“Schlaglicht Israel” offers an insight into internal Israeli debates and reflects selected, political events that affect daily life in Israel. It appears every two weeks and summarizes articles that appeared in the Israeli daily press.
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Main topics covered in this Publication:
1. The US Election Campaign
Hillary and Israel, a 3-month romance
(…) The Clintons have long drunk from the well of liberal Jewish campaign financing, particularly in New York and California, and have won big shares of the Jewish vote in their campaigns. (…) Clinton clearly sees an opportunity to win margins among Jewish voters not seen since her husband ran for office. Bill Clinton won among Jewish voters by 69% in 1992(…). Clinton was very close to slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and also worked with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David. Hillary Clinton needed to make nice to pro-Israel voters as a senator from New York but she has never been seen in quite the same way as her husband. Her refusal to criticize Suha Arafat after she slandered the State of Israel was one factor in this, but more troubling, and more recent, has been her continued association and reliance on Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton hack (…) as secretary of state. Blumenthal’s son, Max, is considered one of the most vicious Israel critics around, to the extent that many on the Left who routinely have problems with the Jewish state considered his book out of bounds and over the top anti-Semitic garbage. (…) Clinton will likely try to subtly separate herself from Obama in the next three months, at least when it comes to Israel. She might signal that Israel might get a better deal from her than from President Obama with regard to the renegotiation underway for Israel’s foreign aid. (…) A fair number of pro-Israel voters, among them a high percentage of Jewish Republicans, are reasonably sophisticated about these policy nuances. Clinton will be happy to make Israel one of the loves of her life the next 100 days, since there may be an electoral reward for the effort.
Richard Baehr, IHY, 03.08.16
Why being pro-Trump is anti-Israel
(…) When I hear my friends, the people on my Facebook feed, the orthodox Jews I know, arguing that anything is better than another Democrat in power, I’m sympathetic. (…) it would seem bizarre to ever reject the leader of the party that seems to be the most pro-Israel. But I hate Donald Trump. He scares me. (…) I’ve put aside much of my voice for Israel recently in trying to fight against this dangerous man, as it has felt like a personal moral imperative. (…) Donald Trump is a strategically bad option for Israel. (…) There comes a time in the history of a nation where a stand has to be taken regardless of the political cost. (…) Imagine for a moment that Trump actually would be good for Israel. He’d support it in every situation, would financially back it, would refuse to back down to a world of increasing antisemitism. But, here’s the thing: he would still be dangerous to the minorities in the United States. He would still demonize Muslims. He would still argue for a strategy of killing the families (including children) of terrorists. He would still argue that if the military disagreed with him, he’d force them to listen. (…) Quite literally none of these things are Israel’s values.
(…) Khizr Khan has taught us something vital: (…) We must live a life we are proud of. We must live the morality we preach. (…)
Elad Nehorai, TOI, 03.08.16
Not a point of no return
There are often watershed events in the run-up to U.S. elections that seal the fate of the candidates. (…) there is no doubt that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made a host of mistakes in recent days. (…) Trump’s provocative style and his adamant refusal to abide by the rules of political correctness (…) helped him make his case to voters, portraying himself as a renegade and anti-establishment crusader. His unfortunate statements do not represent a new pattern of behavior, only more extreme manifestations of his familiar rhetoric. (…) He can still undo the damage, but he has to apologize and turn things around without delay. Even Trump’s worrying ignorance on international relations or major strategic issues is not a game-changer. (…) he has no time to spare. He must (…) reach out to voters he has so far refused to court and take confidence-building measures toward the Republican establishment (…).
Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, IHY, 08.08.16
Trumpism: A political tendency to bully, bluster, exaggerate and demonize, in an often bigoted way
(…) Progressives have been particularly contemptuous, calling Trump a “racist,” a “boob,” a “maniac” whose supporters are equally reprehensible. (…) Trump (…) didn’t come from nowhere. (…) During the Democratic primary fight, when a questioner started ranting about how “the Zionist Jews…run the Federal Reserve” Bernie Sanders cut him off – but then hastily, randomly, defensively – affirmed “the needs of the Palestinian people.” (…) the doctrinaire Left, including fanatic anti-Zionists, have co-parented the Trumpian monster. And one takeaway from this age of Trump should be that we must call out the bigots and the haters, challenge the academics who foment sloppy thought and rigid intolerance, wherever they are. And so we should criticize Progressive Trumpism freely, without exhibiting any Sandersitis.
Gil Troy, JPO, 08.08.16
Clinton is the most experienced and best prepared candidate
(…) Hillary Clinton is one of the most experienced and best prepared candidates to be US president – ever.(…) We are an estimated 300,000 US citizens living in Israel, most of us dual citizens, and we share a responsibility for who will be the next president, both as Americans and as Israelis. There is no doubt (…) that voting for Trump is like playing a very risky gambling game at one of his casinos.(…) Do we really need a president with absolutely no foreign policy experience, who suggests that NATO should be weakened, who has positive words for anti-democratic leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and who thinks that allies should develop their own nuclear capabilities? (…) Clinton’s long record of dedicated experience and activism has energized many (…) Many American Israelis were also energized by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s call for social justice(…). Now the Clinton and Sanders camps are working together to build a more just and equitable American society (…). When it comes to Israel, we know Clinton has a long record of dedication to the country and the needs of its people. (…) the US will be able to help Israel confront the challenges of extremism in the region, and move toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and integration into the greater Middle East. (…) In 2008, the Democrats made history when they elected the first African-American president. In 2016, the Democrats will once again make history, by electing the first female American president, Hillary Clinton.
Hillel Schenker, JPO, 11.08.16
Even those who think Hillary is bad for Israel must now believe Trump would be worse
If 2016 were a typical presidential election year, the current news cycle would be a boon to Republicans making the case that Hillary Clinton’s Democratic White House would be highly problematic for Israel and its supporters. (…) First came the news that the Movement for Black Lives (…) had decided to slam Israel as committing “genocide” describing it as an “apartheid state” and endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in its platform (…). The Democrats can’t easily disassociate themselves with Black Lives Matter after the group was featured so prominently at the recent Democratic National Convention, spotlighting “Mothers of the Movement” – eight mothers who had children killed as a result of gun violence or political violence. (…) Then, the controversial Iran nuclear deal shot back into the headlines (…), just after four Americans detained in the Islamic Republic were released. (…) Whether or not there was a cash-for-hostages quid pro quo, the image of pallets of cash being quietly airlifted to Iran rubbed salt in the wounds of deal opponents, reminding them of the millions at the disposal of a regime that who has vowed to destroy Israel. (…) All of this might have benefited Trump if the current campaign had anything to do with real issues. But it isn’t. In what can only be described as a surreal atmosphere, the U.S. media is now squarely focused on Trump’s non-stop cavalcade of damaging statements, unstatesmanlike behavior and unflattering revelations, from his draft deferments to the possibility that his wife, Melania, violated U.S. immigration laws as a young woman. (…) The degree to which Trump’s words and behavior have crossed the line of acceptability, responsibility appears to have given Israel hawks pause. (…)
Allison Kaplan Sommer, HAA, 05.08.16
2. Tisha be´Av
Observing Tisha Be’av
(…) Never before in history have so many Jews lived in Jerusalem. Never before have Jewish sovereignty and political autonomy been so complete and vigorous. (…) Israel (…) has a thriving younger generation. Families are larger than any other Western nation, reflecting the Jewish state’s vitality. If the rebuilding of the Temple is to be understood not as the actual brick and mortar construction of an edifice in which animals are once again sacrificed on an altar and a priestly class reinstituted to its cultic duties, rather as the Jews’ return to sovereignty in a burgeoning, revitalized state, perhaps we have already arrived. (…) Some try to resolve the tension between tradition and reality by re-imaging Tisha Be’av as a day of sadness for all the bad things that have happened to the Jewish people (…). Fasting and prayer are directed at the hope for a better era in which egregious hatred of Jews (…) passes from the world. Skin color, religion, ethnicity or other labels used to classify groups as the hated other will no longer be used as a pretext for war, destruction and genocide. (…) On the national level, this means reducing the huge gaps in Israeli society between the rich and the poor; combating the tendency toward balkanization of different groups: religious and secular, Arab and Jewish, Ashkenazi and Sephardi. (…) Tisha Be’av is at one and the same time a day of celebration as well as a day of mourning. It is anachronistic to commemorate Jerusalem’s physical destruction, when we should be celebrating its resurgence. (…)
Editorial, JPO, 11.08.16
Tisha B’Av: A time to choose love
Tisha B’Av (…) does not have a very good public image. It (…) marks the culmination of a slow, destructive process in ancient Israeli society, one that has parallel phenomena in our modern age, particularly in recent years. (…) many people, ordinary citizens and public servants alike, (…) express concern for (…) how to unite the 12 tribes into a single, humane and vital nation. It seems that the last few years have led to a decrease in the sense of camaraderie and cooperation that characterized the founding generation of this country. (…) There is always someone inciting a war between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, between the religious and secular communities, between recent immigrants and veterans, and so on. (…) No one is leading the path toward social change or recruiting the masses to the effort to end incitement. (…) When we look toward the future of our country, we are projecting our hopes upon our young people. They are the ones who will lead the next protest. Let that be for tolerance, for the right to chose freely in a civilized and healthy society based on Jewish and democratic values, a society that desires life and loves freely, rather than another round of destruction.
Aliza Gershon, IHY, 11.08.16
On the night of Tisha B’Av (…) The essence of the mourning over the great catastrophe, over the years of exile (…), returns to the focal point of this mourning — to the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem. (…) It is not merely a memory of a tragic event that occurred long ago. Rather, it is a blow to the vital center of the Jewish People. (…) the whole world is stricken (…) for Jerusalem is the center point of the world’s existence. (…) Harm done to Jerusalem is therefore harm done to the apple of the world’s eye (…). Even God Himself participates in the mourning of Jerusalem. (…) The destruction of Jerusalem is for us the ruin of all of existence, and ever since, a curtain of sadness and darkness has covered the face of reality. (…) Ever since the destruction of the Temple, all profane music and singing have been prohibited. This sorrow and loss should be recalled at all times, even in joyous moments. When the table is set to host guests for a meal, something should be left incomplete, in remembrance of the hurban. (…) The memory of Jerusalem should be raised at the forefront of every joyous occasion. (…)
Adin Steinsaltz, TOI, 12.08.16
Avoiding extremism and appreciating variety
(…) It happens to us today more and more, when we become so entrenched in radicalized positions that lead to internal clashes and fierce hostility. These create deep rifts in our society, and I fear that unless we hit the emergency break, we’ll fall into the abyss similar to the one that brought us the destruction of the Second Temple. Then, too, it began with extremism and dogmatism (…) at the heavy price of 2,000 years of exile. (…) essentially, the destruction came to us because of the faulty norm of compliance with the law word for word. (…) Instead of our Torah being a living Torah and being a source for guidance, the prevailing spirit was to be “by the book,” without taking into consideration the special circumstances and the reality that requires broad discretion. We beard an unbearably high price for that extremism and literalism. (…) Tisha B’Av is not just a distant event, but an opportunity to look at ourselves from a comparative perspective. (…) Our urgent mission is to curb the raging, not to provide a place for the extreme and violent (not even a virtual one); seeing the great variety as a wealth of voices that don’t lead to conflict and cacophony, but as an orchestra playing a symphony.
Yuli Edelstein, JED, 14.08.16
What every Jew can mourn on Tisha B’Av
If there is any day which best reflects the division between what we in Israel call “The State of Tel Aviv” and the city of Jerusalem, it is certainly Tisha B’Av (…) the lessons behind it are applicable to Jews all over the globe. In Jerusalem, the Kotel is filled with tens of thousands of people who have come to pray (…) in Tel Aviv, it is almost business as usual (…) for Tisha B’Av there is little to no feeling of communal togetherness — and perhaps this should be the greatest cause of mourning that can inspire us. (…) for many Jews today the absence of a Temple is not only not a source of mourning, it might even be a source for celebration. (…) There will always be differing viewpoints and there will be a multitude of approaches of how to practice our religion. But the problem becomes when we fail to appreciate that diversity and when we are unable to recognize that even when a Jew thinks or acts differently, this shouldn’t be a source of disunity. Rather we must realize that our unity is based upon our ability to respect the rights of others to be different. (…)
David Stav, TOI, 14.08.16
3. The Olympic Games
Let’s stop the scaremongering about the Rio Olympics
(…) Anyone who reads the papers knows that going to Rio is a death sentence. (…) Over the last few days I’ve been receiving worried messages from my few friends, telling me that the Zika virus doesn’t only hit fetuses but can cause permanent paralysis. Two months ago, 150 international health experts published a call to cancel the Games because of the virus. (…) But the virus threat is negligible compared to the Islamic State group (…). And anyone who somehow evades ISIS will certainly fall prey to the local gangs, waiting expectantly for the 500,000 tourists making their way to Brazil. (…) There are stories of the Olympic Park drowning in sewage, and of ocean waters brown with waste (…) So why am I committing suicide and flying into this chaos anyway? Simply because I don’t believe a word of this scaremongering or the prophecies of doom. (…) It’s true that the Brazilians are coming to these Games exhausted, their tongues hanging out. (…) Nevertheless (…) the Olympics (…) will be spectacular. (…) It will foster hope for a better world, one that competes in sports halls rather than on the battlefield. Wait a minute – I might even get back from there in one piece!
Nehemia Shtrasler, HAA, 01.08.16
A triple defeat
Islam El Shehaby suffered a triple defeat: From the “Zionist enemy’s” judoka, from those in the comments section that did not like what they saw on the mat, and his final defeat awaits him at home. Egypt’s security forces are going to question him about the nature of his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and about why he insisted on shaming President al-Sisi in front of the entire world. (…) the peace prevailing on the leadership level did not make its way down to the Egyptian street, to intellectual circles and, more importantly, to Egypt’s unions. Those caught in the act of “normalization with the Zionist enemy,” will be subjected to scrutiny by their peers and find themselves placed on “a social trial.” They will even risk losing their livelihood. (…) Netanyahu will probably remind the Egyptian president that the peace agreement between the two nations was signed 40 years ago, and yet we still see proof that there is no education for peace on the Egyptian side.
Smadar Perry, JED, 14.08.16
The future is bright
Who would have thought that Israel would be celebrating winning two Olympic judo bronze medals in the span of 72 hours? (…) The entire professional team accompanying Sasson deserves applause as well, for doing such a fantastic job. (…) Sasson is his own man and he has his whole future is ahead of him. And what a bright future it is. After my bronze medal win in the 2004 Olympics, Israeli judo saw a 12-year draught, but it is once again a leading sport, marking two medals in the same Olympic Games, and seeing impressive performances (…). When the system works and is led by excellent coaches such as Smadja, who trains the men’s team, and Shani Hershko, who trains the women’s team, there is no reason for Israel’s judo success not to last.
Arik Zeevi, IHY, 14.08.16
4. Selection of Articles
Playing victim and arrogance – a dangerous cocktail
In the weekly survey by the religious sector that was published last weekend, 65% of religious Zionists said they are convinced that there is an effort to keep them out of top positions in the IDF and expressed “a feeling of disappointment at the IDF’s ungratefulness.” The IDF’s ungratefulness? Have we lost our minds? (…) Since the birth of the state, religious Zionism has played a central role in the people’s army. (…) This combination, of playing the victim and being arrogant, is a dangerous combination for the State of Israel. This extreme minority group is instigating a battle within the religious Zionist camp and between it and Israeli society at large. The potential damage is enormous.(…) Devastation and destruction are not always a result of actions. In fact, they are often a result of silence, especially when leaders and scholars remain silent in light of a grave injustice. The silence of rabbis and central religious Zionist leaders in the face of the onslaught on the IDF and its commanders is deafening. (…) The IDF is the only place in the state of Israel where racism, arrogance and the battles between the different sectors in the nation stay off of the military base. And now, after 68 years of a “melting pot,” people from within are trying to create a sense of discrimination among young religious Zionists and to polarize in the most inclusive place in Israeli society.(…) Hurting the IDF hurts the entire Israeli society, and vice versa. Now is the time to stop the incitement before it is too late.
Elazar Stern, JPO, 11.08.16
Why Pope Francis needed to speak out at Auschwitz
During his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp last week, Pope Francis chose to remain silent. Garbed in white, without words or speeches, he passed the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” gates and walked around the site engaged in silent prayer. (…) the choice of silence is (…) an elegant yet unfair way of avoiding the difficult questions the Catholic Church still faces and must answer. (…) the right thing to do would have been to place these difficult questions on the table, rather than ignoring them. (…) If he’d spoken out while touring the very camp in which a million Jews were murdered (…) perhaps the world would have heard about the hostile anti-Semitic legacy that was nurtured by the church in Poland for centuries (…). It’s too bad Francis was silent. (…) instead of speaking out, Francis chose to silently remember a controversial Polish priest – Friar Maximilian Kolbe, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz for helping Polish and Jewish refugees, and volunteered to go to his death in order to save the life of another Polish inmate. The Catholic Church canonized him(…). It ignored the fact that he was actually an anti-Semite who (…) justified the expulsion of Jews from Poland’s economy. (…) Under Pope Francis, the Vatican has continued the trend of rapprochement with the Jewish people (…). However, these actions pale (…) in comparison with the reverberating image of the man in white, sitting on a chair in the cell in which the anti-Semitic martyr Kolbe was held, and staying silent.
Ofer Aderet, HAA, 01.08.16
When mutual understanding is unattainable, silence is golden
(…) Debate and disagreement are necessary to build a healthy society, but the debate that has been going on here in recent weeks around LGBT issues is a debate amongst the deaf. (…) It’s not just the ultra-Orthodox who are speaking the language of the past; so are many religious people. (…) In the language of the present, it is the right of the individual to choose their own path, so long as they don’t harm anybody else. In the language of the past, it is the obligation of the individual to carry out the orders of God. The inability to understand that these are different languages, based on opposing values, causes people to mistakenly think that they can change the other group’s position. (…) Few rabbis speak the two languages and are capable of remaining faithful to God’s law and also express a tender message of inclusion to LGBT people. They’re a minority of a minority who walk a tightrope, step by step, and who are likely to fall to the abyss at any moment. (…) When the LGBT community demands recognition from the rabbis, they’re speaking in Chinese to Hebrew-speakers. (…) When the rabbinical community yells against the phenomenon of LGBT people, they’re speaking Hebrew to Chinese-speakers. (…) So it’s better to be quiet. (…)
Yifat Erlich, JED, 05.08.16
Don’t believe the great bluff about ‘public broadcasting’ in Israel
In today’s Israel, and perhaps everywhere else as well, there is not and cannot be genuine public broadcasting. Every manager, reporter and editor has a political and moral agenda, sometimes even a sense of mission. (…) The only “public” thing about this corporation is its funding. (…) The talented veterans of Army Radio and the commercial television stations, who will replace their talentless counterparts from the Israel Broadcasting Authority, will only increase the “independence” of the new agency (…). In the name of freedom of expression, they’ll broadcast whatever they please, which will be in the spirit of the manner in which they were educated: challenging the axioms of nationhood and Zionism. They will continue to ignore (…) the agenda of the majority of Israelis (…). Representatives of the masses who live in the country’s periphery — for instance, those who vote for Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu — (…) will not be hired for influential editing or hosting positions, if they are hired at all. Nor will Arabs. (…)
Israel Harel, HAA, 04.08.16
Prime Minister Netanyahu, I don’t believe you
I saw you speak, and I thought how happy I’d be had I believed even one word that came out of your mouth. (…) How can someone like me, who believed his whole life (…) in the right of both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, to live side by side in love and respect and equality, (…) when (…) on the ground the occupation continues to flourish, and plans for building thousands of apartments for Israeli Jews in the West Bank are published day after day? (…) Unlike you, I genuinely dream of a future for our children — one without an army, without wars, without despair, without the Islamic State, without crazy fanatics. I dream of a shared life, without hatred, without oppression of the other — a life of genuine, mutual love and respect. Your empty speech has no basis in reality. You’ve proven with your deeds that not a word of it will come true as long as you are in power. For the sake of both the peoples living here: Resign.
Mohammad Bakri, HAA, 03.08.16
Hamas takes all the ‘help’ it can get
(…) Mohammed Halabi, head of the Gaza Strip branch of the international aid organization World Vision, (…) for the past five years (…) has funneled $7.2 million a year (…) to Hamas. (…) World Vision is a Christian, anti-Israel charity. (…) It is now clear why global donations have not helped build them at the expected rate. (…) A well-run organization would have realized after a year or two that 60% of its funds were being siphoned and put an end to it, but World Vision did no such thing. Therefore, the assumption that World Vision was complicit in these actions is quite reasonable. (…) Anyone who thought Hamas would honor its agreements rather than exploit these humanitarian aid groups, whose aim is to help the suffering civilian population in Gaza, was mistaken. (…) Hamas does not care for the population it governs (…). Quite the opposite: Hamas sees the civilian population under its boot as just another resource to use in its war against Israel, and does not bat an eyelash when over half a humanitarian organization’s budget is used to fund its military needs. Obviously, these latest revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. (…) Israel must expose (…) and block any funding geared toward Hamas’ military expansion, while utilizing the anti-terrorism laws put in place by donor countries themselves.
Ze´ev Jabotinsky, IHY, 10.08.16
HAA = Haaretz
JED = JediothAhronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes
Published: August 2016
Dr. Werner Puschra, Executive Director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel