Month: February 2017

Apocalyptic Extremism: No Longer a Laughing Matter

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(photo: Getty Images)

By Rabbi Brandt Rosen / Shalom Rav
February 27, 2017


We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict . . . to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
— Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist


In my previous post, I explored how Zionism historically fed off the existence of anti-Semites and anti-Semitic regimes to justify the need for a Jewish state. In this post, I’d like to discuss a phenomenon that has even more ominous resonance for the current political moment: the willingness of political Zionists, Israeli politicians and right wing Israel advocates to court the support of Christian millenarians and apocalyptic extremists.

Some history: In the century after the Protestant reformation, the religious ideology of millenarianism began to spread throughout Europe. Millenarianism took many forms, most of which were rooted in the belief that the physical restoration of the Jews to the land would be a necessary precursor to the apocalypse and the eventual second coming of the Messiah. This religious dogma was eventually brought by English Puritan colonists to North America, where it evolved into present-day Christian Zionism.

It is safe to say that Jewish political Zionism could not have succeeded without the support of Christian millenarians. Reverend William Hechler, a prominent English clergyman who ascribed to eschatological theology and the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel, was a close friend and colleague of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the political Zionist movement. Lord Arthur Balfour, who issued the historic Balfour Declaration in 1917 was likewise a Christian Zionist, motivated as much by his religious convictions as by British imperial designs in the Middle East.

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Zionism’s Marriage of Convenience to Anti-Semitism

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By Rabbi Brant Rosen / Shalom Rav
February 19, 2017


I wish to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic and in result will prove a rallying ground for Anti-Semites in every country in the world . . . . When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens, and you will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants.
— Edwin Montagu, August 1917


I’m sure many have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why on earth the government of Israel and so many staunch Zionists are just fine with the election of Donald Trump — the darling of the anti-Semitic alt-right. The answer however, is really pretty straightforward: this is nothing new. Zionism has had a cozy, if somewhat Faustian relationship with anti-Semitism since its very origins.

The founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl never made a secret of his belief that his new movement would have to depend upon anti-Semitism and anti-Semites in order to create a Jewish state. In his pamphlet, “The Jewish State,” he suggested raising money for the effort by means of a “direct subscription,” adding that “not only poor Jews but also Christians who wanted to get rid of them would subscribe a small amount to this fund.”

In his diary, he was even blunter: “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.”

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For American Jews, The Era of Trump Marks the End of the Zionist Dream

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Protesters near the prime minister’s residence, demonstrating against Trump’s recent refugee and Muslim ban, Jerusalem, January 29, 2017. (photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

By Ben Lorber / +972 Magazine
February 6, 2017


When Israel backs a regime, here in America, that threatens our liberty as humans and our safety as Jews, the claim that Zionism protects Jews no longer holds. An Israel that cheers on Goliath, as it raises its hand against the Davids of our world, is an Israel that has become startlingly unrecognizable to us. While mainstream American Jewry could choose to ignore the spread of ultra-nationalism and xenophobia in the far-off “Jewish homeland,” when these same forces wash now upon our own shores, the familial resemblance, and active collaboration, between Trump and Netanyahu becomes impossible to ignore.


For most American Jews, the regime of Donald Trump has ushered in the most profound and destabilizing existential crisis since the Holocaust. We watch in horror as President Trump launches a full-frontal assault on the institutions, and the very principles, of the liberal democracy upon which we have built our lives for generations. We stand aghast as his administration tramples the civil liberties of our Muslim, immigrant and refugee neighbors, and we brace ourselves as a potent anti-Semitism simmers at the edges of the alt-right movement that helped propel him to power.

American Jewish establishment and legacy institutions, which already possessed little relevance for many of us, seem ill-equipped to guide us through this new reality. And the state of Israel, far from standing with us against this fascist menace, appears to be egging it on. As we all weather the short-term shocks Trump inflicts upon the political and civic institutions of American life, the full reverberations of this longer-term shock have yet to be felt by American Jewry. In the future, the era of Trump will be remembered as the end of the Zionist dream.

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The Reichstag Warning

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The shell of the Reichstag after the fire, Berlin, Germany, 1933. (photo: European/FPG/Getty Images)

The aspiring tyrants of today have not forgotten the lesson of 1933: that acts of terror — real or fake, provoked or accidental — can provide the occasion to deal a death blow to democracy.

By Timothy Snyder / The New York Review of Books
February 26, 2017

On February 27, 1933 the German Parliament building burned, Adolf Hitler rejoiced, and the Nazi era began. Hitler, who had just been named head of a government that was legally formed after the democratic elections of the previous November, seized the opportunity to change the system. “There will be no mercy now,” he exulted. “Anyone standing in our way will be cut down.”

The next day, at Hitler’s advice and urging, the German president issued a decree “for the protection of the people and the state.” It deprived all German citizens of basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly and made them subject to “preventative detention” by the police. A week later, the Nazi party, having claimed that the fire was the beginning of a major terror campaign by the Left, won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections. Nazi paramilitaries and the police then began to arrest political enemies and place them in concentration camps. Shortly thereafter, the new parliament passed an “enabling act” that allowed Hitler to rule by decree.

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Crossing the Border, Trump Style

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A demonstrator protests Trump’s travel ban at Los Angeles international airport, Feb 4, 2017. (photo: Ringo Chiu / Reuters)

We offer three vignettes of travelling to the U.S. in recent days.


1.  The son of Muhammed Ali is detained at Ft. Lauderdale

“Where did you get your name from?”

“Are you Muslim?”

These were the questions asked of Muhammad Ali Jr. at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport on February 7, before being detained for “several hours” by immigration and customs officials. Yes, that’s Muhammad Ali Jr., as in the son of the Champ, one of the greatest athletes and humanitarians to ever walk the earth. That’s Muhammad Ali Jr., as in the son of a man whose funeral in June was televised across the nation; a man who was lionized by political leaders who are now turning a blind eye to — or actively defending — what’s happening to this country. That’s Muhammad Ali Jr., detained for hours in the country of his birth, 20 minutes from his house because of those two questions: “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?” He answered, “My dad was the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali,” and, “Yes, I certainly am.”

They didn’t believe his answer to the first question, and could not abide the answer to the second.

[Read the full article here . . . ]


2.  A British schoolteacher is denied entry on a trip with his schoolchildren

A British Muslim schoolteacher travelling to New York last week as a member of a school party from south Wales was denied entry to the United States.

Juhel Miah and a group of children and other teachers were about to take off from Iceland on 16 February on their way to the U.S. when he was removed from the plane at Reykjavik. The previous week, on the 10 February, a U.S. appeals court had upheld a decision to suspend Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily banned entry to the country from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The trip proceeded as planned but pupils and colleagues were left shocked and distressed after the maths teacher, a British citizen who had valid visa documentation, was escorted from the aircraft by security personnel.

[Read the full article here . . . ]


3.  A 70-year-old Australian children’s book author is interrogated on her 117th trip to the U.S.

The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the U.S. after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.

Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.

She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people — an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.

[Read the full article here . . . ]

An Open Letter to President Donald Trump From a Bishop of Jerusalem

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I urge you to reflect upon the foundational values of the United States and of Jesus, and to seek a different path toward the twin goals of security and opportunity in the land of the free.

By Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
February 1, 2017


“Our Lord not only commanded us to welcome the stranger, Jesus made it clear that when we welcome the stranger into our homes and our hearts — we welcome him.” (Matt 25:35)


Dear Mr. President,

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I write to you from the Holy City of Jerusalem in a spirit of prayer. I pray that your presidency will be a fruitful one. I pray that under your leadership, the United States of America will continue to uphold and promote its time-honored values of diversity, equality, pursuit of happiness, and of liberty and justice for all.

I pray that as President, you will uphold and promote these values, not only for the citizens of your country, but also for your neighbors. May your commitment to the foundational values of your country extend also to those living in areas of conflict and suffering. I offer this prayer from my office in Jerusalem, where we are still praying and working for a peaceful, just solution for the two peoples and three religions of this land. We long to realize the liberty, justice, and equality in diversity that your country exemplifies for the world.

I have heard about the recent executive decisions you have taken regarding immigrants and refugees, and I am worried.

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The Middle East “peace process” was a myth — Donald Trump ended it

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(photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

The final interment of the already moribund “two-state solution” would force all concerned to face what is obvious to any honest observer.

By Rashid Khalidi* / The Guardian
February 18, 2017


For decades, an imposed reality of one-state — the only sovereign entity enjoying total security control — has existed between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This one state is Israel. Irrespective of the label one uses for it, this is the only outcome that this Israeli government will accept, whatever subaltern, or helot, or “autonomous” status it deigns to allow the Palestinians.


“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.” With these words at a joint press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump may have finally dispelled the already receding mirage of any just solution.

Trump was clearly seeking to please his guest, spurred by the zealots in his government, four of whom, Public Safety Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Sports Minister Miri Regev, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovley, just publicly came out against creation of a Palestinian state.

For decades, Israeli governments, pursuing the colonization of the entirety of “Eretz Israel,” have systematically destroyed the prerequisites for a solution involving a contiguous, sustainable, sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Nevertheless, the myth that a real Palestinian state is on offer, and that there actually is a genuine “peace process,” endures as one of the greatest examples of magical thinking in modern times.

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Trump’s “One-State” Remarks Embolden Right-Wing Zionists — Jewish and Christian

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At a press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump signaled openness to a one-state solution in the Middle East. (photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

President of oldest US pro-Israel group salutes “new sane era” as Trump’s views underscore divisions among Jews and influence of evangelical Christians.

By Ed Pilkington / The Guardian
February 17, 2017


Critics of the one-state solution point out that it would destroy the fundamental character of Israel as a democratic Jewish state: Arabs and Palestinians would numerically be dominant in a single state and that in turn would either eradicate the Jewish nature of the country or force it to forgo democracy by relegating the Palestinians to second-class status.


Donald Trump’s apparent readiness to accept a one-state solution to the Middle East conflict that would permanently rule out a Palestinian nation is emboldening rightwing Zionists in the US — both among Jewish Americans and the much larger pool of pro-Israeli evangelical Christians.

Some Zionist groups welcomed with delight the president’s unexpected comment on Wednesday that tore up the longstanding US adherence to a two-state solution in which Israel would coexist peacefully alongside a fully-formed Palestine.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like,” he said.

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Trump’s Radical Anti-Americanism

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(illustration: Tom Bachtell / The New Yorker)

As the President rejects our foundational principles, all we can turn to is our instinct for shared defiance.

By Adam Gopnik / The New Yorker
February 13, 2017


Within two weeks of the Inauguration, the hysterical hyperventilators have come to seem more prescient in their fear of incipient autocratic fanaticism than the reassuring pooh-poohers. There’s a simple reason for this: the hyperventilators often read history.


Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, the couple who did so much to bear witness to the terrible truths of the Second World War, came to town last week to introduce their new memoir to an American audience. In it, there is a photograph that can only be called heartbreaking in its happiness, unbearable in its ordinariness. It shows an eight-year-old Serge with his sister and their Romanian-Jewish parents walking along a promenade in Nice, in 1943, still smiling, still feeling confident, even at that late date, that they are safe in their new French home. Within a few months, the children and their mother were hiding in a false closet, as Gestapo agents took their father to Auschwitz, and his death.

What the photograph teaches is not that every tear in the fabric of civility opens a path to Auschwitz but that civilization is immeasurably fragile, and is easily turned to brutality and barbarism. The human capacity for hatred is terrifying in its volatility. (The same promenade in Nice was the site of the terrorist truck attack last year.) Americans have a hard time internalizing that truth, but the first days of the Trump Administration have helped bring it home.

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How to Make America Greater: Allow More Immigration

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A rally at Battery Park on Jan 29 protested President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration to the United States. (photo: Yana Paskova / The New York Times)

President Trump will make America smaller.

By Eduardo Porter / The New York Times
February 7, 2017


Few things would make the economic pie bigger than free flows of people from poor countries to rich ones. Immigration — not trade liberalization or the elimination of barriers to capital flows — offers the best shot at raising the incomes of the poor and increasing economic output around the world.


He may not be thinking in these terms. But as he barrels ahead with his promise to restrict immigration — barring people from some Muslim-majority countries, limiting work visas, expelling millions who are here illegally — the president might want to ponder how this fits the theme of making America “great again.”

For his plan, at the scale he promises, would shrink the American economy and impoverish the world. If greatness is what he pursues, a straightforward way to bulk up the economy — not to say bolster global growth — would be to allow many more immigrants in.

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