Jewish Journal

This week in power: Olmert remarks, Olympics controversy, Asifa, Columbus

by Danny Groner

May 24, 2012 | 5:15 am

Christopher Columbus. Photo by Wikipedia/Sebastiano del Piombo

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Olmert opens up
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said that Israel should abandon the idea of a unified Jerusalem if they truly want peace. He made the statements during the 45th anniversary of the capturing east Jerusalem. “Olmert makes a bitter mistake in thinking that separation, not unity, is the solution. His words are demagoguery,” Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said. “He wants to run from conflicts in Jerusalem and give in to them, instead of coping with them and directing them. That is not the way,” Barkat continued. “The attempt to unify Jerusalem by fiat—by annexing the land while trying as mightily as possible to ignore the people, their needs and their desires—was mistaken. Jerusalem needs a diplomatic agreement that leaves it open physically but divided politically between two states. When it happens, I’d like to commemorate that day—modestly, without claiming that it heralds redemption, but with thanks and hope,” said Gershom Gorenberg at The Daily Beast.

Hungary fears
Since the Jobbik movement entered Parliament two years ago, Hungary Jews have been in high alert.The party “spout xenophobic, anti-Roma, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric,” according to JTA. “The danger is about Hungarian democracy, not about anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Istvan Darvas warned. Due to the effects of the Holocaust, “There is no relationship more fraught, complicated and prone to political exploitation by both right and left than that between Hungary and its Jews,” said Adam LeBor on Free Faith blog. “Hungarian Jewish culture is beautiful. We have a nice history. The government and the Jewish community must do what they can to make Jews feel safe and calm in Hungary,” said one Jewish leader.

Olympics memorial debate
Israeli officials were upset after the International Olympic Committee refused their request to hold a special tribute to the Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games, according to reports. In London this summer, they hoped for a minute of silence to honor the slain Israeli athletes and coaches. “The IOC clearly doesn’t want Munich to be repeated. But it also seems like the IOC doesn’t want Munich to be remembered,” said Reid Forgrave at Fox Sports. Moreover, “The Munich 11 were targeted because they were Israelis and Jews, but anybody who thinks the massacre was only an assault on Israel and Jews does not understand—well, does not understand the Olympic spirit,” said Tablet’s Marc Tracy.

Anti-internet rally
Over 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men attended a rally on Sunday at New York’s Citi Field concerning the state of the internet and how technology perverts their way of life. “There is a very significant downside to the Internet,” a spokesman said. “It does pose a challenge to us in various aspects of our lives.” The reaction from the blogosphere was fast and unwelcoming. “The Internet does not molest, only people do; they always have. But if they can just persist on blaming internal problems on evil outside forces, they can continue to remain blind to what they refuse to see: themselves,” said Judy Braun in The Jewish Week. And until they accept that, said Emily Manuel at Global Comment, they will continue to live in the dark. “It would be better if the Haredim gave sexual desire a place in their religious practice where it could thrive more openly and honestly. But then again, if that were possible, perhaps the asifa never would have taken place in the first place,” she said.

Was Columbus Jewish?
Long been a subject of debate, the topic of explorer’s Christopher Columbus’s heritage heated up again this week. “Columbus’s voyage was not, as is commonly believed, funded by the deep pockets of Queen Isabella, but rather by two Jewish Conversos and another prominent Jew. Louis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez advanced an interest free loan of 17,000 ducats from their own pockets to help pay for the voyage, as did Don Isaac Abrabanel, rabbi and Jewish statesman,” according to CNN. What should we make of this revelation? “As we witness bloodshed the world over in the name of religious freedom, it is valuable to take another look at the man who sailed the seas in search of such freedoms — landing in a place that would eventually come to hold such an ideal at its very core,” said Maqsood Hussain at The News Tribe. And this news could change the history of the Jewish people in the United States, said one blogger: “It is quite possible that the United States was blessed of God – not only because of the English Puritan colonists, but also because of the first Spanish-Jewish settlers.”

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Danny Groner is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal. He has worked in journalism since he was a teenager, starting off as an intern for a local publication. During his...

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