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August 17, 2012

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AGE 4A By David Suissa . There are two ways to look at the Obama administration's decision to exclude Israel from its global anti-terrorism initiative. If you recall, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Istanbul last month to convene the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the group of invitees included 29 countries and the Euro- pean Union--but not Israel. ,On the surface, this makes no sense: It'd be likehaving a global conference on social networking and not inviting Facebook. Seri- Hiding Israel ously, is there any country in the world that has more experience fighting terrorism than Israel? But if you listen to the U.S. State Depart- ment, this was all for Israel's good. In a calm and reasoned piece in Atlantic mgazine, Zvika Krieger, senior vice president of The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and a Shalhevet alumni, writes: "The State Department found itself in a bind: Israel, one of the world's foremost experts in fighting terrorism and a key U.S. ally on that front, would seem to be a natural candidate How fit of Mitt to choose the Jews face it: Jews may not be more chauvinistic than any other ethnic group, butwe're certainly not any less. And deep down, most of us believe in Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism.What started in the Bible with the notion of the "chosen people" (however you interpret that concept) continues today with pride in our own outsize accomplishments• Sacks writes how Jews have become-"out of • allproportiontotheirnumbers'--artists, musi- cians, filmmakers,academics, intellectuals, doc- tors, lawyers, businesspeople, and "technological innovators ."Hebrew school teachers like to quote Mark "Ivain on the Jew: "His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, sci- ence, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers." And this is not a tic of the Right or the paro- chial. Any left-wing Zionist who has ever said that Israel's record on gay rights, feminism; and human rights shouldn't be judged against the standards of its neighbors is basically accepting the notion of Israeli exceptionalism. We credit Jewish success to Jewish "culture" because the alternative explanations are distaste- ful. If not culture, then what--breeding? Jews and genetics do not have a happy history. Is it Divine Providence? Romney hinted as much, although most non-Orthodox Jews--liberal in their religion and rational to their core--are unlikely to agree. That leaves us with culture--a series of choices about education, governance, gender, opportu- nity, capital, and the social fabric. Andyet, andyet... Being rightandbeingsmart aren't always the same thing. Romney's essay might make a good sermon, but it is imperfect diplomacy. If he should become president he will have to deal credibly with the Palestinians, and whether or not peace negotiations are alive he'll need to confront the obstacles facing the Palestinian economy, including Israeli security measures. But it's partly our fault that politicians think that the way to our hearts is through our swelled heads. We pat ourselves on the back for our suc- cesses and then act shocked when others find us immodest or worse. For centuries rabbis have warned us to go easy on the "chosenness" stuff- or put it in the proper perspective. According to Emet v'Emunah, Conservative Judaism's statement of principles, chosenness is not a "license for special privilege" Instead, it entails "additional responsibilities not only toward God but to our fellow human beings .... It obligates us to build a just and compassionate society throughout the world and especially in the land of Israel...." In other words, for all we've accomplished, we • still have work to do. Andrew Silow-Carroll is Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Between columns you can read his uting at the JustASC biog. By Andrew Silow-Carroll NJJN Editor-in-Chief For those who believe in Jewish exceptional- ism, the Torah portion, Va'etchanan, includes what could be their mission statement: "The Lord did'not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of allpeoples•" (Deut. 77) The verse suggests that from the beginning Jews have punched above their weight, destined for big things despite their small numbers. Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of Great Brit- ain, says the message of the verse is that"you do not need to be numerous to be great." Rather, you need "a sense of the worth and dig.nity of the individual, of the power of human posSibil- ity to transform the world, of the importance of giving everyone the best education they can have, of making each ofus feel part of a col- lective responsibility to ameliorate the human condition, and a willingness to take high ideals and enact them in fhe real world, unSwayed by disappointments and defeats." Nowhere, writes Sacks, is this more evident than in Israel, which despite its size, adversar- ies, and obstacles produces "human miracles in medicine, agriculture, technology, the arts, as if the word 'impossible' did not exist in the Hebrew language." There's nothing unusual about the idea that Jewish culture nurtures Jewish achievement-- rabbis give versions of this sermon all the time. Except Mitt Romney is not a rabbi. So when he came to Israel and said essentially the same thing--that Israeli "culture" helps explain the "dramatically stark difference in economic vital- ity" between it and its neighbors--he got into all sorts of trouble. The Palestinians cried foul, some pundits charged "Islamophobia," and a Jewish Democrat, Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, called his comments "daft." After backtracking slightly on his quoted remarks, Romney decided to double down, ex- plaining what he meant in an essay in National Review Online. "Like the United States, the state of Israel has a culture that is based upon individual freedom and the rule of law," wrote Romney. "It is a democracy that has embraced liberty, beth political and economic. This em- brace has created conditions that have enabled innovators and entrepreneurs to make the desert bloom. In the face of improbable odds, Israel today is a world leader in fields ranging from medicine to information technology." (Oddly, by acknowledging that democracies create political and economic "conditions" that have "enabled innovators and entrepreneurs," Romney's remarks would seem to undercut much of his criticism of Obama's "If you've got a business--you didn't build that" quote.) If Romney pays a political price for his re- marks or essay, itwon't be among the Jews. Let's HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEVS, AUGUST 17, 2012 THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher . Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emerlus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Stare Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer HERITAGE Florida Jewish News ( ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Socie Editor Bookkeeping dresses ( $46.95 for 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 a,t Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Richard Ries POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Sh/pley Ira Sharkansky Tifn Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman * David Gaudio • Teri Marks email: "Elaine Schooping ° Gil Dombrosky ° Caroline Pope for participating in the forurfi. But organizers feared that Israel's participation in the forma- tive stages might have undermined the whole endeavor." He quotes a State Department official as saying: "The goal was to establish an apolitical and technical forum that included both our traditional [counterterrorism] partners and newer ones, a forum that could focus on prac- tical issues of common concern rather than politics. We were concerned that if the central issue from the outset was whether or not Israel should be a member, that it would be difficult to pivotaway from the politicized discussions happening at the U.N. and elsewhere." According to Krieger, the Obama admin- istration "reasoned that the progress made by the organization would ultimately better serve Israel's interests (not to mention thbse of the United States) than would the symbolic benefits of including it in a group that likely wouldn't accomplish anything. They also con- cluded that once the organization was up and running, and its agenda was established, they could find ways to include Israel that would not be disruptive." In other words, the United States pretty much said to Israel and to its supporters: "Please don't be offended if we consider Israel's involvement in this forum disruptive. We have to deal with reality. Trust us: it's better if you don,t make a big deal about this." It seems to be working. Krieger reports that according to his State Department source, "it is no coincidence that pro-Israel groups such as the American Jewish Committee, the Anti- Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have been largely silent in public on the topic." But not everyone is keeping quiet. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, wrote to me in an email: "We did protest Israel's exclusion from that conference, We met administration officials on it as well and spoke to numerous members of Congress." The Zionist Organization of America also released a statement strongly critical of the decision, while, as Krieger noted, U•S. Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Mark Kirk, both staunch defenders of Israe! on Capitol Hilt, wrote a let- ter to Clinton expressing their disappointment with Israel's exclusion. But I have not met anyone who is as upset about the decision as Rabbi Marvin Hier. founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance. ."This is an absolute outrage, on so many levels," he told me. "Just look at the precedent we are setting. Now, any country has permis- sion to exclude Israel from any global forum in the future. All they have to gay is: If America can do it, then we caia do it." Hier and his staff have been on a relentless campaign to "get answers" from the Obama administration. He shared with me his letter of protest to Secretary of State Clinton and a response from a State Department official. "We can't get a straight answer," he told me. Maybe the answer is simply this: The Obama administration is just notwilling to stickitsneck out as a matter of principle, and say to the world: "Our trusted ally Israel has enormous expertise in fighting terrorism. It's important that countries put theirpersonal sentiments aside andwelcome Israel's involvemenL which will be critical to the success of this global initiative•" Krieger himself, while expressing support for the U.S. decision, admits that Israel's exclu- sion "could send the wrong message and have a ripple effect,with Israeli officials expressing concern that it could give an unintended U.S. imprimatur to the marginalization and de-legitimization that Israel is encountering elsewhere in the international community." So, when I read Edgar Bronfman in Haaretz telling us this week that President Barack Obama shouid be judged by,is "real actions" for Israel, not by his words or his "swagger," my ,mmediate reaction is: "Please, Mr. President, show me some real action for Israel. Put yo_ur swagger where your mouth is." Israel doesn't deserve to be treated like an ugly date that helps you with your homework but you wouldn't dare ask to the prom. The movement to isolate and delegitimize the Jew- ish state is itself a form of terror. A few words of swagger and support from the rrmst powerful man in the world, not to mention a justified invitation to a prestigious global forum, are not • just words--they are real, meaningful action. Instead of hiding Israel, America should stand proudly next to her. That's a better way to show friendship and fight terror. David Suissa is president of TRIBE. Media Corp.Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewish Letter from Israel Oslo[ By Ira Sharkansky Oslo is one of Europe's historic cities, hav- ing begun about the time William sailed to England. And a cool and damp respite from Jerusalem's summer, where midday is only for mad dogs and Englishmen. This trip is part of my on-going project to compare other old cities with Jerusalem in their treatment of iconic sites. Oslo has scenery and architecture, but nothing to match Jerusalem's sacred sites. It also brings up 1993. Convention is that the Oslo Accords of that year, between Israel and the PLO, were a failure. I'll emphasize their success. Sure, they did not bring a formal peace. Since then, there has been a bloody inti- fada and an even bloodier invasion of Gaza brought on by attacks against Israeli civil- ians.he Hamas rulers of Gaza will not talk with Israelis. The Fatah rulers of the West Bank and the Israeli government have been posturing for more than three years about whether to negotiate. The enormously important "however" is that Israel no longer has responsibility for majofPalestinian settlements. Israel as well as the Palestinians enjoy the autonomy granted to the Palestinians. Pales- tinians are mostly on their own, even while lacking the panoply and prestige of a "state," with a formal vote in the United Nations and all that goes with having a real place in the world. Israel lacks the headaches of having to police, educate, and provide other services to a hostile population. Differentials in power provide the Israelis with the capacity to enter Palestinian areas in order to assure its own security. That occurred regularly and massively once the intaada of 2000 got underway, even more emphatically in Gaza during 2009, and sporadically in recent times of relative quiet. The Palestinian leadership also benefits from its amorphous status. They have a flag (or two depending on how one views the Is- lamic banner of Hamas), and representatives with the rank of "ambassador" in a number of countries. Depending on the internal poli- tics, international organizations grant them membership or observer status. Of greater practical importance, the de facto suspension of the timetables included in the Oslo Accords and the-moribund nature of the peace process provide thePalestinians with their beggar's cup. Their tales of misery at the hands of Israel produces what may be the world's most lavish record off of donations from governments, churches, intergovernmerital and nongovernmental organizations. The United Nations recognizes them and their descendants as unsettled refu- gees more than six decades after acquiring that status. A recent report of the World Bank notes that the Palestine Authority's reliance on donations is so heavy, and its self-taxing and financial management so weak as to render them unqualified for statehood. Explanations for the largess mention the voting bloc of Muslim states in international organizations, and the facile way in which vocal support for "Palestine" unites a cluster of countries whose governments disagree on so much else. The bloc not only gives the Palestinian cause weight in the deliberation of those international organizations, but makes other governments susceptible to Pal- estinian appeals in order to appease Muslim countries on issues that arise outside of the international organizations. Oslo on page 18A