Archive for June, 2011

Nakba, shmakba

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

We keep hearing that the Palestinians ‘yearn for a state’, they ‘deserve’ a state, their ‘plight’ is ‘unsustainable’, and so on. President Obama even went so far as to compare it to the Holocaust in his 2009 Cairo speech:

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust…

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.

What is implicit here is the nakba myth: that a flowering Palestinian civilization was invaded by European Jews who forcibly dispossessed them from their homes and made refugees of them. Ever since then, they yearn for ‘justice’ in the form of return.

The nakba myth is what gives legitimacy to those like the President who argue that Israel must be pressured to imperil its own security to create a Palestinian state, because ‘it’s the right thing to do’ for the Palestinian Arabs.

It is called upon to ‘explain’ or even justify Arab ‘resistance’, from ‘nonviolent’ attempts to vandalize the security fence to launching rockets at random into civilian areas, to firing antitank missiles at yellow school buses, to slitting the throats of 3-month old babies.

The nakba myth is what underlies the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state — they believe that it belongs to them. The national identity of the ‘Palestinian people’ is as closely connected to the nakba myth as that of Americans is to our Revolutionary War.

But the myth is false in very significant ways:

  1. The Zionists did not dispossess the local Arabs, forcibly or otherwise, before 1948
  2. Zionist development of the land of Israel actually caused an increase in the number and prosperity of local Arabs
  3. The exodus of Arabs from what would become Israel in 1947-48 was forcible in only in a few cases — and overall due to the decisions of their leaders and Arab neighbors

It’s also true that the Arabs practiced ethnic cleansing of Jews in eastern Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria before and during the War of Independence, and that more Jews fled Arab countries during and after the war than Arabs left Israel, but we can leave this aside for now and concentrate on the nakba.

The area that is now Israel was home to less than 200,000 Arabs and somewhat fewer Jews (who lived in places like Jerusalem, Tzfat and Hebron) when Zionist immigration began in the 1880’s.  Did the Zionists forcibly dispossess the Arabs? In an article entitled “Not Stealing Palestine but Purchasing Israel,” Daniel Pipes writes,

In Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel, Eric H. Cline writes of Jerusalem: “No other city has been more bitterly fought over throughout its history” … The PA fantasizes that today’s Palestinians are descended from a tribe of ancient Canaan, the Jebusites; in fact, but they are overwhelmingly the off-spring of invaders and immigrants seeking economic opportunities. Against this tableau of unceasing conquest, violence, and overthrow, Zionist efforts to build a presence in the Holy Land until 1948 stand out as astonishingly mild, as mercantile rather than military. Two great empires, the Ottomans and the British, ruled Eretz Yisrael; in contrast, Zionists lacked military power. They could not possibly achieve statehood through conquest.

Instead, they purchased land. Acquiring property dunam by dunam, farm by farm, house by house, lay at the heart of the Zionist enterprise until 1948. The Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901 to buy land in Palestine “to assist in the foundation of a new community of free Jews engaged in active and peaceable industry,” was the key institution – and not the Haganah, the clandestine defense organization founded in 1920…

Only when the British mandatory power gave up on Palestine in 1948, followed immediately by an all-out attempt by Arab states to crush and expel the Zionists, did the latter take up the sword in self defense and go on to win land through military conquest. Even then, as the historian Efraim Karsh demonstrates in Palestine Betrayed, most Arabs fled their lands; exceedingly few were forced off.

This history contradicts the Palestinian account that “Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people” which led to a catastrophe “unprecedented in history” (according to a PA 12th-grade textbook) or that Zionists “plundered the Palestinian land and national interests, and established their state upon the ruins of the Palestinian Arab people” (writes a columnist in the PA’s daily). International organizations, newspaper editorials, and faculty petitions reiterate this falsehood worldwide.

The population of Native Americans declined drastically with European immigration into the New World, but what happened to the Arabs of Palestine as a result of the Zionist ‘invasion’? From about 200,000 in 1890, the Arab population of what would become Israel rose to almost 1.3 million in 1947 (see “MidEast Web: Population of Ottoman and Mandate Palestine“)! This fact alone refutes claims of violent dispossession.

Indeed, it was the opposite. George Gilder explains what happened (Gilder: The Economics of Settlement):

In ancient times, as [Walter Lowdermilk, an American soil expert] knew, Palestine was largely self-sufficient, with a population of millions. Replete with forests, teeming with sheep and goats, full of farms and wineries, the landscape evoked a European plenitude. By 1939, however, when Lowdermilk arrived in the area, it was largely an environmental disaster. As he recounted in his 1944 book, Palestine, Land of Promise, “when Jewish colonists first began their work in 1882…the soils were eroded off the uplands to bedrock over fully one half the hills; streams across the coastal plain were choked with erosional debris from the hills to form pestilential marshes infested with dreaded malaria; the fair cities and elaborate works of ancient times were left in doleful ruins.” In the late 19th century around the current Tel Aviv, Lowdermilk was told, “no more than 100 miserable families lived in huts.” Jericho, once luxuriantly shaded by balsams, was treeless.

What amazed Lowdermilk, though — and changed his life — was not the 1,000 years of deterioration but the some 50 years of reclamation of both the highlands and the lowlands by relatively small groups of Jewish settlers. As one of many examples of valley reclamation, he tells the story of the settlement of Petah Tikva, established by Jews from Jerusalem in 1878, in defiance of warnings from physicians who saw the area outside what is now Tel Aviv as hopelessly infested with malarial mosquitoes. After initial failures and retreats, Petah Tikva became “the first settlement to conquer the deadly foe of malaria,” by “planting Eucalyptus [locally known as ‘Jew trees’] in the swamps to absorb the moisture,” draining other swamps, importing large quantities of quinine, and developing rich agriculture and citriculture …

In draining swamps, leaching saline soils, redeeming dunes into orchards and poultry farms, in planting millions of trees on rocky hills, in constructing elaborate water works and terraces on the hills, in digging 548 wells and supporting canals in little more than a decade and irrigating thousands of acres of land, establishing industries, hospitals, clinics, and schools, the 500,000 Jewish settlers who arrived before the creation of Israel massively expanded the very absorptive dimensions and capacity of the country. It was these advances that made possible the fivefold 20th-century surge of the Arab population by 1940.

There’s one more chapter to this story. In 1948, Israel became independent, and somewhere between 600,000 and 650,000 Arabs fled, to become the ancestors of the 4.5 million who today claim refugee status (Palestinian refugee status is the only such status recognized by the UN as hereditary) and who are slavering at the gates of Israel demanding to ‘return’ and take what is ‘theirs’.

But in fact only residents of a few Arab villages, mostly those on the Tel-Aviv — Jerusalem Road, from which attacks were launched against convoys supplying besieged Jerusalem, were removed by force. Most left in fear that they would be caught up in fighting or massacred (although actual massacres of civilians by Jews were almost nonexistent — another story), and in many cases were encouraged to leave by their own leadership. Here is how Efraim Karsh describes it (Karsh: Reclaiming a Historical Truth):

While most Palestinian Arabs needed little encouragement to take to the road, large numbers of them were driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or the “Arab Liberation Army” that had entered Palestine prior to the end of the Mandate, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. Of this there is an overwhelming and incontrovertible body of contemporary evidence – intelligence briefs, captured Arab documents, press reports, personal testimonies and memoirs, and so on and so forth.

In the largest and best-known example of Arab-instigated exodus, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa (on April 21-22 ) on the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective “government” of the Palestinian Arabs. Only days earlier, Tiberias’ 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes (a fortnight after the exodus, Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner of Palestine, reported that the Tiberias Jews “would welcome [the] Arabs back” ). In Jaffa, Palestine’s largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea; in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods, while in Beisan the women and children were ordered out as Transjordan’s Arab Legion dug in.

[Shlomo] Avineri mentions the strenuous Jewish efforts to persuade the Haifa Arabs to stay but not the AHC’s order to leave – which was passed on to the local leadership by phone and secretly recorded by the Haganah. Nor does he note the well-documented efforts of Haifa’s Arab leadership to scaremonger their hapless constituents, reluctant in the extreme to leave, into fleeing. Some Arab residents received written threats that, unless they left town, they would be branded as traitors deserving of death. Others were told they could expect no mercy from the Jews…

Nor was this phenomenon confined to Palestinian cities. The deliberate depopulation of Arab villages too, and their transformation into military strongholds was a hallmark of the Arab campaign from the onset of hostilities…

War is Hell, as much or more so for civilians as soldiers, but a great deal of the Hell that characterized the experience of the Arabs of Palestine was of their own making or that of their Arab neighbors. Very little was the responsibility  of the Jews, who ought not to be asked to pay the price for it.

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Apple and the Intifada

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
"Third Intifada" iPhone app -- Apple approved!

"Third Intifada" iPhone app -- Apple approved!

I just got off the phone with a sweet and understanding customer-relations person at Apple, and there is still no response to the request from the Government of Israel to pull an iPhone app which calls for a third intifada against Israel:

The country’s Minister for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, wrote a letter to the computer giant Tuesday voicing concern about the content of the application.

“Upon review of the stories, articles and photos published by means of the application, one can easily see that this is in fact anti-Israel and anti-Zionist. Furthermore, as is implied by its name, the application calls for an uprising against the State of Israel,” he wrote.

The letter asked Apple to yank the Arabic-language application, which allows users to comment and post photos and stories about protests opposing Israel and Israeli policies.

According to Reuters, the app offers a stream of news stories and editorials in Arabic, announces upcoming protests, and includes links to nationalistic Palestinian videos and songs.

I understand that Edelstein’s letter was sent by email to Steve Jobs and various other Apple officials.

The Wiesenthal Center also objected, saying in part that the application, which links to Intifada pages on Facebbook and Twitter, “updates its users on further incitements to protest and violence” and violates Apple’s guidelines against “applications containing references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence…”

You can find instructions on how to file a complaint with Apple here.

I am almost certain that the application was carefully developed to skirt Apple’s guidelines. For example, if the content inciting violence actually resides on a Facebook page or Twitter account and the app only facilitates linking to these places — especially if it is configurable — then is the app itself inciting? If the app makes it possible to play ‘patriotic’ Palestinian music, can that violate guidelines?

But apart from the legal issues, there is the moral one. The Palestinian cause is the overthrow of a state and the murder of its inhabitants. Apple’s executives may disagree, but I am right and they are wrong — and I know more about this than they do. If it is their choice to distribute this app, then it is my choice to never buy or recommend another Apple product. And believe me, I won’t.

Here’s a link to another well-known story about a computer company on the dark side: IBM and the Holocaust. Will books be written about Apple and the Intifada as well?

Coincidentally, my wife just left on her way to purchase a smartphone. She had been planning to buy an iPhone, but she will be buying something else.

Updated [1739 PDT]: Apple has removed the app from its App Store on the grounds that it violated their guidelines. Not a moment too soon!

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Moty & Udi: A creative scenario

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Judah Rosenthal, who draws Moty and Udi, has been away for a few weeks, busy illustrating a book, work that he gets paid for (unlike Moty and Udi). I’m glad he’s back.

Like Shula, I’m going to be creative today. Here is a little science fiction set in the near future:


June 21, 2013, 6 months into Barack Obama’s second term.

Secretary of State Power has announced that she will be coming to the region to visit the Sunni and Shiite caliphates (in Turkey and Iran respectively). She’ll also visit Palestine and the Islamic Republic of Egypt, with a stopoff in occupied Israel to visit the troops and investigate the humanitarian crisis there.

Flashback to September, 2011:

Lebanon introduces a Security Council resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from all of Judea, Samaria Eastern Jerusalem, and designating that area as the Palestinian Homeland. President Obama offers Israel a deal:

The US will veto the resolution if Israel will agree to an aggressive timetable to vacate most of the territories (he will allow Israel to keep the large settlement blocs and some parts of eastern Jerusalem). Obama offers to set up early-warning stations in the Jordan Valley, manned by US troops. Obama makes it clear that if Israel does not agree, the US will abstain.

Israel agrees. The resolution is withdrawn — Obama would prefer not to have to veto it and Lebanon obliges — and the first withdrawals are scheduled for January 2012. The PA announces that it is declaring a state with provisional borders and announces that any land evacuated by Israel will become part of Palestine.

Right-wing parties criticize Netanyahu but most accept that the alternative would have been worse and the government stays in place.

Egyptian elections are held. The largest single bloc of seats is gained by the Muslim Brotherhood, which easily puts together a coalition of smaller parties.

Bashar al-Assad retains control of Syria, by viciously suppressing his enemies, particularly Sunnis. Turkey warns Assad that it won’t tolerate what it (ironically) calls ‘genocide’.

The Turkish AKP government removes the last vestiges of secularism from its armed forces and judicial system. Although it did not get a 2/3 majority in elections which would allow it to automatically replace the constitution, it prepares to submit a new constitution to a national referendum.

January 10, 2012.

Israel begins to evacuate smaller settlements, while continuing talks with the US about the timetable and exactly what will be included in its withdrawal. The process is destructive to Israeli society, pitting Right against Left and deepening divisions. It is expensive and creates much human misery. The PA claims that it is not moving fast enough, that the US is biased toward Israel and is not holding it to the agreement.

The Egyptian government schedules a referendum on a new constitution, which calls for all legislation to be ‘grounded in’ Shari’ia. It further relaxes restrictions on its border with Gaza. There are several attacks perpetrated by terrorists crossing the Israel-Egypt border.

Israel and the PA make an agreement for a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit. Israel releases 1,000 prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti. Shalit goes home at last.

PA elections are held. Hamas wins a small majority of seats. Barghouti is chosen as a compromise President.

May 1, 2012.

Barghouti protests Israeli incursions into what it calls “Sovereign Palestinian territory” in Judea and Samaria. Fatah officials understand that the IDF is keeping them alive. Nevertheless, Obama sharply criticizes Israel, and the IDF’s activities there become reactive rather than pro-active.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza takes credit for a Qassam missile that makes a direct hit on a bus at a kibbutz next to the border, killing 20. IAF bombs PIJ targets in Gaza, warns Hamas that it is responsible. Hamas claims that its people have been hit, and fires rockets. Iron Dome intercepts many, but not all. Thousands of residents of southern Israel in shelters.

Egypt adopts new, Islamist constitution. Obama congratulates Egypt on peaceful process.

May 3, 2012.

Hamas rocket-firing continues. Israel bombs Hamas targets, begins to prepare for major incursion. Obama and the Egyptian President warn Israel not to invade Gaza. Egypt moves tanks and artillery into the Sinai. Barghouti arranges cease-fire with Hamas, then demands acceleration of withdrawals in return.

A seismic event is detected in Iran. US, Israeli and Russian monitors believe it is a nuclear test, but don’t make this public.

November 6, 2012.

Barak Obama is re-elected. He gets 78% of the Jewish vote.

January 20, 2013.

Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term. Hillary Clinton is replaced by Samantha Power as Secretary of State.

February 4, 2013.

Power meets with Barghouti; they issue joint demand that Israel make more rapid progress in evacuating Judea and Samaria. Security Council resolution calling for immediate withdrawal and declaring Palestinian homeland is re-introduced.

Turkey adopts new, Islamist constitution. Obama congratulates Turkey on peaceful process.

February 15, 2013.

Security Council votes. US abstains, and the resolution passes. Power makes a speech in which she says that we gave Israel every chance to comply, but the Palestinian people have waited long enough. Obama says nothing. US Jewish leaders are shocked, shocked.

Terrorism against Israeli settlements increases. When the IDF goes after perpetrators, Power warns Israel to desist from ‘aggression’ in the territories.

February 28, 2013.

A security council resolution calling for economic sanctions against Israel and an arms embargo in order to “protect the Palestinian people” is introduced.

March 15, 2013.

The US votes for the resolution and it passes. Pro-Israel forces in US Congress are furious, but US is embroiled in the Venezuelan missile crisis as well as trying to get the remainder of its troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq alive, and there just isn’t room to worry about Israel.

April 4, 2013.

Another mysterious seismic event in Iran. Definite confirmation of a test of an operational nuclear weapon.

Israel sends its Foreign Minister to the US to beg for action against the Iranian bomb. But the administration had long since decided that the world would have to accept a nuclear Iran. FM argues that Iran is expected to attack Israel in the immediate future. FM is told not to worry.

April 5, 2013.

Israeli commandos attack the US X-band radar facility in the Negev, putting it out of commission (the X-Band radar is manned by US personnel — it is off-limits to Israelis — and it can detect a plane or missile taking off anywhere in the country).

Israel bombs nuclear installations in Iran. At the same time it attacks missile launchers in Lebanon.

Hizballah launches a massive missile barrage at Israel. Many of the missiles are intercepted, but there is a huge amount of damage and thousands die. After 3 days, 90% of Hizballah’s missile capability is destroyed. Hassan Nasrallah and most of Hizballah’s high officials and commanders are dead, buried in a slagheap that was their bunker. Hizballah is out of the war.

Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and Judea/Samaria fire rockets and infiltrate into Israel to carry out terror attacks.

Iran attempts to fire intermediate-range ballistic missiles at Israel. Most are destroyed at launch. None hit their targets. They keep trying.

April 6, 2013.

A furious Obama demands an immediate cease-fire. He calls the attack on the X-band radar ‘an act of war’, and recalls the USS Liberty incident. The security council meets in emergency session.

Israel activates non-nuclear focused EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons over major Iranian cities and military installations,  frying almost every electrical and electronic device in the country. Automobiles stop running, radios and telephones go silent, even streetlights go out. Oil and water pumps stop turning. Nobody is directly injured, but Iran has been set back 150 years in a few milliseconds.

April 9, 2013.

The dramatic part of the war is over, but the IDF fights bands of terrorists all over the country, while still trying to evaluate the massive damage to life and infrastructure suffered from the missile attacks. Stunned Iranians are trying to figure out how they will get food and water with most of the means of communications and transport non-functional.

April 15, 2013.

The Israeli PM explains that he had no other choice to save his nation short of full-scale nuclear war, but world reaction against Israel is furious. The Lebanese and Palestinians are claiming huge casualty numbers, and most people believe that Israel used a nuclear weapon against Iran. Egyptians are demonstrating in the streets, calling for an immediate invasion of Israel. Many Egyptian volunteers go to join Hamas forces, until the government, afraid of retaliation, shuts the border.

Public opinion in Europe, especially the UK, is massively anti-Israel. People are prepared to believe any story, no matter how horrible or how irrational, and there is no shortage of those prepared to tell such stories. The Guardian has huge headlines accusing Israeli and IDF leaders of mass murder.

The Security Council accuses Israel of aggression. Secretary of State Power makes an impassioned speech in which she calls Israel a rogue state, and says that the Palestinians are in danger of genocide. The Council decides to send troops to protect the Palestinians.

April 25, 2013.

Troops from the US, France, Turkey and the UK arrive in Israel. They set up a caretaker government under a High Commissioner to administer the country. Members of the Israeli cabinet and General Staff are arrested on suspicion of war crimes.


This is just one possible universe of many. My creative imagination is not much better than Shula’s — who knows if what will really happen will be better or worse? It will certainly be more complicated — I left out the actions likely to be taken by Syria, Turkey, etc.

I learned two things from the exercise above: one is the importance of the US administration. If you think it’s hostile now, wait until its second term, if it gets one.

The other is that the information war is critical to the overall outcome. In my scenario, Israel fought a defensive — if preemptive — war, and in military terms, was victorious. But the political outcome was just the reverse.

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Jonah and Kelly’s moral autism

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Dear Jonah and Kelly,

Your post, “Refocusing the conversation” aroused strong feelings in me.

What you said was outrageous, false in many respects, and even insulting. But there are  extenuating circumstances:

  • You suffer from the arrogance of youth
  • You are angry at your treatment at the hands of the religious establishment in Israel

That’s about it. You are also ignorant of history and security matters, but take it from me, once you publish your thoughts, ignorance is no excuse.

You find the discussion about Jewish rabbinical and education students who are anti-Israel “shallow and paternalistic” because you feel that it finds fault in you, when you would prefer it to find fault in the state of Israel.

I wonder if, in your fault-finding, you’ve taken into account how Israeli Jews got to where they are today? I mean, things like the pogroms, the ‘riots’, the Holocaust, the farhud, the wars, the privation, the expulsions, the terrorism? Have you compared these things to the way you grew up in America?

Probably not, because you write,

The world changes, people’s perceptions change, reality changes and our generation has been raised to understand that we must work to build a better future for Israel and to appreciate but not dwell on its past.

In other words, the experience and perspective of the older generation of Jews — indeed, history — counts for nothing.  ‘Don’t dwell on the past’, you say, but you mean ‘ignore it’. Talk about a ‘shallow’ discussion!

You say that “no human being should live subject to tyranny … every individual should be judged on her or his own merit and to seek out the personal interaction needed for true understanding.”  Can I remind you that until the state of Israel was created, the majority of the world’s Jews lived under various tyrannies? Did the Czar, Hitler  or the King of Iraq judge each individual according to merit? What would be the position of Jews in ‘Palestine’, if such a state were to replace Israel?

You say that “We are comfortable and confident Jews – and this reality is not a character flaw.” What a remarkably revealing comment! Clearly the character flaw is the self-absorption that makes you unable to conceive of other Jews who have not been able to be ‘comfortable and confident’ in the past, and are insecure that they may not be so again in the future.

You write,

We see injustices, religious and political, that need to end. This is true not only because we refuse to see all Palestinians as our enemies, but fundamentally because we refuse to blind ourselves to the fact that the reality that has been created is bad for the Jewish People as a whole.

Leaving aside the false and insulting statement that Zionists “see all Palestinians as our enemies,” what makes you so sure that the ‘reality’ that bothers you so much was created by Israeli Jews alone? Could the Nazi Mufti al-Husseini and his heirs, Yasser Arafat and even the ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas, who have continuously incited murderous hatred of Jews for almost a hundred years, have anything to do with this ‘reality’? What about Hamas and its antisemitic covenant?

Oh — I forgot. We mustn’t dwell on the past.

You write,

When we are confronted by the deep fear of the other and the ways in which that manifests itself into structural violence and racism, we are shocked and want to work to make it better. We, who were taught that the Israeli Army is the most moral army in the world, are thrown into disequilibrium when we see our own acting cruelly to innocent Palestinians at checkpoints. We stand witness in disbelief as the very land we were taught to love is overturned, as trees are uprooted and mountains are moved all to build a giant concrete wall in the name of security.

This is also remarkable. There is ‘great fear of the other’ — but it’s a justified fear. The ‘other’ blows us up every chance that he gets. And it’s not ‘racism’ — it has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with the response to a hundred years of murder as a political tool. Yes, most Israeli Jews are suspicious of Palestinian Arabs — they have good reason to be.

The IDF is “the most moral army in the world.” Name one that is more moral. No, it isn’t perfect. War is not the most morally simple business. Try being a soldier yourself (most Israelis have) and see how you do.

The ‘giant concrete wall’ which is in most places a wire fence, is not being built merely “in the name of” security. It is being built for security. It, and the checkpoints that you object to — as well as incursions of the IDF into Arab areas to arrest terrorists — are what put an end to the second Intifada, in which more than a thousand Israelis were murdered.

Sorry, I’m dwelling on the past again.

You say,

While we must always be engaged in making ourselves and our programs better, what we most need is a collective commitment to fixing the brokenness of our greatest project, The State of Israel, and with it the growing brokenness of the Jewish People.

Could you possibly be more arrogant! What you correctly call the greatest project of the contemporary Jewish people has thrived despite enormous odds, overcome huge challenges and done so at great human cost. It has been in peril of destruction since the beginning, and today possibly faces its greatest existential threat ever. And you have the chutzpah to call it “broken” because it doesn’t fit your wild academic fantasies of an ideal society!

I understand that you are upset and insulted by the attitude of the Israeli rabbinut toward liberal Judaism. You know what? I’ll give you this one. It’s unfortunate and should change. It’s an even bigger problem for thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union who can’t produce documentation for their Judaism. But compared to the security situation, this is a 1 on a scale of 10. Get over it. It’s not a reason to aid Israel’s real enemies.

Finally, you write,

As an educator and rabbinical student, we have been tasked with caring deeply for the intellectual and spiritual needs of our students and congregants. We are taught that we are responsible for their achievement and behavior. If a student is having difficulty, do we simply tell her that she is doing fine? If a congregant is in crisis and doing damage to himself, do we tell his family to cheer him on? The State of Israel deserves, at the very least, the level of respect and care we have for our own students and congregants. We have no choice but to view ourselves as responsible for Israel’s achievement and behavior.

Would you entirely ignore a student’s or congregant’s background and experiences? Would you judge his or her behavior according to a fantastic standard so high that only a tzadik could achieve it? Would you criticize him or her by repeating lies told by someone that you know hates him and wants to kill him?

The degree of smug self-righteous ignorance that you display might be relatively harmless if your career choices were different. It might irritate me to have one of you as a cab driver or barber if you insist on talking while you work. But the fact that you have chosen to be Jewish spiritual leaders and educators is shocking.

You are not qualified for those positions, because you lack an elementary understanding of the Jewish people and its history, and because you have an astonishing deficit of humility, a form of moral autism.

Unless you mature, and perhaps put your anger at the rabbinut in perspective, my recommendation is that you take different jobs, ones that do not require you to work with other humans, particularly Jewish ones.

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Don’t be stupid, Mahmoud!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011
Don't be stupid, Mahmoud.

Don't be stupid, Mahmoud.

News item:

A nationwide civil-defense exercise called “Turning Point 5” started Sunday. For the first time, the drill will simulate extensive damage to critical national infrastructure such as the water system and the electric grid.

During the weeklong drill, the Home Front Command, Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Administration, Israel Police and other emergency services will test their responses to a massive bombardment of missiles from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Iran…

Estimates in the IDF are that up to 800 missiles and rockets a day could be fired into Israel in the event of a war fought on several fronts.

“No water or electricity means no production, and makes it impossible to run the country,” a defense official said. “For this reason we need to know what are the most important facilities that we need to continue working, and what needs to keep on receiving water and electricity, and how to make that happen.”

Whenever there was talk of an attack on Iran, we saw descriptions of the terrible retaliation that Iran would wreak on Israel and the US (both would be targets regardless of which one provoked the fearsome wrath of that nation).

Now Israeli officials are working on the assumption that an attack on their country by Iran and its proxies is inevitable. There is a great deal of talk about death and destruction in Israel from Iranian and Iranian-sponsored missiles.

What is not talked about is the degree and nature of Israeli retaliation.

Israel is a small country and the rhetoric from Iran has called for its annihilation. It must be taken seriously.

When the missiles start to fly, the first priority will be to take out their sources, primarily in Lebanon, secondarily in Gaza, and perhaps also in Syria. You can be sure that the planners in the kiriya have been staying up nights developing tactics and targets to do this. During the 2006 war, Israel was not able to stop the short-range rockets, although it did neutralize most or all of the longer-range missiles in Hizballah’s hands. This time, I expect that the response will be more effective.

But Israel needs to do far more than just defend itself. When you are attacked over and over by the same people, your response ultimately has to be to end the threat. In previous wars, Israel has always either chosen not to do so or has been held back by threats from the US (and in some cases the then-Soviet Union).

The risk today is even greater than in the past and the response will need to be commensurate. The kind of rocket barrage that they are talking about, even if it is stopped after a few days, will cross red lines. Israel will have no choice, despite the orders coming from Washington, but to end the threat.

For one thing, this will mean directly targeting enemy leaders. The top officials of Hamas and Hizballah should not expect to survive the war. If missiles are fired from Syria, then the same goes for that regime.

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan has warned against a preemptive attack on Iran. He should know. But if Iran attacks Israel, even if primarily by proxy, there’s nothing to lose. Once the rockets are stopped, the IDF can turn its attention to “cutting the head off the snake” as Saudi King Abdullah is reported to have said.

It is not unthinkable that Israel will use weapons that have never been used before. Remember, the damage that will be done to Israel in the initial attack will probably be quite severe. As I said, red lines will be crossed. Retaliation will be massive.

The Palestinian Arabs should understand (but they won’t) that their interests would be best served by staying out of this conflict.

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