Opinion Piece by Rabbi Margolin: The Palestinians’ all or nothing approach will get them nothing

July 9, 2020

There is a thin line between aspiration and delusion.
All of us seek to encourage aspiration, but we also regard it as a duty to tell others that they are being deluded. And yet nobody in the international community is willing to have this conversation with the Palestinian Leadership. What is this delusion? It is the “all or nothing” Palestinian demands for peace.

Israelis want peace. But there is zero chance of successful negotiations with a bar set too high for Israel to accept. The bar is a return to pre- 67 borders and the ‘right of return’.
It is time to be blunt. Nobody knows better than Israel what its security needs are. Israel has made it clear that 67 borders are not defendable and would pose an existential threat to the country and its citizens. In short, it’s not going to happen.
Israel may be a young state but it has a long memory. Those who ask it to compromise its borders and security are many of the same voices who left her on her own during wars when her needs were greatest. It will not compromise security for promises and words.
On the ‘right to return’ the bluntness must continue. The Palestinians are not only demanding a smaller Israeli State, and a Palestinian state free of Jews, but for the absorption of millions of Palestinians into Israel.
In short, Israel would simply cease to be a Jewish State – the world’s only one. It’s not going to happen.
Let’s keep it even more simple: A future Palestinian State can have the luxury of malleable borders, Israel cannot.
This is the reality. The Palestinians demands are not credible or achievable. And yet the international community continues to pay lip-service to their delusion.
This is a dereliction of duty. We need to rip up the current playbook that the international community is sticking to. It is a playbook that has not advanced the prospects of peace by a single millimetre. It enables Palestinian stasis. It removes any motivation for them to move forwards. It keeps them in their comfort zone of perpetual grievance.
The Trump plan on the other hand represents the first real attempt by any negotiators to understand and put Israeli security as the starting position and build from there. Previous attempts have always made this an afterthought.
The plan also offers Palestinians a real pathway to statehood, underpinned with a 50 billion investment in infrastructure and state-building – around a third, in today’s money – of the entire Marshall plan budget that was given to 16 countries.
The Palestinians rejected it.
Why? The official line is because of annexation, and because they lost trust in Trump.
Let’s take annexation first. In the past, and most recently in Gaza, but also including the return of Sinai and other territory, Israel has shown its willingness to trade land for Peace as long as it can safeguard its security. And there is no reason to believe that this would not be the case again. Annexation does not represent a final settling of borders. It can represent an opportunity for Palestinians to get back round the table, even if they are historically averse to doing so.
Which brings us to the issue of trust. The Peace process to date is a litany of failure to budge on the Palestinian side, even after significant and often painful moves by Israel, such as the withdrawal from territories that we just touched upon.
Their reaction to this plan is more of the same. The refusal to Trump is the same refusal given to Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama. The same refusal of 48, 67, 73, in the 80’s, 90’s, and OO’s. The terms of reference only change.
Which takes us back to where we started. Aspiration and delusion. A Palestinian state in an aspiration. 67 lines and the right to return is delusion. Annexation is not a final settling of borders, but can be part of negotiations.
It is time to get serious. To get real. To disavow delusion and face reality.
If we fail to do this, we will never get the Palestinians back around the negotiating table, allowing them to perpetuate ad-infinitum the suffering of the people that they represent.
And It’s time for the international community to finally choose between the two and get things moving again.
The article was published in The Times of Israel

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Europe: Preparing for Passover in the shadow of Corona Crisis

Alongside logistical challenges European Jews face anti-Semitic propaganda that attributes the Corona epidemic to a “Jewish conspiracy.”
In the shadow of the Corona crisis, and much like most of the free world, European Jews have also been in quarantine for a number of weeks and have been trying to preserve a Jewish lifestyle as much as possible as well as prepare themselves for Passover with a growing shortage of kosher products. But alongside the logistical challenges and the impact on the daily life by the required isolation practices, European Jews are also facing anti-Semitic propaganda that attributes the Corona epidemic to a “Jewish conspiracy”.
In France, posts on social networks with anti-Semitic cartoons portraying the Jewish former French health minister, Agnès Buzyn, as responsible for the Corona epidemic have gone viral among far-right groups in the country. The Jewish community in Belgium is also reporting an increase in anti-Semitic discourse on the social networks.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA): "Unfortunately, the usage of international crisis to promote anti-Semitic agendas is nothing new. The EJA Virtual situation room, which we established at the beginning of the epidemic, receives daily reports of logistical difficulties from Jewish organizations and community leaders, but unfortunately also anti-Semitic voices that attributing the virus to a Zionist-Jewish conspiracy."
Rabbi Margolin also mentions that despite the difficulties and the closure of much of the borders, the EJA managed to send over 100,000 kits of matzah and kosher groceries for Passover to hundreds of Jewish communities across the continent: "Despite the severe crisis, Jews are responsible for one another and practice “arvut hadadit”. There are hundreds of students and volunteers - members of Jewish communities from all over Europe who are purchasing food and medicines for those in need and distributing it in their communities.
Naturally, the Jewish community in Italy has experienced the greatest difficulties so far. David Liscia, The President of the Jewish Community of Florence and Simone Santoro, member of the Jewish Community of Turin, Italy, point out that: "Due to the precarious and difficult situation in Italy, each of us, from the Jewish communities stays at home. With that, we make efforts to ensure that Jewish life is continued in the best possible way. In the morning kindergarten teachers gives live lessons to the children, while in the afternoon there are Talmud, and Torah lessons as well as Passover lessons in order to be able to maintain a proper Seder in isolation. Some of the smaller Jewish communities do not have a kosher supermarket or special stores for Passover. We usually buy all the commodities in bulk and sell them to community members. This year of course it was not possible - so we try to arrange groceries for everyone, which is not easy. We also deal with the problematic economic situation like the rest of the country."
In Spain, which stands next to Italy as the country most severely affected by the Corona virus so far in Europe, the Jewish community, which has been quarantined for three weeks, works hard to preserve Jewish life. The President of the Jewish Community in Madrid, Leon Benelbas says: "The Jewish community in Spain is working to strengthen community solidarity. The Jewish School in Madrid continues to work through digital platforms that allow students to continue studying history, Judaism, and Hebrew. We also use the ZOOM platform for collective prayers and rabbinic classes, at least twice a day. At the same time, the “EZRA” organization organizes grocery deliveries to all the Jewish families who are in need, and it is important to note that the “Kadisha company” continues to perform burial ceremonies according to Halacha requirements, and so far we are taking all precautions according to the administration's instructions.
The Jewish community in the Netherlands is also facing difficulties as a result of the quarantine. Anne Ornstein, member of the Amsterdam Jewish community: "Older people can no longer receive visits in order to prevent infection - a directive that profoundly affects those people in the Jewish community and we are organizing groups of young members from our community to help the elderly by volunteering. Like every other city in Europe, the synagogues are closed, and someone told me that this is the first time since World War II that this is happening. We are also preparing ourselves for Passover with the "Make Seder yourself" initiative of Chabad and other Jewish communities in the Netherlands to make sure that people who lives alone or families in need will everything they need for Passover Seder. "
Oliver Bradley, an activist in the Jewish community in Berlin: "The Jewish community in Berlin is not suffering like all other Jewish communities in Europe because there is still no full closure and no long queues at the supermarket. The Jewish supermarket in Berlin has been full of kosher products for Passover two weeks ago, and many Jews have already stocked up with supplies for the holiday season. You can't tell what will happen in the future. Of course, schools are closed, most kindergartens are closed (open only to children whose parents work in necessary jobs), but as mentioned, that can change at any moment. "
The article was published on Arutz 7

At Israel’s prodding, record 31 nations to boycott Durban conference anniversary

Envoy says dozens of countries will shun this year’s anti-racism conference at UN after past antisemitism; Bennett to make debut address at General Assembly next week

By TOI STAFF
Thirty-one nations will boycott a UN meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the Durban World Conference on Racism — also known as Durban IV — on Wednesday, over concerns that it will veer into open antisemitism as it has in the past.
The first Durban conference — held from August 31 to September 8, 2001, just days before the terror attacks of September 11 — was marked by deep divisions on the issues of antisemitism, colonialism and slavery. The US and Israel walked out of the conference in protest at the tone of the meeting, including over plans to include condemnations of Zionism in the final text.
At the 2009 conference, a speech by Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacking Israel sparked a temporary walkout by many European delegates.
Thirty-one nations will boycott a UN meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the Durban World Conference on Racism — also known as Durban IV — on Wednesday, over concerns that it will veer into open antisemitism as it has in the past.
The first Durban conference — held from August 31 to September 8, 2001, just days before the terror attacks of September 11 — was marked by deep divisions on the issues of antisemitism, colonialism and slavery. The US and Israel walked out of the conference in protest at the tone of the meeting, including over plans to include condemnations of Zionism in the final text.
At the 2009 conference, a speech by Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacking Israel sparked a temporary walkout by many European delegates.
This year, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said Friday, a record 31 countries will be skipping the event, over double the amount that have done so in the past.
“In recent months I have worked for the world to understand that the Durban Conference was fundamentally rotten,” he said in a Monday tweet. “I’m glad many more understand this today.”
The United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and France are among some of the key nations set to boycott this year’s meeting.

Vaccines, climate, nuclear deal on General Assembly agenda

The highlight of the UN General Assembly, during which world leaders and other top officials deliver addresses from the marble-backed podium, begins on Tuesday in New York and will see a mixture of in-person speeches and pre-recorded video messages sent from around the world.
This year’s event and is markedly different from last year’s, which was conducted mostly online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the speeches by world leaders, the General Assembly usually also has hundreds of side events, but only a limited number are being held this year, mainly virtually or outside UN headquarters.
These include events on vaccines, on children as invisible victims of the coronavirus and conflict, on multilateralism and democracy, and on global hotspots including Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Additionally, the UN Security Council will hold a high-level meeting Wednesday on climate and security.
Afghanistan and other major global challenges are expected to be on the agenda, including the lack of progress on the United States rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossain Amir Abdollahian, will be in New York and there is speculation that he may meet with the five countries that remain part of the deal — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
There are also high-level meetings on energy and the nuclear test ban treaty, and a summit on the connected system of producing, processing, distributing and consuming food, which according to the UN contributes an estimated one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.
Thirty-one nations will boycott a UN meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the Durban World Conference on Racism — also known as Durban IV — on Wednesday, over concerns that it will veer into open antisemitism as it has in the past.
The first Durban conference — held from August 31 to September 8, 2001, just days before the terror attacks of September 11 — was marked by deep divisions on the issues of antisemitism, colonialism and slavery. The US and Israel walked out of the conference in protest at the tone of the meeting, including over plans to include condemnations of Zionism in the final text.
At the 2009 conference, a speech by Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacking Israel sparked a temporary walkout by many European delegates.
This year, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said Friday, a record 31 countries will be skipping the event, over double the amount that have done so in the past.
“In recent months I have worked for the world to understand that the Durban Conference was fundamentally rotten,” he said in a Monday tweet. “I’m glad many more understand this today.”
France are among some of the key nations set to boycott this year’s meeting.

Bennett’s debut

According to a provisional list of speakers for the General Debate, US president Joe Biden will speak on Tuesday morning, in America’s traditional slot as the second speaker of the General Debate.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will be another one of at least 83 world leaders who plan on attending in person, according to Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir, president of last year’s gathering. Twenty-six leaders applied to speak remotely, Bozkir said earlier this month. Bennett will address the gathering on Monday, September 27.
In his address, Bennett will speak about Israel’s national security and regional issues, according to his office. His remarks will likely focus on Iran’s nuclear program and its support for armed proxy groups.
Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, was known for making headlines with his speeches on the Iranian nuclear threat at the UN General Assembly, often using cardboard graphics and other props to get his point across.
Israel’s regional partners will also be represented, according to the provisional list. Egypt and Jordan will send their heads of state, while the foreign ministers of Israel’s new Gulf allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, will speak.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and new Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi are both sending prerecorded addresses to be broadcast at the event.
https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-israels-prodding-record-31-nations-to-boycott-durban-conference-anniversary/

EJA asks President Duda to defer final decision on Holocaust law until meeting takes place, explores legal challenge at Polish Constitutional court

European Jewish Association asks President Duda to defer final decision on Holocaust law until meeting takes place, explores legal challenge at Polish Constitutional court

European Jewish Association (EJA) Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin has written to Polish President Duda asking him to defer any final decision on new laws passed at the weekend in the House and approved last night by the Senate with regards to the Holocaust and designation of concentration camps until a meeting with Jewish leaders takes place.

Rabbi Margolin also said that if all attempts at reasoning failed, the European Jewish Association would mount a legal challenge to the legislation in Poland’s Constitutional court, as it did when it won a ruling against Polish legislation affecting Kosher slaughter.  In a statement Rabbi Margolin said,

“It is with deep regret that I must write to the President of Poland and record the insult caused to the memory of those who died though this clumsy, ill thought out legislation. I have urged President Duda to defer any final decision on ratifying the legislation until at least having met with me and a delegation of Jewish leaders.

“I also note that despite being a member of the IHRA, Poland has yet to adopt formally the definition of Anti-Semitism Lithuania, Germany, Austria, Romania and the United Kingdom have formally adopted the definition. Given the damage being done to Polish-Jewish relations because of the bill, we believe that Polish adoption of the IHRA definition would assuage some of the concerns being expressed by European Jewry when it comes to Poland. 

“However, if reasoning and dialogue fails, the EJA will, as we successfully did in the past on efforts to ban Kosher slaughter, challenge this matter to Poland’s Constitutional court.”

Rabbi Margolin has also written to the heads of all the EU Institutions: Council President Tusk, Commission President Juncker, Justice Commissioner Jourova and European Parliament President Tajani, asking them to reprimand the Polish government.  “It seems inconceivable that an EU Member State can be permitted to, in such a crass way, wash its hands of what happened by slapping draconian legislation that threatens to imprison people for holding an alternative view, in this case, a majority of European Jews”, said Margolin. 

124 NGOs worldwide urge Facebook to adopt IHRA definition o antisemitism, fight hate speechm

The joint NGOs’ call discloses that in recent remarks given by a senior Facebook representative,  the company “does not have a policy aimed at combatting online antisemitism”, sparking the coalition to urge Facebook to “join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition” and “take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square.”
In an unprecedented joint letter, a coalition of 124 non-profit organizations from around the world have urged Facebook to adopt the widely recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism to fight hate speech on the social media platform.
The letter, which was sent to Facebook’s board and senior management on Friday, follows mounting public pressure urging Facebook to effectively act against hate speech and dangerous disinformation.
The joint NGOs’ call discloses that in recent remarks given by a senior Facebook representative,  the company “does not have a policy aimed at combating online antisemitism”, sparking the coalition to urge Facebook to “join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition” and “take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square.”
In July, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, stated that “Facebook has to get better at finding and removing hateful content.” The joint call by the global coalition of NGOs emphasizes  that antisemitism and effective policies to address it, must be part of Facebook’s decision-making process to tackle hate speech.
Parallel to a surge in violent and murderous attacks against Jewish communities in recent years, online antisemitism has grown exponentially, with social media platforms serving as primary bullying arenas for the world’s oldest hatred. The coalition letter cites studies that “Jews overwhelmingly report that online antisemitism is the most acute form of Jew-hatred they experience.”
So far, nearly 40 countries have already endorsed or adopted the IHRA working definition in some official capacity, either through their membership in the IHRA or independently.
In the US, the definition of antisemitism is clear: The IHRA working definition has been adopted by the State Department, and a recent Presidential Executive Order on Combatting Anti-Semitism instructs the Department of Education to consider the IHRA definition when evaluating Title VI Civil Rights Act complaints of discrimination.
The signatories decision to focus on Facebook stemmed from the social media giant’s recent announcement that it would be revising its policies on hate speech and disinformation. The coalition’s decision was also based on a recognition that Facebook, as the leading social media platform, can set the standard for the social media industry in the fight against online hate. If, and when, Facebook adopts an effective and comprehensive policy to combat online hate speech and antisemitism, other social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok are likely to follow suit.
Irwin Cotler, the Chair of Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Canada, one of the signatories to the letter, stated :”Antisemitism is the oldest, most enduring, most toxic, and most lethal of hatreds – the canary in the minefield of global evil. The IHRA definition is the strongest and most definitive normative framework we have for monitoring and combating antisemitism on a governmental, parliamentary, law-enforcement, and civil society level. Its adoption is as timely as it is necessary.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association, a signatory to the letter said: ”With more people than China and over a third of the entire global population with accounts, Facebook is a world of its own. Its power and reach are immense. With such great power should come great responsibility. That social media platforms have become hotbeds of hate and antisemitism is undeniable. So too is a lack of responsible action from the company to tackle it. Signing up to the IHRA definition would be an important step and a visible commitment from Facebook that there is no place, in the virtual, just as the real world, for the virus of antisemitism to thrive unchecked and unfettered.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean and Director Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the signatories to the letter, noted that ”during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and social dislocation following George Floyd’s murder, extremists, including antisemites, leverage the unmatched marketing power of social media to mainstream hate, conspiracy theories and lone wolf terrorism.” ”Facebook must take the lead in the struggle to degrade the mainstreaming of antisemitism via social media. The IHRA definition of antisemitism provides Facebook with a straightforward definition of history’s oldest hate.”
Prof. Dina Porat, who is one of the authors of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism stressed that the definition has become ”a yard stick, a declaration of values.”
”Those who join its adoption are committed to the countering of antisemitism, and of other parallel evils. It is high time that the major social networks, Facebook first and foremost, use the IHRA definition as a criteria to identify antisemitic expressions, and uproot them immediately, thus exercising their responsibility to help create a world better than the one we are living in.”
The article was published on EJP

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