Of Public Record


“Some entertainment for the next generation of Mujaheddin…#ISIS.”

Caption for two photos, posted on Twitter by one Abu Bakr Al-Janabi, of a child wielding a knife and acting out on a doll the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley


“Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself…  The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.”

Journalist Matti Friedman, a former AP and Jerusalem Report correspondent, who has filed from Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Moscow, and Washington


“This war was unprecedented.  Words can’t describe this victory.”

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah after emerging from his bunker, where he had been hiding for many weeks, to survey the death and destruction his group visited upon Gaza


“In Gaza we are dealing with the enemies of Allah, who believe that the matzos that they bake on their holidays must be kneaded with blood. When the Jews were in the diaspora, they would murder children in England, in Europe, and in America. They would slaughter them and use their blood to make their matzos… They believe that they are God’s chosen people. They believe that the killing of any human being is a form of worship and a means to draw near their god.

Sheik Bassam Ammoush, a member of the Jordanian Senate, in a sermon aired on the official Jordanian TV channel


“We don’t want any Israeli goods; we don’t want any Israeli services; we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or college; we don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford.”

British Parliament member George Galloway


“Jewish Ritual Murder”

The name of a Facebook page that was taken down for one day but then reposted, after the company decided that it was an acceptable offering. A recent post asserts that “Naturally, the Jews aren’t the only group who have practiced (and might still practice) ritual murder”


“The cure for depression is jihad.”

British national “Brother Abu Dara al-Hindi,” speaking on a video to Muslims in the West who are dissatisfied with their lives, and encouraging them to join ISIS


Kidneys, Cash and Caring

Over recent years, “Israelis have played a disproportionate role” in organ trafficking, The New York Times reported recently in a lengthy front-page story.  Some Israeli entrepreneurs “have pocketed enormous sums for arranging overseas transplants for patients who are paired with foreign donors,” according to court filings and government documents.

The organs in question are kidneys.  Most of us are born with two, although only one is necessary for living a normal life. Numerous people in renal failure have received kidneys donated by friends or relatives – even altruistic strangers.

But the supply of transplantable organs is estimated by the World Health Organization to meet no more than a tenth of the need. And so a market for kidneys has emerged, and thousands of patients receive illicit transplants each year, often facilitated by brokers, like the accused Israelis, who match potential donors wishing to sell one of their kidneys to someone who desperately needs one.  The brokers maintain that they operate legally and are simply engaged in facilitating legitimate business transactions.

The unaddressed but poignant question here, though, is why the sale of kidneys is so widely perceived as immoral.  Opponents of such sales say that since poor people, likely from third-world countries, will be those most likely willing to exchange one of their kidneys for cash, embracing such activity would amount to exploitation of the poor.  Others counter that providing impoverished people a means of garnering the sort of funds that they would otherwise have no other option of amassing would allow them to use the income to escape the poverty cycle, by investing in businesses or other enterprises.  Encouraging kidney selling, these proponents say, will not only save countless lives but represents a humane way to narrow the global gap between the haves and have-nots.

In fact, while global health organizations stand steadfast against the sale of kidneys, legalizing commercial donation is no longer the fringe position it once was. The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons have called for pilot projects to test incentives for donation, potentially including cash payments, even though such a change would require amending a 30-year-old federal law.

That larger issue aside, though, what accounts for “the tiny nation” of Israel’s “outsize role in the global organ trade?”  The story suggests it is the result of “religious objections… to recovering organs from brain-dead patients.”

That is likely true.  In other countries organs, overwhelmingly, are retrieved from the recently deceased, declared so because they lack electrical activity in their brains but who may still be breathing with the aid of a respirator.  In Israel, however, “religious objections” to equating lack of discernable brain function with death have resulted in a “severe” shortage of kidneys for transplantation.

The concept of accepting “brain death” as the equivalent of death has been embraced by modern medicine since the 1960s.  But not by some of the past decade’s most widely respected poskim in the world – including Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik (who reported that his brother, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik, held the same position) and Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, zecher tzaddikim liv’rocho.

The “brain death” standard, though, has been a boon for transplantation.  A person declared dead but still breathing and circulating blood, is an ideal “host” from whom to “harvest” organs.

Even among those who accept a “brain death” definition of death, though, some fear that, eager to procure organs, overzealous doctors may be tempted to prematurely declare deaths to have occurred.   As for those who respect the decisions of the above-mentioned poskim that brain-death does not mean life has ended, harvesting vital organs from a brain-dead patient is no less than murder.

Saving a life is a most weighty imperative, of course, but halacha does not permit one life to be taken to save the life of another – no matter how diminished the “quality” of the life of the former, no matter how great the potential of the life of the latter.  Halacha, moreover, forbids any action that might hasten death, including the death of a person in extremis.

Contrary to what Reform and secular activists like to insinuate, the great majority of Israelis, whether or not they lead strictly observant lives, in fact recognize the importance of halachic concepts, particularly in matters of life and death.  And so it is not outlandish to imagine that rejection of the “brain death” criterion may indeed have much to do with the chronic kidney shortage in Israel.

What is unremarked upon, though, in the long Times story is something that can be gleaned from an accompanying chart that lists 14 developed countries, ranked in order of their per capita kidney donations from donors who have been declared deceased.  The country with the fewest such donors is Israel.

But also, pardon the pun, harvestable with a bit of effort from the chart are the rankings of those same countries with regard to kidney donations by living donors, and they are telling.  There, high up, above places like Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Spain, is Israel.

© 2014 Hamodia

Republication or posting of the above only with permission from Hamodia


Guilt Is Good

The piece below appears at The Times of Israel.

As old Eastern European Yiddish sayings go, the assertion that, in Elul, the Jewish month soon upon us, “even the fish in the river tremble” is particularly evocative.

The image of piscine panic is meant to evoke the atmosphere of our hurtling toward the Days of Judgment.  And, in fact, in observant Jewish communities, yeshivot and seminaries, the weeks before Rosh Hashana are infused with nervousness, born of believing Jews’ sharpened awareness that they, their fellow Jews and the entire world will soon be judged; and of the guilt that those of us not perfectly righteous – that would be all of us – rightly feel.

Some view guilt as an annoying smudge on their souls, something to wipe clean with a bit of all-purpose self-esteem.  Like Jewish worrying and Jewish frugality, though, Jewish guilt gets a bad rap.

All those “negative” traits attributed to Jews, in fact, are misreadings of sublime Jewish ideals.  Worrying is the opposite of mindless dancing through life, a refusal to be oblivious to how much must go right for us to even wake up in the morning and find our breath.  Worry entails a recognition, in the words of the Modim prayer, of “the miracles that are with us daily.”  We Jews are instructed to acknowledge the Creator’s kindnesses when we awaken, in each of our prayers, even when we exit the bathroom (when the blessing of “Asher Yatzar” is recited), to remind ourselves to not take even the most mundane functions of our bodies for granted.  We worry because we recognize how terribly fragile life is.

And valuing every dollar isn’t (or at least needn’t be) stinginess; it can bespeak sensitivity to the truth that every material thing has worth, and can be harnessed for good.  Our forefather Jacob, the Torah relates, made a dangerous trip back over a river he had crossed, in order to retrieve “tiny jars” that had been left behind.  Teaching us, says the Talmud, that “the righteous value their property even more than their persons.”

A dollar, in other words, can buy a soft drink or almost half a New York subway fare.  But it can also buy a drink for a thirsty friend, or almost half the fare to visit someone in the hospital.  It has potential eternal worth, as good deeds are everlasting, and shouldn’t be wasted.

And guilt?  That’s an easy one.  It’s the engine of growth.

To be sure, being consumed by guilt leaves a person paralyzed.  But a modicum, or even a bit more, of facing our faults is a most salubrious thing.  It’s essential to the process of true self-improvement. That is the meaning of teshuva, often rendered “repentance,” a somewhat off-putting word.  “When they said ‘repent’,” broods the bard, “I wonder what they meant.”

“Self-improvement,” though, might better resonate with the modern mind.  And it well describes teshuva, literally, a “return” – to a better, purer, self.  And, ultimately, to the Creator.  “The soul that you placed in me,” continues the traditional waking-up formula, “is pure…”  It is easily stained, however, and we do well to try to restore it to its natural luster.

And doing so, Maimonides informs us, first entails regret for actions, or inactions, we realize were wrong.  There’s no way to take that initial step without confronting our misdeeds, and feeling… guilty for them.

Whether our lapses are in the realm of “between God and man” or “between man and man,” Elul is an especially propitious time to take stock of them.  The feelings we cultivate over its weeks will crescendo over the course of the “High Holy Days,” of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  Those “Ten Days of Repentance” are difficult ones for those who take Judaism seriously.  Difficult but valuable.

The Hebrew letters of “Elul” (aleph, lamed, vav, lamed) have famously been portrayed as an acrostic for the words of the verse phrase “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs, 6:3).  That’s a pithy tradition.  The guilt we feel this time of year is not an end but a means; it’s intended to lead not to despair but to a stronger, more real, relationship with our Creator and His other creations.

At the end of the daily morning services, the shofar will be blown each day of Elul (except for the day before Rosh Hashana, to make a distinction between the custom and the Torah-commandment to hear the shofar on the holiday itself).  I don’t know whether the sound will cause the fish in the rivers to tremble, but it should bring a frisson, born of fear and guilt, to all sensitive Jews.


Of Public Record

“If you go to an Orthodox synagogue, even if you don’t look Jewish, they kind of assume there must be a reason that you’re there. At a Reform synagogue or Conservative synagogue, which is what I converted to, they’re just very suspicious because there are so many people who go to shul and aren’t religious; a lot of them don’t even want to be there themselves unless it’s the High Holidays.”

Korean-American author and Conservative convert Euny Hong


“There are young black men that commit crime. We can argue about why that happened — because the poverty they were born into or the school systems that failed them or what have you— but if they commit a crime, then they need to be prosecuted.”

President Barack Obama, inter alia, on the protests over the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri


“Here in Egypt, we respect human rights. I ask you to respect human rights too… We should send Egyptian observers to monitor these demonstrations.”

Egyptian TV host Osama Mounir, commenting on the killing of Mr. Brown, and protests that ensued



A recent hashtag, tweeted nearly 12,000 times


“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime.”

Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez, about the murder of a bearded Orthodox rabbi, Joseph Raskin, who, a witness said, was killed by two men who walked away from the killing smiling. Mere weeks earlier, an Orthodox synagogue was vandalized, spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Hamas.” A couple of days later and nearby to the original incident, two cars were smeared with cream cheese and eggs, and on one of them, the words “Jew” and “Hamas” were written


“The journalists who entered Gaza were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative… [and were intent] “on filming the places from where missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.”

Isra Al-Mudallal, the head of foreign relations in Hamas’s Information Ministry. The Israeli army reports that large numbers of rockets fired into Israel over recent weeks were launched from residential areas, including schools, mosques and residences


“The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would [unsuccessfully] give them some time to change their message, one way or another.”

Ms. Al-Mudallal, explaining why some journalists were deported by Hamas from Gaza



Part of an e-mail received by the parents of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by members of the Islamist group ISIS


“a cancer”

President Obama, describing ISIS



FBI Director James Comey’s choice of word for ISIS members


“The popular will was exercised throughout our occupied land, and culminated in the heroic operation by the Al-Qassam Brigades in capturing the three settlers in Hebron.

Senior Hamas official Salach Al-Aruri, admitting (after earlier official denials) that his group was indeed behind the murders of yeshiva students Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.


The End Is Near

The recent upsurge in anti-Semitism across Western Europe and around the globe, complete with swastikas and “Death to the Jews” chants, is depressing and alarming.  It should also, however, be inspiring

For, once again, we have witnessed how outrage ostensibly over the actions of a sovereign nation, Israel, so quickly and effortlessly festered into full-blown Jew-hatred – not Israel-hatred, not even Israeli-hatred, but Jew-hatred.  That curious phenomenon might be discomfiting, but should also make us think

Can anyone imagine the all-too-real repressive policies of China being laid at the feet of Europeans of Chinese ethnicity, with protesters wildly advocating their extermination?

Can we picture anger over the actual crimes committed by Iran’s leaders being taken out on Iranians living in Europe or the United States, with attacks on their homes and institutions?

Yes, to be sure, there are mindless individuals who, seeing terrorism being committed in the name of Islam, target innocent Muslims as complicit in the inhumanities perpetrated in their religion’s name.  But such misguided avengers are generally lone wolves; and, in the end, it is a belief system, not a government, that they wish to attack.  They think that being a Muslim automatically makes one a radical Islamist.  But Israel is a country, and Jews are a people.  Leave aside that Israel makes unparalleled efforts to protect civilians.  Assume, against all evidence, that she is a monster.  Can anyone, no matter how mentally limited, assume that every Jew is an Israeli?

But that’s how Jew-hatred works; it needs no logic.  In fact, rational thinking just gets in its way.  And so, when Israel is perceived as having done wrong, it isn’t only that nation’s government that is targeted, but rather Jews, no matter where they live, no matter what they may think of Israel’s government or policies.

It’s astounding, really.  What other racial, ethnic, social, or religious group can claim the distinction of having been chosen as the target of one or another form of persecution during practically every period of mankind’s progression from ancient times to the present?  What other group, removed from its ancestral land and scattered around the globe, can claim to have ever been subsequently singled out for extermination, as happened in the memory of people alive today?

The aims of the persecutions have varied.  Some of the hatred has been racial in nature; some, of a religious sort; some political.  What all the expressions of animus have in common, though, are their focus on an unthreatening enemy: the Jews.  The particular excuse may have been cultural (ancient Greece), religious (early Christian, radical Islamist), racial (Nazi Germany), or political (Palestinian).  But the mark has been the same.

The ancient Greek loved knowledge and beauty; he hated the Jew.  The Crusader championed the “New Testament” message (peace and love of mankind, no less); he hated the Jew.  The Nazi strove for genealogical purity; he hated the Jew.  The Palestinian opposes “Zionist imperialism”; in the end it is the Jew whom he and all his hangers-on despise.

Things might be more understandable were there in fact some nefarious World Council of International Jewry plotting the next stage of the manipulation of world governments.

Or if, as parts of the world still believe, Jews in fact required Christian blood for matzos, a fantasy for which countless Jews were killed.

But we members of the tribe know well that, while Jewish organizational meetings can be infernal in their own way, they are rather more mundane than the fabled assembly of the “Elders of Zion” – and that matzo containing blood would never receive a hechsher.  Yet the myths persevered for centuries – and, sadly, still do.

As do equally bizarre contemporary equivalents of ancient blood libels – like much of the Arab world’s “knowledge” that Jews were behind the terrorist attacks of September 11; or media moral equations of Israeli attempts to fight a mortal enemy and “militants” who exult in the killing and maiming of innocents.

One can invoke ad hoc “rational” explanations: psychological concepts, social theories or geopolitical realities. But the solution to the riddle is less complicated.

As long as Klal Yisrael remains in golus, the Torah’s prediction, which we will be reading in shul mere weeks hence (parshas Ki Savo) remains tragically in effect.

And Hashem will scatter you among all the nations… and you will worship other gods… and in those nations you will not rest… you will be fearful night and day” (Devorim 28:64-66).

And so we pine for the day referenced in that very parsha’s haftara, when:

No longer will violence [“hamas,” interestingly] be heard in your land… but you will call [Hashem’s] salvation your protective walls…,” the time when “never again will your sun set, nor your moon be withdrawn” and “the days of your mourning will end” (Yeshayahu 60:18-20).

© 2014 Hamodia

Republication or posting of the above only with permission from Hamodia


Of Public Record

“ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name.”

Senior Dutch Justice Ministry employee Yasmina Haifi, explaining things to the world


“The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza , then the Jewish board of deputies [sic], who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye. The time has come for the conflict to be waged everywhere the Zionist supporters fund and condone the war killing machine of Isreal [sic].”

Tony Ehrenreich, the leader of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape province and one of South Africa’s more important political voices.


“The destruction is not important, the importance is that we kill Jews and capture them.”

Gazan resident Mahmoud Barbah, 28, keeping his eye on the evil ball as he surveyed the wages of Israel’s retaliatory bombings of Gaza


To have scratched out of rock this incredibly vibrant, incredibly successful, wealthy and powerful country is a testament to the ingenuity, energy and vision of the Jewish people. And because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival… 

President Obama.  His words were represented by some as showing his lack of concern about Israel’s survival


“I think the question really is how does Israel survive. And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions. How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel. And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians.”

President Obama, in the same set of remarks.  His words were cited by the same people as evidence of his lack of concern about Israel’s survival


“Did you ever think, you killed all the funny people?”

Recently deceased comedian Robin Williams, asked several years ago by a German reported why he thinks there is not much comedy in Germany


“We want to return to the era of swords and fight. We don’t want your submachine guns, your pistols, or your RPGs. Let the Arab peoples use these swords… I am certain that the Arab and Muslim… will march with their swords. If you find a single Zionist in Israel after that, get back to us.”

Political activist and Jordanian “Future TV” channel owner Husam Al-Abdala, as he waved a sword live on air

“We are seeing the beginning of the end of Jewish history in Europe… Apart from the ultra-Orthodox who will keep their identities, all other Jews who don’t have that connection to Israel will assimilate.”

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky


Enemies, Real and Imagined

1)      Hamas is evil.

2)      Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens.

3)      Anti-Israel sentiment is usually simple Jew-hatred in (not very good) disguise.

4)      The United States needs to be fully supportive of Israel.

5)      It has been.

Some would take issue with that last sentence.  They are wrong.  And it behooves Klal Yisroel, which is meant to be imbued with the concept of hakaras hatov, to recognize that fact.

Over the past six years, some have come to imagine that the current occupant of the White House is some sort of adversary of Israel.

Anyone, of course, can disagree with President Obama on any or all issues, even, perhaps, to just dislike him for no good reason, as some apparently do. But for those of us who (even though we expected the worst, considering some of the baggage he brought to Pennsylvania Avenue) have carefully observed him, he has proven himself more than worthy of Jewish respect.

Yet he was pounced upon, after his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world for, well, the simple decision to address that world; and for basing the state of Israel’s legitimacy on the Holocaust.  What seemed to be overlooked, though, was that he made a full-throated argument for Muslim acceptance of Israel and rejection of terrorism.  And he can hardly be faulted for not raising a Torah-based argument on behalf of the Jewish right to Eretz Yisroel.

In subsequent years, he had the US boycott the Durban Conference, rejected the Goldstone Report, strongly backed the Iron Shield and David’s Sling programs (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, beyond the $3 billion the US has given Israel annually) and bluntly, publicly reiterated that the entire Arab world needs to accept Israel as a Jewish state.  He wasted not a minute in the middle of the night to, by threatening Egypt, effect the rescue of endangered Israeli embassy guards in Cairo, and condemned the Palestinian Authority’s denial of the Kosel Ma’aravi’s connection to the Jewish people.

Under Mr. Obama’s watch, moreover, the US conducted the largest joint American-Israeli military exercise in history.  And he has demonstrated determination to neutralize Islamic terrorists, including with drones and targeted assassinations (like that of Mr. Bin Laden), gravely disappointing many of his left-wing long-time supporters.  They are not likely much heartened, either, by his recent decision to launch airstrikes against Islamists in Iraq.

When Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, was reported missing, an anti-Israel, or even Israel-neutral, leader would simply have considered him a prisoner of war.  Mr. Obama publicly demanded his return.  And in asking for a cease-fire, the president made any final truce unconditionally dependent on a demilitarization of Gaza.  To ignore any of that is to forfeit any claim, leave aside hakaras hatov, to fairness – or emes.

Nor is it fair to characterize the president’s words of concern for civilians in Gaza as somehow antithetical to his support for Israel’s right to defend herself; he explicitly reiterated the latter each time he voiced the former.  Nor is it justified to lambaste Secretary of State John Kerry, a stalwart defender of Israel for the nearly 30 years of his public service, for promoting a draft peace proposal that, in fact, he had never put forth.

Some Israeli media are not guiltless here.  They slurred Mr. Kerry and “reported” details of a purported private telephone call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu; the transcript, it turned out, was a fabrication, according to both the White House and Mr. Netanyahu.

To be sure, there has been friction between the Israeli and American leaders over past years, but which of them is at fault for that is entirely arguable. In our zeal to defend Israel, we sometimes forget that Mr. Netanyahu, whatever good qualities he may possess, is neither a novi nor a godol.  He is not, we do well to realize, beyond either errors of judgment or faults of character.  The issue here isn’t the relationship between two men, but rather Mr. Obama’s support of the state of Israel’s needs.  And in that he has acquitted himself well.

Yes, the US State Department harshly condemned an apparent Israeli shelling of an area near a school filled with Gazan civilians that killed ten people, and urged Israel to do more to “avoid civilian casualties.”  Yet that entirely understandable reaction (who among us didn’t cringe at the news ourselves?) didn’t prevent President Obama from, the very next day, signing a bill to give Israel $225 million to restock its Iron Dome missile defense system, or from declaring as he did that his administration is determined “to make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens.”

There is a reason that people like left-wing political activist Professor Cornel West have declared Mr. Obama a “war criminal” for his support of Israel.

We’re still in golus, of course; Tisha B’Av was only days ago.  And in golus, Klal Yisrael is supposed to be, and always has been, respectful of even less-than-friendly leaders of the lands in which we live.  The phrase “kal vachomer” is inadequate to convey how we should feel about the United States’ current leader.

As events distant and recent alike well attest, Klal Yisrael has enough true enemies out there. Why in the world would we want to treat a friend like one?

© 2014 Hamodia


Ugly Times

It could well be, as some have charged, that the New York Times’ choice of photographs to accompany its reportage from Israel and Gaza has been skewed to emphasize Hamas’ grievances; or it could be that the imbalance of photos is merely a manifestation of the old journalistic adage “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Despite my general satisfaction with the paper’s actual reportage on the conflict, I lean to the former judgment.  And I have similar misgivings about headlines that are created for dispatches.  It’s not widely known that media have “headline writers” over whom reporters have no control.  There have been several examples of headlines that didn’t truly reflect the articles beneath them, and in ways that led readers (of the headlines alone, at least – and that’s a lot of readers) to regard Israel negatively.

A recent Times report began with the following sentences: “Militant rockets can be seen launching from crowded neighborhoods, near apartment buildings, schools and hotels. Hamas fighters have set traps for Israeli soldiers in civilian homes and stored weapons in mosques and schools. Tunnels have been dug beneath private property.”  Its headline?  “Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate,” as if the technical issue of the legal definition of a human shield under international law (and what “Israel Says” about it) were more compelling than the undisputed facts that open it.  The technical definition debate is part of the piece, to be sure.  But the more essential facts that the headline might well have synopsized were what the piece’s first sentences describe.

Another head of the hydra that is the Old Grey Lady is its business department, which recently demonstrated an astoundingly deficient judgment. In an advertisement in its July 20 travel section touting a New York Times tour package to Israel and the West Bank, the paper touts how participants in its offering will experience “a fascinating journey through the geographical, cultural, historical and political landscapes of the region.”  And the “featured expert” for, presumably, the latter landscape is… Hanan Ashrawi.

Ms. Ashwari, of course is a well-known Palestinian activist, legislator and member of the PLO’s Executive Committee; and her portrayals of Israel are little short of rabid.  Citing her denial (in Arabic, in an Arab periodical) that there were ever any Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris remarked that “Hanan Ashrawi is to truth what smoking is to health.”

The articulate but malign Ms. Ashwari regularly uses terms like “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and “the premeditated killing of civilians” with regard to Israel.  “Israel’s calculated crimes” is one of her particularly cherished phrases.

Back in 2000, when two Israeli reservists, having mistakenly entered Ramallah, were captured, killed and grossly mutilated to the cheers of crowds (remember the fellow elatedly displaying his bloody hands for all to see?), Ms. Ashwari asserted, defensively and falsely, that the pair of soldiers (who were wearing army fatigues and whose car bore Israeli plates) were “undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated” the town and were recognized by her fellow Palestinians “as members of the Death Squads that had been responsible for assassinations and provocations” (Jordan Times, Oct. 29, 2000).

Two years earlier, Ms. Ashrawi founded MIFTAH – the “Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy,” which was caught a number of times offering alleged quotes of Israeli leaders that turned out to be invented.  Last year it was forced to remove an article from its website that, in the context of attacking President Obama for hosting Pesach sedarim in the White House, accused Jews of using “the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”  (The group, graciously, later offered its “sincerest regret” for the error.)

More recently, the Palestinian propagandist said that “Israel’s military assault on Gaza constitutes an act of state terror and a deliberate war crime” and that Israel’s building in the West Bank and Jerusalem “constitute another aspect of Israel’s aggression and impunity.”

So, to put it most mildly, Ms. Ashwari is about the least objective observer one might choose to feature as the “expert” to enlighten tourists seeking an objective and factual lesson about the region’s political situation.  But she was the Times’ choice.

One has to wonder if the newspaper would ever have dared offer, say, a right-wing member of the Knesset (whose most extreme member would pale in radicalism next to the choice the paper made) for the edification of American visitors partaking of one of its tourism packages.

Alerted to the advertisement by an Agudath Israel constituent, I immediately wrote the paper’s “public editor” or ombudsman, to ask about the wisdom of the choice of “expert” for the tour.  On July 21, her assistant, Jonah Bromwich, replied that although ads are not part of the public editor’s bailiwick he would pass on my note to an executive in the paper’s advertising department.

Despite several follow-up inquiries, Mr. Bromwich informed me that my communications had all been forwarded to the advertising department, but that “unfortunately,” he “cannot compel them to respond.”

 © 2014 Hamodia


Of Public Record

“It’s a lack of appreciation of how Israeli discourse works.  It’s your average Jewish Friday night family meal, taken to the hundredth power.”

Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, explaining the nature of differences between the U.S. and Israel, which some media have characterized as a rift between the two nations  


“Count [the Jews] one by one and kill them to the very last one… turn their food to poison and make the air they breathe blazing hot.”

Entreaty to Allah by Sheikh Abd Al-Barr Al-Rawdhi in a sermon at Al-Rahma Mosque in San Donà di Piave, Italy.  The Italian Ministry of the Interior later announced that it was expelling the sheikh for “seriously disturbing the peace”


“We need peace with the Jewish people, good relations, not war”

Raghda Hejazi, a Gazan mother of five, in a refreshingly realistic, if atypical, comment to a reporter


“The only thing we gained is destruction.”

Fouad Harara, a Gazan laborer, in another realistic comment


Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn,”

Headline of an advertisement featuring the words of Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, which appeared in the New York Times and other papers but which The London Times refused to run.   The reason given was: “the opinion being expressed is too strong and too forcefully made and will cause concern amongst a significant number of Times readers”


“It is one organization with two wings or two departments.”

Mousa Abu Marzook, senior Hamas political leader, offering unconvincing “clarification” about  why his declared willingness to negotiate with Israel as part of a Palestinian “unity government” will prevent Hamas’ military arm from continuing to attack Israelis


“Maybe it’s not 1939, but it may be 1934.”

Historian Deborah Lipstadt, about the explosion of anti-Semitism in parts of Europe


“The virulent reaction around the world to Israel’s latest incursion into Gaza is making rethink that argument.”

Forward editor Jane Eisner, referring to her long-held assumption that global anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism


“The Arabs were not very nice [at Israel’s founding] and it led to problems.”

Filmmaker Woody Allen, offering a brief and understated history lesson after expressing his pain at the “tragic and terrible” situation in Gaza


“Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, you have to be fair. You can’t end that – I must end that because you asked me and I want to answer.”

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, to CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, who had asked Mr. Hamdan if he was prepared to retract his public claim that Jews use Christian blood for matzos.   Mr. Hamdan failed to do so, instead offering the less-than-satisfying defense that “This was said by everyone. I was saying they are part of what was being said”


“At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”

“Ever wonder what would happen if the KKK had F-16s and access to a surplus population of minorities? See #Israel and #Gaza.”

“[Journalist] Jeffrey Goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”

Tweets by Virginia Tech associate professor of English Steven Salaita, who had been offered a job by the University of Illinois, which subsequently withdrew its offer.


“unflinching support”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, characterizing the United States’ stance in a recent U.N. General Assembly session, offering thanks to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry


“I don’t see any attention from the rest of the world. In one day, they killed more than two thousand Yazidi in Sinjar, and the whole world says, ‘Save Gaza, save Gaza!’”

A member of the minority Kurdish ethnic/religious community Yazidi in Iraq, lamenting murders committed by ISIS, the “Islamic State.”  The group recently hoisted some of its victims severed heads on poles