Posted by Rob Eshman
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) died Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the age of 77.
His death, as the saying goes, shall, or at least should, be mourned in Zion.
But the Jewish community knew three Ted Kennedys, and not all will be mourned equally. There was Ted the Brother, Ted the Scoundrel, Ted the Israel-Lover.
For American Jews who vote Democrat, he was The Brother, a politician whose votes reflected their belief that a government is better and a nation stronger when it makes civil rights, education and healthcare available to all its citizens.
Many American Jews heard in him the echo of their political idols, the late President John F. Kenndy and Sen. Bobby Kennedy, the younger Kennedy’s brothers cut down by assassins. His words of eulogy for his brother Bobby resonate with Biblical prophecy: “As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’”
Of course, that was one Ted Kennedy—there were two others.
Along with the Brother Ted, there was the Scoundrel Ted, the one who deeply disappointed, even disgusted, loyal Kennedy supporters in the afermath of the Chappaquiddick bridge tragedy. The hard-partying Kennedy, he of the literally fatal flaws, proved untenable to Jewish voters in the 1980 Presidential election, when a majority of New York Jews polled said they preferred Jimmy Carter to Kennedy.
But, then, there was the Israel-Lover Kennedy.
From his first year in the Senate, 1962, until his last votes, Kennedy was a stalwart Israel supporter. It is likely in this, too, he was living the values of his older brother.
“Israel will endure and flourish,” John F. Kennedy once said. “It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”
According to one tally, Ted Kennedy voted 100 percent in concert with positions taken by Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Tom Dine, who served as Aipac’s executive director from 1980-93, was a defense and foreign policy advisor to Kennedy.
In the run-up to his tough 1994 Senate campaign against Mitt Romney, Kennedy accumulated some $45,000 from pro-Israel political action committees over the years, according to former Aipac legislative director Doug Bloomfield, “and presumably a lot more from individual pro-Israel donors, considering his long record of support for U.S. taxpayer aid for Israel.”
The relationship was mutually beneficial—either a testament to Kennedy’s bedrock values or his astute political instincts. Take the Carter race.
In the 1980 presidential race, writes Jeffrey S. Helmreich, “polls indicated that Carter would beat Kennedy in the New York Democratic primary by a margin of 54 to 28 percent. But on March 1, Carter’s UN Ambassador, Donald F. McHenry, voted for a viciously anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlement activity in Jerusalem. Three weeks later, Kennedy beat Carter in New York by 59 percent to 41 percent.”
In a statement following Kennedy’s death, Israeli Prime Miniiter Benjamin Netanyahu said, “(Senator) Kennedy has been a friend for 30 years, a great American patriot, a great champion of a better world, a great friend of Israel. He will be sorely missed.”
It is also worth noting that in a major policy address on the eve of the second Iraq War, Kennedy challenged the wisdom of attacking Iraq when Iran’s nuclear weapons program posed a greater risk to the world and to Israel.
“Iran has had closer ties to terrorism than Iraq,” he said on Sept, 26, 2002. “Iran has a nuclear weapons development program, and it already has a missile that can reach Israel.”
But such support alone was not enough to win the hearts of Jews who opposed Kennedy’s stalwart liberal positions, or those who remained suspicious his character.
“Rarely in America has a more unworthy person been accorded such deep respect as is regularly heaped upon Kennedy,” wrote Dr. Mendy Granchow, past president of the Orthodox Union, yesterday.
Still, last month, the Orthodox Union blogged a message to its members to say prayers of healing for the ailing senator, fighting his final battle against brain cancer. In 2000, Kennedy joined with Republican senators to win unanimous passage of the OU-supported Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Ted Kennedy never won the near ecstatic affection of the Jewish community that his brothers John and Bobby enjoyed. His life was too checkered, and perhaps too long, for that.
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August 20, 2009 | 3:01 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I opened today’s LA Times to read a headline I last saw at electronicintifada.com: “Boycott Israel.”
This topped an op-ed piece by Neve Gordon, an Israeli peace activist who lives in Israel with his two children.
I tried to follow Gordon to his logical conclusion, but it seems he stopped short. If the point is to use a boycott to force an immediate settlement, why boycott just Israel, right?
In the LA Times, Gordon writes that he “reluctantly” has come to conclusion that only crippling boycott and isolation can save Israel from itself:
It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.
I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.
Gordon says the justification for his conclusion is that Israel has become “an apartheid state.” He is speaking of “Greater Israel,” the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea which Israel has controlled since 1967.
Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews—whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel—are citizens of the state of Israel.
The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.
This is indeed one of Israel’s major problems. It may not rival an Iranian nuclear bomb in terms of immediacy, but there isn’t an Israeli politician or general who does not recognize that somehow, some way, Israel is facing a ticking demographic time bomb: Jewish state or apartheid state.
For Gordon, the “moral answer” is clear.
There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.
The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.
The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.
Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.
Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.
For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.
So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?
Gordon says, “I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer.”
Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.
It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.
I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.
In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.
Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians—my two boys included—does not grow up in an apartheid regime.
There are many anti-boycott arguments, none of which Gordon takes seriously because—well, it’s not clear why. He doesn’t really refute them, he just raises them and ignores them. Here’s a good summation (not from Gordon):
Critics have claimed that singling out Israel is “outrageous and biased” “lop-sided” and “unbalanced” as well as “deplorable and offensive.”
Some opponents of a boycott claim similarities with the Nazi boycotts of Jews of the 1930s and claim this is a form of anti-Semitism.
They have also been called “profoundly unjust” and relying on a “false” analogy with South Africa. One critical statement has alleged that the boycotters apply “different standards” to Israel than other countries, that the boycott is “counterproductive and retrograde” and that the campaign is antisemitic and comparable to Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s.
The Economist contends that the boycott is “flimsy” and ineffective, that “blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair,” and points out that the Palestinian leadership does not support the boycott.on whatever terms Israel must accept.
But none of these matter because, clearly, Gordon is frustrated. He wants a two state solution. Of course so, officially, does Israel’s prime minister. So do most Israelis. So does most of the world. But Gordon wants it NOW, and since he and some other on the Israeli Left have not been successful in making their case to their own countrymen or to many Palestinians, and certainly not to Hamas, they seem to have decided that the only way to get what they want is to squeeze, pressure and perhaps even destroy their country from the outside. Kill, or cripple, the patient in order to save it.
Will that work? I don’t see how. I’m no political scientist, but Gordon is. And it seems to me even a passing familiarity with the history of the Middle East would demonstrate that Israel has only made peace from a position of strength. This gives Israelis the willingness and the confidence to make concessions, and Israel’s enemies the motivation to sit down with Israel rather than try to destroy it.
With this in mind, I suggest the opposite: Don’t Boycott Israel, Boycott the Arab World.
That’s right. Refuse to deal with its repressive regimes. Go Green and develop alternatives to their oil. Freeze all their assets in US banks. And tell them they can have normal relations with the West when they recognize Israel within adjusted borders, share Jerusalem, help with the refugees, and open their countries to full diplomatic and cultural relations with Israel.
Why not? If what Gordon wants is a settlement for Israel’s own good, won’t this work just as well—even better, in my opinion—than hurting his children’s own country?
After all, if Gordon thinks boycotts are so effective, why single out Israel? Why not boycott every Middle East country and the Palestinians until they all reach an immediate settlement?
Crazy idea? Of course it is. But so is boycotting Israel.
Meanwhile—and how’s this for irony—across the country in The Washington Post, an op-ed by the Crown Prince of Bahrain called on the Arabs to exercise just the kind of openness toward Israel which Gordon claims Israel alone has been resisting.
“We need fresh thinking if the Arab Peace Initiative is to have the impact it deserves on the crisis that needlessly impoverishes Palestinians and endangers Israel’s security.,” wrote Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa in an July 16 op-ed. “Our biggest mistake has been to assume that you can simply switch peace on like a light bulb. The reality is that peace is a process, contingent on a good idea but also requiring a great deal of campaigning—patiently and repeatedly targeting all relevant parties. This is where we as Arabs have not done enough to communicate directly with the people of Israel.”
So let’s get this straight: an Israeli wants to twist Israel into submission, while an Arab wants to open a fair and honest dialogue with it. And, frankly, the Crown Prince, head of a monarchy, sounds more sensible and flexible, while the professor from the democracy sounds less informed and more dictatorial.
“The two communities in the Holy Land are not fated to be enemies,” write the prince. “What can unite them tomorrow is potentially bigger than what divides them today.”
Both sides need help from their friends, in the form of constructive engagement, to reach a just settlement.
What we don’t need is the continued reflexive rejection of any initiative that seeks to melt the ice. Consider the response so far to the Arab peace plan, pioneered by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This initiative is a genuine effort to normalize relations between the entire Arab region and Israel, in return for Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territory and a fair resolution of the plight of the Palestinians, far too many of whom live in refugee camps in deplorable conditions.
We must stop the small-minded waiting game in which each side refuses to budge until the other side makes the first move. We’ve got to be bigger than that. All sides need to take simultaneous, good-faith action if peace is to have a chance. A real, lasting peace requires comprehensive engagement and reconciliation at the human level. This will happen only if we address and settle the core issues dividing the Arab and the Israeli peoples, the first being the question of Palestine and occupied Arab lands. The fact that this has not yet happened helps to explain why the Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel are cold. They have not been comprehensive.
We should move toward real peace now by consulting and educating our people and by reaching out to the Israeli public to highlight the benefits of a genuine peace.
Would that this piece had appeared in The Los Angeles Times.
August 18, 2009 | 5:49 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Israel’s northern costal community is in the grips of mermaid fever. For several months, people from Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, have reported sightings of a young girl frolicking in the Mediterranean, jumping out of the water like a dolphin and doing other tricks.
The Kiryat Yam municipality of is offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove
it’s a publicity stunt that the mermaid exists.
Arutz Sheva reports:
Shlomo Cohen, a former IDF career soldier, was one of the first to have claimed to have seen the mermaid some two weeks ago.
“I was with friends when suddenly we saw a woman laying on the sand in a weird way. At first I thought she was just another sunbather but when we approached she jumped into the water and disappeared. We were all in shock because we saw she had a tail. At least five of us saw it and we all couldn’t believe it.”
“Many people are telling us they are sure they’ve seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” [Kiryat Yam] council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News.
The nautical nymph is only seen in the evening at sunset, according to media reports, drawing crowds of people with cameras hoping for a glimpse.
“People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks then disappears,” Mr Zilberman said.
Asked whether a dolphin or large fish could be a more rational explanation, he insisted: “They say it is a female figure, it looks like a young girl.”
The council denied its offer of a reward was a publicity stunt, but said it hoped to nurture the mermaid as something which could bring in more tourists.
Capturing a mermaid is not necessary, a verifiable photograph will do, Mr Zilberman said.
Asked if the council can afford the payout, he told Sky News: “I believe, if there really is a mermaid, then so many people and tourists will come to Kiryat Yam, a lot more money will be made than $1 million.
As far as the mermaid’s origin, look no farther than GreenProphet blogger Karin Kloosterman for an explanation:
My guess is that the toxic pollution in the Haifa Bay – some of the worst in Israel – has created some mutant form of dolphin.
And hey, if you do manage to get proof of the creature, consider donating the prize booty to cleaning up the Bay.
August 12, 2009 | 3:47 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
I divorced Israel in September of 2008, about nine years after making aliyah (immigration to Israel). I left him, intending to make a clean break. That was the only way I could really move on.
I often liken Israel to a lover. Anyone who makes aliyah is essentially embarking on a marriage with the Jewish state.
It’s easy for Diaspora Jews to fall madly in love with Israel. Israel is so very seductive, especially during the first dates, whether they be educational trips or summer vacations. Just touching the soil revived by the Jewish people after two millennia causes butterflies.
Jews experience intoxicating romance with the land while taking walks along the Tel Aviv shore at sunset; they revel in the land’s beauty at getaways in the plush North; they get frisky on the beach of Eilat and at Tel Aviv nightclubs; they delve into their past and dreams at Masada, the Golan Heights, and the Old City of Jerusalem. Most of all, they engage in heart to heart talks about life, humanity, and the Jewish soul while praying at the kotel.
But once the Jew ties the knot with Israel by making aliyah, the honeymoon quickly fades and the reality of married Israeli life kicks in. For non-Hebrew speakers there are communication barriers; the government bureaucracy is like a pesky mother-in-law who kills the romance with endless, prying demands; it’s hard to go out on dates when bogged down by financial worries because the oleh has trouble finding a good job.
But through their love, the Zionist “couple” sticks it out, reminded of their love and passion with every stroll down a street named after a Jewish sage or hero; with every Jewish holiday celebrated by the entire country, which always feels like a loving family, no matter how many arguments; and with the undying sense of belonging to each other.
Fairly fluent in Hebrew, I communicated openly with Israel. For the most part I found fulfilling employment as a publicist and journalist. Our financial situation was manageable, but we had our ups and downs. We simply went through too many crises: the intifada, the Disengagement, the Lebanon War—all so saddened me, like miscarriages that set me back from truly focusing on my creative output. I felt infertile.
My relationship with my hometown of Los Angeles may not have started as a whirlwind romance. America is like my dependable best friend. He was the shoulder I cried on when I felt jerked around by Zion. He was there for me when I needed him—understanding my language, spoiling me with cushy malls and fabulous spas, entertaining me with great TV shows, and allowing me to focus on my self-development and dreams.
With America, there’s so little drama. I may not cry as much for America as I do for Israel—but I got sick of crying, so much so that I never knew if or when I wanted to go back.
But I’ve been given the chance to get some closure. Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), the organization that has assisted over 20,000 Jews in making aliyah since its founding in 2002, has invited me on their charter flight to Israel on September 7 to follow the Zionist love stories of the latest batch of newlyweds.
I will blog about the newlyweds and my reunion with Israel as part of “The Nefesh B’Nefesh Second Annual International Jewish Bloggers Convention - Powered by WebAds” (WebAds is Jewish Internet advertising firm organizing the convention). It will be held on September 13 in Jerusalem and online. The theme: “Uniting the Jewish Community through Social Media.”
NBN is like a Zionist marriage counselor, assisting Zionist newlyweds with living together, communication, paperwork, employment, and social networking. Any good marriage needs preparation, and I never really had that when I officially made aliyah in 1999. So I thank NBN for giving me the chance to smooth things over. I wonder if they want us to get back together.
I don’t know if that will happen, at least not in the near future. When I’m back there, my “ex” and I will probably have a fling and remember the good times—easy without the pressure of commitment. Yet even as I’m beginning to fall in love with my best friend (America), I wouldn’t mind if Israel swept me in his strong, sexy arms for a few weeks.
Orit Arfa is an American-Israeli journalist, writer, and actress currently living in Hollywood. Check out her work at www.oritarfa.net.
August 2, 2009 | 3:49 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
“Wedding Song,” a film about two teenage girlfriends, one Muslim and one Jewish, in 1942 Nazi-occupied Tunisia, will be presented for one evening only Thursday, Aug. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills.
The film by Karin Albou (“La Petite Jerusalem”), is hosted by the LA Jewish Film Festival, in cooperation with the Levantine Cultural Center. For tickets, phone (800) 838-3006 or go to www.LAJFilmfest.org. Caution: film contains adult material and no one under 18 will be admitted.