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New Ken Burns Film Spotlights Little-Known Holocaust Rescuers

September 21st, 2016

By: Ben Sales; The Times of Israel – timesofisrael.com

How a quiet New England couple traveled to Europe on the eve of WWII and saved hundreds through clandestine operations – including money laundering and smuggling

JTA – In 1940, as he was being transported to safety in the lower deck of a ship, the Jewish author Lion Feuchtwanger asked Waitstill Sharp why the American Unitarian minister had bothered to rescue him from the Nazis.

Martha and Waitstill Sharp departing New York Harbor for Prague in 1939. (Courtesy of Sharp Family Archives/via JTA)

Martha and Waitstill Sharp departing New York Harbor for Prague in 1939. (Courtesy of Sharp Family Archives/via JTA)

Sharp and his wife, Martha, had spent much of the previous two years smuggling Jews out of Nazi-controlled territory. Saving people from persecution, the clergyman had told Feuchtwanger, was what any able person should do.

“I think something frightful, in addition to what has befallen Europe, is going to befall now,” Sharp later recalled saying. “I’m not a saint. I’m just as capable of the sins of human nature as anyone else. But I believe that the will of God is to be interpreted by the liberty of the human spirit.”

It’s an intimate moment in “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War,” a documentary co-directed by the renowned filmmaker Ken Burns that takes a highly personal look at the American Christian couple who left a quiet life in New England, traveled to Nazi-occupied Europe and smuggled hundreds of Jews to safety.

The movie, which relies on written recollections of the Sharps (Waitstill is voiced by Tom Hanks), archival footage, and interviews with survivors and historians, premieres September 20 on PBS.

“Defying the Nazis” is a change of pace for Burns, a director best known for sweeping documentaries on broad topics — see: “Civil War,” “Jazz” or “Baseball.” But when confronting the Holocaust’s enormity, Burns said the best approach was to focus on narrow, resonant stories like that of the Sharps rather than statistics that can mask the pain of mass atrocity.

“The number six million has become rather opaque,” Burns told JTA by phone from his office in New Hampshire. “We just say it, and it lacks dimension and specificity. Here you have a story of two people who saved a few hundred people on the edges of that Holocaust.”

However, the final frame of “Defying the Nazis” dedicates the film to all the Holocaust victims who were not saved.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 28:  Co-director/executive producer Ken Burns speaks onstage during the 'Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War' panel discussion at the PBS portion of the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JULY 28: Co-director/executive producer Ken Burns speaks onstage during the ‘Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War’ panel discussion at the PBS portion of the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

“If the finale does anything, it reminds us that those six million are an amputated limb whose lives we still miss, and who ought to itch and bother us as long as we are human beings,” Burns said.

The film traces the story of the Sharps, who were living in Wellesley, Massachusetts, when the American Unitarian Association asked them to travel to Czechoslovakia in 1939 and France in 1940 to help people persecuted by the Nazis. The couple provided relief to embattled groups, raised money for refugee aid and smuggled Nazi targets, including children, out of the country. They are two of the five Americans who have been inducted by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, as Righteous Among the Nations.

Burns became connected to the film through his co-director, Artemis Joukowsky, the Sharps’ grandson and a fellow alumnus of Hampshire College. Joukowsky first showed the film to Burns five years ago, and Burns steadily became more involved, beginning as an informal adviser and ending as a co-director.

Burns compared his evolving role in the film to dialing up the heat slowly on a frog in a saucepan. “But this is a good kind of boil,” he added.

“It’s just firing on all cylinders,” he said of the movie. “You have a comfortable middle-class Unitarian minister and his wife [who] live in Wellesley, Mass. The most dramatic thing that happens is what he says on Sunday. They leave their small children behind, go to Prague on the eve of World War II. She’s dodging various Gestapo agents at night; he’s going to European capitals to launder money.”

‘Those six million are an amputated limb whose lives we still miss, and who ought to itch and bother us as long as we are human beings’

In the film, much of the Sharps’ story is told through the memories of the now-adult children the couple rescued. Burns said the childhood memories created the personal recollection necessary to capture the narrative’s emotional atmosphere.

“Children make unusually accurate witnesses,” he said. “You really remember when your parents are happy, and you really, really remember when your parents are anxious and sad.”

The movie adds another personal touch as it turns away from the Sharps’ rescue work and documents the rising tensions in the couple’s marriage after they return to the States. It’s bookended by an excerpt of a letter from Waitstill to Martha hoping to grow closer to her again.

“There was a fear of the messiness of this story,” Burns said, noting that he was undeterred. “The longing for the other sets in motion that this is about two people in a complicated relationship, as well as about the large topics that are involved here.”

Burns said he isn’t done with Holocaust documentation. He’s in the early stages of planning a movie about the US role in preventing the Holocaust — a topic he says most people don’t fully understand. And though his first allegiance in “Defying the Nazis” was to telling an accurate story, he hopes viewers come away with a drive to do more for today’s refugees.

“We are right now in a refugee crisis in the world that is dwarfed only by the Second World War,” he said. “This is a story, ultimately, about sacrifice and its costs.

“These people endangered their lives to save other human beings. They presumed everyone else would do it. What a wonderful presumption. It’s not true, but I hope it does galvanize others.”

UN Report on Failed Gaza, PA Governments: It’s All Israel’s Fault

September 20th, 2016

By Jewish News International / JNi.Media

"A prominent element of Israel's restrictions on Palestinian productive activities is the dual-use list, which prohibits the importation of civilian goods deemed by Israel as potentially having other, harmful uses." (photo credit: IDF)

“A prominent element of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian productive activities is the dual-use list, which prohibits the importation of civilian goods deemed by Israel as potentially having other, harmful uses.” (photo credit: IDF)

If a visitor from outer space were to read the new Report of the “United Nations Conference on Trade and Development assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory” issued Tuesday (Sept. 6), they would walk away with an image of a nation of industrious, democratic, peace-loving people named the “Palestinians” who are intentionally and on a daily basis prevented from thriving and achieving the economic success they so richly deserve by a cruel and capricious Israeli occupation that sets out to torpedo every shred of goodness those peaceful folks manage to sustain.

This horrifying image is only enhanced by the fact that this report comes from the principal organ of the UN General Assembly dealing with trade, investment, and development issues. The organization’s goals are to: “maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis.”

With that in mind, here is the opening paragraph of the Executive summary of the UNCTAD report, meaning the gist of whatever else comes below:

    “In 2015, Israel withheld Palestinian fiscal revenue for four months, donor aid declined and Israeli settlements continued to expand into the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while poverty and unemployment remained high. The Occupied Palestinian Territory continued to be a captive market for exports from Israel, while occupation neutralized the potential development impact of donor aid. Genuine reconstruction has yet to take off in the Gaza Strip despite $3.5 billion in donor pledges. Gaza’s socioeconomic conditions worsened and the infant mortality rate increased for the first time in 50 years.”

It’s an executive summary, so one cannot argue that so many of these assertions are being lumped together out of context. And yet, for a report that should provide an overview of the economic and social situation in the PA and Gaza to cite the withholding of revenues without mentioning that Israel was forced to freeze those funds after the PA had accumulated half a billion dollars in unpaid electric bills; and for the same executive summary to make the construction of a smattering of Jewish apartment units as a top-level cause for Arab decline — signals the point of view and general inclination of the authors.

You’re welcome to read the entire report if you wish. We went looking for those items that best reflect how the report turns facts and figures on their head to come up with the preconceived conclusion: it’s all the fault of the Israeli occupation, and once Israel is out of the picture you’ll see how those Palestinians will become Switzerland of the Middle East.

UN Blames Israel for Unemployment
Take, for instance, item 5, dealing with Arab unemployment. In 2015, the unemployment rate in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” was 26%, compared with 12% in 1999.

What happened in 1999? Well, for some unknown reason, there was an Israeli “tightening of restrictions on movement and access of Palestinian labor and goods.”

What a capricious, wicked nation those Israelis must be. Of course, 1999-2000 marked the eruption of the second intifada, which made the current plague of shooting, stabbing, car ramming and stone and firebomb throwing look like a day at the fair. Israeli employers were done with hiring Arabs from the PA and Gaza who would turn on them one morning and slash their throat, thank you very much. Israel imported foreign labor from Asia, and other migrants started cutting through the border illegally in the Sinai, and the Arabs were pushed out of the Israeli labor market. God is in the context.

UN Blames Israel for PA Arabs Wanting to Work for Israelis
Next, the report offers a blatant lie (Item 6): “Lack of employment opportunities in the domestic economy forces thousands of unemployed Palestinians to seek employment in Israel and in settlements in low-skill, low-wage manual activities.”

The reality is that those “lowly” jobs in Israel pay three times what the average job pays inside the PA, and if Israel only issued more work permits, those PA Arabs would have gladly abandoned their lousy jobs in Ramallah and Shechem and flooded Israel’s construction sites.

But the report is unhappy with the fact that as many as 12% of the PA Arabs find decent employment in Israel, because, let’s face it, “this forced dependence on employment in Israel and in settlements magnifies the vulnerability of the Palestinian economy to political shocks, as Israel can at any time bar Palestinian workers, even those with Israeli permits, from entering Israel and settlements.”

On that assertion, there is one surefire way to make sure Israel would never, ever bar those workers and take away their permits: if Arabs from the PA not start shooting, stabbing, car ramming and stone and firebomb throwing. It’s a scientific correlation, proven by 50 years of Israeli presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza: Arab violence leads to Arab poverty; Arab civility leads to Arab prosperity. It’s such a simple message, one must attend many anti-Semitic incitement sessions at one’s local mosque to be able to ignore it.

Israel’s Response to Arab Terror and Illegal Construction Harms the PA Economy
Here’s Item 9, which does not belong in an economic report, because it covers a negligible issue in terms of costs to the Arab economy, but it’s there to make a political point, and tell another lie: “In April 2016, the Secretary-General of the United Nations advised the Security Council that demolition of Palestinian homes and businesses in the West Bank was continuing at an alarming rate.” How alarming? “By early April, the number of Palestinian structures demolished had exceeded the total of those destroyed in 2015, displacing 840 people.”

Israel demolishes Arab homes in Area C for two reasons: illegal construction, and participation of one of the occupants in a terror attack. In terms of numbers, the vast majority of the structures are destroyed for lack of building permits. Israel is the recognized sovereign in Area C, according to the Oslo accords, and you can’t defy the sovereign power by building whatever and wherever you want. But Israel also demolishes Jewish structures in Area C, for a variety of legally contested issues, a fact that is completely ignored by the report which prefers to repeat the mantra that Israel demolished those Arab homes “while accelerated settlement activity created facts on the ground.”

Now, what was the economic effect of those 840 demolitions on the PA, whose citizens reside in Areas A and B? Probably negligible, but a point scored is a point earned.

In Item 14, UNCTAD supports the World Bank’s assessment of a problem they named “the Palestinian fiscal leakage.” What it means is that while the Arab earnings are meager and sub-standard in the PA, the PA Arabs working in Israel make triple those wages and get to keep a lot more after taxes, some of which Israel transfers to Ramallah. But the World Bank and now the UNCTAD want those PA laborers in Israel to pay higher taxes, which would go to their government. Indeed, Israel has promised to collect and transfer to Ramallah “$128 million to cover some of the losses accumulated over the years by the Authority.” That money, as the Israeli Finance Ministry explained to the Knesset Finance Committee this summer, will be coming out of the wages of PA Arabs working in Israel.

UN Blames Israel for Gaza’s Internal Problems
Now we get to what the report names, “Slow reconstruction in Gaza and disregard for the productive base.”

It has been documented by every major news outlet and at least two recent court cases in Israel that Hamas has completely usurped the $3.5 billion in donations [and used it instead] for the digging of new terror tunnels and for rebuilding Hamas leaders’ homes destroyed in the 2014 war. It is also understood by most rational people in the world that as long as the Gaza Strip is governed by a terrorist organization whose major stated aim is to destroy the Jewish State, Israel has no choice but to impose a blockade on the free flow of goods into Gaza, because those goods would inevitably be used to prepare for the next attack on Israel.

Not on planet UNCTAD.

Item 22 states without benefit of context or recognition of regional realities: “Israel’s blockade of Gaza, in its ninth year, continues to exert a heavy toll. The population of Gaza is locked in, denied access to the West Bank and the rest of the world. … The blockade has affected Gaza’s once vibrant export sector.” Ah, those capricious Israelis and their obsession with not getting killed.

UN Report Straight Out Lies
The same item adds a nasty line: “Even people in need of medical treatment are not allowed to travel to obtain essential health care.” The author of this blatant lie should come visit Israeli hospitals in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beer Sheva, where Gazan patients are a regular feature, including family members of top Hamas officials.

Israel Refuses to Be Annihilated
Item 23 is also about Israel’s refusal to be annihilated: “A prominent element of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian productive activities is the dual-use list, which prohibits the importation of civilian goods deemed by Israel as potentially having other, harmful uses. The list includes essential factors of production, raw materials, agricultural fertilizers, telecommunications equipment, steel, pipes, spare parts and other capital goods.”

Yes, because Hamas engineers have skillfully turned all those highly useful items into highly murderous weapons.

The same item complains that “recently, more items have been added to the list, and the thickness of wood classified as dual-use has been reduced from 5 to 3 cm, then to 1 cm. This has far-reaching implications for Gaza’s furniture industry, among other harmful effects. Enforcement of the stringent dual-use restrictions obstructs reconstruction efforts, raises production costs and forces Palestinian firms out of business.”

Again, let Hamas officially abandon its murderous designs on Israel, let it sign a document recognizing Israel’s right to exist and watch how the Gaza Strip becomes paradise in a month. The fact is, with the right investments and without the Islamic extremists’ threat, Gaza could become as pretty and as prosperous as San Diego. Parts of it already are, even today.

UN Blames Israel for Gaza’s Now Rising Infant Mortality Rate
Item 25 is a tour de force of convoluted logic: “A shocking indicator of the grim situation in Gaza is the rising infant mortality rate, one of the best indicators for the health of a community. Infant mortality has risen for the first time in 50 years. The rate of neonatal mortality has also risen significantly, from 12 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 20.3 in 2013.”

The sad truth is that Israel was investing in Judea and Samaria and Gaza infrastructure and social services to the point where they exceeded the standards in all other Arab countries. It is safe to say that had Israel continued to run those territories, today they would have been its equal in terms of social services and levels of income.

The relatively low baby mortality cited for Gaza in 2008 did not appear out of thin air — Israel, that hated occupier, pushed it on with heavy investments and years of government effort. The progressive decline in both parts of the Arab-run territories is not the result of “the occupation,” but of the utter failure of local Arab governments to manage modern state systems. We can illustrate this point:

On June 16, 1994, the Israeli Civil Administration in the Territories issued a report comparing the state of the Arab infrastructure in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in 1970 with 1990. According to that report, in 1970 Gaza had 3 community clinics. In 1990 there were 28. Each of the Israeli-built Community Clinics in the Gaza Strip offered mother-and-child health services, family care units, and pharmacies. Several of the centers offered 24-hours-a-day delivery units and emergency services, and minor x-ray units.

Major renovations and/or additions were made to almost every hospital in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza since 1967. Thus, for example, Rafidiah Hospital in Shechem received a radiology center in 1987 and an out-patient department in 1988. Wattani Hospital in Shechem received an intensive care unit in 1987. Ramallah Hospital received a diagnostic radiology center in 1987 and a neo-natal and premature intensive care unit in 1986. Beit Jala Hospital received a radiology center in 1987. Hebron Hospital received an outpatient and laboratory wing in 1988. The Bethlehem Mental Hospital received a chronic care department for male patients in 1986. The dialysis department at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City was completely renovated in 1989. Khan Yunis Hospital’s surgical suite was refurbished in 1987. The Opthalmic Hospital in Gaza City was renovated and re-equipped in 1989.

And infant mortality in Gaza declined from approximately 85 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 26.1 in 1990. In Judea and Samaria, infant mortality declined from approximately 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1968, to 18.1 in 1991.

For comparison, in 1991 deaths per 1,000 births in Libya stood at 62, Egypt 82, Turkey 54, Iraq 66, Syria 37, Tunisia 38, Jordan 38, Lebanon 50 and Saudi Arabia 69.

Together with the decline in infant mortality, great progress was made by Israel in controlling and eliminating major childhood diseases, due mainly to immunization programs instituted since 1967. Twelve nursing schools, two of which offer BA degree programs were opened between 1971 and 1991. The numbers of both doctors and nurses more than doubled from 1967 to 1991.

Voluntary health insurance plans which were unavailable before 1967 were first offered in Judea and Samaria in 1973, and in Gaza in 1976. In 1978, a new comprehensive plan was introduced; it was automatically applied to Civil Administration workers and to area residents working in Israel and was offered to all other area residents on a voluntary basis.

Israel greatly improved and expanded sewage treatment facilities in the liberated areas. Before 1967, there were no sewage treatment plants in Judea and Samaria. Since 1967, modern installations were built in Jenin (1971), Tulkarem (1972), Ramallah (1979), and Kalkilya (1986). The first stage of the Hebron sewage treatment plant was completed in 1991. In Gaza, sewage was managed through local septic tanks. Since 1967, treatment facilities were improved and/or constructed in Gaza City, Khan Yunis, Jabalya, Rafiah, and the Shati refugee camp. Routine testing of sewage for various enteric bacteria was begun in 1981.

Judea and Samaria were recognized as malaria-free areas in 1971.

UN Report Blames Israel for Palestinian Authority’s Failure in Self-Government
Item 37 in the UNCTAD report unwittingly makes this point: “Palestinian economic indicators have deteriorated in the last two decades, with serious ramifications for the welfare of the Palestinian people. In 1995-2014, the population grew by 3.6 per cent annually, while real GDP per capita grew by only 1 per cent. In addition, productivity failed to grow and unemployment increased by 9 percentage points to 27%.”

What else happened between 1994 and 2014?

Oh yes; the governing of Judea, Samaria and Gaza was handed over to the local Arab leadership, which proceeded to mess things up while inciting to violence [their citizens] against the only country on earth that actually took the trouble to help them. With numbers like these – and the report heaps them in multicolored tables – the Arab record of self-government is nothing short of abysmal.

Unfortunately, UN reports telling the world that these failed regimes aren’t to blame, that it’s all Israel’s fault, are not helping anyone, least of all the local Arabs who are now telling survey takers openly that they would rather live under Israeli rule or escape to Canada, whichever comes first.

Is the Islamic State’s Plan to Conquer Rome So Far Fetched?

September 18th, 2016

By: William Reed; The Clarion Project – clarionproject.org

Historically, violent and civilizational jihad has changed the demographic character and culture of entire nations in much of the world.

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) made a call to its cells in Europe through an encrypted text message in English, French, and Arabic on the social media over the weekend (Sept. 3-4).

The Turkish news outlet NTV reported that via the ISIS-affiliated “Nasir Foundation,” the terror group sent a message to its members and sympathizers in Europe who are preparing for attacks, telling them to “either act immediately or annihilate all organizational information they possess.”

“Our brothers and sisters in Europe and especially in France, hurry up to carry out your acts. Also, be careful and cautious,” ordered the terror group.

“We hear that a lot of our brothers get arrested before carrying out their acts. We suggest you to delete all of the information and messages in your devices relating the Islamic State including photos, videos and applications. We also suggest you to carry out your acts before it is too late.”

ISIS allegedly made the warning after Syrian-born Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the official spokesperson and a senior leader of the Islamic State, was killed in Aleppo. The U.S. and Russia both announced in separate statements that they killed al-Adnani in their airstrikes.

Since al-Adnani’s death, there have been calls for revenge attacks to be carried out by jihadist operatives, the Daily Mail reported.

“According to the respected Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity, the threats were made on a pro-ISIS account on the encrypted Telegram messaging service, with one warning: ‘We will exterminate you.’”

In 2014, al-Adnani declared that supporters of the Islamic State from all over the world should attack citizens of Western states, including the US, France and UK.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,” he said.

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

IS declares it will conquer Istanbul, Rome

In its recently-released new English magazine Rumiyah (Rome), ISIS declared it will conquer Istanbul and Rome.

The magazine, which is the terror group’s second international publication after Dabiq, is published in several languages including English, Turkish, Russian and French.

As to why they chose the name Rumiyah, ISIS explained: “Rasulallah [prophet of Allah – Muhammed, the founder of Islam] heralded the Islamic conquest of Rome in end times. We ask our God to enable us to conquer this district and Konstantiniyye [Istanbul] which will be conquered before Rome.”

The Islamic State made Abu Muhammad al-Adnani the cover boy of the first edition of their new magazine, with calls for revenge of his death. The terror group called on their supporters to “sacrifice themselves,” a statement interpreted as a call to carry out terror attacks against European countries and other members of the anti-ISIS collation forces.

The Islamic State and Rome

“The conquest of Rome has been a primary goal since the beginning of the Islamic State,” writes journalist Dale Hurd of CBN News. “Muslim scholars say Muhammed prophesied that the two great Roman cities would be conquered: Constantinople and Rome.

“The Islamic State reveals part of its plan in its publication ‘Black Flags From Rome’,” added Hurd. “It will use sleeper cells and expects to get help from Muslims serving in European armies and from non-Muslim sympathizers. It also wants to fire missiles into Italy.”

Islamic Expansionist Campaigns in History

Muslim jihadist armies have targeted European territories since the inception of the religion in the 8th century.

The Islamic invasion of Hispania, for example, was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania from 711 to 788. The invasion resulted in the establishment of the Emirate of Cordoba under the Muslim ruler Abd ar-Rahman I, who completed the unification of Muslim-ruled Iberia, or al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), between 756 and 788.

Europe was also a popular target of Ottoman jihadist armies.  Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453 in a bloody military campaign, which marked the end of the Byzantine Empire.

Throughout centuries, Ottomans also occupied many other European nations such as Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary and Cyprus. They targeted and attacked other European lands, including Austria, Venice, and Poland.

Much of the present-day “Muslim world” was invaded and captured by Muslim imperial armies. Anatolia – today’s Turkey – was mostly Christian before the Turkish conquests of the 11th century. It also had sizable Jewish and Yazidi communities.  Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity were the major religions in Afghanistan during pre-Islamic era.

Today’s Iraq and Islamic Republic of Iran were a majority-Zoroastrian empire. In the Arabian Peninsula, there were Pagans, Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians before Islam took over.

Similarly, before the advent of Islam, the region which is today termed Pakistan was quite a diverse region with several religions — mainly Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism as well as local shamanistic and animist religions.

In Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population today, the primary religions were Hinduism and Buddhism, as were Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Violent or civilizational jihadi efforts have tremendously changed the demographic character and culture of entire nations in much of the world. The once-majority non-Muslim communities in those lands are either extinct or dwindling minorities today.

This is not to say that Christian armies have never used force to spread their religious beliefs. The conquest of Eastern Europe by the Teutonic Knights or the conquest of South and Central America by the conquistadors saw Christianity carried forward at the point of a sword.

The important factor is that while contemporary Christian movements look back on those periods of history as squarely in the past, Islamist movements see this history as inspiration for their dreams of the future.

The Islamic military conquest of Europe might sound unrealistic now, but the Islamic State and many other Islamist groups openly declare that they are still dedicated to their goal of world domination.

They are trying to actualize their goals not only through violent jihad, but also through population jihad (influx of Muslims) and by demanding Islamist privileges, such as parallel sharia courts.

Despite its centuries-long resistance to jihad-waging armies, much of Europe appears blind to history today. With its politically correct governments and misguided, “multi-cultural” ideologies, the European Union seems alarmingly clueless and desperate in the face of once-again rising Islamist threat.

UN Chief Calls Netanyahu Ethnic Cleansing Comment Outrageous

September 17th, 2016

By: Edith M. Lederer; Associated Press – ap.com

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Palestinians want the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews in the West Bank “unacceptable and outrageous.”

Ban told the U.N. Security Council that he wanted to be absolutely clear: “Settlements are illegal under international law.”

In some of the strongest language he’s used on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Ban said Israel’s “stifling and oppressive” occupation of Palestinian territory “must end.”

Israel’s decades-long policy that has settled more than 500,000 Israelis in Palestinian territory “is diametrically opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state,” he said. And the international community, including the Security Council, “views the expansion of settlements as an obstacle to peace.”

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power was also critical saying the United States, which is Israel’s closest ally, “strongly opposes continued Israeli settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace” and Israel’s desire for a two-state solution.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon criticized Ban’s “distorted view of the situation,” saying “the obstacle to peace starts and ends with Palestinian incitement to terrorism” and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu.

Instead of condemning Hamas, which controls Gaza, for building “terror tunnels,” and ensuring that the Palestinians “end their incitement, the secretary-general chooses to condemn Israel on a regular basis,” Danon said in a statement.

Ban was also critical of the Palestinians, saying he continues “to be appalled that Palestinian parties choose to praise despicable acts, such as the 1972 terrorist attack against Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.”

“The glorification of terror is disgraceful and the Palestinian leadership must put an end to it,” the secretary-general said.

He expressed particular concern at the Palestinian High Court’s decision last week to suspend all preparations for local elections in the West Bank and Gaza, which would be the first in over 10 years, to consider a petition to cancel the elections.

“Local elections in the West Bank and Gaza, if held in line with international standards, could provide an important renewal of Palestinian democracy and a first step towards advancing national unity,” Ban said.

As for Gaza, he said that while there has been progress in the two years since the 2014 cease-fire with Israel, “Gaza remains under closures and is a ticking time bomb.”

“Instability and the risk of violent escalation are ever-present,” he said. “The continued arms build-up and militant activities by Hamas and other radical groups keep both sides of the border in a constant state of alert.”

Ban said more than 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million people need humanitarian assistance, and their continued deprivations “smother dreams and ambitions, and feed instability and extremism.”

The secretary-general paid tribute again to Israel’s former president Shimon Peres expressing hope for his speedy recovery from a stroke and praising his tireless work “in seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Power said the U.S. shares Ban’s views on rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions and urges all parties to “exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric.”

Our World: The American Inquisition

September 13th, 2016

The cancer of Jew hatred has taken over the body of US academia.

A NEW freshman arrives at UCLA, whose campus and many others have been swept by the extremism of the BDS campaign against Israel.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A NEW freshman arrives at UCLA, whose campus and many others have been swept by the extremism of the BDS campaign against Israel.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

By: Caroline B. Glick – Jerusalem Post, jpost.com

This week we caught a glimpse of the advanced state of the disease in an email sent by a Syracuse University professor to an Israeli filmmaker in June.

As The Atlantic reported, on June 24, Syracuse professor Gail Hamner disinvited Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan from screening his film at the university’s film festival, scheduled for March 2017.

Hamner’s decision had nothing to do with the quality of Dotan’s work. She admitted as much, writing, “Obviously, my decision here has nothing to do with you or your work.”

Dotan was disinvited because he is Israeli and because the title of his film, The Settlers, does not make it immediately apparent whether he reviles the half million Israeli Jews who live in Judea and Samaria sufficiently.

Hamner explained, “My SU colleagues, on hearing about my attempt to secure your presentation [at our upcoming film festival], have warned me that the BDS faction on campus will make matters very unpleasant for you and for me if you come.”

She then elaborated on the harm his participation would cause her, personally.

“My film colleague… who granted me affiliated faculty [status] in the film and screen studies program and who supported my proposal to the Humanities Council for this conference, told me point blank that if I have not myself seen your film and cannot myself vouch for it to the council, I will lose credibility with a number of film and women/ gender studies colleagues. Sadly, I have not had the chance to see your film and can only vouch for it through my friend and through published reviews.”

Hamner added, “I feel caught in an ideological matrix and by my own egoic needs to sustain certain institutional affiliations.”

Hamner’s letter to Dotan provides us with a rare opportunity to see something that people generally go to great lengths to hide. Hamner demonstrated how boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists have enmeshed Jew hatred into the fabric of academic life in America.

The BDS movement is qualitatively different from all other groups that operate on campuses today.

Unlike even the most radical, fringe groups, the BDS movement isn’t seeking to advance or protect the rights of anyone. All it works to accomplish is the obliteration of Jewish rights, and indeed of Jewish existence in Israel.

Like Hamas and Iran, BDS activists seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. Like Hamas and Iran, the BDS movement does not strive to bring peace or to protect the rights of anyone. Rather, like Iran and Hamas, the goal of the BDS movement is the genocide of the largest Jewish population in the world and the annihilation of the only Jewish state in the world.

Bullying is the BDS movement’s preferred tactic.

They bully faculty, administrators and students into becoming anti-Semitic by harassing, ostracizing and persecuting everyone who refuses to actively promote Jew hatred.

To force everyone into line, BDS groups have adopted two complementary tactics. First, they try to banish Israeli Jews entirely from their campuses by bullying their institutions into adopting and implementing anti-Israel boycotts.

Second, they enforce partial bans on Israeli Jews by requiring Israeli and non-Israeli Jews to behave in manners no one would never think of requiring of Israeli Arabs, or Italians or Japanese for that matter.

BDS activists achieve both aims by bullying non-activists into enforcing their anti-Semitic positions – as Hamner did when she disinvited Dotan.

These actions are a clear violation not only of the civil rights of Israeli and non-Israeli Jews. They are also an indisputable violation of the civil rights of all students, administrators and faculty at US universities. They deny everyone the right to hear viewpoints and receive knowledge from Israeli Jews and so limit the academic freedom of everyone.

BDS is a postmodern version of the pure, unrefined Jew hatred of Medieval Europe. Five hundred years ago, the only Jews permitted to enter the public square were Christians. Jews were rejected, ostracized, expelled and killed unless they could enthusiastically and soulfully recite the catechisms.

On university campuses throughout the US today, Jews – Israeli and non-Israeli – are ostracized, silenced, harassed and humiliated unless they enthusiastically, soulfully and contritely declare their support for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Non-Jews who do not require them to do so are similarly ostracized and otherwise punished.

Case in point is the fate of Milan Chatterjee.

Chatterjee is an Indian-American law student and a Hindu. Last year he was elected president of UCLA’s Graduate Students’ Association. Last week he announced his resignation from the post and his transfer to New York University Law School to complete his degree.

In a letter to UCLA chancellor Gene Block, Chatterjee explained that his decision was the result of relentless attacks, harassment and bullying he has suffered at the hands of BDS activists and their enablers in Block’s administration.

Chatterjee wrote Block: “Your administration has not only allowed BDS organizations and student activists to freely engage in intimidation of students who do not support the BDS agenda, but has decided to affirmatively engage in discriminatory practices of its own against those same students.

“Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the fact is that the UCLA campus has become a hostile and unsafe environment for students, Jewish students and non-Jewish, who choose not to support the BDS movement, let alone support the State of Israel.”

Chatterjee got on the wrong side of UCLA’s anti-Semitism enforcers in November 2015 when he adopted a student government policy of strict neutrality on BDS.

Under his leadership, the graduate council would neither support nor oppose BDS. To this end, he allocated funds for a “Diversity Caucus,” with the stipulation that the caucus remain neutral on BDS.

It was for his refusal to actively endorse BDS – rather than any action to oppose BDS – that Chatterjee became a target for the BDS mob. They submitted a bid to impeach him based on frivolous claims.

To its shame, rather than stand by Chatterjee, the administration joined the mob. Chatterjee was censured by the university and subjected to disciplinary proceedings. UCLA’s administration claimed that he had “violated university policy” for refusing to fund BDS groups.

Following Chatterjee’s decision to transfer to NYU, Kenneth Marcus, president of the Louis Brandeis Center, which supported Chatterjee throughout his year of anti-Semitic persecution, issued a statement. Marcus noted, “It is disgraceful that anti-Israel extremists have managed to drive out this courageous and conscientious student leader for failing to capitulate to the demands of the anti-Semitic BDS movement. The Milan Chatterjee affair reflects the insidiousness of the anti-Israel movement’s new strategy, which is to suppress pro-Israel advocacy and intimidate not only Jewish pro-Israel students but anyone who remains neutral.”

Back at Syracuse, the ironic aspect of Hamner’s disinvitation of Dotan is that Dotan actually recites the catechism both personally and in his film. His only mistake was that he failed to make his convictions clear in the title of his movie.

The university administration was embarrassed by the publication of Hamner’s statement. As a result, last Friday Syracuse University provost Michelle Wheatley issued a mass email stating that Dotan had been reinvited to the conference and that Hamner had apologized for her letter.

The most notable aspect of Wheatley’s letter is that it contained no commitment to investigate her allegations of anti-Semitic intimidation on the part of faculty and student BDS goons. It contained no commitment to purge bigoted intimidation from campus or invite Israelis with Zionist views to speak at Syracuse or participate in university events. It contained no mention of any plans to discipline Hamner for engaging in bigoted actions.

Rather, it simply reinvited Dotan, whose anti-Israel credentials were belatedly sorted out.

For nearly eight years, US President Barack Obama’s Justice Department has refused to investigate the flagrant civil rights violations carried out by BDS activists, groups and their faculty and administration allies and enablers. So there is no reason to think that any federal investigation will be conducted any time soon.

Rather, we can expect anti-Jewish prejudice to become ever stronger and more brazen. We can expect Israeli Jews to be shunned to greater and greater degrees and for pro-Israel students, faculty and administrators – Jewish and non-Jewish – to become less and less free to voice their views.

And we can expect the US higher education system to speed up its slide into moral dystopia and intellectual corruption.

Candidly Speaking: Exposing the criminal society and the culture of death

September 11th, 2016
A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally in Ramallah, earlier this year. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally in Ramallah, earlier this year. (photo credit: REUTERS)

By Isi Leibler – The Jerusalem Post, jpost.com

Pressure must be exerted to encourage rank-and-file Palestinians that their best interests will be served when they appoint leaders who genuinely support the peace process.

We are losing the battle in the war of ideas for the simple reason that we are continuously on the defensive while those seeking our destruction actively and relentlessly demonize us.

Ever since the Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments have felt obliged to understate and even dismiss Palestinian terrorism and hatred in order to maintain domestic public support for policies that, with the benefit of hindsight, were doomed to fail.

In the very early stages, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat told his people that the ultimate goal was the end of Jewish sovereignty – and we dismissed such outbursts as empty words designed merely to placate his radical domestic opponents.

But as the government falsely praised our peace partner, many Israelis deluded themselves into believing that the terrorism we faced was an extremist aberration and that the Palestinians were committed to ending the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution. Likewise, most of the world accepted at face value our repeated praise of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, as moderates and genuine peace partners.

This suited the long-term Palestinian policy of destroying us in stages. They readily accepted concessions and withdrawals but without compromising one iota, and they continue to demonize us and challenge our legitimacy.

But the worst aspect was our failure to highlight the poisonous brainwashing the PA had inflicted on its population. While Arab hostility to Jews prevailed even during the British Mandate period, it was not comparable to the culture of death and evil that today saturates every aspect of Palestinian life.

The Palestinians have stated explicitly that their state would be Judenrein and that Jews would never be permitted to live in their ancestral home even if they were willing to accept Palestinian jurisdiction.

Indeed, Palestinians were brutally executed when they were deemed to have sold land to a Jew.

The PA has become a criminal society and can be compared to prewar Germany, when the Nazis transformed their population into genocidal barbarians by depicting Jews as subhuman. The Palestinians depict Jews as “the offspring of apes and pigs” and call for their extermination. This is not even done subtly but with blatant statements to this effect emanating daily from religious and political leaders and accessible from vast documentary sources compiled by Palestinian Media Watch, MEMRI and others.

A society in which children from kindergarten are brainwashed into believing that the highest goal in Islam is to achieve martyrdom in the course of killing Jews can only be described as criminal.

The demonization of Israel and manifestations of the culture of death are promoted without inhibition by the leadership, the mullahs in the mosques and the state-controlled media. They amount to direct incitement for individuals to strike out and kill Jews in concert or randomly. The “heroic” scenes of youngsters stabbing Jews, the praise by Abbas himself of martyrs “with holy blood” and the totally contrived religious frenzy over accusations of Israelis planning to destroy al-Aksa mosque, coalesce into a witch’s brew of primeval rage and hatred.

The PA provides generous state salaries to terrorists apprehended by Israelis, and if they are killed, their families are remunerated – from funds provided by Western countries. Religious and political leadership at all levels sanctifies terrorists as heroes and national martyrs. City squares, schools and even football clubs are named in their honor.

The barbarism imbibed by the Palestinians is reflected in the street celebrations that erupt spontaneously with every murder of an Israeli. Even more nauseating are the repeated displays on TV of mothers expressing pride at their children becoming martyrs, and expressing hope that their other children will follow the example.

Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that Palestinian opinion polls reflect public support for terrorist attacks against Israel and opposition to a two-state solution. The Arafat/Abbas indoctrination process has radicalized successive generations into believing that the only solution to the conflict is the permanent termination of Jewish sovereignty in the area.

There is irrefutable evidence of the barbaric and genocidal nature of Palestinian society. Indeed, the reality is that, despite maintaining a “moderate” stance to the outside world, internally the Palestinians and ISIS are birds of a feather – although the Palestinians are probably more corrupt.

Alongside the turbulence in the region and the threat from Iran and ISIS, could one envisage any country agreeing to accept statehood for what will inevitably be a neighboring criminal state pledged to its destruction or a candidate for an ISIS or Iranian takeover? This would be utterly inconceivable.

Yet most of the international community, including the United States, regards this as an issue of two nations arguing over real estate. Were that the case, the Palestinians would not have dismissed the offers by prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, who were willing to concede up to 97 percent of the territories formerly controlled by the Jordanians.

Israel has been the target of repeated defamation and delegitimization yet has basically only been on the defensive, seeking to refute the lies being disseminated against it. But as Joseph Goebbels said, if one repeats a lie continuously, people begin believing it. This dictum has now been realized; many in the Western world have absorbed the distorted Palestinian narrative of Israel being an apartheid state, an occupier and a nation born in sin.

Ironically, the weakness of our position lies in the fact that, until recently, in order to appease our allies and “protect” Israelis from being confronted with the stark reality, we deliberately held back from telling the truth and failed to highlight the barbaric and criminal nature of our purported peace partner.

Had we mounted campaigns at the outset, exposing the horrors perpetrated by our neighbors, it may not have influenced anti-Semites and the delusional Left but it would have made a significant impact on the open-minded.

But even now, belatedly exposing the barbarity of our neighbors should be made the top priority in our foreign relations efforts rather than the endless disputes over whether the minuscule 2% of territory comprising settlements (which are not being expanded) is justified.

The recent initiative by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to establish relations with independent Palestinians, aside from not having cabinet approval, is bound to fail because any Palestinian engaged in such negotiations will immediately be assassinated.

Pressure must be exerted to encourage rank-and-file Palestinians that their best interests will be served when they appoint leaders who genuinely support the peace process. Alas, for the time being, that is not even on the horizon.

Today, we must move forward and promote a focused effort to document and expose the evil nature of Palestinian society, which will make it far more difficult and embarrassing for the Americans and Europeans to continue pressuring Israel to accept the creation of what will invariably be a criminal state – particularly in the context of the mayhem prevailing in the region and the terrorist threats now impacting the heartland of Europe.

US Appeals Court Tosses Out $654 Million Verdict Against PLO

September 1st, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. appeals court has tossed out a $654 million jury verdict against the Palestine Liberation Organization for damages Americans suffered in Palestinian terror attacks.

The United States government had said the case threatened to financially destabilize the Palestinian government and harm the region.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out the case Wednesday. The court said the federal courts lack personal jurisdiction over the defendants.

A jury last year awarded $218 million to Americans affected by Palestinian terror attacks that have killed Americans. The award was automatically tripled under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

In court papers after the jury verdict, the U.S. government said that if the Palestinian Authority were to collapse, there would be a security crisis impacting Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region.

U.S. Appeals Court Dismisses Ruling Against Palestinian Authority, PLO

September 1st, 2016

The ruling is a significant setback for the 10 American families who sued over terrorist attacks in Israel in the early 2000s that left 33 dead and more than 400 injured. After a trial in Manhattan federal court last year, jurors found the PLO and Palestinian Authority liable for the attacks and ordered the groups to pay the families $218.5 million, which was automatically tripled to $655.5 million under a U.S. antiterrorism law.

On Wednesday, three judges for the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case, saying there wasn’t enough of a connection between the U.S. and the Israel attacks. There is no U.S. jurisdiction in this case, “no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims,” wrote Judge John Koetl.

One test of jurisdiction was whether the Palestinian Authority and the PLO could be considered “at home” in the U.S. Despite the groups’ office and lobbying efforts in Washington, the appeals panel said that was insufficient to establish a substantial presence in the U.S. The groups are clearly “at home” in Palestine, the opinion said.

The victims who brought the lawsuit were U.S. citizens, but the judges said that during the Israel attacks, the shooters “fired indiscriminately” at large groups of people, meaning they weren’t expressly targeting Americans. Lawyers for the plaintiffs had argued that the attacks were aimed at the U.S. and intended to influence U.S. foreign policy.

Gassan Baloul, a Squire Patton Boggs partner representing the Palestinian groups, said in a statement: “We are very gratified that the court fully accepted our clients’ consistent position that the PA and the PLO are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States courts in these matters.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Israel-based lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Congress and the State Department should intervene to “ensure that these families are compensated by the PA and PLO for these crimes.”

“This decision must be corrected so that these families may receive justice,” she said.

The case has been winding its way through U.S. courts for over a decade. The families filed the original lawsuit in 2004, and lawyers for the Palestinian groups have made nine separate attempts since then to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds. U.S. District Judge George Daniels consistently sided with the victims on the jurisdiction issue, which the appeals judges on Wednesday overturned.

The U.S. government has only intervened once in the case. Last year, when Judge Daniels was deciding how much money the Palestinian Authority needed to put up for the appeal, Justice Department and State Department officials filed a letter saying a high bond could hurt the group’s ability to operate and destabilize the region further.

The appeals judges noted that similar lawsuits pending against the Palestinian Authority and PLO in Washington had also been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The families brought the lawsuit under the Antiterrorism Act, which allows American citizens who are victims of terrorist attacks overseas to sue in U.S. federal court. But the appeals judges said the victims still have the burden of establishing a “substantial connection” between the U.S. and the misconduct alleged in the lawsuit.

Legal experts say the ruling is unlikely to have a widespread impact. Other lawsuits brought by terrorism victims seeking compensation typically target foreign countries or banks and accuse them of supporting terrorists. The lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO is unusual because the groups aren’t recognized by the U.S. as a sovereign nation, but they also aren’t companies or individuals, which makes the jurisdictional issue particularly challenging.

The Palestinian Authority is the government of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the PLO is the Palestinians’ political representative. The groups said at trial last year that they had no involvement in the Israel attacks and shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of extremist individuals.

EpiPen — Inventor’s Correct and Godly Attitude

August 30th, 2016

By Kevin Smetana, Times Staff Writer
This obituary appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, September 24, 2009

He led a normal, middle-class lifestyle. With a home in the suburbs and two modest cars in the garage, it’s not what you might expect from a man who had a hand in inventing a product bought by millions.

For Sheldon Kaplan, that was just fine.

Mr. Kaplan was one of the inventors of the EpiPen, an autoinjector that contains epinephrine, which is used to treat anaphylaxis. Basically, it’s a handheld device that saves people who are prone to fatal allergens.

Millions of EpiPen prescriptions have been filled over the years, according to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. As an employee of the company that originally manufactured it, Mr. Kaplan never received royalties and few people connected the dots between him and the device.

“He was not famous; he was not wealthy,” said his son, Michael Kaplan, 35. “And I don’t think he would’ve liked to be. I don’t think he expected that.”

Experts praise the EpiPen, calling it a life-saving invention. It’s used in emergency situations and owned by those who are allergic to certain foods, like peanuts and eggs, or to bees and wasps.

The possibility of inadvertently coming into contact with an allergen is a dangerous reality for those at risk. Carrying an EpiPen makes some feel at ease, said Dr. Richard Lockey, an allergist and professor of medicine at the University of South Florida.

“They feel much more secure going out into the world and doing normal things as long as they have their epinephrine with them,” he said. “It improves the quality of life immensely for these patients.”

• • •

Mr. Kaplan landed a job as an engineer at NASA after graduating from Northeastern University in 1962. A few years later, he started working at Survival Technology in Bethesda, Md., where he would revolutionize the autoinjector.

He invented the ComboPen, a device that treated nerve-agent poisonings and was used in the military, his family said. He later manipulated the contraption to hold epinephrine, and the EpiPen was born.

Although the EpiPen went on to become a household name after its creation in the mid-1970s, Mr. Kaplan did not. His family says he was the lead engineer and inventor on the project. His name, along with three others, is on the patent. But he never owned it.

He was simply an employee who made a salary and followed orders.

“I don’t think that diminished the fact that he felt he had a legacy, that he made a difference,” Michael Kaplan said. “My dad was an extremely talented engineer, an analytical guy who delighted in solving technical issues.”

Just before the EpiPen hit the market, Mr. Kaplan left the company and moved on as a biomechanical engineer, developing medical equipment. He didn’t follow closely the EpiPen’s success.

“My husband was always looking for a new challenge, and he tended not to look backward,” said his wife, Sheila Kaplan, 64.

• • •

Last month [August 2009], Mr. Kaplan found out he had Hepatocellular carcinoma, a cancer of the liver. Not knowing it would be his last trip to see his dad, Michael Kaplan traveled from Iowa to visit his father in Clearwater, Florida, where the senior Mr. Kaplan lived since 2000.

Sheldon Kaplan’s illness quickly worsened, and on Monday [Sept. 21, 2009], he died at his home. He was 70. Before Sheldon Kaplan passed away, his son shared a story with him. The EpiPen had saved a close friend’s life, Michael told his father. And in the 1980s, it did the same for his mother-in-law, the son explained.

From the start of his career, Sheldon’s wife of 39 years said, he sought to help mankind.

“He achieved his life goal,” Sheila Kaplan said. “I don’t think many of us can say that, and I’m extremely proud of him.”

From Kaplan’s 2009 obituary
Sheldon Kaplan
Born: June 6, 1939.

Died: Sept. 21, 2009.

Survivors: Wife, Sheila (Potts) Kaplan; son, Michael Kaplan and wife, Bethany; sister, Phyllis Goldenberg; nieces and nephews.

Women’s struggle at the Western Wall continues

August 12th, 2016

By Joshua Mitnick / LATimes.com

A member of Women of the Wall wears phylacteries and a traditional prayer shawl as she holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

A member of Women of the Wall wears phylacteries and a traditional prayer shawl as she holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

Clutching smuggled Torah scrolls, dozens of feminist activists approached the Western Wall, wrapping themselves in colorful prayer shawls and chanting passages from the Jewish Bible.

Their display of piety was met by ultra-religious hecklers who denounced them as heretics and prostitutes. “You can’t change the Torah!” one shouted. “Get out of here!” Another ripped up a prayer book used by the feminist group, Women of the Wall.

Last month’s prayer confrontation was part of a long-running struggle over worship at Judaism’s most important pilgrimage site that pits Israel’s Orthodox religious establishment, which wants to uphold a traditionalist ban on women leading prayer services, against the Women of the Wall and liberal Jewish denominations that want the site opened up to egalitarian and pluralist prayer.

“It’s my right to decide how I pray in my country,’’ said Tammy Gottlieb, 32, a Women of the Wall board member, as she rode in a van full of activists to the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In recent months, tensions over women’s prayer have been escalating, and a compromise aimed at ending the dispute has stalled. Under the deal approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet in January, Women of the Wall and liberal Jewish denominations would be given a new prayer space at a nearby spot along the Western Wall. However, the government hasn’t started implementing the compromise and ultra-Orthodox parties oppose it.

“It’s like if a Muslim came to the Al Aqsa Mosque and wanted to enter without taking their shoes off. Would they let him?” asked Haim Rabinowitz, an aide to Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, a legislator from the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party, referring to the Islamic holy site above the Western Wall. “There are rules, and there’s religious law. In Judaism, there’s no such thing as renewal or reform. There are no compromises.”

An Orthodox Jewish man yells at an woman advocating egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

An Orthodox Jewish man yells at an woman advocating egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

That is not the position taken by the Reform and Conservative wings of Judaism, which are much stronger in the United States than in Israel. As a result, the turf battle at the Western Wall is undermining the longstanding alliance between Israel’s government and wide swaths of North American Jewry.

The dispute over women’s prayer at the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as The Kotel, has roiled relations between Netanyahu — who relies on ultra-Orthodox religious parties to stabilize his coalition — and religiously liberal Diaspora Jews who complain that Israel’s conservative government is impeding religious freedom at Judaism’s most revered prayer site.

“In North America, there’s a whole generation of women who have been ordained as rabbis,” said Steven Wernick, chief executive of the organization representing Conservative congregations, as the women’s singing echoed throughout the plaza. “They come here and there’s no place in the Jewish homeland for us to worship at our holiest site according to the customs that we’ve developed.’’

The Jewish Agency, a nonprofit group promoting Jewish immigration to Israel, which helped broker the Western Wall compromise after three years of negotiations, warned in a statement that failure to provide a space for pluralist prayer at The Wall would have “far-reaching implications” for Israel-Diaspora ties.

Women Wall quote

Tensions over religion and state in Israel stretch back to the country’s founding, when Israel’s secular founders promised to defer to Orthodox Jewish leaders on public Jewish ritual, marriage, and Sabbath observance in order to secure their support for the new state.

The dispute over the Western Wall is one of several tinderboxes for Israel’s Orthodox establishment and the more liberal denominations. The Israeli parliament passed legislation to ban non-Orthodox from performing conversion ceremonies in state-run ritual bathhouses.

The Wall, with its giant stone blocks, is the last remnant of the Jewish Temple complex built two millennia ago and has attracted Jewish pilgrims for centuries. After Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, it cleared out a sprawling plaza that was partitioned off for gender-segregated worship, and the government handed over management of the site to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious authorities, who run the plaza as if it were a synagogue.

The female activists, who have been holding services at The Wall on a monthly basis since 1988, have pursued several court petitions challenging the ultra-Orthodox control the site.

In their gatherings, women lead prayers, wrap themselves with black phylacteries, and chant passages from the Torah scrolls — roles reserved for men under strict readings of Jewish religious law. They are often met by rowdy crowds of ultra-religious students and teams of police who have tried to block or shout down the prayer service.

“Women of the Wall is simply reminding us that The Wall doesn’t belong to any one segment of the Jewish people,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-Israeli author and a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “This is a battle for Zionism: Is the State going to be an expression of Zionism, with its ideology of Jewish peoplehood, or is it going to be run under ultra-Orthodox blackmail and allow a minority of world Jewry to exclude a majority.”

In June, the executive director of Women of the Wall, Lesley Sachs, was detained by police for hours for bringing a Torah scroll into the Western Wall plaza.

“That was an escalation,” said Shira Pruce, a spokeswoman for the organization. “People are up in arms: They can’t believe that in Israel of all places, a woman is being arrested for holding a Torah. If the interim plan is arresting women at The Kotel, this issue is going to get much hotter.”

One day last month, Women of the Wall activists were checked by security guards to see if they were trying to sneak banned ritual objects into the women’s section of the plaza. Wearing stickers reading “equal” and “love thy neighbor as thyself,’’ the women held a bat mitzvah ceremony for 13-year-old Milwaukee native Frannie Turner using a smuggled Torah scroll and a ritual canopy.

The service passed relatively quietly, with no direct confrontations between the women and ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, and no one detained by police.

“The chance to join Women of the Wall and protest against archaic thinking is an honor,” wrote Claire Turner, Frannie’s mother, in an email after the ceremony. “It was joyous, supportive, and also very spiritual.”

But Shulamit Tsolani, a 59-year-old nursery school teacher from Jerusalem, surveyed the prayer service in disgust.

“When we used to come here, we felt the holiness of the place. They are ruining it,” she said. “A woman is not allowed to carry a Torah scroll. They don’t believe what we believe in.”


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