Smearing Israel’s ‘Peace Now’ Movement

Patriotism was once famously called “the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but it’s also used to discredit citizens who dare question their own country’s wrongheaded policies, as is now the case for Israelis who advocate for a fair peace with the Palestinians, writes Ted Lieverman.

By Ted Lieverman

During the Vietnam War, many Americans held the notion that all antiwar activists were naïve pacifists, draft-dodgers or ungrateful traitors. That was largely a myth that allowed members of the public to ignore the content of the activists’ messages about the war.

There may be a similarly mistaken notion about the peace movement in Israel, as the Israeli right-wing repeatedly castigates those who favor a two-state solution that would create a viable Palestine as an independent nation. In the last two months, criticism has moved to more dangerous attacks against Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), the oldest and most active peace organization in Israel.

Yifat Gavishi, a Peace Now supporter, leafleting cars in Tel Aviv in September. (Photo by Ted Lieverman)

As reported in Haaretz, Israel’s main newspaper, on the night of Sept. 11, 2011, graffiti was spray-painted on the front door of the Jerusalem apartment of Hagit Ofran, the Settlement Watch Director of Peace Now. The slogans included “Peace Now, the End is Near.”

On Nov. 6, a bomb threat was announced over the building intercom where Peace Now’s Jerusalem office is located. On Nov. 7, Ofran’s home was again vandalized with swastikas painted on the outside, along with “Hagit Ofran, Rabin is waiting for you,” an apparent reference to Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s pro-peace prime minister who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist on Nov. 4, 1995.

As the Settlement Watch Director, Ofran has been a prime target of threats and attacks by pro-settler groups. As part of her job, Ofran, who spent two years in Army intelligence, visits the settlements – the “legal” (government approved) as well as the illegal – to report on their growth, their activities, and their effects on the Palestinian villages and populace. Jerusalem police said they have arrested a suspect in the vandalizing incident at her home.

All of the threats referred to the “price tag,” the term used by the extreme right-wing of the settler movement to promise retaliation against those who seek to halt Jewish settlements in the West Bank. There have been similar attacks in the last few months on Israeli military outposts, as well as fire-bombings of property of Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.

The cries of lack of patriotism against Peace Now are objectionable on several grounds, not least because virtually all officers and activists who run the organization are current or retired members of the military. Israel requires universal service, so all Israeli youth, liberal and conservative (except for the ultra-religious), spend two years in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Indeed, Peace Now began in 1978, when 348 soldiers and reserve officers signed an open letter to the prime minister supporting a peace agreement with Egypt. Among the current core of activists in Peace Now:

–Etai Mizrav, National Activities Coordinator of Peace Now, spent five years in the infantry and is now a major in the reserves. He saw action in Lebanon and Gaza and took part in the evacuation of Israeli settlers in Gaza.

–Yifat Gavishi was raised on a kibbutz in the Galilee near Lebanon and grew up with first-hand experience of Arab rocket and mortar attacks. Turning 18, she chose a combat unit and spent 2 ½ years in the border patrol. A second-degree black belt in karate, she taught hand-to-hand combat to border patrol soldiers. Yifat now works as a teacher in Tel Aviv, and volunteers her spare time to Peace Now.

–Tal Goldman volunteers with Peace Now, but his current employment is as a security guard. He was a tank driver and later a commander of a Merkava Mk 2 battle tank in the army; he still serves in the reserves.

–Yaniv Shacham is an independent film director who runs social media for Peace Now. Currently 37 and in the reserves, he served on active duty in the infantry in Lebanon and the West Bank.

–Danielle Blumenstyk works as Jerusalem Activities Coordinator for Peace Now.  A dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, she served in an intelligence unit for two years, which included the 2006 war with Lebanon.

In interviews, the peace activists distinguished between their military duties and their political life. Mizrav is very clear: when you are on duty, you obey orders and engage your opponents, and your politics come later.

I had my own experience related to this. Interviewing Goldman, I described how I had photographed a West Bank demonstration near the village of Ni’lin in February of this year. The Israeli troops began lobbing tear gas grenades and then crossed the barrier to push back the demonstrators, forcing them (and me) to run away. Goldman nodded thoughtfully and said, “Yeah, I think that was me and my unit.”

In October, Peace Now received a commendation from Defense Minister Ehud Barack for its support of employees serving reserve duty. Accepting the award, General Director Yariv Oppenheimer issued a statement noting in part, “A loyal citizen is a person who is willing to fight for the state’s future and work towards changing reality. I am glad about receiving the certificate but as far as Peace Now is concerned reserve duty is obvious and not anything out of the ordinary.”

As of this writing, no Peace Now activist has been physically harmed in the recent threat campaign, but that may be cold comfort to the group. The use of violence against opponents of the settlers is on the rise, and Peace Now takes caution from the memory of Emil Grunzweig, an active member murdered by a grenade thrown into a peace rally in 1983.

Peace Now officers say that the threats and harassment will not deter them from criticizing what they see as a flawed government policy toward the Occupied Territories.

Ted Lieverman is a free-lance photographer based in Philadelphia.

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16 comments on “Smearing Israel’s ‘Peace Now’ Movement

  1. I’ve always wondered what the real estate transaction records look like, for land that is taken by some crazy kind of eminent domain policy, and handed over to “settlers”, with no compensation, or consentual agreement by the original folks who were pretty much already settled there.

    Maybe those records might look something like the records in America RE Native Americans versus “settlers”.

    Consider the question, is God a real estate broker?

    • Chmoore ….
      You raise an extremely significant point…indigenous rights…..Shlomo Sand (Invention of the Jewish People) raises this and similar questions) and wanted to point you to an interesting area of indigenous rights from an Australian Aboriginal struggle for protecting their lands…see:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Mabo
      Known as the MABO decision in the plaintiff’s name..
      God as written about by men who authored the old Testament, was no real estate broker….and though jews continue to claim that they have the “deed” (even those millions who are indifferent to religion in general who still call themselves “Jews” as if that were an ethnicity (See: Gilad Atzmon’s marvelous bk “Wandering Who?”) …are there lapsed Catholics that call themselves Catholic ? I always wondered what if…..”what if” Italians determined amongst themselves that now, with economical problems, it would be a good time to raise irredentist claims against the Brits and reclaim the UK as historically theirs because the Roman legions headquartered in London and roundabout ? It makes as much sense…as there really is no singular history for jews as there are say, for example Italians…since they can be found in various cultures, mostly european, but there are many Arab Jews…Mizrahi; there are Sephardi (originally Spanish until Isabella) some small pockets of African, Indian and even chinese, along with the millions who were Khazarian converts to Judaism after their 8th century emporer’s conversion..purely slavic, no semitic connections, who are the Ashkenazi overlords in Israel govt. The whole idea of a tribe or a people is mythic —repeated often enough one accepts the myth. Just my two cents…

      • News Nag on said:

        You too raise an interesting point about aboriginal rights. In support of your thoughts though, you mention the Khazarian Jews as a reason to negate any Jewish claims on Palestine. I, myself, who was born into a Jewish family, do not believe that any ‘people’, Jewish or otherwise, deserve to claim other people’s land as their own and do not support a Jewish Israel, or really ANY Israel other than a political entity with enforcabale equal rights for all in the approximate geographic region known as Palestine prior to 1948. However, Miriam, the Khazarians who converted to Judaism around 740 were mostly a ruling elite, and otherwise there was a polyglot of different religions practiced and tolerated among the great majority of Khazarians. There were Jewish immigrants living there too and some did intermarry. Yet the relative few Khazarians who were or became Jews are not the Jewish people who later populated Eastern Europe and the Russian/Soviet “Pale” region of western Russia. Genetic scientific study of chromosomes have proven beyond any dispute that modern Jews really are descended mostly from the Hebrews who began dispersing from “Canaan” in the sixth century due to persecution. Persecution would intermittently persist through the centuries and many Hebrews/Jews ended up in the regions mentioned above, as well as in a diversity of other places such China, Spain, England, Africa, and eventually the Americas. This direct connection of modern Jews to the people who lived in that general vicinity of “Canaan” 1500 years ago does NOT mean or prove that they deserve to make a nation there, especially not one that is exclusive to them and their own culture and/or religion. However, denying a people their actual identity (which is what neo-nazis and Christian Identity hate groups and others are doing by mythologizing about the Khazarian connection) only operates to set up that people for annihilation. I imagine you can see how that works in the bigoted mind.

      • Well said!

  2. Thank you for the informative article Mr Lieverman. The Mid-East situation is too often portrayed simplistically in US mainstream media as if ALL Israelis are of one mind and ALL non-Israelis (‘Arabs’) are of a different, but also singular mind (and of course the subtext often implied is that it’s ‘good’ vs ‘bad’, elderly Auschwitz escapees vs bloodthirsty terrorists). However, as usual the reality is that there are numerous ‘shades of grey’ and undoubtedly many positions held in common by many Israelis and non-Israelis that contradict that portrayal.

    • small correction there to Big Em…..in general I agree with your statement about ‘shades of grey’….but when you speak of “Israelis” you wrote: All non israelis (Arabs) needs a revisit. Remember that at least 20% of the citizens within the greenline are Palestinians, ie., “Arab”. They hold citizenship (albeit second-class at best) but that is one of the many kinks when a jewish theocracy claims itself a “demockracy”…..Since they want their citizens to swear a loyalty oath to the JEWISH state of Israel, it most definitely is Orwellian to claim it a ‘democracy’. All that just to say do not forget all the people who live there who are not jews…there are Druze, Christian, Greek Orthodox, Russian ortho, Armenian, etc. THere is and perhaps never will be concensus formed amongst any of the jewish identified citizens (aethist, agnostic, pagan, wiccan, messianic jews for jesus, ortho, ultra ortho, fanatical aligned with apocalyptic evangelicals…etc) Remember also that in the founding days of the zionist state, the diaspora jews were not valued and the holocaust survivors were barely tolerated by the “new jews” who loathed the old school european survivors calling them “soaps”. Palestinian survivors of the Nakbah who continue their centuries old presence IN israeli state are the indigenous…citizens.

  3. Media references to territories administered by Israel since the June 1967 war now routinely describe them as “occupied.” Yet, this description conveniently overlooks the pertinent history of these lands, especially the authentic Israeli claims supported by international law, the unwitting manner in which West Bank and Gaza fell into Israel’s hands after sustained Arab aggression and the overwhelming security considerations involved. Contrary to widely disseminated but wholly erroneous allegations; a sovereign State of Palestine did not exist before 1967 or 1948; a State of Palestine was not promised by authoritative UN Security Council Resolution 242; indeed, a State of Palestine has never existed.

    As a nonstate legal entity, Palestine ceased to exist in 1948, when Great Britain relinquished its League of Nations mandate. When, during the 1948 – 1949 war of independence, the West Bank and Gaza came under illegal control of Jordan and Egypt respectively, these aggressor nations did not put an end to an already-existing state. From the Biblical Period (ca. 1350 BC to 586 BC) to the British Mandate (1918 – 1948), the land named by the Romans after the ancient Philistines was controlled only by non- Palestinian elements.

    Significantly, however, a continuous chain of Jewish possession of the land was legally recognized after World War I at the San Remo Peace Conference of April 1920. There, a binding treaty was signed in which Great Britain was given mandatory authority over Palestine (the area had been ruled by the Ottoman Turks since 1516) to prepare it to become the “national home for the Jewish people.” Palestine, according to the treaty, comprised territories encompassing what are now the state of Jordan and Israel, including West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza. Present day Israel, including West Bank and Gaza, comprises only twenty-two percent of Palestine as defined and ratified at the San Remo Peace Conference.

    In 1922, Great Britain unilaterally and illegally split off 78 percent of the lands promised to the Jews — all of Palestine east of the Jordan River — and gave it to Abdullah, the non-Palestinian son of the Sharif of Mecca. Eastern Palestine now took the name Transjordan, which it retained until April 1949, when it was renamed as Jordan. From the moment of its creation, Transjordan was closed to all Jewish migration and settlement, a clear betrayal of the British promise in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and a contravention of its Mandatory obligations. On July 20, 1951, a Palestinian Arab assassinated King Abdullah for his hostility to Palestinian aspirations and concerns.

    Several years prior to Abdullah’s killing, in 1947, the newly-formed United Nations, rather than designate the entire land west of the Jordan River as the Jewish national homeland, enacted a second partition. Ironically, because this second fission again gave unfair advantage to the Arabs, Jewish leaders accepted the painful judgment while Arab states did not. On May 15, 1948, exactly one day after the State of Israel came into existence, Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, declared to a tiny new nation founded upon the ashes of the Holocaust: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre….” This declaration, of course, has been at the very heart of all subsequent Arab policies toward Israel.

    In 1967, almost twenty years after Israel’s entry into the community of nations, the Jewish State — as a result of its stunning military victory over Arab aggressor states — gained unintended control over West Bank and Gaza. Although the idea of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war is enshrined in the UN Charter, there existed no authoritative sovereign to whom the territories could be “returned.” Israel could hardly be expected to transfer the territories back to Jordan and Egypt, which had exercised unauthorized and generally cruel control since the Arab-initiated war of “extermination” in 1948-49. Moreover, the idea of Palestinian self-determination was only just beginning to emerge after the Six Day War, and was not even codified in UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was adopted on November 22, 1967. For their part, the Arab states convened a summit in Khartoum in August 1967, concluding: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it….”

    Resolution 242 has been generally misinterpreted. The formula advanced by the Resolution is patently one of “peace for land,” not “land for peace.” The Resolution grants to every state in the Middle East “the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” It points, therefore, to peace before territorial withdrawal to “recognized boundaries.”

    Security Council Resolution 242 is a balanced whole. The right of self-determination of the Palestinians does not appear in the Resolution; an international conference is never mentioned; the parties referred to include only states, not insurgent/terror organizations; and the phrase “territories occupied” is neither preceded by “the,” nor is it followed by “on all fronts.”

    These have been the essential historic reasons why the territories are not “occupied.” Israel’s right to reject this improper description also stems from its incontrovertible legal right to security and self- defense. Because transformation of West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza into an Arab state of Palestine would threaten the very existence of Israel, the Jewish State is under no current obligation to relinquish control. Its rights, in this regard, are peremptory.

    International law is not a suicide pact. Anyone who takes the trouble to look at a map of the region will discover that Israel and the territories, comprising an area less than half the size of San Bernadino County in California, cannot afford to yield its already minimal “strategic depth.” In this connection, Israel should take little comfort from the promise of Palestinian demilitarization. Indeed, should the government of Palestine choose to invite foreign armies or territories on to its territory (possibly after the original national government had been displaced or overthrown by more militantly anti-Israel forces), it could do so not only without practical difficulties, but also without necessarily violating international law.

    The threat posed by an independent Palestinian state would also impact directly upon Jerusalem’s nuclear strategy. For the moment, Israel — still buffered from a hot eastern border by the West Bank — can afford to keep its bomb “in the basement.” If, however, this territory became the heart of “Palestine,” Israel would almost certainly have to move from “deliberate ambiguity” to disclosure, a shift that could substantially improve the Jewish state’s nuclear deterrence posture but could also enlarge the chances of a nuclear war should this posture fail.

    Israel does not hold any “occupied” territories. It is critical that the Government of Israel recognize this, and that it never accept such an incorrect characterization. To do otherwise would be to degrade its very capacity to endure.

    © Louis Rene Beres, All Rights Resrved

    ——————————————————————————–

    LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is author of many books and articles dealing with the Law of War. He has been a consultant on this matter in both Washington and Jerusalem. Professor Beres’s columns appear often in major American, Israeli and European newspapers.

    Louis Rene Beres
    Professor of International Law

  4. Ah, Prof Beres, your reputation precedes you….
    http://www.zcommunications.org/all-out-war-by-dan-freeman-maloy

  5. The land acquired by these settlers was legally transferred and authorized by the Israeli government.
    The legal transactions were a Bulldozer a Bayonet and the butt of a rifle in most cases. The owners moved out and the new occupants moved in. This also happened in a little place called Germany in the late 1930′s and the rest of Europe in the early 1940′s. Most who could afford to or saw the writing on the wall left, and nobody said much about it then.

  6. Ehr Kumt (He Is Coming)
    By Rabbi Schlomo Lewis, Front Page, September 28, 2010
    [Editor's note: This sermon was written and delivered by Atlanta Rabbi Schlomo Lewis on the First Day of Rosh Hashanah, 2010. It is titled in Yiddish, Ehr Kumt, "He is Coming." It has been edited slightly for length.]

    I thought long and I thought hard on whether to deliver the sermon I am about to share. We all wish to bounce happily out of shul (Yiddish for synagogue) on the High Holidays, filled with warm fuzzies, ready to gobble up our brisket, our honey cakes and our kugel.

    We want to be shaken and stirred – but not too much. We want to be guilt-schlepped – but not too much. We want to be provoked but not too much. We want to be transformed but not too much.

    I get it, but as a rabbi I have a compelling obligation, a responsibility to articulate what is in my heart and what I passionately believe must be said and must be heard. And so, I am guided not by what is easy to say but by what is painful to express. I am guided not by the frivolous but by the serious. I am guided not by delicacy but by urgency.

    We are at war. We are at war with an enemy as savage, as voracious, as heartless as the Nazis but one wouldn’t know it from our behavior. During WWII we didn’t refer to storm troopers as freedom fighters. We didn’t call the Gestapo, militants. We didn’t see the attacks on our Merchant Marine as acts by rogue sailors. We did not justify the Nazis rise to power as our fault. We did not grovel before the Nazis, thumping our hearts and confessing to abusing and mistreating and humiliating the German people. We did not apologize for Dresden, nor for The Battle of the Bulge, nor for El Alamein, nor for D-Day.

    Evil – ultimate, irreconcilable, evil threatened us, and Roosevelt and Churchill had moral clarity and an exquisite understanding of what was at stake. It was not just the Sudetenland, not just Tubruk, not just Vienna, not just Casablanca. It was the entire planet. Read history and be shocked at how frighteningly close Hitler came to creating a Pax Germana on every continent.

    Not all Germans were Nazis – most were decent, most were revolted by the Third Reich, most were good citizens hoisting a beer, earning a living and tucking in their children at night. But, too many looked away, too many cried out in lame defense – “I didn’t know.” Too many were silent. Guilt absolutely falls upon those who committed the atrocities, but responsibility and guilt falls upon those who did nothing as well. Fault was not just with the goose steppers but with those who pulled the curtains shut, said and did nothing.

    In WWII we won because we got it. We understood who the enemy was and we knew that the end had to be unconditional and absolute. We did not stumble around worrying about offending the Nazis. We did not measure every word so as not to upset our foe. We built planes and tanks and battleships and went to war to win….. to rid the world of malevolence.

    We are at war… yet too many stubbornly and foolishly don’t put the pieces together and refuse to identify the evil doers. We are circumspect and disgracefully politically correct.

    Let me mince no words in saying that from Fort Hood to Bali, from Times Square to London, from Madrid to Mumbai, from 9/11 to Gaza, the murderers, the barbarians are radical Islamists.

    To camouflage their identity is sedition. To excuse their deeds is contemptible. To mask their intentions is unconscionable.

    A few years ago I visited Lithuania on a Jewish genealogical tour. It was a stunning journey and a very personal, spiritual pilgrimage. When we visited Kovno we davened Maariv at the only remaining shul in the city. Before the war there were thirty-seven shuls for 38,000 Jews. Now only one, a shrinking, gray congregation. We made minyon for the handful of aged worshippers in the Choral Synagogue, a once majestic, jewel in Kovno.

    After my return home I visited Cherry Hill for Shabbos. At the oneg an elderly family friend, Joe Magun, came over to me.

    “Shalom,” he said. “Your abba told me you just came back from Lithuania.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was quite a powerful experience.” “Did you visit the Choral Synagogue in Kovno? The one with the big arch in the courtyard?” “Yes, I did. In fact, we helped them make minyon.” His eyes opened wide in joy at our shared memory. For a moment he gazed into the distance and then, he returned. “Shalom, I grew up only a few feet away from the arch. The Choral Synagogue was where I davened as a child.”

    He paused for a moment and once again was lost in the past. His smile faded. Pain filled his wrinkled face. “I remember one Shabbos in 1938 when Vladimir Jabotinsky came to the shul” (Jabotinsky was Menachim Begin’s mentor – he was a fiery orator, an unflinching Zionist radical, whose politics were to the far right.) Joe continued “When Jabotinsky came, he delivered the drash on Shabbos morning and I can still hear his words burning in my ears. He climbed up to the shtender, stared at us from the bima, glared at us with eyes full of fire and cried out. Ehr Kumt. Yidn Farlawst ayer shtetl – He’s coming. Jews abandon your city.’ ”

    We thought we were safe in Lithuania from the Nazis, from Hitler. We had lived there, thrived for a thousand years but Jabotinsky was right — his warning prophetic. We got out but most did not.” We are not in Lithuania. It is not the 1930s. There is no Luftwaffe overhead. No U-boats off the coast of Long Island. No Panzer divisions on our borders. But make no mistake; we are under attack – our values, our tolerance, our freedom, our virtue, our land.

    Now before some folks roll their eyes and glance at their watches let me state emphatically, unmistakably – I have no pathology of hate, nor am I a manic Paul Revere, galloping through the countryside. I am not a pessimist, nor prone to panic attacks. I am a lover of humanity, all humanity. Whether they worship in a synagogue, a church, a mosque, a temple or don’t worship at all. I have no bone of bigotry in my body, but what I do have is hatred for those who hate, intolerance for those who are intolerant, and a guiltless, unstoppable obsession to see evil eradicated.

    Today the enemy is radical Islam but it must be said sadly and reluctantly that there are unwitting, co-conspirators who strengthen the hands of the evil doers. Let me state that the overwhelming number of Muslims are good Muslims, fine human beings who want nothing more than a Jeep Cherokee in their driveway, a flat screen TV on their wall and a good education for their children, but these good Muslims have an obligation to destiny, to decency that thus far for the most part they have avoided. The Kulturkampf is not only external but internal as well. The good Muslims must sponsor rallies in Times Square, in Trafalgar Square, in the UN Plaza, on the Champs Elysee, in Mecca condemning terrorism, denouncing unequivocally the slaughter of the innocent. Thus far, they have not. The good Muslims must place ads in the NY Times. They must buy time on network TV, on cable stations, in the Jerusalem Post, in Le Monde, in Al Watan, on Al Jazeera condemning terrorism, denouncing unequivocally the slaughter of the innocent – thus far, they have not. Their silence allows the vicious to tarnish Islam and define it.

    Brutal acts of commission and yawning acts of omission both strengthen the hand of the devil. I recall a conversation with my father shortly before he died that helped me understand how perilous and how broken is our world; that we are living on the narrow seam of civilization and moral oblivion. Knowing he had little time left he shared the following – “Shal. I am ready to leave this earth. Sure I’d like to live a little longer, see a few more sunrises, but truthfully, I’ve had it. I’m done. Finished. I hope the Good Lord takes me soon because I am unable to live in this world knowing what it has become.”

    This startling admission of moral exhaustion from a man who witnessed and lived through the Depression, the Holocaust, WWII, Communist Triumphalism, McCarthyism, Strontium 90 and polio. – Yet his twilight observation was – “The worst is yet to come.” And he wanted out.

    I share my father’s angst and fear that too many do not see the authentic, existential threat we face nor confront the source of our peril. We must wake up and smell the hookah.

    “Lighten up, Lewis. Take a chill pill, some of you are quietly thinking. You’re sounding like Glenn Beck. It’s not that bad. It’s not that real.” But I am here to tell you – It is. Ask the member of our shul whose sister was vaporized in the Twin Towers and identified finally by her charred teeth, if this is real or not. Ask the members of our shul who fled a bus in downtown Paris, fearing for their safety from a gang of Muslim thugs, if this is an exaggeration. Ask the member of our shul whose son tracks Arab terrorist infiltrators who target – pizza parlors, nursery schools, Pesach seders, city buses and play grounds, if this is dramatic, paranoid hyperbole.

    Ask them, ask all of them – ask the American GI’s we sit next to on planes who are here for a brief respite while we fly off on our Delta vacation package. Ask them if it’s bad. Ask them if it’s real.

    Did anyone imagine in the 1920′s what Europe would look like in the 1940′s. Did anyone presume to know in the coffee houses of Berlin or in the opera halls of Vienna that genocide would soon become the celebrated culture? Did anyone think that a goofy-looking painter named Shickelgruber would go from the beer halls of Munich and jail, to the Reichstag as Feuhrer in less than a decade? Did Jews pack their bags and leave Warsaw, Vilna, Athens, Paris, Bialystok, Minsk, knowing that soon their new address would be Treblinka, Sobibor, Dachau and Auschwitz?

    The sages teach – “Aizehu chacham – haroeh et hanolad – Who is a wise person – he who sees into the future.” We dare not wallow in complacency, in a misguided tolerance and naïve sense of security.

    We must be diligent students of history and not sit in ash cloth at the waters of Babylon weeping. We cannot be hypnotized by eloquent-sounding rhetoric that soothes our heart but endangers our soul. We cannot be lulled into inaction for fear of offending the offenders. Radical Islam is the scourge and this must be cried out from every mountain top. From sea to shining sea, we must stand tall, prideful of our stunning decency and moral resilience. Immediately after 9/11 how many mosques were destroyed in America? None. After 9/11, how many Muslims were killed in America? None. After 9/11, how many anti-Muslim rallies were held in America? None. And yet, we apologize. We grovel. We beg forgiveness.

    The mystifying litany of our foolishness continues. Should there be a shul in Hebron on the site where Baruch Goldstein gunned down twenty-seven Arabs at noonday prayers? Should there be a museum praising the U.S. Calvary on the site of Wounded Knee? Should there be a German cultural center in Auschwitz? Should a church be built in the Syrian town of Ma’arra where Crusaders slaughtered over 100,000 Muslims? Should there be a thirteen story mosque and Islamic Center only a few steps from Ground Zero?

    Despite all the rhetoric, the essence of the matter can be distilled quite easily. The Muslim community has the absolute, constitutional right to build their building wherever they wish. I don’t buy the argument – “When we can build a church or a synagogue in Mecca they can build a mosque here.” America is greater than Saudi Arabia. And New York is greater than Mecca. Democracy and freedom must prevail.

    Can they build? Certainly. May they build? Certainly. But should they build at that site? No — but that decision must come from them, not from us. Sensitivity, compassion cannot be measured in feet or yards or in blocks. One either feels the pain of others and cares, or does not.

    If those behind this project are good, peace-loving, sincere, tolerant Muslims, as they claim, then they should know better, rip up the zoning permits and build elsewhere.

    Believe it or not, I am a dues-paying, card carrying member of the ACLU, yet from start to finish, I find this sorry episode disturbing to say the least.

    William Burroughs, the novelist and poet, in a wry moment wrote – “After one look at this planet, any visitor from outer space would say – ‘I want to see the manager.’”

    Let us understand that the radical Islamist assaults all over the globe are but skirmishes, fire fights, and vicious decoys. Christ and the anti-Christ. Gog U’Magog. The Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness; the bloody collision between civilization and depravity is on the border between Lebanon and Israel. It is on the Gaza Coast and in the Judean Hills of the West Bank. It is on the sandy beaches of Tel Aviv and on the cobblestoned mall of Ben Yehuda Street. It is in the underground schools of Sderot and on the bullet-proofed inner-city buses. It is in every school yard, hospital, nursery, classroom, park, theater – in every place of innocence and purity.

    Israel is the laboratory – the test market. Every death, every explosion, every grisly encounter is not a random, bloody orgy. It is a calculated, strategic probe into the heart, guts and soul of the West.

    In the Six Day War, Israel was the proxy of Western values and strategy while the Arab alliance was the proxy of Eastern, Soviet values and strategy. Today too, it is a confrontation of proxies, but the stakes are greater than East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel in her struggle represents the civilized world, while Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Queda, Iran, Islamic Jihad, represent the world of psychopathic, loathsome evil.

    As Israel, imperfect as she is, resists the onslaught, many in the Western World have lost their way displaying not admiration, not sympathy, not understanding, for Israel’s galling plight, but downright hostility and contempt. Without moral clarity, we are doomed because Israel’s galling plight ultimately will be ours. Hanna Arendt in her classic Origins of Totalitarianism accurately portrays the first target of tyranny as the Jew. We are the trial balloon. The canary in the coal mine. If the Jew/Israel is permitted to bleed with nary a protest from the “good guys” then tyranny snickers and pushes forward with its agenda.

    Moral confusion is a deadly weakness and it has reached epic proportions in the West; from the Oval Office to the UN, from the BBC to Reuters to MSNBC, from the New York Times to Le Monde, from university campuses to British teachers unions, from the International Red Cross to Amnesty International, from Goldstone to Elvis Costello, from the Presbyterian Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    There is a message sent and consequences when our president visits Turkey and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and not Israel.

    There is a message sent and consequences when free speech on campus is only for those championing Palestinian rights.

    There is a message sent and consequences when the media deliberately doctors and edits film clips to demonize Israel.

    There is a message sent and consequences when the UN blasts Israel relentlessly, effectively ignoring Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, North Korea, China and other noxious states.

    There is a message sent and consequences when liberal churches are motivated by Liberation Theology, not historical accuracy.

    There is a message sent and consequences when murderers and terrorists are defended by the obscenely transparent “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

    John Milton warned, “Hypocrisy is the only evil that walks invisible.”

    A few days after the Gaza blockade incident in the spring, a congregant happened past my office, glanced in and asked in a friendly tone –

    “Rabbi. How’re y’ doing?”

    I looked up, sort of smiled and replied – “I’ve had better days.”

    “What’s the matter? Is there anything I can do to cheer you up?” he inquired.

    “Thank you for the offer but I’m just bummed out today,” and I showed him a newspaper article I was reading.

    “Madrid gay pride parade bans Israeli group over Gaza Ship Raid.” I explained to my visitor – “The Israeli gay pride contingent from Tel Aviv was not allowed to participate in the Spanish gay pride parade because the mayor of Tel Aviv did not apologize for the raid by the Israeli military.”

    The only country in the entire Middle East where gay rights exist, is Israel. The only country in the entire Middle East where there is a gay pride parade, is Israel. The only country in the Middle East that has gay neighborhoods and gay bars, is Israel.

    Gays in the Gaza would be strung up, executed by Hamas if they came out and yet Israel is vilified and ostracized. Disinvited to the parade.

    Looking for logic?

    Looking for reason?

    Looking for sanity?

    Kafka on his darkest, gloomiest day could not keep up with this bizarre spectacle and we “useful idiots” pander and fawn over cutthroats, sinking deeper and deeper into moral decay, as the enemy laughs all the way to the West Bank and beyond.

    It is exhausting and dispiriting. We live in an age that is redefining righteousness where those with moral clarity are an endangered, beleaguered specie.

    Isaiah warned us thousands of years ago – “Oye Lehem Sheh-Korim Layome, Laila v’Laila, yome – Woe to them who call the day, night and the night, day.” We live on a planet that is both Chelm and Sodom. It is a frightening and maddening place to be.

    How do we convince the world and many of our own, that this is not just anti-Semitism, that this is not just anti-Zionism but a full throttled attack by unholy, radical Islamists on everything that is morally precious to us?

    How do we convince the world and many of our own that conciliation is not an option, that compromise is not a choice?

    Everything we are. Everything we believe. Everything we treasure, is at risk.

    The threat is so unbelievably clear and the enemy so unbelievably ruthless how anyone in their right mind doesn’t get it is baffling. Let’s try an analogy. If someone contracted a life-threatening infection and we not only scolded them for using antibiotics but insisted that the bacteria had a right to infect their body and that perhaps, if we gave the invading infection an arm and a few toes, the bacteria would be satisfied and stop spreading.

    Anyone buy that medical advice? Well, folks, that’s our approach to the radical Islamist bacteria. It is amoral, has no conscience and will spread unless it is eradicated. – There is no negotiating. Appeasement is death.

    I was no great fan of George Bush – didn’t vote for him. (By the way, I’m still a registered Democrat.) I disagreed with many of his policies but one thing he had right. His moral clarity was flawless when it came to the War on Terror, the War on Radical Islamist Terror. There was no middle ground – either you were friend or foe. There was no place in Bush’s world for a Switzerland. He knew that this competition was not Toyota against G.M., not the Iphone against the Droid, not the Braves against the Phillies, but a deadly serious war, winner take all. Blink and you lose. Underestimate, and you get crushed.

    I know that there are those sitting here today who have turned me off. But I also know that many turned off their rabbis seventy five years ago in Warsaw, Riga, Berlin, Amsterdam, Cracow, Vilna. I get no satisfaction from that knowledge, only a bitter sense that there is nothing new under the sun.

    Enough rhetoric – how about a little “show and tell?” A few weeks ago on the cover of Time magazine was a horrific picture with a horrific story. The photo was of an eighteen year old Afghani woman, Bibi Aisha, who fled her abusive husband and his abusive family. Days later the Taliban found her and dragged her to a mountain clearing where she was found guilty of violating Sharia law. Her punishment was immediate. She was pinned to the ground by four men while her husband sliced off her ears, and then he cut off her nose.

    That is the enemy.

    If nothing else stirs us. If nothing else convinces us, let Bibi Aisha’s mutilated face be the face of Islamic radicalism. Let her face shake up even the most complacent and naïve among us. In the holy crusade against this ultimate evil, pictures of Bibi Aisha’s disfigurement should be displayed on billboards, along every highway from Route 66 to the Autobahn, to the Transarabian Highway. Her picture should be posted on every lobby wall from Tokyo to Stockholm to Rio. On every network, at every commercial break, Bibi Aisha’s face should appear with the caption – “Radical Islamic savages did this.” And underneath – “This ad was approved by Hamas, by Hezbollah, by Taliban, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, by Islamic Jihad, by Fatah al Islam, by Magar Nodal Hassan, by Richard Reid, by Ahmadinejad, by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, by Osama bin Laden, by Edward Said, by The Muslim Brotherhood, by Al Qaeda, by CAIR.”

    “The moral sentiment is the drop that balances the sea” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, my friends, the sea is woefully out of balance and we could easily drown in our moral myopia and worship of political correctness.

    We peer up into the heavens sending probes to distant galaxies. We peer down into quarks discovering particles that would astonish Einstein. We create computers that rival the mind, technologies that surpass science fiction. What we imagine, with astounding rapidity, becomes real. If we dream it, it does, indeed, come. And yet, we are at a critical point in the history of this planet that could send us back into the cave, to a culture that would make the Neanderthal blush with shame.

    Our parents and grandparents saw the swastika and recoiled, understood the threat and destroyed the Nazis. We see the banner of Radical Islam and can do no less.

    A rabbi was once asked by his students….

    “Rebbi. Why are your sermons so stern?” Replied the rabbi, “If a house is on fire and we chose not to wake up our children, for fear of disturbing their sleep, would that be love? Kinderlach, ‘di hoyz brent.’ Children our house is on fire and I must arouse you from your slumber.”

    During WWII and the Holocaust was it business as usual for priests, ministers, rabbis? Did they deliver benign homilies and lovely sermons as Europe fell, as the Pacific fell, as North Africa fell, as the Mideast and South America tottered, as England bled? Did they ignore the demonic juggernaut and the foul breath of evil? They did not. There was clarity, courage, vision, determination, sacrifice, and we were victorious. Today it must be our finest hour as well. We dare not retreat into the banality of our routines, glance at headlines and presume that the good guys will prevail.

    Democracies don’t always win. Tyrannies don’t always lose.

    My friends – the world is on fire and we must awake from our slumber.

    Ehr kumt.

    DONATE

  7. Flat, the only peaceful resolution is a two state solution. A large percentage of Israelis believe this, not just outsiders like me. We can write tomes, but the final answer lies in the future, and who knows how far off that will be?

  8. Ben-Guirion told Jews not to be greedy before the UN General Assembly (not UN Security Council which makes it legal) proposed moving forward with the partition of Palestine. He said they would get the rest later. That speaks volumes! Why would most of the land and the best land of Palestine go to Jews who were mostly immigrants and proportionately less representative of the population? That is why the Arabs rejected the partition plan. It never passed the Security Council as the Palestinians are being forced to do today for their recognition. And the 1967 war was a war over water, when Isralis were unilaterally diverting an international water source causing wrath from Syria, and other Arabs affected by it.
    As for homosexuals, sure they are more in danger in Arab countries, but they have been more than periodically persecuted in the US (one dragged to his death behind a car in Texas), Canada and other western countries. I know European countries where it is dangerous to come out. What would happen in an ultra-othodox region of Israel where you can get hurt for driving or working on a Saturday?
    And yes it is atrocious the way native populations in the US, Canada and Australia have been treated. I wish ‘What Is America’ by Ronald Wright and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown were texts read in North American history classes. We would all learn that as a people none of us is any better or worse than anyone else, and get on together. I don’t believe in a chosen people or going on an Exodus as Puritans on their way to America, Boers on their way to South Africa, and others I needn’t mention did.
    Jesus was a Jew and it doesn’t matter if you believe he was the son of God or not, he was against the abuse of people by the Romans and elites in the Temples. He was a March on Wall Streeter. As for the Old Testament, it’s charater is so different from Jesus word. It was a nationalist, bombastic, pompous tale commonly used by clans of the time to pump their muscles.
    So lets all learn to live and learn together, internationalize religion, nationality whatever and get on solving critical problems of the world.
    Americans should be asking themselves why so much of their hard earned money during a debt crisis is going over, as aid, to mainly one country that if it were as good as they say it is, shouldn’t need it. That money could be used for healthcare, education and other needs. And why that country has such powerful lobbies like AIPAC, Conservative Friends of, and Liberal Friends of, Parliamentarians for and so on, in Western countries. Democracy is definitely being undermined.
    There are many notable Jews who don’t aspire to the aspirations of a political-religious toxic mix, and they often suffer for it through name calling, job loss, and plain cruel harassment.

  9. John, I agree with your thrust. As for Israel, God meant for his chosen people to live in such a way as to show the nations how to live in peace with one another. But as human beings will do, they were unfaithful to God, and it all broke down. Jesus came to restore a people that had become broken and demoralized and they were to include gentiles, which they did after a few struggles to work it out. Jesus largely succeeded until Constantine drew the people of God back into the political world. Since Constantine, with few exceptions, Christianity has lost sight of Jesus’ words and deeds. As Gandhi once said, “The West does not know Christ.” My guess is that a better version of Christianity exists in the house churches of China.

  10. A Christian nation produced the Holocaust and caused the deaths of 50 million people by starting the second world war. Other Christian nations closed their doors to the plight of European Jewry sealing their annihilation by Nazi Germany.

  11. Tal Goldman on said:

    What a great article! I’m proud to be mentioned in it.

    The threat level on us, Peace Now activists, is always rising, by the way.
    We all fear it’s just a matter of time until there will be real casualties, until one of us will get hurt. Needless to say, not one of us is deterred by this option, and we’ll keep on doing everything we can to make Israel a better place.