Friday, May 21, 2021

Musings and questions

Now that we have a ceasefire, I've just been thinking.  So far, I've come up with this:

If Israel's (and Egypt's) "siege" on Gaza has been so airtight, how the hell did Hamas get 4,000 missiles, or the materials and machinery to make them, as well as the weaponry needed to shoot them?  And, as a friend asked me, if Netanyahu is so good on security, how did he let that happen?

If the AP has such reliable and thorough reporters, how did they not know that there were Hamas operations in their building?  Pretty much everybody else knew.

If AP, CNN, seemingly millions of others, and/or you are in a fit over Israel destroying a building (!) after giving an hour's notice (!) to get out but fail to mention that 4,000 missiles are being fired at innocent kids, women, and men, there is a moral screw loose somewhere.

"Proportionality" has got to be the most misused word in the English language right now.  Contrary to what John Oliver and Bernie Sanders might think, it does not mean that an equal number of Jews (and their fellow Arab Israeli citizens) must be injured or killed.

It also does not mean that Israel has to use the same amount of force as Hamas.  (e.g. see the U.S. v. Taliban in Afghanistan or the Allies v. Dresden in WWII).  It means there must be a legitimate military objective and that the force must be appropriate to achieving the objective.

While the Sheikh Jarrah dispute and the Damascus Gate and Al-Aqsa Mosque tensions were an opportunity that Hamas exploited, they were not the reason Hamas started the war.  They were a pretense.  But assuming they were the cause, and assuming the commonly misused definition of proportionality, how the hell do those issues justify 4,000 missiles fired at civilians??!!

The war was used by many American leftists to attack Israel's very existence.  According to them, we are a bunch of people who, without any connection to the land, recently randomly decided to settle in the only place in the Middle East (about one and a half percent of the total land mass) without water, oil, or much else, and we proceeded to kick all of the natives out.

Never mind that Jews have a connection to Israel, and a continuous presence, going back thousands of years. Never mind that there are 1.9 million Israeli Arabs living within the 1948 armistice lines and millions more in the territories captured in 1967.  And never mind that about 45% of Israel's Jews are from Arab nations, many of them or their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, having been among the 850,000 Jews forced to leave Arab nations in 1948.

But, let's assume that we all just got over here in the last few years.  Do these people berating us as colonial usurpers with no ties to the land realize that many Israelis have been here longer than many of their families, have been in North America, a land to which their families have exactly zero ancestral ties?

Many Israeli families have been here 80 or 90 or 100 years.  How many of the families of the critics came to America prior to 1920?  The family of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who happens to speak fluent Arabic, has been in Jerusalem since 1809.  How many families of those characterizing Israel as a bunch of interlopers have been in the New World since 1809?

And, by the way, do those geniuses think that North America was just a depopulated barren wasteland when their families arrived?  Do the names Pontiac, Seattle, Malibu, Manhattan, Miami, Mississippi,  and Chicago just come from a screwed-up game of Scrabble?  Did American sports teams just dream up offensive names?

And then there was President Polk's little escapade into Mexico.

Are these ignorant, hypocritical critics of our oppressive colonial usurper regime packing up and going back to Europe anytime soon?

And, can somebody tell me when the far left became anti-immigrant?  Or does that only apply to Jews immigrating to their ancestral homeland?

Just some thoughts that come to mind.

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Remember this moment

 A few years ago I was a guest at a meeting in the U.S. of some lay and professional Jewish community leaders.  In some concluding remarks, the chairwoman of the meeting made a passing comment about how the Israeli government paid no mind to the opinions and sensitivities of the American Jewish community, and that hopefully someday it will.

Most of the attendees either nodded their heads in silent agreement or did nothing at all.  No one objected.

While no fan of the then-current Israeli government, or of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I nonetheless could not let this off-the-cuff, almost flippant comment go by.  As the chair was about to close the meeting, I raised my hand and said "excuse me."  I then went onto say something like this:

"This is a two-way street.  While American Jews may feel that Israelis are insensitive to them and ignore their views, Israelis have similar feelings.  They feel American Jews are not there for them when it really counts.  Two examples:

"1)  During the Second Intifada that started in 2000, after Arafat's rejection of the Clinton/Barak proposals for a Palestinian state and the resort to violence, American Jews were a rare site in Israel.  The busloads of Christians kept coming, but the Jews?  To the Bahamas and Hawaii, one might speculate.  Certainly not to Israel.

"2)  Israelis saw the Iran deal as an existential threat.  Yes, Prime Minister Netanyahu was the face of the opposition to the world, and, yes, one can certainly argue with his approach.  But the view that the deal presented a serious, life-and-death threat to Israelis and their children was a position held across the political spectrum.

"Israelis were up against a popular American President, President Obama, whose Administration resorted to less than admirable strategies to paint those opposing the deal as warmongers.  On occasion, they hearkened back to thinly disguised, old tropes used against Jews for centuries.

"Where did most American Jews come down?  With President Obama, not Israel.  From the perspective of many Israelis, these two incidents told them American Jews are fair-weather friends.  When the going gets rough,  American Jews aren't there."

The meeting adjourned.  I saw one or two faces with indicating appreciation, nodding understanding.  

The rest: silence.

Here in Jerusalem we can see the demonstrations in the U.S. by those that would love for Israel to disappear. But we do not see the demonstrations of years gone by, of proud, public, unafraid Jews in places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco.

Yes, there are a few brave, lonely, determined voices.  But nothing organized by the major American Jewish organizations.  Nothing like the tens and hundreds of thousands of years gone by.

It seems like American Jews have become timid, without confidence, when it comes to supporting the only Jewish-majority nation in the world, a nation that has its challenges and that makes mistakes, but that has been miraculous in what it has accomplished and, under extraordinarily trying conditions, is generous in its conduct towards its enemies.

A nation that seeks peace but refuses to not defend itself in the face of rampant aggression against its people. A country that changed the perception of all Jews in the world, and that made Jews strong and proud.

In the face of that nation suffering over 3,100 missiles fired at its civilian population, a population that would have been devastated but for its defensive systems and its shelters, American Jews are, as my former rabbi in Sacramento put it, the Jews of silence.  

We've seen this movie before.  We saw the Pittsburgh Platform, wherein the budding Reform Movement rejected Zionism and the concept of the Jews as a nation and asserted that Judaism was simply another religion whose adherents would meld comfortably into the countries of which they were citizens, in this case the United States, the Promised Land, the Golden Medina.

We saw the timid, silent American Jews of the 1930's and 1940's, those that counseled against demanding strong measures to rescue the condemned, to not rock the boat, to not  pressure, all out of fear of irritating the Roosevelt Administration and of calling into question their loyalties.

We saw major American Jewish organizations and so-called leaders of the American Jewish community cringe and criticize as Hillel Kook (a.k.a. Peter Bergson, Revisionist Israeli leader) who organized loud and very public rallies and marches and pageants demanding American action aimed at saving Europe's Jews, to little avail.

We saw the early days of the Soviet Jewry Movement, when the Jewish "establishment" warned that protestors were upsetting the Nixon Administration's rapprochement with the Soviet dictators, assured us that they knew how to get the job done quietly and diplomatically, when in reality they were fearful of being charged with putting Jews before America and with losing their invitations to Washington dinner parties.

We know who in these instances have been judged heroic and who have been judged cowardly.  We know who we now admire and who we do not respect.

We know who stood proudly when the lives and limbs of their brothers and sisters were under dire threat, and who were concerned for their status with those they look to in the general community for acceptance and legitimacy.

American Jews and American Jewish organizations will not be proud of this moment in Jewish history or in Israel-American Jewish relations.

The next time American Jews complain that Israelis are not considering their feelings and taking into account their opinions and needs, remember this moment. Be assured that Israelis will.

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A night at the concert

Since Monday night Hamas has fired over 1,000 missiles at Israel, all aimed at civilians.  For some inexplicable reason, the authorities allowed an outdoor concert to take place last night at the Israel Museum here in Jerusalem, usually a beautiful night time venue. And for some stupid reason, my wife and I went.

In the middle of the concert, we could see a couple of the ushers looking toward the west, the Tel Aviv area. Those of us in the back seats stood up and could see fire, lights, etc. in the sky. I checked the alert app on my phone. Missiles in Rishon LeZion, just southeast of Tel Aviv.

Our daughter lives in Tel Aviv. She checked in on us and we on her. After a few minutes, we decided our 1950's apartment with no shelter was still better than the Israel Museum outdoor theater. So we left.

On the 10 minute drive home, the radio station kept interrupting with a siren sound and a monotone voice saying a city, and then "take shelter" (my interpretation, which is not perfect).

City after city: Rishon LeZion, Herzliya, Holon (bus hit), Ramat Hasharon, Tel Aviv, Jaffa. It just kept going on and on. Every announcement my wife and I shuttered, paralyzed. Checked with our daughter again.

I've heard no condemnations from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the Squad, et. al. We are now hitting back hard. But, we're polite.  We give out warnings before we target a building so that the "innocent civilians" can leave.  My question:  do the bad guys stay put so that they look like good sports?

Once the body count on the other side gets up there, we'll start hearing about proportionality (a much misunderstood and misused military doctrine), the  cycle of violence, restraint, and a host of other meaningless platitudes.

We'll hear about how so many more Palestinians than Israelis have died. This basically sounds like our critics would be happier if only more Israelis were killed.  If only we wouldn't use our resources and concern for life to build shelters and defenses, they'd feel better.