Expert at what precisely?

Expert. What does it mean? When it comes to USA presidential election predictions, it appears to mean clueless, or wrong. Dead wrong.

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Will the media stop and take stock, and try and understand how they (nearly) all got it so gloriously wrong? Shades of the Brexit experience for sure.

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The good old USA

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That’s what I pine for. I don’t think I like the USA that has been on show during this election campaign. It’s not only the two candidates who have been somewhat lacking, and that for sure is being charitable.

I want the good old USA back. Unfortunately, I do not think either of the candidates could possibly come close to that, and neither seems to have the potential to unite the nation.

So, here I sit on the sidelines, neither a USA citizen nor voter, but with a vested interest in the policies and practices of the USA. Worried and concerned.

I hope that whoever wins the presidential race surprises us all, but only in a good way.

G-d Bless America.

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Disconnect

I often wonder how much thought people give to their political beliefs. Do they think them through, and ponder the consequences? Do they test the validity of their principles against, for example, the basic requirements of a caring society, or simple logic?

The following extract from the Guardian report about the Million Mask March in London suggests the answer is “no.”

Among the protesters was Angela Windsor, an unemployed 40-year-old, who said she had travelled from Wales to take part in the event. “Nobody is protecting people – nobody cares. I think everyone here cares enough about people to make the effort to come down and try and do something, because the officials aren’t doing it.”

She said anyone who tried to incite a repeat of last year’s violent displays would be missing the point, adding: “Nobody wants a fight, we just want change.” But she was forced to defend the wording of a sign she was brandishing – including the words “death to the monarchy” – when questioned about it by passersby.

Didn’t she stop to ponder the disconnect between “Nobody wants a fight, we just want change” and “death to the monarchy”? Or are the Queen and the royal family not human beings, and so not to be considered? If you were being charitable, you might argue that death is simply an extreme form of change. (That was a joke folks.) On the other hand, you might simply shake your head in bewilderment at the stupidity of it all. Where was this person educated? Was this person educated?

Of course similar idiocy (and ignorance) is the standard you will see at typical anti-Israel protests. It’s useful to remind ourselves what the expected level of political discourse is out there.

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What do the Palestinians want?

The answer to the question ‘What do the Palestinians want?‘ depends on who you ask. However, in general terms, you might expect the response to be something along the lines of ‘Their own Palestinian state.’ But that is not a complete answer. Does it mean a Palestinian state beside Israel, or instead of Israel?

Careful as I try to be to separate the corrupt, inept, and poisonous Palestinian leadership throughout the ages, from the people they are supposed to represent, my assessment is that if the leadership truly wanted a state beside Israel, they could have had it a long, long time ago. They may not have been able to get 100% of what they want, but if they truly valued peace, and wanted to fulfill an ambition to have their own state, they would have and could have settled for (slightly) less because that is the way of the world. So, it appears to me, that the Palestinian leadership do not want a state beside Israel; they want to replace Israel. And when Bibi says there is no partner for peace, he is right.

The announcement by the Palestinian leadership of a renewed campaign against the Balfour declaration confirms the accuracy of what is said above. As David Horovitz puts it:

“In declaring diplomatic and legal war on the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian leaders are telling the world — to their and our enduring misfortune — that nothing has changed in 100 years, that their opposition to our state in any borders remains greater than their desire for their own independent entity. A century later, they are affirming that their refusal to share any part of this land with the Jewish people remains absolute.”

In short, what do the Palestinians want? They want to destroy Israel.

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Proper journalists?

The Elder of Ziyon has a neat example (here) of how left wing (and other) demonizers of Israel do not tell a complete story when they want to stoke up hate. This is also worth noting to see how it is covered by the mainstream press; they are supposed to be proper journalists. Proper journalists would look a the sources. Proper journalists would not just recycle the hateful propaganda. But then again, are there any proper journalists out there?

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Rose tinted spectacles?

So, I eventually break out of my Sukkot slumber, and see an interview of The (British) Board of Deputies head, Jonathan Arkush at the Times of Israel. The title is:

UK’s Jewish leader on Labour anti-Semitism: Jeremy Corbyn is incapable of shifting his irrational prejudices

No argument from me there.

Next up, is this:

Board of Deputies head Jonathan Arkush explains the far-left’s problem with Jews, reveals his outreach visits to mosques, says a royal visit to Israel may be imminent, and argues that, overall, things are pretty bright for British Jews

Pretty bright? That’s not what I see (and have seen) there. Is Mr Arkush deluding himself, or does he have a better, more objective perspective?

What he appears to be saying is:

Yes, one of the two major political parties has a problem with antisemitism.

Yes, the leader of that party has some irrational prejudices against Jews.

Yes, the leader of the NUS has made some antisemitic statements, and has some ugly views and prejudices against Jews.

Yes, there is a lot of ‘low level’ antisemitic abuse in Britain. (I think low level abuse is when someone throws a stone at a Jew, but misses. Ahem.)

Yes, ‘certain elements’ in the Muslim community of Britain are antisemitic.

But, I am doing interfaith work at grassroots level with Muslim communities, some people are standing up publicly to antisemitism, and there may even be an official Royal visit to Israel.

Mr Arkush is clearly doing some good, hard work, and I commend him for that.

Read the whole thing (here) and tell me if you are convinced. I’m not, but I hope he is right and I am wrong.

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70 years of Israeli peace attempts wrapped up into two short hours

The excellent David Collier blog – Beyond the Great Divide – has an insightful (and shocking) post about events at Lichfield Cathedral:

I have just spent a weekend at Lichfield cathedral for a conference “on the Israel/Palestine Conflict and the prospect of peace”. And what a weekend it was! A naïve Dean, antisemitism, conspiracy theories, global control, blood sucking Jews, child kidnappers, Arabs in 100ad. and of course, Jesus the Palestinian.

I do recommend you read it all, though I want to highlight the following extract:

We then heard from a dutiful liberal Zionist. And what a talk it was. Professor Yossi Meckleberg presented to the audience a very accommodating position. A man anyone could make peace with. Like most liberal Zionists he is talking to himself. *if only* such voices could be heard from the other side. Another break. More pamphlets to read. All about a fictional place called Israel/Palestine. Or Palestine/Israel for those who KameL Hawwashwant to belittle Israel’s legitimacy more thoroughly. A group called ‘Lichfield Concern for Palestine’. All talk was about Israeli brutality. No mention of Arab violence anywhere. Another talk was about to start. Then came the storm.

See how good a pundit you are. The liberal Zionist has put down a marker for peace. (In the lions’ den, perhaps, playing the part of the Christian?) What do you think the response was?

Here you go:

Next up was Professor Kamel Hawwash, Vice-Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. For every hand that Meckleberg had extended in friendship, Hawwash pushed one away. I am always thankful for people like Hawwash because they expose why there is no current chance for peace. There is no room in Kamel’s world for the Israelis, a group of people he describes as randomly deciding to invade the region. These two speakers presented the entire conflict in a microcosm. The Israeli Jew, ‘let’s make peace, let’s find a way, let’s accommodate’, the Palestinian Arab, NO, NO, NO. I have no doubt that people failed to see what had just occurred. But in truth, it was 70 years of Israeli peace attempts wrapped up into two short hours.

Collier’s observation is bang on target.

First, he’s correct (in general terms) about how the interaction summarizes Israeli peace attempts.

Second, he’s also right in suggesting that people didn’t notice what had happened. They seem to have accepted the outright rejection as acceptable, normal, and – dare one say it – understandable. If ever there were an acid test to determine whether Israel and its people were being delegitimized, demonized, and defamed, that would be a candidate.

What an obscene event Lichfield hosted. It will be interesting to see what Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, and Chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, says about this. He dare not be silent, after this statement of his.

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This is the whole Torah

Torah Tidbits is a regular publication put out by the Orthodox Union Israel Center, and widely distributed throughout the religious communities. It has a mix of Torah relevant articles, with notes on the week’s parsha, candle lighting times, and more. It is quite popular – so much so that for some people, their Shabbat is not complete without a copy to read over Shabbat during the boring bits in shul.

Last week’s issue included an article – Yom Kippur’s Magic Moment – by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students of the Diaspora Yeshiva, which had a thoughtful piece about introspection and Yom Kippur.

I was struck by the following:

The great tragedy of our generation is that for many people, even on Yom Kippur, there is no longer a feeling of fear or trembling before G-D. Even when we fast and pray we are not bothered by the question of having been created vs not having been created.

You could have a whole discussion on that paragraph alone. For now, let’s accept that – from a religious perspective – fear of G-d is desirable, and that it would be worthy to at least wonder about whether the world would be better off if we had not been created. How does Rabbi Sprecher explain this? He says:

In secular society, there is no longer a feeling of shame and guilt regarding what we do with our lives. Anything goes! We have been degraded by our desires and pleasures.

One way of summarizing his explanation for the lack of fear of G-d is that it is all the fault of secular society. I will admit he seems to include himself in that group by saying “We have been degraded…” but it is possible he is making two separate statements: on the one hand, secular society has lost its shame. On the other, we have all been degraded by pleasure.

What I found particularly offensive was the reference to secular society. Sure, there are parts of secular society that are not a great example. But equally, if not more so, there are parts of religious society that are just as awful. Have there not been orthodox people in positions of leadership and power that have been imprisoned for offenses of dishonesty or corruption or sexual or physical abuse? Did they maintain a sense of shame or guilt?

What about the religious protests against army conscription? Are they a positive example? Even the protests against those who do not keep Shabbat are a disgrace. Since when was it a part of Judaism to behave like that?

On a less serious level, how common is it to see obviously orthodox people behaving badly – driving like lunatics, dropping litter, queue jumping, being rude and aggressive, and so on and so on?

It should be patently obvious that not all orthodox people are bad people. Far from it. I know many who are outstanding examples of good, honest, selfless people. They do not discriminate in their dealings with people based on their religiosity. By the same token, of course, I know many secular people who are also good, honest, and selfless. So, it ill behoves the author to put the blame on secular society. That is wrong. That is offensive.

I would go further. It would do the religious community a power of good if the Rabbinic leadership of the country took a good, long, hard look at themselves, and realized how deficient their behavior is – not only personally, but in setting an example by publicly and prominently denouncing the behavior of religious people where it is lacking. No (so called) religious person should feel it is right to behave badly. They should, indeed, be trembling and in fear of G-d.  They should remember Hillel’s declaration:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

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Another warning Europe will ignore

Not the happiest way to start the New Year, but it’s a message that needs to be publicized. From an interview with Monika Schwarz-Friesel – “one of the most quoted experts on anti-Semitism in both international academic literature and the German media” at the Times of Israel:

“Many of the refugees that have been pouring into Europe recently come from societies that are deeply anti-Semitic. It would be foolish to assume that their anti-Semitism can be educated away in a few years and that it won’t leave its mark on European societies.”

The trouble is, many Europeans do seem to be foolish when it comes to antisemitism. That standing ovation for Abbas ‘poisoning the wells’ speech to the European Parliament in June this year is just one clear example. And the other notable issue is whether Europe will “educate” in any effective fashion against anti-Semitism or indeed, educate at all.

Another warning Europe will ignore.

Read the whole thing, here.

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Peres

More loss, this time for the whole country, with the passing of Shimon Peres earlier this morning. I see the Guardian took the opportunity to mark the occasion by attacking the Israeli government.

As recently as last year Peres strongly criticised the direction of the government of Israel’s rightwing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, although he did not name Netanyahu directly.

Peres said he believed the values he and Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, had inherited from Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, were in jeopardy as he defended a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake, because if we should lose our majority, and today we are almost equal, we cannot remain a Jewish state or a democratic state.

“That’s the main issue, and to my regret they [the government] do the opposite.”

For something that’s not trying to make a political point, and actually deliver a decent obituary, see the Times of Israel piece here.

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