Tag Archives: Israel

Why we need to stop the misuse of the word “Nazi”

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In recent years there has been a growing and concerning trend in regard to a word as familiar globally as any other word.  That word is Nazi. The trend I speak of is in the use of the word in a descriptive, subjective form, as opposed to the literally specific form necessary to keep an understanding of the evil it represents.

A number of people who knew that I intended to write this piece have actually thanked me for doing so.  Any attempt to try to change the thought pattern of an anti-Semite or other form of bigot that uses Holocaust denial as a means of forwarding a perverse agenda is a waste of time.  A more worthwhile venture is to make sure those who have open minds and pure hearts are afforded the opportunity to know the truth.  The truth is that improper use of the word Nazi dilutes the horrors of what took place under the Nazi-occupation in Europe.

This post is neither a political statement nor an apology for those that misuse power.  This is more of a perspective check. Calling someone a Nazi because they do something damaging to other individuals, or even worse calling them one because it is your perception they are doing so, detracts from some critical facts.

Adolf Hitler’s Nazi war machine sought out and killed in staggering numbers.  According to jewishvirtualibrary.org the numbers break down as follows.

Jews: up to 6 million

Soviet civilians: around 7 million (including 1.3 Soviet Jewish civilians, who are included in the 6 million figure for Jews)

Soviet prisoners of war: around 3 million (including about 50,000 Jewish soldiers)

Non-Jewish Polish civilians: around 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elites)

Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina): 312,000

People with disabilities living in institutions: up to 250,000

Roma: 196,000–220,000

Jehovah‘s Witnesses: around 1,900

Repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials: at least 70,000

German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory: undetermined

Homosexuals: hundreds, possibly thousands (possibly also counted in part under the 70,000 repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials noted above).

As a son of Dutch Jewish Holocaust survivors, the Jewish number hits very close to home, as it does or has done for many others I have known or still know over the course of my lifetime.  The Nazis destroyed entire worlds.  They wiped out an entire Jewish civilization in a large percentage of Europe.  They tortured, they raped, they conducted experiments, made people dig graves before shooting them in cold blood, and put together one of the most efficiently cruel means of mass murder by gassing to death multitudes of people.  Frankly, although these facts are accurate, this does not capture the true horror of what took place.  For that one needs to research the numerous pictures and accounts of the events that took place.

And yet many people today refer to anyone with ideologies opposed to their own as a Nazi.  This is not a left and right issue.  This is also not a justification nor a means of disregarding dangerous viewpoints or ideologies.  What this is instead is a specific statement as to what separated Nazi Germany from much of what people refer to today as Nazi behavior.  I’ve seen people on the right call Barack Obama a Nazi.  I’ve seen people on the left call Donald Trump a Nazi.  You can criticize, even despise the Iran deal or the situation on the border, but neither of these facts put either president even close to being in the same category as Adolf Hitler.  Furthermore, even if one would feel strong critique for Israel’s handling of the Palestinian situation or feel a disdain for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, invoking Nazi atrocities as a comparison to today’s Israel is nothing more than a disingenuous use of a term to promote a dangerous anti-Semitic political agenda.

None of this is to say that we should turn a blind eye to the dangers that exist both in our respective countries or abroad.  But it is important to note, that if one is to learn from history it starts by doing everything necessary to study it accurately.  What the Nazis did  between 1933 and 1945 is perpetrate an evil unlike anything the world had ever seen.  To improperly identify and remember what took place not only dishonors all those murdered, it puts us all in greater danger of seeing it take place once again.

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Open Letter To Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun regarding his critique of Israel’s tactics

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Dear Rabbi Lerner,

Allow me to start by being honest with you.  I read your article    https://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/israel-has-broken-my-heart-im-a-rabbi-in-mourning-for-a-judaism-being-murdered-by-israel/  and stopped when I felt I could go on no longer.  Before I resolved to read any further I told myself I would only do so under one condition.  The inclusion of 2 words.  Never Again.  Having not found them anywhere in your piece I chose to not read it till the end.

I wish you to understand 2 very important things.  First and foremost, I am not without compassion when it comes to the death and suffering of innocent Palestinians.  Secondly, unlike many who may even appreciate my letter to you, I respect your  intentions and do not see you as a traitor to the Jewish people.  I do however find your approach apologetic and weak and subsequently potentially harmful to the very cause you claim to promote. Peace for all.

You seem to somehow be afraid to call out for Hamas for being what it truly is, an instrument of evil.   They care little if at all for their people, and wish to see, if possible oversee the destruction of our people.  Whether you wish to see it or not, the greatest perpetrators of abuse on the Palestinian people are their very leaders.  Whether it is the misappropriation of funds by the Palestinian Authority or the building of terror tunnels by Hamas, the leadership has shown anywhere from little to no concern for their citizens to a desire to use them as pawns in a self-serving conflict with Israel.  Even in your piece, you try to spin Hamas’s lack of recognition for Israel into something resembling a desire for peace.  They have shown nothing to indicate that is what they want.  On the contrary, they’ve shown nothing but contempt for the peace process and manipulation of Gaza’s population.

Before I address the most important issue regarding your stance, let me first state a very important point.  The Israeli government is by no means without fault.   There are certainly events that have taken place that very likely could have been handled differently and in a more productive and yes, maybe even more merciful manner.  That being said, as a Jew and son of Holocaust survivors, I do not question the overall approach and actions of the government for one split second.  You see Rabbi, and this is something you fail to address in your latest piece, the modern nation of Israel was founded on an often unspoken promise of the words, Never Again.   The Jewish people have throughout the ages been targeted for death and destruction merely for being Jewish.  From the ashes of the brutal murder of 6 millions Jews the State of Israel was born.  I am comfortable in saying that the majority of Jews I have known over the years have preferred peace over conflict.  That being said, sometimes you must fight fire with fire, and if that means those who protect you must choose between your safety or the safety of others, I thank God that they do what they are designated to do, see to it that the mass murder of Jews never happens again.  If anything, knowing what is at stake, I have grown to increasingly admire Israel’s restraint, and challenge you to find any nation or organization, particularly their enemies that would show anything close to that shown by Israel.

Golda Meir once said the following:

“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

I urge you to not only read that quote Rabbi Lerner, but to study it, meditate on it, pray on it, and sleep on it.  If after that you don’t restructure your thought process, maybe I will conclude I was incorrect about your intentions, an outcome that will sadden me significantly, but do nothing to change how I and many other Jewish people feel.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Open Letter to Nassau Coliseum Senior Vice President, Booking – Keith Sheldon Regarding Upcoming Roger Waters concerts

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Dear Mr Sheldon,

Although I am not certain you are the correct person to address regarding this matter, I will start with you and go from there depending on the response.  As I am sure you are aware, there are a large number of people, not only from Long Island but from all over the tri-state area, and the entire world for that matter, that find Roger Waters to be an offensive anti-Semite with views riddled with hypocrisy and hate.  While I agree with the concept of keeping musical performances separate from political ideology, in essence meaning an entertainer can believe whatever he or she chooses to believe without having concern for their right to perform, in the case of Roger Waters this very issue is what makes it imperative that his upcoming concerts at the Nassau Coliseum get cancelled.  Please allow me to explain why.

As a Jew and a Zionist my personal views for Roger Waters are anything but positive.  His unrelenting attacks on the State of Israel, much of it through his activism in the BDS Movement, attacks that border on obsession, are so filled with a one-sided hate for the Jewish element in Israel, I would believe that alone would be enough to have him unfit to perform at your venue.  I do not sit here writing you this letter to make an argument for Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians, but I will make a point of saying that anyone who refuses to even entertain at least some culpability on the part of Palestinian leadership is clearly biased in one direction.  Since that bias is directed towards the Jewish leadership in Israel it is clearly more than just anti-Zionism, it is unquestionably anti-Semitism.  In allowing his shows to go on, you are allowing an individual filled with hate to represent himself on your stage, a stage located in the midst of a vast Jewish population.

All that being said, there is a far more basic and solid reason to be made against his performance.  To quote his very own words, words he spoke in response to hearing of the efforts to stop his shows from going on,  Waters said his shows would not be cancelled, “insisting a performer’s rights should not be under attack because of his or her beliefs.”  This glaring hypocrisy from a man who has attacked and harassed some of the most established and successful musicians in the world for performing in Israel.  Here are a few examples of comments he made to fellow musicians.

 To Bon Jovi:

“You stand shoulder to shoulder with the settler who burned the baby. The dead can’t remind you of the crimes you’ve ignored.”

 

To Thom Yorke of Radiohead

“My answer to people who say we should go there and sit around the campfire and sing songs: No, we shouldn’t. We should observe the picket line.  Anybody who’s tempted to do that, like our friends in Radiohead, if only they would actually educate themselves. I know Thom Yorke’s been whining about how he feels insulted, people are suggesting he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

 

To the Rolling Stones

“Regardless of your intentions, crossing the picket line provides propaganda that the Israeli government will use in its attempts to whitewash the policies of its unjust and racist regime.”

Star like Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys and Neil Young have all been pressured by Waters to cancel performances in Israel.  Sir Paul and Keys even revealing being the victims of death threats and intimidation, all spurred on by the same Waters who insisted  “a performer’s rights should not be under attack because of his or her beliefs.”

You have an unprecedented opportunity here.  Rather than cancel his concerts, you can make them conditional.  Conditional on Roger Waters publicly declaring the same stance towards performers choosing to perform in Israel that he feels he is entitled to on Long Island.  That being as he said, the right to perform somewhere regardless of one’s beliefs. Should he accept the terms, he will be exposed further as the hypocrite that he is, but in doing so an enemy of the only democracy in the Middle East will no longer harass his fellow musicians. Should he refuse and cancel his own concerts, the message you will send to the people of Long Island and many miles beyond will solidify the Nassau Coliseum as more than just a building with a big hall, it will establish it as a place where true performers and artists are showcased.  It will unquestionably be better for business in the long run and will establish a close bond with the community.

I am sending this letter to you first, but also intend to attempt to work on having it signed and presented as a petition in the hope that the number of signatures gives you an indication of how important this is to many people wishing to be future patrons of your venue.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Open Letter to NFL Player Michael Bennett regarding his cancellation of trip to Israel

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Dear Michael,

I just finished reading your statement as to the reasoning behind you cancelling your trip to Israel, and although your message was masterfully articulated, it is sadly riddled with an enormous undercurrent of serious & unfortunate ignorance.  You see Michael, what you and so many others fail to realize, is that over the years filled with constant terrorist attacks murdering Israelis and manipulated uprisings, citizens of Israel have been victims more than the Palestinians have and most of the victimization of the Palestinians has been predominantly at the hands of their very own leaders, not the Israeli government.

If even a small fraction of the funding given to the Palestinian leadership had been put into developing their neighborhoods and cities, the Palestinian quality of life would be so much better we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.  Instead the billions of dollars received has primarily been used for funding terrorism and making their leaders extremely wealthy people.  Naturally they do not want you to know this because that would destroy their illegitimate narrative of having a plight similar to those of non-white citizens of the former Apartheid regime in South Africa.  The truth is that even blacks from South Africa have come out often attacking this comparison saying that what happens in Israel is far from being Apartheid. I urge you to view this video of a South African member of Parliament and a man of color, Kenneth Meshoe,  discussing the misguided view that Israel is an Apartheid State. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykFVV9QdvZU

I further encourage you to take note of these 3 quotes from the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose picture you chose to exploit as evidence for your misguided stance.

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!”

“The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world”

“Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

No one with any decency and reason will say or has ever said that Israel has done everything right, but the stance you have taken puts the entire burden of blame of the government of Israel.  That is not only disingenuous and harmful towards the very people you claim to now care so much about, it is also blatantly anti-Zionist, and if you are to use Dr. King’s picture as a tool on your Twitter page you best know that he would have seen you as being anti-Semitic as a result. Whether that is your intention or not, your judgment and subsequent actions create that perception and destroy your credibility.  I suggest you revisit this issue and reconsider your stance.

Sincerely,
David Groen

 

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Open Letter to John Kerry regarding UN Vote on Israel

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Dear Secretary Kerry,

It took me less than 5 minutes of listening to your speech earlier today to get a very good idea of where the disconnect is between you and the administration’s approach and those of us who proudly and unapologetically support the State of Israel and its government. Since the problem is more in the method and approach than it is in the desired outcome, I am willing to assume, albeit reluctantly and mostly for the purposes of making the more important point,  that your intentions are at the very least meant to be fair to both parties.

Mr. Kerry, Israel is not your child and you are not its father.  I do not believe you have the right to sit in judgment over what she does as a sovereign state to protect her borders and the lives of her citizens.  The philosophical discussion of whether or not a two state solution is the only way to guarantee the continuing existence of the State of Israel is a discussion that can be had by any party coming to the table with legitimate and peaceful intentions.  The building of settlements, on land conquered by Israel when her very existence was threatened by hostile neighbors working towards her destruction, is an issue that can be legitimately addressed. However, like so many other things in life, things must be done at the right time, in the proper manner, and most of all prioritized correctly. The point being, until Israel’s rights are recognized and they can have an open and equitable discussion with a sincere partner in peace, discussions of Israeli policy and actions taken on any land falling under Israeli rule is not only inappropriate, it is hypocritical and immoral.

This is not a chicken and egg situation.  Before there was any violence or settlements, the very same United Nations that condemned Israel last week for the building of said settlements, approved the creation of the Jewish state that this same governing body now chastises.  The very same organization that once had Syria on its human rights commission, has done very little to protect the persecution and murder of Christians by ISIS and has repeatedly taken the side of terrorist organizations against Israel, now claims some high and mighty moral imperative.  The reality may just be that what it is actually doing is the bidding of the very wealthy Arab states that see Israel as a Jewish thorn in their proverbial sides.  This is the United Nations that you Secretary Kerry and the rest of the Obama administration have chosen to side with.

I have heard the argument that a large percentage of Israelis are against the settlements. Regardless of whether or not this is true, it is irrelevant, and frankly not the business of anyone outside of Israel.  In fact, and understand that this is coming from someone who has voted Democrat far more often than Republican, I find it particularly distasteful because of the recent evidence of Russia tampering in America’s elections.  How can we genuinely scream and shout in disgust over Putin’s actions when our leadership chooses to insert its influence over matters that speak to the very root of Israel’s existence?  The settlements may or may not be a moral or wise course of action, but they began with actions of self defense by an Israeli government, and unless an outside nation intends to put its citizens in danger, have their young men and women fight, or risk their very survival, what right do they have to dictate Israeli policy?  I do not question that the United States has done a lot to help Israel, but that means they are entitled to expect a fair and equitable friendship and alliance, not the right to control her destiny. It would be like my best friend saying that as a result of all he does for me he can determine how I furnish my home.  It’s unethical and the reality is that it just doesn’t work that way.

Mr. Secretary, I started the second paragraph by saying that Israel is not your child and you are not its father.  I use this analogy to make the following point.  There are only a few people I feel have had the right to speak out over how I live my life.  One of them was my father of blessed memory.  If anyone else felt they had the right to speak to my actions as my father did or mother does, I would have every right to react in a very harsh and critical manner.  Israel is America’s best and strongest ally, certainly in the Middle East and very possibly in the entire world.  That fact does not give you or anyone else the right to decide how they move forward in protecting their people and territory and representatives of Israel’s government are correct for their negative and critical reactions.

Finally I leave you with this thought.  When referencing all America has done for Israel, a fact I not only do not dispute but appreciate as well, understand the following important fact.  America’s friendship towards Israel has always been a way of strengthening her security and insuring her existence, not a bargaining chip to be held over her head.  Once the United States government takes the stance that because of its support they have the right to make demands, that friendship turns into something completely different.  It turns into a tool of power and control, something no Israeli leader, no matter how inclined to the left he or she may be is likely to respond to positively.  Something  I am even more thankful for. The actions of the current administration in showing support for these actions have been anything but friendly, and sadly and ironically have done more damage to the peace process than any action taken by anyone or any government in quite some time.  That Mr. Secretary will be most likely be your Middle East legacy.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Never Defend the Indefensible

World Leaders Gather In New York For Annual United Nations General Assembly

I have spent the past year, over the course of the US Presidential election cycle speaking out against the concept of what many might call the concept of defending the indefensible.  I take pride in being anything but a hypocrite.  So much so that I sometimes have views that are not in line with where I appear to stand politically. Therefore I can no longer keep silent regarding the current administration’s recent stance regarding Israel and the United Nations condemnation of the only true democracy in the Middle East.

This piece is not about Donald Trump, so I will only refer to him this one time, merely to make a point.  Those who have read my work over the past year or so are fully aware that I did not support him.  I found it bizarre and a bit scary when his supporters defended words and behavior many of us saw as indefensible. I can not be sure of what kind of person he actually is, but as president, to be blunt, I just don’t like him.  That being said, when I speak of dislike, my feeling towards the United Nations is on a different level.  So as I sit here and realize that my president, a man I voted for, has chosen as one of his last acts as leader of the free world to align himself with this bastion of corruption, I find myself in the position where I can not and will not defend the indefensible on a level far greater than any over the past year.

Ironically the issue, at least in my opinion, is not so much in the details.  There are many people in Israel who are opposed to the settlements.  There are also many people who believe the only real solution to the conflict is a two state solution.  But that’s not the issue. What is more significant here is the condemnation by the United Nations and the lack of loyalty and support the United States has shown to Israel in not only not obstructing this condemnation, but very possibly being a driving force behind it.  The United Nations has made a very lucrative business out of criticizing and condemning the Jewish State.  While nations have murdered and tortured their citizens, while terrorist groups have begun to form in various parts of the Middle East, and nations like Iran have called for the death and destruction of Israel and the United States, the United Nations has encouraged and arguably promoted the idea that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.  For any United States government to do anything other than oppose this, truly falls in the category of indefensible.

Just as a lie of omission is  still a lie, an abstention by the United States at a United Nations vote of this significance is the same as a show of support for the vote.  I truly believe Israel will get through this, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a clear act of disloyalty towards an important friend, and if it is personal and based on the relationship between President Obama  and Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is far worse than that. It interferes in Israeli politics in a manner not too dissimilar from a foreign government hacking America’s political parties and possibly influencing the election.  It tells the Israeli people, I don’t like the person you elected through your democratic process and subsequently as a result I am turning my back on you as I walk out the door.

This is not about being a Liberal or Conservative.  Alan Dershowitz, a man as liberal as anyone in the public forum has spoken out against this without any filter, and clearly feels the same sense of betrayal so many of us do at this time.  This is about how to treat a friend and knowing and acknowledging the difference between right and wrong.  Israel is a nation of equality.  A nation where people of all religions, races, nationalities and orientations have the opportunity to live in peace.  If an outgoing president and an international body decide to end the year attacking Israel instead of going after the real manifestations of evil in the world, this becomes nothing other than a vendetta, be it political, racial, or as many believe in this case, personal.  Regardless of the motivation it is an act that is truly indefensible.

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When Muslims save Jews

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An interesting thing happened today.  A predominantly Muslim country potentially saved the lives of many Jews.  Israelis no less.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Kosovo police thwarted an attack on Israel’s international soccer team reportedly planned by members of ISIS from Syria. This turn of events, one that causes a collective sigh of relief and for those who believe in a higher power a show of thanks to God up above, also has very relevant and majorly important significance in a country not directly involved.  That country being our very own United States of America.

Over the years I’ve been anything but moderate in my approach towards Islamic extremism.  I have no problem recognizing the danger of the aggressive and violent approach taken by too many elements in the Muslim world.  I have zero tolerance for those who are murderers in the name of a so-called cause and I recognize the vicious hatred and venom towards Israel from much of the leadership in the Muslim world. That being said, I also not only recognize, but believe wholeheartedly that the greatest majority of Muslims, regardless of how they actually feel toward Israel and the west, do not want any part in violence towards anyone and just want to live a peaceful and productive life.  In fact, I would go as far as saying that what took place in Kosovo is evidence to that fact.

Since the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States, the status of Muslims in America has been very much in the forefront.  I get it. I honestly do.  I have often said that although most Muslims are not terrorists, the majority of terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims.  The safety of innocent people is a major responsibility of any government and actions need to be taken to see to it that all that needs to get done does get done.  However, an attack on an entire people or religion is not only immoral and reminiscent of tyranny from the past, it’s a bad strategy.  The events in Kosovo bare this out.  In the name of fairness and objectivity, when you listen carefully to Donald Trump’s words and proposals, he never goes after all Muslims.  What he does however is target the problem as being a Muslim problem, which if done correctly and with a degree of tact would possibly have tremendously positive effects, but when done with mere soundbites causes a large percentage of people to see the entire Muslim world as a threat.

I don’t make a habit of defending Muslims.  As a Jew and a Zionist I’ve had plenty of justified anger towards many Muslims over my lifetime.  However, I also don’t believe in going after one group of people merely because of what they are, and if only from a pragmatic sense, it’s stupid.  Setting aside the fact that I personally base who I like and who I call a friend on how they are personally, if the entire Muslim world gets alienated, even if it’s a result of interpretation of Trump’s words as opposed to their actual meaning, the rest of us are indeed not better off or safer as a result.  My fellow Jews who think otherwise need look no further than Kosovo, where a police force of a population mostly consistent of Muslims did the right thing and stopped a potential massacre of Israeli soccer players.

There is a middle of the road, and throughout history that middle has always achieved the best results, not an extreme ideology in any one direction.  There is indeed safety in numbers, and if there are large numbers of Muslims who want to live in peace, a fact that any reasonable individual knows to be the case, then working with them will get us a lot further than alienating them.  The argument that “Trump didn’t say that”, isn’t enough anymore. As President-Elect he has a responsibility to how his followers interpret his words, and if he does not recognize that, even if his intentions are good, the damage caused will result in him failing tragically, for everyone, including those that support him.

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