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June 1, 2018

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 1, 2018 By Jonathan S. Tobin with the treatment they've been getting from the government led by Israeli Prime Minister (JNS) What do you do about a relative who Benjamin Netanyahu. But before U.S. Jews loves you but won't listen to your concerns? respond with anger to what seem seems like That's the likely American Jewish reaction cognitive dissonance, as well as what they to news about a new poll of Israeli opinion might perceive as a lack of respect, they need that signals both good and bad news to those to seriously ponder the reasons why Israelis who care about the relationship between Israel are saying this. and the Diaspora. The answer is complicated and is, at least Thegoodnewsisthatoverwhelmingmajori- in part, based on the vastly different experi- ties of Israeli Jews believe that they are part of ences and cultures of the two communities. one Jewish people, rather than only possessing It's also a function of the lingering power of an Israeli (as opposed to fully Jewish) identity, classical Zionist thinking about the negation They think that American Jewish support "is of the Diaspora and a lack of confidence in essential" for their security, and that a"strong the staying power of the rapidly assimilating and thriving" U.S. Jewry is important for non-Orthodox Jewish majority in America. It Israel's future. They also believe that Israeli may also have to do with what many Israelis and American Jews share a common destiny understandably think of as American Jewish and consider themselves "responsible for one ignorance and na'ivet~ about the conflict with another's welfare." the Palestinians. The bad news, atleastfromthepointofview The survey, "Together and Apart: Israeli of many American Jews, is that most Israelis Jews' Views on their Relationship to American told pollsters that they don't think their gov- Jews and Religious Pluralism," was commis- ernment should take the views of Americans sioned by UJA-Federation of New York. It was into account when deciding on issues like the conductedbyStevenM.CohenofHebrewUnion status of the Reform and Conservative move- College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a widely ments in Israel, prayer at the Western Wall or respected sociologist who has done important the question of recognizing conversions to research about the demographic implosion of Judaism. Even larger majorities of Israelis feel non-Orthodox Jews in the United States. that their government shouldn't take theviews The chief problem is that some in the United of American Jewish leaders into account when States continue to ignore the political context makingdecisionsaboutthepeaceprocesswith of the widening divide between Israel and the the Palestinians or about building settlements Diaspora.As Cohen discovered, the majority of in the West Bank. Israelis who support the parties that make up How is it possible for Israeli Jews to feel the Netanyahu government strongly support such a strong sense of solidarity with their the idea of a common Jewish peoplehood and American brethren and yet simultaneously destiny, but also seem to have no patience show no deference to their views about crucial with Americans whose views on religion and issues? That question infuriates many Ameri- security issues show no comprehension of can Jewish leaders, who are deeply frustrated Israeli realities on the ground. And when U.S. Jewish leaders make demands--however just they may seem to them--about religious issues while also grandstanding about the conflict with the Palestinians in a way that is bound to alienate most Israelis, the result becomes a growing disinterest in the views of Americans. American Jews are less likely to meekly accept the notion that Diaspora Jewish life is inherently inferior to that of Israel than they were in the past. Part of that has to do with the existence of a large community of Israelis who live in the United States. But it's also the product of the barrage of attacks on Israel by a Jewish left that is increasingly divided not only about the wisdom of its government's policies, but about Zionism. What this has produced is not just Israelis believing thatAmerican Jews are, at best, well- wishing outsiders who don't have skin in the game with respect to how Israeli society func- tions or the challenges posed to its security. They also see the attempt of Diaspora Jewish leaders to dictate to them on these issues as particularly inappropriate because of what they not unreasonably perceive as the failures of the U.S. Jewish community. Yet many of those Israelis who applauded Netanyahu's appalling flip -flop on the Western Wall compromise proposed by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky have little un- derstanding of the centrality of Reform and Conservative Judaism in American Jewish life. They also need to come to grips with the glaring contradiction in a viewpoint that embraces solidarity with American Jews, but which treats their approach to Judaism and their desire for their rabbis to be accorded respect as not worthy of their consideration. At the same time, it simply won't work for Di- aspora Jews to pretend as if those movements aren't viewed as primarily foreign imports with negligible followings that have little meaning to most Israelis. Nor can it be ignored that the way the response from many left-wing Jews to issues such as violence along the border with Gaza, opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and the moving of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem--all of which represented a strong favorable consensus of Israeli opinion--influ- ences Israelis. Americans who demonstrate so little understanding of Israel that mourn- ing dead Hamas terrorists or resisting U.S. President Donald Trump supersedes defending Israeli rights and security cannot be surprised when Israelis tell them to keep their opinions to themselves. The response to this split shouldn't be a growing chorus of recriminations from both sides. If the dialogue can be conducted with less delegitimization and more respect, it may be possible for everyone to realize that more conflict is in no one's interest. What is needed is for Jews inside and outside Israel to be reminded that they are part of a family that depends on each other--and not members of hostile tribes. Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS--Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans tobin. By Morton Klein out and eating Jews' hearts and livers. Hamas leader Yehia al-Sinwar "rallied" the Gazan Zionist Organization of America president rioters/troops by proclaiming: "We will tear It's painfullyshockingthatAnti-Defamation down the border [with Israel] and we will tear League head Jonathan Greenblatt recently out their hearts from their bodies," and "we wrote on ADL's website: "it is a horrific trag- will eat the livers of the Israelis." edy that so many people have been killed and The Nazi-like Hamas Charter calls for the wounded attheGazaborder."("ADLStatement murder of every Jew and the destruction of on Violence at Israel-Gaza Border," May 15, the Jewish State of Israel. Hamas named its 2018.) This broad statement was not limited violent actions on the Gazaborder"The March tothetinyminoritywhowerenotmembersof of Return," openly stating the goal was to a terrorist group. (And even that small minor- "return" millions of descendants of Arabs to ity joined the violent riots whose goal was to Israel to end the existence of the Jewish State. breach Israel's border fence to descend upon Hamas and PIJ also harm their own people: nearby Jewish communities, schools, and day Hamas-organized Gazan rioters vandalized care centers--and all of Israel--to murder in- and set fire to the Kerem Shalom humani- nocent Jews.) Thus, we must ask, how is the tarian crossing, and destroyed gas pipelines deathofmostlyHamasandPalestinianIslamic from Israel that bring humanitarian aid to Jihad terrorists a "horrific tragedy?" In fact, Gaza's residents. the deaths of these terrorists prevented a real Even Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al- "horrific tragedy'--the murder of thousands Zahhar admitted that calling the Gaza violent of innocent Jews who would have been slain if onslaught"peaceful" is a deception. AI-Zahhar Hamas' violent rioters had succeeded, told Al Jazeera: "When we talk about'peaceful Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil and PIJ resistance,' we are deceiving the public." ("Se- have admitted that 85 percent of the recent nior Hamas Official Mahmoud AI-Zahhar on Gaza fatalities (50 Hamas plus 3 PIJ, out of GazaProtests:This IsNot Peaceful Resistance, 62 total) were their own terrorist operatives. It Is Supported by Our Weapons," MEMRI Clip These terrorists were hurling pipe bombs, No. 6573, May 13, 2018.) boulders, grenades and Moiotov cocktails; car- Thousands of innocent Israelis who live near rying machetes; shooting at Israelis; rushing theGazaborder--aswellasthoselivingfurther with wire cutters and planting bombs at the away--are in danger of being slaughtered if border fence; and destroying Israeli farms with Hamas succeeds. arson-terror kites emblazoned with swastikas. After Israel did everything humanly possible Swastika flags and banners were everywhere, to avoid fatalities (including using tear gas, These were Islamic terrorists committed to brutallymurderingeveryJew, andeventearing ZOA on page 15A THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 46 Press Awards EWlSH NEWS HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX(407) 831-0507 Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor News Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Christine DeSouza Society Editor Office Manager Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Kim Fischer Marci Gaeser Con~'ibuting Columnists Jim Shipley * Mel Pearlman David Bornstein * Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Gil Dombrosky Joyce Gore By Ben Cohen (JNS)--In a welcome statement issued this week, the U.S. State Department drew attention to the continuing persecution of the small Baha'i religious minority in Yemen by Iran-backed Shi'a rebels. The rebel Houthis "have targeted the Baha'i community in inflammatory speech along with a wave of detentions, 'court summons,' and punishment without a fair or transparent legal process," the statement ob- served. These and similar actions over the past 12 months "appear to be an effort to pressure Yemeni Baha'is to recant their faith." Like the Yezidi and Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East, followers of the Baha'i faith have experienced horrendous persecution at the hands of Islamists--in their specific case, the Shi'a disciples of Ayatollah Khomeini who have ruled Iran since 1979 and who zealously police the country's non- Muslims. That means evangelical Christian pastors regularly dicing with death and im- prisonment-and it means exactly the same for those who worship according to the beliefs and traditions of the Bahai's. Yet unlike those Iranians who leave Islam for its Christian antecedent, the "original sin" of the Bahai's in the eyes of the mullahs is to be a religion of the modern world. Its Persian founder Bahfi'u'll~h, who lived during the mid-19th century, is presented by followers of this respectful and universalistic faith as the culmination of a chain of "Divine Mani- festations" that connected ancient prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Given Iran's growing military presence across vast swathes of the Middle East--from northern Syria to the Gulf of Aden--it should not come as a surprise that the Tehran re- gime's proxies in Yemen are reproducing the systematic persecution of Bahai's. As Abdullah A10ulofy, a representative of the Baha'i com- munity in the capital city of Sana'a, explained it to the UAE news outlet The National: "Iran discriminates against the group, which was born in Shiraz in Iran in 1844. So, the Houthis do as the Iranians do." In dutifully aping their Iranian paymasters, the Shi'a rebels in Yemen have added a twist of anti-Semitism on top of the long-established slander that the Bahai's are a "Satanic" faith. In a televised address in March, the leader of the rebels, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, depicted the Baha'is as a "devilish tool" of Zionism, whose goal is to eliminate Islam. "Baha'ism is bred by Israel and supported by Israel and the Western states," he railed. Within days of that incendiary speech, other Shi'a religious leaders--like the Iranian-appointed Mufti of Yemen, Shams al-Din Muhammad Sharaf al- Din--started talkingopenly about "butcher- ing every Baha'i." That threat should not be taken lightly. The linkage between the Bahai's and Israel is not entirely fabricated, of course. Bahgu'll~h's tomb is located in Akko, with the magnificent Baha'i World Center on the slopes of Haifa's Mount Carmel nearby. But Bahgu'llfih's pres- ence in the Holy Land was the consequence of his clashes with Islamic authorities to the north and east, rather than a voluntary pil- grimage on his part. In 1853, he was driven out of Persia into Turkey, and later deported by the Ottomans to Akko, at the time a penal colony. He died there in 1892, and leadership of the faith passed first to his son, and after that, to his close follower, Shoghi Effendi, who went on to cement Israel as the administrative and spiritual center of the Baha'i faith. Yet most Bahai's do not live in Israel. The biggest population of nearly 2 million is located in India, and there are sizable Baha'i communities in the United States and East Africa, as well as in Iran, the cradle of the faith. In that sense, their brutal Shi'a persecutors might be said to have missed the irony here: For the Bahai's, Israel comes into the frame first as a land of exile, rather than the site of their national or spiritual redemption, as is the case for the Jews. Since 1948--when the Haganah ensured that the Baha'i sites in Akko and Haifa were protected from fighting during the War of Independence--the Baha'i Center has quietly flourished in Israel, deliberately staying out of the country's political and national disputes. No reasoned observer, therefore, could depict the religion as somehow aligned with political Zionism or Israeli policy, and because Israel is a liberal democracy, there is no such require- ment mandated by the Israeli authorities to begin with. Iran's rulers live by a different conception of the truth, and so for them, details such as these are trifling. But that rather handily dem- onstrates the vast gulf between the Western notion of religious affiliation as a matter for the individual conscience--without which minority faiths could not hope to survive-- and the Islamist insistence that religion is, before anything else, a tool for mass political mobilization. In those circumstances, as the Jews of the Middle East know only too well, the lot of reli- gious minorities is necessarily a miserable one. Ben Cohen writes a weekly column for JNS on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commen- tary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications.