The 10 Best Business Decisions of 2013

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The 10 Best Business Decisions of 2013

 
 

 

 
Angela Ahrendts
Apple hired Angela Ahrendts, seen here in London in September 2011, in one of the 10 best business decisions in 2013.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

’Tis the season for listicles, and most firms can’t get by with Santa’s timeless business strategy of low-cost, highly scalable elf labor. Instead, enduring success relies on the occasional bold, innovative, or even lucky move—a smart call that positions a company to grow, ideally by better serving its customers’ needs rather than just exploiting them. In no particular order, here are Moneybox’s favorite business moves of 2013.

Matthew YglesiasMATTHEW YGLESIAS

Matthew Yglesias is Slate‘s business and economics correspondent. He is the author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

J.C. Penney brings back sales. It’s questionable whether this or anything else will save the ailing midmarket department store, or indeed the very concept of the midmarket department store. But it’s clear that the company’seffort to reinvent itself under former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson as a slick, Wi-Fi-enabled, no-discounts shopping experience was a catastrophic flop. This year they brought back an old CEO, brought back discounts, and even though they’re still struggling, sales trends are in the right direction.

Apple hires Angela Ahrendts. The Ron Johnson Catastrophe at J.C. Penney also managed to leave Apple’s retail operation adrift and listless. Tim Cook brought in John Browett, CEO of British mass-market superstore Tesco, who promptly alienated loyalists with a misguided cost-cutting drive before getting fired. Ahrendts, CEO of the far more upmarket British company Burberry, is a much better choice.* Apple’s retail stores are already insanely successful. They don’t need a retail chief who can squeeze extra dollars out of them; they need one who can build a lot more—especially in Asia—where Burberry has opened many more shops than Apple without compromising the brand’s value. Adding a woman to the executive team can’t hurt, either.

Yahoo buys Tumblr. The success of Yahoo shares under Marissa Mayer’s leadership is mostly a question of financial engineering—the company has restructured its Asian holdings and done share buybacks—which is really what Dan Loeb, the activist investor who put her in charge, was interested in. But Mayer’s had the strength and vision to sell the board on a strategy that isn’t just financial engineering, and throwing $1.1 billion in cash into buying Tumblr—rather than handing it to shareholders—is key to that deal. Tumblr brought tangible assets in terms of audience and social presence to the table, but it also served as a crucial signal to current and possibly future Yahoo employees that the company is serious about investing in its own long-term future. It might not work, but making the visionary play is an appealing contrast to an American corporate culture that tends to excessively focus on quarterly fluctuations in share prices.

Google makes dirt-cheap hardware. Google’s Chromecast television add-onisn’t revolutionary technology, but the $35 price point is beyond aggressive.Chromebook laptops starting at $199 aren’t quite as cheap but are in some ways even more aggressive. The culture of pursuing aggressive growth for the long term at the expense of short-term profits is common in Google’s online-services homeland, but it’s bracing to see Mountain View bringing the same spirit to consumer hardware. In a world where the global average income is still just $10,000 a year and all the population growth is happening in poorer places, making things cheaper still counts for a lot.

Starbucks hires veterans. The coffee giant has a perennial need for reliable people to do not especially glamorous work, and the Defense Department faces a constant challenge in finding gainful civilian employment for discharged veterans. Forging a partnership between the Pentagon and Starbucks is a natural solution to a concrete labor market issue. It’s also great brand extension. Starbucks is associated with a certain kind of upscale, effete lifestyle, but it’s already become ubiquitous in those markets and faces pressure for even more upscale joints with pour-over coffee and more complex flavors. A partnership with the military is a great way to give the company more of an all-American image and convince a broader swath of the population that they want to make room in their budget for pricey takeout coffee.

Uber offers affordable car loans. Though it continues to face regulatory roadblocks in many cities, at this point the biggest barrier to the growth of Uber’s ride-hiring service is on the supply side: You can’t sell a ride unless you’ve got a driver. With the national labor market still weak and Uber’s per-vehicle revenue high, demand for driving jobs is also high. But you still need a car to drive. By reaching a bit outside its core competences of software and customer service and partnering with Toyota and General Motors to get discount car loans for Uber drivers, Uber has taken a big step to solving the bottleneck. The car-loan program should also start turning Uber into a jobs machine, both on city streets and in the factories where the cars are built.   

Beyoncé drops a secret album. The Internet has basically crushed the music industry’s traditional revenue model. Beyoncé’s unorthodox decision to release an iTunes exclusive album in the dead of night with no promotion was a brilliant (if hard to replicate) countermove by a superstar. In a social media world, free publicity is the best kind of publicity, and the combination of surprise and artificial scarcity was a great way to get people to actually open their wallets for content.

Netflix gets into content. It’s easy to forget now, but it’s not so long ago that Netflix looked like a doomed company, having bungled the transition from discs in the mail to streaming video with the Quickster fiasco. But they reversed course, apologized, and plunged boldly ahead into producing and purchasing original television series on a mission to become the next decade’s HBO. After a little bit of stumbling, it seems to be working. Their streaming back end gives them a unique level of insight into what kinds of things viewers might want to watch (their adaptation of House of Cards waspartially cast by algorithmic analysis), and Orange Is The New Black has definitively established the nonnetwork as a potential destination for genuinely innovative programming.

Amazon pre-announces an illegal product. One big problem with Amazon’s plan for same-day delivery of small items via quadrotor drone is that they don’t have the technology working yet. Another problem is that it’s currently illegal. Announcing the nonexistent product on 60 Minutes is a smart way to make some lemonade. Get people talking about the potential benefits of this kind of delivery and you’re doing some prelobbying on behalf of commercial drone legalization.   

T-Mobile becomes the uncarrier. Blocked by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department from selling its T-Mobile unit to AT&T, Deutsche Telekom had to do something with the perennial laggard of the U.S. mobile phone industry. And in 2013, they did—breaking with the faux-subsidy model in which carriers offer you a high-interest loan to lock you into overpriced mobile service. Now T-Mobile has the best phone plans around and amazing free data deals for tablets. The “uncarrier” strategy has been so successful that Sprint now wants to buy them, posing a tough question for regulators—would a merger help scale up T-Mobile’s business innovations or throttle them in the crib?

Jean Henri Dunant- A Christian Zionist

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Herzlinpalestine

Herzlinpalestine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Herzltravel

Herzltravel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Israel

Israel (Photo credit: tamar_levine)

Israel

Israel (Photo credit: zeevveez)

Theodor Herzl (transferred to Jerusalem in 1949)

Theodor Herzl (transferred to Jerusalem in 1949) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Statue of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the ...

Statue of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the Jewish state, placed the President’s Residence, the State of Israel Deutsch: Statue von Theodor Herzl, dem Visionär des jüdischen Staates, stellte der Präsident der Residenz, dem Staat Israel Français : Statue de Theodor Herzl, le visionnaire de l’Etat juif, placé la résidence du président, l’Etat d’Israël (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Theodor Herzl\'s childhood with his f...

English: Theodor Herzl\’s childhood with his family at home in Budapest. עברית: ילדותו של תיאודור הרצל בחיק המשפחה בביתם בבודפשט., Original Image Name:משפחת הרצל, Location:בודפשט, הונגריה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jews in Jerusalem 1895. From the 1901-1906 Jew...

Jews in Jerusalem 1895. From the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, now in the public domain.http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com%5D Category:Jewish Encyclopedia images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zionist leader Theodor Herzl Source: http://ww...

Zionist leader Theodor Herzl Source: http://www.swr.de/swr2/israel/popups/herzl.html – PD because of age (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Isra...

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism, in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothshild St. The exhibit hall and the scroll, which was not yet finished, were prepared by Otte Wallish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theodor Herzl: Der Judenstaat Deutsch: Theodor...

Theodor Herzl: Der Judenstaat Deutsch: Theodor Herzls Der Judenstaat – Titel der Erstausgabe von 1896 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theodor Herzl leaning over the balcony of the ...

Theodor Herzl leaning over the balcony of the Hotel Les Trois Rois (Three King’s hotel / Hotel drei Könige) in Basel, Switzerland, possibly during the Sixth Zionist conference there (see here) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flag of Israel (pleas avoid use it in an abusi...

Flag of Israel (pleas avoid use it in an abusive manner) Author: MathKnight 20px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christians United for Israel logo

Christians United for Israel logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

n a new book, Emory professor Shalom Goldman explores American Christians and their ‘Zeal for Zion’.

Prof. Shalom Goldman (Ariel Jerozolimski)

Prof. Shalom Goldman (Ariel Jerozolimski) Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

For those who think Christians are either far right, pro-Israel/anti-Arab Evangelicals or far left, pro-Arab/anti-Israel “mainline” Protestants and Catholics, Shalom Goldman’s Zeal for Zion – Christians, Jews and the Idea of the Promised Landshould come as good news. The radical Right is a small minority among American Evangelicals, he writes, and the Christian world at large, for all the streams of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism it’s produced, has also nurtured broad, deep strains of Zionism that predate Theodor Herzl’s ideological epiphany in the mid-1890s. Since then, the term Christian Zionist “has been used to describe Catholics and Protestants, liberals and conservatives, reformers and traditionalists,” writes Goldman, a New York-born professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern studies at Atlanta’s Emory University.

The history of Christianity’s encounter with Zionism is older and far more nuanced and pluralistic than commonly understood, and this encounter has, by and large, been a sympathetic one, Goldman says during an interview in Jerusalem. Today, despite the political convictions and associations that often turn Christians vehemently pro or con on Israel’s relations with Arabs, there is basic support on the part of most Christians, especially Americans, for the Zionist enterprise, he says.

“America’s engagement with Israel is undergirded by its biblical understanding, and the Book of Genesis is more important to American Christians than the Book of Revelation [in which the Jews’ return to the Promised Land precedes the apocalypse and final redemption through Christ],” he says. “For Christians in America, Israel is proof that God works in history. Even among American Evangelicals, support for Israel is not primarily about Armageddon and ‘end times.’ It’s about making sense of a world that seems out of control. With the earthquakes, starvation, catastrophes, [Christians ask] where is God? Well, they see that God has taken His people and brought them back to the land He promised them. That means that God is still here.”

Covering the 1880s to the present, Zeal for Zion personalizes this Christian-Jewish encounter over Zion by telling of the deep heart-felt and ideological connection between, for instance, “Hatikva” composer Naphtali Herz Imber and the British diplomat/adventurer Laurence Oliphant, and between Herzl and Anglican cleric Rev. William Hechler. The book also tells of the tortured duality of early 20th-century Catholicism’s attitude toward Jews and Zionism, and how the Holocaust changed it.

Goldman also recounts the attachment to Israel felt by the great modern authors Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Graves and Vladimir Nabokov, reminding readers that there was a time when gentile intellectuals and cultural heroes saw this country as a symbol of justice.

There are all sorts of fascinating historical details here. Christian Zionist Lord Arthur Balfour, whose 1917 declaration is considered by Israel as the world’s first official recognition of the Jews’ right to a state, “was not an admirer of Jews in general or of the British Jewish community in particular. As one of his biographers noted, ‘In common with many Zionists of his time, both Jew and gentile, he accepted many of the allegations made against Jews by anti-Semites.’”

The book also notes that among Herzl’s Christian guests at the First Zionist Congress in Basel was Jean Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross, whose long-time refusal on technical grounds to recognize Israel’s Magen David Adom was seen here as a sign of anti-Semitism. And Goldman notes that one of the most influential Christian Zionists of the mid-19th century, whose book Mohammed the Imposter was the first important American work on Islam, was a New York University professor named George Bush.

BUT IT is the book’s concluding chapter, “Jewish Settlers and Christian Zionists (1967-2007),” that is, of course, most relevant today. Goldman traces the alliance between American Evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell and John Hagee with the settler movement and the Likud leadership. “Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Likud politicians continued to cultivate the support of the American Christian Right. The most effective and forceful of these political figures is Binyamin Netanyahu.”

As if to illustrate the chapter, on the eve of Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel, Hagee’s Christians United for Israel organization held a giant “Night to Honor Israel” in Jerusalem. Among those present were veteran settler leaders Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel, and Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. The guest of honor was Netanyahu.

“Christian Zionism preceded modern Jewish Zionism, and I think enabled it,” the prime minister told the crowd. “But [Jewish Zionism] received a tremendous impetus several decades ago when leading American clergymen, among them, most notedly, Pastor John Hagee… began to say to their congregations and to anyone who would listen, ‘It’s time to take a stand with Israel!’ Today, Christians by the… tens of millions have heard the call and they stand with Israel.”

According to the stereotype, all American Evangelical Christians think like Hagee’s followers: that the Jews must return to Israel and that Israel must hold onto all of the Promised Land because this is God’s plan for Jesus’s return, a return that will occur, as Revelation says, with apocalyptic death and destruction. This stereotype leads many liberal Jews to conclude that the Evangelicals’ embrace of Israel is cynical in the extreme, because ultimately the Jews they claim to love have to either accept Jesus or die horribly.

Followers of this strain of Christianity, writes Goldman, are called “dispensationalists.” “[T]hese biblical literalists asserted that history was divided into eras or ‘dispensations,’ the last of which would soon begin. ‘Israel’ of the Bible was understood by dispensationalists as the actual Jewish people of present times, and the return of ‘Israel’ to their land was a prerequisite of Redemption.”

But he stresses that of the estimated 80 million American Evangelical Christians, only nine million to 10 million carry this belief that Jesus’s return depends on Israel retaining all of its biblical land.

“This is the kind of thing you hear from Hagee, who comes from a classical Pentecostal background and is very heavily influenced by dispensationalism,” Goldman said in the interview. “When he told the [2007] AIPAC convention that ‘50 million Christians are marching behind you,’ that really was not accurate. He actually represents a small sector of Christian fundamentalists. My claim is that for the great majority of American Christians who support Israel, it’s more about the idea of God acting in history, of God fulfilling His promise, than about what’s supposed to happen in end times.”

I asked him what he thought it would do to American Evangelicals such as those at a “Night to Honor Israel” if Israel traded Judea and Samaria for peace. “If there was a deal,” he replied, “my reading of right-wing Christian engagement with Israel is that they would make their peace with it. Some of them are so strident as to think of peace as the enemy, but I think that if Israel were to make such a deal, they would see it as part of God’s plan.”

Goldman, 62, came to Israel in 1968 and stayed for five years, spending much of his time on kibbutzim. “I was one of the post-Six Day War generation of Jews who came to Israel, but I never really intended to stay. It was more like my great adventure.”

With the publication of Zeal for Zion,  he has been speaking to American Jewish groups about Christian attitudes toward Israel, especially among the high-profile dispensationalist types.

“A lot of the questions I get asked come down to: ‘Is this good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?’ I say I’m not going to answer that question for you. I’m a professor, I’m trying to look at the situation in all its complexity. As Jews, this is our responsibility, to try to figure out the people and events going on around us, not to rush to judgment about them.”

The Nobel Peace Prize 1901
Henry Dunant, Frédéric Passy

Henry Dunant – Biographical

Jean Henry Dunant‘s life (May 8, 1828-October 30, 1910) is a study in contrasts. He was born into a wealthy home but died in a hospice; in middle age he juxtaposed great fame with total obscurity, and success in business with bankruptcy; in old age he was virtually exiled from the Genevan society of which he had once been an ornament and died in a lonely room, leaving a bitter testament. His passionate humanitarianism was the one constant in his life, and the Red Cross his living monument.

The Geneva household into which Henry Dunant was born was religious, humanitarian, and civic-minded. In the first part of his life Dunant engaged quite seriously in religious activities and for a while in full-time work as a representative of the Young Men’s Christian Association, traveling in France, Belgium, and Holland.

When he was twenty-six, Dunant entered the business world as a representative of the Compagnie genevoise des Colonies de Sétif in North Africa and Sicily. In 1858 he published his first book, Notice sur la Régence de Tunis [An Account of the Regency in Tunis], made up for the most part of travel observations but containing a remarkable chapter, a long one, which he published separately in 1863, entitled L’Esclavage chez les musulmans et aux États-Unis d’Amérique [Slavery among the Mohammedans and in the United States of America].

Having served his commercial apprenticeship, Dunant devised a daring financial scheme, making himself president of the Financial and Industrial Company of Mons-Gémila Mills in Algeria (eventually capitalized at 100,000,000 francs) to exploit a large tract of land. Needing water rights, he resolved to take his plea directly to Emperor Napoleon III. Undeterred by the fact that Napoleon was in the field directing the French armies who, with the Italians, were striving to drive the Austrians out of Italy, Dunant made his way to Napoleon’s headquarters near the northern Italian town of Solferino. He arrived there in time to witness, and to participate in the aftermath of, one of the bloodiest battles of the nineteenth century. His awareness and conscience honed, he published in 1862 a small book Un Souvenir de Solférino [A Memory of Solferino], destined to make him famous.

A Memory has three themes. The first is that of the battle itself. The second depicts the battlefield after the fighting – its «chaotic disorder, despair unspeakable, and misery of every kind» – and tells the main story of the effort to care for the wounded in the small town of Castiglione. The third theme is a plan. The nations of the world should form relief societies to provide care for the wartime wounded; each society should be sponsored by a governing board composed of the nation’s leading figures, should appeal to everyone to volunteer, should train these volunteers to aid the wounded on the battlefield and to care for them later until they recovered. On February 7, 1863, the Société genevoise d’utilité publique [Geneva Society for Public Welfare] appointed a committee of five, including Dunant, to examine the possibility of putting this plan into action. With its call for an international conference, this committee, in effect, founded the Red Cross. Dunant, pouring his money and time into the cause, traveled over most of Europe obtaining promises from governments to send representatives. The conference, held from October 26 to 29, with thirty-nine delegates from sixteen nations attending, approved some sweeping resolutions and laid the groundwork for a gathering of plenipotentiaries. On August 22, 1864, twelve nations signed an international treaty, commonly known as the Geneva Convention, agreeing to guarantee neutrality to sanitary personnel, to expedite supplies for their use, and to adopt a special identifying emblem – in virtually all instances a red cross on a field of white1.

Dunant had transformed a personal idea into an international treaty. But his work was not finished. He approved the efforts to extend the scope of the Red Cross to cover naval personnel in wartime, and in peacetime to alleviate the hardships caused by natural catastrophes. In 1866 he wrote a brochure called the Universal and International Society for the Revival of the Orient, setting forth a plan to create a neutral colony in Palestine. In 1867 he produced a plan for a publishing venture called an «International and Universal Library» to be composed of the great masterpieces of all time. In 1872 he convened a conference to establish the «Alliance universelle de l’ordre et de la civilisation» which was to consider the need for an international convention on the handling of prisoners of war and for the settling of international disputes by courts of arbitration rather than by war.

The eight years from 1867 to 1875 proved to be a sharp contrast to those of 1859-1867. In 1867 Dunant was bankrupt. The water rights had not been granted, the company had been mismanaged in North Africa, and Dunant himself had been concentrating his attention on humanitarian pursuits, not on business ventures. After the disaster, which involved many of his Geneva friends, Dunant was no longer welcome in Genevan society. Within a few years he was literally living at the level of the beggar. There were times, he says2, when he dined on a crust of bread, blackened his coat with ink, whitened his collar with chalk, slept out of doors.

For the next twenty years, from 1875 to 1895, Dunant disappeared into solitude. After brief stays in various places, he settled down in Heiden, a small Swiss village. Here a village teacher named Wilhelm Sonderegger found him in 1890 and informed the world that Dunant was alive, but the world took little note. Because he was ill, Dunant was moved in 1892 to the hospice at Heiden. And here, in Room 12, he spent the remaining eighteen years of his life. Not, however, as an unknown. After 1895 when he was once more rediscovered, the world heaped prizes and awards upon him.

Despite the prizes and the honors, Dunant did not move from Room 12. Upon his death, there was no funeral ceremony, no mourners, no cortege. In accordance with his wishes he was carried to his grave «like a dog»3.

Dunant had not spent any of the prize monies he had received. He bequeathed some legacies to those who had cared for him in the village hospital, endowed a «free bed» that was to be available to the sick among the poorest people in the village, and left the remainder to philanthropic enterprises in Norway and Switzerland.

 

Selected Bibliography
Les Débuts de la Croix-Rouge en France. Paris, Librairie Fischbacher, 1918.
Dunant, J. Henri. His manuscripts are held by the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire de Genève.
Dunant, J. Henry, A Memory of Solferino. London, Cassell, 1947. A translation from the French of the first edition of Un Souvenir de Solférino, published in 1862. The author published the original as «J. Henry Dunant», although he is usually referred to as «Henri Dunant».
Gagnebin, Bernard, «Le Rôle d’Henry Dunant pendant la guerre de 1870 et le siège de Paris», bound separately but originally published in Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge (avril, 1953).
Gigon, Fernand, The Epic of the Red Cross or the Knight Errant of Charity, translated from the French by Gerald Griffin. London, Jarrolds, 1946.
Gumpert, Martin, Dunant: The Story of the Red Cross. New York, Oxford University Press, 1938.
Hart, Ellen, Man Born to Live: Life and Work of Henry Dunant, Founder of the Red Cross. London, Gollancz, 1953.
Hendtlass, Willy, «Henry Dunant: Leben und Werk», in Solferino, pp. 37-84. Essen Cityban, Schiller, 1959.
Hommage à Henry Dunant. Genève, 1963.
Huber, Max, «Henry Dunant», in Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, 484 (avril, 1959) 167-173. A translation of a brief sketch originally published in German in 1928.

1. The emblem in Muslim countries is the red crescent and in Iran is the red lion and sun. (For a brief history of the Red Cross see history of the Red Cross.)

2. «Extraits des mémoires» in Les Débuts de la Croix-Rouge en France, p. 72.

3. Taken from a letter written by Dunant and published by René Sonderegger; quoted by Gigon in The Epic of the Red Cross, p. 147.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

 

JEWISH MAFIA “But He Was Good To His Mother”

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Members of the SA in front of a Jewish shop du...

Members of the SA in front of a Jewish shop during the boycot of Jews in nazi-Germany on april 1, 1933. The sign says: “Germans, Attention! This shop is owned by Jews. Jews damage the German economy and pay their German employees starvation wages. The main owner is the Jew Nathan Schmidt.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: World War I enlistment poster from Ca...

English: World War I enlistment poster from Canada. Poster shows a soldier cutting the bonds from a Jewish man, who strains to join a group of soldiers running in the distance and says, “You have cut my bonds and set me free – now let me help you set others free!” Above are portraits of Rt. Hon. Herbert Samuel, Viscount Reading, and Rt. Hon. Edwin S. Montagu, all Jewish members of the British parliament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the ea...

In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the early 1900s, Russian Jews, packs in hand, gaze at the American relatives beckoning them to the United States. Over two million Jews fled the pogroms of the Russian Empire to the safety of the U.S. from 1881-1924. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Center for Jewish History is located on 15...

The Center for Jewish History is located on 15 West 16th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, in New York, NY 10011. It is home of five preeminent Jewish institutions dedicated to history, culture, and art: The American Jewish Historical Society, The American Sephardi Federation, The Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Bird's eye panorama of Manhattan & Ne...

English: Bird’s eye panorama of Manhattan & New York City in 1873 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A jew.

English: A jew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1941 Nazi propaganda poster in the Lithuanian ...

1941 Nazi propaganda poster in the Lithuanian language, equating Stalinism with the Jews. The text reads “The Jew is our enemy forever”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meyer Lansky being led by detective for bookin...

Meyer Lansky being led by detective for booking on vagrancy charge at 54th Street police station, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wanted poster issued for Pelley in 1939.

The wanted poster issued for Pelley in 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway (1880)

The St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway (1880) (Photo credit: Manitoba Historical Maps)

English: Mugshot of Jewish-American mobster Be...

English: Mugshot of Jewish-American mobster Benjamin “Bigsy” Siegel in the 1920s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JEWISH MAFIA

“But He Was Good To His Mother”

A short and very interesting little article about why Jewish gangsters fascinate him and how Jewish gangsters differed from their Italian counterparts. In a nutshell, Jewish mobsters were a product of their times (1920s and 1930s) and did not continue their legacy after that one period, while Italian gangsters handed their “profession” to each succeeding generation.

What follows is a side of Jewish history you may have missed.

There are few excuses for the behavior of Jewish gangsters in the 1920s and 1930s. The best known Jewish gangsters – Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Longy Zwillman, Moe Dalitz, David Berman were involved in the numbers rackets, illegal drugdealing, prostitution, gambling and loan sharking. They were not nice men.

During the rise of American Nazism in the 1930s and when Israel was being founded between 1945 and 1948, however, they proved staunch defenders of the Jewish people.

The roots of Jewish gangsterism lay in the ethnic neighborhoods of the Lower East Side; Brownsville, Brooklyn; Maxwell Street in Chicago; and Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Like other newly arrived groups in American history, a few Jews who considered themselves blocked from respectable professions used crime as a means to “make good” economically. The market for vice flourished during Prohibition and Jews joined with others to exploit the artificial market created by the legal bans on alcohol, gambling, paid sex and narcotics.

Few of these men were religiously observant. They rarely attended services, although they did support congregations financially. They did not keep kosher or send their children to day schools. However, at crucial moments they protected other Jews, in America and around the world.

The 1930s were a period of rampant anti-Semitism in America , particularly in the Midwest . Father Charles Coughlin, the Radio Priest in Detroit , and William Pelley of Minneapolis , among others, openly called for Jews to be driven from positions of responsibility, if not from the country itself.

Organized Brown Shirts in New York and Silver Shirts in Minneapolis outraged and terrorized American Jewry. While the older and more respectable Jewish organizations pondered a response that would not alienate non-Jewish supporters, others–including a few rabbis–asked the gangsters to break up American Nazi rallies.

Historian Robert Rockaway writing in the journal of the American Jewish Historical Society, notes that German-American Bund rallies in the New York City area posed a dilemma for mainstream Jewish leaders. They wanted the rallies stopped, but had no legal grounds on which to do so. New York State Judge Nathan Perlman personally contacted Meyer Lansky to ask him to disrupt the Bund rallies, with the proviso that Lansky’s henchmen stop short of killing any Bundists.

Enthusiastic for the assignment, if disappointed by the restraints, Lansky accepted all of Perlman’s terms except one: he would take no money for the work. Lansky later observed, “I was a Jew and felt for those Jews in Europe who were suffering. They were my brothers.”

For months, Lansky’s workmen effectively broke up one Nazi rally after another. As Rockaway notes, “Nazi arms, legs and ribs were broken and skulls were cracked, but no one died.”

Lansky recalled breaking up a Brown Shirt rally in the Yorkville section of Manhattan : “The stage was decorated with a swastika and a picture of Hitler. The speakers started ranting. There were only fifteen of us, but we went into action. We threw some of them out the windows…. Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up…. We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults.”

In Minneapolis , William Dudley Pelley organized a Silver Shirt Legion to “rescue” America from an imaginary Jewish-Communist conspiracy. In Pelle’s own words, just as “Mussolini and his Black Shirts saved Italy and as Hitler and his Brown Shirts saved Germany ,” he would save America from Jewish communists. Minneapolis gambling czar David Berman confronted Pelley’s Silver Shirts on behalf of the Minneapolis Jewish community.

Berman learned that Silver Shirts were mounting a rally at Lodge. When the Nazi leader called for all the “Jew bastards” in the city to be expelled, or worse, Berman and his associates burst into the room and started cracking heads. After ten minutes, they had emptied the hall. His suit covered in blood, Berman took the microphone and announced, “This is a warning. Anybody who says anything against Jews gets the same treatment. Only next time it will be worse.” After Berman broke up two more rallies, there were no more public Silver Shirt meetings in Minneapolis .

Jewish gangsters also helped establish Israel after the war. One famous example is a meeting between Bugsy Siegel and Reuven Dafne, a Haganah emissary, in 1945. Dafne was seeking funds and guns to help liberate Palestine from British rule. A mutual friend arranged for the two men to meet.

“You mean to tell me Jews are fighting?” Siegel asked, “You mean fighting as in killing?” Dafne answered in the affirmative. Siegel replied, “I’m with you.”

For weeks, Dafne received suitcases filled with $5 and $10 bills – $50,000 in all – from Siegel.

No one should paint gangsters as heroes. They committed acts of great evil. But historian Rockaway has presented a textured version of Jewish gangster history in a book ironically titled But He Was Good to His Mother.

Some have observed that, despite their disreputable behavior, they could be good to their people, too. A little interesting bit of Jewish history.

The left Against Zion Because Zion is what the left Do ( Reblogged from the jerusalem Post)

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Israel - Boycott, divest, sanction

Israel – Boycott, divest, sanction (Photo credit: Takver)

Israel 2009

Israel 2009 (Photo credit: acroll)

English: Tanzanians protesting the 2008-2009 G...

English: Tanzanians protesting the 2008-2009 Gaza bombardment by Isreal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

עברית: הרב יוסף צבי דושינסקי

עברית: הרב יוסף צבי דושינסקי (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Louis Brandeis

English: Louis Brandeis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (...

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Israel

Israel (Photo credit: tamar_levine)

English: Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam protestin...

English: Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam protesting the 2008-2009 Gaza bombardment by Israel. Français : Une manifestation à Dar es Salam, en Tanzanie, contre les actions militaires d’Israël à Gaza en 2008-2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Caricature of Alan Dershowitz, "...

English: Caricature of Alan Dershowitz, “Alan Dershowitz Hard at Work” by Latuff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It disclaims state of Israel

It disclaims state of Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Left Against Zion

By Caroline Glick

lefty anti Semites

In the 1960s, the American Left embraced the anti-Vietnam War movement as its cri de coeur.

In the 1970s, the Left’s foreign policy focus shifted to calling for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the US and its Western allies.
In the 1980s, supporting the Sandinista Communists’ takeover of Nicaragua became the catechism of the Left.

In the 1990s, the war on global capitalism – that is, the anti-globalization movement – captivated the passions of US Leftists from coast to coast.

In the 2000s, it was again, the anti-war movement. This time the Left rioted and demonstrated against the war in Iraq.

And in this decade, the main foreign policy issue that galvanizes the passions and energies of the committed American Left is the movement to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
This week has been a big one for the anti-Israel movement. In the space of a few days, two quasi academic organizations – the American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association – have launched boycotts against Israeli universities. Their boycotts follow a similar one announced in April by the Asian Studies Association.
These groups’ actions have not taken place in isolation. They are of a piece with ever-escalating acts of anti-Israel agitation in college campuses throughout the United States.
Between the growth of Israel Apartheid Day (or Week, or Month) from a fringe exercise on isolated campuses to a staple of the academic calendar in universities throughout the US and Canada, and the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to wage economic war against the Jewish state, anti-Israel activism has become the focal point of Leftist foreign policy activism in the US and throughout the Western world.
Every week brings a wealth of stories about new cases of aggressive anti-Israel activism. At the University of Michigan last week, thousands of students were sent fake eviction notices from the university’s housing office. A pro-Palestinian group distributed them in dorms across campus to disseminate the blood libel that Israel is carrying out mass expulsions of Palestinians.
At Swarthmore College, leftist anti-Israel Jewish students who control Hillel are insisting on using Hillel’s good offices to disseminate and legitimate anti-Israel slanders.
And the Left’s doctrinaire insistence that Israel is the root of all evil is not limited to campuses.
At New York’s 92nd Street Y, Commentary editor John Podhoretz was booed and hissed by the audience for trying to explain why the ASA’s just-announced boycott of Israel was an obscene act of bigotry.

Many commentators have rightly pointed out that the ASA and the NAISA are fringe groups. They represent doctorate holders who chose to devote their careers to disciplines predicated not on scholarship, but on political activism cloaked in academic regalia whose goal is to discredit American power. The ASA has only 5,000 members, and only 1,200 of them voted on the Israel- boycott resolution. The NAISA has even fewer members.

It would be wrong, however, to use the paltry number of these fringe groups’ members as means to dismiss the phenomenon that they represent. They are very much in line with the general drift of the Left.
Rejecting Israel’s right to exist has become part of the Left’s dogma. It is a part of the catechism. Holding a negative view of the Jewish state is a condition for membership in the ideological camp. It is an article of faith, not fact.

Consider the background of the president of the ASA. Curtis Marez is an associate professor in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego. His area of expertise is Chicano Film and Media Studies.

He doesn’t know anything about Israel. He just knows that he’s a Leftist. And today, Leftists demonize Israel. Their actions have nothing to do with anything Israel does or has ever done. They have nothing to do with human rights. Hating Israel, slandering Israel and supporting the destruction of Israel are just things that good Leftists do.
And Marez was not out of step with his fellow Leftists who rule the roost at UCSD. This past March the student council passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel.

Why? Because hating Israel is what Leftists do.
The Left’s crusade against the Jewish state began in earnest in late 2000. The Palestinians’ decision to reject statehood and renew their terror war against Israel ushered in the move by anti-Israel forces on the Left to take over the movement. And as they have risen, they have managed to silence and discredit previously fully accredited members of the ideological Left for the heresy of supporting Israel.
This week, Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz retired after 50 years on the law faculty. His exit, the same week as the ASA and the NAISA announced their boycotts of Israeli universities, symbolized the marginalization of the pro-Israel Left that Dershowitz represented.
For years, Dershowitz has been a non-entity in leftist circles. His place at the table was usurped by anti-Israel Jews like Peter Beinart. And now Beinart is finding himself increasingly challenged by anti-Semitic Jews like Max Blumenthal.
The progression is unmistakable.

The question is, is it irreversible?

Must supporters of Israel choose between their support for Israel and their affinity for the Left? Certainly it is true that the more the issue of support for Israel splits along ideological and partisan lines, the more reasonable it is for supporters of Israel to move to the ideological camp and the party that supports Israel, and away from the ones that do not support Israel.

The average voter is not in a position to change the positions of his party or the dogma of his ideological camp. He can take it or leave it. With rejection of Israel now firmly entrenched in the Left’s dogma, and with the Left firmly in control of the Democratic Party under President Barack Obama’s leadership, for those who care about Israel, the Republican Party is a more natural fit. So, too, the ideological Right is far more congenial to the Jewish state than the Left.

While the most sensible place for supporters of Israel to be today is on the political Right, it is also true that it is neither smart nor responsible to abandon the Left completely. Jews should be able to feel comfortable as Jews, and as supporters of Israel everywhere. Ideological camps that castigate Jews for their pride in the accomplishments of the Jewish state, and for their support and concern for its survival and prosperity, are camps in desperate need of fixing.
But we should not fool ourselves. Challenging the likes of Marez, or the Swarthmore students, or Max Blumenthal or Peter Beinart to a reasoned debate is an exercise in futility. They do not care about human rights. They do not care that Israel is the only human rights-respecting democracy in the Middle East. They do not care about the pathological nature of Palestinian society. They do not care about the Jewish people’s indigenous rights and international legal rights to sovereignty not only over Tel Aviv and Haifa, but over Hebron and Ramallah.
Being hypocrites doesn’t bother them either.
You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the civilian victims of the Syrian civil war, or the gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and the absence of religious freedom throughout the Muslim world. But they don’t care. They aren’t trying to make the world a better place.
Facts cannot compete with their faith. Reason has no place in their closed intellectual universe. To accept reason and facts would be an act of heresy.
Marez may be a hypocrite, and even a servant of evil. But he is no heretic.

The only real way to mitigate the hard Left’s devotion to Israel’s destruction is by changing the power balance on the Left. For the past decade, donors like George Soros have been open in their commitment to elect Democrats who oppose the US’s alliance with Israel. A decade ago, Soros and fellow Jewish American billionaire Peter Lewis funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into Moveon.org. Moveon.org became a clearinghouse for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish messages that became the stock in trade of the ideological Left, and of Democratic candidates in need of campaign funding.
It was due to then-Democratic senator Joe Lieberman’s refusal to get on the Soros- and Lewis-funded anti-Israel bandwagon in the 2004 elections, that they turned Moveon.org against Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary for his seat in the Senate. His Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont, who won the primary, ran a campaign laced with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda.
There are Democratic funders, like Penny Pritzker, Lester Crown and Haim Saban, who support Israel. If they were so inclined, they could use their considerable funds to change the power equation in the Democratic Party. They could cultivate and support pro-Israel Democratic candidates. They could take the Democratic Party back.

This week ended with Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer finally breaking his silence on Obama’s Iran deal and joining forces with his fellow Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk to defy Obama on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Given Obama’s floundering popularity, it is possible that Schumer’s move will open the door for a change in the Democratic Party.
In truth, there is no reason for the Democratic Party to remain in place. It isn’t ordained that the Democrats must cleave to the hard Left.
The rejection of Israel is not a natural component of leftist dogma. It’s just that for the past decade, the smart money and the rising power on the Left has been with those who oppose Israel’s existence as a strong, independent Jewish state.
While the ASA and its comrades are on the fringes of academia, they are not fringe voices on the Left. The Left has embraced the cause of Israel’s destruction. And its financial power has made it difficult for pro-Israel Democrats to act on their convictions, and those of their voters.
The combination of an exodus of supporters of Israel – Jews and non-Jews alike – from the Left and from the Democratic Party on the one hand, and generous funding for pro-Israel Democratic candidates on the other, can change the equation.

America lost the Vietnam War. The Sandinistas are back in change in Nicaragua. But if people are willing to stand up now and be counted, America need not harm Israel.

Moshe’s Spies and Har Hevron

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When Moshe sent the spies to scout the Land of Canaan they were specifically instructed to “Go up there into the Negev and on into the hill country…” as recorded for us in Numbers 13:17.
Standing here amongst the ruins of the ancient city of Arad, flanked by the Negev desert to the south, we can see straight ahead of us the “hill country” and the route the spies took to scout out the Land. Reaching the top of the Judean hills they most likely travelled along the “Way of the Patriarchs”, the so-called Ridge Route in order to reach Hebron before descending down to the wadi Eshcol and on to Lebo Hamath in the north.  The Ridge Route in its entirety fell within the territory of ancient Israel unlike the Via Maris and the King’s Highway – two international roads linking the territories of various nations.
Hebron, from which the Har Hevron hill country derives its name, was allocated to Calev after that devastating initial expedition into the country, because he was a man who had a “different spirit” and was therefore able to focus on the promise of Divine help and the potential of the Land and not on the obstacles.
Har Hevron wasn’t then, and still is not today a region for the faint-hearted. It’s a region bursting with opportunity and promise for those who are willing to see the gigantic grape clusters rather than the giant Anakites. Several communities with familiar Biblical names like Maon, Carmel, Yattir, Avigail have sprung up along this ancient “Ridge Route”, today’s Highway 60 which encompasses the watershed ridge of the Samarian and Judean mountains.
Avraham Avinu whose foot-prints carried the promise of inheriting every place upon which he would tread, and the words of Calev that the Land that they had traversed and scouted was an “exceedingly good land”, are the echoes from the distant past that keep beckoning those still in the galut to pull up their stakes in order to come and add their footsteps to those already embedded here on the “Ridge Route” in Har Hevron.

No more heroes? Digging deeper into the Masada myth ( Reblogged)

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Masada  Magazin . Nach dem Aufräumen sieht der...

Masada Magazin . Nach dem Aufräumen sieht der Vorratsraum so aus__DSC_0117_01 (Photo credit: Otto_Friedrich45)

Cable Car to Masada, Israel

Cable Car to Masada, Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Byzantine church in Masada, Israel Français : ...

Byzantine church in Masada, Israel Français : Ruines de l’église byzantine de Massada, en Israël. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scanned from a copy of Josephus' 'The Jewish W...

Scanned from a copy of Josephus’ ‘The Jewish War’ dated 1888 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yigal Yadin

Yigal Yadin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

termas en Masada

termas en Masada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roman legionary (X Fretensis) castra at Masada...

Roman legionary (X Fretensis) castra at Masada, Israel, viewed from the fortress walls; constructed 72-73 AD. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Begin and Yadin

Begin and Yadin (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

Cover of "The Story of Masada"

Cover of The Story of Masada

The romanticized woodcut engraving of Flavius ...

The romanticized woodcut engraving of Flavius Josephus appearing in William Whiston’s translation of his works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

50 years after the first archaeological digs, mystery remains: Did any battle happen there at all?
By Moshe Gilad | Dec. 16, 2013 | 6:49 PM

Masada
Modern-day Masada. Archaeologists are split on whether it’s a tall story or the stuff of legend. Photo by Moshe Gilad

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Moshe Gilad
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Adi Hirshbein / Bitmuna Collection
Yigael Yadin, left, with a group of British donors at the excavation site in 1963. Photo by Adi Hirshbein / Bitmuna Collection

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Since October 1963, when archaeological excavations were carried out at Herod’s ancient mountain fortress at Masada under the direction of Yigael Yadin, the desert site has gripped the world’s imagination.

The primary ancient source of information about Masada is Romano-Jewish scholar Flavius Josephus, whose writings most modern researchers view as relatively reliable. Then again, they don’t have another, better source.

Masada – some 100 kilometers south of Jerusalem – played a role in the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire during the period 66 C.E.-73 C.E. The Roman army crushed the rebellion and Masada appears to have been the scene of the final tragic chapter of the story.

According to Josephus, 967 people who fled the Romans to Masada committed suicide, choosing to die rather than be taken captive.

There are differences of opinion, however, about exactly what happened on the site overlooking the Dead Sea, and the controversy about what took place some 2,000 years ago still prompts heated debate among academics. Participants at a recent conference held in Jerusalem, Ein Gedi and at Masada itself, to mark the 50th anniversary of the excavations, spoke with movingly about their experiences at the time, which however shed little light on persisting mysteries.

Ancient parchment in Hebrew

Malka Hershkovitz, who for two years served as secretary of the Masada archaeological expedition in the 1960s, recounted the moment she first caught sight of a piece of ancient parchment she had found there with Hebrew lettering. It contained the passage from the Book of Ezekiel with the prophet’s vision of the revival of dry bones, which has been analogized to the rebirth of the Jewish people in their homeland. “That was the most moving experience of my life, with the earth coming back to life in front of me,” she recalled.

For his part, Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, a highly experienced archaeologist, recalled that his most exciting ancient find was the braid and sandals he uncovered in the northern palace at Masada.

The fame of the Masada story had developed well before Yadin’s excavations. In 1927, Yitzhak Lamdan published a poem entitled “Masada” that was widely circulated. Passages eventually became part of the school curriculum and were read at ceremonies on Masada itself. The famous expression “Masada shall not fall again” is taken from Lamdan’s poem.

Kibbutz Na’an’s Shmaryahu Gutman, considered the father of the legend of Masada, visited the site as far back as 1933, and understood the powerful potential of the site.

Downplaying the role of ‘dagger-men’

Sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda, who researched what he called “the Masada myth,” noted that in the 1940s, when the Jewish community of prestate Israel was living under the threat of a possible invasion by Nazi Germany, the story of Masada had special relevance. “Look at the heroes of Masada,” he told his students. “They were like us and were prepared to die for their freedom.”

Masada, the northern palace.
Masada, the northern palace.Moshe Gilad
Many members of the country’s youth movements have been brought to Masada with the same message, climbing the steep Snake Path from the foot of the mountain to the top of Masada, where they have watched the sun rise over the Dead Sea and been captivated by the magic of the place.

“In my view, Masada is an amazing site,” Ben-Yehuda said, “but it’s important to understand how the myth about it was created. Masada’s greatest advantage over other sites is that it has a good story that’s easy to understand. The secret of Masada is an exciting story attached to a successful site.”

In his writings, Ben-Yehuda has explained how, in an effort to create the myth, Gutman altered a number of details of the story recounted by Josephus. Gone, for example, was the presence of the Sicarii – a cruel, extremist group of Jewish zealots – along with Josephus’ account of a massacre at nearby Ein Gedi. In the 1960s, when Yadin wrote two books about Masada, he chose to refer to the Jews under Roman siege on the mountain as zealots, but did not mention the extremist Sicarii (meaning “dagger men”) at all.

“It was functional and very important in the 1940s,” Ben-Yehuda explained. “There is no people that does not have myths of heroism, and for many years Masada served as our myth.”

The status of the myth changed over the years, and in large part the magic of Masada as a heroic myth was lost. The turning point occurred after the Six-Day War in 1967. The war granted the Israeli public access to sites such as the Western Wall and the rest of the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as sites such as Gamla in the Golan Heights and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which took Masada’s place.

Archaeology wars

Archaeological excavations were carried out at Masada long before Yadin’s group, but the scope and effort, and particularly the duration of the dig carried out under Yadin’s direction, were without precedent. It appeared as if, in the early 1960s, the entire country had been mobilized in the archaeological undertaking. The dig would scientifically either verify or dispel Josephus’ account.

The excavations lasted two digging seasons – from October 1963 to April 1964, and then again from December 1964 to March 1965. Hundreds of people participated, including a large number of volunteers from abroad.

Today, researchers are in agreement that Yadin came to conclusions that reinforced the overall picture portrayed by Josephus. Some experts say the problem with researching the site stems from the fact that Yadin did not approach Josephus’ account with a sufficiently critical eye. In a few instances, they say, Yadin even cut corners to get the archaeological finds to fit Josephus’ account.

Additional excavations were carried out at Masada in 1989, under the direction of Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University, and in 1995-1997 by Netzer, Guy Stiebel and Gideon Foerster. According to Yadin Roman, the editor of Eretz magazine – soon to publish a special issue to mark the 50th anniversary of Yadin’s Masada dig – more than 5,000 foreign volunteers worked at the site over the years, in addition to a similar number of Israelis.

There are currently two researchers at the center of the archaeological controversy over Masada – Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas, who have argued for years that the Masada story has been distorted. Many people, Goldfus maintains, “choose not to look reality in the eye.”

The Masada story as told by Josephus didn’t really happen that way, Goldfus insists, claiming that Josephus himself was in Rome when Masada fell.

“In reality, a different [series of] events took place at Masada, and apparently there was no war there at all,” says Goldfus. “There is no evidence at all at the site of blood being spilled in battle. The famous battery [at a site commonly referred to as the Roman ramp] couldn’t have fulfilled the role attributed to it in breaking through the wall, because it was too narrow and small and couldn’t have been used by the Roman army to position a battering ram. In light of the finds in the area where the [Romans] broke through, we understood that nothing happened there. There are no arrowheads, as one finds at other sites. There is no evidence of fires. The indications are that the battery structure was mostly naturally occurring.

“In addition,” he continues, “there are no mounds from walls that had been destroyed, or other evidence of a battle.”

Goldfus says he has no interest in either dispelling the Masada myth or confirming it. “I am also not claiming that [the Jews at the site] didn’t commit suicide. Maybe it did happen. Perhaps the Romans entered the site in a commando raid, but for 50 years they have been portraying a false picture of a heroic battle that didn’t take place. In reality, other things happened there, and I don’t know what they were.”

‘A national mission’

David Mevorah, a curator at the Israel Museum, thinks the timing of Yadin’s excavations at Masada – the most popular tourist attraction in the country for which an admission fee is charged – is the key to understanding the myth. “In the early 1960s, the site provided a major national story, and Yadin knew how to harness the national aspect for his needs. There is no other site at which so much has been invested, with the assistance of the army and government. Yadin, a former [Israel Defense Forces] chief of staff, turned Masada into a national mission, and into a lot more than another archaeological research project,” says Mevorah.

Yadin’s greatest success, adds Mevorah, lies in the fact that, coming after Gutman – and with Gutman’s help – he knew how to make the site connect emotionally. “People come because of that. Of course, there are also patriotic, national and machoistic elements,” says Mevorah. “Following all of this, major investments were made in infrastructure, site development, construction of a cable car, a guesthouse and a museum.”

Like many others, Mevorah gives credit in managing the site to Eitan Campbell of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who has run Masada National Park for a dozen years. Campbell acknowledges that previously it was hard for him not to get upset over the claims of those who would undermine the classic Masada narrative, people whom he viewed as heartless provocateurs.

Now though, he says, it’s different. “I’ve understood that controversy is good for the site. It keeps us on our toes, inquisitive and up-to-date.”

Development of the site is the thing closest to Campbell’s heart. And when it comes to this, too, he is well aware that the issue has sparked controversy and differences of opinion. “There are a large number of visitors here, and we have to provide them with basic facilities. We came in for major criticism when a McDonald’s branch was opened here, but it’s important to make clear that we are absolutely not Disneyland.”

The legal case for Judea and Samaria by by Nadav Shragai ( Reblogged and please Share It)

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Samaria

Samaria (Photo credit: ArkanGL)

Location of district XY (see filename) in Israel

Location of district XY (see filename) in Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5th century AD: Byzantine provinces of Palaest...

5th century AD: Byzantine provinces of Palaestina I (Philistia, Judea and Samaria) and Palaestina II (Galilee and Perea) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: "Beit Horon. The place where the...

English: “Beit Horon. The place where the story of Judas Maccabeus has happened / Judea and Samaria, The story of evry Jewish man” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Map showing the West Bank and Gaza Strip in re...

Map showing the West Bank and Gaza Strip in relation to central Israel (situation of 2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Israel: Judea and Samaria District according t...

Israel: Judea and Samaria District according to official Israeli regulations. Unlike other administrative districts of Israel, this district is not entirely territorial – it includes only the Israeli settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem which was annexed to Israeli Jerusalem district). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Israel location Judea and Samaria.

English: Israel location Judea and Samaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judea

Judea (Photo credit: teterocamonde)

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For years, the world has regarded Judea and Samaria as Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel • But now a group of hundreds of jurists from Israel and abroad is fighting back in the battle for the historical and legal truth.

Nadav Shragai

An Israeli community in Judea and Samaria

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Photo credit: Lior Mizrahi

If international legitimacy for the settlement enterprise were a horse, one could say that it’s been long out of the barn. Those roaming the halls of power worldwide — from the White House in the era of Barack Obama and John Kerry to the United Nations — have for years regarded the territories of Judea and Samaria as Palestinian territory that is currently under occupation.

The hostile attitude toward the settlement enterprise is a natural, direct derivative of this premise. If we were to make a gross generalization, the world has adopted the Palestinian narrative as it relates to the legal status of the territories. Even those who negotiate on behalf of the State of Israel, men and women who officially adhere to the party line that Judea and Samaria, the cradle of Jewish civilization and peoplehood, is not occupied territory, have long ceased to make this statement publicly, just as they haven’t even bothered to make use of a long list of legal and historical arguments that support this position.

While it may seem that this train has long left the station, we were surprised to suddenly learn that for months now a counterattack has been waged over “the historical, legal truth.” This is a campaign that is being waged by hundreds of jurists from Israel and abroad who aren’t making do with the usual “rights of our forefathers” or “Zionism” rejoinders which are now devoid of currency in the international arena and the High Court of Justice.

Last summer, right-wing organizations and settlers managed to bring together a number of highly regarded legal minds — including those who are not traditionally aligned with right-wing politics. These individuals set out on a mission to change the terminology and the legal discourse that the left, including groups like Peace Now, has assumed control of for quite some time.

The battle over the narrative

The so-called “new” jurists are really just dusting off old arguments that were first made and eventually accepted in the initial years following the Six-Day War. This new line of discourse categorically rejects the premise of “occupied territories.” The State of Israel did indeed conquer Judea and Samaria in 1967 as the result of a war of self-defense, but from a legal standpoint these territories are not occupied since the foreign power that held these territories between 1948 and 1967 — Jordan — did so illegally.

These jurists note that with the exception of Britain and Pakistan, the international community refused to recognize the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank. Therefore, the legal status of these territories is in dispute. From the standpoint of international law, there is an enormous difference between occupied territories and disputed territories.

Those who bolster this argument — and some jurists do indeed do this — with what is referred to as “the historic right of the Jewish people to sovereignty over the Land of Israel” add another legal statement in support of their case: “Demanding the right to this sovereignty, which supersedes any counter-demand by the Palestinians.”

Jurists like Professor Talia Einhorn or Professor Eliav Shochetman, who are two of the more active legal experts in the group, note that this right was recognized by the international community from the time of the British Mandate for Palestine. This legal document granted national rights solely to the Jewish people, which were in turn reaffirmed in Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

“As such, when the U.N. secretary-general states that ‘the settlements are illegal and are an obstacle to peace,’ or when [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas demands that Israel ‘dismantle the settlements built on Palestinian land since 1967, since their very establishment is illegal,’ and when even the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, refers to the settlements as ‘illegitimate’ — all of them are basing their statements on errant legal assumptions from a factual standpoint,” said Dr. Hagai Winitzki of Sha’arei Mishpat College.

A legal case

The renaissance that the “new jurists” are trying to infuse into the discourse to make an Israeli case for Judea and Samaria has for years been proudly trumpeted by the Foreign Ministry on its web site. It has even been articulated into a codified doctrine by the former president of the Supreme Court, Meir Shamgar. This case rested on a number of international resolutions and historical facts that were almost wiped clean from the public record but in recent years have been resurrected by a number of organizations.

Two of these groups, which began work just recently, are drawing the most attention. First, there’s the Regavim Institute’s Center for Zionism, Justice, and Society. For years, Regavim has provided assistance in court cases which hear petitions brought on by left-wing groups against settlements in Judea and Samaria. It even shocked the judicial system when it brought its own petition against “Palestinian outposts” in an attempt to defend Jewish settlement in these areas.

The other organization is the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which was originally founded as a group dedicated to pursuing legal means to defeat the disengagement plan.

The inaugural convention held by the Center for Zionism took place a few weeks ago at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim event hall in Jerusalem. The occasion also featured the unveiling of an impressive new book that delves into property laws and international law in Judea and Samaria. The book is 560 pages long, and it includes a number of articles by renowned legal scholars like Prof. Haim Sandberg and Prof. Einhorn.

One of the most noteworthy articles that appeared in the book was written by Col. (res.) Daniel Reisner, an expert in international law and the former head of the international law department in the Military Advocate General’s Corps. Today, Reisner is a partner in the Herzog Fox Neeman law firm.

Reisner’s position is interesting not just because of his professional background, but also because he is a jurist who is not aligned with the political right and who recognizes that the Palestinians also have claims to Judea and Samaria.

In his article, Reisner expresses understanding for Israel’s formal position “because since the territories of Judea and Samaria were never a legitimate part of any Arab state, including the Kingdom of Jordan, it is impossible to determine that Israel is an occupier in Judea and Samaria in the accepted legal definition. What’s more is that the Jewish people have a historic, legal, and physical link to Judea and Samaria.”

Reisner is a senior jurist who took part in all of the major diplomatic negotiations since the Oslo Accords. Today he serves as an advisor to Israel’s peace negotiators. He believes that the position taken by most experts who are well-versed in international law against Israel’s claims does not stem from the weakness of Israel’s legal arguments, but rather is the result of the fact that most of the countries of the world have adopted the Palestinian narrative which holds that the territories of Judea and Samaria belong to the Palestinian people.

“Even if it seems that the battle is lost, that doesn’t mean it’s a reason to give up on a real, genuine legal argument,” he said. “Israel didn’t conquer these territories from any state because Jordanian control of the West Bank was illegal. If Israeli control over Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem in 1967 was illegal because of the illegality of taking over a territory by force, then the Jordanian occupation of that same complex in 1948 suffers from exactly the same problem.”

“Conversely, if one claims that the Jordanian occupation of 1948 was legitimate because before that the territory wasn’t under the sovereignty of another state, then that just strengthens a similar Israeli argument,” he said.

From Jerusalem to Al-Khader

Reisner recommends that we do not take the simplistic approach of treating Judea and Samaria as a single, solitary entity.

“There is no uniform law that applies equally to Ramallah — where there was never a Jewish presence — and Hebron — where a constant Jewish presence spanning hundreds of years was cut short by a horrific massacre,” he said. “There is no uniform law that applies equally to Al-Khader, which was and remains an exclusively Arab village, and the settlements of nearby Gush Etzion, which like Rachel’s Tomb was in sole Jewish control before the War of Independence. And of course there is no uniform law that applies equally to the Old City of Jerusalem, the historic site of two Jewish temples, and the neighborhood of Abu Dis nearby.”

In addition, Reisner finds legal backing for distinguishing between territories and specific sites in Judea and Samaria. Such language can be found in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. The wording of the resolution calls for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories conquered” in the Six-Day War. It doesn’t call for withdrawal from “the” territories.

“This shows that there really isn’t an insistence on all of the territories that were captured during the war,” Reisner said. “In any event, despite what the world thinks about us, it is impossible to peg us as foreign occupiers that are without any rights to these regions, and whoever ignores this part of the story is simply deviating from the truth.”

Is this argument, as factually correct as it may be, even relevant now, with the world and even the State of Israel talking in a different language? Isn’t it too late?

Reisner: “The conflict has a political dimension and a legal one. Nonetheless, the solution to the conflict won’t necessarily be found in either of these two dimensions, but in my opinion it will rather be based on something totally different — a fair compromise that will create a stable reality over time. The odds of one party to the conflict managing to convince the other to accept competing legal and political positions are nil.”

Still, Reisner is convinced that “Israel needs to make its case cogently from a legal, political, and historic standpoint simply because it has its own truth that is backed up by facts.”

“Will the solution be based on this truth? Is this truth relevant to the results of the negotiations? I’m not entirely certain.”

If there is a legal case to be made, why don’t the state’s negotiators use it in the talks?

“Because inside the negotiating room it’s almost irrelevant. International law has a relatively marginal role to play in Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The bottom line is the one that both sides need to live with. Legal arguments help you. They give you an internal anchor, but in negotiations it is almost never a winning argument. In any event, a legal claim is never weakened or nullified because it is up to people to either make the claim or not make the claim. If you have a truth and you believe in it, speak up!”

Do the political opinions of jurists who are participating in the negotiations or the opinions of prosecutors have an effect on their legal positions?

Reisner: “I don’t know.”

Stop apologizing

Alan Baker, an attorney and a member of the Levy Committee which was formed in 2012 to investigate the legal status of the outposts and the settlements and which came to the conclusion that Judea and Samaria are not occupied territories, echoes much of what Reisner has to say.

Baker, a former legal advisor in the Foreign Ministry who also served as ambassador to Canada, heads a newly formed group of experts in international law which has already written to Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in protest of their “mistaken and misleading” positions.

Two weeks ago, Baker was in Paris, where he met with dozens of other senior jurists from across Europe who share similar views. The group includes Yaakov Neeman, the former Israeli justice minister; Baroness Ruth Deech, a member of the British House of Lords and a professor of law at Oxford; and Meir Rosenne, the former Israeli ambassador to France and the U.S.

“The Israeli government for years has refrained from waging a hasbara campaign based on advancing our rights,” Baker said. “Instead, it has waged a hasbara campaign based on apologies. The right thing to do was to operate out of a sense of advancing our rights, the rights of the Jewish people as an indigenous nation in its land. The Jews are the oldest nation here, but the State of Israel rarely mentioned this. It has rarely mentioned the fact that these are territories where we have had rights from time immemorial. It has rarely mentioned international documents like the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Declaration, the U.N. Charter, and the British Mandate as approved by the League of Nations, all of which are very relevant as they relate to our rights here.”

“Most importantly, it has refrained from emphasizing that what we are dealing with is not occupation,” he said.

You’re “talking history.” Who even takes that into account these days?

Baker: “If we refer to it, others will refer to it. It’s a process that takes time.”

Even the State Attorney’s Office is completely disconnected from this approach whenever it argues the state’s position to the High Court of Justice.

Baker: “There’s a problem with the State Attorney’s Office. There is a group of people there that have a very one-dimensional approach when it comes to the status of the territories and settlers.”

But they are supposed to be the mouthpiece of the state.

Baker: “Not exactly. The mouthpiece of the state is the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. Those people implement the law. That’s their job. They’re not charged with waging hasbara campaigns or making policy. We agreed with the Palestinians that the fate of the territories will be determined in negotiations between us, so in the context of a permanent status deal with the Palestinians, we will have to compromise. But on the way to the compromise, for it to be better for us and for us to know that we did all we could, there is something called ‘rights,’ and we need to speak up about it.”

“It is inconceivable that the entire world will repeat the mantra about Judea and Samaria being occupied territory when from a factual standpoint there is no legal basis for this,” he said. “When Kerry claims, even before the negotiations ended, that we have no rights in territories over which negotiations are being held and where settlements are illegitimate, he is in essence adopting the Palestinian position and harming the negotiations. If the negotiations are intended to determine the fate of the settlements, then by all means. Even if you are the secretary of state, don’t prejudice the negotiations by stating beforehand that they are illegitimate.”

Bezalel Smotritz, a senior figure at Regavim, said that while his organization adopted the “offense-is-the-best-defense” approach in its arguments before the High Court of Justice, he and his friends realized that they were busy “putting out fires.”

“The settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria exists today within the bounds of an untenable legal situation which is the byproduct of the judicial delegitimization that has been waged for years by the left against Judea and Samaria and the settlements there,” he said. “These bounds toe the line between ‘illegitimate’ and ‘war crime.’ One should add that the law that is applied today to the settlement enterprise is outdated and unsuitable for normalized living in Judea and Samaria. We are talking about the remnants of Ottoman law, British Mandatory law, Jordanian law, and Israeli defense edicts. All of this requires that we change the ongoing dialogue.”

“If we seriously want to deal with the justice system as it relates to the settlements, there is no alternative but to equip ourselves with a legal bulldozer and break through,” he said. “We need to establish an entirely different legal foundation which will enable the settlement enterprise to breathe and combat the legal delegitimization, and to convince the public that settlements are legitimate.”

“The new book that our center published, which is already making waves throughout the halls of power, is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There will be more books, conferences, academic courses, scholarships, and more. One can say, ‘It’s too late,’ and throw up his hands in despair and go home, like [what we’ve done] in the Negev. I’m not ready to give up, not on the Negev and not on Judea and Samaria. For years, a certain legal school has been in charge, and many academics and jurists were afraid to speak up. Now they are not alone.”