Ariel Sharon Is Missed

6 01 2014

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

It seems like ages since Ariel Sharon slipped into a coma from which he never returned, much less as a political force in this earthly world.  Yet, perhaps he was there after all, resting with the knowledge that he was a man of his times, who had shaped and reshaped history.

He was a complex human being who produced seemingly inconsistent policies.  By being the architect of Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza, despite Palestinian and international protests, he appeared to be forever at odds with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and thus an opponent of peaceful coexistence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and lasting peace in the Middle EastHenry A. Kissinger noted some years ago: “For most of his career, Sharon’s strategic goal was the incorporation of the West Bank into Israel by a settlement policy designed to prevent Palestinian self-government over significant contiguous territory.”

However, he came seemingly full circle and withdrew from Gaza and removed Jewish settlers from both Gaza and the West Bank, and returned their lands to the Palestinians.  Like the hard-liner Richard Nixon who opposed communists and their ideology throughout his life, yet opened the door to China, Sharon was an enigma.  Both were skilled chess players; and perhaps Sharon supported expansive settlements merely as a bargaining chip that would be discarded when it served the interests of peace, or no longer had any strategic value.

He seemed to be a pragmatist who concluded that it was in Israel’s best interests to defend only those lands that were militarily and politically defensible, and sacrifice the rest, and to jettison the settlers who had served as pawns in a larger chess game.  By zigging and then zagging, and by being a key player in the establishment of the right-wing Likud Party and then breaking from it to found the centrist Kadima Party, Sharon proved to be an able and skillful politician right up to the end of his career.

He fought in a Jewish militia opposed to British control; and he served in Israel’s war of independence with the Arab states and in subsequent wars, and was considered a war hero by many Israelis.  He was wounded in a battle to break the siege of Jerusalem and carried its effects all of his life, including near blindness in one eye; and he was grazed by a bullet in the head during a battle many years later.

He visited the Temple Mount to emphasize Israel’s claim of sovereignty, outraging Muslims and provoking widespread violence; and he is blamed for the ruthless killing and suffering of countless Palestinians.  Yet, his strength was being more in tune with Israeli public opinion than anyone else.  Ghazi al Saadi, a Palestinian commentator, described Sharon as “the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians’ land.”  He added:  “A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us.”

Like Yitzhak Rabin before him, whose mantle he assumed, history will judge Sharon’s accomplishments and speculate as to what a difference his continued leadership might have meant in the future.  It is certain, however, that Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu is no Ariel Sharon, nor does he hold a candle to Rabin.  Indeed, Rabin’s widow Leah—who was described by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres as a “lioness”—believed it was the climate of hate that Netanyahu created during the election campaign of 1995, which laid the groundwork for a Jew to assassinate her husband.  She never forgave Netanyahu and detested him.[2]

The fact that Netanyahu attained his coveted goal of leading Israel again, after his scandal-ridden previous attempt at it, may have changed the region’s history forever.  He was the nemesis of both Rabin and Sharon, two giants; and his return from political oblivion may still be marked by untold chaos at a time when political and military adventurism and demagoguery are the last things that are needed from the leader of Israel.

It was a fateful day, however, when a born-again Christian and a Jew, one slim and fit and the other decidedly rotund, shared a helicopter ride; and Sharon gave then-Texas Governor George W. Bush a tour over the Israeli-occupied territories.  On that day and in the days that followed, a bond of mutual respect emerged between Bush and Sharon that would survive the roller coaster of international politics.  They were a political odd couple who seemed to instinctively trust each other at a time in history when trust was a rare currency vis-à-vis the seemingly intractable problems of the Middle East.

Trust has been a missing ingredient during much of the political life of Netanyahu, who has been perceived as being untrustworthy by countless Israelis and leaders of other nations.  Indeed, he has served as a foil against which Sharon’s accomplishments may be viewed and measured.  Sharon emerged as the right leader for Israel at the right time, just as Rabin had done before him.  Netanyahu’s presence on Israel’s political scene makes Sharon’s greatness and that of Rabin stand out in bold relief by comparison.

Sharon’s stroke and coma deprived the Bush administration of its closest working partner in the Middle East.  The clock began ticking in the region again; and there have been reports that Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear installations.  I am forever reminded of what a prominent American (who is a Jew and a strong supporter of Israel) told me several years ago: “I have long thought that Israel will not make it, if only because of what are cavalierly called WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and its very tight geographical compression.  All else is immaterial, including the Palestinians, or us, or the nature of Israel’s [government].”

I was stunned by this person’s words, and I have reflected on them many times since.  Henry Kissinger added several years ago: “Far too much of the debate within the Palestinian camp has been over whether Israel should be destroyed immediately by permanent confrontation or in stages in which occasional negotiations serve as periodic armistices.”  I do not subscribe to the notion that anything is inevitable or “written.”  However, it is courageous and visionary men like Rabin and Sharon who have guided Israel through perilous times, when lesser men would have foundered.

Netanyahu campaigned on a hard-line platform that would grant to a new Palestinian state only a fraction of West Bank land; and effectively, he has brought the peace process to a screeching halt because he opposes such a state entirely, whether he articulates it or not.  When Likud suffered a defeat in the Israeli elections, with Netanyahu at its helm, he characteristically tried to deflect blame from himself by claiming that a comatose Ariel Sharon was responsible for the political “crash.”

The Wall Street Journal put it mildly in an editorial:  “[Netanyahu’s] attempt to blame a dying and helpless Mr. Sharon for Likud’s drubbing . . . was not a class act.”  Indeed, it was tasteless, opportunistic, and among the reasons why so many people view Netanyahu as being pathetic and demonic—but it was certainly consistent with his treatment of both Rabin and Sharon.

Most Israelis believe at least one of two long-time dreams is unattainable; namely, the idea of a “Greater Israel,” and of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.  Contrariwise, the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to repudiate their dream of a “greater Palestine,” stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, which—in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli journalist and writer—“would supplant and destroy the Jewish state.”

Halevi further opined: “The settlement movement ignored the moral corruption of occupation and the demographic threat to Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state posed by the forcible absorption of several million Palestinians into Israeli society.”  And he added: “Israel will almost certainly find itself without Greater Israel—and without peace.  . . . Confronted with the possibility of a nuclear Iran committed to Israel’s destruction and with a terrorist state emerging in Gaza and the West Bank, Israelis need the sustenance of dreams.”

President Bush pledged to help create an independent Palestinian state before the end of his second term, which suffered a fatal blow with the loss of Sharon, and ended Sharon’s personal ambition to set Israel’s permanent borders too.  The Times of the UK quoted one official as saying: “It [was] unbelievable.  He was the Prime Minister.  Nothing moved without going through him.  Everything was connected to him and then he faded away,” the official said, with a click of his fingers.

Perhaps the return to business as usual showed the strength of Israel’s democracy and political system, which has been surprisingly stable; or maybe it was a sign that his stroke had not shaken the country to the same extent as the assassination of Rabin.  Or maybe it was simply another reminder of how fame is fleeting, and the public’s attention span is short in Israel and other media-driven societies, especially in the age of 24-hour news cycles.  Yet, Sharon is missed; that much is certain—and I never thought that I would write those words or feel this way.[3]

I disagreed with his settlement policies for many years, believing they were harmful to the settlers who trusted him because ultimately they would feel betrayed; and that such policies were unnecessarily confrontational and antagonistic to the Palestinians.  However, I have missed “Arik,” and I know people in various parts of the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, feel the same way.  He was a giant of Israeli politics.  More than that, he was a lion—albeit a rotund one—God love him.

© 2014, Timothy D. Naegele

Ariel Sharon


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com; see also Google search:Timothy D. Naegele

[2]  See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/ (“Israel’s Senseless Killings And War With Iran”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/ (“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu”) (see also the comments beneath both articles).

[3]  See also http://world.time.com/2014/01/03/israel-wakes-up-to-ariel-sharon-as-former-prime-minister-nears-death/?iid=gs-main-lead (“Israel Wakes Up to Ariel Sharon as Former Prime Minister Nears Death”) and http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/ariel-sharon-war-of-independence-disengagement-settlements.html (“Ariel Sharon’s decisions shaped today’s Israel”) and http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/01/23/060123fa_fact_shavit (“THE GENERAL”); compare http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/03/ariel-sharon-final-mission-peace-israel (“Ariel Sharon’s final mission might well have been peace”) with http://mwcnews.net/focus/politics/35072-sharon.html (“The Guardian Laments Sharon”)



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13 responses

12 01 2014
Mary

I am sorry for A Sharon’s death. May he rest in peace.

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15 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Israel Is A Country That Has Lost Its Bearings, And Is In Search Of A Leader

Netanyahu dead

Ben Caspit, a columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers, has written:

A day after Israel’s former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was laid to rest, on Jan. 13 Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon was quoted to have leveled scathing, if not to say crude, criticism at US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Kerry is messianic,” Ya’alon said in closed conversations (according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline on Jan. 14). “He is obsessive. Let him take the Nobel Prize and leave us be.”

It may have been homage to Ariel Sharon, who served as Israel’s defense minister exactly 30 years ago and specialized in stoking precisely such fires. It is also possible that Ya’alon, who says these things incessantly in closed discussions yet makes sure they don’t leak, may have slipped up. Well, eventually they did leak.

I would venture to say that Kerry probably did not fall off his chair upon getting this report from US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. He has heard scathing criticism about the “security plan” which the United States drew up in Israel’s interest. Although he has not heard direct personal insults from the Israeli minister, the unfavorable innuendos are nevertheless out there. Ya’alon wants to be Sharon. The problem, however, is that he wants to be the former Sharon rather than the latter-day one. He wants to be Sharon—the man of war, the intransigent and unstoppable politician.

Dozens of world leaders and politicians, chief among them United States Vice President Joe Biden, attended Sharon’s state funeral on Monday, Jan. 13. Eight years after his severe stroke and 10 days after suffering renal failure, Sharon finally succumbed. Israeli officials were convinced that international attendance at the funeral would be limited given the long time since Sharon stepped down from the political and diplomatic map. They were proven wrong.

Many delegations attended the funeral, including dozens of foreign dignitaries who listened to impressive eulogies by Biden, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as to eulogies by Israel’s President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. Later that day, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called his Israeli counterpart, Ya’alon, to convey his special condolences. The former Sharon would not have received such honor; the latter one did.

Sharon’s passing swept the international media and not just in the Arab world. Television networks around the Middle East were aflutter, addressing in their headline news the demise of Gen. Sharon, who for dozens of years symbolized Israel’s brute force and power. Yet the passing of the Israeli military and political leader made headlines not only across the Middle East but also around the world, and in almost every language.

What did Sharon have that drew so much international attention? To my mind, the reason is not just his personality. Not only in Israel, but around the world, too, people realize that Sharon’s passing heralds the end of a generation in Israel. The world also recognizes the severe leadership crisis of the Jewish state. Looking to the left and to the right, it sees no new Sharon in the offing. It seems to me that not only Israelis, but others around the world too, miss him or someone of his caliber.

Israel’s incumbent prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu. In the last elections, Bibi (Netanyahu) took a beating when his Likud Party garnered just 20 seats of the 120-seat Knesset. Had it not been for the last-minute merger with Yisrael Beitenu—the party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, which secured 11 more seats—Netanyahu would have lost the elections despite being a sitting prime minister and despite that he faced no other contender of a high caliber.

Paradoxically, even though he was personally unpopular and although his results in the last elections were disappointing, when Israelis are asked who from among the relevant contenders is best suited to be prime minister, Netanyahu gets the most votes, around 40%. Those lagging behind—Chairman of the Opposition and Knesset member Isaac Herzog, Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni—are only in the single digits.

This has been conducive to a rare political situation. The Israeli public has no appreciation or regard for Netanyahu. They don’t like him, yet are aware of the reality that there isn’t anybody else. Bibi remains alone in Israel’s political ring, and this has been the case for quite some time. And in light of the current state of affairs, it may take quite a while for the situation to change.

Consider the following: Although Israel’s prime minister is a lame duck, there’s nobody really threatening his position. His approval ratings are low as is trust in him. Notwithstanding, there is no other contender poised to replace him.

How did Israel end up in this serious and unprecedented leadership crisis? The answer to this question is complex. During the early decades of its existence, Israel enjoyed the generation of its founding fathers, which is sometimes referred to as “the generation of giants”. It consisted of “the” founding father—the first prime minister David Ben Gurion, as well as Prime Ministers Moshe Sharet, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan (who served as chief of staff and defense minister), Shimon Peres, and, of course, Yitzhak Rabin. At any given time, there were at least four or five leaders who coveted the premiership and were considered suitable for the job and came close to landing it.

In 1977, when the government switched for the first time from left-wing to right-wing, this reality continued. The Likud Party presented Menachem Begin, who was later followed by the “Likud princes”—people like Sharon, David Levy, Roni Milo, Dan Meridor and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The Labor Party continued displaying the Rabin-Peres tango, and this group was later joined by Ehud Barak, and at the last minute also by Ehud Olmert, who somehow managed to jostle his way in.

The position had always been up for grabs. There were many contenders, and the top of the pyramid felt tight. While serving as prime minister, Sharon would always describe the hardships of the position. He talked about how tormenting the decisions were and how onerous the responsibility was. And yet, he would add, I see a relatively long line outside of people who want to succeed me.

Sharon’s passing symbolizes the final disappearance of the generation of the founding fathers. The last man standing in this group is Shimon Peres, who is over 90 and is expected to end his term as president of the state in five months’ time.

Peres does not quit. People like him never do. But he is unlikely to return to political life. Netanyahu remains the prime minister and when you look around, it’s hard to single out anyone who could threaten him in the coming elections. Defense Minister Ya’alon is not ready for this yet, and neither is Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar, the most prominent Likud Party politician. Yair Lapid has lost momentum, while Isaac Herzog, the newly appointed chairman of the Labor Party, has yet to gather such momentum. Tzipi Livni has been pushed to the sidelines whereas Minister of Economy and Trade and Chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi Party Naftali Bennett is too extreme. Given Israel’s political map at this time, there isn’t anyone who emerges as a potential prime minister. Everyone is convinced that Netanyahu is past his prime and that it’s hard to believe that he would have another term in office. Stuck and fossilized, he has “lost the touch” (provided he ever had this “touch”). Yet nobody can single out anyone to come in his stead as prime minister. There is no one, however high and low you search.

In addition to the disappearance of the generation of the founding fathers, several other things have taken place here; things that were more planned. Inspired by Netanyahu, Israel’s political establishment had taken steps to block the introduction of new forces.

The most dramatic action was the adoption a few years ago of the “cooling-off law.” In accordance with this law, senior military and police officers as well as senior security officials must undergo a three-year cooling-off period before going into politics. In addition to this three-year period, officers receive another “adjustment” year (during which they remain in uniform and on the payroll with benefits). So what we end up with is a chief of staff, a general or a Shin Bet or Mossad director who are forced to remain out of the political establishment for a four-year period after retiring from their position. In Israeli politics, four years are an eternity. The breakneck speed of events in Israel makes the public forget what happened just two months earlier. Thus, anyone who served as chief of staff four or five years earlier is considered to be distant history.

Until this law passed, the defense establishment was Israel’s melting pot for grooming leaders. When a country is surrounded by so many enemies and its existence is imperiled around the clock, it is only natural for a military resume to be one of the prerequisites for political success. For years, Israel’s leadership renewed its ranks and human resources through its military: Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Ya’alon. This is just a partial list of senior Israeli politicians who hailed from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This stream of people was stopped almost overnight.

The law was passed by the political establishment in order to prevent then-chief of staff Dan Halutz from going into politics. In the interim, Halutz became irrelevant in the wake of the Second Lebanon War. Then the law was perceived to torpedo then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi from going into politics. However, Ashkenazi also took a serious blow in the Harpaz Affair that keeps rocking the IDF to this day. In addition to these two, many gifted senior officials from the military, Shin Bet, the Mossad (Meir Dagan, for example) and police are unable to go into politics. Everyone is bogged down by the “cooling-off” period. They lose the momentum and the wind in their sails. By the time this cooling-off period is finished, they are finished.

In addition to this defense wall, Israeli politicians who set out against the traditional power centers (the judiciary, for example) were also “targeted.” The chief victims in this case were Olmert and Haim Ramon.

The upshot of what was described in this article is both serious and disconcerting. Toward its 66th anniversary of independence, Israel is losing its bearings. It is required to make fateful decisions, but there is nobody to make them. It needs courageous leadership, but it has no leader. From the outside, Israel appears—mainly by comparison to its neighbors—as an island of stability and security. From the inside, however, Israel is a country that has lost its bearings and is in search of a leader.

See http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/ariel-sharon-benjamin-netanyahu-leadership-crisis.html (emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/ (“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/ariel-sharon-is-missed/#comment-3480 (“The Campaign For Boycotts, Divestment And Sanctions Against Israel Is Turning Mainstream“); but see http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/1/ariel-sharon-israelpalestinepeaceprocess.html (Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator who currently heads the Middle East and North Africa program of the European Council on Foreign Relations: “Sharon didn’t embrace peace, he defeated it“) and http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/01/16/israeli-arab-mk-put-war-criminal-sharon-on-trial-even-if-he-is-dead/ (“Israeli Arab MK: ‘Put War Criminal Sharon on Trial, Even if He is Dead!’“) and http://www.arabnews.com/news/511766 (“Looting Palestine’s cultural heritage“) and http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2014/01/28/photo-presidents-brother-malik-obama-wears-kaffiyeh-declaring-that-muslims-will-destroy-israel/ (“PHOTO: President’s Brother Malik Obama Wears Kaffiyeh Declaring that Muslims Will Destroy Israel“) and http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/july_2014/34_think_u_s_support_for_israel_hurts_america_with_other_nations (“Most [American] voters want the United States to stay out of the latest flare-up between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with one-out-of-three who believe U.S. support for Israel hurts this country with other nations“)

Netanyahu has expanded the Israeli Apartheid—which is the moral equivalent of South Africa’s Apartheid—and oppressed the Palestinians from Day One; and he is a foe of any peaceful solution, now or at any time in the future.

He was hated by former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin—and especially by Rabin’s wife Leah, who blamed Netanyahu for her husband’s assassination. She saw “only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” with Netanyahu at Israel’s helm; and her views were prescient.

Until Netanyahu is gone, there is no chance of peace.

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17 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Criticism Of Israel By Germany Is Verboten

Michael Freund has written an article—published in The New York Sun—which states:

With an impeccable sense of timing, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, arrived in Israel earlier this week, attended the funeral of Ariel Sharon, and then proceeded to browbeat Israel in public.

Speaking with reporters, Herr Steinmeier accused the Jewish state of “damaging” the peace process by building homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria.

In a discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the sidelines of Sharon’s interment, he pressed the premier to refrain from additional construction as this “could still disturb the process.”

While I am not familiar with bereavement rituals in Germany, I assume they do not include insulting one’s hosts right after the burial service. Yet, while in Israel, Herr Steinmeier apparently saw nothing wrong in doing just that: exploiting the opportunity to highlight a political issue regardless of how tasteless and unseemly it was to do so.

This is not the kind of behavior one expects from a “friend,” is it?

What is even more offensive about Herr Steinmeier’s exploits is the German government’s historical amnesia, which has left officials bereft of any sense of irony regarding their position on the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.

After all, it was not even eight decades ago that Germany singled out Jews in the September 1935 Nuremberg laws, seeking to cast them out of civil society as a step towards “cleansing” German soil of their presence. Subsequently, in areas under German control, the right of Jews to live where they saw fit was severely restricted.

One would think that in light of this dark chapter in their history, Germans would be extra careful about wading into such an issue and proclaiming where Jews can live, build or raise their families.

That has not been the case.

Indeed, last summer it was widely reported that Berlin had decided to back a European Union initiative that singles out Jewish-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria.

The move is aimed at targeting them for special treatment, which could include the application of unique labels of origin on products produced by Jews in the areas. Needless to say, goods made by Palestinian-run plants in the territories would not similarly be branded.

In an interview with Reuters last month, the European Union envoy to the Middle East, Andreas Reinicke, warned that if the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fails, the EU would speed up its plans to slap labels on Jewish-made goods from Judea and Samaria.

The hypocrisy behind the labeling crusade is all the more apparent when one considers that no such campaigns are being contemplated for other “disputed territories.” Hence, there is no European demand to label Chinese products made in Tibet, Russian items manufactured in Chechnya, or Spanish goods from Catalonia. It seems that only when matters involve the Jewish state do European liberals insist on such measures.

This is not merely duplicity, it is discrimination pure and simple.

In the case of Germany, such a stance is especially outrageous, and the government of Angela Merkel should be ashamed of itself for going along with it. Whatever one may think of the peace process and the two-state solution, it should be obvious that treating merchandise and construction differently simply because the person who owns the factory or built the house is a follower of Moses rather than Muhammad is an act of bigotry.

In light of its own ignoble record during the 20th century, Germany and its leaders have a special responsibility to be exceptionally sensitive to such issues, particularly when they relate to Jews.

No one is suggesting Germany is planning a second Holocaust, but the country must show greater awareness regarding the painful irony at work here.

In 1936 a board game called “Juden Raus” (“Jews Out”) became popular throughout the Reich. Players would move figures representing Jews toward “collection points” from which they would be deported to the Land of Israel. “If you manage to see off six Jews,” the game instructed, “you’ve won a clear victory”.

Sadly, Germany is once again playing a similar game, albeit with one difference. Whereas previously the aim was to send Jews away to Israel, now their goal is to compel us to leave parts of it.

But I have a bit of news for Ms. Merkel and her colleagues: no one, especially not Germany, has the right to tell Jews where they can or cannot live.

In 1945, the Jewish people crawled out of the ovens of Europe and succeeded in reclaiming our ancestral homeland.

Regardless of what Berlin might think or say, we are not about to give any part of it away.

See http://www.nysun.com/foreign/german-aide-in-demarche-at-sharon-funeral-echoes/88549/

With all due respect to Mr. Freund, the central thrust of this article is patently absurd. Next year, it will have been 70 years since the end of World War II and the defeat of Hitler’s Third Reich.

After what the Jews lived through during the Nazi Holocaust, they should be particularly sensitive to the plight of Palestinians, but many are not. As I have written:

[W]hen Israelis are perceived as having morphed into their ancestors’ Nazi oppressors (e.g., by instituting “Apartheid” vis-à-vis the Palestinians), the world is quick to condemn—perhaps too quickly at times, or maybe not quickly enough at other times.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/

Indeed, it has been asked by a prominent American Jew about the treatment of Palestinians:

Is this how I wanted to be treated when I was a minority in another people’s country?

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/#comment-1825

A growing number of Jews and non-Jews in America and elsewhere in the world believe that Netanyahu and his ilk have been damaging the peace process by building more settlements. Such sentiments are not unique to the German foreign minister. Indeed, they undergird the efforts of Barack Obama and John Kerry to bring about a viable two-state solution, which Netanyahu has opposed consistently.

He was hated by former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin—and especially by Rabin’s wife Leah, who blamed Netanyahu for her husband’s assassination. She saw “only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” with Netanyahu at Israel’s helm; and her views were prescient.

Also, the funeral of Ariel Sharon brought together representatives of countries around the world; and it was a unique opportunity for them to discuss issues of importance, both publicly and privately. Surely, the German foreign minister was not alone in this regard.

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20 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Israel’s Maginot Line?

The New York Times has reported:

After a Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon landed in Israel last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hezbollah, the Shiite militia, and its Iranian backers. But Israeli security officials attributed the attack, as well as a similar one in August, to a Sunni jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda.

That disconnect is representative of the deepening dilemma Israel faces as the region around it is riven by sectarian warfare that could redraw the map of the Middle East.

Mr. Netanyahu and other leaders continue to see Shiite Iran and its nuclear program as the primary threat to Israel, and Hezbollah as the most likely to draw it into direct battle. Still, the mounting strength of extremist Sunni cells in Syria, Iraq and beyond that are pledging to bring jihad to Jerusalem can hardly be ignored.

As the chaos escalates, Israeli officials insist they have no inclination to intervene. Instead, they have embraced a castle mentality, hoping the moat they have dug—in the form of high-tech border fences, intensified military deployments and sophisticated intelligence—is broad enough at least to buy time.

“What we have to understand is everything is going to be changed—to what, I don’t know,” said Yaakov Amidror, who recently stepped down as Israel’s national security adviser. “But we will have to be very, very cautious not to take part in this struggle. What we see now is a collapsing of a historical system, the idea of the national Arabic state. It means that we will be encircled by an area which will be no man’s land at the end of the day.”

Mr. Amidror, a former major general in military intelligence, summed up the strategy as “Wait, and keep the castle.”

Israeli leaders have tried to exploit recent events to bolster their case for a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, a sticking point in the United States-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians. In a speech this month, Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, ticked off violent episodes in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, and concluded sarcastically, “A really excellent time to divest ourselves of security assets.”

Mr. Bennett, who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, might seize on any excuse to undermine the talks. But Israeli officials, and analysts with close ties to the government and security establishment, said the argument also had traction in more mainstream quarters. The deterioration in Iraq, which borders Jordan, has revived concerns about vulnerability on Israel’s eastern flank.

“From the Straits of Gibraltar to the Khyber Pass, it’s very hard to come by a safe and secure area,” Mr. Netanyahu told reporters here on Thursday. “Peace can be built on hope, but that hope has to be grounded in facts,” he said. “A peace that is not based on truth will crash against the realities of the Middle East.”

Michael Herzog, a retired Israeli general and former peace negotiator, said that “what you hear in Israeli government circles” is that the regional chaos “highlights the need for solid security arrangements.”

“The U.S. accepts the basic Israeli argument that given what’s happening in the region—suddenly jihadists are taking over Syria, and there’s no telling what will happen elsewhere—there is a legitimate cause for concern,” said Mr. Herzog, who has been consulting with the American team. “How to translate that into concrete security arrangements is something the parties are right now coping with.”

Israeli security and political officials have been unsettled by the rapid developments on the ground and in the diplomatic arena in recent weeks. Washington’s gestures toward Iran, not only on the nuclear issue but also with regard to Syria and Iraq, underscore a divergence in how the United States and Israel, close allies, view the region. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, which shares Israel’s concern about an emboldened Iran, is financing Sunni groups that view Israel as the ultimate enemy.

More broadly, the intensified fighting has convinced many Israelis that the region will be unstable or even anarchic for some time, upending decades of strategic positioning and military planning.

“Historically, Israel has preferred to have strong leaders, even if they’re hostile to Israel,” said Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, citing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as an example.

“It’s a problem without an address,” Mr. Spyer said of the Islamist groups often lumped together as “global jihad.” “Israel always likes to have an address. Assad we don’t like, but when something happens in Assad’s territory, we can bargain with him. These guys, there is no address. There is no one to bargain with.”

Maj. Gen. Yoav Har-Even, director of the Israeli military’s planning branch, said in an interview published this month in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that global jihad had already “taken control of some of the arms warehouses” in Syria and established a presence in the Golan Heights. He called it a “central target” of intelligence efforts.

“I don’t have, today, a contingency plan to destroy global jihad,” General Har-Even acknowledged. “But I am developing the intelligence ability to monitor events. If I spot targets that are liable to develop into a problem, I take the excellent intelligence that I am brought, I process it for the target and plan action. And I have a great many such targets.”

Since the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011, there have been two main schools of thought in Israel. One argues that the instability in the region makes resolving the Palestinian conflict all the more urgent, to provide a beacon on an uncertain sea. The other cautions against making any concessions close to home while the future of the neighborhood remains unclear. The camps have only hardened their positions in response to the recent developments.

“The most important lesson from the last few weeks is that you cannot rely on a snapshot of reality at any given time in order to plan your strategic needs,” said Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who recently rejoined Mr. Netanyahu’s team as a freelance foreign policy adviser. “The region is full of bad choices. What that requires you to do is take your security very seriously. And you shouldn’t be intimidated by people saying, ‘Well, that’s a worst-case analysis,’ because lately, the worst is coming through.”

Efraim Halevy, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, views the landscape differently. Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iraq could distract it from its nuclear project, he said. Hezbollah has lost fighters in Syria and faced setbacks in its standing at home in Lebanon. Hamas, the Palestinian militant faction that controls the Gaza Strip, has been severely weakened by the new military-backed government in Egypt and its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria’s military capacity has been greatly diminished.

“If you look all around, compared to what it was like six months ago, Israel can take a deep breath,” Mr. Halevy said. “The way things are at the moment, if you want to photograph it, it looks as if some of the potential is there for an improvement in Israel’s strategic position and interests. It’s more than ever a see and wait, and be on your guard, and protect yourself if necessary.”

See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/world/middleeast/region-boiling-israel-takes-up-castle-strategy.html; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maginot_Line (“Maginot Line”)

Will Israel’s “Castle Strategy” prove to be its Maginot Line of defenses—thought and hoped to be impregnable, but proven to be porous and strategically ineffective?

Time will tell.

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9 02 2014
Max

Just stumbled across your blog from the comment you left at the WSJ article on Sochi. I have to say I’m amazed at how on the one hand you denounce Putin as a killer dictator-for-life while at the same time producing a gushing obituary for Ariel Sharon! You evidently have been taken in by the nonsense that his token withdrawal of Israeli settlers from a few patches of stolen land, amounted to a serious policy for peace. But aside from that, have you forgotten his terror bombing of Beruit for several weeks in 1982 when clearly marked schools, hospitals were deliberately and mercilessly destroyed? An atrocity in which tens of thousands were killed? Can you imagine how the New York Times would treat a deceased gentile who had perpetrated the murders of tens of thousands of Israeli Jews? Do think he wouldn’t have been branded with the mark of Cain for the rest of his life and that every lurid detail of his crimes would be repeated endlessly?

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9 02 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Max, for your comments.

First, they are fair, well written and thoughtful.

Second, I respectfully beg to differ with the conclusion that my article above constitutes “a gushing obituary for Ariel Sharon!”

I despised Sharon for a very long time, blaming him for the settlements and countless atrocities. My “change of heart” came only after he withdrew from Gaza, forcing Israelis out at gunpoint if necessary; and he began a withdrawal from the West Bank.

It was these actions that I was saluting in my article. No one knows whether they constituted a “token withdrawal,” as you and others suggest, or the beginning of a broader policy shift. Regardless, they represented a significant policy change that I applauded, and endorse today.

Third, as recognized in my article above:

(1) He visited the Temple Mount to emphasize Israel’s claim of sovereignty, outraging Muslims and provoking widespread violence. . . .

(2) He is blamed for the ruthless killing and suffering of countless Palestinians.

(3) Ghazi al Saadi, a Palestinian commentator, described Sharon as “the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians’ land.” He added: “A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us.”

At no point do I even remotely suggest that Sharon was a saint. He was not. He was a very able military commander on behalf of Israel . . . and a “politician.”

Fourth, I began the article above when Sharon lapsed into a coma, from which he never returned. I reviewed it many times before he died, and before my article was published here. I might have changed it significantly, but I did not. My feelings about Sharon are summed up in the following words:

Sharon is missed; that much is certain—and I never thought that I would write those words or feel this way.

I had hope for Israel under Sharon . . .

Fifth, Russia’s dictator-for-life Putin is a brutal killer; and the world needs to recognize him as such.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden have chosen to do so, and they should be praised for their decisions.

For the American president or vice president to attend the Olympics in Sochi—where Putin has a dacha—would be the moral equivalent of attending Hitler’s Olympics in Berlin.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-3232 (“Obamas, Biden Boycott Killer Putin’s Winter Olympics In Russia”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-3627 (“Ukraine Is On the Verge Of War And Putin Is To Blame”) (see also the article itself, as well as the other comments beneath it)

Putin is Stalin’s heir; and Stalin was responsible for the deaths of more than 30 million men, women and children—his own countrymen—including millions during the collectivization of the Soviet farms in the 1930s. Also, as the Soviets moved through Germany at the end of World War II, they raped at least two million German women in what is now acknowledged as the largest case of mass rape in history.

Putin came to prominence as a KGB operative in East Germany—or the DDR, as it was known before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Erich Honecker’s government—which was one of the most repressive regimes in the Soviet Union’s orbit, or the Evil Empire.

Putin’s own repressive regime must be boycotted now. Indeed, it is laudable that neither Obama nor Biden are attending the Olympics in Sochi, which sends a strong message to the world.

Also, the world must never forget that Putin left the Olympic games in Beijing and traveled to the Georgian border, where he personally directed the Russian military assault against Georgia and the killing of Georgians.

This is only a small part of the atrocities that he has committed, which are discussed in my article about him and the comments beneath it that are cited above.

A colleague of mine in the U.S. Congress told me when Putin came to power that he was a “smoother” version of Stalin; and my friend’s words were prescient.

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11 02 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

The Campaign For Boycotts, Divestment And Sanctions Against Israel Is Turning Mainstream

Boycott Israel

This is the conclusion of the UK’s Economist:

ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”

BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.

The campaign is drawing support from beyond northern Europe. Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream, an Israeli drinks firm with a plant on the West Bank.

Mr Lapid, who favours a two-state solution, reels out figures to show how sanctions could hit every Israeli pocket. “If negotiations with the Palestinians stall or blow up and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one,” he warned, 10,000 Israelis would “immediately” lose their jobs. Trade with the European Union, a third of Israel’s total, would slump—he calculates—by $5.7 billion.

Anxious to hold on to their markets, Israel’s businessmen are increasingly backing the peace camp. The names on a recent advertising campaign in its favour included such luminaries as the head of Google in Israel. Hitherto they had usually preferred to stay out of politics.

Israel’s government is divided over how to react to the BDS campaign. The finance ministry has temporarily shelved a report it said it would publish on the possible consequences of BDS. But Israel’s press and ministerial addresses are increasingly full of worried references to it.

Some Israelis argue that this publicity merely feeds the BDS campaign, others that isolation has benefits. Israel’s position as a hotbed of hi-tech start-ups is due in part to decades of circumventing Arab boycotts. A French arms ban in the 1960s sparked the development of its weapons industry, helping to catapult Israel into fourth place in the world’s league of arms exporters. And if the West turns its back on Israel, there is, they say, the east. Relations with India have warmed of late, and those with China are getting closer. The economy minister, Naftali Bennett, a sceptic of the peace process, recently toured the Far East, saying he was bringing a “light to the gentiles” by way of Israeli business. But Mr Bennett is in a minority on BDS: his colleagues are a lot less sanguine.

See http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21595948-israels-politicians-sound-rattled-campaign-isolate-their-country (“Israel’s politicians sound rattled by the campaign to isolate their country”) (emphasis added)

This is what the regime of Netanyahu and his lackeys has wrought, which was predictable . . . and may get decidedly worse.

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17 04 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

WORLD WAR III HAS BEGUN: JEWS ORDERED TO REGISTER IN EAST UKRAINE

Putin is Hitler

As Russia’s brutal dictator-for-life Putin’s aggression spreads from Georgia to Crimea to East Ukraine and beyond, one knew that it would be merely a matter of time before Jews were targeted. And now it is happening.

USA Today has reported:

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia. The news was carried first by the Ukraine’s Donbass news agency.

The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government,” and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the reports.

Pushilin acknowledged that fliers were distributed under his organization’s name in Donetsk but denied any connection to them, Ynet reported in Hebrew.

Emanuel Shechter, in Israel, told Ynet his friends in Donetsk sent him a copy of the leaflet through social media.

“They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flier and told them to obey its instructions,” he said.

The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”

It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.

The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.” A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said.

Olga Reznikova, 32, a Jewish resident of Donetsk, told Ynet she never experienced anti-Semitism in the city until she saw this leaflet.

“We don’t know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it’s serious that it exists,” she said. “The text reminds of the fascists in 1941,” she said referring to the Nazis who occupied Ukraine during World War II.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the USA, said the leaflets should be seen in the context of a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe and the world, and that it should prompt a strong response from the White House.

“This is a frightening new development in the anti-Jewish movement that is gaining traction around the world,” Klein said.

Michael Salberg, director of the international affairs at the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League, said it’s unclear whether the leaflets were issued by the pro-Russian leadership or a splinter group operating within the pro-Russian camp.

But the Russian side has used the specter of anti-Semitism in a cynical manner since anti-government protests began in Kiev that resulted in the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych. Russia and its allies in Ukraine issued multiple stories about the the threat posed to Jews by Ukraine’s new pro-Western government in Kiev, Salberg said.

Those stories were based in part on ultra-nationalists who joined the Maidan protests, and the inclusion of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party in Ukraine’s new interim government. But the threat turned out to be false, he said.

Svoboda’s leadership needs to be monitored, but so far it has refrained from anti-Semitic statements since joining the government, he said. And the prevalence of anti-Semitic acts has not changed since before the Maidan protests, according to the ADL and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which monitors human rights in Ukraine.

Distributing such leaflets is a recruitment tool to appeal to the xenophobic fears of the majority, “to enlist them to your cause and focus on a common enemy, the Jews,” Salberg said.

And by targeting Donetsk’s Jews, they also send a message to all the region’s residents, Salberg said.

“The message is a message to all the people that is we’re going to exert our power over you,” he said. “Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don’t step out of line.”

See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/04/17/jews-ordered-to-register-in-east-ukraine/7816951/; see also http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4510688,00.html

Crimea and Ukraine must become Putin’s abyss, or far far worse. He is a malignancy that must be excoriated. He needs to share the fate of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, now.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4467 (“THE END OF PUTIN IS DRAWING NEAR”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4448 (“WORLD WAR III”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4452 (“Decimating Putin: America’s Financial Neutron Bomb”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-4010 (“Putin Must Be Terminated”)

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4 08 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Will Israel Survive?

Israel has lost its moral bearings under Netanyahu.

He has morphed into his ancestors’ Nazi oppressors. As the article above and the comments beneath it state emphatically, he is the wrong leader for Israel, now and in the future.

See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/
(“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/ (“Israel’s Senseless Killings And War With Iran”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2715466/Israeli-official-calls-concentration-camps-Gaza-conquest-entire-Gaza-Strip-annihilation-fighting-forces-supporters.html (“Israeli official calls for concentration camps in Gaza and ‘the conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters’“) and http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sway-over-israel-on-gaza-at-a-low-1407979365 (“[T]he Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded [the Obama Administration] that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy”)

There is no question that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. Innocent Jews can be randomly kidnapped and killed anywhere in the world, and nothing can be done to stop it.

See, e.g., http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/We-are-looking-at-the-beginnings-of-a-Holocaust-369165 (“‘We are looking at the beginnings of a Holocaust'”—not just in Europe, but possibly worldwide for Jews) and http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/07/antisemitism-rise-europe-worst-since-nazis (“Antisemitism on rise across Europe ‘in worst times since the Nazis'”—”Experts say attacks go beyond Israel-Palestinian conflict as hate crimes strike fear into Jewish communities”) and http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140822/jewish-school-copenhagen-vandalised (“Jewish school in Copenhagen[, which 'describes itself as the world's second oldest still functioning Jewish school,'] vandalised”)

This is what Netanyahu has spawned.

Also, I am reminded of what a prominent American (who is a Jew and a strong supporter of Israel) told me a number of years ago:

I have long thought that Israel will not make it, if only because of what are cavalierly called WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and its very tight geographical compression. All else is immaterial, including the Palestinians, or us, or the nature of Israel’s [government].

My guess is that this person’s words will prove to be prophetic, and apocalyptically so—although I hope not—and that Netanyahu will have hastened this result. WMDs can come in many forms, such as deadly viruses.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/#comment-544 (“Why I Write And Say What I Do”)

Netanyahu-the face of pure evil

Netanyahu: the face of pure evil—along with Putin, Mussolini, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, and other dictators and tyrants.

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28 08 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Is AIPAC Losing Influence? [Part 1]

This is an issue that has been addressed in a long article by Connie Bruck that appears in the New Yorker, which is worth reading in pertinent part as follows:

On July 23rd, officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—the powerful lobbying group known as AIPAC—gathered in a conference room at the Capitol for a closed meeting with a dozen Democratic senators. The agenda of the meeting, which was attended by other Jewish leaders as well, was the war in the Gaza Strip. In the century-long conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the previous two weeks had been particularly harrowing. In Israeli towns and cities, families heard sirens warning of incoming rockets and raced to shelters. In Gaza, there were scenes of utter devastation, with hundreds of Palestinian children dead from bombing and mortar fire. The Israeli government claimed that it had taken extraordinary measures to minimize civilian casualties, but the United Nations was launching an inquiry into possible war crimes. Even before the fighting escalated, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had made little secret of its frustration with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “How will it have peace if it is unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupation, and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity?” Philip Gordon, the White House coördinator for the Middle East, said in early July. “It cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability.” Although the Administration repeatedly reaffirmed its support for Israel, it was clearly uncomfortable with the scale of Israel’s aggression. AIPAC did not share this unease; it endorsed a Senate resolution in support of Israel’s “right to defend its citizens,” which had seventy-nine co-sponsors and passed without a word of dissent.

AIPAC is prideful about its influence. Its promotional literature points out that a reception during its annual policy conference, in Washington, “will be attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.” A former AIPAC executive, Steven Rosen, was fond of telling people that he could take out a napkin at any Senate hangout and get signatures of support for one issue or another from scores of senators. AIPAC has more than a hundred thousand members, a network of seventeen regional offices, and a vast pool of donors. The lobby does not raise funds directly. Its members do, and the amount of money they channel to political candidates is difficult to track. But everybody in Congress recognizes its influence in elections, and the effect is evident. In 2011, when the Palestinians announced that they would petition the U.N. for statehood, AIPAC helped persuade four hundred and forty-six members of Congress to co-sponsor resolutions opposing the idea.

During the Gaza conflict, AIPAC has made a priority of sending a message of bipartisan congressional support for all of Israel’s actions. Pro-Israel resolutions passed by unanimous consent carry weight, but not nearly so much as military funding. During the fighting, Israel has relied on the Iron Dome system, a U.S.-funded missile defense that has largely neutralized Hamas’s rockets. Although the U.S. was scheduled to deliver $351 million for the system starting in October, AIPAC wanted more money right away. On July 22nd, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had sent a letter to Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, seeking an immediate payment of $225 million.

In the conference room, the senators sat on one side of a long table, the Jewish leaders on the other. Robert Cohen, the president of AIPAC, justified Israel’s assault, agreeing with Netanyahu that Hamas was ultimately responsible for the deaths of its own citizens. At one point, Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, asked about conservative trends in Israel, a participant recalled. “He said that he supports Israel, but he’s concerned that Israel is headed toward a one-state solution—and that would be so damaging and dangerous for everyone involved.”

Charles Schumer, the senior Democrat from New York, interrupted. Turning to address the room, he said, “It troubles me when I hear people equate Israel and Hamas. That’s wrong, that’s terrible!” Kaine protested, “That’s not what I meant!” Cohen simply repeated that Hamas was to blame for everything that was happening.

The Senate, preparing for its August recess, hastened to vote on the Iron Dome funding. At first, the appropriation was bundled into an emergency bill that also included money to address the underage refugees flooding across the Mexican border. But, with only a few days left before the break began, that bill got mired in a partisan fight. Reid tried to package Iron Dome with money for fighting wildfires, and then offered it by itself; both efforts failed, stopped largely by budget hawks. “If you can’t get it done the night before recess, you bemoan the fact that you couldn’t get it done, and everybody goes home,” a congressional staffer said. Instead, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the Republican leader, decided to stay over, even if it meant missing an event at home. The next morning, with the halls of the Senate all but empty, an unusual session was convened so that McConnell and Reid could try again to pass the bill; Tim Kaine was also there, along with the Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham. “There were five senators present and literally no one else!” the staffer said. “They reintroduced it and passed it. This was one of the more amazing feats, for AIPAC.”

In a press conference, Graham, who has been a major recipient of campaign contributions connected to AIPAC, pointed out that the funding for Iron Dome was intended as a gesture of solidarity with Israel. “Not only are we going to give you more missiles—we’re going to be a better friend,” Graham said. “We’re going to fight for you in the international court of public opinion. We’re going to fight for you in the United Nations.”

The influence of AIPAC, like that of the lobbies for firearms, banking, defense, and energy interests, has long been a feature of politics in Washington, particularly on Capitol Hill. But that influence, like the community that AIPAC intends to represent, is not static. For decades, AIPAC has thrived on bipartisanship, exerting its influence on congressional Democrats and Republicans alike. But Israel’s government, now dominated by a coalition of right-wing parties led by Likud, has made compromise far less likely than it was a generation ago. Prime Minister Netanyahu, the leader of Likud and an unabashed partisan of the Republican view of the world, took office at about the same time as President Obama, and the two have clashed frequently over the expansion of Israeli settlements and the contours of a potential peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Although both men repeatedly speak of the unshakable bond between the U.S. and Israel, their relationship has been fraught from the start. In 2012, Netanyahu made little secret of the fact that he hoped Mitt Romney would win the election. Time and again—over issues ranging from Iran to the Palestinians—AIPAC has sided strongly with Netanyahu against Obama.

AIPAC’s spokesman, Marshall Wittmann, said that the lobby had no loyalty to any political party, in Israel or in the U.S., and that to suggest otherwise was a “malicious mischaracterization.” Instead, he said, “we are a bipartisan organization of Americans who exercise our constitutional right to lobby the government.” For AIPAC, whose stated mission is to improve relations between the U.S. and Israel, it is crucial to appeal across the political spectrum. In recent years, though, Israel has become an increasingly divisive issue among the American public. Support for Israel among Republicans is at seventy-three per cent, and at forty-four per cent among Democrats, according to a poll conducted in July by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press; the divide is even greater between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

This difference represents a schism among American Jews—AIPAC’s vital core. For decades, the Jewish community was generally united in its support for Israel. Today, a growing number of American Jews, though still devoted to Israel, struggle with the lack of progress toward peace with the Palestinians. Many feel that AIPAC does not speak for them. The Pew Center’s survey found that only thirty-eight per cent of American Jews believe that the Israeli government is sincerely pursuing peace; forty-four per cent believe that the construction of new settlements damages Israel’s national security. In a Gallup poll in late July, only a quarter of Americans under the age of thirty thought that Israel’s actions in Gaza were justified. As Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of the left-leaning T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, told me, “Many people I know in their twenties and thirties say, I have a perfectly good Jewish life here—why do I need to worry about this country in the Middle East where they’re not representing who I am as a Jew? I’m not proud of what’s happening there. I’m certainly not going to send money.”

This is precisely the kind of ambivalence that AIPAC adherents describe as destructive. And yet even Israeli politicians recognize that AIPAC faces a shifting landscape of opinion. Shimon Peres, who served as Prime Minister and, most recently, as President, says, “My impression is that AIPAC is weaker among the younger people. It has a solid majority of people of a certain age, but it’s not the same among younger people.”

For AIPAC, the tension with the Obama Administration over Gaza comes amid a long series of conflicts. Perhaps the most significant of these is over the question of Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapon. Last October, Iran and the consortium of world powers known as P5+1—Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States—met in Geneva to begin talks. For two decades, AIPAC has been warning that if Iran acquired nuclear arms it would pose an existential threat to Israel, which has had a nuclear capacity since the late sixties. Netanyahu has insisted that the United States—or Israel alone, if necessary—must be prepared to take military action against Iran. The Obama Administration, too, has said that a nuclear Iran is unthinkable and that “all options”—including military options—“are on the table.” But Netanyahu fears that Obama is prepared to settle for too little in the negotiations, and, when they began, he launched an uninhibited campaign of public diplomacy against them. In early November, after meeting in Jerusalem with Secretary of State John Kerry, he proclaimed a tentative proposal “a very, very bad deal. It is the deal of the century for Iran.” A photo op for the two men was abruptly cancelled, and Kerry returned to Switzerland.

Later that month, Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., met with a bipartisan group of two dozen congressmen in the offices of John Boehner, the House Speaker. Dermer, who comes from a political family in Miami, worked in the nineties for the Republican consultant Frank Luntz as he shaped Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America campaign. A few years later, Dermer emigrated to Israel, where he worked as a political consultant and wrote columns for the Jerusalem Post, a conservative daily, in which he referred to Jews who denounced the occupation as “self-haters.” When Netanyahu took office in 2009, he brought in Dermer as a top adviser, and the two became virtually inseparable. “Whenever we met with Bibi in the last several years, Dermer was there,” a former congressional aide said. “He was like Bibi’s Mini-Me.” In Boehner’s offices, a senior Democrat recalled, “Dermer was very critical of the proposed Iran nuclear agreement. He talked about how Reagan would never have done anything like this.” Finally, one of the other politicians in the room had to advise him, “Don’t talk about what Reagan would do. He’s not very popular with Democrats.”

The great incentive that the P5+1 could offer Iran was to reduce the sanctions that have crippled its economy. As the talks proceeded, though, Israel’s supporters in Congress were talking about legislation that would instead toughen the sanctions. Dermer didn’t say specifically that he favored such a law—representatives of foreign governments customarily do not advocate for specific U.S. legislation—but it was clear that that was what he and the Israeli leadership wanted. A former congressional staff member who attended the meeting said, “The implicit critique was the naïveté of the President.”

Obama’s aides were alarmed by the possibility that AIPAC might endorse new sanctions legislation. They invited Howard Kohr, the group’s chief executive officer, and officials from other prominent Jewish organizations to briefings at the White House. Members of the Administration’s negotiating team, together with State Department officials, walked them through the issues. “We said, ‘We know you guys are going to take a tough line on these negotiations, but stay inside the tent and work with us,’ ” a senior Administration official recalled. “We told them directly that a sanctions bill would blow up the negotiations—the Iranians would walk away from the table. They said, ‘This bill is to strengthen your hand in diplomacy.’ We kept saying, ‘It doesn’t strengthen our hand in diplomacy. Why do you know better than we do what strengthens our hand? Nobody involved in the diplomacy thinks that. ’ ”

In late November, the negotiators announced an interim Joint Plan of Action. For a period of six months, Iran and the six world powers would work toward a comprehensive solution; in the meantime, Iran would limit its nuclear energy program in exchange for initial relief from sanctions. Netanyahu blasted the agreement, calling it a “historic mistake,” and, within a few days, the leadership of AIPAC committed itself to fighting for new sanctions. A senior Democrat close to AIPAC described to me the intimate interplay between Netanyahu’s circle and the lobby. “There are people in AIPAC who believe that it should be an arm of the Likud, an arm of the Republican Party,” he said. Wittmann, the lobby’s spokesman, disputed this, saying, “AIPAC does not take any orders or direction from any foreign principal, in Israel or elsewhere.”

For the Israeli leadership and many of its advocates, the Iran negotiations presented an especially vexing problem of political triangulation. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s previous President, had been a kind of ideal adversary, attracting widespread outrage by questioning whether the Holocaust had taken place and by challenging Israel’s right to exist. Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., once described Ahmadinejad’s hateful rhetoric to me as “the gift that keeps on giving.” But Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, was carefully presenting himself as a relative moderate. Netanyahu would have none of it, calling Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

AIPAC worked to mobilize its friends in Congress. Mark Kirk, a Republican senator from Illinois and a major beneficiary of AIPAC-related funding, began pressing to pass a new sanctions bill. “He was saying, ‘We’re in negotiations with a wolf in sheep’s clothing!’ ” a former Senate aide recalled. The bill, co-sponsored by Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was drafted with considerable input from AIPAC. This was the first time in decades that the lobby had challenged the sitting U.S. President so overtly.

The Obama Administration was furious. “It’s one thing to disagree on some aspect of the peace process, on things that are tough for Israel to do,” the senior Administration official told me. “But this is American foreign policy that they were seeking to essentially derail. There was no other logic to it than ending the negotiations, and the gravity of that was shocking.”

AIPAC was incorporated in 1963, fifteen years after the State of Israel came into being. Its leader, Isaiah (Si) Kenen, had been a lobbyist for American Zionist organizations and an employee of Israel’s Office of Information at the United Nations. In that job, Kenen had been obligated to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which had stringent disclosure requirements about financial expenditures and communications with the U.S. government. The journalist M. J. Rosenberg, who volunteered at AIPAC in 1973 and is now a critic of it, recalled Kenen’s saying that the foreign-agent model was too restrictive. AIPAC would lobby Congress for aid to Israel, but its members would be Americans, taking orders from an American board of directors. Rosenberg told me that Kenen was “an old-fashioned liberal” who liked to say, “AIPAC has no enemies, only friends and potential friends.” When asked which politicians he hoped to elect, he said, “We play with the hand that is dealt us.” Congress must lead, he said, and “our job is to help it lead.”

Kenen retired in 1974, and by the late eighties AIPAC’s board had come to be dominated by a group of wealthy Jewish businessmen known as the Gang of Four: Mayer (Bubba) Mitchell, Edward Levy, Jr., Robert Asher, and Larry Weinberg. Weinberg was a Democrat who gradually moved to the right. The others were Republicans. In 1980, AIPAC hired Thomas Dine, a former diplomat and congressional staffer, as its executive director. Dine set out to develop a nationwide network that would enable AIPAC to influence every member of Congress. This was a daunting challenge. Jews made up less than three per cent of the American population, concentrated in nine states, and they voted overwhelmingly Democratic. How could AIPAC, with such a small base, become a political force in both parties and in every state?

Dine launched a grass-roots campaign, sending young staff members around the country to search for Jews in states where there were few. In Lubbock, Texas, for instance, they found nine who were willing to meet—a tiny group who cared deeply about Israel but never thought that they could play a political role. The lobby created four hundred and thirty-five “congressional caucuses,” groups of activists who would meet with their member of Congress to talk about the pro-Israel agenda.

Dine decided that “if you wanted to have influence you had to be a fund-raiser.” Despite its name, AIPAC is not a political-action committee, and therefore cannot contribute to campaigns. But in the eighties, as campaign-finance laws changed and PACs proliferated, AIPAC helped form pro-Israel PACs. By the end of the decade, there were dozens. Most had generic-sounding names, like Heartland Political Action Committee, and they formed a loose constellation around AIPAC. Though there was no formal relationship, in many cases the leader was an AIPAC member, and as the PACs raised funds they looked to the broader organization for direction.

Members’ contributions were often bundled. “AIPAC will select some dentist in Boise, say, to be the bundler,” a former longtime AIPAC member said. “They tell people in New York and other cities to send their five-thousand-dollar checks to him. But AIPAC has to teach people discipline—because all those people who are giving five thousand dollars would ordinarily want recognition. The purpose is to make the dentist into a big shot—he’s the one who has all this money to give to the congressman’s campaign.” AIPAC representatives tried to match each member of Congress with a contact who shared the congressman’s interests. If a member of Congress rode a Harley-Davidson, AIPAC found a contact who did, too. The goal was to develop people who could get a member of Congress on the phone at a moment’s notice.

That persistence and persuasion paid off. Howard Berman, a former congressman from California, recalled that Bubba Mitchell became friends with Sonny Callahan, a fellow-resident of Mobile, Alabama, when Callahan ran for Congress in 1984. Eventually, Callahan became chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. “Sonny had always been against foreign aid,” Berman said. “Then he voted for it!”

Republicans knew that they would never get more than a minority of the Jewish electorate, but AIPAC members convinced them that voting the right way would lead to campaign contributions. It was a winning argument. In 1984, Mitch McConnell narrowly beat AIPAC supporters’ preferred candidate, the incumbent Democrat Walter Huddleston. Afterward, McConnell met with two AIPAC officials and said to them, “Let me be very clear. What do I need to do to make sure that the next time around I get the community support?” AIPAC members let Republicans know that, if they supported AIPAC positions, the lobby would view them as “friendly incumbents,” and would not abandon them for a Democratic challenger. The Connecticut Republican senator Lowell Weicker voted consistently with AIPAC; in 1988, he was challenged by the Democrat Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew. Lieberman won, but Weicker got the majority of funding from Jewish donors.

In the early days, Howard Berman said, “AIPAC was knocking on an unlocked door.” Most Americans have been favorably disposed toward Israel since its founding, and no other lobby spoke for them on a national scale. Unlike other lobbies—such as the N.R.A., which is opposed by various anti-gun groups—AIPAC did not face a significant and well-funded countervailing force. It also had the resources to finance an expensive and emotionally charged form of persuasion. Dine estimated that in the eighties and nineties contributions from AIPAC members often constituted roughly ten to fifteen per cent of a typical congressional campaign budget. AIPAC provided lavish trips to Israel for legislators and other opinion-makers.

Nevertheless, the lobby did not endorse or rank candidates. “We made the decision to be one step removed,” Dine said. “Orrin Hatch once said, ‘Dine, your genius is to play an invisible bass drum, and the Jews hear it when you play it.’ ” In 1982, after an Illinois congressman named Paul Findley described himself as “Yasir Arafat’s best friend in Congress,” AIPAC members encouraged Dick Durbin, a political unknown, to run against him. Robert Asher, a Chicago businessman, sent out scores of letters to his friends, along with Durbin’s position paper on Israel, asking them to send checks. Durbin won, and he is now the Senate Majority Whip. (Findley later wrote a book that made extravagant claims about the power of the Israel lobby.) In 1984, AIPAC affiliates decided that Senator Charles Percy, an Illinois Republican, was unfriendly to Israel. In the next election, Paul Simon, a liberal Democrat, won Percy’s seat. Dine said at the time, “Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And American politicians—those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire—got the message.”

As AIPAC grew, its leaders began to conceive of their mission as something more than winning support and aid for Israel. The Gang of Four, a former AIPAC official noted, “created an interesting mantra that they honestly believed: that, if AIPAC had existed prior to the Second World War, America would have stopped Hitler. It’s a great motivator, and a great fund-raiser—but I think it’s also AIPAC’s greatest weakness. Because if you convince yourself that, if only you had been around, six million Jews would not have been killed, then you sort of lose sight of the fact that the U.S. has its own foreign policy, and, while it is extremely friendly to Israel, it will only go so far.”

In the fall of 1991, President George H. W. Bush decided to delay ten billion dollars in loan guarantees to Israel, largely because of the continuing expansion of settlements. In response, AIPAC sent activists to Capitol Hill. The lobby was confident. Its officials had told Yitzhak Shamir, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, that Bush did not have the political desire to take on AIPAC, according to a memoir by former Secretary of State James Baker. But Bush proved willing to fight. The former AIPAC official recalled that Bubba Mitchell was summoned to the White House for a meeting: “When he came back to the AIPAC boardroom, an hour after the meeting, he was still shaking—because the President of the United States yelled at him!” Soon afterward, Bush remarked that he was “one lonely little guy” fighting “something like a thousand lobbyists.” The Senate lined up behind him, and voted to postpone consideration of the loan guarantees. For AIPAC, this marked the beginning of a difficult period. The next June, Israeli voters ousted Shamir and his Likud Party and voted in Labor, headed by Yitzhak Rabin. After a career of military campaigns and cautious politics, Rabin began a transformation, offering to scale back settlement activity. In response, Bush asked Congress to approve the loan guarantees. Afterward, Rabin admonished the leaders of AIPAC, telling them that they had done more harm than good by waging battles “that were lost in advance.” Daniel Kurtzer, then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, told me, “Rabin was furious with AIPAC. He felt they were allied with Likud and would undermine him in what he was trying to do.”

In September, 1993, Rabin and Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, which were aimed at building a formal peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organization. AIPAC officially endorsed the agreement, and still does. But many members were uncomfortable with it, according to Keith Weissman, a former analyst for the lobby. “AIPAC couldn’t act like they were rejecting what the government of Israel did, but the outcry in the organization about Oslo was so great that they found ways to sabotage it,” he said. (In 2005, Weissman was indicted, along with Steven Rosen, for conspiring to pass national-defense information to a reporter and an Israeli government agent, and AIPAC fired them. The charges were ultimately dropped.) As part of the agreement, the U.S. was to make funds available to the Palestinians, Weissman said. “The Israelis wanted the money to go to Arafat, for what they called ‘walking-around money.’ But AIPAC supported a bill in Congress to make sure that the money was never given directly to Arafat and his people, and to monitor closely what was done with it. And, because I knew Arabic, they had me following all of Arafat’s speeches. Was he saying one thing here, and another thing there? Our department became P.L.O. compliance-watchers. The idea was to cripple Oslo.”

In 1995, AIPAC encouraged Newt Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House, to support bipartisan legislation to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This put Rabin in a political corner. On one hand, he knew that such a move would infuriate the Arab world and endanger the Oslo process. On the other, as Yossi Beilin, then an official in the Labor government, pointed out, “You are the Prime Minister of Israel and you are telling American Jews, ‘Don’t ask for recognition of Jerusalem as our capital’? Nobody can do that!” At a dinner with AIPAC leaders, Rabin told them that he did not support the bill; they continued to promote it nonetheless. In October, the bill passed in Congress, by an overwhelming majority. President Bill Clinton invoked a national-security waiver to prevent its enactment, and so has every President since.

In 1999, Ehud Barak, also of the Labor Party, became Prime Minister, and, as Rabin had, he grew friendly with Clinton. “AIPAC flourishes when there is tension between Israel and the U.S., because then they have a role to play,” Gadi Baltiansky, who was Barak’s press spokesman, told me. “But the relations between Rabin and Clinton, and then Barak and Clinton, were so good that AIPAC was not needed. Barak gave them courtesy meetings. He just didn’t see them as real players.” Still, the lobby maintained its sway in Congress. In 2000, Barak sent Beilin, who was then the Justice Minister, to obtain money that Clinton had promised Israel but never released. Beilin went to see Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national-security adviser. “He said this money is tied to two hundred and twenty-five million dollars in assistance to Egypt,” Beilin recalled. “We cannot disburse the money to Israel unless we do to Egypt, so we need to convince Congress to support the whole package. I said, ‘I am speaking on behalf of my Prime Minister. We want Egypt to get the money.’ He said, ‘Yossi, this is really wonderful. Do you know somebody in AIPAC?’ ”

Beilin was astonished: “It was kind of Kafka—the U.S. national-security adviser is asking the Minister of Justice in Israel whether he knows somebody at AIPAC!” He went to see Howard Kohr, the AIPAC C.E.O., a onetime employee of the Republican Jewish Coalition whom a former U.S. government official described to me as “a comfortable Likudnik.” Kohr told Beilin that it was impossible to allow Egypt to get the money. “You may think it was wrong for Israel to vote for Barak as Prime Minister—fine,” Beilin recalled saying. “But do you really believe that you represent Israel more than all of us?” By the end of Barak’s term, in 2001, the money had not been released, to Israel or to Egypt. “They always want to punish the Arabs,” Beilin concluded. “They are a very rightist organization, which doesn’t represent the majority of Jews in America, who are so Democratic and liberal. They want to protect Israel from itself—especially when moderate people are Israel’s leaders.”

In the spring of 2008, AIPAC moved from cramped quarters on Capitol Hill to a gleaming new seven-story building on H Street, downtown. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Howard Kohr introduced Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who had been a generous donor to AIPAC since the nineties, and who had helped underwrite congressional trips to Israel (paying only for Republican members). On this bright spring day, according to someone who was in the audience, Adelson recalled that Kohr had telephoned him, asking him to have lunch. Adelson remembered wondering, How much is this lunch going to cost me? Well, he went on, it cost him ten million dollars: the building was the result. He later told his wife that Kohr should have asked him for fifty million.

Netanyahu became Prime Minister the following year. AIPAC officials had been close to him since the eighties, when he worked at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and stuck with him when, in 1990, he was banned from the State Department for saying that U.S. policy was built “on a foundation of distortion and lies.” As Prime Minister, Netanyahu had a difficult relationship with Bill Clinton, largely because Clinton found him unwilling to stop the expansion of settlements and to meaningfully advance the peace process—a sharp contrast with the approach of Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995. Then as now, Netanyahu displayed a vivid sense of his own historical importance, as well as flashes of disdain for the American President. After their first meeting, Clinton sent a message to another Israeli, wryly complaining that he had emerged uncertain who, exactly, was the President of a superpower.

But, even if Netanyahu had trouble with the executive branch, AIPAC could help deliver the support of Congress, and a friendly Congress could take away the President’s strongest negotiating chit—the multibillion-dollar packages of military aid that go to Israel each year. The same dynamic was repeated during Barack Obama’s first term. Israeli conservatives were wary, sensing that Obama, in their terms, was a leftist, sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. They took note when, during the 2008 campaign, Obama said, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re opposed to Israel, that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.”

At Obama’s first meeting with Netanyahu, in May, 2009, Dermer came along, and found himself unable to observe the well-established protocol that one does not interrupt the President. As Obama spoke, Dermer’s hand shot up: “Excuse me, Mr. President, I beg to differ!” Obama demanded a full settlement freeze, as a means of convincing the Palestinians that Netanyahu was not merely stalling the Americans. Netanyahu was incensed, and AIPAC rallied members of Congress to protest. At an AIPAC conference, Dermer declared that Netanyahu would chart his own course with the Palestinians: “The days of continuing down the same path of weakness and capitulation and concessions, hoping—hoping—that somehow the Palestinians would respond in kind, are over.” Applause swept the room.

In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in June, 2009, Netanyahu seemed to endorse a two-state solution, if in rather guarded terms. Leaders of the settler movement and even many of Netanyahu’s Likud allies were furious at this seemingly historic shift for the Party, though, with time, many of them interpreted the speech as a tactical sop to the United States. No less significant, perhaps, Netanyahu introduced a condition that could make a final resolution impossible—the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “It was a stroke of political brilliance,” the former Senate aide, who had worked closely with Dermer, told me. “He managed to take the two-state issue off the table and put it back on the Palestinians.”

In March, 2010, while Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, the Netanyahu government announced that it was building sixteen hundred new housing units for Jews in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Biden said that the move “undermines the trust we need right now.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu to upbraid him. But, while Obama and his team viewed the move as a political insult and yet another blow to a potential two-state solution, AIPAC went into defensive mode, sending an e-mail to its members saying that the Administration’s criticisms of Israel were “a matter of serious concern.” Soon afterward, a letter circulated in the House calling on the Obama Administration to “reinforce” the relationship. Three hundred and twenty-seven House members signed it. A couple of months later, when the U.S. tried to extend a partial moratorium on construction in settlements in the West Bank, AIPAC fought against the extension. Obama eventually yielded.

In May, 2011, Obama gave a speech about the Arab Spring, and, hoping to break the stalemate in the peace talks, he said, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” The 1967 borders, with some adjustments, had long been recognized as the foundation for a peace agreement, but Obama was the first President to utter the words so explicitly. The next day, Netanyahu arrived in Washington and rebuked him in the Oval Office, saying, “We can’t go back to those indefensible lines.”

A veteran Israeli politician was aghast at Netanyahu’s performance. “This is the President of the United States of America, and you are the head of a client state—let’s not forget that!” he said. “AIPAC should have come to Bibi and said, ‘You don’t talk to the President the way you do! This is not done, you have to stop it!’ Instead of reflecting almost automatically everything the Israeli government is doing and pushing in that direction.”

AIPAC officially supports a two-state solution, but many of its members, and many of the speakers at its conferences, loudly oppose such an agreement. Tom Dine has said that the lobby’s tacit position is “We’ll work against it until it happens.” After Obama endorsed the 1967 borders, AIPAC members called Congress to express outrage. “They wanted the President to feel the heat from Israel’s friends on the Hill,” a former Israeli official recalled. “They were saying to the Administration, ‘You must rephrase, you must correct!’ ” When Obama appeared at an AIPAC policy conference three days later, he was conciliatory: “The parties themselves—Israelis and Palestinians—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what ‘mutually agreed-upon swaps’ means.” AIPAC had e-mailed videos to attendees, urging them not to boo the President; they complied, offering occasional wan applause. The next day, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress and received twenty-nine standing ovations.

Fifty years ago, before Israel became an undeclared nuclear power and its existence was under threat, any differences it had with the U.S. were usually aired in private. Today, the political dynamics in both countries—and the particulars of the relationship—have evolved. A majority of Israelis still favor the idea of a two-state solution, but the political mood has shifted markedly to the right. The reasons range from the deeply felt notion that the Palestinians were “offered the world and rejected it” to the rise of Hamas in Gaza, from the aftershock of terror attacks a decade ago to the instability throughout the Middle East. Likud has rejected relative moderates like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin; Netanyahu himself is considered a “dove” by some leaders of his coalition and members of his party. The consensus deepens that Oslo was a failure, and that, as Netanyahu says, “there is no partner for peace.” The Palestinians, for their part, argue that the settlements in the West Bank and Jewish expansion into East Jerusalem have created a “one-state reality.” They point out that members of Netanyahu’s coalition reject a two-state solution—“The land is ours!”—and endorse permanent Israeli control, or outright annexation, of the West Bank.

Netanyahu prides himself on understanding the American political climate. But his deepest relationships are with older, often wealthy members of the establishments in New York and Los Angeles, and he is less conscious of the changes in American demographics and in opinion among younger American Jews. Assaf Sharon, the research director of Molad, a progressive think tank in Jerusalem, said, “When Israelis see House members jump like springs to applaud every lame comment Bibi utters, they think he is a star in Washington. Then they are told by the local pundits that everything else is just personal friction with Obama. My sense is that the people surrounding Bibi—and the Prime Minister himself—don’t appreciate the significance of the shift.”

Yet the rhetoric of Netanyahu’s circle has never been more confident. In a recent talk, Dermer argued that Israel is a regional superpower, with much to give in its relationship with the U.S. “America’s most important ally in the twentieth century was Great Britain,” he said. “Your most important ally in the twenty-first century is going to be the State of Israel.” In a meeting with young Likud supporters last spring, which one of them transcribed online, Netanyahu boasted of defying Obama’s pressure to halt settlements; 2013 was a record year for settlement construction in the West Bank. He preferred to “stand up to international pressure by maneuvering,” he said. “What matters is that we continue to head straight toward our goal, even if one time we walk right and another time walk left.” When one of the Likudniks asked about peace talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu is said to have replied, as the audience laughed, “About the—what?”

AIPAC’s hold on Congress has become institutionalized. Each year, a month or two before the annual policy conference, AIPAC officials tell key members what measures they want, so that their activists have something to lobby for. “Every year, we create major legislation, so they can justify their existence to their members,” the former congressional aide said. (AIPAC maintains that only members of Congress initiate legislative action.) AIPAC board meetings are held in Washington each month, and directors visit members of Congress. They generally address them by their first names, even if they haven’t met before. The intimacy is presumed, but also, at times, earned; local AIPAC staffers, in the manner of basketball recruiters, befriend some members when they are still serving on the student council. “If you have a dream about running for office, AIPAC calls you,” one House member said. Certainly, it’s a rarity when someone undertakes a campaign for the House or the Senate today without hearing from AIPAC.

In 1996, Brian Baird, a psychologist from Seattle, decided to run for Congress. Local Democrats asked if he had thought about what he was going to say to AIPAC. “I had admired Israel since I was a kid,” Baird told me. “But I also was fairly sympathetic to peaceful resolution and the Palestinian side. These people said, ‘We respect that, but let’s talk about the issues and what you might say.’ The difficult reality is this: in order to get elected to Congress, if you’re not independently wealthy, you have to raise a lot of money. And you learn pretty quickly that, if AIPAC is on your side, you can do that. They come to you and say, ‘We’d be happy to host ten-thousand-dollar fund-raisers for you, and let us help write your annual letter, and please come to this multi-thousand-person dinner.’ ” Baird continued, “Any member of Congress knows that AIPAC is associated indirectly with significant amounts of campaign spending if you’re with them, and significant amounts against you if you’re not with them.” For Baird, AIPAC-connected money amounted to about two hundred thousand dollars in each of his races—“and that’s two hundred thousand going your way, versus the other way: a four-hundred-thousand-dollar swing.”

The contributions, as with many interest groups, come with a great deal of tactical input. “The AIPAC people do a very good job of ‘informing’ you about the issues,” Baird told me. “It literally gets down to ‘No, we don’t say it that way, we say it this way.’ Always phrased as a friendly suggestion—but it’s pretty clear you don’t want to say ‘occupied territories’! There’s a whole complex semantic code you learn. . . . After a while, you find yourself saying and repeating it as if it were fact.”

Soon after taking office, Baird went on a “virtually obligatory” trip to Israel: a freshman ritual in which everything—business-class flights, accommodations at the King David or the Citadel—is paid for by AIPAC’s charitable arm. The tours are carefully curated. “They do have you meet with the Palestinian leaders, in a sort of token process,” Baird said. “But then when you’re done with it they tell you everything the Palestinian leaders said that’s wrong. And, of course, the Palestinians don’t get to have dinner with you at the hotel that night.”

In early 2009, after a brief truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed in a series of mutual provocations, Israel carried out Operation Cast Lead, an incursion into Gaza in which nearly fourteen hundred Palestinians were killed, along with thirteen Israelis. Baird visited the area a few weeks later and returned several times. As he wrote in an op-ed, he saw “firsthand the devastating destruction of hospitals, schools, homes, industries, and infrastructure.” That September, the U.N. Human Rights Council issued a report, based on an inquiry led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone, that accused Israel of a series of possible war crimes. AIPAC attacked the report, saying it was “rigged.” A month later, an AIPAC-sponsored resolution to condemn the report was introduced in the House, and three hundred and forty-four members voted in favor. “I read every single word of that report, and it comported with what I had seen and heard on the ground in Gaza,” Baird said. “When we had the vote, I said, ‘We have member after member coming to the floor to vote on a resolution they’ve never read, about a report they’ve never seen, in a place they’ve never been.’ ” Goldstone came under such pressure that threats were made to ban him from his grandson’s bar mitzvah at a Johannesburg synagogue. He eventually wrote an op-ed in which he expressed regret for his conclusions, saying, “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” Other members of the council stood by the report.

In 2010, Baird decided not to run again for the House; he is now the president of Antioch University Seattle. Few current members of Congress are as outspoken about AIPAC as Baird. Staff members fret about whether AIPAC will prevent them from getting a good consulting job when they leave government. “You just hear the name!” a Senate aide said. “You hear that they are involved and everyone’s ears perk up and their mood changes, and they start to fall in line in a certain way.”

Baird said, “When key votes are cast, the question on the House floor, troublingly, is often not ‘What is the right thing to do for the United States of America?’ but ‘How is AIPAC going to score this?’ ” He added, “There’s such a conundrum here, of believing that you’re supporting Israel, when you’re actually backing policies that are antithetical to its highest values and, ultimately, destructive for the country.” In talks with Israeli officials, he found that his inquiries were not treated with much respect. In 2003, one of his constituents, Rachel Corrie, was killed by a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier, as she protested the demolition of Palestinians’ homes in Gaza. At first, he said, the officials told him, “There’s a simple explanation—here are the facts.” Or, “We will look into it.” But, when he continued to press, something else would emerge. “There is a disdain for the U.S., and a dismissal of any legitimacy of our right to question—because who are we to talk about moral values?” Baird told me. “Whether it’s that we didn’t help early enough in the Holocaust, or look at what we did to our African-Americans, or our Native Americans—whatever! And they see us, members of Congress, as basically for sale. So they want us to shut up and play the game.”

In 2007, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two leading political scientists of the realist school, published a book called “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” The book, a best-seller, presented a scathing portrait of AIPAC, arguing that the lobby had a nearly singular distorting influence on American foreign policy, and even that it was a central factor in the rush to war in Iraq. While the authors’ supporters praised their daring, their critics argued that they had neglected to point out any failures of the Palestinian leadership, and painted AIPAC in conspiratorial, omnipotent tones. Even Noam Chomsky, a fierce critic of Israel from the left, wrote that the authors had exaggerated the influence of AIPAC, and that other special interests, like the energy lobby, had greater influence on Middle East policy.

A broader political challenge to AIPAC came in 2009, with the founding of J Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” advocacy group. Led by Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former Clinton Administration aide whose grandparents were among the first settlers in Tel Aviv, J Street was founded to appeal to American Jews who strongly support a two-state solution and who see the occupation as a threat to democracy and to Jewish values. . . .

AIPAC and its allies have responded aggressively. This year, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted not to admit J Street, because, as the leader of one Orthodox alliance said to the Times, its “positions are out of the mainstream of what could be considered acceptable within the Jewish community.” Danny Ayalon, the former Israeli Ambassador, told me, “When Jewish organizations join the political campaign to delegitimatize Israel, they are really undermining our security collectively. Because I do believe that, if Israel’s security is compromised, so is that of every Jew in the world.”

Many Israeli and Palestinian leaders have taken note of the rise of J Street and, without overestimating its capacities, see that it represents an increasing diversity of opinion in the American Jewish community. At the last J Street convention, in Washington, Husam Zomlot, a rising figure in Fatah, the largest faction in the P.L.O., delivered a speech about the Palestinian cause and got a standing ovation. “AIPAC is not as effective as it was,” Zomlot said. “I wouldn’t say J Street is the mainstream representative of Jewish Americans, but it is a trend that gives you some sense of where things are and what is happening. Though it has limited funding, it is the first organized Jewish group with a different agenda in Washington since Israel was established. It’s worth noticing.”

. . .

Jan Schakowsky, who has represented a liberal Chicago district since 1999, was another of J Street’s first endorsees. For years, she had maintained good relations with AIPAC, whose members* gave money to her campaigns and praised her positions. She voted to condemn the Goldstone report and signed a 2010 letter urging the Administration to keep any differences with Israel private. But in her 2010 race, she was challenged by Joel Pollak, an Orthodox Jew, who argued that she was insufficiently supportive of Israel. “We were very much aware that AIPAC-associated people were fund-raising for Jan’s opponent,” Dylan Williams, the director of government affairs for J Street, said. A small but vocal contingent of AIPAC members were behind Pollak. But he was also backed by the Tea Party, which J Street believed might drive away other Jewish voters. The new lobby raised seventy-five thousand dollars for Schakowsky (through its PAC, whose financial contributions are publicly disclosed), and she won by a wide margin. “It was exactly the type of race we had hoped for!” Williams said. “A lot of the power of AIPAC is based on this perception, which I believe is a myth, that if you cross their line you will be targeted, and your opponent in your next race will receive all this money, and it will make a difference.” Still, Schakowsky told me, the process was painful. “Getting booed in a synagogue was not a pleasure,” she said. “This is not just my base—it’s my family!” She added, “Increasingly, Israel has become a wedge issue, something to be used against the President by the Republicans, and it can be very unhelpful.”

AIPAC is still capable of mounting a show of bipartisanship. At this year’s policy conference, Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, appeared onstage with Eric Cantor, then the Republican House Majority Leader, and together they rhapsodized about the summer trip they routinely took, leading groups of mostly freshmen on an AIPAC tour of Israel. “Few things are as meaningful as watching your colleagues discover the Jewish state for the very first time,” Cantor said.

Hoyer offered a benediction: “We Baptists would say, ‘Amen.’”

Cantor and Hoyer have been steadfast supporters of AIPAC, and its members have held at least a dozen fund-raisers for them each year. But last December AIPAC’s efforts to implement sanctions against Iran were so intense that even this well-tempered partnership fractured. When Congress returned from its Thanksgiving recess, legislators in the House began discussing a sanctions bill. According to the former congressional aide, Cantor told Hoyer that he wanted a bill that would kill the interim agreement with Iran. Hoyer refused, saying that he would collaborate only on a nonbinding resolution.

Cantor sent Hoyer a resolution that called for additional sanctions and sought to define in advance the contours of an agreement with Iran. “The pressure was tremendous—not just AIPAC leadership and legislative officials but various board members and other contributors, from all over the country,” the former congressional aide recalled. “What was striking was how strident the message was,” another aide said. “ ‘How could you not pass a resolution that tells the President what the outcome of the negotiations has to be?’ ” Advocates for the sanctions portrayed Obama as feckless. “They said, ‘Iranians have been doing this for millennia. They can smell weakness. Why is the President showing weakness?’ ” a Senate aide recalled.

AIPAC was betting that the Democrats, facing midterms with an unpopular President, would break ranks, and that Obama would be unable to stop them. Its confidence was not unfounded; every time Netanyahu and AIPAC had opposed Obama, he had retreated. But Obama took up the fight with unusual vigor. He has been deeply interested in nonproliferation since his college days, and he has been searching for an opening with Iran since his Presidential campaign in 2008. As the Cantor-Hoyer resolution gathered momentum, House Democrats began holding meetings at the White House to strategize about how to oppose it.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee, attended the meetings, at some political risk. Wasserman Schultz represents a heavily Jewish district in South Florida, and has been a reliable signature on AIPAC’s letters and resolutions; she has boasted of concurring with a hundred per cent of its positions. Now the lobby e-mailed out an “AIPAC Action Alert,” including the text of a story about the meetings in the conservative Washington Free Beacon, in which she was described as “siding with the Mullahs over the American people.” The alert asked AIPAC’s executive-council members to contact her office, ask if the story was true, and challenge her opposition to Cantor-Hoyer. Stephen Fiske, the chair of the pro-Israel Florida Congressional Committee PAC, sent a similar alert to Wasserman Schultz’s constituents, setting off a cascade of calls to her office. (Fiske told the Free Beacon that the callers included a team of young students: his son’s classmates at a Jewish day school in North Miami Beach.) Wasserman Schultz was furious. Soon afterward, she flew to Israel for the funeral of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On the trip, she remarked to a colleague, “They’re doing this to me?”

But as the meetings continued Democrats began to build a consensus. In December, Ester Kurz, AIPAC’s director of legislative strategy, went to see Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader, to urge her to pass the resolution. Pelosi resisted, pointing out that many members of Hoyer’s caucus strongly opposed it. David Price, a Democrat, and Charles Dent, a Republican, had written a letter to the President, urging him to use the diplomatic opening that followed Rouhani’s election to attempt a nuclear agreement; it garnered a hundred and thirty-one signatures. Pointing to the letter, Pelosi demanded to know why AIPAC wanted this resolution, at this time.

The members of Hoyer’s caucus pressed him, and, on December 12th, just as the language of the resolution became final, he asked to set aside the effort, saying that the time was not right. His demurral—from someone who had rarely disappointed AIPAC—was a sign that the lobby might be in uncharted terrain. Two weeks after local AIPAC activists pressured Wasserman Schultz, a national board member issued a statement that called her “a good friend of Israel and a close friend of AIPAC.”

The crucial fight, though, was in the Senate. A couple of days before the Christmas recess, Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk introduced their sanctions bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. At first, senators were eager to express support—previous Iran-sanctions bills had passed by votes of 99–0—and, by the second week of January, Menendez and Kirk had secured the votes of fifty-nine senators, including sixteen Democrats. One more vote would enable the bill’s supporters to overcome a filibuster. A number of senators facing reëlection were told by AIPAC contacts that fund-raisers would be cancelled if they did not sign on, according to several employees of another lobby. (AIPAC denies this.)

In January, though, AIPAC’s effort stalled. Some senators complained that the bill called for immediate sanctions. In fact, a close reading of the bill makes plain that most of the sanctions would become active ninety days after enactment. But the sanctions, ostensibly intended to put pressure on the Iranian negotiators, were designed to go into effect automatically, no matter how the nuclear talks went. The bill also dictated to negotiators the acceptable terms of an agreement, and committed the U.S. to support any defensive military action that Israel took against Iran. On the Senate floor, Dianne Feinstein gave a pointed speech, in which she warned that, if the bill passed, “diplomatic negotiations will collapse,” and said, “We cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war.” Ten Senate committee chairmen—including Feinstein, who serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Carl Levin, of Michigan, the head of the Armed Services Committee—wrote to Harry Reid, noting that the intelligence community believed that new sanctions would effectively halt the negotiations.

At the same time, AIPAC was urging Reid to bring the measure to a vote—and, as the former congressional aide noted, “you don’t alienate a key fund-raising base, especially when you may be about to lose the Senate.” But the pressure from the White House was even greater. Brad Gordon, AIPAC’s longtime legislative official, said ruefully, “I have not seen the Administration act with such force and such sustained effort . . . since Obama became President.” At a meeting with several dozen Democratic senators in January, Obama spoke at length about Iran, warning of the possibility of war. Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, said later that the President “was as good as I’ve ever heard him.” As congressional Democrats continued to meet in the White House Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, referred to the proposed sanctions as part of a “march to war.” Not long afterward, Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said, “If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so.” Congressional offices were inundated with calls from constituents alarmed by the prospect of war. The decisive moment came in the State of the Union speech, when Obama said plainly, “If this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.”

About a week later, forty-two Republican senators sent a letter to Reid, demanding that he bring Menendez-Kirk to a vote, and noting that he had already “taken unprecedented steps to take away the rights of the minority in the Senate.” Reid’s staff members urged AIPAC officials to stop pressing for the bill; their office had been open to a bipartisan process, they argued, but siding with the Republicans against Obama was hardly bipartisan. According to a former Senate aide, the lobbyists seemed to realize that if they continued to push they would have to give up any claim to bipartisanship. Two days later, AIPAC issued a statement saying that the time was not right for a vote; Menendez issued a similar statement. “That was the fundamental moment when Menendez-Kirk lost,” the aide said.

AIPAC had sustained a painful defeat—and its annual policy conference was only a few weeks away. The day before the conference, according to a senior House Democrat, “AIPAC still did not have its ‘[act]’ together.” Instead of dictating the terms of legislation, the lobby struggled to negotiate letters to the President, urging him to support sanctions. In the end, Cantor and Hoyer’s resolution was reduced to a letter, circulated in the House, that was so anodyne that most Democrats in the progressive caucus signed it.

Some of the House Democrats who had fought against the resolution were enjoying a new sense of confidence. For a month, David Price and his fellow-Democrat Lloyd Doggett had been gathering support for a letter to the President, saying that Congress should “give diplomacy a chance.” They expected to get perhaps forty signatures. Instead, they got a hundred and four, including those of four Republicans. “AIPAC tried to peel some away, but what’s striking is how few we lost,” Price said. A handful of Jewish members signed, including Jan Schakowsky. Wasserman Schultz did not. “It was a difficult policy spot for all of us, as Jewish members,” Schakowsky said. But, had the Cantor-Hoyer resolution passed, she continued, “it would have created an atmosphere surrounding the bargaining table that the President could not bargain in good faith. And it would for the first time have dramatically divided the Democrats.”

John Yarmuth, of Kentucky, another Jewish member who signed the letter, said, “AIPAC clearly has a great deal of clout in the Republican conference, and many Democrats still think that they have to be responsive to it.” But he believes that the letter was an important measure of congressional restiveness. “I think there is a growing sense among members that things are done just to placate AIPAC, and that AIPAC is not really working to advance what is in the interest of the United States.” He concluded, “We all took an oath of office. And AIPAC, in many instances, is asking us to ignore it.”

A few months later, the Gaza war began, and AIPAC mobilized again. “There were conference calls, mass e-mails, talking points for the day,” a congressional aide said. “AIPAC activists would e-mail me, with fifteen other AIPAC activists cc’d, and then those people would respond, saying, ‘I agree entirely with what the first e-mail said!’ ”

It didn’t hurt AIPAC’s cause that the enemy was Hamas, whose suicide bombings a decade ago killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, and whose rocket attacks in recent years have terrorized citizens, particularly in southern Israel. As Israel pressed its offensive, and hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed, AIPAC argued, as did Netanyahu, that the casualties came only because Hamas was using human shields. Online, AIPAC posted a short film, “Israel’s Moral Defense,” which depicted an Israeli major in a quandary. Looking at a schoolyard filled with girls in neat uniforms, he sees fighters with a rocket launcher not far behind them. Should he order his men to fire their machine guns, and risk hitting the girls, or hold back, and risk the rocket killing Israelis? “I didn’t pull the trigger,” the soldier says. “We are totally different. . . . I am very proud to be in an army that has this level of morality.” A couple of weeks after the film appeared, Israeli shells struck a United Nations school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing twenty-one people and injuring more than ninety; it was the sixth U.N. school that Israel had bombed. The next day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, pointed out that, as Israeli forces attacked homes, schools, and hospitals, the U.S. was supplying them with heavy weaponry. Almost simultaneously, the House passed an AIPAC-supported resolution denouncing Hamas’s use of human shields and condemning an inquiry into Israel’s Gaza operations that Pillay was sponsoring.

See http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/friends-israel

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29 08 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Is AIPAC Losing Influence? [Part 2]

According to congressional staffers, some members of Congress seemed eager to make up for their recent apostasy on the Iran negotiations. While Reid and his colleagues went to extraordinary lengths to fund the Iron Dome missile-defense system, the House leadership engaged in the same mission. The vote in the House came late on the night of Friday, August 1st—the last possible moment before the summer recess. The earlier resolutions that AIPAC had sponsored during the war had passed unanimously, with no record of individual votes, but on this vote the roll was called. (AIPAC sometimes asks congressional leaders to call the roll when a decisive victory seems likely.) “I think AIPAC thought this vote would be one hundred per cent,” Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, said. It was close: out of four hundred and thirty-five members, only eight voted no. Moran, who has been in Congress since 1990, and is retiring this year, was one of four Democrats who voted against the resolution. As a longtime member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, he did not believe that there was any urgent need for the funding. “We have put about nine hundred million dollars into the Iron Dome,” he argued. “We know that there are many millions unexpended in Israel’s Iron Dome account. And Israel was to get three hundred and fifty-one million on October 1st, for Iron Dome.”

Beto O’Rourke, a freshman Democrat from El Paso, also voted against the funding. “I tried to find him on the floor, but I couldn’t,” Moran said. “I wanted him to switch his vote. Now, he might not have switched it anyway, because—as shocking as it may be—he’s in Congress solely to do what he considers to be the right thing. I’m afraid he may have a tough race in November.” The morning after the vote, O’Rourke e-mailed a local AIPAC activist, Stuart Schwartz, to explain his vote, according to a knowledgeable person. In his explanation, which he also posted on Facebook, he pointed out that he had voted for Iron Dome in the past, and had supported the funds that were scheduled to arrive in October. But, he wrote, “I could not in good conscience vote for borrowing $225 million more to send to Israel, without debate and without discussion, in the midst of a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children.” Within hours, O’Rourke was flooded with e-mails, texts, and calls. The next day, the El Paso Times ran a front-page story with the headline “O’ROURKE VOTE DRAWS CRITICISM.” In the story, Stuart Schwartz, who is described as having donated a thousand dollars to O’Rourke’s previous campaign, commented that O’Rourke “chooses to side with the rocket launchers and terror tunnel builders.” A mass e-mail circulated, reading “The Following Is Shameful, El Paso Has an Anti-Israel Congressman. . . . Do Not Reëlect Beto O’Rourke.” At the bottom was the address of AIPAC’s Web site, and a snippet of text: “AIPAC is directly responsible for the overwhelming support this legislation received on the Hill. If you are not a member of AIPAC, I strongly recommend that you join. Every dollar helps fund this important work in Congress.”

The day that Congress passed the Iron Dome bills happened to be an especially deadly one in Gaza. In the city of Rafah, Israeli troops pursued Hamas fighters with such overwhelming force that about a hundred and fifty Palestinians were killed, many of them women and children. Israel’s critics in the region have been energized. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, told me that Congress had sent a clear message by funding Iron Dome that day. “Congress was telling Israel, ‘You go ahead and kill, and we will fund it for you.’ ” She argued that Israelis had dominated American political discourse on the war, as they have for decades on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “They say, ‘The Palestinians are all terrorists, they are the people we don’t know, they are alien, foreign, strange—but Israelis are like us.’ Who shaped the presentation, in the U.S.? AIPAC, to a large degree.”

Yet the war has broad support in Israel. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, just six per cent of the Jewish population believes that the Israeli Army has used excessive force. Of those who expressed an opinion, almost half believe that the force has not been severe enough. The left, finding itself increasingly isolated, is deeply critical of AIPAC. Zeev Sternhell, a leading Israeli intellectual and an expert on European fascism, told me, “I consider AIPAC’s role to have been absolutely disastrous, because it prevents any possibility to move with the Palestinians. We cannot move without American intervention—but we are more or less free of American intervention. This is AIPAC’s job. So the present coalition has this sentiment of impunity.”

In the U.S., the war has created tense disagreement, dividing left and right, young and old. Congress showed no such uncertainty, which is a triumph for AIPAC. But the lobby also faces an inevitable question about the extent to which young liberals like O’Rourke represent the future. When I asked Dore Gold, an external adviser to the Netanyahu government, about AIPAC’s prospects, he spoke in determinedly upbeat tones, dismissing the Iran-sanctions episode. “A political loss does not necessarily mean that a political organization has reached its sunset years,” he said. “To the contrary, it can give added motivation for people who are concerned with the implications of Iran crossing the nuclear threshold.” Still, he said, “when issues become so partisan, it is harder for an organization like AIPAC. You have to fight that.” For decades, AIPAC has maintained a hugely successful model, creating widespread support from an unlikely base, and tapping into a seemingly endless wellspring of support from the American Jewish community. But bipartisanship is a relic now, and a generation of unquestioning adherents is aging. Like its embattled allies in Congress, AIPAC needs to reach constituents who represent the country as it will look in the coming decades.

At AIPAC’s policy conference last March, Olga Miranda, the president of S.E.I.U. Local 87, gazed out at the crowd that filled the darkened Washington Convention Center—a gathering she dubbed the “Jewish Super Bowl.” Large video screens displayed her image. A lively woman with long black hair and a commanding voice, Miranda proclaimed, “I am a union leader, I am Joaquin’s mother, I am one of nine children raised by a single mother, I am a Chicana—and I am AIPAC!” For years, she explained, her information about the Middle East had come from television, and she sympathized with the Palestinians, until one day she got a call from someone at AIPAC who asked her if she’d be interested in a trip to Israel. That trip changed her life, she said. Now she argues about Israel with her friends and colleagues. “See you on the picket lines!” she shouted.

“The face of pro-Israel activists has changed pretty dramatically,” David Victor, a former AIPAC president, told me. In the past eight years, AIPAC has reached out to Hispanics, African-Americans, and evangelical Christians, in the hope that greater diversity will translate into continued support in Congress. Victor pointed out that this year’s AIPAC conference was bigger than ever. In 2008, when he was president, eight thousand members attended; this year, there were fourteen thousand, including two hundred and sixty student-government presidents. “These are future opinion leaders,” he said.

Those opinion leaders face a difficult task when they return to campus. Many young American Jews believe that criticism is vital to Israel’s survival as a democratic state. Some are even helping to support a campaign known as B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, which is aimed at ending the occupation and recognizing the rights of Palestinian refugees and citizens. In June, the U.S. branch of the Presbyterian church voted to divest from three companies seen as profiting from the military occupation of the West Bank. (One was Caterpillar, the construction-equipment company, which Rachel Corrie’s parents had sued, unsuccessfully.) The church took care to affirm Israel’s right to exist and to disavow an endorsement of the B.D.S. movement. J Street, likewise, has said that B.D.S. can be “a convenient mantle for thinly disguised anti-Semitism.” But the movement persists, particularly on campuses and in left-wing circles.

Ironically, there is also a threat to AIPAC from the right. Many American conservatives were enraged by the perception that AIPAC had surrendered in the fight for Iran sanctions. Shortly after Menendez set aside his efforts to pass the bill, AIPAC issued a statement vowing to try again later. “They did that because there was an eruption from the other side,” a former Senate aide said. “ ‘How could you sell out the Republican caucus, when we were advocating exactly what Bibi Netanyahu was!’ ” Republicans were frustrated by the lobby’s refusal to move forward at the expense of Democrats, the aide said: “I know AIPAC has its commitment to bipartisanship. But what good is that commitment if in the end you don’t achieve your policy objective?”

For AIPAC’s most severe conservative critics, its attempts to occupy a diminishing sliver of middle ground are unacceptable. Recently, Sheldon Adelson, who funded AIPAC’s new office building a few years ago, has been increasing his support for the right-wing Zionist Organization of America. Mort Klein, the head of the Z.O.A., told me, “Adelson is not happy with AIPAC, clearly.” Several people affiliated with the right-wing Jewish movement told me that significant donors are talking about founding a new organization.

Caught between the increasingly right-leaning Israel and the increasingly fractious United States, AIPAC has little space to maneuver. Wittmann, the spokesman, said, “Our positions in support of the Oslo process and the two-state solution have generated criticism from some on the right, just as our stand for strong prospective Iran sanctions has spurred criticism from some on the left”—a statement of bipartisan intent, but also of the difficulty of contemporary politics. Recently, the lobby has begun another outreach effort, focussed on progressive Democrats. At the conference, Olga Miranda and Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign, spoke on a panel called “The Progressive Case for Israel.” Lewis told me that she has recently been involved in conversations with AIPAC staff and board members about finding ways to improve AIPAC’s connections with progressive Democrats. “They are exploring how to reach progressives, but they’re lost on this!” a leader in the pro-Israel community who is knowledgeable about the effort said. “They don’t know how to bridge the gap. People see AIPAC as representing issues that are anathema to them. It’s an enormous challenge.”

At the conference, the extent of the challenge was clear. Even Netanyahu seemed struck by the mood. At one point in his speech, he said, “I hope that the Palestinian leadership will stand with Israel and the United States on the right side of the moral divide, the side of peace, reconciliation, and hope.” The audience members responded with scant, listless applause. “You can clap,” the Prime Minister said.

See http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/friends-israel

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5 10 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Ben Affleck In Passionate Defense Of Islam On Bill Maher Show

This is the title of an article in the UK’s Telegraph, which states:

Ben Affleck, the Oscar-winning actor and director, has launched a ferocious defence of Islam, after becoming involved in a heated argument when he appeared on an American chat show.

Affleck, the star of Good Will Hunting and director of Argo, appeared on HBO’s television show Real Time with Bill Maher to promote his latest film, Gone Girl.

But instead of talking about the film, the 42-year-old found himself in a furious discussion with both Maher and Sam Harris, the author of a series of books on religion.

Maher, an outspoken atheist and critic of Islam, said last week in his show that “vast numbers of Muslims around the world believe that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea, or drawing a cartoon, or writing a book, or eloping with the wrong person.”

He said: “Not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.”

This week he returned to the theme, beginning a discussion on how Islam is viewed and analysed.

Mr Harris said: “When you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue liberals have failed us.

“The crucial point of confusion is we have been sold this meme of Islamaphobia – where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam is conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. Which is intellectually ridiculous.”

Affleck was angered by his comments, questioning Harris’ interpretation.

“You are saying that Islamaphobia is not a real thing?” he said. “It’s gross, it’s racist. It’s like saying ‘that shifty Jew’.”

Harris replied: “Ben, we have to be able to criticise bad ideas. And Islam at this moment is the motherload of bad ideas.”

Affleck looked shocked, muttering “Jesus Christ!” under his breath and sitting back in his chair. He then responded, telling Harris: “That’s an ugly thing to say.”
Maher backed up the author, telling Affleck that he was wrong to state that fundamentalist beliefs were only held by “a few bad apples”.

Affleck countered: “How about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?”

When Michael Steele, a political analyst, attempted to support Affleck, arguing that many moderate Muslim voices were not given the same amount of coverage as extremist ones, he was shouted down by Maher.

“It’s the only religion that acts like the Mafia. That will ——- kill if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book,” said Maher.

Affleck replied to his host: “Your argument is, ‘You know, black people, they shoot each other.’” Maher replied: “No it’s not! It’s based on facts!”

After ten minutes of fierce argument, Maher moved on – accepting that the panel would never see eye to eye.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11141733/Ben-Affleck-in-passionate-defence-of-Islam-on-Bill-Maher-show.html

Afflect was correct, and Maher and his Muslim-hating guest were wrong.

I dislike the ultra-Leftist Maher with a passion, and never watch his shows on HBO. However, I was changing channels and caught this debate. To his credit, Afflect cautioned against condemning almost two billion followers of Islam for the brutal acts of some of them.

Jews worldwide do not want to be painted with a broad brush either, or subjected to rampant anti-Semitism, and rightly so. The same standard must apply to the followers of Islam.

See also http://online.wsj.com/articles/europes-alarming-new-anti-semitism-1412270003?mod=trending_now_3 (“Europe’s Alarming New Anti-Semitism”)

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7 10 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

The Orthodox Sex Abuse Crackdown That Wasn’t

Emily Shire of the Daily Beast has reported:

Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson ran on the promise that he’d clean up the office’s problems with prosecuting ultra-Orthodox sex offenders who preyed on children—but so far he appears just as lax as his predecessor.

After initially facing up to 32 years in prison for eight counts of child sexual abuse, Baruch Lebovits walked out of Riker’s Island last week a free man. He had served just under 16 months of total prison time.

That Lebovits, a cantor from the ultra-Orthodox Borough Park section of Brooklyn, was even convicted is seen as a victory considering the difficulty of prosecuting abuse in that community. However, his release is disappointing, if not surprising, for those who hoped Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson would be the man to end decades of ultra-Orthodox sex abuse cover-ups.

Thompson beat out Charles Hynes for Brooklyn DA, ending a reign that last more than 23 years. Towards the end of his time as DA, Hynes was scrutinized for his perceived unwillingness to prosecute crimes against the ultra-Orthodox, especially in regards to sexual abuse. At best, his administration appeared exceptionally lax, and at worst, it willfully obstructed justice. He was famously reluctant to release the names of convicted sex abusers in the Orthodox community. His office let Rabbi Yehuda Kolko get away without jail time or registering as a sex offender. Instead, Kolko received a plea deal that allowed him to plea guilty to child endangerment. The DA claimed the alleged victims—first graders in Kolko’s class—were unwilling to testify, but chief of the Kings County sex crimes division, Rhonnie Jaus, publicly said that their parents had been willing to put the kids on the stand. It was one of many cases that raised questions about Hynes’ willingness to prosecute ultra-Orthodox sex abuse.

Many critics of abuse and corruption in the ultra-Orthodox community hoped and believed Thompson would bring justice to Brooklyn. For his part, Thompson openly criticized Hynes’ record on crimes committed by the ultra-Orthodox. “Every community in Brooklyn has to be treated the same,” he said during a 2013 interview. “When I become Brooklyn DA, I’ll make sure there’s equal justice for everyone, under the law.”

In fact, days after Thompson was elected last November, he requested that Hynes freeze any new ruling on the Lebovits case. Thompson said he wanted to ensure a “full opportunity to review the Lebovits matter and participate in the decision to take the case to trial or dispose of it by way of a guilty plea.” The Jewish Week reported that sources said Hynes was expected to dispose of the case with a lenient plea deal. Ultimately, Thompson did the same, if not worse.

According to a transcript of the plea deal hearing from May 16, 2014 reviewed by The Daily Beast, Lebovits served even less time than was proposed during negotiations. Judge Mark Dwyer told Lebovits:

I am also asking that you waive early release. Our understanding is that you normally would be released after 16 months. The waiver of early release we think might have the effect of keeping you in some months more, not more than 24, but some more months than 16.

And yet Lebovits served barely 16 months—13 less than his original conviction. He re-entered jail on July 9 and was released the night of September 29.

“My client is not surprised,” said Niall MacGiollabhui, the lawyer for Samuel Kellner, whose son was allegedly abused by Lebovits. “This is what he’s gotten all along from that [the Brooklyn DA’s] office, but certainly we thought once Thompson came in, it would be different. It’s business as usual in Brooklyn.”

Kellner himself was indicted by the Brooklyn DA’s office under Hynes. The charges against him are a window into a case as complex as it is disturbing.

Lebovits was convicted of eight counts sexually abusing a child in 2010, but the case against him first emerged in 2008 when Kellner’s son said Lebovits had fondled him. Kellner says he was told by officials that Lebovits was unlikely to serve jail time as a man with a clean record, or even be prosecuted by the DA’s office, according to the Jewish Week. He became determined to locate other victims who would testify to abuses that could put Lebovits behind bars. He found one man, who testified in court that Lebovits had performed oral sex on him multiple times as a teenager. The man’s testimony helped lead to Lebovits’s 2010 conviction and an initial sentence of 10-2/3 to 32 years behind bars.

However, Lebovits’ conviction would ultimately be overturned—though he wasn’t acquitted outright—in 2012. His defense team (led by none other than Alan Dershowitz) convinced an appeals court that the trial had been prejudiced by the prosecution’s failure to share a police detective’s note about one of the witnesses expected to be called by the defense. While the court said Lebovits was denied his right to a fair trial, it also noted that there was sufficient evidence to prove he was guilty of the same crimes.

Meanwhile, the DA’s office indicted Kellner for supposedly bribing a different alleged victim—who testified before a grand jury but not in the trial that lead to Lebovits’s conviction–who later claimed Kellner had paid him $10,000 to speak out against Lebovits. Kellner was also charged with attempting to extort the Lebovits family. The alleged evidence against Kellner was gathered by Lebovits supporters and family members. The alleged victim who recanted was deemed “wildly inconsistent” by the assistant district attorney, Kevin O’Donnell. Days before the trial against Kellner was supposed to begin the prosecution discovered that the witness had only recanted after accepting financial support from Lebovits’ supporters.

In fact, Hella Winston at the Jewish Week reported that the Sex Crimes Unit had evidence the alleged victim had been intimidated into recanting and turning against Kellner. Winston had a native Yiddish speaker listen to the Yiddish audio recordings brought to the DA as supposed evidence that Kellner was trying to extort the Lebovits family. That speaker concluded that the audio just showed “Kellner’s desire to see Baruch Lebovits plead guilty” and “determined that many of the exchanges critical to the overall meaning of the conversation were distorted in the translation.” Ultra-Orthodox insiders argued that Lebovits’ family had falsified or misrepresented the evidence.

Thompson himself slammed the charges against Kellner during his campaign for the Democratic DA nomination, attending a rally in support of dropping the charges. But after he won the nomination, he refused to comment on the case.

Thompson dropped the charges against Kellner in early 2014, which was a victory of sorts for advocates against ultra-Orthodox sex abuse. However, critics still argue that Thompson let Lebovits’ supporters off easy by failing to probe the fraud and intimidation allegations.

“As bad as Hynes was and as bad as that office was, they were making some attempts to investigate what happened,” Kellner’s lawyer, Niall MacGiollabhui, tells The Daily Beast. “Once Thompson came in, the idea of investigating what led to my client’s arrest ended, even though they admitted criminal behavior led to my client being framed. This DA is doing nothing to investigate and prosecute who blatantly obstructed justice and intimidated victims.” When asked about the knowledge of Kellner being framed, the Brooklyn DA told The Daily Beast it is the “policy of the District Attorney’s office not to confirm or deny investigations.”

For activists, the alleged failure to investigate the evidence presented against Kellner perpetuates the dangerous message in the ultra-Orthodox community that whistleblowers will be severely punished. “How do you count against fabricated evidence being given to law enforcement and the DA to destroy someone’s life? That’s not a minor offense,” says Shmarya Rosenberg, the man behind the blog Failed Messiah, which exposes corruption and abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community. “Thompson will say ‘we’re investigating’. Fuck you! You have all the information. It’s out there. There’s no question what happened. The only question is, why is Thompson taking so long? Why is there no prosecution?”

Thompson’s problems with the ultra-Orthodox community go beyond the prosecution of sex abuse. In April, the DA sparked local outrage when his office gave another lenient plea deal to a man who threw bleach in the eyes of Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, an activist against sex abuse in the Satmar sect of the ultra-Orthodox community. The suspect in the attack, Mellech Schnitzler, got off without any prison time. He plead guilty in a plea deal and was punished only with five years of probation. “We changed the DA but we didn’t change any behavior in the DA’s office,” Rosenberg told the New York Daily News. “Where is our protection?”

Part of the reason activists have hoped for major change under Thompson is because he didn’t rely as heavily on ultra-Orthodox support to secure his position. Thompson won the Democratic primary, which effectively killed Hynes’ campaign, without support from the vast majority of Brooklyn Orthodox leaders.

To a certain degree, Thompson made up for what was perceived as his predecessor’s tacit protection of sex abusers in the community. He released the names of defendants in Orthodox sex abuse cases, which Hynes had refused to share with the public.

Even Thompson’s critics admit Thompson isn’t necessarily going after any group in Brooklyn, but that lax attitude perverts his “equal justice for everyone” vow. For example, with the case of Schnitzler throwing bleach in the rabbi’s eyes, it is Thompson’s office’s position that “a felony conviction with a no prison deal is worth it,” says Rosenberg (of Failed Messiah), even with “cases that have nothing to do with Orthodox community.”

Still, Rosenberg faults Thompson for not taking a stronger stand to fix perceived past errors, when he appeared to promise to do so in his campaign. “He was clever because his words were meaningless. There’s no barometer. All cases are treated the same way, all badly mind you. But he did treat them all equal,” says Rosenberg. “That he did it wrong and did it in a horrible way is a different story.”

Unwillingness to change the status quo in Brooklyn may be Thompson’s bigger fault. MacGiollabhui doesn’t suspect any underhanded favors stopped a probe into Lebovits’ supporters’ alleged efforts to frame Kellner; he just thinks the DA’s office doesn’t care. “They couldn’t give a shit about kids from that community,” he says. “There’s certain attitude of leaving people in that community to their own devices. [The DA's office] couldn’t care less.”

Still, others say the DA’s prosecutions will do little to stop the problem of sex abuse in the insular community. Michael Lesher, a lawyer who has been investigating sex abuse in the Orthodox community for decades, doesn’t believe the DA makes a critical difference. “The real problems facing sex abuse prosecution is systemic. It doesn’t depend crucially on who the DA is. It’s still a message of if you’re going to come forward and accuse people of sexual abuse, you’re still taking a risk. The community will find ways if they can to tarnish your reputation and get you prosecuted,” he said, though he added, “It seemed to a surprising extent in this case is the DA is willing to get along with it.”

Thompson may be no worse than Hynes, but his first year has been frustrating for advocates who once had high hopes for his tenure. “I don’t think Thompson is an inherently bad guy,” says Rosenberg. “But he’s an extreme disappointment.”

See http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/07/the-orthodox-sex-abuse-crackdown-that-wasn-t.html (“The Orthodox Sex Abuse Crackdown That Wasn’t”) (emphasis added)

Another issue that deserves attention, regarding the same group and its outlook on women, is set forth in the following article.

See http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2014/10/06/cdc-110-million-americans-have-stds-at-any-given-time/ (“Ultra-Orthodox Jews cause chaos on flight to Israel”)

Surely, in this age of equal rights for women, such conduct is archaic or far worse.

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