Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Give Them Hevron" Ross Named As Special Advisor to Hillary


Well, everyone seems to think this is a good thing. I guess it beats a lot of other choices that Obama could have made, but I am wondering if Ross’s “hawkish” reputation is serving as a fig-leaf for Obama’s pro-Arab predilections.

Ross was the architect of Oslo 2, which was a complete flop—calling for the PA to do a bunch of stuff (like reworking their charter so that it didn’t call for the destruction of Israel, changing the school system so that they weren’t educating their kids to hate Jews, etc.), and the PA did nothing of the sort.

Then, he went along as if the PA had done everything they were supposed to do, and he engineered the give-away of Hevron to the arabs, including:

  1. An IDF withdrawal of 80% of Hebron within ten days.
  2. By March 7 Israel would begin the first phase of withdrawal from rural areas in the West Bank.
  3. Eight months after the first stage, Israel would carry out the second phase of the withdrawal.
  4. The third phase was to have been completed before mid-1998. In this phase Israel would withdraw from the remaining parts of the West Bank apart from "settlements and military locations."
This, of course, lead to Netanyahu losing the government and destroying his reputation for at least six months until most of the sheep of Israel forgot all about his treachery because he looks good in a suit and accepted the increasing level of violence, the destruction of much of the holy city of Hevron, and rewarded the arabs for the riots of 1929.

This might be considered a “great achievement for peace” for Obama—but not for us. It was a complete “land for peace” agreement, and, of course, we are well aware that that concept does not work at all.

It also introduced that nice minhag of releasing every murdering terrorist we have in our prisons in exchange for a handshake, a smile, and a wink so that they can go back to their former profession and kill more Jews.

Ross is no friend of Israel. He is no “Hawk.” He is just another “give the arabs whatever they want” lackey of the US.

He will attempt to force all of the evil of Oslo back upon us and more, and with Bibi at the reins, it is all looking like a replay of a bad copy of the same old movie starring the same washed-up actors as they attempt to regain the full folly of their youth.

I’m disgusted that Ross is back. I’m disgusted that we have forgotten all the evil he did. I’m disgusted that Arutz7 would dare print that he is “Seen in US as Pro-Israel Appointment.” I am wondering WHO in the US would see him as “Pro-Israel,” and I am wondering exactly what “Pro-Israel” means if that is the case.

Dennis Ross Joins State Dept as Special Adviser to Clinton
by Hana Levi Julian

(IsraelNN.com) Former senior U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross has been pressed back into service as Special Adviser on Persian Gulf affairs to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The position includes advising Clinton on issues surrounding Iran, the Gulf region, the broader Middle East region, and southwest Asia.

The appointment was announced Monday by State Department spokesman Robert Wood, who noted,"This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law."

He added that "Ambassador Ross brings a wealth of experience not just to issues within the region but also to larger political-military challenges that flow from the area and have an impact outside of the Gulf and Southwest Asia, and the secretary looks forward to drawing on that experience and diplomatic perspective."

U.S. Senator George Mitchell was appointed last month as the Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East. Equally seasoned diplomat Richard Holbrooke was appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Seen in U.S. as Pro-Israel Appointment
Ross helped write the speech delivered at the AIPAC convention by President Barack Obama during his campaign last year, and served as an official adviser to the campaign.

The long-time diplomat has said he believes that negotiations between the Jewish State and the Palestinian Authority should be contingent on the PA taking responsibility for preventing violence in any location vacated by Israel.

Ross has said he is opposed to unilateral withdrawals and noted in the past that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 strengthened the position of the Hizbullah terrorist organization there. He also opposes setting a timeline for creation of a PA state, according to Who Runs Government.

The new Special Adviser supports Israel's right to build a security barrier for self-defense, but believes it should be temporary.

He also reportedly supports peace talks between Syria and Israel and negotiations over the Golan Heights.

In addition, Ross has said he believes that Iran must be stopped at all costs from "going nuclear."

No Novice to Middle East Diplomacy
The appointment returns Ross to a forum with which he is exceedingly familiar, having served in a similar capacity under Clinton's husband Bill when he was president.

As Middle East coordinator during the Clinton administration, Dennis Ross served from 1993 to 2001 as the top negotiator for the U.S. between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, headed at that time by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat.

Ross also served under President Ronald Reagan in 1981 as the director of Near East and South Asian Affairs for the administration's national security staff.

In addition, Ross served the Bush administration as well – that is, the administration of President George H. Bush, former President George W. Bush's father. During those years, Ross worked as the director of the State Department's Policy Planning office under then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.

Ross left government service in the year 2000 to head the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank described by Who Runs Government as "hawkish" and "with a pro-Israeli bent." Together with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, Ross founded the Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville, Maryland in 2002.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rabbi Aviner Strikes at the Heart of Holocaustism, Forbids Visiting Holocaust Murder Scenes and Rewarding Polish Conspirators With Parnassah


I am so happy that someone said this. Thank G-d it was also a well-known Rabbi.

I’m sure he will be roundly attacked by all of those Jews who have replaced their Judaism with “Holocaustism.”

The Jews who practice Holocaustism are Jews who have replaced the mitzvot of Shabbat, Kashrut, and Family Purity with “Holocaust Studies,” and the "March of the Living” to Poland.

They draw their identity from the deaths of others rather than the living Torah. They mourn the loss in Europe, but they vote for the destruction of Jewish homes in Israel.

They are the completion of Hitler’s plan, but they don’t know it. This is the sadness. They have given up on G-d. They have forgotten the beauty and the happiness of living as a Jew and they have replaced it with a memory of death and tragedy. They have stopped being Jews.

Every time a Jew violates Shabbat—Hitler has won.

Every time a Jew eats non-Kosher food—Hitler has won.

Every time a Jew fights against Israel’s right to exist—Hitler has won.

Every time a Jew marries a non-Jew—Hitler has won.

Every time a Jew forgets the obligation of Prayer—Hitler has won.

If one wants to remember the Holocaust, there are better ways to remember it—like remember to BE a JEW.

The things I like about Rabbi Aviner’s statement are threefold.

First, I like that he said that we should be in Israel and should not leave the land unless we are performing a Mitzvah. Although I am not in Israel, I still recognize the significance of being in Israel and the importance of remaining in the land. I look forward to the day I will join my brothers and sisters there, and I love that my husband and I have helped others to realize this dream.

Second, I love how he has clarified that THE HOLOCAUST IS NOT A MITZVAH. Yes, we must remember it. Yes, we must demand others remember it. However, that memory is not for the purpose of establishing a new mitzvah (G-d forbid), or establishing a new religion (G-d forbid), but because we need to remember and demand that others remember so that such a horrific event never happens again.

Yes, I understand that we must honor the memories of those who perished, but what better way than to remember them, light a candle for them, pray for them from the heart of Israel? We don’t go to the spot where someone was murdered to honor them, that would be--and is--disrespectful to their memory.

Lastly, I love what he said because he has made the case that we should not support those who would make money off of the tragedy of lost Jewish lives.

These people, and their parents and their grandparents stood by and watched Jews die. Sometimes they did the murders themselves. They were complicit in the genocide. Now, they stand at the same gates that swallowed our people, and they perpetuate the evil—pretending that this place of murder is a shrine to their memories. Would I want such a shrine to my memory? Never. G-d forbid that a Nazi death camp should become a shrine! This is Idol Worship of the worst sort!!

These Polish tour guides, trinket sellers, and vendors are worse than carrion eaters. At least the animals who eat carrion stop when the bones are gone. These Poles never stop. They eat from the very souls of those they helped to kill. They are below the bottom.

Thank you, Rabbi Aviner! You said it. You are courageous and smart. You are honest and truthful.

Rabbi Aviner: Visiting Nazi death camps forbidden

Prominent Zionist rabbi says leaving Land of Israel not for sake of mitzvah banned, as is helping Poles – who collaborated with Nazis – make living out of death camps
Kobi Nahshoni

Educational school trips to the Nazi death camps in Poland have become common among most Jewish sectors in Israel, but prominent Zionist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner recently claimed that they are in fact forbidden for halachic reasons, and urged schools to cancel them.

Answering a reader's question on the subject in the religious "Ma'ayaney Hayeshua" journal, Aviner stated that trips to Poland were "not good" due to the halachic ban on leaving Eretz Israel, and because they "provide livelihood to murderers."

In a conversation with Ynet, Aviner explained: "As is well known, leaving Israel is permitted only for the sake of mitzvah, while visiting the death camps is not defined as a mitzvah by the Halacha. There are important figures and great rabbis who have not visited there.

"Clearly what happened in the Holocaust must be remembered, but this can be done using films, books, the Yad Vashem museum and there are even the testimonies of survivors who are still alive," he stated.

And what about the emotional experience?
"I once told educators that in any case the impression vanishes after six months, like any other emotional experience with a short shelf life. They smiled and said that it actually fades away after three weeks."

Aviner also said that the trips have not been proven to have an "educational value." "For some this experience is very difficult and they come back utterly distraught," he added.

'Why should Nazi collaborators benefit?'
Another argument against visiting the camps, according to the rabbi, was the fact that the Polish people "collaborated with the Nazis" and were now making a living off of these visits. "I'm not busy holding a grudge against the Poles, but we shouldn't provide livelihood to people who allowed death camps to be built on their land and who are now making a profit out of it.

"They are not my friends and I don't want to support them."
According to Aviner, it was not accidental that the Nazis chose to erect the extermination camps in Poland. "They knew that the people would do nothing. One person was enough to blow up the railroad tracks. Why wasn't this done? Because they all said, 'good,' smiled and waited for what needed to be done to be done by the Nazis.

"Many Jews who escaped from the camps were later murdered outside by the Polish resistance. When the Jews came back to the city their houses were inhabited and they faced a pogrom. To this day trials are being held against Poles who stole houses," he concluded.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rabbi Angel on Shabbat Mishpatim

The Angel for Shabbat column is a service of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, fostering an intellectually vibrant, compassionate and inclusive Orthodox Judaism. Please join our growing community of members and supporters by contributing on our website: jewishideas.org

A Thinking Judaism--Thoughts on Parashat Mishpatim, February 21, 2009
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

This week's Torah portion begins with God commanding Moses : "And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them." Rashi comments that God instructed Moses not to teach the Israelites by rote, but to explain the reasons for the laws. If the people had the opportunity to study the reasons behind the laws, they would more likely internalize and fulfill them.

Rashi's comments relate to "mishpatim", those ordinances that are apparent to reason and common sense. But what about "hukkim", laws whose reasons are not readily apparent? Was Moses expected to offer reasons and explanations for these ceremonial, ritual laws? Or was he to state the commandments and have the Israelites obey them even if they did not understand the underlying reasons for them?

In his "Guide for the Perplexed," Rambam devoted serious discussion to the reasons for mitzvoth. He believed that since God is all-wise, all of the mitzvoth contain divine wisdom. God's commandments aim at perfecting us, inculcating proper beliefs, improving society. God would not issue commands in an arbitrary, irrational manner.

Rambam writes disparagingly of those who view the Torah in an obscurantist way: "There is a group of human beings who consider it a grievous thing that causes should be given for any law; what would please them most is that the intellect would not find a meaning for the commandments and prohibitions (book 3, chapter 31)."

He refers to the sickness in the souls of such people, who prefer to observe commandments blindly rather than to imagine that God had reasons for giving these commandments. Rambam writes: "Every commandment from among these 613 commandments exists either with a view to communicating a correct opinion, or to putting an end to an unhealthy opinion, or to communicating a rule of justice, or to warding off an injustice, or to endowing men with a noble moral quality, or to warning them against an evil moral quality."

According to Rambam's approach, we need to study God's commandments with a view of trying to understand the divine wisdom within them. While we may not be able to penetrate to God's own wisdom, we will become better and more religious people by engaging in intellectual analysis and inquiry.

Rambam rejects the obscurantist approach that teaches blind obedience and authoritarianism. He fosters a philosophic approach that teaches us to think, to ask, to try to find answers. Certainly, we are obligated to observe the mitzvoth whether or not we ultimately understand the reasons for them; but we should study and strive and struggle to reach as deep a level of understanding as possible.

This is at the root of our freedom and dignity as religious human beings.

The Conversion Crisis, Modern Orthodoxy, and the Crisis in Leadership from Dr. Daniel Sperber, President of Makhan haGovoah leTorah at Bar Ilan U.

Modern Orthodoxy: A Crisis in Leadership
By Dr. Daniel Sperber

Dr. Sperber is President of the Makhon haGavoah leTorah at Bar Ilan University. Author of numerous works in Jewish law, custom and theology, he was awarded the Israel Prize by the State of Israel in recognition of his monumental contributions to Jewish scholarship. This essay, which appears in our journal Conversations (issue 3, winter 2009), is based on a lecture delivered by Dr. Sperber in Los Angeles in May 2008.

Not long ago, we celebrated Hag haShavuot, the Festival of Weeks, the holiday that traditionally commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. At that particular juncture in history, the wandering, newly freed slaves went through a transition from being the Sons of Jacob to becoming the People of Israel. Translated into modern terms, they converted to Judaism. Prior to that time, they were halakhically considered to be Noahides, Benei-Noah. Interestingly enough, according to the rabbis, this national conversion was forced upon them. The Sages tell us that God suspended Mount Sinai over the Israelites and said: "If you accept the Torah, then that's all well and good. Otherwise, this is going to be your graveyard." (The rabbis go on to say that at a later point in history, in the time of Mordekhai and Esther, the Jews finally accepted God’s commandments of their own volition.) What the Sages are telling us here is that there was a transition in identity. The Israelites didn't really know what they were getting into; the Torah had not yet been given to them. Nevertheless, the people said, "na’aseh ve-nishma," we will do it, and we will learn what to do.

In this story, the Israelites took upon themselves the obligation to become different people without actually going through any formal conversion, a process we now call giyyur. It is on Hag haShavuot that we also read the story of Ruth, a beautiful tale in which we hear how Ruth takes upon herself a new identity to become part of the Jewish people. As she said in her famous words, "Where you go, I will go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God,” and so forth. Ruth, like the Israelites at Sinai, did not really know what she was getting into. She didn't ask questions as to what sort of commandments she would need to follow, how many sets of dishes she would need, or whether she would need to purchase separate dishtowels for milk and meat. She simply wanted to be a part of the Jewish people, and she took upon herself a new identity.

It is these sorts of sources, along with talmudic discussions, that led Maimonides to his formulation of the requirements of conversion to Judaism. He says that when a person comes to convert, he or she should first be discouraged. We say: “Do you really know what you're getting into? Surely it's easier to be a non-Jew. You can eat whatever you want; you can act more or less as you wish.” However, if the potential convert nonetheless says, "No, this is what I really want," then we teach that person a sprinkling of the laws, some of the more difficult commandments and some of the easier ones—and then we accept him or her as a Jew. The convert goes to a Bet Din, a religious court, which needs only to consist of three laymen (unlike today’s requirement for a convert to attend a Bet Din consisting of three rabbis). Maimonides goes on to say that if after the conversion process, the convert becomes an idolater, he or she has the status of an apostate Jew. In other words: Once a Jew, always a Jew. Maimonides’ position finds different formulations in subsequent sources, such as in a responsum of the Tashbetz, R. Simeon b. Tzemah Duran (vol. 3, no. 44). There is no way to retroactively revoke a conversion, regardless of the actions of the convert.

One of the great authorities of the beginning of the early twentieth century was Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodjinsky, the author of the Ahiezer Responsa. Rabbi Grodjinksky argued that the basic requirement for a conversion to Judaism is a renunciation of the convert’s former religious identity. Therefore, a person converting to Judaism need not immediately take on all the commandments; he or she doesn’t even need to know all of the commandments! Indeed, in earlier generations there were no classes for would-be converts. Rabbi Akiva Eger, for example, regarded such classes as inappropriate, since one is not permitted to teach Torah to a non-Jew. Even if nowadays we do not hold such a position, it is clear that in the past, at any rate, such future converts were not expected to have a detailed knowledge of halakha.

The conversion situation today is completely different. In Israel, in Europe, and in the United States, Orthodox Batei Din are very stringent. They make the conversion process an obstacle course for a person who wants to become Jewish: One needs to go through long courses of instruction. One must be adopted, as it were, by an Orthodox Jewish family in order to experience what it means to have a Jewish life. One must prove one’s knowledge and commitment to all of the commandments. And, after all of this work, the would-be convert might be accepted. This process—without a guarantee of acceptance—takes many, many years.

Let me relate a story. Some time ago in Israel in the city of Ashdod, a woman came to get a divorce, a get, from the local Bet Din. The judges of the Bet Din examined her case, and they noted that the woman had converted to Judaism almost ten years earlier. When asked whether she observed the commandments, the woman answered honestly, "No, not so much nowadays." One of the judges then said, "In that case, your conversion is retroactively annulled." He then wrote a long response, in which he gave all the reasons for his decision. He argued that since the woman’s conversion has been retroactively annulled, she was never Jewish. She therefore was never married by Jewish law and would not require a religious divorce. The woman was shocked. One can imagine how she, who for a decade had believed herself to be a Jewish person, raising a Jewish family, suddenly is told that she and her children are not Jewish—and never had been! The woman appealed this ruling before the rabbinic Supreme Court, which had dissenting opinions. Some of judges in this court overruled the Ashdod decision. But three of the judges confirmed it—and went even further than the original judge in Ashdod, calling into question all the conversions that had been done by the Bet Din of Ashdod where this woman had been converted. This Bet Din was established in 1994; thus fifteen years’ worth of conversions were now cast into doubt. We're talking about more than 10,000 people who had been converted over that period of time in the Bet Din of Rabbi Druckman. The rabbinic Supreme Court judges who wrote this opinion added something I believe is completely preposterous: They argued that one of the reasons the Bet Din was invalid was because Rabbi Druckman was an apostate Jew! Why? Because his position on the issue of conversion was a liberal one, one different from their own. Anybody who knows Rabbi Druckman personally knows that he's a wonderful, warm, pious, charismatic person.

The argumentation put forward by these three judges is problematic. First, slandering another person in a court ruling is unacceptable. Second, it is by no means clear whether one Bet Din can invalidate the ruling of another Bet Din. The reasons the judges gave were largely trivial and can be demolished by any basic rabbinic scholar. Moreover, the whole question of whether it's possible to retroactively annul a conversion is itself also questionable. Still, despite the holes in this ruling, it had an immediate and enormous impact on the Jewish community.

Ironically, this decision came to the public eye on Erev Shabbat of the Parashah in which we read of inui haGer, the prohibition against afflicting a convert. Imagine families sitting around the Sabbath table not knowing whether they are Jewish or not; husbands uncertain whether they have lived for a decade with a non-Jewish wife; children who are educated in Jewish schools, not knowing whether they are Jewish or not; young women and men engaged to be married, wondering whether the Bet Din will accept them as Jews—or whether they will need to cancel their weddings. We are not talking about a single family. We're talking about thousands of families, perhaps even more than 10,000, who had undergone this whole process over more than a decade. Rabbi Druckman had been appointed by the government, by the Prime Minister's office to be in charge of the minhal ha-giyyur, the official government organization that deals with conversion. This government institution has two distinct courts that deal with conversion and are independent of the other Batei Din. One comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, for personal status law; the other under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's office. There has always been a tension between these two courts. The normal Batei Din always thought of themselves as the sole arbiters of Jewish law, and therefore they felt that they were a cut above the dayanim, the rabbinic judges, who dealt with conversion. Hence, there was political tension as a background to this particular problem; but it came to a head in this particular issue.

This conversion affair created a furor on the part of Modern Orthodoxy. Rav Amar, the head of the rabbinic Supreme Court, is the only person who has the authority to overrule this ruling, and he found himself in a very difficult situation. On the one hand, he was aware of the complete injustice of this court's ruling. On the other hand, he had gotten his appointment through the lobbying and support of the Hareidi community. He therefore felt, in a sense, subservient to that community and its leadership. After much hesitation, Rav Amar came out with a statement that he does recognize all these conversions. Nonetheless, the damage was done. The Hareidi community will not accept these converts or let their children marry Jews from families that include converts from the Bet Din in Ashdod.

In order to get to the heart of this issue, we need to understand what has happened to the rabbinic court system over the past few decades. Judges in the rabbinic court system are appointed by a special committee. This committee has been monopolized by the Hareidi community, since members of this community have a majority of votes. Unfortunately, everything in Israel is politicized—including religion. Over the past several years, this special committee has consistently appointed Hareidi rabbis to serve as dayanim. About a year ago, there were over a hundred young rabbis who had taken the examinations for the dayanut, and who were eligible for a position of dayan. There were only about six places available—and all of them went to Hareidim. This is also true of the previous period of some four years earlier. Representatives of the Modern Orthodox community went to the Supreme Court and argued that this discriminatory appointment process was unacceptable, and they demonstrated that there were other candidates who were no less eligible, according to their examination results. The Supreme Court then passed the issue over to the Minister of Justice, urging him to reconsider these nominations. The Minister did reconsider them, and eventually confirmed them all. After a great deal of pressure from the Modern Orthodox community, other positions were made available. Still, most of Israel’s Batei Din are ruled by dayanim that come from the Hareidi camp and who have very little general secular knowledge.

Many of you are acquainted with the agunah problem, in which women with recalcitrant husbands who refuse to grant them a get, or religious divorce, are “chained” in their unwanted marriages. We know that there are solutions to this problem, and there are solutions in Israel that are readily available because the law permits the exertion of social or monetary pressure to force a husband to give a get to his wife. The recalcitrant husband’s professional license may be taken away; his bank accounts may be frozen; he may even be jailed. However, the religious courts today do not use the authority vested in them because they are afraid of what is called a get me’useh, an enforced divorce. This seems strange, because according to halakha, one is permitted to force a person to give a divorce! Nevertheless, the dayanim, most of whom are functioning under the influence of Hareidi leadership, are not willing to use their authority because the way of Hareidi halakha is one of stringency, of humrot, rather than leniency.

In order to understand even more fully the situation that is emerging, let me relate to you yet another story. The head of the Bet Midrash at the Institute of Advanced Torah Studies at Bar Ilan University brought to my attention a ruling that was published by the rabbinic courts in Israel in the year 2000. The case was as follows: A young woman came to register for marriage. The Bet Din in Jerusalem— and we know who the dayanim are—looked into the case and noted that the bride-to-be’s mother had been a widow. This woman’s first husband had been blown up in a tank during the Yom Kippur War. The military Bet Din declared this man to be dead. In the Shulhan Arukh, in the section that deals with the question of agunot, it is stated that if a husband vanishes, and we do not know what happened to him (we do not find the majority of his body, or his face), then he is declared missing, and we cannot definitely declare him as dead. Even if we find his clothing, we cannot identify the corpse by this clothing because it is possible that somebody else borrowed those clothes. The court in Jerusalem that dealt with this subject stated that this former husband who had been blown up in a tank, and whose body had not survived, could not be definitively identified as being dead. Consequently, his wife was now presumed to have been an agunah, and since she had remarried, in accordance with the ruling of the army Bet Din, and subsequently gave birth to this daughter, her daughter has the status of a mamzeret, an illegitimate child. The 2000 ruling declared: “We advise [the mother of the bride-to-be] to go to such and such a court, a Bet Din that has dayanim who are God-fearing people!” Such a slur upon the military Batei Din is absolutely unconscionable.

The dayanim in this case were apparently unaware of what happens in a tank. When a tank is blown up, nothing much remains in that tank: maybe slivers of bone, maybe bits of charred flesh, stains of blood on the metal walls. The soldier's identity tags will probably survive, and there are always at least two, one which he has around his neck, and the other which he keeps in a little slot in his leather boot—but his body and his face will not survive. Unfortunately, I know this all too well because during the Lebanese War, I witnessed first-hand the picking up of the remnants of bodies in blown up tanks. I know how one climbs into a burnt tank, scrapes the walls, picks up little bits and pieces, puts them into plastic bags, and brings them for identification. One asks neighboring tank units to give additional testimony, and the bits of body parts that do remain are then examined for their DNA. This is the process of identification—and there is no doubt as to the identity of the killed soldiers. Apparently the dayanim in this “learned” Jerusalem Bet Din had absolutely no idea what the identification process entails. And what did they do? They declared the woman an agunah, and a possible adulteress, and her daughter as a possible mamzeret.

There are two areas in halakha where the law states very clearly that you always should take a lenient position: One of these is in the case of an agunah. Our sages went so far as to change the laws of testimony in the case of the agunah: One can rule on the basis of one single witness and not two. One can accept a woman's testimony, which is normally not accepted. One can receive hearsay as evidence, and so on and so forth. Maimonides states very clearly that even though it may look as though this is a serious issue of arayot, forbidden marriages, and one may justly ask why halakha should have gone so far to change the laws of testimony, it is in order to free an enchained woman .To do this we must do everything we can to take the lenient path.

The other area in which the halakha goes out of its way to reduce a person's pain, anguish, and stigma is, of course, the issue of mamzerut. The Talmud tells a story of a woman whose husband went abroad for a year. At the end of that year, the woman gave birth to a baby. How did she give birth to a baby if her husband was not there for a year? We are told to suspect that she was pregnant for the full twelve months. Now, medically this is not a likely scenario. Nevertheless, the rabbis, who were fully aware of this vast improbability, were willing to go so far in order not to create the stigmatic situation of a mamzer. Furthermore, one of the great authorities of the Gaonic period rules that if a man went away from his wife for eighteen months or two years, and she gives birth after that period of time, we should suspect that the husband came back secretly without telling anybody but his wife, unless he states clearly that he did not do so. In other words, the rabbis were willing to go to all sorts of lengths in order to save the child from the situation of mamzerut. Many generations of rabbis would find solutions for cases of suspected mamzerut. But what did this Jerusalem Bet Din do? In one single sentence, based on a complete lack of understanding of the situation in the army, they cast doubt upon the legitimacy and the validity of the ruling of the military Bet Din, they declared the woman an agunah, and her daughter a mamzeret.

Thus far, we have seen the way the Hareidi leadership has delegitimized the conversion system of the rabbinate and the decisions of the military rabbinic courts. We have also seen how the Hareidi authorities have instituted halakhically unnecessary stringencies in cases of agunot and possible mamzerut. And again, just as an example of what is happening now: less than a year ago, at the onset of Sabbatical year, the Hareidi authorities created a situation that caused numerous Jews to transgress laws of Shemitah. Rav Kook came out with a ruling in 1912 to bypass the problems presented by the Sabbatical year, problems that would create enormous social and economic hardships, and probably endanger the continuity of the yishuv. He permitted the selling of the arable land in Israel to a non-Jew during the Shemitah year. This ruling, called heter mekhirah, has been accepted for nearly a century. Every seven years, the government of Israel sells the arable land of Israel to a non-Jew in order to avoid the problems of working the land during the Shemitah year.

For the recent Sabbatical year, for the very first time, the longstanding policy of Rav Kook was challenged. When the current Chief Rabbi was appointed through a majority that came about through the lobbying of the Hareidim, there was a condition made that he had to accept, namely that he would not sanction the heter mekhirah. Thus, when the Shemitah year came along, the Chief Rabbinate could no longer carry out this particular rabbinic procedure. You have to understand what the implications for the people of the State of Israel would be if there were no heter mekhirah. In the Diaspora, one may not be so acquainted with all the ins and outs of the laws of Shemitah. But in Israel, without a heter mekhirah, any produce that is grown during the Sabbatical year is deemed to have the status of kedushat shevi’it, the sanctity of the Sabbatical year. There are numerous laws regarding kedushat shevi’it. One cannot buy produce of the land in a regular way. One cannot pay for it in a normal fashion in a supermarket. One cannot even weigh this produce in the normal fashion. One cannot cook the food as one usually does. The leftover Sabbatical produce cannot be simply thrown away, but must be put in a separate receptacle and disposed of in a special fashion.

At least 80 percent of the population of Israel has no understanding of Shemitah. Whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox, most Jews haven't learned these complicated laws; Jews in Israel have previously functioned according to the heter mekhirah. The direct result of not having a heter mekhirah is that the majority of the population of Israel would be doing more and more sins on a daily basis. Every time they bought, every time they paid, every time they weighed, every time they cooked, every time they threw away leftover food products, there would be a ritual transgression connected in some way with kedushat shevi’it. This is a completely unacceptable situation.

Again, in this instance, there was a considerable outcry from the Modern Orthodox rabbis who felt that the halakha had been hijacked by the Hareidi leadership, and that the rabbinate was not functioning in the best interests of all Jews. We have here an anomalous situation. Non-Orthodox Jews are generally not interested in the rulings of the Chief Rabbinate. In fact, the Batei Din and their rabbis all too often act in such a way that they repel many non-Orthodox people. The truth is that many Orthodox Jews would also prefer not to have to go through the Hareidi Chief Rabbinate’s procedures. The Hareidi community itself does not need the Chief Rabbinate; it has its own community rabbis and local Batei Din. So the only people who are truly affected by the State Batei Din and Chief Rabbinate are members of the Modern Orthodox community. Ironically, this community is not serviced by the Chief Rabbinate, whose stance on most issues reflects a Hareidi outlook and a rejection of Modern Orthodox ideology and halakhic principles.

Modern Orthodoxy in Israel feels itself beleaguered on all sides. It has been marginalized and delegitimized by the Hareidim, while at the same time, the non-Orthodox community and governmental authorities are not exactly friendly toward it. It was only a few months ago that the Minister of Education, Professor Yuli Tamir, declared that there would be no funding for the Sherut Le’umi program, a national service program for Modern Orthodox women in lieu of army service. The program would need to be cancelled. Over two and a half thousand Sherut Le’umi women, who every year for the past many years have been serving the community in a remarkable fashion, in hospitals, in schools, in all walks of life, would no longer be able to function. Fortunately, in this particular case, there was sufficient pressure brought about within the governmental framework by relevant parties that at the last moment they agreed to find the necessary budget. Although this problem was averted, it is clear that the Modern Orthodox community and religious worldview is being attacked from all sides.

One should bear in mind that this problem is not only an Israeli one. The Council of European Rabbis met a few months ago, after the scandalous conversion affair in Ashdod became publicized. These rabbis came to a decision that only those Batei Din that are sanctioned by the Edah Hareidit, headed by Rabbi Eliashiv, would be acceptable to them. Therefore any conversion that was carried out by a Bet Din that was not recognized by the Hareidim and their leadership would not be recognized in Europe. Many American rabbis are also taking increasingly stringent positions on conversion. Hence when any Diaspora Jew comes to Israel with a document of conversion, if the rabbi who was involved in the conversion is not on the “approved list,” he/she will find himself/herself with considerable problems. Children will not be able to register for marriage. There will be a question as to their status as a Jew. Basically, this issue threatens Modern Orthodox society all over the globe.

To some extent, we, the Modern Orthodox, are at fault for these woes. We are at fault because we have not been sufficiently stalwart in our own convictions. We have not given our Modern Orthodox rabbis sufficient support. We have not been sufficiently unified, unlike the Hareidi community which functions largely as a unified mass, politically and in other ways. We are not proud enough of our own convictions, and perhaps we are not always certain that our ideology is the correct one. We need to be much more definite that our way of halakha, our way of religious life, is a completely legitimate one, one that should be supported and confirmed and affirmed. We do not have strong, authoritarian leadership, perhaps because we are too individualistic. We have to support those institutions that propagate Modern Orthodox ideology. I think that Bar-Ilan University is probably the largest single organization or institution in this world with an ideology that promotes Modern Orthodoxy. That does not mean that all the students are Orthodox; not even all the teachers are. But its ideology is one of inclusiveness, one of welcoming everybody within our congregation, one in which everybody should and can feel at home, in a pluralistic, religiously oriented environment. We need to develop a cadre of learned and well-educated independent-thinking rabbis, who will lead their congregations along this path of "client-friendly" halakha, and whose voice will be heard even more strongly and forcefully as a counterbalance to the Hareidi juggernaut.

We, at the Institute of Advanced Torah Studies at Bar Ilan University, are involved in just such an initiative, through training and placing brilliant young academically qualified students with a rich Torah background in key communities, hoping they will be models to be replicated throughout even more congregations. Bet Morashah in Jerusalem is involved in similar such activities on a lesser scale. Such initiatives require massive support in order to succeed and really stamp a new cultural imprint on Modern Orthodox society. If we do not support organizations such as Bar-Ilan, and Tzohar, an organization of over 400 independent Modern Orthodox rabbis in Israel (and such efforts as the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals and the International Rabbinic Fellowship in the United States)—if we do not give them the full and massive support they require, then we will not be able to confront with strength and with authority the challenges that are being placed before us by the monopolizing Hareidi leadership which is marginalizing and delegitimizing us, our congregations, our leaders, our schools, our courts, and our religious authority. For must we really buy and eat only food products with a Hareidi hekhsher? Isn’t the hekhsher of rabbanut Yerushalayim equally acceptable for us? The Hareidi community is bombarding us with “kosher” cell phones, and is deciding which kind of music we are permitted to hear. Avraham Fried will no longer receive their hekhsher, and his discs will be banned! Must women be told the absolute requirements for the length of their sleeves and the height of their collars?

It lies with us, the people, the grassroots to create a new awareness of the dangers, to confront those dangers, and to support a leadership that will be able to bring us out into the right and proper light. Then we will be able to have a religious leadership that will be welcoming and inclusive, a leadership that will not repel people, pushing them away from Orthodoxy, but one that will draw them in. And, as I reiterate, it is up to the grassroots community to create the infrastructures, whatever they be, to ensure that future generations will be able to successfully confront this major challenge for the Modern Orthodox community.

Yawn. Peres Picks Bibi. Now, Let's See What Happens . . .


So far this means absolutely nothing. First, Bibi is mumbling everything he can think of in order to please anyone he might have to negotiate with to make his government, so don't start thinking that anything he is suggesting has even the slightest bit of significance.

Second, until we see the coalition he makes, all bets are off.

If Livni sticks to her guns (remember what they say about a spurned woman), then Bibi is left with Avigor Lieberman's party and a rag-tag assortment of smaller parties.

My bet is that he will try to "balance" one against the other (think divide and conquer) and he can have the most influence. So, to balance Lieberman, he will tap labor.

27 Likud
15 Yisrael B.
13 Labor

OK, now he needs to seal the majority for his coalition.

Shas is easily bought off with welfare and child allotments, so they aren't a problem as long as they don't demand the education portfolio. They already pledged their support, and they don't need to be balanced because they are basically the lap-dog of any government who gives them money. So, that's an easy 11 mandates--making a not-so-comfortable majority of 66.

With the inclusion of UTJ (4 mandates), balanced with the National Union (5 mandates), he can easily get a very strong coalition without even worrying about what the nationalist Bayit Yehudi party (3 mandates) wants in the government--which, I'm sure, is what he wants. After all, you can't carve up Israel like a Pashal Offering to the Arabs if you have to answer to a nationalist party in the government coalition!

Bayit Yehudi will probably want in, followed quickly by leaving the coalition over this or that planned expulsion of Jews (we know Bibi will do this, this is obvious. After all, how else will he qualify for his own talk-show from CNN or MSNBC after his PM position if he doesn't destroy Israel? We must understand, always, that Bibi is for Bibi. If we understand that, we will never be surprised or disappointed by anything he does.)

OK, so that gives Bibi a nice majority coalition government of 78. Then, even if Lieberman wants to leave in a huff, Bibi will still cover his tuchas with a slim margin of 4 votes for any crazy thing he can come up with.

Let's wait and see, but I bet I am right . . . (more "right" than Bibi, at least!).

Peres tasks Netanyahu with forming government

After meeting separately with Likud chairman, Kadima leader Livni, president assigns Netanyahu with establishing next government. Netanyahu calls on Livni, Labor head Barak to join hands with him for the nation's sake

Aviad Glickman
Latest Update: 02.20.09, 15:10 / Israel News

President Shimon Peres announced Friday he has decided to task Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the next government.

"Most of the factions have expressed their desire to see a broad government being established, and I asked Mr. Netanyahu that this wish will be reflected in the makeup of the government," Peres said at a press conference in his official residence.

"The people of Israel need governmental stability in order to deal with the challenges that lie ahead," the president added.

In his speech, Netanyahu referred to the challenges facing Israel: "Iran is developing nuclear weapons and poses the greatest threat to our existence since the War of Independence. Iran's terror wings surround us from the north and south"

The Likud leader called on members of all factions, "those who recommended and those who didn't," to put all the disagreements aside and focus on the good of the state.

Netanyahu urged Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak to "join hands" with him, and said that he wished to meet with the two first, for the sake of national unity.

Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni called Netanyahu later Friday and told him she was not opposed to a meeting with him. They are scheduled to meet Sunday.

Livni rejects notion of unity government
Earlier, President Peres met separately with Netanyahu and Livni after formal consultations between the president and the faction representatives have ended.

Peres urged both leaders to form a broad national unity government that will include both Likud and Kadima.

Netanyahu, who was the first to meet Peres, told the president that he understood the need for a unity government. "Immediately after you task me with forming the coalition, I will invite Kadima for negotiations," said the Likud leader.

"I'm willing to go far in order to establish such a government," he stated.

Shortly after their meeting concluded, Livni arrived at the president's residence in Jerusalem. After the meeting she said: "Whoever is willing to forsake all his values in order to sit in the coalition is unworthy to sit in that spot. There is a coalition here based on a lack of political vision, a coalition that will not allow me to exercise the way of Kadima.

"A broad coalition has no value if it does not lead the way. I cannot be a cover for a lack of way," added Livni.

Livni's associates stressed that unless Netanyahu agrees to rotation, "there's nothing to talk about."

With the culmination of the talks with Peres Thursday evening, the score stood markedly in Netanyahu's favor with 65 endorsements (from the Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi).

Meanwhile Livni garnered the support of the 28 members of her own party. Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties chose not to recommend any candidate to Peres.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Zero Love. Dubai "Allows" Andy Ram to Play in Tournament.


OK, so the women of tennis will allow one of their own to be horribly discriminated against and say NOTHING and do NOTHING--why am I not surprised?

And, the WTA will say NOTHING and do NOTHING to help Shahar Pe’er.

BUT, when an American politician gets involved, suddenly Dubai will allow an Israeli Man in (I guess he wasn't as horrible as that terrible women's tennis player?).

Kudos to U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D.-NY) for standing on his integrity.

Kudos to the WJC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Wiesenthal Center for Speaking up.

MAJOR KUDOS to the Tennis Channel for refusing to air the event, and Kudos to The Wall Street Journal Europe for dropping their sponsorship of the tournament.

This is all after the fact, though. It just isn't enough.

I'm sitting here thinking to myself, "OK, Dubai let Ram play, so we are all supposed to just go on like nothing ever happened, right? We are all supposed to think it is just fine that Pe'er was kept from competing, and we should just all get along, right?

I am disappointed. I guess I live in a dreamworld where people live by morals and ethics, where they don't think that something never happened or isn't important because it is over (you know, like how they say the Holocaust never happened because it is over).

In fact, a Los Angles Jewish newspaper even has the GALL in their cover story today to say that we should all just "get over" our hatred of Wagner. After all, he has some nice music, right? Let's just overlook the fact that he hated Jews and wanted us destroyed and that his music is forever linked with the destruction of our people through Hitler. We don't have to think about that because it is over, right?


Seriously, folks, this is a serious issue that must not be ignored.

Every issue of anti-Semitism is a serious issue that cannot be ignored.

I am hoping the men, at least, will stand with Peer and refuse to play.

Dubai Double-Takes, Allows Visa to Israeli Tennis Player
by Avraham Zuroff

(IsraelNN.com) Dubai will allow male Israel tennis player Andy Ram to enter the country and compete in a tournament. This occured in the wake of Dubai’s earlier refusal to issue a visa to the female Israeli tennis champ, Shahar Pe’er. Dubai’s move of banning Pe’er was met with a storm of international protests earlier this week.

U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D.-NY) said that he told the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to the United States that banning Pe'er was a setback for its nation.

"Over the last several days I have had a series of conversations with Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba about the very troubling steps taken by the United Arab Emirates government to deny an Israeli tennis player a visa to play in the Dubai Tennis Championship," said Weiner in a statement Wednesday. "I made it clear that I felt this was a setback for a nation that had made commendable efforts to foster understanding and tolerance."

As a result of the talks, Al Otaiba has assured Weiner that Andy Ram, the male doubles player, will be allowed to compete in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, recently denied Shahar Pe'er a visa for the tennis tournament. The rejection of the tennis player’s visa application violates WTA rules, which state that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking.

The issue whether Pe’er would now be issued a visa is academic, since she has already missed playing in the women’s tournament, which began this week. “It was my sense from the ambassador that he was looking to do the right thing, but that’s small consolation to Ms. Peer. He understood that they had made a mistake and they had a public relations problem,” Weiner mentioned.

Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, had previously called for the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to sanction the United Arab Emirates at its board meeting last weekend for its failure to allow Shahar Pe'er to participate in this year’s Barclays Dubai Championship.

The Tennis Channel has refused to broadcast the tournament because of the Pe'er visa refusal, and The Wall Street Journal Europe announced it was dropping its sponsorship of the tournament.

Dubai’s claim that it was concerned with Pe’er’s personal security aroused suspicion among the members of the umbrella group of 51 American Jewish organizations. “The excuse that the UAE was concerned about Ms. Pe'er’s security is spurious. Any country that cannot assure the security of all players in a tournament should not be allowed to host it,” the organization said in a statement.

Dubai tournament organizers said on Tuesday that had Israeli tennis champion Shahar Pe'er participated in its women’s championships, local tennis fans would have boycotted the games. In addition, they expressed concern for her personal safety.

"Public sentiment remains high in the Middle East and it is believed that Ms. Pe'er's presence would have antagonized our fans who have watched live television coverage of recent attacks in Gaza," stated tournament director Salah Tahlak, who added, “We don’t wish to politicize sports.”

Meanwhile, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder stated, "It is scandalous that some governments mix up politics and sport," referring to similar events in the past where Muslim countries banned Israeli players from competing.

Livni Spurned in Coalition Shidduch With Lieberman. Yisrael Beiteinu Wants To Play House With Bibi but Keep Kadima as Mistress


I guess this is what passes for “suspense” lately? How, exactly, did the inevitable coronation of Bibi Netanyau become “suspense”?

We all know that Tzippi can’t make a coalition (she already tried and failed. Isn’t that why we went to early elections?). Lieberman wants to go with a winner not a loser--even if Bibi IS a weasel.

We all knew, last year, that we would be stuck with Bibi again, that he was the only “choice” we were getting.

Is he better than Livni? Probably not. The only difference that I see between the two is that Livni is stupid enough to say what she is going to do to destroy Israel and Bibi keeps it to himself.

So here we are back at START again with Bibi. Do you think he has learned one thing from his past? I doubt it. He is already talking about giving away land, and he hasn’t even started in office. He talks tough, but when the spoon hits the pudding, he puts his tail between his legs, tosses the arabs whatever they want, and runs. That’s his history, his story, his failure.

I guess this isn’t a good time to bring up that really scary prophecy in Drosnin's "The Bible Code," right? You know, the one that says that Bibi will travel to Syria early in his term and will be, G-d forbid, assassinated? Everyone used that section of the book to say that Drosnin’s predictions were completely bogus—but then they weren’t counting on Bibi going back into the PM slot, now were they?

Even though I don’t put any stock in these Bible Code “prophecies” that have been so popular—Drosnin’s prediction has been tugging at my mind through this whole election process. I sure hope he is wrong. The last thing we need is a Martyred Bibi. Ugh. I don’t want to even think about how horrible that would be.

So, all hail PM Bibi, Israeli Politician Extraordinaire! Let’s all pray for the guy. Maybe he can grow a backbone and some BZ before it’s too late for us and our little country that could.


Lieberman Breaks Suspense: Recommends Netanyahu

by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Ending nine days of guessing around the country, Avigdor Lieberman, enjoying the kingmaker role as head of Israel’s third-largest party, recommends that Binyamin Netanyahu form the country’s next government.

In his meeting with President Shimon Peres Thursday morning , the head of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) added that this recommendation applies only if Netanyahu tries to form a national unity government with Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu. This part of his recommendation, however, carries no official weight.

"Netanyahu and Livni must sit together in the government, without rotation," Lieberman told Peres. "A government of 65 MKs [with only the nationalist and religious parties, as well as Yisrael Beiteinu] will be nothing more than a 'survival' government. The three large parties must first form a government, and then the other parties will be invited to join."

Peres is in the midst of a round of meetings with leaders and representatives of all of the Knesset parties, hearing their recommendations on who should form Israel’s next government. Lieberman’s recommendation gives Netanyahu an outright majority of the incoming Knesset, simplifying Peres’s job.

Guessing Continues
The guessing game is not over, however. Will Netanyahu try to form a unity government with Kadima, as he has said he would do, or will he settle for a nationalist government of 65 MKs with Lieberman and the religious and nationalist parties?

More questions: If Netanyahu chooses a unity government, will he begin the negotiations with Kadima - or will he give his natural partners “first dibs”? And what about Kadima itself – is it interested in joining a Netanyahu-led government, or will it remain in the Opposition, as leader Tzipi Livni has said? Livni has said that she will agree only to a unity government that includes a rotation agreement between her and Netanyahu as Prime Minister - a scenario the Likud has ruled out. And will Kadima split up, with some MKs joining Netanyahu and others remaining in the Opposition?

The Lieberman Enigma
Lieberman served as a top aide to Netanyahu in the past, continues to talk with him frequently, and his voters are strongly right-wing and nationalist. Despite these niceties, he did not makes things easy for the nationalist camp, and did not state aloud that he would recommend Netanyahu until nearly the last minute.

It is not clear exactly what Lieberman’s considerations are. Some have said that his fence-sitting was related to the 8-year-old police investigation against him, which has recently gained steam once again. Just yesterday, police sources met with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and told him that the accusations against Lieberman “are becoming more weighty.” Lieberman may or may not have been weighing which government – either left-center, or nationalist – might mean better chances for the closing of the case. He was also likely considering which ministerial portfolios the investigation prevents him from receiving. After the previous elections, in 1996, Mazuz announced that because of the investigation against Lieberman, he was not eligible to serve as Public Security Minister.

Adding to the mystery were some of Lieberman’s political moves in the past. After being left out of Olmert’s government in early 2006, he joined the government several months later, and then abruptly left just over a year later.

Despite Lieberman’s strongly hawkish reputation, his stance against further withdrawals is far from absolute. After the 2006 elections, he outlined on Channel Two Television the circumstances under which his party would oppose another unilateral withdrawal. “If it will be a withdrawal with no benefit, no compensation and no improvement in the security situation, then we will not be partners," he said.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"If they're going to bar Israelis, why not just rename it the `Dubai Apartheid Tournament'?"


Now, supposedly, the tournament is in limbo--well, at least the men's tournament. The women's tournament seems to be going on as scheduled. I guess it is OK for the women to be part of such an anti-Semetic tournament, but not the men, right?

This whole thing is so disgusting. I am sitting here wondering why the women would agree to play in the tournament at all. It seems to me that they should all say, "If Peer doesn't play, we don't play." But, I guess I live in a dreamworld where human beings actually CARE about the rights of others.

I know that this is not the case. Human beings care about the rights of others, as long as those human beings are not Jews.

Nothing changes. The world is going right back to where it was 100 years ago and no one cares. They have forgotten that we are not scapegoats--we are the canaries in the coal-mine.

What happens to us, happens to you too.

Wake up.

Dubai tournament in doubt over Peer row

Future of Dubai Tennis Championships 'very much in doubt' as pressure mounts on sport officials to take action after Israeli player denied entry to UAE. Andy Ram yet to receive word on his visa status

Published: 02.18.09, 01:29 / Israel Culture

The future of the Dubai Championships was "very much in doubt" on Tuesday as pressure mounted for the sport's governing bodies to take action after Israel's Shahar Peer was barred from competing.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) denied Peer an entry visa and the world number 45 was unable to participate in one of the most lucrative tournaments on the WTA Tour.

The $2 million event had nine of the world's top 10 women in the field and from next Monday Dubai will host the men's tournament but the political row is expected to rumble on because Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram is in the field.

WTA chief Larry Scott has said the Dubai tournament could be scratched from next year's calendar if UAE officials persist with their stance of barring Israeli competitors.

"The future of this tournament is very much in doubt," Scott told Reuters. "We feel a great sense of upset and outrage over what has happened. Our goal is to bring sports above politics and resolving this for the future.

"There certainly will be (sanctions) imposed on the tournament but we'll make those decisions following this year's tournament. They were awarded this tournament with a very clear understanding and their agreement that if an Israeli ever wanted to play, they would be allowed to play. But (the agreement) had never been tested until now.

"Whatever we decide here will send a very clear signal."

This is the first major political row to hit the sport since global sanctions were placed on South Africa in the late1970s for its apartheid regime. But unlike apartheid South Africa, Israel is not the subject of international sporting sanctions and so those who govern the sport cannot allow individual countries to lay down the rules about who can and cannot compete at their tournaments.

'WTA must take responsibility'
The refusal to issue a visa to Peer violates WTA Tour rules, which state that any player should be able to compete where she wishes if she has the required ranking.

While the ATP Tour said it would review the status of the men's event once Ram was notified about his application, the player said action should be taken sooner rather than later.

The people in charge of the tour - the WTA and the ATP - have to take responsibility," Ram said while competing in a tournament in Marseille.

"It's one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar, so obviously they have to find a way to let the Israelis play there. I don't know what should be done... Maybe cancelling the tournament or sanction them with money or any other thing."

Like most Arab nations, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Israeli citizens are usually denied entry.

Tournament officials defended their stance, saying local fans would have boycotted the event if an Israeli was allowed to compete and that Peer's safety could also have been compromised.

But Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Barclays Bank to drop its sponsorship from the men's event.

"If they're going to bar Israelis, why not just rename it the `Dubai Apartheid Tournament'?" said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center.

"What Dubai is doing is caving in to extremists who want to harm the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. If Dubai cannot handle appropriate security arrangements, then the tournament should be cancelled."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

At Least The Tennis Channel Has Integrity and Morals. Refuses to Air Dubai Tournament That Bans Israel's Peer.


I told you so. I knew the WTA would decide to go on with the tournament—hurting Peer’s standing.

Look, they knew they were hosting a tournament in a country that doesn’t allow Israelis to enter. They knew that they had decided to place Peer in an awkward, insulting, and difficult position. They knew what they were doing.

They would never have planned a tournament in a nation that would ban Americans or French or Soviets. They would never have planned a tournament in a nation that would ban blacks, or Asians, or Indians. They would never have planned a tournament in a nation that banned Moslems or Catholics or Hindus. Why, in the world, would they plan a tournament in a nation that would ban Israelis? That would ban Jews? That would never allow a participant, her family, or her fans to attend?

The WTA is flat wrong. The tennis channel is right.

The WTA needs to lose some sponsorships, then, maybe, they will wake up.

Feb 17, 2009 13:02 | Updated Feb 17, 2009 15:30
Tennis Channel won't show UAE matches

The Tennis Channel has refused to broadcast the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, in protest of the United Arab Emirates' refusal to grant an entry visa to top Israeli player Shahar Pe'er, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The television channel's chairman and chief executive, Ken Solomon, was quoted in the report as saying, "This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong."

"Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion," he was quoted as saying. "They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the State of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision."

Meanwhile, tournament organizers said Tuesday that fears of protests and security threats were behind the decision to bar Pe'er's entry.

The organizers said in a statement that the recent IDF operation in Gaza "antagonized" local fans and Pe'er's presence could have sparked protests, boycotts and threats, which would have disrupted the tournament.

Tennis Association (WTA) tour Larry Scott said that the lucrative Dubai tournament risked being struck from the women's tennis calendar.

Scott said barring entry to Pe'er could have ramifications beyond tennis because it threatens the principle that sports and politics should not mix.

Speaking in a telephone interview, he said the WTA would consider "what types of sanctions are going to be deemed to be appropriate in light of what has happened, including whether or not the tournament has a slot on the calendar next year."

Asked if there is a risk that the tournament could be dropped if Pe'er does not get redress, Scott replied: "You could say that, yes."

"There's two things we need to consider: what's the future fate of the Dubai tournament and what sanctions apply and the second thing is how does Shahar get treated fairly, how does her situation get redressed?" Scott, the WTA tour's chairman and CEO, told the Associated Press

The UAE rejected Pe'er's visa request a day before she was to arrive for the $2 million Dubai Tennis Championships, which includes all the top-10 women's players.

Pe'er, 21, ranked 45th, had qualified and was already placed in the woman's draw. She was scheduled to play Monday against 15th-seeded Russian Anna Chakvetadze.

Scott said the WTA decided to continue with the tournament to avoid hurting the other players who are already in Dubai. That decision was taken in consultation with Pe'er, he said.

He said UAE officials did not give an exact reason why the visa was refused, "but it can really only be related to her nationality and political and security-related issues."

When They Say "Zionist" They Mean "Jew"--Jews in Muslim Lands See Synagogues Closed, Suffer Anti-Jewish Attacks, See Governments Condone Jew Bating


Yup. The AP is at it again. "It's the Gaza War! It's Outrage over the horrible Gaza War!" they trumpet in every story. We know this is BS. We know that anti-Semitism is alive, well, and boiling very close to the surface every single day of the year just waiting for an excuse to show itself.

It's not the war, which was legitimate, carefully waged to prevent civilian deaths, and incomplete. If the war had been completed, we wouldn't have rockets still falling on the heads of innocent Israelis.

This is anti-Semitism pure and undiluted, and the AP is trying to put a fig-leaf over it.

These Jews in Muslim lands have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GAZA WAR. Most of them, out of fear and coercion have even denounced the war in order to make peace with their co-nationalists. However, this has not helped them one bit because the problem is not the war. The problem is the hatred of Jews.

This is clear from the targets. Did the "protesters" attack Israeli consulates and Israeli government offices? No. They attacked synagogues. They attacked Jews in the streets, in their homes, in their businesses.

The war is simply an excuse for the crowds of people who hate Jews, or who want to blame their problems on Jews to have permission to do so under the banner of "protest against the Gaza war."

Do you think the AP would report that I had a legitimate reason to attack innocent African Americans or attack their churches because I was "protesting" the election of Obama? Do you think the AP would report that I had a legitimate reason to attack Iraninan Americans and attack their Mosques because I was "protesting" the words and actions of the Iranian President?


Why? Because the AP assumes that I should be held to a certain standard of civility. They would expect me to contain my "protests" to legitimate forms of speech, such as carrying a sign or writing letters to the appropriate representatives of whomever I had a problem with.

Not so for arabs.

The allowance for such behavior has completely racist roots. The AP is saying, "Look, these arabs can't act like civilized human beings. They can't be held to the same standards as other people because of their backward religion and culture."

How come the arabs don't protest how the AP portrays them? How come they don't say, "These people who are desecrating the houses of worship and attacking innocent people under the guise of 'protest' are not representatives of the Muslim people!"

But, they won't. I guess self-respect is a lot less important to them than I thought.


Jews in Muslim lands anxious over Gaza war
By AMY TEIBEL Associated Press Writer

CAIRO—Outrage at the Israel war in the Gaza Strip has turned to intimidation and even violence against Jews living in some Muslim lands, raising questions about the stability of these often tiny communities.

In Turkey, Yemen and Indonesia, Muslims have shut down a synagogue, stoned homes and used anti-Semitic slurs. Although the incidents have been isolated, the Jewish minorities in these lands are concerned.

"Before the conflict broke out in Gaza, we were very involved in the community," said Yusron Samba, whose family for years had operated a synagogue in Indonesia that shut down in fear over the war. "Of course we're afraid following strong reaction recently from some Islamic groups questioning our presence here."

The fury over Gaza has centered around the hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed in the war, in which 13 Israelis also died. Israel says it could not avoid killing civilians because Gaza militants operate from residential areas, but critics accuse it of using disproportionate force in its war to halt rocket attacks on its territory.

The steep Palestinian death toll sparked protests across the Muslim world, Europe and in Venezuela, and in some cases, the rage turned to violence. Firebombs were hurled at synagogues in France, Sweden and Belgium, Jews were beaten in England and Norway and an Italian union endorsed a boycott of Jewish-owned shops. In Venezuela, vandals shattered religious objects at a synagogue and spray-painted,

"Jews, get out," on the walls.

In Yemen, where Islamic militancy is on the rise, anti-Israel protesters pelted several Jewish homes with rocks and smashed windows, injuring at least one person, security officials said.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has offered to give plots of land in the capital, San'a, free of charge to Jews who want to relocate from the provinces, officials said. No one has taken him up on the offer, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the offer was made privately in a meeting between the president and Jewish leaders.

As many as 250 of Yemen's estimated 400 Jews are thought to live outside San'a.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, Islamic hard-liners marched to the gates of the country's only synagogue, chanting, "Go to hell, Israel."

"If Israel refuses to stop its attacks and oppression of the Palestinian people, we don't need to defend (the synagogue's) presence here," said Abdusshomad Buchori, who led the protest in the town of Surabaya and has threatened to drive out its Jews. The synagogue has been shuttered since.

In the past, Jews in Surabaya have experienced no hostility, Samba said. But increasingly—probably because of events like the Gaza war—a smattering of swastikas has appeared on the backs of buses, he said.

Because of the hostile reaction, "we're not exposing ourselves to the media right now," he said. "We also report all protests to the police."

Several dozen Jews are thought to be living in Indonesia, descendants of traders from Europe and Iraq.

Jewish leaders in Egypt and Syria were curt when asked about the climate toward Jews in their countries.

"We have no troubles and we don't talk politics," said Carmen Weinstein, head of the Jewish Community in Cairo.

In Syria, Jewish community head Albert Komho said, "There is no fear and there are no threats. We are not involved in any political activity and we are functioning normally."

Jews moved to the Middle East and north Africa after Spain expelled them in the 15th century. Jews were often restricted to separate neighborhoods, had curtailed rights, and sometimes were persecuted. Their condition deteriorated sharply in the first half of the 20th century as a result of Arab nationalism and Israel's impending establishment. Hundreds of thousands fled or were expelled from Arab lands around the time of Israel's 1948 creation, and today, only several tens of thousands remain.

Some communities are tiny, numbering about 100 in Syria and less than a dozen in Baghdad. The biggest concentrations are in Turkey and Iran, where Jews enjoy the stated protection of Islamic governments.

The Iranian Jewish community went out of its way to distance itself from Israel during the Gaza fighting, issuing a statement expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and condemning the Israeli offensive. "The inhuman behavior of the Zionist regime contradicts the religious teachings" of the Jewish faith, the statement said.

A group of Iranian Jews, including Jewish lawmaker Siamak Mara-Sedq, protested against the war in front of the U.N. office in Tehran in late December.

Turkey is Israel's best friend in the Muslim world, but the greatest turbulence over the Gaza war has taken place there. Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confronted Israeli President Shimon Peres over the high Palestinian civilian death toll, before storming off the stage they shared at a high-profile forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Some of Turkey's 23,000 Jews, however, were more alarmed by a government-ordered minute of silence in schools for Gaza's dead, which they fear is a sign that the Islamic-leaning government's declared intolerance of anti-Semitism might waver. Erdogan's recent observation that the Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews also rankled many who took it to mean that Turkey considered them guests, not citizens.

Although Turkish fury was mostly directed at Israel, a few Turkish protesters held placards with anti-Semitic messages. Turkish media showed a photograph of three men in front of the office of a cultural association, holding a dog and a sign saying, "Dogs are allowed, but Jews and Armenians aren't."

Jewish community leaders say hundreds of anti-Semitic writings have appeared in Turkish media, and that prosecutors have failed to take legal action.

"Everyone can criticize the policies of Israel, we respect that," Silvyo Ovadya, head of the Jewish community in Turkey, told the Milliyet newspaper. "However, every speech criticizing Israel has a tendency to turn into cries of 'Damn Jews.' I don't recall such an atmosphere previously."

Erdogan has tried to reassure Turkey's Jews, who live in a country of more than 70 million Muslims, that criticism of Israel does not amount to an attack on Jews and their faith.

"There has been no anti-Semitism in the history of this country," Erdogan told ruling party lawmakers last week. "As a minority, they're our citizens. Both their security and the right to observe their faith are under our guarantee."

Women's Tennis Association Holds Tournament In Dubai. Peer Banned. They Were Expecting A Different Outcome?


Despite what they would all like you to think, the fact that Peer has been refused a visa from Dubai has nothing to do with the Gaza War. "It is Because of the Gaza War" has become an overarching excuse given by all the anti-Jewish forces in the world in the past few months, and frankly, it is a complete lie.

Especially in Dubai.

Dubai is one of the members of the United Arab Emirates, and as such, bans all entry to Israeli citizens. It also bans all entry to those who have visited Israel and have an Israeli visa stamp on their passport.

This is not something since the Gaza war, this is the case in most arab countries . . . unless, of course, you are a well known architect they need to build a twirling tower for their arab heaven on earth. I guess that is the exception.

Of course, they might make a "last minute exception" for Peer, but it is unlikely. And, even if they did, none of her Jewish fans would be permitted to see he play anyway, as they wouldn't be allowed to enter the country.

Now tell me this: Would the Women's Tennis Association have sanctioned a tournament in Israel if Israel banned all citizens of the UAE? Would the Women's Tennis Association have sanctioned a tournament ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD where one group was singled out to be banned--unless that group were Jews?


I guess the ball's in their court now. Will the WTA do the right thing and cancel the tournament? Stay tuned!

(I bet they don't.)

http://www.nypost.com/seven/02172009/news/worldnews/raising_a_racquet_155592.htm By LEONARD GREENE, Post Wire Services

An Israeli tennis star, fuming over being banned from a tournament in Dubai, said yesterday that politics should have no place in sports.

"I think a red line has been crossed here that could harm the purity of the sport and other sports," said Shahar Peer, who is ranked No. 48 in the world.

Peer, 21, was set to fly into the United Arab Emirates Sunday for a Women's Tennis Association tournament, until she was informed Saturday night that she would not be granted a visa. Peer's appearance in the Arab nation, which does not recognize Israel, was the subject of much speculation in the weeks since fighting escalated in the Gaza region.

Last month, during a tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, Peer faced about 20 demonstrators protesting Israel's three-week Gaza incursion. They were removed before Peer played her match.

But the move by Dubai rattled her.

"They really stopped my momentum because now I'm not going to play for two weeks. And because they waited for the last minute, I couldn't go to another tournament either," Peer told CNN from Tel Aviv. "So it's very disappointing and I think it's not fair. I don't think it should happen. I think sport and politics needs to stay on the side and not be involved. I really hope it's not going to happen again, not only to me but to any other athlete."

Peer's brother said she applied for a visa months in advance and was assured by tournament organizers that she would be allowed entry. Peer said she has received calls from other players expressing their support.

"It's not acceptable," top-ranked player Amelie Mauresmo said after clinching the Paris Open title on Sunday. "I think sport should be above issues like that to do with religion and wars and whatever. I'm surprised."

French Open champ Ana Ivanovic, who is in Dubai, said, "I feel very sorry for her. Shahar is a friend of mine and I feel sorry she's not here."

WTA Chief Executive Larry Scott said the tour was "deeply disappointed" by the ban, and observers noted that the future of the $2 million tournament remains uncertain in the wake of the decision.

A tennis official said the men's tour would also review the status of its Dubai tournament, which is due to begin next Monday.