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September 8, 2017

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 By Ben Cohen JNS .org Billy Joel's decision to sport a yellow star on the front and back of his jacket during a concert this weekwas a nod to history that the singer may not have been aware of. The venue for the concert, New York City's Madison Square Garden, was the site of pro- and anti-Nazi rallies during the World War II. In February 1939, as Europe teetered on the edge of war, 22,000 Nazi sympathizers gathered at the Garden for a rally organized by the German American Bund, during which swastika flags flew alongside a portrait of George Washington. "Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans!" was typical of the signs at the rally. I n July 1942,American Jews and their friends packed the Garden for an angry, emotional protest against the ravages of the Nazis. "In addition to the rallying cries of leaders and at- tendees, there was a solemn commemoration and chant for the thousands of Jewish men, women, and children who have already been slaughtered since the Third Reich took power in Germany," read one report of the event. But in other, more important ways, there is a vast gulf between what those two rallies represented, and what Billy Joel's wardrobe adjustment signified. The German rally was a demonstration that the menace of Nazism had penetrated the U.S., and particularly its universities, more deeply than many Americans still realize. The Jewish rally was one more piece of evidence that the world could not say, "We didn't know." But both rallies highlighted the same real, grave, tangible problem: that a major world power was now in the grip of a totalitarian party and leader, whose laws assigned subhuman status to the Jews, and whose blood-soaked military aggressions brought down genocidal slaughter upon 6 million Jews as well as other beleaguered minorities. In other words, it was a pretty distinct situation. Jews have never been in a com- parable situation since, and we have no serious reason to believe that will change. And that gets to the heart of why I find Joel's gesture--for that is how it should be seen--so objectionable. Nazism was about a hell of a lot more than rallies. Nazi Germany was not Charlottesville; and by the violent standards of German Nazi rallies, Charlottesville was pretty tame. That is not to denigrate the ghastly experience of Charlottesville--simply to say that it is not necessary to invoke the historic symbols of state and church-sponsored anti-Semitic persecution in order to condemn the spectacle of swastikas in an American city, along with an American president who refuses to call the Nazis out for the violence. It is not necessary because here in America, there are no Nuremberg Race Laws to discrimi- nate between Jews and "Aryans." It is not necessary because in America, Billy Joel is celebrated for standing up to the far right surge by voluntarily and ostentatiously wearing the yellow star; that symbol of infe- riority was not forced upon him, as it was on Jews in Christian and Muslim countries for a thousand years. It is not necessary because in America, Joel faces no sanction for being a Jewish performer; in Nazi Germany, Jewish musicians and artists were systematically purged in the early days of Hitler's rule, and all Jewish art was deemed "degenerate." Some people might object, "well, these are just details--his intentions were good." If in- tentions are all that count, then granted, there is probably no argument. But if basic standards of truth--dare I add decency, too--are brought into consideration, then I can only look with alarm at the way that historic symbols which should be treated with respect are raided, like so many items on pizza menu, just to score points with the progressive consensus that President Donald Trump is a proto-Nazi. A cynic might take that point further, and accuse Joel of engaging in just the kind of free media marketing that Trump employed dur- ing his election campaign. After all, it landed the singer plenty of headlines, at a time when celebrities are jostling for the attention of the 41 percent of Americans who believe the president should be impeached. But I don't think a conclusion like that would be entirely fair. Maybe Joel thought he was honoring the victims of the Holo- caust. Maybe it was his way of saying, "Never Again." Maybe it was his way of asking, "Can you imagine an America like this?" Even if we can all imagine that, there is nothing happening to suggest.that a Fourth Reich is around the corner. Many liberal Jews acknowledge they are "privileged" compared to other minorities in America. They should also acknowledge they are much more privileged than their forebears were. Say, then, what you wish, but leave the yellow star alone. Ben Cohen writes a weekly column for on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. The peak of a three-year flooding trend for Houston's Jews By Jacob Kamaras material. The point is that Houston's Jews, many of whom live in areas prone to flooding, have suffered their third catastrophic weather As a member of Houston's Jewish commu- event in as many years. Unlike previous years, nity writing about a devastating flood for the when floodwaters receded on the same day as third time since May 2015, I'm at a loss for the storms, Hurricane Harvey's waters stayed words. Sitting in the comforts of my third- put for days as the rain persisted. The road to floor apartment, where I'm fortunate enough recovery cannot immediately begin and is too toviewtheunprecedentedwatersofHurricane daunting to even think about. Harvey as a spectator, it feels trite to be put- As has been the case for other floods in ting on my "journalist's hat" while countless recent years, my synagogue community at others are either suffering or contributing to UOS immediately sprang into action for Har- relief efforts, vey, conducting boat rescues for threatened Yet as I've concluded in these situations individualsandfamilies.Localvolunteerlead- before, the written word is a crucial part of ers--whose depth of dedication is difficult to the healing process when a natural disaster describe--have begun intense coordination for Strikes. If they didn't get the message before, food, laundry and housing needs, in a process the national and international Jewish com- that has become all too familiar for them. munities should understand the crisis for The Jewishcommunity'sreliefeffortwasin- Jews in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, but spiring in 2015 and 2016, and it's heartwarming also within the context of other major floods again. But as I asked after the 2016 flood, and in recent years, need to ask again with even greater intensity: Just a 10-minute walk from where I live, What now? What will homeowners do after dozens of families in my synagogue's corn- suffering three major floods? How many Jews munity live in flood-damaged homes. This who have laid down roots here find themselves is at least the third time that many of these with no suitable options remaining? residenceshavetakeninwatersincetheMemo- I wrote last year, "The Jewish future in a rial Day flood of 2015. For homeowners in the major city is at stake." since then, Houston's flood-stricken, Jewish-heavyneighborhoodsof Jews have battled to bring things back to Meyerland and Willow Meadows, Hurricane where they were before the Memorial Day and Harvey's wrath has undone all the hard work Tax Day floods. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey of two previous rebuilding processes. The con- brings far more questions than answers. We gregation itself, United Orthodox Synagogues typically--and justifiably--think of Jews in (UOS), which suffered more than $1 million far-flung, crisis-prone places like the former in damage in the 2015 deluge and was flooded Soviet Union as endangered. Jewish organiza- again the following year, has been dealt its tions, in turn, devote significant manpower most crushing blow yet. and funds to addressing overseas crises. You The 2015 flood damaged about 500 Jew- wouldn'ttypicallythinkofHoustonasasimilar ish homes (among more than 2,500 homes disaster zone. But I would askanyone to assess overall) and three synagogues in the Houston the facts of the flooding from 2015-2017 in area. The 2016 Tax Day flood brought similar America's fourth-largest city, and at the very devastation, but the community was better least, ask the same questions that local Jews prepared for the event. Despite all the prepara- are asking about their future. tions for Hurricane Harvey, damage has far Jacob Kamaras is a journalist and market- exceeded previous disasters--the statistics ing professional living in Houston. He writes aren't immediately available, but that is im- for and other national publications. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. O , , CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE x , , ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 45 Press Awards 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. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: 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 Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bomstein Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Gil Dombrosky Joyce Gore By Stephen M. Flatow JNS,org The U.S. government's reluctance to demand the immediate creation of a Pales- tinian state has sent J Street into a panic. With its candidates having been defeated in elections on both sides of the ocean, and its proposals crumbling in the face of reality, J Street is trying one last desperate strategy: rewriting history so that it appears Palestinian statehood has been supported by everybody, ewerywhere, foras long as anyone can rememb~er. Asked by reporters Aug. 24 about the Palestinian state issue, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, "We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. That's the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it." Nauert's statement was simple, logical, and reasonable. But her failure to pledge a full-throated endorsement of the Palestinian agenda sent J Street into a tizzy. The J Street leaders fired off an overheated press release that declared, "For more than two decades, responsible Israeli and Palestinian leaders, U.S. presidents of both parties and virtually the entire international community have understood that a two-state solution is the only viable way to end the conflict." Literally, everything in J Street's declara- tion is erroneous. American presidents have not supported Palestinian statehood "for more than two de- cades." George W. Bush was the first president to publicly support a Palestinian state while in office. That was in 2002, i.e. 15 years ago, not "more than two decades." Can't anybody at J Street do basic math? Not only that, but Bush's support was con- ditional. In his June 25, 2002 speech about a Palestinian state, Bush said that such a state could come about only if the Palestinian people elected "new leaders not compromised by terror." The Palestinians, of course, did exactly the opposite. The only president who has unconditionally and publicly supported Palestinian statehood while in office was Barack Obama. Suddenly J Street's tally of "more than two decades" is down to eight years. And anyway, since when is there a rule that every future president is obligated to take the same position as President Obama? J Street is equally mistaken in its absurd claim that "virtually the entire international community"supports creating a Palestinian state. How could J Street possibly know what "virtually the entire international commu- nity" thinks? There are 7.44 billion people in the world. Did J Street ask them all? How many farmers in Thailand or truck drivers in Nebraska care whether the Palestinian Arabs have a state or not? Or does J Street really believe that the whole world consists of pro-Palestinian elitists in Potomac and Scarsdale? There have been two major arguments in favor of Palestinian statehood. Neither of those arguments have stood the test of time. The first was that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs had given up their goal of destroying Israel and had forsaken terror- ism. Presumably if they changed their ways, they could be trusted with their own state in Israel's backyard. That was the basis for the Oslo Accords in 1993. But that argument fell apart when Ararat tried to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into Gaza on the motor vessel Karine A in 2002. It turned out the old terrorist had never changed his ways, after all. The second argument for a Palestinian state was fear of the "demographic time bomb"- that because of the high Arab birthrate, Israel has to agree to a Palestinian state or it will become an apartheid-like ruler over the Pal- estinians. But then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin resolved that problem in 1995, when he withdrew Israel's forces from the cities where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. For the past 22 years, they have been resi- dents of the Palestinian Authority, and they vote in Palestinian elections. They will never be Israeli citizens, will never vote in Israeli elections, and will never threaten Israel's Jewish demographic majority. The old arguments for Palestinian state- hood lie in tatters. The U.S. government's position simply reflects that reality. J Street, unable to face reality, is trying to change history to suit its agenda. Friends of Israel need to act swiftly to counter such dangerous revisionism. Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. Dry Bones 2017-2018 5778