Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Day by Day"

There is no other way to cope with matters now, I think.

The Fogel funeral yesterday was attended by some twenty-thousand (according to the JPost count).

Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the first to deliver a eulogy, spoke with an immeasurable sense of pain:

"There are situations, there are days there are hours where you are at loss for words. You feel and sense the pain, feel the anger and mostly, feel the powerlessness…

"When you imagined that this circle of terror closed maybe 66 years ago and when the blood of infants runs like water and 1.5 million children were trampled by human beasts… it has been 66 years, we've declared statehood, gained our independence, established the enviable IDF. And still, the circle of terror and the river of blood flow and we stand helpless. A"What can you say when you see a three month old baby stabbed to death? What do you say?"


The rabbi is a Holocaust survivor and his tortured words are born of his experience. But I would suggest that we are not powerless today, and what calls out to us now is our obligation to assert our power, in order to protect our own, rather than deliberately shackling it.


Rabbi Lau then shifted themes, and his words here were echoed over and over by others:

"We will not bend, we will not give up, we returned to the land of our fathers and it is our home, and the children shall return within their borders and nothing will prevent our faith in the righteousness of our path."

To this I say amen v'amen!


We Jews are a special people. And it is a source of immeasurable pride that we don't respond to diabolic hatred by returning hatred and invoking the need for violence. Instead we invoke the need to take steps that are positive and enhance our heritage. This was a major theme at the funeral.

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger declared that only G-d can avenge the blood of the murdered family: "We don't have the option of avenging their blood" Instead, "Itamar needs to become a major city in Israel as a response to this murder...Another neighborhood, that's the answer. More building, that's the answer."

And Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin declared: "We will live, we will continue to build and to plant, we will continue to grip onto the land of Israel: in Itamar, in Beit Hagai, in Hebron and in Jerusalem, everywhere and any time.

"More construction, more life, more hanging onto the land. This is our answer to the murderers, so that they know they haven't gotten the better of us.

"We will awaken our right to build anywhere and at anytime."


It's the last sentence I cite from Rivlin, however, that generates unease. Why, I ask, should it take a terrorist massacre to "awaken our right to build"? Why don't we feel strong in this right all of the time?

And then the very unsettling corollary: When things return to normal, whatever that means here, does that mean that our sense of entitlement will once again become dormant?


If there is any message to my posting today, this is it:

There is no turning back to what was. There is new-found recognition of the realities and new determination to hold fast to our land and to build on it. We must, at all cost, sustain this. For if we let go, it is at our own peril.


During a shiva call to the bereaved family last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu sounded a similar theme;

The terrorists shoot, and we build, he told them. "They say Eretz Yisrael is acquired through pain and suffering, but we didn't think the pain and suffering would be this great. This heinous act has led all of us to say, 'Enough.'"

Yes, enough! if only he will remember for all his time as head of the government that it is enough. And if he will accept that if his government had been stronger from the start, with more of any eye to the security of the people, the pain and suffering might not have been so great.


Netanyahu's statement followed a decision that was made just hours before by the Cabinet: to accept a Motzei Shabbat recommendation by the Ministerial Committee on Settlements -- which includes Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Home Front Minister Matan Vilnai, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon -- to approve the building of 500 housing units in Judea and Samaria -- in Gush Etzion, Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, and elsewhere.

The announcement alluded to "measured building" and indeed that is what it is. What is more, these are all housing units that were in the planning stages but were halted as a gesture to get the Palestinian Arabs to the negotiating table.

So...good, but not sufficient, of course.


The issue here, of course, remains one of concessions. Will our government truly take to heart the talk about an awakened "right to build anywhere at any time"? Or will there still be tip-toeing in deference to the demands of the international community and in some deluded expectation that slow building will help foster a "peace process."?


Naturally, we're already being condemned for this small amount of building.

By the PA: Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said, "The climate that this decision creates only causes problems."

By the UN: Special envoy Robert Serry declared himself "concerned" about the report of renewed building, saying that it "is not conducive to efforts to renew negotiations and achieve a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace."

By the US: A statement by the US Embassy declared, "We're deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions on settlements in the West Bank. As we said before, we view these settlements as illegitimate and as running counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations."


Is there a diplomatic way to tell them, "Stuff it"?


Maddeningly, incredibly, Defense Minister Barak, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies yesterday, said that we are going to see a "political tsunami" following international recognition of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. "Israel's de-legitimization is in sight and it would be wrong to ignore this tsunami. A political initiative [that is, an alternate 'peace plan'] will minimize the chances along the road."

To promote this on the very day the Fogels were buried, seemed to me the ultimate in obtuse statements, devoid of sensitivity to the mood of the nation.

Can we also tell Barak to "stuff it"?


There is one other issue that I want to examine here in some depth: that of PA incitement.

Last spring, the Israeli government had announced establishment of an "incitement index" that would be based on a mechanism for monitoring and quantifying PA incitement on a quarterly basis. It was to be managed by Brig.-Gen. (res) Yossi Kuperwasser, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry (which is headed by Moshe Ya'alon).

Until now, the index has been kept behind closed doors. The reason, most certainly, was because it was not "politically correct" to make much of it when we were supposed to be "pursuing peace" with the Palestinian Arabs.

But now, in response to the massacre, the government has gone public with it. Yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office released a paper documenting recent acts of incitement, and Kuperwasser said that Israel was going to ask Western nations to stop funding the Palestinian educational system and Palestinian TV until there was a significant supervisory body. A bit vague, in terms of what was expected, but the point, hopefully is being made.


While many examples were provided by the Prime Minister's Office, I'll restrict myself here to one pertinent example of the sort of incitement that is being addressed:

Yesterday, Fatah, the primary faction of the PA, named a town square in El-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, after Dalal al-Mughrabi, who directed the Coastal Road Massacre -- one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in Israel's history: a bus hijacking in 1978 in which 37 Israelis, including 13 children, were killed and 71 wounded.

That this sort of action by the PA or its primary faction should be exposed to the world is all to the good, and it's heartening to see Israel going on the offensive.


There is, however, one proviso here that must be taken seriously.

Because Abbas has just denied that there is incitement in the PA schools, and has invited a committee to investigate, I placed a call to Dr. Arnon Groiss, a scholar in ME studies with ten years of experience in studying and analyzing PA textbooks.

I sought an authoritative statement from Dr. Groiss; what I got from him was enlightening:

There is no direct incitement in PA texts, said Dr. Groiss. No statements abjuring people to "kill the Jews" or "liberate Jerusalem." They are clever and in this sense have deniability.

What we see in the PA texts, instead, is "a sophisticated hidden incitement." Thus they teach that jihad is praiseworthy and that martyrs are to be honored. The implications are obvious. They are setting up a mental set that leads to war -- educating for a delayed war with Israel, says Dr. Groiss.

There are three aspects to this education:

1) Non-recognition of Israel. Israel has no rights nor history in the region that is acknowledged in the texts. With a couple of recent and very specific exceptions, there are no maps with Israel on them and no cities are acknowledged to be Jewish cities.

2) Demonization. Israel (or Jews) as the source of all evil.

3) Non-advocacy of peace with Israel.


If incitement is understood this way, the PA might indeed claim that the naming of a square after al-Mughrabi is not "incitement." No one has said that people today should go out and do what she did. This is merely the honoring of someone from Palestinian Arab history.

Technically, true. But most obviously, the message is that what she did was worthy of honor and something to be emulated.

It may be that a word other than "incitement" would serve better here and make our case even more effectively. Technical deniability is the last thing we want them to have.


With regard to incitement, in the broader sense, please see, "Let's stop pretending," a piece by Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch:

"Everyone involved in the peace process is making a tragic mistake by assuming the incitement is just another issue that has to be dealt with, like the issues of water, borders, and refugees. All of those are issues that must be negotiated as part of a peace process. But as long as the Palestinian Authority continues to teach these messages [of hate], clearly there is no peace process.

"It is incumbent on the international community to inform the Palestinian Authority that a condition for “'working' with it...is that it erases the messages of hate and replaces them with peace promotion.

"And until that time the international community must ostracize and isolate the Palestinian Authority, just as they do Hamas, and stop pretending there is a peace process."


The nature of the terrorist attack at Itamar was so horrendous that there are PA officials working overtime to deny that their people were involved at all.

First we had PA Minister for the Settlements Wall Maher Ghanaim, who said Jews may have been behind the "incident" (incident?) because it would "justify [settler] crimes" and permit the establishment of more housing in the West Bank.

I found that to be a breathtakingly obscene libel.

Today we have something else. Khaled Abu Toameh reports that several Palestinian news outlets are saying that it was a foreign worker that committed the murders. According to one version, a family in the nearby village of Awarta said that an Asian worker did it because the Fogels refused to pay him his salary.


Interesting that the Arab village of Awarta, close by Itamar, was mentioned. For the trail out of Itamar seems to have led to Awarta, which is where the IDF is focusing its search -- doing a house to house search, I believe.

Said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, “We will not rest until we lay our hands on the murderers."

I have no doubt of this.


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

see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info

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