Saturday, March 29, 2014

Historian Simon Schama Says “the Occupation” Will End Israel. By J.P. O’Malley.

Historian Simon Schama says “the occupation” will end Israel. By J.P. O’Malley. The Times of Israel, March 29, 2014.

Simon Schama Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story About Israel. By Aaron Goldstein. The American Spectator, April 2, 2014.


LONDON — Simon Schama loves a daunting challenge. In 2000 he completed the first part of what became a three volume book series about the history of Britain. It was accompanied by a TV show with the same name.
This month sees the British historian publishing a book in the US that takes on another epic historical subject. Released in the UK last year, “The Story of the Jews: Finding The Words 1000 BC-1492 AD” was also accompanied by an impressive BBC documentary series. This month it was aired again on PBS in the US in a two-part series ending April 1.
In the series Schama is shown at his family’s Passover seder; in Jerusalem, he notes that he celebrated his bar mitzvah nearby; and at a London synagogue, he explains how he feels when the Torah is brought out.
“This is the moment when Jews feel most Jewish,” Schama narrates. “The ark opens, the Torah scrolls . . . are held up and you smile. At least I always smile at the pure beauty of it all.”
This is not the first time Schama has documented Jewish history.
In 1978 the British Jew who grew up attending London’s Golders Green Synagogue wrote “Two Rothchilds and the Land of Israel.” But the author doesn’t consider it a success. “I was too close to the subject,” he says. “Maybe there were too many uncles and aunties in the way.”
But to try and understand the complexities of the Jewish story, for this book he decided to go back to the beginning. Not the mythical beginning of patriarchs and prophets who deliver messages from God. But one that involves archeological evidence.
So when did this arise? If we are to believe the men who scribed the Hebrew Bible, it was supposedly sometime around 1300 BCE, when Moses led the enslaved Israelites from Egypt into the desert mountains and towards the Holy Land.
But Schama’s book is intent on pointing out that much of the Bible is highly inaccurate, and some passages were written nearly 500 years after supposed historical events took place. In other words, the Scriptures, historically speaking, are most likely an echo of the truth, rather than a reflection of actual events.
“I certainly would stand by the claim that there is no documentary or archeological evidence of an Exodus [to Israel from Egyptian bondage] whatsoever,” says the 69-year-old Columbia University history professor from his home in New York.
“As a historian you have to leave the possibility open that there might be some basis of remembered truth in it. But the myth of the Exodus is exactly the same as the Iliad, or the Aeneid, in that there is a poetic truth behind it. It has also a fierce poetic grip on the Jewish imagination. But we have absolutely no evidence of it at all.”
Schama claims the first time the word Israel appears on any historical artifact is in the late-13th century BCE. It was mentioned on the triumphal inscription penned for Pharaoh Merneptah, which read: “Israel is laid waste . . . its seed is no more.” This hieroglyph, which today resides in a museum in Cairo, leaves no doubt that the word “Israel” was originally meant as a people, rather than a place, says Schama.
The historian spends an entire chapter of his book discussing the strange relationship between Israel and Egypt. It is impossible to see Jewish history as being inseparable from Egyptian history, he adds.
“Jewish presence in Egypt goes back to before the 5th century BCE. Prophets like Jeremiah forbid Jews from returning to the lowlands, but they kept going back there. Think about Judaism as somehow shaping itself between two different kinds of physical, as well as spiritual landscapes: the up mountain and the lowlands of the plain,” he explains.
“Those lowlands are often the river culture of the Nile. Judaism exists here rather than in the uplands hills of Judea. It’s just a long fact of Jewish history that it’s often in an Egyptian setting.”
For the first half of Schama’s narrative, he zones in on the relationship between religion and politics, a theme that has consistently dominated Jewish intellectual and spiritual history for millennia.
Schama also asks a key question: Has political power sustained piety or damaged it?
“That has a real ancient dialectic in Jewish life that goes way back to the upbraiding of King David,” Schama explains. “Both David and Solomon are depicted in the Bible as pure monarchs. Even though they play such an important part in the Bible. And that distinction, between political and military power on the one hand, and religious continuity on the other, for a long time was represented by making it impossible for religious kings to be high priests, unlike other surrounding religions.”
“In Mesopotamia, or, Egypt, for example, the monarch had a God-like religious status. But this is not the case in Judaism. So that notion that religion can go on, when all the markers of power, and trappings of monarchy disappear, ultimately, serves the endurance of Judaism very well.”
“The Jews invented a portable religion in the shape of the Bible, the Torah, and eventually the Talmud, and with other portable forms of writing. So it’s now possible to carry the religion that is embedded in that writing, away from the ruins of political and military power. It can lead you utterly defenseless, but also make for survival and endurance.”
Schama spends a great deal of time in the middle section of this current book discussing three crucial events that would ensure a permanent separation between Judaism and Christianity: when Jews referred to Jesus as Satan in the New Testament; when St. Paul moved the heart of Christian teaching from Christ’s life to his death, thereby implicating Jews in his murder; and when Christianity finally became the state religion of imperial Rome in 380 CE.
From these three crucial events arose the nasty myth, says Schama, of a beastly-Christ-killing-Jew, which began to dominate Christine doctrine.
In our conversation, I mention St. Paul’s vital role in stirring up anti-Semitism within Christian ideology. This is something Schama writes about in the book with great enthusiasm. But he is slightly skeptical of the subject today.
“I have been criticized about this point by many people and I accept some of the criticisms,” he admits. “In the book I’m a little harsh on St. Paul’s view. And I’m aware that there is a huge debate going on about whether Paul is ferociously determined to eradicate [Jews].
“We do now know that Paul really wanted to make a much cleaner separation between Jewish ritual practice, which all historians agree was sustained by all early Jewish Christians.”
Schama says it depends really on whether you think Paul is the formative shaper of Christian theology.
“That seems to me to be pretty undeniable. Perhaps I have overridden or misinterpreted that point. But St. Paul was making it impossible to be Jewish and Christian at the same time. What is very striking about those early Churches and communities is that you could be both. Under Paul though, you absolutely couldn’t.”
As we are having this conversation I get the feeling I’m keeping Schama from something. Then he tells me that he is currently in the process of writing the second volume of this massive compendium of Jewish history. He has already discussed parts of this in the TV series.
It covers the Medieval period of Jewish history, when Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain and began laying down roots in places like Turkey, Venice, and North Africa.
From there it will look into the flourishing of Jewish culture in Europe during the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century, to the near annihilation of it— via Nazi ideology— leading up to, and during World War II. The book will also spend considerable time analyzing the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Before we part company we begin discussing the trajectory of Jewish history to its present moment. As a British Jew who now lives in the US, is Schama always completely comfortable with Israel’s domestic and foreign policies?
He makes it clear that he is a committed Zionist, who believes 100 percent in a Jewish state, but not one that excludes Palestinians from having their homeland too. Nor is he keen on any Jewish state that makes Arabs live as refugees in their own country.
“I am passionately invested in the survival of Israel and everything Israel represents. But I am extremely critical of much of its policy,” says Schama unapologetically. “I believe that the occupation must end. And if it doesn’t, it will end Israel. I’m not in favor of settlements.
“I’m an old style Zionist. All my life I’ve always believed that a Jewish State and a Palestinian state should exist alongside each other. But that just puts me in common with large numbers of Israelis, who have an equally critical view. I believe in peace for land.
“But if you ask me: is the Iranian threat real? I would say yes. Does Hamas have to acknowledge the State of Israel for there to be peace? Yes it does.”

It’s OK to be Depressed. By Daniel Gordis.

It’s OK to be Depressed. By Daniel Gordis. Jerusalem Post, March 20, 2014. Also at

Daniel Gordis, Jeremy Ben-Ami Debate, Atlanta February 26, 2014. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Video. Daniel Gordis, March 12, 2014. YouTube. Full debate at Vimeo.


A few weeks ago, Jeremy Ben- Ami of J Street and I debated each other in Atlanta. It was labeled a “conversation,” but it was really a debate.
Very civil, more than a bit of humor, rather conversational and all that, but still a debate. (You can find the video on YouTube or Google.) Ben-Ami made his points, I made mine. Mine were very simple: He and I both want the same thing. He wants (I was willing to assume for the sake of the argument) a secure and Jewish State of Israel. So do I. He wants (no question about this one) a Palestinian state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I would be happy to see such a state (and would vote for significant territorial compromise) if it would mean an end to the conflict.
Though we disagreed about many things, there was one major point of contention that was more significant than all the rest. He’s convinced that a deal for a two-state solution is within reach, and I was, and remain, almost entirely certain that it’s utterly impossible.
So, for a good portion of the time, I laid out my case for why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not make a deal. He’ll never give up on the right of return. His refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a symptom of the sad fact that the Palestinians hate Israel (and let’s be honest, the Jews, too) far more than they care about themselves.
There’s the problem of Hamas and Gaza, and Abbas’s worry about Hamas potentially taking over. There’s the unpleasant fact that even if Abbas did agree, what happens when he or his successor is overthrown? What happens when Ramallah turns into Tahrir Square? Where will we be then? Nothing new in all these arguments – just a summary of what most people who think already know.
And then I sat down.
Then it was Ben-Ami’s turn to respond, and he made the most important comment of the entire evening. “I just find that so depressing,” he said. In not so many words, he was just saying that he cannot accept a world in which the options are so bleak – so he chooses to believe that there is a way out.
Because my view is depressing, it must be wrong.
It was the most significant comment of the evening, I thought, because it was also the most honest. What defines Israel’s position in the world today is a division not so much between those who care about Palestinians and those who don’t (though there are sadly many of the latter), not between those who tolerate the Jews and those who can’t stand them (though there are tragically a growing number of the latter), and not between those committed to a secure Israel and those who would be happy to see Israel crumble (though there are many of those, too).
The real divide is between those who can accept reality for what it is (with all the sadness thereunto appertaining), and those who cannot tolerate that bleakness – and therefore opt for delusion.
Take all the ostensibly fair-minded people who argue that Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is legitimate, indeed noble, because he is seeking to protect that status of non- Jews in Israel. It’s a clever argument, but also malevolently dishonest. Israel has defined itself as a Jewish state since the Declaration of Independence was adopted in May 1948, and a Basic Law of 1985 added the notion of “Jewish and democratic” (interestingly, the Declaration of Independence says nothing about Israel being a democracy, but that’s an issue for another time). But has that stopped Israel from appointing Arabs to the Supreme Court? From having three Arab parties represented in the Knesset? Does it stop Beduin women from becoming doctors in Israel? There is obviously much about the status of Arabs and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel that can and must be improved, but does anyone seriously believe that Abbas is holding out to accomplish that? Anyone fair-minded understands that Abbas will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state because once he does, he undermines the argument that the refugees must be returned. And he needs the return of the refugees to destroy Israel.
But that means that there’s no deal to be had, because Abbas won’t give up the fight, and Israel will not commit suicide.
Which is depressing for those who want a deal more than they like reality.
So now US Secretary of State John Kerry is telling Israel that it should give up on that demand. Why? Because it’s easier, and less depressing, for Kerry to tell Israel to be flexible – even at the risk of its very raison d’être – than to admit that he is going to fail.
Masks and pretense were for Purim, but Purim is behind us.
The world in which we live is an increasingly bleak place. But that does not mean that the solution is to pretend that matters are other than what they were. The US pretends that it is going to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but it is clear that it will not.
The international community pretends that it has the willpower to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist drive (the end of which one cannot even begin to imagine), when it is clear that America under US President Barack Obama is under a full-speed retreat from leadership. And the international community insists that if Israel budges just a bit on one issue or another, the Palestinians will make a deal, when it is clear that this is utterly myopic.
There is much that Israel has done wrong in recent years, and Israel’s administration has undoubtedly contributed to the Jewish state’s lonely place in the world today. But let us be honest about at least one thing, even in the face of the sobering – yes, depressing – reality we face.
The prime reason that Israel is so maligned is that it, alone, simply refuses to be part of the charade.

The Official Goal of BDS is Ending Israel, Not Just the ’67 Occupation. By M.J. Rosenberg.

The Official Goal of BDS is Ending Israel, Not Just the ’67 Occupation. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Huffington Post, March 26, 2014. Also at Tikkun.

Ultra-Orthodox Settlers Moving Into Heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Huffington Post, March 20, 2014.

Mondoweiss and Is Anti-Semitism Dead? By M.J. Rosenberg. Tikkun, March 16, 2014.

Why I Don’t Support the BDS Movement. By M.J. Rosenberg. Tikkun, February 21, 2014. Also at The Huffington Post.

M.J. Rosenberg’s Critique of BDS Movement. Partners for Progressive Israel, March 19, 2014.

I Need to Stop Reading Ali Abunimah’s Twitter Feed. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Garbanzo Annex, October 2013.


I stopped reading racist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim twitter feeds a long time ago and my life is so much better for it.
But, for some reason, I still read @aliabunimah although, to me, it is clear that he cannot stand Jews.
He gets worse and worse. Right now, his feed is one hateful tweet after another. Yeah, yeah, I know he is careful to scream about Israelis or Zionists and not Jews, but he doesn’t fool me. Or any Jew who doesn’t want to be fooled.
But there is one good thing about Ali Abunimah. There is a tendency among Jews on the left, including myself, to argue so vehemently that being anti-Israel does not make one an anti-Semite that we don’t notice when being anti-Israel coexists with anti-Semitism, that one just feeds the other. We should.
Bottom line: I believe that Ali Abunimah would be ecstatic if Israel was destroyed, blown off the face of the earth, along with every one of its people because, after all, the Jews in Palestine are, by definition, Zionists, even the kids. Settlers, colonialists, baby killers, torturers, invaders and all the other labels he uses that exempt no Jew in any part of Israel or Palestine.
So, thanks, Ali. As long as there are people around like you, I will never lull myself into believing that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past.  It isn’t.

MJ Rosenberg Rips Ali Abunimah for Antisemitism. By Brian Thomas (Brian of London). Israelly Cool, October 13, 2013.

BDS movement distilled – when Israeli soldiers not raping Arab women is racist. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, October 19, 2014. Includes MJ Rosenberg post attacking Ali Abunimah.

MJ Rosenberg owes Ali Abunimah an apology for false accusations of anti-Semitism. By David Samel. Mondoweiss, October 22, 2013.

Rosenberg [Mondoweiss]:

Lately I have been struck by the raw anti-semitism evinced on anti-Israel websites (most egregious example, Mondoweiss).
There is nothing novel about it. It’s not “the new anti-semitism” that the Anti-Defamation League likes to talk about. But the old kind, masquerading as anti-Zionism but manifesting itself as support or, at least, sympathy for every group or individual hostile to Jews: from Pat Buchanan to Hizbullah.
The only difference between this anti-semitism and the old-fashioned kind is that it has no impact. If you don’t visit Mondoweiss or other websites like it, you won’t know it exists. It threatens no one. It is just ugly. But ugly and irrelevant.
Still we would all be better off without it.
And that is why Jewish organizations should stop feeding it. The efforts by Jewish organizations to shut down free debate on Israel by banning anti-Israel speakers, closing down organization that support the BDS movement, or getting state legislatures to penalize universities that support it, does nothing except fuel anti-semitism.
Yes, I understand that anti-semitism usually exists apart from anything Jews do. (I don’t think the people posting at Mondoweiss would dislike Jews any less if Israel returned to the pre-’67 borders tomorrow or disestablished itself as a state.) But I believe that some hostility to Jews is caused by banning free discussion of issues relating to Israel. The act of stifling, of smothering, free inquiry can and often does ignite resentment and often hate. The BDS movement, and its supporters, has as much right to propagate its views on campus as Hillel or the Young Republicans. What does it signify when the only issue on campus where the censors are out on force is Israel? When did AIPAC, AJC and the ADL get an “Israel exemption” added to the First Amendment?
The Jewish community needs to end its politics of suppression. We should be the last people burning books and ideas.
As for the anti-semites, they will always exist no matter what Israel or Jews do. Right now there don’t appear to be very many of them (in this country, at least). We should do all we can to keep their numbers small and their impact nil.
If I avoid reading Mondoweiss, I’d hardly know they exist at all. But still, why give these people fuel?

An Alternative Model for Pro-Israel Liberals. By Evelyn Gordon.

An Alternative Model for Pro-Israel Liberals. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, March 28, 2014.

“J-Streetophobia” and Shutting Down the Debate. By Tom Wilson.

“J-Streetophobia” and Shutting Down the Debate. By Tom Wilson. Commentary, March 28, 2014.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like J Street? By Tom Wilson. Commentary, February 19, 2014.

Review: “The J Street Challenge.” By Jeff Dunetz. Truth Revolt, March 3, 2014.

J-Streetophobia, and the U.S. Jewish right’s hatred for American Jews. By Bradley Burston. Haaretz, March 25, 2014.

Philadelphia Feud Erupts Over Federation Embrace of Anti-J Street Film. By Nathan Guttman. The Jewish Daily Forward, March 26, 2014.

Anti-J Street documentary screened in Philadelphia. Israel Matzav, March 28, 2014.

J Street’s hypocrisy must be exposed. By Alan Dershowitz. Haaretz, March 27, 2014. Also at Elder of Ziyon.

Jews boo Dershowitz. By Stu Bykofsky. Philadelphia Daily News, March 30, 2014.

Lies, Damn Lies, and J Street. By Janet Tassel, NJBR, March 16, 2014.

The J Street Challenge: The Seductive Allure of Peace in Our Time. Florida premiere trailer. Video. The J Street Challenge. YouTube. Vimeo.

Mona Eltahawy’s opening remarks at J Street 2011. Video. ScarceMedia, February 27, 2011. YouTube.

America’s Useful Idiots. By Steve McCann.

America’s Useful Idiots. By Steve McCann. American Thinker, May 1, 2012.

Useful idiots, then and now. By Jeff Jacoby. Boston Globe, March 13, 2013.

“Useful Idiots.” By Thomas Sowell., August 31, 2000.

Useful idiot. Urban Dictionary.

Useful idiot. Wikipedia.

The Poor Palestinians. By Ted Belman.

The Poor Palestinians. By Ted Belman. American Thinker, February 12, 2012.

Condoleezza Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness and Lack of Leadership. By Stephen F. Hayes.

Condi Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness, Leadership. By Stephen F. Hayes. The Weekly Standard, March 27, 2014.

Condoleezza Rice blames Obama for “vacuum” that’s led to Putin. By Stephen Dinan. Washington Times, March 27, 2014.

Condi Rice lectures on war “weariness.” By Steve Benen. MSNBC, March 28, 2014.

The Fundamental Transformation of the Nation Rolls On. By Monica Crowley., February 25, 2014.

Why did Condi Rice blast Obama’s leadership “vacuum” now? Video. On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. Fox News, March 28, 2014. YouTube. Also at GretaWire.


“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.”
Rice – measured in tone, but very tough on substance – excoriated Obama administration policies without ever mentioning the president by name. She mocked the naïve hope that “international norms” would fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat and blasted the president for hiding behind the weariness of the public.
“I fully understand the sense of weariness. I fully understand that we must think: ‘Us, again?’ I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we’ve been vigilant against terrorism. I know that it’s hard. But leaders can’t afford to get tired. Leaders can’t afford to be weary.”
Rice’s speech was the highlight of an evening that brought in $15.1 million for House Republicans. The former secretary of state has mostly limited her political appearances since leaving office to major events. She delivered a well-received speech at a donor event that Mitt Romney held in Park City, Utah, in 2012 and addressed the Republican National Convention in Tampa that summer. But those familiar with her thinking say she’s determined to help Republicans pick up the Senate and maintain the House heading into the 2016 presidential elections.
House majority whip Kevin McCarthy introduced Rice and raised the prospect that she might become even more involved in politics in two years. After listing various prestigious positions she’s held, he noted, “There’s one thing that’s not on her resume and I want her to put her mind to it to resolve that in 2016.”
Rice has downplayed those suggestions and there’s little reason to believe she’s angling for a run. Still, she has been increasingly active on behalf of her fellow Republicans. Earlier this month, Rice spoke at a Kentucky fundraiser for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and the spring convention for the California Republican party. Rice appeared in an ad touting Alaska Senate hopeful and Marine reservist Dan Sullivan, a spot paid for by Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads. In the coming months, she will make appearances for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Rice began her speech Wednesday with something of a civics lesson, praising the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution for the limits they placed on government and noting that Americans, despite being the “most individualistic people on this earth, are also the most philanthropic and communitarian.” Rice trundled through well-worn Republican lines on lower taxes and less regulation before once again touting the American system for its recognition of a “vast private space into which the government should not intrude” and a “personal space, where we respect each others’ choices.”
Before turning to foreign policy, Rice urged the crowd, including many Republican House members, to keep America a “nation of immigrants” and strafed liberals who send their kids to private schools but write New York Times op-eds claiming that school choice will ruin public schools.
But the most powerful part of her speech came when Rice expressed her frustration with Obama on national security. “As Ronald Reagan said: Peace only comes through strength,” she recalled.
“So, what are we doing? What are we doing when our defense budget is so small that our military starts to tell us that we may not be able to carry out all of the requirements put upon it? What are we doing, when a couple of weeks before Russia invades Crimea we announce that we are going to have an Army smaller than at any time since the Revolutionary – I’m sorry, not the Revolutionary War, but World War II. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we signaling when we say that America is no longer ready to stand in the defense of freedom?”


We have seen this movie before and it doesn't end well . . . for us or for the rest of the freedom-loving world. When the U.S. is weak or perceived as weak, the wheels come off the world. The bad guys advance, the good guys retreat, and major violent conflagrations are never far behind.
The “fundamental transformation of the nation” of which Obama spoke in 2008 has three major components: moving America from individual liberty to government dependency and collectivism, from capitalism to socialism, and from superpower status to also-ran status.
Gutting the military, which was well underway before Hagel’s announcement yesterday, is another critical part of that transformation. The extremist Left has always wanted to take America down a notch or two . . . or ten. Hollowing out America’s armed services while ceding global power to our enemies is the fastest and most efficient way to do that.

Campus Brownshirts on the March. By Caroline Glick.

Campus Brownshirts on the March. By Caroline Glick. Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2014. Also at