It is easy to blame the activists on the flotilla. They sought to embarrass Israel and drive worldwide attention to the situation in Gaza.
It is also easy to blame the Israeli military. Israel was determined to stop the flotilla. And the Israel Defense Forces apparently failed to anticipate the type of confrontation that occurred after commandos rappelled onto the Mavi Marmara.
The world splits roughly between those who denounce Israel from a religious or ideological base, and those who denounce Israel because they are tired of defending Western civilization to which they are heir but aren’t sure why they should care (and those who bash Israel as a cover for their own anti-Semitism). The tired and the impatient might be slightly moved by better PR on Israel’s part, and OK, why not? But the others don’t care, and those are the ones Israel fights.
Sitting on a train approaching Manchester, England, recently, my friend Arron and I leafed through a copy of MetroNews — Britain’s biggest free paper — and came across an article about recent violence in Jerusalem caused by the latest settlement controversy.
I began to read the article aloud, nonchalantly voicing the words “Israel” and “Palestinians” as they passed by in the sentence.
As a longtime supporter of programming for Birthright Israel alumni and a current member of the Birthright Israel NEXT board of directors, I feel compelled, as I work with board chair Al Levitt and my friend Lynn Schusterman, to advance NEXT and its vision, to set the record straight about our largest and most long-running alumni program here in New York.
Rav Hershel Schachter, eminent Torah scholar and leading figure at Yeshiva University, recently issued fighting words. The ordination of women as rabbis is such a serious infraction of Jewish law, he insisted, that it technically falls under the rubric of “Yehareg Ve-al Ya’avor” — one should sooner be killed than violate the law.
Fifteen rabbis go the White House for a meeting. Were the destination not the Roosevelt Room to discuss the nature of American-Israeli relations this could be the opening line of a joke with a punchline I have yet to write. But indeed it was a meeting that was taken very seriously by all who attended. My colleague and friend, Jack Moline of Alexandria, Virginia, arranged the meeting and put together a diverse representative cross-section of rabbis from across the country, from all movements and different kinds of congregations.
I was greeted on a recent morning with an email from Amazon.com recommending three books, two of which are notorious anti-Semitic tracts: "The International Jew: The World's Most Foremost Problem" by Henry Ford and "The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion." Why? Because Amazon accurately reminds me that I had purchased the 25th anniversary paperback edition of "The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine" by Edwin Black.
Although best known for founding the left-wing Rabbis for Human Rights, Rabbi David Forman defied ideological pigeonholing.
Over lunch several years ago, across a table at a Manhattan kosher restaurant from a middle-aged rabbi with a graying beard, large knit kipa and critical opinions about the spiritual life of most American Jews, I told my guest to ‘fess up.
“You can tell me the truth,” I said to Rabbi David Forman. “You’re really an Orthodox rabbi.”
President Obama’s recent public willingness to apply pressure on Israel is the latest step down a long road of increasing ideological discomfort for America’s Jewish community. Once upon a time, you could be a typical liberal Jew and be a Zionist without much internal conflict. Israel was the socialist underdog. While Jews still overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic ticket — 78 percent of them voted for Obama — Israel has increasingly become anathema in liberal circles.