Trumpus Maccabeus

Thirteen Conservative rabbinical students studying in Jerusalem wrote a letter in which they criticized the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They wrote in part,

We, a group of rabbinical students of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary write from Jerusalem to express our deep concern and unease following the current US administration’s reckless decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city outside the context of just and respectful negotiations for peace with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors. …

Though the president called for a continued hope for a two-state solution, he has done nothing to show honest dedication to advancing such a goal—or any lasting solution toward peace in the region. To validate this counterproductive move would be to normalize a political moment that continues to stretch itself far beyond the bounds of what is normal.

The Torah frames this entry into and possession of the land of Israel as contingent upon actions that are born of a collective memory of oppression. We recite our plight in Egypt, our generations of suffering, and our responsibility to all of God’s creations as guidelines for governance. As we reside in the ancient, holy, and beautiful land of Israel, we are commanded, year after year, to remember that we are but tenants of God’s eternal domain and have the crucial responsibility to uphold the dignity of every person who resides in our midst. As temporary and permanent residents of Jerusalem and as future rabbis, we expect the Jewish state to govern with this holy mandate of equality and humanity for all peoples in mind. We therefore envision a Judaism, a generation of American rabbinic leadership, and a State of Israel that heeds the cries of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who currently live with neither a path to citizenship nor self-determination.

My immediate thought was that students with such an obviously limited understanding of Jewish history, both ancient and recent, who aren’t cognizant of the reasons that there hasn’t been (and will not be) a “two-state solution,” and who hear the cries of their “Palestinian brothers and sisters” more loudly than those of their Jewish ones who are being stabbed on the street in the Jerusalem that they claim to love so much, should find another line of work than being rabbis.

However, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Recently a scroll dating to c. 165 BCE was uncovered by archaeologists sifting through rubble removed from illegal excavations by the waqf on the Temple Mount. Until the development of advanced computer imaging techniques, it was unreadable. But scientists at Bar-Ilan University in Jerusalem have recently announced that they have succeeded to decipher much of it. It sheds light on the controversies of the period, which it turns out were not so different from ours. Without further ado, I present some of the text, which I’ve translated into English:

We, students of the Hellenistic school of the priesthood of the Holy Temple write from Jerusalem to express our deep concern and unease following the Maccabee Administration’s reckless decision to cleanse and rededicate the Temple, without first holding just and respectful negotiations with our Greek neighbors.

Of course Yehuda Maccabee calls for a negotiated settlement with Antiochus, but he just went in and kicked the Greeks out, with no consideration for their humanity and right of self-determination. Would it have been so terrible to have a small altar to Zeus in one corner of the Temple? We have the obligation to uphold the dignity of every person who resides in our midst, even if it’s their custom to slaughter pigs on our altar.

As temporary and permanent residents of Jerusalem, we expect the Jewish state to govern with this holy mandate of equality and humanity for all peoples in mind. We therefore envision a Judaism and a State of Judah that heeds the cries of our Seleucid brothers and sisters who currently live without the ability to fulfill their religious obligations with pigs.

In addition, as everyone knows, the Maccabee program is impractical. Where, for instance, do they think are they going to get the oil to light the Menorah for eight days of sacrifices?

Posted in American Jews, Israel and Palestinian Arabs | 2 Comments

The Trump Declaration

Some thoughts on President Trump’s historic (yes, it is) declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel:

1) Some commentators minimize its importance. There seem to be two kinds of minimizers: friendly and unfriendly. Friendly minimizers say things like “the reality is that it’s our capital and nothing anyone can say can change that. So Trump’s declaration doesn’t matter.” The unfriendly ones say “Trump is biased and an Islamophobe, who cares what he says?”

Both of these positions are wrong. To the friendly ones, I say that appearance may not be reality, but it helps create it, especially in politics. Our enemies know this well, which is why they aggressively promulgate ridiculous lies, like insisting that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem, that there was no Temple there, or that Palestinian Arabs are descended from Canaanites. Truth is truth, but a curtain of lies can obscure it, and after a while nobody knows the difference.

Trump can’t make Jerusalem our capital – only the people of Israel can do that. But a declaration by the president of what is still the most powerful and richest country in the world carries weight. His statement represents a crack in the truly antisemitic double standard that has been applied to Israel with respect to Jerusalem since 1948.

To our enemies, I say that if it is so unimportant, why are you so upset? Why are Palestinian Arabs rioting and trying to kill Jews with firebombs and rocks, why are we being bombarded with rockets from Gaza, why are Europeans  denouncing it in the UN Security Council, and why is the Turkish president mounting a major diplomatic offensive to reverse it? Why is there an outbreak of Jew-hatred all over the world? If it doesn’t mean anything, why don’t you just ignore it?

Perhaps calling it the “Trump Declaration” is a bit much. But compare it to the Balfour Declaration. Although it was ultimately embodied in international law, the Balfour Declaration itself was nothing more than a statement of the opinion of a majority of the British Cabinet. Yet both friends and enemies of the Jewish state understood, then and now, its significance.

Since 1948, the international community has held that Jerusalem is too important to be placed in the hands of the Jews it despised, even though only the Jews have ever made the holy places of the three religions accessible to everyone. The Muslims would like to control it for their benefit alone, as was demonstrated during the 19-year Jordanian occupation, marked by triumphalist destruction of Jewish sites.

The post-Christian descendants of barbarian tribes (i.e., the Europeans) seem to think their moral superiority entitles  them to rule over the holy city, whose spiritual power even they admit. But their violent opposition to Trump’s quite moderate declaration illustrates that the rational, social-democratic façade covering their atavistic Jew-hatred is thinner than we thought.

2) The US State Department seems to take the partly-friendly position that “it reflects reality, but there are no practical consequences.” So they have announced that there will be no changes to consular procedures. People born in Jerusalem will continue to have only “Jerusalem” rather than “Jerusalem, Israel” on their passports. The desire to not change anything seems to have led them to the absurd position that they can say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but they cannot admit that the city is in Israel (because then they might have to put it on a passport).

I expect that the State Department will fight tooth and nail to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. They will try to wait Trump out. Maybe he will only serve one term, they think. He has given them a chance to do the right thing by signing the waiver, in order to let them do what they need to do without time pressure. But if he feels they are not acting in good faith, all he has to do is let the 6-month deadline pass.

3) Both Trump and the State Department stress that while Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, they do not wish to say precisely what Jerusalem is.

In Trump’s words,

We are not taking a position of any final status issues including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.

For good measure, he added that the status quo at the Temple Mount (which he also referred to as haram al-sharif) should be maintained.

Israel welcomed Trump’s statement, despite the caveat. Even though it implicitly contradicted Israel’s official position that it is sovereign in all of Jerusalem, most Israelis, except the Arabs and the most extreme Jewish parties, applauded.

In April, the Russian Foreign Ministry made a statement similar to Trump’s, except that it distinguished between East and West Jerusalem, presumably according to the 1949 armistice line (the “Green Line”):

We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

But after Trump’s speech, the Ministry announced that it was “seriously concerned.” Since, logically speaking, Trump’s declaration said less than its own statement in April (the Russian statement specified boundaries of sovereignty and Trump’s did not) one wonders what the Russians are “concerned” about.

The Palestinians are also inconsistent. The official Palestinian negotiating position (according to a PA statement of 2006) on Jerusalem is that “East Jerusalem” is occupied territory which should be under Palestinian sovereignty. “West Jerusalem,” according to them, is subject to final status negotiations. This is contradicted by the Russian statement, which unequivocally gives West Jerusalem to Israel, while Trump’s statement is consistent with it! Nevertheless, the Palestinians did not riot in April, nor did the Europeans have fits.

“Trump just destroyed the possibility of two states,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, moments after Trump’s speech. I admit that I am totally at a loss to see how he did that. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

I can’t come to any other conclusion than that much of the reaction is a form of “Trump derangement syndrome.” Trump bent over backwards to make a carefully calibrated, moderate statement that would not prejudge negotiations while still recognizing reality. And yet, the Russians, the Palestinians and Muslim states, and the Europeans (not to mention the Democrats and the Union for Reform Judaism in the US) found it unacceptable.

The problem, apparently, is not what was said but who said it.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, US-Israel Relations | 2 Comments

Trumping Jerusalem

He did it.

In a very carefully written speech, Donald Trump announced that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, and that he would begin the process of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The video and transcript of his speech are here.

So is this a big deal or not?

I think it is, although it will depend in part on what happens afterwards.

Do you remember when Arafat recognized the state of Israel as part of the Oslo accords? He and his successor Mahmoud Abbas made it abundantly clear that they “recognized” the state the way I would recognize an alligator lying across the sidewalk in front of me: I can’t pretend that she doesn’t exist, but I don’t believe that she has a right to be there. And I want her removed as soon as possible.

Trump made it clear that it was impossible to continue the pretense that somehow the status of Jerusalem is up in the air:

But today we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.

If this were only what he said then the door is open for anyone to take the alligator interpretation. But he also said this:

Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this is a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace. It was 70 years ago that the United States under President Truman recognized the state of Israel.

Ever since then, Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. [my emphasis]

He didn’t have to add that last sentence. But he did, and it is the most important one in his speech. It refutes the attempts of the PA and their allies at the UN to deny the historic connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. And it supports the legal argument that the Jewish people  are indigenous to the land, and have aboriginal rights to Jerusalem (and by extension, all the land of Israel).

The US State Department has insisted that the status of Jerusalem – all of Jerusalem – must be determined by negotiations between the parties. It held that until then, the various UN resolutions that call for Jerusalem to be an internationally governed corpus separatum are theoretically operative. It has been a source of derision for years that the State Department refused to say what country Jerusalem is in. Trump has finally put an end to this silliness .

Nevertheless, Trump did not refer to a “unified” Jerusalem, and he emphasized that the boundaries of Israeli (and presumably, Palestinian) sovereignty in Jerusalem will be determined by future negotiations. For the first time, he referred to a “two-state solution,” although he added “if agreed to by both sides.” In other words, he opposes the idea of an imposed solution.

He also did not mention “pre-1967 lines,” nor did he say anything about  East or West Jerusalem.  It’s been Israel’s position – and also that of the Arab signers of the 1949 cease-fire agreement – that the armistice line (the “Green Line”) has no political significance, and is in no sense a “border.” Indeed, this is implied by UNSC resolution 242, the basis for all subsequent “peace processing,” when it calls for “secure and recognized boundaries:” the understanding is that the Green Line is neither secure nor recognized by either side.

The introduction of “pre-1967 lines” as the “basis” of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement in Barack Obama’s 2011 peace proposal was particularly objectionable for this reason.  The concept of “land swaps,” by which the Palestinians would receive land west of the line in compensation for land in settlement blocs that would become part of Israel is also problematic, because it implies that all of the land east of the line “belongs” to the Arabs ; otherwise, why should they get something in return for it?

Trump’s announcement that he has directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the embassy is welcome, but since he has signed the waiver to give him another six months, it essentially adds nothing to the promises that he has already made. He did not mention the waiver in his speech.

Naturally, the threats from those who believe there should be no Jewish state – because that is what it means to say that Jerusalem is not part of it – are flowing in as predictably as the tide. There will be Palestinian “days of rage” which will result in disturbances and possibly terrorism here. Turkish President Erdoğan has threatened to break relations with Israel, a stupid move which will get him nothing. Arab and European leaders have also objected, claiming that it will damage the nonexistent and impossible “peace process.” However, the consensus is that Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf states as well as Egypt won’t go any farther than harsh words.

The best thing that could happen would be if other nations followed the US. Agreement or at least acquiescence by Saudi Arabia or Egypt – a crack in the anti-Israel wall built by the Arabs with their famous “three no’s” issued at the Khartoum summit in 1967 – would be fabulous, but probably Israel will have to settle for something less. Jordan’s ungrateful little King Abdullah, who seems to think that Moshe Dayan’s foolish decision to leave the Jordanian waqf in control of the Temple Mount granted him sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, is expected to splutter, and this perhaps will slow the resumption of normal relations with Israel, which were disrupted by the recent incident in which an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanians after one of them tried to stab him.

Western Europe will continue in its hostility. In my opinion, attitudes there have gone beyond sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs, and they are deep into antisemitism.

The world isn’t what it was in 1990 or even 2000. The US is not the major player in the Middle East any more, and relations between the regional powers may be more important than the influence of Washington. Russia’s clout here is growing as well. Although Russia has recently expressed concern that US actions might damage relations between Israel and the Palestinians, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in April that, while continuing to call for a Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s claim to its own capital in the western part of the city.

I think it’s worth emphasizing the surreal nature of this issue. Israel controls Jerusalem. As Trump noted, the President of Israel and her Prime Minister live in Jerusalem, her Knesset and cabinet meet in Jerusalem, her ministries have offices in Jerusalem. It has been thus since Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel was reestablished after thousands of years of exile. No other nation has made Jerusalem its capital city since the Jebusites lost it to King David’s army around 1000 BCE.

Israel, as in so many other areas, gets “special treatment” on this question by the international community. Every other country is permitted to designate its own capital. Despite the fact that the indigenous population was rudely displaced by the construction of a new capital city, Brasilia, in 1960, nobody has claimed that the capital of Brazil is still Rio de Janeiro or has kept their embassy there.

And yet, successive American presidents have refused to recognize the simple fact that Jerusalem is our capital. Several have promised to do so, but until Donald Trump, none has kept his promise. Yesterday, this man – who is so fiercely criticized in his own country – became a hero to millions of Israelis from almost all political factions.

Posted in Middle East politics, US-Israel Relations | 2 Comments

Micah Goodman vs. Ehud Barak

This summer a book by Micah Goodman called “Catch-67” (מלכוד 67) was a best-seller in Israel. About the conflict with the Palestinians, it argued that both the Left and the Right in Israel were correct: we can neither annex the territories with their Arab populations and survive as a Jewish and democratic state, nor can we abandon them and live with a deadly enemy on our doorstep. Goodman notes that both sides have by now lost their dreams, of a comprehensive peace on the one hand or sovereignty over all the Land of Israel on the other, but they have become stuck: their uncompromising ideologies became part of their very identities, rendering them unable to even listen to the arguments of the other side.

Goodman proposes that instead of trying to do something that is impossible – either withdraw from the territories or annex them, without endangering our existence – we should try to convert the insoluble conflict from an existentially threatening one to a chronic, but manageable one. His practical ideas in this direction involve concessions to the Arabs that (he thinks) will reduce friction with them while not damaging our security.

For various reasons, in particular the mischievous activities of outside parties and the creative nature of Arab and other anti-Jewish hatred, I found his ideas for turning down the flames and managing the conflict unconvincing. But the initial chapters of the book, in which he explained the ideological history of both the Right and the Left in Israel, and his explication of the arguments for and against withdrawal – the demographic argument for abandoning the territories and the security argument for holding on to them, are masterful.

In a few words, the demographic argument beloved by the Left says that Israel can’t digest the Arab population that comes with the territories. Even if there would continue to be a Jewish majority (and this seems to be the case) Israel would in essence become an unstable binational state which could not be held together in a democratic union.

The security argument of the Right says that the experience of the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, where the vacuum was filled by Hezbollah, and the abandonment of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent takeover by Hamas – both of which resulted in wars – shows that allowing a hostile element to control the high ground of Judea and Samaria, close to our population centers, would be disastrous.

When his book came out, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote a long review of it. Unsurprisingly, the man who oversaw the withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000 that led directly to the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and the Hezbollah buildup of today, and who tried to give away the store to Yasser Arafat at Camp David (but ended up with the Second Intifada instead of “peace”), didn’t think the security problem was worth worrying about:

The Judea and Samaria ridgeline that rises above the coastal plain is not without military value, but neither is it the be-all and end-all. Security is not only a dominating observation point and positions to emplace weapons. Security is a totality. It is the sum of military, civilian and diplomatic capabilities, and it is also national morale. …

… a strong and ever-stronger IDF, backed by Israel’s technological superiority and by the ties with the United States, is the foundation stone of security.

There are no explanations of precisely how our technological superiority and “ties with the United States” would overwhelm the strategic value of geography and the importance of strategic depth, but so far withdrawals have brought only war, not peace.

On Friday, in an op-ed published in the NY Times, Barak doubled down on his Orwellian “vision” in which concessions to enemies are strength, withdrawal is power, and Israel’s image in Europe and America is more vital to our survival than defeating our enemies. Barak viciously attacks PM Netanyahu – who has presided over one of the most stable, peaceful and economically fruitful periods in Israeli history – for leading an “ultranationalist” and “irrational, bordering on messianic” government according to his “whims and illusions.” Netanyahu’s policies, says Barak, are leading to “creeping annexation of the West Bank aimed at precluding any permanent separation from the Palestinians.”

Maybe he doesn’t think Israelis will see what he writes in an American newspaper, because if you ask pro-settlement Israelis about Netanyahu, they will tell you about the glacially slow pace of construction of housing in settlements, and the destruction of neighborhoods and whole towns in Judea and Samaria as a result of unprovable claims made by Palestinians with the help of European-financed NGOs. They will tell you about increasing illegal Palestinian construction in areas supposedly under full Israeli control. Whatever you think about Netanyahu, he is definitely not an “ultranationalist” or “messianic” about settling the territories.

But Barak hits all the buttons, including the never-ending corruption investigations against Netanyahu and, of course, his “damaging Israel’s crucial relationship with American Jews” (careful Abu Yehuda readers will note that I predicted this accusation after a “crisis” was provoked by the Israeli Left’s American allies).

Luckily for us, Barak’s credibility among Israelis is close to zero. They still remember southern Lebanon and the Second Intifada. I would be very, very surprised if his re-entry into politics will be successful. He may have to be content with preaching to his progressive American choir on the pages of the Times.

Which brings me back to Micah Goodman’s Catch-67. The book was published in March of 2017, in Hebrew only. Books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in English sell well enough, but as yet no English translation has appeared. In my opinion this is because Goodman intended the book to facilitate a dialogue in Israel between Israelis, not to stimulate discussion or, God forbid, further intervention by Americans and Europeans.

Ehud Barak, conversely, chose to publish his vulgar hit-piece on Netanyahu in English in the New York Times. Why? Is he hoping for another American intervention as in the 1999 election, when Bill Clinton sent James Carville and other top advisers to Israel to help Barak defeat Netanyahu; or as in 2015, when the Obama Administration provided aid to an “anyone but Netanyahu” movement? Or maybe he’s just soliciting contributions from well-off progressives who want to save Israel from herself?

Goodman advocates listening to and understanding the arguments of both sides and wants to create a dialogue that he hopes will ultimately bring about a reconciliation between the opposing camps in Israel and the development of a policy for managing the conflict with the Arabs. He understands that it is Israelis who have to solve their own problems; they will not be solved for us by Americans. Barak takes the opposite approach, belittling and attacking his opponents on the international stage, indeed even joining Israel’s enemies in accusing her of violating international law.

Goodman is an academic and wants to remain one. Barak thinks he should be the next Prime Minister. Thank goodness Israelis are too smart to let this happen!

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israeli Politics | 2 Comments

Defending Israel against Reform evangelism

This week the conflict between liberal and progressive elements in American Jewry and the government of Israel was escalated.

On November 16, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the American Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), and others tried to push their way (see video here) into the Western Wall area carrying Torah scrolls in defiance of rules established by the Orthodox authorities that manage the site, intending to pass them to members of the Women of the Wall group, also in violation of the rules. They ultimately succeeded after a shoving match with security guards and ultra-Orthodox protesters.

It should be noted that none of them were arrested, nor did the reaction of the guards rise above the level of shoving (Jacobs was threatened with pepper spray, but not sprayed). It seems clear that the guards made the decision not to use greater force in order not to injure anyone. The behavior of the Haredi protesters was abominable, of course. I don’t know if any of them were arrested, but those guilty of assault should have been.

The New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization that has been criticized for funding groups active in the delegitimization of the Jewish state as well as BDS and lawfare against it, almost immediately organized a joint letter from non-Orthodox rabbis to PM Netanyahu, expressing “outrage.” Would that the NIF might express outrage over the lies, libels and distortions told around the world by their grantee, Breaking the Silence!

The hand of the NIF is seen throughout this conflict. Jacobs himself has a long-time connection to the NIF. Before he was elected to the presidency of the URJ in 2011, he served on its Board of Directors as chair of its committee on religious pluralism. The NIF is a big donor to the Israel Religious Action Center, the NGO arm of the American Reform movement in Israel, which is the main sponsor of the demonstrations at the Western Wall, and which has recently inaugurated a campaign to bring American political correctness and hysteria over race to Israel.

On November 24, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was criticized by the PM and forced to apologize for remarks that she had made earlier, in which she tried to express the (very true) fact that American Jews are disconnected from the realities of life in Israel, and their criticisms of Israeli policy are often misconceived. Unfortunately she appeared to suggest that American Jews do not participate proportionally in the US military, something which is almost certainly not true. The response was vicious and instantaneous. Despite her clarification, Rick Jacobs of URJ was not satisfied, and called for her to be fired. So far, Netanyahu has resisted the pressure.

On November 27, the Masorti Movement in Israel – associated with the American United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism – released a video attack aimed directly at the PM, accusing him of presenting an “alternative truth” about the Western Wall controversy, and concluding “shame on you, Mr. Prime Minister.” They could have attacked the Haredi parties, which had initially agreed to a compromise, but reneged when their constituents complained. But they chose to blame Netanyahu.

The leaders of non-Orthodox Judaism are spoiling for a fight. The main objective seems to be to create anger among American Jews by telling them over and over how Israel disrespects them. The Western Wall argument is presented as a rejection of Reform and Conservative (i.e., American) customs of mixed-gender prayer, although aside from the provocative actions of Jacobs and his crew, few if any Reform or Conservative Jews have wanted to pray in a mixed group at the Wall (if they had, one would think that at least a few of them would have done so at the location that is set aside for this, despite their objections to the arrangements for access to the site). But the point is not the facts but the “insult” inherent in it.

The same is true for the various crises over attempts to permit or forbid conversions to Judaism in Israel outside the official rabbinate. Israel is accused of treating non-Orthodox Jews as “second-class citizens,” or “delegitimizing” the non-Orthodox Diaspora. Again, the emphasis  is not on what the practical effects of legislation might be in Israel or outside of it, but on how it can be construed as insulting to non-Orthodox Jews.

The tactic is simple, and always works. Provoke a confrontation by making demands that anger the Haredim, who then threaten the PM that they will leave the coalition. The PM will look for a compromise – after all, he has a country to run – which can be construed as “submission to the ultra-Orthodox” and insulting to the Diaspora. The Haredim can always be counted on to play their role, including calling the non-Orthodox Jews names and thus increasing the degree of insult.

Orchestrating a physical confrontation, as with the Western Wall security guards, who clearly don’t want trouble, or the helpful Haredi protesters, who clearly do, is another wonderful tactic. Expect more of it.

And then don’t be surprised when, in the next election, Israelis will be told by the opposition not to vote for Netanyahu, because he “damaged our essential relationship with the US.”

The proper response to all of this is that as a sovereign state, we get to determine the rules within our borders. Jacobs thinks that the Western Wall – indeed all of the state of Israel – belongs to world Jewry, and therefore the big machers like him should be able to give us orders. I am willing to agree that in some sense the Western Wall “belongs” to all Jews, but decisions about how it operates must be made by the state in which it is located. And it certainly isn’t appropriate for Jews from America to come here and violate our laws in an attempt to change the rules. This isn’t Birmingham in 1963. It’s about religious customs, not civil rights.

We also get to make our own rules about things like marriage, conversion, divorce and burial for Jews in our country. I and many other Israelis don’t like the ones we have very much, but it isn’t up to Jacobs to try to change them for us. That’s why we have a sovereign state, a democratic state in which we elect our leaders, a state that protects us in return for our fulfilling our (sometimes heavy) obligations to it.

The Reform Movement has an ideology that is a result of the replacement of mitzvah-observance with “tikun olam,” which seems to mean a universalist social-justice ethic that is more at home in Berkeley than Jerusalem. Unfortunately, like the Jews for Jesus, the Reform movement is evangelical in nature, and it won’t be satisfied until it converts the rest of the Jewish world – particularly the uppity Jews of Israel – to its vision of a borderless, multicultural, gender-fluid socialistic worldview. Apparently it has gotten the Conservative Movement (which still maintains a commitment to halacha) on board by exploiting the Western Wall and conversion issues.

The New Israel Fund is in effect the military wing of the Reform Movement, using dollars instead of rockets as weapons. It gives millions of dollars each year to groups working to remake the state of Israel in accordance with its vision, and even to some groups whose goal is to destroy it.

Israel seems to have learned how to deal with evangelical Christians. We will accept their support, but they must understand from the start that trying to change us is out of bounds. Those who nevertheless try to proselytize among us are asked to leave.

Perhaps the same should go for politically evangelical Reform Jews like Rick Jacobs?

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | 3 Comments