Friday, November 24, 2017


Tzipi Hotovey if the Deputy Foreign Minister of the State of Israel. She is described thusly in Wickepedia:
"Hotovely is a doctorate student at the Faculty of Law in Tel Aviv University. Hotovely practises Orthodox Judaism, and is a self-described "religious right-winger".[In 2009, she was the 18th Knesset's youngest member. She is described as the "ideological voice" of the Likud Party."
This description is inadequate; after her recent anti-semitic screed directed toward American Jewry in particular, and all Jews everywhere who disagree with her, she can better be called "Israel's Ann Coulter." And, that's not meant to be a compliment. The brilliant Haaretz columnist, Chemi Shalev, captured her latest ugly outburst perfectly in, Netanyahu Owns Hotovely's anti-Semitic Attack on U.S. Jews

Here we sit, the most Israel-supportive of Diaspora Jewry, partners in the building of the State of Israel, attacked in the tropes of right-wing anti-Semites by an officer of the Government of Israel. And, while Hotovely's screed was condemned by her boss, he is the person who could and must remove her from high office ... now. Not As Shalev pointed out, it is Netanyahu who appointed her; it is he who must remove her. 

True, the Prime Minister denounced Hotovely's attack on us but that is not enough; neither was Hotovely's pathetic "apology." The Prime Minister must immediately remove her from her Foreign Ministry position and, in doing so, make it 100% clear that neither he nor his government will permit any attack on Diaspora Jewry. Like so many in the Government of Israel, Hotovely doesn't understand us nor makes any attempt to do so. Thus, it is easy, so easy, for her to characterize our fulsome support for an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall as embodied in the agreement of her Government  calling for its creation as breached by her Government as a political exercise, among other attacks. Hotovely's screed was more becoming of a Richard Spencer or other American white alt-right nationalists than of an Israeli diplomat Government official.

As Shalev wrote:
"The only people who (share these opinions and) denigrate American Jews are dedicated anti-Semites and, it seems, the person in charge of Israel's diplomatic corps and its relations with American Jews."
Like you I have dedicated myself to the partnership of the Jewish People. My philanthropy and my advocacy have been in support of that partnership. To see our common cause rejected in such a vile manner by "the ideological voice of the Likud Party," unleashed by a Prime Minister who as recent as a week before expressed to a small General Assembly audience his and his government's dedication to Jewish Unity, is beyond dispiriting, beyond divisive. 

If we could only rely upon our organization, the Jewish Federations of North America's leadership to be our voice, to respond; but we know, and Netanyahu knows, based on our Board Chair's refusal/inability/unwillingness to challenge the Prime Minster after that GA presentation for Netanyahu leading the breach of an agreement that actually reflected Jewish unity, that the most he need expect from JFNA on our collective behalf is a generic letter of protest ("in the strongest possible terms...") as Bibi has received so many letters in the past. Richard Sandler might wish to consider Ron Lauder's emphatic rejection of Hotovely's ugly attack for the World Jewish Congress if he can't find his own way.

I recognize that in this Blog, I write without position or constituency; I write in the hope that our elected and appointed leaders finally LEAD. That appears to much too ask too often.

Nonetheless, here is what I would suggest: that our leaders demand Hotovely's immediate resignation; and if not (1) that the Tel Aviv GA be canceled; and (2) the colloquium suggested by Ruvi Rivlin at the GA at the Presidential Residence be scheduled immediately with a simple theme "Restoring the Israel-Diaspora Partnership." 

The time for letters and Sandler's "thanks for your clarifications" are over; the time for action is here. Are our leaders up to the challenge? Rhetorical question.



Anonymous said...

Team Bibi is cut from the same cloth as Team Trump.

We can do far, far better with both clubs and so-called leaders.

Anonymous said...

JFNA has no leadership, no spine, no courage. That's why we still have Silverman.

Anonymous said...

Richard, Thank you.

Anonymous said...

She may have been undiplomatic, which is clearly not a good thing for her day job, but she wasn't wrong.

Americans are trying to interfere in domestic politics, and rather than engaging as everyone else does, they expect to be listened to by their "poor cousins". But their poor cousins, who asked for Tasters Choice coffee and toilet paper in the '60's and '70's, are no longer so poor. And certainly not subservient.

So, they have moved forward to a more mature relationship with their cousins in America,while the American Federations are living in the past when they used to wear their "Kova Tembel" (Dumb bell hats) on their Eged tour buses.

And it isn't many Americans. Just the 5% - 10% that identify strongly as Reform or Egalitarian Conservative.

You notice how no other diaspora community has so much as made a fuss over this entire fake Kotel issue. Where are the French or the English or the Argentinians, or the South African Jewish communities on this?

When you visit your cousin's orthodox synagogue for a family bar mitzvah, do you demand to be seated next to your spouse?

If you don't like the politics in Israel, go there and change things. Or donate to the parties you like, but not with my Federation donation.

But don't have the arrogance to interfere with politics where you don't vote. And don't say things that are tantamount to BDS!

Anonymous said...

The Kotel issue is not just domestic politics.

an Israeli citizen

Anonymous said...

To Anon 3:13


These people who are so agitated after a wonderful status quo since 1967 don't speak for me and most people I know.

And I violently disagree with my Federation getting involved in domestic political issues

This is a classic example of why JFNA is a broken organization.

Anonymous said...

“When you visit your cousin's orthodox synagogue for a family bar mitzvah, do you demand to be seated next to your spouse?”
No. But the Kotel isn’t an orthodox synagogue. It belongs to the entire Jewish People. All of us.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 5:14 - JFNA may be a broken organization but this isn’t the reason. Your disagreement on how your Federation gets “involved in domestic political issues” and your love for the “wonderful status quo” are making you look for scapegoats.

Anonymous said...

Americans aren’t trying to interfere in Israeli domestic politics. Don’t be ridiculous. She was wrong and offensive, and she maliciously misrepresented what was happening on the ground with the Kotel and her Princeton speech.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:13 Another lame excuse to denigrate people you can’t understand by claiming their numbers are low. Reform and conservative are 85% of the North American community. Not 5%. And even if they WERE 5% that wouldn’t excuse your dismissive, demeaning and arrogant views of them. Try a little modesty and humility.

Anonymous said...

There is also the disgrace of a JFNA that is always silent, weighing speaking out for the super-majority of its donors and constituents against the potential exclusion of their small group of so-called leaders who obviously fear that were they speak strongly on our behalf they might lose their precious access to and photo ops with the Prime Minister. In other words they have sold us out for their mess of pottage. Those who could do so much, do so little that they haven't reprented their constituents for years never more so than today. We are the victims but they are the ones who should be pities. Yes you Sandler; yes you Silverman, yes you Shapira, all of you.

Anonymous said...

All the above responses, and your original (excellent) post, Richard, just reinforce the fact that JFNA is actually doing the right thing here: a strong resolution calling on the Israeli Government to remove its divisive and damaging moves, but at the same time—reflecting a community that is perhaps minority (but vocal) orthodox—keeping channels of dialogue and respectful communication open.

(No, I’m not a jfna pro. Just tired of all the rudeness)

Anonymous said...

So if we have a vocal orthodox group that thinks one way, and a vocal Richard-led coalition that thinks Hotovely is a disgrace, and a majority (probably) that isn't really focused on this issue at all, then what, exactly, are you proposing that JFNA does here, Richard?

Are you willing to alienate large segments of the community with your stance?

If, as you say, JFNA could have done much more here--what would be the consequences of that supposed action on those who don't agree with you?

Are you prepared for those consequences?

RWEX said...

Excellent questions. I think that I was clear in this Post: Hotovely's screed was unacceptable and must be rejected by the Prime Minister; she must be removed from a diplomatic position for which she has disqualified herself; if not, further steps need be taken. These steps have not been proferred in oppostion to "a vocal orthodox that thinks one way" (apparently in agreementwith Hotovely??. I know of no group that has supported her ugly dismissal of American Jewry.

As the readers of this Blog know; I can only wish for coalition. And, as for "consequences," consider the consequences of our organizations, you know, the ones that arguably represent American Jews and our communities, doing nothing.

Finally, the wordsof Ron Lauder, a great leader: “It is unacceptable for any Israeli official to be disrespectful of the Jewish people living in the Diaspora,” Lauder said on Thursday. “Israel is the homeland of Jews throughout the world, and its central mission is to preserve and strengthen the Jewish people, all Jewish people wherever they may be. Just as the Jewish Diaspora stands by the Jewish state, the Jewish state must stand by the Jewish Diaspora.”

Anonymous said...

We know she said very impolitic things. But as your earlier commentators noted, she is a politician, and a classically brash Israeli politician at that, and not a diplomat.

So, I have to agree with both the original comment, that she spoke the truth, and the conclusion that a diplomat should not be in the business of speaking the truth, especially to a community that needs as much stroking as ours.

Unfortunately, most every job in Israel these days is held by politicians (perhaps a bit more extreme than here). Heck, even JFNA's vaunted JAFI is populated by Likud and Shas apparachniks from top to bottom.

A suggestion is that perhaps Federations support a reinvigorated professional diplomatic class in Israel, perhaps even Ron Lauder's project:

Though the statement quoted in the last paragraph is a bit ridiculous, so it must be taken out of context. The role of any government, first and foremost, is the protection of its own citizenry and secondarily, to create the environment for the advancement of their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Israel is unique among nations is serving as a secondary home to its diaspora. Unfortunately, the second part of the statement - strengthening and preserving the Jewish people. - is not a role I would ever entrust to polticians, or JFNA professional (or lay) leaders. If that is your belief, I suggest that we need to look quite elsewhere.

I do find it quite curious, in response to the comment above, that both JAFI and JFNA were unable to get any other world Jewish community to engage in this divisive Kotel issue. In many ways, it seems very contrived.

Anonymous said...

To anon 9:14 am

What exactly do you mean? That the leadership just prefer to have access but to accomplish little?

Anonymous said...

This is a great video to reacquaint people with the situation on the ground.
Religion and politics are incredibly entertwined in Israel in ways Americans cannot begin to comprehend

(Just as most Americans cannot comprehend the corruption, crime rate, or municipal budget of Chicago :) )

The politicians are looking to these trends:

The solution is not in forcing one party or another to wage war with the Haredim on behalf of Americans

The solution is to empower other parties and to open up the Haredi population to employment and contact with others

Some places for education on this are:

Pay particularly close attention to the work on education and labor markets in the prior two links


Anonymous said...

To anon 4:59
(Who is most likely the next four comments as well)

I hope you get a proper amount of sleep.

The Kotel may be my heritage, but it is not my property.

It is the property of the nation of Israel and its soldiers that liberated it with their blood.

I don't vote in Israel and didn't serve there. So, I don't presume to dictate to the Israeli government.

Of course there are Israeli government decisions and statements that disturb me.

But, my love and allegiance are to the people of Israel. And it is their right to choose their own government and their system of proportional representation that creates the coalition bind that has enveloped Israeli politics for over 30 years.

The 80% secular Israeli population somehow does not view any of the issues that rile Americans the same way we do.

So, while I can invest my funds and efforts - and certainly not those of my Federation - in trying to convince my Israeli brothers of other alternatives, I would not presume to lecture their elected leaders on what they should do on their wining American cousins behalf.

Anonymous said...

To anon 10:26

I couldn't agree more.

I find this entire Kotel issue "fake news" created by Rick Jacobs and his unwitting dupes at JFNA as a means of creating a crisis where none existed and to provide the reform movement with power in Israel it couldn't obtain through any other means.

Why doesn't the reform movement try to work with the 70% + of the electorate that are secular or traditional and don't yet view their concerns as an issue. After all, this portion of the electorate has no love lost for the Haredim. Where are they in funding political parties and other organizations in civil society? And I mean where are they as a movement, not as an organization co-opting Federation funding.

And what in the vaunted Silverman/Sharansky agreement was not delivered. There has been a separate prayer area for nearly 20 years (though it is hardly used). No one stops egalitarian participation there. And the government is committed to beautifying and enlarging the space. The only thing not delivered was out right control and the ability to walk past the Haredim and flaunt their control, and thereby sow discord?

Anonymous said...

To those apologists for Ms. Hotovely:

This has been part of a much larger pattern of the current government, which has disparaged large sections of the American Jewish community, a former President, and one party in Congress over the past decade+.

This same Israeli government has the chutzpah to ask for billions of dollars from our government, and we in the American Jewish community are often asked to assist in this process.

Genug. You want to treat us this way? Go ahead, but you shouldn't expect unlimited backing--either by our community or by the US government (once the Democrats regain control).

Anonymous said...

I didn't see anyone apologizing for the Deputy Foreign Minister. She was impolite, and perhaps rude, telling truths in a job where one is always meant to be polite.

But, she clearly is correct about anon 5:08 since he wants to agitate for stopping American support of a democratically elected government of a Jewish State which "bugs him"

Richard, do you support such a dramatic stance, that Jewish Democrats stop backing Israel - at least as long as they dislike the party in power - and join their fellow party members progressive wing in seeking to isolate Israel and support hardline Palestinians?

RWEX said...

This has been a spirited discussion. I have printed some Comments with which I strongly disagree but, now, I have had to reject a nasty anonymous Comment that merely impugns the integrity of those who believe that those who have condemned Ms. Hotovely's attacks on American Jewry are political tools of the liberal American Jewish establishment -- but put it more crassly. If you want to see your Comments printed here, remember: this is my Blog, I reserved the right to reject any Comment.

RWEX said...

To Anon. 6:17 p.m., as a lawyer I always loved the inanity of "when did you stop beating your wife" questions. Your hatred of Jews who don't agree with you politically is more threatening to Jewish unity and American support of Israel than you apparently can imagine. It is just those unsupported accusations that you offer that has poisoned the atmosphere to such a degree that honest dialogue is almost impossible. Of course you recognize how insulting your question and its underlying assumptions are.

Anonymous said...

To anon 6:30

I don't interpret the comment as being in the "when did you stop beating your wife" milieu, nor do I sense any hatred.

But clearly, anon 5:08 is saying that if we can't get a government that respects us, then genug (enough), we should stop advocating for Israel (with the unfortunate correlary being we should stop supporting the beneficiary organizations that support the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged and the minorities in Israel.

That to me is far more serious and dangerous.

Because, a reader of this blog is likely in the 65% of Jews that Pew claim identify. But he is expressing opinions that are more likely to come from the 35% that don't identify. That is truly scary.

Anonymous said...

Moshe Arens

(Haaretz) -- The unfortunate remarks of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely regarding American Jewry’s presumed inability to understand Israel’s security problems have reenergized an ongoing discussion on the relations between Israel and American Jewry. Is the support of American Jewry for Israel weakening, and if so is it the fault of the policies pursued by the Israeli government?
This question should be viewed in a historical perspective. Before Israel’s establishment, the majority of American Jews were non-Zionist. Some were anti-Zionist, seeing no need for a Jewish state. Nevertheless, the funds raised by a minority and the hundreds of American volunteers who came to fight for Israel during the War of Independence made an important contribution.
Everything changed with Israel’s founding. American Jews became Zionists. The primary expression for this was political support for Israel by the organized Jewish community. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee became the most powerful lobby in Washington. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations demonstrated year after year the support of American Jewry for Israel. Financial contributions to Israel grew over the years.
There is hardly an institution in Israel that is not a beneficiary of such contributions. There is a small, steady stream of aliyah from America. Is all this changing? Are we witnessing a weakening of the bond between American Jewry and Israel?
The numbers have changed over the years. When the state was established, in 1948, there were 600,000 Jews living in Israel and over five million in the United States. Today there are over six million Jews in Israel and fewer than six million in the United States. Probably more than half of American Jews today are the products of intermarriage, and many of them feel less of an identification with Israel than their Jewish parents did. Nevertheless, American Jews’ support for Israel, political and financial, is still very impressive.
But American Jews who are affiliated with Reform or Conservative congregations feel slighted and insulted by decisions taken by Israel’s government under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox political parties on matters of conversion, prayer at the Western Wall and other issues that seem to cast doubt on the degree to which they belong to the Jewish people.
Explanations of the intricacies of Israeli coalition politics usually fail to allay their dismay and sometimes anger. For some it certainly weakens their attachment to Israel. That is a regrettable result of the Byzantine nature of Israeli coalition politics. It harms the state and the unity of the Jewish people.
American Jews who belong to modern-Orthodox congregations are obviously not affected by these decisions. Their support for Israel is unqualified, and they account for a good part of those making aliyah from the United States in recent years. But they are a minority of American Jewry.
All this has little to do with American Jews’ support for Israeli foreign and security policies. Support and opposition to these policies can be found across the spectrum of U.S. Jewry. And there are many who will support Israel regardless of how they feel about the government’s policies on such issues. This has nothing to do with whether their children volunteer to serve in either the U.S. or the Israeli military.
Hotovely demonstrated a lack of understanding of the American Jewish community. It is good that her remarks were criticized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who knows that community well, and that she subsequently apologized for them.

Anonymous said...

Apologies from politicians are meaningless - in both Israel and the US. Let's see Hotovely actually do something to show her interest in learning about American Jewry.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 6:43

I am not suggesting we stop supporting the humanitarian work done in Israel. Far from it. That is not what most of the US aid is about, anyways.

And yes, I have been a very involved American Jew both on the volunteer and professional level. But more and more of us have gotten fed up with Israel's political and religious so-called "leadership". In what other country in the world can you get arrested for carrying a Torah (if you're a woman)? In my Orthodox shul, we very proudly have women carrying a Torah in the women's section every week. What other country has so dramatically and consistently dissed one of our political parties and Presidents over the past decade?

Israel has changed, and mostly not for the better. It doesn't mean I don't love Israel, though. But don't assume that the only folks who have gotten tired of Israel's shenanigans are part of the "35%". Far from it. And screaming "BDS" at the top of one's lungs is a smokescreen--Israel needs to be held accountable for the self-inflicted wounds it is creating.

Anonymous said...

To anon 6:43

Then move there. Or do something constructive.

Just like I would tell anyone who isn't an engaged citizen complaining about Trump or police brutality to either worry about their own country's politics or get engaged here as a constructive citizen.

Please don't mistake our roles as Jews concerned for their brethren as Jews with a role in the internal political process in Israel.

RWEX said...

I published the last Comment only so I might remind us all that the Post to which the Comments were supposed to address was written in response to Hotovely's attack on American Jewry. Perhaps some of you had forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a little introspection is in order.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Amen a dozen times to the last two posts!

Richard, any comments on the double standard?

RWEX said...

"Amen a dozen times? Really? Anyone who has read this Blog knows that I believe that our American Jewish organizations and their leaders are not beyond criticism. But both of the cited opinion pieces above fail to even acknowledge that Hotovely's attacks were both incoherent and false -- they were directed not at our communal institutions but at US, and they were false.

I see no "double standard" at play here -- none whatsoever

Anonymous said...


Honestly, they were not incoherent. Did you listen to the original interview? Would you like a link to the televised interview on i24 news?

They were quite coherent. Now, the two relevant questions are: were they appropriate? - certainly not since Hotovely is supposed to be acting in a diplomatic mode and her comments were anything but. Clearly, she was angry. And, clearly, most of us wouldn't give a dime to a Hillel that banned a legitimate Israeli politician from speaking.

Second, were they false? Well, that clearly is a matter of debate. I know many many American Jews, and Federation donors at that, who believe the comments were spot on, albeit a bit harsh. And, those comments need not have been directed at institutions.

The double standard at play is clearly detailed in the two articles whose links your prior correspondents provided. The history seems quite clear that American Jewish leaders can criticize the Israeli government, its leaders and its policies and statements freely. When an Israeli says something an American doesn't like, the organized community reacts apoplectically. That is as true today as it was 70 years ago.

Your earlier correspondent said it quite clearly. They aren't are poor cousins anymore.

Anonymous said...

To the last (and it will be the last on this subject for now) Anonymous Commentator (8:19 p.m.): You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, just not to your own set of facts. It is convenient to characterize all criticism of Hotovely to a fictitious "double standard" but let's remember: Hotovely's allegations with regard to American Jewry were outrageous and without basis in fact. She is a diplomat (in title only), a represetative of the Government of Israel, and, therefore American Jewish leaders have a responsibility to respond to her canards.

You can, as you have, falsely characterize the response to Hotovely as "apoplectic" if you wish-- but you would be wrong.

Anonymous said...

To anon 7:36

What exactly did she say that was false? Can you please detail the alleged falsehoods?

First, they were opinions. Second, what did she say?

That Americans have cushy lives? That Americans Jews go to college at age 18, most to a campus where they get to play (and learn) in a wonderfully cushy cocoon, while their Israeli cousins give up three years of their lives for national service. That most Israeli's that then go to college also work part time, and don't have a campus environment with sports, entertainment and fraternities?

She was harsh. She was undiplomatic. She might have been crass. But, deep down, she was not speaking falsehoods.

And the apoplectic response was no different than that accorded Ben Gurion 65 years ago when he suggested that American Jews make Aliyah. Or when the JFNA leadership erupted in horror over the fake Kotel story.

RWEX said...

To the Anonymous Commentator whose Comment last night I deleted -- I am printing no further Comments that are redundant, repeating the same "arguments" you have made time and again.

Thanks for your interest.