Thursday, December 31, 2009

Women of valor – heroines of Zionism and Israel

A recent debate in Israel about whose portrait should be on the yet-to-be issued new currency notes put the focus on the role of women in the history of the state of Israel and the years leading to its establishment.
This led me to make this long, yet incomplete list of prominent and other remarkable women in the history of Israel and Zionism. I’ve gathered most of the information from the Hebrew web. On some there is material in English, and I provided links in those instances. In many cases the information is scant, some had even been forgotten from Israel’s collective memory.
This list is by no means complete, but a farther research will require some leg work in universities and public libraries. I do hope that by just mentioning them I’m giving them some of the honor they deserve, though no doubt they deserve far more than a blog post can provide.

Dona Gracia Nasi (?1510-1568)

Dona Gracia Nasi

First among the firsts and first ahead all the firsts, a banker, a philanthropist and a stateswoman, a member of a known family of Jewish marranos who fled the inquisition in Portugal to Antwerp. Like Yehuda Halevi befor her, she was a precursor of Zionism. He dreamed about the return to Zion in his poems, she lobbied for it in Istanbul. Her work led to the return of the Jews to the city of Tiberias, one of the four holy cites in Judaism. (The others are Jerusalem, Safed and Hebron). For more information click here

Emma Lazarus 1849-1887

Emma Lazarus

Where does this bond between the United States of America and Israel exist?
It exists in numerous places along history and culture; and in the very psyche of both nations. One such place is Emma Lazarus; her famous words carved at the statue of Liberty gave America a new ethos and a place of morality among the nations. Like Dona Gracia, she was a Jew of Portuguese origin, and one of the firsts public figures to embrace Zionism. For more information click here.

The four mothers of present day Israel

Golda Meir, Hannah Robina, Henrietta Szold, Shoshana Damari

Little needs to be said about most of these remarkable women.

Golda Meir, 1898-1978
Israel’s first woman prime minister was a stateswoman of great stature, who has been through Israel’s toughest hours, when hard decisions had to be made, from The War of Independence to The Yom-Kippur war. For more information click here.

Shoshana Damari, 1923-2006
She began her career in the times of British mandatory rule. Her song reflected the resistance to the foreign power, and served as a focus of hope and a source of strength to the entire society. In the years following Israel’s independence, her voice and songs became national symbols of Israel, along side the flag and the national anthem.

Hannah Robina, 1890-1980
The first ‘First Lady’ of the Israeli theatre.

Henrietta Szold, 1860-1945
An educator and a leading social activist, her memory has eroded in Israel over the years, as sadly did her legacy. She made Israel a welfare state long before there was Israel, and shaped its society into one that puts the concerns for the weak and the needy close to its heart, and the education and well being of its youth at its center.

Israeli legends
Other famous women of legendary fame the warriors Sarah Aharonson, 1870-1917, and the poet Hanna Senesh, 1921-1944. They lived in different times but those periods were demanding and dangerous. Of their own choice they volunteered to help change the fate of their people for the better. Sarah chose the risky and ungrateful work of espionage during the upheavals of the First World War, and Hannah volunteered to be a commando deep in enemy held territory, recruiting people to fight the Nazi menace. They both paid the ultimate price, which built their legends. But their legends are not the stories of their death but the stories of their lives. More on Hanna Senesh.

Haika Grossman, 1919-1996
She was a partisan, a legislator and a civil rights activist, a warrior for good in the full sense of the word.

Sarah Aharonson, Hanna Senesh, Haika Grossman

The soul of a nation and its culture is in its authors, poets and singers, weaving their words and rhythms into an intense experience of been and living. And women made their mark on it just like men.

Leah Goldberg, Neomi Shemer, Ofra Haza, Rahel Hameshoreret
The author Leah Goldberg, 1911-1970
She is a major pillar of The Modern Hebrew literature.

Naomi Shemer, 1930-2004
She is Israel’s most famous poet and lyricist.

Rachel Bluwatein, 1890-1931
Known as Rahel Hameshoreret (Rahel the poet), her words touch heart and soul of everyone who reads, sings or just listens to her poem.

Ofra Haza, 1957-2000
A captivating singer and actress, the tragic end of her life did not overshadow a glamorous career, filled with upbeat songs.

From among the pioneers who carried the burden of creating Israel out of the destitution of the people and the land these women stand tall: Manya Shohat, 1880-1961, a pioneer, a revolutionary, a guard and a negotiator; and her friend Rahel Yanait Ben Zvi, 1886-1979, the wife of Israel’s second president Yizhak Ben Tvi, and a counsel to the younger generations..

Manya Shohat, Rahel Yanait Ben Zvi

Other preeminent figures from history and society

Haviva Reich, Bracha Tzfira, Sarah Levy Tanay, Thelma Yelin, Talia Shapira, Bracha Peli

Haviva Reich, 1914-1944
Like Hannah Senesh she volunteered to fight the Nazis, deep behind enemy lines, where the odds were against them. She was eventually caught and executed, “every day that we remain alive is a gift from the heavens” she said about their chances, yet she went on.

The singer Bracha Tzfira, 1911-1990
The first voice of Zion.

Sarah Levy Tanay, 1911-2005
The mother of modern Israeli dance and a composer

Talia Shapira ,1947-1992
Actress and comedian.

Thelma Bentwich Yelin 1895-1959
A cellist who founded the ‘Thelma Yelin High School for the Performing Arts’, a school that has educated many of Israel’s actors, musicians and directors.

Bracha Peli, 1892-1986
A publisher and a businesswoman.

Bracha Habas, Baba Eidelson, Miriam Schwartz

Bracha Habas, 1900-1968
Journalist, editor and documentarian, one of the first women journalists in the land of Israel, wrote for “Davar” and edited its children supplement “Dvar Le Yeladim.”

Baba Eidelson Trachtenberg, 1885-1975
A pioneer and a legislator in the very first years of Israel’s parliamentary life, she focused on workers’ rights and women’s rights. Her approach was that even the language of the law can’t differentiate between the genders, and every right given to men is a right given to women as well.

Miriam Schwartz who died in 1983
Founder of Beit Hagalgalim for disabled children. See also here

The price of an armed struggle
We did not choose to make this an armed struggle, the choice was made for us, and when it was made we fought. In many cases men and women fought next to each other, and fell next to each other. The following is barely a sample of the price women had paid in the course of this violent conflict.

Rahel Halevi Hadad, from the first to settle in Petach Tikvah, died 1886. Beaten to death by a looting Arab mob she tried to fend of with her bare hands that raided Petach Tikvah when most of the men went to the court in Jaffa carrying evidence of a previous Arab raid on their cattle.

From the heroes of Tel Hai

Tel - Hai
Along with Yosef Trumpeldor, 8 people died in the battle of Tel Hai, and the circumstances leading to what is considered the first battle in the history of Zionism, two of them were women.
Deborah Drechler was killed on March 1st 1920, just as the battle began. A heroine in her own right, during the First World War she helped her fellow men pioneers when they were held prison in Turkish jails, first in Nazareth then Damascus, she smuggled food to them and help them exchange letters with the outside world.
And Sarah Chizik, her fried and fellow pioneer who was killed the day after.

Israel war of independence was demanding and costly from everyone.

Hadasah Lempel

During the second battle over the Latrun police station in late May 1948, Hadassah Lempel Halenia was the radio technician in the armored vehicle that broke into that fortified garrison. Her death from heavy enemy fire was recorded in the film “Cast a Giant Shadow.” She was a gifted painter.

Esther Cailingold, 1925-1948

Esther Cailingold

She was a member of an affluent Jewish family from England. She volunteered to help her people and the state of Israel following the horrors of the holocaust. Helped Jews immigrate to the land of Israel against the British blockade. In Jerusalem she was a teacher. She was killed while defending heroically the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Gush Etzion
The names of the women killed in that battle and the massacre of the prisoners that followed. Ester Koyfman Dersiyger, Tzipora Rozenfled, Tzipora Kurtztag, Rahel Zegelshtein, Sarah Midzinsky, Haya Masha Musel, Shoshana Tenenboim, Haya Ledermam Hela, Hannah Zinger, Haya Vesertil Lena, Rahel Hiler Rania, Hadassah Noyger Krantz, Batia PasEster Rosentzveig , Zilpa Caraso, Tzipora Yaacobovitz, and Rahel Viner.

Gush Etzion

Most of them holocaust survivors that have been through the death camps, a few came to Israel in the middle of WW2 in what was called “Teheran children.” They were all members of religious Zionists movements.

The Second Lebanon War

Sergeant 1stclass Keren Tendler, 1979-2006, a helicopter flight mechanic in ‘The Second Lebanon War’. Killed when her helicopter was shot down by enemy fire.
This list is by no means complete, but it is more then enough to show that in a society considered chauvinistic and patriarchal, women had made an important and impressive mark, even more so when we look at present day Israel.

Jewish Women Archive

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gaza Freedom March

I know I’m been highly predictable in my Zionist reaction to this cartoon, originally portraying Palestinian kids trapped in Gaza, but what can I say, I couldn’t help my self.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Defending Muslims’ civil rights, between Switzerland and Kfar-Yasuf.

These days Israel is at war, declared on it by people speaking in the name of Islam. This while very few people or any, who also speak in the name of that religion, stand up against them.

This does not mean that every Muslim is an enemy of Israel, or at war with it. Or, that I, as a Jew, an Israeli and a Zionist, should stand aside when the rights of Muslims are violated. It does mean I should be careful, because there is a dilemma here, and it is not a simple one.

Championing the civil rights and human rights of strangers and enemies is elementary survival for everyone. If someone else’s fundamental rights are violated, and we stand by the sidelines, uninvolved, sooner or later one of us will be violated the same way. It’s maybe an old liberal cliché, but it is still correct and accurate, and the recent event in Moldova demonstrates that to the letter.

But what if the ones whose rights we are defending are hell-bent on violating our civil rights and human rights?

The fact of the matter is, that whenever Arab or Islamist terrorists violate the human rights of Israelis, when they are attacking Israeli civilians, acts that are war crimes and crimes against humanity, Muslims communities in the west support those crimes in droves.

For Israelis like myself it is an “either way we lose” situation. Added to it is the well-known fact that the biggest oppressors of Muslims in the world today are Muslim rulers, yet no major Muslim community in the west had ever went against them.

Which means that if we want to improve the human rights of Muslims on universal level and out of a universal concern, as a part of an effort to make the whole world a better place, our efforts will be useless, because we cannot improve the human rights of Muslims without Muslims taking major part in such an effort. Indeed the commitment to human rights cannot be sporadic or conditional; it needs to be complete, separated from politics and ideology. But that is precisely the case today, it had reach an absurd condition that for an Israeli to champion human rights becomes just as risky as abandoning it, and with it the effectiveness of campaigning fades.

A critic from the dogmatic left is likely to come to me and say I’m putting conditions behind my support on this issue, such critic will be right. I want this to work, and I want the rights of my people to be included. I’m not referring to the rights the settlers claim in face of the freeze imposed on them by the Israeli government, I am referring to the elementary rights for life and physical well being of my fellow Israelis in face of terrorism and the incitement that leads to it.

On the other hand, when it comes to the criminal and cowardly act of burning the mosque in Kfar - Yasuf by right wing extremists, there is no dilemma; this was a crime, a contemptible crime of hate - a hate crime!

No healthy society can tolerate hate crimes. By their definition they represent intolerance. Those who burned that mosque did it because they did not like its worshipers and their faith, not because they’ve done anything to them. The perpetrators call themselves ‘price tag’, demanding retribution from Palestinian civilians not over terrorism, which is also unjustified, but over an attempt to reach peace.

There is no question that the price the settlers are asked to pay in order to push the peace process forwards is heavy, both materialistically and emotionally, on a personal level as well as that of the community, and that while implementing something that contradicts their core convictions. Their resentment should not be ridiculed rather respected, but it does not justify violence, not against law enforcers, and certainly not against civilians and their property. The only threat to my own survival, and that of Israel, comes from the likes of those arsonists; their values are corrupt, their intolerance will not be preserved to non-Jews, but it will be delivered upon Jews they disapprove of, as it happened so many times in the recent past. Therefore I whole-heartedly hope that the police will do its job in the very best of ways, and find them with all the evidence needed to convict them and sentence to jail for the full length of time determine by the law.

Related link, from Ray Cook

Monday, November 16, 2009

The ‘Daily Show’ guests Anna Baltzer and Mustafa Barghouti, distortion center stage

For anyone who enjoys a professional work on television, especially satire, ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart is an almost guaranteed delight. Even on October the 28th 2009, when his guests were leading Palestinian propagandists, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and his current sidekick Anna Baltzer. It was a wall-to-wall professional performance by all participants. Jon Stewart was naturally professional in managing a sensitive subject with a somewhat charged audience, and his guests were professionals in doing their job and administrating their poison.

Mustafa Barghouti  Anna Baltzer

Speaking to a pro Israeli, pro Jewish public opinion, they had to appear pro Jewish themselves. But with an anti-Israeli purpose they had to shove in their hateful messages somehow, and as professionals they did so.

Four simple messages, simple and false, slipped between praise for the Jews as people caring for the weak and the oppressed:

The first one was that there are a lot of Israelis behind them. The fact of the matter is that when people sharing Baltzer’s political convictions showed up to demonstrate during Israel’s Hebrew Book fair in Tel Aviv in June 2009, there were barely 15 people among them, shouting in English, carrying signs in English, in a Hebrew language event (I was there). In other words, they were not there to win over Israelis, just to get their pictures taken and leave. In Israel, organizations with convictions close to that of Anna Baltzer have to spread throughout the country just to get a hundred Israeli Jews. Why?

Because they are not trying to win over Israeli Jews!

Second was Dr. Barghouti's statement that the state of Israel used the language of force for 60 years. This statement is evidently false by a simple examination of the historic facts: when the UN General Assembly voted for the two states solution in 1947 the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in the land of Israel, accepted, the Palestinians and the Arab world rejected, violently. When a new government took power in Egypt in 1952, Ben Gurion sent a message of peace, but that government, that of Gamal Abdel Nasser marshaled the Arab world against Israel, culminating in the wars of 1956 and 1967. After the Israeli victories of 1967, Israel offered territories for peace but was answered by the Khartoum no, nos, and war resumed. When president Sa’adat of Egypt offered peace in 1977 Israel replied with a YES and evacuated the Sinai, including all settlements there. And this record goes on until these very days.

So why did Dr. Barghouti make such a monstrous lie? May be because his definition of a forceful act is different then that of the rest of the world, and he regards the very existence of Israel as something he is forced to accept against his will and against his convictions.

Anna Baltzer made the false comparison between Israel’s alleged violations of UN resolutions and those of Iraq, and Iraq got bombed for its violations.
Does she want Israel to get bombed? She stopped herself there.

But her comparison remains invalid, as Dore Gold had pointed out, all the resolutions against Israel are chapter 6 resolutions, negotiated solution resolutions where the use of force is unfavorable, while those against Iraq are chapter 7, enforceable resolutions against a recognized threat to peace. Sadly for Anna Baltzer even the bias UN does not see the existence of Israel as a threat to peace.

Anna Baltzer also repeated the familiar line about Jews living good under Islamic rule. It’s the old 50’s reasoning that said, ‘slaves like to be whipped’, the 1850’s that is. Because while there were relatively tolerant rulers in Islamic history; much like in the Christian world; they were not necessarily the norm, as recent history records. With examples such as Ali Burzi Pasha of Libya who murdered hundreds of Jews in 1785, Algiers where Jews were massacred in 1815 and 1830, Damascus where a classical blood libel lead to the murder of Jews in 1840, Safed, whose Jews were brutalized, plundered and killed in 33 days long fest by their Palestinian neighbors in 1834. Mashhed Iran, where Jews were forced to convert to Islam in 1839, and Baghdad where a famous pogrom took place in 1941, and more.

Now why would a Jew, or any other minority will have warm feelings for these kinds of memories? Why would those feelings be any different then those a slave has towards the whip?

Finally they claimed their divestment campaign is a non-violent resistance. Is it?
Have they ever condemned the murderous acts of Palestinian terrorist organizations?
Challenged them?
Protested them?

Have they encouraged a single farmer on the path of Israel’s security barrier to say not through my land’ not just to Israel but also to the members of those armed groups, who crossed over so many times and murdered so many people in the name of that farmer and his people, in the name of Palestine?

Because if their punishment - oriented boycott campaign against Israel hasn’t even tried to avert a single suicide attack, a single rocket, then it is not there to replace the violent struggle, but to assist it, and support it, by punishing Israel for successfully defending its citizens.

Hamas divestment

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jon Stewart Mid East guests, the wrong criticism.

I do not wish to challenge CAMERA’s impressive record in monitoring media bias and inaccuracies regarding Israel and the Middle East conflict. However, Steven Stotsky criticism of Jon Stewart hosting Anna Baltzer and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti on ‘The Daily Show’ of October the 28th, is simply wrong. While I do share Stotsky’s outrage over the poisonous lies the two guests spread throughout the interview and like him I can point out their murderous intentions towards the Israeli population I see no reason why this outrage should spillover to ‘The Daily Show’ and its staff.
Throughout the years this show had maintained successfully a delicate balance, on one hand expressing unapologetically left wing liberal American views (not necessarily extremists), while hosting guests from a variety of political views, including the far right, such as Pat Buchanan and others. And each guest was given the same amount of respect, where he or she were given the time to express their views even when disagreements were prime. Regarding the Israeli Palestinian conflict the people behind the show took the neutral position, especially when interviewing guests, putting their own views aside.
These are all legitimate professional decisions, which should be respected. Along with the ability to make people laugh, even from things they disagreed with, they gave ‘The Daily Show’ its success and credibility. Deviating from them would have been bias in its ugliest form; the kind Israel is expose to from the more serious media outlets.
With guests like Anna Baltzer and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti this record was undoubtedly challenged to its maximum, and Jon Stewart did indeed handle it with care, trying to find a common ground with his guests on one hand (a common ground for Israelis and Palestinians), and allowing members of the audience to vent their emotions on the other hand. While these two were clearly there to spread lies and hate, ethics demands they should be given a stage, because the same ethics, when practiced gives us a stage:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Daily Show
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is there a hope for peace?

I gave up long ago, which makes me a member of the majority here in Israel, and probably among the Palestinians as well, but sometimes people can surprise us for the better.
Usually talkbackers are full of trash talk and hate speech, but in this article by Yoram Ettinger, Mohammad and Said from Jordan had a lengthy constructive conversation with William and Logic from Israel.
This is only a trickle of hope, but by god I was thirsty, and so do a lot of other people.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

J Street won’t decide the future of the peace process

DDizengoff Street in Tel Aviv will,
YYaffo Street in Jerusalem will,
The streets of Haifa, Netanya, Hadera, Gedera, Ra’anana, Kfar Saba and Rishon Letzion. Beer Sheva, Eilat, Askelon, Ashdod, Netivot and Sderot. Those and more, big and small, are the communities, whose residents will decide the future of the peace process. J Street can boo the critiques of the Goldstone report, advance it in the halls of power, praise the apologists and advocated of the Palestinian mass murder campaigns, all they like. Our lives are at stake, we, the citizens of Israel, have the final veto.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anti-Semitism: Sweden boxed in neutrality

Sweden’s historic neutrality during the Second World War and the Cold War was rightfully hailed by those defending the position of the Swedish government in its recent row with Israel, regarding the blood libel published by the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet where it had accused Israel of organ theft from dead Palestinians.
What they fail to realize is that in this case what is in the past stays in the past and the present is quite different. If during the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, neutrality was an act of courage with moral credit attached, by the end of the Cold War it was a status symbol, a high up on the mountain position for Swedish politics from which to look down at the world. Removed from its crisises and challenges, a taking a stand neutrality became a do nothing neutrality. It was a neutrality that in order to avoid tension worked with tyrannies rather then facing them, but it used the aura of old times, when it was one of a handful of pioneers that opposed South Africa’s apartheid regime, to cloth these new associations with morality. So boxed in was Swedish politics in this newly defined neutrality that when the crisis did call, and thousands of Swedish nationals were stranded in the tsunami stricken shores of south east Asia, many wounded, many dead, all lost, its government didn’t move an inch, while the whole world around them rushed to the rescue.
That may seem unrelated to the topic at hand but that administrative inaction was also a moral inaction, since people’s lives were involved. And just as the tsunami killed a lot of innocent people so does Anti Semitism. One tremor can cause tidal waves of hate and destruction that will engulf the world several times before subsiding. Governments may had changed in Sweden between that disaster and now, but for the current government whose delegates set through a demented lecture of the world’s most famous anti Semite, reciting old conspiracy theories, the waters are just as calm as they were four years ago for its predecessors. Thus giving the evidence that Swedish politics is in a chronic crisis of moral leadership. As Israelis, and other non-Swedes there is little we can do a bout it. The main victims of this boxed in neutrality are the Swedish people and the Swedish state, whose neutrality is no longer a commodity this battered world needs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, about Jewish superstitions that are not much different then the Christian ones

Like Christians and Muslims we Jews number the years, only with Hebrew letters, and sometimes those letters combine into a word or something that sounds like a word in Hebrew. The most famous example was 1984, which was the Hebrew year of “You shell be destroyed”, and the air was full of mystical kabalistic doomsday predictions. The fact that that year was also associated with George Orwell most famous novel heightened the tension. Had the Internet existed back then the doomsday talk would have been overwhelming.
The irony of this is that in some respect we are sillier then the Christians. What make us sillier is not that we have a year/date with an ominous meaning, as they do, but that there also other years with meanings, meanings that are not so ominous. 1987 for example, was the year when “You shell shmuze”, 1988 the year when “You shell rejoice”, 1989 the year when “You shell drop something” or be dropped, it’s a matter how one reads it; and 1990 the year when “You shell sleep”.
The reason for these is simple, statistics. During the 1980’s those statistics produced a cluster of such accidental names, sometimes it is just one or two in decade, like 1962 and 1968, the year when you shell lie down and the year when you shell forget, accordingly. The first two decades of this century are mostly meaningless and not so easy to pronounce, with the exception of this year (“Ha Baa Aleinu Le Tova”), which means, “The nine”, and most of the time will correspond with the year 2010. Its numeric value is 5770 but it numerological meaning is “The nine”.
Another cluster will be in the 2020’s, with years like 2022, when “You shell be a pub”, or 2027 when “You shell be pure gold”, and pure tin in the following year. But the ultimate will 2029, when “You shell be judged” or “Shell you do the judging yourself?” again, depends how one reads it.
And on that year of judgment, on May, Friday the 13, the Apophis meteor is going to be very, very close to Earth. According to the scientists it is not gonna hit, so I guess its kind of close they way all that glassware fell on my head when I helped set the table for the Rosh Hashanah dinner, also the time when I was working on this piece, and the reason why I took some parts of – just to be on the safe side.
Happy Jewish New Year everybody.
May it give us our share of goofs but spare us its share of tragedies.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A review of Breaking the Silence testimonies on Operation Cast Lead, Part III


Manipulation of the witnesses
Did “Breaking the Silence” try to manipulate their witness?
This possibility rises from several places in the booklet.
It starts with a very important question that hasn’t been asked in the booklet or the videos:
What made you come forward?
A necessary prolog when the main theme in each interview supposes to be a confession, yet it is missing. Why?
Only one soldier gives his reason for approaching Breaking the Silence, He does this in a by the way manner, at page 29. He describes the role of the rabbinate unit in the preparations to enter the Gaza Strip. His story is very important to every Israeli; it is a part of an important internal discussion about the relations between religion, military, and politics. His testimony paints a picture of right- wing rabbinic ideologues, with their own separate political agenda, involved in military affairs. This is indeed disturbing, to say the least, but nowhere in the booklet is there any mention of any impact it had on the conduct of the soldiers and the IDF during the fighting. What is clear is that this anonymous soldier approached Breaking the Silence to talk about one thing, those right wing Rabbis, and they, Breaking the Silence, got him to talk about different things, the events inside the Gaza Strip, a related but separate topic.
How did one subject slip into another?
Are these really confessions or just war stories?
Only they can tell us.

And then there is this.
Page 22:
“What do you mean by 'waiting for something to move'? What were your rules of engagement? What were you told at the briefings?”
"Anything looks suspicious to you, open fire."
“What is suspicious? Arms and intent are both valid there, too?”
“Yes. You have to detect weapons, verify that person is not one of ours. If he has something on him, that is grounds enough to…”
“No intent, even without intent.”
“They were assuming that anyone present in a bombed-zone, carrying a Kalashnikov, is no weapons collector.”

This is a fishing attempt by the interviewer. First he is looking for unarmed civilians in this story; when it turns out that they are not available, he tries a question based on the reasoning that armed men in war zone can be considered victims just like unarmed civilians if they don’t have the intention to kill. This is a ludicrous assumption, which the interviewee noticed and made a mockery of.

And from page 14:
“It's a city, you know. Flyers were distributed, but people are bound to be on the move, obviously there would be civilian traffic. It's not a military area. People live there. No one addressed this in briefings? Commanders, anyone? No distinction was to be made between people and civilians, such as would escape in your directions? There are plenty of possible scenarios.”
“That's right. No special mention was made of innocents.”

Enough emphasis was made to clear civilians from 99% of the buildings. There can always be more possible scenarios, and no one can be prepared for all of them. It is the job of the relevant levels of command to assess probable scenarios and make determinations for the troops on the ground. Here the interviewer creates an over emphasis on this issue, when there is no evidence it was needed. And unfortunately here the interviewee fell for this maneuver.

And then there are the absurdities. In pages 21 and 22 a soldier describes what he sees as the inhumane use of white phosphorus in a sandy area near the border, a mostly open region where soldiers do need a smoke-screen cover, such as white phosphorus gives. The only observable victim he could see is the “glazed sand”; no mention of people, animals, domestic or otherwise, vegetation, or structures, just sand.
Is this soldier suggesting that it is inhumane to hurt sand, or worse, that it is inhumane to give his fellow soldiers smoke-screen cover in an open area?
Or maybe he tried to appease the interviewer's expectations for some kind of horror stories, preferably regarding white phosphorus?
Later this soldier will give a favorable description of his past activities in the West Bank, not something we would accept from a soldier who hates the service so much he will argue against giving his fellow soldiers cover from enemy fire.
There is irony here. This soldier describes his experiences in the West Bank as moral and uses them as the standard by which he measures what he saw in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. The irony is that Breaking the Silence was formed by a group of ex soldiers who decided to break their silence over immoral Israeli conduct they witnessed to in the West Bank, or so they say.

And if he was not an ill wisher, which was never likely in the first place, it is more likely he was manipulated, a possibility supported by another absurdity from page 54:

“Were there people who opened fire without detecting anything? On their own initiative?”
“I think so. I think that there was such a case in the force parallel to us. There was sniper fire. The bullet scratched a soldier's helmet and they began to fire in all directions. We were 200 meters behind, and began to inquire on radio and we were told there was sniper fire against the force.”

Do we realize what these two are saying? A soldier’s helmet was hit by a sniper’s bullet, and thank god nothing worse than that, and yet they claim the soldiers fired without detecting anything. The soldiers may not have identified the exact source of the enemy fire, but they had certainly detected it, or more precisely, it detected them. The absurd here is that grown men can argue such a lopsided absurd reasoning in the first place.

It maybe tempting for us to regard these absurdities with humor, but we must be careful in our judgment. These soldiers are clearly left wing in their political views. That does not make them traitors or malicious, or stupid. They left homes and families, risking their lives to protect other Israeli families in the south part of Israel. They’ve done their duty to the country and people of Israel, and to their fellow soldiers on the battlefield. In various parts of the booklet, they express pride in what they did and tried to. They do deserve our highest respect and gratitude. My point is that political and ideological convictions do affect our relations and feelings toward other people, organizations and ideas, whoever we might be. If something in our worldview has a certain status we either trust it more or trust it less, depending on the status and on our convictions. Here in Israel, some traditional Jews, masoratim, are more likely to trust Jews who are more religious than they are on issues of religion, tradition and morality, because in their worldview the more religious folks know better, especially if they call themselves Rabbis. A trust like this can be so deep a person can eliminate ones own personal judgment. The same is true in the secular world. A left leaning person can regard Breaking the Silence as those who know better than him what is or isn’t a war crime and what is right or wrong in times of war, even though he was there, and they were not. It may seem an absurd but it is human nature and if we examine our behavior we’re likely to find out that we have done that very thing to a greater or lesser degree.

Did Breaking the Silence try to manipulate the general public, in Israel and the rest of the world?
Maybe they didn’t?
But if not, why did they rushed to the foreign media first?
And why did they try to keep the Jerusalem Post military affairs correspondent off the story?
And why did all the hype turn out empty?
Why have they tried to use the relative lack of resistance as an argument that there was no need for all that force to be used in the first place, without at least acknowledging the opposite possibility? After all a case can be made that the presence of this massive force, accompanied by the warning from the flyers, is what made Hamas’ fighters flee the battle and hide in hospitals. A frustrated soldier talks about this at page 58 in the pdf booklet.
Why besides rumors and absurdities, haven't they got a single confirmed case of wrong doing on our part beyond vandalism?
I’m not saying a definite yes to the firat question in this section about manipulation, but if they believe the correct response is "no," they should explain why.
Based on that report is there any real room for concern over Israeli soldiers behavior during Operation Cast Lead?
And not just based on that report.
We Israelis sent our sons and daughters to the battlefield to protect us from monstrous enemies. God willing, war willing, luck willing, we would like them all back alive and unhurt, both physically and mentally. And most definitely not to became monsters. The infuriating accounts of vandalism by Israeli troops, which came from a number of sources, tell us that the evil potential is there, and for our own sake we must confront it and extinguish it. It may not be war crimes, but by our standards it is bad enough.

We Israelis do have some serious soul-searching to do after ‘Cast Lead’ as any other nation with a moral code has to do after any kind of war, but Breaking the Silence has some atoning to do for all those empty allegations.

A review of Breaking the Silence testimonies on Operation Cast Lead, Part II


The report makes three grave charges besides the allegation that the army relaxed its rules of engagement. An allegation that isn’t substantiated, because in the entire pdf format there isn’t a single case of civilian casualties, witnessed by the testifying soldiers, other than one case of mistaken identity, which even the authors of this report acknowledge as such. Those charges are the use of human shields, the white phosphorus accusation and wanton destraction of houses, buildings and other properties.

Human shields
The 'neighbor procedure', which the witness testifies to on page 2, is not a case of human shields, because the Palestinian civilian in that story does not give the Israeli soldiers cover from enemy fire. He does act as a negotiator between them and the enemy combatants barricaded inside a house. He is a forced negotiator, which is distinctively different from a human shield.

The allegations that locals were compelled to use 5 kg hammers to break walls and then were forced inside at gunpoint by IDF soldiers are rumors. The specific description says that the soldiers were aiming their guns at the civilians' shoulders. The witness heard of it but did not see it. It also doesn’t sound probable; won’t explosives do a better and quicker job, and a safer one for the Israeli soldiers waiting outside? Explosives can shock the combatants hiding inside, while the use of hammers can give them time to escape and booby-trap the army's intended place of entry.

The testimonies tell us that there were plenty of rumors going around:

Page 17:
“Rumors ran that our tank was shelled by a mortar. Three hours later someone said to us, Didn't you hear you'd been fired at? We had no idea we were fired at.”

“We heard that company L opened fire a lot, there were rumors around the battalion, can't tell you how true they were, but rumor had it that they had emptied large amounts of ammo together with the infantrymen. Beyond these rumors I don't know what happened or didn't.”

This story on page 14 is not much different from a rumor: “I hear from other crews that they fired at people there. Tried to kill them. The younger guys, eager to raise their score. They seem to think it's cool to wield such power with no one wanting to rein them in.” The witness did not witness this story. He heard of it from people who could have equally invented it, thinking it to be cool to brag about things that did not happen.

Emotions, mindset of the troops and their commanders, personal views and interpretations of the various situations the interviewees were in, which are scattered across the booklet; also do not count as war crimes or wrong doing, or as testimonies of such. Either those witnesses saw a war crime, or some other misdeed, or they did not. Apparently they did not.

White phosphorus
Most white phosphorus accounts are told from a distance, including the one on the cover: "We saw the planes flying out and you see from which building the rocket is launched against Israel and you see the four houses surrounding that building collapsing as soon as the airforce bombs. I don't know if it was white phosphorus or not.”
What the witness saw was an attack on Israeli civilians, common place before and during Operation Cast Lead, answered by Israeli warplanes that dropped something he could not identify. It could be white phosphorus or not. He also couldn’t tell whether civilians were there or not, nor what brought down those buildings. Was it caused by the air attack, or by secondary explosions from weapons and ammo stockpiles on the ground? The rest of the white phosphorus testimonies are the same except this one.

At page 45 there is the only on the scene testimony of the use of white phosphorus by the IDF. It aimed at a house, which army intelligence was confident had a lot of ammo and weapons inside. The purpose of the white phosphors was to ignite it and blow it all up, which it did, confirming decisively the intelligence information. The explosions included several Qassam rockets. Now, does Breaking the Silence claim that this action was illegal or immoral? If so under what wording or interpretation of international law do they base this? Because the purpose of international law, as I understand it to be, is to protect unarmed civilians, not the stockpiles of weapons intended to kill them.

Wanton destruction
There is no doubt there was plenty of destruction in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, but was it all unnecessary or unavoidable?
This dense urban area is the battlefield chosen by Hamas. They booby-trapped the houses and buildings, turned others into weapons storages and hideout for tunnels, and used their cover to fire rockets, mortars and missiles at Israeli population centers, not to mention against Israeli troops. Could Israel have engaged in battle successfully without destroying those houses and orchards, without denying the enemy the military use of those places? That question isn’t even asked. The focus on the destruction creates the appearance of careless excesses but with no arguments to support it, it could be just an illusion. On the contrary, at pages 48 and 49 a soldier lists the entire reasoning for that destruction. The IDF destroyed houses from which fire was opened on Israeli troops. It destroyed houses that commanded strategic high ground. The high ground is something any army has to deny from its enemy. It’s elementary warfare. This is why rooftops were also targeted (in areas evacuated of civilians) and mosques’ minarets, where snipers could hide. Mosques also were used by Hamas to store weapons. These are all obvious military targets, but Breaking the Silence creates the impression that those were hit on whims of the soldiers and officers on the ground. This is a manipulation of the facts. The question is, who is doing the manipulation, Breaking the Silence, their witnesses, or both?

Same suspicion rises from their description of “Day After” demolitions. Those demolitions happened because of what took place in the days before, when buildings, trees and the like served as immediate hideouts for Qassam launch crews seeking cover immediately after firing their rockets. The Israeli army had the duty to chase those crews in order to protect the civilian population in Israel. And knowing fully that their stay in the Gaza Strip would be short, they tried to ensure as much as possible that the day after they leave won’t be like the days before they went in, and the Qassam crews will have fewer places to hide.
Yes the destruction in the Gaza Strip was vast, but so was the military use Hamas has made of the Gaza Strip civilian infrastructure. Three years earlier, before the disengagement from the strip, when some of those reservists served as conscripts there, that too did not exist in Gaza.


Breaking the silence over what? A review of Breaking the Silence testimonies on Operation Cast Lead, Part I

A review of the testimonies given by Breaking the Silence, regarding Israel’s military activities in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, found at this BBC link shows that it is not clear what the silence had been broken over, certainly not about war crimes and not about abuse of the local population and not even over relaxed or careless rules of engagement. The hype said one thing. The picture that arises from the carefully read testimonies is different however.

The first matter that surfaced is the complexity of modern warfare, which is undeniably brutal. Coming in the Israeli soldiers and the army knew that the element of surprise was not on their side and they had to compensate for it in the only available way, a massive use of fire. On the battlefield they realized that a significant number of buildings were booby-trapped or hid tunnels and/or weapons caches. With the enemy hiding among civilians the battle was especially harsh on non combatants. But this does not erase the fact that the brutality of warfare is not what determines the morality of a fighting force. The determining factor is the treatment of the vulnerable, the unarmed civilians caught in the crossfire. And here as these testimonies show, there is a stream of consistent exonerating evidences. The testimonies show both that the IDF and its troops to tried to preserve civilians’ lives and and that these efforts succeeded.

Exonerating testimonies
They show how effective the leaflets dropped from airplanes in clearing vulnerable civilian population from operational areas before troops entered:

Page 1 – 2:
“Most people did leave, but some civilians stayed to watch over the houses”.

Page 4:
“We come in from the northwest and wanted to deepen our control towards Israel, in the northeast. Towards Hoovers Road, as it is called, the border with Israel. This was the method: we did not actually see an enemy, nor civilians – we saw absolutely no one.

Page 8:
patrolling an empty house, no combatant, no civilians (no vandalism by Golani or the reservists - DD)

Page 13:
“We went in there, house after house, going around each other every time.
99% of the houses were empty.

Page 17:
”You reported any suspect movement?”
There was nothing there. Ghost towns. Except for some livestock, nothing moved.”

Besides the fliers, units on the ground tried to clear the area from civilians every step they took.

Page 13:
“You enter houses with live fire?”
“No. The instruction was to get everyone out of the house or concentrate them in one room. Announce it through loudspeakers. Give it a few minutes, and if the person is not out after 2-5 minutes, whoever is left inside is a dead man. Whoever comes out – assemble them outside or in one of the lower rooms, and then go upstairs with live fire. This was the instruction, and it was not always followed because often the houses were empty. So why waste ammunition? Just shooting for fun? Some people did but this was not always the case. …In general people (Palestinians) came downstairs, we'd order them to go over there, point in some direction and tell them to go there…It was obvious when we went in that the people are not allowed to stay inside the houses. We directed them towards a certain area hoping they wouldn't be hit there.

Page 25:
“So all the villages around there actually…”
“Were almost totally abandoned. I'm sure there were civilians here and there, but not many.”
“You didn't see even one through your binoculars?”
“None. I’m telling you, I saw none, and the guys in my company were telling me and I couldn't figure out if they were pulling my leg. I assume it was the truth.”
“Okay, what about pedestrian traffic?”
“For pedestrian traffic, the entrance was on the road coming out at Sufa Crossing. The whole road was open when the ground offensive began. They bulldozed the track parallel to the road, so it was open for movement.”

Page 64:
”There were many incidents of people, towards the third or fourth day, where you'd be informed on radio or just simply suddenly see in front of you a group of about twenty people walking south with white flags. It's so insane.”
“So when there's information of people with such flags, what do you do?”
You're told not to open fire. If you get this information, or if there's a report of something humanitarian supposed to pass.”

At pages 25 and 26, the training based "outpost procedure", which gave the troops necessary protection from enemy combatants pretending to be civilians, had a clearing procedure. The soldiers would verify the identity of unidentified persons before they reach the lethal 15 meter "red line" limit surrounding the troops. Then the soldiers would send them indoors.

Page 35-36:
“Suddenly we see an old man, about 60-70 years old. He comes out with a white kerchief and says in Arabic, 'Don't shoot, don't shoot'. About 30 more people follow the old man, all of them in one piece, no one wounded or hit.

Page 73 describes an episode when the witness’s unit found a diabetic old man in a house whose family left him there because he could not walk. The soldiers shared food with him (some of it was from his house and some of it from the tasteless army supplies) and got the unit’s doctor to examine him.

Even armed enemy combatants were wanted alive:
Page 2:
“I'm not sure either about the 'pressure cooker' procedures there (referring to the use of D9 bulldozers to force barricaded enemy combatants to come outside — DD), they could be different. Essentially the point was to get them out alive, go in, to catch the armed men.

The Abulaish tragedy
The heartbreaking story of Dr. Abulaish from Beit Hanoon who lost his three daughters to an Israeli tank shell has an echo in this booklet, not of the actual tragedy but of the circumstances that led to it. The Israeli explanation was that the soldiers operating at Beit Hanoon at the time were concerned about enemy lookouts, spotters, directing enemy fire at them, and mistook the family members for such spotters; as the account below show these concerns were not limited just to Beit Hanoon.

Page 47
“What's a lookout?”
“I don't know the exact definition, someone who gives the coordinates to their mortars or snipers, whatever.”
“He's two kilometers away, how do you know he's a lookout?”
“I have, you know, this thermal sighting device, and it picks up weapons and stuff. But who knows, it could be a camera, or binoculars, it could be a cup of coffee, you can't tell.”

With most of the civilian population gone an enemy spotter is a more likely identification, but tragically that is not always the case, and when not even the best of technologies can guarantee accurate identification, accidents will happen. Sadly, no matter how much effort the Israeli side puts into preventing and minimizing the impact of the horrors of war on the local population, it will never be 100% successful. And whether it is 2% or 15% failure, to those concerned it is unimaginably horrific. Nonetheless the evidence is clear that an effort to save civilian lives was made and it was mostly successful. It is important to remember that fact as the current waves of anti Israeli propaganda claim otherwise.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

US Palestine relationships – same old intransigent

The sixth Fatah congress in Bethlehem is now over, passing not surprisingly, hardline intransigent resolutions. The right of return, which is the demand for all of Palestine from the river to the sea, preserving the right to fight by any means, an old slogan that harbors some of the worse atrocities in the past 50 years, Munich, Maalot, Savoi and many, many more. Yes, they’ve said that what they mean this time is the demonstrations along the security barrier at Ne’ilin and Bil’in, but those demonstrations are there to clear away the barrier so Palestinian mass murder organizations will regain the easy access they had to our population centers in order to resume their mass slaughter of our civilians. This time though they added a cherry to their demands, all of Jerusalem including the western part, that which is within Israel proper, within the green line, that part which they tried to take in 1947 and 1948 by trying to starve its 100,000 Jewish residents.
What is left of the Israeli left tried to defend this by calling it starting positions, but these are starting positions since 1993, and when they are that long, they are called intransigent and hardline non-compromising positions.
But the thing is, it is nothing new at all, cause no matter who was in the white house, whether there was a peace process or not, or whether the prestige of a US president was at stake or not, the Palestinians always did something intransigent, something non compromising, or worse, which was contradictory to what a peace process supposed to be.

During the time of George W. Bush we saw Hamas wining the parliamentary elections then taking over violently the Gaza strip, including the Rafah district, which they lost to Fatah.
During the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, Arafat himself gave the extremist punch line by blowing up the Camp David negations and then many of us israelis. During the time of George H. Bush Arafat allied himself with Saddam Hussein. The era of Roland Reagan began with more katyusha rockets attacks on communities in northern Israel and ended with the formation of Hamas. When jimmy Carter was president they rejected the peace between Israel and Egypt and continued their campaign of mass murder of Israeli civilians inside Israel and abroad as well as against Jewish targets, this was the presidency of Jerald Ford and Richard Nixon. And during the time of Lyndon Johnson the PLO came to be with the charters of 1964 and 1968 that called for the destruction of Israel and the violence to match.

So what’s the deal? What was old becomes new again?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch, a case of twistted logic or blame Israel whenever possible

Recently senior Israeli journalist and columnist, Ben Dror Yemini put the spot on Joe Stork of HRW, head of their ME activities. This created somewhat of a uproar on the internet. As evident in Harry’s Place.

Putting the storm aside YouTube has provided us with a link to one of his statements, made according the video’s poster, on September 27th 2006. The statement was made following Israel actions in Gaza after the abduction Gilad Shalit. In it while Joe Storck acknowledges that electricity has dual use, therefore Israel has a case to attack it, it was a war crime for us to do so because we had another option, as providers of most of Gaza electricity, 57% according to him, we could have simply turn off the electricity, and or stop the fuel from coming to the Gaza plant.

Common sense question: which measure will cause more harm to more Palestinians, bombing an electric plant that give electricity to 43% of the population and can be fixed later, or shutting it for 57% and lifting it whenever we want?

Two more facts regarding this: At the time period referred to, Roni Daniel, Israel’s Channel 2 senior military affairs corresponded, said that only the transformers, which are easily replaced, were attacked. Second, during a rise in kassams attacks on Israel, prior to ‘Cast Lead’, Israel considered those actions publicly; HRW, Betselem and others were quick to denounce them as war crimes

Friday, August 7, 2009

Peace movement Pantheon of oblivion

What all the following people have in common?
Angelo Frammartino,
Ziva Goldovsky,
Mavis pat,
And Dr. Levi Billig,
A young Italian, an Israeli teenager, a 46 years old American nurse, and a British burn Israeli Orientalist? They all lived in different periods but their lives ended the same way, they were murdered by Palestinians; by people they tried to reach and help.
24 years old Angelo Frammartino was a human rights activist working with Palestinian children in East Jerusalem; a Palestinian named Ashraf Hanaisha stabbed him to death on August 10th 2006; apparently he mistook him for a Jew.
Ziva Goldovsky was an 18 years Old Russian burn Israeli peace activist who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist, a friend of her Palestinian boyfriend, On August 10th 1988.
Mavis Pat was a 46 years old American nurse working in Gaza Baptist Hospital. She was murdered on the 15th of January 1972 by a grenade thrown into a car driven by her employer, hospital manager Reverend Edward Nicolas, who was wounded from submachine gun fire during that attack, along with one of his three kids that were in the car with them (All Americans).
Dr. Levi Billig, 39, was murdered in his home apartment in the neighborhood of Talpiot in Jerusalem by a Palestinian sniper on August 21st 1936. He was one of the leading names in the ‘Brit Shalom’ peace association, and his death is considered to be the point in time when this group ceased to be a factor of any importance in Zionist politics.
Their tragic death is more of an indicator of the shortcoming of the peace movement then it is of Palestinian brutality, which has plenty of indicators from other chapters of the protracted Israeli Palestinian conflict; because in the history of the peace movement they are all in a special pantheon, The Pantheon of oblivion.

Angelo Frammartino is still remembered somewhere on the web, because his death was relatively recent, but as Calev Ben David had pointed out it is very little, faintly little, when compared to all the effort been made to sanctify Rachel Corrie.
Ziva Goldovsky was forgotten almost immediately after her murder. During the first days after her murder, and the investigation that followed, left wing newspapers in Israel, Haaretz, Davar, and Al Hamishmar, dealt heavily with the story, but as the shock subsided, she vanished from memory, only to be mention occasionally by far right Jews who drooled over her death the way Max Blumenthal does in his frame jobs.
On the Mavis Pat story I run by accident, while going through old newspaper looking for something completely different, and I’m probably misspelling her name. All I know is this, had she lived she could have been by now someone’s grandma and great grandma.

Tragic though their stories are, in the greater story of the Israeli Palestinian conflict they were barely a footnote, partially because no one made an effort to remember them, (only recently the family of Ziva Goldovsky opened a web site commemorating 20 years to her death), and partially because they did not affect the course of history. But when it comes to the story Dr. Levi Billig, it is not about sidelining a personal tragedy but about editing out nearly an entire chapter of history, the chapter of ‘Brit Shalom’ and its era.

‘Brit Shalom’ was a political association founded in 1926 in Jerusalem by leading Jewish thinkers, scholars and political activists, see here; its declared purpose was “To pave a road and an understanding between Hebrews and Arabs towards common forms of life in the land of Israel. By way of complete equality of the political rights of both nations with wide autonomy.” In 1930 they advocated a bi national state. And some of its members were even willing to limit Jewish immigration.

The concession they offered were difficult to a lot of Jews to accept because they were regarded as a deep cut in the core Zionist beliefs and aspirations, and in the Arabs side there was no response, just a few second level personalities willing to listen. But what devastated this movement the most was Arab terrorism. The riots of 1936 claimed the lives of dozens of Jews mostly civilians, and one political casualty - ‘Brit Shalom’.

To clarify, these were heinous atrocities. In the first two days of the riots, April 19 & 20, more then 20 Jews where murdered by Arab mob, mostly in Tel Aviv and its vicinity but also in Jerusalem and Haifa. They were stoned, knifed, beaten or shot to death; any means available was used. This was followed by a wave of refugees, as hundreds of Jews fled from Jaffa to Tel Aviv and from mixed neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Haifa into those with dominate Jewish population. Afterwards, nearly everyday at least one Jew was murdered, often several. The attacks were all over the land, the victims were men, women, children and the elderly, Ultra Orthodox Jews who then were strong anti Zionists, and secular Jews, European Jews and non European Jews, some were born in the land, some have been there for many years and others only recently arrived.
During the days leading to Billig’s murder evil was very concentrated, but not much different then what had happened before and after. On the 27th of July two Palestinians above the age of twenty, throw a bomb at a crowd of Yemenite children as they left for home from their Talmud Torah, religious school, in Tel Aviv.
Six children were hurt: Shimon Ashkenazi age 9, Amram Yitzhak age 11, Cohen Yekhiel aged 9, Shmuel Barkhiel age 11, David Shubri age 8, and Immanuel Cohen.
The perpetrators escaped a police chase with the help of a mob from the Arab village of Menashia that violently kept the police from arresting them. Even though no one was killed the horror from such monstrosity sent shock waves throughout the Jewish community in the land of Israel.
On August the 13th most members of the Aunger family from Safed were killed when a bomb was thrown into their home, the father, Alther was 36, his son Avraham 6, the daughters Hava and Yafa were 7 and 9. Two days later several workers were killed in an ambush in the Carmel Forest. The next day 8 years old David Albalah was killed by a bomb thrown from a train passing through Hertzl Street in Tel Aviv. And on the 17 that month the nurses Martha Fink and Nehama Tzedek were gunned down in front of the Government Hospital in Jaffa were they worked, taking care of Arab patients.
In face of such constant atrocities ‘Brit Shalom’ deep cut concession looked more and more unattainable, unrealistic and unappealing. It also affected its membership eroding it more and more. The final blow came on the 21st of August, when the Palestinian murder campaign hit home and hit hard. Dr. Levi Billig was not just a gifted man and a committed Orientalist, he was also a very liked individual with Jewish, Arabs and British friends as indicated by the eulogies given by his friends Dr. Shlomo Dov Goitein and Dr. Yehuda Magnes at his funeral, two men who shared his dreams and visions.

This murder turned ‘Brit Shalom’ from a marginal group to whatever definition there is for something that is less then that. But the eulogy for the movement and its ideas came two month earlier by one of its founders and former member Arthur Rupin, who said on May 16: “The peace will not be established in this land by an ‘agreement’ with the Arabs, rather it will come in due time, when we are strong enough so the Arabs will not be so certain in the results of the struggle and be forced to accept us as an existing fact.”

Now, how much different is that from what Zeev Jabotinsky had said 13 years earlier in his famous “About The Iron Wall” essay?
Not much different at all, and that is the whole point.
Because what the peace movement had edited out here, was not just a chapter in history, nor the conclusion that the other side was right, a frightening one to any hard line dogmatic ideologue, but one that he can still dispute if he insists (or she). But the mere possibility that the other side was right; dogmatism in its worse form is about certainties, absolute and total, everything has been written in advance and the possibility of error is non existence, worse then that, it is incomprehensible. From there picking and choosing from history what is ideologically convenient is not very far, it is almost unavoidable. But whatever the motives are, picking and choosing from history will always be dishonest, just as when one victim of violence, Rachel Corry, is more cherished then the others, only this time it has a moral price tag. And that price tag includes the morality and credibility of people that are not just peace activists but also peace monopolists.

Correction: in my first post about ‘Brit Tzedeck v’Shalom’ I had mention Dr. Yehuda Magnes as one of the founders of ‘Brit Shalom’, that was a mistake on my part. Dr. Magnes was associated with this group through the Hebrew University, which he headed and many of the founders of ‘Brit Shalom’ worked at, and by the similarity of their views. But he was never a member; as far as he was concerned they were not moderate enough.
I thank those who had corrected me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Max Blumenthal drooling for hate in Tel Aviv

So Maxi B, your frame job from Jerusalem got canned so you went to Tel Aviv for a sequel.
How did you do Maxi?
Out of the hundreds of people celebrating the ‘White Nights’ festivities, the Tel Aviv centennial celebrations, this is what you have found? Two kids less then half your age saying stupid things, that's it? But Maxi B, stupid kids exist everywhere, hardly ‘feeling the hate’ as you’ve promised your followers. And the way you were drooling over these two, oh may, oh may…

And you knew that Maxi B, so you went to the Tel Aviv University to fish for more hate. And what did you find? No anti Obama talk to suck your fingers with, or anything else that could counter the video the Jerusalem Post made to balance your old frame job.
Do you know what you did get there, Maxi B?
Because what you did find are glimpses of the serious business of peacemaking, the different narratives, the mutual mistrust, the fear and grievances two warrior nations have towards each other, and more and more.

Yes Maxi we do security checks on Arabs, that is because we don’t want to be blown up by Arabs, as we had been just a few years ago. But you have select out that fact, just as you have selected out the Israeli narrative:
Should we apologize to you and the Arab world for celebrating our independence day because we like the idea of been free, or for surviving the ethnic cleansing they had declared on us?
You have mentioned Arab suffering in that war, but what about Jewish suffering, such as the 100,000 Jewish residents of west Jerusalem, who were prevented food and medicine by an Arab siege, or the sniper at the top of Hasan Beck mosque shooting at pedestrians walking the streets of Tel Aviv, the same streets where you were desperately scavenging for expressions of hate, or whatever you can twist as such.

Why is it Maxi B that Israeli suffering doesn’t exist in your videos, could it be because you know nothing about suffering just as you nothing about peacemaking? Could it be Maxi B that you just don’t care, cause you’re not in it for the caring!

The Hasan Beck mosque

Related link Max Blumental anti-Semitic hit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Obama and the Israeli public, So say Haaretz

Haaretz says that in a meeting with Jewish leaders president Barack Obama told them that us Israelis must do some reflections. What a nasty thing to say about us, after all the reflections we did during the Oslo years, and what we got for it, waves after waves of mass murder attacks. But then, that is what Haaretz says he said; no other Israeli newspaper says so.
Haaretz is a good newspaper, on society, law and government, science, environment, etc. until someone or something touch its occupation button, then it becomes the newspaper that advanced Amos Harel’s unfounded war crimes charges, the last major newspaper to realize that anti Semitism plays a major role in the ‘criticism’ of Israel, and the newspaper whose editor had asked then Secretary of State Condoliza Rice to rape Israel into concessions.
This is a newspaper where a dogma resides in it. A dogma so strict it denies the existence of reality, or treat reality as a major annoyance.
But they need reality to confirm their fantasies, they need to rape it into been something else, and since they cannot do it, they ask the American Secretary of State to do it for them; and since they cannot reflect on their own ideological mistakes, as other known Israeli left winger did such as Ari Shavit, Gadi Taub, A. B. Yehoshua and others, the want the Israeli society to reflect on why it cannot agree with them. And since none of this is likely to happen, they need an international authority such as the president of the USA to confirm their dogma. And if they can imagine war crimes where they weren’t, they can imagine words and sentences into the mouth of a US president.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Max Blumenthal & Yoav Shamir, cruising for hate in Jerusalem and elsewhere

Max Blumenthal went to Jerusalem in search of hate, a specific kind of hate,
Max came to Jerusalem shopping for racial hatred and followed the booze,
The easy way, not the most reliable way,
When the booze talk, sometimes the heart talks, sometimes stupidity talks.
If people have something strong to say about president Obama Cairo speech on the eve that speech, that usually suggests stupidity.
Stupidity is no excuse, but did anyone even tried to listen or the title and the slurs were enough?
“I’m a tea bag,” said the first one between the slurs and the insults and the alcoholic mist, “President Obama is going to take way my gun”, he said.
Now, what was it? Tea bag? ‘Take away my gun’?
These are all American things, right wing American issues.
He may be Jewish but the anger he expressed has nothing to do with Israel or with anything Jewish, rather with domestic American matters. The ‘tea bags’ is a right wing American movement that opposes president Obama domestic policies. In Israel those issues are mostly unknown, because domestic American issues, such as the gun debate, important though they are, they also have the good fortune of not affecting the world’s oil supply, thus remaining internal for Americans to solve among themselves. So this particular drunk in Jerusalem, expressed anger over concerns other Americans share, though in a more civil and sober manner. Most of them by the way are not Jewish.
Whether his conduct represents all the American right and all the ‘Tea bags’ I don’t know, but did the 9-11 conspiracy fruitcakes represent the entire American left? No they did not, and the things they were saying about their president at the time, were far worse, and without the help of alcohol.
The second star of the clip said that he worked in the Obama campaign, and remembered his grandmother’s tattooed number from Auschwitz.
From the few coherent sentences this young drunk spat, it was clear he felt betrayed by his idol, president Barack Obama, that is an ugly fleeing, but not the racial hatred Max Blumenthal prepped the viewers to expect. If the surrounding political environment were different, no doubt these two drunks would have been at each other throat.
There was a third star on that clip, an ultra orthodox looking American Jew who admitted without the help of alcohol for not voting for Obama and for not liking president Obama. What a shock, someone who did not vote for president Obama.
Max Blumenthal tried to paint the whole Israeli society as racist in its hatred to the US president, by using a few intoxicated non Israeli Americans that had no common theme of complaint among them, other then alcohol and bad language. It was an act of deception that had clearly worked, as all the ugly offshoots on YouTube show.

It may not be useful to cry over spilled milk, except this has a sequel so to speak. Yoav Shamir is a known Israeli documentary filmmaker whose politics are closer to that of Blumenthal’s. In his latest film ‘Defamation’ he went touring the world in search of anti-Semitism in order NOT TO FIND IT. Early in the movie he came upon an incident at a mixed NYC neighborhood where Afro American and ultra orthodox Jewish live together. In that incident an Afro American youth throw a stone at a bus with 3 years old Jewish children inside. Shamir followed that story to the streets of that neighborhood, were he asked 4 randomly encountered young Afro American residents for their version of the story. The 3 men and one woman he interviewed knew nothing about that incident but they knew Jews very well, “Jews always complain”, “Jews always the first to get welfare”, “Jews have a lot of influence”, “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion tells you how Jews control things”. If they were white, even Yoav Shamir would have to agree they are anti-Semites. And they were not drunk, they weren’t stoned, they did not slur, but they had strong coherent yet despicable views on Jews.
So what am I, an Israeli Jew who lives miles away from NYC, should conclude about Afro Americans from that scene?
Should I follow Max Blumental example and generalize, or should I also remind myself that Stephen T. Johns, the guard that was killed at Holocaust museum shooting in Washington DC was also an Afro American?

There is no doubt that racial hatred is a bad and evil thing, when it is there, and alcohol is no defense, nor does stupidity. But when expressed without the help of alcohol, it is far worse. And when someone acts upon it, as Max Blumenthal did, creating a lie, and generalizing it on an entire population in order to agitate between nations, that is far worse.

As for black and Jews relationships, we can all choose which path to take.

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