Liberal Rabbis Shouldn’t Be Sowing Political Division in Jewish Communities

March 29 2017

In recent months, writes Karol Markowicz, the increasing concern expressed by liberal American rabbis over incidents of anti-Semitism has often become indistinguishable from their vocal opposition to the current president. She comments:

Too many rabbis and other Jewish leaders are linking the threats against JCCs and other Jewish spaces . . . to President Trump. Sure, you stand against anti-Semitism, and that’s good. But you do it under the umbrella of groups like Get Organized Brooklyn, groups with openly political leftist aims. Your fight against anti-Semitism is part and parcel of your fight against the president. It shouldn’t be. . . .

At a time when we need to stand together, you must know you are fostering an atmosphere that is working against that goal. When you infused the Purim shpil with your opposition to Donald Trump, do you know that you alienated people? I don’t mean people in faraway red states—I mean people in your own congregations. . . . Yes, though it may surprise you to learn, . . . people in your own congregations . . . voted for the man you so openly oppose. Your efforts to pretend these people don’t exist, or don’t matter, or are on the wrong side, don’t do anything to bridge any divides.

Indeed, it’s fair to ask: is your purpose to make people feel unwelcome? Certainly your emails, filled with calls for vigils and pleas for peace, as if Donald Trump were the great evil facing Jews (if not the whole world) and Jews have a duty to stand up to him, suggest that. But why can’t you live up to the values you write to me about weekly—most notably, tolerance for people with different points of view?

Yes, we need to take anti-Semitism and threats to our community spaces seriously. Being a Jew can never mean sitting back and hoping for the best. There’s a reason we’ve had concrete blocks outside so many of our Manhattan buildings, metal detectors at our doors, security guards at every entryway. But this didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and it won’t end with him. . . . It’s time for Jewish leaders to disentangle their justified concern for the safety of Jews from their desire for a different president. Weakening Jewish unity and politicizing threats to Jews won’t do anyone much good.

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More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump, Jewish community, Politics & Current Affairs

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria