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
Kislev 25, 5761
December 22, 2000
Issue number 305
The Rabbinical Council of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a release condemning a call among some Jewish leaders here to share the Temple Mount. "No Israeli government is authorized by the Jewish people to negotiate away the holy places," said the Orthodox Union's director of international and communal affairs, Betty Ehrenberg. (Jerusalem Post Dec 21)
"Historians, race-studies professors and sociologists agree that humanity, throughout its long history, has never known a race such as the Jewish race in which so many bad qualities base and loathsome have been gathered."
"The Jews had a quality which distinguished them from others: whenever they gathered in a particular place and felt comfortable there, they turned the place into a den of evil, corruption, incitement to internal strife and the spreading of wars. The Jews took advantage of the lack of attention by the people and rulers to the plots and traps designed by the Jews."
"A reexamination of the Crusades reveals that the crusader-armies that advanced along the basin of the Rhine River, searched for Jewish communities and exterminated them (to become closer to God). When they entered Jerusalem on July 14, 1099, the first thing they did was to gather the Jews of Jerusalem in one of the churches and burn them. When the Muslims, headed by Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, conquered Jerusalem in 636, the Patriarch Sofronius asked only one thing from our master Ibn Al-Khattab: that no Jews remain in Jerusalem and that none enter the city. The Caliph Omar fulfilled this request, and it entered history as 'The Pact of Omar.'"
"American President Benjamin Franklin [sic], said in his speech to the 1789 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia: 'A great danger threatens the United States the Jewish danger. When the Jews settle down [in the US), we will discover that they are weakening the determination of the people, shaking up the ethics of trade and establishing a government within a government. When they meet resistance, they will suffocate the nation economically.'"
"Thus, Franklin pointed to the attempts by the Jewish money-lenders to subjugate the Bank of America to the Bank of England, that was directed by Meir Rothschild. Later, Franklin continued his warnings to members of the Convention: 'If constitutional law does not deny the Jews the right to immigrate to the US, they will, in less than one hundred years, pour into the nation in immense numbers, like locusts. They will take control and destroy us. In less than 200 years, our sons will be made field-workers in order to provide food for the Jews, who will sit in their mansions and rub their hands with glee.' Franklin recalled an important fact, that the Jews' morals and character cannot be changed: 'Their mentality will continue to be different from ours even if they live among us for ten generations. A leopard cannot change its spots. They are a danger to this country, and they must be removed through this Constitutional Convention.'"
Endnotes: (1) October (Egypt), December 3, 2000. (2) October (Egypt), December 10, 2000. (MEMRI Dec 19)
“I can say for certain that brother Abu-Ammar is the ultimate authority for all operations, and whoever thinks otherwise, does not know what is going on.”- Sakhr Habash, a member of the Fatah's Central Committee, in a comprehensive interview to the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida concerning the Intifada and its political goals, Dec 7 (IMRA/MEMRI Dec 14)
That's my conclusion after witnessing firsthand the crippling effect the media are having on tourism in Israel and after hearing Israelis, especially those involved in the tourism industry, berate and condemn CNN and the BBC more than Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. CNN's ammunition comes in 20-second sound bites and two-minute video highlights of the daily skirmishes, bloodshed and killings in the Mideast. American and British media's contribution: two- to three-minute snippets leading most international newscasts and almost daily frozen-frame front-page photos of the sniping and slaughter in the Mideast.
The battle is not fought in the whole of the "Mideast" as it's become known in headlines. It's not even fought in the whole of "Israel." Instead, it's fought mostly in the Gaza Strip along Israel's western border. Sometimes, it's in Ramallah. Sometimes, it's in Bethlehem or Hebron or Jericho or Nazareth. Sometimes, it's on Temple Mount. And, yes, sometimes it's even in Jerusalem. Though rock-throwing, name-calling, rioting, bombing, suicide bombing and killing are generally contained within small pockets or neighborhoods in Israel, the misleading inference from dramatic news footage and still photos is that all of Israel is entangled in war.
All of Israel is not at war. I've just walked the serene shores of the Mediterranean, climbed the brick pathways at peaceful Old Jaffa, leisurely shopped in Tel Aviv's colorful Carmel Market, took a six-hour bus ride from bustling Tel Aviv to the resort of Eilat, rode an affectionate camel for four hours in the desert and mountains, relaxed on a calm four-hour cruise on the Red Sea, ate falafels at an outdoor cafe, sat on a balcony at Eilat's prestigious Crowne Plaza viewing the Jordanian border, explored the intriguing history of the Jewish people at Diaspora Museum, enjoyed a Spicy Craze pizza at Eilat's Pizza Hut, observed Israelis folk dancing on an outdoor patio, rubbed elbows with Israel's youthful military and endured minimal security at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport - all with the security and safety of my unadventurous daily walk at my local mall, Glenbrook Square in Fort Wayne, Ind.
True, I didn't go near the Gaza Strip - but I've neither visited nor had a desire to visit the Gaza Strip in my previous two visits to Israel."I've lived in Israel 50 years and never been to the Gaza Strip," says an employee at Timna Park, a nature reserve in southern Israel. "Who comes to Israel to go to the Gaza Strip?" Yet, what is happening in the Gaza Strip and other isolated locations is the stuff that creates CNN footage and front-page photos and headlines - and, though inaccurate, the impression that Israel hosts border-to-border war.And those visions surely will be the ultimate crippler of Israel.Tourism is down 90 percent, and the industry stands to lose $500 million to $600 million during the fourth quarter of 2000, reports Tel Aviv's Ha'aretz daily newspaper. More than 2,000 of Israel's 2,500 licensed tour guides are idled. The reason for the downturn is simple: Foreign pilgrims, fearing for their safety, have canceled pending trips to the Holy Land. Ask Nola Moss and Beryl Ratzer, two of Israel's most respected and busiest guides, to identify the culprit, and Arafat's name isn't heard. The guides, like many associated with the tourism industry, blame CNN, the BBC and other media outlets for misrepresenting the size and scope of the fighting. Ratzer goes so far as to label CNN and the BBC anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
The ripple effect of canceled pilgrimages goes beyond the Nola Mosses and Beryl Ratzers. Nearly 700 taxi drivers are almost entirely without work, according to Yehuda Vaknin, manager of the taxi stand at Ben-Gurion Airport. Nearly 1,000 private bus companies servicing the airport are reportedly on the verge of collapse because 90 percent of their business is tourism-related. Souvenir shopping is at a standstill. Empty hotels expect to result in 10,000 hotel employees' losing their jobs this year, a loss not taken lightly by Eli Verter, deputy general manager of marketing for Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Africa Israel Hotel and Resorts. As he discussed the industry plight, Verter claimed his only consolation to be a visit in October by 1,700 Japanese representing a manufacturer of food additives, who stayed at Eilat's Crowne Plaza. Their mission: To explore Eilat's seaweed, high in beta carotene.
The willingness of the Japanese to overlook Israel's current problems prompts Israelis to criticize the warning by the U.S. State Department to Americans to defer travel to Israel. "Does the Japanese government care less about its nationals?" asks Ratzer. "It is particularly painful to me that the leaders of Jewish organizations in America, who are always ready to offer us advice on how to solve our problems, either stay away or make high-exposure visits but do not lead their congregations and constituencies on regular visits." Ratzer, like others, is grateful for Great Britain's request that Jews in Britain visit Israel in its time of need.
True, the Japanese were not representing a country that had just experienced terrorist killings. And, true, the Japanese were interested in seaweed, not holy sites. But Israel is more than holy sites. It's a wondrous, friendly country with magnificent seascapes, majestic mountains, compelling deserts, and a rich history. And it's a country that has had to "Forget reality," the advice of graffiti crudely painted on an abandoned hut on the beach near Tel Aviv.
Arthur Goldberg, an affable Canadian Jew who moved to Israel five decades ago to pioneer the travel industry, reacts to the current chaos with two words: "Deja vu." "It's been this way for 30 years," he explains. The writer is the assistant managing editor for features at The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., where this article first appeared. She has just returned from her third trip to Israel in the past 18 months. (Nando Dec 14)
First children, now Christians are to be sacrificed in Arafat's war.
Arafat's war against Israel has shattered nearly as many old certainties as lives. One of the most seemingly solid of the certainties was that no one could attack Israel's capital and live to tell the tale. Yet what ten weeks ago was both unthinkable and intolerable has now become a matter of every-day routine.
Just before dusk each night, members of the Tanzim, Yasser Arafat's private militia, invade the Christian Arab village of Beit Jalla. These heavily armed Muslim militiamen enter the once quiet Palestinian controlled town from the south and quickly make their way to its northern edge. There, they commandeer their way into homes, almost all of them owned by Christian families, that offer good lines of sight into the living rooms and kitchens of the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, on the southern edge of Jerusalem, just across a small valley from Beit Jalla.
Once darkness descends, sometimes even before, the shooting starts. Thousands of rounds of heavy machine-gun fire pour into houses on Gilo's picturesque Ha'anafa Street. It takes Israeli army sharpshooters a few minutes to calibrate their sophisticated tracing equipment to home in on the exact source of the shooting and fire back to prevent any further "collateral damage," as the Israeli army calls it. The battle rages inconclusively until the militiamen run out of ammunition. Then they pack up and go home. To date, prime minister Ehud Barak's strategy for dealing with Arafat's war has prevented the Israel Defense Forces from doing anything more than respond to specific acts of violence. Heeding White House warnings, Barak maintains that "unleashing" the army to defend Israeli civilians could ignite a regional war. Yet ironically, Barak's policy of military "restraint" plays right into Arafat's hands and actually increases the risk of igniting the very war Barak wants to prevent. The Palestinians' choice of Beit Jalla as the staging ground for attacks on civilians in Jerusalem is anything but random. It is part of a carefully laid and brilliantly executed Palestine Liberation Organization strategy to get the international community, and in particular the United States, to intervene on the side of the Palestinians and impose the "solution" Arafat failed to secure at the negotiating table.
Arafat's new plan is to get the International community to force Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 lines without the Palestinians' making concessions of their own or formally ending their war against the Jewish state. Arafat knows that in order to persuade the international community to deploy a military force that would impose this solution, he must win sympathy. To this end, he was first willing to provoke the killing of hundreds of his own people, the younger the better. The Palestinian Authority, which Arafat controls and the United States funds, offered up to $2,000 to families who "sacrificed" a child in what the Palestinians are calling the "Al-Aksa Intifada," the war for Jerusalem. Palestinian media and high ranking officials encouraged children to attack Israeli positions far from Palestinian population centers with rocks, guns, and firebombs. The purpose of these attacks was never to overrun the Israeli positions, only to provoke Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children for the benefit of television viewers. By offering up his own people, Arafat was able to cancel all the good will that Barak's unprecedented Camp David concessions had generated for Israel just weeks before and return Israel to its familiar role of international villain. Throughout the crisis, Arafat has displayed an uncanny ability to transform Israel's democratic institutions into Palestinian assets. In the uprising's early days, his scheme of provoking Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children proved spectacularly effective at whipping the Islamic world into a frenzy against Israel. While it also went a long way toward convincing the West that Arafat may need international protection, it did not close the deal. What would?
What if Arafat could market the message that Israel was "killing Christians" as effectively as he had sold the world the notion that it was "killing children"? Surely then Arafat's international protection force would be all but assured.
Thus, every night in Beit Jalla, Arafat orchestrates attempts to induce Israeli soldiers to kill Christians. As obvious as the ploy is to observers here, the yawning question Israelis are asking is, Why on earth does Prime Minister Barak allow himself and his country to be so cynically and dangerously exposed to fulfilling Palestinian objectives?
Almost everyone here agrees that the Israeli army could permanently end the firing on Gilo and the return fire into Beit Jalla in a matter of hours, if not minutes, and perhaps without a single casualty, Christian or Jewish. It could simply close the access roads from the south and deploy paratroopers to secure the streets used by Palestinian gunmen-in short, retake the town. This is no more than any nation on earth would long ago have done to stop a military assault on its capital city. And it would not only free Israeli citizens from the terror of war; it would also liberate 5,000 Christian Arabs now hostage to Arafat's machinations. Rather than precipitating a greater conflict, the retaking of Beit Jalla might be the single most stabilizing action Israel could take, depriving Arafat of the means of provoking a massacre of Christians, while at the same time demonstrating that Israel's patience has its limits. Barak, unable to respond either to Arafat's assault in Israel's heartland or to Hezbollah's provocations on Israel's northern border, leads a gun-shy, lame-duck government. Some of its members are saying publicly that the only way the prime minister could muster the strength to take this step would be if he were subjected to coordinated political pressure from concerned Christians around the world, particularly in the United States.
Because Israel's retaking Beit Jalla would win support from more than 90 percent of Israelis, not to mention the Christians of Beit Jalla, that step would be not only the right thing to do, but also the political shot in the arm the beleaguered prime minister so desperately needs. Israel has long been forced to act under pressure from Islamic radicals. Perhaps it is time that Christians spoke up for themselves. The writer is the Publisher of the Jerusalem Post. (Weekly Standard Dec 18)
As the Knesset is thrown into turmoil by Prime Minister Ehud Barak's resignation ploy, his foreign minister has been sent to Washington in a no longer disguised effort to negotiate a sweeping agreement under fire. Barak's attempt to compete with Arafat in the politics of weakness is breathtakingly irresponsible and anti-democratic.
Until now it seemed that it was Yasser Arafat who always managed to play the politics of weakness with great effect, always claiming that he could not abide by the agreements he signed, or was forced into ever greater waves of violence, because of the radical forces waiting in the wings. Binyamin Netanyahu also played the weakness card from time to time, pointing to the right-wingers within his cabinet waiting to topple him. Now Barak is doing them one better. His government is not just threatening to fall, it has collapsed, and he has resigned. Netanyahu or Ariel Sharon wait in the wings, and are ahead in the polls. And Barak has pathetically gone from imposing ultimatums, to pretending not to negotiate, to openly negotiating as Israelis continue to be hunted down by Arafat's bands and some Jerusalem residents hide behind concrete walls and sandbags.
"Judge me by results," said Barak soon after his election, when his trademark zigzag style became evident. This is a fair, even necessary, request from the public by a leader. Yet what Barak seems to have failed to realize is that "results" are not just about arriving, like a commando, at a destination, but how you get there. Barak himself gave the most stunning example of how process can matter as much as outcome when he withdrew Israel unilaterally from Lebanon. On a strategic level, there was a strong case that Israel was staying in Lebanon out of weakness and inertia, and that the border could be better defended with a combination of serious deterrence and obtaining the high moral and legal ground. But in this case, the "how" was critical: By running out of Lebanon on Hizbullah's schedule, under cover of darkness with thousands of the IDF's south Lebanese allies (the SLA) scrambling for their lives, the strategic withdrawal became a rout. The serial buckling of first the SLA and then the IDF looked like the detonation of an empty apartment building, elegantly collapsing on itself. The collapse may have been deliberate, but it happened too quickly and easily, indicating that another slight push could induce a similar collapse again.
Without knowing the exact details of the agreement being discussed, we already know three very dangerous things about it. First, it is being negotiated at a point of maximum weakness and under fire. Second, it is being negotiated by a government that can no longer claim to represent a majority of Israelis. Third, it is being negotiated by a leader with a massive conflict of interest between his political survival and the need to be able to walk away from a bad agreement.
Nor has the government denied that what is being discussed is "Camp David-plus," where the plus is even deeper Israeli concessions in Jerusalem. While Barak helpfully reassures us that he would "never" relinquish sovereignty on the Temple Mount, and Jerusalem would be "strengthened" by an agreement, both of these pledges seem to amount to Orwellian obfuscation.
Let us be clear: Anything that separates the heart of Jerusalem, the Old City, from Israel is dividing Jerusalem, not "strengthening" or "expanding" it. It is true that it is possible to modify Jerusalem's municipal boundaries as defined by Israel after the Six Day War without necessarily dividing Jerusalem or changing its essential character. But it is not the relatively new Arab neighborhoods and suburbs in eastern Jerusalem that are in question, but the heart of the city that has symbolized the return to Jewish sovereignty after two millennia.
Over these many centuries, the Jewish people came to see a return to sovereignty in general and to Jerusalem in particular as an abstraction. Some Israelis seem to think that since to them the Old City is a quaint tourist attraction, returning Israel's bond with it to the level of abstraction is a price worth praying for peace. The problem with this theory is that the Palestinians and the Arab world have given no indication that sacrificing Israel's most prized patrimony will bring real peace.
Even in a neighborhood more forgiving than the one in which we live, a country that gives up half its capital and renders access to its holiest sites hostage to the good will of a predictably hostile power is asking for trouble, not peace. In leaving Lebanon we learned that even a withdrawal to the last millimeter, signed and certified by the United Nations, did not prevent Hizbullah (with Lebanese and Syrian backing) from finding an excuse for continuing to attack Israel. A final status agreement, even one that claims to bring the "end of the conflict," will have varied interpretations that the Palestinians could attempt to resolve through the use of force. Israel cannot create a situation in which, at the drop of a hat, the Palestinians can turn all of Jerusalem into Belfast, Sarajevo, or even Gilo. (Jerusalem Post Dec 19)
Monday I went to my friend Fatima's house to visit her and see her new baby. It was the first time in about 3 weeks since I'd been there, the second time in about 2 months that I'd been there. Before the violence started, I was popping in about once a week or so, and Fatima would stop my house for coffee and a chat.
Since the violence, Fatima hasn't been coming to visit. She stopped working because of the pregnancy but still might have come to visit if it hadn't been for the big boulders set in the road to block the way from the village to our town. A couple times she called, or I called her, and we'd arrange a time to meet by the boulders, she in her car, me in mine, and we'd park on our respective sides, then she would clamber over the rocks to sit in my car, or I'd clamber over and sit in hers, and we'd talk there. I wasn't comfortable going into the village, so I put off her invitations, made excuses about the kids, my husband, the army. One day-this was the time about 3 weeks ago-she asked, and so, impetuously, I just went. I drove around the roadblock, following her in her little car. I had my baby with me but wasn't worried about our safety. Once I got into the village, I could see that everything was normal and friendly, just as it had always been.
But everything wasn't the same. Talking with Fatima and her family, I learned that her oldest daughter, who's in her last year of high school, has had trouble getting to school and in fact had switched high schools to one in a different town that was easier to get to. She still ends up missing a lot of days because every time there's a funeral for someone killed in the violence, the PA cancels school so everyone can go to the funeral and riot afterwards. Fatima doesn't allow her children to participate in such things so they spend a lot of time at home.
That's where I saw that things were different. Fatima's kids have always watched what seems to me to be a lot of television-say, several hours a day. Her husband, who doesn't work, watches pretty much all day. Usually when my kids and I visited, there'd be some silly soap opera on, all the kids glued to the screen. But for the past few months, it was all "news." I put it in quotation marks because it's not really news. It's propaganda. To my college-educated, Western eyes, it's the most blatant, offensive, obvious kind of junk-bad actors, bad commentators reading from gory scripts of the most inflammatory kind, plainly seeking to inflame the senses of anyone watching.
I don't even like to talk about what is shown. I thought for a while, "Well, so what, no one pays attention to it, it doesn't mean anything," even though I was bothered by the one-sided, negativity of it all, the fact that it was lies. But what I've seen is that it does have an effect on people who watch it. I can't even blame the viewers: They were seeing it for so many hours, and with no alternative point of view, how could they know enough to question it, let alone criticize it or recognize it for what it was?
Fatima called me in a panic one night, saying that they had just heard that Jewish residents of our neigborhood near Jerusalem were marching on their villages and shooting everyone. I looked out the window, saw nothing, then sent my husband up to the street to check things out. It was perfectly quiet and peaceful, not a soul in sight, not a sound to be heard. I told her then that she should not believe everything she saw on television or heard on the radio, that they lied in order to get people upset and angry. Even as I told her, I could sense her skepticism: "Oh, sure, Shira. You don't know anything more than I do, and of course you don't want to believe that your neighbors would shoot us!"
It was when I spoke to her daughter that same night that I realized the extent of the damage those lies on television had caused. I have known Shiruk for years, ever since she was eleven, my oldest daughter's age. She is now nearly eighteen. We have hiked together, cooked and danced and sung together. She taught my daughter Arabic every week for a couple of months. She is a beautiful, bright, talented girl who hopes to go to college. To put that ambition in perspective, I should point out that neither of her parents finished school; Fatima can barely read Arabic, and in her village few girls finish high school.
Whenever the subject of politics came up, which it inevitably did over the years, Shiruk would wave a hand dismissively at all politicians, Arabs and Israelis alike. They were all the same, she'd say, interested only in putting money in their own pockets instead of serving the people. I suspect she acquired most of her views from her mother. It wasn't a subject we pursued for very long. We would voice our agreement on areas we could agree on, and let the rest drop.
But the night that Fatima called, I could hear Shiruk shouting in the background. Fatima kept telling her what I was saying, then Shiruk would argue with her mother, saying, "But they're showing it on television right now! They're cutting off his head!" And I'd hear her and tell Fatima to tell Shiruk that it was all lies, that I had just sent my husband out and there was NOTHING, that it was all quiet, she could go outside for herself and see. Finally, Fatima put Shiruk on the phone. I told her, "Listen to me. It is all lies, it is not true. I am here in our town and there is nothing like that going on. Turn off the television, stop watching that!" She said, "But I want to watch and be with my people!"
Never before, in the years I had known her, had I heard Shiruk identify with "her people." Her people meant her family, her relatives, her village. And in that order, with her loyalties sharply dropping for each category. She chose her own friends, made her own choices, had her own ambitions and interests. With all her talents, and with her mother's support, she could, I believed, go on to become whatever she wanted. At one point this meant medical school; at another, law school. She had talked about becoming a computer technician. It didn't matter to her if none of the other girls in the village cared about their education, cared about traveling and studying and learning. Now she wants to be with "her people", the ones who are making molotov cocktails, the ones who teach small children to throw rocks and fire guns.
If anyone could be immune to political propaganda and hate-mongering, I would have thought it was Shiruk. She has spent a lot of time with Jews, after all, she has eaten in our homes, been to our parties and shuls, held our babies. She has a good head on her shoulders, knows English, reads books. But it seems that even the brightest mind is susceptible to hate-mongering, if there's enough exposure to it. Kept out of school, Shiruk spends many, many hours watching television. She has seen decapitations, gang rapes, children being maimed and murdered-all at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Her younger siblings watch too, and I imagine that this is what is happening in most homes in that village and in the hundreds of villages scattered around the West Bank.
The writer has been an active participant in Moslem-Jewish dialogues for the past decade. (www.israelbehindthenews.com Dec 17)