Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dying To Kill

Israel Affairs

Gaza has been in the world news once again. It seems that the only time it and its inhabitants receive such sustained media coverage is when Israel, after receiving continued and sustained rocket attacks from the Islamist group Hamas, decides to use military force to defend its citizens and to stop the attacks. Then, on cue, like a bad chorus in a Greek tragedy the international community cries with sustained hypocrisy and hatred that Israel's response is not proportional, as if it would only be acceptable if Israelis suffered as many deaths and injuries as those living in Gaza do. It's an irrational response, no doubt; but it both exists and persists. Rarely brought up are the thousands of rocket attacks that Hamas (and, at times, other Islamist groups) have launched at Israel since the Disengagement in 2005; and rarely discussed by those pro-Palestinian (and possibly Hamas) sympathizers are that Hamas has openly declared its intention to "destroy Israel," a horrible thought. It does not want peace, or an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, but something else altogether, a point noted by Prof. George Jochnowitz: "Hamas is doing its best to see that the descendants of the refugees remain refugees forever. It is rejecting the possibility of any kind of peaceful solution. Its Charter rejects Israel, but more to the point, launching rockets aimed at civilians leads necessarily and inevitably to responses from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The number of deaths in Gaza is perhaps 200 times higher than the number of Israeli deaths. Is it worthwhile to sacrifice 200 Palestinian lives to kill an Israeli Jew? Obviously, the actions of Hamas say that it is."

by George Jochnowitz

We all know about suicide bombers, who kill themselves in order to kill others. The Boston Marathon bombers were one of many recent examples. But do we know about nations that want to destroy themselves in order to destroy another nation?

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, said that if one day the world of Islam came to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. He added that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely damage the world of Islam (reported in MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 325; January 3, 2002).

In other words, Rafsanjani was saying that Iran should turn itself into a suicide bomb—a nuclear suicide bomb. No one noticed. However, he did add the important words, “retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely damage the world of Islam.” In fact, in all likelihood, he expected that Iran too would survive horrible and severe destruction. Like most suicide bombers, he expected his cause to survive.

ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is a friend and ally of Hamas. Nevertheless, their vision of the future includes a Middle East Not only without an Israel but without a Palestinian state, according to their recently released map of how the world will look in five years. They don’t care about the survival of the Palestinian cause.

The popular world-wide opposition to Israel comes from sympathy with the Palestinians. Nobody stops to think what would happen If Israel were destroyed, God forbid. All its citizens—Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druse, Bahai—would be killed. The neighboring states would then divide the territory, and the issue of a Palestinian state would vanish. The surviving Palestinians would then be persecuted by the Arab states as they have always been.

Rival groups of Muslims would blow up al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, preferably when lots of people were in them. The world would blame Israel (even if it no longer existed) and respond with an outburst of anti-Semitism leading to massacres of Jews in Europe.

The Palestinians are victimized because they won't accept an independent Palestine. The Arab world rejected a state in 1947. It did so with the Three No's of Khartoum in 1967. It did so at Taba in 2001. It did so in Gaza when Israel withdrew. It is doing so today by refusing to recognize that almost a half million Jewish Israelis live in places like Maale Adumim. The Palestinians are the only independence movement in history to reject a state of their own because of a boundary dispute.

The Germans forced out of the areas annexed by Poland in 1945 found homes in East and West Germany. The Poles forced out of areas that became part of the USSR and today are Belarus and Ukraine found homes in western Poland. The Serbs forced out of Slavonia by the Croatians are finding homes in the remaining Serbia. What is being done to the Palestinians and has been done for over 70 years is without precedent. If there were an independent Palestine that lived in peace with Israel, this situation could conceivably end. Hamas is doing its best to see that the descendants of the refugees remain refugees forever. It is rejecting the possibility of any kind of peaceful solution. Its Charter rejects Israel, but more to the point, launching rockets aimed at civilians leads necessarily and inevitably to responses from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The number of deaths in Gaza is perhaps 200 times higher than the number of Israeli deaths. Is it worthwhile to sacrifice 200 Palestinian lives to kill an Israeli Jew? Obviously, the actions of Hamas say that it is.

The Arabs on the West Bank and elsewhere in the Arab world who celebrated the recent kidnappings with a three-finger salute are in effect calling for muder.

Israel has consistently made sacrifices for the sake of peace. After winning the Sinai War of 1956, with a bit of air assistance from Britain and France, Israel surrendered Sinai—partly because Eisenhower joined with the USSR to pressure Israel. In the Six-Day War, and again in the Yom Kippur War, Israel reconquered Sinai. But when Anwar Sadat visited Israel in 1977 and signed a treaty in 1978, Israel withdrew from Sinai.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, removing settlers kicking and screaming, thus creating an independent Palestinian state. Where are the Arab analogs to these withdrawals?

Hitler murdered as many Jews as he could. If the Nazi Party hadn’t been anti-Semitic, Jews would have remained in Germany, where they were typically assimilated and generally very productive German citizens. Hitler could have enjoyed Mahler’s music, which he would have loved. Germany would have been the first country on earth to develop atomic weapons. Hitler could have established a German Empire and ruled most of Europe—and maybe even the world. But even if he had known about the possibility of an atomic bomb in the early days of his rule, he wouldn’t have been able to accept Jews as German citizens. He destroyed the Nazi Party by losing a war that he could have won. That was a price he would have been willing to pay. Hamas may well destroy the possibility of an independent Palestine. So what? ISIS has already abandoned that possibility.

Destroy. Destroy. There is joy in destruction.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author's permission.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Justice Of Israel's Battle

The Jewish State

If Israel's military operation in Gaza to root out terrorists and its infrastructure has shown anything it is that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world, notably among those who call themselves Leftists. But they have loss the argument, which makes them more nasty, and more brutish. In the realm of mid-east politics, their arguments are not only dangerously foolish, but also irrelevant, which is what Jonathan S.Tobin has pointed out rather persuasively in Commentary:

Tobin writes:
That is why the energy expended by so many American liberals on behalf of projects designed to pressure Israel’s government to make more concessions to the Palestinians is not merely wrongheaded. It’s utterly irrelevant to the realities of both the Middle East and the global resurgence of anti-Semitism. Groups such as J Street that are predicated on the notion that Israel must be saved from itself by principled liberal critics are treated as both serious and representative of Jewish opinion by the mainstream media. But that group has little to say about the current conflict that requires our notice. Nor are its efforts to distinguish itself from far more radical anti-Zionist groups that openly support efforts to isolate Israel economically and support protests against its right of self defense of any importance any longer.

At this moment it is no longer possible to pretend that the conflict can be wished away by Israeli concessions that would, if implemented, create another 20 Gazas in the West Bank. Nor can one rationally argue that more Israeli forbearance toward Hamas in Gaza and a less vigorous effort to take out its vast system of tunnels shielding its rocket arsenal and terror shock troops would bring the region closer to peace when the only way to give that cause a chance is predicated on the elimination of Hamas.

If, at some point in the indefinite future, the Palestinians turn on Hamas and its less radical allies and embrace a national identity that is not inextricably linked to Israel’s elimination, perhaps then we can resume the debate about settlements and borders that J Street craves. But until that unlikely event happens, it is imperative that Americans realize that the J Street critique of Israel that is often echoed by some in the Obama administration and throughout the left is over. The only question to be asked today is whether you stand with Israel’s right to defend itself or not. Jews and others who consider themselves friends of the Jewish state must find the courage to speak up for the justice of Israel’s cause in the current crisis against the forces of hate. Viewed from the perspective of the last week’s events here in Israel, anything else is a waste of time.
Nothing further can be added, other than if you care about the values of democracy and classical liberalism—as I strongly and passionately do—then you, as Tobin says, " must find the courage to speak up for the justice of Israel’s cause in the current crisis against the forces of hate." Now is not the time to be silent.

For the rest, go to [Commentary]

Monday, July 21, 2014

Apollo 11: 45 Years Later

The Lunar Landing

Neil Armstrong descending the nine-rung ladder of the lunar module on July 20, 1969.
Photo Credit: NASA;
Polaroid image of slow scan television monitor at Goldstone Station. S69-42583. Source: NASA
On July 20, 1969, I was 11; I remember this day well. Our whole family gathered that mid-afternoon (around 4 pm) in the living room in front of our b&w console TV watching the lunar landing and later on that evening (around 11 pm) the lunar walk of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (Michael Collins was piloting the command spacecraft); who can forget the immortal words that Armstrong said when taking his first steps on the moon. It was one those unforgettable moments that you always remember. For more of that day and the Space Race, see here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Engineering Chabad's Publishing House: The Rebbe

Hasidic Life

The Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, 1954: Seeman writes: "The energy of modern Chabad stems in large part from the way in which Rabbi Schneerson managed to combine the distribution and publicity-minded ethos of American publishing with ritual models embedded deep in Chabad theology."
Photo Credit:
Source: JRB
In an article in the Jewish Review of Books, Don Seeman writes on how Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, started and guided a publishing empire that brought Hasidic discourse to a wider audience of not only followers of Chabad but to other Jews interested in delving into the history and knowledge of Hasidim's most successful and well-known Jewish sect.

Seeman, associate professor of religion and Jewish studies at Emory University, writes in "Publishing Godliness: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Other Revolution; July 16, 2014:
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson arrived in the United States in 1941, his father-in-law, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn, asked him to head the new Chabad publishing house, Kehot. It was an inspired decision. A prodigious scholar and bibliophile, the future Rebbe devoted himself passionately to the task of spreading the “wellsprings” of Hasidic teaching “outward” (hafatzat ma’ayanot chutzah). Although Rabbi Schneerson’s charismatic personal leadership and the global network of shluchim, or emissaries, he established as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe have received a great deal of attention in the recent discussions occasioned by his 20th yahrzeit and the recent biographies by Joseph Telushkin, Chaim Miller, and Adin Steinsaltz, his work as an editor and publisher has been relatively neglected. Yet, it is in the light of this work that some of his most ambitious lifelong goals must be understood.

Chabad is often described as the most intellectual of the Hasidic schools that first arose in 18th-century Eastern Europe. While other Hasidic groups are designated today almost exclusively by the names of their towns of origin— Kotzk, Breslov, Chernobyl—only Chabad has come to be known for the distinctive form of contemplative divine service it promoted, as well as the town (Lubavitch) in which it once flourished. The term Chabad is an acronym for the three cognitive faculties (Chochmah, Binah, and Da’at) that link the human to the divine in Jewish mystical psychology. While other Hasidic schools have tended to concentrate on emotional experience, especially in ecstatic prayer, Chabad leaders have always insisted that feeling follows thought. They have remained focused, moreover, on the radical demand to make “godliness,” as Rabbi Schneerson would later write, “visible to eyes of flesh.”

The contemplative study of Chabad texts was meant, among other things, to make the absolute contingency of the world upon divine vitality perceptible to the reader. This, in turn, would help to make this “lower” world a fitting “habitation” (dirah ba-tachtonim). Yet while the Tanya, written by the movement’s founder Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, and a few other key Chabad texts became well-known even outside of Hasidic circles, most of the tracts written by successive generations of Chabad leaders remained in manuscript form, passed from hand to hand as precious heirlooms. On his deathbed the fifth Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneersohn, reportedly told his son and successor, “my soul I return to my Maker, the ksavim [manuscripts] I leave to you.”
The Rebbe worked tireless and intelligently, and might I add with heart and passion, to build a publishing empire, to bring Hasidic thought and discourse into as many Jewish hands as there were Jews. Part of his success might be attributed to his innate talent for making leaders of men and women, and for them to internalize the importance of his vision; and part of his success might be attributed to his engineering skills, where he was able to efficiently utilize his seemingly unlimited energy for a higher purpose.

For more, go to [JRB].