Israel News

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

June 22, 2001
Issue number 332

Events...

July 8-12, August 12-16

                UJA Federation announces two Solidarity Missions to Israel. Cost: CDN$1795 per person (based on double occupancy). A minimum $500 gift is required for Campaign 2002. Call Aviva Malka at 416-631-5680.

News...

Three Terrorist Murders in the Shomron this Week

                The Palestinians provided their response to the Israeli decision this week not to break its unilateral ceasefire with yet more murder: 35-year-old Danny Yehuda of Chomesh and Doron Zisserman of Einav were killed on Monday and Ilya Kirivitz, 62, also of Chomesh was killed on Wednesday - all by terrorist gunfire. Chomesh, 20 miles east of Netanya, is situated within a narrow strip only two miles wide, flanked on both sides by territory under total Arab control. Part of the two-mile strip itself is under PA administrative control. A 16-year-old passenger in Danny Yehuda's car suffered moderate wounds in the attack. The Arab murderers shot from a passing car, which then escaped into a nearby Palestinian autonomous village. The wounded boy later recounted that after the first burst of fire, the terrorists approached the car; he played dead, and they fled. Zisserman, who leaves a widow and four orphans was killed when a terrorist stood outside the entrance to Einav shooting at Israeli cars; the Arab ran away only after one of the Israelis began shooting back at him. Arafat's Fatah group, which took credit for both of Monday's murders, says that it and other terrorist groups have an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, according to which shooting at "settlers" is not included in the ceasefire agreement. Government ministers heard Tuesday that Arafat has apparently given a green light to shooting at Yesha residents. Similarly, IDF Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Malka told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that Arafat has no intention of maintaining a total cessation of violence. "He was disappointed, however, that his strategy has not succeeded in breaking us, and that movements such as the Four Mothers [which demanded a withdrawal from Lebanon] did not arise." He also said that all of Israel's security branches now agree with IDF Intelligence's long-standing position that Arafat has full control over the violent Palestinian elements. (autzsheva.org June 18, 19,20)

Sharon: Restraint Will Continue

                Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened a long meeting of his security cabinet Wednesday morning, at the end of which it was decided that "Israel will continue its efforts to implement the Tenet document." The decision was made despite the government's determination that, according to an official announcement, "the Palestinian Authority has still not fulfilled its obligations specified in the Tenet document: halting terrorism, arresting terrorists, stopping incitement and preventing attacks. The PA bears full responsibility for terrorist activities in its territory, as well as for the actions of terrorists who originate in - and return to - its territories." At least five of the 13 ministers - Benizri, Landau, Shalom, Yeshai, and Ze'evi - expressed their position in favor of ending the restraint Israel has decreed upon herself. (autzsheva.org June 20)

Killers of Greek Monk Captured - Members of Arafat's Force 17

                The Shin Bet security service and the Jerusalem police managed Wednesday to track down the killers of Georgios Tsibukakis, the Greek monk who was shot dead while driving along the Jerusalem-Ma'ale Adumim road last week. The two alledged killers were members of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Force 17. According to them, they had approached Tanzim head Marwan Barghouti and had asked him for weapons to carry out attacks against Israel. Barghouti in turn referred them to a different person, who sold them the weapons. Both men are residents of East Jerusalem. (Haaretz June 20)

U.S. Sees Both Sides

                Despite the one-sided nature of the violence in Israel, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher is going out of his way to equate Israel with the Palestinians. In response to a general question about the status of the Tenet ceasefire during Tuesday's briefing, he did not mention the Palestinian violations, yet emphasized no less than five times the expectations he has from "both sides." Excerpts from his response: "Over the past few days, as we know, we have seen an upsurge in violence and in shootings. We certainly regret the loss of life on both sides over the past few days, and we call on both sides to redouble their efforts to bring down the violence. We are encouraged by the efforts made by both sides... But continued success requires good faith and sustained efforts from both sides to fully implement the work plan. We think both sides need to focus on sustaining their efforts to fully implement the work plan..." (autzsheva.org June 20)

Dolphinarium Death Toll Rises to 21

                The number of victims in the Dolphinarium suicide slaughter has climbed to 21, with the death Tuesday of Evgenia Chaya Dorfman, 15, of Bat Yam. She was the only child of her mother, who suffered a heart attack after the massacre and was hospitalized. (autzsheva.org June 19)

Moving to Yesha

                Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane carried out some meticulous research today, and found that despite the dangers and difficulties currently faced by residents of Yesha, Israelis continue to want to come. He prepared the following random list of several Yesha communities and their forecasted population "transfers" for this coming year:

Kokhav Yaakov (north of Jerusalem) - 50 families will come, some will apparently leave.Tel Tzion, adjacent to Kokhav Yaakov - 84 new families arriving.

Avnei Heifetz (western Shomron) - 4-5 will come, no information on departures.

Adurah (west of Hevron) - one family coming, some will likely leave.

Beit El - 35 will come, a handful will leave.

Adam is expecting 100 new families.

Elon Moreh - 8 will come, 5 will leave.

Beit Haggai (south of Hevron) - 3 to come, none expected to leave.

Ofrah - 5 new families, 2 couples may leave.

N'vei Tzuf - none coming, 5 leaving.

Brachah - positive balance, did not want to release figures.

Shavei Shomron - 2 new families came, 2 will probably soon come, no one leaving.

Chinanit (south of Um el Fahm) - completing a new absorption center that will take in 27 families.

Gadid (Gush Katif) - 3 families coming, none leaving.

Kfar Darom (Gush Katif) - 6 new families to come, none leaving.

Neriah (western Binyamin) - 3 will come, 4 will leave.

Kfar Adumim (south of Jericho) - 3 to come, none will leave.

Karmei Tzur (south of Gush Etzion) 6 coming, none leaving.

Migdalim (just west of the Jordan Valley) - none coming, 2 leaving.

Rimonim (between Jericho and Ofrah) - none coming, 3-4 leaving.Some communities told Kahane that they simply have a technical problem of no apartments or caravans to absorb new families. (autzsheva.org June 19)

Sabra and Shatila Remembered in "Tendentious" Film

                BBC broadcast a documentary film Sunday night on Ariel Sharon and the Sabra and Shatila massacres. The program shows the atrocities of the September 1982 slaughters in which Lebanese Christian Phalangists killed some 900 Palestinian villagers. It presents the view that then-Defense Minister Sharon, responsible for the invading IDF army, is at least indirectly responsible for the massacre and should stand trial as an international war criminal. All those interviewed on the film agreed with this stance, except for several Israeli spokesmen who weakly defended him; they later said that they did not know that the issue was whether or not Sharon should be tried as a war criminal. The Israeli Foreign Ministry's response to the film: "Israel views with great severity the distorted, unfair, and tendentious manner in which the Panorama program was presented. The timing, 19 years after the events, testify to a lack of good faith and an attempt to smear, at any cost, Israel's name and that of its Prime Minister, BBC has placed itself as a television court while blatantly ignoring the findings of serious tribunals in the U.S. and Israel." The Kahan Commission, which investigated the massacres in 1983, found that no Israeli had either instigated or conspired to cause the massacres: "We have no doubt that no conspiracy or plot was entered into between anyone from the Israeli political echelon or from the military echelon in the IDF and the Phalangists with the aim of perpetrating atrocities in the camps ... No intention existed on the part of anyone who acted on behalf of Israel to harm the non-combatant population, The direct responsibility for the perpetration of the acts of slaughter rests on the Phalangist forces." The Commission did find that Sharon carried an "indirect responsibility" for the killings because he was not sufficiently aware of what should have been expected from the Christian Phalangists and did not take actions to prevent them. But a jury in New York found a Time Magazine article "false and defamatory" in writing that Sharon had planned a Christian "revenge" in advance. (autzsheva.org June 18)

PM Sharon: Settlers Lead the Way

                Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid a condolence visit Sunday to Benny and Bat-Sheva Shoham, whose five-month-old son Yehuda Chaim was killed in a rock-throwing attack two weeks ago. Benny told the Prime Minister, "If public figures would make sure to begin every speech by saying that this is our Land and our State, this would strengthen the public, and it would also re-invigorate the leaders and restore their strength." Sharon agreed: "I have not an iota of doubt as to our total rights to Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, We may have erred in not emphasizing this more," The Prime Minister said that just as in the past, there were small groups who led the way, "the Yesha residents today are the model that should be imitated."

                Over 1,000 people were guests last Shabbat at one of the oldest Yesha communities, Ofrah, commemorating their solidarity and identification with the residents of Judea and Samaria. Last-minute reservations about holding the event, in light of recent Palestinian attacks - including one last week at the town entrance in which Shlomit Binyamin, 21, was moderately wounded - were overruled by the enthusiasm of the guests who wished to come. The guests reached Ofrah in a convoy of buses and private cars. Many of them expressed their intentions to relocate to Judea and Samaria, despite - or because of - the dangerous security situation. (autzsheva.org June 17)

Bush: No Invitation to Arafat Until Violence Stops

                U.S. President George Bush told the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations today that Yasser Arafat would not be invited to Washington until Palestinian violence stops. So announced Conference Chairman Mortimer Zuckerman. (autzsheva.org June 17)

Official PA Incitement Against Yesha Jews

                At least one more of Israel's demands during the past eight years - and specifically during the recent negotiations under the auspices of CIA director George Tenet - does not appear to be being fulfilled: the demand that the PA cut down on its official incitement against Israelis. None other than PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo called on Palestinians last Friday morning to "teach the settlers the lesson they deserve." Speaking with Voice of Palestine Radio, Abed Rabbo said that there exists a "terrorist organization of settlers, which is an arm of the extremist forces in Israel and the backbone of the Sharon government, They must be taught a lesson. They commit crimes everywhere," The Yesha Council, contacted by Ynet for a response, said, "This lowly murderer is not worthy of a response. It is too bad that the government is willing to invest more Jewish blood in its attempts to placate Arafat and his allies." (autzsheva.org June 15)

PA Interfered With Israeli Elections

                The GSS has announced the recent arrest of a Palestinian intelligence officer in the Negev. The officer, who was armed with a pistol at the time of his arrest, intended to kidnap an Israeli in the south of the country. PA officer Ahed Haj Ahmad Mohammad Al-Akbi, in charge of "Bedouin Affairs" for the PLO, told the GSS that he planned to kidnap and Israeli citizen and bring him to the PLO's intelligence interrogation facility in Dahariya. Al-Akbi told his interrogators that in line with his position, he would routinely interrogate members of the Negev Bedouin community to remain abreast of affairs in that community. He also told the GSS that he was ordered to gather intelligence information dealing with Israel's 1996 and 1999 national elections. Al-Akbi said that in one case, a senior PA official offered a large unspecified sum of money to a candidate to persuade him to withdraw from the Knesset race to clear the way for another candidate. Al Akbi added that he was also appointed by a senior PA figure to gather information among Israeli Arabs in connection to the elections. In addition, the same senior PA figure also started an initiative to "convince" a candidate for Prime Minister to drop out of the race because of the PA's interest in the victory of a different candidate. (A7 June 15)

Commentary...

7 Ways You Can Help Israel by Michael Freund

                `For many Jews around the world, one of the most frustrating aspects of the current violence in Israel is the seeming inability to do something about the situation. Dazed by daily reports of terror, concerned Jews are largely at a loss as to how they can help, even in some small way, during this difficult period. Such feelings are entirely understandable, for one often gets the sense that no matter what Israel seems to do, its predicament only grows worse. But such thinking is neither productive nor beneficial, because the last thing the Jewish people need right now is despair. Instead, we must all focus our energies on doing what we can to lift Israel''s spirits and help it contend with an increasingly volatile and uncertain situation.

                Though far from revolutionary, here are some simple and practical suggestions as to what you can do to help. They are what I refer to as the "Seven 'P's " of Jewish activism:

1)     Point and Click -- The first task is to better educate ourselves and our communities about events in Israel. The Internet provides a range of useful sources for getting a more accurate picture of what is really happening in the Jewish state. A few useful sites are: the Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com), Arutz-7 (www.israelnationalnews.com) and IMRA (www.imra.org.il). Visit such sites and recommend them to friends -- you will be amazed at how people''s eyes can be opened when they start to get the real picture about what is going on.

2)     Publish Your Views -- Once you have a better grasp of the facts, don''t hesitate to speak out. No Jewish organization or Israeli consulate can fight the propaganda war on every front, so don''t assume that they will. Pick up your pen, or your keyboard, and start writing. Whether it is a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or an ongoing dialogue in a chat room, you never know how your contribution may affect someone else''s views. Share your success stories with others, and turn yourself and your friends into roving ambassadors on Israel''s behalf.

3)     Protest Media Bias -- The mainstream media is replete with anti-Israel bias and sloppy reporting. Don''t let them get away with it. If you see something that offends you, let the editor know, tersely and politely. For resources and ideas on combating media bias, check out: Honest Reporting (www.honestreporting.com), CAMERA (www.camera.org) and CNN-Watch (www.cnnwatch.org).

4)     Provide Assistance -- If you able to provide financial support, there are many worthwhile organizations working to address the problems caused by the intifada. The Israel Crisis Management Center, based in Tel Aviv (phone: 03-544-5161), assists new immigrants who have been victimized by terrorist attacks, including the families of those killed in the Tel Aviv disco bombing, with grants, loans and volunteer counseling. A group called Helping Israel (www.helpingisrael.com) has an extensive list of medical and security supplies required by Jewish communities that have borne the brunt of the Palestinian violence, such as those in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Sending money, even in small sums, is a tangible and meaningful way of demonstrating your support.

5)     Pressure Representatives -- Wherever you live, your views as a citizen need to be heard by your elected representatives. In many instances, American congressional offices keep tabs on the quantity of mail they receive on particular issues as a way of measuring their relative importance to their constituency. Find out who your elected officials are and urge them to publicly express their support for Israel during these difficult times.

6)     Pay A Visit -- The recent flap over the cancellation of Israel summer programs had a sharply negative impact on relations between Israel and the Diaspora. There is no better way to demonstrate your solidarity than by boarding a plane and paying a visit to the Holy Land. Yasser Arafat needs to know that he can not succeed in scaring Jews away, and your visit will help to send him that message.

7)     Pray for Help -- The Jewish people have always turned to their Father in Heaven as a source of strength and support. No prayer goes to waste, and regardless of your level of observance, consider adding a request for Israel to your regular (or even irregular) prayer regimen. Whether in the privacy of your home or on the pews of your local synagogue, make the crisis in Israel the focus of your thoughts.While these suggestions may not offer a panacea to all of Israel''s ills, they do provide each of us with a practical means of fending off frustration and doing something concrete to improve the situation. Even if our actions do not appear to influence the overall outcome of events, by getting more involved on behalf of the Jewish people we do succeed in changing ourselves. And that, in and of itself, is already an important victory.

The writer served as Deputy Director for Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister''s Office from 1996 to 1999. (Jerusalem Post, June 20)

Palestinians' Ceaseless Cease-fire Lies By Evelyn Gordon

                Ever since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a US-brokered cease-fire last week, the international community has been optimistically declaring that this creates a "window of opportunity" for reaching a permanent agreement. Yet the Palestinians' response to the truce to date casts serious doubt on this claim - not only because of what it says about the cease-fire's prospects, but even more for what it says about the value of any agreement they might sign in the future.

                To begin with, the Palestinian Authority has been lying ceaselessly about what the cease-fire entails. Last Thursday, for instance, Palestinian Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nabil Amr declared that the PA is not really obligated to arrest terrorists involved in attacks against Israelis over the last eight months, because the US accepted the PA's reservations on this issue.

                Similarly, Jibril Rajoub, the head of the PA's Preventive Security Service in the West Bank, insisted on Saturday that the collection of illegal weapons in the territories is not part of the deal. Indeed, most Palestinian spokesmen have even denied that any written agreement exists: they say the cease-fire is merely a series of verbal understandings.

                Needless to say, a written document does exist, and the clauses that Amr and Rajoub deny appear explicitly in it. One states: "The PA will move immediately to apprehend, question and incarcerate terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza." Another states: "Palestinian and Israeli security officials will make a concerted effort to locate and confiscate illegal weaponsÉÉ in areas under their respective control."

                The question, then, is what the PA gains by lying. After all, it can hardly hope to convince either Israel or the US, both of which have copies of the document. The obvious answer is that these lies are directed toward its own people - which in turn indicates two things. First, the PA has no intention of trying to implement the parts of the document it dislikes; if it did, the Palestinians would quickly catch on to the lie. Second, the PA is unwilling to try to convince its public of the need for potentially unpopular measures. Yet these are the two most important components of any agreement: willingness to abide by its terms, and willingness to try to sell even the unpleasant aspects to the public, since no agreement can survive for long without popular support.

                If the PA is unwilling to undertake these two tasks, what conceivable use could any agreement with it be?

                A second troubling item is PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's explanation for why he refuses to arrest terrorists. In a letter to CIA chief George Tenet, who brokered the truce, Arafat explained that while he can arrest those who violate the cease-fire, he cannot arrest people for acts committed before the cease-fire was declared. This might seem reasonable, until one remembers that no less than five signed agreements between Israel and the PA were in effect prior to the cease-fire - Oslo, Cairo, Oslo-2, Hebron and Wye - and the PA explicitly promised to end violence against Israel in every one of them.

                Thus the terrorists who acted before the cease-fire was declared were as guilty of violating an explicit PA commitment as those who have acted since. That Arafat thinks otherwise has enormous implications: it means that as far as he is concerned, the promises he made in those other agreements had no validity.

                It is only his latest promise of non-violence that is valid - and that, too, will remain valid for precisely as long as he chooses, and no longer.

                But if Arafat views any commitment he signs as being in effect only so long as it happens to suit him, what is the point of signing any agreement with him at all?

                A final disturbing factor is the repeated statements by Palestinian leaders that they cannot persuade their people to end the violence unless they can show that it produced diplomatic gains. In other words, they must be rewarded for launching the violence - despite the fact that it violated all their signed commitments, and despite the fact that it came in response to an Israeli negotiating proposal that met 95 percent of their demands.

                But if this is the Palestinian attitude toward a peace agreement - that it not only leaves them free to resume violence at any moment, but that they then deserve to be rewarded for that breach - what is the use of such an agreement?

                The Palestinian response so far offers little hope that the cease-fire will last. Even more, however, it provides a grim warning as to what Israel can expect should it sign a final-status agreement - and an excellent argument for why, as long as the current Palestinian leadership is in place, Israel should refrain from signing such an agreement.           (Jerusalem Post June 19)

Failed Jewish Leadership By Meir Fachler

                When Rabbi Eric Yoffie assumed the post of president of the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), he automatically became one of the most influential leaders of the Jewish people. While his post entails responsibility for a wide range of issues, his single most important duty is to provide leadership.

                This translates into making the right decisions when faced with difficult dilemmas. Judging by Yoffie's recent decision to "suspend" this summer's NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth) Israel programs, he has failed the test of leadership. This is one of the most disastrous decisions taken by a modern-day Jewish leader. It has wide negative ramifications, not just for the children who will not be traveling, but for the members of the organization that he represents, as well as for many other Jews and non-Jews who are affected directly and indirectly by this decision.

                By virtue of his position, many Jews who do not necessarily subscribe to the Reform Movement also look to him to provide leadership. We look to him to make responsible, courageous decisions, even if they are unpopular. Even if the reports from CNN and other media sources create a distorted picture of Israel as a bloody war-zone. Even when many of the parents have decided to pull their kids out from the program. And even when the pressure from within the organization is mounting to cancel the trip.

                Yoffie justifies his stand in a document entitled: "We don't make political statements with children: Remarks to the UAHC Board of Trustees on the suspension of trips to Israel." The title and substance of Yoffie's comments make it clear that he believes it is simply too dangerous to send children to Israel. Yes, he pays lip service to the need for the movement to support Israel in its time of troubles. But this does not extend to sending children to Israel, since "this movement never uses other people's children to make a political or ideological point."

                Who are these "other people's children?" These are his children! These are the children of his 1.5 million members who look to him for guidance and leadership. These are the children of people who elected him to lead them, not to hide behind them.

                For we Israelis, the psychological effect of the recent bombings has been immense. But we also know a war zone when we see one - and Israel is no war zone. Statistically, living here is certainly safer than for tourists who travel to Washington DC, for instance. The vast majority of Israeli Jews still travel, tour and enjoy the beauty and diversity of the land. None of us feels the need to send our children to the safety of American homes. None of us feels that we are making a political statement with our children. If anything, most Israeli parents would be somewhat concerned for the safety of their children at a Jewish summer camp in the Diaspora.

                True leadership is the theme of last week's Torah portion, Parashat Shelach Lecha. Twelve Jewish communal leaders, upon their return from a fact-finding trip to Canaan, reported back to the people and offered their assessment as to the viability of an immediate invasion and inheritance of the Promised Land. Two of the leaders, Calev Ben Yefuneh and Joshua Bin Nun, reported that the task at hand was both doable and right. The other 10 reported that the task was too difficult, not doable and wrong. In their report back to the people, these 10 doubtlessly also used the argument that their "sensitivity to safety issues will enhance our credibility with our congregational leadership, and hence our ability to attract participants."

                The anguish, social turmoil, rebellion and consequences of the lack of leadership shown by these 10 leaders are well-documented. Not only did they forfeit their leadership role, but Moses himself had to accept that his role of leader would not extend beyond the desert stage. Joshua, who would eventually lead the Jewish people into the Promised Land, became the undisputed leader of the people. Not because of his military strength, nor because of his political prowess. Joshua became leader because he knew what decision to make when faced with one of the "most difficult decisions in his administration."

                Yoffie is in danger of joining the ranks of Jewish leaders who have failed their people at critical turning points in Jewish history. He should be a force for unity, Jewish identity and a vibrant Jewish future. Instead, his decision represents a force that leads to an "us and them" approach to Jewish unity, a stymieing of opportunities to strengthen Jewish identity, and a cowardly submission to the evil forces dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

The writer co-founded JeMM and GesherTech, and is an independent Jewish education consultant based in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post Jun 20)

The Anderson-Hanna Lie Machines By Daniel Doron

                Scene 1: We see a pile of skulls as the BBC's Hillary Anderson intones: "Deep underground in Bethlehem are the remnants of an atrocity so vile, so far back in historyÉ King Herod's slaughter of the innocents."

                This is how the BBC opened its segment on the deaths of Palestinian children during the recent intifada. Herod's alleged massacre was evoked to remind the viewer that Jews, who tried to kill the infant Christ, are again busy killing innocent children. The BBC revived an ancient anti-Semitic blood libel and presented it as fact supported by archeological remains (See the skulls? So what if they are adults'?). When it comes to charging Jews with child murder, the BBC will easily peddle lies.

                Scene 2: CNN's Mike Hanna faces the camera. Behind him, an Israeli jeep hit by a firebomb thrown by Arab rioters (whom Hanna insists on calling "protesters" or "demonstrators") catches fire and withdraws. The Arab crowd surges forward and cheers. With a straight face, Hanna reports that the Israelis have just thrown a concussion bomb at the "demonstrators" and they cry out in outrage! Since a lens cannot blush, Hanna's lie sticks.

                It is not often that you catch those journalists who have been doing their best to tar a democratic Israel and whitewash a repressive Arab regime uttering outright lies. A cunning bunch, accomplished spin doctors, they usually deploy a far more sophisticated arsenal of half-truths, distortions, evasions and omissions to undermine Israel by portraying it as an aggressive colonialist occupier and the corrupt Palestinian Authority as its innocent victim.

                Careful, selective editing obscures the fact that it is Arafat's "Authority" that initiates all the violence. By showing only stone throwing kids, not the armed Palestinian soldiers (masked as police) using the children as human shields, Israeli troops are made to look as though they are using excessive force. This is the image projected even when they act with unparalleled restraint facing huge armed mobs, as the small proportion of casualties to attackers affirms.

                The BBC and CNN constantly launder language, always speaking of violence "erupting," as if from nowhere. They seldom mention Arab aggression, but always blame Israel, even when it is clearly acting in self-defense. They report false Arab allegations, including preposterous "historical" claims as fact, without examination or question, thus undermining Israel's legitimate claims to the land that were sanctioned by the international community. Israeli reports, even of facts, are always treated as allegations. Extremist Arab spokesmen get wide exposure, their obvious falsehoods and lies never challenged. Israel is always "represented" by a few handpicked radical leftist anti-Zionists, who support the Arab cause. The few defenders of Israel are treated with undisguised hostility.

                Broadcasts always open - even after dramatic attacks on a Jewish neighborhood - with a recount of Arab casualties, with allegations about Israeli atrocities, about "children shot in the head," even though the sources are known Arab propagandists.

                Altogether, the BBC and CNN have done their best to fan flames of hatred and violence against Israel, with false reports and allegations and with inflammatory rhetoric. They assiduously promoted the lie that Israelis kill children in cold blood, ceaselessly repeating pictures of the child accidentally killed in an exchange of fire near Gaza without ever bothering to inquire what really happened. They kept it up despite the fact that they knew these false charges were inflaming atavistic anti-Semitic hatred that resulted in Jews being attacked in Europe and synagogues torched. It is, therefore, surprising that the State of Israel has waited for the latest calumny, the attempt to portray Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as war criminal, before realizing that it faces two determined enemies that, out of ideological conviction and plain anti-Semitism, are trying to undermine Israel's legitimacy and are giving aid and comfort to terrorist regimes attacking it, while doing their best to inhibit Israel's ability to defend itself by whitewashing and justifying its attackers.

                At the least, Israel should have demanded a public apology and the disciplining of the rogue editors and reporters who endanger lives by promoting violence, or ask them to leave the country. Let them peddle their lies from the territories of their friends, the Arab military dictatorships whose anti-Israel cause they so passionately promote. (Jerusalem Post June 21)

[Some weeks ago we ran an article that was fairly harsh in its criticism of Hareidi non-participation in Tzahal. In the interests of evenhandedness (not something we claim to practice generally) we present the article below. -ed.]

In Defense of the Tal Committee By Jonathan Rosenblum

                The leaders of this community for the last half-century have viewed themselves as living in an extraordinary historical momentIn the early 1950s there existed a virtual consensus concerning the future of the haredi community in Israel. Except for a few pockets of the old yishuv in Jerusalem, haredi Judaism would be a historical memory within one generation. That view was shared by haredi Jews and the regnant secularists alike. Fewer than 500 yeshiva students learned in the two major yeshivot of the time: Hebron and Ponevezh.

                Even within the citadel of the old yishuv in Mea Shearim, there was not a house in which someone had not been swept up by the Zionist movement, which was viewed as the vanguard of the future. One of our generation's greatest Torah scholars recalls that only two boys with whom he went to heder remained religious.

                To the dismay of some and the delight of others, things have not quite worked out as foreseen. The haredi community in Israel today numbers at least half a million people and controls nearly 20% of the Knesset members. And the community is growing rapidly.

                The leaders of this community for the last half-century have viewed themselves as living in an extraordinary historical moment. While the Jewish people lost one-third of its members in the Holocaust, the percentage of the world's Torah-observant Jews killed by the Nazis was much higher.

                In addition, with the sole exception of the Mirrer Yeshiva, all the great centers of Torah learning were wiped out.

                The task the post-Holocaust Torah leadership set for itself was nothing less than the recreation of great centers of Torah learning in Israel. They first had to build an entire community around the absolute primacy of Torah learning. They succeeded to a miraculous degree.

                Yet while the haredi community has flourished to an extent totally unexpected, all is not rosy.

                The explosion of the haredi population itself creates its own challenges. An intensity of vision appropriate for a small nucleus of dedicated idealists cannot be imposed upon a much larger and more diverse community.

                Not every boy is suited by temperament or ability for life-long kollel learning. And the effect of not providing respectable alternatives is felt in the tiny percentage of those who drop out and the larger number who remain in yeshivot without enthusiasm. (The latter group is not nearly so large as assumed by secularists, who mistakenly believe that one must be a genius to enjoy or even excel in Talmudic learning and that the only purpose of yeshivot is to produce a certain number of rabbis.)

                The long-range economic viability of the community is another concern. In many families the third generation of those who chose to dedicate themselves to full-time Torah learning are reaching marriage age. For all that parents do everything humanly possible to help their children, and ensure that sons and sons-in-laws can remain in full-time Torah learning for years after marriage, many do not have the resources to do so.

               The challenge confronting the haredi rabbinic leadership then is to steer a course that preserves the hard-won triumphs of the past half-century while adapting to changing circumstances. The very success of the community makes it harder to do so. As difficult as it is for defeated leaders to "Declare victory and leave," as Senator George Aiken advised America to do in Vietnam and as Israel is currently doing in Lebanon, it is even more difficult for leaders whose side is by all external measures thriving to resist the temptation to carry on exactly as before. Thus the success of the haredi community dictates that any changes in direction will be evolutionary not revolutionary. But those incremental changes, designed to prevent chinks in the armor from expanding, are under way.

                The proliferation of institutes providing technical education for haredi men in a wide range of subjects, the growing number of yeshiva graduates in private law schools, and the rapidly expanding career paths for women all point to a growing social acceptance of the need for economic self-sufficiency. Whether these evolutionary trends continue or not will depend to a large extent on the secular community. If the haredi community perceives itself under siege by those who seeks its destruction - and such elements are hardly lacking in Israel today - it will retreat behind ghetto walls. (Note that in America, where tolerance is the watchword and religious Jews face no organized enemies, haredim are far more likely to work outside the community.)

                Any frontal attack on the yeshivot - in particular an attempt to draft most 18-year-olds - will be rightly seen as an attempt to destroy the haredi world. The yeshivot are not just one type of haredi institution, they are the community's lifeblood, its very raison d'etre.

                The two most often voiced complaints about the haredi community are its failure to share equally the defense burden and its lack of economic productivity. Israeli policymakers must shed the illusion that they can solve both problems. If they take an absolutist position on the former they will fail and, in addition, bring to an end trends they view as favorable in the economic sphere.

                The Tal Committee wisely avoided the trap of letting the quest for perfection (from the secular point of view) destroy the good. The commission correctly recognized that many haredim see a world of difference between adumbrated service for 24-year-olds and full army service for 18-year-olds.

                By 24, most haredi men are married. They have already founded a home on the basis of intense Torah learning, reached a sufficiently advanced level of learning to ensure that study will remain the center of their lives no matter how they support their families, and are mature enough not to be intimidated into violating their religious beliefs in the army.

                If enacted, the commission's recommendations will encourage the integration of more haredim into the economic life of the country and create a larger reservoir of young men trained to fight in event of war.

                It will also signal a determination by all segments of Israeli society to live together and to eschew dreams of destroying one another in some macabre Congo Death Match. (Jerusalem Post April 2000)


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