This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
GERMANY EDITION August 30, 2010 Dear Friends: Next week the Jews around the world begin their celebration of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah – Year number 5771). This year there is something quite serious to pray for, namely the success of the Israel – Palestinian peace talks in Washington which start on Sept. 2nd. Rosh Hashanah is followed a week later by the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). For those who want more information about the holidays, click here & http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday2.htm here http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday4.htm . For both my Jewish and non-Jewish friends let me wish you a healthy, happy and productive New Year. During the New Year period Jewish public activity usually slows down. I think 5771 will be the exception. While this edition is lengthy, because of all the news surrounding the peace process, it could be ten times as long if I published every worthwhile article I’ve come across on the subject. I, of course, have my own thoughts. However, to cover all bases, at the end I’ve included a piece that is far more positive than I am. As my first headline (below) notes, “I Hope I’m Wrong”. On to the news… IN THIS EDITION THE PEACE PROCESS: I HOPE I’M WRONG – What will come out of the latest Obama initiative? THE JEWS, THE REPUBLICANS, THE DEMOCRATS – AND OBAMA – American Jews move more toward the Republicans. 1
JEWISH YOUTH – IN EUROPE – What sort of future is there for them? SURPRISE! CHINESE JEWS – Yes! There are some – even in Israel.
THE PEACE PROCESS: I HOPE I’M WRONG I wish I could provide you with some “inside information” that would indicate that the Israel – Palestinian peace process is moving in some sort of a positive direction and that an agreement is “just around the corner”. I don’t think that’s the case. I hope I’m wrong. Yes, the two groups plus the Americans (and others) will sit down in a face to face situation. However, most of the American Jewish commentators on the subject have little faith that anything to celebrate is still far off in the future. Of course, everyone is saying the right things. Reuters notes that, “Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev, repeating what has become a virtual mantra for the Israeli leader, says: "Ultimately, I think we all understand that only through direct talks is it possible to achieve peace between the two peoples." In the same article Reuters quoting former U.S. Middle East adviser Aaron David Miller, “"It would be a mistake of epic proportions to conclude that we've now reached a fundamental turning point that is going to produce quick or easy progress let alone results". Unless U.S. President Barack Obama has heard privately from right winger Netanyahu of a significant shift, he would do better to "park" the issue until after November mid-term congressional elections in the United States, rather than risk "another fight with the Israelis," Miller said. Miller, who describes the aging peace process as a "false religion," was discussing reports that the Palestinians may be about to accede to Netanyahu's repeated call for face-to-face talks instead of indirect negotiation.
Netanyahu may be keen to deal with the Palestinians without an American "babysitter" present, he said. But simply changing the format of negotiations means little and could backfire on Obama, who is also pushing for direct talks. Miller said that sounds right in theory (Regev’s statement). But in practice, the history of Middle East negotiations shows the opposite: indirect talks have often been more successful. "Before I left government, between the years of 1993 and 2003, direct talks on (Middle East) permanent status issues have started 10 times," said Miller, now a policy analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. The problem is that even if the two sides can now agree on sitting face-to-face in the same room, they are so far apart and entrenched on the main issues that there is little hope that these talks will not fail like all others have before them. The big issues are the competing claims on Jerusalem as a capital, a fair settlement for Palestinian refugees, the fate of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and whether Israel would be able to patrol the international borders of a Palestinian state. Even those that talk about Middle East peace and know far too little (me, for example) see the two sides as so far apart on what they could or would be willing to accept in a peace agreement that any sort of a result in the immediate future seems out of the question. The fact that the “Quartet” of nations, which includes the EU (and, therefore, Germany) has drawn up a statement to help move things ahead is fine but, frankly, in this case, it is almost irrelevant. Aaron David Miller continued in the Reuters article, “…the factors that determine whether talks have a chance of succeeding are: "Is either side willing to make decisions that would push these talks forward? Are there terms of reference we're not aware of, or assurances provided? And what are American calculations of its own role?" These indicators are "far more important than whether the talks go direct," he said. In fact, it could be argued that indirect talks are "the much preferred alternative right now rather than pressuring the Palestinians or for that matter the Israelis into talks neither side is ready for." Miller was puzzled why Obama, facing uphill challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq and a sputtering economy, would gamble on another possible clash with Netanyahu right before the mid-term congressional elections in November. One possibility is that Obama "has heard things from Netanyahu that go beyond what they've heard before," and that he believes Abbas will be pleasantly surprised by what he will hear from the Israelis in direct talks, Miller said.
A darker motive may be that Obama is anxious to avert a Middle East crisis "in September, against the backdrop of the U.N. general assembly" if Israel resumes building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu's 10-month moratorium on settlement construction on territory earmarked for a future Palestinian state, formally ends on September 26. Miller said direct talks would be "much more in line with Netanyahu's needs than with Abbas." But for Obama the wisest course could be to "just 'park' this thing right now, and let the two engage in a long period of negotiations." "The surest way to produce a crisis is to push these direct talks," he added. They could collapse amid "broken promises, mistrust, and Israeli actions on the ground -- for example in Jerusalem -- or enormous gaps that cannot be bridged." It is this last paragraph that concerns me the most. Setting up expectations that are impossible to achieve are about the worst thing that could happen. If peace is far off, another failed process could not only push it further away but bring about violence and another war. I can only hope that Pres. Obama "has heard things from Netanyahu that go beyond what they've heard before," Ethan Bronner in the New York Times opined, “The American invitation on Friday to the Israelis and Palestinians to start direct peace talks in two weeks in Washington was immediately accepted by both governments. But just below the surface there was an almost audible shrug. There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met. Instead, there is a resigned fatalism in the air. Most analysts view the talks as pairing the unwilling with the unable — a strong right-wing Israeli coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with no desire to reach an agreement against a relatively moderate Palestinian leadership that is too weak and divided to do so. “These direct negotiations are the option of the crippled and the helpless,” remarked Zakaria al-Qaq, vice president of Al Quds University and a Palestinian moderate, when asked his view of the development. “It is an act of self-deception that will lead nowhere.” And Nahum Barnea, Israel’s pre-eminent political columnist, said in a phone interview: “Most Israelis have decided that nothing is going to come out of it, that it will have no bearing on their lives. So why should they care?” Click here for the entire Bronner article. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/world/middleeast/21assess.html?hp
For a more upbeat and positive look at the peace process click here to read Martin Indyk’s piece in The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/opinion/27indyk.html?hp Y-Net News, an Israeli web news service quotes the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth with what seems to be a lot of “inside” news about where the talks may go. Who knows how accurate it is? However, it certainly makes for good reading. If Y.A. has got it right, you’ll know a lot more than almost anyone else if you read it. Click here. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3944645,00.html I’m sorry I took up so much space with this item. However, it is the most important event for American Jews while we approach the upcoming High Holidays. As I said above, peace is a good thing to pray for but in this case I think it will be a while before our prayers are answered. THE JEWS, THE REPUBLICANS, THE DEMOCRATS – AND OBAMA Charles M. Blow reporting in the New York Times notes, “…the number of Jews who identify as Republican or as independents who lean Republican has increased by more than half since the year he was elected. At 33 percent it now stands at the highest level since the data have been kept. In 2008, the ratio of Democratic Jews to Republican Jews was far more than three to one. Now it’s less than two to one. This is no doubt a reaction, at least in part, to the Obama administration having taken a hard rhetorical stance with Israel, while taking “special time and care on our relationship with the Muslim world,” as Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, put it in June. If that sounds like courtship, it is. (It should be noted that the Pew poll was taken before Obama’s bold support for the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque a few blocks north of ground zero.) Some of the president’s most ardent critics and some of Israel’s staunchest American defenders — two groups that are by no means mutually exclusive — have seized on what they see as the administration’s unfair and unbalanced treatment of Israel and have taken their denunciations to the extremes. Fair or not, these criticisms are crystallizing into a shared belief among many: Obama is burning bridges with the Jewish community in order to build bridges to the Muslim world. There is very little independent polling, aside from Pew’s party identification polling, to help us understand how American Jews see the president, his stance
toward Israel and the political implications. So in that vacuum, pollsters with partisan leanings have been spinning their findings like dreidels. In April, the Republican polling firm McLaughlin & Associates released a survey that they said showed that only 42 percent of American Jews would vote to reelect President Obama. He captured 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Recently, the democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Israel Project, a nonprofit in Washington, conducted a poll that they said found American support of Israel was dropping like a rock. Wherever the truth lies, it is fair to say that it doesn’t bode well for Obama. While Jews are only 2 percent of the United States population, their influence outweighs their proportion. Furthermore, in crucial battleground states like Florida, their vote is critical. Obama won Florida by 3 percentage points in 2008. Jews represented 4 percent of the overall vote in that state. The president now has another, more visible chance to reverse this perception. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that Israel and the Palestinians would resume peace talks in Washington early next month. The administration has to decide how heavy its hand will be in guiding these discussions and what its tone will be with the two parties — who gets the tough love and who gets the free love. I’m never too sure how important polling numbers are knowing that they can change as situations change – sometimes very quickly. However, there is little doubt, if one follows the Jewish press here in the U.S. that the 78% Jewish support that Obama received in 2008 has diminished substantially since then. To what degree that will impact the chances for individual Democratic candidates in this year’s congressional elections very much depends on each candidate his or herself. However, if the drop off is as severe as the Pew poll suggests it will certainly affect those races that are considered “close”. The next presidential election isn’t until 2012 so the President has plenty of time to recoup those losses. His perceived treatment of Israel and how he handles the peace process will be a large determinant in what sort of Jewish support he will have then. The Pew poll touches on many issues other than Jewish support for the President such as how many Americans see him as a Muslim. It’s interesting and disturbing. Click here to see it in its entirety. http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=1781 JEWISH YOUTH – IN EUROPE I have frequently said (to quote myself), “Most people in the U.S. do not get up in the morning thinking about the Federal Republic of Germany”. Similarly, most American Jews do not get up in the morning thinking about Jews in Europe as
most American Jews focus on Israel and the U.S. if they focus on Jewish issues at all. However, those who are steeped in Jewish matters think about Jewish continuity however and wherever Jews live. Gary Rosenblatt is one of those people. Rosenblatt, the editor of The Jewish Week newspaper was invited to “…a 10day program in the Swedish capital for academics and activists committed to enhancing Jewish life in their native countries.by the program sponsor, Paideia, the Swedish-based European Institute for Jewish Studies, to describe American Jewish life and attitudes toward European Jewry. He reported, “I was direct in my comments to the group, noting that we American Jews don’t tend to think about European Jewry often, and when we do, it is to lament its imminent demise, the victim of an aging, diminishing population, and a sharply disturbing increase in anti-Semitism. We hear about attacks on synagogues and cemeteries, fear in France of walking in public with a kipa, British concern about Israel-related boycotts, and most recently, violence against the Jewish residents of Malmo, Sweden, by local Muslims. During my five days at Paideia, which included one-on-one meetings with a number of the participants to advise them on their particular projects, I was impressed with their dedication, enthusiasm and confidence in a Jewish future for European Jewry. Emotions aside, though, the demographics are more than sobering. With the exception, ironically, of Germany, the Jewish population throughout Europe is dwindling, there are few young people and the assimilation rate is skyrocketing — well over 80 percent and approaching 100 percent in some areas. But while some experts insist the statistics speak for themselves and that European Jewry effectively will be gone in a decade or two, activists suggest that what is needed is a new definition of “Jewish” to meet the reality of life here. Rosenblatt mentions some needed improvements and concludes, “While the political, demographic and cultural forces appear to be aligned against a flowering of Jewish life in Europe in the 21st century, Jewish history is one of survival against all odds. And the inspiration I felt from the dedicated young Paideia participants I met stays with me. I’m hoping for another miracle Perhaps a trip to Germany, particularly Berlin, would enhance Rosenblatt’s thoughts about a miracle being possible. My experience there is that among Jewish schools, Jewish university students and the work in general that the
Jewish community is doing to encourage Jewish life among its youngsters a lot is happening. It will be another 30 or 40 years before we see if these efforts provide any results with the children and grandchildren of the Jews who immigrated from the former Soviet Union. Maybe those of here in the U.S. will, indeed, wake up thinking about Jews – in Europe and, especially, in Germany! SURPRISE! CHINESE JEWS Most people think of Jews as coming from some variety of European stock. In the U.S. there are all sorts of jokes culminating with the punch line, “You don’t look Jewish”. Under the Nazis the anti-Semitic newspaper in Germany Der Stuermer regularly posted ugly cartoons with hooked-nosed figures showing the German public what all Jews were supposed to look like. Of course, we don’t all look that way. A trip to Harlem’s (New York) synagogue reveals African-American Jews and a trip to Israel turns up black Jews from Ethiopia. Now something new has been added – Chinese Jews. For centuries there has been the remnant of a once flourishing Jewish community in Kaifeng, China. As the Jewish Daily Forward points out, “A year ago they were living by the bank of China’s Yellow River. Now, the seven yarmulke-and-tzitzit-clad young men, sitting in central Jerusalem and chatting about their lives, are Israel’s keenest yeshiva students. It is the end of July, the day after the Fast of Av, when every yeshiva halts for summer break — but this group won’t stop. They come from a community that has fascinated Jews for centuries — China’s Kaifeng Jewish community. Jews are said to have settled in China in the eighth or ninth century. It is believed that at one point, there were as many as 5,000 Jews in Kaifeng; however the community disintegrated in the mid-19th century, with the death of its last rabbi, and those members that hadn’t done so already intermarried and dropped most aspects of religious observance. The seven men in Jerusalem are descendants of this community in which families retained a sense of Jewish identity and, in some cases, in a manner reminiscent of the Marranos of Spain and Portugal, clung to some disjointed traditions. They have already earned their place in history, as the first group of Kaifeng men to ever study at an Israeli yeshiva. But they want to convert to Judaism as soon as possible and, under the Law of Return, exchange their visitor visas for aliyah visas and make their move to Israel permanent. Their study program is preparing them for conversion tests.
“Here is my home,” said Li Fei, 22, describing how he felt on the day of the group’s arrival last October, when he visited the Western Wall.” Israel started out early having Jews from different backgrounds flock in and become citizens. In many ways it’s much more “mixed” than American Jewry. After 1948 there was a tremendous influx of Jews from Arab countries who were forced to leave and seek refuge in Israel. After communism collapsed in Europe roughly 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union emigrated to Israel. Now the Chinese! Incidentally, I don’t think China will miss the 100 or so that might eventually choose to make Israel their homeland. www.randomhistory.com notes, “One in every five people in the world is Chinese. China's population is estimated to reach a whopping 1,338,612,968 by July 2009. China's population is four times that of the United States. Obviously, there won’t be many coming to Israel but they certainly will add to the interesting mixture that one finds there. You can read the entire story by clicking here. http://www.forward.com/articles/129951/ See you again in mid-September. ******************************************************************************************** DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at email@example.com Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.