Archive for June, 2010

Farewell to a Doubting Thomas

June 25, 2010

Rabbi Daniel Gordis wrote the piece below.  I certainly agree.
Rabbi Orkand


Ouch. Sorry for that double entendre. But nowhere near as sorry as Helen Thomas must be at this moment.

I’m referring, of course, to the sudden retirement of Helen Thomas, the elder stateswoman of White House correspondents who was most recently a columnist for Hearst newspapers. She was taped saying that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany, Poland or the United States. Her lack of understanding of Jewish history and of Israeli history is astounding. Her apology was insufficient to the task. President Obama, speaking on The Today Show this morning, agreed that her comments were “offensive.”

You certainly can find links to the video of her offensive remarks. They served as icing on a very bitter cake that the Jewish people has had to eat ever since last week’s flotilla operation. It has been a very bad week for the Jews, and Helen Thomas made matters far worse.

But, a few small insights into what happened.

First, there were (thankfully) relatively very few public comments about how we should forgive Ms. Thomas because of her advanced age (she is 89), and very few speculations about her health and/or her ability to discern the real impact of her remarks. I was ready for an onslaught of those comments, and they have not appeared. The lack of speculation over the medical or gerontological etiology of her hatred is refreshing. It shows that the American public knows the difference between criticism of Israel’s policies (which is every Jew’s and every Israeli’s favorite aerobic sport) and the destructive denial of the Jewish State.

Second, there are those who say that she had the right to express her opinion. Of course she had the right to express her opinion. But it is not incumbent upon anyone to respect the opinion that people have the right to express. Let’s not confuse rights with wisdom.

Third, you really have to smile at the origin of all this. It started with a Conservative rabbi from Long Island who was at the White House Jewish heritage celebration and poked a small video camera, which must have cost him at most $200 at Best Buy or whatever, into Ms. Thomas’s face. At which point, she opened her mouth and closed her career. And why did it take so long for this news to become public? Because the rabbi’s teenage son had to complete his finals before he could upload the video onto his father’s web site!

This was not the work of an investigative reporter, or a professional journalist, or an expert in anti-semite detection. It was just ordinary people. A rabbi with an inexpensive video camera and a techie teenage son brought down Helen Thomas.
It is sad that Ms. Thomas chose (I emphasize chose) to end her career in this way.

But it was, alas, her choice.

But as for the way it happened — never doubt the ability of ordinary people, using every day devices, to make a huge difference in the world.


Who is Eyeless in Gaza?

June 25, 2010

As you all know, Memorial Day was marked by a deeply troubling incident off the Gaza coast — an incident with tremendous implications for all of us as Jews and as Americans. Six ships, ostensibly carrying humanitarian supplies, attempted to break Israel’s naval security blockade and to enter the port of Gaza. The IDF was forced to intercept those ships, despite numerous Israeli requests that they not enter.The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod, where they would be able to unload their cargo, which would then be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections. The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza. Aid convoys are already on the way to Gaza from Ashdod after being offloaded from the flotilla.

Five of the six ships agreed to such terms; the sixth, tragically, did not. During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose. For a video of their attack — Israeli soldiers were in danger of being lynched; some were thrown off the ship into the sea. The IDF responded, but only after a great deal of provocation. According to initial reports, these events resulted in over 10 deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured.

The loss of life is tragic. Worse than tragic — it was entirely unnecessary and politically-motivated. The “peace organization” on the ship, IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief, according to Henri Barkey, an analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is “an Islamist organisation as it has been deeply involved with Hamas for some time.” When you think Hamas, think Iran. In addition, Turkish authorities searched IHH headquarters in 1997, discovering “firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions” as well as records of calls to an al-Qaida guest house in Milan.

One of world Jewry’s most articulate observers is my friend and colleague, Rabbi Daniel Gordis. Once again, he hits the proverbial nail on the head. Read his blog posting here.

Why the image of “eyeless in Gaza?” Because that is how the judge Samson ends his own life — blinded, he pulls the pillars of the Philistine temple in Gaza down upon himself and on the Philistines. That is how Gaza became known for self-destruction. This is yet another chapter in Hamas’s ongoing war against Israel and against the West. As Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said in a conference call yesterday, this is a “seam line” in the fissure between radical Islam and the West. The seam runs through Kosovo and Chechnya and Kashmir — and straight through the land of Israel and into the sea.

Yes, there will be (there already have been) tremendous PR ramifications for Israel. What else is new? But know the truth, speak the truth, teach the truth. Israel needs our voices now — yes, now more than ever.