On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day.
Eliahu Elath presenting ark to President Truman
Although the United States supported the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which favored the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had assured the Arabs in 1945 that the United States would not intervene without consulting both the Jews and the Arabs in that region. The British, who held a colonial mandate for Palestine until May 1948, opposed both the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine as well as unlimited immigration of Jewish refugees to the region. Great Britain wanted to preserve good relations with the Arabs to protect its vital political and economic interests in Palestine.
Soon after President Truman took office, he appointed several experts to study the Palestinian issue. In the summer of 1946, Truman established a special cabinet committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Henry F. Grady, an Assistant Secretary of State, who entered into negotiations with a parallel British committee to discuss the future of Palestine. In May 1946, Truman announced his approval of a recommendation to admit 100,000 displaced persons into Palestine and in October publicly declared his support for the creation of a Jewish state. Throughout 1947, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine examined the Palestinian question and recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britains former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when the British mandate was scheduled to end. Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain a corpus separatum under international control administered by the United Nations.
Although the United States backed Resolution 181, the U.S. Department of State recommended the creation of a United Nations trusteeship with limits on Jewish immigration and a division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab provinces but not states. The State Department, concerned about the possibility of an increasing Soviet role in the Arab world and the potential for restriction by Arab oil producing nations of oil supplies to the United States, advised against U.S. intervention on behalf of the Jews. Later, as the date for British departure from Palestine drew near, the Department of State grew concerned about the possibility of an all-out war in Palestine as Arab states threatened to attack almost as soon as the UN passed the partition resolution.
Despite growing conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews and despite the Department of States endorsement of a trusteeship, Truman ultimately decided to recognize the state Israel.
Something unusual has begun in the Washington-New York corridor. Journalists and policy analysts have begun a critical public discussion about President Obamas understanding (or misunderstanding) of the significance and nature of the anti-Semitism of the Iranian regime. They are asking how his view on that subject affects prospects for a nuclear deal to stop the ayatollahs from getting the bomb. Insights about the history and nature of anti-Semitism that we historians have elaborated over the years are finding their way into the pages of several of our major newspapers and at least one important policy-related international relations journal.
The President himself, apparently stung by criticism that his approach to Iran is facilitating rather than preventing its path to the bomb and that he bears primary responsibility for the tensions in American-Israeli relations, initiated this discussion when he recently gave an extensive interview to The Atlantic magazine journalist Jeffrey Goldberg. The interview was published on May 21. Then, on May 22, the President spoke at Adas Israel, a Conservative Washington, D.C. synagogue whose congregants include many of the citys politics and policy leaders. There, the President spoke of unbreakable bonds and a friendship that cannot be broken between the United States and Israel. He said he was interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Irans pathways to a nuclear weapon every single path. The President eloquently recalled the role American Jews played in the Civil Rights Movement and spoke of the values we share. A week later, foreign policy analyst Michael Doran, whose excellent commentary about Iran I have discussed previously in this blog, wrote a Letter to My Liberal Jewish Friends in which he argued that the existence of shared values, though important, was not the key issue. It was, instead, the necessary criticism of Obamas policies towards Irans nuclear program.
In the interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, the President finally laid out in public for the first time his view of the role of anti-Semitism in the government in Tehran. As a historian who has written a great deal about anti-Semitism, I welcome this terribly belated public discussion of anti-Semitism in the American foreign policy world. A year ago almost to the day, on June 2, 2014, I published Taking Irans Anti-Semitism Seriously in the American Interest magazine. Adam Garfinkle, that journals fine editor, combines an insiders grasp of US foreign relations with an understanding of the nature of anti-Semitism, which he discussed in an essay in 2012. In my essay, I wrote:
The scholarship on the history of anti-Semitism hasnt yet had a significant impact on the policy discussions in Washington about Iran. Perhaps too many of our policymakers, politicians, and analysts still labor under the mistaken idea that radical anti-Semitism is merely another form of prejudice or, worse, an understandable (and hence excusable?) response to the conflict between Israel, the Arab states, and the Palestinians. In fact it is something far more dangerous, and far less compatible with a system of nuclear deterrence, which assumes that all parties place a premium on their own survival. Irans radical anti-Semitism is not in the slightest bit rational; it is a paranoid conspiracy theory that proposes to make sense (or rather nonsense) of the world by claiming that the powerful and evil Jew is the driving force in global politics. Leaders who attribute enormous evil and power to the 13 million Jews in the world and to a tiny Middle Eastern state with about eight million citizens have demonstrated that they dont have a suitable disposition for playing nuclear chess.
On April 6 I returned to these themes in this blog: The Iran Deal and Anti-Semitism. Here I expressed concern about Obamas reference to the practical streak in the Iranian government. So I was very pleased to see that Goldberg had decided to raise precisely this issue in his now much-discussedwithin some circlesinterview with the President. Goldberg thought it was difficult to negotiate with people who are captive to a conspiratorial anti-Semitic worldview not because they hold offensive views, but in his words because they hold ridiculous views. Obama responded as follows:
Well the fact that you a re anti-Semitic, or racist, doesnt preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesnt preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesnt preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesnt mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.
In reply to Goldbergs oblique comment that anti-Semitic European leaders had made irrational decisions, Obama stated:
They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest. But the costs here are not low, and what weve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. Thats what the sanctions represent. Thats what the military option Ive made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that weve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program.
Because Goldberg spoke vaguely about European leaders, the President either did not have to or did not choose that moment to speak about his understanding of the role of anti-Semitism in the Nazi regime and during the Holocaust. That is unfortunate, because it seemsto this historian at leastthat his grasp of the subject leaves something to be desired. The consensus among the numerous scholars who have worked on the subject is that for the Nazis, anti-Semitism was not primarily a form of discrimination or an organizing tool. It was an ideology that justified mass murder and did so not for the ulterior purpose of organizing others but because they believed that exterminating the Jews in the world would save Germany from destruction and eliminate the primary source of evil in the world. The extermination was carried out for the sake of these beliefs. Nor was this ideology at the margins of Nazi policy; it was at its center. The Presidents comments to Goldberg raise questions about whether the President fully or accurately understands the link between ideology and policy during the Holocaust. As I wrote in The Jewish Enemy, the Nazi leadership interpreted the entire Second World War through the prism of anti-Semitic paranoia in such a way as to interpret the war as one, incredibly, launched by world Jewry to exterminate the German people. Anti-Semitism then was a key interpretive framework that the Nazis employed to misunderstand the political realities of the time. If the President understands this dimension of anti-Semitism it was not evident in his interview with Goldberg.
Of course, Nazi Germany is gone and Hitler is dead. So a policy question facing any President of the United States now and in years to come remains the following: What is the place and the nature of anti-Semitism in the Iranian regime, and what impact does this ideology have on its foreign and military policy toward the United States and its allies, including Israel? For the first time in his six years in office, the President publicly acknowledged what scholarly observers of Iran, such as Tel Aviv Universitys Meir Litvak, among others, have pointed out for the past two decades, namely that indeed there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime. Aside from the obvious rejections of Mahmoud Ahmadinejads Holocaust-denial circus, this may have been the first time that any official of the United States government during the Obama years has said anything remotely approaching the Presidents remark about deep strainsin the core regime. On the contrary, during this era of euphemism, even pointing to the regimes radical anti-Semitism could raise suspicions of Islamophobia. So President Obamas long-overdue acknowledgment of what has been obvious to informed observers for decades is most welcome. Yet, in the same sentence in which he acknowledged this inconvenient truth, he suggested that the ideological imperative would give way to practical and rational interests in maintaining power. In so doing, he diminishes the impact of the ayatollahs radical anti-Semitism on the whole spectrum of Irans foreign and military policy.
JERUSALEM A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near the Israeli port city of Ashdod on Tuesday but no casualties or damage were reported, police and the military said.
Palestinian militants in Gaza launched thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into Israel during a war last July and August in which Israeli shelling and air strikes battered the small, coastal Palestinian enclave. The region has been largely quiet since the August ceasefire.
Tuesday’s rocket landed near Ashdod some 20 km (12 miles) north of the Gaza border and security forces were searching for remnants. It was the longest-range strike since the truce that ended the 50-day war last year.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza for the rocket launching. Earlier reports by Israeli media said five rockets had been fired.
Israeli media speculated that infighting among Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza Strip may have precipitated the rocket firing without the permission of Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers.
Rival militant factions in Gaza are angry that months after the end of the war, no progress has been made to improve the isolated enclave’s plight and pledges for funding to reconstruct buildings devastated during the war have not been honored.
Reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas have faltered, adding to hardships and hampering foreign aid donations and the import of building materials.
Israel maintains a partial blockade on the territory and Egypt largely keeps the Rafah border crossing closed. Hamas has imposed a “solidarity tax” and salaries for workers not aligned with the Palestinian Authority are not being paid in full.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
President Barack Obama said Friday he “forcefully” objects to suggestions that policy differences between his administration and the Israeli government signal his lack of support for the longtime U.S. ally.
Speaking at one of Washington’s most prominent synagogues, Obama said the U.S. and Israel should not be expected to paper over differences on Israel’s settlement building or the frozen peace process with the Palestinians.
“That’s not a true measure of friendship,” Obama told about 1,200 people, including members of Congress, gathered at Congregation Adas Israel. “The people of Israel must always know America has its back.”
The president’s remarks come during a period of deep tension in an already prickly relationship with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly over Obama’s bid to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu views Iran’s disputed nuclear program as an existential threat to Israel and has lobbied vigorously against such a deal, including by addressing a joint meeting of Congress earlier this year.
Obama defended the framework deal that negotiators are seeking to finalize by the end of June, saying it would make Israel and the entire region safer. Still, he said given the high stakes, he welcomes scrutiny of the negotiations.
“This deal will have my name on it,” he said.
Obama on Friday signed bipartisan legislation that gives Congress the right to review any final nuclear deal with Iran before the president can waive congressional sanctions. Obama had initially resisted any legislation that could undo the nuclear deal.
The president and Netanyahu also clashed during the recent Israeli elections over the prime minister’s comments on the peace process. Netanyahu said in the lead-up to the election that he no longer backed a two-state solution, though he reversed himself after his party’s victory.
Obama also addressed what he called a “deeply disturbing rise” in anti-Semitism around the world. He said the world knows from history that this is “not some passing fad” and should not be ignored.
Obama’s appearance coincided with Solidarity Shabbat, devoted to showing unity by political leaders in Europe and North America against anti-Semitism.
The definition of anti-Semitism was at the center of a battle of words Monday involving campus protests about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This comes as some Jewish students say that protests against Israels occupation of the West Bank have had anti-Semitic overtones that they contend makes some American universities, including UC campuses, a hostile environment. Meanwhile, activists against Israeli policies, including some Jewish faculty and students, say such claims of anti-Semitism are an attempt to squelch any criticism of Israel.
The debate focused specifically on the U.S. State Departments definition of anti-Semitism. That definition defines more general ethnic and religious hatred against Jews but also declares that it is anti-Semitic to demonize Israel, deny Israels right to exist, liken Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and blame Israel for all inter-religious tensions.
On Monday, 57 rabbis from California and 104 University of California faculty members called on UC administrators to adopt that State Department definition when dealing with protests and potential discipline for anti-Semitic statements. They said they did not aim to silence free speech, but they contend that too often protests against Israel have turned into inciting anti-Jewish attitudes.
In a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC regents, the rabbis urged that campus leaders be trained in using the State Department definition to identify anti-Semitic behavior and to address it with the same promptness and vigor as they do other forms of racial, ethnic and gender bigotry and discrimination.
In contrast, an open letter signed by more than 250 members of the Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Advisory Council asked the U.S. State Department to revise its definition of anti-Semitism to prevent it from being used to silence critics of Israel. The interfaith group that supports calls for peace talks between Palestinians and Israel, an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and security for both sides said that it is important to distinguish criticism of Israel from real anti-Semitism. The letter also said the State Department should drop the definitions references to demonizing Israel and applying double standards to its policies.
Meanwhile, the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support organization and the Center for Constitutional Rights released a report that said that more student activists are being wrongly described as anti-Semitic for their support of Palestinian rights. The groups said that they have received many requests from students and faculty in California and around the country who contend they have been identified as terrorists or terrorism supporters for speaking out against Israels treatment of Palestinians.
Napolitano and other UC leaders in March issued a statement condemning anti-Semitic incidents on UC campuses, as have student governments at UCLA and UC Berkeley recently. UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said it was too early to say whether the regents would adopt the State Department definition but that several people from the public are expected to speak on the matter at the regents meeting in San Francisco this week.
President Obama is alleged to have thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 The U.S. threatened to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets and so Netanyahu aborted his plans to attack Iraq Netanyahu will appears in Washington for an address to Congress on Tuesday aimed squarely at derailing Obama’s cherished bid By David Mccormack For Dailymail.com and Associated Press Reporter Published: 00:51 EST, 2 March 2015 | Updated: 00:10 EST, 3 March 2015 1k shares 263 View comments President Obama is alleged to have stopped an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets, according to reports to emerge from the Middle East at the weekend The threat from the U.S. forced Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to abort a planned attack on Iraq, reported Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
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