Last week, the Jewish Press online ran a petition calling on the German government to do something about a disastrous ruling by a power hungry court in Cologne, which used an appeal of a lower court decision on a botched Muslim circumcision to, essentially, make ritual circumcision verboten in Germany (I use the term “verboten” advisedly…).
The petition was wildly successful, gathering better than 12,000 signatures, all of them real, verified, honest-to-goodness expressions of Jewish outrage at this move – in one a week. In Jewish Internet terms this is the equivalent of a mini Woodstock.
Our boss, Stephen Leavitt, sent a personal thank you note to each and every person who signed the petition, adding at the end:
In Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers) Hillel taught us, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”
This stark call for moral behavior even in a place of great turpitude, elicited the following response from a reader in Toronto, a fine lady, I’m sure, whose identity we choose to protect mainly on account of the turpitude thing:
“That sticks in my throat; I am a woman. In future I will look for women’s petitions only.
“You have offended me and more than half the Jews on earth.
“Take me off your mailing list!”
Our dear Stephen read these three lines several times, while desperately trying to pick up his jaw, which had dropped to the floor. He then spent a few more minutes contemplating the best response, obviously in keeping with the turpitude thing. He finally wrote:
“The quote was said by Hillel.
“Hillel lived over 2000 years ago.
“It is a very famous quote.
“I’m sure he’s quite sorry he offended you.”
Mind you, this is a woman who supported the Jewish rite of circumcision, so her heart was in the right place. And yet, when it came to first century grammar, using the male to represent both sexes, somehow, the walls of reason came tumbling down on her.
We, too, wish to apologize on behalf of Hillel, and propose that his harsh critic from Toronto read the statement as it would have been written had the head of Sanhedrin not been such a chauvinist pig:
In a place where there are no women, strive to be a woman.
At a press conference outside Machpelah House which had been evacuated Wednesday in Hebron, Shlomo Levinger and attorney Doron Nir-Tzvi told reporters that the purchase of Machpelah House had been in the making for some three years. The tenants had planned to patiently await government approval for their purchase of the house from a local Arab.
But the arrest of several Arabs by the Palestinian Authority on suspicion of selling real estate to the Jewish group – a crime which could be punished with death – changed the plan, and the group decided to move in despite the murky prospects of staying.
Knowing full well how hard it would be to establish residency in a newly purchased house—facing a hostile Israeli civil authority whose directive is to strictly limit the growth of the city’s Jewish community, the group of buyers was moving slowly and quietly, through intermediaries and straw men, forever remaining below the radar for three years.
At the press conference, Levinger said they paid four times the value of the house, which has been estimated at around $250 thousand. Earlier in the day, when the Jewish Press asked Levinger to confirm a rumor that they paid half a million dollars for the house, he said, “I wish it would have been that amount.”
The money for the purchase came from donations of Jews from Israel and abroad. “Every week we would travel to meetings in private homes, collecting one shekel after another,” Levinger said. “There were times when we came back with only a few single shekels, other times we’d pick up thousands. We spent days and nights collecting this money, faithfully and lovingly.
“Once the money had been collected, we embarked on the purchase deal. It was a Sysiphian labor. We knew that the Attorney General’s office would be looking everywhere for possible holes in the deal.”
According to Doron Nir-Tzvi, in Judea and Samaria, real estate deals are conducted in an anachronistic fashion, whereby a deal must first be completed before the buyers are permitted to apply for government approval (Heter Iskah). Therefore, once every last T was crossed and I dotted, the buyers planned to wait patiently for their deal to go through.
Sources in the Civil Administration were telling them they couldn’t find faults with the deal, that despite themselves they would end up having to approve it.
But then the PA arrested both straw men who had been carrying out different part of the bargain, followed by the jailing of their family members as well.
At this point, Levinger et al felt that their only recourse was to take possession of the property, or risk losing the deal altogether.
Both Levinger and Nir-Tzvi expressed concern for the jailed Palestinians. Levinger told the Jewish Press earlier that he was urging the Israeli government to demand their release of the Palestinian Authority.
If Defense Minister Barak refuses to sign off on the deal, the buyers are planning to appeal to other government authorities. But Attorney Nir-Tzvi said he would not recommend that his clients approach Israel’s Supreme Court with their plight, as it would likely be an imprudent use of their financial resources, considering the probable response of the court.
I reminded Shlomo Levinger that the cause cited by Defense Minister Ehud barak for the evacuation Jewish tenants from Machpelah House was not any fault he cited in the deal itself, but the fact that as things stand in Judea and Samaria, the Defense Minister is permitted to use his power arbitrarily to maintain public order. In other words, even if the real estate deal is, indeed, pure as the driven snow, and all the sides, buyers and sellers alike, have been willing participants with not a hint of coercion – Barak would still be within his rights to evict them.
“You must have heard the saying, “Pornography, a matter of Geography,” Shlomo Levinger cited Sakini from “The Tea House of the August Moon” in the middle of hot and dusty Hebron.
“Danger to the public order is in the eye of the beholder,” he continued. “The chiefs of police here have told me, Shlomo, we passed the request along to the higher echelons, everything in our opinion has been quiet after you moved in; the Arabs were cognizant of the deal, they expected it to take effect, they took no issue with it.”
The group of evacuated tenants is determined to stay in their protest tent (“protest parasol” is how our man on the scene Stephen Leavitt called it) until Ehud Barak is ready to sign off on their right to the house – as had been originally promised by Netanyahu’s cabinet. For now, they will be celebrating the seder under that scant tent, and Levinger is asking folks not to come in droves before the Sunday of Chol HaMoed. “We don’t have enough room for everybody at the seder table,” he apologized.
At a press conference Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced a new state policy regarding dispossessed Jews who were forced to flee from their homes in Arab countries.
Sitting at the dais were representatives of the National Council for Jewish Restitution, part of the Ministry for Senior Citizens (a portfolio held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), as well as organizations representing Jewish refugees from Arab countries. At times the conference became very emotional.
Most people only think about the 600 thousand Arabs who became refugees after the Arab nations attacked the State of Israel.
But in fact, between 1948 and 1967, at least 850 thousand Jews were forced to leave Arab countries—where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years.
Threatened by street mobs and governments following the declaration of an independent Jewish state, the Jews in many Arab countries were given a deadline to escape, often with only the clothes on their backs, abandoning assets and property. Today, only a few thousand Jews live in all the Arab countries combined.
These former Jewish refugees from Muslim countries and their descendants now make up close to 50% of Israel’s population.
Danny Ayalon himself is the son of one of these Jewish refugees, who was forced to flee from Algiers.
“A true solution to the issue of refugees will only be possible when the Arab League will take historic responsibility for its role in creating the Jewish and Palestinian refugee problem, as documented,” said Ayalon.
He suggested that, based on President Clinton’s suggestion in 2000, an international compensation fund should be created to solve the refugee problem. The fund should be based on the size of the assets at the time (It is common knowledge that Jews in Arab countries owned a great deal more assets than their Palestinian counterparts).
A 2008 study indicates that Arabs lost 450 million dollars in property and assets ($3.9 billion in today’s numbers).
Their Jewish counterparts lost 700 million dollars ($6 billion in today’s numbers).
The Arab nations, led by the Arab league perpetuated the Arab refugee problem, which is being cultivated to this day by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Ayalon pointed out Tuesday that until now, the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries has been sidelined, despite the fact that Israel absorbed these refugees at a huge financial cost, and perhaps the issue has been ignored because Israel absorbed them so successfully.
Ayalon also stated that Security Council Resolution 242 makes no differentiation between Arab and Jewish refugees. According to the effective criteria set by the UN regarding the refugees, Jews who had been forced to leave their former Arab homelands are full-fledged refugees too.
The US House of Representatives Resolution 185 of Apr 1, 2008, determined that one refugee problem should not be resolved without resolving the second refugee problem.
In February of 2010, the Knesset passed a law “for preservation of the rights to compensation of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.”
Each side should rehabilitate their refugees where they currently are, was Ayalon’s message. Indeed, in agreement with the Prime Minister and other ministries, from now on it will be government policy to make sure that the issue of Jewish refugees, and their due compensation, are part of any peace deal, negotiation, and even discussions about regional peace. “Truth and Justice for the Jewish refugees” is required for a real “End of Conflict,” according to Ayalon.
But this wasn’t simply some boring press conference stating some new government policy, there were tears and drama too as individuals got up to share their experiences as members of the generation of refugees who are dying out – after having lost everything, from assets and property, and even family members.
One lady broke down in tears as she talked about her father’s legacy to her.
And it wasn’t without its controversy either. At one point, a man in the audience blamed Israel for not wanting peace, and not pursuing the Saudi Peace Initiative, that Ayalon had mentioned earlier in his speech.
Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon said he was personally and secretly sent by Ariel Sharon to see if there is a basis for discussion and negotiations with the Saudis. They refused to talk to him.
The guest continued to blame Israel, until Ayalon berated him loudly and vociferously, telling him he should stop listening to nonsense and rumors. He [Ayalon] had been there, as Sharon’s representative, and he was rebuffed by the Saudis.
For Ayalon, the refugee issue is a two way street, and now, that will now be government policy too.
Now, to be fair, Dagan has been a cool voice on the issue of whether or not Israel should bomb Iran’s nukes, and so it is tempting for some to see his call for Israel’s leaders to count to 30 before speaking, as a statement of support for Obama’s view of diplomacy before war.
On January, 2011, Dagan, who was retiring from his post as Mossad chief, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he did not believe Iran would have nuclear capability before 2015.
And so, in Lesley Stahl’s interview with Meir Dagan, part of next Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” she brings up the quote in which he supposedly said that bombing Iran now is “the stupidest idea” he’d ever heard.
Except that’s not exactly what he said. A May 8, 2011 NY Times article reports: “Israel’s former intelligence chief has said that a strike on Iran’s nuclear installations would be ‘a stupid idea,’ adding that military action might not achieve all of its goals and could lead to a long war.”
And the same article continues with a quote from Dagan, speaking at a conference of senior public servants, saying that he declared that “Iran must not be allowed to produce nuclear weapons,” and advocated “covert means of setting back the Iranian program.”
Indeed, this is how Dagan responds to Stahl’s question regarding the “stupidest idea”:
Dagan: An attack on Iran before you are exploring all other approaches is not the right way how to do it.
In fact, the same promo page on CBS News confirms:
Dagan also told Stahl he thinks it’s a mistake generally to make this situation an Israeli-Iranian issue. It should be an international issue. Somehow the Saudis should be encouraged to speak up and pressure the United States. And what he would really like to happen is that Israel sits back, and the Americans do it for the Israelis. It would then be internationalized. He knows that Israel will be attacked whoever does it, but they’ll be attacked less and what he’s most worried about is the retaliation.
In other words, Dagan does not think attacking Iran today is necessarily a bad idea, if the threat is high enough, he only thinks it’s a bad idea for Israel to do it – because a coalition attack on Iran would achieve far superior results.
And we’re not told what Dagan thinks should happen if no one else is willing to join Israel or fight in its stead, while Iran completes its nuclear program and starts blowing up atomic mushrooms in the Dasht-e Kavir desert. Does he think Israel should be sitting on her hands under those circumstances? Somehow I doubt it.
But Meir Dagan’s flare and vigor, colorful celebrity that he is, are being exploited by some media outlets to distort his quite carefully expressed message, creating the impression that he actually supports the Obama Administration’s reluctance to attack Iran.
Did you expect me to start with an Ha’aretz headline? I shan’t disappoint you:
Dagan agrees with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Obama that there is still time to wait before dire actions need to be taken.
Except, at least in the promo and press release, Dagan never says he agrees with Clinton and Obama, and furthermore when Stahl says there is “a lot” of time, he emphatically corrects her and removes the words “a lot” from her sentence, and only says there is still “more time”, presumably meaning we haven’t reached zero-hour yet, but we’re close.
Only at the very bottom of the page Ha’aretz acquiesces that Dagan may not be against bombing Iran after all:
During the interview Stahl suggested that it seemed he was advocating Israel wait and have the U.S. attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Dagan replied: “If I prefer that someone will do it, I always prefer that Americans will do it,” he says.
How many Internet users scroll all the way to the bottom of an article? Only the ones with nothing better to do, like yours truly. But for all intents and purposes, it has now been established that Meir Dagan is against bombing Iran, because it’s stupid. They say so, on the Internet.
And that perhaps is Dagan’s real message, he wants the US and/or an international coalition to stop Iran, including bombing if it need be. Not Israel.
CBS also seems to be playing up Dagan’s analysis of Iran and Ahmadinejad’s sanity and rationality – seemingly implying that tried and true Cold War rules could apply here too.
The regime in Iran is a very rational one,” says the former top Israeli spymaster. And President Ahmadinejad? “The answer is yes,” he replies. “Not exactly our rational, but I think he is rational,” Dagan tells Stahl.