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December 20, 2013

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PAGE 4A By Ben Cohen HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 20, 2013 Circumcision under attack in Europe explain why European Jews have been left incredulous at the site of yet another attempt to break this symbol of the divine covenant. During the last decade, we've become ac- customed to viewing anti-Semitism in relation to the assault on Israel's legitimacy. But in the last two years, Jews have faced another distinct threat in the context of an offensive against Judaic rituals. In countries as varied as New Zealand and Poland, the ritual slaughter of animals for kosher consumption has come under sustained legal attack. And from San Francisco, where anti-circumcision cam- paigners have gathered under the banner of a viciously anti-Semitic cartoon called "Foreskin Man," to European countries like Germany and Norway, there have been similar efforts to place circumcision outside the law. It's notable that much like today's anti-Zion- ists, the anti-ritualists furiously deny that they are in any way motivated by anti-Semitism. Just as opposition to Israel's existence is motivated by concern for Palestinian human rights, we are told, so opposition to Jewish ritual is grounded upon a commitment to the welfare of animals and the rights of infant boys. All that--not to put too fine a point on it--' is a load of bull. Let's take the anti-ritualist discourse of As Jews across the world celebrated Chanu- kah, they also remembered the victory of the Maccabees against the brutal rule of Antiochus IV, designated "Harasha" ("the wicked") by rabbinical tradition. Antiochus's main aimwas to Hellenize the Jews in the ancient land of Israel by forcing them to adopt Greek customs in place of Jewish ones. Among the Jewish customs that Antiochus banned was circumcision. Because it was the symbol of the covenant between God and the Jewish patriarch Abraham, Antiochus understood that if Judaism were to be com- prehensively destroyed, circumcision would have to be outlawed. Almost two thousands years later, a cam- paign against circumcision has once again emerged, this time in Europe. It needs to be said at the outset that this is not a campaign in the style of Antiochus; no one has been per- secuted or arrested, and the advocates of a ban on circumcision emphasize that their approach is based on persuasion, not coercion. Still, the historic echoes of cruel rulers like Antiochus, and later on the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who als0 banned circumcision, should partly How Mandela won over the Jewish community the air and better understand the man. The encounter was magnificent in the sense that Mandela said to us, "Look, I appreciate what the Jewish community has done for me. On the other hand, if the test of my friendship with you is that I have to be an enemy of your enemy, then I cannot be your friend." Referring to his personal struggle and years in imprisonment and isolation, he said, "I needed the support of anybody I could get. And Arafat gave me support. And Castro gave me support." At the same time, Mandela understood that while Israel was being boycotted by most of the countries in the world, the white South African government was one of the few coun- tries that was dealing with it. Mandela said he understood that relationship, too. "I'm not angry at you and Israel because Israel was dealing with the apartheid South African government," he told us. "Therefore, don't be angry at me because I was dealing with Castro and Arafat. If you can understand that, we can go forward." This was quintessential Mandela. It was that kind of pragmatic approach to life and to relationships that really explained what he achieved with South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was not a matter of hatred, or of vengeance or getting even. It was a matter of addressing pragmatic, practical realities. At our meeting, Mandela spoke not only of his unequivocal support for Israel's right to exist but also of his profound respect for its leaders, including David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Menachem Begin. He also assured us that he supported Israel's right to security and to protect itself from terrorism. We came away from that encounter with no doubt about his recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist endeavor and the right of the Jewish people to a state in the Middle East. It was also during the meeting that I first suggested that Mandela should meet with a Foxman on page 15A By Abraham H. Foxman NEW YORK (JTA)--Nelson Mandela will al- ways be remembered as a symbol of courageous resistance to the racist policies of apartheid South Africa. Hewas a true hero of conscience. But he also will always have a special place in the memory of the Jewish community. I first met Mandela in Geneva in 1990 as part of a delegation of American Jewish leaders. My colleagues and I spent 2 1/2 memorable hours with the then newly free African National Congress leader. It was a warm session with good personal feelings on all sides. Mandela, whodied last week at 95, under- stood far more than we anticipated about the Jewish experience and the meaning of Israel as a Jewish state. He expressed deep appre- ciation for the Jewish community of South Africa's support for him during the long years of his imprisonment and expressed a desire to reciprocate that friendship and appreciation. Over the years, the Jewish community had not always seen eye to eye with Mandela. Many in the community were unhappy with his support for the Palestine Liberation Or- ganization, and particularly his embrace of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Another concern was that Mandela, in repeatedly referring to Israel as a "colonial- ist" regime, seemed to be questioning the fundamental legitimacy of the Jewish state, It was difficult for American Jewish leaders to consider joining in the welcome for this great freedom fighter without having a better understanding of his views toward Israel and the Jewish community. There were concerns as well about how Mandela would be received on his first visit to the United States. Clearly he was a hero to the African-American community. But for the Jewish and Cuban communities it was a far different matter. The Cuban community was angry over his close ties to Castro, and the Jewish community had serious concerns because of his ties to Arafat. The 1990 meeting was pivotal to clear THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. O  CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Caeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kirn 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 ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, lnc., 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) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman Joyce Gore email: Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky advocates like Anne Lindboe, the Norwegian government's child welfare advisor, at face value. Lindboe says her opposition to circumci- sion stems from a commitment to the rights of infant boys to be spared from a "procedure that is irreversible, painful and risky." If that's the case, then where are the mass protests of those--like myself and many of you read- ing this column--who have "survived" this same procedure? I don't feel as if my rights were violated by my own circumcision, and I suspect many of you feel the same. In other words, we are not the Jewish equivalents of the thousands of Catholic children sexually abused by predatory priests, which resulted in a well-known and justified scandal that consumed The Vatican. "That doesn't matter," you might expect Lindboe, or the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, which also opposes cir- cumcision, to reply. "Babies have rights, even if they lack the communicative means to express them." Very well, then--are we to therefore conclude that parents have no jurisdiction over the bodies of their children? Are we to bracket circumcision, an essentially harmless operation with proven sexual health benefits, with the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as the Council of Europe does? What's really involved here is an insidious attempt to curb the civil rights of both Jews and Muslims, who also mandate circumci- sion for boys. I can't say for sure whether the anti-circumcision crusaders have realized that the logic of their position is a society where both Jews and Muslims are unable to live. But clearly, that's not an outcome that overly bothers them. We are, of course, a long way from a legal ban. Europe today is not the domain of Antiochus, nor of the Nazis, who famously banned kashrut three months after coming to power in 1933. Yet a practice does not need to be proscribed to become stigmatized. After years of baiting Israel, parts of Europe's educated elite are doing the same to Jewish ritual. How long before we hear reports of Jewish schoolchildren being bullied simply because they are circumcised? No wonder that a recent European Union survey showed that almost 50 percent of European Jews have considered emigrating. Against this backdrop, who wouldn't? Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Mosaic, and many other publications. i Letter from Israel Obama, Kerry and their aspirations By Ira Sharkansky One cannot help but be impressed with the focus of the Obama administration with the Middle East, despite expectations that the region would be left to its own miserable self. Both Kerry and Obama have spent time with the Saban Forum, trying again to convince Jewish doubters about Iran and Palestine. Kerry has come eight times as secretary of state. Talks with the Palestinians ought to be described as the Kerry talks, given his role in getting them started, his tireless prodding of the principals, and his persistent claims of progress. Each visit has involved repeated meetings with Netanyahu, Abbas, and other ranking Israelis and Palestinians. We have not heard the term "shuttle." One reason may be to down play the an- ticipations associated with its use by Henry Kissinger, and his successes. A more profound reason may lie in the hopelessness of the present talks. Kissinger was dealing with established governments, whose leaders could make agreements and discipline their underlings to go along. That only marks one of the sides in these conversa- tions. The Palestinians are troubled not only by Gaza, but their dependence on who knows how many competitive leaders of Muslim countries and enough internal squabbles in the tiny West Bank to make national leader- ship and discipline something to dream about, and unlikely to achieve anytime soon, if at all. Why the American obsession with these talks at this time, when Israel and Palestine comprise such a small part of the State De- partment's responsibilities, and clearly offer no key to the region? The violence (not concerned with Palestine) in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt, and the Shiite-Sunni conflict focused on Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States would seem to preclude any Palestinian daring to concede anything toward Israel, for fear of being abandoned by one or all of its patrons who provide political support and cash for Palestinian public services and the overseas bank accounts of well connected Palestinians The issue of Palestine is worn out as a slogan among Muslims much busier killing one another. The Lebanese and Syrian hosts of those who have been calling themselves refugees for 65 years are more than tired of their role. Palestinian communities have been suffering at least as much as any other ethnic cluster in Syria and Lebanon. The current Egyptian regime has declared that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are its enemies, and have shut the gates to any movement out of Gaza to Egypt. Explanations for the American fascination with Palestine include associationswith mysti- cal attractions of the Holy Land, the power of Muslim governments in international forums, and Americans' continued acceptance of what others seem to be ignoring while fighting one another, i.e., the centrality of the Palestinian issue as the way to produce stability in the Middle East. This is not a field for hard science. We can identify the elements likely to stimulate Ameri- ca n passions, without being certain about the weight of each. Kerry wants to talk about moving along the talks about Palestine. This time he has come with proposals, or more vague ideas said to be put together by 160 American experts. One can- not use the term "American proposal" without ratcheting up opposition to any "dictates." Netanyahu wants to hear only about Iran. President Obama has estimated that there is a 50 percent chance of success coming out of the Geneva agreement to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He may already have a speech conceding his failure, which he may deliver on a golf course a year or two into retirement. "Gee, folks, I tried my best. One can never be certain about these things. But the chances associated with diplomacy are always more desirable than the chances associated with war." Among the ideas about Palestine that have leaked out are of an American proposal to put foreign troops in the Jordan Valley. There is a retired American general who is certain about his capacity to assure Israel's security. Israelis are less than enthusiastic. We know the record of foreign troops after Lebanon II, and the more distant history of the Sinai and Nasser. Various Palestinians have already rejected the idea, but Mahm0ud Abbas has talked about the possibility of accepting NATO troops, while rejecting any idea of Israeli troops remaining in what he claims for Palestine. Courtesy, and even mutual praise has been more apparent at the latest Kerry-Netanyahu meeting than the previous instance of icy disagreement and no photo-op handshake. The prime minister expressed his hope that negotiations would deal with the Iranian threat, and Kerry conceded the Israelis' right to be suspicious and critical of what has been agreed to so far. At the same time as Kerry was saying "trust us on Iran," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was visiting GulfStateswith the same message. One should not exaggerate the level of confidence in American efforts by calling it "low," either in Jerusalem or among the Sunni Muslim rulers. While theAmerican chief diplomat has been in Jerusalem, the Israeli chief diplomat has been in Washington. That by itself suggests a lack of optimism about anything coming out of these talks with the Palestinians. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has Sharkansiql on page 15A