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Anti-Semitism is alive and sick -- and flourishing most everywhere
The past month has seen a fair amount of activity on what the Nazis called "Judenfrage" or the "Jewish Question." European Commission President Romano Prodi assured delegates to an anti-Semitism conference in Brussels that there was absolutely no similarity between Europe's current outbreak of anti-Semitic violence and that of the thirties. The UN, having last fall voted that Israel's security fence was illegal, went to the International Court of Justice in the Hague (without the consent or participation of Israel) to get its position confirmed. Business as usual for the Chosen People.
The term Jewish Question preceded Hitler. It first surfaced in England in 1753. At issue was the highly controversial "Jew Bill" (officially known as the Jewish Naturalization Bill) designed to give foreign-born Jews in England the ability to acquire citizenship and some political rights. The bill passed, only to be repealed a few months later, but the phrase had entered the language.
By the 19th century, the Jewish Question was shorthand for the Jewish Problem, which had been a subject of debate for several thousand years. What should we do with our Jews, asked Europe. What rights and place should they have in society? Karl Marx gave birth to the Left's solution in his essay "About the Jewish Question," which suggested a world without Jews or Judaism. With this essay, Marx established the now-familiar tradition of self-hatred among far-left Jews.
Jews themselves debated The Question. Was there safety in assimilation or in a homeland? Was it better to work for tolerance in your own society or in Palestine? Europe muddled on, alternating decades of peaceful co-existence with the cries of "Hep, hep, Juden verreck" (death to all Jews). Like some terrible virus, the Jewish Question erupted sporadically, mutating this way and that, but always retaining its base of primitive fear and hatred.
The 20th century came in with pogroms in Russia and Poland and carried on into the Holocaust. This current is now expressed in the verbal pogroms of the UN, which has effortlessly evolved into the world centre of anti-Semitism. Verbal pogroms are preferable to physical ones, of course: unfortunately, one often leads to the other. The welcoming of a gun-toting Yasser Arafat by the UN General Assembly in 1974 led, unsurprisingly, straight to today's suicide bombers.
In this context, last month's shenanigans are normal. Prodi's rejection of any comparison to the thirties is based on his apparent view that the current harassment of Jews is not state-sponsored. But all historical parallels are slightly askew. History manifests itself in different ways. There is no question that Jews in Europe, especially visible ones wearing skullcaps -- or the uniforms of a Jewish soccer team in France -- face a threat akin to that of the thirties. The only difference is that the worry of being knocked down on the street comes not from another European as it did in the thirties, but frequently, according to a yet-to-be-released EU study, from a young Muslim who is either an immigrant or the son of one. This makes little difference to the Jew attacked. Prodi's grasp of history, too, is defective: the pre-Hitler anti-Semitism of the Weimar Republic was not state policy but private enterprise.
The construction of Israel's security fence has been a splendid opportunity for various organizations and individuals to make a periodic emergence from their closets on the Jewish Question. The International Committee of the Red Cross abandoned its neutrality to condemn the fence and engage in a bit of Israel-bashing. Liberal MP Pat O'Brien from London, Ont., joined the bandwagon with his Commons remarks suggesting the fence has created "concentration camps."
It is sophistry to call such attitudes legitimate political criticism and not plain old anti-Semitism. Standards are being used here that are applicable only to Israel and to no other party in the conflict. In the face of murderous hostility to its existence, Israel is expected to behave with a suicidal restraint unequalled by any other country in the world. The crowds marching in London's Trafalgar Square or the West Bank's Ramallah with their "Death to the Jews" signs have at least none of the sophistry of Canadian parliamentarians. But what those crowds do demonstrate, vividly, is how the virus of anti-Semitism jumped from Europe to the Islamic world and then, under the camouflage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, back to a receptive Europe for reinfection.
Meanwhile, critics of the fence say they would not object if Israel would build it along the 1949 border (the Green line). To do this, Israel would be unilaterally accepting Palestinian demands without getting anything in return -- neither a cessation of terrorism nor an undertaking of peace.
Suicide bombers, unfortunately, use strategic farmers' groves and roads to hospitals to infiltrate Israel. There seems to be an obdurate blindness to the fact that rejectionist Arabs and Muslims refuse to accept the existence of the state of Israel within any borders.
So the Jewish Question rumbles on. It may be the price Jews must pay for their covenant with Jehovah: for having gone on existing while other nations from Biblical times have turned to dust. Is it worth the price? It is unseemly to have second thoughts about a deal made with God.
Barbara Amiel's column appears monthly. email@example.com
It's become routine by now. Jewish civilians get deliberately blown up by Arabs on buses or in restaurants, and this next becomes morally equated with Arab non-combatants who die because their heroes used them as human shields. We're then told that all of this starts in the first place because of Israeli "oppression", a.k.a. measures Jews take to try to stop Arabs from butchering their kids. Consider the following sequence of events.
A while back, Molly Moore of the Washington Post reported on progress in talks between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas. In passing, she quoted from Hamas spokesman, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, who held out the possibility of halting terror against Israelis. This, "of course," was contingent on Israel first stopping all actions it has been forced to take to stop the murder itself.
A few days earlier, we had heard that certain U.S. "officials" (translate as State Department) pondered that in acknowledging Israeli concerns regarding the Road Map, new disputes with the Arabs would surface.
This is true. Consider the current debate and pressure being exerted upon Israel over the course of its security fence as just one example.
Arabs think they're going to shove the pre-'67 Auschwitz/armistice lines down Israel's throat again. Among other things, Israel was made a mere nine miles wide by those U.N.-imposed lines. The latter simply marked the point where hostilities ended after the Arab invasion of a newly-reborn Israel in 1948.
As Eugene Rostow and other leading international legal scholars have pointed out, those armistice lines, especially in Judea and Samaria – the "West Bank" – were never meant to be permanent borders. Indeed, some Texas driveways are reputed to be longer than that. Most of Israel's population and industry lies within that narrow waistband.
Palestinian Arabs and their European, Russian, United Nations, and other supporters (including friends in Foggy Bottom) are looking for a virtual resurrection of the Oslo debacle. In Oslo I, the more Israel tangibly gave, the more it bled. Without President Bush's assurances that this will not again be the case, Sharon – or any other Israeli leader – could not accept this so-called new plan for peace. Indeed, the Road Map now appears dead in its tracks because the Arabs have refused to do the one thing that could breathe life into it – stop the slaughter of Jews.
Let's get something straight right from the start. The problems that both Abbas and Rantisi had earlier cited – Israeli incursions, assaults, checkpoints, travel restrictions, and other measures that admittedly cause inconvenience and frustration – were eggs laid and hatched as a result of Arab rejectionist hens raised on both of their farms. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have simply been playing a game of good cop/bad cop with the Jews to win as many one-sided concessions as possible. "Moderate" PA spokesmen have described Oslo as a "Trojan Horse."
Camp David 2000 and Taba clearly showed that occupation and settlements were not the problem. While it's been said many times, it must be repeated yet again:
Israel indeed offered Yasser Arafat over 97% of the disputed territories, along with half of Jerusalem, etc. Ambassador Dennis Ross was there and confirmed the offer for a contiguous state – not "disconnected cantons" as anti-Israel attack dogs now claim.
The sticky point both then and now was/is the existence of a viable Israel, regardless of size. Arabs continue to kill not to "end occupation" – unless one understands that to mean Tel Aviv as well as Hebron – but to end Israel. A mere look at either PA or Hamas websites quickly illustrates this. There is no Israel present in maps on either site, and "Palestine" exists in place of Israel, not alongside it.
Arabs blow up Jewish innocents on buses, in pizza parlors, teen night clubs, etc. because, in too many Arab eyes, no Jew living in a Jewish state is innocent.
How dare Israeli Jews, half of whom were refugees themselves from "Arab" lands (where they were known as kelbi yahudi - "Jew dogs"), want in one minuscule state what Arabs have conquered and forcibly Arabized for themselves in twenty-two others? Arabs reject an independent Kurdish state, Berber state, Black African Sudanese state, etc. for the same reasons – a belief that only they have the right to rule lands where many different peoples have historically lived and live.
Regardless of the chants of the popular anti-Israel chorus, there is no moral equivalency between those who murder and those who try to prevent their loved ones from being murdered. And that's what Israel's reservations over the Road Map are basically all about and why Israel is building its costly security fence.
After 9/11, the United States didn't negotiate with Al-Qaida or the Taliban. It sent in B-52 and B-1 bombers to do the "negotiating." Yet, the world expects Israel to constantly watch its people get blown to bits. Al-Qaida had its gripes with America, too, but that didn't lead us to seek "accommodation" with those who butchered our people.
So, a piece of advice. The next time you read some columnist complaining about checkpoints, or see another picture about those long lines, consider the following:
Before anything can be done to ease up on the measures and restrictions Israel has been forced to take to try to limit Arab terrorism, the Arabs themselves must control those who deliberately disembowel, maim and incinerate Jews.
What other nation would demand less?
In this case, there's no mistaking which came first. As long as Arab hens continue their deadly business as usual, misery for their own people will also hatch from the eggs that are laid.
In the latest orchestrated leak to the press, Thursday Ma'ariv reported the details of the unilateral withdrawal plan drafted for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by his National Security Council. The plan involves the expulsion of Israelis not only from the Gush Katif, Kfar Darom and Netzarim in Gaza, but also from up to 25 additional towns in Judea and Samaria. According to the plan, the towns in Gaza that are set to be vacated will be transferred to an unidentified "somebody."
So now it is clear that the plan that Sharon has so far refused to present to his cabinet is not simply about a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. It is also about a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. The fact that the prime minister has decided to shorten the security fence by some 170 kilometers to make it more or less coterminous with the 1949 armistice lines is further evidence that what Sharon has in mind is an Israeli surrender of just about all of the disputed territories to "somebody."
The NSC's plan also lists the obvious security vulnerabilities inherent in the unilateral withdrawal. These dangers include "an increase in terror; a disintegration of the Palestinian regime; a Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip; a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories that Israel will be sucked into; an adjustment of terror organizations to the new circumstances with renewal of operations at a raised tempo; and damage to Israeli intelligence capabilities in the aftermath of the withdrawal."
Sharon's political machinations over the past few weeks indicate he is committed to moving forward with this plan regardless of consequences. Again, through orchestrated media leaks, we learned this week that he has already concluded negotiations with Labor Party leader Shimon Peres for Labor, a party resoundingly rejected by the voters in last year's elections, to join his government after he forces the National Union and the NRP to bolt his coalition.
Sharon has also leaked that he is considering bringing Shas into his government, perhaps as a result of a projected breakup of the Likud itself. Sources in the Likud have noted that the anti-withdrawal block already includes the legally required 15 MKs who together can leave the party and form a new parliamentary faction.
While our elected officials have so far received no opportunity to debate or vote on Sharon's plan in the cabinet (and have disgracefully demanded none), Sharon is aggressively promoting it to foreigners, with whose help he plans to push it through his government as a fait accompli. With the enthusiastic backing of our media, Sharon is engaging the Egyptian and US governments in in-depth discussions about the role they will play in implementing his plan.
After his meeting Thursday with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak agreed to amend the limitations placed on Egyptian military deployments in the Sinai by the Camp David Peace Accord and deploy units to man the border between Gaza and Egypt. As for Hamas, Mubarak told Israeli reporters that the movement is not his problem. "I don't want to talk about Hamas or any other organization. It's not my business. The Palestinians must bring security. As for Hamas, you created it," Mubarak said.
As for the Bush administration, Sharon hopes that the removal of Jews from up to 25 towns in Judea and Samaria will convince the president and his advisers to accept what former President Bill Clinton proposed in 2000, namely an American acceptance of Israeli civilian presence in Gush Etzion, Ariel and the Adumim bloc communities. Since negotiations are still ongoing, it is unclear whether President Bush will go as far as Clinton would have.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Sharon plan is how closely it follows the model of the Oslo Accords. Like the current initiative, the Oslo Accord was sold to the Israeli public as a way to withdraw from the hornet's nest of Gaza. The fact that Judea and Samaria were also being given away was aggressively downplayed by both the Rabin-Peres government and the media. Like the current plan, Oslo was negotiated without government or military oversight. Like the current plan, the dangers inherent in Oslo were known before the agreement was signed.
On the other hand, in many respects Oslo was better than what Sharon is currently advocating. In 1993, the government had the luxury of innocence. It can be argued that both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres believed that the PLO was a reasonable partner that would abide by its commitments to live at peace with Israel, combat terrorism and educate Palestinian society to live in peace with the Jewish state. This is not the case today. We already know that we have no credible Palestinian partner.
Oslo also provided us with diplomatic openings to many countries and enhanced Israel's diplomatic standing generally for a time. In the case of the Sharon plan, no such dividend is in the offing. The position of the international community remains that the plan cannot cancel the future need for additional concessions in Judea and Samaria and leaves the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees on the table.
In addition, Oslo entailed the continued deployment of IDF troops in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It also allowed the retention of an Israeli civilian presence in the territories and placed no restrictions on the right of that Israeli civilian presence to grow and develop freely.
Sharon's program allows for none of these things. The IDF will be redeployed out of Gaza and, it can be assumed, much of Judea and Samaria. We also know that when the Palestinians continue to attack us, the Europeans and the Americans will pressure our government "to exercise restraint" in responding. We know that the Egyptians will take no effective action to curb these assaults and we know that at the UN and other international fora, Israel will be condemned for taking any actions whatsoever to defend our citizenry from terrorist assault emanating from the areas under the control of "somebody."
Aside from the policy parallels to Oslo, Sharon's plan shares an additional similarity to Rabin's gamble. As was the case with Rabin, Sharon has offered his plan at a time when he was under no international pressure whatsoever to do anything of the sort. Rabin moved on Oslo because he wished to shore up his credibility domestically. In the 1992 elections he had promised to achieve an agreement "within a year."
The clock was ticking, so he moved. In Sharon's case, he has his legal woes and his sinking numbers in the polls to consider, so he too moves.
The most stunning aspect of this plan is the fact that it is being advanced at the same time as another Middle East peace plan that actually could bring about a long term change for the better in our region. This plan, the Bush administration's Greater Middle East Initiative, involves pressuring Arab dictatorships like Egypt's to democratize. The very existence of the US initiative has already caused shockwaves throughout the Arab world. It is empowering voices of freedom from Damascus to Mecca to Cairo. For the first time, these voices are getting picked up by Western news organizations which for years stood by as they were repressed and silenced.
Iraq this week took the incredible step of ratifying a constitution that will make the country the first Arab democracy ever. The potential repercussions of a stable pro-Western Ir! aqi democracy on the region are enormous.
And yet, again according to leaks to the press, we learn that Egypt will be paid off by the US for its declared willingness to deploy its military forces along the border. One can only assume that the price that Mubarak will exact is an American pledge not to apply even the slightest pressure on him to free his people from the yoke of his dictatorship.
For decades Likud leaders, from Begin to Shamir to Netanyahu, argued that the only way for Israel to ever live at peace with its neighbors is for these neighbors to become democracies. Since Israel has no power to force such a change, over the years, these leaders were subject to ridicule and calumny. Their belief in democracy was criticized as a tactic to forestall negotiations with the PLO and with the presidents-for-life in Egypt and Syria.
Yet, while Israel has no power to cause our neighbors to choose freedom and democracy, the US has such power. And today, rather than allowing the Bush administration to use this power, Sharon's wooing of Mubarak pulls the rug out from under an initiative that presents the only real chance of bringing peace and security to Israel in a way that can meet both the Arab and the Israeli needs.
Not surprisingly, the US plan was long debated both openly in the US press and behind closed doors. It was publicly launched by the president. The plan's credibility rests on the credibility the US gained in the Arab world as a result of its military victory in Iraq. If successful, it will advance US national security interests in the region by drying up the swamps of extremism that flourish in the darkness of totalitarian regimes. If it fails, the US is no worse off than it is today. That is, the plan is low risk and entails a potentially enormous payoff.
In sharp contrast, Sharon's plan is being advanced despite its high risks and unclear payoffs. It strengthens our enemies among the Palestinians. It enhances Mubarak's regional strength and reputation at the expense of the American sponsored nascent Iraqi democracy. It emboldens the Europeans and it pushes the US into a position where in the interests of "progress" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it will be forced to undermine a plan that can actually bring peace.
And all of this it does while manipulating the Israeli people, through orchestrated leaks and behind the scenes discussions, to accept a government we rejected a year ago and a plan far worse than the one we were bamboozled into accepting 11 years ago.
Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis, universally accepted as the world's leading expert on the history of the Middle East and author among other works of The Crisis of Islam and, most recently, From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East, discussed with the Post developments in Iraq and Israel, during a visit to Tel Aviv early this month.
Are you in favor of immediate elections in Iraq?
Can the US really take on countries directly responsible for terrorism?
Do you have faith that, in spite of everything, democracy will prevail?
How has America's war on terror affected the terrorists?
How will the trial in the Hague affect the Middle East peace process?
Everyone knows it's not a legal question, but rather a political one, one which can only be resolved when the two sides have decided to treat it as such: politically.
The world has always been tormented by border issues. Alsace and Lorraine spent hundreds of years establishing their borders and only now, just maybe, have they succeeded.
The UN may pose the question in legalistic terms - and in a minute I'll explain why I mean legalistic, not legal - but this is really not about what the UN says it's about. My impression is that the UN has taken up a debate from the Palestinian side, so we can't be sure whether the discussion concerns the dimensions of Israel, its behavior, or its existence.
Is Israel violating international law in its building of the fence?
But what if the fence were built on the Green Line?
Israel says it's putting up the fence to defend against terrorism. It's a very serious direct measure, and one that makes one think that terrorism in general is not on the wane - not in this area, not in Iraq, where there are terrorist attacks every day, and not in the rest of the world, which is in a constant state of alert.
There are two kinds of terrorism, but, mind you, they're not in conflict and are often unified in their actions. The first kind is always armed with highly ideological means and is aimed at preserving existing tyrannies. The second, al-Qaida kind, is aimed at subjugating the entire Western world.
What do you make of the UN's transition from creator to prosecutor of the Jewish State?
First of all, Palestinian rhetoric hasn't changed since 1947. It still continues to reject the existence of a country it considers an enemy, a stranger in the region. Its schools, radio and television continue to teach incitement.
Now let's consider another Palestinian issue in which the UN is also involved: the refugee problem.
In pushing for the right of return, the Palestinians are essentially proposing the elimination of the Jewish state. And the UN has never proven that it differs from the Palestinians on the refugee question. History is very clear. In the last century, millions of refugees moved between war-torn countries. The most important migration was between India and Pakistan in 1947, which involved at least seven million people. In 1945 millions of people moved between Poland and East Germany, and all were resettled.
With the partition [and creation of the State of Israel], 725,000 Arab refugees were relocated, and the UN immediately created a fixed institution, [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], which has literally prevented the Palestinians from resettling.
In 1929, Jews were killed or forced out of Hebron, and in 1948 others were killed or forced out of Jerusalem, but have you ever heard them referred to as refugees, protected by the UN? What about the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries? The UN never bothered with them.
I'd like to add that when on December 17, 1947 the Arab League rejected the resolution that established the partition - within the confines of international law, I might add - the UN didn't make a sound. Nor did it say a word when the Arab countries forbade Israelis of any religion from entering its borders - preventing even Muslims from making their obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca - and closed its borders to Jews regardless of their citizenship. Nor did the UN speak out when Jordan in 1954 offered citizenship to any inhabitant of Palestine, except Jews.
Translated from Italian by Rachel Donadio
"If Algeria introduced a resolution at the UN declaring that the Earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions."- Israel's late foreign minister, Abba Eban
"Israel's fall is near, with Allah's help, and it is closer than they imagine. We will see victory with our very own eyes. Martyrdom is the ultimate desire of Palestine's elderly, young, and female young."- Most wanted Hamas terrorist Mohammed Deif, speaking on a recording aired by Israel's Channel 2 TV March 8.
“George W. Bush is a September 12 person. John Kerry is a September 10 person.”- Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard
“Yes, I will do it again if I can. When I put the suicide explosives belt on I felt very happy, very content. I was angry when they caught me because I was not able to be a martyr. I wanted to…kill as many Israeli soldiers as possible. I chose the bus station because my brother blew himself up there.”--Obeida Khalil, a 27-year-old would-be woman suicide bomber, who was arrested by Israeli forces as she prepared to blow up a Tel Aviv bus station. There have been seven female Palestinian suicide bombers. Another 24, including Khalil, were stopped before they could strike. (Daily Telegraph, Feb. 26)
"Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes doing what is needed to counter them. It awakens only when the danger becomes deadly, imminent, and evident. By then, either there is too little time left for it to save itself, of the price of survival has become crushingly high."- Jean-Francois Revel, in his book How Democracies Perish
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