Franklin Roosevelt, Founder of Israel ?

FDR and Ibn Saud

Move over, Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, and Menachem Begin: it turns out that the man most responsible for the founding of Israel was, in fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt. This astonishing claim is being circulated by FDR partisans in a new effort to rescue their hero’s reputation in the Jewish world.

The depiction of Roosevelt as a Zionist hero, first presented in the 2006 book Saving the Jews, by divorce lawyer Robert Rosen, has recently been resurrected by Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman in their new book, FDR and the Jews. Both works emphasize the president’s rhetoric rather than his policies. Boilerplate pro-Zionist messages sent by Roosevelt to Jewish organizational events serve their narratives better then his actual policies regarding Palestine and Zionism.

The case made by Breitman and Lichtman also relies heavily on bit of curious reasoning: since a German conquest of Palestine would have resulted in the destruction of the Jewish community there, and since U.S. military equipment played a significant role in the Allied defeat of the Nazis in North Africa, thus stopping the Germans from reaching Palestine, therefore FDR’s approval of the transfer of that equipment means that if not for Roosevelt, there would have been “no Jewish state, no Israel,” as they put it.

At about the same time the Breitman-Lichtman book came out earlier this year, I happened to be doing some research at the Central Zionist Archives, in Jerusalem. There I came across new documents that illustrate the contrast between FDR’s public expressions of sympathy for Zionism and his behind-the-scenes coldness on the subject.

Sweden’s Reckoning

The UK and U.S. Embassy have cautioned their nationals about visiting Stockholm and environs because of a of week of riots in ostensibly enlightened Sweden by predominantly Muslim immigrants and their children, attributed alternatively to “police brutality” or bad social conditions. In 2010, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued its own “travel advisory” cautioning Jewish travelers…

Should a Pro-Israel Student Organization Be Required to Admit People Who Oppose the Existence of the State of Israel? According to a Troubling Campus Trend, They Should

For the final post of my oddly 21-day “week” of guest posting for the Brandeis Center blog, I want to focus on a troubling trend on college campuses which prevents belief-based organizations from excluding people hostile to their core beliefs. I talk about this trend in detail and at length in my book, and for now, the threat mostly concerns evangelical Christian groups on college campuses. For my nearly 12 year career, I have watched universities come up with different rationales for kicking evangelical Christian students off campus, primarily because of evangelicals views on sexual morality and topics like gay rights and marriage equality. I admit to have been surprised by how common this was on campus before I started at FIRE in 2001, but fighting these attempts on campus has become a regular part of my job. You can see a long list of creative approaches to punish religious groups on the religious liberty section of FIRE’s website.

Turkey’s “Darwinian” Islamization: Implications for Israelis and Jews

As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returns home from his visit to his biggest western fan, President Barack Obama, only to prepare for a controversial pilgrimage to Hamas-controlled Gaza, Turkey’s educational system is being mocked internationally. A spoof in “The Scientific American” focuses on revelations that Istanbul textbooks have pictured Charles Darwin as “a hook-nosed Jew” who consorted with monkeys. Writer Steve Mirsky offers the counter-revelation that Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species” (1859) was really first titled: “L’Chaim: The Whole Megillah!”

Perhaps Turkey’s increasingly “religious” public schools should have taught instead that Darwin was “the first Islamist.” Certainly Prime Minister’s Erdoğan’s stealth evolutionary blueprint for transforming Turkey from a secular republic into a Muslim state suggests that—in Turkey at least—Islamism may be the “survival of the fittest.” For a detailed analysis see my report, “From Ally to Nemesis: How Erdoğan’s Islamists Hijacked Atatürk’s Nation and Put It on A Collision Course with Israel and the U.S.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center, October, 2011).

In North America and Western Europe, the public knows little about what’s happening in Turkey except it’s avoided the worst of post-2008 global economic turmoil, and is a good place to vacation—unless you are an Israeli, given rocky Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations since the Turkish “Mavi Marmara,” the flag ship of the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was understandably interdicted in 2010 by Israeli commandos. Attempts by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to repair relations by belatedly apologizing to Ankara have proved unproductive so far.

Today, Turkey’s economy does not look quite as good, and Turkey’s Syrian border looks horrible, compared to a few years ago when Erdoğan visiting Egypt was greeted like a Neo-Ottoman Sultan. Even so, it is important to understand what Erdoğan has accomplished in just over a decade and its implications for the global situation of Jews as well as Israelis.

Norway’s New Generation Quislings

NorwegianBecause it “gives support to old conspiracy theories about Jews controlling media,” the Oslo Newspaper, “Dagsavisen,” recently took down from its site pro-Palestinian activist Siri Lill Thowsen’s article: “Is There Jewish Dominance over International and Norwegian Media?”

Though the anti-Israel Lobby is howling in protest that the removal demonstrates Thowsen’s thesis, nothing could be further from the truth.

Afloat on North Sea oil, Norway is also awash in movements to rehabilitate its Nazi collaborationist past as well as align with Israel’s mortal enemies in the present.

Not too long ago, “Adresseavisen” published a satiric cartoon—”Antisemitism Is Advancing Disturbingly in Europe”—that depicted Palestinian president Abu Mazen kneeling before a skull-capped Israeli prime minister Netanyahu sitting at a desk with the sign: “The new Jerusalem is Being Built Here.” A construction zone was shown featuring the sign that hung over the entrance to Auschwitz: Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Liberates”).

AAUP: Israel Boycott Violates Academic Freedom

In a stinging rebuke to the Asian-American Studies Association, the American Association of University Professors has just strongly reaffirmed its opposition to academic boycotts.  The new AAUP statement responds to both Stephen Hawking’s recent controversial decision to boycott Israel as well as the AASA decision to endorse the anti-Israel boycott.  The AAUP acknowledges that individual…

Berkeley Student Senate Guts Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution

The University of California’s long, ugly battle over anti-Israel divestment has just gotten even messier.  Brandeis readers will recall that Berkeley’s student senate passed a resolution on April 18 urging divestment from companies that do business with Israel.  Berkeley’s Chancellor Robert Birgeneau immediately repudiated the measure and announced that it would have no impact on university policy.  Nevertheless, the whole situation was bad enough to draw additional legal challenges from the lawyers who had previously filed a federal anti-Semitism complaint against the Berkeley campus.  Now, the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) faces another blow as Berkeley student senators have revised the resolution to remove most of its operative provisions.  Moreover, as details of the resolution come to light, some commentators now argue that the resolution harms the BDS movement itself more than it does the State of  Israel and its supporters.

As the Daily Californian reports, student senators have removed the clauses that dealt with the student senate’s own investments and appropriations, which are the only funds that they control.  The senate has removed these operative provisions in order to settle charges that the divestment resolution violated the institution’s constitution because it was not passed by a two thirds majority.  Some insiders argue that this move neuters the anti-Israel resolution.

 “I think SB 160 has lost a lot of weight through this settlement,” said Noah Ickowitz, SQUELCH! party chair and a former columnist for The Daily Californian. “The bill that passed is now a completely different bill once these clauses are stricken. It loses almost all its authority. I hope the public understands that this is no longer ASUC divestment.”

Others insist that the amendment did not substantially change the resolution, since it never amounted to anything but symbolism anyhow.

Student Action Senator George Kadifa, who authored the bill, disagreed that the settlement watered down the bill in any way, emphasizing that the purpose of the bill has been largely symbolic since its inception.

To the extent that the Berkley resolution was merely symbolic, its meaning will be difficult to ascertain. In fact, some commentators have argued that the boycott resolution was never as much a victory for the BDS movement as most people believed.  Indeed, Berkeley Professor Ron Hassner has argued  that UC Berkeley “killed BDS” by passing a resolution which includes language which is critical not only of Israel but also of the BDS movement.  Hassner argues that the Berkeley boycott resolution was unique in that anti-Israel student leaders distanced themselves from the BDS movement and its international leader, Omar Barguoti.  In his Times of Israel blog, Hassner explained this difference: