A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

5 Adar Aleph 5760
February 11, 2000
Issue number 258

Events...

Wednesday February 16, 8:00pm

Canadian Friends of Lanate Hospital presents John Loftus, author of The Secret War Against The Jews, at Shaarei Shomayim, $18.

News...

Residents Leave, or Remain in Shelters

Prime Minister Barak announced a 48-hour state of emergency, beginning last night, and O.C. Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy is now formally the governor of the entire northern region. The army continues to insist that border residents remain in their bomb shelters - an order which it can now legally enforce - in the wake of fresh Hizbullah katyusha threats. Some 80% of the population in Kiryat Shmonah has left the city. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has extended an invitation to the children of Kiryat Shmonah to take part in recreational and educational activities in Tel Aviv for the duration of the battles in the north.

Sgt. Amir Meir, who was killed yesterday by a direct Hizbullah missile hit while guarding the Dla'at base in southern Lebanon, was buried this afternoon in Ra'anana. Arutz-7's Kobi Finkler reports that IDF sources admit that Hizbullah has apparently found a "weak point" of the Israeli army, in the form of its missile-fire upon IDF and SLA outposts. Five Israeli soldiers have been killed over the past two weeks in direct hits of this nature, and the IDF is reportedly working feverishly to find a solution for the new phenomenon. The Hamodia newspaper reported this week that state-of-the-art American weapons are finding their way from Iran to Hizbullah. Arutz-7 Feb 9/00

While Barak Negotiated With Syria Heavy Weapons Shipments for Hizbollah Passed Through Damascus

Weapons shipments from Iran to Hezbollah, which pass through Damascus, have been stepped up recently, apparently with the aim of preparing Hezbollah for a spate of several weeks of intensive fighting in southern Lebanon. The accelerated pace of arms shipments would be impossible without Damascus's authorization and blessing. The shipments, which include arms, equipment and ammunition, are usually flown to Damascus, then moved by trucks into Lebanon to Hezbollah. The Shi'ite organization then disperses the weapons and other items to storehouses in various parts of southern Lebanon, usually in populated areas.

The rate of the shipments was intensified recently. This took place in the midst of Israel's negotiations with the Syrians and in the wake of repeated declarations from Israeli leaders that the IDF will withdraw from Lebanon by July. The additional shipments are the underlying factor in the assessment that Damascus effectively agrees with Tehran on the need to provide Hezbollah with a longer-term combat capability. The assumption is that Syria is taking into account another intensive military confrontation in southern Lebanon, and therefore wants Hezbollah to be able to fight consecutively for several weeks and not just for a few days, as was the case in the past. Ha'aretz: Feb 7,2000

 

Communities Without Protection

Four Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will be left without IDF protection as of this evening, in the wake of the army's decision to stop providing soldier-guards for the communities. The Yesha Council says that Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh simply did not keep his promise of last week to examine each community individually and its ability to guard itself without IDF assistance.

Adi Mintz, chairman of the Forum of Western Binyamin Communities spoke to Arutz-7 today about the problem and the communities' reaction:

"First of all, it's not particularly comfortable to talk about our security needs on a day that a fallen soldier is being buried and our citizens in the north are stuck in their shelters. But it wasn't we who chose the timing - it was rather the Defense Minister who told us that as of today, the soldier-guards are abandoning their posts. Our feeling is that we cannot assume the responsibility that until now the army has taken upon itself... We are not parasites, and we have taken on ourselves the yoke of participating in guard duty, in addition to other burdens. Our feeling now is that this is not a security decision, but a political one by those to whom the settlement enterprise is a vexing phenomenon, and who wish to simply make life harder for us. We are not willing to accept this - nor are we physically able to, in many cases. Take a community like Neriah (North Talmon) - it simply does not have enough families to protect it in the way that the army thought necessary up until today... Tonight, we will stop guarding, and are considering also the idea of returning our weapons to the army."

Western Binyamin, between Ramallah and the Dan region (Tel Aviv), numbers close to 20,000 people in some ten communities - Nachaliel, Dolev, the Talmonim, and others in the east, and Kiryat Sefer, Ofarim, Beit Aryeh and others in the west. Arutz-7 Feb 9/00

 

Israel, Tunisia Warming Relations

Tunisian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Tahar Sioud arrived on Sunday evening for a three-day visit to Israel, marking the first visit of a high-ranking Tunisian official, Yediot Aharonot reported. Senior sources in Jerusalem said the visit has significant political meaning. "Even Morocco, whose relationship with Israel is considered stronger than the Israel-Tunisia relationship, has never sent such a high-ranking official," said one source. Sioud met with Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nawaf Massalha. The three decided to form a joint committee aimed at promoting commerce and tourism and renewing negotiations in the joint Israel-Tunisia committee for the cultivation of bilateral relations. Sioud also invited Levy to visit Tunisia. Sioud complied with Israel's request to refrain from visiting the Orient House, a building in eastern Jerusalem where the Palestinian Authority carries out governmental activities in violation of the Oslo Accords. He declined to visit to Yad Vashem. Israel Line Feb 8/00

 

The Bright Side of the Pollard Decision

Despite the Supreme Court's rejection of Jonathan Pollard's suit against Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday - and despite criticism of the non-legal grounds on which the rejection was based - Pollard's attorneys are encouraged by certain aspects of the decision. In a letter yesterday to Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, Pollard's attorney Larry Dub explained that "much has been achieved by this lawsuit." Dub noted that for the first time, "Jonathan's entitlement to the specific rights that he requested" and the Israeli government's "recognition that it has specific legal obligations to Pollard" have been affirmed.

In addition, Atty. Dub noted: "Perhaps the most significant thing about the Court's decision was its stated belief that this Government can quickly make good on its promise to bring Jonathan home. In other words, the Court stuck its neck out supporting Ehud Barak's credibility, thereby raising the level of public expectation for Jonathan's release. By dismissing the petition in the way that it did, the Court gave the Government the opportunity to act on its stated intention to quickly and quietly bring Jonathan home, without being compelled to do so. Now it is up to the Government to deliver, or face further legal action consistent with the Supreme Court's recommendations." Arutz-7 Feb8/00

 

Cuban Spy Sentenced to 7 Years in Us Prison

A confessed member of a spy ring was sentenced to 7 years in prison for attempting to infiltrate a U.S. military installation in Florida for the Cuban government. Alejandro Alonso, a U.S. citizen born in Des Moines, Iowa, was the first member of a group to be sentenced. He had pleaded guilty to being an agent for a foreign country. Five others await sentencing. He was one of 10 people arrested in September 1998 in connection with the spy ring. Four others were added to the list of defendants in May, 1999. Prosecutors said the ring tried to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command and planted an agent at the U.S. Navy's Boca Chica Naval Air Station near Key West. Cuba, unlike Israel, is a hostile nation. It is considered in the same category of hostile nations as Libya, and Iraq. The recent sentencing of a spy for a hostile nation (Cuba) to only 7 years, while Jonathan Pollard who spied for America's closest ally (Israel) continues to rot in jail in his 15th year of an unlimited life sentence is yet another blatant example of the absence of equal justice in the Pollard case. IMRA -9 Feb 2000

PLO Releases Hamas Leader

The Palestinian Authority released Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi on Monday, after jailing him for 21 months for publicly opposing peace with Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported. "My release came as a result of the contacts made by brothers in the movement and members of the Authority," Rantisi said. He said he was freed without conditions. Meanwhile, according to Ha'aretz, a military judge annulled an administrative detention order issued in September by Central Region Commander Moshe Ya'alon against Ayman Daraghma, and ordered his release. Daraghma is the longest serving administrative detainee in Israel. Israel Line Feb 8/00

Police to Investigate Election Funding

Police are to investigate the financing of thirty election rallies held by One Israel during last year's election campaign, but that do not appear in the labor Party's accounts. A list of the rallies was passed onto the police by State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg and will be examined by one of the five investigation teams set up by the national fraud squad to look into the nonprofit organizations affair. The police also mean to discover who stands behind bodies that received checks from the "Hope for Israel" association and which the comptroller failed to locate. The comptroller did discover that in a number of cases, cheques given by the association to these bodies were endorsed by two companies known to be involved in gray market financing. The comptroller stated in his report that Hope for Israel was actually a very long arm of One Israel and its expenses, of around NIS 2 million during the election campaign, came mainly from millionaire Octav Botnar.

The police are currently poring through thousands of documents they have received from the comptroller. Detectives currently have a list of accounts belonging to bodies that cannot be traced or whose activities were halted at the end of the election campaign. Goldberg says that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and much more still remains hidden. Ha'aretz 8 February 2000

Rabbi's Grandson Arrested

Yonatan Yosef, 20, a grandson of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, was arrested at 6 AM this morning by the General Security Services, on suspicion of possessing arms and membership in an extremist organization. Two searches of his room - which he rents from the Kach-associated Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea, in which he is not a student - have turned up nothing. The younger Yosef is close with his renowned grandfather, and is actively against a withdrawal from the Golan. His family claims that the arrest is of a totally political nature. Arutz-7 Feb 9/00

Rabbi Asks Pope to Re-schedule Visit

Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has called on the Pope not to arrive in Israel on Shabbat. The Pope is scheduled to visit Israel in late March. Rabbi Eliyahu said that it was improper for the Catholic Church to force Jews in Israel to desecrate the Sabbath. Rabbi Eliyahu also called on government figures to prevent the Pope's scheduled Shabbat arrival. Arutz-7 Feb 9/00


Quote for the Week...

"Assad has a great thing going in most of Lebanon, north of the Litani. He doesn't really care too much if some Lebanese have a power outage for a while... If we want to change things, the only way to do so is to bomb Syrian interests in Lebanon directly." -Middle East expert Dr. Eyal Zisser, of the Tel Aviv University Arutz-7 Feb. 9/00


Commentary...

Israel's Response to Hizbullah Aggression

--Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem Wednesday, February 09, 2000

A. Background

  1. The past two weeks have witnessed an escalation of Hizbullah attacks, with five Israeli soldiers killed and 12 wounded, several critically, in the past eight days, to which Israel responded with utmost restraint.
  2. These Hizbullah attacks constituted a flagrant and systematic violation of the 1996 Grapes of Wrath Understandings, involving the launching of attacks from within civilian villages in Lebanon.
  3. The escalation in Lebanon created an atmosphere directly opposed to that required for the conduct of peace negotiations. The message thus communicated to the Israeli government and people is one of belligerency, rather than the confidence-building so needed for the peace process. Israeli public opinion, which widely supports the peace process, is, as a result, led to doubt that the other sides similarly aspire to peace.
  4. The Israeli government has reiterated in every possible forum that the escalation in Lebanon is liable to endanger the peace process.
  5. Yet, despite this, no restraining action has been taken by either the Lebanese or Syrian governments. On the contrary, the continuous flow of arms from Iran to the Hizbullah through Syria is by now common knowledge.
  6. Terrorist groups throughout the world derive encouragement from the impunity of the repeated Hizbullah attacks.

B. The Israeli Response

  1. Against this background, the Israeli government had no choice but to act.
  2. Following a decision by the Israeli Cabinet on February 7, the Israeli air force attacked a Hizbullah arms depot and three infrastructure targets (electric power stations near Beirut, Baalbek and northern Lebanon).
  3. The targets were chosen in order to both strike at Hizbullah and to make it clear to the Lebanese government that the price for its failure to restrain the Hizbullah carries a heavy price.
  4. Hizbullah command posts and other terrorist targets are located within Lebanese villages. Israel chose not to strike at these targets in order not to cause injury to civilians - this despite the fact that Hizbullah has constantly made cynical use of the civilian Lebanese population as a living shield.

C. Prospects

  1. Hizbullah has been clearly warned that artillery fire into Israeli territory will result in an even more severe Israeli response.
  2. The Government of Israel will continue to defend the residents of northern Israel and will take the necessary measures in order to strike at terrorists and those who support and abet them.
  3. Israel will retain its freedom of action and self-defense, and will take forceful action against those who try to harm the security and well-being of its citizens and soldiers.
  4. The negotiations between Israel and Syria are currently in a state of uncertainty. The focus now must be on ensuring the safety and well-being of the residents of northern Israel while achieving calm in southern Lebanon.
  5. Israel fully expects Syria to exert restraint upon the Hizbullah and their aggression. Should the peace talks with Syria be hindered or halted as a result of this aggression, the blame will fall squarely on Syria.
  6. Israel is prepared to make tough decisions in order to achieve peace, but peace negotiations cannot succeed in the face of the intolerable escalation of terrorism and violence which we have witnessed in recent days.

 

 

A Justified Response

No one in Israel is happy that matters along the northern border have come to the point of requiring major bombing of targets in Lebanon. It would have been far preferable to have by now arranged a treaty with the government of Lebanon in which Israeli forces could peacefully redeploy out of the security zone, along with the assurances of the Lebanese that they will take full responsibility for preventing their territory being used as a staging ground for attacks against Israel, as they are required to do by international law. Anyone would rather have avoided the deaths of six IDF soldiers in Hizbullah attacks in the past fortnight, the brutal Hizbullah shelling of Israeli outposts night and day, the nights that the residents of the North have been forced to spend in bomb shelters, and the IDF response that came early yesterday morning.

Israel has long proven that it does not make war frivolously. But there is a point beyond which it can no longer adopt a policy of restraint. When the status quo is one in which Israelis play the role of sitting ducks, while being exposed to a free-for-all shooting war, no one can expect the government to sit on its hands. Indeed, Prime Minister Ehud Barak resisted calls for strong military action against Hizbullah and Lebanon emanating from the IDF and members of his government for far longer than most national leaders would in his position, out of concern that a response would bring about a delay in negotiations with the Syrians.

But Syria, which has occupied Lebanon for many years and is its de facto ruler, showed that it regards negotiations and doing nothing to stop military attacks against Israel as going together. In other words, Syria wants to negotiate while attempting to harass Israel - a situation no self-respecting nation can accept. Admirably, the opposition in the Knesset has rallied around the government in recent days, strengthening its hands as it has become clear to all that there is no alternative but military action.

Not surprisingly, both Lebanon and Syria were quick to portray Israel's bombing runs as unwarranted aggression against a small country that is, after all, only supporting indigenous actions against an occupying power. The pretended innocence with which these claims are raised fades very quickly in the light of the facts, which apparently need to be repeated again and again.

Israel became militarily involved in Lebanon only because the latter could not restrain organizations using its territory to strike against Israeli civilians as its government dissolved during the long civil war. Successive Israeli governments have stated that Israel has no intention of remaining in Lebanon and has no territorial claims across the international border. Under normal conditions, the government of Lebanon at the end of that country's civil war would have years ago worked out arrangements enabling Israel to withdraw from the security zone, either through an open peace treaty or simply behind-the-scenes understandings similar to ones Israel had with Egypt and Jordan, which ensured quiet borders for decades before formal peace agreements were signed.

This never came about because the situation in Lebanon is anything but normal, given the foreign powers deeply involved in that long suffering nation. Syrian forces patrol and rule most of Lebanon. It is an open secret that Syrian civilians and officers are profiting through both legal economic activities and contraband trade at the expense of the Lebanese, and that the strings of the Lebanese government are pulled in Damascus. Yet curiously nothing is ever said about the need to end the Syrian occupation. Instead, Lebanon has become a playing field for Iran and Syria to use in waging their proxy hostilities against Israel. Iran supports Hizbullah financially and militarily as part of its fanatic Islamic revolutionary ideology. Syria, meanwhile, cynically regards the Israeli presence in south Lebanon as a golden opportunity for bloodletting in which it can outwardly pretend to be neutral, while playing the Lebanon card as a trump in negotiations over the future of the Golan Heights.

The proof of this came last spring and summer, as Barak's commitment to withdrawing from Lebanon, unilaterally if necessary, became realistic. Syria reacted in a perturbed manner to this possibility, even though on the face of things this was what it has always claimed it wants - precisely because it feared that it would thereby lose a strong card. The Lebanese government, under Syrian pressure, went so far as to explicitly state that it cannot guarantee the international border after a unilateral withdrawal.

By taking these stances and giving Hizbullah a free hand, the Lebanese and Syrians are, in effect, spoiling for a fight. In such a situation, Israel's response must be strong enough and painful enough to let the Lebanese and Syrians understand that the status quo is untenable. Nor should it be a foregone conclusion that attacks in Lebanon will forever prevent negotiations over a comprehensive agreement along the northern borders. Indeed, as long as the other side regards south Lebanon as just another card on the negotiating table, Israel needs to show that it can play a strong hand there as well. JP Editorial February 9 2000

 

 

Left Made Mistake Supporting Barak For Prime Minister –By Arie Caspi:

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble won the elections by a 12 percent margin. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon, and the cabinet ministers and all their aides and anyone else who dares open his mouth. And so the bramble does whatever he wants, leaving us with a chronic pain in the ass.

Many Israelis have by now tired of walking on eggshells for fear of hurting the peace process. Aside from peace, we also want a more humane and just society, as well as a prime minister whose seat was not won through shady dealings. Barak claims he did not know about the questionable fund-raising methods used to finance his campaign, and it is rumoured that one old man in Rosh Pina actually believes him.

During the election campaign, a fact-checker employed by Barak's party who wanted to inquire about some financial figure or another would contact me from time to time. I was always requested to cite my source by name, publication year, chapter number, page number, and, if possible, line number as well. "That's how Ehud wants it," I was told. Anyone who ever saw Barak give his spokeswoman a response to some mundane question from the press, dictating the answer word by word, would sincerely doubt there was any aspect of the campaign Barak was not intimately familiar with. You can count on Barak to have read the law, which is quite clear: Another matter, no less grave than the alleged criminal offenses, is the legal fraud. The pro-Barak amutot, secretly established and operated by campaign manager Tal Zilberstein and his cronies, were intended to appear as though they had grown spontaneously out of different segments of Israeli society. One of these amutot was used to orchestrate provocative incidents, making it seem as though Benjamin Netanyahu's thugs were sabotaging election meetings held by Barak and Center Party candidates.

Barak was chosen because of his military rank and medals. It has been 25 years since the Israeli left last dared to go to elections with a civilian leader. Shimon Peres's stint as Defense Ministry director-general and the credit he got for fathering Israel's nuclear program initially gave him the necessary halo, but he quickly lost it for lack of a good snapshot in uniform. Advanced military training has become a prerequisite for left-wing leaders. The current Israeli cabinet looks like the army's General Staff in early retirement: It features no less than five former generals, with a few additional ones as backstage helpers in Barak's office. It is doubtful whether a similar government could be found anywhere in the democratic Western world.

Human history is a tale of all the evils and injustices committed by the world's leaders. There is no philosopher king. Making it to the top apparently requires boundless ambition and a considerable amount of moral obtuseness. That's why the leaders had best be subjected to the same laws as the people. In the rare cases where men of a different kind made it to power, they could not survive for long. Salvador Allende, Abraham Lincoln and Yitzhak Rabin were simply assassinated. There is something disheartening about watching this parade of brambles and knowing that we will never have the kind of prime minister we really want. All we can do is hope that the threat of investigation by the attorney-general and new elections every four years will somehow rein our leaders in. And that the very bravest of them, those who stand firm in the face of the law, will all meet some day at a prison reunion. Ha'aretz Magazine 4 Feb 2000

 

 

Nobody's Infallible - By Evelyn Gordon

The investigation into alleged violations of the Party Funding Law by nonprofit organizations (NPOs) associated with Prime Minister Ehud Barak has provided a unique opportunity; a chance to observe how our self-proclaimed guardians of "the rule of law" behave when one of their own is under attack. When former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was under investigation during the Bar-On Affair, left-wing politicians and journalists clamored for his resignation. When Netanyahu and his associates charged that Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein was making a mountain out of a molehill, these same politicians and journalists declared vociferously that to question the attorney-general's judgment was to undermine the rule of law.

But now that it is Barak who may be tainted, the response is very different. All of a sudden, attacking the attorney-general has become a legitimate tactic. All of a sudden, criminal suspicions do not mandate the prime minister's resignation; instead, he must be allowed to continue his important work of peacemaking without the distraction of a criminal probe.

Consider, for instance, Environment Minister Dalia Itzik, who as head of the Labor Party's response team during the Netanyahu years was the first to demand the prime minister's head on a platter and to declare that any criticism of Rubinstein's behavior constituted an attack on the rule of law. Now, she is lambasting the attorney-general, saying it is no longer clear "whether or not one can completely trust his statements." Or take Ha'aretz columnist Yoel Marcus - also one of the leading supporters of "the rule of law" back in Netanyahu's day. Now, he has declared that the whole imbroglio of Barak's fund-raising apparatus is Rubinstein's fault, and that this "blunder" is no reason to plunge Israel, in a year of peace treaties and a national referendum, into an insane whirlpool of investigations and anarchy.

In fact, Rubinstein's critics have some justification. The attorney-general failed to issue an unequivocal statement about the applicability of the Party Funding Law to a prime ministerial campaign until after the election, and his earlier, equivocating statements could easily have led the Barak campaign to think the law did not apply. Yet Rubinstein also has justice on his side when he says that, confronted with the state comptroller's findings on the campaign, he had no choice but to order a criminal investigation - because the scope of the Barak NPOs' activities was undoubtedly beyond what he could ever have imagined when he was asked for a ruling before the election.

Indeed, the blatancy of the Barak NPOs' behavior makes it very easy to say that the Dalia Itziks and Yoel Marcuses are simply hypocrites: By trying to shift the blame onto the attorney-general, they are "undermining the rule of law" quite as much as Netanyahu's supporters ever did - and for no better reason than that the person under attack this time is on their side. But to leave it at that is to ignore the larger truth behind their words - a truth that they themselves are perhaps only now beginning to realize. And that is the fact that the attorney general - like the state attorney, the police and the judges - is not a god who can infallibly determine what the rule of law means and when it has been violated, but a human being who, despite the best of intentions, may not always be right.

Perhaps Rubinstein's critics are wrong in the current case, and perhaps they are correct. But only if the issue can be debated freely - if politicians, journalists and others can feel free to question the attorney-general's decisions without being accused of "undermining the rule of law"- can the public ever hope to reach the truth. And because such questioning can sometimes prevent miscarriages of justice, it is far more conducive to the rule of law than blind acceptance of any decision ever could be.

If the affair of Barak's NPOs has awakened our self-proclaimed guardians of the rule of law to this basic truth; if, as a result, the accusations of "undermining the rule of law" that currently greet every criticism of the legal system gradually disappear from the Israeli lexicon, than this affair will represent a giant victory for the rule of law no matter what the police and the courts ultimately determine. Tuesday, February 8 2000 01:43 2 Adar I 5760

 

 

The Cult of the Individual - By Gerald Steinberg

The myth of Trumpeldor, the hero of Tel Hai, and the concept of self-sacrifice for the common good are no longer fashionable. In this sense, some sectors of Israeli society have caught up with, and perhaps surpassed, much of the Western world.

In the past two weeks, the killing fields in Lebanon have returned to action. A number of IDF soldiers were slain, and the terrorists, supported by Iran and Syria, murdered an SLA leader. At the same time, the chattering classes of north Tel Aviv and Ramat Hasharon have adopted a former soldier who admitted that a combination of fear and ideological opposition caused him to freeze during a Hizbullah attack in which three other soldiers were killed. As the son of one of the activists in the "Four Mothers" group that opposes the continuing IDF presence in Lebanon, he is being lauded for his "honesty" in confronting his weakness and asserting his individuality and right to live.

In this upside-down Alice-in-Wonderland world, the deaths of his comrades are not his responsibility, nor that of the terrorists and their supporters. Instead, the responsibility for the continuing confrontation in Lebanon lies with the "generals" and "politicians." The issues raised by this debate go far beyond the strategic question of how best to extract Israel from the quagmire of Lebanon, or the duties of soldiers in combat. Rather, the elevation of a shallow and self-absorbed yuppie into a cultural hero is yet another sign of the destructive impact of post-Zionist materialism.

The question is no longer one of strategy or tactics, whether in Lebanon, confronting Palestinian terrorists, or deterring attacks from Iraq, Iran or Syria. The fundamental issues focus on the responsibilities of the individual in a community-based society. Judaism has always been and will always be a common enterprise. From the descent into Egypt, the Exodus, Mt. Sinai, the conquest of the Land of Israel, the glory of David's Kingdom and the subsequent collapse, the Mishnaic period and the Roman conquest, 2,000 years of Diaspora, and through modern Zionism, the Jewish experience is a collective one. For individuals with no sense of communal identity or responsibility, Judaism has no meaning.

Through the case of the self-absorbed soldier, the destructive impact of Israeli secular society is revealed for all to see. In the absence of a communal Jewish identity, there is no reason to make sacrifices so that the collectivity, and its principles, can survive. Secular Zionism has failed to create an alternative to Jewish identity that can motivate individuals to be prepared to give up their lives, or even their time and resources, for the nation and the wider society. The utter emptiness of post-Zionism is the tragic expression of this failure. These trends are increasingly apparent in the Israel Defense Forces. In a democratic society that abjures coercion, the IDF and the State of Israel rely on the motivation of soldiers to fight for each other and for the survival of the Jewish people. The elected government, regardless of party and personality, and the officers that this government appoints, are responsible for determining how and where to fight. There are good reasons for questioning their judgement regarding the war in Lebanon, but they remain the only legitimate decision-makers. When individual soldiers and their parents go beyond political action and undermine the authority of leadership, the army and the country loses their coherence.

In North America and Western Europe, the cult of the individual flourishes in the absence of physical threats to the survival of society and nation. Most Western democracies no longer require their young men to serve in the military, and can afford, with some difficulties, to pay the poorer classes to join the armed forces. (However, this also leads to cautious military strategy and tactics that place primary emphasis on avoiding casualties, as seen in the wars in Iraq and Kosovo. A paid army without motivation will not survive long in the face of casualties.)

Unfortunately, Israel is not located in post-modern North America or Western Europe. Rather, it is in the ever-dangerous neighborhood of the Middle East. Here, whether motivated by ideological hatred or coerced by totalitarian regimes, there are many hostile armies and threats of potential destruction. While one can dream about peace and argue about the tactics and strategy employed in Lebanon, it is more than merely foolish to claim that there is no need for self-sacrifice for the survival of the community.

Thankfully, the obsessive self-absorption and cult of individuality is not universal. There are still many sectors of Israeli society who recognize that the Jewish people and Israel have no past and no future as individuals. The real heroes are the soldiers and their families, including some who oppose the government policy in Lebanon, who continue to endure the full costs and dangers of military service.

To be Jewish and to be a Zionist means subordinating some individual aspirations for the sake of collective survival. JP February 4 2000.


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