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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Return’

Return to Sender: Knesset Speaker Rivlin’s New Years Greeting ‘Biased,’ ‘Political’

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Tahar Al-Massri, Jordan’s Speaker of Parliament, returned a New Year’s greeting from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Sunday, claiming that it is “biased and political,” and racist for calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Rivlin had sent a letter to parliamentary speakers around the globe honoring the 2012 New Year. The letter began with Rivlin stating that he was writing from “the Holy City of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

Jewish Press Staff

Remembering Hanan Porat

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

In May 1967 Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook spoke to his former Mercaz HaRav students at their annual Independence Day reunion in Jerusalem. Usually a festive day of celebration, this year was different. Rabbi Kook sorrowfully recalled his feeling of despair nineteen years earlier, when the State of Israel was born: “I was torn to pieces. I could not celebrate.” Suddenly he cried out: “They have divided my land. Where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it? And where is our Shechem? And our Jericho – will we forget them?”

Rabbi Kook’s outburst, his former student Hanan Porat remembered, “echoed in us, as if the spirit of prophecy had descended upon him.” Three weeks later, during the Six-Day War, that prophecy was fulfilled. Porat fought in the Paratroopers Brigade that swept across the Temple Mount, reclaimed the Western Wall for the Jewish people, and liberated the Old City of Jerusalem. As biblical Judea and Samaria fell to the Israel Defense Forces, the State of Israel and the Land of Israel had finally converged.

For Porat, the stunning Israeli victory offered the opportunity for return, restoration and redemption. Until 1948 he had lived with his family in Kfar Etzion, the Orthodox kibbutz a few miles south of Jerusalem. He was among the dozens of children who were evacuated not long before the Arab Legion annihilated their community on the eve of Israel’s proclamation of independence.

Defended to the tragic end, with more than 150 fighters killed in battle and slaughtered after surrendering, Kfar Etzion became an enduring symbol of heroic Zionist resistance. For nineteen years young Porat was among the Gush Etzion survivors who nurtured memories of the tragic disruption and destruction they had endured. “We felt that we’d been torn away,” he remembered. “They cut our roots brutally.”

Every year, on Israel’s annual Day of Remembrance, they gathered in Ramat Rachel at the southern edge of Jerusalem to gaze longingly at the “Lone Tree” in the distance that marked the site of their destroyed community. “Almost all the children became orphans,” Porat would recall sadly, but they were determined to “return and rebuild.”

With Israel triumphant in the Six-Day War, Porat knew the time had come “to return home.” He persistently lobbied government ministers to restore his lost boyhood community. News of his efforts reached Moshe Levinger, another Mercaz HaRav graduate, who was the rabbi at an Orthodox moshav near Petach Tikva. After meeting in Jerusalem they enlarged their group to include Elyakim Haetzni, a brilliant maverick lawyer who had arrived in Palestine from Germany in 1938. Like Rabbi Kook, he had declined to celebrate independence because “we gained a state but lost the Land of Israel.”

The three men planned their strategy for the return of Jews to Gush Etzion and nearby Hebron (“part of our genetic code,” Haetzni insisted), whose Jewish community had been destroyed during the Arab rioting in 1929. But neither Prime Minister Eshkol nor Defense Minister Dayan, who hoped to exchange land for peace with their Arab enemies, would meet with them.

Porat was not deterred. Just before Rosh Hashanah a convoy of cars, led by an armored bus from the 1948 exodus, returned to Gush Etzion. He viewed the restored community as only “the spearhead of the struggle for the Greater Land Of Israel.”

The following spring Porat joined dozens of Israelis to celebrate Passover at the Park Hotel in Hebron, rented for the week by Rabbi Levinger. Marking the birth of the restored Jewish community of Hebron, it was an extraordinary gathering of the future leaders of the Jewish settlement movement. Five years later Hanan Porat’s restored home in Gush Etzion became the launching pad for the return of Jews to biblical Samaria.

After the disastrous Yom Kippur War caught Israel unprepared, shattering illusions of its invulnerability, Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”) emerged to revitalize Zionism. Its founding convention was held in Gush Etzion. Porat wrote its manifesto, stressing “the sacred duty of every Jew to inhabit and repossess every portion of the ancestral inheritance.”

Sharply critical of the yearning for normalization that had come to characterize mainstream secular Zionism, it called for “a great awakening of the Jewish people towards full implementation of the Zionist vision.” Committed to “restoring the pioneering and sacrificial spirit of the past,” it asserted that “there is no Zionism without Judaism, and no Judaism without Zionism.”

Jerold S. Auerbach

Return to Dachau: A Unique Gathering (Part II)

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
The last living link to the Holocaust is quite a responsibility.”  
Remarkably, a number of sensitive young Germans and a few others from beyond Germany’s borders have taken on the responsibility and the challenge.
An outstanding example is Eva Gruberova from Slovakia.  Eva has devoted her professional life to researching and documenting the Shoa, so that mankind, learning of its unprecedented horrors, will not allow them to recur. Together with her husband, Helmut Zeller, whom she met at the Süddeutsche Zeitung (South-German Newspaper) where they both work as journalists, she explores the history of the Third Reich and its persecution of the Jews. “One of our first dates was the exhibit in Munich that dealt with crimes of the Wehrmacht in World War II,” she recalls. “We are bound to each other not only by deep love and friendship, but by our mutual interest in the Holocaust.”
Eva was born and raised in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, where she completed her studies, earning her first degree in philosophy. Receiving a stipend to continue her studies at a German university she enrolled at the Institute of Higher Studies in Frankfurt an Main for political science and ethics and later at the Institute for Philosophy in Munich.
            And it was here that she got in contact with the Süddeutsche Zeitung and her childhood dream of becoming a journalist reawakened. She made a dramatic shift, terminated her studies and plunged into writing for various newspapers.
“I still remember my first article I wrote from Germany for a Czech newspaper. It was a review of Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which claims that the Nazis were but ordinary, middle-class Germans who willingly cooperated in killing Jews.”  She seemed to agree with the thesis which then prompted her to search for signs of German recognition of collective guilt.
            “That’s the reason I came to Germany: I was curious, how do the Germans cope with this history, do they feel shame? I must admit I hated the Germans then. For me every German was a Nazi. Today, however, I believe the Germans have made in the last 20 years great strides in educating about their past. As a journalist I often accompany German pupils to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site, and this 4th generation is so open and interested that I, despite the sad contents, enjoy the tour,” Eva Gruberova confesses, and adds that she wishes that in other countries, especially in her home, Slovakia, there would be such openness and interest.
“About five years ago,” she continues, “I started to research and write a book about the ‘forgotten Jews,’ of Eastern Europe. I have visited an old age home in Bratislava where the residents are Holocaust survivors. There are women there who went with the very first transport in March 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau Many of them have never spoken of their experiences and they were very surprised with my interest. Some are even today afraid to admit that they are Jews. This disturbed me very deeply.”

            In Dachau Eva Gruberova had come across the picture of the seven young mothers with their babies born in the concentration camp. She could not believe her eyes. Her astonishment motivated her passionate search for sources and the discovery of the incredible story resulted in the deeply moving film, “Geboren im KZ” (Born in the CC) co-produced by Eva Gruberova and a colleague, Martina Gawaz, and the magnificent reunion of the “babies” from the world over, organized by her and team-mates at the Dachau Memorial site.

           I left Dachau with a sense of liberation. Here I met the new Germans, heard their voices, looked into their eyes and sensed genuine concern. Here a Holocaust cannot happen again.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Return to Dachau: A Unique Gathering (Part I)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Last March I received an invitation to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. It was signed: KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau.”
I was taken aback. Is Dachau still a place on the face of the earth?
Sixty-five years ago I, a fourteen-year old scary skeleton, could barely comprehend the overwhelming news of freedom Americans liberation. Over the years with the birth of children, grandchildren and thank G-d, great grandchildren, the hell of Dachau has begun to recede into the distance. And now: an invitation to return.
The invitation told of a special exhibit and film commemorating a most phenomenal event: the miraculous survival of seven young Jewish mothers and their babies born in a Dachau sub-camp in the winter of 1944/45. Six of the seven babies, living in parts of the world, were expected to attend the exhibit.
In an earlier column I described the fate of my fellow Augsburg camp inmate, Miriam Rosenthal who, seven months pregnant, was shipped to Auschwitz to be gassed. The Russian occupation of Auschwitz forced her jailers to take her to Kaufering at Dachau where she was put into a wooden barrack with six other young pregnant Jewish women. Labeled the “Schwangerkommando” (pregnant commando), they had to do forced labor until their date of delivery and immediately after giving birth. They gave birth one by one without medical or nursing assistance, suffering from cold, starvation and appalling sanitary conditions — to seven healthy babies!
When  Dachau was taken by the Americans on April 29, 1945, the seven young Jewish women — Eva Fleischmann, Sara Grun, Ilboya Kovacs, Elisabeth Legmann, Dora Lowi, Miriam Rosenthal and Magda Schwartz —were liberated with their live infants born in the death camp. All seven infants – George, Jossi, Leslie, Marika, Agnes, Judit and Suzi – grew to adulthood in various parts of the world – seven saved, while one and a half million Jewish children were murdered in the Nazi hell.
Of the seven mothers only Eva Fleischmann and Miriam Rosenthal are alive today. However, neither Miriam Rosenthal from Canada nor Eva Fleischmann from Slovakia could undertake the arduous journey to attend the exhibit.
For me this phenomenal exhibit was the impetus to return to Dachau. I wanted to be present at the reunion of the Dachau babies, now sixty-five year old grandmothers and grandfathers. I wanted to experience first-hand the commemoration of seven divine miracles.
When I met Miriam’s baby, Dr. Leslie Rosenthal and his wife, grandparents of nine, Miriam’s brother, Mordechai Schwartz, came painfully to mind. I agonized over the irony that while Miriam and Leslie survived the Nazi hell in Germany, Mordechai lost his life to British Jew-hatred in the Jewish National Home. A committed Zionist, Mordechai went to Eretz Yisrael in 1934 and as a committed Jew was executed in 1939. During the bloody Arab riots against Jews, he killed one Arab as the latter hurled violent threats at him and all Jews in Eretz Israel. Despite numerous justified defense pleas the British Mandatory authorities carried out Mordechai Schwarz’s death sentence.
At the reunion of the surviving seven, Leslie Rosenthal remarked: “The babies, that’s what I call them:  my camp brothers and sisters…. We could be the last living link to the Holocaust, so that’s quite a responsibility.”

(To Be Continued)

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Moses’ Spies in Art

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Growing up, I used to enjoy reading S. Weissman’s Little Midrash Says (published 1986) and carefully studying Siegmund Forst’s illustrations of the weekly Torah portion. At the time, I had no idea how many of Forst’s drawings were derived from earlier traditions of biblical illustration (many of them Christian), but I was particularly struck by the moral readability of the narratives. It was always a cinch to figure out who was a good character and who was evil; you could read it on their faces. The heroes were always smiling widely and the villains looked ugly and angry at the world.

 

Unsurprisingly, this technique of revealing characters’ true colors (or their perceived characteristics) in their faces, which seems to be more of a Hellenistic than a Jewish approach, dates much further back than the 1980s. Medieval anti-Semitic illuminated manuscripts often depicted Jews with hooked noses, hunched backs and ugly faces and there are indications that ancient theatrical masks similarly exaggerated characters’ features. It makes sense to apply artistic license in instances like these, just as many movies today cast the hero in white and the villain in dark clothes.

 

Moses’ 12 spies, who surface in this week’s Torah portion of Sh’lach as the Israelites’ scouts to the Holy Land, can be viewed, if not as evil, then at the very least as having questionable motives (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua). Their denouncement of Canaan as “a land that consumes its inhabitants” (Numbers 13:32) and their subsequent campaign to convince the Israelites to pine for their time in Egypt led to a punishment of 40 years of wandering in the desert.

 

Richard McBee. “Return of the Spies.” Relief sculpture. 24″ x 30″. 1984.

 

Artists have pasted the spies’ evil designs on their faces. In a late 15th-century Flemish book of hours, attributed to the so-called Master of the Prayer Book of Maximilian, the two spies, who wear pointed hats, carry a very large cluster of grapes on a rod, per Numbers 13:23. Like the verse says, it takes two spies to carry the branch and the attached cluster of grapes, though the artist neglects to depict the other fruits mentioned in the verse: pomegranates and figs.

 

Rather than depicting the grape cluster (no doubt evoking the spies’ intoxication with their fear of the Canaanite giants) tied to the pole, the Flemish master shows the rod slid between two branches of the cluster, held in place by gravity. The cluster is about half as tall as the spies and slightly wider than they. The spy in front wears a goofy expression while the second spy, whose face is covered by his hat (hinting at his blindness), is even more the dunce.

 

At the spies’ feet, and climbing up the branches around them, are several snails. Although it is possible that the artist has misinterpreted Numbers 13:33, where the spies speculate that they appeared like “grasshoppers” to the Canaanite giants, it is hard to imagine the artist confusing grasshoppers and snails, given the appearance of the word “chagav” in other contexts like 2 Chronicles 7:13, where it clearly refers to some kind of locust.

 

In “Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art,” Michael Camille cites a paper by Lilian Randall, titled “The Snail in Gothic Marginal Warfare” [Speculum, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Jul., 1962), pp. 358-367], which argues that snails have been viewed by scholars in a variety of ways. The 19th-century critic Champfleury saw them as “agricultural pests,” while a Flemish historian of caricature saw snails safe inside their shells as “a satire on the powerful who in their fortified castles laughed at the threat of the poor whom they exploited.” Randall goes one step further and identifies snails with the cowardice of the Lombards, a Germanic people, whom Camille notes, “not only bore the stigma of being turncoats but who, along with the Jews, were Europe’s bankers.” Not only are Moses’ spies evil on account of their immature facial expressions and dunce caps; they are also surrounded by symbols of cowardice.

 

Detail of Nicolas Poussin’s “Autumn, or The Bunch of Grapes of the Promised Land.” 

1600-1664. 117 x 160 cm. Louvre.

 

In the 16th-century Swiss painter Tobias Stimmer’s woodcut “The Spies Bring Back the Cluster of Grapes from the Land of Canaan,” the spies look particular ugly and fierce, as they do in Jost Amman’s woodcut by the same name. Stimmer’s work has the notable distinction of featuring other spies, carrying backpacks, in the background.

 

All of the dozens of medieval prints and illuminations I studied show the spies carrying just the grapes, with the exception of the c. 1450 colored pen drawing, “Spies return from Canaan carrying a large bunch of grapes,” by the anonymous illustrator of Speculum humanae salvationis, in which the spies carry another food which resembles an acorn but is probably a fig.

 

Many works (like Michiel van der Borch’s 1332 “The Spies return with the grapes”) show poorly formed grapes, and many of the clusters look more like bunches of bananas. Several of the figures are visibly weighed down by the grapes, as in a 1478 woodcut, “The Spies Returning from Canaan,” perhaps a reference to Christian identification of the grapes on the rod with Jesus. If that is what Christian artists truly had in mind, it makes sense that they would have depicted the Jewish pole bearers in a negative light and often with walking sticks, evoking the Wandering Jew. (Though it is worth noting later artists like Poussin used the scene to depict a secular theme – autumn – rather than a sacred one. Richard McBee has written brilliantly on this image in “Poussin’s Bible,” The Jewish Press, April 30, 2008.)

 

One of the earliest possible depictions of the scene is a frieze in the west fa?ade at the Gothic Cathedral of St. Etienne (c. 1270-1280, France), which shows spies in a vineyard, perhaps Moses’ spies, as two appear to carry a basket of grapes between them. But the scene has often been confused or mislabeled, as in a gothic stained glass “redemption window” from an early 13th-century church (with 20th century restoration) in Canterbury, Kent, which shows two spies with grapes mistitled “Joshua’s Spies in Canaan (the Grapes of Eschol).”

 

 

John Bradford. “Return of the Spies.”

 

 

Contemporary depictions of the spies, of which works by Archie Rand, John Bradford and Richard McBee are foremost – although there is a miniature rendition of the spies in the bottom right corner of Chagall’s tapestry “The Entry into Jerusalem,” 1963-1964 – show a very different scene.

 

Rand’s work, which has one of the spies say (via cartoon bubble), “We got to the land you sent us to. And yea, it’s really flowing with milk and honey – you can see from the fruit,” is compositionally similar (if flipped 180 degrees) to Pieter Bruegel’s “The Hunters in the Snow.” The Canaan Rand’s figures emerge from is rendered with bold strokes and a colorful palette, as the spies head down toward a more dreary place. Their sin seems to stem from inability to explain a world of dramatic aesthetics to denizens of the desert doldrums.

 

Bradford’s spies, like Moses and the rest of the Israelites, are nearly indistinguishable from the landscape and it is difficult to identify where walking sticks end and trees begin. If their sin was speaking ill of the land of Canaan, they were spreading lies about themselves as well, so embedded are they in the landscape.

 

Archie Rand. “The Return of the Spies.” 1992. Exhibited at Arthur Roger Gallery, fall 1992. Photograph by: Larry Qualls.

 

But if Rand and Bradford focus more on the landscape that surrounds the figures, as Poussin does but in sharp contrast to the medieval depictions which portrayed the figures alone, McBee focuses on the spies making their pitch to the Israelites. One can see sheer terror on the faces of the spies’ audience members, who fear for their lives and their families’ safety. Where many of his predecessors focused on the spies’ psychology and immorality, McBee is far more interested in the bystanders who receive their dark message. In so doing, McBee has broadened the scope from the Classical (and individualized) heroes and villains to the larger mass of people, which of course, includes us all as well.

 

 

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Menachem Wecker

Moses’ Spies in Art

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Growing up, I used to enjoy reading S. Weissman’s Little Midrash Says (published 1986) and carefully studying Siegmund Forst’s illustrations of the weekly Torah portion. At the time, I had no idea how many of Forst’s drawings were derived from earlier traditions of biblical illustration (many of them Christian), but I was particularly struck by the moral readability of the narratives. It was always a cinch to figure out who was a good character and who was evil; you could read it on their faces. The heroes were always smiling widely and the villains looked ugly and angry at the world.

 

Unsurprisingly, this technique of revealing characters’ true colors (or their perceived characteristics) in their faces, which seems to be more of a Hellenistic than a Jewish approach, dates much further back than the 1980s. Medieval anti-Semitic illuminated manuscripts often depicted Jews with hooked noses, hunched backs and ugly faces and there are indications that ancient theatrical masks similarly exaggerated characters’ features. It makes sense to apply artistic license in instances like these, just as many movies today cast the hero in white and the villain in dark clothes.

 

Moses’ 12 spies, who surface in this week’s Torah portion of Sh’lach as the Israelites’ scouts to the Holy Land, can be viewed, if not as evil, then at the very least as having questionable motives (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua). Their denouncement of Canaan as “a land that consumes its inhabitants” (Numbers 13:32) and their subsequent campaign to convince the Israelites to pine for their time in Egypt led to a punishment of 40 years of wandering in the desert.

 


Richard McBee. “Return of the Spies.” Relief sculpture. 24″ x 30″. 1984.

 

Artists have pasted the spies’ evil designs on their faces. In a late 15th-century Flemish book of hours, attributed to the so-called Master of the Prayer Book of Maximilian, the two spies, who wear pointed hats, carry a very large cluster of grapes on a rod, per Numbers 13:23. Like the verse says, it takes two spies to carry the branch and the attached cluster of grapes, though the artist neglects to depict the other fruits mentioned in the verse: pomegranates and figs.

 

Rather than depicting the grape cluster (no doubt evoking the spies’ intoxication with their fear of the Canaanite giants) tied to the pole, the Flemish master shows the rod slid between two branches of the cluster, held in place by gravity. The cluster is about half as tall as the spies and slightly wider than they. The spy in front wears a goofy expression while the second spy, whose face is covered by his hat (hinting at his blindness), is even more the dunce.

 

At the spies’ feet, and climbing up the branches around them, are several snails. Although it is possible that the artist has misinterpreted Numbers 13:33, where the spies speculate that they appeared like “grasshoppers” to the Canaanite giants, it is hard to imagine the artist confusing grasshoppers and snails, given the appearance of the word “chagav” in other contexts like 2 Chronicles 7:13, where it clearly refers to some kind of locust.

 

In “Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art,” Michael Camille cites a paper by Lilian Randall, titled “The Snail in Gothic Marginal Warfare” [Speculum, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Jul., 1962), pp. 358-367], which argues that snails have been viewed by scholars in a variety of ways. The 19th-century critic Champfleury saw them as “agricultural pests,” while a Flemish historian of caricature saw snails safe inside their shells as “a satire on the powerful who in their fortified castles laughed at the threat of the poor whom they exploited.” Randall goes one step further and identifies snails with the cowardice of the Lombards, a Germanic people, whom Camille notes, “not only bore the stigma of being turncoats but who, along with the Jews, were Europe’s bankers.” Not only are Moses’ spies evil on account of their immature facial expressions and dunce caps; they are also surrounded by symbols of cowardice.

 


Detail of Nicolas Poussin’s “Autumn, or The Bunch of Grapes of the Promised Land.” 

1600-1664. 117 x 160 cm. Louvre.

 

In the 16th-century Swiss painter Tobias Stimmer’s woodcut “The Spies Bring Back the Cluster of Grapes from the Land of Canaan,” the spies look particular ugly and fierce, as they do in Jost Amman’s woodcut by the same name. Stimmer’s work has the notable distinction of featuring other spies, carrying backpacks, in the background.

 

All of the dozens of medieval prints and illuminations I studied show the spies carrying just the grapes, with the exception of the c. 1450 colored pen drawing, “Spies return from Canaan carrying a large bunch of grapes,” by the anonymous illustrator of Speculum humanae salvationis, in which the spies carry another food which resembles an acorn but is probably a fig.

 

Many works (like Michiel van der Borch’s 1332 “The Spies return with the grapes”) show poorly formed grapes, and many of the clusters look more like bunches of bananas. Several of the figures are visibly weighed down by the grapes, as in a 1478 woodcut, “The Spies Returning from Canaan,” perhaps a reference to Christian identification of the grapes on the rod with Jesus. If that is what Christian artists truly had in mind, it makes sense that they would have depicted the Jewish pole bearers in a negative light and often with walking sticks, evoking the Wandering Jew. (Though it is worth noting later artists like Poussin used the scene to depict a secular theme – autumn – rather than a sacred one. Richard McBee has written brilliantly on this image in “Poussin’s Bible,” The Jewish Press, April 30, 2008.)

 

One of the earliest possible depictions of the scene is a frieze in the west façade at the Gothic Cathedral of St. Etienne (c. 1270-1280, France), which shows spies in a vineyard, perhaps Moses’ spies, as two appear to carry a basket of grapes between them. But the scene has often been confused or mislabeled, as in a gothic stained glass “redemption window” from an early 13th-century church (with 20th century restoration) in Canterbury, Kent, which shows two spies with grapes mistitled “Joshua’s Spies in Canaan (the Grapes of Eschol).”

 

 


John Bradford. “Return of the Spies.”

 

 

Contemporary depictions of the spies, of which works by Archie Rand, John Bradford and Richard McBee are foremost – although there is a miniature rendition of the spies in the bottom right corner of Chagall’s tapestry “The Entry into Jerusalem,” 1963-1964 – show a very different scene.

 

Rand’s work, which has one of the spies say (via cartoon bubble), “We got to the land you sent us to. And yea, it’s really flowing with milk and honey – you can see from the fruit,” is compositionally similar (if flipped 180 degrees) to Pieter Bruegel’s “The Hunters in the Snow.” The Canaan Rand’s figures emerge from is rendered with bold strokes and a colorful palette, as the spies head down toward a more dreary place. Their sin seems to stem from inability to explain a world of dramatic aesthetics to denizens of the desert doldrums.

 

Bradford’s spies, like Moses and the rest of the Israelites, are nearly indistinguishable from the landscape and it is difficult to identify where walking sticks end and trees begin. If their sin was speaking ill of the land of Canaan, they were spreading lies about themselves as well, so embedded are they in the landscape.

 


Archie Rand. “The Return of the Spies.” 1992. Exhibited at Arthur Roger Gallery, fall 1992. Photograph by: Larry Qualls.

 

But if Rand and Bradford focus more on the landscape that surrounds the figures, as Poussin does but in sharp contrast to the medieval depictions which portrayed the figures alone, McBee focuses on the spies making their pitch to the Israelites. One can see sheer terror on the faces of the spies’ audience members, who fear for their lives and their families’ safety. Where many of his predecessors focused on the spies’ psychology and immorality, McBee is far more interested in the bystanders who receive their dark message. In so doing, McBee has broadened the scope from the Classical (and individualized) heroes and villains to the larger mass of people, which of course, includes us all as well.


 


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Menachem Wecker

Return of the Bad Old Middle East

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

For most of the past 16 years or so, a seemingly benign specter has been haunting the world – namely, the notion that there exists a New Middle East, one that plays by rules very different from those in the Bad Old Middle East.

Beginning with the first of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, Israel was launched by its own political leadership into a “peace process” whose main axiom was that the Old Middle East was dead and gone.

Oslo was based on the assumption that what was needed to resolve the conflict was a sincere willingness on Israel’s part to reach an accommodation with the Arab world through unilateral concessions and especially through Israel’s acknowledging the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for statehood.

But as we enter the year 2009, the conclusion is unavoidable that there is no such thing as a New Middle East. The Bad Old Middle East keeps reasserting itself – with a vengeance.

It is crucial at this point in history for all to abandon the campaign of peace through make-believe that has governed efforts at resolving the conflict since late 1992. No progress can be made until the world renews its acquaintance with Middle East reality and stares it straight in its unpleasant face. Unhappy truths and principles must again be understood and internalized. The most important ones follow.

I. Arab terrorism and military aggression are not caused by Israeli occupation but rather by the removal of Israeli occupation.

Since Oslo, the working hypothesis of the Israeli government, endorsed by nearly everyone on the planet, has been that the most urgent task at hand was to end the Israeli “occupation” and remove Israel from its position of control over the lives of Palestinian Arabs.

The Israeli Left and its amen chorus in the international media have been repeating for so many years that the ultimate cause of Palestinian terrorism and Arab grievances is the “occupation” of “Palestinian lands” by Israel that few are capable any longer of thinking about that assertion critically. It is wrong. The main cause of anti-Israel terrorism today is the removal of Israeli occupation from Palestinian Arabs.

This is so obvious that it is a major intellectual challenge to explain why so few people understand it. Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in its entirety in 2004 and evicted all Jews who had been living there. The result was the massive ongoing rocket assaults launched from the Gaza Strip against Sderot, Ashkelon, and other towns in the south of Israel.

The Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon was unilaterally ended in the year 2000 by then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. The direct result of that move was the launching of 4,000 Katyusha rockets from Lebanon against northern Israel in the summer of 2006 and several times that number now poised to strike Israel.

The worst waves of Palestinian suicide attacks were directly triggered by the early Oslo withdrawals – before which there were no suicide bombings.

The only possible exception to the rule that removal of Israeli occupation causes terrorism has been the Sinai Peninsula, which is largely empty. Yet given the role of the Sinai and its Egyptian-sponsored smuggling networks in providing a pipeline for rockets and explosives to Hamas in Gaza, it is not even clear that Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai is an exception to this rule.

There can be no doubt that a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and a return to pre-1967 borders would trigger a massive rocket and terror assault against the remaining rump areas of Israel, launched from the “liberated” lands in the West Bank. The same thing would result from relinquishing the Golan Heights to Syria.

There are worse things in the world than occupation, and the experiences of the past few years have demonstrated how much worse are the consequences that follow the removal of Israeli occupation. The inevitable consequence of a complete withdrawal by Israel to its 1967 borders would be a replay of 1967, when the Arab world hoped to achieve the military annihilation of Israel inside its Green Line borders. This time, though, the Arabs would be using 21st century military technology.

Academics can debate about whether animosity to Israel was itself initially stoked by the years of Palestinians living under occupation. But in fact there was more than sufficient Palestinian animosity and terrorism long before Israel occupied anything at all in the 1967 Six-Day War. Be that as it may, progress today can occur only if the starting point is the understanding that removal of Israeli occupation causes terror and violence.

II. Israeli goodwill concessions do not trigger goodwill among Arabs, they trigger Arab aggression and violence.

The Arabs interpret such goodwill measures as admission of weakness on Israel’s part and as demonstrations of Israeli vulnerability and destructibility. More generally, the axiom that Israeli niceness toward Arabs can generate Arab moderation, reasonableness, and friendliness is also false. It cannot.

Attempts at buying Arab moderation through demonstrations of Jewish self-restraint and niceness go back decades and predate Israel’s independence (back then it was termed havlaga). They have never worked. Present-day attempts to win over Arabs with niceness and restraint range from affirmative action programs that benefit Arabs, to turning a blind eye toward massive lawbreaking by Arabs, particularly regarding construction and squatting on public lands.

Niceness means never prosecuting Arab political leaders for treason and espionage or for endorsing terror, no matter how openly they do so. It means exempting Israeli Arabs from military conscription and even from civilian national service. It has even meant that families of Arabs killed while perpetrating terror atrocities against Jews were allowed to draw “survivor benefits” from Israel’s social security system (the National Insurance Institute).

Outside the Green Line, niceness often consists of endless offers of cease-fires with the terrorists – cease-fires that consist of Palestinians shooting and Israelis not shooting back. It means delivering funds and sometimes weapons to the very groups engaged in terrorism, in an attempt to maintain the fa?ade of an ongoing peace process.

None of these measures can assuage Arab bellicosity toward Israel and Jews; actually, each contributes toward its escalation. Should Israel ever nicely withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, the Arab world led by “Palestine” will launch a war against the remaining territory of the Jewish state. It is likely to do so in the name of the “oppressed” Arabs in the Negev and the Galilee supposedly suffering from “discrimination” in the Israeli “apartheid regime.”

III. The Arab-Israeli war is not about land, and it cannot be resolved by Israel’s relinquishing land.

The Arab world already controls territory nearly twice that of the United States (including Alaska), whereas all of Israel cannot be seen on most world maps. When Israel was occupying nothing outside of its pre-1967 borders, the Arab world refused to come to terms with its existence and is no more willing to do so today, even if Israel were to return to those same borders.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about Israel refusing to share land and resources with Palestinians but about the absolute refusal of the Arab world to acquiesce in the existence of any Jewish-majority political entity within any set of borders in the Middle East.

This misrepresentation of the conflict serves to prolong it, precisely because it misleads. The Arab world insists that Israel trade land for peace not because it is prepared to in turn offer Israel peace for the land it vacates, but because a smaller Israel will be that much easier to destroy. And even if Israel consisted of nothing more than downtown Tel Aviv, the Arab world would consider it to be an imperialist affront sitting on stolen Arab land – an illegal “settlement.”

IV. Education and economic progress do not produce political moderation or a desire for peace in the Arab world.

To the contrary, there is reason to believe that wealth and education are negatively correlated with moderation, meaning that wealthier and better-educated Arabs are more likely to support terrorism and extremist political ideas. Arab students in European and American universities have been regular recruits for terrorist groups, and most of the al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the 9/11 atrocities had been students.

Suicide bombers in Israel often are university students or graduates of Palestinian universities. Some have been highly educated professionals, such as the lawyer who blew herself up in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, killing 21 people on the spot. Public opinion polls among Arabs often show greater support for violence among the better educated.

More generally, in the Middle East poverty and political oppression do not produce terrorism. Anti-Israel terrorism was sparked by the imposition of an enlightened regime on Palestinians by Israel – a regime in which basic freedoms, including freedom of speech and the right to vote in local elections, were enjoyed.

Terrorism escalated with each concession by Israel, especially after it agreed to allow Palestinians political autonomy and then statehood. It escalated after Israel removed its administrative control of the Arab population in most of the “Palestinian territories.”

V. “Talks” cannot produce peace in the Middle East and in fact have harmful effects.

There is a Western obsession with the idea that all world problems can be resolved through talking. But how many international conflicts can be said to have been resolved strictly through talking? Especially in the Middle East, there can be no doubt that talking does not resolve hostilities. It makes them worse.

The Arab-Israeli war is not a marital spat where bringing together the parties to sit around a table and socialize reduces anger, misunderstanding and tension. The conflict is not about hurt feelings but about the refusal of the Arab world to come to terms with Israel’s existence, period, in any set of borders and regardless of whether Jerusalem remains under Israeli control.

VI. There is no “two-state solution” or “one-state solution” to the Arab Israeli conflict.

The latter solution is particularly popular on the left. Under that scenario, Israel is enfolded into a larger “secular democratic Arab state” with an Arab Muslim majority. It is in fact little more than a prescription for a Rwanda-style genocide of Jews. This is little doubt that a significant number of those proposing such a solution would really like to see this happen.

More important, there is no “two-state solution” to the Middle East conflict. Those speaking about a two-state solution really mean a 24-state solution, meaning the Arabs retain the 22 states they already have, adding a 23rd state of “Palestine” in parts of the West Bank and Gaza and pre-1967 Israeli territories, with Israel remaining the Jewish state – the 24th state in the plan – for the moment.

That such a solution will not end the conflict but only signal the commencement of its next stage has long been the quasi-official position of virtually all Palestinian groups, which have long insisted that any two-state solution is but a stage in a plan of stages, after which will come additional steps ultimately ending Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

The original partition plan of the United Nations had proposed that an Arab Palestinian state arise alongside Israel in 1948. The Arab world rejected this plan altogether. It had no interest in adding one more Arab Islamic state to its portfolio. It went to war to prevent the creation of any Jewish state.

The two-state solution is no more realistic an option today than it was in 1948. It is ultimately as much of an existential threat to Jewish survival in the Middle East as the one-state solution. Creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel would be a major step in the escalation of the Arab war against Israel’s existence, even if that war is delayed for a time while the world celebrates the outbreak of peace in the Middle East thanks to the end of Israeli “occupation.”

VII. Israeli Arabs form a potential fifth column, displaying massive animosity and disloyalty to the state in which they have lived for 60 years and openly identifying with the enemies of that state.

Sixty years of living under the only democratic government in the Middle East has had surprisingly little impact on the feelings and loyalties of Israeli Arabs, who are by and large hostile to the very existence of the state. They are no more resigned to living as a minority within a majority-Jewish state today than they were in 1948.

Their animosity toward Israel is apparent in their voting behavior: the bulk of Israeli Arabs vote for pro-terror Arab nationalist parties with strong fascist tendencies or for the Stalinist HADASH party.

When the opportunity presents itself – for example, during the riots in the fall of 2000 or earlier this year on Yom Kippur in Acre – Israeli Arab enmity toward Jews is candidly manifested, and not just in words.

Education and prosperity offer little hope of changing this reality. One proof is the behavior of Arab college students in Israel. Despite being beneficiaries of affirmative action preferences in college admissions and access to scarce dormitory space, Arab students are almost uniformly anti-Israel and pro-jihad.

Israeli Arabs have long played a Sudeten-like role in the conflict. In any new outbreak of hostilities with neighboring Arab countries, there is a clear and present danger that they will take to the streets in attempts to cripple the country from within. The Arab lynch mobs of the Galilee that operated in October 2000 may have been a small foretaste.

For too long the world, led by Israel’s own deluded leaders, has been attempting to create peace via the pretense that war is over, misrepresenting the fa?ade of negotiations as actual resolution of conflict.

It has been a sham, of course, and any short-lived lulls in the fighting have served only to weaken the resolve of Israelis, whose leaders have repeatedly presented them with a Potemkin peace based on the substitution of wish-making for statecraft.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Steven Plaut

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page//2008/12/31/

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