A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
March 23, 2001 - 28 Adar 5761
Issue number 318
Wednesday March 28, 8:00pm
Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks at the Sephardic Kehila Centre.
Terrorist-Victim Baruch Cohen, Father of 6 From Efrat
Thousands of people, including many IDF officers, participated in the funeral Monday of Baruch Cohen, 59. Arab terrorists opened fire upon Cohen as they overtook his car that morning on the Tunnels Highway between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. Two bullets struck him in the head, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and smash head-on into a truck traveling south from Jerusalem. When the truck driver, who said that he had been driving slowly uphill, saw that the car had been hit by many bullets, he radioed for help, but Cohen was soon pronounced dead on the scene. Baruch Cohen is survived by his wife and six children, one of whom is Lt.-Col. Amnon Cohen, Commander of the IDF's Liaison Office with the Palestinian Authority in the Hevron District. Baruch's children and several Efrat rabbis and leaders eulogized him before the funeral procession left from the Gush Etzion town; the funeral continued through the Tunnels Highway to the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Sharon's spokesmen said that world leaders must warn Yasser Arafat that he will pay a steep price for attacking innocent Israeli civilians and undermining regional stability. Local residents expressed shock and horror at yet another "successful" Arab terrorist attack, demanding that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer take immediate action to bring security to Israeli motorists in the region. On February 1, 2001, Dr. Shmuel Gillis, 42, of Karmei Tzur, was shot and killed in a similar attack on the same road. On February 11, Tzachi Sasson, 35, of nearby Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, was also killed by Arab terrorists on the same road. On Feb. 20, Roni Diament was shot in the stomach in similar circumstances, and his recovery has been termed miraculous. (arutzsheva.org Mar 19)
Sharon to AIPAC: I Am First and Foremost a Jew
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington Tuesday, saying, "Jerusalem belongs to all the Jewish people - we in Israel are only custodians of the city…… Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the holiest site to the Jewish people, is something you should stand up and speak out about. Jerusalem will remain united under the sovereignty of Israel - forever." He omitted this last sentence in his first speech as Prime Minister in the Knesset two weeks ago. The Prime Minister also told AIPAC, "I stand before you today first and foremost as a Jew. This strong Jewish identity is a central theme in my life and will be in carrying out my responsibilities as Prime Minister. I want to work to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Jews all over the world. I have established a national unity government to unite the people of Israel, but unity among Jews is vital worldwide. Unity is our source of strength…" He spoke of the need for Jewish-Zionist education, and called on Jews in U.S. to immigrate to Israel: "We need all of you in Israel..." The audience of hundreds of students and AIPAC supporters rapturously applauded this and many other statements by Sharon. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also addressed the AIPAC, and said, "We recognize that Israel lives in a very dangerous neighborhood. We will look for ways to strengthen and expand our valuable strategic cooperation with Israel so we can preserve Israel's qualitative military edge and help manage the dangers it confronts. Our collaboration in missile defense is one prominent area that comes to mind in this regard..." He also called on both parties to end violence, but in a veiled rebuke to the Palestinians, Powell said, "Leaders must denounce violence, strip it of legitimacy... Turning to the United States or other outside parties to pressure one or another party or impose a settlement is not the answer." (arutzsheva.org Mar 20)
Sharon Pleased With Washington Visit
Aides to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reported Wednesday that he is pleased with the atmosphere of his meeting yesterday with US President George Bush - although they note that Bush did not promise not to invite Yasser Arafat to Washington, nor did he call clearly upon Arafat to end the violence. The two leaders assured one another that they would do everything possible to maintain and improve the special relationship between the two countries. Sharon said that his government would not 'surprise' the White House in dealings with the PA and Iraq, and asked that Washington please not send any surprises to Israel. He explained that he has already ordered a relaxation of punitive measures against PA areas, but explained that he would respond with a strong hand against terrorists and those responsible for planning attacks. The two also discussed Jerusalem, regional terrorism, and other issues. Sharon said that Syria would have to make a 'gesture' on behalf of peace and good-faith negotiations, and noted that Egypt is not fulfilling a positive role in the Oslo process. Bush stated that he is "beginning the process" of relocating the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as he promised he would in his election campaign. (arutzsheva.org Mar 21)
Mofaz Speaks of Official P.A. Terrorism
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that 40% of the Israelis killed in the present mini-war were the victims of Palestinian security officers. Arafat's personal guard unit, Force 17, leads all other organizations in attacks against Israeli targets, Mofaz said. The involvement of the official PA security apparatus in attacks against Israel is even greater than what can be disclosed to the public at this time, he said. Ha'aretz reported that Mofaz believes that the only way to defend against Palestinian bomb attacks is to lay siege to the Palestinian cities and towns. "In areas where there is no specific information of a pending bomb attack," Mofaz said, "the siege is lifted. In principle, I oppose the siege tactic because it harms innocent civilians and it is against my world view. But if we compare the two evils - a bombing or a siege - the preference falls on the side of the siege." Mofaz reported to the committee that the Palestinians have set up a small military industry in the Gaza Strip, which produces mortars and grenades. (arutzsheva.org Mar 21)
Arabs Shell IDF Base near Kibbutz Nahal Oz
Three mortar shells were fired Sunday night at an IDF base near Kibbutz Nachal Oz, east of the Gaza Strip and inside pre-1967 Israel. A reserve duty soldier on the base was lightly wounded by shrapnel. He received preliminary medical care from an IDF physician on the base and was then transported to a hospital. A senior military official stated with certainty that the mortar attack was intended to strike inside Israel's pre-1967 borders. Minister of Defense Ben-Eliezer stated that Israel will not accept the current situation and will deploy the necessary forces to protect its citizens. IDF commanders stated that the attack signals the crossing of yet another red line by terrorist forces, in that it was the first time mortars were used in an attack over the "Green Line" in that area. Over past weeks, mortar attacks against Israeli civilian targets in Gaza by Arab terror forces have occurred several times. (arutzsheva.org Mar 19)
Car-Bomb Thwarted in Me'ah She'arim
The alertness of a Jerusalem citizen apparently averted a serious tragedy in the heart of the Me'ah She'arim neighborhood Wednesday. Upon noticing an illegally parked car close to Shabbat Square, he alerted police, whose check of the license plate ascertained that the car was stolen. Other officials who arrived on the scene saw a cellular phone inside the car with 'strange wires' protruding from it, and immediately began treating the car as a suspected car bomb. The police distanced passersby and evacuated nearby apartments, while bomb squad personnel began "working" on the car. With traffic blocked up for blocks all around, and under the pressure of the unknown, they managed, on their second attempt, to open the trunk with a controlled explosion. Inside they found a large explosive device, which they safely dismantled. Jerusalem Police Commissioner Mickey Levy acknowledged that the busy street had been saved from a major tragedy. (arutzsheva.org Mar 21)
Chief Rabbi to Send Passover Kits to Israeli MIA's And POW's
Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau will send Passover kits containing wine, matza, and the 'Haggadah' (traditional Passover service) to nine Israeli captives, via Israeli representatives of the International Red Cross. In an effort to increase awareness of their plight, the Chief Rabbi called on persons around the world to send similar packages to local Red Cross representatives for the captives. The nine include the soldiers of the 1982 Sultan Yaakub battle - Tzvi Feldman, Zechariah Baumel, and Yehuda Katz - as well as navigator Maj. Ron Arad, Sgt. Guy Chever, and the soldiers abducted and taken into Hizbullah captivity in October 2000: Sgt. Adi Avitan, St.-Sgt. Avraham Binyamin, St.-Sgt. Omer Souad, and Col. (res.) Elchanan Tanenbaum. (arutzsheva.org Mar 19)
PA Shuts down Television Station
The Palestinian Authority shut down Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite television station broadcasting from Ramallah Wednesday. The closure came in the wake of a broadcast Tuesday that featured PA Chairman Yasser Arafat below the image of a shoe. PA sources told Army Radio that they would not endure such images in programming that is broadcast to the entire Arab world. Revealing the bottom of one's shoe is considered an insult in Moslem culture. (Jerusalem Post Mar 21)
Quote for the Week...
"My accusing finger is pointed at one and only one man: Yasser Arafat. The more I look into the matter [the clearer it becomes that] there is only one person who is not giving unequivocal orders and directions to lessen the violence, to halt the shooting, to halt this cycle of bloody violence: He is Yasser Arafat."
- Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, blaming Yasser Arafat for Monday’s terrorist attack in Gush Etzion and Sunday’s mortar shelling directed at Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the Gaza Strip. (Jerusalem Post Mar 19)
The Killing of Baruch Cohen By Harvey Tannenbaum
This morning, Baruch Cohen went to minyan in Efrat at his usual Vatikin time. The father of 6, grandfather of 11, aged 59 did his usual morning ritual of blessing the Jews of Efrat via his lineage of Birkat Kohanim. Baruch is the first word of our blessings and this Baruch gave blessings daily. As he left Efrat in the early daylight hour enroute to his work in Jerusalem, he did not realize that his last bracha and priestly blessing had just been recited. As he passed the Neveh Daniel junction on the Gush=Jerusalem road, a car of Arab animal murderers drove by and sprayed his car with 12bullets. Baruch was hit, lost control and drove into the oncoming semi-trailer, dying instantly.
Baruch Cohen Z"L was the recipient of the latest Jewish guilt trip of re opening their(Arab) roads, cities, and villages. Only last night did the new Minister of Defense Ben Eliezer re open the access to and from the 'unfortunate' sieged Arab cities. For 2weeks, we had some' peace' and quiet, now we had pieces of Baruch's body and another funeral to plan in Efrat. The terrorists escaped to Bethlehem, passing the PLO (police) sic? checkpoint which allowed more murderers to escape into their protective areas after the killing of a Jew.
Amnon Cohen, Baruch's son is an IDF lieutenant general in charge of the Hebron area security. His beeper went off and was told of a drive by shooting on the Gush road. He instructed his troops to seal off the area and he drove to the shooting area. From a distance he saw the familiar Hyundai vehicle where a father years ago had taught him how to drive. Upon seeing the car and his dead father, the IDF lieutenant general, Amnon did kriyah of his uniform instead of reporting the incident. He handed over the investigation to the next in command and began to weep on the road, not what his soldiers ever expected to see in their commanding officer.
The roads were closed, the city of Efrat turned into a morning of mourning. The Cohen house 1 block away from me was packed with IDF, police, the rabbis, and outside the pregnant daughter of Baruch Z"L was placed into a wheelchair as she nears her 8th month of pregnancy. The latest survivor of a drive by shooting, Ronnie Diament of Efrat who was shot at and survived last month was just awoken after last night's seudat hodaya, dinner of gratitude to G-d, where he was toasted in a lechayim by Baruch at the synagogue.
Ronnie was interviewed on Israel radio for most part of the afternoon and in a breaking and haltering voice tried to repeat the blessing and the words of his friend Baruch last night as they sang and rejoiced together for Ronnie's discharge from Hadassah only 24 hours ago.
Today Ronnie was a pallbearer for Baruch. As we watched the thousands line the street of the synagogue where Baruch gave his blessings daily and then the car procession down the same road of the Gush to Jerusalem and the hundreds of cars enroute to Har Menuchot where Baruch would receive the kaddish blessings of his sons instead of the birkat kohanim, the noises of tears and silence could be heard. The entire procession stopped on the highway where only hours before Baruch and his blessings were extinguished by the animal murderers of the PLO.
Friends, our collective guilt and worries about the well being of the masses of PLO residents outweighs the worries for our own fellow Jewish survival in our land of Israel. The politicians gave their advice and the best one perhaps, is that the IDF be allowed to use its helicopters not to bomb the innocent but to drop food and medicines daily with CNN filming it live over the Arab villages while continuing the siege and blockades for months on our neighbors, the Arab 'peace'? partners.
As the antitank missiles hit last night at Nachal Oz beyond the green line and as Baruch Cohen's fresh grave remind us that it was only yesterday that rocks and stones shattered our lives, we now realize that this CNN labeled 'intifada' has been replaced by the warzone.
To all of the other Kohanim out there, the big blessing of Yevarchecha and Yishmerach etc....only ends with the word of Shalom when we realize that the death of another Kohen today in Israel will strengthen our resolve and with G-d's intervention, the birkat kohanim of Baruch Cohen shall once again be recited very soon. Hashem Yikam Damam. Harvey Tannenbaum, Kohen, Efrat, A City in Mourning
A Successful Visit Jerusalem Post Editorial
When expectations are low, meeting them is easy.
Unlike the Clinton era, when every meeting between the US president and an Israeli prime minister was scheduled to provide the launching of a yet another new impetus to move the peace process forward, no grand announcements were expected after yesterday's first-time encounter between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and no such announcements were made.
Instead, the new American president simply said that "our nation will not try to force peace, that we'll facilitate peace, and that we will work with those responsible for peace." While this is good news for Israel in the sense that Bush made it clear he has no intentions of forcing any deal on Israel, a more forceful placing of blame for the current violence in the region on the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasser Arafat, would have been in place. As Sharon pointed out in his remarks to the press after the meeting, there can be no negotiations until there is security for the citizens of Israel, a security that the PA has totally undermined, in direct contravention of all the agreements it has signed with Israeli governments from Rabin onwards.
Bush was not elected on his foreign policy strengths, and with the Dow Jones under the 10,000 mark and the Nasdaq composite having fallen through the 2,000 level, the Arab- Israeli conflict - providing there is no wide-scale escalation - will probably not command his attention in the same way it did that of his predecessor. This is clearly to the advantage of Sharon, who in earlier trips to Washington as housing minister during Bush's father's administration and as foreign minister when Bill Clinton hosted the Wye summit, was either cold-shouldered or made to feel the full weight of American involvement in the Middle East peace process.
Even though the new president has inherited a good number of his father's former advisers, Sharon is right to assume that Israel and the US share joint interests in the region and that there is no reason for him to expect a return to the American pressure of old. When Bush spins the globe in his office toward the Middle East, his eyes rest more on Iraq than on the West Bank and Gaza. The new US administration has correctly identified Saddam Hussein's regime as the greatest danger to regional stability and Sharon's major achievement of this week's visit to Washington will have been if he manages to convince American policymakers that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not linked to the US attempts to control Saddam. In the past, the US would raise the specter of Saddam to encourage Israel to move forward with the Palestinians; this policy has now been shown to be worthless.
Sharon is the first Middle East leader to have met with Bush in the White House - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II have their visits scheduled for next month, while Arafat has pointedly not yet been invited - a sign of the importance of the Israel-US alliance. And while Sharon's visit has been marked for its mundaneness in terms of any new developments, the visits of the Arab leaders will be of great interest, coming as they do after next week's Arab summit in Amman. The US has been lobbying both Mubarak and Abdullah hard to help block the passage of anti-Israel or anti-American resolutions at this summit and the decisions there will prove a litmus test for the future relations between the Bush administration and the Arab world.
As Sharon begins to turn his thoughts around to his return home, he would also do well to start thinking about the Arab summit and the responses it will demand from Israel. This week's visit to the United States was a success primarily because there was no overriding agenda to achieve. This is luxury that new prime ministers never have long to enjoy. (Jerusalem Post Mar 21)
A World of Falsehood By Limor Livnat
In the Gaza-Jericho agreement (popularly known as "Oslo I"), Israel and the Palestinian Authority committed to "ensur[ing] that their respective education systems contribute to the peace between Israel and the Palestinian people and peace in the entire region" (Annex II, Article II, B, 9). In September 2000, the PA Ministry of Education issued (with the financial backing of the European Union) 14 textbooks for grades one to six that clearly violate the above commitment.
These schoolbooks do not teach coexistence and compromise with Israel, but faithfulness and commitment to the struggle for the "liberation of Palestine." Peace with Israel is not presented as a goal or discussed as an option. Israel is defined as foreign to the Middle East and is categorized a colonialist conqueror. Israel's name does not appear on any regional map and its land is included in the "State of Palestine." Every reference to Israeli cities, regions and geographic areas identifies them as part of "Palestine."
The new textbook Our Beautiful Language devotes three pages to Mustafa al-Deba'a's Our Country Palestine, including the following quotes: "There is no alternative to destroying Israel" (banner on the title of Volume I) and "The Jewish claim to historical rights in Palestine has no justification" (Introduction).
By contrast, the Israeli Ministry of Education has in recent years zealously reshaped the teaching of history and civics so as to "contribute to the peace between Israel and the Palestinian people and peace in the entire region." But far from just admitting Israel's alleged past wrongdoing and preaching peaceful coexistence, the new Israeli schoolbooks silence the sufferings of the Jewish people and its connection to the Land of Israel.
IN 1995 the Education Ministry adopted a new history curriculum for junior high schools based on the recommendations of a committee chaired by Prof. Moshe Zimmermann, who insisted that Jewish and Israeli history should cease to be "a subject of primary importance." And indeed, in the ninth-grade history book A World of Changes, published by the ministry in 1999, Zionism ceases to be a "subject of primary importance."
A World of Changes devotes only 30% of its space to Zionism, Israel and the Holocaust, as opposed to 60% in the old book. It mentions in four words the Jewish armed resistance against the British in Palestine (a topic that was covered by 19 pages in the old books), and describes the War of Independence period, beginning May 14, 1948, with two short paragraphs (as opposed to 17 pages in the old books). The description of the Six Day War makes no mention of Syrian efforts to divert the headwaters of the Jordan, of Nasser's decision to blockade the Straits of Tiran, of the Soviet Union's false "information" that Israel was concentrating tanks at the Syrian border, and of the pronouncements by Arab leaders that the Jewish state was about to be destroyed.
The author of A World of Changes removed the map showing the invasion routes of the five Arab armies that attacked Israel in May 1948, as well as the photographs showing the destruction of Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, of the fall of the Old City in 1948, of Moshe Dayan entering the Old City in 1967, and of Ben-Gurion declaring independence. Instead, included is a full-page map depicting the flight of the Arabs from Israel, photographs of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Jews building on the ruins of an abandoned Arab village, and an Israeli tank in east Jerusalem's Kalandia airport under a big sign in Arabic.
The new history book does not mention the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (formerly seven pages), nor does it relate to the failure of the Allies to act against the Nazi extermination program (formerly three pages).
Gone are the pictures of the Jews digging their own graves at gunpoint, the mounds of bodies, the gas chambers and the living skeletons. One wonders what the committee that sanctioned the book would say about a German history book that used pictures of smiling, well-fed and properly dressed "Jewish women liberated from a concentration camp" and content "Jewish mothers and daughters after the war."
A World of Changes appears to downplay feelings of compassion for the suffering of the Jewish people, and seems to distance itself from explaining the idea that the establishment of the Jewish state was legitimate and necessary. Add to this the book's emphasis on the sufferings of the Palestinians, and Israeli ninth-graders may well wonder whether the Zionist adventure was a proper imperative to begin with. A World of Changes is but a revealing symptom of the growing influence of post-Zionist thinking in the Israeli educational system. Together with colleagues from across the political spectrum, I intend to return post-Zionist thought to its rightful place. The ministry's acceptance of the Gorny Committee recommendation to remove A World of Changes until it is rewritten from the ninth grade curriculum is the first step.
The survival of the State of Israel relies as much on our children's belief in the justice and grandeur of Zionism as on the strength of the IDF. Learning about the past is the only way to ensure our future. Teaching our historical heritage is the only way to build a generation that will not be overwhelmed by the PA's deliberate policy of lies and incitement that hinders any prospect of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
The writer is the minister of education. (Jerusalem Post Mar 19)
Crime and Punishment By Moshe Arens
Now the scales have dropped from all eyes. Even those who were his greatest admirers have lost the illusions they harbored about Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. He insists on the "right of return" to Israel for the Palestinians and their descendants, who left the area during the fighting in 1948, knowing full well that that means the end of the Jewish State. That was and evidently remains his ultimate objective. His bodyguard, Force 17, is actively engaged in acts of terror against Israelis. He is at war with Israel. If you have any doubts, look at the military uniform which he will not take off. That is his way of saying to one and all that he is the leader of an armed struggle. Suddenly Israelis remember that this is the man who gave the order for the murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games and for many other atrocities committed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The nonsensical mantra of the "peace now" activists, that peace must be made with your enemies, is beginning to sound rather hollow.
At Oslo, eight years ago, the Labor government committed the original sin of recognizing the PLO, the organization that insists it speaks for the Palestinian "diaspora" as well as for the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as Israel's negotiating partner. Thus his despotic, corrupt regime was foisted on the hapless Palestinian population in the area. Now that historic error has returned to haunt the people of Israel, as Arafat insists that all of former prime minister Ehud Barak's offered concessions are not enough as long as Israel will not agree to the "right of return" for the Palestinian population in the "diaspora" He wants Israel to sign its own death warrant. Israel's refusal is met by violence ordered by Arafat. His military forces are using guns they received from Israel as part of the Oslo agreement to shoot at Israelis. It will be difficult to find a more foolish act committed by a country's leadership in the history of nations.
How did this foolishness come about? In 1993, Arafat, in far-away Tunis, seemed almost down and out when the Labor government - by the recognition it granted him at Oslo - picked him off the floor, dusted him off and legitimized him. By then the Intifada had essentially run out of steam, though there were still occasional acts of terror committed by individual Palestinians. Although it was clear that the situation in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza required that Israel address Palestinian grievances and aspirations, it was far from obvious that recognition of the PLO by Israel was the right move to deal with the situation. The historian Robert Conquest in his book, "Reflections on a Ravaged Century," writes that, "It is not enough to show that a situation is bad; it is also necessary to be reasonably certain that the problem has been properly described, fairly certain the proposed remedy will improve it, and virtually certain that it will not make it worse. This requires thought, common sense, careful judgment, and above all no untested, or ill-tested, all-purpose solutions." In the Labor party's frantic rush to sign the Oslo agreements it was difficult to find a trace of common sense and careful judgement. The Oslo agreements ended up making things worse.
Those seeking an explanation for the human frailties that characterized the Israeli Oslo activists might find it in Conquest's reference to Kierkegaard's statement that the most dangerous mental faults are laziness and impatience. Laziness of mind means unwillingness to face unfamiliar, complex and refractory realities, while impatience leads to infatuation with supposedly all-explanatory theories in lieu of thought and judgement. The insistent demands that Israel take steps to arrive at instant peace - "peace now" - seem a typical demonstrations of these "mental faults."
Israel is receiving the punishment for mistakes committed. And where do we go from here? The Palestinian violence and the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF's) response seem to be moving the situation toward a state of anarchy in the areas under Arafat's control. Although Israel has grown used to him and his bad habits over the years, Israel may be better off if he ceases to be the partner for negotiations.
Israel needs to seek an accommodation with the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and not with the Palestinian "diaspora," with whom a settlement is impossible.
As long as Arafat continues to be Israel's partner, the Palestinian "diaspora" will be part and parcel of the negotiations, making an agreement impossible. Israel would be better off without Arafat in the picture ( Ha'aretz. Mar 20)
Raise That Flag, Limor! By Michael Freund
Israel is famous for many things, but civil discourse isn't one of them. In a political culture oddly reminiscent of American professional wrestling, with its outlandish scripts, bizarre characters and predictable cliffhanger finales, Israel's democracy is as vibrant as it is chaotic. But, whereas America's wrestlers deliver blows that are staged for effect, Israel's political pugilists strike with far more painful force.
Indeed, Israel's intellectual vanguard has wasted little time in directing its acrimony at newly appointed Education Minister Limor Livnat. Livnat was just settling into her new position when she came under fire for daring to suggest that the Jewish state ought to be teaching Zionist and Jewish values in its classrooms.
This "sin" was compounded by her decision to remove an inflammatory poem by a Palestinian militant nationalist from the Israeli school curriculum. Livnat further raised the Left's ire when she barred an Education Ministry textbook deemed unfit because it distorted Israeli and Jewish history. Sadly, rather than criticizing Livnat on the merits of her decisions, many of her detractors have resorted to the lowest of schoolyard tactics: name-calling. Examples, unfortunately, abound.
Columnist Gidon Spiro compared Livnat's actions to the repressive measures adopted by the Chinese Communist party against its foes (Kol Hazman, March 16). Hebrew University Prof. Eli Poudeh warned that if Livnat continues on her current course, "the Education Ministry will turn into, in the words of George Orwell, the Ministry of 'Truth'" (Ha'aretz, March 19).
Even more distressing is that some of Israel's leading writers have joined the fray, tossing aside thoughtful analysis in favor of mudslinging. Tom Segev, considered to be one of Israel's top journalists, labeled Livnat the "Batwoman of Zionism" and asserted, "Her fury transforms her into a sister of the Buddha-smashing Taliban in Afghanistan" (Ha'aretz, March 16). Columnist Yoel Marcus invoked the shadows of the past when he wrote, "What will she do next? Burn books in the downtown districts of Israel's cities?" (Ha'aretz, March 16).
It is simply astonishing that a government minister is attacked for trying to instill in Israeli schoolchildren the most cherished values and beliefs of our people. That, after all, is why schools exist - to teach not merely the mechanics of mathematics, but the qualities of good citizenship. And to be a good citizen in Israel means to appreciate and understand the country's history, traditions and heritage.
Equally astonishing is the manner in which this "debate" is being conducted. Those opposing Livnat have vilified her rather than criticized her. They claim to be coming to the defense of our children's education - but the manner in which they do so only sets a poor example for those very same kids.
IT IS CLEAR that Israel's schools desperately need a strong injection of Zionist and Jewish values. Israeli youth need to be reminded why they are here and why the State of Israel is far more than just another Levantine state with decent cable TV.
To infuse Israeli students with a greater sense of attachment to the country, we can start by insisting that every schoolroom be adorned with a large Israeli flag next to the blackboard. There is no reason why the national symbol should be virtually invisible in our nation's schools.
Similarly, the singing of "Hatikva," the national anthem, should become a regular part of every school's routine. Growing up in the United States, I recited the "Pledge of Allegiance" at the beginning of every school day, and I remember it still. With its beautiful words and stirring music, "Hatikva" should resonate off students' lips every morning.
Another untapped resource is Israel's wealth of national and historical sites. Though occasional school trips incorporate such places in their itinerary, it is essential that they become a more frequent part of the curriculum. Nothing can be more powerful or educational than to visit the sites of our people's triumphs and tribulations.
Finally, we need to remind ourselves and our children that nationalism is not a dirty word. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the 18th-century French philosopher and a favorite among Western liberals, wrote, "Do we wish men to be virtuous? Then let us begin by making them love their country." How sad that his would-be intellectual heirs in Israel seem to have forgotten this basic truth.
The writer served as deputy director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’’s Office from 1996 to 1999. (Jerusalem Post Mar 21)
Who Comes First? By David Wilder
Again, at 6:15 this morning, the pagers started beeping: "A shooting attack near Neve Daniel. One person killed. The entire area is closed off. Preliminary details."
What a way to wake up.
When the war started, almost 6 months ago, the enemy leadership decided on an important tactical move, designed to win public opinion internationally. They labeled their military actions "intifada." What is an "intifada?" It is generally thought of as an ‘uprising,’ and is associated with the ‘legitimate rights of the palestinian people for self-determination and an independent state.’ This goal, of course, justifies the use of violence, in the eyes of ‘the world.’ This violence, beginning in the early 1980’s, eventually led to Israeli surrender in the form of Oslo, in 1994.
However, whenever anyone says the word "Intifada," the immediate association is not of murderous violence, in the purest sense of the word. Rather, it is of…..rocks. Yes, rock-throwing. Ask people around the world, what does the word ‘intifada’ bring to mind and they will almost always say, "Arabs throwing rocks." Rocks are not viewed as weapons, as objects that kill. Rocks, in the ‘Middle-East lexicon’ are a legitimate means of self-expression. Therefore, any use of lethal force to stop ‘rock-throwing’ is deemed illegitimate, an overt use of military force against ‘frustrated palestinian youth.’
This was Arafat’s strategy. Shoot the Jews, and call the war ‘intifada,’ thereby fooling the world media, and gaining international public opinion.
I have, for the past 6 months, been trying to explain to correspondents from around the world, that Arafat has not declared a new ‘intifada,’ rather he has declared war. Not a rock war rather a shooting war. In many cases the media sneers at us, remarking, "that’s what you say that’s not what THEY say." Now, I would like to call your attention to an article posted on Time magazine’s internet site a week ago, on March 12. The article is presented as a series of question and answers. The respondent is Time correspondent Jamil Hamad, an Arab from Bethlehem. How does he view the present violence? "You have to understand that this is no longer about an intifada. Where are the marches and demonstrations, or the civil disobedience? It's gone; it's history now. Nobody is talking intifada. Bullets are talking; M-16s and Kalashnikovs are talking. But this is not an intifada."
Finally, an Arab and I agree!! The article is titled "Why Sharon may outwit Arafat" and is worth reading. It’s on the internet at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,102127,00.html
Again, the point is, we are not talking about a rock war - we are dealing with a bullet war. True, a rock is also a lethal object. People have been killed by rocks. (Check any US state law code. What is the punishment for throwing a rock at a moving vehicle?) Yet, no one can dispute the fact that there is a difference between rocks and bullets. If my numbers are correct, somewhere in the vicinity of 70 people have now been murdered by Arafat’s armed forces in just under 6 months of warfare, a war which Israel’s leadership still refuses to recognize as just that, as a WAR.
Following Ariel Sharon’s victory, even prior to his taking office, the Israeli army began utilizing harsher measures against the warring forces, including an extremely tight closure of Arafat occupied cities. In order to prevent Arab vehicles from avoiding Israeli roadblocks, the closure included deep trenches dug around the cities. Once the closures were properly enforced, the terrorist attacks against Israelis came to an abrupt halt.
However, international pressure, mixed with demands of the Israeli left, together with the planned meeting between Ariel Sharon and George W. led to the government’s lifting of the closure. And the result was this morning’s murder of a man from the Efrat community.
The media and the Israeli left attacked the closure as ‘collective punishment’ against an ‘innocent peaceful population’. "Why should so many people be blamed and punished for the acts of a few extremists," they ask, pointing a finger at the villainous Israeli decision-makers. Unfortunately though, they do not point the same finger at the continuing incitement, broadcast over Arafat’s radio and television. The incitement, pounded into the heads of Arabs throughout Israel, is a never-ending source of violence, promising suicide bombers "a place in paradise for eternity." As Gush Etzion mayor Shaul Goldstein said this morning, following the terrorist murder, "We don’t have to starve the Arabs. Fill trucks with food and medical supplies and send them into the Arab cities. Bombard them with as much food as they want." But they must be closed in because letting them out is synonymous with letting wild animals out of a cage. And the results speak for themselves.
True there are Arabs who really are innocent and peaceloving. But, at the moment, they cannot be separated from the others those who are killing Israelis those who are participating in the war against Israel. As Jamil Hamad said, we are not talking about rocks, we are talking about bullets, we are talking about war. Arafat has declared war on Israel and, as has been determined by ‘‘free democratic elections," and as recognized by the nations of the world, Arafat represents the so-called ‘palestinian people.’ They are, therefore, just as responsible as he is. As long as Arafat’s forces continue to kill Israelis, his ‘people’ cannot continue living normal, everyday lives. Israelis are dying. Those guilty must suffer too. It is impossible to distinguish between those who are ‘innocent’ and those who are ‘guilty.’ The question is, who deserves the first consideration them or us?
Who comes first? (Jewish Community of Hebron Mar 19)