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The Invention Of Palestine

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

What a remarkable breath of fresh air.

For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.

“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.

Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.

Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.

Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.

Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”

A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.

Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.

Thanks to the left and the media, the Palestinians’ claims to the Land of Israel became amplified and even accepted by a large percentage of people around the world, many if not most of whom do not know the first thing about the history of the Middle East. Sadly, even many Jews are no longer cognizant of or familiar with the historical record and have come to accept Palestinian assertions as true.

But as Gingrich correctly pointed out, there has never in all of history been a Palestinian state.

His comments echoed similar remarks made by the late Golda Meir. In an interview with the Sunday Times on June 15, 1969, Meir said, “There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state?”

Furthermore, she noted, “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”

To our ears, such assertions may sound jarring because they are so at odds with what has come to be accepted as the conventional wisdom. But that is merely because we have succumbed to decades of pro-Palestinian propaganda and indoctrination.

Needless to say, the reaction to Gingrich’s remarks by the Palestinians and their supporters was predictably swift and vitriolic. The PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi accused Gingrich of “ignorance and racism,” while Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called his assertions “despicable” and “the lowest point of thinking anyone can reach.”

Neither, of course, dared to challenge Gingrich with evidence, presumably because they have none in their favor. They know he is on to something, and so they resort to name-calling and venom in an effort to delegitimize the opinions he expressed.

But we cannot allow them to succeed. The brouhaha surrounding Gingrich’s statements provides an important opportunity for pro-Israel activists to right the historical record and begin to undercut decades of successful Palestinian propagandizing.

We must seize on this opening to remind people of what many have forgotten: Palestine is a myth with no basis in historical reality. Last Saturday night, during a Republican presidential debate, Gingrich was asked about his comments regarding the Palestinians. Refusing to back down, he reiterated that what he said had been factually correct, and added that, “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth.”

Here’s hoping others will follow in his wake.

Michael Freund is chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.

Ethiopian Community Gets Well-Wishes from PM

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a holiday greeting to the Ethiopian community in honor of the upcoming Sigd holiday, which is celebrated on the 29th of the Jewish month of Heshvan – this year, November 26:

“My brothers, members of the Ethiopian community in Israel, I would like to greet you on the Sigd festival, the special holiday for the Ethiopian community, that symbolizes the covenant and the yearning to return to the Land of Israel.

While you have been celebrating this holiday for hundreds of years, it has received a different significance upon your return to the Land of Israel.  Naturally, you have continued to celebrate it here, as we all celebrate the Jewish holidays.  I am especially proud that the Knesset has adopted the Sigd festival as an official holiday like all of our holidays from the various communities, which together constitute the mosaic of the tribes of Israel.

Almost 30 years have passed since the beginning of the large scale immigration of the Ethiopian community and alongside prime ministers such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, I am proud to have had – and still have – the privilege of bringing members of the community to Israel and to see to their social welfare, their absorption and their becoming part of Israeli society.

I know that the way to the State of Israel and absorption in it has not always been easy and even today members of the community are finding certain things difficult, and we are trying to help them.  However, integration has been impressive and it is encouraging; it gives the essence to this idea of returning to Zion and combining the absorption of the tribes of Israel.

We will continue to work towards the absorption and strengthening of the Ethiopian community in Israel and we will continue to celebrate our holiday, the Sigd festival.”

Sigd is celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur and symbolizes the acceptance of the Ethiopian Jewish community – also known as Beta Israel – of the Torah.

Open Microphones, Sealed Minds

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

For a brief moment last week, the world got to peek behind the diplomatic curtains and catch a glimpse of what the American and French presidents really think of Israel’s prime minister.

It was not a pretty sight.

In remarks unintentionally overheard by a gaggle of journalists at the G20 summit in Cannes, Nicolas Sarkozy insulted Benjamin Netanyahu, telling Barack Obama that “I can’t stand to see him anymore, he’s a liar.”

And just how did Obama respond to this slur against the leader of America’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East?

By essentially agreeing with Sarkozy, of course. “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day,” Obama moaned.

The conversation was transmitted to members of the press after the microphones in the presidential meeting room had been turned on inadvertently. Mon dieu!

This bad-mannered blunder made international headlines and proved to be a major embarrassment to both Obama and Sarkozy.

It is not every day that we get to hear what politicians really think without handlers, spinmeisters and advisers crafting their choice of words.

Interestingly, White House spokesman Jay Carney pointedly did not deny the remarks attributed to Obama, in effect signaling that the accounts in the press were accurate.

Recognizing the damage that had been done, Sarkozy moved quickly to mitigate the impact of the affair. Over the weekend he reportedly sent a personal letter to Netanyahu in which he took a firm stand on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and signed it, in his own hand, “with friendship.”

And according to a report in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Sarkozy has tentatively agreed to pay a special visit to the Jewish state in January.

Like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the French leader is now trying to “make nice.”

But these gestures will not obscure the unvarnished truth: the open microphone revealed some rather sealed minds.

At its root, Sarkozy and Obama’s hostility to Netanyahu has little to do with the latter’s veracity or genuineness, and everything to do with his entirely justifiable skepticism regarding the peace process.

By refusing to capitulate to pressure to make still more concessions to the Palestinians, Netanyahu has run afoul of the French and American presidents, who apparently have trouble accepting the fact that Israel has the right to pursue its own interests as it best understands them.

It does not seem to matter to them one whit that Netanyahu has offered to relaunch direct bilateral talks without preconditions, and that it is Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas who refuses to return to the negotiating table or even to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The mere fact that Netanyahu does not agree to return to the pre-1967 borders with minor adjustments is enough to set them off.

Sarkozy and Obama are so fixated on appeasing the Palestinians, and are so close-minded about what they see as the need to establish a Palestinian state, that they find dealing with Netanyahu to be a burden.

Rather than expressing a measure of support for the leader of a fellow democracy, the French and American presidents decided to turn policy disagreements into personal attacks.

They would much rather have a more pliable Israeli counterpart, one willing to toss aside Israel’s vital security needs as well as its historical, moral and religious rights, for the sake of international acclaim and applause.

But their candor reveals far more about them than it does regarding the Israeli premier.

It shows, particularly in Obama’s case, that for all the public posturing and talk about standing with Israel, the president is no close friend of the Jewish state.

Q & A: The 15th Of Av – A Day Of Rejoicing

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004
QUESTION: If the fast of Tisha Be’Av (the ninth day of Av) concludes the mourning period for the destruction of the Temple, why do we wait until the fifteenth of Av to rejoice? Is there a distinct significance to this date? Please discuss this in your insightful column.
Sara Gutman
(Via E-Mail)
ANSWER: Our rejoicing on the fifteenth (tet-vav) of Av or Tu Be’Av, as this day is also known, bears no connection to the mourning of Tisha Be’Av. Tisha Be’Av will become a yom tov of its own when Moshiach comes. The final Tosefta in Ta’anit (3:13) teaches: “These days [mentioned in Ta'anit 26a-b - Shiv'a Asar BeTammuz and Tisha Be'Av] will, in the future, become festivals for Israel as it states, ‘Thus says Hashem, Master of Legions, The fast of the fourth [month - Tammuz, i.e., Shiv'a Asar BeTammuz], the fast of the fifth [month - Av, i.e., Tisha Be'Av], the fast of the seventh [month - Tishrei, i.e., Tzom Gedalia on the third day of Tishrei], and the fast of the tenth [month - Tevet, i.e., Asara BeTevet] will become for the house of Judah times of joy and gladness and happy festivals’ (Zechariah 8:19). All who mourn [for Jerusalem] in this world will rejoice with her in the world to come, as stated (Isaiah 66:10), ‘Be glad with Jerusalem and rejoice with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourned for her.’ (This is essentially similar to what the Gemara teaches in Ta’anit 30b: “He who labors on the ninth of Av and does not mourn for Jerusalem will not bear witness to her joy.”)Regarding Tu Be’Av, the Gemara (Ta’anit ad loc. 30b-31a) explains the reasons for special rejoicing according to various sages. R. Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel, This [the fifteenth of Av] was the day when individuals from different tribes were permitted to marry one another. Rashi s.v. “Shehutru shevatim lavo zeh bazeh” explains, “As the Torah states in Parashat Mas’ei (Numbers 36:8), ‘Vechol bat yoreshet nachala mimattot Bnei Yisrael [le'echad mimishpachat matteh aviha tih'yeh le'isha, lema'an yirshu Bnei Yisrael ish nachalat avotav] – Every daughter who possesses an inheritance (in any) of the tribes of Israel [shall become the wife of someone of a family of her father's tribe so that everyone of the Children of Israel will inherit the inheritance of his father].’ The following verse (36:9) states, ‘Velo tisov nachala mimatteh lematteh acher [ki ish benachalato yidbeku mattot Bnei Yisrael] – An inheritance shall not pass from one tribe to another tribe [for everyone of the tribes of the Children of Israel shall cleave to his own inheritance].’ The sages conferred and issued a decree removing this restriction on the fifteenth of Av.”The Gemara discusses the Biblical source for the decree. “They based it on an earlier verse (Numbers 36:6), ‘Zeh hadavar asher tziva Hashem li[b]enot Tzelophehad… – This is the matter that Hashem has commanded regarding the daughters of Tzelophehad…’ This matter was only in practice in that generation (of the daughters of Tzelophehad).” Thus a daughter who inherits when there is no son may, indeed, marry a man from another tribe.

R. Yosef says in the name of R. Nachman that this was the day that the tribe of Benjamin was [again] permitted to marry the daughters of the other tribes. [This Gemara is based on the passage in Judges (ch. 19-20) regarding pilegesh beGiv'ah - the concubine at Gibeah, a woman who, together with her common-law husband, went to Gibeah, a town within the land of the tribe of Benjamin. Gibeah was populated by ruffians who wished to molest the husband but wound up abusing the woman. She died as a result of their brutality. The subsequent outcry throughout Israel instigated a war that caused the tribe of Benjamin to reach near devastation. The result was that the men of the tribe who survived had few matches to contemplate with the even smaller number of women that survived but, as the verse states (Judges 21:1), "Ve'ish Yisrael nishba bamitzpa lemor, Ish mimmenu lo yiten bito le[B]inyamin le’isha ? The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mitzpah saying, ‘None from among us will give his daughter as a wife to [the tribe of] Benjamin.’”

The Gemara asks, “What was the Scriptural source that permitted them to lift the prohibition?” Rav says that the verse states “mimmenu ? from among us,” but not “baneinu – [from among] our children.”

Rabbah b. Bar Chana said in the name of R. Yochanan that the 15th of Av was the day on which the generation of the wilderness (those who had come out of Egypt and were wandering in the desert for 40 years) ceased to die out. For a master (a sage) said that as long as the generation of the wilderness continued to die out there was no Divine communication with Moses. Rashi (s.v. “Lo haya hadibbur im Moshe”) explains that there was no direct and endearing conversation. All the other conversations in that time period were not “peh el peh ? lit. mouth to mouth”, but rather visions at night, as the verse explains (Deuteronomy 2:16-17), “Va’yehi ka’asher tamu kol anshei hamilchama lamut [mikerev ha-am], Va’yedabber Hashem elai lemor … – When it came to pass that all the men of war finished dying [from amidst the people], Hashem spoke to me, saying…” The Gemara explains this to mean that only then did the Divine communication resume directly “to me,” i.e., Moses, and this happened on the 15th of Av.

Ulla gives another reason for the uniqueness of this day, stating that this was the day that Hoshea b. Elah, who reigned in Israel during the time that Ahaz was king of Judah (II Kings 17:1), removed the guards which Jeroboam son of Nebat, the first king of Israel, who had split away from the kingdom of Judah, had placed on the roads to prevent the people of the kingdom of Israel from ascending to Jerusalem for the festival pilgrimages. The Gemara (Gittin 88) explains that Hoshea b. Elah was also a wicked king, but not as wicked as other kings of Israel, for while he permitted pilgrimages to Jerusalem, he still allowed the people to worship idols.

R. Mattenah offers another reason as stated in Tractate Gittin (57a, Perek Hanizakin). It was the day when permission was granted to bury those killed at Beitar during the Bar Kochba revolt. The Gemara relates how the town’s inhabitants, including men, women, and children, were slain and their blood flowed for seven years. The 15th of Av was the day that permission was granted to bury those killed at Beitar. In commemoration, the Sages in Yavneh instituted the blessing of “Hatov VeHameitiv – Hashem, who is kind and deals kindly,” because the dead corpses had not putrified and because permission was granted to bury them. This blessing was permanently added to the text of Birkat Hamazon – the Grace after Meals. Yet another explanation is found in the Gemara: Rabbah and R. Yosef both say that this was the day on which [every year], they stopped felling trees for firewood for the altar. This is deduced from a baraita where R. Eliezer the Elder says that from the 15th of Av and on, the rays of the sun weaken and trees cut for firewood would not dry sufficiently. Rashi (s.v. “Milichrot”) explains that since the wood was still moist, it might harbor worms, making it unfit for the altar, as stated in the mishna (Middot 2:5). R. Menashya said that they called the 15th day of Av “the day of the breaking of the axe.”

The Gemara also relates that on the 15th of Av the daughters of Jerusalem would go and dance in the vineyards in borrowed white garments so as to be dressed alike and appear to be of the same social status. Young unmarried men would come there to find a match.

The 15th day of Av has some practical halachic implications as well. We do not fast, make eulogies, or say Tachanun. If the 15th of Av falls on Shabbat, we do not recite Hazkarat Neshamot, nor do we say Tzidkat’cha at Mincha. Tu Be’Av is a joyous time in its own right. May we speedily come to the time when the days of fasting and mourning will become holidays as well.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-the-15th-of-av-a-day-of-rejoicing/2004/08/25/

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