Posting: September 28, 2008
Tomorrow night begins the Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashana. It is time of serious contemplation, acknowledgement of our failings, and efforts for improvement — coupled with prayers to the Almighty that we may be dealt with in compassion.
First, I want to wish one and all a good new year: A year of health, and joy, of financial security and peace.
Additionally, I have these thoughts:
Please, one and all: Pray for the well-being and the peace of Israel. This is of special significance this year. Pray as if all of our lives truly depended upon this. For they do.
I observe as well that it is incumbent upon all Israel — the nation and the people collectively — to do that serious contemplation. We must understand where we have failed to be what we are meant to be as a people and a nation.
We are called upon to be a light unto the nations: This is not possible without deep inner integrity. We are called upon to treasure our sacred heritage and to stand strong for what this entails. But many of us have lost the way — reciting the narrative of an enemy that seeks to destroy us, and imagining that this brings us closer to the image of G-d.
Please, G-d, let the coming year be one of Tshuva — return to what we are meant to be — for the people and the nation.
May the Almighty keep us safe, and bring the downfall of our enemies.
Here’s a start on where to improve as a nation:
Avi Dichter, Internal Security Minister, who ran in the Kadima primaries, made a statement on that process last night:
“… how shocking it was to see the beautiful democratic process called primaries turn into a different event than we wanted to see.
“… political corruption? Under no circumstances [will I accept it]. We will uproot political criminality. We will fight corruption and corrupt individuals with all our might and with the force of the law.
“The number of polling stations where voting conditions were simply scandalous was too high. In quite a few polling stations, people who hold official positions in Kadima were walking around and crudely getting involved not in how to vote, but rather, whom to vote for.”
Kadima is the most corrupt party Israel has ever seen. It is to the good that Dichter identified the problem. But the over-riding question is what is to be done about it. Is Livni’s election going to be allowed to stand so that, corruptly selected, she becomes the prime minister if she can put together a coalition?
Here’s another internal matter that is enormously sensitive.
Last week a small pipe bomb was placed outside the home of Professor Ze’ev Sternhell of Hebrew University, who was slightly wounded. It is being said — although I have not yet seen firm evidence on this — that it was done by the extreme right wing here.
I make it clear here that I do not endorse such behavior.
But the fact is that the situation is far more complicated than mainstream media reports would have you believe. For Sternhell has actually endorsed Palestinian violence against Jews, as long as they live beyond the Green Line. (With thanks to David Bedein for calling this to my attention.)
Sternhell wrote in Ha’aretz on May 11, 2001:
“… Many in Israel, perhaps even the majority of the voters, do not doubt the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves. The Palestinians would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements… and strictly refrain from firing on Gilo, Nahal Oz or Sderot; it would also be smart to stop planting bombs to the west of the Green Line.”
And he has maintained this position since. Yet there was never any action taken against him for incitement of our enemies to kill Jews.
How beleaguered then do those living beyond the Green Line feel. They must stand not only against our external enemies but also against those of our own people who have — as mentioned above — adopted the narrative of our enemy. Even in many quarters where there is no call for violence against those living in Judea and Samaria, there is an inherent and unreasonable bias against them, which makes short shrift of their rights and their dedication to our heritage.
Finally. Have been waiting for this:
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has sent a letter to all government ministers clarifying the fact that the resignation of Olmert forces the resignation of all ministers. From this point until there is a new coalition formed, the ministers are part of a transition government, which is required to exercise restrain “regarding decision-making on non-routine issues requiring immediate attention during this interim period.”
Now let’s see how this is interpreted. Wrote Mazuz: “… when such non-routine issues come up, ministers must conduct preliminary inquiries into the matter with the Attorney General’s office, before reaching a decision.”
Last Friday was the annual “Jerusalem Day” in Iran, held every year since the 1979 revolution on the last Friday of Ramadan. A national day to demonstrate Shiite solidarity with the Palestinians (who are Sunni) and Shiite support of the goal to ’emancipate’ Jerusalem from Israel, it drew thousands to Teheran to hear speakers who voiced the hope of breaking “the spirit of the Zionists.”
A book containing 52 caricatures of the Holocaust was on display.
Good news in closing:
The United States has transferred to Israel — via a convoy of 12 planes — a new,advanced high-powered X-band radar system that will enormously improve Israel’s reaction time to any attempted Iranian missile strike. It is capable of tracking an object the size of a baseball from 4,700 kilometers away (which transcends my comprehension), and will allow us to engage a Shahab-3 ballistic missile six times sooner than is possible with our current radar.
The radar, according to Defense News Magazine, will be linked to the US Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS), which receives and processes data transmitted by US Defense Support System satellites.
So the US, while not supporting enhancement of our ability to take on Iran, is supporting an increased capacity for us to defend ourselves.
The system was accompanied by a US military crew that will be stationed here permanently to lend operational support.
Posting: September 27, 2008
Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
“Iran, the UN, and More”
According to a story in The Guardian (UK) late this past week, European sources who claimed to have been in touch with Olmert said that Olmert raised the issue of an Israeli strike on Iran with President Bush when he visited here for our 60th celebrations in May And Bush was opposed. His fears, reportedly, were that there would be repercussions on the US and possibly the ignition of a war. As we would have to fly over Iraqi airspace controlled by the US, it would be difficult for us to accomplish this mission without at least tacit US approval.
Olmert’s spokesman has since denied this story, which tells us nothing, actually.
Whatever the truth of this particular story, I’m picking up multiple reports about European unease about an Israeli strike on Iran as well. There seems a growing resignation of the fact that Iran will go nuclear.
Put simply, this is not acceptable from an Israeli perspective. Not when a maniac in Iran is speaking forthrightly about destroying the Jewish State.
The prospect, however, should not be of concern only to us: It will impinge upon Europe and upset the balance of power in the Middle East in significant ways.
But the irony is that if we move against Iran, it is Israel and only Israel that will take heat internationally.
If a military operation is to be avoided, other means of stopping Iran have to be utilized. Face to face diplomacy won’t do it, nor will “deals.” Serious sanctions of a sort that has not yet been applied must be put into place — foremost here, the blocking of all refined oil into the country, which would cause an internal collapse.
Such sanctions will not come from the UN, as Russia has declared unwillingness to support further Security Council sanctions. Action must come — swiftly and decisively — from the US and the EU.
Dr. Joel Fishman, fellow with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has written a piece in Front Page Magazine called “Seventy Years Since the Munich Agreement,” which echoes so much for us today in what we are confronting.
Fishman quotes historian Martin Gilbert who wrote that:
“Appeasement was rooted in the belief that human nature could not be entirely overwhelmed by evil, that even the most dangerous looking situation could be ameliorated and that the most irascible politician could be placated, if treated with respect.”
This speaks to the heart of the debate (reflected, literally, in the debate between McCain and Obama) on whether dialogue with Iran would be constructive. It is a reflection of the difference in worldview between the liberal and the conservative: the issue of whether there is consummate evil in the world or whether we are, in our essence, all alike.
As to this last, allow me to cite Steven Stalinsky, executive director of MEMRI, writing in National Review, who tells us that in a battle in 636, the commander of the Muslim forces, one Khalid ibn Al-Walid, sent a emissary to the commander of the Persian troops he was soon to confront. His message:
“… you should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life.”
Stalinsky says this account is recited in Muslim sermons, newspapers, and textbooks today. And indeed, those of us who follow the words of our enemies have seen the refrain many times — repeated by leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah:
“We will win because, just as our enemies love life, we love death.”
The recognition that there are people who truly think this way chills to the bone. Especially as we Jews are commanded from the Torah to “choose life.”
But if this thinking is embraced by leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, how much more so by the leaders of Iran. It is what makes them so terrifying.
And I am frightened because I don’t see that the world is waking up to this reality.
On Thursday night, a “peace” dinner was hosted for Ahmadinejad by a number of religious groups, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. The title of the evening — “Has Not One God Created Us? The Significance of Religious Contributions to Peace” — reflects that confidence that at heart we are all the same, and the sponsors of the event were all left-wing groups: American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace and the World Council of Churches – United Nations Liaison Office. It is my understanding that one “new age” rabbi was also present.
These people are more than simply deluded, they do damage when they give credence to Ahmadinejad and enhance his stature.
What is heartening is that over 60 different groups rallied against this dinner; their stated mission was to deny the regime in Iran false legitimacy.
While there were, of course, Jewish groups such as ZOA and AFSI represented, a good number of those participating were not Jewish. There were, for example, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and Christian Solidarity International. But also Muslim (and even Iranian) groups such as: Stop Shariah Now and Alliance of Iranian Women. Participating with them was Aryeh Eldad, Israeli Member of Knesset (NU/NRP).
Inside, at the dinner, one of the speakers in addition to Ahmadinejad was Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, former Nicaraguan foreign affairs minister, who is now president of the General Assembly of the UN.
This is not a complete surprise. After Ahmadinejad gave his speech to the General Assembly, Brockmann had warmly embraced him.
David Ben Gurion is famous for having referred to the UN contemptuously as “oom, shmoom” (oom being a short-hand for UN in Hebrew). He doesn’t know how right he was.
Iran — this is not a typo — may soon be elected for a term on the Security Council, as a seat for an Asian country will open up in January. “Absurd” is what Livni called this prospect.
Of course, it’s probably no more absurd than the reported decision of Secretary-General Moon to demand that Israel pay $1 billion in damages to Lebanon for the 2006 war.
Or the discussion in the Security Council — requested by the Arab League — regarding growth of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
And we’ve still got Durban II — Heaven help us! — coming down the road.
Posting: September 26, 2008
“Not a Done Deal”
At least not yet: The coalition agreement between Kadima and Labor. According to my information, this is the scenario as it’s playing out so far:
Barak had criticized Livni in various regards before the primary. But when Livni, uneasy about a Barak-Netanyahu meeting, decided to more actively entice him into a coalition with Kadima, he expressed interest. “A full partnership” was what she was said to be offering.
But the terms of understanding still had to be hammered out.
Livni knew she wasn’t coming from strength because she had won the Kadima primary with such a slim margin, and Barak was enticed in part because he felt there was a great deal he would be able to demand. Negotiations — which included some secret talks between representatives of the parties in addition to the public meetings — went well to a point, but have hit snags.
Barak has now told his faction that he was “very far from joining the government” and that he was “not interested in a short-term government that would last only a few months or a collapsing coalition of 60 MKs.” And indeed this has been an issue: Not whether Livni can patch together a coalition, but whether it will be stable enough to last for two years.
Barak says he will go to elections if he’s not convinced she can do this. But Barak says lots of things.
He defines a “real partnership” as being “… everything that there was in the national-unity governments of the 1980s except for a rotation at the Prime Minister’s Office.” It’s a solid bet that he’s not going to get this, and the question remains as to whether he’ll settle for less.
His request for a 2.5% increase in the State budget to boost the Defense Ministry budget and increase spending for retirees, university students, and immigrants has been turned down. As was his request to head the negotiating team dealing with Syria. He expressed concern about the need for more work regarding sanctions on Iran — an implied criticism of Livni, as this has fallen within her bailiwick as foreign minister.
I should mention here that the Kadima court has rejected an appeal for a temporary injunction that would have invalidated the results of the Kadima primary. This is not a surprise.
An October 5 date has been set, however, for a hearing regarding demands for a new primary or a recount because of alleged irregularities, that include such things as more people voting at one polling station than were registered at that station. I am too cynical to feel confident that anything will come of this. But — if the evidence of major irregularities is strong — who knows?
The evidence that the PA is not a negotiating partner is close to endless. This is the latest, from Palestinian Media Watch (www.pmw.org.il ):
“[a] music video currently broadcast on Palestinian Television denies any historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem:
“Oh [Sons of] Zion, no matter how much you dig and no matter how much you destroy, your imaginary Temple will not come into being.”
The repeated refrain, “Al-Aksa is ours,” is meant to emphasize this statement… And the inciteful fabrication that we are planning on destroying the Al-Aksa mosque is repeated. Clips show Jews wearing kippahs, Israeli police and military, Israeli excavations of Old Jerusalem, the Israeli flag, and the Western Wall. The lyrics accompanying this say,
“How you [Al-Aksa] suffer! How you have bled for years! How you scream! How you call out to the millions!”
PA TV, which is under the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, ran this on the day we suffered a terrorist attack in Jerusalem this week
A matter of serious concern.
The Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco has just released a lengthy report on a five year study on textbooks in the US. According to a summary of the report:
“It is shocking to discover that history and geography textbooks widely used in America’s elementary and secondary classrooms contain some of the very same inaccuracies about Christianity, Judaism and the Middle East as those [used] in Iran.”
Researchers Dr. Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra examined the 28 most widely-used history, geography and social studies textbooks in America, — books used by tens of millions of schoolchildren in all 50 states — and found some 500 instances of “errors, inaccuracies and even propaganda” on these matters.
“Textbooks include negative stereotypes of Jews, Judaism and Israel. For example, textbooks tend to discredit the ties between Jews and the land of Israel.”
Most troubling is this situation that Ybarra describes::
“The textbooks tend to be critical of Jews and Israel, disrespectful about Christianity, and rather than represent Islam in an objective way, tend to glorify it. Textbook publishers often defer completely to Muslim groups for their content [on Islam] because they want to be sensitive to Muslim concerns.”
This story, which first appeared in The Jerusalem Post, can be found on IMRA at:
Please read the entire lengthy piece, which explains more about what is happening, and give thought to what can be done to address this.