Whenever and wherever Jewish community leaders convene, there is bound to be
both a buzz and buzzwords. This year’s GA – the mega-gathering of the Jewish
Federations of North America in New Orleans today – will undoubtedly discuss the
threats to Israel and to the Jewish community at home. Until a week ago, the
danger to the latter was usually summed up in the phrase “Jewish
But the times they are a-changing, and not necessarily for
The interception in Britain and Dubai on October 29 of two
bombs apparently en route for Chicago synagogues should act as a wake-up call.
If you hit the snooze button and fall asleep again, the alarm will only sound
louder a little later.
As President Barack Obama noted, and not just out
of an electioneering reflex, the bombs were “a credible threat against our
country.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that the free world is facing
a growing wave of terrorism.
Underscoring the point, within a week a
suicide bomber wounded dozens in Istanbul’s Taksim Square – the Turkish version
of New York’s Times Square; at least 11 parcel bombs were detected in the Greek
capital – one addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy; and more than 75
people were killed in a series of explosions in Baghdad, just days after a siege
at a church in the Iraqi capital left 58 dead.
That two of the parcel
bombs targeted Chicago Jewish congregations came as a surprise to many: Vernon
Kurtz, rabbi of the North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois,
joked with the Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman that he felt safer in the Israeli
capital. But perhaps no other place is so identified with Obama, and Rahm
Emanuel’s mayoral race in Chicago makes it a doubly attractive target for
al-Qaida and its many tentacles.
Global jihad is indeed
Kurdish separatists accepted responsibility for the Istanbul
attack although (unlike the Athens mail bombs) it carried al-Qaida’s hallmarks.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan likes spreading blame among the
He has again accused Israel of “state terrorism” for its
response to the May Gaza-bound flotilla. Dubai’s police chief has become almost
a media star for his revelations of a seemingly neverending number of Mossad
agents involved in the assassination in January of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. I didn’t
hear him speaking out about the parcel bomb intercepted in his country. But then
we never heard him saying what arch-terrorist Mabhouh was doing there in a
luxury hotel room either.
Britain, already the victim of an al- Qaida
attack, expelled an Israeli diplomat for Israel’s alleged misuse of a British
passport in the Mabhouh targeted killing. And as raised in the discussions with
British Foreign Secretary William Hague when he visited Israel last week, the UK
hasn’t yet changed its legislation on “universal justice.” This means that
Israeli leaders – including Kadima head and leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni
and Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – cannot visit the UK without
fear of being arrested for “war crimes.”
So Mabhouh could wander around
the Middle East with impunity until someone took action. And nearlynuclear
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is free to be feted at the UN in New York
as well as in Lebanon.
But Israeli leaders need to plan their itineraries
around where they are least likely to be detained as Public Enemy No. 1. No
wonder the New Orleans GA is an attractive destination! It has been noted that
if you hear of a mass suicide attack you can bet on one thing: You might not
know where the attack took place, who the victims were or what the bomber’s
gender was, but you can assume that the bomber was Muslim. I know that’s utterly
politically incorrect – right up there with racial profiling at airports – but
it doesn’t make it any less true.
Of course the vast majority of Muslims
are moderates. But that doesn’t change the picture. It’s the extremist Muslim
minority who threaten us all.
Western leaders would do better to join
Israel in fighting global terror rather than castigating it for acting in
I HAPPENED to watch A Woman Called Golda last week, and
seeing the scene of her famous speech in Chicago in 1948 reminded me of all that
has changed – and all that has not.
“If we had the choice, we would have
chosen peace, to build in peace,” Golda Meir told the Jewish community in an
address credited with helping build the Jewish state.
“I want you to
believe me when I say that I came on this special mission to the United States
today not to save 700,000 Jews. During the past few years the Jewish people lost
six million Jews, and it would be audacity on our part to worry the Jewish
people throughout the world because a few hundred thousand more Jews were in
danger. That is not the issue.
“The issue is that if these 700,000 Jews
in Palestine can remain alive, then the Jewish people as such is alive and
Jewish independence is assured. If these 700,000 people are killed off, then for
many centuries we are through with this dream of a Jewish people and a Jewish
This is the message that still needs to be heard – not just in
the Chicago Jewish community, or even among the members of the GA at the New
Orleans convention. It needs to be heard by the world.
Last month, we had
a reminder that it is not only present-day Israel which is under threat. It is
None other than UNESCO, the United Nations body
responsible for preserving historical and cultural heritage sites, violently
rocked the cradle of Jewish history.
In its biannual session, UNESCO
adopted proposals initiated by Arab member states declaring two Jewish
historical sites to be “Palestinian.” One was the Cave of the Patriarchs in
Hebron (or as UNESCO would have it, “Haram al- Ibrahim”) purchased by Abraham as
a burial site for Sarah millennia before there was an Arab people, let alone
Palestinians. The other was Rachel’s Tomb. Another reason for her to weep for
One UNESCO resolution expressed concern “at the ongoing
excavations” in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, including at the Western
Wall. I suppose we should be grateful the world body hasn’t demanded that
control of Masada be handed over to Rome – yet.
Weakening Jewish – and
hence Israeli – links to our cultural heritage is part of a greater struggle to
Jihad with gloves on. It’s a phenomenon that can be
fought by Diaspora Jewry on the many university campuses where Jewish students
and Israel’s supporters are feeling increasingly uncomfortable.
students need to be reminded of the reasons they have to be proud of their
The erosion of international recognition of Israel’s right to
exist has farreaching implications. Consider those Christians killed by al-Qaida
operatives in Baghdad.
The Jews have often been compared to a canary in a
mine; their fate is a warning of what is to come. The world should note that the
canary is not singing but trying to give it a message.
If, instead of
listening, the global village continues to try to silence it, the result is
likely to be not peace, but a deadly quiet.The writer is editor of the
International Jerusalem Post.