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Matisyahu Played, but BDS Racism Won

We won the battle but are losing the war.

As much as anyone I’m thrilled that Matisyahu performed “Jerusalem” at the Rototom reggae festival this past Saturday night in Spain.image

Organizers had to apologize and re-invite him after they cancelled him.

The cancellation was precipitated, according to the festival director, by radicals from BDS who convinced organizers that Matisyahu must submit a public condemnation of Israel and Zionism in order to perform. It’s cynical nasty stuff. It’s inquisition-esque.

Don’t believe the festival director that he cancelled Matisyahu over fears of a seriously disrupted festival. After he contacted Matisyahu, the director would settle for nothing less than a pro-BDS, anti-Israel video or statement according to my sources. It wasn’t just support of a Palestinian state they wanted. They wanted Matisyahu to disavow Israel.

Matisyahu refused to submit. So they cancelled him in a disgusting and public manner.

But racism wasn’t going to win – at least this time.

The festival director came under huge pressure from the government, music fans in Spain and across the globe, and in the Spanish media. This festival after all received government funding. The cancellation was a major embarrassment to Spain who is trying to invite decedents of Jews expelled by the Inquisition back for citizenship. (What Jew is going back to Spain when inquisitors are still at large?)

Matisyahu is no more in control of the destiny of Israeli-Palestinian relations that you reading this article. He’s a proud American Jew and he was targeted because he’s a Jew.

Did the organizers question the gay-hating reggae singers about their political views?

Did the submit the other artists to political and social litmus tests?

No. Only Matisyahu was singled out because he’s a Jew.

While the Jewish community, fans of Matisyahu, and anti-racism and anti-BDS activists are celebrating this victory, we must realize this was still in the long term a victory for BDS.

European festivals next summer are going to think twice about booking Matisyahu. Not Poland which is hosting him again for multiple shows and has been for several years. (Respect!) But Western European festivals in countries with active anti-Israel movements (I think that’s every country) will consider this incident before signing the most publicly Jewish musician in the world.

I’m not surprised that major Jewish artists haven’t come forward to support Matisyahu. In the world of music the mone

y is in touring and famous Jewish musicians will be concerned to be targeted themselves. Better stay quiet it seems.

This episode in the BDS battle against Israel, amid growing European anti-Jewish racism, will have a lasting and negative impact on Jewish musicians who want to perform there – let alone Israeli musicians who will find getting booked increasingly difficult in Western Europe.

As much as I want that to not be true, as much as I believe that Matisyahu’s inspired performance was a victory for justice, we must face the grey future of uncertainty as racism and anti-Israel fervor spreads on the continent that 70 years ago exterminated most of its Jewish population.

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Right, Left and Center Condemn the Iran Deal

With more and more voices from the right, left and center decrying the deal with Iran, it is not surprising that a majority of American’s in recent CNN poll are against the deal. The more you read the agreement, and study the issues, the more you cannot help but realize that this deal promises to make the world less. Which is exactly the opposite of what the deal should do – make the world a safer place now and for our children.

Who are some of the brilliant voices against the deal? Let’s start with LEON WIESELTIER in the ATLANTIC skewers the Iran Deal:

If I could believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action marked the end of Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon—that it is, in the president’s unambiguous declaration, “the most definitive path by which Iran will not get a nuclear weapon” because “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off”—I would support it. I do not support it because it is none of those things. It is only a deferral and a delay….This agreement was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons … then it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve. And if it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve, then it is itself not an alternative, is it? The status is still quo … For as long as Iran does not agree to retire its infrastructure so that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon becomes not improbable but impossible, the United States will not have transformed the reality that worries it.

You must read the whole article to appreciate everything that he says, and just how eloquently he says it.

There is the former Soviet political prisoner, NATAN SHARANSKY in the WASHINGTON POST:

Today, an American president has once again sought to achieve stability by removing sanctions against a brutal dictatorship without demanding that the latter change its behavior. And once again, a group of outspoken Jews — no longer a small group of dissidents in Moscow but leaders of the state of Israel, from the governing coalition and the opposition alike — are sounding an alarm. Of course, we are reluctant to criticize our ally and to so vigorously oppose an agreement that purports to promote peace. But we know that we are again at a historic crossroads, and that the United States can either appease a criminal regime — one that supports global terror, relentlessly threatens to eliminate Israel and executes more political prisoners than any other per capita — or stand firm in demanding change in its behavior.

And how about the left wing ARI SHAVIT who wrote against the deal HAARETZ:

After many hours of reading I had to stop. The thriller had become a horror story. Not only was the content inconceivable, the tone was, too. The fact is that in each chapter Iran’s dignity is preserved, but the U.S. and Europe’s isn’t. The fact is that the Iranian Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Majlis, has a much higher status in the agreement than the American Congress. The fact is that Iran is unrepentant, does not promise a change of course and takes an almost supercilious attitude toward the other parties. As though it had been a campaign between Iran and the West, and Iran won and is now dictating the surrender terms to the West.

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Making a Kosher Deal With Iran

As the June 30th agreement deadline approaches, it has me wondering how the P5+1 will guarantee Iran doesn’t obtain nuclear weapons. While my work as a rabbi doesn’t include agreements and safeguards on nuclear nonproliferation — though I did study that in university back in the day — one of my areas of expertise as a rabbi is certifying the production of kosher food.

Having practical and theoretical experience in negotiating and monitoring production agreements, I know how challenging oversight can be. In the case of assuring the production of kosher food we have excellent guidelines established by the Talmud. These guidelines include the essential elements of any deal to produce kosher food, the means of inspection and how to manage problems as they arise.

Which got me thinking.

If we were to apply the stringencies of Kosher certification to an upcoming nuclear deal with Iran, what would that include? In other words, if Iran were seeking kosher certification that it wasn’t building nuclear weapons, what would that deal look like?

According to Jewish law, factories or establishments that want certification of providing kosher food must agree to two major areas of verification. The first is on-site inspections of facilities by representatives of the agency, which includes unhindered and unannounced visits. Additionally, some facilities or establishments, owing to the nature of what they produce, require full-time kosher supervision and the use of kosher seals. The second is the kosher certification contract. This contract is based on the legal concept that a professional does not compromise their professionalism because they have an interest in maintaining their reputation and credibility. In this way factories and restaurants are able to enter into agreements with kosher certification organizations to provide kosher food.

Accordingly, a kosher deal with Iran meant to ensure that it doesn’t produce nuclear weapons would have to include unhindered and unannounced on-site inspections. Since nuclear weapons verification is a serious and complicated matter, a kosher supervision agency would likely require full-time supervision. Therefore, the use of seals, remotely operated cameras and detection equipment, would be needed at every possible site. The Vienna based IAEA, responsible for monitoring and inspecting nuclear sites worldwide, must have the ability to not only inspect in person whenever they want, but install technology to allow constant verification.

While this might seem overly intrusive, if we are to apply the needs of kosher food verification to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, we need to use the strongest means of verification and inspection possible. Getting inspectors to a site without alerting the Iranians would be hard. So the IAEA need to be there all the time, just like a kosher supervisor needs to be on-hand at places that handle the most complicated kosher products.

The second part is the written contract, a detailed agreement between the parties. At minimum a kosher certification contract includes all the agreed upon ingredients, manufacturing procedures, and significant monetary penalties to the company should any of the terms of the agreement be broken.

Let us put to the side for the moment that fact that Iran has shown an ongoing unwillingness to act professionally to preserve their reputation and lack credibility because of nondisclosure of nuclear sites and other broken agreements.

What would a contract with Iran need to include? It’s likely more complicated than a kosher recipe for bread.

According to experts in non-proliferation, a deal would need to include:

1. Dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, including enrichment or reprocessing capacities.
2. Material Accountability. This includes tracking and testing all inward and outward transfers and the flow of materials in any approved nuclear facility.
3. Lengthy and phased relief from sanctions applied by the international community.

4. Tough, “snap-back” sanctions should the agreement be violated.

5. A long deal. This deal has to do with the safety of the world, and it must include safeguards in terms of decades, not years.

Thankfully congress now has the power to review any final agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran and they need to ensure any deal with Iran uses even more rigorous standards than we need for kosher bread or a restaurant. If a company messes up with the bread recipe, they can always recall the products from the markets. If an unscrupulous restaurant owner sneaks in non-kosher meat, the kosher certification can be immediately revoked and the public warned.

However, If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, there is no recall of the product. The most volatile region of the world will be caught-up in a nuclear arms race. The safety and security of Israel and the world will be in jeopardy.

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Don’t Just Stand There – do Something Holy

“You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood. I am Hashem.” Lev. 19:16

I was driving on cold morning down the highway in New Jersey and a car ahead of me suddenly veered left, went off the road, and then careened back across the highway. The car crossed some grass and slammed into brush on the side of the highway. Instinctively, I pulled off the highway, crossed the shoulder, and parked on the grass. I ran towards the car and started to help the young driver from the wreck.

Within a minute, an entire commuter bus of orthodox Jews stopped, and out ran a man with with a large medic bag, followed by others. He was a trained paramedic from Hatzolah, and began administering first aid while I was on the phone with the Highway Patrol. The medic said the woman was not badly injured, but that we needed to stay with her until the ambulance arrived. A woman in a shaitel got off the bus and came over, putting her coat around the young woman from the accident.

The driver, a bus full of commuters, the paramedic and I waited until she was being attended to an ambulance crew.

In this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim which instructs us to live holy lives, we learn that we cannot be bystanders when someone’s life is in danger. “Don’t stand by the shedding of your fellow’s blood,” say the sages, “means do not stand by watching your fellows death when you are able to save him. For example, if he is drowning in the river or a if a wild beast or robbers come upon him.” (Rashi, Torat Kohanim 19:41, Talmud Sanhedrin 73a)

Just as the Torah instructs us in other areas of life about the Sabbath, Passover and the Ten Commandments, the Torah teaches that we have a sacred obligation and responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of others.

One of most powerful aspects of life today in this age of interconnectivity is that “others” really means everyone in the world. While our first obligation are those immediately around us, our responsibility is truly worldly.

When the tragic earthquake struck Nepal last Shabbat, it immediately provided an opportunity for the entire world to fulfill the mitzvah of “not standing by.”

International charities, like Mercy Corps, that do important work in Nepal to help alleviate poverty, suddenly became front-line responders and rescuers.

Chabad Nepal’s Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz converted their center into an emergency shelter, first aid clinic, missing persons agency, and food distribution hub.

Israel immediately activated 260 doctors and rescuers to fly to nepal and set up a field hospital and do search and rescue operations. Other countries also sent aid and rescuers. The US sent over sixty emergency workers and millions of dollars in aid.

While we cannot all physically go and rescue people around the planet, with a few clicks we are all able to provide immediate funds to help those in need.

You have heard this many times before – but its still true – one who saves one life is as if they saved an entire world. Your tzedakah can help sustain people in dire need  – from Nepal to Los Angeles.

A true legacy is not the wealth that we leave when we die, but the mitzvot that we did while we were living.

Shabbat Shalom

Donate:
Chabad Nepal

Mercy Corps

American Jewish World Service