('76 Contributor) This evening, for the second time in a decade, I decided to add some of my own thoughts to our family's Seder. I love to hear myself talk of course, but I’m completely unqualified for actual sermonizing. Believe me, it’s a bit of a relief not to have a rabbi as a guest this year. But I do follow the news occasionally (ok, compulsively) and that made me feel a few additions were called for.I gave my additions after we shared–abbreviated for the kids’ benefit – the story of Passover, how the Jews were enslaved in Egypt and how G-d came to our aid -- a story which is, of course, is about freedom -- and before we came to the portion of the Seder involving the three matzos on the table.
I began by asking: Why are there three? One is are that there are three kinds of people – those who are unfree, those who don’t care about the freedom of others , and those who are free and work to help others become free.We are fortunate to live in a country where, for all our domestic political squabbling, freedom is still a central value. For the Jewish people as a whole, we are able to count on the State of Israel as a beacon of freedom – sometimes the only safe haven for Jews in lands that oppress them. And because of the shared centrality of liberty, Israel is America in the Middle East.Just as in the time of Moses and Pharaoh, there are many who don’t want the Jews to be free. With respect to Israel, the first approach was military. Israel has survived existential attacks including the Sinai War in 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.Next came terrorism. Nine years ago, as part of the second Intifada, Hamas launched a brutal attack at Netanya on a Passover Seder much like this one – a peaceful gathering of friends and loved ones – killing 30 people and injuring 140 others. And if something in my remarks makes you angry let it be this: Not even three weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority celebrated the attacks and awarded the family of mastermind Abbas Al-Sayed an official, festive plaque celebrating the anniversary of the attacks. Of course, terrorism is ongoing. Eleven days ago an Israeli school bus was shot with an anti-tank missile, and a month ago an Israeli family including a baby and two small children was brutally stabbed to death as they slept in a West Bank settlement.But what I want to talk about today is delegitimization. Delegitimization is the organized –and you’d better believe it is organized – effort to undermine the moral standing of Jews and of Israel – including especially Israel’s right to exist, its right to exist as a Jewish state, and its right to defend itself and its citizens. Golda Mier famously said, “Better a bad press than a good epitaph,” but today, survival as a member of the global community depends upon the acceptance of the global community.Of course, delegitimization is nothing new – in 1975, the UN passed an abominable resolution declaring that Zionism is racism. But in recent years it has moved from a fringe tactic to a mainstream strategy. Some of it is petty – like anti-Israel students at Columbia protesting the presence of Israeli hummus in the cafeteria. Much of it is small scale – a campaign by the anti-war group Code Pink to boycott Ahava skincare products because they are made on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank – but clearly exhibit the double standard inherent in delegitimization – do CodePink’s leaders seriously believe it is a human rights violation to respond militarily to thousands of rockets being fired at civilians? Would they feel the same way if Vancouver were shelling Seattle? Of course not, but somehow defending Jewish lives is less worthy.Twenty-first century delegitimization can be deadly serious. Isn’t it something new and frightening when the government of Turkey supports the dispatch of a flotilla of armed radical Islamist fighters, some seeking martyrdom, with cargo to Hamas in Gaza with the purpose of providing a confrontation with Israel and calls it “humanitarian”?And of course I want to talk today about the Goldstone Report. This was the document produced by the so-called United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. I say “so-called” because there was very little actual fact finding. Taking you back, from 2005 through 2008, Palestinian – mostly Hamas – forces in Gaza had fired about 3,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel. At the end of 2009, Hamas launched “Operation Oil Stain,” firing 87 mortar shells, Katyusha and Qassam rockets at Israel in a single day. The next day, then prime minister Ehud Olmert went on al-Aribiya television giving a final warning to Hamas to stop the shelling – this warning was answered with more Qassam rocket fire. The Israeli military then initiated Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza, hoping to put an end to Hamas’ attacks on Israel’s innocent citizens. After the end of hostilities, the UN Human Rights Commission – consisting of such even-handed pillars of human rights as Pakistan, Cuba, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, decided to “investigate” the conflict. The truth of Israel’s conduct of its military operation, and I’m quoting here directly from the former head of British Forces in Afghanistan, is this: “During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population. The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.” Perhaps no one should have been surprised, but the UN report, which came to be known as the Goldstone Report after the judge who led the team, had a different finding. It was nothing short of a blood libel: that Israel specifically and purposefully targeted civilians for military strikes as a matter of policy. Of course, that conclusion was false. In fact, two weeks ago, Judge Goldstone himself retracted his finding that Israel targeted civilians. But the damage is done. The report shocked the world, and led many governments to take specific anti-Israel actions undermining Israel’s legitimate sovereign rights. These bodies included the governments of the European Union, France, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, China, Nigeria. Global NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch used the report as an excuse to ramp up their criticism of Israel. The damage to Israel’s legitimacy is incalculable, and Hamas and other terrorists and enemies of freedom have pointed to the Goldstone report time and again to incite or justify violence. And, while the accusations bear the full imprimatur of the United Nations, the recanting was accomplished with nothing more than an op-ed in the Washington Post. Indeed, the UN human rights council spokesman said, "the UN will not revoke a report on the basis of an article in a newspaper.”A great president once said, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” - - and that was never more true than today for the Jewish people. We must be the people of the third matzo – those who work for the freedom of others.YES – it matters that Columbia students have the choice to eat Israeli hummus. YES – it matters that Jews in the West bank be free to sell skincare products.BUT YES YES YES –it matters that there is no moral equivalence between disciplined, restrained self defense and the brutal murder of infants asleep in their beds or children riding on school buses. According to Isaiah, “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me!” But my answer is, send all of us. All I ask of you is to speak up. Don’t let these dangerous, bigoted strategic slurs go unanswered. Use your voice. Say something. Be firm. Be loud. The freedom of the next generation depends upon it.
On the night of November 9, 1938, Nazis unleashed unimaginable violence on the Jews of Germany. The wave of atrocities became known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Adolf Hitler, in one of his frequent cynical attempts to cloak pagan barbarism with Christian respectability, declared that the horrors were inflicted in honor of the vehemently anti-Jewish Martin Luther’s birthday the next day.Editor: Anti-Israel divestiture efforts this week at the University of Colorado prompted this historical essay by our friend Pamela Zuker, a scholar and writer in Aspen, on the long and shameful history of Jew-hatred. As she notes, it is a legacy in which Christians have sometimes participated, though without any valid theological warrant - in repudiation of which, we at Colorado Christian University solemnly vow, in much the same words as Dr. Zuker quotes at the end from our brave Jewish friends: “Never again.”Until Kristallnacht - despite the enactment of laws prohibiting intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, a national boycott of Jewish stores, the exclusion of Jews from respected professions, the expulsion of Jewish students from German schools, the revocation of the German citizenship of all German Jews, and even the requirement that Jews wear yellow “Jude” stars on their clothing - many Jews had refused to flee the country, believing that German anti-Semitism would abate.In the immediate aftermath of Kristallnacht, however, virtually every remaining Jew in Germany attempted to emigrate. Sadly, even after the Nazi atrocities were known to the world, few countries would provide Jews asylum. When asked how many Jews his country could accommodate, a high government official in Canada replied, “None is too many.”? The British, bent on thwarting Zionism (the desire to create a sovereign Jewish State in Israel), imposed a prohibition on Jewish emigration to the Land of Israel, and even refused safe passage to a ship that arrived in British-controlled “Palestine” bursting with Jewish Holocaust refugees. By escorting them back to Europe, the British ensured that when Jews needed their ancestral home the most, it would not be their safe haven.That dismal chapter in Jewish history finally cemented in the minds of the world’s Jewry the urgent necessity to return to a world with a sovereign Jewish State. In 136 C.E., Romans forcibly expelled the Jews from the Land of Israel (then called Israel, Judea and Samaria). This expulsion brought to an end more than one thousand years of Jewish reign (with several intermittent periods of external rule by conquest), compelling the global dispersion of the world’s Jews, and inaugurating eighteen centuries of cruel oppression and genocidal persecution. In the nearly two thousand years between Jewish expulsion from Israel and their return, Jews were variously subjected to forced conversions, confiscations of land, money, and personal property, expulsions from several countries, slavery, prohibitions on the practice of Judaism, frequent massacres, the burning of sacred books, the burning of Synagogues, and being burned alive. Several countries attempted to obliterate their Jews, resulting in the annihilation of a third of the Jewish population of Germany and Northern France, during the first thousand years of exile. The entire population of Jews in England was murdered and/or imprisoned in the 13th century, and in 1472, when all Jews were expelled from Spain, even the descendants of Jewish converts to Christianity were prohibited from attending university, joining religious orders, holding public office, or entering any of a long list of professions. One third of Poland’s Jews were slaughtered in the 1600s, and during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, Jews there were massacred to complete elimination. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered in Russian pogroms in the 19th and 20th centuries. The pogroms that accompanied the Revolution of 1917 alone orphaned more than 300,000 Jewish children.The staggering Jewish genocide during what Jews have come to call the “Shoah” (calamity) of World War II, saw approximately six million Jews sadistically tortured and murdered at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators. At the war’s end, fully one-third of the world’s total Jewish population had been brutally butchered.The history of Jews outside of Israel until the end of World War II is largely a history of oppression, genocide, and expulsion – punctuated by burnings at the stake, public torture, and insidious, malicious libel. Remarkably, Jewish “displaced persons” continuously assimilated into other cultures around the world while retaining their unique religion and identity as a people, a feat that Jews all across the globe are somehow still able to accomplish.Eighteen hundred twelve years after Rome exiled the Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel), and changed the names of the Jewish lands to Palaestinia (the land of the Philistines – so named in an attempt to sever Jews’ ties to their land), descendents of 2nd century Jewish refugees returned home as 20th century Jewish refugees. In the first year of the existence of the State of Israel, roughly 500,000 homeless European Jews emigrated. Within ten years, the population of Israel had grown to two million. The majority of the Jewish immigrants, including 700,000 refugees from Arab countries, arrived with no possessions.In contradistinction to neighboring states, Israel established free and fair elections, universal suffrage, a free press, and the right to a fair trial with an independent judiciary. Arab citizens of Israel, regardless of religious affiliation, are afforded the same rights and privileges as Jewish citizens, and all women who are citizens of Israel, regardless of religious affiliation, are afforded rights equal to those of men. In Israel, Jews created a country that allows both the freedom of religion and full access to Jerusalem’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim Holy sites that were denied Jews when Jerusalem was not under Jewish rule.Despite this, in the rest of the world, particularly in difficult economic times, antisemitism rears its ugly head. Even – or perhaps more accurately, especially – in the world’s most respected international forum, the United Nations, antisemitism is rampant.On November 10th, 1975, the 37th anniversary of Kristallnacht, rather than issuing a statement in memory of the Jewish victims of Nazi savagery, the United Nations passed Resolution 3379 branding Zionism, the reestablishment of a Jewish State in Israel, “a form of racism.” Although renounced by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., as “obscene,” it was through this resolution that Jew-hatred was sanitized, repackaged, and propagated globally as politically correct “anti-Zionism.” It took the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had voted in lockstep with Arab nations and other countries with anti-Jewish interests, for the U.N. to officially revoke the resolution, but the damage had been done and the precedent set. As a particularly ludicrous example of the United Nations’ stance toward Israel, at the International Women’s Year Conference in 1975, a resolution denounced Zionism as an enemy of all women (despite women’s equal rights in Israel) but did not denounce sexism as an enemy of all women because the call for women’s rights was seen as an attack on the Arab-Muslim world.Appallingly, on June 8, 2010, a Syrian representative at the United Nations perpetuated a modern version of the ancient blood libel to the United Nations Human Rights Council: “Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school,” he said, “and I quote, ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’” As shocking as this is, it should not be surprising given that these myths persist not only in Muslim countries, but even, according to anthropologists in a 2008 study, among Catholics and Orthodox Christians of all social classes in places as far from the Middle East as Southeastern Poland. In November, 2010 the annual UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People featured speeches from Libyan and Syrian demagogues that referred to Israel as, “the cancerous settlement in all the Palestinian territories,” and included statements such as, “Zionism, in reality, is the worst form of racism,” “Israel shows and rears its ugly face,” and, “the word Israel has become synonymous with words such as aggression, killing, racism, terrorism.”Words like “butchering,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “racism,” “brutality,” “crimes against humanity,” “torture,” “killing in cold blood” and “barbarism” were invoked not to describe the reasons for the creation of the state of Israel, but to condemn it. Opposition to “Judaization” – Jewish presence on what is perceived as Arab territory – was proclaimed and by default, legitimized.For some reason, the depictions of a “cancerous” Jewish state with its “ugly, bloodthirsty” Jewish occupants – utterances that would be recognized as unambiguously anti-Semitic if spoken elsewhere – are not considered beyond the pale at the United Nations. By the end of 2010, half of the country-specific condemnatory resolutions and decisions ever adopted by the UN Human Rights Council targeted Israel. Yet somehow, in the face of this, in the 1970s, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had the courage to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In advance of the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously remarked with sadness to Sadat, “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.” Today in Colorado, Palestinian advocate Michael Rabb and his group “CU Divest” hope to convince the Board of Regents at the University of Colorado to divest its portfolio of any investments linked to our staunchest ally in a troubled and increasingly less stable region. While we have every right to choose to disagree with Israel’s policies, it is essential that we protect, defend, and support its right to exist and to defend its inhabitants from virtually unceasing violent incursions. One can only hope the University will recognize that weakening Israel will not facilitate peace in the Middle East. In fact, only a strong and globally acknowledged Jewish state of Israel with widespread support from the world’s democracies will allow others in the region to enjoy the human and civil rights taken for granted in the U.S., Israel, and Europe. In the decades since the Holocaust, the haunting mantra, “Never Forget” serves to define the Jewish people’s role and responsibility to humanity as a constant reminder of the moral imperative to treat every human being – regardless of race or religion – justly and with decency, dignity and compassion. The existence of Israel is a necessity for the world’s Jews as a safeguard against a recurrence of the horrors of the last two thousand years and a protection of Jews’ human rights. But it is also a necessity for the human rights of those surrounding that tiny island of democracy. It is how the world treats Israel that will determine whether it is possible to move toward a world with universal human rights. The citizens of Israel along with the citizens of other democracies across the globe share a fervent hope that Israel’s neighbors will one day know freedom, prosperity and true peace. Until then, Israel is their last best hope.Psychologist Pamela Zuker is the author of "A Year of Kindness," a guided journal for anyone who would like to be kinder, happier, and lead a more meaningful life that draws on years of social and psychological research about kindness and giving. Her research at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) focused on Positive Psychology and happiness, and her PhD is in Human Development and Psychology from the University of Chicago. She also holds degrees in clinical psychology and anthropology, and consults for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropic families. "A Year of Kindness" is available at aYearofKindness.org, Amazon.com, and Explore Booksellers in Aspen, CO.
(CCU Student & Centennial Intern) From the American armchair, Israel looks rather lonely. She is the only democracy amongst a host of dutiful, patriarchal Arab nations. With death threats, weak peace treaties, and a rising pile of Israel-condemning resolutions coming from all parts of the United Nations, things look bleak for the tiny nation state of Israel. Much of the turmoil stems from the poor international opinion of nearly everything Israel does. For example, take a look at the Goldstone Report (circa 2009). The findings of the report condemn the Israeli military’s Operation Cast-Lead, which took place in the Gaza Strip. An operation designed to take aim at Hamas terror sites, specifically safe houses containing known leaders and weapon caches, places and people responsible for ceaseless rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians. All the target areas featured a dense population to discourage Israeli retaliation, and because of the Israeli’s respect of innocent civilians, the Israeli military repeatedly sabotaged the effectiveness of their operation by pre-attack-leafleting target areas to warn civilians off and even canceling high priority strikes when innocent noncombatants were found in the target zone. This can only be construed as the utmost respect for human life, even at the expense of the security of the Israeli state.Of course, the United States supports Israel along with a host of other nations through foreign aid bills passed by congress every year. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United States’s veto power has been used time and time again to cripple libelous anti-Semitic resolutions before they could reach the light of day. The U.S. has even been proactive, and through U.S. sanctions levied at the energy segment of Iran’s economy there has been a de-facto halting of Iran’s nuclear project, which assuredly seeks to level Israel. Even the through the myriad of bombings and other attacks, the U.S. has attempted to host peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Yet, none of these seems to wield enough power to right the sinking ship that is Israeli-world relations.Before the cry goes out to look for the lifeboats, there have been some new developments to the world scene, and quite possibly, they may turn the tidal swells into a more favorable current. Of all the unlikely countries, Russia has taken a timid step towards the pro Israel camp, or at least neutrality. Recent arms deals between both France and Russia, and Israel and Russia have convinced Russia to break off a deal to sell the S300 missile system to Iranian buyers. Among other things the Iranian oil sector though crude rich, lacks desperately on refining capacity. With Iran relying on outside sources for over seventy-five percent of its refined petroleum products. Though the U.S. has made divestments, the Iranians have still be receiving oil from Russia, China, and other parts of Asia. With the arms deal and other political maneuverings, Russia has further decided to cut their refinement and resale of petroleum products to Iran by over fifty-percent. All of this comes in the wake of Russia’s budding relationship with Israel, who is beginning to prove helpful in rebuilding the Russian infrastructure. By nature of Israel’s status as a startup nation, the small country has proven to be explosively successful and their Russian neighbors long for a dollop of that success.This may not be a blatantly marked or even reported victory, but in the complex web of relations and stability in the east this small transition makes a marked difference. First France, though already feisty, seems to have finally plunged into a more active role in precluding the international abhorrence of Israel. Second, and more importantly, the Russians may not love Israel, yet, but they see the potential good from keeping them around on the world stage. Third, the U.S. for all its blustering and single handed goodness can’t expect to be the sole force for Israel’s protection. And furthermore the U.S. must continue to protect Israel as the only stable, free, capitalistic, democratic state in the mid east.
(Centennial Student Intern) The past few days, with CCU sophomore Drew Goorabian, I have had the distinct pleasure of making a brief pre-Christmas stop in the frozen swamp that is Washington D.C. in the winter. AIPAC or the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee has been both our motivation and gracious host for this trip bringing Drew and me to D.C. to attend the biannual Saban Leadership Seminar.
It is quite noteworthy to understand the prevalence of AIPAC as one of America’s most influential political lobbies. AIPAC is better known as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby” and one of the top five most powerful lobbies in the country ranking alongside the AARP and NRA in lobbing effectiveness, all quite a feat in consideration of their smaller size and lesser funding. It is events like the Saban Leadership Seminar that have boosted AIPAC into their top 5 position. The impact is twofold: first, Saban reaches out to educate and empower over 400 of the top students from a mass of colleges across the country, and second, those same students then go out and educate and impact the rest of the country.
Over the past three days, we’ve sat through a myriad of sessions with subjects ranging from international affairs briefings to the etiquette and best practices of lobbying one’s representative. The point being to educate and motivate the next generation of Americans on how to be proactive citizens geared towards making a positive impact on the world.
Below: Lenell, right, and Goorabian paid a call at the White House on Sunday, but Obama refused to see them