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For most Jews around the world, today will pass like any other day. They will not observe any of the traditional mourning customs for Tisha B'Av. Indeed they don't even know what historical events Tisha B'Av commemorates. If they were told that the mourning is for the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, they would be puzzled about why such long ago events should occasion any great sadness.
Even among those of us who fast the entire day and observed the other "afflictions" of Tisha B'Av, there are few from whose eyes tear will pour copiously during the reading of Lamentations, as was once common. We have lived so long in a world devoid of the sanctity represented by the Temple that we cannot comprehend what was lost. Nor can we conceive how that level of holiness could once again be part of our lives.
The Temple Mount, where the Temples stood, is today less a symbol of our past than of how alienated we are from that past. Successive Israeli governments casually permitted the Moslem Wakf to systematically destroy all evidence of the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. The Moslem Wakf was permitted, in recent years, to build two new large mosques on the site, one by converting the ancient stables of Solomon. All this work was carried out without any archaeological supervision, as required by the Antiquities Law.
In the course of the work, thousands of tons of dirt were dumped unceremoniously in the Kidron Valley. Discovered later in the rubble was a three-foot long stone fragment, which one archaeologist called "the most important artifact ever recovered from the Temple Mount."
The lack of regard for the site to which Jews throughout the millennia have always turned in prayer was fully reflected in the negotiations following Camp David. Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to cede all sovereignty over the Temple Mount in return only for a Palestinian acknowledgment of the Jewish claim of a historical connection. Even that Arafat was unwilling to grant. Arafat wanted the Jews to abase themselves by conceding that their holiest place is more important to Arabs than it is to Jews. Such abasement, he knew, would be one more cut in the ever more tenuous bonds joining the Jews of Israel to their past. (Natan Sharansky revealed recently that less than 50% of Israeli high school students living outside Jerusalem have ever visited the capital, much less the Western Wall.)
The Palestinians understand, as we do not, that a nation without a past is a nation without a future. Palestinian legislator Selah Temari writes in his memoirs of his shock at seeing his Jewish jailer eating bread on Pesach. In response to Temari's query, the guard replied, "Do you really expect me not to eat bread today because of something that happened over 3,000 years ago?" That night, Temari relates, he could not sleep. In the course of the night, he went from believing that Israel was invincible to being convinced that the Palestinians could one day regain the entirety of the Land because the Jews have lost their sense of connection.
The Temple, of course, was not just a building or a geographical location. When the pilgrims poured into Jerusalem from all over the Land for the Festivals, the Temple became the great symbol of Jewish unity -- a physical manifestation, write Nachmanides, of the unity at Sinai when we received the Torah as "one man with one heart."
In the wilderness, the Jews lived surrounded by constant miracles. According to one interpretation, they cried on the night of Tisha B'Av night, after hearing the report of the Spies, because they doubted their ability to live in the same closeness to G-d upon entering the Land and resuming a normal physical existence.
The Temple, the dwelling place of the Divine Presence on earth, provided proof that the relationship could be maintained even within the confines of the natural world. When, however, the people lost their internal unity and were no longer worthy of having the Divine Presence in their midst, the Temple was destroyed.
Our alienation from our past and from the One Whose presence dwelt in the Temple G-d can only be remedied through an awareness of what we once possessed and are now lacking.
"All those who mourn for Jerusalem," say our Sages, "will one day witness her rejoicing." Until we can cry for our estrangement on an individual and collective level from the irreducible point of divinity within, the pilgrims' song of rejoicing will not be heard.
The arrival Wednesday morning of a special El Al flight at Ben Gurion airport with 200 French Jews immigrating to Israel was a beautiful thing. As they disembarked, to the buzz of news crews from around the world, the new arrivals broke out in song and dance as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon welcomed our brothers and sisters home. It was enough to turn the greatest cynic into a sobbing idealist.
The scene was significant not simply because every time a Jew moves to Israel we see the Zionist dream come true. It was significant also because it came just a week and a half after Sharon, in a moment of moral leadership and clarity, told the Jews of France, "If I have to advocate to our brothers in France, I will tell them one thing: Move to Israel, as early as possible."
In the first six months of 2004, the French Interior Ministry recorded 510 anti-Jewish attacks or threats. During the whole of 2003, only 563 such incidents were reported. Yet, in the wake of Sharon's call for French Jews to come to Israel, where they will be able to live proudly, if not safely, as Jews, French President Jacques Chirac went ballistic. If there is anything the French hate, it is moral clarity.
Sharon's remarks coincided nicely with France's success in bringing the entire European Union on board in voting for the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the security fence. That resolution was itself founded on the International Court of Justice's ruling that Israel has no right to build the fence to protect ourselves from Palestinian suicide bombers.
It is no coincidence that France was acting in an overtly hostile manner toward the Jewish state when Sharon made his declaration. In recent years, rarely a day has gone by without some French leader doing something to make common cause with those devoted to the annihilation of the Jewish state.
From the French ambassador to Britain's statement calling Israel a "sh-tty little country," to former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard's declaration that the creation of Israel was "a mistake", to its persistent support of Arafat despite mountains of evidence implicating him as a current and active mastermind of terror, France has made it plain that it is an opponent, not an ally, in the Arab-Muslim war to destroy us. So yes, it was sweet to see 200 Jews telling us that they see their future here and not in France.
The problem with France is not simply that one in five French citizens voted for an avowed Holocaust-denier in the last election. Nor is it just that almost every week we hear another story about a synagogue torched, a rabbi beaten, a Jewish cemetery or Holocaust memorial defaced with swastikas or Jewish children terrorized on the subway or on their way to Hebrew school. Nor is it that France hates Israel. The French hating Israel is nothing that keeps anyone here awake at night.
The problem with France, rather, is that it has appointed itself arbiter of global justice, and in so doing inserted itself as a key factor in the US presidential race.
Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has made his objections to Bush administration's foreign policy a defining issue of his candidacy. During this week's Democratic national convention in Boston, speaker after speaker took to the podium and declared that under a Kerry presidency, the US would not act "unilaterally." A Washington Post analysis of Kerry's basic message to American voters noted that Kerry's major theme is a "restoration" of US positions during the 1990's under the Clinton administration.
As former Clinton administration official and current Kerry foreign policy adviser Richard Holbrooke put it to the Post, the Bush administration advocated "extremist ideas" that had "never had a voice in the policymaking bodies of the executive branch." One such idea, the Post paraphrased, was "acting unilaterally." But what does "acting unilaterally" mean? It does not mean "going it alone." After all, there are several dozen other countries actively involved in US operations in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan.
Neither does "acting unilaterally" mean that in Iraq the US is acting outside of a clear UN Security Council mandate. Ahead of the US-led operations in Kosovo in 1999, in which Holbrooke played a key role, Russia used the threat of its Security Council veto to prevent the US from taking action under a UN umbrella. Yet no one has ever accused the US of acting unilaterally in Kosovo.
What "acting unilaterally" actually means to Holbrooke and Kerry is that the multilateral coalition Bush assembled in Iraq does not include France. It was France that prevented a UN Security Council resolution backing the US-led invasion, and it was France that led the EU and NATO to reject US requests to forge coalitions under whose aegis the US would lead the war against Saddam's regime.
With its UN Security Council veto, its membership in NATO and its leading position in the EU, France has fashioned itself the indispensable ally for Eurocentric Americans. This it has done in spite of the fact that France has opposed almost every single US foreign policy initiative since September 11. Yet, in spite of France's overt hostility, administration critics still believe that the US cannot garner a politically palatable coalition for action on the international stage without French involvement.
One of the truly disturbing aspects of France's success in so positioning itself is that the veneer of respectability of a French-approved coalition is so thick that even when such coalitions fail abysmally, no one seems to notice. Thus, according to a recently released report by Human Rights Watch, it was the French forces who were most responsible for NATO-led Kosovo force's decision to remain garrisoned as thousands of Kosovar Christians were evicted from their homes and villages by Albanian Muslims even as they were begged to come forward and protect these minorities. But who's noticing?
It is hard to know precisely what a Kerry presidency would hold in store for Israel specifically.
Yes, it is true that he seems to pay inordinate respect to outspoken Israel-bashers such as former President Jimmy Carter and Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Then again, Bush appointed the harshly anti-Israel Marine General Anthony Zinni to be his Middle East mediator shortly after assuming office.
Yes, it is true that Kerry seems determined on forcing Israel back to the negotiating table with Arafat and using Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk as his emissaries in spite of the colossal failure of every policy the two men advocated during the Clinton presidency. But Bush has adopted the Road Map, which formally, if not practically, gives the EU, Russia and the UN the status of arbiters in the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
One thing though, is clear enough. In the unrelenting emphasis Kerry places on a certain brand of "multilateralism," he is providing undue, unreasonable and unacceptable legitimacy to a country that does not wish Israel well. Kerry can choose to be a friend of France, or he can choose to be a friend of Israel. But this is one area where he can't have it both ways.
Let's get something straight right from the get-go.
I'm a registered Democrat (though have voted and will vote otherwise again on occasion) and play second to few on the same environmental issues that Jimmy Carter championed while in the Oval Office. I voted for him. So I'm not automatically triggered to be nauseated by the man.
But it's when Mr. Peanut turns to Arab-Israeli issues that he totally loses it.
His "truths" crumble before any objective assessment. He has never met an Arab disemboweler of Jewish babes and grandmas that he hasn't blamed the Jews themselves for.
Pardon me if I'm not sounding too respectful, but the ex-President has been shown to be a blatant hypocrite and, despite delusions about his own self-worth (an argument could be made that the Camp David Accords occurred despite him, not because of him), an outright menace to the survival of a viable Jewish State. What's even more frightening, John Kerry has mentioned him as his potential special envoy for the Middle East (not that Bush's James Baker is any better).
And now, there he was on July 26th, amid current genocidal atrocities being carried out by Arabs against Black African Sudanese just as he spoke, ranting on behalf of Palestinian Arabs at the Democratic Convention. No attempt at balance either.
Carter's vision, like Chamberlain's at Munich prior to World War II as he betrayed Czechoslovakia (allegedly over a heavily German-populated Sudetenland), is to buy "peace" for America and the world via selling out friends...this time Israel. Missing was any mention about what the Arabs need to do themselves in order to allow peace to blossom, like stopping their hate mongering and terrorism and agreeing that others, besides themselves, are due a semblance of justice...for starters. All that we heard were simply more fulminations about what America must do to help Arabs who still will not accept an Israel regardless of size and despite any additional concessions it will make. His was the typically one-sided squeeze the Jews message that he has repeatedly given.
Almost a year earlier, for example, in an Indian summer blast of hot air in the September 23, 2003 Washington Post ("The Choice For Israelis"), he proclaimed that the occupied territories and settlement issue were the main causes of Arab resentment and thus the violence as well. James Pinkerton reported similarly in the Houston Chronicle this past April. This is Mr. Peanut's standard line when it comes to Arab-Israeli politics.
There's no rest for those who care, and we are forced to repeat some key facts, ad nauseam, with the hope that they will register with an ever-wider audience. So, here we go again...
Surely Carter's aware of poll after poll taken among Arabs that have shown that even if Israel withdrew completely from those disputed areas (not "occupied Arab lands"), the Arabs would still reject Israel's right to exist. It's not how big Israel is but that Israel is that has always been the problem...and Mr. Peanut knows this. And he knows about the offers made by Barak and Clinton at Camp David 2000 and Taba which would have handed over 97% of those disputed territories--including one half of Jerusalem and a $33 billion bonus as icing on the cake--to Arafat's boys. And he knows what the bloody Arab "counter offer " has been...hundreds of deliberately murdered Israeli civilians. Arafat built that fence recently put on trial in Geneva. Yet Carter insists on prodding Jews to take suicidal chances and forsake security measures with a bloodthirsty enemy he wouldn't dream of asking others to do.
Who's kidding whom here?
Surely he knows that the PLO was formed in 1964...long before Israel was in the territories. And surely he knows that nothing has changed in the Arab mindset since then or before. Carter sees the Palestinian Authority websites, maps, schoolbooks, hears the imams calling for death to the Jews, etc. He knows full well that the proposed 22nd or 23rd Arab state--second one to be created within the original borders of Mandatory Palestine as Britain received it on April 25, 1920--plans to replace Israel, not live side by side with it. The evidence for this is overwhelming.
It's no accident that at the summits leading up to the roadmap, Ahmed Qurei'--latest Arafatian chief marionette--went on record opposing the use of the word "Jewish" along with "State of Israel." Of course, not a peep out of Mr. Peanut about this and its implications. And these folks still insist that Israel, after being made to return to its 9-mile wide, pre-'67 armistice line existence, then agree to absorb millions of real or alleged descendants of Arab refugees. The half of Israel's Jews who were refugees themselves from so-called "Arab" lands doesn't seem to register with him. And the lie that the so-called "Geneva Initiative," led by Carter's politically impotent Arab and suicidal Israeli friends, renounced the "right of return" was just that...a lie.
At the close of hostilities after the invasion by Arab states of a nascent Israel in 1948, the fragile, U.N-imposed armistice lines made Israel a constant temptation to its enemies. Most of Israel's population and industry lies in that narrow waistband. Mr. Carter knows full well that you need a magnifying glass to find Israel in a map of the region...a microscope for a map of the world.
He has frequently brought up U.N. Resolution #242 to support his position for Israel's departure from the disputed territories. Just like Chamberlain had to know that Hitler would not be satisfied with just the Sudetenland back in 1938 but sacrificed the Czechs anyway, the evidence is quite clear regarding Arab intentions in their well-known "destruction in stages scenario" for Israel. And Chamberlain--er Carter--knows this as well. Yet, while he's been a bit more careful in his wording of late, he still implies that a virtually total Israeli withdrawal is required by 242. That's what his continuous rants about occupation and settlements are all about.
Nations have acquired territories, toppled governments, and such thousands of miles away from home in the name of their own security, but Mr. Carter can't seem to figure out that Israel's 9-mile wide, artificially-imposed existence (the '49 armistice lines were never meant to be final borders) was a travesty of justice in desperate need of rectification.
Whatever the size or shape the proposed additional Arab state might eventually be, it must not come at the expense of security of the sole, miniscule state of the Jews.
In the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War Israel was forced to fight after it was blockaded at the Straits of Tiran and other life-threatening hostile acts, U.N. Resolution #242 did not demand that Israel return to the status quo ante. The architects of that resolution such as Eugene Rostow, Arthur Goldberg, and others all stressed quite the contrary, and their views are readily accessible.
242 called, instead, for the creation of "secure and recognized borders" to replace those fragile armistice lines. There is no way that Carter cannot know this, yet he pretends to be deaf, dumb, and blind because it goes counter to his own "vision." Most of Israel's settlements have been built on strategic high ground areas for this reason. Even with these left in place, Israel's width goes from 9 miles up to perhaps around twenty in that waist bordering the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. Most people in America drive further than that just to go to work. Any roadmap discussions must continue to take this into account. Those currently involving the debate over the path of the security fence are particularly relevant. While compromises are in order, Carter's demands, advice, or whatever on this issue (like that of the recent UN politicized mouthpiece, the International Court of Justice) are not. His brother Billy made lots of money endearing himself to Arab oil folks. I haven't checked Mr. Peanut's records yet myself, but I've been told he has received plenty of Arab donations for his views. On this issue, however, in all fairness, he certainly couldn't be worse than the Bushes and their own closest friends and political allies. Best buddy James Baker's law firm, for example, represents the Saudis in this country.
Carter speaks of the territories as if Palestinian Arabs (many of whom were newcomers-- settlers-- themselves in Palestine) had exclusive rights there. Contrary to popular current protestations, these are not "occupied Palestinian Arab lands."
Leading scholars such as William O'Brien, Rostow, and others have pointed out that these lands were non-apportioned areas of the Mandate, and all residents--Arabs, Jews, etc.--had the right to live there. Indeed, Jews had lived and owned land in Judea and Samaria until their earlier massacres by Arabs. And Mr. Carter knows this too...as he does the writings of the so-called "moderates" like the late showcased Faisal Husseini whose goal was/is still a purely Arab Palestine from the River to the Sea.
Indeed, the "moderates" of the good cop/ bad cop game the Arabs have played to gain concessions from the Jews speak in terms of temporary, meaningless concessions to the Jews as the Trojan Horse that will be used to deliver the final prize, Arafat's modern professed version of the "Peace of the Quraysh." The latter were the pagan tribe the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad, made a temporary truce with until he gained the position and strength to deliver the final blow. Talk of a new "truce" with Arafat falls into this same category. Arabs offer this hudna while expecting Israel to yield to all of their demands.
So it's time to call it what it really is...
Jews have repeatedly offered Arabs reasonable compromises and an honorable way out of this bloody mess. It is Arabs who have rejected all of these. The plain truth is that any solution which is not another Final Solution will not be acceptable to Arabs...at least those with both the real power and the power to influence their own captive masses. And Mr. Peanut knows this too...which makes what he says and does even light years worse.
Carter's constant demand that Israel cave in to such above hogwash is nothing short of hostile intent on his part towards the Jewish State. He expects no others to bare their necks so freely to their sworn murderous enemies as he does Jews. Indeed, the prospect of him having any influence over a potential Democrat in office is frightening.
When I see Mr. Peanut show the same concern over the plight of millions of Blacks in Africa, who have been slaughtered, enslaved, turned into refugees, and the like, or that of some thirty million perpetually victimized, stateless Kurds, who have suffered likewise in the name of the Arab nation, as he does for creating a 22nd or 23rd state for Arabs (on the ashes of Israel...but fear not, he'll give a proper southern gentleman's eulogy), then I might give any credence to what he says again.
For now, his blatant hypocrisy and double standards vis-à-vis Jews and Israel simply make him a spokesman for the Arab cause.
Furthermore, knowing what his politics are like and that he has become a virtual attack dog on Israel, the Democrats had surely figured out beforehand what words of wisdom he was likely to spout as he was showcased at their convention on July 26th. And this, unfortunately, perhaps also says something as well.
We now enter a fresh round of bargaining in the Middle East. No line can be drawn today which both parties can accept. The hatred is too intense. We must lay the people-to-people ground work to ease this tension. For examples:
Each country's leaders must visit one another's capitals. A visit need not mean approval of behavior by the other party. The Arab country leaders should visit Jerusalem, while Sharon and his other key political leaders will visit Riyadh, Damascus, Cairo, Beirut, and Ramullah. This is a neutral idea, not favoring one party over another, yet illuminating on the degreeof acceptance.
Let trade begin. When good business habits are established, it pays to settle disputes with negotiation, rather than war. Let tourism between Israel and Arab states flourish. Let Israel join the International Red Cross and cooperate with the Red Crescent These are not naive ideas, hard to implement, but rather necessary steps to progress.
Let both parties submit for widespread public review their early grade school books, in order to eliminate lies, and to demonstrate honest education. Let children in their early years get a true view of their own and the other's behavior, rather than receive corrupt educational propaganda, as now practiced.
Let the Peace movements flourish in the Arab countries as well as in Israel.
Populations need to be prepared for peace making. The leaders of Israel have said to their population that there may be regrettable shortcomings in the final settlement, such as possible loss of some settlements. The leaders of the Arab countries have not, in general, as far as I can tell, spoken to their people of the necessity to recognize Israel or loss of the so-called "right of return".
After the preceding steps are taken, drawing mutually aceptable terms will be easier. Avoidance of steps such as visits lets the tension continue. Human people interaction is needed.
Last week, delegates representing the three-million-strong American Presbyterian Church voted, by a margin of 431-62, to study the idea of divesting itself from Israel – that is, refusing to invest church moneys in companies that do over $1 million annually in business here.
Furthermore, they voted 471-34 in favor of a motion condemning the separation fence for "[ghettoizing] the Palestinians and [forcing] them onto what can only be called reservations." And they voted 260 to 233 to continue to fund a Philadelphia congregation, Avodat Yisrael, which missionizes among Jews.
As enthusiasms go, the Presbyterian one is a bit behind the curve: Divestment mania pretty much peaked in 2002. Partly it was a victim of its own excess; its less militant advocates found themselves feeling a bit queasy as (left-wing) Israeli academics were forced off the boards of scholarly British journals simply for being Israeli.
But mainly divestment was stopped because of the words of one man, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. In September 2002, Summers noted that "where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities.
Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent." Among the examples he listed were calls "to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university's endowment to be invested."
"The university," he added, "has categorically rejected this suggestion."
Summers's statement was significant because it issued from the high temple of American high culture. It was courageous because it put collegial niceties aside to take direct aim at members of Summers's faculty. And it was important because it marked in a very clear way the spot where anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism converge.
This is very close to the spot where the Presbyterian Church – generally a "progressive intellectual community" in its own right – has now planted itself. It claims to have taken the vote "as part of a larger commitment... to human rights and social justice all around the world."
In fairness, the church has divested itself from an oil company doing business in Tibet. Over the years, it has issued reports on "issues of justice related to North and South Korea, Rwanda, Taiwan, Central American states, and many others." And it insists its interest is merely in "selective" divestment, from companies "whose business in Israel is found to be directly or indirectly causing harm or suffering to innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli."
These caveats aside, it defies common sense that the church did not know exactly what kind of message it was sending (and message-sending is what these votes are about) by targeting Israel this way. We will not argue with the assembly's interpretation of events here, which sees the occupation as "the principal cause of the conflict."
This may be an erroneous view, but it's a legitimate one. What is not legitimate is to single out Israel for special opprobrium, when fewer Palestinians have been killed over the past four years of fighting than the Janjaweed militia murdered last week in the Darfur region of Sudan.
On this current human-rights and social-justice issue, however, the Presbyterian delegates were silent.
For many years now, mainline Protestant churches have taken an increasingly hostile stance toward Israel, while evangelical churches have tilted strongly toward Israel. If there is a consolation for Israel, it is that the mainline denominations are in decline while the latter are flourishing. The reasons for these patterns probably have little to do with their views vis-a-vis Israel.
But it ought to be of some concern to American Jewry that the very people with whom they might otherwise make common cause on domestic issues have taken such a hostile position on Israel.
More broadly, it is of great concern to Jews everywhere that this slide toward outright anti-Semitism is taking place in the very quarters from which one might expect sympathy or at least nuance in judgment. With its vote last week, the American Presbyterian Church showed neither.
Petition condemns church for 'hatred' of IsraelAn online petition signed by more than 2,000 people protests the Presbyterian Church USA general assembly's decision to side with Palestinian Arabs and against Israel, choosing to divest from the Jewish state as it did only with apartheid South Africa
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