Sunday, August 17, 2014

YOU GOTTA LOVE SCULPTURES... and three letters on antisemitism from Friday's Jerusalem Post

Appreciate Small Improvements

When working on improving yourself, it is easy to become discouraged because you do not see sufficient progress. Keep trying and do not give up. Every small amount of improvement is a success. (Rabbi Reuven Dessler; Tnuas Hamussar, vol.5, p.174)

Learn to appreciate even the most minute improvement. If you become angry one time less than before or with less intensity, that itself is improvement. If you speak a little kinder to others, that is improvement. If your prayers are ever so slightly improved, that is improvement. The more pleasure you feel with each drop of improvement, the more likely you will keep trying to improve.

Love Yehuda Lave

speaking of improvements, please enjoy these sculptures

25 Of The Most Creative Sculptures And Statues From Around The World 

1. Mustangs By Robert Glen, Las Colinas, Texas, USA

2. Expansion by Paige Bradley, New York, USA

3. The Monument Of An Anonymous Passerby, Wroclaw, Poland

4. Salmon Sculpture, Portland, Oregon, USA
5. People Of The River By Chong Fah Cheong, Singapore
6. The Shoes On The Danube Bank by Can Togay & Gyula Pauer, Budapest, Hungary
7. The Knotted Gun, Turtle Bay, New York, USA 
8. Break Through From Your Mold By Zenos Frudakis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
9. Black Ghost, Klaipeda, Lithuania
10. Les Voyageurs, Marseilles, France
11. Nelson Mandela, South Africa
12. De Vaartkapoen, Brussels, Belgium
13. Cattle Drive, Dallas, Texas, USA
14. Spider, Tate Modern, London, UK
15. Hippo Sculptures, Taipei, Taiwan
16. Sinking Building Outside State Library, Melbourne, Australia
17. Iguana Park, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
18. Man At Work, Bratislava, Slovakia
19. Mihai Eminescu, Onesti, Romania
20. A Scene From The World War With Real-Size Statues, Eceabat, Turkey
21. Man Hanging Out, Prague, Czech Republic
22. Kelpies, Grangemouth, UK
23. Rundle Mall Pigs, Adelaide, Australia
24. The Unknown Official, Reykjavik, Iceland
25. The Shark, Oxford, UK


No Holds Barred: 'We want Israel to be safe'

08/14/2014 23:11

Standing in front of Gil-Ad Shaer's parents, I know that I was in the company of heroes; Moral giants who wanted peace to follow their son's death.

Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel.
Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel (L-R). Photo: REUTERS
A day after the searing emotions of meeting IDF senior commanders Thursday on the Gaza border, I braced myself for something even more torturous. My family and I went to the home of Ofir and Bat-Galim Shaer, whose son Gil-Ad, 16, was one of the three Israeli teenagers whose kidnapping and brutal murder precipitated Israel's third Gaza war.

We walked in, not knowing what to say and found something totally unexpected. In front of me were two of the warmest, kindest parents I have ever met. They smiled; they were hospitable; they were friendly. We were there to comfort them but it was they who comforted us.

I asked them how the family was doing. They said their five daughters miss their only brother so much, especially the youngest, only four, who asks about her brother constantly.

I told them I was upset that some rabbis in the US and Israel were implying that the murder of their son was a hidden blessing. If the boys had not died, Israel would never have known about the extensive Hamas tunnels. Terror strikes from the tunnels would have murdered hundreds of Israelis. So while tragic, the boys' murder had a silver lining. "I feel," I told them, "that this kind of justification minimizes the tragedy. We Jews are supposed to protest to God these seeming divine miscarriages of justice, not submit our heads in silent resignation."

Incredibly, the parents disagreed with my objection. "As parents," Bat-Galim told me, "we miss our child every moment. But we also want to know he did not just die in vain. If his horrible death can preserve life, if it can be redeemed in some way, then we have to give it meaning." They could not see it as just a black hole.

By now my wife and my daughter's eyes were completely red. My elder daughter, Chana, had to leave the room. She could not compose herself. But Gil-Ad's parents were models of composure. They were positive, determined, optimistic.

Bat-Galim continued, "In the wake of our son's murder, and the Hamas rocket barrage against civilians, the world is now seeing Hamas for what it is. They're becoming more understanding of Israel's position. True, we still have to find the right words to express our position better. Israel is still not fully understood. But the European nations and the Americans know that today it's Israel, tomorrow it will be them."

This was courage and faith of a caliber I had only once before witnessed. A year before the fateful Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a Palestinian terrorist murdered a pregnant mother named Tali Hatuel along with her four young daughters. I visited the bereaved father, David Hatuel, at his parents-in-law's home eight days after the horrific murder. Like Ofir and Bat-Galim, he did not question God. To the contrary. He felt that God had been kind to him.

"Are you really not angry at God?" I asked him. "He allowed your whole family to be taken from you."

"Rabbi Shmuley," he said, "I had 12 years with a woman I loved. Most people don't have even that. I'm grateful for all loving times God gave me."

This is a characteristic of Israelis that one sees over and over. It's not that they have become inured to death, although it's quite common to meet Israelis who have lost a brother, parent, best friend in war or terror attack. To the contrary, Israel's culture is infused with life. Israelis harbor such a firm conviction about the justice of their cause, and they are so deeply connected to their land, that they have come to accept that losing their lives is sometimes necessary, even as they fight like lions to defeat their enemies and protect life.

Bat-Galim told me, "When my son died, I did not question God. His ways are inscrutable. Rather, I questioned man, not God. The Palestinians terrorists who did this, [I ask] how could they have? What did they gain from murdering three defenseless teens? Where was their conscience? Where was their humanity?" "But at the same time," she continued, "I don't want to think about them. I haven't looked them up on the Internet. I don't want to know the biographical information of the murderers. We want them caught, of course. But it's my son that I want to think about, not his inhuman killers."

As we spoke, a small American group arrived from New York to comfort them. Rather than hurrying us along, Ofir and his wife brought food and drink outside to their porch and had the group wait. They returned to us, showing respect and patience.

These were people who had buried their son just a month earlier in one of the most high profile murders of the last decades. How could they be so warm? So resilient? So optimistic? Based on my own books on suffering, I could not agree with them fully. I felt that Judaism had taught the world to wrestle with the divine, to challenge God when people suffer, to question God when the righteous are murdered. That's what the word "Israel" means: he who wrestles with God. I feel that we cannot give meaning to death, lest we make peace with it. Death should be something we abhor.

I told a rabbi friend in New York who said that the death of the three teens is a blessing because it exposed the tunnels, "Israel could have found out about those tunnels, through intelligence, informers, or surveillance. It didn't take boys dying to discover that. And you're dancing daringly close to the Christian idea that death is redemptive. A teenager isn't supposed to be in heaven. He's supposed to be at his parents' dinner table."

But agree or disagree, standing in front of Gil-Ad Shaer's parents, I know that I was in the company of heroes. Moral giants who wanted peace to follow their son's death.

"We have to stop Hamas," they said. "Not one country would allow the firing of rockets on their cities. But as for revenge, we reject all calls for vengeance. We want Israel to be safe. We want civilians to stop being murdered. That would be enough."

Shmuley Boteach, "America's Rabbi," is the founder of This World: The Values Network, the world's leading organization promoting universal Jewish values in politics, culture and the media. The international best-selling author of 30 books, he recently published
The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Supporting Hamas is anti-Semitic

08/14/2014 23:04

Indeed, many Israelis are critical of some of their nation's policies. But support for Hamas is anti-Semitic, because Hamas's policies and actions are based, at their core, on Jew-hatred.

Hamas supporters reenact kidnapping of Israeli soldiers
Hamas supporters reenact kidnapping of Israeli soldiers Photo: REUTERS
Criticizing specific Israeli policies is certainly not intrinsically anti-Semitic.

Indeed, many Israelis are critical of some of their nation's policies. But support for Hamas is anti-Semitic, because Hamas's policies and actions are based, at their core, on Jew-hatred.

Yet many prominent individuals, some out of ignorance, many more with full knowledge of what they are doing, are overtly supporting Hamas. Some have even praised it. Others, like Italy's most famous philosopher, Gianni Vattimo, are trying to raise money and provide material support to this anti-Semitic terrorist organization. Still others refuse to condemn it, while condemning Israel in the strongest terms.

Here is part of what the Hamas Charter, which continues to articulate its governing principles, says about Jews: "The enemies have been scheming for a long time. [Their] wealth [permitted them to] take over control of the world media such as news agencies, the press, publication houses, broadcasting and the like. [They also used this] wealth to stir revolutions in various parts of the globe... They stood behind the French and the Communist Revolutions... They also used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B'nai B'rith and the like. All of them are destructive spying organizations... [T]hey stood behind World War I, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate... They obtained the Balfour Declaration and established the League of Nations in order to rule the world by means of that organization. They also stood behind World War II.... They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council to replace the League of Nations, in order to rule the world by their intermediary. There was no war that broke out anywhere without their fingerprints on it."

Most of these allusions to "the enemies" pertain to events that precede the establishment of Israel. The charter plainly means "the Jews," and it invokes the usual tropes of anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred.

It expressly calls for the murder of Jews, citing Islamic sources for its genocidal goal.

Hamas has been looking forward to implementing Allah's promise, no matter how long it might take. "The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!" This should not be surprising. Hamas is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an outgrowth of the German Nazi Party. The brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a close ally of Adolf Hitler. It worked hand in hand with Hitler during World War II, establishing the Muslim Waffen-SS Handschar Division, which committed war crimes against Jewish communities. It then helped to rescue Nazi war criminals following the defeat of Nazism and the disclosure of the Holocaust.

Nor is the charter and origin of Hamas merely past history. Current Hamas leaders frequently invoke the blood libel, accusing "the Jews" of killing Christian children and using their blood for the baking of matza. They regard Jewish places of worship and Jewish schools, anywhere in the world, as appropriate targets for their terrorist attacks.

Some of those who support Hamas, such as former US president Jimmy Carter and former Irish president Mary Robinson, claim that they support its political goals, but not its anti-Semitic policies. (They say we must recognize "its legitimacy as a political actor.") Others, such as the Turkish foreign minister and the leaders of Qatar, support its military goals. (They support the Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas "because it embraces the Palestinian cause and struggles for its people.") These distinctions hold no water, since Hamas's anti-Jewish policies are central to its political and military actions. Some supporters of Hitler made the same argument, claiming that the Nazi Party and its leaders espoused good economic, educational and political policies. No reasonable person today accepts that excuse, and no reasonable person should accept the excuses offered by supporters of Hamas who claim to be able to slice the bologna so thin.

The same is true for those who argue that Hamas is preferable to the Islamic State or other jihadist groups that might replace it. A similar argument was made by fascists who claimed that their parties were preferable to the Communists. The reality is that Hamas is an anti-Semitic organization, based on a Jew-hating philosophy, which has the goal of destroying the nation-state of the Jewish people and killing its Jewish inhabitants. It is evil personified. There is no excuse or justification for supporting Hamas, and anyone who does is supporting anti-Semitism.

Some Hamas supporters – such as those who chant "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas" – proudly acknowledge this reality. Others, such as Prof. Cornell West, who according to The American Spectator "headlined a high profile pro-Hamas demonstration," deny the charge of anti-Semitism. But all are complicit, even if they are themselves Jewish or have Jewish friends. Supporting an organization that at its core is anti-Jewish and whose charter calls for the killing of all Jews is anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent. And those politicians, academics, entertainers and others who support Hamas – and there are many – must be called out and condemned, as Roger Waters of Pink Floyd has been. So must those, like Navi Pillay, the head of the United Nation's Human Right Council, who see a moral equivalence between this anti-Semitic terrorist group and the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.

She demanded that Israel share its Iron Dome system with Hamas, without condemning Hamas for using Palestinian civilians as its own Iron Dome.

Among the worst offenders is retired Bishop Desmond Tutu, who has a long history of anti-Semitism. He, like Carter, has urged recognition of Hamas, whose leaders he compares to Nelson Mandela. Among Tutu's alleged "Mandelas" with whom he has collaborated is Ahmad Abu Halabiya, who has said: "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them... and those Americans who are like them, and those who stand by them."

I'm quite certain the real Nelson Mandela never made any comparable statement. Yet Bishop Tutu, who refused to sit on the same stage as Tony Blair, has worked hand in hand with murderous Hamas leaders such as Halabiya.

It may be necessary to negotiate – directly or through intermediaries – with Hamas, just as one "negotiates" with kidnappers, hostage takers or extortionists. But to "recognize" their "legitimacy," as Jimmy Carter and Bishop Tutu would do, is to recognize the legitimacy of anti-Semitism. Carter, Tutu and other Hamas cheerleaders may be willing to do that, but no reasonable person who hates bigotry should legitimate Hamas's anti-Semitism or its express goal of destroying Israel and killing its Jewish inhabitants.

Alan M. Dershowitz's latest book is Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.

Column One: Anti-Semitism and its limitations

08/14/2014 22:58

The power of anti-Semitism is beginning to have a significant impact on Israel's relations with other democracies.

A spate of anti-Semitic attacks triggered by the Gaza conflict has rattled French Jews Photo: PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS
Outside the US, throughout the Western world, anti-Semitism is becoming a powerful social and political force. And its power is beginning to have a significant impact on Israel's relations with other democracies.

Consider South Africa. Following a lopsided vote by the University of Cape Town's Student Union to boycott Israel, Jewish students fear that their own student union will be barred from operating on campus. Carla Frumer from the South African Jewish Student Union told The Times of Israel, "If they prove we are a Zionist organization and support Israel, they can have us banned and seek to de-register us."

In Sydney, Australia, Jewish families received a triple blow last week when Jewish children on a chartered school bus were assaulted by eight anti-Semitic drunken teenagers.

The first shock was that their children, some as young as five, were terrorized on their school bus.

The second shock was that the bus driver made an unscheduled stop to allow the anti-Semites to board the bus and harass the children.

The third shock was that after catching six of the eight assailants, the police let them out of jail the same evening.

Taken together, the incident revealed an obscene comfort level among Australian authorities with the terrorization of Jewish children. Jewish families cannot assume that their children will be protected by non-Jews, whether they are school bus drivers or the police.

Unfortunately, these stories do not begin to scratch the surface of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the developed world. From Paris to San Paulo, from Berlin to Boston the public space Jews can enjoy without fear is becoming more and more limited.

The same is the case in leftist political circles.

Last week, Paul Estrin, the president of Canada's Green Party, was forced to resign for his pro-Israel views. On July 25, Estrin posted a pro-Israel essay on the party's website. His post caused a furor among the party faithful. The Green Party's leader, MP Elizabeth May, distanced herself from Estrin. And almost the entire party leadership denounced him and demanded his resignation.

In an essay published this week in the Canadian Jewish News, Estrin explained that he joined the party because he wanted to make a difference in the spheres of the environmental protection and human rights. He did not believe that working to achieve these goals in the Green Party would require him to disavow his support for Israel. His recent experience showed him that he was wrong.

In his words, "I am now convinced that one simply can't [support Israel] within the confines of Canada's Green Party."

Similar sentiments have been expressed in recent weeks by pro-Israel members of Britain's Labor Party. After party leader Ed Miliband sided with the majority of the party membership and against Israel in Operation Protective Edge, Kate Bearman, the former director of Labor Friends for Israel, published an article in the Jewish Chronicle announcing that she was quitting the Labor Party.

Bearman wrote, "I feel Ed Miliband's rush to a condemnation of Israel's ground incursion into Gaza gave me no choice but to say goodbye to the party I have always voted and campaigned for."

A survey of Britons taken at the end of last month by YouGov showed that 62 percent believed that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza. This includes 72% of Labor supporters and 57% of Conservatives.

In other words, nearly two-thirds of Britons believe that Israel has no right to defend itself. And since Israel is surrounded by forces that seek its destruction, we can extrapolate that nearly two-thirds of Britons would, at a minimum, have no problem with Israel being wiped off the map.

This rising political force of anti-Semitism is already impacting previously supportive governments' policies toward the Jewish state. Bowing to the anti-Israel positions of his Liberal-Democrat coalition partners, British Prime Minister David Cameron decided that arms exports to Israel will be suspended if Hamas continues its current round of war with Israel.

The primary engine propelling Western nation after Western nation to abandon their support for Israel and deny the protection of law to Jewish communities is the rising power of Muslim minority communities in these countries. As Douglas Murray explained in an essay published by the Gatestone Institute this week, when it comes to Israel and Jews, otherwise integrated, moderate Muslims in Europe are quick to join jihadists in denouncing Israel and rallying behind anti-Semitic curses and threats.

The unanimity of anti-Semitic prejudice among Muslim communities in the West, and its impact on the politics of Western nations, indicates that in the future, Western nations' polities toward Israel may have more in common with the positions of Sunni Arab states than with those of the US.

Since the dawn of modern Zionism more than a century ago, Arab societies have united around the cause of destroying Zionism as a political force and Israel as a physical entity. As a result, the default position of Arab governments has been to support Israel's destruction. They have advanced this goal through various means, including going to war against the Jewish state, supporting proxies and other irregular forces in their efforts to kill Jews and harm Israel, and using international organizations – first and foremost the United Nations – to institutionalize international anti-Semitism directed against the Jewish state and to criminalize Israel with the aim of expelling it from the international community.

In recent years, we have seen a gradual, quiet disassociation of various Sunni Arab regimes from the war against Israel as they viewed their interests as more aligned with Israel than with its battlefield foes.

The first time this occurred was during Hezbollah's war with Israel in 2006. In the opening weeks of the war, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were demonstrably excited at the prospect of an Israeli rout of Iran's proxy army in Lebanon. As they saw it, an Israeli victory over Hezbollah would deal a powerful blow to Iran's hegemonic designs over the Persian Gulf and Egypt. It would end the Muslim Brotherhood's romance with the mullahs in Tehran.

This Sunni Arab support for Israel only abated when then prime minister Ehud Olmert's serial blundering in his leadership of the war convinced Sunni leaders that Israel would not score a strategic victory.

Over the past six weeks of Operation Protective Edge, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have been even more open about their preference for an Israeli victory, which they view as a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood. Today these regimes feel far more threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran than they did eight years ago. Indeed, so great is their desire for an Israeli victory over the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza that they are willing to publicly express their position for the first time.

It is not that "the Arab street" in Mecca and Cairo has stopped hating Jews. It is simply that the regimes are willing to neutralize the political influence of Jew-hatred in order to ensure their survival.

In the future, such a commonality of interests may be the only way for Israel to cultivate strategic cooperation with Western nations.

All of this is greatly disturbing. But at least today, it is not Israel's most pressing concern. The political salience of anti-Semitism in the West will have no impact on how the fighting ends.

The only players in the game today are Israel, Egypt and the Obama administration. And Israel's problem today is not the anti-Semitism of Western societies. It is the hostility of the Obama administration.

Unlike the situation in Europe, anti-Semitism is not a significant force in the US. Due in large part to Obama administration actions, there is a growing acceptance in Washington of the false, anti-Semitic charge that Israel dictates US foreign policy.

But the US public views Israel as an ally and a fellow democracy. And as a consequence, the majority of Americans consistently support Israel and expect the US government to support Israel in its wars against Islamic terrorists and its desire to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. This general view is in turn reflected in the predominant pro-Israel positions taken by the vast majority of members of both houses of Congress.

Due to the fact that his position is out of step with the US public, Barack Obama has not been able to break openly with Israel. But behind the scenes, since the outset of Operation Protective Edge he has used his administrative powers to help Hamas and its Islamist sponsors in Turkey, Qatar and Iran to the detriment of Israel and the Sunni Arab regimes.

In other words, whereas David Cameron felt compelled by domestic political realities to turn on Israel, Obama feels compelled by domestic political realities to hide the fact that he has turned on Israel.

As The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, Obama's latest anti-Israel action was the institution last week of an unofficial arms embargo against Israel. Ignoring standard procedures adopted over the years in accordance with the US's strategic cooperation accords with Israel, Obama has chosen to deny the US military the power to automatically approve Israeli requests for resupply of ammunition and spare parts. All such requests must now receive specific approval from the White House.

To hide the hostile nature of his action, Obama has sought to present it as a simple reassertion of presidential control over US foreign policy – and so resonate the anti-Semitic undertones of allegations of Israeli control over US foreign policy.

In fact, Obama's actions constitute a presidential decision to abandon his own official policy of upholding the US's alliance with Israel.

Obama took a similar path last month with the highly discriminatory FAA flight ban on Ben-Gurion Airport. The FAA has not instituted such bans on countries like Ukraine and Pakistan where civilian passenger flights have actually been shot down. Yet, citing "an abundance of caution," the FAA instituted a flight ban on Israel where no civilian passenger jet was endangered.

As the administration presented it, the FAA decision to directly threaten Israel's economic viability did not derive from hostility to Israel, but from a concern for the welfare of airline passengers.

In a similar fashion, last month US Secretary of State John Kerry sought to misrepresent the administration's adoption of Hamas's cease-fire terms as the US's official position. Kerry claimed that he was merely amplifying the Egyptian cease-fire agreement that the administration claimed it supported, when he was actually abandoning it.

The massive destabilization of the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Spring has led many Israelis to reevaluate our region and the opportunities and threats it presents us.

With the rise of anti-Semitism as a political force in the Western world, and with the radical shift in US foreign policy under Obama, it is vital that Israel conduct a similar reevaluation of its relations with Western democracies.

Caroline B. Glick is the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.

Geert Wilders on Islam--The Netherlands representative talks turkey

- Geert Wilders - :