Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

They are not happy in Gaza.
They are not happy in the West Bank.
They are not happy in Jerusalem.
They are not happy in Israel.
They are not happy in Egypt.
They are not happy in Libya.
They are not happy in Algeria.
They are not happy in Tunis.
They are not happy in Morocco.
They are not happy in Yemen.
They are not happy in Iraq.
They are not happy in Afghanistan.
They are not happy in Pakistan.
They are not happy in Syria.
They are not happy in Lebanon.
They are not happy in Sudan.
They are not happy in Jordan.
They are not happy in Iran.
They are not happy in Chechnya.
And where are the Muslims happy?
They are happy in England.
They are happy in France.
They are happy in Italy.
They are happy in Germany.
They are happy in Sweden.
They are happy in the Netherlands.
They are happy in Switzerland.
They are happy in Norway.
They are happy in the US.
They are happy in Canada.
They are happy in Hungary.
They are happy in any other country in the world which is not ruled by Muslims.
And whom do they blame?
Not Islam.
Not their leadership.
Not themselves.
But the very countries they are happy to live in!


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Sandy Cash is back with another song, this one hailing the upcoming Free Gaza Flotilla II.

In case Allen Krasna’s masterful video editing makes you miss some of the lyrics, here they are:

HEY JEWS (parody lyrics based on the song Hey Jude by Lennon & McCartney)

Hey Jews, we’re setting sail
Bound for that big jail that’s known as Gaza.
“Flotilla” was once a word no one knew;
Here comes number two, we’re back to Gaza.

Hey Jews, don’t be afraid,
You know your blockade can’t last forever.
The Egyptians tried too, but let down their guard.
Deterrence is hard; surrender’s better.

And if we hide Iranian bombs, hey Jews, come on!
We’re all just humanitarian sailors
With ammo belts and bars of steel.
Hey Jews, get real!
Code Pink buys the same at Lord and Taylor.

Hey Jews, don’t lose your cool,
The revolution is all around you
From the Golan to Sinai’s lines in the sand.
We’ll cross overland ’til we surround you.

No matter what we smuggle in, hey Jews, give in.
We’re riding the wave of world opinion
‘Cause don’t you know when we attack and you fight back,
It tightens the noose we hold your head in.

Hey, Jews, can’t you excuse 10,000 rockets on civilians.
You’ve spent all that dough on reinforced rooms,
The whole world presumes you want to use them.

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Months after the murder of the Fogel family by Arab teenage products of PA “education,” I have finally reached the point where I don’t think about the slain, or the remaining children, every day.  But sometimes, their name comes up in conversation, in a newspaper article (the most recent being that the vermin who committed the atrocity are proud of what they did “for Palestine”; this is news?), or my kids’ questions.  “Did they shoot the boys?  How did they kill the baby?  Did you see the pictures?”  None of us can begin to fathom the horror, but they’re still trying to get their heads around it.  They asked me about it again the other night, and it occurred to me again when I was shopping in Rami Levy this morning for Shabbat.

My local Rami Levi supermarket is located at Gush Junction.  It is staffed by Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and patronized by the same.  The butchers are all Arab, the loading dock workers are Arab, most of the stockers are Arab.  The two men we usually see behind the cheese counter are also Arab.  One is in his 40s with a round face that manages to be both pleasant and unsmiling.  He doesn’t appear to love his job, or the customer contact.  The second is in his 50s, graying, with eyes that wrinkle around the edges when he smiles, and he always gives whatever children I have tagging along with me a free slice of cheese, teaches my eldest a new Arabic word (she’s interested in learning the language), and clearly enjoys talking to the customers he interacts with.  Since the massacre in Itamar, I have sometimes looked at these two men (the closest thing I have to Arab acquaintances) and studied their faces to try to discern what they REALLY think about Jews and Israel.  I learn nothing from this.  It may be that the dourer of the two men has some secret sorrow in his life that keeps his mood low, but wouldn’t dream of committing or approving of violence to achieve any ends.  And it may be that the warm, smiling face of the older Arab disguises a compartmentalized view of his situation, where in day-to-day interactions he can exercise civility towards his Jewish “occupier” employer and customers, but given a choice, would prefer to have them gone from this land by any means necessary, including bloodshed.

The cheese man today was a new one.  In his late 30s or 40s, he was nice-looking, friendly, and very taken with Bill, who he said is the cutest kid in the world.  After packaging my cheese slices, he went back and sliced one more which he gave to Bill.  While he cut a hunk of parmesan for me, I asked if he has children.  He looked up and smiled.  “Ten,” he answered.  “And I want more.  I love kids.  Whenever I feel down, all I have to do is look at an adorable kid’s face,” he said, glancing over at Bill munching his slice of Emek, “and I feel better right away.”  I felt tears well up in my eyes for a moment, and was terribly tempted to ask him, “Then how can someone enter someone else’s house and stab their children, and slit their throats?”  But I didn’t.  Perhaps as a father, he can’t imagine either.  Perhaps he found the incident as revolting as I did.  Or perhaps not.

At the same time that I occasionally crave answers to these questions, part of the complication of living here is that I don’t dare make any assumptions about the Arabs I see, good or bad.  I don’t want to embarrass them when they’re at work and doing their jobs.  I don’t want them to say what they think I want to hear, that it was terrible, if in their hearts they secretly rejoiced at the horrific news.  I also don’t know if I really want to know the answer, on the off-chance that they would throw their employee’s caution to the wind and answer me straight, that they hate and resent the “occupation,” and that while for the moment, they and I can be face to face in a civil, vendor-customer situation, in the bigger picture, I am a foreign occupier of Arab lands, and whatever it takes to dislodge me and the rest of the Jews is fair.  There is a barrier of civility which prevents me from asking what I might want to ask, and from their answering as they might wish—or not wish.

Some might read this and think, “Who cares?  What’s done is done.  Their society is what it is, controlled by hate and oppression, brooking no opposition or dissent.  Yours is holding the wolf by the ears, and it doesn’t matter what they think or feel, only what they do.”  There might be truth to this, but it doesn’t stop me wondering.

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There have been ample and immediate reactions to US President Barack Obama’s recent speech about the changes in the Middle East.  After surfacing from the festivities of Shabbat and Lag B’Omer, I’d like to share my own thoughts.

I appreciate that as the leader of the free world, Obama sees America’s fortunes intertwined with those of people elsewhere in the world.  America enjoys a comfortable distance from the countries in turmoil, but at least Obama has absorbed the lesson from 9/11 that even when you don’t got looking for trouble, sometimes trouble has a way of coming to find you.  His talk of looking for ways to shore up the economies of the Middle Eastern countries after their changes in government and encourage the expansion of individual liberties (without the delusion of establishing American-style democracies where that is neither conceivable nor the popular will) is appropriate.  Whether such investment of time and treasure will prove fruitful remains to be seen.

But Obama has certain blind spots that cannot be ignored.  He is very willing to see the evil in Al Qaeda terror, but less willing to recognize that same hate, bloodlust, and will to destroy in the Palestinian Authority.  When he said, “Bin Laden … was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change” and that Bin Laden “rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build,” he could easily have substituted Mahmoud Abbas’s name for Bin Laden’s.  Yes, Abbas makes a show of being a “peace partner,” but that has to be seen in context.  The PLO has been in the terror business longer than Al Qaeda, invented airline highjacking, and has traditionally responded to concrete offers of peace with refusal and more violence.  But since terrorism’s failure to make Israel go away, the PA has adopted new methods.  For Abbas, appealing to the international community and double-speak is the new terrorism, made easier by an eager willingness on the part of the West to sympathize with the Arabs based on racist double standards for behavior (dark-skinned people must follow their nature and commit violent acts to express their anger and frustration, while light-skinned people must observe every rule of restraint in handling theirs), belief in the Arabs’ false narrative of victimhood (which in fact is simply the Arabs’ failure to annihilate the Jews), and participation in a campaign intended to cripple Israel economically, politically, and intellectually.  And none of this rules out Abbas’s commitment to teaching hatred and inciting violence against Israel, or his willingness to allow terror attacks to resume at any time, claiming that he cannot control the rage of his people or curb their freedom to express themselves through bloodletting.  Obama adds that before Bin Laden’s assassination, “al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life.”  Why Obama believes that the PA is still relevant outside the territories inhabited by Palestinians, or that the PA answers the need of its constituents for a better life, is never explained.

Obama has also stubbornly refused to see the corruption and oppression in other Middle Eastern countries before the start of the “Arab Spring,” including that of Bashar Assad in Syria.  (Sidebar: See Barry Rubin’s discussion of the term “Arab Spring.”  It’s an eye-opener.)  After Assad quashed Lebanon’s government (only recently freed of the Syrian yoke after the Beirut Spring of 2005), installing Syrian-supported, Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in the government and near the border with Israel and assassinating Lebanon’s own democratically elected prime minister, Obama recently reopened an American embassy in Damascus, normalizing relations between the two countries, and Hillary Clinton, just weeks before Assad’s forces opened fire on his own, unarmed civilians, called him “a reformer.”  This is not foreign policy, or Realpolitik.  It’s delusional.

Obama also stressed in his speech the importance of ensuring freedom of religion and of women to enjoy equal status with men in these turbulent Arab societies.  While churches have been burned and Coptic Christians slaughtered in Egypt, and Christians everywhere concerned about their future in these revolutionary Arab states, Bethlehem is no longer a Christian city.  Because of Muslim harassment, Christians who have the means have fled the country.  And has the PA honored its commitment as part of the Oslo “peace” agreement to allow Jews access to their holy sites?  Well, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is surrounded by a heavily secure bunker to protect worshipers and pilgrims from attack, there is a long list of Jewish worshipers denied access to Joseph’s Tomb in Ramallah, and just a couple of weeks ago a Palestinian policeman shot and murdered a Jewish worshiper at the tomb (yelling “Allahu akbar!” as he did so), so it’s apparent they haven’t.  As for equal rights for women – well, in Arab society, that’s as likely as a peaceful gay pride parade through the streets of Mecca.

And regarding Israel and the Arabs here, Obama repeats the same slogans he has always repeated: the need to cast off “the burdens of the past,” the unsustainability of the status quo, the need of Arabs to “recognize” Israel, and the need of Israel to take “bold” steps for peace.  These have been used in speeches so often, I’m not even sure what they mean anymore.  The “burdens of the past” seems to be a euphemism for history, and that cannot be changed or ignored by anyone, least of all Jews and Arabs with long memories.  (Americans, on the other hand, have a well-earned reputation for forgetting history.)  It is undesirable to continue things the way they are, but since they’ve been this way for 44 years (longer, if one’s memory or knowledge of history goes back before 1967), why is davka this year the year things much change, especially when none of the other factors have altered?  Arabs could save a huge amount of time by simply saying they recognize Israel, then reneging on that recognition and proceeding with their plans to destroy it.  (I’m surprised they haven’t thought of this, since reneging on promises is something they’ve elevated to a fine art.)  And Israel’s “bold steps” always involve more territorial concessions and lower security, which result in wars and increased terror attacks.

But when hope springs eternal, and the hopeful have been encouraged by what they believe will be positive changes across the Middle East, it’s hard to contain one’s enthusiasm.  When dictators are in peril, it can only mean one thing to hopeful people: the dawn of universal democracy and peace.  Simple regime change, from one corrupt, oppressive, power-hungry regime to another, is not part of Obama’s imagined outcome of the Arab Spring, but rather the belief that a “region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just a few leaders – must believe peace is possible.”  “Must” believe it possible – the language of hope, not certainty (or even likelihood).

Where I think Obama nails reality is in a comment he makes about how the “international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome.”  That’s really it, isn’t it?  I’ve suspected for years that the occasional frenzies of American presidents to solve the problems of the Middle East (using the same language, tactics, demands every time) are really an attempt to get the problem off everyone’s desk.  The fact that none of them seems to understand the problems here, and that no one can be bothered to adhere to prior agreements (the San Remo Conference, UNSC Resolution 242, Oslo) is a damper and a side issue which is more comfortable to overlook than to overcome.  When talks break down over real issues, the international community chooses to take it as a personal affront, as though Arab incitement and Jewish settlement building take place for no other reason than to undo the international community’s hard work.

In trying to be seen as an impartial broker, Obama may see it as his job to overlook these issues, but from Israel’s perspective, this is irresponsible and flies in the face of his professed friendship for Israel.  An effective foreign policy necessitates knowing one’s enemy.  I’m sure America turned a cold, analytical eye on Bin Laden, his activities and his movements, and this eventually reaped the reward of finding and killing him.  But Israel, too, knows its enemies.  It lives next door (and sometimes among) us.  We have had long experience with them, some peaceful and fruitful, but much deadly and dangerous.  We know what they teach their kids.  We know from polls how they feel about suicide bombings (68% support them), Palestinian suffering (71% blame the Jews for Arab suffering after 1948), and Israelis in general (over 62% “believe Jews are a foreign imprint on the Middle East and are destined to be replaced by Palestinians,” with a similar percentage believing that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state).  We know how they feel about terrorism (the PA recently named a square in Ramallah for Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist responsible for the deaths of 37 civilians inside the Green Line, and the PA has just passed a law granting convicted Palestinian and Israeli Arab terrorists in Israeli prisons monthly salaries, with those serving sentences of more than 20 years receiving higher salaries, to be paid from the day of arrest until release).  Obama’s call for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders (including land swaps), which was already worked out in 2000 and again in 2008 and still rejected by the Arabs, is simply a return to the borders that led to the 1967 war.  With his own statement, that “technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself,” how many more of these wars does he think Israel can survive?  (See this video for a tutorial on why the 1949 Armistic lines, aka the June 4, 1967 borders are indefensible; hat tip: Westbankmama).  And how does Obama think a Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be “contiguous” without some arrangement for travel between them through Israeli territory?

The real upshot of Obama’s talk of borders and security as preconditions to talks is more of what bothers me about the whole “peace process”: Arabs get land, and Jews get promises.  Land, once given, cannot be taken back.  Promises once made are easily broken and, like the San Remo Resolution, forgotten by the rest of the world.  Obama talks of “provisions … to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security,” and in the next sentence calls for the “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces … with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility.”  More promises, and more farfetched assumptions.  For Israel to trust that the people sworn to its destruction are to be handed control of the borders with Arab states that have so far (at least in Egypt, and weak Jordan could just as easily join in) proved highly cooperative in importing weapons and materiel to Palestinian terrorists to be used against Israel is wildly optimistic at best, mad at worst.  And the final two gut-wrenching issues, i.e. the future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees (using the current UN revised definition which includes all descendents of those displaced by the war), involve, again, the Jews giving the Arabs stuff in exchange for – what?  More promises?

There have been alternative peace plans suggested by right-wing Israelis (to annex the West Bank and either make the Arabs there citizens or not) and, of course, there is the Arab longterm strategy, which is to challenge Israel’s legitimacy in international fora with a view toward chipping away at Israel’s territory, rights of self defense, and perhaps very existence.  (A body which, they believe, voted a noxious country into existence can just as easily vote it out of existence.)

I don’t have a solution that will please everyone.  I don’t necessarily know what would end the conflict forever (short of a major change in the Palestinian Arab narrative, or universal Israeli withdrawal to the Mediterranean).  What I do know is that the current peace plans represent concession of too much land for Israelis, and too much peace for the Arabs.  Exchanging land for hopes, promises, and “assurances,” as that done with Egypt, Gaza, and southern Lebanon, and their accompanying failures, should be remembered before Israel is pressured to accept any more such arrangements.

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Nakba review

Well, another year, another Nakba Day celebrated, this one with a truck rampage in Tel Aviv (killing one and injuring tens), burning cars and dumpsters in Arab neighborhoods, clashes with IDF all over the country, and attempted border infiltrations from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.  One Arab teen reportedly died from his injuries in a riot (and, as frequently happens, no one has produced a stiff to prove it), and there are several dead from border infiltration attempts, though whether those were killed by IDF or Southern Lebanese Army is also uncertain.  (The Syrian army at the border did nothing to stop infiltrators into Israel.)  By all measures, this year’s Great Pity Party of Bogus Narrative and Self-Inflicted Misery was a rousing success.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas says it’s a turning point in the Israeli-Arab conflict and proves that Arabs are committed to ending the occupation, and let’s be clear what “occupation” means: When Israel offers to swap land for peace, that won’t end the occupation.  The occupation is not Israel’s control over lands won from Jordan, Syria and Egypt in 1967.  It’s the existence of Israel on the land from the Green Line to the Mediterranean since 1948.  It’s why there’s a Nakba Day every year, it’s why the Arabs have refused every offer of a state made to them, and it’s why Abbas has said that no Jew will ever be allowed to live in a Palestinian state.  (He doesn’t comment on Arabs living in a Jewish state because to him, no Jewish state has a right to exist, and the Palestinian state he aspires to found will comprise all the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, judenfrei.)  No, the occupation will end when Israel as a sovereign state comes to an end.  This is why pedestrians and motorists in Tel Aviv are targeted, Israel’s borders are disregarded by infiltrators from neighboring countries, and the dead dubbed “martyrs” instead of the rioters that they are.

Whether or not the day’s destruction actually reaps benefits for the Arabs long term, it has made their leadership happy to see their friends and constituents wreak havoc, make asses of themselves, and get killed, because no matter how they behave or how many laws they break, Israel will always get the blame.  (Remember when Israeli soldiers were fired upon from across the Lebanese border last August for simply pruning the bushes?  Israel is already accused of violating international law by firing at rioters trying to cross its borders.)

In the words of the inimitable 5-year-old Banana, “Ach!  When is the Moshiach going to come already?  The Arabs are so annoying!”  (She doesn’t know the half of it.)

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The other night, the Cap’n and I watched Timothy Spall in the 2005 film, “Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman.”  Besides being a die-hard Spall fan (I loved him in “Chicken Run,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “All Or Nothing,” and “Shooting the Past”), I had heard a friend praise the film itself.

Based somewhat loosely on the story of Albert Pierrepoint, at one time Great Britain’s premiere executioner in the final days of capital punishment, the action of the film spans Pierrepoint’s application to the Prison Commissioners, his training and longstanding employment with them, including his commission by Field Marshal Montgomery to fly to Germany to preside over the executions of Nazi war criminals.

One of the things the filmmakers sought to emphasize in the film was Pierrepoint’s ethos regarding the corpses of the hanged convicts.  He explains to his assistant that the reason he performs the task of preparing the corpses for burial himself, rather than letting the mortuary staff do it, is because he believes the mortuary staff would not treat the bodies with respect.  In a later scene, to his military assistant in Germany, he becomes indignant and irritable when they execute 13 Nazi war criminals in one day, but are only provided 12 coffins in which to bury the corpses.  (The thirteenth, he is told, is to be shrouded and dumped into a grave sans coffin.)  He vehemently asserts his belief that no matter who they were or what they did, they have paid the price and that once they are hanged, the body is innocent and should be treated with respect.  His insistence on this point convinces the assistant, who slinks off to find another coffin.

While the highly principled Pierrepoint (and I’m talking here about the film Pierrepoint, not the real one who appears to have been more self-serving and slippery) takes pride in his work, using planning and precision to effect the quickest, most instantaneous death, never concerning himself with the crimes his subjects had committed, and always showing compassion for his subjects’ fear of death (even in Germany), the job takes an increasing toll on him as time passes.  The stress he feels as a result of the unprecedented number of hangings he performs in Germany is further ramped up when he finds himself executing a man who maintains his innocence to the end (one of the historically accurate details in the film), and another, a longtime acquaintance of his, who murdered the woman who jilted him in a moment of passion.  When the film ends with a quotation from Pierrepoint’s 1974 autobiography, “I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people,” the filmmakers seek to show that Pierrepoint had become an opponent of the practice.

These two issues, respect for the corpse and capital punishment, make for an interesting paradox.  Is it possible to have both?  Are there some crimes (mass murder, for example) for which capital punishment is appropriate, and others (first degree murder) for which it is not?  Where does terrorism fall in this?  As premeditated murder, part of a genocidal movement, or something else?  Eichmann was exposed as a wholehearted supporter of the Final Solution and convicted on overwhelming evidence.  He was hanged and buried at sea.  Bin Laden was not tried, though his hand was clearly visible in the murders of 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, and after being killed in a raid in Pakistan, he too was buried at sea.  What if Khaled Mashaal or Hassan Nasrallah were to be apprehended alive?  What would they deserve?  Life imprisonment or swimming with the fishes?

And what about kavod hamet (respect for the corpse)?  Sea burial is respectable and prevents the grave site from becoming a shrine to the twisted faithful.  And publishing photographs of corpses?  The Fogel family chose to allow photographs of the bloodied family members (minus Ruth, the mother) to be posted on the Web.  The horror of reading what had happened to them was increased manifold by the photos of the corpses.  To anyone who questioned the humanity of settlers, or tried to explain away the murder of a family as “frustration” at the “occupation,” the photos bore witness to the naked savagery and boundless hatred of the murderers.  So what would publishing photos of a bullet-riddled bin Laden show?  Justice?  Closure?  Simple verification of the kill?  The comment section on a recent Westbankmama post debates the merits of this issue, and while I’m not impressed with the argument of it as a deterrent against crime or compromising the dignity of the corpse (that was buried at sea), I think perhaps its value in debunking conspiracy theories (before they fester into “facts”) is worth considering.

It’s highly unlikely that Israel will have the opportunity to repeat the capture and trial of a major actor like Eichmann again.  None of the high-profile, heavily-guarded figures who seek Israel’s destruction would have any interest in being captured alive, and while there are certainly opponents to targeted killings, I prefer them to drawn-out celebrity trials and orderly executions or imprisonment.  The German conviction of John Demjanjuk, a guard at Sobibor, the other day was suspended pending appeal, and the 91-year-old Nazi will now walk free, most likely for the rest of his days.  There’s also an honesty to simply killing one’s enemies when they’re self-professed combatants, use the language of war to describe their relationship to Israel (and everything else), and violate every law of war and humanity in working toward their ends.  The new face of war is no longer uniformed soldiers engaging a uniformed enemy and observing the Geneva Conventions.  As such, the targeting of masterminds and leaders seems appropriate, and the questions that arise in this context are no longer “whether” but “when” and “how.”

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For those struggling with the long history and intricacies of Middle Eastern politics, Michael Totten (an independent journalist who appears in my blogroll and about whom I once blogged) appears on the show “Uncommon Knowledge” to break it down for you (in the embedded video below).  He also recently authored a book entitled The Road To Fatima Gate, his exploration of the current political state of Lebanon with the information and analysis of a journalist but written, critics have said, like a novel.    (You can read excerpts from it, as well as several reviews, on Michael’s blog.)

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Upon sitting down to my computer this morning, I was besieged by news stories, Facebook entries, and blog posts reporting and commenting on the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination by the United States Special Forces.  While I refrained from singing, dancing in the streets, and passing out candy (like some people I could name), I did permit myself a smile and a warm, fuzzy feeling all day thinking that the world had one less malignant fanatic in it.

While I concur with some people who have said that this will make no difference, that it will in no way stop the momentum of Islamic genocidal designs on the world, Michael Totten points out that it in no way hurts us, and in no way benefits Al Qaeda.  True enough.

But one of the more incisive comments I saw was put out by my rav in Newton, who wrote the following in a post to the shul’s list:

While I would not deny a victory song and dance to the families of the victims of 9/11 or to our armed forces and to our Commander-in-Chief, my own prayer of thanksgiving was not of celebration but of somber relief and satisfaction that no matter how dark the times, no matter how dastardly and destructive the crimes, in the end good will prevail and justice will be served.

It is this same sentiment that I gleaned from having read Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt’s extraordinary new book on The Eichmann Trial, whose 50th anniversary is being commemorated this year.  I had the great privilege of travelling to Poland and Budapest on a heritage tour with the ever amazing Prof. Lipstadt just a few years ago.  Adolf Eichmann was a transportation specialist who applied and honed his expertise in commercial shipping to the mass transportation of the human chattel of Jews to concentration camps during the Shoah.  I was not yet born in 1961 (I was born in 1968) and have no experience or memory of the trial.  Upon reading Lipstadt’s riveting account, I was, at first, but then not really, surprised to learn that Israel was attacked in the news media for its own strike against one of the masterminds of the Holocaust.   As opposed to a strategic assassination as in the case of Bin Laden, Israel apprehended Eichmann from his safe haven in Argentina and then brought him to justice through a comprehensive trial in Jerusalem.   While many celebrated Israel’s bold capture of one of the worst war criminals, Israel was also, at least at first, excoriated by significant media outlets in the US and world press, for example, the Washington Post and Time Magazine, for “animal vengeance” and the administration of “jungle law” (p. 24 ff).   Bin Laden and Eichmann alike were buried at sea to prevent their burial sites from becoming sites of pilgrimage and veneration (p. 147).  Lipstadt’s book is worth reading for her gripping narrative of Eichmann’s capture and trial, as well as her trenchant analysis and critique of Hannah Arendt’s legacy.  Lipstadt’s thesis and contribution to Holocaust studies, however, is that the Eichmann trial empowered, encouraged and validated survivor testimony ultimately enabling the survivors themselves to shape the ongoing memory and memorialization of the Shoah.

It is worth noting that while NATO in Libya and the US in Pakistan can get away with summary execution and collateral damage (i.e. the deaths of non-dangerous civilians), Israel gets broadsided at the UN for doing just that with Hamas terrorists.  Yom HaShoah v’HaGvurah is as good a time as any to renew our determination to defend ourselves, no matter what anyone else says.

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The moralist

David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, never fails to impress me.  His Friday columns, sometimes commentary and insight, sometimes incisive interviews, always inform, always lend perspective to the complexities of life in Israel.  But last Friday’s interview with Asa Kasher, a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University who has advised the IDF and co-written its Code of Ethics, may well be the best thing he’s done yet.  (While I didn’t agree with everything Kasher says, JoeSettler on the Muqata blog has a more detailed critique of Kasher which is worth reading for an alternate perspective.)

One often hears supporters of Israel boast that the IDF is the most moral army in the world.  But what does it mean to be a “moral army”, and further still, the “most moral army in the world”?  Horovitz and Kasher’s conversation (which took up nearly three full pages—no advertising—of the paper; it’s good to be the editor) fleshes out that claim.  Here is the article link, but as it is very long, I’ll treat you to a few highlights.

A state is obligated to ensure effective protection of its citizens’ lives. In fact, it’s more than just life. It is an obligation to ensure the citizens’ well-being and their capacity to go about their lives. A citizen of a state must be able to live normally. To send the kids to school in the morning. To go shopping. To go to work. To go out in the evening. A routine way of life. Nothing extraordinary. The state is obliged to protect that.

At the same time, the moral foundation of a democratic state is respect for human dignity. Human dignity must be respected in all circumstances. And to respect human dignity in all circumstances means, among other things, to be sensitive to human life in all circumstances. Not just the lives of the citizens of your state. Everybody.

One important distinction Kasher makes is between “innocent” civilians and “non-dangerous” civilians.  In any Arab territory where Israel’s enemies dig in, there are likely to be Arab civilians who support the work of Israel’s enemies.  They may willingly give over their property to the terrorists, help and sustain them, or do nothing more than agree with their methods and their goals.  As long as they are not actively firing on Israel, they are considered “non-dangerous” and harming them must be avoided as much as possible.  This does not make these people innocent, but it does distinguish between their intentions and their actions.

In addition to being highly conscious of the necessity to maintain human dignity and disrupt the lives of civilians as little as possible while fighting combatants in their midst, Kasher and the IDF have reevaluated their attitude toward putting Israeli soldiers in harm’s way.  In the past, as in an action carried out in Jenin in 2002, where soldiers were sent into a highly dangerous situation to try to avoid civilian casualties.  As a result, 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush there.  Kasher looks back on that decision as a mistake, and has this to say about the new thinking regarding sending soldiers into potentially deadly situations:

But if a neighbor (a civilian living in a terrorist-infested area) doesn’t want to leave, he turns himself into the human shield of the terrorist. He has become part of the war. And I’m sorry, but I may have to harm him when I try to stop the terrorist. I’ll do my best not to. But it may be that in the absence of all other alternatives, I may hurt him. I certainly don’t see a good reason to endanger the lives of soldiers in a case like that.

Sometimes people don’t understand this. They think of soldiers as, well, instruments. They think that soldiers are there to be put into danger, that soldiers are there to take risks, that this is their world, this is their profession. But that is so far from the reality in Israel, where most of the soldiers are in the IDF because service is mandatory and reserve service is mandatory. Even with a standing army, you have to take moral considerations into account. But that is obviously the case when service is compulsory: I, the state, sent them into battle. I, the state, took them out of their homes. Instead of him going to university or going to work, I put a uniform on him, I trained him, and I dispatched him. If I am going to endanger him, I owe him a very, very good answer as to why. After all, as I said, this is a democratic state that is obligated to protect its citizens. How dare I endanger him?

. . .

And why did we send them to that particular theoretical house we’ve been discussing? Because there were armed terrorists in it who were attacking Israel. There was no choice. But now you want to send soldiers into that house just in case, by chance, there’s still someone inside, who doesn’t want to leave. You want me to send in soldiers to pull him out? Why? Why do I owe him that? I have issued so many warnings and this man has refused to come out. I haven’t got a strong enough reason to tell that soldier he has to go in. This man has been warned five times and decided not to leave. Therefore he took the danger upon himself. After all those warnings, one has to act against the terrorists and those of his neighbors who have decided not to leave, and not endanger the lives of the soldiers.

Kasher also adds that timing plays a large role in deciding when to act to combat terrorists:

I can always ask myself, in all kinds of circumstances, maybe there’s a different way to stop this terrorist or that attack. Maybe I have more time. If there’s time, if there’s an alternative means, then that’s fine. When he was IDF chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon once said that he prevented a targeted strike at [Hamas military commander Salah] Shehadeh when his daughter was right next to him. (Shehadeh was eventually killed in a targeted strike in 2002, in which 14 other people were killed, including his wife and nine children. Then prime minister Sharon later said he would have aborted the operation had it been realized that it would cause those other fatalities.) Ya’alon evidently knew there would be another opportunity and that he could take the risk of waiting longer to strike. It wasn’t now or never.

In response to the charge of “disproportionality,” particularly surrounding Israel’s prosecution of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009, he has this to say:

The world in general doesn’t have a clue what proportionality is. Proportionality, first of all, is not about numbers. The question of proportionality, according to international law, is whether the military benefit justifies the collateral damage. And secondly, also according to international law, it is a consideration for the commander in the field, because only the commander in the field can make the judgment: What does he gain from what he’s about to do and what is the collateral damage he is likely to cause? With Israel, we fire and two minutes later, the UN secretary-general is already accusing us of using disproportionate force. On what basis does he make that assumption? How can he possibly know?

With flotillas forming to bring “humanitarian aid” to Gaza, an Iranian arms shipment recently intercepted in the Mediterranean, and accusations that Gaza is an “open air prison,” Kasher points out the following:

Since they are arming themselves relentlessly, via weapons-laden ships, via the tunnels, my self-defense requires those controls. I don’t want to have to depend on Iron Dome to shoot down the missile. I want the missile not to reach Gaza from Iran in the first place. So I maintain the sea blockade, which is unquestionably legitimate according to all the laws of war at sea, to prevent them from bringing in the weaponry. And the same goes for the land crossings. We don’t allow free access, because it is likely to endanger us.

We have “effective control” at the borders – on what goes in and out. But we don’t have effective control inside. Hamas is the de facto government of Gaza; Hamas has effective control there. And therefore Hamas is responsible for the fact that there are terrorists mixed in with their non-dangerous neighbors. They carry the responsibility for that.

International law is constantly invoked against Israel, which is accused of violating it every time it takes measures to protect its citizens from the threats of terrorism (despite the fact that at security conferences on targeted killings and other military matters, no country’s representatives have disagreed with Kasher’s views, including the Red Cross).  Kasher explains how the current landscape of warfare diverges from the assumptions behind international law:

International law was created … amid assumptions that war was a case of army against army. Uniformed forces. Civilians at the side. In those circumstances, what’s accepted internationally is acceptable to us. By and large people respect this. These are laws that apply to classic war situations.

But now, when we are in a war with organizations, not states, all the assumptions collapse. Why are states signed up to international treaties? For reasons of political prudence, not high morality: If I don’t harm his civilians, he won’t harm my civilians, and we’ll both benefit. If I won’t kill his prisoners, he won’t kill my prisoners; I won’t fire chemical weapons at him, and he won’t fire chemical weapons at me. It’s all reciprocity.

But now, in our situations, there is no reciprocity. Israel is always trying to minimize the collateral damage it causes its enemies, and its enemies are always trying to maximize the damage – not collateral; they are really aiming for the citizens.

This takes us back to where this interview started: It doesn’t mean Israel will now act in the way its enemies do. But you see now that Israel has to act according to its interests and its standards, and not according to some kind of picture that is common to Israeli and its enemies. This whole notion of reciprocity has disappeared.

The powers that be outside Israel are always urging Israel to take “risks for peace,” to exchange land for a promise of a change in behavior (usually with a despotic, corrupt, non-representative government acting without a popular mandate which can easily be overthrown, as we saw recently with Egypt), and to trust Israel’s security to apathetic parties like UNIFIL in Lebanon, which has done nothing to protect Israel’s security as Hizbullah has carried out terror attacks and steadily rearmed itself in Southern Lebanon.  Kasher’s views on Israel’s need to defend itself, despite all this urging to risk our security is in the following statement:

I was born here and my parents came here long before World War II. I didn’t go through the Holocaust. My wife did. My wife is a survivor. What lesson do I learn from World War II? That we cannot rely on anybody else. That when it’s time to protect ourselves, there’s no one else we can rely on. And we have no exemption, ever, from thinking about how best to protect ourselves. And if the enemy puts children on all the roofs of the buildings from which it fires on us, we will not capitulate to them. It’s a tragic situation, but we won’t capitulate.

There is much more to this article than I’ve excerpted here, and for those wishing to educate themselves on the way war is being prosecuted against terrorist, non-national entities, on the IDF, its decision-making and  its operations, and on the ethics involved in current conflicts, this is the best thing I’ve come across ever.

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Baruch dayan haemet

Refael Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar, the 16 year old Beit Shemesh boy critically injured in the recent missile attack on a school bus by Gaza terrorists, succumbed to his injuries and passed away yesterday.

In slightly better news (but only slightly), the exhaustive joint Shin Bet, IDF, and police investigation into the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar last month at last turned up two teenage vermin from the Arab village of Awarta.  The unrepentant teens, spawn of families with terrorist histories and rap-sheets, said they hoped to die martyrs, but they have it backwards; the Fogels died martyrs, and they will simply enjoy the good life in Israeli prison with the rest of their ilk who have been caught.

However, I would like to make an offer to any other would-be martyr: Come to my house, and I’ll be glad to help you die.  For free.

I don’t like going into the seder thinking more about Amalek than Yitziat Mitzrayim, but one did eventually lead to the other, and as Rav Binny Freedman said in his parasha shiur last Shabbat, the Exodus is not the end; it’s only the beginning.

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The 16 year old boy critically injured in last week’s anti-tank missile attack on a school bus in Israel (the son of the lovely people who owned the Chinese restaurant in Beit Shemesh where we used to eat) is fighting for his life in Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva.  Please pray for Refael Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar.  (The Refael was added to his name as a result of this life-threatening injury.  May he be granted a refuah shleima.)

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Dying to oneself

My mind has been on the murder of the Fogel family every day, for much of the day, since it happened.  This has not necessarily been a good thing, but it’s been something I cannot really prevent.  The images of the bloodied bodies in their beds (or on the floor next to their beds) remain burned on my memory, as do the words of the family at the funeral and since.

Eulogizing his younger brother Udi (the slain 36-year-old father), Motti Fogel said, “A man dies to himself, to his children. Udi, you are not a national event. Your horrible death mustn’t make your life into a tool.”

I can imagine that the extended family might have felt conflicting emotions at having 20,000 people (about the same number as attended Beethoven’s funeral) show up for the Fogel family’s funeral in Jerusalem.  On the one hand, they may have been comforted by the show of solidarity, support, and grief shared by so many fellow Israelis.  On the other hand, in their own shock and sadness, they might have preferred a much smaller, quieter funeral without so much press interest and speech-making by politicians.

The fact is that despite Motti Fogel’s statement that this was not a national or a political event, to everyone outside the family, that’s exactly what it was.  It was politics that led these subhuman creatures to commit this murder.  It was politics that created the climate of hatred that thrives throughout Palestinian Arab society.  It was politics that has led to decreased security for settlers and increased tolerance of attacks against Jews throughout Israel (not just against settlers, but against residents of any place targeted by Arab gunmen, terrorists in bulldozers, or Hamas missiles).  It was politics that led Ehud Barak to extend the housing freeze in capitulation to American pressure and naïve foreign policy, giving comfort and encouragement to the rest of the world’s Israel- and settler-bashing, including the Arab world’s.

The Fogels, Ben-Yishais, and the rest of their family have a job to do.  It is to comfort one another, pick up the pieces, and find a way to go on with their lives, adjusting to this painful new reality.  Ruthie’s father says this is a test of his faith; 12-year-old Tamar says she understands the challenge ahead of her, and that she will be strong and be a mother to her surviving younger brothers.  With Hashem’s help, they will find the strength they need to do what they must.

The rest of Israel has a different job to do.  It is to view the murders (with or without the photos) in the greater context of how Israel is conducting itself.  Spiritually, Rav Binny Friedman suggests a nationwide call for teshuva (examination of our lives and resolve to improve our own conduct).  Are we Israelis, as individuals and a society, conducting ourselves at the highest standards we possibly can?  Are we treating one another, in the public and private spheres, as we ought?  Are we making this Jewish State a state for all Jews?  Are we keeping the mitzvot, especially those that command us to care for one another?  Are we working to build a country that can function as a light unto the nations?

Politically, this incident is a wake-up call to the status quo, both in the smaller picture and the bigger picture.  Does Itamar (and the other settlements) have the security system it needs?  (The security guard was alerted that something had breached the perimeter fence, but wrote it off as animals, which frequently penetrate the fence.)  Perhaps it’s time the Israeli government put a little more effort into protecting its citizens (especially one of the current government’s chief voting blocks, the settlements) and a little less in jeopardizing those citizens with foolhardy “confidence-building gestures” like dismantling roadblocks.  And the Israeli government must find the perpetrators of this crime.  If traditional methods don’t work, perhaps Israel should consider less traditional methods.  (Here’s my favorite, courtesy of Treppenwitz.)  And in the larger picture, Israel must ask itself some tough questions.  Do we resume building in the settlements, or do we continue the farce of peace talks with a partner that educates its people to do exactly what was done to the Fogels?  Do we take some action to hold the PA responsible for its blanket policy of incitement throughout the society under its control?  Do we reevaluate the nature of our possession of the West Bank altogether, perhaps considering other alternatives than holding it in escrow for the creation of yet another hostile Arab state on our borders?  (Here’s an interesting take on that.)

There isn’t a soul in Israel who doesn’t wish that the Fogels had lived to a ripe old age, seen their children grow up (or grown up themselves), danced at their weddings, and cuddled their grandchildren.  The fact that they will not now is something which affects every Israeli, both spiritually and politically, in much the same way as the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006.  The fact that the Shalits have chosen to be public figures and campaign worldwide for their son’s release is understandable (whether or not one agrees with their methods or demands).  But ultimately, Gilad’s capture and confinement (both in violation of international law, which Hamas sees as a joke) is something that greater Israeli society has to deal with in its own way, weighing the cost of having him in captivity, the possible cost of getting him released, and other alternatives to getting him home.  (Let’s watch the situation of the Gazan engineer kidnapped in the Ukraine and jailed in Israel to see if that develops into a hostage exchange situation.)  That is as excruciating, in its way, as the loss of the Fogels, and one of the many painful facts that Israelis, publicly and privately, have to live with.

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Part of getting used to living in Israel is getting used to the feelings of shock, horror, sadness, rage, and helplessness that follow the all-too-frequent terror attacks that happen here.  Since making aliyah, we have met families whose sons were killed in the IDF while fighting terrorists, families who have lost members in terror attacks, as well as families who were saved when terror attacks failed.  How the families of the murdered bury their loved ones and carry on eludes me, and I stand amazed at their strength.  As I watch helplessly, knowing there is nothing I can do to heal their wounds, the stories that comfort me most are those of love, support, and generosity from unlikely quarters.

As I saw on the Efrat chat list, and JoeSettler on the Muqata blog confirms, Israeli supermarket chain mogul Rami Levy (who recently opened a store in Gush Etzion to mixed reviews) has been delivering food to the Fogel shiva, and has promised to continue to provision the family with weekly food and supplies until the youngest orphan (now two) turns 18.

There are more than enough evil people in the world to commit the kinds of atrocities that were visited upon the Fogels, and even more people who are eager to explain them away, make excuses for the killers, blame the victims, and stomp on the memories of the fallen.  It only makes those whose acts of chesed help to wash away a little of the stain of human iniquity all the more blessed.

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Clockwise from upper left: Ruth, Udi, Hadas, Yoav, and Elad Fogel

The massacre of the Fogel family (parents, 11-year-old son, four-year-old son, and four-month-old daughter) in Itamar has utterly preoccupied my thoughts in the last few days.  I have had so many thoughts churning in my head about what happened, how it came about, and where it’s taking us next, that I’ve had difficulty functioning normally.  I suppose that in itself is normal.  Here are some of the things that have been brewing in my mind.

Thought No. 1: Photos of the massacre

The extended family opted to release photos (faces blurred; stab wounds, blood, disarray of bodies visible) of the carnage.  Normally, I can’t bear to look at such things; I usually feel as though the knowledge of the atrocity is enough.  But because the Internet is covered with pictures of dead Arabs (some real, others undoubtedly fake or misrepresented), I believed it was my duty to honor the family’s decision by viewing them myself.  If you are prepared to be hit by an anvil of emotion, I advise you to view them.  This is not voyeurism; it’s what the Fogels’ own surviving children saw, and it acknowledges the reality of what we face as Jews in the form of ecstatic hatred by our Arab neighbors.  No doubt some Arabs are equally horrified by what happened, but they will remain silent and do nothing to hold their own society accountable for it.  The rest of us must witness this crime and call it what it is: a manifestation of the most barbaric form of war.  A Mother in Israel has links to the photos from her post here, and Jameel at the Muqata uploaded a video about the massacre on his blog, which includes the chain of events, family photos, the names and ages of the victims,  and photos of the crime scene.  (These links will take you to the blogs, not directly to the photos; proceed to the links and video at your own discretion, but please do NOT view them with children in the room.)

Thought No. 2: The Israeli government’s response to the massacre

In response to the massacre of the Fogel family, the Israeli government has decided to approve building plans for hundreds of new apartments in major settlement blocs.

Forgive me if I don’t fall all over myself in gratitude.

Why the bilious response to this show of generosity on the part of Netanyahu’s government?  Because building should have been resumed throughout Yehuda and Shomron months ago, as soon as the one-time, 10-month building freeze expired.  Instead, Ehud Barak has refused to issue new building tenders to the main settlement blocs (although Westbankmama informs me that building in the smaller settlements resumed normally), effectively extending the freeze in the stupidest possible way, i.e. so that housing and rental prices in the settlements were driven sky-high artificially, but on the Q.T. so Israel wasn’t getting credit for any “confidence-building” gestures towards the PA.

So now the government shows that only the spilling of Jewish blood can override Barak’s personal Leftie politics in the government.  Why?  Has Netanyahu suddenly lost respect for his former IDF commander?  Is it in response to a new stain on Barak’s character, with the opening of an investigation of Mrs. Ehud Barak for hiring an illegal worker as a housekeeper?  Or is it because the scales suddenly fell from Netanyahu’s eyes and he realized that Israel has no peace partner, and it’s absurd to pretend that he does?

I hope it’s the last of these.  While the press and the Left (Jewish and non-) lie in wait to decry any form of incitement on the part of Israelis, and pounces if a group of rabbis announces

Arabs pass out candy to celebrate the massacre of the Fogel family

that Jews shouldn’t rent or sell homes to Arabs, it has said nothing about the decades-long incitement to murder (not just refusal to rent; murder) spewed forth from mosques and drilled into children’s heads in Arab schools.  Even when it bears its bitter fruit, as it did in Itamar (and has in a past slaughter of an Itamar family; their edginess doesn’t come from nowhere), no one on the Left seems interested in where it came from.  When Palestinians kill (which is frequently), it’s from frustration.  When Jews kill (which is almost never), it’s extremism.  (Just read the comments following online articles about the massacre: when it’s about the family, people are sympathetic; when it’s about the IDF being called out to prevent revenge attacks, the “illegal” settlers are thugs, extremists, animals, and deserve everything they get, including the murders.)

The world’s collective moral compass needs recalibrating.  Settlement in Yehuda and Shomron has been declared legal by many international law experts, and those who repeat ad nauseum that they are illegal (or illegitimate; what IS the difference, Hillary?) stand on shaky, highly selective legal ground, at best.  Because what this delusion leads to is a double-standard which says that Arabs killing Jews is understandable, but Jews killing Arabs is criminal; that Jewish families who are murdered in their beds only got what was coming to them (just as women who are raped while jogging at night only get what’s coming to them); and that Arabs need not obey the law, but Jews always must.

Thought No. 3: Condemnation

I have one further thought on this for today, and that is the condemnations that have been issued from various quarters.  Condemnations are meaningless words, not actions.  Carefully worded condemnations have been issued from PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas.  Those are hollow words, considering everything those two have done to nurture bloodlust and Jew-hatred among the people they pretend to represent.  Here is an article that examines just a few of the activities under the aegis of the Palestinian Authority in recent days that encourage and glorify the slaughter of Israelis.  Some highlights:

  • Two months ago, Abbas awarded $2000 to the family of an Arab who attacked and tried to kill Israeli soldiers.
  • The day before the Fogel massacre, an adviser to Abbas delivered a speech saying that weapons must be turned toward the main enemy and that internal differences must be set aside.  He criticized the paltry allowances awarded to families of terrorist “martyrs” and praised the PA’s honoring of female terrorist Dalal Mughrabi by naming a square after her in the town of El-Bireh.
  • A PA newspaper recently announced the creation of a football tournament in Ramallah named in honor of another female terrorist, Wafa Idris, who used her position as a Palestinian Red Crescent volunteer to bypass Israeli security, enter Jerusalem, and blow herself up, killing one and injuring over 150 on January 27, 2002.
  • The PA recently commemorated some of the terrorists who came from the Dahaishe refugee camp (located right next to Efrat) and murdered Israelis in March of 2002 with a march through the camp, ending at the family home of a suicide bomber who killed nine Israelis.
  • At a recent gathering to celebrate 46 years since the founding of Fatah, the group restated its aim to achieve the goals for which it was established, read aloud its call for “self-sacrifice” (i.e. terror attacks against Israel), watched some military and scout demonstrations, and blew up a model of Israeli settlements.

If good people really want to condemn this kind of violence and celebration of murder of innocents, the way to do it is to investigate where your country’s, your church’s, and your own money is going.  Does your country support the Palestinian Authority?  Chances are, it does.  Perhaps you and other concerned citizens should call on your governments to reevaluate whether the PA shares your country’s values in areas such as human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, rule of law, a real justice system, and hate-free education.  Are they funding NGOs that seek to delegitimize the state of Israel, providing fodder for Arab attacks (with words, bombs, and sometimes, knives) against innocent civilians?  Does your church give to organizations that fund youth centers which indoctrinate Arab children in violence, like this one funded by an Australian church?  Are they, directly or indirectly, funding terror and jihad on your own country’s soil?  If you find your money is being funneled into activities (and crimes) you don’t approve of, stop giving, and tell others.

Terror costs money; is it being paid for with yours?

Funeral for Fogel family in Jerusalem

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On Friday night, as Israelis enjoyed a restful Sabbath, Arab terrorists entered a Jewish home and murdered five family members (parents and three children, including a four-month-old baby) in their beds.  (Two other young children sleeping in another part of the house survived, and a 12-year-old daughter came home late from Bnei Akiva and found her family slaughtered.)  As I scanned through a few of the hundreds of thousands of comments following the online articles, I repeatedly came across good people who questioned what kind of person does such a thing.

Sometimes, especially in the cases of lone killers, these questions are nearly impossible to answer.  But not this time.  There is an answer, and it’s been staring everyone in the face for decades, if only people had had their eyes open.

The Arabs have never accepted the legitimacy of Jews in this part of the world.  Since its imperial conquest by Arabs in the years following the invention of Islam, Arabs have considered Palestine (not called that at the time, mind) Arab land, disregarding any prior Jewish claim to the land, or indeed any other power’s control (Ottoman, British) over it.  Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,  adding to the small but very established Jewish population that was here and had never left, was considered illegal, although by purchasing the land they planned to live and farm on, these Jews were its legal owners.   Arabs alternately courted and threatened British diplomats and military attaches during the Mandatory Period into supporting them and reneging on their promises to support the creation of a Jewish State.  When the British finally retreated with their tails between their legs in 1948, the Arabs combined forces in an attempt to uproot the fledgling Jewish State and (in their own words) complete the Holocaust that Hitler failed to carry out to its genocidal end.  While the Jews remained standing at the end of the war, Egypt and Jordan annexed newly-conquered territory (Gaza and the West Bank), creating the refugee problem that extends into every surrounding Arab country and to this day has not been solved, either by the UN or the Arabs themselves.

Fast forward to 1967.  Arabs tried on several subsequent occasions (cross-border raids and terror attacks, Egypt’s attempt at invasion through the Sinai in 1956) to destroy Israel.  Their joint venture again failed, but this time, they were the territorial losers.  Israel was left at the end of the war with Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron, and the Golan Heights, and all of the refugee camps contained therein.

At this point, Israel had two options, and this is where the recent murder becomes relevant.

1)  Israel could have annexed the new territories.  (It did the Golan, but that’s not relevant to this discussion.)  If it had, it would have had to incorporate hundreds of thousands of new hostile Arab voters into its midst, and courted eventual and highly likely demographic suicide.  The upside would have been that the territories and Israel proper, being all Israel proper, would have lived under one law: Israel’s.  The government’s tolerance for Arab harassment and attacks on Jews would have been dramatically less than it is now.  The struggle for ownership of territory that we witness in Gush Etzion and throughout the West Bank would have been at an end.  Instead of being left to antiquated Jordanian textbooks (which show one Arab state in place of all the land Israel now controls) and clerics and teachers whose job is to incite hatred and violence against Jews, education of Arab children would have been upgraded to include math, science, languages, history—in other words, a real education.  There would have been one generation having grown up in exile instead of three or four, and every refugee camp would have been dismantled and the refugees resettled.  Quality of life for Arabs (many of whom rued the day they left their villages in 1948 with the empty Arab promise of a glorious return) would undoubtedly have improved after such a decision on Israel’s part.  (It should be noted here that deportation of the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza was discussed, but given the Jews’ own experience of deportations in Europe 25 years prior, no one had the stomach to carry out such an operation.)

2)  Israel could do what it did, which is to hold on to the territories in the hope of exchanging them for peace.  Despite the fact that the first land for peace attempt in 1948 had failed miserably, the Jews hoped that this time, the Arabs would come around to accepting them, take back the Arab-filled territory, and let bygones be bygones.  That’s not what happened.  The Arabs refused to come out of their refugee camps to live in apartments built for them by Israel.  They refused to end their decades-long program of incitement against the Jewish State.  They refused to create their own economy by means of joint ventures with Israeli industry.  They refused to accept the existence of an Israel in the Middle East or any of Israel’s concrete offers of peace and land for a state of their own.  They have clung to their dreams, illusions, and revenge fantasies rather than move on, find solutions to their problems, and make a new life for themselves.

And the continued feeding of those obsessive delusions leads to the current plight of the Arabs, who keep themselves ignorant and poor, alternately envy and loathe the opportunity and prosperity of the West, blame others for their problems rather than take responsibility and solve them, view terrorism as an honorable way to kill and die, and see every Jewish man, woman, and child as an enemy combatant to be fought and killed.

This is how we got to yet another family of Jewish orphans, and yet more Arabs with blood on their hands.

And the world blames the Jews for the failure of the peace process.


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So a Pali engineer has been kidnapped from the Ukraine, and Hamas is hyperventilating.  Just think—a man, minding his own business, is snatched unawares and whisked off to a hostile country.  His family, concerned about his whereabouts, decries the blatant disregard for a person’s rights on sovereign territory, blames a hostile force for the kidnapping, and demands his immediate release.

Kinda makes you think of Gilad Shalit, doesn’t it?

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The right to self defense

Since I became an observant, religious Jew, I’ve surprised my family in a number of ways:  keeping kosher and Shabbat, making aliyah, and most recently, advocating the carrying of firearms.  I haven’t spiraled into being a survivalist, or any other kind of nutcase.  I’m merely being practical.

The fact is that one of the few things that stands between living in a world with murderous, fanatical, Jew-hating Arabs, and dying at their hands, is a gun.  The only thing that stopped the massacre at the Mercaz HaRav almost three years ago was a private citizen with a gun who took down the Arab killer.  What stopped the three Arabs who carried out separate attacks in their bulldozers in Jerusalem were private citizens carrying firearms.  What stopped an Arab terrorist from blowing himself up in my local supermarket here in Efrat eight years ago was a pistol-packing local.  And the one thing that might have saved the four Jews from Beit Haggai last August from being killed at point-blank range in their car was a gun.

In this, as in other things, Israeli government policy talks out of both sides of its mouth.  One the one hand, it strongly recommend that Jews living in Yehuda and Shomron get gun licenses and “carry.”  On the other hand, it is a very serious matter when a Jew discharges a weapon, even in self defense—so serious, in fact, that the only way to avoid arrest, trial, and mountains of paperwork and legal expenses is to allow your Arab attackers to kill you.  Then you’re a hero.

The following is an abbreviated version of an email sent to the Efrat chat list by my friend, Nadia Matar, co-founder of Women In Green and tireless advocate for Jewish rights to the land of Yehuda:

Three years ago, the soldiers David Rubin HY”D and Achikam Amichai HY”D were murdered by Arabs while hiking in Nachal Telem in the Har Hebron region. Their friends swore to honor their memories by continuing to hike everywhere in the Land of Israel.

For three years now, there have been weekly ‘David and Achikam hikes’ throughout Judea and Samaria, among springs and caves, streams and breathtaking views.

The hikes are organized by responsible and cautious guides who have led thousands of hikers from all parts of the country: Ashdod, Rishon Letzion, Bat Yam, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, and more.

Last Friday, the 23rd of Shvat 5771 (January 28, 2011), the group hiked to Biblical Tel Gedor in Gush Etzion. On the way back, Arabs from a nearby village saw them and began shooting guns and throwing stones. The size of the group—in the dozens—and its make-up, which included people in their ’70s—made a quick evacuation difficult, and while descending the Tel, defensive measures were required.

When army and police forces arrived, they arrested the hikers who were carrying weapons. Those hikers were imprisoned and charged with homicide before it was even established that any Arab had been killed, before a dead body was even produced, and before even one Arab was interrogated.

On Wednesday, the 28th of Shvat, February 2nd, there will be a court hearing in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. We are asking the public to be there at 9:30 a.m. to demand that the Jewish State allow Jews the right to defend themselves and to demand that those detained be freed immediately.

Why is it that when Jews are murdered, our government officials decry the terrorists, but that when Jews save themselves from being murdered, the victims are treated as murderers? When David and Achikam were murdered, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “[they] fought bravely”. Why is it that now the victims of last week’s hike are being treated as killers?

Do Jews in present-day Israel have the right to remain alive by defending themselves against murderous attackers without being charged with homicide?

The follow-up (printed here) is that of the 20 hikers detained for questioning, all were released.  Two additional settlers are undergoing continued questioning as part of the investigation.  The response of Peace Now is to call for police to carry out a blanket confiscation of settlers’ weapons.  Clearly, this left-wing group believes in the right of Arabs to attack with any means at their disposal, but not in the right of their fellow Jews to defend themselves.  And this is from a pro-peace organization?

My father occasionally marvels at what he calls my “move to the right.”  I don’t see it that way, since I think every rational person should believe in a person’s right to hike the countryside without fear of attack, bodily harm, or death.  When I was actively teaching in the self-defense world, my colleagues were, to a one, liberal thinkers, feminists, registered Democrats (the Americans, anyway), vegetarians, even Buddhists.  We were all on the same page regarding a person’s right to self defense.

To this day, I still believe in the power of a woman’s body to defend herself against an assailant intent on hurting her.  But a woman defending herself against sexual assault is not the same as a Jew defending herself against an Arab who wants her dead.  If believing in one’s right to defend oneself is limited to unarmed self-defense (and martyrdom), then I’m no longer in that camp.  That kind of thinking is madness, and leads to sanctioning senseless murder.  When the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called innocents murdered on buses in Arab-launched terror attacks “victims of peace” (implying that a measure of Jewish blood spilled as a result of the Oslo Accords was a small price to pay for “peace”—which never came), but Baruch Goldstein was labeled a monster for mowing down Arabs near the Cave of the Patriarchs, that was madness.  When Yitzhak Imas (the driver of the car of Beit Haggai residents) was labeled a security risk for praying on the Temple Mount and subsequently lost his gun license, that was madness.  And when a Jewish group that claims to desire peace in the Middle East joins the cries of anti-Semites everywhere to deny Jews the right to defend themselves, that too is madness.  If there are some enemies who can only be stopped with a bullet, and the only people who can recognize that are right-wingers, then I guess that’s what I am.

One man’s “right-wing” is, in my opinion, another man’s “sane.”

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I followed with half a brain the brewing storm over a group of anti-Israel activists who call themselves Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (awareness? of what?) who wanted to place “advertisements” on the sides of Seattle buses accusing Israel of war crimes.  The ads were to show Arab children looking at a demolished building and the legend, “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work,” and help spread the world about the aggressive, disproportionate policies of Israel’s government, coinciding with the second anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.

I recently saw that a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article that states that Seattle and the King County Metro bus service have decided NOT to allow the libelous posters to be placed on the side of 12 public buses.  This is largely in response to a mobilized counter-campaign by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a pro-Israel group, which planned to take out ads on other Seattle buses showing victims of Arab bus attacks during the Palestinian Terror War (aka the Second Intifada) and the words, “Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work.”  Pictures of children and adults in Sderot and Negev kibbutzim running to shelters to escape missiles launched from Gaza were also slated for possible “advertisement.”

Seattle’s decision to ban all new non-commercial advertisements on the sides of public buses is not only wise, it’s necessary.  To allow a public service provider to get embroiled in the controversies surrounding the Middle East, and all the vitriol and ignorance that seems to accompany it, would at best be, as they feared, “disruptive” and at worst open a new forum for the insanity and stupidity that passes for public debate and discourse on the subject.

It’s also proof positive that an aggressive counter-attack against the forces of idiocy works.  If someone threatens to “expose” Israel’s “war crimes” (which have never been substantiated, proven, or otherwise dealt with in an official manner outside the court of public opinion), all pro-Israel people need to do is mobilize and offer a tit-for-tat exposure of Palestinian Arab violence.  (Canada also recently saw a counter-BSD event in Montreal with a pro-Israel “buy-cott”).  It’s a nuisance to have to deal with these stupid little attacks on Israel, but the more we care enough to make a few phone calls, donate a few dollars, and threaten to stir up the pot a little more, the less traction these nitwits who call themselves “activists” will have in getting their message out.

Well done, Seattle.

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I drive to the Yellow Hill near Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion a few times a week, taking the kids to swim lessons or gymnastics.  Our route there frequently passes Arab shepherds herding goats or sheep, speeding Arab taxis ferrying passengers between Hebron and Bethlehem, Arabs on horseback or driving donkey-drawn carts.

Somehow, these sights often inspire commentary from Peach (the only political animal among my children so far).  The other day, while driving with my kids in the car, Peach announced, “I hate Arabs.”

It’s difficult sometimes to temper my young children’s reactions to the things they hear around them.  A family we know lost their son, murdered at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva a few years ago.  The murderer?  An Arab.  The four people killed in a car just south of here in August were killed by an Arab.  The security fence (some sections of which appear as a wall around here) was built to keep out Arab terrorists.  The people who demand that we stop building in our yishuv so they can fritter away more time not making peace with us?  Arabs.

Nevertheless, I don’t like the word “hate.”  It’s very strong, and there is nothing essentially hateful in an Arab.  They are human beings, like we are.  They eat, sleep, learn, work, love and live much as we do.  They are as much God’s creation as we are, and I don’t think it’s right to hate them.

What I do sanction is anger at their leadership, those who would harm us or poison others against us, and suspicion of them in general.  While there may be some who don’t deny the right of Jews to live in their ancestral homeland, this study done by the Israel Project indicates that most Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank would like to see Israel disappear and be replaced by a Palestinian state.  This isn’t shocking to me, or even surprising.  I don’t blame them, because honestly, I feel the same about them.  I was honest with Peach when I told her that if I were to wake up tomorrow morning and this land would be magically empty of Arabs, I would breathe a sigh of relief, much of my low-grade but ever-present anxiety would melt away, and I would feel utterly joyous.  I don’t want them dead, or harmed in any way.  I want them safely, comfortably settled with dignity—somewhere else.

This, I would point out, is more than can be said for most Arabs.  Violence against Jews is common currency in Arab society and shedding Jewish blood scores major brownie points.  (Consider the fact that this Arab man, released from prison and accused by others in his community of being a collaborator, sought to restore his own reputation by stabbing a Jewish woman.)  In addition, while I’m honest about the facts of what happens in Israel with Peach, I try to discourage her from hating even those who wish us dead and  I certainly don’t teach her hateful, nasty, biologically absurd ideas about our enemies being descended from pigs and monkeys the way Arabs teach their children about Jews.

Perhaps because I deliberately keep my views about Arabs complex and murky, I can tell that Beans is sometimes confused.  She has at least one Arab man working at her school, and she speaks of him as a friendly person.  She is also eager to learn to speak Arabic.  When I asked her why, she wasn’t sure, only that she seemed to think that it makes sense living where we live to understand each other.  Yet at the same time, knowing what some Arabs have done (such as tried to blow up our little supermarket in Efrat years ago), she feels nervous around Arabs she doesn’t know.  When I take her to the Rami Levi supermarket at the Gush Etzion Junction where Jews and Arabs work and shop alongside one another, she often asks softly if a group of Arab men entering the store in front of us are Arabs.  The answer is usually yes, but I also point out to her that the security guard has a metal detector wand which he waves around every Arab man’s waistline, front and back, to prevent anyone with an explosive belt from entering the building.  I don’t know if that makes her feel better (or me, for that matter), but I try to show her that while Arabs are allowed to shop in Jewish-owned stores, given the past behavior of some Arabs THEY are the ones who get the wand treatment, and I (a woman with fair hair and skin, young children in tow, and only a small pack around my waist outside my shirt) do not.

There are times when I think that playing the game by Arab rules is appropriate.  Meeting violence with harsh reprisals (targeted killings, air strikes in response to missiles fired at Israel, life imprisonment with no chance of parole or exchange for those with blood on their hands) is the very least Israel can do to maintain its self-respect when dealing with people who see mercy as weakness, justice as laughable, restraint as capitulation, and targeting civilians as legitimate.  But when it comes to hatred, glorification of murder and suicide, and dehumanization, I think Israel is wise not to join them.  Our God commands us to love life and do all we can to preserve it—theirs as well as ours.  This is an area where I think Israel really gets it right.

Does it make life any easier, or my lessons to my children any clearer?  Definitely not.  But life is rarely that easy.  It’s part of the epiphany I had the other day where I realized that there is nothing more fulfilling than being Jewish, and at the same time nothing as burdensome.

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In my middle age I have become something I never imagined I would: a Trekkie.  I found the first series, which I watched with my entranced older brother, to be rather boring and sexist (even at the tender age of four).  But the subsequent series have been more interesting in my opinion, and after seeing the final season of “Star Trek: Voyager” during my pregnancy with Beans (and catching up on the other seasons through reruns), the Cap’n and I are now into the fifth season of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9.”

This may be my favorite series yet.  I watched a few “Next Generation” episodes with my (still entranced) brother, but never really got into it myself.  “Voyager” had some interesting characters, and it was refreshing to see a woman captain for a change (though Kate Mulgrew’s channeling of Katharine Hepburn was alternately fascinating and irritating).  “DS9” has me hooked for its well-meshed cast of principal characters, its humor, and an almost mind-boggling array of enemies: the alternate universe characters who keep kidnapping them to help out in their own nasty struggles; the Dominion (including wily shapeshifters and the killing machine Jem Hadar); the unpredictable Cardassians; and now the Klingons—that time-honored favorite enemy-ally-enemy-again that trumps even the Nazis for sheer staying power—are back.

It’s impossible to watch this show in Israel and not notice the similarities between the Klingons and Arabs.  Both peoples value poets nearly as much as warriors. Both societies have an all-consuming focus on honor (of self, of family, of the Empire), glorify battle, and yearn for a death that will bestow glory and a good name on their memory.  Klingons employ fratricide as a way to restore lost honor (as when Worf’s brother begged Worf to kill him after dishonoring the family name); Arabs still practice honor killings, with brothers killing sisters suspected of dishonoring the family through breaking strict social taboos.

In watching several episodes that concentrate on Klingon culture, I have been paying close attention to identify any differences between them and Arabs.  I’ve found one: Klingons don’t kill innocent civilians.  Where Arabs have gleefully slaughtered airline passengers, Olympic athletes, hotel patrons, bus passengers, mall-goers, and pizza eaters, and passed out candy to children on the streets following high-profile attacks like the 9/11 attacks, the recent roadside massacre of four Israelis near Hebron, and other terrorist assaults on civilians, Klingons confine their belligerence to recognized combatants.  In a recent episode where a group of civilians were killed and the Klingons were suspected of having carried out the attack, Worf indignantly points out that to attack innocent civilians is not an acceptable tactic.  Why?  It would be dishonorable to kill civilians.

Le’mi yesh yoter kavod? In the world of honor, the Klingons—one of the bloodiest, most violent, intractable, death-worshipping species in the universe—have it over the Arabs.

How sad.

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