Are We True Supporters of Israel?

In response to “BJC ‘Profoundly Disappointed by UN Resolution” (Dec. 30), media coverage of the U.S. decision not to veto Resolution 2334 has underemphasized two important points:

> President Barack Obama’s decision was, in fact, not at all unprecedented. Under President George W. Bush, six U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel passed without a U.S. veto. What was unprecedented was Obama’s willingness — until last month — to shield Benjamin Netanyahu from the natural consequences of his actions.

> Netanyahu has no one but himself to blame for this diplomatic failure. He has empowered and supported the settlement movement that represents a very real threat to Israel’s survival as a democratic Jewish homeland. In the movie “The Gatekeepers,” the heads of Israel’s Shin Bet security service discuss in detail the violent, anti-democratic nature of many of the settlement movement’s leaders and supporters.

At a time like this, American Jews must ask: Can we consider ourselves to be true supporters of Israel if we fail to stand up for the values of Israel’s founders in the face of extremists who seek to undermine democratic norms, inclusive Judaism and the two-state solution?  Are we truly helping Israel by trying to shield its current right-wing government from the inevitable results of its reckless actions?

Saddened by Deli Closing

I was quite shocked and saddened to read about Steve’s Deli (“Just Like That, Steve’s Deli Closes Its Doors,” Jan. 6).  I tried to go there on Dec. 28, the day after the closure, and thought it was closed only for the week between the holidays. I enjoyed going there, and Steve Saval was always very friendly and cheerful, so I was especially surprised by the abrupt way in which he told his employees about the closure. It reminded me of the way Bob Irsay snuck the Colts out of Baltimore in 1984.  Hopefully, we’ll learn more about what exactly happened and why.

Give Us an Outlet Mall

The development of land formerly known as Owings Mills Mall has been slow in coming (“An Uncertain Future,” Dec. 30). What Kimco doesn’t seem to get is that the best idea, which no one has put forth, is to build an outlet mall on the order of Arundel Mills. Think about what has already failed. Consider what has been built around the corner at Metro Centre and Foundry Row. The only thing missing from this part of town is an outlet mall. Considering the demographics, I and many others believe that it would be a huge asset to the area and well received. The closest outlet malls are a half-hour away. The second most popular form of shopping after online is the outlet stores.

Time for Civil Debate

I opposed the U.N. resolution because I thought it would accomplish nothing and even be counterproductive (“So Much for Friendship,” Jan 6). I feel the same way as I write this. But sometimes, the right thing to do is for a friend to tell another friend that he or she is on the wrong path. Millions of Jews, both American and Israeli, love Israel but also realize that it cannot be both Jewish and democratic in the long run without some kind of a two-state solution.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry share that assessment, and those who have been closest to the latest peace talks have assigned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at least a share of responsibility for their failure. To let Netanyahu continue settlement expansion could be viewed as enabling, as when a relative has a drug problem.

To disagree with a country’s public policy is not necessarily to betray that country. In fact, it might be quite the opposite. So in the best Jewish tradition, let’s cut down on the name calling and vitriol and have a civil debate.

Dems Abandon Israel

Since the U.S. abstention on a U.N. vote on settlements, 76 Democrats have voted against affirming the U.S. commitment to Israel (“So Much for Friendship,” Jan 6). In the past, this resolution vote would have been close to unanimous, since there was no downside to voting in favor of “having Israel’s back.” It should have passed the same way with President Barack Obama leaving in days, and especially since it is a resolution with no real policy commitment.

The decision to vote against it had to be a conscious one.  The only conclusion is that the Democratic Party has abandoned Israel and doesn’t want the “Jewish vote.” Let us not forget the 2012 DNC pro-Israel platform being loudly booed from the floor. Jews have had the highest voting rate for the Democrats than any other religious group in the last five presidential elections with only one exception, in 2012, and then we were third highest. We need to wake up.

Most importantly, it doesn’t matter what you call the West Bank of the Jordan River, it was given to the Jewish people by, believe it or not, the precursor to the U.N., the League of Nations. In 1922, the Mandate of Palestine, approved by all 51 nations of the League of Nations, gave the Jewish people the land between the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. In the same document, the Arab population was given the countries of Lebanon, Trans-Jordan (now Jordan), Syria, and Iraq. In 1945, the Mandate was accepted as international law by the newly minted United Nations. It has never been repealed.

After the 1948 war on Israel, Jordan had control of East Jerusalem to the Jordan River.  Afterward, there was an armistice agreement (truce).  In 1967, in a defensive war, Israel gained control of this territory again. It then became “the West Bank” by politicians and journalists unaware or unwilling to say that it was Israel proper by international law.

What is amazing is that the very body that declared the West Bank of the Jordan River Jewish is now condemning Israel for building on it.

Can’t Count on Dems

President Barack Obama took a step away from Israel by abstaining from a U.N. vote on settlements and allowing his secretary of state, John Kerry, to chide Israel (“So Much for Friendship,” Jan 6). The U.S. abstained from using its veto power allowing the resolution to declare Israel as an occupier of “Palestinian” land. That means that Hebrew University, the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter are a few of the Jewish historical locations — labeled as occupying territory and no longer part of Israel proper — that are now declared occupiers of “Palestine.”

This is the first time that the U.S. under Obama and the Democratic Party has refused to veto an unjust resolution proposed by the U.N. By abstaining from voting in support of Israel, our country has given up its moral values against hatred and as being a defender of freedom. Obama’s lame-duck war against Israel and the rise of anti-Jewish forces in the Democratic Party led by Rep. Keith Ellison (also known as Hakim Muhammad, who was sworn into Congress on a Quran) make it practically impossible to continue to claim that the Democratic Party is a home for pro-Israel forces in America. Obama’s onslaught has made clear that the Democratic Party no longer supports Israel. His Islamic bent has led this country to follow the path of European anti-Semitic countries that consistently demonstrate their Jew hatred.

The loyalty of the Jewish community continues to support the Democratic Party, which is no longer loyal to our values. Being registered as a Democrat is supporting anti-Semitism. Jewish loyalty to the Democratic Party is taken for granted and dismissed. The Muslims and the left have taken over the reins of the Democratic Party. Know that as a registered Democrat you’re hurting Israel, the Jewish people and yourself.

Are We Good Enough for Great Leaders?

FTV_2 Simone,Vito

Let’s go back in time to consider what it must have been like for people to be so motivated that thoughtful, successful and diverse minds could be willing to risk everything for a better future. They must have confounded the pundits, politicians and the people of their day to the point where they were not given much of a chance. I speak of our forefathers who had vision and forethought and spoke for “We the people …” (of then and of today).

We have chosen leaders of today who have not necessarily been inspired by their predecessors. Our forefathers have set a standard for achieving greatness “… for the people, by the people …” that should make some present leaders ashamed of themselves for not aspiring to rise above the politics of the day and lead like the great leaders of American history have led us time and again. We had great leaders that risked themselves, their futures and their fortunes to establish America’s greatness and leadership around the world.

Our leaders are not just the politicians. We have leaders in so many realms of our society that it is about time we the people start to hold them accountable to step up and demand more of all our leaders — elected or otherwise. The bickering, posturing and positioning, while perhaps a fact of life in politics, must not confuse us or make us fearful,
because now is not a time for politics. It is a time for vision, inspiration and true leadership for our political, business and philosophical leaders to come together and do what is right for the American people and the American future.

As a zayde, I consider more deeply the need to make the world a better place for my children and grandchildren. I look for ways to learn in today’s world and help young people learn from the past. Teaching children and watching children learn is an awesome responsibility and a gift that brings amazing rewards.

We have forgotten that “we, the people” are the great leaders of our day and that we need to make sure everyone knows it. We are all human beings with many faults, bumps and bruises. Our leaders do not have to be perfect, but they do need to be good and effective leaders for our time. Can we hold our elected officials accountable for their words and actions? Are we good enough to demand that a George Washington or Ben Franklin or Abraham Lincoln or FDR emerge from our midst? We better be.

Vito Simone is a Pikesville resident and member of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah.

Election Results, Family Conflicts

Since starting my training in 1967, never has any world event, including the Vietnam War, appeared to have had such a disruptive psychological impact on family relationships. Approximately 50 percent of my patients have displayed anxiety and/or depression associated with the campaign and election. Many have been distraught either by their own deep-seated concerns over the results or the very negative impact the election has had on relationships with their spouses, children and/or grown siblings. Spousal conflict appears to be the most severe. Like a crack in a house foundation, the problem is often out of sight until a heavy rain causes further erosion and floods the interior. From my vantage point as a psychotherapist, this presidential election has flooded a lot of basements.

One of my patients decided to free himself of guilt by confessing that he voted for the candidate his spouse opposed. The impact was equivalent to the confession of an extramarital affair. His wife became furious and asked him to leave the home. She told him she now knew he was a misogynist. He tried to convince her that his vote was based upon what he thought would be best for the economy. She refused to accept this explanation and felt that he had betrayed her. Another patient who knew of her husband’s commitment to Donald Trump stated she would never be able to feel close to her husband again now that she had to see Trump’s face on the daily news for the next four years.

At first blush these vignettes sound funny, but the intensity of real disruption to family
cohesion fails to deliver a humorous punchline. All of us have unresolved emotional conflicts that make us vulnerable to be disrupted by external events. What appears to be unique about this campaign and election is the large number of emotionally laden issues to which we are all vulnerable. These include our attitudes toward minorities, sexual identity and orientation, bullying, immigrants, homophobia, misogyny, gay marriage, sexual abuse, female leadership, firearms, abortion and a myriad of other emotionally sensitive issues.

If someone in your family is upset about the election, take their upset seriously. Don’t assume they feel the same as you do. Many people tease their family members and think they are bantering in an “I’m just kidding” fashion not realizing they are being hurtful and destructive. If arguments continue, make an agreement to stop discussing political issues completely. If this fails as a strategy, seek professional help before permitting irreparable damage to your most valued relationships.

Marc B. Lipton was assistant commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department from 1977 to 1984. He has been a licensed psychologist since 1971 and is in private practice in Towson.

Hier Will Honor the Presidency

A presidential inauguration has always been a celebration of the peaceful transfer of power. This year, after a crude and divisive election campaign won by Donald Trump, the idea of a peaceful transfer has emerged in high relief.

That’s what we read into the words of Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who explained why he accepted the invitation to offer a prayer at the president-elect’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and why he will not accede to the demands of Trump’s Jewish critics: “There are no tanks, no planes, no guns, and that’s the way it is, so I was deeply honored and I accepted.”

Although our country was founded on principles that did away with the bowing and scraping before monarchs, we have developed our own pomp and circumstance relating to our elected leader, with particular emphasis on the president’s installation ceremony, called the inauguration. That process has more to do with honoring the office of the president than with the person elected to that role and is one that has played out for nearly four dozen men who have filled the position, irrespective of their party, their religion, their particular personalities or even their policies. Quite simply, the inauguration celebration focuses upon the presidency itself. And, while individual office holders come and go, the presidency remains.

For that reason, we agree with Hier’s decision to accept the invitation of the president-elect and to bring a Jewish voice to the peaceful transfer of power.

We recognize that Hier could have gone the other way. He is the founder of a well-known and respected organization that teaches about the Holocaust, confronts hate and promotes human rights. The Jewish critics who want Heir to reject the inaugural invitation say he should do so because Trump’s presidential campaign fostered the very hate and anti-Semitism that the Wiesenthal Center fights against every day.

Last summer, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York, was sharply criticized when he agreed to deliver an invocation at the Republican National Convention. He ultimately withdrew his acceptance under intense pressure from congregants and his past and present students. Whether you agree with Lookstein’s decision or not, we are no longer at the convention. The presidential inauguration is different.

On Jan. 20, our nation will turn to the steps of the Capitol as we install our new president and honor the office in which he will serve. Heir said that he gladly accepted the invitation (along with five other religious leaders) to participate in the festivities because it “was the mentschlikeit thing to do.” He added, “I am proud to do it.” He should be.

Sgt. Azaria and the Rule of Law

Last week, Sgt. Elor Azaria, 20, of the Israel Defense Forces was convicted on a charge of manslaughter for killing a prone Palestinian man who had earlier lunged at Israeli troops with a knife. A three-judge military panel rejected Azaria’s defense that he acted out of fear when he shot Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in the head while he was lying immobile on a road in Hebron last March. The court ruled that Azaria, an army medic, was motivated by a desire for revenge. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 15. Azaria’s defense team said it will appeal the conviction.

There are legitimate questions regarding the wisdom of trying an IDF soldier in court. But regardless of one’s view on that issue, or on the outcome of the trial and its appeal, deference to the legal process and respect for the rule of law is an important abiding principle of any democratic society.

It is for that reason that we find the politicization of the Azaria case to be so disconcerting. Right-wing politicians from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on down are calling for Azaria to be pardoned by Israel’s president, although Netanyahu has not explained why he favors a pardon. And he is joined in criticism of the military court verdict by other government ministers, including Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party and Likud Party minister Miri Regev. The left has been split, with former Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich calling for a pardon and others criticizing the charge of manslaughter, saying that Azaria should have been tried for murder.

The Azaria case has attracted so much attention because it touched Israel’s third rail: the army.

In sympathy for the army and its soldiers, many felt that a soldier who was protecting his country while in uniform should not be tried for killing a Palestinian attacker. Indeed, that appears to be the view of many of the 250 people who turned out on Jan. 4 to protest the verdict. Some clashed with police. And part of the demonstration got ugly, when some protesters chanted death threats to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot: “Gadi, Gadi, watch out: Rabin is looking for a friend,” they said, referring to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995. The same day, a 22-year-old woman allegedly wrote on Facebook, referring to Col. Maya Heller, the head of the judges’ panel: “Take a grenade and blow up the judge and scatter all of her parts in different places, let the dogs eat her.”

These very disturbing death threats may well only involve extreme members of the protest movement, but they show how volatile the situation is. Given the circumstances, it is the responsibility of Israel’s leaders to calm the situation and to stress the merit, value and significance of a country that observes the rule of law, rather than looking for ways to evade it.