A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:
Gilad Shalit’s release
Kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is coming home, according to reports on Tuesday. Israel and Hamas reportedly negotiated a deal that will release Shalit in exchange for at least 1,000 terrorists. Reception to the news was mixed. “Israel’s continuing willingness to enter into hostage deals inevitably creates an incentive for more hostage-taking in the future and generally undermines the credibility of its anti-terrorist deterrent by creating an image of Israeli ‘softness,’” said Max Boot at Commentary. Time’s Tony Karon broke down who wins from the deal, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who “will gain the kudos for having done a painful deal to bring home a young man whose captivity had been a source of enduring national anguish and pain.” It’s also a win for the Palestinians, though. Tod Robberson in the Dallas Morning News said: “The real lesson here is this: Whatever you’re working on, do it quietly. And for just a while, all sides should stop all the name-calling in public. Worse than being unproductive, it makes opposing sides harden their positions and makes a peace deal that much harder to achieve.”
What should Netanyahu do?
Nothing seemed to get agreed upon at the U.N. meetings, noted a Chicago Tribune editorial. And with Benjamin Netanyahu willing to deal, but Mahmoud Abbas not, “It’s time to test Abbas’ intentions. Netanyahu should authorize a construction freeze in the West Bank and disputed neighborhoods. Force Abbas to show his hand: Either he comes to the table and talks seriously … or his bluff is exposed.” But it may not be that simple, said A.B. Yehoshua in Haaretz. “Those who nibble at the territory of the Palestinians, as the State of Israel is doing now in the territories, are obliged to know that they are plundering and infringing the very essence of the inhabitants’ identity - and who better than we know, from Jewish history, how precious the national and religious identity was to the Jews and how much they were willing to sacrifice for its sake.” Ultimately, it’s up to the people to decide how to resolve this generations-long struggle, said Rev. Maj-Britt Johnson in the Durham News. “I don’t believe the situation is hopeless, but our faith in change ought not to rest with the politicians, it ought to rest with the people who have learned how to listen to each other, and work together.”
Israel’s mosque vandalism
Someone has been vandalizing Muslim cemeteries, mosques, and farmlands, according to reports. Israeli police arrested someone in one incident, but the violence and vandalism appears to be spreading in the country. Yet, when a synagogue gets hit with the same sort of mischief in retaliation, why doesn’t it get covered the same way? wondered Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. “The fact Arab violence against Jewish targets is not considered worthy of much indignation is of great concern. Part of the problem is the bigotry of low expectations. Since Israelis and Jews are considered to be too civilized to engage in primitive acts of violence and vandalism against Muslims, these acts are treated as atrocities to be deplored.” But what about holding everyone to the same standard?
Jewish Nobel Prize winners
Five Jewish laureates were awarded the Nobel Prize last week. Among them was Daniel Shechtman, 70, a professor at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, who won in chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals. “I would like to congratulate you, on behalf of the citizens of Israel, for your award, which expresses the intellect of our people,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Shechtman. “Every Israeli is happy today and every Jew in the world is proud.” Here are the stats on Jews winning the prestigious award. But beware the downside of the awards - the inevitable backlash, said Gideon Levy in Haaretz. “The list of Jewish Nobel laureates throughout the generations is immediately put on display, as though saying that they won because they were Jewish. Every prize that is added to the collection immediately reinforces the idea that it’s a matter of clear genetic superiority. That is the other side of racism - on the one hand, trampling the other; on the other, we praise and exalt the ‘chosen people’ above everyone else. Two sides of the same coin: unconscionable racism.”
Yom Kippur occupying Wall Street
Kol Nidre services met downtown last Friday night, and hundreds of demonstrators took part in the special Occupy Wall Street group. All readings and songs were echoed around. Afterward, many of them joined their fellow protesters across the street at Zuccotti Park. See pictures from the event here. “Ultimately, this service worked better as a message, as an event, than as a service—both for technical and conceptual reasons. Technically, the noise from across the street compounded with the lack of bullhorns made it hard to hear,” said Joe Winkler at The Huffington Post. “Conceptually, and here my bias shines through, politics often, though not necessarily, dilutes individual spirituality. It stokes the flames of action but quenches the inner voice of the desperate soul.” Jeanette Friedman said in The Jewish Daily Forward: “It is precisely here that I can, with a clear conscience, ask for forgiveness for selfishness, apathy and pride.” Tablet’s Marc Tracy added: “I felt like I was part of a community, in the way that the concept of the minyan is supposed to encourage.”