Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Zig and Zag"

Arlene Kushner

Before I touch on this theme, I want to return just for a moment to the issue of perks for terrorists in our prisons. It made the news a few days ago that Marwan Barghouti -- who is in the Hadarim prison, west of Netanya -- called for a million-person march of Palestinian Arabs when the UN vote on a state was taking place. I pondered then -- and a reader wrote to ask the same question -- how it was that he could get out the word this way and make headlines. Barghouti is serving five life sentences and should never be heard from again. t has subsequently been reported by the Israeli Prison Service that during a routine search of prisoners' cells (to be certain no one is hiding knives, contraband, etc.), a cell phone was discovered in Barghouti's possession. He was sent for a disciplinary hearing and sentenced to two weeks in isolation.

Perhaps the situation truly is shifting with regard to taking a tougher stance with terrorists. Or maybe the Prison Service is simply now publicizing what would have gone unnoticed previously. It is noteworthy that the phone was reported as having been discovered during a "routine" search, and not because a search was done specifically in response to Barghouti having made the news.

Barghouti, it should be noted, is with Fatah, not Hamas.


The zig-zagging I refer to has to do with the Palestinian Authority. Last week Nabil Amr, a member of the PLO Central Committee, became the first senior PLO official to publicly state opposition to plans to go to the UN in September. In an interview in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) he expressed fears that the US and major European countries will be alienated and that this will rebound badly on the PA:

"The council will discuss the September issue and the intention to go to the UN.
“I personally will advise the leadership to delay the UN bid by another year so that we would be able to make better preparations than what has been done until now.”

According to Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon, who reported on this in the JPost, several other PA leaders are also opposed to the UN bid, but have refrained from saying so publicly.


However, at the very same time, PA negotiator Nabil Sha'ath has declared, "We are serious about going to the UN and won't backtrack..."

And, according to Abu Toameh, Fatah and Hamas have decided to try again to come to terms on the details of the reconciliation accord. This follows a phone call between Azzam al-Ahmed, who has headed the Fatah delegation for negotiations, and Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas polit bureau.

The effort by Fatah to achieve reconciliation is understood to be an expression of its desire to go to the UN presenting one government that represents all the people.

On the other hand, if it were not for Fatah insistence on retaining Salam Fayyad as prime minister, something that Hamas adamantly opposes, the issue might have been resolved by now.

Zig zag. A reflection not only of indecision, but also diverse opinions within the PA.


Meanwhile, Abbas is putting his own spin on matters.

The decision to go to the UN, he has now declared, does not constitute a unilateral act. The UN vote, after all, will not prevent the Palestinian Arabs from returning to the table: "there are issues that won't be solved through the UN, but only through negotiations."

What the UN vote will do, you see, will enable them to enter negotiations with Israel as "equal partners." Then, once there is a Palestinian state, it can sit down with Israel and "discuss sticking issues, including borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, water and security."

This is his have-his-humus-and-eat-it-too approach.


And speaking of Israel's borders, Danny Ayalon has hit home with his six-minute historical narrative video, "The Truth About the West Bank."

Saeb Erekat, calling the video "offensive," says, “Now, the international community knows the Israeli government is committed to denying the Palestinian people their inalienable right to self-determination and on continuing their illegal and colonial enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territory."

Not quite. Now the international community has been presented with truths that combat the PA lies, and the PA does not like it, not one little bit. Right on!

Ayalon has challenged Erekat to a debate. Seriously doubt his challenge will be accepted.

I share the link here for the second time. If you haven't seen it, please do, if you haven't shared it, I encourage this, as well.



Some four months ago, the Knesset passed what is known as the Nakba bill.

As most of my readers know, nakba means catastrophe in Arabic and refers to the founding of the state of Israel -- Israeli independence day is viewed as a day of mourning for the Arabs.

The bill, advanced by Yisrael Beiteinu, requires the state to fine local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events marking the Palestinian Nakba Day by supporting armed resistance or racism against Israel, or desecrating the state flag or national symbols.

These fines are to be deducted from the operating budget of the state-funded groups that hold such events, with the deductions amounting to three times the cost of funding the objectionable event. The finance minister is charged with deciding when to withdraw funds from various groups, after consultation with the attorney general and a designated team comprised of members of the ministries of finance and justice.


Sure sounds logical -- and appropriate -- to me. It is one of those measures that was long over due and indicates a strengthening of a nationalist sense in this country.


But here nothing is simple, and it was to be expected that there would be objections to this from Israeli Arabs and their supporters on the left. They never miss an opportunity to claim, in the name of democracy and "human rights," that Israel must be denied expression as a Jewish state. The Arab-Israeli NGO Adalah, for example, objects to a Jewish star on the Israeli flag.

And so... MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), attempted to submit a bill to the Knesset that would empower the minister of finance to cut state funding for organizations that "deny publicly that Nakba Day was a historical, real event that constitutes a disaster for the Palestinian people."

Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin refused to accept it because it rejects the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

Said Rivlin:

"...it's place is not on the Knesset's table.

"This bill says the State of Israel is the reason for the Palestinian tragedy. If the nakba is a tragedy, then the establishment of the State of Israel is a tragedy. The Palestinian experience is a catastrophe that was brought on by their leaders, but the establishment of the State of Israel is not the reason for it."


Tibi, declaring the rejection of his bill "a dark day for democracy," claims he had submitted it in an effort to convince MKs that the Nakba Bill was "an injustice to the Palestinian minority in Israel."

I hasten to point out that Israeli-Arab mourning of the nakba was not criminalized by this bill: people who participate in ceremonies or events that express sadness for Israel's founding will not be charged or fined. It simply says that the State of Israel should have no part in funding such events. You want to mourn the founding of the State of Israel? Don't ask the State of Israel to pay for it. In fact, it actually says, don't ask the State of Israel to pay for it if you are planning on desecrating the flag, or showing support for armed resistance against Israel.

Now Tibi has submitted a petition to the High Court against Rivlin because he rejected the bill. I personally will spit if the Court takes this seriously.


This seems a small story, but it is not, because it is emblematic of the struggle for Israel's soul.

Ahmed Tibi -- an Israeli citizen by virtue of his place of birth -- describes himself as an Arab Palestinian. He was an advisor to Yasser Arafat for years and represented the Palestinian Authority at the Wye River negotiations of 1998. In 2002, during Tisha B'Av (when the destruction of the Temple is mourned), he led a large group of Arabs chanting "With blood and fire will we redeem Palestine," while blocking the way of a group of Jews attempting to ascend to the Temple Mount.

Attempts by members of right wing Israeli parties to ban Tibi's right to hold office in the Knesset because of his support for Israel's enemies were overturned by the High Court in 2003. Tibi is a member of the Knesset. What is more -- I kid you not -- he is a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset.

In spite all of this, Ahmed Tibi, who does not believe there should be a Jewish Israel, would gladly subvert the State of Israel. The question of how much in the way of rights should be accorded those who would work from within to destroy our essence is a serious one.

Accusations of "apartheid" and "racism" leveled at Israel should be considered within this broader context -- although those ready to believe such accusations are most likely not interested in context. And when persons such as Tibi level charges that we deny human rights and democracy, the source of those charges should be examined.

As -- please G-d -- our Knesset is increasingly prepared to assert itself with nationalist positions, we can expect other such incidents to arise.


The UN has postponed release of the Palmer Report on the Mavi Mavara incident for a month, to give Israel and Turkey additional time to achieve reconciliation and resume full diplomatic relations.

The prospects of this happening, however, seem as dim as ever. The Turkish have declared they will "never forget" the nine men "massacred" by the IDF on the Mavara. Additionally, Prime Minister Erdogan has just called the Gaza blockade "illegal and inhuman" and has declared solidarity with the Palestinians. Let us say that Israeli officials are noting an absence of goodwill on the subject of reconciliation among their Turkish counterparts.


Floating in the air, still, is the prospect of a limited apology by Israel. Turkey is considering a downgrade in its diplomatic staff in Israel, if no apology is forthcoming.

As it turns out, it's not simply a question of a disagreement on the issue among members of the Israeli Security Cabinet -- with Security Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Minister w/o Portfolio Bennie Begin said to be opposed, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor in favor, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu undecided.

According to the latest reports, the Obama administration -- eager to see good diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey -- is (surprise!) putting pressure on our prime minister to go along with a proposed formula for resolving the dispute: Israel would apologize for "operational mishaps" and pay compensation via a fund set up by the Turkish, while Turkey would consider the matter closed and make no legal claims either against Israel or individual soldiers (the last point presumably addressing Israeli concerns on the matter).

Were this proposed agreement accepted, it would obviate need for the release of the Palmer Report.

Netanyahu knew how to assert himself against Obama's demands when he was in Washington, and splendidly so. We must hope that his backbone is still in place. An apology is not the way to go.


"The Good News Corner"

This is fantastic.

A tiny golden bell, thought to be 2,000 years old, has been found in the course of excavations in Ir David -- the City of David -- south of the Old City walls.

Photo: Vladimir Neichin

The excavations were taking place in a drainage tunnel that runs from the Shiloah Pool beneath the City of David to near the Western Wall. In the region of the excavation, during the Second Temple period, there was a main road above the channel, which was linked with a bridge, known today as Robinson’s Arch, that led up to the Temple Mount.

According to an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) press release, the rare gold bell, which has a small loop on its end, is presumed to have come from the edge of a garment.

In Shemot (Exodus) 28:33-4, the robe of the high priest Aaron is described: “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool, on its hem all around, and gold bells between them all around. A gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate, all around.”

Says the IAA, there is no way to know that this bell came from a high priest, but the possibility cannot be discounted. It certainly seems to have come from the garment of a high official: “apparently, the high official was walking in the Jerusalem street in the vicinity of Robinson’s Arch and lost the gold bell that fell from his garment into the drainage channel beneath the road.”

At the request of Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director of IMRA, a recording of the bell has been provided by Udi Ragones, Ir David Foundation spokesman. And so we can hear what the bell, last heard some 2,000 years ago, sounds like:



© 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.

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