What Gunter Grass Really Said

Nobel Laureate Accused Israel of Planning Genocide

By Abraham Foxman

German Nobel Prize writer Gunter Grass’s publication of the poem “What Must Be Said” touches on a host of issues surrounding the Holocaust, German-Israel relations, anti-Semitism and Iran’s threat to Israel and the entire Middle East.

Comments by any Western intellectual claiming, as did Grass, that it is Israel, not Iran, which is a threat to world peace would have evoked criticism and condemnation. The fact that they were made by a German raises the decibel level dramatically. And the fact that they were made by an individual who for decades concealed that he volunteered to serve in the Waffen SS, the German killing machine of Jews during World War II, brings the reaction to still another level.

Let’s be clear: If it were not Grass, but any public figure in the West who offered the substance of Grass’s poem — that Israel, by threatening to use military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities, is, rather than Iran itself, a threat to world peace — that individual would deserve severe condemnation.

Iranian leaders say openly that Israel should not exist, and the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly asserts that Israel will disappear in the years ahead.

This is the regime most closely associated with international terrorism — the bombings of the Israeli embassy and Jewish community headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, are among the most notable examples. To have such a regime in possession of nuclear weapons would present the greatest danger facing civilization since the advent of the nuclear age.

Of course, Grass is not just any intellectual or public figure. He is a leading German writer, and he is an individual whose late admission that he was a member of the SS puts him in a special situation. To pre-empt the expected reaction, Grass erects a straw man by saying that he wanted to say what he said for some time but did not because he knew he would be accused of anti-Semitism. But now, he says, in moralistic tones, he has to speak no matter the consequences.

What is so stark about this episode is not that a German cannot ever criticize Israeli policies; indeed, criticisms surface in many instances. Rather, it is the complete absence of empathy by this German writer with the people of Israel facing a terrible dilemma — what to do in the face of an existential threat to the Jewish state more than 70 years after the Holocaust? To me, this is the great sin committed here.

German atonement for the murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust does not mean that the Germans have to agree with everything Israel or Jews do and say in the world today. It should mean, if it has any validity at all, that there should be recognition that the Jewish people may be in special danger and under a unique threat, and that Germans need to experience and identify with that threat in a way that others in the world might not.

But Grass goes even further than lack of empathy. He converts an Israeli defensive option into one that he describes as a project to destroy the Iranian people. Whatever one thinks of an Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, to see that as trying to destroy Iran is an inversion so grotesque that it must be labeled as an effort to equate Israel with the Nazi regime. In other words, it is anti-Semitism.

One may never know what was going on in Grass’s head and heart these many decades. But there it is, surfacing again for all to see. Fortunately, some German leaders have stepped forward to condemn Grass for his anti-Israel screed. Now, it is important to hear the voices of more German political leaders, who need to speak out and make clear that this type of rhetoric is beyond the bounds of decency.

Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He is based in New York City.



Rabbi Yeshayahu Rotter, the founder of Rotter.net, Israel’s major news and gossip portal, wrote a column in HaKol Hayehudi, a website maintained by the extremist Yitzhar yeshiva run by Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg (co-author of Torat HaMelech, which advocates murdering Palestinian children since they’ll grow up to murder Jews).  In the column, he endorses the price tag strategy of the most extreme of the Hilltop Youth.  Keep in mind that his endorsement comes directly on the heels of some of the most incendiary acts of violence in the entire history of price tag activities: a few days ago settlers directly attacked an IDF West Bank outpost and threw a brick at a senior IDF officer in his vehicle, injuring him.  This follows three mosque arson attacks, repeated death and bomb threats against Peace Now leaders, sexual assaults against peace activists and much more.

Rotter’s statement is a lit match on a pool of gasoline.  It is the equivalent of a bunch of neo-Nazi Skinhead thugs beating up an Arab, after which a leading Christian cleric endorses the violence.

Rabbi Rotter isn’t stupid.  He makes clear (totally disingenuously, I might add) that he is merely stating his “personal opinion” and not inciting anyone to take any action illegal or otherwise.  This, he believes, gets him off the hook.  Of course, he neglects that he runs one of Israel’s most popular websites and that his views carry weight and authority especially in the far-right settler community.

I was raised always to respect rabbis and though I’ve learned otherwise (regarding some rabbis) over the years, I try to give any rabbi the benefit of the doubt since they still retain at least an aura of moral authority.  But not Rabbi Rotter.  What he’s counseling is not just immoral and illegal, but he’s counseling violence as both a tactic and strategy for the settler movement.  Given his stature, what he’s doing is evil.  If his was just Baruch Marzel or David HaIvri I’d just chalk it up to political posturing, but once you mix in Judaism, halachaand related issues, you have a rabbi declaring that our religion countenances violence, illegality and hilul haShem.  This cannot be.  This is a rabbi who must be denounced by other rabbis and anyone who cares about Judaism.  Rabbi Rotter is perverting Judaism.

The rhetoric below is little better than Der Shturmer.  In fact, it’s the Jewish equivalent.  Do we want genocidaires among us Jews?  For that is what Rabbi Rotter is.  He believes he’s saving Jewish lives and avenging Jewish dead.  But that is not what the State of Israel needs right now.  It doesn’t need avenging angels.  In fact, avenging angels in the current political climate are Angels of Death.  And they will kill Jews and Palestinians without distinguishing between them.

Here is his op-ed:

In the calculations of the murderers [Palestinians] these days more than previous ones, there is no sense of deterrence.  Every potential murderer among the Palestinians knows that he will receive the critical support from the Arabs and from Jewish leftists who hate settlers more than Arabs hate them.  The only thing that restrains murderers from slaughtering Jewish families in the Land of Israel is “price tag.”

In the past I was very much against this.  Because in essence this is taking the law into one’s own hands and you cannot have such a situation in a civilized country.  Even this statement could place me in trouble with Shai Nitzan [State prosecutor who pursues security cases].  But I am expressing an opinion and not inciting anyone to act on such an opinion.  I am not organizing anyone to do anything, only expressing a difficult opinion in a difficult time.

In a civilized society which takes responsibility for its citizens, who know that it will take every possible measure to protect their lives and will respond with all possible strength to deter such deaths, there is no reason to take such measures [as price tag].  In fact, this is something that is absolutely forbidden.  But the question is whether the State of Israel today, under the leftist domination of a twisted media, extreme leftist media figures, some of whom justify crimes against the settlers, and obtuse courts which act as if they are in Belgium or Holland–is it not the case that in such circumstances [the rules prohibiting] taking the law into one’s hands in the face of the enemy slaughtering children upon their parents [the reference is likely to the Fogel family murdered in Itamar] is no longer relevant.

As I said, for these murderers there is no deterrence, it’s only a question of opportunity.  They don’t murder every day not because anyone frightens them off, but only because they don’t have opportunity to murder children, women, and the elderly.

When there is no deterrence, when there is no price tag then there is no cost for the murderers [„everything is free”].  What is free?  Even the blessings and satisfaction offered by various Israelis who arent’t afraid to express their views [favoring killing settlers] and the media which airs these views.

In such circumstances we must examine deterrent forces like price tag and just as in a there are no limits [constraints], “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  ”In a place where there is no man, be a man.”  To my sorrow, in everything concerning settlers and deterrence “there is no man.”

If there is only one consideration why not let it be price tag, since the only price to be paid is by the person who commits such an act.  He will find himself in prison for many years and he and his family will suffer greatly for this.    Therefore, it’s appropriate to consider the cost when considering price tag [attacks].  But this should be his only consideration and nothing beyond it [i.e. he shouldn’t take into account any moral considerations either regarding the State of Israel or the intended victims].  Because the Palestinians are dead men.  There is no better definition for them.  Every one of them intends to kill us, even an infant a single month old.

There is much to consider in this racist, rancid rant.  First, I’d say Rabbi Rotter is not just an extremist, but he’s delusional.  He has absolutely no sense of reality.  He’s little different from schizophrenics and individuals with bipolar disorder who engage in acts of violence because they misperceive reality.  But in this case, it isn’t just himself that he endangers or those around him.  He in fact incites others who respect and admire him and infects them with his own demented perception of the world.

Second, price tag as a policy will not deter a Palestinian militant as Rotter claims.  In fact, as was shown in the case of the Palmer stoning incident, those Palestinians threw rocks because settlers had previously torched their village mosque in a price tag attack.  Such acts incite Palestinian violence, not deter it.  Price tag has little to do with the Palestinians in fact.  It is actually an act of political protest meant to both damage the State’s power and protest policies which rein in settler power.  The only way price tag might become a deterrent to Palestinian violence is if it turned into mass pogroms against Palestinians.  And even then, it would still do just the opposite.  For every Palestinian into whom was thrown the fear of God, there would be two who would turn in the opposite direction and attempt to take it to Israelis and make them pay.  That’s the thing about price tag.  Everyone pays, not just the Palestinians.

The ultimate goal of price tag and Rabbi Rotter isn’t just vengeance against Palestinian murderers, it is the toppling of the civil state and its replacement with a Torah-true kingdom in which religion and nationalism have become united.  Sort of an Islamic Republic of Iran, if you will.  There will be no democracy there.  No Arabs too.  No secular Jews.  And God forbid, no leftist media.  Only Torah-true Jews.  Judeans, if you will.

You can just imagine what will be necessary to attain this vision.  How much blood will be shed.  Both Palestinian and Israeli, Jewish and Muslim.  Make no mistake, this is the cry of the genocidaire.  It was like Milosevic’s cries for Serbians to kill Croat Muslims in Srebrenica before they could kill Serbians.  Others may think of other parallel historical situations.  If your enemy has nothing but murder in his heart, then you’re justified in killing him first.  That’s why Rotter must lie and claim that it is the Palestinians who will be guilty of the genocide he wishes for them.


postare Horatiu 2010



Israel has every legal and moral right to stage a pre-emptive strike on Iran, says renowned legal expert Prof. Alan Dershowitz.

Israel has every legal and moral right to stage a pre-emptive strike on Iran, renowned legal expert Prof. Alan Dershowitz said in Tel Aviv on Monday. He also wants to hear U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak out more strongly against Iran.

Speaking at the annual business conference sponsored by Globes, Dershowitz stated that regardless of whether or not it would be wise for Israel to attack, “Israel has the right morally and legally to strike Iran just as it did on [the nuclear facility] in Iraq in 1981. Having the right to attack does not mean that it should do so, but I would defend Israel’s right.”

Despite the “deep and positive” security relationship between the United States and Israel, he fears that there may be a “disconnect” over Iran’s race to produce a nuclear weapon and reach the capability to stage a nuclear attack on Israel.

“Israel doesn’t have the military capacity that America has to destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facilities,” Dershowitz explained, adding that that “United States can wait a longer time and has more of a willingness to tolerate a nuclear Iran.”

He praised Obama for stating he will not tolerate an Iran with nuclear weapons, but added, “I would like to hear that from the Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton].”

Turning to Turkey, Dershowitz lividly criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for demanding an apology from Israel over the flotilla clash between terror activists and the IDF on the high seas in May 2010. “Turkey has never apologized for the genocide in Armenia. Talk about chutzpah? Talking about Turkey demanding an apology from anybody?”

Dershowitz also advised Israel to be more aggressive against countries’ threats to arrest visiting IDF officers and political leaders for alleged war crimes.

Israeli officials should not „duck back into their planes,” admonished Dershowitz. “That is not the way great nations behave,” he continued. He advised officers and politicians to „hold their heads high” and challenge countries’ authority to put them on trial.

Dershowitz vowed if they are arrested, he would ”put together the greatest legal team ever assembled.”

He added that Israel’s record  is better than that of Turkey and  NATO and others when it comes to the ratio of civilians to terrorists who are killed in warfare. Deshowitz declared that „the double standard against Israel.” whereby countries are far more guilty of the same charges made against Israel, represents „the depths of international law and the hijacking by the left.”

The New York Times Op-Ed page has always been a comfortable place for liberal Zionists, those who genuinely bemoan the 1967 Occupation, the settlements, and its effect on both Palestinians and Israel.  When op-ed writers stray too far from the Zionist consensus, i.e., when they air too much of Israel’s dirty linen before the goyim (in New York?), the Times routinely publishes letters defending Israel, and bravo for them. Even this amount of courage on their part loses readers, although, frankly, are there any rightwing Zionists reading the New York Times anymore?

In short, opinion on Israel in the New York Times ranges from progressive Zionist  to liberal hawk Zionist, mostly of the Democratic persuasion. You won’t see any regular columnists on Israel who are not Zionist. You barely hear pro-Palestinian voices (unless they are close to the Palestinian Authority or the American Task Force on Palestine,)

Occasionally, though, the Times lets an op-ed through that is actually tough on Israel, and not just on the post-1967 Occupation. Two such cases recently raised the ire of liberal Zionists like the Forward‘s  J. J. Goldberg and AJC’s David Harris (the former is a progressive Zionist; the latter, a liberal hawk Zionist), who, like other liberal Zionists, monitor how much criticism Israel is allowed to get from the paper of record.

The first was an op-ed published by Sarah Schulman about what has been known for some time as „pinkwashing”, the trumpeting of Israel’s recent record on gay rights as a hasbara tool to deflect criticism on other human rights issues.  In that article, Prof. Schulman cited Prof. Ayal Gross of the Tel Aviv University to the effect that “gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool,” even though “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.” Schulman did not deny that Israel was a better place for gays than elsewhere in the Middle East, only that the

gay soldiers and the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights — just as in America, the expansion of gay rights in some states does not offset human rights violations like mass incarceration.

I won’t spend much time on David Harris’s piece, which shows clearly that he hadn’t heard of „pinkwashing” before he read Schulman’s op-ed.   The academic who has written about it in the context of what he calls „homonationalism” is Prof. Aeyal Gross of Tel Aviv University. (Gross has a  representative  piece here that will provide some background for Harris, who seems strangely out of touch with the Israeli human rights scene, unless he only reads the New York Times. By the way, Gross himself finds the term „pinkwashing” inaccurate, because, unlike „whitewashing,” which implies concealing the truth, there has been relative progress in LGBT rights.)

Harris is thus  unaware of how the Israel recent record on gay rights has been appropriated in recent years by Israel advocacy groups like Stand-With-Us to shore up support for Israel in the  LGBT community, and the Israeli government’s encouragement of this. Israel’s position here is consistent with its natural desire to garner support with other groups of all persuasions, whether homophiliac or  homophobic, such as evangelical Christians. When it comes to alliances, Israel has always found itself with incompatible bedfellows.

Israel advocacy in  LGBT circles  is a good way of weakening criticism in groups that tend to be leftwing. In a sense, the strategy is reminiscent of Israel’s „divine-and-conquer” approch to Israeli Arabs.  By fostering Druze identity, and playing Druze off against their erstwhile Muslim persecutors, Israel attempted with some success to slow the progress of a Palestinian national identity. Why can’t the same approach be tried in a leftwing community like the LGBT community, where if Israel can pick up support among mainstream gays who really don’t give a hoot for anything outside their parochial interest, why not? And why should David Harris be opposed to this?

Actually, my main gripe is with J. J. Goldberg, who attacks – get this – the headline of a piece he likes, Gershom Gorenberg’s op-ed against the increasing delegitimization of Palestinian Israelis. The headline, „Israel’s Other Occupation,” is a bone-headed mistake, according to Goldberg,  because it implies that Israel is occupying territory „within its own internationally recognized borders.” Apparently the editor of the Op-Ed page,  put down by Goldberg as „a former fashion and culture maven,” simply doesn’t understand the Middle East.

The only problem for Goldberg is that Israel has no internationally recognized border. Nor did it ever have. In fact, it never wanted them, and  David Ben Gurion saw  its lack of recognized borders as an advantage, since it gave him negotiating power in future peace talks.  Liberal Zionists like to mislead themselves into thinking that the 1949 armistice lines are recognized borders, but I will be happy to donate money to the Forward if Goldberg can show me serious, diplomatic support of his claim.  In fact, even the UN Partition Plan borders are not recognized borders for the Jewish State, since they never existed except on paper. When the State of Israel was recognized by many countries, and later when it was accepted into the United Nations, there was no claim that these were Israel’s borders, and that it was inappropriate for the Palestinians and bordering Arab countries to contest these borders. Can a state without borders be recognized?

Ask Mahmoud Abbas that one.

Ah, you will say, this is pilpul, Talmudic hair-splitting. Even if there are no recognized borders, everybody recognizes that the lands on which the Palestinians sit belong to the State of Israel. However, that is not so simple. Let’s not forget that the Palestinian citizens of Israel had their much of their land systematically taken away from them after 1948, often in expropriation, or in land purchases against their will – and Jews were settled on those lands, or forests were planted after razing villages. While that may  not be „occupation,” it is not far from the situation of the Palestinians on the West Bank, with all the differences in status between the two Palestinian populations. And there is something else that they share, and is missed in Goldberg’s reference to „ethnic discrimination” – the feeling of official and foundational exclusion from the state that governs their lives without their having any control over those lives in key areas. Israeli Arabs have the vote, but their vote has no political weight. Palestinians in the territories do not have any vote over policies that directly control their daily lives.
The truth is that the term „occupation” is problematic  both in the case of the Palestinian Israelis and in the case of the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. „Occupation” is, as Goldberg points out, used with reference to territory, but the terms that are  relevant here are „domination” and „control. In fact, Israel provides three models of control, or, perhaps four models, corresponding with the four types of Palestinian populations: exile and dispossession (Palestinian diaspora); remote military control (Gaza); direct and indirect rule (West Bank); and curtailment of civil rights based on exclusion from the nation (49 armistice lines).    All this control is necessary, argues Israel, for the sake of its security and in order to guarantee the ethnic character of the state. And, quite frankly, most liberal Zionists don’t dispute this. They have no desire for direct control over the lives of Palestinians, but they insist that Israel’s security requires some persistent measure of control over a potentially hostile population.

Potentially hostile or enemy populations are often occupied. As long as poll after poll show that the majority of Israelis view Palestinian Israelis as potentially or actually hostile, or an enemy fifth column, they can certainly be considered occupied. The answer for Palestinians, both inside and outside of the 49 armistice lines, is to grant them equal rights, equal authority, and equal dignity.

The political framework is not the issue. Let it be two states, one state, no state, many states. The real issue is ending the control of  the Palestinians’s life, liberty, and property – on both sides of the Green Line.

The article below is from 2009, but it goes well with Danios’ series on how “Jewish Law” can be interpreted by some in a bellicose and genocidal manner. Can one imagine if the below were said by a mainstream Muslim scholar? All hell would break loose. (hat tip: DE)

Popular Rabbi’s Comments on Treatment of Arabs Show a Different Side of Chabad

By Nathaniel Popper (Forward.com)

Like the best Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis, Manis Friedman has won the hearts of many unaffiliated Jews with his charismatic talks about love and God; it was Friedman who helped lead Bob Dylan into a relationship with Chabad.

But Friedman, who today travels the country as a Chabad speaker, showed a less warm and cuddly side when he was asked how he thinks Jews should treat their Arab neighbors.

“The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle),” Friedman wrote in response to the question posed by Moment Magazine for its “Ask the Rabbis” feature.

Friedman argued that if Israel followed this wisdom, there would be “no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.”

“I don’t believe in Western morality,” he wrote. “Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.”

Friedman’s use of phrasing that might seem more familiar coming from an Islamic extremist has generated a swift backlash. The editor of Moment, Nadine Epstein, said that since the piece was printed in the current issue they “have received many letters and e-mails in response to Rabbi Friedman’s comments — and almost none of them have been positive.”

Friedman quickly went into damage control. He released a statement to the Forward, through a Chabad spokesman, saying that his answer in Moment was “misleading” and that he does believe that “any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion.”

But Friedman’s words have generated a debate about whether there is a darker side to the cheery face that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement shows to the world in its friendly outreach to unaffiliated Jews. Mordecai Specktor, editor of the Jewish community newspaper in Friedman’s hometown, St. Paul. Minn., said: “The public face of Lubavitch is educational programs and promoting Yiddishkeit. But I do often hear this hard line that Friedman expresses here.”

“He sets things out in pretty stark terms, but I think this is what Lubavitchers believe, more or less,” said Specktor, who is also the publisher of the American Jewish World. “They are not about loving the Arabs or a two-state solution or any of that stuff. They are fundamentalists. They are our fundamentalists.” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a regular critic of Arab extremists, said that in the Jewish community, “We are not immune to having these views. There are people in our community who have these bigoted, racist views.”

But, Foxman warned, Friedman’s views are not reflective of the Chabad rabbis he knows. “I am not shocked that there would be a rabbi who would have these views,” Foxman said, “but I am shocked that Moment would give up all editorial discretion and good sense to publish this as representative of Chabad.”

A few days after anger about the comment surfaced, Chabad headquarters released a statement saying that, “we vehemently disagree with any sentiment suggesting that Judaism allows for the wanton destruction of civilian life, even when at war.”

The statement added: “In keeping with Jewish law, it is the unequivocal position of Chabad-Lubavitch that all human life is G-d given, precious, and must be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.”

In Moment, Friedman’s comment is listed as the Chabad response to the question “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?” after a number of answers from rabbis representing other Jewish streams, most of which state a conciliatory attitude toward Arabs.

Epstein said that Friedman was “brave” for stating his views so clearly.

“The American Jewish community doesn’t have the chance to hear opinions like this,” Epstein said, “not because they are rare, but because we don’t often ask Chabad and other similar groups what they think.”

The Chabad movement is generally known for its hawkish policies toward the Palestinians; the Chabad Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, rejected peace accords with the Palestinians. Rabbi Moshe Feller, the top Chabad rabbi in Minnesota, said that the rebbe taught that it is not a mitvah to kill, but that Jews do have an obligation to act in self-defense.

“Jews as a whole, they try to save the lives of others,” Feller told the Forward, “but if it’s to save our lives, then we have to do what we have to do. It’s a last resort.”

Friedman is not a fringe rabbi within the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He was the English translator for the Chabad Rebbe, and at the rebbe’s urging, he founded Beis Chana, a network of camps and schools for Jewish women. Friedman is also a popular speaker and writer on issues of love and relationships. His first book, “Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?” was promoted with a quote from Bob Dylan, who Friedman brought to meet the rebbe.

On his blog and Facebook page, Friedman’s emphasis is on his sympathetic, caring side. It was this reputation that made the comment in Moment so surprising to Steve Hunegs, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council: Minnesota and the Dakotas.

“Rabbi Friedman is a best-selling author who addresses some of the most sensitive issues of the time,” Hunegs said. “I intend to call him and talk to him about this.”

But Shmarya Rosenberg, a blogger and critic of Chabad who lives a few blocks from Friedman in Minnesota, says that the comment in Moment is not an aberration from his experiences with Friedman and many other Chabad rabbis.

“What he’s saying is the standard normal view of a Chabadnik,” Rosenberg said. “They just don’t say it in public.”

For his part, Friedman was quick to modify the statement that he wrote in Moment. He told the Forward that the line about killing women and children should have been in quotes; he said it is a line from the Torah, though he declined to specify from which part. Friedman also said that he was not advocating for Israel to actually kill women and children. Instead, he said, he believed that Israel should publicly say that it is willing to do these things in order to scare Palestinians and prevent war.

“If we took this policy, no one would be killed — because there would be no war,” Friedman said. “The same is true of the United States.”

Friedman did acknowledge, however, that in self-defense, the behavior he talked about would be permissible.

“If your children are threatened, you do whatever it takes — and you don’t have to apologize,” he said.

Friedman argued that he is different from Arab terrorists who have used similar language about killing Jewish civilians.

“When they say it, it’s genocide, not self-defense,” Friedman said. “With them, it’s a religious belief — they need to rid the area of us. We’re not saying that.”

Feller, the Chabad leader in Minnesota, said that the way Friedman had chosen to express himself was “radical.”

“I love him,” Feller said. “I brought him out here — he’s magnificent. He’s brought thousands back to Torah mitzvah. But he shoots from the hip sometimes.”

Contact Nathaniel Popper at popper@forward.com.

Kol Nidre is the most haunting prayer in the Jewish liturgy. I would gauge that more Jews attend synagogue at this moment than at any other time in the year. (You’ve already missed it if you wanted to go.) For some it may be an act of desperation, a stance between belief and non-belief, hovering somewhere between trust and trembling. In any case, it is my or your—if you had decided to try—last chance to settle accounts with God, in the heavens or with the god of your imagination. Kol Nidre means not “all prayers” but “all vows.” The theology of this distinction goes back many centuries, at least to the sixth century C.E. There are several interpretations. But the dry legal formula which introduces the plea certifies at least one explanation for sure, and it is that Jews had for more than a millennium been legally coerced or socially dragooned into swearing fidelity to one or another Christian faith and Christian prince. It happened to Jews in Muslim jurisdictions, as well.

Could these converts be admitted to a congregation of Jews? Here’s what the rabbis answered:

In the tribunal of Heaven and in the tribunal of Earth, by the permission of God and by the permission of the holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with the transgressors.

Simple! But what sturm und drang attended these trials of the soul.

Kol Nidre has its place in the general culture. A part of the traditionalniggun (melody) found its way into Beethoven’s 6th String Quartet, Op. 131. Max Bruch—a Protestant, by the way—did his own gorgeous orchestration and you can listen to it with either Pierre Fournier,Jacqueline Du Pre, or Yo-Yo Ma as cello soloist. It was also put to song by Perry ComoJohnny Mathis, and Neil Diamond, aside from a close-to-authentic rendition earlier in the century by Al Jolson in the filmThe Jazz Singer.

Still, the most chilling of the cultural expressions of Kol Nidre is the one composed by Arnold Schoenberg, the innovator of twelve scale and inspiration to just about everyone from Alban Berg through John Cage to Glenn Gould. Born a Jew, he was converted in 1898 to Christianity under the influence of Gustav Mahler, a prior convert himself. Schoenberg returned to the faith and to the Jewish people, with Marc Chagall at his side, at a 1933 religious ceremony in the synagogue on the rue Copernic in Paris where in 1980 Palestinian “freedom fighters” pulled off a bombing which killed four people and injured dozens. It was October 3, the eve of Simhat Torah, what turned out to be only the beginning of a series of attacks at pregnant moments of the Jewish calendar in places of Jewish worship, at each of which several lives were taken from the innocent.

You might have noticed the year of Schoenberg’s return: 1933. It was not an accident. He was standing up as in a confessional to declare himself a Jew and a Zionist when mobs all over Europe were braying for the skin of his people. I always listen to some of Schoenberg’s music around the High Holidays—and, frankly, some of it is trying. But the environment was much more than trying, especially for Jews, and his compositions were part of his way of coming to terms with the hatred of the gentile world—at once oh, so polite and so bloody—for the people of the book who, in Palestine, were also making themselves the people of the plow. Now, they are a people among very few other peoples who can claim to have put their stamp on science. I confess to feeling fraternal pride whenever one of my tribe receives the Nobel Prize. So I’ve admitted it: I have tribal feelings and I pity those Jews who don’t. They are nothing Jews. You can see the discomfort on their faces when they try to explain to you that they are “cultural Jews” when all that means is that they like Woody Allen. A world of thought and spirit and body, and they proudly reduce it all to one little drip. Oops! This is another sin of mine, to insult a great comic and just before Kol Nidre.

Fifteen years ago, maybe 20, I was asked to do the narration to Schoenberg’s Kol Nidrewith the American Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Leon Botstein at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall. It was not a star performance. But after the concert I was accosted (politely) by a tall and elegant old man who told me he had survived Sobibor, theumshlagplatz from which very few escaped alive. My guess (he told me but I can’t remember now) from his accent is that he hailed from Germany or Austria or maybe Czechoslovakia, not Poland where my mother and father’s families were led or fed to the slaughter. The man told me that he’d been a communist in his youth, that there were communists as well as Jews in the camp. And then his eyes teared up. He asked me whether I knew the poem “Elegy for the Soviet Yiddish Writers” by the late great novelist Chaim Grade. I said yes. I even recalled some lines. He wandered off, muttering something like “the communists, too. For survival trust only ourselves.”

It’s a harsh judgment he made. And wrong in a way. FDR may not have much cared for the dying Jews under his war watch. Maybe, in the tangle of strategy and tactics, he didn’t much notice. But it is America and some of the commonwealth English-speaking countries who have bonded with Israel and in the crazy house of the United Nations sheltered it from what could be a Charlie Chaplin spoof of international diplomacy. The U.S. has made itself responsible for some of the margins in military hardware that insure the Jewish state. I want to be very candid about this: As some of you understand, I do not trust Barack Obama’s feelings for Israel. But he has not ever endangered Israel’s strategic edge. What his silly talk does is another matter. Still, his talk has become in recent weeks less silly. But only in recent weeks.

Some synagogues and congregations—this means mostly their rabbis—charge their faithful with transgressions of the whole house of Israel. Some charge them with bearing the sins, real and imagined, of the State of Israel. I do not deny that there are such sins. But—this is a weak defense—even they are lesser offenses than the offenses of other nations. Compare the targeted assassinations conducted by Israel and by our own country. Hands down. For Israel, this struggle is a fight for survival, no way out. For the U.S., it is an intricate calculation with many alternatives: After all, George Bush didn’t conduct the Iraq war relying on targeted assassinations (although I would have wished he had). I could go on and on.

There is a new type of Jew in the world: one whose only Jewish feelings and only Jewish thoughts are criticisms of Israel. Nothing else. If he cries gevald he’s so full of heart—for Israel’s declared enemies. If he’s of the cerebral type he’s a dreykop with clever burglaries from Jewish logic. It cannot be a gratifying life. Or certainly a gratifying Jewish life. His Jewishness—in name only, of course—is an instrument, a useful instrument to more effectively lambaste Israel. “I am one of them. And even I despise them.”

On the day before Kol Nidre, Nicholas Kristof took it upon himself tolecture the Jews about their responsibility to chastise Israel for the idea of a “whole” Jerusalem, for new housing in Jerusalem, even for Israel’s rough-going with Turkey, “its most important friend in the region.” Why do I say that he is lecturing the Jews? It’s simple, all too simple. He addressed his column to Israel’s friends: “Friends do not let friends drive drunk.” He is finished arguing with Netanyahu. It’s hopeless, although the Israeli prime minister has been willing to come to the table for eons but without having settled the issues that have divided the two parties for more than 60 years—and actually closer to a century.

Now, I have a grudge against Kristof. Last year about this time he wrote a column attacking me for what he deemed racist words about Muslims. I apologized for one stupid, really stupid and perhaps also prejudiced remark about them. I’ve woken up nights thinking about this fault—yes, even sin—against conscience. But I am not so sure that my main point that Muslim societies and Arab societies tolerate mass violence with greater equanimity is wrong. Just think of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, even Egypt. And Libya where the rebels are said to have triumphed over the tragic-comic personalist killer-fascism of Qaddafi. But in that liberated Libya there is an epidemic of revenge. Anyway, Kristof wrote and a mob of thugs, following him, so to speak, tried to chase me across Harvard Yard, shouting, “Peretz is a racist pig.” Big triumph for Kristof and his sensitive sensibility.

I suppose that I am among the friends of Israel who is called upon to intercede with Netanyahu. But, as Kristof points out himself, it is not Netanyahu alone or with his coalition. It is the people of Israel who no longer can be seduced into an agreement that is fundamentally implausible. I know, moreover, that it is difficult for an egotist like Bill Clinton to accept that the terms of peace which his underlings crafted are by now not even germane. After all, Israel accepted them before. The Times columnist may console himself that, if not for Bibi, even Oslo might be resuscitated. It can’t. And it is not especially because of the settlements. I happen to think that there will be a tacit understanding without a signed agreement, and that small Jewish villages and towns in central Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) will be left empty. Gaza is an ugly precedent. But it is a precedent, nonetheless. No Israeli really wants all of Jerusalem. Parts of it will be shucked off to whatever the Palestinians can make of Palestine. Maybe you think a lot. I think it’s a phantasm. Maybe many Arab flags will fly on Al Aqsa plaza and many Israeli police will be stationed there. In the meantime, we know that more and more Palestinians want to live in an Israeli Jerusalem. Some 20,000 have already moved there within the last 18 months.

Kristof also pins responsibility on Bibi for the conflict with Turkey, “burning bridges with Israel’s most important friend in the region.” Perhaps Kristof hasn’t noticed that Erdogan has shattered ties with many countries and entered upon a pan-Islamic campaign in the Ottoman style. Even the FT, which finds it hard to chastise any Muslim country, published an at once plaintive and angry editorial, “Talking Turkey,” which is an attempt to curb the country’s sudden aggressive spirit.

As it happens, Kristof’s strategem of calling on Israel’s friends—in the Yom Kippur context, the obvious ploy for America’s Jews—to change Netanyahu’s policy is actually based on false history. The Palestinians have not yet—and I sadly believe they won’t anytime soon—confronted the reality that is staring them in the face. It is the reality of a democratic, social democratic, increasingly social democratic country with the advantages of active enterprise that knows how to defend itself. It will not empty the West Bank as long as there is the probability, even the possibility of rockets and missiles and bombs aimed at the heart of the country which, given its size, is everywhere. History has not stood still over these last more than six decades. The Arabs cannot have what they turned down as temporary armistice in 1949. They also cannot have a peace with neither of their movements (Fatah and Hamas) having provably shorn themselves of the terrorist spirit and terrorist strategy.

Here is Kristof’s panacea:

The Palestinians’ best hope would be a major grass-roots movement of nonviolent peaceful resistance aimed at illegal West Bank settlements, led by women and inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A growing number of Palestinians are taking up variants of that model, although they sometimes ruin it by defining nonviolence to include stone-throwing and by giving the leading role to hotheaded young men.

From his mouth to God’s ear. And, no, I will not confess at Kol Nidre tonight and atNeilah tomorrow night and during the day of fasting in between to what Kristof sees as my sins and the sins of the people Israel in this blessed land.

Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.


Fiery Address Unites Democrats, Republicans, and Tea Party Idealists Behind „Jews For Genocide”

Moses parted the Red Sea. Jesus walked on water. And now Benjamin Netanyahu has healed the partisan divide in Washington D.C., the greatest miracle of all time, according to this morning’s editorial in the New York Times.In a forty-five minute address before a Joint Session of Congress the tough-talking Israeli Prime Minister convinced a heretofore bitterly divided U.S. political class to lay aside its budget battles and concentrate on America’s transcendent purpose: to resettle Palestinian Arabs in outer Mongolia so Israel need no longer face the Arab “demographic threat” to Jewish democracy.The nuance-laden speech, entitled “They Must Go!” was interrupted 637 times by standing ovations, which left many Congress members afflicted with repetitive motion disorders. “He makes it all so clear,” gushed California Senator Barbara Boxer, rubbing an elbow dislocated by continuous applause. “Why should we be at each others’ throats over budget matters when Israel faces extinction at the hands of HAMAS (Horrible Arab Mothers Affirming Sexuality)?” 

“If they are not stopped from having babies on Jewish land,” said California’s other Senator Diane Feinstein, “Jews will soon be a minority in their own country. In other words, it will be the Holocaust all over again.”

“And that would undermine the free market,” added Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, “because God gave the land to the Jews, and no one has the right to tell a landlord what to do with his land.”

“It would also be a defeat for immigrants’ rights,” said Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) a leading spokesman for comprehensive immigration reform, “because Israel is a nation of immigrants continually made subject to terrorist attacks by Arab nativists refusing to recognize that unlimited immigration is good for everyone. They’ll find that out once we relocate them to Mongolia.”

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) agreed that violent expulsion was the best solution, but added that Fidel Castro should be included in the forced march to Mongolia. “The Arabs are radical Communists like Fidel. I mean, what’s more Communist than one person, one vote? They’re birds of a feather that should flock together.”

Michele Bachmann (D-Minn.) offered to switch her party affiliation to Likud ” if that would help God win in 2012.” President Obama praised her spirit of conciliation and said he would consider her as a running mate if she didn’t get the GOP nomination.

“She’s on my short list,” said Obama. “It’s either her or Palin or Joe Lieberman,” he added.” “Bibi has promised to let me know soon.”

The president pooh-poohed talk of Bachmann lacking qualifications to serve as president. “She loves God and Israel, and what other qualifications are there?”

Michael K. Smith is the author of The Madness of King George from Common Courage Press. He co-blogs with Frank Scott at

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