What have we been fighting for?

If ever there was an example of throwing the baby out with the bath water, the frantic desire of the ‘progressive’ camp to make an agreement — any agreement at any cost — with the Palestinians is it.

Look at what the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is sending to its base as its “Ten Minutes of Torah” [!] offering today. It’s an article from a (where else?) San Francisco Jewish newsweekly called J. It begins with a false equivalence:

One would be hard pressed to find Jews who do not value the Torah and the Holy Land. Every square inch of biblical Israel is significant to the Jewish people. But many of those same biblical sites are just as important to Palestinians. And there’s the rub.

One could easily argue that in fact these sites are not as important to Islam as to Judaism, and that the Palestinians have just created another club to beat Israel with.  But why bother; making them “Jewish Heritage sites” does not assert that they are exclusively Jewish. Arab objections, on the other hand, imply — and in many cases explicitly assert — that they wholly belong to Islam.

The Palestinians have consistently denied Jewish claims to any holy sites, including and especially in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat claimed — and today, Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah insists — that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Backing down on this issue lends credence to these absurd and insulting claims, just like backing down on the issue of building in East Jerusalem buttresses the Arab and American claim that Israel is not sovereign in Jerusalem.

We understand why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as Jewish historical sites warranting new funding for upkeep. However, we question his timing. Because both sites are in the West Bank, the declaration deepened Palestinian suspicions that Israel is insincere about a peace deal that would transfer parts of the West Bank to a new Palestinian state.

Israel should be doing everything reasonable to bring the Palestinians to the table. This just gives them an easy excuse to say “no.”

They have no problem finding excuses to say “no.” They grabbed at the opportunity to say “no” after the Obama Administration raised the issue of the settlement freeze. They are saying “no” because they know that the Obama Administration has not yet gone far enough to agree with them that the Arab refugees may ‘return’ to Israel proper, and they are not prepared to compromise on this in negotiations.

The Palestinians are doing everything they can to do nothing while putting the blame on Israel, so that the US and the rest of the ‘international community’ will force more and more concessions out of Israel. Thus they jumped on the settlement  freeze, thus they jumped on construction of any kind in East Jerusalem, and thus they have chosen to make an issue of the holy places — what could be better, a religious issue, to inflame their constituency even more, and to score fervor-points against Hamas.

Israel has long understood that the bumpy road to peace has required painful sacrifices. Giving up the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, not to mention the release of hundreds of jailed Palestinian terrorists over the years, attest to that.

Thus it makes little sense to make this declaration now. Not because we dispute the historical significance of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb. That is beyond measure. But such a declaration has real consequences on the ground. Israel would certainly renovate the sites, spurring tourism and perhaps prompting more Jewish settlement. Despite a government spokesman saying the declaration does not change the status quo, in fact it does.

Palestinian protests quickly erupted in Hebron, and they may spread. In the near term, this could cause Israel security headaches. Or worse.

Yes, Israel has given up a lot in the past, and the results have been zero or negative. One would think that this would be an argument that Israel should not give up anything further until it begins to get something in return. The writer, though, draws the opposite conclusion. He or she thinks that Israel should make almost any concession — even if the significance of what is demanded is “beyond measure” — because it would be a pity if all the previous sacrifices were shown to be in vain.

A very poor argument, which implies that one should always throw good money after bad.

And what determines when Israel should fold? Clearly not the ‘historical’ significance — note that the writer studiously avoids the words ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ — but only the reaction of the Palestinians! Although the significance of these places is “beyond measure,” the minute the rocks and firebombs start flying, we are expected to surrender.

Do we really want to enshrine as an axiom the principle that the Palestinians get to define what is important to us by their bad behavior?

In truth, this is the worst kind of issue to give in on. By doing so, Israel grants the Arabs possession of the historic and spiritual tradition of the land of Israel. It’s true that most Israelis are secular, and apparently it’s true that Reform Judaism — or at least the “Ten Minutes of Torah” editor — thinks that these sites are irrelevant to the claim of modern, high-tech Israel to exist. But then there’s no longer a reason for the Jewish state to be here, rather than, say, Uganda. And if the tomb of Rachel is really only the ‘Bilal Mosque’ then maybe there isn’t a Jewish people at all, and we can all go live in Los Angeles and Brooklyn.

What have we been fighting for for the past century?

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7 Responses to “What have we been fighting for?”

  1. levari says:

    whatever the ultimate agreement, it will be painful for both sides. but being conciliatory to the point of refusing to map out our demands ‘because they are so obvious they go w/o saying’ is what is destroying the obama administration. our millenia-long history in israel has left many landmarks of undeniable emotional and religious significance, and we’re not going to relinquish them for the sake of kowtowing to murderers, and to not talk about them is childish and absurd, and diminishes both parties. good point about the money pit.
    that said, i can’t help but be reminded of dali’s excellent painting:


  2. Robman says:

    Vic, I can only hope that your blog is circulated as far and as wide as possible. You articulate the issues involved in a manner that is as good as or better than anything else I’ve seen.

    Unfortunately, it is now up to people like you, in venues like these, to get the truth out. The national and international level traditional print and broadcast media around the world actively suppress such views; the Arabs clearly own them. Even on FOX, the commentators whom one might expect to stick up for Israel, or at least give them a fair shake – i.e., Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck – studiously avoid this issue. Once in a great while, Glenn Beck will put in a positive plug in Israel’s favor; he is the only one with the guts to even do this.

    The rest appear to be under orders from their bosses: “If you don’t have anything BAD to say about Israel, don’t say anything at all!” Biden was just in Israel, this is clearly the number one foreign policy issue for Obama just after the war in Afghanistan – if not even ahead of that – and not a PEEP from these guys. They’ll criticize Obama on ANY other issue – Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, cap and trade, you name it – but not a word on Israel. It is downright eerie, and frightening.

    SO, I recommend to all who read this to forward Vic’s blog to your list, as I have, and otherwise, to get involved at the grassroots level as much as possible. Forward other comparable blogs; another good e-newsletter is Sarah Stern’s EMET (Endowment for Middle East Truth) out of D.C. Write letters to your newspaper, send e-mails to FOX, CNN, etc., to protest their shameful treatment of this issue. Don’t be afraid to call them out for the Arab whores that they are; the more they see that this dynamic is being exposed, the more they’ll be forced to reconsider their perfidy. And of course, write your elected representatives if you don’t already. Tell them what a farce this “settlements” issue really is, and that recognition is the REAL issue. Many of them already know this…and they need to hear from us to reinforce the courage of their convictions on this issue.

    Don’t count on others to do these things, and don’t refrain just because you heard someone else say the same thing. Take a lesson from the other side: volume counts for as much as veracity. There just aren’t enough of us around for us to be able to afford people sitting on the sidelines. The longer we wait to take action, THE HARDER IT WILL BE TO DO SO.

    The traditional Jewish advocacy organizations – e.g,. AIPAC – have all but collapsed in terms of effectiveness. They are failing us, for the most part. Harrassment by our own government – e.g., the arrest of AIPAC officials on trumped-up charges a few years ago – have cowed them. And other traditional voices for the community, such as the URJ, well, Vic’s piece above pretty much sums up what they are worth. With friends like these…

    Final thought: Last and most, do not be reluctant to engage in Israel advocacy just because you are afraid of being accused of “dual loyalty”. I’m probably preaching to the choir with this particular audience, but for the benefit of the more passive members of this audience whose passivity has such roots, you must remember that in the current war we – the West – are now fighting, Israel is to this war what West Berlin was to the Cold War. We were willing to incinerate the whole of the northern hemisphere over West Berlin; giving in to the Soviets over Berlin would not have ended the Cold War one day sooner – instead it would have emboldened them and lengthened the war – and so too appeasement of the Arabs/Moslems over Israel is self-defeating in the extreme. We stood up to the Soviets over Berlin, I think we can stand up to the medieval, dysfunctional Arab/Moslems of SW Asia over Israel.

    Sticking up for Israel is in fact one of the most partriotic things you can do, not only as Jew, but as an American, or even as a member of the civilized world community.

  3. Robman says:

    Um, in that last paragraph, “patriotic”, not “partriotic”. And, “as a Jew”, not “as Jew”. Got pretty far that time without typos……

  4. Shalom Freedman says:

    I agree with Robman’s assessment that this site FresnoZionism and Vic Rosenthal set out the issues, and define the reality in a way second to none. What frustrates among other things, is the stubborn stupidity of all those who believe they are doing Israel a favor by ‘pushing it’ to peace. Their totally unrealistic reading of the Middle East reality is shameful. Where have they been all these years? Do they have no knowledge whateover of the Arab societies and media, of what these people really say and think?

  5. Robman says:

    Shalom Freedman:

    Buddy, except among a segment that one might describe as naive “useful idiots” (e.g., Rachel Corrie), you can bet that among the “powers that be” inside the journalistic organizations, the halls of government, and in academia, many key people know very well what they are doing.

    Either they are 1) actively promoting the Arab/Moslem agenda in an openly sectarian and amoral fashion (e.g., Rashid Khalidi), 2) they are knee-jerk 60s leftover hippies who see this issue as yet another platform from which to bash the “establishment” (e.g., Noam Chomsky), or 3) they are self-described foreign policy “realists” who intend to sacrifice Israel on the altar of the demands of so-called “moderate” Arabs/Moslems so as to gain their cooperation in fighting the “extremist’ Moslems (e.g., John Mearsheimer). Or, 4) they are simply “on the take”…i.e., they are lining their pockets with petrodollars by means of bashing Israel (e.g., Gwynne Dyer, or Human Rights Watch). A possible combination of all four motives might be contained in one vessel: Barack Hussein Obama (or, “Neville Carter Hussein Obama”, as I like to call him).

    In all fairness though, as bad as Obama is, he is not 100% anti-Israel. I have seen credible reports of greatly increased military cooperation with Israel under his administration compared with Bush, and I’ve heard blurbs from Obama admin. officials wondering why the press does not cover these aspects of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, but only the negative. I would say that the media is even worse than Obama, that they are “egging him on”, at the behest of their petrodollar pimps.

    At any rate, this does not so much represent an “unrealistic” reading of the Mideast as much as it represents a highly rationalized form of craven cowardice, and even outright base corruption. It has little to do with any sort of rational or just interpretation of this situation.

    You ask “where have they been” all these years? They have been on our “elite” – and even not-so-elite – college campuses, having their brains stuffed with all of this pro-Palestinian nonsense by Middle East Studies Departments endowed by Sheikh Guess Who, who decides through proxies like the good Dr. Khalidi what gets taught, and by whom, and what point of view (that would be ours) absolutely is suppressed. That is, if they are not directly soliciting $$$ from Saudi royals or Iranian operatives, advertising themselves as opponents of Israel. Hey, it sure beats working!

    Think about it, Shalom. Consider all the sorts of organizations that depend heavily on donors to keep afloat: universities, religious organizations (e.g., Presbytarian Church, United Church of Canada), politicians, public radio. Also stop to consider how precarious the balance sheet is for many news organizations, like the NYT, and many other newspapers. Who has millions of petrodollars to throw around at this, just waiting for willing recipients to do their bidding?

    We know this is happening. It was revealed in the case of HRW back in 2009, and I’m sure that is the tip of the iceberg. I have no proof in the case of Gwynne Dyer, but if you are familiar with his work, I’m sure you’d agree that the Iranians could not get a better spokesman for their agenda. If he isn’t being paid by them, he ought to be. And I’m sure you’ve heard about the divestment campaigns coming out of places like the United Church of Canada that was just barely turned back…What dog do they have in this fight? Can minimally educated, informed people really be so ignorant as to the abysmal human rights record of Israel’s adversaries? I simply don’t buy that they come to their stands against Israel innocently. No way. Especially, when you consider how comparatively rare this sort of activity was even 20 years ago. What has changed?

    Conversely, why, on national/international-level media, do we virtually NEVER hear points of view like Vic’s promoted by pundits? Does Vic or you or I have some esoteric, unique access to information that virtually the whole of the journalistic community is unaware of? How can they be so unanimously, uniformly ignorant? You might perceive my rant here has conspiracy-mongering, but what makes more sense? My theory, or just random, coincidental, complete ignorance on the part of legions of journalists, politicians, college professors, etc., etc.?

    This is one of the great scandals of our times. These are tactics that were first developed by the Vietnamese communists during the 1960s, whom Arafat visited during that time in order to get tactical advice. Everything that is being done to Israel today, was being done to us in Vietnam then. Terrorism, suicide bombers, child warriors, hiding behind civilians in order to deliberately get us to inflict casualties on them, aggression by ruthless thugs cast as “national liberation”…the works. Only today, the bad guys pursuing this agenda have refined the tactics involved to an even greater degree, have been at it a lot longer, and have a lot more money to spend on it.

    And the punchline: It is all LEGAL. What happens if the editor of the NYT, say, is discovered to have been taking $$$ under the table so as to promote an anti-Israel line? He loses his reputation. He might get fired. Their pitiful readership will shrink even further. But he won’t go to jail. These operations are low-risk, and very cost-effective.

    Before we all despair too much, though, we might consider that the Soviets used similar tools during the Cold War; they called them “active measures” and were quite open about doing this, though obviously, they would not name names. I remember those days, the Soviet apologist journalists and academics, it wasn’t too hard for me to figure out who was probably who. But the Soviets still lost the Cold War.

    What is most depressing to me in all of this, though, which brings us back to Vic’s article of today, is the disunity among our own people over this. I expect the Arabs and Moslems to behave like the enemy, for that is what they are. It doesn’t surprise me that some Americans and other Westerners, who are not Jewish, who have nothing they perceive to be immediately at stake (even though they do; the Islamists are their enemies as much as they are Israel’s), conveniently try to scapegoat the Jews out of bigotry or take money to do so or both. But that so many of our fellow Jews don’t “get it”, that pains me enormously. It makes it ten times harder for us to fight back effectively.

  6. levari says:

    shalom, obama is a very nice man, very noble man, with the best interests of peace and decent people at heart. so was chamberlain. this is what drives me absolutely wild with anxiety about the fate of the powerless poor in this country as well as israel.
    as for the disunity of our own people, our history of this is as long as the history of judaism itself. golden calf? saducees? the enlightened reform movement that led directly to the holocaust (had we not been practicing a politics of appeasement, i believe more jews would have escaped and fought the nazis instead of sitting around hoping for the best and believing in human decency). fortunately, we also have the blessed curmudgeons and heroes in our midst, to whom we should all listen before things get out of hand. bud is right. forward this blog to as many people as possible. i do.

  7. Robman says:

    Chamberlain had a better excuse. In 1938, he didn’t know if he could count on the U.S., what with our “America First” movement. At that time, our army was the 16th largest in the world, behind Greece.

    He was facing a Germany under Hitler that was both economically and militarily stronger than he was. Only twenty years before – and consider that it has also been just about twenty years since Gulf War One; how time flies – Britain had lost a whole generation of young men in the trenches of Europe. In hindsight, it is easy to judge Chamberlain as a patsy and a fool, but from the frame of reference he had, it is not hard to see his reluctance to confront the Nazi juggernaut.

    The Arab/Moslems of SW Asia pose no such threat. They do not yet have nuclear weapons, except for Pakistan, and I’m sure we have contingency plans to seize/disarm them as need be. India, I have no doubt, would be happy to help us deal with them if it came to that. Iran’s economy is puny, about the size of Ohio’s, their navy is almost nonexistent, and their air force still relies primarly on 1970s technology warplanes. Saudia has more advanced weapons, but I’ve served alongside their officers, I have a brother-in-law who worked there for three years, and I can assure you, they are not a serious military power.

    We could destroy their Islamist movement, WW2-style, with far less sacrifice than what we had to make 70 years ago. Yes, there would be dislocations, and we’d take casualties. It would be the biggest war since WW2, but it would not be nearly as bad as that. But when our troops are marching through the streets of Mecca, it would be OVER.

    Israel or no Israel, it is going to come to that someday. The question is how many more 9-11s it will take – i.e., how many more innocent civilians in Western societies – are going to have to die before we discover the resolve we need to solve this problem.

    I am not nearly as charitable in my estimation of Obama as Levari is above. I am about the same age as Obama, and I went to schools of comparable prestige during comparable time frames as Obama. I know his kind very well. He is not such a “decent” man. He is a craven coward, an amoral elitist, and a left-wing anti-establishment twit who now constitutes the “establishment”. He is utterly out of his depth, having been protected from failure his whole life by a phalanx of butt-kissers who have told him for the whole of his life that his doo-doo doesn’t stink. Now he has to perform, and the only ideas he brings to the table, the only mental preparation he has, is sitting around student lounges coming up with asinine ideas, reveling with his cohorts, saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?!”

    Look at all the clowns like Van Jones he has surrounded himself with. People wonder, “Where is the vetting process?”…Um, helloooo, the “vetting process” is working just fine! This is just what he wants! All Van Jones represents is Obama with his hair down (figuratively speaking, of course). The problem is not with his people; the problem is at the top.

    It is going to be a long, long three years.

    And our Jews voted for him in droves. I can’t get over that.