Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Timing of Simchas Torah

Every year the same drasha comes up over the Sukkos table.  Why, oh why, does Sukkos happen in the autumn after Yom Kippur instead of after Pesach in the spring?  And then one of hundreds of answers spill forth and people hide their yawns and mumble "Shekoyach!" or something along that line.
What never seems to get asked, however, is: Why do we do Simchas Torah as part of Sukkos?  After all, if Sukkos needs a justification to be in the autumn since it would seem to naturally be a spring holiday, why isn't Simchas Torah part of Shavous?  What's more, wouldn't restarting the Torah make more sense on Rosh HaShanah?  Why read about how God remembered Sarah Imeinu on Rosh HaShanah when one could read about the creation of the world Rosh HaShanah reminds us of instead?
Amongst various reasons I've seen, two in particular caught my eye.
The first is that Simchas Torah, by its nature and name, is a holiday of happiness.  Therefore, it belongs as part of Sukkos, z'man simchaseinu.  The second is based on Shlomo HaMelech's blessing to the Jewish nation on the occasion of the completion of the first Beis HaMikdash (may it be speedily rebuilt after the playoffs).  By timing the completion of the Torah for the end of Sukkos, this blessing can coincide with Moshe Rabeinu's final blessing to our ancestors.
While these are both good positive reasons, one must still ask why other occasions during the year don't merit the finishing of the Torah?  For Shavuos, we must remember that the Torah wasn't actually given on that day.  Yes we heard the Aseres haDibros on that hallowed occasion and that's why the holiday is called Zman Matan Toraseinu but the first attempt to actually receive the Torah didn't take place until forty days later and we all know how unsuccessful that was. 
One might then suggest that Yom Kippur, the actual date of kabalas haTorah would be appropriate but how could we reconcile the celebrating of Simchas Torah with the solemnity of the day of repentance?  Never mind the absurdity of serving the annual shul luncheon and nobody being allowed to eat it?  Similarly, the judgemental significant of Rosh HaShanah precludes making that day Simchas Torah.  This leaves Sukkos, with its call to happiness, to coincide with the happiness of completing the Torah again.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Which Way The Rubber Band Snaps

The difficulty with any religious or political system is that it can be very difficult to determine the far ends of those system, never mind the centre.  However, there is an urgency within Torah Judaism in defining those edges so as to know who is "within the camp", as it were.
The problem is that there is an asymmetry within Torah Judaism which leads to tremendous difficulties.  In short, while there is a defined left side of the rubber band, there is no similar situation on the right side.   While it is relatively simple to determine what the minimum standards for being considered Orthodox from the LWMO perspective are - acceptance of Torah MiSinai, the inseparable nature of the Oral and Written law, the authority of Chazal and the subsequent decisors, etc. - there is no similar set of criteria on the right.  We all know what makes a Jew not frum enough, but what makes one too frum?  What behaviour puts one beyond the pale as opposed to not yet within it?
Why this matters is because of the public image that Torah Judaism has in the eyes of the rest of our brethren as well as the world.  Let's face it: if I say "Orthodox Jew" the image of Rabbi Avi Weiss does not pop up in most people's head.  Some guy with a oddly shaped black hat, long side curls and glasses that make Buddy Holly's look modern does.  When people see Esther Petrack flouncing around in slutty clothes on Shabbos for the cameras, it matters not whit whether she calls herself Modern Orthodox.  She isn't and no one sensible will take her claim seriously.  However, when people see the Neturei Karta playing footsies with Mahmood Ahmawhateverhesays, people do think: Wow, they're Orthodox and they're making nice with him?
The time is fast approaching when such barriers on the right have to be established and enforced as much as they are on the left.  What's more, there is probably a greater priority to establishing such regulations on the right since there are greater religious issues at stake.  The person who drives to shul on Shabbos isn't a threat to Torah Judaism.  He is simply not educated enough to know the importance of Shabbos.  His behaviour doesn't reflect on the larger Torah community, nor does it threaten to redefine its behaviour.  This is not the case of those to the right of Torah Judaism who continue to insist that they, and only they, are the authentic bearers of the mesorah and that anything less machmir than them is failing short of the ideal.  In short, they threaten Torah Judaism itself by demanding the replacement of the authentic with a Talibanistic invention.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Jewish Behaviour

(Hat tip: Failed Messiah)

One long going controversy over Jewish behaviour is the debate over what exactly qualifies as such.  For those in the non-religious community, any activity performed by a Jew seemed to be included.  Woody Allen movies, anti-Yom Kippur feasts, as long as a Jew does it it's a Jewish behaviour and the folks involved are acting Jewish.
At the other end of the spectrum, any activities not specifically referenced in the halachic literature, from the Talmud on down, seems to be excluded.  This much more rigid definition does provide a certain sense of clarity and consistency that the liberal definition lacks but is also very exclusionary.  While most frum Jews will agree that a mixed university dance put on by the JSU is not a Jewish activity, most non-religious Jews will disagree vigorously.
Somewhere in the middle, however, are those activities which are Jewish in a more nebulous way.  They're not written down anywhere in the official sacred literature but they are activities and ways of thinking that have preoccupied our nation for centuries, if not longer:
To be a Jew.

To think that you’re different from other people who aren’t Jews, but to get angry when it turns out that they think the same thing about you. To say, “all in all there are only 14 million [Jews] in the entire world, what is 14 million?” So you can tell about the Jew you met in Kamchatka, the last place in the world you’d expect to find a Jew. To stand in the ancient graveyard in Prague, in front of the Maharal’s grave [Rabbi Judah Loew], and to read the Hebrew letters etched in the stone. To feel for a moment that you are etched in stone a bit as well.

To be a Jew.

To know which Jewish actor had a Jewish father and to be surprised that Bill Gates isn’t. To say “Einstein, Freud and Marx,” despite the fact that you’ve never read Einstein, Freud or Marx. To think that every “Cohn” and “Kane” must have once been Cohen. To meet an intelligent gentile and to say about him, “he’s more Jewish than you.” To tell people that you had great rabbis in your family despite the fact that you don’t know exactly what it was that was so great about them. To inherit from your grandfather leather-bound copies of the Talmud with gold lettering, to put them on the shelf and to say to yourself that one of these days you’ll read them.

To be a Jew.

To want perpetually to be someone else. To know that every Jew you’ll meet feels the same thing because that’s a Jewish trait. To talk with a taxi driver who wants to be a singer, with a waiter who has an idea for a start-up company, with a lawyer who says that one day he’s going to write a book. To say, “In France there are people who are waiters for their entire lives, and they don’t have a problem with that.” To feel that there is a problem with that.

To be a Jew.

To hear that someone painted a swastika on the wall of a synagogue in Bolivia, and to feel that it’s your business. To read about how anti-Semitic comic books are sold in Japan and to say, “Think about it, they’ve never met a Jew in their lives.” To be profoundly insulted when someone says to you that the Holocaust isn’t an acceptable argument. Only we’ll decide when the Holocaust stops being an acceptable argument, and that time hasn’t arrived yet.

To be a Jew.
To see a picture of a tall and skinny blonde and to say to yourself that Jews don’t look like that. To be in a perpetual fight with three kilos, three children and three accounts, a Jew who wakes up feeling anxious at three in the morning because of something that tomorrow will appear to be foolish. To ask to be excused in the middle of a meeting if the word “mom” appears on the screen of your cellphone. To say, “Americans see their children once a year,” but not really to understand how they can.  To announce that this year you won’t be at the Passover Seder because you’re flying to London. To delay the flight to London until after the holiday.

To be a Jew.

To complain about the long movies that people make at every Bar-Mitzvah, and then to go and make your kid a 22-minute-long movie that includes a photograph of him at the age of one in the bathtub. To sing enthusiastically “Kol sasson vekol simha” [part of the Jewish wedding ritual], but under no circumstances to remember how the song continues from there. To know the melody from the blessing before reading the Torah [the reference here is to a Bar-Mitzvah boy] even thirty years later. To stand during prayers on Yom Kippur and to ask yourself when the shofar is going to be blown [marking the end of the day of fasting]. To walk into a synagogue in a foreign country and to see Jews sitting by a wooden table reading Hebrew. To walk up to them and to say “Shalom to the Jew” because despite the fact that you don’t know one another, you really do.

To be a Jew.

To keep a kippa in the glove compartment of your car just in case you get stuck having to go to a funeral. To tell your guest from abroad, “Yad Vashem, the Western Wall tunnels and you’ve got to see the new museum.” To think secretly that people with white beards are smarter. To love your neighbor like yourself because you can’t stand yourself. To tie your sister’s sofa to the roof of your car for a move and to tell your brother in law, “what’s the matter with you, we’re family.”

To be a Jew.

To think that Jews in the Diaspora are a little more Jewish than you but also a little less, and not to bother trying to reconcile that contradiction. To quote Maimonides as if you knew him. To know that you’re no less a Jew than the most Ultra-Orthodox Haredi in Mea Shearim, but to squirm a bit at the sight of the rabbi who co-married Chelsea Clinton along with a priest. To say about the red string around Madonna’s wrist, “that’s not Judaism” as if you really know what is.   

To be a Jew.

To know that the most important thing in life is family, and the most important thing in family is what you eat. To make “Grandma Tzipora’s meat patties” ten years after she’s been dead. To tell your mother, “you’ve got to open a restaurant.” To have a family dinner on the holiday eve, a barbecue for the holiday lunch, dinner after the holiday is over, and in the middle to eat from the cake because Jews can’t resist pastry.

To be a Jew.

To talk too much about the kids, too much about money, too much about work, too much about how we talk too much. To be worried all the time that someone is cheating you because, after all, every Jew has an Uncle Reuven who once lost everything. To long for a town you’ve never visited, and for a house you’ll never return to. To know that sometimes things end badly. Not to understand Jews who returned to Germany after the war, but to think that you’d already be a millionaire if you were in America. To call a relative in America who became a millionaire and to ask if your kid can sleep at his house.

To be a Jew.

To belong to something. Something deep, eternal, something that is bigger than us. To know that belonging comes with a price. They’ve already tried to burn me, kill me, expel me, convert me, but the fact is that I’m still here. Because I am a Jew from the Land of Israel, a proud runner in the longest relay race in history, a member of the most select club in the world.
Why is this important?  Yair Lapid is not someone that would ever be mistaken for a Torah observant person, yet it is clear from his writing that he is a Jew.  He senses a connection to the Jewish nation and it is important to him.  He can't quantify it, he can't isolate it but he knows he is a member of a long tradition, of a people that have kept their special identity since leaving Egypt 3500 years ago and that it matters.
Indeed, this is probably one area where even the most chiloni in Israel is light years ahead in terms of his sense of Jewish attachment from his secular counterpart in North America.  Despite all the idiocies of Satmar theology and its concern about Jewish assimilation in a non-Torah state, the chilonim have maintained a deep tie to the Jewish nation, one not found in any book but an emotional and metaphysical one that is more real.
It is this connection that joins us all and which we need to nurture in all our brethren, religious or non.

The Ongoing Process

The most curious feature of the Yom Kippur davening occurs after Yom Kippur ends.  In the Shmoneh Esreh of Maariv we recite, as we usually do, a blessing asking God to forgive us for our sins.  This would seem to be a curious thing considering we just spent many of the previous 25 hours begging for forgiveness from the Ribono Shel Olam, a task in which we were hopefully successful.  Unless one really tried hard to get in a few words of loshon horo between the end of Neilah and the beginning of Maariv, or one couldn't wait until havdalah to have that first bite of chocolate, how could we justify once again asking for forgiveness so soon?
The Rav, ztk"l, when discussing the reason we don't fast on Rosh HaShanah but, adraba, treat it like a Yom Tov even though we are standing before God on that day and having our lives judged, notes that the very fact we have a Rosh HaShanah in the first place points to the special privilege the Jewish people have in all of Creation. Alone amongst all the forms of life God created, only humans are aware of God and His rule over the universe.  Alone amongst all the nations of the world, only the Jewish people relate to him as a King on Rosh HaShanah and actively submit to that judgement.  Awareness of this privilege is the reason for celebration on Rosh HaShanah.
But awareness is only half of the process.  The other half is, of course, teshuvah.  We spend the next seven days until Yom Kippur engaged in the recitation of selichos and on Yom Kippur completely submerge ourselves into thoughts and actions that disengage us from the physical world so we can maxmize our return to God.
But do we ever actually achieve it?  At the end of Yom Kippur we stand like angels before God, dressed in white, fasting and barefoot but an instant later the magic ends.  How many people drag Maariv out so as to keep themselves at that level?  How many regret that first bite of food after davening as opposed to rushing the table, elbowing the little old people out of the way, so as to get that first bite of kugel?  And if this is so, if we are willing to toss away 25 hours of effort to come closer to God the first chance we get, did we achieve real teshuvah at all?
Rav Avraham Kook, ztk"l, writing in Orot HaTeshuvah, brings a different perspective to this.  For him, teshuvah isn't so much a destination as the journey.  A person does not so much achieve teshuvah as reach towards it on a constant basis through regret for sins and efforts to improve one's thoughts and actions.  As a result, the end of Yom Kippur is not the end of our journey which only ends with real teshuvah, the returning of the soul to God in Heaven.  Yom Kippur may advance us a great deal each year of our lives on the journey but the journey continues the instant Yom Kippur ends which means Yom Kippur itself was part of the process.
As the Rav also notes, Yom Kippur is a day for forgiveness from sin but there is no guarantee we cannot sin on that day.  Did our kavannah waver?  Did we talk at an inappropriate time during davening?  Did we speak loshon horo?  And even if one might say that such deviations were unintentional and minor compared to the sins we were confessing for, if we are like angels on that day are even our minor sins that much more serious given our higher level?
If that is so, then the Slach Lanu Avinu we say in the Shmoneh Esreh immeidately after Yom Kippur now makes perfect sense.  We are not done standing before the King of the Universe, as per the Rav, and our journey towards real teshuvah is continuing, as per Rav Kook.  By again acknowledging our imperfection and need for constant forgiveness from our loving Avinu Shebashamayim, we recognize that Yom Kippur is part of the ongoing process of the improvement of our souls and that we are not eager to leave the King's presence and return to a mundane life.

Friday, 17 September 2010

For Yom Kippur

I would like to wish a safe and meaningful fast to all my readers and may we connect in good health and good times in the new year.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Shanah Tovah!

A happy, health and gebencht year to all my readers and followers.  May we all be inscribed in the book of Life for the coming year.

Perhaps It's Better They're Over There

Every year a large, large group of Chasidim decide that the best way to show their high level of piety and spirituality is to go to a Heaven forsake corner of the Ukraine and spend Rosh HaShanah at the grave of Rebbe Nacham of Bratzlav.  Although I'm sure they see a great amount of positive things about this, the custom has elicited a great deal of criticism from elsewhere, especially within Eretz Yisrael.  It is bizarre to think that people who are such a high madreiga would get a better spiritual high in the Ukraine.  I wouldn not go so far as to label it as idolatry but is there not something fundamentally wrong about such a belief?
At any rate, the answer as to what kind of people abandon the spiritual centre of the universe to spend Rosh HaShanah in that same universe's outhouse was answered today in Ynet:
Trips to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in the Ukrainian city of Uman have long become a phenomenon crossing all sectors, common among celebrities and the average Joe alike, but this year, those waiting to boards the flight to Ukraine were privy to an unusual sight – Hasidim in veils.
Some Hasidim were wearing a scarf under their traditional hat, with nothing but the slimmest of slits for their eyes, while others made original use of airlines' sleep masks. The move, Yedioth Ahronoth reported, was meant to "protect" their eyes from immodest views, i.e – women.
Yes, probably jealous of the burka babes of Beit Shemesh, these Chasidim have decided that the world around them is too full of tumah to allow them to innocently walk around with unshielded eyes.  A belief that their personal sanctity will be enhanced by their making a laughing stock of themselves seems to have afflicted many in the group. 
Nutbars, that's what I call 'em.
I recall years ago hearing a Paysach Krohn story in which he mentioned a particular tzadik who never wore his glasses when he went walking outside because "there are certain things a tzadik shouldn't see".  I never liked that explanation.  First of all, how is the tzadik supposed to know how the world works if all he ever sees of it is a fog?  And what's more, how can the tzadik give good advice to his students if he has no idea about how the real world works?
Perhaps this is all part of the view that God is really a great trickster who is looking to trip us up every change He gets.  According to this set of beliefs, He planted fake dinosaur bones to tempt us with thoughts of kefirah.  Does wearing the veil mean we are now to believe that he gave us good vision only in order to make us stumble into hirhur?  Perhaps in addition to the veil we need to incorporate earplugs as well.  After all, just because you don't see the woman in the commercial blaring over the loudspeaker doesn't mean you can't hear her.
It seems that every week another ultra-Orthodox group tries to outdo the rest with a humrah that is presented as putting one on a higher level but which only serves to increase the ridicule with which this group is viewed.  I would just like to know why it's never a competition to see who can give the most tzedakah, or can help the most unfortunate in society.

Tashlich on Shabbos

One of the fun parts of Rosh HaShanah is Tashlich, a great little ritual that lets one deepen the holiday experience and take a nice walk with the family all at the same time.  It's a nice afternoon out for my family, especially since the city we live in reecently renovated the local park at the end of the street.
The purpose of Tashlich is simple: walk to a body of water, chuck some bread or other disposable food item into it and recite some verses.  What's more, there is a tremendous amount of variability when it comes to exactly what is done as part of the ritual.  The Artscroll Rosh HaShanah machzor has a section that rivals Musaf in length while the Rinat Yisrael siddur from Israel has 2 pages or so dedicated to it. 
However, there is one thing that everyone agrees on: one may not do Tashlich on Shabbos.  Should the first day of Rosh HaShanah fall on Shabbos, it is understood that Tashlich is to be performed on the 2nd day.  But when one examines the ritual, one must wonder why.
To thicken the plot, the oldest mention of the ritual in the form we know it today comes from the Maharil around 600 years ago although there are cryptic early mentions as the link above notes.  Although it is a popular custom to throw bread into the water for different potential reasons, some authorities oppose the custom.  Interestingly the Maharil notes that he opposes the throwing of bread into the water on Shabbos which means that in his time folks did perform Tashlich on Shabbos.  If that's the case, what happened to change that and forbid it?
The short answer is: Artscroll.  Well okay, not Artscroll but as mentioned above, they do seem to have the longest Tashlich service around (at least in English-Hebrew, I haven't perused any all-Hebrew kabbalistic machzorim to determine if there are longer versions).
What seems to have happened is as follows: in the beginning the Tashlich service consisted of the recitation of Micah 7:18-20.  Being as it was a relatively short passage, it was easy to memorize.  A person could do so and then go down to the river/lake/sea, recite it and go home. 
Over time the ritual grew, probably as a result of people showing up and saying "Wait, that's it?  We need to say more!" (A similar phenomenon happened with Bircas HaChamah which started as a single blessing and turned into a multi-page service)  Ultimately it became important to learn the Tashlich service by heart which meant shlepping your machzor with you to the water's edge and that creaetes problems on Shabbos if you don't have an eiruv.  This presumable led to the custom to avoid Tashlich on Shabbos even in those places that did have an eiruvMinhag Yisrael Torah hi, after all.  Therefore nowadays even if you live in a place where you can carry on Shabbos you still do Tashlich on the 2nd day.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Death By Methane

Yesterday during my shift in the local ER I saw a man who recently udnerwent a partial colectomy (removal of his colon) because of colon cancer.  He had been doing well until he got home and realized that not only could he not pass fecal contents into his new colostomy but that he was also not passing gas and was starting to develop belly pain.  Naturally he came to the ER to get help.
I assessed and X-ray'd him and diagnosed him with a post-surgical bowel obstruction, then I referred him to surgery.  The surgeons came, saw and admitted but as the Canadian medical system is chronically short on hospital beds he was still in the ER today when I came back to work.
Fortunately (or maybe not so fortunately) he began to improve today.  The first stuff to move was the gas trapped in his belly which began to fill his colostomy bag.  At some point he must have become concerned that there was too much in there and removed the bag to deflate it... into the surrounding atmosphere.
It wouldn't have been so bad... if it had only been once but the bag kept refilling and he kept re-emptying it until the methane content of the ER's air became nearly suffocating.
Fortunately our isolation room was empty and we were able to transfer him into it before the asthmatic in the next bed asphyxiated.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Offhanded Remark That Says Everything

Writing in The Jewish Chronicle, Martin Bright notes his recent disappointing visit to Yad Vashem:
I recently lost my rag at Yad Vashem. I didn't shout and stamp my feet. I'm not that crass. Being British, I just quietly fumed and grumbled to a friend who was with me. But I was properly angry, not just on my own behalf but that of my whole country. Why? Because my guide, a senior curator at the museum, had chosen to lump Britain in as part of her sweeping picture of European capitulation in the face of the Wehrmacht.
"Look how they all surrendered," she said, pointing with a series of thrusts of her finger at the map of Europe with a look of disgust.
"Every single European country." I have never felt myself to be a particularly patriotic person, but I couldn't help it. It just bubbled up. "Except one," I said, half expecting her to correct herself. But no, the guide simply looked me in the eye and said: "Well, I suppose you had the good fortune of the Channel."
I decided to visit the rest of the museum without the benefit of her expertise. Yad Vashem is such a devastating assault on the intellect and emotions that it is best experienced alone anyway.
Some of this disappointment is justified.  Anyone familiar with British culture knows that the inhabitants of Europe's misty northwest corner hated being lumped in with the rest of Europe.  Their is a distinct language, culture and history.  While they have often intervened in the goings on of their continental neighbours, they have never seen themselves as a direct part of Europe and still note with great pride that they have not been successfully invaded since 1066.  Look at the row that happens every time someone suggest that the pound be replaced by the Euro and the strength of British exceptionalism makes itself obvious.
There is also much truth to Bright's noting that it was Britian alone that, for 2 long years, stood alone against the Nazi enemy in the West.  While the rest of Europe either allied itself with Hitler, y"sh or surrendered to him, the British never slowly down in their opposition to his monstrous attempt to conquer the world.  They marshalled their Empire in the name of survival and freedom with ultimate success.  So bully for them.
However, there is the other side of the British war effort that Mr. Bright may not be aware of.  During the war Britain was the West's greatest Nazi enemy but when it came to the Jews they were Hitler's greatest ally. 
It was the British who bloackaded Israel so that fleeing Jews could not reach safety there.  It was the British who refused any Jewish entry into their little kingdom during the war.  It was the British who refused the German offer of one million Hungarian Jews who wound up in Auschwitz.  It was the Britsh who, after war, set up internment camps in Cyprus for concentration camp survivors who had suffered enough in Europe and just wanted to go home to Israel.  As my father, a "guest" in one of those camps one asked me, what's worse - the guy who slits your throat or the guy who holds down so that you can't escape the first guy's knife?
Ironically, Bright mentions this little bit of history in the final part of his article:
But I can't be the only visitor to have noticed how Britain stands out: the Jewish population of Britain was 300,000 before the war and 300,000 after.
A more telling challenge for British visitors to Yad Vashem than whether or not we were saved by the channel in 1940 would be to ask why the population of Jews did not grow.
That's right.  How many hundreds of thousands did Bright's government turn away and send back to certain death?

Hot Air, No Results

The peace talks going on between Israel and the so-called Palestinians have been hailed by the world as a major breakthrough.  After months of making unconditional demands and refusing face to face negotiations while simultaneously blaming Israel for a lack of progress, Mahmood Abbas finally agreed to meet his perceived arch-enemy to the delight of the American and European governments.
For a peace optimist with a short memory, this is an incredibly important event, possible a last chance to prevent a regional war and to influence the Americans and Europeans to get serious with Iran before it develops a nuclear weapon.
For the intelligent person whose recollection of events reaches back beyond last week's breakfast selections, this event is a yawn, a boring repetition of countless previous meetings that were similarily fruitless.  Remember Annapolis?  Remember the Road Map?  Heck, remember Madrid?
The meetings all follow an inevitable pattern: months of intense negotiations to convince the Arab side to attend face to face negotiations while simultaneously claiming Israel is the obstable to such talks.  The Arab side then arrives, presents its demands along with the insistence that they must be met 100% before any actual talks can begin.  The Israeli leadership, realizing that these demands amount to a request to commit national suicide, insist that there must be open negotiations without exception.  The Arabs announce that Israel isn't serious about peace, walk away from the table and everyone blames Israel.
Indeed, the euphoria of the current negotiations has already started to evaporate, as the latest news reports note. Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has expressed his pessimism publicly and he will not be alone.  Although it's not what the media and the left want to hear, it is what's happening.
It's easy to cry "anti-Semitism" and "Jew hatred" when trying to explain why this occurs time and time again but the answer is far more devious.  The truth is that it is not in the interests of the Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron to conduct successful negotiations.
As absurd as that sounds, consider the alternatives.  Currently the Arabs live under the Israeli security blanket while controlling much of their local and municipal security.  Although Fatah runs an incompetent kleptocracy, the natural ingenuity of the locals, no doubt bolstered by their proximity to and observation of Israeli entrepeneurship, has created a mini-economic boom.  As opposed to the situation in 'Aza where most of the inhabitants are kept in a deliberate state of misery as part of the propaganda war against Israel the Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron are building an economy that exists in cooperation with the Israeli one.  Slowly, slowly their lives are improving as they move up the economic scale.
The only catch is that no one can actually broadcast this.  Remember that the Arab position is that non-Jewish inhabitants of Yehuda and Shomron live in a state of constant misery and poverty.  They are supposedly suffering under the boot of Israeli oppression and only the release of that boot, along with an influx of 4-5 million Arabs who claim ancestry to the land of Israel (no verifiable proof required!) into the Jewish side of the border, will allow their lives to flourish. 
Yet if one looks at history, this claim is completely untrue.  In the euphoria that surrounded the signing of the Oslo Discord, Yassir Arafat, y"sh, was given near total control over Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza.  He and his thugs promptly stole all the money that the international community (including Israel) donated to build the local economy and instead prepared for a terrorist war that he ultimately unleashed in 2000. 
For negotiations to be successful, Israel would have to agree to give up the most important parts of Yerushalayim as well as absorb 4-5 million Arabs under the so-called "right of return".  If Abbas were to instead demand what Ehud Barak had offered at Camp David or Ehud Olmert at Annapolis, Israel would likely accede.  But signing such an agreement and giving up on the right of return would result in Abbas' receiving a bullet between the eyes as a welcome gift when he came home.  Arab leaders have promised their people for decades that there will be no deal without such conditions.  Now they are trapped.
The track record of Arab control over Arab citizens is abyssmal.  The contrasting track record of Israeli control with limited Arab autonomy is optimistic but not what is considered to be the politically correct solution.  The world doesn't want happy, prosperous Arabs.  They want a 23rd Arab state no matter how terrible it will make the lives of its citizens.
As a result, there is the constant push for peace talks that go nowhere, which is exactly where they should go.  This is why Abbas shows up with maximalist demands and then walks away from the table when they are not 110%.  The worst thing that could happen to him is a workable peace deal.  It would either mean his death or his having to start to actually run a country without the Israelis doing all the heavy lifting for him.  Neither is a preferable option for a terrorist thug with a PhD in Holocaust denial.
And that is why, after all the hoopla dies down, we will once again be told that negotiations have failed, that it's Israel's fault and that more negotiations need to be started to give peace yet another one last change.