February 21, 2006

Living backwards

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:59 pm by yisraelmedad

 

Sometimes, Middle East politics need not be filtered through the wisdom of the Bible, the Quran or the Chatham House version of history.  Literary criticism methodology, though, is useful.  For example, one can gain helpful introspection to Israel’s predicament even from a book like Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”.

 

In Chapter five of the book, we read how Alice becomes very mixed up about jam.  The Queen’s rule was: “jam to-morrow and jam yesterday — but never jam to-day.” Alice objects but the Queen insists, “It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.”  Poor Alice.  She just didn’t understand and it all was dreadfully confusing. 

 

So Carroll, making it clear not only for Alice but for us all, has the Queen say “That’s the effect of living backwards, it always makes one a little giddy at first.”   Alice was astonished, never having heard of such a thing, but as one’s memory works both ways, there’s a great advantage in the method.  Still hesitant, Alice remarked, “I’m sure MINE only works one way. I can’t remember things before they happen.”  The Queen then proceeded to tell of the King’s Messenger. He was in prison, being punished but the trial will not even begin till the following Wednesday.  “And of course,” she states, “the crime comes last of all.”

 

Alice was at this point, truly perplexed.  “Suppose he never commits the crime?” she asked.

 

*           *           *

 

Ten years ago, those who had the audacity and strength of spirit to “think backwards” about where the Oslo process would take us and what crimes would be committed were castigated and pilloried.  They were viewed as black prophets who could not see the New Middle East being fashioned and who were endangering the peace process.   We were all informed, most authoritatively, that a ‘peace for our time’ was at hand, to echo the words of another peacemaker who had spoken on the subject on September 30, 1938.  Months of secret negotiations in the northern cold of Norway had finalized into a concession of Jericho in addition to “Gaza first”, the beginning of many capitulations that encouraged the PLO that further yielding on the part of Israel would become a staple.
 

Arafat would send us to drink the water off the Gaza coast and the government ignored him.  He spoke of jihad in Johannesburg and the government excused his use of the expression.  There was a secret codicil on PLO institutions in Jerusalem that was hidden from the Knesset.  Ministers Peres, Beilin and Sarid covered for Arafat when they assured us that the PLO covenant was no longer a binding document.  The list of stealthy, underhanded policy manipulations practiced by the Yitzhak Rabin government is too long and too depressing and, after a decade, appears too border-line treacherous.
 

Nevertheless, the actions of the government and the developments of the diplomatic process were predicted time and time again by opposition MKs and the “irregulars”, the street activists who were set upon by the media and the police.  It was urged not to give them guns.  The PLO, it was said, is more interested in returning the refugees than a state.  This process, it was predicted, would ignite an irredentist movement among Israel’s Arabs. 
 

The political establishment, backed by a fawning press, supported by analysts in the media and the academia, encouraged by off-Dizengoff theaters, entertainers and a plethora of cultural icons, brushed off the criticism.  Shimon Peres came up with a new term, “peace sacrifices”, instead of terror victims.  They could not “look backwards”, not to mention “live backwards”.  Their opponents were puny in vision.
 

But, reality was upon us, almost from the first moments, when Arafat began smuggling, in his own planes and vehicles, terrorists and arms.  The numbers of the “police” force grew way beyond those permitted.  The rhetoric increased in stridency from Gaza and Jericho, and then from Ramallah.  The violent outburst in September 1996, the Tunnel Riots, were but a small-scale rehearsal.
 

*           *           *
 

In his article, “Peace is only a question of time”, published on the BitterLemons web site on September 8, Yair Hirshfield came to this stunning conclusion no less: “Failed negotiations can be of great historical relevance as they often produce concepts and ideas that do show the way for conflict resolution”.  A decade later, thousands of dead and wounded on both sides, with almost every obligation assumed by the Palestinian side violated and yet none of the enthusiasm as well as the insanity of those who reached out to Arafat and the PLO establishment have been tempered by failure.  And this is no ordinary failure. 
 

We may have been better off had we recalled, when Peres had broached the Oslo process, to have adopted the advice of George Orwell, who, in writing about Mohatmas Ghandi, penned, “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent”.

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The slide into Messy-ism

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:55 pm by yisraelmedad

June 16, 2003

Zionism has always been considered, and championed, as a secular political movement. It was a revolt from within, releasing Jews from the restraints of centuries-old Exilic belief that redemption, with the accompanying return to the Land of Israel, could only come about as a result of a religious act. The more observant Jews were, the more commandments performed, the quicker the redemption would come. Moreover, that redemption would be messianic in character.

During the period of the up-building, under the auspices of the British Mandate, one expression of this dichotomy was the attitude expressed towards central objects of Israeli nationalism that were originally religious in essence. One such example is the Western Wall.

Following earlier attempts, before and after World War I, to purchase the Wall and its adjacent neighborhood, it sprung to the forefront of Yishuv politics after a brutish incident during Rosh HaShana 1928, when British police dispersed worshippers in order to uproot the mechitza partition separating the men and women congregated there. While the socialist and secularist chalutzic camp proclaimed that not one stone in the Wall was worth as much as any of the clumps of earth being turned over by the plows of Zionist pioneers in the Yizrael Valley, scores of Committees to Protect the Wall were established.

The riots of 1929 – when Arabs, incited by the Mufti of Jerusalem, stormed out of the gates of the Temple Mount to kill, pillage and plunder the Yishuv for two weeks, with an inadequate British response and a woefully unprepared Hagana – was a turning-point. The chalutzim were not the super heroes of their own self-promotion and the religious element in the conflict between Jews and Arabs proved more powerful than previously perceived. Zionism’s “peace camp”, Brit Shalom, and later, Ihud, sought to distance themselves from religious symbols and strengthened the attitude that in politics, religion should have no place.

The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 did not really end this controversy of politics vs. religion. The existence of the state of Israel, at least in the “Green Line” borders, while a source of excitement and pride for all Jews, including what was then termed the “Mizrachi” religious stream, was not conclusive proof that God was truly involved in history. The argument over the saying the Hallel prayer of thanksgiving on Independence Day, and whether it was to be preceded by a blessing, was an indication that the tenuous relationship between religion and secularism within Zionism was still unresolved.

In 1967, a new reality presented itself. The precarious situation that Israel had faced, the military victory and the coming into contact with the historic regions of the Land of Israel all were the ingredients that readjusted the mindset of many. Natan Alterman, poet laureate of the Labour movement, dealt with the recognition that the 19 years between the two wars, the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, were a time of erosion of the idea of Eretz-Yisrael.

In an article published in Ma’ariv on June 16, 1967, Alterman wrote, “this victory is not only about the return of the Jews to the most ancient and sublime of the nation’s sacred sites… it is the erasing in essence of the difference between the state of Israel and the land of Israel.” So, while outstanding public figures of the traditional Mapai-variety cooperated with those previously considered nationalist extremists within the framework of the Movement for an Integral Land of Israel, other voices of the Left denounced the messianism they saw taking hold of Israel’s policy-makers.

The onset of Gush Emunim in 1974, after the victories of Rabbi Moshe Levinger in Hebron, Chanan Porat in Gush Etzion and the socialist kibbutznik Yehuda Harel on the Golan, sent Israel’s Left into paroxysms of fulmination. The stark realization that a messianic movement of fundamentalist restoration was all but in control was an intolerable state of affairs.

However, in mirror-image parallelism, Israel’s Left, desperate to achieve any accommodation with the enemy, took off into flights of messianic fervor. Peace was elevated to such a cultural and political value that irrationalism was being permitted. Israel’s information services were undermined abroad, laws of the state, such as those against meetings with PLO representatives, were violated, and a government minister was summarily discharged after it became known that he was guiding the negotiating positions of Yasser Arafat.

Oddly enough, the one issue which both sides of the spectrum seemed to agree upon was the Temple Mount. Administrative control of the site was returned to the Islamic Waqf some two weeks after the paratroopers had conquered it, with the lowering of the Israeli flag on the day of the 28th of Iyar a forerunner of the depths yet to come. Labour and Likud governments both cooperated in the attempt to distance the Jewish people from Judaism’s most sacred real estate. When visits were tolerated, prior to September 28, 2000, the Jew there was no more than a tourist, his identity as a descendent of the priests and Levites who served in the Temple courtyards, emasculated. He could not pray there, nor could he read from the Book of Psalms or Lamentations.

At what was probably the last opportunity for the peace camp to direct and be responsible for negotiations with the Arabs, at Camp David in 2001, Jerusalem was to be divided and the Temple Mount was to be shared, Muslims above ground and the Jews below. It was a fantasy. US President Clinton insisted that Israel could not dig, once below. The Temple artifacts were not to be discovered. All collapsed when Arafat claimed that the Jews never had a temple on the mount; it was somewhere else. Even Clinton became upset at that rewriting of history.

The messianism of the left, their rush to peace via Olso and Camp David, without regard to practicalities, slid into a ‘messy-ism’. As a result of their arming of the PLO terrorists with modern weapons and turning a blind eye to their illegal growth in number, to the institutionalized incitement, and more, the peace camp brought upon Israel the most invidious and protracted period of violence since the founding of secular political Zionism. Fundamentals shared by all streams of Zionism have become unhinged. The mess is nigh impossible to deal with.

The refusal to comprehend the religious underpinnings of Jewish nationalism, the enforced ignoring of the Temple Mount’s potency, and the denigration of the renewed Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, caused the advancement of a false messianism that has brought about a plain, unadulterated mess for Israel, its citizens and its supporters.

Nevertheless, the unique celebrations of last Jerusalem Day indicate that the old messianism still maintains its driving force.

The uneasiness syndrome

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:53 pm by yisraelmedad

August 15, 2003

The diplomatic maneuvering termed the “peace process” has entered another labyrinthine corridor, this despite a “roadmap” provided us by President George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, the UN and the European Union. Marked less by knowing how we entered this “new” route than recalling to us why we wanted to search for a final exit from the “old” pathways, this now over-familiar rite doesn’t seem to resolve any of the basic problems of the bloodbath.

In the July 25 Newsweek interview with Lally Weymouth, the Palestinian Authority’s titular head, Mahmoud Abbas, demanded that “all the items stipulated in the Roadmap – freeing the prisoners and ending the occupation” be delivered. When Ms. Weymouth reacted, saying, “But the issue of prisoners is not in the Roadmap,” Abbas unabashedly declared, “It is in the Roadmap. It is in the Tenet [work plan].” Here is a prime example of the Palestinian’s utilizing the traditional Jewish ploy of chutzpah.

At the root of Israel’s inability to offset such proposals as this “roadmap”, and anti-Israel interpretations, similar to our lack of success with previous plans named after Messrs. Jarring, Rodgers, Kissinger, Mitchell and Tenet, is, it would seem, our predilection for refusing to face the irregularities in our relationships with our so-called allies as well as our enemy, the Arabs of Palestine. We refuse to acknowledge, or at the least, we ignore that which makes us uneasy, knowing well that such uneasiness is a warning bell. Our diplomats of the professional kind, those of our Foreign Affairs Ministry, as well as the politicians who crowd the media interviews and compare tie designer labels, as did Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz with Muhammed Dahlan, swallow their national pride, ignore slights and prejudices and seemingly are incapable of adequately countering outright lies.

It is time that Israel’s official information service bureaus face these issues. Among the chief causes for concern, the following appear to me to be those that must be dealt with in an urgent fashion:

1. Palestinianism is a quasi-nationalism.

The leadership of the Palestinian Authority purports to make the ludicrous claim that within an area that is perhaps 50 miles wide there are three separate and distinct Arab groupings, while disguising their belief that there is really only one, as their covenant makes clear.

This approach asserts that there are Israeli Arabs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Green Line border, Palestinian Arabs from the Green Line to the Jordan River, and Jordanians from the Jordan to the Iraqi desert. All are to be awarded a status as a “people” with their own claims for either statehood or, as with Israeli Arabs, ethnic minority autonomy; whereas, in actuality, the Palestinian Covenant continues explicitly to define these three groups as one and unified.

But more dangerous, and therefor avoided by Israeli spokespersons, is the fact that this Palestinianism is nothing but the negative of Zionism, rather than the positive aspects of any so-called separate and distinct people. We cringe at criticizing the artificiality of a nationalism that only exists to harm Israel and counter Zionism.

2. Palestinian Authority corruptness.

Except for the attempt to use documents discovered during the Defensive Shield operation in the spring of 2002, Israel has not followed up in a constant manner any criticism of the corruptness of the PA. No documentaries have been made, no reports, no requests for certain persons to be removed from office.

Of course, there are those who point to uncomfortable connections between leading Israelis and those in the PA who are bleeding dry the guy-in-the-street Arab. There was Yossi Ginosar, nicknamed “Mr. Five Per Cent”, and there is Dov Weisglas, confidante of the Austrian investors in the Jericho casino. But the corruptness and embezzlement is not only financial. There are human rights abuses and the lack of judicial independence; lack of press freedom and a transparent bureaucracy. The treatment of religious sites such as Joseph’s Tomb and the Jericho synagogue, as well as the crimes committed on the Temple Mount and its historic and archeological past are downplayed by instruments of state. Individuals have to run around trying to draw attention to these violations of normative human behavior as well as of the Oslo Accords.

3. The attitude of the EU.

While excuses can be made for the PA, what are we to make about the attitude of the European Union? It would be safe to surmise that if any other country acted even half the way the PA does, the EU would turn its back on it. However, one can only presume that since Israel, the Jewish state, is involved, the Europeans turn a blind eye. The patterns of behavior displayed by the PA would, in any normal situation, negate any further assistance or cooperation from the EU or the United States. Nevertheless, Israel shies away from confronting this double-standard.

Israel not only shies away, but there is also the matter of rampant anti-Semitism in Europe. What has Israel actually done to berate the countries involved and their lack of adequate protection of their Jewish citizens? Shimon Peres during a visit to Paris last year went so far, perhaps too far, in making an announcement on the steps of the President’s mansion that there is no anti-Semitism in that country. Again, Israel, feeling uneasy, prefers a low-keyed policy rather than outright confrontation.

4. American State Department antagonism.

Ever since President Woodrow Wilson told Louis Brandeis in 1917 that he was supportive of Palestine being developed as the Jewish national home, the United States Department of State has been seeking ways to subvert the executive branch. Breckinridge Long in 1948 managed to stymie Harry Truman with the trusteeship maneuver. That may be history, as is the well-known Arabist slant among American foreign service professionals, but is it any wonder that the American Consulate in Jerusalem is regarded with more than a bit of suspicion, when former employees and even a Consul-General end up working for organizations inimical to Israel’s official policies?

Edward Abington, former Consul-General, has worked for the Benerman and Associates lobbying firm, registered under law as representing the Palestinian Authority, hired in 2000, and was PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s chief lobbyist in Washington. Another former political officer, Lara Friedman, was hired by American Friends of Peace Now to act as legislative director, their congressional go-between, in their Washington office. Does not the State Department feel uncomfortable about this? Does not Israel feel it should comment?

5. The rank defeatism of Israel’s post-Zionist Left.

During the state-building enterprise period under the British Mandate, Zionism was attacked from within constantly. The PKP, Palestine’s communists, had a hand in the 1929 riots by harping on the theme of Zionism as colonial imperialism. The Brit Shalom intellectuals and the Hebrew University’s Judah Magnes were willing to go to almost any extent, including restricting Jewish immigration, to reach a compromise with the most evil of men, such as the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini. The activities of the Van Leer circle, of Peace Now and B’tselem, therefore, are not new. But what is different is that unlike David Ben-Gurion, Berl Katznelson and Natan Alterman in their time, our current leadership cannot launch an effective counterattack.

Today, the media, the theater, the entertainment cliques all provide support and encouragement for these forces. Without Shelli Yechimovicz and Carmela Menasheh of Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel), the “Four Mothers” movement would have been as effective as the “Women in Green” group for the simple reason of lack of positive public exposure. I cannot recall any significant film or play promoting ideas sympathetic to the national camp; whereas, the state ministries help out the Akko (Acre) alternative festival and such anti-state films as “Islands”.

The institutions of state continue to provide funding for playwrights, authors and other cultural icons. It is one thing to be critical of government policy, yet it is another to use the public’s money to subvert the Zionist underpinnings of Israel. However, no response has been forthcoming to offset this phenomenon, even if only to encourage a different trend of culture.

In addition, despite studies and dozens of justified complaints against media bias, no effective system of disciplinary supervision is in place.

6. The growing support of Christians over American Jewish support.

Over the past decade, and with George W. Bush’s election acting as a stimulator, the support for Israel and, more interestingly, for the retainment by Israel of the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, has been a most prominent development in the relationship between Israel and America. The amazing news is that the Sharon government has downplayed this and has attempted to marginalize it.

Embarrassed by charges that the Christian Right are advancing their own theological agenda, Israeli officialdom, those who cut their diplomatic teeth on the liberalism and progressivism preferred by wealthy and influential Jews, are aghast and nearly incapable of dealing with this support.

All of the foregoing, and more examples that exist, all point to a weakness, psychological and mentally, that is hindering the ability of Israel to assert its true security, military and political needs. Information bodies, state-sponsored and independent, must begin forcing back the discrimination and double-standards that Israel faces. We cannot afford to be embarrassed to press home the truth, our truth. The more we bend over backwards to avoid causing our “friends” uneasiness, we are the ones to suffer.

The Temple Mount, One Year Later

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:51 pm by yisraelmedad

August 02, 2004

A year has passed since Internal Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi reopened the Temple Mount compound to visits by Jews. In one fell swoop, his act ended three years of blatant anti-Jewish discrimination, a legal issue Israel’s courts have avoided, rectified a human rights concern hypocritically ignored by all those liberal civil society groups who never miss an Arab plaint, and highlighted the lie that the Temple Mount is a tinderbox flash point of messianic violence.

The Israel police decided, following the October 2000 Arab riots, that Ariel Sharon, then an opposition Member of Knesset, was to be the last Jew to set foot in the open-air esplanade built on Mount Moriah. The move was not out of character because since 1967, all Israel’s governments have acted with abject inferiority as regards asserting any form of sovereignty over Judaism’s most holy site. The extended length of the ban, though, was problematic.

During this past year, however, over 50,000 Jews have visited the Temple Mount, at times, in groups of many dozens. The visitors receive explanations as to the intricacies of the religious and ritual aspects of the Mount, in addition to its history and archeology. Dogged by Waqf provocateurs, seeking to draw the attention of the police to supposed attempts by Jews to pray, the thousands of Jews who have entered have proven that the consciousness of the Temple Mount’s primacy has not been thwarted, neither by hostile Muslims nor by indifferent Israeli officials. The Temple Mount spirit endures.

One cannot, though, escape the suspicion that all these years, the police could have allowed visits, if only the state authorities would have acted as if they are the legal sovereign power they theoretically claim to be.

Nevertheless, the Waqf, the dominating arm of the Palestinian Authority, still exerts an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish subversive force. Unfortunately, Israel continues to kowtow to the Waqf while permitting Islamic fundamentalists from Israel to meddle in affairs. Jewish groups are profiled by the police and media as “extremist elements”. Furthermore, the state allows foreign engineers from Jordan and Egypt to deal with the dangerous structural problems that have developed on the Temple Mount compound.

In September 2003, one side of a wall of the Temple Mount compound, near the Islamic Museum, collapsed, uncovering an area of some 40 square meters of dirt and fill. Adnan Al-Husseini, Waqf director, brazenly stated that this was the result of “Israeli intervention.” The southern wall, too, continued to develop an outwards bulge. While Israeli archeologists believed the bulge and the wall collapse are due to unauthorized Waqf underground construction, the Antiquities Authority cite faulty drainage as the probable cause for the bulge. In either case, however, non-Israeli bodies are dealing with the situation.

Then, in February this year, a wall along the ascent to the Mughrabi Gate, adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza, crumbled after a snowstorm and an earthquake. Dr. Eilat Mazar, an outspoken critic of government policy, said that the lack of professional archaeological treatment of the Mount is symptomatic of a general negligence and apathy in the entire area. To complicate matters more, in April, the Temple Mount’s eastern wall developed its own bulge and a classified government report claimed it, too, is in danger of imminent collapse.

It would seem that Tisha B’Av, with its theme of destruction, still has immediate relevance.

The return of the Temple Mount to the national agenda has unnerved certain circles that assert that this more active role that has developed might be seen as an attempt to negate Arab rights. Another of their concerns is that it might bolster “messianic” elements among Jews, who would want to initiate sacrificial services and ultimately target the mosques, as occurred in the early 1980s. For those circles, the specter of a religious-based conflict is their greatest fear.

They must be pleased, then, in the wake of Hanegbi’s recent warning that Jewish extremists may attack on the Temple Mount. However, the warning lacked specific details and, as the minister admitted, was not based on concrete intelligence but “sensed”. This is certainly no reason to place anyone in administrative detention.

Another form of a “lack of intelligence” was Yasser Arafat’s refusal to acknowledge that Jewish Temples existed on Mount Moriah, which shocked and annoyed even US president Bill Clinton at Camp David II. In a Ha’aretz interview in June, asked about the issue of Jewish prayer at the “Haram E-Sharif”, on the Temple Mount, Arafat said, “It is clear what I had accepted in Camp David: the Wailing Wall, the Jewish Quarter, with a passage freely under your control.” Rejecting, thus, any link between Jews and their sacred site, Arafat adopted an anti-Jewish discriminatory approach of “the Wall below, not the Mount above.”

Luckily for Israel, an Egyptian, Ahmed Mahmad Oufa, wrote last August that the Koranic verse mentioning Mohammed’s “night journey” has nothing to do with Jerusalem. The entire Moslem claim to Jerusalem and El-Aksa, Oufa asserted, is based on a mistake. Yet Israel’s Jewish pro-Palestinians reject that view.

Tisha B’Av, then, this year, with all the positive changes, still remained a day of mourning, one of downtrodden nationalism.

A dismantling experience

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:50 pm by yisraelmedad

January 08, 2004

For over twenty-two years I have been living, with my wife and children, in a community that has been scheduled for destruction. My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are in Ofra. The fact is that my community, Shiloh, is located squarely in the center of what should be termed the “disputed” territories of Judea and Samaria, some 28 miles directly north of Jerusalem. Although the term most commonly used for the scheduled destruction is dismantling, it is but a euphemism.

On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority considers my residency an act of terror and encourages acts of violence, including fire-bombings, shootings and explosives, against me and my neighbors. Citizens of Shiloh have been killed and many injured in these attacks. Nevertheless, we have prevailed over Arab terror: Our population steadily increases; construction of homes never halted; schools, religious institutions, industrial parks and more were erected; agriculture flourishes, in the form of grapes, vineyards, cherries, nectarines and chickens.

On the other hand, governments of Israel have been unable to make up their collective minds about our long-range future. From day one, Shiloh has been on the political chopping block in more than a figurative sense.

The first person to demand Shiloh’s dismantling was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Menachem Begin, then-prime minister of Israel, had presented to Carter, in December 1977, the outlines of his autonomy plan. Carter thought that Begin had agreed to a three-month freeze of the construction of Jewish villages and towns. Begin knew he didn’t. At the end of January 1978, the first families arrived under the guise of an archeological excavation venture. The following April, official recognition was issued.

Begin explained at the time that no one would think to expel Jews from Shiloh, Georgia, or Shiloh, Ohio; so why expel Jews from the original Shiloh?

All through the years, we have been visited by American consulate officials and diplomats from over a dozen other countries, all of whom have pressed us about the issue of our removal. We have been photographed from satelites in space. We do not lack for media attention. Cameramen position us on a hill overlooking a nearby Arab village to set up a false shot of contrasts, and journalists repeat the question of our fate endlessly.

We have had other visitors, persons who completely sympathize, identify with and support our presence here in Shiloh. To them, we are revenants, people who have returned to their ancestral home after a long and forced separation. Senator Jesse Helms, former Senator Chick Hecht, Roberta Combs, then head of the Christian Coalition, rabbis and their congregations, lay leaders of Jewry abroad from several continents – all have come to Shiloh and all have expressed their solidarity in words, in money and, in some instances, by joining our community.

Several seasons of academic work at the tel of ancient Shiloh has uncovered a multi-layered history of Israelite presence, in addition to evidence of other peoples who have been here at Shiloh. But it is only we Jews who, as revenants, have come back, and we now face transfer and uprooting by a Jewish authority.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s vocabulary, as reflected most recently in his December 18 Herzliya speech, includes “relocation”, “disengagement”, “redeployment”, “friction reduction” and “dismantling”. At a Likud Knesset faction meeting a half year ago, he even spoke of “occupation”. New construction is not to be. In the final analysis, Sharon insists that “Israel will not remain in all the places where it is today.”

Whether it is a border that is to be moved or the Jewish population, the end message remains inexorably the same: Jews don’t belong in these areas. This message is dangerous. It is unfaithful to Zionism, to Israel’s security and to the ethos of Jewish nationalism. It is mendacious history.

In adopting a policy of transfer of Jews, while, at the same time, refusing to contemplate a similar policy towards Arabs, whether in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) or in the sovereign state of Israel, Sharon and supporters are going down a very dangerous path. It is a path that reinforces the fundamentals of Arab propaganda, starting in 1920, which assert that the presence of Jews in “Arab Palestine” is foreign. As Arafat phrased it at Camp David II, the Jewish Temple never existed on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. By extension, in my specific instance, the Tabernacle was not set up in Shiloh, although evidence of animal sacrificial service and other substantiating elements have been found. Transfer cannot be applied to Arabs, it is claimed, because they are the native sons of this land.

Academics, among them, Professor Shlomo Avineri, promote the idea that moving Jews out of Yesha is not transfer, for Yesha is a unique geo-political entity and bringing Jews “back” into Israel proper cannot be transfer. However, the whole argument that Jewish residency in Yesha is considered “illegal” is based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which speaks of “transferring of the occupier’s citizens into the occupied territory.” So, if moving Jews back into Israel is not defined as “transfer”, then logically, the moving of Jews in was not “transfer” either and, hence, cannot be illegal under the Geneva Convention.

In the end, though, all this is moot. Dismantling and relocation would be ripping the soul out of Zionism, surrendering to Arab terror, endangering Israel’s security and the beginning of another stage in the Arab roll-back of Jewish nationalism and the presence of Jews anywhere in Israel.

Beginning with Begin

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:49 pm by yisraelmedad

October 31, 2004

I first met Menachem Begin personally in a synagogue in Queens in 1968. He was on an Israel Bonds tour and I and other Betar youth movement members provided an honor guard for the event. Of course, I had earlier “met” Begin through the books he wrote, which I had read. I had also been present, during my year of training in Israel in 1966-1967, at outdoor rallies and indoor meetings where he had spoken. Later, as a result of my work in the political field, I even took dictation from Mr. Begin in the summer of 1982 at coalition talks when he was prime minister.

Thus, it was with interest and curiosity that I listened to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon presenting his disengagement program to the nation. In his statement before the Knesset last week, he recalled words Begin spoke over two decades ago during the first debate on his autonomy plan. He also quoted two lines from a song penned by Begin’s mentor, Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Obviously, he was seeking to underpin his drastic turn-about from traditional nationalist camp policies by attaching himself to luminaries of the past.

There can be a problem in drawing historical parallels based on the relevance of what was once said, and it is obvious that Sharon was not that successful in attempting to mobilize this postmortem support.

Let me start with Jabotinsky.

Sharon noted that Jabotinsky possessed a vision for partnership and peace among the peoples of this land. In an article published in his last collection, The Jewish War Front, he even proposed the possibility of an Arab president for the future state of Israel. In the plenum, Sharon read two lines from a song written in 1934 that became a popular song of the Betar movement.

Its fourth stanza reads: “There he will benefit from bountiful plenty and joy, the son of the Arab, the son of Nazareth and my son.” The song’s title, Sharon neglected to inform his listeners, is “The Left Bank of the Jordan” and the “there” in the line quoted is quite a different geographical reality from Sharon’s disengagement. Jabotinsky’s “there” was the entire area of the mandate granted to Great Britain by the League of Nations in 1922.

To Jabotinsky’s great regret, the mandate was whittled down considerably and all of Trans-Jordan, east of the Jordan River, was awarded to a Saudi Arabian refugee named Abdallah, a scion of the Hashemite family. Forced by his personal commitment to institutional discipline, Jabotinsky, as a member of the Zionist Executive, did not vote to reject the loss of homeland territory. But he later resigned in protest and his Revisionist party championed the concept of the integrity of the homeland.

So, while Sharon sought to don a mantle that Jabotinsky once wore, in truth, his quotation was, to put it kindly, a slight misrepresentation.

And now, to what Menachem Begin said.

On December 28, 1977, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin presented his plan for Palestinian autonomy. Sharon quoted the following excerpt, where Begin refers to criticism directed against him from Chanan Porat of Gush Emunim:

“I once said, during an argument with people from Gush Emunim, that I love them today, and will continue to like them tomorrow. I told them: ‘You are wonderful pioneers, builders of the land… However, you have one weakness – you have developed among yourselves a messianic complex…. I call on you today, my good friends from Gush Emunim, to perform your tasks with no less modesty than your predecessors, on other days and nights. We do not require anyone to supervise the kashrut of our commitment to the Land of Israel!”

It is easy to understand why Sharon selected these lines at this moment, faced as he is with his decision to expel some 8,000 people from their homes. Begin’s legalistic approach, we know, led him to distinguish between Sinai and the former Mandate area. Sinai, Begin insisted, was not Eretz-Yisrael. Sharon, however, is dealing with Gaza and a portion of northern Samaria. This is another matter entirely.

In fact, a few paragraphs on in his speech, we read Begin saying: “When it was demanded of us [in Washington] that we agree to the establishment of a so-called ‘Palestinian’ state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, we replied that in no way would we accept such an entity, which represents a mortal danger to the state of Israel.”

Moreover, in Begin’s last public address, on August 14, 1983, he said: “As far as Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district are concerned, we have a perfect right to live and stay there;” a clear indication that his vision of the people of Israel in the land of Israel was quite different from that of Mr. Sharon.

Words are important. People remember them. They remind us. Care, too, we now know, must be taken to guard them and to recall them in their context and circumstances. To do otherwise is to distort, something public debate should not tolerate.

So silly of us

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:48 pm by yisraelmedad

April 20, 2003

Israel is now being requested, gently or less so, to proceed along a path intended to resolve the conflict with the Arabs who term themselves “Palestinians”. The United States and the United Kingdom have prepared a “road map” which is to provide directions and a timetable for this path that Israel is to take. After decades of diplomacy, terror and economic boycott, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, formerly the Palestine Liberation Organization, may be forced to face the core issues that have, until now, proved nigh insolvable.

In the almost 39 years since Israel assumed the administration of territories alternatively termed “disputed” or “occupied”, but, nevertheless, portions of the Jewish people’s historical homeland, the great debate has raged within Israel what is to be the principled policy on the issue. Of those 39 years, representatives of the nationalist camp have served as prime ministers for 19 of them, just over half. Their basic platform (and Ariel Sharon is still an unknown) could be summarized as no Palestinian state west of the Jordan River and uninhibited Jewish residency in the area. Without analyzing the specific political ramifications of such a position – whether Israeli sovereignty, autonomy or condominium – this approach is now being challenged by the “road map”.

In addition to Likud prime ministers (Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu and Sharon), Israel’s Foreign Ministry has been in Likud hands. If there is one major failing, it has been in the ability and capability of these Foreign Ministers to adequately present Israel’s case in the information and diplomatic fields. We are now reaping the stunted growth of the inactivity and the lack of influence on the permanent civil service personnel who vigorously opposed the Likud philosophy.

Official spokespersons, from Directors-General to ambassadors, from consuls-general to plenipotentiaries, as well as officially sanctioned academics and researchers, at the UN and over a hundred countries, have done their best to undermine such a philosophy. The subject was avoided at the social talk sessions of conferences and delegations, not enough printed or published and many sought simply to avoid the issue. Israel voluntarily gave up most of the weapons it could have employed in this battle, or, when they were available, the permanent staff belittled the matter and the materials. Residents of the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were stymied in their own efforts, while offers of help and appearances were kept to the barest of minimums.

Much of the criticism, from without and from within, to the nationalist camp ideology centered on the fact that we offered no alternative to what the nations of the world accepted. Basically, they thought that it was all so silly of Israel to campaign and struggle in the arena of world opinion on behalf of such a policy.

Yet, already 80 years ago, it was a British statesman who stood up to local Arabs and their supporters.

That statesman’s message was predicated on the obvious: national rights to a national home in what was called “Palestine” were viewed as belonging to the Jews from a historical, religious, legal and cultural sense, and to the Jews only. We were the one and only ‘national grouping’. The Arabs had national rights in other places. In March 1921, Winston Churchill visited the Palestine Mandate (during which, on his famous “Sunday walk”, he created TransJordan and plunked down Abdullah as Emir in Rabat-Ammon). He was presented with a memorandum from various delegations of Arabs. To one from Haifa, which was particularly strongly worded, he replied:

“It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a national home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews and good for the British Empire. But we also think it will be good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine… I would draw your attention to the second part of the Balfour Declaration which solemnly and explicitly promises to the inhabitants of Palestine the fullest protection of their civil and political rights.”

This message of Churchill is as relevant today as it was then. Ariel Sharon himself could learn a thing or two about the true importance of Shiloh and Bet-El.

True, this message meets with ridicule. That self-destructive ridicule originates with Zionist groupings on the left, spreads to Jews of the Diaspora, finds a willing audience among non-Jewish radical organizations and becomes the bon mot of the “liberal” and progressive” camp. Nevertheless, after a decade of the Oslo Process, with its dreams and visions of a “New Middle East”, of inculcating democracy and its institutions, of defusing religious Islamist fanaticism and halting incitement, is this message any less potent? And if there has been insurmountable difficulty in applying the values behind Churchill’s message, why should the values of peace and security be any more relevant to the Palestinian nationalist agenda?

Too many times, supporters of Israel remaining in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) and retaining the overall responsibility for the region have been charged with failing to understand the realpolitik that is involved in defending such a view. Yet, to many, the Rogers Plan, the Jarring Plan and so on and so forth, through to Oslo and now the Road Map, are themselves victims of incomprehensibility and unrealities.

No one, except the Jewish residents of the Yesha communities, have challenged the conception that the Arabs are willing to compromise, that they are willing to co-exist and that they are multi-culturalists. The experience of the Jews of Yesha, as much as it has been negative in these regards, is also no different from Jews on the western divide of the 1967 ‘Green Line’. The Arabs make no distinction between Yesha and elsewhere in Israel, something too many people are willing to ignore.

The Road Map plan will lead nowhere but tragedy. How silly.

What a difference the years make

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:47 pm by yisraelmedad

February 15, 2005

What a difference 16 years can make.

On May 22, 1989, United States Secretary of State James A. Baker III, then in a confrontational mood with Israel and towards its prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, delivered a speech at the annual AIPAC conference entitled, “Principles and Pragmatism: American Policy toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict”.

Couched in diplomatic terminology – unlike another remark, one using the f-word, he was later to make about what could be done to Jews in general – this speech nevertheless contained one very memorable line in which Baker demanded that Israelis needed “to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel.” As observers noted, Baker squarely had placed the blame on Israel for the Arab-Israel conflict, and seemed to repeat Arab propaganda claims for control of portions of the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

Israel’s Leftists, those who referred to themselves as the “peace camp”, were ecstatic. Palestinian spokespersons also couldn’t find enough microphones to talk into. Finally, in public, America had made it quite clear that the retention of the administered territories was an issue now high on the agenda. Hanan Ashrawi and Sa’eb Erekat were to become frequent visitors at America’s Jerusalem Consulate, funds going to Palestinian volunteers were to be increased, and spying on the growth of Judea, Samaria and Gaza communities was a professional accomplishment for which at least one political officer of the consulate won a State Department prize.

Sixteen years later, for some unfathomable reason, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s speech at the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting on February 8 included the sentence: “We in Israel have had to painfully wake up from our dreams.” Somehow, I feel this was not unintentional. Sharon saw fit to echo a concept of American diplomacy, that Israel would have to withdraw not only from actual land mass, but, in doing so, would have to express a mea culpa, an acknowledgement of guilt.

This would take the form of a confessional act by which Israel would admit it was wrong in presuming that the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza belonged to her because of Arab aggression, and moreover, that Israel was wrong to assume that the territories belonged to her by historical, legal and natural right.

Baker’s speech was made in a certain political context. Yasser Arafat had met US conditions for a dialogue by accepting the ‘land-for-peace’ formula, renouncing terrorism and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. When Arafat complained that the US seemed to be looking for new concessions from the Palestinians, rather than insisting that Israel make the same pledges, Baker used the AIPAC forum to placate the Palestinians.

Of course, Arafat never really intended to fulfill any commitment he had made and, in fact, violated all the obligations and responsibilities to which he had agreed. But Israel was consistently reminded and pressured to adopt capitulationist policies, one worse and more enfeebling than the other. Palestinians were not to be tested by their deeds, or lack thereof, and were not even held to their words. Israel, though, was whittled down. That process continues to this day.

If sixteen years makes quite a difference, what are we to make of the Jerusalem Post‘s revelation that only ten years ago, then-Likud Minister Ariel Sharon approached the Shas mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the day after the Oslo Accords were signed on September 13th, 1993? The paper informed its readers that Sharon asked the rabbi to support a referendum on Oslo. In seeking a reaction, the Post reported this past Wednesday that Sharon said he is now is of the opinion that “it doesn’t matter what happened over ten years ago. Things have changed since then.”

Is it things or people? What is apparent is that what was good for the goose is not good for the gander.

Sharon’s stage-managed Sharm show may not be more than a repeat of the long string of failures that Israel has been forced to endure, at the expense of hundreds and hundreds of civilian casualties. Current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped President George Bush to remove the Iraqi terrorist regime, but is now lending a hand, and millions of American dollars, to facilitate what could become a most dangerous terror state, supported by Iran through the Hizbullah.

Once again, Israel is required to hand over prisoners, eventually expected to include those who have murdered. Given the fact that America has been quite lax in getting the Palestinians to hand over the killers of three Americans murdered in Gaza last September, maybe the moral values of this administration are different, too.

Sharon’s disengagement policy has now evolved into a mutant. The Arabs know that their Kassam missile terror has worked. The IDF had no adequate military response and it was not allowed to repeat a Defensive Shield-like operation in Gaza. No security wall or fence will stop them, as these missiles are improved to reach Sharon’s own farmspread and beyond.

Mahmoud Abbas knows well that terror aided his negotiations. Egypt, which did not intervene to halt the smuggling of armaments via the tunnels in Sinai, is now supervising the Palestinian security forces.

Sharon once had a dream. That dream and vision was a strong, resolute Israel. Sharon has now become our nightmare.

The media disengagement

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:46 pm by yisraelmedad

July 20, 2005

On July 11, 2005, Seymour D. Reich, President of the Israel Policy Forum, an American organization, provided a unique glimpse into the thinking of those who are leading this country. In a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, Reich, a former chairman of the Presidents’ Conference, informed us that Ehud Olmert, Israel’s vice prime minister, spoke before an audience in New York in June and announced: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.”

What is probably most remarkable about Olmert’s words is that they went unreported at the time, and not that they represent one of the most abject and defeatist formulations of statecraft in the history of diplomacy. Even Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938 was a bit more optimistic while serving up Czechoslovakia’s Sudentenland.

Israel’s media manages to get its information from Foreign Ministry cables, interested parties in the American Jewish establishment, politicos and officials from within the State Department and Pentagon, and from leaks directly from those who utter them or their aides. Our media delights in scandal and headlining seemingly embarrassing remarks. That such a statement, if true, and Olmert has not denied saying what Reich claims he said, was missed, or perhaps ignored, is a troubling development for this country’s democracy.

It was Amnon Avramovicz, prime time Channel Two commentator and recognized razor-tongued expert of sardonic wit, who coined the now infamous “Etrog box” paradigm of Israel’s media. According to Avramovicz’s instructions to his fellow milieu members, the ultimate elitist clique and last stronghold of dogmatic left-liberalism, Ariel Sharon is to be cushioned, that is, untouched by criticism in the media. Until September, the month the expulsion of the Jewish population of communities in Gaza and northern Samaria is to be a fait accompli, the media is to avoid any mention of personal criminal and unethical matters that Sharon, his sons, his advisors, his employees and anyone else connected to this evacuation operation.

Avramovicz, along with many other leading dimmed lights in the media, make no secret of their support, encouragement and enthusiastic defense of Sharon’s policies that serve their end as well: Israel’s exit from the disputed territories. This dovetailing of goals overrides any professional, ethical or legal restriction that would otherwise act as a barrier to what Avramovicz wants done, and, a la the Olmert statement, is being done.

The “etrog box” media behavior, of course, is nothing less than a subversion of Israel’s democracy. Thus, what is being done to some 10,000 Jews is described as “disengagement” when, in the first instance, it is nothing less than a depopulation of ethnic cleansing. Disengagement will not happen. Terror will continue, as the opponents of evacuation claimed, and Israel will engage the enemy. Arabs will continue to demand the ‘right of return’ to Isdud (Ashdod), Iskalon (Ashkelon), Bir Saba (Be’er Sheba) and Jaffa and will be engaged in their propaganda campaign on its behalf. Gazans are to enter Israel as a work force, and Israel will supply water and electricity and other services.

Moreover, the main reason that Sharon has embarked on a complete reversal of political orientation; i.e., the demographic threat to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, is now being well served by a demand of the American administration. That demand is for the “disengagement” funds of over $2 billion to go, in the main, to Arab, Bedouin and Druze projects in Israel. Only a third of the money will fund the redeployment of Israel Defense Forces troops outside the Gaza Strip.

The aid package must go, the United States demands, for the purpose of developing the Galilee and Negev. We now witness a new New Israel Fund blossoming. An American official was quoted as saying, “America is not the Jewish Agency nor the Jewish National Fund, and considers it important that the aid serves all sectors of the Israeli population.” This, of course, is a worthy redistribution of Israel’s national budget. What is unworthy, however, is the way America is forcing Israel to do its bidding and how the media is not helping Israelis understand what the future holds based on this element and others.

Is America still behind Sharon’s “settlement blocs” program or is President George W. Bush, in referring to the 1949 armistice lines, signaling the re-division of Jerusalem? Was Sharon wise in refusing to link the London bombings with Israel after we now are informed that one of the UK bombers may have been part of the Mike’s Place attack in Tel Aviv? Is the so-called demographic threat solely an external problem, resolved by evacuating Gaza, or is it internal? And how negative is it exactly?

These are but a few of the questions for which Israel’s media must provide a fair and balanced forum for discussion and dialogue. Their involvement and responsibility for Israel’s future is no less than that of a prime minister or the leader of the opposition. That is how a true democracy works.

How can one refuse to refuse?

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:45 pm by yisraelmedad

January 16, 2005

The statement that follows reflects what many social and political activists have believed over the decades in coming to terms with their consciences even, and especially, at the risk of punishment.

“I believe that in matters intrinsically linked to the rights of man and citizen that cannot be negated, a free man is permitted, and at times, even obligated, to disobey formalistic instructions, if the essence of those matters impairs those rights, on the condition that he is prepared to take the consequences for his act.”

The above could have been spoken by Mahatma Gandhi, Bertrand Russell or Martin Luther King. They were spoken by an Israeli, but I doubt if any members of the radical left groups promoting refusal, such as Yesh Gvul, Courage to Serve, etc., know who the author was.

Indeed, it would be a surprising for the pilots who last year refused to bomb targets near civilian areas they decided were irrelevant to Israel’s defense, or for the soldiers in the elite sayeret matkal unit who last autumn expressed their unwillingness to serve across the Green Line, to discover that it was Menachem Begin who said those words. He made that statement in the Knesset on June 18, 1955.

Genuine refusal, as Begin makes clear, takes into consideration the very real probability that the government of the day will apply all legal and judicial instruments to force the conscientious objector to retreat. Such a person must know that there can be no promise of freedom. In fact, the real possibility is one of financial punishment and even jail.

The question is one of conscience. What justifies refusal?

There are those who claim that a civil disobedience campaign is illegitimate because it can be used only in oppressive, non-democratic regimes. Israel, they continue, is not such an entity.

This is arguable, since even some outstanding figures of the progressive camp say that several fine lines separating democracy from dictatorship have been crossed. The dismissal of ministers by Ariel Sharon prior to a vote so as to assure a majority in his favor during a government debate on disengagement was patently illegal. Worse, the High Court of Justice declined to review the petition of the ministers involved, thus weakening its independence and integrity. Academics such as Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, no right-wing nationalist, are extremely uncomfortable with that decision. Prime Minister Sharon also reneged on his agreement to act in accordance with the Likud poll on his withdrawal plan, just as he reneged on the party’s central committee decisions.

Potential military refusers have been supplied with the moral basis that aids their step towards refusal.

If basic human rights are affected, this also justifies a refusal campaign. Here is another Israeli’s opinion on this matter:

“If I would be obligated to destroy a house in the territories, where women, children and the elderly live, due to the fact that one of its members engaged in terror against Israel, I would refuse. He who was brought up on the ethics of our Prophets must refuse to destroy homes.”

Gush Katif residents are not associated with acts of terror and so these remarks apply even more to them. And their author?

Shulamit Aloni, former Knesset member and minister, spoke them as published in the Hadashot newspaper on February 25, 1990. One could assume that what cannot be done to an Arab should not be visited on a Jew.

Gush Katif and northern Samaria residents are living in areas recognized by international law, I maintain, as being part of the Jewish homeland. I am referring to the League of Nations decision to reconstitute in these areas, at the very least, the Jewish national home. The residents of Gush Katif and Samaria should not be turned out of their homes, farms and schools. One cannot violate the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Article 17 regarding property and Article 18 relating to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Are Jews – and only Jews, not Arabs – to be victims of discrimination?

Furthermore, civil disobedience is not some foreign idea. We read in the Bible, Exodus 1:17: “And the midwives did not do what they were commanded because they feared God.” They considered what they were instructed by Pharoah to do to have been an immoral crime. Their refusal was later rewarded.

Would it be too much to ask the current Attorney-General, Menny Mazuz, to recall the words of his predecessor, Michael Ben-Yair, as they appeared in Haaretz, on March 3, 2002: “[T]heir refusal [of those opposing Israel’s administration of Judea, Samaria and Gaza – YM] to serve is an act of conscience that is justified and recognized in every democratic regime. History’s verdict will be that their refusal was the act that restored our moral backbone”.

Another issue is that Sharon’s withdrawal plan will expose 46 western Negev communities to Kassam rocket fire. Colonel Uzi Buchbinder, head of the Home Front Command’s civil defense department, told a Knesset committee that communities located seven kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip face threats of missiles and infiltration. The terrorism will not stop, as we witness improved firing systems, tunnels dug under the security fence and attacks at crossing points.

Quite simply put, Sharon is endangering the welfare of Israel’s citizens. How can one, then, refuse to refuse?

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