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Napoleon and the Jews

January 24, 2011
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An 1806 French print depicts Napoleon Bonaparte emancipating the Jews.

The ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte proved to be an important event in European Jewish emancipation from old laws restricting them to ghettos, as well as the many laws that limited Jews’ rights to property, worship, and careers.

Contents

Napoleon’s Law and the Jews

The French Revolution abolished the different treatment of people according to religion or origin that existed under the monarchy; the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen guaranteed freedom of religion and free exercise of worship, provided that it did not contradict public order. At that time, most other European countries implemented measures restricting the rights of people from minority religions. The conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte spread the modernist ideas of revolutionary France: equality of citizens and the rule of law.

Napoleon’s personal attitude towards the Jews is not always clear, as some feel that he made a number of statements both in support and opposition to the Jewish people at various times. Historian Rabbi Berel Wein in Triumph of Survival claims that Napoleon was primarily interested in seeing the Jews assimilate, rather than prosper as a community: “Napoleon’s outward tolerance and fairness toward Jews was actually based upon his grand plan to have them disappear entirely by means of total assimilation, intermarriage, and conversion.” This ambivalence can be found in some of his first definitively recorded utterances on this subject in connection with the question of the treatment of the Alsace Jews and their debtors raised in the Imperial Council on April 30, 1806. On the other hand, his liberation of the Jewish communities in Italy (notably in Ancona in the Papal States) and his insistence on the assimilation of Jews as equals in French and Italian society indicate that he was sincere in making a distinction between usurers (whether Jewish or not), whom he compared to locusts, and Jews who accepted non-Jews as their equals.

This attitude can be seen from the letter he wrote on the 29th of November 1806, to Champagny, Minister of the Interior:

[It is necessary to] reduce, if not destroy, the tendency of Jewish people to practice a very great number of activities that are harmful to civilisation and to public order in society in all the countries of the world. It is necessary to stop the harm by preventing it; to prevent it it is necessary to change the Jews. […] Once part of their youth will take its place in our armies, they will cease to have Jewish interests and sentiments; their interests and sentiments will be French.

(It should be remembered that Napoleon, while insisting on the primacy of civil law over the military, retained a deep respect and affection for the military as a profession, and often recycled former soldiers in civilian occupations).

The net effect of his policies, as a result, significantly changed the position of the Jews in Europe, and he was widely admired by the Jews as a result. Starting in 1806, Napoleon passed a number of measures supporting the position of the Jews in the French Empire, including assembling a representative group elected by the Jewish community, the Sanhedrin. In conquered countries, he abolished laws restricting Jews to ghettos. In 1807, he made Judaism, along with Roman Catholicism and Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism, official religions of France. Napoleon rolled back a number of reforms in 1808 (so-called décret infâme of March 17, 1808), declaring all debts with Jews annulled, reduced or postponed, which caused the Jewish community to nearly collapse. Jews were also restricted in where they could live, in hopes of assimilating them into society. These restrictions were eliminated again by 1811.

Though Ben Weider argued that Napoleon had to be extremely careful in defending oppressed minorities such as Jews, he clearly saw political benefit to his Empire in the long term in supporting them. He hoped to use equality as a way of gaining advantage from discriminated groups, like Jews or Protestants and Catholics. Both aspects of his thinking can be seen in a response to a physician (Barry O’Meara) who asked why he pressed for the emancipation of the Jews, after his exile in 1816:

My primary desire was to liberate the Jews and make them full citizens. I wanted to confer upon them all the legal rights of equality, liberty and fraternity as was enjoyed by the Catholics and Protestants. It is my wish that the Jews be treated like brothers as if we were all part of Judaism. As an added benefit, I thought that this would bring to France many riches because the Jews are numerous and they would come in large numbers to our country where they would enjoy more privileges than in any other nation. Without the events of 1814, most of the Jews of Europe would have come to France where equality, fraternity and liberty awaited them and where they can serve the country like everyone else.

Bonaparte and a Jewish state in Ottoman Empire

During the siege of Acre in 1799, Bonaparte prepared a proclamation declaring a Jewish state in the area of Palestine within Ottoman Syria[1], though he did not issue it. The siege was lost to the Ottoman Empire and the plan was never carried out. Some historians, including Nathan Schur in Napoleon and the Holy Land, believe that the proclamation was intended purely for propaganda purposes, and that Napoleon was not serious about the creation of a Jewish state. Some believe that the proclamation was made in order to win the heart of Haim Farhi, the Jewish advisor to the ruler of Acre, Ahmed al Jazzar, and to bring him over to Napoleon’s side, as Farhi was the actual commander of the defence of Acre on the field. Henry Laurens holds that the proclamation never took place and that the document which supposedly proves its existence is a forgery.[2]

Napoleon’s legacy

Napoleon’s indirect influence on the fate of the Jews was even more powerful than any of the decrees recorded in his name. By breaking up the feudal trammels of mid-Europe and introducing the equality of the French Revolution he effected more for Jewish emancipation than had been accomplished during the three preceding centuries. The consistory of Westphalia became a model for other German provinces until after the fall of Napoleon, and the condition of the Jews in the Rhine provinces was permanently improved as a consequence of their subjection to Napoleon or his representatives. Heine and Börne both record their sense of obligation to the liberality of Napoleon’s principles of action, and the German Jews in particular have always regarded Napoleon as one of the chief forerunners of emancipation in Germany. When Jews were selecting surnames, some of them are said to have expressed their gratitude by taking the name of “Schöntheil,” a translation of “Bonaparte,” and legends grew up about Napoleon’s activity in the Jewish ghettos. Primo Levi said that the Italian Jews often chose Napoleone as their given name to recognize their liberator.

The reactions of the major European powers

The first to object against the creation of the Great Sanhedrin was the Russian Czar Alexander I. He vehemently denounced the liberties given to the Jews and went further still, demanding that the Orthodox Church protest against Napoleon’s tolerant religious policy. He referred to the Emperor in a proclamation as “the Anti Christ” and the “Enemy of God”.

The Holy Synod of Moscow proclaimed : “In order to destroy the foundations of the Churches of Christendom, the Emperor of the French has invited into his capital all the Judaic synagogues and he furthermore intends to found a new Hebrew Sanhedrin. Which is the same tribunal that dared long ago to condemn the Lord Jesus to be crucified.”

In Austria, the Chancellor Metternich wrote “I fear that the Jews will believe (Napoleon) to be their promised Messiah”.

In Prussia, the Lutheran Church was extremely hostile, while in Italy the reactions were less virulent but remained unfriendly.

The reaction of London was unequivocal, rejecting the principle and doctrine of the Sanhedrin.

The Czar was able to persuade Napoleon to sign a decree restricting the freedoms accorded to the Jews on the 17th of March 1808. Napoleon hoped that in exchange the Czar would keep his promise to put pressure on London in order to end the war. But three months later the Emperor effectively cancelled the decree by allowing local authorities to implement his earlier reforms. More than half of the départements restored the freedoms guaranteed to citizens to their Jews.

Jews in Europe

All the states under French authority applied Napoleon’s reforms. In Portugal, the State allowed Jews the same rights as other citizens and authorised them to open the synagogues for the first time in over 300 years. In Italy, in the Netherlands and in the German states, the Jews were able to take their place as free men for the first time in the society of their respective countries.

After the defeat of the Empire at Waterloo, the counter-revolution restored discriminatory measures in many countries. In France however, the Bourbons relegated the Legion of Honour to a minor civilian decoration and replaced it with the Royal Order of Saint Louis as the highest French distinction. Those to be decorated with it were required to prove their Catholic faith, effectively barring Protestants, Jews and Muslims who had received the Legion of Honour from enjoying an equal status under the Restored Monarchy. (The return of the Bourbons was equally accompanied in 1815 by the massacre of Muslim troops who had served Napoleon, in Marseille.)

In the Papal States, Pope Pius VII re-established the ghettos and imposed the wearing of a yellow hat (colour associated with betrayal, and thus Judas Iscariot, but also with prostitutes) and the Star of David.

“How Can You Defend Israel?”

January 4, 2011

 

Executive Director, AJC, and Senior Associate, St. Antony's College, Oxford University

I was sitting in a lecture hall at a British university. Bored by the speaker, I began glancing around the hall. I noticed someone who looked quite familiar from an earlier academic incarnation. When the session ended, I introduced myself and wondered if, after years that could be counted in decades, he remembered me.

He said he did, at which point I commented that the years had been good to him. His response: “But you’ve changed a lot.”

“How so?” I asked with a degree of trepidation, knowing that, self-deception aside, being 60 isn’t quite the same as 30.

Looking me straight in the eye, he proclaimed, as others standing nearby listened in, “I read the things you write about Israel. I hate them. How can you defend that country? What happened to the good liberal boy I knew 30 years ago?”

I replied: “That good liberal boy hasn’t changed his view. Israel is a liberal cause, and I am proud to speak up for it.”

Yes, I’m proud to speak up for Israel. A recent trip once again reminded me why.

Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things, the things that many may not even notice, or just take for granted, or perhaps deliberately ignore, lest it spoil their airtight thinking.

It’s the driving lesson in Jerusalem, with the student behind the wheel a devout Muslim woman, and the teacher an Israeli with a skullcap. To judge from media reports about endless inter-communal conflict, such a scene should be impossible. Yet, it was so mundane that no one, it seemed, other than me gave it a passing glance. It goes without saying that the same woman would not have had the luxury of driving lessons, much less with an Orthodox Jewish teacher, had she been living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s the two gay men walking hand-in-hand along the Tel Aviv beachfront. No one looked at them, and no one questioned their right to display their affection. Try repeating the same scene in some neighboring countries.

It’s the Friday crowd at a mosque in Jaffa. Muslims are free to enter as they please, to pray, to affirm their faith. The scene is repeated throughout Israel. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are targeted for death; Copts in Egypt face daily marginalization; Saudi Arabia bans any public display of Christianity; and Jews have been largely driven out of the Arab Middle East.

It’s the central bus station in Tel Aviv. There’s a free health clinic set up for the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some legally, others illegally. They are from Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. They are Christians, Muslims, and animists. Clearly, they know something that Israel’s detractors, who rant and rave about alleged “racism,” don’t. They know that, if they’re lucky, they can make a new start in Israel. That’s why they bypass Arab countries along the way, fearing imprisonment or persecution. And while tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb, Israeli medical professionals volunteer their time in the clinic.

It’s Save a Child’s Heart, another Israeli institution that doesn’t make it into the international media all that much, although it deserves a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, children in need of advanced cardiac care come, often below the radar. They arrive from Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab places. They receive world-class treatment. It’s free, offered by doctors and nurses who wish to assert their commitment to coexistence. Yet, these very same individuals know that, in many cases, their work will go unacknowledged. The families are fearful of admitting they sought help in Israel, even as, thanks to Israelis, their children have been given a new lease on life.

It’s the vibrancy of the Israeli debate on just about everything, including, centrally, the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The story goes that U.S. President Harry Truman met Israeli President Chaim Weizmann shortly after Israel’s establishment in 1948. They got into a discussion about who had the tougher job. Truman said: “With respect, I’m president of 140 million people.” Weizmann retorted: “True, but I’m president of one million presidents.”

Whether it’s the political parties, the Knesset, the media, civil society, or the street, Israelis are assertive, self-critical, and reflective of a wide range of viewpoints.

It’s the Israelis who are now planning the restoration of the Carmel Forest, after a deadly fire killed 44 people and destroyed 8,000 acres of exquisite nature. Israelis took an arid and barren land and, despite the unimaginably harsh conditions, lovingly planted one tree after another, so that Israel can justifiably claim today that it’s one of the few countries with more wooded land than it had a century ago.

It’s the Israelis who, with quiet resolve and courage, are determined to defend their small sliver of land against every conceivable threat – the growing Hamas arsenal in Gaza; the dangerous build-up of missiles by Hezbollah in Lebanon; nuclear-aspiring Iran’s calls for a world without Israel; Syria’s hospitality to Hamas leaders and transshipment of weapons to Hezbollah; and enemies that shamelessly use civilians as human shields. Or the global campaign to challenge Israel’s very legitimacy and right to self-defense; the bizarre anti-Zionist coalition between the radical left and Islamic extremists; the automatic numerical majority at the UN ready to endorse, at a moment’s notice, even the most far-fetched accusations against Israel; and those in the punditocracy unable – or unwilling – to grasp the immense strategic challenges facing Israel.

Yes, it’s those Israelis who, after burying 21 young people murdered by terrorists at a Tel Aviv discotheque, don the uniform of the Israeli armed forces to defend their country, and proclaim, in the next breath, that, “They won’t stop us from dancing, either.”

That’s the country I’m proud to stand up for. No, I’d never say Israel is perfect. It has its flaws and foibles. It’s made its share of mistakes. But, then again, so has every democratic, liberal and peace-seeking country I know, though few of them have faced existential challenges every day since their birth.

The perfect is the enemy of the good, it’s said. Israel is a good country. And seeing it up close, rather than through the filter of the BBC or the Guardian, never fails to remind me why.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-harris/how-can-you-defend-israel_b_801765.html

Since writing “How can you defend Israel?” last month, I’ve been deluged by comments.

Some have been supportive, others harshly critical. The latter warrant closer examination.

The harsh criticism falls into two basic categories.

One is over the top.

It ranges from denying Israel’s very right to nationhood, to ascribing to Israel responsibility for every global malady, to peddling vague, or not so vague, anti-Semitic tropes.

There’s no point in dwelling at length on card-carrying members of these schools of thought. They’re living on another planet.

Israel is a fact. That fact has been confirmed by the UN, which, in 1947, recommended the creation of a Jewish state. The UN admitted Israel to membership in 1949. The combination of ancient and modern links between Israel and the Jewish people is almost unprecedented in history. And Israel has contributed its share, and then some, to advancing humankind.

If there are those on a legitimacy kick, let them examine the credentials of some others in the region, created by Western mapmakers eager to protect their own interests and ensure friendly leaders in power.

Or let them consider the basis for legitimacy of many countries worldwide created by invasion, occupation, and conquest. Israel’s case beats them by a mile.

And if there are people out there who don’t like all Jews, frankly, it’s their problem, not mine. Are there Jewish scoundrels? You bet. Are there Christian, Muslim, atheist, and agnostic scoundrels? No shortage. But are all members of any such community by definition scoundrels? Only if you’re an out-and-out bigot.

The other group of harsh critics assails Israeli policies, but generally tries to stop short of overt anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism. But many of these relentless critics, at the slightest opportunity, robotically repeat claims about Israel that are factually incorrect.

There are a couple of methodological threads that run through their analysis.

The first is called confirmation bias. This is the habit of favoring information that confirms what you believe, whether it’s true or not, and ignoring the rest.

While Israel engages in a full-throttled debate on policies and strategies, rights and wrongs, do Israel’s fiercest critics do the same? Hardly.

Can the chorus of critics admit, for example, that the UN recommended the creation of two states — one Jewish, the other Arab — and that the Jews accepted the proposal, while the Arabs did not and launched a war?

Can they acknowledge that wars inevitably create refugee populations and lead to border adjustments in favor of the (attacked) victors?

Can they recognize that, when the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands until 1967, there was no move whatsoever toward Palestinian statehood?

Can they explain why Arafat launched a “second intifada” just as Israel and the U.S. were proposing a path-breaking two-state solution?

Or what the Hamas Charter says about the group’s goals?

Or what armed-to-the-teeth Hezbollah thinks of Israel’s right to exist?

Or how nuclear-weapons-aspiring Iran views Israel’s future?

Or why President Abbas rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s two-state plan, when the Palestinian chief negotiator himself admitted it would have given his side the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank?

Or why Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize the Western Wall or Rachel’s Tomb as Jewish sites, while demanding recognition of Muslim holy sites?

Or why Israel is expected to have an Arab minority, but a state of Palestine is not expected to have any Jewish minority?

Can they admit that, when Arab leaders are prepared to pursue peace with Israel rather than wage war, the results have been treaties, as the experiences of Egypt and Jordan show?

And can they own up to the fact that when it comes to liberal and democratic values in the region, no country comes remotely close to Israel, whatever its flaws, in protecting these rights?

Apropos, how many other countries in the Middle East — or beyond — would have tried and convicted an ex-president? This was the case, just last week, with Moshe Katsav, sending the message that no one is above the law — in a process, it should be noted, presided over by an Israeli Arab justice.

And if the harsh critics can’t acknowledge any of these points, what’s the explanation? Does their antipathy for Israel — and resultant confirmation bias — blind them to anything that might puncture their airtight thinking?

Then there is the other malady. It’s called reverse causality, or switching cause and effect.

Take the case of Gaza.

These critics focus only on Israel’s alleged actions against Gaza, as if they were the cause of the problem. In reality, they are the opposite — the effect.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it gave local residents their first chance in history — I repeat, in history — to govern themselves.

Neighboring Israel had only one concern — security. It wanted to ensure that whatever emerged in Gaza would not endanger Israelis. In fact, the more prosperous, stable, and peaceful Gaza became, the better for everyone. Tragically, Israel’s worst fears were realized. Rather than focus on Gaza’s construction, its leaders — Hamas since 2007 — preferred to contemplate Israel’s destruction. Missiles and mortars came raining down on southern Israel. Israel’s critics, though, were silent. Only when Israel could no longer tolerate the terror did the critics awaken — to focus on Israel’s reaction, not Gaza’s provocative action.

Yet, what would any other nation have done in Israel’s position?

Just imagine terrorists in power in British Columbia — and Washington State’s cities and towns being the regular targets of deadly projectiles. How long would it take for the U.S. to go in and try to put a stop to the terror attacks, and what kind of force would be used?

Or consider the security barrier.

It didn’t exist for nearly 40 years. Then it was built by Israel in response to a wave of deadly attacks originating in the West Bank, with well over 1,000 Israeli fatalities (more than 40,000 Americans in proportional terms). Even so, Israel made clear that such barriers cannot only be erected, but also moved and ultimately dismantled.

Yet the outcry of Israel’s critics began not when Israelis were being killed in pizzerias, at Passover Seders, and on buses, but only when the barrier went up.

Another case of reverse causality — ignoring the cause entirely and focusing only on the effect, as if it were a stand-alone issue disconnected from anything else.

So, again, in answer to the question of my erstwhile British colleague, “How can you defend Israel?” I respond: Proudly.

In doing so, I am defending a liberal, democratic, and peace-seeking nation in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood, where liberalism, democracy, and peace are in woefully short supply.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-harris/how-can-you-defend-israel_b_803388.html

Why is Israel a rogue state?

November 28, 2010
A nation unlike any other in the world. 

by Gabriel Latner
A nation unlike any other in the world. 

On October 21, 2010, the prestigious Cambridge Union Society held a debate on the motion that “Israel is a rogue state.”

In the end, the proposition was defeated, but the event didn’t proceed without an unusual twist. Nineteen-year-old Gabriel Latner, one of the debaters “in favor” of the proposition, argued that, yes, Israel is a rogue state – but he spun it into a decidedly pro-Israel position.

Opening Statement

This issue is too polarizing for the vast majority of you not to already have a set opinion. I’d be willing to bet that half of you strongly support the motion, and half of you strongly oppose it… I’m tempted to do what my fellow speakers are going to do – simply rehash every bad thing the Israeli government has ever done in an attempt to satisfy those of you who agree with them. And perhaps they’ll even guilt one of you rare undecided into voting for the proposition, or more accurately, against Israel. It would be so easy to twist the meaning and significance of international “laws” to make Israel look like a criminal state. But that’s been done to death.

It would be easier still to play to your sympathy, with personalized stories of Palestinian suffering. And they can give very eloquent speeches on those issues. But the truth is, that treating people badly, whether they’re your citizens or an occupied nation, does not make a state “rogue.” If it did, Canada, the U.S. and Australia would all be rogue states based on how they treat their indigenous populations. Britain’s treatment of the Irish would easily qualify them to wear this sobriquet…

So I’m going to try something different, something a little unorthodox. I’m going to try and convince the die-hard Zionists and Israel supporters here tonight, to vote for the proposition. By the end of my speech – I will have presented five pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is, if not a “rogue state,” then at least “rogue-ish.”

Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is “bad.” I will not be arguing that it doesn’t deserve to exist. I won’t be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that “Israel is rogue.”

The word “rogue” has come to have exceptionally damning connotations. But the word itself is value-neutral. The Oxford English Dictionary defines rogue as “Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,” while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition “behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.”

These definitions, and others, center on the idea of anomaly – the unexpected or uncommon. Using this definition, a rogue state is one that acts in an unexpected, uncommon or aberrant manner. A state that behaves exactly like Israel.

Related Article: Jose Maria Aznar: Supporting Israel

Darfurian Refugees

(1) The first argument is statistical. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state alone makes it anomalous enough to be dubbed a rogue state. There are 195 countries in the world. Some are Christian, some Muslim, some are secular. Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. Or, to speak mathmo for a moment, the chance of any randomly chosen state being Jewish is 0.0051 percent. In comparison, the chance of a UK lotto ticket winning at least 10 British pounds is 0.017 percent – more than twice as likely. Israel’s Jewishness is a statistical aberration.

(2) The second argument concerns Israel’s humanitarianism, in particular, Israel’s response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis – for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that – but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened, and is still happening in Darfur, is genocide, whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck.

Many have gone north to Egypt – where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border. Why would they take the risk? Because in Israel they are treated with compassion – they are treated as the refugees that they are – and perhaps Israel’s cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.

But the real point of distinction is this: The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.

Compare that to the U.S. reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst – and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behavior anomalous is an understatement.

Talking with Terrorists

(3) My third argument is that the Israeli government engages in an activity which the rest of the world shuns – it negotiates with terrorists. Forget the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who died with blood all over his hands – they’re in the process of negotiating with terrorists as we speak. Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of the lead PLO negotiators that has been sent to the peace talks with Israel. Abed Rabbo also used to be a leader of the PFLP, an organization of “freedom fighters” that, under Abed Rabbo’s leadership, engaged in such freedom promoting activities as killing 22 Israeli high school students. And the Israeli government is sending delegates to sit at a table with this man, and talk about peace. And the world applauds.

You would never see the Spanish government in peace talks with the leaders of the ETA. The British government would never negotiate with Thomas Murphy. And if President Obama were to sit down and talk about peace with Osama Bin Laden, the world would view this as insanity. But Israel can do the exact same thing – and earn international praise in the process. That is the dictionary definition of rogue – behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal.

(4) Another part of dictionary definition is behavior or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbors, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbors. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East – except for Israel.

Israel’s protection of its citizens’ civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.” In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a “free” country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in say, Lebanon – a country designated “partly free,” where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well.

Iran is a country given the rating of “not free,” putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Myanmar. In Iran, there is a special “Press Court” which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offences as criticizing the ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the “foundations of the Islamic republic,” using “suspicious (i.e. Western) sources,” or insulting Islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every Western journalist during the 2009 election.

I guess we can’t really expect more from a theocracy. Which is what most countries in the Middle East are: theocracies and autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of every country in the Middle East, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored.

Debating One’s Legitimacy

(5) I have one final argument – the last nail in the opposition’s coffin – and its sitting right across the aisle. Ran Gidor’s presence here is the all evidence any of us should need to confidently call Israel a rogue state. For those of you who have never heard of him, Mr Gidor is a political counselor attached to Israel’s embassy in London. He’s the guy the Israeli government sent to represent them to the U.N. He knows what he’s doing. And he’s here tonight. And it’s incredible. Consider, for a moment, what his presence here means. The Israeli government has signed off, to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy.

That’s remarkable. Do you think for a minute, that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was, “This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world,” that Britain would allow any of its officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Ran Gidor to argue tonight against myself, a 19-year-old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand.

Every government in the world should be laughing at Israel right now because it forgot rule number one: You never add credence to crackpots by engaging with them. It’s the same reason you won’t see Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins debate David Icke. But Israel is doing precisely that. Once again, behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Behaving like a rogue state.

That’s five arguments that have been directed at the supporters of Israel. But I have a minute or two left. And here’s an argument for all of you – Israel willfully and forcefully disregards international law. In 1981 Israel destroyed Osirak – Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb lab. Every government in the world knew that Hussein was building a bomb. And they did nothing. Except for Israel. Yes, in doing so they broke international law and custom. But they also saved us all from a nuclear Iraq.

That rogue action should earn Israel a place of respect in the eyes of all freedom loving peoples. But it hasn’t. But tonight, while you listen to us prattle on, I want you to remember something; while you’re here, Khomeini’s Iran is working toward the Bomb. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know that Israel is the only country that can, and will, do something about it. Israel will, out of necessity act in a way that is the not the norm, and you’d better hope that they do it in a destructive manner. Any sane person would rather a Rogue Israel than a Nuclear Iran.

Courtesy of Balfour Street blog

This article can be read on-line at: http://www.aish.com/jw/me/108390089.html

German faked conversion to board ‘Jewish’ Gaza boat

October 10, 2010

http://goo.gl/DI8j

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
10/08/2010 03:01

Television producers face flak for false report, say “not customary to pressure people to produce conversion documents before interviews.”

Talkbacks (6)

BERLIN – The German passenger aboard the Irene catamaran that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza last month appears to have invented her conversion to Judaism, Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Tuesday.

“Edith Lutz is definitely a Jew, like a smoked pork chop is kosher,” reporter Henryk M.Broder wrote.

The Irene, organized by the British NGO Jews for Justice for Palestinians, supposedly carried a total of nine passengers and crew members, all Jews, to show that not all Jews supported Israel’s Gaza policies. The Israel Navy diverted it to Ashdod Port.

According to the Tagesspiegel report, the German Jewish psychologist Dr. Rolf Verleger asked Lutz if she formally converted to Judaism, and she “did not dispel the suspicion” that she is not Jewish.

The German television program ARD-Magazin Monitor broadcast a widely-seen report in June, in which Lutz was named as a representative of “Jews from Germany”, and as part of a group of Germans Jews who want to show that “they are not in agreement with the policies of Israel.”

Monitor’s producers have been accused of sloppy journalism for failing to diligently factcheck Lutz’s credentials as a converted Jew, and turning her into a representative of Germany’s 106,000 Jews.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily on Wednesday termed the Monitor report “embarrassing” and noted that many German news organizations have paraded Lutz as a “prominent spokesperson for the organization ‘Jews for a Just Peace in the Middle East’ – and she is not a Jew.”

Sonia Seymour Mikich, the editor-in-chief of Monitor, seemed to duck the criticisms in a statement on why the program presented a woman masquerading as a converted Jew.

It “is not customary for Monitor to pressure people to produce baptismal and conversion documents in order to conduct interviews”, she wrote.

Mikich further noted that Lutz wishes to “continue to protect her private life.”

Many German journalists devote a great deal of coverage to fringe Jews who bash the Jewish state.

The popular pro-Israeli blogger website Lizas Welt wrote on Tuesday that Lutz’s tirades against Israel are “what the majority in Germany wants to hear.”

Lizas Welt slammed Lutz’s “verbal attacks on Israel” as including equating the Jewish state’s actions with those of the Nazis.

Lutz has stated that the Israeli government issued her passport without a “deportation stamp.” The word “deportation” in a German context carries a Nazi-era connotation from the time when Europe’s Jews were deported to extermination camps.

Nathan Gelbart, the Berlin-based attorney who heads the German branch of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “over 7 million people live in Israel’s democracy, which, in contrast to their more than 30 million Arab neighbors, are allowed to openly discuss the controversy surrounding the appropriateness of the sea blockade of Gaza. And Israelis openly discuss the blockade.

“Edith Lutz, whether Jew or non-Jew, is needed in Israel as much as her three backpacks that she sought to bring to Gaza – that is to say, not at all.”

According to a report from Ulrich Sahm, a veteran journalist in Israel, Lutz brought three backpacks that contained stuffed animals, second hand toys and musical instruments on the Irene.

Why Israelis care about peace

September 18, 2010

Given our experience of disappointment and trauma, it’s astonishing that Israelis still support the peace process at all. Yet we do, and by an overwhelming majority

Imagine that you’re a parent who sends her children off to school in the morning worrying whether their bus will become a target of suicide bombers. Imagine that, instead of going off to college, your children become soldiers at age 18, serve for three years and remain in the active reserves into their 40s. Imagine that you have fought in several wars, as have your parents and even your grandparents, that you’ve seen rockets raining down on your neighborhood and have lost close family and friends to terrorist attacks. Picture all of that and you’ll begin to understand what it is to be an Israeli. And you’ll know why all Israelis desperately want peace.

Recent media reports, in Time magazine and elsewhere, have alleged that Israelis — who are currently experiencing economic growth and a relative lull in terrorism — may not care about peace. According to a poll cited, Israelis are more concerned about education, crime and poverty — issues that resonate with Americans — than about the peace process with the Palestinians. But such findings do not in any way indicate an indifference to peace, but rather the determination of Israelis to build normal, fruitful lives in the face of incredible adversity.

Yes, many Israelis are skeptical about peace, and who wouldn’t be? We withdrew our troops from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in order to generate peace, and instead received thousands of missiles crashing into our homes. We negotiated with the Palestinians for 17 years and twice offered them an independent state, only to have those offers rejected. Over the last decade, we saw more than 1,000 Israelis — proportionally the equivalent of about 43,000 Americans — killed by suicide bombers, and tens of thousands maimed. We watched bereaved mothers on Israeli television urging our leaders to persist in their peace efforts, while Palestinian mothers praised their martyred children and wished to sacrifice others for jihad.


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Given our experience of disappointment and trauma, it’s astonishing that Israelis still support the peace process at all. Yet we do, and by an overwhelming majority. According to the prestigious Peace Index conducted by the Tamal Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and released in July, more than 70% of Israelis back negotiations with the Palestinians, and nearly that number endorse the two-state solution. These percentages exist even though multiple Palestinian polls show much less enthusiasm for living side by side in peace with Israel, or that most Israelis believe that international criticism of the Jewish state will continue even if peace is achieved.

Indeed, Israelis have always grasped at opportunities for peace. When Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat or King Hussein of Jordan offered genuine peace to Israel, our people passionately responded and even made painful concessions. That most Israelis are still willing to take incalculable risks for peace — the proposed Palestinian state would border their biggest cities — and are still willing to share their ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy them is nothing short of miraculous.

It’s true that Israel is a success story. The country has six world-class universities, more scientific papers and Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation and the most advanced high-tech sector outside of Silicon Valley. The economy is flourishing, tourism is at an all-time high and our citizen army selflessly protects our borders. In the face of unrelenting pressures, we have preserved a democratic system in which both Jews and Arabs can serve in our parliament and sit on our Supreme Court. We have accomplished this without knowing a nanosecond of peace.

We shouldn’t have to apologize for our achievements. Nor should outside observers conclude that the great improvements in our society in any way lessen our deep desire for peace. That yearning was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the recent White House ceremony for the start of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Addressing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “my partner in peace,” Netanyahu called for “a peace that will last for generations — our generation, our children’s generation and the next.”

For Israelis who don’t have to imagine what it’s like to live in a perpetual war zone, that vision of peace is our lifeline.

Michael B. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Only In Israel

May 8, 2010

By Efraim Kishon

Israel is a country surrounded on all sides by enemies, but the
people’s headaches are caused by the neighbors upstairs.

Israel is a country where the same drivers who cuss you and flip you
the bird will immediately pull over and offer you all forms of help if you
look like you need it.

Israel is the only country in the world with bus drivers and taxi
drivers who read Spinoza and Maimonides.

Israel is the only country in the world where no one cares what
rules say when an important goal can be achieved by bending them.”(Which is
why their accomplishments are the greatest in the world)”

Israel is the only country in the world where reservists are bossed
around and commanded by officers, male and female, younger than their own
children..

Israel is the only country in the world where “small talk” consists
of loud, angry debate over politics and religion.

Israel is the only country in the world where the coffee is already
so good that Starbucks went bankrupt trying to break into the local market.

Israel is one of the few places in the world where the sun sets into
the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel is the only country in the world whose soldiers eat three
sets of salads a day, none of which contain any lettuce (which is not really
a food), and where olives ARE a food and even a main course in a meal,
rather than something one tosses into a martini.

Israel is the only country in the world where one is unlikely to dig
a cellar without hitting ancient archaeological artifacts.

Israel is the only country in the world where the leading writers in
the country take buses.

Israel is the only country in the world where the graffiti is in
Hebrew.

Israel is the only country in the world where the “black folks”
walking around all wear yarmulkes.

Israel is the only country in the world that has a National Book
Week, during which almost everyone attends a book fair and buys books.

Israel is the only country in the world where the ultra-Orthodox
Jews beat up the police and not the other way around.

Israel is the only country in the world where inviting someone “out
for a drink” means drinking cola, coffee or tea.

Israel is the only country in the world where bank robbers kiss the
mezuzah as they leave with their loot.

Israel is one of the few countries in the world that truly likes and
admires the United States.

Israel is the only country in the world that introduces applications
of high-tech gadgets and devices, such as printers in banks that print out
your statement on demand, years ahead of the United States and decades ahead
of Europe.

Israel is the only country in the world where everyone on a flight
gets to know one another before the plane lands. In many cases, they also
get to know the pilot and all about his health or marital problems.

Israel is the only country in the world where no one has a foreign
accent because everyone has a foreign accent.

Israel is the only country in the world where people cuss using
dirty words in Russian or Arabic because Hebrew has never developed them.

Israel is the only country in the world where patients visiting
physicians end up giving the doctor advice.

Israel is the only country in the world where everyone strikes up
conversations while waiting in lines.

Israel is the only country in the world where people call an attaché
case a “James Bond” and the “@” sign is called a “strudel.”

Israel is the only country in the world where there is the most
mysterious and mystical calm ambiance in the streets on Yom Kippur, which
cannot be explained unless you have experienced it.

Sunsets in Jerusalem are gorgeous every evening.

Israel is the only country in the world where people read English,
write Hebrew, and joke in Yiddish.

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February 26, 2010

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