Friday, October 27, 2006

Brown and Jewish Values

Brown and Jewish values

This letter published in the Cleveland Jewish News today informs you why one should vote for sherod Brown.

Sherrod Brown, Democratic candidate for US Senator, truly believes in mitzvot and the teachings of Micah that tell us “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with G-d.”

This is why I urge voters to support the candidate who truly represents our Jewish values, Sherrod Brown.

Congressman Brown believes that ten years is too long to wait to raise the minimum wage. He strongly supports stem-cell research and reproductive rights, and stands by our seniors by opposing Social Security privatization. He wants to provide home heating subsidies to our most vulnerable and make prescription drugs affordable to nursing home residents.

The DeWine/Bush policies have undermined our civil liberties, decimated our Constitution and advocated the unchecked powers of a Unitary Presidency, while undermining the Geneva Convention.

Its time for a new voice for Ohio and a new direction in Washington.

Ira Leichtman

Houston, Texas

Liberal vs. Jewish values

This letter was printed in the Cleveland Jewish News today. It shows the clear difference between two types of Jews.

Liberal vs. Jewish values

This letter is in response to Paul Levin's letter “Consider the whole Republican package” (CJN, Oct. 13).

Almost every time I read the letters section of the Cleveland Jewish News, I come across letters from liberal Jews mentioning “Jewish values.” These writers invariably claim that liberal values are “Jewish values.”

For the record, the following (a partial list) are not “Jewish values”: Abortion on demand; homosexuality; socialism; unwavering hatred of President George Bush; believing that the Rosenbergs were innocent; partial-birth abortion; support for an independent Palestine; intermarriage and blind support for the Democratic Party.

Just because certain values are held by a group of Jews does not make those values “Jewish.”

I would be grateful if liberal Jews would stop claiming their values are “Jewish values.” They are not.

Yosef Feigenbaum

Beersheva, Israel

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Anti-Israel language written into the platforms of Democratic state committees in several US states

The vampire's kiss:

Divestment and Boycott - A Progress Report:

How is the Economic and Political War Against Israel Going?

Legend (or at least Bram Stoker) posits that a vampire can only enter someone's home if he or she is invited across the threshold. There could be no metaphor more apt for the divest-from-Israel campaigns that have proliferated among schools, unions, cities and churches in the US and Europe over the last four years.

"BDS" (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) as a tactic for anti-Israel activity and propaganda galvanized during the notorious UN World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001 - just weeks before the 9/11 attacks. It reached a peak in 2004. But for all the energies expended by its advocates, all the headlines it has attracted for several years, and all the concern it has raised in Israel and among Israel's supporters, it has essentially fizzled, especially with the Presbyterian Church's recent decision to abandon divestment from Israel as church policy.

A recent statement by the former president of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine that the recent war in Lebanon would breathe new life into the divestment movement at the university is an off-hand admission that those projects are currently suffering from a shortage of oxygen due to the failure of previous efforts. Indeed, the divest-from-Israel's greatest detrimental impact appears to have been on the very organizations that chose to pursue this political path.

Divestment, Reincarnated

While economic warfare has been a staple of Arab-Israeli conflict since the Arab boycott of the 1920s, divestment, the latest incarnation of the money weapon, began to appear on US media radars in 2002 with a petition circulating at Harvard and MIT universities calling for both schools to "divest from Israel, and from US companies that sell arms to Israel" until various conditions were met. By the end of 2002, only 182 students, 94 staff members and 205 alumni had signed the document, yet the call for divestment emanating from members of two of America's most prestigious schools led to similar divestment petition drives on dozens of campuses across the country.

With university divestment petitions raising awareness of this new tool for activists, America's mainline Protestant churches began to explore divestment options. The Episcopalian Church of the USA, United Church of Christ and two regions of the United Methodist Church all passed resolutions encouraging divestment from Israel. However, it was the Presbyterian Church USA at their 2004 General Assembly, whose resolution calling for "phased, selective divestments in companies doing business in Israel," that was central in helping divestment go from mainline to mainstream.

By 2004, divestment calls seemed to be coming from all directions: cities and towns, unions, political parties, and civic organizations representing groups as diverse as British architects (Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine) to American lawyers (The Lawyers' Guild). Events in the Middle East (the second Intifada and then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's response to that terrorist onslaught) were fueling anti-Israeli sentiment and activity worldwide. In addition, the groups calling for economic sanctions were already ideologically inclined to accept a narrative about the Middle East hostile to the Jewish state. Yet the fact that actions by all of these groups were coalescing around acommon set of objectives points to the momentum divestment seemed to be gaining in various quarters.

This common language included a nearly identical set of targeted companies, the most prominent being equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, chosen not just because of the involvement of Caterpillar equipment in the death/martyrdom of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist Rachel Corrie, but also because the widespread holding of Caterpillar shares by prominent institutions effectively allowed divestment into the door of nearly any organization.

A Movement or a Tactic?

In many ways, divestment represents not so much a political "movement" or alignment, but rather a new tactic embraced by organizations already committed to propaganda on behalf of Israel's foes. Fundamental to the many groups pushing divestment over the last five years has been the so-called "Apartheid strategy," the desire to build a groundswell similar to the anti-Apartheid movement that targeted South Africa throughout the 1980s, this time with the Jewish state playing the role of South Africa's white racist government.

Even those pushing divestment most vigorously understood that the short-term financial impact of divestiture on the robust Israeli economy would be minimal. But, as described again and again in university, church and other campaign communications, divestment advocates were taking a long-range view, hoping to create over time an automatic linkage in the mind of the public between Israel and Apartheid South Africa.

The organizations behind manyearlier divestment drives, including the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Palestinian Solidarity Movement (PSM), and The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, while not unknown, are certainly less prestigious than the institutions on the front lines of this decade's divestment campaigns such as Harvard or the Presbyterian Church. This points to another cornerstone of the divestment strategy: the leveraging of institutional reputation.

The use of large, respected organizations to help small groups punch above their political weight is nothing new. Church leaders, for example, are routinely lobbied to take stands on contemporary political issues from local matters (such as crime and youth violence) to international conflicts (such as the genocide in Darfur). What separates divestment from some of these other examples is the extreme, anti-democratic lengths divestment activists have been willing to go to get such an organization into their column, and the tremendous sacrifices they demand from institutions for the "privilege" of being considered a sincere divestment advocate.

Academic Freedom

While petition drives at various universities first brought divestment into America's political bloodstream, and garnered considerable media attention, not one school ever actually took steps to divest their considerable endowment or retirement portfolios of assets associated with the Jewish state. In fact, many educational leaders openly criticized those calling for divestment, with then Harvard president Lawrence Summers gaining the most attention in 2002 when he condemned anti-Israel activists on his campus, memorably describing them as "anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent."

School leaders are often credited with derailing school divestment efforts, but the fact is that sentiment in favor of divestment never ran particularly high among students, faculty and alumni on any campus. For example, the original Harvard-MIT divestment petition was met with an anti-divestiture counter petition with 10 times as many signatories.

If American universities proved barren ground for actual divestiture (rather than media-amplified noise), academic activists did manage to chalk up an overseas victory, albeit a temporary one, with the British-based union, the Association of University Teachers (AUT).

Few outside British academic circles had ever heard of the AUT until last year, when it voted to boycott two Israeli universities on a series of what could generously be described as trumped-up charges.

As a UK-based union of university instructors and professionals, the AUT also had a "social justice" constituency that was hijacked by a group of anti-Israel activists who, through relentless maneuvering of the AUT's Byzantine governing bureaucracy, managed to pass a resolution calling for British academics to break all ties with Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities.

World reaction to the move was swift. Jewish groups scorned the decision while anti-Israel activists hailed it as their first academic "victory." More important, academics worldwide condemned the AUT's assault on intellectual freedom, and AUT members (most of whom only discovered the action their leadership had taken after decisions were made) revolted against the usurpation of their name, overturning the policy in an overwhelming vote.

Earlier this year, another British union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), passed a motion calling on individual academics to personally boycott Israeli colleagues who did not openly condemn the Israeli government. Like the AUT decision a year earlier, the NATFHE motion was taken at the behest of a small group of union activist leaders, only this time the vote was held just hours before the union dissolved itself to merge with the aforementioned AUT (which had rejected a similar boycott a few months earlier). If the original AUT vote could be considered a tragedy, the NATFHE decision (from the furtive attempt to hijack the union minutes before it disappeared to the McCarthyite call for British lecturers to impose loyalty oaths on their Israeli colleagues) most resembled farce, a much greater embarrassment to British, than Israeli, academia.

Municipal Divestment

Calls for divestment have floated around the fringes of municipal politics in cities such as Seattle, Ann Arbor and Dallas for years. However, it was in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts that divestment forces came closest to victory in the winter of 2004.

In many ways Somerville (one of the country's most densely populated urban areas located next to Boston and Cambridge) would seem an unlikely locale for a showdown on Middle East politics. The city has small Jewish, Arab and Muslim communities, none of which are particularly politically active. While activists claimed that the make-up of the city's retirement fund portfolio (which included not just Caterpillar shares, but also investments in Israel Bonds) was the reason for their local campaign, the choice of Somerville had more to do with the dynamics of the anti-Israel activist community in the Boston area.

Due to the cosmopolitan nature of the region and the availability of large amounts of student activist "labor," Boston has always been home to a wide variety of both pro - and anti - Israel organizations. Unlike their more stable nemeses (such as the Boston-based CAMERA and David Project), local groups antagonistic to the Jewish state tend to be fluid, frequently forming, splitting and reorganizing based on changes in Middle East politics (most recently Islamist trends) or around new tactics such as divestment.

Divestment was spearheaded by a group named the Somerville Divestment Project (SDP). Claiming to be a local, grassroots organization that had mobilized in reaction to the city's municipal investment choices, members of the organization included familiar names from Boston, Cambridge and area suburbs who had been involved with various anti-Israel campaigns (including petition drives, film and lecture series, and consulate and Israel Independence Day protests) for decades.

Meeting behind closed doors with Somerville's aldermen (the city's 11-person legislature, a group with a history of taking stands on national and international issues beyond their purview such as Burma, Sudan and the USA Patriot Act) for over a year, the SDP managed to convince the majority of legislators that the Arab-Israeli crisis neatly fit the Burma/Sudan template as an international human rights crisis with a simple storyline and clear villains and victims. Information that might have laid blame on the crisis taking place in the region (including the deaths of over 1,000 Israelis from terror bombing) on anyone other than Israel was marginalized in the discussion.

In late October of 2004, the Board of Aldermen was about to vote in favor of a non-binding resolution recommending that the independent retirement board divest holdings (including stocks and Israel Bonds) that the SDP had identified as representing "investment" in the Israeli side of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was only when two legislators insisted that the final vote be deferred until public hearings were held that the citizens of Somerville found out what had almost been done in their name.

The ensuing controversy, covered by worldwide media, brought Boston's Israel Consul General into hearings that proved to be the most raucous in the city's history, with area activists on both sides of the issue flooding city hall in a series of meetings between early November and early December of 2004. While opposition never had the chance to fully organize, the scope of the controversy easily convinced the city's aldermen that the storyline the SDP had been feeding them for months was an inaccurate oversimplification designed to minimize the hugely controversial nature of what they were being asked to do. Once the complexity of the Middle East conflict was made clear, and the scope of the controversy understood, aldermen reversed their original positions, voting unanimously to kill the measure.

Divestment raised its head again in Somerville last year, when the SDP decided to take its case "to the people" via a voter petition drive to get divestment onto the 2005 electoral ballot. This time, though, opponents of divestment had the chance to organize a counter campaign. Just as significantly, the SDP had developed fissures after its 2004 defeat, splitting and reforming under a much more radical leadership that hit the streets with a campaign so harsh, abusive and even anti-Semitic, that it alienated many of those who had once supported the organization.

The loss of experienced political operatives led to a series of blunders, notably a refusal to follow the rules set forth by the city on the nature and timing of legal petitioning activity. Despite attempts to sue the city, divestment never made it onto the 2005 ballot. Although it is unknown what would have happened had the issue reached voters, phone-banking efforts by divestment opponents during the summer of '05 found sentiment running a familiar 10 to one against divestiture.

Divestment proponents are currently attempting to make use of more lenient district requirements to get two anti-Israel measures onto a local ballot in November 2006. Yet the further their efforts are separated from the government endorsement they nearly received in 2004, the more the significance of their activity fades to resemble the petition-driven anti-Israel activism that has been background noise in the Boston area for decades.

Bearing Witness

By far, the US Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) had been the jewel in the crown of the divestment movement. Like divestment votes in the AUT and Somerville, the church's divestment decisions were made by a small group that acted with minimal input from members. Unlike these other institutions, however, this small group was not a radical fringe, but rather included members from the church's top leadership.

In contrast to more hierarchical religious institutions, the Presbyterians have a representational structure operating at the level of Presbyteries consisting of one or more churches organized geographically. Ostensibly, decisions on church policy emanate from the Presbytery-level "grass roots" that submit resolutions, called "Overtures." These are voted on by representatives of all Presbyteries at a General Assembly held every two years.

The church currently faces a pair of linked institutional crises: a dwindling membership (which has fallen by almost half in the last four decades) paired with growing centralization of power within a church bureaucracy that has assumed quasi-executive authority. Church management of several billion dollars in assets (including property and huge investment and retirement funds) created the need for a large, full-time, paid professional church staff, located in Louisville Kentucky. Over the years, Louisville has shown an increasing tendency to manage denominational issues (including theological and political disputes) from the top.

This bureaucracy's hostility to the Jewish state has been manifest for close to two decades, and has included several pronouncements that effectively lay blame for all problems in the Middle East at Israel's doorstep (including both Arab suffering and Israeli suffering born from occupation-created Palestinian "desperation"). The Presbyterian News Service (PNS) is uniformly uninterestedin or hostile to Israeli versions of events, and much of the theological language used to describe the conflict has been lifted from the church's partners in Middle East "peacemaking," the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a radical Palestinian Christian group behind many church divestment programs.

Divestment was one of many Overtures handled in the last hours of the PCUSA's 2004 General Assembly. Part of a string of resolutions that, among other things, condemned Israel's security barrier and called for an end to "the occupation"(described as the root cause of all violence in the region), divestment seemed a natural extension to church policies of taking stands on Middle East issues and using their investments as leverage on political and social issues. Given this backdrop, church leaders were unprepared for the controversy their divestment resolution would cause. Within days of that vote, however, divestment champions were traveling the globe broadcasting their success and using the PCUSA resolution to convince other churches that they should join their Presbyterian brothers in punishing the alleged crimes of "Apartheid Israel." At the same time, Jewish leaders let it be known that inter-faith dialogue could not continue with divestment on the table.

The church's hostility to the Jewish state led to a spate of negative publicity. Press coverage became particularly embarrassing after Al-Manar, Hizbullah's satellite television network, revealed that Presbyterian groups, including representatives from the national denomination's powerful Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), had met with the Lebanese terrorist organization on several occasions. A quote from ACSWP member Ronald Stone stating that "As an elder of our church, I'd like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders," led to condemnation from several quarters, including the US Congress.

Although outsiders played a role in lobbying PCUSA between 2004 and the 2006, it was the disaffection of numerous church members, spurred on by bad publicity related to events like the meeting with Hizbullah, that helped see divestment unseated at the June 2006 General Assembly meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.

Polls indicated that support for divestment dissipated quickly the closer one got to the pews, and this year's meeting featured dozens of Overtures on the Middle East, most calling for divestment to be overturned. While the church hierarchy worked hard to try to get decisions on this issue deferred and kept in the hands of church professionals, a membership revolt led to the overturning of divestment within PCUSA which was approved by 95 percent of voters.

Just as PCUSA's 2004 decisions blazed the trail for other churches to pass their own divestment resolutions, so the Presbyterians' 2006 reversal on divestment has led to an abandonment of the tactic by other churches, including the Anglicans and United Church of Canada (UCC). The UCC case is particularly telling since that group's General Council rejected specific economic targeting of Israel just as the war in Lebanon was in full force. Even with that fighting as backdrop, UCC not only walked away from Israel-specific divestment, but also criticized Middle East countries that do not accept Israel's right to exist, a significant turnaround for what had been one of Israel's harshest critics among mainline Protestant organizations.

Common Threads

In every case where divestment has met with success, it has been the result of a small group of dedicated activists willing to use any tactic, including subverting democratic procedures, to turn a respected organization into an ally. And whenever those decisions could be subjected to democratic input, those victories have been reversed, preventing divestment champions from gaining the momentum needed to make their Apartheid strategy self-sustaining.

When divestment has been democratically defeated, it has never been by a close margin, but by lopsided majorities of 10-20 to 1. It needs to be remembered that these overwhelming numbers do not represent a liberal-conservative split, such as America's supposed "Red-Blue" divide, for divestment's few successes have been entirely within self-identified progressive institutions. If the subject somehow became the basis for a nationwide survey, sentiment in support of divestment from Israel would in all likelihood barely be noticeable.

Also, whenever divestment has gained traction (in political maneuvering more resembling coups than revolutions, much less democratic processes), organizations that have embraced the divestment agenda have been asked to place their most sacred assets on the altar. In the case of the AUT, it was academic freedom. In the case of the Presbyterian Church, it was Christian witness. This is no accident, for someone making a political choice can always change his or her mind. But an institution placing its most valued possession, its reputation, on the line will find it that much more difficult to pull back from the brink.

While it is tempting to look at divestment in retreat as a simple good-news story, there are important lessons to be learned from the struggles of the last four years, especially in light of new violence in Gaza and Lebanon and efforts by Israel's foes in Europe and the US to use unfolding events to re-stoke their movement.

First, the shallow support for divestment, even among liberal-minded institutions, demonstrates that grassroots citizens and group members are not inclined to see their institutions subverted for narrow political purposes. It would be a stretch to say that a Zionist heart beats in the breast of the average Presbyterian, British university lecturer or Somerville citizen. However, common people continue to show more good sense than their leaders, at least with regard to protecting their organizations from cynical manipulation.

Second, divestment's repeated defeats demonstrate the potentially permanent impact of Israel's supporters taking a stand and saying "no more." By way of example, more than ten years ago James Zogby's Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (AADC) had achieved some success in getting anti-Israel language written into the platforms of Democratic state committees in several US states. It was in Massachusetts that their efforts met a wall of resistance by an organized Jewish community, much as divestment faced its Waterloo in the city of Somerville. This effort broke the critical momentum AADC had achieved and, within a year, language critical of Israel was removed from state party platforms.

It may be that divestment, with its call for economic boycott echoing dark chapters in Jewish history, was odious enough to unite individuals and groups with widely varying positions on the Middle East. But especially in light of current events, the power of unified defiance should not be underestimated.

Finally, groups contemplating an embrace of divestment as their means of doing something about the crisis in the Middle East should look at what this position has cost other groups that have taken this controversial step. In England, a newly merged teacher union faces ongoing internal battles over overt and covert academic boycotts, and diminishing public sympathy for an organization that claims to represent academic freedom. After two years of cynical maneuvering, the leadership of PCUSA is regarded with suspicion by its own members, just as those outside the church are asking if it merits the moral leadership it claims for itself.

To see the degenerating effects of divestment at its fullest, one need only look at the Green Party in the US, now so heavily infiltrated by Islamist radicals that its main raison d'etre seems to be battling over "190," the party's own impotent divestment resolution. Once again, this resolution was made national party policy at the eleventh hour by radical members, with little input from party members and in contravention to party rules (including requirements to consult with other national Green parties, such as the one in Israel). With members leaving the party in droves over the issue, and Green candidates struggling with the 190 albatross in mainstream political races, a party once able to play spoiler in a national election may fully self-immolate long before it can even reach America's graveyard of failed third parties.

It may be that the Lebanon crisis will breathe new life into the struggling divestment movement. But at the time of this writing, even the most vocal institutional critics of Israel (such as the mainline Protestant churches) show no immediate interest in revisiting the campaign, no interest, that is, in inviting the vampire back across the threshold.

Jon Haber is a Massachusetts writer and the creator of the anti-divestment activist Web sites and

Dems Need to Distance themselves from the Leftists Anti-Israel

Let the Parties Compete on Which is More Supportive of Israel!

By Jonathan Tobin

Jewish Democrats Squirm as Republican Ads Highlight the Growing Influence of Anti-Israel MoveOn Leftists in the Democratic Party, But It's a Legitimate Election Issue; Taking Israel Off the Table is Not in the Community's Interest

JWR - Something interesting has been happening in British politics this year that ought to gain the attention of Americans, including those who generally have no interest in the subject.

What has happened is that Britain's opposition Conservative Party has struck up an unlikely alliance with the left wing of the governing Labor Party on the issue of the Middle East. The Tories, whose leadership in recent decades have been broadly sympathetic toward Israel — though not nearly as friendly as American conservatives — have decided to throw the Jewish state under the proverbial double-decker bus as they seek to return to power.

Recently, William Hague, the Tory spokesman on foreign affairs, denounced Israel's war of self-defense against Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorists. Hague's use of the canard about "disproportionate" Israeli counterattacks on terrorists — and the endorsement of the statement by Party leader David Cameron — was a signal that the Conservatives, whose standing in the British polls makes them a real threat to unseat Labor in the next election, would not allow their foes to paint them as too friendly to Israel.

The Tory's decision to flip on Israel took place at the same time that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced by his Labor followers to walk the plank and announce that he would finally leave office next year. Though Blair has been damaged by his support for the war in Iraq, it appears that the straw that broke the camel's back for the Labor rank-and-file was his backing for Israel during its war with Hezbollah.

What all this means is that although British support for Israel has been tepid even at its height, an era in which the last three prime ministers (Conservatives Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and then Blair) had been backers of the Jewish state, and desirous of Jewish votes on that basis, is likely over. The large Muslim vote is up for grabs - seemingly making hostility to Israel a consensus position in British politics.

What has that to do with anything going on here? The answer is perhaps more than many of us think.

The loudest debate going on in the American Jewish world the last couple of months has to do with the renewed attempt of the Republican Party to make inroads among Jewish voters on the basis of its support for Israel, and what it contends is the less than exemplary record of its Democratic foes.

To that end, the Republican Jewish Coalition — a Jewish GOP support group — has been placing ads in Jewish publications around the country skewering the Democrats and painting their own party as the good guys on Israel.

The reaction from large segments of a Jewish community, in which the overwhelming majority of its members are reliable supporters of the Democrats, has been emotional and angry. They are appalled at the idea that Republicans would have the chutzpah to ask for their votes. The point isn't so much that they reject the content of the ads, but that they consider the entire exercise to be illegitimate.

Many seem to be echoing the line from the classic Broadway musical "Fiorello," in which the victory of a Republican congressional candidate in a Democratic district is greeted with dismay. Like that victory of future New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, many Jews think the GOP ads "just ain't democratic."

Of course, perspective on the merit of the ads is obviously dependent on political affiliation.

The Republicans have a fair point when they note that anti-Israel leftists, such as those affiliated with the group, have real pull within the Democratic Party these days. By comparison, anti-Israel figures on the right, like the odious Pat Buchanan, are bereft of influence in the current GOP. Moreover, the decline of the hawkish "Scoop Jackson" wing of the Democratic Party was finalized this past summer with the rejection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman by Connecticut Democrats.

Nevertheless, the Democrats are also right to point out that attempts to tar their party as anti-Israel are not true. Support for Israel is a bipartisan affair, and Democratic Party leaders, as well as the overwhelming majority of their caucus in both the House and the Senate, are genuine backers.

What Jewish Democrats do need to do is to confront the strain of anti-Zionism growing on the left and in the anti-war movement, and ensure that it is kept out of the mainstream of their party. That is a task that will be even more important if, as now seems likely, the Democrats prevail in next month's congressional elections.

But Democrats are seeking to delegitimize the entire Reublican campaign with their claim that GOP attempts to use Israel as a wedge issue will undermine the bipartisan consensus on the issue. Some go even further and assert that by identifying support for Israel with the Bush administration, the ads may have the effect of making it less attractive for Democrats and liberals to sympathize with an Israel that is linked with a president and a party that they hate.

What Democrats seem to want is for the entire issue to be taken off the table. That would give them a tactical advantage, but behind it lies the dubious notion that holding either party accountable for their performance on Middle East issues is itself somehow not kosher.

Flash back to 1992, when Democrats made hay over the contemptible policies and behavior of the administration of the first President Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker toward Israel. Then, there was no question that Israel was an issue — and one that would cost the Republicans votes.

Taking Israel off the table today is no more legitimate a stance than a call for keeping church-state separation off the agenda would be on the part of Republicans. And if anyone thinks that having a conservative president support Israel will turn off liberals, maybe the problem is more with the liberals than the president.

No matter which party you support, what we should strive for is accountability from them. And the only way to hold political parties accountable is to make them pay for mistakes or to reward them for good behavior at the ballot box. By contrast, if a key issue is taken out of the discussion, the parties will inevitably stop prioritizing it.

Those currently calling for Israel to be eliminated from our debates should peek across the Atlantic to see what a country where appeals to pro-Israel sentiments have been sidelined looks like.

As different as Britain is from the United States, if there is a bipartisan consensus in support of Israel in this country, it is because the two major parties have spent the last 30 years or so actually competing for Jewish votes on this basis. The moment we tell them to stop will be the time when those who would break the consensus will have a leg up. As was the case in Britain, there are other constituencies that are all too eager to step in and give politicians a reason to switch sides.

So let the parties debate which is the most ardent supporter of Israel. It may be messy, but it beats the alternative.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the <>Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tom Kean for Israel

This was sent to me by the Coalitions Director of the Tom Kean for U.S.Senate Campaign.

Israel is a beacon of democracy and a great American ally in the Middle East. Peace for Israel means security - and America must empower our great ally in their efforts.”

-Tom Kean Jr.

Ø Israel wrongfully gets no representation on the United Nations Security Council.

Ø The U.S. Ambassador to the UN must stand up for Israel’s interests.

· John Bolton has stood up for Israel time and time again, yet Bob Menendez has blocked a vote on Bolton’s nomination.

· Tom Kean fully supports John Bolton’s nomination largely due to Bolton’s support of Israel in the UN.

Ø Tom Kean strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.

“Senator Joe Lieberman has been an independent, principled leader of the highest integrity who, like me, will tackle the important issues in a bipartisan manner. I fully support his re-election and look forward to serving with him in the U.S. Senate.”

-Tom Kean Jr.

Ø Bob Menendez has called for Lieberman’s defeat and removal from the U.S. Senate by supporting Lieberman’s opponent.

Ø Bob Menendez consistently sides with the fringe members of his own party and has proven incapable of bipartisanship.

Ø Bob Menendez’s hyper-partisanship allowed New Jersey to get just 55 cents back for every dollar sent to Washington.

Ø Bob Menendez’s hyper-partisanship allowed Wyoming to get more homeland security funding per capita than New Jersey.

An Old Argument and Rebuttal

This was posted by Jeff Hauser a few months ago. It is a common argument and an old one as to why Jews shouldn't vote Republican. Here is the article and some possible rebuttals [in brackets].

Jewish Values & Politics

Excellent letter to the editor from Newton, MA:

Jews, and liberal Jews in particular don’t and won’t vote Republican because GOP values are not Jewish cultural values. To wit: Jews believe (Talmud) that we should be responsible for each other. The GOP: Every man for himself.

GOP values clash with Jewish values when Republicans believe:

# government serves the interests of the rich (tax breaks) over the poor and middle class

[tax cuts help everyone! Thinking the government knows what to do with your earnings better than the earner is paternalistic, socialist, and a disincentive to work and wealth creation. 95% of taxes are paid by the wealthiest half of the populace; the lowest quartile re income essentially pays no taxes (other than sales taxes and social security, which the Dems are fond of keeping at the status quo, or raising).
Reagan cut taxes and the Jimmy Carter hyper-inflation eased, and stayed away. That helped everyone, richer and poorer. Countries that go to lower income taxes and/or flat taxes have the best economic growth on the planet (Estonia of all places has one of the world's fastest-growing and inclusive economies!).]

# corporate welfare is worthy, public welfare is sinful

[it was Bill Clinton who started :"Workfare", prodded forcefully by a Republican Congress. But it's reduced welfare rolls dramatically. True, if the inner city isn't on welfare, more generations of Dem voters are less likely, but it's a good risk to take.]

# management and bosses come before employees and unions

[The labor argument in favor of unions is very weak: their corruption, enrichment of leaders, etc is decades old. Outsourcing is not a government policy, but capitalism will allow jobs to flow where they should. And while I don't agree that the U.S. is to be labeled a "Christian" country, I'll gladly call it capitalist.]

# guns are more worthy of protection than gunshot victims

["Every Jew a .22". It's true that guns don't kill people; bad people kill people. There's a huge supply of weapons out there and the bad guys have more than their share. Good citizens, short of being vigilantes, have the right, if not the obligation, to protect themselves. The police can't be everywhere, and extra-constitutional judicial coddling of criminals reduces the disincentives to commit crime.]

# air and water polluters deserve more protection than breathers and drinkers

[Al Gore has the environment covered with his movie & his personal Internet, so no need to address the air/water. But it's great that the personal freedom to smoke outdoors in public is being constrained by the Greens & the Libs.]

# drug companies and HMOs must profit before Medicare and other patients obtain health care

[If they didn't profit, there'de be no new drugs. Almost no new drugs have been invented in Eurpoe or Canada since they got socialized. And Medicare Part D?? Who's that for?]

# oil companies must profit before homes are heated in winter

# good government and consumer/workplace regulation should be trashed at the expense of unfettered private sector profits

Perhaps Mr. Epstein has grown comfortable with Republican common cause with Christian Fundamentalists who believe America should be (and be governed) as a “Christian” nation, and whose support for Israel is predicated on the absolute necessity of Israel to fulfill their apocalyptic messianic vision.

Don’t expect sensible Jews to vote for a GOP expressing these values.

[ad hominem attacks are a staple of radical rhetoric, but conservatives (in this case Republicans) need not stoop so low; the facts suffice. (Though "liberal" Jews are often liberals first, and Jews...well, a distant third)]

Rice and the Dems on Israel

This is an excellent post on how the American Government and particularly the State Department is tilting its views and support away from Israel. (The State department was never the greatest supporter of Israel, but with Rice ,who claims to be staunchly behind Pres. Bush and his views, her statements appear to have a greater impact on America'sopinion.) The post places the blame on the Democratic Party and some of its supporters.

Soros moves on to Israel

By Rahel on Sunday 15 October 2006 - 23 Tishrei, 5767 at 22:21

Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 12, 2006

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech at the American Task Force
for Palestine’s inaugural dinner in Washington on Wednesday evening was but
the latest sign that America’s alliance with Israel is weakening.

Rice’s statement that “there could be no greater legacy for America than to
help to bring into being a Palestinian state,” just about says it all. The
secretary of state of a president who was once friendlier to Israel than any
of his predecessors now claims that the establishment of a state for a
people who have distinguished themselves as the most overtly pro-jihad,
terrorist society in the world, would be the greatest thing American could
ever do.

Unfortunately, unless concerted steps are taken by the Israeli government,
Israeli citizens and the American Jewish community, the downward trend in
relations with the US will only get worse. Perhaps most upsetting is the
central role that a tiny minority of American Jews has played in souring
ties between Jerusalem and Washington. That minority has undermined support
for Israel in the Democratic Party and now seeks to undermine Israel’s
position in the US in general.

The Democratic Party’s sharp turn leftward in recent years has been a major
factor in weakening the US-Israel alliance. The ideological transformation
of the party is the fruit of a collaborative effort by leading financiers,
radical-leftist ideologues and political activists. Together these forces
built organizations that dictate the party’s agenda; finance the campaigns
of politicians who embrace this agenda; and work to defeat conservative
Republicans and Democrats who disagree with their agenda. is the most influential organization of this type established in
recent years. Its principal financiers are American Jewish billionaires
George Soros and Peter Lewis. first gained national prominence during the 2004 Democratic
presidential primaries. Howard Dean, a previously undistinguished governor
of Vermont, was an eminently forgettable also-ran with a reputation among
the few who knew of him as a political moderate who was hawkish on national
security. Then he was discovered by

As the group began pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into his
campaign,Dean veered to the left and began roundly condemning the war in
Iraq. Caught off-balance by Dean’s challenge, all but one of the other
candidates shifted left as well and joined him in criticizing the war. For
his principled refusal to disavow the war in Iraq, Connecticut Senator
Joseph Lieberman earned the enduring enmity of

This summer, played a central role in Lieberman’s defeat in the
Democratic primary for his Senate seat. It contributed funds to Lieberman’s
opponent, Ned Lamont, and its Web site served as a clearinghouse
disseminating anti-Lieberman propaganda.

Propaganda posted on the Web site was laced with blatant anti-Semitic
attacks. Postings repeatedly referred to Lieberman as “the Jew Lieberman,”
and “ZioNazi Lieberman.” These attacks were by no means unusual. Indeed,
anti-Semitic slurs against Israel and Jewish Americans, and belittlements of
the Holocaust, appear regularly in Web forums.

In a representative post, a member compared President George W.
Bush negatively to Adolf Hitler, writing, “Bush is no Hitler. Hitler was a
socialist and believed in something beside money. He did not dodge real
military service and he believed at least in Germany, which was a real
nation and not a corporation like the US. Moreover, Hitler did not use
depleted uranium and phosphorous to burn people alive. He did not condone
the torture of prisoners ‘for fun’ or ‘to relieve stress.’”

According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report, Soros and his wealthy
Jewish American friends have now decided to aim their fire directly at
Israel. Soros has invited Lewis and other North American Jewish plutocrats
like Charles and Edgar Bronfman to join forces with him and leftist Jewish
American organizations including American Friends of Peace Now, the Israel
Policy Forum, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, and the Reform movement’s Religious
Action Center to form a political lobby that will weaken the influence of
the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Many of the individuals and organizations associated with the initiative
have actively worked to undermine Israel. Soros caused a storm in 2003 when,
during a fund-raising conference for Israel he alleged that Israel was
partially responsible for the rise in anti-Semitic violence in Europe
because of its harsh response to Palestinian terrorism.

In November 2005, the leaders of the Israel Policy Forum met with Rice and
pushed her to dismiss Israel’s legitimate security concerns regarding the
operation of the Gaza Strip’s border crossing points at Rafah and Karni.
Following their advice, Rice aggressively and publicly pressured Israel to
make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians that involved Israel’s
relinquishment of effective control over its own borders.

After Israel capitulated to Rice and an agreement was reached, Semour Reich,
one of the founders of the Israel Policy Forum, crowed, “I have no doubt
that we bolstered the secretary of state’s instincts and strengthened her
opinion that aggressive American involvement was needed to achieve practical

Ahead of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s scheduled visit with Bush in the
summer of 2003, Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress,
wrote a letter to Bush along with former secretary of state Lawrence
Eagleburger expressing opposition to the security barrier and asking the
president to treat Sharon in the same manner he had treated PA leader
Mahmoud Abbas.

Weeks later, Bronfman criticized the Palestinians for not limiting their
terrorist assaults to Israeli residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza
Strip. In a media interview he said, “If the Palestinian suicide bombers
only went to the settlements and told the whole world they were wrong, then
the whole world would have had a case against Israel and there would be a
two-state solution by now. Instead, they sent them into Israel proper, which
is ghastly.”

After Hamas’s electoral victory in January, American Friends of Peace Now,
Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom came together in an ad-hoc
coalition to shield the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority from Congressional
sanctions. Together they worked to sink the Palestinian Anti-Terror Act,
which enjoyed overwhelming support in the Congress and the Senate and was
backed by AIPAC. The legislation was designed to update US policy toward the
PA in the wake of Hamas’s ascendance to power.

The bill called for the immediate cessation not only of direct US aid to the
PA but also for the cut-off of US assistance to nongovernmental and UN
organizations operating in the PA that had connections to terrorist
organizations. The bill defined the PA as a terrorist sanctuary and
consequently would have barred the entry of PA officials to and the
operation of PA offices in the US, and placed travel restrictions on PA and
PLO representatives to the UN. The bill also would have prohibited US
officials from having any contacts with officials from Hamas, the Aksa
Martyrs Brigades, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of

The bill was approved by an enormous majority in the House of
Representatives. Yet, due to the lobbying efforts of this group of Jewish
leftists, the Senate version was greatly watered down, and included a
presidential waiver that rendered the bill more or less declaratory. Since
there was little common ground between the two versions of the bill, the
Palestinian Anti-Terror Act was scuttled.

According to the JTA account, Soros would like to institutionalize the
ad-hoc coalition’s success in undermining the Palestinian
Anti-Terror Act in a new lobby. Its founders all insist that theirs is a
pro-Israel group. Yet scrutiny of the groups’ organizational and individual
members’ actions leads to the inevitable conclusion that far from acting to
promote Israel, this new lobby will work to weaken Israel, to weaken the
Israel-American alliance and to strengthen Israel’s enemies. While its
Jewish founders insist that they are pro-Israel, the fact of the matter is
that they are about to establish an American Jewish anti-Israel lobby.

To its discredit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government took no steps to
stymie the coalition’s machinations against the Palestinian Anti-Terror Act.
Indeed, since 2003, Israel’s governments have gone out of their way to
applaud these groups. Olmert’s now infamous speech in June 2005 where he
said, “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are
tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies,” was made at the
Israel Policy Forum’s annual dinner.

BUT FOR all that, it is not too late to change course. The Jewish American
anti-Israel lobby is scheduled to be launched on October 26. Now is the time
for the Olmert government to forthrightly announce that the new lobby is not
pro-Israel, but rather anti-Israel.

Even if the government does no such thing, Israel’s citizens have a
responsibility to explain to the organized American Jewish community and to
its umbrella organization, the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, that we, the citizens of the largest Jewish community
in the world, view these groups as anti-Zionist. Israeli citizens should
request an explanation for the inclusion of some of these groups in
pro-Israel umbrella organizations like the Conference of Presidents when
their goal is to weaken Israel, to weaken Israel’s alliance with the US and
to strengthen Israel’s enemies. Israeli citizens can and should send letters
and e-mails to this effect to the Conference at its New York offices.

One of the great strengths of the American Jewish community is its
pluralism. On a religious level, all communities - from the ultra-Orthodox
to the ultra-Reform - are recognized as Jewish communities. But there is a
line that everyone knows may not be crossed. Jews for Jesus have removed
themselves from the Jewish people and everyone knows this. There is not one
Jewish organization that accepts them as Jews.

By the same token, the vast majority of American Jews support Israel. As is
the case with religious observance, this support runs the gamut from
disciples of Meir Kahane to followers of Yossi Sarid. But everyone knows
that organizations like Not in My Name, which acts as the Jewish American
branch of the International Solidarity Movement, seeks to undermine IDF
operations and makes common cause with Israel’s enemies, are not Zionist

Like Jews for Jesus, Jews who work to weaken Israel’s security, undermine
Israel’s relations with the US and strengthen Israel’s enemies take
themselves beyond the broad tent of the American Jewish pro-Israel

Israel’s alliance with the US is based on the fact that most Americans
support Israel. American support for Israel finds its roots in foundations
as diverse as religion, politics, morality, security, culture and economics.
While the alliance is visibly weakened, its foundations remain solid. To
rebuild American political support for Israel and to enhance the US-Israel
alliance, it is imperative that Israel be capable of understanding the
nature of this support. This understanding begins by making distinctions
between our many friends and our foes and acting on these distinctions. Not
all of our friends are Jews and not all Jews are our friends.

Open Letter to Jewish Voters

I found this post at the Israeli Forum - we will be searching for more of these as the election looms nearby.


To all Jewish Americans
I read not too long ago that only 30% of American Jews voted Republican in the last election and I was wondering if the statistics are still more or less the same.

I would just like to ask what party each of you are from and feel free to add any reasons why.

I was a Democrat for many years but changed parties around 2004 - right before the presidential election. I will admit that before that I really didn't care that much for politics and was a Democrat b/c my parents were. Once I started paying attention, I changed parties. Now I would say half the people I know are Republicans, definitely up from a few years ago. I just think the Democratic party has become infested with Jew-haters or anti-Zionists as they like to call themselves. For example, this was pretty evident with the last pro-Israel bill that was presented about the Israel-Hezbollah war where I think 8 Democrats voted against the bill and I think none or maybe 1 Republican did. There are many other examples of course but this is the one that always sticks in my head. That and the picture of Howard Dean with the scarf...

Anyway, just curious.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Ben Franklin

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cleveland Board Gives in to Switch Voting place

http://vosizneias has cleveland covered

Cleveland Heights, OH - After Lots of Presure Board of Elections Moves Polling Place Out of Christian Church

Cleveland Heights, OH - Orthodox Jews upset about going into a Christian church hall to vote are relieved after learning the Board of Elections moved their polling place to a public building.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections officially approved moving the polling place from the church hall to City Hall, ending a weeklong battle that raised charges of anti-Semitism and calls for Director Michael Vu's resignation, as was reported on VOS IZ NEIAS.
"We're exceptionally happy and gratified they're doing the right thing," said Rabbi Sruly Wolf.
Wolf was among those who protested when the elections board last month announced it was moving their neighborhood polling place from a public school building to the Euclid Avenue Christian Church on Mayfield Road. The polling place served two precincts, both heavily populated by Orthodox Jews.

Wolf and others complained to Mayor Ed Kelley, saying the move would keep hundreds of Orthodox Jews from voting because they are uncomfortable going into places of worship other than their own. Wolf and Kelley said the move smacked of anti-Semitism. Kelley launched an attack on Vu, repeatedly calling for his resignation, though Vu did not back down. Vu was adamant about not making a change. But Kelley, with the backing of City Council, threatened a lawsuit.
But after Vu was consulting with the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office, agreed to the City Hall site, one of three that Kelley suggested.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Voting in a Church

A responsa from Ohr Sameach regarding voting in a Church.

David in the USA wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Recently in one of our northeastern states, the voting location for elections was moved from a Jewish synagogue to, I believe, a Lutheran church. Evidently, last spring, voting was going to be during Pesach and the synagogue requested not to have the voting there, so the location was moved. Voting was to be located in the office area of the church, not in the worship area. An article in the newspaper quoted an area rabbi who suggested that the Orthodox Jews were being discriminated against because they couldn't go to vote at the Lutheran site because they were forbidden to go into a church. I am very confused; where is it written that a Jew cannot go into the place of worship of another religious group? Does that same interpretation mean that a Jew couldn't go to the church wedding of a friend who was not Jewish? Or, attend a funeral or a baby naming?

Dear David,

According to Jewish Law, it is prohibited to enter any place of worship that is not purely monotheistic. This would include weddings, funerals, baby namings, etc.

Regarding actual application of this law, consult your local Orthodox Rabbi.

* Sources: Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 150, Darchei Teshuva ad loc.
* Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 187:9
* Iggrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 3 Teshuvah 129:6

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cleveland Heights Residents must Vote in a Church

This is an issue which will greatly effect the Orthodox Community of Cleveland Heights. Most of them will not vote for entering a church is not allowed under their halachic code. There are other locations in the neighborhood which can host a voting place. There are organizations that are protesting and we will keep you updated on this issue as it develops.