Politicians, Rabbis and Pundits Unite in Support of Gush Katif Museum

Prominent conservative media personality and outspoken Zionist Glenn Beck captivates attendees at the inaugural Gush Katif Museum Dinner, held in Brooklyn, NY, on February 22.  (Photo credit: Jason Jacobs)Inaugural Dinner Event Held in Brooklyn

The Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem held a high-profile fundraising event in the Razag Ballroom in Brooklyn on Wednesday, February 22, that featured several prominent religious and political figures who collectively spoke about Israel and the perilous situation confronting the Jewish state today.

Glenn Beck, the renowned radio host and political pundit, and John Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, were among the notable personalities present, and their respective presentations made for an interesting contrast. Glenn Beck appealed to the crowd’s feelings on the topics of the evening, in his signature, highly-emotive, style of oratory. Ambassador Bolton, by contrast, offered a more poised, cogent analysis of the facts on the ground.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson also attended the dinner on behalf of the Rabbis of Crown Heights Synagogue, and passionately spoke about Israel and its meaning to the Jewish people. With Jacobson giving a religious perspective, Glenn Beck a more American treatment of the Israeli situation, and John Bolton a sober assessment of the security difficulties confronting Israel, the speakers combined to deliver an insightful analysis of the Jewish state through multiple lenses.

Rabbi Jacobson was the first to step up to the podium, and with great fervor explained to those gathered the religious nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The rabbi asserted that behind the politics and the rhetoric rests a fundamental question: Does the Jewish nation have divine permission to occupy the land of Israel? Rabbi Jacobson said, “If Israel is not G-d’s gift to the Jewish people, then let’s pack our bags and move to Teaneck, New Jersey… or to Brooklyn. What are we doing in Israel? We are all thieves.” Affirming the Jewish nation’s right to the territory, Rabbi Jacobson added, “The land of Israel is G-d’s eternal gift to the Jewish people.”

After laying down the foundation to the Jewish settlement of Israel, Rabbi Jacobson went on to explain how diplomacy and negotiations with Arabs are futile when these they uncompromisingly refuse to recognize the existence of the Jewish state. Many speak of instilling the Palestinians with democratic values, Jacobson explained, but democracy is inconceivable considering the way Palestinians speak and behave today towards the Jewish people. “Whoever heard of a democracy in 2012 that stipulates, ‘We will be a democracy, but no Jews are allowed to live in this democracy.’ Whoever heard of such a concept of democracy?” he cried out.

The rabbi conceded that there were questions concerning Israeli-Palestinian relations left to be answered, but said such issues would be appropriately tackled in times of peace. “Israel has been in a perpetual state of war since the day of its inception in 1948… Israel is [still] in a state of war,” he declared. Returning to his message on terrorism and the egregious ideologies pervading schools and institutions throughout the Arab world, Jacobson concluded that no good would emerge from unilateral Israeli concessions such as the disengagement plan that expelled thousands of Jews from Gush Katif in 2005. According to the spiritual leader, such activity was not only an ineffective road to achieving peace, but also regressive in the sense that, by giving land to terrorists, the Israelis only reinforced such harmful behavior and contributed to its continuity.

“We will not intoxicate terrorists by demonstrating to them that terror is effective, and terror works,” Jacobson asserted. In his opinion, the most honorable, diplomatic, and reasonable measure to take was to fortify Israel’s grounds and maintain every inch of Israeli soil. “[If] we care about the world, then let’s help sober the [Arabs] up [and show them] terror, violence, and bloodshed will get them nowhere,” he continued. “Help them reclaim their own destiny.”

After the rabbi left the podium, Glenn Beck was introduced to raucous cheers. The famed political commentator is a staunch supporter of the Jewish State, and many were looking forward to hearing and seeing him in person.

In contrast to Rabbi Jacobson, and later, John Bolton, Glenn Beck made repeated references to the Holocaust in order to delineate the dangers posed to Jews and Israel today. In Beck’s opinion, the anti-Semitic discourse typical in Arab societies today reflects a foreboding political climate. People were not listening when Hitler explicitly laid out his plans for the extermination of European Jewry in the 1930s, says Beck, and few are batting an eye at the genocidal talk flooding Arab media today.

Beck went on to explain the formation of his political outlook, citing Thomas Jefferson as the inspiration who motivated him to question everything with “boldness,” including his faith and, all the more so, his government.

As he scaled to ever greater heights in the media, Beck slowly discovered a deeply seated anti-Semitic bias in the public sphere. Siding with Israel, he was immediately cast as a “pariah.” On television, the commentator was instructed not to make usage of words associated with the Holocaust. By simply pursuing the truth, Beck alleged, he was portrayed as a controversial figure. “Nobody sets a course and wants to be me,” he said. “But when it’s true, it’s true.”

Beck continued to provide a wide range of examples to demonstrate what he perceived to be the prevailing anti-Semitic Zeitgeist of our time. Repeating for emphasis, Beck proclaimed “George Soros is not a friend of Israel.” And then added: “If people would question with boldness, they would realize this [presidential] administration is not a friend of Israel either.”

Noting the recent rise of anti-Semitic crimes in New York and New Jersey, Beck said the problem is growing and implored his audience to awaken the inner “righteousness” sequestered within themselves and their gentile brethren to inspire change. “Not to speak is to speak, not to stand is to stand,” he stated. Every person will choose “good” if given an equal choice between the “good” and the “bad”, Beck added, and he solicited the help of his audience in crafting today’s discourse into one that puts “right” and “wrong” on an equal footing. In today’s politics, people employ double standards which obscure what is, and is not, permitted or prohibited, he continued. “To claim apartheid where there is none diminishes men like Nelson Mandela and all who stood with him.” Those who falsely claim genocide undermine the dead in Darfur, Beck elaborated, and those who redefine “oppression” inappropriately similarly stand in the way of international moral progress. By appealing to the pathos of his listeners, and drawing from a multitude of historical contexts and personalities to clarify his message, Beck succeeded in giving a more emotional undertone to the evening’s overall message.

Introduced as a foreign affairs specialist by his colleague, Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska, John Bolton was then called to give a few words before dinner. After thanking his audience, and quipping about the gravity of making a speech just before a meal, Bolton immediately dove headfirst into the military intricacies of Iran’s nuclear program, giving plenty of context in charting its development and progress over the years. Bolton called today an exceptionally dangerous time, and said the “greatest threat that Israel has faced in its history is growing.”

After providing background on Iran’s history with nuclear energy, Bolton proceeded to explain what the United States and Israel could do to stall Tehran. Diplomacy is for reasonable people, Bolton explained, while the Iranians are unreasonable. Sanctions have been ineffective, he added, citing James Clapper who recently remarked that “Iran’s economic difficulties probably will not jeopardize the regime, absent a sudden and sustained fall in oil prices or a sudden domestic crisis that disrupts oil exports.” According to Bolton, the only plausible alternative avails in a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The United States has been reluctant to discuss the military option, Bolton elaborated, and has even gone public in an attempt to brief the target on what an attack from Israel might entail. The former ambassador suggested the U.S. is struggling to dissuade the Israelis from taking action. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the U.S. in early March, and Bolton conjectured that this month’s meeting might be the last opportunity for the President to attempt to convince Israel to take another course of action.

After Bolton’s speech, dinner was served and the museum kicked off its fundraising campaign. Following the evacuation of Gush Katif in the summer of 2005, almost 10,000 Jewish residents were uprooted and moved to various locations in Israel, and the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem was established to commemorate the event, and offer assistance to the victims of this tragedy. The Gush Katif expulsion stands out as one of the only instances in modern history where an ostensibly democratic government forcibly relocated a sizable portion of its own populace on the basis of religion. During the past few years, the families have reportedly made tremendous strides, as more than 33% have found permanent homes and 28% of farmers have returned to agriculture.

But there is still progress to be made. The Friends of Gush Katif have released a document with statistics and information concerning the current needs of the former Gush Katif community members and, according to the file, there are still thirty families in need of funds to furnish their homes. For many, helping these evacuees holds greater significance than other charitable causes.

Many feel the Gaza disengagement plan of 2005 was unsuccessful, and only served to strengthen the arms of terrorists. To help those who were unjustifiably uprooted from their homes, therefore, and ensure the attending lesson is perpetually taught, the Gush Katif Museum is seeking contributions in support of the museum and its programs. To learn more, or to make a donation, interested parties can write to rabbiwolpo@chabad4israel.org , or call 972-8-8584353.

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