Friday, April 24, 2015

All is not well in the Palestinian Authority

This week, Israel learned that its citizens are among the happiest in the world (Tova Dvorin and Sarah Leah Lawent, “Israel Eleventh Happiest Country Worldwide”, Arutz Sheva, April 24, 2015). This result has shown up in the third annual World Happiness index produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), an initiative of the United Nations (“Switzerland is 'world's happiest' country in new poll”, BBC, April 24, 2015).

Of 158 countries examined, Israel ranked 11th. The US ranked 15th. The UK ranked 21st.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was on the list, too. It didn’t do so well. It ranked 108th . Its citizens aren’t very happy (Arutz Sheva, ibid).

This wasn’t the only unsettling news for the PA this week. Apparently, the PA has much to be unhappy about.

For example, ‘Palestinian’ news has updated a story from last month about PA prospects in the face of a Netanyahu win in Israel’s March 2015 national elections (Ghassan Khatib, “Analysis: The rise of the Israeli far right and the future of the PA”, Ma’an News Agency, updated April 21, 2014). According to this analysis, those prospects aren’t very good. Netanyahu’s victory doesn’t just mean a more right-wing Israeli government to contend with. It means that, after decades of ever-more right-leaning governments, this one will prove to be the most right-leaning so far; and that won’t be good for PA prospects at the negotiating table.

Things look so bleak that PA news now runs another updated opinion essay this week that suggests that those Israeli elections, and a serious financial crisis within the PA, could provoke a potential collapse of the PA itself (Alaa Tartir, “Analysis: Surviving without the Palestinian Authority”, Ma’an news, updated April 21, 2015). This essay tries to put a positive spin on this possibility. But then, embedded in the analysis, is the statement that the PA isn’t likely to pursue any of the writer’s recommendations (ibid).

Then there’s the problem Fatah (the PA) has with its unity government partner, Hamas. After a year of unity, ‘unity’ is nowhere to be found (“One year after agreement, Palestinian reconciliation hits rock bottom”, middle east online, April 22, 2015). In fact, it’s on the brink of collapse (ibid).

Since it came to power in early June last year, the unity government has neither paid the wages of former Gaza government employees (who belong to Hamas), nor integrated them into the Palestinian Authority hierarchy that’s based in Ramallah (“Unity government won’t work without solving employee issue, insists Hamas”, middle east monitor, April 22, 2015). Hamas is fed up. It’s not happy.

Hamas has reason not to be happy. The PA uses $170 million a month to pay its own employees (Dalit Halevy, Ari Yashar, “How Much Does the PA Pay Terrorists?”, Arutz Sheva, April 24, 2015). The PA also keeps an extra 25,000 names on its monthly paylist who may not even work. They’re prisoners and ‘martyrs’ who receive payment for their terror actions against Jews (ibid). Most of these people are dead (their families collect their money), in jail or seriously injured as a result of their terrorism.  

The PA also pays an additional 30,000 workers who are listed as ‘workers in the military field’ (ibid). Hamas workers in Gaza, meanwhile, complain they aren’t being paid (middle east monitor, above).

It’s also been reported this week that Fatah now accuses Hamas of holding secret talks with Israel about creating its own mini-state with ‘temporary’ borders (Ahmed Al-Sayed, “Will Gaza go it alone?”, Al-Ahram, April 22, 2015). The deal, if true, could jeopardise the chances of statehood for the Palestinians (ibid). This especially irritates the PA because such a deal will not mention Jerusalem (as a Palestinian capital) or the future of the refugees issue (ibid). Fatah is not happy about that.

Israel is one of the happiest countries in the world. The Palestinian Authority isn’t.

If this week’s news is any indication, the PA isn’t going to get much happier any time soon. Its prospects for happiness don't seem to exist. Instead, it's prospects for woe and even war seem much greater. 

Stay tuned.



Israel, state-mandated Jew-hate—and the US

Last week, Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) decided to do something about the peace impasse in the Middle East. They chose to use state-mandated Jew-hate for peace (Barak Ravid, “European FMs urge policy chief: Label West Bank settlement products”, Haaretz, April 16, 2015).

Specifically, Foreign Ministers from 16 of the EU’s 28 countries have sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. They request that all goods produced in Israeli ‘settlements’ that are sold in grocery chains across the continent be labelled as coming from Israeli ‘settlements’. It would be a partial semi-boycott against Israel: all goods from Judea-Samaria, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights will have to be identified.

These European Foreign Ministers want this labelling because they see ‘settlements’ (and not Arab Jew-hate) as a threat to “a just and final peace agreement" (ibid). They want European consumers to have the ability to boycott ‘settlement’ product, if they wish.  

Their language in this letter is curious. They don’t say they request this labelling in order to push Israel back to the negotiating table. They claim instead to want this labelling because—get ready for this—they’re concerned that, without this labelling, consumers might be "misled by false information" (ibid).

I hope you understand that. I don’t.

In 2013, the EU sought to enact this labelling requirement. It didn’t happen. At that time, pro-Arab advocates saw a labelling requirement as an important step to help slow down  or, ideally, halt the ‘Judifying’ of Judea-Samaria (“European Union Measures Against Israeli Settlements”, doha institute, August 4, 2014). Labelling would do that because it would, in theory, encourage consumers to stop buying Jewish goods from the ‘settlements’. That, in turn, would, in theory, reduce and constrict the economic growth of Jewish businesses in the ‘settlements’ (bid).

Now these EU Ministers want to try again. Apparently, they want to stop the Judifying of the ancestral Jewish areas called, Judea-Samaria, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Such an official effort against Israel sounds a lot like state-mandated Jew-hate. Here’s how:

First, a state mandate is a decision, law or order issued by a governing or legislative authority. In this case, that authority would be the EU. A state mandate requires those affected to create or modify their actions in order to conform to the mandate. In this case, it means a requirement to label goods.

Second, look at Jew-hate. Jew-hate is the hatred of Jewish people and/or institutions or entities associated with Jews. It’s a phrase used to describe hostile actions aimed against individuals Jews or any entity described as ‘Jewish’.

Third, there’s Israel. Israel is the homeland of the Jews. It’s the independent sovereign entity of the Jewish people. It’s the Jewish state.

State-mandated Jew-hate would, in this case, be a state or legislative order that requires individuals and entities to  modify their activities so as to act with hostility towards Jews.

The EU’s desire to create this labelling to discriminate against Israeli product meets this definition. It’s a request that requires hostile actions against the Jewish state.

I’m not the only one who understands this EU desire in this light. The US Senate Finance Committee has just taken action against the EU specifically because of this boycott effort. The Committee has adopted a new amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill that Congress is scheduled to vote on as early as next week (Rebecca Shimoni Stoilon, “Congress moves to pressure Europe against BDS steps”, Times of Israel, April 23, 2015).  This TPA is part of a US-EU effort to complete a historic trade pact (ibid). This pact is important to both the US and the EU (ibid). The amendment would add the discouragement of BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) actions as a principal objective for US envoys in the talks with Europe (ibid).

Amendment co-author Bill Cardin (D-MD) explained that the reason behind this move was Israel: “Israel is one of America’s closest allies”, he said. It’s “the only stable democracy in the Middle East. We may not agree with every Israeli policy, but we cannot allow our potential trading partners in the EU to fall prey to efforts that threaten Israel’s existence” or seek to de-legitimize its existence (Ben Ariel, “Senate Committee Passes Measures to Combat BDS”, Arutz Sheva, April 24, 2015).

If this amendment gets added to the trade bill, it’ll be a shot across the EU’s bow. It’ll be very interesting to see how far the EU’s attempt at state-mandated Jew-hate gets in the face of a new trade agreement that could come with an anti-boycott condition.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Israel and the PA remember Israel’s dead

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 was Israel’s Memorial Day. It’s the official day when all of Israel remembered Jews (and non-Jews) who have been killed by Israel’s Arab enemies.

Because as many as 1.5 million Jews plan to visit military cemeteries for private Memorial moments with loved ones, Memorial Day in Israel isn’t limited to one day. Were everyone to try to visit Israel's cemeteries on the same day, the crowds and the attendant traffic jams would be mind-boggling. To cope, Israelis know to spread out their visits over the month.

One prominent example of such a tactic comes from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His brother Yoni was killed in 1976 fighting for Israel. Instead of waiting for Memorial Day itself, Mr Netanyahu visited his brother’s grave earlier in the week.

I mention this elongated Memorial ‘season’ for Israel because I want you to understand how the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been treating Israel’s dead. While Israel is, essentially, spending part of this month remembering its dead, the PA has been having its own ‘remembrances’ of Israelis killed. But their remembrances aren’t to mourn. They’re ceremonies are to celebrate.

In what has to be some kind of over-the-top gesture of pure hate, the PA has spent much of this month honouring and glorifying the murderers who killed the Jews Israel now mourns.

In a stunning revelation, Palestine Media Watch has just released a survey of how Palestinian Authority and Fatah (which runs the PA) have used April 2015 to commemorate  Jew-killers (Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “While Israel mourns terror, the PA celebrates terror”, April 21, 2015). Essentially, during April, both the PA and Fatah (both of which are headed by Mahmoud Abbas) honoured 14 terrorists who had murdered more than 160 people in acts of terror (ibid).

As Israelis mourned their dead, The PA presented these 14 terrorists to the ‘Palestinian’ public as heroes and role models (ibid). Abbas personally honored 4 of them. He cited for honor "the first Martyr," "the first [male] prisoner" and "the first female fighter prisoner". He awarded each of these 14 "decorations of military honor in admiration of their militant pioneering role." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 17, 2015].  He also honored arch-terrorist Abu Jihad, who the PA credits with orchestrating attacks in which 125 were murdered. Abbas was also the patron of a rally held in Abu Jihad's honor. Abbas "expressed his pride" in Abu Jihad "for his significant national role" [my emphasis] (ibid).

For Abbas, pioneering national heroes don’t solve problems, win Nobel Prizes or cure disease. His pioneers and national heroes kill Jews. His national heroes include:

-Seven terrorists who were honoured as a role models for university students on Fatah's official Facebook page.

- One who had a Jerusalem table tennis tournament named after him; he, too, was honoured as a role model for university students on Fatah's official Facebook page.

-one who was described on PA TV as ‘a fighter’. The TV host who spoke of him called his terror attack ‘the heroic operation’.

Abbas himself spoke of some of these murderers as having played a ‘significant national role’, or as having played a “remarkable role in writing the modern history of the struggle”. He praised one “in appreciation of his [the killer’s] revolutionary role in the history of our modern revolution”.

The relationship Mahmoud Abbas has with Israel is, clearly, a matter of ‘revolution’. Instead of speaking of living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel (this is the West’s mantra as it pressures Israel), Abbas speaks of ‘revolutionary struggle’, martyrdom and ‘pioneering’ effort in the killing of Jews.

For a supposed ‘peace partner’ of Israel to behave this way just as Israel mourns the Jews killed by these terrorists is an act of unspeakable disrespect. The State of Israel must absolutely refuse to deal with someone who so glorifies and uplifts those who murder Jews. Israel must declare that it will not sit at any table with anyone who would mock Jewish mourning with such offensive and immoral celebration. This behaviour is beyond belief. It’s beyond immorality. It’s beyond civilized leadership. It is, in fact, barbaric.

Israel must make it perfectly clear that if Abbas wants peace, he must demonstrate he wants peace. Israel must make it clear that if the world wants peace, the world must first convince Abbas to end such barbarism.






What should Israel Independence Day celebrate?

As it has done in the past, Israel for 2015 has chosen to honour women during its most important Independence Day ceremony. Once again, Israel has announced that it will include in this year’s group of honoured women, an Arab-Israeli.
Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with the State of Israel honouring women. I also have no problem whatsoever with the State of Israel honouring an Arab-Israeli Muslim. I even have no problem whatsoever with the State of Israel actively singling out women or Arab-Israeli Muslims for such honor. My problem is, I don’t think it’s appropriate to include such honor as part of our Independence Day celebration.
I say this knowing that Ms Lucy Aharish, the Arab-Israeli women who was chosen to be honoured this year, is--in my opinion--an extremely impressive young woman. She is articulate. Her words (at the ceremony) were perfectly chosen for the occasion. Nevertheless, I just don’t think such honor belongs in an Israel Independence Day ceremony. 
I’ll explain why I feel this way. You can read my reasons. Then, you can decide if you agree.
Israel’s Independence Day doesn’t occur as a free-standing holiday. It doesn’t stand by itself on the calendar. It begins immediately following Israel’s Memorial Day.
Israel’s Memorial Day is the moment during the year we remember those who were killed so that we may live freely as Jews in a Jewish state. Following the Holocaust, that was a compelling dream. Given the state of Anti-Semitism and raw Jew-hate in the world today, it’s still compelling.
Memorial Day is also the Day we remember civilian terror victims. We remember them on this Day because, like soldiers, they were killed by enemies who, to this very moment, see every Israeli civilian as a military target.
When we paused to remember those fallen on Memorial Day, and when we listened to speeches about them, we didn’t see or hear a single reference to their having died to protect democracy, equal rights, women’s rights or equality.  They died so that Jews could have their homeland back. They died so that Jews could live freely.
As Memorial Day ended, and as we began to think of our ‘Independence’ picnics and celebrations, we did so knowing that Israelis continue to die so that we as Jews can continue to live. Remembering them reminds us that we can never take for granted our Jewish survival in our Jewish ancestral homeland.
Of course, equality and rights are mentioned in what is commonly called, Israel’s ‘Declaration of Independence’. But those who fought in Israel’s wars didn’t take up arms to defend equal rights or equality—or women’s rights or democracy. They took up arms to defend our Jewish right to return to--and continue to live in--our own Jewish homeland.
Look at the Jewish Israel this way: we aren’t Jewish in Israel because we’re a democracy. We’re a democracy because the Jews won that 1948 war—and continue to win.
That’s why Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East—because we’re Jewish. That’s why Israel is the only country in the Middle East that protects women’s rights—because we’re Jewish. That’s why Israel is the only country in the Middle East without Apartheid laws—because we’re Jewish.
In other words, ‘Jewish’ came before ‘democracy’. That’s why we should celebrate ‘Jewish’ Israel on our Independence Day’, not equality, women’s rights or equal rights.
If Israel so desires, it should honor women and Arab-Israelis. It should declare a ’Woman’s Day’ for example, or an ‘Arab-Israeli Day. Israel could even sponsor an ‘Israel Democracy Day’, to highlight to the world how the Jewish Israel has a political system that is distinctive in its region.
But we shouldn’t muddy our Independence Day ceremonies with issues that are secondary to the on-going Jewish struggle to survive. Our Independence Day should celebrate first things first—and the first thing for Israel has always been the fight to become –and remain--the Jewish state.
We are a democracy in the Middle East only because we are Jewish. Without the continuing Jewish triumph, there’d be no equal rights or women’s rights in Israel.
This is an important distinction because so many in Israel promote ‘democracy’ and ‘equal rights’ above Israel’s Jewishness. Many of these people seem intent upon denying or removing Israel’s Jewishness. For this reason alone, we should be extra careful to keep Independence Day simple, and focused.  We’d have no equal rights, women’s rights, equality or democracy if the Jews had lost any of their wars.
Given the nature of the world war against Jewish Israel, we should keep our eye on the ‘main thing’: we are what we are—and have what we have—only because the Jews keep their Jewish independence.
That’s my opinion. What do you think?  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A story for Israel Independence Day, 2015

Tonight begins Israel’s Independence Day. We celebrate Israel’s 67th birthday. Here’s an abbreviated story for you about that ‘independence’. It’s from an essay by Miriam Elman (“1948 – How American Jewish Pilots Helped Win Israel’s War of Independence”, Legal Insurrection, April 21, 2015). I’ve edited it—and re-written portions of it:


On May 30, 1948—fifteen days after the fledgling Jewish state was invaded by the armies of five Arab nations—Milton Rubenfeld, a former stunt pilot who served in the British Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force in World War II, flew on a critical combat mission that stopped the advancing Iraqi army.

When his plane was hit by enemy fire, he bailed out, landing in the field of an Israeli kibbutz. Since no one at the time knew that Americans were flying for Israel in its War of Independence, Rubenfeld was mistaken for an enemy pilot by the rifle-brandishing kibbutz members. Hands raised in the air, Rubenfeld—who spoke not a word of Hebrew—identified himself to the Israelis and saved his life by shouting what little Yiddish he knew—“Gefilte fish”, “Shabbos”, and “Pesach”!

This little-known true story is recounted by Rubenfeld’s widow and his son, the actor Paul Reubens (better known as Pee-wee Herman), in a remarkable new feature-length documentary “Above and Beyond”.

Produced by Nancy Spielberg (sister of Steven Spielberg—yes, that Spielberg) and directed by the accomplished Roberta Grossman, the 87 minute film tells the tale of the American airmen who, just three years after the liberation of the Nazi death camps, volunteered with Rubenfeld in the 1948 war.

“Above and Beyond” has won rave reviews and multiple awards on the festival circuit. It’s scheduled for an April 28 VOD release including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and other platforms.

It features the mostly Jewish American pilots who at great personal risk smuggled planes and war materials out of the U.S., trained on old Me-109 fighters (the mainstay of the German Luftwaffe) in secret behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, and flew dozens of missions in the summer and fall of 1948 for the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) newly created 101 Squadron.

In mid-May 1948 the Jewish defense forces (the Haganah) had roughly 35,000 troops, no air force, almost no artillery, and very few tanks.

There can be no doubt that the Arab armies had a major edge in weaponry.

The Israelis had nothing.

Except that they had Al Schwimmer.

Schwimmer worked for TWA and had been a flight engineer for the U.S. Transport Command in World War II. When he learned of Israel’s need for aircraft, he single-handedly bought some thirty surplus Messerschmitt fighters and recruited the pilots to fly them.

The U.S. State Department’s hostility toward the new Jewish state and the arms embargo [by the US and Britain] of the entire Middle East made his activities a chancy business. These all had to be clandestine flights. Schwimmer formed a bogus Panamanian airline and had pilots hopscotch around the globe to get to Israel.

The U.S. government threatened to revoke the citizenship of anyone who participated in the war. But Schwimmer wasn’t intimidated.

To evade detection by the authorities, he resorted to scouring military records for former World War II airmen in the N.Y. area with “Jewish-sounding names” and sending them cryptic telegrams. Mysterious instructions for secret rendezvous would include “meeting a guy with a flower in his lapel on 57th street”.

Schwimmer was indicted after the war for violating the U.S. Neutrality Act. He lost his U.S. citizenship and stayed in Israel. But that loss was his gain: he made a fortune as the founder of Israel Aerospace Industries. In 2001, he was pardoned by President Clinton.

The movie, “Above and Beyond”, includes archived war footage and stunning aerial reenactments, accomplished with special effects created by Industrial Light and Magic, which reportedly donated its time and expertise to the project.

But it’s the interviews with the still cocky nonagenarian airmen that make the film exciting to watch (Nancy Spielberg noted in an interview that the youngest was 88 at the time of filming). As one movie reviewer put it, “the film’s heart is the interviews with the pilots themselves who recall their exploits with infectious bravado”.

With the exception of Lou Lenart, the pilots were all second-generation Americans who knew little about Zionism and weren’t particularly proud of their Jewishness.

My favorite pilot is Gideon Lichtman. He was a former U.S. Army Air Force pilot. He shot down an Egyptian Spitfire on June 8, 1948 and went on to fly more than 30 missions during the war.

“I was risking my citizenship and possibly jail time,” he says of fighting for Israel. “I didn’t give a sh*t. I was gonna help the Jews out. I was going to help my people”. Other pilots had similar feelings. They came to Israel to help their people.

While Jewish forces were often successful in the fighting, they suffered painful defeats. At one point in the fighting, this is what David Ben-Gurion reported to the Zionist Action Committee that:

Hebrew Jerusalem is partially cut off all the time. For the past 10 days, it has been completely isolated and faces a serious danger of starvation. Almost all other roads are in disarray. Jews cannot set out without risking their lives”.

Across most of the fighting lines, the Arabs often took the initiative with forces greatly superior to the defending Jewish army. The war was, quite literally, a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of Jews.

When General Yigal Yadin, the Haganah’s chief of operations was asked by members of Israel’s provisional government about the chances of standing up to the expected Arab attack his reply was a sobering “Fifty, fifty”. Most company commanders at the time also saw this as a grave assessment based on truthful calculations.

To defend itself, Israel had meager forces along strung-out lines utterly vulnerable to Arab attack. But while the Jewish armies struggled to survive, these airmen pulled off miracles. In one incident, a Jewish American pilot and his buddies flew four “junk airplanes” for a country that had no actual air force, and managed to convince a large  Egyptian force, encamped only 30 miles outside Tel Aviv, that there was enough “competition in the sky” to warrant aborting their advance.

There can be no doubt that these volunteers helped turn the tide of the war.

Most of the American volunteer pilots featured in “Above and Beyond” survived the 1948 war. Those who survived went on to lead productive lives in the U.S. and Israel.

Two of the airmen—U.S. Army Air Force pilot Coleman Goldstein and Lou Lenart, a U.S. Marine who served in the Pacific theater during World War II— became pilots for El Al Airlines.

Harold Livingston, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps’ transport squadron, became a novelist and a Hollywood screenwriter, authoring Star Trek: the Motion Picture (one of the best films of all time, in my humble opinion).

But two from this courageous band of brothers didn’t make it. Stan Andrews and Bob Vickman—both UCLA art students in 1948 who had been stationed in the Pacific in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II—were killed when their IAF planes were shot down in separate incidents in July and October 1948.

As told in “Above and Beyond” by the pilots who fought with them, Andrews and Vickman came up with the logo for the 101 Squadron, scribbling the Angel of Death on a cocktail napkin at a Tel Aviv bar in June 1948.

It’s a design that still appears on Israeli F-16s today.


My comment: read the full essay. Get the movie when it comes out.

Happy 67th Israel Independence Day.

Here's a special Independence Day offer-- You might be interested in a new Yom Haatzma'ut  and Yom Yerushalayim Machzor (prayer book especially for these two days) published by Koren. 
This Mahzor is the first-ever English-Hebrew prayer book for Israel's national holidays. It includes complete services for Israel's Independence Day and Jerusalem Day according to the practices established by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The mahzor features an introduction by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, translation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, commentary by Rabbi Moshe Taragin and Rabbi Binyamin Lau. It includes a collection of essays by leading scholars in the world of Religious Zionism.
To receive a gift along with this Mahzor, contact Pomeranz Booksellers in Jerusalem. Tell them you saw this offer on the Tuvia Brodie blog. With your Mahzor purchase, you’ll get a unique gift—a Yom Ha’Atzmaut pamphlet written for Israel’s 25th Anniversary, in 1973, before the Yom Kippur War. You’ll get a perspective of Israel-Zion-Redemption written by our fathers you may not have seen before.

Contact Pomeranz at (if the link doesn't work, please type it manually (or copy-paste)into your search engine)

Their Israel phone number is 972-2-623-5559

Israel Remembrance Day, 2015

For 2015, Israel’s Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance/Memorial Day) fell on Wednesday, April 22nd. On this day, all of Israel paused to remember fallen soldiers.

It’s been estimated that close to 25 per cent of Israel’s Jews will visit militaries cemeteries this week (Miriam Elman, “1948 – How American Jewish Pilots Helped Win Israel’s War of Independence”, Legal Insurrection, April 21, 2015). In America, that would translate to some 75 million people.

That many Americans don’t go to military cemeteries during the week of Memorial Day. But in Israel, we do that. We do it because virtually every one of us knows a family who has grieved because of war.

Israel is a very small country. We suffer greatly because of our enemies. Our fight to survive is real—and on-going.

During its 66 years of existence, Israeli soldiers have died in  nine ‘formal’ ‘engagements’ against its Arab enemies: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 (first Lebanon war), 2006 (second Lebanon war) and then three against Gaza: 2008-9, 2012, 2014. In addition, there have been numerous other firefights and attacks during these 66 years in which Israeli soldiers have been killed.

On this solemn day, Israel also remembers those civilians who have been murdered by Arabs in acts of terror. To this day, Arabs maintain an on-going war against Israel. In their war against us, Arabs deliberately target civilians. Therefore, civilians murdered by such an enemy are included as part of Israel’s Remembrance Day.

Altogether, 23,320 Israelis qualify to be officially counted as having been killed in this on-going war. Perhaps 89 per cent of this number were soldiers. The remainder were victims of Arab terror.

For this Memorial Day, my family went to Har Herzl, Israel’s National Cemetery. Har Herzl is Israel’s version of America’s Arlington National Cemetery. We went for two reasons. First, of course, to participate in the gathering to honor soldiers who had died so that we could live. To borrow a phrase from former US President Abraham Lincoln, we went to Har Herzl to honor those who had given the last full measure of devotion to their country—and to their G-d, whose land this is.

But we went to Har Herzl for another reason, this one far more personal—and painful. We went to honor our friend, Cpl David Gordon.

There are many ways to remember David. I choose to remember him as he was buried—a soldier who fought with exceptional valor for the Jewish people. Last year, he was buried at Har Herzl with full military honors, including eulogies of praise from his battle commanders and a 21-gun salute.

Today, Yom HaZikaron, we went to his grave. We saw his sister. We saw at least one of his officers.

His grave was surrounded by a crowd. I didn’t recognize most who had come to be with him.  

His grave was covered with ‘honor’: flowers, candles, pins, pictures (I think what I saw were pictures) and many, many army service pins.

It’s a gesture of love, these small pins. As a soldier visits the grave of a fallen comrade, he places upon the grave one of his service pins. He does this so that when a stranger passes the grave, he will see all the pins; he will thereby understand what this fallen one meant to his comrades.

Not every grave has pins. Not every grave has such a collection of pins as we saw on David’s grave.

His grave was so crowded with flowers and ‘things’, I wasn’t—at first—certain this was his grave (I didn’t see his sister until a few minutes later). I couldn’t see his name on his tombstone. I bent over (between several people). I wanted to move aside bunches of flowers that lay in such a way as to cover partially the name engraved on the tombstone. As I reached down to move the flowers aside I asked, softly, is this David?

A twenty-something man standing next to me looked at me. Silently, he nodded. I returned his nod.

I had reached David’s resting place. Through a crowd that might have numbered more than 100,000, I had pushed my way to him. I had found him—my hero.

Those who designed Har Herzl didn’t design a small cemetery. They created a very large tract where sections could be opened ‘as needed’. David lies in one of the new sections.

When we buried him almost eight months ago, I believe he had only one neighbour. Now he has many. Too many.

These graves are fresh. These deaths are fresh. The pain is fresh.

Those buried here have now experienced their first Yom HaZikaron (Israel Remembrance Day). May their names never be forgotten. May their blood be avenged.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The harsh truth about Israel’s ‘Fence’

Here is an essay about Jew-hate on America’s campus. It’s about Kent State University (Fred Baumann, “Israel's Security Fence and the SJP Protesters”, The American Thinker, April 21, 2015). It’s self-explanatory. I have edited it:

Introduction by Richard Baehr:

Kenyon College is a small liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio... Professor Fred Baumann has taught political science at the college for over 30 years. He’s one of its most distinguished professors in a department that has had many fine teachers through the years.

In the last two years, Kenyon has been infected with the arrival and formation of the anti-Israel hate group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Last year, SJP erected an “apartheid wall” to “celebrate” the beginning of Passover in the College’s main dining hall.  SJP is a big fan of in-your-face activism, and at some colleges (e.g. Temple University), this has meant slugging pro-Israel students in the face.  This year, the group set up their wall at Kenyon right after Holocaust Remembrance Day (coincidental I am sure).

I spoke at Kenyon about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in February, and one SJP member, who did not attend my talk, nevertheless wrote a defamatory piece for the college newspaper, claiming I was an Islamophobe, prejudiced, and a fool, and calling for greater campus-wide action against me, whatever that means. All of this condemnation was based on hearsay about a talk he did not attend (likely from another unbiased SJP member of course), and a few articles in American Thinker that I did not write...

Needless to say, the student never withdrew his article, nor apologized, though a few subsequent letters to the college paper revealed how off base, ignorant and malicious he was.

In response to the second annual presentation of the "apartheid wall" at Kenyon, Professor Baumann has written an open letter to the Kenyon community on why a wall was constructed by Israel after the second intifada.  Of course the wall is not a wall, but a low fence for almost all of its length, and a wall only in areas where there was a lot of sniper fire aimed at Israeli villages from elevated Palestinian communities during the second intifada. Baumann lays out the truth: Palestinians hate the wall because it has made it much harder to kill Jews in Israel.


Dear members of the Kenyon community:

Kenyon Students for Justice in Palestine have erected their "Wall" for the second year in a row.  It is meant to arouse your sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian Arabs who live behind it and whose entry into Israel is impeded by it.  It is meant, correspondingly, to arouse your indignation at Israel, which so apparently heartlessly erected it.  In their explanatory message they repeat the lie that Israel engages in apartheid.  Ask Israel's deputy ambassador to Norway about that one; he’s an Arab. Or listen to him on YouTube.

Oh, and by the way, how are Jews and for that matter Christians treated in Arab countries? Let's not talk about that, right?

So, in the spirit of the promotion of rational debate, I want to let the Kenyon community know why that fence (it's only a wall in a few places where it discourages sniping) was put up in the first place.

During the so-called Second Intifada (not a spontaneous uprising at all, but ordered by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian chief), the more or less open access Palestinians had to Israel resulted in a series of horrific massacres.  Checkpoints on the West Bank were widely, and rightly, seen as both harassing the innocent and ineffective against the guilty.  I would urge all of you to Google the following on the Internet to see what those massacres accomplished.  If your need to understand requires gruesome pictures of dead bodies, they are right there at the top of the list of links.  If you would be satisfied by head shots of the victims, they are available too.  If you just want to read about what happened, there is plenty of information on that as well.  Specifically, I would urge you to Google "Sbarro's pizzeria bombing," "Dolphinarium bombing," and "Netanya Passover Seder bombing."

In the wake of these catastrophes, public opinion in Israel gradually moved in the direction of calling for a fence of separation. Interestingly, the pressure came primarily from the Israeli Left; the Right was afraid that building such a fence would amount to giving up claims to the West Bank.  Eventually, the fence was built and the number of terrorist events declined rapidly.  That meant it again was possible for a bunch of teen age Russian immigrant girls to go to a disco without the likelihood of being slaughtered, as had happened at the Dolphinarium.  (Here's the barebones Wikipedia description of what happened there, by the way:

"Suicide bomber Saeed Hotari was standing in line on a Friday night in front of the Dolphinarium, when the area was packed with youngsters (most of them Russian new arrivals) waiting for admission. Survivors of the attack later described how the young Palestinian bomber appeared to taunt his victims before the explosion, wandering among them dressed in clothes that led some to mistake him for an orthodox Jew from Asia, and banging a drum packed with explosives and ball bearings, while repeating the words in Hebrew: "Something's going to happen". At 23:27, he detonated his explosive device. It was the second attack in five months on the same target. Witnesses claimed that body parts lay all over the area, and that bodies were piled one above another on the sidewalk before being collected. Many civilians in the vicinity of the bombing rushed to assist emergency services.")

True, terrorism continues.  Look at yesterday's Jerusalem Post for the story of a plan to bomb a shopping mall that was detected by the police.  Still, when it comes to the fence of separation, few things have been done in the history of human conflict that have produced more good for one people at such a low cost to the other.  A fence is the single most passive form of self-defense there is.  It keeps the killers away without retaliation, pre-emption or anything else.

As for the grievous harm SJP and all the other haters of Israel claim it does the Palestinians, I would strongly urge each of you to go to YouTube and watch the reflections of a Palestinian woman whose house is in fact overshadowed by the wall at its highest, in Bethlehem.  She is a Christian. You will perhaps not be surprised, after you have watched it and heard her story, that she got death threats for having told the truth.

So far I have tried to convey information for the purpose of taking the debate past gestures and political theater.  But here is a question I would like to ask KSJP.  I know it is a harsh one, but still I believe it necessary to ask it:  what is it KSJP and all the other SJPs and BDSers in this country and the world, really want in protesting the fence?  Are they most concerned with the difficulties Palestinians suffer in living their lives?   If so, why aren't they vociferously protesting the recent massacre of Palestinians in Yarmouk by ISIS?   Or are they really just concerned that the fence makes it so hard for terrorists to murder Jews?  When KSJP invited Steven Salaita to speak at Kenyon, a man who rejoices in the murder of Jewish children, they gave us every reason to think that their anger is really directed at the fence's frustration of new Sbarro's Pizza, new Dophinarium, new Passover Seder massacres.  Perhaps this suspicion is incorrect.  But if so, one wonders why SJP, which claims to speak out of humanitarian compassion, doesn't feel responsible for explaining how, if the fence comes down, they will assure that the mass murder of Jews doesn't start again.


Fred Baumann