Reflections on Rosh HaShanah 5767

Reflections on Rosh HaShanah 5767

Barbara B. Balser and Abraham H. Foxman

As Jews come together to celebrate the High Holy Days, we examine the events of the past year and look ahead to what’s in store for 5767. This has been a momentous year for our people, for the State of Israel and for the world, as we have continued to struggle with the great existential threats of our times — global terrorism, war, and religious intolerance topping the list.

Following the disengagement last year there was hope that the peace process in Israel would move forward. Unfortunately this was not the case. The sudden and unexpected illness of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was a devastating blow for Israel. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took over and was formally selected to head the Kadima Party and the Israeli government in April. The election of the terrorist party Hamas to lead the Palestinian Authority was followed by intense shelling from Gaza on Israeli towns and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and caused Israel to carry out a series of incursions and air strikes in Gaza.

Hezbollah’s cross border raid into Israel in which three soldiers were killed and two were kidnapped triggered a difficult battle for Israel in response to the unprovoked attacks. As missiles and rockets fell on its cities, the IDF retaliated by hitting Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon resulting in the month-long war.

President George Bush remained steadfast in America’s support of Israel’s right to defend itself, while many countries and others, including the U.N. Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, were quick to accuse Israel of using "disproportional force" while practically turning a blind eye to the terrorist actions of Hezbollah and Hamas.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan continued to demonstrate that he has a blind spot when it comes to Israel. Annan leveled many outrageous accusations against Israel, including the deliberate targeting of U.N. military observers. U.N. Resolution 1701, passed on Aug. 11, calls for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. The success of the resolution as a means to achieve peace and stability in the region will depend on implementation. Had Security Council Resolution 1559 (see, which called for Hezbollah’s disarmament, been implemented after its adoption in ‘004, the current conflict and new resolution would be wholly unnecessary.

Iran, while pulling the strings and providing weapons to Hezbollah, cemented its position as a possible nuclear threat to the entire world. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued a drumbeat of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and Holocaust denial statements and called for Israel to be "wiped off of the map." Also of great concern is the well-being of the large Jewish community in Iran.

Here at home, the shooting attack at the Jewish federation in Seattle was a shocking and terrible tragedy that highlighted the need for renewed security awareness, especially at a time when there is a crisis in the Middle East.

Five years after the devastating Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, conspiracy theories about Jewish or Israeli involvement in the events of that day continue to reverberate on the Internet, in publications, books and videos, and millions around the world continue to believe "The Big Lie".

The age-old anti-Semitic canard of Jewish control was reintroduced and re-enforced in the United States, this time by two professors who claim that the Israel lobby i.e., American Jews, is controlling U.S. foreign policy. Recently, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago presented their case against Israel and the "Israel Lobby" at a press event convened by the Council on Islamic-American Relations, an organization that has consistently refused to condemn by name the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

A disturbing amount of anti-Semitic incidents occurred all over Europe, including outside a synagogue in Moscow where eight worshippers were victims of a knifing attack. In the Ukraine, the rector of MAUP University made statements denying the Holocaust. In France, a young Jewish man was kidnapped, tortured, and then murdered, and the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, made anti-Semitic statements for which he refused to apologize. In Poland, two extremist political parties are in the government, and Radio Maryja, a conservative Polish Catholic radio station has stepped up its anti-Semitic broadcasts.

In the United States, Canada, and Europe, Protestant organizations, led by the Presbyterians, as well as academic institutions and even labor groups proceeded with initiatives calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel. On the positive side was the Presbyterian Church’s decision to overturn the ‘004 resolution that targeted Israel for "phased, selective divestment."

Another satisfying end to a long campaign occurred in June when Magen David Adom was finally accepted as a full member in the International Committee of the Red Cross. Anti-Israel bias had long kept MDA out of the ICRC, with the Red Star of David not recognized as an official symbol.

We pray for 5767 to be a better year and that peace will come.

We hope that the Palestinian leadership will deal with its extremists and show Israel and the world that they are prepared to make compromises toward peace.

We hope the Lebanese government and the International community will be successful in dismantling the infrastructure of Hezbollah.

We hope that the U.N. will come to its senses and stop singling out Israel for condemnation.

We hope that world leaders will pursue a united front against the forces of anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, racism, and hate.

We hope that America and Americans respect the diversity of our society and that our democracy remains strong.

May the Jewish people continue to show solidarity and resolve with the people of Israel and Jewish communities the world over as we continue on the path toward enduring peace and security for our people, and for all nations in the New Year. L’Shanah Tovah!