Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reframing the conflict


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's historian father, Benzion, should be proud. For with all the world focusing very much on the present - on settlements, Iran and where, when and how negotiations with the Palestinians would begin anew - the prime minister took great pains during his four-day trip to London and Berlin this week to emphasize the past. The past surrounded Netanyahu wherever he went; it infused his thinking and his statements. Why was Israel continuing to build in east Jerusalem, he was asked by a BBC reporter at a press conference after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has taken strong issue with such building.

Because of the 3,500-year-old Jewish connection to the city, Netanyahu explained, correcting himself for the sake of historical accuracy a few minutes later - even though the press conference had already moved on - by saying the connection was "only" 3,000 years old.

Why was Israel responding so aggressively to the Swedish newspaper article alleging that IDF soldiers killed Palestinians to snatch their organs, he was asked by a Channel 2 reporter at one of three press briefings he gave to the Israeli press. Because of a responsibility to the past, he responded.

"I disagree with those who underestimate the significance of that article," he said, adding that Israel had a historic obligation to speak out firmly, decisively and aggressively against such lies. Otherwise, he said, the lies trickle down to the public and spread malignantly.

"In the past, tragedies took place because people did not stand up and say enough. Often these things start small and spread," he said. "It is also to deal with matters like this that the country exists."

Netanyahu's reading time, as well, is often devoted to the past. The book that he took with him on the plane to London was a biography, picked out for him by his national security adviser, Uzi Arad, on Napoleon Bonaparte.

The problem with Napoleon, he said as he - alongside his wife Sarah - greeted reporters on the back of the plane on the way to London, was that he didn't know when to stop, and that this penchant for biting off more than he could chew led him to "eat himself up." (Netanyahu did not volunteer any personal conclusions to be drawn from that example.)

Granted, the past looms large whenever a prime minister visits Germany. Indeed, soon after landing in Berlin on Wednesday, where he was received by a German military honor guard and motorcaded through the heart of the city and past Richard Wagner Square, Netanyahu said that every time he came to Germany he was thankful for the good ties that have developed between the countries.

But, he added, "I always think not only about the present and the future, but also the past. I don't think it is possible any other way."

And it was not only in Germany, where he visited the Wannsee villa where the Nazis meticulously drew up their Final Solution to the Jewish problem, and where he was presented the architectural blueprints for the Auschwitz-Birkeanau camp, was the past a presence.

In London as well, Netanyahu's mind - at least that part of his mind that he was willing to open up to the public - seemed to be as much on the past as it was on the future. His one outing, beyond his diplomatic meetings, was to the small offices of the Palestinian Exploration Fund, where he looked at what he said was a "treasure trove" of pictures and documents and geographical surveys of the Holy Land going back to 1865. It was telling that in the hour-long press briefing he held after meeting Brown, about a quarter was spent talking about his visit to the PEF. And although the first inclination was to think Netanyahu was dwelling on the PEF in an effort to distract attention from the "more pressing" issues of the day - his meeting the next morning with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, or a settlement freeze, or Gilad Schalit, or Iran - for this prime minister, the past itself is the pressing issue.

FOR NETANYAHU the past very much illuminates the present, and he is a firm believer that to understand the present it is necessary to widen the historical lens. He believes strongly that one of Israel's problems with the international community is that the world does not bring a historical context to the conflict.

Much of the world, he maintains, looks at the current struggle it the Middle East and blames the settlements, not realizing that the settlements are a symptom of the conflict, not its root cause. The root cause, he stressed continuously throughout his visit, was the refusal of the Palestinians to acknowledge or recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Remove the settlements, all the settlements, and the conflict does not go away, Netanyahu argued. But if you get the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish homeland, and get them to actually internalize that idea, a different reality could be created altogether.

In short, Netanyahu went to Europe this week aiming not only, in his words, to reach some kind of bridging formula with the Americans that would allow a relaunch of the diplomatic process while also enabling the continuation of "normal life" in the settlements, but also to reframe the conflict, to reshape how fair-minded, reasonable people look at it.

"I met with the German president," Netanyahu said in Berlin on Wednesday after a brief meeting with Horst Kohler. "I told him very clearly that the root of the conflict is not the settlements, not the borders, not an argument over this piece of territory or that. That is not the problem, or the root of the problem. The root is to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

"I will not let this rest," he said. "I will raise it with presidents, leaders, editors and writers."

Netanyahu said that there was a mistaken tendency when talking about the core issues, or the core problems, to refer only to Jerusalem, or the settlements, or the Palestinian refugee issue. The core problem, he said, was always, and remained, the unwillingness of the Arabs or Palestinians to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

"That is why the conflict started, and why it has continued," he said. "That is the undiluted truth. And if Israel had been saying this for the last 30 years on a daily basis, think what would have been." This Palestinian acknowledgment that Israel is the homeland of the Jews, he said, was the "pivot" of peace.

Likening himself to a latter day Copernicus fighting against the mistaken conventional wisdom of the time, Netanyahu said this truth needed to be repeated continuously until it, too, trickled down. If his trip this week was any indication, he will indeed discuss this wherever and whenever possible. Whether it will trickle down, however, is another question altogether.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145137178&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Friday, August 28, 2009

Remembering the Hebron Massacre


Until 1929, Jews had lived in the city for three millennia.

No theme is more deeply embedded in Jewish history than exile and return. The biblical exodus from Egypt to the promised land, the return from Babylonian exile, and, most recently, the establishment of the state of Israel all affirmed the enduring determination of the Jewish people to return to their homeland. Yet another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar.

Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place.

After 1267, under Muslim rule, no Jews were permitted to pray inside the magnificent enclosure, built by King Herod in the 1st century, that still surrounds the burial caves. But following the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century, a small group of religious Jews rebuilt a community of study and prayer in Hebron.

In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Arab rioters swept through Palestine. In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous.

It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming "Kill the Jews." They broke into the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, where many Jews had gathered for safety. There they wielded knives and axes to murder 22 innocents. In the Anglo-Palestine Bank, where 23 corpses were discovered, blood covered the tile floor. That day, three children under the age of five were murdered. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Rabbis and their students were castrated before they were slain. A surviving yeshiva student recounted that he "had seen greater horrors than Dante in hell."

When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem. The butchery in Hebron, Zionist and religious officials alleged, was "without equal in the history of the country since the destruction of the Temple." Sir Walter Shaw, chairman of an exhaustive British royal investigation, concluded that "unspeakable atrocities" had occurred.

Tarpat extinguished the most ancient Jewish community in Palestine. With synagogues destroyed, Jewish property converted into storerooms and barns for livestock, and the ancient cemetery desecrated, few signs remained that there had ever been a Jewish presence in Hebron.

But nearly 40 years later, after the Six-Day War of 1967, a small group of religious Zionists returned to Hebron to rebuild the destroyed community. "What was in the past in Hebron," declared their matriarch Miriam Levinger, "is what will happen in the future. Always!" So it would be.

The Jewish community of Hebron—some 700 people—recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their return. This month they commemorate the 80th anniversary of Tarpat. All the other ancient peoples mentioned in the Bible have vanished. But Jews, a community of memory, still live in Hebron.

Hebron Jews are relentlessly vilified as fanatics who illegally occupy someone else's land. As religious Zionists, they are the militant Jewish settlers whom legions of Jewish and non-Jewish critics love to hate. It is seldom noticed that their most serious transgression—settlement in the biblical land of Israel—is the definition of Zionism: the return of Jews to their historic homeland.

Mr. Auerbach, a professor of history at Wellesley College, is the author of "Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel," published in July by Roman & Littlefield.

Mesika: Close Down 'Peace Now'

by Hillel Fendel Mesika
A7 News

Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council chief Gershon Mesika calls on the government to outlaw Peace Now and other organizations that are funded by foreign governments. Peace Now is currently suing against 15 new homes in Kiryat Netafim. “Organizations funded by foreign governments whose objective is to cause internal division in Israel should be closed down,” Mesika said last week, after a Peace Now tour of Samaria. Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon participated in what Mesika called the Peace Now “provocation.”

Continuing its incessant campaign against Jewish presence in Yesha, Peace Now has submitted a court petition demanding a halt to construction of 15 homes in Kiryat Netafim. Peace Now claims that part of the land is privately owned by Arabs.

Founded in 1984, the religious-Zionist Kiryat Netafim is home to over 100 families. It is located in central Samaria, between Ariel and Elkanah, near Yakir, Revavah and Barkan.

“Peace Now has a very smart system,” a source close to Mesika told Israel National News. “They find a local Arab who can claim, however dubiously, that the land is his, then they file a stop-construction suit, and then the courts immediately say, ‘Stop work now, and we’ll investigate afterwards.’”

Mesika on the Attack

"This suit is a classic example of the lying and hypocrisy of Peace Now,” Mesika responded to the group's latest move. “The construction in question is in an area zoned for residence in the town's master plan that was written up 25 years ago. The houses are on town property and are not on Arab lands at all.”

Moving to the broader view, Mesika said, "This is our historic homeland, and we have every moral and legal right to live and grow here. If we can't live here in the Shomron, what right do we have to be in Tel Aviv?"

US seen easing settlement halt demands

Aug. 28, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Obama administration appears to be backing down on its insistence that Israel halt all settlement activity as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians. While US officials insist their position on the matter has not changed, they are now hinting that a less blanket moratorium would be acceptable provided the Palestinians and Arab states agree.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that the US "position in these discussions remains unchanged," but he added that the US would be flexible on pre-negotiation conditions for all the parties involved.

"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met," Crowley said.

"Ultimately," he added, "this is not a process by which the United States will impose conditions on Israel, on the Palestinian Authority, on other countries," he added.

The White House said Thursday it had nothing to add to Crowley's comments.

The administration's special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, has been pressing Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring Arab nations to take specific confidence-building measures to lay the groundwork for a resumption in peace negotiations. The administration wants to have US President Barack Obama announce a breakthrough in the third week of September at or on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Getting Arab buy-in on such a deal will be difficult, particularly since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume negotiations with Israel until there is a full freeze on settlements. US officials said Thursday that they will continue to press Israel for as broad a suspension as possible.

But they also acknowledged that a compromise from the previous hard stance on settlements laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may be necessary due to the equally firm line taken by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent talks with Mitchell.

Clinton said in May that Israel needed to apply a freeze on all new settlement construction, including so-called "natural growth" in existing projects in the West Bank. It would also apply to activity in east Jerusalem, notably the eviction of Palestinian families and demolition of Palestinian homes.

Mitchell met Netanyahu in London on Wednesday for talks that both sides said made unspecified "good progress" but did not produce an agreement on a freeze. Mitchell will hold follow-up talks next week with an Israeli delegation in the United States, although officials downplayed chances for a breakthrough.

Crowley and other US officials denied Israeli media reports that Mitchell had agreed to leave East Jerusalem out of the agreement and settle for a nine- to 12-month freeze in the West Bank only that would also allow the completion of projects already under construction.

However, diplomats familiar with talks say that the administration has signaled it might be able to accept an "understanding" on East Jerusalem that would entail an Israeli promise not to take "any provocative actions" there.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145138412&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Thursday, August 27, 2009

If Everyone Else was Jumping off a Cliff, Would You do it? Middle East Answer: Yes, if Israel Didn’t Like It


Barry Rubin

Who won that Lebanese election again?

True, Hizballah doesn’t control the majority, but with a president who is pretty submissive to Syria and Hizballah having a veto, the next government of Lebanon won’t be too independent-minded. Forget about condemning Syria for its involvement in past (and future?) terror attacks against Lebanese leaders, journalists, and judges. Forget about stopping massive arms’ smuggling to Hizballah or keeping Hizballah from treating the south of the country as its own private estate. Saad Hariri, who will probably be the next prime minister and whose father was assassinated by Syria says:

"The national unity government will include the [Hariri’s] March 14 alliance, and I also want to assure the Israeli enemy that Hezbollah will be in this government whether it likes it or not because Lebanon's interests require all parties be involved in this cabinet.”

Wow, sounds like a real tough guy. But the problem, as Hariri well knows, is not that Israel won’t like it but also that he and most Lebanese won’t like it. If Hizballah again provokes Israel into a war, as happened in 2006, Lebanon’s interests will be once again smashed because of the interests of Iran, Syria, and Hizballah, using Lebanon as a battlefield to achieve regional hegemony and spread Islamism.

And this also points the way to a deeper problem: the Israel excuse can be used to justify and maintain everything preventing progress, democracy, human rights, higher living standards, freedom, and just about every other positive development in the Arabic-speaking world.

If Israel doesn’t like it, well then it must be good. Iraq invades Kuwait? Hizballah drags Lebanon into war? Hamas seizes the Gaza Strip? The Palestinian Authority doesn’t make peace?

Whatever it is: “Israel doesn’t like it” is the justification for every failed policy, action leading to stagnation, and stampede to disaster that happens in Arabic-speaking countries.

It’s like your mother used to tell you when you justified doing something on the basis that everyone else was doing it.

“If everyone else was jumping off a cliff would you do that?”

Answer in the Middle East: Yes!

By the way, though, sometimes the situation becomes too intolerable for average people to accept. Here video of villagers in Merwakhin, Lebanon, chasing out a Hizballah force which had arrived to store weapons and rockets in their homes. They didn't want to become a military target.

Usually, of course, Lebanese (or Palestinian) citizens have no choice. Hizballah (or Hamas or Fatah) turns their homes into weapons' dumps, rocket-launching sites, or firing posts. If Israel fires back, they then run to the UN, human rights' groups, the media, and Western governments and yell about war crimes. It's a very good strategy if you have enough suckers or ideologically motivated people violating professional ethics to play along with it.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books:
To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports:

Likd MK holds anti-Netanyahu conference

Members of prime minister's party, settler leaders building united front against Netanyahu and his plan to freeze settlement construction. 'We can't have a government that behaves worse than that of Olmert. We won't let him to break left,' one of event's participants says

Attila Somfalvi

Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) held a conference in the Knesset Wednesday for the heads of Judea and Samaria settlers, in order to create a united front against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to freeze construction in settlements. Officials said the freeze may create problems for the prime minister with rightists in the coalition. However a refusal to halt construction may harm relations with the Labor Party.

The gathering was attended by 20 leaders of settlements in the West Bank. They agreed that over the next month more pressure should be placed on Netanyahu to renege on the decision to freeze.

Noam Arnon, of the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, said the settlers must limit Netanyahu as his government could not legitimately halt construction. "We can't have a government that behaves worse than that of Olmert," one speaker said. "We won't allow a construction freeze; we won't allow him to break left."

Some said the prime minister was deviating from the policy that had won him his position. "People need to be faithful to what they promised during the elections," the speaker said.

The anti-Netanyahu sentiment demonstrates a departure from the settlers' policy of attacking Defense Minister Ehud Barak for their grievances. "Barak is no longer the only address. We need to put pressure on the prime minister," the Yesha Council stated.

The leaders plan to hold various Likud conferences bringing together those MKs who oppose Netanyahu's initiative, including Gilad Erdan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Hotovely, and Danny Danon, among others.

Likud officials said the prime minister had been holding talks with his underlings in an effort to calm them prior to negotiations on settlements with the US and the Palestinians.

'Coalition rejects Palestinian state'

Meanwhile, other rightist parties have begun to object to the recent warming between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said Wednesday he may be willing to meet Netanyahu.

MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said he hoped Netanyahu would "remember that most of the coalition rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state and the uprooting of communities. Netanyahu must represent national policy and not that of the Labor Party".

But a Likud official said that "what was settled between the prime minister and Abbas was settled by the Americans. Netanyahu announced two days ago that negotiations would be renewed so all of these announcements were expected."

Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) told Ynet that the Palestinians had "understood they need to hold negotiations with a nationalist government". He said the government would stand up for Israel's national interests.

"The negotiations must not harm normal life in the settlements and their development in Judea and Samaria," Elkin said of the impending construction freeze.

MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) said that the current government would hold more demanding talks with the Palestinians than its predecessor.

"In negotiations they will have to prove to Israel that they want peace no less than we do," Akunis said. "There will be no freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria and we will not disrupt the lives of people there."

Amnon Meranda contributed to this report

Comment: A "settlement" is actually a town or city inhabited by Israeli citizens living in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.

Drivers and doctors on the road to peace
By Karin Kloosterman

A growing number of Palestinians are being personally chauffeured to life-saving medical appointments in Israel by volunteer Israeli drivers. It took more than half of her young life for doctors to diagnose two-year-old Aya Aiid Abo-Mois's chronic kidney disease. Today, it's the dialysis she receives four times a week at an Israeli hospital that keeps her alive.

In the Palestinian Authority city of Jenin in the West Bank where she lives there are no adequate facilities to treat her rare condition. Aya has been receiving treatment at an Israeli hospital ever since she was rushed to Jerusalem suffering from kidney failure earlier this year.

"She comes like clockwork with her mother, very happy and cheerful," attending physician Dr. Daniella Magen tells ISRAEL21c. Dr. Magen is a paediatric nephrologist at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa where Aya now receives her treatment, closer to home.

Counteracting foreign media reports that the Israeli government routinely denies Palestinians access to quality healthcare: "It's never happened that the authorities didn't let her though," says Magen.

Magen says that Aya receives the same medical treatment as any Israeli citizen, adding that the Israeli hospital will help to arrange a transplant when Aya is old enough. The only way to prolong Aya's future indefinitely, Magen tells ISRAEL21c, is to ensure that she undergoes both a liver and a kidney transplant to overcome the genetic disease Oxalosis that is causing her kidneys to fail.

Driving the road to recovery

This is just one story about how Israelis and Palestinians are working together to ensure that children in the PA have access to healthcare in Israel when necessary. The Palestinian Authority and private donors foot the bill and Magen confirms that doctors treat all patients equally, regardless of nationality.

It takes a network of volunteers from the PA and Israel to make sure that Aya and her mom Sahir have the necessary permits to travel from Jenin. Their morning starts early, at about 5 a.m., when they wait for a driver from among the volunteer coordinators at "Way to Recovery" to transport them from their home to the hospital.

Way to Recovery numbers about 50 volunteers. Founded in 2006 by the Israeli-Palestinian Forum of Bereaved Families, requests for transport from the PA to Israel increase slightly each month.

It all began when a Palestinian member of the forum asked one of the Israeli members, Yuval Roth, to help him travel to Rambam Hospital. Roth had lost his brother 15 years before - he was murdered by Hamas terrorists while hitchhiking. Now, Roth's efforts to help Palestinians reflect how much some Israelis yearn for peace.

He told a local newspaper: "When I drive a Palestinian patient to a hospital in Israel, I am paving the way to a close relationship between the peoples. I am fed up with talk of peace. We have to take action on the ground, and this is what I am doing, together with all the volunteers who lend a hand to this matter."

The hospital is her second home

Aya's connection to Israel started early this year when she was taken to the Jenin Governmental Hospital with kidney failure. When her condition worsened, she was transported to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem where she received dialysis treatment three times a week for more than a month. As Jerusalem is far from Jenin, her parents - who have three other young children at home - requested that Aya undergo dialysis at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

According to hospital staff, Rambam has become like a second home to Aya and her mom. The hospital is a unique meeting point for the different cultures in Israel. In its wards and waiting rooms, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and Jews meet eye-to-eye and learn about each other's personal lives.

The Rambam staff will help Aya to obtain a transplant abroad when the time comes. In the past they have sent patients to Jordan, where western physicians perform operations. According to Israeli law, only Israeli citizens are entitled to transplants in the country. Waiting lists are extremely long.

Magen works with Yavid on the Palestinian side to take care of logistics for the Aya: "I write a letter in English asking for what I need for [Aya] and this goes to the authorities and to the army. She now has a constant permit - a certificate to come to Israel on a daily basis for dialysis."

Working under a senior physician in the ward, Magen says that the hospital takes care of children from all over, "including children from the Gaza Strip, Schem (Nablus) and Hebron and we are asked to do our best. I also know there are many Palestinian children with cancer coming to Israeli hospitals," she adds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fatah source: Fayyad stole Abbas' thunder

Palestinian prime minister's 'Palestine plan' speech has non-Fatah politician position himself as force to be reckoned with but some chide him for claiming authorities that are not his own


Palestinian Authority officials followed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's "Palestine plan" speech closely Tuesday, but the focus of many of them strayed from the particulars to the man behind the plan. Fatah sources were critical of the fact that it was Fayyad – who is not a member of Fatah – who made a speech that probably should have been made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Fayyad, they added, continues to try and position himself as a statesman instead of the head of the executive branch, thus seemingly laying claim to matters under the president's jurisdiction.

Fayyad's address was – officially speaking – fully coordinated with Abbas, but a senior source in Fatah's Central Committee said it would have been better had the chairman of the Palestinian Authority made it. Fatah is also adamant that a member of the Central Committee be named prime minister.

Fatah members may be wary of accusing Fayyad of trying to take over the PA's leadership outright, but other Palestinian factions were not as careful.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was quick to announce that declaring any such plan falls under the PLO's jurisdiction alone; while Hamas sources said the statement "was not worth the paper it was written on."

Fatah is nervously aware of the fact that many in the international community would like to see Fayyad become the next Palestinian president. After losing Gaza Strip to Hamas, the movement now realizes a new force may soon compromise its hegemony in the West Bank.

The Palestinian prime minister insists on keeping a low profile, although Tuesday's speech has brought him center stage not only as Palestinian Authority benefactors' favorite, but as a serious alternative for the PA's post-Abbas era.

Is Obama forcing Israel to halt construction of security barrier?

Aug. 26, 2009

The US could demand Israel stop work on the security barrier in the West Bank as part of its call for a freeze in settlement activity, security expert Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli speculated as he spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office disagreed, saying work on the barrier, which is designed to prevent terrorist attacks, was not part of their talks with the US.

But it is immediately obvious to anyone looking at a map of the planned 805-km. barrier route that the 295 km. that have yet to be built are largely made up of loops around the settlement blocs of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and the Ariel/Kedumim area.

There are no plans at this time to complete the barrier in those blocs.

Such construction would, in a de facto, unilateral fashion, define the size of these blocs.

The issue of what constitutes a "settlement bloc" is part of the ongoing talks between the US and Israel, and would be part of any final-status negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Ma'aleh Adumim section of the barrier, in particular, would include work in the hotly contested E-1 area, which the Palestinians say would destroy the territorial contiguity of their future state.

The very idea that US pressure has prevented the barrier's construction around his city of 33,800 people has drawn sharp protest from Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, who believes its absence leaves his city vulnerable to terror attacks.

"It's economics, not diplomacy, that is the problem," he told the Post. "Ma'aleh Adumim is within the consensus." Kashriel added that he expected it would be retained by Israel under any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

This government, he said, would not take any steps that would endanger the city's status and place the future of its thousands of residents in limbo.

But Jerusalem attorney Shlomo Lecker, who represented Palestinians from the towns of Suahra e-Sharkiya and Abu Dis during their four-year legal battle against a 24-km. section of the 74-km. Ma'aleh Adumim loop, said politics had everything to do with the route.

Initially, Lecker said, the route had taken in a much larger swath of Palestinian land than was needed for security purposes.

In August last year, the state agreed that the route should be shortened in that area to leave some 4,000 dunams (400 hectares) outside the security barrier.

In April, as part of the ongoing case involving two joint petitions, the state mentioned in a statement to the High Court of Justice that recently it had issued land-seizure orders in the area of Ma'aleh Adumim in preparation for work on the barrier.

In June, the state suddenly shifted its stance toward the barrier, Lecker said.

It told the court in another memo that due to budgetary restrictions and other considerations, it did not intend to build the Ma'aleh Adumim loop at this time.

After receiving this response, the court on August 11 took the unusual step of "erasing" the petition.

It added, however, that should the state want to build a barrier in this area, it had to provide the petitioners with 45 days' notice, at which point they could refile their petition.

"What," pondered Lecker, "could have changed from April to June to push the state to change its plans regarding the Ma'aleh Adumim barrier loop?"

Lecker said he believes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came under pressure during his May visit to Washington to stop work on the barrier in the Ma'aleh Adumim area.

But Arieli, of the Council for Peace and Security, said former US president George Bush had also opposed construction of the barrier inside the West Bank.

The international community has argued that if Israel wants to build a barrier to protect its citizens, it should do so along the entire Green Line.

According to figures provided by the United Nations, 85 percent of the barrier's planned route is inside the West Bank and only 15% is on the pre-1967 armistice line.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that it was illegal for Israel to build the barrier in the West Bank.

Israel has insisted it has the right to protect its citizens. But in practice the bulk of the 510 km. of the barrier that has been completed still runs fairly close to the Green Line.

For five years, from 2002 when the initial route was approved until November 2007, measurable progress continued on the barrier in spite of the scores of petitions to the High Court challenging the route.

Then in November 2007, just about the time the Annapolis initiative jump-started peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, work on the barrier slowed almost to a halt, said Arieli.

Little has been done since, he said. Work is under way on only two sections, Na'alin and Deir Naballa. Nothing has been done yet on the Ariel loop. In Gush Etzion, save for one section near the Efrat settlement, the Defense Ministry has been waiting for more than two years to receive a ruling from the High Court that would allow it to proceed, said Arieli.

He noted that three of the four largest settlement cities - Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Betar Illit - are not currently protected by the barrier.

Both he and security sources list three clear reasons why the work has slowed down: petitions to the High Court, lack of funds in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War and the lull in suicide bombings that has allowed the Israeli public to forget that the barrier is a tool against terror.

But Arieli and Lecker also believe American pressure has played a clear role.

Security sources have rejected this last theory. There has been a shift, they said, in the strategy for securing the Ma'aleh Adumim area and it has been determined that it is now a priority to work on the gap in the fence in the South Hebron Hills.

In the last year, security sources said, work has focused on closing the holes in the barrier around Jerusalem.

But they hinted broadly that there has been a shift in planning and that routes such as the Ma'aleh Adumim loop that appeared reasonable when they were designed are no longer feasible in the current diplomatic climate.

Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145116588&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

70 Years Ago: Hitler and Stalin Carve Up Europe; Today Russian Leaders Justify It

Barry Rubin

Exactly seventy years ago, on August 23, 1939, German Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to make the deal with the USSR to carve up eastern Europe. Either ignoring orders, never getting them, or out of sheer disbelief, a Soviet antiaircraft unit near the border opened fire on Von Ribbentrop’s plane, forcing it to land until matters were cleared up. One doesn’t want to think of those soldiers’ fate. Von Ribbentrop finally did arrive in Moscow, met Stalin, and signed the fateful agreement. Dolhinov is too small to appear on the map by name, but perhaps Stalin pressed his pen or hand down on it as he writes. At that moment, the monstrous dictator squashes the little town he’s never heard of and most of its people out of existence.

There is feasting and toasts. Stalin, with a big smile on his face—so wide as to be frightening but also showing sincere happiness—raises his glass to toast Hitler. What has just happened? Nominally, the two countries have signed a non-aggression pact. More than that, however, it is in fact an alliance. And it certainly isn’t a non-aggression pact against Poland (to be partitioned between the two); Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia (to be swallowed up by the Soviets; and Finland and Romania (some of whose territory the Soviets seize). Those parts of the agreement are kept secret.

Only one week later, Germany marches into western Poland, thus setting off World War Two, in which an estimated fifty million people die. The Nazis don’t have to worry about a two-front war—until they blunder into creating one for themselves. Soviet raw materials fuel the German war machine, bypassing the British blockade. Would Hitler have gone ahead even without the pact with Stalin? Probably not.

And so the Germans invade Poland on September 1, 1939; on September 17, 1939, the USSR joins in the feast. Its share also brings Stalin control over two million more Jews.

Ten days later, Von Ribbentrop arrives back in Moscow’s airport at 6pm. After a brief rest and refreshments he meets with Stalin from 10 PM to 1 AM and then again the next day from 3 to 6:30 PM. Business concluded, there’s dinner at the Kremlin, time for one act of ‘’Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi—with the dying swans a fit prelude to the dead Poland—and back to work at midnight. The talks continue until 5 am when the agreement is signed. Von Ribbentrop takes a nap and then gets back on the plane at 12:40 pm.

The agreement signed is as brief as the visit. The two countries are “to reestablish peace and order in keeping with their national character” as they divide up Poland. For the Germans, the national character of the Jews is to die; the Slavs to be turned into slaves. For the Soviets, all are to have no more national character at all.

Stalin says that the Germans desire peace and he offers a toast: “I know how much the German nation loves its Fuhrer; I should therefore like to drink to his health.” As the German foreign minister leaves, Stalin has some words of special importance for him: “The Soviet government takes the new pact very seriously. I guarantee on my word of honor that the Soviet Union would not betray its partner.” It was one of the few promises Stalin didn’t break. It was one of the many promises that Hitler did.

Today, 70 years later, the Russian government is trying to justify this terrible deed. Says military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, "This is not about history at all."

In effect, the Russian government is asserting its sphere of influence over all these and other independent states. The implications are frightening, most directly for Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and others in Central Europe but also for Georgia and Azerbaijan, and for anyone who treasures liberty.

Russia has been putting increasing pressure on its neighbors, sometimes using its energy exports for blackmail, sometimes using money or covert operations. One remembers what the American diplomatist George F. Kennan wrote at the onset of the Cold War: To be Russia's neighbor means either to submit or to be considered an enemy.

The basic Russian historical claim about 1939 is that by itself seizing these territories, the USSR prevented Germany from using them as a staging ground for an attack. In addition, efforts to work out a security alliance with Britain and France had failed.

This is profoundly misleading. The Soviets genuinely saw Nazi Germany as an ally. They helped the German army train, they sold it materials to build up its military, and even up to the moment the Germans attacked in 1941, Stalin insisted that Hitler would not betray him. Indeed, he ordered punishment for any Soviet agents who sent warnings of an imminent attack.

(I once had the privilege of interviewing brave exiled Czech intelligence officers who detailed their efforts to warn the USSR. The issue is discussed in my book, Istanbul Intrigues.)

Moreover, given decades of Soviet efforts to subvert the Western democracies and its further record of alliance with Germany, London and Paris can be forgiven their skepticism about Stalin (though not, of course, their own appeasement).

Indeed, when Hitler’s ambassador came to present officially the declaration of war, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, the latter blurted out, “Surely we have not deserved this.”

Russia’s claim today is, as President Dmitry Medvedev put it during Russia's attack on Georgia, that Moscow had the right to intervene militarily in any country along its borders. Or as military analyst Alexander Golts wrote:

"In his understanding of Realpolitik, [Russia’s strongman] Vladimir Putin does not diverge from the line set by Josef Stalin. Military force decides everything and if there is an opportunity to grab a piece of someone else's territory then it should be taken."

Thus do the apologetics for past dictators past blend in with the aggressive plans of contemporary ones.

Note: Much of this is drawn from Barry Rubin’s forthcoming book, “Children of Dolhinov: A Town and People in the Mists of Time.”

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).


David Bedein
Wed Aug 25 2009

Jerusalem, Israel; Dan Margalit, one of Israel’s leading news commentators, recently observed that “Holocaust deniers are out, anti-Semites and Jew-haters are in” This week, a leading journalist from Holland claimed that who said Jews are responsible for the recent outbreak of swine flu. Holland's largest daily, De Telegraaf, printed the allegations the ongoing global flu pandemic was part of an international Jewish conspiracy to reduce the world's population, as were previous outbreaks of bird flu and other forms of flu.

De Telegraaf did not report that ten people in Israel have already died of swine flu.

And then there are the Gaza rumors spread in Athens. For the past two months, leading figures of the government, media and labor unions of Greece have organized protests over Israel’s destruction of the Christian hospital in Gaza. Except that there is no Christian hospital in Gaza.

Spreading rumors which denigrate Israel and Jews is not confined to the realm of non-Jews.

For the past several months, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia has organized nationwide fasts and protests against Israel’s “blockade” of food and medical supplies to Gaza - except that Israel has imposed no such “blockade” of food and medical supplies to Gaza. Israel has simply restricted the export of substances that could be used in the Gaza war machine, while cooperating with more than 100 humanitarian organizations to assure the steady flow of food and medical supplies into Gaza. Waskow will not answer questions about why he does not come to see the flow of Israeli humanitarian assistance to Gaza for himself.

Meanwhile, this week, the most popular newspaper in Sweden, fabricated an “exposé” this week, in which journalist Donald Bostrom claimed to have interviewed Palestinian families who reported that that Israeli soldiers kills Palestinian children in order to steal their organs for transplanting. At the end, Bostrom wrote: “We know that the need for organs in Israel is very great, that illegal organ trafficking takes place in Israel with the blessing of the authorities, and high-ranking physicians are involved. And we know that young Palestinians have disappeared, been held for five days and subsequently returned secretly at night after their corpses were abused. The time has come to shine a light upon this
terrible activity...”

Israel lodged a protest with the Swedish authorities over what the Israel Foreign Ministry characterized as an “anti-Semitic article” and demanded that the Swedish government condemn the report.

The Swedish Ambassador to Israel Elisabet Borsin Bonnier immediately issued a sharp condemnation of the article and apologized to the people of Israel.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry, however, disassociated itself from the ambassador's condemnation.

In the wake of this reversal, Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman conveyed a pointed protest to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Lieberman also instructed the Foreign Ministry personnel to examine the possibility of revoking the press card held by any representative of Aftonbladet in Israel, and in any case not to assist or cooperate on any matter with the newspaper or its representatives.

"It's too bad that after the Swedish ambassador to Israel did the right thing and denounced the article, and thereby made it clear that his newspaper does not represent Sweden in any way, that the Swedish Foreign Ministry chose to dissociate itself from the ambassador instead of backing her," said Lieberman. "The meaning of freedom of the press is the freedom to write the truth, not the freedom to lie and to malign. A country that truly wishes to defend its democratic values must firmly condemn any mendacious articles that smell of anti-Semitism of the kind that was published this week in the Aftonbladet newspaper. It's unfortunate that the Swedish Foreign Ministry is not becoming involved when the matter is one of a blood libel against the Jews. This is reminiscent of Sweden's position during World War II, when it also did not become involved. The article written this week is a natural continuation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and to the blood libels in which Jews were accused of adding the blood of Christian children to Passover matzos."

Sweden currently chairs the European Union.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why Israel 's Left has Disappeared

From Steven Shamrak's Musings

Carlo Strenger

(This article is a clever attempt to justify the failure and attempt to revive the movement of self-hating Jews!)

...The left has dissipated because it has failed to provide a realistic picture of the conflict with the Palestinians. Its ideological foundation was based on a simple prediction: If we offer the Palestinians a state in the territories occupied in 1967, there will be "peace now." Then things started to go wrong. After the Oslo process began, the newly formed Palestinian Authority educated its children with violently anti-Israeli and often straightforwardly anti-Semitic textbooks. The suicide bombings of 1996 were not prevented by Arafat (some would say they were supported and even instigated by him). What brought the left down completely were the failures of Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001, as well as the onset of the second Intifada. On the face of it, Israel 's left should have said "we were wrong in our predictions. We underestimated the complexity of the situation. We didn't see that the Palestinians were not ready to renounce the right of return and we underestimated how much murderous rage there was against Israel . We still believe that we need to end the occupation as quickly as possible, but we need to face reality."

Instead of admitting that it had been partially(?) wrong, the left tried to explain away all the facts that didn't square with its theory by putting the onus of responsibility for Palestinian actions exclusively on Israel 's policies.
The left argued that the bombings in 1996 happened because the Oslo process was too slow and the Palestinians wanted to avenge the targeted killing of Yihye Ayash; Camp David failed because Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offers were insufficient. The second Intifada started because of Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000. Hamas came to power because we turned Fatah into collaborators with the Zionists, and so on.

...In conversations with Palestinians I have heard more than once that they feel that the right wing respects them more than the left because the left always presumes to know what the Palestinians really want. I want to make one thing very clear. I completely endorse Yeshayahu Leibowitz's famous saying that he is not sure whether Israel's policies since 1967 are evil stupidity or stupidly evil and I continue to think that the occupation (of Jewish land by Arabs?) must end as quickly as possible. But I believe that Israel's stupidity (unfortunately Israel does not act as any other self-respecting country) is matched by the Palestinians making every conceivable mistake along the way, and I think the left should give them the respect of holding them responsible for their actions rather than talking about them as if they were abused children. (Respect can be given only to the ones who deserve it. Blood-thirsty Islamic terrorists who plan to destroy Israel deserve none! True Zionists do know what the Palestinians really want. That is why the Sinai Option: Road to Permanent Peace is the only way to peace!)

J Street - Jewish by Name, anti-Israel by Nature. The J Street political action committee, which bills itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as from individuals connected to Palestinian and Iranian-advocacy groups, according to U.S. Federal Election Commission filings. (How many self-hating, well-funded Jewish organizations can be endured by Jewish communities and Israel, and who is financing them? The time has come for the creation of new united Jewish national front!)

According to Russian media, the Arctic Sea may have been carrying illegal X-55 cruise missiles destined for Iran hidden among its cargo of lumber.

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

The recent release of the Lockerbie bomber provided another lesson to Israel - the US can be snubbed with impunity! Scotland has just done it and many other countries, most are less important than Israel, have been doing it regularly! It is time for Israel to re-evaluate the 'special' relationship with the US and demand the status of equal friendship!

Concerto for Destruction of Israel. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.S. President Barack Obama said that Israel is moving in what they both called "the right direction" by suspending continued construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria. Addressing reporters at a joint press conference with Mubarak in the White House on Tuesday, Obama said that Egypt and America would "work in concert" toward peace in the Middle East. Mubarak blames Middle East strife on Israel-PA Issue . (Islamic terrorism, particularly Palestinian, and the global ambition of Islam has nothing to do with the world's problems?)

Egyptian Style of Democracy. According to intelligence sources, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's trip to Washington last week, his first in four years, is primarily a farewell visit and a bid to assure his son Gemal Mubarak's smooth accession to the presidency, rather than in-depth discussions on the Middle East. (Why should it be the United States, and not Egyptian voters, who should approve the next president of 'democratic' Egypt ?)

Scotland has Snubbed the US. In spite of the protests from the United States and fake one from Britain , Scottish Justice Secretary freed al Megrahi, the butcher of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. The bombing killed 270 people, including 189 Americans. On arrival he received a cheering, flag-waving, hero's welcome in Libya. (Nothing has changed - Arab mobs and their leaders still love killers of "Infidels".)

Peace Now Must be Banned. Member of Knesset Danny Danon called on the registrar of non-profit groups to break up Peace Now for harming the State of Israel. He said the leftist group violates the law by not publishing details of the funds it gets from foreign sources. In the past, an inspection of the group's records revealed a total of nearly two million shekels in funding from Britain , Finland and Norway.

Quote of the Week: "Fatah and Hamas are tearing the Palestinian area of the Gaza strip apart in what they call a political rivalry, and the Palestinian people are paying a price for Palestinian violence. Governments from around the world and the Arab world have said nothing. ...I just want you to think for a second, if this were the result of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, would the international silence and the silence of the Arab world be this deafening?" - Rahm Emanuel, the Chief of staff Obamas government. - The right words were spoken just after the US election only to misinform the US voters about the intentions of the newly elected president. Those empty words are already long forgotten by the Obama administration and voters !

Nuclear Watchdog Provides Cover-up for Iran . Israel and western diplomats have accused outgoing IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and other top officials of the UN's nuclear watchdog of "hiding classified data" that indicated Iran was pursuing a military nuclear programme. American, French, British and German senior officials have recently pressured ElBaradei to publish the information which were censored by senior officials of the IAEA in the organization's Vienna headquarters.

The Ugliness of self-Hating Jewish Left. During a court proceeding secret evidence revealed that Ezra Nawi, the Jewish pro-Arab activist, is a supporter of terror organization Hamass actions in Judea and Samaria. Nawi is the defendant in a case, in which he is charged with assaulting police officers. Due to this case, Nawi has become a celebrity of sorts for the international Left.

West is Financing Terrorist Thugs. According to the World Bank some 43% of PA wages go to paying members of its police and military who number in the tens of thousands in dozens of different groups. Western countries are major donors to PA coffers, in spite of the fact that the PA has often been accused by critics of fomenting a militaristic society.

What an Independent State? The US administration gave Fatah $50 million to cover expenses for the Sixth Fatah General Conference that was held earlier this month. It was an attempt to strengthen PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. However, Syrian daily Al-Watan reported that the US rejected Abbas' request for permission to fire PA Minister Salam Fayyad.

Another Slap in the Face for Obama. The Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has publicly rejected Barack Obamas overtures for a Washington-Damascus détente - which was supposed to hinge on detaching Syria from Iran - and blocked the path to peace talks with Israel . The current visit of Assad to Tehran is to strengthen ties between the two countries. (How many more embarrassments does the US need to endure in order to change its anti-Israel policy?)

Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shiite men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands. The new the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to gain permission from their husbands to work. ( Thousands of allied soldiers have given their lives for the futile if not fraudulent attempt to build democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. Who is benefiting from the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on this idiotic endeavour?)

Directly contradicting CNN chief Jon Klein - who ordered host Lou Dobbs to quit discussing President Obama's birth certificate - the Hawaii Department of Health affirmed that no paper birth certificates were destroyed when the department moved to electronic record-keeping. A Hawaii official refused to say whether the DOH has Obama's original long-form birth certificate, explaining that state law prohibited her from commenting on the birth records of any specific person. (What about the United States constitution?) The White House has refused to acknowledge repeated requests to authorize the release of Obama's birth records, which would clear his "natural born citizen" status - The Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, states, "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President."

NOTE: A federal grand jury is considering allegations that Mr Edwards misused money from his presidential campaigns to buy Ms Hunter's, former campaign aide/mistress, silence. Strangely, no federal grand jury is interested in investigating reports that Obama spent $US900,000 during his presidential campaign to seal his birth records!!

Fighting anti-Semitism is not a Priority. The Obama administration has still not named the official in charge of fighting anti-Semitism worldwide, as US law calls for. The Bush administration representative was dismissed six months ago.

This Week, It Was Scotland's Turn To Shame the West

Dennis Prager
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Whenever I think that some Western country or institution has reached a low point, shortly thereafter, sometimes the very next week, another Western government or institution proves me too optimistic.

Last week, it was the news that the Yale University Press will not allow any picture of Muhammad to appear in its forthcoming book on the Muhammad cartoons controversy. Not only will Yale not print the cartoons that are the subject of the book, Yale will not print any picture of Muhammad, no matter how respectful, no matter that a believing Muslim drew it, and no matter how long ago it was drawn. This week, it was Scotland's turn to shame Western civilization. And though it seemed impossible to outdo Yale, Scotland has.

The Scottish government released Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the one person convicted in the mass murder of 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.

As the Chicago Tribune noted in an editorial appropriately titled "Scotland's Shame," at al-Megrahi's 2001 trial, the Scottish prosecutor pointed out that "four hundred parents lost a child, 46 parents lost their only child, 65 women were widowed, 11 men lost their wives, 140 lost a parent, seven lost both parents."

But all these people and all their loved ones were not the recipients of Scotland's compassion; the murderer was.

What the Scottish government, its Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and millions of others in the West do not understand is that, unlike justice, compassion cannot be given to everyone. If you show compassion to person X or group X, you cannot show it to person Y or group Y. Justice, by definition, is universal. Compassion, by definition, is selective.

That is why, generally speaking, governments should be in the business of dispensing justice, not compassion. Individuals can, and often ought to, dispense compassion, not societies.

When governments try to dispense compassion, they usually end up hurting people, as in the case of Scotland.

Allowing al-Megrahi out of prison was compassionate only to al-Megrahi, the individual least deserving of compassion, and it was an act of sheer cruelty to the ones who deserve all our compassion, his victims. The fact that al-Megrahi has terminal cancer is utterly irrelevant. He should have been allowed to die in prison. Allowing him, his family and his murder-loving supporters in Libya and elsewhere the joy of his last months/years in freedom mocks the dead, trivializes the suffering of the victims and their loved ones, and undermines justice.

The bigger tragedy, however, is that MacAskill and his government are not aberrations. They are not just a few foolish individuals who happen to have power.

The Scottish government had plenty of support, and not just among terror-loving Libyans who appropriately waved the Scottish flag alongside the Libyan.

The office of the U.K. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, for example, had no comment. As The Scotsman pointed out, despite intense international pressure, and despite the fact Brown is hardly reticent about commenting on far less significant matters such as the death of a British reality TV star (Jade Goody), he remained silent on the Lockerbie murderer's release.

As The Scotsman further reported, "Last night, the top story on the Downing Street website was a video message from Mr. Brown to Muslims around the world for Ramadan. There was no mention of Lockerbie."

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland, Ian Galloway, said the decision "sent a message to the world about what it is to be Scottish. ... We are defined as a nation by how we treat those who have chosen to hurt us. Do we choose mercy even when they did not choose mercy? ... I would say justice is not lost in acting in mercy."

Galloway's nihilistic and antinomian romanticism helps explain why so many European churches are empty.

Sir Richard Dalton, British ambassador to Libya between 1999 and 2002, also supported Scotland's decision: "Appalling though the atrocity was that led to the deaths of 270 people, there are not good reasons why anybody convicted of that crime should be excepted from normal rules which apply for considering release on compassionate grounds."

One can only wonder whether the morally confused are more likely to enter foreign office work or whether being in a foreign office is more likely to render one morally confused.

The BBC reports that "MacAskill accused the Libyan government of breaking a promise not to extend a hero's welcome to Megrahi on his return."

That MacAskill believed the Libyan government of Mouammar Qaddafi would keep a promise is just one more example of the naivete about evil that has characterized much of Europe since the end of World War I.

Until next week's Western abomination against Western civilization, so long for now.

Copyright © 2009 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Hear the Music

Ari Bussel

Could you wait 11 years—feeling, knowing with all your being someone is looking for you—with nothing more than mere belief to sustain your dream? In the movie August Rush, a young child hears the music, and it eventually reunites him with the parents he had lost eleven years before. As if the world had conspired to make it happen, the sounds of everything around him created a melody that drove him forward, ensuring hope survived and did not diminish, until he became one with his parents. This happens in movies, but it also happens when your belief in God is greater than the tribulations and challenges of this world. I sometimes wonder if I would have had the strength of character to continue being had I been in Europe of 1940: as the five-year-old boy my uncle was, the three-year-old boy my father was or the one-year-old my mother was. Or had I been the grandfather I never knew or the 26-year-old my grandmother was, with a son and daughter to protect.

I often like to imagine myself as the noble and just person, who would have shared his last crumbs, or a stale piece of bread or potato skins (not the type one orders at a restaurant with different fillings on the side but the type that smells so badly, hardly anything can compete with the stench). I would like to think I would have done so, a selfless and kind act, but statistics teaches us differently. Sadly, most people did not.

Merely handfuls among millions were righteous gentiles, whose belief in the Lord was so strong nothing was able to destroy their principles. Odd. Unique. An extraordinary breed of human beings no longer among us. Now, we may glimpse at them in a movie done before their death, or in a re-creation of their lives and words on stage.

They were young then. Forty, fifty or sixty years later they departed the world, to a special place where crowds stood and clapped upon their arrival, welcoming them into their midst. Honored to receive those few, who despite all odds showed strength of character only created by a craftsman so gifted everything produced by His capable hands was a unique, priceless gem.

Beauty and strength lie in the knowledge there is a greater design, a reason and a purpose. As one looked around, as my father and his cousin did as young children in the Warsaw Ghetto just before the uprising, how could one fathom the meaning or purpose? How would one reconcile such a puzzle?

A strange music floated through the air, and amongst the dead and dying, a poem was written and a child said, “But a butterfly I here did not see. And that was the last, the last of the last. Since butterflies do not live in the Ghetto.” What a majestic flight and color, amidst the unspeakable death.

It was a misty and cold night on December 25th, 2008, in Israel, as I exited Yad Va’Shem Holocaust Memorial on Mount Hertzel in Jerusalem. Alone I walked among the row of trees naming the Righteous Among the Nations, savoring each moment. On either side stood, in the mist after the rain, memories of unfathomable courage.

The Holocaust is not a justification for Israel’s existence. No one wished to believe it was happening, and the Jewish community in America did little to help while their brethren were being systematically exterminated in Europe. In Israel, though, something was happening. The Jews under British rule (the Mandate) heard shreds of what was happening in Europe. Most were acting to help the British in the fight against the Germans and all their personal hostility was suspended. A Jewish Brigade of the British Army was formed.

German Field Marshal Rommel had entered Africa to take over Egypt. In 1942 the Battles of El Alamein were to become a turning point: Churchill wrote, “Before Alamein, we had no victory and after it we had no defeats.” However, before fate changed direction, there was a feeling the Germans would soon conquer the whole region.

The Arabs were jubilant and under the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, they were cooperating with Hitler. The hatred in Israel was deeper than in Germany, the methodology perfected over centuries, a readiness to exterminate the Jews at an all-time high. The British prepared their retreat to India to leave scorched earth in Israel. I cannot know if the feeling among the Jewish population in Israel was of desperation or acceptance of one’s destiny to fall into the hands of a brutal enemy. Such a fate would have been unimaginable.

When commando operatives were required, among those who volunteered were David Raziel and Avraham Stern (“Yair”). Unlike the British, who were of light complexion, they looked like Arabs and spoke their language.

Raziel headed the underground organization formed in 1931, the National Military Organization (AZ”L), a paramilitary organization to defend the Jewish population against pogroms by the Arabs. When Raziel instructed the members to cease action against the British and to assist them in the wartime efforts against the Germans, the organization split.

Yair led the opposition who vowed to continue the armed struggle and resistance against the British Mandate over Israel. Yair and his people formed the underground organization later named Fighters for the Liberty of Israel (Lechi).

A series of books was written about a fictional youth group Hasamba, the Society of Absolutely Top Secret. During the British Mandate over Israel, Hasamba was battling the foreigners. While this series captivated the imagination of generations in the decades following the establishment of modern Israel, some real-life, legendary resistance fighters from the different underground groups are still alive and with us today.

Simon David, a Los Angeles resident for some six decades, was a member of Lechi. When modern Israel came into existence, he served in the first class of Israeli pilots. He recounts the following story: Raziel and Yair were sent to Iraq to attempt an assassination of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He, however, was in Germany at the time, so while in Iraq carrying out their assignment by the British, they managed to kill only his bodyguard.

When they were ready to return, an argument developed between Raziel and Yair. Their retreat orders contained a detailed “evacuation” plan by the British. Yair argued the British did not like owing anyone, and since they had fulfilled their mission, something bad would happen. He refused to return according to plan, but Raziel and his men continued. They died on the way. Yair and his men survived, never again to trust the British.

A year later Yair, hiding in Tel Aviv, was murdered by the British officer who apprehended him following an extensive manhunt.

These legendary heroes gave their lives for a dream, a country that was theirs since the beginning of time, a promise and covenant by God to His people. They did not believe they would ever live to see the dawn of the new independent country, where Jews from all over the world would be free to return after an absence of close to two thousand years. Still they risked everything, and eventually gave everything for that dream to become a reality.

They truly cared about the Land of Israel, the Jewish Homeland. They were soldiers on the front line, believing their fight just and aims noble. They knew no fear and were certain God walked with them as their leader and protector.

This was their fight. This is still our battle. Israel will continue to exist, as from all time to the end of time. Empires arose and fell, and the Israelites lived through horrors the likes of which one cannot imagine. But the Jewish people persevered and remain still. We will always be, as long as we can hear the music.

Abusing freedom of speech


Having lived through a revolution in Romania and following five years in Egypt, I rejoiced when my husband Zvi was named ambassador to Sweden.

Indeed, I looked forward to what was to be our last posting in a friendly Western country. This time we would not be isolated, I thought; there would be glittering functions, invitations to Royal events, and we would bask in a friendly atmosphere. Ah, well. It did not quite happen that way. This was the time of the second Intifada and nobody - nobody - loved us.

Thus, for instance, when a massive demonstration was held against the United States before its 2003 invasion of Iraq, people marched by the tens of thousands under our window on their way to the US Embassy. Among the many banners prominently displayed, one was particularly striking: "Bomb Tel Aviv, not Baghdad," it said in bold black letters.

A FEW WEEKS later, the University of Stockholm Student Union decided to hold a "Palestine Day" which was to end with a debate to which the Israeli ambassador was invited.

Zvi gave a nice diplomatic speech about the need for compromise and reconciliation which was met with silence. Then the Palestinian representative took the floor and launched into a diatribe about the savage Israeli soldiers: "When they spy a pregnant Palestinian woman these beasts start betting on whether it's a boy or a girl and then CUT OPEN THE WOMAN to know who won. Furthermore", he went on, "no young Palestinian woman is safe from them. If she is pretty, they will strip her naked and force her to walk through the streets of Jerusalem."

I can still remember the shock I felt. We were after all in the auditorium of a university in a modern Western country, not in Ramallah or in Teheran.

The audience duly hissed and booed the hated Israelis. And why not? We were daily pilloried in the press. But it got worse. Soon enough some of this hatred turned to the Jewish community. In October 2003, one Jan Samuelsson, a so-called expert on religion and religious history published an article in one of the leading dailies - Dagens Nyheter, a morning paper with a circulation that equals that of Aftonbladet - explaining that it was legitimate to hate Jews as long as Israel occupied Arab territories.

Here are some choice quotations out of that article: "Muslim hatred of Jews is justified", "hatred of Jews is primarily a modern phenomenon sparked by the violations that the State of Israel commits against Arabs in the Middle East." Incidentally, the Israeli Embassy protested, but guess what? The sanctity of the freedom of the press prevailed and nothing was done.

Swedish Jews were quick to understand the message. Hillelskolan, the Jewish school, received police protection and its pupils were advised to take off their head coverings and Stars of David when they left the premises. Their parents got the same advice. To this day, religious envoys from Israel are told to wear a hat, not a kippa.

TO BE SURE, some of this can be attributed to the sizable Muslim community living in Sweden today - some 500,000 out of a total of nine million. In Stockholm, elderly Jews, most of them Holocaust survivors, were invited every Friday to an "Oneg Shabat" in the community building. I had participated a few times and went there in early March 2004 to say goodbye. A very old man with a strong Polish accent took a newspaper from his pocket. "It says there," he told me, "that in the great mosque of Stockholm they give out leaflets and cassettes calling to get rid of the Jews, sons of pigs and monkeys. It also says that a government spokesman declared there was no ground for intervention. What do you say about that?"

There was not much I could say.

Once again the embassy protested; once again the hallowed mantle of the sanctity of freedom of speech had been thrown over what can only be described as blatant anti-Semitism. It was left to another elderly woman to put in words the fear they all felt: "You may be too young to remember, but this is how it started in Germany." I hastened to point out that the situation was completely different inasmuch as the Swedish government would protect its citizens and was indeed committed to fighting anti-Semitism. Hadn't the then Prime Minister Goran Persson convened not one, but three international seminars on the issue of the Holocaust?

I am not sure they believed me. A scant month before, that same Swedish government had paid for the now-infamous exhibit glorifying the Palestinian woman who had blown herself up among the lunch crowd of a busy Haifa restaurant in October 2003, killing 21 people. This "work of art" showing a photo of her made-up, smiling up face floating on a sea of red water made to look like blood had been chosen for the official opening ceremony of the new international seminar, dedicated to the worthy cause of "preventing genocide."

And when the Israeli ambassador, having vainly protested, took matters in his own hands and hurled the spotlights illuminating that monstrosity into the water, all three leading newspapers protested this intolerable attack on the freedom of art and artistic expression.

The following day the exhibit was restored in all its glory.

When a year later Muslims protested against a painting in a Gothenburg museum they found insulting, they did it with far greater efficiency. An anonymous letter spelled what would happen to the wife and the children of the curator if the painting was not removed forthwith.

This was promptly done.

The writer is the wife of former ambassador Zvi Mazel. She is the author of Ambassador's Wife published in 2002, a personal account of the eight years she spent in Cairo with her husband.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418678310&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Trouble with Washington: The Middle East Doesn’t Exist Solely in Their Minds


Barry Rubin
Washington, DC

It is hard to convey the enormous gap between Middle East reality and Washington thinking. To try to explain here what things are actually like in the region is to invite ridicule. People in the Nation's Capital—even if they don’t read regional languages or follow events really closely—are convinced they know everything. This is an old Washington phenomenon which has over the years been applied to many issues and often ended in failure or even disaster. As a very successful lobbyist told me, “An idea in Washington is something you can express between floors on an elevator.”

And so such people—I won’t mention names but you can see it in the media as well as hear it in conversation—believe that President Barrack Obama’s approach is really great. (Come to think of it, this is where his advisors get it from in the first place and turn it into policy.) He would appeal over the heads of leaders to the people and the masses would say: “No more settlements! Peace with Israel! Two-state solution! Why didn’t we ever think of that?”

The more I hear, the more I’m reminded of how much this resembles the Bush administration’s shortcomings in this regard. It was going to show the benefits of democracy and, voila, the region would embrace it. Centuries of political culture, decades of ideology, the structure of dictatorial regimes will all melt as fast as a frozen dessert in an expensive K Street restaurant.

In turn, this mentality recycles basic elements of American elite political culture which seem to exist across the spectrum of partisan commitment and ideology:

--If history doesn't matter to us, why should it matter to them?

--If we've abandoned religion can they really take it serously?

--If war is always foolish and there's nothing worth dying for, they must be desperate for peace.

--If all that matters is material possessions and a nice life-style, let's give them that and they'll leave us alone.

And so on.

More than a half-century ago, a Republican senator from Kansas uttered the much-ridiculed line that the United States would help raise Asia up and up until it reached the level of Kansas City. That basic notion persists, though in contemporary administration parlance it would be Cambridge, Massachusetts or the Upper West Side of Manhattan, or the appropriate neighborhood in Los Angeles.

But don’t Obama and his crew believe in the celebration of differences, cultural relativity, and different strokes for different folks, all is equally valid?

Well, not really. It’s very superficial. Yes, you have the right to your forcing hijabs on women, religion, and world view. But suicide bombing is merely a career choice for those who have nothing better to do. Underneath everything all people are exactly the same, aren’t they? They all want a nice home, a good education for their kids, a chicken in the pot, and a car or two in the garage.

What multiculturalism gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. To stretch the point a bit but to convey the reality better, according to prevailing doctrine:

--If you suggest that everyone should think the same because there are universal values, that’s “racist.”

--But if you suggest that people in different parts of the world are profoundly different, that’s also “racist.”

--And if you suggest that you honestly believe your own culture is superior, that’s also…"racist.”

--If, however, you suggest that someone else’s anti-democratic, ideologically extreme, less-coinciding-----with-reality, more stagnant society or culture is superior to that of the West, that’s…really terrific.

--And if you can figure out a good way to assume they are precisely like you, want to be even more so (because after all isn't your society the epitome of everything anyone must want), and help them to do so, that's foreign policy. High-five!

Make no mistake: that sense of superiority to all the rubes out in the world’s sticks (old American slang for suburbs and small towns) is still very much there.

[Brief digression: I grew up here and know this first-hand: They have equal contempt for all those outside Washington and a few other enclaves. And the worst snobs are those who come from flyover-land and intend never to go back there. Sometimes, as with Obama's famous speech dissing small-town people as a bunch of biased gun-lovers who actually believe there's a deity--the saps--that basic loathing slips out.]

Here’s how it manifests itself in foreign policy: the belief that we can make you an offer too good to refuse. We can persuade you to do what we want by offering you so much, by showing you where you went wrong. Because we are smarter than you, more advanced, and not caught up in your stupid little details of meaningless petty quarrels. If you get a degree in it, they call that "conflict management."

To truly understand this mentality, consider how in the film “Don’t Mess with the Zohan” the deepest desire of the master terrorist (from Hizballah?) is to own a chain of fast food restaurants. The mental message is: We respect you and your culture! But of course we know you really want to be like us.

From popular culture we go to administration terrorism advisor—talk about a charlatan—John Brennan who explains that Hizballah (and probably Hamas when he isn’t speaking in public) can’t be terrorists because they are in politics and some of them are even lawyers.

They don’t really mean it, you see, and are just behaving that way because they are enraged, haven’t been treated right, or haven’t been offered enough. Since Washington political culture isn’t too much into history, all the past events disproving this thesis are neglected.

For people in this world, like Brennan, an intransigent radical Islamist who believes that he knows precisely what the deity wants and will impose it on the world with automatic weapons is simply someone who hasn’t met him yet.

Nothing is more amusing than watching people in the inside-the-Beltway elite either predict the imminent success of Obama’s Middle East program or, among those who are brighter, now start to be puzzled about why it isn’t working.

I can think of no better way to end than with a joke that perfectly illustrates this mentality. It is most often told about Henry Kissinger, but having seen Kissinger in operation first-hand he’s one of the people who succeeded in Washington who least deserves it. I’ll leave the details on that for another time but I will tell the joke in a generic fashion:

A backpacking student and a high-level foreign policymaker are on a small plane. The plane develops engine trouble and the pilot says: “I’m sorry but there are only two parachutes and one of them is mine.”

The policymaker says, “Well, since I’m the only one capable of making Middle East peace I’m too valuable to the world to lose, so I’m taking the other one.” With that, he grabs a pack and leaps from the plane.

“I’m sorry, son,” says the pilot, “but I guess you’re sunk.”

“Don’t worry about me. There’s still a parachute left. The world’s greatest policymaker just leaped out of the plane holding my backpack. “

Yep, that about sums it up.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)

First-Person Account: Touring Israel with Mike Huckabee

Helen Freedman Traveling with Mike Huckabee

A first-person account of a US presidential candidate's trip to Israel by a prominent Jewish-American activist reveals a calm man with strong principles. When I received the invitation from Shani Hikind at the Ateret Cohanim/Jerusalem Reclamation Project (JRP) to accompany Republican Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on a mission to Israel, I agreed immediately.

Having listened to Huckabee speak at the many debates held amongst the candidates, and being a fan of his Fox television show and his ABC radio shows, I knew that traveling with Mike would be a unique and extraordinary experience. It was all that and more!!

I trust that the messages he brings back, which are strong contradictions of the Obama policies, will help educate the general public about the true situation that exists in Israel today, and the necessity of keeping Israel a viable ally of America.

I arrived at Newark Airport late Saturday night, August 15, and waited at the gate to board my El Al midnight flight to Israel. An unassuming man walked into the area all alone. There was no entourage, no guards, no secretaries, and no press. When I looked again, I realized it was Mike Huckabee. I approached him, introduced myself, and told him I was part of the group with which he would be traveling. He was as gracious as could be, agreed to take some books and materials that I had for him, and posed for a photo with me. From that time on, he greeted me as Helen whenever we met.

He had that same warm quality with everyone in the group, remembering each one's name and greeting each one with a smile. This calm, affable, genuine quality about him continued throughout our three-day trip in Israel, despite the constant pressure of the media surrounding him, pushing their way forward, shouting out questions, and following him everywhere.

The trip was under the tireless guidance of JRP Representative in Jerusalem, Daniel Luria. Our first day was concentrated in Jerusalem, with a fascinating tour of the City of David, where ancient excavations dating back 3,200 years have been discovered. This was followed by trips through the former Yemenite village in Silwan, mostly Arab but with a renewed Jewish presence as there was decades ago, a visit to Maaleh HaZeitim, a flourishing Jewish development on the Mount of Olives, and a delightful stop at Kidmat Tzion, another Jewish development, adjacent to the ugly wall that cuts through Jerusalem and separates Abu Dis from the rest of Jerusalem.

While most of us enjoyed a picnic lunch in the lovely shaded forest area adjacent to Kidmat Tzion, Mike Huckabee sat in the strong sunshine, in front of a stunning view of the Old City, while he gave interview after interview to the omnipresent press.

Huckabee's remarks to the press have been well-recorded, but there were some particular comments that stand out in my memory. He insisted that his visit was not meant to be a provocation. He believes that two sovereign nations cannot control the same piece of territory, and that though the PA deserves to have a state, "it can't be in Israel." He affirms the unique relationship between the U.S. and Israel which he describes as "organic," with both having experienced the same struggle and victory. He also spoke about his experiences growing up in the deep South with segregated schools, which makes him very sensitive to issues of discrimination and prejudice.

When asked about the "occupation," Mike Huckabee responded brilliantly. He described Israel's government as one of "accommodation, not occupation." He spoke about Israel's efforts to bring all types of services to the Arab communities such as schools, infra-structure development, hospitals, and welfare payments.

The Moskowitz family, owners of the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem, hosted a lovely cocktail reception on Monday evening at the hotel. Although the hotel is located near the National Headquarters of the Israeli police, near the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, and adjacent to the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, the purchase of the hotel by a Jewish family, with the purpose of converting it to apartments for Jews, had set off a storm of protest. As we arrived at the hotel, we saw the protestors from Peace Now screaming their opposition to Huckabee's presence. Huckabee's reaction to their insults and noise was that their ability to behave in that fashion simply demonstrated Israel's democratic character, where free speech, even if ugly and unwanted, was fully tolerated.

On Tuesday, the former governor was given a tour of Maaleh Adumim and the E1 corridor to Jerusalem. The town's mayor, Benny Kashriel, explained that the population of nearly 40,000 people in the city provided 2,000 jobs to Arabs, and that freezing construction meant putting Arabs out of work. Huckabee agreed that Obama's policies are not in sync with either his campaign promises, or his assurances made to AIPAC of his continued support for previous understandings regarding Israel's settlement situation. Huckabee asserted that Israelis must be allowed to make their own decisions.

He continued along these lines as we toured Shomron/Samaria with David HaIvri. We visited Beit El, Mt. Gerizim overlooking Shechem (Nablus), Har Bracha, and Givot Olam. In each place he met hard-working, devoted people who love the Land of Israel and dedicate their lives to its preservation. Gershon Mesika, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, asked Huckabee to do what he could to encourage the Jewish people to love Israel and thus restore the Temple to Jerusalem.

Huckabee spoke about American Christians' very deep support for Israel. He believes there is more unity amongst Evangelicals for Israel than there is among Jews. He describes the Christian connection to Judaism as one that is totally genetic, "part of its DNA," and that because of this, Bible-believing Christians assert the right of the Jews to their homeland.

Huckabee suggested that Obama's positions on Israel have brought anxiety to Congress, and that Democrats don't want to be seen to be in conflict with Israel. He reminded us of Reagan's bombing of Libya, and stated, "Abandoning the Israel/U.S. relationship would be the undoing of both countries." Responding to questions about defensible borders for Israel, Huckabee maintained that there would be none if control were turned over to Hamas.

Referring to the years of peace processes, he reminded us of Einstein's definition of insanity, namely, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Huckabee recommends starting with a blank slate and seeing what is realistically possible; "there is no point in talking about a plan that is a proven failure." Although he recognized that he is out of the mainstream in his beliefs, he says he prefers that to the position of always having to check the prevailing winds.

Asserting that Jews should have the right to live wherever they choose in their homeland, he commented, "If Arabs didn't want to lose land, they shouldn't have started wars." He reminded us that wars and history have caused so many lands to change hands and populations.

That evening, back in Jerusalem, there was a cocktail reception at the very beautiful home of Mr. Guma Aguiar in Yemin Moshe. The former governor was awarded photos and plaques for his deep devotion to Israel as the Jewish homeland. Many Members of Knesset and other dignitaries were there, along with the press of course, and once again Huckabee displayed his modesty, equanimity, and sincerity as he graciously accepted the awards and once again pledged his devotion to Israel.

(Pictured below:) Huckabee with Rabbi Wolpe at Gush Katif Museum

By Wednesday, August 19, work commitments began to intrude in the planned schedule. Though he did not make it to the Gush Katif "resettlement camp" in Nitzan (see below), Huckabee did get to the Gush Katif museum in Jerusalem, where he met Rivka Goldschmidt, an evacuee from the destroyed Gush Katif communities. He spoke to her earnestly, listening to her description of what it had been like to have led a useful and productive life in a beautiful home and community and then to have it all torn away and destroyed. Four years later, only 15 percent of the 400 farmers of Gush Katif have received proper compensation. There were 50 greenhouses in Gush Katif; today, the former residents have only three. People are still paying off the mortgages on their destroyed homes, and must pay rent for the caravans in which they live in the "refugee camps." Huckabee seemed deeply moved by what he heard, as well as by the vivid photos and powerfully emotional film of the expulsion.

He was unable to continue with us on our visit to Nitzan, the largest of the Jewish "refugee camps," where we met with Dror Vanunu and Rachel and Moshe Saperstein, former residents of N'vei Dekalim. After a lovely lunch at the visitors' center, we traveled on to Hevron to enjoy the spirituality always present in this city of our Matriarchs and Patriarchs. David Wilder once again served as our valuable guide.

At our farewell dinner at the "Between the Arches" restaurant in the Old City, Huckabee was there to greet each one of us. He shook hands with us individually, and posed for photos. I spoke to him briefly about his plans to visit Israel again in late January/February with a Christian group. I reminded him that Herbert Zweibon, chairman of my organization, Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI, has always worked closely with the Christian community and would work with him on his planned visit. He indicated that he would look forward to discussing this further.

Mike Huckabee did not stay to dine with us; he fought the Jerusalem traffic that erev Rosh Chodesh Elul night simply to say farewell personally to each one of us who had accompanied him on this memorable trip. He then left for the airport and his return flight to New York. I look forward to watching his personal reports on Fox News and listening to his radio commentaries on Israel.

I trust that the messages he brings back, which are strong contradictions of the Obama policies, will help educate the general public about the true situation that exists in Israel today, and the necessity of keeping Israel a viable ally of America.

Helen Freedman is Executive Director of Americans For a Safe Israel/AFSI - 212-828-2424;