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May 6, 2016 / 28 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘AFSI’

Herbert Zweibon, Zion’s Champion

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

              Herbert Zweibon, founder and chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI, died on Jan. 19 at the age of 84. It was Tu B’Shevat, holiday of the trees, which only seems fitting because Herb was someone who spread his branches wide, sheltering not only his beloved family but an array of people and causes, planting seeds of wisdom and truth.

Psalm 92 tells us, “A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar he will grow tall . They will still be fruitful in old age, vigorous and fresh they will be “
How appropriate this is as a description of Herb Zweibon. He was not a tall man, but he was a giant among men who in his last year of life achieved what he felt was one of his greatest accomplishments – furthering the recognition of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Shmuel Katz as great Zionist heroes.
Herb was often accused of being a “right-wing extremist” because of his views on the preservation of the Jabotinsky ideal of a whole Israel. The national and international organization Herb had begun building in 1970 was seen by the mainstream media, and the liberal Jews who followed their guidelines, as being as far right as possible on the political spectrum.
What we’ve seen over the years is that Herb was indeed always Right – as in correct – because he was educating people about the biblical, historical, and legal entitlement of the Jews to the Holy Land.
I first met Herb in 1995 after receiving a call from him inviting me to his Manhattan office to be interviewed for the position of AFSI executive director. All I’d known about him prior to the meeting was that he opposed the Oslo “peace process” that had been all the rage among Jewish liberals since the famous signing and handshake on the White House lawn in September 1993.
It didn’t seem to matter to people that on the very day Arafat signed the treaty, he spoke to the Arab world in Arabic, boasting that there was no need to honor a treaty with infidels, which included all non-Muslims.
Herb Zweibon understood there could be no peace with an entity that refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. He saw it as his mission to expose the lies, myths and fallacies of the deceitful “peace process,” and to keep educating people with the truth.
Herb and I had our meeting. I was totally charmed by this man with sparkling blue eyes that reflected the keen intelligence, kindness and humor that were his outstanding characteristics. We liked each other immediately, and I agreed to take over as director at AFSI.
The guiding philosophy of the organization, learned by Herb from his mentors, Shmuel Katz and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, was easy to absorb. Shmuel Katz had been a disciple of Jabotinsky, who unhesitatingly proclaimed in 1925 that “the aim of Zionism is the establishment of a Jewish state.”
A Jewish state – a Jewish national home – must mean a Jewish majority, the right of Jews to live everywhere in that homeland, and political control in the hands of Jews. Unfortunately, even in Jabotinsky’s day there were “practical” Zionists who were afraid to deal with the British and the Arabs. Those were the days when euphemisms were adopted to soften the blow of what an “extremist” like Jabotinsky would express.
The appeasers and conciliators are still very much in our midst today. They are compelled to disguise the truth, to reflect an unrealistic optimism, to misguide and misinform Jews who are so eager to be misled into believing the Arab world really doesn’t want their destruction.

Perhaps it is because Jews have lived through so many expulsions, reigns of terror, pogroms and slaughters that they want to believe their enemies can become their friends. It takes a person who is impervious to attack, who has the strength of conviction about his Judaism and his purpose, to continue speaking the truth in the face of the mountain of lies.

Such a man was Herb Zweibon, and he taught me to do the same.
* * * * *
While the world was pushing for the “two-state solution” and the quartet’s road map, Herb and I were working in the opposite direction. It was clear the Arabs were not interested only in Judea and Samaria, half of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Gush Katif. Their textbooks, their maps, and their rhetoric clearly teach their young children that the acquisition of all of Israel is their goal.
We kept pointing out that the Palestine Liberation Organization was formed in 1964, when Judea, Samaria, and east Jerusalem were in the hands of the Jordanians and the Golan was controlled by Syria.
What lands was Arafat “liberating”? When the Arabs rioted in 1920, 1921, 1929, and in the pogroms of 1936-1938, what were the land disputes then? After the miraculous victories of the 1967 defensive war against the Arabs, Israel regained Judea and Samaria, united Jerusalem, annexed the Golan, and encouraged the development of the communities in Gush Katif/Gaza.
But instead of celebrating these great victories with a declaration of a whole Israel once more in Jewish hands, the policies of appeasement and giveaway began once the immediate afterglow of victory began to wear off.
The lies about the “occupied territories” and the PA narrative about alleged ancient Palestinian Arab ties to the holy land were in full swing. Most of the Jewish establishment organizations began pushing for “solutions.” Herb and I, along with the national and international organization he had built, began working in every way possible to stem the tide.
   Outpost, AFSI’s monthly publication edited by Rael Jean Isaac, one of the founders of AFSI, with the assistance of Ruth King, always featured Herb’s front-page editorial and served as our educational tool to enlighten and inform people. It became a hugely respected publication.
The educational track continued with the publication of Shmuel Katz’s Battleground, detailing the true history of the Jewish people in Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel. AFSI underwrote the publication and distribution of Katz’s definitive two-volume biography of Jabotinsky, Lone Wolf. And we are now distributing Katz’s book The Aaronsohn Saga, the fascinating and tragic biography of Sarah and Aaron Aaronsohn.
In 2010 Herb created the website www.shmuelkatz.comto promote the ideology of Shmuel Katz. In the same year, he began developing Zionism101, a new program of videos featuring the great Zionist leaders. Convinced that there was a dearth of knowledge among Israeli students about Israel’s heroes, in 2010 he sponsored the very successful Jabotinsky essay contest. Hundreds of Jabotinsky essays were submitted with the winners receiving cash prizes. Israel’s minister of education, Gideon Saar, participated in the project and agreed to include the study of Jabotinsky in the school curriculum.
Herb was thrilled with this success. His Israeli assistants on this project were former MK Michael Kleiner, a dear friend with whom Herb had almost daily conversations, and our Jerusalem AFSI chairman, Bill Mehlman, who has been with AFSI for over 15 years.
There was something otherworldly about the fact that Herb completed these projects involving his heroes just before his death. He seemed to know he had to get the job done before it was too late. Since it was Shmuel Katz who had been responsible for the founding of Americans for a Safe Israel, it was only fitting that Katz and Jabotinsky should have been with Herb at the end of his life.
* * * * *
From the very beginning of our relationship, Herb and I agreed it wasn’t enough to “talk the talk;” we also had to “walk the walk.” And so it was that we embarked on an extremely activist-oriented program of press releases, demonstrations, lectures, conferences, TV appearances, radio interviews, visits to our elected officials, including senators and congressmen in Washington, press conferences, working with Knesset members, and the extremely popular and exciting semi-annual Chizuk (strength) missions to Israel, which remain a central focus of the AFSI program.
   One example of our form of activism that stands out strongly in my memory occurred in the early winter of 2000. Then-President Bill Clinton and then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak were making plans to give the Golan to the brutal dictator Assad of Syria. It would cost American taxpayers close to $100 billion to have Assad agree to take the strategically vital Golan and it would mean expelling 18,000 Jews from their homes, farms, and communities. U.S. troops would become “peacekeepers” on the Golan, replacing Israeli soldiers.
Herb and I mobilized the AFSI troops and we took a long bus ride to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to protest the “Leading the Sheep to the Slaughter.” Subsequently, we held a press conference in Washington on Feb. 8 of that year to which we had invited family members of the 242 U.S. Marines who had been murdered in the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983. Other American lives had been lost in the earlier bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
Following the bombings, President Reagan had withdrawn the remaining “peacekeepers” from Lebanon and the news of the terrible loss of lives disappeared from the front pages and from peoples’ memories. Of course, the families of those killed remained scarred forever. Debbie Peterson, the sister of Cpl. James Chandonnet Knipple, USMC, was one who agreed to speak out. She said, “Politics killed my brother; politics is driving the Golan giveaway – and by paying Assad with American dollars, we will be paying for our own destruction.”
Joining us in our efforts were Christian Congressional friends like Jim Saxton of New Jersey and Tom Davis of Virginia, along with Richard Hellman with members of his group Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign (CIPAC). Fortunately, our efforts, helped along by so many others, contributed to keeping the Golan in Israeli hands.
Herb was long convinced that evangelical Christians – with their belief in the Bible and the need to preserve the biblical heritage in the land of Israel, the promised homeland of the Jewish people – would be better friends to Israel than many Jews.
Ed McAteer, president of the Religious Roundtable, Gary Bauer of American Values, and Pastor Bob Upton of the Apostolic Congress joined AFSI in June 2003 as we launched the “One State Solution Campaign,” underwritten by Herb and AFSI, to combat the quartet’s road map. Key swing states were targeted and billboards were put up in Colorado, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
“We are trying to explain,” Herb said in a May 2003 interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, “[that the road map] would separate the Jews permanently from their entitlements to the Holy places, such as Hebron, Beit El, Shiloh, Shechem, and Ofra – all the places good Christian bible believers know.”
It is to these holy places that the semi-annual AFSI Chizuk missions travel. We just completed our 30th trip and are planning the next one for May 29-June 7. As always, many of the same members join us on the trips. Not only do they feel inspired by the places we visit, they have formed close attachments to the brave, selfless and devoted people in the disputed areas.
Herb often joined us on the missions. Because of our many visits to the former Gush Katif, and the close friendships formed with the people there, AFSI was in the forefront of protesting the expulsion. We sponsored the Orange Shabbat across America, ran conferences, and brought in delegations from Israel to speak at demonstrations.
It is now five and a half years since the expulsion and those who were cast out are still suffering and living in temporary homes. The Chizuk missions continue to visit the people in their temporary homes, offering as much encouragement as possible. We have taken up their motto: “We will never forget; we will never forgive.”
Sderot, Hebron, the Hebron hills, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, eastern Jerusalem, the Knesset, the Kotel, the communities of Judea and Samaria, the Galilee, the Golan, the Negev, Safed, the Jordan Valley, as well as the new communities that are just beginning to be constructed for the displaced refugees from the destroyed Gush Katif communities – all are on our itinerary at different times.
Renewing the friendships as we travel from place to place is one of the greatest joys of our travels. And it is through these trips that we have also come to know the Knesset members who are our friends and support our ideology. Herb bonded with these men and women, forming close relationships that continued through the years.
The demonstrations we conducted at Annapolis, at the UN, the Israeli embassy in New York, at City College, at the Jewish Museum, in Washington, at Hadassah Headquarters (when we protested the giving of the Henrietta Szold award to Hillary Clinton), against the construction freeze, against the Ground Zero mosque – these were just some of the events we organized in our fight for our beloved Israel.
Just before Herb’s death, he wrote what would be his last editorial for Outpost. There he celebrated the demolition of the Shepherd’s Hotel in Jerusalem, a hotel purchased in 1985 by dear friends of Herb’s, Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, which would finally be developed to provide housing for Jews. He concluded with a clarion call for strength and an assertion of the Jewish people’s legitimate rights to their homeland.
May Herb’s legacy inspire and energize others for generations to come. His memory will always be with us.

Helen Freedman is executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI.

Helen Freedman

AFSI Founder Herb Zweibon Dies At 84

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Veteran pro-Israel activist Herbert Zweibon, founder and chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI, passed away in New York on Jan. 20 at age 84.

“It’s hard to come to grips with the loss of such a giant of a man as Herb Zweibon,” said AFSI Executive Director Helen Freedman. “The biblical roadmap requiring a whole Israel – ‘Yisrael shleyma‘ – became Herb’s guiding philosophy.

“It was my great privilege to work alongside this kind, wise, dedicated visionary for fifteen years. The experiences we shared on chizuk missions to the threatened communities in Israel, our educational trips to Washington, our many demonstrations on behalf of Israel, the AFSI conferences, were all memorable events.

“But most of all, Herb never brooded over the many problems confronting Israel. Instead, he was always thinking of what could be done to improve the situation. This was Herb’s great gift to us – his ability to understand the larger picture and to create the path to positive action on behalf of a whole and safe Israel.”

Moshe Phillips, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Americans for a Safe Israel, said Zweibon “was born and raised in an extended family that was one of the leading pillars of the Jabotinsky movement in America since the 1940s. No American did more in the last 20 years to make sure Jabotinsky’s memory was perpetuated than Herb.”

Phillips pointed out that AFSI under Zweibon’s direction organized and sponsored an annual Manhattan memorial event for Jabotinsky and in 2010 distributed a biographical booklet titled “Jabotinsky – The Man And The Vision,” written by AFSI’s Jerusalem representative William Mehlman (available online at www.afsi.org/pamphlets/Jabotinsky).

Zweibon, Phillips added, “was one of the key financial supporters who enabled Shmuel Katz to research and write his groundbreaking 1996 two-volume biography of Jabotinsky, Lone Wolf. Herb had AFSI continue to sell and distribute Lone Wolf and Katz’s other classic books even after Katz’s death in 2008.”

As a means of perpetuating Jabotinsky’s teachings, Zweibon came up with the idea of a nationwide essay contest for Israeli high school students and, said Phillips, “was involved in every detail of the initiative. The inaugural contest, in 2010, marked the 70th anniversary of Jabotinsky’s death.”

The Jabotinsky National Essay Contest, Phillips noted, “had 15 winners and hundreds of competitors with an awards ceremony held in the Knesset.”

David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, described Zweibon as “a righteous man [who] will be sorely missed.”

Wilder described AFSI as “one of those rare organizations which I can define as pure. Without any hidden agendas, without any need or desire for anything for itself.”

Ruth King, an editorial board member of AFSI’s monthly Outpost publication, recalled Zweibon as “a proud Zionist who was never dazzled by momentary hallucinations of peace and recognition from Israel’s enemies. He remained unbowed in the face of trendy feel-good pretense and was committed to the fact that only a safe, secure and impregnable Israel within its legitimate and historic borders was the sole guarantor for the safety of Jews in the world.”

Zweibon himself explained that the goal of AFSI was not to support the government of Israel but rather the land of Israel.

“It makes little difference to us whether the government of the United States or the government of Israel believe that they can somehow compromise with the Muslim community. This just will not happen,” he said in a 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“Everyone has a responsibility to prevent someone else from committing suicide,” he said.

Zweibon is survived by his wife, Sheila; sons Donald, Mark and Kenneth; grandchildren Zachary, Jesse, Danielle, Michelle, and Shou; and his sister, Lillian Rudnick.

Jason Maoz

Israeli Heroes Vs. ‘Destructo Squads’

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The May 9-17 AFSI Chizuk mission was another remarkable exploration into the enigmatic world of Israel. In that beautiful country live remarkable Jews who put their lives on the line every day. As Hizbullah in the north, Hamas in the south and the PA’s Fatah in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem threaten Israel, the Netanyahu government has the unenviable task of making life and death decisions while contending with pressure from the Obama administration, which seems unwilling or unable to comprehend the dangers.

Tragically, while Israel deals with these existential threats, it is pursuing policies that are self-destructive and demoralizing to its Jewish citizens.

During our visit to the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar we heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira that the yeshiva is threatened with destruction.

At Shavei Shomron, a community of 170 families, Rabbi Schmidtlek told us of being beaten by Israeli police while he tried to prevent the destruction of caravans, originally from Yamit, then Homesh, which served as dormitories for the yeshiva boys. Six homes that had been under construction were destroyed.

Eliana Passentin met us in Eli and took us to her beautiful home in Givat HaYovel. Eliana explained that the homes there are not “illegal outposts” – that all legal work had been finalized except for the military stamp from Ehud Barak.

In Jerusalem, we experienced the painful process only Jews must go through in order to ascend the Temple Mount. Rabbi Richman of the Temple Mount Institute endures abuse every time he brings a group to the Mount. Only Jews have to submit passports and stand aside while Christians stream through the gates. Muslims, of course, simply come and go as they please, using the grounds as their picnic and playgrounds.

The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem, owned by Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, awaits the permits necessary to continue its renovation. We learned from Arieh King, founder of the Israel Land fund, that building in Jerusalem is indeed frozen, and despite numerous announcements to the contrary, there has been no demolition of illegal Arab homes. He told us that in Atarot some 10,000 planned units were cancelled.

Additional land freezes can be found in Givat Ze’ev, where 12,000 apartments were scheduled to be built, and in N’vei Yaakov, where 330 apartments had been approved. The E1 corridor, critically important in linking Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, was supposed to be the site of 187,000 apartments. Instead, Bedouins are settling on the land. In sharp contrast, 1,800 Arab apartments are planned on land originally scheduled to be a park. There is no freeze on that.

At the Shai Dromi farm near Metar we saw the barren room in the goat and sheep pen where Shai Dromi slept to prevent Arabs from stealing his herd and killing his dogs. He is now serving five months of community service for defending his home and farm by shooting at attacking Arabs. Shai’s mother told us that filing police reports was futile; the authorities refuse to take action against the Arabs.

In Hebron, Beit HaShalom is sealed tight while the courts decide whether Jews have a right to live in the building they bought at a cost of one million dollars and spent thousands more to renovate. In Sderot we learned that the government has spent half a billion shekels building shelters and reinforcing buildings against the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks. Rather than eliminating the source of the rocketing, the Israeli government has chosen to put band-aids on the wounds.

As for the refugees from the destroyed Gush Katif communities, a tiny percentage now live in their new homes while the great majority still wait for ground to be broken or to see construction begin where the infrastructure has been laid. It is now five years since the Gaza expulsion.

Now we get to the “Destructo Squads,” as explained to me by Israel Danziger of Mishmeret Yesha. Seventy million shekels have been designated to boost the budget of the military arm that controls building in Yesha. This will help pay for more inspectors and vehicles to investigate “illegal” building by Jews. The squads are made up of 25-30 special-force “Yassamnakim” with vans, trucks, semi-trailer haulers and every type of mechanized construction equipment to conduct orderly demolitions.

Helen Freedman

‘The Outlook For Israel Is Very Grave’: An Interview with AFSI’s Rael Jean Isaac

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Rael Jean Isaac was in the right place at the right time. Forty years ago, she found herself in Israel together with her husband, studying the various activist groups that had sprung up in Israel in the wake of the Six-Day War. Some argued for returning the lands won during the war; others, for keeping them. While researching the different movements for her doctoral thesis, she and her husband met veteran right-wing activist Shmuel Katz. The rest is history.

Shortly thereafter, due to Katz’s prodding, Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) was founded and Isaac’s husband became its first chairman. Ever since, AFSI has been one of the few voices consistently promoting a Greater Israel that includes all of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

A sociology professor for many years, Isaac today edits AFSI’s newsletter, Outpost. She wrote her first book in 1976, Israel Divided: Ideological Politics in the Jewish State, and since then has authored or co-authored Party and Politics in Israel: Three Visions of a Jewish State, The Coercive Utopians: Social Deception by America’s Power Players, Madness in the Streets: How Psychiatry and the Law Abandoned the Mentally Ill, and numerous articles and pamphlets, including the popular What Shimon Says, a compilation of bizarre quotes of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Isaac.

The Jewish Press: Back in 1969, you researched Israeli groups advocating the surrender of the West Bank. It seems like little has changed in 40 years.

Isaac: Actually, the peace movement at that time did not believe in the two-state solution. Only a small group argued for that. Most of them said that creating a Palestinian state would be an example of Israeli imperialism. It would be paternalistic. Most of them wanted to give the territories to Jordan.

Were there no other American Jewish organizations opposing territorial compromise when AFSI came on the scene in 1970?

The whole philosophy of the Israeli government and American Jewish organizations at the time was that the land should be returned for peace.

Actually, one focus of AFSI from the beginning was exposing Jewish organizations that pretended to support Israel while they, in fact, were trying to undermine her. The first of these was Breira, which was founded right after the ’73 war. It was the first organization to make criticism of Israel a “virtuous” and “courageous” act. It’s the antecedent of today’s J Street. They extolled powerlessness as essential to Judaism and power as necessarily oppressive and corrupting. Many rabbis joined Breira, especially Hillel rabbis.

But the leaders of the organization came from backgrounds and organizations that were nakedly anti-Israel, and AFSI exposed this in a pamphlet. Breira then quickly died as a result of internal disputes because a lot of people in Breira had no idea who their leaders were.

Do you ever feel lonely advocating policies that are at odds with those of most other American Jewish organizations?

It is lonely, but on the other hand, we’re convinced that we’re right. In fact, in the last Outpost, we assembled some of the things we wrote at the time of the Oslo Accords, and everything we predicted came to pass. So the confidence that we’re right keeps us going.

But don’t you sometimes think, “What’s the point? No matter what we do, Israel will continue to pursue policies inimical to its survival.”

Well, we’re there for the record and I think that’s important. For example, for the signing of the Oslo Accords, virtually all the Jewish organizations showed up on the White House lawn to applaud. I think it was important that there was an organization that said from the beginning that this is a disaster.

You also never know when you may have influence. We work with evangelical Christians and friendly members of Congress, and I think we’ve had an influence on them. Look, if you don’t do anything, you’re certainly not going to have any influence!

You do what you can. You’re part of the Jewish people and it’s up to you to try and avert any disaster even if it’s difficult and even if it seems discouraging. There was a time when the peace movement in Israel was terribly discouraged because they saw the tide going the other way. So you don’t know how things are going to turn out. It’s discouraging, but you keep going.

Some people criticize groups like AFSI for working closely with evangelical Christians, fearing that they have ulterior motives for supporting Israel.

What’s the difference what their agenda is? They love Israel and want to help. That’s what you need, especially now when the absence of support from anywhere else is so glaring.

What do you think about President Obama?

Obama is by far the most hostile-to-Israel president we’ve ever had. Carter is a close second, but his hostility became manifest after his presidency. Obama is clearly gearing up to exert massive international pressure against Israel, and he’ll have no difficulty getting China and Russia on board unlike the difficulty in getting them to pressure Iran on its nukes.

What is AFSI doing to combat this potential threat?

We’re trying to rally supporters and friendly congressmen. The Republicans are far more supportive on these issues than the Democrats, although that doesn’t have any effect on American Jews who go on massively supporting Democrats. Even now, apparently 55 percent of American Jews support Obama’s stance on Israel. My goodness!

A number of years ago, you co-authored a pamphlet, What Shimon Says, which is still on AFSI’s website, with about 200 strange quotations from Shimon Peres, such as, “It is a great mistake to learn from history. There’s nothing to learn from history” and “Papers are papers and realities are realities. We cannot judge the PLO and its leader just by what he is saying. Would we do so, we would be completely wrong and we would be in troubles.” How do you account for so many strange quotes coming forth from one man?

When it comes to the Jews, I’m always reminded of Sleeping Beauty. Fairy godmothers came to her christening with all kinds of wonderful gifts like beauty, wit and musical talent, but then there’s this angry overlooked fairy who shows up and says, “When she grows up she’ll prick her finger and die.” So the fairy godmothers gave the Jews intelligence, talent, and creativity so they could excel in a host of fields, but the angry overlooked fairy said all those gifts would be worthless because I’ll make the Jews political simpletons, and without political intelligence all the other gifts will prove worthless.

I think Shimon Peres is the perfect example of a political simpleton. And it’s a mark of the Jews’ political naivete that he’s considered some sort of wise man.

Israelis often say, “Yiyeh tov – It will be good.” Do you ever worry that they’re wrong and that Israel might cease to exist as an independent country in the coming decades?

It can happen. You continue to work, hoping that people will wake up to reality. But if the present trends continue the outlook is very grave.

Elliot Resnick

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