Friday, September 18, 2009

"Rosh Hashana"

Arlene Kushner

Rosh Hashana begins this evening. And so I want to begin today by wishing all those who are observing the holiday a year of peace, health, fulfillment and spiritual growth.

May the Almighty watch over each of us and lead us to where we are meant to go. May He protect Israel and keep us strong and truly committed. It was a bombshell of sorts, but not really unexpected: The Goldstone Commission released its findings -- which accuse Israel of war crimes in Gaza-- yesterday. This investigation was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, a vociferously anti-Israel group, and the bias was so much anticipated that Israel refused to cooperate in the investigative process. Its mandate was to "investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people."

Prime Minister Netanyahu could not be more correct in calling this a "kangaroo court." A "prize for terrorists," he said that makes it more difficult for democratic countries to combat terrorism.

What makes it all the more disgraceful is that the head of this commission, South African Constitutional Court Judge Richard Goldstone, is a Jew.

The diplomatic approach of our government is to, in essence, head this off at the pass. This report will now go to the Human Rights Council and from there to the Security Council. The goal is to delegitimize it by contacting Western democracies and seeking their cooperation in refusing to pass on this. Without the support of these countries, the report would lack moral authority.

Significant to blocking the process is having a veto in the Security Council that will prevent this from going to the International Court at the Hague. All eyes will be on the US in this regard.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, is the US, and has called upon American Jewish leaders to act with force against the report. It is, he said, "a dangerous attempt to harm the principle of self-defense by democratic states and provides legitimacy to terrorism." As such, it "should be treated like the [eventually rescinded] UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. We must mobilize and act with all force against the report in order to remove it."


For more on this, please see the Jerusalem Post editorial.

"The learned judge's concoction, based heavily on unverifiable claims from avowedly non-objective sources, some of them long-since discredited, is a feat of cynical superficiality, without appropriate distinction between terror and defense. The distorted picture justifies the Foreign Ministry's reaction of 'nausea and fury.'"


The British Trades Unions have called for a boycott on some Israeli goods coming out of Judea and Samaria -- as a response to our action in Gaza. This thinking is exacerbated by the Goldstone report.

There is concern that another repercussion of the report will be its use in countries that have universal jurisdiction -- allowing claims against Israeli leaders even if their alleged "crimes" were committed elsewhere. But Foreign Ministry lawyer Allan Baker thinks this is unlikely because the report does not contain sufficient evidence to support criminal charges.


Still no agreement reached on a settlement freeze. Mitchell has been bouncing between Jerusalem and Ramallah. What seems fairly obvious is that Netanyahu has made his offer, pretty much along the lines that have been described ad infinitum, but Abbas is saying nothing doing: A total freeze or no negotiations.

I am opposed to a freeze in any terms, but I'll give credit here to the prime minister for holding out and not caving to the demand that the freeze be total, in order to appease the PA.


I had said I wanted to return with a story about Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, and am pleased to do so here:

Sixty years ago, in the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belson, a young Dutch boy named Yoachim (Yoya) Yosef received a tiny Torah scroll from the rabbi of Amsterdam. It was used to secretly teach him his Torah portion for his bar mitzvah, and he kept it with him ever after; when he survived the war, he came to Israel and brought the scroll with him. In fact, he became one of Israel's top physicists and ultimately a mentor to Ramon, who was himself the son of a Holocaust survivor. He was involved with experiments Ramon carried out in space.

Ramon brought this tiny scroll into space with him, along with an Israeli flag, mezuzot, and a kiddush cup.

"I want to bring on the mission as much as possible of the Jewish people, of the identity of the Jewish people," he said at the time. As to the Torah scroll, it represents "the ability of the Jewish people to survive everything, including horrible periods, and go from the darkest of days with hope and faith in the future."

From space he broadcast the story of the scroll.

While Ramon was a secular Jew, he requested kosher food on his mission, and asked to be excused from work on Shabbat. (No, I don't know how he calculated Shabbat in space, but there is a way). He believed he represented all of the Jewish people on this mission.

How exquisitely moving is this story, and how utterly painful that he, and then his son, have been lost to us. But there is a way in which he is not lost, because he serves as a magnificent model of proud Jew that should be broadly emulated.

We must remember him with hope for our future as a people, as surely he would want us to.

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