The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, January 30, 2004
PR for Israel
A new group called Blue Star PR is aiming to improve Israel's image in Northern California, by promoting Israel's liberal social values.
I don't know how many in the Bay Area will be persuaded, as my sense is that those who are anti-Israel - especially in that part of the country - are motivated by factors other than domestic policy. Rarely if ever do Israel's detractors claim that Israel's enemies are anything other than brutal dictatorships. Yet they find reasons to hate Israel regardless, particularly by repeating the lie that Israel has stolen Arab land.
Nevertheless, the effort is interesting. It's another example of freelance PR efforts by supporters of Israel who are frustrated with Israel's failure to adequately state its case and the Jewish establishment's disinterest about anything other than raising money to assure its continued existence. The latest issue of The Jerusalem Report has a piece about another freelance effort: Two brothers in LA who plan to exhibit a bombed Egged bus to demonstrate the absolute evil of terror. While these efforts deserve to be applauded, it's a shame that they are necessary.
Times on Hezbollah Terrorist
Today's Times has a long piece about Israel's deal with Hezbollah, including a large heartwarming picture of Anwar Yassin being hugged by his parents.
The article quotes Yassin expressing his excitement, and mentions only that Yassin had been "held since 1987."
The Times neglected to say that Yassin was "held" for murdering Alex Singer, Ronen Weisman, and Oren Kamil. Singer had made aliyah two years earlier, and was killed on his 25th birthday.
The article mentions that the fate of Ron Arad remains "unresolved," but says nothing about Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman, who were captured in 1982 and paraded through Damascus, and have never been heard from since.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Shmuley and Michael
Yet again, Shmuley Boteach writes about Michael Jackson.
As usual, Reb Shmuley offers fascinating personal anecdotes about his relationship with Jackson, such as:
Many were the times you honored me and my family by ordering kosher food at your home so that we could eat, and even made a Chanukah party for us at your hotel suite entirely catered by a kosher restaurant. Do the same now for two people who are infinitely closer to you.
You often told me that you attribute your professional success to the talent God showered upon you. When I gave you a mezuzah as a gift -- the Hebrew scroll of parchment containing the Shema, the fundamental prayer of Judaism, that is affixed to the door -- you told me that you would cherish it because it would honor God's place in your life. Please see to it that your children's bedrooms have that mezuzah up now, so that they too can feel that God watches over them at every instant.
The column's subtitle is 'A plea to the troubled superstar to raise his kids to know their Jewish heritage.'
Here's a plea to Rabbi Boteach: Please use your talents on something other than writing open letters to Michael Jackson and Britney Spears.
That doesn't include writing to Gene Simmons, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, or the Beastie Boys either.
In 1987, IDF soldier Alex Singer was shot and killed in a battle in Lebanon. Alex's brother, Saul Singer, is editorial page editor of The Jerusalem Post. Suzanne Singer of Moment Magazine is Alex's mother. Singer made aliyah in 1985, and was killed on his 25th birthday.
Anwar Yassin, the terrorist who killed Alex Singer, Ronen Weisman, and Oren Kamil, was attempting to carry out a major terrorist attack in Israel. Yassin was sentenced to only 30 years in jail. He was let out 13 years early today, as part of Israel's foolish deal with Hezbollah.
The AP carried a sympathetic article earlier this week about Yassin by Ahmed Mantash. No doubt Ahmed is an objective writer, despite his failure to mention Yassin's murder of three Israelis.
Saul Singer writes about his brother, Yassin and the Hezbollah deal in his weekly column in tomorrow's Jerusalem Post.
It's reached the point where a bus bombing that "only" kills 10 and maims 50 others not only fails to shock us, but hardly affects most people's day.
Perhaps we've grown used to the mass murder of Jews, or maybe we feel helpless, with no sense of how to usefully respond.
Last night I read the latest issue of the Jewish Press, including Chezi Goldberg's piece, a compilation of advice to those contemplating making aliyah. In the last hour the names of eight of the victims were released. Among them is Chezi Goldberg. Friday's Jerusalem Post writes about Goldberg, who made aliyah from Flatbush, Brooklyn eight years ago.
Israel is a small country, and even as reaction to new terror is more muted, that terror affects many people more directly. In shul a few days after the bombing of the Jerusalem No. 2 bus in August, I happened to sit next to a family member of a New York woman who, with her infant daughter, was murdered. Many in both the U.S. and Israel knew David and Naava Applebaum - who were murdered in the September bombing of Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim Street - or their families. After the Haifa bombing in October, an Israeli friend of mine mentioned to me that a friend of his from the army was killed in that terror attack.
One thing that needs to be done is another mass rally. The April 2002 rally is the only major pro-Israel rally since the start of the Palestinian war against Israel, and while it successfully brought as many as 200,000 to the Capital, it was dominated by phony American politicians, relegated important speeches by terror victims or their survivors to the end, when most had left, and openly discouraged displays by those in attendance. It's time for a new and different kind of rally, preferably led by Rabbi Avi Weiss.
Jewish Press Column
My latest Jewish Press column is now online, and is also posted below.
Don’t Demonize All On The Left
By Joseph Schick
Two weeks ago, Steven Plaut wrote a front-page piece in this newspaper about the opposition of the Israeli Left to the security fence. Professor Plaut explained, correctly, that the Left came up with the idea of a fence, believing it “would create a de facto separation of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Much of the Left now opposes the fence, because as implemented by Prime Minister Sharon, it deviates from the Green Line.
Professor Plaut wrote:
“The Left's campaign against the wall has since moved beyond mere political rhetoric. In recent weeks, teams of Israeli leftists, together with anti-Jewish ‘anarchists’ and loony communists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), have been attacking the fences that comprise parts of the wall and vandalizing them with wire cutters and other tools...
“Today, the wall is labeled a colonial aggression, denounced by all progressive leftists and people for peace - - people so opposed to it that they are willing to risk prison, tear gas, and getting shot in the legs to tear it down or rip holes in it.”
These claims are exaggerated. The ISM is absolutely abhorrent, but fortunately, “teams of Israeli leftists” have not joined the ISM’s attacks on the fence. A few physical attacks and protests against the fence by radical left-wing Israelis have occurred. There was one Israeli – Gil Na’amati – who was shot by the IDF while trying to cut the fence. There have been a handful of extreme leftists who have attended protests against the fence, and some others who have called it colonialist or a symbol of apartheid. But such incidents are uncommon, as is the employment of terms such as “colonial aggression.” Israelis with left-wing political stances are not lining up to destroy the fence or to confront IDF soldiers protecting it.
Overall, a large majority of Israelis supports the fence. A recent poll showed that 64 percent of Israelis want the Samaria city of Ariel to be inside the fence, with only 20 percent opposed. Ehud Barak is among the most vocal backers of the fence’s encompassing of the main settlement blocs. Even among the 20 percent who feel the route should follow the 1967 borders, practically none have ever joined the ISM or other groups to attack and vandalize the fence, or denounced the fence in the manner described by Professor Plaut.
There is much to criticize about the Left’s position on the fence. Those who insist that it be built only along the Green Line undermine the status of communities in Judea and Samaria that most Israelis want to permanently retain. As Israel Harel wrote in Haaretz, many leftists “are hell bent on a withdrawal for its own sake… In their personal dealings, these critics probably know how to bargain and earn the highest profits, particularly if their negotiation partner is desperate and on the brink of bankruptcy. The same is not true, according to their reasoning, when the national interest is at stake.”
That is inexcusable, but Professor Plaut’s charges go much further, and are applicable only to the extreme left-wing fringe, not to the typical Israeli supporter of Labor, or even Meretz. The vast majority of the latter may be foolish or naïve but are not traitorous. With a very small number of exceptions, these are people who risk their lives in the IDF, give up a month each year into their 40’s to perform reserve duty, and then watch their sons and daughters go to the army. For every member of the Left who publicly announces a refusal to serve in the territories to the glee of Israel’s enemies, dozens of others quietly fulfill their duty and defend Israel from those enemies.
The op-ed page of last Wednesday’s Haaretz provided an excellent example of the distinction between the mainstream left and the extreme left. Military analyst Ze’ev Schiff and former Meretz leader Yossi Sarid both wrote about the fence. Schiff, who holds moderate left-wing views, called for the route of the fence to be changed (though not necessarily to the Green Line), but conceded that changes would not “produce greater understanding in Europe for the steps Israel is taking to defend itself.” Schiff wrote, “The dominant line in many places is that Israel has no right even to defend itself.”
In contrast, Sarid wrote, “Sharon's fence is a crime against humanity” and that in building the fence, Sharon is “suited to serve as prime minister of South Africa in the blackest days of the apartheid that conceived the reprehensible Bantustans.” As a result of his disdain for Sharon and settlers, Sarid had no qualms about expressly offering his Haaretz screed as an affidavit to The Hague.
If Professor Plaut’s accusations were limited to extremists like Sarid and the disproportionate number of rabidly anti-Zionist Israeli professors, intellectuals, and journalists, he would be on point. But targeting the entire Israeli Left is unnecessary and overbroad.
Stupid Column Of The Week
I'm very relieved to report that my Jewish Press column has avoided the dubious SCOTW award. Instead, this week's honor goes to Darren S. Levine's column in the Jewish Week.
Levine, a young Reform rabbi, has an interesting piece about the Abuyadaya, a sect in Uganda seeking to practice Judaism.
Levine reports that in 1992, "Conservative rabbis traveled to Uganda to perform a mass conversion" of the group. Others have helped with funds, Torah scrolls, and prayer books.
Yet Levine is upset that in 1992, "an American Orthodox rabbi told them that according to Jewish law, guitar music violates Shabbat," that the Abuyadaya "have adopted near-observant synagogue practices using Orthodox prayerbooks, and, "to make matters worse, a group of Abuyadaya recently broke away to start their own group called Shearit Yisrael" in response to another Orthodox rabbi.
According to Levine, instead of encouraging people in Uganda interested in Judaism to observe the religion in its traditional form, "the Abuyadaya need a voice that will help them return to a vibrant religious life that is deeply Jewish and ethnically African," who will "leave the religious and spiritual direction to the only people that know what it means to be Jewish in Uganda, the Abuyadaya."
It is interesting that Levine writes approvingly of the Conservative movement's mass conversion, and is only upset by the Orthodox "religious colonialism."
Ultimately, Levine is uninterested whether the form of "Judaism" practiced by the Abuyadaya is in any way authentic. More important to him is that it be ethnically African. This wouldn't be stupid if not for the fact that his piece never suggests that the group has any problem with the Orthodox teachers who have advised them. If anything, the indication is that contrary to Levine's goals, many of the Abuyadaya are seeking to learn how to properly observe Judaism, and eagerly welcome their observant teachers.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Last week while eating breakfast at Circa in midtown Manhattan, two middle aged men at the next table were expressing their fear that their sons would be "converted" by Aish Hatorah or Ohr Samayach. One of the sons is at Hebrew University for the year, the other went on a Birthright trip and was staying for a little while longer.
One of the gentlemen said that his son is "thank G-d very strong," but mentioned that he still warned him that a charming man would appear on a Jerusalem street and invite him to a nice meal, and within a month he could be brainwashed if he didn't resist. The other guy agreed, saying he got into a big fight with his son for attending a meal with some guys in a Jerusalem yeshiva. He told his son that he didn't send him to Israel to go join "a cult."
Apparently both are affiliated with the Conservative movement. They agreed that their denomination was "partially to blame" for failing to develop a religious infrastructure that would counter the Orthodox outreach yeshivas.
Speaking of Ohr Samayach, Adi Neuman, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, is now learning at its Center program, and is blogging about his experience there at Home Beis. A few friends of mine learned there a few years back before moving directly to the Upper West Side. In 1985, Michael Levin wrote a fantastic book about his experience becoming observant, including his introduction to Judaism in an initial unplanned two week stint at Ohr Samayach.
In today's Arab News, Mohammed Khan of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia writes the following in a letter to the editor:
Territorial disputes did not prevent Britain, Ireland and Spain from joining the European Union. If this generation cannot solve the dispute, leave it to the next one or the one after that. Instead of spending billions on arms, we should spend the money to improve the living condition of our citizens.
Khan was referring to the dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.
Lebanese View of the Deal With Hezbollah
Hussain Abdul-Hussain, writing in the Beirut Daily Star, has an interesting take on Israel's agreement with Hezbollah. He thinks Prime Minister Sharon's intent is to eliminate Hezbollah's rationale for existence:
The personality of Sharon, hard-liner and former strong army general, might lead one to suppose that Sharon would not try to bring Israeli kids, or what remained of them, back home. Therefore it would be safe to assume that Sharon’s only motivation is to try to bring to an end all unfinished business with Hizbullah, and by the same token distance Lebanon once and for all from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Less than four years ago, Hizbullah had all the legitimate excuses it needed to maintain its war against Israel. After Israel’s withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000, Hizbullah started using the issue of Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons and the disputed Shebaa Farms as justification for occasional cross-border escalation. With the prisoners’ issue taken care of, Hizbullah loses another one of its strong alibis for fighting the Israelis. True, the deal boosts the party’s pan-Arab position, but this effect will not last for long...
Perhaps as an alternative to Hizbullah’s forecasted diminishing regional role, it is time for Syria to reinforce Lebanon’s diplomacy and foreign representation, which have been until now curtailed by Syria’s influence in the country. With the resistance losing its raison d’etre and its leverage, perhaps it is better for Syria to consider bringing back a sovereign Lebanon to the international decision-making process as a new ally to replace the resistance party.
I disagree with the analysis of Sharon's motives. I think Sharon's experience as a soldier who was wounded in 1948, and later a leading general, is precisely why he would overpay for the remains of IDF soldiers. I also believe that Hezbollah, with the support of Iran and Syria, will continue to find new reasons for its continued terror against Israel.
Hussain's column is quite interesting, though, particularly his respectful request that Syria allow Lebanon to reclaim its sovereignty.
All Settlement Is Bad
Hagai Segal argues very persuasively in today's Maariv about the falsity of the Left's position on settlement. Segal writes about the failure of the Left the support Israel's latest settlement - in the Negev, well within the 1967 borders:
A new Jewish settlement, Givat Bar, was founded last week in the Negev in a swift overnight operation that was met with complete indifference. When the sun came up on it for the first time, there was no one there to sing Zionist songs of celebration. Ben-Gurion’s disciples in the Labor party and the kibbutzniks from Meretz went on with their daily routines as if nothing happened...
Of all the extra-parliamentary political bodies, only the Yesha Council (Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza) bothered to send a congratulatory telegram. Not Peace Now, not the Geneva Accord gang, not even the Kibbutz Movement. The only official visitor, except for representatives of the Jewish Agency, was NRP leader Housing minister Effi Eitam. The local guest book remains devoid of the signatures of famous Negev proponents such as Shimon Peres, Beige Shohat, Fuad Ben-Eliezer, Amram Mitzna and Amos Oz...
If anyone at Givat Bar expected them to at least call and promise whatever help is necessary, they were disappointed. The Zionist left responded with a cold shoulder to a rare pioneering event, which should have made it very happy, the establishment of a new settlement in the Negev, on the PC side of the green line. For a generation, the left voiced indignation over the neglect of sovereign territories in the south of the country, yet it was in no hurry to embrace the young settlers there, who come free of any messianic theory or conquest lust. Nor did the media go out of its way. Most of the electronic channels treated the new secular settlement almost as if it was another religious settlement in the territories...
A week after the new settlement was established Collette Avital suddenly came for a visit ... The Labor MK spent most of her visit providing parliamentary support for the young settlement’s detractors...
The lesson: When people on the left yell at the settlers to go to the Negev, they don’t mean it. They are just allergic to caravans, to conquering the wilderness, to the Zionist enterprise.
Israel's Response to Terror
Excellent op-ed in today's Maariv by Dov Goldstein:
Israel, or at least the mainstream of its leaders always clung to the idea that the Arabs only understand force. It’s not true. The natural order has been inverted. Nasrallah has proved the exact opposite is true: Israel only understands force. Without the Palestinian violence, Sharon would not agree to a Palestinian state. Without Palestinian terror, the Likud would not have changed its mind and decided that the Western parts of the Land of Israel are under an occupation which must be ended. Without Nasrallah’s bullying and determination, Israel wouldn’t agree to release hundreds of prisoners in return for one live man and three bodies...
Israel proved that not the failure Abu-Mazen or the and not even the more sophisticated Abu Alla are the ones who can drag concessions out of Israel, but rather only Nasrallah who aims at Israel 1000 Iranian long range missiles and laughs at its weakness.
Israel’s unmatched military power can crush and subdue Hezbullah and pick lice from Nasrallah's beard. But because of its political weakness and its leadership’s feebleness it gave in to tyranny and bent before Nasrallah.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
There is some cautious optimism that information about Ron Arad - who has been missing since bailing out of his downed plane over Lebanon in 1986 - may be forthcoming, and may ultimately lead to his release.
Some of the optimism comes from a notion that Iran wants to improve its image. As a result, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah is now denying that Arad is in Iran, claiming that he is Lebanon. Israeli intelligence has for years believed Arad to have been sold to Iran by Mustafa Dirani, one of the terrorists slated for release this week.
I agree with that notion that Iran wants to improve its image, but unfortunately, it leads me to a much more pessimistic view.
The last thing Iran wants is for an Israeli it held captive for nearly 15 years (and overall has been a hostage for 18 years) to come out alive, able to tell the world about the brutality with which the Iranian government treated him. Furthermore, given that Israel has demonstrated a foolish willingness to release scores of terrorists for the bodies of dead soldiers, Iran has little incentive to release Arad alive.
Perhaps sensing this, or perhaps out of selflessness despite their suffering, Arad's family has announced that it does not want Israel to release any terrorists in exchange for Arad's body.
Hopefully Arad - along with Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman, who have been missing since a 1982 battle in the first days of the Lebanon War - will come home safely very soon, as will Guy Hever, missing since 1997.
Dolan's Short Term Memory
In today's Times, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan dismissed calls to fire Glenn Sather, the Rangers' President, GM and coach:
"We don't think 10 days' worth of bad results is worth making a change over. We ask the fans to be patient."
10 days? The Rangers have been awful for seven years, including four with Sather.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Katsav on Arad
Haaretz reports that Israeli President Moshe Katsav said today that he was willing to pay "any price" for the release of Ron Arad, including the release of terrorists.
Anyone can figure out that Israel would pay a high price for Arad. Why Katsav would express a willingness to pay "any price" is beyond me. All it will accomplish is subject Israel to further blackmail during any negotiations, and provide additional incentive for terror groups like Hezbollah.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Iranians and Israel
Fascinating column in the Beirut Daily Star by Karim Sadjadpour about Iranians' frustration with their dictatorship's obsessive hatred for Israel. Here are extensive excerpts:
There is perhaps no government in the world more outspoken in its enmity toward Israel than the Islamic Republic of Iran. Tehran’s ruling mullahs routinely denounce the “Zionist entity,” send millions of dollars to pro-Palestinian militant groups and provide an economic lifeline for Lebanon’s Hizbullah.
However, unlike Arab governments, which have for decades employed the “Palestinian card” to curry favor with their domestic constituencies, the Iranian regime is discovering that its glorification of the Palestinian cause is having the reverse effect domestically. Rather than applaud efforts on behalf of Palestine, Iranians are today increasingly voicing frustration at the Islamic Republic’s contempt for Israel and seeming obsession with being “more Palestinian than the Palestinians.” It is a policy, they argue, that is being carried out at the expense of Iran’s own citizens...
Iran’s young population - approximately 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 years of age - has little interest in marching onwards to Jerusalem. On the contrary, many disavow the anti-Zionism and radical politics of their parents’ generation, saying it brought them nothing but an oppressive religious theocracy...
As one 23 year-old engineering student at Tehran University put it: “We are tired of the pro-Palestinian propaganda. Why is our government so preoccupied with them? We have so many problems of our own.” Young Iranians’ frustration was in evidence during last summer’s student protests. Amid calls for greater democracy and freedom, one popular slogan delivered in rhythmic Persian was: “Forget about the Palestinians! Take care of us!”
Many see Iran’s moribund economy as partly a result of the country’s embrace of international radicalism, which has damaged foreign business ties. After years in international isolation, young Iranians in particular are anxious to have contact with the global community and rid themselves of their tarnished international reputation. Most are not granted foreign visas, and those who are often come back from abroad discouraged. “I see the way people look at me when I travel,” complained one youth. “Immediately, they think, ‘Watch out for the Iranian, he might be a terrorist.’ I blame our government for cultivating this image by supporting radical groups.”
A 31-year-old Tehran carpenter perhaps best captured the general sentiment: “We don’t have a problem with Israel, that’s the Arabs’ problem. If the government were to stop supporting Hizbullah tomorrow, I think most people wouldn’t mind. On the contrary, if people thought that that money would go to their own families instead, many of them would be happy...”
“Our government is only preoccupied with slogans: ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel,’ ‘Death to this and that,’” a middle-aged woman queuing up to give blood told The Guardian, adding: “We have had three major earthquakes in the past three decades. Thousands of people have died, but nothing has been done. Why?”
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Stupid Column of the Week
The Jewish Week regains sole possession of the SCOTW title, thanks to Kerry M. Olitzky's column.
Olitzky calls for increased support for intermarried families, writing:
Here comes Howard Dean, married to a Jewish woman, raising two Jewish children. And the American Jewish community, always quick to criticize interfaith marriages, has expressed noticeable interest and pride.
Despite the Jewish community’s talk about interfaith marriages being responsible for the wholesale extinction of American Jewry, Dean and his Jewish family have become folk heroes. He is the non-Jewish presidential candidate who can light Chanukah candles, follow a synagogue service and recite the Shecheyanu (Jewish blessing of thanks), and he has learned it all from his wife and kids.
Until Olitzky's article, I was aware of no Jewish "noticeable interest and pride" in Howard Dean. As the Miami Herald recently reported, rather than becoming a "folk hero," the Jewish community is quite wary of Dean, in light of his troubling statements about Israel. For example, in 1998 Dean said, "Hamas will probably take over. There will probably be good and bad out of that," and a year later blamed Prime Minister Netanyahu for the lack of progress in the Oslo process, stating that Arafat and the PA are "people he could negotiate with."
If Olitzky wanted to argue in favor in intermarriage, using Howard Dean as his poster boy is a poor tactic.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Haaretz and the Fence
Today's Haaretz has two columns about the fence, one by Yossi Sarid, the other by Ze'ev Schiff.
Sarid says that "Sharon's fence is a crime against humanity." He refers to Sharon as a man "suited to serve as prime minister of South Africa in the blackest days of the apartheid that conceived the reprehensible Bantustans."
Schiff feels that the route of the fence should be changed, though not necessarily to the Green Line. Yet he concedes that changes would not result in increased understanding of Israel's security situation, concluding:
Will these changes produce greater understanding in Europe for the steps that Israel is taking to defend itself? Unfortunately, the answer is "no." The dominant line in many places is that Israel has no right even to defend itself.
Schiff and Sarid are both leftist. The contrast between their respective columns provides an excellent example of the distinction between the mainstream Israeli left and the extreme left.
More On Jack Kelley
In the Jewish Press, Jason Maoz writes about Jack Kelley's 2001 article about Hebron residents and my assertion that such article reported events that never happened.
I posted on this matter last week.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Yigal Amir and Hamas
Haaretz reports that Yigal Amir will request permission to marry. The unlucky bride is reportedly a mother of four who left her husband for Amir.
In response, Labor and Meretz leaders expressed outrage. That's an understandable reaction, but why is it that the left is not equally hateful toward Arab mass murderers of Israeli civilians? There should be plenty of hate to go around between Yigal Amir and the Palestinian enemy, but alas, many Israeli politicians seem to accept murder, as long as the victims are Jews.
For example, Yossi Sarid supports the release of Hamas terrorists from prison, but is among those who want to ban Amir from marrying.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Haaretz reports in that an interview with Galei Tzahal (Army Radio), Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said that in light of his approval of Wednesday's suicide bombing, "Sheik Yassin is marked for death, and he should hide himself deep underground where he won't know the difference between day and night. And we will find him in the tunnels, and we will eliminate him."
This is plainly idiotic. I'm all for eliminating Yassin and the rest of Hamas. But threatening to do so is counterproductive. It clearly does not deter Hamas from targeting Israeli civilians, but it unnecessarily casts Israel in a negative light. That price may be worth paying when the enemy is actually liquidated, but not otherwise.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Stupid Column(s) of the Week
This week's competition results in a tie between Arthur Hertzberg and Steven Plaut.
Hertzberg's Jewish Week column originally appeared in Haaretz. It was stupid then too, which is why I posted in response to it.
In the last decade, since the supposed agreement in Oslo to end settlements in order to move toward making peace, the Jewish population in the West Bank and Gaza has doubled! By no stretch of imagination can this be ascribed to natural increase; the Israeli birthrate of less than three per family would simply not produce such an increase within ten years.
Natan Sharansky, the minister of Diaspora affairs, has recently been in and out of the United State making speeches attacking Jewish students on campus and Jewish professors for not standing up for Israel. Sharansky attributed this failure to a lack of information on their part and he proposes that this be corrected through better Zionist education. But in what Zionism does he intend to educate these students and faculty members? Does he propose to teach them his own Zionism, in which he went home after a recent tour of some American universities to announce that, contrary to a promise that Israel had made to the American government, he was going to finance the construction of 650 new apartments on the West Bank in order to "thicken" the Jewish presence in some of the settlements?
I have no doubt that Natan Sharansky knows that there are apartments going begging right now in some of those places.
Here's why the above is stupid:
1. Oslo was not an agreement "to end settlements." In fact, Oslo did not even require a settlement freeze, despite Palestinian demands for one.
2. As Hertzberg points out, Sharansky is Minister of Diaspora Affairs. That's why he was in the U.S. speaking on college campuses. Sharansky used to be Housing Minister, but is not anymore, and was not at the time he went on the U.S. speaking tour. So how in the world could he be in a position to "finance the construction of 650 new apartments on the West Bank?" If Hertzberg doesn't like the decision, okay, but what has this particularly got to do with Sharansky?
3. According to Hertzberg, "by no stretch of imagination" can the increase in the settler population "be ascribed to natural increase; the Israeli birthrate of less than three per family would simply not produce such an increase within ten years." I suggest Hertzberg visit the schools in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, such as the ones I've visited in Neve Dekalim and Beit El. Families there are, on average, having a lot more than 3 children.
4. Hertzberg's criticism of the construction of new apartments in Judea and Samaria when "there are apartments going begging right now in some of those places" sounds legitimate, but it's not. The new construction is taking place within Givat Ze'ev, Maaleh Adumin, Ariel, Karnei Shomron and Beitar Illit, all of which are flourishing, and are located in areas most Israelis want and expect to retain. The empty homes are in isolated settlements, mainly in the northern West Bank.
Enough about Hertzberg. Now it's time for a very sharp right turn, to Steven Plaut's column in this week's Jewish Press.
Plaut points out, correctly, that the Israeli Left came up with the idea of a security fence, believing it "would create a de facto separation of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip." The Left then opposed the fence, because as implemented by Prime Minister Sharon, it deviates from the Green Line.
The Left's campaign against the wall has since moved beyond mere political rhetoric. In recent weeks, teams of Israeli leftists, together with anti-Jewish "anarchists" and loony communists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), have been attacking the fences that comprise parts of the wall and vandalizing them with wire cutters and other tools.
This is followed up by lots of information about the ISM, a group that I abhor no less than Plaut does, and this:
Too many on the Israeli Left take their cues from the Palestinian Authority, much the same way that communists in the late 1930`s and 1940`s took their cues from the Comintern...
For the longest time, a security wall was the preferred recipe for peace endorsed by nearly everyone on the Israeli Left. Today, the wall is labeled a colonial aggression, denounced by all progressive leftists and people for peace - - people so opposed to it that they are willing to risk prison, tear gas, and getting shot in the legs to tear it down or rip holes in it.
Uncle Joe Stalin would be proud.
Plaut is saying that physical attacks and protests against the fence by left-wing Israelis are common, as are the employment of terms such as "colonial aggression." That's absolutely false.
There was one Israeli - Gil Na'amati - who was shot while trying to cut the fence. There have been a handful of extreme leftists who have attended protests against the fence, and probably even fewer who attacked it as colonialist or akin to apartheid.
By and large, however, the fence - even in its extended form - is supported by the overwhelming majority of Israelis, both left-wing and right-wing. Indeed, a poll showed that 64 percent of Israelis want the Samaria city of Ariel to be inside the fence, with only 20 percent opposed. Even among those 20 percent who feel the route should follow the 1967 borders, practically none have ever joined the ISM or other groups to attack and vandalize the fence. Nor is the fence "denounced by all progressive leftists."
Plaut compares the Left with Joseph Stalin, obviously more than insinuating that they are traitors. With a very small number of exceptions, these are people who risk their lives in the IDF, give up a month each year into their 40's to perform reserve duty, and then watch their kids go to the army.
It's fine to criticize the political positions of the Left, as I frequently do. On the issue of the fence, it is indeed disgraceful that much of the Left has expressed opposition to its government's attempt to include some of the large communities in Judea and Samaria, undermining the status of communities most Israelis want to eventually annex. But almost always, such opposition has not come anywhere close to what Plaut suggests. His claim to the contrary is most unfortunate and unnecessary.
There are two columns worth commenting on in today's Haaretz, from opposite sides of the political spectrum.
First, Nehemia Strasler charges that "Sharon stopped thinking about Israel and began thinking only about himself and his family a long time ago."
Strasler also writes, "Sharon succeeded in effectively delaying any diplomatic initiative, including the Saudi one of April, 2002, which did not mention the Palestinians right of return."
That's false. Section 2 of the Saudi Plan explicitly "calls upon Israel to affirm... [An] Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194." Resolution 194 "Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return."
The other Haaretz article is from Israel Harel, who eloquently expresses opposition of withdrawing from the Golan. Harel's most important statement is that:
It is difficult to accept the assault on the government, from both the opposition parties and the media, which have accused it of foot-dragging. More than the critics - who, in their great wisdom, declare in advance that "the Golan is Syrian," - want peace, they are hell bent on a withdrawal for its own sake, when this means the destruction of the settlement effort in the Golan.
In their personal dealings, these critics probably know how to bargain and earn the highest profits, particularly if their negotiation partner is desperate and on the brink of bankruptcy. The same is not true, according to their reasoning, when the national interest is at stake. Considering their declarations that we have no business being in the Golan, the Syrians will have difficulty agreeing even to Israeli control at the precipice line.
To me, this is the strongest argument against the Left. It's one thing to support territorial compromise in exchange for peace, and even to criticize the government for not aggressively pursuing negotiations with Syria. I disagree with the latter position, but it's a legitimate one. But to undermine Israel's ability to negotiate effectively - as the Left has done with respect to the Golan and to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria - is unforgivable.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Reb Shmuley on Britney
I became very impressed with Shmuley Boteach a decade ago, when he served as rabbi at Oxford. He clearly had a unique talent.
Unfortunately, while his talent remains, he has since demeaned himself by his obsession with celebrity, including his infamous trip to the Upper West Side's Carlebach Shul with Michael Jackson.
After writing and appearing on talk shows about Jackson, Boteach has now turned his attention to Britney Spears. In Thursday's Jerusalem Post, he offers an "open letter" to Spears.
You and I once met, in the hotel room of Michael Jackson in late 2000 (I was the short one with the frizzy whiskers)...
A few weeks after your meeting with Michael Jackson, he and I were watching you on TV. You were doing some interview (and though I don't remember exactly what you said, I do remember that you were partial to the word "like"). Michael turned to me and said, "In a few years, this girl is gone from the public eye. Nobody's gonna care about her. She is all over the place. There is no mystery. I would never do what she does. I hold myself back."
In between his tales about hanging out with Jackson, Boteach offers strong criticism:
You are one of the people largely responsible for religiously inclined people like me feeling that our daughters must be increasingly cut off from popular culture. We are having to become much more strict with how our daughters dress, what music they listen to, who their friends are – all because we would rather be mauled by Rottweilers than ever allow our daughters to grow up dressing and acting like you.
Nothing Boteach says is objectionable. But his almost exclusive focus on pop culture and celebrity - and his own role in it - is.
Fortunately, Boteach remains young, and it's not too late for him to resist the evil inclination to focus on Britney, Michael and being on TV more than all other Orthodox Jews combined. For his sake and our sake, let's hope Boteach returns to the themes of the weekly newsletters he distributed during his early years at Oxford.
Jewish Press Letters
This week's Jewish Press published three letters responding to my front page piece of last week. Here are the letters, and my response:
I agree wholeheartedly with Joseph Schick`s observation that "Sharon`s disengagement plan should be understood and assessed as a partial retreat to avoid a much more dangerous return to the 1967 borders" ("Understanding Sharon's Plan," Jan. 9).
I am amazed, however, that someone so obviously sophisticated could write that "Israel should withstand U.S. pressure related to the disengagement plan." The sum and substance of the situation is that without U.S. support, Israel would stand all alone in a very lonely, very cold and very desolate place.
Richard Mandelbaum (Via E-Mail)
If Israel would accept the U.S.'s directives, it wouldn't be building the fence - a key part of the disengagement plan - in the first place. Certainly it would not be building part of the fence beyond the Green Line.
As I wrote in the column, it's foolish for Israel to bicker with America on issues that are not vital. But on key issues, occasional disagreement with the U.S. is rarely harmful to Israel's strategic situation. As I wrote, Israel developed Har Homa despite strong U.S. pressure; today Har Homa is a large neighborhood, while the pressure of Clinton and Albright are a distant memory.
Re Joseph Schick's compelling cover essay:
I believe Sharon fears that ultimately Israel will never be allowed to keep any part of Yehuda and Shomron or East Jerusalem. But he also knows there will be stiff opposition in Israel to any uprooting of settlements. So he came upon a middle plan of relatively minor uprootings as a seemingly benign way of beginning the inevitable process.
Yocheved Alpert Jerusalem
I think this letter is generally accurate, though I'm not sure that Sharon believes Israel will have to withdraw fully to the Green Line. More likely, he knows that a withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria is eventually inevitable, and that it is therefore not worthwhile to invest in the weakest, most isolated communities.
I find Joseph Schick`s articles very enlightening, and I appreciate the lawyer-like way he marshals his arguments. But I wonder whether the overwhelmingly elected leader of a sovereign nation - a leader about to make a series of agonizing decisions - really needs to be chided that settlers who are to be subject to forced evacuation should not be used as political pawns and should immediately be fully informed, now.
Ariel Sharon is not a lone ranger at the helm of his country. Nor is he a dunce. Nor is he running a candy store. It`s time we all understood this.
Gilbert Handler Brooklyn, NY
Sharon's failure to announce which settlements he intends to dismantle is not motivated by some grand strategic plan. If it were, he'd stop Ehud Olmert and others from leaking his plans to the Israeli media and even the New York Times.
It's hardly a secret that certain isolated settlements will likely be eliminated. Sharon is vague only because he knows that ambiguity helps avoid an unwanted coalition crisis and the withdrawal of the right-wing parties. I stand by my statement that this is wrong: Unless some national interest would be compromised, residents slated for imminent evacuation have a right to be informed of the government's intentions toward them. And while I did not write that full information about evacuation must be revealed now, I frankly do not understand what harm this would cause Israel, as opposed to Sharon politically.
Indeed, Sharon is not running a candy store. This is serious business for Sharon, for Israel, and for the people who will be forced out of the homes a younger Ariel Sharon asked them to live in. A candy store owner intending to lay off an employee would inform the unfortunate employee. The Prime Minister of Israel should do no less toward his citizens.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Arab News on Katsav's Invitation
Here's the reaction of Arab News - in their editorial of tomorrow - to Israeli President Moshe Katsav's invitation for Syrian President Bashar Assad to visit Israel:
"To any reasonable and informed observer, the Israeli president’s invitation to Syria for peace talks, coming only days after the Sharon government had announced plans to vastly expand settlements on the occupied Golan Heights, is a joke and a sick one. However, once again this cynical maneuver by the Israelis will have played well to their principal gallery, the Americans, who when it comes to Israel and Palestine, are neither reasonable nor particularly informed."
I think the paper's reference to "Israel and Palestine" is interesting, as in reality the dispute with Syria (like the former disputes with Egypt and Jordan) is separate from the Palestinian issue.
Daily Star on the Fence
Today's Beirut Daily Star has a hysterical editorial about Israel's separation fence. Following is an excerpt:
"The wall is a short-term, illegal and probably only partly effective answer to Israel’s dilemma of occupying another people. It reflects the worst of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The wall mirrors pages from the dark chapters of South Africa’s Apartheid regime, and even the treatment of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe...
"If suicide bombings are in part a response to demeaning Israeli colonial policies since 1967, the response to this wall project is likely to be worse."
While Blogspeak tries to resolve its server problem, I've decided to install the comments option from another provider. If Blogspeak comes back, perhaps I'll return to them. In the meantime, the old comments are unfortunately missing.
As previously stated, unless requested not to, I may add e-mails responding to a post to that post's comments. However, I won't include the author's e-mail address.
Jack Kelley's Lies and Settlers
Here's what Jack Kelley, then the Jerusalem correspondent of USA Today, wrote on September 4, 2001:
After a quick prayer, Avi Shapiro and 12 other Jewish settlers put on their religious skullcaps, grabbed their semiautomatic rifles and headed toward Highway 60.
There, they pushed boulders, stretched barbed wire and set tires afire to form a barricade that, they said, would stop even the biggest of Palestinian taxis. Then they waited for a vehicle to arrive.
As they crouched in a ditch beside the road, Shapiro, the leader of the group, gave the settlers orders: Surround any taxi, ''open fire'' and kill as many of the ''blood-sucking Arab'' passengers as possible.
''We are doing what (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon promised but has failed to do: drive these sons of Arab whores from the Land of Israel,'' said Shapiro, 42, who moved here with his wife and four children 3 years ago from Brooklyn. ''If he won't get rid of the Muslim filth, then we will...''
On a recent Sunday, Shapiro and the 12 other extremists spotted their first target: a white Palestinian taxi that had turned the corner and begun to rumble toward them. From a hill 50 yards away, the Jewish men could be seen removing the safety locks from the weapons. Their wives were grabbing extra ammunition clips. Their children, all of them younger than 12, were picking up rocks.
But the Palestinian driver, upon seeing the settlers, brought his Mercedes stretch taxi to a sudden stop 50 yards from the checkpoint. He quickly turned the car around. Cursing aloud, Shapiro ordered the men to open fire. The shooting lasted for 10 seconds.
At least two bullets hit the car. One shattered its back window. Several women wearing white Islamic headscarves could be heard screaming and seen ducking. It wasn't known whether anyone was injured.
''We'll keep this up until we eliminate all the Muslim filth,'' Shapiro said before the confrontation. ''We have to: It's our Jewish duty.''
At the time, the Jewish community in Hebron went ballistic. In a letter to the heads of USA Today, David Wilder, the community's spokesman, wrote, in part:
Jack Kelley's article is an example of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda. The article is so full of lies, and is so inaccurate, that it is almost not worth relating to. However, due to the wide circulation of USA Today, I have no choice but to refute the charges, and correct the inaccuracies.
1. Kelley begins, "After a quick prayer, Avi Shapiro and 12 other Jewish settlers put on their religious skullcaps," This is ridiculous. A religious Jew wears his skullcap all hours of the day, and most especially during prayer. We do not "put on our skullcaps" before going out...
There is no one with the name Avi Shapiro who lives in Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion or Efrat. I spent much of the day searching for this person, who, to the best of my knowledge, does not really exist. Avi Shapiro seems to be a figment of Kelley's imagination. Or perhaps he does exist, but does not live anywhere in this area...
13. "On a recent Sunday, Shapiro and the 12 other extremists spotted their first target: a white Palestinian taxi that had turned the corner and begun to rumble toward them. From a hill 50 yards away, the men could be seen removing the safety locks from the weapons. Their wives were grabbing extra ammunition clips. Their children, all of them under age 12, were picking up rocks."
As stated above, Avi Shapira does not exist. Nor did this event ever occur. Where is Kelley's proof? Where are the pictures? Why wasn't anyone arrested? A report of "wives grabbing extra ammunition clips" is total nonsense, a total fabrication.
In conclusion, Jack Kelley's article is an intentional attempt to besmirch the good name of the Jewish Community of Hebron, using fabrication, distortion and inaccuracy. It is unfortunate that a publication such as USA Today should see fit to publish such trash. We expect that Kelley's tenure with the newspaper will be terminated immediately and that USA TODAY will not only publish this rebuttal, but will also print an apology for slandering our community.
The Jewish Community of Hebron email@example.com
Needless to say, it's worth reading the entire Kelley fabrication, and Wilder's full letter.
In any event, just a few days after Kelley wrote the piece, the horrible events of 9/11/01 occurred, and few remained focused on the issue, which was largely forgotten.
Today, Howard Kurtz reported in the Washington Post that Kelley was forced to resign last week after an internal investigation showed that he fabricated stories, possibly including, Kurtz writes, "a 2001 piece recounting Israeli settlers opening fire on a Palestinian taxi while shouting such comments as 'Muslim filth' -- USA Today said its reporter Mark Memmott 'could not find anyone with first-hand knowledge of the attack.'"
Similarly, an article in today's USA Today states that the scandal arose after the paper investigated a story Kelley wrote about Serbia. Regarding the piece about settlers (and a separate article about the Sbarro bombing a month earlier), USA Today said:
The newspaper spent less money, effort and time trying to verify at least two of the seven stories Memmott said it earmarked for investigation. The stories were among the work that made Kelley a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.
In one, published Aug. 10. 2001, Kelley recounted how he "happened to be walking near the restaurant" where a suicide bomber struck moments later. Kelley wrote that he saw the bomber before the attack and describes him in detail.
Another story, published Sept. 4, 2001, contains an account of an attack on Palestinians by 13 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Memmott said he could not find anyone with first-hand knowledge of the attack.
When asked for sources to verify both stories, Memmott said, Kelley pointed him to one man: an Israeli undercover agent Kelley says was with him at the restaurant bombing earlier that year. Memmott said he was called by a man who identified himself as the Israeli agent.
The man said he was with Kelley outside the bombed restaurant but was not during the attack by settlers. Memmott said he never learned the full name of the man. He said he is certain only that he spoke with someone calling from Israel.
Jurgensen said editors believe Kelley's account of the restaurant bombing because his direct supervisor remembers Kelley calling her shortly after the bombing. She and Gallagher said confirming the Jewish settlers story appears to be impossible.
This story has just broken today, but the implications will likely be very significant.
Apparently there's a problem with Blogspeak, the entity that's been providing comments, as a result of which an error message keeps impeding people from getting to this site. I've therefore temporarily removed comments from this site, until Blogspeak resolves its problem.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Pro-Settler and Pro-Peace
A banner ad that frequently appears on top of this blog states:
Pro-Settler or Pro-Peace?
Sign Call to Bring Settlers Home Jewish Alliance for Justice & Peace
The notion that support for settlers is anti-peace is quite offensive and illogical, even as it has become widely accepted. In truth, settlement of Judea and Samaria is not only moral and legal, it is the only incentive Palestinians have to negotiate.
As for the organization whose ad has been appearing, it would be helpful if readers clicked to enter their website, and then immediately clicked on the "Back" icon to return here. Each click costs them a few costs, impeding their anti-settler, anti-peace endeavor.
Jerusalem Report Letter
Last week's Stupid Column of the Week awardee was Daniel Landes, for his piece claiming that Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's political views would be identical to Landes'.
The Jerusalem Report has published my letter on the topic, as follows:
Indeed, Rabbi Soloveitchik did, and would today, oppose racism and nationalist fanaticism from religious Jews, as Daniel Landes writes. But he was a staunch Zionist, and a supporter of settlement in Judea and Samaria. He would not support "religious settlers who take us to the brink of war for territory alone," but he would likely reject Landes's implication that settlers, and not Palestinian terror and rejectionism, have brought Israel to its current situation. Landes is applying his own political judgments to the current situation and using those values to claim that Rabbi Soloveitchik would do today exactly what Landes wants done. This is speculation at best, and possibly a distortion of the Rav's thinking and legacy.
Joseph Schick, New York
Hy Arbesfeld of Kew Gardens, New York - which happens to be next to my neighborhood - also wrote in on the topic:
The title of Rabbi Landes’s article on Rabbi Soloveitchik, "What the Master Would Have Done" (Viewpoint, Jan. 12), reveals its weakness. Since Rabbi Soloveitchik’s death, too many people have "hijacked" the Rav to support their political position or personal agenda. Some claim he said things he never said. Others, like Rabbi Landes, invoke the "he would have." I was a student of the Rav at Y.U., received smikhah there from the Rav, and later attended his shiurim at the Moriah Congregation for many years. I don’t pretend to know if "he would have feared religious settlers who take us to the brink of war" or "he would counsel... not to fear political compromise." Rabbi Landes’s claim to know the Rav’s mind is pretentious.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Stupid Column of the Week
The recent earthquake in Bam, Iran would unquestionably have resulted in far fewer casualties had Iran been further developed. Earthquakes of similar scope in the U.S. and Western Europe have not had nearly as disastrous an effect.
In this week's Jewish Press, Daniel Lapin argues that natural disasters in Christian countries cause much less damage because, "those of us who have developed our faith muscle by the religious observance of Christianity or Judaism find that we can count on that faith muscle being ready and available whenever we require its services for more mundane purposes like investment. This helps to explain why the Judeo-Christian-based West is our epochs epicenter of wealth creation...
"The early development of the corporation as a wealth-building device took place
only in the West. Even our insurance companies are directly attributable to Judeo-Christian religious faith."
In contrast, according in Lapin, "In Bangladesh and Bam it is a forlorn hope to get millions of peasants to act in unison and entrust their gold to a capital market. Their religion has produced a culture that encourages greater trust in mattresses than in banks."
In reality, the distinction has much more to do with capitalism and economic development than with religion. For almost two thousand years, Christian societies were no more developed than today's Muslim world. Even in the 20th century, Eastern Europe remained backward. And while it's true that extreme forms of Islam are a factor in the Third World conditions of the Muslim world, it's unlikely that the tenets of Christianity or Judaism (rather than say, secularism) have resulted in the economic success of the U.S. and other economic powers.
The silliness of Lapin's entire premise is proven by the events of this past summer. 35,000 people died throughout Europe, during a "heat wave" in which temperatures were mostly in the 90's. Somehow, Americans in places like Nevada and Arizona get by just fine in the summer, despite temperatures as high as 115 degrees.
In Europe, because of zealous environmentalists who exaggerate the threat of global warming, massive energy taxes are placed on air conditioners, which only the very rich can afford. Would Lapin attribute this too to religion? Is it consistent with Lapin's claim that Christian countries "invest massively in ... protective infrastructures and preventive measures" because "biblical civilization teaches a distinctive emphasis on the value of even one human life?"
I have no problem with Lapin's preaching in favor of "Judeo-Christian values," or with praise with Judaism and Christianity accompanied by criticism for Islam. But Lapin's piece is far off the mark.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
I'm saddened by the report in The Jerusalem Post that Sbarro will be closing its store on the corner of King George and Jaffa streets.
During my last few trips to Israel, the store appeared to be doing better than most others, though not nearly as well as it did prior to being bombed in August 2001. From the time it opened in 1996 until the Palestinians waged their terrorist war in September 2000, Sbarro was among the most popular places in the area.
Sbarro's Jerusalem store will relocate to another location in the city, but the loss to the already devastated downtown area will be felt. In addition to Sbarro, many other once popular eateries have closed, including Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Nathan's, Bonkers and Pizza Hut.
According to Amir Chasson, Sbarro's director general: "For the last two and half years, despite the attack and a drop in sales, we were determined not to close down the branch for Zionist reasons, and out a determination not to let the terrorists win."
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Sharon Plan Analysis
My analysis of the Sharon Plan appears in this week's Jewish Press. Since it's a fairly long piece, I don't plan to post the text on the blog as I've done previously.
Arthur Hertzberg in Haaretz
In a column in today's Haaretz, Arthur Hertzberg displays typical intellectual dishonesty and/or the sheer ignorance of the anti-settlement Left when he writes:
"In the last decade, since the supposed agreement in Oslo to end settlements in order to move toward making peace, the Jewish population in the West Bank and Gaza has doubled! By no stretch of imagination can this be ascribed to natural increase; the Israeli birthrate of less than three per family would simply not produce such an increase within ten years.
"Natan Sharansky, the minister of Diaspora affairs, has recently been in and out of the United State making speeches attacking Jewish students on campus and Jewish professors for not standing up for Israel. Sharansky attributed this failure to a lack of information on their part and he proposes that this be corrected through better Zionist education. But in what Zionism does he intend to educate these students and faculty members? Does he propose to teach them his own Zionism, in which he went home after a recent tour of some American universities to announce that, contrary to a promise that Israel had made to the American government, he was going to finance the construction of 650 new apartments on the West Bank in order to "thicken" the Jewish presence in some of the settlements?
"I have no doubt that Natan Sharansky knows that there are apartments going begging right now in some of those places."
First, Oslo never required an "end" to settlements, or even a settlement freeze. Further, does Hertzberg really think that the average Israeli birthrate applies to the mostly religious residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza? If so, then I suggest he visit the schools in any of the communities in those areas. Suffice to say that the families in those areas average a lot more than 3 children.
Hertzberg's criticism of the construction of new apartments in Judea and Samaria when there are empty houses in settlements sounds sensical, but it's not. The new construction is taking place in Givat Ze'ev, Maaleh Adumin, Ariel, Karnei Shomron and Beitar Illit, all of which are flourishing, and are located in areas most Israelis want and expect to retain. The empty homes are in isolated settlements, mainly in the northern West Bank.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
I posted the following on June 18, 2003. It's actually more relevant now:
While the Yesha Council insists that no violence will be used against IDF soldiers ordered to dismantle settlement outposts, it is calling on supporters from across Israel to assist in preventing such removals.
Realistically, the Yesha Council cannot control everyone who comes to resist the dismantling of an outpost, and cannot assure that no violence will occur. Making a public call for the attendance of supporters is therefore a dangerous game. If an IDF soldier were ever, G-d forbid, to be seriously injured (or worse) during an operation to remove an outpost, the Yesha Council and the residents of Judea and Samaria will lose the support - and gain the scorn - of many otherwise sympathetic Israelis, who may be apathetic to removal of outposts but would oppose the future destruction of established communities in Judea and Samaria.
This is not to say that opposition - including non-violent physical opposition - is inherently illegitimate, but that the risks of such opposition must be very carefully considered.
Friday, January 02, 2004
Stupid Column of the Week
Generally only online columns in the three New York Jewish weeklies are eligible for the stupid column award. This week two Jerusalem Report columns - neither of which is online - are far more meritorious, and therefore are the co-winners.
First, Leonard Jason, a psych professor at DePaul, writes that family therapy is what's needed to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jason says that if each side communicates "in safe and supporting settings, past animosities are de-intensified." He suggests "sharing personal narratives and intimacies."
I'm sure Jason is well meaning and on an individual level his point might make some sense. But the idea that family therapy would solve the problem on a national level is silly.
Second, Daniel Landes, head of Pardes, writes about what Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik "would have done" if he were alive today:
"The Rav well understood anti-Semitism and he loved the land. But he would have feared religious settlers who take us to the brink of war for territory alone, as believing in a false messiah. He would have despised the racism that has crept into religious discourse."
It's annoying enough when people insist on "what the Rav would have done," with respect to an issue of Jewish law. When it comes to Israel's current political situation, it's absurd.
Rabbi Soloveitchik did, and would today, oppose racism and nationalist fanaticism from religious Jews. But he was a staunch Zionist, and a supporter of settlement in Judea and Samaria. He would not support "religious settlers who take us to the brink of war for territory alone," but he would likely reject Landes' notion that settlers, and not Palestinian terror and rejectionism, have brought Israel to its current situation.
Landes has a right to his political views, just as we all do. But applying his own political values to the current situation has nothing to do with the Rav. Using those values to argue that Rabbi Soloveitchik would do today exactly what Landes wants done is speculation at best, and possibly a distortion of the Rav's thinking and legacy.
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Instapundit On Israel
Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit is one of the largest and most influential blogs, with around 70,000 visitors a day. Reynolds does not post much about Israel, which made his post yesterday a very pleasant surprise. Here's most of the post:
THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT TRY to play a "neutral arbiter" in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. We should, in fact, be doing our best to make the Palestinians suffer, because, to put it bluntly, they are our enemies...
These folks are our enemies, and deserve to be treated as such. They don't deserve a state of their own. It's not clear that they even deserve to keep what they've got. I don't think this means that the Bush Administration should be taking direct action against them -- closing off their funding via shutting down Saddam is a good start, and a policy of slow strangulation directed at Arafat and his fellow terrorists is probably the most politic at the moment. We need to try to squeeze off the EU funding, too, especially now that it's been admitted to be part of a proxy war by the EU not just against Israel, but America.
But let's stop pretending that what's going on between Israel and the Palestinians is some sort of family misunderstanding. It's war, and the Palestinians -- and their EU supporters -- think it's a war not just against Israel, but against us. We should tailor our approach accordingly.
UPDATE: Reader Matt Gaffney emails that this post is "too shrill." Well, that's why I don't like writing about the Palestinian issue -- if you tell the truth, which is that these guys are enemies of civilization, in the grip of a psychotic death cult that will probably lead to their destruction, then you sound shrill.
I also don't write about it much because the Palestinians, fundamentally, are the cannon fodder of other people who don't like the United States, and the real way to resolve this problem is to deal with those other people. And so it's those other people who get the bulk of my attention.
But the amount of pious crap spouted about the Palestinians is so vast that every once in a while I do feel the need to cut through it by pointing out the facts.