Tag Archives: New York

Open Letter to Mike Eckford Regarding anti-Israel remarks on his Vancouver radio show

eckford_mDear Mr. Eckford,

I am a Jewish activist and author living in New York who was made aware of your stance on the Canadian government’s approach towards Israel by one of my friends and followers on social media.  As per his request I am reaching out to you in response to some of the  comments you made on your radio show in Vancouver regarding the war and ongoing situation in Gaza.  Albert Einstein once said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  So is a lot.”  Well as evidenced in your statements. you have the first part covered.  You certainly know a little.  However, if you knew a lot you might see this very differently.  Then again, not knowing you and how you feel about Jews in general, I wonder if it would make much of a difference.

You’re not well-known at all in my neck of the woods and I am guessing not in many places outside Western Canada, but because of an uncommon twist to your statements I was intrigued enough to take a half an hour out of my time to write to you. The twist I’m referring to is that unlike so many others who speak out against Israel, you are actually aware and willing to admit the fact that Hamas wants to not only destroy Israel but murder every Jew worldwide.  You are also correct in the statement you make about the people of Gaza being trapped.  And as far as your comments stating that the only peaceful outcome to the situation is a 2 State solution, although it’s a debatable subject, one I no longer have much faith in, it is a reasonable opinion on your part.

And there you have it.  I’ve just reviewed the small amount of knowledge you have and once again seen why Albert Einstein truly was a genius.  For you went on to say that Israel’s actions were acts of barbarism.  Disproportionate, disgusting, inhumane. That the people of Gaza are trapped, implying it is of Israel’s doing.   In saying these things and leaving out some very important points either out of malice or ignorance, your knowledge becomes dangerous due to the fact that people listen to your show and believe they are learning truths from you.  That is why I needed to write this letter.

You see Mr. Eckford, your Canadian government, as it so often does in so many instances, is indeed getting it right.  Lead by one of the world’s great leaders Stephen Harper, the government of Canada realizes that by supporting Israel it is indeed supporting peace.  Words like barbarism and eradication are not words to be thrown around irresponsibly.  War is tragic no matter which way you look at it.  That does not mean however that it is never necessary.  You said the people of Gaza are trapped.  That they are, but not by Israel, by Hamas.  If you look at Israel’s track record with Egypt and Jordan, nations that once were at war with Israel as well, once they were willing to stop fighting Israel and peace was declared, there was a degree of normalization of relations between the countries.  If you think that Israelis don’t dream of a Gaza where they could vacation rather than bomb, you know nothing about the mentality of the Jewish state.  That dream is at least for now, destroyed by Hamas. They took the money provided to develop and build the territory and instead bought missiles and built terror tunnels. The poverty in Gaza is created by Hamas to perpetuate hate and frustration and the people are made to believe it is a result of Israeli occupation.  But Israel neither does, nor do they want to occupy Gaza.  Hamas teaches the children to be terrorists.  They will do anything to destroy Israel, even destroy their own people.  The difference is very clear.  Israel does things they wish they did not have to do in order to provide safety and security to their people, not as you so irresponsibly said, to eradicate a people.  Hamas does everything they do to eradicate Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “if the Arabs put down their weapons there would be no more war.  If Israel put down their weapons there would be no more Israel.” Israel did not bomb Gaza because, as you made it sound, they wanted to.  They bombed Gaza because they were given no other choice.  When Hezbollah does it in the north will you criticize Israel for fighting back then too?  Assuming of course they are winning.  Maybe if they are losing or suffering major casualties it will be just fine.  It will be fair, proportionate, not as you called it “lopsided, disgusting, inhumane”.  Does that imply if more Israelis had been killed it would have been humane?  The only reason there was a disproportionate amount of deaths in the Gaza war Mr. Eckford was because Hamas was not successful in its attempts to kill tens of thousands of Jews.  You, like so many others with a bias against Israel seem to be mad at Israel for not allowing themselves to take a beating.  Well I am here to put you on notice Mr. Eckford. The Jewish people are not prepared to be victims any longer. Not victims of Hamas, Iran, and not of a DJ in Western Canada with a little bit of knowledge.  I have a suggestion and a challenge.  The suggestion is you raise the level of your knowledge before you speak about Israel again, and the challenge is, if you want, to invite me to debate you on your show.  Or do you prefer to have no one challenge you when you impart what is merely a little bit of knowledge?  I look forward to finding out.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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My Summer of Gaza

img65649The summer of 2014 was set to be a great one.  I had slimmed down from the year before, had recently moved into a better home closer to the beach, the World Cup had started and I was all set to enjoy the next few months. Although life always presents its challenges, nothing had come up that was so important that it would change my priorities significantly.  Then something happened that changed everything.  3 Yeshiva boys were kidnapped.

I still remember that ray of hope we had that Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal would somehow make it back safely.  The motto “Bring Back our Boys” was everywhere as we all prayed that somehow God would see them back to their homes unharmed.  I have seen many bad actions taken against Jews and decent people everywhere, but somehow I found myself more involved now than I had been for at least 13 years since 9/11.  I related to these boys.  I remember being a Yeshiva student myself in my late teens, in Israel, and knew that even if I wasn’t like these boys, I knew guys who were.  So it hit home and I found myself caring more than usual.  It wasn’t till they were found dead, murdered brutally at what we all knew immediately was the hands of Hamas terrorists, that something truly snapped in me.  That was when I, David, had finally had enough.

When tragedy strikes one never knows exactly how they will react.  Although I related so significantly to these three boys, I did not know them personally. Had I known them personally, maybe I would have been so distraught that I would have had trouble functioning.  So when I say I had finally had enough and I snapped, I felt an anger I had rarely felt in my life and I turned to my weapon of choice, the written word.  And my position as a moderate was now a thing of the past as well, as I realized that moderation is something that needs to be saved for the reasonable and fair, not the racially bigoted and brutally violent.

When the Israeli cabinet met on how to react to the boys’ deaths, I knew one thing.  As a Jew and a Zionist living in New York, unless they did nothing, I would support the Israeli government.  I committed myself to not only stating my feelings, but in rallying as many people as possible to the cause.  Not my cause, not merely the Jewish people’s cause, but in truth what should be seen as the entire world’s cause.   Before this would happen I would call someone a piece of garbage for being anti-Semitic, and occasionally even write something about it, but now it felt more personal than before.  It became so clear to me as it is to almost anyone with an unbiased desire for a peaceful world.  So now I decided to go further than I had ever gone before.  As I state on my Twitter profile, “no longer am I happy not being part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution.”

When Israel first went after Hamas with airstrikes in Gaza, no one really knew how serious the situation would turn out to be.  The terror tunnels they discovered were designed to carry out mass murders of Jews, and the intelligence they gathered indicated that it was going to be as soon as this Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year which falls towards the end of September. Israel’s incursion by ground troops into Gaza was used to uncover and destroy these tunnels.  However, while this was happening the situation took an ominous term.

I almost typed unexpected as well, but as a Jew paying attention, anti-Semitism is never completely unexpected.  I’ve been accused of being slightly over-sensitive to comments, but no one has ever accused me of having a persecution complex.  At least not to my face.  So when I say I was not totally shocked by the global spike in anti-Jewish words and behavior, this is not coming from someone who makes declarations that “everyone hates the Jews”.  I know better.  What we’ve seen this summer however has been epic.  Even by the usual standards of hatred.  Gone is the requirement of logic and fact.  Merely wanting to hate the Jews became enough.  Telling half of the story so that the part that exonerated Israel was conveniently missing became the strategy of the vocal and clever anti-Zionist/anti-Semite.  And gone forever is the notion that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not two in the same.  When  you have two signs at a protest that say “Free Gaza” and ” Hitler was right”, you have lost the argument that they are different.  When pogrom style attacks took place on French synagogues by people claiming to do things in support of Palestinians it was made abundantly clear that this was about hating the Jew at least as much as it was about opposing Israel.

The more Jews were attacked, whether in Israel or outside of Israel, the more committed I became, expressing my commitment through articles and letters to those expressing damaging sentiments towards the Jewish people, while also writing articles acknowledging our supporters.  Every time I heard “Free Gaza” I felt more and more compelled to shout to the world that the people of Gaza needed to be freed from Hamas not from Israel.  Every time the United Nations revealed its bizarrely obvious bias against Israel I wanted to write something to expose it.  Why?  Partially because it was cathartic, but even more because I wanted to make sure everyone I could reach would know the truth, and once I began to do that, there was no turning back.  With every missile fired at Israel, with every fatality including the 64 members of the IDF fighting to preserve Israel’s survivor, my commitment grew stronger.

Recognizing the need for unity with more than just the Jewish community, I created the Global Coalition for Israel on Facebook as a means of showing a cohesive support for the State of Israel. One month later the group is at 1300 and growing daily.  When the summer began I was worried about when I was going to get to the beach, lay in the sun and get to barbecues.  I’m not saying that I didn’t do those things to some extent during the summer of 2014, but they all took a back seat to something more important.  My new activism.  Watching CNN and FOX on a daily basis to get the news coming from the region, researching websites and news sources online, and meeting people with stories to tell from Israel and Europe, the summer of 2014 became something I never expected it would become, it became my Summer of Gaza.

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Palestinian Flag on a New York Bridge

ustazmichael-3

A little less than a month after 2 American flags were replaced with white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge, a Palestinian flag with the words Boycott Divestment Sanctions was unfurled on the Manhattan Bridge.  For those who do not know,the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement, is the movement set up by Palestinian Omar Barghouti, ironically a former student of Tel-Aviv University, to conduct economic warfare against the State of Israel.  One of the most high-profile and outspoken members of the BDS Movement is Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters.

I hope this most recent turn of events will be taken seriously by New York City Mayor Bill de Blassio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, not only because it is the same breach in security that occurred one month ago, but also because of the hostile message behind the BDS Movement towards not only Israel, but Jews worldwide.

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Of Course Holland lost..They’re my team

USP SOCCER: WORLD CUP-ARGENTINA VS NETHERLANDS S SOC BRABehind every perception of destiny, irony sits waiting and ready to pounce.  But I will get back to that.  The title of this post is by no means rooted in self-pity. Pity is never the feeling I have regarding the futility of the teams I support.  As a somewhat well-adjusted individual, I generally get past the pain of my sports teams’ demise within an hour of it happening.  I must say I am pretty good when it comes to that.  After all, and this is the root of the title, I have a lot of experience with it.

We can of course start with the most recent result of which irony played a major factor as well.  But again, I will get back to the irony later.  When the Netherlands lost to Argentina yesterday in the FIFA 2014 World Cup semi-final, I knew that another World Cup would be played without Holland lifting the trophy.  I watched Holland once again secure its position as the best team to never win the World Cup.  I took solace in the fact that they lost with class to a team with class, but nevertheless, once again, their World Cup ended in defeat.

I move on to the National Football League.  I credit the great New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor with getting me into football.  Sure I watched the game and followed the playoffs and Super Bowl, admiring the skills of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice in particular, but it was LT who got me excited about the game.  And living in New York I cheered on the football Giants when they won their Super Bowls with Taylor, Simms, etc.  But it was not till I began to admire the tough character and skill of Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan Mcnabb, and enjoyed games with my family that I considered myself a true fan of a team.  The Eagles would go on to 4 straight NFC Championships and one Super Bowl, but would never win the big one.  And as football fans know, they still haven’t.

In 1976 I began what would be 4 years of school in London, England.  I picked a team.  Sure, I could have picked Arsenal just as easily, a team that won titles and cups, but no, I picked Tottenham Hotspur, probably the most consistently mediocre team in any sport in any country.  And since they are exceedingly mediocre, that’s all they are getting in this piece.

Being a marginal Basketball fan I put my allegiances behind the home team New York Knicks and watched as they always came up short against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.  Except of course for the times the Bulls were without  MJ when the Knicks came up short against Hakeem Olajuwons’s Houston Rockets.  Whatever, they came up short.

Then there is the team I am most emotionally invested in on a yearly basis, the Philadelphia Flyer of the National Hockey League.  Having lived in Philadelphia during their 2 glorious Stanley Cup victories, I will always be a devoted fan.  Even if we end up never winning another cup.  Does it count at all when the Los Angeles Kings win?  Flyers fans and educated hockey fans understand that question.

Lastly I will speak of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets.  In 1985 when I moved to New York I picked a team as my local team.  I picked the very charismatic and entertaining Mets.  In 1986 I got my immediate reward, s the Mets not only won the World Series, they won it in the most dramatic and exciting of fashions.  The 1986 Mets have been the reason I have remained a fan of theirs till now, despite the fact that they are generally not very good.  And since I am a fan, when I say it that way, I am being nice.  The greatest overall significance of my support of the Mets now is that their 1986 team is the last team I am a fan of to win a championship in their sport.  Yes, that is almost 30 years.

And on it goes.  Yes I pushed the idea of Holland’s World Cup destiny, and the fate surrounding the teams they would need to beat, and of course started the online campaign of “Win it for my mother”, but in the end it was not to be.  My mother, whose maiden name was Rodrigues-Lopes, or in every day use, just Rodrigues, was the son of Marcel Rodrigues.  My grandfather’s nickname was Max.  So he was indeed known by many as Max Rodrigues.  So when Argentina needed just one more goal in penalty kicks to put them through to the finals and send Holland packing, I looked down, smiled wryly, shook my head and mumbled to myself, “of course”.  Stepping up to take the kick was Argentinian football veteran Maxi Rodriguez, who subsequently put the ball in the back of the net and guaranteed Holland would once again not the win the World Cup.  I guess I was right.  Sports destiny did play a factor.  It just did so with a tremendous sense of irony.  Good thing it only takes me an hour to get over it.


Who am I to advocate Force?

idfI often feel guilty when I come out in favor of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) taking the harshest of approaches.  After all, who am I to say this?  I live in New York.  I do not live in Israel, I do not live in Judea, Samaria, or Southern Israel.  I do not have children being called up to fight and risking their life to do the things I comfortably encourage from a safe air-conditioned home in the United States.

Who am I?  I am a human being, I am a Jew, and I am the son of Holocaust survivors.  I have made every attempt in my life, both in practicality and in theory to learn lessons from the past.  Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  If there is one lesson I have learned, and I truly believe it may be the most important lesson of our time, one that could mean the difference between the death or survival of modern civilization, it’s that we can not apply rational standards to irrationally thinking people.  Do I believe the answer is to wipe out anyone who lives by those irrational standards?  Of course not.  Do I believe re-education of the greatest kind is needed. I do.  I also believe that sometimes the only way to begin that re-education is by a show of force of the most enormous proportions.

Two of the most civilized nations today, and strong American allies, are Germany and Japan.  Go back 70 years ago to the year 1944 and no one would have thought that to be realistic.  Yet the world was saved, at least temporarily by the drastic change in direction initiated by the allied forces basically pounding the two nations into submission.   Many people who wanted nothing more but to live a decent life died in the process, on both sides, but the fact remains that with the strong force brought on to both of these nations, history was changed for the better.

We face a similar threat today, at least as far as its potential danger, even if the landscape is very different.  Many people such as myself, who believe a powerful approach is needed against our enemies, are getting criticized for our viewpoints.  “Jews don’t act like that, the enemies do”, is one of the things I have heard.  To that I reply, yes, in the past we did not.  But we also say Never Again.

I find the murder of any innocent person to be tragic.  But I also believe in the phrase coined by our ancient Rabbis in Ethics of our Fathers, “im ain ani li mi li”, which translated into English means, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me.”   As a Jew, my sad assumption is that as a collective, there will be no one. There are many righteous people who have and would sacrifice their lives to protect innocent people, Jew and non-Jew alike, but there are no nations or groups who will look after the Jewish people any better than their fellow Jews will.

So although I feel somewhat guilty for sitting in comfort and speaking in favor of force by the IDF, as a Jew who has learned from history I would feel more guilty if I did not.


There’s a voice….by Hesh Meister

spacerspacer candlesApparently, according to some friends of mine, my voice is needed now.

What else can I add that has not already been expressed thousands of times?

Grief is beyond words. I cannot imagine the pain and loss that the families are going through. Or, perhaps I can imagine, having lost my brother at age 21 (albeit to Israel’s “other national curse”), and also because I am a father to two daughters and I worry about their health and safety constantly. But take that imagining and multiply it by millions. Those numbers boggle the mind.

Rage is abundant. I want the IDF and/or other security apparati to find the murderers, shoot them on sight without arrest or trial, and cremate the bodies. Neither they nor their families deserve the dignity. They deserve the Eichmann treatment. Or at the very least, the Bin Laden burial. I want to see the terrorist infrastructure – which at this point means any putatively “governing” Palestinian body – dismantled, destroyed, disintegrated, and deported. I want to see all the enablers of terror deported to Syria or Iraq – and those in the West to be struck down by all sorts of debilitating illnesses to ensure they will never open their mouths again. I want Israeli sovereignty to be proclaimed throughout all of Judea and Samaria and all residents who don’t declare and demonstrate unwavering allegiance to the State of Israel deported. I want to see Gaza retaken and Gush Katif reestablished. I want to see an Israel that does not bend over to Western overlords or cower at the sound of specious “world opinion.” Let Israel dictate the opinion the way it should have done and almost did in 1967 – not vice versa. Because then – AND ONLY THEN – will there be peace.

Frustration is intense. I want to see all these things happen and wish for them fervently – but feel powerless to do anything about it beyond posting here – which, in the scheme of things, does not mean a whole lot. I am no longer an IDF soldier and have no voice in Israeli politics. I am just a Jew and a human being currently in New York, trying to make a living and maybe pursue a few artistic endeavors. And even if I were in Israel, what else could I do but feel exactly the same?

http://www.reverbnation.com/theheshinc/song/99805-theres-a-voice

 

Holland’s Heroes would like to thank Hesh Meister for joining as a contributor. He will provide his own fresh and clear perspective within the mission of the site, which is to combat attacks against the Jewish people and Israel and to discredit those who try to claim the Holocaust never happened.


The Stark murder and my discomfort as a Jew

b-postfrontpage-10514The story of Menachem Stark, recently murdered slumlord, found dead and burning in a dumpster in Great Neck, NY has been all over the news.  The story is well known and the reporting on the story, specifically by the New York Post has become quite controversial.  Did I mention that Menachem Stark is a Hassidic Jew?  Of course I didn’t.  Why? Because it makes me uncomfortable on many levels.  And here is why.

To begin with there is the issue of what is known in Judaism as the Chilul Hashem.  The term, loosely translated into “The desecration of God’s name”, represents behaviors by someone who is clearly Jewish as being a poor representation of Jewish behavior.  Every time I see the face of this man, a man I did not know, I become uncomfortable with the knowledge that much of what he is accused of has a strong chance of being true.  I know that there could have been circumstances when I stood next to him in prayer.  I don’t know that I have, but I have been in enough locations over my life not to know that I haven’t.  So on one level I am somewhere between heartbroken and angry that a man who represented himself as being a guardian of the Jewish faith may have been guilty of being a slumlord concerned only about his personal fortune.  I don’t know any of this to be true.  But remember, this is about my discomfort not my personal judgment.

Part of what makes me feel this uncomfortable is the same thing that makes me shudder every time I think of his fate.  Hassidic Jews to anyone who has been exposed to Orthodox Judaism on any significant level are not people seen as being larger than life.  Even those seen as great by all, the pious, learned, and charitable types are still accessible to the people around them.  The basis of Hassidic Judaism is piety as it was formed to allow Jewish people who were not skilled in learning to still achieve a high level within the community based on their decency and kindness.  So yes, Menachem Stark may have been guilty of every charge made against him, but the thought of him being kidnapped in the snow, beaten, suffocated, burned and put in a dumpster gives me the highest level of discomfort.  Let me be clear about one thing.  I would have seen it as being just as wrong if he was not Jewish, but again, this is about my personal discomfort not my personal judgment.

And lastly and most likely most significantly, my discomfort comes with the knowledge that there are those out there who hate the Jewish people even when we do things right.  This is just the story they look for to strengthen their resolve.  They will accentuate his Jewish image as being part of the motivating factor in his lack of business ethics, they will highlight those who worked with him and defend him as being more evidence of what a “dirty Jew” is capable of, and they subtly, if not obviously, bring attention to all the things that makes his appearance and lifestyle different.  All this will at the very least be justification in their eyes for finding ways to marginalize if not completely remove the Jews from any status in society and at the very worst, justify violent acts against any Jew for no particular reason.

I can’t control the images that a tabloid like the NY Post chooses to display.  I understand the anger at the Post because it does magnify who he was and what he very possibly did wrong, but at the end of the day I believe in free speech and their right to do so.  Just as I believe in anyone’s right to protest against their journalism be it by speech, protest, or by not buying the paper at all.

Regardless of how we respond to the reporting of the story I will still be very uncomfortable with the whole situation. And I hope that if there are people out there who are representing themselves as Jews, particularly pious Jews that they take a good look at their actions and understand the responsibility that comes along with it.  Not just to the outside world but to other Jews like myself who are most likely just as uncomfortable as I am.