From Israel: It Must Be Better Than This!

Better on two counts. Please, read to the end.

I keep coming back to the terror attack in Squirrel Hill, and to related issues of anti-Semitism, because it is all so terribly important.

Today I begin with a CNN interview of the rabbi of Etz Chaim, Jeffrey Myers, who in a brief few minutes managed to provide a helpful perspective and words of great wisdom.


Credit: CNN

When asked by his interviewer how he found President Trump, Rabbi Myers replied that the president was very warm and consoling

I was pleasantly surprised by a warm and personal side to the President that I don’t think America has ever seen.”

I have read other comments such as this by individuals who have had private interactions with President Trump.  This is quite different from his public persona.  I think it important for people to know what the rabbi said; I would hope that we might see more of Trump’s warmer side in days to come.
Rabbi Myers then observed that “Hate speech has no place in our society…You don’t fight hate with hate, but with love, compassion, and understanding.”

Bless him for saying this.  It is an enormously profound teaching that America and progressive American Jews in particular need to absorb right now.

What we have seen in response to the horrific murders at Etz Chaim has been an outpouring of ugliness, with people using the incident to make their political points via attack. It is shameful that divisiveness has increased since the attack as a result of this behavior.

Caroline Glick, in her latest column, speaks about the fact that:

“Just hours after the largest massacre of Jews in America in US history, the Atlantic Monthly posted a piece by Franklin Foer.  In his “prayer for Squirrel Hill, and for American Jewry,” Foer wrote, “Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers.  Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome.  They have placed our community in danger.” (Emphasis added)


The notion that support for Trump endangers the American Jewish community is nonsense, and Glick deals with this in some detail.

Foer’s proposal to read out a percentage of American Jewry is vile and outrageous.  Glick points out that between a quarter and 30% of American Jews voted for Trump.
~~~~~~~~~~Even if it were true that support for Trump endangered the Jewish community – and it most patently is not true! – Foer might have advocated increasing dialogue with Trump supporters to help them to understand his concerns.  But he doesn’t.  He responds with hate and divisiveness. That increased quota of hate – and the growing divisiveness it fosters – is destructive to the Jewish community and to American society.
This past week, blogger Elder of Zion very simply and powerfully made the point that Trump is not responsible for increased anti-Semitism in America.  He did it by using statistics.

Citing a tweet that said that the increase in anti-Semitism in the US was the result of Trump administration policies, he wrote (all emphasis is in the original):

“This is a classic example of a ‘questionable cause logical fallacy,’ known as ‘cum hoc ergo propter hoc.’ Just because Trump is president during a rise in reported antisemitic incidents does not mean that he is the cause of such a rise.

“…the biggest increase of antisemitic hate crimes came from a huge increase in vandalism. But the number of assaults against Jews – the most serious category the ADL tracks – went up dramatically when Obama was in office and has gone down significantly since Trump has been president.

“Using the ‘logic’ that we have been seeing since the Pittsburgh massacre, we can conclude that Obama was responsible for the huge increase in assaults against Jews in the US – if we were to make up a reason, perhaps as he tried to push the Iran deal and conservative Jews were against it.

“Taking that same ‘logic’ further, Trump must be responsible for the dramatic decrease in assaults against Jews in 2017.

“These arguments are obviously absurd. But they are just as absurd as the arguments that are being accepted by the mainstream media, taking it as a given that the increase in less-violent crimes in 2017 is Trump’s fault.

“The president can influence behavior, of course. But so can the news media, TV shows, hit songs and YouTube stars. Drawing conclusions based on limited information is simply wrong, and it is shameful that so many people who should know better have fallen for one of the most well-known logical fallacies – correlation does not imply causation.”

You can see a bar chart of ADL statistics here:


This provides a perspective that I urge you to share broadly – including in letters to the editor and talkbacks.  You can help correct a serious misimpression and perhaps lower the heat a bit.
I hope to return to this issue yet again, but at this juncture am eager to write about an entirely different issue.

On Saturday, Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO met with Egypt’s President Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai.

Credit: Egyptian presidency

Following that meeting, news began to break about an imminent “calm” deal between Israel and Hamas mediated by Egypt.  It is not official yet, but various sources are providing what is said to be the terms of the agreement.

What is being shared is still a draft, as the sides are said to be still negotiating.  Perhaps in the end this will fall apart and the concerns I have will come to naught.  But I feel it is urgent to express those concerns.
The terms, as they being reported, would be a “win” for Hamas.  According to Al Akhbar in Lebanon, there would be a series of steps to be undertaken, each one dependent upon fulfillment of the previous step.  In brief summary:

Hamas will stop the weekly riots at the fence, but gradually – not immediately on the day the agreement is final.  In return, the crossings will open permanently, 5,000 Gazans under the age of 40 will be granted work permits allowing them to be employed in Israel (this is tied to some PA participation regarding payment of salaries of Gaza employees); and the fishing zone will be increased to 14 nautical miles.


There is more – including something about Russia and the UN “supervising” the calm, which I cannot believe Israel would accept. There is also a statement about Egypt working to lift 70% of the blockade, which I belief refers to the blockade between Gaza and Sinai.  This would be of great concern, for this has been a major path for the smuggling of weaponry, and stringent checks would be required.

In any event, this summary makes the point.  Hamas instigated violence against Israel for a period of six months.  Instead of knocking off a few heads, it appears we are buying quiet.

In the end, if this agreement were to be enacted, there would be no reduction of Hamas military capabilities. And more, by eliminating the immediate pressure on Hamas with regard to the humanitarian crisis we would be providing Hamas with latitude to strengthen further.

There is, I will note, also a reference to at least three years of quiet. This is a signal of Hamas intentions.
Al Akhbar reportedly has Hamas connections, and so it we must consider this in responding to what has been reported.  However, apparently the Palestinian Arab newspaper al-Quds has provided a very similar report.
I leave all of this aside for the moment as I come to my final point.

The seventh step as listed by al-Akhbar is this:

Egypt will work to implement the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel, on which currently negotiations talks are not being held.”

There are several things seriously wrong with this.  One is that the reference is to a “prisoner exchange,” rather than to the release of the two Israeli civilians and bodies of two soldiers that Hamas is holding.  That means Hamas would demand release some of their terrorists in Israeli prisons in return.  Not an acceptable situation.

Second is that it is all tentative – something that Egypt will work to implement.

But by far the worst is that this comes after steps in which much will have been provided by Israel already.  First we allow 5,000 Gazan to have work permits and widen the fishing zone and open crossings, and then, just maybe, there might be some arrangements – unacceptable as presented – to bring back our soldiers’ bodies and our people.

I say forthrightly that I find this unacceptable and outrageous. Israel has a moral obligation to bring back the two civilians and two soldiers’ bodies and to do so up front.
According to Arutz Sheva, on Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had a meeting with Simcha and Leah Goldin, who have been urgently seeking the return of the remains of their son Hadar since 2014. Eisenkot told them that if the political echelon made a decision to do so, the bodies of Hadar and Oren Shaul, plus the two civilians, might be brought back in a week:

“…all the projects in Gaza must be stopped until the soldiers and civilians are returned, to stop everything except for the entry of water, food, sewage, and medicines“.

What we are seeing, instead, is a possible deal with Hamas without even discussion of return of the soldiers’ bodies and the civilians.

The Goldins made a statement after the meeting:

“From the difficult meeting, we concluded that the prime minister does not want to return the soldiers to Israel.   For the third time the prime minister once again played with the families’ feelings and tricked us, and Netanyahu agrees to pay salaries to Hamas’ terror apparatus before demanding that the soldiers return to Israel.”


(A note of correction: technically, Netanyahu would not agree to pay Hamas salaries, he would facilitate a deal in which those salaries would be paid by the PA and Qatar. But the point is clear.)
My friends, I ask you to contact Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Urge him not to agree to any deal with Hamas until the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul, plus the two Israeli civilians, are returned.

Memshala@pmo.gov.il and also pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm) use both addresses.

Emails probably best but you might also use this:


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.