Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Letter Not Published

Carol Denbo wrote a letter to the Jewish Advocate in response to a letter which was published. The published letter referred to an article earlier published about J Street.

Denbo's was told her letter would not be published, with an explanation that the Jewish Advocate had a new policy and would no longer publish responses to letters.

Posted here are Denbo's letter, followed by the correspondence between Denbo and Daniel Kimmel, the editor of the Jewish Advocate. This correspondence has been edited to make it easier to follow. The correspondence is followed by the original article about J Street and the letter to which Denbo responded.

Denbo's letter, submitted November 14:

Stan Fleischman's letter last week placing part of the blame on Netanyahu for the inability to find a workable two state solution has several flaws.

First, there were no announcements of "new settlements" but simply announcements about plans for future building in existing communities which will in all likely hood  remain part of Israel if there were ever to be an agreement. Abbas has already decreed that any  Palestinian State would become Judenfrei. With over a million and half Arabs currently living in Israel,  Mr Fleischman might want to ask himself who in this case the real undemocratic leader is. Finally the recent escalation of terror attacks on innocent Israeli civilians has prompted the Israeli government to consider preventing Palestinian Arabs in disputed areas from riding on certain buses. I would not call this undemocratic but simply a smart move on the part of the Israeli government to safeguard its citizens from terrorism.   Let's not rest the blame for the lack of peace on the only true Democratic government in the Middle East.

The fact remains that there will never be a workable two state until the  Palestinian leadership recognizes Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish State and stops inciting its citizens to violence.

Carol Denbo
Swampscott MA

The letter was submitted with the following request:


Can you kindly print this in next edition of Advocate?

Thank you

Kimmel's response:

I'm afraid not.  I've been discussing the letters column with the publisher and the decision was made that letters should address articles in the paper, not other letters.  I know this will seem unfair but I'm sure there will be an opportunity for you to respond to an article or op-ed, or perhaps you would like to submit an op-ed for consideration yourself.  However as a response to a letter from another reader, we're not going to be able to use it.

Denbo to Kimmel:

That is a bad decision!! I am in total disagreement.

Subscribers should have the opportunity to express an opinion that is totally contrary to another opinion. Letters do have an influence on readers and you are not allowing an opportunity for a dissenting thought.

I am getting fed up with the direction of your paper and will  discontinue my subscription!

Kimmel to Denbo:

I've offered you alternatives to express your viewpoint.  We have limited space for letters and we can't use it for a back and forth between readers. I am more than happy to have a wide range of views and "dissenting thought" in the paper.  However we (not just myself) have decided that readers arguing with each other is not the ideal format for that.

Denbo to Kimmel:

Who is the "we"?

The Jewish Journal has a policy that allows for ONE response to each letter and no more. This way it allows for another opinion and it does not have to be carried on endlessly. It is not "arguing" but simply presenting another viewpoint! It is a policy that you need to consider.

Until that time, I have decided to discontinue my subscription to your paper.

There are many others who feel the same way and I would advise you to take another look at this if you do not wish to lose more subscribers.

I am not in the habit of writing op-eds; I simply write letters!

The original article about J Street, published October 31, 2014:

J Street documentary shows strengths, weaknesses of controversial group 
Local screening continues ongoing debate 

By Sam Lanckton 
Special to the Advocate 

"We wanted to see what the J Street journey was like. This is an interesting topic that has not been covered," filmmaker Ken Winikur said at an Emerson College screening of his film, "J Street: The Art of the Possible" on Oct. 22. "My view of how you get politics done in America dramatically changed while making the film. It is extremely difficult. Their dedication to the cause, whether you like them or don't like them, gave me a new admiration for people who can stick it out in politics."

"I want people to walk out after viewing this film feeling hope, because the alternative is...there is no alternative. And the American Jewish Community has a role to play in this," co-director Ben Avishai said.

"Time is running out on a two-state solution. This is a dire situation. You can love J Street, you can hate J Street. But either way, time is running out," Winikur said. "It's in everyone's best interest, Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, to resolve the conflict."

"We want people to feel a sense of urgency and a sense of optimism about what's happening," Avishai concluded.

The film makes the case that there is an urgent need to resolve the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and to find a workable two-state solution. Experts such as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman and others weigh in on the merits (and flaws) inherent in the goals J Street is trying to achieve, and the ways in which the group goes about trying to achieve them. At times vilified as an anti-Israel lobby, at times praised as a thoughtful, albeit critical, partner with the Zionist cause, the organization emerges in the film as a project created by complex individuals attempting to negotiate a most complex set of political, societal and ideological issues.

If the film has a hero it is Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street. He is seen traveling the country and speaking out at venues large and small in defense of the notion that one can be pro- Israel while also being critical of Israel's policies. Some listeners and co-panelists greet this concept with scorn, while others seem won over to Ben-Ami's point of view.

As the attempt to achieve a two-state solution suffers repeated setbacks, the staff at J Street becomes ever more frustrated. Further frustration derives from efforts by more mainstream American Jewish organizations to marginalize the organization and even to dismiss it as irrelevant. J Street achieves perhaps its greatest victory when Vice President Joe Biden addresses its annual conference, thereby conferring on the group a much-needed degree of legitimacy.

Following the screening, Avishai and Winikur helped lead a discussion on creating a two-state solution in light of the recent war in Israel. Participating in the discussion were journalist Danny Rubinstein, Israel's longest serving West Bank correspondent and former editor of Ha'aretz Daily, and Professor Bernard Avishai of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dartmouth College, an author of three books on Israel, and father of co-director Ben Avishai.

"The two-state solution doesn't have any future. Not because I don't like it," Rubinstein said. "I like it very much. I like a lot of things I cannot achieve. It's not practical anymore. It's one state today. It's one economy. I don't believe the Arabs will continue with terrorism and violence, not for much longer. Today we are under assault from a political campaign. And the Israeli government is doomed to lose. Israel is becoming an apartheid state, and we have to figure out a way for this not to happen, for everyone there to co-exist."

"A two-state solution has to mean some kind of confederation, some kind of urban infrastructure that is divided up cooperatively," Professor Avishai countered. "There is no such thing as a one-state solution. At some point you cannot deny political rights to people and expect them to swallow it. At some point it becomes violent."

The avoidance of such future violence through a two-state solution is the mission of J Street. Whether one agrees or disagrees with their politics or methods, this intelligent and insightful film offers an engaging glimpse into the organization.

The letter published November 14 to which Denbo tried to respond:

Two state alarms

I can’t agree more that “there is an urgent need to resolve the tension between the Israelis and Palestinians and find a workable two-state solution.” (“J Street documentary shows strengths, weaknesses of controversial group”, Oct 31). While Abbas and the Palestinians have contributed their share of obstacles to peace, such as calling the temporary closure of the Temple Mount a “declaration of war”, Netanyahu and his government have likewise been taking every opportunity to fan the flames of fear and discord.

The deterioration in the Middle East situation has spurred J Street to launch a program of “two-state alarms” to alert American Jews of undemocratic actions of the Netanyahu government. These include the announcement of new settlements, allowing dozens of settlers to move into a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood, and proposing to keep Jews and Arabs on segregated buses by creating Palestinian-only bus lines.

Newton Highlands
(The writer is a member of the J Street Boston Media Committee)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A new immigrant gives advice to the prime minister

Prime Minister Netanyahu should bow to reality and recognize the “State of Palestine.”

By Alan Stein

As published in the Jerusalem Post on November 6, 2014.  It may be found on the Jerusalem Post website at

As an oleh chadash, or new immigrant to Israel, I recognize one of my responsibilities is to tell the prime minister how to run the country. I feel somewhat derelict, as my teudat zehut (I.D. card) is already nine days old and I have yet to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu any advice, but I will try to rectify that starting here and now. I herein provide my advice on how to deal with the nefarious effort by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in violation of the solemn commitments made by the Palestinian Arab leadership in the failed Oslo accords, to obtain international recognition of the non-existent Palestinian state of which he is president.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should bow to reality and recognize the “State of Palestine.” Although it does not meet the internationally accepted criteria for statehood, generally accepted standards are never applied to entities fighting Israel and the PA has, for most practical if not legal purposes, been a state for nearly two decades. Fighting international recognition is a costly and losing battle and there can be benefits for Israel if it can treat Palestine as a state.

Besides giving Netanyahu this advice, I am happy to offer additional assistance in the form of the following letter to be sent by him to Mahmoud Abbas:

My Dear Friend Mahmoud,

I wish to apologize for not immediately and enthusiastically agreeing to your insistence on having the Palestinian Authority recognized as a state. In my own defense, it was somewhat difficult, since you have been assiduously avoiding speaking with me during my term as prime minister of the Zionist entity. I hope you’ll accept my apology and join with me in ironing out the technical details necessary for our states to live side by side.

I invite you, at your convenience, to come and speak to our Knesset in our capital of Jerusalem. I welcome your expeditious appointment of an ambassador to Israel. My government will cooperate fully in enabling you to find a suitable location for your embassy in our capital.

I hope you will reciprocate by inviting me to address your legislature in your capital of Ramallah. I will soon choose our ambassador to your state and expect you to similarly help us find a suitable location for our Israeli embassy to be built in Ramallah, the capital of Palestine.

We do still have technical details to negotiate, as we are both obligated by the Oslo accords, which remain in effect until superseded by an agreement between our states.

While we accept in advance your sovereignty over Area A, Israel still has overall security responsibility there, while we have joint responsibilities over Area B and Israel retains full responsibility for Area C. We also need to negotiate the allocation of Areas B and C between our states.

We should be able to agree on the general principle enunciated once by president Clinton in another context, that as much as possible predominantly Arab areas should be allocated to the Arab entity, predominantly Jewish areas should remain with the Jewish State of Israel, and the rest of the disputed territory should be divided between our states rationally and in a way which keeps the border between us as natural as possible.

I don’t have to remind you that there are certain unsociable acts, including launching missiles at kindergartens in Sderot, building tunnels into Israel and using them to launch terror attacks, bombing pizzerias and various other activities which have been popular with your people the past few decades, which are acts of war and, in some cases, war crimes. I trust that you, as president of Palestine, will work assiduously to prevent all such acts and will understand if, despite your best efforts, your citizens continue these popular activities and we in Israel will be forced to defend ourselves.

On a personal level, let me express my admiration for the way you have maintained your role as president into the tenth year of your four-year term. Here in Israel, we are inconvenienced by something called “democratic elections.” Every few years we elect a new Knesset and if the people don’t like what I’m doing I can be kicked out on my tuches. Perhaps we can get together one day over a nice plate of hummus and you can give me some advice on how to avoid calling elections.

Your friend,

It’s possible the prime minister may wish to make some small changes before sending this letter to Mr. Abbas; I am prepared to offer any additional assistance he requests.

Personally, I am delighted to finally be a citizen in a country where everyone is the prime minister.

The author just made aliya (October 22) and even on the plane was thinking about submitting this sort of op-ed to The Jerusalem Post. He’s been busy with other things, such as the wonderful Israeli bureaucracy, but finally got around to composing it last evening.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Who Is Israel's Peace Partner?

Published in the Miami Herald, Sunday, November 9, 2014. June Neal is a PRIMER-Connecticut spokesperson.

This we know:  you don't shake on a deal when the other guy has his fingers crossed behind his back.

Uri Dromi's Oct. 31 Other Views column, Bibi should not let relations with U.S. deteriorate further, calling  for Israel to adopt the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, is dangerously naive because he assumes Israel has a trustworthy peace partner.  Israel does not.

The Palestinians have had decades of opportunities for an independent state and they rejected or sabotaged them all, from the1937 Peel Commission to 2008, when Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to cede almost all the West Bank and to share Jerusalem.

That's 77 years.  The Arab response?  Five major invasions of Israel, intifadas, suicide bombers, point-blank murders of innocent Israeli citizens, rock throwing, and rockets smuggled through Gazan tunnels and fired on Israeli civilians.

The Initiative calls for a complete withdrawal by Israel back to the 1967  lines.  Remember, Israel regained the West Bank only after successfully defending itself against Arab invasion and it maintained control as a buffer zone against future attacks.  The future would prove Israel's wisdom.  In 2005,  when Israel withdrew every Jew from Gaza, the Palestinians turned it into a launching pad, sending thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas.  Imagine an independent Palestinian state abutting Israel's border, where it takes a plane only two minutes to get from the Jordan rift to Jerusalem?  Where Iran or any terrorist group can set up base? 

The Initiative calls for adherence to UN Resolution 194, which the Arabs have twisted to meaning allowing the return of millions of refugees.  But that's not what it says. Compensation is generalized to all parties.  Israel didn't cause the Arab refugee problem; the Arabs fled when Israel was attacked by seven Arab nations and it is they that should provide compensation.  Indeed, when hundreds of thousands of Jews had to flee for their lives from their homes in Arab countries, only the infant State of Israel helped.  

 From 1948 to 1967,  Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan controlled the West Bank.  Not Israel.  Where was the demand for a Palestinian state then?    

As for sharing Jerusalem, the Old City is already divided into four sections, with a Muslim quarter. And all week,  there has been violence at the holiest site in all Judaism, the Temple Mount, the Jew's ancient capital which predates the Dome of the Rock by hundreds of years.  It is now a danger zone for Jews to visit, while Arabs pray unimpeded at their mosque. 

The Arabs have shown they have no intention of living peacefully with the Jewish State.  Fingers crossed behind their backs.

June S. Neal
Delray Beach