Throughout Jewish history, it has been necessary, time and again, to fight prejudice and false accusations. To mention just one notorious example, there is the blood libel of Pesach, which accuses the Jews of using the blood of Christian children for the baking of matzot -- a blood libel that is again being disseminated, in our days, in Arab countries and even in Russia.
Just weeks after his first presidential visit to Israel, President Bush made clear his priority for his final year in office: the economy, stupid.
If the president has a Middle East breakthrough up his sleeve, he was not ready to reveal it Monday in the State of the Union address that precedes his last year in office.
President Bush's historic visit to Israel and the Middle East can only delay the inevitable disappointment.
Why? It follows the enormous anticipation of the Annapolis conference in late 2007 -- a conference the overwhelming majority of Israelis believe failed. Since then, the expectations of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as expressed in Annapolis, that an agreement can be ready in 2008, have proven to be naive and utterly unrealistic.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon said last week that troops and police could be deployed as early as this week for a mass-removal of outposts erected in the West Bank without state approval. He indicated that the operation could be timed to coincide with President Bush's visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority .
President Bush lit a menorah that belonged to the great-grandfather of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Bush was joined Monday in the grand foyer of the White House by Jewish leaders and Pearl's parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl, who lit the menorah and recited the blessings for the seventh night of Chanukah. That was followed by a performance by the Zamir Chorale of Boston.
In a major policy change, Israel has launched a high-profile diplomatic initiative to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions following President Bush's warning that a nuclear Iran could produce World War III.
The reason I tell this story is not to talk about me. Rather, it is to reflect on the greatness of this nation that has opened its arms to the Jewish people and to so many others. There is no other country in the world where this could happen. None. On Thursday, April 19, Yom HaShoah will again be marked by a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda. The day before, President Bush will pay a personal visit to our nation's Holocaust Memorial Museum. So in addition to lighting a yahrtzeit candle Saturday night, please remember to say a prayer and thank God for the privilege of living in this great land.
The United States turned down offers of expert assistance from Israel and other nations in the crucial first days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Instead, the United States solicited material assistance from Israel that was probably superfluous by the time the shipment arrived on the evening of Sept. 8.
The reasons behind the decisions are unclear. Experts have offered a number of explanations, including the bureaucratic difficulties involved in absorbing thousands of foreign first-responder personnel, the belief that the existing first-responder infrastructure in Louisiana and Mississippi was well equipped to handle the crisis and the potential political fallout from asking foreign nations to help the world's greatest power save lives on its own turf.
President Bush and Congress talk a good game when it comes to homeland security, but the tragic truth is that the country is less able to cope with disasters than before Sept. 11, 2001. The proof is on the flood-ravaged streets of New Orleans, where an unprecedented natural disaster quickly produced violent anarchy and a flaccid government response that multiplied the suffering.
For all the money thrown at preparing for massive terror attacks and other disasters, the new Department of Homeland Security looked more like a Third World bureaucracy, as armed gangs roamed the city and people died for lack of food, water, sanitation and medical supplies.
The dumbest question asked by any reporter anywhere in response to Hurricane Katrina came last Monday in Houston.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. Bush had just finished announcing a special relief effort -- the Hurricane Katrina Fund -- when someone in the press pool blurted out, "What do you think of reports that the levees were intentionally broken?"
The two men were already walking away at that point, but you could see the question register on Clinton's perennially exhausted face. Uncertainty -- did she really say that? -- then anger -- how dare she say that? -- then sadness -- what a sick, sick world where someone could even think that.
In November 2003, California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. White voters backed the recall by a large margin, but Jewish voters swam against the tide, with 69 percent voting against the recall. On the second part of the ballot, where voters chose a replacement candidate, Schwarzenegger collected a surprising 31 percent of Jewish voters.
I suggested then in these pages that Schwarzenegger might eventually do well with Jews: "Jewish voters aren't likely to abandon the Democratic Party anytime soon, but will likely give Arnold Schwarzenegger a chance to prove that he can govern in a bipartisan, moderate manner.... If Schwarzenegger truly seeks to solve the state's problems without being a tool of right-wing forces, and with an open-minded, progressive approach, he may find a surprising number of friends among California's Democratic-leaning Jewish voters."
Chance given, chance blown.
Usually I only respond to fair and thoughtful criticism, but I'll make an exception in this case, because people I respect tell me that Rob Eshman, the editor-in-chief of this publication, is both a smart and decent guy.
Recently, he wrote a column on July 29 about my new book -- "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is '37)," and this is how the column began: "Jewish Americans are only 2 percent of the nation's population, but they are 25 percent of its problem."
Of course, he doesn't believe that. The point was that I supposedly believe that. Why? It seems that Eshman actually counted up all the Jewish people on the list, came up with 25, and, well, you do the math.
Good thing my name is Goldberg and not something WASPy or the column might have begun, "This is a book written by a Jew-hating bigot."
In the June 26 Los Angeles Times' Art Notes, Don Shirley reported that this speech draws the most intense reactions -- applause and boos -- of any scene in "Stuff Happens," David Hare's play at the Mark Taper Forum about President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's path to war in Iraq. (The title comes from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's explanation of why looting occurred after the conquest of Baghdad.)
In speaking about illegal aliens, President Bush says the time has come to bring "millions of hard-working men and women out of the shadows."
However, Republican leaders in Congress claim that Bush's proposals would reward lawbreakers. They soon plan to pass legislation tightening the legal and physical screws on illegal immigrants. The idea is to make the bill veto-proof by tying it to emergency funding for U.S. troops in Iraq.
For me, the issue is of more than passing interest. It was to California, long an immigration battleground, that I came to the United States in 1941 as the only child of illegal aliens.
The meeting Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush at Bush's vast Texas ranch was to have affirmed the special U.S.-Israel relationship and paved the way forward in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process -- a triumphant summit between two friends, farmers and statesmen.
The day after the elections in Iraq, the London Independent commented that "in the long term, it is possible that yesterday's elections in Iraq may be seen as marking the start of a great change across the whole region."
Congress officially is lined up behind President Bush's grand vision of Palestinian democracy -- but it wants details along with that vision.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives' powerful International Relations Committee met last week, right after two congressional resolutions overwhelmingly endorsing Bush's call for a Palestinian state were passed.
A Jewish community initiative to bring to justice those who kill Americans overseas has become law.
Provisions of a bill spearheaded by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), dubbed the Koby Mandell Act, were incorporated into the omnibus spending bill President Bush signed last week.
The intersection of religion and politics became a talk show hit after Nov. 2, when the religious right played a huge, and perhaps pivotal, role in the re-election of President Bush.
Jews are not of one mind about the new focus on faith in politics, but many in the large non-Orthodox majority remain uncomfortable with that trend and are downright scared of new threats to the church-state wall posed by the religious conservatives.
The post-Arafat era has begun with high hopes in Washington, London, Jerusalem and even Ramallah -- but many of the obstacles that prevented peace in Arafat's day remain, and it's not clear whether any of the major players has the single-minded determination to make peace happen.
The United States is not as actively involved as it may have to be; the Europeans, who would like to be intimately involved, don't have the necessary political clout; the Israeli leadership, insulated by strong American backing and facing a recalcitrant right wing, sees no need to hurry, and the new Palestinian leaders, hamstrung by radical, violent opponents, may not be able to make concessions beyond what the late Palestinian Authority president countenanced.
President Bush gave an inkling of the ambivalence inherent in American policy after a meeting last week in Washington with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
While American-born Jews and Russian-speaking Jews in New York have been building stronger intercommunal ties in recent years, they remain far apart when it comes to presidential politics.
Sam Kermanian is one of many Jewish Republicans in Los Angeles reaching out to immigrants on behalf of President Bush, yet perhaps the biggest news of all is that such committed immigrant activists in the Republican Party are no longer red hot news.
Kermanian, an Iranian Jewish immigrant, is still rawly aware of how people's lives in his native Iran are under the strict control of Islamist radicals.
It's crunch time in the presidential campaigns. With less than two weeks to go and most polls pointing to a photo finish, both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are pulling out all the stops -- as long as those stops are in a tiny handful of swing states.
The spin machines are in overdrive; the campaigns are pouring out ads, position papers, talking points and press releases. But they're mostly blowing smoke when it comes to some of the top issues of the day.