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Anna Baltzer, Jewish defamer of Israel

 
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In 1505, a Moravian Jew named Joseph Pfefferkorn renounced his faith and undertook a campaign to get the Talmud banned by claiming it blasphemed Christianity. Pfefferkorn was unschooled and a criminal, but that didn’t stop the Dominicans in Cologne, who at the time were eager to cast aspersions on the Jews, from employing him. They recognized the value of a Jew accusing other Jews.

The practice of finding Jews to bear false witness against other Jews has been repeated in many venues. Today, in America, some mainline Protestant churches have eagerly adopted this practice in an effort to demonize Israel. In November, the Wyoming Presbyterian church in Millburn, N,J., invited Jewish anti-Israel activist Anna Baltzer to speak and present her slide show alleging Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.

Baltzer is an acolyte of the International Solidarity Movement, a cult-like group that recruits naïve Westerners to interfere with Israeli anti-terror operations. Its founders have spoken approvingly of suicide bombings. Baltzer boasts a busy schedule of speaking engagements at churches, universities, and even an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her message consists mostly of rehashed accusations against Israel made by Palestinian speakers. But Baltzer uses her Jewish heritage to accrue credibility before predominantly non-Jewish audiences who often fail to see through her deception.

In her appearance at the Presbyterian church, Baltzer told the audience that they were responsible for alleged Israeli transgressions on the west bank because “if the Israeli government does it, in fact it’s really U.S. taxpayers doing it.” Settlers carry U.S.-made weapons, she said. Her attempt to conflate the privately owned small arms of Israeli citizens with American support for Israel’s national defense is typical of her deceptiveness.

Baltzer’s core message is to delegitimize Israel.

She foists upon her audience absurd claims, like her assertion that the Arab armies that invaded the Jewish state the day after its founding were merely reacting to Israel’s expulsion of 350,000 Palestinians from their homes. Aside from sanitizing the stated Arab intention to eliminate Israel, she also misrepresents the impetus behind Palestinian flight. Noted historian Efraim Karsh demolished the myth of Palestinian expulsion. His book, “Fabricating Israeli History,” documents how most Palestinians’ flight was stoked by their own leadership and that relatively few were compelled by Jewish forces.

Baltzer analogizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with South African apartheid, contending that the reason there is no Palestinian Nelson Mandela is that Palestinians are not allowed to organize because Israel jails potential leaders. In reality, most Palestinians sitting in Israeli jails are tied to terrorist acts against Israelis. Moreover, Palestinians have their own governing institutions. In her zeal, Baltzer can’t even get Mandela’s story right. In fact, the famed South African leader spent much of his adult life sitting in a South African jail.

Despite her accolades as a peace activist, Baltzer is an apologist for Hamas, whose founding charter invokes Islamic doctrine to sanctify killing Jews. The most Baltzer can admit to is that Hamas is “more aggressive” than the secular Palestinian group, Fatah. Proclaiming that it has agreed to a long-term ceasefire if Israel will withdraw to its recognized borders, Baltzer ignores Hamas’ repeated affirmation it will never accept Israel’s right to exist.

Baltzer mocks Israel’s attempts to protect its population and reveals a contempt for the lives of Palestinians too. She decries Israel’s decision to build the “Wall,” rhetorically asking, “Does segregation bring peace?” The facts are clear. In the year prior to the decision to build the security barrier, 452 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, mostly in suicide bombings. Since the building of the barrier, that figure has gone down by more than 90 percent, and in 2009 there were no successful suicide bombings in Israel.

Baltzer promotes blood libels against Israel. In her talk at the Wyoming Church an attendee challenged her as to why she published on her blog for months a false story spread by one of her colleagues accusing Israeli soldiers of shooting several Palestinian children in front of their mother. Baltzer retorted that she removed the story prior to her appearance on the Daily Show in October upon learning it was false. She added that although this case turned out not to be true, “I don’t think it’s hateful to hold a nation accountable for targeting civilians.” So while admitting one story was a lie, she continues to promote another unsubstantiated accusation.

Baltzer urges on the Palestinians to further intifadas. This ultimately reflects back on the churches, like the Wyoming Presbyterian Church, that invite her to speak. According to a community newspaper’s account of the event, when an audience member questioned why the church repeatedly invited speakers with an anti-Israel message and none to present the other side, a church member responded, “[A]ny time you want to put together such a meeting, the minister reports to us.” The interim pastor, Lou Kilgore added, “I’ll make the same offer,” but indicated since he’s temporary, you’ll have to hurry.

Pastor Kilgore’s response reveals the depth of the problem. While providing a platform for Baltzer’s anti-Israel advocacy, the church leaders absolve themselves of the responsibility to provide a balanced educational perspective. They leave it up to the Jewish community to supply a speaker to rebut the anti-Israel speakers. When it comes to incitement against Jews, how little has changed.

Steven Stotsky is a senior research analyst with the Committee for Accuracy in. Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

HARRY posted 07 Feb 2010 at 06:47 AM

On January 1, letter writer, Janice Rubin, wrote “Can the naïveté of some of our fellow Jews possibly be due to their insular environment? I can’t imagine why else they would believe that right-wing Christians are friends of the Jews because they support the State of Israel. With friends like that, Jews don’t need enemies.” 
True, Jews don’t need enemies.  We, Israel and world Jewry, have more than enough enemies.  We also can’t afford to reject friends.  Jews are certainly not an insular, narrow-minded people.  It is important for us to recognize our friends and our enemies.  As I see it, the Christian-right, the right-wing Christians, are our friends.  It is the Christian-left, the mainline Christians who are our enemy.  One example, it is the mainline Christians who led the campaign for major investors to divest from companies doing business with Israel. 
Another example:  Read the Feb. 5 article by Steven Stosky, Anna Baltzer, Jewish defamer of Israel.  Who sponsors villains like Anna Baltzer?  Steve Stosky says, “The practice of finding Jews to bear false witness against other Jews has been repeated in many venues. Today, in America, some mainline Protestant churches have eagerly adopted this practice in an effort to demonize Israel.”  The Christian-left are active enemies of Israel. 
Janice Rubin is concerned about the Christian “underlying attitude toward Jews”.  Christianity is a proselytizing religion.  This includes right-wing and left-wing Christians.  Today, we Jews have the freedom to convert or not to convert.  In good and bad times, most Jews have chosen not to convert.  I know that Pastor Hagee, a Christian right leader rejects the “replacement theology” of the need for Jews to convert. 
My liberal and conservative Christian friends have never tried to convert me.  They show no concern whether I burn in hell or not. 
I have more practical concerns.  Who are the true friends and supporters of Israel?  Who are enemies of Israel in speech and action?  My choices are simple.  The right-wing Christians actively support Israel in speech, action, and financially. 
Harry Lerman,
Paramus, NJ
201 262 8098

Paul posted 22 Jun 2012 at 04:33 AM

“Baltzer’s core message is to delegitimize Israel.”

After listiening to several presentations by Anna Baltzer, I have to say that her core message is not to delegitimize Israel, but garner support for those people, Jewish and Gentile, Israeli and non-Israeli, who would ask Israel to live up to high standards of Jewish teaching, morality and ethics.  Her message is that non-violent oppression and violent oppression lead to desperation and violence; that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.  Her message is that she has seen injustice toward Palestinians and it is not helpful to solving any problems facing Israel

This is hardly a pernicious, hateful, “self-loathing” or even controversial message.  By demonizing Ms. Baltzer you permit yourself to dismiss her.  By focusing on her mistakes, you allow yourself to dismiss the truths she imparts.  By claiming she “incites against Jews” you mischaracterize her motives and efforts.  The same could be said of many Old Testament prophets—such as Jeremiah.  But. of course, that is merely to miss the message because it is unpleasant. 

It is sad that you would demonize and stifle one who points out that Israeli policies are not productive of a lasting peace.  Mubarak was never going to live forever.  Sooner or later, Egypt would clamor for democracy.  Democracy is not evil; not even in Muslim countries.  How has the time been spent since Sadat was murdered?  Are Israelis and Egyptians more friendly?  More sympathetic to one another?  More understanding of one another?  What foundation has been laid for a lasting peace?  How about Jordan?  How about Saudi Arabia?  How about Turkey?

Is it not possible that Israel could do more to foster better relations?  Is it not possible that some Israeli policies towards Palestinians are inhumane, unjust, and lead to violence?  Is it not possible that more just and humane policies could foster better relations with Turkey? Egypt? Perhaps even Iran? 

“While providing a platform for Baltzer’s anti-Israel advocacy, the church leaders absolve themselves of the responsibility to provide a balanced educational perspective.”

Do you really believe that Americans and their churches and the media do not provide a balanced educational perspective on Israel?  How often is there anything critical of Israeli policies towards Palestinians shown on American television?  But for a few timid pieces on Sixty Minutes, there is nothing on American television critical of Israeli policies towards Palestinians.  Americans are not being incited to hate Jews or Israel by anyone of serious stature in America.  Anti-semites and Holocaust-deniers are routinely and vigorously denounced (and justifiably so!).  Please do not let hysteria and paranoia blind you to all constructive criticism.  You do yourself and your cause a great disservice.

 

Remembering Regina Jonas

Conversion to Judaism is very much in the news today — and for all the wrong reasons. But at the moment, my interest is not in the history of conversion itself, but in the way that it is read into next week’s Torah reading, parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12-17).

The Torah reading opens with God commanding Abraham to set forth on a journey to a place unknown. Abraham sets forth with his wife Sarah, his nephew, all their possessions, and “the souls that they had made in Haran.”

How does someone “make” souls? The midrashic collection Genesis Rabbah, compiled some time in the fifth through eighth centuries, interprets this strange clause as referring to converts. Why did the text say “made” instead of “converted”? To demonstrate that converting someone to Judaism is like creating that person anew. But why the plural? Doesn’t it really mean that he, Abraham, had made or converted those souls? No. Abraham converted the men; Sarah converted the women (Genesis Rabbah 39:14).

 

 

Clouds of glory, clouds of honor

That future generations may know that I made the children of Israel live in booths (sukkot) when I brought them out of the land of Egypt — Leviticus 23:43.

‘Booths’ — clouds of honor (ananei kavod) — Rashi.

When we were young, many of us were taught that the sukkah — especially its essential covering — represents something otherworldly. The structure in which we were dining was meant to evoke the divine clouds that sheltered the Israelites in the desert.

 

 

A tale of two sermons

A few years ago, on the first day of Sukkot, Rabbi Yosef Adler delivered this sermon at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, where he serves as spiritual leader:

“During the Sukkot holiday, in birkhat hamazon, our blessing after meals, we recite the following prayer: ‘Harahamon hu yakim lanu et sukkat David hanofelet,’ ‘May Hashem establish for us the fallen sukkah of David.’

Why the image of a fallen sukkah for the Davidic kingdom, he asked. Why not a castle or some other sturdy structure?

 

 

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I remember vividly how moved and inspired I was as a child when — at a very early stage of my Jewish education — I was introduced to the sage Hillel and his own youthful entrée to Jewish scholarship.

Hillel went on to become a renowned scholar, a beloved and oft-quoted national leader, and the founder of an important rabbinic dynasty. The brief story — my first “Talmud lesson” — is familiar. Working as a poor woodchopper, Hillel would devote half of his meager earnings to daily necessities. The other half he spent on the fee required for admission to the bet midrash — the Babylonian academy where Torah was taught by the great Shemaiah and Avtalyon. One winter Friday (during the month of Tevet, the Talmud records) he was without sufficient means to enter the citadel of learning. He was turned away. Undeterred, he climbed atop the roof, to listen to the lesson through a skylight. There he stayed until Shabbat morning, when he was found covered by three cubits of snow. “The snow came down from Heaven,” the text (Yoma 35B) says lyrically. (Even in my New England childhood, that daunting volume of snow fired my imagination!)

 

 

Past imperfect

For traditional communities, the past is normative.

The past, rather than the present, provides the best model for daily life. As the past’s standard-bearer, the traditionalist may even question the legitimacy of the present: Leaving aside technological advances, what moral or spiritual value can modernity offer, compared to the timeless legacy of the past?

Religious traditions especially, which are by nature highly conservative, judge new trends by their conformance to time-honored ways of life. Intellectual innovation, to be sure, may be encouraged, as long as it remains within the boundaries of tradition. In our own society, for example, a hallmark of Talmud scholarship long has been the ability to formulate a novel legal analysis, whose implications are normally theoretical. But in practical matters, custom rules. (There are notable exceptions among halachists of great stature; the Vilna Gaon, for example, often ruled against common practice based on talmudic sources.)

 

 

Support for depression is right around the corner

My friend and I stand in the doorway and survey the room.

A dozen or so chairs are laid out in a wide circle and I can’t tell if the setup is inviting or scary or both. My nerves are like jumping beans in my stomach. My friend nudges my left arm.

“You okay?”

I scan the room skeptically.

“Unclear.”

I watch the arriving participants as they straggle in, some in pairs, more often alone. They all look like regular, decent people. Some seem shifty and uncertain — I suppose just as I must appear to them — but no one screams “crazy” to me. There is no neon sign above anyone’s head that reads:

ABOUT TO CRACK!

 

 
 
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