Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

An Australian Sees "The Big Picture" when it comes to Israel

In Ahmadinejad, Indyk, Israel, Kissinger on May 7, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Gary Sheridan writes an extensive article that explains why the American left is in cahoots with the theocratic, anti-gay, Holocaust denying Ahmadinejad.

Here’s an interesting point:

First, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Turkey is a democracy but is not technically in the Middle East. Lebanon is no longer a full democracy, its politics dominated by armed militias and Syrian interference. Israel is the only society in the Middle East with all the institutions of a democracy: a media that reveals all its secrets, a free parliament, independent courts, independent universities and the rest. This earns it a lot of support, especially in the US, but it also means that Israelis generate much of the most damaging criticism of Israel.

This is a singular quality of Israel but it is also discloses a singular quality of the Middle East. Is there another region in the world in which there is only one democracy? This fact alone demonstrates how utterly at odds with its own region Israel is, but also how very odd that region is. The Jewish people, as Walter Russell Mead has written, are an old people but the Israelis are a young people. And deeply imprinted on their DNA is the culture of democracy.

It has always amazed me how a bunch of Eastern European socialists and Middle Eastern Jews created a democracy without any tradition of its institutions. It is ironic that the colonial face of Israel is not in the complexion of its population, but in its institutions which by virtue of being democratic are deigned as “colonial”. If that’s what colonial means–I’ll take it.

Another tidbit regarding our friends the Saudis, taken from accounts of diplomatic exploits of Martin Indyk, and Henry Kissinger:

Indyk describes in 1998 between Clinton and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is most instructive. This was at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Indyk writes:

Abdullah leaned across the table and explained to Clinton in a hushed voice that he had information that Monica Lewinsky was Jewish and part of a Mossad plot to bring the president down because of his efforts to help the Palestinians. He told the president that he intended to share this intelligence with senators he would meet after lunch in an effort to help forestall his impeachment.

This anecdote echoes one of a generation earlier told in Henry Kissinger’s memoir, in which Kissinger holds a formal meeting with a Saudi ruler who tells him the world is beset by a global communist conspiracy, which is a mere part of the broader global Jewish conspiracy.

It’s striking that from Kissinger to Indyk absolutely nothing has changed, nor will it, I’m afraid. Sheridan’s lengthy article is well worth the time.


Hatikva in a faux Talmud Page

In Hatikva, Israel, Yehuda Amichai on April 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Hatikva is an anthem of yearning that like the Haggada is more concerned with the journey than the destination. Israel is a young country. This faux Talmud page tries to capture the old new land that inspires so much affection and provokes so much anger. Choni HaMa’agel, the rainmaker looks over to Yehuda Amichai as he drives through the Arava desert and notes:

Ein Yahav
A night drive to Ein
Yahav in the Arava
a drive in the rain. Yes, in
the rain
There I met people who
grow date palms,
there I saw tamarisk
trees and risk trees,
there I saw hope barbed
as barbed wire.
And I said to myself:
That’s true, hope needs
to be like barbed wire to
keep out despair,
hope must be a mine

For the whole Talmud Page click here

Pirates, Ransoms & The Talmudic Sages

In Collective punishment, Gilad Shavit, Israel, Piracy, Tikkun HaOlam on April 20, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Jews throughout their history have had to contend with kidnappings and ransoms. It was so prevalent that legislation had already appeared in the Talmud.

The Sages ascertained that being held captive was a fate literally worse than death:

Rava said to Rabba Bar Mari, “Where does this notion that redeeming the captive is considered so special that the sages called it an exceptionally great mitzvah appear? As it is written: “And when they will say to you, “Where shall we go?” You will say to them, “So says the LORD, those to die will die, those to go by the sword, will go by the sword, those by famine will be by famine and those who will be taken captive will be taken captive.” (Jeremiah 15:2, 42:11) And Rabbi Yochanan said, “[In this verse] the afflictions become increasingly more severe. [For example] The sword is considered more severe than death.” [and therefore being held captive is worse than famine] (B. Talmud Baba Batra 8b)

Nevertheless, the Sages cautioned that one should not “over pay” for redeeming captives because of Tikun Ha’Olam i.e. one would encourage the practice of kidnapping which would be detrimental to the entire community. The Mishnah states:

One never redeems captives for more than they are worth, because of our concern for Tikkun HaOlam. One also does not help captives escape because of our concern for Tikkun HaOlam. (B. Talmud Gitin 45a)

Using this principle, the primary goal of a policy should be to deter piracy while the goal of redeeming the individual captive is secondary. It is clear that paying ransom encourages piracy, but keeps captives alive, while killing pirates may have a detrimental impact on the survival of captives. Both caving in or military action have downsides. A third option was offered in an op. ed piece in The New York Times:

In 1995, for example, the water supply for Mogadishu, the capital, was shut off by the United Nations humanitarian agencies until a hostage who worked for another aid organization was released. On the first day of the shutoff, the women who collected water from public distribution points yelled at the kidnappers; on the second day they stoned them; on the third day they shot at them; on the fourth day, the hostage was released.

Here in option three, collective punishment makes the captors so unpopular they are forced to release their captives. This reminds me of the O. Henry short story, “The Ransom of Red Chief” where the captive was so obnoxious the kidnappers decided the enterprise wasn’t worth it.

One question, what do you think would have happened if Israel had turned off the water of Gaza after Gilad Shavit was captured? The Sages may have approved, but what would the response of the hypocritical U.N. have been? Not a hard call. For a more comprehensive look at these sources, click on the “Scribd” badge in the margin and look for the file entitled: Tikkun Ha’Olam: The Massive Malapropism, and feel free to check out some of the other files. Too lazy to peruse? Click here.

Prostates are More Important than Israel or Gaza

In Gaza, Israel, Kassam, Peace, Tom Segev on March 19, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Look at the most popularly searched items on the New York Times, and you will see that the most popular story has to do with the PSA test doing more harm than good. Even though Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner have been given prominent space, the readership is yawning. Everyone’s had enough of the Jews and Israel. I am sure that Israelis are aware of this, and take heart in the fact that they are not presently a big fish to fry.

The President has his hands full with a domestic agenda, closing Guantanamo, leaving Iraq, and there’s always Afghanistan. This means that Israel will do absolutely nothing on the Palestinian front which will cause some to celebrate and others to mourn.

I mourn the fact that we have given up on having a long term future that approaches some semblance of normality. I mourn that the next generation of westernized bourgeois Israelis who would rather not be associated with an occupation, also do not want to cede territory so that their families don’t become ducks in a Kassam shooting gallery. There is a resignation that deep down nothing other than the surrender of the Jewish State will ultimately be enough for our Palestinian cousins.

I remember Tom Segev saying in a lecture last year that peace is not something the next generation considers anymore. If peace is not attainable then it does not matter whether there is a Palestinian state or there isn’t. The fatalism that comes with the obscenely modest goals of “buying a few more years of quiet” has a nihilistic nuance of resignation. Resignation, and fatigue accompanied with the awareness that the United States is yawning and AIPAC is still lobbying.

It’s not that nobody has the big picture, but rather there doesn’t seem to be one.