Posted by Orit Arfa
In his now infamous op-ed in The New York Times, Peter Beinart has called for a boycott of Jewish creativity and productivity in Judea and Samaria. What he may or may not realize is that his faulty ideas sow the seeds of war and unrest between Jews and Jews, Jews and Arabs, and Arabs and Arabs. His op-ed undermines the principles and values that radical Left-wing “humanitarians” claim to promote: truth, tolerance and peace. Let’s break it down.
Lies and fallacies
He writes that “it’s time for a counteroffensive — a campaign to fortify the boundary that keeps alive the hope of a Jewish democratic state alongside a Palestinian one. And that counteroffensive must begin with language.”
True, the counteroffensive must begin with language—but language that doesn’t manipulate definitions.
Let’s start with the word “democratic.” As many pundits do today, he makes “democracy” synonymous with the ballot rather than with individual rights, freedom of the press, and a system of police and courts that protect people from unjust use of force.
He is correct in noting that Judea and Samaria is the historically correct term for the “West Bank,” and he should be applauded for calling the land “Israel,” but he is incorrect in calling the region “undemocratic” because “millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in a state the controls their lives.”
The Arabs of Judea and Samaria (the historically correct categorization) have a right to vote in municipal and Palestinian Authority elections in the swaths of territory under Palestinian control, and in 2006 the Palestinians voted for an anti-Semitic Hamas dictatorship in Gaza, which led to bloody street wars between Hamas and Fatah supporters. Creating a civil society should take precedence over the privilege of elections lest those election lead to dictatorship.
The so-called two-state “solution” that Beinart is desperate to save has actually paved the way for disintegration of Palestinian Arab and Jewish Israeli relations, rather than co-existence. Before the Oslo Accords of 1993, there were no checkpoints and no fences between Arab and Jewish population centers. But Oslo created and armed the Palestinian Authority who used the weapons to kill Jews rather than arrest terrorists and keep the peace. Arab-Jewish strife and separation were inevitable.
Now for another abused term: “occupation” of “Palestinian land.” An occupation is defined as a military takeover of a pre-existing state. The Palestinian Arabs have never had a state in Judea and Samaria—they’ve been offered a state in that territory more than once, but they’ve always refused it. I think most rational people realize now that statehood is not their ultimate goal: destroying Israel is. If the Palestinians really wanted a state, they’d move to Jordan whose population is largely Palestinian. (If people think it’s fair for Beinart to ask “settlers” to move to “democratic” Israel, as he does in his piece, they should see nothing wrong in asking Palestinians to move to Jordan.)
Racism and Bigotry
Beinart is upset that “many Israeli maps and textbooks no longer show the green line,” but he says nothing about the Palestinian textbooks, atlases and tourist maps that don’t show Israel at all. He expects moral, rational behavior from Jews but not from Arabs, who are free to elect terrorists and fascists. This is racism.
Palestinians are masters of their own fate. They have freedom of choice, as do Jews and all other people. Not to grant them freedom of choice reduces them to animals. But they have chosen to assert their supposed “rights” to land and statehood through the violent murder of Jews.
Beinart “cringes” as he writes that “most settlers aren’t bad people; many poor Sephardic, Russian and ultra-Orthodox Jews simply moved to settlements because government subsidies made housing there cheap.” Is he cringing because he has admitted he’s a bigot against religious-nationalist Jews? He differentiates between “good” Jews and “bad” Jews by virtue of why they want to live where they live, and not because of where they live. This is religious bigotry.
He has scapegoated an entire population of Jews who are inspired by Judaism to love and sow the land of Israel, and yet he makes no criticism of jihadis who are inspired by Islam to kill “infidels” out of religious duty and as a way to rob those “bad” Jews of their land.
To create a Palestinian state, hundreds of thousands Jews will be dispossessed of their homes, their property and their rights to the land on which they have settled. Rightly so, many Jews will protest this unjust, suicidal expulsion, leading to much unrest between Jews and Jews.
Judging by the treatment of Jews expelled from Gaza, those same Jews that Beinart would happily force out of their homes will be disenfranchised and forced into poverty and wandering—treatment and conditions he would consider acceptable for Jewish “settlers,” but not for Arabs.
As the withdrawal from Gaza has shown, Israel’s withdrawal from land beyond the green line only emboldens Palestinian terrorists who’ll use the territory as rocket launching pads, bringing war closer to Israel’s new borders.
If the Palestinians sought true democracy, peace and a better quality of life, they would embrace the people of Judea and Samaria and the trade, commerce, jobs, education and creativity they bring to the region. They’d implore the Jews of Ariel to live among them. They’d welcome the cutting edge research in science and humanities taking place at the premier center for higher learning there, the Ariel University Center, where Arabs make up a good portion of the student body.
Beinart says “I am a committed Jew. I belong to an Orthodox synagogue, send my children to Jewish school,” as if his tribal and religious affiliation makes his lies less false and his ideas less immoral. In essence, he has demonstrated that he is glad to sell out his people—for what? That remains unclear.
Beinert puts down supporters of Jews in Judea Samaria as “hawks”; he calls Israel’s handling of Judea and Samaria as leading to apartheid; he calls ideologically motivated settlers “bad” people. I think I have sufficiently proven that Beinart’s is essentially a hawk, a racist and a mystic.
Anyone who respects decency, truth and human freedom should boycott this man and his books. Keep him out of your restaurants, out of your synagogues, out of your schools. Then go visit Judea and Samaria and spend lots of money there.
See the creativity and cultural relevance of Ariel by joining the ZOA at The Ariel Breakfast Club, a screening of three student films coming out of Ariel University Center being held at the Israel Film Festival on March 25 at the Beverly Hills Laemmle. Click here for more information. Read the Jewish Journal feature about it here.
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March 9, 2012 | 2:15 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
The ZOA welcomes University of California President Mark Yudof’s Open Letter to the University of California Community condemning recent acts of harassment of Jewish students that occurred on several UC campuses. In the letter, he denounces acts meant to disrupt the speech of of pro-Israel activists, including the recent disruption of speakers at the UC Davis campus event entitled “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out” as well as the defacement of the Israeli flag at the UC Riverside Hillel.
The letter is a result of continuous pressure placed upon UC leaders by Jewish activists, including the Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, Susan Tuchman, and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of UC Santa Cruz and Dr. Leila Beckwith of UCLA, the founders of the AMCHA Initiative, a grassroots organization devoted to protecting Jewish students on campus and which led a letter writing campaign to President Yudof. These three dynamic activists are the headliners of ZOA Orange County Chapter’s event this Sunday, March 11, 3-5 pm, at the Radisson Newport Beach entitled “Combatting Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism on College Campuses.” The public is encouraged to attend.
While we commend President Yudof, we hope that this is just a start. In the ZOA’s letter to him dated March 9, Susan Tuchman and ZOA President Morton Klein have requested he take this one step further. Read more about the event on Sunday and access the entire letter by clicking here.
Here’s an excerpt from the ZOA’s letter to President Yudof:
• We are pleased to learn from your Open Letter that policies on student conduct have been revised to strengthen prohibitions on threatening conduct and acts motivated by bias. But these policies mean little if they are not vigorously enforced. When Jewish students report incidents of harassment and intimidation, university officials must respond promptly. They must take these reports seriously, investigate them thoroughly, ensure that if the evidence warrants it, appropriate discipline is imposed, and take other remedial steps to fix the problem.
• As OCR stated in its policy letter, disciplining the harassers is not sufficient. We ask that you also advise all of the UC Chancellors to follow your lead. When incidents of anti-Semitism occur on their respective campuses – including anti-Zionist and anti-Israel incidents that cross the line into anti-Semitism – the UC Chancellors should be advised that it is the policy of the University of California to clearly and publicly condemn these incidents as reprehensible, hateful and anti-Semitic, so that the university community will understand what is wrong and why it is wrong.
• That means ensuring that university officials have sufficient knowledge and training to recognize anti-Semitism when it occurs. They must understand and appreciate that while not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, some anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism. Fortunately, the U.S. government has given us standards to determine when anti-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiment crosses that line.
• We refer you to the U.S. State Department’s report on contemporary global anti-Semitism, issued in March 2008, which can be accessed at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/102301.pdf. In summary, the State Department has recognized that regardless of the motive, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism when it entails: (1) denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination; (2) applying double standards to Israel; (3) using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis; (4) comparing contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis; or (5) holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel. We ask that university officials be supplied with these standards, and that the University of California provide sufficient training to officials so that they can recognize when anti-Semitic incidents occur and respond appropriately.
• Students need the same information so that they will be sensitized to the many forms of anti-Semitism and understand when anti-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism. We ask that the University of California host class discussions for students regarding the meaning of anti-Semitism and how it affects Jewish students and the entire university community.
March 7, 2012 | 2:35 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
Purim has always been one of my favorite holidays. The story of Purim is one of the most inspiring stories of the Hebrew Bible, not to mention the most exciting, filled with happening parties and a beauty contest. But most importantly, Megillat Esther, which I have studied in depth as part of my graduate studies in Bible, demonstrates the power of individuals to make difficult decisions to achieve a happy ending for Jews—and all humanity.
So today, as the modern day Haman—the leader of Iran—seeks to destroy, massacre and exterminate the Jewish people, we will prevail through our courageous action, guided by the belief, in the words of the Jewish savior Mordecai, “that relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter.” Let the Jews and Israel be that “quarter.”
The Zionist Organization of America, Western Region has a slew of exciting events coming up that stand up to would-be Jewish persecutors, including our panel presentation in Orange County this Sunday on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on college campuses; two talks with the ZOA’s very own Morton Klein on March 21 & 22; and a special screening of student films coming out of Ariel University Center in association with the prestigious Israel Film Festival. Find out more about what we’re up to by clicking here.
We hope to see you there, and check out my special Purim video message below, breaking down the character archetypes of the Book of Esther. Happy Purim!
March 5, 2012 | 9:51 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
While many analysts focus on the veracity of President Obama’s claims of his pro-Israel record, I’d like to focus on his rhetorical style. A careful analysis of Obama’s speech at AIPAC will show that he is extremely ambiguous—perhaps purposefully so—enabling him to appease both opponents and fans alike. He often uses lofty words—like “dignity,” “democracy” and “freedom”—but essentially robs those words of any meaning, paving the way for policies steeped in moral relativism at best, tolerance of evil at worst.
He starts his trend of using words without meaning when he applauds the students present for “engaging deeply in our democratic debate.” A debate over what issues? And what makes a debate democratic—just the fact that two people can freely argue? We can interpret this to mean that pro-Israel students should take into account all sides of the so-called debate about Israel’s right to exist. It can be argued that anti-Israel rants by professors and students on campus are part of this “democratic debate.”
He upholds President of Israel Shimon Peres as a model of “empathy for our fellow human beings.” Unfortunately, empathy can also be reserved for Arabs who think they can kill women and children to express their upset about the existence of Israel. Commitment to life is a higher value than empathy. Alongside empathy, Obama touts a commitment to “human dignity” and “freedom.” Many Arabs and Islamists feel their human dignity is slighted by the existence of Israel. Furthermore, many Palestinians believe freedom means living under a terrorist dictatorship. He must specify what accounts for human dignity and freedom for those words to have real meaning in this context.
He claims that the shared interests of the US and Israel include: “security for our communities, prosperity for our people, and the new frontiers of science.” Who can argue with these values, but are they really the heart of our shared interests? What about our moral values: a commitment to individual rights and to prosperity earned through hard work (as opposed to handouts), and science that contributes to our quality of life (as opposed to the pseudo-science of global warming, for instance)?
He expresses his commitment to Israel’s security. But what about Israel’s success? He describes the close military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the US as well the US provisions of advance technology to Israel so that Israel maintains a qualitative military edge. This does not preclude the possibility that the US provides less advanced technology to Israel’s hostile neighbors. We are not privy to the type of military cooperation that exists between the US and Israel, which may serve to reign Israel in. So while Israel can maintain a qualitative edge, it may not always maintain a quantitative edge. Obama praises his support of the Iron Dome System, a defensive machine that shoots down rockets. While this is a vital technology, what about the military tools and machines that would enable Israel to neutralize the Islamic terrorists before they can even strike?
And now for the most abused word of all: peace. He makes no apology for pursuing peace, but it seems that this peace involves negotiating with an Arab leadership that can’t stand Israel at its core and the moral values that Israel represents. Who doesn’t want peace? True peace? But peace can’t be negotiated with terrorists and history has shown that Israel’s peace overtures have been answered with violence. Peace can, however, be achieved through removing the threat of violence from Israel’s anti-Semitic neighbors through all means necessary. If Obama aspired towards true peace, he would have taken this opportunity to condemn the recent Fatah-Hamas alliance, which he has not done until now. He would also have insisted that the PA stop preaching Jew-hatred in its schools, media, and mosques; arrest terrorists who kill Jews; and stop idealizing terrorist killers by naming sports teams, arenas, public squares and streets after them. He would have withheld any more financial aid until it did so.
Obama’s commitment to ensuring Iran doesn’t get the nuclear bomb is praiseworthy, but he is not resolute on America’s intention to use force to stop Iran, if necessary, or his intentions to support Israel should Israel decide to attack Iran alone. He says that when it “comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.” This is double-negative speak. All options may be on the table (although we can only deduce that they includes American and Israeli force), but that doesn’t mean he would use them. It could also be interpreted to mean that he would negotiate that Israel give up her nuclear arms in exchange for Iran stopping its program.
He further goes on with his empty rhetoric to say these are challenging times. How are they challenging? What are the specific challenges? What is the nature of US and Israel’s enemies? Does Obama even believe we have enemies? He uses the language of gray—leaving the public unable to understand his motives, intentions and moral principles.
He ends up sharing his personal bonds with the Jewish people, which include sharing books with President Shimon Peres, participating in Passover seders, and being inspired by the concept of tikkun olam. But we don’t know what books he shared with Peres; we don’t know what kind of freedom those seders celebrated (Jewish freedom or the kind of vague freedom he lauded above?); we don’t know how he interprets tikkun olam (perfection of the world), which to some Jews means a “social justice” that has Jews empathizing more with their enemies than with their own.
He concludes by saying that the US and Israel agree on the big things—the things that matter. But we still do not know what really matters to Obama, specifically.
Obama is mindful of the proverb “A man is judged by his deeds, not his words.” In this case, we certainly can’t judge him by his words—or can we?—because they are completely vacuous.
To learn more about the ZOA and our upcoming events in LA, go to www.zoawest.org. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 1, 2012 | 4:21 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
ZOA President Morton A. Klein has issued a release with the findings of a new poll that shows that a majority of the American public (58%) supports tough measures – including the possible use of military force – to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 30% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran, even if it means that country develops nuclear weapons. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted during February 8-12, 2012, among 1,501 adults, also found that:
Nearly four-in-ten Americans (39%) say the U.S. should support Israel if it takes military action against Iran to prevent it becoming a nuclear power, as opposed to a mere 5% who believe that the U.S. should oppose military’s action;
64% of Americans think that tougher economic sanctions will not work in getting Iran to relinquishing up its nuclear program, as opposed to only 21% who think they will. (In October 2009, 58% of Americans did not believe that sanctions would stop Iran (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll, ‘Public Takes Strong Stance Against Iran’s Nuclear Program,’ February 15, 2012).
And….Mr. Klein is coming to town! Hear him speak on the prospects of peace with the Arabs on March 22, 2012 at The Hub on Venice (affiliated with Ohr HaTorah Congregation). To find out more, click here.