Scarcely a day goes by without a fresh media story in appreciation of our new friends, the Evangelical Christians. Only a few years ago many of us would have been appalled at the prospect of developing warm ties with those we then considered at best eccentrics and more likely anti-Semites obsessed with a fanatical urge to convert us. Indeed, until very recently Binyamin Netanyahu and other politicians who maintained relations with them were subject to ridicule and abuse.
Now it has suddenly dawned on us that there are probably 60 million Evangelical Christians in the United States and that they represent our staunchest supporters and friends. In fact, in recent years concern and devotion for Israel have become one of their highest priorities.
Evangelicals also represent the backbone of the conservative wing of the Republican Party and the central core of support for President George W. Bush. If a significant number of them become sufficiently disillusioned to abstain from voting, it could cost Bush the election.
It is thus no coincidence that the Congressional House Majority leader, Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican described in the New York Times as a leader of the Christian Zionist Movement, who recently visited Israel, is a committed Evangelical Christian.
Evangelicals' passionate support for a Jewish state also extends beyond the political domain. In what can only be described as surrealistic, one of their offshoots, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, in addition to donating substantial sums for welfare causes in Israel recently contributed the entire $2 million required by Nefesh B'Nefesh to provide loans and grants for 1,000 American Jews who made aliya this year.
Over the past year I have become increasingly moved by the consistent flow of encouraging letters I receive from Christians who display such warm support for our position that I have occasionally wished some of our leaders could convey similar passion when they relate to our rights.
This was exemplified by the absolutely marvelous speech Tom DeLay gave at the Knesset during his recent visit.
A few weeks ago I met Gary Bauer, a former US presidential candidate and one of the principal Evangelical leaders. It is symptomatic of the new political alliances that Bauer's visit to Israel was organized by Michael Landau, a prominent New York Aguda-inclined businessman who is also a leading fundraiser for DeLay.
IT WAS clear from our discussions that we will always have differences, major differences. But these people's faith in Israel is uncomplicated, based on religious belief derived from the Bible. And we share a Judeo-Christian heritage that rejects the post-modernism which today prevails throughout so much of the world. It enables us to differentiate between good and evil.
I found it refreshing to discuss the Middle East in a context where terms like justice and injustice and tyranny and freedom are not just political buzz words but meaningful ethical concepts.
Bauer expressed what many Israelis think. He admires and respects President Bush, but cautioned that Israelis would be making a terrible mistake if they took the administration's support for Israel for granted. He was pessimistic about the road map and observed that there were already signs of a drift back to the pre-September 11 State Department approach, which amounted to moral equivalency.
He understood our desperate desire to avoid shouldering the blame should the president's efforts to bring peace to the region founder. But he warned that the window of opportunity was closing and that we faced a potential disaster if we assumed an Oslo-like demeanor and equivocated in our demand that the terror groups be dismantled prior to any further concessions.
The American people could well become exasperated with both sides which would enable the State Department to revert to former policies based on the false belief that the Middle East conflict represents "a cycle of violence" that can be resolved by territorial compromise irrespective of who is right or wrong.
Bauer also made it clear that Christians and other friends of Israel would not remain on the sidelines if unfair pressure were exerted by the administration against Israel. But clearly we cannot expect our Christian friends and supporters in Congress to confront the administration if we ourselves are not willing to be more assertive in relation to policies affecting our vital interests.
Yet despite all the enthusiastic support we receive from Evangelicals, it is important that we do not delude ourselves. In such a wide and diverse group there are bound to be malcontents and deep-seated internal differences. Clearly, under the best of circumstances, we could still encounter problems, possibly unpleasant differences, even outright hostility.
It is therefore very important that the support we receive from our Christian friends in relation to Israel is in no way related to other conditions. Most Evangelicals, especially their leaders, understand and endorse this approach.
But as of now, whilst the chemistry between Jews and Christians has improved, it still remains somewhat unstable. Some Orthodox Jews and many liberal Jews continue to feel uncomfortable about the Christian Zionists' support. They realize that their support for Israel is based upon the belief that the Jews must be sovereign in their land as a precursor to the Second Coming. These and other theological issues should never be explored.
On the other hand, most traditional Jews are pleasantly surprised and encouraged when they learn that there are millions of gentiles who share their conviction that Eretz Yisrael was given to the Jewish people by God and will always remain their land.
It would thus be absurd to reject as allies those whose vision of a messianic future we do not share. Indeed we should make every effort to strengthen the relationship as long as we take care not to become involved in broader areas that would inevitably lead to misunderstandings and conflict.
The writer is senior vice president of the World Jewish Congress.
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What we saw on our televisions last Tuesday was a policeman covering the body of 18-year-old Erez Hershkowitz with a white plastic bag. One of the rescue personnel described how the upper torso and face of the Israeli teenage technology student had been skewered by the shrapnel blast from the Arab killer's bomb.
The first fatality in the twin attacks on that day was a father out shopping for his young children's breakfast. Instead of food, Netanel (11) and Shani (8) Yekutieli got their abba's body back in a box to bury as soon as the arrangements could be made.
Two devastating blows dealt to two more Israeli families, bringing to 828 the number of Jews murdered in the hopeless and bankrupt quest for an appeasing peace with the Jew haters of the Arab world.
The following morning, I stared transfixed at the TV as the Israeli anchor intoned news of the attack and the burial of the victims. His face void of emotion despite the scenes of grief from the gravesides, the reporter ended with the news that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz would meet later in the day to discuss Israel's response to the atrocity. Then, he moved smoothly on to his next report.
Today we hear what Israel's response will be: a perpetuation of the status quo prior to the attacks. Israel will not pull out of any more PA-controlled towns "for now," will not go back in to retake the towns it has already left, will crawl along with the dismantling of "illegal outposts" and will continue to target terrorist ticking bombs.
I wonder what, amid their heartache and grief, the families of Erez and Yehezkel will feel about these cheap goods for which their dear ones have paid with their lives.
Looking at those images of the victims shattered remains (am I being too theatrical? Is it offensive, dear reader, that the death of these Jews should be written about in such dramatic fashion?), I was reminded of the outstanding film "The Pianist" on the life of Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman which was released last year, and which I have been mesmerized by on each of the three occasions I have watched it.
The Holocaust of European Jewry is always a reference point for me when trying to understand the ways of antisemites, and of Jews in the face of such hatred. It's a shame its lessons have been so quickly forgotten in much of the Jewish world.
In the film I find it chilling the way the Jews pass without so much as a pause the stiff, emaciated corpses of their fellows lying in the gutters and on the pavements of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Certainly, when people first began dying of starvation and exposure in that walled-off hell hole, the rest of the Jewish community didn't just rush by and continue their daily lives.
There would have been shock, pain, outrage and fear to come to terms with at the start. The identification with one another as fellow victims of the Nazi scourge surely would have driven them together, bound by the horrifying bond of their anticipated, approaching doom.
But, probably in order to try to ensure their survival, the Jews of Warsaw would have allowed themselves to grow numb, to switch off and not allow these sights of horror to drive them mad. In psychological terms, they would have been conditioned to accept the unacceptable.
And the conditioning did its work. With little protest, as helpless as dumb sheep, when the time came for the Aryan savages to empty the ghetto, the Jews allowed themselves to be driven into the cattle cars and trundled to their deaths.
It has been said that Hitler's devilishly devised final solution relied to no mean extent on the unwillingness of the Jews to put up a fight. The Fuhrer rightly assessed their demeanor and employed it to full advantage.
Today, Jewish corpses frequently lie in Israel's streets, before being bundled into plastic bags and taken away. And except for the immediately affected families (as well as the families of those who have experienced their own personal losses to terrorism, and for whom every new outrage is a knife turned in the wound), the depth of shock grows less and less. Israelis are growing accustomed to the murder of their people. They are being conditioned.
As for the Arabs, as they celebrate their shahids and raise their praises to Allah for the victory they believe - as surely as the Nazis did - will ultimately be theirs, Israel's wretched response to the butchering of its people only fuels their conviction as it feeds their lust for Jewish blood.
"Itbach al-yahud," (kill the Jews) and "Allahu akbar", they cry from their minarets. "Our god is greater." Greater than who? Why, than Israel's God of course. For isn't it the Quran, with its promises of victory and conquest to the Muslims that, with the constant surrendering by Israel of its rights and its land, is being vindicated over the scriptures of the people of the book?
The time has finally come for Israel to take the gloves off and start to hit hard, for real. It's time for Israelis to get over their "Syrian Syndrome", that irrational deep-seated fear of Syria, dating back to the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Syria of today might not be much different than the Syria of 1973, but Israel sure the heck is. Israel's military in 2003 is quite a bit more advanced, Israel's economy - while still a little slow - is exponentially ahead of Syria's economy. In fact by every measure of national power, Israel is well beyond Syria, the gap has grown not shrunk since 1973. So "get over it", Syria is a paper tiger, or more aptly put a "paper bag", or "basket case".
Even after renewed attacks on Israel, why bother with Hizbollah? Why play Syria's and Iran's game? Why pretend that Hizbollah is calling the shots? Why give "immunity" to the real culprits? Put the blame squarely where it belongs, on Syria. One could try to blame the Lebanese government for not doing enough to tone down Hizbollah. The Lebanese military really should take up positions in Southern Lebanon and de-militarize Hizbollah. Israel has left Lebanese soil. Ask the UN; for once they support our position and agree with us. But alas, Lebanon is not an independent state. Lebanon is a puppet regime controlled by Damascus.
So Israel needs to put the blame where it belongs; on the only power capable of reining in Hizbollah, of dis-arming them, of cutting off their flow of weapons from Iran, and of discouraging them from attacking Israel, i.e. Syria. About that last line, Syria uses Hizbollah to keep pressure on Israel. Hizbollah is Syria's proxy army against Israel. Notice the Syrian occupation army in Lebanon never attacks Israel. It's always Hizbollah, so that Syria can't be directly blamed for the attack. Well I'm saying, forget the small fry, BLAME SYRIA!
First, the Israeli government should make it a cornerstone of it's foreign policy to raise the issue of Syria' continuing violation of UN Security Council Resolution 520, that calls on all foreign forces - including Syria - to leave Lebanon, at every diplomatic opportunity. What a joke that Syria sits on the UN Security Council, while it violates a Security Council resolution. No wonder, many people in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere hold the UN in such low esteem. And, Israel should more vigorously lobby Washington to "sit-on" Syria, till Syria gets out of Lebanon. Washington has been wishy-washy in dealing with Damascus.
In the beginning of May, US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Damascus and Beirut. After leaving Damascus, he said in a Beirut press conference that he and Assad discussed "all of the outstanding issues" that have hindered US-Syrian relations in the past. That included frank talks about Weapons of Mass Destruction; Syria's support for the Lebanese group Hizbollah; and closing the Iraq-Syria border "and keeping it sealed" to technology, fighters and wanted Iraqi authority figures, Powell said. He made it clear to Assad, that the US commitment to Middle East peace "would include Syria and Lebanon, and would include the Golan Heights." But, Powell made no mention of speaking to Assad about getting Syria out of Lebanon.
Later, speaking in Beirut - notice not Damascus - Powell assured Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of US support for "an independent and prosperous Lebanon free of all - all - foreign forces." But the main focus of Powell's visit to Syria, it seems, was to prevent them from helping out Saddam's buddies, to 'give up the goods' i.e. WMD, to stop their support for terrorist groups - which they haven't - and to soften up their rejection of US Middle East Peacemaking efforts between Israel and the Palestinians - the road map - promising the Golan Heights, as a reward for good behavior, despite Syria's opposition to the US war in Iraq and despite their facilitation of 'volunteer fighters' to help Saddam. Little focus was put on getting Syria out of Lebanon and nothing has happened on that front since Powell's visit.
Yet, on May 2nd - the day before Powell's meeting with Assad - in Washington, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the Senate version of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 S 982. The bill's purposes are to (1) halt Syrian support for terrorism; (2) end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon; (3) stop Syria's production of Weapons of Mass Destruction; and (4) hold Syria accountable for the illegal Syrian-Iraqi trade, which provided Iraq with the weapons that killed American troops. The House version of the Act was introduced on April 10. Both bills now have a solid majority of support in the US Congress. Sponsors and supporters of the bill claim it will weaken Syria's ability to wage wars, to threaten its neighbors, and to destabilize the region. So, there clearly is support for pushing Syria out of Lebanon emanating from the US Congress. Israel should remind Washington of that.
Today, after the United State's victory in Iraq, and the inclusion of Iraqi Shi'ites in the Iraqi governing council, it would be hard for Hizbollah or Iran to portray the US as out to get the Shi'ites in Lebanon, just because they oppose Hizbollah. Ending the vicious Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and dis-mantling Hizbollah as a military force there, would also serve US and Israeli interests in putting a firm limit to Iran's influence in the area. This no doubt would have a positive effect in weakening Islamic Jihad - and to a lesser extent Hamas - in Damascus and Gaza. Iran is already on the American and Israeli agenda, due to it's closing in on real nuclear capability. Anything that weakens Iran's ability to "export" the revolution is good for the region and the world.
Second, in blaming Syria's dictatorial regime for Hizbollah's attacks on Israel, the Israeli government should announce a new policy, of retaliatory raids against Syrian military positions in Lebanon. As I stated earlier, why should Syria be "immune" from the costs of its policies in support of Hizbollah? After annunciating this change in policy, of holding Syria accountable for Hizbollah attacks, the Israeli government should begin a policy of "graduated escalation" beginning with hitting Syrian positions in Lebanon.
Everyone should remember the beginning of the Lebanon War in 1982, when Israel warned Syria to stay out of its way, but Syria didn't listen. When confronted, Israel shot down over 90 Syrian planes with just one loss. Today, Israel has significantly increased its military superiority over Syria from 1982. If Syria doesn't stop the Hizbollah attacks and prepare to end its occupation of Lebanon, the next phase would include selected targets in Syria itself. This "graduated escalation" would put the issue of the vicious Syrian occupation of Lebanon - since 1976 - and their support for Hizbollah terror against Israel on the top of the American, EU, and UN's agenda.
Israel and the United States have to support a free and independent Lebanon, free of Syrian occupation, free of Hizbollah terrorism, free to return to its former glory. It's in Israel's interest, it's in Lebanon's interest, it's in the United States' interest, and yes, it's even in the Syrian people's interest.
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko
Very soon the game of make-believe which earned Israel 44 days of relative quiet and the Palestinians the easing of some restrictions will have run its course.
The hudna (cease-fire) never existed primarily because Israel refused to recognize a unilateral declaration of a cease-fire by terrorist groups it seeks to annihilate. Its agreements in the road map, says every official from the prime minister on down, is with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et al.
Now it's dangerous to peddle cheap prophesies, but considering the oft-repeated patterns of the past three years, it does not take a Middle East analyst to predict the following: Islamic Jihad, which has already proclaimed that retaliation is in order for Israel's killing of one of its senior leaders, will follow through with its promise.
A terrorist attack will send tremors through Israel. Israel will continue to squeeze Islamic Jihad elements in Nablus and Jenin, likely taking out members of the renegade al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades or vestiges of Hamas cells in those towns while they're at it. United again, those groups will cancel the hudna and, possibly using the weapons they have amassed in the past six weeks, will unleash a barrage of attacks.
"This scenario," as a senior PA security official fretted Thursday, "will bring us back to square one." And while until Wednesday the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad pledged that, terrorist attacks aside, "we are still committed to the hudna," Thursday saw even that lip service fade.
When Israel raided the home of Hebron Islamic Jihad mastermind Muhammad Sider, the hudna had already been over for a week. Its demise arrived the second Israeli commandos in Nablus knocked on the Askar refugee camp door of Hamis Abu Salem, the Hamas leader and resident bomb-maker. This gave the rejectionist Palestinian organizations the motive they needed to bare the teeth of the uprising.
While Jenin's Bassam Sa'adi threatened immediate "retaliation," the Neda al-Quds Web site elaborated, promising punishment that "will be quick, like an earthquake in the depth of the Zionist entity."
The Islamic groups slip so easily into the routine of attacks, because they had little intention of ending attacks. Sa'adi, who vowed Thursday that he was never "involved in military actions," added that, "We accepted the cease-fire as a trap to show that it is Sharon that does not want the cease-fire, that he is the enemy of peace. We don't believe in the road map or the hudna."
In an interview with Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi at the onset of the hudna six weeks ago The Jerusalem Post asked the Hamas leader how he expects the hudna to last, knowing that Israel will continue to hunt terrorists.
A candid Rantisi smiled. The hudna was engineered "so that Palestinians should understand the real situation that a hudna will not be of any benefit to them."
The hudna, Rantisi continued, and the violent reawakening from a few weeks or months of quiet, aims to reaffirm "Palestinians' belief in the intifada as the only option for them."
Israel played its role in the script perfectly, stalking and killing wanted men where and when the opportunity rose. By so doing Israel has now involved each of the three main Palestinian players in the hudna: Hamas, al-Aksa Martyrs, and now the Islamic Jihad.
The PA plays a supporting role in the deterioration. PA Minister of Security Muhammad Dahlan told his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Thursday night that the PA's hands are tied. How can it be forced to combat terror when it does not have security responsibility in its major West Bank cities, and when its forces cannot move around freely?
While Dahlan's men say they have stripped seven potential suicide bombers of their belts, confiscated dozens of weapons, and handed them all over to the Americans and, in some cases, the Israelis, PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas never intended to tackle Hamas and Jihad head on.
The goal of the hudna was to buy time. It was hoped that Palestinian populace would enjoy the advantages of calm, and increasingly reject Hamas and Jihad, and perhaps the Aksa Martyrs. These groups would then dissolve and reform as political bloc in the Palestinian body politic.
Meanwhile, Dahlan has to tread a fine line between infirmity maintaining that the PA cannot risk losing a civil war to Hamas and strength claiming that, if Israel quits Ramallah, Jenin, and Nablus, the PA will provide quiet.
However, officials in both the Israeli and the PA camps have lamented that, yet again, "the terrorists are leading us by the nose."
“There is no roadmap, just a road and a map to terrorism.”—Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, whose West Bank city was struck yesterday by a deadly Palestinian terror attack. (Globe and Mail, Aug. 13)
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