Friday, August 31, 2012

Ka Ribon by Ari Goldwag

Mitt Romney at Yeshiva University

Running For Judge With An Orthodox Background And A Universal Perspective

Just days before the entire world stands before the great Judge on Rosh Hashanah, Democrats of the 5th district of Brooklyn will be casting their votes in the primary election for civil court judge. Shlomo Mostofsky, private attorney and former president of the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI), is currently campaigning to secure the post as judge.
“I always wanted to be a judge,” Mostofsky told The Jewish Press, “[and now] was the best opportunity to do so.” Mostofsky explained that there was a seat that had recently been vacated and that because there was virtually no Republican opposition, winning the primary would effectively mean winning the general election as well. Additionally, Brooklyn’s 5th District encompasses “key areas” in which he could serve the local communities, neighborhoods such as Boro Park, Kensington, Bay Ridge, and Sunset Park. Recalling his 11 years as president of NCYI, Mostofsky said that he believes his previous projects and experiences would help him in his new position.
He also said that he’s confident his countless meetings with politicians and citizens from countries around the world would provide him with a larger, more wholesome perspective on the diverse ethnic, religious, and immigrant groups that are in the district than those of the traditional attorney or judge. Additionally, Mostofsky met the chief justice and the associate justices of the South African Supreme Court and of the International Court of Justice. “These are [unique] life experiences to bring to the court that others may not have,” Mostofsky said. He also mentioned that during his tenure as president, he succeeded in “taking the [NCYI] from the red to the black.”
“Brooklyn is the melting pot of New York City,” Mostofsky said. Although many people have endorsed Mostofsky, some are hesitant to elect an Orthodox Jew to the court system. Mostofsky, however, believes that becoming judge will benefit both the Jewish community and the Brooklyn community as a whole. “I’ve worked in court for 12 years and many of my clients have been Orthodox Jews.” Although halachah allows and requires Jews to go to court under specific circumstances, Mostofsky doesn’t “believe that our community is comfortable in court.” He hopes that a “Jewish presence” in the court, although it won’t affect the court’s decision, will help Jews become less wary with the American justice system. He stressed that the civil courts, known as “the peoples’ court,” is usually a person’s “first contact” with the courts.
Additionally, Mostofsky explained that he would “have the opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem” working as a judge. A single courtroom is filled with judges, court officers, litigants, and lawyers. He hopes that when people see a Jewish person treating every person, regardless of his or her background, fairly and equally, they will carry that image with them as they “move on to other places [in life].”
Originally, the primaries were supposed to be held on September 11, but were postponed to September 13.

ELDER OF ZIYON: Even Hamas can't resist Israeli grapes!

Full Easter dinner scene in 'Annie Hall'

Are Jews Who Fear Iran Obsessed With the Holocaust? By Jeffrey Goldberg

Bringing up the subject of the Holocaust at a dinner party can be a downer. Genocide is an unpleasant and apparently insoluble problem, and, when Jews raise it, they run the risk of seeming parochial, even narcissistic.
Sophisticated, cosmopolitan people don’t want to be thought of as “Holocaust-obsessed,” and applying the lessons of the Holocaust to current events -- particularly those that have to do with the special concerns of Jews, and not Kurds or Tutsis or Tibetans -- is sometimes understood as a form of distasteful special-pleading. “Holocaust-obsessed” is, in fact, a new insult, one meant to sting and to bully into silence.
One person who is undeterred by the accusation is the writer Ron Rosenbaum, who has just published the most important essay I’ve read this year. Rosenbaum, the author of “Explaining Hitler,” writes in Slate that “Holocaust-obsessed,” a term that shows up with disquieting frequency in mainstream discussions of Jews and Israel, is meant to marginalize those who believe that vanquishing genocide is the most urgent issue facing humanity, and that the Holocaust holds specific lessons about the way in which Jews should understand hateful rhetoric directed against them.

Two Challenges

“If there were an algorithm for suffering perhaps we would be able to judiciously appraise the claims that there are some among us (mostly Jewish) who are ‘holocaust obsessed,’”Rosenbaum writes. “It’s the new fashionable meme for those who don’t want to be overly troubled by the memory of the death camps and looming threats of a second holocaust. The term enables those who use it to suggest that those more concerned than they are ‘obsessed’ in an unseemly way.”
Two challenges -- one philosophical, the other political -- confront those who argue that one can be too concerned about the Holocaust and its meaning. Rosenbaum quotes the German novelist W.G. Sebald, who said of the Holocaust, “no serious person thinks of anything else,” by way of arguing that the mechanized extermination of 6 million Jews crystallizes the most acute problem confronting civilization: How do we combat the desire on the part of some groups to exterminate other groups?
For Jews, the issue Rosenbaum raises is more immediately concrete: Is it a sign of “Holocaust obsession” to be preoccupied by the violent rhetoric directed by the leaders of the Iranian regime against the 6 million Jews of Israel?
“Imagine: worry about extermination threats just because Hitler made extermination threats which he carried out,” Rosenbaum writes. “No reason to get all obsessed because another anti-Semitic leader who is seeking nuclear weapons makes similar threats, right? No reason to be troubled about the exterminationist anti-Semitic rhetoric that pervades the airwaves and the cyber realm of every other nation in the region.”
Rosenbaum’s essay refocused my attention on the largest issues raised by the Iranian regime’s apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons and its ferocious Jew-hatred. It is possible to lose the plot amid the welter of International Atomic Energy Agency reports and artfully crafted Iranian denials and intricate discussions of sanctions and endless news coverage of the relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.

An Asymmetry

But what is happening here is something virtually without precedent in our allegedly enlightened age: A member-state of the United NationsIran, regularly threatens another member- state, Israel, with annihilation. It’s important to bear in mind a fundamental asymmetry: Israel doesn’t seek Iran’s elimination. Iran seeks Israel’s.
Regime apologists will note that Iranian leaders talk about the elimination not of “Israel” -- a word they generally refuse to utter -- but of the “Zionist regime,” which, to the naive and the cynical, implies the replacement of one government with another. This is a pernicious euphemism. Without the “Zionist regime” -- which is to say, the democratically elected government of Israel, its armed forces and security services, and the courts and structures of state -- the Jews who survived the onslaught that “dismantled” their government would face immediate dispossession, and perhaps much worse.
Rosenbaum, an expert on Hitlerian euphemism, told me that one difference between Nazi rhetoric and that of the Iranian regime is that the Iranians’ words are blunter, especially when compared with pre-Kristallnacht Nazi language. Rosenbaum notes, in particular, the Iranian reliance on epidemiological metaphor when describing Israel: This year, the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneisaid Israel is “a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off.”
Which returns us to Rosenbaum’s central question: Is it obsessive for a group of people who not long ago saw a third of their number slaughtered to worry when the leaders of Iran call Israel a cancerous tumor? Or is it the natural and appropriate response of a people who, conditioned by history, choose to err on the side of caution?
(Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the author of this column: Jeffrey Goldberg at
To contact the editor responsible for this column: Timothy Lavin at

A New Slur Calling people "Holocaust-obsessed" is the new holocaust denial. By Ron Rosenbaum

Adolf Hitler and his staff salute the teams during the opening ceremonies of the XI Olympic Games on August 1, 936 in Berlin
Adolf Hitler and his staff salute the teams during the opening ceremonies of the XI Olympic Games on August 1, 936 in Berlin
Photo by Getty Images.
Is there an algorithm for suffering? One that calibrates how much empathy we should feel for the victims of genocide? What degree of concern is “rational”? What degree is excessive, “obsessed”? Should the degree to which we grieve about, analyze—and react to the threat of—mass murders be calculable objectively?
It would make things easier if we could just take number of actual dead, say, (or the number the killers wanted dead), times the percentage of victim-group killed, maybe multiplied by the logarithm of cruelty of the methodology of mass killing, divided by the number of decades in the past the crime occurred. (Time is a factor: Hitler was famously quoted as saying, in 1939, “Who, after all, speaks today of the extermination of the Armenians?” After all, the Holocaust took place seven decades ago, the Armenian horror a little more than two decades before Hitler’s remark. Lucky for him there were few “obsessed” with this mass murder at the time.)
If there were an algorithm for suffering perhaps we would be able to judiciously appraise the claims that there are some among us (mostly Jewish) who are “holocaust obsessed.” It’s the new fashionable meme for those who don’t want to be overly troubled by the memory of the death camps and looming threats of a second holocaust. The term enables those who use it to suggest that those more concerned than they are "obsessed" in an unseemly way.

It's the word "obsessed" that seems problematic to me. It implies a bright line between legitimate interest and something else, something over-intense, feverish, and counterproductive. But where is that line? How much time should we spend worrying about the threat of future Holocausts and genocides, not just those involving Jews.
The much-lauded German novelist W.G. Sebald has been quoted saying "no serious person thinks of anything else." This was obviously a form of hyperbole designed to jolt people out of complacency. But it raises the question: How much does a serious person think about the Holocaust? What does it mean to be "obsessed" and what does it mean to give the Holocaust an appropriate place in our political and cultural consciousness?
I admit I was stunned in exploring this question to find no less than 272,000 Google hits for "obsessed with the Holocaust." And it's not just racist sites (including David Duke's) or anti-Zionist sites like Mondoweiss.
Increasingly the word "obsessed"—as "obsessed with the holocaust" or "holocaust obsessed"—has entered contemporary discourse, often used by Jews as an epithet to describe other Jews. It may have entered the mainstream as far back as the publication of Peter Novick's 1999 book The Holocaust in American Lifein which he accuses American Jews as a whole of exploiting the Holocaust in bad faith, either as a "victimization Olympics" or for political (primarily pro-Israel) purposes.
The term "holocaust-obsessed" appeared in The New Yorker in an article about Israeli politician Avraham Burg who, according to David Remnick, "describes the country in its current state as Holocaust obsessed. ..." Too much attention to the extermination of 6 million Jews oh so long ago, just because 6 million or so more are being threatened with exterminationist rhetoric today.
It's lately become a trope of novelists and memoirists who seek to show how much more sophisticated they've become about the whole thing.
And recently the epithet has become a focus of the debate over the Israeli response to Iranian nuclear intentions. It was a prominent "peace activist" there, Uri Avnery who applied the phrase “holocaust obsessed fantasist” to current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Demonstrating that it has become a widely recognized shibboleth on both sides of the discourse over American Israeli relations, Jonathan Rosen, in his astute New York Times Book Review critique of Peter Beinart's Crisis in Zion offered a caustic assessment of those self-proclaimed enlightened moralists who accuse others of a "Holocaust-obsessed" mentality.
And the term has entered the realm of high-profile literary culture in the widespread discussion of Nathan Englander's highly praised short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. In the title story, for instance, you can find an American wife described as “a little obsessed with the Holocaust.” (Although, as we'll see, it's a bit more complicated.)
Much of the recent use of the phrase has been prompted by people comparing Iran today to Hitler’s Germany. I should mention that I am not necessarily in favor of a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear capacity. I think the issue is insoluble and either way I see a catastrophe coming. But I just don't have patience with those who try to exclude the real historical catastrophe from relevance by denigrating any concern with it as "obsession."
In any case, the dismissive epithet does service not just for anti-Semites or anti-Zionists but for Jews who don’t like the association with victimhood, so parochial, so ghetto, so shtetl, so shameful to the faux-sophisticate universalist citizen of the world.
Is it better, then, to be “somewhat interested” in the holocaust, rather than “holocaust-obsessed”? Moderately interested? Temperately troubled? How much is the correct amount of interest one should devote to rapidly receding history? How much should the charge of obsession affect the way we look at the victims of collective hate murders in the present: 9/11, the Oslo slayings and the Sikhs, for instance. Do they qualify for a heightened degree of concern since the killers obviously—had they the means—would have wanted to murder many, many more? How should it affect the way we view exterminationist threats not yet realized?
It’s so convenient, isn’t it, to deplore those who are said to be “holocaust obsessed.” It allows one to avoid all the troubling implications of the past for the future. It allows Jews to avoid having to be a Debbie Downer at dinner parties when the subject comes up, usually in the context of discussing the kind of threats to the state of Israel that are even more explicit and realizable today than those to the Jews of Europe in the prewar era. It’s so unchic, so indicative of “ethnic panic.” It makes you think of that scene in Annie Hall in which Woody Allen feels like he’s been transformed into a black hat Hasidic at the dinner table of Annie’s Christian family.
Consider that Nathan Englander story in which a husband calls his wife “a little obsessed with the Holocaust ... here we are twenty minutes from downtown Miami but really it’s 1937 and we live on the edge of Berlin.” His is a self-subverting condescension since no one thinks the danger of a second holocaust will come from “downtown Miami” (or to America at all) but from the exterminationist threats to the people of downtown Tel Aviv. (Is it an accident this downer of a wife is named Deb?) Frankly I don’t attribute this caricature to Englander himself; it’s too simplistic for such a good writer. I suspect he’s just as much caricaturing the thick-headed husband who disparages his wife in this way.
But the portrait of her irrational fear of an American holocaust comforts those who might otherwise have to be concerned about the genuine potential of a second holocaust in the Middle East.
Jewish prisoner during World War II.
A picture released on April 7, 1961, taken during World War II in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, shows Nazi leader and war criminal Adolf Eichmann (2nd R) smiling while German officers cut a Jewish prisoner's hair locks
Photo by AFP/Getty Images.
Imagine: worrying about extermination threats just because Hitler made extermination threats which he carried out. No reason to get all obsessed because another anti-Semitic leader who is seeking nuclear weapons makes similar threats, right? No reason to be troubled about the exterminationist anti-Semitic rhetoric that pervades the airwaves and the cyber realm of every other nation in the region.
Anyone who seeks to draw comparisons with the warnings of a “Final Solution” in the 1930s and the situation today—in other words to take history into account—is met with scorn as “Holocaust-obsessed.” Or accused of “hoarding the Holocaust,” as Peter Beinart has put it.
Indeed using “holocaust-obsessed” as an epithet has become, in effect, the new Holocaust denial. The new holocaust denial doesn’t deny the holocaust happened, it just denies it should have any historical relevance today. In an afterword she wrote for an anthology I compiled, Cynthia Ozick spoke about an English writer who castigated Menachim Begin for invoking the Holocaust murder of a million Jewish children as a reason for ordering the Israeli attack on Saddam's potential bomb-making nuclear reactor in 1981. She called the castigation a denial of the very essence of historical discourse: making connections. “Is the imagination’s capacity to ‘connect’ worthy of such scorn … ?” she asked.
By the way, you can always tell one of this new breed of Holocaust denier by the way they claim that careful parsing of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map” or “wipe Israel from the page of time” (depending on how its translated), doesn’treally mean he wants to harm a single hair on the head of single Jew. See, if you read it carefully it’s nothing to worry about. He just wants to change the governmental set up! You know, so the state of Israel will no longer exist and thus not appear on the map (or the page of time). They cling desperately to the notion that it’s not a sinister euphemism like, say, Hitler’s “Final Solution.”  
Speaking of which, there’s a lesson in the way “Final Solution” was euphemized to Hitler’s benefit. While researching the archives of an anti-Hitler newspaper for my book on Hitler explanations, I discovered that euphemism, “Final Solution”—“Endlösung” in German—had been used by the Nazi party, and published in the Munich Post —as far back as 1931. But evidently there were those back then who didn’t want to see through the euphemism just as there are those who don’t want to see through the sinister euphemisms in Ahmadinejad’s pronouncements today. The fact that Hitler successfully cloaked his exterminationist intentions in such euphemisms should of course not cause us to look askance at Ahmadinejad’s. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, as they say. Shame on those who don’t get this for fear of being called “holocaust-obsessed.”
In the past I’ve had occasion to call this “Holocaust inconsequentialism”: Yes, it happened, we’re all so sorry, but the fact that the world allowed and the entire continent of Europe collaborated in industrialized mass murder shouldn’t have any consequences for how we view the present situation. Or for how we assess the nature of human nature. But “holocaust inconsequentialism” only differs from Holocaust denial in that it is practiced by more sophisticated types who would never consider themselves (and mostly aren’t) anti-Semites. In fact most are Jews and not, I should add, “self-hating Jews,” as some have called them. Rather they are inordinately self-loving Jews, who like to pride themselves as having transcended their parochial pasts, not shackled to the supposed limiting shtetl or ethnic mentality, but rising above all that unpleasantness to a realm of Pure Kantian Ideal. Unaware of the blindness that believing only the best about humanity entails.
If we agree on the fatuousness of those who fling “holocaust-obsessed” around as an epithet for anyone holocaust-concerned or -cognizant, how obsessed, concerned, affected should one be, then? There remain serious questions about the tragedy that are worthy of further consideration. Indeed in the past few years newly available archives of former Eastern European police states such as Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine have opened a Pandora’s box of new Holocaust questions and exacerbated old debates, mostly involving the often shocking complicity of Eastern European anti-Semitic populaces in the machinery of extermination and the wartime and postwar “nationalist” pogroms against Jews that ran parallel to Hitler’s Final Solution. (It wasn’t only Germans who were enthusiasts for extermination. Far from it.) It’s all very ugly, as this essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the divisive conflicts among Polish historians demonstrates.
Most salient recent debate has focused on Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, which I wrote about here in Slate and which raises a whole other series of questions about comparative evil—and comparative responsibility—in Stalin’s and Hitler’s mass murders and their different methodologies of mass murder: Stalin apparently preferred deliberate mass starvation—often leading to cannibalism—to Hitler’s gas chambers. The tactic raised his body count, according to most estimates, above the Führer’s, and also raised the question of whether his mass slow death was more or less cruel than the Nazis’ quick shooting and gassing. Recent review essays by Frederic Raphael in the London Times Literary Supplement and Christopher Browning in the New York Review of Booksdemonstrate the complexity of the questions the newly opened archives prompt, questions about how the nations of Europe reacted (or failed to react) to prewar threats of extermination and their wartime complicities in the extermination.
Reading their arguments and the debates they invoke makes me wonder if we’re “holocaust-obsessed” enough. If there still are many more questions about the phenomenon to pursue. The nature of human nature for instance. George Steiner once told me he believed the Holocaust “removed the reinsurance on human hope,” meaning the conceptual safety net beneath which our belief in the capability for evil could not go. Now we know it can go far lower. But how far below does this unimaginable hell stretch?
One thing the new evidence has done is re-enforce a perception I’ve had that Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” description of Eichmann—the concept of “banality of evil” itself—is now looking ever more foolish. I’ve argued that Arendt arrogantly and ignorantly bought into Eichmann’s defense that he was “just following orders” in a way that absolved him from the “radical evil” that she, Arendt, once believed in. When it turns out Eichmann was a bloodthirsty Jew-hater who, even after the war was effectively lost, was trying desperately to extract every last Jew from Hungary to be murdered. Above and beyond the call of duty that “following orders” implies.
How holocaust-obsessed should we be? Perhaps if we were more “holocaust-conscious” (a term I’d prefer), we wouldn’t have stood by as Rwandans were slaughtered. Or waited till after Srebrenica to care about the Bosnians. Perhaps if we were more Holocaust-conscious the historically ignorant and often racist idiots who promote the idea of “American exceptionalism” (America was established and ordained in grace and glory by God and was never complicit in sin) might take note of the fact that this nation was founded upon two genocides—that of the Native Americans and that of the African-American slaves. Whose death toll over three centuries is almost incalculably high.
And perhaps if we were more “holocaust-obsessed” and surveyed the way genocides have spread over the landscape of history, covered the map of the world like bloodstains, we would be less Pollyannaish about the future. Perhaps we’d be more alert to intervene before the killing started or at least before it finished. Perhaps, as I’ve suggested in my most recent book, we’d realize that any nuclear war even a “small” one is a genocidal event. A definition that should call for more urgency than a sluggish crawl toward arms control.
But the second point I’d like to make—the second big question about the algorithm of suffering—is the broadening of holocaust concern beyond one’s “own” holocaust. I know there are excesses in this line—in emphasizing the similarity of all mass murderers—excesses that can trivialize the unimaginable magnitude of the suffering of the European Jews, and they’ve recently been well-documented by Indiana University’s Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a book called The End of the Holocaust. I’ve written in praise of the book, particularly his stance against all the weepy attempts to turn the Holocaust into a lesson about the “triumph of the human spirit” in the face of evil and other such clichés. The obscenity of such execrable phenomena as the unbearably self-congratulatory Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful.
But it was something I read in another review of the Rosenfeld book, by a scholar I admire, Walter Reich, that raised the issue of “transferability,” which I think deserves consideration.
Reich—who holds the Yitzhak Rabin memorial chair in international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University, will always have my respect for doing a rare thing in Washington: He resigned as head of the U.S. Holocaust Museum because he refused to give a man responsible for the murder of Jews, Yasser Arafat, a tour of the Holocaust Museum as the State Department had asked him to. Realpolitik is one thing, Reich was in effect saying, but this is a bridge too far.
I’ve often found his thinking to be unexpected and provocative (consider his essay on the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in the New York Times). In any case he wrote his essay in praise of Rosenfeld’s book for the last print edition of the Wilson Quarterly.
There was a paragraph early in the essay that caught my attention.
He writes of Rosenfeld: “he shows how the horror of the Holocaust has been minimized and even disparaged by those who want the public to focus on their own historical traumas and are frustrated by the Holocaust’s power to eclipse other tragic national experiences.”
This passage I think poses the real difficulty the fools who throw around the epithet “holocaust-obsessed” fail to see.
It has always seemed to me important not to use the holocaust to separate Jewish experience from the “historical traumas” and “tragic national experiences” of others. Important to err on the side of commonality and solidarity with other victims rather than to spend time arguing about what sets us apart from them.
It works both ways. Reich called my attention to an eloquent—and angry—column by The Washington Post’s Colbert King, in which a non-white, non-Jewish descendant of slaves expresses the rage he feels at the open expression of exterminationist anti-Semitism by the leaders of Iran—and the world’s culpable failure to respond. I recommend this to those who think such concern is limited to “holocaust-obsessed” neo-cons.
It’s a matter of choice, of emphasis. Why should we emphasize, even if it is true, the differences between our Holocausts and those of others even if they don’t measure up in body count or evil of the perpetrators exterminationist designs? Are the differences more important than the tragic similarities? Must we invoke the Passover night question: “Why is this night different from all other nights” to ask and answer “why is our holocaust different from all other holocausts?”
I don’t think so. I don’t think it diminishes what happened to one people if it leads to empathy for others—and to proactive intervention to prevent looming threats of genocidal mass murder.
That’s another kind of holocaust inconsequentialism. A removal of “our” Holocaust from history. From historical connection to others. And while it’s not a prescription for blithe spirits, perhaps we’d be better off if we were more holocaust-obsessed, in the sense of being concerned with all holocausts, historical and potential, and the profound flaws in human nature and human civilization that make them such a salient feature of our collective history.
While I was writing this I came upon, in that monument to civilization, New York’s Strand Bookstore, the semi-famous not-quite-forgotten short story collection by Delmore Schwartz, the Bellovian prodigy who died too young to fulfill his promise.
But almost everyone agrees on the merits of the book of stories named after the title story, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.”
Yes, and in nightmares too.

The ‘deterrence works’ fantasy, By Charles Krauthammer,

There are few foreign-policy positions more silly than the assertion without context that “deterrence works.” It is like saying air power works. Well, it worked for Kosovo; it didn’t work over North Vietnam.
It’s like saying city-bombing works. It worked in Japan 1945 (Tokyo through Nagasaki). It didn’t in the London blitz.
The idea that some military technique “works” is meaningless. It depends on the time, the circumstances, the nature of the adversaries. The longbow worked for Henry V. At El Alamein, however, Montgomery chose tanks.
Yet a significant school of American “realists” remains absolutist on deterrence and is increasingly annoyed with those troublesome Israelis who are sowing fear, rattling world markets and risking regional war by threatening a preemptive strike to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Don’t they understand that their fears are grossly exaggerated? After all, didn’t deterrence work during 40 years of Cold War?
Indeed, a few months ago, columnist Fareed Zakaria made that case by citing me writing in defense of deterrence in the early 1980s at the time of the nuclear freeze movement. And yet now, writes Zakaria, Krauthammer (and others on the right) “has decided that deterrence is a lie.”
Nonsense. What I have decided is that deterring Iran is fundamentally different from deterring the Soviet Union. You could rely on the latter but not on the former.
The reasons are obvious and threefold:
(1) The nature of the regime.
Did the Soviet Union in its 70 years ever deploy a suicide bomber? For Iran, as for other jihadists, suicide bombing is routine. Hence the trail of self-immolation, from the 1983 Marine barracks attack in Beirut to the Bulgaria bombing of July 2012.
Iran’s clerical regime rules in the name of a fundamentalist religion for whom the hereafter offers the ultimate rewards. For Soviet communists — thoroughly, militantly atheistic — such thinking was an opiate-laced fairy tale.
For all its global aspirations, the Soviet Union was intensely nationalist. The Islamic Republic sees itself as an instrument of its own brand of Shiite millenarianism — the messianic return of the “hidden Imam.”
It’s one thing to live in a state of mutual assured destruction with Stalin or Brezhnev, leaders of a philosophically materialist, historically grounded, deeply here-and-now regime. It’s quite another to be in a situation of mutual destruction with apocalyptic clerics who believe in the imminent advent of the Mahdi, the supremacy of the afterlife and holy war as the ultimate avenue to achieving it.
The classic formulation comes from Tehran’s fellow (and rival Sunni) jihadist al-Qaeda: “You love life and we love death.” Try deterring that.
(2) The nature of the grievance.
The Soviet quarrel with America was ideological. Iran’s quarrel with Israel is existential. The Soviets never proclaimed a desire to annihilate the American people. For Iran, the very existence of a Jewish state on Muslim land is a crime, an abomination, a cancer with which no negotiation, no coexistence, no accommodation is possible.
(3) The nature of the target.
America is a nation of 300 million; Israel, 8 million. America is a continental nation; Israel, a speck on the map, at one point eight miles wide. Israel is a “one-bomb country.” Its territory is so tiny, its population so concentrated that, as Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has famously said, “Application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” A tiny nuclear arsenal would do the job.
In U.S.-Soviet deterrence, both sides knew that a nuclear war would destroy them mutually. The mullahs have thought the unthinkable to a different conclusion. They know about the Israeli arsenal. They also know, as Rafsanjani said, that in any exchange Israel would be destroyed instantly and forever, whereas the ummah — the Muslim world of 1.8 billion people whose redemption is the ultimate purpose of the Iranian revolution — would survive damaged but almost entirely intact.
This doesn’t mean that the mullahs will necessarily risk terrible carnage to their country in order to destroy Israel irrevocably. But it does mean that the blithe assurance to the contrary — because the Soviets never struck first — is nonsense. The mullahs have a radically different worldview, a radically different grievance and a radically different calculation of the consequences of nuclear war.
The confident belief that they are like the Soviets is a fantasy. That’s why Israel is contemplating a preemptive strike. Israel refuses to trust its very existence to the convenient theories of comfortable analysts living 6,000 miles from its Ground Zero.

The Kosover Rebbe's Vort on Parshas Ki-Setzei

In this week’s Parshah Ki-Setzei, Hashem reminds Klall Yisrael to keep themselves and their camp ("Machaneh") holy and pure, because He is with them at all times. This is a message for all generations: Remain holy and pure, for Hashem is with us wherever we go.

There is a question raised in the Gemarah regarding one who becomes impure: is he allowed to learn Torah or not? The answer is no. The Gemarah explains that just as Klal Yisroel had to remain pure for the three days preceding Matan Torah, so too must every Jew establish his purity before learning Torah.  

Why is learning Torah on an average day paralleled with the momentum of Matan Torah? The Noam Elimelech says that one needs to learn anew each day – each time you learn, it should be like the first time you’re learning. In fact, he continues, the world is created anew each second. As we say each day in Davening, “Hamechadesh b’tuvo b’chol yom tamid – Who renews…every day, always.”

In this vein, we can understand the correlation between Matan Torah and our day-to-day learning. At Matan Torah, the Jews stood ready and waiting, sure in their belief that anything was possible – even though they did not know what the future held. The entire world was upheld by that very powerful moment when Hashem gave the Torah. The Noam Elimelech explains that Hashem is constantly being Mechadesh the Torah, every single second. That is what holds up the world. So in fact, we are standing at that moment, at the giving of the Torah, every day. Everything we learn really is new, because the world is not the same as it was a day ago, or even a moment ago.

We must approach our days the same way that Klal Yisrael stood at that mountain - pure and steadfast in the belief that anything is possible. Every second brings renewal; every second brings new creation from Hashem. And every second can potentially bring change. If we believe in the words we say each day, there is no reason why our problems should follow us from one second to the next. After all, it’s a new world.  

Have a wonderful Shabos

Ahmedabad, India - India’s “Hitler” Store Owner Refuses To Change Name Of His Business

Ahmedabad, India - Despite an outcry from the 500-person Jewish community in Ahmedabad, Gujuarat, Rajesh Shah, who co-owns a men’s clothing store in the neighborhood named “Hitler”, has refused to change his store’s name, claiming he has already invested too much money in the branding of his business.

“None of the other people are complaining, only a few Jewish families. I have not hurt any sentiments of the majority Hindu community. If he did something in Germany, is that our concern?” Mr. Shah told the New York Times (
Mr. Shah contends that Hitler is a “good, catchy” name for his store, and said it adds to the mystique of his business and draws in curious costumers. “We have not written anything below the sign or on our cards to indicate what we sell to generate mystery. The customers who come in tell me they came in seeing the name,” he said.
He added that if the Jewish community is so offended by the store’s name, they should pay to re-name and market his business.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yanky Stern With Choir Sing "Torah Hakedosha" ילד הפלא יענקי שטרן


WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- It could hardly have been a riskier mission: infiltrate Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. Witold Pilecki survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, managing to smuggle out word of executions before making a daring escape. But the Polish resistance hero was crushed by the post-war communist regime - tried on trumped-up charges and executed.
Six decades on, Poland hopes Pilecki's remains will be identified among the entangled skeletons and shattered skulls of resistance fighters being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery. The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic nation to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies.
"He was unique in the world," said Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, paying tribute to her father's 1940 decision to walk straight into a Nazi street roundup with the aim of getting inside the extermination camp. "I would like to have a place where I can light a candle for him."
More than 100 skeletons, mostly of men, have been dug up this summer. On one recent day, forensic workers and archaeologists wearing blue plastic gloves and masks were carefully scraping away at the soil and piecing together bones as if working on a jigsaw puzzle. The front of one skull had been blown away by bullets; another had apparently been bludgeoned; a skeleton showed evidence of multiple gunshot wounds.
Near the pit where the bodies were dumped under cover of night stand the well-tended tombstones of the very judges and prosecutors who sent these World War II heroes to their deaths under orders from Moscow, which was fearful that the Polish patriots might use their seasoned underground skills to turn the nation against its new pro-Soviet rulers.
"The perpetrators have not been punished and the bodies of the victims have not been found," said Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, a historian in charge of the dig. "Those times will be coming back to us until we find the bodies and bury them with due honors.
"We are doing them justice."
Pilecki's son Andrzej and dozens of other relatives of victims have been swabbed in the hope their DNA will be a match for the skeletons. Initial work is being carried out to determine age, sex, height and injuries of the victims. It will take several months to determine if Pilecki, who was killed by a bullet to the back of his head, is among them. Thousands of resistance fighters were killed across Poland; the remains of up to 400 are believed to have been dumped in the Powazki mass grave.
Pilecki was 38 when Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, triggering the start of World War II. He helped organize a resistance campaign during which many fellow fighters were caught and sent to Auschwitz, which in the early war years served more as a camp for Polish resistance fighters than Jews. That inspired him to hatch an audacious plan: He told other resistance commanders that he wanted to become an Auschwitz inmate to check on rumors of atrocities.
Carrying documents bearing the alias Tomasz Serafinski, the Catholic cavalry officer walked into the German SS street roundup in Warsaw in September 1940, and was put on a train transport to Auschwitz, where he was given prisoner number 4859.
He was "exceptionally courageous," said Jacek Pawlowicz, a historian with Warsaw's Institute of National Remembrance.
Pilecki is the only person known to have volunteered for Auschwitz. His terse dispatches to the outside world were slips of thin paper stitched inside clothes of inmates leaving the camp or left in nearby fields for others to collect. They included only code names for inmates who were beaten to death, executed by gunfire or gassed. As sketchy as they were, they were the first eyewitness account of the Nazi death machine at Auschwitz.
Pilecki survived hard labor, beatings, cold and typhoid fever thanks to support from a clandestine resistance network that he managed to organize inside the camp. Some of its members had access to food, others to clothes or medicines.
He plotted a revolt that was to release inmates with the help of an outside attack by resistance fighters; it was never attempted because considered too risky, Pawlowicz said.
Pilecki escaped in April 1943 when he realized that the SS might uncover his work. With two other men he ran from a night shift at a bakery that was outside the death camp's barbed wire fence.
After his escape, Pilecki wrote three detailed reports on the extermination camp.
One describes how his transport was met by yelling SS men and attacking dogs: "They told one of us to run to a post away from the road, and immediately sent a machine gun round after him. Killed him. Ten random colleagues were taken out of the group and shot, as they were walking, as `collective responsibility' for the `escape' that the SS-men arranged themselves."
Pilecki's heroics were for the most part in vain. Even though his accounts of gas chambers made it all the way to Poland's government-in-exile in London and to other Western capitals, few believed what they were reading.
After escaping, Pilecki rejoined Poland's Home Army resistance force and fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the city's ill-fated revolt against the Nazis. In 1947, he was arrested by the secret security of the communist regime, imposed on Poland after the war, and falsely accused of planning to assassinate dignitaries.
The Soviet plan after World War II was to subdue the Poles by crushing resistance and erasing any sense of Polish identity or history. Today, more than two decades into Poland's democracy, however, enough documentation and funds have been gathered to restore the banned past and try to find and identify the heroes' bodies.
In addition to Pilecki, the search is on for the remains of other wartime resistance heroes, including Brig. Gen. August Emil Fieldorf, a top clandestine Home Army commander who once served as emissary to Poland of the country's government-in-exile. He was accused of ordering killings of Soviet soldiers - charges that Poland's communist authorities later admitted were fabricated - and hanged in 1953.
Szwagrzyk is not sure if Pilecki will be found at Powazki cemetery because it is not the only such clandestine site in Warsaw or the rest of Poland.
But his place in history is gradually being restored. A street in Warsaw is now named after him, as are some schools across the country.
He found communist prison harder to endure than Auschwitz. A fellow inmate described seeing him in prison slumped, unable to raise his head because his collar bones had been broken. At his show trial, he was hiding his hands because his fingernails had been ripped out during torture.
At one court session, he told his wife Maria that the secret security torture had sapped his will to go on.
"I can live no longer," he said.

How Many Millionaires Live in the "Impoverished" Gaza Strip? by Khaled Abu Toameh

If the Egyptian army succeeds in demolishing the underground smuggling tunnels that keep Hamas running, it could mark the end of the Islamists' rule over the Gaza Strip. But if Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood tie the hands of the Egyptian army's generals and keep them from completing the mission, Hamas will become even stronger and wealthier.
The world often thinks of the Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, as one of the poorest places on earth, where people live in misery and squalor.
But according to an investigative report published in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, there are at least 600 millionaires living in the Gaza Strip. The newspaper report also refutes the claim that the Gaza Strip has been facing a humanitarian crisis because of an Israeli blockade.
Mohammed Dahlan, the former Palestinian Authority security commander of the Gaza Strip, further said last week that Hamas was the only party that was laying siege to the Gaza Strip; that it is Hamas, and not Israel or Egypt, that is strangling and punishing the people there.
The Palestinian millionaires, according to the report, have made their wealth thanks to the hundreds of underground tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Informed Palestinian sources revealed that every day, in addition to weapons, thousands of tons of fuel, medicine, various types of merchandise, vehicles, electrical appliances, drugs, medicine and cigarettes are smuggled into the Gaza Strip through more than 400 tunnels. A former Sudanese government official who visited the Gaza Strip lately was quoted as saying that he found basic goods that were not available in Sudan. Almost all the tunnels are controlled by the Hamas government, which has established a special commission to oversee the smuggling business, which makes the Hamas government the biggest benefactor of the smuggling industry.
Palestinians estimate that 25% of the Hamas government's budget comes from taxes imposed on the owners of the underground tunnels.
For example, Hamas has imposed a 25% tax and a $2000 fee on every car that is smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Hamas also charges $15 dollars for each ton of cement, eight cents for a pack of cigarettes and 50 cents for each liter of fuel smuggled through the tunnels.
For Hamas, the Palestinian sources said, the tunnels are a matter of life or death.
Now, however, Hamas is facing a huge crisis as the Egyptian authorities plan to regain control over Sinai in the aftermath of the recent killing of 16 Egyptian border guards by unidentified terrorists.
The Egyptian army appears to be determined to destroy the underground tunnels out of fear that they are being used to smuggle not only goods and fuel, but also Islamist terrorists who pose a threat to Egypt's national security.
At this stage, however, it is not clear whether Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi, would allow his army to cut off one of Hamas's main sources of income. Morsi's policy thus far has been to embrace and strengthen Hamas at the expense of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
If the Egyptian army succeeds in its anti-terror security crackdown in Sinai, including the demolition of all the underground tunnels that keep Hamas running, it could mark the beginning of the end of the Islamist movement's rule over the Gaza Strip. But if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood tie the hands of their generals and prevent them from completing the mission, Hamas will become even stronger and wealthier.

Denying Reality Won’t Make It Go Away, by Gary Rosenblatt

How do you deal with Mideast heads of state who refuse to accept historical fact or reality?
It’s a problem presenting itself with increasing urgency, and the policy implications for Israel and the United States are enormous.
Take, for example, the case of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who continues to deny a Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel. In a speech the other day he referred, as he has before, to the “the alleged Temple” in Jerusalem and pledged that the Holy City will “forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.”
One wonders what he makes of the Jesus narrative and of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem for the last 3,000 years.
“Ignoring that connection is to ignore reality,” noted Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But ignoring reality is par for the course in the Arab world, especially when it comes to Israel, still widely referred to as “the Zionist entity” rather than the Jewish state it has been since 1948. 
The statement by Abbas concluded that “there will be no peace or stability before our beloved city and eternal capital is liberated from occupation and settlement.”
Regev observed that such talk won’t help revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and he pointed out that only under Israeli control these last 45 years have the holy sites in Jerusalem and the religious rights of all been protected.
“This is in stark contrast to the reality before 1967,” he said, when Jews were denied access to the Old City, including the Western Wall, by Jordan.
As moderate as Abbas is in comparison to his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, it’s worth recalling that his doctoral thesis for a university in then-Communist Russia essentially denied the Holocaust and accused Zionist leaders of playing a role in persecuting European Jews. His thesis, published in 1984 as a book entitled “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Naziism and Zionism,” reportedly is the basis of Holocaust studies in the curriculum of Palestinian schools.
Some would argue that it is unhelpful to call attention to such information at a time when new diplomatic efforts are called for. But the denial of historical truth, common sense and plain logic is itself a reality to reckon with these days and can be neither brushed aside nor ignored.
Over at the United Nations, long known for actions that mock the very basis of its lofty purpose, a new high (or low) in cynical decision-making is at hand. The UN’s Human Rights Council is about to accept Sudan as a member, with Syria slated to join by the end of next year.
The government in Damascus is waging a systematic and increasingly bloody civil war against its citizens, having killed thousands as the world looks on. And Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted for genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.
“Electing Sudan to the UN body mandated to promote and protect human rights worldwide is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a human rights group.
The U.S. has spoken out against this travesty, but it will make little difference because Sudan has the support of the full African delegation.
Reality at the UN is about corruption and voting blocs, not fulfilling the mission of fostering peace and ending world suffering.
And then there is “the new Egypt.”
On first learning that 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed earlier this month in the Sinai, the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of President Mohamed Morsi, blamed the attack on the Mossad, with the full knowledge that the Israeli intelligence agency was not involved.
And after Morsi replied to a letter written to him recently by Israeli President Shimon Peres, the Brotherhood was so upset with this cordial contact with an Israeli official that Morsi denied having written it — even though Peres’ office had first received permission from Morsi’s office before releasing the letter.
It was a seemingly minor diplomatic kerfuffle, but veteran U.S. Mideast expert Dennis Ross wrote in the Washington Post last week that it was significant because it showed that the Brotherhood was unable to accept the truth. And that, in turn, raises questions about relations with a state so committed to an ideology that it cannot acknowledge facts that clash with its firmly held beliefs.
Ross argued that Washington “should not accommodate the Brotherhood’s alternative reality” and “a narrative and policies based on untruths and fictions.” The U.S. should offer aid to Cairo only if it “is prepared to play by a set of rules grounded in reality and key principles,” he asserted.
Those same instructions should be applied to Washington in regards to its own denial about the growing crisis with Iran.
The administration insists, even in light of the latest independent reports that Iran is speeding up its nuclear efforts, that there is still time for negotiations to forestall a military confrontation. Would that it were so. But Tehran has played the U.S. cleverly until now, drawing out the talks while continuing its nuclear program apace.
Economic sanctions against Iran, coordinated by the U.S, have indeed been effective, severely impacting the country’s financial operations. But the very fact that the tough sanctions have only hardened the Islamic leaders’ resolve to go ahead with their nuclear program underscores that logical reasoning will not change their minds.
What they understand is power, and only when they are convinced that the U.S. is prepared to use it against them with great force will they back down.
That’s why our government should be speaking out publicly and more bluntly to make known that it sees Iran’s aims as a direct threat to the U.S., that it supports and will protect Israel, and that it is ready to take military action if necessary to ensure that Iran does not have the capability to produce nuclear arms.
No one wants another war in the Mideast. But the best way to prevent it is to convince Iran that we mean business. And that’s the truth.