Author Archives: jgillick

Watch out for Wolpo

By Jeremy Gillick

The right wing group SOS Israel, led by Rabbi Sholom Dov Wolpo, leader of Chabad’s messianic wing in Israel, has published the first in a series of English-language newsletters that includes a vaguely threatening message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accuses him of selling out his nation and country to “High Commissioner Hussein Obama.”

The newsletter comes in advance of the 15th anniversary of Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s death.

The pamphlet includes an excerpt from an interview with 83-year-old Geulah Cohen, a former Knesset member who was an outspoken opponent of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza:

The Lubavitcher Rebbe warned Mr. Moshe Katsav 17 years ago…that he, personally will be the first to fight with all his forcefulness and might against Shamir so that his government will fall. The fact remains that any Prime Minister who has tampered with our inheritance of Eretz Yisroel has received his just desserts in a humiliating and painful fashion.

Being truly concerned for your future, we turn to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and advise you: do not tread on the path of your predecessors which caused danger to the residents of Eretz Yisroel and themselves. Whoever harms Eretz Yisroel is declaring an open war on Hashem and his Torah, with all the resulting consequences Continue reading

Iran’s Velvet Revolution?

By Jeremy Gillick

What will change if Mirhossein Mousavi, a former Iranian Prime Minister, a “moderate,” and the primary challenger to reigning Iranian president and rabble-rouser Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wins this Friday’s much-hyped Iranian election? Will Iran abandon it’s nuclear program or change its position vis-a-vis Israel or the United States? Will the country undergo a “velvet revolution,” as Saeed Laylaz, editor of an Iranian business daily, told Ha’aretz it would? Or might Ahmadinejad’s cult-like supporters, backed by the Basij paramilitary and the Revolutionary Guard, revolt, a possibility considered by Robert Dreyfuss at The Nation?

The answer, of course, is that we don’t know. In addition to knowing very little about how Iranian politics actually work–even many of the foremost American experts on Iran concede this unfortunate deficiency–Mousavi himself is a mysterious candidate.

Writing in The New Republic, Laura Secor calls him “a wartime prime minister who has kept near total silence about politics since 1988,” who “lacks charisma” and who “calls himself both a reformist and a believer in revolutionary ‘principles.'” During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, “he was seen as a wise manager at a time of crisis,” she adds, and had the singular advantage of being a “particular favorite of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.” In short, she suggests, he appeals first and foremost to “people who might otherwise vote for Ahmadinejad” but also to some liberals who believe that, in Iran, no platform is the best platform. Continue reading

Jewish Fanaticism

By Jeremy Gillick

In the wake of the Manis Friedman controversy, some suggested that Moment should have censored itself in order to protect the Jewish community’s image. Abe Foxman, for example, the controversial director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Forward that, while he was “not shocked that there would be a rabbi who would have these views,” he was “shocked that Moment would give up all editorial discretion and good sense to publish this as representative of Chabad.” (In Moment’s defense, Manis Friedman is a regular “Ask the Rabbis” contributor: see his former responses here, here and here.)

But if it’s fair to silence the extremism within when it’s a merely a fringe phenomenon limited to a few radical rabbis, surely it’s wrong not to publicize–and criticize–it when it appears to be widespread and cross-denominational. Here’s a remarkable, repulsive and, sadly, illuminating video from Max Blumenthal, an investigative journalist and blogger, that I just came across at New Voices.

Filmed on the streets of Jerusalem in advance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Blumenthal and Joseph Dana “encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel. Usually I offer a brief commentary on my video reports,” writes Blumenthal, “but this one requires no comment at all. Quite simply, it contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed.”


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Could Israeli Settlers become Palestinians?

By Jeremy Gillick

In an interview published today in Ha’aretz, the 72-year-old former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei suggested to journalist Akiva Eldad that Israelis living in West Bank settlements could become Palestinian citizens rather than abandon their homes.

Do you believe Israel would agree to evacuate Ma’aleh Adumim’s 35,000 residents?

Qureia: “[Former U.S. secretary of state] Condoleezza Rice told me she understood our position about Ariel but that Ma’aleh Adumim was a different matter. I told her, and Livni, that those residents of Ma’aleh Adumim or Ariel who would rather stay in their homes could live under Palestinian rule and law, just like the Israeli Arabs who live among you. They could hold Palestinian and Israeli nationalities. If they want it – welcome. Israeli settlements in the heart of the territories would be a recipe for problems… Continue reading

Sonia Sotomayor and the Menorah

By Jeremy Gillick

Among the many decisions made by New York Court of Appeals judge and newly nominated Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor is a 1993 ruling to allow a Chabad rabbi from White Plains, New York to display a large menorah in a public park.

The city had rejected several similar requests by Flamer in previous years, but that didn’t prevent the rabbi from celebrating. From Sotomayor’s ruling:

Shortly around sundown on December 1, 1991, the first day of Chanukah, Rabbi Flamer and approximately thirty other individuals gathered in Tibbits [park] to celebrate the beginning of Chanukah. Rabbi Flamer brought a two and one-half foot menorah, which was not lit. The gathering lasted approximately twenty minutes, during which time the assembled group performed several traditional dances.

Ironically, the city’s ban seemed to stem largely from Jewish opposition. Sotomayor again:

On December 2, 1991, all seven members of the Common Council met in a public meeting attended by Rabbi Flamer, Corporation Counsel Anthony J. Grant, and numerous community residents. During the Common Council meeting, Rabbi Flamer’s proposed menorah display came under strong attack from members of the White Plains Jewish community. Rabbi Mark Weiner of the White Plains Jewish Community Center asserted at the meeting that the “overwhelming majority of the Jewish community” felt that the proposed menorah display should not be allowed. The American Jewish Committee submitted a letter opposing the display which was read into the record. Continue reading

Roxana Saberi Released

By Jeremy Gillick

The New York Times is reporting that Roxana Saberi, the American journalist imprisoned in Iran since January on charges of spying, has been released.

An Iranian-American journalist who was sentenced to eight years of jail on charges of spying for Washington was released Monday after an appeals court reduced the sentence, her lawyer said.

Saleh Nikbakht, one of the two lawyers who defended Roxana Saberi in an appeal hearing on Sunday, said the court turned down the original jail term and issued a two-year suspended prison term in its place.

“The verdict was given to me in person today,” Mr. Nikbakht said. “The appeals court has accepted our defense.”

Continue reading

Pigs in Prison

By Jeremy Gillick

Just one week after Egypt began slaughtering its 300,000-strong pig population, Reuters reported that Afghanistan has imprisoned its only known pig.

Afghanistan’s only known pig has been locked in a room, away from visitors to Kabul zoo where it normally grazes beside deer and goats, because people are worried it could infect them with the virus popularly known as swine flu [H1N1].

The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.

“For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza,” Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, told Reuters. “We’ve done this because people are worried about getting the flu.”

Nicole Matthews, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), was critical of the move–“One pig isn’t to blame,” she said–but suggested that factory farms rather than pigs are responsible for the outbreak. Continue reading