|The Israeli press is in uproar. Over the last week, serious accusations have been levelled at sixteen Israeli NGOs and the New Israel Fund, which is a or the major funder of these organisations. In a nutshell:
|Die israelische Presse ist in Aufruhr. Während der letzten Woche wurden schwere Vorwürfe gegen sechszehn israelische NGOs und dem New Israel Fund – einer der wichtigsten Geldgebern oder sogar der wichtigste Geldgeber diesen Organisationen – erhoben. In wenigen Worten:
The tragedy of the humongous loss of life as a result of the massive earthquake in Haiti cannot be overestimated. But what is worse is that many of the survivors are dying because they cannot get timely medical care. Many nations have flown in supply for the healthy survivors and medicine for the sick, but that is not enough. Many patients need a hospital. CNN reported yesterday that only one nation set up a fully functioning field hospital, with operating rooms and other life saving medical equipment: Israel.
Other Israeli teams also joined the rescue effort. Jerusalem Post reported how the ZAKA team rescues eight students in collapsed Haitian university building.
At times like these we also wonder how to deal with such tragedies religiously. It is the perennial religious question, and Moses himself struggled with this. I believe that the approach I delineated in my essay [original text, in German or automatic Google translation] on the Asian Tsunami of 2004 is applicable now, too.
The Torah introduces the injunction to appoint judges and officers of the court in the just society the Children of Israel are to build and maintain, it provides an explicit mandate and raison d’être: צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף – Justice, justice shalt thou follow (Devarim 16:20). While the repetition of a verb or noun is not uncommon in the Bible, it always comes for extra emphasis or to hint at something. While the source escapes me, I do recall a most worthy explanation of the doublet “justice, justice shalt thou pursue”: it is not sufficient to achieve a just result, the court must also act justly to arrive at those means. Another injunction in the same passage is: לֹא־תַטֶּ֣ה מִשְׁפָּ֔ט לֹ֥א תַכִּ֖יר פָּנִ֑ים – Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons (ibid. v. 19).
These two principles are the basis upon which justice is carried out in enlightened societies. Justice must apply equally to all, and the ends do not justify the means.
Hence, it behooves us to decry violations of these principles, regardless whether or not we sympathize with a defendant. Haaretz, a strongly left leaning Israeli daily, has done exactly that in publishing the following opinion piece by Israel Harel, in defense of R’ Eliezer Melamed, a rosh yeshivat hesder who would not incline before the Israeli defense minister (selected quotes included below). Read the rest of this entry »
Israel and its Defence Forces are once again being dragged through the mud, pelted with biased and untrue accusations, which has now resulted in a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council passing a draft resolution accepting some of the findings of the Goldstone Report (AP article). [Conveniently, only the part accusing Israel was mentioned by the UNHRC resolution, while the part accusing Hamas was mysteriously forgotten (Jerusalem Post article)]
This diplomatic bomb has the potential to cause loss of life among our brethren in Israel, as, in the words of John Bolton (WSJ editorial), this may bring about the diplomatic equivalent of “putting a loaded pistol to Israel’s head.”
A response against the Report’s vile accusations is in order, so I am interrupting regular programming to bring you the testimony to the UNHRC, of UK commander, Col. Richard Kemp, courtesy of UNWatch:
The press plays a crucial role in maintaining the vibrancy democracy. We rely on the press corps to uncover scandals and give a voice to the downtrodden, dispossessed and otherwise disenfranchised. We also rely on them to get the facts and set the record straight, for otherwise, championing the underdog can quickly descend into rumor mongering and demagoguery.
And yet, it seems that the press isn’t always conscious of its responsibilities, as is very blatant in its Middle East reporting, where the correct Left Wing Cause trumps the responsibility to report facts and set the record straight.
Particularly telling is the following comparison of the report on an event by the French television stations France3 and TF1. If you don’t speak French, watch the broadcast and look at the concluding comments. Read the rest of this entry »
[NOTE: updated 27Jan2009] I generally abstain from posting news unless it provides a useful metaphor or application of some halakhic or theological principle or otherwise raises an interesting theological question, but the Torah admonished us לא תעמד על דם ריעך – do not stand idly by your fellow’s bloodshed. While even during Operation Cast Lead, Israel acted with great restraint and level headedness, so as to minimize civilian casualties, nations around the world are crying foul, comparing Israeli actions to the Nazi genocide. Yes, that is a canard; Nazis wanted to exterminate, while Israel is simply defending herself. In light of such rhetoric, one may not remain silent. Read the rest of this entry »
Reflecting upon the Gaza War and the latest ceasefire, I found hope and inspiration in the following sermon, entitled “Now You Shall See,” written in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War. That sermon, as well as one entitled “Jüdische Bitachón” (available only in German, sorry), explore what it means, to put one’s trust in G”d.
Yesterday and today (4th & 5th of November), after several months of relative quiet, 20-30 Qassams were fired from the Gaza Strip over the Green Line, towards Ashkelon and the Negev (the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports). [UPDATE 2008-11-14: the shelling continues, now in its ninth day!]
Qassams are crude, imprecise rockets, which the news media do not fail to mention. However, some descriptions do tend to arouse in the reader a feeling that Qassams aren’t really all that dangerous, they are merely some kind of glorified firework, such as in the following quote:
Qassam rockets are simple weapons that lack guidance systems and so are very inaccurate, though in recent years militants have produced ones with longer ranges able to penetrate deeper inside Israel.
Technically, the quote is correct, but crucial background information is lacking. Last August, I visited Sderot on a joint mission of the leaderships of the Rabbinical Council of America and of Tzohar, an Israeli rabbinical organization. Below are some thoughts and two pictures that can bring some perspective to the Qassams threat. Read the rest of this entry »
Some Archaeologists, particularly those who belong to the so called Minimalist school, have denied for years that the kings David and Solomon ever existed or ever reigned over a significant territory. The arguments between them and their opponents depend on highly technical issues, such as how to date layers of earth in which certain objects were found (stratigraphy), as well as how to date events in the Tanakh. However, it generally boils down to the question of whether Israel was had a significant monarchy in the 10th century BCE, which is deduced from the size of the remains of building of that period. Kings need forts, garrisons, industries, stabes, etc. Since, so argue the Minimalists, little evidence was found of any extensive buildings of that period, there were probably none.
Lasst uns ehrliche Verkäufer sein1
Was bedeutet es, jüdisch zu sein? Ist das Judentum eine Religion? Eine ethnische Gruppe? Eine Kultur? Diese Fragen sind in den letzten Jahren besonders schwierig geworden. Es gibt eine wachsende Zahl von Nichtjuden, die durch die „Grossvater-Klausel“ des israelischen Rückkehrgesetzes (die aus einer Gesetzesänderung von 1970 stammt) israelische Bürger wurden, und mittlerweile beträgt die Zahl der nichtjüdischen ‘Olím 300’000-500’000.2 Read the rest of this entry »