Posts Tagged Israel

An Israeli officer describes the actions of Hamas

Speaking Arabic, this Israeli Captain exposes the commitment of Hamas to sacrifice its own people in order to bring harm to Israel. I’m told that YouTube wants to remove it, claiming low traffic (only 700,000 visits).

So take a look, and pass it on.

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The Peace Process Fantasy

Jeff Jacoby nails the fallacy of the United States’ approach to Mideast peace, backed up by four administrations-worth of failure.

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Why there won’t be Peace in our Time

This isn’t news; it’s been going on for decades. But that’s just why we need reminding.

Neville Chamberlain failed to understand that you can’t make peace with a megalomaniac.  Now Western leaders continue in their failure to understand that you can’t make peace with an entire culture devoted to your annihilation.

Jonathan Rosenblum reminds us how that culture has been cultivated among the Palestinians.

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Obama on Israel — Worse than Carter

Did you miss the new coverage about Obama’s latest meeting with representatives of the Jewish community?

So did a lot of people.

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Krauthammer on Obama’s Messianic Myopia

On the appeasement of international terrorists.

On the Israeli settlements.

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Obama and the End of Evil

In his anticipated speech of 4 June at Cairo University, President Barack Obama affirmed the fact and the horror of the Holocaust before an audience whose nation and whose people have created a cottage industry around Holocaust denial.

“Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

Well done.

The president then went on – predictably, and of political necessity – to acknowledge the plight of the Palestinian people.

“On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation.”

This was to be expected.  However, this observer is not the first to note a subtle yet glaring inaccuracy in the president’s remarks:  The seemingly innocuous phrase on the other hand implies equivalence, the same kind of moral equivalence that has been eroding our political and social values for decades.  And, ironically, the source of which can be traced to the Holocaust itself.

But first the facts.               

In 1937, the British Peel Commission devised the first plan for the partition of Palestine. Although its terms would have granted Israel much less than its 1948 borders, the Jews accepted its terms. Arabs leaders rejected it out of hand.

In 1939, the British White Paper limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to 15,000 per year and that, after 5 years, granted absolute autonomy over the region to Arab authority. The Jews, albeit under protest, accepted its terms. Arab leaders rejected it out of hand.

In 1947, when the United Nations recognized the formation of the modern State of Israel, the Jews begged their Arab neighbors to remain in the country and live along side them as friends. The Mufti of Jerusalem, who had allied himself closely with Hitler during the Second World War, urged all Israeli Arabs to flee the country so that the Arab countries would be unhindered in their campaign to drive the Jews into the sea. More than two-thirds of Arab “refugees” fled Israel without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.

Those same displaced Arabs, and their children and grandchildren, have continued to live as refugees scattered among the Arab nations, the only displaced people ever to be denied repatriation by countries of their own ethnicity.  In 1960, King Hussein of Jordan remarked that “Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner…. they have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, even criminal.”

Equally ridiculous, and equally criminal, to equate the displacement of a people – originally by its own choice and perpetuated for political gain by its own leaders – with the massacre of millions of innocents as part of the attempted genocide of an entire nation.

The tragic irony here is how the Holocaust has made every crime, every distortion, and every deviation of the last half-century diminish to insignificance by way of comparison.  Such bedrock values as “right to life” and the established definition of marriage inevitably lost their sanctity in a world that could stand by and allow such an atrocity.  The work ethic and individual responsibility lost their value in a world in which the living could be dispatched with such mechanical efficiency.  Personal dignity and modesty lost their meaning in a world where human beings could be so piteously degraded.

And in the most perverse twist of all, as if trying to restore some semblence of moral direction to a morally challenged world, the Holocaust has become synonmous with every perceived evil, whereby practioners of every political and ideological platform will be condemned as Nazis by their opposite numbers, further diminishing the horrors of Aushwitz and Birkenau in a generation that already teeters on the brink of forgetfulness.

When every crime becomes an atrocity, when any policial position is made equal to Naziism, then the Holocaust loses all its meaning and its deniers have truly won.  There is much evil in the world, and President Obama will not bring about its end either by allowing some evils to pale in comparison to others or by inflating every evil to the level of genocide.

If the leader of the free world demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to evaluate every incidence of evil according to its true value, how can we expect the rest of the world to do any better?

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Krauthammer on the “Two-State Solution”

It’s politics as usual. Why is the fallacy of peace with terrorists so difficult for so many to understand?

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Block Yeshiva Graduate Named Soldier of the Year

Block Yeshiva High School graduate Chiyya Smason will meet Israeli President Shimon Peres to be honored as the Israeli Soldier of the Year for 2009.

Read about it here.

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St. Patrick’s Day Reflections — Searching for the Way out of Exile

At first glance, the soggy, green downs of Ulster bear little resemblance to the parched and craggy hills of Israel.  But a gentle tugging at the cultural fabric of either place unravels an unmistakable common thread:  two peoples, impossibly close geographically, impossibly distant ideologically, with more than enough fuel for hatred between them to burn until the coming of the Messiah.  Tromping over hills and through city streets, however, first in one place and then in the other, I discovered a more compelling similarity:  the bitter struggle of humanity in exile. 

                   

“Which are the bad parts of town, the ones I should avoid?” I asked the owner of the bed-and-breakfast where I passed my first night in Belfast. 

 

She dutifully pointed out the Shankhill neighborhood on my map, cautioning me to steer clear of it.  I thanked her and, with sophomoric self-confidence, proceeded there directly.

 

It was the summer of 1984, and central Belfast exuded all the charm of a city under martial law.  Policemen on patrol wore flack jackets.  An armored personnel carrier idled at a major intersection waiting for the signal to change.  Blown out shells of buildings sprouted weeds, and street signs warned, DO NOT LEAVE CAR UNATTENDED.  But as I worked my way up Shankhill, I discovered even more disconcerting landmarks:  elementary school yards swathed in barbed-wire and churches pocked with scars from automatic-rifle fire.

 

I stopped in at a corner pub and took a seat at the bar beside two locals.  Each was nursing a pint of Guinness.  Another glass, two-thirds full with boiled snails, rested between them.  The men took turns using a bent eight-penny nail to dig each snail out of its shell before popping the meat into their mouths.

 

I was half-way through my own pint of ale when the nearest one began chatting me up.  “Yootoorin?”  he said.

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

“Yootoorin?”  he repeated.

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

 

You touring? You traveling around?”

 

I needed several minutes to adjust to his accent.  I never did get used to his indifference to life in a war zone.

 

“It’s no big deal,” he said with a wave of his hand.  “There’s not many bombs going off any more, except on the big anniversaries, and everyone expects it then.”  He extracted another snail from its shell, tossed it into his mouth, and chased it down with a swig of Guinness.

 

“Nobody lets the fighting get in the way of their getting on with life,” my friend continued.  “You get used to it, you know?”

 

I was carried away to captivity in Ireland with so many thousands of persons, as we deserved, because we departed away from the Almighty … [and He] brought upon us the fury of His anger and scattered us among many nations as far as the end of the earth…

 

So writes St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, echoing the prophecy in Deuteronomy 28 according to which, four centuries earlier, the Children of Israel had been exiled at the beginning of the great Diaspora.  Yet Patrick applied it without hesitation to his own time and place, presuming that the right of a nation to reside peacefully in its land depends upon the character and integrity of its people. 

 

My wanderings ultimately led me from Belfast to Jerusalem, where I also found people living amidst violence and without fear.  And there, as St. Patrick had done in Ireland, I discovered the ancient lessons of my own people, who have found neither peace with their neighbors nor peace with one another.

 

Exile, I gradually came to understand, does not require banishment to the ends of the earth.  It can happen right at home, and it can take many forms.  Indeed, which is the more profound Diaspora:  being scattered to distant lands, or living under siege in one’s own home?  And if we do find ourselves exiles in our own land, to where can we escape?

Today, the residents of both Israel and Northern Ireland fight among themselves over definitions, over identity, and over direction.  In this they are like so many other peoples in this uncertain world, laboring to learn that the only way any of us can find the path leading out of exile is by shouldering the responsibilities of freedom.

Originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1999.

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Who are the Real Nazis?

Sharon and Hitler are the same. Only difference is the name. (Pro-Palestinian rally slogan, Washington, D.C., April 19, 2002).

It’s not surprising that Palestinians and their supporters have routinely made this kind of equation. But it’s another matter entirely when it comes from mainstream politicians, journalists, and academics.

Quoted in the Guardian, BBC commentator and Oxford University lecturer Tom Paulin remarked that the state of Israel has no right to exist, and that Israeli settlers should be shot dead. “They are Nazis, racists,” Paulin said. “I feel nothing but hatred for them.” Neither the university nor the BBC has taken any action against Paulin. Alas, most of the European press seem to share his sentiments. Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently admonished Israel for having “forgotten the collective punishment” of the Holocaust.

It staggers the imagination that only half a century after Hitler’s Nazis vilified the Jews as international criminals, the international community has been denouncing the Jews as Nazis. But if Sharon was indeed Hitler, where were the public rallies declaring death to Palestinians? Where are the arm bands imposed on every Arab Israeli? Where are the textbooks teaching Israeli school children that Arabs are subhuman beasts? Where is the ejection of Arab Knesset ministers, who make up nearly 10 percent of the Israeli parliament? Where is the desecration of mosques and Moslem holy places?

If Israel has been guilty of any crime, is not her worst crime that she is no longer weak, no longer downtrodden, no longer a sympathetic David slinging stones at some towering Goliath? Is this not the true reason, given the superficial perception that every prosperous Western nation is evil and every anti-capitalist entity is good, that the court of world opinion refuses to admit as evidence the decades of Arab aggression, the unbroken record of Yasser Arafat’s duplicity, the targeting of Israeli civilians with wholesale terrorism?.

In short, it seems that the academic and journalistic communities have just gotten too lazy to wean themselves away from the sloppy thinking of moral equivalence, the reduction of complex problems into simplistic, black-and-white constructs. And, even more disturbing, is how such narrow reasoning extends far beyond the current Mideast crisis, for it mirrors the thinking behind the last great attempt to annihilate the Jewish people.

On November 24, 1933, Hitler’s National Socialist Party passed a law for the protection of animals, “designed to prevent cruelty and indifference from man … and to awaken and develop sympathy and understanding for animals as one of the highest moral values of a people.”

Over the next 12 years, doctors working for this same Nazi Party infected human subjects with such maladies as typhus, smallpox, and cholera, and imposed upon them forced sterilization, experimental surgery, and euthanasia.

Some might take comfort that at least no schnauzer puppies were mistreated. But to recognize the perversion of granting human dignity to animals while denying it to human beings is to take the first step toward understanding how a Holocaust can happen.

Moral equivalence begets moral confusion, distorting our sense of fair play so that we fail to distinguish between perpetrators and victims, between aggressors and defenders. Our well-intentioned desire to give the benefit of the doubt blinds us to simple justice until, by refusing to acknowledge evil as evil, we allow evil free reign over ourselves and over society.

Conventional wisdom insists that a Holocaust could never happen again. But some parallels between then and now are unsettling. Today, animal rights activists are pushing ever harder for legislation according human rights to gorillas and chimpanzees, following in the path of Peter Singer, the Princeton University ethics department chairman who made headlines advocating the legalized murder of deformed babies in the first month after birth.

When we start seeing animals as equal to humans, when we can no longer appreciate that human rights are a function of human responsibilities, then we’re only a step away from discarding our responsibilities and treating humans as less than animals. Similarly, when we start to see murderers as freedom fighters, we’re a step nearer to the amoral abyss at the edge of which our civil society is already faltering.

The Jews of Europe were not Hitler’s only victims. The Nazi’s exterminated blacks, gypsies, the handicapped, and the elderly. Given more time, they would undoubtedly have gone still further. Given the opportunity, their ideological successors will go just as far.

How terrifying that the specter of Holocaust once again looms over the civilized world. How much more terrifying that the world might stand idly by while it happens, or worse, hasten its arrival.

Originally published in the Miami Jewish Star Times, July 2002.

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