Thursday, December 15, 2005

Our Youth Do Not See Democracy


There was a time when we were excited and proud to be a part of the democratic process of elections. There was a time when we knew which party was which, and what the platform was for each candidate.

The out-going government today not only stole our heritage, destroyed flourishing communities and congregations, turned heroes into refugees, and our army, police and courts into collaborators in the form of political tools, but it has also caused our youth to not want to participate in the elections.

Our children, serving in elite units in the army, do not wish to be a part of the charade of elections. "It doesn't matter anyway," they say. "Look what happened with Sharon - he stole all your votes after he betrayed the very platform he was elected on. Why should we vote at all? What difference does it make when there is a decadent, corrupt government that is collaborating with the enemy and endangering all of us?"

Usually, I can find an argument with my children to convince them. This time, I find it hard to argue with them since they are right. These young citizens of our beloved land, who volunteer for the elite units in the army to serve our land and protect Jewish lives, feel betrayed.

To tell them that each of us has the right and responsibility to participate in the elections is a fallacy, since the parties have blurred their platforms so that it is hard, if not impossible, to point out a candidate who will actually serve the interests of the people of Israel.

The same slogans each election - "Only ____ Can" - are plastered all over the country. "Can what?" I ask myself. "Can deceive better"? "Can betray us and capitulate to the enemy"? "Can manipulate and steal and get away with it, because the courts and police are cooperating"?

Our children are born and grow up in a community where we are all actively involved in seeking responsibility. We have seen them actively involved in youth groups, volunteering for community responsibilities, training and volunteering for the most elite units in the Israeli army - with the feeling of patriotism and loyalty to the land.

We have seen them determined to be a part of the struggle for our beloved Gush Katif. They were not only there with us, but they fought to overcome every obstacle in their way in order to stand by our brothers and sisters in this nightmare of betrayal; a betrayal by leadership that was elected to protect the same communities it now bulldozed into oblivion and destruction.

We are all angry, frustrated and hurt that we are lied to and manipulated by a government that acts like a dictatorship, and mocks us using words like "democracy".

Our youth able to participate in this election have been given the once-thought-of-as-privilege to vote now, but feel that this is a useless charade; not only not a privilege, but an insult to each of us.

I still say that we must vote. We must convince these youths, who will be the future leaders (hopefully true leaders, unlike today) of our country, that they must be involved, must try to get the most honest and loyal party into the Knesset, in the hope that, in the future, Israel will have a government worthy of their votes and our trust.

It will take a long time to rebuild any trust in the elected officials who serve in the Knesset. It will take longer to actually see candidates who are worthy of our vote.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

The Time is Now

We enter the period of the year where the book of "Devarim" is read in the synagogue each week. I've heard the book called "The Book of Numbers" (or have I confused it with something else?). The last few weeks has been a building crescendo of numbers:
  • The Rally in Netivot : 50 to 70 thousand
  • The March to Kefar Maimon 30+ thousand
  • The Siege of Kefar Maimon 50+ thousand
  • The Rally in Shederot 70+ thousand
  • The Assembly at the Kotel 100+ thousand
  • The Demonstration Tel Aviv 250+ thousand
What must be understood is that all these events took place over the past three weeks! No one could participate in all these events. Even when one or two members of a family managed to take time off of work etc. there almost always remained someone at home to "watch the fort". That means if fifty thousand participated, at least one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand support and agree with the issue.

With each encounter with brutally violent police; with each arrest in the middle of the night of someone who organizes public demonstrations; with each child held in jail yet another week because they are "a danger to society" because they stood on the sidewalk and cried to the police officers not to harm their friend/parent … the People are waking up!

The speakers at these various rallies state in a language that can not be misunderstood - the struggle is not over Gush Katif and the North of the Shomron. The struggle is for the "soul of the State of Israel". Nothing less than a non-violent democratic "revolution" ('mahapacha' in Hebrew) can be accepted as the resolution of this crisis.

I wait for the day that the "authorities" send their thugs to arrest the leaders of this movement. These arrests will not lead to investigations and trials. No in the "democratic" state of Israel there is no need for that. These will be "Administrative Detentions" designed to isolate "people dangerous to the public good". I wait for this day because hopefully it will be the day that the "rest of Israel", those who still sit at home and watch all these events through the screen of their television, will wake up and realize the time is "now"!

If we want a country that reflects the values of the Jewish People, a country that strives to realize the millennium old aspirations of the Jewish People - the time to start affecting the necessary changes is now!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Justification for Replacing the Current Form of Government

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ... That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Dear Mr. Sharon,
You publicly attacked the 50,000 protesters who were willing to take time off from work, away from their day-to-day lives and in the heat and dust of the Negev, clearly demonstrated their desire for a government that reflects Jewish values, a government guided by traditional "Zionist" aspirations of the Right of the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel. You intimated that these people are "under mining the Israeli democracry". I have news for you!

These same people clearly indicated months earlier that if the Israeli government was willing to bring the issue to the "people" via either an election or preferably a national referendum (we no longer believe in the electroral process due to dishonest politicans like yourself), with all the pain involved, in the interest of unity with the Jewish People living in the Land of Israel, they would accept the results of such a referendum.

In a true democracry, not the oligarchy dressed in "democratic clothes" we currently have, the "power" of the government comes from the "consent" of the governed. When you lose that "consent" you lose the right to govern. When the system of government, and the agencies which support and implement the policies of that government, loses the trust and belief of the people, that system and those institutions lose their legitimacy and the people have the right to replace them.

You can play the role of the "little dutch boy" and try to stop the flood and collapse of your regime by placing your Yasamnikim (Special Police Enforcement Unit, identifiable by their skinheads) fists in the cracks, but I put you on notice Mr. Sharon (and all those who support him and his like), it is only a matter of time before the entire corrupt system collapses and the Jewish People will replace it with a true democracy that also reflects the values and aspirations of the Jewish People.

P.S. As a footnote I just noticed Professor Eidelberg's essay on this same issue, quoting this same source.

Is Israel a Fascist State?

You know how it is, you start looking for something on the Internet and you end up discovering all kinds of fascinating stuff that has nothing to do with what you originally sought!

Today I stumbled upon an essay by a fellow called Lawrence Britt, supposedly a political scientist but I’m still looking for where he studies/teaches or other articles written by him.
None-the-less, after years of thinking through the question of “What is a fascist state?” Mr. Britt’s fourteen criteria were very close to what I myself might have written.

The “revelation” was that as I read the fourteen criteria it became more and more evident that many of them could very easily be applied to Israeli. Please read through the 14 points Britt feels all fascist regimes have in common and my comments beneath them. I’d be very interested in your feedback!

Yoel Ben-Avraham

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
    Another way of describing this characteristic might be the exaltation of the “state” as the highest value (and ultimately only value) of the nation.

    People need a “unifying ethos”, fascist strive to replace any existing “ethos” (religion etc.) with one they control. In Israel the powers-that-be do everything possible to replace Jewish values with a secularized “Israeli” culture.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
    Amazing how the “fear” of the Religious (Muslim, Jewish etc.) the state of Israel sees nothing wrong with a suspension of civil rights: Administrative Detentions (Incarceration without trial); suspension of the right of legitimate political protest etc.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
    If I had not stumbled upon this article I would not have been able to create such a list myself. The media frenzy, fueled by the Israeli government, to delegitimization the “settlers” (read Religious Nationalists) as the source of all-evil in society, the reason social policies are not implemented, as a force under mining the legitimate regime. One only need read a newspaper in Israel to realize how clearly this characteristic is prevalent in our country.
  4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
    I’m not certain this is fully applicable to Israel. Superficially there can be no question that the IDF id idealized and perceived as the source of physical salvation for our nation so in this sense it is "glorified" and idealized. On the other hand, it is the “People’s Army” – we the citizens are the army. None-the-less there can be no question that for objective circumstances the IDF has received a tremendous proportion of the national GNP since the establishment of the state, and there are many who feel in addition to becoming the “hot house” where Israel “grows” its political leaders, that the IDF has become very increasingly politicized since the Oslo years.
  5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
    Here I think Israel parts ways with “traditional” fascist states. If anything I would suggest that the secular “Israeli” ethos promotes a vision of “family” and sexual mores that is incompatible with traditional values.
  6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes the government directly controls the (sic) media, but in other cases, government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives indirectly control the media. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.
    In a country where the media is rigidly controlled and dissenting voices like Arutz 7 and other aggressively persecuted it is easy to see how this criterion of a fascist state might be applicable to Israel. The idea of a media “enlisted” to promote the agenda of the state against the “opposition”, in our case the “settlers” and the “religious” is a fact of life none, even the media themselves, deny.
  7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
    What can I say? Is it applicable? Definitely! But as Henry Kissinger is said to have observed: “Just because you are paranoiac doesn’t mean they are not out to get you!” In the same vein perhaps we could say that even though there is an objective basis to our fears, it doesn’t mean the state doesn’t exploit those fears to pursue its agenda!
  8. Religion and Government are intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed
    to the government's policies or actions.
    Well here I guess the opposite is true, unless you want to place “Democracy” up on the pillar as the “State Religion”. Then it becomes very clear that even when the “major tenets” of democracy are “diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions” they will justify their actions as necessary to “defend and protect” what they call “democracy”.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
    Anyone who lost a fortune in the famous Israeli Bank Stock fiasco, or the endless line of financial wrong doings that get paid lip service but the principles continue to play leading roles in the economy of the nation can see how this criteria perfectly fits the Israeli reality.
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
    I wonder what Amir Pertz would say to this? Again I question whether this particular criterion is truly applicable to the Israeli reality, although there is no doubt that the “histadrut” has fallen from the “State behind the State” to a sorry excuse for a labor union and its power has been systematically curtailed over the past two decades
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
    Again, the Israeli reality is more complicated. If we were to qualify this as representatives of the “religious” camp or ‘Right Wing’ as being “censored” I think it might have some applicability.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police is given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
    Gradually over the past twenty years the police have grown into a force no longer perceived as “representatives of law and order” but more a “street gang with a license” to viloently implement the policies of the government. Policies I must add primarily against the religious and those who believe in the Jewish People and their right to live in the Land of Israel.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associate who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
    Wow! Read the headlines of any Israeli newspaper and then come back to this point. It has come to the point that even the “enlisted media” now has a problem trying to avoid the corruption of the Sharon Family and its supporters.
  14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
    I’m not certain if these fictitious organizations that launder the millions of dollars that fund the election campaigns of Barack or Sharon are included in the author’s understanding of “fraudulent elections”, but in my mind “purchasing an election” is as fraudulent as you can get!

Based upon the essay: "The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Between Hope and Despair

Afternoon AssemblyI've been trying to find the words to articulate my feelings after last week's amazing experience at Kefar Maimon. Perhaps the best way is to relate a conversation I had with an acquaintance on the way home last week.

My acquaintance probably saw on my face the tremendous wave of confused emotions I was experiencing and sought to draw me out, in the hope that talking about it might help me cope. His question was a simple open-ended: "So what do you think of all of this?"

Without hesitation or forethought the words came out as if on their own: "I'm trapped somewhere between despair and hope!"

"On one hand," I explained, "I feel like I'm in mourning over the demise of everything I came to this country to help realize - a Zionist Jewish Israel that accepted the democratic process as the most effective means of managing a pluralistic society." With the government's decision to utilize twenty thousand soldiers to stifle legitimate political protest, with the no longer veiled threats by the police to use violence including the use of weapons to "control" the protest, I felt we had crossed a line from which there is no return.

The future of Israel society will be determined by your adherence to the modern idol of "Secular Democracy" with no room for religious or conscientious objection. The funding for religious high schools has already been cut by 70% starting September. The Ministry of Religious Affairs dismantled with no alternative put in place to ensure that public mikvaot remain open or that community rabbi's receive some minimal stipend. Yeshivot Hesder that feel there is a conflict between the dictates of Judaism and the commands given by the army will be closed. Soldiers who are torn between their love of the Land and the People and find it hard to act against the very People they believe they joined the IDF to protect will be blackballed out of active service. Whenever the police decide they "suspect" a kippa wearer of "wrong intentions" they can forcefully remove them from public transport, temporarily revoke their driver's license and/or incarcerate them for 48 hours without arraignment.

"On the other hand the events of Kefar Maimon open up a basis for hope!" I explained. For the first time since I came to Israel in 1974 an entire community of forty thousand like minded individuals publicly declared that they are no longer willing to sit on the side lines and watch the State of Israel divest itself of every connection to Jewishness and the values of Zionism that the state was founded on. This public expression of idealism, coupled with the willingness to physically suffer in its expression, that gives me hope that Israel's future might overcome the darkness that encompasses us.

Maybe the excesses of the overly autocratic authorities in abusing their powers to stifle legitimate political protest will help wake up the broad masses that sit in relative apathy in front of their televisions.

With that extended monologue my acquaintance wished me the traditional Jewish blessing: "May we only hear good things from each other" as both of us boarded our respective buses.

The other source of emotional ambiguity is my experience with the thousands, no the tens of thousands of young people during the week at Kefar Maimon. On one hand I felt a great sadness that they, as well as my children, are forced to face such a bitter and unjust struggle. On the other hand, their passionate idealism and willingness to absorb actual physical blows with absolute no intent in returning them provided me a source of pride and hope. Whatever the net result of the struggle over Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron, twenty years from now the future of Israel will be in the hands of these young idealists. If I survive to see it, I know now that Israel will be a more democratic and just society than the oligarchy it is today.

The theme song of these vibrant and valiant young people sums up the message of hope in one line: "The Eternal People isn't afraid of a long road".

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Protest 29 June 2005

Again the frustrated citizens of Israel expressed their opposition to their government's policies in the only fashion that seems to get the authorities attention -blocking roads from Haifa to Beer Sheva! Here is the story of one such demonstration in the center of Israel.

Israeli vs Jew

I thought I'd mention the first time I ever heard of this dichotomy between Jew and Israeli!

Way back in the early 70's my wife and I lived in Maalot.  There was some twenty five years ago a wave of immigrants from the then Soviet Union.  The Ministry of Absorption put a group of some fifty families up in a new sub-division originally built as apartments for sale to general public, near our home.  Naturally my wife and I made an effort to great these people and extend our assistance to them in whatever way possible, as did many others in Maalot in general, and the Maalot Yeshiva community in particular.

At some point the "authorities" decided that [religious] interference was not a positive influence on these raw immigrants, and forbade us from entering the temporary absorption center.  Very abruptly our day-to-day connection with our newly form friends was severed.

When the immigrants finally figured out what was going on, they discussed it amongst themselves and appointed a committee to re-establish contact with us and encourage us to persevere.  At one point our contact amongst them, a young woman called 'Yana' called us to invite herself over! 

The actual meeting was almost surrealistic.  The Russian Jews all arrived wearing their 'Sunday Best', clothes which might have been fashionable in the West in the early fifties, but outside of some vintage film I had never seen the likes of!  Their demeanor was very stiff, straight backed and ever-so formal, unlike the relaxed laughing people we had visited in their apartments.  Yana was evidently the spokesperson, and she opened the encounter with a very clear and succinct description of the problem:
"We have", she explained, "met very many Israeli's who are Israeli and a few Israeli's who are Jewish.  We want to meet more Israeli's who are Jewish."
And so we did!  We couldn't visit them, but no one could stop them from visiting us!  Yana and her husband Boris and people from the yeshiva community organized Eruv Shabbat meals for anyone who was interested.  Eventually many of the new immigrants under went Brit Mila with big public parties celebrating their fulfillment of this pivotal act of Jewishness.  Older men in their sixties, younger men and youth all asked for this, and we complied.

One last aside:  I remember Shimeon Peres being interviewed after having lost [yet another] election.  The question was: "How do you sum it [these elections] up?"  His answer was very insightful!  Shimeon spoke without hesitation nor obviously forethought: "The Jews won, the Israelis lost!"

Best Thing That Ever Happened To Us ...

I'd like to join in the chorus on this one. Since my arrival on the shores of this beautiful but troubled country over thirty years ago, the awareness that Israeli society was raw, immature and unstable was one of my first and lasting impressions. I remember writing to my father about the last elections won by the Labour Party after the Yom Kipur War: "The walls [of this society] are all cracked, but they keep plastering over the cracks in the hope that no one will pay attention..."

The tension between those who wanted a Jewish country (not necessarily a 'religious' one) and those that paid lip service to Israeli's "Jewishness" to reap support, money and perhaps immigrants, was basically not a partnership, but a competition. The Jews were always winning. Demographically, morally and ultimately in the most important terms - in power. It is only a matter of time before people who believe in the Jewish People and their G-d given role in the world will lead the IDF. It is only a matter of time before Jews who are proud of their Jewishness will rise to positions of influence.

In the meantime the "forces of secularism" are fighting a fierce rear-guard action. In many ways a case can be built to demonstrate that Oslo as well as the present "Disengagement" are more about attempting to break the morale and belief of the Jews who live in the Land of Israel than about security, foreign policy or any other aspect of these failed ideas.

In that sense, the "Disengagement" initiative is perhaps the best thing that has happened to this country since its establishment. The pro-secular movement has removed the ‘mask’ of pretend-Jewishness. Their true values and aspirations are apparent to all who read the newspapers. The quiet, cooperative, law abiding believer in law and order is finally faced with the clear moral choice: to remain true to our three thousand year tradition of values and ethics, or to acquiesce to the forces of modern secular Hellenism.

The prognosis? It can go either way. If the forces of sanity and reason prevail, the synthesis of dialog and cooperation will build a stronger nation with a clearer vision of our collective purpose and role as a people. If the reactionary forces of ideological secularism prevail, and continue to delegitimize the very forces that currently provide vibrancy and hope for Israel, the result will still be the same, simply the process will be uglier.

Evolution or revolution? These are the choices the current leadership of this nation face today. Marginalize the religious and the faithful! Cast them out of the army, deny them access to government institutions, employment and opportunities to contribute ... you will both cripple yourself and create an opposition to your existence that believes ... something you no longer do! When it comes down to a contest between "believers" and "non-believers", my bet will always be on the believer.

I encourage you to read Yehudit Tayar's article as well as that of Shmuel Sacket. These thoughts and feelings have been "in the air" a long time, but now more and more people are aware of them and act upon them. The greater the "non-believers" attempt to destroy them, the greater will these people feel the righteousness of opposing them, and the more people who will join them.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Stop A Moment Protest

A collection of photographs of the June 27, 2005 Roiad Side anti-Disengagement Protest.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

New Beginning

Yes I know, I'm impulsive and prone to let me emotions carry me away! Despite my [gradually] growing maturity (I am already 54 years old), and my conscience effort to balance my emotions with my reason, those who now me know it isn't always so easy.

Maybe it's because I care so much? More likely because I never learned how to "manage" my emotions until very late in life, and hence the "tools" others learned in their youth and adolescence I'm still in the arduous process of acquiring. Whatever the reason, I reached last Friday, Eruv Shabbat S'Lach Lecha 5765 a watershed. The combination of confusion and conflict on almost every level of my existence became overwhelming:

  • The "world" sees nothing really wrong with the blind hatred of the Islamic world towards everything Israeli and be extension Israeli. Those who know me realize that the "pragmatists" who turn a blind eye to the aiding and abetting of terror in their midst while loudly clucking about "how dreadful" are more despicable in my eyes than those insane individuals who actually blow themselves up
  • The "inner world" of 'Left' and 'Right', of 'post Zionist' versus 'traditional Zionist' of 'Religious' versus 'Secular' is reaching a breaking point. True tremendous efforts are being made by the 'believing' side to reach out and make themselves understood, but ultimately in every relationship it takes two sides to come to a workable solution
  • Finally my 'existential reality' of a 54 year old 'has-been' that apparently is no longer in demand (or even employable) added the "straw that broke the camel's [read my] back"

Realizing that I could no longer carry all these various emotional burdens and still retain my sanity, or continue without damaging my heart and who knows what other organs, I made a decision to "disengage".

Within three hours I "unplugged" (it goes off line July 1st), (ditto),, as well as my autobiographical blog and my assorted essays etc. Similarly I'll closed all my email accounts except (I've been trying to close for six months without success. Microsoft simply will not let go of me! )

Now that my in-box is no longer filled with tens of submissions to the various blogs I moderated or published and my mind is freed to try and think through the major issue of "What now?" - "How do I make a living now?" Hopefully I'll have the emotional and intellectual resources to rise up and meet this very important very basic challenge.

After all this I can't not publish.... so I setup "Second Thoughts" to permit me to publish ideas, thoughts and opinions that I feel the need to contribute to "public scrutiny". If only my children read these musings (thanks Batya for a lovely word), I will feel justified. If friends or even strangers find my mosaic of eclectic posts of interest or even possibly 'enriching', all the better.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin
20 Sivan 5765