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
February 22, 2002
Issue number 367
Sunday February 24, 8:00pm
Naomi Ragen will speak at Shaarei Shomayim. Hosted by Canadian Friends of Hebrew University. $25.
Quote for the Week...
"I don't think it should affect me. They should be afraid, not me. My mother paid with her life because she was a Jew who chose to live in the Land of Israel. If we surrender here, we'll end up surrendering in Tel Aviv."- Victor Lipovski, whose 78 year old mother Atala Lipovski was killed in a recent terror attack. Victor lives in Ma'ale Efraim near the Jordan Valley. (Ha'aretz Feb 11)
Red Lines in Disappearing Ink By Evelyn Gordon
It is no surprise that the past weekend was a bloody one, with six Israelis killed and dozens wounded in three separate attacks in the space of 48 hours. More violence is the textbook consequence of weakened deterrence - and "weakened deterrence" is a kind description of last week's laughable Israeli response to the latest Palestinian escalation.
For weeks, the government has been loudly (and in retrospect, foolishly) warning the Palestinians that rocket fire at cities would cross a "red line," forcing Israel into a response that was qualitatively different from anything that has gone before. Last Sunday, Hamas called this bluff by firing Kassam-2 rockets at two southern towns - though thanks to the missile's inaccuracy, both missed their targets and landed in empty fields. But Israel's "qualitatively different" response quickly proved no different than its response to hundreds of previous terror attacks: The air force bombed a few empty buildings belonging to the Palestinian Authority, while ground forces - after waiting 60 hours to give the most wanted terrorists plenty of time to escape - entered three Palestinian towns, rounded up some junior Hamas operatives (most of whom were later released), and withdrew in less than a day. The Palestinians could scarcely avoid the obvious conclusion: Israel's talk of "red lines" is meaningless.
What is truly disturbing, however, is that this was not a one-time lapse on Israel's part. The sophistication of Palestinian attacks - and the consequent Israeli death toll - has increased steadily throughout the nearly 17 months of conflict, yet the response has remained virtually unchanged: The sole variables are how many empty buildings will be bombed and how many suspects will be arrested in any given retaliatory raid.
And since the Palestinians have made it clear that they deem this response an acceptable price to pay for the privilege of wreaking havoc through terror attacks, the result is that they have no reason whatsoever to desist from their quest for ever deadlier forms of terror - Israel has repeatedly proven that its response will never exceed the bounds they are prepared to tolerate.
This utter breakdown of deterrence has also had a predictably deleterious impact on the Israeli public. A year ago, an overwhelming majority was convinced that no peace agreement with the Palestinians was possible, and the only option left was to prove to them that terror does not pay. Today, an overwhelming majority still believes that no agreement is possible - but after a year in which Palestinian terror has steadily increased despite the government's claim that it is pursuing a policy of deterrence, some are beginning to despair of this option as well. This despair was especially visible in two recent demonstrations demanding "an end to the occupation" - both of which were essentially calls for unilateral withdrawal. The message, in a nutshell, was that since we cannot stop the terror ourselves, the only alternative is simply to give the Palestinians whatever they want and then throw ourselves on their mercy.
Considering that the Palestinians refused just a year ago to concede either the "right of return" or the right to resort to violence in exchange for a state on 97 percent of the territories, including east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the idea that peace can be purchased by making unilateral concessions seems so farfetched that it is hard to believe it has any adherents at all - yet the demonstrations drew crowds of a few thousand people each.
It is far more than organizers could have dreamed of a year ago. Such events merely encourage the Palestinians to believe that if they just ratchet the terror up far enough, a majority of the country will demand unconditional surrender. What makes this despair heartbreaking is that it is utterly unjustified - because the problem is not that deterrence has proven a failure; the problem is that it has never been tried. Deterrence means ensuring that the consequences of terrorism are truly unacceptable. In other words, it means that if current tactics are insufficient, stronger measures must be taken - if necessary, up to and including a complete reconquest of the territories and the dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority.
It is high time for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to start making good on his campaign pledge to fight terror via the only method that has ever proven effective: genuine deterrence. The alternative is an ever-increasing number of dead and maimed Israelis - and the deadly growth of despair. (JP Feb 19)
Strip Arafat's ImmunityJerusalem Post Editorial
Two months ago, US Secretary of State Colin Powell argued, and many believed, that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat had reached his moment of truth: He would either crack down on terror or he would be lumped together with the Talibans of the world. The result of this pressure was Arafat's cease-fire speech, followed by a period of relative quiet. Now Arafat, the ultimate escape artist, has essentially thrown back the moment of truth on Israel's doorstep. Will Israel simply absorb the current escalation, embrace some form of unilateral surrender, or crush the Palestinian Authority?
Living with the status quo must be ruled out as unacceptable from a moral, tactical, or strategic point of view. Israel has a duty to safeguard its citizens, and not to accept either terrorism against civilians or guerrilla war against soldiers. A tit-for-tat response, in which Israel kills a few Palestinian soldiers (called police) or terrorists, means victory for the Palestinian side, since democracies are - to their credit - more sensitive to casualties than dictatorships. Strategically, the status quo is unacceptable, because it signals that Israel is either incapable or unwilling to defend itself. We do not live in a region that is very tolerant of such signals, and we know from experience that the result will be continuing attacks at current or more deadly levels.
One proposed way out that has tempted many is unilateral separation. The main problem with this approach, and with the proposal being cooked up by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres with Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei, is that it grants Arafat his dream: a Palestinian state without having to make peace with Israel.
Building a fence - a milder form of the separation proposal - may make sense in some places, but it is hardly a panacea.
It is true that the solution being advocated by part of the Right - a full reoccupation of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip - is also not appealing. Israel has no desire or interest in ruling over Palestinians in the majority of the territories that will not become part of the State of Israel. What the Right never admits is that Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian cities was a legitimate achievement of the Oslo Accords. Attempting to move the clock back to the pre-Oslo situation is a highly unattractive option.
What is not widely recognized, however, is that there are other options aside from surrender, reoccupation, and the status quo. The first is for Israel to do what it implied it would do but has not done on a sustained basis: take over Palestinian areas temporarily for the purpose of collecting weapons and arresting terrorists. A rolling operation of this sort would not be simple, nor would its effects be permanent, but it could significantly decrease the Palestinians' ability to attack Israelis.
It is not easy to admit it, but Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a war of attrition. In such a war, anything that gives the Palestinians hope that Israel will collapse, or be forced into an untenable international position, encourages further attacks. Accordingly, it is hard to exaggerate the damage that even a fringe minority can cause by acting as if Israel's refusal to capitulate is responsible for the continuing Palestinian attacks.
At the same time, Israel's decision not to push the United States to join in a combined effort to threaten Arafat's power is also extremely damaging. The context of the current Palestinian escalation is Arafat's perceived immunity in the shadow of the coming American campaign in Iraq.
Israel has a legitimate reason to see the American effort to oust Saddam as taking precedence over practically every other concern. Accordingly, Israel has chosen not to challenge the assumption that now is not the time to threaten Arafat's ouster. The problem is that this assumption has proven self-defeating: Instead of producing quiet it has invited Palestinian escalation.
The ultimate antidote to the current escalation is for the US and Israel to lift the unconditional immunity granted to Arafat's leadership and exchange it for the conditional variety presented to the Taliban. Arafat will end the current offensive against Israel if the cost to his own power (not to the Palestinian people) exceeds its potential benefits. Both the military and diplomatic components are necessary to effectively increase Arafat's costs. Without heightened military pressure, diplomatic threats will not be credible; without diplomatic ultimatums, military actions are unlikely to be decisive. (Jerusalem Post Feb 21)
Christians Who Hate the JewsBy Melanie Phillips
The Archbishop of Wales is among Churchmen worried that opposition to Israel is motivated by anti-Semitism rooted deep in Christian theology
It was one of those sickening moments when an illusion is shattered and an ominous reality laid bare. I was among a group of Jews and Christians who met recently to discuss the Churches’ increasing public hostility to Israel. The Jews were braced for a difficult encounter. After all, many British Jews (of whom I am one) are themselves appalled by the destruction of Palestinian villages, targeted assassinations and other apparent Israeli overreactions to the Middle East conflict.
But this debate never took place. For the Christians said that the Churches’ hostility had nothing to do with Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians. This was merely an excuse. The real reason for the growing antipathy, according to the Christians at that meeting, was the ancient hatred of Jews rooted deep in Christian theology and now on widespread display once again.
A doctrine going back to the early Church fathers, suppressed after the Holocaust, had been revived under the influence of the Middle East conflict. This doctrine is called replacement theology. In essence, it says that the Jews have been replaced by the Christians in God’s favour, and so all God’s promises to the Jews, including the land of Israel, have been inherited by Christianity.
Some evangelicals, by contrast, are ‘Christian Zionists’ who passionately support the state of Israel as the fulfilment of God’s Biblical promise to the Jews. But to the majority who have absorbed replacement theology, Zionism is racism and the Jewish state is illegitimate.
The Jews at the meeting were incredulous and aghast. Surely the Christians were exaggerating. Surely the Churches’ dislike of Israel was rooted instead in the settlements, the occupied territories and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But the Christians were adamant. The hostility to Israel within the Church is rooted in a dislike of the Jews.
Church newspaper editors say that they are intimidated by the overwhelming hostility to Israel and to the Jews from influential Christian figures, which makes balanced coverage of the Middle East impossible. Clerics and lay people alike are saying openly that Israel should never have been founded at all. One Church source said that what he was hearing was a ‘throwback to the visceral anti-Judaism of the Middle Ages’.
At this juncture, a distinction is crucial. Criticism of Israel’s behaviour is perfectly legitimate. But a number of prominent Christians agree that a line is being crossed into anti-Jewish hatred. This is manifested by ascribing to every Israeli action malevolent motives, while dismissing Palestinian terrorism and anti-Jewish diatribes; by the belief that Jews should be denied the right to self-determination and their state dismantled; by the conflation of Zionism and a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ of vested interests; and by the disproportionate venom of the attacks. ‘When I hear “the Jews” used as a term, my blood runs cold — and I’ve been hearing this far too often,’ says Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales and a contender for the see of Canterbury. ‘Whenever I print anything sympathetic to Israel, I get deluged with complaints that I am Zionist and racist,’ says Colin Blakely, the editor of the Church of England Newspaper.
Andrew White, canon of Coventry cathedral and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative in the Middle East, is heavily engaged in trying to promote dialogue and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He says of attitudes in the Church, ‘These go beyond legitimate criticism of Israel into hatred of the Jews. I get hate mail calling me a Jew-lover and saying my work is evil.’ The reason, he says, is that Palestinian Christian revisionism has revived replacement theology. ‘This doctrine was key in fanning the flames of the Holocaust, which could not have happened without 2,000 years of anti-Jewish polemic,’ he says. After the Holocaust the Vatican officially buried the doctrine, the current Pope affirming the integrity of the Jewish people and recognising the state of Israel. But, according to Andrew White, the doctrine is ‘still vibrant’ within Roman Catholic and Anglican pews. ‘Almost all the Churches hold to replacement theology,’ he says. The catalyst for its re-emergence has been the attempt by Arab Christians to reinterpret Scripture in order to delegitimise the Jews’ claim to the land of Israel. This has had a powerful effect upon the Churches which, through humanitarian work among the Palestinians by agencies such as Christian Aid, have been profoundly influenced by two clerics in particular.
The first is the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, a Palestinian who is intemperate in his attacks on Israel. ‘We interviewed Bishop Riah after some terrorist outrage in Israel,’ says Colin Blakely, ‘and his line was that it was all the fault of the Jews. I was astounded.’ The bishop also has an astounding interpretation of the Old Testament. Last December, he claimed of Palestinian Christians, ‘We are the true Israel ...no one can deny me the right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew.... He is the father of the faithful.’
The second cleric, Father Naim Ateek, is more subtle and highly influential. Although he says that he has come to accept Israel’s existence, his brand of radical liberation theology undermines it by attempting to sever the special link between God and the Jews.
In a lecture last year Andrew White observed that Palestinian politics and Christian theology had become inextricably intertwined. The Palestinians were viewed as oppressed and the Church had to fight their oppressor. ‘Who is the oppressor? The state of Israel. Who is Israel? The Jews. It is they therefore who must be put under pressure so that the oppressed may one day be set free to enter their “Promised Land” which is being denied to them.’ This view, said Andrew White, had now influenced not only whole denominations but also the majority of Christian pilgrimage companies and many of the major mission and Christian aid organisations. One such outfit, he said, had sent every UK bishop a significant document outlining Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and of systematically ‘Judaising’ Jerusalem.
David Ison, canon of Exeter cathedral, took a party of pilgrims to the Holy Land in 2000 at the start of the current intifada. They had a Palestinian guide, visited only Christian sites in Arab east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and talked to virtually no Jews. ‘The Old Testament is a horrifying picture of genocide committed in God’s name,’ he avers. ‘And genocide is now being waged in a long, slow way by Zionists against the Palestinians.’ Asked what he made of Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the offers made by Israel at Camp David and Tabah, he said that he knew nothing about that. Indeed, he said, he knew nothing about Israel beyond what he had read in a book by an advocate of replacement theology, with which he agreed, and what he had been told by the Palestinians on the pilgrimage.
The Bishop of Guildford, who is consistently hostile to Israel, shares the view that the Jews have no particular claim to the Promised Land. Christianity and Islam, he says, can lay equal claim. And although he says that Israel’s existence is a reality that must be accepted, his ideal is very different. A separate Palestinian state would be merely a ‘first step’.
‘Ultimately, one shared land is the vision one would want to pursue, although it’s unlikely that this will come about.’ As for the Churches’ hostility to Israel, his reply is chilling: ‘The problem is that all the power lies with the Israeli state.’ So by implication, Israel would merit sympathy for its casualties only if it had no power to defend itself.
The Bishop of Guildford, who chairs Christian Aid, says that he particularly admires Bishop Riah and Naim Ateek. He also warmly endorses a parish priest in his diocese, Stephen Sizer, vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water.
Sizer is a leading crusader against Christian Zionism. He believes that God’s promises to the Jews have been inherited by Christianity, including the land of Israel. ‘A return to Jewish nationalism,’ he has written, ‘would seem incompatible with this New Testament perspective of the international community of Jesus.’ He acknowledges that Israel has the right to exist since it was established by a United Nations resolution. But he also says that it is ‘fundamentally an apartheid state because it is based on race’ and ‘even worse than South Africa’ (this, despite the fact that Israeli Arabs have the vote, are members of the Knesset and one is even a supreme court judge).
He therefore hopes that Israel will go the same way as South Africa under apartheid and be ‘brought to an end internally by the rising up of the people’. So, despite saying that he supports Israel’s existence, he appears to want the Jewish state to be singled out for a fate afforded to no other democracy properly constituted under international law.
But perhaps this is not surprising given his attitude towards Jews. ‘The covenant between Jews and God,’ he states, ‘was conditional on their respect for human rights. The reason they were expelled from the land was that they were more interested in money and power and treated the poor and aliens with contempt.’ Today’s Jews, it appears, are no better. ‘In the United States, politicians dare not criticise Israel because half the funding for both the Democrats and the Republicans comes from Jewish sources.’
A number of authoritative Christian figures are extremely concerned by the elision between criticism of Israel and dislike of the Jews. Rowan Williams says that after a website of the Church in Wales attracted inflammatory language about Jews, and a meeting in Cardiff about Israel provoked similar anti-Jewish rhetoric, he was forced to introduce some balancing material about the Middle East into his Church periodicals.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, has been addressing Christian groups up and down the country on the implications of 11 September. When he suggests that there is a problem with aspects of Islam, he provokes uproar. His audiences blame Israel for Muslim anger; they want to abandon the Jewish state as a ‘dead’ part of Scripture and support ‘justice’ for the Palestinians instead. ‘What disturbs me at the moment is the very deeply rooted anti-Semitism latent in Britain and the West,’ he says. ‘I simply hadn’t realised how deep within the English psyche is this fear of the power and influence of the Jews.’ Since 11 September, he says, the Palestinian issue has had a major distorting impact on the whole of the Christian world. ‘Those who blame Israel for everything don’t realise that for Islam the very existence of Israel is a problem. Even a Palestinian state would not be sufficient. Israel may be behaving illegally in a number of areas, but she is under attack. But white liberal Christians find it deeply offensive not to blame Israel for injustice.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has spoken out against replacement theology. But unlike the Roman Catholics, the Anglicans have never been forced to confront their Church’s role in the Holocaust and their attitude towards the Jews. Carey, say Church sources, is now in an invidious position. Under pressure to make an accommodation with the Muslims, he is also hemmed in by some highly placed enemies of Israel within the Church and is reluctant to pick a fight with the establishment view. Nevertheless, there are many decent Christians who don’t hold this view. The network of councils of Christians and Jews is going strong. Archbishop Williams preached in Cardiff’s synagogue last weekend. Christians who voice these concerns are prepared to risk opprobrium or worse.
But for the Jews, caught between the Islamists’ blood libels on one side and Christian replacement theology on the other, Britain is suddenly a colder place.
The writer is a Daily Mail columnist. (The Spectator Feb 18)
Suckered by Arafat By Yosef Goell
We should all be indebted to Ha'aretz and its correspondent Akiva Eldar for reminding us last Thursday of the shocking extent to which the former Barak government was prepared to give in to Palestinian demands in negotiations that were proceeding under fire at Taba, four months into the current armed Palestinian uprising. The Moratinos Memorandum (prepared by the representative of the European Union, Miguel Moratinos, who attended the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in January 2001) purports to represent the issues on which agreement was ostensibly reached between the two delegations, before the talks were aborted due to the escalation of the Palestinian violence, and the impending elections in Israel.
In his introduction, Moratinos notes that: "although (the memorandum) does not enjoy official status, it has been recognized by the parties as a fair description of the results of the negotiations at Taba on a final agreement."
According to Ha'aretz, the memorandum asserts that the Israeli delegation had agreed to base any territorial settlement between the two parties on the lines of June 4, 1967 in accordance with the Arab interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from (all) the territories, as opposed to the 33-year-old Israeli insistence on withdrawal from unspecified "territories," with agreed upon mutual realignments. It claimed that Israel had also agreed to the principle of accepting a return of 25,000-40,000 Palestinian refugees back into Israel proper, and to the division of Jerusalem and of the sovereignty over its Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in accordance with the suggestions by president Bill Clinton at Camp David the previous summer.
There was no mention of Palestinian acquiescence to Israeli demands that the agreement constitute an "end to the conflict," and the PA's waiving of any future demands on Israel, including the principle of the refugees' "right of return"; nor of the meticulous implementation by the PA of its previous agreement to the demilitarization of the territories under its control.
Although some of the Israeli participants in the talks have subsequently denied that these points were indeed agreed to, in what was termed as a "non-paper," diplomatic precedents indicate that if and when talks are ever resumed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, there will be great international (especially European) pressure to take off from the point of the "agreements" that were ostensibly attained at Taba.
I write that we should be indebted to Ha'aretz for this latest reminder, as a former supporter of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. I supported them with a fair degree of skepticism in the spirit of the late Yitzhak Rabin's assertion that he had agreed to them "as a calculated risk." I believe, as I did then, that anyone interested in bringing an end to the escalating hostilities between the Palestinians, the Arab world and Israel, should be prepared to take great risks, short of suicidal, in striving for peace.
But when the evidence points incontrovertibly to Israel's having been suckered by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and his henchmen, it is essential that we dissociate ourselves from those risks. I believe that our big mistake began when Rabin (and his succesors) persisted in turning a blind eye to Arafat's continued smuggling of arms into the territories that were ceded to him by Israel. Each of the 250 victims of the Palestinian hostilities of the past 16 months has been a victim of that fatal error of judgment.
Any of the Israeli "concessions" alluded to in the Moratinos Memorandum, however debatable, could have been honestly entertained as a quid pro quo for Palestinian and wider Arab agreement to an "end to the conflict." The past 16 months have proven, if anything can be proven in political life, that there was never the slightest chance of such a real peace. What will be feasible, when and if talks are resumed, is not such a real peace but a more limited and sullen mutual agreement to "manage" an ongoing low-level conflict in the hope that eventually a more meaningful rapprochement could sprout.
With their recent escalation of hostilities against our soldiers and civilians, the Palestinians have clearly embarked on a savage policy of causing us as much indiscriminate harm as possible. It is crucial that in this "game" that they have imposed on us, that we steel ourselves to causing them infinitely greater harm: preferably, not indiscriminately to their civilian population - which is far from "innocent" - but to their terrorist, police and political leaders who have it in their power to curb the attacks.
When and if we do resume talks, it is essential that the balance of intolerable pain enable us to insist that we not go back either to Taba, Camp David or Oslo but to Square One of Madrid of 1991. (Jerusalem Post Feb 19)
Terms of Surrender SmarterTimes.comEditorial
The op-ed page of today's New York Times offers not one but two plans for an Israeli surrender. One is by Times columnist Thomas Friedman; the other is by Jerome M. Segal, "president of the Jewish Peace Lobby." Let's take them one at a time.
Mr. Friedman's plan is that "In return for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967, lines, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the 22 members of the Arab League would offer Israel full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees." The Saudi crown prince, Abdullah, seems open to this idea. But it's extremely unlikely that Israel would ever accept it, for the following reasons:
Particularly rich is the news article that the Times writes about its own op-ed piece. The article runs under the headline "Arab Experts Fault Saudi's Idea Based on Land-for-Peace Trade." The article contains only Arab reaction to the Friedman-Abdullah plan; not a single Israeli reaction is included. The Times news article summarizes the plan as "declaring that if Israel withdrew from all the occupied territories, including the Arab quarters of Jerusalem, then the Arab states would offer full normalization of relations." But, as described in the op-ed column, the Friedman-Abdullah plan involves Israeli withdrawal not only from "the Arab quarters of Jerusalem" but to the June 4, 1967 borders -- in other words, withdrawal from the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives cemetery, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The Times news department may consider these places "the Arab quarters of Jerusalem." But they are not.
Mr. Segal's peace plan is just as bad. It proposes that the United Nations establish and recognize a state of Palestine in all of Gaza and in land that amounts to 100 percent of the land in the West Bank. In return, the Palestinian Arabs must recognize Israel, import no weapons, agree not to enter into any treaty with a country not at peace with Israel, and disarm terrorist groups. Mr. Segal writes, "It is quite possible, of course, that the P.L.O. would refuse to meet the conditions necessary to get the process started. That would leave us where we are today, with one great difference: The onus for the continued occupation would fall squarely on the P.L.O." Mr. Segal is trying to sell the same camel twice. The conditions that he sets for the Palestinian Arabs are the same ones that were set in the 1993 Oslo accords and in all the subsequent agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Agreement. The PLO has refused to meet those conditions. And now most everyone except for the likes of Mr. Segal realizes that the onus for the continued occupation falls squarely on the PLO. Mr. Segal does not explain why he thinks the Oslo approach will succeed under U.N. auspices when it has failed repeatedly under American auspices. There are other problems with the plan -- the "Auschwitz borders," issue, for instance, applies here the same way as it does in the Friedman-Abdullah plan. (SmarterTimes.com Feb 17)
A Letter From Professor Plaut to Professor Bauer
Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Hebrew University, Mount Scopus:
Dear Prof. Bauer:
I have always been an admirer of your work. You have devoted your life to preserving the memory of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust. You have devoted your academic career to the meaning of the Holocaust in Jewish history. You have fought the shallow trendiness to turn the Holocaust into pop Hollywood cliches. Which is why I find your attitude so incomprehensible. On Sunday February 10 you decided to come forth and attack those who are demanding that the Israeli government stop toying with the Nazi terrorists of the PLO and its affiliates and start killing them. Writing in Haaretz, the newspaper for the anti-Jewish Israeli Left, you lay out your opposition to Israel dealing with terrorists by killing them. You roll your eyes in moral horror. You spread out your delicate squeamishness. You explain how horrible it would be if Israel were to kill its enemies.
You have spent your academic career studying World War II. Yet you have never internalized the fact that the world was saved because the enemies of Nazism were willing to kill Germans. They did not sit in pretend moral aloofness, whining that most Germans might be anti-Semites and fascists but were not individually involved in the mass murders, not insisting it would be morally unacceptable to target them. You have not drawn the lesson from history that a refusal to target German cities, civilians, and population centers, a refusal that would have extended World War II and allowed Hitler to complete his work, would have left the world a different place, and hardly a more moral one.
You announce on the pages of Haaretz, the mouthpiece organ for those leftist extremists seeking Israel's destruction, that you are horrified that several Knesset Members from the Right demand that Israel stop seeking talks with the enemy and start killing him. One even speaks about "voluntary population transfer", a moral crime so horrid in your opinion that you have never clarified why this should be regarded as worse than the involuntary expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and elsewhere after the War, nor the expulsion of Jews from the Arab world. Your dislike of population transfer seems selective.
You insist in your Haaretz article that you are from the "1948 generation", those who fought for Independence and statehood for the Jews, but not for THIS kind of a state. You want a state in which it is not necessary to kill the enemy. You want a pristine state. You are unwilling to defend an imperfect real-world state under attack.
Well, let me ask you an academic question, as one academic to another. Suppose, just suppose, that it would be impossible for Israel to defend itself nor prevent the mass murders of Jewish children nor maintain its existence without destroying the villages of the suicide bombers and targeting their families and expelling Palestinian fascists. Better yet: Suppose you would be forced to make an academic moral choice: a Second Holocaust of the Jews, or a willingness by Israel and Israelis to impose decades of Denazification and martial law on the Palestinians while exterminating the PLO and killing all Palestinians with any direct or indirect connections to terrorism. Which would you choose?
I ask you this question of course because it is not a hypothetical academic question at all. This is the very real question on the real world table, the actual choice Israel now needs to make. You can hide from the choice like Shimon Peres, and demand that reality be ignored because it is too ugly and so better live in a fantasy world. Had Churchill and Roosevelt done so, none of us would now be here.
You are horrified that people propose killing the enemy. You call it murder. It is murder like the bombing of Berlin and Cologne and Dresden. In other words it is not murder at all. It is war. You prefer that Israel not be in a state of war. So do we all. You prefer that it be in a perpetual state of appeasement talks. Just like Neville Chamberlain.
By insisting that the only war fought by Israel must be a pure and nice and delicate and polite war, you are in essence insisting that Israel not fight at all. The alternative you really are offering to dirty ugly warfare is capitulation.
Israel IS in a state of war. It did not choose to be. And it has no real choice whether to continue being so now. Or rather, the choice is to pack up and leave, or return to Dachau and Auschwitz, the only alternative the Arabs offer (and the Europeans increasingly endorse). Because you and those like you are squeamish about killing the enemy, Jewish children die. And many more will die until the squeamish make up their minds that Churchill is better than Chamberlain.
Is that your legacy? Is this the lesson that you derive from the Holocaust you have studied all your life? That the worst scenario you can conceive is Israeli leaders being called criminals because they kill the enemy? That Israeli soldiers might be called upon to return fire? You - of all people - know the lessons of the Sudetenland, and how every act of aggression and barbarism in modern times is dressed up in the disguise of "self-determination". You, of all people, should know that even the complete implementation of the Meretz/Haaretz/Labor Party's version of Munich will simply be the opening bell for the real Arab war of extermination.
And you, of all people, are helping Shimon Peres and the Labor Party impose its fantasy delusions on the Jewish people. If they succeed, the Jewish people will cease to exist.
Is that the result you want to be derived from the Holocaust? Do you really want to be part of THAT? Do you really prefer the facade of"morality" to Jewish survival? You know that Churchill would have stated that such a delusion will produce the loss of BOTH!
Sincerely yours, Steven Plaut, University of Haifa