The ICC wants to investigate Israel – again

The ICCThe International Criminal Court (the ICC) reminds me of a movie monster that, despite being killed, simply won’t stay dead. After repeated efforts to investigate Israel’s purported “war crimes” and “human rights abuses”, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda declared that she will not be rushed into investigating Israel.

Yet here we are again. The monster has raised its head and we are entering yet another absurd round, or maybe it’s simply a continuation of an investigation into something that the ICC seems to have decided the outcome already. Last week Israel received a formal letter from the ICC informing it of the war crimes probe against it.

The report said the one-and-a-half page letter briefly laid out the three main areas the probe intends to cover: the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas; Israeli settlement policy; and the 2018 Great March of Return protests, a series of violent demonstrations along Gaza’s border with Israel that left dozens of Palestinians dead.

Israel has 30 days to respond, the report said, adding that Jerusalem is leaning toward doing so after largely refusing to cooperate with The Hague-based international court until now. However, Israel is expected to use its response as an opportunity to once again voice the argument that the ICC has no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Israeli officials hope the argument over jurisdiction will succeed in delaying the case until outgoing ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is replaced in June by British lawmaker Karim Khan, whom Jerusalem hopes may be less hostile or may even cancel the probe.

Yeah, I wouldn’t hold my breath. I have no faith at all in these institutions.

Outrageously, the probe will only examine events AFTER the kidnapping of the three teenagers, which was the trigger for the 2014 war. This on its own reveals the bias and hypocrisy of the ICC, not to mention the Palestinians. the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens is not counted as a war crime, yet Israel’s desperate search for these boys is considered a war crime.

Israeli observers noted the significance of the timing of the investigation’s span: On June 12, 2014, Hamas terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank. Bensouda’s investigation — based on the request submitted by the so-called State of Palestine — is set to begin from the following day.

The brutal terror attack, which horrified Israelis and drew international condemnation, was a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the fighting in Gaza later that summer. With the investigation set to consider events beginning on June 13, 2014, the crime could be excluded from the court’s investigation.

It’s enough to make you sick.

For Israel’s point of view, watch this excellent video by StandWithUs which takes a look at the ICC’s decision to probe Israel:

Hillel Neuer of UN Watch brought Arab-Israeli activist Yoseph Hadad to counter the charges insinuated in the ICC’s probe and also to counter the annual onslaught in the UN against Israel with their accusations of war crimes, apartheid, and the added charge this year of discrimination by Israel of Palestinians by denying them Covid vaccinations. Listen to Yoseph as he demolishes these abominable arguments:

As Pesach is approaching (starting Saturday night) it would serve us well for us to note the paragraph we read in the Haggadah at the Seder:

“For in every generation they rise up to destroy us, but the Lord blessed be He saves us from their hand”.

 

Posted in Antisemitism, Incitement, Lawfare and Delegitimization, support Israel, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Good News Friday – Purim Same’ach edition

Happy Purim!

Happy Purim!

Purim has started (or is starting) around the Jewish world, and we are celebrating a “triple Purim” which is quite a rare event. It started tonight at sundown and lasts till tomorrow night when Shabbat begins. But in walled cities like Jerusalem, Purim falls a day later which means that this year it falls on Shabbat. However the Megillah cannot be read on Shabbat, nor can mishloach manot be given. So the Megillah is read on Friday along with the rest of the country, on Shabbat “al hanisim” is added in the prayers (in Jerusalem), and mishloach manot are distributed and the festive meal is eaten on Sunday! Lucky Jerusalemites, spreading the festivities over 3 days whereas we “ordinary” Jews have to cram it all into one day! (Thanks to Elchanan for the edit).

This Purim marks a special anniversary worldwide. It has been a very strange and extremely difficult year, the year of the pandemic, which began exactly a year ago, with the parties and celebrations of last Purim. Of course in hindsight the government, all governments, should have locked down before then, but the pandemic was too new, too much of an unknown, to be fully understood.

But in the depths of the pandemic who could have dreamed that we would now be emerging “from darkness to light”, and that our mourning would be turned into celebrations, as it says in the Megillah, even if only a much more minor scale than in previous years.

So let us celebrate the good news for once. Israel is leading the world in the percentage of its population being vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the excellent news emerging from the Israeli vaccination campaign is that after two doses the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective against the virus:

Maccabi Healthcare Services, which covers over a quarter of all Israelis, said in a statement that only 608 people had tested positive for COVID-19 more than a week after receiving the second of two required Pfizer doses.

The comparison was against a group of 528,000 Israelis with similar backgrounds who did not receive the vaccine, Maccabi said. Of those, 20,621 tested positive.

“By comparing the proportion of new cases between the vaccinated and yet-to-be vaccinated groups, efficacy of the vaccine in Israel is currently estimated at 95%, seven or more days after receiving the second dose,” Maccabi said.

Most of the 608 infected vaccinees reported only mild symptoms, such as a headache or cough, Maccabi said. Some 21 required hospitalization, seven of whom had severe symptoms, it added.

Nearly 44% of Israel’s 9.1 million citizens have received at least one shot of the Pfizer vaccine, making the country the largest real-world study of its efficacy.

On Wednesday, Clalit, Israel’s largest healthcare provider, reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases among 600,000 people who had received both Pfizer doses.

This is such good news that it hardly needs repeating. Of course there are still many unknowns, but for now, life is gradually opening up in Israel, still on a restricted scale, but far better than we could have hoped for a year ago. Let us pray that this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

In an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated, in an only-in-Israel moment, the city of Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv, offered free cholent and challah  (yes, it did sound like a Purim joke! ☺) to whoever arrived to get vaccinated. Other cities offered other yummy treats including hummus and pizza to entice the population:

The city of Bnei Brak, Israel’s largest Haredi metropolis, last week began offering a slow-cooked stew of meat, potatoes, beans and barley called cholent to any resident who took part in the city’s coronavirus vaccination campaign.

A person receives a pizza after receiving the vaccine, at Clalit Health Services in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak,  on Feb. 15, 2021. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

The jokes came fast and furious. “There’s already an anti-cholent group organizing, the ‘kugelers,’” one observer quipped. “They should be careful. Cholent can have dangerous side effects,” joked another.

But the lampooning didn’t stop the program, which was an unmitigated success from the start. At least 2,000 residents who hadn’t vaccinated — many who hadn’t even looked into setting appointments to do so — showed up to the vaccination center last Thursday for the city’s free bags of cholent, dished out with bread rolls and soda.

In Bnei Brak, which was the first to experiment with freebies, one person joked that it wasn’t a vaccination drive with cholent given out, but a cholent drive with a vaccination giveaway, and the quip holds some truth

A whole social scene has evolved around the Thursday night cholent tradition. By offering cholent on Thursday night at the vaccination center, the city was attempting to tap into that scene and get young people to come for both some beans and a shot.

In Petah Tikva, where skepticism about the vaccine is concentrated among aging immigrant populations, especially Russian speakers, the municipality on Monday began handing out blintzes, the traditional cheese-filled cigar-shaped wraps; and pirozhki, the stuffed, fried pies sold by street vendors throughout Russia and Ukraine that Wikipedia calls “a stereotypical part of Russian culture.” The most familiar and comfortable of comfort food.

The city also hired a musician to play folk tunes to go along with the nosh and bring in passersby. [I must have missed all this since I was one of the first to be vaccinated. I think I shall start a protest. I want my blintzes NOW!. 😛  -anneinpt].

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A man receives a slice of Knafe after receiving the Covid vaccine in Tel Aviv, on February 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Tel Aviv has offered free hummus and knafe in Jaffa, which has a large Arab population, and free espresso in northern areas of the city, where people flock to cafes like moths to a light.

Many places not necessarily targeting specific groups have offered free pizza, which is easy, cheap and almost universally loved. Who wouldn’t get a shot for a free pizza?

I love the way this country works! 😀

And now to some other good news, almost buried by the news of the vaccinations has been the extraordinary outbreak of peace between Israel and the Gulf states. I admit I was slightly sceptical about this newfound love of our Arab neighbours, and thought it might only be “cupboard love” for the State of Israel, and not for the Jewish people. However I have happily been proven wrong, as we read that the Jewish communities of six Gulf states have combined forces to form a Beth Din of Arabia! (A Beth Din is a Rabbinical court). It sounds almost mashiach-zeit – the days of the Messiah, it is such an unlikely phrase.

As Jewish life has become more public in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Jews from across the Gulf countries are forming the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities. The new organization, the first of its kind, will include Jews and Jewish communities from the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, it said Sunday in a statement.

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Beirut-born Rabbi Elie Abadie (R) and Ambassador Houda Nonoo (photo credit: COURTESY AMBASSADOR HOUDA NONOO)

“During the pandemic, many of us started attending the Jewish Council of the Emirates’ pre-Shabbat Zooms, where we met each other,” said Houda Nonoo, the first female Bahraini ambassador to the United States (2008-2013) and the first Jewish ambassador from an Arab country. “That ultimately became the genesis for the creation of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, because as we got to know one another on the call, we realized that there were certain resources we could share.”

“While each community is independent, they share a common goal and vision: for Jewish life in the GCC to flourish for the benefit of both residents and visitors,” it said in the statement. “Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, based in Dubai, and President Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, based in Bahrain, the group is partnering on different communal programs and services so that their resources will enhance each other. The association’s board consists of members from all six Gulf countries, who together will forge the path forward for growing Jewish life in the Gulf.”

The group will include a Beth Din of Arabia (Jewish Court), which is in the process of being established to assist with issues pertaining to personal status, inheritance and the voluntary resolution of business disputes. There will also be an Arabian kosher certification agency.

If anything represents “venahafoch hu” – and it was turned upside down as it says in the Megillah, it is this news from the Gulf. How refreshing it is to learn how many people want to throw off the prejudices of the past and open up a new era.

My last item is directly connected to Purim: A mid-15th century Megillat Esther, the scroll of Esther that we read on Purim, originating in Iberia, has been gifted to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem:

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A mid-15th century Sephardic Esther scroll which was gifted to the National Library of Israel
(photo credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

The Iberian Esther scroll is one of the oldest surviving renditions of the biblical tale of Esther taking up her noble destiny to save the Jewish people from the evil Haman.

Experts determined that the mid-15th century scroll was written by a Jewish record-keeper around 1465, prior to the expulsion of Jewish populations from Spain and Portugal at the end of the century.

It was the only complete 15th century megillah currently being held in private hands prior to the donation. There are only a few of these complete megillahs worldwide, and those from the pre-expulsion period in Spain and Portugal are “even rarer, with only a small handful known to exist,” the National Library said.

Curator at the National Library Dr. Yoel Finkelman said that the gifted scroll was “an incredibly rare testament to the rich material culture of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula.

“It is one of the earliest extant Esther Scrolls, and one of the few 15th century megillot in the world,” Finkelman added. “The library is privileged to house this treasure and to preserve the legacy of pre-expulsion Iberian Jewry for the Jewish people and the world.”

The Esther scrolls detail the miraculous events that took place in Persia 2,300 years ago when the Jewish people were saved by the actions of Mordechai and Esther from Haman and King Ahasuerus’ decree to exterminate the Jewish population.

What a wonderful treasure to be gifted to the Jewish nation! Kol hakavod to the Jesselson family on their generosity.

I wish you all Happy Purim, Purim Same’ach! May this Purim mark the beginning of our turnaround back to normal life.

Shabbat Shalom to you all as well.

Posted in International relations, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Guest Post: Is it Antisemitic?

This is another guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb. Brian wrote this article since arguments about what constitutes antisemitism continue to rage on on the internet, social media and in political circles, this despite the publication of the IHRA definition of antisemitism which has been accepted in many academic institutions and political parties worldwide.


Defining antisemitism

“Is it Antisemitic”?:

This is a question I’ve often faced on reading some material on websites (not this one, of course), in the paper or listening to radio or television commentators, especially on the BBC (my home radio station) when the topic of Israel and the Middle East comes up. And frequently when the reporter is Jeremy Bowen. Why can’t they send him somewhere else? Please!! Anywhere out of the region.

The answer, yes or no, is rarely simple, except in the most obvious of cases. Sometimes, writers or speakers are simply unaware that what they are saying is, or can be construed – without violence to the words used – as antisemitic, and when this is pointed out to them, they are only too willing to apologise, reword their statement and move on. The whole issue is further complicated by noting that, here in the West, we prize free speech, as we should. In turn, this means that, in principle, nothing is beyond saying.

To illustrate the complexities this can create, six years ago, there was an attempt to run a conference at Southampton University (UK) with the title “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” (which Anne reported on in this blog). There was a long-running debate on the then very active Engage Online website, running from March 2015 over the following month or so, in which I took an active part (click on the link above to read the discussion and the subsequent comments).

You will notice that I do not mention antisemitism in what follows, and many of the commenters are good friends of Israel, but some of them still made comments that I found “odd”!

My starting point was that anybody could say anything they liked (within UK law) to whoever was willing to listen in any place that the owner was willing to allow them to do this. But it wasn’t an academic conference if there wasn’t at least an implicit question in the title, because the essence of academia is debate, discussion, consideration of evidence and so forth. Further, without the presence, or space for, dissent, it couldn’t be regarded as a proper academic conference, and holding it on University premises didn’t make it so.

I found myself facing opposition (always polite: we are British, after all!) from some surprising people: people I would have expected to agree with my general position. Much of this opposition took the line of the right of academic freedom: academics should be able to say what they liked. My counter was that, in the UK at least, there is no absolute right to free speech: we have libel and slander laws, which put limits on what can be said. We also have laws against racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, and so forth, both  written and spoken and in and out of the workplace [there is no intent here to present myself as a lone voice – the dissident speaking “truth to power” – but who said what is not important here].

It took time, but eventually the idea that academic freedom isn’t an absolute was accepted.

The battle over one case study was the next major issue. All sorts of “proper” academic conferences people had attended with only one issue were raised. This was readily dealt with: China’s part in the rise of global warming would hardly confine itself to just the one case; any conference on the partition of India in 1947 must involve at least 3 groups: Indians, soon-to-be Pakistanis and the British.

The debate then moved on to my and other people’s further major problem: that with only one case, it couldn’t be a proper academic conference. By definition, academic conferences allow and expect debate citing more than one case. There was an attempt to argue that Israel was “unusual”: its Declaration of Independence was unilateral and it was born in blood and involved the expulsion of some former inhabitants of what became Israel. My counter was that the USA was born of a revolution, as was the Soviet Union and China: were these independences to be now brought into question? And, further, in all three cases, legitimate inhabitants of the lands were killed, sometimes not even opposing those seeking a new order.

I have to note that I never received a clear rebuttal of that point.

Eventually, the Southampton authorities cancelled the event, not least because it had become obvious this was a partisan event (of the papers to be presented, well over half were clearly anti-Israel and the keynote address was to be given by that paragon of anti-Israel sentiment Richard Falk).

You will notice that not once was antisemitism mentioned in the above nor was it, for the most part, by the commenters. However, there were a number of potential paper-givers of ex-Israeli origin and notoriously anti-Zionist bent.

To round this section off, I must note that I had attended the Sunday before this controversy arose a one-day event sponsored by Stand By Israel. It was an unashamedly partisan event for the attendees to learn more about how to defend and promote their favourite foreign affairs topic: Israel. It was attended by a fair number of past and present academics, but no-one pretended it was an academic conference or other than I have stated.

All on its own, the paragraphs above illustrate one of the problems of both identifying and confronting antisemitism.

But we can drill further down into this issue and make it clearer in our own minds as to whether or not those who cause us problems are being, even unwittingly, antisemitic.

The acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism by a very broad group of countries and organisations within those countries (such as trade unions, political parties and trade unions) has very much helped in this process. The IHRA definition grew out of the EU Provisional Definition of Antisemitism and is, or can be, a powerful tool in clarifying these issues. For example, it is made abundantly clear in the IHRA definition that criticism of the actions of the Israeli government are not, per se, antisemitic. By definition, all governments are open to criticism (but sometimes not by their own citizens): they purport to be the arbiters of what is best for their citizens and if they are judged to be falling short of that, they are open to criticism. Just look at the newsstands in the UK, the USA, etc and, even more so, if one can read Hebrew, in Israel!

It is when Bibi, et al, (or any other Israeli politician) is criticised because he is the Prime Minister of Israel and not because of any particular policy or action he has (or they have) carried out that the suspicion of antisemitism might, legitimately, creep in.

I can perhaps illustrate what is meant here with the following (true) tale:

A senior academic at a prestigious UK University (and both shall remain anonymous. because this is an illustration, not an attack) made the following response when their institution was berated for the apparent intellectual hardship Jewish students had to face during the course of their studies there. It has been accepted that although this is true for other UK Universities, it appeared to be particular noticeable here.

The response was that:

“Attending X forces Jewish students to examine their Jewish identity and their relationship to Israel. They emerge stronger and better informed than their elders and peers.”

When this was first published, I responded, in part, as follows:

“Many people here will be aware that I am a retired H.E. lecturer, and I would have been (and still am) horrified that that students of any ethnicity and/or religion should be forced to examine their ethnic or religious identity, other than through a conscious choice of a course of study (voluntarily adopted) designed to do just that (perhaps a non-Marxist deliberately opting for a series of lectures & seminars by a noted Marxist scholar on just that topic).”

I chose that particular example of the Marxist scholar, because I was thinking of another institution and a different academic, who ran such a course and was, by repute, gentle with his non-Marxist students.

Later, I added the following comment:

“On second thoughts, I’m more than horrified, I think that [the academic] is excusing X. If we revisit the sentence “Attending X forces Jewish students to examine their Jewish identity and their relationship to Israel. They emerge stronger and better informed than their elders and peers”, and substitute “female” or “black” or “Christian” or “Muslim” or “Hindu” for Jewish (and change “Israel” as appropriate), then, I suspect, we would all immediately be condemning X for allowing such a breach of faith between a higher education institution and its student body in this country.

Instead, the academic actually defends what’s happening.”

It’s taken me quite a while to get here, and I hope that you’re still with me. What I am arguing is that if we come across an argument, statement or claim that we believe to be, to be polite, dubious, and especially given where we are, that it might be antisemitic, then my acid test has become: “what happens if we take out “Israel” or “the Jews” and substitute women, Black people, Christians or Moslems, or another country that might be seen as “objectionable”, would we be upset, outraged or even angry at the implied or actual prejudice and discrimination? If the answer is yes, then it’s antisemitic.


Anne adds:

Brian, as ever I thank you for this very necessary and thought-provoking analysis of what constitutes antisemitism. For us Jews it is relatively easy to understand: we “know” it when we hear it or see it, it’s almost a subconscious instinct ingrained into our national psyche from centuries of persecution and discrimination. But when challenged, it is sometimes so hard to find the right words and the exact terms to explain to the speaker or author just what it is that is so objectionable. If they are acting in good faith they will be willing to listen and accept the terms of the IHRA. And if they are not, then they are an antisemite.

Posted in Academia, Antisemitism, Incitement, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

International Holocaust Memorial Day 2021

It is International Holocaust Memorial Day today, and although it is not marked in Israel since we have our own Yom Hashoah after Pesach, this is a fitting time to both talk about the Shoah and those who would deny it.

The pathology and psychology of Holocaust deniers is a subject which I won’t discuss here today though I have addressed it on this blog in the past. Suffice to say that the Holocaust deniers seek to belittle the Jewish people’s experience on the one hand, and thus to deny us the ability to complain about antisemitism or the right to live in safety in our own country, in fact they deny Israel the right to exist at all, while at the same time they compare us to the very Nazis who they deny committed any crimes. I did say it was a pathology.

But this week, putting the lie to the Holocaust deniers, it was revealed to us that an excavation project being carried out at the site of the Sobibor concentration camp has uncovered ID tags belonging to Jewish children who were murdered there (via DAP):

Four metal identity tags belonging to young children murdered at the Sobibor extermination camp were uncovered in a joint excavation project carried out by Yoram Haimi from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Wojtek Mazurek from Poland and Ivar Schute from Holland, the IAA announced on Tuesday.

The four tags carried the children’s names, date of birth and hometown – Amsterdam.

“With this information, we were able to find more about them by consulting the relevant archives,” Haimi explained to The Jerusalem Post. The researchers contacted the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork, a former transit camp where Dutch Jews were gathered before being sent east, that today serves as a research center and memorial.

Seeing the pictures of smiling children and thinking of their terrible end has been especially hard, the archaeologist said.

Leah de la Penha on the right

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The ID tag of Leah Judith de la Penha Hy’d

Lea Judith De La Penha was only six when she was killed. Her pendant was found near the camp’s railway platform. Deddie Zak was just a little older than her. He was deported to Sobibor on a train that became notorious for the large number of children that carried – some 1,300, ages 4 to 8 – many of them alone.

The ID tag of Deddie Zak Hy’d

“We found his tag in the area of a crematorium, which probably means that his body was burned while wearing it. This is all that remains of him,” the researcher said.

Annie Kapper, age 12, was deported to Sobibor with her family on March 30, 1943. All 1,255 Jews who were on the train were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Her tag was found near one of the mass graves in the camp. On the same train was also 11-year-old David Juda Van der Velde, whose aluminum tag was uncovered in the area of one of the chambers.

About 250,000 Jews were killed at Sobibor, most of them immediately upon arrival. The camp was destroyed by the Nazis after the prisoners attempted a revolt in October 1943.

Haimi explained that when his team started to work, very little of the camp remained. Over the years, they managed to uncover the site of the gas chambers, the crematoria, some of the mass graves and even a tunnel that the prisoners were trying to excavate in order to escape along with some digging tools.

Moreover, the archaeologists unearthed some 75,000 objects.

“We found plates, forks, jewelry, all sorts of items that the prisoners would bring with them,” he said. “In a well, we found some 20 golden wedding rings that the victims chose to throw away to avoid leaving them in the hands of the Nazis.

I would remind you that my mother’s three brothers, who were sent to ostensible safety at age 5, 7 and 9 on a kindertransport from Frankfurt to Holland in 1938, were subsequently transported to Sobibor in March 1943, aged 9, 11 and 13 and murdered on the day they arrived. You can read about my mother’s family story on my family history page.

Above: David, Elchanan and Uri HY”D Below: The 3 brothers with Judith תבדל”א

Not only must we never forget and always remember, we must make sure that others never forget as well, so that history cannot be denied and the victims made victims once more.

As international human rights lawyer and former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler stated yesterday on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day:

May the memories of the 6 million martyrs be for a blessing.

יהי זכרם ברוך.

As I always do on these days of commemoration, I invite readers to visit my pages on my family history during the Shoah.

Posted in Antisemitism, History, Incitement | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Guest Post: What will President Biden mean for Israel?

This is another guest post by Brian Goldfarb about newly elected US President Joe Biden which I hope is not too optimistic! At some point after this article is published (and comments are welcome as usual) I shall post a review of sorts of Trump’s time in office and especially his influence on the Middle East.

I watched the inauguration yesterday and was impressed with the organization, and also the discipline regarding covid regulations. I also liked Biden’s speech although I have already heard remarks that I am naive and he’s “just another politician”. That’s as may be, but I suppose we don’t have much choice, especially from such a distance, other than to hope and pray that Biden really meant those fine words.

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US President Joe Biden delivers his Inauguration speech at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky / POOL / AFP)

I congratulate America on a peaceful transfer of power despite the riots of last week, and the grave security threats hovering over it all.

Let’s see what Brian has to say:


Preface:

The article below was written after former President Trump grudgingly acknowledged that he was no longer going to have a second term (although he hadn’t yet said so in so many words) on 26 November, but before the events of 6 January. I feel that a few extra words might be necessary and useful.

Donald Trump’s refusal to accept that the election was fair, that there was no fraud in the election of any significance, and certainly not enough to affect the declared result in any state (in Pennsylvania, a state Biden regained, someone found three votes cast in the names of dead people…for Trump!), did nothing to enhance his stature. Even the official appointed by Trump to oversee the fairness of the election, a life-long Republican, declared the election the fairest in living memory…and was promptly sacked. Even after 60 failed court cases attempting to overturn various results were thrown out by Federal judges, some appointed by Trump – and the Supreme Court, now weighted 6-3 in terms of Republican appointees – flatly refused to even hear a case, Trump refused to accept the result. He even coined a slogan for his efforts: “Stop the Steal”.

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Violent protesters, loyal to US President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, January 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

I am aware that 70% of Israeli Jews would have voted for Trump, had they been US voters, an exact mirror image of the actual Jewish vote in the US. I am also aware that Trump has been responsible for a number of policy changes concerning the Middle East that are to Israel’s benefit (see the 4th and 5th paragraphs of the article itself), including acting as the Godfather (or Midwife/father) to the Abraham Accords.

However, care needs to be taken here: if we aren’t careful we fall into the trap of following the precedent of applauding Mussolini because he made the trains run on time, and ignoring all the evil he did, by praising Trump for the good things he did, as though these are not far outweighed by the evil.

And all this before his deliberately provoked mass rally on 6th January that led to the invasion of the US Capitol. This was nothing less than an attempted coup, along the lines of Mussolini’s “March on Rome” in 1922. Except that this time, the state and the forces of law and order stood firm and this led to an unprecedented second impeachment of him: only two previous President had ever been impeached (Andrew Jackson [Lincoln’s successor] in the 19th Century and Bill Clinton in the 1990s) and neither were convicted by the Senate). It turns out that having left office is no bar to impeachment and conviction: a Cabinet Member in Grant’s administration (in the 1870s) was convicted in the Senate, despite having already resigned office.

Furthermore, anyone who stayed up late enough (we watched until 01.45 GMT, when the rioters were clearly starting to be pushed back out of the Capitol) will have seen all the slogans that clearly reflect deep-rooted antisemitism among the rioters, such as “Camp Auschwitz Works make free” and 6MWE, meaning “6 Million Weren’t Enough”.

Finally, to add to my evaluation of President-Elect Biden, I feel sure that he will find it difficult just to return to the flawed Treaty with Iran, if only because he will face not only very vocal opposition from Israel (irrespective of who is PM) but also from all of Israel’s new friends in the region, thanks to the Abraham Accords.

And now without further ado, here is my assessment of what Joe Biden would mean for Israel.

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Newly elected President Joe Biden

Those words are the title of an article in Labour Friends of Israel  which I have forwarded to friends who were and are dubious about Biden’s relationship with Israel, were he to be elected to the US Presidency. The original article was published in October. Please read the article and make up your own minds. Israel is going to have deal with this man for the next four years.

First there is a review of Trump’s record:

Trump also couched the recent normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in similar terms. “It’s an incredible thing for Israel, [and] it’s incredible for the evangelicals, by the way,” the president said. “The evangelicals love Israel. Love Israel.”

It’s not the first time that Trump has suggested that his approach towards Israel is driven chiefly by political concerns and that American Jews – who traditionally vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats and are expected to do so once again in November – aren’t sufficiently grateful to him. Last August, he notoriously claimed: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – it either shows total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” That comment reflected both Trump’s transactional view of politics and his deployment of antisemitic tropes, as well as his determination to present the Democrats as anti-Israel.

By contrast, Biden pledges to “ensure that support for the US-Israel alliance remains bipartisan, reversing Trump’s exploitation of US support for Israel as a political football, which harms both countries’ interests”.

Note, especially, this sentence from the second section:

“As he argued in a TV interview last November: “I strongly oppose Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank. I have made that clear to Bibi when … I was vice president. I have made it crystal clear to the Israelis. But the idea that we would cut off military aid to an ally, our only true, true ally in the entire region, is absolutely preposterous. It’s just beyond my comprehension anyone would do that.” The former vice-president repeated that pledge earlier this summer, stating: “I’m not going to place conditions for the security assistance given the serious threats that Israel is facing.”

The article also states:

So what should Israel and its supporters expect from a Biden presidency? A clear priority for Biden will be to put support for Israel back on to a bipartisan footing. Trump himself has been clear that he views his policies in the Middle East strictly through a partisan lens. On the campaign trail in Wisconsin in August, for instance, the president said that his decision in 2017 to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was done with the aim of pleasing his evangelical base. “We moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem [sic]. That’s for the evangelicals,” he bluntly stated. “You know, it’s amazing with that –the evangelicals are more excited by that than Jewish people.”

Note also this section from further into the article:

“Biden’s commitment to its security and opposition to BDS is rooted in his long-standing view of Israel as the ultimate safeguard of the security of the Jewish people, as former Democrat congressman Steve Israel has described: “Biden would often tell me how his support for Israel was formed. He was a young kid sitting at the dinner table. It was around the time of the debate on the establishment of the modern state of Israel. His father was unable to comprehend how anyone could oppose this historic step. To this Irish American Catholic salesman, it was obvious why Israel had to exist. The establishment of a state for the Jewish people was the only way to fulfil the promise of ‘never again’ after the tragedy of the Holocaust. It was the first time Biden ever heard that phrase, and he never forgot the lesson.”

Having already conceded much on domestic policy to supporters of his former rival for the Democrat nomination, Bernie Sanders, Biden in July refused to agree to a tougher approach towards Israel in his party’s platform. As Peter Mulrean, who served for three decades in the State Department and subsequently oversaw UN aid programmes for Palestinians, argued: “The party platform section on Israel and Palestine is a clear victory for those supporting a return to mainstream Democratic policies of the past and a loss for the progressives seeking more restrictive or conditional support for Israel.”

He is very strong on standing up against antisemitism as we see in his statements to AIPAC:

Decades later, in his final address to AIPAC as vice-president in 2016, Biden echoed the lessons he learned as a child. “When swastikas are painted on synagogues, when Jewish people are targeted in terrorist attacks, when thousands of European Jews immigrate to Israel out of fear when a seemingly organised effort to discredit, delegitimise and isolate Israel persists on the international stage, it’s dangerous, it’s wrong and every time we encounter it, we have an obligation to speak out against it.”

He presents his views on Middle East peace here too:

Decades later, in his final address to AIPAC as vice-president in 2016, Biden echoed the lessons he learned as a child. “When swastikas are painted on synagogues, when Jewish people are targeted in terrorist attacks, when thousands of European Jews immigrate to Israel out of fear when a seemingly organised effort to discredit, delegitimise and isolate Israel persists on the international stage, it’s dangerous, it’s wrong and every time we encounter it, we have an obligation to speak out against it.”

But Biden also strongly believes that a two-state solution and the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state is key to Israel’s security. Last month, he told a Jewish community virtual event that a two-state solution is “the only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security while sustaining its Jewish and democratic identity”.

Biden has framed his support for a two-state solution in terms of the responsibilities and behaviour he expects from both the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership, with his campaign pledging to “work with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to support peacebuilding efforts in the region”. Biden, it says, “will urge Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority to take steps to keep the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome alive and avoid actions, such as unilateral annexation of territory and settlement activity, or support for incitement and violence, that undercut prospects for peace between the parties.”

Indeed, Biden’s vocal and consistent opposition to annexation, commentators suggest, may have played a part in Benjamin Netanyahu’s u-turn on the issue in the summer. “Had Netanyahu moved to annex parts of the West Bank in the coming months,” wrote Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institute, “his government would have started its relationship with a possible new Democratic administration on the wrong foot, even as the Biden-Harris ticket seems palatable to Israel on issues pertaining to Israel-Palestine.”

Biden – who had previously urged Arab states to “move beyond quiet talks and take bolder steps towards normalisation with Israel” – has also supported the historic recent steps taken by the UAE and Bahrain. “I think Trump is going to accidentally do something positive here, in terms of this issue of … other Arab states,” he said last month.

His position on the Palestinians seems to be somewhat carrot and stick, promising to reengage with them while insisting on holding them to account for their violence and obscene “pay-to-slay” policy:

Biden has thus promised to “reengage the Palestinians”, saying he will “reverse the Trump Administration’s destructive cut-off of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and cancellation of assistance programs that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, economic development, and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza”.

At the same time, as his comments regarding its “support for incitement and violence” show, Biden will also hold the Palestinian leadership to account for its failings. He has, for instance, vowed that any financial assistance to it will have to comply with the requirements of the 2018 Taylor Force Act, including its requirement that the PA end its policy of paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and their families. “The Palestinians need to end incitement in the West Bank and rocket attacks in Gaza,” Biden said in May. “What they are teaching in their schools is still in the school books. No matter what legitimate disagreement they may have with Israel, it’s never a justification for terrorism, and no leader should fail to condemn as terrorists those who commit these brutalities.”

And this brings us to the most crucial of all problems in the Middle East: Iran.  Biden thinks that rejoining the JCPA will improve the situation:

… Biden has also framed his desire for the US to rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in similar terms. “Trump has put Israel in danger by tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, and replaced it with nothing,” Biden said last month. “Iran is closer to a [nuclear] weapon than when we left office in 2017,” he suggested. “And instead of Iran being isolated, we are the ones being isolated.”

But while Biden has said he will rejoin the JCPOA if Iran returns to compliance with it, he also wants to make the deal “longer and stronger”, so that it also encompasses “Irans other destabilising actions” in the region, which were not covered by the original agreement.

Brian now adds:

Please note how Biden views Israel, from its foundation (he and I are of an age): “never again” resonates deeply with him, thanks to his originally blue-collar (but at the time of his talk with his son, a white-collar worker) father.

We can argue how deeply he holds to this view in the comments, but note that he refers to the current Israel prime Minister as “Bibi”, despite, undoubtedly, disagreeing with many of his governments policies. Note also the anecdote about his meeting with Golda Meir (who undoubtedly spoke with him in her US  Brooklyn accented English, having been born and raised in the US.)

I am convinced that he will be a good friend of Israel. Don’t fall for the propaganda from the naysayers.


Anne adds:

First of all, thank you Brian for your opinions and analysis.

As you can imagine, Brian’s views are very dissimilar to mine on the issue of politics. However since he is of the “sane left” it is worthwhile to listen to his voice and hear his analysis.

I myself have grave doubts about how the Biden Administration will turn out, however good Biden himself is.  When I expressed my concerns about the pro-Israel bona-fides of the people surrounding Biden, Brian also sent me this article from the Algemeiner (a very pro-Israel and anti-antisemitism American news site), which talks about his Secretary of State, Tony Blinken:

In his first speech since being named as US President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be the next secretary of state, Antony Blinken — who is Jewish — recalled the Holocaust experiences of his late stepfather, Samuel Pisar.

Pisar, Blinken said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden officially introduced his national security team, was “one of 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps.”

Jonathan Tobin (a conservative writer) in an article in the JNS, also asks what a Biden presidency could mean for Israel: and he expresses many of my own (and my friends’ and family’s) concerns:

True, some concern about a possible Biden administration is warranted.

It’s a certainty that those who would fill positions at the State Department and the National Security Council will be Obama administration alumni or share their opinions about the Middle East.

It’s equally certain that, at a minimum, his foreign-policy team would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal and likely seek to revive the moribund U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, which were downgraded due to its refusal to stop funding terror or to even discuss Trump’s ideas about Middle East peace.

But there is still the chance that, as Biden’s top campaign foreign-policy spokesperson Anthony Blinken (the current favorite to be his National Security Advisor) has hinted, the United States would maintain the sanctions put in place against Iran by Trump. That means the most important task for both Israel and Jewish groups in the upcoming months will not be to refight the political battles of 2015. Rather, it should be to seek to persuade Biden that he not be tempted into simply erasing the last four years of progress made towards pressuring Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal so as to strip it of the sunset clauses that put Tehran on a certain track towards achieving its nuclear ambitions.

Similarly, on the Palestinian issue, it would be wise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel Americans to assume, rightly or wrongly, that Biden doesn’t consider himself bound to take up the cudgels for Obama policies that he knows were abysmal failures.

Biden’s support for Israel has always been conditioned by his insistence that he knew better than the Jewish state’s leaders what was best for their country. As infuriating as that can be, it’s also true that he has a warmer feeling for the country than Obama ever did. It would be best to keep that in mind instead of assuming that Biden will rewind American Middle East policy to that awful moment when Obama stabbed Israel in the back at the United Nations on his way out of office.

And of course Israel is not a mere satellite state with no options as Tobin writes:

As Netanyahu proved during the eight rocky years of the Obama administration, Israel can always say “no” to the United States any time it believes that it must defend its interests against misguided American policymakers.

The alliances with the Arab states that have been forged with Trump’s help will become stronger, not weaker if Biden were to choose policies that would strengthen Iran. The Arab states that have embraced Israel have not done so as an act of charity or out of a sentimental attachment to Zionism; they did it in order to strengthen their security. And if Biden repeats Obama’s mistakes in the Mideast, they will need Israel as much if not more than ever.

Similarly, Israel is both economically and militarily stronger than it was in 2009, and while the friendship of its sole superpower ally is still necessary, it need not quail before Biden any more than it did before Obama. It still has many friends in U.S. politics, and it can and should point to the principles of Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan as the only solid foundation for a path to a possible resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

These reassuring words notwithstanding, a very great worry is the “squad” of four very “woke” super-progressive, very hostile anti-Israel female congresswomen – Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) – who will try and exert pressure on Biden and his Administration from the start, as Ruthie Blum writes in the Jerusalem Post:

Then there’s Tlaib, who considers the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket to be a means to an end, not the ultimate aim.

In an interview with Middle East Eye on October 30, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants said, “I need an administration that I can get through the door and speak the truth about the oppression of the Palestinian people and the violence toward the Palestinian people.”

Tlaib – who, like Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, is hostile to Israel – told the online publication that she had informed Biden of her intention to push for progressive policies “with a sense of urgency.”

Underscoring Biden’s supposedly stellar record on Israel, too, is ridiculous. In the first place, he wants America to return to the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran.

This would jeopardize the Trump-brokered Abraham Accords that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel; it would shake Sudan’s resolve to normalize relations with the Jewish state; and it would block several other budding agreements in the region based on a unified stance against the mullah-led regime in Tehran.

Secondly, Biden still holds with the false credo that true peace cannot be achieved without Israel relinquishing land and evicting the Jews living there, to make way for an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. It’s one “pro-Israel” approach that the likes of Omar and Tlaib might grudgingly accept.

Finally, Biden himself is irrelevant, as the squad attests.

Blum’s opinion, that rejoining the JCPOA will destroy the Abraham Accords is at odds with Tobin who says that the more America cosies up to Iran, the more fearful the Gulf States will be, causing them to draw even nearer to Israel for protection. My instinct tells me that Tobin is correct, but I really wouldn’t like for any of our theories to be tested.

To quote my brother, May Hashem grant President Biden and the new leaders of America the wisdom to lead the country and the world with truth, strength, humility and understanding.

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Good News Friday – Pollard comes home!

This week’s Good News Friday post simply HAS to focus on the amazing – and far too belated – return of Jonathan Pollard to Israel.

Jonathan and Esther Pollard kiss the ground as they land in Israel on 30th December 2020

If you want to know the background to the Jonathan Pollard case, you can read all that I have written about him at this link here.

Here is a very short potted history. He was a naval analyst in the US Navy who passed on security secrets to Israel – information that SHOULD have been passed on to Israel by the US security forces as agreed by the two countries, but the US, for whatever nefarious reasons, refused to do so. Of course Pollard broke American law, and he was caught, after being shamefully abandoned by a very embarrassed Israel, and put on trial. The sentence he received was far above and beyond any sentence ever received by any spy, even for a hostile nation, not to mention for an ally. He served every single minute of the 30 years sentence, was not allowed out for his father’s funeral, spent several years in solitary confinement, and was altogether disgracefully mistreated by the US.

After his release 5 years ago, he was still treated like a dangerous criminal, with a 7pm curfew, an electronic ankle bracelet, and was not allowed to leave his apartment or his neighbourhood at all, never mind come to Israel.

But now, since his parole has ended, and President Trump is leaving office, without any fanfare or advance information, Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther landed in Israel on Wednesday morning.

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PM Netanyahu joyfully greets Jonathan Pollard as he lands in Israel, Dec 30 2020

As the pilots prepared to land, Pollard was called to enter the cockpit, where he was able to hear the Ben-Gurion International Airport control tower welcome him to Israel in Hebrew.

Pollard, who was convicted for spying for Israel while working as a naval intelligence officer in the 1980s, received Israeli citizenship during his stay at the North Caroline prison, where he was held until the parole committee agreed to release him in 2015. He was prohibited from leaving the country for five years following his release.

Due to Esther’s medical condition, the Pollards chose to fly by private plane directly from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport to Tel Aviv. The date for the flight was selected to allow her to continue her medical treatments. The Pollards thanked everyone who continues to pray for her recovery.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Pollard and his wife upon their arrival.

A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said the two recited the Shehecheyanu prayer, as Netanyahu presented the Pollards with their Israeli IDs.

“Welcome home. It’s so good to finally see you here,” Netanyahu said. “Now you can start over and live your lives free and happy. You are now home.”

A visibly emotional Pollard said, “We’re excited to finally be home after 35 years. We thank the Israeli people and the Israeli prime minister for bringing us home. No one is as proud of this country and its leader as we are.

“We hope to become productive citizens as soon as possible and move on with our lives. This is a great country with a bright future. [Israel] is the future of the Jewish people and we’re not going anywhere.”

Watch this very moving video as the Pollards kneel down and kiss the ground of Eretz Yisrael as they get off the plane:

It was both a pity and good luck that he landed in the middle of Israel’s 3rd lockdown at 5 in the morning. For both reasons, the roads and the airport were empty. The only person welcoming Pollard was PM Binyamin Netanyahu.

It was a pity of course because he should have had crowds lining the streets, waving flags and welcoming him home.

But for political reasons, so as not to antagonize the Americans and the new Democratic administration even more, it was probably best that the whole arrival was very low key.

Popular commentator Sivan Rahav Meir had the following very relevant comment to make about Jonathan Pollard’s return: (translation is mine):

אם להתעורר לפנות בוקר, אז לחדשות כאלה: בחמש בבוקר החלו להתפרסם התמונות של יונתן פולארד נוחת בישראל. מה היה כל כך מרגש ברגע הזה?
1. פולארד ירד מכבש המטוס, ואז סימן לראש הממשלה שבא לקבל את פניו להמתין רגע, עם כל הכבוד, ולפני הכל נישק את אדמת ארץ ישראל. מעבר לסיפור הפוליטי, המדיני, מעבר לאינטרסים של נתניהו וטראמפ, זה סיפור של יהודי שחוזר הביתה.
2. רגע, חוזר הביתה? הוא הרי אמריקני מבטן ומלידה, וזה בדיוק הסיפור. אלי ויזל אמר פעם שיהודי לא צריך להיות בארץ ישראל כדי לקרוא לה בית. בפרשת השבוע, פרשת “ויחי”, כותב רש”י על רחל אמנו, שמחכה עד היום לכל אחד מבניה, לכל מיליוני הפולארדים שעדיין פזורים בעולם, עד לקיום ההבטחה: “ושבו בנים לגבולם”.
3. פולארד עשה עוד משהו בשניות הראשונות שלו בישראל, לפני הנשיקה לקרקע: הוריד את המסיכה. בסוף, אחרי 35 שנים של ציפייה, הוא מגיע הנה בעיצומה של מגיפה עולמית קטלנית. מי היה מאמין שכך תיראה ההגעה שלו לכאן, בלי חיבוק אחד אמיץ שאפשר לחבק אותו. במקום להמשיך יחד עם אלפי אנשים אל עצרת תפילה חגיגית בכותל, הוא יצא ישר לבידוד ביתי. אולי טוב שכך, מבחינת היחסים שלנו מול האמריקאים.
4. אז אפשר להתעסק עם השאלה למה בכלל ריגל (ההאשמה פה אינה נגדו, ברגע שישראל חתמה איתו על הסכם – יש לה אחריות כלפיו) ואפשר לדבר על הנזק ליחסים עם ידידתנו הקרובה (סביר להניח שלא יופעלו עוד פולארדים). בשורה התחתונה, אדם שהפך לסמל, שבמשך 35 שנים התפללו עליו (יש נערים ונערות, בעיקר בציונות הדתית, שהקדישו את מיטב שנותיהם למען “יהונתן בן מלכה”), אדם שהקריב ושילם מחיר כבד, שלא זכה להביא ילדים לעולם – יוצא כעת לחירות.
5. ואז הגיעו המילים של פולארד עצמו. “זו מדינה נהדרת”, אמר האיש בלי להתלונן שהופקר, שהושאר מחוץ לשגרירות, שנשכח. “אנחנו רוצים להיות אזרחים פרודוקטיביים”, אמר, והזכיר לנו שזה לא סוף פרשת פולארד, כפי שהכריזו חלק מהכותרות, זוהי ההתחלה. פולארד מתחיל כעת את החיים שרצה. “יש למדינה עתיד מזהיר, היא העתיד של העם היהודי”, הוא המשיך. חשבנו שהנאומים הפוליטיים החשובים מגיעים בשמונה בערב, לפעמים אפילו בקצב של שניים במקביל, אבל מתברר שהנאום הכי חשוב לתקופה הזו נישא בחמש בבוקר בנתב”ג. נאום פשוט שמזכיר, בימים של פילוגים וסכסוכים פוליטיים מכוערים, שיש לנו סיפור משותף.

If we have to wake up early in the morning, then at least it’s for news like this: at 5 in the morning pictures started to be published of Jonathan Pollard landing in Israel. What was so exciting about that?

  1. Pollard descended from the plane and then signaled to the prime minister, who had come to greet him, to wait for him, with all due respect, and before everything else he kissed the ground of Eretz Yisrael. Beyond the political story, the diplomatic one, beyond Netanyahu’s and Trump’s interests, this is a story of a Jew who returned home.

  2. Wait a minute, came home? He is after all a born and bred American, and this is precisely the story. Eli Wiesel once said that a Jew doesn’t need to to be in Israel in order to call it home. In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayechi, Rashi writes about our Foremother Rachel, who waits until today for all of her children, for all the millions of Pollards that are still dispersed throughout the world, until the promise is fulfilled “And the sons shall return to their borders”.

  3. Pollard did something else in his first seconds in Israel. Before kissing the ground, he removed his mask. After 35 years of waiting, he arrives here in the middle of a deadly global pandemic. Who would have believed that this is how his arrival would look! Without one brave embrace. Instead of parading with thousands of people to a celebratory prayer at the Kotel he went straight to home quarantine. Maybe its best like that, considering our relations with the Americans.

  4. So we can discuss the question of why did he spy at all (the accusation is not against him. The minute Israel signed on an agreement with him, it had a responsibility towards him) and we can talk about the damage to our relations with our close friends (we can assume there won’t be any more Pollards). Bottom line, the man who became a symbol, who for 35 years people prayed for him (there are young boys and girls, especially in the religious Zionist circle, who have dedicated the best of their years for “Yonatan Ben Malka”), a man who sacrificed and paid a very heavy price, who has not merited to bring children into the world – has now come out free.

  5. And then came Pollard’s own words: “This is a wonderful country” said the man without complaining that he had been abandoned, that he was left outside the embassy, forgotten. “We want to be productive citizens” he said and mentioned that this is not the ned of the Pollard story as the headlines declared, this is the beginning. Pollard now begins his life as he wishes. “This country has a glorious future, it is the future of the Jewish people” he continued. We thought that important political stories are broadcast at 8 pm, sometimes even two in parallel, but it turns out that the most important speech of this period was delivered at 5 am at Ben Gurion airport. A simple speech, that reminds us, in these days of divisiveness and ugly politics, that we have a common story.

What beautiful words, both from Sivan and from Jonathan Pollard.

Welcome home Jonathan and Esther! May you have an easy klita and may Esther have a refuah shlema.

ברוכים הבאים. ושבו בנים לגבולם.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Posted in International relations, Israel news, support Israel | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments