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Google and the Defenders of Kfar Etzion

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Gush Etzion is an area southeast of Jerusalem, which contains several “settlements.” One of them is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927.  They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab “riots”) until May 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and massacred all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.

The Haganah sent thirty-five men to relieve the besieged kibbutzim of Gush Etzion in January 1948, following an Arab attack. They were wiped out and their bodies mutilated after an Arab shepherd, whom they unwisely set free after encountering him on the way, reported their presence. They are referred to as the lamed hey, “the thirty-five.”

Let me spell it out more clearly: Jews lived there on land they owned. The kibbutzim of Gush Etzion (there were four of them) represented the realization of the promise made by the world to the Jewish people in the Palestine Mandate, that there would be a national home in the land of Israel. Arabs violently resisted their presence, and when Jordan violated the U.N. charter by invading and occupying Judea and Samaria in 1948, Jews were murdered or expelled. Not one Jew was allowed to remain on the Jordanian side of the cease-fire line. Because they were Jews.

But in the eyes of the “international community,” the ethnic cleansing of the area east of the 1949 armistice line and the 19-year Jordanian occupation thereof transformed Gush Etzion into Arab land, land that today “belongs” to the new non-member-state of the U.N., “Palestine.”

Apparently this magical transmutation was recognized by Google, because when Jewish residents of Gush Etzion tried to use Google’s search engine this month, they received a message suggesting that they switch to the appropriate page for their location, Google Palestine (Google.ps), in Arabic, rather than the Hebrew-language Google Israel (Google.il) they had been using. This follows Google’s recent decision to re-title Google.ps “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian territories.”

Some people think this is much ado about nothing, and at a time when nobody knows if Israel will be at war with Hizballah, Syria and Iran tomorrow, they have a point.

But it is indicative of a much bigger problem. In its desire to present itself as a peace-loving member of the “international community,” Israeli governments have not asserted the historic right of the Jewish people, guaranteed in international law, to the land of Israel. They have not challenged the U.N.’s abdication of its responsibility, inherited from the League of Nations, to preserve this right. They have allowed the Arab position, that the Jews are colonialist interlopers occupying Arab land, to become the conventional wisdom.

I am not saying that it isn’t possible for Israel to agree to a negotiated settlement that would transfer some part of the area of the original mandate to Arab sovereignty, assuming that it could be consistent with Israel’s security. But this has to be negotiated from the starting point that the Jewish people have prima facie rights to Judea and Samaria, not the Palestinian Arabs.

This distortion underlies the position of the U.S. that Israel should withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines “with land swaps.” In other words, the U.S. believes that the armistice lines represent the boundaries of “Arab land” and so if Israel annexes any of it, the Arabs must be “compensated.” Why? The land wasn’t theirs to begin with!

Recent Israeli governments have argued for holding onto parts of the territories for security reasons, an argument which makes eminent sense. But they have generally avoided firmly asserting that Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, holds the legal title to the land and has the right to dispose of it as it sees fit. The Arabs, of course, aren’t shy in saying that it’s all theirs, and that in addition, Jews aren’t allowed to live there.

The Jewish Connection to Israel: Sephardic Aliyot

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The anti-Israel community often attempts delegitimize the State of Israel by using the rhetorical argument that the Jewish people left Israel following the Bar Kokhba Revolt, were absent from the area for 2000 years, and didn’t return to their ancestral homeland until the rise of the Zionist movement. The reality is that the Jewish people were never absent from the Land of Israel, for Jews continued to live in as well as settle the Land of Israel despite all of the hardships associated with it since ancient times.

For example, 34 synagogues were found in the Golan Heights dating from the late Roman era up until the Arab conquest. There was also a strong Jewish community present in Ein Gedi that continued to flourish up through the sixth century until Byzantine persecutions brought that community to an end. Additionally, a Jewish community found in Baram existed up through the Crusader period and population estimates from the seventh century as well as from 1517 following the Crusades and Black Plague also indicate a Jewish presence in the land of Israel.

The Sephardic Aliyah to Israel

Aside from ancient and medieval Jewish communities that existed within Israel the Jewish Diaspora never lost touch with their ancestral homeland. Hundreds of years prior to the founding of the Zionist movement there were Jewish communities which made Aliyah in the Middle Ages. One of these medieval Aliyot was that of the Sephardic Jewish community which fled Spain following the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition in order to live under Ottoman rule in the Holy Land. Between 1391 through the fifteenth century, a significant number of Jews immigrated to the Holy Land as a response to the persecution they endured in Spain and Portugal.

According to the scholar Jane Gerber, writing in her book The Jews of Spain:

Entire family groups’ banded together and rented ships to make their way to Palestine since they were barred from Christian vessels. This movement contrasted sharply with the previous migration, which involved primarily the scholarly and the elderly who sought burial in the Holy Land. Soon, the Sephardic settlement in Jerusalem increased noticeably, and by the mid-century the community had become so heterogeneous that Hebrew, the only language shared by all, became its spoken language.

Dona Gracia Nasi

In fact, during the height of the Ottoman Empire, one brave Jewish woman of the Renaissance, Dona Gracia Nasi, sought to set up a semi-autonomous Jewish province in the area of Tiberius, Israel. Despite local Arab and French opposition, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent supported the project. Many modern historians evidently view Dona Gracia Nasi’s attempt to establish a Jewish province in Tiberius as part of a larger attempt to revive Jewish statehood prior to the rise of Zionism.

According to Andree Aelion Brooks’ The Woman Who Defied Kings: the Life and Times of Dona Gracia Nasi:

In Tiberius, the newcomers were soon taking over abandoned structures, renovating deserted houses, restoring gaping roofs, clearing the rubble and quarreling in typical Jewish fashion. By 1564 the revival was sufficiently far along that yet another traveler recalled that the scent from the date palm, orange and pine trees was so overpowering that it was almost suffocating. Yet another talked effusively of a wilderness turned into a Garden of Eden. Almost all of the residents, noted one of these travelers, were former conversos from Spain and Portugal!

Although the Tiberius community went into decline after Dona Gracia Nasi passed away, there are some Jews living in Israel today who can trace their residency in the Holy Land back to this Aliyah, known as the Old Yishuv.

Visit United with Israel.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Forty: Locusts

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Two thousand years before, the armies of Rome had conquered Jerusalem and razed the holy Jerusalem Temple. The Rabbis taught that Rome was not the cause of the Kingdom of Israel’s downfall, but rather the hatred which prevailed at the time between the Jews themselves. The House of Israel was divided within, and this is what brought about the nation’s destruction by a foreign conqueror.

At first, Tevye stood paralyzed. The low flying cloud approached with menacing swiftness. All over the colony, field workers were shielding their faces from a dry, stinging wind. A gusty hamsin was not an unusual thing, but a desert wind had never been followed by the ominously descending black cloud. The Arab workers who had been hired since the start of the strike threw down their tools.

Jarad! Jarad!” they hollered, running away in fear.

More clouds appeared, one following the other like battalions. A gust of wind blew a dozen locusts directly at Tevye’s face. He swatted at them and watched them fall to the ground. Suddenly, the dense cloud swooped down upon him. Futilely, he tried to shield the corn stalks with his body, but his efforts were hopeless. Hundreds and thousands of locusts rained down on the field. They battered Tevye all over his body. Wings flapped in his face. There was nothing that he could do. Falling down on his knees, Tevye clutched his head in his arms and prayed.

Long minutes passed. When the roar of the storm abated, Tevye looked up. Locusts blanketed all of the corn. The ears were invisible. The stalks had turned into columns of the Heaven-sent demons. The corn field had turned into a forest of locusts.

All over the settlement, the scene was the same. Locusts covered the wheat fields, the orchards, the vineyards, and the vegetable gardens. Stalk after stalk, vine after vine, branch after branch, were enveloped with the plague. The shocked settlers were still inspecting the scope of the damage when yet another hot wind blew out of the east and a second black cloud swept over the plain. Defenseless against the great swarms, the Jews ran for shelter inside of their houses and tents. The roar of the locusts sounded over their rooftops like the thunder of heavenly chariots.

Locusts crawled under doorways and battered against tightly closed shutters. With brooms, hysterical women beat at the creatures which fell down from the cracks in their roofs.

By late afternoon, the prisoners could once again venture forth from their houses. The evil wind had vanished, but the army of locusts remained on the crops. Tevye had never seen anything like it. The nearest thing to his memory was a late Russian frost. With sunken expressions, the settlers weighed the devastation. A year’s work was doomed. Tevye’s own tomato patch had disappeared under the heaps of insects in his garden. There were so many of them, he could hear them munching away. When he kicked them off a vine, others quickly took their place. Stunned by the nightmare, he cast a glance up to Heaven. This new plague was worse than the mosquitoes and swamps.

“Are we made out of iron that You test us like this?” he asked, raising his hands to the sky. “Is it fair to send millions of locusts against a handful of men? Why? Tell me why?”

“It’s a punishment from God,” Carmel said, standing beside him, holding their son in her arms.

“Yes,” Tevye said. “We don’t always behave like we should. But if He wanted us to be angels, He should have created us with wings.

Elisha blew on a shofar, summoning the settlers together. After leading the afternoon prayer, Nachman stood before the congregation with a Bible in his hand. Even the striking workers were present, feeling an equal sense of tragedy and loss.

“When a disaster falls upon the community, we are all called upon to examine our deeds,” he exhorted. “All of the feuding, the curses, the words spoken in anger and hatred between brothers, this is the cause of this terrible plague. Listen to the words of the Prophet….”

Not a man in the room made a rustle. Everyone sat in the synagogue and listened intently as Nachman read from the Book. Outside the door, the woman crowded together to hear.

Was the Holocaust Punishment for Sin?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

For so many people religion is practiced out of a sense superstition. Like a furry rabbit’s foot, it wards off evil spirits. Fulfilling the word of God keeps you from experiencing bad things. So what happens when you’re religious and those bad things happen anyway? It must be because you sinned.

I continue to be amazed at how many people see God as “the great blackmailer in the sky,” a term I first heard from the atheist Oxford philosopher Jonathan Glover in a debate I moderated between him and my friend Dennis Prager. God threatens us with death and suffering unless we follow His will. Insofar as I have recently published a full length book refuting this idea, both Biblically and logically, I will not here address it, other than to focus on the most insidious permutation thereof. And that is the belief that the Holocaust was punishment for Jewish sin.

No doubt you’ve heard this argument before. It’s straightforward and it goes like this. The Jews of Germany didn’t want to be Jewish any more. They wanted to be more German than the Germans. They changed their names. They assimilated. They married out. The reform movement, which started in Germany in about 1820, expunged all mention of Zion and Jerusalem from its prayer book. Germany and Berlin were the new promised land. In short, the Jews of Germany abandoned God. Worse, they thought they could get away with it. So God decided to teach them a lesson. Just try and forget Me. Here, have a few gas chambers. Let’s see how independent you feel when you’re incarcerated behind barbed wire? Let’s see how much you love Germany when they collectively slaughter your children.

I’ve heard many variations on this theme. One is that it wasn’t assimilation and attachment to Germany that brought the Holocaust, but the exact opposite. The Jews were punished for secular Zionism and an attempt to return to the ancient homeland without divine assistance. Another variation, which I heard just recently and supposedly exists on a tape from one of the great Jewish scholars of the 20th century, was that the only way the Jews would ever give up their deep, emotional attachment to the great Torah centers of Europe, like Lithuania, was to see their neighbors shoot their own parents.

Whatever the variation on this theme of the Holocaust as punishment, let’s be clear. These theories are ignorant, repulsive, and wrong. Ignorant because no human being knows the mind of God. Repulsive because they take six million innocent martyrs – including 1.5 million children – and turn them into culprits responsible for their own deaths. Wrong because they ignore the most basic fact of all, which is this: the majority of German Jews survived Hitler, even though, of course, huge numbers perished.

In 1933 there were 522,000 Jews living in the Reich. By 1939 and the start of the Second World War, 304,000 had emigrated. Beginning in January 1933, when Hitler came to office in a torch lit parade down Unter den Linden, the Jews of Germany knew that they were in the hands of a monster. Almost immediately Jews were beaten in the streets, their businesses boycotted, their Synagogues attacked. By September, 1935 the Nuremberg race laws were enacted. By November 1938 the horrors of Kristallnacht defined the growing Nazi tyranny. And throughout, the Jews of Germany tried to get out. They knew they were otherwise doomed. And while the nations of the world closed so many doors to them, the majority managed to escape.

The people who did not escape were, among so many other millions, the Hassidim and ultra-religious Jews of Poland who had no idea that Hitler had signed a secret pact with Stalin to partition Poland. They had no inkling of Hitler’s plan to invade via blitzkrieg on 1 September, 1939 and that they would be caught in his web.

Are we to believe that these Jews who were devout and pious, with deeply sounding Jewish names, who observed the minutiae of Jewish law pertaining to kosher and the Sabbath and prayed thrice daily for the Jewish return to Zion were punished with extinction while the “sinful” culprits of German Jewry mostly survived? And what of the more than one million children who were gassed and cremated who were utterly innocent of every sin?

PA Resurrects ‘Palestinian Authority Descending from Jesus’ Gospel

Monday, May 20th, 2013

The official Palestinian Authority daily has figuratively crucified the New Testament to show that Jesus not only was “the virtuous patriotic Palestinian forefather” but also that “the Zionist movement… wanted to falsify historical facts, to exile and crucify the Palestinian Arab nation and then murder it.”

It has to be true because ‘The Bible tells me so,” if the over-60 crowd remembers what Pat Boone used to croon, except that Boone and the Palestinian Authority have different versions.

In the past, Muslim clerics in the PA have rewritten the Torah to explain that the forefather Abraham actually led Ishmael and not Isaac (Yitzchak) to be sacrificed. For the uninformed, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, as related in the Torah, actually is a Muslim holy place, although Islam was founded more than 2,000 years after she died.

And, of course, the Biblical accounts of the First and Second Temples never existed.

Now, thanks to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) of an article in the official Palestinian Authority Al-Hayat Al-Jadida two weeks ago, the world knows that the entire story of Jesus “reflects the Palestinian narrative.”

The headline “The resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of the state” makes it clear that Jesus and the Palestinian Authority are one, forever united – a wonderful way to convince Christians that they actually are Muslims whose heritage dates way back to Ishmael and that the modern  Zionist movement has robbed the “Palestinians” of their ancient history. That might be true if  Yasser Arafat were the 3,000-year-old man, but on second thought, he was born in Egypt, so that won’t work.

Remember the Christian holiday Easter? It is not about colored eggs at all. It also not just for “Christian Palestinians.”

Easter is a holiday for Palestinian nationalism, because Jesus, may he rest in peace, is a Canaanite Palestinian,” according to op-ed that was translated and reported by PMW.

“His resurrection, three days after being crucified and killed by the Jews – as reported in the New Testament – reflects the Palestinian narrative, which struggles against the descendants of modern Zionist Judaism, in its new colonialist form, that conspires with the Western capitalists who claim to belong to Christianity,” the official PA daily’s op-ed stated.

Jesus “rose from the dead…to spread his teachings that still exist and will exist as long as mankind exists.”

And what is his gospel?

His story is the “Palestinian people’s story,” the article continues.

Is the Palestinian Authority twisting history?

No, God forbid. The guilty party is “the Zionist movement – tool of the capitalist West – [that] wanted to falsify historical facts, to exile and crucify the Palestinian Arab nation and then murder it by means of ethnic cleansing… “

And now the pièce de résistance.

“The Palestinians, Jesus’ descendants, rose from the ashes, like the phoenix, from the ruins of the Nakba.” the Arab term for the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.”

Pat Boone must be crying in his grave.

Al-Qaradawi and the New Religious Conflict with Israel

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pursues efforts to resume peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the world’s leading Islamic scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, arrived in the Gaza Strip to express support for Hamas.

The Egyptian-born al-Qaradawi, who has in the past justified suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, came to the Gaza Strip at the head of a delegation consisting of some 50 senior Islamic figures from 14 countries.

The high-profile visit is seen as a major victory for Hamas and its supporters and a severe blow for Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and his “moderate” Fatah faction.

Al-Qaradawi, who heads the International Union of Muslim Scholars, came to the Gaza Strip to urge Palestinians to continue the struggle against Israel.

During his visit, al-Qaradawi also urged Palestinians not to give up one inch of land to non-Muslims. He also warned against making any concessions on the “right of return” of millions of Palestinians to their pre-1948 villages and towns inside Israel. “Palestine was never Jewish,” the 86-year-old sheikh told Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. “Palestine has always been Arab and Islamic.”

Although al-Qaradawi did not mention Abbas, his comments were seen as directed against the Palestinian Authority president’s readiness to engage in peace talks with Israel.

When someone as senior and influential as al-Qaradawi tells Palestinians that it is forbidden to make concessions to Israel, he is sending a warning message to Abbas and other Arabs that jihad [holy war], and not negotiations, are the “only way to restore our rights.”

Although the Palestinian Authority had called on its supporters in the Gaza Strip to boycott al-Qaradawi, thousands of Palestinians turned out to give him a hero’s welcome.

His anti-Semitic remarks and support for suicide attacks have earned al-Qaradawi the respect and admiration of many Palestinians, especially those who seek to destroy Israel.

Had the Muslim Brotherhood’s al-Qaradawi visited the Gaza Strip to urge Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist, he would have been received with shoes and rotten eggs.

But al-Qaradawi is a hero in the eyes of many Palestinians and Muslims because he views Jews as the “enemies of Islam and treacherous aggressors.”

In a January 2009 sermon, al-Qaradawi prayed [according to a translation by MEMRI] that “Allah take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”

Al-Qaradawi’s visit has further bolstered Hamas’s standing, enabling it to tighten its grip over the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the visit has granted legitimacy to Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip and turned it, in the Arab and Islamic countries, into an acceptable Islamic party.

But more importantly, al-Qaradawi’s visit and statements also serve as a reminder that the Israeli-Arab conflict is centered, more than ever, around religion. The sheikh’s message to the Palestinians and Muslims is that this is a religious conflict and not a political issue.

This is an unequivocal message that stresses that no Muslim is entitled to give up Muslim-owned land to non-Muslims. As far as al-Qaradawi, Hamas and their followers are concerned, the conflict is not about a settlement or a checkpoint. Rather, it is about Israel’s presence — its right to exist at all — in the Middle East.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Nine: Winds of War

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Word arrived that boatloads of new Jewish immigrants from Russia were arriving in Jaffa. Rumors spread that a wave of bloody pogroms were causing thousands of Jews to flee from their homes. Every settler was anxious to learn which villages had been attacked. Everyone had friends and relatives in Russia, and, of course, all of the settlers were worried about their fate. Not only was the Czar’s empire in turmoil, all of Europe was quaking in the throes of a cataclysmic war. As if overnight, enlightened, “civilized” Germany had become a raging, bloodthirsty beast. At least for the moment, the remote Turkish province of Palestine was far away from the conflict.

More often than not, the Turkish authorities refused to grant permission to allow the boatloads of immigrants to disembark. Many Jews had to sail back to Russia or Italy. Others journeyed on to Egypt. The fortunate and the brave either swam, or were secretly ferried ashore along the desolate Mediterranean coastline. Among the Jews who received legal papers, and among those who didn’t, a trickle found their way to Olat HaShachar.

With all of the building on the settlement, and with the success of their first two harvests, a decision had to be made. To keep up with the rate of development and expansion, more workers were needed. If the pioneers of Olat HaShachar truly wanted to conquer the land, they first had to conquer the workload. Presently there were not enough hands. Acres and acres of farmable land lay untouched. Sand dunes waited to be leveled and turned into vineyards. Barren wasteland waited to be transformed into pastures. The possibilities for growth were endless, but many more workers were needed.

One afternoon, a group of thirty young Jews marched into the colony. None had beards, and many didn’t even wear caps. Their backpacks were filled with apples, bread, blankets, and coconut oil, which some used for cooking and others for protecting their skin in the sun. They were led by a distinguished gentleman named Dr. Arthur Ruppin. He explained that the new immigrants had all joined his workers’ union, which he fittingly called “The Workers of Zion.” The goal of the movement was to unite all of the Jewish labor in Palestine, secure favorable terms for the workers, and thus make the Jews of the land independent, without having to depend on Arab labor to survive. Ruppin told Shimon, Tevye, Elisha, and a crowd of curious settlers, that the worker’s union was willing to hire out the laborers to the colony for minimal wages and board.

While the veteran pioneers gathered around the new immigrants to learn what was happening in Russia, Shimon took Tevye and a small group of other settlement leaders aside.

“This is a godsend,” Shimon said. “We’ve been desperate for workers for months.”

“Now we can get rid of the Arabs we hired to work in the fields,” Elisha added.

“Hiring these Jews will surely cost us much more,” Baruch said. He was Shimon’s right-hand man, in charge of the administration of the colony.

“Not according to this Ruppin,” Shimon answered.

“It’s too good to be true,” Tevye said.

The others all turned to him.

“What do you mean?” Shimon said.

“I thank the good Lord for every Jew who steps foot in the Land of Israel. But, I am sorry to say, I don’t see any rabbis among them.”

“Tevye’s right,” Sharagi agreed. “Do we want so many free-thinkers living in Olat HaShachar? They nearly outnumber us.”

“They will only be hired workers,” Shimon answered. “They won’t have a say in how we run the yishuv, nor a vote in our general assemblies.”

“Even if they don’t have a vote, their presence is sure to be a dangerous influence,” Tevye said. “I’ve raised seven daughters, and I know the pitfalls of exposing young minds to their godless ideas. Thank the good Lord, all of my daughters are married, but there are others who could be courting disaster.”

The others were momentarily silent. Elisha realized the reality of the problem. He still had three unmarried daughters and half a minyan of young, impressionable sons. Everyone turned toward Nachman.

“First we have to look at the new arrivals as our beloved Jewish brothers,” he said. “Their desire to join us in rebuilding our land is a wonderful thing. By being here, they will be exposed to the treasures of Judaism and the beauty of the Torah. As the great Sage, Hillel, taught us – we should be like the disciples of Aharon, loving our brethren and bringing them closer to Torah. At the same time, we have to be careful to put a guarding fence around our sacred beliefs, as Reb Tevye has rightly observed.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/tevye-in-the-promised-land-books/tevye-in-the-promised-land-chapter-thirty-nine-winds-of-war/2013/05/17/

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