In his proclamation on the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, 2021 President Joe Biden stated that Yom HaShoah points to the urgency to speak out whenever they witness anti-Semitism or any form of ethnic and religious hatred, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia. “The legacy of the Holocaust must always remind us that silence in the face of such bigotry is complicity.”
On Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — we stand in solidarity with the Jewish people in America, Israel, and around the world to remember and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust. An estimated six million Jews perished alongside millions of other innocent victims — Roma and Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others — systematically murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in one of the cruelest and most heinous campaigns in human history.
We honor the memories of precious lives lost, contemplate the incomprehensible wound to our humanity, mourn for the communities broken and scattered, and embrace those who survived the Holocaust — some of whom are still with us today, continuing to embody extraordinary resilience after all these years. Having borne witness to the depths of evil, these survivors remind us of the vital refrain: “never again.” The history of the Holocaust is forever seared into the history of humankind, and it is the shared responsibility of all people to ensure that the horrors of the Shoah can never be erased from our collective memory.
It is painful to remember. It is human nature to want to leave the past behind. But in order to prevent a tragedy like the Holocaust from happening again, we must share the truth of this dark period with each new generation. All of us must understand the depravity that is possible when governments back policies fueled by hatred, when we dehumanize groups of people, and when ordinary people decide that it is easier to look away or go along than to speak out. Our children and grandchildren must learn where those roads lead, so that the commitment of “never again” lives strongly in their hearts.
I remember learning about the horrors of the Holocaust from my father when I was growing up, and I have sought to impart that history to my own children and grandchildren in turn. I have taken them on separate visits to Dachau, so that they could see for themselves what happened there, and to impress on them the urgency to speak out whenever they witness anti-Semitism or any form of ethnic and religious hatred, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia. The legacy of the Holocaust must always remind us that silence in the face of such bigotry is complicity — remembering, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, that there are moments when “indifference to evil is worse than evil itself.”
Those who survived the Holocaust are an inspiration to every single one of us. Yet they continue to live with the unique mental and physical scars from the unconscionable trauma of the Holocaust, with many survivors in the United States living in poverty. When I served as Vice President, I helped secure Federal funding for grants to support Holocaust survivors — but we must do more to pursue justice and dignity for survivors and their heirs. We have a moral imperative to recognize the pain survivors carry, support them, and ensure that their memories and experiences of the Holocaust are neither denied nor distorted, and that the lessons for all humanity are never forgotten.
Holocaust survivors and their descendants — and each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild of those who lost their lives — are living proof that love and hope will always triumph over murder and destruction. Every child and grandchild of a survivor is a testament to resilience, and a living rebuke to those who sought to extinguish the future of the Jewish people and others who were targeted.
Yom HaShoah reminds us not only of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but also reinforces our ongoing duty to counter all forms of dehumanizing bigotry directed against the LGBTQ+, disability, and other marginalized communities. While hate may never be permanently defeated, it must always be confronted and condemned. When we recognize the fundamental human dignity of all people, we help to build a more just and peaceful world. In the memory of all those who were lost, and in honor of all those who survived, we must continue to work toward a better, freer, and more just future for all humankind.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 4 through April 11, 2021, as a week of observance of the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, and call upon the people of the United States to observe this week and pause to remember victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
I thought it was impressive when a couple of dozen elected officials from state, county and local government came to a Shabbat service at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck to show support for the Jewish community after horrific attacks at a Rabbi’s home in Monsey and a massacre at Jersey City kosher grocery. I was moved by the outpouring of 25,000 mostly Jewish (surprisingly few Orthodox) who marched as a demonstration of Jewish pride and resolution over the Brooklyn Bridge, led by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, and faith leaders. But what was truly awesome were the 2500 Long Islanders who marched in a show of solidarity to fight anti-Semitism and hate crimes at the county seat in Mineola, representing just about every aspect, community and culture across the length and breadth of Long Island. Marchers came from across the Island, representing more than 125 religious and community groups.
Nassau County Executive
Laura Curran organized the march and rally in solidarity with the Jewish
community and against Anti-Semitism in response to horrific attacks in Brookyn,
Monsey, and Jersey City, as well as incidents of Anti-Semitic graffiti at the Holocaust Memorial and
Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. In December, Nassau and Suffolk Counties formed a bi-county coalition that
will identify and develop a plan of action to combat and report acts of hate
and bias incidents on Long Island. In conjunction with a number of
organizations, today’s march marked one of the task force’s inaugural
“We organized this march
to send a clear message in one voice: Long Islanders of all faiths and
backgrounds stand united with our Jewish community and against Anti-Semitism,”
said Nassau County Executive Laura
As Assemblyman Charles Lavine read off
the names of participating groups, closing out nearly two hours of speeches
(notably very short speeches, that’s how many speakers there were) included on
the list: Turkish, Chinese, Indian…
Many of the speakers spoke of bigotry
and anti-Semitism as being anathema to American values. But of course,
Americans have a Pollyannish notion of this country’s “tolerance,”
“acceptance.” The strain of bigotry, hatred and particularly anti-Semitism has
always been here, even during World War II. It was muted after the Holocaust,
after the US soldiers penetrated the concentration camps and saw, for the first
time, that it was not “propaganda” that millions and millions were caged for
extermination, that the Final Solution was real. But it was anti-Semitism that
kept America from accepting refugees before, during and after the Holocaust,
and no coincidence that the Palmer raids of the 1920s targeted Jewish labor
leaders and the McCarthy blacklist consisted mainly of Jewish writers and
The “popular” view is that anti-Semitism
is back on the rise because working people feel somehow disadvantaged, though
the connection eludes me. But here’s what I don’t get: in Nazi Germany, Jews
were a convenient scapegoat for the genuine suffering of Germans caught in a
Great Depression. That is not the case here in the United States. In fact, we
are constantly told that the economy is the strongest in history, unemployment
is at a 50-year low.
The rise in anti-Semitism – not just
vandalism and nasty remarks but physical violence like the massacres at the
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, a synagogue in Poway, California, in
Jersey City and the attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey during a Chanukah
celebration, has been quite astonishing. Over 2,000 hate crimes against Jews in
2019. In New York City, according to the New York Police Department, hate
crimes against all other groups (Asian, Catholic, Hispanic, Black, Arab, Muslim,
LBGTQ) totaled 206; the number directed against Jews, just in the five
Speakers referred to the fear that Jews now
feel in their own neighborhood, community, college campus. Many
Holocaust survivors are being wracked with renewed PTSD, their terrors
Indeed, a study by the American Jewish
Committee in October found that 31% of Jews hide the fact they are Jewish; 25
percent avoid certain places, events, situations out of concern for their
safety. In America? “We must be proud
and not shy away,” said Eric Post, AJC NY Associate Director.
“Anti-Semitism is not solely a Jewish problem. It’s an American problem. If not
eradicated, it will corrode our fabric.”
There is a difference in today’s
anti-Semitism, in that individuals armed with social media or semi-automatic
weapons can do horrific damage that before would have required some
organization or government sanction. And even if the defense is some sort of
mental illness, as in the Monsey case, the question is why the voices compel them to strike out
against Jews, what is it in the culture that directs hatred in that way?
But such hate turns out not even to be
solely “organic” or a representation of “grassroots” disaffection. Foreign
governments, particularly Russia, as well as domestic political factions that
are using anti-Semitism, racism and fomenting hate in order to sow division,
disrupt and destabilize our society to tilt elections and take power – after
all, it worked so well during the 2016 campaign.
five of our region’s Congressional representatives – Suozzi, King, Rice, Meeks and Zeldin – are requesting FBI
Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Homeland Security acting
Secretary Chad Wolf and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper conduct an investigation into
potential campaigns sponsored by foreign adversaries to cause civil unrest on
“Whether anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, race
based or some other form of hate, internal divisions provide an opportunity for
our adversaries to exploit and further divide our nation,” the letter states.
“We must work together to combat those that exploit ignorance to sow division for
their strategic interest.”
The letter also cites a recent FBI study
that found the rate of hate crimes increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017
but the rate of anti-Semitic crimes increased by 37 percent in 2017 and attacks
motivated by racial or ethnical prejudice doubled. The timing since Trump’s
ascendancy is not coincidence; Trump has curried the support of racists and
bigots and basically green-lighted their activities. No longer is racism and
bigotry kept under wraps or in shadow; with Trump it is out in the open.
But to the extent America is a melting
pot, that melting pot is the New York metropolitan region – the city and suburbs,
especially Long Island. Which is why the dramatic escalation in anti-Semitic
hate crimes our area is all the more shocking and terrifying.
Rabbi Meir Feldman, who gave the sermon
at Temple Beth-el on that Friday night, had only 72 hours before been at Yad
Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
“Our question tonight is not why there
is anti-Semitism. It is simpler: what is this crazy evil thing, this abnormal
force of anti-Semitism?” He shows a cartoon that is displayed at the memorial,
an image of a parasite, an insect meant to be walked on but sits on top of the
world, in its right eye, a symbol of money, in its left eye a hammer and
sickle, the symbols of Capitalist and the communist seemingly
contradictory. That is anti-Semitism –
hated by both ends, a convenient scapegoat for anybody’s discontent and any
“Anti-Semitism is an impossible series
of contradictions,” he says. “What’s our response? How do we confront and fight
this scourge of contradictions?” He says with honesty, unity, solidarity and
“We must call out Anti-Semitism
wherever, whenever, reveal it for what it is: insane contradictions. Identify
the ideological source – right, left, White Nationalist, Black Nationalist.”
But this is the most
significant difference between Germany in the 1930s (where Jews had been living
for 1000 years) and now: the vast majority of elected officials are standing up
and calling out anti-Semitism, initiating new laws and calling for police enforcement,
as they did on Friday night at Temple Beth-el, in the March Against Hate in New
York last week, and in this weekend’s extraordinary march and rally on the
steps of the Theodore Roosevelt County Building.
it isn’t just speeches and marches, but actions. Senator Charles Schumer is
advocating $360 million more in spending to secure houses of worship and
federal assistance to localities to prosecute hate crimes; 298 Representatives
have signed on to sponsor the Never Again Education Act to authorize the Secretary of Education
to award grants to eligible entities to carry out educational programs about
the Holocaust. (It was introduced in the House in January 2019.)
Congressman Tom Suozzi attributed the
rise in anti-Semitism to social media which makes it easy to spread and magnify
hate, some of it promulgated by foreign adversaries trying to stir up civil
unrest. It works because “there is too much ignorance. How many deny the
Holocaust or don’t know about it? That is a recipe for disaster.” The US
soldiers, he said, who were just two or three months away from liberating the
concentration camps were still debating if the Holocaust was real or propaganda.
“We must educate.”
The state and county are stepping up
prosecution of hate crimes, as well. Governor Cuomo is proposing a domestic terrorism law that encompasses
hate crimes, and is seeking resources and security funding for law enforcement
and faith based institutions.
State Senator Anna
Kaplan has introduced four bills aimed at combating the rising tide of
anti-Semitism and hate in New York State, through education, awareness, and a
stronger hate crimes statute to ensure prosecutors have the tools necessary to
hold accountable those committing anti-Semitic and hate motivated crimes.
“As a Jewish
refugee who came to this country fleeing anti-Semitic violence in my homeland,
my heart aches over the out-of-control spree of anti-Semitic violence taking
place here in New York. I’ve been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with New
Yorkers of all faiths and backgrounds as we have marched in the streets and
loudly proclaimed that we will not allow anti-Semitism and hatred to take hold
in New York, and today, I’m proud to announce that I am taking concrete steps
to address this crisis from every direction.”
the first Persian-American elected State Senator: “We speak with one voice. We
are never going to accept anti-Semitism in our community or anywhere. Anti-Semitism
has been a plague on society for thousands of years. We have to be the
generation that stands up and takes decisive action.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline
Singas said, “We see thousands of you shoulder to shoulder, different colors,
creeds, faiths, standing with neighbors, community to say ‘Enough.’ Hate is
offensive to a nation born of tolerance, and it is criminal. We will work hard
to arrest, prosecute, hold offenders accountable. “ She has created a hate
crimes bureau. ‘We hope one day soon we won’t need it. We say no to
anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran,
who organized the massive display, said, “Hate has no place on our beautiful
island. We have got your back,” and introduced five Holocaust survivors.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone:
“this is the one nation on earth where every form of humanity is a citizen…
January 27 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
That date is a reminder, we must stand up, any time we see bias or hate in
words or actions.”
Senator Schumer, relating how his great
grandmother, along with 30 other
relatives aged 3 months to 85 years old, were machine gunned by Nazis in
Ukraine, said, “Unfortunately people there didn’t speak up.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James said, “As an African American, I know hate, know discrimination. An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us… During the civil rights movement, it was Jews who referred to blacks by their last name, not their first; who let Blacks enter the front door, not the back door, Jewish people who died for my people. Not just black blood but Jewish blood [was shed for civil rights]. Hate won’t be tolerated on Long Island or anywhere in the State.”
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
said it is hard to believe how the numbers of anti-Semitic incidents, of hate,
violence are going up in the New York metro area. “You being here show that we
will not accept this as the new normal. What we take from today, in our homes,
workplaces, houses of worship, neighborhoods, that’s where we must fight hate.”
Everyone, he said, should see the “Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away”
exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (extended until August 30, 2020). “Eli
Wiesel warned of the great peril of indifference in the face of hate.”
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, which turned out in force for the march, said, ‘What I see today is a strong Long Island. As a Muslim, our moral obligation to stand by humanity suffering in pain, prosecution of hatred, discrimination. We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters in solidarity… Nassau is making history by this strong statement of solidarity of diverse communities.”
Kevin Thomas, the first Indian-American
elected State Senator, holding his 13-month old daughter: “My community stands
with the Jewish community” adding, we need to teach our children when they are
Assemblyman Tony D’Urso’s family is a
model of the courage that it takes. When he was just a boy, Nazis took over his
village in Italy. His father protected the only two Jewish families who lived
in the village, hiding them in the mountains when others would have happily
given them up for a little money or food.
Probably most touching was Linda Beigel
Schulman, whose son Scott was a teacher-coach when he was murdered in
the massacre at Parkland school in 2018. She noted that the target of his
killer was a history class teaching about the Holocaust.
“We held a celebration of his life at
the temple where Scott was bar mitzvahed. The rabbi asked if I wanted any
security. I said ‘Why?’ Six days later, a gunman massacred Jews at the Tree of
Life synagogue, simply because they were Jewish.”
Schulman’s father was a Holocaust
survivor and when she taught in Germany 1977-9, “I feared telling people I was
a Jew. But living in Louisiana, a woman asked me, ‘where do you hide your
horns.’ Her husband attended NYU; his roommate moved out when he discovered he
“I know why I am here today, why we all
must be here, to have our voices heard. Over 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents in
2019 – gestures, name-calling, painting swastikas, toppling headstones,
physical attacks and murder, merely because a person is Jewish or believed to
be. Anti-Semitism is like a virus infecting, sometimes killing its host. The
body tries to fight it off, but it lies dormant, and rears up again. If we
allow anti-Semtiism to take hold in the United States, it will destroy the
fiber that holds us together. E Plubus Unum – out of many, one. Without that
motto is tribalism and ‘me first’.
“We need to become the best society we
can. We the people are the antidote. It
doesn’t matter if Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or no religion, Asian
American, Hispanic, Italian, African American, whether citizen or immigrant, if
you came by airplane, ship or on foot. We are the antidote to wipe out
anti-Semitism once and for all. Our voices must be heard. Silence only brings
acceptance and gives anti-Semitism the fuel it needs to spread.”
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who served
as the emcee for the event, said, “For generations, tragedy after tragedy, Jews
have been saying “Am Yisrael Chai” – the people of Israel live. It is time for
us all Americans to stand together, united to say, Am America Chai. These are
Here is a list of the elected officials,
community and faith leaders who participated in Long Island’s march against
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County
Executive Steve Bellone
Chuck Schumer, Senator
Letitia James, State Attorney General
Tom Suozzi, Congressman
Peter King, Congressman
Kathleen Rice, Congresswoman
Tom Di Napoli, State Comptroller
Todd Kaminsky, State Senator
Kevin Thomas, State Senator
Anna Kaplan, State Senator
Jim Gaughran, State Senator
John Brooks, State Senator
Chuck Lavine, Assemblyman
Judy Griffin, Assemblywoman
Mike LiPetri, Assemblyman
Michelle Solages, Assemblywoman
Madeline Singas, NC Distirct Attorney
Jack Schnirman, NC Comptroller
Don Clavin, Town of Hempstead Supervisor
Anthony D’Esposito, TOH Councilman
Charles Berman, Town of North Hempstead Tax Reciever
Wayne Wink, ToNH
Peter Zuckerman, ToNH Councilman
Veronica Lurvey, ToNH
Viviana Russell, ToNH Councilwoman
Debra Mule, County Legislator
William Gaylor, County Legislator
Thomas Mckevitt, County Legislator
Delia Deriggi-Whitton, County
Ellen Birnbaum, County Legislator
Richard Nicolello, President Officer of County
It took more than 2 ½ hours before all the marchers standing against Anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry got across the Brooklyn Bridge from Foley Square – an estimated 25,000 marching behind Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and a slew of state and local leaders, marching in solidarity with Michael Miller, Executive VP & CEO of Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA Federation of NY, the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Congress, NY Board of Rabbis, and faith leaders across Brooklyn Bridge, with a singular message: “No Fear, No Hate”.
political leaders did not just come to give speeches and march, but to take
Schumer said Congress would quadruple federal funding to $360 million to help
places of worship increase security – video cameras, doors, hired guards, and
$100 million to coordinate with local police to act more effectively to
prosecute hate crimes.
has a culture of diversity and tolerance. Anti-Semitism and bigotry is a
national crisis…We will not stand for bigotry of any type,” Schumer said. “We
will not only speak and march, but act.”
Cuomo also announced $45 million in additional funding to protect New York’s
religious-based institutions, including parochial and private schools and
cultural centers. He said that there would be increased state police patrols in
Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods across the state, and has created a new state
police tip line for people to report incidents (1-877-NO-HATE-NY). Also, Cuomo
said he would introduce legislation to elevate hate crimes to the level of
domestic terrorism, and prosecuted as such.
Funding is being made
available through Requests for Applications under New York’s
Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program. Created by
Governor Cuomo in 2017, the program provides funding to strengthen security
measures and prevent hate crimes against non-profit day care centers, community
centers, cultural museums, day camps andnon-public schools,which
may be vulnerable because of their ideology, beliefs or mission. Since the
program’s inception, more than 500 such projects have been supported by $25
million in state funding. The Governor also announced the creation of a
new tip line that New Yorkers should call if they experience bias or
discrimination – 1-877-NO-HATE-NY. Additionally, the Governor announced
that State Police will continue increased patrols and security in Orthodox
Jewish neighborhoods across the state.
“The recent rash of anti-Semitic and other hate-fueled
attacks in New York and across the nation are understandably causing anxiety,
but we will not be intimidated,” Governor Cuomo said.”In New York we stand up to
those who try to sow division and fear, and this new funding
will provide religious and cultural institutions the support they need to help
protect themselves and keep people safe. We will not let the cancer of hate and intolerance weaken us – we
will continue to stand up and denounce it every time it rears its ugly
Hate crime statistics
indicate a surge of anti-Semitism and hate crimes against the Jewish community,
nationally and in New York. Nearly half of all hate crimes in New York over the
last several years have been against the Jewish community. Last year, more than
half the hate crimes recorded in New York City, 229 (a modern city record, up
from 185 in 2018) were recorded against Jews – and these statistics do not
include hate crimes directed at Jews outside the five-boroughs, such as the the
slashing of five people attending a Chanukah service in a rabbi’s home in
Monsey, NY. The October 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in
Pittsburgh and the recent terror attack at a kosher market in Jersey City, New
Jersey, in which a local Yeshiva and Catholic school faced gunfire, underscore
the need to protect Jewish institutions from violent extremism and
The grants, which
will be directed by the New York State Division of the Budget,
provide up to $50,000 in funding for additional security training, cameras,
door-hardening, improved lighting, state-of-the-art technology and other
related security upgrades at each eligible facility. Organizations that operate
more than one facility have the opportunity to submit up
to five applications.
The program provides funding to strengthen security measures
and prevent hate crimes against non-profit day care centers, community centers,
cultural museums, day camps andnon-public schools,which
may be vulnerable because of their ideology, beliefs or mission. Since the
program’s inception, in 2017, more than 500 such projects have been supported
by $25 million in state funding.
The Hate Crimes Task Force was created last year to mitigate recent incidents of bias-motivated threats, harassment and violence in New York. As part of the Task Force, New York State Police, the Division of Human Rights and the Division of Criminal Justice Services engage local stakeholders and law enforcement agencies, and work to identify and investigate hate-motivated crimes and bias-related trends, community vulnerabilities and discriminatory practices.
The Governor also announced the creation of a new tip
line that New Yorkers should call if they experience bias or discrimination –
1-877-NO-HATE-NY. Additionally, the Governor announced that State Police
will continue increased patrols and security in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods
across the state.
“I’m heartened to see this amazing show
of support and solidarity,” the Governor said at a press conference before the
march. “Literally over 10,000 people have shown up to show support and love for
the Jewish community. And that’s New York at her best. And it’s fitting.
Because what has happened in Brooklyn, what has happened in Monsey, New York
was an attack on every New Yorker. And every New Yorker has felt the pain.
Discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism is repugnant to every value that every
New Yorker’s holds dear. And it’s repugnant to every value that this country
represents. Racism and anti-Semitism is anti-American and we have to remember
“It is ignorant of our history because to know the history of the Jewish community is to love and appreciate the Jewish community because New York would not be New Yorker without the Jewish community. It is intolerant of who we are as a people. It’s intolerant of our diversity and our humanity and it is also illegal. And while we’re here today in the spirit of solidarity and love, government must do more than just offer thoughts and prayers, government must act. This is illegal and it is government’s responsibility to protect the people of the State of New York and the State government will be doing just that. As soon as the Legislature comes back I’m going to propose a new law for the State of New York that calls this hate what it is – it is domestic terrorism. These are terrorists and they should be punished as such. We’re going to increase the State Police force and the Hate Crimes Task Force so we have more State Police in vulnerable communities.
“We are going to work with schools all across the state to make sure our young people are educated on our history and our diversity and the strength of that diversity. We’ll be working with faith leaders, because from every pulpit, every podium to every congregation in this state, we have to be condemning these acts.
“And today the state is going to make an additional $45 million available to non-public schools and religious institutions for security. We also ask every New Yorker to be involved in this crusade today. And if any New Yorker has any information about a possible attack or an attack that has happened, we ask them to be active and to help us thwart these attacks. We have a 1-800 number – 1-877-NO-HATE-NY. If you have any information, we have that tip line open, let’s all stand together and united.
“These acts of hate may not have started in New York – we’ve seen them across the nation – but these acts of hate must stop and end in the State of New York, and that’s New York at her best. Everyone today says the same thing: No hate in our state, period. We won’t tolerate it, we condemn it, we stand united against it and we are going to act against it. Let’s march.”
Here are more photo highlights from the Solidarity March:
With increasing violence against Jewish people, including the massacres at a New Jersey kosher grocery, in California and Pittsburgh, desecrations at Holocaust Memorial Center on Long Island, and attacks on Jews in New York City and upstate New York, as Jews around the world celebrate Chanukah and the historic victory over religious repression, Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate for President, issued a statement decrying the rise of Anti-Semitism and reflecting on “the battle for the soul of this nation.” This is from the Biden campaign:
Statement from Vice President Joe Biden on the Rise of
Anti-Semitism and the Battle for the Soul of This Nation
Across America, and around the globe, the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism is shredding the fabric of our communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent people and their families, and eroding the soul of our nation.
This tide of hatred fueled last week’s horrific act of domestic terrorism that took the lives of a police officer and three people at JC Kosher Supermarket in New Jersey. It’s the same hatred that unleashed the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history last year at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That led a gunman armed with an AR-15 style gun to storm the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California earlier this year on the last day of Passover.
We have to fight the pernicious and persistent evil of anti-Semitism at every level of our society — starting with our political leaders. My dear friend, the late Tom Lantos, had a saying that I’ve quoted frequently. He said, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.” That means we have to stand up and speak out every time anti-Semitism rears its head, because silence can all too quickly become complicity.
Yet, after Charlottesville, instead of condemning a naked display of hatred, Trump assigned a moral equivalence between those streaming through the night with torches, chanting anti-Semitic bile — and the courageous neighbors and activists who stood against them. He gave license and safe harbor to white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK.
We have all seen what has followed. There’s a short line from those white supremacists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, saying Jews “were committing genocide to his people.”
Since he took office, Trump has presided over a historic increase in hate crimes and biased-incidents targeting people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, and people of Jewish faith. Active hate groups grew to 1,020 in the U.S. last year, with white nationalists leaping almost 50%, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. FBI data shows that most of our religion-based hate crimes are aimed at Jews. At the end of 2017, Trump’s first year in office, anti-Semitic incidents increased nearly 60%, the largest one-year increase since the Anti-Defamation League started keeping records 40 years ago.
As I said after Charlottesville, we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. And, it’s why I am running for president.
Trump announced his first campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.” He called a major American city a “disgusting rat-and rodent-infested mess” that “no human being” would choose to live in. He tried to ban a whole religion from entering our country. He has repeated anti-Semitic tropes and sought to turn U.S. support for Israel into a political football.
In both clear language and cynical code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy and anti-Semitism in this nation. The Jewish people know better than anyone, that any action designed to marginalize one ethnic or religious group imperils us all.
Trump’s actions have only worsened the crisis: retweeting white nationalist postings. Cutting funding for Obama-Biden initiatives put in place to counter violent domestic extremism.
As I said earlier this year, we must enact a federal domestic terrorism law. We have to make the same commitment to rooting out domestic terrorism as we’ve made to stopping it internationally. And, we can do it without infringing on people’s free speech and without trampling civil liberties.
We must appoint leadership at the U.S. Department of Justice who will prioritize the prosecution of hate crimes – making clear that there is no place for such vitriol in this country.
We must defeat the National Rifle Association to get weapons of war off our streets and out of dangerous hands. I know we can because I’ve done it before – twice. As president, I’ll do it again. I’ll ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun sales, and close the hate crime loophole by enacting legislation to get guns out of dangerous hands of those convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime.
And, we have to condemn pernicious stereotypes wherever we find them, and stand up to those who seek to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations. No nation, including Israel, is immune from legitimate criticism, but it should not be unfairly singled out.
Hate didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and it won’t end with him. But this is a defining moment in our nation’s history. A moment where we are once again called to fight against the same forces of hate and intolerance that we’ve battled throughout our history. Yet it’s in these times, when what’s at stake matters the most, that we decide who we are, and maybe more importantly, who we want to be.
I am running for president because I believe in the best of America. I believe in our values of equality, giving everyone a fair shot, and treating everyone with dignity and respect. We are a country that gives to hate no safe harbor. We lead by the power of our example, not just the example of our power. So let us renew our commitment to our better angels and do what this president cannot: Stand together against hate, and stand up for what, at our best, this nation believes.
In stark contrast to the 40,000 marching with joyful exuberance and pride in the Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, June 2, there was a smattering of the oddest collection of protesters, who stood on one small stretch Fifth Avenue in front of the fountain between 58-59 streets.
There were religious Jews who claim that a state of Israel should not exist until the Messiah has come; a few Palestinians accusing Israel of terrorism, clearly ignoring the thousands of bombs lobbed from Gaza; and a couple of what are presumed American Jews who charge that the West Bank settlements are immoral and an impediment to peace.
Things got testy at points between the marchers and
the handful of pro-Palestinians, with loud shouting matches and dueling flags, the
protesters wielding cellphones, hoping to provoke some viral video, across a
10-foot “no man’s land” between metal barriers guarded by police.
When US Senator Charles Schumer came by, he at first
passed stoically as a few hecklers taunted him (a Trump supporter yelled at him
to “Go Home” – the Senator from New York is from Brooklyn) but finally turned
his bullhorn to respond to a woman who screamed “Why are you supporting Israel?”
with a comment that boiled down to “Why shouldn’t Jews have a homeland?” At
which point his aides refocused him and he marched on.
The encounters seemed to get more heated as the
afternoon wore on, but as the police successfully moved marchers along using tact
and restraint to defuse the situation, even stopping the protesters from using
an elongated pole on their flag like a lance, and the marchers went into a celebratory
song and dance.
But as I stood between the two screaming entities,
reflecting on the thousands of marchers parading jubilantly, protected by a
police force against the smattering of opponents, I thought how different it
would be living in a society that oppressed Jews (or any minority), where that
minority had to live in fear, practice in secret, where the police, the courts
and the government were agents of suppression and repression, and instead of
thanking the police officer on 57th Street as they passed, as I saw
just about every group do, they had to fear the police, fear the state. The
images of police beating protesters at Pettus Bridge in 1965 Selma; Kristallnacht
in 1938 Germany came to mind.
How different things could be.
“And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism
is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also
illegal,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told a press gaggle as he began the march. “And
we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word on
“As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish
people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity
right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join
us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish
today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New
York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Asked what is being
done to combat the wave of anti-Semitism, Cuomo said, “We have increased the hate crime penalties all
across the state. We are working on more understanding, more
communication, but we’re also going to enforce the law because it has
reached a critical point. Eighty-three percent increase in the state
of New York. Twenty-two percent increase in neo-Nazi groups. And by the way,
I invite all politicians to condemn the neo-Nazi groups for what they are. They
are domestic terrorists. That’s what they are. And this is not part of the
democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence, they attack and every
politician—Democrat, Republican—should condemn these neo-Nazi groups and call
them for what they are.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo had as his special guest Devorah
Halberstam, who runs the Jewish Children’s Museum. Halberstam started the museum in
honor of her son Ari Halberstam who was killed in an anti-Semitic
attack. This week, an anti-Semitic note was left there, “Hitler is
“We are here to celebrate Israel,” Cuomo said. And it’s more appropriate than usual this year because the blunt truth is there has been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in this country and in this state. There’s been about a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States of America. People have heard about the Pittsburgh horrendous temple attack, in California. But a 57 percent increase. There’s been an 83 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the State of New York, 83 percent increase all over the state – upstate, Long Island, Brooklyn, I just mentioned Devorah Halberstam’s most recent attack.”
Just a few days later, on June 6, after another incident of anti-Semitism in which the words “Kill All Jews,” “Israel” and “Mario Cuomo” were written on a mailbox in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Cuomo said, “Hate speech and threatening language has no place in our state, and the mailbox was immediately replaced with a new one after the graffiti was reported.
“Enough is enough.
We are reaching our breaking point and these despicable acts of violence must
stop. We will not back down in this fight against intolerance and bigotry, and
we will continue to stand up to those individuals who spew hateful language and
attempt to spread fear across our state.
“As New Yorkers and
as a nation, we must denounce anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms. I am
directing the New York State Police Hate Crimes unit to assist the NYPD in the
investigation into this incident and to provide all resources necessary to hold
accountable those responsible.
“In the face of
these ongoing incidents that are ripping at the fabric of our State, we will do
everything in our power to ensure the continued safety and equal treatment of
all New Yorkers.”
of thousands of marchers and supporters turned New York City’s Fifth Avenue
white and blue for this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, the 55th
annual parade which has become one of the biggest events in a city known for
its fantastic parades and festivals. Among the dignitaries and elected
officials who marched to show support was Governor Andrew Cuomo who used the
occasion to denounce anti-Semitism and announce he will soon make a visit to
Israel to show solidarity.
Andrew Cuomo, who marched with his mother, Matilda, daughters Michaela and
Cara, and administration officials, government leaders including State Senators
Anna Kaplan and Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember David Welprin and Council
Member Ben Kallos, as well as the Israel General Consul Dani Dayan, noted his special
guest, Devorah Halberstam, who runs the Jewish Children’s Museum. Halberstam started the museum in honor of her son
Ari Halberstam who was killed in an anti-Semitic attack; this week,
an anti-Semitic note was left there, “Hitler is Coming.”
“We are here to celebrate Israel,” Cuomo said. And it’s more appropriate than usual this year because the blunt truth is there has been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in this country and in this state. There’s been about a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States of America. People have heard about the Pittsburgh horrendous temple attack, in California. But a 57 percent increase. There’s been an 83 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the State of New York, 83 percent increase all over the state – upstate, Long Island, Brooklyn. I just mentioned Devorah Halberstam’s most recent attack.”
Cuomo said the rise in bias and hate crimes was akin to a “cancer
of the American body politic.”
“Cancer of the American body politic has been the new way.
Cancer because one cell attacks another. When you have Jewish people being
attacked, gays, members of the LGBTQ community being attacked, with
anti-Semitic sayings just last night, anti-Muslim, anti-African-American.
This is a cancer of hate that is all throughout our country and unfortunately
even in our State of New York.
“There was a time when we could have political differences, but
it didn’t turn into hate. We’ve always had political differences, back to our
founding fathers we had political differences. But we tolerate them and we
understand them. We can have political differences about Israel and Palestine,
that’s what makes democracy that debate. But when did the strongest four letter
word in America become hate instead of love? That’s what’s most troubling. And
that is what is now going on. These anti-Semitic attacks are personal to the
Cuomo family. We have many friends who we grew up with who are of the Jewish
faith. I have two brothers in law who are Jewish, my mother has two sons in
law, my daughters have two uncles – Howard and Ken – who are Jewish. These
anti-Semitic attacks, the Cuomo family takes personally. Every family in New
York takes personally.
“And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism
is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also
illegal. And we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word
“As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish
people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity
right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join
us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish
today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New
York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Asked what is being
done to combat the wave of anti-Semitism, Cuomo said, “We have increased the
hate crime penalties all across the state. We are working on more
understanding, more communication, but we’re also going to enforce the law
because it has reached a critical point. Eighty-three percent
increase in the state of New York. Twenty-two percent increase in neo-Nazi
groups. And by the way, I invite all politicians to condemn the neo-Nazi groups
for what they are. They are domestic terrorists. That’s what they are. And this
is not part of the democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence, they
attack and every politician—Democrat, Republican—should condemn these neo-Nazi
groups and call them for what they are.”
Cuomo made his remarks
just before starting the march, the gaggle collected on the street which turned
out to be across from Trump Tower. When a reporter pointed that out, Cuomo
said, “I didn’t even notice that until you mentioned it.”
Asked about the Pride flag that was burned at a downtown bar, Cuomo said, “Same thing. I call it a cancer that is spreading in this country. Why a cancer? Because cancer—one cell in the body attacks other cells and that’s what you’re seeing in this country right now. You’re seeing white versus black, Christian versus Muslim, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ the other night. This is destroying America. Because America is diversity and once we start attacking each other for our diversity, that defeats America and who we are.
“We are a pluralistic society. Emma Lazarus, a great Jewish New Yorker who wrote the words for the Statue of Liberty. That’s the founding of this nation. George Washington visited a synagogue in Rhode Island and said, the Jewish people are here, free to celebrate their religion. It was freedom of religion. And now we are demonizing each other’s religious preferences? This is not America. This is not who we are. And we’re going to make the opposite statement in the state of New York. Let’s march, thank you.”
55th Celebrate Israel Parade
year marks the 55th anniversary of what has become one of the largest events in
New York City, known for mammoth parades and festivals, growing exponentially
each year in attendance and excitement since its founding in 1965 by Ted Comet.
40,000 marchers representing some 250 organizations from throughout the New
York metro area, Connecticut, New Jersey, Philadelphia, dignitaries and musical
guests, 30 floats, 15 marching bands including the famed Mummers from
Philadelphia, groups of rollerbladers, motorcyclists, dance groups, juggling
clowns, marched from 57th
Street to 74th Street, with
the theme, “Only in Israel,” to highlight the positive impact the Jewish and
democratic state of Israel has on people in New York and around the world.
Celebrate Israel Parade broadcast is sponsored by Friends of Maimonides Medical
Center. Parade Co‐Chair
Judy Kaufthal remarked, “The Celebrate Israel Parade is the world’s largest
expression of support for solidarity. It’s breathtaking to see Fifth Avenue
filled with people of all ages celebrating Israel and its culture.”
Parade is produced by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐NY), in
cooperation with UJA‐Federation
of New York and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community Relations
Council of New York (JCRC‐
NY) said, “The Celebrate Israel Parade acts as a convener each year for
international communities to stand together to promote unity on a global scale,”
Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community
Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐ NY) said.
A. Mermelstein, Founder and CEO of One & Only Realty and President of ZAKA,
the Grand Marshall, said, “As an
immigrant New Yorker and a proud Jew, walking up Fifth Avenue as the grand
marshal of the Celebrate Israel Parade is the pinnacle of the American dream. I
am so proud to stand with Israel.”
addition to the Grand Marshal Edward A. Mermelstein, honorary Grand Marshals
Ted Comet, Founder of the Celebrate Israel Parade
Siggy Flicker, Author and TV Personality
Sid Rosenberg, Co-Host of Bernie & Sid in the Morning
Stephanie Butnick, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
Liel Leibovitz, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
Elizabeth Savetsky, @ExcessoriesExpert Instagram Influencer
Israeli Public Officials included: Consul General Dani Dayan; Deputy Consul
General Israel Nitzan and Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon
American Public Officials included:
Cuomo, NYS Governor, Attorney
General Letitia James and NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
US Senator Charles Schumer
US Congress Members Eliot Engel, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney
de Blasio, NYC Mayor andCity
Comptroller Scott Stringer
Borough President Gale Brewer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
District Attorney Darcel Clark and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and NYS Assembly Members Steven Cymbrowitz, Nicole
Malliotakis, Helene Weinstein
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and NYC Council Members Margaret Chin, Chaim Deutsch, Vanessa Gibson, Barry Grodenchik, Mark Levine, Mark Treyger, Eric Ulrich, Helen Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, Joseph Borelli, Andrew Cohen, Rafael Salamanca.
Here are more highlights from the Celebrate Israel Parade:
The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.
Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”
New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …
“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.
“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.
“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.
“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”
She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.
“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”
Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.
She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.
“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.
And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.
“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”
Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”
She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.
“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.
HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.
“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.
At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”
It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.
“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.
“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”
And the congregation sang.
Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.
Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:
“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew. Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.
“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history. God Bless the state of New York.
“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.
“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.
“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.
“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us. And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.
“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.
“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.
“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.
“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter. He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’
“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’
“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers. Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.
“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.
“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.
“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.”
In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.
“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.
Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.
“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.
“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”
The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”
Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”
Pastor Amandus Deer noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.” “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”
Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited. Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “
The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.
Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.
The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”
After listening to very erudite analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics by Mark Rosenblum, a former Queens College Professor of Mideast Studies and co-founder of Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding (CERRU) at a meeting of Long Island grassroots activists, Reachout America, I came to my own enlightenment. It came when Rosenblum, who is also a founding member of Americans for Peace Now, showed us a map of Israel with the Palestinian communities shown as brown clusters on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Then he made this point: 80% of the 420,000 Jewish settlers in the so-called Occupied territory, the vast majority secular and not messianic Jews, live along a sliver of that territory that hugs the internationally recognized border of Israel.
Now, for the longest time, the contention has been that even though the Arab states invaded Israel in 1967 en masse intending to drive the Israelis (Hebrews) into the sea and despite the fact Israel won the war for its very existence, that the Palestinians are entitled to 100% of the land that Israel occupied (forget the fact that Israel has already given back the entire Negev to Egypt in a “land for peace” deal, and has already uprooted its settlers to give back the Gaza Strip). The Palestinians insist on Israel being returned to its pre-1967 borders, including dividing once again the holy city of Jerusalem, which it intends to make its capital. And even after the rest of the occupied territory is given “back” to Palestinians, they are still demanding the right of return into the Jewish State. They want it all, despite being the aggressors.
I happen to support a two-state solution, convinced of the argument as expressed by former President Ehud Barak when he spoke in Great Neck, that Israel cannot swallow up the Palestinians and simultaneously remain secure and democratic – the demographics are such that unless Palestinians are not allowed full citizenship (and the ability to vote and be represented in the Knesset), the Jewish State would fairly quickly become majority Muslim.
But what I don’t understand is that the Arabs who sought in 1967 and still today seek to destroy Israel (despite any calculatedly tempered language) should have all the territory returned without bearing any consequence.
Israel should not apologize for taking the lead on drawing the new borders – it should dictate those borders according to its own self-interest, and that means a unified Jerusalem and a border that includes the vast majority of the settlers, and no right of return.
Israel should be a contiguous nation with defensible borders – not hollowed out with a Gaza strip from which thousands of rockets have rained down on Israel’s civilian communities and would continue to be an incubator for terror attacks. That is intolerable. Israel should take back Gaza and allow the Palestinians to relocate to the new Palestinian state, or if they stay, become loyal citizens of Israel (yes I recognize the issue, but Israel already has Arab citizens). This would not be the same as ethnic cleansing, which is repugnant, because the Palestinians would not be thrown out. They would have the freedom to choose their citizenship, just as they chose to leave in the first place. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers would also have to be uprooted from the territory that abuts Jordan.
This is not to be confused with another sticking point, which oddly is rarely mentioned in terms of why the Israel-Palestine conflict has been intractable: the right of return. There should not be any right of return. In the first place, the Arabs who left, left because they thought they would be able to join the conquering army and throw out the Jews. In other instances, the land was purchased.
So, looking at the map that Rosenblum presented, carve out from that a Palestinian State. Let the Palestinians make their desert bloom as the Israelis did with sweat, innovation and invention.
I heard all of this, and then went to the UN General Assembly and heard Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basically say what Rosenblum said: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the larger Arab-Israel conflict – was the cornerstone, the touchstone about how to think about the Mideast, …the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the driver – if you don’t solve that problem, you don’t solve anything. Today, one has to think of Israel-Palestine in context of Mideast imploding with contagion.” And terrorism that has spilled over from the Mideast.
Netanyahu, put it another way:”We’re in the midst of a great revolution. A revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations. This is happening because so many countries around the world have finally woken up to what Israel can do for them.” This is because, he said, “Israel is THE innovation nation. THE place for cutting-edge technology and agriculture, in water, in cybersecurity, in medicine, in autonomous vehicles” and counterterrorism. Israel hasprovided intelligence that has prevented dozens of major terrorist attacks around the world. We have saved countless lives. Now, you may not know this, but your governments do, and they’re working closely together with Israel to keep your countries safe and your citizens safe.”
Indeed, Netanyahu had very little to say about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, except almost matter-of-factly, “Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.” Instead, he devoted a considerable portion of his remarks attacking Iran and a call to “fix or nix” the Iran nuclear agreement and rein in Iran’s terror activities.
But while Netanyahu seemed to breeze through the Israel-Palestinian conflict (the topic of a Security Council meeting on Sept. 25), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his General Assembly address, went on a tirade about how dare the UN not enforce the 1967 borders, including making Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, how dare the good people of the world not boycott the settlements, how dare Britain not apologize for the Balfour Declaration, and not make reparations to the poor, poor Palestinians, and how could the UN not demand the right of return (with recompense) to Palestinian refugees.
Mind you, Netanyahu had only hours before called the United Nations “the epicenter of global anti-Semitism.”
There is a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict: a two-state solution around practical borders that Israel gets to set. But there does not seem to be the ability to embrace it, as even Rosenblum, who has been working on the issue for 42 years, seemed to conclude:
“They will not by themselves have the will or capacity to pull themselves out of the mud and blood they are soaking in. Leaders on all sides -Netanyahu, Abbas, Trump – represent not the Three Musketeers but the Three Stooges. They will take us no where toward a historic breakthrough.
“The Israeli street and Arab street are stuck as to whether enemy or frenemy for eternity. Every morning, Mideast changes- yesterday frenemy is today ally, yesterday enemy is frenemy today.
“We have to find way of addition through subtraction,” said Rosenblum. “The real hope for a breakthrough toward Israel-Palestinian peace is coming from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Gulf States except Qatar. They treat Israel as an ally, a bulwark against Iran – that’s what the Trump generals are most interested in working on.”
Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, argued forcefully for a two-state solution as the only way to preserve “The Zionist Project” – a nation that is both Jewish and democratic. Indeed, he asserted, a two-state solution is the only way to preserve Israel as a strong, independent nation.
While there are no options that do not bring risk, he asserted, the basis for his contention is that Israel is the strongest economy and has the strongest military in the region, would insist on drawing the border lines that protect its security. The existential threat, he argued, would be to abandon the two-state solution.
And he insisted that Israel’s Right Wing government leaders need to wrest themselves from paralysis and politics and act, even unilaterally, to setting the stage.
The former Prime Minister spoke in front of an audience of some 800 New Yorkers who filled Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, coming from a broad swath of the region, from Forest Hills Huntington, and representing a broad spectrum of American Jewry, from left to right wing.
Barak laid out a cogent argument, based on a lifetime at the center of Israel’s defense, politics and leadership, serving as Prime Minister, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and most recently as Minister of Defense, and set out the context for his insistence that Israel’s existential threat is not from the formation of a Palestinian state, but the lack of one.
“The Zionist Project is by far the most successful national project of the 20th century. When [the early settlers] originally came, 120 years ago, there was literally nothing – 70% of the land was desert, 2 lakes, one alive the other dead, connected by the River Jordan that looks like a neighborhood creek – more history flowed than water.”
In the last 70 years since Israel was established asa nation, despite seven wars, two intifadas and countless terror attacks, the population grew by a factor of 12; the GDP by 70. The Israeli currency (shekel) is one of the strongest in the world. “We are a start-up nation, with more firms on NASDQ than any other. Thanks to the arrival of 1 million Russian Jews between 1990 and 2000, we have more orchestras, ballet companies, chess grand champions per capita than any in the world.”
There are a lot of internal tensions, certainly – many that mirror what is happening in other countries: rich and poor, Arabs and Jews, secular and religious, even the status of Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel which though secular, is dominated by Orthodox Jewry – “they are not treated equally in our homeland.”
And then there are the external tensions, such as the spreading BDS [The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement, particularly on American college campuses.
“There is great worry about what happens abroad- the position of Israel in the international community is deteriorating – BDS has spread over the world.
“There are question marks about our policies, something that disturbs the Jewish Diaspora even in this country. We are losing part of the young generation in universities especially in North America and even among young Jewish students. This all needs treatment.”
Israel’s relations in the areas “liberated or occupied is in the eye of the beholder” has been a central problem for the past 50 years since the Six Day War when Israel won territory now known as the West Bank and the Sinai (which in exchange for peace, Israel returned to Egypt years ago).
He said that the rise of ISIS and the globalized threat of terror from radical Islamic jihadists ironically creates an opportunity because it has elevated Israel’s position as an essential actor in a global conflict, while at the same time diminishing the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a regional one.
“The whole world in the last decade is facing unprecedented geopolitical earthquake, the kind of which we had not witnessed since the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It covers the whole world, but concentrates around the Middle East. Within the last few years, the Arab Spring turned into an Islamist Winter; nation states collapsed, borders erased, centuries-old conflicts came back to life. Israel found itself in a perfect storm – on the one hand, at the clashing point of civilizations of the West and the world of Islam, and at same time, in the eye of a storm that swirls around the Arab world.
“In this situation for Israel, can see bad news and good news: the bad news is clear – the Middle East is a tough neighborhood. The good news is that Israel, as a result of its achievements, is the strongest country 1000 miles around Jerusalem, from Benghazi in Libya to Tehran in Iran.
“And Israel is going to remain the strongest country in this area for the foreseeable future.”
It’s not just its military defenses – with the help of a supportive US administration – but its strong economy – not the biggest, but the most vibrant in the region.
Barak argues that “Israel, being the strongest player all around the area, can use this position of strength in a self-confident manner” to finally resolve the Palestinian issue.
Israel has always faced existential threats. “We always have to look around, ready to pull trigger../Every several years a new threat emerges- ISIS – old ones, Hamas, Hezbollah – all alive and kicking. Out of all these changes the more demanding is terror. It has become the great fight for the whole globe, which might take years, and must be defeated. The choice for the modern world is clear: either you defeat terror or you might find yourselves defeated by it.
“But this is not a new phenomena – it’s been with us a long time,” he said, recalling as a 22-year old, how as a member of a commando team, he had to rescue a hijacked Sabena airplane; and later, deal with the terrorists who massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
He argued that ISIS is more effective from a propaganda point of view – using the media and Internet to heighten its fearsomeness.
“They are effective in sowing fear, but a military threat? Ridiculous. They are succeeding because they never met a real fighting force- they are 50,000 fighters in 5000 Toyota pickups with WWII-era machine guns, a few old Soviet tanks,– not a real fighting force. They should be met on the ground and defeated by Muslims, not Crusaders or Israelis. That takes time, effort. We can help Iraqis, Kurdish, air support, intelligence, special forces – that will take time. But I am confident that ISIS will be defeated on the ground in the Mideast. That doesn’t mean the phenomenon will disappear, because of its capacity to incite. We don’t know how many Americans have joined and will come home. However loosely connected, they are part of flexible web of organization.
“This is a global phenomenon, a generational war. And it needs international cooperation. We join hands among the leaders of the world.”
“We are never going to find ourselves in an ideal world,” he says soberly. “The Mideast is never going to resemble Scandinavia.”
Which brings him to the next part of his argument:
“The major debate in Israel – how to relate to our Palestinian neighbors problem – is painful but simple. In a small piece of ground about the size of New Jersey, from the River Jordan (the size of a creek) to the Mediterranean live 13.5 million – 8.5 million Israelis, 5 million Palestinians. Among the 8.5 million Israelis are 1.5 million Arab Israelis – 99.9% are law-abiding citizens” but who are likely to vote with Palestinians.
If there is only one, that is Israel, it is inevitable that it will be non-Jewish or nondemocratic. That is because millions of Palestinians have their own national aspirations. There are only two possibilities – if they vote for Knesset [members] Israel overnight becomes a bi-national state and within few years a bi-national state with an Arab majority, almost surely civil war, and no future.
“The other alternative in a one-state Israel, is that the Arabs cannot vote for Knesset members. That doesn’t have a name in Hebrew but in Afrikaner, it means we would develop into an apartheid system.
“Neither is the Zionist dream. It is the consequence of a painful but simple reality: we need a compelling imperative to find a way to disengage ourselves from Palestinians and create a line in Israel that would include settlement blocks and the Israeli’ suburbs of eastern Jerusalem. That would include 80% of the settlers. Beyond this line, should be a place for a viable Palestinian state.
“I reemphasize: it’s not because of the need for justice for Palestinians, not because of the international community, it’s out of our compelling imperative to take care of our own security, future and identity.
“When the right wing in Israel tells you there is no way to bring together the vital security interest of Israel and a two-state solution – that the two are incompatible – that’s not true.
“The Right Wing in Israel [Netanyahu’s Likud government] try to create symmetry between these two arguments, but there is no symmetry. On the one hand, there is immediate existential threat to the future of the whole Zionist project.”
And here, Barak got more technical:
On other hand, there is certain risk which should not be taken lightly. We need to invest some equipment, some … changes in doctrine that a hostile, foreign force cannot enter into the West Bank and threaten.” But, he says, rockets can already come from all around the Mideast. They can be dealt with using advanced technology. Israel already possesses the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, especially for short-range and mid-range rockets.
There are risks and challenges to both, “but that shouldn’t paralyze you from seeing difference between existential threat and the technical military risk we’ve lived with. In a way, what happens in the Mideast doesn’t increase the threat to Israel, but reduces it.
“So the Right Wing is paralyzed in the mindset of pessimism, passivity, anxiety and self victimization. They see shadows on the walls. I see great opportunities, not without risk, but everything in life carries risk, and in many cases, the greatest risk of all is being unable to take one.”
“Zionism is a story about taking fate in our own hands.”
He points to “an opportunity that happens once in generation and might disappear in a year or more, of a joint common interest that has developed between us and Sunni moderate leadership – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others. The common interest is fighting together against Islamist radical terror; the second is to join hands and putting at bay Iranian nuclear intentions; third, to join hands in huge regional infrastructure projects – energy, water, transportation; and fourth, the Palestinian issue.”
Barak made no reference to recent statements by the Palestinian Authority, the visit of Abbas to the White House, or Trump saying he could care less whether there is one state or two states, as long as the parties agree.
[President Abbas, in his meeting at the White House, May 3, declared: “our strategic option, our strategic choice is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state — a Palestinian state with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967.
“…for us to bring about a comprehensive and just peace based on the two-state solution, such matter would give a great impetus to the Arab peace initiative and the other initiatives, international initiatives — as well as it enables to fight and deter terrorism, and fight the criminal ISIS group, ISIS — that is totally innocent and has nothing to do with our noble religion. And that also, if we create peace that is just and comprehensive, that will also lead the Arab and the Islamic countries to have normal relations with Israel based, as stipulated in the previous Arab summits, the latest of which was the Arab summit in Jordan.”
While Abbas could take an outwardly more moderate stance, Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not abandoned its commitment to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”
Trump has not said whether or not he cares if there is a one-state or two-state solution, as long as the parties agree.]
Barak seemed to take this into account without directly referring to the statements, saying “The situation in the Arab world, the Arab street especially, does not allow them to make any sincere statement to accept or recognize Israel as a member of the family of nations of the Mideast if the Palestinian issue is not moving forward dramatically.
“No one can tell for sure whether Palestinians are ripe for painful decisions needed from both sides for a breakthrough in peace process.”
But, he added, Israel should not wait, but should initiate forward movement. “I argue that even if there is no way to achieve a breakthrough these days, it doesn’t mean we should be paralyzed, that we should be blind to our interest in starting…”
He said that “professionals” can find their way to a solution. “A group of the most senior leaders of ISF, Mossad, Israeli police, generals have formed Commandos for Israel Security (cis.org.il). They have proposed a practical plan for what should be done now to start disengagement, independently of Palestinians, with backing of Americans and others in the world community. “It contains all the elements – political, practical, and security – written by best experts of Israel.”
“They will tell you that Israel is better protected and safer if we delineate this line, if we have to struggle against terror that takes place from outside, beyond the line, and the real enemy of 80% of settlers that live in settlement of blocks, 220 suburbs of eastern Jerusalem, the real enemy are the elements of the government that keep poking the eye of the Palestinian government by continuing settlement operations.”
He concluded, “The Mideast is a tough neighborhood and will remain so, but we are the strongest player around and will remain the strongest player. Time has come to not just keep killing the mosquitoes, which we are doing effectively, but we should look for opportunities to drain the swamp,” he said to applause.
To do this, we need leadership which is not paralyzed by the complexity or uncertainty of the situation.
“We need leadership sober, open eyed, self confident of the strength of Israel and ready to act, holding in their hand an inner compass, not a weather vane. The most immediate and urgent mission is to put a wedge on that slippery slope toward one nation, one state for two peoples. The effect that extremists on both sides- our right wing and Hamas – both dream and act to haveone state is what makes one-state agenda the real existential threat to the Zionist project and Israel.
“It will take time. An optimist that can put wedge and take the state of Israel back on track and keep moving, the way Zionism has heralded.”
During question-and-answer, Barak dismissed the contention that settlements provide an important buffer for Israel’s security, but provides a basis for the government to use “propaganda that relieves them of doing the right thing.”
He also argued that the debate has become the equivalent of Climate Change vs Climate Denial and Creationism versus Evolution in this country, with propaganda, fake news and identity politics thrown in that makes it even harder to find a practical solution.
“The Right Wing is not committed to the security of Israel. Likud has been hostilely taken over by the settlers. The real strategy of government has a messianic tinge which does not serve the state of Israel…
“I don’t believe it is irreversible now, but if we continue to walk this slippery slope, it might become an irreversible situation. We have to act according to our interest – disengage from Palestinians, start, however gradually, short of perfect. Nothing is perfect, but that shouldn’t paralyze you from doing the right thing.”