Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
There is now a joint letter being circulated nationally among Rabbis, Cantors and Rabbinical students to register our collective alarm about the Israeli government's decision to construct housing in the E1 Zone in Jerusalem.
The letter is co-sponsored by the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet (of which I am a national co-chair), Rabbis for Human Rights North America (RHRNA) and Americans for Peace Now (APN).
The letter below was sent to the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet of which 700 rabbis, cantors and rabbinic students are members. The same letter was sent by RHRNA and APN. I will report on this going forward.
In light of the Israeli governments' recent alarming announcement of their intent to construct 3,000 housing units in the E1 zone between East Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, J Street has joined with Rabbis for Human Rights North America and Americans for Peace Now to mobilize rabbis, cantors and rabbinical and cantorial students, to oppose such actions.
As leaders of our community, we hope you will join us in speaking out to Prime Minister Netanyahu against this move, which would effectively make the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict untenable.
As American rabbis, we also fear that construction in E1 damages the critical relationship between Israel and the United States. Construction in E1 would violate repeated commitments to the United States, dating back to 1994, not to build settlements in the area.
The Mishna (Pirke Avot 1:12) tells us, "Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving humankind and bringing them closer to the Torah." The commentary on this saying in Avot d'Rabbi Natan tells us that it is not enough merely to love peace, but that one must pursue it as strenuously as Aaron did.
For the sake of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, we urge you to cease plans to construct new settlements in E1, elsewhere in the West Bank, or in East Jerusalem. We pray that you follow Aaron’s example by returning to the negotiating table as quickly as possible. This unprecedented action requires an unprecedented response from the leaders of our community.
Rabbi John Rosove, co-chair J Street Rabbinic Cabinet
Rabbi Amy Small, co-chair J Street Rabbinic Cabinet
Rabbi John Friedman, co-chair J Street Rabbinic Cabinet
Rabbi Lawrence Troster, J Street Rabbinic Director
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December 7, 2012 | 8:37 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Dan Kurtzer is convinced that Middle East peacemaking is 'in Obama’s guts.' His new book aims to show the president how to move forward in “Pathways to Peace – America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict”. (Reviewed by Chemi Shalev in Haaretz)
If you read only one book on the Middle East this year, let this one be it. It has been sent to the Obama Administration and members of Congress.
The only reasonable conclusion to draw after reading this book is that the time is now to enter into final status negotiations between Israel and Palestine and that only strong American pressure will bring this about.
Essays are written by American, Israeli and Palestinian experts. All of them are compelling and enlightening. For me, as part of the pro-Israel pro-peace progressive Zionist community, the essays written by Palestinians are among the most enlightening because the Palestinian narrative is quite different from the Israel narrative.
The book argues effectively that the past cannot be prologue to the future. What is important now is what happens going forward. Playing the blame game for past failures at peace negotiations will doom future talks and a successful two-state solution, which is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinians, the United States, Europe, and all moderate Arab countries. The alternative to a two-state solution is endless war, bloodshed and despair. What will be lost as well will be the Zionist dream of creating a Jewish democratic state in our national home after 2000 years of exile.
Ambassador Daniel Kurzter has done a significant service in the cause of peace. Kol hakavod to him!
December 5, 2012 | 8:42 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
We are at a tipping point in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The UN Palestinian resolution and Israel’s response are indicative of a sea-change in the Middle East. Time is quickly passing and for those who believe that it is vital for Israel to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians for the sake of her own Jewish democratic character, peace and security, the window of opportunity is quickly closing, as a report shows fairly conclusively just published by “Territorial Jerusalem” headed up by long-time Jerusalem settlements’ expert Daniel Seidemann:
“As the entire world knows, Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided that Israel’s answer to the UN vote will be the construction of thousands of new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the expediting of the E-1 settlement, which has long been recognized as the “fatal heart attack” of the two-state solution. Indeed, E-1 is not a "routine" settlement. If built, it is a game-changer, maybe a game-ender. E1 is the "binary"settlement. If you support E-1, you cannot possibly be in favor of the two-state solution; if you are in favor of the two-state solution, you must oppose E-1.” (Read the full report here.)
If true (and I believe it is), what can and should we American citizens do to support a renewed peace process?
We should be exerting concerted pressure on President Obama to reengage with Israel and the Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution, to visit Israel and connect personally with the Israeli population, and to visit Ramallah to connect personally with the Palestinian population.
This should all be done as soon as possible after his inauguration and the Israeli elections scheduled for January 22.
The President needs to appoint a new high level “A Team” led by him and his new Secretary of State to bring a plan with defined parameters addressing all the outstanding issues including borders, security, Jerusalem, water, and refugees, and then work diligently with both sides to achieve a two-state solution within a few months.
Doing so is clearly in both America’s and Israel’s best interests. This unresolved conflict has become a catalyst for radicalism across the Arab and Islamic worlds. It strengthens the hands especially of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaida to foment anger in the Arab and Islamic street against America and Israel. It diminishes American influence throughout the region and weakens moderate Arab regimes.
A resolution of the conflict will not only help to reverse these trends but also stabilize Israel’s relationships with most of its neighbors and bring Israel back into positive relationships with the family of nations.
Yes, there is a high risk of failure, as this conflict seems intractable; but so too is there a high risk for inaction.
The general outlines of a two-state solution are likely already supported by the majority of Israelis and Palestinians. Israel, of course, cannot deal with Hamas unless it recognizes the right of Israel to exist and stops its terrorist attacks. A separate agreement, in the meantime, can be reached with Fatah (assuming President Abbas recognizes the futility of including Hamas as currently constituted and bravely goes forward to negotiate in good faith) with a future expansion of an agreement to include Gaza on another day.
Despite Abbas’ nasty remarks at the UN, he does support a two-state end-of-conflict solution. Only a month ago he was asked by journalists if he ever wished to live in the city of his birth, Safed, again. He said he would like to visit, but Safed is in Israel and he has no intention of living there. He wants to live with his own people in Palestine which is the West Bank and Gaza.
Winston Churchill noted in a speech in the House of Commons on November 12, 1936:
“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” (cited by Daniel Kurtzer in “Pathways to Peace – America and the Israeli-Arab Conflict,” 2012, p. xiii).
What was true in 1936 for the world is true now for the Middle East. The time for inaction is over. Bold and courageous leadership is needed now by the United States, Israel and Palestine before it is too late.
November 27, 2012 | 12:26 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This morning, J Street (a pro-Israel, pro-peace educational and political organization in Washington, D.C.) published this statement on the Palestinian bid for greater status at the United Nations.
The Palestinian Authority will submit its resolution for a vote in the General Assembly on Thursday, November 29 - a date that resonates in UN history. On November 29, 1947 the UN passed a resolution for the partition of the Land of Israel/Palestine thereby paving the way for international recognition of the State of Israel the following year.
At that time, all Arab nations rejected the Partition plan. It has taken 65 years for the Palestinians, in effect, to support that original partition plan for two states - a Jewish state and a Palestinian state.
At this time there is overwhelming support in the General Assembly of the United Nations for the resolution.
J Street's considered, comprehensive and nuanced position is for the day after the vote. J Street did not take position on the resolution itself.
I am a national co-chair of the Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street. Among many others (e.g. the J Street Board, Rabbinic Cabinet, and J Street Students), I was consulted before this document was finalized. I support it wholeheartedly and pray that the Obama administration, the government of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority move rapidly to save the two-state solution before it is too late.
November 8, 2012 | 8:05 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Already, many of us are hoping that after President Obama’s inauguration and Israeli Elections this January, President Obama will make a visit to the Middle East, meet with Israelis and Palestinians, and bring a strong proposal for a new round of negotiations leading to a two-states for two-peoples resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Given the strong support that J Street’s 2012 election night poll of Jewish Americans found among American Jews for President Obama’s policies overall and for his approach to the Middle East, Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace, the President should feel confident that American Jews support him as an honest broker.
J Street commissioned three polls to assess the American Jewish vote in 2012 examining voting preference and priorities, as well as opinions on Israel. One poll focused on the national picture. Another focused on the Ohio Senate race, where Senator Sherrod Brown faced numerous attacks on his pro-Israel credentials and affiliation with J Street. The third poll focused on the state of Florida, where right-wing groups poured an unprecedented amount of money into dishonest ads and attack campaigns to try to turn support for Israel into a partisan wedge issue.
The American Jewish community remains a solidly Democratic voting bloc despite tens of millions of dollars spent to move their votes. In 2012, American Jews remained overwhelmingly supportive of President Obama, of Democratic candidates, and of US leadership to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The J Street Poll found the following:
“Jews hold progressive views on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
• Strong support for U.S. playing an active role to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, even if it means publicly stating disagreements with the Israelis and the Arabs (69 percent support)
•76% support the U.S. putting forth a peace plan that proposes borders and security
• 72% percent support comprehensive agreement along the lines of the Clinton parameters
It has been suggested that President Obama appoint former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the Middle East to help resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. No one has the authority and knowledge that the former American President has, and I, for one, hope that Obama will invite President Clinton’s active involvement and leadership. For a persuasive argument on this point see Bernard Avishai’s recent blog.
As some of my readers know, I am a strong supporter of J Street, the national home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who believe that a two-state solution is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I serve as a national co-chair of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet because I believe in J Street’s vision and strategic approach to the Middle East conflict. J Street understands (reflecting the views of a majority of Israelis themselves) that unless Israel and the Palestinians find a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Jewish state will lose its Jewish majority and democracy.
This 2012 election showed exceptional success for the J Street vision in the polls. Here are the main results:
All 49 JStreetPAC-endorsed incumbents in the House were elected.
All 7 JStreetPAC-endorsed Senate candidates were elected.
JStreetPAC's challengers and candidates for open seats – elected in 13 out of 15 races (Ami Bera hanging on to a razor thin lead in his race for a Congressional seat in Sacramento would make it 14 of 15.)
Contributors gave over $1.8 million to these 71 pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates for Congress, and, consequently the 113th Congress will have 50 percent more JStreetPAC-endorsed members than are in Congress today. JStreetPAC efforts helped elect Tammy Baldwin (WI), Martin Heinrich (NM), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Time Kaine (VA) to the Senate, and for the first time in its four years of existence, JStreetPAC moved aggressively AGAINST candidates who are “One-Staters” (i.e. against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and supporters of full annexation of the West Bank by Israel). Come January the House of Representatives will no longer have One-State Caucus members Joe Walsh, Allen West, Bobby Schilling, Frank Guinta, or Ann Marie Buerkle.
Given the success of the above endorsed candidates, it is clear that J Street chose well and that those candidates enjoy broad support for their positions generally.
It is also clear that the J Street vision is increasingly being embraced at the highest levels of Congress and that both House and Senate candidates and office-holders happily accepted endorsements from J Street.
No longer is the right-of-center policies vis-à-vis Israel and within Israel itself the only legitimate pro-Israel position embraced within the American Jewish community. In this regard, it is time that the 8-10% of the American Jewish community for whom Israel is their number one voting issue – the outspoken, emotional, passionate, right-wing, and deliberately intimidating – be understood as the small minority that it is.
It is clear that it is time that we in the moderate-left of the American Jewish community become equally passionate advocates of our positions.
The polls have clearly said in this election cycle that the majority of the American Jewish community supports the J Street position vis-a-vis the Middle East.
October 14, 2012 | 4:30 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I will not review Stephen B. Shepard’s fascinating memoir Deadlines and Disruption: My Turbulent Path from Print to Digital mainly because I do not know enough about journalism or the revolution that has transformed how we receive information since the advent of the digital age to be able to do so. Nevertheless, I recommend Steve’s book not only because he is a friend (I receive no kick-backs for this recommendation – just the pleasure in knowing that some of you might buy this book and gain in wisdom, as did I in having read it), but also because Steve is positioned as few people are in America to reflect authoritatively on what has happened in the past 40 years in print and digital media.
The Editor in-Chief of Business Week Magazine from 1984 to 2004 and the founding Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at City College of New York (CUNY) since 2005, Steve has done and seen it all. He reviews not only some of the top stories during his tenure at Business Week, but reflects intelligently on what is now happening in news and media.
The following are reviews of his book by people who do, in fact, understand Steve’s world, and they speak for themselves:
A Top Editor's Take on the State of Journalism Today and His Prescient Forecast of Its Future
'This is a personal and insightful book about one of the most important questions of our time: how will journalism make the transition to the digital age? Steve Shepard made that leap bravely when he went from being a great magazine editor to the first dean of the City University of New York journalism school. His tale is filled with great lessons for us all.'
'Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Steve Jobs
"This is two compelling books in one: Shepard's story of his life in print journalism, and a clearheaded look at the way journalism is evolving due to electronic media, social networking, and the ability of anyone with a computer and an opinion to make him- or herself heard."
More About The Book - A composite of comments by others
'My personal passage is, in many ways, a microcosm of the larger struggle within the journalism profession to come to terms with the digital reckoning. Will the new technologies enhance journalism . . . or water it down for audiences with diminished attention spans? What new business models will emerge to sustain quality journalism?'
Stephen B. Shepard … helped transform [Business Week Magazine] into one of the most respected voices of its time. But after his departure, he saw it collapse - another victim of the digital age.
In Deadlines and Disruption, Shepard recounts his five decades in journalism - a time of radical transformations in the way news is developed, delivered, and consumed. Raised in the Bronx, Shepard graduated from City College and Columbia, joined Business Week as a reporter, and rose to the top editorial post. He has closed the circle by returning to the university that spawned him, founding the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.
In the digital age, anyone can be a journalist. Opinion pieces are replacing original reporting as the coin of the realm. And an entire generation is relying on Facebook friends and Twitter feeds to tell them what to read.
Is this the beginning of an irreversible slide into third-rate journalism? Or the start of a better world of interactive, multimedia journalism? Will the news industry live up to its responsibility to forge a well-informed public?
Shepard tackles all the tough questions facing journalists, the news industry, and, indeed, anyone who understands the importance of a well-informed public in a healthy democracy.
The story of Shepard's career is the story of the news industry - and in Deadlines and Disruption, he provides peerless insight into one of the most critical issues of our time.
October 4, 2012 | 7:32 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
In the past year President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have conferred continuously about when Iran’s nuclear bomb program should be “disrupted” by military action should economic and political sanctions not succeed in halting Iran’s march to build a bomb.
They agree that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. They disagree when action should be taken.
PM Netanyahu has urged that the “red line” for attack against Iran's nuclear facilities be when Iran has the capacity to make a nuclear bomb. The United States' “red line” will be crossed when Iran actually decides to make a bomb.
J Street (a pro-Israel pro-peace political and educational organization in Washington, D.C.) has made a video in which Director of Government Affairs Dylan Williams explains what it takes to make a bomb and the details of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “red line.”
I urge you to take 3 minutes to watch it.
October 1, 2012 | 5:15 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
As we enter the last weeks of the presidential election campaign I confess to being confounded by the intensity of hatred felt and expressed by many Republicans towards President Obama.
Yes, there are policy differences between Democrats and Republicans.
Yes, people blame (wrongly!) this President for the nation’s economic woes.
Yes, millions actually believe the “Birther” claims that Obama is “foreign,” Muslim and “other.”
And yes, there is racism.
Here is yet another possibility originally noted by H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) more than fifty years ago: “Jealousy of the superior man is a constant corrosive element in society.”
What else except jealousy joined with ignorance, stupidity, fear, anger, bigotry, selfishness, myopic thinking, and God knows what else could account for the depth of animus directed at this President?
Obama, truth to tell, is far more centrist than left. He is not an ideologue. Rather, he is pragmatic and conciliatory as an analysis clearly shows in Sunday’s New York Times of the ways in which The Affordable Care Act (i.e. “Obamacare”) is based on conservative values (see “The Conservative Case for Obamacare” by J.D. Kelinke, September 30, 2012, “Sunday Review,” p.4).
After reading the article, no reasonable person can come to any conclusion except that Republican haters of Obama and Obamacare (fed by Republican Senate and Congressional leadership) have gone off the deep end, cannot analyze policy options without a serious overlay of emotional/political bias, could actually care less about policy and are consumed with the need for self-aggrandizement and moral self-justification. Many of these same folks hated Bill Clinton with equal intensity when he was President and, I assume, will spare nothing against Hilary should she toss her hat in the ring for the 2016 presidential race.
What do Obama and Clinton have in common (other than being male and Democratic Presidents) that inspires such hatred?
Mencken put it deftly; “Jealousy of the superior man.”
Though not without their flaws few politicians are as smart, clear-thinking, knowledgeable, thick-skinned, eloquent, skilled, and talented as are Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Their charisma and excellence must drive the Republicans to distraction as they have no one of equal talent in this race or on the horizon!
I pray that the haters don’t succeed in corroding the inner moral character of this country further and are turned back handsomely on November 6 in the presidential race and Congress.