Tuesday, June 25

Corruption Cracks in the Chief Rabbinate of Israel

English: Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger עב...
English: Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger עברית: הרב האשכנזי הראשי לישראל יונה מצגר, Original Image Name:יונה מצגר, Location:Haifa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We are all aware of the ancient saying: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely". This rings true in all the echelons of power where there are dictatorships or appointees with large powers that were given to them by the state. This holds true for religious power which becomes hegemonic. 

Many of us fail to admit that all religion was created by man, and not by a divine power, in this case- God. This is contrary to the beliefs of the three monotheistic religions whether it is Judaism, Christianity or Islam. If this is the case, religion will have the weaknesses inherent in man. Nobody is perfect and religion is not perfect either because it is man-made.

Religious people maintain that they strive to improve themselves in their relationship to their belief in God. For the purpose of this article, I refer to the monotheistic faiths, but from a wider context, this is true of all faiths.

The Catholic Church had a very severe problem of pedophilia with some priests for many years.  Many people came out of the cupboard and admitted that they were molested by pedophilic priests. This caused great damage to the power of the Roman Catholic Churches over their believers.

Where there is no separation of religion and state (by definition - separation of church, synagogue and mosque), there cannot be a true democracy.

In Islam, there are also religious leaders  with enormous power. In Arab countries, no separation of religion and state exists. Tremendous abuse of religious power is rife, not to mention the inhumane treatment of women. In Saudi Arabia, women are not even aloud to drive cars without a male chaperone as well as many other abuses to their dignity.

All organized religion not separated from the state lays itself open to become omnipotent and unquestionable to the private citizen. Everything is done according to God's will and this overrules the laws of state. Naturally rabbis, priests and imams wield tremendous powers amongst the faithful and view themselves as above secular law, whether sharia law or halacha depending whether the countries concerned are the Arab States or Israel. In the western countries where most of the population are Christian, there is separation of religion and state as well as freedom of faith and freedom from faith.

In Israel, in theory there is separation of religion and state but not in practice. Jewish People who are non-Orthodox by this I mean secular, Reform or Conservative may only get married in an Orthodox marriage ceremony which is meaningless to them. The rabbinates all over the country are under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate and this includes every ruling from dietary laws (Kashrut) to marriages and divorce. So when people say that there is total religious freedom in Israel and nobody interferes with one's religious lifestyle. This is true until it comes to marriages, funerals and observances of Pesach, Yom Kippur and so on.

The Chief Rabbinate has become an institution of cronies, nepotism and cartels. It is involved in issues of "Jewish identity". Its rulings on who is a Jew is dependent on their interpretation of Halacha. They maintain that there is only one Halacha and non-Orthodox interpretation is unacceptable. Their attitude towards those, whose Jewishness is suspect, has created much hardship for these people not even allowing them to marry in a Jewish ceremony despite the fact that they are recognised as Jews in the Diaspora. Many Jews have been alienated from Judaism because of rabbinical rulings. The Israeli Rabbinate, with its enormous powers, has become corrupt and even the Chief Askenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger is now suspect of a host of crimes such as laundering money, corruption and pocketing money from donations to charitable causes. Perhaps he sees himself as a charitable cause.

The moral behaviour of those in the Chief Rabbinate is deplorable and disgusting.  If we need any justification for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate, it is in the behaviour of their rabbis and them digging their hands into the coffers of those who donated money to their questionable causes.

The alienation of the Jewish People as a result of the antics of the Chief Rabbinate will only increase especially after the demise of the Askenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

If one were to read the history of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, it is obvious that the philosophy and necessity of this institution is highly questionable to say the least and redundant at the most.
The Chief Rabbi is completing his tenure very soon and this is an opportune time to close down this institution instead of punting for Rabbi David Stav, who is considered a more progressive rabbi and a Zionist. I fail to see anything progressive in his observance of Halacha, which is in its essence not progressive and open to interpretation within very narrow limits.

 Of course, this is not the attitude of  Conservative and Reform Judaism to which Rabbi Stav will not be any more forthcoming than his predecessors should he be elected. He will try to coat Halacha with sugar in order to win back the secular Jew who has been alienated by rabbinical bigots of the past and present. Rabbi Stav is a honey-coated rabbi of the Tzohar Movement, but make no mistake, his claim to stick to Halacha in its entirety does not give us optimism for any change.

As far as the non-observant Jew is concerned it will be bureaucratic business as usual in the Chief Rabbinate. The blame for this must be laid at the door of apathetic Israeli citizens who have allowed this situation to occur. The solution to this problem is separation of synagogue and state and with that, the abolishment of this corrupt cartel of bureaucratic rabbinical authorities.

Another point that is very often overlooked is that the Rabbinate is not averse to racism against those who are not Jewish. Their tacit support of rabbis, of which there are no shortage, who disapprove of Israeli Jews renting out apartments to Arab students studying in Israeli Academic Institutions.

Saturday, June 15

Unrest in Turkey and Syria

There are those, who say that Erdogan should be voted out by peaceful means in a democratic election. When a leader was voted in by democratic elections, becomes autocratic and oblivious to his voters needs, imprisons his opponents, the Turkish people have no patience to wait until the next elections.
They take to the streets. Violence resulting in death and injury as well as vandalism must be avoided and condemned. The Mohatma Gandhi approach is the best.
PM Erdogan had done much for Turkey. He is a charismatic leader and has widespread support from most of the Turkish Electorate. Turkey has become a powerful economic power and Erdpgan must be given credit for achieving this.
The demonstrations over the park for economic devolopment and the uprooting of trees is just an excuse or perhaps a catalyst for violent demonstrations against Erdogan and a push for change.
There is a lesson from the past that we should never forget. This may or may not be true in Turkey's case. Time will tell when more information becomes available about Erdogan's leadership and his human rights record despite the fact that Turkish leadership Turkey as the only democratic state in the Middle East with a Muslim Leadership.
In the early 1930s, Germany was considered one of the most democratic states in Europe. There were General Elections in 1933 and the Nazi Party used the democratic process to gain power. Adolph Hitler received an overwhelming majority and the Holocaust was the result. Much has been written about this bleak period in Germany under Hitler's barbaric regime. A question that comes up - although hypothetical - should the Germans have had violent demonstrations against Hitler to ovrrthrow him and his Nazi Party or wait patiently for the next general elections while democracy in Germany was being destroyed. Obviously, with hindsight, the former would have been justified.
Bearing this in mind, there is an unknown factor about Erdogan, whether he is using Turkish democracy to consolidate his power base by packing his party with burocrats and corrupt croneys. It looks as if Turkey is in a kind of a delemma over the future of its democracy.
We cannot be sure about this. The demonstrations started from the Gezi Park being developed for industry and trees being chopped down. It seems a rather insignificant reason to initiate violence on a national scale. There must be more to that than meets the eye. Turkey's constitution is secular. There is no Sharia law that is binding on a largely secular population. The question is whether Erdogan's party is trying to make Turkey into a religious Muslim state at the expense of the reforms of Kemal Ataturk to make Turkey secular is unclear.
Turkey is a pluralistic society ranging in views from the conservative religious to the secular. In between this are many groups in Turkish society that are between the two. The hard core demonstrators who wish to continue their fight against Erdogan have pledged to carry on the battle despite Erdogan's appeal to negotiate. There does not seem to be any unity in what the demonstrators want to achieve. There are communists and right wingers all having a free for all in the streets. There is no leadership that represents the demonstrators. This is what makes the situation volatile.
Not even the most democratic country on earth would tolerate demonstrations that Turkey has had. The police would come in with tear gas, water canons and even ribber bullets. Israel would not tolerate it. So the use of the term excess police force is relative. One cannot have rampaging demonstrators setting fire to public property and destroying everything in their path. This would lead to total destruction of Turkey's economy and only the Turkish people will suffer.
This is not a Turkish Spring as there is no united motive in an alternative government to Erdogan. The demonstrations will decrease in its violence apart from a few hard core demonstrators. There has been loss of life and many injuries but this is nothing compared to what is happening in Syria.
Where are the "humanists" who are the first to condenn Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians? There is a dearth of these humanists who have united with anti-Semites and pseudo communists who are no less racist than nazis and facists in their hate for Israel and the Jewish people. They do not condemn the massacres of Syrians who are being slaughtered in their tens of thousands. Even the UN is conspicious by its absence in condemning the slaughter in Syria. These double standard hypocritical, anti-Semitic "humanists" are silent over human rights abuses in Iran, Hamas-controlled Gaza, Hezbollah controlled parts of Lenanon under the "great humanist" Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Why this double standard towards Israel? The occupation and the abuses of Palestinians in Israel has not reached the epidemic proportions of the torture of Bashar Al Assad of his own people, creating a severe refugee problem of Syrians fleeing their country of birth to neighbouring Arab countries like Jordan as well as Turkey. Not a word uttered by the "humanists" condemning this gross inhumanity. These g"reat watchdogs of human rights" subscribe to the same ideology as their "humanist mentors" in Hamas, Hezbollah and possibly other "benefactors of mankind" in Iran.
Oh! I forgot to mention the "wonderful regimes" in Darfur in Sudan' where slaughter carries on unabated with hardly a blip on our TV screens. The anti-Semitic "humanists "of the various NGOs dedicated to human rights are notoriously silent.
While the occupation is morally unjustifiable there is no wholescale massacre or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as these hypocritical, double standard "humanists" claim. No human rights abuse should be conveniently over looked or condoned by sucking up to the Jihadists which is what the watch dog of human rights are doing by their reactions and hate for Israel. Eventually they themselves will be the victims of their own follies and naivity.

Saturday, June 8

The Passing of the Two-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (cen...
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) looks on at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel, on September 15, 2010. Department photo/ Public Domain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Barack Obama meets with Mahmoud Abbas...
English: Barack Obama meets with Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 24JAN08 - Tzipi Livni, Vice...
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 24JAN08 - Tzipi Livni, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel and Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, captured during the session 'Middle East: After Annapolis, After Paris' at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2008. Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) Photo by Richard Kalvar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is with a deep sense of sadness and frustration of the passing of the Two-State Solution. It had passed away soon after the Oslo Accords, but entered a stage of  rigor mortis for many years giving people a false notion that it was still a viable solution.

The negotiations for final borders, status of Jerusalem, and ending the occupation, began as symptoms towards a final solution to the conflict. The symptoms of a two-state solution were never treated.
The  reason is that both sides to the conflict are intransigent and show no desire to end the conflict in a manner that would satisfy the parties in the conflict.

PM Netanyahu supports the two-state solution because he knows that it has passed away and will never be resurrected. It is like the belief in the coming of the Messiah among the religious. It is just not going to occur.

 President Barack Obama has sent the two-state cure, "Dr" John Kerry, to try and bring the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiation table. He will not succeed in achieving this as his predecessors had also started with enthusiasm and then gave up. Some of the US envoys in the past were more resilient in this quest.  The two-state solution is moribund, and no matter how much one applies artificial resuscitation, it will not be revived.

The two-state solution exists as a slogan only. It suits Netanyahu because he can manipulate it the way he wishes, using it as a sop to the Obama Administration.

It is obvious that preconditions do exist on both sides despite Israel's denials. Israel is not prepared to freeze settlements apart from minor cosmetic token freezes. Illegal settlement activity in the Occupied Territories continues unabated. There are close to 350 000 settlers in the West Bank and the numbers are increasing like a cancer in the middle of the areas destined to be the areas  for the establishment of a Palestinian State. Is this not a precondition for talks with the Palestinians in practice? Israel does not build settlements in the occupied territories for the purpose of removing them in a two-state settlement, apart from small illegal outposts that do not have government approval.

The previous Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, was on a pragmatic track to build viable infra - structures in the occupied areas that have some autonomy under Mahmoud Abbas. He was partially successful but he resigned from his position as he lacked popularity. He had no power support base even from Mahmoud Abbas.

On the Palestinian track, there are also preconditions. As a first step, they demand a total settlement freeze before they are even prepared to come to the negotiation table. This will never be accepted by the Netanyahu Government. He gave his Minister of Justice, Tzippi Livni, the task of responsibility for negotiations with the Palestinians as soft serve maintenance of Israel's position vis a vis  the occupation. Under these conditions none of the sides will ever come to an agreement and the slogan - two-state-solution will for ever remain as such -  an idea that will fade into the mists of memory as an impractical solution, which the parties to the conflict will never achieve.

When a person passes away, the family grieves. When a possible solution passes away, there is no grieving but accusations as to who who was to blame. The two-state idea passed away because both sides did not want to bring it to fruition. Both sides engaged in rhetoric to support it as this is what the US wanted to hear very soon after the failed Oslo agreements. The naivety of the US as a peace broker also played its part in the passing of the two-state idea. They lack the knowledge of the dynamics of the Middle East.

Now Israel is burying its head in the sand and putting the idea of negotiations for a viable and just solution to the conflict on the back-burner. The Netanyahu Government is involved with internal problems and giving haircuts to Nocki Dankner, the tycoon, who has burnt his fingers with the employees pension funds and the budget tailored to burden the Israeli citizens with increased direct and indirect taxes.

An atmosphere of indifference towards peace and a solution to the conflict exists in Israel. It is as if mention of the conflict has become taboo. This is dangerous for both parties to the conflict as a new intifada can take us all by surprise - not to mention increased incidents of violence against the settlers. The settlers will remain a thorn in the flesh of the Palestinians quest for a homeland whatever form that.may take. There will be increased racist attacks towards the Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories. This will take the form of increased destruction and damage to Palestinian property not to mention the destruction of their orchards and olive tree plantations.

Other options need to be put on the table once the two combatants are brought screaming at each other to the negotiating table by enthusiastic peace facilitators such as the US. It is doubtful if John Kerry will achieve this. Possible options that could be discussed are a federal solution, confederal solution or even a bi-national solution. There does not seem to be anything else on the market. Each possibility has its advantages and disadvantages. Time is running out for both sides to fiddle around. One thing is certain and that is the Israeli occupation must end. It is ruining the credibility of Israel in its desire not to rule another people against their will.
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