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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Quid Pro Books’

The Six-Day War’s Unresolved Legacy

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Nearly sixty-five years ago Israel declared its independence and won the war that secured a Jewish state. But its narrow and permeable postwar armistice lines permitted incessant cross-border terrorist raids. For Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the mere existence of a Jewish state remained an unbearable intrusion into the Arab Middle East. As Egyptian President Nasser declared, “The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel.”

So it was, in the spring of 1967,that the noose tightened around the Jewish state. In April Syria bombarded Galilee kibbutzim from the Golan Heights. In May Egypt ordered the removal of UN forces from Sinai and advanced its army to the border with Israel. Arab radio promised “the extermination of Zionist existence.” Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad announced: “The time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.”

Then Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, halting the flow of oil from Iran and severing its supply route to Asia. In early June Iraq joined the coalition to destroy Israel. By then nearly 500,000 enemy soldiers surrounded the Jewish state; thousands of fighter planes were poised to attack.

Apprehension of imminent annihilation – another Holocaust – swept through Israel. The army was mobilized. Bomb shelters were hastily built. Mass graves were dug. The hesitant Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, delivered a stumbling radio address that sent waves of panic through the nation. Under intense pressure to act from military advisers, he reluctantly authorized a preemptive strike.

One month earlier, on Independence Day, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook had met with a gathering of his former students at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. Like his father, the revered chief rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, he embraced Zionism, a commitment that marginalized the yeshiva among haredi Jews while its Orthodoxy isolated it from the secular Zionist majority.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda recalled his anguish in 1948 when the boundaries of war had severed the fledgling state of Israel from the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. Conquering Jordanians drove Jews from their Old City homes; their revered Hurva synagogue was destroyed; they were denied access to the Western Wall; the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated; and Jerusalem was divided.

As his voice rose to bewail the partition of Eretz Yisrael Rabbi Kook suddenly cried out: “They have divided my land. Where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it? And where is our Shechem? And our Jericho?” No one in Israel, a student realized, spoke that way. Ever since 1948 Israelis believed that “the Land of Israel ended where the state of Israel ended.”

But for the unrelenting Arab determination to annihilate the Jewish state, those temporary armistice lines might have remained permanent borders.

* * * * *

Early in the morning of June 5, Israel launched the attack that instantly turned the tide of battle by decimating the Egyptian air force. But the transformative – and, for many, miraculous – moment came two days later. After desperate fighting in northern Jerusalem on Ammunition Hill, which claimed the lives of thirty-six Israeli soldiers, the way to the Old City was clear.

Tanks blasted open the Lion’s Gate and Israeli paratroopers poured through, sweeping across the site of the ancient Temples. Commander Mordechai Gur radioed: “Har HaBayit beyadenu” – the Temple Mount is in our hands.”

An intelligence officer recalled: “Though I’m not religious, I don’t think there was a man who wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion.”

After exultant Israeli soldiers descended through the Mughrabi Gate to the Western Wall, IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren arrived with a Torah scroll. He recited the mourner’s Kaddish for fallen soldiers, followed by the Shehechiyanu prayer of thanksgiving. Then he joyously blew his shofar. Euphoric troops, suddenly experiencing the convergence of their Israeli and Jewish identities, spontaneously burst into song, prayer – and tears.

A soldier approached the Wall: “The touch of my lips opened the gates of my emotions and the tears burst forth. A Jewish soldier in the State of Israel is kissing history with his lips.”

An Orthodox paratrooper wrote: “I believe that the hand of God was in my participation in the battle for the liberation and reunion of Jerusalem…. I felt as if I had been granted the great privilege of acting as an agent of God, of Jewish history.” Even a kibbutznik from the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair movement expressed his feelings in biblical verse: “Let us go into the house of the Lord, Our feet shall stand within Thy Gates, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:1-2).

Religious Settlers Face Pervasive Double Standard

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

For anyone with historical memory the expulsion of Jews – by the Romans, English, French, Spaniards, Nazis, and Muslims – instantly evokes tragic episodes in Jewish history. Now the state of Israel expels Jews from their homes. Something is amiss in Zion.

The current round of evictions began, not surprisingly, in Hebron. Ever since the Six-Day War Jews have struggled tenaciously to rebuild their ancient community, destroyed during the murderous Arab pogrom in 1929. Against unremitting government resistance they have reclaimed abandoned Jewish property and, whenever possible, purchased buildings from willing Arab sellers.

Rabbi Moshe Levinger, founding father of the restored Hebron community, insisted: “No government has the authority or right to say that a Jew cannot live in all parts of the Land of Israel.” But from Menachem Begin, who was infuriated when Jewish “invaders” moved into Beit Hadassah in 1979, to Benjamin Netanyahu, who signed off on the recent expulsion from Beit HaMachpelah, the Israeli government has repeatedly tried to prevent Jews from living in Hebron.

A week before Passover fifteen Jewish families moved into a house purchased from a willing Arab seller near Me’arat HaMachpelah, site of the burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. But their presence was labeled an intolerable “provocation” by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is experienced in the expulsion of Jews from their Hebron homes.

Four years ago a signed purchase and sale agreement, accompanied by a video of the Arab seller receiving and counting his money, provided insufficient proof to Barak of Jewish ownership of Beit HaShalom, strategically located on the main road between Kiryat Arba and Hebron. Resisting what he described as “attempts by small groups of radicals to undermine the authority of the state,” Barak ordered Israeli soldiers and border police to forcibly remove the Jewish families who had lived there for more than a year.

This time, Barak refused to delay the expulsion. Netanyahu, who was willing to permit the new residents to remain in their home until after Passover pending a judicial ruling, quickly capitulated to his defense minister. The new residents of Beit HaMachpelah left peacefully, averting another violent encounter with Israeli soldiers – who might otherwise be expected to protect the right of Jews to live in their own homes. While the Beit HaShalom case still winds its tortuous way through the judicial system, the expelled residents of Beit HaMachpelah have now entered their own Dickensian legal labyrinth.

It is well known that Palestinians who sell property to Jews endanger their own lives. As a Hebron Arab told an Israeli journalist after the purchase of Beit HaShalom: “We will find the seller and chop him up into tiny bits.” When vigilante justice fails, the Palestinian Authority follows Jordanian precedent and imposes capital punishment on the seller. Indeed, the Arab who sold Beit HaMachpelah has now been sentenced to death in a Palestinian court. Under these circumstances, why would any Palestinian seller not claim fraud to save his life?

Ironically, it was Jewish community leaders in Hebron who protested this grotesque display of Palestinian justice. In a letter to the UN, the International Red Cross, Secretary of State Clinton, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, they wrote: “It is appalling to think that property sales should be defined as a ‘capital crime’ punishable by death.” Such a law “points to a barbaric and perverse type of justice, reminiscent of practices during the dark ages.”

But travesties of justice are not a Palestinian monopoly nor are they confined to Hebron. In the town of Beit El, established north of Jerusalem in Samaria in 1977, another housing crisis looms. Once again Defense Minister Barak is at the center of a property dispute involving belated Palestinian claims to land inhabited by Jews.

Thirty Jewish homes in the adjacent Givat Ha’Ulpana neighborhood are scheduled for destruction. According to a Supreme Court ruling, they were built on private land whose Palestinian “owner” only recently decided to reclaim it. Once again Barak cited the necessity to defend the rule of law – invariably at the expense of Jewish settlers, whose legal rights vanish at the whim of the defense minister.

“We are not chess pieces for Ehud Barak to play with,” infuriated residents protested. They insisted that the land was purchased with government mortgages from its Palestinian owner more than a decade ago. They were advised by civil administration officials not to register it lest the seller’s life be endangered. Yoel Tzur, a Beit El resident whose wife and son were killed in a terrorist attack on their way home sixteen years ago, reminded Netanyahu of his promise at the time to build a large community there in their memory.

Several government ministers warned Netanyahu, who relies upon his defense minister for political cover on his left flank, that any further destruction of Jewish communities would risk the dissolution of his governing coalition. Malleable as always under pressure, Netanyahu announced he was committed to “strengthening” settlements in Judea and Samaria. A special ministerial committee quickly decided to finally legalize three outposts that had received government authorization more than a decade ago.

Inventing ‘Palestine’

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

If the UN should decide to recognize a “State of Palestine” in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people it would endorse a bizarre irony.

Why?

Because Palestinian national identity borrows so extensively from Jewish and Zionist sources as to virtually constitute historical plagiarism.

“Palestine” emerged as an abbreviation of “Syria Palaestina.” The name was imposed by Roman conquerors to obliterate the connection of Jews to their land after the Bar Kochba rebellion collapsed in 135 CE. During four hundred years of Ottoman rule, Arabs considered it to be part of Syria-Palestine, not a separate entity. A remote and neglected imperial province, it was loosely administered from Beirut or Damascus.

Modern conceptions of “Palestine” began to emerge in the mid-nineteenth century once the Holy Land, as it became known to European visitors, entered Western consciousness.

The veil began to lift after Edinburgh-born artist David Roberts followed the trail of the ancient Israelites from Egypt through the Sinai wilderness to the promised land in 1838-39. During his journey into the past Roberts sketched the lithographs that filled The Holy Land (1842), his magnificent three-volume collection that for modern critics defines the Orientalist vision of intrusive Westerners.

“If God spares me in life and health,” Roberts wrote in his journal, “I expect to bring home with me the most interesting collection of sketches that has ever left the East.” With their riveting ancient city gates, walls, tombs, churches, mosques, barren wilderness landscape, and the exotic local inhabitants, his lithographs remain unrivaled romantic depictions of sacred memory.

A year after The Holy Land appeared, another Scotsman, Rev. Alexander Keith, published his own book about the land of Israel. Keith had also traveled to the Holy Land in 1839; there he came to believe that Christians should bring to fulfillment the biblical prophecy that Jews would return to their ancient homeland.

His book, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, included a phrase that has reverberated ever since. The Jews, he wrote, are “a people without a country; even as their own land is in a great measure, a country without a people.” Slightly altered by the book reviewer for a Scottish Free Church magazine, it became the iconic phrase: “A land without a people and a people without a land.”

Rev. Keith’s words were reiterated several years later in a letter from Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley-Cooper) to Lord Palmerston, the British foreign minister. Anthony-Cooper pondered the future of “Greater Syria” (as the land of the ancient Israelites was then commonly identified) after the Crimean War. He rephrased Keith’s description as “a country without a nation” needing “a nation without a country.” He wondered: “Is there such a thing?” before answering his own question affirmatively: “the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!”

Rev. Keith’s phrase continued to recur in the writings of Christian Zionists, especially once pogroms erupted in Russia during the 1880s. Evangelist William Blackstone, concerned over the plight of Russian Jews, referred to an “astonishing anomaly – a land without a people, and a people without a land.” In 1897 John Lawson Stoddard published a travel guide exhorting Jews: “You are a people without a country; there is a country without a people . Go back, go back to the land of Abraham.”

An American visitor to Palestine chose different words to describe the barrenness of the land for literary posterity. In The Innocents Abroad (1881), Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain) described Palestine as “a desolate country . We never saw a human being on the whole route . There was hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

The Struggle: Obama, Abbas And Netanyahu

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

It is a compelling story: a thirteen-year-old boy, whose family was forced from home as wartime refugees, still yearning more than six decades later to return.

It is also a familiar story: exile and the yearning for return, after all, are embedded in the memory of the Jewish people. Precisely that yearning framed Zionism and the birth of Israel. Indeed, Jewish history and geography are so compelling that Palestinians enthusiastically embrace them.

The thirteen-year-old boy was Mahmoud Abbas. Writing in The New York Times (May 17), the Palestinian Authority president claimed Palestine as “our homeland.” But he neglected to say why “our Palestinian state remains a promise unfulfilled.” It is because Palestinian leaders have persistently rejected every proposal for a two-state solution since 1922 and have repeatedly gone to war to prevent it.

Abbas reiterated familiar Palestinian tropes with a new twist. Following the UN partition recommendation of 1947, he asserted, “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future State of Israel, and Arab armies intervened.”

That is exactly backward.

It was the Arab invasion (“intervention”?) not “Zionist forces,” which triggered the war in 1948 that impelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee from their homes. Indeed, thirty-five years ago Abbas himself acknowledged (in the official PLO journal) that invading “Arab armies,” entering Palestine, “forced [his family] to emigrate and to leave their homeland.”

The day before Abbas’s op-ed appeared, Prime Minister Netanyahu reminded the Knesset that the “root of this conflict never was a Palestinian state, or lack thereof. [It] is, and always has been, their refusal to recognize the Jewish state. It is not a conflict over 1967, but over 1948, over the very existence of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu firmly stated Israeli peace terms: the Palestinian Authority (with its recently restored partner Hamas) must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish nation. The Palestinian refugee problem, manipulated to bludgeon Israel for sixty-three years, must be solved outside Israel’s borders. Any peace treaty must safeguard Israel’s security, with Jerusalem as its united capital.

Natanyahu did not itemize the “painful concessions” required of Israel, but they were immediately evident. He insisted that (unidentified) “settlement blocs” must remain part of Israel, but that would leave 120,000 Jewish settlers living outside the “blocs” to face expulsion from their homes.

Implicit in their removal would be Israel’s relinquishment – forever – of all but a tiny sliver of Judea and Samaria. That aligns Netanyahu with the Israeli secular left, which has insisted that all claims to the biblical homeland be ceded to the Palestinians.

Among the Israelis implicitly slated for expulsion by Netanyahu’s exemption are the residents of Elon Moreh, where God promised Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land.” Their exodus would be shared by the inhabitants of nearby Shilo, site of the sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant, brought from Sinai after the exodus from Egypt; residents of Beit El, where Jacob dreamed of the angels; and the Jews of Hebron, the oldest Jewish city in the land of Israel, where the tombs of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are located.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Knesset critics responded furiously to his settlement “bloc” statement. National Union party chairman Ya’akov Katz decried the prospect of the prime minister “drawing up a list of who will be expelled and who will not.” Likud leader Danny Danon suggested that Israel consider extending its jurisdiction over all Jewish settlements and uninhabited land in the West Bank.

MK Tzipi Hotovely reminded Netanyahu that a return to 1967 borders would also mean the repartitioning of Jerusalem, without the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, or the Old City remaining inside Israel. Left unsaid was that any attempt to forcibly evacuate 120,000 Jews would provoke a violent, perhaps irreparable, rupture.

But it was President Obama’s May 19 speech that blew the lid off the land-for-peace pot. “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state,” he warned – echoing the mantra of Jeremy Ben-Ami’s J Street – “cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” Then came the clincher: “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-struggle-obama-abbas-and-netanyahu/2011/05/25/

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