Posting: November 20, 2008


It seems fairly pervasive. And I’ll provide just two examples here, both touching on issues I’ve raised in the last day or two:

In response to increased launching of rockets from Gaza, Defense Minister Barak placed a closure on Gaza several days ago. Barak, however, has now received an official IDF assessment saying that the closures are not hurting Hamas at all, because it is using the dozens of tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor to bring in whatever they wish (other than fuel).

Yet in spite of the fact that what is being done is not proving effective, the closures will remain in effect. Explained a ministry of defense official:

“We cannot allow the Palestinians to fire rockets into our cities without a response.”

This really inspires confidence that our cities are well defended, does it not?

To understand this statement, however, you must read the subtext: We don’t want to do a major military operation into Gaza, but if we do nothing we’ll be pressured in that direction. And so, we re instituting the closures. Even though they have no effect on Hamas, they give the Israeli people the impression that we’re tough.

One might weep from this.


And then we have the on-going situation with Beit HaShalom in Hevron. Today I noted a piece on this subject that ran on YNet, written by Dror Etkes, who is with the very far left Yesh Din organization. The title of the piece: “Yet another illegal settlement.” Subtitle: “Takeover of disputed Hebron home another illegal attempt to create new settlement.” Huh?

Yes, lunacy, but studied lunacy with an agenda. I am sharing it here to show what the good people of Hevron contend with in terms of accusations. Why call Beit HaShalom an “illegal settlement”? Because these are buzz words intended to immediately defame and delegitimize.

Etkes speaks of displacing Palestinians who have lived in the area for generations and secret plots by the Jews.


Because positions such as his are so often encountered in the media (and YNet was content to run this), I thought it important to touch very briefly on the facts and the background here.

The Jewish connection to Hevron is impeccable and ancient. It begins with the Torah and Avraham’s purchase there of a burial cave and surrounding fields. It continues with King David, who was anointed king there and ruled from that city for seven years. Judah Maccabee did battle in Hevron in the second century BCE, when the city was re-established as Jewish, following destruction of the First Temple. In Second Temple times, Herod built the huge structure that stands atop the original burial caves, which remains to this day.

In the two millennia since, there has been a pattern of Jews holding fast to this city — either as a remnant people or in larger numbers, at different historical times. I cannot but merely mention this complex history here: In the 15th and 16th centuries, Sephardi Jews from Spain and Portugal established a vibrant community that lasted for 400 years. They were joined by Kabbalists and then in the late 17th and early 18th century by Ashkenazi Jews including Lubavitch Hassidim. A major synagogue had been constructed, and other substantial buildings, within a Jewish quarter. There was scholarship and commerce.


The destruction of this ancient and venerable community came with the Arab massacres of 1929.

The violence was instigated by the Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who later became an active supporter of the Nazis. He was, it should be noted, the mentor of Yasser Arafat.

The Mufti’s goal, quite simply, was the elimination of the Jewish community of Hevron. To that end he instigated and made false charges that Jews had set fire to the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Just as the Islamic Movement of Israel makes similar charges today.)

The Arab rioting began following inflammatory sermons and went on for hours, with the indiscriminate slaughter of women, children and the aged. The rioters, wielding weapons, went from house to house, crying, “Slaughter the Jews.”

The British, who controlled the area under the Mandate for Palestine, decided it was easier to move the survivors out of Hevron than to defend them. Thus the ancient community came to an end.


When the British pulled out, and the War of Independence was over, the Jordanians controlled the area, and they made it entirely Judenrein. No re-establishment of the ancient community was possible.

This possibility arose only after 1967, when Israel gained control of Judea, and of Hevron. And even then, there were difficulties as successive governments showed considerable reluctance to cooperate.

A core of committed and courageous people has persisted, however. They have been called kooks, and worse, but they have a vision that is solid. They understand that the legacy that is Hevron and the Ma’arat Hamachpelah — the Cave of the Patriarchs — cannot be abandoned. Not if we are to hold our heads up and claim our rightful place in this land. Not if we are to remember who we are.

There is no way to surrender our heritage because of Arab violence. And they know full well that no Jew would be permitted to pray at the Machpelah if not for the presence of the Jewish community there. Influential Muslims in the area have conceded as much. (Look what happened when the Tomb of Joseph was turned over to the PA and subsequently vandalized and destroyed.) They know, as well, that our claim to Jerusalem is weakened if Hevron is relinquished.

Ultimately, the people returned to the area that was the old Jewish Quarter of Hevron, and they acquired buildings that had been Jewish. Acquired them through meticulous legal processes and purchases — not via illegal seizures. They acquired other buildings for residential purposes legally as well


With the unfortunate advent of Oslo and its subsequent agreements, much of Hevron was officially turned over to the PA. But not all of it. There is an official agreement — signed by Binyamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat — with regard to a division of the city, with one portion — roughly 20% — controlled by Israel; it includes the Machpelah and what was the old Jewish Quarter. Jews have a right to live there. Understand: Jews have a right to live there. This is not remotely an “illegal settlement.”

Actually, the Jewish community of Hevron felt threatened by this agreement, as the Arabs were irritated that they hadn’t gotten the whole city, and represented the Jews as interlopers. There has been Arab violence over the years — none more horrendous than the murder in 2001 of ten month old Shalhevet Pass, who was shot by a sniper on a nearby hill who aimed directly at her head.

As to the building under question now, which is firmly and solidly within the area under Israeli control: No one was living in it for years before the Jews moved in. No Arabs were displaced. Understand this as well.


I am absolutely convinced of the legitimacy of the Jewish purchase of Beit HaShalom, just as I am convinced of the insidious political motivations of the government officials who would push out the residents now. For a detailed run down of the legal issues, you might want to see the Hebron website at:

I am not confident that justice will be done in this matter, just as justice has not been done in several similar incidents over the years. But I am confident that the Jewish community of Hevron will persist. The very least we can do for them is to understand their position and to salute their courage.

What is encouraging is that a greater number of Israeli citizens, not resident in Hevron, have gotten weary with what is going on and are ready to stand with them.


Right now the IDF is saying they may forcibly evacuate the building after Shabbat — as many visitors are expected over Shabbat because of the Torah reading regarding Avraham’s purchase of the cave.

I have also noted that Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen is urging that nothing be done until after the elections in February:

“This is an explosive public issue that could lead to the worst of all. Dealing with this crisis should be to the point and disconnected from any political influences.” (emphasis added)

To which I say Amen.


Posting: November 19, 2008

“Beit HaShalom”

Beit HaShalom, or Peace House, is a four-story building in Hevron — along the main road called Worshippers’ Way that runs from Kiryat Arba to the Ma’arat Hamachpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) — that was purchased by Jews in 2005. Since March 2007, twenty families have lived in this house, which is now the center of a major dispute. There are serious and painful implications to what is taking place.

In spite of clear legal documentation that the building had been purchased from a Palestinian by the Jewish community via a mediator, the original owner is denying that he ever sold the house. (It must be noted that it is a serious, potentially capital offense in the PA for an Arab to sell land to a Jew — which fact provides context to his denials.)

In the course of proceedings, the Jewish community of Hevron submitted a tape recording, made without coercion, in which the previous owner acknowledges having sold his property. The courts declined to listen to this recording. Ultimately the issue made its way to the High Court, which on Sunday ruled that civil courts must make the final decision, but that in the meantime, the residents of the house had three days in which to vacate. Today was that deadline.

Please, see a more detailed description of these events by Benny Katzover:,7340,L-3625503,00.html


The issue here is one of essential justice — as the house was legally purchased and no law prevents such a purchase. It is also about the right of Jews to own property in the land of Israel.

The decisions being made here are clearly political: As Jewish Community of Hevron spokesman Noam Arnon observed, if this were not a Jewish home in Hevron, this would not be happening. That is, if the Arab ownership of a home were challenged, or if the dispute were taking place within Green Line Israel, there would not be a rush to evict residents before the dispute was resolved. In fact, from prior reading I have the distinct impression that there is solid precedent for allowing residents to remain (if they have been resident for some months) until resolution. What is more, the Court named the State, at its request, as the temporary custodian of the property, so the State could decline to force eviction.

What we are seeing here is a government and in particular a defense minister, prior to an election, making decisions that will impress left wing voters, who are being courted in an electoral battle against the more right wing Likud. It is, again, the demonization of the “settler.” The rush to appease the Arab demand. Arabs would rather see all Jews gone from Hevron, which happens to be the second holiest city in Judaism, and a city to which Jews have rights by law and agreement with the PA. What we are seeing is a readiness to trample those rights.

In my book, those Jews who are residents in Hevron are heroes, doing the work for all of Israel.

A great deal more is at stake than the rights of the 20 families — as significant as these rights are. This is part of a pattern that diminishes Jewish rights to the land and accedes in every instance to Arab demands. As the move to pull back is made, our right to be here at all is reduced. If Jews cannot live in the second holiest of our cities, then where?


What we may face, again, is the absolute obscenity of Jews evacuating Jews from their homes, as the government moves to act by sending in the IDF to forcibly evict the residents.

Those residents will not go willingly. And they will be backed by thousands who believe in the right of the residents to stay where they are. A meeting was held in preparation for what is expected to follow. Those participating in resisting the eviction, when it comes, are being called upon not to be violent. They will, however, defend themselves.

Five new families — including MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) — have moved into the building in a display of solidarity. And other MKs, prominent among them Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel (NU-NRP), have spoken out on behalf of the residents. MK Otniel Shneller (Kadima) has stated that he “has no doubt that the Peace House was bought according to the law and that it is important for the security” of Hevron. [Important because it provides a Jewish presence on the road that worshippers utilize.]


And now — at the last minute, actually — the IDF has announced a delay in its move to evacuate the building. Clearly the fear of violence was a major factor in reaching this decision. Barak will holding a meeting tomorrow to review plans for the evacuation. The Post is reporting that if the evacuation is carried out, it will be at night, some weeks from now, without prior notice so that activists will not have time to regroup.

They shouldn’t count on this however, as I expect great vigilance in this matter.


It is a great irony that our Torah reading for this Shabbat includes the story of the purchase by our father Abraham of the Cave of the Machpelah for the burial of his wife, Sarah. The first property in the land of Israel purchased with scrupulous care by the first Jew.


To voice protest about the anticipated evacuation of Beit HaShalom:

Ministry of Defense Ehud Barak Phone: 03-569-2010 — outside Israel 972-3- 569-2010 Faxes: 03-696-2757/691-6940/691-7915 — outside of Israel 972 – 3 and then the selected number. Email:

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Livni Faxes: 02-530-3367/530-3704 — outside of Israel 972-2 and then the chosen number Email:

Fax is the most effective means of communicating.


November 18, 2008

“Picking Up”

For nine days I have been away from my computer, celebrating my Mom’s 90th with family in MA. I returned today to learn that my computer will be out of commission for half of tomorrow. And so, I begin here with a brief run-down of various events, with more to follow soon.

When last I wrote, I reported on the November 5th mission of Robert Malley to Cairo and Damascus on behalf of president- elect Obama. He delivered a message, according to Middle East Newsline, of Obama’s readiness to be more responsive to Egypt’s and Syria’s concerns.

This alone is unsettling, but must be followed by additional information: Malley had been an advisor to Obama until last May But when Malley not only recommended that Hamas be dealt with directly but told The Times that he had had regular meeting with Hamas, it caused a furor. Thus it was announced that Obama had distanced himself from Malley, who would no longer serve an advisory function. Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman, said then that Malley “has no formal role in the campaign and will not play any role in the future.” (emphasis added)

But here he is now, serving on behalf of Obama. Questions — serious questions — are being raised about Obama’s integrity in this regard. It should be noted that Malley’s father Simon was of Syrian extraction, but lived in Egypt; he was passionately anti-Israel. This makes son Robert an ideal person to deliver conciliatory messages to Syrian and Egypt, and sheds light on the direction in which Obama may be going.


Regardless of Obama’s actual position regarding matters in the Middle East, perceptions also matter. From various sources I am picking up concerns that the Arab world — rightly or wrongly — sees Obama as being in their pocket. This perception can have serious implications, and I will be following this closely.

From one very knowledgeable source, we have this: “… the Muslim world — from Iran to Libya — regards President-elect Obama as its own. Even Al Qaida quietly sees Obama as a tool in Islamic expansionism.”

From an Obama aide we have a statement regarding Obama’s support for the Saudi “peace” plan, which calls for Israeli pull-back to pre-67 lines.


Also to be watched closely is the situation with regard to an escalating number of rocket attacks — with both Kassams and more dangerous Katyushas — on Sderot and neighboring areas from Gaza.

Tzipi Livni says that this situation represents a “fundamental violation” of the “ceasefire.” What she doesn’t acknowledge is that there IS no ceasefire. If the attacks continue, she declared, a response that would be “harsh and painful” would follow.

This is difficult for me to report on, because what is going on is not tolerable, not something any sovereign nation should tolerate. That “harsh and painful” response is long overdue.

Ehud Olmert talks about pressure on Hamas via keeping crossings closed. Hamas fights back here with PR that fallaciously represents the people of Gaza as enduring inhumane conditions. The fact is that humanitarian supplies are always allowed in, but the world buys into the Hamas version of events quite readily.

And Ehud Barak? He has cautioned that we should not get “carried away” because the “ceasefire” is in our best interest. Said he: “… if the Gaza factions want to resume the truce, we will consider it in a positive light.” We’re talking about more than “resumption” actually — we’re looking at the possibility of “renewal,” as the original terms are about to expire.


Here is the heart of the problem: At the Sunday Cabinet meeting, Olmert declared: “The responsibility for breaking the calm and creating a situation of recurrent continuing violence in he South lies entirely with Hamas… Let no party come to the government of Israel and claim otherwise… “

See, world, he is saying, ever so defensively, we have a right to respond, because they’re the bad ones. “They started it,” as it were. The catch is that even if they weren’t “breaking the ceasefire,” we would have a right to pre-emptive action because of the incredible strengthening of weapons and army Hamas is carrying on inside of Gaza.

An Israeli airstrike on a launching area on Sunday killed four gunmen.


An issue to be watched and explored: Who is calling the shots now, Livni or a very lame-duck Olmert? This is in regard, in particular, to the negotiations with the PA. How much weight do Olmert statements have, when Livni is on a different wave length? And to what degree will the world, and most particularly the Quartet, attempt to hold us to injudicious Olmert statements, such as a recent one stating that we really must withdraw to close to the pre-67 lines?

What undercuts Olmert most are the declarations by Abbas (this is not new) that what Olmert proposes is insufficient. Abbas still insists they must have it all.


Moshe Ya’alon — former IDF Chief of Staff fired by Sharon for his outspoken stance against the disengagement, and currently a senior distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center’s Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies — has announced that he will be running for the Knesset with the Likud.

His readiness to become politically active is most welcome, and his addition to the Likud roster continues to strengthen it.


From the inside, just yesterday, I learned that there is enormous discontent with Ehud Barak, head of Labor, from within the Labor party.


Jerusalem mayor-elect, Nir Barkat, a secular businessman, promises to bring Jerusalem a new dynamism. It is to be fervently hoped so.

Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Research Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.