: ________, plus benefits.”
With no faith that the valid arguments against the EU labeling requirement will convince any European, but with a habitual dedication to making rational arguments, I offer mine in addition to my proposed labeling language:
--Did the EU ask about opinions of the Palestinian workers who will lose their jobs if the labeling achieves its intended result, which are the boycott of goods and the closing of the Jewish-owned facilities? Does anyone over in Europe think that the people whose livelihoods could be at stake have a legitimate thought on the matter?
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Alan, I have a serious question that I would like to have your opinion on. Netanyahu is quoted as saying the Holocaust was not Hitler’s idea. As a Jew, I want to support Israel. I want to believe that Israel’s problems stem from individuals and groups that are vehemently anti-Zionist. But I keep hearing stories about Netanyahu’s recalcitrance to consider any reasonable peace plan and I hear so much about how non-Jews are treated poorly in Israel, that I have to question what is really going on over there. This statement by Netanyahu [regarding the Mufti and Hitler] has me wondering if he is not teetering on the edge of paranoia. What’s up with this guy?
My response, with edits:
Wow, Joe. That’s a lot of ground to cover. To really do it justice, we ought to get together for lunch when I am back in Sacramento. In the meantime, I will give it a shot.
These are very complicated issues, with lots of history and context. Most people draw their conclusions from reading the NY Times and watching CNN. I understand why, but that does not do it justice.
You and every Jew have every right to be very proud of Israel. Yes, it has many, many problems. (Find me a country that doesn’t.) But when you consider history, neighborhood, composition, threats, this place is really unbelievable.
About 8.3 million people. About one million people from the former Soviet Union, not people steeped in democracy. Millions of people or the children of people from Arab nations. Not steeped in democracy, plus many are understandably bitter about their treatment in the Arab nations and when they first arrived here. About 21% (1.7 million) of the population is Arab/Palestinian, many with torn, ambivalent feelings about their place in society.
We have bigotry, fear, racism, threats, terrorists, Iran nukes, children going off to war on a regular basis. And, yet, we have a fully functioning democracy (with problems, of course). Free press; an activist, independent court; people (Arab Knesset members) standing up in the Knesset saying things that if similar things were said in Congress, would cause them to be run out of the country as traitors; gay rights, minority rights, women’s rights, etc. etc.
Yes, we have our bigots and racists, but we have myriad of people and organizations standing up and fighting for a free press, against racism and bigotry, and for peace.