At first glance, the contention that a construction equipment company in Peoria, Ill., is implicated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems strange. But earlier in July, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States adopted a resolution that strongly criticized Caterpillar Inc., the manufacturer whose tractors, bulldozers and mining equipment help build and farm America, for its role in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.21
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced July 18 that he would oppose a controversial bill dictating who could perform conversions in Israel by saying that it would “tear apart the Jewish people.” This particular turn of phrase and the fact that Netanyahu’s opposition has now effectively derailed the progress of the bill mark a clear victory for the forces of Diaspora Jewry, who saw in the legislation an attempt to define Jewish identity in a way that would exclude them.
Under the current system, Israelis who wish to convert to Judaism must go before a state-run Conversion Authority, which operates under the supervision of the country’s avowedly Orthodox Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar. Amar appoints the members of the authority — only male rabbis, of course — and has the final say on all matters of Jewish law.
Two self-described pro-Israel groups are trading barbs and pointed advertisements in a dispute over the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania.
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