Jewish Journal

This week in power: Tent City, Debt deal, Norway aftermath, Alan Gross

by Danny Groner

August 11, 2011 | 5:53 am

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

The politics of Tent City
It’s perhaps strange to see a protest in Israel fueled by economic issues,and not political ones. But that’s the case for the quarter-million Israelis protesting the high cost of housing. “Now, it is focusing on the economy and society, it does not distinguish between right and left, it addresses broad interests, not specific ones,” said Guy Rolnik at Haaretz. Yet, it represents more than that, said Amos Oz in the Los Angeles Times. “The heart of this protest is the affront and outrage over the government’s indifference to the people’s suffering, the double standard against the working population and the destruction of social solidarity.” And they could have real political effects for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Impact of the debt deal
Jewish communal federations across the country are wondering, reported The Jewish Daily Forward, how they will continue to fund hospitals, nursing homes, and other services after federal cuts. We don’t yet know where the cuts will come, but they could hit anywhere from “elderly care to environmental issues to democracy promotion overseas,” said JTA. Is it time to worry? “From a Jewish perspective, when coupled with the ‘vision of human solidarity,’ the premise of this bill is no doubt a strong step in the right direction,” said Dovid Efune at The Huffington Post. But let’s hold firm, warned a Jewish Exponent editorial. “As the safety net begins to sag, we must remain vigilant lest the seniors and the most vulnerable among us—indeed the ones with the least power—end up the most adversely affected by Congress’ next act.”

Norway and the Jews
Even weeks after the Norway attacks, debate goes on over racism and multiculturalism inside the country and in greater Europe. “All of the Western European racist and fascist parties have moved away from using overt racism to win greater support. Instead they concentrate on issues such as nation and identity, said Socialist Workers Party’s Martin Smith. And its not like our leaders are helping things, said Roger Pulvers in The Japan Times. “Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron, the Tea Party in the U.S. and similar intolerant and confrontationalist pressure groups in the Western world are all coming from the same place: a gross misunderstanding of what makes up their own identity today.” Which is why we must not make this exclusively about Anders Behring Breivik’s mentality, said Leonard Fein at The Jewish Daily Forward. “A plea of insanity lets the perpetrator off the hook and lets society off the hook, as well. It is self-serving, far too facile, hence appropriately suspect. Wherever the contextual chips fall, they warrant careful consideration.”

Alan Gross’s sentence upheld
A Cuban court upheld the 15-year prison sentence for a U.S. government subcontractor for crimes against the state, which will only make relations between the two countries worse, according to reports. It means Alan Gross, a Jewish 62-year-old Maryland native, has no more chances at freedom through the courts system. “Only in Cuba would this otherwise benign act be characterized as subversion and the hapless individual caught in a trap labeled a spy,” said a Miami Herald editorial. Whose to blame for this ordeal? The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin criticized Obama over the ruling: “As with the economy, Obama’s weakness and lack of realism in foreign policy reveal how underqualified and inept the president is. There is just so much Congress can do in the realm of foreign affairs.” Obama must negotiate a way out, said Elliot Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It would be intolerable for the Castros to benefit from Obama policies while Alan Gross sits, month after month, in their prisons.”

Tisha B’Av thoughts
Tuesday marked a Jewish holiday that “commemorates thousands of years’ worth of calamities throughout history that all happened on the same date,” said the Ottawa Citizen. With calls for social justice this holiday, what else are people praying for? “It took the Jewish people generations to figure out what the narrative of the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av was, and we still incorporate new episodes of pain and loss into the commemoration,” said Rachel Kahn-Troster at The Huffington Post. “Even the official story is still open. As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, may we have the wisdom to hear other, competing stories with hearts of chesed.” Lessons of the past still resonate, said one women quoted in The Jerusalem Post: ““When I think of Tisha B’Av and I’m mourning Tisha B’Av I’m not mourning 2,000 years ago. I’m mourning the situation of 2,000 years ago that still lives with us today.”

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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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