Yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres started his 90th birthday celebration in the only way he knows: in style. The list of celebrities and politicians joining President Peres is long, and it includes President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barbara Streisand and Robert De Niro.
Haaretz wrote about what President Clinton had to say to President Peres:
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered his much awaited speech, telling Peres, "You are the world's social Einstein."
"You have tried to put together a unified theory of meaning to unite politics and philosophy and psychology and history and science and technology," he said. " Every one of us who has been blessed enough to know you... has been made a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little more optimistic that one day your theory will be real."
"On your 90th birthday, what we really celebrate, is your great gift to all of us. God bless you."
Following the jump are a excerpts from the interviews the press has been conducting with President Peres.
On Friday, Time reported that the United States and Israel are coordinating closely on how best to target President Bashar al Assad's chemical weapons arsenals. Earlier this month, the U.S. placed F-16s and Patriot missile batteries in Jordan. In regards to the weapons placement, an Israeli official noted, "It's a clear, purposeful presence of a strike force near the border of Syria. I think it's a message, a clear message." The U.S. also installed Patriot batteries in Turkey last year.
Most importantly, though, Israeli officials told Time that the U.S. and Israel were planning for assorted scenarios where they could conceivably search and destroy all of Assad's 18 chemical weapons arsenals.
Anti-Israel college students will trek to a scenic campsite in upstate New York this summer to learn how to launch campus boycotts against the Jewish state at a program subsidized and run by one of America's largest Quaker faith groups.
The American Friends Service Committee "We Divest Campaign Student Leadership Team Summer Training Institute" describes itself as a "five (5) day intensive program for campus [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] organizers-those with campaigns already running and those hoping to get one launched in the 2013-2014 school year."
On Saturday, The Jewish Daily Forward's Nathan Guttman published an article on Samantha Power, President Obama's nominee for U.N. Ambassador, and her commitment to Israel. Guttman's piece opened with a story from 2009 in which Power is meeting with Israeli officials. In the middle of their discussion, she pulled out a picture of her son and described how her husband Cass Sustein is a descendent of the, "Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, the 18th-century Jewish sage who is considered the greatest talmudic scholar of his time."
Guttman concluded that while this might partially explain Power's commitment to Israel, it is not the only reason. Former Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. Dan Arbel explains that for as long as he has known Power, her strong sentiment towards Israel has always been second nature. He states, "Her starting point has always been, 'How do we work together to overcome obstacles and to ensure that both the United States and Israel get out of these U.N. situations with the least damage?"
Guttman also discussed how Power dealt with almost every Israel-related issue at the U.N. during Ambassador Susan Rice's tenure. According to an Administration official, "She was involved in any brush fire at the United Nations. After [U.N. Ambassador] Susan Rice, she was the most influential person on U.N. issues."
The yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was celebrated in a farbrengen (Hasidic gathering) and video presentation, held in the Crystal Tearoom of the Wanamaker building, 1300 Market Street in Philadelphia, on Monday, June 3, 2013.
At the start of the program, men were asked to sit at the left side of the hall facing the stage, women to the right. A violinist and pianist performed "niggunim," wordless tunes performed by Hasidim as a meditation tool. A separate program for children was held.
Arafat (right) signed the accord without the PLO's sanction
— by David Bedein
Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry passionately called for the renewal of talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Former President Bill Clinton, who hosted the PLO-Israel ceremonies on the White House lawn twenty years ago, is on his way to Jerusalem for high profile lectures, where he will also call for renewal of negotiations. And Shimon Peres, Israel's president, who served as Israel's foreign minister at the outset of negotiations with the PLO two decades ago, is about to convene thousands of dignitaries at a conference at the President's mansion, that will call to expedite negotiations with the PLO.
Veteran observers of middle east politics may ask: what is there to negotiate about?
In our conversation, she rejected utterly the notion that she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as 'invade Israel' talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians, then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book, A Problem From Hell, wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints that Israel is guilty of such atrocity. She explained that the only time she has written about Israel was in a later book, Chasing the Flame, on slain UN Diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello. There she described his time in UNIFIL, and included a discussion of the Government of Israel's own findings on Sabra and Shatila.
To bolster her argument, she mentioned that her former Professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, whom I consider to be Israel's most eloquent global champion, called her after A Problem from Hell was published, to applaud her for not remotely associating Israel with genocide, the way so many academic enemies had. I checked with my old friend, Professor Dershowitz, and he confirmed that he has warm feelings toward his former student, and considers her a moderate on Israel.
Listening to Power face-to-face and hearing her clarification set, amidst the visible hurt of being grouped together with Israel's detractors, I found her argument convincing. Power, the world's leading chronicler of genocide, is being dismissed as an enemy of the Jewish state based almost entirely on a fragment of a single interview lasting about two-and-a-half minutes. Most significantly, however we understand the meaning of her words in the unfortunate interview, they are utterly belied by her actions. She would later indeed become a senior adviser to the president of the United States, and not only would she never even remotely identify Israel as a genocidal power that needed to be stopped, but to the contrary, she would utilize her influence to advocate for military action against a genocidal Arab dictator, who is not only killing innocent Arab protestors, but is, along with Iran, one of Israel's most outspoken enemies.
Alicia Keys confirmed that she will perform in Tel Aviv on July 4 as scheduled, despite public pressure to boycott Israel from Alice Walker (who refused to authorize a translation of "The Color Purple" into Hebrew) and Roger Waters. "I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show," she said.
Walker called Israel an "apartheid country," said that the Israeli system is "cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil," and called Israel the cause of "much of the affliction in our suffering world." Walker refused to authorize a new Hebrew translation of "The Color Purple." Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, also urged Keys to cancel. Waters previously convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel an appearance at a Friends of the IDF event in Los Angeles.
More on the anti-Israel BDS movement after the jump.
B'nai B'rith International denounced the United Church of Canada (UCC) for calling upon its two million members to boycott Israeli companies that do business in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Last week, the United Church of Canada's general council approved boycotts of Israeli companies Keter Plastic, SodaStream and Ahava. This is a continuation of a resolution passed by the church in August 2012 to boycott Israeli products exported from the West Bank and east Jerusalem. This time, the UCC has specific targets and plans to dissuade Canadian businesses from selling the products of the targeted businesses. The reasoning behind these actions, the church said, is its view that Israeli settlements are the "principal obstacle to peace in the region."
Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) arrived in Israel. Upon his arrival, he published an op-ed in Ha'aretz, detailing his views and opinions on issues most prevalent to the Jewish state.
On the US-Israel Relationship, he wrote:
Some in Washington look at the challenges in the new Middle East and advocate disengagement. I strongly disagree. We cannot stand up for America's interests — or Israel's — from the sidelines. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and engage in support of our ideals, values and interests.
During his speech at the National Defense University, President Obama spoke candidly about his support for foreign aid. He stated:
I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures — even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent.
(CAMERA) On April 30th, a senior Palestinian Authority official, Jibril Rajoub, deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and chairman of the PA Olympic Committee said in regards to Israel, "We as yet don't have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning." Most of the popular press has not covered this threat.
Maybe, you're thinking, they haven't reported this shocking statement because they don't know about it. Maybe he said it in a closed room or maybe to himself. Well, no. Rajoub made this declaration on Lebanese television and the video has been posted, translated and transcribed by Palestinian Media Watch.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced new sanctions against Iran, as instructed in President Barack Obama's Executive Order 13382, which targets those that assist with the proliferation of or support in the development of weapons of mass destruction. Those targeted are part of a global network that are responsible for acquiring important components for Iran's nuclear program. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said:
As long as Iran continues to pursue a nuclear and ballistic missile program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, the U.S. will target and disrupt those involved in Iran's illicit activities.
After the jump: Senate Passes Resolution 65 by Unanimous Consent
Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Here are the highlights from their public address:
Netanyahu: Well, John, it's a pleasure to welcome you to Jerusalem. You're an old, personal friend and a longstanding friend of Israel. And that friendship was demonstrated in President Obama's historic visit here in March ... We'll discuss Iran. We'll discuss the terrible harm to stability in Syria. But above all, what we want to do is to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians.
In a year of acclaimed documentary films about the Middle East, Yael Melamede has achieved an unusual distinction: she is the first Israeli in the history of the Academy Awards to produce an Oscar-winning movie: Inocenete. The movie, which won the Oscar for best documentary short last February, is not about the Middle East. Its subject is a homeless teenager from San Diego with an outsize personality and an extraordinary artistic talent.
We've seen such extraordinary work out of Israel in the past few years, films like Footnote, The Gatekeepers and Five Broken Cameras, which attest to the creativity and urgency of artistic voices in the region. I'm honored to be the first Israeli producer of an Oscar-winning movie, but I know I won't be the last.
Memorial Day is observed so differently in the United States from how it is done in Israel. Having lived in Israel for two years while volunteering for the IDF, I find the all-American celebratory long weekend and barbecue incongruous.
When I visit my grandparents' graves in Rishon LeZion, I always stop at the military section. I pay my respects at the grave of my neighbor who fell in 1973. I check the other tombstones for familiar last names of friends and acquaintances. I only know one person who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the American Army. While I always go "down the shore" and prepare a grilled dinner, I also add a symbolic Jewish dish of condolence.
The Jewish community of Philadelphia celebrated the 65th anniversary of the State of Israel with a parade and festival on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
Marchers in the parade organized at 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Free Library of Philadelphia Main Branch. The parade began with a motorcycle color guard, followed by an ambulance from the American Friends of Magen David Adom. At that point, a handful of demonstrators holding a sign with anti-Israel slogan released black helium balloons to express their displeasure.
The Pew Research Center released a new poll on Israelis' views of President Barack Obama. According to Pew's report, which comes after his highly successful trip to Israel, 64% of Jewish Israelis express confidence in the President. In addition, 93% of Israeli Jews characterize U.S.-Israel relations as "good."
This poll is further proof that the more Israelis get to know President Obama, the more their confidence in him increases.
Click here for Pew's full report, which surveyed 504 Israeli Jews.
In a speech at the Washington Institute on Thursday night, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reaffirmed the close relationship between the United States and Israel:
Israel is America's closest friend and ally in the Middle East. During a series of meetings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a former Washington Institute fellow, Minister of Defense Ya'alon, President Peres, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, I conveyed our continued commitment to enhancing defense cooperation — which has reached unprecedented levels in recent years.
While Israelis were preparing for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), marking the unification of the city and renewed Jewish access to the Western Wall, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky met last Tuesday with the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, where he presented an outline of his plan to create a section for egalitarian prayer in the southern part of the Kotel (Western Wall).
— by Yaron Sideman, Israel's consul general, Mid-Atlantic Region
On April 30, 2013, a Palestinian terrorist murdered Eviatar Borovsky at the Tapauch Junction in the northern West Bank. Eviatar, just 31 years old, was a righteous and God-fearing man who loved life. He loved making people laugh and was extremely funny. He had studied to be a medical clown, and saw it as his vocation to make patients smile and laugh. He didn't care if they were Jewish or Arab.
To most of us, Eviatar Borovsky will, unfortunately, soon become a statistic — another casualty in the long list of victims of mindless hate.
Last month, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper visited Israel for the first time. In an interview with the Colorado Statesman, Governor Hickenlooper shared a few thoughts about what he called "the most remarkable" trip of his life:
You know, it was the most remarkable seven-day trip of my life, without question. I wouldn't say it was the most relaxing. You can't travel for seven days and be completely relaxed. But it was the most remarkable [...] on so many different levels. There's so many things that we don't really understand. You can read words in a book, [but] when you actually see it and experience it, especially when you're meeting people [...] I really feel that I went as one person and I came back as a very different, hopefully more improved person.
Over the weekend, President Barack Obama reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself with respect to Syira. President Obama said in an interview with Telemundo:
What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon.
Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Aaron Keyak called on former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to retract his inaccurate statement regarding Nazi Germany's conduct during WWII:
Ari Fleischer is a smart man, but even smart people can make ridiculous statements and should admit when they've make mistakes. Fleischer should think long and hard about his claim that Nazi Germany 'followed the law of war,' and retract it.
According to Think Progress, Fleischer said in reference to Nazi Germany:
They [Nazi Germany] followed the law of war, they wore uniforms, and they fought us on battlefields. These people are fundamentally, totally by design different. And they need to be treated in a different extrajudicial system.
An Arab poster calling for an intifada against Israel, 1990
— by Dr Alon Ben-Meir
There are many impediments to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including historical and current experiences, claims and counter-claims, the lack of trust, contradictory ideological and religious convictions, and the unwillingness to make painful compromises. The one critical impediment that has not been addressed and continues to impede resolutions to the conflicting issues is the perception that each side hold for the other and continuing public narratives that reinforce that perception.
While changing perceptions may not by itself solve every discordant issue — Jerusalem, refugees, national security, etc. — it will dramatically contribute to finding solutions. Thus, unless we mitigate misperceptions about each other, it will be nearly impossible to find a mutually acceptable and lasting solution. The negative perception that has been formed over decades of conflict was nurtured by public narratives promulgated by officials, biased media, schools and other public forums. Both sides have become fixated on what they want to achieve regardless of the other's rights, wishes, and national aspirations.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his father Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
— by Aaron Keyak
In the last few weeks, South Carolina House candidate former Governor Mark Sanford has chosen to accept support from two individuals with questionable Israel records: Former Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
As a Representative, Ron Paul was a leading opponent of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now he has formed a think tank with anti-Semites and 9/11 truthers, according to a recent report. Given this, it is unacceptable for Sanford to have accepted his endorsement. After years in public service, Sanford should know better and reject the endorsement — but it seems that desperation is trumping common sense after each self-inflicted wound in Sanford's campaign. Republicans like Sanford who seek and flaunt Paul's endorsement cannot reasonably claim to be a friend of Israel or the American Jewish community. Period.
Now that Chuck Hagel has completed his first trip to Israel as US defense secretary, it's time for the pro-Israel community to acknowledge the obvious: Secretary Hagel has demonstrated that he is following the president's lead when it comes to supporting Israel. Like his predecessors, Hagel has personally committed himself to strengthening the US-Israel defense relationship and working to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and many others enthusiastically welcomed Secretary Hagel for a series of top-level meetings. The secretary's trip was an unqualified success for the Obama administration.
While I in no way speak for Sarah Palin in any authorized capacity, Aaron Keyak raises a valid question as to why Gov. Palin should support Sen. Rand Paul, especially given his foreign policy views.
The answer is simple: Ms. Palin's primary focus is on U.S. domestic policy, and particularly on the disastrous economic course of the Obama administration and its progressive allies of both parties, which she has described as "a bullet train to bankruptcy."
Senator Rand Paul was featured on the cover of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" issue because of his expanding role in American politics as a Republican leader. Former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wrote a glowing profile of Senator Paul to accompany his ranking. It is puzzling why Palin, a self professed ardent supporter of Israel, continues to whitewash members of the Paul family (she defended former Congressman Ron Paul's Israel record on Fox News in 2012), given their obsession with cutting American aid to Israel and their dangerous views on Iran.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online non-profit volunteer based community newspaper serving the Philadelphia Jewish Community since 2005. We are dedicated to addressing the important social, political and cultural issues facing our community in a spirit of honesty, integrity and diversity.
Your tax-deductible donations will help give Voice to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community.
To pay by credit card or paypal, click here:
or send a check to:
Eric Smolen, Treasurer,
Philadelphia Jewish Voice,
327 Pembroke Road,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to
Pennsylvania's non-profit corporation law. We have tax-exempt status under IRS
Code Section 501(c)(3). Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of
For more information about the Philadelphia Jewish Voice visit