The White House crosses out Israel

This is at the same time laughable and insulting. The White House issued a press release about Barack Obama’s speech at the funeral of Shimon Peres. The funeral was held at the cemetery on Mt. Herzl in western Jerusalem, and the press release initially noted that it was in “Jerusalem, Israel.”

Now, for some reason it is a conceit of the White House and State Department that none of Jerusalem, both the western part that has been under Israel’s continuous control since 1948 and the eastern part that was occupied by Jordan from 1948-67, belongs to Israel. Perhaps this dates back to the partition resolution of 1947 – which was never implemented because it was rejected by the Arabs – that suggested that Jerusalem should not be part of either an Arab or a Jewish state, but rather should be placed under UN control.

In any event, the White House felt that it was unacceptable to let the “error” in its press release stand, so it issued a “correction” – with the word ‘Israel’ crossed out.

Photo courtesy of Brian of London

Photo courtesy of Brian of London

Yes, I know. That’s the convention for press releases. But you know, here in Israel we are a little sensitive about being crossed out, or not appearing on maps, or even being wiped off maps. And after all these years that Jerusalem has been our capital – since 1948 – don’t you think the White House and State Department ought to face reality?

That isn’t even all. In whatever country he thought he was in, Barack Obama gave a speech. Here is just a little bit of what he said:

Out of the hardships of the diaspora, [Peres] found room in his heart for others who suffered. He came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target. Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination. [my emphasis]

In other words, according to Barack Obama, the reason the Palestinian Arabs do not have a state is that we are prejudiced. Racists. Apartheid-niks. With Obama, it always comes down to this. The guy who grew up in a privileged family, who went to the best schools and universities, who was elected to national political office with the absolute minimum of qualifications, has a massive racial chip on his shoulder.

Never mind that the Palestinian Arabs want to create a state that will have no Jews in it, or that they insist that there is no such thing as a Jewish people (from the representative of a ‘people’ whose peoplehood dates to the 1960s), or that their media makes a habit of inciting their youth to go out and stab or run over Jews. Nope, no prejudice here – just “frustration” and “despair” that they haven’t been able to realize their “dreams,” which happen to be about killing Jews and taking their country.

One wonders if it might be possible to take the President and State Department – which as far as I know do not refuse to recognize the capital of any other country in the world –  more seriously when they talk about prejudice if they stopped applying their offensive double standard to Israel.

Posted in US-Israel Relations | 3 Comments

Foreign leaders eulogize Peres – for the wrong reason

As I write, the funeral for Shimon Peres is in progress at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.

Numerous “world leaders” like Barack Obama, Prince Charles, Justin Trudeau, Francois Hollande, Bill Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon, Tony Blair, the EU’s Donald Tusk, and many other important and not-so-important personages are there. Even Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement demonized Peres as recently as yesterday, is present. Obama will be the last foreign speaker.

The main roads between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will be closed before and after the event. Many streets in Jerusalem are closed, and traffic on alternate routes is expected to be nightmarish. Hamas has declared today a “day of rage” in honor of “criminal” Peres. I can imagine that every policeman and security person in the country is on duty. Arab and Jewish “extremists” have been preventively detained. The funeral itself will be closed to the Israeli public for security reasons.

I am sure that this is what Peres wanted – enjoying adulation was a weakness of his – but personally, I find it distasteful, even offensive.

The funeral should have been held on the day that he died, as is customary in Judaism. Then it would have been impossible for most of these political celebrities to be here, and that would have been as it should be. The people of Israel who actually care for Peres would have come, the Israelis who know about his tireless work in the 1950s and 60s when he managed the relationship with France that got Israel military hardware that no one else would sell us, when he created the Israeli arms industry and spearheaded the development of Israel’s nuclear deterrent. There are even some that remember and appreciate Peres’ support for the settlement project in the 1970s.

The foreign guests don’t know much about Peres’ contributions to our security, and I suspect he wouldn’t be quite so popular with them if they did. What they admire about him was his leading role in the Oslo Accords, which several commentators have called “the greatest strategic mistake in Israel’s history,” and his continued support of the “peace process,” despite its profound and bloody failure. They are sorry to see him go because he could be used to support their objective of piecemeal dismemberment of the land of Israel.

Future historians will decide whether Peres’ early successes cancel his later disastrous failure. But there is no doubt of his sincerity. He did his almost superhuman best, sacrificing his personal life for his work. He dedicated himself to the state of Israel and the Jewish people. And there is no doubt that many of our guests would like to see that state disappear and that people finally leave the stage of history, which is why they laud Peres’ worst hour as his finest.

I wish they weren’t here, not the ones responsible for the millions that European nations give to subversive Israeli NGOs, or the one who freed Iran to develop nuclear weapons and gave them billions for terrorism. We don’t need to listen to another lecturing, self-serving Obama speech, or to Bill Clinton comparing Shimon Peres to John Lennon. We certainly don’t need more traffic and security headaches.

But all things pass. Later today, the politicians that are praising Peres for the wrong reasons will go home. Hotel guests that were kicked out of their rooms to accommodate their entourages will be able to return, and the traffic jams will finally thin out. Soon it will be Shabbat, and then the Jewish people will mourn their loss among themselves.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the new year

This week I would like to wish all of my readers the very best possible year, in the personal, spiritual and economic realms. I would like to thank the Elder of Ziyon for the opportunity to appear on his pages, and wish him continued success. And I beg the pardon of those I have offended.

There are also some other people, most of whom are not my readers, for whom I also have wishes. In no particular order, here they are:

For Barack H. Obama, may Hashem (or Allah as the case may be) grant you the humility to understand the mistakes that you have made; and may he keep you from making any more during the coming lame duck period. May you leave Israel alone and work on becoming the next UN Secretary-General.

For Amos Schocken, Gideon Levy, Rogel Alpher, and Amira Hass, may you learn that despite your distaste for the Jewish people and especially the Israeli public, you are and will remain Jews and Israelis, even if you move to Berlin, and there is still time to do tshuvah for your treason. May your ‘newspaper’ line a thousand cat boxes and wrap ten thousand fishes.

For Ari Shavit, may you be healed of the irrational feelings of Jewish guilt that plague you. We belong here, we did what was necessary to keep from being murdered or expelled, and in the words of Naftali Bennett, we don’t need to apologize.

For Liberal American Jews, may you learn that Israel is not the US, Palestinians are not African-Americans, and you really don’t have a clue about how things work here.

For Union for Reform Judaism President Rick Jacobs, may it dawn on you that Israelis are not bothered by threats that your membership will stop supporting Israel, because they know that by and large it already doesn’t.

For the New Israel Fund, may you merge with Peace Now.

For Peace Now, may you merge with J Street.

For J Street, may you merge with Jewish Voice for Peace.

For Jewish Voice for Peace, may you merge with Students for Justice in Palestine.

For Students for Justice in Palestine, may you become recognized as the US campus wing of Hamas.

For Peter Beinart, may you realize in time that you will not be comforted in later life by the realization that you have built a career out of helping the enemies of your people.

For those who have uttered the phrase “only a two-state solution can bring peace,” may you be required to study the Palestinian Media Watch website for an hour a day for the next year.

For Bashar al-Assad, may you be swallowed by the earth and may it close over you without leaving a trace.

For Vladimir Putin, may you start worrying about those Iranian missiles that can reach Moscow.

For Minister Uri Ariel, may you continue to fight for Jews settling the Land of Israel, while leaving the stray cats alone.

For Ehud Barak, may you continue to enjoy your complete retirement from politics.

For Ehud Olmert, may you enjoy your additional 8 months in prison. Use it to think about what it means for a mayor of Jerusalem to sell out his city for envelopes of cash.

For Minister Miri Regev, may you become even more annoying to the self-styled cultural elite in Israel.

For University professors and administrators, may you remember the difference between politics and academics, and grow the necessary balls to keep them separate. And understand that as the permanent adults on campus, you have a responsibility to maintain the ideals of the academy.

For Israel’s extreme Left, may you get an opportunity to demonstrate your proletarian principles by losing your jobs as professors, columnists and directors of cultural institutions, and being forced to move from North Tel Aviv to the periphery and work as taxi drivers, farmers and security guards.

For Yossi Beilin, in the absence of Shimon Peres, may you make an official announcement that Oslo was an absolutely terrible idea, that you should have known Arafat couldn’t be trusted, and that you are really, really sorry for being such an idiot.

For Neturei Karta and other anti-Zionist Haredim, may you practice what you preach and leave the Jewish state that you oppose.

For Jeremy Corbyn, may you merge with Ken Livingstone.

For European Jews, may you stay safe, and may you think seriously about aliyah. Although most of you will not obtain the standard of living here that you are used to in Europe, your children will thank you in the long run.

For the Kurdish people, may you obtain the independence you have fought for so long and so richly deserve.

For the American people, may you somehow – and it’s not obvious how – get the kind of leadership you need to restore your country to great power status, and reverse the accelerating economic and social decline that it is experiencing.

For the Arab citizens of Israel, may you experience growing prosperity as a result of your partnership with the Jewish people. May you get Members of the Knesset to represent you that don’t want to wreck it.

For the Palestinian Arabs, may you understand that the Jews aren’t leaving or committing suicide. May you banish the ghost of Yasser Arafat, his henchmen and his vicious system of inciting racist hatred. May you learn that only death will come from confrontation and rejectionism, and that dignity and self-rule are possible by taking a different path.

For Mahmoud Abbas, may you be prosecuted as the vicious war criminal and murderer that you are.

For Hamas, may your tunnels collapse and your rockets blow up in your faces.

For the whole gang down at the UN, may Barack H. Obama be your next Secretary-General and run the organization into the ground.

For Benjamin Netanyahu, may your own people finally understand that despite everything that irritates them about you, you are a better leader than they deserve, and they should be grateful for the superhuman job you do.

And for all the rest, they should only have a sweet, charitable and peaceful year.

Posted in Academia, American Jews, American politics, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Politics, Media, The UN | Leave a comment

Jabotinsky, Netanyahu, and the American debates

When I arose at 0330 this morning to watch the American presidential debates, I couldn’t help but think about the concept of leadership – what makes a good leader and why it’s rare to find one who is also a good politician. So I was pleased to run into this very interesting article by Elliott Jager about a man who was a great leader of the Jewish people, although he was not successful as a politician and unfortunately died far too soon.

The man, of course, was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, whom generations of left-leaning politicians dismissed as a fascist and an extremist, and whom many still think of as a footnote in Zionist history that is best kept at the bottom of the page.

But Jager points out that Jabotinsky’s positions were more nuanced than many think today. As a classical liberal, he was absolutely committed to the protection of individual rights (something that the Left likes to talk about a great deal while doing the precise opposite).

This includes the rights of Arabs in the Jewish state. Jabotinsky clearly saw the distinction between civil rights, such as those enumerated in the American Bill of Rights, and national or collective rights, the most obvious example of which is the Law of Return for Jews alone. Those who insist that the Jewishness of the state is essentially undemocratic elide this distinction. Jabotinsky’s demand for a state with national rights for the Jewish people was uncompromising, but he would never have accepted discrimination against minorities within the state.

Jabotinsky would not have agreed to limitations on where any citizen could live, but he would also have rejected Arab demands to change the flag and the national anthem, which are clearly national issues. And while he lived a secular life and was opposed to any kind of religious coercion, he nevertheless respected Judaism. Jager notes that the food at his Betar youth movement camps was kosher and “Shabbat was respected.”

One of the themes that Jabotinsky returned to throughout his life was the centrality of Jewish self-sufficiency and self-defense, and the importance of military power in the survival of a state. I suspect that he would be as uncomfortable with Israel’s degree of dependence on the US as I am. Jager quotes him saying,

For centuries, the nations of the world had been used to hearing that Jews were defeated here, and Jews were protected there ‒ you either defeated or protected us ‒ and it is difficult to decide what was more humiliating: the defeats or being protected. It is time to show the world a Jewish rifle with a Jewish bayonet.

Jabotinsky died at 59 in 1940, but he was the ideological father of Begin’s Herut party, the secular Right in Israeli politics. As everyone knows, Begin lost out in the struggle with the socialists of David Ben-Gurion, and – as happens when an ideological group gains power – the personalities and ideas of the out-group are denigrated and even written out of history. Ben-Gurion didn’t even permit Jabotinsky’s remains to be interred in Israel, and he wasn’t reburied here until the next PM, Levi Eshkol, ordered it in 1964. Even though the Labor monopoly ended in 1977, Jabotinsky still, in my opinion, doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the fathers of the Jewish state.

Jager suggests that today’s Right is more religious and “populist” (whatever that means) than Jabotinsky would have liked. “One would be hard pressed to find anything more than trace elements of his legacy in Netanyahu government policies or in the views of rank-and-file Likud members,” he writes. And,

In contrast, today’s more religious and populist Right has been pursuing legislation that would hamstring Israel’s admittedly hyper-activist Supreme Court so as to bend it to popular will. On civil liberties too, the Right has no interest in limiting the power of the state-established ultra-Orthodox (and non-Zionist) rabbinate. Netanyahu, though personally not observant, has allowed Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza to be administered as if it were an ultra-Orthodox shtiebel.

I would argue that the Supreme Court needs to be reined in not to make it agree with the “popular will,” but rather because it has elevated its concept of “democracy” – which blurs the distinction between national and civil rights – above Zionism. Jabotinsky would explain this distinction to the honorable justices, as well as the absolutely essential Jewish component in the concept “Jewish and democratic state.” Indeed, Netanyahu, in pushing for a Jewish State Basic Law that would explicate the meaning of “Jewish State” in Israel’s effective constitution, is faithfully following Jabotinsky.

As far as the Haredi influence over the government and its takeover of the Rabbinate, this is indeed a problem. It was a problem for Labor governments also, and is an artifact of Israel’s coalition system in which the Haredi parties often hold the balance of power. I don’t think it represents Netanyahu’s divergence from Jabotinsky’s principles as much as practical politics. There’s no doubt that Jabotinsky would oppose it, but unlike Jabotinsky, who led a movement, Netanyahu needs to make and keep a coalition.

On the other hand, the growing influence of Judaism in popular culture, the army and politics is not at all a bad thing, and as long as it is not coercive, I doubt that Jabotinsky would object. He certainly understood the need for a spiritual component to Zionism, if not a traditional “religious” one.

Jabotinsky also stressed the importance for a leader to display hadar, a difficult word to translate, but it connotes dignity, gravitas, self-respect, and maybe honesty too. My own opinion is that Netanyahu, despite his faults, is a pretty good heir to the Jabotinsky tradition, and I think he is aware of the history and the responsibility that this places on his shoulders.

I watched the debate. There were no big surprises. Donald was Donald and Hillary put on a polished, empty performance. Two “leaders” without a sense of history, without responsibility to anyone but themselves. Without hadar.

Posted in American politics, Israeli Politics, Zionism | Leave a comment

A war between peoples

There were eight stabbing attacks by Arabs against Jews in the last four days (as of Tuesday).

News item:

Speaking to students of Palestinian origin in Venezuela, Abbas explained that incitement was not behind the decision to carry out attacks, “rather, they [young Palestinians] have lost hope.”

He added that he is prepared to return to the negotiation table if Israel halts settlement construction and releases additional prisoners. Abbas went on to say that the Palestinians would not compromise on the right of return, stressing that 6 million Palestinian refugees were waiting to come home.

So this is what we are dealing with. We are in the midst of a war between peoples, a war different from most wars, where there may be various objectives like control of resources or access to transport or markets, expansion of empires, and countless others. Here there is only one simple objective: our enemies want to end our state and kill or disperse our people, while we want to survive as a sovereign state.

There aren’t many modern examples of wars between peoples, other than the wars of Israel (perhaps the 1971 Bangladesh War is one). The wars of 1948, 1967 and the ongoing Palestinian War all fit this description. The major world wars, although they may have been associated with genocides, did not have genocide as their major objective. The American Civil War and the Korean and Vietnam wars were fought for political control, but not to replace one people with another.

When WWII ended, the Allies received unconditional surrender from their enemies and occupied their lands temporarily, in order to ensure that the previous leaders and ideology would not return. Despite the horrendous violence during the war, there was no attempt to kill or disperse the Japanese or German people. Some territory changed hands, a few individuals who were judged to be guilty of war crimes were punished, and new political structures set up. But the victors did not kill, deport or enslave the vanquished populations en masse.

The Palestinians are a people, a people that was created in very recent times and one that was created as the negation of another people, but despite all that, still a people. They will not go back to being Egyptians or Syrians or Jordanians as most of them would have called themselves just a few years ago. And the thing that unifies them, the main ideological principle that makes them not just Arabs but Palestinian is that they want our land, all of it, and they want us gone one way or another. That is the overriding national goal to which all the rest – economics, politics, culture, education, technology, sport – every human enterprise in which they participate – is subordinated.

I am not going to go into why they are wrong and how they got where they are or who did what to whom. I am satisfied with our moral position as Zionists. I accept the challenge of my left-wing friends who always say that they don’t want to talk about history, they want to know how to fix the situation today. Fine, let’s discuss that.

For the purpose of this discussion, it’s enough to understand that the Palestinians are our enemy in a war between peoples, like the biblical people of Israel and Amalek. Today, they have taken up the banner of Amalek. They have defined themselves as the archenemy of the Jewish people.

Have the Jews forgotten Amalek? It seems so. You can’t compromise with such an enemy because the question at issue is whether or not your people will continue to exist. He says no, you say yes. There is no common ground: the logical intersection of what he wants and what you can accept is empty. The only law that provides an answer is the Law of the Jungle.

One of the favorite plans of those who have forgotten Amalek is to divide the land. “Then they will have their own country and they will live peacefully alongside us.” But why would they, when their goal is not to live peacefully with us, but to end our existence? Dividing the land (especially given the geography of the Middle East) just makes it easier for them. Have they ever done anything with land they control than use it to make war on us? Dividing the land is the most irrational thing we could do!

If you succeed in driving Amalek out of your land, you don’t let him come back because he promises to consider living at peace with you. Of course he lies – he wants to kill you, why do you expect him to tell you the truth? You don’t sign papers or shake hands with him. You crush him.

It isn’t true that peace is made between enemies, as Rabin famously said. It is made between former enemies, when one is beaten so badly that he prefers unconditional surrender to death. If you want peace, plan to be the winner, the overwhelming winner, or it will not be the kind of peace you want.

Amalek is someone who tries to kill you however he can. He is not someone to whom you give a “political horizon.” He is not someone whose economy you try to improve, or to whom you sell electricity or water. He is not someone that you provide with food and medicines. If you take prisoners – and the fewer you take, the better – you don’t free them so they can fight again. You certainly don’t provide medical treatment for the relatives of his leaders. And above all, you don’t abandon the land and expel your own people from it.

Is it immoral to blockade civilians? What if they support the fighters? Unfortunately, this is part of war. Never forget that Amalek started the war and could choose to end it. Remember what his objective is and what ours is. Is it immoral to shoot a wounded prisoner? What if he tried to kill you and will try again if he recovers? It isn’t moral to be merciful to Amalek. It doesn’t make you a better person. It isn’t going to make him like you and it gives him another chance to kill you.

***

Our war is special. Today’s Palestinian War (we could call it a continuation of the Oslo War as well, a name given to the Second Intifada), is a war between peoples where one side exists as a people only as an antithesis to the other. And this, in a nutshell, is why there is no compromise solution. A compromise would require that the Palestinians, as a nation, had other interests, other areas in which they could gain while giving up their hope of getting rid of us. But they don’t. Amalek is all they are.

Therefore, there is only one way to end the conflict, and it is for one side to be victorious over the other. May it be us.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 4 Comments