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August 2, 2013

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PAGE 4A By Ben Cohen HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 2, 2013 I I Kerry must end the 'Israel-is-to-blame' game Which aspect of Secretary of State John Kerry's repetition of the Arab position last week, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the root of Middle Eastern instability, is more remarkable? The fact that Kerry could actually say such a thing, or the fact that, with the exception of the Weekly Standard, such an extraordinary claim could pass almost unnoticed in a media landscape that is rarely short of opinions about the region? Let's first revisit what Kerry said. After talks in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and his colleagues, Kerry waxed lyrically as follows: "Peace is in the common interest of everybody in this region. And as many ministers said to me today in the meet- ing that we had--many of them--theysaid thatthe core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict." Think, for a moment, about tlat clause "in this region and in many other parts of the world..." During a week in which the total number of deaths accumulated during the civil war in Syria approached 93,000, there is something almost obscene about depicting the Israeli-'Palestinian conflict as the source of regional instability. Even more breathtaking is the follow on about other regions around the globe. I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impacts the ter- rorist militias on the Colombian-Venezuelan border who are making millions of dollars out of cocaine trafficking, or how it influ- ences Chinese repression in Tibet, or whether three instead of four million people would have perished in the Democratic Republic of Congo's myriad wars had, ' you know, those pesky Israelis stopped building settlements in the West Bank. I do, however, understand why Kerry made this statement. The State Department needs to place the best possible spin on the announce- ment that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are to resume after more than two years of gloomy Silence. Never mind that Hamas hasalready said that the PA has no legitimate right to conduct negotiations. Never mind that, almost as soon as Kerry made. his announcement, rumors began circulating that the PA-is renewing its insistence on placing preconditions on Israel before entering talks. Never mind that other countries in the region are too preoccupied with the crisis in Egypt to get overly excited about another photo opportunity involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. You must have faith, ladies and gentlemen, that this is the only show in town, the key to the puzzle, the path to transforming the Middle East. There's another way of describing this situ- ation. Faced with the brutality and complexity of the Middle East's other, larger conflicts, western policy has been emasculated. Another intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian arena is therefore all the more attractive, because-- irony of ironies--it is the one aspect of the Middle East today that looks manageable, and can thus distract attention from the west's shameful do-nothing record in the face of the massacres in Syria. Here's another irony: the primary reason, it looks that way is because Israel, a stable democracy and reliable western ally, is the one party to the conflict that can be relied upon to be cooperative. Israelis are rightly skeptical that their little corner of the world is of almost metaphysical significance to the future of the international order, but they also grasp that a renewed peace process is in their interest. As Finance Minister Yair Lapid pointed out last weekend, Israel isn't looking for a happy mar- riage with the Palestinians, but a fair divoice. And a fair divorce means that Israel can finally place responsibility for governing the Palestin- ians on the Palestinians themselves. Moreover, if the world wants evidence of Israel's decent intentions, look no-further than the announcement from Yuval Steinitz, the minister in charge of the country's intel- ligence and strategic affairs portfolio, that the government is willing to release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners, some of them convicted for monstrous terrorist crimes, in order to smooth the way for negotiations. Which brings me to the last irony: Kerry was said to be furious that a potential monkey wrench in the works emerged from an unex- pected source, in the form of the European Union (EU). The EU believes that Israel must be pressed into concessions, which is why, a few days before Kerry announced what he hopes will be a breakthrough, it issued new guidelines stating that any Israeli "entity" that wishes to be considered for funding or other opportunities must have no direct or indirect links with those Jewish communities established in the territories that came under Israeli control after the 1967 war. That doesn't just refer to the West Bank. It refers to the eastern half of the city of Jeru- salem, Israel's capital. And it refers as well to theolan Heights, whicl the EU apparently wants to return to its rightful owner, the bloodstained dictatorship of Bashar al Assad in Damascus. With this measure, as well'as its earlier decision to separately label produce from settlements in Judea and Samaria--in effect, a moral health warning aimed at European. consumers--the EU is demanding that Israel return to its 1949 armistice lines before nego- tiations even begin. Any flexibility that Kerry and his team might desire on the Palestinian side will, as a consequence, be that much more limited, since the PA can now retort that while Washington might not fully grasp the justice of its cause, Brussels certainly does. Herein lies the risk of renewed peace talks: The Palestinians derail them, much as they" did with previous attempts launched by the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, and the Israelis get the blame. That's why John Kerry should be mak- ing it clear to the Europeans that the U.S. will not tolerate any EU punitive measures against Israel, should the talks collapse. And he should also make clear that final borders would be addressed at any negotiations, not inadvance of them. Frankly, given the warm welcome Israel has given his peace initiative, it's the least he can do. Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Com- mentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications. Point: Kosher slaughter ban shows Poland has a Jewish problem By Lawrence Grossman NEW YORK (JTA)--The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, has a Jewish problem. In a painful affront to the Jewish community, it recently defeated a government initiative to reinstate the legality of kosher slaughter of animals. This prompted Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich,to threaten resignation and triggered sharp criticism of the Sejm from Jewish communities in Poland and around the world. What happens in Poland regarding Jews has special significance because of the Holo- Caust. More than 90 percent of the country's 3.5 million Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation. Poland began legislating against kosher slaughter in 1936, and once the Ger- mans occupied the country three years later, the practice was banned entirely. Since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, however, Jewish life in Poland has undergone a rmarkable, and previously unimaginable, renaissance. Full recognition of the rights of Jews to practice their faithm including kosher slaughter--was enshrined in an agreement the government signed with the Jewish community in 2004. Indeed, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, addressing an overflow crowd at the American Jewish Committee's Global Forum in Washington in June, declared his country's historic responsibility to ensure "that today's Jewish community in Poland is safe, welcome and respected." He honored Poland's Jewish community "not just for how it died, but for how it lives, and how it is coming back to life." When legislation was adopted a few years ago mandating the use of electronic stunning equipment before an animal is killed--a prac- tice prohibited under Jewish law--the Jewish community was granted an administrative exemption. In January, however, a court ruled the exemption unconstitutional. Alleged viola- tions of animal rights trumped age-old Jewish religious practice. Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government framed legislation to override the" court de- cision. What should have been a fairly easy corrective measure was instead defeated on July 12 by a vote of 222 to 178, leaving in place the judicial ban. Thirty-eight Sejm members representing Tusk's ruling Civic Platform party joined with the opposition in voting to outlaw ritual slaughter. In Poland, this was viewed as a major victory for animal rights advocates, as their views prevailed against the nation's farmers and meatpackers, who had developed a lively business exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim countries. Jews, however, see matters quite differently. From their perspective, the Sejm's action stigmatizing kosher slaughter as inhumare blatantly contradicts Foreign Minister Ra- doslaw Sikorski's pledge to make Jews "safe, welcome and respected." They point out that kosher slaughter--whereby the animal is rendered immediately unconscious by severing the carotid artery--is humane, and that the continued legality of hunting in Poland, which results in far greater and more indiscriminate pain to animals, suggests there may in fact be another, unstated reason for outlawing kosher slaughter: anti-Semitism. In the wake of the Sejmvote, pejorative com- ments about Jews in some of the Polish media and online give some credence to these fears. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident. The situation for European Jews looks even grimmer in a broader context. Just a few Grossman on page 15A Counterpoint: Polish democracy may make missteps, but goal of good Jewish relations remains clear By Tad Taube SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)--For the past decade, the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture and I myself, as Poland's honorary consul in the Bay Area, have been involved directly in furthering the renaissance of Jew- ish life in Poland. The renaissance is viewed as a "miracle" in Poland and around the world. At my foundation, we receive communica- tions every day from all corners of the globe congratulating and thanking us for our leader- ship in the rebirth of Jewish life and culture in Poland. The renaissance is not just a .Jewish one; it is really Poland's renaissance, as it shakes off centuries of foreign domination and reinvents itself'as a free, prosperous and vibrant demo- cratic nation. The transition from authoritar- ian rule to a true democracy that safeguards the rights of its Jewish citizens and other religious minorities has been a journey of a thousand steps over the last two decades, and we are proud of the outcome. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.  . CENTRAL FLORIDA'S INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at'Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-878"1 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman Joan Lauer emaih Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky But like the democratic process anywhere, it does not always move in simple, straight lines. We at the Taube Foundation regard the current legal debate about ritual slaughter as a moment in that complex process of reinven- tion and democratic evolution. Last month's legislative decision prohibiting ritual slaughter for large-scale commercial and export use has raised questions about Jewish and Muslim rights to maintain access to kosher meat. As the chief rabbi of Poland has assured us, and as the Polish press is reporting, the parliamentarians' vote was not driven by anti-Semitism. The vote was made both to support animal rights and to eliminate large-scale commercial and export sales, not to infringe upon the right of Poland's Jewish citizens to have kosher meat or of its Muslim citizens to have halal meat. The vote was based on the conviction that the Jewish community would be able to practice shechitah and acquire kosher meat as prom- ised in a 1997 law protecting Jewish r.eligious rights.In fact, as this is being written, a group of Jewish and Muslim leaders meeting with the government has been advised by the minister of administration, who is responsible for re- ligious affairs, to petition the Constitutional Court for legal protection. There is no one within the hierarchy of the Polish government leadership that is not committed to maintaining shechitah. The 1997 Law on the Relationship between Poland and its Jewish Communities guarantees these rights. But now, as there are potential conflicts with the new law, they need to be sorted out by the Constitutional Court. Some within the Jewish media or within the Jewish leadership (primarily outside of Poland) are claiming the vote represents a resurgence of anti-Semitism. This is a mischaracterization of the situation and, by injecting the anti- Semitism perspective, may be harmful to the Polish-Jewish relationship. We must remember that Poland is one of Israel's closest allies in the European Union and that thousands of Polish youngsters travel annually to Israel, while thousands of Israeli-andAmerican Jewish youngsters visit Poland. We at the Taube Foundation, along with our key partner, the Koret Foundation, are proud to be part of these many achievements. The capstone of our work is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (or the Museum of the Jewish People, as I like to call it), a world-class cultural institution that uses cutting-edge concepts and technology to present the epic story of Poland's Jewish millennium. The Poles, through their Ministry of Culture and the city of Warsaw, financed the capital campaign of this $120 million miracle, and the. newly opened facility has exceeded all expectations. Taube on page 15A