Sunday, December 30, 2012

Secular support for Moshe Feiglin? Ask Feiglin

Somewhere in Israel today, you may find a small group, chatting. Perhaps you’ll overhear them at a restaurant. They will be friends who enjoy talking politics. Given the recent de facto UN recognition of ‘Palestine’, they might talk about Judea-Samaria, which some want to take from Israel to give to ‘Palestine’. That could lead to a discussion of IDF soldiers disobeying orders to evict Jews from their homes in Judea-Samaria. That could lead to the words, ‘damn settlers’.

 Nobody will flinch. No one will ask, ‘what do you mean?' Everyone will understand the reference and its meaning. According to Israel’s media, these friends are authentic Israelis. They understand what it means to be ‘Israeli’.  'Settlers' who live in Judea-Samaria, however, are alien. They hurt Israel. They provoke the government to evict them. They make hard-working seculars ashamed to be called, ‘Israeli.’ Settlers think only about their damn land.

Is this the looking glass through which secular Israelis see their world? Our media might like us to think so. Some in the media believe we are a wonder-machine--a capitalistic and science power-house. They believe we should be the apple of the world’s eye—successful, daring and brilliant. But that’s not what’s happening. Our media elite cry that Israel is rejected, not admired. Every country they care about hates us. The nations they admire most express nothing but contempt for us.

That contempt hurts. Media people want to be loved. They want to be accepted. So they’ve made a plan: get rid of ‘settlers’. Then, nobody will hate us.

They love publishing Leftist polls that tell us they are correct.

Perhaps you have seen these polls. Perhaps you have heard  conversations in restaurants. Perhaps you should wonder: is this the Israel we have created—a materialistic, anti-values culture where people reject both their Heritage and the very land they inhabit?

Ask Moshe Feiglin that question. The answer might surprise you.

You see, Moshe Feiglin doesn't look to media for answers. He talks to people. He travels around the country. He understands that most anti-settler and anti-religious pronouncements might be more Leftist dreaming than reality. For example, the Haredi aren’t as anti-work as you have been told —nor as anti-IDF; and the secular, no matter what the media suggests, may not be so aggressively anti-Heritage or anti-Judea-Samaria.

Ask Moshe Feiglin about that.

 Seculars tend towards anti-settler sentiments, but they are not as homogeneous as Israel's Left-leaning media wants you to believe. In fact, secular Jews may be more conflicted over land and Jewish families being evicted from homes in Judea or Samaria than media dares to admit. Remember, the anti-Israel Left not only has an agenda, it also carries a significant voice in our media. The Left dreams of ‘peace’ in a Jewish-free state—and it uses the extraordinary power its media voice provides to try to make that dream a reality. Its behaviour is no different than Abbas telling ‘stories’ so often the world believes him. Think about it: does the Left report Arab incitement against Jews? Does the Left remind us that the Hamas Charter calls to destroy Israel and kill Jews? The Left rejects all things ‘Israel’. It wants to erase Israel’s exceptionalism; and if it cannot do that, it will erase or limit public defense of Israel’s right to exist.

 Ask Moshe Feiglin. He could (and did) write a book about how Leftist media treats Israel in the Arab-Israel conflict.

If you have heard that seculars hate both the religious and the nationalist, be careful. Don’t believe all you hear. You might be wrong. Just as Haredi do not promote abuse of women, seculars do not universally hate 'Judea-Samaria'—or religion. Some might even support a religious-nationalist like Moshe Feiglin. Why? Because he believes in Jewish values--and that strikes a chord with many seculars: even seculars who profess ‘no religion’ can be sensitive to values, especially when those are presented honestly, openly and intelligently.

Ask Moshe Feiglin about that. Seculars, contrary to media representations, do not always hate G-d—or Israel.

Jewish values and belief in G-d turn out to be important in Israel. Secular Jews who hear a constant anti-G-d/anti-Israel drumbeat often become weary. They become disenchanted. At some point, some will long for a truth that is not coloured by a Leftist tinge. They want something more. But because Israel is a politically peculiar place, even when seculars discover someone who presents an honesty they can believe and a truth they know is real, they may not vote for him—at first. That’s Israel. But in the end, they come to respect that man; and in Israel, that is where power and influence lie—being respected.

Ask Moshe Feiglin. He knows because, increasingly, this is how his influence takes root. It is why his support grows.

So when you meet a ‘secular’, be careful. He may not think what you think he thinks.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The UN’s Richard Falk, and Ahmed: when silence is immoral

Between November 14, 2012 (when recent Gaza-Israel fighting began) and December 16—seven days ago--Israel forgot about the eight days of Gaza fighting and focused instead on the eight days of Chanukah. Israel also focused on the November 29 UN de facto recognition of ‘Palestine’. But while Israel seemed happy to forget Gaza, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights, Richard Falk, was busy writing four essays on Al Jazeera English (November 18, 24, 29 and December 16). His remarks should interest us, for three reasons.

 First, they highlight the extent to which a UN official turns Human Rights into a weapon. While Israel ignores these Rights issues, Falk uses them to accuse her of heinous crimes. Israel races to erase Gaza  from its news and Falk races to  Al Jazeera, to incite the UN against Israel.

Guess who wins the race.

These four essays are not objective analysis by a UN professional. They are not academic studies. They are frontal assaults that put an official UN seal-of-approval on Arab efforts to demonize Israel.

As you will see in a moment, Falk uses the UN ‘brand’ to label Israel a rogue state that must be punished by the nations of the world. Indeed, if these four essays are any indication, he is the front-man in that attack.

Israel doesn’t respond to his attack. Guess who ‘wins’ this assault.

The second reason for our interest in these essays is that they provide insight into an upcoming war Palestinian leadership says it wants to wage against Israel through ‘lawfare’—using international law to attack Israel. Falk legitimizes this attack with the claims that (1) Israel brutally oppresses innocent Palestinians who seek only moral justice, and (2) Israel is an illegal occupier who inflicts such massive and disproportionate ultra-violence against defenceless Palestinians that she becomes the world’s worst human rights violator.  As for Israel’s brutality in Gaza—the subject of his essays—he claims that Israel started the fighting after it ‘broke the truce’ [sic] with a war crime and then fooled the world (with talk of self-defense). Falk claims that Israel has broken international law on two levels: (1) she brutalizes women and children using an ultra-modern killing machine called the Israel Defence Force; and (2) she has the legal obligation under international law to protect Gaza, not attack it.

He therefore demands that the UN investigate Israel once again for war crimes. As a de facto legal advocate, Falk presents his case by ignoring all violations committed by Hamas in Gaza (see below) and citing Israel as the sole war criminal in this conflict.

In the court of public opinion, Falk declares Israel ‘guilty’. In that same court, Israel is silent.

Guess who wins in the court of public opinion.

It’s going to get worse. While Falk’s attacks are not new, they are noteworthy here because the November 29, 2012 UN  recognition of  Palestine gives the Arab war against Israel a shot of what they believe is legal adrenalin; what was once propaganda can now, if their legal advisors are correct, become terminology for legal action in court. The AP has just this past week (December 20, 2012) reported that the Palestinian Authority declares that it will use its new non-member status at the UN to file war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court, should current Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win the upcoming January 2013 Israel national elections. This announcement surprises no one because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has already told us in an op-ed essay in The New York Times (May, 2011) that UN recognition for Palestine means that the political war against Israel would become a legal war, something he saw as a major step forward in his war against Israel.

Richard Falk now uses these four essays to begin the process of initiating that legal war.

Israel says nothing.

The third reason for interest in these essays focuses on reader comment that today accompanies every on-line essay. One reader stands out. His name is Ahmed. We don’t know if Ahmed is a real name. But that’s irrelevant because Ahmed cites sources. It’s those sources that attract us.

Israel is silent in the face of Falk’s accusations. Ahmed is not silent. He defends Israel.

To address Falk’s claims, Ahmed cites the Hamas Charter, a TV interview and a newspaper essay. You should note that Ahmed’s translation of the Hamas Charter may not be exact. But even as he appears to deviate from linear translation, his deviations are instructive. His changes capture the intent and tone of the Charter, so you can understand what it means.

Listen to Ahmed (I edit for clarity).

You portray Palestinians as brave people fighting against a monstrous Israel and you cry out for the innocents in Gaza? Look at your innocent people. They drag bodies around the streets? They execute people with no trial? Sixteen [sic] Palestinians are executed by Hamas in the most brutal manner. Where is your outcry over that brutality?

60% of Palestinians [sic] voted Hamas into power. Look at the Charter they voted for. You think they voted for peace? The Charter says otherwise. It says that Hamas is one of the links in the Chain of Jihad [Holy war] that confronts the Zionist invasion [Jews in Israel]. It links up with martyr Izz a-din al-Qassam [a Muslim cleric who created armed groups to kill Jews] and his brothers in the Muslim Brotherhood [Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood] who fought Holy War in the 1930s; it relates to the Jihad of the Muslim Brothers during the 1948 war and to the Jihad of the Muslim Brothers of the 1960s. But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if obstacles have been erected by Zionists to obstruct the road before Jihad fighters—nevertheless, Hamas looks forward to implementing allah’s promise, whatever time it might take.  The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said, ‘the time will not come [for the fulfilment of allah’s promise] until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them’.

Ahmed cites the Hamas Charter to tell us that that document is not about innocents longing for peace. It’s not about political self-determination. It’s about a religious war to kill Jews and erase Israel. Richard Falk may speak of the morality of a ‘Palestinian struggle’ against a brutal colonizer. But he ignores the brutality of a Palestinian immorality which provokes that fight; and he ignores the obviously colonizing intent of the Hamas Charter, which explicitly calls to conquer Israel.

So as to make sure we understand the practical consequences of such hate, Ahmed quotes the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah: armed resistance and armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river—Al Aqsa TV, December 14, 2011.

For Haniyah, Palestine is all of Israel.  Indeed, the fight for Palestine must be a fight to eliminate Israel (Kana’an Obeid, advisor to Hamas government, writing in the Hamas newspaper, Al-Risala, October, 2012).

What is the real Palestinian story? Richard Falk, speaking on behalf of the United Nations, calls Palestinian aggression ‘moral’. He would have us believe that all the Palestinians want is peace. He tells us that Israel’s efforts to protect itself are criminal.


Perhaps you should listen to Ahmed. Read his sources. They’ll tell you what Arabs really want; and from those sources, you should be able to determine for yourself whose actions are moral, whose actions are not, who acts with criminal intent and who does not.

Then, finally, you must turn to Israel and demand, how dare you remain silent in the face of such outrage?

Your silence is immoral.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two questions about Israel’s economy

The World Economic Forum has recently published its annual study of world economies. The Global Competitiveness Report, full data edition, 2012, attempts to provide useful portraits of a nation’s economic environment and its ability to achieve sustained levels of growth. It ranks 144 nations according to a series of categories, using a specified methodology.

If you ‘Google’ The Global Competitiveness Report, you can find a PDF file with the entire report. Read it. You can do your own analysis.

Our concern today is Israel, which ranked 26th for 2012--and 22nd  the year before. For our purpose here, we focus only on the Executive Opinion Survey, which is exactly what it sounds like—a survey of executives in each country’s business community. The survey contains fourteen sections, including, overall perception of your economy, government and public institutions, innovation and technology, education and human capital, corruption, ethics and social responsibility. Naturally, a survey of individuals will be subjective. But these responses are aggregated, then scored according to specific rules. A standardized methodology is employed. Protocol guidelines are imposed.

 If you live in Israel, you may not be surprised by some of the rankings. Still, take a look at the findings. Then, be prepared to answer two questions.

First, some numbers:

In the area entitled, Innovation, here is where Israel ranks in several categories:


                -Capacity for innovation—6th.

               -Company spending on Research & Development—6th

               -Government procurement of advanced tech products—6th

               -Availability of scientists and engineers—9th    

               -University-industry collaboration in Research & Development—8th

               -patent applications/population—4th

               -Quality of scientific research institutions—1st

In the section titled, Business Sophistication:

               -Extent of marketing—12th

               -Control of international distribution—9th

               -production process sophistication—10th

               -Willingness to delegate authority—19th

In the section, Goods and Market Efficiency:

               -effectiveness of anti-monopoly policy—69th

               -extent and effect of taxation—73rd

               -Number of procedures to start a business—29th

               -Number of days to start a business—109th

               -prevalence of trade barriers—40th

               -burdens of customs procedures—47th

               -imports as percentage of GDP—87th

               -degree of customer orientation—55th

In the section, Institutions:

               -public trust in politicians—59th

               -irregular payments and bribes—31st

               -favouritism in decisions by government officials—46th

               -wastefulness of government spending—56th

               -burden of government regulations-90th

               -efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes—46th

               -efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations—57th

               -transparency of government policymaking—54th

               -ethical behaviour of firms—32nd

               -business costs of crime and violence—36th

               -organized crime—55th

               -reliability of police services—48th

                      -strength of investor protection—5th

               -business costs of terrorism—128th



               -quality of primary education—71st

               -life expectancy, years—8th

               -infant mortality—21st

               -availability of latest technologies—22nd

               -individuals using the internet (%)—34th

               -broadband internet subscriptions, per population—25th

               -international internet bandwidth, kb/s per user—80th

               -mobile broadband subscriptions, per population—24th


How we look at this Report depends upon who does the looking. This Report is not perfect. Readers familiar with it can identify its shortcomings.

Still, we might make some observations.

First, Israel has reason to be proud. Any ranking of 15 or higher gets highlighted in the Report, and for good reason. The world is a competitive place; fifteenth or better means, essentially, a top-ten per cent placement—a high honour indeed.

Israel places high where we might expect: R&D, Innovation and the quality of science research; you can see the other top-fifteen placements above.

But if Israel wants to become truly a first-class world competitor, she cannot compete with her hands tied. She cannot be ‘first class’ if she continues to rank 47th or worse in such areas as effective anti-monopoly policy, burdens of customs procedures, public trust in politicians, wasteful government spending, burden of government regulations, efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations, transparency of government policy-making and the intrusiveness of organized crime.

Israel has a Socialist legacy from her founding fathers. Is the practical impact of that legacy a stifling bureaucracy and poor market efficiencies?

Whatever the philosophical issues, If Israel wants to be counted as ‘first-class’, she must secure more top ten per cent rankings—and she must certainly improve her worst rankings.

The question is, can Israel do that? To answer this, you’ve got to ask those two questions referred to above:

 1. Do you see any kind of public or private dialogue that focuses on improvement?

2. Do policy-makers and business-leaders give you the impression that they want change?

There are a lot of issues here. Some, like number of days to start a business or burden of government regulations, should be a public embarrassment.

Other issues, like public education, should be a scandal.

These weaknesses are not new. They did not appear yesterday. They will not go away tomorrow. One thing, however, is certain: if we do not advance, we will fall behind.

We have already fallen from 22nd to 26th.

Care to guess why?


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Judah Maccabee, you and your predecessors are not wanted!

As you watch the last day of Chanukah fade, you might notice that we read weekly Torah portions at Chanukah-time that focus on the Biblical story of Joseph.  That is not coincidence. That Torah story links to Chanukah—and to us.

Look at the main characters we see this time of year—Joseph, his older brother Judah and then Judah the Maccabee.

Joseph, favoured son of Jacob, had a problem. As Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz of Karmiel, Israel has said, Joseph saw himself a leader. He even tried his own, ‘I have a dream’ speech. But his plans—and his speech—didn’t go over very well. Instead of ending up as king-of-the-hill over his brothers, he ended up a slave in Egypt.

In the end, of course, Joseph was right. He became Viceroy of Egypt.

His older brother Judah also grows into leadership in this story. Judah earns his own mantle of leadership from the power that derives from character. First, he steps forward to take responsibility for the safety of his younger brother, Benjamin. This becomes a serious issue for the family because Judah fails to keep Benjamin safe (you’ll have to read the story to get the details); but Judah does not whine, make excuses or try to blame someone else for his failure. Instead, he takes responsibility for that failure, and for the attempt to rescue Benjamin.

To that end, Judah risks everything: without any hesitation, he confronts the one man in the world who could release Benjamin--or order Judah killed for daring to stand up: the Egyptian Viceroy. The scene of their confrontation is both simple and stunning. In fact, if you do not understand how much power that Viceroy had, and if you have forgotten how, earlier, the Jewish brothers had so completely prostrated themselves before him, you will miss how shocking Judah’s behaviour is. This is where Judah truly earns his right to leadership. He performs despite the threat of death.

As this story of Joseph and Judah unfolds, we read the Chanukah tale of Judah the Maccabee. The moment this later Judah accepts the mantle of leadership—after his father dies—you learn that he has ‘the right stuff’: he carries on the battle to defend Israel ‘with gladness’. He increases the glory of his people. He is like a lion in his action.

He is a leader. We can all—religious and non-religious—celebrate his heroism and courage. For us all, he is the Jewish ‘lionheart’.

Each of these three men is a hero. Each has the character and life-story to inspire. They confronted difficulties, risk and conflict. They faced those challenges bravely and, despite setbacks, succeeded.

These heroes highlight our history. Joseph and his brother Judah helped to found our nation. Judah the Maccabee helped that nation to survive.

But these men do not inspire our current leaders. If anything, these heroes are so politically incorrect they repel.

Jewish leadership rejects them.

One way to see this is to look at today’s political arena and identify those who appear to mirror them. Your choices may differ, according to taste or bias. But the results will probably be the same.

 Who would be Joseph? Which current Israeli politician makes public statements that provokes complete scorn? Avigdor Leiberman might be that politician. He appears to provoke the same scorn that we see from Joseph’s family when he reveals his dreams to them.

Leiberman is considered to be pro-Israel. He does not retreat. Like Joseph, his personal actions lead to ignominy.

Who would be Judah? Which politician has taken a public stand to oppose the most powerful man in the world—and to speak about G-d in public? Moshe Feiglin does that.  

How has the Left-controlled media treated him?

Who would be Judah the Maccabee? One might argue that there is today no ‘Judah Maccabee’. The reason is simple: a Jew in Israel who dares stand up as Judah and his father once did is harassed, viciously attacked by a Left-leaning press and, often, arrested. He knows that he runs the risk that, if he speaks too aggressively, many will  abandon him.

Today, Judah the Maccabee has been silenced, shoved into a dark cornered—and gagged.

Our ancient heroes created Israel. They protected Israel. They stood up despite the risk of death or enslavement. They committed to G-d. They stood strong for the Jewish nation. They did not fear their enemies. They did not attack G-d. They did not scorn the land.

Our ancient Jewish stories remind us what it takes for the Jewish people to survive: courage, and a public commitment to G-d and land.

How do our current Jewish leaders compare? Do they model after these men? Do they strengthen, protect and build the Jewish nation?

Do they stand up for G-d?

You tell me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Chanukah story does not end with a miracle

Chanukah is important. At a time when Jews are out-numbered in the Middle East by something like 55-to-1, Chanukah reminds us that the few can defeat the many. It teaches us that, if we unite under a single banner, we can be successful. It unites us in a celebration of victory.
After Mattisyahu the Jew defeated a brutal enemy, we saw a miracle. In the Temple, a small flask contained only enough oil to light the Temple menorah for one night; but it lasted eight nights. We celebrate that miracle as part of our victory.
Every Chanukah, essays appear—as they should—to remind us how this saga of heroism and miracle is relevant to the challenges we face today. Chanukah offers a wonderful story with an uplifting outcome. But the real Chanukah story in the First Book of Maccabees does not end with a miracle. It does not end with an inspiring message.
You might want to know about that ending. It may teach you more about today’s Israel than the ending you do know.
The first hint that the ending you know may not be the real ending hits you early in the story. Our Chanukah’s grand finale--restoring the Temple—doesn’t occur at the end. In a Book of sixteen chapters, the scene of the Temple’s restoration, rededication and celebration occurs at the end of Chapter four; and in a Book with more than 930 sentences, that scene uses less than three per cent of the text—just twenty-six sentences.
There is more to this story than defeating an enemy and restoring our Temple—twelve chapters more.
The second hint comes immediately after the celebration and joy, with the opening of Chapter Five: “It happened that when the heathen round about heard that the altar had been rebuilt and the sanctuary rededicated as before, they became very angry, and they resolved to destroy the descendants of Jacob” (translation by Edgar Goodspeed, in The Apocrypha, Random House, 1959).
From these words forward, the rest of the Book of Maccabees does not focus on happy Jewish living. Instead, it is a chronicle of war and betrayal. There seems no end to combat, fear and treachery. The enemies of Israel feel nothing but loathing for the descendants of Jacob. They talk about and interact with Israel with only one thought in mind—conquest. There is constant war against Israel.
Sound familiar?
Many in Israel today want ‘peace’, not because it is possible, but because they are worn down by war. For example, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been quoted as saying that he was ‘tired’ of the conflict, and (when PM) sought peace almost as a relief (it seemed) from his fatigue.
He’s not alone. Many Leftist essays appear with a similar emotional content: we are tired of fighting; can’t we just give ‘them’ what they want, so we can be left alone?
The original Chanukah story reminds us that desires for a Leftist-designed peace—attractive as it might be--will never work. Jews will never be ‘left alone’ because we have never been left alone. In peace or war, Jew-hate animates our enemies, not peace.
The enemies of Israel, we learn from Chanukah, want only one thing: conquest.  For them, coexistence is not an option.
Judah the Maccabee did not support our enemies. He fought them. He did not regret having confronted them in the first place; and he did not worry that going to war to defend Israel would anger others.
The original Chanukah story ends with the Jewish nation at war, just as we are today. There is no Hollywood ending. There is only combat and treachery—just as today.
Part of that treachery involved Jews betraying Israel. In Israel today, we have a Left that some call a ‘fifth column’ that actively promotes and supports our enemy’s goals. That’s exactly what happened in Judah’s story, where godless Jews joined the enemy to destroy Israel.
Treachery was not limited to Jews betraying Israel, or Israel’s enemies betraying promises to Israel (something we see today).  It also affected how Israel’s enemies treated each other.
Sound familiar?
 Today, outside Israel, we see between our foes a treachery and brutality that echoes hints in the Book of Maccabees.  The players and names are different, but the game is the same: Sunni fights Shiite, Syria kills its own people, Hamas murders Fatah. Our story is not new. It is as ancient as the Chanukah story. In fact, we live that story.
When you read the ending of the Book of Maccabees, you realize that the Chanukah story never ended.
There is a lesson here: being tired will not bring us peace. Negotiating with those who betray promises will not bring us peace. Surrendering land to those who swear to kill us will not bring us peace. With our enemies, peace is not an option—and never has been.
Judah the Maccabee understood that.  Do you?





Thursday, December 13, 2012

Forget the end of the Chanukah story; read the beginning

Most of us know the end of the Chanukah story. Jews versus Greeks, out-numbered, miraculously win. The Temple, desecrated by our enemy, restored. Judaism--saved. Jewish independence on our own land, achieved.
That story is 2175 years old. But for Jews--perennial underdogs--it’s a victory that always satisfies. We sing. We light candles for eight nights. We celebrate.
But as satisfying as such celebration is, it’s not the end of this story that should attract us. It’s the beginning that should interest us—because that beginning is, indeed, our story.
That beginning is our story because we, too, face threats to our religion and our freedom. We, too, face Humanists who would betray us; and we confront hostile enemies who would conquer us.
Open the First Book of Maccabees. Turn to the first chapter. Read the first 28 sentences. Translations differ, so you may want to look at more than one translation. As you read, you may be able to see a hint of what we could be looking at if Arabs and Israeli Leftists triumph. You might even be able to discover (if you read to the middle of Chapter Two) that the existential threat we face today has an existential solution linked to Chanukah.  
Here’s a look at our modern story, adapting the style of the original:
And it happened, starting before 1948, when modern Israel was born, that Arabs began a conquest of Israel just as Antiochus IV Epiphanes had done some two thousand years before.  
They made many wars. They killed women and children. They did not give up.
They made a mighty and strong host in countries around Israel. They taught that host it is good to slaughter Jews.
And during these times their leader, Yasser Arafat fell sick, and he died. After his death, there came from them a wicked root named Mahmoud Abbas, who had written a PhD dissertation that purports to show a secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism.
Under his rule, they proudly entered the Temple Mount. They dug, then trashed evidence of Jewish history.
They refused to allow Jews to pray at their holiest site.
They stoned ‘Jewish cars’ on highways.
They fire-bombed Jewish property.
They said Israel must be Islamic, not Jewish.
They called the Jewish Rachel’s Tomb an Islamic Mosque. They said the Temple Mount had no Jewish connections.
Their TV stations showed religious leaders calling for Muslims to massacre Jews.
Then it was that Mahmoud Abbas their leader stood before the United Nations.  He defamed Israel. He demanded that his people should be called a ‘state’.
And the nations consented, according to his words.
 As these events unfolded in those days, there stood in Israel godless men who persuaded others, saying, Come, let us make covenants with the enemies who surround us. Ever since we declared independence in 1948, many sorrows have befallen us. We saw sorrow in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1982, the intifadas, 2006, 2008 and 2012. There has been no end, there is no end and there will be no end to this sorrow.
Come, let us seek an end. There is too much hate. We must end the hate.
If Israel were no longer Jewish, they said, the hate would end. Our Judaism creates hate. We must un-Jewish our nation!
Their plan seemed good in their eyes. Jews around the world supported them. Jews in Israel supported them.
They exalted themselves before their brothers.
The godless men went before the nations to show their plan. There will be no Jewish state, they said. There will only a state of its citizens, Arab and Jew.
The nations were pleased.
The godless men who sought treaty with their enemy implemented their plan. They sponsored women who disrupted worship at the Western Wall. They sponsored women who enabled attacks against ultra-orthodox Jews. They sponsored Arabs who attacked Jews.
They filled Israel’s bureaucracy and courts. Then, they scorned, harassed and arrested those who believed in G-d. They called to protect democracy. Then, they plundered democracy’s protections.
They bowed before the nations. They bowed before the Arab. They attacked their religion. They betrayed their people.
A political mourning spread throughout the land. Nationalists and Religious Nationalists groaned. The very earth seemed shaken, as Jewish homes were demolished by Israeli police in Ulpana, Mitzpe Yitzhar and Migron.
The Arabs continued their attacks while the house of Jacob was covered with shame.
So unfolds (with liberal translation from the original) our modern Chanukah tale. The existential threat for both Chanukahs is the same—anti-Jewish Jews who help enemies who would destroy Israel; and the key to victory for both is also the same: making the existential commitment that our existence belongs to G-d, not man.
We celebrate ancient Chanukah victories with pleasure. But if we are to celebrate our own victories, we cannot rely on the Iron Dome, the IDF or the United States. We must continue now as the heroes of the original Chanukah--with the call, ‘who is for G-d, come to me!’
According to Jewish tradition, this is, in essence, exactly how our own story’s end will begin—with a declaration that we commit to G-d.
The ancient Maccabeans succeeded because they had the courage to believe.
Do you have that courage?








Sunday, December 9, 2012

Richard Falk and the wrong Chanukah

This week, Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Chanukah. This story of heroism and victory took place in Israel more than 2170 years ago. It’s a triple story. On one level, it tells of a powerful nation occupying the Jewish state, oppressing the population—and how Jews resisted that oppression. It is a story of fighting for liberty and self-rule. It thrills Jews everywhere because this war was fought by brave, out-numbered fighters who struggled against all odds and then, miraculously, won. They made the impossible possible. They attained the unattainable. They achieved the unforeseeable—independence.

On a second level, this is the story of a religion facing obliteration. We see a nation struggling against those who would erase Judaism. We see Jews who believe in their Torah opposing Jews who have rejected that Torah. It is a tale of religious conflict against anti-Jewish Jews who chose Greek humanism over Judaism, just as it is the story of military battle against a brutal occupier.

On the third level, we see a tale of religious nationalism. Here, religion becomes the national rallying cry for public action, where citizens rally around G-d, not just self-interest. The miracle of Chanukah takes place in the Holy Temple, which is the core of the Jewish religion and the central focus of the Jewish state. The Temple had been violated, desecrated and left abandoned. But as the story ends, the Maccabees have beaten their enemy and restored both Temple and national sovereignty.

We celebrate all of this at Chanukah.

Some call Chanukah the world’s first ideological war, pitting the ethical law of the Jewish Torah against Greek humanism, idolatry and the worship of the human body that so characterized the Greek world-view. We see the religious fight to defend their beliefs. We see them win.

It’s a great story. But for many Jews around the world—including some in Israel—this is not the real Chanukah story.

For these Jews, the real Chanukah is also about a population that resists a brutal oppressor; and, like the original, it is also called a struggle for freedom.

The story details are familiar. The oppressor crushes. The oppressed fight back. This real Chanukah even takes place in Israel. It even includes Jews. But in this story, Jews are not the heroes. They are the hated oppressors.

For some Jews, Israel is racist; Judaism is fascism. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the new mad King Antiochus who kills and maims with impunity; and so, inspired perhaps by the first Chanukah story, these Jews join with those who fight--against Jews they call, ‘ZioNazis’. These ‘supporters of resistance’ believe that Maccabees are not Jews of old but modern Muslims who must have liberty—and the right to install their own religion as the law of Israel. You may know some of these Jews. They could include Richard Falk, Norman Finklestein, Noam Chomsky and 400 Reform Rabbis in America who, last year, signed a public letter demanding that Israel capitulate to Arab demands even though those Arabs have Charters that call for the destruction of Israel.

On Chanukah, we celebrate a miracle by lighting candles for eight consecutive nights. The miracle is about a flask, containing enough oil for only one night’s light in the Temple’s menorah, lasting eight days. It is a miracle of Light that reminds us that the impossible can be possible and the unattainable can be attainable.

Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights, is a Jew who embraces Israel’s Arab enemy. He appears to understand the Chanukah miracle. He may have hinted at it in an essay on Al Jazeera English, on November 24, 2012 (‘Welcoming the Gaza ceasefire: first impressions’). There, he spoke of the difficulties facing his beloved Palestinians as they struggle against an Israel he calls a brutal, ultra-modern killing machine.  He begins by saying that ‘an independent sovereign Palestine is slipping out of the realm of the feasible’, and, ‘two states for two peoples seems an exercise in wishful thinking.’

But after saying that, he seems to turn to the Chanukah story, with its miracle of possibility. He declares that history has shown over and over again that the ‘impossible’ is possible. The unattainable is attainable. Oppressed people can achieve the unforeseeable.

Chanukah is about miracles of survival. But if you read the Hamas and PLO/Fatah Charters, you’ll see that Richard Falk’s Chanukah is not about the survival of Jewish Israel. It’s about the destruction of Jewish Israel.

It’s the wrong Chanukah.

Even if Mr Falk’s Chanukah reference was not deliberate, its introduction into the Arab-Israel conflict teaches us that Chanukah is indeed relevant today. He reminds us that Chanukah is not about a hope to destroy the Jewish people; it’s about how the Jewish people survive a destructive threat—and make no mistake; that threat is as real today as it had been some 2175 years ago: on December 8, 2012, just as this year’s Chanukah was about to begin, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal spoke in Arabic at a rally in Gaza, where AFP news service reported that he repeated once again what Hamas has always said: “Palestine is our land and nation from the (Mediterranean) sea to the (Jordan) river, from north to south, and we cannot cede an inch or any part of it.”

That description of Palestine includes all modern Israel. The new Arab Palestine, in other words, is not to stand beside Israel; it is to replace Israel, to erase Israel from the map.

Richard Falk employs his Chanukah metaphor to express his hope for that Palestine. His language teaches us that, as in the first Chanukah story, Israel must fight and believe if it is to survive. But by bringing up Chanukah, he also reminds us that true miracle of Chanukah was not simply survival. It was also the restoration of our Holy Temple at its home, the Temple Mount—which Muslims now control and refuse to return.

When Richard Falk introduces Chanukah into the Arab-Israel conflict, he unwittingly introduces the true dual messages of Chanukah: Israel can survive--and we can restore our Holy Temple.

Thanks, Mr Falk. We’ll remember your lesson.

Happy Chanukah.






Sunday, December 2, 2012

November 29, 2012 at the UN: four predictions

On November 29, 2012, the United Nations voted to approve what is being called the de facto recognition of a new sovereign state, Palestine. The vote was 138-9, with 41 abstentions.  

The Arab world celebrates this vote as a victory.  It doesn’t matter that their new Palestine has no borders. It doesn’t matter that this vote does not make them a member-state in the UN, but only a non-member with observer status, similar to the Vatican.

What matters is, they won.

To understand what they won, here are four predictions that will come out of this vote for the next 48 months:

Prediction One: this UN resolution in favour of Palestine will not lead to peace. It will lead to war.

Prediction Two: there will be two wars. These wars could occur in sequence, simultaneously—or, in some other fashion. The first war will be more Arab-Israel conflict. The second war will be a world war against Israel.

Prediction Three: the world war against Israel will unfold through multiple pathways. Some of these pathways will unfold simultaneously. Some will be sequential. They will be aimed at  criminalizing Israel. Every international human rights code written since 1949 will be used to accuse Israel of crimes against all humanity. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian human rights, has already called for a new UN Fact-Finding Mission to investigate Israel’s actions during its recent ‘Pillar of Defense’ attack against Gaza. This Fact-Finding Mission would be asked to do what the Goldstone Report did in 2009. Since Mr Falk now redefines Israel as an ‘ultra-modern killing machine that kills and maims at will,’ we can expect that a new Goldstone-like Report will be even more hostile to Israel than the original.

A second pathway will be the International Criminal Court. There, Arabs will seek the right to ask for criminal indictments against individual Israelis—specifically, every Israeli who signed any document relating to Gaza or the Palestinian territories.

For a third pathway, the new Palestine could seek the legal right to establish its own courts, so as to indict Israel and Israelis for human rights violations committed with every arrest of every Palestinian since 1948 (Goldstone Report suggests a potential for 700,000 lawsuits).

A fourth pathway is called, the principle of universal jurisdiction, which states that international crimes (such as those allegedly committed by a brutal and immoral Israel) that violate fundamental human values are such a concern for the world, that they can be prosecuted anywhere in the world, regardless of the place of commission, the nationality of the perpetrator or the nationality of the victims  (Goldstone Report).

A fifth pathway could be demands for reparations. Goldstone tells us that a State is responsible for full reparations when that State commits internationally unlawful acts, including acts codified in international humanitarian conventions and human rights codes. In case you think this is a frivolous issue, Goldstone states that reparation has been ‘enshrined’ in at least five international codes.

Still other pathways—including international law surrounding the ‘responsibility to protect’ and ‘collective punishment’-- will be built as opportunity presents itself.

This world war should not be confused with the on-going Arab-Israel conflict. This will be a war between the world and Israel. This war will be based partly on 'human rights', and on the premise that the greatest threat to world peace is terorism--and Israel is the cause of that terrorism.

Israel will be called to justice. She will be accused. She will be investigated.  She will be found guilty of crimes against all humanity, not just Palestinians. We will be told that Israel’s immorality against the Palestinians is so great, it will challenge our world (Richard Falk); and, any hope for freedom and peace for us all depends upon the UN acting against Israel (Mahmoud Abbas).

Prediction Four: the UN will become sorely troubled by Israel’s immorality. Her brutality will be called unbearable. She will become worse than Nazi Germany. Nations beyond the Middle East will accuse Israel of attempting her own holocaust—against the Arab.

Peace lovers at the UN will be horrified. Diplomats and political pundits will wonder aloud if Israel the ZioNazi should be expelled from the UN.

We have seen these tactics and accusations. But what we have seen has only been rehearsal. Mahmoud Abbas wants more. As he wrote in The New York Times In May, 2011, he wants to 'internationalize' his war against Israel by making that war a 'legal matter'; and that, he said, was why he wanted statehood--not for peace, but to transform his war effort. 

UN recognition would be the key that unlocks the door for his world war.

He now has that recognition. His war can now become global, not just local.
Congratulations, Mr Abbas. You have won the tools you seek to destroy your enemy. You can now start your world war.

Congratulations also go to the UN: the road to war goes through you.