Thursday, January 17, 2019

January 17, the Polls they are 'a movin'

Lots of new news on the Israeli election front.

MK Michael Oren:  For us here at B'nai Shalom it is interesting to note that our favorite son, MK Michael Oren, has left Kulanu.  The relationship there has been sketchy for a while now, with MK Oren striking out on his own in a number of different ways, from support of American Jewish denominations to his close relationship with Bibi (mostly) as Deputy Prime Minister.  He is widely recognized as an expert in international relations, but has not established broad credentials in the domestic political arena.  Kulanu's main platforms are domestic, and under fire.  MK Oren is looking for the best fit for a new home with another party.  The "easiest" place to try to start again might be with Benny Ganz and his Hosen L'Yisrael party.  Ganz has yet to publish a list of Knesset nominees, nor a political platform, so MK Oren might find it a place where he can enter at a high enough number to be back in the Knesset.  The current polls give Hosen L'Yisrael at least 10 seats, and Kulanu only 5.  MK Oren doesn't need to be "top five" with Hosen to make it back, and he wouldn't be displacing anyone from a current party's list to be in play.  His actual relationship with Ganz is not clear, however, so this is conjecture.

Changes Since my last post:  As predicted, Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman) and HaTenuah (Livni) are in trouble.  The questions are 1) How bad is it for them, and 2) Who will benefit the most?  The main problem is that several new parties are polling well, and those seats have to come from somewhere:

New Parties in the Current Poll:

Hosen L'Yisrael (Ganz)                              - 12 seats
HaYamin HaChadash (Bennet/Shaked)     -   8 
Gesher (Levy-Abekasis)                            -   4 seats 

Those 24 seats have to come from somewhere.

Curent Parties Polling Down:

Labor               - 7  (down from 18)
HaT'nuah         - 4 (from 6)
Kulanu              - 5 (down from 10)
Yisrael Beiteinu - 5 (down from 6) (worse in some polls)
Jewish Home    - 4 (down from 5)
Shas                  - 5 (down from 7)

Those account for 22 of the "lost" seats to the new parties.

Current Parties that are within 1 seat of their previous number:

UTJ
Meretz
Joint Arab List (with Ta'al)


Current Parties Polling Up:

Yesh Atid        -  Maybe up 1-3 seats
Likud               - up one to 32

And that's it.  Note that the Zionist Camp (Labor + Atid) is broken apart, and is down to 7 or 8 seats from a total of 24 in the current Knesset.  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Better First Look at the April 9 Israeli Elections


PM Netanyahu has announced new elections for April 9, 2019. What does this mean?

With a coalition of only 61 seats after Lieberman took Yisrael Beiteinu out last month, Netanyahu found himself unable to pass any meaningful legislation. The test case was the bill to draft the ultra-orthodox into the army, which was voted down in December.  Netanyahu delayed the announcement to clean up a security issue on the northern border, and then announced new elections to be held on April 9, 2019.

The Makeup of the Last Knesset follows.  Note that “zionist union” was a combination of Labor, led by Avi Gabbay and Hatnuah, led by Tzippi Livni.  The highlighted parties were in the current coalition.  A party needs to gain 3.25% to win seats, and the 120 seats are apportioned according to the winners’ relative vote totals to each other.

The Last Election (2015)

Party                           Leader                                     % vote             Seats               +/-

Likud                          Benjamin Netanyahu          23.4%                   30                    +12
Zionist Union            Isaac Herzog                         18.67%                 24                    +3
Joint List                    Avman Odeh                         10.54%                13                    +2
Yesh Atid                   Yair Lapid                                8.81%                  11                    -8
Kulanu                       Moshe Kahlon                       7.49%                  10                    New
The Jewish Home    Naftali Bennett                      6.74%                    8                      -4
Shas                           Aryeh Deri                               5.73%                    7                      -4
Yisrael Beiteinu       Avigdor Lieberman                5.11%                     6                      -1
United Torah J.         Yaakov Litzman                      5.03%                     6                      -1
Meretz                       Zehava Gal-On                       3.93%                     5                      -1

What will happen now?

First, parties come and parties go.  Leaders jump ship, and try to vie for the list that will give them the best chance to be part of a powerful coalition.  The United Arab List was a necessary combination of several Arab parties, in order to exceed the 3.25% minimum, and they won 10 seats as a result.  Here's what to look for:

There are three new parties:   Former army chief of staff Benny Ganz has strong early polling numbers for his Hosen L’Yisrael.  Benny hasn’t given a speech yet, so he is a wild card.  Gesher, led by MK Orly Levy-Abekasis is also new, but not unexpected.  She has been exiled from Yisrael Beiteinu for the past 2 years, and is a socially minded centrist, and anti-Netanyahu.  She is likely to receive support from disaffected Kulanu, and Yisrael Beiteinu voters.  In addition, MK Bennet and MK Shaked have left The Jewish Home to form "The New Right," with a strong settler/modern orthodox base.

United Torah Judaism and Shas will likely run together.  Both parties have internal leadership conflicts, and it is entirely possible that alone either of the Haredi parties could fall below 3.25%, leaving the Knesset without half  of the haredi representation.  Together, they could take 10% and win 12-14 seats, maintaining their current strength.  The difference between 12 haredim and 6 haredim for coalition math is significant, so despite enormous and ugly conflicts, they may need to get along.

The Zionist Union has dissolved.  Gabbay ousted Lipni in a nasty and public way.  Expect Labor and Hatnuah to continue, smaller than ever, separately. There is now a tremendous vacuum left of center, which someone will undoubtedly fill. Each is likely to lose a few of the seats that they had, making any potential left wing coalition a near impossibility.

Yesh Atid, Kulanu, the Arab Joint List and Meretz will all continue without significant policy shifts.  Of these, Kulanu - having tied itself to economic policy in a fiscal downturn - may be the most vulnerable. Yesh Atid could take advantage of the commotion on the left, or may fall victim to disaffected supporters who are tired of being on the outside, and want to support one of the new parties.

Yisrael Beiteinu will struggle for survival. Avigdor Lieberman is a visible and strong leader, who conflicted with Netanyahu over the handling of Hamas rockets last fall.  He will position himself on security issues and supporting settlements. Will he remain solid, or slip? With a former army chief of staff (Ganz) in the race, he may not win with this position. This is a shocking situation, since he left the government in December expecting to get 10-12 seats in the new Knesset.

The Jewish Home may not survive.  Without Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked, this will become a much more religious settler party if it makes the 3.25% threshold.  Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan is the heir apparent to the party.

Likud has some unique internal term limits, and by rule 25% of the current list of 30 MK’s will not be eligible to be on the list this time around.  Netanyahu, however, will lead the list and set the agenda for the elections. Unless something dramatic happens to shift the playing field, expect a strong Likud showing, akin to the last election.

Finally, remember that the PM is elected separately.  Netanyahu will win against all comers, so this is irrelevant.  He will have the first chance to form a coalition, and with a bevy of center-right and right wing parties - all weak - vying for his attention, he will have any government that he wants.

Summary:  Expect a right wing coalition to again form a government.  Polls are very preliminary, so the following is wild guesswork with something like this:

Party                           Projection                leader                          (right/left/center)

Likud:                         30 seats                     (Netanyahu)                      (right)

Then the wheeling and dealing begins for the 31 other seats needed to get a majority.  A right wing government is possible without the haredim, but as always it is easier with them:

Haredi:                       11 seats                     (Shas/UTJ)                         (religious right)
Hosen L’Yisrael:        10 seats                      (Ganz)                                (center?) 
Kulanu:                      8 seats                        (Kahlon)                             (right of center)
Jewish Home:           5 seats                        (Ben Dahan)                      (right of center)
The New Right          5                                  (Bennet/Shaked)              (right)
Yisrael Beitenu          5                                  (Lieberman)                      (right)

Parties that have declared they are not willing to join Netanyahu, or are unlikely to be invited into the new government:

Joint Arab List:          13 seats                                                                (Arab)
Yesh Atid:                  10 seats                     (Lapid)                                (center)
Avodah:                     9 seats                      (Gabbay)                           (left)
Hatnuah:                   6 seats                       (Livni)                                 (left of Center)
Gesher:                      4 seats                       (Levy-Abekasis)                (center)
Meretz:                      4 seats                       (Gal-On)                            (left)

If Ganz has the kind of showing that the polls indicate, then Netanyahu can consider a right wing coalition without the haredi parties.  This would be attractive, as it would allow him to continue to support the settlers and right wingers while still passing the immensely popular draft law.  


BOTTOM LINE: Netanyahu will again win the elections, and easily form a right wing coalition either with, or without the Haredi parties.  Benny Ganz and MK Levy-Abekasis stand ready to be the big “newcomer” winners, while Shas/UTJ will need to get along in order to survive.  A large reshuffling is happening in the center and left-of-center camps, and the Feb 21 deadline for parties to “combine” lists in the election, so stay tuned!



(Please note that the prior post "a first look" has been removed and replaced by this post.)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Another Gaza Flare up - 200 rockets fired at Israel in one day

Our national Jewish Federations’ Israel office has prepared this update on the significant escalation that has occurred in the last few hours along the border with Gaza.

Over 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since just before 5pm Israel time today (10am ET), 60 of which were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. Sirens have sounded multiple times in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, including Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot. Footage of incoming rockets being intercepted can be seen here and here. One Israeli teen was seriously injured when a bus he was standing near was hit by what appears to be an anti-tank weapon in Sha’ar HaNegev, and another person was moderately wounded when a rocket struck a factory in Sderot. At least 19 light injuries have also been reported.

Residents of the Gaza area have been ordered to stay close to shelters, and public gatherings have been banned in the region. Schools and other educational institutions will be closed tomorrow; and the IDF is currently considering a similar order for Be’er Sheva. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are currently meeting with the IDF’s top command.

In response to the rockets, the Israel Air Force has so far attacked at least 70 Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip, as well as three terror tunnels, reportedly killing 3 Palestinians. The IDF is also strengthening the numbers of tank and infantry units in the area.

The attacks in recent hours follow days of calm, with many reports indicating that a Hamas – Israel ceasefire deal was close. However, matters escalated overnight during an apparent intelligence operation. Around 9:30 pm last night there were a number of reports of fighting and explosions over the border in Gaza. While the IDF has not said what exactly occurred, the picture emerging is that a number of Israeli special forces fighters were conducting an intelligence gathering mission inside Gaza (a fairly common occurrence) when something went wrong. A firefight broke out, during which an unnamed Israeli Lieutenant Colonel was killed, and a second Israeli fighter injured. The fallen soldier, known only as Lieut Col. M (due to the sensitive nature of his position) is being hailed as a hero in Israel. During his funeral early today, which was attended by President Reuven Rivlin, it was stated that “It is possible that the story of his heroic mission may never be told.” At least seven Hamas operatives were also killed during the fight. According to Hamas, among the dead was the commander of its Khan Younis Area Battalion. It seems that Israeli air strikes were then called in to provide cover as the other Israeli fighters retreated back across the border.

This incident was followed by a series of at least 17 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza. During the heat of the fighting, flight routes into and out of Ben Gurion Airport were temporarily altered. Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Paris when last night’s fighting took place but cut short his trip and returned to Israel.

As of this writing, rockets continue to be fired into Israel. Despite the continued fighting, both Hamas and Israeli leadership have said that they do not want the situation to escalate. Israeli emergency services are responding to multiple rocket landing sites, including numerous fires. 

Jewish Federation partners, including The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) have operatives on the ground and are currently assessing needs. The Jewish Agency’s Fund for the Victims of Terror will meet tomorrow morning with those who have been injured to offer immediate assistance. They will also offer aid to the family whose house was struck by a rocket and heavily damaged a short time ago. The Agency’s absorption centers are operating on an emergency footing. Meanwhile JDC is opening its Virtual CIL (Center for Independent Living) which serves people with various types of disabilities. The website offers advice, resources, and hosts virtual chats with professional staff.  The site will provide 24-7 support for the duration of the emergency. At the same time, ITC has activated its emergency protocols. Their resilience centers have opened hot lines, that have so far received over a hundred calls.

Our national Jewish Federations’ Israel office is in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.

I am grateful for their efforts and dedication. We send our love and appreciation to our friends, families and partners on the ground, and pray for their safety and security.

Warmly,

Dov


Dov Ben-ShimonExecutive VP/CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ

901 Route 10 | Whippany, NJ 07981
(973) 929-2939 | fax (973) 884-7361
dov@jfedgmw.org
 | www.jfedgmw.org
@dovbenshimon

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sermon on the Tree of Life Synagogue Massacre


Sermon on the Tree of Life synagogue Massacre
Parshat Chayei Sarah, 2018
Rabbi Robert Tobin
Bnai Shalom
West Orange NJ

Shabbat Shalom

Daniel Stein, 71,
Joyce Fienberg, 75,
Richard Gottfried, 65,
Rose Mallinger, 97,
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66,
brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59 and David Rosenthal, 54,
husband and wife Bernice Simon, 84 and Sylvan Simon, 86,
Melvin Wax, 88 and
Irving Younger, 69.

They are who we are. A conservative synagogue in an aging community, where shabbat morning is the heartbeat of the community. A peaceful synagogue of people fully integrated with the general American community, with a love of their neighborhood, their local sports teams, their town and their families.  A tight knit circle of people, who devotedly come to pray, hear the Torah, learn from the rabbi, find God and be with each other in life’s happiest and most sad moments. A minyan that knew the lessons of history, the importance of Israel, and the need to welcome the stranger as both a core conclusion of our own history and a basic value of America.

It is not the first time a rabbi has stood in front of a congregation to name the dead, murdered by those who hate Jews more than they hate or love anything else in life.  There are people who hate us, and want to kill us.  How do we live with that and what do we do?

Our parshah begins this morning with Avraham burying his beloved dead.  It ends with the continuation of the generations that live on.  How do we live on, and always remember our dead?

First, we must support the community in Pittsburgh to heal, recover and rebuild.  You have the websites I have sent you. Every one of us must give to that cause.

But then, we must know what this is.  This is not “unthinkable” or “incomprehensible.”  We have been talking about this for over a year.  This is what I have been talking about.

Understand Anti-Semitism.  It can take so many forms.  It is Hitler, and Nazi racism that will never be happy until every Jew has been taken to the gas.  It is White Supremacist, whose vision of a great America would segregate lunch counters, expel foreigners, and kill the Jew.  It is Hamas, who would throw out or kill every Jew in the Land of Israel to establish an intolerant form of shariah-based state in its wake.  It is the followers of Farakand who speak Jew conspiracy against the Black Man in America. If they are rich, that hate us for being communists.  If they are poor, they hate us for being bankers.  If they are ignorant, we are the educated elite.  If they are racists, we are the mongrel horde.

This one was a specific breed of Anti-Semite that I talked about a year ago on the High Holidays.  This one is related to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, with their chants of Blood and Soil and Jews will not replace us.  This one believes that only the white blood is the legitimate heir of American history.  It is called Nativism.  This one believes that a great global Jewish cabal is conspiring to invade Europe and America with Africans, Middle Easterners and Asians in order to not only weaken and take over white nations, but to cause intermarriage, interbreeding and destruction of the white genetic human.  This is called White Genocide.  This one holds tight to the phrase Nationalist, to accuse Globalists of being the Jewish international conspiracy spoken of in Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Hamas Covenant.  He is a white Nationalist.  This combination, White Genocide, Nativism and White Nationalism is a deadly trio, because the Jew is the cause of every evil in the world and in this country.  He may hate the black, but he fears the Jew.  “Jews will not replace us,” indeed. Every form of hate out there includes the Jew as a target. We are the canary in the mine.

These beliefs are not new, but they have transformed themselves into an American movement, alive on the internet, with a literature of books, blogs and music found across the country.

Now, at the risk of entering a political fight and distraction that will stop any of us from getting anything done for another year, we need to be very clear.  There is a large part of the messaging from the Trump campaign and white house that resonates with white supremacists.  This is not to say that Trump or the white house believes in white supremacism or is anti-Semitic.  But we need to listen to the anti-Semite when they talk. They will tell you that they resonate with certain words and ideas.  When Trump says, Make America Great Again, the Pittsburgh attacker buys into the idea but has his own analysis of the program. He posts, “there will be no #MAGA” as long as the “infestation” [i.e. Jews and Immigrants] continues.  To MAGA, he believes that White Genocide must be stopped, and America needs to be given back to the Nativists, and taken away from the Globalists.  It is all code language for Nazi propaganda.  When Trump says, “we need more immigrants from Norway,” it resonates with the anti-black, anti-brown, anti-Semitic agenda.  When he says he is a Nationalist, not a globalist, it resonates with the anti-Semitic Jewish conspiracy theories of the far right. The pipe bomber attacks the Globalists.  The Pittsburgh shooter kills the Jews.  How much Trump is aware of the resonance, and if it is or is not intentional is for you to discuss and for you to decide.  But you have to listen to the haters and believe what they say. They are resonating with what they are hearing, and they are posting and proclaiming it publicly.

Second, this was an act of terrorism.  Terrorism is the use or threat of violence, outside of legal parameters, to effect political change, usually against symbolic or innocent civilian targets. 
 There is a difference between a terrorist and a criminal.  A criminal will lie, and hide.  A Terrorist will tell you the truth, as long as they are not trying to hide their fellows from the authorities.  Once a lone wolf commits an attack, he will sing like a canary.  And this is terrorism.  It is not being called that enough, as if somehow Anti-Semitism or Racism can not be terrorism.  This is Domestic Terrorism.  

Third, violence – and high powered gun violence – against minorities has become a regular tool of this form of hatred.  This form of white supremacist in America can be anti-Black, anti-Gay, anti-Jew, anti-Muslim and more.  The attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, an AME church in Charleston or most recently at a supermarket in Kentucky after trying to get into a black church and failing… they are a pattern.  But they are not Parkland, or Sandy Hook or Columbine or Las Vegas.  They are different.  The firepower brought to bear is a common topic. But the hate that we are facing will not be stopped by a gun law. That is not to say we shouldn’t have gun laws, just that it won’t stop this hate from killing. This hatred is becoming more and more not just words, but violence.

Our answer to this hate, to this terror, to this murder is clear.

First, we will strengthen our Jewish lives, and live as Jews in joyful and defiant ways. We will not ignore our synagogue. We will not drift away. They died because they needed a shul in their lives.  We will not give hate the victory of our own apathy.

Second, we will strengthen the fabric of our diverse society in every way.  This week I received hugs, tears and hands from the whole spectrum of people in this neighborhood.  They are all with us. Welcome that, make that even more real.  The spectrum of clergy at town hall, the political support of our elected officials, the neighbors who affirm your Judaism at this time.  They are our best weapons against this hate.

Third, we will strengthen our synagogue physically as well as spiritually.  We are already ahead of most with blast proof glass, cameras, panic buttons. Now we have an armed Essex County Sherriff on Saturday mornings.  We will have community education and training here on Shabbat morning, December 1. We will not be victims. We will not be sitting ducks.

If I had 1.2 million dollars to give away at this time, I hope that I would have done what the Weinberg foundation in Baltimore just did.  In brilliant and defiant fashion, they are spoken powerfully to each and every aspect of this act of hate, murder and terror.

[Read Weinberg Press Release]


In this week’s parshah, it begins with death. But by the end, Avraham even in old age has found love again in Keturah, with generations of children and grandchildren to know.  This is our story. We will go on.

We will do this because it is who we are. We have seen you, purveyor of hate.  We know that the swastika on the sidewalk, if left unopposed, ends up in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.  We will name you, oppose you, stop you. We will do it with our spirit, with our souls, with our hearts, with our money, with our bodies. We will do it with our friendships, with our democracy with the force of law. We will do it on college campus and in Israel We will live as Jews and you will not stop us, slow us or divide us. Are we your enemy? You have chosen that on false pretense, but so be it. We will live.



Saturday, November 3, 2018

Military on our Southern Border

President Trump's orders to deploy troops to the souther border raises not just policy questions, but historical legal questions.  It is not surprising that this is not the first time a sitting president needed to militarize the Mexican border.  So it is also not surprising that there is a strong U.S. legal history defining the military's role in civilian affairs.  The following information come from the Military Times:

The Posse Comitatus Act
All active duty forces dispatched to the border are governed by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids troops from carrying out law enforcement duties inside United States territory unless Congress grants an exemption.
Under the act, federal military forces are prohibited from engaging in direct law enforcement, which includes making arrests, conducting searches, seizures, apprehension, evidence collection, interrogations, security patrols, seizures, stop and frisks, surveillance, crowd and traffic control, enforcement of a quarantine or isolation, or other similar police functions.
Congress has amended that act some to increase the authorized level of support the military may provide for drug interdiction and to support border patrol.
According to the Congressional Research Service, under the extended support, the military may provide "assistance in maintenance or upgrade of equipment; transportation of personnel; establishment and operation of operations or training bases; training of law enforcement personnel; detecting and monitoring traffic within 25 miles of the border; road and fence construction; light installation along smuggling corridors; the establishment of command and control centers and computer networks; the provision of linguist and intelligence analysis services; and aerial and ground reconnaissance.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trump and the Massacre

While I have attempted to avoid politics, one week from the midterm election, the world - and the Jewish world especially - is on fire in the wake of the massacre of 11 of our brothers and sisters in Tree of Life Congregation last Shabbat in Pittsburgh, PA.  I have received multiple responses to my letters to the congregation demanding that I (a) loudly condemn President Trump as a purveyor of hate and an enabler of this murder, or (b) stay out of politics. Sometimes both requests come from the same person. 

So here is my take, only because it has been demanded of me.

1)  President Trump is firmly opposed to anti-Semitism, and has been consistent and clear on that topic.

2) #1 is severely undermined by President Trump's other statements about race, immigration and nationalism.

3) #2 not only undermines #1, it empowers those in this country that sow hatred and prejudice, including anti-Semites.

4) That makes #1 a question for your to answer.  Is he lying, and really is an anti-Semite?  Is he telling the truth, but has other hatred and prejudice? Is he neither, but intentionally sows discord for political advantage?  Is he neither, and doesn't intend the empowerment of prejudice? Or is he good, and positive, and his detractors have it all wrong?

What you think is more important than what I think, but here is what I think:

Note my blog post and speeches after Trump equivocated regarding the Nazi march in Charlottesville in August of 2017.  Note my HHD sermon condemning him, and warning that his equivocation was received by white supremicists and American Nazis as endorsement.  Note my year's work teaching and warning about the dramatic rise of anti-Semitism in America, and violent hate crimes based on race or gender identity.  Note my blog post this week, declaring that "wishing we had more immigrants from Norway" panders to and empowers white supremicist racism in America. Note my consistent protection of immigrants, and my speaking against child-separation as contrary to Torah law, and our mandate to protect the widow, the orphan and the stranger.  Yes, President Trump has policies and speeches that are divisive and which have the immediate and prolonged effect of normalizing the field of prejudice, and encouraging racists and haters.  He disavows them, but they are attracted to his camp. His anti-immigrant stands, his "pro-Norway" comments, his call for nationalist identity, and his nostalgia for "Make America Great Again," with the idea that an earlier social and cultural climate is more desirable than the current fabric of America resonates with prejudice and hate.

The murdererous anti-Semite in Pittsburgh specifically lamented in his social profile that "There is no MAGA (make America great again) as long as there is still a (Jewish and immigrant) infestation."  He resonates with MAGA and then determines that his hateful beliefs must be achieved in reality if MAGA is to be achieved.  This is the point: Trump's message resonates with and empowers the minds of hate, to a deadly extent.  Pipe bombs to liberals, bullets to Jews.

This resume that Trump has built for himself on these topics has become the dividing line between Republicans and Democrats. On the one side, his supporters defend him as a champion of policy who shouldn't be accused of the worst deeds of his followers. On the other side, he is seen as the architect of prejudice and division in America with bloody and devastating outcomes that are just beginning and will destroy the fabric of our nation if allowed to continue.  Whoever is reading this right now will mostly identify with one or the other of those two polarities.  We are divided.

There is no doubt in my mind that Trump does not see and/or does not care about the pain that resume causes, because it helps him achieve his goals.  On the other hand, I believe that when bad apples are found in our midst we must condemn them, reject them and oust them publicly.  We are accountable for our "camps" and President Trump has not sufficiently owned that fact.

But when I turned on the news last Saturday night and was devastated in tears at what I was being shown was happening to my people, to my synagogue in Pittsburgh, I immediately looked to hear "What will President Trump say?" I did that in August 2017 and condemned his ignorant and horrific equivocations.  This time he said the right things.  If he had not said the right things, I would have screamed it from the mountaintops.  Given that he did say the right things, it is good and proper to recognize that, which I did - and still do.  For those who can not hear truth when he speaks it, because he is speaking it, I am different.  I will recognize truth from any quarter when it presents itself.

However, he shows an ongoing blindness to the needs of the real people on the ground.  Forcing himself into the synagogue neighborhood before we had even buried our dead is wrong.  Trying to make a political point of a shiva visit with a family who wants to mourn in peace is wrong. Ignoring the local leaders of the Jewish community, the synagogue, the mayor and the representatives in Congress and interjecting himself on the ground so soon was wrong.  He doesn't understand that there is a connection between his past words and this murderer's motivations.  He needs to get that before he can understand why people did not want him there.

Yes, there is a connection - direct and undeniable - between Trump's prior words and actions and this act of anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant murder. I do not believe that is Trump's intention.  But the disavowal must happen loudly, publicly and in a sustained enough manner to counter the damage that has been done over time.  Do I believe that will happen? 100% no.

Anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and prejudice are on the rise. When I hear him say the right thing, I will note it with gratitude. Do I give him a pass? Absolutely not.






Sunday, October 28, 2018

Anti-Semitic Murders at Tree of Life - How to Stop what can be Stopped

Enough time has now passed - a long day and a half - for us to begin to know the lessons we must learn and actions we must take in the wake of the murder of 11 innocent Jews, in Pittsburgh yesterday morning.

First, you must understand that this is NOT about guns and it is NOT about mental illness and it is NOT about violence in America.  Do you really think he would have killed fewer people with the 3 handguns than he did with the rifle?  This is about Anti-Semitism in its full form: murder of Jews.

Anti-Semitism is a form of hate, that is unique and insipid.  It is not racism.  It is based in a literature of conspiracy, dehumanization and accusation of guilt for whatever wrong the hater believes in.  If the hater is theological, we rejected and killed Jesus.  If the hater is rich, we are communists.  If the hater is poor, we are bankers and greedy capitalists.  If the hater is counter-cultural, we are the media and Hollywood.  If the hater is a racist, we are mongrels. Anti-Semitism is the chameleon of hate, ever changing and adapting and never based in fact that can be rationally countered.

This attacker believed in a form of Anti-Semitism that was based in white purity of race, combined with a sense of American nationalism defined by that racial profile.  Jews, immigrants, blacks, latinos, asians and others are all an attack on the purity of the nation that he wishes existed.  Wishing we had more "immigrants from Norway" panders to and emboldens this form of racism.  The fact that Jews - largely because of our history as victims to anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world - also support the cause of refugees and immigrants is a double offense to this kind of hater.  Killing Jews, therefore, was a logical attack on his perceived enemies.  This is a rational connection, with a logical conclusion, and therefore is NOT the action of mental illness.  It is the form of hate known as anti-Semitism, pure and simple.

This killer is not alone.  He referenced #Qanon on his social pages, a murky far right conspiracy theory that believes in a dark government, run by a Jewish conspiracy's control of liberal politicians, to overthrow government and advance an anti-white hidden agenda.  In the #Qanon world, the list of enemies includes every single person who was mailed a pipe bomb last week.  No, he was not alone.  He is part of a series of overlapping worlds of anti-Semitism on the far right, all of which are primed for violence and murder.

There are lessons/actions that must come from this:

1) Support the Victims in Pittsburgh at this emergency fund. They need it.  They deserve it.

2) Name this as anti-Semitism.  It is not a "tragedy" or a "horror" or "unthinkable" in any way.  It is the normal, logical and inevitable outcome of the oldest hate still alive in humanity and it is not going away.  It now has a literature from the medieval church, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler, the Hamas Charter and more - any one of which you may google, find and read easily in the information age.  They now all reference each other to create a world where their lies and hate become self-validating as if they were true. It will not go away.  It needs to be named, called out, and condemned.

3) America is a land of freedom.  You may outlaw one gun or another, and strengthen background checks for mental illness, prior convictions, drugs, alcoholism, domestic abuse and more.  Those may or may not be very good things.  But they will not stop this kind of violence.  Do you want the government profiling unpleasant political voices, and diminishing their civil rights without ever committing a crime?  Do you want freedom of expression outlawed? Please God, no. Since the anti-Semite is neither insane, nor criminal, none of this will prevent him or her from gaining the legal means to kill.

4) The only answer is the harden soft targets.  Period.  Everything else is politics.  Since we know that bad people will try to kill, and we can't prevent it before it happens without undermining our own democracy and civil rights, we must admit that the only thing that stops a shooter is a shortage of bullets or opposing force.  We must be that opposing force.  It is time that the Department of Homeland Security expand its funding to know that anti-Semitism is the single greatest base of bias attacks and terrorism in America year after year. We need hardened buildings, and armed security like the Jewish communities of Europe, South America and Israel. It is naive to simply wish that we don't want to have to see or pass guns when we enter our houses of worship. The question is, what risk are you willing to take?  For me, I love the lives of my congregants too much to accept any avoidable risk, and our synagogue is just like Tree of Life.  I want trained, competent persons on site.  I don't care if they are paid or not.  You do not need to be a police officer to be fully competent, but it sure would help.

5) We need emergency measures, education and drills in our synagogues, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and more.  Everyplace that is visibly Jewish is a potential target.  In france, it was a kosher supermarket. In Pittsburgh, a synagogue.

I do not take this view lightly.  I am a social liberal, with deep feelings regarding civil rights, freedoms, pluralism and peaceful actions. But anti-Semitism is not overcome in a debate, and guns are not stopped by wishful thinking.