Tidbits From Israel

By Ron Jager

In recent weeks, the level of accusations and counter-clarifications between Israeli cabinet ministers and White House spokespersons concerning statements made by Secretary of State Kerry seem to be much more emotionally charged, even according to Israeli standards. In the latest flare-up, two of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers went even further, lashing out at Kerry and accusing him of undermining the Jewish state’s legitimacy and the chances of reaching a peace agreement. What is it about John Kerry, in his unrelenting crusade to help Israel achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinian Arabs, that has made the political discourse so vocal, heated, and personal?

Kerry was quoted at a recent defense conference in Munich, Germany: “You see, for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things,” Kerry said. “Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace.”

In response, Netanyahu said international pressure on Israel would backfire and only cause the Palestinians to harden their positions. “Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal,” he said.

While Netanyahu refrained from taking aim at Kerry, some of his ministers were harsher. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, called Kerry’s comments “offensive, unfair, and insufferable.” “You can’t expect the state of Israel to conduct negotiations with a gun pointed to its head,” he said. Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, from the Jewish Home party, said all “the advice givers” should know that Israel will not abandon its land because of economic threats. “We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier,” said Bennett, a fierce critic of the Kerry-led talks. “Only security will bring economic stability,” he said.

This kind of tit-for-tat is all too reminiscent of memorable segments from Woody Allen movies in which an extended Jewish family are all sitting around the dinner table and arguing about how to solve the problems of the world, each one never doubting that his or her argument is the most valid. A classic Jewish debate.

It seems that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in Archie Bunker’s infamous words, it’s all in the family. By making a simple check in Wikipedia we learn the following:

Kerry was raised as a Roman Catholic by his Catholic father and Episcopalian mother. As a child, Kerry served as an altar boy. Although the extended family enjoyed a great fortune, Kerry’s parents themselves were upper-middle class.

It was discovered in 2003 by genealogist Felix Gundacker that Kerry’s paternal grandparents were born Jewish as “Fritz Kohn” and “Ida Lowe” in Austria, changed their names to “Frederick and Ida Kerry” from “Kohn” in 1900, and converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism in 1901.

Leaving their hometown Mödling, a suburb of Vienna where they had lived since 1896, Fred and Ida, together with their son Eric, emigrated to the United States in 1905, living at first in Chicago and eventually moving to Brookline, Massachusetts, by 1915.

John Kerry has said that although he knew his paternal grandfather had come from Austria, he did not know until informed by The Boston Globe on the basis of their genealogical research that Fred Kerry had changed his name from “Fritz Kohn” and had been born Jewish, nor that Ida Kerry’s brother Otto and sister Jenni had died in Nazi concentration camps. v

Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic advisor to the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.. To contact him, e-mail medconf@netvision.net.il or visit www.ronjager.com.

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