Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lesson of Tisha B'Av: We Are One … Or At Least We Need To Be

This was written for my synagogue bulletin. — Alan Stein

The "Three Weeks" lead up to Tisha B'Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, the date on which both the First Temple and the Second Temple were destroyed. This year Tisha B'Av, the 9th of Av, coincides with the 9th of August.

Rabbi Mendel Weinbach of Ohr Somayach writes, in "What do we get from Tisha B'Av?":

"The rebuilt Beis Hamikdash was once again destroyed and we were once again exiled because of the sin of 'unjustified hatred' of one Jew for another. ... Lack of tolerance, aggressive competitiveness and destructive dissension continue to plague our families and our communities. ... Unlimited love for our fellow Jew must replace the intolerance and hatred which caused our present exile."

The theme of the first General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) I attended was "We Are One," celebrating the unity of the Jewish people, was the most meaningful to me. Too many in our community don't realize we are one, with consequences potentially as devastating as the destructions of the Temples.

We have serious schisms between denominations.

The most uncompromising elements of the Orthodox rabbinate force Israelis to adhere to its standard regarding who is a Jew - while it's doubtful their own grandparents could have proven themselves Jewish under their standards.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Reform movement didn't help matters when it unilaterally adopted patrilineal descent, even though, in my opinion, their rabbinical arguments trump those of the Orthodox clinging to matrilineal descent. Large numbers of practicing Jews cannot marry in Israel because the Orthodox rabbinate refuses to accept their Jewishness.

Without compromise by all, prodded by an Israel government putting the welfare of its people ahead of narrow-minded coalition politics, we're heading towards a self-detonated explosion.

Israel continues to be surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction while many Jews, apparently suffering from the "Oslo Syndrome," collude with our enemies.

The Oslo Syndrome is akin to the "Stockholm Syndrome" which leads kidnap victims to sympathize and even act in concert with their abductors. I believe the term was coined by psychiatrist and historian Kenneth Levin, author of "The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege."

Hamas, Fatah and the PLO are all pledged, in their most basic documents, to the destruction of Israel. For example, Article 12 of the Fatah Constitution lists "complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence" as a goal. Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, is considered moderate, and in the spectrum of Palestinian Arab politics it is. Both Fatah and the PLO may be less fanatical than Hamas, which rules Gaza and has launched more than 8,000 rockets at Israeli civilians in Sderot and other southern towns and cities, but all are united in their desire to annihilate Israel.

In the face of such hostility, one would expect all Israelis and all Jewish people in the Diaspora to be unified in their support for the Jewish state. Sadly, this is not the case.

The problem goes beyond internal debates and good-faith disagreements. There are Jews advocating and acting against Israel. Several of the staunchest Israel-haters here in Connecticut are Jewish. Some of the participants in the latest flotilla to Gaza, in support of Hamas and against Israel, were Jewish.

There are also groups which claim to support Israel but actively work against measures to support Israel. For example, early this year, J Street, which calls itself "pro-Israel," came out against an American veto of an anti-Israel resolution in the United Nations Security Council and co-sponsored a congressional mission to Israel with the viciously anti-Israel "Churches for Middle East Peace," a promoter of the BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) campaign to delegitimize Israel.

For far too many Jews, the Oslo Syndrome is more powerful than identification with their own people, with the reality that "we are one." They do not understand that the people they are abetting hate them as much as they hate the rest of us.

Rabbi Weinbach begins his article with the assertion "we Jews have a long memory."

Unfortunately, the memories of some of us are not so long; some of us have forgotten, or never learned, the lessons of Tisha B'Av.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is media conspiring with terrorism? Yes.

This was sent as a letter to The Register Citizen of Torrington, Connecticut by a PRIMER activist who asked that it be published without using his or her name. Like most papers, The Register Citizen does not publish anonymous letters and did not publish this, but the message remains a strong  one.

The recent Op-Ed piece, "Is media conspiring with terrorism?" blatantly ignores the reality of the past 63 years.  I've followed the reality in real time.  During that entire period the Islamic and secular Arab world's intention has been abundantly clear.  They simply cannot stomach the presence of a Jewish state of any size, whether the borders correspond to the lines of 1947, 1948-1967 or the present.

The PLO was formed before 1967 when the West Bank and Gaza were still under Arab control, so its aim had to be to "liberate" Tel Aviv, Haifa and the rest of the world's only Jewish state. In 2000, Yasser Arafat not only rejected an incredibly generous offer to set up a Palestinian Arab state in virtually all of the disputed territories, including parts of Israel's capital, but responded by launching a brutal terrorist offensive. In 2008, Mahmoud Abbas didn't even deign to respond to an even more generous offer that would have effectively given him all the disputed territory and has refused to negotiate with Israel for more than two and a half years.

It's not only Hamas whose charter (, Article 7) calls for the destruction of Israel; so do the basic documents of the supposedly "moderate" Fatah (, Articles 8 and 12) and the PLO (, Articles 19, 1 and 2).

Israel would love to negotiate with a Palestine that truly believes in peaceful coexistence.  But how do you negotiate with an enemy whose objective is your complete destruction?

If there's any media conspiracy, it's to keep the public ignorant of those critical facts. In doing so, de facto, the media is indeed conspiring with terrorism.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Responding to Threats and Violence

This letter was published in the Danbury News-Times on Thursday, July 7, 2011.

Defends Israel's use of force as response to threats, violence

I read with interest the article entitled "Sticking to the script" by Stephan Lesher, published June 22.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complicated and involved subject, and I feel that Mr. Lesher's article deserves some additional comment.

Mr. Lesher complains that whenever anyone discusses the Arab-Israeli conflict, they promise an unswerving commitment to Israel's security. He does not mention that Palestinian and Hamas officials continually profess an unswerving commitment to Israel's destruction.

Mr. Lesher complains that "Israel continually moans and groans about the supposed Iranian nuclear weapons." He dismisses this danger to Israel's existence by saying that it will not occur until 2015. Mr. Lesher evidently thinks that postponing a bad event for four years eliminates the hazard.

He ignores the constant threats by Iran that they will destroy Israel and murder all its citizens.

Mr. Lesher minimizes the abusive firing of explosive rockets against Israeli civilians, stating that only a few people have been killed. How many people have to be killed in this fashion before this vicious act becomes an atrocity?

I wonder, if vandals routinely set off explosives in Mr. Lesher's neighborhood, endangering the lives of his family and their neighbors, would he sit back and say "only a few people will be killed, so why worry."

He condemns Israel's attack on Gaza, but ignores the fact that this attack was in direct response to these rockets. Any nation in the world would take effective steps to counter such constant attacks on its territory and against its citizens. Israel is entitled to do the same.

A brief look at recent history might help to put things in better perspective.

This conflict has its roots in 1948 when several Arab armies attacked the then newly born State of Israel from several directions.

Israel's borders had just been delineated by the United Nations. The Jews accepted the U.N.'s division of the area between Arabs and the Jews, but the Arabs did not.

The stated intention of the attacking Arab armies was to drive the Israelis into the sea and murder all the Israelis. The Arabs have been trying to do this ever since.

The many actions the Israeli government has taken against the Arabs over the years have been done in reaction to constant Arab attacks. Witness the building of a separation be tween Israel and the Arab areas. This separation has effectively stopped the suicide bombers and their attacks against innocent civilians.

Hamas, which is now part of the Palestine Authority, has been listed by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Does inclusion of Hamas in its ranks make the Palestinian Authority a terrorist organization?

There are many thorny issues separating the Arabs and the Israelis. Peace negotiations will be difficult. These negotiations can only begin when the Arabs accept Israel's right to exist and stop their constant attempts to attack and kill Israeli citizens.

We pray this will happen.

Melvin H. Friedman

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rewriting history, again

The following letter was published in The Hour, in Norwalk, Connecticut, on July 6, 2011.

To the Editor:

As the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Scott Kimmich is entitled to his opinions, no matter how illogical and hateful they may be, but he's not entitled to make up his own facts, as he has once again done in his latest, fanatical anti-Israel diatribe, "Questioning those who question you," published in The Hour June 25.

As is typical, his rant was filled with half-truths and what might euphemistically be described as extremely creative versions of history. One could fill volumes analyzing his distortions; I'll restrict myself to the way he again insisted that Israel started the 1948 war.

As far as the fighting before Israel's actual reestablishment, on April 16, 1948, Jamal Huseeini, spokesman for the Arab Higher Committee, told the United Nations Security Council: "The representatives of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We do not deny this. We told the whole world we were going to fight."

As far as the actual war, with the invasion by five Arab armies immediately after Israel declared its reestablishment with a call to its Arab neighbors to live together in peace, Trygve Lie, United Nations Secretary General, reported to the Security Council "The Egyptian government has declared in a cablegram to the President of the Security Council on 15 May that Egyptian armed forces have entered Pales tine and it has engaged in 'armed intervention' in that country.

On May 16, I received a cablegram from the Arab League making similar statements on behalf of the Arab states. I consider it my duty to emphasize to that this is the first time since the adoption of the (U.N.) Charter that member states have openly declared that they have engaged in armed intervention outside their own territory.'

Scott Kimmich is right about one thing, readers can easily determine PRIMER's bias by perusing its website, PRIMER is biased to wards the truth.

Alan Stein
President, PRIMER-Connecticut, Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting.