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June 5, 2014: That Unity Government

Shavuot has come and gone and before we go into Shabbat tomorrow night, I want to return to the issue of the PA-Hamas government in order to provide my readers with additional information.   This is particularly for readers in the US, who, I must hope and trust, will be inclined to raise their voices in a variety of venues.
Let us begin with the defense of the decision to support the new government issued by the State Department:
“Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said...that the new government does not include any members of the Hamas terrorist group.
"’It is not a government backed by Hamas. There are no members of Hamas in the government,’ Harf told reporters.”
Excuse me?  The fact that Hamas has, very cleverly, withdrawn from participation in this temporary government in no way means it is not a government backed by Hamas.  This is precisely what was anticipated: a benign technocrat “front” government, with Hamas lurking behind the scenes.  Clearly, Hamas has signed on – not to what the government ostensibly represents with regard to recognizing Israel, etc. But to allowing it to function in the interim because it is expected to serve its own purposes down the road.
I would remind officials at State that Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his cabinet resigned to make way for this new government.  The argument that is it not “backed by Hamas” holds no water.  This is no more than that “fancy footwork” to which I have alluded, in this instance with the US doing the dance.
Hamas’s short term goal: PA elections, in which it hopes to achieve considerable success.  Remember, the last time Hamas was permitted to run in PA legislative elections, in January 2006, it emerged with a decisive majority in the parliament.
Why, then, give a nod to an arrangement that again permits Hamas to participate in elections?  There is a folk saying that applies here: Once burnt, twice shy.  Going down this road once was not enough?  It is what led to Hamas control in Gaza.
To give Hamas electoral legitimacy now is to give it the opportunity to seize control of the Palestinian Authority areas of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank). Hamas leaders have been itching to do this, and the way they are playing it, they anticipate that no forcible takeover would be required: it would just come into their hands “legitimately.” 
Professor Ephraim Inbar, writing for BESA, concurs that in the present circumstances “Hamas is gaining better access to the West Bank.”  He explains (emphasis added):

“ is hard to believe that Hamas will give up control over the Gaza Strip. The de facto statehood which Hamas enjoys is good business, as it allows for the extraction of taxes and fees. In addition, it serves the extremist Hamas ideology that demands building Islamist political structures and keeping alive the military and theological struggle against the unacceptable Jewish state. Hamas has made it clear that it has not mellowed one bit on this issue. It also hopes to get a better foothold in the West Bank to fortify its role in Palestinian society. Hamas seeks to emulate the road taken by Hezbollah in gaining political hegemony in Lebanon while maintaining a military force independent of the central government.”
As long as there is a radical military force that exists outside of the control of the government – as Hezbollah does in Lebanon – then, declares Inbar, the chances for peace in the region and a stable Palestinian Arab society are diminished.  That’s pretty much a “no-brainer.”  But, as you will see below, there are multiple legal implications as well.
Are American analysts missing this?  Is the US simply naïve, hoping against all logic for good results? There are some who might say so.  But I would most assuredly not be one of them.  And I suspect that the number of those who are able to believe this any longer has dwindled considerably.
Anne Bayefsky, Director of the Touro Institute, has it exactly right (emphasis added):

It is about time that pundits stop describing President Obama’s foreign policy as weak. There is a straight line between emboldening Syria’s Assad by calling him a reformer, Egypt’s Morsi a democrat, Turkey’s Erdogan a friend, Iran’s Rouhani a moderate, and now a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, a peace partner.

“Monday's speedy announcement that the United States will work with and pay for a PLO-Hamas coalition government is a strong and predictable step in an alarming  pattern...

”...Asked about Hamas’ continued commitment to militarism, [State Department spokesperson] Psaki responded ‘we’ll continue to evaluate the specifics here.’

“The specifics are simple.  One more Jew-hating, Israel-bashing, American foe has been welcomed into Obama’s Islamist inner circle.”
As to the illegalities of what is transpiring, they are happening at multiple levels:
There are the Oslo commitments the PA/PLO made and which Abbas will not honor now. 
According to the Oslo 2 Accords (Article XIV (3)), "Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." See above with reference to a separate, extra-governmental Hamas military force in Gaza.
Interim Agreement of 1995, Chapter 2, Article XIV 4 outlines what weapons are permitted for the PA police, etc. and rockets are not included. 
The 1998 Oslo follow-up in the Wye Memorandum requires the PA to "establish and vigorously and continuously implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of" illegal weapons.  
In the Note for the Record attached to the Hebron accord, the Palestinian Authority reaffirmed its commitment to "combat systematically and effectively terrorist organizations and infrastructure."
That the PA/PLO ignores all of these commitments is hardly surprising.  We’d be foolish indeed to expect them to be honored. What is troubling in the extreme is that the international community is content to turn a blind eye here.  PA officials never, but never, have their feet held to the fire; the international community simply cuts them whatever slack is necessary.  For this willful lapse, international leaders have enormous culpability.
And then there is US law, which restricts aid from going “to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.”
This is from the 2006 Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, and the 2012 approps bill.
This is where the Hamas deniability is significant, and where the State Department pretends to buy into the notion that Hamas has no influence over/role in establishing the new government.
And then we have international law, which anti-Israel elements are so quick to invoke improperly – making it up as they go along. This, however, is real and legit:
Article 2 of UN Security Council Resolution 1373 of September 2001, passed under Chapter VII, which means it is binding on all member states, says, inter alia:
“all States shall: (a) Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts...
(thanks to Salomon B.)
Stay tuned...
© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 05:55PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 3, 2014: Incredible

Last night, I had written my post, which spoke about my unease regarding the possibility of US support for the Fatah-Hamas unity government.  What I said was:
“Kerry, while expressing concern about Hamas, has had communication with Abbas and will be meeting with him. 

“He is saying the US will not accept the unity government ‘initially’. Not encouraging. He’s saying, ‘Convince me, guys.’”


Well, it seems that when Kerry said “not initially,” he meant they would wait two or three hours. I sent out that posting, turned back to check the news one last time for the night, and found that the Obama administration had announced a decision to “work with” the new unity government.

There was not even a pretense of assessing the new government before making a decision. That decision was made up front.

And so, no, I am obviously not surprised that this is the way the US administration decided to go.  But I am shocked at the alacrity with which they signed on, without a semblance of serious consideration of the potential problems. 


What I felt – this was about 1 AM – was the degree to which we are confronting an enemy in the White House. Also not new, not a surprise.  (Don’t write, please! to ask me, didn’t I know?)  But this was so “in our face.”  This decision to immediately give support to a government that includes Hamas – a terrorist entity dedicated to Israel’s destruction.


Meanwhile, Congress is looking seriously at cutting funds to this new unity government. Members of Congress are none too pleased with the decision of the White House/State Department.  I will have a great deal more to say about this in coming days.


Deputy Minister of Defense Danny Danon yesterday referred to the US decision as a matter of “moral choice.”  And indeed, right he is. There is a question of US law – which actually prohibits support for a terrorist entity – and then the question of what is simply right. 

It is, I recognize, foolish to talk about moral decisions and the Obama administration in the same breath.


The government of Israel is quite furious at this decision and has voiced grave “disappointment” in the US.

The Security Cabinet has announced it has “formed a team to consider plans of action given the new reality that has been created, and ahead of diplomatic and security situations that will be created in the future.”

Among the various responses under consider is partial annexation (e.g. of the Gush Etzion area), although this would not happen immediately.  According to a JPost article, it would not happen before the projected unity government elections.


My thought here, then, is Hey! Here we are again with a perfect example of why the Legal Grounds Campaign is so important. It lays the legal groundwork for decisions on annexation that may follow.  It provides strength and an attitude of certainty with regard to our rights.  Right now, in spite of such proposals for annexation, support is insufficient.  Please! will those of you who care, and are willing to help us fight this fight during this window of time, contact me.


Among the things the Israeli government has already decided is to make commuting between Gaza and the PA areas of Judea and Samaria difficult, and to prevent voting for the unity government in eastern Jerusalem (most Arabs living there hold residency and not citizenship cards, and would want to be counted in the PA polity).  With this, there will be efforts to prevent Hamas participation in elections in Judea and Samaria.

There is talk, as well, about holding back money Israel collects in taxes for the PA.  There is always talk about this, is there not?  There seems to be a reluctance because the PA screams that they will collapse without this money, and we are causing people to suffer, etc. etc.  But the PA still owes us a large fortune for electricity.

I will have a great deal to say about Israeli responses in coming days, without question.


Khaled Abu Toameh has written an analysis of what issues are still to be dealt with, with the formation of this new government.  As the article says: Explosive issues are left hanging in the air.  These issues involve not only the elections, but the melding of security forces and more (emphasis added):

“It’s also unrealistic to believe that PA leadership would rush to add tens of thousands of Hamas employees to its payroll, especially in wake of the economic hardships facing the government.

“On the other hand, those who think Hamas would allow Fatah-dominated security forces to return to the Gaza Strip as a result of the April 23 reconciliation pact are living in an illusion.

“For now, both Hamas and Fatah prefer to avoid answering questions that could spoil the euphoria over the ‘historic’ decision to end their differences.”


In line with Abu Toameh’s comments, it is worth noting here that outgoing Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, on the day when the new government was sworn in, declared:

“I am not concerned about the resistance; it is in good condition. Today there is an army, in the form of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades — it is advanced and the resistance is advanced.”
Israeli intelligence estimates that Hamas has some 10-12,000 rockets. Paraphrasing Abu Toameh, anyone who expects Hamas to surrender its position of “resistance, is floating in the stratosphere.

I leave further analysis and deeper sharing of information to another day. For tonight begins the holiday of Shavuot, and it is time to turn my focus to other, more eternal, matters.

Shavuot, a harvest festival, marks our receiving of the Torah at Sinai.  We counted seven weeks from the time of Pesach, to reach this point.  Now it is time for joy and celebration – and the tradition of study through the night.

We must turn to the One who graced us with the extraordinary and eternal gift of Torah, and not count on the good offices of men and women.


To all who will be celebrating, I wish a Chag Shavuot Sameach!


Credit: dreamstime


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 05:48PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

June 2, 2014: A Done Deal of Sorts

In spite of well-founded predictions that this would never happen, a Fatah-Hamas unity government was sworn in today in Ramallah, to much fanfare.  It is to be headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (pictured below), former president of An-Najah National University in Nablus, who had been appointed by Abbas.   









Credit: brecorder
Under this new arrangement, the areas of Judea and Samaria administered by the PA and Gaza will be governed by the same political entity. There are, as I understand it, 17 ministers, five of them from Hamas. 

You can see the listing of the members of the government here:

Some are new appointments, but eight people retain the positions they previously had.
One of the primary goals of this new government is the supervision of elections, which are slated for 2015.  Do not expect this to go smoothly.
This is the first unity government between the two major Palestinian Arab factions to be established in seven years.  That is when Hamas, after winning PA elections, violently wrested control of Gaza and established a separate polity there. Several attempts at reconciliation in the interim failed.
Even today, at the very last moment, it looked as if things would fall apart because Hamas suddenly insisted on a ministry and minister for prisoner affairs.  But the PA was treading carefully on this because of intimations that the US frowned upon this ministry.  Abbas had said a separate agency that was not part of the government might be established.  In the end, a compromise was reached in which there would still be a ministry, but no minister would be appointed – the ministry would be under the direct supervision of Hamdallah.
Hamdallah for his part had said earlier that the prisoner issue was a top priority and that the Prisoners Law would continue to be implemented.
I wish to be very clear about this: the law provides salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons, with the level of salary calibrated to the severity of the crime. The Palestinian Media Watch has been doing battle with the State Department on this matter. For State continues to make reference to the need to provide support for the families of those in prison (thereby representing this as a welfare law of some humanitarian dimensions).  PMW has documented, however, that the payment is to the prisoners. 
The US government would, understandably, be defensive about this. For the “terrorist salaries” have been drawn from the PA’s general budget, which means from monies donated to the PA.  Many tens of millions in US funds (US taxpayer funds) go to the PA, with some of this – estimated at $46 million  - used for the prisoners.
The support for the prisoners is is a major issue for the Palestinian Arabs, for they see these people as “martyrs,” heroes who fought for their cause.  Which tells us a great deal.
Speaking of prisoners....
The Shin Bet has revealed that it has blocked 11 different attempts to kidnap Israelis – both soldiers and private citizens – that were orchestrated from inside Israeli prisons. 
The prisoners, who were members of Hamas, Fatah, and other Islamic organizations, were in communication with terrorists on the outside, who were instructed to activate the kidnappings. The goal was to force trades that would secure the release of the prisoners who had instigated the kidnappings.
There are dozens of other reasons not to release terrorists in prison, but this alone is sufficient reason.  No terrorist in an Israeli prison should believe that his release can be assured in this fashion.
A bill was being promoted – by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and MK David Tzur (Hatnua) - that would give judges the option during sentencing (primarily sentencing of terrorists, although this is not specified) of blocking any possibility of future early pardon. This was designed to prevent release of terrorists for political reasons.  It would, said Shaked, restore a modicum of sanity to the country.  Indeed.  Coalition head MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and Yisrael Beiteinu faction leader Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenur faction head) were among those who also signed on to the proposal.
But Prime Minister Netanyahu blocked the vote, according to various reports thereby incurring considerable anger on the part of Naftali Bennett (head of Habayit Hayehudi). Then Netanyahu said it will be considered by the Security Cabinet instead, which apparently mollified Bennett somewhat. And I?  I throw up my hands.  The political machinations are more complex than anything I wish to discuss in detail here.
What I will note is that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had a role in this, which should surprise no one.
What is so incredible is that this law would apply only to future sentencing (those now in prison could still be pardoned for political reasons), and yet this caused political tensions.

Returning to the matter of the new unity government...

It came as a surprise that Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his cabinet have resigned, thereby making way for the new unity government.  Originally, he had said he would insist on maintaining control.

Abbas, meanwhile, has declared that the new government would be established on the “Palestinian principles” of “recognizing Israel, recognizing the terms of international agreements, and the explicit rejection of violence and terrorism.”

This is a sick joke.  A ploy. I have referred in the past to fancy political footwork, and that’s what we’re seeing. Hamas ostensibly withdraws to the background and Abbas says, “See, we’re all on board here.”  Not if Hamas is part of that government, they’re not.  And that’s without even considering the fact that Fatah, as the PA, has itself never explicitly rejected violence.


My concern is that the international community will find it convenient to buy into this ruse and again pressure Israel to negotiate or otherwise offer cooperation.  Israel has said that there will be no negotiations with a government that includes Hamas.  The US government is supporting this position, for the moment. But Kerry, while expressing concern about Hamas, has had communication with Abbas and will be meeting with him. 

He is saying the US will not accept the unity government “initially.”  Not encouraging. He’s saying, “Convince me, guys.”

If there is any good news with regard to US involvement in “peace negotiations,” it is that Obama gave a major foreign policy speech without mentioning this.  And there is talk about cutting US support for the new unity government – but this comes from Congress and not the White House or State Department.


Most news sources I’m seeing are saying that Netanyahu has declared he will hold the PA responsible for any rocket fire from Gaza, now that there is only one government.  But there is much more to it than this.

Over the past several years, Israel – even while aware of the stockpiling of rockets in Gaza – maintained a policy of “quiet for quiet” (Hamas doesn’t launch those rockets and Israel refrains from attacking Hamas – a policy I always thought was bananas).  Now, however, there is a different scenario in play:

According to the Guardian, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz is insisting on the record that Abbas now had an obligation as part of the Oslo agreement, to demilitarize Gaza.

(For the record, Interim Agreement of 1995, Chapter 2, Article XIV 4 outlines what weapons are permitted for the PA police, etc. and rockets are not included. See:

And Netanyahu is quoted as saying, "Enough of these tricks. If this new Palestinian government has regained sovereignty over Gaza the first thing that Abbas should do is announce he is starting demilitarization of Gaza."

But that is not exactly what the Security Cabinet has now said:  The issue of Abbas’s obligation to remove rockets from Gaza is skirted. 


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 04:56PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 28, 2014: Jerusalem

Today was Yom Yerushalayim - the day marking the reunification of Jerusalem 47 years ago, when, in the course of the Six Day War, we liberated the part of the holy city that had been occupied by the Jordanians. 
It is well past sundown here now, so the day of celebration is over in Israel.  A frustrating day for me today, because I was so involved in Legal Grounds work – work that could not wait - that I had not time to do the sort of writing I would have wanted to do.  And yet, I could not let it pass without a mention. 
Jerusalem.  This golden city truly is at the center of the world. 
Credit: KeepJerusalem
Prime Minister Netanyahu, speaking at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva today, said (emphasis added):
“Those who remember Jerusalem immediately after the Six Day War, it was not a small village nor a large city...and today Jerusalem is a huge city.
“Jerusalem is Yad Vashem, Jerusalem is Herzl’s burial place and the Mount of Olives, where my grandparents are buried, as is Menachem Begin.
“And Jerusalem is also Mount Zion and Mount Moriah [the Temple Mount] and the Western Wall. Jerusalem is Israel’s eternity, it is our heart, and we are guarding our heart – the heart of the nation.  We will never divide our heart.”
He spoke well. 
Any one who loves Jerusalem, instinctively understands its spiritual importance and knows that it can never be divided.  The city is a place of heightened energy. which cannot be described but only felt.
Anyone who grapples with the political and logistical and security issues impinging on this area comprehends as well, at a more pragmatic level, that it must remain ours.  When the Arabs do battle, as they are for the Temple Mount, they seek to undercut the very essence of what we are. 
We have much hard work to do yet, to truly claim it as ours.  It will not be easy, but it is very necessary.
The traditional celebration for Yom Yerushalayim is the Flag Dance Parade.  Young people by the thousands wave their flags as they make their way through the designated streets of Jerusalem, ending up at the Kotel.  It is a sight that lifts the spirits high.  That makes one grateful and glad.


Credit: usatoday


See Myths and Facts for old pictures and an explanation of Jerusalem’s historical/spiritual connection to the Jewish people.


The song “If I forget you, O Jerusalem - Im Eshkachech.”

And I close, as I often do on Yom Yerushalayim, with the magnificent, late Ofra Haza singing Yerushalayim shel Zahav.  Jerusalem of Gold.


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 02:51AM by Registered CommenterArlene in | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 25, 2014: Tough Going

Painful going.  There is no respite.
Yesterday afternoon, there was an anti-Semitic terrorist shooting in the Jewish Museum in Belgium.  

Credit: Getty
Three people were killed on the spot inside the museum. They were an Israeli couple - Emanuel and Miriam Riba, 54 and 53, of Tel Aviv, who have left behind two teenage daughters – and an unidentified volunteer at the museum, reported to be French.  A fourth – an employee of the museum, also unidentified, but said to be Belgian - was critically wounded, and has since died. 
The terrorist ran into the museum from a car, opened fire, and ran back out to the car.  It is being reported that the driver of that car was picked up, and subsequently a suspect. 
Some details are provided here:
Further details will emerge in the coming hours and days. 
Although the identity of the shooter is not yet known this attack was very quickly compared to the terrorist murders in Toulouse, France, two years ago, because of certain similarities in how the terrorists behaved. 
And speaking of France...mere hours after the Belgian attack, Jews in Paris were stabbed coming out of synagogue.  They have been identified by Israel National News as the synagogue’s treasurer and his two sons, all of whom have been hospitalized.
Then we have this, which occurred before the Belgian attack, but came to light after (emphasis added):
Masked Muslims, shouting “the national of Mohammed is coming back to take revenge,” entered the main market in Djerba, Tunisia, on Thursday and stabbed Gabriel Ozen, 38, a Jewish jeweler.
In spite of his attempts to fight off the attackers, Ozen was stabbed in the chest, and then rushed to a local hospital, where he is in serious, but stable, condition.
“According to local media reports, merchants on the scene were able to apprehend the perpetrator and turn him in to local police.  Justice will not be served, however; more than a hundred masked men surrounded the police station and threatened to burn it down if the terrorist was prosecuted.
The police released the assailant immediately.” (Emphasis added)
Can we plausibly even say we are shocked by these events any more?
Friday night, the IDF thwarted a planned terror attack in Migdal Oz, in Gush Etzion:
“...patrols on shift in watch towers in the Etzion region identified two suspicious figures approaching the kibbutz and then standing in front of a cluster of houses.
“Security forces managed to close in on the suspects [two Palestinian Arabs] quickly and detain them for questioning.
“The quick work of observation forces, in cooperation with operative combat forces in the Etzion region, has brought remarkable success,” said Etzion deputy brigade commander, Lt. Col. Ayes Fares.”
Vigilance at all times.
Let me turn here to another sort of attack, one that can be managed:
The Israeli NGO Yesh Din (“there is justice”) is mounting a major attack on the Levy Report, which is an underpinning of the Legal Grounds Campaign, which I co-chair with Jeff Daube.
See our website - – for a good deal of information about the Levy Report, as well as a picture of Justice Edmund Levy z”l handing the Report to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
We don’t find it threatening, so much as interesting – that this is happening.  That a group whose focus is work “to defend the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation” feels the need to discredit this material, big time, tells us a great deal about the power of the Report.  And about the importance of our work to promote it.
Understand that when I say they are working “big time” to discredit this material, I mean that they have secured large sums of money to underwrite the effort.  And the funds have come from such sources as the government of Norway and the EU.
This raises a whole other issue, which is under serious discussion here now, regarding the right of foreign governments to underwrite a campaign that seeks to affect Israel’s retention of Judea and Samaria.
I will likely come back to this.  Here I wish simply to call the attention of my readers to this, and to sound the call, for any and all who can lend support, to please consider doing so.  Write to me if you wish to discuss this further.
And then, sigh, we have the visit of Pope Francis to this area. A mixed scenario at best.  Officially he is here to further a Christian ecumenical spirit.  A rapprochement between the Catholic Church and Christian Orthodox churches of the east first took place on the Mount of Olives in 1964.  The pope on this visit with recognize the 50th anniversary of this event with ecumenical meetings, notably with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
That’s officially.  Unofficially, his warmth towards Israel is being celebrated with much enthusiasm.  As a JPost editorial – which refers to Francis’s “philo-Semitism” - put it:
“Already in 1964, the Church repudiated a millennia-long tradition of “No salvation outside the Church...the Church...affirmed that the covenant God made with Israel is full and permanent – a reversal of the replacement theology that had defined Catholic self-understanding...
“Francis seemed to go further when he praised the Jews for remaining faithful to God ‘despite the awful trials of these last centuries.’ If Jews were once condemned for being present when Jesus appeared but choosing to reject him, Francis was now thanking them for holding stubbornly to their faith.”
And yet... and yet... there are elements of his trip that are deeply disconcerting.  Yes, the claim has been made – by the pope himself – that the trip is purely religious and not political.  Yes, he has to be even-handed.  Yes, he must call for peace. 
But he didn’t come our way directly from the Vatican via Ben Gurion airport, as might have been expected.  He came via Amman, where he landed yesterday, and met with the king of Jordan and other officials.  From there he went by helicopter, this morning, to Bethlehem.  And, oh, did the Palestinian Arabs make the most of this. They took him on an unscheduled side trip to see the “occupation wall” in Bethlehem – the wall constructed to keep terrorists out.  Abbas, additionally, lamented to the pontiff that Israel is “judaizing Jerusalem.” 
And take a look at this from Palestinian Media Watch: A mind-boggling art exhibit set up for the pope by the PA, in which Palestinian Arabs are represented as Jesus. 


The pope at one point referred to “the state of Palestine.” Israel national news further reports:
The pope “paused for several moments in front of a graffiti on the security wall in Bethlehem, bowing his head in prayer in front of a message proclaiming, ‘Pope we need to see someone speak out about justice.  Bethlehem look like Warsaw ghetto.  Free Palestine.
“...ahead of the trip, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin defended the Palestinian Arabs’ right to a ‘sovereign and independent’ homeland and said he hoped Francis’s visit would lead to ‘courageous decisions’ for peace.
“Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a member of the Argentinian parliament and close friend of Pope Francis, reported in February that the pope intends to define himself as the ‘Che Guevera of the Palestinians’ and support their ‘struggle and rights’ during his visit.
“...It has been noted that the pope has been remarkably tight-lipped over the violent persecution of Christians in Bethlehem, instead choosing to condemn alleged Jewish ‘price tag’ vandalism.’” (Emphasis added)
All of this is deeply unsettling, and rather puts the lie to the notion that the pope is being even-handed.  But perhaps most seriously disturbing of all is the readiness by the pope, in the name of political correctness or devotion to the Palestinian Arab cause, or whatever, to turn his back on the suffering of Arab Christians.
“Justus Reid Weiner of Hebrew University has reported that Bethlehem's Christians have been suffering ‘many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion.’
“PA officials are reportedly directly responsible for many of the attacks and some Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been murdered. The Muslim Fatah-controlled authority in Judea and Samaria is encouraging a ‘sharp demographic shift’ in Bethlehem, where the Christina population went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to...about 15 percent of the city’s total population today, according to Weiner.”
This pope, who has been declared “fearless” in his calls for peace, is without moral authority.
Now that the pope - having been flown from Bethlehem to Ben Gurion Airport for an official ceremony, and then on to Jerusalem - is here in Israel (until late in the day on Monday), he will take all of the requisite actions expected of a head of state visiting here.  This will include laying a wreath on Herzl’s grave.  He has called for both Peres (not Netanyahu, you note) and Abbas to come to the Vatican and pray for peace, and they have apparently accepted.  Peres loves this sort of thing.
But there is one other item on the pope’s agenda while he is here that is enormously infuriating for Jews: He will be meeting Grand Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, and on the Temple Mount, no less. 
The Grand Mufti?
“In 2012, the Mufti preached that it is Muslim destiny to kill the Jews. On a different occasion, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he taught that Jews were ‘enemies of Allah,’ and in another speech he said that the souls of suicide bombers ‘tell us to follow in their path.’”
I don’t care if the Mufti is the Palestinian Arab “chief rabbi.”  Better, I think, that the pope should have stayed home, rather than imbue him with very visible credibility.
Netanyahu, when meeting the pope in official ceremony, pledged that he is “committed to maintaining the status quo at the holy sites of Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
There are several implications to his words.  One the one hand, we might say that he is reassuring the pope that all religious sites are safe under Israeli administration. 
But there is a push now, which I will continue to follow, for allowing Jewish prayer on the Mount – and with this statement he is making it clear that he will all he can to prevent this.
Lastly, there have been for weeks over-wrought rumors, never confirmed, about the intentions of the Israeli government to turn over to the Church ownership of the room over David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion, which is said by Christians to be the room of the Last Supper.  Government denials of all such intentions were apparently on the level.

Credit: Times of Israel 

Credit: Vassollomalto
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Posted on Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 02:48PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 20, 2014: Resuming

It has been over a week since I’ve posted because I have been occupied with personal affairs (I am OK). Many was the time in the course of the last several days that I have wanted to write.  Here I will touch upon some of the news items that caught my attention, and follow with more in coming days.  (The number of things I might write about is, quite frankly, overwhelming.)


There is so much that is vile happening, that I will begin with good news: I’m determined to maintain a balance!  See this video about a program that incorporates young people with disabilities into the IDF:

There is no other army like this in the world, and I hold my head high.  Please, share very broadly.


Jew-hatred, which is so prevalent in the world, is so irrational, so maliciously skewed, so inherently sick, that those who promote it are oblivious to information about  extraordinary, humane and sensitive actions taken by Israel.  Reality is irrelevant to them.  But there are others – exposed to anti-Semitism but still open to the possibility of seeing good in Jews - who need to know about programs such as the one described above. 

Besides, those who love Israel should share in this pride.

On all scores, your sharing is important.


I speak about Jew-hatred now for a reason:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has just released the results of a global survey on anti-Jewish attitudes done in 101 countries plus Gaza and PA-administered areas of Judea and Samaria (referred to as the “West Bank”).  Over 53,000 people were polled.

Some 25% of people across the world exhibit anti-Semitic attitudes, according to the survey.  The highest rates of anti-Semitism in the world are found in the Middle East and northern Africa .  On the average in these areas (Muslim, all, I note), 74% are anti-Semitic. 

The very highest rate of anti-Semitism in the world was found to exist among the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and PA-administered areas of Judea and Samaria.  In these areas, 93% are anti-Semitic.  Let me repeat: ninety-three percent have anti-Jewish attitudes.

Our “peace partners,” my friends. 

This, too, should be shared widely.  How could anyone possibly believe there can be genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs? A sick joke.


Prime Minister Netanyahu had it right when he told the Cabinet on Sunday that this shocking rate of anti-Semitism, "is the result of the Palestinian Authority's endless incitement against Israel and attempts to distort Israel's image and the character of the Jewish people.”
As Israel National News explains:

“Earlier this year, the Israeli government...released its annual ‘Palestinian Incitement Index,’ which showed that incitement against Israel and the Jewish people is continuing on official media channels bodies that are very close to the PA Chairman and in educational and religious networks.

“Such incitement ranges from the glorification of Nazism and the lionization of Adolf Hitler, to programs on official PA television featuring heavily-stereotyped Jews as villains (and encouraging violence against them), and various TV and radio shows which literally wipe the Jewish state off the map.”


If you want to see examples of incessant and ugly PA incitement, check the Palestinian Media Watch at .

I would never claim that our government totally ignores this situation.  Incitement is alluded to now and again -  clearly this is so, as there is an incitement index.  But I will charge that it is not emphasized nearly enough, not placed front and center in press conferences and releases on a regular basis.  That US leaders have the unmitigated gall to say that “settlements” were the stumbling block in negotiations when this sort of incitement persists is something that should be directly and forthrightly challenged.  In fact, from the “get go,” Israel should have declined to sit at the table with representatives of Abbas as long as this incitement persisted.

The Oslo Accords – which never required a cessation of settlement activity - unambiguously called for a cessation of incitement:

The Interim Agreement (Oslo 2) of September 28, 1995 (Article XXII) states that Israel and the PA "shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and...shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction."  (Emphasis added)


Netanyahu did make the point at the Cabinet meeting on Sunday that Nakba Day, celebrated last Thursday as a day of catastrophe because of Israel’s establishment, constitutes incitement:

“Whoever sees the establishment of the State of Israel and its continued existence as a disaster does not want peace," he declared.


In point of fact, this Nakba day was quite violent, with riots in several locations.

In the course of rioting, two young Palestinian Arabs were allegedly killed, although there is serious dispute as to the circumstances. 

Be alerted: An organization called Defense for Children Palestine is circulating a video that ostensibly shows the IDF simply shooting down two youths in Beitunia, near Ramallah, in the course of a lull in Nakba riots.  The IDF says that the video is edited in a tendentious manner and does not reflect the true level of violence that occurred there. What is more, it appears, based on initial checks, that no live fire was used, only rubber bullets.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says the soldiers were facing a situation that was life-threatening, and acted appropriately.

”Israeli Channel 2′s military correspondent Roni Daniel suggested that the film may have been staged and faked. Daniel noted that the first alleged victim put out his hands to break his fall, which did not appear consistent with being shot. Daniel further noted that the two alleged fatalities, ostensibly filmed an hour apart, appeared to have taken place in almost exactly the same place, with an immediate convergence on the scene of a similar group of people. His queries were not about whether two Palestinians had been shot that day, Daniel said, but rather about whether the NGO footage being disseminated indeed actually showed such shootings or was fabricated.”

Anyone familiar with Pallywood fabricated film sequences will find that all of this sounds familiar indeed.  Naturally the PA and its supporters revel in this.

With this all, good old Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hateuna), chief negotiator for Israel, met with Abbas in London without sanction from the prime minister and in spite of the fact that all ties with the Palestinian Authority are supposed to be cut because of its unity negotiations with Hamas.  Some reports had it that Netanyahu knew about the meeting, but made it clear that she spoke not for the government but only for herself.  Others said that he didn’t learn until after the fact. In any event, it was reported that he was “furious.”

Livni, who was in London to deliver a talk, claimed that there was no choice but to continue talking.  She is sufficiently obtuse so that she is likely pleased with herself. There have been calls for her resignation – and indeed she should be dumped forthwith if she doesn’t resign. But none of this will happen.


The prime minister has announced his intention to submit to the Knesset a new Basic Law (Basic Law serves as Israel’s constitution) that would define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. 

With this declaration came a clarification: ”The State of Israel will always preserve the full equality, in personal and civil rights, of all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.”

There is a distinction between personal civil rights, which adhere to all Israeli citizens, and national rights, which belong to the Jewish people.  Anyone who claims that Israel will no longer be a democracy if this Basic Law is passed is distorting the reality.


Yet another law that offers promise is being promoted. This, to ensure Jewish rights to pray on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). MK Miri Regev (Likud) and MK Hilik Bar (Labor) have said they will introduce a bill that would create a situation similar to that of the Machpela in Hevron, where Jews and Muslims both pray.  At a bare minimum, this should be the situation – right now Muslims have full access for prayer, but Jews are prevented by Israeli security from praying because it would generate “unrest” among the Muslims.  This, in spite of the fact that the High Count has said that Jews have a right to pray on the Mount.

Dearly would I love to see this pass.  I believe this issue must be promoted until the current situation is overruled.  But I am cynical.  I fully expect Netanyahu – who is afraid of upsetting the status quo on the Mount and risking Muslim displeasure – to do everything in his power to block it.  I see the talk about this legislation as an important first step.,7340,L-4520843,00.html


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 04:24PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 12, 2014: A US Offensive

American officials declare regularly and with great passion that they are true and devoted friends to Israel.  But right now they’d have a hard time proving it.  We have friends in the US – without question!  They can be found in the US Congress and the Pentagon.  But the administration is altogether another story.  What was bad has only gotten worse.

There are, first of all, the official fingers that have been pointed at Israel with regard to the failure of the “peace negotiations.” 

Most culpable in this regard has been US envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk.  He has made several statements of late regarding the “settlements” as being a major cause for the breakdown of the talks.  Indyk has been identified as the unnamed source who claimed: "the main act of sabotage on peace talks was from the settlements."


I mention this malicious nonsense only in order to refute it.  Oslo did not prohibit settlement building in Area C by Israel.  Nor did the agreement for nine months of negotiations, which ended in late April, restrict building, 

An unidentified senior Israeli official said pointedly that Indyk’s charges are hypocrisy:

Indyk, he says, knew construction would continue during the period of negotiations and was, in fact, informed of all construction plans, down to the number of homes.

“Furthermore, [Indyk] knew that it was on this basis that Israel agreed to enter the talks. So it’s not clear why now that should be criticized.”

When we consider the ways in which Abbas overtly and deliberately sabotaged the talks – first via application to UN agencies, and then via the unity agreement with Hamas – the outrage of Indyk’s position becomes very apparent.


It has even been revealed that Netanyahu – while demanding recognition for Israel as the Jewish state – was willing to work on wording that would be more acceptable to Palestinian Arabs.  But Abbas would have none of it:

” Israeli negotiators were willing to work with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his team on the wording of the desired declaration, towards a formula that would have described the Jewish people’s and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in precisely equivalent terms, and would have also included phrases to guarantee the rights of Israel’s Arab minority.”

It would have been as plain to Indyk as the nose on his face that Israel was attempting to go that extra mile (not necessarily a good idea, but there it was), while Abbas was totally obstinate. But hey!  let’s blame Israel.


My fervent hope (foolish me) is that our prime minister would take a look at the way Israel ends up being blamed no matter what, and determine that it’s foolish to try so hard to be accommodating. 

My prayer, actually, is that he would simply speak out for Israel’s rights.  It’s not just that Indyk “knew” about planned construction before the beginning of the negotiation period. It’s that we have a RIGHT to do that construction.  That point is consistently overlooked.


And now we have the barrage of accusations regarding Israeli spying on American officials.  These charges have come mainly by way of two exceedingly distorted articles in Newsweek.  One of the main stories in the second of the articles involves the claim that a secret service agent in a hotel room in Jerusalem that was about to be occupied by then VP Al Gore discovered an Israeli spy in a heating vent.  (Although the “spy” is never positively identified as such, and might just as easily have been a custodian.)

The response from Israel has been that since the Pollard affair Israel has been scrupulous about not spying on the US, or official Americans.  What is more, says Ronen Bergman:

“The scene described by Newsweek of the...Israeli in the vent, makes no sense even for a much more prosaic reason: Why should the Shin Bet act that way? After the all, the location of the suite the vice president is about to stay in is known some time in advance, and numerous listening devices and surveillance cameras can be installed in it even before the agents arrive. The days in which there was a need to physically keep someone in the vent in order to listen to what is happening in the room are long gone.”,7340,L-4518432,00.html


Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren also vociferously denied claims – based on reports by “two former top counterintelligence officials” cited in the second Newsweek article - that Israeli officials in Washington DC had to be summoned by the FBI “dozens of times” in the last several years and warned about spying activities.

Oren called these charges “utterly without foundation.”

“Oren, a historian of the US-Israel relationship, said that when it has gone through periods of tension in the past, stories frequently appear in the US media citing anonymous sources leveling stinging criticism of Israel.

“The ambassador...said the important questions to ask are about what the motivation is behind them, and why ‘somebody is making an effort to leak this stuff and give it prominence.’ (Emphasis added)

“Without saying who he thinks is behind the stories, Oren speculated that it could be elements inside the security establishment opposed to granting Israelis visa waivers; it could be people within the intelligence services acting to preempt an early release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard; or it may be individuals who hold Israel responsible for the failure of the peace talks seeking retribution.”


There are a dozen reasons not to release terrorists from Israeli prisons – certainly this should not be done to lure Palestinian Arabs to the negotiating table, nor in a trade.  Their release is an injustice that causes great pain to families of terror victims.

And...there is the problem of recidivism. That some of those released will immediately return to terror is well documented. But here we have a different sort of plot that has now been exposed: terrorists still in prison in Israel had planned an attack, to be executed after their release.

The plan was to have been put into motion in April of this year – which means they anticipated release as part of the “price” of keeping Abbas at the table.  They were going to set about kidnapping soldiers (with the intent, undoubtedly, of securing further releases in exchange for these soldiers).

There were, of course, some operatives outside the prison.  Support and funding came via Hamas.  Communication with those inside the prison was via cell phones smuggled in by visiting relatives.

You can read the whole convoluted plot here:


A law is now being advanced that would serve to block the early release of terrorists from prison.  The law, which would become part of Basic Law, would give judges the jurisdiction to deny terrorists the possibility of parole when they are being sentenced.   It already passed the Knesset Committee for Legislation yesterday, by a vote of 7-3.

Those ministers supporting the bill included: Pensioners Minister Uri Orbach and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi); Culture Minister Limor Livnat, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud); and Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and Absorption Minister Sofia Landover (Yisrael Beitenu).

The legislation still has to pass three readings in the Knesset.


While possibility of true success for a Hamas-Fatah unity remains dubious, the process does seem to be rolling along in certain superficial ways – a release of prisoners, appearance of a Hamas newspaper in PA-administered Judea and Samaria, etc.

But with it all, Hamas is insisting that it will be in control of the military in a unified gov’t. There will certainly be no dismantling of the Hamas military arm - Al-Qassam Brigades, or agreement that it be under the jurisdiction of Fatah.


I will end with good news about Israel:

See this lovely video about the Youth Village of Yemin Orde, which houses and educates immigrant youth from many cultures:

And then this about the Israeli Save a Child’s Heart foundation which treats children from all over the world:


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 02:43PM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 6, 2014: Celebrating at 66

Israel is an ancient nation, celebrating the 66th year of her rebirth.



Credit: Hoops

And there is a great deal to celebrate, my friends.


Ben-Dror Yemini, writing about the paradoxes in how Israel is seen, says (emphasis added):

“...there is one thing [Israel’s founders] definitely didn't know: That the State of Israel would lead the contribution to humanity and would also become the most hated country by that same humanity.

“For almost a decade now, Israel has been leading, or has been among the leaders, in global surveys about negative contribution to the world...

“When we move from perception surveys to facts, the picture is reversed. Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in developing medications and irrigation and water purification systems (the first place in the world in sewage treatment), in patent applications (first place in the registration of patents of medical developments) and in scientific publications (second place in the world in the three most important journals)

“These achievements are not only a cause for national pride. They are mainly a contribution to humanity.

There is no index of ‘contribution to humanity per capita.’ But if there were such an index, Israel would likely take the first place. Millions of people owe their lives to the irrigation systems and agricultural products from Israel. Not just the Third World. Even California Governor Jerry Brown recently asked Israel for research and technological aid in order to deal with the severe drought. How does this contribution match the oh-so-negative image? It doesn't.
“...Israel is far from perfect...But in spite of all the problems, Israel is a miracle. A state founded from 70 Diaspora communities, most of which did not know anything about democracy. A state of poor refugees which became a world power in agriculture and irrigation and water purification and high-tech developments. A state which does not live by the sword, but by research, development and entrepreneurship. A state in which the talks about boycott and suspending investments conceal the fact that it is the most invested country in the world, and in some fields not even just for its size.,7340,L-4516595,00.html


With all of the hi-tech and entrepreneurial advances of Israel, it is the humanity of the country that catches my attention.

Israel is known world-wide as an innovator in the field of medical clowns, for example, having developed not only training programs but methods for integrating the clown into the medical team.  Now this approach is being expanded successfully to include clowns in the labor room, to help women relax:

Shirley Goldstein (“Florina”) and Ayelet Shadmon (“Yula”) with a laboring mother at Poriya Hospital.


As well, the outreach that Israelis do is not only in fields of agriculture and technology – it is also humanitarian.  An example here: A team from the NGO IsraAID, in cooperation with other Israeli NGOs, went to South Sudan in 2012 to help establish a social-worker training program on sexual violence.

In the course of the last decade, IsraAID has responded to crises in 22 countries, reached over one million people, and distributed 1,000 tons of relief and medical supplies.


Within our borders we also respond to medical needs of others – including the medical needs of enemies.  Who else in the world does this? 

You’ve read in my postings about care we’ve provided to Syrians.  Here is an article about care given to the grandchild of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who has described Israel as a “cancerous tumor that must be removed and uprooted.”  When his one year old granddaughter needed emergency medical treatment recently, the family turned to Israel:

The child was brought to “Schneider Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Israel [which] has been forced by Hamas’ relentless bombing to reinforce its windows and build a rocket shelter in its basement.
“The hospital calls itself a ‘bridge of peace,’ and despite the danger posed by Hamas bombs, it attempts to live up to this self-designation by opening its doors to children from Jordan, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere around the world. Each year, hundreds of children from Gaza seek medical care at Schneider Children’s.”

Who else in the world?  No one.  And yet we remain on the receiving end of vicious calumnies that defy reason.


Every year, there is a transition here from the mourning of Yom HaZikaron to the joy of Yom Ha’atzmaut.  It happens in a flash, at the sounding of a siren, and has always astounded me.

I was particularly taken this year with how Dr. Pamela Peled, writing in the “In Jerusalem” section of the JPost put it:

She speaks of the emotions of solidarity felt for Israel’s soldiers and victims of terror –

“a kind of awe for the sacrifices to ensure Israel’s seems almost too heavy to bear. And then the sharp transition into barbecues and fluttering flags as Israelis celebrate our miraculous existence and achievements... no wonder we are a nation that always seems a bit on the edge.

“Yet this edginess translates into a vitality that has to be experienced to be understood.  It’s an ‘only in Israel’ feeling that is hard to define.”

There is an official ceremony on Har Herzl that marks the transition to Yom Ha’atzmaut.  Every year, Israelis representing different segments of society are selected to light torches. This year, 14 women were so honored. 

One of those women is Miriam Peretz, whom I have been in awe of for a long time. 

Miriam Peretz

Credit: Israelnationalnews

At different times, not one, but two of her sons from the Golani Brigade fell in battle: Uriel Peretz – in Lebanon in 1998, and Eliraz Peretz - in Gaza in 2010. 

Singer Yehoram Gaon describes her as a person “imbued with a mission to strengthen the Jewish and Israeli spirit in the nation of Israel...Miriam has chosen to continue with her life.  She meets with soldiers, with youths and with bereaved families and conveys messages of hope and faith in the power of man to grow from crises."

In an interview with the JPost, she says (emphasis added):

"reality brought me to this situation," but she chose to pick her herself up, out of the pain and bereavement and to build from it a "tower of love - love of Israel, and the human strength to influence your own and other people's lives.”

When she was informed of the honor that was to be bestowed upon her, she said that she would light the torch "with their [her sons’] spirit, spirit of leadership, faith, love for the country, love for people." 

She explains that the transition from one day to the other has always been difficult for her.  "I can't take the sound of the fireworks," as with each bang she hears the sound of the explosions that took the lives of her sons.

"But this year I will experience it, and I'm scared to be in this simcha (happiness) after the hardest day. Suddenly, fireworks and dancing.

"Either I will close my ears and lower my eyes to the ground, and be with my sons when the fireworks go off, or I'll lift my eyes to the sky and I'll follow a firework and hope it will open the skies and that I'll see my family - and that they'll see that they didn't fall in vain, that a nation is celebrating, that life goes on."

Awe, my friends. This is Israel.  And I count it as a great honor that I am Israeli.  I lift my voice to heaven with gratitude.


I close with the really neat Aish video, “Wave Your Flag”:


© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 11:57AM by Registered CommenterArlene | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 5, 2014: Yom HaZikaron


Credit: Erinamsili


Credit: Haifa-Israel

Credit: Porisrael

Credit: Na’ama Yehuda
Israel’s Memorial day – a day for remembering all those from our defense forces who have died defending the country, and all those who have died at the hands of terrorists.  It is a day of national mourning.  Just about everyone in the country has either suffered a personal loss or knows someone else who has.
I dedicate this posting to all of them.
If not for the readiness of our soldiers to risk their lives in the defense of Israel, there would be no Israel.  Our debt to them is boundless. 
Our responsibility is to remember them, honor them, and keep this nation strong.  They have given their lives for this nation. We owe it to them to reach to our own limits in building Israel and bringing blessings upon her.
The official number of those who have fallen is 23,169 since 1860.  There are 57 added to the list since last year.  The official number of bereaved families is 17,038, which includes 2,141 orphans and 4,966 widows whose loved ones have fallen in the service of the IDF and security establishment.
A siren at 8 PM last night marked the beginning of the day of memorial – with official ceremonies at the Kotel.  A two-minute siren sounded again at 11 AM today.  As the siren begins, everyone stops and stands at attention.  Today, tens of thousands visited the graves of their loved ones.
I confess that I am in awe, with an astonishment that is two-fold. The stories abound of young people who acted with extraordinary bravery, ultimately giving their lives in the process. 
What Roi Klein did is one such story.
And I am awed as well by the strength of families – parents, spouses, siblings, children – who find ways to carry on.  No, “carry on” does not sufficiently describe it.  They find ways to embrace life and to bring goodness to life in the memory of the one they have lost.
Rabbi Stuart and Susie Weiss – whom I was honored to hear speak last night – are such people, doing good in the name of their son, Ari Yehoshua, who fell in Shechem in 2002.
Here is the speech Susie Weiss delivered last night:
And here is something Rabbi Weiss wrote.  A week after his son died, he eulogized him and then asked that everyone assembled go home and sing “Am Yisrael Hai” The Jewish People lives.  This extraordinary piece explains his thinking.
A memorial video:
© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


Posted on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 11:17PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

May 3, 2014: Continuing Thoughts

I would like to pick up on the two topics I wrote about before Shabbat: accusations of Israel as “apartheid” and the debate about Israel as a Jewish state vs. democratic state. These subjects may overlap, but they are separate issues.
As to apartheid.  Warren Goldstein, chief rabbi of South Africa, offered an important take on the matter in yesterday’s JPost.  What Kerry has done in using the word inappropriately, he say, is to trivialize it, and desecrate the memories of those who truly suffered under the apartheid system.  “No one who truly understand the brutality and the systemic racism and denial of basic human rights that made apartheid nefarious could possibly use the the word in a discussion relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...”
The choice of this word, of course, is not accidental, nor does it originate with Kerry.  It has been the stock in trade of the Palestinian Arabs all along – part of the attempt to delegitimize Israel. Abbas, for example, in coming before the UN in 2012, spoke about Israel’s “apartheid policies.”  Just as an apartheid South Africa was read out of the community of nations, so must Israel be, he and his cohorts are implying.  Regrettably, on occasion it has even been picked up by Israelis – such as Livni – who are hungering for that Palestinian state.
Words have power. And it is our task to challenge all references to Israel as “apartheid.” We cannot ignore them.
You may want to see and share this video of an interview of Lydia Meshoe, wife of Kenneth Meshoe, president of the African Christian Democratic Party of South Africa. She has visited Israel and says there is no apartheid in Israel – nothing that remotely resembles the horrors of the racially repressive system that existed in her country.  People must come to Israel, she declares, to see the truth:
(With thanks to Esther E.)
As to issues of democracy in Israel: We are looking at the tension between particularism and universalism.  There are elements of both within Judaism,  In fact the Jewish universal perspective is extraordinary.  We are taught that the righteous have a place in the world to come whether or not they are Jewish, and we pray for the day when the House of God will be a place of prayer for all peoples (which does not mean all peoples must convert to Judaism). 
But there is a predominant focus on particularism. Hillel’s aphorism states is superbly: “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I?...”  Being for oneself comes first.  Jews, who must have concern for all peoples in the world, must be first for other Jews.
However, what has happened is that universalism has trumped particularism in the thinking of much of the modern Western world .  It is no longer politically correct to stand up for your own people first, or to promote the values of your own culture.  Some Israelis have bought into this perspective.  But this thinking can be our downfall, as it causes us to negate what is special about Jewish Israel and demonstrates a readiness to give equal weight to all positions.  Most significantly, it renders “shameful” or morally questionable a readiness to defend ourselves and to give priority to our rights. 
With the active “encouragement” of Palestinian Arabs, who are masters at promoting themselves, this is what happened post-Oslo: The poor suffering Palestinians. We must give them a state,  We must attend to their expressions of suffering. We must make room for their narrative within our national life.  After all, don’t all narratives have equal value?
Thus do we get into the ridiculous situations I described in my last post: with some claiming that perhaps it’s not “fair” to Arab Israelis to put a Jewish star on our flag.  Nonsense!  We are, proudly, a Jewish state.
I think of two other situations in particular that make this point:
There has been heated discussion in Israel regarding the teaching of “nakba” in our schools.  (To the best of my knowledge it’s not being taught now.)  “Nakba” in Arabic means catastrophe and it refers to the founding of the State of Israel, which is viewed by many Arabs as a catastrophic event.  I find a position that promotes the teaching of “nakba” (because, after all, that is how some Arabs in Israel think) to be deeply offensive, as well as a tad suicidal.  The Jewish State must imbue in her students pride in her founding.  We don’t tell our kids that, look, there is this other perspective that says we should never have happened, and we have to be sensitive to the people here who think this way.  We tell our kids that Israel’s founding was a blessing, not only for Jews, but for everyone.  After all, the Arabs who are Israeli citizens have more freedoms, more human rights, more health care and social services, than they would anywhere else in the Middle East.  We must celebrate who we are, and stand strong always.
And then there is Haneen Zoabi (who stands as an example of a certain insidious mindset).  She is a virulently anti-Zionist Arab Israeli who is a member of the Knesset for the Balad party. In 2012, she made the statement that, “Israel has no right to live in security while it is an occupier” – which sure looks like incitement to me.  Two years prior to that she participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, in which Turkish terrorists claiming the right to break the naval blockade of Gaza set a trap for Israeli military.  
MK Haneen Zoabi . 
With it all, she still sits in our Knesset. Our High Court says she has the right.
I think this is nuts – bending over backwards to be “fair.” And yet we are accused of being insufficiently democratic.  
Last Tuesday, the organization Haliba, which is fighting for equal Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, held its first public meeting.  The turnout was excellent, and I will have more to say about their efforts over time.
Here I simply want to reinforce the unfairness – fostered by our own government – of the current situation.  It is rather mind-boggling, really. And very clearly reflects a reluctance on the part of certain leaders to stand up for our rights.  Consider:
[] The High Court has ruled that Jews have a right to pray on the Mount. Why shouldn’t we??  And yet, the Wakf (the Islamic trust that controls the Muslim holy sites on the Mount, and, de facto, all of the Mount) objects.  What is more, Muslims up on the Mount threaten to riot should a Jew pray. And so, for reasons of “security,” the Israeli police prohibit praying.
[] There are ten gates to the Temple Mount. Nine of them are for Muslims only.  Only one – the Mughrabi gate, adjacent to the Kotel - is for non-Muslims, Jews and Christians and others.  Consequently, while Muslims stream onto the Mount freely, there are sometimes very long lines for those Jews and Christians who wish to enter.  This is especially true during the time of Jewish holidays and tourist season.
[] What enormously exacerbates the long lines is the restriction in hours and the days during which Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to enter..  According to Haliba, in the course of a week, non-Muslims have access to the Mount for 840 hours in a week (12 hours/day for seven days) while others, including Jews, have access for only 20 hours (four hours/day for five days).  
These figures do not represent a typo. They are real. And they are shocking.
At the Liba Conference, Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) stated unequivocally, in a video made for the event, that Jews must be allowed to pray on the Mount.  He said that his ministry is preparing regulations for suitable arrangements for Jewish prayer on the Mount. 
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu) has since declared he would would not make the required administrative changes: “...Any change to the status quo for Jews and Arabs [on the Temple Mount] will not be approved.”
This situation must change.
For your information: In spite of all the words of sweetness and light from Abbas, with regard to how Hamas has moderated, it has now been made clear that this is not the case. We knew this. But now it’s on the record.  Declared Khaled Mashal this past week: “Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad.”
Meanwhile Netanyahu is laying out all the repercussions that will be levied against the PA because of its agreement with Hamas.  However...however...he says if the reconciliation deal falls apart, talks might be restarted.
This is, quite frankly, sickening.
More to follow. There’s always more.  Obama is putting the screws on Israel big time. 
© 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. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

Posted on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 11:11PM by Registered CommenterArlene in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint