Friday, January 29, 2010


‘Never again’

When Netanyahu declares that “Never Again” will we allow the hand of evil to sever the life of our people, he is warning: Doomed are those who try.
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The bookseller Barnes & Nobel lists 8,194 Holocaust titles. Amazon stocks 2,049 Holocaust memoirs. Type in the word “Holocaust” on Google and you’ll get about 17 million hits. Not counting Jewish museums with permanent Holocaust-related exhibits, there are 30 museums and memorials devoted exclusively to the Shoah – in the US alone. Many European and American cities maintain monuments to the victims of the Holocaust. Schoolchildren throughout the Western world learn about the Holocaust. Hundreds of movies have the Holocaust as their main theme.

Following Israel’s lead, the US commemorates the Shoah on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan (April 11/12 this year). Since 2001, Britain has been marking Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 to coincide with the day Auschwitz was liberated. And in 2005, the UN General Assembly (without a formal vote) also selected January 27 as the day the world remembers the Holocaust.

In short, the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored industrial-scale annihilation of European Jewry by Hitler-led Germany is adequately memorialized.

YET THE ignorant are a hardy lot. A 2008 survey found that 13 percent of Canadians between 18 and 24 did not know what the Holocaust was. A similar percentage of British youngsters thought Hitler was the chap who discovered gravity. A survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee in 2005 revealed that most Americans did not know that Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka were concentration camps. Yet only 41% (and 35% of British respondents) strongly disagreed with the statement: “Jews are exploiting the memory of the Nazi extermination of the Jews for their own purposes.”

In Poland, only 13% disagreed strongly.

We can hazard to guess what the louts who this week desecrated Jewish gravestones at the main cemetery in Strasbourg, France believe.

BUT perhaps more troubling than ignorance, insensitivity or enduring prejudice is how some of the enlightened have redefined the Holocaust to give it a more universal – less parochial – meaning.

On the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, a leading British clergyman scripted a few perfunctory words about Elie Wiesel before moving on to the “many hundreds of thousands of … survivors of the many other genocidal events of the 20th and 21st centuries.” He also used the occasion to call for greater sensitivity toward asylum seekers. Our London correspondent, Jonny Paul, reported that the national Holocaust commemoration at the landmark Guildhall focused on remembering the Holocaust – as well as subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and the ongoing atrocities in Darfur.

On the matter of genocide, one-upmanship is both futile and morally repugnant. What matters to Zionists is that the Shoah be understood not as a universalistic metaphor, but as the culmination of long-centuries of murderous persecution under both Christian and Muslim civilizations. We do not want this manifest truth obscured by a whirlwind of sentiment – no matter how valid – that has nothing to do with the murder of our six million brethren.

AYATOLLAH Ali Khamenei’s message for Holocaust Memorial Day was to forecast that the day would definitely come when the national home of the Jewish people would be destroyed. Iran is the driving engine behind 21st century Holocaust-denial.

Of course, Israel’s legitimacy is not rooted in the Holocaust, but in the Jews’ ancient connection to the land of Israel. Still, such a chilling genocidal “forecast” reprises the January 30, 1939 “prophecy” Hitler made: that “a world war” would result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”

Regrettably, the many Holocaust memorials, museums, books and movies have failed to ensure that the Shoah is correctly understood as the outcome of Jewish weakness and statelessness. Six million Jews would not have been lost had our people regained sovereignty in this land before Hitler came to power.

Yet having shed our powerlessness for sovereignty, this country nevertheless became “the Jew among nations.” Outside the realm of theology and metaphysics, we are frankly at a loss to understand why Jew-hatred and anti-Israelism continue to thrive.

This much we do know: Not even a superpower can guarantee, absolutely, the security of its citizenry. But when our prime minister declares that “Never Again” will we allow the hand of evil to sever the life of our people, he is warning: Doomed are those who try.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Iran & the bomb -- the predictions have been wrong for years

Crying wolf on Iran

Tel Aviv [is] orchestrating a campaign to portray Teheran as a regime hell-bent on starting a nuclear war in the volatile Middle East.

- Iran's Press TV, January 26, reporting that Russia and China continue to oppose sanctions

Only the mullahs know if Iran is "hell-bent" on starting a nuclear war. Jerusalem opposes Iran's quest for atomic weapons not only for what the regime might do, but because of what it is - religiously fanatical, violently autocratic and dangerously myopic.

Israelis worry about the rational decision-making capabilities of leaders imbued with apocalyptic visions; men who dementedly deny the destruction of six million Jews during the Shoah even as they cold-bloodedly promise to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

We take these threats at face value.

Israel opposes an Iranian bomb because from Lebanon and Gaza to Yemen and Afghanistan, Teheran is a destabilizing power. The mullahs have created a terror network that extends from the Middle East and Africa to South America. Nuclear weapons would make this belligerent clique even more dangerous, prodding Arab countries into seeking atomic weapons to counter Persian imperialism.

A REPORT in this week's Der Spiegel, evidently based on German intelligence sources, has ratcheted-up fears that Iran could "produce a primitive, truck-sized version of the bomb this year," and could deploy a nuclear warhead "sometime between 2012 and 2014."

These assessments were reportedly garnered by experts after analyzing a mysterious laptop smuggled out of Iran years ago; debriefings of Ali Reza Asgari, Iran's former deputy defense minister, who reportedly defected in 2007; and further debriefings of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist, who may have defected during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June 2009. Der Spiegel also raised the possibility that Iran tested a detonating mechanism more than six years ago using non-nuclear materials.

Paradoxically, ongoing speculation about when Iran will go nuclear - often generated by leaks from parties whose agendas are not known - has done little to galvanize the international community toward blocking the mullahs.

In fact, the rampant speculation leaves an impression that intelligence agencies are clueless about Iran's true capabilities, while simultaneously implying that it's forever "too late" to stop Iran's inexorable lurch for the bomb.

THE Islamic Republic probably began pursuing a nuclear weapon in 1984 during its war with Iraq. By 1992, the CIA judged that Iran would have a bomb within eight years. In 1993, CIA director James Woolsey changed that to 8-10 years. In 1996, then-premier Shimon Peres said Iran would likely go nuclear in four years. The following year, MK Ephraim Sneh, who has strong ties to the defense establishment, reiterated that Israel had only a few years before time ran out on stopping a nuclear Iran.

In 2003, a Knesset committee was told Iran would have the materials needed to build a bomb by 2005. But in 2005, the Mossad forecast Iran would actually need a few more years. In 2006, IDF intelligence forecast Iran could go nuclear by 2010. Now there is credible speculation that Iran will soon be poised to put the finishing touches on a bomb but will stop just sort of manufacturing the actual devices.

The Doomsday Clock of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is now set at six minutes to midnight. Bizarrely, on January 14, the Bulletin adjusted its clock backwards, encouraged by what it said was the Obama administration's "pragmatic, problem-solving approach" toward Iran. We'd be surprised if the White House shared this rosy outlook.

Evidently, no one knows when "worse will come to worst" and the mullahs will declare they've got the bomb. Teheran's progress may have been delayed by clandestine intelligence operations. But where Iran is heading is disturbingly plain for all to see.

Yet with remarkable shortsightedness Russia and China are blocking UN sanctions. This leaves the US and principled European countries to go it alone. A moral minority could - for a start - block lines of credit to Iran's central bank and to banks that do business with it; target the corporate and personal assets of the Revolutionary Guard, and stop insuring tankers sailing to Iranian ports. And President Barack Obama could work more assiduously for regime change.

Iran is one of those cases where the wolf really is at the door... even if the boy cried prematurely.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


From Crete with hate

The Etz Hayim Synagogue on Crete was struck by arsonists on January 5 and again - more devastatingly- on January 16. Over the weekend, Greek police arrested four men described as bouncers and waiters for perpetrating the attacks, saying they were motivated by a dislike of Jews.

Attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions are up throughout Europe, attributable, say experts, to fury by extremist rightists, leftists and Muslims over last year's war against Hamas in Gaza.

As the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism - which comprises Israeli government offices, the Jewish Agency and Diaspora organizations - reported, the uptick in attacks reflects a further blurring of boundaries between Israel, Zionism and Judaism.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant cited Etz Hayim's director, listed elsewhere as Nikolas Stavroulakis, as saying the attackers had not done their homework: The synagogue is a multi-faith institution which includes Muslim and Christian members and "many of the Jews who worship there are opposed to Israel's settler program and frequent incursions into Gaza."

Stavroulakis has devoted himself to memorializing Jewish life on the island, which dates back to biblical days. Today about 10 Jews live there. Yet Stavroulakis's comments reveal a certain naiveté - as if dissociating from Israeli policies, or embracing non-Zionist, even anti-Zionist positions, would inoculate a Jewish person or institution against anti-Semitic battering.

WITH President Shimon Peres scheduled to address the German parliament Wednesday for International Holocaust Memorial Day, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu concurrently in Poland to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, this is a good time to consider the distinctions between those who revile Jews; those who oppose the right of Jews to self-determination by denying Jewish peoplehood; and those who oppose particular Israeli policies.

In the West, vulgar Jew-hatred and Holocaust-denial meet with strong censure in the public square. No reputable voices would condone attacks on synagogues or holding Jews to standards gentiles are not expected to meet.

On the other hand, urbane anti-Israelism is all-too often treated as justifiable - even chic. While some of Israel's foes in academia, diplomacy and the punditocracy put their cards on the table, others hypocritically hide behind abstract assertions of support for Israel's right to exist and to self-defense based on preposterously impractical criteria. Thus anti-Israelism flirts with anti-Semitism when the Jewish state is held to a yardstick no other country is expected to meet on the grounds that "after all, you call yourselves the 'chosen people.'"

No one questions whether right-wing louts who burn Jewish houses of worship, beat up people who "look Jewish" or desecrate Holocaust memorials are anti-Semites. But those who reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, or who deny that Jews are a people, engage in a more subtle form of contempt. That some practitioners of anti-Israelism are themselves of Jewish ancestry matters not a whit. Anti-Israelism is further characterized by calls to boycott the Jewish state (aping the Arab League-instigated embargo which began decades before the first West Bank settlement was erected) and by the cynical manipulation of symbols and semantics - such as "apartheid," "genocide," and "Nazi" - to delegitimize Israel.

In these endeavors, ostensibly progressives are the strange bedfellows of fanatics and reactionaries - Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

WHAT ABOUT those who simply object to particular Israeli policies?

The late US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said famously that he could not define "hard-core pornography" but "I know it when I see it."

Similarly, Israelis have a knack for distinguishing between genuine friends who earnestly oppose this or that policy, and others who profess closeness yet whose counsel, if heeded, would place the country in mortal jeopardy.

Israelis engage in strident debates over settlements, religion and socioeconomic issues. We hardly expect outsiders - whether Jewish or not - to unthinkingly embrace government policies as a sign of fidelity. To suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous.

FROM the first pogrom in 38 BCE to the liberation of Auschwitz, haters have as a rule been candid about their motivations. In the 21st century, however, anti-Israelism has given our foes a pretext to obfuscate their motives. But we Israelis see them for what they are - morally no better than the hooligans who set the Etz Haim Synagogue ablaze.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Where was God" conundrum


Making sense of Haiti

It's not all that often that the front pages of Israel's newspapers and the lead stories on the nightly news programs all devote themselves to a catastrophic event on the other side of the world. Sixty years-plus of conflict have narrowed the range of news ordinary Israelis tend to be drawn to.

When we do focus on troubles abroad, we invariably look for a parochial angle, in this case the fate of a number of missing Israelis in earthquake-devastated Haiti. That's human nature; every country is obsessing about the safety of its nationals caught up in the catastrophe.

Israel is rushing a field hospital, doctors and medical equipment to the stricken island and a team of experts to assess how else we can effectively help. American Jewry has sprung into action through the Jewish Federations of North America partnering with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; the American Jewish World Service is also mobilizing.

Like many spiritual leaders, Rabbi Barry Cohen of Temple B'nai Israel in Oklahoma City is telling his congregants to give charity: "God instructed us not to stand by idly while our neighbor bleeds."

AS THE initial shock wears off and aid begins to arrive, people are reflecting more generally on the apparent randomness of the misfortune and asking why bad things happen to good people. In the instance of Haiti, the issue really becomes why bad things happen to those already mired in misery. In a country where half the population is illiterate and where per capita income is $3.60 a day.

"Every time Haiti takes one half-step forward, something like this happens. It's so unfair. Why does this happen to Haiti over and over again?" asked The Rev. Lauren Stanley, an Episcopal missionary.

One prominent fundamentalist pastor - even as he raised funds for disaster relief - had a ready answer for Stanley: The people of Haiti turned away from God and made a pact with devil and have been punished ever since.

Mainstream Jewish theology, in contrast, abjures trying to read God's mind. Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, former editor of Tradition magazine, cautions rabbis not to use their Shabbat sermons to offer glib theological "reasons" for why the Haiti disaster occurred - as if they have a direct line to the Almighty. God's actions, many Jewish thinkers would argue, are simply unfathomable to the limited human mind.

And yet we feel impelled to search on. From time immemorial, humans have tried to find spiritual meaning for personal loss and the tragic consequences of natural and man-made cataclysms. While some will say this quest is a prescription for banality, there is an unquenchable thirst for ideas that try to make sense of it all.

The top New York Times nonfiction bestseller this week is Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. Book dealers are also featuring The Case for God by Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, and The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright, who makes the subtle argument that when people define God more by His compassionate - than other - attributes, humanity is drawn closer to some underlying truth about the divine.

Perhaps the most evocative popular treatment of the "Where was God" conundrum came in Paul Young's The Shack, a Christian novel about a father grieving over the murder of his daughter, who is granted the opportunity to challenge God (in the form of the Trinity). The book sold over 7 million copies in 2009.

FOR SOME, the process of probing why bad things happen is a salve in itself - a case of the journey being as important as the destination.

It's a process that's taken some Jews to mysticism. In the Kabbala we find the suggestion that bad things happen because God has pulled back from the world - tzimtzum - to make room for the finite. And in The Disappearance of God, Richard Elliott Friedman suggests that while God gradually vanishes in the narrative from Genesis to Second Chronicles, the intended endgame is a divine-human reunion.

Reflecting on such ideas can be consoling as we watch the horrible images coming from Haiti. Meanwhile, however, the survivors need tangible help repairing their broken world.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'My seat is higher than yours' diplomacy...oi vey'

Diplomatic demarche

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just won the King Faisal International Prize for service to Islam. Indeed, under Erdogan, Ankara's foreign policy is driven by Islamic solidarity. A country that was once directed by Western-oriented secularists is now under the sway of his democratically-elected AKP, a Muslim religious party. Vigorous support for Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah is the order of the day.

On Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, a Knesset member from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party, summoned Turkish ambassador to Israel Ahmet Celikkol to protest Turkey's continuing scapegoating of the Jewish state. In the latest instance of anti-Zionist agitprop on Turkish television, an episode of The Valley of the Wolves portrayed Israeli agents and diplomats as blood-thirsty baby-snatchers who abduct Muslim children in order to convert them to Judaism. Wolves and Separation before it - IDF soldiers as sociopathic child-killers - are products of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation which is overseen by Bulent Arınc, a prominent AKP figure.

National honor, Lieberman postulated at a recent meeting of Israel's diplomatic corps, needs to be defended. When nations behave badly toward us this country will no longer pretend no affront was taken and that relations can go on as if nothing happened. Ayalon has taken this admirable no- groveling policy and ruined it on his first try.

That's too bad because Erdogan's policies beg for denunciation. He'll use any pretext to castigate Israeli policies. Monday's visit by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Ankara gave Erdogan an opening to censure Israel's "attitude," its "disproportionate power" and its menacing of "global peace."

Next Erdogan took aim at Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity: "Those who are warning Iran over nuclear weapons are not making the same warnings to Israel," urging the UN to stop picking on Iran while coddling Israel.

Finally, Erdogan lashed out at Israel for liquidating a squad of Islamic Jihad gunmen just as they were about to launch rockets at Israeli territory on Sunday. "What is your excuse this time?" he asked.

SO, CLEARLY, Turkey has been begging for a diplomatic demarche. But the way Ayalon handled his encounter with Celikkol was so amateurish that it detracted from Israel's agenda. After making the ambassador wait in the hallway outside his Knesset door in front of cameras Ayalon had summoned, Celikkol was ushered in and positioned on a low couch in front of a small table holding an Israeli flag. "The important thing is that people see that he's low and we're high and that there is one flag here," Ayalon said in Hebrew to the cameras.

Yes, it is essential the Islamic government in Turkey know that there are consequences to its unbridled derision of Israel, but the public humiliation of a diplomat shifts the onus from Turkey's bad behavior to Ayalon's boorish performance. This inept response to Turkish hostility demonstrates the need to find a better balance between national honor, national interest and diplomatic decorum. Our deputy minister has long proven effective, sometimes too effective, in courting publicity; he must realize that Turkish-Israel relations are not about him.

Decisions that impact on relations with a country as important to Israel as Turkey need to be coordinated between the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry so that all key players are on the same page and that enunciated policies reflect the government's considered position.

Not surprisingly, on Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Israel's ambassador Gabriel Levy to seek an explanation for Ayalon's behavior and demand an apology; Celikkol will be returning to Ankara for consultations.

TURKEY has been incrementally shifting its political, economic and military orientation from West to East. Jerusalem is the "canary in the coalmine" - a key indicator that tells Washington and Europe where Ankara's sensibilities lie.

Still, Turkey remains a democracy so the possibility that a more progressive government will one day replace the AKP cannot be discounted.

Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer visited Ankara in November to keep channels open, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak was scheduled to go next week.

Erdogan seems intent on torpedoing Israel-Turkish ties. The least Jerusalem can do is make it harder for him to achieve this goal.

As for our national honor - let's try to maintain it with greater aplomb.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Look who is worried about Obama's Middle East policies

An Arab lament

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, is lamenting President Barack Obama's backing for the idea that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. "Worse, it seems the…administration has slowly but surely adopted [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu's position on the need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a 'Jewish state,' which predetermines the negotiations over the 'right of return' for Palestinian refuges... ," Bishara wrote late last week.

Abandoning the "right of return" would indeed remove the risk that Palestinian Arabs could demographically asphyxiate Israel by inundating it with millions of refugees and their descendants. But do Arab pundits really think Israel would sign a peace deal that didn't guarantee an end to irredentist claims?

It's hard to fault Bishara's analysis, which comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity. In addition to backing Israel on the "right of return," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes it a point to frequently reference the "1967-plus" formula of basing final borders on agreed land swaps. She's even implying that the settlement issue is a red-herring. "Resolving borders resolves settlements, resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements," Clinton said at the weekend. "I think we need to lift our sights and instead of looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest."

There are also indications that peace envoy George Mitchell is pursuing a multi-pronged effort to re-start negotiations, including a security component focusing on mechanisms for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

THE administration is heavily invested in re-starting negotiations. Israel is on board. But the Palestinians appear to have adopted Syria's bargaining approach.

Just as Damascus will not come to the table until it is assured - in advance - that its maximalist demands will all be met, the Palestinians, too, have developed an ever-longer list of prerequisites that need to be accommodated before they will deign to talk.

As articulated by various Palestinian Authority spokespeople in recent months, these include: a complete construction freeze everywhere over the Green Line; talks must commence from Ehud Olmert's last generous offer (ignored by the Palestinians as unworthy of a response); Israel must commit to a pull-back to the 1949 Armistice Lines; the Palestinian "right of return" must be recognized; Israel will not be recognized as the legitimate state of the Jewish people; and, the details must be wrapped up within two years.

Under these circumstances, Mitchell's Plan B will apparently be to shuttle between Ramallah and Jerusalem conducting "proximity talks."

Even if by some miracle Mahmoud Abbas did send his negotiators back to the table, the fragmentation within the Palestinian polity, namely Hamas's control of Gaza, limits the chances of a breakthrough.

UNDER THESE circumstances it would be nice if we could report that Egypt is trying to talk some sense into the Palestinians. No such luck. Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, who was in Washington over the weekend, insisted that the Palestinians should hold firm to their demand for all territories "occupied" by Israel since 1967.

And just to throw another wrench into the works, Arab moderates have resurrected the Saudi-inspired take-it-or-leave-it peace initiative warning - for the umpteenth time - that it will not forever remain on offer. Israeli leaders have repeatedly indicated they are willing to discuss the initiative, which has some positive elements embedded in a fine print no Israeli government could ever accept. Indeed, the initiative is so potentially perilous to Israel that Hamas has yet to reject it outright.

The Syrians have meanwhile appeared on the scene to pull Hamas's chestnuts out of the fire. The negotiations over Gilad Schalit are not going well from Hamas's viewpoint; relations with Egypt are at an all-time low; smuggling conditions under the Philadelphi Corridor are deteriorating; Gazans are growing weary because Hamas's relentless belligerency has netted unremitting misery.

Enter Damascus to bridge the gap between Fatah and Hamas in a bid to create a Palestinian unity government. Rest assured that any alliance manufactured in the Syrian capital will serve Iran's interests more than those of peace.

Mitchell is due back in the region later in the month. The Palestinians say they have been placed on the defensive. Hopes that their positions would be imposed on Israel by the Obama administration have been dashed.

What should Jerusalem do? Continue to show appreciation for the administration's efforts. Because a viable two-state solution that permanently ends the conflict is in Israel's interest.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Why we are here

Cast your mind back to before Muhammad destroyed the Jewish tribes of Arabia; before Islam expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula reaching Jerusalem in 638. Before the ancient Roman Empire and the emergence of Christianity; before the Greek empire; even before the Persians came onto the stage of history.

Consider the distant 10th century before the Common Era when the ancient Israelites were consolidating their kingdom under Saul and David.

Over the weekend came a report that an ancient inscription had been deciphered testifying - yet again - to the age-old connection between the people and land of Israel.

On what in ancient times was a main road from the coastal plain to the hill country, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archeologist Yosef Garfinkel, digging in the northern Judean hills at Khirbet Qeiyafa - which borders on the Eila Valley (off today's Route 38) - found a piece of pottery with ink writing which dates back to the Davidic era.

The discovery was made a year-and-a-half ago. A number of scholars are examining the text though Prof. Gershon Galil, a biblical studies expert at the University of Haifa, just made his conclusions public.

The inscriptions, he said, are undoubtedly ancient Hebrew, using words such as almana (widow) that would have been written differently in other local languages.

It is easy to get carried away by academic hoopla. Some bible scholars and archeologists may disagree with the tone of Galil's revelations and the assertion that new ground is being broken. Other scholars have yet to weigh in.

STILL, this much appears clear:

• There was an expansive Kingdom of David which extended well beyond the hill country.

• The Hebrew language was sufficiently developed in the 10th century. It reinforces what many scholars have long appreciated - that parts of the Bible are very, very old.

• During the reign of King David there were scribes who were able to compose complex literary texts such as the books of Judges and Samuel.

• The find establishes that scholarship was taking place away from kingdom's hub, implying that even greater learning was going on at its heart.

The text is equally significant because it shows that a key concern of the ancient Israelites was social justice:

You shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]

[and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]

the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.

Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

Galil told The Jerusalem Post he has no doubt that the inscription is ancient Hebrew and that only Jews, not Canaanites, could have authored it.

It is living - Carbon-14 dated - proof that in the 10th century Samuel could have written what traditionalists have ascribed to him all along. (Galil also remarked that ancient Hebrew was once written from left to right.)

IT MAY seem obvious that the Jewish connection to this land dates back thousands of years. "By the rivers of Babylon" - but also by the waters of the Danube, Volga, Dnieper and Rhine - "we sat down and cried as we remembered Zion."

The Jewish lament for Zion knew no bounds.

Yet since the Jewish return under the auspices of the modern Zionist movement, an elaborate industry of denial has sprung up.

Many reputable scholars never set out to deny the ancient connection between Jews and Israel, but simply emphasized the lack of contemporary confirmation that Bible figures such as David were anything like their scriptural portraits. Unfortunately, their work was quickly manipulated and exploited by anti-Zionists. All the while, the Palestinian Arab leadership has remained adamant that evidence of an ancient Jewish presence in this land is a figment of the Zionist imagination. It's unlikely that anything will sway Palestinians out of their obdurate denial.

Still, the work of a generation of bible scholars and archeologists - along with their vibrant debates - continues to uplift the Israeli spirit. It is gratifying to observe - from Eila Valley pottery writings and Dead Sea scrolls to Beit Guvrin tablets - ancient Jewish history falling ever more vividly into place, reminding us why we are here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

George Galloway picks a cause

[George Galloway and friend.]

Why no 'Viva Somalia?'

What could be worse than being forgotten in the rubble of war? As The New York Times reported this week, Gazans feel forsaken. The constant flow of humanitarian aid is staving off hunger and disease, but a pall of listlessness besets the Strip.

It is so dreary that B'Tselem, an Israeli-staffed organization that's funded mostly by European governments and American foundations, has distributed video cameras to 18 young people just to get them out and about.

They make really cool videos about all sorts of subjects - such as smuggling laundry detergent through tunnels between Gaza and Sinai; resisting the "occupation" by singing hip hop music; there's also one about a girls' soccer team.

The videos have found their way onto Ynet, a popular Hebrew news Web site.

THERE'S A revealing comparison to be made between the "siege" of Gaza and what is happening in Somalia, where the World Food Program this week was forced to abandon one million tormented people because Islamist gunmen have made it impossible for its staff to operate.

The al-Shabab accuses the WFP of being spies for the infidels and has murdered a number of aid workers. The extremists are enraged that the WFP will not pay protection money. Overall, 3 million Somalis depend on WFP relief, but the plight of 285,000 acutely malnourished children is especially heart-rending.

Naturally, the WFP also operates in the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" - that is, the area where the Palestinians refuse to create a demilitarized state of their own.

The WFP - through no fault of its own - is part of a web of international bodies that is enabling, rather than trying to overcome, dependency among Palestinians. For 60-years-plus, UN agencies have gone along with the Arab world's insistence that their Palestinian brethren remain perpetual refugees.

UNLIKE THE Somalis, the Palestinians have been fortunate in having Zionists for their enemies. How else could they attract celebrity politicians, like MP George Galloway, and superstar campaigners, like the International Solidarity Movement's Hedy Epstein, a hunger-striking 85-year-old lady who "survived" the Holocaust in London where she arrived in 1939 on the kindertransport.

Galloway's "Viva Palestina" procession left London on December 6 and arrived in El-Arish this week. He quickly picked a fight with the Egyptians over how many vehicles could enter Gaza from Sinai. Cops and activists threw sand at each other and fought with sticks.

The "Viva Palestina" spectacle was coordinated with Hamas, which needed a pretext to orchestrate an "intifada" against the anti-smuggling barrier Cairo has belatedly begun installing under the Philadelphi Corridor.

On the Gaza side of the border, Palestinians shot dead an Egyptian guard, as other guards opened fire on Palestinian rioters, critically wounding five.

Late Wednesday, Egypt allowed Galloway and 55 fellow travelers into Gaza, "bandaged, bleeding and bruised… because they tried to bring medicine to … people under siege in Gaza," said the intrepid British parliamentarian.

Too bad that Galloway and Epstein, along with the play-by-play Al-Jazeera coverage they engender, didn't drive their convoy of 150 truck and 500 international activists - self-satisfied Europeans, mostly, but also 17 Turkish legislators - straight to Somalia to face down the al-Shabab.

THE DIFFERENCE between Somalia and Gaza is that the people of Somalia are not only forgotten in the rubble, their desperation is… simply not interesting.

They are people without options.

Those responsible for their plight are Islamists, not Zionists or Westerners - though, for the Euro-Left, it's all America's fault somehow.

In stark contrast, the people of Gaza do have options that would end their misery.

They could stop supporting Hamas, which has mobilized their polity against coexistence with Israel; they could make peace among themselves and allow the comparatively moderate West Bank Palestinian leadership - which is recognized by the international community - back into the Strip. They could free IDF soldier Gilad Schalit whom they kidnapped in 2006. They could stop launching mortars against Israel's civilian population, as they repeatedly did this week. They could choose a two-state solution and accept that Jews also have a right to a homeland. They could end the "siege."

They could build instead of reveling in the rubble and in their victimization.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Balawi versus Zeid ....which direction will the Muslim world go?

'Turning' Islamists

During the Cold War, Westerners consoled themselves in the belief that most people behind the Iron Curtain did not believe in Communism; they were simply entrapped by a morally bankrupt system driven by a moribund ideology. It was not so much the allure of capitalism that ultimately won over the people of Eastern Europe; it was the failure of Communism.

What will it take to "turn" vast numbers of Muslims now enthralled with extremist Islam, and convince those uncommitted, not to follow the path of the Islamists? Much depends on the outcome of the ongoing battle within Islamic civilization between those promoting jihad against the West and those who say Islam does not need to tear down the West in order to thrive.

Yesterday, this newspaper carried a Washington Post dispatch, "Jordan emerges as key CIA counterterrorism ally." The story by that paper's national security reporter revealed that a Jordanian agent working in tandem with American intelligence had been killed by the Islamist suicide bomber who struck a CIA base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last week.

It now transpires that the suicide bomber was a 36-year-old Jordanian physician named Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. He had been "turned" - or so it was thought - during a stint in a Jordanian prison for jihadi activities.

According to Al Jazeera, the medical-man-turned-suicide-bomber was in Afghanistan to trap another physician, Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of al-Qaida's two top leaders. Balawi had provided so much reliable information that he was trusted to enter the CIA post without being thoroughly searched.

The dead agent, Sharif Ali bin Zeid, was Balawi's handler. King Abdullah II participated in Zeid's funeral, raising the ire of Islamists within his kingdom.

This murky story of spycraft and betrayal serves as a metaphor for how the still-nameless war between freedom, moderation and enlightenment against the benighted forces of coercion, fanaticism and medievalism needs to be waged - by pushing Muslims to choose: the way of Balawi or the way of Zeid.

The most practical way to overcome the Islamists is for them to be defeated from within. After all, non-Islamists have a profound stake in the outcome.

YESTERDAY, President Barack Obama met with his top domestic and foreign national security advisers in the White House situation room. The agenda was two-fold: to unravel what went wrong, both on the systemic and personnel level, that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board Northwest Flight 253; and to take stock of the damage caused by what Balawi did at Forward Operating Base Chapman.

Along with Zeid, seven brave CIA agents, with a combined 100 years' of expertise, were lost. This betrayal, like previous acts of perfidy in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, underscored how dependent the West is on human intelligence provided by those who swim in a sea of anti-Western fanaticism.

Other lessons emerge. The Islamists must not be underestimated. They are getting good at counter-intelligence and disinformation. Israelis have seen this with Hizbullah.

Now Peter Baker of The New York Times has revealed that US intelligence was nearly fooled into thinking that Islamists from Somalia had infiltrated into the US in order to detonate bombs during Obama's inaugural address.

Fortunately, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, deduced that a "poison pen" operation was afoot. One terror group was trying to get the US to take out its rivals. Pretty sophisticated stuff and illustrative of what the West is up against.

Another lesson is not to belittle suicide bombers as "sad guys with no self esteem," or risk being surprised by those like Balawi, who are harder to pigeonhole.

The doctor had once told an Islamist magazine: "I have had a predisposition for... jihad and martyrdom since I was little. If love of jihad enters a man's heart, it will not leave him, even if he wants to do so."

CLEARLY, some Islamists are irredeemable. But others are not. If the West recognizes the scale of the challenge and confronts it effectively, and if there are enough courageous men the caliber of Sharif Ali bin Zeid working to preserve Islam from within, we can be reasonably hopeful that the jihadis will one day find themselves relegated to the dustbin of history.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Washington's open arms

Human nature being what it is, gratitude has its limits. The more we are on the receiving end of a recurring good, the less grateful we become. Nations are likewise susceptible to "What have you done for me lately?" syndrome.

It is fitting, therefore, to acknowledge the ongoing aid Israel receives from the United States. It may not come out of purely altruistic motives, yet Washington's intentions are largely good, and absent its unwavering military and diplomatic backing, the world would be an even lonelier place for our Jewish state.

Within the past several weeks, the US Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed into law an FY 2010 aid package to Israel that includes $2.22 billion in security assistance. This brings the total amount of aid for the year to $2.775 billion. About 75 percent of these monies will be spent in the US. In addition, the US provides "virtual aid" in the form of loan guarantees.

Especially at a time when Americans are hurting economically, this financial support to Israel is deeply appreciated. In light of our shared values and mutual interests, the American people should know that they can always count on Israel.

ISRAELIS also recognize that America has interests elsewhere in our region. For instance, although the US now gets most of its imported oil from non-Arab sources, Saudi Arabia remains a major supplier of crude. Washington has an interest in bolstering Arab allies who may feel threatened by Persian imperialism.

For decades administrations have been selling advanced weapons to Arab states even when Israel strenuously protested these transactions.

Now, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, an arm of the Pentagon, the Obama administration is about to sell yet more billions of dollars worth of armaments to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

For instance, it plans to sell the UAE 12 of the latest C-130 Hercules military cargo planes and 16 Chinook helicopters. The UAE is also interested in a supply of 400 GBU-24s bunker-buster bombs.

The Saudis are in the market for the latest in anti-tank missiles. And on a more modest scale, Jordan will buy aircraft engines and anti-tank guided missiles.

But the sale of weapons to Egypt is the hardest to fathom. Cairo wants state-of-the-art Harpoon II anti-ship cruise missiles ($145 million); four high-speed missile craft for its navy ($1.29 billion), and 450 Hellfire air-to-surface anti-armor missiles. Throw in 156 replacement engines, plus 24 new F16 fighters, and you are dealing with a lot of firepower.

The Pentagon insists none of this will "adversely affect the military balance in the region."

WE'RE somewhat less sanguine about these weapons. Egypt, which faces no threat from its neighbors, officially spends roughly $2-3 billion annually on its military and fields a 450,000-man standing army - on top of its mammoth domestic security apparatus. Cairo recently established a strategic military relationship with its old partner, Russia, and has reportedly expressed interest in the S-400 anti-missile missile on the pretext that it is worried about Iran.

In the context of a cold peace, Israel's relations with Egypt are on an even keel. True, President Hosni Mubarak, age 81, refuses to visit Israel and has made our foreign minister persona non-grata. But he does cordially receive Israeli leaders. For years he did precious little to block weapons smuggling from the Sinai into Hamas-controlled Gaza; now that he is making an apparently genuine effort, he is facing strident domestic opposition. Having quashed reformist political parties, his most viable opponents are Muslim extremists.

Egypt is a poor country with relatively weak political institutions and no assured mechanism for presidential succession. Its stability is one of Israel's highest strategic interests. Practically half of Egypt's 83 million people are under age 25. Many live on two dollars a day. Compounding the official unemployment level of 9% is endemic structural unemployment. Corruption is rampant; infrastructure is crumbling. Does this sound like a country that needs cruise missiles?

Since 1975, America has invested $14.83 billion in a wide array of AID projects to make Egypt a better place for its people. Helping ordinary Egyptians is where Washington's emphasis can continue to do the most good. Adding to Egypt's considerable stockpile of weapons hardly benefits its people. And such weapons could, heaven forbid, one day fall into the wrong hands.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Name the enemy

The clear, present and continuing danger posed to Western civilization by the worldwide Islamist terror network cannot be overcome while the American, European and other freedom-loving peoples are neither mobilized nor steeled for the sacrifices ahead.

No serious observer minimizes the perils. The attack carried out in November at Fort Hood by Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim, showed the fatal consequences of not intercepting "ticking bombs." And the arrests of Najibullah Zazi, David Headley and five young Pakistani-Americans last year in separate plots against America irrefutably established that homegrown jihadists are a threat - just as they are in the UK, Germany and Spain.

While Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day, this attempted mass murder was only the latest proof that an Islamist terror network, with bases in Africa, Arabia and South Asia, cells just about everywhere else, and a noxious presence on the Internet, sees itself in a relentless state of war with the West.

A RECENT New York Times editorial concluded: "Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen? Americans have a right to feel weary. But the [Abdulmutallab] plot is a warning of why it's so important to head off full chaos in Yemen. The last thing the world needs is another haven for al-Qaida."

Indeed. But if Americans are "weary" at this stage of the conflict, it is partly because their leaders - and media - have not properly framed the nature of the threat.

Neither former president George W. Bush, who spoke mostly of a "war on terror," nor President Barack Obama, who speaks in terms of "violent extremists" - and no European leader - has had the courage to say that the enemy is global jihad.

The Islamist danger is not primarily rooted geographically - in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Iran or Arabia - but theologically and politically within the larger Muslim civilization.

The only way Westerners can connect the dots - between, say, the devastating attack against Forward Operating Base Chapman near the Pakistani border in Afghanistan (which claimed the lives of seven seasoned CIA anti-terror operatives), and the attempted ax-murder of a cartoonist in the Danish city of Aarhus over the weekend - is for their leaders to plainly say who the enemy is, what they want, and what is at stake if they succeed.

That US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's first reaction to the attack aboard Northwest Flight 253 was to think that it was unconnected to a larger plot, testifies to how hard it will be to change mind-sets. Even Obama's first reaction was that Abdulmutallab appeared to be an "isolated extremist."

Yet compared to most other world leaders, Obama is positively Churchillian. He has articulated the right goal: "To disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the extremists who threaten us…anywhere where they are planning attacks…"

He's got the metaphysics right: "Evil does exist in the world." Furthermore, he fully understands the amorphous nature of the enemy, declaring that the "war" is against "a far-reaching network."

The missing link is naming the enemy. Only then will he be able to talk frankly about how hard - and necessary - it is to find trustworthy Muslim allies.

The murdered CIA agents were likely betrayed by Afghans they trusted. Al-Qaida in Yemen was revived partly when terrorists were freed in a prison break, possibly orchestrated by renegade elements of the Yemeni secret police.

EVEN IF Western leaders did mobilize their societies, the struggle against the Islamist menace would remain wearying. This is an enemy that is often embedded among civilians and enforces allegiance by beheading those it suspects of disloyalty. Citizens need to know this, to understand why innocent children are sometimes accidentally killed in military operations conducted by allied forces.

Obama needs to tell Americans and Europeans willing to listen that, though the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists, pretty much all terrorists are Muslim, hence the need for profiling.

An overstretched army, supported by a weary home front, against an ill-defined enemy, does not offer a viable strategy for success. Better to tell people that the enemy is radical Islam, which wants to spread its religion using the sword, and that defeat would mean an end to Western values of pluralism, minority rights and democracy.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Can the West maintain its soul in the face of the Islamist war againt our civilization?

The meaning of 443

Eli Cohen, 29, was heading home on Route 443 on the night of December 21, 2000, when his car was sprayed with automatic weapons-fire by Palestinian terrorists.

When the High Court of Justice this week, unhappily marking Cohen's 10th yahrzeit, ordered the IDF to lift its blanket ban against Palestinian traffic on that same road, reactions were predictable.

On the Right, there were accusations that Court President Dorit Beinisch was recklessly disregarding Jewish lives; on the Left, there were assertions that the road should never have been built in the first place.

A FEW days after the Cohen murder, an ambush wounded two other motorists. The IDF attempted to secure the highway while keeping it open to Palestinian traffic filtering in from adjacent villages and Ramallah. But the attacks continued and Israeli motorists petitioned the High Court, complaining that they felt abandoned by the army.

In August 2001, three more Israelis were killed. Sporadic sniping, rock-throwing and firebombings forced many commuters to abandon the road.

In 2002, the IDF began restricting Palestinian traffic, though it did not issue a formal ban until 2006 when an Arab motorist from Jerusalem, mistaken for a Jew, was murdered on the road.

By August 2007, the security situation had dramatically improved and B'Tselem began lobbying to lift access restrictions because of the detrimental impact they were having on ordinary Palestinians.

The advocacy organization also held that securing Israeli motorists beyond the Green Line had a downside - it solidified Jewish claims to Judea and Samaria. Soon foreign campaigners launched protests along Rt. 443 demanding free access for Palestinian traffic.

Then in March 2008, the High Court began hearing testimony in a case brought by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel on behalf of the very villages from which some of the attacks against Rt. 443 drivers had emanated. Plainly, if the court opened Rt. 443 to Palestinian traffic, a precedent might be set against blanket closures on even more dangerous roads deeper in the West Bank.

As the justices were putting the finishing touches on their decision, security forces discovered the remains of a bomb planted by Palestinian terrorists along the 443 road.

TO THE Right, we would point out that Beinisch and Justice Uzi Fogelman (with Justice Edmond Levy dissenting) felt international law gave them no recourse but to order that the ban be lifted. The highway cuts through territory the international community deems "occupied," and land for its expansion was expropriated exclusively on the legal grounds that it would benefit Palestinian Arab motorists.

Intifada violence forced the ban; the absence of Palestinian traffic made the road safe again. Under these paradoxical circumstances, a road that was sanctioned only because Palestinians were supposed to benefit from it could not forever remain the exclusive preserve of Israeli drivers.

The justices told IDF commanders that they could control Palestinian access to Rt. 443 depending on the security situation. That approach, of course, was tried and failed in the early 2000s. The law may be an ass but the justices should not be demonized.

To the Zionist Left, troubled because 14 kilometers of Rt. 443 cuts through the "occupied West Bank," we would point out that, actually, the access arteries to Rt. 443 begin in "occupied east Jerusalem" and together are integral to Israel's control of the capital.

Israel has no internationally recognized borders on the Palestinian front. We have only the 1949 Armistice Lines, which left us with Highway 1 - a narrow, winding, hard-to-defend, uphill corridor to Zion. Even it briefly crosses the Green Line near Latrun.

All this makes a second artery that connects the capital to the coastal plain - Rt. 443 - a strategic necessity. So of course it should have been built. And Israeli negotiators will push hard to make it part of sovereign Israel in any final-status accord with the Palestinians.

A FREE society's first imperative is survival; its second is not to lose its soul.

How to harmonize these essentials will continue to be a key challenge in the decade ahead.

As increasing numbers of Westerners are realizing this holiday season, those who would bring down airliners, blow up trains - and, yes, shoot Israeli commuters dead - are also daily challenging our capacity to uphold civil liberties.

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