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UK Jews nervous that Israel’s new envoy has too much of the Right stuff – Plus61 J Media

Posted By on July 15, 2020

COLIN SHINDLER: Mainstream UK Jewish organisations have put out a tepid welcome to Tzipi Hotovely the first Israeli woman ambassador to the UK

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of an Israeli ambassador to maintain intimate links with his fellow Jews, in whatever country he serves. If you have a Jewish heart and soul, how can you not want to be an integral part of a Jewish community when you are representing the Jewish state?

So spoke Yehuda Avner, a much-respected former Israeli ambassador to both the UK and Australia in the 1990s. Originally from Manchester, Avner understood Diaspora Jewry Jews who live among non-Jews. He was an old school, affable diplomat who served Israeli prime ministers as diverse ideologically as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.

It was, therefore, with some incredulity that British Jews greeted the announcement last month by Israels Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he had appointed Tzipi Hotovely, the sharp-tongued doyenne of Israels religious Right, to be the next ambassador to London.

In January, Netanyahu divested himself of numerous portfolios after he was indicted on various charges by the Attorney-General and Hotovely was appointed Minister of Diaspora Affairs. She was also asked to establish the new Ministry of Settlement Affairs. Several hundred British Jews have since signed a petition to the British Foreign Office opposing her appointment as ambassador; a considerably smaller number has welcomed the appointment.

Several hundred British Jews have signed a petition to the British Foreign Office opposing her appointment as ambassador; a considerably smaller number has welcomed the appointment.

Mainstream Jewish organisations have put out a tepid welcome to the first Israeli woman ambassador to the UK, but clearly, whether publicly or in private, British Jews are jittery.

Hotovely does not have a traditional Likud heritage. Her background is national religious Bnei Akiva, the teachings of Rav Kook and Midreshet Lindenbaum (Bruria) seminary. She first became politically aware when former prime minister Ariel Sharon initiated a unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Sharons successor, Ehud Olmert, promoted the possibility of evacuations of West Bank settlements and a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Noticed for her celebrity status and strident performances on television, Netanyahu put her on the Likud list of candidates for the 2009 election.

He was clearly struck by Hotovelys ability to explain an issue in easy, black-and-white terms. And she was a fluent English speaker. Following Netanyahus victory in the 2015 election Hotovely was made Deputy Foreign Minister. After the public relations fallout from Israels Gaza offensive in 2014, she was called on to mount a counterattack against growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause in the wider world.

Hotovely did this, however, by promoting her views rather than those of Netanyahu. For her, Netanyahus governments had tried too hard to appease international opinion. She spoke about Israels national cause and Jewish history. She accepted Golda Meirs dual projection of Israel as a Shimshon Samson the Heroic and as a nebech small and weak.

Shortly after her appointment, Hotovely told the Knesset: The Land is ours. All of it is ours. The Melbourne-born Mark Regev, the outgoing Israeli ambassador to the UK and then a spokesman for Netanyahu, declined at the time to comment publicly. However, a few months later, in October 2015, she said her dream was to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount. This earned her a rebuke from Netanyahus office and the comment that her statement was not government policy.

All this is rooted in the national religious belief that Zionism is biblical rather than originating in the aftermath of the French Revolution, fashioned by the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, and modern European national liberation movements. For Hotovely, Hebron is both older and more important than Tel Aviv.

For her, there is no such entity as a Palestinian people and so no rational basis for a Palestinian state. Shortly after being elected to the Knesset, she endorsed the idea of a one state solution Israel and the West Bank without Gaza. Jews would be the 60 per cent majority and all would have the right to a vote. Mass immigration of Diaspora Jews, it was argued, would resolve any potential demographic problem.

In 2017, in a speech to the Knesset, she provoked its Arab members by recommending that they read Assaf Volls A History of the Palestinian People. Holding it up before them, every page was blank. Such gimmicks complemented those of Netanyahu on the international stage but, crucially, her opposition to a two-state solution are not the views of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main American Jewish leadership group AIPAC and Australian Zionist organisations.

Netanyahu may have seen in Hotovely a younger Bibi, belonging to the same club as other Americanised Israelis, Ron Dermer, David Bar-Ilan, Moshe Arens close to the Republican party and irritated by the liberalism of the vast majority of American Jews. When Princeton Universitys Hillel House withdrew its invitation to her in 2017, Hotovely angrily spoke about the suppression of free speech under a liberal dictatorship.

When interviewed on US television, she told viewers that unlike Israelis, American Jews have quite convenient lives and did not have to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When interviewed on US television, she told viewers that unlike Israelis, American Jews have quite convenient lives and did not have to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, General David Lee Goldfein, might possibly disagree with that sentiment.

Moreover, the UK is not the US and despite the embittered debate about Brexit, it has not prostrated itself before a Trump-like figure. It may be the same language, but it is a profoundly different political culture. Britain has been the refuge of many fleeing political repression from Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzinis sojourn in the 1840s to a plethora of exiles from apartheid South Africa in the 1960s.

Hotovelys 2018 comment about African refugees in Israel South Tel Aviv is terrorised by infiltrators who are driving up crime rates and sexual harassment and making the streets unsafe for Israelis may not endear her to a multicultural Britain in the aftermath of the George Floyd affair.

When Hotovely was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, she attacked Breaking the Silence (BtS), a group of ex-soldiers who presented public testimony about the conduct of troops in the West Bank. She branded them traitors from within and blamed them for internationalisation of the propaganda war against Israel and attempted to cut off foreign funding for an exhibition BtS held in Zurich, which the Swiss Foreign Ministry gave US$16,000 towards because it assisted in dialogue and the cause of human rights. Netanyahus government formally complained to the Swiss in June 2015.

Shes a politician, when she becomes the Israeli ambassador, she will cease being a politician and will become a civil servant and part of Israels diplomatic corps Mark Regev

When members of the US House of Representatives who held hostile views towards Israel were barred entry to the country, she spoke out in support of the ban even though she contradicted the view of the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer. Senator Joe Biden said of the affair: No democracy should deny entry to visitors based on the content of their ideas even ideas they strongly object to. And no leader of the free world should encouragethem to do so.

In 2004, leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews privately met then prime minister Ariel Sharon to express their concerns that Zvi Hefetz, a man with little diplomatic experience, poor English, a third choice for the post and a friend of Sharons son, Omri, should not be appointed Israels ambassador to London. It made no difference.

Similar concerns are being expressed today about whether it is appropriate to appoint Hotovely to a Jewish community that, according to several scientific surveys, overwhelmingly opposes the settlement drive on the West Bank.

British Jews also worry that Hotovelys political baggage will prove to be a goldmine for the genuine enemies of Israel in Britain.

In his last interview as ambassador, Regev was asked by the BBC about Hotovelys political record. He replied: Shes a politician, when she becomes the Israeli ambassador, she will cease being a politician and will become a civil servant and part of Israels diplomatic corps.

Perhaps.

British Jews will extend a polite and generous welcome to Madame Ambassador, but that will not make them less nervous about the future.

Excerpt from:

UK Jews nervous that Israel's new envoy has too much of the Right stuff - Plus61 J Media

This French town is known for saving Jews during WWII. It just elected a far-right mayor who has been accused of anti-Semitism. – JTA News – Jewish…

Posted By on July 15, 2020

(JTA) The municipal council of Moissac sometimes calls itsplacid French town overlooking the Tarn River, near Toulouse, the city of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Its a reference to how hundreds of locals during the Holocaust helped resistance activists rescue about 500 Jewish children an occurrence that Yad Vashem, Israels national Holocaust museum, has defined as an exceptional episode in the history of World War II. Righteous Among the Nations is the title that the State of Israel gives to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

In 2013, Yad Vashem helped inaugurate a Righteous Among the Nations square with plaques in the center of the town of 12,000, which the museum has trumpeted and has been featured in the French press.

Now Moissac is again making headlines, but for a much different reason: Its new mayor, Romain Lopez, has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements and is part of the far-right National Rally party founded by the Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Late last month, Lopez won a whopping 62% of the vote. In 2015, he wrote on Twitter dismissively about figures on anti-Semitism presented in the French parliament by a Jewish scholar and Holocaust survivor, Serge Klarsfeld.

The apostles of the persecution complex dont know what to invent next, Lopez wrote.

Lopez, who is only 31, has denied the comment reflected any anti-Semitic bias but nonetheless apologized for its dismissive tone.

His victory was part of a showing that Marine Le Pen (Jean-Maries daughter, who made it to the final round of the French presidential election in 2017)hailed as a breaking-of-the-glass ceiling for her party. On the same day as Lopezs win, National Rally won its first mayoral race in a big city since 1995: Marine Le Pens ex-partner, Louis Aliot, was elected in Perpignan, a city near the Spanish border with a population of approximately 120,000.

Reflecting the growing polarization and erosion of the political center in France, the municipal elections also were a boon for the left-of-center Green Party, which won the mayoral races in Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg along with districts of Marseille and Paris.

The Socialist Party narrowly avoided defeat in Paris where Mayor Anne Hidalgo was reelected with just over 50% of the vote and in Lille. The Republicans, the center-right party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, did not make any significant gains.

President Emmanuel Macrons party, The Republic Forward, experienced what is widely seen as a defeat, losing multiple former bastions and having poor showings in major municipalities.

Gaby Cohn-Bendit, a Holocaust survivor who was kept in hiding in Moissac with his brother Danny, told Liberation that the National Rallys victory is unreal.

Jean-Yves Camus, a well-known political science analyst and president of the Observatory of Political Radicalism think tank, concurred.

Its especially astounding considering that there are people who lived through the war still alive in Moissac today, and children of people who hid those Jewish children in their homes, Camus told Liberation. It raises questions about the preservation of memory.

HuffPost called Lopezs victory a true symbol of the times, and Liberation profiled the southern France town in an article titled Moissac, the town of the Righteous, conquered by the far-right. The city has had only left-wing mayors since World War II.

Most Moissac voters probably did not opt for Lopez for any reason connected to Jews. The rural city has been hit hard by seasonal workers from Bulgaria, many of them Roma, who work in the agricultural sector for cheaper rates than the minimum sought by locals. This reality did not produce a favorable political environment for pro-EU Republicans and Socialists, and even less so for The Republic Forward party of Macron, who is on record as referring to himself as a globalist.

During World War II, Moissac briefly became the center of an international rescue movement. Shatta and Eduard Simon, a Jewish local couple, greeted hundreds of Jewish children from Poland, Romania, Hungary and beyond at a school they opened there in 1933. The children had been smuggled in, sometimes with help from resistance fighters, so they could survive the genocide in which most of their family members were murdered.

In 1943, local police tipped off the Simons that a raid had been ordered. But the Simons were able to distribute about 500 children among the villages residents ahead of the raid. None of the children, who quickly learned French and became citizens after World War II, were deported or caught, and there is no record of any resident from Moissac informing authorities about the rescue operation.

Europe has multiple far-right parties that are opposed to immigration and the European Union. But National Rally, which was formerly known as National Front, distinguished itself for its rhetoric against Jews while it was led by Jean-Marie Le Pen for 39 years, until 2011.

He has been convicted of Holocaust denial or minimization by a French court and a German court for calling the gas chambers a detail of World War II. He has also said he did not think 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Le Pen is currently on trial for saying that his party would put a Jewish singer in the oven for criticizing National Rally.

His daughter has tried to rehabilitate the party, vowing to punish anti-Semitic rhetoric and even kicking her own father out of the party in 2015. These steps and the partys focus on individual liberties and womens rights have sent its popularity soaring. Marine Le Pen clinched a third of the presidential vote in 2017 a record for the party.

National Rally has even made inroads among French Jewish voters, a minority of little electoral weight but plenty of symbolic significance, at least for the party. It is estimated that 10-16% percent of French Jewish voters, particularly those who fear the effects of Muslim immigration and radical Islam, now vote for National Rally under Marine Le Pen, whereas next to none voted for her father.

Marine Le Pen has seized on their anxiety, telling Jews to vote for her so she would serve as their best shield against radical Islam.

The leaders of the institutions of the French Jewish community are not buying the National Rallys makeover. The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and groups are boycotting the party, as well as the far-left Unbowed France party, calling them vectors for spreading hatred.

See more here:

This French town is known for saving Jews during WWII. It just elected a far-right mayor who has been accused of anti-Semitism. - JTA News - Jewish...

French town that saved Jews in WWII recently elected antisemtic mayor – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 15, 2020

The municipal council of Moissac sometimes calls itsplacid French town overlooking the Tarn River, near Toulouse, the city of the Righteous Among the Nations.

In 2013, Yad Vashem helped inaugurate a Righteous Among the Nations square with plaques in the center of the town of 12,000, which the museum has trumpeted and has been featured in the French press.

Now Moissac is again making headlines, but for a much different reason: Its new mayor, Romain Lopez, has been accused of making antisemetic statements and is part of the far-right National Rally party founded by the Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Late last month, Lopez won a whopping 62% of the vote. In 2015, he wrote on Twitter dismissively about figures on antisemitism presented in the French parliament by a Jewish scholar and Holocaust survivor, Serge Klarsfeld.

The apostles of the persecution complex dont know what to invent next, Lopez wrote.

Lopez, who is only 31, has denied the comment reflected any antisemetic bias but nonetheless apologized for its dismissive tone.

His victory was part of a showing that Marine Le Pen (Jean-Maries daughter, who made it to the final round of the French presidential election in 2017)hailed as a breaking-of-the-glass ceiling for her party. On the same day as Lopezs win, National Rally won its first mayoral race in a big city since 1995: Marine Le Pens ex-partner, Louis Aliot, was elected in Perpignan, a city near the Spanish border with a population of approximately 120,000.

The Socialist Party narrowly avoided defeat in Paris where Mayor Anne Hidalgo was reelected with just over 50% of the vote and in Lille. The Republicans, the center-right party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, did not make any significant gains.

President Emmanuel Macrons party, The Republic Forward, experienced what is widely seen as a defeat, losing multiple former bastions and having poor showings in major municipalities.

Gaby Cohn-Bendit, a Holocaust survivor who was kept in hiding in Moissac with his brother Danny, told Liberation that the National Rallys victory is unreal.

Jean-Yves Camus, a well-known political science analyst and president of the Observatory of Political Radicalism think tank, concurred.

Its especially astounding considering that there are people who lived through the war still alive in Moissac today, and children of people who hid those Jewish children in their homes, Camus told Liberation. It raises questions about the preservation of memory.

HuffPost called Lopezs victory a true symbol of the times, and Liberation profiled the southern France town in an article titled Moissac, the town of the Righteous, conquered by the far-right. The city has had only left-wing mayors since World War II.

Most Moissac voters probably did not opt for Lopez for any reason connected to Jews. The rural city has been hit hard by seasonal workers from Bulgaria, many of them Roma, who work in the agricultural sector for cheaper rates than the minimum sought by locals. This reality did not produce a favorable political environment for pro-EU Republicans and Socialists, and even less so for The Republic Forward party of Macron, who is on record as referring to himself as a globalist.

During World War II, Moissac briefly became the center of an international rescue movement. Shatta and Eduard Simon, a Jewish local couple, greeted hundreds of Jewish children from Poland, Romania, Hungary and beyond at a school they opened there in 1933. The children had been smuggled in, sometimes with help from resistance fighters, so they could survive the genocide in which most of their family members were murdered.

In 1943, local police tipped off the Simons that a raid had been ordered. But the Simons were able to distribute about 500 children among the villages residents ahead of the raid. None of the children, who quickly learned French and became citizens after World War II, were deported or caught, and there is no record of any resident from Moissac informing authorities about the rescue operation.

Europe has multiple far-right parties that are opposed to immigration and the European Union. But National Rally, which was formerly known as National Front, distinguished itself for its rhetoric against Jews while it was led by Jean-Marie Le Pen for 39 years, until 2011.

He has been convicted of Holocaust denial or minimization by a French court and a German court for calling the gas chambers a detail of World War II. He has also said he did not think 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Le Pen is currently on trial for saying that his party would put a Jewish singer in the oven for criticizing National Rally.

His daughter has tried to rehabilitate the party, vowing to punish antisemetic rhetoric and even kicking her own father out of the party in 2015. These steps and the partys focus on individual liberties and womens rights have sent its popularity soaring. Marine Le Pen clinched a third of the presidential vote in 2017 a record for the party.

National Rally has even made inroads among French Jewish voters, a minority of little electoral weight but plenty of symbolic significance, at least for the party. It is estimated that 10-16% percent of French Jewish voters, particularly those who fear the effects of Muslim immigration and radical Islam, now vote for National Rally under Marine Le Pen, whereas next to none voted for her father.

Marine Le Pen has seized on their anxiety, telling Jews to vote for her so she would serve as their best shield against radical Islam.

The leaders of the institutions of the French Jewish community are not buying the National Rallys makeover. The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and groups are boycotting the party, as well as the far-left Unbowed France party, calling them vectors for spreading hatred.

See the rest here:

French town that saved Jews in WWII recently elected antisemtic mayor - The Jerusalem Post

Where Everything Should Be In Bounds Reason.com – Reason

Posted By on July 15, 2020

Will Wilkinson last week offered a thoughtful tweet storm about social penalties for making claims that are out of bounds:

Wilkinson insists that he favors free speech, in the sense that he believes that the government should not proscribe speech (outside of narrow categories, such as slander), but that all reasonable people exact social penalties for at least some speech. And indeed, while I consider myself as about as in favor of free speech as anyone, I can imagine some extreme statements that a dinner party guest might make (say, holocaust denialism or white supremacy) that would make me less likely to invite the guest to another party, in part because I am convinced that a person announcing such views is seeking to get a rise our of listeners, exhibits serious defects in reasoning ability, or has profound prejudices, or maybe all three.

The danger, though, is that once we accept that it is acceptable for there to be social penalties for making out-of-bounds claims, people who make claims that ought to be in bounds, maybe even claims that are correct, will be found to be out of bounds. Moreover, people will not make claims that they think plausibly might be out of bounds.

Indeed, Wilkinson confesses that he has "opinions I rarely share because I fear social blowback." What are these opinions? Wilkinson doesn't say. That is actually a bit surprising, because Wilkinson argues that "[w]e should just directly debate what claims ought to be unutterable by decent liberal people." How are we to have this direct debate if we can't report our own out-of-bounds opinions? Wilkinson appears to recognize this problem, acknowledging that "it's hard to say that an opinion ought to be in-bounds without confessing that you hold an out-of-bounds opinion." But he doesn't offer a solution.

Maybe Wilkinson's view is that one ought to be able to debate what opinions should be in bounds so long as one doesn't advance the underlying opinions. But imagine the following claim: "I'm not a holocaust denier, but I think holocaust denial should be in bounds, because a lot of those photographs do look like they could have been faked." It's hard to imagine a world in which this claim receives substantially less opprobrium than the claim following the "because." Indeed, the natural reaction of any listener would be to assume that the speaker is in fact a holocaust denier but is trying to avoid social opprobrium while still expressing denialist views, just as we may infer that someone who begins a sentence with "I'm not a racist, but" probably believes the potentially racist sentiment that follows. And of course, one would receive even more opprobrium if one admitted, "I have a view that has been designated out of bounds, but I'm going to explain why I think it's in bounds."

If the debate about what is in bounds were limited to issues such as holocaust denialism and white supremacy, maybe it wouldn't be worth worrying too much more about the problem. But Wilkinson strikes me as a reasonable, thoughtful person. I would be very surprised if he secretly were a denialist or a supremacist. But I know that there are mainstream opinions (like Steven Pinker's) that are now the target of cancellation campaigns.

The knowledge that thoughtful people are self-censoring troubles me, not so much because it will lead me to censor myself, but because it makes it much harder for me and others to generate justifiable beliefs. Most of what any of us believes isn't based on careful reviews of the literature. I believe in anthropogenic climate change and have even written about possible remedies for climate change, but I have not personally reviewed the models that predict global warming. My opinion is based on the declared opinions of others, who themselves may not have reviewed all the relevant models but may well be friends or friends of friends of people who have. I am, in other words, engaging in an exercise in social epistemology, trying to determine what is a justified true belief based on the announced beliefs of others.

But this exercise is a lot more difficult when one suspects that certain opinions are self-censored. If hypothetical climate scientists who have a view that differs from the consensus feel that they are better off staying quiet, then it is hard for an outsider to know whether the absence of such statements is because the climate change evidence is so strong or because there has been an information cascade. (The concern can push in the opposite direction as well. Because government climate scientists worry about stating their honest views, I would not place much epistemic weight on a government report about the state of climate science.) I still feel that I know enough about the culture of academia to determine with high confidence that climate change skepticism is largely unjustified. But I don't have a very good answer to someone who, engaging in his or her own exercise in social epistemology, concludes that climate change is a hoax. I could tell this person that 97% of published papers that express a position on anthropogenic global warming conclude that it is occurring, but I don't have a good answer to the objection that papers that say the opposite won't get published and that scientists who claim such unorthodox views will harm their careers.

What I would like to be able to say to someone who raises a climate change hoax argument (or some other claim that I believe to be incorrect) is that the culture of academia encourages heterodoxy, and so where it is absent, a genuine consensus exists. I would like to be able to point to academics who raised heterodox positions (and by this, I mean something more radical and more likely to be wrong than anything Pinker would say, but probably not something so insupportable as holocaust denialism or white supremacy) and say, "That professor made a crazy argument, and received plenty of counterarguments but no public opprobrium." But that is not possible today. Sure, academia is much better than most employers, because tenure remains a significant protection. Academic institutions censure without censoring, but that too can effectively silence those whose views are outside some range of permissible discourse, whether on the right or the left. And that makes it more difficult for observers, especially those outside the academy, to determine whether official socially acceptable positions are worthy of justified belief.

Academia should be a place where nothing is viewed as out of bounds, so that if everyone in academia seems to agree with proposition X, people who are outside academia but understand its culture believe with high confidence that X must be correct. I would not mind the occasional loony paper if the absence of condemnation for that paper improved the credibility of all the non-loony things that academics write. In my view, a culture that encourages debate is more likely to lead to wide social acceptance of propositions that are so clearly justified that they should not be controversial. This is an empirical claim, and I can't be sure about this. Maybe allowing people to defend the indefensible makes it easier for outsiders to find at least one person who agrees with whatever they would like to believe. But I believe that creating institutions in which heterodox views are encouraged means that outsiders are more likely to trust orthodox views. If it really were not possible to tell the difference, orthodox views could be elicited through means such as surveys.

How can we make universities more tolerant of dissent? A start would be for universities to commit to the Chicago principles: "It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose." So, no more letters from the university president disagreeing with views of a professor in a discipline the president may not know much of anything about. But universities can do much more to encourage open expression. Professors can encourage students to take positions that they don't actually believe, both as an exercise for their own benefit and as a way of providing plausible deniability for others who take positions that they do believe. Professors too might be encouraged to write articles that take the best position that they can muster againstwhat they actually believe. Sponsors of panels and workshops should always make sure to invite those with dissident views, or if no one is available to express such views, at least someone who will attempt to express disagreement to the best extent possible. We can be more confident in our own conclusions if we know that the arguments that we have heard are the best available on all sides of any debate.

Ideally, our commitment to free expression should extend beyond universities. Anyone trying to make good faith, thoughtful arguments, whether the speaker ultimately would endorse those arguments or not, should receive no social condemnation. If we are to condemn at all, it should be outside the spheres in which debate is vital, and what we should condemn even there should be not conclusions but incorrect premises and faulty logic, including ad hominemarguments or calls for cancellation. An approach that makes even Will Wilkinson thinks he should keep his mouth shut makes it too hard to determine what we are justified in believing outside our immediate domain of expertise.

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Where Everything Should Be In Bounds Reason.com - Reason

The Attacks on the Uniqueness of the Holocaust – besacenter.org

Posted By on July 15, 2020

Woman at anti-lockdown protest in Zurich holding sign appropriating Holocaust language, image via @_investigate_ Twitter

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,640, July 13, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The last decade has seen an explosion of attacks on the memory of the Holocaust. This expresses itself in many ways, including the casting of doubt on the Holocausts uniqueness. This version was aired in recent public debates in Germany and can also be found in historical manipulations by academic scholars.

The memory of the Holocaust has been under assault for decades from all sides: the extreme right, the extreme left, and parts of the Islamic world. A common tactic is to assert that the Holocaust was not unique, contrary to the Jewish claim.

Looking at the question on a purely empirical basis, the Holocaust was unambiguously a unique event. While some elements are comparable to other genocides, its combined characteristics are not. Several criteria collectively make the Holocaust an unprecedented event: the totality of the targeting (all Jews everywhere), its priority (all branches of the German state were involved in the effort), its industrial character, and its impracticality (instead of exploiting Jews for labor purposes, they were killed.)

Leading Holocaust philosopher Emil L. Fackenheim noted that the Armenian genocide was confined to the Turkish Empire. And even within that empire, not all Armenians there were targetedfor instance, those living in Jerusalem were spared. Geographical confinement also applies to the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Sudan.

As Fackenheim pointed out, the Nazis, by contrast, set out to exterminate every last Jew on the face of the earth. He said that while the Holocaust does belong to the species genocide, the planned and largely executed borderless extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust is without precedent and, thus far at least, without sequel. It is thus entirely appropriate to call it unique.

Another Jewish philosopher, David Patterson, extended Fackenheims view. Patterson wrote that when comparing the Shoah to other genocides,

I would go even further and insist that the Holocaust is not reducible to a case of genocide, any more than it is reducible to any other historical or political phenomenon, in the strict sense, although it certainly includes those elements. The Nazis set out to annihilate more than a people. they set out to annihilate a fundamental principle; to obliterate millennia of Jewish teaching and testimony; to destroy the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to eradicate a way of understanding God, world, and humanity embodied by the Jews in particular.

In Germany, the debate on the uniqueness of the Holocaust became an adjunct to the recent Achille Mbembe affair. This public intellectual from Cameroon had been invited to give the keynote address at the German Triennale music festival this August. It then became known that he is an anti-Israel inciter and has been involved in antisemitic acts. A public debate followed that continued despite the cancelation of the festival because of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of a variety of claims against Mbembe was that he compared the Holocaust to apartheid, contending that the only difference between them is scale. Alan Posener, an editor of Die Welt, responded that that claim is fundamentally false: The Holocaust was not a much bigger form of apartheid, and what is more important apartheid was not a smaller version of the Holocaust. It was not a quantitatively different process but one which was qualitatively dissimilar.

There is an important secondary element to the Mbembe affair relating to the national memory. Unfortunately, the issue of Germanys national memory was brought to the fore mainly by people who were doing everything they could to whitewash Mbembes antisemitism.

The memory of colonialism was the centerpiece of an open letter signed in May by more than 700 African scholars and artists. The letter was addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. It said: We, African intellectuals, thinkers, authors and artists condemn without reservation the lying antisemitic accusation of extreme right, hostile to foreigners and right-wing conservative groups in Germany against Professor Achille Mbembe.

The letters first paragraph contained two lies. The first was that Mbembe has never made antisemitic statements, an easily disproven claim. The second was that the accusations against Mbembe came from the extreme right. In fact, the exposure of Mbembes antisemitism originated mostly in mainstream sources. The letter ended with the brazen demand that the German antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein, be fired. Klein had told the truth about Mbembes antisemitism even before additional facts about his hate-mongering had come to the fore.

A prominent German whitewasher of Mbembe, Professor Aleida Assman, said in an interview in Die Welt: Critics see in Mbembe a preacher of hate. I see him on the side of empathy. This is eminently false. While Mbembe promotes empathy and repairing the world, he makes no secret of despising Israel and extends it no empathy whatsoever.

In a Deutschland Kultur radio interview on the Mbembe case, Assman admitted that she had a hard time understanding Mbembe due to his abstract philosophical tone, which sometimes turns poetic. She added that she is most interested in Mbembes reflections on repairing post-colonial relationships. Another scholar who came out in support of Mbembe, philosopher Susan Neiman, whose expertise is on memory culture in a global perspective, said, when asked what her takeaway was from Mbembes work, that she didnt know.

Frankfurt ethnology professor Hans Peter Hahn argued that the two experts offhand admission that they havent a clue about Mbembes theories reflects the fact that German intellectuals allow themselves to speak about and for African authors without having read them.

Philosopher Ingo Elbe has observed that the battle against Israel is being fought vicariously through attacks on German memory culture and its supposed provincialism. As Elbe expresses it, the post-colonial concept of memory has given rise to the false assertion that the emphasis on the uniqueness of the Holocaust creates an indifference to others suffering. He adds that victim rivalry must be combatted, and that the claim that Holocaust remembrance unfairly diminishes other memories downplays Black and Muslim antisemitism. It also overlooks specifically Jewish experiences that are sacrificed to a strategy of anti-racist counter-hegemony.

Another attack on the uniqueness of the Holocaust is taking place in international academia. Leading Israeli genocide scholar Israel W. Charny observes: In the academic world an alternative has developed to the classic sloppy denials of the Holocaust. Several scholars now propagate the explicitly false thesis that the Jews were not targeted as victims because they were Jews. What is claimed instead is that they were a minority who were persecuted by the Nazis along with other minorities.

Charny added,

This kind of specious intellectual juggling has led to outright false statements in several articles in the respectable Journal of Genocide Research (JGR). The German case of Holocaust dilution or minimization is not only a German phenomenon. In one article it is claimed that the specifically anti-Jewish Wannsee Conference was not at all motivated by hatred of the Jews, but represented a policy toward European minorities as a whole, despite the fact that it was this conference that cemented the plans for the Final Solution.

Charny concludes, The distorted attitude that the Holocaust is one of many genocides the German Nazi regime committed is a minimization of the basic significance of the Holocaust that a shocking number of bona fide genocide scholars have been promoting.

There has been an explosion of Holocaust minimization in the past decade. It manifests itself in many ways, including Holocaust inversion (i.e., claiming that Israel acts like the Nazis), denial, deflection, whitewashing, de-judaization, equivalence, and trivialization, as well as other distortions that have emerged in recent years. As long as there are no broad post-Holocaust studies programs anywhere, these abuses of the memory of the Holocaust will have to be tackled one after the other.

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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center, a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and author ofThe War of a Million Cuts. Among the honors he has received was the 2019 International Lion of Judah Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism.

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The Attacks on the Uniqueness of the Holocaust - besacenter.org

Opinion: Users, advertisers and society need a better Facebook. Here’s how we fix it – AdAge.com

Posted By on July 15, 2020

Its not just outsiders making this point. Facebook cant convince many of its own people that the tech giant is on the right side of this issue. Even before we launched this movement, hundreds of Facebooks employees staged a virtual walk-out last month. One of the engineers at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) asked Zuckerberg to quit as CEO at an employee town hall. Nearly three dozen of the companys earliest employees wrote an open letter accusing him of instituting content moderation policies that are incoherent, cowardly, and a betrayal of the ideals Facebook claims. More than 140 CZI-funded researchers signed an open letter addressing Facebooks unwillingness to address hate and misinformation. Facebooks own Chief Product Officer, Christopher Coxwho left Facebook over the direction of the company in early 2019criticized Facebooks refusal to fact-check false political ads in late 2019, before rejoining the company this spring.

We clearly struck a nerve by stating the obvious aloud, and thanks to advertisers big and smallfrom Fortune 500 companies to small businesses and mom-and-pop outfitswe have gotten Facebooks attention. Our coalition sat down with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Chris Cox and other Facebook executives earlier this week. Considering Facebooks well-documented playbook for dealing with the failures of its platform, described years ago by The New York Times as delay, deny, and deflect,we had low expectations going into the meeting.

Facebook lived up to those expectations. Instead of responding to the demands of dozens of the platforms largest advertisers that have joined the #StopHateForProfit ad pause, the companys leaders offered the same old defense of white supremacist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and other hateful content. Its the same set of strategies, talking points, and excuses used after the white supremacist violence in places like Charlottesville and Christchurch, Russian manipulation of the 2016 election, and the genocide in Myanmar. Its hard, they tell us. Were trying.

But while perfection is hard, improvement is easy. Facebooks problems are primarily not a result of technological limitations. They are a result of deliberate choices. Or as folks say in the tech world: the viral amplification and monetization of hate on Facebook is a feature, not a bug. Its an integral part of the current business model, which relies on the lucrative engagement that divisive and hateful content generates. And its a result of a willful refusal to acknowledge the well-documented harms of that content. We need Facebook to make better choices, including:

Shut down hateful and conspiratorial groups. This isnt complicated. Purge Facebook of groups that consistently spread vitriolic hate, racism, antisemitism and violent conspiracies. Mark Zuckerberg claimed Facebook does this at his 2018 Congressional testimony, but we all know otherwise. Reform of disinformation policies. While election interference is the issue everyone knows, Facebooks refusal to seriously address climate-change denial,Holocaust denial and other disinformation efforts are also hurting our society. Live support for harassment victims. Behind every data point is a person. Facebooks platform needs to connect victims of online abuse with real people to provide immediate support.

Facebook could easily address these issues if they wanted to. We see that in their agreement to one of our 10 short-term needs, which is the creation of a stronger civil rights infrastructure. We are pleased that Facebook agreed to recruit for a senior position focused on civil rights. This cant come soon enough after a long-delayed and damning independent civil rights audit released on Wednesday labeled their policy decisions on content a tremendous setback. While we would prefer the position to be higher in the organization chart, we believe that this position can help Facebook improve if a strong candidate is selected and sufficiently empowered. We look forward to making similar progress on the other short-term needs that we identified.

Still, if their latest response is any indicator, we have a long way to go. They say that they will conduct an audit, but they dont acknowledge that it is designed only to cover their narrow terms of service instead of all the content that advertisers and society are concerned about. They say they dont recommend problematic content, but our analysts are still being served with recommendations for violent conspiracy and hateful groups today. They say that they have strong policies against misrepresentations that would directly interfere with the vote, without mentioning that political ads can lie about virtually anything else.

Its clear their plan is to wait us all out. Mark Zuckerberg admitted as much himself. According to media reports last week, he told employees behind closed doors that he expects all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.

Mark Zuckerberg doesnt get it. This isnt about revenue. Its about the harm his business is doing to society, that he can fix. We have been clear from the beginning that we are not trying to Facebook's business. Rather, we are trying to show them the wide societal agreement that Facebook needs to change. As more voices join the chorus of advertisers, users and civil rights groups, we are confident that Mark, Sheryl and Chris will take the commonsense steps that will allow Facebook to continue to thrive while decreasing hate, harassment and misinformation.

Users, advertisersand society overall need a better Facebook. Together, we can Stop Hate for Profit.

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Opinion: Users, advertisers and society need a better Facebook. Here's how we fix it - AdAge.com

Jewish groups urge US to step up pressure on Jordan – Huron Daily Tribune

Posted By on July 15, 2020

Updated 1:16pm EDT, Tuesday, July 14, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) A coalition of Jewish American groups has called on the U.S. government to press Jordan to extradite a Palestinian woman who helped carry out a 2001 suicide bombing that killed 15 people, including two Americans, in Jerusalem.

A joint statement signed by 18 groups aims to step up the pressure on Jordan, a key American ally, to send Ahlam al-Tamimi to the U.S. for trial.

The statement urges the U.S. to bring all pressure to bear, including possible cuts in American financial aid, to press Jordan into honoring an extradition agreement.

Monday's statement was signed by a mix of right-wing and centrist groups. Among them are several major mainstream Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and B'nai B'rith, as well as the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.

Al-Tamimi is wanted by the U.S. on a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals.

Jordan has rebuffed previous efforts to extradite her, citing double jeopardy considerations, but the Trump administration said recently it would consider withholding assistance as leverage. Jordanian officials have not commented publicly about the matter.

Al-Tamimi was arrested in the West Bank by Israel weeks after the bombing and sentenced to 16 life prison terms but released in a 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner swap and moved to Jordan. She has made frequent media appearances, expressing no remorse for the attack and saying she was pleased with the high death toll.

Among the victims of the attack was Malka Roth, a 15-year-old Israeli American girl whose father, Arnold Roth, has led a campaign seeking al-Tamimi's extradition.

"Its time that Jordans disregard for its legal, diplomatic and moral obligations to hand Tamimi over to U.S. justice was brought to an end, Roth said.

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Jewish groups urge US to step up pressure on Jordan - Huron Daily Tribune

The End of Anti-Semitism – Aish

Posted By on July 13, 2020

We need to stand up and speak out.

On April 11, 1944, a young Anne Frank wrote in her diary:

Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly until now? It is God Who has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. Who knows it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we now suffer. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any other country for that matter. We will always remain Jews.

Anne Frank was on to something. The Talmud asks, from where did Mount Sinai derive its name? After offering a few alternatives, the Talmud suggests that Mount Sinai comes from Hebrew word sinah which means hatred, because the non-Jews hatred of the Jews descended upon that mountain when the Jewish people received the Torah there. Torah demands a moral and ethical lifestyle, an attitude of giving rather than taking, a life of service rather than of privilege, that has revolutionized the world.

The Jewish people have been charged to be the moral conscience of the world, a mission they have not always succeeded at, but that nevertheless drew the ire, anger and hatred of so many. For two thousand years the Jews were bullied and persecuted simply because of their Jewishness and all that stands for.

After the Holocaust, the world gave the Jews a reprieve from their hatred, becoming instead beneficiaries of their pity. But looking at events around the world, it is rapidly becoming clear that the last 75 years was an aberration. We have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism around the world as the world reverts back to its ageless pattern and habit.

The Midrash (Eichah Rabbah 1) teaches that three prophets used the term eichah o how! In Deuteronomy, Moses asks: "Eichah, how can I alone bear your troubles, your burden and your strife?" (Deut. 1:12) In the Haftorah for Shabbos Chazon, the Prophet Yeshayahu asks: "Eichah, how has the faithful city become like a prostitute?" Lastly, Yirmiyahu begins the Book of Eichah: "Eichah, how is it that Jerusalem is sitting in solitude! The city that was filled with people has become like a widow..." Eicha How? How is it that anti-Semitism persists? Why must they rise up against us in every generation?

On Tisha BAv we will sit on the floor and wonder aloud, eicha? How could it be Jews have to fear for their lives yet again? Eicha how could it be that today, with all the progress humanity has made, more than a quarter of the world is still holding anti-Semitic views?

Rabbi Soloveitchik tells us that though the Midrash identifies three times the word eicha is used, in truth there is a fourth. When Adam and Eve fail to take responsibility, God calls out to them and says ayeka, where are you? Ayeka is spelled with the same letters as eicha, leading Rabbi Soloveitchik to say that when we dont answer the call of ayeka, when we dont take personal responsibility for our problems and blame others, we will ultimately find ourselves asking eicha, how could it be?

We can ask eicha, how could all of these terrible things be, but we may never have a definitive answer. Our job is to make sure we can answer the call of ayeka, where are you? Are you taking responsibility? We may not be able to fully understand why anti-Semitism exists, but we can and must remain vigilant in calling it out, confronting it and fighting it. We must remain strong in standing up for Jews everywhere. We must confront evil and do all we can to defeat it.

And, we must do all that we can to take personal responsibility to fulfill the Jewish mission to bring Godliness into the world. If individual Jews were hated for being the conscience of the others, all the more so does a Jewish country generate hate for being the moral conscious of the whole world, held to higher moral standards than any other country or state.

Our job is not to be discouraged by asking eicha, o how! but to ensure that we can answer the call of ayeka, where are you. Anti-Semitism will not come to an end by assimilating and retreating. It will come to an end when we can positively answer the question that the Talmud tells us each one of us will be asked when we meet our Maker: did you long for the redemption and did you personally take responsibility to do all that you can to bring the redemption? Did you truly feel the pain of exile and feel the anguish of the Jewish condition in the world? Do you truly and sincerely care? Did you anxiously await every day for Moshiach to herald in an era of peace and harmony, an end to anti-Semitism and suffering?

It is not enough to long for Moshiach, we must bring him. It is not enough to hope for redemption, we must be the catalyst for it. It is not enough to be tired of eicha, we must answer ayeka. If we want to get up off the floor and end the mourning, if we want to finally end anti-Semitism, it is up to us to do what is necessary to heal our people, to repair the world, to love one another, and to earn the redemption from the Almighty.

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The End of Anti-Semitism - Aish

Learning From the Past: Reckless Jewish Kings Through the Ages – Algemeiner

Posted By on July 13, 2020

A Torah scroll. Photo: RabbiSacks.org.

The Fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz that we have just passed initiates a three-week period of mourning for the loss, twice, of Jerusalem and the Temple. The official rabbinic reason for the disasters given in the Talmud is Sinat Chinam needless hatred and internal divisions and antagonism among Jews. Sadly we have always been very good at this, from Abraham onward. Looking around us today, the bitter divisions throughout the Jewish world confirm that the rabbis were right.

However, there is another factor that historically I think is more significant. If you look at the early history of the Jewish people 3,000 years ago, as recorded in the Bible, you cannot fail to notice what a mess our kings, priests, judges, and tribal chieftains made of everything, time and time again. Sure, they thought they were making the right decisions. But it turns out they rarely were.

At the time of the Judges, the tribes were so divided they only came together once to settle an internal dispute. They demanded of the tribe of Benjamin that murder on their territory should be punished. Benjamin refused and the other tribes went to war. Eventually, they all but destroyed the tribe and had to rebuild it.

David and Solomons unified rule lasted two generations. Then the kingdom split into two. The southern kingdom of Judea had Jerusalem as its capital, and the Temple. The 10 northern tribes, known as Israel, broke away and immediately set up two pagan temples. The two kingdoms were occasional allies but much of the time they were killing each other.

July 13, 2020 3:11 am

Both kingdoms were caught between rival powers. The Israelite kings had to choose who to ally themselves with and sadly, they invariably made the wrong choices. The northern kingdom of Israel could boast such awful rulers as King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. It changed dynasties and kings regularly. Ten of its 19 rulers were assassinated. All Judean kings, good and mostly bad, came from the house of David. The only exception was a brief interlude when Jezebels daughter (or perhaps granddaughter) Athaliah ruled, having killed all her sons except one.

The northern kingdom soon became a vassal state of Aram. When Aram succumbed to the Assyrian empire, Israel was expected to pay tribute to the Assyrians. But they tried to break away. Terrible decision. The last years of Israel were marred by internal conflict.

One king replaced another in quick succession. Zechariah was killed by Shalum. He was murdered by Menachem who was followed by Pekachyah. His son was murdered by Pekah who was killed by Hoshea. By this time, the Assyrians had enough of this unstable dependent and, to quote the poet Byron, The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold. They took the lot of them into exile and scattered them around the Assyrian Empire in 720 BCE.

Having disposed of Israel in the north, the Assyrians then attacked a rare good Judean king, Hezekiah. But with a little help from the Almighty and a plot back at home in Nineveh against Sennacherib, Judea got away with buying the Assyrians off. But then Egypt emerged from a period of passivity and tried to persuade the Judeans to remain neutral in its war with Assyria.

Some 60 years later, another good king, Josiah (and by good I mean ethical and loyal to the Torah) made another disastrous miscalculation and intervened on behalf of Assyria in an attempt to thwart the Egyptian advance even though Pharaoh Necho had begged him not to. Josiah backed the wrong horse again and Pharaoh killed Josiah at Megiddo in 609 BCE. His son Yehoachin became king.

I hope you are still following this. Life in the Middle East was never boring.

Can you believe it, Yehoachin proved untrustworthy too. Nebuchadnezzar lost his patience. He captured the king and carted him and the elite of Judea off to Babylon. They, together with the next group of exiles, would constitute the largest Jewish community anywhere for the next 1,000 years.

Nebuchadnezzar then appointed the uncle of Jehoachin, Mattaniah, king and insisted he change his name to Zedekiah (literally the Pious One of God). If ever there was a misnomer this was it! He too promised to be a faithful ally. But once again, he made the fateful decision to rely on Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar by now was furious with these devious Judeans. He invaded in 586 BCE, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, killed the kings sons before his eyes, and then blinded him. That was the rule in those days. And he sent everyone with any skill back to Babylon in chains where they joined the earlier exiles.

Judean dysfunctionality did not end there. Gedaliah was left in charge by the Babylonians, but two pro-Egyptian Judeans assassinated him. The remaining Judeans including the prophet Jeremiah fled down to Egypt for fear of retaliation so that for the first time since Joshua, there were no Israelites living in the once Promised Land. And that is probably why we have the fast of Gedaliah the day after Rosh Hashanah to remind us how we lost the Promised Land and left it devoid of any Jews. We tend to remember our disasters as much, if not more, than our victories.

With a record of so many bad or failed kings, I often wonder why we pray for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. In three weeks time, it will be the Ninth of Av. And if you have the patience as we get closer, I will tell you why the Second Commonwealth ended up almost as bad a mess as the first one.

All this makes me wonder why so many people still think that the Jews want to control the world, when they couldnt even control their own small bit of it. But then neither logic nor facts were ever very effective against prejudice or hatred.

History does not repeat itself exactly. But we really ought to learn from the mistakes of the past. Human nature being what it is, however, Id rather put my faith in a Higher Power!

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen received his rabbinic ordination from Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He also studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Cambridge University and went on to earn his PhD in philosophy. He has worked in the rabbinate, Jewish education, and academia for more than 40 years in Europe and the US. He currently lives in the US, where he writes, teaches, lectures, and serves as rabbi of a small community in New York.

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Learning From the Past: Reckless Jewish Kings Through the Ages - Algemeiner

Peter Beinart’s one state solution sounds so perfect it’s practically utopian – Haaretz

Posted By on July 13, 2020

Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai, the last president of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem before the Roman legions destroyed theTemple and uprooted the Jews from their capital, was a complex man. He was a trader, a scholar, a polemicist and a judge. According to the Talmud,he made one of the most crucial interventions in Jewish history when,on the eve ofitsdestruction,he realizedJerusalem was lost.

He evaded the zealots who were determined to fight to the death and sweet-talked the Roman commander,soon-to-be Emperor Vespasian,into allowing him and a small group of rabbis and students to relocate tothe coastal town of Yavne.

Rabbi Yochanan wasabove alla pragmatist. Bereft uponhissons death, he was consoled by the thought the boy had been on loan to him from God,and nowreturned to his rightful owner. He wasnt sure he had made the right decisionto leave the Holy City,and accounts of his deathvoice his fears he might goto hell for giving up on Jerusalem.

He was also a messianist. His dying words were that he must prepare himself for the arrival of Hezekiah, the last king of the house of David, the precursor of the Messiah,who wouldaccompany him to the next world.

Rabbi Yochanan had ensured thattheSanhedrins authority and center of Torah scholarship would not be lost in the great destruction. But he never meant for Yavne to be an alternative to Jerusalem and itsTemple. Just a temporary respite on the long path back home.

In his essay "Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine," published this week in Jewish Currents, AmericanJewishacademic and journalistPeter Beinart portrays Rabbi Yochanans decision differently. Beinart writes that Rabbi Yochanan "imagined an alternative" Judaism, "a new form of worship, based on prayer and study."

Im an agnostic Jew who doesnt mindhow other Jews choose to define their own Jewish identity or worship, if thats what they want to do(though it intrigues me greatly). And while Beinarts depiction of Rabbi Yochanan has no basisin the Talmudic texts, Im fine with that as well. Theyre apocryphal anyway,and we can all play fast and loose with the Talmud.

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But it is highly instructive that Beinart chooses to see Rabbi Yochanan as a utopian,rather than a pragmatist. Because it perfectly mirrors the conclusions he reaches in the essay.

I agree with three of Beinarts main conclusions. The most important of them is that one binational state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians would be a just way to end the fundamentally unjust situation, whereby millions of Palestinians do not have national or civil rights.

As Beinart points out, as long as such a binational state could remaina haven for Jews suffering persecution anywhere in the world, it would still fulfill the raison detre of the Jewish state. Unlike most of Beinarts critics, who are confident such a state would be a recipe for chaos and bloodshed, I can imagine the overwhelming majoritiesof both nations coming to terms withthe hyphenated "Israel-Palestine" and realizing it was the best possible outcome. Hell,Idlove to live in such a state-if it were indeed peaceful.

The only problem is, I cant vote for a statelike that. Not one party in Israel, no,not even the Joint List, is proposing it. And neither could the Palestinians, back when they had elections, vote for it. It simply wasnt on offer.

I agree as well with Beinart,that a large proportion of Israelis, and Israel-supporting Jews in the Diaspora, have projected a Nazi mentality on to all the Palestinians. While antisemitism is all too prevalent among Palestinians, they are not planning a genocide of Jews. To believe that is the case, as Beinart points out, opens up the way to awful atrocities. And though I dont quite share his predictions that an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is all but inevitable, itscertainlya possible outcome which hes right to warn us of.

And Beinart is right in his historical analysis that there werepast leaders (including prominent mainstream figures)who believed that Zionismdidntnecessarily have to mean a full sovereign state for Jews only,and that it could be part of a wider federation including other nations.

But this is also where his argument becomes fatally flawed.

Beinart derives inspiration from these early Zionists,because he wants to believe in a more perfect Zionism, one that can be morally justified by 21st century progressive values as well. But thats not what Zionism was about. Not because Zionism isnt morally justifiable(it was)but because Zionism wasnt about morals. There wereZionist ideologues and thinkers, but Zionism wasnt an ideology. It wasnt a vision of a better world.

Zionism was a plan to solve the acute problem of Jewish persecution, primarily in Eastern Europe, but gradually in any place where Jews faced antisemitic violence and discrimination. (Im using the past tense here because I dont believe Zionism actually exists after 1948, when the program was successfully fulfilled). It didnt have to be moral, by the standards of its day or our day. It had to be pragmatic.It had to work because millions of Jewish lives were at stake.

The different strands of Zionism and the evolution of its mainstream leadership in the half a century between the first Zionist Congress of 1897 and the foundation of Israel didnt reflectchanging moralsensibilities- they were a response to changing regional andglobal circumstances.

Political Zionisms founder, Thedor Herzl, envisaged the Jewish state existing as a semi-autonomous district of the Ottoman Empire. Because that was the most pragmaticwayof achieving it in his lifetime(he died in 1904).His heir as Zionist leader, Chaim Weizmann, believed for decades thatthe Jewish statewould be a protectorate of the British Empire.

David Ben-Gurion had the foresight to realize that the British would be no different than the Ottomans in lacking both the desire and then the power togivethe Jews a homeland (the British were trying to get out of their promise in the Balfour Declaration practically from the moment the inkfromArthur Balfours signature dried).

Ben-Gurion managed to convince the initially reluctant leadership of American Zionists at the Biltmore Conference in 1942 of the case for full statehood, or as they called it there a "Jewish commonwealth." By that point, after the United States had joinedWWII, it finally seemed that after the war there would be both an opportunity to achieve an independent state and the necessity to have one so that the Holocaust survivors could be resettled.

Five and a half years later, when the United Nations voted for the partition plan,Ben-Gurion was vindicated. There were those who argued thatthe allocation of56 percent of the territory was unjust to the Arabsofmandatory Palestine, who were two-thirds of the population. And the RevisionistZionists argued that it was a historical sinthatthe Jews were not getting all their historical homeland.

Neither argument budged Ben-Gurion,because he knew Zionism was a pragmatic plan and the best way of realizing it was to go with whateverwas possible.

Ben-Gurion was right. All the countless arguments since 1948 on "Zionism: Right or wrong?" are sterile hypothetical thought exercises. Zionism worked for those for whom it was intended to work. Israel as a reality is not going away. Reality doesnt care whether you think Zionism is inherently racist or that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

As many others have done before him, Beinart makes a strong case for why the two-state solution has failed. He neednt have bothered. The problem isnt with the two states, but with the solution.

Most Israelis are in principle in favor of the two-state solution. Sadly, there just arent enough of them who feel the need for a solution. The status quo isnt a problem for most Israelis. On the day they will feel that need, they will make a pragmatic choice, for two-states, a confederacy, a binational state, whatever they feel works in their interest. It simply isnt about morals.

It isnt my place to speak for the Palestinians, but they will make their choice according to how they see their own interests as well. Beinart in his essay extensively quotes Palestinians who support a binational state. On Twitter he listed even more Palestinian writers he read for research. With the exception of one single Palestinian Israeli academic, they are all Palestinian Americans.

Not that that invalidates them in any way, but the fact remains that while the binational state is popular in the relatively small community of Palestinian American academics and activists, it remains the minority view among the three much larger Palestinian communities right here West Bankers, Gazans and Arab Israelis.It seems that its not only American Jews and Israelis who have different values and perspectives. American-Palestinians and their siblings back in Palestine have them as well.

Ninety percent of Arab-Israelis voted in April for the Joint List which is emphatically in favor of two states. Beinart blithely dismisses them saying that "the Joint Lists vision of equality inside the Green Line can be extended." They actually claim to have very strong reasons fornotsupporting a binational state. Perhaps he believes that Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi dont really mean what they say. Either way Beinart doesnt care to engage with them - and that is his essays biggest giveaway.

Not one line in the lengthy essay is dedicated to giving readers any idea of how the overwhelming majority of both Israelis and Palestinians actually living in his future binational state of "Israel-Palestine" will be convinced that it can work.

I believe it can, theoretically, though it would probably still need a two-state period in the interim. Beinart doesnt have to persuade me. But about everyone else around here - he doesnt seem to care one way or the other. I suspect that he hopes that a wave of BDS or a President Ocasio-Cortez will one day force Israelis and Palestinians to accept his vision.

Beinart isnt talking to anyone who will actuallylive in "Israel-Palestine." Hes having an internal conversation with a handful of Palestinian American academics and, with their blessing, has created a utopian half-Jewish state which can serve as safe space for a section of young American Jews, the readership of Jewish Currents, who are trying to reconcile their Jewish identity, their inherent affinity with Israel and their progressive values, in a period of ideological and racial turmoil in the U.S.

He is Yochanan Ben Beinart, and his utopian Yavne doesnt exist on the shores of the Mediterranean. It has, instead been transplanted 6000 miles away, to a faculty lounge on an American campus.

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Peter Beinart's one state solution sounds so perfect it's practically utopian - Haaretz


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