A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
March 16, 2001 - 21 Adar 5761
Issue number 317
Friday March 16, 9:15pm
Oneg Shabbat at BAYT with Bentzi Lieberman, Chair of the Shomron Regional Council.
Sunday March 18
"Next Year in Jerusalem?" Symposium at Chabad @ Flamingo, 8001 Bathurst.
Sunday March 18, 7:00pm
Alyah Office, Tehilla and the BAYT Chug Aliyah present Bentzi Lieberman speaking on life in the Shomron, and opportunities for Olim there, at BAYT.
Tuesday, March 20
Olim Fair at the Lipa Green Building.
Wednesday March 21, 8:00pm
Chabad of Markham presents Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, 83 Green Lane, $6.
Thursday, March 22, 8:00pm
Mizrachi presents Rav Hershel Schachter speaking on The Pesach Haggada from the Teachings of Rav Y.B. Soloveitchik z'l at Bnai Torah.
Despite Media, Americans Support Israel
The American public supports Israel. A poll commissioned by Jewish organizations in the U.S. shows that 4/5 of those who claim to be aware of Middle East news declare that their positions are "close to those of Israel." The survey encompassed over 1,400 people, divided into four groups: the general public, American-Jews, the "elite" - people of high-income and high-education; and "people of influence" - journalists, community leaders, legislators, etc. Other findings of the poll:
The poll also showed that Americans are not as knowledgeable about the Middle East as they think. Most of the respondents thought that Israel is still in control of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza; only 22% knew that Israel has turned over more than 40% of Judea and Samaria to Palestinian control. "This poll tells me that across the board, Israel has a bedrock of support," said Ze'ev Furst, president and CEO of First International Resources, one of the firms that conducted the poll. "The American people 'get it' to a greater degree than we'd assumed," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (arutzsheva.org Mar 14)
First Security Mini-cabinet Meeting
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new mini-Cabinet on security matters convened Wednesday for the first time. Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman reported before the meeting, "The army foresees, despite the relative calm, an increase in violence towards the end of the month. The PA has an interest in dragging the entire Arab world into conflict with us, and will therefore step up the violence in the hope that we will also respond in kind... The security analysts feel that Arafat is very bothered by the fact of a national-unity government, because the Palestinians built much of their strategy on the fact that there were two forces here pulling in different directions." (arutzsheva.org Mar 14)
Lebanese Planning to Pump Water Away from Israel
Water Commissioner Shimon Tal expressed concern Wednesday about Lebanese plans, already underway, to build a pumping station on the Hatzbani River. Tal told Army Radio today that the Hatzbani supplies nearly one quarter of the water flowing into the Kinneret, and warned that if Lebanon succeeds in diverting the flow, it would have serious consequences for Israel's water supply. IMRA notes that in 1964, when Syria attempted to divert the sources of the Jordan away from Israel, Israel responded militarily, and the plan was ultimately thwarted by IDF operations the following year. (arutzsheva.org Mar 14)
Livnat Bans Post-Zionist Textbook
Education Minister Limor Livnat has banned the controversial 9th-grade history textbook, "World of Changes." This was the first time such a ban was imposed, but Livnat was backed by a decision by the Knesset Education Committee of last November which unanimously declared that the book "did not attain the goal of fulfilling the country's educational and values goals. It is missing entire sections on Zionism, Diaspora Jewry, the entire story of Soviet Jewry, no mention of Ethiopian Jewry's aliyah [immigration], the struggle with the British before the War of Independence, the background to the Six-Day War - even the Holocaust was presented in a distorted way." Yoram Hazony of the Shalem Centre, was the first to criticize the book last year. (arutzsheva.org Mar 13)
Israel Worried over U.S. Strategic Ties with Egypt
Israel is urging the United States not to supply new long-range systems to Egypt in its drive to serve as a protector of the Gulf region. Egypt and the United States plan to discuss a strategic alliance during the visit of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Washington in April. Israeli officials said Cairo's request for weapons and systems meant to form a long-range rapid deployment force could be turned against Israel amid the current mini-war with the Palestinians. This could involve the U.S. supply of spare parts for aircraft and tank transporters that could enable Egypt to quickly cross the more than 200 kilometers of the Sinai peninsula and sustain weeks of combat with Israel. "In our discussions with the Americans, they continually tell us that Egypt is no threat to us," an Israeli source involved in the discussions said. "But they have nothing to say when we ask for a guarantee that any weapons given to Egypt for the Gulf would not be used in the Sinai against us."Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said Israel made a mistake in allowing Egypt to rearm with U.S. weaponry as part of the 1978 peace treaty. "There were things that we didn't see," Sharon said, "that there would be rearmament in Egypt." Israeli defense officials no longer hide their concern over what they say is a massive Egyptian conventional arms buildup. They said the most impressive achievements have been in the Egyptian navy. They cite Egypt's procurement of new Ambassador Mk-2 missiles boats and plans for Moray-class submarines and additional frigates. "They have stuff that is superior to us, particularly in the sea," a senior Israeli defense official said. U.S. officials maintain that Egypt has no intention of attacking Israel. At the same time, U.S. officials have dismissed the prospect that Egypt would end its military buildup. (MENL Mar 13)
Rivlin in Favor of Arutz-7
Communications Minister Ruby Rivlin said on Monday that he supports the completion of Arutz-7's licensing process. "Arutz-7 from its very inception never violated the law," Rivlin said, "and it should be fully licensed in order to respond to the needs of an entire segment of the population." In February 1999, the Knesset legislated a law granting Arutz-7 broadcasting rights. The law's implementation has been held up for two years in the Supreme Court's High Court of Appeals, and still awaits final adjudication. (arutzsheva.org Mar 12)
Letter from a Labor Party Election Observer
A man named Yahav Katzir, of Kibbutz Sdot Yam near Hadera, was sent by the Labor Party to be an election observer in Gush Katif last month. In a letter to the residents of Gadid, where he was stationed, he explained that he was originally very apprehensive about his job: "I was first of all afraid of Arab terrorist attacks, and second of all I was afraid of you. I thought that you are extremists and unpleasant, because this is how the media describe you. I didn't understand at the time that this could be one big fabrication of the reality." Katzir's letter to the residents of Gadid continues, "I got on the bulletproof bus [that morning], and my stomach started churning. I asked myself, 'Why do I need this? It's so dangerous! I have a family, why should I endanger myself?' And so on and so forth for the rest of the trip... The army escort left us at the Gefen checkpoint. This scared me... I looked outside and saw that it was [safer than I thought]. As we traveled, I saw a stunningly beautiful area, with a pristine landscape. I became excited. But I kept on worrying about the meeting with you, the residents. Then we reached N'vei Dekalim, and I saw warm and friendly people around me. I began to feel a sense of security... At this point, my opinion about you, the residents, changed from one extreme to the other: I understood that in this area live people who are warm and pleasant, who would love to change the stigma which others have unjustifiably stuck to them. I was amazed that you even thanked us for coming... I am very happy about the decision to send me to you..."As a kibbutznik and a farmer... I understood that your connection to the land is so strong, and for this you struggle so hard to remain in the Gush even beyond Zionism and politics. I very much admire people like you. As the day passed, I realized that your social lives are very developed, and everyone knows everyone else and supports everyone else. It is very moving to see such interaction. Towards the end of the day, the desire to come and live with you came strongly over me, to join you despite all the fears I had at the beginning. The quiet, the people, the landscape - all this attracted me greatly. In short, you succeeded in making me realize that what I had thought was based on unreliable sources, and that my stubbornness "not to cross to the other side" was not justified... Despite my left-wing views, I believe that one day, if Gush Katif still exists, I will come and join you in order to live in this beautiful place, with the good people in the area. Thank you very, very, very much, Yahav Katzir, Sdot Yam" (arutzsheva.org Mar 12)
The Ministers of the Sharon Government
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Likud) Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres (One Israel-Labor) Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (One Israel-Labor) Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) Justice Minister Meir Shetreet (Likud) Communications Minister Ruby Rivlin (Likud) Education Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) Public Security Minister Uzi Landau (Likud) Environment Minister Tzachi HaNegbi (Likud) Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh (One Israel-Labor) Industry and Trade Minister Dalia Itzik (One Israel-Labor) Science, Culture, and Sport Matan Vilnai (One Israel-Labor) Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon (One Israel-Labor) Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yeshai (Shas) Labor and Welfare Minister Shlomo Benizri (Shas) Health Minister Nissim Dahan (Shas) Religious Affairs Minister Asher Ochana (Shas) Jerusalem Affairs Minister Eli Suissa (Shas) National Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman (National Union) Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi (National Union - Yisrael Beiteinu) Housing Minister Natan Sharansky (Yisrael B'Aliyah) Social Coordination Minister Shmuel Avitan (One Nation) Ministers Without Portfolio: Danny Naveh (Likud),Tzippy Livni (Likud), Salah Tarif (One Israel-Labor) Raanan Cohen (One Israel-Labor) (A7 Mar 11)
New Minister Tarif Cited for Anti-Israel Remarks
Minister without Portfolio Salah Tarif, a Labor party MK who became the first non-Jew to serve as a minister in an Israeli government, has been cited for several anti-Israel comments. A few weeks ago, he granted an interview to Palestinian television in which he called the Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel "captives," he said that Sharon had "defiled the Al-Aksa Mosque with his visit [to the Temple Mount]," and said that Druze citizens should not have to serve in the army. Minister Tarif also sent good wishes to Hamas terrorist chief Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and blessed his interviewers that they should "reach Jerusalem, with the help of Allah." (arutzsheva.org Mar 9)
Quotes for the Week...
Quotes for the Week...
"The Middle East is on the brink of the most explosive crisis it has faced since 1973." - Former U.S. ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, speaking to the Trilateral Commission - a group of political and business leaders. He spoke of a "clear and present danger that the most dangerous situation in the world today - the Middle East - and Iraq could metastasize into a single fireball." (Haaretz)
PM Sharon’s Interview With Newsweek By Lally Weymouth
Excerpts from the conversation:
Newsweek: You were elected to bring security to the people of Israel. How do you plan to do that?
Ariel Sharon: I would like to negotiate with the Palestinians, but this government will be different from the former one. It will not negotiate under terror or violence….
N: Reportedly, some of Arafat’s own security apparatus is engaged in terrorism. Is this so?
PM: The Palestinian Authority does not take any preventive steps against the infrastructure of the terrorist organizations. And Arafat’s most loyal forces, like the presidential guard and Force 17, are active participants in violence and terror.
N: If the intifada uprising gets worse, would you consider re-entering Palestinian controlled areas on the West Bank?
PM: Palestinian controlled areas? The answer is no. Areas that were given to the Palestinians—there, I think the situation is irreversible, and I don’t think we have to re-enter. That doesn’t mean that Israel will not take steps against people who find shelter there.
N: Have you talked to Arafat?
PM: About three weeks ago, Arafat called me and we had quite a long conversation. I stressed that I would like to make a clear distinction between terrorist organizations—against whom we have to take the necessary steps—and, on the other hand, the Palestinian population, whose conditions I would like to ease. I said I would like to start immediately by opening the gates of the Palestinian Authority area to raw materials, [permitting] their agricultural products to be taken out and increasing the number of employees [allowed to come to Israel]. But a day or so later, a wave of terror started and has continued right up to today.
N: Do you believe Arafat has control?
PM: He hasn’t lost control.
N: Does he have less control than six months ago?
PM: No change.
N: If Arafat wanted to stop the terror, could he?
PM: Yes, he can stop it.
N: When you spoke to Arafat on the phone, did he indicate he would control the violence?
PM: He listened, he did not answer.
N: Did he call you or did you call him?
PM: He called me. I said I would like to ease the conditions of your people but in order to do so, steps should be taken to stop the violence.
N: The U.S. is hoping you will turn over the tax payments to the Palestinian Authority.
PM: We shouldn’t look at Arafat as someone who cannot pay his wages. They have property worth over a billion dollars all over the world.
N: Do you have plans to meet with Arafat?
PM: I’m ready to meet and negotiate with him but that cannot be done under pressure of terror or violence. That is the difference between this government and [Ehud] Barak’s. Making those concessions weakened Israel.
N: It’s rumored that your government may close the Gaza airport so that Arafat’s plane cannot take off.
PM: I don’t want to go into details. Because the Palestinian Authority is behind terror, the concept should be to ease the lives of ordinary citizens and harden the lives of those in the Palestinian Authority. Arafat agreed to take the necessary steps but he freed many terrorists who are now involved in terror. [In addition to] Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah is involved in terror inside Israel. They are backed by Iran and have the sympathy of Syria. Hezbollah has never had better relations with Syria.
N: Is that because Syria’s new president, Bashar Assad, is more sympathetic to them than his father?
PM: I think the father, being more experienced, understood better. Hezbollah also has support in Arafat’s presidential guard. Ten days ago, a colonel in the presidential guard was killed by us: he was the liaison with Hezbollah.
N: What are the targets of Islamic Jihad and company?
PM: Their targets are Israeli and Jewish targets around the world.
N: Some say you plan to create a unilateral separation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
PM: One should look at realistic plans. The length of the border of Judea and Samaria ‘til 1967 was 309 kilometers, and we never managed to control it. If we were to make the separation Barak mentioned, the length of the border would be over 700 kilometers [435 miles]. Who could patrol this border? It is not realistic. There should be an interim agreement or a situation of non-belligerency. I know the Palestinians are suffering from lack of contiguity. They don’t want Israeli check points.
N: Would you give the Palestinians contiguity?
PM: Yes, and a road so they could travel freely from the north to the south of Judea and Samaria. I have a plan so they don’t need to cross check points. Maybe that is the way to move forward to peace.
N: Is the Palestinian Authority importing a lot of weapons and ammunition?
PM: The most dangerous equipment being smuggled in are arms they are not entitled to have [coming] from Sinai and by ship via Gaza’s beaches. They have to stop it.
N: Do you think Iraq is a threat to Israel?
PM: I think that the new administration rightly regards Iraq as a very dangerous country. They have the know-how [to make] weapons of mass destruction weapons. They have a very capable group of scientists. No doubt, they they are making tremendous efforts to possess weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, we support the steps being taken [in Washington]. I think there is also a danger of Iran getting long-range missiles, thanks to support from North Korea and Russia. The most dangerous thing is that Iran has become the center of world radical Islamic terror.
N: What are your other priorities?
PM: To encourage immigration to Israel. We have to make a major effort to bring another million Jews from Russia, South America, Central America, France, the Ukraine, from other places in the former Soviet Union. And, of course, we will make a major effort for American Jews to live here. I believe that in the coming ten to 12 years we have to make an effort to bring another million Jews here. We brought 1 million in the ’90s. I want to bring another million Jews in the coming 10, 12 years. By the year 2020, I hope the majority of Jews will be living here in Israel. We also have to make a tremendous effort in education, here and abroad to teach Zionist values on the one hand and on the other hand, the most sophisticated scientific technology. And then we must bring unity to the Israeli citizens —between ourselves and the Jews around the world. I believe I can talk to the right and to the left, to the religious and the secular, to the ultra-orthodox, to the Arabs, to Jews in Israel and those in the Diaspora. And then of course we must attract more investment. These are going to be my main goals.
N: Is Israel at a crisis point?
PM: The country is facing great dangers. On the other hand, there are great hopes. It is a country of talent. I think that the idea is to contain the dangers and to pursue the hopes. I believe I can do it. (Newsweek Mar 19)
A Wake-Up Call For American Jewry By Michael Freund
For a community among the most active and generous in the world, American Jewry has been surprisingly placid in recent months regarding the Palestinian wave of terror against Israelis. One would have expected that the daily shootings, stabbings and stonings would have evoked an outpouring of support for the beleaguered targets of the violence. But thus far, little succor has been forthcoming.
Sure, solidarity visits to Israel have been organized, rallies were convened in major cities, and letters to the editor have been written. Such activities are, of course, important. They impact public opinion and demonstrate that American Jews stand by Israel in her time of need. But very little of the sympathy from abroad has been directed specifically at the Jews living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, who have borne the brunt of much of the violence.
I am not a ""settler"", nor do I live in the territories. But I have friends and relatives who do, and their lives have been dramatically altered in recent months. What were once routine trips to and from work have become far more dangerous. Family and acquaintances hesitate to visit and the roads after dark have taken on an air of peril. The fear of being shot or stoned has become palpable, and the psychological impact on children and adults alike is immense.
Residents of the Gaza community of Netzarim were forced to spend Purim eve in bomb shelters after their Palestinian neighbors attacked them with mortar shells. For others, warnings of impending attacks cast heavy shadows of solemnity over the traditional holiday feast.
If a Jewish community anywhere else in the world were subjected to similar assaults, there is no doubt that American Jewry would be in an uproar. But for some reason, the suffering and pain of the settlers goes unheeded. Emergency appeals have not been launched on their behalf, nor have public gatherings been convened to show support for them.
I would like to believe that politics does not have a role to play in this. I would like to think that when a Jew cries out for help, American Jewish organizations do not check his home address before deciding whether or not to assist him. Perhaps it is simply due to a lack of awareness. After all, the settlers are about as popular in the American media as Mad Cow disease, and they are given little chance to convey their point of view. But let there be no mistake about the severity of the situation. Jewish communities throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza are in desperate need of assistance to purchase items ranging from bulletproof vehicles and night-vision equipment to pagers, binoculars and defibrillators. The Israeli army does the best it can, but it can not be everywhere at all times. Hence, the communities themselves must often play a role in enhancing their own security.
In times of crisis, American Jewry generally has a stellar track record of getting involved. Within three days of the January 13 earthquake in El Salvador, American Jewish organizations had set up a fund for the victims, organized a coalition to raise awareness, and formulated plans to send a team to evaluate the victims’’ needs. Oddly enough, after six months of violence and terror, the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are still waiting for their brethren in America to demonstrate a similar level of concern for them.
Whatever one’’s views are regarding the settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the Jews of these areas are Jews, and the proper Jewish response is to assist them in their time of need. American Jewish organizations should launch a massive fundraising appeal to help Jewish residents of the territories improve their security. Even relatively modest sums might make a difference by enabling them to purchase much-needed equipment.
Jewish communities in America should consider organizing ""twinning"" programs with Jewish settlements to strengthen the ties between American Jewry and Israelis and provide them with a much-needed morale boost. Funds should also be directed to assisting families whose loved ones have been killed in terrorist attacks.
When bullets are flying in Israel, American Jews must lay aside their political differences and focus on what is truly important: saving precious Jewish lives. The time to do so is now.
The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’’s Office from 1996 to 1999 ( Jerusalem Post Mar 14)
To Sharon, It's 1948 All Over Again By Zev Chafetz
Ariel Sharon's first weekend as prime minister fell on Purim, the Jewish Mardi Gras, a festival of costume parties and masked balls. Sharon didn't dress up for the occasion, but there's no doubt he entered office wrapped, at least in his own mind, in the mantle of his legendary predecessor David Ben-Gurion.
Ben-Gurion was Israel's founder and first prime minister, and he ruled with a virtually free hand. The Old Man, as he was called, was a warrior. In the War of Independence he gave the orders that drove tens of thousands of Arabs into exile. He instituted a policy of blunt cross-border retaliation for terrorist acts. In 1956, he attacked Egypt and conquered Sinai.
He never apologized for such aggressive actions. Israel was fighting for its life, and that meant doing whatever was necessary.
Sharon, who earned national fame as one of the Old Man's military enforcers, takes office in what he sees as a Ben-Gurion moment. To him, Israel is back to 1948, fighting a war of survival against the Palestinians and their radical Arab supporters. Six months ago, on the verge of what appeared to be a certain peace deal with Yasser Arafat, this was considered pure paranoia. Today, it has galvanized into a national consensus.
Sharon's mandate is clear: He was elected to kick ass. Israelis haven't been in such a bellicose mood for decades. Having concluded that Arafat was lying about peace (a notion endorsed by Ehud Barak in his final Knesset speech) and that the intifada is, in fact, open warfare, people are frightened and angry.
They want not just an end to the Palestinian terror campaign, but the sort of military victory that will restore Israel's badly eroded regional deterrent capacity.
The two are intimately linked. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein bombed Israeli cities with impunity during the Gulf War, and he is positioning himself as a defender of the Palestinians. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas of Lebanon, who believe they won a great victory by driving Israeli troops back across the border, have become patrons of Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. And the Syrians have let it be known that they are capable of hitting Israeli civilian targets with chemical weapons.
These threats are the Palestinians' primary strategic weapon. Barak often cited them as a key reason for peacemaking. But with a deal off the table, that logic no longer holds. Sharon believes that radical states must be discouraged from aggression the old-fashioned, Ben-Gurion way. By cracking down in the West Bank and Gaza, he can, in effect, challenge Syria, Iraq and Iran. If they respond, they risk a devastating response. If they don't, the Palestinians will have no leverage, and Israel's capacity to defend itself will be reasserted throughout the Middle East.
Naturally, Sharon isn't about to say any of this out loud. In his maiden speech as prime minister, he extended his hand in peace to the Arabs. This was a not quite insincere gesture. Sharon wants to talk land for peace with the Syrians. As for the Palestinians, Arafat can forget about the kind of sweeping offer he got from Barak at Camp David, but Sharon isn't averse to a deal — on his terms. If the Palestinian leadership were to agree to a demilitarized entity in Gaza and something more than half of the West Bank in return for a long-term, genuine ceasefire, that's a compromise Sharon could accept and sell to the public. The odds against that happening are long. The Palestinians and some Arab states have yet to internalize the new political situation. They still seem to believe a majority of Israelis are desperate for a peace treaty. They fail to understand that the same anxiety that less than two years ago gave Barak a mandate for concessions has mutated into a willingness — and in some quarters, an eagerness — to fight.
The signs are everywhere. Not too long ago, Arafat's Palestinian Authority was a "partner for peace." Now it has been labeled a "terrorist organization" (and thus a legitimate target) by the chief of staff of the Israel defense forces. Combat reserve units are being called up for special readiness training. Sharon's newly appointed minister of public safety, Uzi Landau, took control of the police force with a call to "seize the initiative and go on the offensive" against the intifadeh.
This week, Yossi Sarid, leader of the diminished left-wing opposition, declared that only concessions will lead to a settlement, and that military power can solve nothing. It is a doctrine the peaceniks have proclaimed since Ben-Gurion's day. The Old Man never believed it, though. And neither does Ariel Sharon. (NY Daily News Mar 12)
The ‘‘Hasbara’’ Imperative By Helen Davis
Diaspora communities should be the first and most reliable ally of any Israeli government. Instead, after eight years of political turbulence and political correctness, they are dispirited, disoriented and just plain confused.
Preoccupied with the violent fallout from Oslo, Israelis might understandably have missed another consequence of the death of the peace process: the havoc that the Oslo years have wreaked on Diaspora advocacy for Israel(hasbara) mechanisms.I saw this devastation at first hand during the course of eight years as director of the Britain-Israel Public Affairs Center (BIPAC), which was justly respected, and often resented, for its robust, sophisticated and effective advocacy of Israel, whichever government was in power in Jerusalem.
It is painful to recall the heady early days of Oslo when all the obstacles we had been battling for years appeared to melt away: doors to the establishment were open; think-tanks and universities were eager to engage with Israelis; the media, with exceptions, adopted a more positive tone. We seized every new opportunity, and we joked that we were working ourselves into obsolescence.
The very existence of pro-Israel lobbies such as BIPAC were seen as anachronistic symptoms of the ""old"" Israel. And Israel was on the way to normality now, wasn’’t it? The leadership and business elite of British Jewry was quickly and willingly co-opted into the ranks of peacemakers. Jewish businessmen were invited to the Foreign Office and Downing Street to discuss joint ventures with the Arab world and economic initiatives for the Palestinians.
They clambered aboard flights to Arab capitals to meet political leaders and captains of industry. Having lunch with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat or Minister of Planning and Cooperation Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) in Gaza became de rigueur for any communal high-flyer –– and they were rewarded with knighthoods, peerages and other state honors that were not entirely unconnected to perceptions of their "helpfulness" in the peace process.
Oslo, in short, promised to slay the persistent demon of dual loyalties. Jewish leaders who had been fighting in Israel’’s corner for years were suddenly, astonishingly, sharing a trench with old adversaries.
When the peace process started falling apart, communal enthusiasm for "peace" hardly faltered. Taking their cue from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Jewish leaders simply ignored the mounting evidence of Palestinian violations of, and noncompliance with, agreements. They continued to fete Arafat as the legitimate partner for peace who must not, at any cost, be "undermined." Increasingly, they were embarrassed about defending Israel at all, particularly when prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in power.
Britain’s Jewish power elite is intimately connected to its Israeli Labor counterpart, without necessarily understanding the adolescent tribalism of Israeli politics. The nihilistic cynicism and unrestrained "Bibi-bashing" they heard on their frequent visits to Israel had a devastating effect on their willingness to support the hasbara battle back home.
This silliness was at its peak during Netanyahu’s tenure, a time when the Prime Minister’’s Office was crying foul on Palestinian noncompliance while the Foreign Ministry was pretending that nothing whatever was amiss. Whenever BIPAC raised the subject of Palestinian violence, noncompliance, media incitement, textbook antisemitism, I could expect muttered criticism from Britain’s communal leaders (and BIPAC’s funders).
In the name of peace, we were obliged, like them, to see no evil and hear no evil. Eventually, starved of funds, BIPAC was quietly closed down at the end of 1999, destroying two decades of sustained, effective lobbying. Ten months later, when Palestinian violence erupted and much of the British media and political elite returned to the old trenches with a vengeance, British Jewry was naked, unable to mount a credible, professionally directed defense.
There are now moves to reinvent BIPAC, or something like it. But it will not be able to do much until the root causes of this hasbara collapse are confronted. The primary address for that is Jerusalem, where a bizarre blindness to political reality, particularly on the Israeli Left, coupled with a Stalinist insistence on pursuing a wishful, but totally unrealistic, "political line," destroyed the confidence of the Diaspora and upset its internal equilibrium. The first step should be a reaffirmation that the Diaspora, even as the power relationship shifts, has an important role to play in Israel’’s defense. A senior Israeli diplomat warned me at the start of the Barak years that "new governments always think they can do without the help of Diaspora organizations like BIPAC and AIPAC. It takes them a while to find they can’t." It would be wise not to wait.The second step is to restore hasbara/lobbying to respectability. I hope that with Shimon Peres’s return to the Foreign Ministry he will not repeat his famous, but fatuous, nostrum that if you have good policies you don’t need hasbara, and if you have bad policies, hasbara won’t help. It did enough harm the first time around.
The new government, working with the Diaspora, must plan a coordinated strategy based on fresh thinking and new models. A re-hash of the pre-Oslo techniques will not do.Most important is the matter of will. If Israel’’s politicians, bureaucrats and opinion-forming elites still feel that hasbara is ineffective or beneath their post-modern, post-Zionist dignity, then forget it. This is a job that has to be done with conviction and brio. Or not at all.
The writer was director of BIPAC until 1999.. (Jerusalem Post Mar 12)
VeNafachu: Ramallah vs. Kotel By Harvey Tannenbaum
As the world worries about the 'terrible siege' that surrounds the Ramallah terrorist capital as set forth by Prime Minister Sharon's new policy, a different perspective to the left wing media worry warts was experienced by me, a parent of a 5yr. old.
Friends, we just celebrated Purim in the VeNafachu spirit of a topsy turvy and upside down world of Mordechai and Esther of then and we Jews of 2001 in this land of Israel. This morning I was asked to escort the Pre-1A classes for their annual outing from Efrat to the Kotel, the Old City and an educational tour of Beit Harav Kook, the home of the 1st Chief Rabbi of Israel.
As the fathers were split up in the two bullet proof busses each with their own machine gun (pistols are not allowed as they are worthless in today's war), I could not believe the complex procedure that is involved in this country of us Jews and the ridiculous plight in which we live. As we exited from the Efrat gate, the busses stopped again and 2 soldiers in their bullet proof vests, helmet, and M 16 automatic weapons joined us fathers. As we rode the highway to Jerusalem, we passed by the Arab workers and Arab students in their yellow school busses, not bullet proofed, not with any armed escort, travelling freely to their destination in Jerusalem.(Who would imagine 3 or 4 Jews in a car driving by an Arab bus and shooting its occupants as they do to us)?
We arrived at the Mt. Zion parking lot and had all 80 5 and 6 year olds disembark the busses in groups of 18 with an armed father, an armed soldier both at front and rear of the group while walking to the Kotel in Jewish Jerusalem in 2001. The kids have no concept on this escort and procedure and hassle.
The children separated by gender with their ganenet to pray at the Kotel, recite Shma, and tehilim and then regroup in the plaza area of the Kotel to dance. The only tourists in the area were Baptists from Virginia who smiled, laughed, and stared while taking their pictures of us armed Jews dancing with our children in 2 groups 50 feet from our holiest site while IDF border patrol watched and ran a ring around our circles of protection. One elderly man from Norfolk, Va. asked me if I speak English. He wanted to know why do our children have to go to their holy sites with their fathers and soldiers guarding them. He asked whether Arab children have to go with their fathers and police(terrorist pseudonyms)of the PLO to their holy sites. Another nice Gentile woman in the tour group asked me if the children are happy or sad. I asked them to look at the dancing children and answer for herself.
Here we were, in the midst of the worry warts of the left as to laying siege to Ramallah a few miles away to stop terrorists in the most luxurious city of villas, malls, and buildings with the richest Palestinian Arabs residing there and we and our children have to make a field trip to the Kotel in our capital under armed fatherly escort in 2001.
The 5 and 6 year olds of the Pre -1A and 1st grades all began to run to the washing stations near the Kotel to do netilat yadaim for their morning lunch. They all reassembeled under the Israeli flags opposite the Kotel to make their collective hamotzi when suddenly 50 IDF airforce recruits came right by the kids on their way to their ceremony to receive their chumash, siddur and gun at the hashbaah or swearing in ceremony. The nonJewish tourists were following the kids in dismay of this washing ritual, recital of blessing, and now their cameras began to click away at the IDF recruits in their ceremony. The kids could not stay put and they ran into the ceremony with soldiers lifting them up in the sky in playful harmony.
You see my friends, I had never been on a kid tiyul from school... When I was younger, the tiyul may have been to Disneyland(lehavdil) where we had to wear hats and tuck in our tzizit for fear of the nonJews of Anaheim. On this day, a few days after Purim, I was in the middle of the fruits of our trees, the children, our real assets running around the Kotel plaza, the amazed nonJews in their tour group from Virginia, the IDF recruits who began to dance with the kids, all while we fathers stood their with the weaponry.
The Venafachu of Ramallah where the government is blockading and laying siege to prohibit terrorists from coming and going freely while our kids have to do a field trip in their land in their country in an armed and protected environment is the upside down of our lives today.
The CNN and the rest of the 'objective'(sic) media that films poor Arabs not getting food or medicine in Ramallah while we have a reprieve for awhile of bombs and drive by shootings(which is not true as vital necessities are allowed into the Ramallah)is not what we live here.
As we returned to Efrat, we were met at the Tunnel Roads by another few IDF soldiers who boarded our bus, made us close the bulletproof windows, turn off the interior bus lights, when the head teacher again recited tefilat haderech for our safe return as we had recited earlier in the day for our safe journey to Jerusalem, again we passed by a bus filled with returning Arab workers and children. Their bus had open windows, it was not bullet proof, it had no soldiers on the bus.
May we pray and hope that this Venafachu of reversal of the stress, duress, adjustment in our lives be transferred to the enemies of our children, so that our children can dance freely, laugh loudly, and move around their country of Israel and together we shall dance next year at the Kotel with Mashiach leading the children to the rebuilt Beit Hamikdash.