Peter Beinart's Peace-Making (A Jerusalem Post Column)

‘To save Israel, boycott the settlements,’ Peter Beinart pleaded in this week’s New York Times. Israel, he says, is dangerously creating one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, in which “millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.”

Therefore, it is time to drop the phrase “West Bank.” Or “Judea and Samaria.” Rather, Beinart suggests, freedom and democracy-loving Jews should now call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” Perhaps, he muses, that name and the boycotts of West Bank settlements that he hopes will follow might save whatever hope remains for a two-state solution.

Many Jews, including

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Surplus Jews

We Jews permit ourselves degrees of intolerance towards each other that we would never exhibit toward others outside our community. The settings are numerous – theology, Halacha, denominations, politics and more.

But nowhere are the vehemence and the inability to actually listen to those with whom we disagree more pronounced than with regard to the State of Israel.

The great irony of our age is that arguments about how to safeguard the Jewish state are a significant part of what now threatens to destroy any semblance of unity among the Jewish people. It is therefore helpful to have periodic reminders of just how much is at stake in the survival and flourishing

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Prophets and Guardians

There is, it seems, a bit of an occupational hazard to this column-writing business. It probably holds for all sorts of topics, but it’s undoubtedly true when thinking aloud about Israel. Here’s the choice: You can either plant yourself firmly on one side of the political divide, being predictably “right wing” or “left wing,” or you can, depending on the issue, say what you think but appear a bit less consistent.

The advantages of the first option are clear.

Once you are tagged as a “right winger” or “left winger,” people assume that they know what you’re going to say. If you’re “on their side,” they read and nod approvingly, feeling ever

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Before We Preach to Israelis Living Abroad

Kamal Subhi, formerly on the faculty of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University, recently joined other clerics in warning that if the Saudi ban on women driving is lifted, mixing of genders will increase and that, in turn, will encourage premarital relations. If women are allowed to drive, he said, in 10 years’ time the kingdom will have no virgins left. “The virgin dearth,” I guess we could call it. In Europe – and I’m not making this up – a Muslim cleric ruled that women should not touch or be proximate to bananas and cucumbers, in order to avoid “sexual thoughts.” Their fathers or husbands should chop them before they

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The Danger of the Dangers

Seventy years ago this week, Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor “a day which will live in infamy.” He was right. The attack has remained, in the memories of Americans and of much of the West, synonymous with unprovoked violence, gross American unpreparedness, and ultimately, a devastating Japanese strategic mistake.

To a battered Jewish world, though, that “day of infamy” may have been a blessing in a horrific disguise.  For matters could have been much worse had the Japanese not attacked. Absent that Japanese provocation, how much longer would it have taken for the United States to enter the war? How much more of Europe might Hitler

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A Tale of Two Funerals

When he passed away on November 8 in Jerusalem, the American- born Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel was widely credited with having transformed the Mir Yeshiva into the world’s largest. Some 100,000 people flocked to his funeral. The procession began at the Mir in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood, and continued afoot to the Har Hamenuhot cemetery. For those neighborhoods of Jerusalem and for the population that lives there, time stood still. Businesses were closed and study was suspended even at other institutions.

His death was considered a loss of a once-in-a-generation leader.

Amazingly, though, outside that community, almost no one noticed. Most Israelis could not name him and were unaware that he had

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A Rediscovered Abundance of Goodness

Mr. Prime Minister,

Before the Shalit deal fades entirely from view, many of us are hoping that you have noticed what you unwittingly unleashed.  I don’t mean the next wave of terror or the terrible decisions that Israel must make before the next kidnapping.  We knew about those even before last week.  But last Tuesday, all of us – those opposed as well as those in favor (and there were persuasive arguments on both sides) – rediscovered something magnificent about this country.  It would be tragic if we returned to business as usual without pausing to take note.

In addition to Gilad Shalit, we got one more thing in return that few

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Saving Shalit to Save Israel

With Israel’s international standing crumbling and its internal cohesion fraying, Netanyahu urgently needed to restore Israeli morale. ….  A Foreign Affairs article …

No one in Israel is calling the agreement signed for Gilad Shalit’s freedom a good deal. On many levels it is terrible. Israel is releasing more than 1000 prisoners, several hundred of them hardened terrorists, for one soldier. For the first time, the Jewish state essentially acquiesced as a terrorist organization dictated the list of prisoners to be released, including several responsible for mass deaths of Israeli citizens, a notion that would once have been unthinkable. Israel may well have given its enemies incentive to kidnap more

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Jokes My Grandfather Told Me

My grandfather, for many years a leading figure in American Jewish life, would occasionally share the following quip with me.  “There are two views of sociology,” he would say.  “The complimentary view holds that sociology proves the obvious.  The more realistic view holds that it proves the false.”  And then he would burst out laughing.

It wasn’t, I admit, a terribly charitable view of a serious discipline.  But I loved to see him laugh, so I enjoyed the pleasure the joke gave him.  I hadn’t thought of that line of his for a long time, until JTS, the very institution at which he was Professor of Bible, recently released its study

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Can Israel Survive Without a Palestinian State? — A New York Times Debate

As delegates gather in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly next week, the U.S. was seeking a last-minute compromise to delay a U.N. vote supporting Palestinian statehood. Turkey and Egypt have lent support to such a resolution, and American negotiators in the Middle East were in talks aimed at averting the U.N. vote. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel seemed intent on blocking it, and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority appeared equally determined to see it proceed. Is there a case to be made that Israel’s very survival depends on the creation of a stable and viable Palestinian state?

A brief column with a few

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