Friday, December 31, 2004

Column: Sharansky - Where Are You?

Writing this, I am thinking about how everyone on Long Island is probably in Florida. Is anybody out there?

Anyway, I spent the week hoping that there would be some sign of movement from Sharansky towards actively opposing "disengagement." If you missed last week's column, I wrote about how he and he alone can stop the madness. He is seen by President Bush as a hero who believing that history was on his side had the courage to sit out the gulag until Reagan came to the rescue. Now Bush is out to rescue a whole lot of other folks and with Ukraine now free how would it look if Israel tried to silence Sharansky? If Sharansky were to scream about Sharon's tyranny I believe the whole world would hear it. In any case, there has been no sign from Sharansky that this idea of mine is going to get anywhere. However, I have gotten very positive feedback from almost everyone I have spoken with and some are looking for ways to approach him with the idea.

Meanwhile, the far left Haaretz ran a story: "Twelve right-wing legislators have vowed to act as human shields to prevent evacuation of settlers..."

The twelve signed a petition that says: "We, members of the Knesset of Israel, commit ourselves to appear in Gush Katif when called, to block with our bodies the immoral and inhuman expulsion of thousands of heroic and pioneering settlers."

The initiative of National Religious Party leader Effi Eitam, the petition was signed by NRP legislators Yitzhak Levy, Nissan Slomiansky and Gila Finkelstein. Signing from Likud were Yuli Edelstein and Yehiel Hazan. Binyamin Elon, Zvi Hendel, Uri Ariel, Eliezer Cohen, Aryeh Eldad and Yuri Stern signed from National Union.

The petition reads that they will: "stand at the head of the camp, to embrace the settlers with love and to promise a determined struggle in the field in order to safeguard the values of Zionism ... and democracy, forswearing violence, contempt and hatred toward security forces."

This sounds like my idea for Sharansky except without Sharansky and his political capital. All that have signed will be either villified or ignored by a world press that will write them off as religious fanatics or right wing fanatics or both. They would try to do the same to Sharansky but he has an enormous advantage. As I have already explained, Sharansky is a symbol of the advance of democracy -- one of its most visible proponents following the release of his new book and his visit to the White House -- and a favorite of President Bush whose Wilsonian vision of a free world and belief in the inherent desire of all men to be free is made evidence of by the life story of this man.

I hope that Sharansky somehow gets the message and joins this group of brave Knesset members. It could make all the difference.

In the meantime, missiles and mortars continue to fall on the Jews in Gaza and Sharon is calling for the PA to stop it -- as if that could possibly happen. The number of missiles and mortars that have now landed over the last few years has reached 5,000 and with Sharon's current hands off policy the barrages have intensified.
Sharon can get away with all of this because there is no support anywhere in the world for the residents of Gaza.. Do a search on Google news. Type in "disengagement" and see how many articles you can find there opposing it. There is really nothing to be found. Again, Sharansky could make the difference -- American conservatives just might listen to him and start to understand what is really going on.

What else can I tell you? Well, the sky is a brilliant blue and the sun warm and bright -- it will reach about 72 degrees at the beach today -- what is it in Florida? Up here in the mountains of Tzfat it's a little cooler, perfect really. I hope the weather holds out for a few days. I want to get to the beach in Nahariya. Along the way, if it's really clear, the snow covered peak of Mount Hermon will be visible from the winding mountain road -- way off in the distance yet so high that it dominates the landscape completely. It's an amazing sight to see on the way to the beach.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Israeli Crime That Wasn't

Monday, December 27, 2004

Ari Shavit for Leftist Haaretz: an Interview with Leftist Icon Amos Elon

Ari Shavit: an Interview with Amos Elon:

Read an interview with "The man who was once the preeminent journalist in Israel has been totally erased from the memory. The man who was the chief chronicler of the Israeli story has ceased to register in the Israeli consciousness."

"Of course it's an illusion. Gaza will explode. I think there will be a terrible explosion there. That's why I still say today that the victory in the Six-Day War was worse than a defeat."

"Why don't you admit it: You're a European Jew who shows an interest only in European Jews just like yourself. Your heart goes out solely to them.
'I don't have any self-consciousness as a European Jew. This description is barely apt. I hardly think of myself as a Jew. As I see it, I'm an Israeli. An Israeli of Jewish origin.'
That's the definition? An Israeli of Jewish origin?
'I think so. But I have many other loyalties. I'm at home in American culture. I write in Hebrew and English. I've also written a book in German. I have a real kinship with German culture, absolutely.'"

Yeshenko Wins -- Meet His Wife

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail: "The challenge will be to move Ukraine towards a free-market economy. Mrs. Yushchenko makes clear that her husband makes all of his own political decisions, but she will no doubt be a valuable asset to him. 'She is one of the brightest, most dedicated conservatives I have ever known,' says Bruce Bartlett, a former official in the Treasury Department under the first President Bush. 'Anyone who met Kathy quickly discovered that creating a free, successful Ukraine was her primary mission in life, to the exclusion of almost everything else.'
Now the challenge facing Ukraine is to make the leap towards becoming a democratic society truly governed by the rule of law. Mrs. Yushchenko is realistic about the obstacles facing her husband and his team. '[Some] people are making a lot of money off the current system,' she told ABC News. 'The last thing they want is for the system to change and for the economy to be a free market economy where the general population benefits rather than a small group of people at the top.'"

FrontPage :: In Defense of Rumsfeld by Newt Gingrich

FrontPage :: In Defense of Rumsfeld by Newt Gingrich: "Mr. Rumsfeld, standing on his remarkable record of achievement, is far too effective a defense secretary for any serious student of recent American history to think that he should be replaced.

With Mr. Rumsfeld at the helm, the U.S. military has defeated two terrorist regimes, giving more than 50 million people a chance at freedom.

Ten million Afghans, 40 percent of whom were women who under the Taliban had no rights, voted in the free election of their first popularly elected national leader.

In Iraq, while Mr. Hussein sits in jail awaiting trial, tens of thousands of Iraqis are being trained and equipped to reclaim control of their country as the Iraqi people prepare to vote in their first free elections, planned for Jan. 30.

In addition, the most compelling reason to keep Mr. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense may simply be that there has not been another attack on our homeland since 9/11.

Mr. Rumsfeld's critics are off the mark. The military, under Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership, is our finest example of what works."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Disengagement From Reality

Arafat's successor: Palestinian state will replace Israel

Thursday, December 22, 2004
The new leader of the ruling Fatah movement said the Palestinians want to replace Israel with a state of their own.

Fatah chief Farouk Khaddoumi said the Palestinian strategy toward Israel was two-fold. In the first stage, he said, the Palestinians would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In the second stage, the Palestinians would seek to eliminate the Jewish state.

In November, Khaddoumi replaced the late Yasser Arafat as leader of Fatah, Middle East Newsline reported.

"At this stage there will be two states," Khaddoumi told Iran's Al Aram television. "Many years from now, there will be only one."

Khaddoumi, who regards himself as Palestinian foreign minister, said he was confident that Israel would be eliminated. He said he always opposed Israel's existence and cited the Arab numerical superiority over the Jewish state.

"[There are] 300 million Arabs, while Israel has only the sea behind it," Khaddoumi said.

Khaddoumi said his platform was endorsed by the PLO in 1974. He said the strategy called for a phased plan that would establish authority over any territory obtained from Israel, concluding with an Arab war to destroy the Jewish state.

[On Thursday, the Palestinian Authority launched the first municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in more than 25 years. The PA has been promising such elections since 1996.]

The Fatah chief played down the powers of PA ministers. Khaddoumi said the Fatah Central Committee marked the source of authority for the PA and Cabinet.

"The Palestinian Authority is a partial authority," Khaddoumi said. "It is a local government, just like any local government in any country. We shouldn't delude ourselves that these 'ministers' are actually ministers." [On Thursday, Palestinian gunners fired 30 mortar rounds into the Gush Katif community in the central Gaza Strip. The attack was launched from the Khan Yunis refugee camp hours after Israeli forces left the area.]

Column: Checkmate?

Let me just pull this dagger out of my heart. Hew, OK, that feels a little better. Too much "unity" for me to take I guess -- as in "unity government."
Ironically, yesterday, when Saddam Hussein sent a message to the Iraqi people from jail that they shouldn't let the elections destroy the "unity" of Iraq, I realized that Sharon had stuck a dagger deep in my heart.
Saddam Hussein's use of the word "unity" woke me up to the doublespeak that I had swallowed and was stuck in my throat as I watched Peres being resurrected from the dustbin of Israeli politics and Pinchas Wallerstein bravely but sadly falling into the clutches of the Israeli media and legal system.
There is no "unity" in the deal between Sharon and Peres. Long gone are the days when the people were split over the policies of the Right and Left. The Left has been rejected by the people only to be resurrected by Sharon. That's "unity"? Whom have they united? It's only slightly less insane then Hussein. When Peres pushed through the deal by threatening elections he wasn't threatening that he would beat Sharon at the polls. That would never happen and everyone knows that. He was threatening Sharon that Sharon would be history because the people have had enough of him and his dictatorial ramming of "disengagement" down their throats, and that only Peres could save him.
The people know that "disengagement" will mean that missiles will start landing in Ashkelon and Ashdod and Be'er Sheva immediately -- only to be followed by greater threats as weapons more advanced and missiles of greater range pour in through Egypt. The people want none of it or the likes of it and voted for Sharon for that reason and trusted him and his reputation. After rejection of the plan by his cabinet and his party, Sharon has found a partner in Peres.
Now Pinchas Wallerstein is being accused of fomenting rebellion. For now the accusations are in the media only but the calls for the attorney general to investigate have been made and the British Mandate Laws are handy and ready to be used. Wallerstein was brave to take a stand and call for civil disobedience but unfortunately the media and the judicial system -- leftist tools -- immediately accuse him of calling for civil war. Interesting how quickly they use the word "war" when speaking about civil disobedience by Jews when they are so reluctant to call the murdering of Jews by Arabs a war -- preferring to call it a "peace process."
I have to stop with this for now. I have to say something positive and I actually do have something positive to say.
History is waiting for Natan Sharansky, an opponent of "disengagement", to step into the fray and vie for leadership of the Jewish State. Pinchas Wallerstein's civil disobedience, once it is labeled by the Israeli and world press as rebellion and made to look like a call to "civil war" may put him in jail, and many others with him, with the ease of the word of a few men in Jerusalem, but it will not pose any serious challenge to Sharon's plan. Their voices will be silenced -- except for the small right wing Jewish media and with some luck, an occasional word of support from American conservative media. What follows the silence will be a demonization of the "settlers" that will so isolate them that all the dangers and madness of the plan itself will become of secondary issue to securing the "rule of law" and the "unity government" and "democracy."
But they can't jail Sharansky. They just can't! And they certainly couldn't silence him if they did. Sharansky is not only respected in the White House he is an important asset for Bush in pushing forward his Wilsonian project of democratizing the Arab world. Sharansky in jail and opposing Sharon would be heard all over the world and Sharon could do nothing about it. Sharansky involved in civil disobedience could not be silenced. He is the leader that needs to step forward now and tell the world the truth about the dangers and antidemocratic injustice of "disengagement." Nobody else can do this and nobody can stop Sharansky from doing it. It is his hour. It's time for him to step up and use his political capital.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Cute Couple

Arutz Sheva - Israel National News: "Beilin and Abu Mazen seek to orchestrate a scenario, according to the report, wherein Israel � faced with terrorism on one side and international pressure for a comprehensive solution on the other � is given no choice but to withdraw entirely from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This is the reason for Abu Mazen�s staunch opposition to the disengagement plan being unilaterally implemented by Israel."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Unfashionable Facts About the Middle East by Steven Plaut

Sharansky Interviewed

FrontPage :: The Case for Democracy by Jamie Glazov: "Frontpage Interview's guest today is Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner who is the co- author (with Ron Dermer) of the new book The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Mr. Sharansky has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom for his courageous fight for liberty. He currently serves as Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. "

Friday, December 17, 2004

Column: Israel's Leftist Media Scores

I spent Shabbat Chanukah with a friend in Ramat Beit Shemesh and stayed over another day or so. Sunday was spent preparing for a get-together at his house Sunday night and trying to find a place to watch the soccer match that evening between Arsenal and Chelsea.
I know, who cares about English football matches? The truth is I don't care much about it myself but it was a huge game for my friend who is an Arsenal fan from the earliest days of his North London childhood. He just had to see the most important game of the year against rival Chelsea from South London.
So, at six o'clock on Sunday I found myself in a room of Arsenal fans asking questions that only a Yank can ask and drawing a mixture of calm answers, laughter and looks of disbelief. In any case, I won't bore you with the details of my ignorance of soccer in general and English football in particular. Suffice it to say that about five minutes into the game I had figured out which team was which, about a minute before I was graciously informed by my suspecting friend that the confused look on my face was the manifestation of a very serious befuddlement.
In any case, I promised my friend that I would write about the game -- he reads my columns on my blog, galileeblog, and he made me promise. How could I refuse after he hosted me for three days? But why would he want me to write about an English football match?
The reason is an interruption in the game that caused us to miss three of the four goals in what turned out to be a two, two, tie. The interruption went on for about 50 minutes. It was the news in Arabic -- with Arabic subtitles. That is correct. In the middle of a football match that my friend assured me was of as much importance and interest as any playoff game in American sports, there was a break for 50 minutes and three of the four goals were missed. Now, this wasn't an Arabic station. This was Channel One, Israel's first and primary public television station.
When the break started, abruptly and without explanation, we assumed that it would last a minute or two. Some who suspected worse were rumbling that this was the Arabic news hour and went to search the radio for BBC coverage. The rest of us watched almost an hour of Arabic news on prime time Israeli television, which broke in on the equivalent of an NFL playoff game -- wondering and speculating if this could possibly happen in any other place in the world without people taking to the streets.
Add to this the fact that a good part of the Arabic news was coverage of lesser soccer matches in Europe and the Middle East and one understands that it wasn't the weightiness of the subject matters being covered that impelled this phenomenon. It was something else. It was the Arabic news hour -- in all it's import and symbolic equality taking its rightful and preeminent place on the screens of football fans and letting them know what is really important in the state of Israel.
Still, did I have to write about this? Perhaps Channel One made a mistake and we over reacted -- no?
I don't think so. All of us understood what was happening. It was that the leftist Israeli media providing what they consider a much needed educational experience about the place of Israeli Arabs in the state of Israel. It was truly illuminating for all of us that don't watch Israeli television regularly -- reminding us of the length the Left will go here to move in the direction of Europe, a direction that is suicidal, at least spiritually and nationally, and lost in some utopian fantasy of more a perfect world filled with transformed Arabs who embrace a more loving and caring Euro-bureaucracy.
I suppose, some might argue, that the dream is no less dreamy than the Bush administration's Wilsonian vision of spreading democracy throughout the Muslim world, but the difference is that one vision leaves all nations sovereign and democratic and their religions intact and the other slowly dismantles all and brings all under a bureaucracy that will follow not the lead of America but of Marx -- new and improved they somehow still believe -- since the days of Stalin.

Disengagement Madness

Arutz Sheva - Israel National News: "'The unilateral disengagement will return us, in Gush Katif and northern Shomron, to the worst days [of the past few years], with the 140 victims a month... Let it be completely clear: The ability to fight terrorism with an army, which we acquired with our blood, and which everyone said was impossible, will be totally lost when we leave Gaza. There will be no way to fight terrorism, not militarily and not by intelligence... The tunnels that we see now are child's play compared to what will be after we leave � if the Palestinians wish; it will not be up to us. I haven't heard one word from anyone explaining how they plan to fight terrorism after we leave Gaza. For there is no answer...'"

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Look Who Loves Sharon!

Arutz Sheva - Israel National News: "( Outgoing United Nations Mideast envoy Terje Larsen today hailed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as �Israel�s most courageous leader� because of his Gaza Disengagement Plan.

Larsen explained that in his first meeting with Sharon following his election to office, Sharon asked Larsen what would be his first action if he were prime minister. Larsen stated he told Mr. Sharon, leaving Gaza.

�Never was there an Israeli leader with the courage of Ariel Sharon, to call for evacuating areas and removing settlements,� stated Larsen who completes his current post this weekend."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Column: Happy Chanukah!

Last week I spoke briefly about how Chanukah is the holiday of praise and thanksgiving. What follows will hopefully be in that spirit as I ignore the current events regarding the state of Israel and focus on the sometimes hidden and sometimes revealed nature of the Land of Israel. The state of Israel and the Land of Israel should often be looked at as two seperate things, even though they are clearly intertwined. One is a political entity and one a physical and spiritual reality where the physical and spiritual meet as they do in no other place in the world -- and more so than in any other place on the Temple Mount -- where the miracle of oil took place in the days of the Macabees.

"A great miracle happened here." That's what the Hebrew letters on some dreidels mean. Other dreidels have one different letter, which changes the meaning to "A great miracle happened there." That, if my memory serves me correctly, was pointed out to me on my first Chanukah in Israel. I never knew there were different dreidels but I was soon to begin to understand why. That understanding has grown slowly over the years as I longed to get a glimmer of what Jacob understood in his dream when he awoke and said "G-d is truly in this place but I did not know it. 'How awe-inspiring this place is! It must be G-d's temple. It is the gate to heaven!"

Jacob had his dream, which inspired those words, on the Temple Mount, where the miracle of the lights of Chanukah was to happen many generations later. That miracle was in one aspect the revelation of the holiness of the Land of Israel as the purification and rededication of the Temple immediately resulted in an open miracle.

In our generation we have merited to see what not only we but much of the world recognized as miracles in the military victories of the state of Israel. This perspective -- viewing the wars as miraculous -- has been admittedly lost as the true nature of these wars have been hidden by secularists. It is an unfortunate loss but perhaps a necessary one, as the distinction between a state that denies miracles and a people that believes in them and longs and prays for them is observeable more each year.

So, what is the nature of this land? Is it really a place of miracles where heaven and earth meet? Is it inherently different from all others? How does one experience it?

Too many questions to answer and not nearly enough space, but there is a teaching of Rabbi Nachman's that for me is most revealing and essential. It reveals that the Land of Israel and prayer and miracles are all one thing and that they are dependent one upon the other. What does this mean? I understand it as meaning (minimally) that in order to have miracles we need prayer and we need to pray in the Land of Israel. Conversely, if we want the Land of Israel we need miracles and prayer. Finally if we want true and powerful prayer we need both miracles and the Land of Israel. In short, Rabbi Nachman places a ladder before us, Jacob's ladder, which goes to heaven but rests on earth, a very special part of earth -- and which can take us to a reality that is above nature and yet the spiritual place of our true nature. It is up to us to ascend this latter, difficult as that may be, and break through to higher plane.

Chanukah was a spiritual breakthrough of enormous magnitude -- a return to our roots and the source of our hope and strength through which we merited miracles of war and spirit (light). That breakthrough brought a light into the world that we rekindle every year and which will eventually shine through in all its glory. When that day comes, I imagine that every Chanukah candle lit by every Jew throughout all of history will be lit again and that all of us will see with our own eyes our own individual contribution to that great light that will shed all darkness. For who knows the true merit of the candles we light through all the generations of darkness in the dark Diaspora as we remember the light of miracles of long ago?

A new Israeli film:

I recently saw "Ushpizin" -- a new Israeli film by Shuli Rand -- for which he won Israel's best actor award for his part in the lead role. It is the first film made by orthodox Jews in Israel. Rand is an accomplished actor who became orthodox -- in fact a follower of Rabbi Nachman. The film is a great hit here and has brought many orthodox people to the theaters who have never been before, but it is not only a hit amongst the orthodox, it is a hit with the secular as well who are inspired by some of Rabbi Nachman's most important teachings brought to life in a modern story set in Jerusalem. I don't think it is playing in New York yet but the Jerusalem Post says that a version with English subtitles is available. The film is about the struggles of a newly religious couple and how they break through the difficult realities of their lives with prayer and then miracles and in the process learn to believe in themselves too. I hope it gets there soon -- it really should be released for the holiday.

Happy Chanukah!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Column: Thanksgiving and Chanukah

Thanksgiving in Tzfat was different. A few friends -- all of whom voted for Bush and know how important the victory was -- got together to celebrate. We made a barbecue of course, which is the way everything is celebrated here it seems. We had beer and Araq. Araq is like Anisette or Ouzo -- licorice in flavor but not as sweet. It hits you like a hammer over the head when you drink too much, which is what I did -- completely out of character.

It was cold out and we were sitting around the fire sipping our beverages and telling stories about growing up in America. The Araq was warming and going down surprisingly smooth as we talked and waited for the fire to turn to coals. A light drizzle started to fall and we ignored it until it turned to rain and drove us under the little shelter we could find at the front steps. By the door now, the stories got better, the laughter deeper and the bottle of Araq emptier -- and it was me that was emptying it.

And then, just after the food was ready and we sat at the table inside, warmed by a good fire in the wood burning stove, I fell face first onto the table and stayed most of the night in that approximate position.

So why, I found myself asking later, did I get drunk?

Well, first of all it snuck up on me because I have become a lightweight and being largely unfamiliar with the effects of large amounts of Araq I was taken by surprise when the hammer hit. However, I am sure that there was another reason.

That other reason was that there were so few of us that really wanted to celebrate -- who really felt grateful for being saved from a world where the likes of John Kerry, George Soros, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Jaques Chirac, Hamas, CAIR and Peace Now would lead the way -- and that was why I got drunk, for all those who weren't celebrating Bush's win or didn't understand what it meant.

Of course, Israelis overwhelmingly were pulling for Bush and were grateful he had won and hopeful that the WOT would sooner than later put an end to the horrors and threats that have surrounded us -- and that is especially true here in Tzfat, the most right wing city within the so called "green line." However, many of the Americans living here are liberal and have remained liberal despite their becoming observant. I attribute it to a lack of awareness of the bonding of the Left with the Islamofascists, liberal education, and an understanding of Judaism that assumes that liberalism is a fundamental precept. This is an assumption that is supported by different influences at play. One of them is the New Age movement which has a universalistic and pacifist bent and which has influenced certain of the modern Kabbala movements, and Tzfat being the world center of Kabbala, those influences are at play.

All of this was completely beyond me of course as I recovered on the rug near the glowing fire. All I could think about was how warm the fire was and how soft the rug was and how grateful I was to have friends who took care of me in my hour of need.

Now that I am fully recovered and Chanukah is almost here (it seems that it has never come earlier) I am shifting gears. I am looking further back into the past and further off into the future as the Jewish holiday of praise and thanksgiving approaches -- for unlike any of the other Jewish holidays there are no mitzvoth other than lighting the candles and praising Hashem and singing and being happy and grateful for the miracles of a war and the miracles of light, which was in fact a war to keep our light, the light of the Torah.

Remembering all the miracles, we praise Hashem for all he did for us in the time of the Macabees; when the weak defeated the mighty, the few defeated the many, the pure defeated the impure, the righteous defeated the wicked, and the bearers of Torah defeated those that despised it. We remember the purification and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and we long for the day in the future when once again the Cohanim will light the golden menorah there. Then, in that future time, we will know the truest meaning of thanksgiving and praise and will be impelled towards it with all our being.

Happy Chanukah!