Lee S. Bender (Cornell, B.A. 1984; William & Mary, J.D. 1988), a former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, has been in private practice as a trial attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 1995 with the law firm Joseph Chaiken & Associates. He is Co-President of the Zionist Organization of America-Greater Philadelphia District, a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, member of the Jewish Federation Israel Advocacy Committee and chairman of the Israel Advocacy Committee of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Scholarship Chairman of the Cornell Club of Greater Philadelphia, and Chairman of the Civil Service Commission of Lower Merion Township among many other organizations.
Defending and promoting Israel is his passion, and "second job."
He is the co-author of the recently published book (Oct. 2012, Pavilion Press): Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z with Jerome Verlin. They have been on a talking/book signing tour with a power point presentation about anti-Israel media bias at area synagogues, community groups, schools, churches and other organizations.
Alexandra Bochova with Jewish War Veteran Paul Ouslander. Photo: Dan Benau.
Veterans Day Program Honoring African American Liberators of the Concentration Camps and the Special Unit Called "The Red Ball Express"
— by Lee Bender
It was an amazing contrast: a beautiful, mild Sunday afternoon outside on Veterans Day, November 11, 2012. But inside Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Wynnewood, was honoring some special heroes of World War II who liberated concentration camps in Europe and witnessed some of the most heinous crimes in human history. In an incredibly moving program, before an audience of 225, including many students and scouts, tribute was paid to the African American soldiers of the U.S. Army who liberated the camps, many of whom were members of a segregated unit known as The Red Ball Express. This program, as in past years, was the brainchild of Ed "The Sage" Snyder of TBH-BE, and co-sponsored with the Israel Advocacy Committee and Mens Club. Special guests in attendance were from the neighboring Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore, and many survivors, liberators and prisoner of war, war veterans, Jewish war veterans and American Legion.
My friend, Mitchell Clair and I have been having friendly discussions, and arguments, about politics and the Middle East for years. The latest impromptu exchange occurred on April 10, 2012, when I sent out an article, "The Most Anti-Israel President: Obama has bullied the Jewish state more than any president in history, according to op-ed pages and partisans. They said the same about Reagan", by Yair Rosenberg, which appeared in tabletmag.com:
From: Mitchell Clair
To: Lee Bender
As the guy from AIPAC's regional office said to me:" Bush's rhetoric was stronger and Obama's actions are stronger. Which would you rather have?"
From: Lee Bender
To: 'Mitchell Clair'
Look, I am an Israel advocate. I did not like a lot of the way Reagan Admin treated Israel, Clinton Admin (kissing Arafat's ass), (don't get me started on Carter), Bush Sr. and Jr. and Obama. But I would not simplify it that "Obama's actions are stronger". I will agree that Obama has continued to support Israel militarily- as had been set forth in agreements stemming from GW Bush, but how Obama has treated Netanyahu, putting pressure on Israel to concede regarding settlements, sucking up to Arab world-which has not gotten us anywhere, has also not been stellar.
From: Mitchell Clair:
Articles like this are bad for Israel. Creating a we are for them and they are against them narrative (especially when it is so blatantly untrue), means that supporting Israel is an option. We never want it to be an option. There is nothing wrong with saying Obama's approach is not the right approach. That discussion is healthy and worthwhile. The right feels this need to demonize. Romney said there are 2 pillars to his campaign and 1 of them is freedom. Freedom? Really, like Obama and democrats oppose freedom. Give me a break. And the demonization can be contradictory. Obama is a socialist, but he gave all the bailout money to the fat cats on wall street. Or Obama is a Muslim, but look at the preacher from his Christian church. We cannot allow this demonization to become part of the discussion on Israel. It's very very bad for Israel. As someone on the right, it's important that you fight against them doing this.
From: Lee Bender:
What Romney means by freedom is limited gov't- not bigger gov't which can lead to statism/tyranny; more people getting gov't handouts, being dependent on gov't-- and generally Dems who are for and thus keeping people reliant on them. I agree we need to be on Israeli's side and I am for anyone from any party, stripe, color who is. But the left seems to ignore the reality Israel is facing, what its enemies are about, what they preach and how they act, and assume Israel is the 51st State and must act like it. Jewish values are important for Israel to live by, but not at the expense of security and Jewish lives - to take unnecessary, foolish chances for peace when our enemies are sworn to our destruction and prove it every day by trying to infiltrate into Israel with rockets, bombs, etc. I once heard even Israeli President Shimon Peres (who I would characterize as a dove) once say that the most basic of all human rights for Jews in Israel- is to live and breathe. Frankly, I am tired of hearing from the desperate Dems that Obama is the greatest friend Israel has EVER had; yes he has done some good things, but not stellar. So maybe you Dems should also stop the hyperbole too, b/c that makes it seem like joke. This is serious stuff and Israel's-- and by extension our own Jewish community's- security is at risk.
From: Mitchell Clair:
If Romney meant smaller go'vt--he would say it. As Reagan did. He says freedom to demonize Obama. Santorum and Gingrich , 2 people I'm sure you were happy with on the issue of Israel, understood realities even less. They were less interested in working out a deal with the palestinians than Bibi. Democrat hyperbole? Nothing close to the republicans. But, think about it this way: don't you want the argument to be "im the best friend of israel"--"no, I'm the best friend of israel." The winner of that argument is Israel. Israel could lose your argument
From: Lee Bender:
You all talk about a "deal with Palestinians" like it MUST happen now or else. Why don't you emphasize that Israel has sought peace for over 60 yrs and conceded territory, and all we get for our tax dollars and support to the PA is- rejection, terrorism, vile anti-semitism, Nazi-like charters (PA, Hamas), and NO hint or proof that they are willing to live peacefully next to- not instead of- Israel. Frankly, Israel has far more important concerns right now- Egypt, Syria, impending implosion of Jordan, and of course Iran. This is what peace looks like, right now- with most Palestinians Arabs having more rights, education, business opportunities, freedom, and healthcare then they would ever get under any Arab gov't. Palestinian Arabs have had more than numerous chances to make real peace, but won't even come to the negotiating table, so they are making a fuss again to be on center stage, b/c otherwise NO ONE would care about them.
You have been listening to too many Dem talking points about what Romney has been saying- freedom only comes from LIMITED GOV'T, the Founding Fathers knew that
From: Mitchell Clair:
I certainly question if the Palestinian Govt (Abbas) wants a deal. I believe Fayed does. There is way too much discussion in the media (NY TIMES, INQY, Newsweek, Time etc..) about what Israel has to do and not what the PA has to do. On the other side of the coin, you can neither absorb the Palestinians as full citizens (the ever popular one state solution which I call the final solution), nor have them as a permanent 2nd class. If you do the latter, you will create an apartheid system (there is not one now and claims are expressly refuted and denied and is specifically anti-Semitic). So then , as I've said before, Israel --for its own safety and prosperity--must find a way to disengage.
From: Lee Bender:
It takes two to dance, and the only dance the Palestinian Arabs want - as they demonstrate by their actions, speech, incitement, media, charters- is destruction of Israel, and in some cases jihad against all Jews. Israel has tried for over 63 yrs to make peace, Arabs rejected a state of their own in 1947, 1956, 1967, 2000, 2008- face it, their goal is not a state alongside Israel, but to replace Israel. Status quo is their fault, not Israel's. They lost all the wars they started to destroy Israel. That is the price of war. Do you advocate Israel just hand over Judea/Samaria? What do you think will happen next? (hint- Gaza, Sinai, Lebanon). That will be fatal to Israel. Onus is on them, not Israel. More important issues right now-- Iran, Egypt, Syria. Now is not the time to force any agreements when one side clearly is not ready, not prepared, nor given any indication it so wants it. Do you not at least believe that Arabs should not get yet another state in the ancient cradle of Jewish civilization, and if so, that they should at least abide by the Quartet's requirements to dismantle terrorist infrastructure, stop incitement, put down their arms, and that this state must be demilitarized? Jordan certainly does not want a Palestinian Arab state on its border.
From: Mitchell Clair:
I believe all the same things you do. I also believe that for the sake of Israel's success that they must do all they can to cajole a peace agreement. That probably means helping fayed to build pa infrastructure and economic success. There are so many levels on which occupation is holding Israel back
From: Lee Bender:
I don't think Israel is being held back; they have resigned themselves to fact that Palestinian Arabs are not interested in true peace, and thus have separated themselves from them for the most part, those Arabs who live inside Israel proper are prospering. Look at how well Israel is doing in business, high tech, education, sharing around the world. See the film we showed, Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes A Big Difference. I can lend it to you. You will be proud of Israel's accomplishments. And, I will give you my book, which is coming out later this spring.
From: Mitchell Clair:
Think about how much money they are spending on the west bank? Think about markets that will open once they have a deal.
From: Lee Bender:
And think about how that will disappear once PA gets its state and Hamas comes in like they did in Gaza and makes WBank into a terrorist state. I guess you blindly and naively trust them. I don't.
From: Mitchell Clair:
Not at all!!!!!!! But you have no answer but to maintain the status quo. The status quo is not sustainable.
From: Lee Bender:
Wrong, it is sustainable- and there is just no rush to change it UNTIL, not Israel, but the Arabs demonstrate that they indeed need a 23 rd state, sitting in the cradle of Jewish civilization, and will live in peace, happily ever after next to Israel. Has it been sustainable for 64 yrs? It sure has- they started wars to annihilate Israel, and they lost. That is peace. This situation occurs in many other parts of the world today, but the media is obsessively focused on these "Palestinian Arabs" getting a state at the expense of Israel. How about the Kurds, 40 million strong, who have their own language, culture, religion, and contiguous territory in 4 states- now THEY a deserve a state. You are placing Israel at risk, and I trust the generals, IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet to protect Israel's security- and not paternalistic, naive, and holier-than-thou J Street types who believe- no, KNOW- they know what Israel needs, what is in their best interest.
From: Mitchell Clair:
So at what point is it no longer sustainable? When does it reach a crises point? At some point, they will be more numerous than the Jews. Is that the point? When is occupation too long? You can't have them be citizens of no country indefinitely. You are too focused on how we got to this point. You need to focus on how best to move forward. We are where we are. There are consequences to that for everyone. You act as if there is no problem to be solved. I think that's sticking your head in ground.
From: Lee Bender
I never have said, nor do Israelis believe that the current situation is forever sustainable. But there are limits to what can be done safely, and most importantly when. Israel has tried to negotiate a true, peaceful and SECURE settlement of the conflict that does not put them at mortal risk, but has been rebuffed at every turn for 64 years. Simply "giving back" and conceding territory- Judea and Samaria, our ancient homeland-at this point in time will only invite further aggression, terrorism (ie Gaza withdrawal) and bring Israel's enemies not merely at her doorstep, but on the strategic high ground, Judean Hills overlooking Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport- like a dagger pointing at her heart. THAT, is not sustainable, and is a prescription for war. Palestinian Arabs are faring far better economically, politically, with educational opportunities, medical care and treatment under the current system in Judea/Samaria (ie W.Bank) than under the rule of their elected gov't Hamas in Gaza-and frankly than in virtually every other Arab country today. Again, the Palestinian Arabs already have several states: Gaza and Jordan. Israel is NOT occupying "their" (ie Palestinian Arab) land- Judea/Samaria was NEVER, thoughout history, land that belonged to them in any way shape or form. At best, even today under international law, that land is disputed. To move forward, the onus must be on them, the Palestinian Arabs and their brethren, to be the peacemakers, and not the rejectionists, and jihadists that they have been, preach, and act like, throughout the past 100 plus years. Once Arabs demonstrate they are willing to live in true peace with Israel and lay down their arms, they will have a true partner in Israel. That is when this conflict will end. They have made a huge mistake not to partner with Israel- Israel has moved on and is thriving; they could have been part of this, but choose, instead to vilify, delegitimize, demonize Israel. Those are their true colors.
Note: Lee Bender (current co-President of ZOA-Greater Philadelphia District) and Mitchell Clair are both trial attorneys in Philadelphia and members of the Mens Club of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, share a strong belief in Israel's security and a healthy, respectful rivalry.
The Israel Advocacy Committee of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El sponsored a program with Israeli investigative journalist and former Philadelphian David Bedein, who for the past nine years has been sounding the alarm that the US has been funding an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American educational curriculum in UN-run Palestinian refugee camps. Bedein and his colleague Dr. Arnon Groiss presented to an audience of 50 the same program they had presented to U.S. Congress staff and committee members earlier that week, including a film showing the horrendous pervasive misstatements in textbooks provided by $250 million of US yearly funding to 500,000 students. There is apparently no oversight regarding these funds to UNWRA. Thus, we are funding a curriculum of violence, terrorism, jihad, and war. This is directly counter to any possible, reasonable attempt at a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A generation of children are being brainwashed and poisoned. Bedein said however that his work is finally bearing fruit: Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) will be holding hearings. And he encouraged us all to contact Sen. Bob Casey especially, who is chairman of the senate subcommittee pertaining to the Middle East to hold similar hearings. Clearly, it is incumbent upon us to contact our legislators and get them on-board; it is hard to imagine that they want US taxpayers to be complicit in this sham.
Veterans and former prisoners of war. Photo: Richard Chaitt.
A vanishing breed who refuse to allow their memories to die.
It is not often that one gets to see and honor a true hero in person let alone dozens of them. But that is exactly what an audience of 325, including 75 students from the Hebrew High schools of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Adath Israel and Har Zion, experienced firsthand on Sunday at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood in a moving program to honor Concentration Camp Liberators, POWs, and veterans from the U.S. Military, IDF and Russian Army. The program was the brainchild of Ed "The Sage" Snyder of TBH-BE, and co-sponsored with the Israel Advocacy Committee and Men's Club. It was an incredible and moving program, that recognized the service and heroism of thirty men and women who have served defending liberty and freedom. But unfortunately, the liberators who are in the mid 80s-90s are an all too-fast vanishing breed who will no longer be around to testify in person as to the atrocities they witnessed.
Mitchell Clair and I have been having friendly arguments about Israel for years. Here is a recent email exchange:
To: Lee Bender From: Mitchell Clair I know you read Jeffery Goldberg. I would say that his editorial, Goldblog is a Pro-J Street Blog, pretty closely reflects how I feel about J Street.
Extract: Ordinarily, I would not be so vociferous in the defense of J Street, but the hearing last week in the Knesset held to determine whether or not J Street is a pro-Israel organization....
Let me be clear about something: There are many things about J Street I dislike. I think some of its members actually don't like Israel very much, and especially don't like the idea of Israel. I think many J Street supporters are cringing Diaspora Jews who are embarrassed by displays of Jewish muscularity.... There is much about J Street policies that I don't like; I think J Street believes that settlements are the root cause of the Middle East conflict...
But: J Street is still a Zionist organization. ...The Knesset is debating whether or not J Street is Zionist. This is a farce. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuses to meet with J Street. This, too, is a farce. The Prime Minister, in fact, will meet with Sarah Palin (whose politics are favored by a tiny minority of American Jews) but he will not meet with J Street. He should argue with J Street, yell at J Street, grapple with J Street, but most of all meet with J Street.
To: Mitchell Clair From: Lee Bender Thanks. While this is a very spirited defense of why J Street should still be in the pro-Israel tent, it is real hard to believe they really deserve to be based on so much of what they espouse, who they are funded by and how antagonistic they are to Israel's security needs, and their blind faith in Palestinian politics, intentions (see PLO, PA and Hamas charters, let alone incitement in media, schools and mosques) and terrorism. J Street wants Israel to bargain away its security to Hamas, who rules Gaza.
If Islam is, as we hear in the mainstream media and from its apologists, a religion of peace, why is it that we don't hear an Islamic cleric or supporter intone or pray that Allah should bless America? Yet, the United States is a true beacon of peace, stability, democracy and freedom, where Muslims live here as the freest people on earth to practice their religion in safety and comfort. So why shouldn't Muslims have Allah bless us? Or is it that indeed there is a schizophrenic quality to Islam, such that the Koran also preaches intolerance and hatred toward, and supremacy over, infidels and non-Muslims? Or that the true goal is to establish a foothold in the U.S. and then push to Islamicize the nation, eliminate the constitution?
There is evidence in the Koran and Islamic teachings that God and Allah are one and the same, that there is a common bond amongst the children of Abraham. This could- and hopefully will- provide a basis for interfaith respect.
Jewish-Christian dialogue has matured in this respect, but Islam has not yet brought itself to accommodate its big sister religions, due, in the first instance to its failure to recognize the validity of other approaches to the one God. And to do this, they must distance themselves from notions of extremism, supremacy and jihadi violence.
If the vast majority of Muslims are nonviolent, law abiding citizens of their respective states, and do not advocate for global jihad, or dhimmitude (i.e second-class citizenship) for non-Muslims, why do the media not report on them or encourage them? Or why do their leaders not speak out forcefully against the violence directed to non-Muslims or the trampeling of women's rights? Where is the Martin Luther of Islam to reform the religion from this image of violence and intolerance?
Yet, as is evident in various polls, most Arab-Muslims today still refuse to believe that the
9-11 hijacker terrorists were Muslims, refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist, and believe in the armed struggle, suicide bombings and terrorism against innocent civilians. Are they so brainwashed by their leaders, afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals, or following Koranic dictates?
The onus should be on Muslims to prove Islam is truly a peaceful religion that respects other peoples and religions and considers them co-equals, and is not engaged in violent jihad that is designed to set the clock back a thousand years on civil rights. The onus should be not on "us" to try to court and understand them and their ways: rather, the burden must be on them to be civil, considering their engagement in, enabling and promotion of global jihadi terror. A Muslim killing other Muslims, blowing up mosques, schools, police stations, market places, seems to garner no outrage in the media, hardly even a peep. It is almost as if this kind of behavior is expected, as they have set the bar so low in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism. Yet, when Muslims routinely kill and target innocent non-Muslims worldwide, the western media cowers, liberals scream that we had it coming, and deserve it. No, they are the ones at war with the world. They, especially the Saudis who are swimming in petro-dollars by the billions, have used their immense wealth for totally negative purposes, to export a culture of violence and death, promoting extreme ideologies of hatred and bigotry, and providing millions of dollars to fund think tanks, professorships at our universities to whitewash their imagine and hide their complicity. They have clearly not put their vast resources to positive uses such as building schools, hospitals, supporting life-affirming technologies, contributing to the betterment of the world- in stark contrast to Israel and the west. Or is it that the media has forgotten to report on this use of resources? We share and build, they blow up and destroy. Is it any wonder that the image the west has of Muslims is one of the violent terrorist?
To be considered a true "pro-Israel organization" there are indeed simple, basic, clear-cut, line-in-the sand guidelines that must be adhered to: a) Believing that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people who are entitled to self-determination in their homeland; b) respecting the vibrant Israeli democracy and its courts and not elevating one's judgment for those of Israel's citizens; c) respecting Israeli military judgments and those who are responsible for protecting its citizens, and not being an armchair general; d) not joining forces with Israel's enemies; e) emphasizing the good in Israel while acknowledging the faults; e) supporting Israeli government efforts to make peace; f) understanding what Israel's enemies say, advocate and do (ie Fatah and Hamas charter to destroy Israel); g) being pro-peace, but not to the point that advocating for Israeli concessions damages Israel's existence. Unfortunately, it is clear that too many of our young people on campus are ill-equipped to even enter into an intelligent discussion on the Middle East conflicts to form an opinion, let alone defend Israel from its vast and vociferous critics. And the same goes for too many in our own community who are blinded by doing "tikkun olam" at all costs, political correctness, self-hating/loathing of their Jewishness, or apathy. Be proud, firm but fair- but be not afraid to defend our people who have survived the most incredible odds in human history, now thrive, and are indeed "a light onto the nations."
When the core of your enemy's doctrine and religion calls for your subjugation and/or annihilation, it makes achieving co-existence improbable. This is the insurmountable problem in a decades-long peace "process."
With many interests and issues competing for American attention, dollars and sympathy, just who are behind these various causes has become more important than ever in an age of economic woes and a changing political landscape. A law on the books for more than seven decades meant to safeguard America from those with hidden foreign agendas is apparently not being actively enforced, opening the door to American support for positions inimical to our best interests and those of our allies.
My extended family and I just returned from a family trip to Israel and Egypt to celebrate our younger son's Bar Mitzvah. We are grateful and blessed that our dream trip was realized. We marked Noah's becoming a man in the Jewish tradition at the Kotel (the western wall in the Old City of Jerusalem) with 14 members of our family, including all four grandparents, an uncle, cousins, and friends. It was a simcha (happy occasion) beyond words: magical; spiritual; exceeding our every anticipation and expectation. We traveled throughout Israel for 11 days, and then spent four days in Egypt.
Observations? Lessons learned? I have many, but here are just a few:
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