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October 21, 2010: Playing the Game

February 16, 2011

This morning I attended a lecture by Dr. Simcha Epstein, the first of the year in the on-going series on post Holocaust Anti-Semitism sponsored by the Institute for Global Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Dr. Epstein, an author, teaches at Hebrew University.
Since the end of the Holocaust we have seen four waves of Anti-Semitism.  What is measured in this context are violent acts against Jews and Jewish institutions such as synagogues and cemeteries — not anti-Jewish rhetoric.  A variety of institutions and agencies measure this: national (e.g., FBI), Jewish (e.g., ADL) and Israeli (e.g.,The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, as Israel assumes the responsibility to be vigilant with regard to Jews worldwide).
For reasons that are not all together clear — although various theories, such as the effect of economic conditions, are advanced — Anti-Semitism since the 1950s has occurred in waves that wax and wane.  (This discussion is not about terrorism — often referred to as “anti-Zionism” — which has been present for some time now but exhibits a different pattern.) 
The first three waves were similar in nature, although each was higher than the previous.  (Dr. Epstein says some analysts believe the increase is illusory — as it’s simply a matter of data being more effectively collected.  He believes it’s real, however.) 
These waves occurred in 1959-60; 1975-82; and 1988-93.
None of these waves was so severe as to be considered apocalyptic, as was the case in the 1930s.  The same general pattern presented itself across the Western world at roughly the same time.  There was involvement of the extreme right wing — increasingly so by the third wave as the right had made a comeback politically. The extreme left tends towards anti-Jewish rhetoric but not violence (although of course rhetoric can fuel action).  What was observed in the main were young men acting independently or in small groups.
Jews seem unable to deal with the cyclical nature of Anti-Semitism, and instead perceive each lull as “the end.” We have not shown ourselves to be vigilant for what might yet come.
By the late 90s, there was a marked decline in Anti-Semitic acts, so that the situation was close to idyllic.  As Anti-Semitism was being pronounced “dead,” Jews were taken off guard completely by the fourth wave, which began in October 2000 and persists to this day.  It is the longest and most intense post-Holocaust wave of anti-Semitism, and shows no signs of truly abating.
Within this persistent wave there have been moderate fluctuations — there were a huge number of attacks in Oct.-Dec. 2000, and then the most during 2002.  But across the board the violence has been sustained.
This fourth wave is markedly different from the others, not only because of its duration, but in terms the ethnic origins of its perpetrators:
Previously, the ethnicity was local — German young men in Germany, English young men in England, etc.  Now the majority of perpetrators — some 2/3 to 3/4 are Muslim.  These Muslims are not all Arab (for example, there are many Pakistanis in England), although in certain countries — such as France, Belgium, Holland — they tend to be. Many of these are second or third generation but frequently not assimilated into the local culture.
With the exception of Germany, only information on the ethnic origins of the victim, and not the perpetrator, is provided when statistics are gathered.  Researchers have had to utilize other methods for securing this information.  These young Muslims, it should be noted, do not desecrate cemeteries — they focus attacks on synagogues and persons.  (Interesting, considering the Jordanian desecration of cemeteries in and around Jerusalem, post 1948.)
It is clear that there is an anti-Jewish bias in Islam — a bias that has morphed from a traditional hostility, because Jews were seen as being opposed to Mohammad, to the full blown hatred of classic Anti-Semitism, with bad characteristics attributed to Jews. 
These attacks may in part be a reaction to the situation with regard to the Israeli-Arab conflict here in the Middle East — with propaganda fueling the hatred.  (It’s hard for me to believe that the increase in violence in 2000 — when the Second Intifada began here — and in 2002 — when Operation Defensive Shield began in Arab areas of Judea and Samaria — is just a coincidence.)
Dr. Epstein believes, however, that a major factor is social, and not related to the Middle East.  Particularly does this seem to be the case as some of the perpetrators are relatively secular Muslims. These young men have not “made it” in their new societies, and they view the West with enormous ambivalence — both hating and envying Western culture at the same time. The Jew, representing Western culture and yet a vulnerable minority, is a convenient target.  Small groups of Muslim youth, not directly instigated by a larger political Muslim organization, gather together to wreak violence at a local level.
As Dr. Epstein said today, anti-Semitism is a deep historical social phenomenon.  Our fate, ultimately.
In the first three waves, Jews felt support from a variety of segments of their society.  Liberals, and even some far leftists, were eager to take on the right wing that perpetrated attacks. Harsh punishment was sought for those perpetrators.
Today — surprise! — it’s not the same.  The sense that we are truly alone is much stronger among Jews now.  The bottom line here is political correctness.  Muslims are seen by many Europeans as victims and not perpetrators.  There is a tendency to cut them slack when they are brought to trial, or to avoid the issue.  Various groups that might have been relied upon previously now decline to rally to the defense of Jews.
With regard to this fourth wave, there has been a difference in terms of what is being seen in the US.  This is  because of such factors as a difference in demography and a deep response to 9/11.  There has been an increase in anti-Semitism in the US since 2000, but more of the typically far-right variety, and not as great an increase as in Europe.
However, as the number of Muslims in the US increases, this situation may deteriorate.
A great deal more analysis is called for with regard to this phenomenon.  Jews must keep their eyes open and remain ever vigilant.
Well, we may not have attacked Iran (yet?) utilizing planes, bombs, or missiles, but it’s possible that Iran is the target of sabotage in multiple regards, and that this is slowing down Iranian nuclear development.
Recently, it was the highly sophisticated cyberworm, Stuxnet, that did (is still doing?) considerable damage to key Iranian computers.  Speculation abounded regarding the fact that this may have come out of Israel.  We don’t know.
Now there is news of serious damage at the site of the Imam Ali Base in Khoramabad in the Zagros mountains.  Beneath this base is a top secret subterranean missile facility, one of the largest in the world — a huge network of wide tunnels.  Apparently most (some 15?) of Iran’s Shehab-3 medium-range missiles — some equipped with triple warheads — were stored in these tunnels, held against the event of war, along with mobile launchers.  These Shehabs can reach as far as Tel Aviv.  The site was selected because it facilitates accurate launching of missiles while itself being difficult
to reach by plane.
Reportedly, this subterranean site was struck by three blasts on October 12.  It seems that most of the Shehab arsenal was hit hard, and the facility rendered unusable.  Additionally, the blasts have killed 18 members of the Al-Hadid Brigades, the missile arm of the Revolutionary Guards, and injured an additional 14.
I originally received this information from a source that I consider not necessarily reliable.  But then I learned that the Iranian Fars News had acknowledged the casualties.  The explosions, said Fars, were caused by an underground fire that had traveled until it hit a munitions supply.
Maybe… But maybe not.
Once again, some analysts are looking to Israel with regard to this, with one commentator observing that this is something the Mossad might have done.  Would be nice to think — and hope — so.
Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council and an expert on Iran, believes it’s too soon to be certain it is sabotage.   But “it’s worth noting,” he says, “that the facility was located in Khoramabad, which is close to Kurdish-dominated areas and has been a hotbed of anti-regime activity…This story is one to watch.” 
I’m still waiting for everyone to pack it in with regard to “peace negotiations.” But it’s not happening.  Not yet, at any rate. 
Abbas is lamenting the fact that the “whole world” is demanding a construction freeze, and yet he is not in a position to make that demand. He still insists he won’t return to the table without such a freeze.
He also claims that he offered Netanyahu a “silent freeze” several times, but that our prime minister declined to accept it because of fear that his government would fall.  I think we likely owe a debt of gratitude to those members of Likud and the coalition more broadly that put the brakes on what Netanyahu might have considered. 
One Israeli official quoted by the JPost confirmed that the subject of a “silent freeze” indeed had come up.  However, he then gave voice to my own doubts about this with regard to an Arab need to save face: “What is a ‘silent freeze’?  How do the Palestinians explain they are going back to the table?  They will have to say there is no building, so as a result there will be no ‘silent’ freeze.”
Additionally, said this official, word would get out when building permits would be denied.
But speaking of building permits…
The last list of public tenders published by the Housing and Construction Ministry did not include any projects in Judea and Samaria, but did include 238 homes for Jews in Jerusalem past the Green Line. 
(Note: Reportedly, Netanyahu put a hold on an additional 600 housing units to be constructed in the Har Homa neighborhood because of US objections.)
Observed Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria and Gaza (Yesha):
The fact that there was international condemnation of these Jerusalem homes is “the direct result of the fact that there are no [tenders for] construction in Judea and Samaria.  It moved the front lines to Jerusalem.”
Added Dayan:
“After you clear all the propaganda and all the distortions, the only relevant truth is that Israel came to the negotiating table with clean hands and without preconditions, and Mr. Abbas refused to negotiate.  This is the only thing that matters.  So the fact that he says that Israel does not want peace is a blatant demonstration of chutzpah.”
You might want to read Mortimer Zucker’s observations on this situation:
“Why did the Palestinians terminate the Arab-Israeli peace talks? The justification cited was the Israeli refusal to extend the moratorium they had put on construction in the settlements. It is a phantom excuse, the product of President Obama’s heavy-handed intervention.”
As the PA continues to make threats regarding a unilateral declaration of statehood followed by an appeal to the Security Council, you might also want to read the analysis by Dan Izenberg in the JPost regarding the question of whether the PA would fulfill the criteria for an independent state:
“According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which is now part of customary law and therefore binding on all countries, a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and a capacity to enter into relationships with other states.

“Furthermore, the convention states that ‘the political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states.’

“Thus, there is nothing in international law to prevent the Palestinian Authority from unilaterally declaring itself an independent state.

“The question is whether other states will recognize it as such. In theory, states will only recognize a Palestinian state if it fulfills the criteria set down in the Montevideo Convention.

“According to Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and current head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, states will, at least in theory, have difficulty recognizing a Palestinian state because it does not meet key criteria of the convention.”

Along with thoughts of a unilateral declaration of a state, Ali Waked, writing in YNet says that some activists in Fatah (the party of the PA and of Abbas) are considering a return to a “stone intifada,” especially in Jerusalem.
There is concern, you see (are you ready?) that Fatah is being seen as too “passive.”  After all, at their conference of August 2009 the party voted to maintain the “popular struggle,” but they’re not doing that. And so, there is discussion inside the party as to whether they are ready for another conflict with Israel.
Am I surprised?  Not at all.  Every time expectations of “peace” are inflated artificially, the next step is violence. 
However, when I learn about Arabs discussing whether to bring violence to Jerusalem, my own thoughts are something less than peaceful.  If this happens, we need to be as tough as we can be.  Repercussions must be severe.  It’s called deterrence.
Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas, utilizing Germany (not Turkey) as go-between have begun again.  In fact, yesterday Netanyahu confirmed on Army Radio that the contacts have been going on for some weeks now.  What promoted their re-establishment at this time, I cannot say with certainty — although the suggestion is that domestically it gives the impression he’s “doing something,” even if negotiations are stalemated. 
Netanyahu did well in this regard until now, standing strong against Hamas demands regarding terrorists to be released.  Hamas at this point says nothing is happening, and we must pray that our prime minister does not weaken on this front now.
There is news of high level discussions here regarding ways to secure clemency for Jonathan Pollard.  There has been a shift in the situation, as two people directly involved with the case — Israeli Rafi Eitan, a former minister, and Lawrence Korb, a former US assistant secretary of defense — have recently come forward with revelations regarding malfeasance by the US government.
Korb wrote a letter to President Obama that was something of a bombshell, including as it did the following:
“Jonathan Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to an American ally.

“Based on my first-hand knowledge, I can say with confidence that the severity of Pollard’s sentence is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy on the part of my boss at the time, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.”

Rafi Eitan, who was in the Mossad at the time of Pollard’s conviction, told Reshet Bet radio here in Israel that the U.S. administration has done an injustice to Jonathan Pollard and violated a verbal agreement with Israel that he would serve ten years in prison.  He said that the Americans claimed that Pollard had helped to frame US agents in the Soviet Union and decided to leave him in prison for the rest of his life even though it turned out that he was not connected to the affair.

The Knesset State Control Committee plans a meeting on the subject and will be inviting US Ambassador James Cunningham to attend.

However, there is no indication that Netanyahu has directly requested of Obama that he arrange for Pollard’s release.  I wonder how he would seek to justify this.

Meanwhile, Pollard’s lawyers have filed a new petition for clemency, asking that Obama commute Pollard’s sentence to time already served.


“The Good News Corner”

In the last four years, the number of people living in absolute poverty in Israel has dropped by 18.8%.  What is more, those still defined as “poor,” are better off so that even those with the lowest salaries are better off than they were five years ago, with many able to own cars and cell phones.

This information came via a report published by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, and it takes into consideration relative vs. absolute poverty.  The measure of poverty here — according to the National Insurance Institute — is relative, so that as the average income in the nation increases, the line for poverty moves up.  (It is not clear how that line is defined.)  But in absolute terms, many defined as relatively poor are actually not doing badly at all.

To put this into perspective, the Institute’s executive director explained:

“If Bill Gates suddenly made aliyah, that would lead to another 10,000 people being declared poor, because he would increase the average wealth by so much.”

(This is just a hypothetical example.  No, Gates is not Jewish, and will not be making aliyah.)


A baby born so severely premature — 26 weeks — that at birth he weighed only 590 grams (one pound, four ounces) has beat the 10% odds for his survival and has now been released from Kaplan Medical Center at Rehovot.  The mission to save him was no small matter, and he had to be on a respirator for two months. The baby’s mother, Yael Amsalem, participated in his care, utilizing what is called the “kangaroo technique” that increased his chances of survival — she held him skin to skin, so that he could hear her heart beat and feel her warmth.  

It took him ten months, but a healthy Yonatan now weights over six kilo (over 13 pounds).




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