Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Driving While Black

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown (New York Post)
A few years ago while listening to a comedy routine by comedian Chris Rock he  said said something to the effect that black people are often stopped for an offense that white people never are: Driving while black.

That joke is an unfortunate truth about profiling black people by many police departments across the nation. If a suspect is black, it seems like the police are thinking ‘guilty until proven innocent’. This is of course a grossly unfair way to treat innocent citizens. And yet that’s the way it is. The question is, is this the result of an inherent racism that exists among white policemen? Or is there some other reason for it? I'm sure that some cops are racist. But I don't think that is the main cause of this problem. 

The following anecdote should illustrate. It is a true story told by the Reverend Jesse Jackson about an experience he once had walking down a dark alley one night. He thought he was being followed and started to get worried, When he saw that the person following him was white, he was relieved. Is Jesse Jackson racist? Hardly. He was expressing the common belief that there is a higher rate of crime in poor black communities than there is in white ones… especially black on black crime.

Why that is the case is beyond the scope of this post. I will just say that it is in part the result of a culture where young people lack the motivation to get an education that would pull them out of the endless poverty and crime that permeates black slums. Why many young blacks are not motivated - may or may not be for legitimate reasons. But again it is beyond the scope of this post. It’s a big topic.

But it is a fact that is recognized even by civil rights activists. As is the resultant perpetuation of poverty and crime. Which is why Jesse Jackson reacted the way he did, and why police departments often treat blacks suspects unfairly.

Despite this unfortunate phenomenon - the facts are as they are… and black people are unfairly profiled. And they are justifiably humiliated by it.

Which brings me to yesterday’s events in Ferguson Missouri.  From the Washington Post:
A grand jury on Monday declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, resolving a secretive, months-long legal saga and reigniting powerful frustrations about America’s policing of African Americans.
The decision means that Wilson, 28, will face no state charges for the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. It also set off a show of fury on streets near where Brown was shot, a reflection of emotions that register in this riven city as either out of control or justifiable. (Washington Post video below)
I saw the reaction last night on TV. It was like watching an Intifada in Israel. It’s depressing to see this kind of reaction to a verdict that by all accounts seemed to be reached fairly after long deliberation. 25 days and 60 witnesses testified. As did the accused - Officer Darren Wilson. He described in detail the course of events on that fateful evening. There were photos of the injuries he sustained in the struggle with Michael Brown, all matching Wilson's claim that he shot Brown in self defense. Witnesses for the prosecution contradicted each other and actually changed their testimony after being confronted with the facts.

Members of the grand jury clearly believed Officer Wilson whose testimony matched the physical evidence over the conflicting testimony of the prosecution witnesses - which didn't.  Members of the grand jury surely realized the emotion in the street. Protesters clearly thought this was a case of a white cop murdering an innocent black teen who was unarmed. Grand jury decisions notwithstanding.

While it is true that racial bias still exists in America and it ought to be protested. This is not the place to protest it. Certainly not by burning down the town. Ferguson was set ablaze by arsonists and looted by criminals that took advantage of the chaos that ensued. This was a justifiable homicide by a trained police offcier.  I understand the disappointment at what those protesters thought was a clear injustice. But to act like a bunch of savages is inexcusable – even if they were right. Which they weren’t.

Contrast that with what happened earlier in that day. Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney - 3 legitimate heroes of the 60s civil rights movement were honored posthumously by President Obama with the Medal of Freedom. That is the highest honor a civilian can receive. Unlike the protesters in Ferguson last night, they saw real racial injustice and they fought it – ultimately giving up their lives for it.

There was no injustice here.  A young black teenager was killed because of his own aggression against a police officer. That was determined fairly by a grand jury after examining the facts.

Like I said, racism still exists. But to the extent that it does it has nothing to do with what happened to Mr. Brown. And yet so many people ignored the verdict. Blacks protested late into the night in the streets of not only Ferguson, but in the streets of Chicago and New York too. And there were plenty of white sympathizers there to help champion their cause. I guess they don’t want to be confused by the facts.

I went ‘off script’ today to talk about the events in Ferguson Missouri because I see similarities between the protesters there and Palestinian protesters in Israel. There too we have the people who feel unfairly profiled. And there too we have non Palestinian sympathizers who champion their cause. Some of them are even Jewish.

They too do not want to be confused by the facts. All they see is an underprivileged underclass being unfairly profiled and harmed by an overbearing and armed police force.  People who refuse to see the facts are the ones doing the most harm to their cause. Any sympathy I might have for the plight of an underprivileged minority gets swallowed up by the damage of the unbridled rage which causes some of them to do to great harm to innocent people.

What's been happening in Ferguson since Mr. Brown was killed last summer culminating with what happened last night is nothing short of an Intifada. There is no other way to look at it - if you ask me.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Bury Them with Deceased Pigs?

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky (Times of Israel)
Much as I have tried, it has been hard to get away from the carnage that happened at a Har Nof Shul in Jerusalem last week . The image of bloodied bodies draped in Taleisim... the thought of being hacked to death with hatchets and knives attacked from behind while in prayer… the fact that it was all so close to home in the sense that I have extended family there. I know that place. In fact I attended a Bar Mitzvah of that extended family right in that Shul just a couple of years ago.

The horror of this event is beyond description. By all accounts the four Jews that were killed were gentle people that would not harm a fly. And then there was the Druze police officer who gave his life in the line of duty protecting the Jewish people.

There is no word for those who did this other than savages. I don’t care what their motive was. These people are no different than any other mass murderers.

The question is, what do we do about this problem? I am at a complete loss for any answers. Not that there aren’t any floating around. There are. And they are all terrible. Some worse than others. But all bad. There are no good options for the people of Israel that will give them the answer to what surely must be their most fervent prayer: Living in peace without fear of being attacked, murdered, maimed or kidnapped. All in the most violent of ways imaginable to man.

There is not a sane member of Klal Yisroel that doesn’t crave that. The only question is, how is it achieved? I don’t see any reasonable answer.

A 2 state solution? You cannot make peace with Palestinians as long as there are people among them who will use any advantage handed to them to further damage us in the above mentioned ways. Giving the Palestinians a state right next to Israel will just turn the West Bank into another Gaza. Not because the average Palestinian necessarily wishes it. But because of the ultimate control that will be taken by the religious fanatics of Hamas and other fundamentalist Muslims.

The Satmar option of dismantling the State of Israel and handing it over to Palestinian control is an even worse prescription for death and destruction. Imagine what a dismantled Israel that became the unified State of Palestine under the rule of Fundamentalist Islam would do to us if that were to happen. I have little doubt that there would be unprecedented carnage against the Jewish people – the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Holocaust . Lest there be any doubt about radical Islam being capable of that – I refer you to ISIS.

The status quo isn’t really working out that well either… as the events in Har Nof and elsewhere in the last couple of weeks amply demonstrate.

But there is one option that is about as abhorrent as it can get. An option that hearkens back to the era of Rabbi Meir Kahane. I can understand the frustration. I can even understand the logic. But treating every Arab like he was the reincarnation of Charles Manson is not only immoral it wouldn’t even work.  And yet this is apparently what Rabbi Pruzansky seems to feel should be done.

The fact is that not every Arab is a Nazi. (Rabbi Pruzansky seems to like using Holocaust imagery  - so I’m going with it.) Not every Arab is interested in pursuing an unattainable goal of throwing the Jews into the sea. Much as some of them would prefer it. They realize the Jewish people are in the holy land to stay.  I would be willing to bet that although most Palestinians would like it if we left they realize that this is not going to happen. In most cases, therefore, they would prefer to just get on with their lives without the indignities they must suffer because of Israel’s legitimate security needs.

(In fact a recent poll shows that given the choice of living under Palestinian rule or Israeli rule, 77% of all Israeli Arabs would prefer Israeli rule. So much for their wishing Israel were wiped off the map. While it's true that Israeli Arabs are not in the same boat as West Bank Palestinians the fact is that Arabs that have experienced what Israel has to offer clearly prefer that over what their Palestinian brothers on the West Bank have to offer.)

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky recent blog post (since removed) is filled with suggestions about how to handle the ‘Arab question’. I would not even bother commenting on it were it not available for all to read in a cached copy linked in a Times of Israel article. But now that it is out there for all to read, I have no choice but to condemn his words.

What he has written is a Chilul HaShem of major proportion. He probably wrote in in the heat of anger after what happened in Har Nof. And I’m pretty sure he removed it because of all the flack he no doubt got about it. But cyberspace is unforgiving that way. Which means it is out there for all to read. When a prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi says things like this, it places a stain upon us all as a moral people.

I’m not even sure Rabbi Pruzansky regrets his characterizations of Arabs nor his recommendations in how to deal with them.  I hope he retracts it publicly and apologizes. How bad was it?

For starters, one can only guess what he meant by saying ‘many things can be done that should not be in print’. But it must be a lot worse than the things he does say in print. Which are mostly terrible! Such as the following (partial list):

Arabs who dwell in the land of Israel are the enemy in that war and must be vanquished.

Uproot the Dome of the Rock.

Destroy the Muqata in Ramallah.

Incarcerate “President” Abbas as a war criminal.

Kill terrorists instead of capturing them.

Cremate their bodies and perhaps bury their ashes with deceased pigs. 

Deported their family members to the Muslim country of their choice.

Shoot anyone who riots or throws a stone at a Jew  – with real bullets. 

Does Rabbi Pruzansky believe that this is in any way moral? Does he really think doing these kinds of things would bring peace to the Jewish people? Does he really believe the world will look the other way while Israel shoots and kills stone throwers? Does he think he will generate anything but unprecedented world anger and condemnation against Israel with such acts? 

Does he think that there won’t be a response from the world that will make the sanctions against Iran look like a trip to Disney World? Does he think the United States will cheer and applaud Israel for doing any of these things? Does he think the United States will continue to supply Israel with its  most sophisticated weapons and finance defense systems like Iron Dome? 

Does he think that the 6 million Jews in Israel can be part of the family of nations if it is seen as mimicking some of the acts of a genocidal nation like Nazi Germany?

Rabbi Pruzansky may have been well intentioned in the sense of protecting the Jewish people. But he could not be more wrong. Not only is it immoral; not only is it a Chilul HaShem; not only wouldn’t it work... it would do the exact opposite. It would destroy us.

*Update
Rabbi Pruzansky has published a Clarification of sorts. 

I'm not buying it. His original post sounded nothing like this. He still wants to shoot stone throwers with live ammunition and has not changed any of his views. It is unacceptable and a Chilul HaShem. He made no apology for his original post. He apologized only  to the extent that his remarks, even unintentionally, added to that hatred. That is unacceptable. He said that no one offered any solutions? Well... there aren't any. Certainly not his.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Yiddish Isn’t Enough

Naftuli Moster - photo credit: Jewish Press
As noted here many times the fastest growing segment of Jewry in the US (and probably in the world) is the Orthodox segment. This is no longer news. It is a well established fact. What is also well established is that the fastest growing segment in Orthodoxy is the Chasidic segment. That too is well established fact.

The question I've asked in the past still applies. If Chasidim are the fastest growing segment, will the future of mainstream Judaism primarily be Chasidic? … with several smaller subsets of Orthodox Jews? Certainly one can make that case. But as I have said in the past linear projections are not always the best predictors of the future.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with being a Chasid. I am not one and firmly believe that my Centrist Hashkafos are the truest form of Torah observance. But I concede that that there are others that feel the same about their Hashkafos and can make arguments supporting it. I am not here to debate that issue. Only to say that I respect all legitimate Torah based Hashkafos in the Elu V’Elu sense.

So what’s my problem with Chasidim? It is primarily the same as my problem with the Charedi world in Israel:  the lack of a decent secular studies program in their schools. Which results in an increasing number of families living below the poverty line. From an article in the New York Times:
Boys in elementary and middle school study religious subjects from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. followed by approximately 90 minutes of English and math. At 13, when boys formally enter yeshiva, most stop receiving any English instruction.
Just as is the case in Israel with respect to government mandates of educational standards - in New York where the vast majority of Chasidim live, there is a similar mandate. And just as is the case in the Charedi world in Israel – it is honored in the breach by Chasidic word in New York. And in both instances the government has pretty much ignored it an allowed the status quo to continue.

In some ways things are actually worse in the Chasidic world here that the Charedi world in Israel. Israeli Chasidim speak the language of the country (Hebrew) fluently. Not so Chasidim in America. The language of America is English. Their schools do nothing to change this actually preferring they speak English that way. It is one way of distancing themselves from the general culture. Thus we have native born Americans whose knowledge of their native tongue is so flawed that is hard to believe they were born in this country. Their spoken English is filled with mispronunciation of common words; grammatical errors; errors of syntax; and a relatively poor vocabulary.

Being a poor English speaker does accomplish their goal of limiting social interactions with non Jews. But more importantly it limits job opportunities and hinders the pursuit of a higher education.

This last point was made clear by Naftuli Moster, who is cast as OTD by his former Chasidic community and who is now studying for a Masters degree in social work.

As I have pointed out many times - it is no secret that Chasidim with this kind of limited education are among the poorest Jews in all of Jewry. There is the notable exception of the few successful Chasidic entrepreneurs that were able to overcome that handicap and amass great wealth in business. But by far they are a small minority of the population. Most Chasidim like this live well below the poverty line in this country. Their limited education, resultant menial jobs with meager pay combined with their large families (typically 10 or more children) equals poverty.

How do they survive? By maximizing the use of govern aid, and free loan societies. Needless to say living below the poverty line and relying on government aid and charity is not a prescription for the future.

I have recently said that I believe there will be a change in the education paradigm one way or another.  Education will somehow become more sought by the average Chasid as each generation multiplies exponentially and geometrically increases the number of Chasidic families living in poverty. It may have already begun.

A lawsuit against the New York State Education Department is being considered by Mr. Muster. I’m not sure suing the government will succeed in any change.  Naftuli Muster is describe by the article as no longer observant (OTD). Ordinarily that would mean that his actions are completely discounted by his former community. But I think it’s significant that the lawsuit I supported by actual members in good standing of their Chasidic world – albeit anonymously:
Mr. Moster said many families in New York’s Hasidic enclaves were sympathetic to his cause. So far, a small number of parents have agreed to take part in a lawsuit if they can remain anonymous. They worry that the yeshivas will expel their children and that the community will ostracize them if their names are revealed.
The Chasidic world does not take challenges from the outside lightly. They fiercely oppose it.  But it appears that there is a  grass roots crack in the typical resistance to any change coming from the outside..

The purpose of the lawsuit is to get the State of New York to enforce its mandate for requiring a decent curriculum in its schools.  For their part, Chasidic leaders in these enclaves are quite proud of being a century behind the times:
(A) Yeshiva Belz board member named Jacob Ungar... has high praise for his community’s educational standards. “It’s like at any school, where you have the main subjects and then the extracurriculars,” he said, adding: “Whatever a child usually gets in a public school, or Catholic parochial school or modern Jewish school — the yeshiva education is superior to that. Our students are as well educated as they were 100 years ago.”
I’m glad to see that there are some in his community that support the lawsuit. I don’t know if the lawsuit will accomplish the necessary change. But I’m glad to see that the monolithic wall against change is being breached even slightly.  Chasidim want to see a better material future for their children than what they currently have. And that means that change may very well be in the wind.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Fall of an Icon

Cosby as Cliff Huxtable with his TV daughter, Keshia Knight Pulliam (Time)
Bill Cosby is about the closest thing we have to being a cultural icon in this country. His contributions to the advancement of interracial relations are exceptional. His hit television series, ‘The Cosby Show’ (1984-92) literally changed the way Americans saw their black neighbors. For the first time blacks were portrayed as people with the same middle class values as their white counterparts. Cosby’s character, Cliff Huxtable was a successful obstetrician and Felicia Rashad who played his wife Clair was a successful attorney. Their children were as normal as any middle class white family’s children would be… having the same lifestyles, goals, and problems any middle class family would have. 

For the first time there was a major TV series that went against the stereotypical portrayal of blacks as an underclass living in slums and leading a life of poverty, violence, and crime with no decent values at all.

The fact that it was such a hit is what made his contribution so significant. I truly believe that this series changed the way most white Americans saw blacks.

Bill Cosby had a wonderful reputation before that. He was a man of honor who kept his word. My children’s elementary day school, Arie Crown, hired him for a concert fundraiser one year – at a very reasonable price. He accepted with a caveat that if a better deal came along - he could break his contract with us. That is exactly what happened.  But being the gentleman he was he promised us that next year he would come perform for us guaranteed for the same price. He kept his word. It was one of the most successful fundraising events we ever had up to that time. What made it special is the type of humor he presented. It was completely clean and it kept us in stitches. Shortly after that he debuted his series.

Bill Cosby did not stop keeping his eye on his community after his series ended. He was a man of conviction and did not let the political correctness of black leaders like Al Sharpton influence his actions. He ‘told it like it was’ despite enormous criticism from black leaders like Sharpton. He believed that the image of ‘Cliff Huxtable’ was obtainable for a lot more blacks than was currently the case. But that the culture of disinterest in education – that is so prevalent in impoverished black neighborhoods prevented it. He urged young black people to ‘pull themselves up by their own bootstraps’ and get out of the cycle of poverty and crime they were in which they were immersed in their own neighborhoods.

All of the made him a hero for me.  But there is a ‘fly in the ointment’.  First there were accusations of an extra-marital affair that produced a child. That proved to be true. He admitted it. And more recently there have been accusations of rape. Multiple accusations by women who described their ordeal in similar ways. Rape that occurred decades ago when Bill Cosby was a young man – albeit already a successful comedian.

Cosby has remained silent about these accusations refusing to admit them to deny them. Of course as is always the case, a man should be given the benefit of the doubt when one is uncertain of the truth. That is what our system of jurisprudence is about. Innocent until proven guilty.

That said, it is highly unlikely that so many different woman have come out recently to describe what happened to them so many years ago. All with a similar modus operandi.  It is doubtful that these women collaborated in some sort of conspiracy to ‘get their stories straight’. I don’t see what they could gain by lying about it. I doubt it is about money. If I understand correctly lawsuits are not available to them because of the statute of limitations. Why did they take so long to come out?  There are many reasons. Perhaps they thought nobody would believe them. Maybe they just wanted to get on with their lives and not spend the time and energy in what they probably thought was a lost cause in making accusations against a popular celebrity. I don’t know. But I believe them. There are too many accusations - similarly described - for them all to be false.

For those of you that felt the way I did about Cosby, perhaps we can see why there is so much disbelief and denial when a local icon is accused of it. It is very understandable there is disbelief when a community hero is accused of such despicable acts. How can a man like’ Bill Cosby’  (fill in your own icon) have done what he is accused of? Everything he stands for - stands against those accusations. They must be lies. And the person making these accusations are the real despicable ones. Who knows why they’re doing it. They are evil people. Or sick people. But liars either way.

I believe that this is what generates protocols  by Agudah like telling rabbis first before reporting it to police… and let them sort it out. Those rabbis know their ‘Bill Cosbys’. And they simply cannot fathom that it could ever be true about a man whose entire life has been dedicated to doing so much good for the world. My guess is that unless there is hard evidence of sexual abuse, accusations about icons are rejected. And then those abusers are free to continue their abuse.

Obviously it is the wrong approach to be biased in favor of an accused sex abuser whose entire life up to this point seemed to be exemplary – albeit a natural one. And that is why rabbis who are not experts - and are Nogieh B’Davar (biased) knowing well the accused and his pristine reputation - are not the ones to determine the veracity of an accusation.

I was therefore very gratified to hear the address given by Rabbi Avrohom Nesanel Zucker at the Agudah convention last week who made some of these very points. Perhaps his words and the events with Cosby will turn the tide.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Words I Have Been Waiting For

I am not in the habit of posting videos as a primary post. At most I will post them as an enhancement of what I have written. But I am making an exception in this case.

Rabbi Avrohom Nesanel Zucker addressed a workshop at the Agudah Convention last week that should be seen by every religious Jew in the world… especially those in a position of Jewish leadership - lay or rabbinic.

Rabbi Zucker is the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola Ohr Yisrael of Marine Park.

His lecture was simply astonishing.  He did not mince words. He was hard hitting about the many Chilul HaShems that have been perpetrated by Orthodox Jews and especially Orthodox Jewish leaders.  I believe he touched all bases. Bases that I touch here all the time. I could swear he reads my blog… although I doubt it. He is my new Charedi hero. It is imperative in my view to watch this video to see what he says. You will not be disappointed.

My only criticism is that it was not given as the keynote address in front of everyone. It should have been. It’s about 20 minutes long and it will be well worth your  time.


Surrounded by Scandal: Rabbi Avrohom Nesanel Zucker from Agudath Israel on Vimeo.

The Poor Judgment of Crying ‘Wolf’ Too Often

CBS Morning News Anchor, Norah O'Donnell
I don’t really pay that much attention to Honest Reporting - a website that is supposedly a watchdog for media bias against Israel. There certainly is enough of it out there to require a watchdog and to be grateful to them for their service.  But sometimes they just go too far. I get spammed by them all the time and I generally just click on delete.

But this morning something caught my eye.  They had a clip of what I am certain was an inadvertent error. They played it up as yet another example of media bias against Israel.

In her report on the CBS Morning News about the massacre in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem she said it took place in a contested religious site in Jerusalem. As any religious Jew knows, Har Nof is not a contested religious site.  We know that because it is a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem… and we religious Jews tend to know the names of the religious neighborhoods there. Har Nof is a very familiar name to us. 

But for those who are not religious Jews… or even Jews, the name Har Nof may as well be Skokie. Especially if they don’t live there. The name is meaningless to them. So when something like this happens in Jerusalem where there are contentious neighborhoods – like Har HaBayis, it is an easy mistake to make.

I am absolutely convinced that this is what happened to Norah O’Donnell, one of the CBS Morning News anchors. She read the news copy that was handed to her. There was no bias on her part… and probably not even the news copy writer’s part.

I usually watch the first 20 minutes of the news program everyday while having breakfast. I've seen her report on Israel numerous times. Norah O’Donnell is no more biased against Israel than I am.

Now it’s true that it was a serious error since it places an entirely different light on the motives behind the attack. Not that it justifies it. Nobody says that (…except for the dancing Palestinians in Gaza and their kindred spirits elsewhere). But it does make the incident just a bit less heinous if one sees legitimate grievances behind it. (Not to me or any decent human being. But to some…)

It is dishonest of Honest Reporting to characterize Norah O’Donnell and CBS as purposely misleading the public about the possible motives of the attackers.

They acknowledge that CBS removed the clip from their archives – probably because of the protest it registered. But they Honest Reporting archived it just to make sure people know about it. Which allows them to make their case about media bias. But in this case they are dead wrong, in my view. 

They ought to stop doing things like that. You can’t cry ‘wolf’ if there aren’t  any real wolves around. If they keep making these kinds of accusations and insinuations they will lose any credibility they may have. That would be a shame. We do need watchdogs to expose media bias.

I therefore think they should make an apology. Or at least remove this particular report from their website.

They may counter by saying that CBS should apologize for their error. Maybe so. But that does not free them to heap scorn upon people that haven’t earned it.

Leaving this report up will show media bias. Not Norah O’Donnell’s.  Not CBS’s. But that of Honest Reporting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Hero, an Apologist, and a Truthseeker

Funeral of  Zidan Saif (Photo: Israel police via the Jerusalem Post)
Unlike many religions, Judaism does have a place in Heaven for non Jews.  Judaism does not require conversion as a prerequisite for Heaven.  Ours is a religion of merit. Anyone who merits it in the eyes of God will receive an eternal heavenly reward.  In the case of one particular non Jew, there is not a doubt in my mind that he has earned it, albeit at a very high cost. The cost of his life.

Master Sergeant Zidan Saif, age 30, a Druze from the Galilee area was shot and killed yesterday while trying to save Jewish lives. He was an Israeli cop tasked with traffic duty when unexpected events called him into action. Sergeant Saif was one of the first responders to the massacre in Har Nof. 4 innocent Jews were slaughtered yesterday by Palestinian terrorists. Officer Saif was shot during an exchange of fire with the terrorist savages who committed those atrocities. He died later of those wounds – leaving behind a wife and 4 month old daughter.

He did not see ‘Arab hating Jews’ being attacked. He saw fine human beings - innocent people - in a Shul during prayer being attacked.  And without thinking about his own safety he ran to that Shul to try and prevent any more killings. It cost him his life. May God comfort his family as they grieve over their tragic loss

His sacrifice has not gone unnoticed. Israel has honored him with thousands of people attending his funeral. As did Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post Israeli Police Chief Yochanan Danino eulogized Zidan Saif saying that the officer “ran into the heart of the murderous inferno, without fear."
“We are burying a hero of the Israel police, who laid down his own body to protect the worshippers at the synagogue in Har Nof,”
(Public Security Minister Yitzhak) Aharonovitch said in his eulogy. “Zidan was there first and operated with courage. Without hesitation he charged inside, in the face of the horrors there… “(H)is heroism cost him his life, but saved the lives of others. Zidan is a source of pride for his family, for the Druse community and for the police and the people of Israel.”
Druze serve in the Israeli army with pride. So it should not be all that surprising that one of them acted with the courage and heroism he did.

Shibley Telhami
Contrast that with the predictable Arab narrative that accompanies atrocities like this. Even among supposed moderates. Like Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Mayland. He was interviewed along with Dennis Ross yesterday on Public Television’s Newshour.

After Dennis Ross blamed Palestinian leaders like  Mahmud Abbas’s for  inciting violence- along with the general  demonization of Israel in the Arab world, Telhami said that if he were an Arab leader he would condemn it with ‘ no ifs and or buts’. That was followed with (you guessed it) a ‘but’:
Put that aside. But to think that what that leader’s going to say is going to be the reason why people are going to do or not do the thing, when they’re facing settlements in Jerusalem that they think are illegitimate and illegal, in comparison to what Mahmoud Abbas will say or not say, the weight here is — is in the wrong place.
I am reminded of what ABC News anchor Peter Jennings said the day the World Trade Center was attacked: ‘Why do they hate us?’  He went on to talk about America’s foreign policy (read: support of Israel). I was appalled that a respected American TV Journalist would stoop to blaming Israel for 9/11 even in the indirect way he did!

What he did is not that different than what Talhami did. Innocent Israelis get attacked? That’s terrible. But it’s their own fault. There was not a hint of embarrassment or shame on his face. For him it was all about blaming Israel for their own troubles.

This is a typical response by even moderate Arabs. The ‘not so moderates’ were actually dancing in the street and tweeting ‘bravo’ to the terrorist success in killing Jews!

Tarek Fatah
There are however some Muslims that are embarrassed by it.  Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah is one of them. He is not what I would call an ‘Uncle Tom’ who sold out to the ‘dark side’ of the ‘hated Jewish taskmasters’. He is a proud Muslim that supports the Palestinian cause. Here was his reaction to the massacre:
(I)f the savagery of the act was not enough of a shock, one response from a Muslim on Twitter was equally gruesome.
Responding to my tweet about the Jerusalem slaughter, he welcomed the mass murder by writing a single word, “Bravo”.
Elsewhere on social media, Palestinians in Gaza circulated cartoons using the image of the meat cleaver and knife used in the attacks, to mock the Jews.
As a Muslim who has spoken all my life for the rights of the Palestinians to a state of their own, I was left holding my head in despair and shame…
What have we become, I asked myself?
Indeed. It’s nice to see a bit of introspection on the part of an Muslim that actually supports the Palestinian cause. Instead of the ‘but’ that usually follows the pro forma condemnation of atrocities. He held his head in despair. If only there were more like him; heroes like Sergeant Saif;and less apologists likes Shibley Talhami… you never know what impact that might have on world order.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The CBC and the Events in Jerusalem

R' Moshe Twersky - 1 of 5 people killed by terrorists in Jerusalem this morning
Yes… the Israeli police have done it again. This morning they shot and killed some hapless Palestinians. Is this not proof of the Nazi like tactics of the Jews? Oh sure they say that it was precipitated by an attack against some Jews in a synagogue. Don’t you believe it. We don’t know what happened there. The Jews – once persecuted by the Nazis have themselves become Nazis. It is they who are the terrorists.

The above narrative might as well have been written by the anti-Semites at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC).

Here is what they wrote on their Twitter feed: 
Jerusalem police fatally shoot 2 after apparent synagogue attack 
Oh… they are reporting the story more accurately on TV and on their website.  But it doesn’t matter. Their anti-Semitic bias has been exposed for the entire world to see.

This is no simple error. This is a deliberate attempt to paint Israel in the most negative light. As a brutal occupier that kills innocent Palestinians for practically no reason at all. Just to teach them who’s boss! A tweet like that sends this message exactly. And they know it. It casts the Israeli police as virtual Nazis. Which according to them is what this Jewish nation of occupiers has turned into.

Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas condemned it.  Not to mention Secretary of State John Kerry who called it an act of pure terrorism.  Hamas – as expected – has praised it. I guess the CBC sympathizes more with Hamas than they do with even the PA!

They may eventually apologize for this tweet. Even profusely. But again it doesn’t matter. Their bias has been exposed for the entire world to see. They will never have - nor should they have - any credibility again on any story coming out of Israel.  In fact I wouldn’t give them credibility on any story they report. It is one thing for personal bias to enter ones reportage of a story. That is usually unintentional and can be forgiven. But this was intentional and was done with the agenda of de-legitimizing Israel.

You would think that rational and professional journalists wouldn’t do things like that – despite their bias. There is little doubt in my mind that the CBC didn’t know that a synagogue was attacked and blood was spilled before the police showed up. But – again - it didn’t matter. They had to skew the facts with a deliberate negative twist against the Jewish people on the story.

Furthermore, I do not buy the distinction that is often made between being anti Israel and anti-Semitic. It is true that the 2 can be separated and one can criticize Israel without being an anti-Semite. But I believe in most cases the motivation is anti-Semitic. The burden of proof that someone who made critical comments against Israel is not anti-Semitic rests on the person who made them.

Case in point. The Obama administration has been very critical of Israel’s settlements policy. But they are clearly not anti-Semitic. Their actions speak louder than their critical words. The enormous military and intelligence cooperation between the 2 countries is unprecedented. Not to mention the US funding of Iron Dome.

But when there is statement by a news organization like the CBC made which is negative in its entirety without any reservation… such as their tweet this morning on Twitter, that tells you what they really think.

I am thoroughly disgusted by these people. There is little they could say or do now to dissuade me of the anti-Semitism that permeates their thinking. Even if they got on their hands and knees and said ‘I’m sorry!’

I should add that the CBC is not the only major news organization that expresses this kind of anti Israel bias. They are only the latest!

Now that I got that off my chest… I am still in state of shock over what happened there. This butchery took place in a Shul in Har Nof, an Orthodox section of Jerusalem. 4 religious Jews were attacked by 2 Palestinian terrorists and were killed while they were in the middle of prayer. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has already claimed credit for it.

One of them, Rabbi Moshe Twersky was a Rosh Yeshiva at Rabbi Moshe Meiselman’s Yeshiva - Toras Moshe. He is a grandson of Rav Soloveitchik!

A fifth victim died as a result of wounds received after arriving at the scene. He was an Israeli police officer who responded to the attack. The 2 terrorists were killed in a shootout. 

I have relatives that live right in that area. Rav Moshe Sternbuch lives there.  It could have been any one of them.

I don’t know how the families of these four Jews can deal with what - so suddenly and so unexpectedly - just happened to them. One moment their son/husband/father/grandfather is alive in Shul where he Davens every day at that time. And the next thing you know he is covered in blood lying dead on the floor.  

I can’t begin to imagine the pain these families must be going through. These people are not the extremist 'price tagger' types that live in remote areas of the West Bank. They are normal everyday people like you and me. Jews going about their daily affairs. The thought of terrorism is the furthest thing from their minds. They rarely if ever think about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. For them it is a remote story happening somewhere on the West Bank – a place where they never go. Har Nof is a peaceful place nowhere near the West Bank. It is not the most likely target of a terrorist attack. I don’t think Har Nof has ever experienced anything like this before.

It has been quite awhile since there has been anything like this in Israel. Terrorism has been curbed by the extraordinary measures taken by the Israeli government. Like building a protective wall of separation between the West Bank and Israel proper. But nothing is foolproof. Aas we learned today. The hard way, Rachmana Litzlan – may the Merciful One protect us.

I have no clue how Israel can protect itself from these kinds of terrorists. Perhaps police or security guards should be placed at the entrances of every single Shul in Israel when people are there. I don’t know. What I do know is that there has to be something that can be done to stop it. Because the people of Israel have the same right to live in peace and security as we in America do.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Folly of Taking Chances for Peace

Latest ISIS beheading, Peter Kassig (NY Daily News)
There is one thing all of those calling for Israel to stop building settlements and take chances for peace with the Palestinians are ignoring. That ‘thing’ is ISIS. What is so puzzling is that it is so obvious!  Now more than ever.

As much as I am opposed to settlement building right now, (for reasons I’m not going to get into here) they are not the real impediment to peace. Anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention would see the proverbial ‘Elephant in the Room’. Which is radical Fundamentalist Islam.

As I have said many times, I am in favor of making peace with the Arabs and am willing to pay a price for it. My reasons are simple. I want to see an end to the hostilities. I want to see an end to terrorists blowing themselves up in crowded areas in Israel. I want to see an end to rockets being fired at her. I do not want to see any more Jews being tortured and butchered; kidnapped or maimed. 

I want there to be peace between two peoples so that each can get on with their lives without fear. Without one people subjugating another.  Without one people needing to resort to harsh measures against the other for security reasons. I want that to end and am willing to pay the price of even an Oslo Accord type solution if that would guarantee a peace between 2 peoples sharing a border. A peace similar to what the United  States has with Canada.

But as I have also said, that is currently a pipe dream so remote that it is pure folly to even suggest it.

But the nations of the world – including the United States (under the leadership of the  Obama administration) think that it is still possible even in today’s terrorist climate. If only Israel would stop building settlements and ‘take chances’ for peace - they say.

This ‘song and dance’ may have made sense to the world pre 9/11 (Although not to those of us who knew what radical Islam was long before that – Israel having had its share of suicide attacks.) After 9/11 however, it should have been obvious to everyone what the real impediment to peace is. It is not settlements. It is the mindset of the devout Fundamentalist Muslim in the Arab world. It is from their ranks that the 9/11 terrorists were recruited. One may recall all the rejoicing in the Arab street after 9/11. It was the devout Burka clad Muslim women that were handing out candy to children while the masses were cheering in the street.

It should have been clear then that Israel’s existence was not the real issue. That Islamic fundamentalism was. And for a while I thought the all of the American people would finally get it… and understand what Israel’s needs are all about and why they need to take the security measures that end up being so harsh on the Palestinian people.

Unfortunately not long after 9/11 some started saying that if not for Israel none of this would have happened. The Muslim extremists only attacked the US on 9/11 because of its support for the Jewish State. That it was Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians under its occupation that caused 9/11. While most Americans did understand the truth, there were plenty of  people that somehow ignored it and simply painted Israel as occupying tyrants that were torturing the poor helpless and innocent Palestinian underdog for simply existing.

This is the mindset of some of academia.  Universities are filled with Palestinian academics and their sympathizers who preach hatred of Israel to their students. It is also the mindset of the BDS movement that advocates Boycotting, Divestment from, and Sanctioning the State of Israel because of their treatment of Palestinians.

Thankfully the majority of the American people aren’t buying it. Support for Israel is at nearly an all time high. We can probably in part ‘thank’ ISIS for that. This morning we learned yet again of another ISIS beheading of an American citizen: Peter Kassig. What was his crime? He went to Syria to help feed the refugees of war. He even converted to Islam under captivity. But ISIS didn’t care. They wanted to kill another American to continue to teach the United States a lesson. That was made clear in a video of a man clad in black whose face was completely covered threatening to advance ISIS forces into America and do it here. That was accompanied by another video of mass beheading of Muslim captives.  

It is interesting to note that these videos actually attract fighters to ISIS. One may wonder how a brutal system like this could attract anybody. There are many reason I suppose. Like the romantic image of the underdog fighting for a cause. But one cannot discount the religious motive of some of their recruits. That is the scariest motive of all.

Religious motivation is very powerful. People sacrifice their lives for it. That is how suicide bombers are recruited. They are dying for the sake of sanctifying God in the holy cause of righting the world for God. 

How will the world be ‘righted’? It will be done by establishing a caliphate. A caliph is a successor to Mohamed that will rule - tasked with assuring Sharia (Islamic) law will be implemented and followed to the letter. Laws like cutting off the hands of a thief… or stoning women who cheat on their husbands. And other such niceties.

They view the non Muslim world as degenerate and worthy of destruction unless there are conversions to Islam. This is their ultimate goal. All is fair in pursuit of it. That is what makes them so tough to defeat. They don’t care if they die or how many innocent people they kill along the way.

Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Jihadists are no different. While their tactics have not been quite as brutal as ISIS (yet) that doesn’t mean they don’t have the same goals. (Although the brutality has not quite matched ISIS, it has still been petty brutal.  Ask the families of the 3 kidnapped and slaughtered Israeli teens that eventually precipitated last summer’s Gaza war.) This is why they will never recognize the state of Israel and will continue to fight it until they win back all of ‘Palestine’.

Fundementalist Muslim clerics preach it from their mosques all over the world. Increasingly so. They always have been. Israel must perish. Its existence is a theological impediment to Islam.

Does any sane person think that if Israel stops building settlements that these people will say, ‘OK, let’s make peace now and allow a Jewish state to exist in our midst’?! This does not mean I support new building in the settlements. I don’t. What it means is that the fundamentalist goals of destroying Israel will not change. Clerics will still be preaching it to the ever increasing population of devout Muslims.

And yet these clear facts seems lost on those who say that Israel should take chances for peace. It is one thing for the rabid Palestinian academic and his willing accomplices in the university to preach that to the gullible student that has no understanding of the issues. But for a US government to not realize the folly of pursuing peace under these conditions? That is mind boggling! 

Even more inexplicable is that some of the nations of the world normally friendly to Israel have unilaterally recognized a Palestinian State! By doing this they have given succor to Israel’s enemies and fodder to ISIS. Bashing Israel is right up their alley because a strong Jewish State in their territory (the Middle East) is ultimately the biggest impediment of all to establishing a caliphate there. And then eventually marching on to the rest of the world toward that goal.

ISIS has shown the world what radical Fundamentalist Islam is capable of. It has promised more of the same until their ultimate goal is reached. I can’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t look at what ISIS does and realize what Israel is up against.

And they want Israel to make peace even with a Hamas and a Hezbollah that is right on its borders threatening annihilation?!! That would almost be like telling the United States to make peace with ISIS. And ISIS is nowhere near its borders. Come on world. Wake up!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Actions - Not Platitudes

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel addressing the Agudah Convention last night (VIN)
The hits just keep on coming. I’m not talking about music. I’m talking about the world of Orthodoxy being ‘hit’ yet again with another scandal. This time it is financial. The ‘hits’ seem to alternate between financial scandals and sex scandals.

To say that I am embarrassed by it every single time it happens - would be an understatement.  We are barely past the scandal of a Modern Orthodox rabbi’s voyeurism and we are once again faced with yet another financial scandal.  This time by a group of Chasidim from Kiryas Joel and Williamsburg.

As Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel indicated in his address to the Agudah convention last night, the goodwill we in Orthodoxy have built up by all of our achievements and contributions is countered by one scandal after another. The people who befriend us read the same newspapers we read. They read about people who claim to be among the most moral and ethical Jews; people that go out of their way to look different from a general society they paint as completely immoral - defrauding the government in the millions of dollars.

I have said this before. When a society sees the surrounding culture as completely immoral and believe them all to be anti-Semites, it should not be all that surprising that some people in that society see nothing wrong with ultimately cheating them.  

It starts with gaming the system to get government aid legitimately. That is often accompanied with comments like this: ‘The lowlifes of the inner city get government aid, why shouldn’t we - the people with the lofty ideals of the Torah? It is not too much of leap for some of them to say, ‘It’s OK to scam the system illegally since they Goyim are all evil Jew haters anyway’! ‘’As long as you don’t get caught!’ ‘And since we Jews are so smart we won’t be!’ That is bolstered by religious leaders like the Chasidic Rebbe caught in an elaborate tax frauds and money laundering scheme.  He was caught and convicted. The message received all too often is that if the Rebbe did it, it must be OK. What is not OK is getting caught.

I know it isn’t only Chasidim that defraud. Bernie Madoff proved that. As did a non Chasidic Orthodox Jew that stole money from the charity fund he headed.

But it just seems like a lot more of it comes out of a system that utilizes government welfare to the max. 

Addressing the issues crime committed by Orthodox Jews, Rabbi Zweibel made the following comment with which I agree. From VIN:
(I)t is our adherence to mitzvos that makes Hakadosh Baruch Hu look upon us favorably’.
It is the lack of adherence to them that caused these miscreants to try and cheat the government. In his closing remarks he said the following:
(I)t is incumbent upon each of us to strengthen ourselves in our performance of mitzvos in order to regain the respect of the outside world.
“When the nations of the world see and they look and they see the tefillin and they see the sheitlach and they see the kosher restaurants and they see all of the outer trappings of yiddishkeit, they look at us and they say this person is special.  This person in fact conducts himself in a way which is elevated… that is when we can be 800 pound gorillas.”
He could not be more right about this. Artifacts are not what make us great. It is our conduct that does. But as true as this is, it is not enough. It is in fact yet another platitude coming out of Agudah. Nice words. But he ends without a hint as to why some of our own people do not conduct themselves in ways that are a Kiddush HaShem - and instead act in ways that are a Chilul HaShem.  The blame for this should be placed squarely where it belongs. On the faulty Chinuch that characterizes the outside world as totally immoral and Anti-Semitic. The worst offenders of this approach are the Chasidim of Satmar and other like minded Chasidim.

If you continue to vilify ‘the Goyim’ that way is it really a surprise that even a devoutly religious Jew that prays 3 times a day and is meticulous in ritual observance thinks it’s perfectly fine to cheat ‘the Goyim’? ‘As long as they don’t get caught?’ Is not this view bolstered when a Chasidic Rebbe is found guilty of a an elaborate tax fraud and money laundering scheme?

The message taken is that if a Chasidic Rebbe thinks it’s OK to defraud the government then it’s OK for me to do it. The only thing he did wrong was getting caught! I know he apologized for the Chilul HaShem he made. But he did not say that what he did was wrong. If I recall correctly he basically said that if you want to avoid going to jail, then before attempting anything – get a lawyer so you can stay within the letter of the law.

This was completely ignored by Rabbi Zweibel. So while I agree with his message, I am disappointed at yet another platitude coming out of this august body. We need more than yet another admonition about making a Kiddush HaShem with our behavior instead of making a Chilul HaShem. There needs to be concrete steps taken by rabbinic leadership to change the way some in the Orthodox world think.

You can’t continue to promote statements like ‘Halacha He, Esav Soneh L’Yaakov’.  Because if you keep hammering people over the head with the idea that ‘the Goyim’ hate us, you perpetuate the feeling that it is OK to cheat these people because ‘they hate us anyway’!

This should have been stated clearly from the podium. We have to get serious about changing attitudes. True the idea that ‘the Goyim hate us’ has legitimate roots in the centuries of Jew hatred in Europe that culminated in the Holocaust. You can’t blame people for believing that ‘the Goyim’ hate us after that. 

But America of 2014 is not Europe of 1939. Instead of focusing on past hatred in Europe and erroneously transferring that onto the American people we ought to be focusing on truth. The American people do not hate us. They have only the highest regard for Judaism. Recent polls have shown that Judaism is the most admired religion in America. This in spite of the seemingly endless parade of Orthodox Jews committing crimes and misdemeanors. Sexual or financial.

The American people know that not all Orthodox Jews are crooks. They do not all paint us with a broad brush. Senator John McCain made this very observation when asked about the crimes of another Orthodox Jew, Jack Abramoff. The American people are fair.

If we want to continue to command the respect of our fellow citizens, we need to do whatever it takes to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. That starts with our religious leaders calling a spade a spade and making sure that the classroom is no longer filled with the message that ‘the Goyim’ Hate us. They don’t. But if things like this keep happening, their attitudes may change. And who would blame them?