My Word: Deconstructing Israel and the Jews

Threats to the Jewish people go global.

Cantor 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Cantor 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
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 continuity.”
But the times they are a-changing, and not necessarily for the better.
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 global.
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 usual suspects.
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 selfdefense.
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 homeland.”
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 Jewish existence.
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 her children.
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 delegitimize Israel.
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.
But first students need to be reminded of the reasons they have to be proud of their identity.
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.