A little over two weeks ago in the final hours of the Knesset session, two laws were passed, two laws that filled Rabin Square. The first two weeks ago and the second tonight. The crowds were very different but the anger and disappointment were not.
The first was the law on government funding of surrogacy- an amendment that would have included gay men in the bill was introduced, and after publicly promising to support the amendment Prime Minister Netanyahu voted against it. He quickly united the LGBTQ community and after a day of strikes, a rally was held that filled the square. While the purpose of the rally was to protest the issues of gay surrogacy-there was an underlying feeling as expressed by many of the speakers that more was at stake.
Tonight’s rally was different as I wrote in my Newsweek article, most of those on the left and center opposed the law. I thought it was not needed and would just hurt Israel’s image in the world for no good reason. I did not anticipate how the non-Jewish minorities in this country would feel, especially those who have clearly tied their future and identity to the state of Israel. The Druze community felt they had been stabbed in the back. Bibi’s supporters argue that the bill does nothing to hurt their rights, however, it clearly gives Jews greater rights without protecting these same minorities. It also removes Arabic as an official language of the country. The Druze, however, do not take to the streets quickly. They first tried to find a common ground with Netanyahu and negotiate a change. Preferably for everyone, but maybe just for their own community. At some point this week Bibi decided it was in his political interest (for reasons that I do not fully understand) to turn the Druze, into our enemies. He held a meeting on Thursday night ostensively to work out a deal, but in fact, he blew up the meeting claiming that Amsam Asad had brought up Apartheid saying Israel was an Apartheid State. When in fact it was Bibi who brought up a Facebook post that Amsam Asad had put up warning that the law could lead to an Apartheid State. He demanded an apology and when Asad, a reserve brigadier general refused, he walked out of the meeting and Bibi lied about what took place.
For the next 48 hours, a campaign against the Druze and the rally took place. Forged documents were circulated saying that the rally had received support from UNESCO, and the EU. Bibi retweeted a tweet saying that the New Israel Fund was behind the rally, and so it went lies after lies-
The rally itself was very different from any rally I have attended. First of all, there were the Druze. They had come in the thousands. Two hours before the streets of the city were filled with buses and cars bringing tens of thousands of people. The rest of the participants were a completely different crowd than that which turned out two weeks ago. It was my generation that filled the square and not the 20 and 30-year-olds who had come out for LGBTQ right two weeks ago. My estimate is that there were 100,000 people in the Kikar tonight- some are saying 250,000 but I doubt that number but maybe.
The rally began with one of the organizers reading the Declaration of Independence and ended with tens of thousands of Druze singing Hatikva. The Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tari, who had never before spoke at a rally stated” Despite our unreserved loyalty, Israel doesn’t see us as equals,” The theme was simple we accept this is a state of the Jews that we live in, a state that we have given our total allegiance to- however as much as it is the national homeland of the Jewish people we want to have full and equal rights.
The rally and events of the last two weeks bring into sharp focus what does a Jewish state mean, what does it mean to be an Israeli and what is equality. What will be the longterm consequences I truly do not know but for his political survival Bibi seems willing to pull the Temple down on all of our heads.
I just came back from the very large rally in Kikar Rabin (60,000-100,000)against the vote in the Knesset not to include gay men in the law approving payments for surrogate adoptions. It was the largest rally that I can remember recently, and it followed a day of strikes and smaller rallies all over the country.
The rally was attended by young and old and probably most important a demographic that has been missing from most protests this year- the 30 somethings that were there in large numbers filling up the square.
While the rally and the days’ events were initially aimed solely at the issue of gay surrogacy- it soon became apparent that the issues were larger. The anger was directed at all of the many things that the government did in the past week and beyond. Speakers talked about the arrest of the Conservative Rabbi. A settler from a Kibbutz surrounding the Gaza Strip spoke about events there this past week, Yael Dayan(daughter of Moshe Dayan), 80 and ailing spoke, about saving the Declaration of Independence from the Nationality Law that passed last week.
Bibi brought this on himself by his zig zags last week. On Monday speaking out and releasing a video supporting gay men receiving the same rights as other in surrogacy, and then on Thursday when the Ultra-Orthodox threatened him he led the vote against it.
That act inflamed the feeling of that part of the country who have liberal values and do not want to be dictated to by a group of Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis. It coalesced around the issue of LGBTQ rights where there is wide consensus and where everyone knows someone- but it may be deeper. Ultimately that is the question of the night. Have the events of the past weeks awakened those who want Israel to be part of the Western world – a liberal democracy from the slumber, or is this another transient phenomena limited to a single issue?
It’s been a difficult day for Prime Minister Netanyahu. For the first time in at least a generation to the leader of the Jewish world ignored the recommendation of the Israeli Prime Minister and picked someone he did not want to be the Head of the Jewish Agency.They nominating committee overwhelming selected Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog.The head of the Jewish Agency has traditionally been from the same party as the Prime Minister.Netanyahu had wanted Yuval Steinitz currently the Energy Minister and a Netanyahu loyalist.However, the diaspora leaders said no, they wanted Herzog.Some say it is a result of the anger at Netanyahu that still exists because of his withdrawal of the Kotel deal.There can be no question that Herzog is the more qualified candidate.He has a better understanding of the diasporas, grew up in a home that was deeply Jewish and is as close to royalty that exists in the country.His Grandfather was Chief Rabbi and his Father both UN Ambassador and President.By all accounts in the period that he was actually a minister he was considered to be very competent, and of course, there is the small matter that he is a Ramaz graduate.
Of course, there is a chance that this is really wanted Netanyahu wanted to happen. He and Herzog have always gotten along well, and he knows that he will be a good bridge to the diaspora.Netanyahu did not seem to fight very hard.Israelis political observers believe he was surprised by the development.Even though I am not a great fan of Bibi when it comes to politics there is very little that gets by him.It should be noted that with opposition receiving theJewish Agency there will be pressure to give the Likud the Jewish National Fund.It is the JNF that has real money, over $1 Billion in the bank and land worth many times that and that is the real prize for the Likud.A Likud member argued with me today when I said that this was a problem.He countered that the JNF is corrupt, I agreed- but then he said that the Likud would clean up corruption.I just laughed and said that the Likud and cleaning up corruption were an oxymora .
The bigger problem for the Netanyahu is no doubt the decision of the Attorney General to indict his wife on fraud and breach.The case relates to ordering $100,000 of outside food for personal use while at the same time having a cook on premises to cook.The real problem in what happened is she lied about it, and to use plain vernacular she tried to cook the books.
While this case is not really connected to the main cases against Netanyahu there are similarities.The Case 1000 is all about getting gifts for Netanyahu and Sara, and both Case 2000 and 4000 which both center on getting favorable news coverage for Bibi and in many cases Sara.So while Bibi is not implicated in this case Sara is directly and indirectly in the others.
It should be noted that in 1977 Prime Minister Rabin resigned because his wife illegally held on to their dollar account in the US.At the time it was illegal for Israelis to have accounts outside of the country, and the Rabin’s established the account while he was Ambassador to Washington. According to the law at the time you had to close the account within three years and the account was discovered by a reporter four years later.
On a side note, I mentioned the Rabin story to an Israeli friend who is in her late 30’s and she had no idea.I guess it is not taught in history class.
I wanted to share what I found a disturbing encounter I had this evening. I appeared on i24News in Arabic something that I do once or twice a month. I speak in Hebrew and its translated into Arabic and of the reverse for the questions or another guest words. I was there to speak about the differences that Sec of Defense Mattis has been saying – The US will continue to have troops in Syria and President Trump who says they should all come home. The other guest in the studio was talking about the agreement to evacuate the Palestinian Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Damascus. The other guest was speaking in Arabic and the Hebrew translation in my ear kept talking about the terrorist. Every reference to the rebels and the Palestinians was to the terrorist. I thought there might have been a problem with the translation so when the segment was over and we got up to leave I asked him did you say all the time in Arabic terrorists. He said yes. We then began arguing, he saying that all the opponents of Assad are terrorist, he did not start the war it was outside terrorist sent by Saudi Arabia that began the war. I of course disagreed. I then asked him if it was ok for Assad’s planes to bomb hospitals. He said yes they are all terrorists in the hospitals and its fine to bomb them. I said it was against international law and to the best of my knowledge no one had ever deliberately targeted hospitals before. He started yelling you westerners with double standards, what did you do in Hiroshima. He then said something about us being like the Crusaders ( I am not sure I fully caught that) and that they (whoever they were ) were here before us and will be there long after we are gone.
It’s Yom Hazikaron here in Israel. The day when most of the country comes together and remembers the sacrifices that this country has required. The ceremony in Rabin Square varies little from year to year, sad songs interspersed with the stories of the those who have fallen. Those stories are always well done and moving with often parents or other loved ones talking about the fallen. Tonight I was struck by the number of stories of those who perished in the Yom Kippur War or the time before and after. Very often soldiers who were close to my age. In almost every one of these cases, it was a brother or a friend from the unit who spoke, for by now the parents are gone.
Its hard hearing the stories and thinking of the kids who were my age, but never got to live the life that I have had. Never got to have children and grandchildren. It’s hard to realize what so many sacrificed so that we could live here in freedom.
Tonight’s events come one week after Yom Hashoah, and in some ways put the sacrifice of Israelis into perspective. The 23,646 soldiers who died represented a terrible loss. However, I can still remember my Mother talking about all of her first cousins (probably 40 out 45)who died during the holocaust and never got to live, and then I think of the 1 million children who perished, a number that is simply too big to understand.
So here we stand 70 years after the establishment of the State. The State of Israel that we the Jewish people dreamed of and the founder of Modern Zionism took the steps to make it a reality. That state in many ways has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. We are a wealthy country with a strong economy who despite our small size leads the worlds in many areas. And yet in one way it has not succeeded at all. Our children like us still have to go into the army. We fear that next year when we commemorate Yom Hazikaron the number of those we remember will have gone up.
Tomorrow night is Yom Hashoah and I will be filing an appropriately somber article to Newsweek on the holocaust and the events in Syria in the last few days and years. But tonight a totally different sort of event was taking place here in Tel Aviv. In Rabin Square, over 10,000 mostly young people (20’s and 30’s ) showed up for a unique show. A pre-Eurovision concert where representatives of 30 countries came to preview their songs that they will sing in two months at the Eurovision contest. Singers from throughout Europe and from Australia previewed their songs to an enthusiastic crowd. I am sure that many in the crowd imagined that they were standing in the middle of a city in Europe and not 40 miles from Gaza and 90 miles from the Syrian border.
Events seem to be moving ever faster- As I write this post I am listening to Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the Senate, while my twitter feed just informed me that the Russians have vetoed a US proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the gas attacks in Syria.
Iran today promised that it would retaliate for the alleged Israeli attack on an Iranian base in Syria, in which a significant number of Iranians were killed. It would seem that the Iranian installation that was attacked was significant and the attack was very successful. Israel is taking the Iranian threat seriously and is preparing accordingly.
Tonight Ehud Barak was interviewed on the news. He somberly stated that while in his opinion at any given time there is a 1% chance that a miscalculation could bring about a full-scale war, recent events have brought that number to 10%, something that he thought was way too high. Barak stated that while the army was ready for a potential war, the country as a whole is not.
So here we are a week before Israel’s 70th anniversary, and on one hand, we celebrate our success and reach out as part of the larger world community. At the same time, it’s becoming clear that there exists a very real possibility that war is a very real possibility.
The Gaza Strip is located a mere 40 miles from Tel Aviv and yet, for most Tel Avivans, it could be as far as the moon. Yes, many of the residents of Tel Aviv (those over the age of 30) can remember being in Gaza as part of their military service, and many others have children (or in some cases grandchildren) who are serving on its borders. Nevertheless, the daily life of Gazans is foreign to almost all of us. Of course, almost everyone in Tel Aviv remembers the summer less than four years ago, during which Hamas fired missiles at Tel Aviv almost daily. However, the fact that Israel’s anti-missile system intercepted every single one of them has minimized the potential threat from Gaza.
Which brings us to the events that began this past Friday. If the demonstrations/riots had been about improving conditions in Gaza — i.e. that Israel should provide more water, more electricity, allow more Gazans transit via Israel to other countries, etc. — most Israelis would have been sympathetic to the cause. The leader of Hamas, a man who has publicly committed to the destruction of Israel and whose organization has been ruling Gaza for the last 11 years stated at the start of the march: “The ‘March of Return’ will continue… until we remove this transient border.” The protests “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and ‘return’… Our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine.” In other words, the goal of the march was to destroy the border fence and allow the millions of Palestinian who live in Gaza to return to the homes their great-grandparents
had, in what has been the state of Israel for the last 70 years — a demand rejected by at least 75% of the Israeli public, if not more. Consequently, as Palestinians approached the fence on Friday, the Israeli public was not particularly sympathetic.
The Israeli army faced a dilemma regarding the Gaza protest. The IDF knew that the true goal of March was to get as many Palestinians killed, in order to gain the world’s attention and depict Israel in the worst possible light. Missiles were no longer making an impact; Israel was systematically destroying the tunnels Hamas constructed, financed with millions of dollars from the aid it had received; and their attempts at reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority, without agreeing to give up its weapons had failed, as well. The first demonstration, of what has been promised to be a series of many marches, was scheduled for the eve of Passover, a time that under normal circumstances, the Israeli Defense Forces gives leave to as many soldiers as possible, to allow them to be home with family. Instead, this year, the IDF reinforced the border with elite ground forces, including as many trained snipers as possible. The Army warned demonstrators not to come within 300 meters of the border fence and prepared for the worst.
30,000 Gazans, about 2% of the population, turned out to demonstrate on Friday (approximately the same size as many of the demonstrations in Tel Aviv). 95% of the demonstrators stayed away from the border and far out of harms way. However, a few hundred approached the border fence, many trying to damage it. To address the minority who did not heed prior warnings to remain at a distance from the border, Israeli snipers were given orders to shoot at the legs of anyone who was unaffected by the tear gas that had been dispensed from drones flying overhead and shoot to kill anyone carrying a weapon. However, soldiers were ordered not to shoot to kill women, children, or the elderly — under any circumstances. The snipers did their jobs and only shot at people who approached the border-fence, forcing them to flee. Some were wounded by shots to the legs, some were impaired by the tear gas and 17 young men were killed. Hamas proudly displayed many of their identities, as members of their military wing, who gave their lives. I
Hamas succeeded in gaining at least a bit of attention from the world — and obtained a video of young man being shot, while retreating. However, the world is awash in tragedy and death at the moment. Photos of young men who are clearly acting provocatively being shot is unlikely to gain much of the world’s attention. Such actions certainly will gain no sympathy from the Israeli public. The IDF and the Israeli government can be satisfied that the border was not breached and no women or children were killed.
Still, nothing has changed, and nothing seems likely to change in the coming months, or years. The slow motion suffering of the residents of Gaza continues to steadily worsen, as the water table recedes, and gets ever more polluted. Work is impossible to find in Gaza. The hopes that accompanied the Israeli withdrawal are long gone, snuffed out by years of Hamas rule, and the resultant severing of almost all economic ties with Israel, and with much of the world.
Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2006. The hope then was that Gaza might develop economically, and provide a model for a potential peaceful future between the Palestinians and Israelis. But that aspiration never came to be, as Gaza represents the very fundamental problem in the Israeli– Palestinian saga. In 1947, before the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence, there were approximately 60,000 residents living on the Gaza Strip. That year, the United Nations voted to created two states, in what was British Mandatory Palestine — a Jewish State and an Arab State.
The Jews in Palestine accepted the United Nations plan, while the Arabs did not. In the subsequent war, 600,000 Palestinians became refugees, many of whom fled to the Gaza Strip — which was occupied by Egypt, while others moved to the Jordanian occupied West Bank, (part of the area the UN proposed to become the Arab State), and others fled to Lebanon. During that period, the world was awash in refugees; some from World War II, with others from the division of the Indian sub-continent into a primarily Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan.
The United Nations had created the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to deal with the over 50 million refugees in the world. The Commissioner’s mandate included helping to resettle the refugees as permanent residents in the new lands to which they had moved. However, when it came to the Palestinian refugees that organization was considered unsuitable, since the Arab states did not agree to the resettlement of the new refugees in their lands. Instead, a new organization — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) — was created with a different mission, i.e., that of helping the refugees until such time when they could return to their lands. This also meant that unlike the UN Refugee Commission that only recognized the individuals who had themselves fled from one land to another, the refugee commission for Palestine chose to recognize all descendants as refugees themselves.
So today, 70 years later, the approximately 200,000 refugees who entered the Gaza Strip in 1948 has grown into a population of 1.5 million people. Most have been sustained by international aid — especially after they were no longer allowed to work in Israel, following the bombings of the Second Intifadah. Gaza has no economy to speak of, and no prospect for a better future which they can look forward to.
There have been innovative proposals made over the years to bring some relief to Gaza residents — e.g. construction of an offshore port and airport for Gaza (an outstanding idea that seems hopelessly bogged down in internal Israeli and Palestinian politics); or the purchase some land in Sinai from the Egyptian to settle some of those in Gaza (another idea that has gained no traction). However, doing nothing is not an option, some innovative solution to dramatically improve the lives of those in Gaza is imperative. Until one is found, the cycle of violence will continue. Israel will continue to prosper, even as its sons and daughters are drafted to spend the prime of their lives serving in the army, and the Palestinians will sink ever deeper into despair — a despair that is unquestionably dangerous for all.
I was about to go to sleep when the news just hit that General McMaster has been replaced with Bolton. McMaster is a General and a scholar of the Viet Nam War. Like most people who have actually been in the army and fought, he believed in doing everything you can short of going to war. Trump and Bolton have not been in the army. Bolton has been a strong supporter of using military force. He has proposed a preemptive strike on North Korea, and is a strong supporter of ending the Iran agreement.
I have to say sitting in Tel Aviv I really find this scary. I have been trying to understand why PM Netanyahu has been pushing at the moment to end the agreement. I understand he always thought it was a weak agreement, but the weakest part of it is that it partially sunsets in 8 more years. Why on earth would you force it to sunset now? With a US administration that is in chaos? With a US administration that is angered most of the world on what matter or another? With an administration that has just announced it is starting a trade war with China?
Just a late night rant- maybe now it makes sense why the Israeli government acknowledged our bombing of the Syrian reactor, despite the fact that the intelligence community thinks it was a bad idea- to show it can be done. Begin did it, Olmert did it now Bibi wants to do it. There was an article this week in Maariv that said the Bibi knows he will be indicted, he is just playing for time hoping for a miracle (or a war).
Three adults have left the administration in one week- Cohen, Tillerson and now McMaster. They are being replaced by people with less experience and knowledge whose main qualification is they know how to say yes to Trump.
Oddly tonight on the Israeli news Nadav Eyal did a piece on the Iraq War 15 years later, similar to what I wrote in my Newsweek column today and he was asked by Yaron London if there were anyone who still thought the war was a good idea- His answer John Bolton. Help….
I will stop writing and go to sleep, please excuse the typos-
hI have been working with Google since the first days. Some years I’ve loved them; some years I’ve hated them. I always found them capricious, making decisions they thought were good for users, without worrying about the consequences. I have grown to accept that thoughtlessness, although I still have real problems with their approach. I once got into a discussion with a Google executive who admitted their algorithm changes would hurt people who should not be hurt, but he explained the changes were made “for the greater good”. I could not convince him that Google (already a formidable company 10 years ago) had a responsibility to do all it could to limit that collateral damage — even if it cost them some money. He did not agree.
I have been part of that collateral damage, especially when they decided to give preference to newer content, a number of years ago. My website, historycentral.com is a history site that has been up on the web since 1995. With a swift change of the Google algorithm, suddenly people who had copied our content (i.e. plagiarized without permission or giving us credit) would rank in positions on the early search pages and we would not. I am over that slight from Google, with its added loss of brand recognition and advertising revenue. Over the years, we have slowly regained some our standing in Google search, but it has never again been as good as it once was.
Today, I decided Google is simply evil. They made a decision to remove the status of “Google partner” from all YouTube Channels that do not have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of viewing. Our channel had 3,950 hours of viewing last year and 600+ subscribers. Due to the nature of the channel, it is not the type of channel to which you would subscribe. I upload new videos only when I am working on new areas of history (although, on Monday, I did upload a 7-minute narrated video overview about the Holocaust that I created.) While I rewrote the World War II section on the site, I saw that this sort of piece was clearly missing.
I am not ultimately worried about the loss of revenue from YouTube. It has been getting continually smaller as YouTube via Google decide an increasing number of my videos are not “suitable content for advertising”. Advertising was removed a few months ago from our most watched video, a 20-minute summary of the Civil War, as has been the case with many historical videos.
Above all, it is the principle that makes me angry. Google is concerned that their crown jewel, i.e., advertising, is being tainted by content that is, or could be problematic. They know their precious algorithms are not good enough. As a result, they decided they needed to have people review the videos. Yet, now, all of a sudden, they decided that despite earlier announcements they were hiring 1000s of people to review all the channels, they chose instead to cut off 70% of the “smaller” sites, so now, their job just became significantly smaller. For them, the revenue the smaller sites bring in is insufficient to make the bother worthwhile. They are probably right. However, at what point does a company become so big and so powerful that it needs to be regulated as a utility? I do not have that answer, but we truly are nearing that point.
In the meantime, because I do not want to give up my status as YouTube partner yet, if you have a moment, please go to the channel and subscribe.
Today is Thanksgiving. It is the one American holiday that our family continues to celebrate in Israel. This year, as in most past years, the majority of the people attending the celebration will be friends of my daughter Tali. This time she did most of the cooking. My main responsibility was purchasing the turkey. Not as easy as it sounds. Supermarkets in Israel do not stock whole turkeys, and it required special effort to get my local market to order one. It is so rare that when I got to check out line, the woman manning the cash register called over the other workers to see something they had never seen before … a whole turkey.
Thanksgiving brings up happy memory of my youth. For all of my childhood and teen years we always went to the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by one of my Grand Aunts. They were big affairs with the large extended family in attendance. Everyone would bring something else, with my Grandmother making her lemon meringue pie, and my Grand-uncle Morris, a veteran of the US Navy (one of the first Jewish Naval officers) always being in charge of carving the turkey.
Remembering those events also reminds me a little of how I felt in the last few years I attended the event, as the year of my Aliyah and induction in the Israeli army came closer. I was so sure of myself then. I knew all the answers. I felt a little superior to some of my relatives, with my clear connection to Israel (at the time I was already working for the Jewish Agency). I remember giving a speech at a convention, a few weeks before we (myself and several friends) made Aliyah — the complete details of which I do not remember, but it was clearly a speech that represented my view at that time, which was the traditional “Shlilat HaGolah,” or negation of the diaspora.
Over the past 40 years, some of that time spent living here in Israel and some time in the US, my views have evolved. There was no question that 42 years ago when I first made Aliyah, I believed every Jew should move here. I really did not see any future for the Jewish diaspora. Today, I feel it’s not that simple. While from a national perspective, I still believe it would be great of all Jews moved to Israel, I know that that’s not going to happen and that this place that I have always called home — even when I did not live here — is not the right place for everyone. As to the future of the diaspora, it’s four decades later and the US Jewish community, despite what I thought then, is still going strong. Still the same concerns I had 40 years ago remain.
Which brings me to the events of the last two days. Yesterday I participated in an hour-long show on i24News, where the main guest was Morton Klein of the ZOA. My parents met each other at the young ZOA, and both were extremely active in that organization in their youth. For many years, throughout my childhood, my parents would go to monthly ZOA meetings, where they would have food, listen to a speaker and discuss events. Back then, ZOA was non-political, similar to Hadassah — a far cry from the very right-wing ZOA of today, whose annual dinner was attended by Steve Bannon. However, that is not what I want to write about now — nor do I want to write about the high salary the ZOA pays Klein as President. I guess I am just jealous that I was a lay President of a Jewish organization (a school) for nine years and never saw a cent.
What I want to talk about is the discussion we tried to have with Klein about the crisis in the relations between Israel and American Jewry. Interestingly, when asked directly, he said the Israeli government should have honored the Kotel agreement, it itself had negotiated, but he immediately pivoted and said he saw no problem with the relationship between American Jews and Israel. He stated that as soon as American Jews hear from him how murderous the Palestinians are they immediately support Israel. Leaving aside how absurd the statement itself is, the incredible one-dimensional nature of someone who has been working in the American Jewish community, as the head of the ZOA, for 23 years was breathtaking. To not recognize the breadth and depth of some of the problems between the two communities was astounding. Of course, other things he said and believes, for instance, that someone cannot be an antisemite if they like Israel, was equally mind-boggling (but that is for another discussion). Klein did mention that he has been writing a column every other week for Briebart — but…
What was just an interesting discussion on a TV show took center stage in the Israel political discourse, a few hours later, when on the same station that I had appeared, just a few hours earlier, deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely was interviewed on “The Rundown”. When asked about the problems in the relationship between American Jews and Israel, Hotovely took the Netanyahu line that the Israeli government was doing a great deal to ensure that non-orthodox Jews could pray as they wish at the Kotel. When pushed by anchor Nurit Ben, Hotovely made her fatal mistake by saying that American Jews cannot understand us — “since their children do not go into the army like our children do. They do not fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Being unqualified for her job, Hotovely had no idea that the claim she made is an old canard used by antisemites, claiming that Jews do not fight in the army. Of course, during the times of the draft in the US, that claim was just false — the Jews sent the highest percentage of soldiers to fight in World war II of any ethnic group and leaving apart the American Jews I know serving in the Armed forces, there is an element of truth. The US armed forces consist primarily of people from either the lower middle class or from families that have long traditions of service in the military. Neither of which are groups that Jews are generally a part. So, yes there was a grain of truth in what she said. There was an even greater truth in what she meant to say — or was trying to say — however awkwardly.
There is a gulf of understanding between those who go the army and those that do not. There is a gulf between those whose children have to go to the army and those that do not. I feel it personally, as the draft date for my youngest rapidly approaches. There can be no denying how it impacts the relationship between American Jews and Israelis, but that has always been the case. Whether it was in ’67, ’73 or any other point, that difference has always been very real. No, the problems in the relationship today have nothing to do with this unchanged reality, they have everything to do with the Kotel agreement the government failed to honor; Netanyahu’s embrace of Trump, when most of American Jewry hates him; the failure of the Israeli government to speak out promptly about antisemitic incidents in the US and other similar issues. There are many fundamental issues at work that nobody wants to even discuss — like what happens to a relationship that was fundamentally based on dependency, once the dependent party (Israel) is now strong and wealthy?
Of course, no one wants to discuss any of that …
Instead, everyone has called for Hotevely to be fired. I agree she should be fired because she is unqualified for the job — having no diplomatic experience and representing the extreme right-wing of the government, i.e., not really the type of person you want to effectively put in charge of the Foreign Ministry, but the careless half-truth she uttered last night is clearly not the reason.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this rant — Thanksgiving. Two days ago, Sarah Huckabee, the White House Press Secretary asked reporters to say what they were thankful for before asking questions. It was not an appropriate question, however, since one of the hats I wear puts me on the White House press list, I will answer that question — as someone who is a much less sure of myself than I was so many years ago at my grand-aunt’s house on Thanksgiving … I am thankful for the wonderful family that I have. I am blessed with a happy marriage and three wonderful grown children. I am also thankful that in this period before the twilight of my life, I have the opportunity to share my opinion on matters such as this, since other than the bored readers who have read through this piece, earlier tonight I had the chance to appear on Arabic TV and try to explain the Hotovely controversy to an Arabic speaking audience.