Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Sternhell Travesty

Israel Prize winner Professor Ze'ev Sternhell was lightly wounded after a small pipe bomb at the entrance of his home in Jerusalem exploded overnight Wednesday. He was taken to a Jerusalem hospital early Thursday. ( Sept 25, 2008)
It of course is fascinating to see how the Left fights for the rights of the Arabs dedicating to destroying Israel, yet when someone supposedly attacks them, you should see the gloves come off!

Police speculated that the attack against Sternhell was "ideologically" motivated and was likely carried out by extreme Right wing activists. Police and Shin Bet officials announced the establishment of a special task force to investigate the attack.

Pamphlets calling for physical assault of Left-wing activists were found near the professor's home on Wednesday night, reportedly promising a NIS 1,100,000 reward to anyone who murdered someone associated with the Peace Now organization.( Sept 25, 2008)

How pathetic. Even the Nazi's had more finesse when trying to tie the burning of the Reichstags to the Communists. The best response to the entire sad story was written in a TalkBack by someone from the UK.
This egregious double standard beggars belief ...
A 'task force' no less ...for a petty pipe bomb ... and listen to these leftist prima-donnas screaming foul about 'existential threats' and the need to put the 'miscreants' away for many years. What a contrast to the 500 kg bombs that maim Jewish children and for which these professors petition early release in exchange for dead Israeli soldiers. How about a task force for them? No-one condones such criminal activity, but it is bound to repeat itself if the establishment keeps dehumanising and discriminating so openly and harshly against Jews who cleave to their legitimate homeland.
UK (09/25/2008 11:22)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Why I Am a Zionist

The following is a powerful "I believe ..." statement by a man I only know by name, but respect and to a great extent, agree with. My Yom HaAtzmaut contribution to "Second Thoughts" this 60th Independence Day, 2008.

Today, too many friends and foes define Israel, and Zionism, by the Arab world's hostility. Doing so misses Israel's everyday miracles, the millions who live and learn, laugh and play, in the Middle East's only functional democracy. Doing so ignores the achievements of Zionism, a gutsy, visionary movement which rescued a shattered people by reuniting a scattered people. Doing so neglects the transformative potential of Zionism, which could inspire new generations of Israeli and Diaspora Jews to find personal redemption by redeeming their old-new communal homeland.

Tragically, Zionism is embattled. Arabs have demonized Zionism as the modern bogeyman, and many have clumped Zionists, along with Americans and most Westerners, as the Great Satans. In Israel, trendy post-Zionists denigrate the state which showers them with privilege, while in the Diaspora a few Jewish anti-Zionists loudly curry favor with the Jewish state's enemies.

Jews should reaffirm their faith in Zionism; the world should appreciate its many accomplishments. Zionists must not allow their enemies to define and slander the movement. No nationalism is pure, no movement is perfect, no state ideal. But today Zionism remains legitimate, inspiring, and relevant, to me and most Jews. Zionism offers an identity anchor in a world of dizzying choices - and a road map toward national renewal. A century ago, Zionism revived pride in the label "Jew"; today, Jews must revive pride in the label "Zionist."
  • I AM a Zionist because I am a Jew - and without recognizing Judaism's national component, I cannot explain its unique character. Judaism is a world religion bound to one homeland, shaping a people whose holy days revolve around the Israeli agricultural calendar, ritualize theological concepts, and relive historic events. Only in Israel can a Jew fully live in Jewish space and by Jewish time.
  • I am a Zionist because I share the past, present, and future of my people, the Jewish people. Our nerve endings are uniquely intertwined. When one of us suffers, we share the pain; when many of us advance communal ideals together, we - and the world - benefit.
  • I am a Zionist because I know my history - and after being exiled from their homeland more than 1900 years ago, the defenseless, wandering Jews endured repeated persecutions from both Christians and Muslims - centuries before this anti-Semitism culminated in the Holocaust.
  • I am a Zionist because Jews never forgot their ties to their homeland, their love for Jerusalem. Even when they established autonomous self-governing structures in Babylonia, in Europe, in North Africa, these governments in exile yearned to return home.
  • I am a Zionist because those ideological ties nourished and were nurtured by the plucky minority of Jews who remained in the land of Israel, sustaining continued Jewish settlement throughout the exile.
  • I am a Zionist because in modern times the promise of Emancipation and Enlightenment was a double-edged sword, often only offering acceptance for Jews in Europe after they assimilated, yet never fully respecting them if they did assimilate.
  • I am a Zionist because in establishing the sovereign state of Israel in 1948, the Jews reconstituted in modern Western terms a relationship with a land they had been attached to for millennia, since Biblical times - just as Japan or India established modern states from ancient civilizations.
  • I am a Zionist because in building that state, the Jews returned to history and embraced normalcy, a condition which gave them power, with all its benefits, responsibilities, and dilemmas.
  • I am a Zionist because I celebrate Israel's existence. Like any thoughtful patriot, though I might criticize particular government policies I dislike - I do not delegitimize the state itself.
  • I am a Zionist because I live in the real world of nation-states. I see that Zionism is no more or less "racist" than any other nationalism, be it American, Armenian, Canadian, or Czech. All express the eternal human need for some internal cohesion, some tribalism, some solidarity among some historic grouping of individuals, and not others.
  • I am a Zionist because we have learned from North American multiculturalism that pride in one's heritage as a Jew, an Italian, a Greek, can provide essential, time-tested anchors in our me-me-me, my-my-my, more-more-more, now-now-now world.
  • I am a Zionist because in Israel we have learned that a country without a vision is like a person without a soul; a big-tent Zionism can inculcate values, fight corruption, reaffirm national unity, and restore a sense of mission.
  • I AM a Zionist because in our world of post-modern multi-dimensional identities, we don't have to be "either-ors", we can be "ands and buts" - a Zionist AND an American patriot; a secular Jew BUT also a Zionist. Just as some people living in Israel reject Zionism, meaning Jewish nationalism, Jews in the Diaspora can embrace it. To those who ask "How can you be a Zionist if you don't make aliya," I reply, "How will anyone make aliya without first being a Zionist?"
  • I am a Zionist because I am a democrat. The marriage of democracy and nationalism has produced great liberal democracies, including Israel, despite its democracy being tested under severe conditions.
  • I am a Zionist because I am an idealist. Just as a century ago, the notion of a viable, independent, sovereign Jewish state was an impossible dream - yet worth fighting for - so, too, today, the notion of a thriving, independent, sovereign Jewish state living in true peace with its neighbors appears to be an impossible dream - yet worth seeking.
  • I am a Zionist because I am a romantic. The story of the Jews rebuilding their homeland, reclaiming the desert, renewing themselves, was one of the 20th century's greatest epics, just as the narrative of the Jews maintaining their homeland, reconciling with the Arab world, renewing themselves, and serving as a light to others, a model nation state, could be one of this century's marvels.
Yes, it sometimes sounds far-fetched. But, as Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said in an idle boast that has become a cliche: "If you will it, it is no dream."

The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. This is an updated version of an essay he first wrote for Independence Day in 2001.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The U.S. Congress in 1922 - Jewish Rights to the Land

A moment of history from the annuals of the U.S. Congress in 1922

On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine�anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea:

"Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected." [italics in the original]

On September 21, 1922, the then President Warren G. Harding signed the joint resolution of approval to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine.

Here is how members of congress expressed their support for the creation of a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine - Eretz-Israel (Selective text read from the floor of the U.S. Congress by the Congressman from New York on June 30, 1922). All quotes included in this document are taken verbatim from the given source.



JUNE 30, 1922
(Rept. NO. 1172)

want to make at this time, Mr. Speaker and gentlemen of the House, my attitude and views upon the Arab question in Palestine very clear and emphatic. I am in favor of carrying out one of the three following policies, to be preferred in the order in which they are named:

(1) That the Arabs shall be permitted to remain in Palestine under Jewish government and domination, and with their civil and religious rights guaranteed to them through the British mandate and under terms of the Balfour declaration.

(2) That if they will not consent to Jewish government and domination, they shall be required to sell their lands at a just valuation and retire into the Arab territory which has been assigned to them by the League of Nations in the general reconstruction of the countries of the east.

(3) That if they will not consent to Jewish government and domination, under conditions of right and justice, or to sell their lands at a just valuation and to retire into their own countries, they shall be driven from Palestine by force.

"Mr. Speaker, I wish to discuss briefly each of these alternatives in order. And first let me read the now celebrated Balfour declaration of date of November 2, 1917, during the progress of the Great War, and afterwards incorporated in the preamble of the British mandate authorized by the League of Nations. The Balfour declaration was in the following language:

His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country.

"If this is not a condensed and at the same time a complete bill of rights both for the Arabs of Palestine and for the Jews who intend to remain in their present homelands outside of Palestine, I have never read or seen one. It is conceded by the Arabs themselves that the present government of the country under the British mandate and through the Zionist organization as an administrative agency is infinitely better than the government of the Turks who were chased out of the country by Allenby, the British general. It is probably better than any that the Arabs could create and maintain for themselves.

"I respectfully submit that the Arabs in Palestine should be and would be happy and content under the present government of that country if it were not for Turkish and Arab agitators, who travel around over the land stirring up trouble by making false representations concerning the true character of the Zionist movement, and by preaching a kind of holy war against the immigrant Jews who arrive from day to day. The Arabs are well represented in the personnel of the present Palestine administration, which has recognized their language as one of the official languages of the country, and has given official standing to the Moslem religion.

"In the second place, if the Arabs do not wish to remain in Palestine under Jewish government and domination there is plenty of room outside in purely Arab surroundings. The British Government and her allies made overtures and gave pledges to the Arab people to furnish them lands and protect their freedom in consideration of Arab alliance with the Allies during the World War. That pledge has been kept. The Hedjaz kingdom was established in ancient Arabia, and Hussein, Grand Sheriff of Mecca, was made king and freed from all Turkish influence. The son of King Hussein, Prince Feisal, is now the head of the kingdom of Mesopotamia [Iraq], and Arab predominance in that country has been assured by the Allies to the Arab people.

"Mesopotamia is alone capable of absorbing 30,000,000 people, according to a report submitted to the British Government by the Great English engineer, Sir William Wilcocks. Arab rights are also fully recognized and protected by the French mandate over Syria. There are also several flourishing Arabic cultural and political colonies in Egypt. In short, the Arab-speaking populations of Asia and Africa number about 38,000,000 souls and occupy approximately 2,375,000 square miles, many times larger than the territory of Great Britain. In other words under the reconstruction of the map of the east, the Arabs have been given practical control of Greater Arabia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and parts of Egypt, which gives them an average of 38 acres per person. If the Arabs are compelled to leave Palestine and turn it over entirely to the Jews, it is admitted that the Arab race would still be one of the wealthiest landowning races on the earth. Therefore, I contend that if they will not consent to live peaceably with the Jews they should be made to sell their lands and retire to places reserved for them somewhere in Arabia [Saudi], Syria, Mesopotamia, or Egypt, that suit them best, and where they can worship Allah, Mahomet [Muhammad], and the Koran to their heart's content. After all is said, the fact remains that the Arabs have more lands than they need, and the Jews have none. I am in favor of a readjustment under the Balfour declaration, without too great regard to nice distinctions in the matter of the question of self-determination. This thought brings me to my third proposal heretofore mentioned, that the Arabs should be driven out of Palestine by the British and Jews, or by somebody else, if they will not listen to the voice of reason and of justice.

"I shall probably be told that, regardless of the question of land and property rights, the Arabs have an interest in the holy places around Jerusalem. Admitting that their claims in this regard are just, there should be no trouble along this line. There is no reason to believe that Jews and Christians would deny them access to the holy places in the pilgrimages that they might desire to make from their Arab countries. But if the rights of the Jews to their ancient homeland are to be made dependent, as a final question, upon Moslem interests in the holy places around Jerusalem, I am willing and prepared to repudiate these rights entirely and to shut the Arabs out altogether."

Hat tip to Eli E. Hertz

Sunday, February 17, 2008

La’Or : One Heart & A New Spirit

Okay, so the video clip of Professor Yakov Chasdai is in Hebrew, but as a renown military historian who assisted the Granat Commission assessing the problems which led to the Yom Kippur War of 1974, I think this man's words have some weight. That the organization he heads is also pressing for a restructuring of the Israel system of government, how can I not take an interest in him and what his organization has to say.

La’Or – A revolution in values and constitutional reform
The Laor movement (Hebrew initials of "one heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 11,19)) was founded in 1979 in reaction to the post Yom Kippur war social and political crisis, declining norms of government, rising ideological dissent, and signs of military weakness.

Faced with these signs of threatened disintegration, we felt compelled to prepare a far-reaching plan of social and administrative reform.

Members of Laor met over several years to work out the program presented in this leaflet. Our ideas are not utopian. What we suggest has been successfully implemented in other countries, and has proved effective in addressing the problems caused by human frailty and administrative chaos. We do not claim to work miracles, but rather to prevent a decline that could prove to be fatal.

The Laor movement is striving for:

  • A revolution of values which will bring back into our lives mutual respect, a sense of responsibility and freedom of choice.

  • Far–reaching changes in administration to provide a broad over-view and enhance efficiency.

  • Renewal of the spirit of partnership by utilizing and implementing community resources.
If your eyes are open wide and you are aware of the dangers facing Israel –
don’t stand aside

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Israel Matzav: Email from Sderot

In response to Israel Matzav: Email from Sderot maybe its about time someone arranged for Tel Aviv / Ramat Gan / Hertzeliya to get a taste of a few kasamim?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Arabic Logic

"All we want is an open border crossing," Abu Zuhri said. "Instead of making these threats against the Palestinian people, he (Aboul Gheit) should voice his anger against the Israeli occupation, which is what is closing the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt."
Can some one explain to me how Israel is the reason Egypt is closing its border with Gaza?

Friday, January 04, 2008

No to a Majority Tyranny

by Rabbi Dov Berkovits

The writer is head of 'Bet Av -- Renewal and Creativity in Torah' and former director of the Pardes Institute. He's long been involved in programs for religious and secular Israelis. Berkovits's latest book, She-asani Gever -- Talmudic Discussions in the Eye of a Storm, is scheduled for publication by Yediot Aharonot in the coming months.

A recent exchange of letters to the editor in The Jerusalem Post between Moshe Dann (August 13) and Max Singer (August 17) dealt with the issue of IDF soldiers disobeying orders calling on them to participate in removing Jews from their homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Dann's basic claims were that the purpose of the IDF is to protect the existence of the State of Israel, not to expel Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel, and that the IDF is a citizen's army and its use by a majority against a minority would lead to a demoralization of the army and of society at large.

Singer, in rejecting this position, raised serious constitutional issues. He contended that a minority, however idealistic, cannot separate itself from the majority, and that the stability -- and the very existence -- of the Jewish state rested on the axiom that "to keep our country we have to participate in its army and obey its orders."

He argued emphatically that "God set rules for us as individuals, but he made us free to make decisions, including the decision not to obey the rules -- subject to His punishment. God may have made rules forbidding a Jewish state to expel Jews from their homes in the land of Israel. (I think any such rule would be subject to military and diplomatic necessity.) But we cannot avoid having a government which may break the rules. When someone who wants to live in a Jewish country thinks the government is breaking God's rules, he or she has to face the unpleasant fact of being implicated in breaking God's rules.

The choice is between deciding not to have a Jewish country because its government may or does break God's rules -- although God seems to have told us to have one -- or living with the country's sin, if that is really what it is, until politics can stop the sinning."

SINGER'S ARGUMENT, in the best tradition of Western political thought, suffers from a fundamental -- if widely held -- error of perception that has dangerous implications for our future.

* First, the democratic tradition has always had a place for the human conscience; it is the last refuge of safety against the always present potential of the tyranny of the majority in democracies.

Israel does not have a democratic tradition of hundreds of years, like other Western democracies which have understood the value of citizen dissent. In that context the need for soldiers who believe that eviction of law-abiding Jewish families from their homes is illegal and immoral is as important as the reality of soldiers who refused to participate in operations against Arab civilians in Hebron.

Some claim that belief in a divine command as a basis for such action is untenable, while conscientious objection is a sacred value. Though there are Orthodox Jews for whom a divine command, by definition, must be accepted without reason, most religious soldiers have been educated to have a deep religious consciousness that is profoundly linked to idealism -- national, ethical and interpersonal.

WE SHOULD be deeply respecting of young men who have volunteered to serve in elite IDF units, unlike many of their generation, who do not follow orders blindly and are willing to pay the price for their actions.

* Second, the constitutional issue raises the question of the very essence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. The legal and political realities of the United States were fashioned on the basis of an enlightened Constitution. At the core of the Constitution is its Bill of Rights. Though the US Supreme Court has shifted in its interpretation of the Constitution over the years, this fundamental document has always been accepted as providing the framework for political struggle.

In Israel there is no constitution and no bill of rights. As a result Israel has no binding formulation of national legality and legitimacy that reflects a commonly held statement of the basic values embodied in the existence of the state. In this situation the government, the Knesset and the Supreme Court are permitted to violate fundamental historical realities regarding the very raison d'etre of the Jewish state as long as political machinations and basic cultural attitudes can combine to create "law" as temporary consensus.

I BELIEVE the founders of Israel formulated tenets that established the philosophical contours of our state, and set boundaries on the use of political power. One such foundational tenet was the purpose of the establishment of the IDF.

Israel was created because of the tragic defenselessness of the Jewish people in the Exile. The IDF was established to protect Jewish homes and synagogues from destruction.

Here lies the basic constitutional issue -- does a government in Israel have the right to order the IDF to destroy law-abiding and lawfully created Jewish communities in Israel and exile Jews from their synagogues for "military and diplomatic necessity"?

Perhaps it is necessary for the existence of the state to allow for such an eventuality, as Max Singer claims. However, such a decision is clearly a reformulation of part of the historical bedrock on which the Jewish state rose.

And if that is the case, where was the national dialogue on this fundamental issue? Who were the major intellectual or spiritual figures that determined the role of the IDF would now be similar to that of armies in liberal democracies and not that fashioned from the unique destiny of Jewish history? Ahmed Tibi and Omri Sharon?

PARADOXICALLY, most of the soldiers who find themselves deeply conflicted over orders related to the destruction of communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were inculcated to view the state as an instrument of God.

What is the ultimate value in forcing them to participate in an operation whose goal is the destruction of the communities they were brought up in? Is there no way for an enlightened leadership to find a way to allow them to remain loyal without callously destroying the most valuable of all our possessions -- the ideals and beliefs of our young generation?

* Third, and most important, the existence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state rests foremost on the integrity and unity of the Jewish people. There is no guarantee our "third commonwealth" will not suffer the kinds of terrible inner divisions which could have frightful consequences.

We are on the edge of a chasm when, in the name of governmental legitimacy, a citizen's army -- the very army which has succeeded in being the sole remaining accepted symbol of unity -- is used against part of our people.

We were playing with fire when the government used the IDF to protect our police in the Amona operation. We were playing with fire when police used planned mayhem against young men and women. We were playing with fire when our government used its secret service to delegitimize (and jail) as criminals idealistic young people as a tactic in a political struggle.

WE NEED to restate what this fragile reality called the Jewish state is fashioned of. We all believe in the critical necessity of the democratic process. We all support the need to reevaluate the treatment of Israel's Arab population both as a democratic and as a Jewish value.

But one principle needs to be emphasized again and again: If the democratic process, as it is understood today, leads to a further destructive dissolution of the Jewish people in Israel, there is no justification for the existence of the state. In such an absurd reality, Jewish history will find another venue for the realization of its destiny.

TODAY, WE are building a future for our people in this land. Let us give ourselves as much time as necessary to learn who we are and what kind of country we want.

First and foremost, we need to understand how far we can push each other, to recognize the parameters within which political struggle can legitimately take place.

It is my unequivocal view that the use of the IDF to destroy Jewish homes, to uproot lawfully created Jewish communities and to exile scrolls of the Torah from synagogues is outside those limits.

Originally published in the Jerusalem Post