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August 28, 2009

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PAGE 4A a rea HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 28, 2009 By Steve Sheffey I've always said I'd criticize President Barack Obama if he departed from America's pro -Israel positions, and now he's done it--today he an- nounced that he's forcing lsrael to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. Oh, wait. That was President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. But consider this: Today Obama announced that he is suspending the delivery of F-16 fight- ers to Israel and is supporting a U.N. resolution condemning Israel. Oh, wait. Thatwas President Ronald Reagan in 1981 after Israel bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak. Here's the ticket: Today Obarna announced that he's opposing loan guarantees as long as Israel continues settlement in the West Bankand Gaza and that he opposes new "settlements" in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Oh, wait. That was President George H. W. Bush in 1991 (Bush complained that he was "one lonely little guy" up against thousands of lobbyists on the Hill). Now we've got him: Today Obarna announced that he's denied Israel's request for specialized bunker-busting bombs needed to attack Iran's main nuclear complex and that he's denied an Israeli request to fly over Iraqi airspace to reach Iran's main nuclear complex at Natanz. Oh, wait. That was George W. Bush--the same Bush who pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections against the advice of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it never could have otherwise obtained. But I know Obama's done something bad. I just know it. My Republican friends are sending so many e-mails. Ah, here it is. Not actions, but words. Check out this quote: "Israeli settlement activity has severely under- mined Pal. estinian trust and hope. tt preempts Letter from Israel The libel The disease of blood libel has struck again. Not in Alexandria, where it appeared in the first century; Britain, where it appeared in the 12th century; Damascus in 1840, or Poland in 1946, but Stockholm. The latest invention is that the Israel Defense Forces killed prisoners and harvested their organs. It comes from reports offered by Pales- tinians, and published without benefit of inves- tigation by Affonbladet, the Swedish newspaper with the largest circulation. That the paper once supported the Nazis and recently has pursued a strident policy against Israel adds to the story. According to one of the journalist's critics, writing for another Stockholm paper, "Whispers in the dark. Anonymous sources. Rumors...That is all it takes. Mter all, we all know what they [the Jews] are like, don'twe: inhuman, hardened. Capable of anything. Now all that remains is the defense, equally predictable: 'Anti-Semitism? No. no, just criticism of Israel.'" Classic blood libels have Jews killing Gentile children and using their blood in the preparation of Passover matzoh or the hamantaschen cakes of Purim. The matzoh story is more prominent among Christians. Passover coincides with Easter. has an association with Jews as killers of Christ. and provides yet another excuse for a pogrom. Organ harvesting is a high tech version of the classic tale. and may borrow something from Jews charged with the illegal commerce of organs in New Jersey. The Stockholm story is not the first case of ugly and unverified reports by Palestinians. The BBC broadcast a claim that Israeli soldiers routinely rape Paiestinianwomen in military prisons. The civil rights organization B'Tselem investigated a number of stories and found them all baseless. There are tales of soldiers raping Palestinian women in order to render them victims of their own families' honor killings. Given the culture of Palestine, one should not be surprised at the stories. They are a piece with the claim that will not go away about the IDF killing 3,000 civilians in"the Jenin massacre" of 2002. Human Rights Watch. usually unfriendly to Israel, put the death toll of Palestinians at 31 fighters and 22 civilians. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers died in the same operation, that came in response to a bombing at a Passover Seder in a Netanya hotel that killed 30 celebrants and injured 140. What is disturbing is the'uncritical publica- tion of the most recent stories in Sweden. Even discounting the history of the paper, it is disap- pointing lo find it in a place usually counted among the civilized. One inured by history need not ask why. The disease of hatred has resisted denials and authoritative statements about Jews' doctrines by the Roman Ca~olic Church and European monarchs as early as the 13th century. More recently the phenomenon of Jew hatred has appeared in the claim that Israelis use the charge of anti-Semitism against any criticism of Israel. Just as blood libels overlook Judaic proscrip- tions about blood, the claim that Israelis are quick with the charge of anti-Semitism overlooks their familiarity with criticism. They do it themselves, usually with greater skill and no less cynicism than employed by non-Israelis. Anti-Semitism changes with time. Just as organ stealing is the most up-to-date version of blood libel, so the judgment of Israel by stan- dards far more onerous than used against other countries--usually without reference to attacks against Israel- is apseudo sophisticatedversion of the older disease. It appears among interna- tional organizations, governments, courts, and individual commentators who condemn Israel without considering more horrendous cases found among Muslims, in numerous African countries, and the collateral damage attributed to American troops. It is yet another variant of anti-Semitism to accuse Israelis of being so sensitive that they are quick to use the label of anti-Semite against those who criticize them. Undoubtedly there are Israelis who are oversensitive. It is especially awkward to accuse Jews who participate in grossly unbal- anced accusations of Israel as anti- Semites.At the least, however, it is appropriate to say that they are unbalanced, keeping bad company, and that. their judgments should be assessed accordingly. Stockholm is only the latest assault on Israeli sensitivity. It reminds us who we are, and our vulnerability to barbarians, intellectual and otherwise. It is not a good day for the American president to ask Israelis for concessions. That is another story, but only in part. Israelis are tired of demands that they make concessions. once again, to begin aprocess ofaccommodation with people who have resisted making conces- sions for more than 60 years. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew Uni- versity of Jerusalem. He blogs at htPp://www. 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 40 Press Awards SH 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.I 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 EO. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Stam Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin Socidy FAitor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Account Execgtives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaoser Contributi~ Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Production Department David Lehman * David Gaudio Teri Marks Louis Ballantyne * Elaine Schooping * Gil Dombrosky and prejudges the outcome of negotiations and,. in doing so, cripples chances for real peace and security. The United States has long opposed settlement activity. Consistent with the report of the committee headed by Senator George Mitchell, settlement activity must stop." Oh, wait. That was Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powel!, in 2001. But here's the smoking gun against Obama. The non-partisan Jewish Forward reports: "[A] growingapprehension over thewidening gap between Jerusalem and Washington on the matter ofsettlements...the administration, from the president on down, continues to insist on a 'total freeze' on settlements, in accordance with the road map, and rejects Israel's insistence on continued expansion of the settlements within the limits of their "natural growth." Oops. My mistake. That Forward article was from 2003, reporting on an upcoming meeting between Prime MinisterAriel Sharon and Bush. Darn Google. I'm going to try one moretime. If this doesn't convince you that what's going on now is un- precedented in the history of U. S.-Israel rela- tions, nothingwill. The Jerusalem Post reported that the Secretary of State herself said that "[T]he United States doesn't make a dis- tinction" between settlement activity in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and that Israel's road map obligations, which include a building freeze, relate to "settlement activity generally." I almost got that one right. The quote was indeed from the Secretary of State, but it was Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, on January 8, 2009. You get the point. Some of you send me e-mails, using all caps and exclamation points to show how much you mean it, that Bush is not the issue. But Bush is the issue, along with other administrations, for two reasons, First, without historic perspective, it's impos- sible to assign significance to Obama's recent statements on settlements. Judging from the hysteria of some of our Republican friends, you'd think not only that the sky was falling, but that the stars themselves were landing in our backyards. The truth is that U.S.-Israel relations have been far rockier under other Presidents, and that Obama is simply restat- ing long-standing U.S. policy on settlements. What's different about Obama is not his position or public statements on settlements, but that unlike so many other administrations, he's not taking action against Israel. This is a disagreementbetween two allies, nothing more. You want pressure--what Eisenhower, Reagan, and the Bushes did was pressure. They coupled words with actions wholly inappropriate for the strategic and moral alliance that defines the U.S.-Israel relationship. Second, characterizing the American posi- tion on settlements as "Obama's position" undermines acardinalprinciple ofpro-Israelad- vocacy: support for Israel should be bi-partisan. If Obamadoes something wrong, we should call him on it, but to argue that Obama is not pro-Israel because he articulates, sometimes almost word for word, the same policy as his predecessor is counter-productive. I've even had some people tell me that Obama's statements "prove" that he was influenced by Rev. Wright. Maybe George Bush attended Wright's church t/)o--after all, Bush's policies on settlements were the same as Obama's. Come to think of it, maybe Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush Senior were there too turns out that Wright was a regular Billy Graham. Steve Sheffey is an activist for the National Jewish Democratic Coalition. This column originally appeared as a blog post on the NJDC's Web site at Jim Shipley Myth, lies and Nazis We are living in a time of pressure, fear and uncertainty. It's not the first time. and we will get through it--if we don't lose our bearings. At times like these, the desire to find enemies and scapegoats gain momentum. The fear mongers come out and play on these emotions. The attacks are those of words, misinformation and labels. As Jews, we know the danger in this. The debate over health care in this country dates back to the time of Harry Truman. He recognized that with millions of Americans coming out of military service after WWII there was a host of problems. Education was one. The GI Bill solved that one. Housing was another. FHA and the Veterans' mortgage programs solved-that one. These men and women had been totally covered by military health care. It seemed logical and a good time to move that to the c'Mlian arena as well. Republicans, who had sought to keep the U.S. isolated before Pearl Harbor, drew the line at uni- versal health care. They ranted, raved, rallied, used expressions like"Sodalism"and"Communism" (a magicwordinthelate 1940sand 1950s) anduniver- sal health care went on the ash heap of good ideas. As Jews, we understand the concept. In its simplest form, it is called tikkun ohm--to heal the world. It is a tenant of our faith. We care for those who cannot care for themselves. To gather as a community and make sure that everyone has a way to be cared for. Truman's universal health care plan went in the dumpster of history with little fanfare. In the late 1960s when Lyndon Johnson approached the same problem he persevered and the result was Medicare and Medicaid. Lyndon knew how to handle a recalcitrant Congress. For everyone else, the under 65 and the slightly better off, there was no solution. Hillary made stab at it in the 1990s. But she ignored the Congress and paid that price. This time around, it is more necessary than ever, the debate more heated than ever and less understood than ever. We in the 24-hour news cycle. We have an electorate that is frightened, exercised and passionate. Start with this. The two-party system in this nation has prevailed fairly successfully for overtwo centuries. But now, one of the parties is leaderless. Therefore. as it did in France after th revolution, the rabble takes charge. That is dangerous. When a self-described "entertainer" becomes the voice of one of the major political parties because he has a syndicated radio program to spew his misinformation and invective to his self-declared "ditto heads." we've got problems right here in River City. Rush Limbaugh throws the word Nazi around with abroad red paintbrush. Sorry my friends, that is one of those pejorative terms that are not, repeat not acceptable in any discussion or disagreement. Supposedly the use of the word started in discussions of the so called "death panels." Now let's start with this. there are not--never have been--any so called "death panels" called for in any bill before Congress. Therewas an amendmentproposedbyaRepub- lican senator from Georgia to convene a group of so-called experts to offer advice and counsel on end of life decisions. It has been withdrawn. But the crazies still show up at the town hall meetings with signs that show a picture of the president of the U.S. with a Hitler mustache. There are signs showing swastikas. There are crazies showing up at rallies with loaded guns became it is "their right." OK, couple of points: Some years ago, as my mother approached the end of life, I needed advice. Living wills, non-resuscitation, no extraordinary attempts to extend life--on all of these things, we needed advice. Advice was available from attorneys, some counselors at hospice. Most of it cost money out of pocket and was confusing. Believe me, we would have welcomed the opportunity for informed discussion as a part of medical planning for my mother. But a few wing nuts like Sarah Palin and other "spokespersons" as well as some well placed Web ads and the rabble takes off, frothing at the mouth. So, they want to talk "Nazi"? OK, let's talk "Nazi." In the late '20s the National Socialist Party of Germany (NAZI), gathered hoodlums and outcasts and, taking advantage of bad eco- nomic times, sought to impress themselves on the German political process. They had radio programs spewing filth against Jews. They sent bullyboys to town hall and political meetings to shout and disrupt. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. had a radio priest by the name of Father Coughlin who had a large syndicated audience listening to his rantings against blacks and Jews. It was the Depression. Any time things get tough, the crazies come out of the comers where they normally hide and become part of the national discourse. They are the last thing we need now. 1