Here are excerpts of my Knesset speech regarding Jonathan Pollard’s incarceration:
I would like to thank Knesset member [Avishay] Braverman who openly told us that at least during a certain time period, Jonathan Pollard remained imprisoned because that was also the will of people here, in Israel.
This is a very important statement, which was said in an offhand way. But in my opinion, it is certainly possible that this problem still exists.
Jonathan Pollard is not a traitor. We have to look at Jonathan Pollard through Jewish, Israeli, Zionist eyes. Jonathan Pollard is an Israeli agent. He performed a service for us. It is unthinkable that we should look at Jonathan through American eyes.
Jonathan Pollard is a hero, a hero of Israel. He is a hero who risked his life for us. And who knows how many of us he literally saved.
I have no intention of signing the petition for Jonathan Pollard. It is just meaningless words. It is lip service. I have no intention of being dragged once again into processes that have nothing behind them. Similarly, in my evaluation, this petition will fade away when President Barack Obama arrives here if we, the MKs, do not take tangible action – and I intend to propose just such an action. With it, our loyalty to the person who we sent to risk his life for us will be put to the test.
Our brother, Jonathan, who risked his life for us as our envoy, was not the only one who ran to the Israeli embassy for protection on that bitter day 28 years ago. His direct handler, Colonel Aviem Sella, ran to the embassy with him.
The U.S. forcefully demanded that both men – the Jew and the Israeli – be handed over to them.
We betrayed the Jew, and handed him over to his captors – the FBI agents waiting outside.
As far as the Israeli, we proved that when Israel wants something, it can certainly stand firm. Aviem Sella was not handed over – and a way was even found to bring him back to Israel.
On that day I understood that the state of Israel is not really the state of the Jews. Israel is the state of the Israelis. And from this denial of its identity and its foundations, my friends, Knesset members, Israel is progressively losing the legitimacy for its very right to exist.
I have visited my brother, Jonathan, many times. When I saw him for the first time, I couldn’t stop my tears. It was awkward: he was the inmate, who, despite the terrible torture that he had endured, remained peaceful and calm while I, a free lark, was crying like a baby.
Since then, Jonathan’s picture is on the front door of my house. One cannot enter the Feiglin family home without remembering our brother, Jonathan.
The betrayal of Pollard continues until today. It is hard to believe, but the simple fact is that the prime minister then, the person who authorized the extradition and today serves as president of the state of Israel, until recently never officially requested Jonathan’s release. We often hear that Israel is doing its utmost. We heard that and we will continue to hear it. We will sign petitions. But an official request was never presented – until Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu did so after 20 years.
But the resolve is still missing. Our body language – and I am referring to the body language of the regime, not of the nation of Israel and not of the Knesset embers but the body language of those responsible – still says to the Americans, “Keep Pollard to yourselves, we don’t really want him here.”
The type of spying that Pollard conducted is carried out by U.S. agents in Israel as a matter of course and is public information. Israel has the ability to demand and receive our brother, Jonathan, if it wants. If we want!
The president of the U.S. will [soon] arrive in Israel and he will want to speak from this podium. Welcome to Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama – with my brother, Jonathan Pollard.
But if you continue to imprison my brother, Jonathan, you will have to speak to my empty chair. And I hope that more Knesset chairs than just mine will be empty.
More than 7,000 have signed the online “Free Pollard Now” petition within the first 24 hours after it was published. The petition is to be submitted to President Barack Obama during his upcoming visit to Israel in March. In total, more than 14,000 have signed the petition.
The petition asks President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, who has served 28 years of a life sentence in American prisons for espionage on behalf of Israel. This petition follows President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s formal appeals to Obama to release Pollard.
The petition organizers were initially hoping to get at least 15,000 signatures, but have now increased their goal to 25,000, in light of the massive support they are receiving from the public.
Asher Mivtzari, one of the petition initiators, told Tazpit News Agency that the petition was not political or sectarian in any way. All segments of Israeli society have joined the petition, in a rare show of unity.
The full petition reads:
Dear President Obama:
We, the People of Israel, look forward hopefully and with pleasure to your visit to our country.
In anticipation of this important occasion, we would like to appeal to you about a matter which is deeply troubling to every one of us.
Our President, Shimon Peres, and our Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu have both issued formal appeals to you on behalf of the People of Israel, imploring you to release Jonathan Pollard.
Jonathan Pollard has now served 28 years of a life sentence in American prisons. A few short weeks from now, he will mark his 10,000th day in jail. Both he and Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse. We have learned our lesson and have been living with the painful consequences for nearly 3 decades.
We are encouraged by the appeals of Secretaries of State Kissinger and Schultz, among the many American officials calling for Jonathan Pollard’s release, including many who have first-hand knowledge of the case, because of the gross disproportionality of his sentence. Jonathan’s failing health lends urgency to their appeals.
We, The People, simple citizens of the State of Israel, sincerely hope that you will take this opportunity to respond positively to the many requests for Jonathan Pollard’s release, including those made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres on our behalf.
We appeal to you as one who symbolizes the shared values of humanity, compassion and hope for a second chance, that both of our nations embrace. We implore you to commute Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served without delay and allow him to live out his remaining days as a free man. It is our fervent hope and prayer that your upcoming trip to Israel will bring us the good news we have waited for, for so very long, and that this tragic and painful episode can finally be put to rest once and for all.
Stevie Wonder is set to pull out of a performance at a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces, a source told JTA.
Wonder’s representatives will claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a U.N. “Messenger of Peace,” according to a source who has read email exchanges between Wonder’s representatives and organizers of the event.
Wonder was scheduled to headline the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces annual gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 6. The event raises millions of dollars annually to support the Israeli military.
An official of Friends of the IDF, reached at its Los Angeles office, had no comment. Wonder’s agent at Creative Artists Agency did not return a request for comment.
The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General also had no comment on the matter.
The United Nations does not impose restrictions on its goodwill representatives. Wonder most recently performed at a U.N. concert commemoratiing its 67th anniversary. Elie Wiesel, the Nobele Peace Laureate and Holocaust memoirist who is also a staunch defender of Israel is also a U.N. Messenger of Peace.
Wonder had come under intense social media pressure to pull out of the event. An online petition calling on him to cancel his performance had garnered more than 3,600 signatures.
The petition was launched more than a day ago on the change.org website.
“You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel,” the petition reads. “Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s — will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser.”
A second petition, launched by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calls on Wonder to “(p)lease continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.”
Wonder performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Judea and Samaria outpost of Migron must be evacuated by Sept. 4.
All 50 families must leave the outpost, the court ruled on Wednesday, in response to a petition filed by the families requesting a delay in the eviction until the modular homes being built for the evacuees are completed. They reportedly will not be habitable for several weeks.
The outpost’s homes must be razed by Sept. 11, with the exception of the 17 families who claimed in a petition to the court that they have purchased or repurchased the plots on which their homes are located.
Those families also had asked the court to allow them to remain in their homes – a request that essentially was denied by Wednesday’s ruling.
In March, the Supreme Court ruled against an attempt by the government to postpone to 2015 the demolition of Migron, which some Palestinians have claimed is built on their land. Deferrals against the demolition stretch back to 2006.
The settlers, who deny that Migron is built on private Palestinian land, had signed a deal with the Netanyahu government agreeing to relocate to a nearby hill.
The Migron outpost in the West Bank was not evacuated as scheduled.
The eviction had been scheduled for Tuesday, the same day that the Israeli Supreme Court conducted a hearing on a petition filed by the residents requesting a delay in the eviction until the modular homes being built for the evacuees are completed. They reportedly will not be habitable for several weeks.
A decision is not expected for at least several days.
Some 17 families who claim they have purchased or repurchased the plots that their homes are located on also have petitioned the court to be allowed to stay in their homes.
In March, the Supreme Court ruled against an attempt by the government to postpone to 2015 the demolition of Migron, which the Palestinians say is built on their land. Deferrals against the demolition stretch back to 2006.
The settlers, who deny that Migron is built on private Palestinian land, had signed a deal with the Netanyahu government agreeing to relocate to a nearby hill.
Monday night, Bar Ilan University president Professor Moshe Kaveh informed lawyers representing the committee of heads of Israeli universities that he is withdrawing Bar Ilan University from the petition to the Supreme Court to annul Ariel University’s accreditation, Walla reported.
The Committee responded that it was sorry that Bar Ilan gave in to political pressure.
The petition was submitted after all the university directors, including Professor Kaveh, who met at the beginning of the month and agreed to pursue it. But, according to an inside source, Bar Ilan’s directors have been under pressure by right wing political figures as well as supporters of the university to retract their name from the petition.
The committee of heads of Israeli universities said it was “very sorry that political pressure caused Bar Ilan University to remove its name from the petition which had already been approved by the university’s president and rector. We are sure that the defense minister will wait for the Supreme Court decision on the matter and will not give in to coalition pressures.”
The universities are planning to continue to advance the petition.
“After it became clear that the university heads were required to sign on a separate power of attorney for each university to submit the petition, Bar Ilan’s president Professor Kaveh announced that he is opposed to it and will not sign the power of attorney for two reasons: Bar Ilan University helped to establish the institution in Ariel and provided it with academic sponsorship for many years; and Bar Ilan signed an academic cooperation agreement with the institution for joint guidance/training of Ph.D. candidates at Ariel university.
The publication of a petition disseminated by university lecturers calling on Israeli Air Force pilots to disobey an order to attack Iran if so commanded, is raising public uproar, Mekor Rishon reports.
As was first published in Mekor Rishon last week, some 400 people – including prominent academic and legal figures – signed a petition in which they call on the pilots to disobey an order to attack the nuclear facilities.
Labor Party Chairperson Shelly Yachimovich said that the academics’ petition is crossing a red line. “I completely disagree with the lecturers’ petition calling on the pilots to disobey an order if they were commanded to attack Iran. This is a call for rebellion and it undermines the unity of Israeli society and the values of democracy. Criticism of the political echelon is legitimate, important and necessary, however giving specific instructions to IDF soldiers crosses a red line,” stated Yachimovich.
The Legal Forum on Behalf of Eretz Yisrael approached the Attorney General, via attorney Yossi Fuchs, in an attempt to open a criminal investigation against the petition signers. In their appeal they stressed that a democracy must defend itself and that the law must be strictly enforced, including calling on Israeli police to launch a criminal investigation for the crimes of incitement and provocation to disobey a legal order at a time of war, a crime that is punishable by 7 years of imprisonment.
The Im Tirtzu movement also approached Attorney General Weinstein with an appeal to open an investigation, on suspicion of another crime – attempting to overthrow the government.
“These explicit matters do not leave room for doubt,” the activists wrote to Weinstein. “If Israeli law applies to everyone equally, the Attorney General must order the opening of an immediate investigation of the formulators and signers of this petition on suspicion of rebellion.”
As Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the Jewish month of Av) arrives, and with it, the mourning caused by the absence of the Holy Temple which would serve as the center of spiritual life for the Jewish people – and according to the tradition, all the nations of the world – a renewed outcry for “Temple consciousness” has arisen with a flurry of activity.
A swarm of petitions, plans for group ascensions to the Temple Mount, a new viral video, and a special conference on the issues surrounding Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount at the Knesset have heightened the intensity of the fight for Jewish rights at the holy site.
The Knesset on Thursday will host a conference entitled “Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount: Jewish Law, Practice, and Vision”. Speakers will include Temple Institute founder Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, of The Movement for the Establishment of the Temple, Israeli Arab expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar, head of the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the Likud party Moshe Feiglin and Knesset MK Michael Ben-Ari.
Whether it is acceptable for a Jew to go up to the Temple Mount is a matter of hot religious debate. According to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the preeminent rabbis of the Religious Zionist movement and a popular and prolific author of books pertaining to Jewish life today, most of today’s Jewish law jurists have issued proclamations forbidding Jews from ascending to the site.
“For example, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was not less idealistic, courageous and dedicated than those pushing to allow visits to the Temple Mount, and he spearheaded the entire settlement enterprise, and at the same time, he ruled that it was forbidden to touch the Temple Mount,” Rabbi Aviner said on his blog. He also noted that the Chief Rabbinate and the majority of Hareidi poskim (halachic authorities), reject Jewish entry to the Temple Mount. “One who says to stay away from the Temple Mount is not necessarily weak, and one who is passionate about going up is not necessarily strong,” Rabbi Aviner said.
Though private individuals and small groups of Jews do ascend to the Temple Mount in accordance with their beliefs about the place, the Chief Rabbinate has placed a sign at the entrance to the Mughrabi gate declaring the site off limits to Jews according to Jewish law.
The rabbis who say no to going up claim that the Torah scholars are not absolutely certain of where the permissible parts of the Temple Mount are, and therefore all Jews should not attempt to walk on any of the area. Failure to stick to the permitted parts of the Temple Mount by a Jew who is not sufficiently ritually pure would result in a serious breach of Jewish law and the defilement of the violated areas – effectively trampling on God’s honor.
Yet a steady stream of support for a renewed Jewish presence on the Temple Mount has grown since the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli paratroopers in the 1967 Six Day War. Advocates for Jewish rights on the site range from those in favor of allowing more Jewish inclusion at the site to those who want to begin work on a third Temple. They say that the site was always meant to serve as a place of Jewish communion with God, with or without a Temple, and that responsibility for rekindling Jewish prayer on that auspicious site – culminating with the erection of a third and final Temple – is the responsibility of the Jewish people today.
Advocates cite the works of the renowned Jewish commentator, the Rambam (Maimonides), who said that there are places Jews of lesser ritual purity can visit today. Additional and weighty support for Jewish religious activity on the Temple Mount comes from the halachic decree of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein – considered by many to be the greatest adjudicator of Jewish law in the last generation – who also said that it is acceptable for Jews to ascend to some areas of the Temple Mount.
His son-in-law and foremost pupil, Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, has frequently and vocally advocated for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, and makes efforts to go up to the holy site every time he is in Israel.
“I think this is something that the [Chief Rabbinate] doesn’t seem to understand, that kedusha [holiness] is not emphasized by not going into a place of kedusha, but by going into a place of kedusha properly prepared,” Rabbi Tendler said in a video taken of a visit to the Temple Mount in 2009. “Kedusha is defined as how we behave toward kedusha. The idea of forbidding this area because it is an area of kedusha goes counter to what we know about man’s relationship to kedusha. Man’s relationship to kedusha is that because the place is [holy], we become more conscious of kedusha…” Rabbi Tendler defended the visitation of the site, when done so in a matter befitting the sanctity of the site.
“I started the petition as a way to help begin to break the silence over this ongoing modern tragedy,” said Yosef Rabin, who is a frequent Temple Mount visitor and former IDF soldier. “How can it be that in a Jewish State a Jewish government is banning Jewish worship in the holiest place on earth? We are ascending the Mount in accordance with the rulings of great sages of Israel including the Rambam, Radbaz, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and many more! How can we allow a secular police force and government to persecute Torah observing Jews for following their Rabbinic leaders?”
“Secondly for those who are not religious, there is the issue of human rights,” Rabin said. “How can it be that a human being is arrested for the crime of prayer, in the very place that he feels is holy to him? Where is the international outrage or at least Jewish outrage?”
Though international outrage indeed does not seem to have surfaced, Jewish indignation abounds. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) sent letters to the Prime Minister and other key government officials in February, decrying discriminatory treatment of Jews by Israeli police and Arab Waqf officials who were allowed to continue ruling the area in 1967, including special searches of Jews for ritual items, and the forbidding of Jews to sway, move lips, sing, or bow. ZOA Israel Office Director Jeff Daube decried the political reality in which human rights activists were unconcerned with Jewish rights in Jerusalem. “I wonder, where are all the progressive rights organizations when it comes to these abuses? You know, the same groups that cry ‘harassment!’ every time Palestinian Arabs wait in line at a checkpoint or undergo a security check by the IDF.”
“These are universal rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion that the UN Council on Human Rights should be advocating for.”
In a press release issued by the ZOA, a case of a Jew having his water confiscated so he could not make a blessing over it before drinking was reported, as well as cases of Jews being hit and arrested for suspected prayer. The press release argued that Jewish visitors should not be singled out for biased treatment, that Jews do not present a security threat on the Temple Mount, that suspending Jewish religious rights will not prevent Muslim violence from erupting from the Temple Mount, and that Israeli laws pertaining to freedom of religion are being broken by the current treatment.
“The current situation is outrageous. Israel must ensure freedom of prayer for Jewish people at our most holy place,” David Haivri, former head of the Temple Mount awareness organization Revava and current director of the Shomron Liason Office told the Jewish Press. “I personally have been arrested and banned from visiting the Temple Mount because I dared to bow down in prayer there. This is unacceptable in any country that considers itself a democracy and sure not fitting in the Jewish state which takes pride in protecting religious freedom for all religions but neglects the most basic needs of its Jewish majority.”
Laws pertaining to the treatment of antiquities have also presented a concern for those interested in Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount. A petition to Stop the Desecration of the Temple Mount has been issued by the British Israel Coalition calling to halt the illegal renovation work on the Dome of the Rock which houses the Foundation Stone, as well as Waqf’s (Muslim religious authority) digging underneath the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute, urged Jews to internalize the need for connecting to the Temple this Tisha B’Av.
“Jewish people are so conditioned to their pain, they have become attached to their pain. It’s much easier to mourn than to get off the floor and do something about it,” Rabbi Richman said. This is the lobotomization of the exile which has made us think differently about the essence of the Torah – God has already come and given us the state of Israel on a silver plate. How can we mourn on Tisha b’Av as if nothing has changed? We’re not in the Lodz ghetto anymore.”
“To say to Hashem, ‘Please, please come back to us’ – he did, hello! To ask Hashem to rebuild the Temple is not Jewish, it’s Christian. If you want to build the Temple, do it.” Under his direction, the Temple Institute recently released a video illustrating the readiness of the youngest Jewish generation for the Temple. At over 190,000 hits in 6 days, the message is attracting attention.
“If you want a Tisha b’Av experience, it’s about going to the place of the Mikdash [Temple] and showing with your feet and with your body that you’ve had enough,” said Rabbi Richman. “We’re supposed to say I’m sick of mourning, I don’t want to do this anymore – how could we be treating the area of the Temple like a dead body? It’s not a dead body, it’s up to us to bring it to life.”
Rabbi Richman also condemned law enforcement authorities for indefinitely banning Rabbi Ariel, who was one of the paratroopers who liberated the Temple Mount in 1967, for conducting himself in a manner “not in compliance with the law.” “He’s accused of committing the crime of thanking the Almighty for giving us the mount on that day – in the meantime, the Waqf destroys the remnants – and that isn’t a crime?”
Politics and media aside, supporters of “Temple consciousness” are also working to change previously held halachic beliefs about the Jewish relationship to the Temple Mount.
“I have come to the conclusion that no learned and objective examination of Torah sources could possibly lead to forbidding entry to the mount on halachic grounds,” said Yoel Keren, Director of the Biblical Research and Exploration Institute of Israel.
“Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time researching the subject of the Temple Mount knows that today we can be absolutely certain of the location of the Second Temple, the units of measure used in its construction and the boundaries of all forbidden areas. The evidence is so overwhelming and compelling that I would have to conclude that anyone who disputes it is doing so for political reasons or a lack of research.”
“Above sacrifices and libations, above incense and show-bread, above all else, the Almighty set aside that mountain as a place of prayer,” Keren said. “The house that stood there, that will soon stand there again, is above all else, a house of prayer for all peoples.”