Thursday, July 24, 2014

On the Home Front in Netanya

This was sent by Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum as a Shearim newsletter. Shearim is a Russian outreach program in Netanya started by Rabbi Birnbaum.

Dear Friends,

I am inclined to believe that there is no true Jew in the world, certainly none in Israel, whose tension-level did not increase in the course of the last week. I had a dozen phone calls yesterday alone from supporters and friends of Shearim Netanya who are asking what they could do to help in the situation.

The Pikkud Ha'oref (Home Command) invited me yesterday for an emergency meeting. The lieutenant-colonel in charge of the Home Command had only one point on his agenda. Make sure to maintain your people's alertness to the dangers lurking on the horizon. Hamas may be reserving a select group of rockets for a last blast as a cease-fire will be forced upon the field of battle. Please note this possibility and act accordingly. Although Netanya had only one siren-warning during the 16 days of hostilities, we, as well as the whole country are viewed as a battlefield. Therefore, friends, do not allow yourself to relax your alertness.

After the head of the Netanya Home Command closed his topic, he asked us, the five invited chairmen of organizations, for our reactions to the situation. It soon became clear that a large number of people city-wide are craving for opportunities to make their input felt in the crisis. I reported to the small group that one of my members is even ready to drive to the frontline to deliver packages for the soldiers.

The following conclusions could be drawn from the discussion:

(1) What the soldiers need now most is underwear, socks, soap, deodorant, small towel, towelettes, toothbrush, small toothpaste. Add a package or two of potato chips and similar. Attach a small, neat note in the language most familiar to you expressing your gratitude for his/her saving work on behalf of our People and Land, wishing the soldier well and a safe return home. Sign the note giving your name, address, cell/phone number.

Place it all in a box closed by scotch-tape and deliver to Shearim office Sunday or Monday. We will take care of delivery to the front, in partnership with the Home Command.

(2) If you have the space, let us know of your readiness to offer home hospitality, for how many people, for what period.

(3) It can be assumed that once cease-fire will be established, the forces will remain in battle readiness for an additional three-four days. The above suggestions are therefore relevant probably till the end of the month, Thursday, July 31. Of course we may be pleasantly surprised and the tension may relax sooner. Or we may be surprised in the opposite direction and the shelling of the terrorist groups may linger on for a few days more.

Friends, if you wish to act, you have an opportunity.

I am certain that we all join in the prayer for a speedy and successful ending of the present Gaza campaign.

Our hearts go out to the bereaved families who lost loved ones in our defensive action against the terrorists.

May they be comforted by the conviction and the sense of pride that their dear ones died for the noble and sacred cause of defending the only Jewish Homeland on the globe in the millennial Land of our Fathers,

Shalom, Shalom lakarov velarachok -- Peace, Peace to those near and to those far.

Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Israel's Response to U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Israel's Response to U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 
(Communicated by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva)
14 July 2014
I have read the OHCHR press briefing from Friday, 11 July 2014, and I reject it outright.
I read it with a magnifying glass, looking for any combination of the words "Hamas" and "condemn". I have failed to find it. In the efforts to safeguard the human rights of Israelis, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and her Office have failed dismally.
The clarity of her message to Israel is in sharp contrast to the opaqueness of her message to Hamas. She has put to shame George Orwell's doublespeak. She refused, over and over, to acknowledge the fact that Hamas is committing a double war crime: targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. Israel, on the other hand, is taking measures to avoid harming innocent civilians and to minimize casualties. Hamas exploits Israel's policy by instructing its population to act as human shields for its arsenal of deadly missiles and for its leaders and terrorists.
I react with total disbelief to the High Commissioner of Human Rights' call made to "leaders on all sides" to "abandon their poisonous rhetoric". Israel acted with utmost restraint when rockets started to rain on its cities and villages following the abduction and killing of Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali, on June 12. Furthermore, Israeli leaders have condemned the murder of Muhammad Abu Khder and the suspects to the murder have already been arrested and await trial.
And Hamas? Where is Hamas' condemnation of the perpetrators? Am I deaf? I cannot hear strong voices of empathy and condolences to the families of the youths, or condemnation of the deed itself. I believe I have perfect hearing, yet I hear nothing. I only hear Hamas celebrating the landing of missiles on the homes of Israeli civilians.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is misguided. The High Commissioner has lost her bearings. Focusing her criticism on Israel is wrong, biased, unjustifiable and, ultimately, unhelpful. If she actually wanted to be helpful in this situation, she would have condemned Hamas in the strongest manner.
So, once again, let me make the realities on the ground crystal clear:
Hamas - an internationally recognized terrorist organization - deliberately embeds its military operations deep in residential areas, and exploits its own civilian population as human shields. These actions are war crimes. Many of Hamas' commanders use their own homes for military purposes - including weapons storage, command and control centers and military communications. In videos uploaded to the IDF's YouTube channel, secondary explosions can be seen following IDF attacks on some of these houses - clearly indicating their military use. Under international law, when the exploitation of residential houses makes an effective contribution to Hamas' military actions, these buildings clearly become legitimate military targets.
When attacking these lawful targets, the IDF makes every effort to ensure such attacks are proportionate and to minimize any unavoidable civilian harm. The IDF has no desire to harm civilians, and is acting solely to weaken Hamas terrorist infrastructure and safeguard our civilians.
The IDF conducts its operations in full accordance with international law. IDF commanders are trained in international law and legal advisors are embedded at the highest level of the chain of command. The IDF employs a range of tools - including distributing flyers, personalized phone calls and text messages - to warn people in the vicinity of an impending attack.
Instead of raising doubts regarding Israel's commitment to the rule of law, the High Commissioner and her Office should be questioning why Hamas deliberately embeds its military operations in residential homes and civilian areas. A terrorist organization that uses its civilian population as human shields, and deliberately fires at the Israeli civilian population, is conducting war crimes - and should be denounced for doing so.
I believe the High Commissioner's concerns for the implementation of Israel's 'Operation Protective Edge' have been fully answered. Her responsibility now is to condemn Hamas and to call on President Abbas to dissolve the Fatah-Hamas "unity government" pact, as well as to support Israel's right to defend itself.
This is the only way to achieve peace in our region.
Eviatar Manor
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

Monday, July 7, 2014

Open Letter to PBS NewsHour

On July 7, PBS NewsHour aired a segment misleadingly titled "Mideast tensions escalate in cycle of retribution for teen killings." The program featured Josef Federman, Dennis Ross, Shibley Telhami and Judy Woodruff.

Prof. Doron Lubinsky of Atlanta sent the following letter about the segment to PBS NewsHour.

On the whole, Judy Woodruff tried to be fair tonight. Even Josef Federman conceded that the rocket attacks from Gaza, were forcing Israelis to stay inside bomb shelters across southern Israel.

Of course, Shibley Telhami talked of "Palestinian desperation". Who is primarily responsible for that "despair"? It is Palestinian leaders such as Arafat and Abbas, who have rejected every resolution to the conflict that allows a permanent Israel (no matter what its boundaries). And then there is Hamas, which regularly broadcasts children's programs calling for the murder of all Jews.

There could have been a Palestinian state in 1948 alongside Israel, but the Arab world instead invaded the tiny Jewish state. There could have been a Palestinian state between 1948 and 1967 when Jordan controlled the West Bank, but there was no talk of it then. There could have been a Palestinian state after the Arab lost the Six-Day War in 1967, but the Arab League vowed "no recognition, no talks, no peace". There could have been a Palestinian state in 2001 under the Clinton plan, but Arafat walked away and started an intifada. There could have been a Palestinian state in 2010 with Olmert, but Abbas refused to respond. There could have been a Palestinian state this year, but Abbas gave Pres. Obama three no's: no to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; no to compromise on refugees; no to ending the conflict after Palestinian statehood in the West Bank.

So why all the no's? Because the core issue is rejection of any permanent Israel at all. The Palestinian cause was built to dismantle Israel. It's tragedy is that its obsession with destroying Israel far exceeds the desire for statehood. Yes, Abbas might feign acceptance while Israel is making one-sided concessions, but will always ensure that there are further pretexts for conflict. Imagine if the Arab world had uplifted all the Arab refugees in the way Israel uplifted all the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, if they had looked forward rather than backward?

And yes, despite all the cover given to Hamas, it is Hamas that is launching most of the rockets. It is Fatah's own TV and newspapers and officials that praised the kidnapping of the three teens. And it is Israel that arrested the Israeli perpetrators of the despicable murder of the Palestinian teen, while Palestinian society has praised, and given cover to, the murderers of the Israel teens. The mother of one of the Palestinians suspected of the murders praised the purported actions of her son, in public.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dear New York Times: I Must Decline Your Offer

I have received your invitation to resubscribe to the New York Times at a discount.  I must decline that offer.

When I cancelled my subscription earlier this year, I informed you that the reason for that cancellation was my anger and disappointment that your obvious bias against Israel was demonstrated clearly by your editorials and Op-Ed columns.  Even worse, you allowed that bias to openly pervade the supposedly objective coverage in your news section.  I told you that I would consider subscribing again in the future if, and only if, you took the necessary steps to provide fair and objective reporting and, at a minimum, more balance in your selection of editorials and individual columns on the subject.

Judging from the many editorials, columns, and news articles pointed out to me by friends who still read your paper, you have done nothing to curtail the demonstration of such pervasive bias on this subject.  Accordingly, I still do not want your newspaper to come into my home at any price.  As I previously informed you, until I see evidence of a significant change in your policy toward Israel, I will not consider subscribing to your paper again.  Please do not bother to send me any more offers.

Howard Rosenthal
Sarasota, Florida

An Open Letter to the Leadership of the Presbyterian Church

Sent by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Senior Rabbi, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue

June 23, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Faith:

There is a Jewish folktale that defines a friend as one who knows what gives his comrade pain. If we do not know what gives our fellow pain, we cannot be a friend. You have caused us deep pain, the kind of pain that penetrates the heart.

Our friendship has been ruptured not because we may disagree on any specific policy of the government of Israel. Good friends often disagree with, and criticize each other. Rather, you have evolved views that come perilously close to classic Christian animosity towards Judaism.

The recently-published study guide Zionism Unsettled is a disgrace. It is an anti-Zionist screed in the guise of intellectual depth. It is propaganda, a hit job that pulls out a few Jewish writings - frequently out of context - to support the anti-Zionist points you want to make. Every single page of the study guide is flawed and biased.

What don't you accuse Zionism of: ethnic cleansing, racial and religious superiority, and exclusiveness! The guide even goes so far as to compare Zionism with Nazism. You ask whether Paul Tillich, an advocate of Zionism, might have expressed the same prophetic critique against Zionism as he did against Nazism if he only knew how Zionism would develop. (p.38) Have you strayed so far from Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich that you would now seriously suggest that were they alive today Tillich and Niebuhr would be anti-Zionists?

You criticize Israel incessantly. But you are silent about Arab rejectionism, intolerance, and terrorism. Your minds are made up. There is little reflection, little sophistication, and little effort to understand underlying causes. There is only superficial bias: no depth of analysis and no friendship. You even ignore the reality that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christians are comfortable and safe, and Christian holy places are protected and open to all.

It is, indeed, tragic that there is violence in Israel and Palestinian territories. You are not the only liberal movement that seeks peace. We, too, have been fighting for peace our entire lives. But it is even more tragic that Israel has been left with no alternative but to fight against those who have never recognized her and have made it their cause to destroy her.

It is easy to sit in a convention center and debate philosophy and policy far removed from the realities of daily life. It is easy to write resolutions if you have never experienced the fear of sending your children to school in the morning and worrying about whether they will come home at night. It is easy to voice noble sentiments of love and brotherhood if you have never had to don gas masks or spend days on end in an underground shelter. It is easy to condemn the walled section of the security barrier in Bethlehem, utterly ignoring why the security apparatus was built in the first place: That Palestinian terrorists simply crossed into Israel and murdered and maimed thousands of Israelis or climbed onto rooftops in Bethlehem and sniped at Israeli civilians, shooting into homes, schools, shops and playgrounds.

Is it too much to expect fellow liberal believers to take context into account: to understand that our lives are not only about the religious ideal, but also about the real? Is it too much to expect some understanding and some sympathy from fellow religious liberals that we live in an imperfect world, and that we must struggle for justice in the world as it is? Instead, you voice what sounds to us paltry pieties and self-satisfied sanctimonies about peace and "our love for our Jewish brothers."

The test is not whether you can quote religious chapter and verse. The test is to apply religious values to a difficult reality where it takes two to love and two to practice brotherhood and two to make peace. You cannot make peace by yourself. You act as if Israel alone has the sole power and responsibility to make peace: that the Palestinians are potted plants, victims who have no power, no influence and no responsibility.

We hoped that fellow liberals would understand the full complexities of the Middle East. We hoped that fellow liberals would work with us to advance the cause of peace. Instead, you have placed yourselves on the other side. You are on the side of Israel's foes, whether this was your intention or not.

While you attack what you perceive as the exclusivist and even racist elements of Judaism, you mention in Zionism Unsettled the inclusive nature of Islam (p.50). I have no doubt that many Muslims are inclusive. I have met, and deeply respect, many of them, and we have worked together in common cause.

But it is dishonest to ignore the reality that Israel, and the West itself, are fighting not that part of Islam that is inclusive, but the part that is rejectionist. Moderate Muslims are allies in this struggle. If only Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, or just the individual teenager who blows himself up in a restaurant or a hospital were to have read your study guide and be convinced that true Islam is the way of moderation.

In the most recent Anti Defamation League survey, 93% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza express anti-Semitic views. In Lebanon the number is 78%; in Saudi Arabia, 74%, in Jordan, 81%, in Iran, 56%, and throughout the Middle East and North Africa, 74% of the population has an anti-Jewish worldview.

At this moment of anti-humanitarian, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-women's rights, anti-gay, anti-pluralistic, anti-Western tribal savageness in the Middle East - this is the moment that you chose to divest from companies trading with Israel? There is no mention of Israel's fundamental democratic character or sympathy for its struggle to survive in the world's worst neighborhood, encountering challenges the likes of which no other democracy in the world must face.

Divestment is shameful. Boycotting enterprises trading with Israel is reminiscent of dark chapters in Jewish-Christian relations that we thought were forever behind us. You have fallen in with a bad crowd, morally, philosophically and religiously. No matter how much you seek to explain or distinguish, you have fallen in with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) crowd. These are among the worst and most implacable of Israel's enemies. They are not in favor of what you say you support: two states living side-by-side in peace.

In fact, you will forgive me if I voice my doubts about whether you really do believe in a two-state solution. You made a point of emphasizing Israel's right to exist in the divestment resolution. But if, in your view, Zionism was born in original sin, why uphold Israel's right to exist? If the very basis and purpose of Zionism was to dispossess another people, as you claim in Zionism Unsettled, why now uphold, justify and cleanse a philosophy that you consider ethnic cleansing?

Rather, isn't it more natural first to have an anti-Zionist philosophy, and then to pass resolutions expressing it? That is usually how life unfolds. Statements follow beliefs. All your protestations, clarifications and softening language notwithstanding, your words speak volumes because your beliefs are clear.

You should not be comforted by the relative handful of Jewish activists and academics you have found to support your views. We are a famously argumentative, intellectually pluralistic and ideas-loving people. Jews have always disagreed with each other on everything, including as you point out, on Zionism, itself. Your Jewish supporters are marginal and unrepresentative and cannot be the slender reed upon which to justify your anti-Zionism or renew a productive partnership, if that is even what you want.

Finally, and I say this with the deepest respect, and with no intention to offend: It is not for you to decide what constitutes legitimate Jewish devotion to God. That is for Jews to decide. It is not for you to decide whether Zionism is a legitimate expression of Judaism; that is for Jews to decide. It is for you to decide only whether you will respect our understanding of Judaism.  

Perhaps there is some consolation that the vote on the divestment resolution was so close. On the other hand, the fact that it was so close in the first place is deeply concerning.

I join you in praying for peace; may it come speedily in our day. May we work ceaselessly to bring about that day when all shall sit under vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid: a day when justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Be'shalom,
In peace,


Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch
Senior Rabbi, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
New York City    

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CONSTITUTIONAL AND CRIMINAL LAW SCHOLARS CALL FOR POLLARD'S RELEASE - SET FORTH 10 COMPELLING CONSIDERATI​​ONS FOR THE EXERCISE OF EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY BY PRESIDENT OBAMA

​​​​FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  (June 22, 2014)

​Contact: Office of the Hon. Irwin Cotler, MP - +1.514.283.017; Prof. Alan 
M. Dershowitz - (Harvard Law School)

A distinguished group of American constitutional and criminal law scholars 
and practitioners have written to US President Obama requesting the 
commutation of Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served.

As the letter puts it, “such commutation is more than warranted if the ends 
of justice are to be served, the rule of law respected and simple humanity 
secured.”

Among the signatories are six professors from Harvard Law School, Obama’s 
alma mater, including: Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of 
Law; Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law; Philip B. 
Heymann, James Barr Ames Professor of Law; and Mary Ann Glendon, Learned 
Hand Professor of Law. They are joined by Canadian law professor emeritus 
and former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada, Irwin Cotler, a 
sometimes visiting professor at Harvard.

The letter sets forth ten compelling considerations for the exercise of 
executive clemency by President Obama, including:

Pollard is now serving his twenty-ninth year of an unprecedented life 
sentence for the crime of “conveying classified information to a foreign 
government.” The usual sentence for this offence is six to eight years, with 
actual jail time before release averaging two to four years. Simply put, 
Pollard’s unprecedented life sentence is “excessive, grossly 
disproportionate, unfair and unjust.”

The sentence of life imprisonment is itself a breach of the plea bargain, 
wherein the prosecution had agreed not to seek life imprisonment in return 
for Pollard’s guilty plea, a breach characterized by Judge Stephen F. 
Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District as a “complete 
and gross miscarriage of justice.”

The life sentence was itself secured as a result of the submission - after 
the plea bargain and in violation of it - of a prejudicial ex parte 
affidavit to the sentencing judge.

Pollard has not only been excessively and disproportionately punished for 
the crime he did commit, but has been effectively punished and maligned for 
the crime he never committed – nor was ever charged or convicted of – 
namely, the crime of treason.

Pollard was falsely accused over the years of having compromised US security 
and American lives  in Eastern Europe, when it was Aldridge Ames, the head 
of the CIA’s Soviet/Eastern Europe Division, who had himself been both the 
architect of those treasonable acts, and the original source of the false 
allegations against Pollard.

Virtually everyone who was in a high position of government – and dealt with 
the ramifications of what Pollard did at the time – now support his release, 
including Secretary of State George Shultz, FBI Director and subsequent CIA 
Director William Webster, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence David 
Durenberger, and Chairman of House Intelligence Lee Hamilton.

The signatories conclude that, “it is precisely for standing injustices like 
this – and where the justice system has failed – that the U.S. Constitution 
has vested in the President the power of executive clemency. We urge you to 
exercise this power in the pursuit of justice, the rule of law and simple 
humanity.”

​Text of letter to President Obama:June 20, 2014

President Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20500

Re: Jonathan Pollard
Dear President Obama,

We, the undersigned, scholars and practitioners of American constitutional 
and criminal law, write to respectfully request the commutation of Jonathan 
Pollard’s sentence to time served. Indeed, such commutation is more than 
warranted if the ends of justice are to be served, the rule of law respected 
and simple humanity secured – the whole as set forth in the following 
considerations:

First, Pollard was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, one count of 
conveying classified information to a foreign government, in this instance, 
Israel, an ally of the U.S. The usual sentence for this offense is no more 
than six or eight years, with actual jail time before release averaging two 
to four years. Pollard is now serving his twenty-ninth year of an 
unprecedented life sentence – an excessive, grossly disproportionate, unfair 
and unjust sentence.

Second, the sentence of life imprisonment was itself a breach of the plea 
bargain wherein the prosecution agreed not to seek life imprisonment in 
return for Pollard’s guilty plea, his cooperation with the authorities and 
his agreement to waive his right to trial by jury, agreeing that a sentence 
of less than life imprisonment would serve the interests of justice and also 
act as a deterrent. This plea bargain also saved the government much time, 
money and prospective embarrassment of conducting a trial involving highly 
sensitive information, and where Pollard might well have been acquitted of 
the more serious charges. Indeed, Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. 
Court of Appeals for the First District later referred to the government’s 
breach of the plea bargain as a “complete and gross miscarriage of justice.”

Third, the life sentence was itself secured as a result of the submission - 
after the plea bargain and in violation of it - of a prejudicial ex parte 
affidavit to the sentencing judge by then Secretary of Defense Caspar 
Weinberger, to the effect that Pollard had compromised American National 
Security and was guilty of “treason.” However, in a 2004 interview, Mr. 
Weinberger himself admitted that, in retrospect, the Pollard matter was 
“comparatively minor,” and it is not even referenced in his memoires.

Fourth, Pollard has not only been excessively and disproportionately 
punished for the crime he did commit, but has been effectively punished for 
the crime he never committed – nor was ever charged or convicted of – 
namely, the crime of treason. Indeed, notwithstanding Weinberger’s 
affidavit - which Pollard never saw nor was ever able to challenge - there 
was never anything in the Pollard indictment to suggest that he intended any 
harm to the U.S., or sought to benefit any country other than America’s ally 
Israel. Yet, regrettably, prosecutorial “sources” in the Central 
Intelligence Agency, and the Defense, State and Justice Departments, 
continued to maintain, long after the plea bargain, that Pollard was charged 
with, and convicted of treason. Indeed, inspired media leaks, often 
coincident with Presidential reviews, sustained and amplified this false and 
misleading allegation.

Fifth, Pollard was also accused by government agencies over the years of 
having compromised intelligence “sources” and “methods” in Eastern Europe – 
a charge that was never part of the Pollard indictment, for which no 
evidence has ever been adduced, but whose recycling implicated Pollard in 
the deaths of at least a dozen U.S. informants in the former Soviet Union. 
Importantly, this last accusation is a case study of both government 
misrepresentation and cover-up. For while the CIA was accusing Pollard of 
this most egregious of charges, it knew – as it later became publicly 
known – that senior CIA official Aldridge Ames, the head of the CIA’s 
Soviet/Eastern Europe Division, had himself been both the architect of those 
treasonable acts, and the original source of the false allegations against 
Pollard on those charges.

Sixth, interestingly enough, a largely ignored December 2012 
declassification of a 1987 CIA damage assessment concerning Pollard shows, 
as Lawrence Korb, assistant Secretary of Defense from 1981-1985 under Caspar 
Weinberger reported, that “Pollard had cooperated with them fully and in 
good faith, acknowledged that Pollard did not divulge the most sensitive 
U.S. national security programs, including military activities, plans, 
capabilities, equipment, or communications… that Pollard provided 
intelligence only on the Soviet Union’s activities in the Middle East, the 
Arab States and Pakistan.” Yet CIA officials, as set forth above, continued 
to knowingly and falsely accuse Pollard of actions prejudicial to U.S. 
national security.

Seventh, Pollard was himself deprived of the right to effective legal 
counsel and defense as his attorney neglected to file a notice of intent to 
appeal following the prejudicial sentencing hearing, and Pollard was 
therefore forever deprived of his right to a direct appeal against his life 
sentence. The only appeals he has been able to bring have been of a 
collateral nature only, were dismissed on technical and procedural grounds, 
and were never addressed on the merits. Indeed, American former prosecutors 
and directors intentionally mislead when they write that Pollards’ life 
sentence “was subsequently upheld by the Appellate Court” – masking the fact 
that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District had rejected Pollard’s 
appeal in a two to one decision on narrow technical grounds; and that the 
only comment on the merits was that of the dissenting Judge Stephen F. 
Williams, who – as we previously discussed – had castigated the government 
for its breach of the plea bargain agreement.

Eighth, as Governor Bill Richardson recently wrote to you, “virtually 
everyone who was in a high position of government – and dealt with the 
ramifications of what Pollard did at the time – now support his release. 
They include Secretary of State George Shultz, FBI Director and subsequent 
CIA Director William Webster, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence David 
Durenberger, and Chairman of House Intelligence Lee Hamilton.” Indeed, those 
in the Clinton and Bush administrations who have seen the classified 
information have come out for Pollard’s release, including major figures 
from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Ninth, it is important to recall and to note that Pollard fully honored the 
plea agreement that the government violated; that he fully cooperated with 
the authorities; that he has been a model prisoner; that he has apologized 
and expressed remorse for his actions; that he has been falsely accused over 
the years – by those in a position to know better – of compromising American 
security if not American lives - that in a word, Pollard was guilty of 
treason; that his sentence and imprisonment is as unjust as it is 
unprecedented; that Pollard is aging, in deteriorating health and deserving 
of release.

Finally, in the words of Lawrence Korb, “We believe that commuting Pollard’s 
sentence to time served is the right and compassionate thing to do. We 
believe that his continued incarceration constitutes a travesty of justice 
and a stain on the American system of justice.”

Mr. President, it is precisely for standing injustices like this – and where 
the justice system has failed and cannot provide relief – that the U.S. 
Constitution has vested in the President the power of executive clemency. We 
urge you to exercise this power in the pursuit of justice, the rule of law 
and simple humanity.


Respectfully,


Alan M. Dershowitz
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School

Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.
Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvad Law School
Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice

Philip B. Heymann
James Barr Ames Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
Former Deputy Attorney General of the US

Irwin Cotler
Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, and sometimes Visiting 
Professor at Harvard Law School
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Gabriella Blum
Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law 
School

Frank I. Michelman
Robert Walmsley University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University
President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

Nadine Stroessen
Professor of Law, New York Law School
Former President, American Civil Liberties Union, 1991-2008

Monroe Freedman
Professor of law, Hofstra University
Former Dean at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

Suzanne Last Stone
Professor of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Purposeful Trip to Israel

Brian Grodman wrote this article about a recent trip to Israel he took with his father. It was originally published in The New Hampshire Jewish Reporter.

In late April, my father and I spent nine days in Eretz Yisrael.  This was my tenth trip to the Holy Land, and my dad has doubled my visits.  I speak with many folks about traveling to Israel and I understand that, for many, there is hesitance.  Is it safe?  What do I do there?  How do I get around?  Who do I go with?  This particular trip included a myriad of activities.  I thought many readers could glean ideas as there is something for everyone.

Brian Grodman with his father, Larry, in front of the Fogel home.
Brian Grodman with Colonel Mordechai Kedar,
director Efraim Inbar, Professor Efraim Karsh, Larry Grodman,
and Jerry Haas at the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.


We are fortunate to have 18 (chai) relatives living in Israel.  We landed during the late afternoon on Thursday.  On Friday, we visited a huge recycling plant outside Tel Aviv.  This facility is a tourist attraction with almost 1,000 visitors during peak times.  The facility includes a beautiful park overlooking the city below.  Friday evening brings much of the country to a slower pace as Shabbat is observed with family and friends.  While the vast majority of Israelis consider themselves secular (rarely attending synagogue), most honor Shabbat with a group of friends and/or family over a special dinner.  Saturday continues this feeling as couples, families and friends walk and hike everywhere.  There are fewer cars on the road.  Route 6, the major north-south artery (similar to Route 93) is quite empty.  This toll road was built a half dozen years ago with the same EZ pass system that was just installed in Hooksett.  However, there are no toll booths.  No electronic pass - no drive on Route 6!

My adventurous side was satisfied the following day as we rented small four-wheel buggies for a wonderful few hours in the Judean hills surrounding Jerusalem.  These fun vehicles seat two people and seeing the capital outskirts and historic sites in this manner was special.  Jerusalem is the only world capital not containing a foreign embassy.  The dozen countries that previously had their embassies in Jerusalem moved to Tel Aviv.

Tuesday provided us with a guided tour of Samaria (the northern half of Judea & Samaria), which is also called the West Bank (of the Jordan River).  This part of Israel is also described as "outside the green line."  The "green line" refers to the 1949 armistice borders that were drawn with a green marker.  Through my contacts, a community leader was pleased to spend four hours educating us regarding biblical history and current events.  There are 350,000 Jews living here.  Gush Etzion is home to 70,000 people.  Modi'in Illit has a population of 60,000.  The (Jerusalem) bedroom community of Ma'ale Adumim boasts 35,000 inhabitants.  The Little League home of Williamsport, PA is her sister city. Technically, the eastern part of Jerusalem is outside the "green line."  This is similar to partitioning the people of north Manchester from others in the city.  The violence that rained upon Jewish inhabitants prior to the 1967 Six Day War, from East Jerusalem, was constant.

My initial visit to Israel, in 1966, could not include the Western Wall.  Her US sister city is Mobile, Alabama.  From the Mediterranean city of Netanya to the "green line" is only nine miles.  This was the width of Israel according to the pre-1967 borders.  (The great Foreign Minister Abba Eban called these borders "Auschwitz Lines")  The elevation rises 300 feet during this quick drive.  However, continuing directly eastward to the city of Ariel, (with 20,000 population and Mobile, Alabama as the sister city) provides another 1,200 feet of elevation.  Thus, whoever controls the heights of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) controls the cities and communities on the coast below.  Additionally, 50% of water flows through the West Bank.  We drove deep into the territory and onto a hill called Three Seas Lookout.  From this vantage point we could follow the footsteps of the patriarchs.   In Itamar (population 1,000), we stopped in front of the Fogel family home.  The parents and three children (from newborn to eleven years old) were massacred, in their home, late in the night in 2011.  The newborn, Hadas, was decapitated.  I got out of the car and watched children playing quietly and walking on this residential street.  The 17 year old perpetrators are currently serving multiple life sentences.  Of course, there is constant security surrounding this, and other, communities with an armed guard and gate.

The following morning illustrated the diversity of Israel with a meeting at Tel Aviv University (TAU).  The CEO of their high tech venture capital fund explained various endeavors in the life sciences, computer sciences and other forays.  For example, US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was saved due to a special Israeli-designed bandage applied immediately after she was shot in 2011.  An amazing six Nobel laureates in chemistry, in the past ten years, have come from Israel.

We then drove from TAU to Bar Ilan University for a highly informative two-hour lunch meeting with the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and three involved political science professors.  These men have high level contacts within the diplomatic and military communities.  Our discussion included, the Iranian threat, internal decision-making and foreign relationships.  When I asked for the three closest allies of Israel at the current time, I received a response of only one country: Canada.  All four believed the window of opportunity had closed for Israel to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities.

On Thursday, we were invited, on a very private tour, of the Israeli Navy SEAL (Shayetet 13) base outside Haifa.  I knew this three hour experience would be worthwhile when I had to place my cell phone and camera in a locker prior to entering the briefing room.  The highly guarded base provides the home for this unit of the IDF which is responsible for fighting the "war between wars."  The deputy operational commander was our guide and began with a Power Point presentation of some recent activities.  The constant threats and responses were illustrated and described.  We left this room and headed to the building where the dozens of Shayetet members Killed In Action, since 1949, are honored.  My request to see some of their special boats had been granted and we were escorted into a large boat hanger.  These boats are generally received from the US and then retrofitted.  Additionally, the US SEALS and Shayetet teams have some joint training.  Walking into the dormitory was interesting.  Instead of carrying backpacks containing computers and books, these young men between 19 and 22 years old, carry their automatic rifles and other weaponry.  These college-age men are listening to music, training and relaxing - knowing that they may be called into deadly action without notice.  Less than one out of 100 applicants becomes a member of this elite special force.

Friday (erev Shabbat) brought me to the Dead Sea for a hike in the 100° heat and then rappelling down six cliffs.  The view of the hills, sea and Jordanian coast is always beautiful.  I had stayed on the Jordanian side a few years ago and it was ironic to look across again.  I spent most of this time seeking bits of shade and thinking about the upcoming family Shabbat dinner!

After a failed early morning hot-air ballooning attempt, due to wind, I enjoyed the one hour drive to the family on Saturday as the roads were quiet.  We had a wonderful lunch of falafel, hummus, tahini and salads at an Arab restaurant (Jewish owned establishments are generally closed on Saturday).  Many Jews and Arabs packed the tables.

Thus, we had a plethora of activities during our nine days in Israel...and it was my first trip to Israel without being in the capital city of Jerusalem!  So, there are many interesting ways to spend time in this truly remarkable country.  Please feel free to contact me for assistance in planning your visit to the only Jewish country in the world...you will feel at home.

Brian Grodman may be contacted at brian.grodman@comcast.net.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Letter to the President of Brandeis

Jay Bergman, PRIMER board member and an alumnus of Brandeis University, sent the following letter to the president of his alma mater regarding the disgraceful Ayaan Hirsi Ali episode:

Frederick Lawrence
President
Brandeis University
Waltham, Massachusetts

Dear President Lawrence:

The decision of Brandeis University not to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, after first announcing that it would do so, is disgraceful.

The cowardice it reflects contrasts sharply with the courage Ms. Ali has shown in condemning aspects of Islam that she rightly considers cruel, bigoted, and misogynistic, and for which she has suffered grievously.

It is yet another example of how arrogant, closed-minded faculty, and students who believe they can prohibit anything on campus that makes them uncomfortable, can intimidate administrators such as yourself to the point where one of the principles essential to higher education -- a tolerance of opinions with which one disagrees -- is dispensed with in the name of preserving "a welcoming environment."  But the very essence of education is being challenged intellectually, and if students cannot endure the discomfort that that often induces, they have no business attending a college or university.

You say that you are withdrawing the award because Ms. Hirsi's views violate what you call "the core values" of the university.  But Brandeis saw nothing wrong in awarding an honorary degree to Tony Kushner, who has called the creation of the state of Israel a mistake and falsely accused it of ethnic cleansing; and to Desmond Tutu, an anti-semitic bigot who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany.  From this one could reasonably conclude -- since Tutu's anti-semitism did not cause Brandeis to refrain from awarding him a degree -- that anti-semitism is either one of the core values of your university or is not inconsistent with these values.

It is clear that at Brandeis University Israel can be smeared and those who do so are rewarded, but someone who properly criticizes Islam is unfairly attacked and dishonored.

In short, you have made the sorry record the university has compiled in awarding honorary degrees even worse.

And what makes your shameful capitulation especially regrettable to me is that I am an alumnus of Brandeis University, class of 1970.  Your university is my university.  And right now I am ashamed to call it my alma mater.

Sincerely,

Jay Bergman

Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT 06050

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Needed: An Honest Broker

Despite enormous concessions by Israel, bordering on the unbelievable, agreement on ending the Palestinian Arab-Israeli portion of the more general Arab-Israeli conflict (of which it is both a part and a consequence) is further away than ever before. Among the reasons: the Palestinian Arabs still refuse to make any real compromises and Palestinian Arab society has been increasingly radicalized since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

While the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs, starting with Yasser Arafat and now resting with the so-called "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas, the role of the United States has not been helpful. While the U.S. has tried to play the role of an "honest broker" and anti-Israel activists frequently argue that the American government cannot be an honest broker because it is too close to Israel, the reality is that successive American administrations have put virtually no pressure on the Arabs to compromise while constantly pressuring Israel to make unreasonable concessions and "good-will gestures."

These actions by the United States only reinforce the intransigence of the Arabs and their refusal to make peace with Israel, regardless of the terms. This, of course, is the heart of the conflict and the reason it continues.

The United States has also repeatedly backtracked on commitments to Israel, including commitments made in order to get Israel to make one-sided, unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinian Arabs. Recall, for example, the way the Obama administration pressured Israel into a ten-month construction freeze with assurances it would be reciprocated by good-will gestures by the Palestinian Arabs along with various Arab states. No such gestures were ever made, but the United States continues to pressure Israel to strangle the Jewish communities in the disputed territories and even in Jerusalem.

These mistakes have been made both by presidents who were friendly to Israel, such as Reagan, Clinton and the younger Bush, and presidents who were/are not very friendly to Israel, such as Carter, the elder Bush and Obama.

It's instructive to look back at some of the "highlights" since the start of the failed Oslo process.

The start of the Oslo process was a time of hope, but it was unintentionally subverted at the very beginning by President Clinton and then fatally damaged by the aftermath of Camp David.

To put things in context: In the beginning, the United States supported United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In reality, it no longer acts in support of those resolutions. The United States joined Israel in opposing the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state in the disputed territories. It supported the continued free access to united Jerusalem. (This is still the official policy of the United States, enshrined in the law calling for the relocation of the American embassy to Israel's capital, but the administration today acts contrary to that law.)

The original understandings between Israel and the PLO called for the PLO to amend its charter, removing the portions calling for the destruction of Israel, before any documents were actually signed. President Clinton, in his eagerness to get the process going, pressured Israel to participate in the famous signing ceremony on the White House lawn before the PLC charter was amended, with assurances the charter would be amended shortly thereafter.

Two decades later, the charter has yet to be amended.

This has set the pattern. America pressures Israel to make concessions and gestures, with assurances that they will be reciprocated by the Palestinian Arabs. It shouldn't be surprising that the Arabs have always tried to weasel out of their commitments.  With America generally looking the other way, unfortunately they generally have reneged.

At the famous Camp David talks in 2000, the ground rules included the provision that nothing was agreed upon until everything was agreed upon.

In the context of that provision and in the hope of inducing the Palestinian Arabs to finally make peace, Israel proposed making enormous, indeed unprecedented and bizarre concessions, crossing numerous red lines. It considered a division of Jerusalem; it considered giving the Palestinian Arabs sovereignty over Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount; it considered giving the Palestinian Arabs roughly 95 percent of the disputed territory; it considered forcibly removing all Jews from the areas to be given to the Arabs . It even considered the absurd proposition of "swapping" some land within Israel proper in exchange for keeping some of the disputed territory - as if the disputed territory was the property of the Palestinian Arabs.

Arafat, of course, rejected peace and launched his so-called "Al Aksa intifada," murdering thousands of innocent Israeli civilians in bus bombings and other suicide attacks.

However, despite the American guidelines that nothing was agreed upon unless everything was agreed upon, since then the United States has used all the proposed Israeli concessions as a baseline, effectively rewarding the Palestinian Arabs for their refusal to make peace. This has poisoned the "peace process" ever since.

At that time, the United States still officially opposed the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state. That changed in 2002, when in the midst of the Arabs' brutal terror offensive, President Bush announced his support of "two states for two peoples." (This, of course, really meant three states for two peoples, since the Palestinian Arabs already had a state in Jordan, comprising nearly four-fifths of mandatory Palestine.) The real strategic mistake here was this action amounted to an enormous reward for terrorism. Especially so soon after 9/11, it sent precisely the wrong message to terrorists around the world: it demonstrated, loudly and clearly, that terrorism pays!

This flawed policy change was tied in with another, the famous "Road Map for Peace," which was officially launched in conjunction with the "Quartet" in 2003.

This document was deeply flawed. Typically, it called for additional, unfair concessions by Israel, such as a freeze of construction in "settlements" - even in areas everyone knows will be retained by Israel under any conceivable agreement (if one considers the Palestinian Arabs ever agreeing to peace as conceivable) - and allowing the opening of illegal Palestinian Authority offices in Jerusalem, while not calling on the Palestinian Arabs to do anything they had not already agreed to several times over, such as abandoning incitement and terror.

The Road Map did have one saving grace. For the first time, the United States put forth a policy which was step-by-step, where the process would not proceed to the next step until both sides - not just Israel - had adhered to its commitments of the previous step.

Unfortunately, but typically, when the Palestinian Arabs completely ignored their commitments in the very first phase - primarily the ending of incitement and terrorism - the Bush administration rewarded them in 2007 by jumping right past the first two phases and organizing the Annapolis conference to jump start final status negotiations.

In the meantime, in 2005 the Israeli government under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had decided to completely leave Gaza. It even evacuated Jewish communities which were adjacent to Israel proper and which were on land which had been owned by Jews at the time of the War of Independence, when Gaza was occupied by Egypt and the Jews thrown out of their homes.

In the context of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, President Bush wrote a letter to Prime Minister Sharon acknowledging something obvious, that negotiations over any border between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs would have to recognize demographic realities, particularly the existence of significant, primarily Jewish cities in areas beyond the temporary armistice lines in effect between 1948 and 1967.

It was also supposedly understood by all that once Israel completely left Gaza there was not even a scintilla of justification for any attacks on Israelis from Gaza and that Israel would not be inhibited in defending its people from terror attacks launched from Gaza.

The Bush letter and the understandings made the withdrawal from Gaza and the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish communities there less unpalatable.

Unfortunately, the terror attacks from Gaza not only didn't cease when Gaza was free of any Israeli control, but they increased. And whenever Israel did anything to defend its civilian population, the world condemned Israel and even the United States invariably called on Israel to act with "restraint."

The coup de grace came when President Obama entered the White House and declared the United States would not be bound by the Bush letter of understanding!

But President Obama didn't stop there. He also figuratively tore up the armistice agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors along with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 when he called for borders between Israel and a future Palestinian Arab state to be based on the temporary armistice lines with agreed upon "land swaps."

The armistice agreements specified the armistice lines were not to have any political significance; in other words, they were specifically not to be used as a basis for negotiating permanent borders. Thus President Obama was declaring his support of violating those agreements.

The Security Council resolutions called for withdrawals from land captured by Israel in 1967 and the negotiation of secure and recognized borders. The armistice lines, described as "Auschwitz borders" by the dovish Abba Eban, obviously could never be the basis for secure borders. Hence, in calling for borders based on the armistice lines, President Obama is also calling for the violation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

These actions by successive American presidents have a negative impact well beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict. Indeed, they probably harm the United States, the Western world and even the Palestinian Arabs more than they harm Israel.

Although they have made Arab-Israeli peace even less likely and pushed it further into the future, Israel has learned to cope with a lack of its most fervent wish. It has shown the ability to defend itself against each new wave of Arab terror and still thrive.

The rest of the world is not so fortunate.

American policy has sent out the message that terror and intransigence work. It has changed from opposing another, separate Palestinian Arab state to strongly supporting it, while ignoring the desire for independence of numerous other national groups, groups which have not repeatedly turned down the opportunity for independence and have not resorted to terrorism the way the Palestinian Arabs have.

American policy changes have also sent the message that America's word is not its bond, that America can no longer be trusted. Unless this message is reversed, this has the potential for catastrophic consequences in the future.

These policies of appeasing Arab terror and intransigence have perhaps hurt the Palestinian Arabs most of all. They have made it easier for the Palestinian Arabs to continue their fruitless, genocidal quest to destroy Israel rather than, however reluctantly, choosing peace and enabling their children to live normal lives rather than being indoctrinated in the glorification of suicide bombing and martyrdom.

What Should the American Administration Do?

In general, it? needs to start applying most of its pressure to the intransigent party, the Palestinian Arabs. The Israelis have several times offered the Arabs far more than any reasonable settlement calls for. Rather than reacting to Arab rejection by pressuring Israel to make more concessions, the American government should make it clear that the previous offers are off the table and the longer the Arabs reject peace the less support they'll get.

Rather than pressuring Israel to not build, even in communities which everyone knows will remain with Israel, the American government should be encouraging Israeli construction and telling Mahmoud Abbas that he's wasting time and his future state is shrinking.

The American administration should make it clear "land swaps" are off the table and the side need to come up with a reasonable partition of the disputed territory.

President Obama should repeat what he said the night he clinched the Democratic nomination for president, that Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel and he should finally implement the long-stalled Embassy Relocation Act and start building America's embassy to Israel in that nation's capital.

The American mediation role reminds one of Zeno’s Paradox. In Zeno’s Paradox, one argues it is impossible for anyone to leave a room, since before one leaves the room one first must get halfway to the door. But after one gets halfway to the door, one must still first get half of the remaining distance to the door, and so on. The, obviously faulty conclusion, is that one can never get all the way to the door.

America always seems to look at the positions of the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis and urges the parties to meet halfway. The Israelis try to meet halfway, but the Arabs never budge. By now, the Israelis have moved almost all the way to where the Palestinian Arabs started, but rather than moving towards the Israelis the Palestinian Arabs, if anything, have moved backwards.

In general, rather than reacting to Arab intransigence by trying to appease it, America should start over and begin paying attention to what would be a fair solution. It needs to be an honest broker and encourage peacemaking rather than peace-blocking.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A LESSON OF CHANUKKA: WHEN THERE ARE TWO "RIGHTS" IT IS OUR OBLIGATION TO FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHT

By Ervin Birnbaum
 
The Chanukka story contains a significant completely overlooked  angle -- namely its crucial relevance to our very own days. In historic perspective we see two "rights" emerging from Chanukka, that become involved in a titanic struggle with each other. In order to appreciate what the two "rights" are, we need to briefly begin the story several decades prior to the Maccabean uprising.
 
For clarity's sake we go back to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, signaling the collapse of the huge empire. Two of his generals divided the spoils between them. Ptolemy took the posessions south of Israel, focused on Egypt. Seleucus posessed the territory north of Israel, from Syria to the borders of India. As was so common throughout history, the Land of Israel became the battleground between these two powers. By 200 BCE  the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus III, also called the Great, wrested the Land of Israel for good from the Ptolemais in the Battle of Banyas. To the Jews in Israel, settled mainly around Jerusalem, it was of little consequence who was the overlord of the Land. Both empires were deeply Hellenized, under the impact of Greek civilization. Both were at peace with Judea, respecting the difference of its traditions and way of life. Josephus portrays Antiochus as friendly to the Jews, lowering their taxes, and letting them live "according to the law of their forefathers", and even resettling 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon in Judea.
 
Not long thereafter Antiochus the Great became involved in a conflict with a fledgling Eurepean power, the Romans, in his attempt to regain Alexander the Great's European possessions. The Romans would not allow the spread of Seleucid influence in Europe. In the ensuing Battle of Magnesia between the two superpowers in 192 BCE, Antiochus's 70,000 troops were decisively beaten by a Roman force of 30,000. According to the Alexandrian historian, Appian, Antiochus had to yield his 200 remaining elephants (the "tanks" of those days), most of his ships, an enormous financial indemnity and 20 hostages to the victorious Romans. Among the hostages was his son, who eventually became known as Antiouchus IV of the Maccabees. 
 
Young Antiouchus in Rome was royally treated. He was allowed to take advantage of all the splendor of the scintillating and dynamic metropolis. The great forum and the magnificent boulevards awakened his unbounded admiration. The gladiatorial combats and the precision drills of the centurions made the young man understand how a Roman force could beat a Seleucid army more than double its size. Taking in that unbounded power, the skill, dedication and vitality of the Roman Legions, coupled with the political and administrative skills of the Roman Senate and its appointed Consuls, the ceremonials of the Vestal Virgins and its luxurious religious festivities, pervaded him with a sense that no power like the Roman power has ever surfaced on our globe.    
 
Five years after young Antiochus's confinement in his glorious captivity, his father Antiochus the Great died. An elder brother of his was killed. Now came the turn of Antiochus IV to rule. The Romans had released him and offered him royal accompaniment to reach the capitol of the Seleucid Empire, where he ascended the throne.
 
Antiochus IV returned from Rome with the utter conviction that it is only a matter of time before he will have to face the Romans in battle as his father did. Soon events proved to him that the Romans are taking posession of Ptolemaic Egypt and are treating him, the Seleucid king, as an underling. His experience in Rome taught him that to have any chance of success in face of that monstrous European military super-machine, he must forge his country into a solidly unified front. He was convinced that for this it was supremely important to unite all of his subjects. Such union meant one nationality, one religion, one culture, one loyalty. He had no problem with most of his subject nations. They were idoloters, reveling in the loose morals of the Hellenic civilization that Antiochus enthusiastically embraced and they readily seemed to follow him. Only one nation was radically different: the Jews.
 
Antiochus IV, also called Epiphanes (the Glorious), was determined.to squeeze the Jews into his phalanx in order to forge a solid wall of resistance against the Romans. He completely reversed his predecessors' lenient policy toward them. The story is well known. He forbade practices of the Jewish tradition on pain of death.Study of the Torah was forbidden. A statue of Zeus ws installed in the Holy Temple. Jews were forced to sacrifice to the multitude of idols placed in the heart of Jewish settlements. Force, oppression, brutality became the order of the day in the obsessive drive of Antiochus to stand up to the might of the Romans with success.  
 
A picture emerges of Antiochus who did not act  as a bigot, an antisemite, a racist, driven by unreasonable hatreds, but rather a person who had rational aspirations to safeguard his empire -- an aspiration to which he was logically entitled. How than do we react to the moment when Mattathias and his five sons, gathered in Modin, began the Revolt that leads to years of Jewish resistance in order to safeguard the Jewish People, its Tradition and way of life?
 
What emerges are two "rights" posited one against another. Antiochus has a right to safeguard his empire. The Maccabbees have a right to safeguard the Jewish People.
 
What makes this a fascinating observation is that on that score the world changed little in 2081 years, from the day the Maccabean Revolt exploded to this day. For today too we see two rights embraced in a struggle on the question of what kind of a policy to adopt vis-a-vis Iran, a dangerous atomic power emerging on the globe. The USA is sick and tired of being the policeman of the world. Since World War II ended, it was involved in major wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, lost soldiers in Lebanon, men in Lybia. The thousands of caskets of its sons that are shipped home from far-away shores do not  fill Americans with pride, but rather with continual questions of despair and disgust of why their young should bleed away in countries they know little about and care about even less. In short, the USA wants no further involvement abroad, even if Iran would be developing atomic weapons. By and large the European nations share this attitude.
 
Israel, on the other hand, feels threatened in its very existence. Iranian leadership has repeetedly issued statements menacing to Israel, referring to it as the cancer of humanity, as mice, rats and vermin, and calling for its destruction. Such statements must not be taken lightly. In the face of repeated threatening declarations it has become obvious that it is not one person's caprice but rather a national long-range policy that motivates Iran and that posits the idea that the very first atomic instrument produced by them will be unleashed at Israel. Israel is therefore obligated, as an act of self-defense, to do everything in its power to prevent Iran from reaching the capability of producing an atomic weapon.
 
Centuries back Antiochus Epiphanes wanted to safeguard the peace and security of his empire. Today the USA wishes to guarantee a world that will not claim any further American victims. In order to attain their goal, the Empire of Old and the Empire of Today do not seem to hesitate to sidestep a numerically small people, which happens to be a people shunned, despised and even hated so often in the course of history. Antiochus of old like the USA of today, would be hurt to the quick if accused of bigotry, racism, religious fanaticism, or anti-semitism. 
We are dealing with highly cultured and enlightened individuals who are genuinely convinced that they aim solely for the best interests of their people and of mankind. From their point of view, they may be right, despite Heine's prescient warning that where they burn Synagogues today they will burn Cathedrals tomorrow.
 
But what should Israel say? Because Antiochus wanted to safeguard his empire should the Jewish People allow itself to be erased, its traditions wiped out? The Maccabbees made their choice. They declared in word and deed: Our prople has a right to live. We shall not stretch our neck out for the butcher's knife. Our first concern is our survival. Despite what bigots say, we were never a burden on mankind. We always contributed more than we received. It is our obligation to sustain ourselves, to perpetuate ourselves, to assure our continuity and to look forward to a glorious tomorrow.
 
Indeed, what should Israel say today, when the powers that reached an agreement with Iran will extend dire warnings to it in days to come that in case it attacks the atomic facilities of Iran it will be the sole one blamed for unleashing a world-wide atomic conflagration threatening the whole globe?  
 
The situation should be crystal clear. Israel has an unquestioned right to take all the steps necessary to assure its national survival. In the light of recent history Israel has learned that it cannot rely on other nations, no matter how cultured and civilized these nations are, to come to its rescue. Iranian leaders have recently made solemn promises to Western powers to cut back in its operations leading to further development of an atomic arsenal. Israel sees these as self-serving promises to secure increased economic cooperation, support and lifting of sanctions from the West. To Israel these promises echo the solemn promises  of Hitler made to Neville Chamberlain and Daladier in the Munich Agreement of October 1938. For a scrap of paper carrying the banner of "peace in our time" the Western allies sacrificed the staunchest democracy of the European continent only to be led to a world war that cost mankind 70 million lives and the Jewish People fully one-third of its total number less than a year later. 
 
 For lack of alternative, should the chips fall Israel will have no other recourse but to stand up for itself even if it stands alone. Like the glorious Maccabbees so this generation of Jews, will fight for its right to assure its continuity. In the glow of our Chanukka lights we will identify with our precursors who recognized that if there are two rights it is our undisputed obligation to fight for our right.  
 
Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum, founder and director of first Russian Outreach program in Israel, "Shearim Netanya," was Professor of International Relations and History at City University of New York. He is also Rabbi Emeritus at Bet Israel Masorti Congregation in Netanya.