Saturday, May 14, 2011

Israel’s Independence Day

Ari Bessel

In Babi-Yar, Kiev, tens of thousands of Jews were murdered for being Jewish exactly 70 years ago.

A small plaque erected 30 years ago dedicates a forest in Israel to their memory. I noticed it as we were departing the Independence Day picnic.

Today Israel is 63 year old. Those who are determined to extend Israel the honor she deserves say she is actually 3,063 year old. Israel is a modern country with a very long and rich history.

There are 7,746,000 people living in the Jewish State, two percent more than last year. The 5.8M of Israel’s population who are Jewish showed a slight decline over last year, 1.6M are a growing population of Arabs and 320,000 not registered as Jewish with the Ministry of Interior. Once there were Independence Day parades by the Israel Defense Forces, but these stopped 38 years ago. So how does Israel celebrate her birthday today?

How does any one of us celebrate one’s birthday? Birthday wishes. Maybe a special lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant, including a “surprise” cake with a candle. Presents. A friend of mine likes to give others presents on her birthday, which for her is the greatest gift.

In Israel, the Fifth Day of the Month of Iyar, Israel’s Independence Day, is very special. It is the day that unites all Israelis, Jews and non-Jews alike, in a unique celebration of existence. Their Israel is the country and a home to call their own, and the only Jewish state to ever exist.

It was Friday, May 14th, 1948. Israel was officially declared at the home of Dizingoff, the Mayor of Tel Aviv. It was not possible to do so in occupied Jerusalem, the Jewish People’s eternal capital. The new country, so long in the making (essentially for half a century by the League of Nations, subject to negotiations between the British and the Arabs, etc.), was immediately attacked.

President Shimon Peres talked about that time:

“Facing armies from Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Israel stood on her own. Isolated and united. Kibbutz members and yeshiva students. Religious and secular. Druze, Muslim, Circassian, and Christian. City-dwellers and those from the countryside. Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Left and right.

“The heavy fighting did not differentiate between them. The enemy's bullets, that wounded their comrades in bloody battles, could not differentiate between our sons.

“We didn't seek war. It was imposed upon us. But when we were attacked, we didn't have the possibility to loose, even one war. And when we won, we returned to seek peace.

“Israel is as strong as ever. We were the first in the world to have an ‘Iron Dome’ that can stop missiles. We have the ability to fly to the heights of space, to dive to the depths of the ocean, and to create a viewing eye not only on our borders but also onto new vistas.

“Wars broke out because the attackers were not aware of Israel's hidden strength. Today, as well, I suggest to those that are looking for war—do not make the same mistake again. Do not overlook our hidden abilities.

“Israel's strength lies in her justness. We are prepared to physically defend our land, and morally to defend our heritage.

“The Israeli spirit has a talent to overcome any situation and to prepare for tomorrow.

“At my age I remember hard days and threatening crises. I firmly believe that our spirit has never been broken. We were justified. What seemed like an impossible dream in the first days, is today an amazing reality that is beyond imagination.

“I often wonder if we could ask David Ben Gurion if now is the time to dream again. To dream big. He would have responded that the previous dream was too small. Reality has overtaken it. Now is the time to dream again.”

Now 63 years have passed, and Israel is threatened even more than in 1948. Then the probability of survival was miniscule. Today, the probability of a decisive win is very low (non-existent in fact) according to Meir Dagan, Israel’s recently retired head of Mossad.

Before every major holiday, non-Israeli-Arabs are not permitted into Israel other than for medical emergencies or on a specific, case-by-case basis. Israel becomes, for a short while, what it truly should be, a state for her Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. All others who do not want to be here, do not want Israel to be here, refuse to recognize Israel or think that the very idea of a Jewish State is an abomination, are kept out. Finally, a two-state solution in real time.

Today I felt what “two states for two people” really mean. Israel, free and independent, her enemies kept out, not allowed to enter or to be here. Israel not depending on her enemies to work the land or in construction – making it clear an enemy who wants to destroy her is not welcome in her midst. Soldiers and police officers protecting the population abound. A powerful defense force, ready and able to protect the land and citizens of Israel against any threat.

It is truly a time to decide: Israeli Arabs and other minorities, if you like the status quo of being equal citizens and are willing to remain loyal citizens of the State of Israel, stay, otherwise, this is not your place.

Now you must realize: If you call for and act to destroy the Jewish State, Israel will fight back. Your place is not here, not anywhere in Israel. You are not welcome in Israeli hospitals for treatment, you are not entitled to an Israeli supply of electricity or other “humanitarian aid” and you should be disconnected from the State.

As long as you burn Israeli products and commodities, call for boycotts, to divest from and sanction Israel, her institutions and citizens and prepare to go to war against her, incite your children and youth against Jews and amass military power to be used at the earliest opportunity, Israel is no partner for you.

This is not a game so stay away. Israel is a country both ancient and modern that seeks to live in peace, but surrounded by enemies who await a green light from Iran to attack. They care nothing for life and will stop at nothing before the brutal end.

They have already started burning products, anxious for a modern-day Kristallnacht to turn into burning people. The time is short and the world seems to be happily waiting, even eager to participate.

In the midst of looming threats, how does Israel celebrate her birthday?

Yesterday, on the eve of the holiday, performances were held at major squares across the country. Free of charge, they attracted the public, and many included fireworks. A national ceremony was broadcast from Jerusalem, so those who preferred to stay at home were able to savor the moment on TV.

Even the weather cooperated as the multitudes walked the streets greeted by Israeli flags from every balcony and every car. Children sprayed foam (like shaving cream) on each other and hit each other playfully with inflatable hammers.

On the day itself, 1.5 million Israelis converged on the Sea of Galilee and on the national parks. Many others visited heritage sites and army bases. There were continuous ceremonies broadcast live from the President’s Mansion and various locations. The Israeli Air and Naval Forces saluted from up above and from the Mediterranean. Israelis greeted each other with “Chag Samech” (happy holiday) and spent the day barbequing. Russians, Ethiopians, Arabs, European Jews, Oriental Jews from India, Iran, Iraq Morocco, Yemen and other Arab lands, all fully assimilated, all full citizens, all part of the fabric of Israeli society.

I saw them all at the forest where I discovered the plaque of Babi-Yar. I saw their children running, free and happy. I saw Israel liberated from her enemies, but did not fail to notice all the police officers, young men and women in uniform, carrying long guns, ready to defend the celebrating multitudes against acts of terrorism too common nowadays.

I walked around, sampling with my eyes and nose the various cuisines at makeshift tables throughout the forest. The number of groups amazed me, but even more the fact they all share a common thread: They all live in the Jewish state called Israel and are in their homeland in the Land of Israel. They raise children knowing they will have to, much like they themselves, serve in the military.

I looked around and realized that a not-so-ancient promise of “NEVER AGAIN” is indeed being kept. That today Israel is alive and well.

“Make no mistake,” I whispered. “Israel is neither weak nor will she be misled any longer. At the time of reckoning, enemies beware— Israel has no option but to win—and win she will!”

Happy Birthday Israel!

The series “Postcards from America—Postcards from Israel” by Ari Bussel and Norma Zager is a compilation of articles capturing the essence of life in America and Israel during the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The writers invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, Israel visitors rarely discover.

This point—and often—counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

© “Postcards from America — Postcards from Israel,” May, 2011

A word on CUNY, Kushner & Weisenfeld

I have been meaning to write about the storm raging in New York following CUNY's board of trustees decision not to present an honorary degree to anti-Israel propagandist/faux artiste Tony Kushner but due to travels and other time killers, haven't had the opportunity. Before it is too late, I want to add my two bits to the controversy.

First, for the unititiated here is the short version. Kushner is an Israel-bashing leftist. Other Israel-bashing leftists who teach at CUNY recommended that the university honor Kushner with an honorary degree. Last week, the CUNY Board of Trustees met to consider the recommendation and due to the objections raised by trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the board decided not to accept the faculty recommendation and passed him over for the honor.

Kushner pulled out the McCarthy card. His leftist fans at the New York Times and everywhere in academia rallied to his defense and began a process of demonizing Wiesenfeld.
The university president panicked and took the unprecendented move of overturning his trustees' decision and agreed to give Kushner the honorary degree.

Now the leftist screechers are demanding that Wiesenfeld be removed from the board of trustees because by professing an opinion they don't like, he has destroyed what passes for academic freedom in their twisted little Orwellian world.

So four thoughts on this:

First Wiesenfeld is a Jewish hero and deserves the support of all good Jews and supporters of truth.

Second, the fact that the leaders of the major Jewish organizations -- almost all located in New York - have not seen fit to stand up for Wiesenfeld is a mark of shame on all of them. What their silence shows is that there is no reason to believe that they are up to the challenges of defending the Jewish community in the US on any issue of major or minor significance. Wiesenfeld is after all being demonized for the act of standing up to a maligner of Israel. That's all he did. And they cannot even muster the courage to defend him for that.

Third, the assault on Wiesenfeld should raise alarm bells for all parents in the US. It isn't just that universities are increasingly closed to critical thought regarding Israel. Their refusal to countenance the truth in the discussion of Israel -- Columbia, my alma mater just established an institute of Palestine studies. That is, Columbia just established an institute to study an imaginary country and a nation that was invented by the Soviets circa 1969 -- is a signal that they cannot study anything. What the Kushner story shows is that there is no reason for parents to believe that a college degree from most US universities today will provide their children with anything remotely resembling an education.

Finally, while I applaud and respect Wiesenfeld for standing up for what is right, the assault on him raises the issue of whether there is any point anymore to contributing money to corrupted institutions. Many philantropists argue that by funding universitities they buy the ability to influence policies and save them from the inside. But what the assault on Wiesenfeld shows is that this influence is an illusion.

It seems to me that it is far wiser for people who value education, critical thought, Israel, America and Western civilization to fund institutions and initiatives dedicated explicitly to advancing these critical causes in order to empower them to replace the corrupted institutions on the Left. This is of course the notion that propelled me to establish Latma. I'm not trying to make a pitch for money - although I might as well be, why not? If you want to contribute, click here.

But still, I am convinced that if you want to win a war of ideas you have to support your ideas and that means, strengthening those who agree with you as much as you possibly can so we can defeat the intellectual forces gunning for the destruction of our values, our countries and our way of life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fatah – Hamas Reconciliation?

Yisrael Ne'eman
Mid East on Target

The Fatah-Hamas rapprochement announced in April is another attempt at unifying two major conflicting trends in the Arab/Muslim world. Fatah represents the national secular approach (anthrocentrism) to state building while Hamas as the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood views themselves as Allah's emissaries on earth and the guardians of the Divinely established religious order (diocentrism) of Islam. While professing mutual respect for each other, Muslim Brotherhood ideologues such as Sayyed Qutb consider national loyalties akin to paganism and while the Hamas Covenant expresses a certain respect for Palestinian nationalism it insists on a transformation to a strictly Islamic nationalism as one's true identity. Fatah/PLO's Palestine National Charter speaks of the Palestinian Arab People including Christians. In reality Hamas has taken on a secondary Palestinian Arab identity while Fatah through the Palestinian Authority (PA) supports Islamic content within the envisioned future state as expressed through the Palestinian Constitution. Fatah, the PLO and the PA failed in Palestinian state building under Yasir Arafat's dictatorial semi-military rule. Only in the aftermath of the Hamas capture of Gaza in 2007 did Pres. Mahmoud Abbas appoint Salam Fayyad as PM and begin to build a national and administrative state structure following a Western recipe for security and economic development. Hamas power represents the successful rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Immediately after a declarative "coming to terms" the two sides found themselves on opposite ends of the spectrum when the Americans killed Osama bin Laden, Fatah gave praise while Hamas sharply condemned the US action and heaped praise on Al Qaeda's leader.

Commentators, whether on AlJazeera (in English) or on Israel TV are speculating that the present unity may be a result of Hamas weakness, particularly due to the recent Syrian turmoil since their external headquarters are in Damascus. This is a short term disability of little significance when compared to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt which will prove much more of an asset to them in the long run, provided the present transitional regime in Cairo allows for their further strengthening. Estimates vary widely but the Brotherhood is expected to poll close to half the votes in the upcoming September election. It appears that the present uneasy attempt at cooperation between the Islamists and the former secular, military backed regime may prove more permanent after the elections. For both, this is the best guarantee against their common enemy - a truly liberal open democratic society as advocated by the younger, secular and more educated Facebook and Twitter generation.

On the political front, the empowerment of the Islamic movement is the most significant result of what is called "The Arab Awakening" or "Arab Spring". Hamas, fully aware of such developments will certainly move their offices to Cairo if deemed to their advantage. As opposed to the Mubarak regime, General Tantawi & Co. have announced the impending full opening of the border between Gaza and Sinai. While Hamas and Fatah are taking cues from the Egyptian example they do differ in one major respect - each controls a specific territory, Hamas rules in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Instead of a power sharing arrangement as in Egypt, Fatah and Hamas are in reality advocating a dual leadership to ensure they will receive international recognition for a Palestinian State.

The state will have two completely different cantons, Islamist in Gaza and Arab nationalist in the West Bank. The two can go through the motions of ruling one entity together but need not integrate as each has a territorial holding. Local leaders will determine everyday affairs. At the moment each side is guaranteeing the existence of its adversary provided the other side remains in its allotted territory. The integration of rule by Hamas and Fatah throughout all the Palestinian territories is unlikely as is a full election process allowing the Facebook/Twitter generation to participate and highlight their litany of complaints against both movements. Hamas and Fatah can cooperate, achieve statehood and avoid all major issues in the short term. Once the UN General Assembly vote is in, even without Western support the State of Palestine will be an internationally recognized entity. This is not the Security Council where the US or anyone else can cast a veto. The immediate objective is the solidification of a dual leadership accompanied by military dominance in each of the respective territories whereby neither can capture the other's canton. Such an arrangement could prove more durable than just a short term solution.

In the near future the two movements can be expected to work for an overall internal stability. Elections may be held in a year or so but a full Western style democratic process should not be expected, yet a certain democratic façade will be noticeable. At the moment Palestinians are focusing on establishing a state, not democracy. Upon achieving their goal Fatah and Hamas will be more capable of blocking Western interference in their affairs, together they will curtail demands for a full democratic system. A Fatah – Hamas clash in the foreseeable future should not be expected, both have too much to lose.

Remaining in power will be paramount for both while they use their new political – diplomatic tool of statehood to confront Israel. The Palestinian confrontation with Israel will certainly grab the spotlight away from any internal reforms, whether they be political, economic, social or of any other type.

(The next article will deal with Israeli policy in light of the expected establishment of a Palestinian State this September.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Protest a tough sell among Palestinians

The reasons for the reluctance to hit the streets, many conclude, are that Palestinians are cynical about prospects of ending the Israeli occupation and skeptical their leaders can make the difference.

Reporting from Ramallah, West Bank

Camped under a tent in what he hoped would become the Tahrir Square of the West Bank, hunger striker Iyas Sarhan reclined on a foam mattress in a pair of increasingly baggy slim-fit jeans and waited for the Palestinian revolution to begin.

Sarhan, 25, and a few his friends had vowed since late March to stay put in a downtown Ramallah intersection until the end of the Israeli occupation and reunification of the top two Palestinian factions. But for most of their five-week protest, the youths were largely ignored by the bustling horde of pedestrians and shoppers, who treated them more like beggars. "It gets frustrating," said the unemployed management systems graduate. "It's time for the young Arabs who proved themselves in other countries to do the same here in Palestine.... Where are the others?"

This week, after Fatah and Hamas declared their intention to form a unity government, Sarhan and his weary friends declared victory and went home. But as popular protests sweep through neighboring countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Palestinians have so far largely missed the so-called Arab Spring.

Most of the West Bank protests in recent months have mustered only a few hundred — sometimes a few dozen — demonstrators. Facebook pages calling for a "third intifada" and mass actions against Israel count tens of thousands of online followers. But turnout for a March 30 protest on the Palestinians' Land Day was so small that one organizer nearly quit in disgust.

Some predict that big protests could kick off this weekend when thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather as they have in the past to mark their 1948 displacement, which they call Nakba Day. Several websites have declared May 15 as the start of the next uprising. Others are looking to September, when the Palestinian Authority may seek statehood recognition from the United Nations.

But the absence so far of the kind of sustained mass demonstrations that have erupted in other Arab countries has many Palestinians, international observers and activists scratching their heads.

The reasons, many conclude, are that Palestinians — unlike idealistic youths in neighboring countries who are rising up for the first time — are cynical about the prospects of ending the Israeli occupation and skeptical that their current political leaders can make the difference.

"People are drained, emotionally and physically," said Tami Rafidi, a women's rights activist and member of the Fatah political movement. "It's not like other Arab counties. Palestinians never stopped resisting. We fought two uprisings and had 20 years of negotiations, but have achieved very little. So people are frustrated and have lost hope."

Palestinians are also divided on whether the immediate focus of protests should be confronting Israel or replacing their own leaders, activists and pollsters say. And they are skeptical about whether nonviolent techniques can work in the West Bank, where generations of youths have been raised in a culture of violent clashes with Israeli troops.

Nonviolence, says activist Ahmad Azzeh, is a hard sell.

"Even the name in Arabic has a negative image," said Azzeh, a trainer in nonviolent resistance at the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian advocacy group. "People think of it as cowardly and submissive."

After Egyptian demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square overturned the government of President Hosni Mubarak, Rafidi and some friends launched a Facebook campaign called Let's End the Occupation, which has 15,000 followers and is planning future events, such as sit-ins at Israeli checkpoints or noisy rallies to disrupt Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

But since the March 30 protest drew only a handful of people, organizers are reluctant to set a firm date for the next one. "We don't want only a few dozen people to show up," Rafidi said.

A key challenge is the growing frustration among Palestinians, and particularly the younger generation, with the political parties, including Fatah, Hamas and a few others. Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians aged 18 through 34 said they don't trust any political faction and just as many suspect that the mainstream parties are trying to exploit the youth movement for their own political purposes, according to a March survey by the Sharek Youth Forum. Many believe the recent reconciliation was driven partly by a desire of both parties to defuse rising public frustration over the Fatah-Hamas fracture.

Since many of the recent Facebook pages and protest organizations have been perceived to be aligned with particular parties, many Palestinians say they've decided to steer clear rather than be dragged into a political tug of war.

"There's inherent suspicion now about anyone making an initiative," said Fida Jiryis, a Ramallah business manager and translator who says she doesn't think popular protests will make a difference.

"What's the point?" she said. "The more times you've been let down, the less you're able to believe that things can really change."

Though Palestinians are cautiously optimistic about the unification deal signed May 4 by Fatah and Hamas, Jiryis said she believes many Palestinians are more focused on their daily lives, jobs, education and mortgages.

"People have become more economically comfortable," she said. "It makes you lose the drive to get out there and do things that endanger that status. It's a kind of numbing."

Activist Azzeh, 31, said the Palestinian resistance movement has been undercut in recent years by an Israeli strategy to ease tension in the West Bank by allowing a minimal amount of economic growth, political expression, freedom of movement and even occasional protests.

"Israel has been very smart to leave a small vent for people to express their frustration," he said. "When people have a vent to release, it makes it harder for a revolution."

Opinion polls show that although most Palestinians do not support a return to violent resistance, most still view it as an effective tool against occupation, ranking higher than peace talks, boycotts or nonviolent protests. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not allow another violent uprising as long as he's in power.

The differing viewpoints about strategy and priorities have left many Palestinians confused, said Jawad Siyam, director of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem.

"Are we fighting against occupation? Or to end Palestinian division? Or for new elections?" he said. "We don't know where to start and where to go."

In recent months, Silwan has emerged as the latest front line in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with weekly clashes between Palestinian residents and Jewish religious groups who have moved into the Arab-dominated area.

"The third intifada has already started in Silwan," Siyam said.

Siyam says he admires the techniques used in Egypt but doesn't think the same approach would work here.

"We tried nonviolence and it doesn't work. It always ends up with clashes because Israelis provoke us."

But Rafidi of Let's End the Occupation said Palestinians have yet to fully understand and deploy nonviolent strategies, and that more time and training was needed to prepare and educate them.

"That's partly why we are delaying action," she said. "We don't want to open up some kind of confrontation."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Special Words"

Arlene Kushner

Last night I attended services for Yom Ha'Atzmaut at my synagogue in Jerusalem. And what a service it was: with a joyous musical Hallel -- a selection of psalms of praise -- complete with guitars, tambourines, and even shofarot.

For many the celebration evoked a grateful recognition of what it means to be in the Land -- and in Jerusalem, the Holy City -- to mark the founding of the modern Jewish State. To be part of our people's historic and holy journey here is a matter of profound significance.


My synagogue uses the Koren Siddur (prayerbook). In the special section for Yom Ha'Atzmaut I found commentary that was particularly insightful. I have decided to share selections with all of you. (All emphases has been added.):


"Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, marks the moment when the Jewish people recovered their independence and sovereignty after a lapse of some two thousand years. The longest exile ever endured by a people was at end...Jews had once against returned to the arena of history as a self-determining nation in the land to which Abraham journeyed in his day, and Moses and the Israelites in theirs. "The significance of Israel to Judaism is more than geographical, historical and political. It is spiritual. Israel was and is the Holy Land to which Abraham and his descendants were summoned to create a new kind of society, based on the sanctity of human life and the equal dignity of all, where they would be subject to the sovereignty of God alone, constantly conscious of the Divine Presence while striving to be true to the covenant that charged them with being 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'

"...Though Jews, in the long centuries of their dispersion, were scatted over the face of the earth, only in Israel have they formed a majority and been able to rule and defend themselves. Only in Israel can a Jew speak a Jewish language, see a Jewish landscape, walk where our ancestors walked and continue the story they began. Only in Israel have Jews been able to live as a nation shaping its own destiny...

"Jews were the first to see God in history, to see the unfolding of events as a meaningful narrative, the ongoing story of the covenant between God and His people. The celebration of Yom Ha'Atzmaut as a religious festival is part of this faith. Never before had a people survived so long an exile, its identity intact. Never before had a nation that had not known sovereignty for two millennia recovered it again. Ravaged [as the Jewish people had been] by the Holocaust a mere three years earlier, the declaration of Israel's independence was a remarkable act of faith, an everlasting symbol of the victory of life over death, hope over despair.

"Some thirty-three centuries ago, Moses prophesied: 'Even if you have been dispersed to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.' (Deut. 30:4) and so it happened. If, as we believe, there are events that bear the signature of Heaven, this surely was one. Therefore we give thanks to God for bringing the land back to the people, and the people back to the land -- the land where our people was born in ancient times, and reborn in ours."


I want to share a special video, "The Volunteers: Answering the Call of History," a most appropriate film for Yom Ha'Atzmaut (with appreciation to Michael P. for calling it to my attention):

The film records the personal stories of people who went to Israel to help the beleaguered and struggling new state in 1948. It is remarkable for its recounting of the courage, and in some cases ingenuity, of these volunteers; it is a piece of the history of Israel's founding.

I invite you to view this, and then tell me that -- given the odds Israel faced in the beginning, articulated in this film -- her survival and success are not miraculous.


This video and others are part of an "Eyewitness 1948" series produced by Toldot Israel and the History Channel in the US.

According to its website, Toldot Israel is a Jerusalem based nonprofit dedicated to recording and sharing the firsthand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the State of Israel. Over 500 video interviews have been conducted with those who were involved during the pre-State struggle and the momentous events of 1948 . There are plans to do hundreds more interviews and to utilize them for a website, educational material and films.

At you can find the video on the volunteers and others.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

Monday, May 09, 2011

"Celebrating at 63"

Arlene Kushner

Tonight begins Yom Ha'Atzmaut -- Israeli Independence Day. There are those who have the impulse to remain subdued this year, even as celebration is called for, because of the many troubles we face.

But consider...

The return of the Jews to our homeland after 2,000 years was a miracle, and our ability over the years to survive and thrive beyond everyone's wildest imagination has been a miracle.

With the help of the Almighty we shall prevail, and we shall grow. Our role is to be strong, and to trust that we can do it.
Aish's musical video -- "Wave Your Flag" -- sings, "When I get older, I will be stronger, they'll call me freedom, just like a waving flag."

See it here.


Nefesh B'Nefesh is a marvelous organization that has helped thousands of people from English-speaking countries, mostly Americans, to make aliyah. This year, the group held a special celebration honoring the 45 sabra babies born to families that have come over the last year:

How's that for having faith in Israel's future?


JPost editor David Horovitz ran a piece last Friday that I've been saving to share for Yom Ha'Atzmaut. It's called, "Out of the ashes, to the height of self-sufficiency."

Horovitz writes about Benny Gantz, the new IDF Chief of Staff (who came to this position almost by political fluke, but, it seems, was meant to be where he is now).

"The IDF is strong, ready and a deterrent to our enemies," Gantz said during Yom HaShoah ceremonies last week. "It is capable of thwarting any enemy that rises up to kill us." (emphasis added)

Elaborates Horovitz:

"Born in Israel to a mother who was barely alive when she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, Gantz emblemizes the near-miraculous revival of the Jewish people after the Holocaust: The survivor's child is now chief protector of the insistently surviving nation. (emphasis added)

"Standing tall and straight, Gantz nonetheless carries a perpetual air of concern. He exudes confidence and gravitas but also, in the furrows of his forehead, and the lines around his eyes, shows the burden of responsibility. All the way through to his gut, he knows the evil that humankind is capable of doing to the Jews. He knows that it falls to him, more than anyone else, to ensure that 'never again,' rather than becoming an empty slogan, remains an iron-clad fact.

"...In today's often morally misguided world, it is very difficult to be recognized as both strong and just. Usually, however absurdly in some cases, it is the weak who are automatically regarded as having justice on their side.

As it turns 63, the Jewish nation sometimes feels as though it is back, not in 1948, without a friend in the neighborhood, but a few years earlier still, with barely a friend in the world. But in life-saving contrast to those dark years, we have revived our homeland, and it flourishes.

We are and will continue to be both strong and just. We have built a vibrant, diverse, declaredly contented society. And with an army now headed by a general who emblemizes that rise from the ashes to the height of self-sufficiency, 'we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.'" (emphasis added)


Some Interesting Facts about Israel (with thanks to Rebecca M.)

Israel is only 1/6 of 1% of the land mass of the Middle East
The Kinneret, at 695 feet below sea level, is the lowest freshwater lake in the world.
Israel is the only nation in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees.
The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is the oldest continually used cemetery in the world.

Israel has only 2% of the population of the Middle East.
Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees per capita in the world.
Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation in the world - by a large margin.
Israel has the highest number of PhD's per capita in the world.
Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation in the world, per capita.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown over the last 50 years.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians, Muslims and Jews are all free to vote.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where women enjoy full political rights.

Economics and Hi-Tech
Israel has the largest number of startup companies per capita in the world.
Israel is the world's largest wholesale diamond center.
Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies outside of the US and Canada.
The cell phone was developed in Israel at Motorola's largest development center.
Voice Mail technology was developed in Israel .
The first anti-virus software for computers was developed in Israel in 1979.
Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed in Israel by Microsoft.
Both the Pentium-4 and Centrino processors were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel.

Hebrew is the only case of a dead national language being revived in all of world history. Israel has more museums per capita than any other nation in the world.
Israel has more orchestras per capita than any other nation in the world.
Israel publishes more books per capita than any other nation in the world.

And how about this: The most independent and free Arabic press in the Middle East is in Israel .

Stand tall, my friends, hold up your heads and be proud!


A short video featuring Hatikva:


Before closing, I want to look back to what I had written yesterday:

The number of fallen that I cited yesterday -- 22,867 -- referred only to soldiers. Another 4,500 have died of terror attacks.

A reader has asked me if the number provided of those who fell defending Israel referred only to members of the IDF since the founding of the State. The answer is yes. But the point raised by this question is valid. If not for those who fought for Jewish rights before May 1948, we would not have seen the founding of the State. It certainly did not come about in a vacuum, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice prior to Israeli independence must also be recognized. I am not at all certain, however, that there would be a way to now tally the number who died in this era: there were separate groups, some clandestine, each following its own vision.


After I wrote yesterday's posting I watched the proceedings for Yom HaZikaron at the Kotel. Select family members of soldiers who have died were present and the camera from time to time focused on their faces. They wrenched the heart.

And so I would like to add this: We owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to all those who have fallen defending the State. But we also owe a debt to those who have lost sons and husbands, fathers and brothers. Theirs is an on-going sacrifice.


Yesterday, when I mentioned various members of Congress who are opposed to providing additional financial support to the PA, I neglected to include Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she is one of our very best friends. The fact that I've alluded to her many times in the past does not excuse her exclusion here. (Thanks, Stephanie.)


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

64% of Palestinians would not object to Bin Laden burial in "Palestine"

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

A Palestinian polling institute surveyed Palestinians in the first week of May 2011, apparently before it was known among Palestinians that Bin Laden's body had been buried at sea, and found that:

"64% of respondents stated that they would not object to Bin Laden being buried in Palestine, were such a possibility raised."

Other findings of the polling institute Near East Consulting as reported in the official Palestinian Authority daily: "A survey of Palestinian public opinion on the death of Bin Laden shows that most Palestinians (85%) believe that Al-Qaeda will avenge Bin Laden's death.

86% stated that terror activities around the world will not decrease or be otherwise affected following his death...

56% of those questioned said that they were certain that he had been killed, while 44% believed that he was still alive...

42% of Palestinians still believe that Al-Qaeda will be strengthened following the death of Bin Laden, while 22% believe that it will be weakened; 36% said that its situation will not change."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 9, 2011]

Comment: This speaks to the nature of the society the USA and the West expects us to gracefully accept as a "peace partner". Just as the USA finally acknowledged by way of action though the assassination of Bin Laden, so, too, should it realize we cannot at the present time believe any agreement with the PA is sustainable.

Yom HaZikaron"

The day of remembering all who have fallen for Israel -- both soldiers and victims of terror -- begins at sundown tonight. A solemn day that touches all Israel as a family. The number fallen is now 22,867.

Last year, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, who was then Chief of Staff, opened ceremonies for the soldiers, as is traditional, by placing a flag on the grave of the one most recently fallen. Then he said:

''Here, between the thousands of gravestones and silent tombs, testimony to 62 years of struggle for our freedom as a nation and a State.''

Now it is 63 years. Those soldiers who have died have given their lives with purpose; our debt to them is beyond measure. May the Almighty help us find the way to the day when our people will have achieved that freedom and need to sacrifice lives for it no more. As to the victims of terror (the picture below is from the Fogel family funeral), may the memory of each be for a special blessing. As we recount these immeasurable losses, may we find our way, through strength and perseverance, so that here too we can finally say, "Never Again!"


A siren for the fallen will sound tonight at 8 PM. The main ceremony of the evening will then be conducted at the Kotel, with bereaved families present and the Prime Minister, the President and the Chief of Staff participating. At 9 PM, there will be a program of songs at the Knesset, dedicated to the fallen.

Tomorrow at 11 AM, a second siren will sound, marking the beginning of the ceremony for soldiers at Har Herzl (Israel's main military cemetery -- pictured above). Following this will be a ceremony for terror victims.


Please see and share my new report on the folly of US support for PA "security forces."

This is actually an update of a report done two years ago. The thrust of the message in 2009 was that it was foolish for the US to support development of PA troops. So much more so is this the case today.

It was American naivete, or pie-in-the-sky dreaming, that promoted this project, which was actually hailed as a great idea in many quarters:

Hamas had taken Gaza in a coup, actually demolishing a larger, better equipped Fatah (PA) force there. Reasoned the strategic (?) thinkers in the US, if the PA forces are better trained and equipped by the American military, they will be able to prevent a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria, and will fight terrorism. Then, by golly, they'll be on their way to establishing a state.


There were only a couple of problems with this, which were blithely ignored:

[] Fatah will never "take out" or adequately defend against Hamas. The impression until recently was that Fatah and Hamas were separate; however, regardless of their real animosities, there always has been considerable linkage between the groups. The possibility that there would be unity gov't always existed. Not to mention that the loyalty of Palestinian Arabs is first to the clan (hamula) and not to some abstract concept of a nation; within one clan there might be Fatah and Hamas people. In Gaza, at the time of the coup, there were some Fatah troops that joined Hamas, and some that ran away.

Not a real good idea to have trained and equipped forces to fight against Hamas when it remained a lingering possibility that they might end up being controlled by Hamas. But hey, that didn't stop the progress on this great idea, or the expenditure, to date of some $370 million.

[] Fatah isn't against terrorism as a matter of principle, in any event. They act against it only when it serves their purposes. There has never been a Fatah action against Al Aksa Brigades, for example, because the Brigades are a terrorist offshoot of Fatah itself and present no threat to the PA. And certainly Fatah has never acted unilaterally against Hamas simply to stop terrorism directed at Israel.

The PA forces really have strengthened and are functioning better. But what they're best at is catching car thieves and controlling crowds. They've done cooperation with the IDF in some circumstances, with regard to security. But it is the IDF that does the real work to act on intelligence and find and capture terrorists, locate weapons caches, etc. There are operations almost every night in this regard, and if the IDF were not there, there'd be major problems. And guess who would pay the price?

[] There remains a potential for those better trained PA forces to turn their guns and expertise on Israelis and the IDF in particular. There's a history of this happening, and we can look for such incidents when Palestinian Arab frustration is high. There was some shooting at IDF forces by PA forces in the Tulkarem area in late April, which may be seen as a precursor to this sort of action.


As if all of the above were not enough, we now have a signed Fatah-Hamas unity agreement, which may, or may not, last. Where does that leave the US program to develop PA security forces?

One would think this was a no-brainer: That it's obvious that a halt must be called immediately. Even if the unity agreement falls apart, we now have irrefutable evidence that Fatah is willing to cooperate with an openly terrorist organization. That should disqualify Fatah forces with regard to receiving further American training and arming.

Ah, but the Secretary of State thinks otherwise. So far, says Hillary, there is no cooperation between the security forces of Fatah (the PA) and of Hamas, and so for the time being, at least, the US can continue to provide support to the PA forces. This thinking doesn't acknowledge even the minimal reality of a shift in PA policy that is likely to occur, however discreetly, to accord with Hamas policies.


A good many members of Congress appear to see it differently, although their stated position is just a tad qualified.

Twenty-nine Senators who are from the Democratic party, supported by Republican Senators, sent a letter to President Obama on Friday urging him to end US aid to the PA if Hamas joins the PA government. It was initiated by Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Bob Casey (PA), and has been signed by senior Senators, including Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Daniel Inouye, who chairs the Senate's Appropriations Committee.

At this I want to say, wait a second, you have it almost right, and that's great, but...

The unity plan at this stage, prior to elections a year from now, calls for a transitional government to be formed that consists of technocrats. That's a fig leaf, a gimmick to keep everyone happy. It's not good enough to give the PA a pass. Not in my book.

Originally it was said that Fayyad would be out of this transitional government, at the insistence of Hamas leaders, who despise him. But recent news reports indicate that Abbas is pushing to keep Fayyad as prime minister because this would enhance unity credibility and keep people happy.

How readily will people be taken in by this, in spite of the willingness of Abbas to sign an agreement with terrorists? Rhetorical question.


Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), it should be noted, is leading the fight to utilize existing US legislation to end financial aid to the PA.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Israel's Major Wars

May 10, 2011 | Eli E. Hertz

International law makes a clear distinction between defensive wars and wars of aggression. All of Israel's wars with its Arab neighbors were in self-defence.

About six months before the War of Independence in 1948, Palestinian Arabs launched a series of riots, pillaging, and bloodletting, then came the invasion of seven Arab armies from neighboring states attempting to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state in accordance with the UN's 1947 recommendation to Partition Palestine, a plan the Arabs rejected. Israel's citizens understood that defeat meant the end of their Jewish state before it could even get off the ground. In the first critical weeks of battle, and against all odds, Israel prevailed on several fronts.

The metaphor of Israel having her back to the sea reflected the image crafted by Arab political and religious leaders' rhetoric and incitement. Already in 1948 several car bombs had killed Jews, and massacres of Jewish civilians underscored Arab determination to wipe out the Jews and their state.

There were over 6,000 Israelis killed and over 15,000 wounded as a result of that war, in a population of 600,000. One percent of the Jewish population was gone. In American terms, the equivalent is 3 million American civilians and soldiers killed over an 18-month period.

The Jewish state not only survived, it came into possession of territories - land from which its adversaries launched their first attempt to destroy the newly created State of Israel.

For the entire article in PDF format please click HERE