Friday, August 31, 2012
Just days before the entire world stands before the great Judge on Rosh Hashanah, Democrats of the 5th district of Brooklyn will be casting their votes in the primary election for civil court judge. Shlomo Mostofsky, private attorney and former president of the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI), is currently campaigning to secure the post as judge.
“I always wanted to be a judge,” Mostofsky told The Jewish Press, “[and now] was the best opportunity to do so.” Mostofsky explained that there was a seat that had recently been vacated and that because there was virtually no Republican opposition, winning the primary would effectively mean winning the general election as well. Additionally, Brooklyn’s 5th District encompasses “key areas” in which he could serve the local communities, neighborhoods such as Boro Park, Kensington, Bay Ridge, and Sunset Park. Recalling his 11 years as president of NCYI, Mostofsky said that he believes his previous projects and experiences would help him in his new position.
He also said that he’s confident his countless meetings with politicians and citizens from countries around the world would provide him with a larger, more wholesome perspective on the diverse ethnic, religious, and immigrant groups that are in the district than those of the traditional attorney or judge. Additionally, Mostofsky met the chief justice and the associate justices of the South African Supreme Court and of the International Court of Justice. “These are [unique] life experiences to bring to the court that others may not have,” Mostofsky said. He also mentioned that during his tenure as president, he succeeded in “taking the [NCYI] from the red to the black.”
“Brooklyn is the melting pot of New York City,” Mostofsky said. Although many people have endorsed Mostofsky, some are hesitant to elect an Orthodox Jew to the court system. Mostofsky, however, believes that becoming judge will benefit both the Jewish community and the Brooklyn community as a whole. “I’ve worked in court for 12 years and many of my clients have been Orthodox Jews.” Although halachah allows and requires Jews to go to court under specific circumstances, Mostofsky doesn’t “believe that our community is comfortable in court.” He hopes that a “Jewish presence” in the court, although it won’t affect the court’s decision, will help Jews become less wary with the American justice system. He stressed that the civil courts, known as “the peoples’ court,” is usually a person’s “first contact” with the courts.
Additionally, Mostofsky explained that he would “have the opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem” working as a judge. A single courtroom is filled with judges, court officers, litigants, and lawyers. He hopes that when people see a Jewish person treating every person, regardless of his or her background, fairly and equally, they will carry that image with them as they “move on to other places [in life].”
Originally, the primaries were supposed to be held on September 11, but were postponed to September 13.
There are few foreign-policy positions more silly than the assertion without context that “deterrence works.” It is like saying air power works. Well, it worked for Kosovo; it didn’t work over North Vietnam.
It’s like saying city-bombing works. It worked in Japan 1945 (Tokyo through Nagasaki). It didn’t in the London blitz.
The idea that some military technique “works” is meaningless. It depends on the time, the circumstances, the nature of the adversaries. The longbow worked for Henry V. At El Alamein, however, Montgomery chose tanks.
Yet a significant school of American “realists” remains absolutist on deterrence and is increasingly annoyed with those troublesome Israelis who are sowing fear, rattling world markets and risking regional war by threatening a preemptive strike to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Don’t they understand that their fears are grossly exaggerated? After all, didn’t deterrence work during 40 years of Cold War?
Indeed, a few months ago, columnist Fareed Zakaria made that case by citing me writing in defense of deterrence in the early 1980s at the time of the nuclear freeze movement. And yet now, writes Zakaria, Krauthammer (and others on the right) “has decided that deterrence is a lie.”
Nonsense. What I have decided is that deterring Iran is fundamentally different from deterring the Soviet Union. You could rely on the latter but not on the former.
The reasons are obvious and threefold:
(1) The nature of the regime.
Did the Soviet Union in its 70 years ever deploy a suicide bomber? For Iran, as for other jihadists, suicide bombing is routine. Hence the trail of self-immolation, from the 1983 Marine barracks attack in Beirut to the Bulgaria bombing of July 2012.
Iran’s clerical regime rules in the name of a fundamentalist religion for whom the hereafter offers the ultimate rewards. For Soviet communists — thoroughly, militantly atheistic — such thinking was an opiate-laced fairy tale.
For all its global aspirations, the Soviet Union was intensely nationalist. The Islamic Republic sees itself as an instrument of its own brand of Shiite millenarianism — the messianic return of the “hidden Imam.”
It’s one thing to live in a state of mutual assured destruction with Stalin or Brezhnev, leaders of a philosophically materialist, historically grounded, deeply here-and-now regime. It’s quite another to be in a situation of mutual destruction with apocalyptic clerics who believe in the imminent advent of the Mahdi, the supremacy of the afterlife and holy war as the ultimate avenue to achieving it.
The classic formulation comes from Tehran’s fellow (and rival Sunni) jihadist al-Qaeda: “You love life and we love death.” Try deterring that.
(2) The nature of the grievance.
The Soviet quarrel with America was ideological. Iran’s quarrel with Israel is existential. The Soviets never proclaimed a desire to annihilate the American people. For Iran, the very existence of a Jewish state on Muslim land is a crime, an abomination, a cancer with which no negotiation, no coexistence, no accommodation is possible.
(3) The nature of the target.
America is a nation of 300 million; Israel, 8 million. America is a continental nation; Israel, a speck on the map, at one point eight miles wide. Israel is a “one-bomb country.” Its territory is so tiny, its population so concentrated that, as Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has famously said, “Application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” A tiny nuclear arsenal would do the job.
In U.S.-Soviet deterrence, both sides knew that a nuclear war would destroy them mutually. The mullahs have thought the unthinkable to a different conclusion. They know about the Israeli arsenal. They also know, as Rafsanjani said, that in any exchange Israel would be destroyed instantly and forever, whereas the ummah — the Muslim world of 1.8 billion people whose redemption is the ultimate purpose of the Iranian revolution — would survive damaged but almost entirely intact.
This doesn’t mean that the mullahs will necessarily risk terrible carnage to their country in order to destroy Israel irrevocably. But it does mean that the blithe assurance to the contrary — because the Soviets never struck first — is nonsense. The mullahs have a radically different worldview, a radically different grievance and a radically different calculation of the consequences of nuclear war.
The confident belief that they are like the Soviets is a fantasy. That’s why Israel is contemplating a preemptive strike. Israel refuses to trust its very existence to the convenient theories of comfortable analysts living 6,000 miles from its Ground Zero.
In this week’s Parshah Ki-Setzei, Hashem reminds Klall Yisrael to keep themselves and their camp ("Machaneh") holy and pure, because He is with them at all times. This is a message for all generations: Remain holy and pure, for Hashem is with us wherever we go.
There is a question raised in the Gemarah regarding one who becomes impure: is he allowed to learn Torah or not? The answer is no. The Gemarah explains that just as Klal Yisroel had to remain pure for the three days preceding Matan Torah, so too must every Jew establish his purity before learning Torah.
Why is learning Torah on an average day paralleled with the momentum of Matan Torah? The Noam Elimelech says that one needs to learn anew each day – each time you learn, it should be like the first time you’re learning. In fact, he continues, the world is created anew each second. As we say each day in Davening, “Hamechadesh b’tuvo b’chol yom tamid – Who renews…every day, always.”
In this vein, we can understand the correlation between Matan Torah and our day-to-day learning. At Matan Torah, the Jews stood ready and waiting, sure in their belief that anything was possible – even though they did not know what the future held. The entire world was upheld by that very powerful moment when Hashem gave the Torah. The Noam Elimelech explains that Hashem is constantly being Mechadesh the Torah, every single second. That is what holds up the world. So in fact, we are standing at that moment, at the giving of the Torah, every day. Everything we learn really is new, because the world is not the same as it was a day ago, or even a moment ago.
We must approach our days the same way that Klal Yisrael stood at that mountain - pure and steadfast in the belief that anything is possible. Every second brings renewal; every second brings new creation from Hashem. And every second can potentially bring change. If we believe in the words we say each day, there is no reason why our problems should follow us from one second to the next. After all, it’s a new world.
Have a wonderful Shabos
Ahmedabad, India - Despite an outcry from the 500-person Jewish community in Ahmedabad, Gujuarat, Rajesh Shah, who co-owns a men’s clothing store in the neighborhood named “Hitler”, has refused to change his store’s name, claiming he has already invested too much money in the branding of his business.
“None of the other people are complaining, only a few Jewish families. I have not hurt any sentiments of the majority Hindu community. If he did something in Germany, is that our concern?” Mr. Shah told the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/QXLRLo).
Mr. Shah contends that Hitler is a “good, catchy” name for his store, and said it adds to the mystique of his business and draws in curious costumers. “We have not written anything below the sign or on our cards to indicate what we sell to generate mystery. The customers who come in tell me they came in seeing the name,” he said.
He added that if the Jewish community is so offended by the store’s name, they should pay to re-name and market his business.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- It could hardly have been a riskier mission: infiltrate Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. Witold Pilecki survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, managing to smuggle out word of executions before making a daring escape. But the Polish resistance hero was crushed by the post-war communist regime - tried on trumped-up charges and executed.
Six decades on, Poland hopes Pilecki's remains will be identified among the entangled skeletons and shattered skulls of resistance fighters being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery. The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic nation to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies.
"He was unique in the world," said Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, paying tribute to her father's 1940 decision to walk straight into a Nazi street roundup with the aim of getting inside the extermination camp. "I would like to have a place where I can light a candle for him."
More than 100 skeletons, mostly of men, have been dug up this summer. On one recent day, forensic workers and archaeologists wearing blue plastic gloves and masks were carefully scraping away at the soil and piecing together bones as if working on a jigsaw puzzle. The front of one skull had been blown away by bullets; another had apparently been bludgeoned; a skeleton showed evidence of multiple gunshot wounds.
Near the pit where the bodies were dumped under cover of night stand the well-tended tombstones of the very judges and prosecutors who sent these World War II heroes to their deaths under orders from Moscow, which was fearful that the Polish patriots might use their seasoned underground skills to turn the nation against its new pro-Soviet rulers.
"The perpetrators have not been punished and the bodies of the victims have not been found," said Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, a historian in charge of the dig. "Those times will be coming back to us until we find the bodies and bury them with due honors.
"We are doing them justice."
Pilecki's son Andrzej and dozens of other relatives of victims have been swabbed in the hope their DNA will be a match for the skeletons. Initial work is being carried out to determine age, sex, height and injuries of the victims. It will take several months to determine if Pilecki, who was killed by a bullet to the back of his head, is among them. Thousands of resistance fighters were killed across Poland; the remains of up to 400 are believed to have been dumped in the Powazki mass grave.
Pilecki was 38 when Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, triggering the start of World War II. He helped organize a resistance campaign during which many fellow fighters were caught and sent to Auschwitz, which in the early war years served more as a camp for Polish resistance fighters than Jews. That inspired him to hatch an audacious plan: He told other resistance commanders that he wanted to become an Auschwitz inmate to check on rumors of atrocities.
Carrying documents bearing the alias Tomasz Serafinski, the Catholic cavalry officer walked into the German SS street roundup in Warsaw in September 1940, and was put on a train transport to Auschwitz, where he was given prisoner number 4859.
He was "exceptionally courageous," said Jacek Pawlowicz, a historian with Warsaw's Institute of National Remembrance.
Pilecki is the only person known to have volunteered for Auschwitz. His terse dispatches to the outside world were slips of thin paper stitched inside clothes of inmates leaving the camp or left in nearby fields for others to collect. They included only code names for inmates who were beaten to death, executed by gunfire or gassed. As sketchy as they were, they were the first eyewitness account of the Nazi death machine at Auschwitz.
Pilecki survived hard labor, beatings, cold and typhoid fever thanks to support from a clandestine resistance network that he managed to organize inside the camp. Some of its members had access to food, others to clothes or medicines.
He plotted a revolt that was to release inmates with the help of an outside attack by resistance fighters; it was never attempted because considered too risky, Pawlowicz said.
Pilecki escaped in April 1943 when he realized that the SS might uncover his work. With two other men he ran from a night shift at a bakery that was outside the death camp's barbed wire fence.
After his escape, Pilecki wrote three detailed reports on the extermination camp.
One describes how his transport was met by yelling SS men and attacking dogs: "They told one of us to run to a post away from the road, and immediately sent a machine gun round after him. Killed him. Ten random colleagues were taken out of the group and shot, as they were walking, as `collective responsibility' for the `escape' that the SS-men arranged themselves."
Pilecki's heroics were for the most part in vain. Even though his accounts of gas chambers made it all the way to Poland's government-in-exile in London and to other Western capitals, few believed what they were reading.
After escaping, Pilecki rejoined Poland's Home Army resistance force and fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the city's ill-fated revolt against the Nazis. In 1947, he was arrested by the secret security of the communist regime, imposed on Poland after the war, and falsely accused of planning to assassinate dignitaries.
The Soviet plan after World War II was to subdue the Poles by crushing resistance and erasing any sense of Polish identity or history. Today, more than two decades into Poland's democracy, however, enough documentation and funds have been gathered to restore the banned past and try to find and identify the heroes' bodies.
In addition to Pilecki, the search is on for the remains of other wartime resistance heroes, including Brig. Gen. August Emil Fieldorf, a top clandestine Home Army commander who once served as emissary to Poland of the country's government-in-exile. He was accused of ordering killings of Soviet soldiers - charges that Poland's communist authorities later admitted were fabricated - and hanged in 1953.
Szwagrzyk is not sure if Pilecki will be found at Powazki cemetery because it is not the only such clandestine site in Warsaw or the rest of Poland.
But his place in history is gradually being restored. A street in Warsaw is now named after him, as are some schools across the country.
He found communist prison harder to endure than Auschwitz. A fellow inmate described seeing him in prison slumped, unable to raise his head because his collar bones had been broken. At his show trial, he was hiding his hands because his fingernails had been ripped out during torture.
At one court session, he told his wife Maria that the secret security torture had sapped his will to go on.
"I can live no longer," he said.
If the Egyptian army succeeds in demolishing the underground smuggling tunnels that keep Hamas running, it could mark the end of the Islamists' rule over the Gaza Strip. But if Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood tie the hands of the Egyptian army's generals and keep them from completing the mission, Hamas will become even stronger and wealthier.
The world often thinks of the Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, as one of the poorest places on earth, where people live in misery and squalor.
But according to an investigative report published in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, there are at least 600 millionaires living in the Gaza Strip. The newspaper report also refutes the claim that the Gaza Strip has been facing a humanitarian crisis because of an Israeli blockade.
Mohammed Dahlan, the former Palestinian Authority security commander of the Gaza Strip, further said last week that Hamas was the only party that was laying siege to the Gaza Strip; that it is Hamas, and not Israel or Egypt, that is strangling and punishing the people there.
The Palestinian millionaires, according to the report, have made their wealth thanks to the hundreds of underground tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Informed Palestinian sources revealed that every day, in addition to weapons, thousands of tons of fuel, medicine, various types of merchandise, vehicles, electrical appliances, drugs, medicine and cigarettes are smuggled into the Gaza Strip through more than 400 tunnels. A former Sudanese government official who visited the Gaza Strip lately was quoted as saying that he found basic goods that were not available in Sudan. Almost all the tunnels are controlled by the Hamas government, which has established a special commission to oversee the smuggling business, which makes the Hamas government the biggest benefactor of the smuggling industry.
Palestinians estimate that 25% of the Hamas government's budget comes from taxes imposed on the owners of the underground tunnels.
For example, Hamas has imposed a 25% tax and a $2000 fee on every car that is smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Hamas also charges $15 dollars for each ton of cement, eight cents for a pack of cigarettes and 50 cents for each liter of fuel smuggled through the tunnels.
For Hamas, the Palestinian sources said, the tunnels are a matter of life or death.
Now, however, Hamas is facing a huge crisis as the Egyptian authorities plan to regain control over Sinai in the aftermath of the recent killing of 16 Egyptian border guards by unidentified terrorists.
The Egyptian army appears to be determined to destroy the underground tunnels out of fear that they are being used to smuggle not only goods and fuel, but also Islamist terrorists who pose a threat to Egypt's national security.
At this stage, however, it is not clear whether Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi, would allow his army to cut off one of Hamas's main sources of income. Morsi's policy thus far has been to embrace and strengthen Hamas at the expense of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
If the Egyptian army succeeds in its anti-terror security crackdown in Sinai, including the demolition of all the underground tunnels that keep Hamas running, it could mark the beginning of the end of the Islamist movement's rule over the Gaza Strip. But if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood tie the hands of their generals and prevent them from completing the mission, Hamas will become even stronger and wealthier.
How do you deal with Mideast heads of state who refuse to accept historical fact or reality?
It’s a problem presenting itself with increasing urgency, and the policy implications for Israel and the United States are enormous.
Take, for example, the case of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who continues to deny a Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel. In a speech the other day he referred, as he has before, to the “the alleged Temple” in Jerusalem and pledged that the Holy City will “forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.”
One wonders what he makes of the Jesus narrative and of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem for the last 3,000 years.
“Ignoring that connection is to ignore reality,” noted Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But ignoring reality is par for the course in the Arab world, especially when it comes to Israel, still widely referred to as “the Zionist entity” rather than the Jewish state it has been since 1948.
The statement by Abbas concluded that “there will be no peace or stability before our beloved city and eternal capital is liberated from occupation and settlement.”
Regev observed that such talk won’t help revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and he pointed out that only under Israeli control these last 45 years have the holy sites in Jerusalem and the religious rights of all been protected.
“This is in stark contrast to the reality before 1967,” he said, when Jews were denied access to the Old City, including the Western Wall, by Jordan.
As moderate as Abbas is in comparison to his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, it’s worth recalling that his doctoral thesis for a university in then-Communist Russia essentially denied the Holocaust and accused Zionist leaders of playing a role in persecuting European Jews. His thesis, published in 1984 as a book entitled “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Naziism and Zionism,” reportedly is the basis of Holocaust studies in the curriculum of Palestinian schools.
Some would argue that it is unhelpful to call attention to such information at a time when new diplomatic efforts are called for. But the denial of historical truth, common sense and plain logic is itself a reality to reckon with these days and can be neither brushed aside nor ignored.
Over at the United Nations, long known for actions that mock the very basis of its lofty purpose, a new high (or low) in cynical decision-making is at hand. The UN’s Human Rights Council is about to accept Sudan as a member, with Syria slated to join by the end of next year.
The government in Damascus is waging a systematic and increasingly bloody civil war against its citizens, having killed thousands as the world looks on. And Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted for genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.
“Electing Sudan to the UN body mandated to promote and protect human rights worldwide is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a human rights group.
The U.S. has spoken out against this travesty, but it will make little difference because Sudan has the support of the full African delegation.
Reality at the UN is about corruption and voting blocs, not fulfilling the mission of fostering peace and ending world suffering.
And then there is “the new Egypt.”
On first learning that 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed earlier this month in the Sinai, the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of President Mohamed Morsi, blamed the attack on the Mossad, with the full knowledge that the Israeli intelligence agency was not involved.
And after Morsi replied to a letter written to him recently by Israeli President Shimon Peres, the Brotherhood was so upset with this cordial contact with an Israeli official that Morsi denied having written it — even though Peres’ office had first received permission from Morsi’s office before releasing the letter.
It was a seemingly minor diplomatic kerfuffle, but veteran U.S. Mideast expert Dennis Ross wrote in the Washington Post last week that it was significant because it showed that the Brotherhood was unable to accept the truth. And that, in turn, raises questions about relations with a state so committed to an ideology that it cannot acknowledge facts that clash with its firmly held beliefs.
Ross argued that Washington “should not accommodate the Brotherhood’s alternative reality” and “a narrative and policies based on untruths and fictions.” The U.S. should offer aid to Cairo only if it “is prepared to play by a set of rules grounded in reality and key principles,” he asserted.
Those same instructions should be applied to Washington in regards to its own denial about the growing crisis with Iran.
The administration insists, even in light of the latest independent reports that Iran is speeding up its nuclear efforts, that there is still time for negotiations to forestall a military confrontation. Would that it were so. But Tehran has played the U.S. cleverly until now, drawing out the talks while continuing its nuclear program apace.
Economic sanctions against Iran, coordinated by the U.S, have indeed been effective, severely impacting the country’s financial operations. But the very fact that the tough sanctions have only hardened the Islamic leaders’ resolve to go ahead with their nuclear program underscores that logical reasoning will not change their minds.
What they understand is power, and only when they are convinced that the U.S. is prepared to use it against them with great force will they back down.
That’s why our government should be speaking out publicly and more bluntly to make known that it sees Iran’s aims as a direct threat to the U.S., that it supports and will protect Israel, and that it is ready to take military action if necessary to ensure that Iran does not have the capability to produce nuclear arms.
No one wants another war in the Mideast. But the best way to prevent it is to convince Iran that we mean business. And that’s the truth.