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One of the most significant elements in enabling the Holocaust (the murder of over one- third of the Jewish people, the great majority of the Jews of Europe) was the silence of the world. A great share of the Jewish people who were murdered might have been saved had there been resistance and outcry on the part of the major Allied Powers, and on the part of many governments and individuals who could have done something to stop the murder. One of the most difficult aspects of the Shoah for the Jewish people is this sense of having been abandoned and betrayed by humanity as a whole, and most especially by those who fought for the freedom of mankind against the Nazi evil.
Now today a portion of the Jewish people, more than one third of the Jewish people, the heart of the Jewish people, is being threatened with another 'Shoah'. And again the world is by and large silent.
This time the threat is not made directly against the people themselves, but against the state in which they live. But the threat is such - the threat of using weapons of mass-destruction to destroy the state - that its translation into reality would mean in effect the murder of hundreds of thousands perhaps even millions of Jews.
This threat is openly made every Friday in the central mosque of Tehran where it is proclaimed that the 'Zionist state' must and will be eliminated. This threat has been made frequently by various leaders of Iran especially over the past three years. In early August of 2004 both the Iranian Defense Minister, and the head of the political wing of the organization that militarily controls Iran - the Islamic Revolutionary Guard - proclaimed that Iran had the capacity to hit with its missiles every place in Israel, and to destroy the Jewish state. True, in these instances they promised to launch the Iranian missiles in response to any effort by Israel to attack Iranian nuclear sites. But their threats have behind them the openly proclaimed ideology of the Islamic Revolutionary State, and that ideology clearly states that the goal is "to completely wipe the Zionist entity from the face of the earth."
These threats are frequently reported by the world media, and ignored by world- leaders. One of course does not expect the leaders of the Islamic bloc to object to these statements since many of them undoubtedly share the Iranian goal. One does not even so much expect third- or - fourth world dictatorships to respond to them for they do not themselves exemplify values in which human life and dignity are respected. But one does expect that the democracies of the world would respond to them with outrage and anger, and even counter-threat. But that does not come. France and Germany - the leaders of the New Europe - are more worried about their energy supplies and trade relations with Iran than contending with genocidal threats. More difficult to comprehend is the lack of outrage from the U.S. at this threat to one of America's most loyal allies. For even though the President and some of his associates have taken note of, and warned against the Iranian threat they have not picked up upon the specific threat made against Israel, the genocidal language Iran has used against Israel alone.
The free world's silence at this genocidal threat to Israel must be understood not simply in relation to Jews and Israel, as their abandonment for expediency's sake. It must be understood as fundamental violation of their own ideals of justice and respect for human life and dignity. It is the free world betraying itself in its silence.
It is time for leaders of the free world to act with courage and decency. Instead of hiding behind vague general statements they must come out and openly declare that a threat such as this against Israel, is a threat against the free world as a whole. And that any Iranian attack on Israel will be regarded as an attack on the free world itself.
Nothing less than this can be a true sign that the world, or at least the free world has learned something from its failings during the Shoah, and is determined to see that it does not in a new form happen again to the heart and soul of the Jewish people that is the State of Israel.
|The Mountains of Israel -
The Mountains of Israel is an exciting and refreshing new perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict, clearly outlining how God is fulfilling His Word in modern-day Israel. It is highly suitable for the beginning reader on Israel and for those who have studied Israel from a Scriptural perspective for years.
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"What are the Muslims doing?" asked Brother Louis, a deacon at the Our Lady of Salvation, an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad minutes after it had been bombed. “Does this mean that they want us [Christians] out?”
Well, yes, it does. Our Lady of Salvation was just one of five churches attacked in a series of coordinated explosions in Baghdad and Mosul on Aug. 1, a Sunday, between 6 and 7 o’clock in the evening. In total, these car bombings killed 11 persons and injured 55. In addition, the police defused another two bombs.
The timing of the assault guaranteed a maximum number of casualties. August 1 is a holy day for some Iraqi Christian denominations and because Sunday is an ordinary workday in mostly Muslim Iraq, Sunday services take place in the evening.
The five bombings were by no means the first attacks targeting Iraq’s Christian minority since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Others, according to the Barnabas Fund (an organization assisting persecuted Christian minorities), were bunched together at the end of 2003 and included a missile attack on a convent in Mosul; bombs placed (but defused) in two Christian schools in Baghdad and Mosul; a bomb explosion at a Baghdad church on Christmas Eve; and a bomb placed (but defused) at a monastery in Mosul.
In addition, Islamists have attacked the predominantly Christian owners of liquor, music, and fashion stores, as well as beauty salons, wanting them to close down their businesses. Christian women are threatened unless they cover their heads in the Islamic fashion. Random Christians have been assassinated.
These assaults have prompted Iraqi Christians, one of the oldest Christian bodies in the world, to leave their country in record numbers. An Iraqi deacon observed some months ago that "On a recent night the church had to spend more time on filling out baptismal forms needed for leaving the country than they did on the [worship] service. ... Our community is being decimated." Iraq’s minister for displacement and migration, Pascale Icho Warda, estimates that 40,000 Christians left Iraq in the two weeks following the Aug. 1 bombings.
Whereas Christians make up just 3 percent of the country’s population, their proportion of the refugee flow into Syria is estimated anywhere between 20 and 95 percent. Looking at the larger picture, one estimate finds that about 40 percent of the community has left since 1987, when the census found 1.4 million Iraqi Christians.
Although Muslim leaders uniformly condemned the attacks (Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani termed them “criminal actions,” while the interim Iraqi government bravely declared that “This blow is going to unite Iraqis”), they almost certainly mark a milestone in the decline and possible disappearance of Iraqi Christianity.
This seems all the more likely because Christians, due mainly to Islamist persecution and lower birth rates, are disappearing from the Middle East as a whole.
· Bethlehem and Nazareth, the most identifiably Christian towns on earth, enjoyed a Christian majority for nearly two millennia, but no more. In Jerusalem, the decline has been particularly steep: in 1922, Christians slightly outnumbered Muslims and today they make up less than 2 percent of the city’s population.At present rates, the Middle East’s 11 million Christians will in a decade or two have lost their cultural vitality and political significance.
· In Turkey, Christians numbered 2 million in 1920 but now only a few thousand remain.
· In Syria, they represented about one-third of the population early last century; now they account for less than 10 percent.
· In Lebanon, they made up 55 percent of the population in 1932 and now under 30 percent.
· In Egypt, for the first time ever Copts have been emigrating in significant numbers since the 1950s.
In combination, these ethnic cleansings of two ancient religious minorities mark the end of an era. The multiplicity of Middle Eastern life, most memorably celebrated in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet (1957-60), is being reduced to the flat monotony of a single religion and a handful of approved languages. The entire region, not just the affected minorities, is impoverished by this narrowing.
Yasser Arafat is looking unusually vulnerable these days. King Abdullah II of Jordan has urged him to “take a long look in the mirror” and step down. US Secretary of State Colin Powell cautions not to trust his “yo-yo” promises on reform that always “get pulled back.” Arafat’s humble pleas to attend his sister’s recent funeral in Gaza went completely unheeded by Israel. Worse yet, renegades in Fatah are burning his Authority’s offices and kidnapping his generals with impunity. All in all, the aging Palestinian leader has faced the most serious challenge ever to his one-man rule this summer – and survived.
Nonetheless, the rising levels of frustration with Arafat abroad and the unprecedented signs of rebellion among his own people are clear indicators that his iron grip on power is irretrievably slipping away. At long last, it is fair game to criticise the “Old Man” in public, and leaflets linked to one disgruntled Fatah splinter group even threatened his life. But should Israelis take hope from the rumblings in the Palestinian camp? Or are those behind the reformist revolt just as intractable and devious in the pursuit of peace?
INTRA-FADA - The recent mutiny against Arafat erupted due to widespread disgust with “corruption” within the Palestinian Authority and the lack of any real democratic reforms that would end the thievery. The Palestinian people have been impoverished by the intifada against Israel, despite billions of dollars in sympathetic aid. Meanwhile, Arafat’s cronies seem to be only getting richer.
“Arafat is sitting on the corpses and ruins of the Palestinians at a time when they are desperately in need of a new mentality”, former Gaza security chief Muhammad Dahlan recently told the Kuwaiti daily Al Watan. “[$5 billion in donor funds] have gone down the drain, and we don't know where.”
The “reformists” ganged up on Arafat from three directions. Threatening to resign, PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei and his cabinet demanded more powers, while Arafat’s critics in the Palestinian Legislative Council sought the same. Meantime, leading Fatah activists and young militants said they no longer viewed Arafat’s regime as the sole decision-maker for their people’s collective aspirations.
All sought an end to the corruption, chaos and uncertainty of direction within the PA, but there was absolutely nothing in their rhetoric to suggest that a softer line towards Israel is waiting in the wings. In fact, the street toughs insisted that Palestinian coffers be focused more squarely on terrorising the Jews.
At the height of the recent intrafada, Fatah gunmen torched PA buildings and abducted policemen and foreigners to protest the cut-off of funds for their ‘military operations’ and Arafat’s appointment of his cousin Musa as head of Gazan police. Meanwhile Arafat fought back by dispatching masked men to shoot a dissident former cabinet minister, among other strong-arm tactics.
Eventually, the reformist revolt descended into an old-fashioned power struggle between rival forces in the next generation jockeying for position in the post-Arafat era.
Dahlan in particular has seen Arafat’s growing weakness, along with Israel’s disengagement plan, as an opportunity for him to wrest control of the Strip from the chairman, who remains trapped in his bombed-out presidential compound in Ramallah. Dahlan supporters trounced Arafat loyalists in local Fatah elections in much of Gaza in July, emboldening him to issue the PA leader with an ultimatum on reforms or face mass demonstrations.
A FITTING END - Arafat has managed to fend off the challenge for now, largely because he remains the living symbol of the Palestinian nationalist movement. But he was undoubtedly whittled down a notch by his own people and a recent poll shows 80% backing for an emergency “unified command” of nationalist and Islamic forces to steer the Palestinians out of their current mess.
Arafat’s hopes for a comeback on the international stage rest on the results of the US elections in November. He is banking on the defeat of President George W. Bush, which he believes will lead to the downfall of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, the man who vowed to “remove” him some two years ago.
For some reason, Sharon seems to have been the one Israeli leader over the years capable of standing up to Arafat and actually out-foxing him. It would be disastrous for Israel if Arafat were able to boast that he has outlasted Sharon as well.
It is no secret that many Israelis and their friends worldwide have spent years quietly hoping and praying for the demise of Yasser Arafat – whether by natural means or the IDF’s swift fury. But it would be far more just and fitting if he – like Saddam Hussein – were to be judged by his own people for the crimes he has committed against them. Such a turn of events for either man once seemed well beyond belief – but no longer.
The Street Fighter: Marwan Barghouti, head of the Fatah Tanzim militia in the West Bank, is currently serving several life terms in an Israeli jail for orchestrating lethal terror attacks. After gaining popularity during the first intifada and prior stints in Israeli prisons, his fiery oratory in defence of the al-Aqsa mosque helped fuel the current uprising. Barghouti once hinted at compromise with Israel in a New York Times column, but preaches the use of terror so long as the “occupation” remains. Despite imprisonment, Barghouti has reportedly just brokered a deal with Hamas for running Gaza after Israel withdraws, thereby outflanking Dahlan. His “clean” image on money matters and credentials as a street fighter make him a more likely candidate to assume Arafat’s mantle one day, but Israel would only set him free if jail-time softens him to the idea of peace with the Jewish state.
Special midday news coverage on Channel 1 generally sends shudders up and down my spine.
When Channel 1 interrupts its regularly scheduled programming and trots out breathless reporters to give on-the-spot coverage, it is usually a sign of disaster – of a bus blown to bits, of torn bodies on the road, of Zaka (Disaster Victims Identification) volunteers picking up human tissue.
That is why it was so refreshing watching Channel 1's "special" coverage of Gal Fridman's gold medal windsurfing race on Wednesday. Imagine, special full-throttle midday coverage of a sporting event – just like in a "normal" country.
Well, actually not. It's hard to believe a "normal" country would follow with such anticipation, emotion, and expectation the exploits of a native son in – let's face it – a rather obscure sport.
I'm a sports fan, and a dedicated one. I'm also a huge fan of the Olympics. I can name the host city of every summer Olympics since 1936. I can hum the theme music that accompanies (or at least it used to) Olympic television coverage in the States.
I know from Kip Keino and Frank Shorter, from Bruce Jenner and Dick Fosbury. I have logged hundreds of Olympic viewing hours in my life.
Yet I have never before seen a windsurfing contest. I have no clue what the rules are, how many marks must be circled, or how the whole thing works. Up until Wednesday, mistral sounded to me like what happens in court when a lawyer messes up.
Yet there I was, in the middle of a work day, glued to Channel 1's special coverage, counting along with the announcer how many windsurfers separated Fridman from his Brazilian rival, and praying for good wind.
Fridman's victory, I must admit, left me choked up. It left me feeling the same way I felt when Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon circled high above the country and, in a live hook-up with the prime minister, said, "I think that the people of Israel, and the Jewish people as a whole, are a wonderful people."
The feeling watching Fridman win is different than the regular jingoist pride citizens of other countries feel when their athletes are victorious. It is laced with something that is peculiarly Jewish, peculiarly Israeli.
The wires will predictably write that Fridman brought joy to Israel at a time where there is little to cheer about. But that's not it, there is something deeper, more symbolic, at play in our joy over Fridman.
At a time when Jews in France are afraid to walk out their doors displaying any sign of their Jewishness, when the Foreign Ministry tells Israelis going abroad not to wear T-shirts with Hebrew writing, there was something deeply moving about watching Fridman proudly wrap himself in an Israeli flag.
What crossed my mind while watching the race – in between cursing the Brazilian – was how this achievement speaks volumes about this country's vast reserves of resiliency.
Thirty-two years after the Munich massacre, the Israeli flag was raised at the Olympics in victory, not lowered to half mast in mourning.
Four years after the current war that has sapped so much time, energy, and treasure, the country retains trappings of normality – and nothing is more normal than sporting events, and a preoccupation with them – and that itself is a partial victory.
Yet "normal" countries would not respond to Fridman's victory as we have, "normal" countries would not look for the deeper symbolism and meaning of a sailing victory.
Indeed, when Fridman won, and when judoka Arik Ze'evi won his bronze medal last week, I reveled in the very abnormality of the Israeli response to these achievements.
And therein I found more beauty. As much fun as it was to watch Fridman and Ze'evi, it was equally fun to watch the country's reaction to their victory, for here is where you spy the charm in this country's personality.
The charm is there in the way the television reporters interviewed Fridman's mother and father, brother, and sister, freckled nephew, and even Aunt Shoshi. It was there in the way the defense minister, not only the president and prime minister, felt a need to issue a congratulatory message to Fridman, and Chabad sent a Book of Psalms to his parents' house before the race for good measure.
This charm is there in the way the Israeli fans "took over" the arena where Ze'evi competed and cheered and chanted as if it were Yad Eliahu, and in the way Ze'evi, so pleased with himself, thrust his forehead into the lips of the man who presented him with his medal for a congratulatory kiss.
The spontaneity, the brashness, the freshness, the unadorned, genuine, unsophisticated, typically Israeli nature of it all. There are moments in the life of a nation where you revel in its particularity.
Now is one of those moments.
View the presentation clip
For more on Fridman's victory and readers' comments click here
- Brigadier General Amir Eshel (On September 4, 2003, three Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter planes, piloted by the offspring of Holocaust survivors, flew over Auschwitz-Birkenau to commemorate the victims' courage and to promise to be the "shield of the Jewish People in Israel." )
"We got here sixty years too late"
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