For a Single Double Standard


As a liberal democracy, Israel is rightly held, and holds itself, to a higher standard in warfare than its adversaries; too bad the other democracies don’t do likewise.    

Read more at Washington Post

More about: International Law, Natan Sharansky, Warfare


Netanyahu in Congress: A Devastating, Irrevocable Indictment


David Horovitz weighs in on the Israeli prime minister’s speech:

Although diplomatic in tone . . . Netanyahu’s speech was in essence a devastating assault on Obama. He began, dutifully, with expressions of appreciation for the president, and for everything the president has done for Israel. But he continued, for the vast majority of his address, to explain the profound misjudgment of Iran—its ideology, its goals, and the immense danger it constitutes to Israel, the region, the United States, and the world—that lies at the heart of the “very bad” emerging deal between the US-led P5+1 negotiators and Iran. And thus, by extension, he was explaining the profound misjudgment of Iran at the core of Obama’s worldview and policies. . . .

For all the cynicism and the political filtering over Netanyahu’s motivations, the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that Iran is determined to advance its benighted ideology across the region and beyond. The prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the deal taking shape will immunize the ayatollahs from any prospect of revolution from within or effective challenge from without. The deal “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb,” he warned. “It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

And the cardinal fact is that the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the Islamist regime in Tehran is bent on the destruction of Israel.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Iranian nuclear program, Israel, Politics & Current Affairs, US-Israel relations

The UN’s Stacked System for Investigating Israel


Although William Schabas, a longtime foe of Israel, has resigned from his position as chairman of the UN commission investigating last summer’s Gaza war, the commission is nonetheless likely to produce a catalogue of unfounded libels similar to the 2009 Goldstone report. Part of the problem with these reports, explains Hillel Neuer, is that they are written mainly by a staff appointed by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR)—an agency that stands out even within the UN as a bastion of hatred for Israel. Nor are the staffers chosen for their impartiality:

When I met with the Schabas commission on September 17, 2014 to personally hand them a written demand for Schabas’s recusal, there were only two staff members in the room, both of them from OHCHR’s Arab section. . . . One was Frej Fenniche, a Tunisian who was a spokesman for the UN’s notoriously anti-Semitic Durban conference on racism in 2001. The other was Sara Hammood, a former spokesperson for the UN’s most anti-Israel committee. Hamood also worked as a “policy adviser on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory” for Oxfam Novib, where she wrote one-sided reports and joined others in critical statements against Israel. This was the initial staff . . . who were presumably involved in hiring the others.

The current staff—Schabas has mentioned that it is composed of “a dozen specialists”—[also] includes Karin Lucke, OHCHR’s former coordinator of the Arab region team, . . . now listed as working for the UN in New York. Amnesty [International] notes that the current team includes the OHCHR staff from “Geneva, Ramallah, and the Gaza Strip.”

Read more at Tower

More about: Goldstone Report, Israel & Zionism, Protective Edge, UN, UNHRC, William Schabas

On Making English a Jewish Language


The novelist Dara Horn discusses the use of Jewish tradition and history in her own fiction, the relationship between studying literature and creating it, her attempt to “make English a Jewish language,” and other aspects of her life and career. (Interview by Alan Rubenstein; video, about 2 hours.)

Read more at Tikvah Fund

More about: American Jewish literature, Arts & Culture, Dara Horn, I.L. Peretz, Yiddish literature

Is Support for Israel Declining among Younger Americans?


No, writes Jonathan Marks. Although a Gallup poll taken near the end of the 2014 war in Gaza pointed to such a decline, the latest statistics show this to be but a temporary blip:

[P]revious dramatic declines in American support for Israel, as indicated by this poll or that poll, had been followed by recovery. . . .

It is therefore of some interest that Gallup is out with a new poll. . . . Approximately 57 percent of eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds surveyed [in both 2013 and 2015] said that they sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians in the conflict. Sympathy with the Palestinians has also held steady at about 23 percent.

Compare this year to 2005, the year anti-Israel activists started Israel Apartheid Week, a period devoted to demonizing Israel, mainly on college campuses, which is in full swing as I write. That year, support for Israel among the same age group stood at 51 percent. Ten years of a relentless campaign against Israel, specifically targeting the young, has not had its intended effect. It is perhaps for this reason, along with the wearying sameness of the distortions trotted out year after year, that Israeli Apartheid Week is getting almost no coverage in the United States this year. . . .

I do not mean to say that we should not be concerned about these campaigns, which may well, if they are not resisted, have the long-term effect of making Zionism a suspect, if not quite a dirty, word. But those who seized on one striking poll to predict that Israel had finally worn out its welcome with young Americans should be asked to comment on this one. It appears that when they hoped young Americans would pressure Israel into making unilateral concessions with a view to engaging nonexistent peace partners, they may have been indulging in wishful thinking.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Zionism, Israel & Zionism, Israel on campus, Protective Edge, US-Israel relations

Where Do Purim Costumes Come From?


While feasting and intoxication on the holiday of Purim are discussed in the Talmud, costumes are not. Yet dressing up has been a standard practice for centuries. Shlomo Brody looks at its origins:

Purim costumes originated as a medieval folk custom in Ashkenazi lands, leaving rabbinic scholars to discuss the propriety of the practice. One prominent discussion was written by a 15th-century German scholar who had moved to Padua. He permitted the wearing of masks, despite the opposition of some earlier figures, and even justified men and women wearing clothing of the opposite gender, despite the biblical prohibition of cross-dressing. . . .

Where does the practice of dressing up come from? Some have speculated that it commemorates how Mordecai was dressed in regal clothing, a clear turning point in the plot of the Purim story. Others believe that hiding one’s identity symbolizes how God’s hand was involved in the miraculous salvation, even though His name is never explicitly mentioned in the text of the story. Noting that Esther similarly hid her own identity, Zohar Hanegbi further contends that perhaps the intention is to mimic the many costume parties in the story. Whatever its commemorative message might be, several rabbis and historians have claimed that this folk custom imitated medieval European Christian carnivals (e.g., Fastnacht or Mardi Gras) which took place at around the same season. If true, this would be akin to the development of the contemporary American custom of Hanukkah presents during the “holiday season.”

Still, many have had reservations. The 17th-century Italian scholar Shmuel Abuhab viewed the wearing of costumes as a form of debauchery that detracted from the religious joy that one should feel on the holiday. Some particularly discouraged the pious from donning costumes, while others, like Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, banned cross-dressing for all.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Ashkenazi Jewry, Halakhah, Judaism, Ovadiah Yosef, Purim, Religion & Holidays