Category Archives: Israel

Jews Don’t Get Equal Treatment

I am amazed that the media will not address this kind of issue.
WSJ 11/26/2018 By Eugene Kontorovich

Two very different organizations took action last week against Jews owning property in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority sentenced two Palestinians to 15 years hard labor for selling land to Jews. And Airbnb, the tech behemoth and online marketplace for lodging, announced it would no longer serve Jewish communities in the West Bank. The two actions differ in brutality but are based on the same idea: Jews should have no home in the West Bank.

Under Airbnb’s policy, an American Jew with a rental property in the West Bank is barred from listing it for rent on the website. But an American Arab is welcome to list his home a few hundred meters away, even though the Palestinian law forbidding real-estate deals with Jews carries a maximum penalty of death. That openly racist policy doesn’t trigger Airbnb’s delisting policy.

Airbnb admits the West Bank is the site of complicated “historical disputes.” Until 1948, the West Bank was part of the League of Nations’ 1922 British Mandate for Palestine, created to become a “national home” for the Jewish people. In 1947, the U.N. General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution suggesting the territory be divided into Arab and Jewish states, an idea the Arabs immediately shot down. Indeed, when the mandate ended and Israel declared independence in 1948, all its Arab neighbors invaded immediately. Jordan occupied the West Bank and massacred or expelled every Jew in the area, took their homes and destroyed their synagogues. Israel only regained the West Bank after Jordan foolishly attacked again in 1967. Many Jews then returned, including to lands Jews had purchased before Israeli independence.

Since then, the dispute has narrowed. Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian leadership in 1993, leaving all settlements—the new and returning Jewish communities— under complete Israeli control. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994. To be sure, the Palestinians still demand the removal of Jews from the entire West Bank. But Airbnb’s policy applies only to the Israeli—primarily Jewish—communities in the disputed territories.

Israeli cities in the West Bank are open to any lawful resident of Israel, including Arabs. By contrast, any Jew who enters the West Bank’s Palestinian towns risks his life.

Why has Airbnb singled out Israel from all the nations? The company tried to ward off accusations of hypocrisy by noting, “each situation is unique and requires a case-by-case approach.” But so far the only situation unique enough to warrant delisting is the one involving Jews.

Airbnb lists homes in Moroccanoccupied Western Sahara, one of the world’s most brutal occupations. It lists vacation homes in northern Cyprus, which Turkey invaded, expelling almost all Greek Cypriots and expropriating their homes. Nor does Airbnb have a problem serving Kashmir, Tibet and other such places. Last week a Kohelet Policy Forum report revealed many major companies active in the West Bank also do business in occupied territories and with settler regimes around the world, without a word of criticism from the groups that pressured Airbnb.

Airbnb had rebuffed prior boycott requests, but its reversal pre-empted by one day a Human Rights Watch report on its listings in the West Bank. Airbnb also is reportedly on a forthcoming U.N. Human Rights Council blacklist of firms operating in Israeli settlements.

Airbnb’s capitulation underscores the need for Congress to pass the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would bar U.S. firms from complying with U.N. boycotts of Israel, like they’re already prohibited from adhering to the Arab League’s boycott. Many U.S. states also have laws prohibiting their pension funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel or territories it administers. State pension boards will likely be looking at Airbnb’s policy before its planned initial public offering next year.

Airbnb’s exclusion of Jewish communities in the West Bank cannot be ignored. Many states, such as Florida and Alabama, let public employees traveling on official business use Airbnb. These governments should immediately suspend permission to use Airbnb until its discriminatory policy is reversed.

Mr. Kontorovich, a director at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Israel, is a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law.


Pence at the Knesset

Needs no additional comment. Pence speaks for himself.
WSJ 1/24/2018

As I walked out of the Knesset following Vice President Mike Pence’s Monday afternoon address, an Israeli cameraman turned to me with a jovial expression. Speaking in Hebrew, he asked me about the man whose speech he had just heard: “Was that the messiah, or the vice president of the United States?” He was, perhaps, referring to the rapturous reception Mr. Pence had received from the Knesset members and the hundreds of spectators in the gallery. Yet the cameraman was also probably struck by how religious, and biblically based, the speech was. Mr. Pence threaded his remarks with references to Scripture, a rhetorical technique Knesset audiences have rarely heard from a political leader since Menachem Begin resigned as prime minister in 1983.

Mr. Pence’s address was one of the most Zionist speeches ever given by a non-Jew in the Knesset. The vice president is a devout evangelical Christian, and he said that in the birth of the modern state of Israel, we see nothing less than a fulfillment of the biblical promises of God. The speech was a milestone in American-Israeli relations, and a window into the heart of many American Christians who, like Mr. Pence, observe Israel’s emergence with wonder and reverence.

Drawing on the Book of Deuteronomy, Mr. Pence described how through “conquests and expulsions, inquisitions and pogroms,” and a Holocaust “that transformed the small faces of children into smoke under a silent sky,” the Jewish people nevertheless “held fast to a promise through all the ages, written so long ago, that ‘even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens,’ from there He would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed.”

Citing Isaiah, Mr. Pence suggested that in Israel’s 1948 founding “the Jewish people answered that ancient question: Can a country be born in a day, can a nation be born in a moment?” For Mr. Pence, the birth of modern Israel also reaffirmed the Jews’ covenantal bond to both the Holy Land and Jerusalem, where “Abraham offered his son Isaac, and was credited with righteousness for his faith in God,” and where “King David consecrated the capital of the Kingdom of Israel.” In the emergence of the modern Jewish state, Mr. Pence concluded, we see the hand of God: “The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world.”

These are powerful words, and many Jews in attendance felt the vice president’s description of the Jewish state as a miracle comported with their own view. Yet it is worth noting one wondrous occurrence Mr. Pence didn’t mention. For many centuries the Jewish people received little love and much hate from the nations of the world. Today tens of millions of non-Jewish Americans share Mr. Pence’s sincere affection for Israel.

As the vice president noted, certain predictions in Hebrew scripture about the Holy Land have actually come true in the past 70 years: The Jews have returned, their state has been re-formed, and the desert is blooming. Yet Isaiah also predicts that one day multitudes of non-Jews will be moved by devotion to the God who dwells in Jerusalem to shower love upon the people whose capital it has always been. Anti-Semitism is still rampant, of course, and Israel remains surrounded by states seeking its destruction. But the existence of multitudes of gentiles who are also Zionists has no precedent in the Jews’ millennia-long history.

Mr. Pence received a sustained and resounding standing ovation when he spoke in Hebrew. Many visiting statesmen have tried out a Hebrew phrase or two in the Knesset, but the vice president went further than previous American leaders. Noting that April marks the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, Mr. Pence reflected on this historic milestone: “I say, along with the good people of Israel, here and around the world:

“shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh.”

Strikingly, Mr. Pence didn’t translate or explain. The American reporters travelling with the vice president may not have understood what he’d said. But most Jews in attendance recognized his words as an expression of gratitude to God, “who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.” The blessing has been recited by Jews for thousands of years. We speak it when we receive joyous tidings and when we commemorate historical miracles. Many in the audience felt like saying the blessing themselves, not only for the miracle that is Israel, but also for the blessing that is the millions of Americans who, like Mike Pence, love the Jewish state.

It’s a blessing that many Israelis, and many Jews around the world, will not soon forget.

Rabbi Soloveichik is minister of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and director of the Straus Cen-ter for Torah and Western Thought of Yeshiva University.


Middle East Reality

We need more politicians with a “reality” perspective.
WSJ 12/27/2017   By Reuel Marc Gerecht

Alot of people are in a funk over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The liberal media, most former government officials who’ve dealt with the Israeli–Palestinian imbroglio, and just about everyone at the United Nations appear certain that the decision had a lot to do with Mr. Trump’s disruptive nature, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Evangelical Christians and pro-Israel Republican donors.

It’s possible that his decision was based instead on an old-fashioned understanding of the way the world works, one that would be familiar to Middle Easterners: There are winners and losers in every conflict, and Palestinians have decisively lost in their struggle with the Jews of the Holy Land. Diplomacy based on denying reality isn’t helpful.

This view runs smack into the tenets of contemporary conflict resolution, in which diplomacy tries to make losers feels like winners, so that unpleasant compromises, at least in theory, will be easier to swallow. It alleviates the guilt of a Westernized people triumphing over Arabs that has made many in Europe and even the U.S. uncomfortable with Israeli superiority. It also runs counter to an assumption held widely among Western political elites—to wit, quoting the current French ambassador to the U.N.: “Israel is the key to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Israelis, in this view, must make the big compromises.

The truth is surely the opposite. Recognizing the extent and irreversibility of Palestinian defeat is the first step in the long process of salvaging Palestinian society from its paralyzing morass. Far too many Palestinians still want to pretend they haven’t lost, that the “right of return” and Jerusalem’s unsettled status give hope that the gradual erosion of Israel is still possible. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tapped a common theme among Palestinians in his recent oration before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation when he complained that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history and religion.”

The biggest problem the Palestinians have is that the Israelis don’t trust them, and the Israelis cannot be ignored, sidestepped, bullied, bombed or boycotted out of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. Fatah, the lead organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the muscle behind the Palestinian Authority, has often acted publicly as if the Israelis weren’t the foreigners who truly mattered, appealing to Europeans, Russians and Americans to intercede on its behalf. Americans and Europeans have consistently encouraged this reflex by stressing their own role in resolving the conflict, usually by suggesting that they would cajole or push Israelis toward Palestinian positions.

For the Israelis, this has seemed a surreal stage play. The Fatah leadership is well aware that only the Israeli security services have kept the West Bank from going the way of the Gaza Strip, where Fatah’s vastly better-armed forces were easily overwhelmed by Hamas in 2007. Fatah’s secular police state—and that is what the Palestinian Authority is—has proved, so far, no match for Hamas.

Western diplomacy has failed abysmally to recognize the profound split between Palestinian fundamentalists and secularists and played wistfully to the hope that a deeply corrupt Fatah oligarchy could conclude a permanent peace accord with Israel. This delusion’s concomitant bet: Such a deal would terminally weaken Hamas, since the secularists would have finally brought home the mutton.

The most important point, however, is always ignored. Competent, transparent, nonviolent Palestinian governance is the only chance Palestinian society has of escaping the fundamentalist critique that has undermined oligarchs across the Arab world. Fearful of playing the imperialists and keenly aware of the efficiency of having a police state as a partner, Americans, Europeans and Israelis have failed to use the leverage of financial aid to set standards for Palestinian governance on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Palestinian Muslims are no different than other Muslim Arabs. Religious militancy has grown astronomically over the past 40 years as the ruling secular elites have calcified into corrupt, hypocritical, heavyhanded autocracies. Westerners have not dealt with this well, since it defies the top-down approach inherit in diplomacy—and also because fundamentalists terrify them. Yet the past ought to tell Americans and Europeans that a two-state solution to the Israel–Palestinian clash isn’t going to happen before Palestinians reconcile in a functioning democracy that doesn’t scare their Jewish neighbors. The overwhelming burden here is upon the Palestinians. The most valuable American contribution to the peace process, so far only episodically delivered, is to remind the Palestinians that they first have to get their own house in order and the Israelis that they have to care about how Palestinians treat their own. Too often, the Israelis have viewed the Palestinians— and Arab Muslims in general—as the ineducable “other,” who is best left to his own rules so long as Israelis aren’t killed. Any Israeli effort to control Palestinian-on-Palestinian abuse will surely be met with a hail-storm of censure from the West. But the Israelis ought to take a longer view. Barrier or no barrier, they are going to live with the Palestinians forever. Israel should certainly want to correct its enormous mistake of allowing Yasser Arafat, the father of Palestinian nationalism, to import his thugocracy into the West Bank and Gaza.

Most Arabs have adjusted, however reluctantly, to the permanence of Zion. They did so four decades ago when Egypt, slowly collapsing under its own military dictatorship, checked out of the war. Americans, Europeans and Israelis—not “the Arabs”— are primarily responsible for elongating the big Palestinian delusions about the “right of return” and a sovereign East Jerusalem. It’s way past time they stopped. Mr. Trump’s decision, whatever the motivation, is a step forward.

Mr. Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Recognizing Jerusalem – WSJ

A breath of fresh air…
WSJ 12/8/2017 By Yoram Hazony


For nearly seven decades, the state of Israel has endured an unusual humiliation: Alone among the nations of the world, it has been denied the sovereign right to determine its own capital. Israel has regarded Jerusalem as its capital since its War of Independence in 1948. It is the seat of Israel’s president, prime minister, Knesset (parliament), Supreme Court and most government ministries. Yet for the better part of a century, the U.S. has led what is effectively an international boycott of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, keeping its embassy in Tel Aviv as part of a fiction that the status of Jerusalem remains undetermined.

The roots of this policy go back to the first half of the 20th century, when European diplomats set their sights on making Jerusalem an “international city”—a kind of second Vatican, controlled by responsible Europeans rather than by Jews or Arabs. When Jewish forces took the western half of the city in 1948, and especially after Jerusalem was united under Israeli rule in 1967, this fantasy of a Euro-Jerusalem disappeared forever. But rather than recognizing Israeli sovereignty, the international community decided to leave Jerusalem’s status for “future negotiations.”

Yet now half a century has passed, and still there is nothing but Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem anywhere in sight. In a dramatic address Wednesday, President Trump brought to an end the fiction that something else is going to happen. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious,” he said. “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do.”

Mr. Trump is right about this. But he also understands that there is more to it. The dream of rebuilding Jerusalem, destroyed in Roman times, is the linchpin that holds Jewish faith and nationhood together. Three times each day, Jews bless God as “the Builder of Jerusalem.” When Jews read, at every wedding, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its strength” (Psalm 137:5), we are teaching a subtle truth: We Jews cannot give up on restoring our ancient capital without giving up the source of strength.

Would we really be giving up on restoring Jerusalem if Israel negotiated a “deal” to share sovereignty in the city? Consider the options: Israel will never agree for Jerusalem to be divided as Berlin

The president withstands the howling dismay of the world’s nations to abandon a failed 70-year-old policy.

was, with mutually hostile police forces on either side of a security barrier. Jerusalem was divided in this way from 1948 to 1967, and anyone who lived through that time of snipers on the city walls knows that such a scheme amounts to destroying Jerusalem, not rebuilding it. The other choice is to govern the city by committee— which would mean that every construction project, excavation, restoration or economic initiative favored by Israel would be subject to an Arab veto (and probably also to a European one). This is a formula for reducing Jerusalem to wretchedness.

For Israelis, then, any conceivable “deal” over Jerusalem does indeed mean giving up on the hope of restoring the only capital we’ve ever had to sanctity and splendor.

Like it or not, this means that foreign powers have to choose— whether to stand by the project of establishing a fully sovereign Jewish state with the right to make Jerusalem its capital, or to limit permanently Israeli sovereignty, while effectively internationalizing Jerusalem under cover of peace talks with the Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

For 70 years, the U.S. and most other nations have declined to stand with the Jewish people on this, believing that peace would somehow be forthcoming if Israel were humiliated in this way. But this approach has not brought peace. It has only encouraged Israel’s enemies. This week, Mr. Trump announced that America will therefore stand by the Jewish state. All over the world, Jews are saying the traditional blessing thanking God for letting us live to see this day.

We have been warned by enemies and by friends that this historic moment will be met with violence. That is quite possible. Every significant step in the return of the Jews to Israel and Jerusalem since the Balfour Declaration has been met with acts of vengeance. But if this pattern has a clear lesson for us, it is this: If the American administration holds firm, this storm will pass.

Many disparaging things have been said about President Trump’s fitness to lead. But this week, on the issue of Jerusalem, Mr. Trump has withstood the howling dismay of the world’s nations, to perform one of those rare deeds that truly have the potential to change history for the better.

Mr. Hazony is president of the Je-rusalem- based Herzl Institute. His book “The Virtue of Nationalism” will be published next year by Basic.