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April 20, 2018

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 20, 2018 PAGE 5A HERITAGE encourages readers to send in their opin- ions for the Viewpoint column. They must be signed; however, names will be withheld upon request. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit, if neces- sary. Opinions printed in Viewpoint do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the paper. Our time is desperate for civic education By Daniel H. Coultoff I should have read "Narra- tive of the Life of Frederick Douglasss, an American Slave" before I turned 50, in high school or college, as it is as vivid a portrait of American slavery, the almost immutable triumph of greed over con- science, and the dehumaniza- tion of both slave and master as one could ever read. I wonder about human na- ture, or make it my nature-- how much of my comfort would I give up for conscience? A question as old as Noah, the ambiguous"a good man for his age." Is the real insight that the triumph of conscience is the rarity, that a good society or epoch is the exception to a perpetual Hobbesian environ- ment where the strong abuse the weak, nobody stops the bully and fear of loss of sta- tion, standing and wealth pin otherwise decent people into going along with the system? "The Fragility of Goodness" by Tzevetan Todorov describes the rare societal uprising against evil; the Bulgarian Jews survived the Holocaust because the Bulgarians were the only Nazi occupied people to refuse a deportation order to send the Jews to the death camps. "Evil once introduced into public view it spreads easily, whereas goodness is temporary, difficult, rare and fragile." It takes otherwise flawed people to be brave enough, to have the courage of conscience, to stop its spread. We should ask why Doug- lass' "Narrative" is not read together in high school with Twain's "Huckleberry Finn." Does the exclusion of Dou- glass's "Narrative" illustrate our society's bias in favor of the progressive white (Twain's portrait of Huck kissing Jim's feet displays the nobleness to be found in a black slave) over the portrait of Douglass who emerged from slavery against all odds to intelligently and evocatively eviscerate any myths about slavery and black inferiority? While both "Narrative" and "Huckleberry Finn" are timeless in that they get at the heart of human character and societal nature, "Narra- tive" is especially relevant for our time. For example, listen to the ad hominem attacks and appeals to fear in our current immigration debate. Douglass describes being rented out by his owner to a Baltimore shipyard and observing that skilled blacks and whites worked together cooperatively for months until it was verbalized that more trades jobs for blacks meant fewer jobs for the whites. Douglass was then nearly beaten to death by a small group, as the majority of whites stayed silent. This particular Barnes & Noble edition of "Narra- tive" was also made more interesting by appending con- temporaneous 1845 reviews evidencing how American opinion makers perceived Douglass's portrait of evil. Some struggled with "Nar- rative" because Douglass, a black as formidable a rhetori- cian as the greatest orators of the time, attacked sacred in- stitutions, i.e churches that preached clothing the poor and uplifting the heathen, but lent theological support to slavery and dehumanizing blacks by even forbidding teaching reading. Douglass's epiphany was education, realizing that reading was important when overhearing his master ex- plain why it was dangerous to teach slaves to read. A meaningful tribute to Dou- glass would be to include books such as "Narrative" in our educational curricu- lum. "Narrative" reminds us where we were, teaches us the danger of dehumanization, awakens our consciences and causes us to think about our societal direction. In other words, this is civics and civics means a humane, function- ing republic. Our time is desperate for civic education, and our silence on educa- tional content enables the radical right and radical left to suppress speech, dictate content and otherwise defeat our American experiment of government by the people and for the people. Daniel Coultoff is one of the top rated business litiga- tion attorneys in Orlando, Fla. He specializes in con- struction law with Latham, Shuker, Eden & Beaufine, LLP. By Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS)--After eight years of dealing with an American president who considered establishing more "daylight" between the United States and Israel, the last 15 months has been a whole lot easier for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Unlike his predecessor, U.S. President Donald Trump doesn't think it's his duty to disregard the verdict of Israeli democracy and "save Israel from itself," or to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians i~ the vain hope that they will make peace. Trump's instinctual contempt for "experts" served him when he corrected a historic injustice on Jerusalem, as well as on his attempt to reverse President Barack Obama's appeasement of Iran. But this week, Netanyahu got a different view of the Trump presidency--and he didn't like it one bit. Ac- counts of a phone conversa- tion between the two leaders held last week following Trump's public declaration that he intended to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as soon as possible describe it as "tense." Like Trump's national- security team, the Israelis are alarmed by the prospect of the United States preparing to cut and run in the wake of the defeat of ISIS terrorists. The consequences of such a move are as ominous as they are obvious. Though the White House partially walked back his unscripted promise of a pullout, subsequent accounts of the behind-the-scenes dis- cussions report that Trump is adamant that all U.S. forces leave Syriawithin six months. That's consistent with the president's campaign prom- ises. While Trump pledged to defeat ISIS, he has always made it clear that he wants no part of "nation-building," a term he regards with almost as much hostility as "illegal immigration." The idea that America is being played for suckers by foreigners while domestic needs go begging is a quintessential Trump attitude and one that remains popular with a war-weary public. Yet it's also true that what Trump is planning on doing in Syria is virtually identi- cal to the same policies of Obama that he repeatedly condemned. In short, the rise of ISIS was made possible by two factors. First, Obama's decision to avoid enforcing that "red line" concerning Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemi- cal weapons was primarily motivated by his desire to avoid antagonizing Iran. The U.S. refusal to take action in Syria created a vacuum in that country that was matched by the one in Iraq after Obama precipitately withdrew all U.S. troops. With America eschewing the necessary (if dirty) work of rebuilding the areas it had reclaimed from terrorists, what Trump would now be doing is to replicate the same conditions that spawned ISIS on Obama's watch. Another U.S. bugout will mean ISIS or some new Islamist group would almost certainly rise again. That's bad enough, but the stakes in Syria are even higher now than they were a few years ago. Because second, Iran's successful intervention in the Syrian civil war has led to its establishing a military presence on Israel's north- ern border. Though Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate the creation of permanent Iranian bases, Tehran has continued to dig in despite occasional Israeli strikes intended to take out anti-aircraft installations or to interdict the transfer of Iranian weapons to its Hezbollah auxiliaries in Lebanon. Iran has acted with the acquiescence of Russia, which, thanks to Obama's decisions and now those of Trump, has become the pre-eminent power in the region. To date, Iranian adven- turism has been checked by the presence of U.S. and other coalition forces in Syria and Iraq, reinforced by the strength of Kurdish fighters who were a key element in defeating ISIS, A U.S. pullout will allow Iran to establish what will be for all intents and purposes a land bridge to Hezbollah and the Mediterra- nean. That will make Israel's northern border even more insecure. It will also leave the Kurds, who are under constant attack from Turkey, isolated and vulnerable. When Trump outlined the details of his "America First" foreign policy in December, his assurances that he would not let the terrorists or the Iranians get the upper hand or leave allies in the lurch proved encouraging. But if Trump's desire to abdicate U.S. responsibilities prevails over the justified concerns of his foreign-policy team--and his Israeli and Saudi al- lies-then all of the cogent criticisms he made about Obama's mistakes will apply with equal vigor to his own policies. A desire to avoid the per- plexing complexities of the long-term struggle against Islamists is understandable. So, too, is being wary of long-term commitments in conflicts that have no end game in sight. But the fight against Islamist terror is a generational war, rather than one that can be quickly ended by a military victory. Trump deserves great credit for un- leashing the U.S. military in a way that defeated ISIS after a stalemate under Obama. But if he pulls out of Syria without putting in place a nation-building force to ensure stability, then he will be throwing away his vic- Trump on page 15A By Matthew Finkelstein (JNS)--Being a Jew on left has become more and more difficult, and the ap- parent mainstream accep- tance of Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitic lies, rooted in hate, rightfully enraged our community. But as I learned by joining the Zioness Movement--a national group for progressive Zionists--the antidote to being dehuman- ized is that we must show our humanity. I have been bitter and angry, hell-bent on attacking anti- Semites and anti-Zionists. I was stuck in a shtetl mentality of helplessness and desperation with the feeling that the walls have been closing in on Ameri- can Jews; I'd thought that the way to liberation was outrage, and hammers to the walls and the people erecting them. Anti-Semitism is real, but the truth is that the walls the anti-Semites have been erect- ing are mostly in the minds of the Jews they target. That's where the biggest barrier is: the barrier to participation. If they can get us to feel that it's not safe to be ourselves in public, they know they've won. If they can reduce us to marginal reactionary anger, they've won. I about lost my lunch when Linda Sarsour, in essence, claimed that "Zionism and Feminism are incompatible." I remember how viscerally angry I was at the Chicago Dyke March, when three Jew- ish women were harassed and thrown out of the parade for daring to be proud LBGTQ Jews. Finally, when Tamika Mallory couldn't stop gushing over Farrakhan without so much as a word concerning his anti-Semitism, I became incensed. I've always set out to try and bring anti-Semitism itself into the limelight. I've highlighted as much as pos- sible and with much vitriol every single incident of anti- Semitism on the left to my fellow leftists. The thing is that this kind of activism creates a wall be- tween myself and the people I want to reach. The desire to attack anti-Semitism directly is important, but what I've learned through Zioness is that it's not the most effective framework to stop it from taking root. The best answer to anti- Semitism on the left is the as- sertion of progressive Zionist identity in complete solidarity as feminists, as gun-control advocates and in so many other progressive causes. It's to be a loud, proud, Zionist Jew in sincere solidarity with our progressive allies. I have seen this when marching with Zioness, most recently at the "March for Our Lives" in Sacramento, Calif where I helped lead a con- tingent. There were so many people who were surprised that Zioness existed, and the creation of that possibility contingent in their minds is the most powerful antiseptic to anti-Semitism conceiv- able. Imagine this. Until the moment they met us, many people didn't even believe that such a combination of progressivism and Zionism was possible, much less an inherent identity. And the effect of our pres- ence was two-fold: Many Zionists came up to us and gathered under our banner. The moments they spent with us meant the world to them. They left that space with a sense of empowerment and hope. We affirmed their identities, and they are better able to speak up for our com- mon causes as Zionists and progressives. Don't get me wrong; at- tacking and deconstructing anti-Semitism is important, but Zioness taught me one thing above anything else. The simple act of representing our shared identity and stand- ing with our shared values is far and away the more emo- tionally fulfilling, personally impactful, constructive and proactive way for an individuaI to fight anti-Semitism. It is the simple of act of fearlessly DryBones being ourselves in public, and sharing our identity and experiences as human beings. There is no antidote more po- tent to this dehumanization that's been on offer. There is nothing so potent as the radi- cal act of simply being who we are: progressive, Zionist and proud of it. If American Diaspora Jews are going to stop anti-Semitism ontheleft ifwewantto make sure that what is happening in the United Kingdom does not happen in the United States-- then Jews on the left cannot check our identity as Zionists at the door. Our people have a long history in fighting for and leading progressive change in America, andwe must continue to do this--as Jews, as Zionists and as Zionesses. Matthew Finkelstein is a Sacramento Zioness leader who has helped lead contin- gents in both the Women's March and the March For Our Lives. He is also a co-founder of the California Democrats for Peace and Justice.